Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Article: “The Last Convicted Witch” by Catherine Cavendish + mini-review of The Malan Witch @cat_cavendish #themalanwitch #witches #horror

Today, one of my favorite gothic and witch lore authors Catherine Cavendish, joins us! For many years Cat’s books have always been a go-to when I just need to be absorbed in a really good story. I’m a fan of the gothic and witch subgenres, so they usually fit the bill. She writes really atmospheric supernatural and ghost stories as well.

The Malan Witch was a fast read for me, broken up between an hour or so each night before bed. Probably not the best idea in retrospect to be reading in the dark, but I’ve made sure my horseshoe is in proper form above my doorframe and salt is sprinkled on my windowsills. The Malan Witch is such a fast read because Cat writes with a pace that propels you through the page, and though uses superb descriptions, also creates a story not bogged down by them. The ending really ignited some scary action and twists and turns, leaving me perplexed, but then easily wrapped it up for me in satisfying fashion. And it also opened the door for a child character to be a fully formed character in a series of books. I sure hope that’s in the works!

Check out her guest article today about a real life famous UK medium – what a story – who for conducting seances was tried with the witchcraft act!!

Then check out the details for her next book about two scary witches, burned in the Tudor times, and how they’re spirits have come back to haunt a grieving widow in the modern times who goes to spend time in the cottage on the site in which it occurred.

The Last Convicted Witch
by Catherine Cavendish, Author of The Malan Witch

pic 1 (3)

To many, she was just another Scottish housewife, but Helen Duncan was regarded as a notorious charlatan by some and a martyr by others. So who was this unprepossessing lady who had Parliament in a spin right in the middle of World War II?

Helen Duncan was born in Callender, in Scotland on 25th November 1897 and, from an early age, was noted for her apparent ability to connect to the spirit world and, through the act of mediumship, convey their messages. She was also noted for her apparent ability to emit vast quantities of ectoplasm – an ability that later led to much ridicule and condemnation.

She married young – at the age of 20 – and her twelve pregnancies resulted in just six surviving children. Her husband, who was a cabinet maker, had been injured in World War I, so Helen was a much-needed breadwinner. She worked at the local bleach factory during the day and conducted Spiritualist sittings by night, earning a small amount of cash in the process. It is reported that she would often use these funds to help her friends and neighbours – who were in similar dire financial circumstances to herself – by paying their medical bills.

pic 2

Helen gained a reputation for her accuracy and, by 1931, she was making her living conducting seances up and down the country. She was a minister to a number of Spiritualist churches. But things began to go badly wrong. She was publicly denounced as a fraud by the Morning Post and the London Psychic Laboratory. Then, in 1934, Helen was prosecuted by the Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court as a ‘fraudulent medium,’ for which she received a £10 fine and a month’s prison sentence.

Undeterred by this unpleasant experience, Helen continued to practice, but chose to transfer herself to Portsmouth during World War II. This was where the Royal Navy was based, and it led directly to trial at the Old Bailey.

During a seance, through her spirit guide Albert, she claimed to pick up the spirit of a sailor who announced that he had just gone down with HMS Barham.

pic 3 (4)

The only problem here was that the sinking of that ship wasn’t made public until many months later and certainly wasn’t in the public domain at the time of her séance. Whether this was a product of genuine mediumship, or something more sinister (as some alleged), it was certainly enough to bring her to the attention of the authorities. On 19th January 1944, one of her séances was raided by police. She and three members of her audience were arrested.

Eventually, she was prosecuted under section 4 of the archaic Witchcraft Act of 1735, which carried a maximum twelve month prison sentence. At that trial, her supporters rallied round and raised funds to bring witnesses from all over the country – many of them pillars of the community – all prepared to testify to the authenticity of her séances. As to whether she produced ectoplasm, (or cheesecloth, as had been alleged by the prosecution), one witness stated that the substance could not possibly be cloth as, if so, its colour would have changed under the red light of a séance room. Far from it, attested Hannen Swaffer, respected journalist and co-founder of the Psychic News. In Helen Duncan’s case, the manifestations remained uniformly white.

pic 4 (4)

The trial resulted in daily, sensational newspaper headlines and, it was even proposed (by the defence) to put Helen into a trance and let the jury see for themselves what transpired. This caused a furore among the prosecution lawyers. Supposing, somehow, she managed to pull it off? Or worse, if she didn’t, the whole British legal system would be held up to ridicule. They declined.

Helen was found guilty and, after some debate, her sentence was set to nine months incarceration under the Witchcraft Act, for pretending ‘to exercise or use human conjuration that through the agency of Helen Duncan spirits of deceased persons should appear to be present.’ She was also charged with offences under the Larceny Act for taking money ‘by falsely pretending that she was in a position to bring about the appearances of the spirits of deceased persons.’ She served her sentence in the notorious Holloway women’s prison.

pic 5

So, she became the last person in Britain to be jailed under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, but not the last to be convicted under it. That dubious privilege was left to the septuagenarian Sara Rebecca Yorke, who was tried in late 1944, but was bound over and received a fine, in view of her advancing years.

Although she is often called ‘the last witch,’ Helen was never specifically tried as a witch. The Act of 1735 had done away with the barbaric practices of the past that had resulted in such travesties of justice as the Lancaster Witch Trials of 1612 (aped by those in Salem, Massachusetts eighty years later).

pic 6

Helen’s infamous trial did, however, provide a catalyst for much needed change. A political campaign was begun, supported by Winston Churchill, who had described the charges against Helen Duncan as, ‘obsolete tomfoolery.’ Churchill himself had long held a serious interest in spiritualism, inherited from his American mother, the charismatic Jennie Jerome (who became Lady Randolph Churchill on her marriage to Winston’s father). Finally, the campaigners succeeded and the Act was repealed in 1951, to be replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, which is still in place today.

As for Helen, she was released from prison in September 1944, but never managed to slip entirely under the police radar. In 1956, they raided a séance when she was in mid-trance. Generally regarded as a spectacularly dangerous thing to do, they manhandled her while in this trance-state and took her away. She was said to exhibit second degree burns and was bleeding from her mouth. As a diabetic, with a heart condition, she was sent back home but was later rushed to hospital.

Helen Duncan died thirty-six days later.

So was she – as some have alleged – a spy? Was she a genuine medium? Or was she a most accomplished clever fake? Opinions were, are, and will always be, divided. Those who believe will believe and those who do not, will never be convinced.

_______________________________

Read Cat’s latest work now!

pic 7

‘Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs.’

 An idyllic coastal cottage near a sleepy village. What could be more perfect? For Robyn Crowe, borrowing her sister’s recently renovated holiday home for the summer seems just what she needs to deal with the grief of losing her beloved husband.

But behind those pretty walls lie many secrets, and legends of a malevolent sisterhood – two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped there. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way.

And the crow has returned.

You can order The Malan Witch here:

Amazon

pic 8Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include The Garden of Bewitchment. The Haunting of Henderson Close, the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

In addition to The Malan Witch, her novellas include The Darkest Veil, Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

Her short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies including Silver Shamrock’s Midnight in the Graveyard, and her story The Oubliette of Élie Loyd will appear in their forthcoming Midnight in the Pentagram, to be published in October this year.

