Archive for the ‘Folklore’ Category

Anilbalan’s Ghost Cities Blog: New post The Great God Pan

June 22, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog, as always, welcomes this latest bit of writing on writing! And, of course, the supernatural. I would give a great deal to have access to his library!

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Subject: [New post] The Great God Pan

ghostcities posted: "The Great God Pan is an 1890 novella by the controversial Welsh ghost story writer Arthur Machen. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garner"

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New post on Ghost Cities


The Great God Pan

by ghostcities

The Great God Pan is an 1890 novella by the controversial Welsh ghost story writer Arthur Machen. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. In many ways the story reflects the author’s absorption with the wondrous, the uncanny and the unknown. "In every grain of wheat there lies hidden the soul of a star" Machen writes in an early page of The Great God Pan, which might be said to be the mystical doctrine that informs all of his principal writings. Machen’s novels and tales possess a thematic unity in that running through them all are two polarised strands – terror and wonder – and occasionally they meet and intertwine. Indeed, while the necromantic fantasies produced by Machen in the 1890s later led to him being labelled the ‘laureate of evil’, he had by then already assumed another mantle – that of the ‘apostle of wonder’, for the diabolic and the divine lie at the heart of his fiction. But Machen’s own life is perhaps his greatest creation; for it is exactly the life we might expect such a poet and visionary to have lived.

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ghostcities | June 21, 2015 at 2:00 am | Tags: Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan | Categories: Horror, Review, Short Story, Supernatural fiction | URL:

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Ghost Stories: The Man in the Moss and The Slough of Melton Feg

March 24, 2015
Spooky swampland at Black Bayou.

Spooky swampland at Black Bayou.

Ghost Stories are fun. Here’s another good one from Anil Balan, and in that vein a link to The Slough of Melton Feg, my own tale of Bog bodies!

Ghost Cities

A rich body of geographical lore, much of it related to real or imaginary hazards, characterises perceptions of bog landscapes. Bog bursts, will-o’-the-wisps, carnivorous plants, weird creatures, and perceptions of the ‘bottomless’ bog all play a part in the folklore of the landscapes. For example, there is Lindow Man, the preserved body of a man discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss near Wilmslow in Cheshire, North West England on 1 August 1984 by commercial peat-cutters. The find, which is regarded as one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 1980s, caused a media sensation and helped invigorate study of ‘bog men’ in Britain. Ambiguity about the features of bog landscapes is further heightened by the descriptive terminology employed by tale tellers, who present to us a world inhabited by meanings that go beyond the physical environment and touch on the primordial inner landscape. Not long after its discovery, Lindow Man…

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Just brilliant!: The Blackout Society ghost story series begins with “It was a dark and stormy night”. Totally audacious! Whack us in sentence one with a cliche that few would dare to use! Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are rock and rollers!

July 16, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog rates Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child as my favourite functioning authors. And this latest initiative from the Preston Child team took my breath away with sentence one! “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Brilliant! Bold! Funny! Facetious! They have brought a cliché back from the grave and …we want to know more!

Or at least I do.

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Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 8:14 PM
Subject: The Blackout Society

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Episode 1

It was a dark and stormy night. The heat of the June day had been tempered by an approaching front, and the windows of the elegant library of the Riverside Drive mansion were illuminated again and again by tongues of lightning, followed by deep rolls of thunder. Rain and wind dashed against the glass, as if trying to invade the confines of the room.

A group of seven had gathered around the dead hearth. They included Special Agent Pendergast of the FBI; his ward, Constance Greene; a chauffeur and bodyguard named Proctor; Vincent D’Agosta and his wife Laura Hayward, both of the NYPD; Margo Green, and Corrie Swanson.

Pendergast took a sip of sherry and gazed around the assembled circle. “As I have explained,” he went on, “the escapee will be taken by midnight. That is certain. What is uncertain is where he is at the present moment. As you know, all the evidence indicated that one of us would be his next intended victim, which is why I have gathered you here, in a secure place. As soon as I receive word that the killer is safely in custody, you shall all be free to go.”

As if to underscore this, he removed his Les Baer .45 from his suit jacket, checked the magazine, racked a round into the chamber, and laid it beside his crystal glass of sherry.

D’Agosta shifted in his wing chair. “Personally, I’d rather be with the SWAT team, dispensing some justice of my own.”

