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My Writing Journey

Gilles de Rais: The Real Bluebeard?

(Painting by Éloi Firmin Féron – 1835)

Gilles de Rais: The Real Bluebeard?

Charles Perrault, known as “The Father of Fairy Tales,” wrote many well-known stories in the 17th century that are still popular today. Cinderella still endures as a romantic tribute to young girls everywhere who dream of finding their own true love. Perrault did not invent the story, however, because he based all of his stories on known folktales and legends. The story is based on Strabo’s account of the Greek slave girl, Rhodopis, whose sandal was stolen by an eagle and dropped in the presence of the Egyptian pharaoh. The pharaoh was so enthralled by this experience, he ordered his servants to hunt down its owner. Rhodopis, located in the city of Naucratis, ultimately married the pharaoh. The reader is left believing that it was a happy marriage based on circumstances that “magically” brought the couple together. Today, we would call this a story about two soul mates who happily found each other.

Perrault’s darkest story was La Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard) which still horrifies young readers today. And, of course, readers want to know who the real-life Bluebeard could have been. Most scholars believe that the real model for Bluebeard was the legendary French nobleman, Gilles de Rais, who lived in the 15th century.

Born into the House of Montmorency-Laval around 1405 at Champtocé-sur-Loire in Anjou, France, Gilles de Rais became orphaned when both of his parents died in 1415. He and his brother then came under the control of their maternal grandfather, Jean de Craon, who was a great schemer and sought to marry Gilles off to a wealthy heiress while still a child. His schemes did not work out until Gilles kidnapped and married his heiress cousin, Catherine de Thouars of Brittany, on November 30, 1420. The couple welcomed a daughter, Marie, around 1433.

Gilles enjoyed an illustrious career in the military and served his country well during the Hundred Years’ War. He fought alongside the Maid of Orléans, Joan of Arc, serving as her personal protector during battle. As a reward, he was appointed Marshal of France in 1429. Gilles was reportedly fascinated by this fierce young girl who could hear the voice of God. After she was condemned and burned at the stake in 1431, his military career began to wind down, and he officially retired around 1435.

Retirement brought out the dark and reckless side of Gilles’ nature. He squandered his money on building the Chapel of the Holy Innocents and producing a lavish theatrical production called Le Mystère du Siège d’Orléans. Nearly bankrupt, he began selling off his own properties in Poitou and Maine. His family appealed to Pope Eugene IV and King Charles VII to intervene. The king issued a royal edict forbidding him from selling anymore property and purchasers from buying it. Desperate for money, Gilles began to borrow large sums and to dabble in the occult.

At his chateau in Tiffauges, he practiced alchemy under the tutelage of Francesco Prelati. Prelati encouraged him to make a pact with the Devil by summoning a demon called Barron. When the demon did not appear, Prelati convinced Gilles that he must sacrifice children in order to gain the Devil’s favor.

It has been speculated that Gilles de Rais may have murdered 100 to 200 children. He later confessed that his first crimes against children began during the spring of 1432 and the spring of 1433. First, he would dress them up in fancy clothes, then rape, torture, and murder them. His two bodyguards, Étienne Corrillant and Henriet, confirmed the allegations against Gilles and described how the bodies were then burned or buried. Villagers testified that their sons and daughters had disappeared after visiting Gilles’ castle, and some had seen the men disposing of bodies.

Gilles’ last child murder occurred in August 1440. He was arrested in September after kidnapping a priest, which sparked both ecclesiastical and secular investigations. Under threat of torture, he made a full confession and was executed by hanging and burning on October 26, 1440 at Nantes, Brittany. His two bodyguards were executed with him.

People marveled at Gilles’ calmness and sincerity while delivering his last words at his execution, and he soon became a model of Christian penitence, despite his horrific crimes. Today, some people have tried to prove that Gilles de Rais was not guilty of the murders, but most historians affirm his guilt, based on French court records.

The ruins of Tiffauges Chateau are reputed to be haunted by the specter of Gilles de Rais. Some visitors claim to have heard the screams of tortured children at night. French writer, Gustave Flaubert, described the chateau as a dismal place “where no birds sing.”