She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.

You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

MeWe

Editor’s Note: All photographs were supplied by the author.

5 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Posts, women in horror

Guest Article: Seeing Doubles by Gothic Fiction Author Tracy Fahey #WiHM #womeninhorror #gothic

Welcome back to another segment in the small Women in Horror (WiHM) Series I’m running as we prepare to usher out February. Today, I have a guest article from Irish Gothic writer Tracy Fahey. I think most of you know how I myself feel about Gothic work, both in my own reading, writing, and study. I’m all in, so I’m pleased to present this to readers on my site today.

In 2017, Tracy’s debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. In 2019, her short story, ‘That Thing I Did’ received an Honourable Mention by Ellen Datlow in her The Best Horror of the Year Volume 11, with five stories on Datlow’s Recommended Reading list for 2019. Her short fiction is published in over twenty-five Irish, US, and UK anthologies. She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing has been published in edited collections and journals.

Today, she talks about the lastest installment of her work and her infatuation with doubles. That’s right, check this out twice if you find that uncanny. Join us!

______________________________________

Unheimlich Manoeuvres: Doubling Up On The Uncanny
by Tracy Fahey, author of Unheimlich Manoeuvres

I’m obsessed with doubles. They fascinate me. Doppelgängers. Twins. Fetches. Reflections. Mirror images. In a world where so much is made of the virtue of individuality, what is more terrifying than the idea that you exist elsewhere? Or the notion that you are somehow (even worse) divided within yourself? This is something that’s been a recurrent theme in my writing. In March 2020 my publishers, the Sinister Horror Company are releasing two collections, the third, deluxe edition of The Unheimlich Manoeuvre and the chapbook Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, both of which explore the idea of the uncanny double. But why this fascination? It’s been a long-running obsession.

As a child I followed Alice through the looking glass into the shadow-world beyond, and consequently spent hours in front of my own bathroom mirror, watching my image closely for signs of tell-tale deviation. As a teenager I devoured Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr Hyde and savoured the queer thrill that came from contemplating a truly double life; one where the very self was sundered and broken, one where the self was plunged in a morass of unease, unable to even remember what the divided self had done. Later I would become absorbed in Ira Levin’s tales of replaced women (Stepford Wives) and clones (The Boys From Brazil). Movies fed and continue to feed this obsession with uncanny doubles: Invasion of the Body Snatchers with its narratives of paranoia and pod-people, Coraline, the sublimely uncanny tale of a doubled, ‘other’ world. More recently, there’s been It Follows, a clever, twisted movie where contagion rages and no-one is what they seem, and of course, Jordan Peele’s Us, the horror of which is almost entirely premised on otherness and doppelgangers. Us doesn’t entirely work—it suffers from an excess of ideas—but when it does, it is magnificent. Who can forget that superlative, long shot of the shadow-family standing silently at the foot of the driveway? Those unmoving, dark silhouettes that equate exactly to the panic-stricken five looking at them—it’s a marvellous, and utterly uncanny moment.

US JP

But why is the double such a terrifying figure? Well, firstly because embodies the very definition of the uncanny – Freud’s 1919 essay on ‘The Uncanny’ refers to ‘Schelling’s definition of the uncanny as something which ought to have been kept concealed but which has nevertheless come to light.’ He also discusses specifically the idea of the double, and Otto Rank’s ‘Der Doppelgänger’ which outlines the various modes of double from mirror-image to shadows, souls and to Egyptian sculpture as funerary repository of ka, or spirit. Freud points out that the double profoundly upsets our sense of self—it becomes an object of terror.

In both the new edition of The Unheimlich Manoeuvre, and in the accompanying chapbook Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, I want to thoroughly explore the different dimensions of the uncanny, using the unifying trope of the Gothic home. A significant part of this was exploring the double. In doing this, I was not only drawn by Rank, Jentsch and Freud’s writings on the doppelgänger, but on the uncanny double that haunts Irish folklore, the fetch a double that appears at the moment of death to fetch the soul away. And so, images of the dark, mirrored self flow through the stories. There’s the theme of the self divided by illness in ‘Coming Back’ and ‘Something Nasty In The Woodshed.’ There’s a doppelgänger that flits through the pages of ‘Ghost Estate, Phase II.’ There’s an examination of twin as uncanny double in ‘I Look Like You, I Speak Like You, I Walk Like You.’ In both chapbook and new edition, there’s also an additional story, ‘The Wrong House’; a tale populated by troubling doubles of the protagonist, his wife and his daughter, and a previously unpublished story, ‘Possession,’ where the main character feels her sense of self erode in the anxiety that arises from that most terrifying of all possibilities—that she no longer knows who exactly she is.

So, welcome to my nightmares. I invite you into my world where nothing is as it seems, a world where every mirror image is charged with a dark power, a world where we may (or may not) exist in multiple, fractured forms. For me, the double continues to be a haunting and compelling evocation of the uncanny. Given that our sense of self, how we perceive ourselves, is a corner-stone of our mental health, the idea of the uncanny double is one of the most terrifying concepts in horror literature.

As the protagonist of one of my unheimlich stories puts it:

“I look like you. I speak like you. I walk like you.

But I’m not you”

The Unehimlich Manoevure –

The Unheimlih Manoeuvre Deluxe EditionIn 2020, the deluxe edition of The Unehimlich Manoevure will be released together with a companion chapbook of new material, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, both published by the Sinister Horror Company. Both contain a new essay, ‘Creative Evocations of Uncanny Domestic Space,’ five new stories, a print and piece entitled ‘Remembering Wildgoose Lodge,’ and complete story notes on all nineteen stories in this new edition.

The Unheimlich Manoeuvre explores the psychological horror that occurs when home is subverted as a place of safety, when it becomes surreal, changes and even disappears…

In these stories, a coma patient wakes to find herself replaced by a doppelgänger, a ghost state reflects doubles of both houses and inhabitants, a suburban enclave takes control of its trespassers, and a beaten woman exacts revenge.

Unheimlich Manoeuvres in the DarkJust as the Heimlich Manoeuvre restores order, health and well-being, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre does quite the opposite.

This new edition contains revised versions of the original stories and a brand new tale, “Something Nasty In The Woodshed.”

Praise –

“A modern-day gothic whose Kafkaesque otherworldly stories are beautifully disturbing.” – Lol Tolhurst, The Cure

“It is, quite simply, pure art, and we can only wonder what works this writer will produce in the coming years.” – This Is Horror

“This a very assured first collection…. Although there are twists, Tracy Fahey never plays for cheap shocks.” – Priya Sharma, Shirley Jackson Award winner

Tracy Fahey, Biography –

Tracy Fahey photoTracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction.  In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. In 2019, her short story, ‘That Thing I Did’ received an Honourable Mention by Ellen Datlow in her The Best Horror of the Year Volume 11, with five stories on Datlow’s Recommended Reading list for 2019. Her short fiction is published in over twenty-five Irish, US and UK anthologies.

