Printer’s Devil Court—A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, 2014 (Cover + Excerpt + Link)

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Tonight’s Read: A ghost story/novella by the author of The Woman in Black: Susan Hill. It’s only $2.56 right now on Amazon for Kindle. (Link below).

Hill is a writer with some serious chops.

Here’s Part One (Note: the first panel is a letter that ends with the title of a book. The second panel is missing the header The Book—as what follows on the remaining panels is excerpted from Dr Hugh Meredith’s book.):

About the Author

Susan Hill, CBE (1942- ) is the winner of numerous literary prizes including the Somerset Maugham award for her novel I’m the King of the Castle (1971). She is the author of the Simon Serrailler crime/mystery series and numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction. Hill has written two literary/reading memoirs: Howards End is on the Landing, and Jacob’s Room Is Full of Books; and she is well known for her ghost-story novellas and novels: Dolly, The Man In The Picture, The Small Hand, The Man in the Mist, Printer’s Devil Court, Ms DeWinter (a sequel to Dumaurier’s Rebecca), and her most famous book, The Woman in Black—which was made into a 2012 feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe. (A play based on The Woman in Black has been running continuously in London’s West End for more than 20 years.) In 2012, Hill was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her service to literature.

Other Books by Susan Hill

Buy the Book…

HALLOWEEN READING LIST VI (2018)

Click link following the list below to read the original post from HorrorDelve.com…

I’ve added below, beneath the story names and blurbs,, a link to where you can read the stories online–if they are in the public domain or available free to read elsewhere on the Internet. If not, I’ve added a link to where you purchase a book the has the story in it.

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“The Story of the Spaniards, Hammersmith” by E. And H. Heron (1898) – Legendary occult detective Flaxman Low investigates a friend’s haunted house. The spectral entity seems to take an odd, amorphous form which attempts to suffocate people who sleep in one of its rooms. The house is called the Spaniards, and when Flaxman sleeps in its haunted room, he experiences the ghost’s attack first hand. You can listen to an excellent reading of this one over at the Hypnogoria podcast: http://hypnogoria.blogspot.com/2018/07/great-library-of-dreams-57-story-of.html

Read the story in its original format from Pearson’s Magazine (VOl. V, January – June 1898), here: https://thesanguinewoods.com/2018/10/10/46681/

“Look Up There!” By H.R. Wakefield (1929) – While attempting to convalesce away from work on orders from his doctor due to mental stress, a man encounters a strange pair of men, one large and the other small. The small one keeps looking high up on the wall of any room he’s in, even though there’s nothing there. He eventually learns the smaller man’s story of the time when he spent New Year’s Eve at a house rumored to be the site of a terrible ghostly manifestation on that night every year. What he saw there has deeply scarred him ever since. This is another fantastic ghost story by Wakefield.

Read the story here: https://thesanguinewoods.com/2018/10/10/look-up-there-a-ghost-story-by-h-russell-wakefield-1929/

“The Fly-By-Night” by R. Chetwynd-Hayes (1975) – A father’s adult daughter becomes attached to a strange, bat-like little creature their cat brings into the house. The father notices the creature seems to enjoy whenever he argues with his daughter. He tries to convince her to get rid of it, but she refuses leading to another big fight. The creature quickly grows larger and flies into the town where acts of violence skyrocket. This is a fun tale which introduces a unique monster.

“Lonely Train A’Comin” by William F. Nolan (1981) – This story follows a rugged cowboy who’s driven to discover what happened to his beloved younger sister who disappeared just after sending him a letter excitedly telling him about the old steam locomotive she was about to board on her way to the big city. No one else seems to have seen this train and no one uses steam powered engines anymore either. His investigations into the case leads him to discover a series of strange disappearances. He’s able to determine when and where this mysterious train will appear again in its search for new prey and positions himself to ensure he can board it when it returns. This is a fantasticly creepy tale which would have made for a fun Night Gallery or Tales From the Darkside adaptation.

“Masks” by Douglas E. Winter (1985) – At the funeral for his mother, a young boy insists that the body in the casket isn’t really her but something masked to appear as her. After his father meets and marries someone new, the boy struggles with her demanding rules and the way she treats him. As Halloween night roles around, he finds himself confined to his room while his father is working late again and his brother is out trick-or-treating with friends, leaving only he and the new woman who insists he calls her Mom, in the house. When repeated knockings at the door go unanswered, he investigates, finding the house empty and no one at the door, but eventually he learns that something is indeed actually there.

