Halloween Treats 2018

Every year, since the beginning of this blog, I’ve posted a selection of classic horror and ghost stories for Halloween, as “treats” for my readers! I was originally inspired to do this after I saw Miriam Burstein, who runs The Little Professor, do it first. In a brief exchange on twitter, we talked about how many of the original links to stories we used over the years have broken; I thought that, this year, I would largely focus on tweeting new links and summaries to some of my favorite stories!

For those interested in looking back, you can read the old editions here:   200720082009201120122013201420152016, 2017 and my 2010 post on the true story of the “Lady of the Lake“.

Let me add some of my greatest hits!

The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford (1886). Simply one of the best ghost stories ever written. A narrator describes his experiences in a seemingly haunted ship’s cabin. The ending sentences are some of my favorite in horror fiction.

Waxwork, A.M. Burrage (1927). For a story, a journalist volunteers to spend the night alone in a wax museum’s chamber of horrors, filled with replicas of some of the worst murderers in history. But he finds that he may not be the only thing alive in the museum. (This story introduces one of the best serial killers in horror fiction, btw.)

Who Goes There, John W. Campbell (1938, pdf link). This is the original short story that inspired John Carpenter’s classic movie The Thing! It’s back on my mind due to the fact that it has been announced that an expanded novel length version of the short story has been found and will be printed. When scientific researchers at a remote Antarctic research station discover a frozen alien spacecraft, they in fact release something that might not only kill them, but end all life on Earth.

The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe (1842).  One of my favorite horror stories of all time!  While the horrible Red Death plagues the countryside, Prince Prospero throws a lavish and decadent party within his sealed castle.  No amount of wealth can truly stave off death’s grasp, however.  This story has one of the greatest closing lines in all of horror fiction.

His Face All Red, Emily Carroll (2010).  Emily Carroll almost instantly became an recognized master of horror with His Face All Red, a story that starts with an incredible twist and builds an almost unbearable level of dread.  Carroll’s illustrations, and use of the flexibility of the web page, make it a true work of art.

Lukundoo, Edward Lucas White (1927). A casual conversation about the supernatural leads to a man recounting one of his experiences in Africa, when he came to the aid of a colleague in trouble. But the colleague was much more than ill: he was suffering from a particularly pernicious curse, inspired by a hatred whose origin was almost unfathomable.

The Derelict, William Hope Hodgson (1912). Hodgson is one of the relatively neglected grandmasters of horror fiction, with a massive œuvre of weird fiction.  Many of his tales match his joint loves of horror and the ocean, and The Derelict is a prime example.  A crew of sailors happen upon an abandoned ship that holds a monstrous and terrible secret.

The Shadows on the Wall, Mary Wilkins Freeman (1903).  A story of domestic horror.  A family struggling to recover from a terrible tragedy finds their efforts hindered, and haunted, by the presence of a shadow on the wall without a source.

“Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”, M.R. James (1905).  One of the best stories by perhaps the greatest ghost story author of all time — no Halloween post would feel right without him! A man finds an ancient whistle whilst walking a beach in England.  When he blows it on a whim, he awakens a particularly bizarre and unconventional horror.

Hope you enjoy these classic stories! Happy Halloween!

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Falling Felines Photo Fundraiser update!

Just a quick update here, for those who haven’t been following my GoFundMe page: I’ve made great progress in raising the funds for the photo rights so far — with over 2/3rd covered!  I’ve been quite obsessed with getting the book draft finished and the photographs acquired, so my energy has been focused away from the blog here for a little while.

If you want, though, you can read my updates on the GoFundMe page (donations not required to read them, but appreciated!). I’m sharing trivia about the book, the photos being purchased, as well as some sections that I wrote that didn’t make it into the final draft.

Please take a look, and help me spread the word! Finally nearing the end of this really huge book effort.

Sophie brushing up on some string theory.

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The Fantastic Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics Photo Fundraiser

As you may have heard, I’ve been working on a book on the history and physics of cats landing on their feet, titled “Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics.” The book will be published in early 2019, hopefully, and I’m really excited to share it with you!  However, my publisher is a non-profit academic publisher and doesn’t have funds to cover the publishing rights for some key photographs for the book; some of which are quite pricey.

