Category Archives: Hawthorne

Within the Monastery of Mountains: Melville’s The Piazza

Tuesday’s Tale    July 30 and August 1, 2019

READING FICTION BLOG

MELVILLE AT 200

 

August 1st is the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birth date, born in 1819 (click to visit Arrowhead website). Hence, the celebration this week of Herman Melvillle’s fiction. I am featuring one of his short stories The Piazza because it reflects his homestead, Arrowhead, at the foot of Mt. Greylock in Pittsfield, MA.

My readers here know how precious Mt. Greylock is to my creative writing, and many who have read my supernatural mystery Greylock, will appreciate this post today. Melville began writing his most famous Moby Dick in 1850 during the snowy month of February at Arrowhead, the farmhouse built in 1780. The novel, as we all know, is a story of the unrelenting Captain Ahab who is driven to pursue the white whale who ends up destroying him. Melville would sit at his desk in the upstairs study, his window in full view of Mt. Greylock.

 

The piazza, after which the story and the book “The Piazza Tales” were named, is a porch Melville added to the north side of Arrowhead’s farmhouse shortly after he purchased the farm.

(Arrowhead, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the piazza on the back side of the farmhouse.)

When I visited Arrowhead Homestead Museum in Pittsfield and gave a reading of Greylock there in 2017, I toured Melville’s home, walked through his study and ran my finger along his desk as if I could touch the dead author. For a long moment I soaked in the view of Mt. Greylock, one of the most ghostly and mysterious mountains in Northeast America. As a writer of ghosts stories, I sometimes think we can connect to the dead through our own thoughts and by reading their words; this moment was a deep one for me.

 

 

 

 

Here you can see Melville’s exact view out his study window of Mt. Greylock. Look closely and you’ll see it resembles a great humped whale in the sea of sky. How inspiring is that! Visitors to Arrowhead can  stand on that piazza and soak in the same view Melville did when he spent hours there in his rocking chair.

The works Melville wrote at Arrowhead included Moby Dick, Pierre, The Confidence-Man, Israel Potter, a collection entitled The Piazza Tales, and such short stories as I and My Chimney, Benito Cereno, Bartleby the Scrivener, and The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids. Melville became known as one of the Dark Romantic writers, much like Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia Peabody, Mary Shelley, and Poe.

This short story, The Piazza, takes place at Arrowhead—a view from the piazza—and the narrator makes a magical journey to the mountain he calls “old Greylock, like a Sinai.” Sitting on this piazza, our narrator absorbs all of nature on the mountain—the far forest, hill and valley, flower and berry bush, and the woozy air. Light, shadows, dreamy thoughts from this mountain play hide-and-seek before his eyes and mind.  At one point yellow birds appear on a darkened path. Then, little footprints form among the ferns. He follows the footprints to a cottage, thinking he is entering a fairy land, a place where blond fairies dance.

Melville brings us beyond Mt. Greylock, into a place between two azure worlds. Can you smell the moss? Hear the yellow birds? Can you hear Marianna’s dusky voice? Listen with your highest awareness to truly enjoy this adventure with Melville. Celebrate one of our greatest American writers at 200 years.

 

Read the short story here:

https://americanliterature.com/author/herman-melville/short-story/the-piazza

 

Listen to the audio on You Tube by Librivox Recordings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x266a5alws4

 

 

 

View my original blog post from my book signing at Arrowhead at the foot of  Mt. Greylock: https://paulacappa.wordpress.com/2017/06/

THE PIAZZA TALES BY HERMAN MELVILLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Piazza Tales include 6 short stories: The Piazza, Bartleby the Scrivener, Benito Cereno, The Lightning-Rod Man, The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles, The Bell-Tower.  You can read all these tales FREE at Gutenberg.org: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15859

The Melville Society: https://melvillesociety.org/

Melville at 200: https://melvillesociety.org/calendar/eventdetail/9/-/melville-s-birthday

Please comment below if you are a Melville fan

or an admirer of Mt. Greylock!