And, Bluebeard? Gilles de Rais’ crimes were so shocking to French society that it is almost certain that Charles Perrault was familiar with the story.

~

(Please note that I will not be posting anything on Monday as my husband and I have plans for Halloween.)

Happy Halloween!

Dawn Pisturino

October 28, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

10 Comments »

Vintage Halloween Cartoons

When the cartoon industry was relatively new, animators did not shy away from making spooky, fun, and memorable cartoons that both children and adults loved. These are the Halloween cartoons that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents (depending on your age) would have watched in the movie theater.

The Haunted House (1929) – Mickey Mouse – Disney Cartoons:

Produced and directed by Walt Disney. Walt also provided Mickey’s voice! Chief animator: Ub Iwerks. Music composed by Carl Stalling. This short cartoon, which was part of a series of Mickey Mouse cartoons, was released and distributed by Celebrity Productions.

Silly Symphony – The Skeleton Dance (1929) – Disney Cartoons:

The Skeleton Dance, also produced and directed by Walt Disney, preceded The Haunted House and incorporated iconic “danse macabre” images (art which was popular during the Black Death era).

Getting in the Halloween mood?

Dawn Pisturino

October 24, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

14 Comments »

Louis Armstrong Halloween

(photo from vialma.com)

Jazz musicians are no strangers to Halloween. Even the great Louis Armstrong recorded a couple of fun Halloween songs that were quite popular in his day. When Armstrong appeared in his first major motion picture, Pennies from Heaven (1936), he performed The Skeleton in the Closet with Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra.

The Skeleton in the Closet Lyrics

Boy, don’t you go in there
Come outa there, boy
Don’t you know that house is haunted

There’s an old deserted mansion
On an old forgotten road
Where the better ghosts and goblins
Always hang out.
One night they threw a party
In a manner à la mode
And they cordially invited
All the gang out
At a dark bewitchin’ hour
When the fun was loud and hearty
A notorious wall flower
Became the life of the party
Mmm! The spooks were havin’ their midnight fling
The merry makin’ was in full swing
They shrieked themselves into a cheerful trance
When the skeleton in the closet started to dance
Now a goblin giggled with fiendish glee
A shout rang out from a big banshee
Amazement was in every ghostly glance
When the skeleton in the closet started to dance
All the witches were in stitches
While his steps made rhythmic thumps
And they nearly dropped their broomsticks
When he tried to do the bumps
You never heard such unearthly laughter
Such hilarious groans
When the skeleton in the closet rattled his bones

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Johnny Burke / Arthur Johnson

The Skeleton In The Closet lyrics © Chappell & Co., Inc.

~

In 1954, Armstrong recorded the song Spooks with Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra.

Spooks Lyrics

The other night, about twelve o’clock
I thought I’d go downstairs just to check the lock
When I heard something in the house
I don’t mean a mouse

I swear they were spooks, spooks, spooks
I know they were spooks, spooks, spooks, spooks
I couldn’t move, just stood and stared
I never was so scared

The first spook spoke and I heard him speak
He said, “What say I go make the back door squeak?”
Oh he would tease the cat and hound the pup
And raise our spirits up

Oh lordy, them spooks, spooks, spooks
Those scary old spooks, spooks, spooks, spooks
You don’t have to take my word
But I heard what I heard


The next spook spoke, he said, “Suppose we make
The faucets drip and make the shutters shake
You let me know just what you want
This is my favourite haunt

Beware of them spooks, spooks, spooks
Them mischievous spooks, spooks, spooks, spooks
I ain’t spoofing, man I mean
That I seen what I seen


A big spook spoke, he said, “Spike, my son,” he said
“I’ll show you how to scare up some fun
But next time when you wail, see here
You make it loud and clear”

Watch out for them spooks, spooks, spooks
Oh them nasty old spooks, spooks, spooks, spooks
Maybe you don’t think it’s so
But I knew what I knew

The last spook turned to his spouse and frowned
Said, “I thought I’d told you to wait in the ground
But you look awful cute tonight
In fact, you look a fright”


He’s talking ’bout spooks, spooks, spooks
Real genuine spooks, spooks, spooks, spooks

Oh, you stop putting up your dukes
You just can’t fight with them spooks

I’m getting outta here, man
I don’t dig this jive, no


Wait for us, wait for us, wait for us, wait for us

by Matt Dubey and Harold Carr

~

Other Halloween jazz songs:

I Put a Spell on You

That Old Black Magic

Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead

Witchcraft

Old Devil Moon

~

Halloween is coming soon!

