Lazy Sunday LXXXIX: Halloween Hijinks

Regular readers will know that love Halloween.  Indeed, I use the entire month of October as an excuse to revel in the fun of the season (instead of covering the election, the point of a blog ostensibly dedicated to commenting upon and analyzing politics).

I love it so much, I’m hosting a concert from my front porch, the “TJC Halloween Spooktacular: Front Porch Edition.”  I’ve got a couple of opening acts lined up, and then my buddies and I will take the stage for this second annual Spooktacular event.

So I thought this Sunday—the Sunday before All Hallows’ Eve—would be the perfect opportunity to look back at some spooky Halloween hijinks:

  • Halloween Week!” – This short post was one of my many paeans to Halloween.  It details South Carolina’s unfortunately hot and humid Halloweens—quite different from the crisp, autumnal Halloweens popular depictions of the holiday always portray.  I’m praying for a chill in the air this year!
  • On Ghost Stories” & “TBT: On Ghost Stories” – This post briefly discusses the importance of ghost stories, and why they’re so delightfully fun.  Victorians used to read ghost stories around Christmas, so I’m thinking we should just dedicate the last three months of the year to reading them.
  • Happy Halloween!” – THE post on Halloween!  I showed off some pictures of the pumpkin I carved (the featured image for this post).  As soon as I’m done with this post, I’m going to do this year’s carvings, so I’d better wrap it up!
  • Monsters” – … right after one more post.  This little piece looked at some previews of essays about monsters and the monstrous.  I also discuss the possibility of cryptids (like Bigfoot), and why God’s Creation is so limitless and interesting, it’s entirely possible such creatures could exist.

That’s it.  Now get your costumes, grab some spooky stories and movies, and get ready for HALLOWEEN!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Jack O'Lantern 2019 - Lit

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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“:

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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

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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 IV: “The Shed”

Well, all good things must come to an end.  Such is the fate of Spring Breaks everywhere.  While I still have the glorious weekend before me, today marks the formal last day of break.

With that, it’s time to finish out our Spring Break Short Story Recommendations (read Part I, Part II, Part III, and the TBT installment) with 1952’s “The Shed,” a bit of small-town terror by E. Eerett Evans.  This story is a tad obscure, as is its author, and I couldn’t find a free version online, but like “The Judge’s House” and “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” it’s from 11 Great Horror Stories.

“The Shed” takes place in a small town in Michigan in the first decade of the twentieth century, and focused primarily on the rough-and-tumble adventures of the town’s boys, all under fourteen.  The boys are scrappy, plucky, and fun, and spend their days exploring town, splashing in the local waterhole, and generally doing the kinds of things boys did before they were shut up in classes for eight hours everyday.

The boys’ favorite play place is a dilapidated shed that belongs to the local railroad company.  They use the shed as their base of operations, and as a makeshift jungle gym.  However, they strenuously avoid one dark corner of the shed, in which resides The Shadown, an iridescent, subtly shifting, amorphous mass of malevolence.  The boys know, instinctively, to stay away from it, but otherwise tolerate its malignant presence.

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Flashback Friday: The Desperate Search for Meaning

Seeing as yesterday was Halloween, I skipped the usual TBT feature to write about one of my favorite holidays.  Never one to waste effort, though, I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to copy-paste old material.  Even I need a break once a week.

So it is that we come to our first ever “Flashback Friday.”  Double-F won’t be a regular feature, but for those times when Thursdays warrant a fresh post, I’ll have this dubious quasi-featurette to assure I don’t have to spend too much time blogging at the end of a long week (seriously, knowing that Thursday’s post is an “easy” one usually helps, as Wednesdays are usually killer for me).

Being the Halloween season, I thought it would be worth looking back at one of the first posts in a currently four-part series (I, II, III, and IV), “The Desperate Search for Meaning.”  The series explores the various futile ways in which Westerners today attempt to find meaning in life without Christ, as well as the shockingly neo-pagan ideas that are regaining ground in our spiritually lost and fallen world.

The original post looked at a New Age fraud, Audrey Kitching, and the gullible, desperate women who literally slaved to help this snake-oil saleswoman sell cheap Chinese crap (if I ever try to sell any merchandise through this site, I promise I will not pitch Portly Politico: The Mug as having curative properties—it’ll just be a crummy mug with the blog’s name on it).  It’s a heartbreaking commentary on people’s willingness to ruin their lives just for the fleeting sensation of being a part of something bigger than themselves—filling their God-hole with Internet detritus instead of Christ.

So, without further soul-searching, here is “The Desperate Search for Meaning“:

Despite this post’s lofty title, the focus is somewhat narrow.  Many Christians and other people of faith believe there is an innate desire in all humans to believe in something higher than themselves—God.  I’ve heard this desire inelegantly (but accurately) described as a “God-hole,” a hole that cannot be filled with anything other than the Divine.

