Table of Contents
- Thou Shalt Not Suffer, by Matt Neil Hill
- No Holds Bard, by Adrian Cole
- Laying The Hairy Book, by Josh Reynolds
- Here Is Where Your Proud Waves Halt, by Erica Ruppert
- Vicious Circles, by Paul Dale Anderson
- Assorted Shades of Red, by Franklyn Searight
- Strange Days in Old Yandrissa, by John R. Fultz
- Fertility Rites, by Glynn Owen Barrass
- The Witch’s Heart, by Rachel Bolton
- Hag Race, by Andre E. Harewood
- Best Friend Becky, by Wayne Faust
- The Rat in the Rabbit Cage, by Ashley Dioses
- Two Spells, by Neva Bryan
- Pulled Over, by Paul Spears
- The Witch of Skur, by L.F. Falconer
- Cat and Mouse, by Duane Pesice
- Last of the Ashiptu, by Paul Lubaczewski
- Firestorm, by Richard H. Durisen
- The Witch of Pender, by John Linwood Grant
- The Nora Witch, by Brandon Jimison
- The Broken Witch, by Scott Hutchison
*Also includes: poetry by Maurits Zwankhuizen, Lucy A. Snyder, David F. Daumit, S.L. Edwards, Lori R. Lopez, Frederick J. Mayer, K.A. Opperman, Clay F. Johnson, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Oliver Smith, and Darla Klein.
“He took the sacramental chalice, and stretching forth his bare arm, cried in a loud voice:
‘Come ye viewless ministers of this dread hour! come from the fenny lake, the hanging rock, and the midnight cave! The moon is red—the stars are out—the sky is burning—and all nature stands aghast at what we do!’
Then, replacing the sacred vessel on the altar, he drew, one by one, from different parts of his body, from his knotted hair, from his bosom, from beneath his nails, the unholy things which he cast into it.
‘This,’ said he, ‘I plucked from the beak of a raven feeding on a murderer’s brains! This is the mad dog’s foam! These, the spurgings of a dead man’s eyes, gathered since the rising of the evening star! This is a screech-owl’s egg! This, a single drop of black blood, squeezed from the heart of a sweltered toad! This, an adder’s tongue! And here, ten grains of the gray moss that grew upon a skull which had lain in the charnel-house three hundred years!’
And his eyes seemed like balls of fire as he cast them upwards. ‘I call ye once! I call ye twice! Dare ye deny me! Nay, then, as I call ye thrice, I’ll wound mine arm, and as it drops, I’ll breathe a spell shall cleave the ground and drag you here!’”
– William Mudford, “Reign of Terror”
At the end of this post is a paragraph from a very very good ghost story that is 135 years old. But, first, I had to work out my thoughts about why I wanted to share it. And, it ties in with the premise for my ghost story anthology.
This is why I do what I do: I have been reading ghost stories and “mystery and suspense” stories and “uncanny” stories and “stories of the supernatural”—since the beginning of 2017, when I first began to narrow a list of hundreds of stories—maybe more—down to a growing longlist and then a shortlist for a 2-volume ghost story anthology—because, I thought, there is something about the stories written before 1920-ish, that were just better. They are better fiction, hands down, and I needed to explore this so I understood it better. After reading umpteen stories from 1780s-1915, give or take, I have come to the conclusion that, it is not about flowery language or “purple prose” or antiquated anachronistic plot structures, etc. etc. It is about being better-educated writers during a time when more was expected of our mind, our manners, our mores, our work ethic (even in writing), our reputation before “the world” (these periodicals made their way around and were widely read).
I had heard that a lot—the “overwrought prose of yesteryear” angle—and I was open to it being correct…and as I went along I compared some ghost stories from that time with some from the 1950s forward and all I could think was: ‘why does it seem that we have dumbed down fiction writing in the ghost story genre to a level of a Sport’s writeup in the Times?’ Nothing wrong with Sports writeups in the Times.
But, I don’t want to read fiction like that. I want depth, thoughtfulness, a sense from reading that the author is well-read, the characters, too; I want them drawn in 3D and not over-described.I want atmosphere. And, I want to feel like the entire story took time to build, like a cathedral, not a hut made out of hay bales.
I know some amazing writers today who are writing cathedrals. And I am so thrilled as a reader about it.
