Gig Day IV: Spooktacular II

We’re a mere day away from Halloween.  All the build-up and fun are reaching their culmination.  Indeed, I’ll be playing a fortieth birthday party tomorrow—a last-minute booking that will make it a very lucrative Halloween for yours portly.

But tonight I’ll be hosting my second annual Halloween Spooktacular!  I staged my first Spooktacular last year, and it was so much fun, I decided I had to do it again.

Unfortunately, in The Age of The Virus many venues have stopped hosting live music.  For example, the coffee shop that hosted last year’s Spooktacular is doing take-out orders only.  That’s the case with a number of other coffee shops in my area, which has eliminated most live performances and open mic nights.

So I decided to stage the Spooktacular on my front porch!

Read More »

TBT: Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

It’s getting into that spooky time of year, so for this week’s TBT I decided to look back at “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap.”  I spent most of my Spring Break this year reading horror short stories, writing reviews about and recommendations for some of the better stories I read.

I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed.  I will add that love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror.  The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.

With that, here is “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap“:

Read More »

TBT: On Ghost Stories

Today marks the first day of October, perhaps my favorite month of the year.  We’re already getting that first crisp coolness in the air here in South Carolina, and it’s feeling more and more like autumn every day.

So with Halloween just thirty days away, I thought it would be fun to look back at a post from last “All Hallowe’s Eve Eve,” as I wrote at the time:  one all about ghost stories.

I finally finished slogging my way through The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, thanks in no small part to quarantine.  It’s an excellent collection, and I stand by my recommendation from last October, but there are a handful of stories that are way too long—or dense.

I’m now reading through a more accessible, far lighter read:  the classic Tar Heel Ghosts by John Harden.  It’s a collection of North Carolina-based ghost stories published in the 1950s, so it has that pleasing sense of implicit patriotism and love of place that is now so sadly missing from our cynical, cosmopolitan writing of today.  Like The Story of Yankee Whaling, it possesses a refreshing innocence about and love for its subject:  no hand-wringing over now-unfashionable ideas, no condemnation of a lack of diversity, no talk of “marginalized” groups being “unrepresented.”

I picked up the book sometime in my childhood on a family trip, but I don’t think I ever finished the collection.  I’m rectifying that all these years later, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  I also plan to reread Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, one of my favorites to pull out this time of year.

Here’s hoping you find some spooky tales of your own to curl up with on these cold, October nights.  Here’s October 2019’s “On Ghost Stories“:

It’s Halloween!  Well, at least it’s All Hallow’s Eve Eve, but that’s close enough for some ghoulishly delicious ghost stories.

I love a good ghost story.  The Victorians did the genre best, but many writers since have honed it further, adding their own unique twists and scares.  Even Russell Kirk, the great conservative philosopher, was a fan of ghost stories.  Indeed, his bestselling book was a ghost story.

For the Victorians, ghost stories were told at Christmastime.  This timing, while peculiar to modern readers, makes sense intuitively—Christmas is a time for remembering the past, in part (perhaps especially) our honored dead (just ask Washington Irvingif he comes by to haunt you).  The “ghosts” of departed loved ones linger closely during those long, frosty nights.  The inherent nostalgia of Christmas and the winter season—and bundling up next to a crackling fire—sets the perfect mood for ghostly tales.

Nevertheless, what other time of year can beat Halloween for a good tale of witches and werewolves; of monsters and mummies; of ghouls, goblins, and ghosts?

As such, I’d encourage readers to check out “Nocturne of All Hallow’s Eve,” a deliciously frightening, blood-soaked tale of the supernatural and the macabre from Irish-American author Greg Patrick.  Alternative fiction website Terror House Magazine posted it back in September, and I’ve been saving it to share on the blog until now.

Patrick’s style conjures the dense verbiage of Edgar Allan Poe.  Indeed, he overdoes it a bit (see his more recently published “The Familiar“).  But his subject matter is pure Halloween—the tenuous space between the natural and the supernatural, the mysterious rituals, and on and on.

If you’re still in search of some ghostly reads, check out The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories.  It’s the collection I’ve been reading since my trip to New Jersey this summer.  It’s a truly spine-tingling collection that covers some of the great—and many of the undeservedly unsung—writers of the genre, the men and women who truly created and molded what makes a good ghost story.

So wherever you find yourself the next couple of nights, curl up with a good book, a warm fire, and a good ghost story (and maybe someone else, if you’re so inclined).  You and the ghosts will be glad you did!

