eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-17 07:58 am

Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 17

Just a couple of weeks ago I had the very good fortune to be part of A Long-Expected Party 4 at the exquisite Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

(You can see my photos from the event here and from the last ALEP three years ago here.)

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While I was there, I heard some wonderfully spooky ghost stories, several of which revolved around faces seen in the topmost windows of the West Family Wash House (1842), shown below, the building in which I gave my presentations and workshops for the event.

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Since then, I’ve indulged in Shaker Ghost Stories from Pleasant Hill, Kentucky by Thomas Freese (2005) and learned some more spooky lore from the place. Here is one of my favorite anecdotes from the book, which is about the Meeting House and told by Bill Bright, a former Pleasant Hill employee:

Since I was a bit bored, I walked over to a spot between the two front doors to sing a little. I was next to a gap in the wall benches, facing the back wall. I started to sing sets of three (triads). Since I had spent plenty of time in high school band, I figured that it’s be a neat exercise to try the acoustics in the large room of the Meeting House.

As I was singing, something appeared in the middle of the benches to my right, on the sister’s side. For lack of a better explanation, it looked like a human form, very similar to the special effect done in Star Trek when they beam up somebody. It seemed to rise up from the floor to my height. At that point, the hair on the right side of my body stood on end, while the left side was not affected. I immediately got cold chills, like I had just walked into a meat locker. I just wanted to get out of there. I left the building immediately…

When I saw Randy [Folger, the music director], I told him about the experience and he simply asked me if I knew what I had been doing. At that point I had no idea. Then Randy asked me to sing as I had been singing in the Meeting House. After I sang for him, Randy explained to me that I had unwittingly been singing the “Angel Shout.” The Angel Shout was a set up notes that were sung like: “Lo…lo…lo…” and were sung in descending thirds. The Angel Shout was supposed to call the Shakers to meeting.  

This photo is from the Shaker graveyard at the village (1811).

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eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-16 12:44 pm
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 16

“We don’t anticipate accidents, nor do we expect to die young.”
― V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic 

This appropriate bit of eeriness is by BrokenViolet.

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This post is inspired by the fact I recently rediscovered the original score of the 1987 film adaptation of Flowers in the Attic.

When I think of spooky instrumental themes from films, my mind usually goes to the themes of The Exorcist or Psycho. But the theme to Flowers in the Attic by Christopher Young? Genuinely haunting. Here, take a few minutes and enjoy the chills.

eldritchhobbit: (Default)
2017-10-15 10:38 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 15

They built it out of stone—dark gray stone, pried loose from the unforgiving mountains. It was a house for those who could not take care of themselves, for those who heard voices, who had strange thoughts and did strange things. The house was meant to keep them in. Once they came, they never left. 
- Madeleine Roux, Asylum    

This stunning photo is Asylum by MadUnTwoSwords.

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“If someone tells you you’re crazy enough times, eventually it becomes true. It’s that old psychiatrist’s joke: insanity’s all in your head.”
― Madeleine Roux, Asylum  


Abby’s eyes seemed almost as vacant as those of the girl in the photograph. Then a shiver came over her and she blinked. Gently, almost affectionately, she put the picture back on the wall. She touched it one last time and said, “Poor little bird. I wonder if she ever escaped her cage.”
― Madeleine Roux, Asylum


Bustle lists “13 Horror Novels By Women To Terrify You This Fall” (including, as you may have guessed, Asylum by Madeleine Roux). How many have you read or put on your "to read” list?
eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-14 10:35 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 14

Back during the 2013 Halloween Countdown, I mentioned the Boggy Creek Monster, or Fouke Monster, sightings of which center primarily around the Boggy Creek area on the borders between Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The creature was made famous beyond the region thanks to the 1972 docudrama The Legend of Boggy Creek (which was an annual viewing tradition in my Oklahoma family) and the films it inspired, such as Return to Boggy Creek (1977) and Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues (1984).

A couple of recent documentaries have looked into the phenomenon: Southern Fried Bigfoot (2007) and Boggy Creek Monster: The Truth Behind the Legend (2016).

This year, two of my daring Halloween Countdown undercover operatives* made a bold journey to Fouke, Arkansas, saw the monster-related sights firsthand, and sent photos of their journey.

