Tag Archives: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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