She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing has been published in edited collections and journals. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece. Her first novel, The Girl in the Fort, was released in 2017. Her second collection, New Music For Old Rituals, collects together her folk horror stories and was released in 2018 by Black Shuck Books.

In 2020, the deluxe edition of The Unehimlich Manoevure will be released together with a companion chapbook of new material, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, both published by the Sinister Horror Company. Both contain a new essay, ‘Creative Evocations of Uncanny Domestic Space,’ five new stories, a print and piece entitled ‘Remembering Wildgoose Lodge,’ and complete story notes on all nineteen stories in this new edition.

More information at her website www.tracyfahey.com

Thanks to Tracy for this wonderful article and to all of you for reading along in this #wihm series. Stay tuned for one or two more and then I’ll announce something I’ll be doing for women in horror all year round.

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts, HookonWiHM, women in horror

Guest Article: Witch and Spirit Bottles by Pamela K. Kinney #WiHM #witches

I love to read historical articles online and recently I came across an article, I believe in Smithsonian online magazine, about witch bottles being uncovered. Then I saw them talking about it on the site for College of William and Mary: Civil War Era Jug Rare Witch Bottle. The photo here is from this find/article. A few days later I saw a writer friend I knew posting about witch bottles being found as well and I was intrigued. I know Pamela to be very much a knowledge of the haunted and supernatural in Virginia, so I asked her if she might write an article for my site which I’d post for women in horror month.

witchbottle475

From article at above link: Witch bottle:  Given the artifact’s contents and context, William & Mary archaeologists believe this Civil War-era jug is likely a rare ritual item known as a “witch bottle.” Witch bottles served as a kind of talisman to ward off evil spirits.  Photo by Robert Hunter

Thanks very much to Pamela for her time in this. Voila – enjoy!

Witch Bottles and Spirit Bottles
by Pamela K. Kinney

Witch Bottles:

In 2016, archeologists unearthed a blue bottle filled with nails near the hearth of a Civil War fort, Redoubt 9, which today is known as exits 238 to 242 of I-64 in York County. They conducted the dig, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation, and it took place before VDOT’s planned interstate widening project. What is left of Redoubt 9 now rests in the median of Interstate I-64. Although constructed by Confederates, Union troops occupied it after the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862. The fortification was one of 14 mini forts around Fort Magruder, built along a line between the James and York rivers to counter the threat of a Federal assault on Richmond via the Peninsula.

Records suggested that Redoubt 9 was occupied by the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry alternately between May 1862 and August 1863. This Calvary was the same regiment held responsible for the burning of the Wren building (College of William and Mary). They likely occupied Redoubt 9 only during periods of strife, such as Confederate raids, when the Union hold on Williamsburg was at risk. Union soldiers occupied enemy territory most of the war, and no doubt, felt threatened by and needed to ward off malevolent spirits and energy. And witch bottles were the type of things people used during times of famine, political strife, or feeling under threat (which the Union soldiers were feeling). It may not be the men but an officer who did this, using folk traditions from his community back in Pennsylvania as they determined that the bottle was created in Pennsylvania between 1840 and 1860.

At first, the archeologists thought it was used by Union soldiers to collect nails, as they were building up that fortification. But then, they figured out it was a “witch bottle,” one of less than a dozen found in the United States (unlike 200 discovered in the British Isles), according to William and Mary. Of course, as the top of the bottle was broken, causing any urine in it to have dried, there’s no telling if this is an actual witch’s bottle. But Joe Jones, director of the William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research, believes the vessel to be one.

An afflicted person who believed ‘witches’ were causing his/her problem or sickness, buried the nail-filled bottle under or near their hearth, with the idea that the heat from the hearth would energize the nails into breaking a witch’s spell. Besides nails, one would place the sick or attacked person’s urine in the bottle with brass pins, locks of hair, nail clippings, and a piece of lead, too. The belief back then was that the witches would be grievously tormented, unable to make their water with great difficulty. The theory was that the witch created a magical link with his/her victim and doing the witch’s bottle reversed it back to the witch, using the victim’s body products. The witch had to break the link to save herself, and the victim recovered.

In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, witch bottles would also be filled with rosemary and red wine besides needles and pins, and the individual would bury the bottle at the farthest corner of their property, beneath the house hearth, or placed in an inconspicuous spot in the house. It was believed that these specific bottles would capture the evil, which would then be impaled on the pins and needles, drowned by the wine, and sent away by the rosemary. Some witch’s bottles were thrown into a fire, and when they exploded, that broke the spell, or the witch supposedly killed.

The recipe was still known in a Norfolk village in England in 1939: Take a stone bottle, make water in it, and fill it with one’s toenails and fingernails, iron nails, and anything which belongs to you. Hang the bottle over the fire and keep stirring it. It must be dark in the room, and you can’t speak or make any noise. Then the witch is supposed to come to your door and beg you to open the door and let her in. If you keep silent and ignore her, the witch will burst. Folklore says that the strain on the mind of the person when the witch begs to be allowed in is usually so great that the person breaks down and speaks. Then the witch is set free.

In London, England, seventeenth-century pottery jugs of the kind called ‘greybeards’ .or ‘bellarmines’ were found buried in ditches or streams. They contained bent nails and felt hearts stuck with pins. In Essex and Suffolk, others had been discovered, underneath the hearths or thresholds of houses. Later, cheap glass bottles would be used in the same way.

Also, put into witch bottles were fishing hooks, human teeth, and glass shards–like in the one found in an English pub’s chimney November of 2019. Others have contained things like brimstone (sulfur), and even belly button lint. In some bottles, the pins are inside loose, but in others, they are carefully arranged in felt or cloth hearts. The inclusion of sulfur was thought to be particularly damning to the witch and was reserved for those that the afflicted wanted not just gone, but dead. Other bottles were carried as amulets meant to ward off disease and illness.

A good author friend of mine, Deborah Painter, let me take a picture of the witch bottle she had that her archeologist father had found. Besides hers, when I took a tour of Ferry Plantation in Pungo, Virginia (an area of Virginia Beach), I viewed the witch bottle on display in the house. Both Debbie’s and Ferry Plantation’s were found in Pungo.

Debbie Painters Witch Bottle (1)

Debbie Painter’s witch bottle. Photo used with permission by Pamela K. Kinney.

Other ways that Virginians protected themselves against witches. The first three were a mixture of Celtic and African American lore.

  1. Leave a bowl of salt outside your door, as they claimed that witches love to count the grains. A witch will sit down and count each grain. By the time she/he finishes, it will be morning, and you will be safe. (Ditto with a broom, for the witch, will count the broom straws.) Strangely enough, this is mentioned in myths about vampires too.
  2. Hang a used horseshoe above your door. Before a witch enters the house, she must go down every road the horse traveled when he wore that shoe. By the time she finishes, the dawn will be on its way, and you’ll be safe.
  3. Witches hated blue because it was the color of heaven. African Americans, especially in South Carolina and Georgia, painted the trim of their homes blue for protection.