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The locals, such as the friendly folk you might meet at the Monster Mart, are happy to talk about the area’s reputation. Public art celebrates the creature.

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This is “Bigfoot Country”!

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My operatives had no sightings or close encounters, but they did send me some sweet Fouke Monster swag from their adventure.

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I’ll leave you with lyrics from one of the more iconic ingredients of The Legend of Boggy Creek, “The Legend of Boggy Creek” theme (also known as “Lonely Cry”) with lyrics and music by Earl E. Smith, originally sung by Chuck Bryant.

Here the Sulphur River flows,
Rising when the storm cloud blows.
And this is where the creature goes,
Safe within a world he knows.

Perhaps he dimly wonders, “Why,
There is no other such as I,
To touch, to love, before I die,
To listen to my lonely cry.”

Listen to the original version or listen to cover versions by Pedro Boyd or by The Accidental Trio.



*Thanks, Mother and Daddy!

eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-13 09:17 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 13

It's Friday the 13th, people! You can't get more Halloween-friendly than that. May your day be spooktacular (in a good way, of course).

It seems only fitting to share with you a chilling passage from U.S. businessman/author Thomas W. Lawson's popular 1907 work Friday, the Thirteenth: A Novel, which some credit with contributing to the contemporary sense of doom that hangs over the day. In Lawson's novel, a corrupt broker takes advantage of the already-existing "Friday the 13th" superstition to create a Wall Street panic on that date. As you might imagine, the results are tragic.

This is the frontispiece to the novel by Sigismond de Ivanowski.



Here, let your spine be tingled by this excerpt:

Then, horror of horrors! I saw that there was something missing from her great blue eyes. I looked; gasped. Could it possibly be? With a bound I was at her side. I gazed again into those eyes which that morning had been all that was intelligent, all that was godlike, all that was human. Their soul, their life was gone. Beulah Sands was a dead woman; not dead in body, but in soul; the magic spark had fled. She was but an empty shell--a woman of living flesh and blood; but the citadel of life was empty, the mind was gone. What had been a woman was but a child. I passed my hand across my now damp forehead. I closed my eyes and opened them again. Bob's figure, with clasped, uplifted hands, and bursting eyes, was still there. There still resounded through the room the awful guttural groans. Beulah Sands smiled, the smile of an infant in the cradle. She took one beautiful hand from the paper and passed it over Bob's bronzed cheek, just as the infant touches its mother's face with its chubby fingers. In my horror I almost expected to hear the purling of a babe. My eyes in their perplexity must have wandered from her face, for I suddenly became aware of a great black head-line spread across the top of the paper that she had been reading:

"FRIDAY, THE 13TH."

And beneath in one of the columns:

"TERRIBLE TRAGEDY IN VIRGINIA"

"THE MOST PROMINENT CITIZEN OF THE STATE, EX-UNITED STATES SENATOR AND EX-GOVERNOR, JUDGE LEE SANDS OF SANDS LANDING, WHILE TEMPORARILY INSANE FROM THE LOSS OF HIS FORTUNE AND MILLIONS OF THE FUNDS FOR WHICH HE WAS TRUSTEE, CUT THE THROAT OF HIS INVALID WIFE, HIS DAUGHTER'S, AND THEN HIS OWN. ALL THREE DIED INSTANTLY."

In another column:

"ROBERT BROWNLEY CREATES THE MOST DISASTROUS PANIC IN THE HISTORY OF WALL STREET AND SPREADS WRECK AND RUIN THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY."

A hideous picture seared its every light and shade on my mind, through my heart, into all my soul. A frenzied-finance harvest scene with its gory crop; in the centre one living-dead, part of the picture, yet the ghost left to haunt the painters, one of whom was already cowering before the black and bloody canvas.


You can read the complete novel for free here at Project Gutenberg.
eldritchhobbit: (SW/Luke/What You Take With)
2017-10-12 08:23 am
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What's so "Tolkienian" about Star Wars?

My guest scholar talk (from the recent A Long-Expected Party 4 celebration) on the relationship between J.R.R. Tolkien and Star Wars storytelling is now up in full for free here on the latest episode of the StarShipSofa podcast.

If you listen, I hope you enjoy!


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eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-12 08:19 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 12



Surely no song says Halloween like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”


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Here is the “Thriller” rap performed by Vincent Price, including the “lost” second verse that doesn’t appear in the song.