Ghost

Donate to The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

5.00 $

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Audre Myers over at Nebraska Energy Observer always has some interesting observations about the world around us (indeed, once a week she writes a post called “Random Observations“—check it out).  Her latest post—the whimsically titled “ooOOoo – BOO!“—explores the world beyond our observation, the world of ghosts, spirits, demons, and “haints.”  It’s also the world of angels, and of God.

Myers makes a point that that really hit me when I was in college taking a senior seminar history course called “Society and the Supernatural”:  that as Christians, if we believe in the Holy Trinity, we also have to believe in a broader supernatural world.  For Christians, there is ample scriptural evidence of not just the presence of the Holy Spirit, but also of angels—with their own hierarchy and roles—and demons, those fallen angels that joined Lucifer in his prideful rebellion against God.  The Bible speaks often of “principalities” and spirits that rule over ungodly nations.

How far beyond Scripture such supernatural creatures extend is a source of speculation and debate, and I suspect we won’t truly know until we’re on the other side.  There is a danger in exploring the non-godly supernatural, as it opens spiritual doors within us that could make us susceptible to demonic influence—or, at the extremes, possession.  Compulsive sinning can have the same effect, but messing with the occult—even out of an innocent curiosity to understand that world better—seems far likelier to result in catastrophic unintended consequences.

What I did learn in that college course, though, was that at least one member of the Scottish Enlightenment (whose name and work I cannot locate—blast!) expended a great deal of energy trying to discover fairies (apparently, people are still looking for them).  He reasoned that if fairies, giants, and other mythical creatures of Scottish folklore existed, that would prove the existence of the supernatural.  If the supernatural is real, God is real; if God is real, then fairies can exist.

Our groping, grasping attempts to understand the supernatural are, well, natural—it’s certainly a fascinating subject.  But the Bible makes it clear what fate awaits us if we accept Christ—and what awaits us if we reject Him.

Still, I do not discount out-of-hand the possibility of supernatural presences beyond what we know from Scripture.  I don’t want to go poking around in their domains for the reasons stated above, but it’s intellectually arrogant and shortsighted to assume we know everything.  That’s the folly of our modern age—we applaud ourselves for demystifying the world, yet we’re more lost and in the dark than ever.

And what of those Scottish fairies?  Surely their existence is more than the feeble attempts of ancient minds to explain the natural world, as the priests of scientism and materialism would argue.  No, there is too much anecdotal evidence—across thousands of years and cultures—to discount the existence of such things.

All I know is that Jesus is alive—and all this talk of ghosts has me excited for Halloween.

Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part II: “Thus I Refute Beelzy”

As I noted yesterday, Spring Break is an excellent time to catch up on some reading.  I am particularly fond of short stories, especially ghost stories, which can thoroughly explore one or two ideas in a relatively bite-sized chunk.  They’re perfect for casual reading while enjoying some downtime.

Like yesterday’s selection, today’s short story recommendation, John Collier‘s “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” comes from 11 Great Horror Stories, a collection of short stories that are not entirely horrific in nature, the title notwithstanding.

Thus I Refute Beelzy” definitely is a horror story, with touches of The Omen and Children of the Corn; that is to say, it’s a little bit of “terror-tot fiction,” a term I learned recently from Alan Jones’s review of the film Let’s Be Evil, one of the scores of bad horror films on Hulu.

The whole story is very short—about five pages—and can be read in around ten to fifteen minutes.  Indeed, there is a chilling recording of Vincent Price reading the story that is just shy of thirteen (mwahahahaha!) minutes long:

Within those five pages, though, Collier crams a great deal of characterization—and terror.

Read More »

Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part I: “The Judge’s House”

One of the perks of teaching is all the time we get off.  For my money, it’s not the long summer break that is the best—usually because I spend my summers working—but Christmas Break, which stretches on for two stately weeks.  It’s the ideal amount of time to decompress after the long Fall semester.

Next to that, however, is Spring Break, which at my little school lasts for a gloriously overstuffed eleven days, if you include the weekends (it’s seven workdays in total).  I still contend that Easter should get its full due and, a la a Southern European and/or Latin American country, get a full two weeks.

Nevertheless, the time off gives me a bit more time to relax and reflect (although I’ve been promised quite a few chores from my parents, who I am visiting for a bit)—and to read.  When it comes to books, I have the same issue as I do at buffets:  my eyes are bigger than my stomach (or, in this case, my capacity to read everything).  I always bring too many books with me on any trip, and am lucky to crack even one of them.  I also overindulge in written junk food, like reading various articles and blog posts online.