Witches are as much a part of Virginia’s history and folklore as anywhere else. There are historic homes in Virginia with witch doors—crosses carved on the paneled doors to keep the witches away. There is even a rumor of a witch that lets off a green light as he/she flies through the trees in the Old House Woods in Mathews, Virginia. In Stafford, there is a trail off Telegraph Road that leads to a place called Witches Pond. There is supposed to be a sacrifice table there used in the 1700s with letters in Latin carved on it, with numerous sightings of a woman seen near it. I found online that someone posted that there was a witch’s creek where Aquia Harbor is now. And real people were accused of witchcraft, one of them, Grace Sherwood, was pardoned by Governor Kaine in 2006. Of course, to avoid a debacle like Salem, they passed laws to stop people from accusing someone of witchcraft, by being fined. It appeared to work, as only one witch was proven hung in Virginia and that on a ship off the shore from Jamestown in the 1600s Not just in Hampton Roads area were witch bottles used, but in the Appalachians, which one can count in western and particularly, southwestern section of Virginia.

How to Make Your Own Witch Bottle:

I found on one website how one can make a witch bottle today. You put the pins/sharp objects and personal effects into the bottle. Add urine over the pins and personal effects and close the jar/bottle with the lid. Burn the black candle on top of the jar (be careful! Don’t leave the candle unattended. Allow the wax to spill onto the top of the jar, as this will seal your intentions. Burn the candle all the way down.) Or the Optional Step: you can “heat” the bottle by holding it over an open bonfire (this adds more oomph but isn’t required). Dig a hole on your property a foot or so deep. Its best by the front door OR by your bedroom window. Bury your witch bottle with candle remnants. The whole time you’re visualizing any evil being sucked into the witch bottle and trapped for eternity, leave the witch bottle, and never dig it back up.

Spirit Bottles:

Another reason that blue bottles were used was due to the African traditions brought to the South with the slaves. It is close to what witch bottles were used for—capturing a spirit attacking the person. The belief and use of spirit bottles go back to the 9th and 10th century Congo, where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. The thought being an evil spirit would see the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles and growing enamored, enter the bottle. Like a fly, the ghost becomes trapped within the bottle, dazzled by the play of light, trapped for all eternity. Well, unless the bottle gets broken. This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves of the 17th and 18th centuries. While Europeans adapted them into hollow glass spheres known as “witch balls,” the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the Southern states of North America, where they continue to be used today as colorful garden ornaments. For a long time, the use of spirit bottles, even spells due to them, could be found among the African American people. In the New World, the bottle-as-talisman took on different forms.

Like witch bottles traced as far back to the 1600s, these spirit bottles were used in spellwork. All colors, shapes, and sizes filled with herbs and other items of significance, for protection, repelling evil, or attracting luck. Eventually, the bottle spell became a fundamental element of Hoodoo magic.

Today, all sorts of people have these bottle trees in their yard. Usually, in the United States, they could be seen in the country or along the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, though nowadays they are all over, not just these four states. And not just blue bottles, either!

Getting spirits into bottles and even jars exist in many places of the world. There are jars and bottles for housing the spirits of dead babies in Thailand and called Guman Thong. There’s the lamp holding the genie in Aladdin. The Djinn have also been captured in rings and bottles, too. There’s even “The Spirit in the Bottle,” a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. You can read a horror short story of mine, “Bottled Spirits,” published at Buzzymag.com. I was researching bottle trees, and I thought it would make a great ghost story. It made runner up in the WSFA Small Press Award in 2013 and is considered one of seven best genre stories for that year.

Making Your Own Bottle Tree:

Find a sturdy tree or stump with branches, like traditionally used crepe myrtles and cedars trees, but pretty much any kind of tree will work. Trim all of the foliage off and cut the branches down until you have as many bare branches as you have bottles. Then slid your bottles onto the branches.

A variation is to take a fallen branch and prune it the same fashion, making a portable tree. Plant it outside of your home. Like near the entrance, in the garden, or wherever you want it in your yard. Slip the bottles onto the branches. A third way is finding a large branch or stump, tying two bottles at a time with shoelaces over the branches, so they hang from the tree. And here’s a tip: If you put a little oil on the bottlenecks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker.

Witch bottles are one interesting facet of witches, showing us how ordinary people used to protect themselves against them. And with the latest one found in a Civil War fort and even places online showing how to make one today, or also put together a bottle tree to capture spirits, the folklore of our ancestors still haunts us, even in this modern technological 21st Century!

Pamela K. Kinney, Info –

Pamela KinneyPamela K. Kinney is an award-winning published author of horror, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and a ghost wrangler of non-fiction ghost books published by Schiffer Publishing. Among others two of her non-fiction ghost books were nominated for Library of Virginia Awards.

She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association and the local Virginia chapter.

She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house, husband, and even the cat sometimes suffer for it!

Find out about Pamela K. Kinney’s books (horror, fantasy, and science fiction fiction and nonfiction ghost books), short stories, and anthologies she has stories included in at her Website, plus at her AMAZON page.

Facebook Twitter

Haunted VA

You can find out more about witches of Virginia, witch bottles, and more in a chapter in Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales, available from Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales.

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts, women in horror

Guest Article: Rachel Rebecca – The Ghost Who Haunted Me by Catherine Cavendish #promotehorror #hauntings #TheDarkestVeil

Hey all! Today we have a familiar face in writer friend Catherine Cavendish, who also happens to be one of my favorite authors. I love when Cat stops by with her guest articles – she has many times over the years here. A couple years ago I read her novel The Darkest Veil as an editor hoping to acquire for an indie press I was working for, but unfortunately, as with several manuscripts, I couldn’t get a chance to receive answers as the press was delaying all things. I’d have LOVED to work on and publish this book – I love it! I WAS able to acquire and serve as her editor on a short story for the anthology I co-edited, Haunted are These Houses, and it was a pleasure. Maybe one day I’ll get to work with Cat again!

Long story short, it’s a great book, as most all of Cat’s books, and I’m so glad that Crossroads Press picked it up to publish for her! It’s available now and I highly recommend it if you like gothic, haunting reads as I do. Check out this spine tingling article about the ghost who attached to her and then pick up The Darkest Veil!

Rachel Rebecca – The Ghost Who Haunted Me
by Catherine Cavendish, author of The Darkest Veil

pic 1 (2)

She attached herself to me – and that really is the only way I can describe the ‘latched on’ feeling that would swarm over me whenever I sensed she was around. I heard her name variously as ‘Rachel’ or ‘Rebecca’ until I became convinced that she possessed both those names, so Rachel Rebecca she became.

The year was 1973 and I was living in a small flat in Leeds. Not much more than a bedsit really, in a converted Victorian terraced house. Four other girls lived in the building, so why Rachel should choose to attach herself to me is a mystery I have never solved.

At first, she was a movement out of the corner of my eye that I couldn’t quite grab hold of. Then silly little things like tin openers, a hairbrush and spoons would disappear. I lived alone. No-one had a key to my flat and none of these items would reappear. It was as if some black hole had opened up and swallowed them. Now and again, the pre-remote control TV would change channel – on one occasion flicking through each of the three available stations before settling back on the original one.

