Tag Archives: entertainment

The Lashing Dangers of Miss Northcott

John Barrington Cowles by A.C. Doyle (1890)

This week May 22 is Doyle’s birth date.

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 22, 2013

What is it about a beautiful woman that hints of danger?  And why is this danger so irresistible to men?  Maybe it’s the Greek myths embedded in our subconscious, the sirens (part human, part bird) who lured men by their rippling and mesmerizing song. We are reminded that a man can easily succumb to the purple-darkened seduction of a woman.  Maybe some men love to play the victim to great beauty and obsession. Maybe some women love to play the siren. Sirens were not just luring men for sexual pleasure, they were man-eating beasts. Doyle certainly loved to play with this theory and he wrote with a rich haunting effect in John Barrington Cowles.

Our central character is a dreamy sort of man, highly strung, a professional in anatomy and physics, and lives a rather solitary life. In an art gallery, Cowles meets a ravishing woman, “white as marble,” in a dark dress and white fur. Miss Kate Northcott is described as a “real Greek type.” Ah-hem, Greek? When Odysseus found he couldn’t resist the siren’s song, in order to prevent jumping to his death into the water, he tied himself to the mast of the ship! Perhaps Cowles should have done the same.

Not only does this story produce supernatural intrigue, romance, and mystery, but there’s just the slightest hint of erotica (a whip and a Scottish terrier)–at least as much as Doyle could sensibly write in the Victorian 1890s, but it’s there if you like to read between the lines as I do.

Miss Northcott is quite feminine, clever, even a dash masculine for flavor, but more to the point Miss Northcott can switch on a steely gaze. Does Cowles become bewitched? Does he become her obsessed victim? Meet Miss Northcott with “white fingers” and “lips inclined to thinness.”

Read the full text at Readbookonline:


As a bonus for A.C. Doyle’s birth date, I’ve added a podcast. Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles is most famous, but there are other stories about hounds.  How about  Lovecraft’s The Hound. This short story is narrated by Lawrence Santoro at Tales to Terrify. Lawrence has a five-minute introduction and then reads this exciting story that has a werewolf, vampire, giant bats, a dead wizard and more …



I’ll be on The Author’s Corner for a radio interview, Roxboro, North Carolina on May 23, Thursday night at 9:30 pm EASTERN time, with host Elaine Raco Chase. Call in and chat on blog talk radio:



Filed under demons, fiction, horror, literature, mysteries, occult, paranormal, short stories, supernatural, suspense, tales of terror, weird tales

I Have Often Heard It Scream

The Screaming Skull by Francis Marion Crawford (1908)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 14, 2013


Consider this: a murder, a haunting, a tinned iron ladle, and a hatbox containing a skull. If the tinned ladle isn’t sinister enough for you, I promise, it will be.

The Screaming Skull is not about reading a horror story. The Screaming Skull is about listening, and listening not just with your ears, but with your imagination. As we avid supernatural readers know, ghosts are never only about ghosts.

Captain Charles Braddock, our narrator, is a rational man who absolutely does not believe in the supernatural or in ghosts. When he inherits a house by the sea from his cousin Luke Pratt (a country doctor who is found dead with a wicked bite in the throat by some unknown creature), Braddock is repeatedly tested in his beliefs.

Captain Braddock narrates this story while sitting in Luke’s chair, by Luke’s hearth, in Luke’s house. Braddock explains the events to a “friend” sitting opposite him in Luke’s wife’s chair.  This friend is quite mysterious because he’s not only anonymous but doesn’t ever speak a single word. We learn his reactions only through Braddock. What an odd literary technique, to say the least, for our author to create a character so mute, so passive, so nondescript that he’s practically a ghost himself. This technique, though,  is highly effective if you the reader, if you the “listener” sit in the wife’s chair and listen as if YOU are the friend.  [I admit I’m in the realm of speculation here, but I do think the author intended his reader to be the friend to fully experience this little horror.]

To tell you more of this story would ruin the unfolding of the narrative method. The title tells you enough. Yes, there is unidentified shrieking in the house. Yes, there is a mysterious skull (I’m partial to skulls as some of you know who have read The Dazzling Darkness).

The question for Braddock is … is the screaming truly supernatural? Or is the screaming the effect of the wind, the gloomy tides, or even Braddock’s own psychological shrieking? The ending answers this explicitly!

“Hush!—if you don’t speak, you will hear it now.”

Read it at Gaslight etexts.


Or watch the vintage 1958 film adaptation on YouTube:



I’m thrilled to announce that my latest short story Abasteron House is now a narration by Folly Blaine, podcast at Every Day Fiction. And just in time for May National Short Story Month—my first literary podcast. And only 9 minutes long at the link below.  If you like the story, I’d so appreciate a comment and a star rating on their Web site. Many thanks!



Next Week, A.C. Doyle in honor of his birth date on May 22nd.


Filed under crystal skull, fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, horror, literature, mysteries, occult, short stories, skulls, supernatural, tales of terror, weird tales