The History of Halloween

Today in the spirit of Halloween ? ,  I have a special guest post from author Ashley Franz Holman.

The complete history of Halloween is a complicated one.

The modern, secular version is ironic, as the progression from superstition, Roman traditions, Celtic holiday, Christianity, and then finally to commercialism has given Halloween an interesting flavor.

 
Those familiar with Ovid may know of Feralia, which was a Roman holiday commemorating the dead and is often cited as an influence on what would become Halloween.
What is interesting about Feralia standing out as a primary influence is that most cultures have had similar traditions regarding death and the remembrance of ancestors.
Samhain, the Celtic and Pagan tradition is often considered to be the largest influence on the modern holiday.
It took place during the fall. There were monsters and demons that showed themselves only on that day. It was a magical time.
While the modern traditions for Halloween are mostly secular in nature, it was the Catholic church’s decision to create an alternative to Samhain with All Saints/Souls Day.
Over the centuries, bits of all of the world’s traditions found a place to mix in the melting pot that was America.
By the early 1900s, something resembling Trick or Treating started to catch steam. There was a lull during the sugar rationing of the Second World War, but once the Americans returned from fighting Halloween was one of the traditions that made the country feel normal again.

There’s something very human about the tradition of Halloween. Our obsessions with death, our desires to be remembered. Fear of monsters and the unknown.

Check out more of Ashley’s writing here on Ashley’s website.

Check out Vice and Virtues, a Horror anthology presented by Ashley on Amazon. The perfect ? Halloween read ?!

 

Purple Pumpkin Patch ? – Halloween & Fairytale Jewellery

When I received a package from The Purple Pumpkin Patch, I was absolutely thrilled! Thanks so much to Pumpkin Patch creator Elaine !

I received not only one, but two pairs of the cutest Halloween earrings I’ve ever seen! I love Halloween so much that I will wear these all year round! Also my main character in my book is a witch, so the little witch earrings will definitely come in handy!

The Purple Pumpkin Patch features Irish handmade jewellery inspired by nature and fairytales. There are also seasonal pieces made, particularly for Halloween and Christmas. Jewellery includes charm bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces. Custom orders can be facilitated.

As well as jewellery, handmade floral crowns and slides are also available. These can be custom made for festivals, weddings and other occasions. The owner can make matching sets for adults and children and the children’s bracelet  has the option of coming with a small bottle of fairy dust!!

To visit the Pumpkin Patch Etsy store click here.

Prices start at just €5 and all Halloween earrings are €5! I am a massive Halloween ? fan and a massive Disney fan, so I love all the pieces in the Purple Pumpkin Patch Etsy store.

Below are some of my favourite picks!

My first picks are the Beauty and the Beast inspired silver enchanted rose ring and the charm bracelet. Who  could resist?

Silver Rose Ring
Beauty and the Beast inspired charm bracelet

Up next is another Disney inspired piece. Tinkerbell has always been one of my favourite Disney character so this caught my eye immediately.

 

Tinkerbelle-inspired-necklace

For the ? unicorn fans, there is this gorgeous necklace.

? Unicorn necklace

The Pumpkin Patch can make lots of different custom charm bracelets, but my pick had to be the Halloween charm bracelet.

Halloween ? charm bracelet

To see more of the cute and reasonable pieces visit The Purple Pumpkin Patch Etsy store.

 

The Corpse Bride’s Recommended Reads for Halloween ?

My favourite time of the year is approaching – Halloween!  ?

Here are  my Halloween reading recommendations. These are the books that have scared or thrilled me over the years!

Winterbay Abbey by John Bladek and Davonna Juroe

This is a creepy, atmospheric, old style ghost story with a sad, haunting ending. Will, an architect, goes to the historic Winterbay Abbey to design a grand restoration, but Will and his wife soon fall foul of the abbey’s curse.

The in Woman Black By Susan Hill

This gothic tale is well known as being one of the scariest books in the past few years and it lives up to its reputation. Arthur Kipps goes to the isolated Edel Marsh House to sort out the affairs of the late Alice Drablow. A chilling and brilliant ghost story.

 The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand is not only one of my favourite horror novels, but also my favourite book. It’s an epic,  apocalyptic tale of good versus evil. The horror only begins when a deadly influenza spreads rapidly across the world.

Heart – Shaped Box by Joe Hill

This is a modern, original ghost story from Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. Scary and gory and further proof that you should not buy ghosts on the Internet! Rock star Judge buys a ghost to add to his occult collection, with horrific results.

IT by Stephen King

IT does not need much of an introduction with the current release of the movie version. The book will always be superior – over 1000 pages of pure horror in the town of Derry at the hands of an ancient evil and the terrifying Pennywise the clown.  ? .The characters, settings, atmosphere and scenes are perfect.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

This was recommended to me by David at Blue Balloon and it is excellent. This is wicked, twisted, surreal horror – a child killer, Christmasland and a Mother trying to save her son.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

I first read this as a very young teenager and I’ve read a dozen times since. The vampire tale of the beautiful Louis and the enigmatic Lestat is bloody, mesmerising and stunning.

Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe

This had been the only book  that I’ve ever had to leave to one side before finishing because it scared me so much. A particular gruesome, ghostly scene would not leave my head. Charles’ daughter goes missing Christmas Eve and is later found murdered. This is is only the start of the terror for Charles and Laura.  A ghost story and a mystery.

The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert

All of James Herbert’s Ash series are excellent, but I picked this one for the list. Psychic David Ash goes to investigate a town full of hauntings. This had lots of gruesome imagery, along with heart.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula, the father of all vampires and written by an Irish man. The tale of Jonathan Harker, Count Dracula and Mena is eloquent, timeless and scary. I think I need to re-read this one soon!

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

This is the first YA book on the list. Creepy little dolls, a windswept location, oijua boards, deaths and a tortured teen make for a brilliant YA horror.

Dark Matter by Michelle Pavar

I listened to Dark Matter in audiobook form and it entranced me. An Artic expedition results in Jack being stranded in a rough, artic Winter alone, but he’s not alone. Haunting, tense and gripping throughout.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Dead House is also a YA addition. A psychological, gory and original tale told from a variety of sources, including police interviews, video footage and the diary of Kaitlyn and Carly, a girl with multiple personalities.

House on Haunted Hill by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson has a fantastic way of twisting the readers emotions and confusing them.  A classic tale of terror when a group of strangers go to Hill House to take part in a study. The reader is unsure whether this is a a real haunted house or the manifestations of one of the main character Eleanor’s mind.

Zom-B Series by Darren Shan

Zom-B series is a twelve book series, with an extra novella. I read the whole series of a period of months and when it finished, I was devastated to say goodbye to B Smith and the other characters like Mr. Dowling. Zombie filled and action packed, this also highlights more political themes like racism. I devoured this like warm brains.

The Fog by James Herbert

The Fog is a brilliant,  demented and grotesque book.  When the fog invades a small village in England and rapidly spreads, it drives people insane and makes them act on their most depraved and horrific instincts.

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories – edited by Doug Murano and Alexander Ward

This anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing re-kindled my love of the short story. Each story is unique, beautiful but also horrible. A mixture of poems and stories to entrance and disgust.

 

Turner by Karl Drinkwater

I knew that I’d love Turner from the moment I saw the bloody chainsaw on the cover.
I loved the isolated Welsh setting and the atmosphere of the village, reminded me of Summerville Island from The Wicker Man.  Three strangers fight for their lives on an isolated Welsh island where the locals are not welcoming.

Hannah by Shaun Horton

When Eli, Naomi and their two children return from a camping trip, strange occurrences start in their house and family pet Hannah starts acting viciously and strangely. I’m terrified of dogs, so this canine horror scared the beejaysus out of me.

The Beast House by Richard Laymon

In true Laymon style, this is gory, twisted, sexually charged and action packed. Thanks to my old library in Dungarvan, I discovered Laymon. Tourists come to visit the infamous Beast House, where multiple murders have occurred and get more than they bargain for.

The Silence of Ghosts by Jonathan Aycliffe

Dominic, a wounded former soldier,is sent to the countryside with partially deaf sister Octavia during the blitz. This has eerie scenes, an atmospheric creepy location and a sense of dread throughout.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

By now, you can probably tell that I’m a fan of the classic ghost story. ? Governess Eliza arrives at Gaudlin Hall.  Abandoned children, unexplained occurrences and terrifying experiences await her.

 

Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

This book is aimed at teens and is the perfect mix of scary and humourous. This is the first in the series where the team of courageous Lucy, the enigmatic Lockwood and Georges,  first start investigating hauntings across London. Hugely entertaining!

Ring by Koji Suzuki

This is the book that spawned the Ringu and Ring films. Again,  the first in a series, this story of a videotape that kills you seven days after you watch it is a tense and creepy horror.

The Ghosts of Magnificent Children by Caroline Busher

Though for younger readers, this book had to make the list, everyone knows that children love ghost stories! It was haunting and gripped me until the bittersweet ending. Four magnificent and gifted children are taken to Badblood’s circus, where a dark fate awaits them. 100 years later, their ghosts appear the Irish coast, where they befriend Rua, who must help them.

The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan

Billy O’Callaghan’s first novel is a beautifully written ghost story. Set in the wilds of West Cork, a group of friends visited artist Maggie and try out a ouija board. Maggie unravels emotionally and artistically as the real, unseen terror unfolds. The clever, perfectly eeerie ending to this book will stay with the reader for long after the last last page.

Darkmere by Helen Maslin

Darkmere is a ghost story told in dual timelines by modern day Kate and nineteenth century young bride Elinor  and their experiences at Darkmere Castle. This a fun,  YA horror with a mix of romance, ghosts and mystery.

The Demon Road Trilogy by Derek Landy

When Amber turns sixteen, she finds out that she’s not the boring girl she thought, she’s also a beautiful red-horned demon. This is an epic rollercoaster of a journey as Amber and Milo travel across America to try to escape Amber’s parents. A brilliant trilogy featuring demonic bikers, vampires, undead serial killers and awesome characters

Zombie Girl Saga by Alessia Giacomi

This is the second atypical zombie series on the list. Eve Brenner goes on an archaeological dig with friends Akex and Cam, and is bitten by something that causes her to become a thinking zombie. This series was full of great action sequences and friendship, it reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Hell House by Richard Matheson

It’s a very long time since I read this, but I can still remember the opening chapters and our introduction to the ominous Belasco House or Hell House. Four people are hired by a millionaire to enter the house and investigate the paranormal phenomena. Chilling and psychological, another classic ghost story.

