February: Women in Horror Month!

 

This February, 2019, kicks off the tenth annual Women in Horror Month, a celebration of all things feminine and horrific. The two go together perfectly ūüôā

Women in Horror Month is the brainchild of one Hannah Neurotica, creator of the Ax Wound website,  and winner of a Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award. According to the website:

“Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre.”¬†

Horror is traditionally male dominated — as it is thought men are naturally more “violent” than women. But au contraire!¬† A closer look reveals that women are the true mothers of invention when it comes to the sinister, the supernatural, the occult and the ominous.

Women are vessels of the blood, keepers of intuition, soldiers of psychic activity and warriors of witchery.  We are the breeders, the birthers, the shadow dwellers and the invisible observers.  Nothing gets past our perceptive eyes and so, in creating horror, women are the deft and delving masters!

Consider for a moment all that women have contributed. Without women, the macabre would be missing out on some of  its finest moments.

There would be no Frankenstein — creator Mary Shelley — who wondered¬† what it might be like to give birth to a monster.

There would be no¬†Mysteries of Udolpho.¬†¬†This novel by¬†Ann Radcliffe¬†(arguably the ‘grandmother of Goth’) was first published in 1794. It is considered to be the prototype of Gothic romance, complete with sudden death, creepy castles, unprecedented misfortune, cruel strangers and forbidden love.

Jane Austen even used The Mysteries of Udolpho in her novel Northranger Abbey, to illustrate the idea of horror-loving women reading one too many Gothic novels and letting their imaginations take over their lives.

Let’s not forget vampires! Without women, there would be no Count Saint Germain (creator Chelsea Quinn Yarbro) no Dark Cathedral (creator Freda Warrington) and no Trueblood (creator Charlaine Harris.)

There would also be no infamous and notorious Vampire Lestat (creator Anne Rice.) Ms. Rice took it upon herself to explore these blood thirsty outsiders as they drifted through hundreds of years of history and struggled to survive. The result was The Vampire Chronicles, a compilation of over twenty  novels, delving into everything from ancient Egyptian deities to modern day rock stars.

Bring on the haunted houses!  Without women, there would be no Hill House (creator Shirley Jackson.)  Shirley wanted to explore poltergeists and paranormal activity in an eerie mansion. The result was overnight guests, foreboding dread and one of the best ghost stories in 20th century literature.

Let’s not forget the heart stopping Agatha Christie mysteries, the dark moor encounters of Emily Bronte,¬† the real world creepiness of Daphne Du Maurier and Joyce Carol Oates. And of course, the horrific dystopia created by Margaret Atwood in A Handmaid’s Tale, where fertile women are kidnapped and then forced to serve as baby making ‘handmaids’ to the powers that be. If you have not yet seen it, check out the series on Hulu, starring Elizabeth Moss.

According to Atwood, everything in¬† A Handmaid’s Tale had occurred at some point in history, somewhere in the real world, so it was not as fantastical as most people think…

Without women in horror, there would also be no Hitchcock Blondes — the whipped cream cool females that broke under the pressure of psychopaths, thanks to the acting expertise of Tippi Hedron, Janet Leigh, Kim Novak and Grace Kelly, to name a few.

There would be no Birds (writer Daphne Du Maurier) no Creature From the Black Lagoon (costume design by Milicent Patrick) and of course, no Halloween franchise (thanks to co-writer Debra Hill and the incomparable Jamie Lee Curtis!)

On a lighter note, plenty of women have taken horror and combined it with comedy. Consider Elvia, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson),  Lilly Munster (Yvonne De Carlo)  and the fabulous Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones.)

Morticia served as the general matriarch to the iconic Addams Family, complete with “Lurch” the butler, “Thing” (a severed hand with a mind of its own) her Gothic children Pugsly and Wednesday, her husband Gomez, weird Uncle Fester and crone Grandmama. Morticia had her hands full but she ruled with a funeral parlor cool, far removed from the average sitcom.

Who is your favorite woman in horror?

And finally, if you find yourself craving more tales of the terrible, please check out my very own horror stories in¬†The Box Under The Bed¬†and¬†Dark Visions.¬† Here, you’ll find Jack the Ripper, scary fairies, Charon the death messenger and Lucifer himself ūüôā

Happy February frights!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe

 

The very name evokes images of crumbling Gothic mansions, black cats, inescapable diseases, live burials and of course, the iconic Raven.  Where would we be without the Master of Macabre, the Denizen of Death, the Harbinger of Horror? I, for one, would be lost!

Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day, January 19th, 1809 at a boarding house in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents, Baltimore-born David Poe and London-born Eliza Arnold  Poe, were both actors then performing Shakespeare’s King Lear on a Boston stage. He was the second of three children, with an older brother Henry and a little sister, Rosalie.

Bleak Beginnings

Edgar’s parents didn‚Äôt last long. David Poe, reportedly an abusive alcoholic, abandoned the family in 1810 when Edgar was just one year old. The very next year his mother Eliza, sans husband, gave birth to a girl, Rosalie.¬† Eliza died of tuberculosis that same year, at the tender age of twenty-four.

David Poe also passed away in 1811, in Norfolk, Virginia.

Little Edgar was taken in by his godfather, a wealthy Virginia merchant named John Allan, and his wife Frances. ¬†Allan made his fortune from a variety of trades including tobacco, cotton, wheat and ‚Äď yes ‚Äď slavery.

In 1815 the family sailed to Britain. Young Edgar attended school in Scotland and England. His foster parents placed him in the Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School at Stoke Newington, near London where Edgar stayed for three years.

So far, it may seem like a rags-to-riches childhood that should have had a happy ending. Not so. Dark forces were at work all throughout Poe’s life.

John Allan was a bit of a ‚Äėschizophrenic parent‚Äô, alternately spoiling and then severely disciplining his foster son. He reportedly had a bad temper. (Don‚Äôt forget the man was a slave trader.) ¬†Edgar had had a bad enough beginning ‚Äď but being shipped off to boarding school probably didn‚Äôt help his self esteem. Edgar returned to live with the Allans in 1820 when he was just eleven.

In 1825, John Allan became even richer when his uncle William Galt died, leaving him an inheritance of around  $750,000. (That is the equivalent to $17,000,000 in 21st century money!)  But John Allan was apparently a stingy millionaire.

In 1826, Edgar enrolled in the University of Virginia, with the intention of studying languages. He claimed that his step father did not send him enough money for books and a decent dormitory.  He also began gambling and raked up a lot of debts, which John Allan refused to pay. Within one year, Poe dropped out of school.

Military Life

Left to fend for himself, Edgar worked a series of odd jobs. He was unable to support himself and so, in 1827 he joined the US Army. He lied about his age, claiming he was twenty-two when he was in fact, only eighteen. He also used a fake name, “Edgar Perry.”¬† That same year, he released his first book of poetry, Timberland and Other Poems.

The army did not sit well with Poe. He ¬†left in 1829 (skipping out on what was supposed to be a five year stint). Apparently, he came clean about his age and name. John Allan then helped him out — but also devised a plan that Edgar be enrolled in West Point Military Academy.

Edgar did not fare well at West Point. As a matter of fact, he hated it so much that he maneuvered a way to get himself thrown out! By behaving consistently badly, Edgar knew he could become eligible for court martial.

On February 8, 1831, Poe was tried for ‚Äúgross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for refusing to attend formations, classes, or church.‚Ä̬† Poe pleaded ‚Äúnot guilty‚ÄĚ knowing all the while he would indeed be found guilty and subsequently dismissed.

Clearly, Edgar was not cut out for military life.

A Teenage Bride

Having been officially abandoned by his foster father, Poe moved to Baltimore and reunited with some of his blood kin. He lived with his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, her daughter Virginia¬†(Poe’s first cousin who would later become his wife), his brother Henry, and his invalid grandmother Elizabeth Cairnes Poe.

Death still surrounded him. His brother passed away in 1831, due to complications of alcoholism.

Edgar then began working in various writing jobs, including assistant editor for the Southern Literary Messenger and contributing author for the Baltimore Saturday Visitor.

On May 16, 1836 he married his cousin Virginia Clemm. She was thirteen and he was twenty-seven.

This was not so shocking back then as it would be today. Marriage between first cousins was legal in all states before the Civil War, and not frowned upon. Plenty of historical figures married their cousins — including Johann Sebastian Bach, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Queen Victoria herself , who married her first cousin¬†Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840.

And don’t forget Jerry Lee Lewis, who somehow got away with marrying his thirteen year old cousin in 1957!

In the 19th century, the age of consent for girls in most of the United States was (astonishingly!) just TEN years old! In Delaware it was actually SEVEN years old! Some of these laws were in effect until the 1960’s.

