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Book Review: FANTASMAGORIANA: “The Death’s Head”

A prodigal son story, in which the wayward offspring ran off to join a troupe of performers and in the process pissed off dear old dad. Instead of waiting patiently for his son to return home like the father in the Bible story, however, the father in “The Death’s Head” disinherits his son and leaves all his money to somebody else, someone he isn’t even related to. The son arrives back in the area with his troupe, intent on contesting his father’s will in court. In the meantime, a performance is arranged in which the protagonist, Calzolaro (great name, no?), is to demonstrate his skills at ventriloquism. To add to the creep factor, it is suggested that he perform not with a ventriloquist’s dummy but with a human skull. A real human skull. The sexton of the nearby church is dispatched to rob a grave and bring back a skull for the showing.

You can probably figure out what comes next. Yes, the skull that is disinterred is none other than the skull of Calzolaro’s father. Needless to say, it doesn’t need Calzolaro’s help to speak.

This one actually reminded me of a Poe story, as the reader is left without a solid explanation. Did the ghost of Calzolaro’s father really appear to him and give him a scolding, or was it all the result of Calzolaro’s guilty conscience? It is worth nothing that Calzolaro did not know that the skull he was to use for his performance had belonged to his father ahead of time.

TheCheezman • March 13, 2019

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