The Haunting of Highdown Hall by Shani Struthers

This is a recent read for me and the Psychic surveys series is entertaining and scary. The series follows Ruby’s psychic investigations agency as they try to help trapped spirits. Each book has a great story at the heart and feisty characters.

The Other Side of the Wall by Andrea Mara

This is the only real thriller on the list. I had to add this as it’s the only book in a long time to really freak me out! One scene had me hiding under the covers and listening for noises downstairs.  Sylvia looks out her bedroom window at night and sees a child face down in the pond next door, she races into her neighbour’s garden. But the pond is empty, and no-one is answering the door…

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Vicious, strange, heartbreaking and bloody, a vampire novel unlike any other. Loner Oskar is befriended by new neighbour, the strange Eli, who never leaves the apartment during the day. The real horror in this unfolds as Oskar is horribly bullied. Utterly brilliant and disturbing.

Mr. Sparks by Danny Weston

Ventriloquist dummies have scared me ever since I came across Mr. Slappy in Goosebumps! Mr. Sparks is an even creepier character! After Owen’s father goes missing in the war and his Mother has a breakdown, he is left with his cruel aunt in her boarding house. Mr. Sparks shows him a way out, but soon it becomes  apparent that Mr. Sparks is not as friendly as he first seems. A tense, gripping and scary YA horror.

I’ve finally come to the end of my list! Have you ready any of these? What books really scared you?

Have a wicked Halloween! ? ? ?

 

The Visitor – Part II

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

Today I bring you, in preparation for Halloween, the second and final part of a very special post inspired by the wonderfully creepy Loftus Hall in Wexford. Read The Visitor Part I here.

Loftus Hall is famed as the most haunted building in Ireland, you can find their website here. This year Loftus Hall celebrates it’s 666 year anniversary. Paranormal Lockdown tours have been running all year, the next three tours are already sold out! People enter the house at 8.30 and with a group of paranormal investigators and partake in an investigation until 3.30 in the morning. I’m dying to do one of these tours!

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

After visiting Loftus Hall a couple of years for a Halloween tour, I whole-heartedly agree that it’s one of the creepiest places I’ve ever been. The building is eerie (even in daylight_, even from outside, coated in darkness and set against the stark, exposed Wexford coastline. I have to add that the staff there are passionate, helpful and I would highly recommend it as a tourist destination.

loftus-3

Various special Hall’oween Tours are running through October. For adults there is the Loftus Hall Hall’oween Adult Night Tour which I highly recommend. General tours can also be taken of the house and it’s magnificent walled gardens. Special Loftus Family tours also run for Halloween –one suitable Over 5’s and one for Over 12’s. To book a tour click here.

Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and relax for a while with the final installment of “The Visitor.” Happy Halloween!

The Visitor

We turned our heads towards the underside of the table now visible without the cloth and at the bottom of the seat where Natas was sitting, where his shoes should be, were a pair of cleft hooves. Suddenly he began to cackle as we looked up towards him in terror the noise like something infernal and demonic his face twisted into a menacing scowl satisfied by our fear.

He arched his head upwards towards the ceiling now squealing like some ungodly thing the noise burned my ears like white hot needles and I had to cover them to stop the pain. In a shadowy blur like the things in my dreams he shot upwards and through the ceiling shattering it, causing debris and fiery embers to fall on the floor around us lighting some of the carpet on fire and breaking the table in two. We all screamed in terror now at the site and ran to the corner of the room huddling together shaking violently, Anne began wailing tears rolling down her face. The demonic laughter still shook the house and could be heard from all around along with the clop of hooves along the floor above us stamping wickedly until suddenly, all went silent apart from the sound of the fireplace beside us and the fire within.

The Visitor

When we finally believed that whatever had just occurred was finished and that the creature was gone or was at the very least somewhere else in the house we all ran to my master bedroom, darting through the pitch black halls of the house slamming into things as we did so, I had fallen at one point and bumped my head of one of the grandfather clocks against the wall, leaving a large mark on the corner of my temple. We ran as if that infernal creature was giving chase and I pulled Anne by her hand heeding no attention to the fact I may have been hurting her. As we entered the room, I slammed the door shut and bolted the lock while Fintan pushed the dresser across the room and in front of it as to bar the door. I grabbed the crucifix from the drawer in the dresser and we all made our way away from the door and towards the dimly lit fireplace in the centre of the room. None of us slept that night; we barely spoke to one another as the shock of what had happened still shook us to our core.

The playful mood which resonated in the house only hours beforehand was replaced by a fear I cannot truly describe in words. Anne began to whisper and mutter under her breathe and any attempt at speaking to her failed. Her eyes stared off into the distance at apparently nothing, glassed over like someone in a daze. As I stared out into the storm in the early hours of the night I could have sworn I saw a figure in the flashes of lightning, walking into the distance and away from Loftus Hall.

