In the Murky Twilight

Smoke Ghost  by Fritz Leiber (1941)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   April 14, 2015

 

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Robert Aickman (supernatural fiction author) said that a successful ghost story must open a door where no one else had seen a door to exist, and then at the end of the story, leave that door open.

In Smoke Ghost by Leiber, Catesby Wran is an advertising executive sitting in his office and chatting about ghosts with his secretary Miss Millick. Not a ghost from books, Mr. Wran explains, “the kind that would haunt coal-yards and slip around at night through deserted office buildings like this one. A real ghost.”

Miss Millick knows there’s no such thing as a ghost and “science and psychiatry all go to prove it.” Who wouldn’t agree with that? On his way home, Mr. Wran is riding the elevated train past rooftops and smoky brick buildings. He sees an abandoned shapeless black sack on the rooftop… and a face in the murky twilight.

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Do you think there is a supernatural edge between the alienated  feelings we have and the unexplained sources of ghosts? And perhaps that door that remains open.


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Fritz Lieber’s fiction was highly influenced by Lovecraft and Carl Jung. He was a poet, playwright, and actor. He has written novels, novellas, and over 100 short stories.

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Read the short story Smoke Ghost at UNZ.org .

 

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The Mysterious Window

The Deserted House  by  E.T.A. Hoffmann (1909)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 31, 2015

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The subject of this story is the mysterious. Are facts more mysterious than the imagination? Or is the power of the imagination the reality?

Our narrator Theodore is a clairvoyant. Or so his friends believe. Theodore tells of an adventure with the mysterious. Imagine you are walking in old Germany on an avenue lined with aristocratic homes and fashionable shops. Tucked among the rich and gay architectures is a deserted old house. Theodore becomes entranced by this closed up and unoccupied home. He wonders what may be hidden within it. One day, in the upper window he sees the hand of a young woman. Later he hears her mad laughs and scratchy old voice.

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Fatal magic. A haunted mirror. A gypsy woman in a red shawl. This is a wonderfully creepy story with counts and countesses, betrayals, and of course, the mysterious.

 

 

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I discovered author E.T.A. Hoffmann (Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann) when I was researching occult music for my current WIP novel Greylock. Hoffmann is most popularly known as a composer, but he’s written novels and over fifty short stories in horror, fantasy, and the supernatural. His tales are full of magic, occult powers of the subconscious, and psychology. He writes in a rich narrative style that carries vintage storytelling atmospherics. Many know his name as the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which was the basis for Tchaikovsky’s ballet.

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Read the short story online at  UNZ.org  at German Mysteries, From The Lock and Key Library by Julian Hawthorne.

 

Listen to the audio at Librivox,  Parts 1 and 2 on Youtube.

 

Another Hoffman favorite short is The Sandman, featured here at Tales of Terror on  July 9, 2013.

 

 

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The Dazzling Darkness Hits Best Seller List on Kindle Amazon

Quick note to my followers and readers, The Dazzling Darkness has hit the Amazon Kindle Best Seller List in Horror genre for Ghost category and Occult category. It grabbed No. 1 for four days, #2 for two days, and is now at #5 and holding. Amazon has discounted it to $2.51 currently.

Thank you to my loyal readership!

Paula

THE DAZZLING DARKNESS  (Crispin Books)

Midwest Book Reviews ★★★★★ “Paula Cappa is a master of the metaphysical mystery genre…an extraordinary and original storyteller of the first rank. Very highly recommended.”

US Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/Z5LPXB     

 UK: http://amzn.to/1adh8nB

BRONZE MEDAL WINNER, Readers’ Favorite Book Award for Supernatural Fiction, 2014 ★★★★★ “Beautiful and high standard writing style from start to finish… a superb and classy supernatural novel.”

Barnes&Noble: http://bit.ly/1cgMkqp

GOTHIC READERS BOOK CLUB CHOICE AWARD WINNER

Outstanding Fiction ★★★★★  “Dazzling sums up Paula Cappa’s paranormal/supernatural novel … an elegance and grace that seduces you.”

 

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Red Petticoat in a Thick Pall of Mist 

The Night at the Shifting Bog    by Bram Stoker (1890)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,  St. Patrick’s Day,  March 17, 2015

 

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Love and despair on a mountainous bog in Ireland.