Dawn Pisturino

October 21, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

14 Comments »

Bach and Halloween

How did Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 become a staple among Halloween favorites? After all, Bach lived 300 years ago and wrote high brow classical music during the high Baroque Period — not exactly popular music for pranksters and merry-makers. And yet, this organ masterpiece has become associated with Halloween as surely as dark, haunted mansions and creepy carved pumpkins.

Bach wrote it in two parts. The first part, the Toccata (from the Italian toccare, meaning “to touch”), was meant to show off the performer’s skill as a virtuoso organist, so it is characterized by many arpeggios (broken chords) and light-fingered gymnastics up and down the keyboard. The second part, the Fugue, uses repetition in various keys (“voices”) to highlight a central musical theme. A minor scale was used to give the piece a dark, ominous, foreboding, and dramatic tone. Organs have a deep, rich, and powerful quality, so writing such a magnificent piece for the organ (especially a large, full-bodied organ with pipes) was sheer genius.

Movie audiences were introduced to Bach’s piece in the opening scenes of the 1940 animated Disney classic, Fantasia. Instead of using the organ, however, conductor Leopold Stokowski arranged the piece into an orchestral number. But the music became associated with horror films when it was used in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), Gremlins 2 (1990), and The Babadook (2014). And, truthfully, if you ask music lovers what images come into their minds while listening to Bach’s organ piece, many will tell you that they envision ghostly encounters in haunted houses, mist-covered cemeteries, scary pumpkins, mad organists in Gothic churches, and vampires and other creatures of the night.

But experience it for yourself!

(Organ version performed by Hannes Kastner)

(Orchestral version from the 1940 animated film, Fantasia, arranged and conducted by Leopold Stokowski)

Have a spooky day!

Dawn Pisturino

October 19, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 Comments »

The Vampire – Charles Baudelaire

(Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash)

The Vampire

by Charles Baudelaire

You who, like the stab of a knife,
Entered my plaintive heart;
You who, strong as a herd
Of demons, came, ardent and adorned,

To make your bed and your domain
Of my humiliated mind
— Infamous bitch to whom I’m bound
Like the convict to his chain,

Like the stubborn gambler to the game,
Like the drunkard to his wine,
Like the maggots to the corpse,
— Accurst, accurst be you!

I begged the swift poniard
To gain for me my liberty,
I asked perfidious poison
To give aid to my cowardice.

Alas! both poison and the knife
Contemptuously said to me:
“You do not deserve to be freed
From your accursed slavery,

Fool! — if from her domination
Our efforts could deliver you,
Your kisses would resuscitate
The cadaver of your vampire!”

~Charles Baudelaire~

— Translated by William Aggeler, from The Flowers of Evil 

Le Vampire in French:

Le Vampire

par Charles Baudelaire

Toi qui, comme un coup de couteau,
Dans mon coeur plaintif es entrée;
Toi qui, forte comme un troupeau
De démons, vins, folle et parée,

De mon esprit humilié
Faire ton lit et ton domaine;
— Infâme à qui je suis lié
Comme le forçat à la chaîne,

Comme au jeu le joueur têtu,
Comme à la bouteille l’ivrogne,
Comme aux vermines la charogne
— Maudite, maudite sois-tu!

J’ai prié le glaive rapide
De conquérir ma liberté,
Et j’ai dit au poison perfide
De secourir ma lâcheté.

Hélas! le poison et le glaive
M’ont pris en dédain et m’ont dit:
«Tu n’es pas digne qu’on t’enlève
À ton esclavage maudit,

Imbécile! — de son empire
Si nos efforts te délivraient,
Tes baisers ressusciteraient
Le cadavre de ton vampire!»