The days after were spent trying to piece together the events of the night. We could have all claimed some delirium had come about in us all if it were not for the evidence. The hole lay burned into our ceiling above the card table and Natas was nowhere to be found.

We should have told someone but we could not for the publicity would destroy both our family names and the Loftus family who had not played a part in the events but for welcoming us into their home. We had called for workmen to fix the hole in the ceiling and claimed it had occurred when a box of ammunition for the many hunting rifles Charles had kept caught fire and burned a hole downwards from the floor above. They certainly did not believe us but never questioned our claims and finished the work on the same day.

 

Anne slowly became worse, her whispers becoming more frantic and more often. She would not respond to any of us and walked about the house constantly calling for Mr Natas, I had even awoke one night the sudden urge to open my eyes and found her standing at the bottom of our bed whispering and staring at the headboard above us. I took care not to startle her and slowly made my way out of the bed whispering her name and walked towards her. Suddenly she twisted her head towards me and with a face like someone in pain began to howl, waking my wife, who also began to scream in fright. She darted out of the room and into the blackness of the halls, I ran after her in a state of undress pleading for her to stop. I followed the howls through the house until they stopped just ahead of me, inside of the card room. I crept towards the doorway and peered in to see Anne sitting in the chair beside the new card table her back towards me. Her head and body jerked as if in some form of fit and her mutters became louder and menacing I could hear threats beneath them.

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

I had never felt afraid of her but on that night somehow I felt I had been in some form of danger. I did not make my way towards her to begin with but simply called her name from the doorway. Her jerking stopped and so did the mutters replaced by whimpering, she began calling out for me and I rushed in to soothe her. As I knelt down beside her to try so, her head jerked upwards to the now repaired hole in the ceiling and her wails became deafening burning my ears. I shook her now shouting in anger for her to stop, but she continued ignoring my pleas her head angled upwards. My wife then entered the room and as she did so Anne fell silent again apart from her whisper. Her eyes refocused in front of her to where our guest had been seated just over a week before.

It is with great shame and guilt that I wrote of our decision to place Anne in a locked room in the house for both our sake and hers. Jane and I had feared that she would either do harm to herself or to us in our sleep one night while caught in her madness. The idea of getting her treatment was pushed aside as our family name would be tarnished forever and my place in politics and business would be lost, although I love my daughter how was I to tend for her if I had no income to do so. We had both decided to place her in the Tapestry room in belief that perhaps the paintings would calm her in some way. The room is located on the third story of the house meaning that if guests were to visit they would not come across it or think to question us about it, her whispers and mutters would also not be heard from there. We had decided to tell guests who came to Loftus Hall the story of how Anne was away in France and would not be returning for a number of weeks as we believed this to be the most rational of excuses.

As hard as I tried to care for her and spend time with Anne I slowly grew tired of her disorder and began to spend less and less around her. Jane had become ashamed of her as much as she tries to convince herself otherwise , she began to ignore the whole situation and act as if nothing had ever happened, never mentioning our daughter as if she did not exist. Fintan became her carer and would enter the room in the mornings to feed her, this had become extremely difficult as she refused food and would claw at his face if he attempted to open her mouth and due to this her frame became thin and frail, she was but a husk of her former self and in some ways it disgusted me to look upon her at times. She spent her days sitting on the small chair in the room, her knees pulled in towards her staring out the window sometimes calling for Mr. Natas as if waiting for him to return.

Although her door was locked and bolted shut during the night I awoke many times to find my bedroom door open and faintly hearing her whispers from outside. Whenever I would investigate I would find the Tapestry room door locked and after opening it would find her seated in her usual place as if she had never moved staring through the window into the darkness of the night.

One morning as I sat in the library reading I was startled by cries of my name from my wife somewhere in the house. I jumped from my seat and ran towards them; her cries became screams as I rushed up the main stairs and towards the third floor. As I reached the top of the stairs I saw Fintan holding my wife, she squirmed and struggled in his grip screaming like some banshee in the night. I roared at him in confusion questioning what was happening but before he had a chance to reply Jane screamed for me to look at Anne. My heart sank like an anchor into the depths as I heard the words and I forced my way past both of them almost knocking them off balance and ran into the tapestry room.

Music played softly on the small music box we had brought up to the room in an attempt to rouse Anne from her sickness, she sat in her usual place staring out the window her back turned to me. I made my way towards her almost expecting her to turn or scream like she had the weeks before but she remained silent. I called her name softly as I made my way across the room and placed my hand on her shoulder. She stayed motionless and beneath her dress her skin was icy cold and it seemed to radiate from her freezing my very being as I held her. I moved to her side trying to see her face and as I did so it became clear what my wife had seen. Her skin was pale and lifeless yet she still stared glassily into the distance her face one of anguish and still as some statue. I began to wail in pain and terror pulling myself away from her along the floor at the realisation that she was dead.

