black and gray in the shadows

December 30, 2017

sensuous threat

The first ghost was Iris Lesley, looking as if she had been peeled from a movie screen. She was all silver when the moonlight hit her, black and gray in the shadows. She moved like she hadn’t been in the ground for thirty years, like she was walking a red carpet in diamond slingbacks and McQueen gown. Welch hadn’t been able to look away, thinking the actress was a hallucination. After the knife across a throat . . . After all that blood . . . What might a mind do to erase it?

So Welch didn’t move when Iris Lesley did, allowing her ghostly fingers to stairstep their way up a cheek, into a tangle of hair, across and into a mouth. Iris Lesley was hot and tasted like ash, which didn’t surprise Welch one bit, given she had died in a studio fire that had consumed four blocks before it too died.

E Catherine Tobler

Haunted Houses

November 2, 2017

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night, –

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I am definitely now exploring what science can do to create a new biological body for a ghost or a spirit. I am certainly asking whether or not newly created humanoid entities have souls. I do have my own pantheon of ghosts, elves, werewolves, vampires, mummies, witches and the like. I have loved creating this. And I’ve had wonderful fun exhuming these horror clichés and doing my take on them. I think there are certain concepts that unite my work, and the main one, of course is that the monster, particularly the vampire, is a metaphor for us, a metaphor for the outsider and the predator in each of us. Good horror fiction as I see it is always about us, about the human condition. It is always allegorical and metaphorical. I love writing these books. They are about my reality, my moral and social obsessions.

Ann Rice
Interview 14th February

All Souls’ Night, 1917

October 21, 2017

You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath –
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.

Hortense King Flexner

The unexpected roar of a cannon wrecked the silence of that cold night –

Nehemiah Fosternbury, shepherd, started suddenly round; his dog, slouching at his feet, growled a warning.

It was December 1642. The country was at war with itself, Royalists against Parliamentarians. Only two months earlier, a huge battle had taken place at nearby Edgehill, the first major conflict of the English Civil War. Had the soldiers returned once again, to spill yet more blood…?

Cavalier or Roundhead, Nehemiah cared not. All were of a fierce, bloody and licentious disposition. All committed every manner of cruelty on the inhabitants of those places they came to.

A volley from massed match-lock muskets echoed over the valley. Screams and curses could be heard…But from overhead!

Poor Nehemiah felt the sounds to be the very emblem of Sodom and Gomorrah! Glancing upwards he saw them. Phantom armies in the night sky. The battle of Edgehill was being refought. Spectral soldiers screamed and died in agony. Cannon flamed and thundered. And Nehemiah fell trembling to the ground in his terror –

Over the coming weeks and months, others reported hearing this same spectral battle played out in the skies around Edgehill. Ghost were encountered too on the battlefield itself. The area developed a dreadful reputation for hauntings.

The first reports of these apparitions and the existence of a ‘strange psychic aura’ at Edgehill appeared in a pamphlet published January 1643. This pamphlet tells us of ‘Apparitions and Prodigious Noyses of War and Battels seen on Edge-Hill near Keinton in Warwickshire.’ It continues:

‘At this Edge-Hill, in the very place where the battle was stricken, have since and doth appear, strange and portentious Apparations of two jarring and contrary armies…it being certified by men of most credit in those parts…between twelve and one of the clock in the morning was heard by some shepherds, and other countrymen, and travelers, first the sound of drummes afar off, and the noyse of souldiers, as it were, giving out their last groanes…but then, on the sudden…appearing in the ayre the same incorporeall souldiers that made these clamours, and immediately, with Ensignes display’d, Drummes beating, Musquets going off, Cannons discharged, Horses neighing…the alarum…and so pell mell to it they went…after some three hours fight, that the Army which carried the King’s colours withdrew, or rather appeared to flie; the other remaining as it were masters of the field…On Sunday, being Christmas night, appeared in the same tumultuous warlike manner, the same two adverse Armies, fighting with as much spite and spleen as formerly…The rumour whereof coming to his Majestie at Oxford, he immediately dispatched thither Colonel Kirke and three other gentlemen of Credit…who…heard and saw the forementioned prodigies…distinctly knowing divers of the apparitions or incorporeall substances by their faces, as that of Sir Edmund Varney, and others that were slaine.’ *

The Edgehill ghosts have not ceased to exercise their influence on succeeding generations of visitors to the battlefield. Many have suggested they were conscious of being watched on the battlefield by ‘many hundreds of unseen eyes’. The international concert pianist Michaeli related the account of his visit to a place on the field where Cavaliers and Roundheads are buried together. Here he became deeply disturbed, cut short his visit and returned home immediately. However, on his return home, he became aware of a most terrifying fact, ‘which was that I had brought back with me one dead from the battlefield.’ A visitor who went on to haunt Michaeli for about one month, after which ‘he ‘left me as suddenly as he appeared.’#

* British Library, Thomason Tracts, E85, “A Great Wonder in Heaven, Shewing the Late Apparitions Seen at Edge-Hill.”