“Happy Hour” by Ian Watson (1990) – Two married couples meet with a beautiful but secretive woman named Alice at an old bar called The Roebuck every Friday night to share drinks and jokes with each other. The men of the group suspect Alice is something more than human — an ancient supernatural being, such as a fae, or a witch, or perhaps a lamia (a female spirit that preys on travelers), but she never uses her powers on them because she likes them. The group sits beneath a device in the ceiling called an Xtractall which activates to suck up cigarette smoke out of the air. It also isn’t what it seems to be. In my opinion, this is a true masterpiece of horror. It starts off as a subtle, but intriguing exploration of ancient forces exerting their influence on a modern world that has largely forgotten them, but it quickly becomes a terrifying story with a truly horrific monster.

“Treats” by Norman Partridge (1990) – A mother lives in fear of her son whose eyes have gone black and who now leads an army of tiny creatures intent on carrying out an evil plan during Halloween night.

“Hallowe’en’s Child” by James Herbert (1991) – After struggling for years to have a child together, the day finally arrives when a man has been sent home from the hospital to await their call, as his wife is in labor, but the birth is still several hours away. It’s late on Halloween night when he gets the call to head back for the delivery. On the frantic drive, he has a terrifying encounter on the road with a hideous goblinoid creature that threatens dire things to come to for him.

“Her Face” by Ramsey Campbell (2015) – A young boy is sent by his mother to help a woman named June who’s taken over running her family store following the recent death of her mother. It’s close to Halloween, so there are several creepy masks in the front window that sometimes appear to move of their own accord. June seems unnerved in the place and somewhat frightened to be left alone as she deals with not having her domineering mother to rule things anymore. This is a good, creepy Halloween tale that incorporates the inherent creepiness of masks.

“White Mare” by Thana Niveau (2018) – After being forced to move from her hometown in America to a remote village in England for a few months with her father, Heather struggles to be accepted by the locals. She and her father, who’s been raising her alone following the mysterious disappearance of her mother, are only going there for a few months to sell an old farmhouse full of antiques they inherited from a recently departed aunt. Heather’s misgivings about the move are swiftly eased once she discovers the place has a beautiful horse with which she instantly falls in love. When she asks around about Halloween, she is mocked by the local kids and is told that what they have is very different than what she’s used to, but that she’ll find out for herself soon enough. The arrival of Halloween night brings a terrifying horde to their door, where a bizarre ritual takes place. This is another great story with a superbly eerie play-on-words involved which I don’t want to give away here.

Click on the original post’s link below to see links to other reading recommendation lists from HorrorDelve …

(HorrorDelve text in this post by Matt Cowan.)

Horror Delve

As the season of my favorite holiday rolls around again, another list of fitting suggested stories has been assembled for your enjoyment. Each of these tales captures the spirit of Halloween, even if some may not be set during it. The final two selections on this list can be found in the recent anthology The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories edited by Stephen Jones ( The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories ).

THE STORIES:

  1. “The Story of the Spaniards, Hammersmith” by E. And H. Heron (1898) – Legendary occult detective Flaxman Low investigates a friend’s haunted house. The spectral entity seems to take an odd, amorphous form which attempts to suffocate people who sleep in one of its rooms. The house is called the Spaniards, and when Flaxman sleeps in its haunted room, he experiences the ghost’s attack first hand. You can listen to an excellent reading of…

View original post 1,071 more words

Time for a New Novel! Remember the Robert DeNiro Film Angel Heart? Here’s the 1978 Book That Inspired the Movie!

Where do you search for a guy who was never there to begin with?

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Cover of the original hardback edition (Pinterest).

I’ve been wanting to read this for years. You should join me! I found the very affordable Kindle edition (link below) and decided it’s time. Here’s a sample of the prose and some info on the book and the creepy 1987 film it inspired Starring Mickey Route, Lisa Bonet, and Robert DeNiro (as the Devil)…


Click thumbnails below to enlarge…


Following is a short writeup from toomuchhorrorfiction.com…

Hard-boiled crime writers like Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler were vastly influential on a whole range of 20th century literature, except, I think, horror fiction. With their post-Hemingway style of terseness and understatement they seem to be the antithesis of horror writing. While these authors got their start in the pulp magazines of the pre-WWII era just like H.P. Lovecraft, it’s only been within the last 10 or 15 years that Lovecraft has been taken seriously by more mainstream academics, literary critics, and taste-makers, while those crime novelists have been lauded for decades.

