The Human Chair by Edogawa Rampo

I know that these stories are just short stories but I felt compelled to write about them individually.

I brought “Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination” after being told that I’d probably like Edogawa Rampo’s writing more then the anime based off of his work (Ranpo Kitan) and as I tried to do a book challenge on Goodreads at the end of last year (and going back to do it again this year with 100 books!) which didn’t go well. Its been on my bookcase ever since as I read a few of the other books I’d brought at the time but after finishing “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” series it was the closest book to me as I went to catch the bus to work and The Human Chair was the first story in the book.

It was possibly one of the greatest short stories I’ve ever read.

You see The Human Chair in the anime was nothing like what it was in the book. From this one story I knew that it was true that I’d prefer this book to the anime.

Rampo was a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and you can see that in this story. Its one of suspense but so wonderfully crafted. I have to say I’m not the biggest fan of Poe (I’ll probably review some of his stuff later this year) but I’ve always been a fan of suspension stories.

The Human Chair is as it sounds. A man who makes chairs ends up making one so fine that he decides to live in it. The man himself doesn’t do anything creepy the whole way through the story, he’s just a man inside a chair. His body becomes contorted, he has love affairs with the women that sit on him and he’s a thief though living inside the chair becomes his life.

The story is told within a letter to a writer and ends with such a twist before actually ending with a brilliant twist that I was left beaming from ear to ear as I stepped off the bus and am sure the whole bus heard my giant gasp with the twist.

The thing is I couldn’t really tell you what it was about the story that slowly filled me with dread. I personally was not clever enough to figure out the first of the twists but I guess deep down I really had started to figure it out but got lost in the story itself. It was actually a truly sad story of a lonely man who just wanted to be close to other people but it made me wonder how I’d feel to know that there was a human inside a chair I’m sitting on.

For anyone who hasn’t read it I’d recommend it, and all his stories, especially though if you are a fan of Poe. Its a wonderful piece of suspense writing that will leave you gobsmacked.

If you don’t want to be spoiled for the story then stop reading now and go out and find a copy!

If you don’t mind being spoiled or already read it please feel free to read on.

Going back to the “I don’t know how I’d feel” bit I’ll elaborate.

The two twists at the end – The first was in the story. So the story was of the man, he put himself into the chair to rob off of rich people in the hotel his chair was being sent too but soon fell in love with the feeling of being close to people. When Β the hotel was sold so was his chair and the twist was that he’d fallen in love with a Japanese woman who now owned the chair. That woman was the writer who was reading the story. The end of the story she was reading told her that he wanted to meet her and that he’d left the chair and was outside. After reading the story the second twist came – The story was just that! A story. Someone had written it to see if it was good enough to scare her and make her believe that someone lived in her chair. The stories name? The Human Chair.

She from the second she realised that he was talking about her chair ran from the room and was terrified of what she’d find if she opened the chair up or had to come face to face with this person.

I get that, I truly get that.

You think that you sit in the same chair every day just to find out that you’d actually been sitting on someone. That inside your chair would be food wrappers, human excrement and so on. Not only that the man had told you many times that he was truly ugly and that his body had become stuck in the position he’d had to sit in whilst inside the chair.

How would you react?

It was obvious from the story that he was just sad and lonely but I don’t know how I would feel about finding out he’d been inside a chair.

I mean it took me back to American Horror Story when the two girls in the first episode are in their room and someone forces their way out of the mattress. From lack of exposure to the sun they are going to be deadly pale, even if he washed himself he’s going to be horrible to look at. It would take one hell of a brave and compassionate person to not be freaked out by it.

The writing of the story was so good though, I didn’t take my eyes off the page the whole time.

So how would you react? Would you be OK finding out someone was living in your chair? Would it freak you out? Let us know in the comments.

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