31 Days of Spooky Short Stories

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This October I had many hours of reading time available as I was recovering from surgery (I’m feeling great, by the way). I thought I would give myself a challenge: read a spooky short story each day this October.

I had no method when choosing a story each day. Sometimes, I would reread an old favorite. Sometimes, I would randomly choose a title from the table of contents. Sometimes, I thought a title was seductive. Thus, this is not a formulated reading list or one I would put forth as canonical. It was just random fun!

I shared my choice each day on my Instagram stories, but the entire list is also below. I highlighted a few in orange that were standout favorites (even though I enjoyed most of the stories!).

  1. Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, “The Shadows on the Wall”
  2. M.R. James, “Casting the Runes”
  3. Lady Wilde, “The Horned Women”
  4. Amelia B. Edwards, “The Phantom Coach”
  5. T.E.D. Klein, “The Events at Poroth Farm”
  6. Louisa May Alcott, “Lost in the Pyramid, Or the Mummy’s Curse”
  7. Edgar Allan Poe, “The Oval Portrait”
  8. Wilkie Collins, “The Dream Woman”
  9. Richard Matheson & Richard Christian Matheson, “Where There’s A Will”
  10. Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Body-Snatcher”
  11. Ray Bradbury, “Heavy Set”
  12. Mark Twain, “A Ghost Story”
  13. J.S. LeFanu, “An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House”
  14. Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
  15. Tennessee Williams, “The Vengeance of Nitocris”
  16. H.P. Lovecraft, “The Evil Clergyman”
  17. Charles Dickens, “The Lawyer and the Ghost”
  18. Lisa Tuttle, “The Third Person”
  19. Bram Stoker, “The Judge’s House”
  20. Washington Irving, “The Adventure of the German Student”
  21. Tanith Lee ,”Perfidious Amber”
  22. Richard Matheson, “Long Distance Call”
  23. Jerome K. Jerome, “The Haunted Mill or the Ruined Home”
  24. M.R. James, “Lost Hearts”
  25. Fritz Leiber, “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”
  26. Kelley Armstrong, “Dead Flowers by the Roadside”
  27. Sharon Webb, “Threshold”
  28. J.S. LeFanu, “The White Cat of Drumgunniol”
  29. Manly Wade Wellman, “School for the Unspeakable”
  30. E. G. Swain, “Bone to His Bone” 
  31. Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (read multiple short stories in this one)

Hope y’all had a great Halloween!

In My Commonplace Book: A Ghost Writer, Literally

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In Bag of Bones, Stephen King writes “The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” In this case I share today, the disembodied muse was very much invited, through means of the Ouija board. This is the story of the spirit Patience Worth and her earthly transcriber Pearl Lenore Curran.

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Pearl Curran

I came across this story on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. You can watch the episode here (the Patience Worth segment is at the 23:39 mark). Anyway, onto the story…

Many of the sources I came across portrayed Pearl Lenore Curran (1883-1937) as a rather basic woman with less than average intelligence. While she never fulfilled her dreams of becoming a singer, this housewife began her journey into stardom on July 8, 1913 when she received a message through the Ouija board.

Many moons ago I lived. Again I come—Patience Worth my name.

From that point on, Pearl began to receive words, messages, and prose from beyond. At first she had to use the Ouija board, but soon the words would appear without the use of ritual.

Patience Worth’s spirit came into this world when spiritualism provided unique power to women and was accepted by many (one notable example is Arthur Conan Doyle). Yet, it was under the scrutiny of science and Houdini. Nevertheless, this was an opportune time for a woman and a disembodied voice to make a splash in the literary world.

Together, Patience and Pearl wrote several novels (The Sorry Tale, Telka, Hope Trueblood, The Pot Upon the Wheel, Samuel Wheaton, An Elisebethan Mask), short stories, and poems. Their work received positive reviews. As Smithsonian Magazine writes:

“Patience Worth[’s] messages out of the darkness never sink to the commonplace level, but always show high intelligence and sometimes are even tipped with the flame of genius,” said the New York Times, echoing other newspaper reviews across the country.

