The RaVen Poe, the Professional Devil Does Dallas My First Time Ghost in the Machine
The RaVen Your humble editors, collectively known as the Ghost Scribes are Sue Latham and Ann Fields, but not necessarily in that order. It is our privilege to present the second issue of our collection of missives from the dark side. Sue Latham is a native of Dallas, TX. Her travels have taken her to the Nazca desert where she endured a harrowing flight over the lines in a small plane; to Africa on a quest for a glimpse of the rare white rhino; and to the Australian Outback, where she was stranded by a flash flood and had to spend the night in a Subaru. Her novels, The Haunted House Symphony and The Science Professor’s Ghost, are ghosthunting mysteries featuring a team of ghost hunters led by Sue’s intrepid alter-ego, Margo Monroe. Both books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online bookstores as ebooks and in paperback. Ann Fields published four romance novels and one novella under her pen name of Anna Larence before she encountered her first ghost. That one brush with the supernatural shifted her focus from love and happily ever after to love and life in the here and after. In her novel, Fuller’s Curse and her short stories featured in Voices from the Block (Volumes I & II) and Lyrical Darkness, she explores life in all its many dimensions. You can learn more about her and all of her subsequent run-ins with the supernatural at www.annfields.com.
Echo Bodine Ann Fields Sue Latham A.F. Stewart José Vargas Jerry Weiss Sean C. Wright Credits Starship typeface | Cruzine Mystic Moon glyphs | Wumi Designs Horror Ephemera | Digital Curios
Hand with biz card | Christos Georghiou Black Satan | sebrodrick Picket Fence | AlyssaKayeGraham Funky moth | Nobody seems to know Awesome candy skulls | Side Project Photo Not credited | Who knows? Probably Pinterest. Contact Us! Reach us via Facebook at https://www. facebook.com/GhostScribes or email GhostScribesDallas@gmailcom. (Not available through séances or ESP...yet.) Advertising & Submissions To advertise in The Raven, or to submit a story, recommendation, or idea, email us at GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook!
A Ghost Scribes Publication Ghost Scribes and the ghost logo ©2016-2021 wait for it...the Ghost Scribes
Exploring the Macabre, the Bizarre, & the Unexplained
Poe, the Professional by the Ghost Scribes
Devil Does Dallas by Sean C. Wright
My First Time by Ann Fields
Ghost in the Machine by Sue Latham
True Ghost Stories
by Echo Bodine
What We’re Consuming… 46
Ann & Sue’s TBR List…48
by Jose Vargas
Poetry Corner…50 Spooky Happenings …52 Speaking of Art…53
Issue # 2 April 2021 All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the Ghost Scribes. Printed in the USA.
From the Editors
elcome to Issue 2 of The Raven! We’re so glad you’re back for more. We’re pretty excited to return too for another round of stories, art, events, books, and Poe. In this issue, our focus turns to Spring, which has sprung in many parts of the world. For us, your dear editors, Spring means new. New leaves on the trees, new creepy, crawly bugs emerging from underground, and new people in our midst. We should probably explain the latter.
On pages 16, 38, 50, and 53, meet Sean C. Wright, Echo Bodine, Anita Stewart, and Jerry Weiss, new contributors that we conned, er, lured into sharing their talents with you, our favorite readers. Each person brings a unique newness to the pages that is sure to capture your attention and hold it ‘til the end. Sean kicks things off with Devil Does Dallas, a short story that takes recruiting to a new low. Perhaps in this season of newness, you’re more in the mood for poetry? Try Anita’s horror haikus. Nobody does dark, suspenseful, and eerie like Poe, but Anita comes awfully close.
Ghostbusting expert, Echo scares us straight with two of her best, TRUE ghost stories. And with 25 years of kicking ghost butt, that’s saying something. But never fear! If you’re afraid to turn off the lights after reading Echo’s stories, Jerry’s got your back. His original cartoons, designed specially for The Raven, will have you hooting in laughter. We’re grateful to these new talents for letting us showcase their work. We’re also thankful for and geeked about José Vargas. We featured Jose’s visual art in Issue 1 and it was amazing! But he has other talents which you’ll see on page 44. Photography with an accompanying ghost story. How about that for a new twist? And if ghost hunting is your thing, Ghost in the Machine, part one of a three-part ghost hunting mystery featuring professional ghost hunter Margo Monroe, will have you longing to embark on a new career. Okay, so, we may have gotten a little heavy-handed with all things ghost in this issue. What can we say? We’re fascinated by the known and unknown, the spiritual and physical, anything that’s macabre, bizarre, or unexplained. But there’s always, always room for Poe. In keeping with the new theme, we thought it would be cool to explore Poe’s professional life as an employee. Especially since he acquired new jobs seemingly every year. It’s hard to imagine Poe as employee, but even world-famous poets must pay their dues. Learn, or relearn, new facts surrounding Poe’s W2 career in the article titled, Poe, the Professional. Dear reader, you’re in for a lot of scary goodness on the pages to follow. So, let us not delay you longer. Go ahead. Click the cursor and enjoy this Spring offering.
Poe, the Professional by The Ghost Scribes
Edgar Allan Poe lived a relatively short life. He was born in 1809 and died in 1849 at the tender age of 40. Nineteen of those 40 years were spent in the employment of others. Yes, you read that correctly. Poe’s creative endeavors were secondary to a professional career. Imagine that. The father of the modern detective story, the internationally-applauded creator of verse, the master of mystery and suspense having to punch a timeclock.
The Raven What might a professional career have looked like for someone as creatively gifted as Poe? What jobs could Poe have possibly held? Walk with us through the nineteen years of Poe’s professional life for the answer to these and other questions.
later years, the august George Bernard Shaw would label Poe “the greatest journalistic critic of his time” and accuse American critics of misunderstanding Poe’s genius.
Throughout his professional career, excluding the military, Poe did not stray from his natural writing abilities. He was fortunate to orbit the world of publishing and writing. This proved to be invaluable for making the right connections, securing new opportunities, promoting his own works, and strengthening his writing and storytelling chops.
One example of the power of Poe’s critical writing ability was his review of J. N. Reynolds’s address on “The Subject of a Surveying and Exploring Expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas”, delivered April 3, 1836. In his review of the address published in the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe praised both the content of Reynolds’s speech and the speaker’s persuasive oratorical skills. Poe included details related to the number of ships and crew needed for the expedition, facts on the maritime industry, and benefits to the United States and the science world in his review. Later, Reynolds was able to persuade Congress to authorize the expedition. Many gave Poe credit for the move of Congress.
As one would expect, Poe established himself early in his career as a literary critic, reviewer (of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, speeches, and theater), and columnist of strong repute. Poe’s fans and even his critics, of which there were many, prove this, referring time after time to his critical writings as thorough, meritorious, original, and sound. In fact, Poe’s critical writings were considered the gold standard at that time. In
Poe was also credited with helping to raise the profile of British novelist Charles Dickens in America. Poe, a fan of Dickens, wrote favorable reviews of three of Dickens’s novels: The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, and Watkins Tottle, and Other Sketches. Poe always started his reviews with a thorough examination of the incidents in the novels, then ended by praising “the rich imaginative conception of Mr.