The days after are a blur of horror and pain. My life took on a dark bleakness like nothing I had ever felt and it destroyed me from the inside out like wood lice burrowed into a tree feeding on its guts. The true horror of it all was that in an attempt to prepare our poor Anne’s body for burial, the mortician could not free her from her state of rigor mortis, he had told me how he had attempted all of the practices which worked on every body he had prepared and none had worked on hers. In my complete anguish I had pleaded he breaks her bones to do so but he assured me it would only end with the bones piercing her skin and protruding from her body.

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

 So with shame we buried her in the position she died her knees pulled up to her chest like some doll or child’s play thing her face like a frozen marionette still waiting for Natas to return.

My wife could not bear to see this and collapsed in the mortuary having to return home and stay there for the funeral proceedings. As I watched the dirt being placed on the grave I swore I had heard her pleading for me to let her out. I pushed the men burying her aside and began clawing the dirt with my hands shouting that I could still hear her that she was still alive and wanted me to get her out. Fintan grabbed me from around my neck hauling me away reasoning with me to see she was gone, finally I gave in and stopped. Caked in soil we made our way to the carriage and into its compartment. I began to sob uncontrollably as we ordered the driver to move down the path and away from the plot. Before we came on the road to return back to Loftus House I looked from the carriage window one final time. Beside her grave stood a figure in black barely visible from a distance and I could have sworn I could hear the cackling laughter we had heard that horrible night months before.

 

I regret that this may be my final entry into my diary as writing of the events which have occurred has me once again contemplating suicide. I would do so in a second for not for the fear that doing so would bring me to the realm of that creature we had welcomed into our home. We prepared to leave for our own homestead and to leave this place behind forever but word has come to us of a fire in the home and we have been informed it is uninhabitable for the coming months until repairs are finished I fear this was all a plan by that monstrous thing. My wife has withdrawn to the east wing of the house and I see her only occasionally since the burial, coming down from the tapestry room where she sobs for hours on end. I have seen things in the night recently shadow lurking about the house and I fear that he has returned to Loftus Hall. The sound of cleft hooves walking along the floorboards wakes me at night sometimes I hear them in my room along with bestial breathing and panting in the darkness. I feel the events which have unfolded were only the beginning.

The Visitor

Happy Halloween everyone! I’d love you to share some of your own scary stories with me and my brother!

The Visitor – Part I

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

 

 

Today I have, in preparation for Halloween, the first part of a very special post inspired by the wonderfully creepy Loftus Hall in Wexford. Loftus Hall is famed as the most haunted building in Ireland, find their website here. This year Loftus Hall celebrates it’s 666 year anniversary. Paranormal Lockdown tours have been running all year, the next three tours are already sold out! People enter the house at 8.30 and with a group of paranormal investigators and partake in an investigation until 3.30 in the morning. I’m dying to do one of these tours!

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

After visiting Loftus Hall a couple of years for a Halloween tour, I whole heartly agree that it’s one of the creepiest places I’ve ever been. The building is eerie (even in daylight_, even from outside, coated in darkness and set against the stark, exposed Wexford coastline. I have to add that the staff there are passionate, helpful and I would highly recommend it a tourist destination.

loftus-3

Various special Hall’oween Tours are running through October. For adults there is the Loftus Hall Hall’oween Adult Night Tour which I highly recommend. General tours can also be taken of the house and it’s magnificent walled gardens. Special Loftus Family tours also run for Halloween –one suitable Over 5’s and one for Over 12’s. To book a tour click here.

 

Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and relax for a while with the first installment of “The Visitor.”

As I write this, I find myself reminiscing on the terrible events over the past months; the pain, sorrow and bewilderment it has brought myself and my family. Yet it feels like some dream in my mind, one of which I cannot leave, which consumes my every waking minute and confuses all reality, draining me like some fiend, thirsty for my being. The things I find myself thinking of are something not of this world. Those I have spoken to of it either proclaim me as a mad man or pity me as someone distraught by the events which have passed. I question if they are right? Perhaps I have gone mad? I have pondered the idea of entering a sanatorium to be treated for this apparent delirium but deep down in my soul I know these things are true and I curse he who is responsible for it.

I have always been close to the Loftus family, through ties from marriage and business. Charles or The Baron Loftus as he is formally known has been a companion of mine since my youth. We frequented much of the country on together during our younger days and share in our adoration of hunting and angling, through this we had bonded and were in contact regularly throughout the past years. When Charles had requested over dinner one evening that I care for Loftus Hall while he and his family left for Europe I instantly agreed; it would be a break away from our own home and beneficial for my wife Jane and daughter Anne. The girls were ecstatic upon hearing the plans when I returned home and on August the 1st we arrived at Loftus Hall.

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

Loftus hall is an immense building; the three stories are filled with beautifully furnished rooms. The library on the first floor is true beauty to behold; containing unending amounts of books, some of which are ancient, the volumes being some of the only found in these aisles. The room which the girls seemed to frequent most often was the Card room in the western wing of the house with its high ceiling and comfortable chairs. Many nights were spent within it playing bridge and its walls echoed with our laughter as the fire in the far edge of the room burnt bright. This was until the night of the storm and the arrival of our guest.