However, the stark age difference between Edgar and Virginia — although technically legal — would have raised a few eyebrows. ¬†For this reason, Virginia lied on her marriage certificate, stating that she was twenty-one years old. (Lying about their ages seems to run in the family…)

Edgar and Virginia were married in church by a Presbyterian minister. Biographers believe their marriage was a happy one. Perhaps Edgar, having been so abandoned in his past, was finally free to enjoy the company of his wife. The couple shared a love of music, poetry, cemeteries, and — believe it or not — playing leap-frog! During their brief years together, it was not all doom and gloom.

Poe the Poet

Poe published his first novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket¬† in 1838. That same year he became assistant editor of¬†Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing his reputation as a critic. Also in 1839, the collection¬†Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque¬†was published in two volumes.

He wrote some of the first literary criticisms, as well as some of the first short stories. He is considered the inventor of crime novels and detective stories. Some of his most famous works include: The Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, The Telltale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum and Murders in the Rue Morgue.

On January 29, 1845, his poem “The Raven” appeared in the¬†Evening Mirror¬†and became an overnight sensation. It made Poe a household name almost instantly, and is still arguably his most popular poem.

But even in the midst of¬† his publishing successes, death and disease were not far behind. In The Raven,¬†Poe may have already been mourning the inevitable death of his wife.¬† ‚ÄúLenore‚ÄĚ of the poem, who would be seen ‚ÄúNevermore‚ÄĚ can easily be compared to Virginia, who had, by then already begun to exhibit symptoms of tuberculosis.

One winter evening in 1842, while playing the piano, Virginia began a fit of spewing blood. She would never recover.  Edgar tended and cared for her devoutly for the next few years as the disease progressed. Virginia passed away on January 30, 1847.

Sadly, and creepily, Poe’s wife died of the same disease, and at the same age, as his mother.

 

On the Streets of Baltimore

Needless to say, Poe never overcame Virginia’s death. His behavior became increasingly erratic and unstable. He tried to court other women but had difficulty sustaining romantic relationships.

Poe’s own death is shrouded in mystery. He had traveled to Richmond where he visited a woman named Elmira Royster, to whom he became engaged. He left Richmond on September 27, 1849 and was heading back to New York, where he had purchased a cottage in what is now The Bronx. Poe never made it home.

On October 3, 1849, Poe was found “delirious” on the streets of Baltimore outside¬† a pub called Ryan‚Äôs Tavern. He was “in great distress, and‚Ķ in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker, a printer, who found him.

Walker sent a letter requesting help from an acquaintance of Poe, one Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass. His letter reads as follows:

“Dear Sir‚ÄĒThere is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes under the¬†cognomen¬†of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, & he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need of immediate assistance. Yours, in haste, Jos. W. Walker.”

Snodgrass’s first-hand account describes Poe’s appearance as “repulsive”, with unkempt hair, a haggard, unwashed face and “lusterless and vacant” eyes. His clothing, Snodgrass said, which included a dirty shirt but no vest and unpolished shoes, was worn and did not fit well.

Dr. John Joseph Moran, who was Poe’s¬†attending physician, gives his own detailed account of Poe’s appearance that day: “a stained faded, old¬†bombazine¬†coat, pantaloons of a similar character, a pair of worn-out shoes run down at the heels, and an old straw hat”.

Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in this condition. It was believed the clothes he was wearing were not his own, as wearing shabby clothes was out of character for the usually well dressed Poe. (While promoting The Raven, Poe was known to show up at readings wearing a black cape, a top hat, and other elegant clothing.)

He was taken to the Washington Medical College where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. The true cause of his death is still unknown. Some have speculated he may have had a brain tumor, diabetes, an enzyme deficiency, syphilis,  apoplexy, delirium tremens, or epilepsy. Still other speculate his death may have actually been a suicide due to depression. (One year previous, Poe nearly died from an overdose of laudanum,  which at the time was easily available as a tranquilizer and pain killer.)

Or perhaps he simply reunited with his one true love, Virginia.

Some sources say that Poe’s final words were “Lord help my poor soul”. Suspiciously, all medical records have been lost, including his death certificate.

¬†But he leaves behind an amazing legacy — a body of literature that includes Gothic tales, dark romanticism and phantasmagorical poetry.¬†The man who spent his life shrouded in death now lives on as a never-out-of-print horror icon.

Happy Birthday Edgar!