After a short stint at the University of Virginia (February 1, 1826 to December 15, 1826), Poe began his working career.
Natural Abilities Preferred
Dickens.“ Poe felt “his [Dickens] general powers as a prose writer are equaled by few.” But positive, supportive reviews and critical writings by Poe were few and far between. Among his contemporaries, Poe was regarded as having an acerbic, cutthroat approach to critical writing. His pen was vicious! An example of such is Poe’s review of James M’Henry’s The Antediluvians, or the World Destroyed: A Narrative Poem, In Ten Books. Poe writes, “There are two species of poetry known to mankind, that which the gods love and that which men abhor. The poetry of the doctor [M’Henry] belongs to the latter class, though he seems lamentably ignorant of this.” As if this was not damaging enough, Poe continues, harshly stating, “We are satisfied that, if he should be arraigned for writing poetry, no sane jury would ever convict him . . . ” Ouch! Poe did not contain his demoralizing criticism to reviews, essays, or articles. He would occasionally weave mockery of fellow writers into other mediums. His favorite writer to mock—Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Poe’s arch enemy. In his short stories, Poe was known to create unsavory characters who took on physical resemblances to Griswold. Or, Poe would have his fictional characters read the works of
Resume E. A. Poe
Kingsbridge Rd. The Bronx, New York
Executive Summary Experienced writing and publishing professional with 19 years of writing, editing, critical analysis, public speaking, and publishing experience. Exceptionally skilled in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and criticism. Well versed in current topics and those of old.
Experience 1835 – 1837
Editor, Southern Literary Messenger, Richmond
1839 – 1840
Assistant Editor, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, Philadelphia
1841 – 1842
Book Review Editor, Graham’s Magazine, Philadelphia
Poetry Reviewer, Democratic Review
Editorial Assistant, American Whig Review, New York City
1844 – 1845
Columnist, Evening Mirror, New York
1845 – 1846
Writer, Editor, Publisher, Broadway Journal, New York
Literary Editor, Richmond Examiner, Richmond, Virginia
Education February 1, 1826 to December 15, 1826 - University of Virginia
Military Service 1827 – 1829 Soldier, United States Army, Fort Moultrie, South Carolina 1830 – 1831 Cadet at West Point, New York
April 2021 - The Plague Continues
The Raven Griswold and react unfavorably. The intoxicated narrator in “The Angel of the Odd” states he is “made more stupid” by reading Griswold’s Curiosities of American Literature. For Poe, it was simply not enough to taunt Griswold—and others— in reviews such as the one he wrote in The Poets and Poetry of America, with an Historical Introduction, but also in public lectures and his creative writings. Poe’s commitment to turning out quality—although at times mean and nasty—work, the sheer amount of writing, and the job-hopping took its toll. While working as the book review editor at Graham’s, Poe complained, “To coin one’s brain into silver, at the nod of a master, is, to my thinking, the hardest task in the world.” We can surmise from Poe’s complaint that working full-time jobs expended time, energy, and talent that he would have preferred to spend on his own creative endeavors. Yes, we’re sure Poe would have gladly shucked his W2 life for a 1099 life. But alas! Poe had responsibilities.
Number of Dependents In 1836, Poe acquired his first and second dependents—Virginia Clemm, wife, and Maria Poe Clemm, Virginia’s mother, who also happened to be Poe’s aunt on his father’s side. For the
next ten years, Poe would work hard to care for himself and his dependents. This, at times, meant relocating his family from one state to another. In this regard, we see similarities to today’s career expectations where to move up or to expand one’s skills, one must be willing to relocate. In Poe’s case, he moved his family from Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York City within the span of his professional years.
Successes and Failures In any career, there are successes and failures. No less so for Poe. In general, his successes include growing the reader base and providing content rich in literary appeal. His failures include bending the original intent of certain publications and undeveloped interpersonal skills. He began on job one racking up such successes and failures. Poe’s years as a soldier were deemed a success. He was more highly regarded by peers and commanders than disparaged. This was not the case at the United States Military Academy at West Point. After Poe obtained an appointment to West Point, he shirked his duties so he would be expelled. He was. To be fair, Poe never wanted the assignment in the first place. He only took the job because his foster father forced him to. Can you imagine the conversation between a rich, steeped-in-
tradition dad and his creative, Gothic son? No need to rehash that here except to say there was blame on both sides, and on Poe’s side, his fault seemed to lie with abandonment issues (his biological father abandoned the family and first foster mom died, leaving him anchorless), his commitment to gambling and alcohol (see more under Drug Testing), and a desire to focus on his creative works. At the Southern Literary Messenger, where Poe landed next, he made a name for himself as a fine critic, but was hired, fired, and rehired within a two-year period. The firing was prompted by “an emotional crisis.” Newly engaged to Virginia Clemm, his cousin, Poe could not stomach his extended family’s objection to the pending marriage. Poe, himself, had little to recommend him, having lost the financial support of his foster father after the West Point debacle. Poe let the stress and worry get to him. In today’s work environment, he could have called the Employee Assistance Program hotline, but no such thing existed then. He turned to alcohol instead and the 19th century equivalent of a pink slip quickly followed. However, once Poe recovered from the crisis, he was not only rehired by Thomas Willis White, the publisher, but also promoted to editor. Poe was amazing in his role as editor. He increased the magazine’s subscriptions from 500 to 3,500
The Raven and wrote an astounding number of reviews. At Burton’s/Graham’s—the two magazines eventually merged— Poe was not a fan of the popular pulp in the publication. The pages were filled with fashion, sketches, music, photography, critics, reviews, and short stories. It is firmly understood that publications take on the personality, character, and interests of the publisher, founder, or owner. In this case, George Rex Graham. Graham was a successful entrepreneur with an interest in literary content balanced with the pop culture of the day. Poe would have preferred a more literaturesaturated rag and was heard referring to the magazine as “nambypamby.” Regardless of his editorial view, Poe successfully grew the subscription list from 5,000 to 37,000. Poe and Graham’s working relationship was said to be the most agreeable of any of Poe’s employee-boss relationships. Poe said, “With Graham who is really a very gentlemanly, although exceedingly weak man, I had no misunderstanding.” Graham, upon Poe’s death in 1849, was relentless in defending Poe’s character and life work against assassinations by Rufus Griswold, Poe’s number one enemy. At his next stop, the Broadway Journal, Poe used the pages of the periodical to attack other
Poe’s professional career between the years of 1831 and 1846 spanned four geographical areas: • Fort Moultrie, South Carolina • Richmond, Virginia • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania • New York City / Upstate New York West Point Evening Mirror Broadway Journal
University of Virginia Southern Literary Journal
American Whig Review
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The Raven writers and to counter negative reviews of his personal works. This was not the original intent of the publication and not what readers wanted or expected. But with Poe at the helm, all editorial and content decisions fell in his lap. In a few short months, other employees learned Poe was not the most astute or skilled manager. No one was shocked when the periodical went belly up. After his stint at the Broadway Journal, Poe did not work for anyone else. For the next four years, until his death, Poe was self-employed, taking on freelance work, speaking gigs, publishing, and promoting his poems, short stories, and even one novel. The literary world today is better for Poe’s decision to throw in the W2 towel! No discussion on Poe’s successes within the confines of his professional career is complete without mention of signature analysis, cryptography, and who’s who. Poe will ever be credited with introducing signature analysis to the masses. From 1841 to 1842, he published a series of articles that analyzed the actual signatures of writers and other public figures to understand their personalities. The articles, titled “Autography”, appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger and in Graham’s. Following is an excerpt from a signature analysis report on Sarah Josepha
Hale, the editor of Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book. Godey’s was a magazine with a large female readership. They printed many of Poe’s short stories and articles and cited Poe as “one of the most accomplished authors in America.” Of Hale’s rather large handwriting, Poe wrote “Mrs. Hale’s large script is indicative of a masculine understanding. She is well known for her masculine style of thought.” It is unclear if Poe was serious about the study of handwriting or if he merely used the series to skewer writers, poets, and others he did not care for while praising those he liked and respected.