# Statement of 15th November 1966 by Michael Howard Romney-Woolard and quoted in Peter Young, ‘Edgehill 1642’.

23rd July

Living here with so many ghosts I feel like a caretaker of the restless dead – a protector of spirits who haunt my life – so that I’ve become my own haunted house, attempting communication with partially glimpsed movements at the edge of perception, or the sound of a creaking stair, or a noise in the attic which might only be the patter of falling rain…My ghosts can be cranky on occasion: they can whisper words, the meaning of which I’m unable to determine.

It’s been a long time since anyone treated them well –


So the Saturday evening play-party. With our friends from the local munch, people possessing the emotional bandwidth to comply with our safety standards, while sharing similar aesthetic tastes to ourselves.

Like a small film club, are we, eagerly awaiting the main attraction: crisps, freshly roasted nuts and popcorn are liberally distributed to ‘the audience’ in small china bowls. Missy A has been naughty and is to be disciplined while we watch. Furniture has been moved to accommodate this tableaux.

Seeing Missy A bent over a chair with her skirt hitched up is breathtaking. Hearing a hand slap against her buttocks, is so very arousing – how could it be otherwise? Savouring the slight trembling of flesh with each fresh impact. Her yelps of discomfort –

Then E rising to join T who is tiring. E has a riding crop. She takes T’s place. Her skin-head hair cut is intimidating. She uses the crop with consummate skill –

Yelps become cries. Missy’s poor glowing bum is criss-crossed with red stripes –

Missy’s now estranged husband used to take her to play-parties in the boot of their car. Almost nude, gagged and handcuffed, even in winter, she would endure this humiliation without complaint. His treatment of her became harsher and harsher, until she finally left him eighteen months ago.

It should serve as a lesson to us all, how quickly such consensual abuse can become pure abuse –

I’m reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre and his theory of emotions as ‘magic’. Because Missy has simply exchanged one sadist for another. The new man in her life allows his fantasies free rein. She is, it seems, one of life’s natural victims –

E’s skill with that crop is superlative. Her strokes are hard enough to mark Missy’s naked bum but not to break the skin. I can’t take my eyes from Missy, her tear-filled eyes, parted lips, writhing as if in the grip of some invisible power. Sex is inherently ritualistic, a symbolic act whose meanings extend beyond itself. And there can be no doubt that Missy’s submission is sexual, that she takes pleasure from E’s practiced flogging of her backside. And every face in ‘the audience’ is slightly flushed with sexual excitement as they look on. And my own arousal is equally obvious –

Finally, aftercare. Caresses, kisses, gentle stroking. A smile on Missy’s tear-stained face. She experienced some sort of climax near the end of her ‘punishment’, and all the tension is now drained from her.

I finish my popcorn (which incidentally is homemade) as E takes Missy upstairs to the bathroom to fix her make-up.

‘I hope they don’t wake the ghosts,’ I say to no one in particular.

And no one, as expected, bothers to reply.


Hamlet experienced an encounter with a ghost and it ended in massacre. Macbeth was confronted by Banquo’s ghost during a great banquet, and lost his peace of mind forever. It’s more than likely that Shakespeare’s ghosts are simply psychological manifestations of guilt – imagined apparitions, in other words.

But what of my ghosts?

Trish, for example?

She used to love me reading out loud to her. At bedtime I always had to read to her or she couldn’t sleep. On occasion she would perform an act of fellation upon me as I read –

She once described herself to me as ‘Terribly thin’. And her body, I must admit, was like a sabre slash in silk. As flat chested as a boy, was she. ‘You’re fine,’ I’d tell her. ‘I love you as you are.’ And then laid her back and performed cunnilingus on her for almost an hour –

I read her ‘The Story of O’ and we both got turned on by it. It was Christmas Eve I remember, and Trish guided me between her buttocks. I gently sodomized her for the first time while she masturbated herself.

We talked a lot about art, writing, music and cinema. One time I told her about André Gide, his enormous influence on the young, which sprang from his teaching that one’s only duty is to oneself, that one should never be ‘encumbered’, either by material possessions, memories or other people –

‘Often the best in us springs from the worst in us.’

And so I read ‘Isabelle’ to Trish, and we both visited le chateau de la Quartfourche with Gerard Lacase, and accompanied him on his quest for Isabelle in the grip of ‘amorous curiosity’.

