The Lost Ghost

The Lost Ghost by Mary Wilkins Freeman (1903)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    July 28, 2015

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It was a dreadful little face, with something about it which made it different from any other face on earth, but it was so pitiful that somehow it did away a good deal with the dreadfulness. And there were two little hands spotted purple with the cold, holding up my winter coat, and a strange little far-away voice said: ‘I can’t find my mother.’

“‘For Heaven’s sake,’ I said, ‘who are you?’

 “Then the little voice said again: ‘I can’t find my mother.’ ”

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Two sisters are living in an old country house with a ghost. But this is not your usual ghostly apparitions.  Mary Wilkins Freeman wrote the most emotional and hypnotic ghost story in The Lost Ghost. Our story begins with two women in rocking chairs discussing their beliefs about ghosts. Mrs. Meserve recounts a story of when she was a student and boarded with two spinsters in a lovely but haunted house. I challenge you to read this and not weep. The audio below is the best!

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Read The Lost Ghost at East of the Web.com

 

Listen to the audio by Librivox on YouTube.com

 

 

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In The Southwest Chamber, we have two sisters, Amanda and Sophia, who are running a boarding house. Aunt Harriet has died in the southwest bed chamber. This is a homespun, charming, and yet sinister little tale. Again, Mary Wilkins Freeman lures you in with a comfortable and enchanting setting that turns wicked.

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Read The Southwest Chamber at Readbookonline.com

 

 

imgresMary Wilkins Freeman lived in Brattleboro, Vermont during the late 1800s-1930 and became famous for depicting women living in rural villages of New England. After years of writing with no financial payment, she sold her first story The Beggar for $10.  She became a prolific writer, published fifteen volumes of short stories, fifty uncollected stories and essays, fourteen novels, three plays, three volumes of poetry, and eight children’s books. In 1926 she was awarded the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Fiction by the American Academy of Letters, and later that year she was inducted into the prestigious National Institute for Arts and Letters.

 

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Digging Up the Dead

One Summer Night by Ambrose Bierce  (1892)

Tuesday’s Tale of  Terror   July 21, 2105gravediggerimgres

Bitter Bierce, as author Ambrose Bierce was known because of his satirical wit in his vivid fiction. Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and A Horsemen in the Sky are considered his most popular and finest literary achievements. This short story, One Summer Night, is a little twisty and perfect for a July summertime  mystery read.

“It was a dark summer night, shot through with infrequent shimmers of lightning silently firing a cloud lying low in the west and portending a storm.”

Here we meet Henry Armstrong. “The fact that Henry Armstrong was buried did not seem to him to prove that he was dead: he had always been a hard man to convince. That he really was buried, the testimony of his senses compelled him to admit.”

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Being buried alive was not uncommon in the 1800s. In John Snart’s Thesaurus of Horror, he recounts the true story of the premature burial of Mr. Cornish, the mayor of Bath. In fiction, we all know Poe’s famous The Premature Burial (1844).

ambrose_bierceAmbrose Bierce is admired for his well-plotted, dark and imaginary tales. He defines the imagination as ‘a warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership.’ The Devil’s Dictionary (Bierce’s witty book of social commentary disguised as definitions).

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Read One Summer Night at EastoftheWeb.com

Listen to the audio version on YouTube.com

 

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BOOK REVIEW, “I Was Amelia Earhart” by Jane Mendelsohn

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At the request of some of my followers here, on Goodreads, and my Amazon book review followers, it has been suggested that I blog-post some of my book reviews here from time to time. And this is pretty much a test to see if you like to read book reviews here on occasion. I read everything, not just supernatural and mystery. This week I read a library copy of  Jane Mendelsohn’s “I Was Amelia Earhart.” This is not a new book (Knopf, 1996, NY Times best seller). I usually write my reviews with honesty, brevity (no long-winded synopses), and focus on substance and pace.

