Sunday, June 6, 2021

Tony Mortimer was Reading My Werewolf Anthology During the Covid-19 Lockdown

 


Tony Mortimer is a former member of the band East 17, an English pop band formed in 1991, took some time out of his busy schedule to read a few werewolf short stories during the Covid-19 lockdown. One would think that for Tony to read a book of classic werewolf tales from the early nineteenth century that he is an avid reader of horror literature.

This is not the case, however. Turns out that Tony is somewhat new to reading and he loves it. Tony did not read his first novel until he turned 50 years old. He now wants to pay it forward by getting young boys into reading and by writing his own novel. This is certainly an admirable cause for the Ivor Novello-winning songwriter.

Tony read many other popular books during the Covid pandemic, including Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None; The Flower Girls by Alice Clark Platts; The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849 by Andrew Barger; The Fear Bubble by Ant Middleton. Oscar Wilde’s Complete Short Stories; JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner; Stephen King’s On Writing.

You can read more about it on PH: https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/east-17s-tony-mortimer-my-love-of-literature-during-lockdown

Congratulations on your newfound love, Tony, and best wishes.

Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849


#bestwerewolfstories #TonyMortimer #JKRowling #StephenKing #East17


Saturday, June 5, 2021

Which author invented the popular vampire motifs -- no reflection in a mirror and cast no shadow?

 


An astute reader, Erin McNulty, recently inquired on my Facebook page as to whether Alexandre Dumas "invented" the popular vampire motif that vampires have no reflection in a mirror and cast no shadow. She wondered why it was in the text of my English translation of Dumas's "The Vampire of the Carpathian Mountains" in the Best Vampire Short Stories 1800-1849 collection that I edited. http://www.andrewbarger.com/bestvampirestories1800.html
This was an excellent question that sent me off in search of forgotten tomes on vampire lore, which is never a bad thing! What I learned is very interesting...
It appears that until 1975 readers believed Bram Stoker, in his fantastic novel Dracula, had created these two important vampire motifs. In 1975, however, an editor named Allan Hull Watson published The Horror at Fontenay that was supposedly a "long-lost Dumas novel." Consider this text from page 178:
"I don't know who or what is attacking you. But I have my suspicions. Did you ever notice anything peculiar about Kostaki?"
"Yes," I replied. "On at least two occasions he seemed to cast no shadow in bright light, while everyone else did! And on another occasion - although it may have been imagination on my part - he came into this room to ask if my women were sufficiently attentive. He was standing with his back to that mirror, and I could swear that his image was not reflected in it!"
That is a compelling storyline, but unfortunately it does not appear to be in the original French by Dumas in "The Vampire of the Carpathian Mountains" and he did not write any novel or short story titled "The Horror at Fotenay." In my opinion the vampire motifs about not casting a shadow and no reflection in a mirror were inserted by Watson as complete embellishments to sell more books.
Bram Stoker appears to have "invented" these important vampire motifs in Dracula and they were not created decades earlier by Alexandre Dumas. The problem is solved and Stoker remains on his lofty pedestal.
Thank you, Erin, for keeping me honest in my research!

#bestvampirestories #vampirestories #classicvampiretales #vampirecarpathianmountains #vampires #classicvampirestories #bramstoker #alexandredumas

Sunday, May 16, 2021

"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe and an Introduction by Andrew Barger

The Black Cat

Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Short Stories Annotated
Edited by Andrew Barger

Introduction Years before the black raven was engrained into the minds of Americans as a reminder of lost love, another sable animal gained Poe fame. "The Black Cat" ranks as one of Poe's best tales. He actually owned a black cat in 1840 when he published a short article entitled "Instinct vs. Reason." Here is a snippet: "The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world and this is saying much; for it will be remembered that black cats are all of them witches. The one in question has not a white hair about her, and is of a demure and sanctified demeanor."

Poe was a lover of cats to be sure. Besides his black cat, he owned a tabby cat with his wife, Virginia, named Catterina. Like many of his tales, there are other autobiographical elements here. As a child Poe killed a pet bird owned by his foster mother, Frances Allan, and later felt guilt and remorse.

