Last Summer

The cove is not much visited. It is isolated, hard to reach and haunted by the restless souls of shipwrecked sailors, drowned when their vessels were torn apart on the treacherous rocks hereabouts. The story goes that on certain windswept nights a ghost ship rides the wild surf and the screams of the drowning sailors can still be heard above the roar of the tumbling waves.

On the walk to the cove we pass through a hanging river valley: it’s been cut short of sloping into the sea due to erosion of the cliffs by the wild Atlantic waves. The day is full of sun and the sea calm. The valley is rich in wildflowers and heathland butterflies. A species of wild Chamomile grows abundantly here, but is very rare throughout the rest of the UK. It is a good place to pause for a while, make love without fear of interruption, and afterwards picnic on sandwiches and champagne.

During stormy weather, sea foam is driven into the cove by the wind and vortices form against the sheer cliffs resulting in small tornadoes of sea foam. This spume at twilight resembles myriad dancing phantoms…

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quite harmless

January 12, 2020

‘….I imagine it’s been going on for hundreds of years. It’s quite harmless, just a vision of something from the past that is permanently or temporarily fixed in this place. I doubt that even Groves could capture it on film: I expect it’s something that produces an image in our brains. . . .’

David G. Rowlands
A Job Not Done

I asked her if she never thought she saw anything to account for the sounds she heard. She told me, no more than once, on the darkest evening she ever came through the Wood; and then she seemed forced to look behind her as the rustling came in the bushes, and she thought she saw something all in tatters with the two arms held out in front of it coming on very fast, and at that she ran for the stile, and tore her gown all to flinders getting over it.

M.R. James
A Neighbour’s Landmark

This church felt wrong. I do not say this lightly. Dealers are undertakers of a sort. When a man dies, the undertaker comes for his body, and quite often the dealer comes for the rest. How often I have been left alone to break up the home a man has built up over fifty years, and sell the pieces where I can. As I break up the home, I know the man. I have known a cracked teapot yield enough evidence of adultery to satisfy ten divorce-court judges. I learn that he was mean from his boots; that trapped for ever inside the sepia photographs are seven of his children. From his diary, that he believed in God or the Devil or Carter’s Little Liver Pills. I deal in dead men’s clocks, pipes, swords and velvet breeches. And passing through my hands, they give off joy and loneliness, fear and optimism. I have known more evil in a set of false teeth than in any so-called haunted house in England.

….I couldn’t keep still in that place. It wasn’t just the cold. I thought I’d come prepared for that, with a quilted anorak and three sweaters. No, I kept having, not delusions, not even fears, but odd little anxieties . . . preoccupations. I had the conviction the walls weren’t vertical . . . or was it the floor, that seemed to slope down towards the middle of the nave? Certainly the floor was hollow; no one could walk on it and listen to the echo of his footsteps without realizing that. Then . . . the windows didn’t seem to be letting in as much light as they should. I kept going outside to check if the sky was getting cloudy, but it was still bright and sunny, thank God, and I went back feeling the better for it.

Then I stared at the cross in a side-chapel. It just looked like two bits of wood nailed together. I mean, it was just two bits of wood nailed together; but though I’m not a religious sort, I tend to see any cross as a bit more than two bits of wood nailed together.

And that smell. Or niff, as Henry would have it. It wasn’t strong, but it was everywhere; you never got it out of your nostrils. The only thing I can liken it to was when I got in a new lavatory-bowl at the shop; it had to be left for the sealant to dry overnight, so the builder stuffed wet paper down the hole, but the biting black smell of the sewer filled my shop and dreams all night.

Robert Westall
The Last Day of Miss Dorinda Molyneaux

The Screaming Skull

January 2, 2020

We walk in darkness with phantoms and spectres we know not of, and our little world plunges blindly through abysses toward a goal of which we have no conception. That thought itself is a blow at our beliefs and comprehension. We used to content ourselves by thinking we knew all about our world, at least; but now it is different, and we wonder if we really know anything, or if there can be safety and peace anywhere in the wide universe.

Donald Wandrei
Strange Harvest

ghost stories

December 30, 2019

Writers of ghost stories today are at a disadvantage compared to their predecessors — and the situation is getting worse. That is of course because, as with ‘westerns’ or other ‘genre’ fiction, there are a strictly limited number of plots and incidents possible. Ghost behaviour is ‘old hat’, and the writer seeking acceptance today needs to come up with something a bit original or different.

David G. Rowlands
Introduction to: The Executor and Other Ghost Stories

I remembered how we delved in this ghoul’s grave with our spades, and how we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horrible shadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires, the sickening odours, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard, directionless baying, of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure.

H P Lovecraft
The Hound

in a void

December 21, 2019

Darkness is a strange thing — it is both infinite and confining; it holds you tight in its grasp, but it holds you suspended in a void. Silence operates in a similar way. Slowly the two combine to become a threat.

Reggie Oliver
Come Into My Parlour

Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen; author of some dozen tales long and short, in which the elements of hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness…His powerful horror-material of the ’nineties and earlier nineteen-hundreds stands alone in its class, and marks a distinct epoch in the history of this literary form.

H P Lovecraft
Supernatural Horror in Literature