Darkness falls across the land.
The midnight hour is close at hand.
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'all’s neighborhood.
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpses shell!

The demons squeal in sheer delight.
Its you they spy: so plump, so right.
For though the groove is hard to beat,
Yet still you stand with frozen feet!
You try to run, you try to scream,
But no more sun you’ll ever see,
For evil reaches from the crypt
To crush you with its icy grip!

The foulest stench is in the air,
The funk of forty-thousand years,
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom.
And though you fight to stay alive,
Your body starts to shiver!
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the Thriller!

Can you dig it?

*Evil Laughter*

For your spooky listening pleasure, here is that legendary “Thriller” voice-over session with Vincent Price in full…



eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-11 08:44 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 11

We can all agree that death sucks. But I think we can also agree that if we’re going to die, we may as well eat a lot of candy before we go.

Halloween is one of many "memento mori" traditions designed to make death just a little bit more fun—and provide an age-appropriate hint to children about an inescapable fact of life, which is that life ends.

This has emotional benefits. As Oliver Burkemen notes in his essay “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking,” one study found that walking through a graveyard made people 40 percent more likely to help a stranger than walking down an ordinary block; another found that visualizing death can lead us to become more grateful for the things we have in life.


- “Five Reasons Why Humans Need Halloween“ by Jeremy Adam Smith

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As one of the “naturally cantankerous and gloomy,” I also recommend the related/linked (and Halloween-relevant) article “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking.”

And speaking of visualizing death, I found this list to be helpful:Here’s how to get your Halloween TV fix this year.”

Here’s another great link for the season: “8 Chilling Reads from Around the World.”

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The artwork is october/ and october// by the very talented Ogvi.


eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-10 07:44 am

Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 10

If you're looking for some darkly comic and fun viewing for the Halloween season, I recommend the new eleven-part web series Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Invite Only Casual Dinner Party/Gala For Friends Potluck.

The premise? Edgar Allan Poe invites some of history’s most famous authors (Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, H.G. Wells, Charlotte Brontë, Louisa May Alcott, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, you get the idea) to play a murder mystery game, but things don’t go quite as planned. Gothic madness!

I laughed out loud. Give this a try.

Check out the trailer below ("Don't do murder!"), and then help yourself to the entire series!


eldritchhobbit: (SW/BB-8)
2017-10-10 07:41 am
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eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-09 12:47 pm
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 9

Last week Reynardine put stunning new – well, new to me – music on my radar, and today I simply have to share. (Thank you, Reynardine!)image

Inspired by a walk among the tombstones of The Old Burying Ground in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, this orchestral song cycle weaves together epitaphs from two historic cemeteries with compelling new poems by Irish and American poets. Featuring the GRAMMY Award winning University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Kiesler, The Old Burying Ground has guest performances by folksinger, Tim Eriksen, soprano, Anne-Carolyn Bird, and tenor, Nicholas Phan. 

Here is “And Pass From Hence Away.”





“While cemeteries carry remnants of profound human suffering, they are also places of great peace. For me, they provide an ideal place for a meditation upon how lives appear and disappear in the world.”
- Evan Chambers, composer


Here is “O Say Grim Death.”




eldritchhobbit: (Default)
2017-10-08 06:47 pm
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Happy Birthday, Frank Herbert!

Happy birthday to Frank Herbert (8 October, 1920 – 11 February, 1986)!

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

- Frank Herbert, Dune

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eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-08 10:52 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 8

Shayna Murphy of Bookbub Blog recently posted a list of “31 of the All-Time Best Horror Books.” While it’s not a particularly wide-ranging or diverse list, it’s worth a look if you’re interested in the genre; there are some great works included. I’ve read far more of the titles from the “Timeless Classics” category than the “New Fiction.” How about you?

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In the spirit of the BookBub list, here’s a little excerpt from the opening of the 40th anniversary edition of The Exorcist by the late, great William Peter Blatty (R.I.P.!):

Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men’s eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. It was difficult to judge.