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The original hard cover edition from 1978. Finding a copy in good condition is quite rare today (Pinterest).

But I don’t think it was until Falling Angel (Fawcett Popular Library 1982 edition above) that the genres of hardboiled crime and horror met, thanks to author William Hjortsberg. He has said he came up with the idea when in high school, winning an award for a short story whose first lines were “Once upon a time, the devil hired a private detective.” Brilliant.

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The Author William Hjortsberg, 1978.

Set in a wonderfully-depicted New York City 1959, Falling Angel is the story of hard-boozing private detective Harry Angel (“I always buy myself a drink after finding a body. It’s an old family custom”), hired by the mysterious Mr. Cyphre to find the missing ’40s crooner Johnny Favorite, a big band star very much like Sinatra. Horribly injured physically and psychologically while serving as an entertainer in the war, Johnny ends up in a VA hospital, but then disappears one night…

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Inside the 1979 UK paperback edition. Artist unknown (toomuchhorrorfiction.com).

Angel tracks down Johnny’s former doctor, who then turns up dead; next Angel speaks to an old band member of Johnny’s, “Toots” Sweet (but of course) who tells him Johnny was mixed up in voodoo and the black arts, can you dig it, and crossed ethnic barriers no one dared cross in the 1940s when he became the lover of a voodoo priestess. Toots ends up dead too. Horribly dead. You get the picture. Angel ends up involved with the priestess’s daughter, Epiphany Proudfoot, a carnally-driven young woman who believes acrobatic sex is how we speak to the voodoo gods. Awesome.

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The 1986 Warner Books paperback edition was a bit more frightening and less “noir” than earlier editions (toomuchhorrorfiction.com).

There’s more; much more. Falling Angel is, in a word, spectacular. It’s inventive while playing by the “rules” of detective fiction; it’s appropriately bloody and violent; its unholy climax in an abandoned subway station is effectively unsettling and graphic.


Click on thumbnails below to enlarge…


Hjortsberg knows his hard-boiled lingo and the New York of the time and makes it all believable. This is no humorous pastiche or parody; it’s a stunning crime novel bled through with visceral horrors of the most personal and, in the end, damning kind.

[Review Source: toomuchhorrorfiction.com/Falling Angel Review


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Chapter 1

IT WAS FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH and yesterday’s snowstorm lingered in the streets like a leftover curse. The slush outside was ankle-deep. Across Seventh Avenue a treadmill parade of lightbulb headlines marched endlessly around Times Tower’s terra cotta façade: … HAWAII IS VOTED INTO UNION AS 50TH STATE: HOUSE GRANTS FINAL APPROVAL, 232 TO 89; EISENHOWER’S SIGNATURE OF BILL ASSURED … Hawaii, sweet land of pineapples and Haleloki; ukeleles strumming, sunshine and surf, grass skirts swaying in the tropical breeze.

I spun my chair around and stared out at Times Square. The Camels spectacular on the Claridge puffed fat steam smoke rings out over the snarling traffic. The dapper gentleman on the sign, mouth frozen in a round O of perpetual surprise, was Broadway’s harbinger of spring. Earlier in the week, teams of scaffold-hung painters transformed the smoker’s dark winter homburg and chesterfield overcoat into seersucker and panama straw; not as poetic as the Capistrano swallows, but it got the message across. My building was built before the turn of the century; a four-story brick pile held together with soot and pigeon dung. An Easter bonnet of billboards flourished on the roof, advertising flights to Miami and various brands of beer. There was a cigar store on the corner, a Pokerino parlor, two hot dog stands, and the Rialto Theatre, mid-block. The entrance was tucked between a peep-show bookshop and a novelty place, show windows stacked with whoopee cushions and plaster dog turds.

My office was two flights up, in a line with Olga’s Electrolysis, Teardrop Imports, Inc., and Ira Kipnis, C.P.A. Eight-inch gold letters gave me the edge over the others: CROSSROADS DETECTIVE AGENCY, a name I bought along with the business from Ernie Cavalero, who took me on as his legman back when I first hit the city during the war.

I was about to go out for coffee when the phone rang. “Mr. Harry Angel?” a distant secretary trilled. “Herman Winesap of McIntosh, Winesap, and Spy calling.”

I grunted something pleasant and she put me on hold.

