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Skeleton Crew: The Raft

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The Raft is a horror short story by Stephen King first published as a booklet included with Gallery in November 1982, and collected in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew.

98 pages

First published November 1, 1982

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About the author

Stephen King

2,529 books827k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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5 stars
193 (26%)
4 stars
288 (39%)
3 stars
185 (25%)
2 stars
42 (5%)
1 star
13 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews
Profile Image for Eloy Cryptkeeper.
296 reviews196 followers
April 17, 2021
"No podía creer lo que estaba viendo, no podía comprenderlo, pero no había ninguna duda, no tenía ninguna sensación de que perdía el juicio, no había nada que pudiera hacerle pensar que soñaba o sufría alucinaciones...
No hay nada como esa cosa en ninguno de los libros científicos que he leído en mi vida —. La última vez que vi algo parecido fue en el espectáculo de horror organizado el día de Difuntos"

"De algún modo untuoso, nauseabundo, aquello era regocijante, como los últimos segundos antes de incorporarte a la corriente de un vulgar desfile de carnaval. Tuvo tiempo de oír los barriles debajo de la balsa, entrechocando con un sonido hueco, de oír el rumor seco de las hojas de los árboles más allá de la playa, bajo la ligera brisa, de preguntarse por qué la cosa se había metido debajo de la balsa"

Probablemente no sea una de las historias mas brillantes, pero me parece sumamente divertida y me produce bastante nostalgia, porque esta historia fue una de las primeras adaptaciones en pantalla que vi de King, en Crepshow 2.
Tiene unas descripciones y situaciones bastante macabras. Pero creo que lo mas macabro son los pensamientos de uno de los protagonistas a medida que se dan los acontecimientos y también algunas actitudes que toma.

Profile Image for Karla.
1,074 reviews243 followers
February 15, 2023
Story 3 stars**
Audio 4 stars**
Narrator Stephen king
Profile Image for Brian .
415 reviews5 followers
December 28, 2015
This scared the hell out of me. I couldn't finish. I got rid of the collection. It's that scary.
Profile Image for BookChampions.
1,185 reviews108 followers
October 25, 2017
Technically I've already reviewed this story (or rather Skeleton Crew, the short story collection it comes from), and technically I don't review short stories on this site. But I want to catalogue my use of the story in my horror literature class this week. Plus, I am pining for that stunning vintage paperback copy of the story! If anyone has one...

"The Raft" is one of my favourite horror stories, even while it is riddled with problematic depictions of gender, especially women. Since all the depictions of traditional masculinity fare horribly, it's easy to interpret this story as a critique of machismo and sexist hegemony. But the story can also be seen as an exploration of nature's fierceness, the perils of entering adulthood, and the dangers of sexuality without communication. Those interested in studies of the human body will also find much of fascination within King's gruesome descriptions.

For such an immensely memorable example of modern horror, I feel like the story is widely unknown. On the other hand, it is horrifying to read, so maybe that is a reason why. But all means seek this story out; just don't tell me I didn't warn you first!
Profile Image for Robert Reiner.
323 reviews6 followers
March 20, 2023
I hate the water. I mean a swimming pool is fine, but I'd prefer not to swim in a lake or the ocean. I have multiple fears of what might be lurking below me that I can't see. The Raft basically scared the snot out of me. The idea of being stranded on a raft with this lurking thing in the water waiting for me. I'm going to have nightmares tonight. But that's why you read scary stories right? King got me good on this one...
Profile Image for David.
54 reviews27 followers
July 20, 2017
This one fucking scared me. I always knew that swirly shit leaking out of my boat onto the water wasn't just oil and gas. :)
Profile Image for Kyle.
87 reviews61 followers
December 18, 2022
A chillingly effective short story

Ever since hearing The Police's "Synchronicity II" and Iron Maiden's "Still Life" (both released in 1983) and reading "The Fellowship of the Ring", I have had a fascination with mysterious creatures in bodies of water. There's something very effective about that motif. Perhaps it harkens to our collective unconcious of our ancestors memories?

For this story I enjoyed the early 1980s setting: the Camaro, the reference to the band Night Ranger, and The Ramones. There were interesting contrasts between the two college-aged couples. I guess this story could be referred to as a rite of passage tale, a common theme in many of Stephen King's stories. Well, it pulled me in (sorry, bad pun) from the get go. I finished it in two nights (winter holidays = busy time of year).