Needless to say, I told no one.

Then I was promoted at work. Time to find a larger apartment and leave Rachel Rebecca behind. Or so I thought.

“Who’s that little girl?” my new boyfriend asked, three weeks after I’d moved into my lovely, shiny new flat.

I nearly dropped the bottle of Chianti I was pouring.

“What little girl?”

“The one over there, by the door. She’s smiling at you. Looks to me like she wants to play.”

pic 2 - credit Equinox Paranormal

Photo Credit: Equinox Paranormal

As if on cue, a small drinks mat slid off the table, which was easily within reach of where John had said she was standing.

I set the bottle carefully down on the sideboard. “Can you describe her?”

“She’s about ten or eleven, with long dark hair, in ringlets, and looks like she stepped off one of those Victorian Christmas cards.”

I took a deep breath. “Is her name Rachel? Did she follow me here from Mexborough Close?”

John shook his head. “Sorry, she faded out as you were talking.”

After that, things began to disappear out of drawers and off the mantelpiece, just as they had in my previous flat. Only this time, I heard girlish laughter when I knew there was no one around. I would feel a strong presence standing next to me in the kitchen and, when I turned to see who it was, a breeze fluttered my hair as if someone had rushed past me.

My relationship with John didn’t last the course and, in any case, he only ever saw her on that one occasion, so he couldn’t help with any more information.

Gradually things quieted down. Sometimes weeks would go by and nothing happened. Then I moved again. This time away from Leeds. But Rachel came with me.

I went to a service at the local Spiritualist Church, and the guest speaker connected with me. She described the little girl exactly as John had. She told me that children who pass over into the spirit world continue to behave as earthly children and this little girl was no different. She was mischievous and I must talk to her and tell her to behave. Then, with no prompting from me, the speaker said she heard the names ‘Rachel’ and ‘Rebecca’.

man trapped inside television

A few months later, I was watching my new TV, with its remote control next to me. Suddenly its red function light started flickering – something it would only do if a key was depressed. The volume started to rise.

“Stop it, Rachel! That’s very naughty. You are not to play with the remote control, do you understand?” It was the first – and only – time I spoke to her. The remote switched to ‘mute’.

Weeks of silence drifted into months. I moved to another city. This time Rachel didn’t follow me and I have neither heard nor experienced her since. I’ve often wondered where, and why, she went.

My new novella, The Darkest Veil, draws on the locations of my first encounters with Rachel Rebecca although there the similarity ends.

Eventually, I moved to a haunted building with a very different ghost but that, as they say, is a whole other story…

pic 4 (3)

We are the Thirteen and we are one

 4 Yarborough Drive looked like any other late 19th century English townhouse. Alice Lorrimer feels safe and welcomed there, but soon discovers all is not as it appears to be. One of her housemates flees the house in terror. Another disappears and never returns. Then there are the sounds of a woman wailing, strange shadows and mists, and the appearance of the long-dead Josiah Underwood who founded a coven there many years earlier. The house is infested with his evil, and Alice and her friends are about to discover who the Thirteen really are.

When death’s darkest veil draws over you, then shall shadows weep

The Darkest Veil is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

pic 5 (2)Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. In addition to The Darkest Veil, Cat’s novels include The Haunting of Henderson Close, the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.

You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

MeWe

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Posts, women in horror

Guest Article: Writing Real Historical Figures Into Historical Fantasy with Judith Starkston

Last week I reviewed Judith Starkston’s first book in her new historical fantasy series about Tesha, a priestess and queen from the Bronze Age. I really enjoyed Priestess of Ishana (see my review here if you missed it) and felt it was the great start to a wonderful series. It published last year and now the second book, Sorcery in Alpara, is available today (see info below under the guest article)! Judith kindly has stopped by to talk about how she modeled Tesha off a real life queen. Isn’t that exciting? To history nerds, myself it is!! Take a look at that beautiful cover for book two and then enjoy the article.

Sorcery cover - 500x750px

 

The Queen Behind the Character
By Judith Starkston, author of Priestess of Ishana

I write historical fantasy based on the Bronze Age Hittites (c. 1275 BCE)—an empire of the ancient Near East nearly buried by the sands of time. In spite of the vivid glimpses of this lost kingdom brought to light by recent archaeology and the decipherment and translation of many thousands of clay tablets, there still remain vast gaps in historians’ knowledge. To be honest about my imaginative filling of those gaps, my storytelling combines fantasy and history.

For instance, I give my historical figures fictional names, though often only minimally different from their real names. I also let the magical religious beliefs of these historical people find full expression in the action. My “quarter turn to the fantastic,” to borrow Guy Gavriel Kay’s phrase, allows me to honor what we actually know while also owning up to my inventive extensions. Allowing room for the fantastical elements suggested by Hittite culture makes for the best storytelling.

What really drew me to this forgotten kingdom—one that stretched across what’s now Turkey into Syria and down into Lebanon—was one remarkable ruler, Queen Puduhepa. She ruled for decades over the most powerful empire of the Late Bronze Age, but because the Hittites were lost to history for so long, very few people know about her.

Puduhepa

King Hattusili III and Puduhepa / Wiki Commons

She ruled with her husband Hattusili III as an equal partner—often, in fact, as the more active ruler when her husband’s health limited his work. Queens under Hittite law and custom had high political power and remained rulers even when their husbands died, unlike other Near Eastern queens such as Babylonian and Egyptian. Most of the Hittite queens mentioned in the written Hittite records didn’t exercise this allowed power to such an extent, but Puduhepa had the personality and drive of a highly effective leader.

In my novels the character who represents Puduhepa is named Tesha after the Hittite word for ‘dream’ because the historic woman was famous for her visionary dreams, which she believed came from the goddess Ishtar as divine guidance (a goddess renamed Ishana in my fiction). The character of her husband, Hattusili, goes by the shortened name Hattu.

Puduhepa demonstrated brilliant skills as queen in many areas: administrative, diplomatic, judicial, and familial. Her most famous accomplishment was corralling Pharaoh Rameses II into a peace treaty. Egypt and the Hittites had fought a draining war in 1274 BCE. Neither kingdom was eager for a rematch, but Hattusili and Puduhepa had an even greater need than Egypt for stability. Several of Puduhepa’s letters to Ramses survive. They reveal a subtle diplomat with a tough but gracious core that allows her to stand up to Ramses without giving offense. When the final treaty was put on public display—in the form of a solid silver plaque, which sadly does not survive, although clay versions do—Puduhepa’s own seal was on one side, her husband’s on the other. They did sometimes use a joint seal. I think it’s revealing that on this most impressive accomplishment that depended so much on Puduhepa’s talents, they chose to use equal and independent seals. Thus, Puduhepa’s role is not subsumed under her husband’s.

I could not resist using the life of this exceptional queen as the basis for my main character, Tesha, in a historical fantasy series. The first book of the series, Priestess of Ishana, opens with the moment Tesha and Hattu meet—following the known details of this historical event. There was the ever so tantalizing detail in Hittite records that accusations of sorcery were brought against Hattusili around this same time. A love story and sorcery? Irresistible! The second book in the series, Sorcery in Alpara, carries on their story with a curse that consumes armies, a court full of traitors, a clutch of angry concubines and some fantastical creatures who appear regularly in Hittite art, but may not have actually walked the earth.