The house was a rental. Brooding. Tight. A brick colonial gripped by ivy in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. Across the street was a fringe of campus belonging to George­town University; to the rear, a sheer embankment plummeting steep to busy M Street and, just beyond it, the River Potomac. Early on the morning of April 1, the house was quiet. Chris MacNeil was propped in bed, going over her lines for the next day’s filming; Regan, her daughter, was sleeping down the hall; and asleep downstairs in a room off the pantry were the middle-aged housekeepers, Willie and Karl. At approximately 12:25 a.m., Chris looked up from her script with a frown of puzzle­ment. She heard rapping sounds. They were odd. Muffled. Pro­found. Rhythmically clustered. Alien code tapped out by a dead man.

Funny.

For a moment she listened, then dismissed it; but as the rappings persisted she could not concentrate. She slapped down the script on the bed.

Jesus, that bugs me!

She got up to investigate.

She went out to the hallway and looked around. The rappings seemed to be coming from Regan’s bedroom.

What is she doing?

She padded down the hall and the rappings grew suddenly louder, much faster, and as she pushed on the door and stepped into the room, they abruptly ceased.

What the freak’s going on?

Her pretty eleven-year-old was asleep, cuddled tight to a large stuffed round-eyed panda. Pookey. Faded from years of smothering; years of smacking, warm, wet kisses.

Chris moved softly to her bedside, leaned over and whis­pered. “Rags? You awake?”

Regular breathing. Heavy. Deep.

Read more from this excerpt here.

eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-07 11:11 am

Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 7


On this day in 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died at the age of forty under mysterious circumstances.

For more information, read “Mysterious for Evermore” by Matthew Pearl, an article on Poe’s death from The Telegraph. Pearl is the author of a fascinating novel about the subject, The Poe Shadow.

This is Edgar Allan Poe - The Black Cat by the wonderful Alexander Levett:

Here are some links from me:
* In this episode of StarShipSofa, I review the “Madness: Insanity in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe” temporary exhibit at The Poe Museum, a place I always love to visit. I thought this was a very insightful exhibit, and in my “Looking Back on Genre History” segment I try to pass some of those insights along to listeners. If you check it out, I hope you enjoy!
* While we’re talking Poe, I invite you to vote on my Goodreads list of “Fiction Featuring Poe as a Character.”
* Hocus Pocus Comics is Poe-centric, and you’re invited to visit the site. In addition, check out this beautiful time-lapse video of David Hartman drawing the exclusive Kickstarter cover for The Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe.


The following are some of my favorite links about Edgar Allan Poe:
* PoeStories.com: An Exploration of Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
* The Poe Museum of Richmond
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The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore

This haunting doll is Edgar Poe 2 by the talented Gogolle:



One of my favorite works by Poe is “The Masque of the Red Death.” One of the best film representations of the story I’ve ever seen is this gorgeous, silent adaptation from Extraordinary Tales. Perhaps my favorite reading of the story is this one by Gabriel Byrne, which hits all the right notes.

There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can becmade. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood – and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

- Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”

eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-06 07:00 am

Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 6

Today I want to share an extraordinary new story from the October 2017 issue of The Dark Magazine. It is, in a word, haunting. You don’t want to miss “The Whalebone Parrot.”

As author Darcie Little Badger says of her story, “I tried to learn Lipan, but so little remains. Haunted by the ghosts of my dying language, I channeled my anger and sorrow into a story.” Check out this Twitter thread in which she explains the roots of her unforgettable Gothic tale.



Here is a brief taste:

Stairs had been chiseled into the incline between the beach and elevated meadow. As if summoned, a woman in white stepped onto the granite landing. Although her face was hidden by a lace veil, Emily recognized the willowy shape and unflagging straight posture.

“Thank you, Franklin!” Loretta called. That low, lilting voice had given Emily a thousand stories, a thousand admonishments, and a hundred thousand tender endearments. “Albert and I can manage the rest.”

As the skiff broke away from land, the sisters met in the middle of the staircase. “I missed you!” Emily cried. “Let me see your face!”

Loretta turned away from the sea and lifted her veil. “Have three years changed me?” she asked.

“Well … ” Loretta’s skin, once richer than dark amber, was sallow. She must rarely sun it. The new look complemented Whalebone Island, as dreary a place as any. Its grasses, brush, and scraggly trees were wind-stooped and stunted by their inhospitable lot. Emily wondered if the island, with time, would leech the color from her cheeks, too.

“Why do you cover your face?” she asked.

“Because I hate the way they stare.”

“Who?”