 

 

 

Anne Rice, Mother of Vampires

 

She is the mistress of the macabre, the weaver of witch tales, a native New Orleanian who may never have made her mark in the world if it weren’t for her near blood thirsty curiosity about what it would be like to interview a vampire.

We are only twenty seven days away from Halloween, and no countdown would be complete without a tribute to Anne Rice, my all-time favorite living author!

Luckily, today happens to be her birthday.  (I’m sure it is no coincidence that this woman came into the world so near to Halloween.)

Anne Rice was born on October 4, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the second of four daughters. Her parents, Howard and Katherine O‚ÄôBrien, were of Irish Catholic descent. The family lived in the hard-scrabble, impoverished section of town known as the Irish Channel, where they rented a 3-room shotgun house. Most of Anne’s childhood was spent dealing with the hardships of poverty and her mother’s alcoholism.

Curiously, Anne is not her real name ‚Äď her parents actually named her Howard, after her father.¬† Regarding her unusual name, Rice has said:

‚ÄúMy birth name is Howard Allen because apparently my mother thought it was a good idea to name me Howard. My father’s name was Howard, she wanted to name me after Howard, and she thought it was a very interesting thing to do. She was a bit of a¬†Bohemian, a bit of mad woman, a bit of a genius, and a great deal of a great teacher. And she had the idea that naming a woman Howard was going to give that woman an unusual advantage in the world.‚ÄĚ

In their defense, it is true that women with androgynous names sometimes do get certain advantages in life. This idea of boy-girl names for little girls became more popular in later decades. Consider Taylor, Beau, Ricki, Sammie, etc.  In the 1940’s, however, it must have been a pretty shocking thing to do.

Little Howard did not like her name at all. When she went to first grade at St. Alphonsus School, the nun asked her name and she replied. ‚ÄúAnne.‚Ä̬† It stuck. Her parents agreed to legally change her name in 1947.

New Orleans is a spooky and beautiful town, known for its ghosts and cemeteries. The dead are famously ‚Äúburied above ground.‚ÄĚ This is not so appalling as it may sound ‚Äď it simply means that New Orleans adapted the French-Catholic custom of burying the dead in above ground in tombs and mausoleums, rather than underground coffins.

The cemeteries of New Orleans are legendary, hosting tales of folklore sure to fire any imagination. The Louisiana government takes no part in maintaining the tombs, so the upkeep of a deceased loved one is purely a family affair. This leads to a certain beauty ‚Äď each tomb is personal, a work of art.

Here I am with my niece at St. Louis Cemetery #1 in the French Quarter.  In the tomb behind us lies none other than New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau!

New Orleans Cemetery

The O’Brien family lived right around the corner from Lafayette Cemetery #1. This was Anne’s childhood playground. It was in Lafayette that Anne would later place the tombs of her characters Lestat the vampire and the Mayfair witches.

Anne‚Äôs childhood was heavily influenced by her Catholic religion.¬† Black cloaks, dark confessional booths, rosary beads, candlelight vigils and marble statues that seemed to come to life were all part of her sensibilities. Not to mention symbolic blood drinking as designated by the sacraments.¬† Mix that with extreme poverty, family dysfunction,¬† cemeteries, voodoo, hoodoo, Mardi Gras ‚Äď and we can easily see what fueled Anne‚Äôs wicked imagination.

When Anne was just fifteen years old, her mother died due to complications of alcoholism. Her father, unable to cope with four daughters, placed the girls in foster care at Saint Joseph’s Academy. ¬†According to Anne, Saint Joseph‚Äôs was: “something out of Jane Eyre¬†… a dilapidated, awful, medieval type of place. I really hated it and wanted to leave. I felt betrayed by my father.‚ÄĚ Charles Dickens was Anne‚Äôs favorite author, and it seems her own childhood was a bit of a Victorian Bleak House.

Saint Joseph’s Academy

Two years later, in 1958, Howard Rice retrieved his daughters and moved the family to Richardson, Texas. There, Anne met her future husband Stan Rice, while both were students at Richardson High School. Although Anne left Texas after high school and moved to San Francisco, she remained in touch with Stan.  While Anne was in California, Stan sent her a telegram asking her to marry him.  She said yes! The two were wed in Texas in 1961 when Anne was twenty and Stan was just eighteen. They were married for forty one years until Stan’s death in 2002.

