Category Archives: psychological horror

Passionate Throbs in The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Ghosts   June 12, 2018

The quintessential ghost story of all time is … Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. As far as literature goes, academic or otherwise, this blog would be faulty if it didn’t feature James’ most famous ghost story. The story is a dark and rich suspense, full of passionate throbs both horrific and psychological. James has had his criticism about his overburdened sentences and his fussy and prudish style. Too Freudian was another swipe at him because his ghosts had their foundation in ourselves. But this story, after more than a century,  hasn’t lost its power.

The Turn of the Screw first appeared in serial format in Collier’s Weekly magazine (1898). James is famous for writing about the nature of evil in a quiet way. This short story fulfills the three –S’s in ghostly fiction: suspenseful, sinister, and strange. Gothic, of course, since the story takes place at the House of Bly. The story is both supernatural and psychological. James adapted this story from a tale told him by the archbishop of Canterbury. James was said to claim that his intention was to entertain. You will certainly find this story entertaining, disturbing, but also an exploration of good and evil.

The story opens with a prologue of backstory and then Chapter One is told by the governess (unnamed) who goes to Bly House in the English countryside to care for two children: Miles and Flora. Ghosts of unspeakable evil appear to the governess: Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. But are these apparitions only seen by the governess?

Do Miles and Flora observe as well? And what about the knowledgeable and reliable housekeeper Mrs. Grose? Truths, tricks, and the state of mind of our governess all play roles and so does supernatural powers.

A clever story, this is, and beautifully written. Writers of ghost stories can learn a lot by reading it carefully. The puzzle of the storytelling is cut expertly! The structure perfection. The tone mystifying. Still, literary critics debate if true evil ghosts haunt Bly House or is it the haunting from the madness of the governess.

For me, to take away the ghosts’ reality weakens the story and dilutes the fear. James insists we see the ghosts  just as the governess sees them, thereby maintaining the horror. And yet he sprinkles doubt at every turn, which enhances the suspense.

Read The Turn of the Screw at Gutenberg.org

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/209/209-h/209-h.htm

Listen to the audio at Librivox.org.

https://librivox.org/the-turn-of-the-screw-by-henry-james/

 

I’d love to read your comments and reactions to this story. What kind of psychological realism or supernatural realism did you find in the story? 

Watch the film with Deborah Kerr, directed by Jack Clayton (vintage black and white)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=gwmp2I0A0Eg

 

 

There are other adaptations for film:
—1991 film with Lynn Redgrave, directed by Dan Curtis
—1999 film with Colin Firth, directed by Ben Bolt
—2009 film with Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery of Downtown Abbey, directed by Tim Fywell (available Amazon Prime Streaming)

 

Henry James was an American author, born in New York in 1853. He is considered to be one of the greatest novelists in our literature. The Portrait of a Lady and Daisy Miller are his most widely read and best known works.  He accomplished 22 novels, more than a hundred short stories, autobiographical works, several plays and critical essays. The Wings of Dove (1902) is a beautifully written love story and a film.  In Edith Wharton’s autobiography, she recalls how she and James sat by a ditch at Bodiam Castle, in East Sussex. ‘For a long time no one spoke,’ writes Wharton, ‘then James turned to me and said solemnly: ‘Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.’

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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Dreaming Darkly with Charles L. Grant for Short Story Month

May Is Short Story Month.  Week Two.  Let’s Dream Darkly with Charles L. Grant

Tuesday’s Tale of Quiet Horror    May 8, 2018    READING FICTION BLOG

When All the Children Call My Name by Charles L. Grant  (1981)

 

 

Because May is Short Story Month, I am featuring more short fiction for these weeks ahead. Here is one of my favorite authors for “quiet horror” stories. What is quiet horror? In this subgenre are stories that have a strong sense of the mysterious that stimulate the intellect and catches the emotion. No violence. Nothing offensive.  But lots of tension in the plot action and characterization. Most quiet horror is atmospheric with descriptive prose and setting, sometimes just a little bit poetic.  It brings on feelings of suspension and cold dread. It expands the imagination. It opens up the philosophic.  In literature and art there is the ‘negative space’ and quiet horror is fully there. Many readers prefer to call this subgenre literary horror. Center stage in these stories are the characters and their rising fear of the supernatural, discarnate spirits, evil powers, and sinister murderers.

Charles L. Grant is well-known as the king of quiet horror. Grant is highly skilled at deep suspense and making a reader turn the page with expectation.  In a Dark Dream is Grant’s award-winning novel (Bram Stoker Award for Fiction) that inspired me to write my own quiet horror novel about dreams of darkness in Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural (winner of an Eric Hoffer Book Award). The metaphysical action of dreaming is fertile ground for creative writing and scary novels.

 

Here is one of Grant’s short stories

When All the Children Call My Name. Read it at Nightmare Magazine and

    …  scream quietly:

http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/when-all-the-children-call-my-name/  

 

 

 

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, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ 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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39 Skulls

The Messenger  by Robert W. Chambers  (1900)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  February 27, 2018

When the Black Priest rises from the dead,

St. Gildas folk shall shriek in bed;

When the Black Priest rises from his grave,

May the good God St. Gildas save!

Thirty-eight skulls and then there was one more. A scroll written in blood. A curse. Death’s Messenger.  We are in St. Gildas. The year is 1896. Village talk is about the Black Priest and a moth that, if it enters your house, brings evil. Moths are said to be spirit guides. Skulls are said to represent mortality, but they also remind us of the embodiment of consciousness.