Herman Winesap’s voice was as slick as the greasy kid stuff hair oil companies like to warn you about. He introduced himself as an attorney. That meant his fees were high. A guy calling himself a lawyer always costs a lot less. Winesap sounded so good I let him do most of the talking.

“The reason I called, Mr. Angel, was to ascertain whether your services were at present available for contract.”

“Would this be for your firm?”

“No. I’m speaking in behalf of one of our clients. Are you available for employment?”

“Depends on the job. You’ll have to give me some details.”

“My client would prefer to discuss them with you in person. He has suggested that you have lunch with him today. One o’clock sharp at the Top of the Six’s.”

“Maybe you’d like to give me the name of this client, or do I just look for some guy wearing a red carnation?”

“Have you a pencil handy? I’ll spell it for you.”

I wrote the name LOUIS CYPHRE on my desk pad and asked how to pronounce it.

Herman Winesap did a swell job, rolling his r’s like a Berlitz instructor. I asked if the client was a foreigner?

“Mr. Cyphre carries a French passport. I am not certain of his exact nationality. Any questions you might have no doubt he’ll be happy to answer at lunch. May I tell him to expect you?”

“I’ll be there, one o’clock sharp.”

Attorney Herman Winesap made some final unctuous remarks before signing off. I hung up and lit one of my Christmas Montecristos in celebration.

Chapter 2

666 FIFTH AVENUE WAS an unhappy marriage of the International Style and our own homegrown tailfin technology. It had gone up two years before between 52nd and 53rd streets: a million square feet of office space sheathed in embossed aluminum panels. It looked like a forty-story cheese grater. There was a waterfall in the lobby, but that didn’t seem to help.

I took an express elevator to the top floor, got a number from the hatcheck girl, and admired the view while the maître d’ gave me the once-over like a government-meat inspector grading a side of beef. His finding Cyphre’s name in the reservation book didn’t exactly make us pals. I followed him back through a polite murmuring of executives to a small table by a window.

Seated there in a custom-made blue pin-stripe suit with a blood-red rosebud in his lapel was a man who might have been anywhere between forty-five and sixty. His hair was black and full, combed straight back on a high forehead, yet his square-cut goatee and pointed moustache were white as ermine. He was tanned and elegant; his eyes a distant, ethereal blue. A tiny, inverted golden star gleamed on his maroon silk necktie. “I’m Harry Angel,” I said, as the maître d’ pulled out my chair. “A lawyer named Winesap said there was something you wanted to speak to me about.”

“I like a man who’s prompt,” he said. “Drink?”

I ordered a double Manhattan, straight up; Cyphre tapped his glass with a manicured finger and said he’d have one more of the same. It was easy to imagine those pampered hands gripping a whip. Nero must have had such hands. And Jack the Ripper. It was the hand of emperors and assassins. Languid, yet lethal, the cruel, tapered fingers perfect instruments of evil.

When the waiter left, Cyphre leaned forward and fixed me with a conspirator’s grin. “I hate to bother with trivialities, but I’d like to see some identification before we get started.”

I got out my wallet and showed him my photostat and honorary chiefs button. “There’s a gun permit and driver’s license in there, too.”

He flipped through the celluloid card holders and when he handed back the wallet his smile was ten degrees whiter. “I prefer to take a man at his word, but my legal advisors insisted upon this formality.”

“It usually pays to play it safe.”

“Why, Mr. Angel, I would have thought you were a gambling man.”

“Only when I have to be.” I listened hard for any trace of an accent, but his voice was like polished metal, smooth and clean, as if it had been buffed with banknotes from the day he was born. “Suppose we get down to business,” I said. “I’m not much good at small talk.”

“Another admirable trait.” Cyphre withdrew a gold and leather cigar case from his inside breast pocket, opened it, and selected a slender, greenish panatela. “Care for a smoke?” I declined the proffered case and watched Cyphre trim the end of his cigar with a silver penknife.

“Do you by any chance remember the name Johnny Favorite?” he asked, warming the panatela’s slim length in the flame of his butane lighter.

I thought it over. “Wasn’t he a crooner with a swing band back before the war?”

“That’s the man. An overnight sensation, as the press agents like to say. Sang with the Spider Simpson orchestra in 1940. Personally, I loathed swing music and can’t recall the titles of his hit recordings; there were several, in any case. He created a near-riot at the Paramount Theatre two years before anyone ever heard of Sinatra. You should remember that, the Paramount’s over in your part of town.”