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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A Dark Power on Thanksgiving

John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving   by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1840)

Tuesday’s Tale      November 20, 2018

 

 

What is your most memorable Thanksgiving  Day? A happy time with family and delicious treats? Or a fight over the meal with an opponent? Or was it darker? Were you visited by a guilty soul at your Thanksgiving meal? In this 15-minute short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, on Thanksgiving evening, the blacksmith John Inglefield hosts a Thanksgiving dinner. His daughter Mary “a rose-bud almost blossomed” is present, an apprentice Robert Moore, and a vacant chair is reserved at the table for John’s wife who had passed away since the previous Thanksgiving.

To say this is a ghostly tale is up to interpretation, that is how deep you desire to understand metaphors of the mysterious. The author Nathaniel Hawthorne takes the family Thanksgiving tradition to another level. That level is clearly in the supernatural and as dark as it gets. I doubt that most readers can fix this story into a single interpretation. No black-and-white thinking here: prepare to awaken your imagination.

 

 

They are all seated round the dinner table with the warmth of the firelight “throwing it strongest light,” when John’s long lost daughter Prudence returns home for the festivities. She has a “bewitching pathos.” The theme here is beyond the grave. Fire is mentioned 14 times in this very short story—which is our dominant clue to this strange and thought-provoking tale about not only the soul but going home. The happy moments fly away as a creeping evil comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Our humanness is strange, indeed. I love how Hawthorne leaves all the doors open on this one to absolutely haunt the reader.

 

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If you are a Hawthorne fan, or even if you are not keen on his gloomy style and psychological twists, this story requires a slow read to really enjoy the complexities of the images and symbols Hawthorne uses to touch his reader. As with all his fiction, human nature is portrayed with unforgettable drama.

 

Read it here at Online Literature

http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/2830/ 

If you have a comment on this story, please speak up. What great mystery went on here?

 

THE OLD MANSE

This is the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dining room and hearth at the Old Manse, where he lived in Concord, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Ghost by Moonlight, Anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Death

“A ghost seen by moonlight; when the moon was out, it would shine and melt through the airy substance of the ghost, as through a cloud.”  

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

Friday, May 19 is the anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s death in 1864. Hawthorne was 59 years old. On the evening of May 18 inside the Pemigewasset House hotel in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Hawthorne retired early after a dinner of toast and tea. During the night,  former U.S. President Franklin Pierce (who had traveled with Hawthorne to the White Mountains) awoke to check on his friend in the adjoining room. The former president placed his hand upon Hawthorne’s forehead. He found that Hawthorne was dead.

Some think Hawthorne is the least remembered author from Concord, Massachusetts compared to Thoreau, Alcott, and Emerson. The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables of course are his most famous  novels. But if you ever read his Blithedale Romance, you’ll likely never forget the drowning scene. Or his short story The Haunted Mind, which will certainly haunt your mind even after you’ve finished. The Ghost of Dr. Harris is another fascinating read and not exactly fiction—the story is one of his “sketches.”

Because Hawthorne is an author I admire, I’m taking this week to remember this American novelist and  read one of his forgotten “sketches” that he wrote while living  in Concord: The Old Manse. Please join me in remembering a diamond in our literature.

The Old Manse (1846) From Mosses from an Old Manse  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Between two tall gate-posts of rough-hewn stone (the gate itself
having fallen from its hinges at some unknown epoch) we beheld the
gray front of the old parsonage, terminating the vista of an avenue of
black-ash trees.

 

 

Read the full sketch at Literature.com/Hawthorne.

 

 

 

 

Visit the Old Manse website (now a national historic site open for tours) in Concord, Massachusetts, where Hawthorne lived for seven years with his wife Sophia. Sophia (a transcendentalist) often referred to the home as their “beloved old house.”  Click here at TheTrustees.org.  And yes, there are ghosts at the Old Manse. Tourists, tour guides, and others will tell you so. I’ve visited there several times for research for my own novels and stories.

More about Nathaniel Hawthorne at HawthorneinSalem.org. 

 

 

[The Old Manse, modern view from Concord River, MA]

[Sleepy Hollow, Concord, MA]

If you are looking for a ghost story with historical flavors about the Old Manse, try Between the Darkness and the Dawn, originally published by Whistling Shade Literary Journal.