Godey’s, “The Literati of New York” was eagerly consumed by the public. In fact, Godey’s reprinted the pieces several times. In spite of its success, Poe was quick to tell anyone who would listen that he wrote the series for two reasons: money and “critical gossip.”
Job Hopping and Gaps in Employment
Cryptography is another subject that Poe helped to mass market. While working at Alexander’s and Graham’s, Poe introduced cryptograms to readers. He even wrote an article, “A Few Words about Secret Writing” about his methods of coding and decoding. The addition of cryptograms increased readership and circulation for the magazines. Today’s experts in cryptology rate Poe’s skills high.
In looking over Poe’s work timeline, perhaps you noticed the frequency with which he changed jobs. His tenure ranges from a few months as reflected in 1844 when he worked for the Democratic Review and the American Whig Review to two years when he worked as a writer, then editor at the Southern Literary Messenger. It is interesting that Poe lasted for three years in the military (the United States Army and West Point combined). The military is known for being a bastion of order, discipline, structure, and rules —all the things not normally associated with Poe.
Poe is attributed with being the originator of the modern Who’s Who list with his “The Literati of New York”. This literary endeavor involved Poe selecting well-known literary poets, critics, and journalists —his contemporaries—and commenting upon their work, personality, and reviews. Appearing only in the pages of
The reasons for Poe’s job hopping closely align with reasons we are familiar with today: better opportunity to expand one’s skills, personality clashes with management, business insolvency, better pay, and personal reasons, which for Poe meant the death of his beloved wife, alcoholism, extended socializing, and
The Raven No subject was off limit to Poe. Take a look below at some of the topics Poe wrote about. Education
Novels and books
The Literati of New York City (a who’s who of literary figures)
Signatures as an analysis of personality
Coded messages Reviews of book reviews
The nature and guidelines of criticism
sabbaticals. It seems the reasons listed above also played a role in Poe’s periods of unemployment. For example, the American Whig Review went out of business. Poe left Graham’s with complaints about his salary and the editorial content. The management at the Evening Mirror often coached Poe about the acridness of his columns and his challenging personality. Poe’s various bouts of unemployment ranged from a few months to three years, which almost mirrors the track record of his job tenure. Our dear Poe was not one to allow the grass to grow under his feet. During his periods of unemployment, he used the time to create some of our favorite reads. “The Raven,” “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” “Eleonora,” and so many more. It is guestimated that in total Poe
authored 300 individual works between 1826 and 1849.
lack. They struggled with poverty.
Poe also used his downtime to pursue literary connections and promote his works. Poe socialized in all the right artistic and social circles, especially in New York. He traveled wide and far on book tours and lectures. He gave speeches and readings. Most assuredly, he hand sold his poetry and short stories to booksellers, drama companies, literary journals, etc. Poe’s marketing efforts paid off. He achieved celebrity status well in advance of his death.
At the Broadway Journal where he served as writer and editor Poe earned $1.00 per column. In today’s dollars that equals $29.59. We challenge any contemporary writer to see how far that paycheck will spread. For other jobs, Poe received anywhere from $500 (roughly $15,000 in 2021) to $800 (roughly $24,000 in 2021) a year. At Southern Literary Messenger, his first professional position after leaving the military, Poe made $10 to $15 a week, a little less than $24,000 a year in today’s dollars.
Salary Requirements In spite of Poe’s celebrated position in the literary world and the extensive reach of his works (wide distribution in America and on a limited basis in England and France), the Poe family lived a life of financial
Publishing and writing has never been an industry that pays top scale. That is apparent then and now. To supplement the low pay, Poe leveraged his positions at the various publications to promote his own works and bring in extra money. “The Murders in the Rue
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Professional References In spite of his fondness for liquor, Poe accumulated a cadre of business professionals who willingly sang his praises.
Nathaniel Parker Willis was Poe’s boss and editor at the Evening Mirror. Willis managed to get Poe to soften his critics, but when Willis left the paper, Poe went right back to being Poe. John Pendleton Kennedy was a Baltimore lawyer and literary patron. He fell in love with Poe’s genius and often bestowed financial gifts upon Poe. He ensured the Clemm/Poe cupboards were never bare. Not only that, Kennedy arranged literary contacts for Poe and remained a good friend ‘til Poe’s last days. John Augustus Shea spent a considerable amount of time with Poe at West Point. He worked at the academy, but a shared love of poetry forged a close friendship. Shea opened the initial doors for the publication of “The Raven”. Robert Tyler, son of President John Tyler, used his connections in government to try and secure a steady, paying position at the Philadelphia Customs House for Poe. Poe poo-poo’ed the position, but the two remained good friends. John Clay Neal, a family friend of the Poe’s, was one of the first authority figures to publicly acknowledge Poe’s gift with words. Neal reviewed Poe’s first collection of poetry and allowed Poe to publish additional pieces in Neal’s publications.