I kept wondering what the thing in the water was. Was it a result of an experiment, pollution, an extraterrestrial visitor, or even a psychedelic hallucination? Oh well, it does not matter. Whatever it was, King used it to great effect. I could almost imagine myself on the raft...
Profile Image for Stephen  Alff (AlffBooks).
164 reviews54 followers
March 7, 2015
This is definitely a very well written horror story... I really don't know what to think, it inspires terror because of the rawness of what happens to the main characters, it destroys your hope that the story could end well, pretty soon after you start reading it. I only recently started reading stories by Stephen King and I think I took the fact that Stephen King wrote terrifying Thrillers and horror stories far too lightly. If you are looking for a story that will send chills down your spins for a long time after you finish it you are spot on... And to think that I was going to go for a swim(might put it off by a day just because, well..), You will understand my reluctance after you read the story.
Profile Image for Krutika Kalkal.
30 reviews38 followers
July 10, 2021
The beauty of Stephen King's writing is that most of the horror comes from knowing what the characters are thinking in that moment. I admire the clarity in the way in which he expresses shock, lunacy, fear, and other extreme emotions in a completely normal person.
Profile Image for Jol.
74 reviews7 followers
January 12, 2015
This story had the most horrifically detailed deaths and I loved every gut-wrenching minute of it. Stephen King really is incredible with his descriptions.
Profile Image for Heather.
177 reviews3 followers
February 10, 2015
JUST as good as my original read 20 years ago! What the heck IS that thing?!
Profile Image for Vimal Thiagarajan.
131 reviews78 followers
August 10, 2016
The dark imagery that King creates in his shorts is really one of its kind.After an insipid start to his works, I'm beginning to see what a gifted writer he is.
Profile Image for Michael.
730 reviews
October 26, 2015
Quite a creepy story by Stephen King. As an audiobook it was well read but i feel that the story wasn't his best work. and the ending.......well what ending is all i can say. With more work to the ending I would have thought more of this short story.
Profile Image for Erin.
45 reviews4 followers
February 18, 2017
One of the most chilling short stories I have ever read. A bleak, somewhat amorphous take on the "monster in the lake" scenario, you find yourself feeling like you too are running out of time.
Profile Image for J.B..
Author 17 books46 followers
September 16, 2021
Great concept, believable characters and interesting antagonistic. But that sex scene was just absolutely unnecessary. So stupid, especially in the moment it happens.

The visuals were pretty cool.
Profile Image for Jason Pierce.
742 reviews88 followers
October 20, 2019
I had high expectations for this since a lot of people like it, and I wasn't disappointed. This was fantastic.

Some say it's Stephen King's best short story. I don't know that I'd go there. Well, let me clarify. It's not my favorite short story of his. It's not even my favorite in Skeleton Crew. So far, The Mist is holding steady with the blue ribbon there though I still have half the collection left to read, and even "The Mist" doesn't surpass a couple in Night Shift. And I still have eight other short story/novella collections of his to read. Well, nine if you count If It Bleeds when it comes out next year.

But I'm talking favorite, and the others said best. And, you know, I expect an argument could be made for that. There isn't a wasted word in this story, and it's put together well. All of the other stories I put on the top tier have flaws even though I like them more than this one, but I can't think of any problems with "The Raft." So, bear that in mind.

Solid read for any horror fan.
Profile Image for Serene.
29 reviews
August 21, 2021
This story is so good! It’s not as much scary as it is gory and graphic. Though it is still scary. There is swearing and some inappropriate content. I definitely recommend reading it! And it doesn’t take that long to read, as it is a short story. The only reason I gave it four stars is because I don’t especially like the ending.
June 11, 2014
This one is a pretty quick and predictable read. SK was able to make the characters stand out more than anything else. However, the thing in the sea wasn't given so much detail.

It's like watching a B movie with all the characters dying, a football player, a cheer leader, an uptight girl etc.

Profile Image for Sg.
76 reviews
March 28, 2023
3.5 terrifying and disgusting, I loved it minus kings trademark creepy sex content why are you like this dude
Profile Image for David Meditationseed.
549 reviews30 followers
May 31, 2018
Do you know those kind of horror films from the 1980s that turned out to be a fever in Hollywood and then became cult, B side or they are considered almost like comedies in the 2000s?

