“Dead-Wood”–A flash of perfection by Joe Hill, 2017

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Dead-Wood

Joe Hill

It has been argued even trees may appear as ghosts. Reports of such manifestations are common in the literature of parapsychology. There is the famous white pine of West Belfry, Maine. It was chopped down in 1842, a towering fir with a white smooth bark like none anyone had ever seen, and with pine needles the color of brushed steel. A tea house and inn was built on the hill where it had stood. A cold spot existed in a corner of the yellow dining room, a zone of penetrating chill, the exact diameter of the white pine’s trunk. Directly above the dining room was a small bedroom, but no guest would stay the night there. Those who tried said their sleep was disturbed by the keening rush of a phantom wind, the low soft roar of air in high branches; the gusts blew papers around the room and pulled curtains down. In March, the walls bled sap.

An entire phantom wood appeared in Canaanville, Pennsylvania, for a period of twenty minutes one day, in 1959. There are photographs. It was in a new development, a neighborhood of winding roads and small, modern bungalows. Residents woke on a Sunday morning and found themselves sleeping in stands of birch that seemed to grow right from the floor of their bedrooms. Underwater hemlocks swayed and drifted in backyard swimming pools. The phenomenon extended to a nearby shopping mall. The ground floor of Sears was filled with brambles, half-price skirts hanging from the branches of Norway maples, a flock of sparrows settled on the jewelry counter, picking at pearls and gold chains.

Somehow it’s easier to imagine the ghost of a tree than it is the ghost of a man. Just think how a tree will stand for a hundred years, gorging itself on sunlight and pulling moisture from the earth, tirelessly hauling its life up out of the soil, like someone hauling a bucket up from a bottomless well. The roots of a shattered tree still drink for months after death, so used to the habit of life they can’t give it up. Something that doesn’t know it’s alive obviously can’t be expected to know when it’s dead.

After you left—not right away, but after a summer had passed—I took down the alder we used to read under, sitting together on your mother’s picnic blanket; the alder we fell asleep under that time, listening to the hum of the bees. It was old, and rotten, it had bugs in it, although new shoots still appeared on its boughs in the spring. I told myself I didn’t want it to blow down and fall into the house, even though it wasn’t leaning toward the house. But now, sometimes when I’m out there, in the wide-open of the yard, the wind will rise and shriek, tearing at my clothes. What else shrieks with it, I wonder? ~

– Joe Hill, from the Subterranean Press Newsletter, February 2005

Art by Vincent Van Gogh

Tonight’s Read: “The Haunting of Shawley Rectory” by Ruth Rendell (Tales from the Dead of Night: 13 Classic Ghost stories, ed. Cecily Gaylord, 2018 (TOC & Link)

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Get the book here!

 

from “The Crown Derby Plate”—A Vintage Ghost Story by Marjorie Bowen, 1931

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“Very unpleasant,” said Martha Pym, undisturbed.

This ghost seemed too elusive for her to track down; she would have to be content if she could recover the Crown Derby plate; for that at least she was determined to make a try and also to satisfy that faint tingling of curiosity roused in her by this talk about “Hartleys” and the remembrance of that day, so long ago, when she had gone to the auction sale at the lonely old house.

So the first free afternoon, while Mabel and Clara were comfortably taking their afternoon repose, Martha Pym, who was of a more lively habit, got out her little governess cart and dashed away across the Essex flats.

She had taken minute directions with her, but she had soon lost her way.

Under the wintry sky, which looked as grey and hard as metal, the marshes stretched bleakly to the horizon, the olive-brown broken reeds were harsh as scars on the saffron-tinted bogs, where the sluggish waters that rose so high in winter were filmed over with the first stillness of a frost; the air was cold but not keen, everything was damp; faintest of mists blurred the black outlines of trees that rose stark from the ridges above the stagnant dykes; the flooded fields were haunted by black birds and white birds, gulls and crows, whining above the long ditch grass and wintry wastes.

Miss Pym stopped the little horse and surveyed this spectral scene, which had a certain relish about it to one sure to return to a homely village, a cheerful house and good company.

A withered and bleached old man, in color like the dun landscape, came along the road between the sparse alders.

Miss Pym, buttoning up her coat, asked the way to “Hartley” as he passed her; he told her, straight on, and she proceeded, straight indeed across the road that went with undeviating length across the marshes.

“Of course,” thought Miss Pym, “if you live in a place like this, you are bound to invent ghosts.”

***

“The Crown Derby Plate” was first published in 1931 in Grace Latouche and the Warringtons.

Read the entire story online, here:

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0607711h.html

“The Ghost in the Mill”—An Oldtown Fireside Story by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1872

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“Come, Sam, tell us a story,” said I, as Harry and I crept to his knees, in the glow of the bright evening firelight; while Aunt Lois was busily rattling the tea-things, and grandmamma, at the other end of the fireplace, was quietly setting the heel of a blue-mixed yarn stocking.

In those days we had no magazines and daily papers, each reeling off a serial story. Once a week, “The Columbian Sentinel” came from Boston with its slender stock of news and editorial; but all the multiform devices—pictorial, narrative, and poetical—which keep the mind of the present generation ablaze with excitement, had not then even an existence. There was no theatre, no opera; there were in Oldtown no parties or balls, except, perhaps, the annual election, or Thanksgiving festival; and when winter came, and the sun went down at half-past four o’clock, and left the long, dark hours of evening to be provided for, the necessity of amusement became urgent. Hence, in those days, chimney-corner story-telling became an art and an accomplishment. Society then was full of traditions and narratives which had all the uncertain glow and shifting mystery of the firelit hearth upon them. They were told to sympathetic audiences, by the rising and falling light of the solemn embers, with the hearth-crickets filling up every pause. Then the aged told their stories to the young,—tales of early life; tales of war and adventure, of forest-days, of Indian captivities and escapes, of bears and wild-cats and panthers, of rattlesnakes, of witches and wizards, and strange and wonderful dreams and appearances and providences.