The Raven Frederick William Thomas wins the good friend award. Frederick was a fellow poet, novelist, and newspaper editor. He used his influence to try and obtain employment for Poe. His desire was to ease Poe’s financial burdens, but alas, Poe turned down every offer of employment that Thomas arranged. Maria Poe Clemm, Poe’s aunt and mother-in-law. In her attic, Poe wrote many of his early poems. Clemm vouched for Poe’s character on numerous occasions and encouraged her “Eddie” to pursue his creative work and literary dreams. William Gowans, a New York City bookseller recalled Poe as “one of the most courteous, gentlemanly, and intelligent companions I have ever met, and I must say I never saw him in the least affected with liquor, nor even descend to any known vice.” Gowans was so impressed with Poe that he eagerly shared his widespread literary contacts with Poe. John Sartain worked with Poe at Burton’s and Graham’s. Sartain, an engraver, provided Poe rest, meals, and care for ten days while Poe recovered from a drinking binge and wild hallucinations. Edward Patterson operated a weekly newspaper. Because he so admired Poe, he offered to finance the Stylus, Poe’s dream magazine. Patterson handed over $50 and Poe immediately used the money to take a trip. The Stylus never came about. William Drayton was a Philadelphia judge who occasionally gave Poe money. He also encouraged Poe to write and keep writing. His emotional and social support of Poe was unfailing.
Morgue”, “A Descent into the Maelstrom”, “The Island of the Fay”, “The Colloquy of Monos and Una”, and “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” were all published initially in publications that paid him a salary. What finally ballooned Poe’s financial status was “The Raven”. Published in 1845 in the Evening Mirror, Poe’s most famous poem made him an instant celebrity. Poe went on extensive paid lectures and tours promoting “The Raven” and his other works. Sales of his books skyrocketed, adding money to the family’s coffers. Less in practice today than in Poe’s time is the support of benefactors. Poe enjoyed the enthusiastic financial support of several patrons, men who so believed in his talent that they regularly gifted him with funds (see Business References). At least one benefactor, Horace Greeley, covered the cost of Poe’s purchase of a magazine, which folded 15 months later under Poe’s leadership. It is because of them, his loyal supporters—and Poe’s commitment to his craft – that we have an abundance of Poe writings to read and enjoy.
Drug Testing Anyone who has read even the slightest bit about Poe’s background knows he had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It is suspected that Poe
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The Raven picked up his love for spirits while at the University of Virginia. There, he was surrounded by the wealthy sons of rich landowners. Poe, himself, was by no means lacking in resources. His foster father, John Allan, operated a mercantile and trade business that he inherited from his father. Poe was raised in generational wealth and along with his school comrades, imbibed in not only heavy amounts of alcohol but also gambling and other such vices. One could also argue that Poe picked up his fondness for alcohol while living a European lifestyle. Wealth afforded the Allan family the opportunity to live in England from 1815 to 1820. While living abroad, they traveled the continent. Poe was exposed to cultures that allowed children to drink at early ages. And spirits were always on hand in the Allan household.
intellectuals convened. It is said alcohol flowed like the Hudson river at the Bartlett home. John W. Fergusson, a Richmond printer who often worked with Poe stated, “There never was a more perfect gentleman than Mr. Poe when he was sober, [but at other times] he would just as soon lie down in the gutter as anywhere else.” And Charles F. Briggs who worked with Poe at the Broadway Journal said he greatly admired Poe’s work but intensely disliked his tendency and reliance on drink.
Perhaps the most disastrous event involving Poe and alcohol was when Poe traveled to Washington, D.C. to solicit financial support for a new magazine. Upon meeting Poe at an evening function, a potential backer stated, “On the first evening Poe seemed somewhat excited, having been overBy whichever means of persuaded to take some port introduction, Poe’s drinking caused wine . . . I cannot bear that he many a disruptions on the job. At should be the sport of senseless Burton’s, William Burton, founder creatures.” The backer withdrew often suffered “irreconcilable his support and his checkbook. creative differences” with Poe. They argued, and during many of the arguments, Poe was under the Retirement influence. We know. It’s a lot to take in, While living and working in New York, Poe was as busy wining, dining, and hanging with the fellows as he was writing and editing. Most evenings he passed the time at the home of the Honorable John R. Bartlett where some of the literati and
all that Poe accomplished in 19 years—military service, publishing, writing, editing, speaking, networking, managing, promoting, etc. while creating the poetry and short stories we adore and love. If you were to attend a retirement party
(fictional, of course) for Poe and asked to offer a toast, what would you say of his achievements, characteristics, failures, advancements, etc.? Please share. We’d love to read your toasts. Email us at GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com. Until the next issue . . . happy working!
Sources Edgar Allan Poe A to Z by Dawn B. Sova. The essential reference to his life and work. Facts on File 2001. Facts on File News Service The Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by Carrie Whitney, Ph.D. The Poe Museum, Richmond NPS.gov
What Haunts Your Dreams? What twisted tales of the paranormal are rattling around inside that deranged little noggin of yours? How about sharing them with us? We’ll publish ‘em right here! Send us your ghost stories—real-life or fiction. Or some of those dark and disturbing poems you’ve been secretly writing. Or maybe you’re in the know about a paranormal event, a YouTube channel, or show you think we simply must watch. We want to know!
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Send your ideas, stories, and assorted supernatural scribblings to GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com. Just be sure to follow our simple submission guidelines.
Don’t take it personally.
Devil Does Dallas by Sean C. Wright One, two, three The devil’s after me. Four, five, six He started throwing sticks.
t’s time again,” Lucifer said aloud, “to remind them that I’m still here.”
Pay It Forward with Kindness, Oprah’s Angel Network, Feed the Hungry, Save a Tree, Adopt a Child from a Third World Country, Live Greener – evidence of goodness and love on the rise, while the Debauchery Report was pitiful. Murder was down fifteen percent, lying, twenty-five percent. Even adultery, a sin Lucifer could always count on, had plummeted a whopping forty percent.
Seven, eight, nine
Lucifer’s cloven feet clopped on the hot, stone floor as he strolled to the cages that held his three pet snakes -- Slither, Hiss and Fangs.
He missed me every time.
“Daddy’s going away for a little while, babies. You be . . . bad.”
Lucifer was almost out of Hell’s gates when Saddam Hussein caught up to him.
“Where are you going, Boss?”
-- Children’s song
“Up there to recruit,” Lucifer told him. “Keep the fires burning until I get back.”
The Raven Lucifer liked Saddam. He reminded Lucifer of himself when he was expelled from Heaven. Expelled! Now that was a memory that always stoked Lucifer’s internal fire, keeping it alive and rotten.
weren’t destiny. A moment later, God’s face changed to His omniscient one.
God frowned when Lucifer rolled around Heaven on roller skates.
“You didn’t have to, God. I’ve known you an eternity!”