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“It’s the last sky,” is one of the opening lines in this fictionalized story of Amelia Earhart and her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. A thought provoking line, as are many in this amazing book by Jane Mendelsohn. I am so glad I read it. Lyrical, insightful, and imaginative; the suspense is rather drifting, much like flying a plane at low altitudes. We are on Earhart’s wings in so many ways as the story unfolds. “Love is so transparent that if you are unprepared for it you will see right through it and not notice it.” So says the ambitious and sometimes cold-hearted Amelia. The essence of this story is not so much about flying or courage or tempting danger, but more about Earhart’s discovering love. Love for life, love for a person, a being without wings. There is much to be admired in this story for its metaphoric aerial and ghostly flights of the heart and mind. Even Earhart’s plane The Electra wore a shining symbolism. What I didn’t like about this novel is the mechanics of the writing. There is a constant mix of points of view, first person vs. third person narration (sometimes within the same paragraph); one chapter of 15 pages had the POV change 10 times from “I” to “she.” Also, there is a mix of present tense vs. past tense, which I found to be jarring. And, the dialogue is presented without quotation marks that just added to the chaotic reading. I suppose this kind of styling might be considered artistic by some, or progressive, or gimmicky, or maybe faulty on the part of the author or editors. For this reader, it became disorienting, annoying, and purposeless.

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I have written over 90 book reviews and post on

Goodreads and on Amazon.com as Paula Cappa Reviews.

Comments are welcome!

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Lizardmen and Venusian Crystals

In the Walls of Eryx  by H.P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling (1939)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   July 14, 2015

Ready for a mysterious and glowing adventure on the planet Venus?

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Kenton Stanfield is a prospector on the planet Venus in the region of Eryx (Erycinian Highland), a jungle of heavy plant growth and carnivorous blossoms. Our narrator is in search of crystal orbs to be brought back to Terra Nova  and used as a power source for Earth. The crystals are guarded by skulking ‘man lizards,’ some of them eight feet tall—and of course they are primitive and prepared to attack any human with their glow torches.

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“When they drew nearer they seemed less truly reptilian — only the flat head and the green, slimy, frog-like skin carrying out the idea. They walked erect on their odd, thick stumps, and their suction-discs made curious noises in the mud. These were average specimens, about seven feet in height, and with four long, ropy pectoral tentacles.”

As if that isn’t enough, Stanfield comes across a human corpse, and in the man’s hand is a crystal.

“I recognized him as Dwight, a veteran whom I had never known, but who was pointed out to me at the post last year. The crystal he clutched was certainly a prize — the largest single specimen I had ever seen.”

The cause of death? The man lizards? Or suffocation?

“The corpse was a rather bad sight — wriggling with sificlighs, and with a cloud of farnoth-flies around it. Something had pushed the helmet away from the face, and it was better not to look at it.”

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Stanfield now realizes he is trapped inside an invisible, yet solid, maze. Blocks of glassy walls, corridors, parallel doorways, and circular rooms gives way to a maddening search out of the crystal maze before the dark vapors set in, and the man lizards discover his location.

 

 

 

This story was published after Lovecraft’s death. It is Lovecraft’s sole interplanetary frontier story set in the future.

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/Read Lovecraft’s In the Walls of Eryx  at  HPLovecraft.com

Listen to the audio version of In the Walls of Eryx at You Tube.

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I’ve always found crystals to be mysterious with their scientific values of piezoelectric qualities (spiral growth patterns) and their spiritual values as an aide in physical, emotional and psychological healing. I became interested in the power of quartz crystals when writing my novel The Dazzling Darkness, which features a quartz crystal skull.  Here is a very short video on the power of quartz crystals,  a demonstration on how quartz melts ice compared to other substances. “Demonstration of Quartz Crystals Healing Energies:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2onEsj7MtPc

 

 

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Mountain Ghosts

Mountain Ghost Stories and Legends

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    July 7, 2015

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Let’s do something a little different this week at Tales of Terror. In my search for a classic mountain ghost story that explores the fictive dream (and not finding one, although Poe’s A Tale of a Ragged Mountains was featured here on October 28, 2014), I’ve decided maybe I should  just write a mountain ghost story. I began  here:

 

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Alone, with only the crackles of my boots on the brittle leaves, the chill copper light of the afternoon faded. Woods darkened. Trees rocked. Wind died down like the whisper of an earthbound spirit. Deep shadows flapped like rags. “Is anybody there?” My words dropped below the plunging cliffs.

