“Before the Play”—The Lost Prologue to Stephen King’s novel, The Shining

“Before the Play” was originally part of the novel, The Shining, written by Stephen King and published in 1977; but, the Prologue never made it into the novel. It was published a few years later, separately, in August of 1982, in Whispers, Volume 5, Number 1-2.

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Scene 1: The Third Floor of a Resort Hotel Fallen Upon Hard Times

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Photo: William Anthony. Source: End-of-Summer.blogspot.com.

It was October 7, 1922, and the Overlook Hotel had closed its doors on the end of another season. When it re-opened in mid-May of 1923, it would be under new management. Two brothers named Clyde and Cecil Brandywine had bought it, good old boys from Texas with more old cattle money and new oil money than they knew what to do with.

Bob T. Watson stood at the huge picture window of the Presidential Suite and stared out at the climbing heights of the Rockies, where the aspens had now shaken most of their leaves, and hoped the Brandywine brothers would fail. Since 1915 the hotel had been owned by a man named James Parris. Parris had begun his professional life as a common shyster in 1880. One of his close friends rose to the presidency of a great western railroad, a robber baron among robber barons. Parris grew rich on his friend’s spoils, but had none of his friend’s colorful flamboyancy. Parris was a gray little man with an eye always turned to an inward set of accounting books. He would have sold the Overlook anyway, Bob T. Watson thought as he continued to stare out the window. The little shyster bastard just happened to drop dead before he got a chance.

The man who had sold the Overlook to James Parris had been Bob T. Watson himself. One of the last of the Western giants that arose in the years 1870-1905, Bob T. came from a family that had made a staggering fortune in silver around Placer, Colorado. They lost the fortune, rebuilt it in land speculation to the railroads, and lost most of it again in the depression of ’93-’94, when Bob T.’s father was gunned down in Denver by a man suspected of organizing.

Bob T. had rebuilt the fortune himself, single-handedly, in the years 1895 to 1905, and had begun searching then for something, some perfect thing, to cap his achievement. After two years of careful thought (during the interim he had bought himself a governor and a representative to the U.S. Congress), he had decided, in modest Watson fashion, to build the grandest resort hotel in America. It would stand at the roof of America, with nothing in the country at a higher altitude except the sky. It would be a playground of the national and international rich – the people that would be known three generations later as the super-rich.

Construction began in 1907, forty miles west of Sidewinder, Colorado, and supervised by Bob T. himself.

“And do you know what?” Bob T. said aloud in the third-floor suite, which was the grandest set of apartments in the grandest resort hotel in America. “Nothing ever went right after that. Nothing.”

The Overlook had made him old. He had been forty-three when ground was broken in 1907, and when construction was completed two years later (but too late for them to be able to open the hotel’s doors until 1910), he was bald. He had developed an ulcer. One of his two sons, the one he had loved best, the one that had been destined to carry the Watson banner forward into the future, had died in a stupid riding accident. Boyd had tried to jump his pony over a pile of lumber where the topiary now was, and the pony had caught its back feet and broken its leg. Boyd had broken his neck.

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THE ‘DARK WORLD’ OF GHOST ADVENTURES’ ZAK BAGANS—A MUST-READ!

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Into the Shadows with the Lead Investigator of the Ghost Adventures’ Crew, 2011 (VB Books)

Whether you are a fan of the hit TV series Ghost Adventures, or just learning about it for the first time, this telling autobiography by the show’s creator and star, paranormal investigator, Zak Bagans, is quite a story! His experiences have been frightful, his commitment arduous, and his passion and honestly unflagging. A must-read. Below, is the Foreword to Dark World: Into the Shadows with the Lead Imvestigator of the Ghost Adventures’ Crew, Zak Bagans (with Kelly Criger), VB Books, 2011.

Foreword

There is arguably no topic in human history that incites as much contemptuous disbelief and passionate dedication as the existence of life after death. As humans, it is our natural instinct to belittle what we don’t understand, and then follow with statements of derision and ridicule. Even mentioning that ghosts might exist can cause instant damnation and persecution among the religiously devoted and staunchly pragmatic, which causes many people who have had a paranormal experience to remain quiet about it. Maybe that’s the greatest achievement of the dead: they’ve convinced the world that they don’t exist, so the majority of us are either disinterested in proving it otherwise or too convinced in our own beliefs to recognize a new viewpoint. Yet most of us are at least curious to know what happens when we die; some may say that information is even a right of humanity, that if another world exists after our physical bodies die, then it’s our right to know about it.

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Artist’s rendition of the “entity” that would trouble Bagans as a child.

I wrote this book for several reasons. First, I want to take you on my seven-year journey through the world of paranormal investigation from the documentary film in 2004 through the many seasons of Ghost Adventures. I want to tell you about the things that didn’t make it onto the screen and dig deeper into the most significant events that did. We sometimes spend four days filming an episode and have to boil it down into one hour, so there’s always stuff we want to show, but don’t have the time to. And sometimes even the most significant phenomena that we capture have to be covered quickly because of time constraints.