“Everyone but you, Darling.” Loretta smiled. “Let’s hurry home. A surprise is waiting.”


Read “The Whalebone Parrot” by Darcie Little Badger – or listen to the podcast version – here.
eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-05 08:55 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 5

This month is the annual Star Wars Reads celebration. Star Wars Reads combines the love of a galaxy far, far away and the joy of reading.

Star Wars Reads 2017 Printable Activity Kit: Plan your own Star Wars event with this amazing party kit, complete with party invitations and activities for kids to adults.

Activity Kit PDF

Star Wars Reads Posters: Decorate with a downloadable Rey and BB-8 poster – in two sizes!

Poster A: PDF | JPEG
Poster B: PDF | JPEG

There will be events around the world sponsored by Star Wars publishers, so keep your eye on the Star Wars Reads Facebook page for more information.

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Is Star Wars relevant to Halloween? Of course it is!!!

1. Check out the General Grievous Halloween audiocast! This was an audiocast recorded by Matthew Wood as General Grievous and released on StarWars.com for Halloween of 2005. It was re-released on October 31, 2014. Today you (or your trick-or-treaters) can feel the Force of fright! Download this free audiocast to bring Star Wars scares to your October!

2. Did you know that Halloween was part of the classic Star Wars Expanded Universe?
According to Wookiepedia,

Halloween, or Hallowe'en, was a festival held in certain locations in the galaxy, including the Jedi Temple on the planet Coruscant and the settlement of Bright Tree Village on the Forest Moon of Endor. For the Jedi, the festival entailed decorating the temple with carved pumpkins and cobwebs. For the Ewoks of Endor, the festival was an annual highlight characterized by revelry, costuming, laughter, and a large feast. During the Halloween of 3 ABY, a predatory creature known as a hanadak attacked Bright Tree Village but was coaxed into leaving when Wicket W. Warrick and other Ewoks placed pacifying blue dlock leaves upon it. Later during that same Halloween, a band of Duloks kidnapped the Ewoks’ leader, Chief Chirpa, but Warrick and his friends Teebo and Kneesaa rescued the chief and allowed the Halloween festivities to continue.

Read more details about the specific appearances of Halloween in Star Wars comics, video games, and related books here at Wookiepedia!

3. Check out my current favorite Star Wars Halloween fan art: A Rogue One Halloween by @plays-with-shadows here.

eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-04 09:47 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 4

For years I have admired the beautiful, atmospheric, and often spooky photography of Lizzie~Belle. 

This past summer she documented the incredible headstones at the South Burying Place in Concord, Massachusetts. Check out her entire album of photos from the cemetery here.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the series.

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Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” - Seneca

At a Roman triumph, the majority of the public would have their eyes glued to the victorious general at the front—one of the most coveted spots during Roman times. Only a few would notice the aide in the back, right behind the commander, whispering into his ear, “Remember, thou art mortal.” What a reminder to hear at the peak of glory and victory!

… Such reminders and exercises take part of Memento Mori—the ancient practice of reflection on mortality that goes back to Socrates, who said that the proper practice of philosophy is “about nothing else but dying and being dead.” In early Buddhist texts, a prominent term is maraṇasati, which translates as ‘remember death.’ Some Sufis have been called the “people of the graves,” because of their practice of frequenting graveyards to ponder on death and one’s mortality.

Throughout history, Memento Mori reminders have come in many forms. Some, like the aide behind the general, were there to humble. Others were invented to inspire zest for life.

- from “’Memento Mori’: The Reminder We All Desperately Need” at The Daily Stoic

eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-03 08:20 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 3

R.I.P., Tom Petty. I’ve been a fan of his music for more than thirty years and in every incarnation: when he was solo, with the Heartbreakers, one of the Traveling Wilburys, in Mudcrutch, etc. His death came unexpectedly and much too soon. I am holding my metaphorical lighter high in the not-so-metaphorical darkness.

It feels right to make a tribute post part of the Halloween Countdown. One of my favorite songs performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers yielded a music video that creeped out some of my fellow fourteen-year-olds with its twisted, macabre take on Alice in Wonderland imagery. I loved it in 1985, and I still love it now. (Then again, I don’t scare easy.)

I’m declaring this video Halloween worthy.



I’d like to think there’s an empty car somewhere on a ghostly train traversing the countryside, and in it Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr. is having an epic jam session with Lefty and Nelson.