“I understand the feeling, my dear Vincent. However, in this case, it seemed best to take a conservative approach, given the killer’s unusual ability—”

He was interrupted by a sudden, violent clap of thunder. A bolt of lightning struck so close that it seemed to be almost within their midst, followed by a loud report not unlike an explosion; and then the lights of the house went out abruptly.

The small group sat motionless, until Corrie Swanson groaned. “Blackout,” she said.

A moment later there was a noise in the hallway and Mrs. Trask bustled in, a candelabrum in each hand. The candles threw flickering, lambent shadows over the dark furniture and innumerable rows of leather-bound books.

“That sounded like a substation,” said Hayward. “We may be out of power for a while.”

A brief silence descended.

“We’ve got a few hours to kill,” Corrie said. “Maybe we should light a fire and tell ghost stories.”

Pendergast looked at her. “That’s a rather charming idea, actually. The ancestor from whom I inherited this house was an avid collector of early thrillers, ghostly tales, and murder mysteries—all things lurid, in fact. Many of the volumes are exceedingly rare in first edition. It could prove an agreeable pastime while awaiting word of the killer’s capture…. or demise.”

“Are you suggesting we form a literary fellowship?” asked Constance Greene. “Such as Edgar Allan Poe’s would-be Folio Club? Or H. P. Lovecraft’s Club of Seven Dreamers?”

“If only for an evening.”

“We could call it The Blackout Society,” said Laura Hayward.

“How will it work?” asked Corrie.

“Each of us shall propose a favorite tale,” said Pendergast. “You, Constance, will retrieve that tale for us from this library. The person who suggested the story shall then read it aloud.” He looked around. “Are we in agreement?”

There were murmurs, nods.

“Long as I can get a cold one, I’ll be happy,” said D’Agosta, with a glance at his own untouched glass of sherry.

“Who’ll go first?” asked Corrie.

“I will,” said Margo after a brief silence. “My father was an English professor at Vassar and a devotee of ghost stories. There’s one he read to me when I was twelve that I’ve never forgotten. I don’t think I slept for a week after hearing it.”

Pendergast nodded. “Very well. And what was the story?”

Thurnley Abbey, by Perceval Landon.”

Constance rose, took one of the candelabra, and walked over to a far bookshelf. She looked amongst the titles for a moment, slid one out, returned to the group, and handed it to Margo.

Raw Edges,” Margo said, turning the book over in her hands and reading the title.

“Yes,” said Constance. “I believe it was Landon’s only short story collection, published in 1908. Rare in the original Heinemann edition.” She paused and, with a small smile, tapped her knuckles on the wooden side table like a gavel. “The Blackout Society is hereby called to order. Dr. Green, you have the floor.”

Margo blew the dust off the cover and opened it with great care. The candelabra were brought closer; sherry glasses were refilled and D’Agosta was brought a frosty bottle of Michelob on a silver platter. As the assembled company fell silent in anticipation, Margo leafed through the old book, the pages rustling. She found the story she wanted and began to read aloud.

“Three years ago I was on my way out to the East, and as an extra day in London was of some importance, I took the Friday evening mail-train to Brindisi instead of the usual Thursday morning Marseilles express…”

The first Blackout Society ghost story is continued here:


Some useful links:

Reserve a first edition, autographed copy of WHITE FIRE

Join the Preston&Child fan page on Facebook

Buy the Pendergast short story, EXTRACTION

Buy Douglas Preston’s TRIAL BY FURY Kindle Single

P.O Box 162 | Convent Station, NJ 07961 AF

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New post from Anilbalan’s Ghost Cities Blog: The Angel of Mons

June 29, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is, as always, delighted to hear from Anilbalan’s Ghost Cities blog. The angel of Mons. Read on!

New post on Ghost Cities


The Angel of Mons

by anilbalan

The Angel of Mons – a popular story about a group of angels who supposedly protected members of the British army in the Battle of Mons – is perhaps the most enduring supernatural legend of the First World War. The battle of Mons took place on 23 August 1914 and within weeks tales of the ‘Angel of Mons’ had entered the realms of legend. It arose from a belief during the Great War that a miracle had happened during the British Army’s first desperate clash with the advancing Germans at Mons in Belgium. In some versions a vision of St George and phantom bowmen halted the Kaiser’s troops, while others claimed angels had thrown a protective curtain around the British, saving them from disaster. By the end of the war it became unpatriotic, even treasonable, to doubt the claims were based on fact. The spread of the legend was aided by the publication on 29 September 1914 by Welsh author Arthur Machen of a short story entitled The Bowmen, which was inspired by accounts that he had read of the fighting at Mons and an idea he had had soon after the battle. Machen’s story was written from a first-hand perspective and was a kind of false document, a technique he knew well. The unintended result, however, was that Machen had a number of requests to provide evidence for his sources for the story soon after its publication, from readers who thought it was true, to which he responded that it was completely imaginary (he had no desire to create a hoax). The only link between the Mons retreat and Machen’s story, in fact, was its beginning, which observed that troops of the British Expeditionary Force were in retreat: Mons itself was not mentioned. However, to this day, the myth and the short story have become intertwined so inextricably that it is almost impossible to unravel which was the inspiration for the other.