~Charles Baudelaire, from Les Fleurs du Mal~

Dawn Pisturino

October 17, 2022

8 Comments »

Honey – A Poem

Honey

by Dawn Pisturino

Honey drips with sweet sensation from her vampire lips,

And the naked round bosom swells with invitation;

Chick is not impressed though his loins beg urgently,

For Death lurks in those baby blue eyes,

And Chick is not prepared to die

For the satisfaction of his loins.

Suddenly the man who bedded a thousand

Is a man with feelings and a sense of pride.

His eyes see new visions in the morning sun.

Life, for him, is more than an elongated erection.

The big word looms in his brain: RELATIONSHIP.

He surveys the choice of women as a connoisseur,

Checking dates and labels, going for the blue ribbon prize.

He awakes alone most mornings now,

But once in a while, in the shadows of night,

A sweet sensation of honey-dew lips caresses his ears,

And Chick is pleasantly surprised:

The woman has a brain.

March 3, 1988; October 14, 2022

Published in The National Poetry Anthology, 1988

Copyright 1988-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

38 Comments »

Cat and Ghost Game

It was strange

The way the candle light

Seemed to bounce across the ceiling,

In leaps and bounds,

Like a playful poltergeist

Putting on a show.

In the background,

Where we sat,

The eerie black shadows

Seemed to lie in wait,

Like a big black cat,

Ready to pounce

At any moment

On the poor elusive spirit.

We waited anxiously on the sofa,

A silent audience,

And watched the cat and ghost

Game before us.

The cat lay still before the dancing ghost,

Licked its lips as it watched its prey

Dance closer and closer to Death,

Raised its haunches, flicked its tail,

And with one subtle gust of breath,

Pounced suddenly and completely

Atop the overconfident ghost,

Extinguishing it forever.

We smiled, then closed our lips, drew close,

And pressed them hard together

Beneath the warm black darkness

Which covered us, like a blanket.

Alone at last, we sniffed

The lingering odor of scented wax

And began a new game, called love.

1980

Dawn Pisturino

October 12, 2022

Copyright 1980-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

The Dentist and Other Poems

Artwork by John Federis

(Warning! If you hate going to the dentist, don’t read this poem!)

The Dentist

by Dawn Pisturino

Now I’ve got you in my chair,

You’re not going anywhere.

So open wide, let me in,

And let the painful games begin!

See that molar on the right?

It’s in the socket way too tight.

Here’s my plier. Please don’t move.

I’ll pry that sucker from its groove!

Look, there’s a cavity over there.

My drill’s all ready. Please don’t stare!

My hands are shaking, can’t you see?

I need your confidence in me.

Oops! The blood is squirting out.

I didn’t mean to make you shout!

Your bloody tongue is in my hand.

Sit down! Don’t even try to stand!

Come back! I need to suture in—-

Oh well, another toothless grin.

February 6, 2012

Published in the April 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Artwork by Ken Lamug
Poem by Dawn Pisturino

CHELSEA HAD A LITTLE LAMB

Chelsea had a little lamb,

Its fleece was black as soot. 

And everywhere that Chelsea went,

That lamb was underfoot.

It followed her to school until

The cooking class went wild

And served that lamb with mint and dill,

One chop for every child!

October 6, 2011

Published in the December 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Artwork by Jason Smith

Poem by Dawn Pisturino

DIRTY DONALD

Dirty Donald!

His hair, full of lice,

Grows down to his shoulders,

A haven for mice. 

His teeth are all rotten,

Mildewed and black,

His tongue is so long,

He could pass for a yak. 

His breath stinks of corpses

Dug fresh from their graves,

A delicate morsel

He constantly craves. 

He glares at the ravens,

Surrounding his head,

With murderous eyes,

Pronouncing them dead. 

Then yanks out their feathers

And nibbles their toes,

Lining them up

In neat little rows. 

His clothes are so tattered,

The buzzards all say,

“What a fine looking fellow!

Let’s eat him today!” 