“Johnny Favorite’s before my time. In 1940, I was just out of high school, a rookie cop in Madison, Wisconsin.”

“From the Midwest? I would have taken you for a native New Yorker.”

“No such animal, at least not above Houston Street.”

“Very true.” Cyphre’s features were shrouded in blue smoke as he puffed his cigar. It smelled like excellent tobacco, and I regretted not taking one when I had the chance. “This is a city of outsiders,” he said. “I’m one myself.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Let us say I’m a traveler.” Cyphre waved away a wreath of cigar smoke, flashing an emerald the Pope himself would have kissed.

“Fine with me. Why did you ask about Johnny Favorite?”

The waiter set our drinks on the table with less intrusion than a passing shadow.

“A pleasant voice, all things considered.” Cyphre raised his glass to eye level in a silent European toast. “As I said, I could never stomach swing music; too loud and jumpy for my taste. But Johnny sounded sweet as a caroler when he wanted to. I took him under my wing when he was first getting started. He was a brash, skinny kid from the Bronx. Mother and father both dead. His real name wasn’t Favorite, it was Jonathan Liebling. He changed it for professional reasons; Liebling wouldn’t have looked nearly as good in lights. Do you know what happened to him?”

I said I had no idea whatsoever.

“He was drafted in January ’43. Because of his professional talents, he was assigned to the Special Entertainment Services Branch and in March he joined a troop show in Tunisia. I’m not certain of the exact details; there was an air raid one afternoon during a performance. The Luftwaffe strafed the bandstand. Most of the troupe was killed. Johnny, through some quirk of fortune, escaped with facial and head injuries. Escaped is the wrong word. He was never the same again. I’m not a medical man, so I can’t be very precise about his condition. Some form of shell shock, I suppose.”

I said I knew something about shell shock myself.

“Really? Were you in the war, Mr. Angel?”

“For a few months right at the start. I was one of the lucky ones.”

“Well, Johnny Favorite was not. He was shipped home, a total vegetable.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, “but where do I fit in? What exactly do you want me to do?”

Cyphre stubbed out his cigar in the ashtray and toyed with the age-yellowed ivory holder. It was carved in the shape of a coiled serpent with the head of a crowing rooster. “Be patient with me, Mr. Angel. I’m getting to the point, however circuitously. I gave Johnny some help at the start of his career. I was never his agent, but I was able to use my influence in his behalf. In recognition of my assistance, which was considerable, we had a contract. Certain collateral was involved. This was to be forfeited in the event of his death. I’m sorry that I can’t be more explicit, but the terms of our agreement specified that the details remain confidential.

“In any event, Johnny’s case was hopeless. He was sent to a veteran’s hospital in New Hampshire and it seemed as if he would spend the remainder of his life in a ward, one of the unfortunate discards of war. But Johnny had friends and money, a good deal of money. Although he was by nature profligate, his earnings for the two years prior to his induction were considerable; more than any one man could squander. Some of this money was invested, with Johnny’s agent having power of attorney.”

“The plot begins to grow complicated,” I said.

“Indeed it does, Mr. Angel.” Cyphre tapped his ivory cigar holder absently against the rim of his empty glass, making the crystal chime like distant bells. “Friends of Johnny’s had him transferred to a private hospital upstate. There was some sort of radical treatment. Typical psychiatric hocus-pocus, I suppose. The end result was the same; Johnny remained a zombie. Only the expenses came out of his pockets instead of the government’s.”

“Do you know the names of these friends?”

“No. I hope you won’t consider me entirely mercenary when I tell you that my continuing interest in Jonathan Liebling concerns only our contractual arrangement. I never saw Johnny again after he went away to war. All that mattered was whether he was alive or dead. Once or twice each year, my attorneys contact the hospital and obtain from them a notarized affidavit stating he is indeed still among the living. This situation remained unchanged until last weekend.”

“What happened then?”

“Something very curious. Johnny’s hospital is outside Poughkeepsie. I was in that vicinity on business and, quite on the spur of the moment, decided to pay my old acquaintance a visit. Perhaps I wanted to see what sixteen years in bed does to a man. At the hospital, I was told visiting hours were on weekday afternoons only. I insisted, and the doctor in charge made an appearance. He informed me that Johnny was undergoing special therapy and could not be disturbed until the following Monday.”

I said: “Sounds like you were getting the runaround.”

