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A Halloween 2016 Treat!

30 Oct

October 29 2016

Halloween! 

Witches and Ghouls! Vampires and werewolves! And worst of all, Trump and Hillary! GAH!

But let’s make Halloween great again. This year, I have for you a special treat from a pair of great artists. Mike Mongello has already graced this site with his wonderful illustrations, and tonight’s piece shows he just keeps getting better.

I’ve also shone the spotlight on Matt Cowan and his lists of great horror tales before, though he hardly needs me to publicize him. He’s an award-winning author and I’ll tell you more about him later.

Here’s Mike’s original piece, created especially for Halloween 2016.

monge-halloween-pumpkinhead

I love it. This really captures a sense of creepiness. That grin and those teeth tell me that this isn’t just a guy in a mask, this is a Halloween nightmare. And the ax? I don’t think he’s on his way to chop down a cherry tree.

How did this come to be? Here’s a peek at an early sketch.

monge-halloween

Great as always!

You can find Mike Mongello online at www.MichaelMongello.com.
You can also find him on Facebook right here
Look for him at a comic con near you!

Matt has provided us with a list of Ten Classic Horror Stories for Halloween and as usual, I’m put to shame about how few of them I’ve read. Also as usual, there are a few authors on the list that are new to me. My reading list keeps growing and growing and growing…

TEN CLASSIC HORROR STORIES FOR HALLOWEEN

Every year over at Horror Delve I put together a list of spooky tales to help set the mood for the Halloween season. Given the honor of guest posting here at BMJ2K, I’ve chosen 10 of my all time favorites from those lists.

  1. “The Haunters and The Haunted” or “The House and The Brain” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1859) – After hearing a notoriously haunted house is available to let, a fearless man, excited to experience and find an explanation for the haunting, goes there to check it out with a trusted servant and dog. The descriptions of the bizarre manifestations in the house are superb and make this one of the best haunted house stories ever written. I’ll say that I’ve read both the more standard, edited version and its original version, which contains a plodding, wordy latter third of the story that attempts to explain the haunting. I feel this is a prime example of how less is often more.
  2. “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards (1864) – A headstrong soldier, anxious to return home to see his wife, takes a ride inside an old stagecoach filled with disturbing passengers. The beginning of this tale meanders a bit, but the chilling end is worth the wait.
  3. “Number 13” by M.R. James (1904) – A man staying in room 12 of a hotel begins to realize another room takes the space between his and room 14 at times during the night. There was no room numbered 13 due to superstition. In the mysterious extra chamber, from which an eerie red glow emanates, he hears strange talking and sees disturbing shadows. This is a favorite of mine. The bizarre things attached to this spectral room point to a diabolical, demonic entity taking up residence in the extra-dimensional room.
  4. “How Fear Departed from the Long Gallery” E.F. Benson (1912) – Church-Peveril is a large manor house so full of spectral emanations the family and staff have become accustom to them. There is one manifestation they must take steps to avoid, however. Long ago, an evil man strangled two young twins who were the rightful successors to the estate and cast them into the vast fireplace in the gallery hall. Since then, anyone remaining in the hall after sunset encounters the pitiable twins and suffer a horrible death soon afterward. Benson masterfully relates the terror of being caught after sunset in the dreaded gallery, and the scene where a woman experiences a nightmare on a green couch is so weird and unsettling, it will stay with me always.
  5. “The Beast With Five Fingers” W.F. Harvey (1919) – Adrian Borlsover was a kind, well-liked man, who although blind, was unusually adept with his hands. Two years before his death he developed the psychic ability of automatic writing, where a disembodied presence took control of his hand to write while he slept. After Adrian dies, his nephew Eustace Borlsover receives a box containing one of his severed hands with a letter from those in charge of Adrian’s burial claiming they received a letter reversing his desire to be cremated, instead asking to be embalmed with the hand cut off and sent to Eustace. The hand has a life of its own, able to scuttle about, climb things, write messages and even kill. This is a great story about a possessed hand that is cunning, elusive, and evil.
  6. “The Night-Wire” by H.F. Arnold (1926) – An uncannily adept radio operator types out reports of emergencies that come in from across the world. One evening he begins to receive transmissions from a town he and his coworker have ever heard of named Xebico which is being overwhelmed by an intense fog that coincides with strange colored skies. As the fog spreads, screams are heard coming from it. A local priest claims the fog originated from a nearby graveyard. Things grow more dire with each report.
  7. Ghost Hunt” by W.F. Harvey (1938) – A radio host broadcasts a live ghost hunt in a house in London where there has been “no less than thirty suicides”. Most have run from the house at night to throw themselves off the cliff and into the nearby river. The radio broadcaster is joined by a paranormal investigator. The investigation proves all-too successful in this chilling story. It was masterfully adapted for the radio program Suspense in 1949 (Relic Radio has a download of it here:http://www.relicradio.com/otr/2011/02/h292-ghost-hunt-by-suspense/ ).
  8. “The Calamander Chest” by Joseph Payne Brennan (1954) – A man finds a large calamander chest cheaply priced. He buys it and takes it home. Over time he begins to see a long white finger protrude from the lid to tap and scratch at the chest with its hideous black fingernail. It vanishes whenever the man approaches, and the box is empty when he checks it. His attempts to get rid of the chest repeatedly fail for seemingly natural reasons. Things ramp up when he starts to dream of the finger beckoning him closer to the chest.
  9. “The Pennine Tower Restaurant” by Simon Kurt Unsworth (2010)– An unusual architectural tower has a bizarre and dangerous history. All the deaths, disappearances, and ethereal glimpses attached to the structure are documented here. This riveting tale, presented as fact, comes complete with detailed, collaborating footnotes.
  10. “At Lorn Hall” by Ramsey Campbell (2012) – Seeking to escape a rain storm, a man enters a rundown manor where he finds a set of headphones. He puts them on and proceeds to embark on tour of the house “guided” by the recorded voice of its old master whose image is depicted in the hanging portraits of every room. His eerie comments makes the trespasser think someone else may be inside the house with him just out of view. I loved this story! Great atmosphere that keeps you unsettled throughout.

