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The Hill and the Hole

Published in Unknown, August 1942.

Can a supernatural horror story really work out in open midwestern farmland under the noonday sun? Leiber proves that not only can it be done, but very effectively too. The reader may know what is coming, but that does not diminish the chills in the climax one whit.

Unlike the modern urban horror that he helped create with Smoke Ghost and other stories, The Hill and the Hole is a straight-forward ghost story in the vein of M. R. James. Tom Digby is a surveyor that has encountered a problem. He has climbed up a hill, but his measurements tell him that he is in a hole. A local farmgirl warns him away:

The Hill and the Hole … There was a man come up here about two years ago, trying to find out about Them. He had a spyglass on sticks. They made him dead. That was why I didn't want you to go down there. I was afraid They would do the same thing to you.

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The girl in The Hill and the Hole is a little reminiscent of the girl in The Jewels in the Forest who plays a game with the house in the forest guarded by an unseen giant. She dances around the boundary, but never crosses it.

The Hill and the HoleYou're just like Papa. He's always telling me there's a hill there, so I won't be scared of the hole. But he doesn't need to. I know all about it, and I wouldn't go near it again for anything.

The Jewels in the ForestBecause I watch it from the edge of the forest, but never go close. Never, never, never.

Two other items are also notable. Note how the menace is seen through the alidade, a surveyor device with a sight, here and how the menace is seen through binoculars in Our Lady of Darkness, the latter of which references M.R. James' Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad.

Also it interesting to think of the climax of this story compared to that of Thieves' House.

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