Tesha and the real queen behind my character offer an intriguing model of a female leader succeeding in ways that made the world more peaceful and just. So, if you like your fiction to be a mixture of worthwhile ideas, magical fun, and a unique, ancient world, give the Tesha series a read.

Sorcery cover - 500x750px

Sorcery in Alpara, Synopsis –
Tesha series,
Book Two

A curse that consumes armies, a court full of traitors, a clutch of angry concubines and fantastical creatures who offer help but hate mankind.

Tesha’s about to become queen of a kingdom under assault from all sides, but she has powerful allies: her strategist husband, his crafty second-in-command, and her brilliant blind sister.

Then betrayal strips her of them all. To save her marriage and her world, she will have to grapple with the serpentine plot against her and unleash the goddess Ishana’s uncontrollable magic—without destroying herself.

Purchase Link –

Amazon

Judith Starkston, Biography –

Author Photo (1)Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell.

She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age.

Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award.

Sign up for her newsletter on her website JudithStarkston.com for a free short story, book news and giveaways.

Sign-up for her newsletter!

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Bookbub

 

Stay tuned in November for my review of Sorcery in Alpara!

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Posts, women in history

National Poetry Month: Talking about I Am Not Your Final Girl and Feminine Anger by Sonora Taylor #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry #metoo

Today, I am thrilled to welcome my friend Sonora Taylor to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for the National Poetry Month project. I virtually met Sonora after she picked up and reviewed my own collection, Breathe. Breathe.. Afterwards, I found out we were both submitting pieces to the monthly ladies of horror flash project and we realized we had all sorts of similar interests and became friends. I’m excited she’s here to talk about her reading of the poetry collection I am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland and how things that happens to us in the world as females build pent-up anger that can no longer be held inside.

This is a great piece – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. May we all stay mad.

PoetryMonthGraphic

Stay Mad: “I Am Not Your Final Girl” and Feminine Anger
by Sonora Taylor, author of Without Condition

When you’re a woman, you spend a lot of time being angry. Or maybe not angry, but certainly upset, perturbed, maddened, or otherwise disturbed. It starts when a boy hurting you on the playground is dismissed as “him having a crush,” to being told to dismiss the sexist insults laid in your ears as just words, to learning to just walk away and forget it when a grown man yells to you and your teenage friends that “he smells p*ssy,” even though you hear it in your mind long after it happened.

Even when it’s not so blatant, there are little annoyances every day that come with being a woman. Being spoken to by strangers without any prompting, being overlooked at work or dismissed in group discussions, being frowned upon for the choices you make for yourself. Even when it’s not directly happening to you, you see what everyone thinks of you when you open a paper, turn on the television, or log on to any number of social media sites. “Slut” and “bitch” are interspersed with people who can’t believe women are this, can’t believe women said that, can’t believe women just are.

This isn’t to say that all who see women’s existence as an injustice want them to no longer be. Most want their survival, but they want it in the face of being able to hurt them. A woman’s role is to survive a never-ending barrage of wounds to her body and soul. In a sense, women are almost always the final girls of the horror movie of their life, taken piece by piece until they lay battered and broken.

But the beauty of the final girl is that she takes her damage and uses it to fight back. She claws at assault, defies the order of monsters and men by surviving for herself and not for their sadistic pleasures. It’s why we love these characters in horror films, why women keep coming back to these stories — even though we see violence against our bodies and souls, we see ourselves emerge triumphant by the end.

I-Am-Not-Your-Final-Girl

Such inspiration drives the spirit of a wonderful collection of poetry by Claire C. Holland. “I Am Not Your Final Girl” features poems named for several final girls, both well- and lesser-known, but all legendary in horror. From Halloween’s “Laurie” to Antichrist’s “She” (one of my favorite films), each poem dives into the emotional core of the titular final girl, a core that sometimes goes missing in their respective original stories. Even the best horror films sometimes eschew the emotional impact in favor of blood and guts, and stories that get into the emotions still cannot dive into one’s mind the way that prose and verse can.

she-antichrist

She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist

Holland fills in these gaps with both the character’s canonical emotions and her own imagining of what the characters are thinking — as well as her response to what each woman goes through. “Thomasin” (from The Witch) shares the story of a girl who tried to do right, but was only rewarded when she did right by herself. “Selena” (from 28 Days Later, my favorite horror film) delves into the struggle of a woman who fought tooth and nail to save a society that, in the end, wanted to survive by harming her and other women. Every woman’s story, and every woman’s subsequent poem, is different; but all are united in that they survive the barrage that is all too familiar to the feminine spirit.

selena-28-days-later

Selena (Naomie Harris)  from 28 Days Later

Holland opens the collection with an essay about her ongoing anger since 2016. I’ve felt the same anger since 2016, felt shades of it before 2016, have felt it in various degrees throughout my life. When I picked up her collection, I was especially mad at the dismissal of several qualified women candidates for president in lieu of another white, cis-male face. I read Holland’s words and felt my anger manifesting into something better, something I could cradle and use to keep my fight up as opposed to keeping my spirits down. That feeling continued as I read her recounting of the final girls that fought and clawed their way to the bloody end. I plan to make it to whatever comes next — and I plan to stay mad.

Sonora Taylor, Biography

sonora-taylor-2.jpgSonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Wither and Other Stories, and Please Give. Her work has appeared in The Sirens Call, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven. She’s currently working on her next short story collection, Little Paranoias: Stories. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband. Visit her online on her website.

And check out I am Not Your Final Girl – 

AI-Am-Not-Your-Final-Girl timely collection of poetry that follows the final girl of slasher cinema – the girl who survives until the end – on a journey of retribution and reclamation.

From the white picket fences of 1970s Haddonfield to the apocalyptic end of the world, Holland confronts the role of women in relation to subjects including feminism, violence, motherhood, sexuality, and assault in the world of Trump and the MeToo movement.

Each poem centers on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through their own perceived monstrousness.

Find it on GoodReads.

Photo Creds –

“Selena (Naomie Harris)  from 28 Days Later. Photo: joblo.com.” https://www.joblo.com/movie-news/why-it-works-28-days-later-167-02
“She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist. Photo: IMDB.” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870984/mediaindex?ref_=tt_pv_mi_sm

1 Comment

Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts, poetry, women in horror

National Poetry Month: Sara Tantlinger Brings Us Poem on the 1893 World’s Fair and a Discussion on Involvement of Serial Killer H.H. Holmes #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more by writers I admire and adore, and also some new poetry writers as well, so stop by often. Tuesday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here and yesterday we read some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich, which you can enjoy here.

