What is PSYCHO THRILL?
PSYCHO THRILL is a series of horror novellas — from the classic ghost story to the modern psychological thriller and dark fantasy. Each of the novellas has been first published in German and has been translated into English for the first time. Among the writers are popular German authors, as well as newcomers to the scene. Each story is self-contained. PSYCHO THRILL is produced by Uwe Voehl.
During his studies in cultural science, Vincent Voss worked in a variety of professional fields. The many impressions he gained — as a nursing assistant at an acute psychiatric facility, quality manager, bodyguard, call center agent, gas station attendant, photographer’s assistant, undertaker, and as the manager of a travel agency — have all fed his writing.
In 2009, he first successfully took part in a call for literary submissions, and made his start in a new artistic genre. Since then, Vincent Voss has published several horror novels. The author lives, as a happy father of three, in the countryside north of Hamburg.
“I am evil.” The woman’s whispering voice explodes into the receiver. Controlled, emotionless, and still you can make out the struggle it was for her to take this step.
Many turned to Johanna in this way, but they were rarely so direct. And even more rarely were they so … cool.
“Hello, this is Johanna Ebeling with the witch archive at the Ethnological Institute in Hamburg. How can I help you?” Johanna asks, building trust, seriousness.
There is a pause.
Johanna hears breathing on the other end and sees her colleague Henning come out from behind the bookshelves. Calls are always something special.
“I am evil. I need to come by. Can I come by?” Scared and demanding at the same time. And, again, Johanna feels the inner conflict in the stranger’s voice. How haunted. Maybe, as is so often the case, mental illness is the only reason for the call.
“Of course you can. We are open every Tuesday and Thursday from eight to four. It would be best if you made an appointment with …”
Click. Johanna looks at the handset.
Even Henning can hear the dial tone in the quiet rooms of the Museum of Ethnology. He shrugs.
Johanna shakes her head and hangs up. This is also not a rare occurrence, since they offer telephone consultations. It’s just one call among many, which Johanna and her colleague Henning Lambertz quickly forget.
August. During the break between semesters, the quiet of the institute is overwhelming. Occasionally, they hear Mrs. Kramer clearing books from the shelves in the museum library next door and the sound of tennis balls being hit in the adjacent spaces for the sports academics at Rothenbaum. Henning has opened all the windows, but there’s still a stifling humidity, even within the otherwise relatively cool walls. Johanna is transcribing an interview with a tenant of the Grindle high-rises about a ghost sighting; Henning is entering the typed witches’ logs into the computer. A fan rests on top of a pile of books between the two screens, providing a cool breeze at head height, but without blowing around any loose pages. Johanna stops the playback, her fingers hover over the keyboard, but, instead of typing, she leans forward and sets the fan so that it only blows on Henning. She’s got a chill.
“What’s going on?” Henning looks at her.
“It somehow got kind of cold, don’t you think?” He looks up searchingly and shakes his head. Turns back to his manuscript and pauses.
“Yes! I think you’re right.” He turns off the fan and looks at the window. Johanna looks at the door that leads to the hallway.
“It’s coming from there.” She nods toward the door and feels the cold flowing toward her from there. Not the type of cold that’s caused by a gust of air. Another type of cold.
“Yes,” Henning whispers. “It feels like … like …” He doesn’t have the words to describe it, his eyes lingering on the door as if he were expecting someone at any time. Or something. It’s the same for Johanna. And it gets worse. Her stomach is in knots, her heart pounding in her ears. This is fear, she thinks, but doesn’t know of what.
“Johanna, what is it?”
She can’t answer, the fear is choking her, the panic is rising, both of them stare at the door and feel surrounded by an icy coldness. The doorknob starts to turn, Johanna’s heart races. The door opens. A woman is standing there and looks around nervously.
“I called. I said I am evil,” she introduces herself.
Johanna and Henning remember.
She sits stiffly upright on a chair in front of them, puts her purse on her knees, and clasps her hands together on top of it in her lap. Her eyes scan the room before landing on Johanna. She pushes her hair out of her face, a nervous gesture, but one that doesn’t help any with the cold and uneasiness surrounding her. Johanna feels it. Henning feels it.
“I couldn’t make an appointment, please excuse me. I had to see when it … would work.” Henning is the first to free himself from the invisible grip and stands up.
“Henning Lambertz, associate at the witch archive. May I offer you a cup of tea or coffee?” He circles the desk on the way to the kitchen.
“No, thank you.”