The West today is awash in cynicism and nihilism, and an aggressive form of anti-religious sentiment.  Just witness the amusing, angry lengths to which strident Internet atheists will go to denounce religious (almost always specifically Christian) beliefs.  It’s pedantic to write, but it bears repeating:  atheists ironically fill their “God-hole” with the religion of hating and/or denying God’s Existence.

The net effect of this existential nihilism is manifest in abundant ways:  high suicide rates, debased morality and behavior, the destruction of the family, and spiritual emptiness and confusion.  We overthrew God—or at least, we tried to remove Him from our lives—but the void, the “God-hole,” within us remains.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so something is going to fill that hole.  It was with interest, then, that I read this piece from The Daily Dot that I stumbled upon while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one day.  The piece is about a “healer” and lifestyle blogger named Audrey Kitching, who by all accounts is a duplicitous fraud:  she resells cheap Chinese jewelry at a huge markup, billing them as “energy crystals” and the like, and her gullible followers/victims eagerly lap it up.

What caught my attention, though, was not that a woman was trading on her looks and Instagram filters to build an online business, but rather the women who sacrificed their lives and good sense to someone who is, essentially, a bubblegum-haired freak with a penchant for codependent, psychologically abusive relationships.  Kitching convinced one of her employees to sever all ties with her family for a full year, and essentially used the poor, misguided woman as slave labor.

Men seem to succumb to the supposed “logic” of atheism, priding themselves on their assumed intellectual superiority for refusing to believe in anything beyond themselves.  Women, on the other hand, love quasi-spiritual garbage like Kitching’s baubles (it’s humorous reading how allegedly “legitimate” healers are opposed to Kitching for diminishing their corner on the medium/spiritualist market—I guess she’s not in their Scammers Guild).

Kitchings and her ilk—palm readers, dime-store oracles, astrologers, “good witches,” etc.—offer spirituality on the cheap:  all the “feel-good” stuff about loving other people and being part of the Universe, without any of the obligations—forming a family, living chastely and soberly, etc.  In the absence of strong men and strong institutions—namely the Church—and in an age of #MeToo feminism and “you go grrrrrl”-ism, women are easy prey for bubbly charlatans (if you’ve followed Hulu’s Into the Dark horror anthology, the fourth installment, “New Year, New You,” beautifully satirizes this kind of Instagram-friendly quasi-spirituality—and its horrifying consequences).

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t discount this stuff out of hand.  Indeed, I believe we’re always struggling against principalities and demonic forces, which is precisely why we should take this seriously.  Witchcraft and its associated branches are a real spiritual threat, and we’re losing a generation of women (and soy-boyish men) to a new wave of New Age spirituality and feel-good bullcrap.  It’s most insidious in the Church (by which I mean broadly all of Christianity, although I think High Protestant churches are particularly susceptible to this kind of infiltration), where its pernicious influence is far more subtle.

But the rise of witchcraft and other forms of knock-off spiritualism represent physical and metaphysical dangers.  Metaphysically, we shouldn’t be messing around with the spiritual world outside of our relationship with Christ.  Just look at what happened to King Saul when he consulted with the witch at Endor.

Physically, men and women are debasing themselves in the name of a “if it feels good, do it” mentality in a desperate attempt to fill their empty “God-holes.”  Women are literally prostituting themselves via Instagram—a terrifying intersection of online media attention-whoring and real-life whoring.  That kind of cheapness only comes in a culture that discourages traditional values and encourages riotousness and spiritual rebellion.

I always warn my students—I’m sure they occasionally roll their eyes—not to mess around with the spiritual world.  Angels are real—but so are demons.  And Satan always comes clothed in light—and shiny Snapchat filters.

On Ghost Stories

Yesterday’s post about Father Robert Morey’s courageous stand for the unborn really took off.  Thank you to readers for sharing the post, and thanks to those of you who left comments.  Please continue to keep Father Bob in your prayers.  —TPP

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?

Read More »

Halloween Week!

It’s the week of Halloween!  I love Halloween—it’s second only to Christmas and maybe Thanksgiving for my favorite holiday.  Poor Halloween suffers—as countless others have already noted in casual conversations all month—due to Commercial Christmas’s imperialism, so it doesn’t really get its proper due anymore, but it’s a fun event worth celebrating.

As is typical for Halloween in South Carolina, the crisp, autumnal weather is gone; in its place is uncomfortably warm, sticky mugginess.  As a child, I always dreamed of the spooky, chilly Halloween nights I would read about in books, the kind of night where you really could believe ghosts are tickling your spine, witches are abroad, and skeletons are playing their rib cages as xylophones.

Instead, Halloween in South Carolina is always hot and wet.  As a plump child with glasses, I could never wear a mask for long, as my chubby breathing in the swampy air would fog up my thick glasses, my costume quickly becoming a burdensome chore (mostly for my parents) instead of a joyfully freeing disguise.  It looks like I’ll be treated to lots of back sweat and foggy lenses again this year.

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