God shook his head when Lucifer tie-dyed his white frock. God scowled when Lucifer got the rebel angels together and played what would later be labeled the Devil’s music: Rock ‘n Roll and Jazz. Lucifer’s belief? Not everybody wanted to hear the incessant plink, plink, plink of harps for eternity. “Lucifer,” God said, calling the bad seed into the office. He pursed his lips. “It’s just not working out.” “What?” “Souls are here for peace and serenity. You and your band of angels are disruptive.” “But, God, not all people lived their earthly lives the same, so why should everyone live the afterlife the same?” “Son, please, give me your wings.” Lucifer saw God’s face bore ‘That Look.’ The look He donned when someone begged Him to help but He couldn’t because the person’s prayers
“You think I’m trouble,” Lucifer growled. “I didn’t say that—”
Lucifer removed his wings, threw them in God’s face, and stormed out of Heaven. Lucifer scared himself with the sudden display of anger, but he felt happier and freer than he had ever felt in his afterlife. Lucifer treaded the murk to one of Earth’s portals, his scaly lips curling in annoyance. Recruiting would be so much easier if it weren’t for the rules God had forced on him. He could only stay on Earth each time in terms of six – six years, six months, and six days or six months, six days, and six hours, and so on. He could only tempt, that is, dangle the bait and collect the souls that bit. He could not make anyone do anything. And finally, once a person realized who he was, Lucifer had to leave Earth – even if his term of sixes had not finished. Lucifer’s annoyance had pushed aside his focus. Where was he going on Earth? Did it really matter? Sinners were everywhere. Here was as good a place as any. Lucifer rose from the earth, taking gentle care to brush off
Sean C. Wright is a native of Dallas. She has put a degree in English from the University of North Texas to good use as a creative writer, freelance editor, and blogger. Sean is the author of the short story collection A Gathering of Butterflies, the novella Honey Riley, and numerous short stories. Actress Jessica Biel directed a short film based on Sean’s essay “Sodales” in 2010. Sean is a jewelry maker and a member of the Dallas Gem & Mineral Society (DGMS). She can be reached online at www. seanarchy.wordpress. com and Facebook/ Twitter as Seanarchy. April 2021 - The Plague Continues
The Raven the grub worms and beetles that clung to him. He had a soft spot for creepy, crawly things in decaying matter. He scanned the sable of night until he found the pot of bubbling decadence. A city. Pinpoints of candy-colored lights, tall buildings, and the faint roar of motors. He was so excited he didn’t take note of the sign: WELCOME TO DALLAS. Lucifer came to a stop under a lamp post in the thick of downtown. Sometimes a small child or a dog recognized his true self cloaked in a malleable human body, but there was no chance of that here. The beings coming and going paid no attention to yet another being. Lucifer zeroed in on a Latina, waiting for a bus. Esperanza. She was twenty-eight, single, and worked as a maid cleaning buildings. She did nothing more exciting than eat Hot Pockets and watch American Idol and Spanish soap operas at home. The oldest of six children, she’d been given authority at a young age and hence bore her mother’s slaps and curses when her younger siblings got into mischief or when she burned the food. A hole. She lost her father at seventeen. The hole widened. After her father’s death, Esperanza spent her adult life helping her thankless mother, who never learned to speak English. When the lack of love and validation yielded self-
loathing, Esperanza swallowed a bottle of pills at twenty-one. She spent four months in a mental hospital. When her mother died of a stroke two years ago, she thought, “Madre, may you eat a burnt dinner with el diablo every night.” Esperanza’s thought had come true. A self-satisfied smile crept across Lucifer’s face. He could hardly wait to see what came next. Squinting his eyes at Esperanza, Lucifer’s smug smile grew. But before it reached full strength, Esperanza reached into the neck of her blouse and pulled out a rope of beads. She fingered the charm on the end of the necklace absentmindedly, then after a short time let it dangle, exposed. Lucifer recoiled. A crucifix. Damn! Esperanza’s name meant hope; she had faith! Esperanza’s bus came. She climbed on and it pulled away. Lucifer looked after her, his beady eyes glazed with disgust. But the night was yet a baby. Lucifer relaxed and waited. Nearly four hours later . . . Chad was Caucasian and fortytwo years old with thinning brown hair and a waistline spreading faster than melted butter. In high school, he’d been an athletic, jack-of-all-sports, playing football, basketball,
and volleyball. The handsome, broad-shouldered boy had been a darling of the teachers and had lost his virginity to his eighthgrade history teacher. He’d been the subject of every girl’s hot and bothered dream. If only. If only “Popular in High School” was a marketable skill. If only another line didn’t appear on his face or more hair in his comb. If only age hadn’t devoured his life and left him the rind. Chad did what other rind-facing men did, he had affairs, but only with younger women. Why younger women? Fifty percent narcissism and fifty percent vampiric rituals: he hoped to absorb their youth. So far, that hadn’t happened, but the young women had been exquisite, like boxed chocolates -- delicately shaped on the outside, but fluffy or nutty on the inside. One of the fluffy ones thought Sweden and Switzerland were the same country. One of the nutty ones broke all the windows in Chad’s SUV and poured five pounds of shrimp all over the interior when he broke up with her. Damn teenagers’ mean pranks, he’d muttered in explanation to his wife, his darting eyes a telltale sign of falsehood. His wife stayed. She always stayed. And so Chad went on to the next affair because he was unwilling to accept the truth – he would never regain his youth
The Raven and all that came with it. No matter how many young women he slept with.
“He-ey,” Chad said. “Thanks,” she said, pointing a ruby fingernail to her drink. “You’re welcome.” Chad smiled back, showcasing his crow’s feet.
Skin ivory and dewy, mouth scarlet, both perfect contrasts to chestnut waves that tumbled about delicate shoulders. A super sexy Snow White in a curvehugging blue dress. The young beauty posed inside the doorway and looked around the dimly lit, sedate bar. She pursed her rosebud lips, then chose a booth in the rear. She hadn’t settled in before a waiter scurried over to take her order. After the waiter left, the darkhaired woman reached into her purse, pulled out a cell phone, made a call. She frowned when the call went to voicemail. The woman slapped the phone shut, then scanned the bar again and watched as the waiter came back with a Bloody Mary. When there was nothing more than dregs in her glass, she checked her watch then looked up to see the waiter back at her table with another Bloody Mary. She raised her palm in protest. “Compliments of the gentleman over there,” the waiter said, pointing at the bar. Chad raised his beer bottle. She smiled, waved. When the waiter left, Chad walked over. His gait was slue-footed and lumbering – every bit of tipsy.
Her cell phone rang, belting out the tune, “Devil in a Blue Dress.” “Excuse me,” the woman said, opening the phone. “Joyce, where are you? I’ve been here nearly thirty minutes. Oh. Well, I hope he’s better.” She closed the phone and held Chad’s gaze. “Sorry about that. My girlfriend cancelled on me. Her black cat Panther is sick.” She grabbed her purse and stood. “Thanks again for the drink.” “Wait, why are you leaving?” “Well,” the lady shrugged, “my friend isn’t coming.” “That doesn’t mean you can’t have another drink.” “I don’t know.” “Aw, what’s there to think about?” She smiled coyly. “I guess one more drink wouldn’t hurt.” The woman sat back down. Chad joined her. “Pretty clever,” Chad said, “that you have your ring tone set to ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ and you’re wearing one.” Her laugh was chamomile to the ears, like wind chimes or ice cream truck music.
