Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Storeys from the Old Hotel

"'Redbeard' is a horror story based upon a house I used to drive past every so often. It has since burned to the ground, which may be a good thing. Maybe I should write a story about John Gacy, the killer clown; he lived a few miles from here, and my friend Jerry Bauer used to take pictures for him."


A newcomer to a rural area is told the story of an abandoned house, by Howie, a lifelong inhabitant. The owner, Jackson, killed four women, hiding three of them in a locked room in the house, which he had forbidden to his wife. He was nicknamed "Redbeard" by the press, after Bluebeard. His wife was badly affected by the trial and by his killing himself in front of her while awaiting execution. She married again and had a baby, but later hanged herself in her own room in the old house. Howie reveals that she was his mother.


  • The story seems to be about false blame; that each person should be accountable for their own actions. "Redbeard," not his wife, is responsible for his crimes and suicide. Howie is not responsible for the suicide of his mother. The second run-down house is probably Howie's childhood home, where his mother lived after her second marriage and where he was born. Because of false blame, the damage and guilt continues to spread to the next generation.
  • The story inverts the classic tale of Bluebeard, in which a wife is instructed never to open a certain door -- she opens it anyway and discovers the bodies of his previous wives. In that story the woman is nearly killed by the murderer but escapes to a happy ending. In this version, her respect for his privacy leads to blame and suicide.

Unresolved Questions

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