On the night of August 25th I had been near the coast in Fethard at a town hall meeting, not far from Loftus hall. As a representative of the area I chaired the meeting and gave the locals news decisions and changes which would affect them.  The town’s rural inhabitants were mild mannered descendants of protestant settlers who came here during the plantations from Britain. The hours after the meeting were spent in the local pub “The Boatman” with the mayor and wealthy land lords from the surrounding area. The pub was a large thatched building usually housing forty or fifty at a time with a large stove in the centre which burned bright for many a night. We discussed business and pleasure and although a storm had begun to brew outside, we enjoyed the night wholeheartedly.

It was midnight when I prepared to return to Loftus Hall and the storm was at its worst. A forceful gale shook the rafters of the establishment. O’Toole my carriage driver nodded to the publican for a final shot of whiskey and I stood up from our table and grabbed my coat from. The door of the pub swung open violently and a gush of wind and rain poured in, blowing out the lanterns near the door and filling the pub with the cries of the storm outside. In strode a tall figure hooded in a finely woven ebony coat. He stood first motionless in the doorway as water began pooling around his feet. The pub went deathly silent in anticipation as the man withdrew his hood and smiled roguishly, his features somewhat hidden in the shadows of the extinguished lanterns.

Looking back now, I am bewildered at the fact I had not noticed how the mood in the pub suddenly changed and the glassy look in the eyes of all those around me including myself like rabbits transfixed by the moon. I watched as the man walked across the pub, still deathly silent and removed his coat. I should have left then but something held me there as if trapped in some miasma with no control over myself.

The noise began again in the pub as people began to speak again, the sound was different to before the man had entered. People spoke louder and laughter could be heard bellowing across from tables; a stark contrast to the hushed and somber mood from moments before. Someone played the fiddle in the corner of the bar – a quick mad tune being struck along its cords. I glanced across to O’Toole and saw he had ordered a large bottle of whiskey from the publican when only minutes before he was preparing to leave. I found myself sitting on a stool next to a small table, the idea of leaving fading away and an urge to stay now filling my mind and watched as the stranger walked between the other tables the drunken men sat on their stools laughing and shouting in their new found joy. He moved as if gliding, never touching or bumping against anyone and sat across from me placing a large glass of brandy before me. How in God’s name did he know what I was drinking? These and many other questions I should have asked but somehow had never entered my mind as if not present and being distracted somehow by the man.

The Visitor

He smiled at me as he outstretched his hands something about it comforting yet chilling at the same time, his dark eyes stared purposely into my own holding my stare, he was young and no older than thirty with a slightly dark complexion as if Mediterranean in descent. He wore his long jet black hair in a ponytail like some of the Argentinian nobles I had met in business and introduced himself as a Mr. Fulicer Natas. I shook his hand and returned the smile and felt myself relax as if I were sitting across from an old friend.

 I forgot the time and began to relish in the man’s company, laughing and joking more than I had in many years and felt transfixed by what he had to say. He told me of how his ship had to dock in the harbour nearby due to the storm as it was nearly run aground near the cliffs of the peninsula, how his crew had decided to watch the boat while he sought shelter for himself. He asked me if I knew of any such establishment nearby. I found myself eagerly offering him a room at Loftus Hall and insisting he stay with us.

He smiled somewhat slyly as the mood in the pub suddenly became somber once more the noise dying down, the fiddle now silent and perhaps it was my imagination but the light in the pub became dim.

We decided to leave and both stood up from our tables and along with O’Toole left “The Boatman” and accompanied the man to the carriage the storm still raging around us and began to make our way back to Loftus Hall.

I struggle to remember the journey back as it seemed I had fallen into a drunken stupor which was unusual for the amount of brandy I had drank on the night. I recall arriving at the entrance, the house illuminated in the flashes of lightning about us and the mad dash to reach the door as to get out of the dreadful storm rampaging around us. I hammered down the large oak door while Mr Natas stood motionless in the rain. I heard the noise of the locks being withdrawn from the door as it opened. Our butler Fintan hurried us in and showed our guest to his sleeping quarters for the night. I staggered my way through the dimly lit halls and towards my bedroom, stumbling a number of times and ending up against the walls or peering into the faces of the paintings covering them. I did my best not to wake Jane on entering our room stepping lightly along the wooden floor. I slipped cautiously into bed and into a deep sleep.

I awoke to Fintan’s voice, commenting on how late I had slept as my eyes fluttered open struggling to focus. I watched as he placed a platter with breakfast on my lap – toast and bacon along with a small bowl of oats. He then turned and left the room as quick as he entered. My head throbbed with pain and I found it hard to come back to reality after the strange events during the night, still confused by how it had all come to pass, but slowly my alertness returned. After finishing breakfast, I could hear the sound of joyful laughter from outside and upon dressing made my way into the house and towards wherever it seemed to

http://loftushall.ie/
http://loftushall.ie/

originate from.

As I arrived in the dining room I found Anne and Margret in conversation with our guest Mr. Natas smiling and joking playfully. Upon seeing me he stood from his chair smiling and opening his arms and welcomed me in. Immediately like the night before I felt myself relax and the pain in my head was replaced with delight at the site of the man as if we had known one another for years. His English was exemplary and now without the noise of the bar around me I could hear the slight accent he spoke with. He told us of how his business involved dealing with persons who had made wrong decisions in their lives and those who worked for him in some way or another that he performed some type of judgement upon them. I am surprised to this day as to why I did not question him more but it seemed as if he swayed and controlled the conversation like an angler reeling his catch towards him one way and then another, not allowing it time to question what is happening.

