“Reality or Delusion?”–A Victorian Ghost Story by “Johnny Ludlow” (Mrs. Henry Wood), 1868

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Art by Fred LeBlanc (Pinterest).

Reality or Delusion?

“Johnny Ludlow”, 1868*

Edited by Sanguine Woods, 2018
First appeared in The Argosy (UK) in December 1868**

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People like ghost stories at Christmas, so I’ll tell one. It is every word true. And I don’t mind confessing that for ages afterwards some of us did not care to pass the place alone at night.

We were staying at Crabb Cot. Lena had been ailing during the Autumn, and in October Mrs. Todhetley proposed to the Squire that they should remove her there for a change. Which was done.

The Worcestershire people call North Crabb a village; but one might count the houses in it, little and great, and not find four-and-twenty. South Crabb, half a mile off, is larger; but the church and school are at North Crabb. And I need not have mentioned South Crabb at all, for what there is to tell has nothing to do with it.

John Ferrar had been employed by Squire Todhetley as a kind of over-looker of the estate, or working bailiff. He had died the previous winter; leaving nothing behind him except some debts, for he was not provident, and his handsome son Daniel. Daniel Ferrar disliked work: he used to make a show of helping his father, but it came to little. Old Ferrar had not put him to any trade or particular occupation; and Daniel, who was as proud as Lucifer, would not turn to it himself. He liked to be a gentleman. All he did now was to work in his garden, and feed his fowls, ducks, rabbits, and pigeons, of which he kept a great quantity, selling them to the good houses and sending them to market.

But, as everybody said, poultry would not maintain him. Mrs. Lease, in the pretty cottage hard by, grew tired of saying it. He used to run in and out of there at will since he was a boy, and was now engaged to be married to Maria. She would have a little money, and the Leases were respected in North Crabb. People began to whisper a query as to how Ferrar got his corn for the poultry; he was not known to buy much; and he would have to go out of his house at Christmas, for the owner of it, Mr. Coney, had given him notice. Mrs. Lease, anxious about Maria’s prospects, asked him what he intended to do then, and he answered, “Make his fortune: he should begin to do it as soon as he could turn himself round.” But the time had gone on, and the turning round seemed to be as far off as ever.

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Reblog: Resurrecting the Bones of the Past—the LONG Past…Will We See Huge Hairy Beasts Roaming the Earth Once Again? And, If So, Why?

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Photo by Scott Atwood (Flickr).

Let’s Bring the Wooly Mammoth Back from the Dead…?

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they never stopped to consider whether or not they should.” 

– Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) from the film Jurassic Park

Scientists say creating hybrids of the extinct beasts could fix the Arctic tundra and stop greenhouse gas emissions

If you managed to time travel back to Ice-Age Europe, you might be forgiven for thinking you had instead crash landed in some desolate part of the African savannah. But the chilly temperatures and the presence of six-ton shaggy beasts with extremely long tusks would confirm you really were in the Pleistocene epoch, otherwise known as the Ice Age. You’d be visiting the mammoth steppe, an environment that stretched from Spain across Eurasia and the Bering Strait to Canada. It was covered in grass, largely devoid of trees and populated by bison, reindeer, tigers and the eponymous “woolly” mammoth.

Unfortunately, both mammoth and most of the mammoth steppe ecosystem today have long but disappeared. But a group of geneticists from Harvard are hoping to change this by cloning living elephant cells that contain a small component of synthesised mammoth DNA. They claim that reintroducing such mammoth-like creatures to Arctic tundra environments could help stop the release of greenhouse gases from the ground and reduce future emissions as temperatures rise due to climate change. While this might sound like a far-fetched idea, scientists have actually been experimenting with something similar for over 20 years.

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Photo by Gabriel Casamasso.

Arctic lands are covered by areas of ground known as permafrost that have been frozen since the Pleistocene. Permafrost contains vast amounts of carbon from dead plant life that is locked away by the extremely cold temperatures. The amount of carbon in these frozen stores is estimated to be about twice as much as that currently in the atmosphere. If it thaws out, microbes will break down soil organic material to release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

As a result, permafrost and the associated carbon pools have been likened to “sleeping giants” in our climate system. If they wake up, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions would raise global temperatures even further than currently projected, causing even greater global climate change (a process known as positive feedback).

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Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories—A Fascinating New Book of Stories by World Fantasy Award-Winning Author, Kelley Barnhill—A Must-Read!

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I just started this book and I am amazed at its quality and style, intelligence, and sophisticated sense of humor. I love the first story, “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”, so much, I had to say now: this story alone is worth the price of the book! So go, quick, buy it! 😊

Stories, good short stories with wit and creativity, are hard to find nowadays. I have always seen them as the best fruit, way at the top of the highest trees. The lower stuff is OK. Some of it is very good, even. But, it’s the upper-most fruit that is the sweetest and the sustenance you will remember most often.