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anilbalan | June 29, 2013 at 2:00 am | Tags: Angel of Mons, Arthur Machen, The Bowmen | Categories: Sightings, Supernatural fiction, Unexplained Mystery, Urban Legend | URL:

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Thai Days; more bad news if you are an elephant. They want your tits and balls and your trunk to help them win the lottery

June 17, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is sad to report that some people in Thailand, hoping to win the lottery, purchase elephant bits and pieces. Spectrum magazine ran the story so this blog can’t pretend to having done anything to expose this trade. Spectrum did it for me. The photos were really, and I mean REALLY ugly.

Slices of elephant trunk. To bring good kuck. The slivers of trunk are set in candle sticks!

Slices of elephant penis. To bring, well, yes, I think we know where that one’s going.

The female elephant’s nipples! For good luck!

I feel revolted by this sort of behaviour. It’s witchcraft! Voodoo!

Owning an elephant testicle will bring you as much good luck as the elephant that owned its testicle! Elephant nipples?  Oh dear!

I’m not going on. This whole wildlife parts and magic and sudden cures for herpes is snake oil. It is hurting the morons who buy these potions and fetishes, it is encouraging poaching.

Hugh (who finds the idea of chopping up elephant’s trunks repulsive – really repulsive)

Thai Days: White elephant hunt

April 23, 2013

The race is on to locate and capture a white elephant calf before poachers get there first. The calf, photographed in Kaeng Krachan national park, apparently displays all the qualifying features required of a genuine white elephant including pink toenails. Forestry officials, border police and the military are searching the area and a reward of five million baht has been offered to anybody who catches it (poachers don’t qualify). I’ve posted a couple of white elephant stories on Hugh Paxton’s Blog in the past. Here is one of them for a bit of background information on the subject.


Get on the wrong side of Thai royalty and you could find yourself the proud new owner of a white elephant. Or so the legend goes.

A bit of background:

Every white elephant in Thailand automatically becomes the property of the king.

But the application process is tough. Just being a tad pallid doesn’t cut the mustard.

To qualify as a real (and royal) white elephant the candidate needs to succesfully meet a strict set of criteria.

Seven areas of whiteness must be present – eyes, toe nails, palate, outer edges of the ear, tail and testicles. The elephant is also judged on its behaviour. Is it dignified? Calm? Regal? Does it wash its food before eating? Does it kneel when it sleeps? Fart thunderously in the direction of the throne then hose the regal carpeting with urine? Start stampeding through the rose garden tossing dignitaries over its back and plundering seedlings?

Eleven elephants have currently passed the test. And, having been paraded and annointed with holy water, they now reside in the Royal Stables of King Rama IX.

In a way.

Keeping an elephant, white or otherwise, is expensive.

Only one elephant is actually in the palace compound. The other ten are housed in rural royal stables. And the King, in the interests of frugality, has also done away with parades and baptisms.

Should another white elephant be born it will miss out on the adulation of the masses.

But it still won’t have to work to earn its living. It isn’t allowed to work.

It’s royal. And royalty doesn’t haul teak logs or act as a taxi for thrill seeking tourists. Just isn’t done. Strictly forbidden!

Which brings me to the point of this post. The source of the phrase ‘white elephant’.

White elephants are costly, you don’t need them, they don’t work and they aren’t even what they are claimed to be, namely white. They are tawny albinos.

In times past, if you annoyed the King, you would be given one and maintaining it would beggar you. Hence the phrase.

New post on Anibalan’s Ghost Cities Blog: The Knights of God

April 21, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has just received the latest Ghost Cities blog. Anibalan takes on the Templars!