While living in San Francisco in 1973, Anne wrote her first novel Interview With the Vampire.¬† She has stated that vampire literature was nearly nonexistent at the time, but she thought it would be ‚Äúfun to interview one.‚ÄĚ ¬†The novel was published in 1976 and quickly became a best seller. Anne then wrote The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned. The Vampire Chronicles had begun!

In 1988 Anne moved back to New Orleans with her husband and son, Christopher. Having become wealthy from her book sales, Anne purchased a mansion in the garden district. She then began writing The Witching Hour, the first of the Mayfair Witch Trilogy. The house that Anne lived in was located at 1239 First Street. It is the coolest house ever! It became as much a character in the books as the Mayfair witches themselves.

Here’s me in front of the magnificent house — a must-see if you are ever in NOLA!

New Orleans Anne Rice House

In 2004, after the death of her husband, Anne moved back to California and has lived there ever since.

Interview With the Vampire was made into a movie in 1994. It starred Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kiirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas. The movie received critical acclaim. Three more of Anne‚Äôs novels were made into movies ‚Äď Queen of the Damned, Exit To Eden¬†and The Feast of All Saints.

For many years, Anne had given up film rights to her own novels, because movie studios had optioned them.¬† In 2015, Anne regained the rights and set about trying to turn the entire Vampire Chronicles into a television series. In 2017,¬†Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books. The series was picked up for broadcast on Hulu, and should be premiering sometime in 2019. I can’t wait!

Fun Facts:

  • To date, Anne has written 41 novels.
  • In addition to Gothic and horror, Anne also writes erotic novels under the pseudonyms A. N. Roquelaure and Anne Rampling.
  • Cosmopolitan magazine called her ‚Äúthe queen of sexy vampire fiction‚ÄĚ.
  • Although her vampires are known for their charm and sensuality, none of them actually have sex. Because they are, you know, vampires…

  • Anne tried reading Bram Stoker‚Äôs Dracula as a teenager and was too terrified to finish the book. As an adult she attempted it again and loved it.
  • Anne became a self described ‚ÄúAtheist‚ÄĚ after leaving the Catholic Church at age 18.
  • In 1998, Anne returned to the church. After twelve years as a practicing Catholic, she renounced Christianity, stating: ‚ÄúI remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity.‚ÄĚ
  • Anne almost joined the world of the dead herself, in 1998, when she fell into a diabetic coma. She came close to death once again in 2004 when she suffered a bowel obstruction and surgery.
  • For several years, after her return to New Orleans, Anne held an annual Halloween vampire ball at the mansion on First Street. The ball is still going strong, now operated by the Anne Rice/ Vampire Lestat Fan Club.

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  • The Rice’s first child, a daughter named Michele, died from leukemia when she was just six years old. The loss devastated them.
  • Anne, a self-described ‚Äėalcoholic‚Äô, stopped drinking in 1979 after the birth of her son Christopher. She has stated that she did not want him to have the same childhood she did, in dealing with an alcoholic mother. Anne has made public service announcements regarding alcohol and sobriety.
  • Anne has stated that she chose vampires as her means of self expression, because she was facing painful issues which she could not discuss directly.
  • Regarding the movie Interview With the Vampire, Anne claims ‚ÄúBrad Pitt played me, because I am Louis.‚ÄĚ Louis, as you may recall, was the most ‘human’ and conflicted of the vamps.

Happy Birthday Ms. Rice! Wishing you Immortality ūüôā

 

 

 

 

Calling All Fans of the Macabre and Supernatural…

 

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Are you tempted by terror, hungry for hauntings and scintillated by the supernatural? Are you a surveyor of cemeteries, giddy for ghosts, enticed by the eerie?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I suspect you have a penchant for the Dark Side.  As such, I have an offer for you! (Okay, a shameless plug. But you will like it, I promise!)

A while back, bestselling author and WordPress blogger Dan Alatorre ¬†requested submissions for an anthology of scary stories he was putting together, to be available around Halloween. ¬†Naturally, the minute I heard ‘scary’ and ‘Halloween’, I was IN!!

I submitted a story about Jack the Ripper.  (Teaser HERE)  To my delight, Dan accepted it!