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My commonplace book entry

While many found the literature of Pearl and Patience remarkable, other literary critics and scientists thought it was unimaginative and/or a fraud. Several psychologists and scientific researchers studied the phenomenon. Was Pearl smarter than she was putting off? Who was really writing this material? Is there life after death?

While I could go on all day about this, there are already two excellent articles (below) that go into great detail about Patience and Pearl.  I have also included some works by Pearl and Patience (maybe you can decide their literary worth). I recommend reading/browsing through them and writing notes in your own commonplace book!

I’d like to, though, finish with the death of Pearl Curran. It is a very curious story. The last (documented) communication with Pearl was November 25, 1937. Pearl told her friend Dotsie:

Oh Dotsie, Patience has just shown me the end of the road and you will have to carry on as best you can. 

Pearl died shortly after: December 3, 1937.

 

Additional Reading (Free Online)

The Public Domain Review, “Ghostwriter and Ghost: The Strange Case of Pearl Curran & Patience Worth”

Smithsonian, “Patience Worth: Author from the Great Beyond”

 

Works Published About Pearl During Her Life (Free Online)

Casper Yost’s Patience Worth: a Psychic Mystery (1916)

Walter Franklin Prince’s The case of Patience Worth; a critical study of certain unusual phenomena (1927) 

 

Pearl/Patience’s Works (Free Online)

A Sorry Tale (1917)

Hope Trueblood (1918)

The Pot upon the Wheel (1921)

Telka (1928)

Some selected poems 

 

Sign Up for Zine of Ghosts

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In November, I am releasing a digital zine for download (PDF and EPUB) along with an additional tiny zine you can print, fold, and put in your pocket. I will continue offering zines every two months! This is all FREE.

All you need to do is sign up to join my zine email list!

I’ll offer teasers on Instagram and Twitter.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Well, It’s October…

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It is finally October, the best month of the year and the beginning of Halloween (because it is a season, not just a day). I have already blew my paycheck on Halloween decor and pumpkin everything (cookies, tea, body cream, candles, figurines, etc). I am just so damn excited and wanted to share a quick glimpse into my daily spooky life outside the notebook.

I made a cemetery terrarium or a cemeterrariumI am always saying I wish our property had a small cemetery, so I decided to create one. I found some small figurines (a cat, gravestones, skulls, and bones) at Michael’s (a craft store) and plants from my local greenhouse and my yard. This is my first of many. I plan on putting some of the bones and skulls in the soil to create the look of buried bodies with the next one. You might also consider adding small LED fairy lights and/or glow-in-the-dark fillers/sand.

IMG-8297.JPGI have decided to read a spooky short story each day this October. The short story is my favorite genre and I have so many anthologies on occult fiction. I really have no plan; I am just picking up a book and reading what grabs my attention. I will post a final list early November, but will share what I’m reading daily in my Instagram stories.

Since most of my October involves surgery recovery and a couch, I’m really excited about Turner Classic Movies’ Halloween Marathon (here is the schedule). I will also be reading through past collections of Jezebel readers’ scary stories (all the links are on my Library page).

I have been buying so many Halloween items to decorate my writing space (for the entire year). Below are some pictures. Not pictured: my ridiculous drawer full of Halloween office supplies and stickers.

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Snow globe from TJ Maxx
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Ouija Board Tray from Target / Candle holder from TJ Maxx
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Ridiculous naked ghost only wearing boots from Target

What have you been doing to get in the Halloween spirit? 

In My Commonplace Book: Two Mausoleums and a Bottle of Wine

IMG-8001I was recently invited to a friend’s home on a Wine Wednesday to share some ghost stories . She thought a live version of my #humpdayhaunts series (on Instagram) would pair well with wine.

This was my first time being a “guest speaker” on a paranormal subject, so I was very anxious! I decided to narrow down my subject to Indiana ghost stories. I also used the opportunity to find new material. For a few nights, I put aside time to fill my commonplace book with Hoosier folklore.

The night of the event, I came equipped with homemade bookmarks, zines on Haunted Indiana bridges, my commonplace book, and pictures for my “presentation.” I thought if I bored them to death, I could at least send them home with some goods.