The storm was relentless for many nights and we found ourselves delighted in the company of our guest. We partook in drinking, dancing and singing, he had even showed us his skills on a fiddle which were remarkable to say the least. We danced jigs and reels to the music, perspiring profusely. Hours were spent conversing in all manner of things and we found ourselves retiring to bed in the early hours of the morning exhausted from our escapades. An air of excitement and tension lay about the house as we all struggled to rest caught up in the madness of it all.

It felt as if I had entered some trance in which I could not leave and rather than fight, allowed myself to be carried along by it like a boat on the river Slaney.

 Anne in particular took to Mr. Natas and the two became inseparable over the passing days. They would walk about the house talking and joking among one another or playing games within the card room. The way she stared at him as he spoke I remember being struck at how infatuated she seemed to be; perhaps I was the same in some way or another. I had begun to believe they were having liaisons in the night as I would awake to the creaking of floorboards in the halls outside my room, as if someone was skulking along them or would hear hushed whispers in the night. My dreams became disturbed, I dreamed of the house in flames and dark figures swooping around me whispering in some ungodly language before I would awake in a sweat and grab for my wife Jane to ensure she was beside me.

One evening as the wind bellowed outside and rain crashed against the windows of the house I made my way towards the library in search of Mr. Natas to request he join us for a game of bridge in the Card Room. I found him sitting near the fire his dark apparel contrasting against the white silk of the upholstery he sat upon. He sat reading a large tome which turned out to be Dante’s Inferno, he commended me on having one of the first volumes and talked of how the book had always amazed him, how he wondered how a man can write and draw such things in such reality as if he had somehow seen them for himself. I had assured him I did not know but that it was indeed amazing and frightening in some senses. He laughed and inquired what I had come for, I told him of the game of bridge we were about to play and he accepted smiling slyly as we made our way out of the library and towards the card room. He had told me how gambling was something he had always enjoyed partaking in it as regularly as he could in his own homeland.

As we entered the card room we were welcomed by Fintan firstly and then the girls. Mr. Natas held Anne’s hand kissing it softly and staring into her eyes before sitting down around the table. Her eyes never seemed to leave him once during the whole game. Fintan poured drinks for each of us and presented me with the deck of cards we normally play with, before I could remove them from their packet our guest requested if he deal the cards for the game. I accepted and handed him the deck. Never in all my life have I seen a man handle cards the way he did. The way his hands moved as he shuffled them in ways I had never seen at any table the cards bouncing from one hand to the other as if with a life of their own. We all sat infatuated by the sight as he dealt us our hands and we began to play. The mood changed once more and we all rejoiced in the fun we were partaking in laughing uncontrollably at the very slightest of things seemingly unable to stop. It seemed to have no effect on our guest who appeared more collected than us all focused on the game at hand and never truly losing composure.

Upon winning the second game in a row Mr. Natas dealt yet another round of cards. They fluttered along from his hands towards the table in front of us, landing perfectly as if carried by some unseen force.

I received my three cards and peered around the table only to see Anne had but two in front of her the apparent third sliding off the table and onto the floor beneath her. Natas stared at her smiling toothily almost menacingly as she bent down to pick it up. Fintan made his way towards her to help when suddenly Anne began screaming from beneath the table and fell backwards pulling the table cloth with her and crashing against the ground in apparent fright. Fintan rushed towards her and my wife and I jumped from our seats in shock and bent down to question her actions. As we did she began to shout “his feet…”, “his feet…” “Look at his feet”.

The Visitor

You can read Part II right now by clicking here!

If You Go Down to the Woods Today

 

If You Go Down to the Woods Today

 

bear mask

 

They say that truth is stranger than fiction and real life is often more terrible than anything that can be imagined. This story is inspired by real life events that occurred in haunted house attractions. In October of this year in Austin Texas at the Fright Night Haunted Dreams attraction the horrors turned into reality for a teenage boy. Onlookers came across a scene of a crazy looking man biting into a boy’s arm, the boy was howling in pain and then the realisation that this was not part of the attraction hit the crowd. One of the visitors in the crowd shot the man 28-year-old Philip Harris and emergency services arrived to the scene but it was too late for the boy who was dead by the time they arrived. Despite this case and other similar cases every year hundreds of thousands of people are still searching for the ultimate Halloween scare.

 

Rosie was one of those many people. She loved the exhilarating feeling of being scared and gorged on horror films. The goriest films were her favourites, she enjoyed the bloody carnage in a slightly perverse way. She watched so many horrors that she was almost desensitised to the horror and was looking for something to truly scare the crap out of her this Halloween. She researched online and searched out the best scare houses in Europe. There was one scare house rumoured to be in a different European country every year and only the few lucky people who applied online would get to go this event. This year the website said that the scare house would visit Ireland and were looking for applicants! She couldn’t believe that she might actually have a chance of being one of the few people to be petrified this year! She loaded her picture and answered the questions about her favourite horror film and where she lived and sent off the message into cyberspace. All she could do was sit and wait now (and watch some more horror films of course).