This short story is now a Kindle Single, FREE for you this week on Amazon.com.

 

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Beauty of the Dead: The White Maid

The White Maid   by Nathaniel Hawthorne  (1835) Twice Told Tales

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    November 29, 2016

Two women are standing over a corpse. The young dead man is the lover of both the women who are unmarried  and aging. This is a story of an abandoned mansion and the mystical.  And a secret.

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THE MOONBEAMS came through two deep and narrow windows, and showed a spacious chamber, richly furnished in an antique fashion. From one lattice, the shadow of the diamond panes was thrown upon the floor; the ghostly light, through the other, slept upon a bed, falling between the heavy silken curtains, and illuminating the face of a young man. But, how quietly the slumberer lay! how pale his features! and how like a shroud the sheet was wound about his frame! Yes; it was a corpse, in its burial-clothes.

Suddenly, the fixed features seemed to move, with dark emotion.

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Herman Melville once wrote of  Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Even his bright gildings play upon the edges of thunder-clouds.”  Many readers love Hawthorne’s air of mystery that pervades his short stories. This is certainly one of them.

 

Read the short story here at EldritchPress.org

 

Listen to the audio here at Barrow Bookstore Audios 

 

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 

The Kill Zone

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

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Ashes and Cold Light

Wives of the Dead   by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1832)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    October 6, 2015

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On the verge of evening, in a rainy twilight, two sisters are united by the dead. They live in their homestead in Bay Province, Massachusetts. We are in the parlor of these two women who have just learned that their husbands have been killed on the same single day—one a seaman, the other a landsman.  Mary’s heartbreak is quite different from the feverish Margaret’s reaction. After the mourners leave them to retire for the night, and under the pall of sleep, these two widows discover another reality. There is a fierce knocking at the door, and Margaret is the first to arise and greet her middle-of-the-night caller.

 

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I found the repeated mention of “light” to be significant elements in the story: “placing a lighted lamp upon the hearth” … “the cold light of the lamp threw shadows” …. “the lighted sorrows” … “dim light of the chamber.” Darkness (“a deluge of darkness overwhelmed”) is directly mentioned only once, but suggested in other places. If you are an avid reader of Hawthorne, you know every single word is weighted with precise telling.

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Mysteries demand a solution. This mystery of atmosphere and grief goes beyond any ghosts or imaginations. Hawthorne was highly skilled at creating a “waking reality” in his stories (The Haunted Mind). In Wives of the Dead, he suspends us between reality and unreality. And he shrouds the reality, so we must think again. You may find this ending ambiguous. Some fictions reveal good ambiguity, others not so good. Was Hawthorne’s intent clear and the facts unclear creating a good ambiguity, or do you think it is the unreality that is the message in the tale?

Read the Wives of the Dead at EldritchPress.org.

Listen to the audio by Barrow Bookstore on YouTube.com. 

 

NHimagesAnother of Hawthorne’s lesser known short stories is Ethan Brand. This story takes place on Mount Greylock (my favorite mountain). Hawthorne visited there in 1838. The story themes are sin, redemption, damnation. Heart vs. intellect. Bartram is a lime-burner on Mt. Greylock. One night, while working at the kiln that burns limestone, Bartram’s young son, Little Joe, hears a haunting laughter “like wind shaking the boughs of the forest.” A mysterious man appears, Ethan Brand, who is on a quest to discover the “unpardonable sin.” What is this unpardonable sin and where does Ethan Brand find it? This is a devilish yarn, for sure.

EthanBrandimages

 

Hawthorne’s description here of the mountain is probably the best I’ve read about Mount Greylock.

“Old Greylock was glorified with a golden cloud upon his head. Scattered likewise over the breasts of the surrounding mountains, there were heaps of hoary mist, in fantastic shapes, some of them far down into the valley, others high up towards the summits and still others, of the same family of mist or cloud, hovering in the gold radiance of the upper atmosphere.”

Read Ethan Brand at the EldritchPress.org.