Books, reading, more reading and fucking. ‘Why don’t you read me something you’ve written?’ she asked. It was a bridge too far for me. ‘No,’ I said. ‘Never that. It’s all too awful.’ But she insisted, so finally I recited some of the poems in ‘Summer Births’ from memory. And while the words spilled gently from my mouth like little lost souls, Trish fondled me erect and masturbated me –

Trish had always had a thing about India. For her it seemed a magical, mysterious, exotic place. One day she announced she was finally going to go there. She’d saved the money. She was going for six months – longer if she could!

And so she drifted from my life almost as casually as she’d drifted into it. And now she keeps company with the crowd of ghosts occupying this place; a spectre who loves to hear me read out loud late at night –

Ghosts in my soul

May 14, 2017

14th May

Long days, followed by candle lit evenings and laughter. Rain slanting at the windows last night, followed by a misty moist morning full of ghosts. Sometimes just to sit and watch the rain brings a strange sense of calm to me. Thunder and lightning, on the other hand, sets a fire in my soul…


Last summer, walking the coastal path south from Portreath. Took the narrow path down to the sea, all elbow turns and screaming gulls. Deadman’s Cove below. Cold here, despite the intense heat of the day. The beach is all pebbles and black rocks. At low tide the wreck of a ship sunk back in 1978 becomes partially visible.

Here the sea is still and black, brooding under rocky shadows; no surfing or swimming – too cold and dark and dangerous. The Cove is a haunted place. A ghost regularly appears before visitors, only to fade away when directly addressed. Or so they say.

One of the most perilous stretches of coast imaginable. Many ships sunk over the years, the bodies inevitably washing up in Deadman’s Cove. Uneasy atmosphere to the place, giving an intense and inexplicable sense of foreboding to many of the coves visitors…

Ghostly screams of drowning men frequently heard here in the night…


Strange things do happen. In August 1894 some parts of Bath were covered by thousands of small Jelly fish that fell from the sky!

Personal Darkness

May 5, 2017

5th May

Imbibing alcohol can make fools of us all, but it can also make us more candid than we’d otherwise have been…

Dee, slightly intoxicated last night, explaining that as a young girl she offered a kiss to a boy, a neighbour, if he’d take down trousers and underwear then sit in a patch of nettles. Surprisingly, the boy complied. Dee told him he must ‘wriggle’ on the nettles. Again he complied. But shortly afterwards, he began to cry. She encouraged him to stand and kissed him several times on the mouth in an attempt to stop his tears. She was eight years old; the boy nine.

At home later that same day the boy’s mother created holly hell with Dee’s parents. His bottom and testicles were covered in little white blisters from the nettles; he could not sit still, and had been liberally bathed in calamine lotion. Dee’s mother, furious, sent Dee up to bed without supper. Both her mother and father said they were disgusted by her behaviour.

Dee remembers mainly the boy’s penis being very stiff when he sat in the nettles and when she kissed him.

In confessional mood, Gabriella told of her mother’s coldness towards her as a young child. Her mother had really wanted a boy, but ended up with a girl. There was no intimacy between the pair, no closeness and cuddles.

And when Gabby’s brother was born, he became the apple of mum’s eye: nothing was too much for him. Gabriella felt more isolated than ever. Hers was a childhood of loneliness and confusion. She needed love, but was haunted by a sense of inadequacy. Alone in the vast world of childhood, she made the place inhabitable by complete and total submission to the will of her mother, who she saw as the dominant force in her life. A force that must be appeased at any cost. Then, and only then, love would follow.

At age fourteen, one sunfilled summer afternoon, Gabriella and a school friend, a slightly older girl, played a game of ‘strip poker’ in Gabby’s bedroom. They were alone in the house: Gabby’s mother was at a carboot sale in a neighbouring town; her father was at work, and her brother at a friend’s house. Inevitably both girls became naked, but they continued to play – only for ‘dares’ now. There were intimate touches, caresses. An element of mutual masturbation. Finally Gabriella was ‘dared’ to go down on the other girl – and she did, without a moment’s hesitation…

It was at that moment her mother walked into the bedroom! She’d returned early with a splitting headache.

There followed a highly charged and emotional scene. Gabby’s mother called her ‘Ugly and unnatural’. She ordered the other girl to dress and get out of the house. Her final comment, ‘You’re both a pair of dirty lesbians…’ broke Gabriella’s heart.

Dee grew up with a conviction that in human relationships, there were only two possible positions: one of rapacious domination; the other of docile submission. Dee would never play the role of submissive. She could not, would not struggle against the duality in her nature. Gabriella on the other hand, always sought love, intimacy, acceptance: to obtain these, she submitted to others thoughtlessly, flitted from one sex to the other, always humble and eager to please, but sexually avid.


