It's been so long I can't remember when I read this short horror story, although it was probably the 1960s. It was in an anthology, so it may have been older. In english; the author was probably an American. The plot: a young boy who collects insects takes sadistic pleasure in pinning them to boards. One night a horde of insects breaks into his room and returns the favor.

  • 1
    Didn't we just have this asked (but not answered) recently?
    – DavidW
    Dec 14, 2020 at 17:44
  • 2
    The plot is similar to this scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/239080/… @DavidW Dec 14, 2020 at 17:47
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez Ah, right. That was it. Movie, not a story. Thanks.
    – DavidW
    Dec 14, 2020 at 17:49
  • I find it interesting there are at least 3 published works of fiction with almost this exact plot. I wonder if any of their authors were aware of each other? Dec 15, 2020 at 15:08

2 Answers 2


This seems very close to my recollection of "The Cocoon" (1946) by John B.L. Goodwin, but not exactly the same.

The story concerns a boy, Denny, who collects insects, mostly moths and butterflies (lepidoptera), and who kills them and pins them to the wallpaper in his bedroom. One day he finds a large, very strange caterpillar and brings it home. It pupates and he keeps it dormant through the winter and it emerges one day in the spring as a huge (10" wingspan) but strange butterfly. Denny waits for its wings to finish expanding, then kills it and pins it to his wall at the foot of the bed.

Previously it has been noted that his room smelled from the viscera and fluids that drained out of the insects and stained the walls; the new one drains more, and smells worse. Denny starts being awakened at night to the sound of something beating on the window, and the feeling of something brushing his face. The attacks get worse until one day he doesn't come down for breakfast. Finally entering his room, his father find him partially desiccated, stuck to the rug, with a pool of fluid soaking into the rug. The butterfly is gone.

  • He was decapitated wasn't he? I can't find an online copy to check though. But the boy was definitely a sadist, which fits well with the question. Dec 14, 2020 at 19:04
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    @ClaraDiazSanchez No, not decapitated. "Denny lay in his pajamas on the floor just inside the door. This skin of his lonely and somewhat arrogant face was marred by the marks of something pincerlike and from his nose, eyes, ears and mouth a network of viscid filaments stretched across his face and to the floor as though something had tried to bind his head up in them. His father had some trouble in lifting him up because the threads adhered so stubbornly to the nap of the blue carpet."
    – DavidW
    Dec 14, 2020 at 19:13
  • I am pretty sure 'The Cocoon' is the story. I can't remember just how the boy died, all I know for sure is that he is found dead. Thank you, DavidW. Hello again, Clara! Dec 14, 2020 at 19:15
  • It's been a long-sought story here too. Is this the story in which the boy looks at the moth (how I'd imagined it), and the moonlight makes the designs on the wings look like sharp-toothed mouths opening and snapping? Dec 17, 2020 at 15:09
  • @OccamShave Yes, that's the one; is there another question needing this answer?
    – DavidW
    Dec 17, 2020 at 15:12

Possibly The Collector by J. B. Stamper. I read it in her collection More Tales for the Midnight Hour, which according to the ISFDB is the only place it has been published.

It isn't a perfect match because although the boy Toby is an insect collector as you describe he isn't sadistic about it. Toby finds a large moth that he kills using a killing jar. As he does so he is attacked by a swarm of moths though he escapes:

Suddenly he felt a strange weight on his neck. He whirled around in disgust and brushed away the huge moth that had landed on his body. Looking around, Toby saw that the air was thick with them. He sprang up from the killing jar and ran tothe screen door, flailing his arms to ward off the moths that were suddenly closing in around him like a suffocating blanket.

Safely inside the house, Toby locked the screen door behind him. He looked back onto the porch and saw silhouettes of moths pressing their bodies against the screen. He could hear their wings beating. Toby shut the wooden door and double-locked it. He would have to leave the lantern and killing jar on the porch all night. Shuddering, he went up to his room.

Later the moths break into his room and chase him out into the swamp:

He ran for the porch door and out into the night. For a minute he felt a rush of fresh air fill his lungs. Then the moths surrounded him again -- more of them, huge ones and tiny ones. They pursued him across the yard and into the swamp. They drove him through pools of water filled with snakes and thick weeds, and across fallen, rotting trees. They chased him into the deepest, darkest part of the swamp.

No one ever saw Toby again. It was as though he had disappeared from the earth without a trace. The only clue he left was the torn screen, mysteriously ripped to shreds. They sent out search parties into the swamp. But no search party ever went where Toby had gone. No one could have ever found that deep, dark place in the swamp where the moths had put Toby, pinned against a tree, in their human collection

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