“Indeed. There was something about the fellow’s manner I didn’t like.” Cyphre slipped his cigar holder into his vest pocket and folded his hands on the table. “I stayed over in Poughkeepsie until Monday and returned to the hospital, making certain to arrive during visiting hours. I never saw the doctor again, but when I gave Johnny’s name, the girl at the reception desk asked if I was a relative. Naturally, I said no. She said only family members were permitted to visit with the patients.”

“No mention of this the previous time around?”

“Not a word. I grew quite indignant. I’m afraid I made something of a scene. That was a mistake. The receptionist threatened to call the police unless I left immediately.”

“What did you do?”

“I left. What else could I do? It’s a private hospital. I didn’t want any trouble. That’s why I’m engaging your services.”

“You want me to go up there and check it out for you?”

“Exactly.” Cyphre gestured expansively, turning his palms upward like a man showing he has nothing to hide. “First, I need to know if Johnny Favorite is still alive—that’s essential. If he is, I’d like to know where.”

I reached inside my jacket and got out a small leather-bound notebook and a mechanical pencil. “Sounds simple enough. What’s the name and address of the hospital?”

“The Emma Dodd Harvest Memorial Clinic; it’s located east of the city on Pleasant Valley Road.”

I wrote it down and asked the name of the doctor who gave Cyphre the runaround.

“Fowler. I believe the first name was either Albert or Alfred.”

I made a note of it. “Is Favorite registered under his actual name?”

“Yes. Jonathan Liebling.

“That should do it.” I put the notebook back and got to my feet. “How can I get in touch with you?”

“Through my attorney would be best.” Cyphre smoothed his moustache with the tip of his forefinger. “But you’re not leaving? I thought we were having lunch.”

“Hate to miss a free meal, but if I get started right away I can make it up to Poughkeepsie before quitting time.”

“Hospitals don’t keep business hours.”

“The office staff does. Any cover I use depends on it. It’ll cost you money if I wait until Monday. I get fifty dollars a day, plus expenses.”

“Sounds reasonable for a job well done.”

“The job will get done. Satisfaction guaranteed. I’ll give Winesap a call as soon as anything turns up.”

“Perfect. A pleasure meeting you, Mr. Angel.”

The maître d’ was still sneering when I stopped for my overcoat and attaché case on the way out.


Links

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To Read the rest of this book, you can grab a copy at the link below! (And remember the Kindle reading app is free for PC, tablet, iOS, and Android.)

Great film review of Angel Heart (Watch the Film’s Trailer at the end of this post.)

Alan Parker’s ‘Angel Heart’ Is Astonishing as Hell

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Trailer

“The First Order of Whaleyville’s Divine Basilisk Handlers”—A Horror Story by Eric J. Guignard

I don’t have too many favorite writers in horror and the like…but Eric J. Guignard is one of them. He is NOT a writer to miss! Link to this book is below.

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Cover art by Christine M. Scott.

The First Order of Whaleyville’s Divine Basilisk Handlers

Eric J. Guignard, 2018

Originally appeared in The Fiend in the Furrows, An Anthology of Folk Horror, ed. by David T. Neal & Christine M. Scott, Nosetouch Press, 2018.

I never heard of basilisks ‘til the night of Murrell’s barn dance, but that was the night I met Rosalie, so the basilisks sorta took a back seat in my thoughts. I think it was Ronny Loom who told me, though his brother, Carter, was there too, and they’re one ’n the same, being just a year apart and closer than spittin’ twins.

“Poppa told me basilisks are crossing the Nolichucky River,” Ronny said. “Heard Lilac and some men from Kingsport bagged half a dozen already, but more keep showing up. Lilac says they’re worth more’n cougar pelts.”

“That old trapper’s still around?” I asked, more interested in hearing ’bout him than gabbing on new mountain game. Legend was, Lilac Zollinger had once been engaged to my great-granny Lizbeth, but Great-Grandpa Micajah dueled him for her hand and won, leaving Lilac with a bullet in the shoulder.

He healed, except for his pride, which supposing got wounded the most. “Heard Lilac caught the scythe two summers ago by way of momma grizzly.”

“He survived that,” Carter said. “Thought everyone knew.”

Me and the Looms passed under the banner for Murrell’s dance and into his barn. Its double red doors were shuttered open and breathing yellow light like a hell cat, silhouetting straw-hatted farmers and their bonnet-hatted wives.

“Harv Ridout says Lilac won’t sleep under a roof, but rather beds down amongst the trees each night so he won’t soften up like us townies,” Ronny said.