I remember reading a quote in college by Henry James, or maybe it was Joyce Carol Oates…about writing the “telling detail”…but I think we still struggle today, especially in genre or “pop” fiction, which can also be very high quality, (sometimes), with telling the “wrong” detail(s). Wrong is a subjective term. Maybe the better descriptor is the “unthoughtful” detail, the “rushed string of details” the ones that sound OK, but that when strung together fall short of showing something cohesive about the character (e.g., the red-head waltzed into the room wearing a black dress cut down to there and orange lipstick, emerald earrings that dangled like stars from her earlobes, a matching bracelet on her right wrist, bright-red patent-leather 10-inch pumps, black nylons like the ones you wore in the 1940s with a line up the back, and a purse made out of the skin of some animal, but oddly, with all of that bling, she wore not a single ring on any of her long graceful fingers, the nails of which were painted “hotlips red”).
I would argue that the only telling detail here, is that she wore no rings. Why? That detail interests me. The others don’t. They are part of a “formulaic” writing style, noir, Roger Rabbit meets Raymond Chandler, but isn’t written as well as Chandler, etc.
I don’t mean to be negative, just reflective about why some stories seem to inspire more awe in me; whereas others feel utilitarian, not unnecessary, just thin.
The writers of the 1800s weren’t writing “horror” or “weird” fiction. Because those weren’t genres yet. They were states of mind or emotion, or behavior. And they made their way into this high quality fiction. What I especially love in these stories, is the way the entire story is treated with such respect—from the pacing to the tension and from the atmosphere to the characters—these writers were grand writers, and they had been brought up not on “the milk of fiction” but on its “meat”. I fear today, we are if not back to the milk, then at least to some protein-shake-gluten-free, non-dairy, lactose-free milk substitute, with vegetable-product thickeners.
I am still on my longlist, because I thought I would find more stories and novellas, sooner. Last night I found two, that may skip the longlist and jump right to the shortlist. I’m so impressed. One is by Sir Walter Besant. I’d never heard of him until today. And, here is a paragraph from the second one, a longer story by “Mrs. Oliphant” (Margaret O. Wilson Oliphant)—and published in a two-part serialized format in a new periodical of the time, that went on actually to become very successful.
This story is 135 years old. You tell me if it doesn’t read like the best literature published today. Purple prose? Outdated style? I don’t think so. And this is just one paragraph. Imagine the whole story, about the solemn, wandering ghost of a woman, long-dead—Stay tuned for The Greatest Ghost Stories Ever Told, ed. Sanguine Woods, December 2017.
“They asked me to come at Ellermore when we parted, and, as I have nothing in the way of home warmer or more genial than chambers in the Temple, I accepted, as may be supposed, with enthusiasm. It was in the first week of June that we parted, and I was invited for the end of August. They had ‘plenty of grouse,’ Charley said, with a liberality of expression which was pleasant to hear.
Charlotte added, ‘But you must be prepared for homely life, Mr. Temple, and a very quiet one.’ I replied, of course, that if I had chosen what I liked best in the world it would have been this combination: at which she smiled with an amused little shake of her head. It did not seem to occur to her that she herself told for much in the matter. What they all insisted upon was the ‘plenty of grouse;’ and I do not pretend to say that I was indifferent to that.
Colin, the eldest son, was the one with whom I had been least familiar. He was what people call reserved. He did not talk of everything as the others did. I did not indeed find out till much later that he was constantly in London, coming and going, so that he and I might have seen much of each other. Yet he liked me well enough. He joined warmly in his brother’s invitation. When Charley said there was plenty of grouse, he added with the utmost friendliness, ‘And ye may get blaze at a stag.’ There was a flavour of the North in the speech—of all not disclosed by mere words, but also by an occasional diversity of idiom and change of pronunciation. They were conscious of this and rather proud of it. They did not say Scotch, but Scots; and their accent could not be represented by any of the travesties of the theatre, or what we conventionally accept as the national utterance. When I attempted to pronounce after them, my own ear informed me what a travesty it was.”
– Mrs. Oliphant, “The Lady’s Walk,” Part I, Longman’s Magazine, 1882
I usually have trouble finding modern ghost stories I like. I prefer the longer, old style of prose from the past. But I am thrilled to discover this collection. Sheila Hodgson wrote these in the antiquated style, which seems to have been forgotten, unfortunately, or, worse, relegated to remain imprisoned in a specific time that we are now past. Here is an excerpt and the Contents of this 1998 collection. I haven’t yet discovered which story contains that thing with no eyes on the cover. 😬
Table of Contents
The Villa Martine
The Turning Point
The Lodestone Childermass
The Backward Glance
The Boat Hook
The Fellow Travellers
The Hand of Gideon Chant
Echoes from the Abbey
Here Am I, Where Are You?