July 3, 2011 

Published on Underneath the Juniper Tree, July 17, 2011.  

Published in the August 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.  

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Illustration by Job van Gelder

Poem by Dawn Pisturino

Down in the Graveyard

Down in the graveyard by the old oak tree

Roamed an old mother zombie and her little zombies three.

“Fresh meat!” cried the mother. “Tastes sweet!” cried the three.

And they ripped out the intestines from the caretaker, Lee.

Down in the graveyard by the mausoleum door

Lived an old mother werewolf and her little wolfies four.

“Fresh fat!” howled the mother. “Tastes great!” howled the four.

And they tore into the belly of the visitor, Lenore.

Down in the graveyard by the rusty old gate

Hung an old mother vampire and her little vampies eight.

“Fresh blood!” squeaked the mother. “Tastes good!” squeaked the eight.

And they sank their greedy fangs into the gravedigger, Nate.

Published in the September 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

Reprise: Halloween Treat

The Van Emmerick house was the most feared house in the neighborhood. For ten-year-old Tommy James, it was a dark reminder of things long ago and best forgotten; a relic of the past, old and mysterious, built by people who had lived and died many decades before he was born. He was curious about the past; fascinated with history; and the more he became aware of the house, the more he longed to explore its hidden secrets.

Tommy walked by the old Van Emmerick place twice a day, before and after school. Over the years, he had noticed many interesting details about the house. In the morning, when the sun shone full against the front of the house, two arched windows marking the second story seemed to smile at him with a “good morning!” kind of smile. The dark green paint didn’t seem so faded and cracked. The old stone porch, rudely assembled from local rocks, didn’t seem so forbidding and uninviting. The big plate glass window with the frilly white curtains seemed to sparkle in the morning light.

But in the afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky, making shadows lengthen across the old frame house, the peaked roof with the two small smoke stacks and faded red shingles gave the barn-like appearance of the house a more sinister expression. The entire structure seemed foreign and out of place. The old Victorian ornamentation, placed squarely between the two arched windows, reminded him of death and wrinkled old ladies dressed in black. The tall wrought-iron fence, set in more local rock, surrounded the property with deadly grace, effectively keeping out the curious and unwanted.

Tommy shivered, made the sign of the cross as he always did, and hurried home as fast as he could.

~

“The old Van Emmerick house, you say? Why, sure, I know all about it,” his grandfather told him one crisp afternoon in October. They were raking leaves in his own backyard while his mother prepared dinner in the kitchen. His father was still at work, and his oldest sister had left for her ballet lesson.

His grandfather had lived in Blakeville his entire life and knew a lot about the history of the town.

“Peter Van Emmerick built that house in 1880,” he recalled. “Folks around here have always called it a monstrosity. The architecture isn’t right — doesn’t fit in with the rest of the town. But Peter, being Dutch, was homesick for his own country and built the house to remind him of home. He had six children in that house by two different wives. It’s never been empty, that’s for sure. Old Amy Van Emmerick lives there now. Inherited the house from her mother. As far as I know, she’s the last of ’em. They gradually died out around here, as all old families do. The cemetery is filled with their headstones. I’ll take you there sometime to see the old graves. Would you like that, Tommy? Halloween’s coming up!”

“Sure, Gramps, any time. You know how much I like history.” But privately, Tommy wasn’t so sure. The idea of visiting a cemetery for fun, especially on Halloween, gave him the creeps.

“That’s my boy. Someday, you’ll be teaching history at the high school, just like your old granddad.” His grandfather winked at him, and Tommy stopped raking.

“Say, Gramps, how come nobody ever sees Amy Van Emmerick? I mean, how do you know she’s still alive? She could’ve died and nobody would even know it!”

“Oh, they’d know it, alright. She has a woman who comes in once a week to clean the place up and run errands for her. Selma Baintree — that’s the woman’s name. I ran into her not too long ago, and she told me that the old lady’s not doing too well, getting more frail as time goes by. It’s just a matter of time before the house will be empty, she said.”

“I’m sorry. How old is Amy Van Emmerick? I mean, you must’ve known her, Gramps!”