The Black Cat
(Works, 1850)

For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not—and very surely do I not dream. But to–morrow I die, and to–day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified—have tortured—have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror—to many they will seem less terrible than barroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common–place—some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects. From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self–sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man. I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold–fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat. This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point—and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered. Pluto—this was the cat’s name—was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets. Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character—through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance—had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill–used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me—for what disease is like Alcohol!—and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish—even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper. One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin–nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat–pocket a pen–knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity. When reason returned with the morning—when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch—I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed. In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart—one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which isLaw, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soulto vex itself—to offer violence to its own nature—to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only—that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree;—hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart;—hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence;—hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin—a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it—if such a thing wore possible—even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God. On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair. I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts—and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire—a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words “strange!” “singular!” and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven inbas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal’s neck. When I first beheld this apparition—for I could scarcely regard it as less—my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd—by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly–spread plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it. Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a half–sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place. One night as I sat, half stupified, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat—a very large one—fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast. Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it—knew nothing of it—had never seen it before. I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife. For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but—I know not how or why it was—its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually—very gradually—I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence. What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures. With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly—let me confess it at once—by absolute dread of the beast. This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil—and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own—yes, even in this felon’s cell, I am almost ashamed to own—that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees—degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful—it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name—and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared—it was now, I say, the image of a hideous—of a ghastly thing—of the GALLOWS!—oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime—of Agony and of Death! And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere Humanity. And a brute beast—whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed—a brute beast to work out forme—for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God—so much of insufferable wo! Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of Rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight—an incarnate Night–Mare that I had no power to shake off—incumbent eternally upon my heart! Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates—the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers. One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan. This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard—about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar—as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims. For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the red of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect any thing suspicious. And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow–bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re–laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brickwork. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself—”Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain.” My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night—and thus for one night at least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul! The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted—but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured. Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness. “Gentlemen,” I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, “I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this—this is a very well constructed house.” [In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.]—”I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls are you going, gentlemen?—these walls are solidly put together;” and here, through the mere phrenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick–work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom. But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch–Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb!—by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman—a howl—a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation. Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb! #AndrewBarger #BlackCat #BlackCatStory #PoeBlackCat #edgarallanpoe #Edgarallenpoe #PoeStories #poe #edgarallanpoeshortstories

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe



"Edgar Allan Poe was GOTH incarnate."

One of my favorite stories of his is one about mesmerism that fooled many during the romantic age into believing it was true. You will see below that Poe's writing was THAT realistic. Of course Poe had the name of mesmerist as "P." that helped to fool readers into believing he lived out the story. "Valdemar" holds a firm footing in "The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849. Enjoy! http://andrewbarger.com/besthorrorshortstories1800.html