The Messenger is a story woven with thick suspense and told vintage style by one of the greatest horror and fantasy novelists, Robert Chambers (1865-1933). Chambers is famous for his King in Yellow (1895), and remembered these days for his Gothic tales. Chambers will keep you guessing in this story told by Dick, who does not believe in the supernatural.

Readers of this blog know I am fascinated by all kinds of skulls, especially crystal skulls. When writing my supernatural mystery The Dazzling Darkness, which features a mysterious crystal skull, I learned about the Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull, also known as the Skull of Doom. If you don’t know about the powers of quartz crystal skulls, stop in at the Mitchell-Hedges website for some fascinating information: http://www.crystalskulls.com/mitchell-hedges-crystal-skull.html

Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull

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Read The Messenger short story here: https://americanliterature.com/author/robert-w-chambers/short-story/the-messenger

Listen to the audio at YouTube.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3arLiAjpmQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, there’s Max the crystal skull if you really are a crystal skull lover! Visit http://cse.crystalskullexplorers.com/max-the-crystal-skull/

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 

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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It Is the Haunted Who Haunt

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) for Women In Horror Month 2018

Tuesday’s Tales of Terror   February 13, 2018

Followers of this blog know that ghosts draw us together. We choose to be haunted by reading ghost stories. We are all haunted houses in our own minds. Elizabeth Bowen was a distinguished author of ghost stories, often compared to Henry James and Virginia Woolf for craft.  Some liken her to Alfred Hitchcock. You will find a moral vision and social commentary in all her fine fiction. One thing is certain, whether you think ghosts are not real or ghosts are real nonphysical consciousness, Bowen had total acceptance of the reality of ghosts and the occult—a woman I can certainly identify with for that belief.

 

“Ghosts exploit the horror latent behind reality …. Our irrational darker selves demand familiars …. We are twentieth century haunters of the haunted.”

 

Elizabeth Bowen is my Women In Horror Month selection for 2018, which always includes the finest ghost tale writers. Bowen’s stories are a legacy to the Gothic, Sapphic,  psychological, and the ghostly realms in our minds.  She knew how to use the idea of a ‘living ghost’ a ghost who could appear in one place  and at the same time be a living person walking around in another place. I consider her required reading for any ghost story lover.

 

“Each time I sat down to write a story I opened a door; and the pressure against the other side of that door must have been very great, for things — ideas, images, emotions — came through with force and rapidity, sometimes violence …. Odd enough in their way — and now some seem very odd — they were flying particles of something enormous and inchoate that had been going on. They were sparks from experience—an experience not necessarily my own.”

If you want to read about how she handled cracks in the psyche, read The Demon Lover—paranoia or paranormal in wartime London. You be the judge.

 

 

Her three most famous ghost stories are the following. The Cat Jumps (1934 ), a country house, a previous murder, new owners. The Happy Autumn Fields (1941), a dreamy psychologically damaged young woman’s story akin to Turn of the Screw. Green Holly (1941), the ghost of a woman speaks out on Christmas Eve.

Read the short story The Demon Lover at BiblioKlept.org. 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the audio of The Demon Lover

here on YouTube.com.

 

 

 

You can download her famous novel The Last September. The  story depicts the tensions between love and the longing for freedom, between tradition and the terrifying prospect of independence, both political and spiritual. Life in the 1920s at the country mansion  in Cork during the Irish War of Independence. A young woman’s coming of age in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history.

Get the FREE ebook here at MaconCountyPark.com.

 

 

 

The 1999 British film, screenplay by John Banville, starring Maggie Smith.

 

 

Do you think it is the haunted who haunts?

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two FREE short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 

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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GREYLOCK Wins Best Book Award, American Book Fest, 2017

I am very happy to announce …
GREYLOCK wins Best Book Award by American Book Fest 2017. 14th Annual Book Awards: Winners and finalists traverse the publishing landscape: Wiley, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, St. Martin’s Press, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Rowman & Littlefield, New American Library, Forge/Tor Books, John Hopkins University Press, MIT Press and hundreds of independent houses. Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists.
“In Greylock, Paula Cappa has written a smart, entertaining supernatural thriller, in which a composer with a damning secret battles a ballerina scorned, while an embittered messenger from the Otherworld demands to be heard. Think Stephen King meets Raymond Chandler with a score by Tchaikovsky. The author’s passion for both the arts and the natural world shines through on every page, while a mysterious composition from old Russia, combined with the majestic songs of the Beluga whale, form the thematic backdrop of the story. Briskly paced and yet lovingly detailed, this novel was a genuine pleasure to read.” —David Corbett, award-winning and best-selling author of The Mercy of the Night.

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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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Do You Believe in the Mysterious?

‘It’s night.

It has been night for a long time. Hours pass— yet it’s the same hour. I can’t sleep.

My mind is fractured like broken glass. Or a broken mirror, shards reflecting shards. I am incapable of thinking but only of receiving, like a fine-meshed net strung tight, mere glimmerings of thought. Teasing fragments of “memory”—or is it “invented memory”?—rise and turn and fall and sift and scatter and rearrange themselves into arabesques of patterns on the verge of becoming coherent, yet do not become coherent.’

Want to read more? This is from Joyce Carol Oates’ blog Celestial Timepiece.

https://celestialtimepiece.com/2017/04/09/the-collector-of-hearts-new-tales-of-the-grotesque/

 

This is her latest collection of short stories. Twenty-five Gothic horror tales.

 

s-l225

 

 

“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have.

Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”  

Henry James.  This quote hangs above Oates’ writing desk.

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