Yep, that’s right, Tommy. She was my first love.”

Tommy blushed. He couldn’t imagine his grandfather ever being young enough to have a first love. “Why didn’t you marry her, Gramps?”

His grandfather stopped raking and looked at him with a faraway expression on his face. “Oh, I don’t know. The Great War started, and I went off to Europe to fight the Germans. Getting married wasn’t on my mind back then. And Miss Amy went off to school in Chicago. I heard later that she was engaged to a young man from an old Chicago family, but he was killed at Dunkirk. She must’ve loved him very deeply because she came home to take care of her mother after her father died and never got involved with anybody again. She hardly left the house after that and became a regular recluse. Poor Miss Amy! She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw. The biggest blue eyes, and long golden hair like spun flax. She’d beat out the likes of Paris Hilton any day of the week!”

Tommy laughed, then stopped, when a sudden thought struck him. “Hey, Gramps, I just had an idea. Why don’t you go visit Miss Amy before she dies? I bet she’d like that a lot!”

His grandfather stroked his white-whiskered chin thoughtfully. “You know, Tommy, I never really thought about it. It seems like an invasion of the old lady’s privacy. She probably wouldn’t even know me after all these years!”

“Aw, I bet she would. She’s probably lonely shut up in that old place.”

“Maybe so,” his grandfather said. “You might just be right.”

~

“Hey, Tommy, watch this!”

Butch Abernathy pulled an egg out of his trick-or-treat bag and hurled it against the front of the old Van Emmerick house. “That’ll wake up the dead,” he shouted with glee.

The two boys hung onto the wrought-iron fence with sticky fingers, peering through the bars with eager eyes, their hearts racing with excitement. But no lights appeared. The house stared at them with black, lifeless eyes, its silhouette rising silent and dark against the cloudy night sky.

“Let’s go,” Tommy whispered. “It gives me the creeps.”

“What’re you whispering for?” asked Butch. “The fun has just begun.” He rummaged through his trick-or-treat bag and pulled out a large rock.

“No!” cried Tommy, grabbing at Butch’s arm. But it was too late. The sound of shattering glass filled his ears. His heart pounded in his chest until it hurt.

“I’m outta here!” Butch shouted; and grabbing his trick-or-treat bag, he bolted down the sidewalk.

Tommy stood alone on the sidewalk, paralyzed with fear. I never should have come here, he thought. My parents are going to kill me. And Gramps will be so disappointed . . . He couldn’t bear to disappoint his grandfather. But if he left now, who would know? Butch would never tell.

I’m going home, he thought; but as he turned to leave, the wrought-iron gate suddenly creaked open, and Tommy screamed. He ran as fast as he could to the corner, then stopped and looked back. The street was silent and deserted except for an old stray cat. A few jack-o-lanterns grinned brightly in the darkness, but the trick-or-treaters had left long ago, hurrying home before the rain started. A strong gust of wind hurled itself against him, kicking up dead leaves and dirt into his face. Coughing and sputtering, he wiped the dirt out of his eyes and headed down the sidewalk.

The old wrought-iron gate stood open before him, an invitation too tempting to resist. After all, what was the worst that could happen? He would apologize to the old lady and take his punishment like a man.

Bracing himself, he walked slowly up the weed-infested sidewalk toward the old stone stairs. There was nothing but blackness at the top of those stairs, blackness so deep and dark, it was like a giant mouth waiting to engulf him and swallow him whole. Trembling with fear, he wanted to turn around and run as fast as he could to the nearest, brightest light. But he knew in his heart that he could not face his grandfather as long as the broken window went unpunished.

Heart pounding, he trudged up the stone stairs, peering into the blackness. As he stepped onto the porch, the moon suddenly peeked out from behind a cloud, throwing a pale, silvery beam of light into the darkness and revealing a solid oak door. He raised his hand to knock on the door, when it suddenly opened with a slow, painful groan.