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I shared about five ghost stories with two focused on mausoleums (because I love a haunted mausoleum). Funny enough, both haunted mausoleums are located in Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, IN (which I’ve added to my cemetery bucket list).

Well, I’ll get to it…

Sheets Mausoleum

So, there was a wealthy businessman named Martin Sheets who lived in Terre Haute in the 1900s. Martin had an intense fear of being buried alive. He had a reoccurring dream that he was unable to move or scream when the doctor pronounced him dead, and he then regained consciousness in a coffin deep in the dirt. Luckily, Martin had some money to insure this did not happen.

Martin first had a coffin custom made with latches on the inside, so he could easily open his coffin. To make sure he didn’t have the pressure of dirt on his coffin lid, he had a mausoleum built. Lastly, he had a phone installed in the mausoleum that could make calls to the cemetery’s main office. Imagine getting that call: “Hi, y’all. It’s Martin. Can you come get me? I seem to have been buried alive.”

In 1910, Marin died and was placed in his mausoleum. The phone connected to the cemetery office until they got a new phone system, but they did keep the phone connected and active (it was in his will and paid for after all).

Several years later, Martin’s wife passed. She was found dead in her home, clutching her telephone tightly. Family members assumed she was calling for help. They held a funeral and prepared her to join her deceased husband in the mausoleum.

When cemetery workers went to place her coffin in the mausoleum, nothing seemed unusual or out of place…except that the phone was off the hook and hanging from the wall…

Did Martin call his wife from beyond the grave?

Heinl Mausoleum and Stiffy Green

In 1920, an elderly man named John Heinl passed away. The citizens of Terre Haute liked him very much, but his dog loved him the most. Wherever John went, so did the dog. Everyone in town called the dog “Stiffy Green,” because he had green eyes and walked with a stiff leg.

When John died, he was placed in a mausoleum and Stiffy Green was placed with a friend. The mournful dog would run away often and was always found on the steps of his deceased owner’s mausoleum. Eventually, everyone decided it would be best if Stiffy Green just became a cemetery dog.

Stiffy spent the end of his days in the cemetery and, when he passed away, was stuffed and placed next to the tomb of his owner.

Several months after Stiffy Green’s death, the cemetery caretaker heard a dog barking on the way to his car. He instantly recognized it as Stiffy Green’s bark and it was coming from the direction of John’s mausoleum. People also reported seeing the figure of an old man strolling the cemetery with a small phantom bulldog following along.

Both stories are some fun Indiana folklore. Please note there are multiple versions of each story and some details have been proven false over time. But, I’m not here to ruin a perfectly good story. 

Indiana Cemeteries: Old Turkey Run

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I went “camping” over Labor Day weekend, which required a long trek down country roads. When I am driving down country roads, I always have my eyes open for small cemeteries tucked away in forested areas and in between corn fields.

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My dog Jolene (and June, not pictured) joined me on this cemetery journey.

I found the Old Turkey Run Cemetery (south of Wingate, IN) before crossing Turkey Run Creek on the way to the cabin. It was at the end of a very long grassy road off the main road. I wasn’t sure if I could drive my car down it and my dogs were anxious, so I decided to make a stop on the way home. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Someone is really taking care of this place.
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“Gone Home”
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View of the road from the cemetery. Ignore the green dot from iPhone. It’s NOT a ghostly orb. 😉

According to Waymarking.com,

This peaceful cemetery, set back from the road, was established in 1828. The first person buried there was Mary Westfall, her remains moved there, from their original place of interment, when the new Turkey Run church and cemetery was established there. The church was replaced by a new building, close to the town of Wingate, then called Pleasant Hill, in 1852. The church was renamed to Pleasant Hill Christian Church, at that time. The original location of the church, on the cemetery grounds, is marked by a stone plaque, in the ground, and four boulders. 

Below is the plaque remembering the old church.

I loved the design on this memorial, especially the small flourishes.

 

For more Indiana cemeteries, check out my past posts.

31 Halloween Treats for All Those Other Days

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It has been a stressful year so far and now, more than ever, I’m counting down the days until Halloween. My current self-care method is creating short-lived Halloween celebrations in between my mundane work hours and depressing news. The following are some suggestions for what I call “Halloween self-care,” or ways to cheer yourself up with the magic of Halloween.