Second, I want to use our adventures to address leading theories on life after death….

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“Let Loose”, a Vintage Horror Story by Mary Cholmondeley (1890)

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Let Loose

Mary Cholmondeley

“Let Loose” first appeared in an 1890 issue of Temple Bar Magazine.

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The dead abide with us! Though stark and cold Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still.

Some years ago I took up architecture, and made a tour through Holland, studying the buildings of that interesting country. I was not then aware that it is not enough to take up art. Art must take you up, too. I never doubted but that my passing enthusiasm for her would be returned. When I discovered that she was a stern mistress, who did not immediately respond to my attentions, I naturally transferred them to another shrine. There are other things in the world besides art. I am now a landscape gardener.

But at the time of which I write I was engaged in a violent flirtation with architecture. I had one companion on this expedition, who has since become one of the leading architects of the day. He was a thin, determined-looking man with a screwed-up face and heavy jaw, slow of speech, and absorbed in his work to a degree which I quickly found tiresome. He was possessed of a certain quiet power of overcoming obstacles which I have rarely seen equalled. He has since become my brother-in-law, so I ought to know; for my parents did not like him much and opposed the marriage, and my sister did not like him at all, and refused him over and over again; but, nevertheless, he eventually married her.

I have thought since that one of his reasons for choosing me as his travelling companion on this occasion was because he was getting up steam for what he subsequently termed ‘an alliance with my family’, but the idea never entered my head at the time. A more careless man as to dress I have rarely met, and yet, in all the heat of July in Holland, I noticed that he never appeared without a high, starched collar, which had not even fashion to commend it at that time.

I often chaffed him about his splendid collars, and asked him why he wore them, but without eliciting any response. One evening, as we were walking back to our lodgings in Middeburg, I attacked him for about the thirtieth time on the subject.

‘Why on earth do you wear them?’ I said.

‘You have, I believe, asked me that question many times,’ he replied, in his slow, precise utterance; ‘but always on occasions when I was occupied. I am now at leisure, and I will tell you.’

And he did.

I have put down what he said, as nearly in his own words as I can remember them.

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“Human Remains”—a Chilling Horror Story by Clive Barker (Books of Blood, Vol. 3)—an Excerpt…

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‘”Listen. I hear bad things about you,” he said.

“Oh yes?”

“I’m afraid so. I’m told you attacked one of my boys.”

Gavin took six paces before he answered.

“Not me. You’ve got the wrong man.”

“He recognised you, trash. You did him some serious mischief.”

“I told you: not me.”

“You’re a lunatic, you know that? You should be put behind fucking bars.”

Preetorius was raising his voice. People were crossing the street to avoid the escalating argument.

Without thinking, Gavin turned off St Martin’s Lane into Long Acre, and rapidly realised he’d made a tactical error. The crowds thinned substantially here, and it was a long trek through the streets of Govent Garden before he reached another centre of activity. He should have turned right instead of left, and he’d have stepped onto Charing Cross Road. There would have been some safety there. Damn it, he couldn’t turn round, not and walk straight into them. All he could do was walk (not run; never run with a mad dog on your heels) and hope he could keep the conversation on an even keel.

Preetorius: “You’ve cost me a lot of money.”

“I don’t see.”

“You put some of my prime boy-meat out of commission. It’s going to be a long time ’til I get that kid back on the market. He’s shit scared, see?”

“Look… I didn’t do anything to anybody.”

“Why do you fucking lie to me, trash? What have I ever done to you, you treat me like this?”

Preetorius picked up his pace a little and came up level with Gavin, leaving his associates a few steps behind.

“Look…” he whispered to Gavin, “kids like that can be tempting, right? That’s cool. I can get into that. You put a little boy-pussy on my plate I’m not going to turn my nose up at it. But you hurt him: and when you hurt one of my kids, I bleed too.”

“If I’d done this like you say, you think I’d be walking the street?”

“Maybe you’re not a well man, you know? We’re not talking about a couple of bruises here, man. I’m talking about you taking a shower in a kid’s blood, that’s what I’m saying. Hanging him up and cutting him everywhere, then leaving him on my fuckin’ stairs wearing a pair of fucking’ socks. You getting my message now, white boy? You read my message?”

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Night Monsters—Four Horror Stories by Fritz Leiber

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Artwork by David L. Fletcher , from the cover of Night’s Dark Agents by Fritz Leiber, A Rare Hardcover Edition Published in 1975 by the Small British Press of Neville Spearman.

Night Monsters—Four Horror Stories

Fritz Leiber, 19xx

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Introductory

I was leafing through an issue of The Journal of the A.M.A. when I ran across an article about emergencies that arise in treating people for allergies. The good doctor was explaining about those one-in-a-million mishaps that occur despite the most careful precautions, and how the alert physician meets the danger successfully.

But I found myself wondering, what if the efficient, white-coated physician came up against an emergency that he didn’t know how to meet, that made even his competent fingers tremble, because it was part of the black, shivery outside?