 

 

 

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To be continued. Yet, I can’t help but ask …  is anybody really there? What resides on mountain tops besides nature spirits? What skulks among the forests besides great birds? Instead of fictitious mountain ghost stories, I found  a number of legends that make for thrilling reading. And I found much more.

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North Carolina (any NC readers here today?) seems to have a number of ghost stories. The Legend of Blowing Rock is a charming Native American story where the wind is said to make the snow fall upward. Maybe there’s love in the air? Read it here at NorthCarolinaGhosts.com.

 

 

The Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain, also North Carolina, is a mountain that resembles a bearded old man lying down. But what of the grizzled man sometimes seen hiking the trails? Check this legend out at NorthCarolinaGhosts.com.

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Let’s go to Massachusetts. To my favorite mountain, Mount Greylock and meet Chief Gray Lock ( 1600s, Waronokes) where the Chief built a secret cave to live with his Winooski woman. He is said to haunt the mountain today, limping on a severed foot, to keep guard over his sacred domain. Read his story at Berkshireweb.com.

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Can you see Chief Grey Lock’s face on the mountainside?

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But nothing beats this dramatic and unforgettable real-life story of the Ghost of Everett Ruess. From the hills of Mount Greylock, this story fades west into the twilight of the unknowable. Read about the artist and poet Everett Ruess, a story of wilderness, mystery,  a man with a wolf in his heart. Read about Everett here at DispositionDisposalBlog. And more at Angelfire.com.

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“Wherever I go, I leave no trace.”   Everett Ruess

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Everett Ruess, the young poet and artist who disappeared into the desert canyonlands of Utah in 1934, has become widely known posthumously as the spokesman for the spirit of the high desert. Many have been inspired by his intense search for adventure, leaving behind the amenities of a comfortable life. His search for ultimate beauty and oneness with nature is chronicled in this remarkable collection of letters to family and friends. Available on Amazon.com.

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The Simple Art of Murder

Classic Murder Mysteries by Raymond Chandler  (1940s and 1950s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 30, 2015

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Murder mysteries. Don’t you just love ‘em? What is the appeal of Raymond Chandler crime stories? They’ve endured for decades and still snag readers and admirers today. You can pick up any one of Chandler’s stories and they don’t seem to show their age. Who doesn’t love a detective like Philip Marlowe who’s a drinker, a lonely guy, witty, and so stylishly sexy.

Maybe it’s Chandler’s snazzy descriptions like in Farewell My Lovely:

He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated gray flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes. From his outer breast pocket cascaded a show handkerchief of the same brilliant yellow as his tie. There were a couple of colored feathers tucked into the band of his hat, but he didn’t really need them. Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.    

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Or maybe it’s Chandler’s sassy dialogue that appeals like in The Big Sleep. Here’s a scene between Marlowe and Vivian:

She looked down.

I sipped some more coffee and lit another cigarette for us.

“So you shoot people,” she said quietly. “You’re a killer.”

“Me? How?”

“The papers and the police fixed it up nicely. But I don’t believe everything I read.”

“Oh, you think I accounted for Geiger—or Brody—or both of them.”

She didn’t say anything.

“I didn’t have to,” I said. “I might have, I suppose, and got away with it. Neither of them would have hesitated to throw lead at me.”

“That makes you just a killer at heart, like all cops.”

“Oh, nuts.”

“One of those dark deadly quiet men who have no more feelings than a butcher has for slaughtered meat. I knew it the first time I saw you.”

“You’ve got enough shady friends to know different.”

“They’re all soft compared to you.”

“Thanks, lady. You’re no English muffin yourself.”