Bogs are not just peat and limestone on the Emerald Isle, but also are known to have preserved bodies who lived thousands of years ago (4000-year-old remains). Today is St. Patrick’s Day and what better time to read the most famous Dublin-born Irish horror writer Bram Stoker?

Dracula (I must read this novel again soon) is everybody’s favorite, but The Night of the Shifting Bog is one you probably haven’t read. Stoker wrote over twenty-five short stories, the most popular being Dracula’s Guest and the Judge’s House.

 

(c) Chichester City Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The bog in this story was a mysterious and dangerous shifting bog in Ireland, known to swallow up anything in its path. On the night of this story, Phelim Joyce and his daughter Norah were led from their home by a sinister man named Black Murdock (the villain of Carnacliff) who was driven to discover a hidden treasure on Joyce’s land.

The story opens with our narrator Arthur, a rich Englishman. He is Norah’s lover and searching for her and her father Joyce in a storm that is slashing wind and rain fiercely across the Irish cliffs and nearby sea. As Arthur searches for his lovely Norah, he finds the line of bog swollen with rain. And poor Norah in the clutches of Black Murdock on a ridge of rocks in the center of the bog.

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The powers of nature prevail: the storm grows wild, the bog rises, and Norah must be saved. Arthur to the rescue? Bram Stoker writes this drama quite differently.

Read The Night of the Shifting Bog at BramStoker.org

For more online reading of Bram Stoker’s fiction, go to OnlineBooksLibraryUPenn.edu.

This short story comes from Stoker’s first novel The Snake’s Pass, a romantic thriller with the same characters published in 1890 (includes themes of St. Patrick  banishing snakes from Ireland) and Stoker’s only novel set in Ireland. If you’re a Stoker aficionado, The Snake’s Pass is a must read.

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Happy St. Paddy’s Day to All!

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Irish Ghost Stories: The Aged Hand With Clenched Knuckles

Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand   by Sheridan Le Fanu (1870s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 10, 2015

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With St. Patrick’s Day nearly upon us, reading Irish ghost stories is perfect with Irish Breakfast tea and piping hot soda bread. Curl up with author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. He was the leading ghost story writer of the nineteenth century, and no St. Patrick’s Day is authentic without reading one of his stories. Le Fanu fans will claim his demonic monkey in Green Tea  is his best work. But today I chose the Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand, one of his stories that has been less read (and painfully absent from most of his literary collections) but full of the ghostly presence that Le Fanu is so admired for.

 

 

 

cottageimagesWe are in the “Tiled House” in Dublin. Mrs. Prosser is sitting alone in her parlour when she spies a white hand, somewhat aged, and lying outside upon the window sill. This disembodied hand sends her screaming. Later that same night there are hasty tappings at the kitchen window. Thumpings. Angry rappings. Clenched knuckles at the back door. One night the hand is no longer wildly rapping to break a window pane outside. Instead, Mrs. Prosser begins to have nightmares. Irishhouseimages

 

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Le Fanu builds a crescendo of hauntings, spooky moments, and chilling scenes of mystery. Don’t look for shock horror here. Le Fanu is famous for his style of eerie tones and disquieting ghosts.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fan

I could not find an online text version of this story but did find the audio version and it’s very well done. This story is published in Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories by Rex Collings  and in Classic Ghost Stories by David Pickering  and Horrific Fables by Thomas Huff on Amazon.com. Or check if your local library has it.

 

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Listen to the audio short story online at YouTube here.

More audios of Le Fanu’s novels and stories are at Librivox.org  here.

Selections of Le Fanu’s stories available online at ReadBookOnline.

 

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A Witch is a Witch

The Witch  by Anton Chekhov (1918)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 3, 2015

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The lovely and young Raissa, adorned with hair plaits that touch the floor, is a witch. Or maybe not. Her husband Savely is a red-haired, grouchy and repulsive  older man who believes his wife is a witch and blames her for the wicked snowstorm and cold they must endure in their little house in the countryside.

Our story opens in true Chekhovian style with descriptive atmospherics.

