Lady Madeline of Usher

Fall of the House of Usher  by Edgar Allan Poe

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   April 15, 2014

 

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“His heart is a suspended lute, as soon as it is touched, it resounds.”

So goes the translation of Poe’s opening lines in French by De Beranger. Why am I featuring Poe’s most famous and probably most read short story? Because as the heart resounds, so does this story, just as Poe intended.

Why did Poe write this particular story?.

Once upon a time … oh no, let me rephrase with more modern language for this report that inspired Poe to create the Fall of the House of Usher.

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House_of_usherAs it was said … On Boston’s Lewis Wharf during the 1800s, a house stood, named the Usher House. After years of abandonment and decay, the structure was torn down. In the rubble, and in the deepest part of the cellar, behind a rusted iron gate two skeletons were found. Their boney remains intertwined each other in an embrace. Local gossip pointed to the couple’s adulterous rendezvous, apparently trapped in the cellar by the woman’s avenging husband. Romantic? Grisly? Or something else.

Clearly something else, as Poe redeveloped this report into a story suggesting vampirism, incest, murder, and the horror of being trapped and abandoned to die.

 

 

The Fall of the House of Usher  is a fiction with high symbolism of splits and fissures, mad reflections, and grim resoundings at every turn.

From the beginning lines—

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”

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To the ending scene—

“… a blood-red moon … a fierce breath of the whirlwind … the deep and dark tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently…”

There’s a heartbeat of madness throbbing here and you are pulled deeper into the disquieting rhythms. Our narrator discovers an occult presence growing not only within the house and gardens but also within Roderick Usher who is obsessed with the “grim phantasm, FEAR.

 

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But it’s Lady Madeline Usher I am focused on today. We meet her only three times and she never utters a single word. Is she even real? Might she be a ghost? Madeline is said to be of cataleptic nature. Roderick claims she is his twin sister. Does the heart resound more in siblings and even more so in twins?

 

In full Poe fashion of psychological drama (some melodrama of course), Madeline holds the true mystery in this story. Come and spend some time with Roderick and his sister. Let our narrator point out the clues of fissures and collapses of not only the crumbling Usher House, but of Roderick and Madeline’s very souls.

 

.I think one of the most entertaining ways to appreciate this story is to read along with an audio version. Let the sound of Poe’s language throb into your mind. Let the words on the page drive the images vividly. Add candlelight. And sit by a dark window.

 

Read the full text at XRoads at Virginia Edu.

 

Listen to the audio at AudioTreasury, Librivox Recording. Scroll down to No. 4 on the black selection box. Recorded by Eden Rae Hedrick. (An excellent reading! I like this one the best.)

 

This link here at Lit2Go (44 minutes) has both the text and audio on one page but the reading is not as expressive as Eden Rae Hedrick’s above at Audio Treasury.

 

Watch the adapted film version by MGM with Vincent Price and Myrna Fahey.

 

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Midwest Book Review

Greetings!  Are you interested in book review publications? Do you like to advocate literacy and libraries?

Then you must take a look at Midwest Book Review. They started in 1976 as an online monthly publication aimed at librarians, booksellers, as well as the general reading public. Its mission is to promote literacy and library usage. They just reviewed my novel The Dazzling Darkness.

Midwest Book Review   April 8, 2014

“Paula Cappa is a master of the metaphysical mystery genre. “The Dazzling Darkness” documents her as an extraordinary and original storyteller of the first rank. Very highly recommended, it should be noted that “The Dazzling Darkness” is also available in a Kindle edition. Also strongly recommended is Cappa’s previous metaphysical novel “Night Sea Journey: A Tale of the Supernatural.”

They published the following book review magazines: The Bookwatch, The California Bookwatch, Library Bookwatch, MBR Bookwatch, Small Press Bookwatch, Wisconsin Bookwatch.

Editor-in-Chief James A. Cox talks about the history and policies of the Midwest Book Review, and he also answers some important questions about the craft and ethics of book reviewing:

 

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Talk of Ghosts

To Be Read At Dusk  by Charles Dickens (1852)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   April 8, 2014

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display_imageDusk: darkness rises, light fades. What hides in the approaching subtle shadows? If you’re a reader of ghost stories, this is certainly a Dickens’ story to explore — being haunted and not just by a ghost, but by the conjuring of words that triple play on your imagination. If you’re a writer of ghost stories, this is certainly a Dickens’ story to examine — for art and craft. To Be Read At Dusk is not one of Dickens’ more popular stories, and I seemed to have dug it up as if the story itself were a ghost unwilling to come forward. I read the story once, then listened to the audio version, then read it again along with the audio. And there is something in that power of three encounters with this ghost story that it kept growing for me, redelivering itself.

Charles Dickens uses simile (likeness, comparing one thing with another: she is as brave as a lion) throughout this story in supernatural  and symbolic ways. The story is literally constructed with likenesses all over the place—which is the key to the mystery.