 

It was now two days before Halloween and she had still heard nothing, feeling despondent she guessed she had missed out on this one. Just as she was nodding off to sleep an email popped up on her phone. It was an invite to the scare house “Slaughter Forest” the next day. She was instructed that the invite was only for her and to share the event with no one. A bus would pick the “victims” up on Patrick’s Quay in Cork City at 9.00 pm and drop the back at Midnight. There was no other information in the email. She was so excited that she found it hard to get to sleep that night and was in and out of nightmares all night long and she got up for work feeling tired and frazzled yet also excited. She was dying to tell someone in work but managed to keep the event to herself.

 

She managed to get through the days’ work and walked from her apartment at the outskirts of the city to the pickup location arriving ten minutes early. She was feeling slightly jittery after just finishing a strong coffee. There was about twenty other people waiting there already. Everyone seemed to be alone and were eying each other up nervously. The bus arrived and this was when the fun started. The driver was wearing what looked like a vintage pig mask. He said nothing just opened the bus doors and motioned for them to get on. Not wanting to look like a coward Rosie strutted onto the bus first, closely followed by the others.

 

They drove towards west but with the curtains closed and the darkness of the night she has no idea where they were headed when she peeked her head out through the curtain. After about 40 minutes the bus ground to an abrupt halt and the driver grunted and opened the front door motioning them to get off. They could hear the sounds of a slow version of the Teddy Bears Picnic mingled with squeals. They were in a forest next to a large wooden building – the sounds of pigs being slaughtered streamed from the building as did the smell of rancid meat. They were putting huge effort into the whole unsettling scene Rosie thought to herself. They started towards what must be the start of the event where a group of people in vintage animal masks were stood. They all held very realistic looking slash hooks or gleaming knives.

 

She was starting to feel that slightly hysterical and alive feeling of being scared. She noticed one of them staring straight at her intensely. She stared back, she was headstrong and determined that they weren’t going to make her be the first one to scream. They slowly approached the group and saw an obstacle course laid out before them lit by huge red floodlights. She wondered what other terrors awaited them. She was feeling quite nervous now but was enjoying the feeling.

 

He stood in his vintage bear mask surveying this year’s participants. He spotted the girl right up the front of the pack with a headstrong look on her face. She was quite attractive and curvy. She didn’t look the fittest girl in the bunch so the disgusting obstacle course should tire her out and take some of the fight of her so he could play with her. There was one every year, she looked very similar to his first love all those years ago. He squealed with excitement and they ran towards the group of nervous participants driving them towards the obstacle course. They scattered in different directions screaming and giggling. Each of the obstacles had a different scare, the hands that grabbed ankles through the tyre run. The bloody river that seemed to contain body parts and something slimy grazed their ankles. Somebody should have told them to bring a change of clothes she thought as she fought her way through a muddy enclosed tunnel closely followed by one of the squealing animal tormentors.

 

By the time she hit the fourth obstacle she realised that everyone else was gone way ahead. It was just her and the creepy guy in the bear mask left behind. She started to run, slipping on the wet ground and was soon out of breath and feeling really scared for the first time in years. She had gotten exactly what she wanted and now she was regretting her decision to come here and keeping it a secret. She stopped for a break and heard heavy breathing right behind her. She was nearly at the end of the course and spotted the group about 10 feet away. She felt a hand grab her from behind and dragged her by the hair towards the slaughter house. She screamed, terrified and tried to stay in one spot but it was useless. Her energy was spent after tackling the obstacles. The group looked on, assuming this was part of the scare. No-one realised this was not a stunt.

 

He dragged her through the door and barricaded it after hurtling her towards the wall. She felt something wet leaking through her jeans, she’d wet herself she realised. She tried to get up but the bear man ran for her smacking her head back against the wall. She knew now that he wasn’t messing with her, this was not part of the scare. This guy was a psycho and no-one even knew she was here. She heard the bus engine start outside and screamed hoping that someone would come back for her. He stood there squealing and laughing and dancing to the Teddy Bear’s picnic tune. She heard the group chatting away and laughing as they got on the bus full of praise for the scary attraction that had lived up to expectations. Nobody even noticed that there was one less person than when they had left the city.

 

He approached her now and swung a slash hook at her, catching in her soft slightly flabby tummy. She felt a searing pain and collapsed to the ground trying to clutch it and stop the pain. He stood above her grunting and squealing, he now held a mallet. He swung it at the side of her head and she felt her cheekbone smash and her head spun with dizziness trying to stay conscious. He whacked her once more with the mallet this time straight at her temple. This was the final death blow and the life drained out of Rosie.

 

He dragged her lifeless and heavy body towards a butchering table and proceeded to hack her body into pieces which he would freeze and feast on for the next year. Next year he would find a new love to savour who would die for the opportunity to enter Europe’s greatest traveling scare show.

 

 

 

The Corpse Bride,

 

The Corpse Bride
The Corpse Bride