 

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Watch for the release of my supernatural mystery GREYLOCK on October 15, 2015.

Book Cover Reveal coming up this week!

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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    Books & Such

 Monster Librarian   Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books     Sillyverse    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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Filed under Dreams, fiction, haunted mind, Hawthorne, horror blogs, literary horror, Mt. Greylock, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense, tales of terror

The Supernatural at the Old Manse

Between the Darkness and the Dawn,   Whistling Shade Literary Journal 2013 

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   September 1, 2014

 

old_manseThis holiday weekend I’m off, but still wanted to give you a tale of terror, so how about a historical ghost story from … yours truly.

Do you believe in synchronicity? Synchronicity is the experiencing of two or more events as meaningfully related. Do you believe in ley lines? Lines of energy, or energy grid, between ancient monuments or natural bodies of water, rocks, mountains, Stonehenge, Pyramids, etc., discovered by archaeologist Alfred Watkins (many scientists debate the existence of ley lines). Still, many believe ley lines are scientifically verifiable and are sacred earth energies where spirits can enter the earth’s atmosphere–and that we are naturally drawn to these ley lines.

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In Between the Darkness and the Dawn, Edward Fane is a ley line hunter, on an adventure to locate the ghost of Nathaniel Hawthorne at the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. Hawthorne and his wife Sophia lived at the Old Manse during the time he wrote Mosses From An Old Manse. What Edward discovers when he tests for ley lines at the Old Manse is not just the ghost of Hawthorne, but an experience within a ley line that reveals a shocking encounter with the past and a little piece of history.

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What’s most interesting to me is that when I wrote this short story back in 2010 and 2011, I had no idea there were ley lines discovered and confirmed at the Old Manse in Concord. During the creative writing process the ley lines just naturally appeared in the story. Two years later, upon visiting the Old Manse in October 2013 to drop off the Whistling Shade Literary Journal copies for their gift shop, I met with the director of the Old Manse. He had read my story and asked me how I knew ley lines were discovered on the property because it had not been publicized. The truth is, I didn’t know it. At least not in my own conscious mind, but then synchronicity often functions at the subconscious level. I gave a real chuckle to myself when the director showed me where the ley lines on Hawthorne’s property were confirmed (across the back lawn near a favorite rock where Nathaniel and Sophia often sat for tea). Of course, I probably don’t have to tell you that the reason they had the property and house tested for ley lines was because of the supernatural events that are frequently occurring at the Old Manse.

 

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You can read Between the Darkness and the Dawn here at Whistling Shade Literary Journal.

 

 

Visit the Old Manse Web site, Concord, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

Please leave a comment! I’d love to hear  your reaction to this short story.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com       Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 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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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

Shapes That Haunt the Dusk

 Perdita  by Hildegarde Hawthorne  (1897)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,  February 11, 2014     Women In Horror Month

9f6fe56daf585786370676941674331414f6744Hildegarde Hawthorne (1871-1952) probably isn’t a name that comes quickly to mind to most fiction readers. Even if you are an avid classic reader, this author has been long forgotten and overlooked. Of course, you might guess she was related to the most famous Hawthorne. Hildegarde was the granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, daughter of Julian. She was a short story writer, poet, essayist, biographer, and reviewer—author of some 23 books.

Her short story featured here, Perdita, was originally published in Harper’s New Monthly and in the anthology Shapes That Haunt the Dusk in 1907. She is probably most famous for her biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Romantic Rebel in 1936.  If you enjoy Perdita, you might also like The Faded Garden, which is a collection of all her ghost stories.

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I can’t call Perdita a horror story. Even “quiet horror” is a stretch. This is a ghostly love story. Picture the beauty of the prairie, rolling alfalfa fields and big sky. You are sitting on a veranda with vines of roses and sweeping clean air.  But there is a morbid quietness. There is … a young married couple, fresh from their honeymoon. There is sweet Aunt Agnes … There is … the power from beyond.