It’s always best kissing the middle of a sentence, long languorous kisses to melt the words…



I once encountered a ghost. A terrible apparition, it was, too. The following morning I woke believing the encounter to have been a nightmare, a simple bad dream in which I stood powerless and screaming at the spectre of one recently dead.

It was some days later Ailsa told me she had hurried to me after hearing my cries in the night. That part at least had been no dream. She saw no ‘ghost’ but I was standing in the centre of a locked room in an almost hysterical state.

How had the room become unlocked?

Neither of us could say; it was a mystery.

So, was it dream, hallucination or horrifying reality? I’m still not certain.

Diary 3rd May

The first of May it rained all day. We didn’t much care. Once at home we battened down the hatches and watched DVDs; in the evening we played “Cards against Humanity”, great fun.

Tuesday, App and Wal visited us in the evening. Mild bondage games with lots of laughter, an amateur porno movie, and mutual teasing during the hour and a half duration of the film. I’m still a little sore from our Beltane eve celebrations.


Thoughts of the Reverend John Ruddle. The year is 1665 and Ruddle the incumbent of St Mary Magdalene, Launceston, is called to the home of the Bligh family resident near South Petherwin; they tell him of their young son, who claims he is regularly accosted by a ghostly apparition on his way to school.

Ruddle interviews the boy who recounts a most convincing story. The apparition, a woman, dressed in flowing robes, keeps gliding towards him as if to speak – but the boy can’t understand what it is she says. The boy is obviously very scared by these unpleasant experiences.

The Reverend arranges to accompany the boy and his father the following morning on his normal route to school. He records the following:

“We went into the field, and had not gone a third part before the spectrum, in the shape of a woman, with all the circumstances he had described the day before, so far as the suddenness of its appearance and transition would permit me to discover, passed by. I was a little surprised at it, and though I had taken up a firm resolution to speak to it, I had not the power, nor durst I look back; yet I took care not to show any fear to my pupil and guide.”

Convinced the ghost is a disturbed spirit, Ruddle visits his Bishop who agrees an exorcism. The Reverend duly arms himself with bell, book and candle and proceeds to again confront the specter. His account continues:

“Soon after five I stepped over the stile into the haunted field, and had not gone above thirty or forty paces before the ghost appeared at the further stile. I spoke to it in some short sentences with a loud voice; whereupon it approached me, but slowly, and when I came near it moved not. I spoke again, and it answered in a voice neither audible nor very intelligible. I was not in the least terrified, and therefore persisted until it spoke again and gave me satisfaction; but the work could not be finished at this time. Whereupon the same evening, an hour after sunset, it met me again near the same place, and after a few words on each side it quietly vanished, and neither doth appear now, nor hath appeared since, nor ever will more to any man’s disturbance…

“These things are true and I know them to be so, with as much certainty as eyes and ears can give me.”


The local hunt were out on Monday. Were they ‘accidentally’ killing foxes or have they found new quarry to pursue?

Ghost dance for one

April 29, 2017

28th / 29th April

Warm night. Our normal Ménagerie de trois became a Ménagerie de quatre for a time. Having resisted the temptations of the drinks cabinet all week, I had red wine with my evening meal and brandy and water before bed (to fortify me, you understand). I eat roasted red & yellow peppers with vine tomatoes instead of the fruit that had been daily diet since Monday. Such is life.


Ghosts abound. They are everywhere. Do you know there are more reported sightings of ghosts in the UK today than in any other country round the world?

It’s not a new phenomena, either.

There are countless references throughout the Middle Ages to ghosts or the spirits of the dead wandering the land of the living. Obviously, as supernatural phenomena, they were to be feared. However, from contemporaneous accounts, it seems that generally speaking these medieval spectres were haunting the living because they needed help. In the year 1457, for example, as one chronicler gleefully relates, a ghost appeared and demanded that his nephew depart immediately on pilgrimage to Compostella; once there a mass must be said to free the soul of the dead uncle from Purgatory. The ghost wanted release.

These medieval visitants were (generally speaking) not ghosts in the modern sense of the word but walking corpses. The fast decaying dead returned. William of Newburgh was in no doubt that to combat these gruesome revenants holy water and various holy relics were very necessary.

To show how widespread the belief in ghosts, during the twelfth century many oaths were taken over a dead person’s tomb. This was to ensure that ghosts took revenge for any perjury or that they acted as a supernatural witness to that oath. Oath + ghost = binding contract (or else!).


Our preparations for Beltane proceed apace. We hope for good weather, but…? Whatever, it’ll be a good night. And I will Lèche la chatte until my jaw aches like hell!