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Watch this History Channel special on Halloween from the 90s.

Have you picked out a costume? Are you making your own? Well, get to work.

Make Halloween-shaped cookies (or your favorite Halloween dessert).

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Have a Halloween movie marathon (while eating your favorite candy).

Look up all the haunted locations in your city/town and state. There might be some books on the subject at your local library. Visit if you want, but don’t trespass, break laws, or cause damage. 

Watch this 1980s animation of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre. Did anyone else watch this during music class when they were a kid?

Read your favorite scary story from childhood. Mine was The Yellow Ribbon.

Listen to Snap Judgement’s annual Halloween special, “Spooked.” This podcast shares true spooky stories every Halloween and it never fails to give me goosebumps. I recommend starting with “Spooked IV.”

Write a journal entry about your favorite Halloween memory from childhood.

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Wear last year’s Halloween costume while you do the dishes.

Every year, Jezebel asks their readers to share their true scary stories in the comments.  I have links to every year on my Resources page (I recommend starting with the early years), and I have also shared a lot of my favorites in my old Weekly Yuputka series.

Follow a Halloween-themed Instagram account (like this or this).

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Make your favorite fall beverage, put it in a travel mug, and visit your favorite local cemetery. You might do some research beforehand using the Find a Grave website or app. If you are into symbols, The Cemetery Club has a great guide on gravestone symbolism.

Make pumpkin bread pudding (add ice cream or homemade cinnamon whipped cream) and eat it while watching Practical Magic or Hocus Pocus. It’s like a hug.

Practice your Halloween make-up and send a selfie to all your friends without warning.

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Write a journal entry about your ideal Halloween day.

Ask your parents, grandparents, or older friends about their childhood Halloween memories. Record them if possible.

Share ghost stories with friends around a bonfire. Your own Midnight Society.

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Watch the Halloween episodes of your favorite TV shows.

Read some Ray Bradbury. Here’s 10 tales by Ray Bradbury to get you into the Halloween spirit.

Look up pictures of pets in Halloween costumes.

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Treat yourself to spooky scented candles. I recommend supporting Burke & Hare Co and Witch City Wicks.

Make Halloween cards for your distant friends and relatives (hold off on sending them until closer to the date). Maybe you can use these creepy vintage cards for inspiration (or…not).

Invite your friends over to watch The Craft and then play Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.

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Start a commonplace book for Halloween topics. You might start with Halloween folklore and origins. The following links might be a good start.

Watch Caitlin Doughty’s Ask a Mortician Halloween special.

Read this list of 31 Ghosts.

Learn about Halloween folklore and superstitions from #FolkloreThursday.

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Make a spooky Halloween playlist for your commute. It could be literal. It could be classical. It could be Nick Cave. It could be witchy Stevie Nicks. You do you.

Look up some Halloween New Yorker cartoons.

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When Halloween does come around, buy all the stickers, pencils, and other office supplies and use them all year round. I usually hit up the dollar bins or the sales the day after Halloween.

Have something I can add to the list? Tell me in the comments! 

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In My Commonplace Book: The Stone-Throwing Devil

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This past week, I have been filling my commonplace book with eclipse folklore, my favorite #FolkloreThursday tweets, creepy dolls, and some new ghost stories. I had an especially fun time writing about The Stone-Throwing Devil of Great Island, New Hampshire.

George Walton, a wealthy landowner, and his family were tormented by an invisible force from May to August in 1682.

One Sunday night in May (about 10 PM), the Walton household heard loud pounding on their roof. George and several others went outside to investigate, only finding that the fence gate was taken off its hinges. Then, they were pelted by stones thrown by an unseen source. After running back inside, they witnessed rocks being thrown at the window and falling through the ceiling. This went on for several hours.

The next day, servants noticed there were many objects missing from the house. During their investigation, they found some of the household objects in the yard and other odd places. Stones also continued to drop from the ceiling and down the chimney. A black cat was seen in the orchard and everyone started to speculate it could be witchcraft.

That night the stone throwing continued. A hand was even seen thrusting out from a hall window and dropping stones on the porch.