There’s still a black, shivery outside, you know—a weird realm from which men shrink in terror. Science hasn’t done away with it. Nothing will ever do away with it.

The cold goose-flesh has always risen pricklingly on man’s neck when he thinks he glimpses something out of the corner of his eye, something standing a little behind him, something that vanishes when he whirls around—but returns later in the evening.

All that science has done is given man a dozen new sets of eyes—and that makes it a great deal worse. For instance, there’s the germ (if it is a germ) that is always swimming just outside the edge of the brightly lighted field of the microscope, that eludes even the electronic microscope. There’s the planet (if it is a planet and not some vast black sentient thing poised above the earth) that is seen out of the corner of the telescope’s eye. There’s the radar echo that doesn’t seem to be coming quite from the moon, but somewhere else. There are the atomic glows that aren’t just what the nuclear physicist expected. There’s the buried thought that the psychologist can never quite reach, not even when he employs the hypno-analytic technique which can dredge up memories of events that occurred when the patient was six months old. (And is the buried thought a human thought, or a demon’s?)

– Fritz Leiber, Weird Tales, September 1946

Contents & Acknowledgements

  1. The Black Gondolier (“The Black Gondolier” originally appeared in Over the Edge, ed. August Derleth, 1964)
  2. Midnight in the Mirror World (“Midnight in the Mirror World” originally appeared in Fantastic, Ziff-Davis, 1964)
  3. I’m Looking for Jeff (“I’m Looking for Jeff“ originally appeared in Fantastic, Ziff-Davis, 1952)
  4. The Casket Demon (“The Casket Demon” originally appeared in Fantastic, Ziff-Davis, 1963)

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The Black Gondolier

Daloway lived alone in a broken-down trailer beside an oil well on the bank of a canal in Venice near the cafe La Gondola Negra on the Grand Canal not five blocks from St. Mark’s Plaza.

I mean, he lived there until after the fashion of intellectual lone wolves he got the wander-urge and took himself off, abruptly and irresponsibly, to parts unknown. That is the theory of the police, who refuse to take seriously my story of Daloway’s strange dreads and my hints at the weird world-spanning power which was menacing him. The police even make light of the very material clues which I pointed out to them.

Or else Daloway was taken off, grimly and against his will, to parts utterly unknown and blackly horrible. That is my own theory, especially on lonely nights when I remember the dreams he told me of the Black Gondolier.

Of course the canal is a rather small one, showing much of its rough gravel bottom strewn with rusted cans and blackened paper, except when it is briefly filled by one of our big winter rains. But gondolas did travel it in the illusion-packed old days and it is still spanned by a little sharply humped concrete bridge wide enough for only one car. I used to cross that bridge coming to visit Daloway and I remember how I’d slow down and tap my horn to warn a possible car coming the other way, and the momentary roller-coaster illusion I’d get as my car heaved to the top and poised there and then hurtled down the opposite dusty slope for all of a breathless second. From the top of the little bridge I’d get my first glimpse of the crowded bungalows and Daloway’s weed-footed trailer and close beside it the black hunch-shouldered oil well which figured so strangely in his dreads. “Their closest listening post,” he sometimes called it during the final week, when he felt positively besieged.

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The Twilight Pariah, a Horror Novel by Jeffrey Ford, An Excerpt…

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From TOR…

Three friends go looking for treasure and find horror in Jeffrey Ford’s The Twilight Pariah—available September 12th from Tor.com Publishing.

All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion’s outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child

Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child

From Publishers Weekly…

College students on summer vacation become amateur archeologists and unearth a legendary ghost in Ford’s humorous suspense yarn set in present-day upstate New York. Slacker English major Henry narrates the adventures of his hometown friends, amiable football hulk Russell and single-minded archeology major Maggie. By day they work mind-numbing jobs, but by night they’re joined by Russell’s boyfriend Luther to provide muscle for Maggie as she excavates around the derelict mansion on the edge of town. She’s convinced there must be something unique in the ancient outhouse. Their discoveries lead them to the town’s historical library, legends of a Devil Baby, a smoke monster, and a 127-year-old woman. After loved ones are attacked, the crew enlists the help of crusty Professor Medley to vanquish the ghost. Ford (A Natural History of Hell) meticulously builds the unnerving mystery in this brief, succinct story, bringing it to a cleanly executed but rushed ending. Endearing characters, elegant descriptions, and imaginative monsters make this a breezy beach read for horror fans. (Sept. 2017)

 

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Chapter 1

She picked me up at sunset in that ancient lime green Ford Galaxie she’d rebuilt and painted two summers earlier when she was into cars. It came around the corner like it’d busted out of an old movie. She sat there behind the wheel, leaning her elbow on the door frame. There was a lit cigarette between her lips. She wore a white men’s T-shirt and her hair was pinned up but not with any accuracy. Every time I’d seen her since we’d left high school her glasses were a different color. This pair had pink lenses and red circular frames.

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