In those days of early Massachusetts, faith and credence were in the very air. Two-thirds of New England was then dark, unbroken forests, through whose tangled paths the mysterious winter wind groaned and shrieked and howled with weird noises and unaccountable clamors. Along the iron-bound shore, the stormful Atlantic raved and thundered, and dashed its moaning waters, as if to deaden and deafen any voice that might tell of the settled life of the old civilized world, and shut us forever into the wilderness. A good story-teller, in those days, was always sure of a warm seat at the hearthstone, and the delighted homage of children; and in all Oldtown there was no better story-teller than Sam Lawson.

“Do, do, tell us a story,” said Harry, pressing upon him, and opening very wide blue eyes, in which undoubting faith shone as in a mirror; “and let it be something strange, and different from common.”

“Wal, I know lots o’ strange things,” said Sam, looking mysteriously into the fire.

“Why, I know things, that ef I should tell,—why, people might say they wa’n’t so; but then they is so for all that.”

“Oh, do, do, tell us!”

“Why, I should scare ye to death, mebbe,” said Sam doubtingly.

“Oh, pooh! no, you wouldn’t,” we both burst out at once.

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But Sam was possessed by a reticent spirit, and loved dearly to be wooed and importuned; and do he only took up the great kitchen-tongs, and smote on the hickory forestick, when it flew apart in the middle, and scattered a shower of clear bright coals all over the hearth.
“Mercy on us, Sam Lawson!” said Aunt Lois in an indignant voice, spinning round from her dishwashing.

“Don’t you worry a grain, Miss Lois,” said Sam composedly. “I see that are stick was e’en a’most in two, and I thought I’d jest settle it. I’ll sweep up the coals now,” he added, vigorously applying a turkey-wing to the purpose, as he knelt on the hearth, his spare, lean figure glowing in the blaze of the firelight, and getting quite flushed with exertion.

“There, now!” he said, when he had brushed over and under and between the fire-irons, and pursued the retreating ashes so far into the red, fiery citadel, that his finger-ends were burning and tingling, “that are’s done now as well as Hepsy herself could ‘a’ done it. I allers sweeps up the haarth: I think it’s part o’ the man’s bisness when he makes the fire. But Hepsy’s so used to seein’ me a-doin’ on’t, that she don’t see no kind o’ merit in’t. It’s just as Parson Lothrop said in his sermon,—folks allers overlook their common marcies”—

“But come, Sam, that story,” said Harry and I coaxingly, pressing upon him, and pulling him down into his seat in the corner.

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Great Short Stories, Good Bones, & Jimmy Dean

A stellar short story starts with grand bone structure. Just like a beautiful face. I read a handful of short stories every single night and I have for decades. There are many that are very good. There are those that aren’t very good, but good—and you can see where they went astray, perhaps, where they try too hard or not hard enough. Lots of telling not enough showing—dialogue / prose that doesn’t understand how to reveal character / atmosphere…you’ve heard the schpeel. The ones I choose to share on Social Media—and my blog (thesanguinewoods.com)—I consider to be so very good and often in the great category. There’s just not enough time or room to share them all across the quality spectrum. But I learn something valuable from each and every one I read. A lot of commentary on short fiction is opinion. Things like style and voice are subjective. What you do with the tools of fiction though—the bones of your story—outside of style—the skin of your story; outside of the way you tell your story—the clothing you put it in—is what makes it just good or great or better than great. If the bones of your story aren’t structured to hold the rest in a way that is believable, you can pile on skin and hair and clothes and more clothes—and it won’t matter. (Photo: Jimmy Dean, ca. 1950s)

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Blue World—A Collection of Horror Stories by Robert R. McCammon (TOC + Intro + Link)

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Table of Contents

Dear Readers (introduction to the preview of Mine) • essay by Robert R. McCammon
Mine (excerpt) • short fiction by Robert R. McCammon
ix • Introduction (Blue World and Other Stories) • (1989) • essay by Robert R. McCammon
1 • Yellowjacket Summer • (1986) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
25 • Makeup • (1981) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
49 • Doom City • (1987) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
65 • Nightcrawlers • (1984) • novelette by Robert R. McCammon
101 • Yellachile’s Cage • (1987) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
121 • I Scream Man! • (1984) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
131 • He’ll Come Knocking at Your Door • (1986) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
151 • Chico • (1989) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
163 • Night Calls the Green Falcon • (1988) • novelette by Robert R. McCammon
191 • Pin • (1989) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
215 • The Red House • (1985) • novelette by Robert R. McCammon
239 • Something Passed By • (1989) • short story by Robert R. McCammon
259 • Blue World • (1989) • novella by Robert R. McCammon

Introduction

Fast Cars, the sign said.

It was in front of a used-car lot in the neighborhood where I grew up. Fast Cars. My friends and I passed it every day on our way to school. Our bikes were the fast cars of our imagination, our Mustangs and Corvettes and Thunderbirds. We longed for four wheels, but we were confined to two and on them we hurtled into the future.

I’ve built my own fast cars. They’re in this book, and they’re eager for passengers.

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