Category Archives: Hawthorne

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.

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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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Filed under dark fantasy, Hawthorne, horror, horror blogs, Night Sea Journey, quiet horror, soft horror, tales of terror, The Dazzling Darkness

The Chilly and Darksome Vale of Years

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne  (1837)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   July 2, 2013

Since it’s Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth date anniversary on July 4, I chose this week to feature one of his short stories.  Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment deals with aging, a dash of morality, and the tampering with nature.

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Do we shun the old? Do we fear our own old age and decline, or do we value the wisdom of experience? What horrors to find ourselves wrinkled, sagging, grey, stumbling through our end years with knotted joints and weakened muscles. What if you found the legendary fountain of youth? Would you drink the elixir? Then what?

Dr. Heidegger is an eccentric old man who lost his bride-to-be, Sylvia, the night before their wedding. It is some fifty years later since Sylvia gave him a rose to wear on their wedding day—a rose he kept inside a book all this time. We are in his study, a chamber with cobwebs and books, a skeleton in the closet, a bust of Hippocrates who is said to converse with the good doctor from time to time.

Such a chamber would not be complete without a magic mirror whose glass might reveal faces of the good doctor’s deceased patients. And of course, a black book of magic.

Dr. Heidegger has invited four of his oldest friends to his study: a politician, a merchant, a womanizer, and a once beautiful woman. Heidegger is conducting an experiment. On the table is Sylvia’s withered rose, a tall vase of water, four goblets. He pours from the vase, filling the goblets. Out comes a clear bubbling liquid that sparkles like diamonds. He places the withered dry rose into the water and the four friends watch the rose curl back into a moist bloom, fresh, green, with delicate bright red leaves.

A pretty deception? Or does that water have true healing powers?

“Drink!” says the good doctor.

With palsied and veined hands, the four friends raise the glasses to their lips.

If you know Hawthorne’s work, you know he wrote rather dark views of human nature; his uses of symbolism and allegory to communicate his messages are classic. So, what happens to these four friends? Watch for the dark chill of the butterfly as it flutters in the chamber. Do you think the good doctor knew the results of his experiment ahead of time?

For a full text read, go to  Online Literature:

http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/130/

Also, I have two film adaptations of the short story that are quite good if you happen to enjoy vintage productions.

Heidegger369207.1010.AYouTube presents Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment (30 minutes) as part of Twice-Told Tales  (three tales including House of Seven Gables and  Rappaccini’s Daughter) starring Vincent Price, Richard Denning, and Sebastian Cabot. This adaptation is much altered, the story line different, and the ending has an interesting twist. I actually liked this film better than the original short story:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RULBBg6kP38

Short Story Showcase presents Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment on film at Encyclopedia Britannica.com, a precise classic adaptation of the story as Hawthorne wrote it:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/138928/Dr

I’d love to hear your comments about the Vincent Price film.

http://www.hellhorror.com/links/

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Filed under fiction, Hawthorne, horror, literature, psychological horror, short stories, supernatural, suspense, tales of terror

The Wintry Gloom of a Haunted Mind

The Haunted Mind  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, January 15, 2013

The NIghtmare HenryFuimages

Is there a state of mind, a supernatural zone, between the real and unreal? Examine the dream. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Haunted Mind, we enter a “midnight slumber.” If we were to dream of ghostly inhabitants, they would certainly be unreal yet we perceive these dream ghosts to be startlingly real, “wide awake in that realm of illusions,” as Hawthorne describes.

The Haunted Mind is probably one of the gloomiest stories Hawthorne’s ever written because he brings us into the subterranean psychodrama of sleep with pervasive phantoms and then blurs the wakefulness. A cunning device. And, to set his stage for deeper emotion, he uses of the second person you, “You think how the dead are lying in their cold shrouds and narrow coffins, through the drear winter of the grave ….”  This forces us to think we are feeling this dreadful experience with the narrator.

A most extraordinary story, the prose requires a slow read as each sentence, each chilling word holds a great deal of imagery, realism, and insight. We need to read it slowly as if every line is a delicious bite.

We are introduced to the single character alone in his bed on a winter night, frost patterns on the window glass, snow-covered roofs, streets frozen, perhaps like this dream we are in. Symbolisms abound. While the character slips in and out of dreaming and half-waking, Hawthorne gives us intense descriptions of funereal ghosts passing by—wrinkled, fiendish, evil. A train of regret and sorrow follows, disappointments, shame, despair. What a pervasive eerie mood. We begin to wonder… are we dreaming of the underworld? Are we awake? Are we in some psychological prison of the mind? I think it was Poe who compared sleep to death, calling sleep “little slices of death.”

Hawthorne holds us captive when his character believes he cannot be persuaded that the dead “… neither shrink nor shiver, when the snow is drifting over their little hillocks, and the bitter blast howls against the door of the tomb.” The deathly isolation in this story made me shiver, wishing for a warm fire to appear. And when the hearth’s embers do shed a bit of gleam, as the flames vanish, we are left to wonder what is real, the cold or the gloom.

“Yesterday has already vanished from the shadows of the past, to-morrow has not yet emerged from the future.” Where is this poor soul? Does he awake fully in his warm bed? Do we?

If we know Hawthorne at all, we know that the supernatural and self-discovery are common themes in his works. You must read The Haunted Mind (a quick read at only 1700 words) for an extraordinary experience into the wilderness of sleep between reality and dreams from a true master of literature.

Read it here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/9209/9209-h/9209-h.htm

Stories about dreaming and alternate realities (the inner world) are my favorite, so The Haunted Mind ranks very high for me. That is probably why I wrote Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural. I’m no Hawthorne, not near his talents, but my novel delves into the dreaming mind, into the fears that often emerge when we are immobile and frozen in our sleep. You’ll find that Hawthorne brings his story to a disturbing destiny, not just merely waking up to start a new day after unsettling dreams. In Night Sea Journey, my character, Kip Livingston, journeys in her dreams to find a new destiny—a reality that defies the expected and enters the supernatural realm of angels and demons.

Which brings me to the obvious question: Why do we dream? What are these secret nighttime journeys with strange faces and imaginary events? Is there some supernatural power going on here? If you’ve had a dream that has affected you or your life in some way (A ghostly one, maybe? Or a dream with the spirit of a dead loved one?) please post.

And stop by next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.

Artwork  is The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781.

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Filed under dark fantasy, Dreams, fiction, ghost stories, haunted mind, Hauntings, Hawthorne, horror, mysteries, Nightmares, short stories, supernatural, tales of terror