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR
by Edgar Allan Poe
1845
OF course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder, that the extraordinary case of M. Valdemar has excited discussion. It would have been a miracle had it not-especially under the circumstances. Through the desire of all parties concerned, to keep the affair from the public, at least for the present, or until we had farther opportunities for investigation --through our endeavors to effect this --a garbled or exaggerated account made its way into society, and became the source of many unpleasant misrepresentations, and, very naturally, of a great deal of disbelief.
It is now rendered necessary that I give the facts --as far as I comprehend them myself. They are, succinctly, these:
My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: --no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly, whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the condition; thirdly, to what extent, or for how long a period, the encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process. There were other points to be ascertained, but these most excited my curiosity --the last in especial, from the immensely important character of its consequences.
In looking around me for some subject by whose means I might test these particulars, I was brought to think of my friend, M. Ernest Valdemar, the well-known compiler of the "Bibliotheca Forensica," and author (under the nom de plume of Issachar Marx) of the Polish versions of "Wallenstein" and "Gargantua." M. Valdemar, who has resided principally at Harlaem, N.Y., since the year 1839, is (or was) particularly noticeable for the extreme spareness of his person --his lower limbs much resembling those of John Randolph; and, also, for the whiteness of his whiskers, in violent contrast to the blackness of his hair --the latter, in consequence, being very generally mistaken for a wig. His temperament was markedly nervous, and rendered him a good subject for mesmeric experiment. On two or three occasions I had put him to sleep with little difficulty, but was disappointed in other results which his peculiar constitution had naturally led me to anticipate. His will was at no period positively, or thoroughly, under my control, and in regard to clairvoyance, I could accomplish with him nothing to be relied upon. I always attributed my failure at these points to the disordered state of his health. For some months previous to my becoming acquainted with him, his physicians had declared him in a confirmed phthisis. It was his custom, indeed, to speak calmly of his approaching dissolution, as of a matter neither to be avoided nor regretted.
When the ideas to which I have alluded first occurred to me, it was of course very natural that I should think of M. Valdemar. I knew the steady philosophy of the man too well to apprehend any scruples from him; and he had no relatives in America who would be likely to interfere. I spoke to him frankly upon the subject; and, to my surprise, his interest seemed vividly excited. I say to my surprise, for, although he had always yielded his person freely to my experiments, he had never before given me any tokens of sympathy with what I did. His disease was if that character which would admit of exact calculation in respect to the epoch of its termination in death; and it was finally arranged between us that he would send for me about twenty-four hours before the period announced by his physicians as that of his decease.
It is now rather more than seven months since I received, from M. Valdemar himself, the subjoined note:
My DEAR P--,
You may as well come now. D-- and F-- are agreed that I cannot hold out beyond to-morrow midnight; and I think they have hit the time very nearly.
VALDEMAR
I received this note within half an hour after it was written, and in fifteen minutes more I was in the dying man's chamber. I had not seen him for ten days, and was appalled by the fearful alteration which the brief interval had wrought in him. His face wore a leaden hue; the eyes were utterly lustreless; and the emaciation was so extreme that the skin had been broken through by the cheek-bones. His expectoration was excessive. The pulse was barely perceptible. He retained, nevertheless, in a very remarkable manner, both his mental power and a certain degree of physical strength. He spoke with distinctness --took some palliative medicines without aid --and, when I entered the room, was occupied in penciling memoranda in a pocket-book. He was propped up in the bed by pillows. Doctors D-- and F-- were in attendance.
After pressing Valdemar's hand, I took these gentlemen aside, and obtained from them a minute account of the patient's condition. The left lung had been for eighteen months in a semi-osseous or cartilaginous state, and was, of course, entirely useless for all purposes of vitality. The right, in its upper portion, was also partially, if not thoroughly, ossified, while the lower region was merely a mass of purulent tubercles, running one into another. Several extensive perforations existed; and, at one point, permanent adhesion to the ribs had taken place. These appearances in the right lobe were of comparatively recent date. The ossification had proceeded with very unusual rapidity; no sign of it had discovered a month before, and the adhesion had only been observed during the three previous days. Independently of the phthisis, the patient was suspected of aneurism of the aorta; but on this point the osseous symptoms rendered an exact diagnosis impossible. It was the opinion of both physicians that M. Valdemar would die about midnight on the morrow (Sunday). It was then seven o'clock on Saturday evening. On quitting the invalid's bed-side to hold conversation with myself, Doctors D-- and F-- had bidden him a final farewell. It had not been their intention to return; but, at my request, they agreed to look in upon the patient about ten the next night.
When they had gone, I spoke freely with M. Valdemar on the subject of his approaching dissolution, as well as, more particularly, of the experiment proposed. He still professed himself quite willing and even anxious to have it made, and urged me to commence it at once. A male and a female nurse were in attendance; but I did not feel myself altogether at liberty to engage in a task of this character with no more reliable witnesses than these people, in case of sudden accident, might prove. I therefore postponed operations until about eight the next night, when the arrival of a medical student with whom I had some acquaintance, (Mr. Theodore L--l,) relieved me from farther embarrassment. It had been my design, originally, to wait for the physicians; but I was induced to proceed, first, by the urgent entreaties of M. Valdemar, and secondly, by my conviction that I had not a moment to lose, as he was evidently sinking fast.