Then, on June 28th, the stone throwing got intense. During supper, rocks fell onto the family while they ate. The dining table was smashed into pieces.

The rock throwing continued and sometimes stones were up to 30 pounds! George Walton was pelted by so many stones that he suffered from chronic pain the rest of his life.

The witch suspected of this aggressive behavior? It was an elderly neighbor woman that lost land during a feud with George Walton. After he took her land, she was heard saying he would “never enjoy that piece of Ground.” George and company believed this was clearly a curse.

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I drew some spilled urine.

So, George Walton though he’d fight witchcraft with witchcraft. With the guidance of a witch expert, George decided to cast a spell on his neighbor. This involved boiling urine and crooked pins in a pot. Before the pot could boil, though, a rock fell from the ceiling and knocked the pot’s contents all over the floor. He tried it again; more spilled urine. Then the handles fell off and the pot split into pieces.

The stone throwing continued.

George ended up lodging a complaint against his neighbor with the council in Portsmouth.  The council’s decision is unknown. We do know George was hit by rocks on the way to the hearing.

This story is documented by various sources, including a first-hand account by a Richard Chamberlain, which you can read HERE.

During my research, I learned the term lithoboly or a mysterious hail or rain of stones that pelt victims and property and is usually caused by witchcraft or demons. I added the term to my glossary page for future reference. Side note: you might keep a glossary in the back of your commonplace book.

Source: Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. 1992.


Commonplace book exercise for this week: Find a historical account of someone allegedly attacked by witchcraft. Maybe you might find some accounts on archive.org? Like the story I shared above? You might read and write about The Bell Witch.

A Hoosier Ghost Story with a Pun

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I have been thoroughly engrossed with the 1980 book Indiana Folklore: A Reader from Indiana University Press (edited by Linda Dégh). In this book, I came across the most suspenseful ghost story and just had to share it.

Three teenage boys stumbled across a haunted house on their way to another friend’s giphy (5)house. The boys began poking fun at each other, saying the other two were not brave enough to go inside. Eventually, after the teasing had died down, they agreed to spend the night in the haunted house together. The next night, the boys packed a lantern, bed-rolls, soft drinks, and a riffle and walked towards the house.

While making themselves (somewhat) comfortable in the haunted house, they heard a noise downstairs. The sound was a loud scratching noise, like something was being dragged across a cement floor.

The teenagers headed downstairs with their rifle and lantern. They heard the noise coming from the furthest corner of the room. The boy with the lantern turned his light towards the sound and saw a coffin, standing and scooting itself unassisted across the floor. The coffin kept getting closer and closer. And closer. The coffin after some time was three feet away from the boys. One of the boys decided to stop this scary coffin.

Can you guess how he stopped the coffin? 

Well, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a Smith Brothers cough drop and took it; and he stopped that COFFIN for the time being, so the boys were saved. 

Get it? 🙂


Italics are direct quotes (because I didn’t want to ruin the pun) and the story was shared in the chapter “The Walking Coffin” by William M. Clements. // Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

In My Commonplace Book: #FolkloreThursday + Smudging

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Y’all, I’m back with my commonplace book and ready to do some weekly updates…staring now!

My commonplace book has been filled recently with a lot of miscellaneous information, tiny bits I just had to capture. I usually come across this information on Twitter. Articles that have caught my eye on Twitter lately include:

#FolkloreThursday on Twitter has also been a source of knowledge and community for me. Each Thursday folklore scholars and lovers share their favorite pieces of folklore in 140 characters or less. I like to screenshot my favorite tweets, print them, and glue them into my commonplace book.

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I have also done some research on making smudge sticks. I had so much sage in my garden and thought purifying my space would put it to good use. I still have so much to learn about the origins of smudging and its complexities (colors, herbs to use, uses across cultures, etc). The following links have only started this current research project.

I especially loved this quote from the last article.

To understand the protocol means you have to learn something about aboriginal people. So in a sense the medicines are working in a kind way, saying ‘learn about me and we can respect each other and we can walk together’ – Cat Criger, aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University of Toronto

Commonplace book exercise for this week: Join #FolkloreThursday this Thursday and write down (or copy/paste) some of your favorite tweets!