 

imgres“A plaintive lament sobbed at the window, on the roof, or in the stove. It sounded not like a call for help, but like a cry of misery, a consciousness that it was too late, that there was no salvation.”

A postman and his partner become lost in the storm and knock at their cabin door. Raissa opens the door to these strangers. And the postman becomes enchanted, or should I say bewitched, by Raissa’s lovely neck.

 

 

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Watch for the fascinating dark imagery that is the star of this story. Sexual and spiritual desires are themes in this fiction by the long acclaimed master of the short story, Anton Chekhov. He is famous for his anti-climactic endings that leave a reader to ponder Chekhov’s messages. And his prose! We can still marvel today at his talents.  Eudora Welty  said “Reading Chekhov was just like the angels singing to me.” For my writer followers here, in case you’ve not read Chekhov’s Six Principles of a Good Story, here they are. My favorite is #6. Chekhov certainly fulfilled that one.

  1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature
  2. Total objectivity
  3. Truthful descriptions of persons and objects
  4. Extreme brevity
  5. Audacity and originality: flee the stereotype
  6. Compassion

 

150px-Anton_Chekhov_and_Olga_Knipper,_1901Chekhov’s death has been a well-known story in literary history. Raymond Carver fictionalized it in his short story Errand (read it here). If you’re a Chekhov fan, you must read Errand. Chekhov’s wife Olga  tells it like this.  “Anton sat up unusually straight and said loudly and clearly (although he knew almost no German): Ich sterbe (“I’m dying”). The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor, and ordered champagne. Anton took a full glass, examined it, smiled at me and said: “It’s a long time since I drank champagne.” He drained it and lay quietly on his left side, and I just had time to run to him and lean across the bed and call to him, but he had stopped breathing and was sleeping peacefully as a child.” [From Olga Knipper, Memoir, in Benedetti, Dear Writer, Dear Actress, 284]

 

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Read The Witch at the Classic Reader http://www.classicreader.com/book/394/1/

Unfortunately I could not find an audio of this story but there are many others here at Chekhov Audio.

[Art of nude witch is by Albert Joseph Penot, “Sabbat,” 1910]

 

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The Chill Hand of Death

The Lifted Veil   by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)  (1859)

Classic Tales of Terror From Women In Horror

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  February 24, 2015  WIHM

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Author George Eliot will not be appearing on anybody’s Women In Horror Month posts. Most horror and supernatural readers don’t read her work. But did you know that Eliot wrote one story that qualifies as supernatural? I’m featuring her this month because I look for authors who reach beyond their  fictional category and dabble in supernatural. The Lifted Veil  is nothing like Eliot’s traditional style of portraying provincial life in her popular novel and literary masterpiece Middlemarch. Henry James reviewed The Lifted Veil as “woefully somber.” Eliot herself described it as a “dismal story.”

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This Gothic tale, a dash more science fiction than horror, is about extrasensory perception, fate, telepathy, reviving the dead, and the unmasking of illusions. How frightening is it to foresee your own murder on a specific date: September 20 at 10 pm? Our narrator Latimer is a rather overwrought young man who has a vision of his own death; he sees his last moments as he gasps, his heart contracting. Fear, alienation, guilt, doubt, and false hope all play into this plot. And it’s not without a vaulting love story as Latimer falls for the lovely Bertha, a “slim willowy figure with luxuriant blonde hair,” but she possesses far more than just beauty. Evil is present.

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Watch how cleverly Eliot uses a portrait of the infamous Lucrezia Borgia as an omen to warn Latimer of his opponent. Poetic passion at its finest.

“In the same instant a strange intoxicating numbness passed over me, like the continuance or climax of the sensation I was still feeling from the gaze of Lucrezia Borgia.”

 

 

 

I especially like how Eliot uses supernatural devices to illustrate the cynicism of human nature. She hits on the misestimates we all make during the dark places in relationships and the unknown presences that direct and redirect our lives.

What veils are we willing or unwilling to lift to see the harsh reality?

 

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Read the short story (not quite the length of a novella)

at Gutenberg.org

 

Listen to the audio version of The Lifted Veil at Librivox.org

 

 

 

 

If you are a Goodreads member, check out this review of The Lifted Veil  by Werner Lind:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/70703171

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com        Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian   Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books     The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.

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