Friday, November 28, 2014
(NEWSER) – To make sure certain people didn't rise from the grave to feast on the living, villagers in 17th- and 18th-century Poland buried them with sickles across their throats or rocks in their jaws, and researchers think they now know why.
According to a study published in PLoS ONE, the suspected vampires were not immigrants to the area but locals who probably perished in the cholera epidemics that swept the region at the time. Ancient lore says being the first to perish in an epidemic is one of the things that can turn a person into a vampire, study co-author Lesley Gregoricka tells LiveScience.
"People were up close and personal with death at this point, but didn't have a good way to explain what was happening," she says.
"People of the post-medieval period did not understand how disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it were explained by the supernatural—in this case, vampires," says Gregoricka, a bioarchaeologist at the University of South Alabama, in a press release.
Dying a violent death or being an outsider also put one at risk of becoming a vampire, according to lore, but the bodies bore no signs of violence and testing revealed they were from the area. The sickles were in place to decapitate the body if it tried to rise, and rocks or bricks were placed to prevent them from feeding, the study says — though strangely enough, the "vampires" weren't segregated in the cemetery but were buried among other villagers.
Read the Best Vampire Short Stories for this time period.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Get a scary 15% off my books through Sunday, October 26th. Online use coupon code: JP4KGWP3JPAGF A best bet for Halloween is 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849.
An anthology finalist award winner in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a Gothic Readers Book Club Choice Award Winner, The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 delivers 12 of the greatest horror stories for the first half of the 19th century.
Andrew Barger, author of the award winning Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life as well as Edgar Allan Poe Annotated and Illustrated Entire Stories and Poems, read over 300 horror short stories to compile the 12 best. At the back of the book he includes a list of all short stories he considered along with their dates of publication and author, when available. He includes background for each of the stories and author photos. A number of the stories were published in leading periodicals of the day such as Blackwood's and Atkinson's Casket. Read 6a66le:The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 tonight!
- 1836 The Old Man's Tale About the Queer Client by Charles Dickens (1812 -1870)
- 1817 The Deserted House by E.T. A. Hoffmann (1776 - 1822)
- 1836 The Minister's Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864)
- 1843 The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
- 1830 The Mysterious Mansion by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
- 1828 The Severed Hand by Wilhelm Hauff (1802 - 1827)
- 1826 The Lighthouse by George Soane (1789 - 1860)
- 1842 The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
- 1832 The Executioner by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
- 1832 The Thunder-Struck and the Boxer by Samuel Warren (1807 - 1877)
- 1845 The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
- 1839 The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The British Library is doing what hundreds of other libraries around the world should be doing this time of year. It is hosting "Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination" that focus on the literary Gothic.
The exhibit contains rare manuscripts of fragments of the literary Goth over the past 250 years. It is running now until January 20, 2015 and sure to feature some of the scariest short stories ever penned in the English language.
If you are near London, you have to pay it a visit!
Posted by Andrew Barger at 6:26 PM
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Poe was a connoisseur of the supernatural. As the author of Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life, I am sometimes asked if Poe had a favorite ghost story.
Truth be told, Poe was quite clear on his favorite ghost story--or at least his favorite by an American, which I believe is a dig at Charles Dickens and his bias toward British literature. The pick is also, perhaps a dig at Washington Irving whose "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "A Tale of the German Student" (both included in the best ghost stories anthology for the first half of the 19th century) branded him the best American ghost story writer during Poe's day.
The ghost story is by William Gilmore Simms and is titled Murder Will Out. It was published in The Gift during 1842. I don't, however, agree with Poe since I placed it in spot 35 in my Top 40 countdown of the scariest ghost stories from 1800-1849. This is what Poe had to say about the scary ghost story in his review (published posthumously in 1850) of Simm's collection of short stories: "The Wigwam and the Cabin."
All the tales in this collection have merit, and the first has merit of a very peculiar kind. “Grayling, or Murder will Out,” is the title. The story was well received in England, but on this fact no opinion can be safely based. “The Athenæum,” we believe, or some other of the London weekly critical journals, having its attention called (no doubt through personal influence) to Carey & Hart’s beautiful annual “The Gift,” found it convenient, in the course of its notice, to speak at length of some one particular article, and “Murder Will Out” probably arrested the attention of the sub-editor who was employed in so trivial a task as the patting on the head an American book — arrested his attention first from its title, (murder being a taking theme with a cockney,) and secondly, from its details of southern forest scenery. Large quotations were made, as a matter of course, and very ample commendation bestowed — the whole criticism proving nothing, in our opinion, but that the critic had not read a single syllable of the story. The critique, however, had at least the good effect of calling American attention to the fact that an American might possibly do a decent thing, (provided the possibility were first admitted by the British sub-editors,) and the result was first, that many persons read, and secondly, that all persons admired the “excellent story in ‘The Gift’ that had actually been called ‘readable’ by one of the English newspapers.”
Now had “Murder Will Out” been a much worse story than was ever written by Professor Ingraham, still, under the circumstances, we patriotic and independent Americans would have declared it inimitable; but, by some species of odd accident, it happened to deserve all that the British sub-sub had condescended to say of it, on the strength of a guess as to what it was all about. It is really an admirable tale, nobly conceived and skilfully carried into execution — the best ghost-story ever written by an American — for we presume that this is the ultimate extent of commendation to which we, as an humble American, dare go.
The other stories of the volume do credit to the author’s abilities, and display their peculiarities in a strong light, but there is no one of them so good as “Murder Will Out.”
Sunday, June 8, 2014
To me, at least in his later years, Franz Kafka was our whiny man of literature. This is never so true as when he berated his family during the time of Metamorphosis and his portrayal of his family's treatment of him in the scary short story. Where is the thanks and gratitude?
One of the best things about Kafka, however, are his quotes on literature. Consider this one he wrote when 20 years old to his friend Oskar Pollak in January of 1904:
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845)
One of the first short stories in the English language to feature an out of body experience is A Singular Passage in the Life of the Late Henry Harris D.D. The early horror story was published in Blackwood's Magazine by Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845). This is little surprise given the many early scary tales Blackwood's published by authors mostly in the UK.
Without giving too much of this excellent story away, the protagonist finds her "spirit" teleported to another place where she does not want to be with people she would rather avoid as they practice their dark arts. Published in 1831, this story is ranked 35th in the Top 40 horror short stories from 1800-1849. Still, it is well worth a read to learn about the dark secret of this scary short story.
Friday, May 2, 2014
Score 15% off my scary books at Barnes & Noble through Sunday, May 4th by using coupon code: MJ64ACYYD36YS at checkout.
A best bet is the best ghost stories book, Phantasmal: The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849, the classic ghost short story collection I edited.
Or, if you are not in the mood to be scared, try out Tolstoy's short stories book, Leo Tolstoy's 20 Greatest Short Stories Annotated. You can't miss.