ghost month

The Blue Lady [Moss Beach California]

ghost-1124531_1920

Creepies of the 80s and 90s were children when Unsolved Mysteries was on air in the States-and that show helped launched many of us into full on love of the weird, odd, and scary. That theme song still makes the hair on my arms stand up.

One of my favorite aspects of that show was the ghost and haunting segments-I really didn’t care about the disappearances or unsolved crimes. Aliens really didn’t do much for me either, and I remember a segment about people who could turn street lights on and off as being a little bit baffling (as in, it’s something I probably will never be able to do but at the same time, it’s not anything I found (or find) terribly impressive either).

However a lot of those ghost stories have lingered for me. The show was my first introduction to the Blue Lady. I have never found this story creepy or scary at all; if anything I have always found the story a little bit sad. Who is she waiting for? Does she know he’s not coming?

The story is a little vague and for that I apologize. At a restaurant known as the Distillery in Moss Beach, California, a woman in a dated blue dress can be seen at the bar. She looks like she’s waiting for someone. Legend says, including the Distillery’s own website, that she was in a relationship with the piano player. The Lady may or may not have been married already; regardless of the state of her romantic life she and the player were assaulted on the beach below the bar some time during Prohibition. She was killed while he was not, and she may still be at the bar, waiting for him to return. The haunting has a lot of the ‘traditional’ aspects of American hauntings-moving items, cold spots, locked doors, as well as full sightings of the infamous woman in blue at the bar.

[It is worth noting that like the Grand Island haunting in Buffalo, a lot of the haunting is played up for the sake of publicity. In the case of the Distillery, the show Ghost Hunters found that many of these events are created. Whether or not the push of the legend pre-dates these effects is unknown.]

Advertisements

The Grave

summer of ghosts

The Twilight Zone has more than a passing familiarity with American folklore and urban legend. It is not infrequent for episodes to be based, sometimes lightly and sometimes with an almost word by word retelling, on urban legend and established ghost stories.

The Grave is episode 72 of the original series and first aired just before Halloween 1961. The basic plot should be familiar to anyone fond of American folklore-the story is essentially a Western retelling of the knife and the grave. Conny Miller, a bounty hunter, returns to the town who had hired him to take down the outlaw Pinto Sykes to find that Sykes has already been killed. During conversation with the townspeople, he is taunted into visiting Sykes’ grave by Sykes’ sister and others. Sykes had made a promise to kill Miller if Miller ever visited the grave site.

The next day, Miller has gone missing and several men decide to go to the grave. Sykes’ sister is already there, with the corpse of Miller pinned to the grave with his own knife-he was supposed to leave the knife in the grave to prove he had been there. The town assumes that Miller had pinned himself to the grave and died of fright, while Sykes’ sister tells them that it was Sykes who had killed him, in order to fulfill the promise he had made.

Asylum: 13 Tales of Terror

image

Asylum: 13 Tales of Terror

Matt Drabble

Accessed as an Ebook

260 Pages

$2.99 on Amazon at time of review

I don’t really have a system in how I review books.  I generally go for ebooks over paperbacks just because if I have my Kindle with me, I have my library with me (I’m sorry, paperbacks-and-those-waiting-for-me-to-review-them). I normally honestly just read whatever’s next on the first page of my Kindle.

I pick up a lot of indie and indie type horror on Amazon and then it stews there until I get a chance to read it-which means often the books I’m reading are new/newish to me by the time I get there. So I’m saying that when I started this book I really had no idea anymore what I was sitting down to read.

This is one of the better books that I’ve read this year. Not really a ‘ghost story’, but one with a ghost at its core and several of the stories within it do center around ghosts and hauntings so I’ll count it for Ghost Month anyway. An anthology in the loose sense of the word, Asylum walks both the reader and the main character through Blackwater Heights, a private mental hospital reported to be haunted somewhere in England (the location is sort of murky). The book proceeds to tell the tales of 13 of the patients along with the original owner of the estate.