Further, my parents’ house, like my own, is full of books.  So I often find myself thumbing through their collection while neglecting my own Babel-esque stack of half-read tomes.

Such has been the case this Spring Break.  My own stack of reading sits forlornly to my right, probably feeling (if books can feel) a tad unnecessary.  Instead, I’ve been reading through a short story collection, 11 Great Horror Stories, edited by Betty M. Owen.  It’s a collection my mother picked up from a Scholastic book sale when she was still in school (this particular printing, the fourth, was published in March 1970, though the original copyright date is 1969), and it’s held up remarkably well for a paperback.

The collection itself is not all that horrific.  Several of the stories are only tangentially related, at best, to the horror genre; some of them, like Poe’s “The Oblong Box,” are more properly mysteries.  The collection does open with H.P. Lovecraft’s magisterial “The Dunwich Horror,” which is a must-read, although I skipped over it on this reading because it’s nearly sixty-five pages long.

For a detailed synopsis of all eleven stories, GoodReads.com reviewer Williwaw has written an excellent and useful summary of the collection, without giving away any of the fun and macabre twists.

For our purposes today, I’m recommending one of the better stories from the collection, Bram Stoker‘s (of Dracula fame) “The Judge’s House,” first published 5 December 1891.

Read More »

The Classiest Easter Eggs

It’s hard to believe that Easter is this Sunday.  The weather is just right for it, of course, with bees buzzing and flowers blooming, but with everyone cloistered away in their respective hovels, it sure doesn’t feel like the joyous, victorious Easter season.

Some perspective helps, though.  Other people in other times have endured far worse at Easter.  Just last year saw the Sri Lankan church bombings, a despicable act that itself came on the heels on the disastrous Notre Dame fire.  It’s surprising—even though it shouldn’t be by now—that we’ve largely forgotten about those two terrible occurrences, both acts of Islamist terror—religious war (it’s a bit unclear in the case of Notre Dame—which ISIS overtly tried to attack in 2016—but come now).

There was also the 1975 Hamilton, Ohio “Easter Massacre,” a brutal family shooting in which Jimmy Rupert murdered his massive family of eleven in cold blood (it was so grisly, one website considers the house where the mass murder occurred haunted).

So, all things considered, staying home and watching horror movies isn’t all that bad (perhaps even a tad apropos).  Still, it isn’t all that Easter-y.

To remedy that sensation, let’s look at a charming little piece from The Epoch Times about some rather unique—and extremely valuable—Easter surprises.

Read More »

SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

The Age of the Virus has demanded a unique sacrifice of all us, one that is fitting for our reduced age.  Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy and fought in the jungles of Iwo Jima.  They and their parents endured the Great Depression (we may be facing a similar struggle).  They sacrificed in blood, sweat, and toil.

All The Virus demands of us—the great sacrifice we all must make, of which we will tell our grandchildren, when they ask about the plague—is that we stay at home and watch movies.

It’s amusing.  Commentators will often quip that Americans today couldn’t make the sacrifices of the so-called “Greatest Generation.”  God surely has a sense of humor, for the sacrifices we’re asked to make are ones in which Americans are well-trained:  sit around, eat junk food, don’t visit other people, and veg out in front of the tube.

To that end, I’ve been engaged in my civic duty this week, as I’ve watched nine films.  Four are from the Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi 4-Movie Horror Collection, which I will write about in more detail another time (it’s only $10, and I highly recommend picking it up for The Black Cat alone—and the other films on it are good, too).

But the focus of this SubscribeStar Saturday will be another collection of B-horror flicks:  the Hammer Films Collection.  No, it’s not the Ultimate Hammer Collection, which I thought I didn’t know existed, but it turns out it’s on my Amazon wish list!).  But it does have five excellent, macabre films (I also didn’t realize that my Hammer Films Collection is merely the first volume; Volume II is now on my Amazon wish list for future purchase).

So, prepare yourself for my review of The Two Faces of Dr. JekyllStop Me Before I Kill!Scream of Fear!The Gorgon, and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Milo on Romantic Music

The Christmas season always gets me excited for music, because there are so many wonderful carols and hymns about the birth of Jesus.  I will write more on the topic of Christmas carols later on in the month, but today I wanted to touch on a really niche topic:  Milo Yiannopoulos‘s love of Romantic-era music.

What got me on this topic is not just my musical mood; it was an epic Telegram thread Milo had going about… classical music.

Read More »