Our story opens on top of a mountain in Switzerland with five (5, make no mistake) couriers (German, Swiss, Neapolitan, and Genoese) chatting as they sit on a bench … “looking at the remote heights, stained by the setting sun as if a mighty quantity of red wine had been broached upon the mountain top, and had not yet had time to sink into the snow.”

Our narrator is sitting on another bench nearby listening to the couriers chat. He makes a point “… also like them, looking at the reddened snow, and at the lonely shed hard by, where the bodies of belated travellers, dug out of it, slowly wither away, knowing no corruption in that cold region.

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Bodies? Buried under the snow? Might that red wine be like blood images by the light of the setting sun? What happens when the sun sets?

Two of the couriers each tell a ghost story. One of an English bride who dreams of a dark threatening face. The other story is of twin brothers and death. As the story unfolds, you’ll hear the ongoing debate among the couriers of what is a ghost, what is like a ghost, and what is not a ghost. Phantoms, premonitions, and doppelgangers abound, but something else announces itself. The ending is so subtle you might well miss what it’s like to be a ghost.

 

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Read Dickens’ To Be Read At Dusk at Online-Literature.

 

Listen to the audio at Librivox Recording

 

 

 

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And if you are still up for more of Dickens, his essay, Night Walks (1861) is a spooky stroll through the London streets at midnight. We forget that Dickens didn’t just write fiction. Sleepless nights, what he calls “houselessness” reflects his observations that I found vivid and chilling, and oh do I ever wish I might have walked the streets of London in the 1860s.

 

Read Night Walks at ReadBookOnline.net

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Art Credits:

Winter Night in the Mountains,  by  Harald Oskar Sohlberg

Snowy Hut,  by Caspar David Friedrich

 

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H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams of an Accidental Shaman

If you are fascinated by Lovecraft’s fiction, this is a fascinating and informative article.  From Lovecraft Ezine, one of my favorite sites.

 

H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams of an Accidental Shaman.

 

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A Bloody Hand Upon Her Cheek

The Birthmark   by Nathaniel Hawthorne  (1846)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   April 1, 2014

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Georgiana,” said he, “has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?” … Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek—her right cheek—not that which bore the impress of the crimson hand.”

Aylmer, Georgianna’s husband, is a man of science with a powerful intelligence and imaginative spirit that guides his work. But his love for his splendid and beautiful young wife drives him to a deed we might all want him to succeed in—or do we?

Georgianna was born with a birthmark, a rather fierce-looking tiny bloody hand print on her left cheek. Folklore explains it might have been imprinted by a fairy as a token of magical endowments. Aylmer has other thoughts on this and sees it more as a symbol of sin or even decay and death.

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One night Aylmer has a dream … “He had fancied himself with his servant Aminadab, attempting an operation for the removal of the birthmark; but the deeper went the knife, the deeper sank the hand, until at length its tiny grasp appeared to have caught hold of Georgiana’s heart; whence, however, her husband was inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it away.”

If anyone can effectively use dreams in fiction, it’s Hawthorne.

“When the dream had shaped itself perfectly in his memory, Aylmer sat in his wife’s presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often finds its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep, and then speaks with uncompromising directness of matters in regard to which we practise an unconscious self-deception during our waking moments. Until now he had not been aware of the tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind, and of the lengths which he might find in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace.”

As the story flows, the horrors of tampering with Mother Nature prevail: “Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject,” hastily interrupted Aylmer. “I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its [birthmark] removal.”

And so, Aylmer, attempts to remove the birthmark, using an elixir  he has developed in his laboratory. Watch out for Aminadab, the lab assistant, an ape-like man whose presence represents more than just a servant.

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Is there really any true perfection in our world? If there is perfection, where does it exist? This tale by Hawthorne is just as timely today as it was in the 1800s. Self-image, acceptance, fear vs. trust, and the mystery of Mother Nature are beautifully foreshadowed throughout the prose. I suggest listening to the audio as Hawthorne’s language in this story is truly a thrilling experience. Every paragraph vibrates with deep spirituality and a haunting last impression.

 

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Read the full text of The Birthmark at Classic Reader.com

 

Listen to the audio version at Storm-Nemesis Blogspot

 

Watch the 2010 film adaptation by Mikael Kreuzriegler and Ken   Rodgers at Vimeo.com. This is not exactly true to Hawthorne’s fine prose but still an intriguing 16-minute film.

 

 

You might also like Hawthorne’s short story  The Haunted Mind, a vivid and eerie dreamscape featured here in January 2013.

 

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

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Filed under classic horror stories, Dreams, fiction, Hawthorne, psychological horror, short stories

A Supernatural Visitant

Horror: A True Tale   by Anonymous (1861)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 25, 2014

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What if … you are sleeping alone in your bedroom, snug under your deep coverlets, and you wake suddenly feeling a wicked chill. A bit more heat in the room would do and you attempt to rise up and fetch your robe, which you had flung at the bottom of the bed upon retiring. Eyes half open, the dull darkness surrounds you as you spread your hands across the coverlet for the robe. You run your hand over the bed, searching, wondering where the heck it is. Open your eyes—the robe is suddenly handed to you by an unseen arm.

