Archive for the ‘Ghosts and spooky stuff’ Category

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! https://hughpaxton.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/supernatural-short-story-another-tale-from-the-deuteronomy-club/

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.

From: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child [mailto:Prestonandchild@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 8:14 PM
Subject: The Blackout Society

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THE BLACKOUT SOCIETY

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 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

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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: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-ka

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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

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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: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-ki

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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!

Hugh

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!

Hugh

New post on Ghost Cities

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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: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-jX

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New post on Anibalan Ghost Cities Blog: The Alabaster Hand

February 24, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog welcomes another post by Anibalan on his blog Ghost Cities. As always, excellent!

New post on Ghost Cities

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The Alabaster Hand

by anilbalan

In the field of supernatural fiction, it is fair to say no author casts a longer shadow than M R James. It is arguable, however, that no author has come closer to inheriting the mantle of the great James than ghost story writer Alan Noel Latimer Munby (1913-74). The son of an architect, he was, like James, educated at King’s College, Cambridge. It was here that his fascination with ancient books began, and he later became librarian of the college. Munby also became a leading figure in the antiquarian book trade and for many years was associated with the legendary book dealer, Bernard Quaritch. He wrote several bibliographical studies and a number of his short stories combine his interest in books and the supernatural, as well as being written in an elegant and scholarly style reminiscent of his role model, James. Curiously, however, Munby’s only collection of ghost stories, The Alabaster Hand, published in 1949, was largely written to pass the time away while he was a German POW at Eichstatt in Upper Franconia from 1943-45. Whilst a prisoner of war camp would not, perhaps, ordinarily be thought conducive surroundings for the creation of a classic collection of ghost stories, The Alabaster Hand is strong evidence of the way in which creativity must have helped some who found themselves in this position to preserve their sanity.

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anilbalan | February 24, 2013 at 2:00 am | Tags: A N L Munby, The Alabaster Hand | Categories: Horror, Short Story, Supernatural fiction, Writer | URL: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-jN

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New post from Anibalan on his Ghost Cities blog: The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World

January 13, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog welcomes the latest from Anibalan. Today he tackles the Voynich Manuscript.

New post on Ghost Cities

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The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World

by anilbalan

The Voynich Manuscript has been described as ‘the most mysterious manuscript in the world’. It was bought by Wilfred Voynich, an American dealer in rare books, in 1912. Before that it had been discovered in an old chest in the Jesuit school of Mondragone, in Frascati, Italy. The manuscript is a simple octavo volume, written in what at first glance looks like ordinary medieval writing. However, closer inspection reveals that it is in fact written in cipher. Not only that, the pages are covered with strange little drawings of female nudes, astronomical diagrams and all kinds of strange plants in many colours. The Voynich Manuscript is a baffling mystery largely because it looks so straightforward: with its drawings of plants it seems at first to be an ordinary medieval ‘herbal’ i.e. a book describing how to extract healing drugs from plants. The unusual thing is that, up until its purchase by Voynich, no one appears to have been able to decipher it. Voynich was fairly certain, however, that the manuscript would not remain a mystery once modern scholars had a chance to study it. Unfortunately this is one historical mystery which has proven difficult to solve in the century plus that has passed since 1912.

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anilbalan | January 13, 2013 at 2:00 am | Tags: Doctor Dee, Roger Bacon, Voynich Manuscript | Categories: Conspiracy theory, History, Legend, Mythology, Tall Tale, Unexplained Mystery | URL: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-jr

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Thai Days: The Tree of a Hundred Corpses and how to win the lottery

January 12, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has long been aware of the Thai fascination with ghosts, spirits and lotteries.

All three are linked intimately in the minds of many would-be millionaires.

Consulting sorcerers, monks, mummified foetuses, monitor lizards and meteorites for lucky numbers – yes, people have tried all these sources of magic numbers – but for a really hot tip your best bet, apparently, is the Tree of a Hundred Corpses in Bangkok’s Ratchadaphisek road.

The tree is easily recognised – it’s wrapped in a golden cloth and is surrounded by lots of figurines commemorating everybody who has died in traffic smashes or has been run over by a tuk tuk in its immediate vicinity.

Its name probably needs updating.

A hundred corpses?

Only?

I find that a rather conservative tally.

If I was a Bangkok city official I’d update the tree’s body count on a weekly basis.

This would serve as a “drive a bit less madly” message far more effective than a life sized plastic policeman sagging at intersections smelling of urine and covered in rude scrawls and spray painted wangers, or fake speed camera traps that everybody knows are far more fun and arresting when taken home after a few gallons of Singha beer and installed in your toilet as a lame joke.

I’d update it, too, because all the people who visit the Tree of a Hundred Corpses tend to go away with the number “100” as spiritual advice.

I find the concept of consulting a tree for lottery advice a bit desperate. No more desperate than asking a meteorite or a monitor lizard for hot tips, admittedly. But this tree is, allegedly, inhabited by spirits that have died in extremely unlucky circumstances.

Perhaps I am just being boring.

Maybe these ghostly bad drivers, inattentive pedestrians, who have elected to spend their afterlife in a tree, do have luck on their side and want to pass it on to anybody who can make it to the tree without being smashed to a hash by a bus with failed brakes.

But if I was a gambling man, I think I’d go with the meteorite.

Sure, it crashed, too. But it hit Earth, and given the vast empty nature of Space, the odds of slamming into a rice field in Thailand as opposed to just sailing away through a void forever – well that meteorite has beaten the odds!

GHOST CITIES GETS SEASONAL: New post Christmas Re-union

December 21, 2012

New post on Ghost Cities

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Christmas Re-union

by anilbalan

Sir Andrew Caldecott only turned to fiction after retiring from the civil service but, having done so, he allowed his lifelong fascination with the supernatural full rein in a collection of simple yet remarkably chilling tales penned in the 1940s. Taking his inspiration from the master of the ghost story, M R James, who chilled by implication rather than by gory description, Caldecott created believable but unsettling scenarios which effectively produced a sense of unease in the reader. In Caldecott’s hands the mundane became horrific; the everyday became unnerving; and the commonplace became utterly terrifying. And yet – if this doesn’t seem like too much of a contradiction in terms – there is something strangely cozy and comfortable to me about reading a Caldecott ghost story today. The passage of years has really brought out the charm and intrinsic quality of these particular supernatural tales, which are almost like miniature works of art compared with a lot of fiction that’s out there these days. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the stories Caldecott wrote and had published during the festive season. Christmas, with its combination of cold dark nights and spiritual significance, seemed to somehow bring out the very best in Caldecott as a writer, for this was the theme of some of his most famous stories, among them the oft-anthologised Christmas Re-union.

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anilbalan | December 21, 2012 at 2:00 am | Tags: Christmas Re-union, Fires Burn Blue, Kongea, Not Exactly Ghosts, Sir Andrew Caldecott | Categories: Horror, Short Story, Supernatural fiction, Writer | URL: http://wp.me/p1Pozr-iU

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