“Coincidence. How clever of you to notice.” “And I notice your eyes match your dress particularly well,” Chad slurred, eyeing the woman up and down. “I’m Chad.” He held out a hand. She slid her hand into his. “I’m Lucinda.” “Luminous Lucinda,” Chad spoke more to himself than to her. He kissed her hand and didn’t stop until he’d tasted Lucinda’s rainbow. Skittles had nothing on her. Her lips had the simultaneous flavor of all things sweet, tart, and red: nubile cherries, strawberries, pomegranates, and apples – all in season. Her spontaneity was a burst of orange. She showed up on one of their hook-up sessions with a box of Hostess Ding Dongs and a yo-yo, both of Chad’s boyhood favorites. Lucinda brought yellow into the room; her smile made sunlight look like tarnished brass. Her mood was always green and blue, her serenity contagious. Chad felt more like he was going to a spa than cheating on his wife. There was indigo and violet in the way Lucinda made love to him. His orgasms with her rendered him deaf, dumb, and blind in their intensity. But. Lucinda never sweated. Never sneezed. Chad never saw her sleep, either. Whenever he woke up in the motel from his
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The Raven post-coital snooze, Lucinda was either already gone or lying in bed next to Chad, propped up on an elbow looking at him. For all the delicious joy Lucinda brought Chad, there was also a real opposite effect. Any time he was away from Lucinda for too long, his body rebelled - headaches, constipation, nausea, nightmares, insomnia, and dreams; wild, disturbing, sickening dreams. Once, he dreamed of olives in his salad sprouting legs and becoming spiders. Another time of being caught outside without an umbrella when a torrent of vampire bats fell from the sky, their scratchy fleece abusing his skin, their tea-kettle screeches damaging his ears. With every
dream, he woke, shrieking and wild-eyed, followed by a sprint to the bathroom to vomit. Back in bed, it was always the same. His wife cooed, stroked his hair. “Suzanne?” “Hmmm?” “I-I,” he stammered, “I love you.” “I love you too, Chad. Can I get you something?” “No,” he said. “Just stay with me.” “Of course.” His wife continued to stroke his hair until she went back to sleep. But Chad, with his stomach churning and eyes wide open, watched the night-time numbers on the digital clock turn
over and over until they became early morning ones.
Chad sat on the bed in the motel, fully clothed, gazing at the bedspread. Its pattern looked more gory than tacky, like bovine guts against a teal background. He wept. “What’s the matter, baby?” Lucinda purred, coming to him and taking his face in her hands. “Are you real?” “What do you mean?” “I don’t know,” he sniffed. “Don’t I make you feel good?” “Yes.” “Do you want to feel good forever?” Chad cried harder and pulled her hands from his face, clutched them. He looked deep, deep into her blue, blue eyes and saw the center glow bright, brighter, brightest -- Lilliputian bonfires – revealing Lucinda’s essence. “Yes, yes, yes,” Chad chanted. Chad’s soul was plucked out of his body like one rips off a band-aid.
The man in room 222 at the Cactus Azul Motel in Dallas appeared to have died of a heart
The Raven attack or stroke as there was no visible trauma. A blue dress and a tube of lipstick -- Scarlet Satin # 6 – were the only personal items in the room. The police assumed they belonged to the young, dark-haired woman witnesses had seen with the man. But with no DNA on either item the police couldn’t be sure, couldn’t even identify the woman. The detectives’ dismay increased twofold when they questioned a rep from Revlon cosmetics. “We don’t make a lipstick called Scarlet Satin number six.” While authorities sniffed after the ghost of the dark-haired woman, Lucifer headed south with one soul tucked into his suitcase, six weeks after he came to Earth
Lucifer made a million trips to neighborhoods like these, but was always awestruck by the inhabitants. Skin colors in hues of sinful chocolate and caramel. Spicy ginger. Cinnamon and café au lait. Features clear and strong. The connection they had with their bodies was amazing; every movement a fluid, libidinous dance. Lucifer sometimes pitied them, but their suffering was his goldmine. Hell had its heyday when he collected the souls of slaveowners, Klansmen, and the like. And his invisible children –
demons -- were everywhere in ‘hoods like these. Despair, Anger, Inequality, Violence, Drug and Alcohol Addiction, Instant Gratification, Gluttony, Vindication, and Deceit. Bark! Growl. Bark! Lucifer looked down to see a three-legged stray staring up at him, its teeth bared. Lucifer wasn’t concerned about the threat. He walked away and got down to business. Ulysses was eleven-years–old and weighed 215 pounds. He lived with his maternal grandmother because his mother was dead and his father was serving a life sentence for killing her. People shredded his soul nearly every day because of his weight and undiagnosed dyslexia. His classmates: “Ulysses (snicker) bleeds chocolate pudding!” His grandmother: “Ulie, these grades! Boy, all you do is mess up in school and eat, eat, eat!” Ulysses cried on the shoulders of ten cookies, half a cake, and four candy bars at a time. Six donuts, party-sized bags of chips, and five hot dogs in one sitting. But the boy was an onion. Anyone with a brain and eyes could peel back the layers of fat and see a handsome boy, a boy with a mind like a blooming rose. Ulysses was fascinated with the stars, planets, black holes, nebula clouds, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
He did hundreds of sketches of constellations. As he stuffed down Cheetos and crème-filled cookies, he imagined himself on other planets, planets that had little to no gravitational pull. There he could weigh nothing. “Say, li’l man!” Ulysses had to look up; the bill of his baseball cap was pulled so low it nearly covered his eyes. He raised a fat paw to shield his eyes from the four o’clockish sun. His head looked like a pebble atop a huge mound of dirt. “Say, li’l man. Some help?” Ulysses looked both ways, waddled across the street. He had seen the man before, a tall, slim, thirty-something man, the color of rained-on pinecones. His pate was shaved shiny, like a brand new helmet. His clothes were nice, but not flamboyant. He always smiled and spoke to everyone. Everyone. With that charming smile and sincere nod, one couldn’t help but say hello back. The tall, brown man picked up trash that blew into people’s yards. He pulled down can goods from the high shelves in grocery stores for the elderly and whipped-by-life black ladies. “Thank you, baby. What’s your name?” they would ask. He would always grin benignly, reply quietly, “Lou. My name is Lou Cypher. Call me Brother Lou.” He was as cool and sweet as the peppermints he kept in his pockets to give to neighborhood children. “Here come Brother
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The Raven Lou,” the people would say whenever they saw his fullyrestored 1966 Cadillac—with plates that read LOU4U—slide into parking lots. “Hey, Brother Lou. What’s wrong?” The boy sounded like a ninety-year-old man. His voice didn’t have the bubbles and feathers that were in the voices of other boys his age. “My tire’s flat. I got somewhere to be and two hands working would fix it faster.” “Sure,” Ulysses said, shrugging. After Lou and Ulysses changed the tire, Lou offered to give Ulysses, his backpack, and his sack of snacks purchased from the corner store, a ride home. “Sure,” Ulysses said, shrugging again. Lou slid in, Ulysses piled in, and a few turns later, Lou stopped in front of Ulysses’ house. Before the boy got out, Lou said, “A li’l sump’n for your trouble,” and pulled a celery-crisp fifty-dollar bill off his money clip. He held it out to Ulysses. The boy stared at it, then snatched it and stuffed it into his backpack. “Thanks, Brother Lou.” “You welcome. Now gone get out of here for your grandmamma worry.” His grandmother stood in the kitchen and glared at him as
soon as Ulysses shuffled in. “Who that man I saw you riding with?” “Oh, just Brother Lou. I helped him change his tire and he gave me a ride.” “Uh huh. You stay away from him. I don’t like his looks.” “But grandma—” “You hear what I said, boy? Now gone in your room and study.” Ulysses went to his room, took off his baseball cap, and laid his heavy bulk on the bed. Something did bother him, too, about Brother Lou. Lou had known exactly where he lived and that he lived with his grandmother. He hadn’t told Brother Lou any of that information. The thought lasted all of six seconds, replaced by the menu the fifty-dollar bill would buy: a whole pepperoni pizza and two heaping bowls of butter pecan ice cream.
