Category Archives: psychological horror

A Ghost for Christmas

Thurlow’s Christmas Story   by John Kendrick Bangs (1894 Harper’s Weekly)

Wednesday’s Christmas Story  December 5, 2018

 

It’s nearly Christmas and a lovely time for ghost stories. Let’s imagine you are a writer. Or maybe, like me, you are a writer of fiction and a lover of ghost stories. Here is a story about a writer haunted by a ghostly vision. At the same time this ghost arrives, our writer is struggling to invent an adventure “the usual ghostly tale with a dash of the Christmas flavor” for his editor to publish for the Christmas  edition, The Idler. What John Kendrick Bangs does here in Thurlow’s Christmas Story is write a letter  based on a supernatural experience. He sends this letter to his editor Mr. George Currier at The Idler.

One night, after producing only blank pages at his desk … ‘On my way up to bed shortly after midnight, having been neither smoking nor drinking, I saw confronting me upon the stairs, with the moonlight streaming through the windows back of me, lighting up its face, a figure in which I recognized my very self in every form and feature.’

So, what happens when we meet a ghost in our own image? Some consider this a comic ghost story. You be the judge.

 

 

I can say that when writing—when inside that mysterious creative process of storytelling—some writers do experience supernatural activity, and I think author John Kendrick Bangs was one of them. Bangs is known as an American satirist, author of short stories, novels, poems, and serial fiction (Harper’s Weekly). He is a clever writer in supernatural fiction, and creator of modern Bangsian fantasy (fantasy set in the afterlife).

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Read the Christmas short story PDF https://loa-shared.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdf/Bangs_Thurlow.pdf

Listen to the 30-minute audio https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=805riJbo7UY

 

 

“May the Christmastide bear you to the highest level of your desires, and the ebbing year leave you stranded upon the Golden Shores of Peace, Prosperity and Happiness.”   J.K. Banks

 

Click to read other Christmas stories posted here at Reading Fiction Blog:

 

 Christmas River Ghost by Paula Cappa  2017

A Strange Christmas Game  by J.H. Riddell   2016 

A Boy Named Claus: The Adventure. Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum  2015

 

 

Please leave your comments! 

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.”

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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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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

Leave a comment

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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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Filed under classic horror stories, crystal skull, fiction, ghost stories, Gothic fiction, Gothic Horror, Hauntings, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, occult, paranormal, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short story blogs, skulls, soft horror, supernatural fiction, tales of terror, The Dazzling Darkness

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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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Ghosts, Gothic fiction, Gothic Horror, haunted houses, Hauntings, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, murder mystery, mysteries, paranormal, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural fiction, Women In Horror, Women in Horror Month

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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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Gothic Horror, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, Mt. Greylock, murder mystery, mysteries, occult, paranormal, phantoms, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, READING FICTION BLOG Paula Cappa, soft horror, supernatural, supernatural fiction, supernatural music, supernatural mysteries, supernatural thrillers, suspense, tales of terror, Women In Horror, Women in Horror Month