Today, Sara Tantlinger joins us with a poem from her Bram Stoker Award nominated recent collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which features poems surrounding serial murderer H.H. Holmes. We are able to read the poem below as well as a discussion by Sara about the themes and locale of the piece – the 1893 World’s Fair – and H.H. Holmes and his involvement in it. As some of my historical fiction friends know, I am a World’s Fair and carnival fanatic. I love anything revolving around it!! Mix that with my obsession with true crime, you’re making me shiver in delight. That means I really enjoyed Sara’s poem and article – I hope you do too!

Thanks, Sara!

crescent moon

An H.H. Holmes Poem Analysis
by Sara Tantlinger, author of The Devil’s Dreamland

Thank you so much to Erin for hosting some poetry fun on her website for National Poetry Month! I am excited to contribute with a poem from The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and to provide a little backstory and history on the poem. The piece is titled “World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)”, referencing the very fair that helped make serial killer H.H. Holmes famous.

Without further ado, please enjoy the poem!

World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)

1893, we celebrate the 400th anniversary

of the barbaric slaughtering

Christopher Columbus brought

unto a new world,

but you will find no anger

toward his history here

as the fairgrounds take form, as visitors

flock in droves to taste the excitement

flickering in the air like pixie dust

 

People keep dying,

workers falling from buildings

accidents in the form of skull

fractures and electrocution

all this death contained within

designing the great fair,

 

yet a madman paces inside

his castle, creating spaces

where supposed accidents

will swallow visitors whole

 

a madman forges his dreams

into piping hot realities

where his World’s Fair Hotel

promises spectacular service

so very close to the fair itself

 

Opening Day comes upon the city

in jovial bursts of color,

mouthwatering scents of exotic

pastries and delicacies from themed

exhibits stationed around the park,

thousands of visitors holding their

breath for President Cleveland

to push a button that ignites

a hundred thousand

glowing lamps across the fields,

illuminating neoclassical figures,

the work of men named Tesla

and Westinghouse

 

Dr. Holmes turns away men at the door,

citing reasons of already being booked

to capacity, yet the young women

stroll right in, are welcomed,

intoxicated by their own freedom

blushing at the handsome doctor

who offers great prices,

who offers warm touches

 

they do not see how excitement alerts

trembles into his fingertips,

eager to taste innocence, summon

screeches from their tender tracheas

lick away saccharine death from dying lips,

listen to the snapping of a windpipe,

 

hungry to snuff out light from

wide eyes,

hungry to cut the lights open,

sever the heart to see how it beats

beneath such fine skin,

glowing like the thousand lamps

across the enchanted fairgrounds

(Originally published in The Devil’s Dreamland, StrangeHouse Books, 2018).

About the Poem –

The fair of 1893 was a magical time. The undertaking and thus construction of everything the fair needed to be successful was an exasperating project. I wanted the poem to reflect the enchantment this exposition offered. After all, people arrived in the thousands during the fair’s run – people from all across the globe. Over 20 million people ended up attending the fair altogether!

This was Chicago’s chance to show the world how beautifully they recovered from the Great Chicago Fire. Gone was the soot and wreckage of the fiery aftermath, and in its place stood a gleaming white city, warm and inviting. However, the poem also needed to honestly reflect what the fair organizers and architects didn’t want anyone to see….

1893 Worlds Fair

While the shine of the fair easily put forth its best face, a true darkness lingered beneath the food, exhibits, new buildings, rides, and everything else the celebration displayed. Construction workers died during the assembly of the fair. A fire broke out in July killing over a dozen fairgoers and firefighters. The White City was a fairytale. Outside the fair, animal corpses rotted on the streets. Stockyards and factories filled Chicago with smoke and filth. Garbage piled up along roads. Poverty and disease were no strangers here. And of course, a madman paced inside a castle fit for Bluebeard himself.

While it’s unlikely H.H. Holmes is responsible for hundreds of murders, he evolved into a tall-tale of someone who invited hundreds of women to stay at his hotel where he supposedly killed them all. This has never really been proven. While the fair showed great strides in science (like Tesla’s work), forensic evidence was not quite evolved enough to give us the solid facts we need to know everything Holmes might have done. However, we are quite sure he did take Minnie Williams and her sister Anna to the fair (I have more poems about their fates in my collection). So, for this piece, I took both fact and fiction, truths and exaggerated ideas, and spun them into a version that fits the Holmes of my book. Either way, this is one fair I think we should all be glad is far in the past.

H._H._Holmes.jpg

Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Tantlinger_ap2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter and the Stoker-nominated The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, both released with StrangeHouse Books. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA.

Her debut novella, To Be Devoured, will be published in July 2019 with Unnerving. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

The Devil’s Dreamland, Info –

The Devil's Dreamland full rezH.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer.

In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspiration from accounts and tales which spawned from the misdeeds of one Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Fact and speculation intertwine herein, just as they did during the man’s own lifetime.

There’s plenty of room in the cellar for everyone in The Devil’s Dreamland.

“…chilling poetry…” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

“…morbidly creative and profound crime documentary…one of the best works of horror poetry I’ve read in years.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Grave Markings and Play Dead

“…fascinating and absolutely riveting…powerful and vivid prose…will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.”—Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

Purchase on Amazon

Add to your GoodReads

2 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts, poetry, women in horror

National Poetry Month: Poetry from Bram Stoker Award Winner Stephanie Wytovich #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more so stop by often. Yesterday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here.

Today, please enjoy some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich. I dare you not to feel.

Thanks for sharing with us, Stephanie!

crescent moon

Surgical Fantasies of the Past Ten years
Originally Published in Yes, Poetry

I tattoo incision lines on my stomach,
dream about surgically removing my ugliness.

At sixteen, the girls put laxatives in my peppermint tea,
laughed at me in the mirror when I tried to scream away my calories.

At 26, I cried in the shower when my skin didn’t fall off,
vomited the memories of my ex telling me I was diseased.

Inside, my lungs are a crawl space filled with candy wrappers,
my ribs broken from too many bathroom breaks ending in blood.

There are 206 bones in the human body,
Tell me, how many are in a monster?

 

____

 

Emergency Masturbation Fantasy
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

I masturbate to an empty chair

My hand moving up and down

like yours never did

I try to see your face

Scream your name

But     I       can’t

And I wonder if you exist

If my memories are from photographs of people I never met

Whose stories I don’t know

I climax to your eyes

Taste the saliva on your lips

But       I           don’t

Because you’re an empty chair

And my box is broken

Like yours never was

I should stop blaming myself

Quit bleeding for sport

But       I           won’t.

 

___

 

Post-Traumatic Spiders
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

My doctor scribbled in her notepad,

“What do you want to talk about today?”

I was already crying

I ate all the cough drops on the table when she wasn’t looking

Her dog was asleep on my foot

I just left my one-night stand in the parking lot.

Frustration wore on her face like the foundation she forgot to wear

“Are the nightmares back?”

I spun my ring around my thumb

I thought about how you said I wore too much jewelry

I tongued the scar on the inside of my cheek

The tarantulas are everywhere.

Her right foot tapped against the carpeted floor

“You know it’s okay, right? That none of this is your fault?”

I didn’t believe her

I felt its legs crawling up my shoulder

I watched it watch me.

I could have stopped it. I could have said no.

