Hunter Lake


Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Starwater Strains

"Gordon Van Gelder, an editor to whom we short-story writers owe much, bought Hunter Lake from me, and many other stories. C. S. Lewis subscribed to Fantasy & Science Fiction, as do I. Why don't you join us?"

Wolfe's comments from The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror

"I had written a story called 'My Name is Nancy Wood' in which I attempted a female narrator; I liked the result, and wanted to try another in which most of the characters were women or girls.

"I combined that ambition with a dream -- sort of a mild nightmare -- involving my own mother, and wrote 'Hunter Lake'. The old farmhouse recurs in my dreams with some frequency. In part it is surely my grandmother Wolfe's house, which she inherited and which predated the American Civil War. The other elements are (I think) drawn from houses I visited as a child. England may well be the most haunted country on Earth, but the US is not far behind -- New England and the old Confederacy particularly."


A woman has a nightmare of a visit she and her mother pay to a deadly lake.


  • The story has a dual point of view, because the woman plays the role of both her mother and her younger self in the dream.
  • A muted TV features in this story, as it does in Mute and Copperhead. The story clearly states that the TV was turned off, but the dreamer is convinced she left it on and later finds it so. This is also like Mute.
  • The mother's name is Susan, which means "lilly" in Hebrew. The daughter's name is Ettie, short for Harriet or Henrietta, both female diminutives of Henry (from Heinrich, German for "home ruler").
  • Ettie's use of the word 'Injun' and the detailed directions she is able to give her mother suggest possession by the ghost of the old man.
  • Ettie reads Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra, which describes Irving's visit to the Alhambra palace in Spain, and also includes several fantastic tales with an Arabian Nights flavor. Possibly this was a book Wolfe remembered from a house he visited as a child. It seems to have little to do with the story, though it does contain a story of a water carrier. (As a side note, I've heard that reading in a dream can't be done. Could it be that this is no ordinary dream?)

Unresolved Questions

The narrator's mother died from water in her lungs. Did some version of the dream actually happen in real life? What does it mean that the narrator was wrong about her mother's death for years, when another close relative knew about it? Did the recurring nightmare remind her, or is she still dreaming at the end?

An even stranger possibility is that the dream has retroactively changed reality. If so, the narrator herself could die the next time she has this dream.

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