“Laying a Ghost”—A Vintage Short Story by George Manville Fenn, from The Strand Magazine, 1891

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(theepochtimes.com)

Laying a Ghost

George Manville Fenn, 1891

First appeared in The Strand Magazine, Vol. II, No. 10, July-December, 1891.

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“It is of no use for you to talk, Mary,” I said, quite angrily; “a professional man has no right to sit still taking his patients’ fees without constantly striving after higher knowledge for their benefit.”

“Of course not, dear,” said my wife, gently—by the way, she always does speak gently—”but you study too much.”

“Nonsense!”

“Indeed, dear, but you do. Your forehead is growing full of lines, and your hair is turning quite grey.”

“All the better. People do not like young-looking doctors.”

“But you do work too hard, dear.”

“Absurd! I feel as if I must be a mere idler, Mary; and at a time, too, when it seems as if medicine was quite at a stand. Surgery has made wonderful strides, but the physician is nowhere.”

“What nonsense, dear, when everybody says that you are the cleverest doctor for fifty miles round; and at such times I feel as if I could kiss the person who said so.”

“Everybody is a goose; and, goose or no, don’t you let me catch you kissing them. There, be off, little one, and let me get on with my work.”

“Work, work, always work,” she said, with a pretty pout of the lips which invited what they received, with the result that my happy young wife went out smiling whileI sat down to think.

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Reblog: Naked As Nature Intended? Victorian Author & Spiritualist, Catherine Crowe in Edinburgh, 1854

You might call it parapsychology’s greatest mystery…

Did Catherine Crowe–the at-the-time sixty-something literary stalwart of the mid-nineteenth century, passionate advocate of the German ghost story, and author of that runaway best-seller The Night Side of Nature (London, 2 vols.: Newby, 1848)–really tear through the streets of Edinburgh toward the end of February 1854, naked but for a handkerchief clutched in one plump hand, and a visiting card in the other? And, if she did, was it because she had experienced a nervous breakdown, or because the spirits had convinced her that, once her clothes were shed, she would become invisible?

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Author & Spiritualist, Catherine Crowe in her only extant image (Public Domain).

Crowe’s name may not ring too many bells today, but a century and a half ago she was famous. Born in 1790, she was noted as a novelist (she wrote Susan Hopley, an intricately plotted crime procedural that was some way ahead of its time) and as a friend of the great and good (she knew Thackeray, Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, among many others). Nowadays, however, she is best remembered as a pioneer parapsychologist–“a hugely important figure in the emergence of modern ghost-seeing culture chiefly because of her relentless calls for society to turn its attention to the unexplained phenomena in its midst and investigate them in an objective manner.” [McCorristine p.10]

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“The Monk’s Story”–A Tale of Gothic Horror by Catherine Crowe, 1850–Includes Author Bio & Links to Resources

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The Monk’s Story

Catherine Crowe, 1850

[First appeared in Light and Darkness: or The Mysteries of Life, in Three Volumes, (1850)]

Edited by Sanguine Woods

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 I

One evening on which a merry Christmas party was assembled in an hospitable country mansion in the north of England, one of the company, a young man named Charles Lisle, called the host aside, as they were standing in the drawing-room before dinner, and whispered, “I say, Graham, I wish you’d put me into a room that has either a bolt or a key.”

“They have all keys, or should have,” returned Mr. Graham.

“The key of my room is lost,” returned the other. “I asked the housemaid. It is always the first thing I look to when I enter a strange bed-chamber. I can’t sleep unless the door is locked.”

“How very odd! I never locked my door in my life,” said Mr. Graham. “I say, Letitia,” continued he, addressing his wife, “here’s Charlie Lisle can’t sleep unless his door’s locked, and the room you’ve put him into has no key.”

At this announcement all the ladies looked with surprise at Charlie Lisle, and all the gentlemen laughed; and “how odd!” and “what a strange fancy!” was echoed among them.

“I daresay you think it very odd, and indeed it must appear rather a lady-like particularity,” responded Lisle, who was a fine active young man, and did not look as if he were much troubled with superfluous fears; “but a circumstance that occurred to me when I was on the continent last summer has given me a nervous horror of sleeping in a room with an unlocked door, and I have never been able to overcome it. This is perhaps owing to my having been ill at the time, and I can scarcely say I have recovered from the effects of that illness yet.”

Naturally, everybody wanted to hear what this adventure was—the programme being certainly exciting—and so one of the visitors offered to exchange rooms with Charlie Lisle, provided he would tell them his story; which accordingly, when assembled round the fire in the evening, he began in the following words:—

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“On Writing the Ghost Story”—An Essay by Jack Cady

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(Pinterest)

On Writing the Ghost Story

Jack Cady

Approach the Cathedral from the south and walk around it three times. On the third time, stop before the second gargoyle from the southwest corner. Spin around seven times very slowly while repeating ‘aroint ye, aroint ye, aroint ye,’ and your warts will disappear.


And, wouldn’t you know, that ancient man followed instructions and his warts dried up. The happy results might have caused him to figure that time and expense going into cathedral construction was money well spent. He probably said as much to his neighbors. Word probably got back to the local priest, and the priest had to deal with it; just as we do, today.

The priest would have said, “Miracle,” or at least, “Blessing.” He would be quick to point out that it was Faith, or the presence of the cathedral that caused disappearing warts. It was not the gargoyle. Or, maybe he would have said something else. After all, it was a long time ago.