Read Perdita at Gutenberg.org (scroll down to the title)

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Have you experienced the award-winning work of Caitlin Kiernan? Kiernan is known more as a dark fantasy author than horror author, although that dividing line is pretty blurry to me. She’s written novels, comic books, novellas, and over 100 short stories. Here’s one from Subterranean Press, The Belated Burial. Yeah, you guessed it … a tale of being buried alive. But nothing is predictable in the dark realms of Caitlin Kiernan.

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Visit CaitlinKiernan Web site

The Belated Burial is short enough for a lunchtime read. I read it with a rare roast beef sandwich, tomato juice, and rich black Espresso coffee.  We are in vampire land, after all.

I would certainly be interested in seeing some comments on this story. Did you find Kiernan’s The Belated Burial kindred to Poe’s The Premature Burial? (read story here) What did you think of Kiernan’s ending? If you have any thoughts, please post.

Read The Belated Burial at Subterranean Press

Listen to the audio at PodCastle  Number 127

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Sirens Call Publications

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

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under dark fantasy, fiction, ghost stories, Hawthorne, short stories, weird tales, Women In Horror, Women in Horror Month

What is Between the Darkness and the Dawn?

You know that moment when the softness of the night fades and the day peeks open to the rise of the sun? There is a fleeting time between the darkness and the dawn. What if, in that sliver  of light, the past could shutter open? What would you experience? What glimmering shadows would you see?

My latest short story Between the Darkness and the Dawn is now published live on the Whistling Shade Literary Journal web site. This is a ghost story set in the Old Manse, the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Concord, Massachusetts.

I hope you’ll read this historical supernatural mystery with literary flavor and ghostly atmospherics; I would so love a comment or a review:

Between the Darkness and the Dawn  by Paula Cappa

 

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Filed under ghost stories, Hauntings, Hawthorne, literature, quiet horror, short stories, supernatural

Quiet Horror, Still the Darling of the Horror Genre

There is a power in quiet horror novels.

September 15 is the anniversary of the death of author Charles L. Grant, who most will agree was the best-selling modern-day master of quiet horror novels. A rigorous talent, a legend to many of us, Grant had hundreds of books, novels, short stories and anthologies published and won three World Fantasy Awards and two Nebula Awards. Grant wholeheartedly believed in the atmospheric quiet horror story as a serious fiction form.  Descriptions of Grant’s riveting prose and pace are phrases like lulls you into the dark,  subtle thrillsliterary prowess,  creates a luring suspense.  Well-crafted, horror fiction is an art. Read a Grant story and you’ll see why.

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Because we remember the loss of this treasured author (and because I admire the craft of quiet horror novels, love to read them and write them), it seems appropriate to revisit this enduring genre for September.

Horror is defined as painful and intense fear, something that horrifies. So when you think of reading a horror novel or story, what do you desire? Horror that is raw, explicit, and loud like pulp slasher shock? That would be the assault of splatterpunk. How about all-powerful monsters? Super-intelligent aliens? Sexy vampires that no one can resist? Are you curious about a shuttered gray house with a man skulking on the front porch, eyes searching every child who walks by? What a shudder that story might bring. Or maybe you love the Lovecraftian style with demigods from ages past like Cthulhu, written in deep prose and pessimistic themes. Psychological horror is a grabber, especially if you’re battling demonic possession, the ultimate evil challenge.

Stephen King is well known for saying that horror arouses our “phobic pressure points.” And maybe it’s true that triggering these fears becomes very personal for horror fans, provoking a response from the physical to the emotional to the psychological.

When did society decide that reading tales of the supernatural and terror would be entertaining? Maybe it’s the fight or flight response we still crave. Maybe reading horror is a catharsis. One of the very first horror novels was The Castle of Otranto written by Horace Walpole in 1764. Then we quickly move into the Gothic horror era with Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Poe, Hawthorne, Henry James and you know the rest of them, all the way to Grant, King, Koontz, and Rice.

But let’s get back to the  power in quiet horror. What is it exactly?  Quiet horror stories do not feed you blunt visceral violence: no gore-is-more philosophy; no bloody slasher meisters, no cheap thrills. Quiet horror hits a high key when it stimulates the intellect (sometimes even to the point of being a tad cerebral). It evokes  dark emotions and conjures imagery, artistically hitting your fear buttons, teasing you with clues, and employing the suggestive-then-cut-away Hitchcockian style of suspense. Delicious!

