Books, Fiction, Ghosts, Hardboiled, Humor, Short Stories, short-short, Weird, Young Adult

Berenice by Edgar Allen Poe (Adapted by Tom Baker)

I was one of those fellows with a peculiar, troubling habit–I obsessed upon things, small, insignificant things, until they drove me nearly mad. I spent the entire day, sometimes, fixated o a peculiar phrase in Latin from an old book, or the weird, unsettling way in which a shaft of light and shadow would fall through the curtained window onto the floor.

The patterns in the carpet, the swirling dust moats in a streak of sunlight–I could sit for hours, even days, with the thought of this uppermost in my mind.

The great, gloomy edifice, with its high towers, was where I lived and where my family had lived for time out of mind. it was there that my beautiful cousin, Berenice, and I lived and loved each other with a love that was more than love. Oh, there were such peaceful days when I was not caught in the grip of my peculiar mania!

Berenice, though, soon started to become gravely ill. It progressed a little more ever day, until she was like the walking dead–very pale, with deep, dark circles under her eyes, and golden hair that did nothing to make her paper white complexion look any better. I was, just at the moment, caught in the grip of one of my manias, and had a peculiar Latin phrase ringing in my head all day; it was, indeed, all I ever thought about, until it drove me very near madness. I, of course, found very little time to worry about poor Berenice, who gre sicker and more pale day by day.

I can well remember the horrible day, though, when my mania changed from one of constantly thinking about a peculiar Latin phrase, to one far more weird and terrible.

Berenice came into the room at just the proper time, her pale, ghostly face a haunting mask. I suddenly caught sight of her as I lifted my head from my book. We were in the library, and the evening sun was peeping behind the trees, sending slanting rays through the curtained windows. Oe of these weird rays of setting sunlight caught her face, painting it a ghastly, paper white color. Her eyes seemed to be dark pits of tragedy and despair, her skin was the color of cream, and her entire aspect was one of a person that was so deadly ill that their death seeme certain.

It was then–oh! God help me! I caugth sight of the thing that would conspire to haunt me with horror for the rest of my life.

It was her TEETH–those perfect, polished, hard teeth, thirty-two flawless teeth set in a mouth perfect and mocking with a deathly, doomed smile. They were the most exquisite teeth I had ever seen, and suddenly my diseased mind fixated on them, and I knew that, from now on, they would be all I would ever think about.

As strangely and silently as the pale, sickly, ghostly figure entered the dim library, she withdrew…and left me there, a sick man, condemned to sit and ponder the teeth! The Teeth! Her exquisite teeth!

It was not long after that dear, sweet cousin Berenice was forced to her bed. Then, as I was dozing in the library one evening, I suddenly heard the cry of the servants in the hall. I awoke to weeping and wailing–Berenice had died!

All preparations were made to bury her quickly. The service was small and consisted only of myself and the servants. Alas, I was now alone, with only my obsessive thoughts to keep me company.

Oh, but how the vision of those perfect, pearly white teeth tortured me so! Day and night, night and day, I could think of nothing else.

Finally, I think I simply went mad. Dozing one day in my library, with the ever-present book open upon my lap, I suddenly heard the familiar cry of the servants in the hall. Startled awake, I was shocked when the maid entered, and weeping said, “Oh sirI M’lady Berenice, she is alive! Someone has come and dug her up from her grave! She is shivering, and wrapped in her shroud, and covered in blood! But, oh! They have done a horrible thing to her, too!”

At this I felt the fog of madness and sleep lift from me, and raising my hands to my face, was astounded to see them covered in dirt, and blood! Shaking with fear, I suddenly spied a box on the table beside me. Moving my hand toward it, I accidentally, through my quaking fear, managed to upset it on the carpet.

Just as I feared, the ghastly contents spilled out onto the rug. There were a pair of rusted pliers, the sort used for dentistry.

And there were her thirty-two perfect, white TEETH.

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Books, Hardboiled, Mystic, Rants

Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard

One of the most controversial books ever written, Might is Right, penned by the mysterious Ragnar Redbeard in 1889, extolls the virtues of hardness, cruelty, cunning, danger, daring, power and control. A manual for conquering and controlling your enemies, Might is Right lays bare the forbidden secrets and ancient truths of a wise and forgotten past. Banned in several countries, this work has inspired such occult thaumaturgists as Anton LaVey, among many others. Bold, thunderous, written in a purple prose not ever encountered today, this controversial and scandalous tome is available once again. Lear the truths that many fear to know! (Note: The views expressed in Might is Right do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.)

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PURCHASE “MIGHT IS RIGHT”: http://www.lulu.com/shop/ragnar-redbeard/might-is-right/paperback/product-22290119.html

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Books, Fiction, Ghosts, Humor, Short Stories, short-short, Weird, Young Adult

The Oval Portrait by Poe (Retold by Tom Baker)

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Do you think that creating an image can actually steal the soul of the person for whom it is created? That is why certain tribes in primitive parts of the world refuse to have their photographs taken I am not sure the answer, either way, but read this story, and then you decide.