Carter added, “Harv Ridout says Lilac punched a wolf that was fightin’ him over a cottontail.”

I rolled my eyes. “Harv Ridout’s got less sense—”

The sudden scream of fiddle severed my words, then the clang of guitar followed, and soon a gaggle of folks lined the varnished floor kickin’ up their legs like a train of asses. I never cared much for dancing and don’t know what others see in it. It’s not like kissin’ or anything, not even a little, and I should know ‘cause I done both. Dancing, you’re not even allowed to touch girls ‘cept on their hands, or Pastor Wright’ll whip your bottom scorched as Hell’s eternal fury for such a sin.

That’s when a girl I never seen before swung from the dance line, twirling delicate as a marigold bloom. Right away, my insides turned light and fizzy, like if ever I thought to float on moonlit mist, now would be the moment. She was tall and skinny, like me, but her hair went dark, and her eyes shone like copper pennies set in fire ‘til they glowed and sizzled. She wore a dress pretty as first snow, and it clung to her in the middle and billowed out everywhere else as she moved.

Truth was, I never felt that way looking at a girl before, not even when kissing Aimee Greenwood last Harvest Day. I only kissed Aimee ‘cause she started it, but I liked it too, though how it felt didn’t compare a blue belle to how seeing this new girl weave and bow to each man in line did. Suddenly I felt dancing would be the greatest thing in the world, especially if with her.

“New girl in town,” Ronny and Carter said together. “Heard her name is Rosalie Jacobs.”

“Rosalie,” I repeated, and I wondered where she came from. In Whaleyville, everyone knew everyone—even new folks—but she was a puzzler.

Murrell’s barn was stuffy hot that night, and the back of my neck stuck to the shirt collar with sweat. I ran a checkered sleeve across my forehead and it came away damp and grimy, though I still felt my best in over two years, since that terrible day at the revival.

“I’m gonna ask her to dance,” I vowed. But no sooner had the words been spoke did that vow fall to bitter ash when I saw Rosalie link arms with Luke Holder.

Ronny and Carter shook their heads somber as grave diggers. Luke Holder was older’n us, sized the three of us together, and meaner than a pecker full of sin. It was the cruel joke of the county that he was good looking too, with a big, perfect smile that made gals do funny things, and with eyes blue as winter quartz: cold and hard and sharp enough to cut, should you fall on ‘em the wrong way.

“Hellfire,” I muttered.

Click here to read the remainder of this great story and support this Anthology by picking up a copy…very affordable and worth it…

Ghost Stories: A Great Introduction to the Art—by Michael Newton, (Penguin Classics, 2010)

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It’s always a delight to discover scholarship on the ghost story, such as the following essay by Michael Newton. It is my favorite subject—ghosts in literature that is—hands down. I read them—new ones, old ones. I dread them (and dream them). I love both short stories and novella-length ones; novels, too, but real good ones are rare. I also like true stories of specters and spirits, haints and hauntings—they scare the bejeezus outta me, but they also fill me with a ferocious glee! I suppose it’s the idea that we may never know for sure—right?—whether they’re real or a figment of the global imagination. Either way, I love my ghost stories. I trust you do, too. So, here’s Newton’s Introduction from the Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, published in 2010. (I highly recommend every story in this collection. I recently finished Elizabeth Gaskell’s creeper “The Old Nurse’s Story.” It was superb.)

Leave a light on!

💡SW

Note: Any photographs or images that follow—along with accompanying captions—are additions of mine, and are not part of the Introduction as it originally appeared in The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories.  —Sanguine Woods

Introduction to The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories

Michael Newton, 2010

“The ghost is the most enduring figure in supernatural fiction. He is absolutely indestructible … He changes with the styles in fiction but he never goes out of fashion. He is the really permanent citizen of the earth, for mortals, at best, are but transients.”

Dr. Dorothy Scarborough*, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction

GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“It is the haunted who haunt.”

Elizabeth Bowen, ‘The Happy Autumn Fields’

*****

“GHOST WORDS”

Above (click to enlarge): The famous “writing on the wall”** at England’s Borley Rectory is one of the most interesting manifestations of ghost writing ever encountered. The events and investigations at the rectory were among the very first cases of “ghost hunting” in the history of the modern world. Investigators, including Ed and Lorraine Warren, demonologists for the Church, believed the writings had come from the spirit of a young Catholic woman who wanted her body to be discovered and to be given a proper Christian burial. “Marianne” and her husband, Reverend Lionel Foyster, lived in the rectory during October 1930–her writing is in printed script and attempts to get clarification from the spirit as to the meaning of her scribbles, which include: “Marianne… please help get” and “Marianne light mass prayers”. Click here (and see other “Links” following this post) to learn more about The Borley Rectory Hauntings.