Because of this, I launched the “Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics Photo Fundraiser.”  I’m looking to get about $3500 to cover the photography rights, and in exchange I’m offering, depending on the support level, a twitter shoutout, an acknowledgement for you and/or your pet in the book, or a signed copy when it comes out!  The campaign has started really well so far, and I’m optimistic that I will get everything covered, though I still could use help!

I’ll be posting updates on the GoFundMe page through the fundraising as well as afterwards; please take a look at it!  I thank you for any help in spreading the word or supporting the campaign, and my cats thank you, too!

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The Auctioneer, by Joan Samson

I recently started thinking about the structure of horror stories in a new way: relating them to the behavior of natural disasters.  Some stories are unpredictable, with sudden bursts of terror, like lightning strikes or tornadoes.  Others build up a sense of dread gradually, like a coming thunderstorm, or a hurricane.  Much more rare are stories that grind away at the reader bit by bit, like the inexorable erosion of a coastline.

I was inspired of this natural disaster framing of horror when I read a recent reprint by Valancourt Books, Joan Samson’s The Auctioneer (1975).

This brilliantly tense novel is of the third type I mentioned: it applies unending, and increasing, pressure from very much the first page until the last.  I don’t know that I’ve been as uncomfortable reading a novel in a long time, and I mean that in a good way.

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Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite (1992)

I’ve been quite interested in reading more science fiction in recent months, to make up for my lack of knowledge about the field.  It so turns out that The Orion Publishing Group has released an extensive series called “SF Masterworks” which includes not only famous classics but many more obscure books that I had never heard of.  I first came across the series when I was looking to read Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop, and since then I’ve grabbed up a number of other intriguing volumes, including Nicola Griffith’s 1992 novel Ammonite.

Ammonite is a fascinating novel about an encounter with a culture which is ostensibly human but also very alien.  It is also a novel that explores gender roles and the meaning of gender, and can be considered a strong feminist science fiction novel.

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Taylor sees the (feeble) light (1909)

Most people, even non-scientists, are aware these days of the notion that light acts sometimes like a wave, sometimes like a particle, depending on the circumstances. This wave-particle duality is a fundamental aspect of nature, applying to all elementary particles, from light particles (photons) to electrons, protons, neutrons, and the constituent quarks of the latter.

It is a difficult concept to fully grasp, and even today a complete explanation of what this means for physics, philosophically, continues to elude physicists.  But the phenomenon can be demonstrated with light and with matter in experiments that are reasonably well-understood, and in particular Young’s double slit experiment has been used to highlight how the wave properties and the particle properties complement each other.

But when the particle properties of light were first postulated by Albert Einstein in 1905, nobody really had any idea how those particles could be reconciled with the wave properties that had been definitively demonstrated over 100 years earlier.  Naturally, it fell to experiments to help clarify what the heck was going on, and the earliest experiment of this nature was done by G.I. Taylor in 1909, and the results appeared in a paper titled, “Interference fringes with feeble light.”

Taylor’s paper, though it is short (only two pages), is a fascinating look at both the theoretical and experimental challenges in that early quantum era, and in this post we’ll take a look at it and the work that led up to it.

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The Hole of the Pit, by Adrian Ross

Been working ridiculously hard lately, which is the explanation for my long absence from posting. Sorry about that! Hope to get back into the swing of things with this horror novel post.

The most fun books to read are often those hidden gems that you serendipitously come across.  A good example of this is Adrian Ross’ The Hole of the Pit (1914), which I finished reading on my recent work trip.

2010 reprint of Ross’ work.

I learned of this rather obscure novel while doing some research for my post on Ramsey Campbell’s in progress cosmic horror trilogy.  In a 2015 interview, Campbell recommends Ross’ The Hole of the Pit, “dedicated to M.R. James and somewhat reminiscent of Hope Hodgson.”  High praise, as James is one of the best authors of ghost stories of all time and Hodgson is one of the best authors of cosmic horror of all time.  And, indeed, Ross’ The Hole of the Pit is a fun, unconventional, and eerie tale that will remind readers of both authors.

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