New post on Ghost Cities


The Knights of God

by anilbalan

The organisation known as the Knights Templar has presented two faces to history: one is the historians’ history, based on documents and contemporary descriptions; the other is a shadow history, which blends in a potent mixture of conspiracy theory, pulp fiction and occult knowledge. The crucial event that both versions of this history have in common is the date of 1312, when Pope Clement V officially dissolved the Templar Order in the infamous papal bull Vox in Excelso. For the historians, this was the date on which the Templars ceased to exist as an order. According to the conspiracists, however, the Templars and their secrets survived in hiding and not only that, they continue to wield great power from the shadows to this day. Needless to say, the colourful history of the Templars (both real and imagined) has been made full use of by a succession of writers of fiction – most famously in books like The Da Vinci Code and films like National Treasure. For those with more than a passing interest, however, this has only made the task of separating fact from fiction, when it comes to these knights of the shadows, all the more difficult. What do we really know about the Knights Templar?

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anilbalan | April 21, 2013 at 2:00 am | Tags: Da Vinci Code, Templars | Categories: Conspiracy theory, History, Tall Tale, Unexplained Mystery | URL:

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New post on Anibalan’s Ghost Cities Blog: The Picture of Oscar Wilde

April 7, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has just received yet another fascinating post from Anibalan, author of the excellent Ghost Cities Blog.

New post on Ghost Cities


The Picture of Oscar Wilde

by anilbalan

"All art is useless" – so says the author’s 1891 preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray (sometimes referred to, wrongly, as The Portrait of Dorian Gray), the only published novel by Oscar Wilde. This darkly sardonic, Faustian-themed novel very much reflects the interests and personality of its author. Ever the aesthete, Wilde was himself profoundly affected by beauty and lived and dressed in a manner which, compared to the Victorian styles and mores of the time, was regarded as flamboyant. As such, he was often publicly caricatured and the target of much moral outrage in Europe and America. His writings (including Dorian Gray, with its homoerotic themes) also brought much controversy for him. He was nonetheless part of the ever-growing movement of ‘decadents’ who advocated pacifism, social reform and libertarianism. While many vilified him, he was making his mark with style and wit and enjoyed much success with many of his plays. Wilde was also lauded by and acquainted with many influential figures of the day, including fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw, American poets Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and English author and social critic John Ruskin. In Dorian Gray the titular hero, realising that his beauty will one day fade, expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure that his portrait ages while he does not. Dorian’s wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves both as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement or ageing of his form, and as a warning to all that no amount of outer beauty can make up for the darkness within.

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anilbalan | April 7, 2013 at 2:00 am | Tags: Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde | Categories: Art, Book, Horror, Writer | URL:

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Hugh Paxton blog ghost Story Competition

March 11, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has decided to encourage ghost story writing. Hence this new competition. The title is flexible. Change it if you want! rHave a go!


Candles and the House of Lamps.docx

Ghost Cities Blog New Post: Rasputin, ‘The Mad Monk’

March 10, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog welcomes another cracking blog from Anibalan, our favourite student of the supernatural and the highly peculiar. Also a very readable author. As always, great stuff! If time permits, and if you haven’t, check his previous posts. I find them consistently fascinating.

Best from Bangkok!


New post on Ghost Cities


Rasputin, ‘The Mad Monk’

by anilbalan

Grigory Yefimovich Novych, the man who would come to be better known to history as the ‘Mad Monk’ Rasputin, is a figure shrouded in mystery, intrigue, conspiracy theories and the darkest of legends. He came to prominence as the Siberian peasant and mystic whose uncanny ability to improve the condition of Aleksey Nikolayevich, the hemophiliac heir to the Russian throne, made him an influential favourite at the court of Tsar Nicholas II. He was also reputed to be a murderer, sorcerer, libertine and chronic womanizer – his eventual moniker of Rasputin literally means ‘debauched one’ in Russian. Unsurprisingly, Rasputin made many enemies in the course of his relentless rise to power. Several attempts were made to take the life of Rasputin, culminating in the events that led to his ‘death’ in 1916. I have used quotation marks because in the opinion of many – conspiracy buffs and historians alike – the life of Rasputin may well not have ended there. Even during his lifetime, there was considerable uncertainty over Rasputin’s actions and influence, as accounts have often been based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend. Despite the fact that Rasputin’s body was discovered after he was killed by conspirators, rumours persist to this day that his death was faked and that somehow, bizarrely, the Mad Monk may have survived his apparent execution.

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anilbalan | March 10, 2013 at 2:00 am | Tags: Rasputin, Romanovs, Russian Revolution | Categories: Conspiracy theory, History, Tall Tale, Unexplained Mystery | URL:

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