Tommy gasped, and his heart pounded in his ears. Breathing heavily, he stepped over the threshold, hanging onto the door for dear life. He stood still for a moment, listening hard, and waited for something to happen. But nothing did.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized he was in a large foyer. He rapped his knuckles against the door and shouted, “Miss Amy, are you here?”

Absolute silence filled his ears except for the ticking of an old clock. He pushed the door open wider and stepped cautiously into the room. He felt for a light switch on the wall but found none. Why didn’t I bring a flashlight, he berated himself angrily.

Tommy crossed the old wooden floor and opened a set of double doors to his right. The sweet scent of roses filled the air. Outside, the wind began to howl, and raindrops splattered against the large plate glass window on the other side of the room. Tommy thought he could make out the curved outline of an old Victorian sofa under the window and the globe-like shade of an old lamp next to it. Groping his way carefully in the darkness, he was about to reach out for the lamp when a loud clap of thunder split the air, making him jump, and a bright flash of lightning lit up the sofa through the gauzy white curtains.

A figure dressed in white lay on the sofa, its long white hair spread neatly over a pillow, the wrinkled old face glowing white in the lightning flash, the large, faded blue eyes open and staring at him. The mouth hung open wide, revealing a cavernous blackness, and Tommy waited for the scream that would surely come, but no sound issued forth between those dark, thin lips. The figure’s arms were crossed over its breast, like a corpse, the fingernails long and blue. It was the most horrible thing that Tommy had ever seen in his life, and he screamed and screamed and screamed as he turned and raced for the double doors, tripping over an old ottoman in his path.

But when he looked up, something blocked his exit, a tall figure dressed in white, reaching out for him with long, clawed fingers . . .

When Tommy woke up the lights were on, and his grandfather was cradling him in his arms. “It’s okay, Tommy, it’s okay.”

“It was you!”

“Yes, it was me,” his grandfather said; “And old Miss Amy. I went to visit her, as you suggested, and we cooked up this little Halloween treat for you! Here, I want you to meet her!”

He helped Tommy to his feet, remarking on the wonderful acting job Miss Amy had done. And that make-up! Could anybody else have done a better job?

But when they leaned over the sofa to tell her it was all over, and she could stop playing around now, his grandfather suddenly became silent and felt for a pulse in the old lady’s wrist. Tommy stared, horrified, into those dead blue eyes and the slack, open mouth, and the scream rose up from his tightening throat . . .

Dawn Pisturino

2009

Copyright 2009-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Make it scary!

“This is Halloween,” performed by Marilyn Manson, from the Tim Burton movie, Nightmare Before Christmas.

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Reprise: The Ethereal World of Sir Simon Marsden

Sir Simon Marsden (1948-2012) was known as an ethereal British photographer who transported the viewer to a dark and phantasmic world with his eerie photographs. Introduced by his father at a young age to books and stories about the supernatural, Marsden developed a keen interest in the paranormal. He even grew up in two English manors that were allegedly haunted, Panton Hall and Thorpe Hall. Thorpe Hall, in particular, housed the “Green Lady,” the ghost of a woman who committed suicide in the 1600s.

Marsden became a fan of such writers as Arthur Machen, M.R. James, and Edgar Allen Poe. At the age of 21, he received his first camera and embarked on a lifelong love affair with photography. He traveled throughout Britain, France, and the United States, perfecting his signature style, and became known for his haunting images of haunted sites.

A number of books were published featuring his photographs, and his work was exhibited throughout Britain and elsewhere. He was a master in the use of infrared film and printing his own photographs, which gave him control over the quality of his work.

A staunch believer in the supernatural, Marsden described several paranormal encounters that he experienced at ancient haunted sites. At the Rollright Stones in Long Compton, Warwickshire, he was pushed by an invisible force, which knocked the camera out of his grasp. At Woodlawn House in County Gallway, he and director Jason Figgis heard the mournful wailing of a woman who could not be found anywhere on the premises.

Marsden became 4th Baronet in 1997. His collection can be viewed here:

http://www.marsdenarchive.com.

Dawn Pisturino

August 2017

Published in the Autumn 2017 issue of Psychic Magic e-zine.

Copyright 2017-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by Sir Simon Marsden.
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