Someone is afraid. In a dark house or on an empty railway platform, at the foot of the staircase or there on a lonely beach. When critics discuss the ghost story, they often pay no more than lip-service to the intended impact of the tale itself. The critics’ words remove us from the place where the story’s words first took us. In the ghost story, through the representation of another’s fear, we become afraid. We take on the sensation of terror, the alert uneasiness that translates random sounds into intentions, a room’s chill into watchfulness, and leaves us with the anxious apprehension of an other’s presence. The stories fix images of profound uneasiness in our minds. These images remain and act afterwards, when the story is over, as paths to renewed anxiety. From the stories in this collection, memories rise up of Thrawn Janet’s crooked walk, like a rag doll that has been hanged; the bereaved mother desperately reaching for the bolt to the door in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, with the visitor outside; or in M. R. James’s tale, on a sunless day, in a dream, a man running along the sands, breathless, worn out, pursued inexorably by a blind, muffled figure.

The ghost story aims at the retention of such pictures; it intends the production of such fears. It wants sympathetic shudders.

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Warning! This Ain’t Your Gramma’s Nun.

Terrifying Real-Life Encounter Inspires New Horror Film “The Nun”…

“I feel the presence of a nun in this church…”

—Lorraine Warren, psychic investigator/demonologist, speaking to a group of psychic researchers and photographers (including husband Ed Warren) at Borley Rectory in England, during a trip there in the 1970s; it is noted that Lorraine uttered the remark immediately upon entering the building at 12:00 A.M.


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The Nun, played by the amazing Bonnie Aarons, first appeared in the 2016 James Wan film The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, a sequel of sorts (but then again not really) to Wan’s 2013 film The Conjuring (sequels, perhaps, in that both films are based on true stories straight out of the case files of Catholic demonologists and founders of the New England Society for Psychical Research, Ed and Lorraine Warren—played in both films by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively). In The Conjuring 2, Aaron’s character, called “Valek” in the annals of Hell, is a demon that’s attached itself psychically to Farmiga’s character—medium and demonologist Lorraine Warren—and has manifested itself to her since she was a child in the form of a Catholic Nun…as an insult to and a perversion of  Warren’s Christian faith.


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In the 1970s, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren saw a spectral nun in a British abbey. Real-life psychic investigators for the Catholic Church, the Warrens investigated many of the workd’s most visible—and horrifying—spirit and demonic encounters including The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring incident, the Perronne family hauntings, and the Enfield poltergeist infestation in England.


In The Nun, the latest movie in the ever-expanding Conjuring universe, a cowl-clad demon with piercing yellow eyes and dagger-like teeth haunts the cloisters of a Romanian abbey and terrorizes local clergy. The film is a prequel to The Conjuring, which detailed the real case files of noted demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Those case files have also inspired film classics such as The Conjuring 2, Anabelle, Annabelle: Creation, and the 1979 horror classic The Amityville Horror.

So how much of the story about The Nun is based on actual events?

The Warren’s son-in-law, Tony Spera, said that The Nun’s ecclesiastical phantom bears resemblance to a “real” spectral nun the Warrens encountered during a 1970s trip to the much-haunted Borley Rectory in southern England.

Below: Rare color photographs of Borley Rectory taken in 1929 (left) and 1943 after the fire (right) by England’s own famous (and infamous) ghost hunter Harry Price (Source: www.harrypricewebsite.co.uk/Borley)

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“The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor”–This Early-70s Epic Mod-Gothic Publication Was My First Comic Book Collection! Here Is Issue #1 in Its Entirety…

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor, Issue 1: Cult of the Vampire! (Gold Key Comics 1973)

Remember The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor? It had a very short run, sadly. But I was an eager 12 year old and this was my cup of brew. In fact, the 1970s publication, which ran for about 20 issues, was my very first comic book collection! And…it was my initiation into the world of the Occult. I’m bringing it to you, now, Dear Reader, every month–an issue at a time…Guess you could say I’m “resurrecting a personal monster”…

Long May He Live!!!

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