It was an ancient, gloomy pile of old stones in the Appenines, but I was so badly hurt that my servant had no choice but to bring me there. Finding the place deserted, he broke inside, and carried me in.
It looked as if the place had been recently deserted. The chairs and furnishings were dusty, but everything seemed livable enough. The furnishings were costly and ornate, and I was pleasantly surprised to see many fine portraits hanging from the wall.

We quickly found ourselves a place to settle down for the night, and my poor servant was so exhausted he immediately fell asleep on a couch. I crawled into the large canopied bed, but I could not sleep. So I grabbed a book, a book of family legends that explained what each of the portraits hanging on the wall were about.

I began to read. Suddenly, lightning flashed outside, and I looked up, startled.

Standing at the foot of my bed, at first hidden by the bedpost, was the most beautiful and ghostly woman I had ever seen! I nearly dropped the book in amazement. I crept forward to examine her. Then I realized something. She was only an image in a painting!

Oh, but she seemed so real, so life-like. I was amazed at the subtle touches of color, the incredible shading, and all else that went into making this one weird, eerie portrait seem so…real. It was as if you couod reach out and touch the woman inside the frame.

I quickly found the section of the book that described this painting, and everything that it represented. It was a most incredible and horrible story. I’ll tell it here.

The woman was in love with the most talented artist in all the land. He was so good his paintings seemed to take draw the life from their subjects, to literally become sort of have a little bit of their life or even their soul in them. He did his work with oh so careful attention to detail, and his every brushstroke was thought out and planned.

He always managed to work magic on the canvas.

Finally, after he had fallen in love with the young maiden, he decided that he must paint a portrait of her too, as she was one of the most beautiful women in all of the land. So he had her sit for him in the cold, drafty room, and, day after day, and often far into the night, he carefully, oh so carefully, painted the image of his love, transferring her looks from the woman who sat so patiently, week after week, to the canvas in front of him.

He worked in a shabby turret room, a drafty place of high ceilings. His poor, long-suffering wife soon became ill, but tried to conceal her coughing and hacking from him. He was so absorbed in his work, he never noticed anyway, barely taking his eyes off the canvas, transferring her image, slowly, oh so slowly.

Finally, after many weeks, he put the final touch on what he now considered to be his masterwork. It was so life-like, it was almost frightening to behold.

Throwing up his exhausted hands, he exclaimed, “This is life itself!”

He turned to his beloved with a smile.

He did not smile long.

She was dead.

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Books, Conspiracies, Hardboiled, Public Domain, Quotes, Rants

July 20th

To your enemy, power is always a zero sum game. Either you’re progressing, or you’re declining. Your enemy may make entreaties to you to be “fair”, “equitable”, or respect the (ahem) “equality” of all people. He or she may try to delude you with humanistic homilies and terse, moralistic platitudes. These are deceptions of the first water. While you are demoralized, with the symbols of your past in fritters and tatters, your enemy will move in and take control of you while you dissemble and quail. And this is not because he or she is a “bad” person, but only because human interaction demands that for every predator, there must, necessarily, be prey. There are sheep and wolves, and there are ravening wolves in the lily-livered garments of sheep. And these last are the most dangerous predators of all.

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Books, Fortean, Ghosts, Hardboiled, Humor, Murder, Short Stories, short-short, Urban Legends, Weird, Young Adult

Henry Ziegland’s Head

The story is often told that a man in 1883, who unceremoniously jilted his sweetheart at the altar, incurred the wrath of her doting brother when the young miss committed suicide. The young brother, quickly grabbing his sidearm, went in search of the faithless varlet, and found him, not surprisingly, on his own property.

(The scoundrel’s name, by the way, was Henry Ziegland.)

The jilted brother fired, believing he hit Henry in the face. Then, putting the gun ot his own head, he joined his suicided sister in death. Henry, for his part, was actually still alive–albeit, the bullet had grazed his face and planted itself in a nearby tree.

Twenty years went by, time enough for Henry to put the past behind him. To somehow FORGET.

However, as some sage prophet has remarked, a “dream deferred is, not necessarily, a dream denied.” Henry decided that he wished to uproot the monstrous huge tree on his property–the very tree that had seen fit to take a bullet for him so long ago.

A hair brained scheme to uproot the tree with an explosive charge of dynamite seems to have crawled itself into Henry’s backward brain. (Perhaps it is just as well for the suicided miss that Henry rejected her–of course, this ostensibly lead to her suicide, which was, most likely, NOT a reasonable course of action on her part; but we digress.)

Henry planted the charge, and, like a maroon stood conveniently close to the tree he had slated for destruction.

The tree exploded. The destructive force unleashed the bullet that had been fired into it and loged there twenty years earlier.

That bullet entered Henry Ziegland’s head.