Mr. L--l was so kind as to accede to my desire that he would take notes of all that occurred, and it is from his memoranda that what I now have to relate is, for the most part, either condensed or copied verbatim.
It wanted about five minutes of eight when, taking the patient's hand, I begged him to state, as distinctly as he could, to Mr. L--l, whether he (M. Valdemar) was entirely willing that I should make the experiment of mesmerizing him in his then condition.
He replied feebly, yet quite audibly, "Yes, I wish to be "I fear you have mesmerized" --adding immediately afterwards, deferred it too long."
While he spoke thus, I commenced the passes which I had already found most effectual in subduing him. He was evidently influenced with the first lateral stroke of my hand across his forehead; but although I exerted all my powers, no farther perceptible effect was induced until some minutes after ten o'clock, when Doctors D-- and F-- called, according to appointment. I explained to them, in a few words, what I designed, and as they opposed no objection, saying that the patient was already in the death agony, I proceeded without hesitation --exchanging, however, the lateral passes for downward ones, and directing my gaze entirely into the right eye of the sufferer.
By this time his pulse was imperceptible and his breathing was stertorous, and at intervals of half a minute.
This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of an hour. At the expiration of this period, however, a natural although a very deep sigh escaped the bosom of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing ceased --that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer apparent; the intervals were undiminished. The patient's extremities were of an icy coldness.
At five minutes before eleven I perceived unequivocal signs of the mesmeric influence. The glassy roll of the eye was changed for that expression of uneasy inward examination which is never seen except in cases of sleep-waking, and which it is quite impossible to mistake. With a few rapid lateral passes I made the lids quiver, as in incipient sleep, and with a few more I closed them altogether. I was not satisfied, however, with this, but continued the manipulations vigorously, and with the fullest exertion of the will, until I had completely stiffened the limbs of the slumberer, after placing them in a seemingly easy position. The legs were at full length; the arms were nearly so, and reposed on the bed at a moderate distance from the loin. The head was very slightly elevated.
When I had accomplished this, it was fully midnight, and I requested the gentlemen present to examine M. Valdemar's condition. After a few experiments, they admitted him to be an unusually perfect state of mesmeric trance. The curiosity of both the physicians was greatly excited. Dr. D-- resolved at once to remain with the patient all night, while Dr. F-- took leave with a promise to return at daybreak. Mr. L--l and the nurses remained.
We left M. Valdemar entirely undisturbed until about three o'clock in the morning, when I approached him and found him in precisely the same condition as when Dr. F-- went away --that is to say, he lay in the same position; the pulse was imperceptible; the breathing was gentle (scarcely noticeable, unless through the application of a mirror to the lips); the eyes were closed naturally; and the limbs were as rigid and as cold as marble. Still, the general appearance was certainly not that of death.
As I approached M. Valdemar I made a kind of half effort to influence his right arm into pursuit of my own, as I passed the latter gently to and fro above his person. In such experiments with this patient had never perfectly succeeded before, and assuredly I had little thought of succeeding now; but to my astonishment, his arm very readily, although feebly, followed every direction I assigned it with mine. I determined to hazard a few words of conversation.
"M. Valdemar," I said, "are you asleep?" He made no answer, but I perceived a tremor about the lips, and was thus induced to repeat the question, again and again. At its third repetition, his whole frame was agitated by a very slight shivering; the eyelids unclosed themselves so far as to display a white line of the ball; the lips moved sluggishly, and from between them, in a barely audible whisper, issued the words:
"Yes; --asleep now. Do not wake me! --let me die so!"
I here felt the limbs and found them as rigid as ever. The right arm, as before, obeyed the direction of my hand. I questioned the sleep-waker again:
"Do you still feel pain in the breast, M. Valdemar?"
The answer now was immediate, but even less audible than before:
"No pain --I am dying."
I did not think it advisable to disturb him farther just then, and nothing more was said or done until the arrival of Dr. F--, who came a little before sunrise, and expressed unbounded astonishment at finding the patient still alive. After feeling the pulse and applying a mirror to the lips, he requested me to speak to the sleep-waker again. I did so, saying:
"M. Valdemar, do you still sleep?"
As before, some minutes elapsed ere a reply was made; and during the interval the dying man seemed to be collecting his energies to speak. At my fourth repetition of the question, he said very faintly, almost inaudibly:
"Yes; still asleep --dying."
It was now the opinion, or rather the wish, of the physicians, that M. Valdemar should be suffered to remain undisturbed in his present apparently tranquil condition, until death should supervene --and this, it was generally agreed, must now take place within a few minutes. I concluded, however, to speak to him once more, and merely repeated my previous question.
While I spoke, there came a marked change over the countenance of the sleep-waker. The eyes rolled themselves slowly open, the pupils disappearing upwardly; the skin generally assumed a cadaverous hue, resembling not so much parchment as white paper; and the circular hectic spots which, hitherto, had been strongly defined in the centre of each cheek, went out at once. I use this expression, because the suddenness of their departure put me in mind of nothing so much as the extinguishment of a candle by a puff of the breath. The upper lip, at the same time, writhed itself away from the teeth, which it had previously covered completely; while the lower jaw fell with an audible jerk, leaving the mouth widely extended, and disclosing in full view the swollen and blackened tongue. I presume that no member of the party then present had been unaccustomed to death-bed horrors; but so hideous beyond conception was the appearance of M. Valdemar at this moment, that there was a general shrinking back from the region of the bed.