Weeks later, Lou gave Ulysses a cell phone to conduct business and a percentage of the money Ulysses collected from twitchy, white-lipped customers. With his share, Ulysses bought shirts, CDs, jewelry, astronomy books, and tennis shoes, along with food. He kept his new clothes in his locker and changed into them at school. Ulysses’ new
clothes and CDs, as well as sharing cookies, chips, and pizza brought him many new “friends.” His peers now regarded his weight as a lovable trait, instead of an affliction. Often in the hallways, he heard, “That’s some fly-looking gear you got on, Big U,” or “Hey, Big U! Can we play your CD at lunch?” Ulysses’ popularity and waistline soared; his grades dropped even more. No problem. He paid the mail man a little somethingsomething to rip up his failure notices and grade reports that teachers sent to his home. “Go, Big U! Go, Big U. Go!” his friends chanted in the cafeteria. Ulysses looked like a baby elephant doing a routine at the circus. He sweated and huffed and puffed but smiled because girls were watching. Ulysses’ arms and legs felt like lead but he kept going. “Go, Big U, go!” Suddenly, Ulysses dropped to his knees. His left arm was on fire yet throbbing at the same time. Then what felt like lightning struck his chest. He screamed, grabbed himself, and fell over.
“Hey, li’l man, how you feel?” Ulysses opened his eyes. Brother Lou was standing over his hospital bed with a bowl of ivy.
The Raven The plant looked like a cascade of falling hearts. “Better.” Ulysses sounded like a groggy ninety-year-old man. “Glad to hear it,” Lou said quietly. “I brought you a plant.” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Ulysses turned his head, tracking Lou’s movements as he sat the ivy plant on the windowsill. Brother Lou stood still but his eyes were jumpy, excited. “So, Li’l Man, I been thinkin’. You and I make a great team and you not happy with your grandma. What do you say you come stay with me—” “Excuse me,” a nurse barged into Ulysses’ room. “What are you doing in here?” Lou blinked, rubbed the side of his shiny head. “Ma’am?” “Visiting hours ended forty-five minutes ago.” “I was just talking with the boy. Give us another couple of minutes.” “Sir, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now. The boy needs his rest.” The nurse was Asian, thirtyeight, petite. Her name was Linda. Her family had moved to Dallas from Korea when she was
four. Growing up, Linda had felt like a gray moth among vibrant butterflies. No one ever teased her outright, being around them was tortuous enough. Day after day, seeing the Jordache, Vidal Sassoon, Gloria Vanderbilt, pink lip gloss, and charm bracelets thrust into her heart. Feathered hair in colors of gold, light brown, red. Big, pretty doe eyes made to look even bigger with black eyeliner. Even if the other girls had befriended Linda, they couldn’t relate to her going to Korean school twice a week, her mother serving kimchee. “Why aren’t you happy?” her father asked. Linda tried to explain that grades weren’t everything in America. Could she have a pair of designer jeans, makeup, perfume, or jewelry? Her father frowned, refused. On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Linda walked into a drug store and tried to steal a bottle of Babe cologne and a tube of strawberry lip gloss. When her father retrieved her from the store’s security office, he’d looked right through her and said nothing. He’d acted that way towards her ever since. Linda’s mother had cried and cried. But Linda didn’t know if her mother cried because she was sad for Linda or that she’d brought shame on the family. “Look, pretty lady,” Brother Lou said. “I just brought the boy a plant. I brought you something, too.” He reached behind the ivy and produced a bottle of Babe
cologne. Ulysses knitted his brow. Brother Lou didn’t have that earlier. Or maybe he did and Ulysses just hadn’t noticed. The nurse blanched then scowled. Lou smiled sweetly. “Don’t you like it?” “Sir, you need to leave right now. I’m not going to ask you again. Leave now or I’ll get security.” “Okay. No need for all of that.” Lou walked toward the door but stopped in the doorway. “When can I come back and see the boy?” “Visiting hours are from one to eight pm.” “I’ll keep that in mind. Sorry about this.” Lou held up the bottle of perfume and a slick smile spread across his face. Linda lost all color. Ulysses noticed her skin now matched the color of his bed sheets and she seemed to shrink into herself. “Ulysses, I hope you feel better.” Lou waved to the boy and the nurse and left. The nurse stared after him. Ulysses stared at her. Seconds passed before she shook herself as if shaking off a bad dream. Linda avoided Ulysses’ eyes when she asked, “Who was that?” She moved to the IV pole and started fiddling with the bag.
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The Raven “A friend of the family.” “I see. Your grandmother is coming to see you in the morning.” Ulysses was surprised at his pleasure to hear that. He usually wasn’t happy to see his grandmother, but there’d been something unsettling about the way Brother Lou’s eyes danced, the way he had upset the nurse. Was it possible to admire and fear someone at the same time?
The sun poked its yellow fingers into the kitchen on Saturday as Ulysses sat at the table, eating his breakfast: a whole grain English muffin, a hard-boiled egg, a slice of turkey bacon, a banana, and low-fat milk. “Grandma, aren’t you gonna have breakfast, too?” His grandmother stood watching him eat then looked out the window into the lemon-colored morning. “Grandma?” “No, Baby,” she said. “Grandma got some business.” She dressed, stuffed a few items into her handbag, and did something she hadn’t done since Ulysses was seven: kiss his cheek and tell him, “I love you.”