“We spoke on the phone, Mrs. …” Johanna begins the conversation.
“Falkner. Sabine Falkner.” She mechanically puts out her hand, realizes that they are sitting too far apart, and puts it back in her lap.
“Johanna Ebeling. That’s all right,” she comments on the attempted handshake.
“Before we discuss your problem, I have to mention a few things. My colleague and I, we’ve been taking care of the witch archive for four years now. At first, it was purely to go along with an extensive research project about new belief in witches and witchcraft in Northern Germany. That led to the so-called ‘witch hotline,’ which we made available for people to call and tell us about their phenomena. Well, the research has long been finished, but the calls never stopped.” Mrs. Falkner listens attentively. To Johanna, it seems as if she is absorbing every single word. Evil, Johanna writes in a notebook, and continues.
“As you can see, you are not alone with your … situation. But, in many cases, we advise people to seek out help from a psychologist, since the phenomena they have perceived are usually of an inner nature.” Johanna watches to see how the words affect Mrs. Falkner and waits. Nothing. They drip off of her. Mrs. Falkner smiles slightly and shyly. Johanna still feels uneasy and underlines the word she just wrote down.
“Good. In the other cases … .”
“It’s fine that you bring it up,” Mrs. Falkner interrupts. Once again, with the smile that has been slowly making Johanna nervous.
“I mean, at first, I also asked myself if … well, if I was going insane. But there’s proof. And I think you feel it too, don’t you?” Johanna considers it for a moment, as Henning returns from the kitchen with two cups of coffee and sits down with them.
“Yes, I think we feel it too, right, Henning?”
“You mean the coldness?” Johanna nods, Mrs. Falkner feels vindicated.
“Well, my colleague and I are both under the assumption that you want to tell us something about external causes. In such cases … Henning, do you want to explain?”
“Yes, sure. In such cases, Mrs. Falkner, we first take a good look at the whole thing. We will ask you questions, maybe even ones that are unpleasant. About your family, your friends, your habits. Sometimes something completely banal can be the answer to your problem. The devil is in the details, so to speak.” Johanna is the only one who notices how Mrs. Falkner briefly flinches. How her controlled facade crumbles and a glimpse at her soul opens up. A scared, tormented soul, an abyss. Then the curtain returns, and she smiles.
“We do home visits when it’s necessary. But only when we receive a detailed log of an incident, stating exactly what events have taken place in what location and at what time. It should be documented for at least three weeks.”
“That is, unless someone is on the brink of a nervous breakdown and simply can’t log three weeks,” Johanna adds.
“Exactly. Then, of course not, but that almost never happens.” Henning pauses, takes a sip of coffee, the sound of a tennis ball being hit can be heard through the window.
“But first, we’ll begin with an interview, so you can tell us what exactly has happened so far, which we would like to record and then evaluate,” Henning finishes his explanation.
“Can I maybe have a glass of water, please?” Mrs. Falkner asks.
“Of course!” Henning rises and returns to the kitchen.
“Then you agree to the interview?” Johanna reaches for the audio recorder and connects it to the computer.
“Yes. Yes, now that I am here, I want to talk.”
“Good. Very good. Usually that’s already a big help.” Johanna straightens the microphone and looks over at her conversation partner. Mrs. Falkner doesn’t seem convinced that talking will help. Johanna can see it behind her smile. Henning comes back and puts her glass of water and the open bottle on the table. He looks at the calendar to check if there are any other appointments today. There aren’t. He sits down and nods to Johanna. Both are eager to hear what this woman has to tell them. To hear what is creating the cold and uneasiness.
“Please tell us your story!” Johanna says to Mrs. Falkner, whose eyes widen as she looks out at the lush green trees, then at the flowers on the table in front of them, astrantias and zinnias. Nice memories, Johanna thinks and makes a note of it; Henning takes a sip from his cup. The air is still cold. Johanna clears her throat and presses the start button. And Mrs. Falkner tells her story.
The Kreuziger Farm. That’s what it was called. It was over a hundred and fifty years old and had been vacant. That was all they knew. But they didn’t ask, since they were … in love. Yes, love is the best way to describe it.
In November, shortly after they had moved and were living between boxes and randomly placed furniture, it began to snow. Everything looked so picturesque: the little forest, the branches of the pines and firs bending under the snow, the icicles growing on the eaves and gables. It was particularly beautiful on clear evenings and they could look out from their sofa by the fireplace and see the whole countryside sparkle in the moonlight.