This is the kind of fear we love to read in stories. And this is exactly the kind of fear evoked in Horror: A True Tale. We all have these fears of someone, or some ghastly thing, invading the safety of our beds.

Meet the lovely Rose, a young woman of nineteen, living in the countryside with her sisters Lucy and Minnie and their father, a wealthy landlord.

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Their old Tudor mansion is full of turrets and gables and small chambers that the servants refuse to enter because of the dark deeds that history claims happened there.

Rose tells us of the festivities on a splendid Christmas Eve celebration at the mansion with guests regally dressed and chatting in the greatly decorated hall. The matriarch of the family attends, the rich Lady Speldhurst (think Downton Abbey).

“Lady Speldhurst … Her gray silk dress, her spotless lace, old-fashioned jewels, and prim neatness of array, were well suited to the intelligence of her face, with its thin lips, and eyes of a piercing black, undimmed by age. Those eyes made me uncomfortable … they followed my every movement with curious scrutiny.”

Lady Speldhurst is Rose’s godmother, and she plans on spending the night. Rose generously agrees to give up her most comfortable bedchamber for her godmother, and stay in a “disused chamber … which is called haunted … the green room … the sins it had witnessed, the blood spilled, the poison administered by unnatural hate within its walls.”

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Naturally Rose resists these ideas, and indeed resists the warnings of her godmother and sisters about staying in this closed up bedchamber. Until when, in the green room, after the hearth fires die down, Rose feels something malignant is near.

 

Author John Berwick Harwood wrote many ghost stories (many under Anonymous) and this short story is said to be his work. He also wrote The Underground Ghost, and The Painted Room at Blackston Manor.  Harwood’s elaborate descriptions  invite you into the scenery and action with a deep suspense. There is a bit of melodrama but it suits the elements without being obnoxious. Harwood wrote some twenty novels and several Christmas horror stories but I can’t find much of his work out there. What a pity because I’d love to read more. Do leave a comment of what you think of this little horror story.

 

Read Horror: A True Tale at ReadBookOnline.net

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

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Old Murderess, Fledermausse

The Invisible Eye   by Erckmann-Chatrian (1850s)

Emile Erckmann and Louis-Alexandre Chatrian

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  March 18, 2014

Master Christian is a struggling and penniless artist who spends his days at his window creating paintings. His room overlooks the sprawling town of Nuremberg and an intimate view of the Boeuf-Gras Inn. One night Christian observes a man hanging from the crossbeams of the inn’s sign. Christian describes the victim …

“ … the hair disheveled, the arms stiff, the legs elongated to a point, and casting their gigantic shadows down to the street! The immobility of this figure under the moon’s rays was terrible. I felt my tongue freezing, my teeth clinched. I was about to cry out in terror when, by some incomprehensible mysterious attraction, my glance fell below, and I distinguished, confusedly, the old woman crouched at her window in the midst of dark shadows, and contemplating the dead man with an air of diabolic satisfaction.”

This old wretch is famous among the local folk for her hideous grimaces of pointed teeth, beady green eyes, puckered cheeks. She is known as Fledermausse, from whom all children flee and adults shun. Even societies of cats decline her company; not a single sparrow comes to rest under her roof.

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We soon learn that three victims have hung themselves on that the Inn’s crossbeam, and all three were occupants in the inn’s “Green Room.” Christian is convinced that Fledermousse is somehow responsible for their suicides. He suspects the old hag has  occult powers and is preparing another snare from her darkness.

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Christian follows Fledermausse for weeks. He must know what powers she possesses as she moves about town with a basket on her arm and then climbs up her stairway covered in old shells to her worm-eaten balcony. Then one night, Christian sees that the Green Room has a new occupant. He cannot sit idly by this time; he must act and act quickly if he is to save the innocent man who has entered the Green Room.

Will Christian succumb to Fledermausse’s evil powers?

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Read The Invisible Eye online at Gutenberg.org (Library of the World’s Best Mystery and Detective Stories).

Listen to the audio at Librivox 

300px-Erckmann-Chatrian_woodburytypeEmile Erckmann and Louis-Alexandre Chatrian

Hardly anyone reads these guys anymore. So, I figured it was time for a reminder. Known as “The Twins,” this famous French duo wrote many tales of the supernatural during the mid- to late-1800s. The Crab Spider, The Man-Wolf, The Wild Hunstman received much praise from M.R. James.  H.P. Lovecraft admired their work; Flaubert had nothing kind to say about them. Together they published 60 volumes of short stories, novels, and plays.

Some of their other titles you might like:  The Murderer’s Violin, The Owls’s Ear, The Three Souls, The Child Stealer.  I found The Owl’s Ear to be an especially creepy and suspenseful read. You can listen to The Owl’s Ear at Librivox.

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications   The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

 

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