I now feel that I have reached a point of this narrative at which every reader will be startled into positive disbelief. It is my business, however, simply to proceed.
There was no longer the faintest sign of vitality in M. Valdemar; and concluding him to be dead, we were consigning him to the charge of the nurses, when a strong vibratory motion was observable in the tongue. This continued for perhaps a minute. At the expiration of this period, there issued from the distended and motionless jaws a voice --such as it would be madness in me to attempt describing. There are, indeed, two or three epithets which might be considered as applicable to it in part; I might say, for example, that the sound was harsh, and broken and hollow; but the hideous whole is indescribable, for the simple reason that no similar sounds have ever jarred upon the ear of humanity. There were two particulars, nevertheless, which I thought then, and still think, might fairly be stated as characteristic of the intonation --as well adapted to convey some idea of its unearthly peculiarity. In the first place, the voice seemed to reach our ears --at least mine --from a vast distance, or from some deep cavern within the earth. In the second place, it impressed me (I fear, indeed, that it will be impossible to make myself comprehended) as gelatinous or glutinous matters impress the sense of touch.
I have spoken both of "sound" and of "voice." I mean to say that the sound was one of distinct --of even wonderfully, thrillingly distinct --syllabification. M. Valdemar spoke --obviously in reply to the question I had propounded to him a few minutes before. I had asked him, it will be remembered, if he still slept. He now said:
"Yes; --no; --I have been sleeping --and now --now --I am dead.
No person present even affected to deny, or attempted to repress, the unutterable, shuddering horror which these few words, thus uttered, were so well calculated to convey. Mr. L--l (the student) swooned. The nurses immediately left the chamber, and could not be induced to return. My own impressions I would not pretend to render intelligible to the reader. For nearly an hour, we busied ourselves, silently --without the utterance of a word --in endeavors to revive Mr. L--l. When he came to himself, we addressed ourselves again to an investigation of M. Valdemar's condition.
It remained in all respects as I have last described it, with the exception that the mirror no longer afforded evidence of respiration. An attempt to draw blood from the arm failed. I should mention, too, that this limb was no farther subject to my will. I endeavored in vain to make it follow the direction of my hand. The only real indication, indeed, of the mesmeric influence, was now found in the vibratory movement of the tongue, whenever I addressed M. Valdemar a question. He seemed to be making an effort to reply, but had no longer sufficient volition. To queries put to him by any other person than myself he seemed utterly insensible --although I endeavored to place each member of the company in mesmeric rapport with him. I believe that I have now related all that is necessary to an understanding of the sleep-waker's state at this epoch. Other nurses were procured; and at ten o'clock I left the house in company with the two physicians and Mr. L--l.
In the afternoon we all called again to see the patient. His condition remained precisely the same. We had now some discussion as to the propriety and feasibility of awakening him; but we had little difficulty in agreeing that no good purpose would be served by so doing. It was evident that, so far, death (or what is usually termed death) had been arrested by the mesmeric process. It seemed clear to us all that to awaken M. Valdemar would be merely to insure his instant, or at least his speedy dissolution.
From this period until the close of last week --an interval of nearly seven months --we continued to make daily calls at M. Valdemar's house, accompanied, now and then, by medical and other friends. All this time the sleeper-waker remained exactly as I have last described him. The nurses' attentions were continual.
It was on Friday last that we finally resolved to make the experiment of awakening or attempting to awaken him; and it is the (perhaps) unfortunate result of this latter experiment which has given rise to so much discussion in private circles --to so much of what I cannot help thinking unwarranted popular feeling.
For the purpose of relieving M. Valdemar from the mesmeric trance, I made use of the customary passes. These, for a time, were unsuccessful. The first indication of revival was afforded by a partial descent of the iris. It was observed, as especially remarkable, that this lowering of the pupil was accompanied by the profuse out-flowing of a yellowish ichor (from beneath the lids) of a pungent and highly offensive odor.
It was now suggested that I should attempt to influence the patient's arm, as heretofore. I made the attempt and failed. Dr. F-- then intimated a desire to have me put a question. I did so, as follows:
"M. Valdemar, can you explain to us what are your feelings or wishes now?"
There was an instant return of the hectic circles on the cheeks; the tongue quivered, or rather rolled violently in the mouth (although the jaws and lips remained rigid as before;) and at length the same hideous voice which I have already described, broke forth:
"For God's sake! --quick! --quick! --put me to sleep --or, quick! --waken me! --quick! --I say to you that I am dead!"
I was thoroughly unnerved, and for an instant remained undecided what to do. At first I made an endeavor to re-compose the patient; but, failing in this through total abeyance of the will, I retraced my steps and as earnestly struggled to awaken him. In this attempt I soon saw that I should be successful --or at least I soon fancied that my success would be complete --and I am sure that all in the room were prepared to see the patient awaken.
For what really occurred, however, it is quite impossible that any human being could have been prepared.
As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejaculations of "dead! dead!" absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once --within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk --crumbled --absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome -- of detestable putridity.