“It began in a pub near Shepherd’s Bush. Several of us, scriptwriters at Television Centre, had been debating why the ghost story is so much more effective on radio than on television; why unseen terrors prove far more alarming than explicit visual horrors. Even in the hands of such a master as Nigel Kneale, there is a real danger that once you show your haunting phantom, one or two people in the audience will fall about laughing.
What frightens you may strike me as ridiculous; what terrifies me may cause you to hoot with derision. Fear is personal. I am not talking here of mass panic, which is a different matter altogether —a kind of infectious hysteria —but rather of icy, isolated dread, the conviction that one is utterly alone yet something has gone bump in the night. As a very small child I got lost under the bedclothes, and to this day feel a horrid frisson every time I read ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’. That face of crumpled linen, you see.
As a result of our pub argument, I wrote to Broadcasting House suggesting that I adapt one of M. R. James’s stories for radio. I got a letter back saying thank you, they believed all the good ones had been done already. I checked with the Public Library. They were right.
Richard Roberts, discoverer of the Ebu Gogo, says local tales suggest the species could still exist…
“When I was back in Flores earlier this month we heard the most amazing tales of little, hairy people, whom the villagers called Ebu Gogo (Ebu = ‘grandmother’; Gogo = ‘he who eats anything’). The tales contained the most fabulous details; so detailed you start to imagine there may be a grain of truth in them.
One of the village elders told us that the Ebu Gogo ate everything raw, including vegetables, fruits, meat and, if they got the chance, even human meat.
When food was served to them they also ate the plates, made of pumpkin – the original guests from hell (or heaven, if you don’t like washing up and don’t mind replacing your dinner set every week).
The villagers say that the Ebu Gogo raided their crops, which they tolerated, but decided to chase them away when the Ebu Gogo stole – and ate – one of their babies.
They ran away with the baby to their cave which was at the foot of the local volcano, some tens of metres up a cliff face. The villagers offered them bales of dry grass as fodder, which they gratefully accepted.
A few days later, the villagers went back with a burning bale of grass which they tossed into the cave. Out ran the Ebu Gogo, singed but not fried, and were last seen heading west, in the direction of Liang Bua, where we found the Hobbit, as it happens.
When my colleague Gert van den Bergh first heard these stories a decade ago, which several of the villages around the volcano recount with only very minor changes in detail, he thought them no better than leprechaun tales until we unearthed the Hobbit. (I much prefer Ebu as the name of our find but my colleague Mike Morwood was insistent on Hobbit.)
The anatomical details in the legends are equally fascinating. They are described as about a metre tall, with long hair, pot bellies, ears that slightly stick out, a slightly awkward gait, and longish arms and fingers – both confirmed by our further finds this year.
[The Ebu Gogo] murmured at each other and could repeat words [spoken by villagers] verbatim. For example, to ‘here’s some food’, they would reply ‘here’s some food’. They could climb slender-girthed trees but, here’s the rub, were never seen holding stone tools or anything similar, whereas we have lots of sophisticated artefacts in the H. floresiensis levels at Liang Bua. That’s the only inconsistency with the Liang Bua evidence.
The women Ebu Gogo had extremely pendulous breasts, so long that they would throw them over their shoulders, which must have been quite a sight in full flight.
We did ask the villagers if they ever interbred with the Ebu Gogo. They vigorously denied this, but said that the women of Labuan Baju (a village at the far western end of Flores, better known as LBJ) had rather long breasts, so they must have done.
A local eruption at Liang Bua (in western Flores) may have wiped out local hobbits around 12,000 years ago, but they could well have persisted much later in other parts of the island. The villagers said that the last hobbit was seen just before the village moved location, farther from the volcano, not long before the Dutch colonists settled in that part of central Flores, in the 19th century.
Do the Ebu Gogo still exist? It would be a hoot to search the last pockets of rainforest on the island. Not many such pockets exist, but who knows. At the very least, searching again for that lava cave, or others like it, should be done, because remains of hair only a few hundred years old, would surely survive, snagged on the cave walls or incorporated in deposits, and would be ideal for ancient DNA analyses.