And often, this quiet darkness will hold a message that is not only cleverly hidden but  also symbolic. That “Ah-ha” moment is one we all love to experience.

Look at the success of John Harwood’s chilling The Séance;  Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black;  Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s enduring short story The Yellow Wallpaper. If you’ve ever read W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw, you can experience this understated but powerful dark message of  regret.

Charles Grant said in an interview that the most powerful books are the ones who force the reader to use the imagination. He saw the reader’s imagination as a highly effective tool. If we look to Lovecraft about horror, he advised writers never to state a specific horror element when it can be suggested. So, are writers who spell out every bloody and violent detail cheating readers from creating their own pleasurable visualizations?

In Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator says that he worked hastily and in silence to cut off the head, arms and legs of his victim. He uses the word “blood” only once …

There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all!

Any reader with half an imagination can see the blood inside that tub and imagine the dismembered parts with a ghastly effect. Maybe Strunk & White are right when they said, “It is seldom advisable to tell all.”

When you read horror, do the words on the page manipulate your thinking or stimulate your imagination? How deep is your well?

A search on Amazon.com for quiet horror novels offers four of Grant’s novels:
The Sound of Midnight
The Bloodwind
The Last Call of Mourning
The Grave

Search Barnes & Noble and you’ll find more traditional titles like Northanger Abby by Jane Austin, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Amazon lists these as their top FIVE selling quiet horror novels:
In the Night Room, Peter Straub
The Fall of Never, Ronald Damien Malfi
The Snowman’s Children, Glen Hirshberg
Nightmare House, Douglas Clegg
Atmosphere, Michael Laimo

Of course there’s lots more quiet horror out there, but it’s not so easy to identify these novels. Right now on the New York Times best sellers list, two novels that fit quiet horror are Night Film by Marisha Pessi (pitched as occult horror, literary thriller, and mystery thriller) and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Sometimes these authors are known as dark fantasy authors. Writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Ramsey Campbell, James Herbert, Arthur Machen, Elizabeth Massie.

My favorite authors of quiet horror are the classic masters: Nathaniel Hawthorne, M.R. James, Poe, Henry James and too many more to list here. I loved The Dead Zone by Stephen King. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson, The Grave by Charles L. Grant, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper, Seduction by M.J. Rose.

So, what horror stories spark your imagination? Is there a horror novel that has awakened your heart and soul?

I leave you with one last thought …

“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.” Arthur Conan Doyle

Whether you are a reader, author, publishing pro, or literary hound, I invite you to post your thoughts here. Are you a fan of Charles  Grant?  Do you prefer splatterpunk or bizarro and tell us why. What is your favorite horror novel? I see this post as a running commentary about horror—quiet or loud, gothic, splatterpunk, dark fantasy, supernatural, ghosts, mystery, fabulist, Lovecraftian, satanic, or bizarro.

If you are new to this blog, I am a novelist and short story writer, living in New York, posting classic Tales of Terror every week, most of which are quiet horror, supernatural, and lots of ghost stories because … I am a haunted writer. Not only do I believe in ghosts, but I’ve got one sitting next to me right now.  He’s a writer, of course, about ghosts and witches—and he is my mentor. The number seven has particular significance to his greatest known work. If you know this house in Salem, Massachusetts pictured below, you know this author.

HouseSeven_GablesLARGE_(1915)

You can view my novels, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural and The Dazzling Darkness in the above tabs on this site, but I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically suggest you experience the novels of Charles L. Grant and the other fine authors mentioned here if you really want to walk on the dark side with the best of  literary artists.

Here are a few worthy web sites in your search for horror and the supernatural.

CharlesLGrantWebSite

Horror Novel Reviews

Too Much Horror Fiction Blogspot

Hell Notes

Spooky Reads 

Monster Librarian

Horror World

HellHorror

Horror-Web

Horror Palace

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