Our anthology, called The Box Under The Bed contains a collection of twenty spine tingling stories. Expect psychotic killers, psychological horror and recreations  of Yesteryear, as well as friendly ghosts and a plethora of  all things weird, wild and wonderful.   Contributors include bestselling authors Allison Maruska  and Jenifer Ruff.    The anthology is due for release on October 1.

box

Now here’s the best part! You can pre-order a Kindle download for only 99 cents! ¬†Pre-orders will also include a bonus story written by Dan Alatorre which will not be included after the release date. ¬†Paperbacks will be available later.

If interested¬†please click HERE.¬† Hours of thrilling enchantment await, as we prepare for Halloween…

scary ty

 

 

 

Celebrating All Things Goth

 

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Okay Goths and Goth lovers, it is time to descend¬†into the Underworld to celebrate your dark, sinister and delicious selves! Today, May 22nd is‚Ķ (drumroll) … ¬†World Goth Day!

Chances are you may have never heard of this very unique holiday. (In the U.S. they would not want word to get out, trust me.)  I learned about it from my friend, the awesome Australian blogger V Something Speaks.  Check out her Goth Day post  for some great info and recipes to help celebrate!

Because the term Goth is complicated and comes from many origins, I thought it would be fun to explore a bit of our twisted Gothic history.  Who exactly were the first Goths, what does the term mean and how did it get associated with horror movies and punk rock?

The first Goths were ancient Germanic barbarian tribes, also called Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The term comes from the Latin ‘Gothicus’ and the Greek ‘Gothoi’, later synonymous with ‘vandal’. ¬† The Goth tribes resided in what now is Eastern Europe, and were known to be pretty bad-ass, especially under their first organizer, King Alaric.

Alaric Visigoth

The Goth tribes apparently got fed up with Rome running the world and, after several failed attempts, finally, under Alaric’s leadership, effectively brought down the Roman empire. This occurred sometime in the 5th century. They then scattered to various places around the world, including remote corners of Europe and Asia Minor. The last of the Gothic tribes were still living in areas near the Baltic Sea as late as the 18th century. One of their languages, known as ‘Crimean Gothic’, was reportedly spoken up until around 1945.

But the Goths were not just warriors. ‘Gothic art’ was a term used to describe a Medieval art movement that developed in France around the 12th century. It included unconventional forms of sculpture, fresco, stained glass, and architecture. ¬†Its characteristics were a hodge-podge of different elements (spires, spirals, arches, gargoyles and figurines). Because it broke with classical art forms, critics eventually called it ‚ÄėGothic‚Äô as they thought the new styles were somewhat barbaric and crude.

gothic-rose-window

(I know! It is hard to imagine Notre Dame cathedral as ‘crude’. )

Fast forward to the 18th century when English authors re-used the name Gothic once again to describe literature. Gothic fiction centered around themes of terror and mystery, hauntings, vampires and death. Gothic romance featured dangerous, sensual, forbidden love affairs with overtones of bondage — both physical and psychological. Horace Walpole is credited with the first Gothic novel, ‚ÄėThe Castle of Otranto‚Äô, published in 1764. ¬†Gothic fiction carried into the 19th and 20th centuries. ¬†More popular writers include Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker, Anne Radcliffe, Emily Bronte and Edgar Allan Poe.

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Do you see a pattern here? Goth has always been about stepping outside the accepted norms of society and overthrowing the status quo.

Our current Goth subculture probably grew out of these unconventional, shocking and romantic ideas. It perhaps became most prominent in the 1980’s underground music scene with bands such as The Cure,  Bauhaus, Joy Division and The Damned. Enter MTV, the internet, and the beginnings of a new revolution.

Of course, many other things gave influence to post- modern Goth ‚Äď for example, the art of Edward Gorey, movies like ‚ÄėThe Hunger‚Äô and ‚ÄėEdward Scissorhands‚Äô, Anne Rice‚Äôs Vampire Chronicles, Holly Black’s urban faerie tales — ¬†as well as a variety of spiritual and political ideas.

And then there is the fashion! You know it when you see it.

goth rock

Present day Goth is the natural evolution of its original barbaric/ rebellious/ mysterious and romantic roots, coupled with a great love for the color black.

At any rate, World Goth Day is a great time to don some sexy clothes, fly the freak flag, read Poe, eat Black Forest cupcakes and (broodingly) let your dark side shine.

(Even a blonde sun worshipper like me goes Goth from time to time…)

Me goth 2

 

And finally, a video to make your day ūüôā

 

 

 

 

The Raven

 

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At the height of my fame I was known as the master of macabre, Poe the poet. But you, gentle reader may call me Edgar.  It is with much displeasure I look upon your current world. The nightmares you  now face are far more devastating than any I have poured from my pen.  In hopes of diverting your attention  I will tell you a bit about my own life.