 Fifty minutes passed like fifty seconds

“Same time again next Wednesday?

I nodded my head

I picked the spider off my cheek

I swallowed the web it had spun around my mouth

The silk tasted like semen and blood.

Stephanie M. Wytovich, Biography –

Wytovich Headshot_4Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog and on twitter @SWytovich​.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare is her most recent collection. Read about it here!

Sheet Music Front CoverSheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, Info –

Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.

These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about it, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.

Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.
Listen to them carefully.

They very well might save your life.

Find it on GoodReads to Add or Buy.

Stop back tomorrow for a post from Sara Tantlinger. Then, join us next week when we highlight a bunch more wonderful poetry. Have a great week!

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Posts, poetry, women in horror

Guest Article: The Ghost With The Bandage and Other Apparitions by Catherine Cavendish

Today I welcome back a very special writer friend, Catherine Cavendish. If you follow my site, you probably have read some very interesting guest articles from her here in the past, and without fail, she’s written one again that’s sure to spook you! Of course, she is talking about ghosts, in celebration of her newest release, THE HAUNTING OF HENDERSON CLOSE, from Flame Tree press. I am so very happy for Catherine about this release and I can’t wait to dig in. It’s one my most highly anticipated novels of the year as well my favorite cover so far. I’ll also have an interview with Catherine in the near future so stay tuned!

Enjoy…and be spooked…

The Ghost With The Bandage and Other Apparitions

by Catherine Cavendish, author of The Haunting of Henderson Close

pic 1 (1)

Famed as Scotland’s spookiest castle, Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire was the home of the Leith-Hay family for nearly 300 years since it was built in 1650 and is now a favourite location for ghosthunters. The Most Haunted TV crew filmed an episode here, with medium Derek Acorah. He proclaimed that a tree in the grounds had been used for hangings, and rope marks are indeed visible in the branches.

But who are the ghosts? Probably the most commonly seen is the ghost of former owner John Leith III who came to a most ignominious end when he was shot in a drunken brawl in Aberdeen in 1763. In critical condition, he was brought home to Leith Hall where he succumbed to his injuries three days later. He seems unable to move on though and appears wearing dark green trousers and a shirt. A filthy once-white bandage is wrapped around his head, covering his eyes and he wanders around, seemingly in great pain and distress at his injuries. Novelist Elizabeth Byrd reported seeing him on July 16th 1968 in the bedroom in which she was staying. She said he appeared as solid as a living man but when she shouted at him to go away, he simply vanished in the direction of a window behind a dressing table. After that experience, she refused to spend another night in that room. I can understand why!

pic 2

John Leith III

A ghost of a woman wearing Victorian dress has also been reported, although her identity remains a mystery. There have been sounds of a lady laughing, sudden changes in temperature, heavy footsteps and the feeling of being touched by invisible hands.

Leith Hall is positively crowded with apparitions and others include a governess and a young child as well as a young soldier. There are strange smells, including camphor and food, the sound of children playing – some have even been seen. The ghosts come from different eras in the Hall’s long and colourful history.

In 1746, Jacobite Andrew Hay of Rannes hid there, fleeing from the massacre of the Battle of Culloden. He eventually made his escape to France and was pardoned by King George in 1746 – documentation to this effect is still in existence in the Hall. Fast forward to World War I and the Hall became a temporary military hospital where soldiers who had been dreadfully injured were housed and cared for.

pic 3 (2)

Henrietta Leith-Hay gifted Leith Hall to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945, remaining there until her death in 1963. It is open to the public from the beginning of April until the end of September. If you go there, expect the unexpected. In the dining room, the atmosphere has been reported as being so heavy, it is almost suffocating. You may not want to remain in there for too long. Likewise, the bedroom where Elizabeth Byrd had her frightening encounter has been known to exude a claustrophobic and heavy atmosphere that visitors have found off-putting. Some visitors who have stayed there have felt as if they were being smothered in their bed or, in some cases, have experienced nightmares where they felt hands squeezing their throat. They have also felt someone was in the room, even though there was no one but them there.

A painting in the drawing room – The Flight into Egypt – appears to give visitors a start too. Poor Elizabeth Byrd had a sighting here as well. She saw a large man with a beard in the picture. She pointed it out to her fellow guests – but only she could see it.

So, not for the faint-hearted perhaps, but well worth a visit. The house is different. It’s quirky and full of fascinating objects, along with its host of ghosts.

pic 4 (2)

For ghosts of a different kind, here’s what to expect from The Haunting of Henderson Close:

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone…

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released. Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face? The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real.

The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Flame Tree Press

Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

pic 6

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. In addition to The Haunting of Henderson Close, Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here –

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

MeWe

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts

Guest Article: Four Activities to Teach Your Kids About Other Cultures by Anna Levine

Today I welcome Anna Levine to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Last week, my daughter’s and I reviewed her picture book All Eyes on Alexander. We loved it and you can see that review HERE! Now, she offers us some educational ideas to be done with children after reading the book. Thanks, Anna!

now-you-are-the-western-underneath-this-holding-hands-around--1280467

Where in the World…?
A few fun activities to learn about different cultures!

All Eyes on Alexandra is a picture book about a crane that flies from Europe to Africa. Let Alexandra introduce your child to the world.

1. Play the migration game. The Smithsonian has a wonderful on-line migration game. Fun questions teach about the habits of a Wood Thrush that migrates from Costa Rica to Maryland. https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/play-migration-game

2. Follow the Leader. Alexandra leads her family in their Vee. Here’s an opportunity to talk about good leaders, people who take responsibility and have the courage to trust themselves and develop their potential.

3. Choose a continent and take a closer look. How many countries are there? How many languages? What’s the climate like? What foods are eaten there and what do they grow? Try cooking up something you’ve never tried before. Experiment with the taste of a culture while listening to the music popular in the country you’ve chosen.

4. Every day’s a holiday! Find out what holidays are celebrated on which days of the year in different countries around the world. Celebrate with the colors, food, and music of that country.

image003 (1)

About All Eyes on Alexandra –

 In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it’s time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel’s Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration.

Print Length: 32 Pages

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub

ISBN-10: 1512444391

ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

All Eyes on Alexandra is available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and NobleTarget and Thrift Books.

Author Anna Levine, Biography –

Author photoAnna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds.

Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You can find Anna Levine online at –

Author website

Twitter: @LevineAnna 

Instagram: @booksfromanna 

About the Illustrator, Chiara Pasqualotto,

artistChiara Pasqualotto was born in Padua, in northern Italy, currently teaches illustration and drawing classes to children and adults, in particular in Padua during the summer at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics and in Rome.

Since 2008 she’s been living in Rome and working with illustration professionally: her first picture book, Mine, All Mine! was published in 2009 by Boxer Books (UK), since then she published with Oxford University Press, Giunti, Terranuova and some American publishers (Paraclete Press, Tyndale, LearningAZ, Kar-Ben Publisher).

You can find Chiara Pasqualotto online at –

Artist website

Blog

Facebook

Enjoy reading with your kids and have a good week!

4 Comments

Filed under Feature Articles, Guest Posts