Can't find my horror anthology (80's?) that had a story I want to find. Little girl wonders why no one else spots the false uncle in the house where grandmother has recently died upstairs. Lures it to grandmother with hamburger to expose it. I think the title started with an "R". Ruddegio or some such.

  • This one sounds very familiar... I will look into it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 13:50
  • Bless you, Sean Duggan, it's driving me crazy. Spent two hours on searches this morning, with no results. (Miss Pittsburgh, except for the blizzards. Snap a gum band and have a Primanti Bros. or chipped ham sandwich for me.) Commented Nov 9, 2015 at 16:50
  • Is it possible this was a Lovecraft story? Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 17:38
  • I seem to remember the writing as too "modern" for Lovecraft. I have a part of me that wants to think it was a female author. Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 21:08
  • Hillairious!!!! Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


Can't find my horror anthology (80's?) that had a story I want to find.

The story is "Call Him Demon", a novelette by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore; originally published (as by "Keith Hammond") in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fall 1946, available at the Internet Archive (click here for download options). You probably read it in the 1981 anthology A Treasury of Modern Fantasy (Martin Harry Greenberg and Terry Carr, eds.); if that's not it, check out these covers.

Little girl wonders why no one else spots the false uncle in the house

"It's kind of funny," Jane said. She knew very well that the man in the living room wasn't her uncle and never had been, and he was pretending, quite hard—hard enough to convince the grown-ups—that he had always been here. With the clear, unprejudiced eye of immaturity, Jane could see that he wasn't an ordinary grown-up. He was sort of—empty.

where grandmother has recently died upstairs.

Granny dies near the end of the story:

It was hushed up, of course, as much as possible. The children, who knew so much more than those who were shielding them, were futilely protected from the knowledge of what had happened. As futilely as they, in their turn, had tried to protect their elders. Except for the two oldest girls, they didn't particularly care. The game was over. Granny had had to go away on a long, long journey, and she would never be back.

Lures it to grandmother with hamburger to expose it.

Not exactly, but hamburger is mentioned in the story. The kids buy hamburger to feed the monster in the cellar, of which the Wrong Uncle (as the kids refer to him) is an extension:

"We were running out of money," Beatrice said. "Granny caught us taking meat out of the icebox and we don't dare any more. But we can get a lot with your money."

Neither of them thought of the inevitable time when that fund would be exhausted. Four dollars and thirty-five cents seemed fabulous, in that era. And they needn't buy expensive meat, so long as it was raw and bloody.

They walked together down the acacia-shaded street with its occasional leaning palms and drooping pepper trees. They bought two pounds of hamburger and improvidently squandered twenty cents on sodas.

I think the title started with an "R". Ruddegio or some such.

Ruggedo (after L. Frank Baum's Nome King) is what the kids call the monster in the cellar:

Jane accepted it. The uncle who was—empty—the one in the cellar called Ruggedo, who had to be fed regularly on raw meat, so that Something wouldn't happen. . . .

A masquerader, from somewhere. He had power, and he had limitations. The obvious evidences of his power were accepted without question. Children are realists. It was not incredible to them, for this hungry, inhuman stranger to appear among them—for here he was.

He came from somewhere. Out of time, or space, or an inconceivable place. He never had any human feelings; the children sensed that easily. He pretended very cleverly to be human, and he could warp the adult minds to implant artificial memories of his existence. The adults thought they remembered him. An adult will recognize a mirage; a child will be deceived. But conversely, an intellectual mirage will deceive an adult, not a child.

Ruggedo's power couldn't warp their minds, for those minds were neither quite human nor quite sane, from the adult standpoint. Beatrice, who was oldest, was afraid. She had the beginnings of empathy and imagination. Little Charlie felt mostly excitement. Bobby, the smallest, had already begun to be bored. . . .

[. . . .]

What was he? Without standards of comparison—and there are none, in this world—he cannot be named. The children thought of him as Ruggedo. But he was not the fat, half-comic, inevitably frustrate Gnome King. He was never that.

Call him demon.

  • Oh my! This is it. The quotes are a marvelous touch; it was so satisfying to be able to read them. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 13:06

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