And it’s all right; they’re going to the end of the line.
eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-02 09:42 am

Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 2

Today for the Halloween Countdown I want to share the best ghost story I've read in ages. I had the honor of including "If a Bird Can Be a Ghost" by Allison Mills in the August 2017 issue of Apex Magazine (a "Celebration of Indigenous Fantasists"), which I guest edited. If you haven't read this story, you're in for a treat. If you have read it, then read it again! I can tell you from personal experience that it rewards multiple readings.




Here's a brief taste:

If Shelly’s mother had been home, she wouldn’t have let her go to the river. Grandma walks up and down the bank a few times, holding Shelly’s hand, the cops trailing after them, and Grandma lets her hair hang loose and long to pull up any ghosts.

She catches the ghost on the third pass. His clothes are plastered to his body and his shivering makes him shift in and out of focus. He doesn’t speak, but he keeps glancing over his shoulder, towards a little outcrop of rocks on the bank of the water.

“Ah,” Grandma says, nodding. She gestures the cops closer and points to the rocks. “He’s caught up in there. A nice young man with a red beard.”

The cops wait until Shelly and Grandma leave to pull the body from the water. The ghost comes home with them, wet and shivery, even after the bus ride back to the house.

“Do you want me to turn on the heater?” Shelly asks him.

The ghost jumps and looks down at her. “Where did you come from?”

“Leave him alone, Shelly. We’ll feed him and send him off,” Grandma says. “He doesn’t need us confusing him even more.”

“I don’t understand what happened,” the ghost says. “I was just on the bridge. I was just thinking.”

Grandma pours the ghost a mug of milk and warms it in the microwave as he drifts around their kitchen, flickering in and out of focus as Shelly watches, fascinated. A new ghost, a ghost who is still deciding if he wants to stick around or not, is new for her.

“What’s your name?” Shelly asks because the cops hadn’t said.

The ghost gives her a distressed look. “I don’t know,” he says. “Do you know who I am? Do you know my name?”

Grandma set the mug of warm milk down on the kitchen table. “Here you go,” she says. “This will warm you up and then we’ll make sure you get where you’re going. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Shelly, would you get the scissors from my sewing kit?”

Shelly goes and gets the pair of small, silver scissors. The ghost drains the milk on the table. His wet hair drips real water on the floor. He looks like he’ll never be fully dry, like if you tried to wring him out he’d twist and twist and the water would just keep coming. This, Shelly thinks, is probably why Grandma doesn’t want to keep him. Having a damp ghost haunting their house would be troublesome.

Grandma wraps a strand of hair around her ring finger and clips it off. By the time the milk is finished, the ghost is nearly gone, just a faint smudge in the air where once there was a man.

“Where do they go?” Shelly asks. “Where do we send them?”

Grandma picks up the mug and refills it with milk. She sticks it in the microwave to heat it up for herself. “We’ll find out, won’t we? One day, a long time from now.”



Read "If a Bird Can Be a Ghost" by Allison Mills here.

Listen to my reading of "If a Bird Can Be a Ghost" here.
eldritchhobbit: (Pumpkin face)
2017-10-01 05:28 am
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Halloween Countdown 2017, Day 1

Thank you for joining me for the twelfth year of my blog-a-thon celebration of Halloween. Let's get this countdown started!

Allow me to share a creepy moment (in what is a very creepy film) that has stuck with me ever since I first saw it.

The classic 1955 film The Night of the Hunter is a dark thriller starring Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, and Robert Mitchum, the latter in a brilliant performance as a corrupt preacher-turned-serial killer. Both the film and the novel on which it's based drew inspiration from the true story of Harry Powers, who was hanged in 1932 for the murder of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

This was the only film directed by the great Charles Laughton, and it has a silent-film aesthetic that fits beautifully with its dark subject matter.

One of the most chilling moments to me appears with a child's lullaby, "The Pretty Fly," an original song composed for the film by Walter Schumann. The song is sung as the children are fleeing for their lives from their would-be killer; while the lyrics tell of a pretty fly, the visuals focus on creatures that devour flies (spiders, frogs, etc.). This short little scene feels desperate and ominous in all the right ways. The effect is, to me, singularly spooky.

So here, enjoy a little earworm to open your Halloween season.