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To be really straight about it, you won’t find a more convoluted plot than The Big Sleep, but it’s still endures as a suspenseful and fascinating read. A pornographer and drug addict named Geiger is blackmailing young and beautiful Carmen Sternwood who likes to chew her thumb. Carmen’s father hires Marlowe to get rid of Geiger. Vivian, Carmen’s sister, is suspiciously overprotective. There’s a murder and screaming and a body that disappears. The Sternwood chauffeur is in love with Carmen and he’s killed. Another blackmailer and he’s killed. Revenge and more revenge. Eddie Mars, a gambler and Shawn Regan, a gun runner are also blackmailers. More murder, which builds to a huge shootout where Marlowe and Vivian fall in love. Ah-ha, finally some tenderness. Overplotted? Probably, but who cares with so many fun twists and turns. Bogart and Bacall did the film and wow is it ever steamy.

You can read The Big Sleep on Gutenberg.ca/ebooks.

 

One of Chandler’s most anthologized short stories is Red Wind. His opening paragraph is quintessential.

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

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Marlowe is in a bar with two men—a drunk and the bartender. A man walks in and asks about a woman, describing her beyond what most men would say. The drunk stands up and shoots the man dead. Blackmail, an illicit affair, love and pearls, blood and violence– just like the red Santa Ana winds.

You can read Red Wind short story at Design.caltech.edu.

 

Who is your favorite murder mystery writer? Is it a classic like Chandler or contemporary author?

Read The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler at En.UTexas.Edu

Mystery novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler, shown in a 1946 portrait, created private eye Philip Marlowe in the novels "The Big Sleep," "Farewell My Lovely," and "The Long Goodbye."  His screenplays included "Double Indemnity," "The Blue Dahlia," and  "Strangers on a Train."  (AP Photo)

Mystery novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler, shown in a 1946 portrait, created private eye Philip Marlowe in the novels “The Big Sleep,” “Farewell My Lovely,” and “The Long Goodbye.” His screenplays included “Double Indemnity,” “The Blue Dahlia,” and “Strangers on a Train.” (AP Photo)

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com        Sirens Call Publications

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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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Blood and Thunder Tales

A Long and Fatal Love Chase by A.M. Barnard (published in 1995)

The Mysterious Key  by L.M. Alcott (1866)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 23, 2015

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If you are not familiar with the term “blood and thunder tales,” it famously refers to Louisa May Alcott’s thriller short stories, which she wrote under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. Most Concord literary fans are acquainted with Alcott’s darker side of fiction, sensational adventures that were published in magazines to support her family’s income. The historical value, of course, is one of the attractions, but these stories are quite entertaining (with vintage melodrama) and crisply written.

Louisa May Alcott bedroom and study, Concord, MA Orchard House

Louisa May Alcott bedroom and study, Concord, MA Orchard House

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It’s well known that Alcott wrote with both left and right hands—perhaps an insight to the two sides of her creativity. Not only was this American literary icon skilled in writing about domestic  adventures in Little Women, but she wasn’t shy about psychological suspense and Gothic mystery.

The Mysterious Key is family intrigue. A locked room that is thought to be haunted, a sudden death, romance, a blind girl, and secrets.

Read The Mysterious Key here at Gutenberg.org.

 

You can read more of Alcott’s blood and thunder tales and other short stories at Gutenberg.org.  Pauline’s Passion and Punishment; The Abbot’s Ghost; Behind A Mask or A Woman’s Power.

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A Long and Fatal Love Chase begins with this line “I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.”  Murder, a deal with the devil, an obsessive lover, and a Catholic priest.  Published in 1996.  Available on Amazon.

 

 

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A Whisper in the Dark. Published in 2015. Available on Amazon.

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Here is what Boston publisher James T. Fields said to Louisa May Alcott in 1853. “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.”

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In 1855 her first published book was Flower Fables. Little Women was published in 1868 and became an instant best seller followed by Little Men in 1871. She wrote over fifty works of short stories, novels, and plays.

Alcott died at the age of 55, just two days after her father died in 1888.

 

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