Thanks Matt!

Matt Cowan’s love for the horror genre stretches back beyond his earliest childhood memories. At a young age he stopped having nightmares when he began enjoying them too much. His primary literary influences are Ramsey Campbell, M.R. James, and Algernon Blackwood. In addition to writing fiction, Matt also writes about some of the legendary names in the field at his Horror Delve blog (horrordelve.com). He lives with his wife Lynne in Indianapolis, Indiana where he’s currently working on more stories.

Publishing Credits:

“The Collective of Blaque Reach” was originally published in 2008 by Dead Letter Press as the bonus story chap book for the BOUND FOR EVIL: CURIOUS TALES OF BOOKS GONE BAD anthology. It was also featured on The Tales To Terrify Podcast in 2013 (read on episode #90).

He’s had stories in INDIANA HORROR ANTHOLOGY’s 2011 and 2012, INDIANA SCIENCE FICTION 2011, and INDIANA CRIME REVIEW 2013 from James Ward Kirk Fiction.

“Numen” won an Editor’s Choice Award for the CELLAR DOORS: WORDS OF BEAUTY, TALES OF TERROR anthology in 2013 from James Ward Kirk Fiction.

“Christmas Wine” appeared in the O LITTLE TOWN OF DEATHLEHEM from Grinning Skull Press in 2013.

A shorter version of “Here He Comes A Wandering” was originally read on The Pod Of Horror Podcast (Episode #58) as the winning entry in their Christmas Horror Story Contest that year (2009).

You can find much more of Matt Cowan online at horrordelve.com.
Click here for his Amazon author’s page.

 

Thanks Matt and Mike!

 

The Christmas Spirit

24 Dec

December 24, 2015

From December 1, 2014

xmas-2013.jpg

She never wore shoes at home.

Neither did her three children or their father, who only showed up every few days when he needed money. He may have left her with a broken heart, three mouths to feed and a stack of bills, but even he left his shoes outside the door.

It wasn’t that she loved being barefoot. Oh no, during this time of year she wore all four of her pairs of socks and even her not-so-good pair of stockings (the pair with the holes in the heels) to keep out the cold.

The problem was that shoes brought in dirt. Mud. Gum. Cigarette butts stuck to the bottom. They scuffed floors and sullied carpets.

She spent all day cleaning floors at work and sure as the sun shone in the sky, she wasn’t going to spend her time at home doing the same.

She worked nights. During the day she stayed home taking care of her family and at night when the little ones were in bed she trusted the older one (who was not long past being a little one herself) to watch them so she could earn some money so breakfast could be waiting when they woke up.

Winter was her good time of year. The work was harder, the floors were always wet from melting snow tracked in by, yes, shoes, and no, it usually wasn’t clean. This was not the best part of the city, after all.  But what made it good was yet to come. Christmas. And that meant tips from the people who rented the offices she cleaned every night.

Most of those people she saw only in passing. They were usually going out as she was coming in. Locking their doors as she was unpacking her box of cleaning rags and sprays.

“Hello, um, Miss! Sorry about the coffee stain near the desk!”
“That’s ok, I’ll get it out.”
“Merry Christmas, um…”
“Merry Christmas to you too, sir.”

Some people she never saw. The offices of Tick + Hansom (she wasn’t sure what they did) closed at 4:00, long before she got to work. There were a pair of adjoining offices on the fifth floor that she didn’t have a master key for. There was no name on either  door and she wasn’t completely sure they were occupied, but once in a while the shades would be pulled on the frosted glass door windows so something was going on in there.

