George Lanning | Avon Books | 1966 | 158 pages
“Trust me this far only, then; beyond, you must settle matters for yourself.”
Retreating to a rural, hillside family estate following an unspecified illness, John Bayden and his wife Eleanor must acclimate to the gossips of small town life, while trying to repair their damaged relationship. Visiting an estate sale in a nearby village in an attempt to find items to decorate the rambling old house John’s grandfather built, the couple buy a gleaming, blood-brown pedestal with three tiny clawed feet. During an evening of unsettled sleep, John awakens to the sound of scratching downstairs. Examining the house for evidence of an intruder, he notices a set of shallow scratches around the base of the pedestal, as if it had been moved around the room before being returned to its original position.
The next morning John awakens to the news of the brutal murder of a local hill girl during the night. With increasing thoughts of a darkness descending upon the town, and of a marriage deteriorating into a quarrelsome stalemate, John becomes convinced that the pedestal is moving around the house at night, a vessel for the evils plaguing him and the town. Turning to his friends Ray and Alma Gravatt, the village pastor and his wife, for some relief to his fears, he finds them unusually distracted by the murder, and begins to realize that his growing attraction to Alma is mirrored by his suspicion of a corresponding connection between Ray and Eleanor.
Neither the local gentry, or the backwoods locals, are sympathetic enough to carry the imbedded indictment of the small town class system, with the two central couples being just unlikeable enough to prevent much worry over John’s brush with the supernatural—or his descent into madness. Readers expecting the “demonic terror” promised by the cover blurb will surely be disappointed, as the titular pedestal serves only as a harbinger of marital unhappiness, the scratching sound of claws on wooden floors only audible past the background noise of awkward cocktail parties and whispered rumors in the aisles of the village market. The mundane events ultimately coalescence into a shocking, although fittingly foreshadowed, climax that provides a macabre use for the pedestal itself.