Let’s resurrect the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas. On this episode of STRANGE & SCARY STORY TALK, I discuss the long history of this tradition and explain why the Victorians took a particular interest in the dead and their relationship with the living. I also talk about why Christmas is the perfect time to welcome ghosts to our holiday celebrations.
Trees lurch from an icy wasteland,
their spindle fingers clawing at the sky,
hoping for something to grab hold of,
but there is nothing they can do-I told them so.
Their roots reach too deep into the ground.
There is no way to loosen earth’s grip
unless, of course, I chop them down.
But it strikes me that death is not what they desire.
The poor things are too stupid-they think they can fly.
I can fly-away
-in a plane.
Or, perhaps, not.
Perhaps only in my mind.
But they can’t.
And so I think they are afraid.
Sometimes I am afraid too-to be left here.
Sometimes I fear a horrible beast will set fire to this ice-and it will melt
and we will all drown.
flailing and choking on the last of our breaths
until we quiet and sleep
and the ground once again freezes and sprouts trees born of loss
so that they too can reach their spindle fingers into the sky and hope that in the gray nothingness lies
I hear the sharp clack of heels upon the floor
and I think of my mother on Sunday morning.
It is not a pleasant sound.
It is the sound of church
and an endless four o’clock when the sun glares low and unrelenting,
insisting that we learn to understand the length of a day,
a day that begins with the clacking of heels and ends in silence
if not for the ringing in the ears and the hum of electric appliances.
I hear the sharp clack of heels upon the floor.
I think of my mother.
I am startled the sound is mine.
My heels banging-
banging out the dirge of an eternal Sunday
like an inmate, banging a tin cup upon bars of his prison cell.
There is no sunlight.
He does not know when the day ends and begins
It is one day.
It has all been but a day.
It will all be but a day.
I didn’t plan to discuss poetry on the show, but two weeks ago I listened to a reading of Sylvia Plath’s The Moon and the Yew Tree, a work that is startlingly haunting and beautiful, and I just couldn’t let go of it. This week I talk about not only the poem but the importance of broadening the lens by which we view Plath.
This week on STRANGE & SCARY STORY TALK I discuss E. Nesbit’s ghost story-or should I say corpse story-In the Dark. Nesbit is best known as a British writer of children’s fiction. She channeled her darkness into her lesser known stories for adults. In this episode we also explore Nesbit’s demons, the infantilizing power of fear and the importance of the ghost story in helping us grapple with what most terrorizes us.
This floor, I do not mind.
It is not impenetrable.
I can still feel the quake beneath my feet.
Despite its lacquer finish that attempts to hide the worm holes,
I can still hear the buzzing
and feel the vibration of insects
I quite like it, really
the sound of all that chaos.
It is a welcome reprieve from the mortuary silence within these clean white walls
and this pretty floor that, try as it might,
cannot hide from me all that clamors for my attention.
But this ceiling
this ceiling is a problem.
It too shines as if no spider ever dare crawl across its surface.
I could lie here naked upon this cool, smooth floor looking up into the eternal void of this antiseptic ceiling.
I could lie here and feel the rumble of armies storming forth from the core.
I could press my back into the wood just to feel the pummels of the invading marauders.
I could enjoy it.
I would enjoy it
if not for this ceiling.
This clean, white ceiling
that keeps me safe,
that keeps me here.
It’s Devil’s Night, Mischief Night, Halloween Eve, the perfect time to discuss one of the greatest scary, short stories ever written-Marghanita Laski’s THE TOWER! I do not understand why this story is not included in the short literary fiction canon along with Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY and Flannery O’Connor’s A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND. Please check out the latest episode of STRANGE & SCARY STORY TALK, my YouTube channel where I discuss dark and twisted short fiction, and share your thoughts. Is this story as great as I think it is? Also, if you like what you see, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.