#EdgarallanPoe #Valdemar #PoeHorrorStory #BestHorrorStories #BestClassicHorror #PoeHorror #ValdemarStory #MesmerismHorror #ValdemarHorrorStory

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Interview I Did for the Best Ghost Short Stories 1850-1899 Anthology

 



Andrew Barger Interview

Best Ghost Short Stories 1850-1899 Anthology

http://andrewbarger.com/bestghostshortstories1850.html


Q1. You have edited the best ghost short stories for the first half of the 19th century and now you are finishing off the century with your new ghost stories anthology?

A1. In the fantasy genre I wanted to start with the first modern form of short stories in the English language, which really began the first half of the 19th century. I published  6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849, Shifters: The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849, Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Short Stories 1800-1849, Middle Unearthed: The Best Fantasy Short Stories 1800-1849 and Phantasmal: The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849. Now I have moved on to the last half of the century with a collection of the best scary ghost stories.

Q2. Did you include background information on each story in the collection like your other anthologies? 

A2. Yes. I can’t help it! I also include author photos, publication dates and a list of stories read at the end of the book. 

Q3. What are some of the differences in the ghost short stories from the first to the last half of the century?

A3. The writing is at a higher level and, for the most part, the character generation is better. Also, for the first time in the century women began publishing in the ghost story genre. Mary Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, Catherine Crowe, Amelia Edwards, Mary Anne Evans (aka George Eliot), Florence Marryat (daughter of horror story writer Captain Frederick Marryat), Mary Louise Molesworth, Rosa Mulholland, Edith Nesbit, and many other women stood out as fine ghost story writers of the Victorian age.