Interestingly, we did find lumps of dirt with black hair in them this year in the Hobbit levels, but don’t know yet if they’re human or something else. We’re getting DNA testing done, which we hope will be instructive.
Richard “Bert” Roberts is a University of Wollongong professor and one of the team investigating the Hobbits.
(The Telegraph, 2004)
Black Masses occur at night because fewer people are praying during those hours, and prayers disrupt these rituals. Therefore, we ought to pray at night more in order to prevent these atrocious rites wherein the Eucharist is profaned on a nude woman who serves as the “altar” and is raped at the end of the Black Mass. It is even more imperative to pray on the nights of Satanic feasts (the nights comprising October 31/November 1, February 1/2, April 30/May 1). (generationexorcistblog)
I must admit to a creepy obsession with and an uncanny skill at reading the tarot, since I was 12 years old. My father found me one evening in the basement of our 1800s house (I remember it was a tall rectangle of brick that listed a little to its right. In a previous life, it had been a hospital for the mentally insane); the basement light was out and I was at a little wooden table reading tarot cards by the light of 100 candles; well, all the candles I could find in the house, anyway…red wax dripping everywhere, like a crime scene.
He was always a bit leery of me, my father.
He was not into the weird gypsy stuff my mom believed in. “Our family comes from a line of New Orleans gypsies, Wood. Your dad doesn’t like that. I think it creeps him out.” A sly wink, her hazel eye glittering like a charm. “That’s where your name comes from. Your great-great grandmother, my father’s mother, was called Woodie.” Weird.
I would invite neighbor kids and interested relatives into my “reading room” and tell them their fortunes. I took it way too seriously, I suppose, at 12. I was popular in school, though. People want to know their future. They can’t resist it; anymore than a moth can resist a flame.
I remember sensing someone in the back half of the basement, when I was down there. The back half was actually at the “front” of the house. It was unused, unwired for electricity, and empty, moist, and akways colder than the front half (at the “back” of the house). The back half of the basement was where the big coal furnace sat, like a huge toad whose mouth was filled with glowing embers.
There was a small coal closet back there, too, with a coal chute half-open to the outside due to its cracked wooden door located at the top of the back wall (on cloudless nights, when the moon was full white, the chunks of coal piled on the old floor would shine blue-black the way light does on a raven’s wing).
Photo right: The “back half” of the basement. The old furnace has been removed. The square of bright light is the open coal shute.
Mrs. Rice, our neighbor, and the previous owner of the house (until she was too old to live in it alone), confided in me, once, on her porch where we were eating pecans from a glass bowl, that a young nurse had hung herself in that corner of the basement during a bad winter in, she thought, 1888. She didn’t believe me when I told her there was a bit of rope knotted on a wooden beam in my basement. But, when I took her down there, she squinted up at the beam and acted funny and said she couldn’t see a goddamned thing since she lost her old glasses. Then she hurried us out of there into afternoon sunlight.
I don’t know if the ghost of the nurse that died in my basement in 1888 prompted my tarot obsession, or if my tarot obsession prompted her presence (I also played Ouija down there). But I always knew when she was back there, maybe watching me. And even though I never did actually see her, I see her in dreams sometimes.
I bought a new deck, Wildwood Tarot, a few years ago. I opened it today. I began to do some practice readings, and was immediately aware of a presence in the corner of the room.
It was familiar to me.
I know that Mrs. Bedelia E. Rice has long-since passed away. I had known her during a very impressionable time in my life…and maybe, too, in hers. I last saw her face, the waist-long snow-white hair twisted into a swirl on top of her head, in the late afternoon on a chill fall day…I remember her waving her small wrinkled hand, and us driving off; the sunlight, amber and soothing.
It is my belief Mrs Rice skipped heaven, passed on hell, and moved right back in to the old, leaning brick house nn which my family had lived.
It was, after all, HER house.
She had always harbored a resentment that her family “sold that house right out from under me. You think you know people. They stole my house and tried to put me in a home. But that is my house, Woody. Mine.”
Well, to the dead nurse — my own special ghost — and the eternal Mrs. Rice, I say a hearty Cheers!
I know they are enjoying a glass of sherry in the two crystal goblets I left in the basement for them that October day we moved away…♢