Yes, in my day we had atrocities as well.  Disease and tuberculosis.  The enslavement of human beings for profit, great plantations built upon sweat of those who never saw a farthing for their labor. As for myself, I was orphaned at a young age, separated from my siblings and raised by a man called Allan. He hated me.

First, I will speak of the raven for ¬†I hear he is ¬†still an obsession of many. ¬†It was my wife, ¬†my sweet Virginia, who inspired that poem. ‚ÄúEdgar,‚ÄĚ she told me, ‚Äúchoose a bird! ¬†One of dark and eerie countenance. ¬†Only such will move the minds of your readers, for they long to be frightened out of their wits!‚ÄĚ

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She then giggled her girlish laugh and I knew she was right. The ¬†poem I created sold by the hundreds, enabling me to begin my travels on what you in your modern world would call a ‚Äėbook tour‚Äô.

Virginia was my muse, my inspiration. She spoke of dark things;  human beings buried   alive,  black cats and black death, the stench of coffins and great stone mansions that crumbled in the quaking earth. Many a night she would entertain me with her wild imaginings, all of which found a true place when I put pen to paper.  Yet her dark fantasies worried me. Her behavior was peculiar, not like that of most women.  Often in the night I found her perched on the balcony as if she meant to take flight.

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Oh, she was a nubile creature!  Our marriage was quite unconventional.  When I wedded her she was but thirteen years old, a budding beauty, hair of silk and skin of peach.  And I, in my lustful maturity (for I was  then twenty seven) could not resist her coquettish charms.

What’s that you say? Pedophilia? The word was not in my vocabulary! ¬† Before you jump to any vile conclusions be assured; my love for Virginia was pure. ¬†She was family, ¬†my first cousin. ¬†We shared the very same blood! ¬† As such, I think I saw in her a bit of myself — ¬†my own reflection. ¬†I could not resist the charm of her lovemaking, the exquisite pinnacles we achieved, for who does not secretly desire ¬†carnal knowledge of one’s own self?

What’s that you say?  Incest?  Risk  of birth defects?  We knew nothing of your modern genetics!  Even if we had, I certainly would not have stopped the union, for I adored Virginia with a passion that was sublime, a passion very few humans will achieve.  Alas, she was to bear no children, a thing I have always regretted.

My true  nightmare  began when Virginia took ill with tuberculosis. In the stifled, slow moving days and the gloomy nights I watched as her  body atrophied. She became a walking cadaver, a blood spewing entity, standing in the path of the reaper, doomed for the bed of death.

When Virginia passed from this world I was devastated. In my loneliness I even tried to replace her.  I courted several ladies. I had affairs with the beautiful Nan Richmond and the illustrious Sarah Whitman. I even called upon the widow Elmira Shelton who  had once been my fiance (before I met Virginia.)  Yet my efforts were for naught.  None could rival  my true love.  Though she was gone I still burned with passion for her.

I then traveled to Baltimore, on a speaking tour. It was there that the spirit of Virginia began to haunt me relentlessly.  She came to me in dreams, visions and visitations. She was pale as chalk, thin as bone, with red stains of tainted  blood still trickling from her lips.  Yet to me she was lovely.

gothic poe pd

 

These visions lasted four nights and it became clear to me; if I wished to reunite with Virginia I must pass through the dark realm myself. I must enter the red masque, step beyond the veil and know the silencing of my own telltale heart.

And so it was outside a public house, on the streets of Baltimore that I drew my last breath.

The night was wet and blustery, chill of the early ¬†October winds setting in. I had been drawn from my chamber, beckoned by a bird. Yes, a raven. Of courses a raven! ¬†What else? ¬†I stood on the pavement ¬†in bare feet and a nightshirt.¬† I was then encompassed in what I can only describe as a thick fog, soft to the touch of my skin, rich, relaxing and delicious. In that fog ¬†I could feel Virginia’s presence. Finally I saw her, nubile and fresh as she was on our wedding day. In that moment I was ¬†no longer tied to this earth. I joined Virginia in that place of ¬†enthralling darkness, to return nevermore.

Try as they might, doctors  could report no discernible cause for my death.

Gothic-Fallen-Angel-gothic pd

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt Nightmare

 

 

ea poe pd