Henry was killed instantly.

Justice deferred? Revenge reaching out from beyond the grave? Coincidence? The mad, mordant humor of Divine Retribution? Surely, we shall never know.

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Books, Dreams and Nightmares, Fortean, Ghosts, Hardboiled, Hauntings, Humor, Sightings, Spiritism, Urban Legends, Vampires, Weird, Young Adult

He Robbed Their Graves!

It was a hardscrabble life, and death, for Moroni Walker.

The young man, who had been imprisoned for killing a law officer, made good his escape from prison. Trying desperately to make his way out of Utah, however, he was unceremoniously dispatched from this hurting world by the sheriff’s posse. Such was the end of Moroni Walker. However, it was not the end of his story (although he would, understandably, be oblivious to further developments, as he was now stone dead).

His brother George, most definitely NOT a Mormon himself but a Man from The East, came to the Great Salt Lake region in order to exhume and return the corpse of his errant, outlaw brother to a spot closer to his kin. He didn’t understand the Mormon religion, of course; however, his request was granted. (Who, after all, cares much of anything about the corpse of a dead criminal?)

Opening the casket, George Walker was astounded to find his brother butt naked and lying face down. Scratching his buggy, sweaty mid-Nineteenth Century head, he must have wondered aloud, “How in tarnation did the feller get to be in such a right disreputable state?”

He went to the laws, who put a “stake out” (or whatever they called it at the time) on the cemetery…as their suspicions rested almost entirely on one man–Jean Baptiste, the sexton.

They caught Jean eventually a-trundling a wheelbarrow full of clothing from a recently opened grave–and, looking in the bushes, found even more clothing!

Quickly collaring him, and leading him home, they found his haggard old crone of a wife (we are only guessing, but can you really imagine such a man being married to an attractive, young, care free debutante?) in the basement, boiling the clothes from rifled graves to get the nits and bugs out.

In a number of crates, they found even more corpse clothes, and funereal fobs. Valuables and trinkets taken from–the Dead!

Jean Baptiste was placed in prison quickly, while a lynch mob formed outside demanding that the grave robbing varlet, “Be hung by his wretched neck until he’s as dead as any he ever robbed!”

“Kill him! String him up by his yellow dog neck!”

“Naw, hangin’s too good for him! He oughter be drawn and quartered!”

“Burn him alive, I say!”

(We’re exercising some literary creativity here, of course, but you get the picture.)

Others, devout Mormons, were more worried about the state of their relatives bodies at the Resurrection:

“Will those poor people go to meet God in the nude?”

(Brigham Young assured them, most assuredly, THEY WOULD NOT. Moroni Walker could not be reached for comment.)

The police allayed the public fears by putting the massive piles of clothes and jewels into one monstrous crate and burying it in the same cemetery; where, presumably, it would be within easy reach when the Judgment Trump was sounded.

As for Jean Baptiste, he copped to the whole business, and even admitted to selling jewels and baubles of the dead to local thrift stores. It was assumed he robbed, perhaps, 350 graves. Alas, no trial transcript survives.

The authorities were not going to hang a man for merely rifling graves–although, as far as that era went, jsutice flowed pretty hard and swift, typically. Instead, they branded him with a hot iron (ouch!) and sent him to a nearby island–in exile.

Later, a visitation to the outcast criminal by two watchmen yielded an astonishing find. Mr. Baptiste, it seemed, had flown the coop. Strips of cowhide and planks of wood lead many to believe that the erstwhile grave robber had escaped the weight of his infamy, fleeing into the unknown, seeking a final try at freedom.

(Later, a skeletonized corpse was found at the mouth of a nearby river, wearing the putative “ball and chain” of legend and lore. Though many claimed these remains to be the corpse of Jen Baptiste, his jailers attested to the fact that, though he was stranded on the island a prisoner, he was in fact NOT wearing any leg manacles at the time. Would have been hard for him to have survived otherwise, no?)

The Great Salt Lake, which is so shallow it reaches to only 27 feet in some spots, is one of the largest and saltiest bodies of water in the world. On its eastern bank, a strange sight has been reported.

A lonely figure, enshrouded in rotting cloth, or clothing, or the cerements of the grave, chained forever, like Marley’s ghost, to the remnants of his earthly sin, is said to trudge the edge of the water, forever living out the purgatorial punishment he brought upon his own head by defiling the graves (and, perhaps the bodies?) of the defenseless dead. He is now one of them–but they could hardly be said to smile about that, all things considered?

Now, can YOU smile at our terrible tale? Well, CAN YOU?

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Books, Dreams and Nightmares, Experimental, Fiction, Humor, Short Stories, short-short, surreal, Weird, Young Adult

The Ko-Kos

“How awful for us that we’re made of chocolate!” cried the two strange little men, as they drip, drip, dripped across the burning sand. Alice felt fairly certain she knew, under the circumstances, what exactly to do. She went in search of an oversized cup.

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