Q4. Are any of the ghost stories in the anthology comedic? There are some funny ghost stories out there.

A4. Absolutely not. I have never liked funny ghost stories. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the exception. I want to be frightened in a ghost story. Boo!

Q5. Who are some of the more famous authors in the anthology?

A5. Joseph Le Fanu, M. R. James, Charles Dickens, Francis Marion Crawford, Rosa Mulholland, Bram Stoker, Edith Nesbit, Robert Chambers and Edward Bulwer-Lytton all have stories in the collection.

Q6. Do you have a favorite?

A6. “The Haunted and the Haunters” by Bulwer-Lytton is the foremost thing of its kind and, surprisingly, the oldest in the ghost short story anthology. It’s based on a true story and I include the actual letter telling about the haunted house in question. A guy decided to stay in the haunted house, but only with a “brace of pistols.” You will have to read the scary story to learn what happened. 

Q7. Who were the most influential ghost short story writers in the back half of the 19th century?

A7. Certainly Joseph Le Fanu and M. R. James were first rate ghost short stories writers and the sheer number of stories they wrote in the genre exceeds nearly everyone else. When you look at it from the perspective of the author who supported others in the genre, Charles Dickens comes to the forefront. His “No. 1 Branch Line, The Signal Man” of 1866 sits firmly in the collection. As if his many ghost stories weren’t enough, Dickens fostered the literary careers of many talented supernatural authors by publishing them in his weekly magazine—All the Year Round, including Joseph Le Fanu, Wilkie Collins, Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Elizabeth Gaskell. M. R. James stood on the shoulders of Joseph Le Fanu and Fanu had his foundation in Charles Dickens.

Q8. Are there any stories by Henry James in the anthology?

A8. Henry James, on the other hand, was a proponent of the subtle ghost story. Enter the timid ghosts. As if filled by English sensibilities, they were rarely overt in their actions. They never jump out from behind the curtain and say “Boo!” Their presence was felt all the same yet in a more nuanced way than traditional ghost stories. James wrote cigar smoking, single malt scotch sipping tales. His “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes” (1868), “Sir Edmund Orme” (1892) and “The Friends of the Friends” (1896) are each well worth a read.

Q9. In Phantasmal: Best Ghost Short Stories 1800-1849 you gave an introduction titled “All Ghosts are Gray” where you drew attention to the lack of color in early ghost short stories. Does color play a role later in the century? 

A9. Yes.  Consider the color yellow, for instance. It morphed from the cheerful glow of flowering snapdragons and daffodils in the English countryside to one that forewarned of evil in Britain and the United States. It became a color to describe the sickly, instead of the happy. Yellow fever entered the vernacular and those outside of the African continent became fearful of the viral disease spread by female mosquitoes. This was especially true given the active slave trade in parts of America.

The color yellow soon became treated as a precursor to death thanks to writers in the supernatural community. By 1892, American Charlotte Perkins Gilman published her classic horror story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In it the sickly colored wallpaper has a terrible effect on the occupant of the room. Three years later, fellow American Robert Chambers published his collection of short stories The King in Yellow that begged the overriding question “Have you found the yellow sign?” It contained the haunting ghost story “The Yellow Sign” (1895) included in this anthology and his treatment of the color in The King in Yellow has evolved into what is now referred to as the yellow mythos in supernatural literature.

Q10. Last question, how did ghosts change from the first to the last part of the century in question?

A10. The ghosts streaming from the pen of Dickens were highly communicative with the living. They were no longer stagnate beings of the spirit world who moved silently among the darkling corners of haunted houses, but rather interacted with the sorry lot of the living in ways never before seen in literature. In Phantasmal: Best Ghost Short Stories 1800-1849 there is an excellent story that was published anonymously titled “The Deaf and Dumb Girl” that is a fine example of how ghosts started out being rather innocuous.


#BestGhostStories #ClassicGhostStories #NineteenthCenturyGhostStories #AndrewBarger