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Art by Chris Buzelli for Tor.com.

From “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”…

The day she buried her husband—a good man, by all accounts, though shy, not given to drink or foolishness; not one for speeding tickets or illegal parking or cheating on his taxes; not one for carousing at the county fair, or tomcatting with the other men from the glass factory; which is to say, he was utterly unknown in town: a cipher; a cold, blank space—Agnes Sorensen arrived at the front steps of Our Lady of the Snows. The priest was waiting for her at the open door. The air was sweet and wet with autumn rot, and though it had rained earlier, the day was starting to brighten, and would surely be lovely in an hour or two. Mrs. Sorensen greeted the priest with a sad smile. She wore a smart black hat, sensible black shoes, and a black silk shirt belted into a slim crepe skirt. Two little white mice peeked out of her left breast pocket—two tiny shocks of fur with pink, quivering noses and red, red tongues.
The priest, an old fellow by the name of Laurence, took her hands and gave a gentle squeeze. He was surprised by the mice. The mice, on the other hand, were not at all surprised to see him. They inclined their noses a little farther over the lip of the shirt pocket, to get a better look. Their whiskers were as pale and bright as sunbeams. They looked at one another and turned in unison toward the face of the old priest. And though he knew it was impossible, it seemed to Father Laurence that the mice were smiling at him. He swallowed.
“Mrs. Sorensen,” he said, clearing his throat.
“Mmm?” she said, looking at her watch. She glanced over her shoulder and whistled. A very large dog rounded the tall hedge, followed by an almost-as-large raccoon and a perfectly tiny cat.
“We can’t—” but his voice failed him.
(2018, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Read Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch, free, here, at Tor.com:

https://www.tor.com/2014/10/08/mrs-sorensen-and-the-sasquatch-kelly-barnhill/

I’m on Story 2 now: “Open the Door and the Light Pours Through”, and it’s wonderul, too! I’m very glad to have discovered Kelly Barnhill, and I was eager to share her with you. You’ll love the authoritative voice, the thoughtful prose, the lovely characterization. And damn is that a cool cover!

I love to support great writers. Won’t you join me?

Here is Barnhil’s website and her post re: Dreadful Young Ladies. Following that link, is some info on the author and an interview, story synopses, &tc.—oh, and where to buy the book.

Magical.

🌱

Read Kelly Barnhill’s post about the new book, via Oh. Right. I have a new book.


About the Author

Books Newbery Caldecott

Kelly Barnhill is an American author of children’s literature, fantasy, and science fiction. Her novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon was awarded the 2017 Newbery Medal. Barnhill has received writing fellowships from the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board and was a 2015 McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature.

She is the winner of the Parents Choice Gold Award, the Texas Library Association Bluebonnet award, and a Charlotte Huck Honor. She also was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the Andre Norton Award and the PEN/USA literary prize. In 2016, her novella The Unlicensed Magician received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction.

In 2017, her novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon was awarded the John Newbery Medal by the American Library Association.

Barnhill’s books include The Unlicensed Magician, The Witch’s Boy, Iron-Hearted Violet, The Mostly True Story of Jack, and The Girl Who Drank The Moon, and several non-fiction titles for children.

Read more, here:

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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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“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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“Scientists Want To Bring Dinosaurs And Neanderthals Back To Life” … ?

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“Neanderthal” by Tim O’Brien (University of Colorado, Boulder).*

Remember that not long ago, scientists said they wanted to clone Mammoths? Well apparently, Mammoths aren’t really that interesting, and as experts say, we could bring back dinosaurs and Neanderthals back to life.**

Speaking to Big Think, Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York, asks what if we could bring back Neanderthals back to life, or a dinosaur, using only their genomes?

Do we have that sort of technology? Technically we could, but the idea of doing so raises a number of problems, the biggest one being Bioethics: is it ethical to clone a Neanderthal? Is it inhumane? And should we even attempt it?

According to Dr. George Church, a geneticist, and director of Harvard University’s Church Labs thinks that not only can we clone a Neanderthal, we can do so in our lifetime.

According to Dr. Church, the only thing we’d need to start cloning ancient humans is “one extremely adventurous human female.”

However, Dr. Church isn’t saying we should attempt cloning a Neanderthal right away, but he does encourage the scientific community should discuss the matter.

Dr. Church believes that with current stem cell technology and our completed sequence of the Neanderthal genome, we are equipped with all the necessary prerequisites to successfully clone a Neanderthal.

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“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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