Since it first appeared in fragmentary form in a short-fiction collection in 1970, this tale has earned legendary status among Matheson's fans as his great uncompleted novel about the dark side of modern spiritualism. Now a much larger fragment that weaves occult thrills into its haunting study of a reluctant spirit medium, it tantalizes with the unfulfilled promise of what might have been the author's magnum opus. Set in Brooklyn in the 1930s, it relates a sad interval in the life of 18-year-old Claire Nielsen, the oldest of three children being groomed by their determined mother, Morna, to follow in her footsteps as a spirit medium. As depicted by Matheson, spiritualism is indistinguishable from a religious calling, and Morna is a frighteningly fanatical exponent who threatens Claire with hellfire and damnation when she pleads to be relieved of her vocation. Coerced into sitting for seances that make her physically ill, Claire soon finds herself a conduit for ectoplasmic manifestations of the spirit world whose revolting intimacy and intrusive physicality amount to sexual violation. Matheson's rigorous research of spiritualist phenomena informs every aspect of the tale, imbuing its convincingly described supernatural moments with both awe and terror and shaping its characters as unique people who believe unquestioningly in the marvels of the afterlife. At the very least, this gripping tale synchs with his paranormal thriller Hell House and anecdotal nonfiction volume Mediums Rare. But it also hits a high-water mark as an exercise in the modern gothic.
Used availability for Richard Matheson's Come Fygures, Come Shadowes
February 2003 : USA Hardback