She also never saw the man who rented the small two-room office on the fourth floor, and though he always kept the light in the office burning, it was empty when she went in. It was also usually clean, so either he or his secretary kept it neat. At least she assumed he had a secretary. The small desk that she guessed the secretary would sit at never had more than a magazine on it.

She cleaned their floors, emptied their trash cans, mopped their hallways and wiped their windows. She didn’t peek in their drawers or go through their papers. If there was an open file cabinet she left it open and untouched. If the jeweler on three had left a bauble on his desk it would still be there in the morning, shining away in the morning light.

She cleaned up spilled liquor and spilled blood. She turned a blind eye to the lawyer who was “deposing” a pretty young client late one night.

She didn’t even eat her dinner at an empty desk, instead spreading her thin meal out on a clean box she kept in “her office,” the janitor’s closet.

Tonight was an easy night. It was only a few days before Christmas and most of the offices had closed early or hadn’t opened at all. The trash cans were empty, the windows unsmudged, the floors more or less free of heel scuffs. Overall, she was going to have a good sleep when she got home, a rare one where her back wouldn’t ache.

By the time she got to the office with the perpetually burning light, she was a good way ahead of schedule and was feeling hopeful that she could be home early enough to get an almost decently long sleep.

She took out her master key, put it in the lock, but the door swung open before she could turn it. Curious, she stepped inside and saw nothing unusual but noticed that the door to the inner office was ajar. Leaving her cleaning cart in the hallway, she went inside.

On a shabby couch, looking like he’d fallen off his sled, was Santa Claus.

She stood there for a moment. Santa’s suit was torn at the collar, his white wig had twigs sticking out at odd angles, his Santa hat was missing, and his beard was over his nose and completely covering his left eye. (The right eye appeared to be black and blue but that was none of her business.)

She wanted to ask if he was OK, she was about to, when Santa groaned and sat up, not much, but a little straighter. He looked at his watch, saw it wasn’t there, then squinted at the clock through his bruised and starting to swell eye. “What time is it?”

She gave a little, startled jump, then looked at the clock and answered “almost 1 in the morning.”

Santa squinted at her, then straightened his beard and looked at her through his now-uncovered left eye. “That’s it? Usually the parties in my head don’t start thumping like that until 3. They better watch out or they’re going to get raided.” He gingerly took off his wig and even more gingerly started to rub the back of his head. “Do me a favor, sweetheart. Take a look back there. Tell me if it’s as bad as it feels.”

Slowly, she moved just close enough to him to see and leaned over. “Well, not too bad…” She leaned back, but the look on her face didn’t reassure him.

He looked at her. She looked at him. He was an odd sight. Short dark hair and a thick white Santa beard. “That bump feels about the size of Patton’s ego.”

She shuffled a little. “Maybe you should call a doctor?”

He took a deep breath. “I’ve had worse.” He shifted a bit on the couch, then an odd look crossed his face. He patted his red jacket and reached into a pocket. His voice changed, a cross between surprise and anger. “They don’t really think…” He trailed off as he pulled out a very thick wad of bills.

She looked away. This did not interest her. She did not want it to interest her.

The man in the Santa suit jumped up. He swayed a little, but his face (what could be seen behind the beard) was set. “He really thinks this will work.”

She looked around the office. It was old. It needed paint. There were two chairs against the wall and one of them looked ready to fall apart. She was sure this man could use the money, just like she could.

He turned to her. “It was nice meeting you, but I have an appointment to return a favor.” Grabbing his Santa hat off the couch (he was sitting on it the whole time) he took a couple of more-or-less steady steps over to the desk, where he took something small and black out of a drawer and slipped it somewhere inside his voluminously overstuffed Santa jacket. She looked away and brushed some of the lint off of her recently mended apron.

Santa stood for a second and looked at her, taking in the full picture, and, she thought she could feel, his keen eyes taking in even more.

“Thank you,” he said. She thought that the way he said it, he meant for more than just looking at his head.

Then he rushed out of the room, but stopped at the office door. He turned back, let out a deep baritone “Merry Christmas!” and a softer “ho ho ho” and left.

She fluffed the near-threadbare couch as best she could, closed the inner door, and wondered what kind of man would get so angry to find so much money.

She closed and locked the outer door and, running her fingers over the painted letters on the frosted glass spelling out DETECTIVE AGENCY, realized that this was the first time she had met Hollywood Russell.

She turned to her cleaning cart and was about to move on to the next office when she noticed that Santa’s beard was lying on top. Maybe it had fallen off?

Probably not. The thick wad of cash was beneath it.

She heard a soft “ho ho ho,” looked to her right, and saw a flash of red disappear down the hall and around the corner.

 

The End

 

This has been

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