Those movies where a group of young American friends go to a vacation home in a secluded field or beach and slowly die mysteriously?

So .... this is the plot of this Stephen King story.

But despite the usual cliches: the athletic soccer player who conquers all the girls; the clever boy who is jealous of his strong friend; the hot girl and the yellow Ferrari.... King is able to go beyond the stereotypes and turn this tale into a true psychological terror that somewhat resembles and with due proportions the sensation that we have when reading the spectacular "Pit and Pendulum" of Poe.

One of Stephen King's greatest qualities is the cadence of terror. When it begins to happen (often after a great deal of coax or prolixity), King manages to give an atmosphere so horrifying little by little to the events that culminate as if it were the most awaited aria of that opera that we love.

This type of cadence, as in other stories of him, which I consider my favorites, as "Survivor Type", is present here, in The Raft.

Finally, there is also the bias of fear finding sexuality but not in a sadistic or masochistic way, but in the simple adrenaline form, a libido aroused by desire.
Profile Image for Darlene Crawshaw.
29 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2019
I don't normally care for open endings, but this one was pretty good. Four college kids decide to go out onto a raft on a closed lake before fall and cold weather sets in, and they are accosted by an intelligent, acidic, bloodthirsty black mass that has some sort of hypnotic power. Cold, wet, and stranded after it quickly eats the first teen, the remaining three are forced to wait out the strange anomaly, as it becomes increasingly aggressive. While it's admitted that Randy, one of the teens, realizes that he probably could have swam for the beach and made it while the mass is eating another person, he doesn't. It ends up a hopeless last man standing situation on night number two. Then the story ends. This was a gripping, gory, very human story in that mistakes were made, people got hysterical, and people got ruthless. This one packs a punch. This is one of my favorite King short stories.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Miku.
1,052 reviews22 followers
April 18, 2021
"Tratwa" to historia czwórki studentów, którzy płyną sobie tratwą po jeziorze. Traktują to jako taki ostatni wypad przed zbliżającą się zimą. W pewnym momencie zauważają dziwną substancję, o ciemnym kolorze, łudząco przypominającą ropę, która (to będzie dziwne określenie) zachowuje się bardzo ludzko, ponieważ zbliża się do nich oraz nie chce ich zostawić w spokoju, a w dodatku, kiedy jedna z osób dotyka tej mazi to zostaje ona wciągnięta i rozerwana na strzępy. Na tratwie pozostaje trójka studentów, a dalszych ich losów nie zdradzam.

Fantastyczne opowiadanie, mnóstwo grozy oraz autor bardzo skupia uwagę czytelnika na zachowaniu poszczególnych postaci, ponieważ każdy z nich inaczej zareagował na daną sytuację. Polecam, bo to chyba jedno z najlepszych opowiadań, które miałam okazję poznać.
Profile Image for Amit.
681 reviews3 followers
April 17, 2020
I liked this one very much. Before winter four college students – Randy, Deke, Rachel, and LaVerne – swim to a wooden raft on a remote Pennsylvania lake in October. They were having their time when suddenly Randy notices a mysterious black substance floating on the surface. It's present seems nothing else that he ever saw and it was alarming to notice. He screamed and call out his friends to get back in the raft as quickly as possible. Somehow they managed to get up in the raft and together they survey the thing. This black substance floating in the wave something that doesn't make any sense and there might no time for them to go back to shore as it's gaining on them. What happens after then is so terrifying to read. As I say already I really liked it very much. Total 5 from me...
Profile Image for E..
1 review
May 30, 2021
I'm quite a big Stephen King fan, and I usually *attempt* to excuse his casual, rampant misogyny for the sake of his excellent horror imagery, but this was honestly the worst I've read from him. The character deaths are extremely detailed and gruesome, nothing less than what you would expect from King, but the story itself is severely lacking; It's predictable, it's not particularly shocking or creepy, and the characters are so paper-thin and predictable it's impossible to sympathise with any of them.
Also, as someone who usually supports the intersection of sexuality and fear in the face of criticism, what the HELL was the point of sex being a part of this 20 page short story? Oh, and the end is just a vague non-end, which honestly feels beyond lazy.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
376 reviews14 followers
June 24, 2020
A bloody good read, figuratively and literally!!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews

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