The book felt very much like the first and second season of The Twilight Zone. The stories are on the shorter side, but there is enough movement and development that they don’t feel cut off or rushed. And they are legitimately creepy-which is high praise for me. It is very rare for me to get a fear reaction out of a book, and while these are not ‘scary’ they definitely pack a punch, especially for their length. Ranging from traditional revenge horror to shapeshifters and hauntings, they also move enough through the sub genre to not feel like Drabble sat in one place or played favorites with themes

This is also one of the ‘cleaner’ books that I have read this year. While it plays with the normal darker horror themes, including violence, it’s not full of heavy profanity usage or sexual content. Drabble is pretty direct with language, but not to an extreme level, meaning that this book is probably pretty accessible to younger horror fans as well-obviously with guidance.

Haunted Houses

image

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses.  Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table, than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star,
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,–

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Long Distance Phone Call

summer of ghosts

I’m excited. There are already spin off Operation Autumn lists out in the Universe and/or blogland. I love seeing what other people have on their lists. I’m not saying I’m going to steal them, but it’s definitely inspiring.

Continuing on our wander through the Twilight Zone, we’re moving out of order. However the episodes don’t become any less creepy for it.

There is something about the telephone that is just creepy when used in relation to the dead. If this episode is any indication, this is not a new observation-this episode originally aired in 1961 and well predates the modern obsession with EVP and electronic communication with the dead. If anything, part of what makes this episode so creepy is that the telephone is so antiquated now (plus the fact that the telephone that the titular phone call is made on isn’t even real doesn’t help).

I think what makes this episode so terrifying is the implication that sometimes the dead become so anguished that they’re going to take what they want. That a person can be so needy during life that if anything their need gets worse after death. The people who love us are supposed to want the best for us in life; the suggestion that their need to be so close to us that they would willingly drag us into the grave is terrifying and troubling.

There is also a subtle gendered message running through this piece. What is the implication of a woman being so insistent that she is the better parent, the better figure, that she would reject her own son and claim her grandson from the other side? What does it mean that the mother in the episode has to literally beg a dead woman to return her family to order? The whole thing, it’s just very unsettling. It is also an episode that is unsettling after not being seen for awhile; there is something of a creeper element that sort of sneaks up on you.

The Passerby

summer of ghosts

I’m having a very weird day, mental energy speaking. We went to Delaware Park this afternoon and found ourselves in the middle of Vegfest (a vegan/vegetarian festival) unexpectedly-and then went to a classic car show. I hadn’t seen the black gates of this summer’s Buffalo black gate controversy so Mid took me to see them-of course I can’t find a link now but there is a running battle going on near the park regarding a set of black wrought iron gates that are being installed. I’ve spent a large chunk of the day mulling over Zimbardo, the Stanford Prison Experiments, and the reality of the meaning of truth in social situations. What I’m saying is that you would end up with a very odd post from scratch today indeed, so here’s another Ghost Month post out of the drafts folder.

There are a great many episodes of The Twilight Zone that are classics; these episodes have become tropes in their own right.

Many of them I enjoy but don’t necessarily find creepy. There are a few that I find very, very creepy-some border on outright scary. I’ve decided that instead of Ghost Month I’m just going to have Ghost Summer instead this year and cover two months of ground (July and August) with ghost and haunting related material. Most of the episodes that I find truly unnerving relate to death and the afterlife. Serling and his writing team had a way of handling death and ghosts that truly put my teeth on edge.

The Passersby is episode 69 in the original series. The episode revolves around a woman in the American South waiting for her husband to return home from the Civil War. As the episode progresses, a stranger appears at the house to wait with her. That night, he watches as men walk the road into the mists of the unknown (the land past the house). As the episode progresses he comes to realize that the men he is watching is dead, that everyone who is walking the road is dead.

While I don’t feel right using the term spoiler for a show that’s been out for fifty years, I’ll avoid the twist of the plot. However, there is one scene in particular where the episode gets downright surreal and creepy-there is an interaction with a Yankee soldier wherein the characters realize that the people walking down the road are the war dead. Between the lighting and the plot action, it makes my skin crawl.

I wish I heard more about this episode. I find it very effective.