Today, we might say “coincidence,” or “the placebo effect.” We might say, “Quaint story, and isn’t it wonderful how even the ancients could spread a certain amount of bull.”

Having said that, we could dismiss the story and turn away. We could, in fact, make the same mistake that many have made since the rise of science and rationality in the 18th century. The mistake is best termed “denial of evidence.” In its way, it is quite as serious as previous mistakes that denied all rationality and/or science. The universe, I fear, is rather more complicated than we might wish.

For that reason (complication) and because unseen matters sometimes compel me, I wish to spend a few moments giving a definition, and making distinctions. There are reasons to write what I call The Fantastic, and they have nothing to do with notoriety, fame, or money.

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Current Read: The Child Finder, a Literary Mystery by Rene Denfeld—I really like this book!

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The prose is clean and well done—the story: a very sad and, more and more, a common one, is intensified by the protagonist—a young woman who basically “specializes” in finding missing children.

Here’s a prose sample (image, left)…

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From Amazon…

‘A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.’

Get the book and others by this author, here:

Books by Rene Denfeld at Amazon.com

“The Brown Wasps”—A Thoughtful, Heart-Aching Essay by the Late Anthropologist, Loren Eiseley…

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The Brown Wasps

Loren Eiseley, 1969

“The Brown Wasps” was published in 1971 in Eiseley’s essay collection The Night Country.

There is a corner in the waiting room of one of the great Eastern stations where women never sit. It is always in the shadow and overhung by rows of lockers. It is, however, always frequented‌—‌not so much by genuine travelers as by the dying. It is here that a certain element of the abandoned poor seeks a refuge out of the weather, clinging for a few hours longer to the city that has fathered them. In a precisely similar manner I have seen, on a sunny day in midwinter, a few old brown wasps creep slowly over an abandoned wasp nest in a thicket. Numbed and forgetful and frost-blackened, the hum of the spring hive still resounded faintly in their sodden tissues. Then the temperature would fall and they would drop away into the white oblivion of the snow. Here in the station it is in no way different save that the city is busy in its snows. But the old ones cling to their seats as though these were symbolic and could not be given up. Now and then they sleep, their gray old heads resting with painful awkwardness on the backs of the benches.

Also they are not at rest. For an hour they may sleep in the gasping exhaustion of the ill-nourished and aged who have to walk in the night. Then a policeman comes by on his round and nudges them upright.

“You can’t sleep here,” he growls.

A strange ritual then begins. An old man is difficult to waken. After a muttered conversation the policeman presses a coin into his hand and passes fiercely along the benches prodding and gesturing toward the door. In his wake, like birds rising and settling behind the passage of a farmer through a cornfield, the men totter up, move a few paces, and subside once more upon the benches.

One man, after a slight, apologetic lurch, does not move at all. Tubercularly thin, he sleeps on steadily. The policeman does not look back. To him, too, this has become a ritual. He will not have to notice it again officially for another hour.

Once in a while one of the sleepers will not awake. Like the brown wasps, he will have had his wish to die in the great droning center of the hive rather than in some lonely room. It is not so bad here with the shuffle of footsteps and the knowledge that there are others who share the bad luck of the world. There are also the whistles and the sounds of everyone, everyone in the world, starting on journeys. Amidst so many journeys somebody is bound to come out all right. Somebody.

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Beyond the Veil: The Fiction of Arthur Machen–An Essay

Left: An early paperback edition of Machen’s fiction; right: Oxford Univ. Press 2018 edition.

from a 2011 essay by Michael Dirda see link to the full article after the post…

‘H.P. Lovecraft, the American master of supernatural fiction, once described Arthur Machen (1863 – 1947) as the author of “some dozen tales long and short, in which the elements of hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness.” With his first major story, “The Great God Pan” (1894), Machen mixed together transgressive scientific experiments, pagan survivals, a heartless, only half-human femme fatale, and a fantasmagoric climax involving protoplasmic reversion. To this day, just saying that title — “The Great God Pan” — makes me shiver.

As Philip Van Doren Stern noted in his introduction to the 1948 Machen omnibus Tales of Horror and the Supernatural, the Welsh author “did not write a single ghost story.” Instead, “he wrote of things more ancient even than ghosts,…for Machen dealt with the elemental forces of evil, with spells that outlast time, and with the malign powers of folklore and fairy tale.” His work repeatedly underscores the thin line between the material world of appearances and a darker occult reality. As one of his characters poetically says:

Now I know that the walls of sense that seemed so impenetrable, that seemed to loom up above the heaven and to be founded below the depths, and to shut us in for evermore, are no such everlasting impassable barriers as we fancied, but thinnest and most airy veils that melt away before the seeker and dissolve as the early mist in the morning about the brooks.

In Machen’s central mythology a squat, malevolent race of primordial beings survives to the present day, lurking in hills and forests and caves. Machen describes their characteristics most fully in “The Novel of the Black Seal” when its narrator happens upon an old Latin treatise and makes the following translation:

The folk…dwells in remote and secret places, and celebrates foul mysteries on savage hills. Nothing have they in common with men save the face, and the customs of humanity are wholly strange to them; and they hate the sun. They hiss rather than speak; their voices are harsh, and not to be heard without fear. They boast of a certain stone, which they call Sixtystone; for they say that it displays sixty characters. And this stone has a secret unspeakable name, which is Ixaxar.

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