“Dollhouse” – a short story by Craig Wallwork

spades-4-1I read this story for week 39 of the 2015 Deal Me In Challenge. I drew the four of spades, which I had assigned to this story from the excellent ‘Neo-Noir’ anthology “The New Black.” Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about thus far, may be found here.

Holy crap; this was a scary and disturbing story!

“Fear never exploited Darcy’s mind, for as her father contested on many occasions, all things can be explained. The low thundering rumble that tore a hole in the night was not that of a monster pushing its way from one world to the next, but the nightly groans from the heifers keeping warm in the farmer’s bard across the field. The unexpected squeak of a floorboard was not the heels of a ghost, but instead the yawning of wood as it waned under the heat of water pipes. The illusory evil that supposedly cowered in shadows, or became the cold breath of night that followed her from room to room, was only a mischievous current of air that fussed its way around the dank old cottage.  All could be explained. Everything that is, except the dollhouse.”


As kids grow up, they begin to learn the falsity of the boogey-man and his sundry companions.  Parents, as Darcy’s do in this story, vanquish these fears one by one with rational explanations until, one day, they are finally overcome and can no longer manifest themselves.  Of course, this holds true only if the fears really are imaginary

One night, Darcy, just a young girl of eight – almost nine, is awakened by a “large bang.”  Her investigations lead her to the attic of her family’s cottage.  Within the attic she sees that a large object is covered under a dust sheet in the corner of the room.  Knowing that, when it comes to secreting away Christmas or birthday presents, the attic is a favorite hiding place for her parents, and remembering that her birthday is just weeks away, Darcy can’t resist taking a peek. What she finds is a dollhouse that is a perfect miniature of her own family’s cottage.  Every detail is replicated.  She is enthralled and revisits the attic every night as her birthday approaches, since the dollhouse seems to also be a work in progress.  New developments in her actual cottage are reflected in the dollhouse. Tiny wooden figures of her parents and herself also appear, accurate to the smallest detail. Then the figures appear to begin reflecting the actual location of their real-life counterparts at the time she views them, and she sees her own figurine in the attic of the dollhouse, kneeling in front of a miniature dollhouse, which we can only imagine, were her eyes capable of seeing into the microscopic range, would contain smaller and smaller figures in an infinite regression.

Surely all this “could be explained” though?  Even when she, one night, finds the figurines of her parents in peril…

I really liked this story, even if it did give me goosebumps.  It was my first time reading this author, who hails from West Yorkshire, England.  He is the author of a short story collection “Quintessence of Dust” which I may now just have to find and buy to provide me with fodder for the 2016 edition of the Deal Me In Challenge.

What’s the scariest story YOU have read lately?

Below: from goodreads.com – author Craig Wallwork



  1. September 28, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    The movie The Awakening has a similar dollhouse situation, but this story still sounds marvelously creepy.


    • Jay said,

      September 29, 2015 at 8:13 am

      I’ve never seen The Awakening, but will look out for it now. Maybe literally. 🙂 I have seen “Awakenings” with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro which isn’t horror but is a great film.


  2. Dale said,

    September 28, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Something by Joyce Carol Oates is probably the scariest thing I’ve read lately. “Pumpkin-Head” maybe.


    • Jay said,

      September 28, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      JCO’s in indy at Butler tonight. Was thinking about going, but work just wore me out today.


      • Dale said,

        September 28, 2015 at 8:07 pm

        I’m sure she would be interesting to hear speak.


  3. Alex said,

    October 2, 2015 at 9:51 am

    This does sound creepy! Read The Little Stranger for RIP X, which probably wasn’t a good idea because I was home-alone during that week and read it mostly at night. Also, my toddler is discovering the freedom of a no-bars bed and sometimes wakes up at night and decides to take a walk around the apartment…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      October 2, 2015 at 9:57 am

      I’ve since read a few more of his stories from “Quintessence of Dust”, one of which I really liked and may feature in a future post.

      Yeah, timing of reading scary material is everything. I had a really terrifying nightmare earlier this week that I’m wondering about whether or not it was prompted by some of this reading… 🙂


  4. hkatz said,

    October 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    “Surely all this “could be explained” though? Even when she, one night, finds the figurines of her parents in peril…”

    This looks like an awesome story.

    Scary ones I’ve read recently include “Mama’s Boy” by David Alexander and “The Heroine” by Patricia Highsmith. Neither of them supernatural. The scariness comes from how screwed up the main characters are. I plan to write about them the week before Halloween.


    • Jay said,

      October 2, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      It was an excellent story, but it was disturbing. I’ve started reading a few in his Quintessence of Dust collection and am enjoying the author’s writing style a lot. One story called “Night Holds a Scythe”‘ gave me nightmares. 🙂


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