It was well into the one o’clock hour when Ulysses’ grandmother hit pay dirt. Nobody seemed to know how to get in touch with Brother Lou when she asked outright. But once she pretended to be one of his “customers,” people were helpful. The residence looked like she figured it would to throw people off: an Apocalyptic nightmare. Rusty work tools, a tricycle missing a wheel, a dilapidated barbecue grill preening in the unkempt grass, and chipped paint. On the inside, a Ghetto Fabulous Kingdom: gold-plated statues, elaborate fountains, tassels draped on the statues in the most garish, unnatural colors. Ulysses’ grandmother stood in the living room while Brother Lou lounged on the couch. A stick of incense burned in front of him on the coffee table. If she didn’t know better, she would swear Brother Lou controlled the incense vapors. The smoke curled, dipped, and died off in patterns like cryptic cursive writing. “What can I do for you today?” he asked, smiling his slippery smile. “I’ve come with news,” Ulysses’ grandmother said. “Really?” “Yes. Someone is on to you.” She slipped her hand into her purse. “Who?” “Me.”
Lou laughed, which seemed to call the incense smoke to him, curling around him in merry curtsies. Before, only Brother Lou’s eyes were creased in her direction. Now, his whole being and attention was focused on her. Ulysses’ grandmother’s throat dried at the image of the tall, bald man shrouded in smoke. But she forged on. “You ain’t foolin’ nobody, Mr. Drug Dealer Man. Leave our neighborhood and never come back.” “If I don’t?” “You don’t want to know.” “Everyone else likes me just fine, including your grandson,” he stated in a silky-smooth voice. “You’re an addict too, Granny, addicted to hurting those you love.” Brother Lou seemed to make the incense smoke curl higher and faster to drive his point home. “Your dead daughter would agree.” Ulysses’ grandmother’s eyes filled with hurt tears. “Ama lama soomah lama,” she chanted, closing her eyes. Tears spilled from them. Lou chuckled. “You speaking in tongues or rapping?” “Lou Cypher. Lou Cypher. Lou Cypher.” She opened her eyes and walked towards him. Her hand came out of her purse, clutching a cross.
The Raven He stopped laughing. The smoke stopped dancing. Brother Lou stood. “Crazy old woman. Get out of here.” His voice was still calm, but his eyes were wild. “Lou Cypher. LU-CI-FER!” Brother Lou fell back on the couch, groaning. Ulysses’ grandmother stood over him, thrusting the cross at him. His hands were in front of his face, as if to ward off physical blows. “GET THEE BACK TO HELL!” she hissed. Then the old woman reached into her purse again and pulled out the cell phone Brother Lou had given Ulysses. Brother Lou’s grunt was not much louder than that of a baby frog’s when it dropped in his lap. Brother Lou, the epitome of cool with his easy smile. Brother Lou, with his smooth ride. Brother Lou, with his shiny-head confidence. Brother Lou, the chemical pied piper. Brother Lou, the clean-dirty hero of the brown people in the southern pocket of Dallas. He parted his hands, exposing his face. The wincing eyes in the bald head made him look like nothing more than a terrified Mr. Clean.
“Glad you’re back, Boss. Dinner will be ready for you in the banquet hall shortly.” Lucifer said nothing to Saddam. He hadn’t quite shaken the clever attack by Ulysses’ grandmother. And of course he had lost Ulysses – a soul he’d invested a lot of time and energy into snatching. Defeated, he lounged on his throne, played with his snakes, and reviewed the Debauchery Report. It was not as bad as when he’d left, but there was still room for improvement. He decided to deal with it later, after he ate. Lucifer entered the banquet hall. It had been decorated with candles in every shade of red from merlot to tomato to candy apple. He lit all the candles at once with a snap of his scaly fingers. The candles threw bloody luminance onto the feast: 666 deviled eggs and 666 devil’s food cakes. Lucifer sat down, picked up an egg, and bit into it. He chewed very slowly. For he had an eternity.
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My First Time
A true story of fear by Ann Fields
Get your minds out of the gutter, dear readers. This isn’t a heartwarming tale of teenage romance, but a true story about a real-life encounter with something unexplainable.
You know how something happens that reminds you of something else. They’re two separate incidences but loosely linked by one small fact. For example, I’ll have my head in the refrigerator, looking for something to eat, see a bowl of grapes, and up pops a memory of me and mom at the Farmers Market, sampling every grape offered to us. Or, I’ll be driving and turn onto Stella street, and a scene from the movie, Rocky appears like a mirage in my mind. You remember the scene where he yells the name of his lady love, right? You’re probably saying, “Okay, I get it now. So where is this going?” Glad you asked. Recently, I was on Facebook, something I find totally overwhelming, which is why I visit infrequently. I was smiling at a photo of my nephew playing on the beach, and the most terrifying memory of my life materialized in full color, a scene that took place near a beach. It was the first time I saw a ghost. August 2000. I was in Hawaii for the Maui Writers Retreat. With only a limited number of writers admitted, I felt honored to be there. I would learn from bestselling authors whose books dominated the number one spot on the New York Times bestselling list, whose books had garnered all the major literary prizes and awards, whose books had been transformed into big screen movies or small screen successes. The agents and editors were top-notch, too, some of the biggest names in the industry. And all of the writers, agents and editors were accessible, available all day and most evenings to little-fish writers like me. It was hard to believe I could walk right up and talk to them. The cohorts were small, allowing for intense professional development. In my cohort, led by the incomparable Elizabeth George, there were eight of us. And do I even need to mention the setting? Blue skies, bluer water, and lush, green vegetation. Heaven! The event hotel sat on the edge of a cliff, the cliff gave way to a soft-sand beach, and the beach disappeared into the Pacific. It was the most tranquil, captivating setting! My room on the ground floor faced the ocean. I envisioned early morning coffee on the patio, alternating my attention between writing in my journal,
The Raven counting waves, and watching sea gulls swoop and dive. Unfortunately, my visions never came to pass. My schedule was loaded: lectures, writing assignments, feedback sessions, group meetings, networking events, and more. Thoughts of easy mornings writing and admiring nature quickly evaporated. I was disappointed until I reminded myself this was not a vacation but an investment in my career. I decided to leave the patio door open at night with the screen door locked. That way, the ocean breeze, the sound of swaying palm trees, and the intoxicating smell of birds-of-paradise flowers would fill my room and remind me of the beauty and calm just outside my door. The mornings, afternoons, and evenings flowed into one another and before I knew it, three nights and four days had disappeared. I collapsed into bed on the fourth night. Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from the 12 and 14-hour days, I slept hard. Mere hours into a restful sleep I woke, jerked awake by a sixth sense “knowing.” That same instinct directed my eyes to the corner nearest the patio door. A dark form loomed there.
Shaped like a man, it was about six feet tall and half as wide as the door. It was not solid. I could see through it, and it had no features. My heart jumped as if trying to escape my body. When unsuccessful, it began beating frantically, desperately. The spiritual entity did not move. It didn’t need to. Energy, powerful and evil, emanated from it, reaching across the room where I laid paralyzed by fear.
It signaled without words that it wanted my soul, that it was there to end my life. I could do nothing except squeeze my eyes shut. I shouted in my head, Help me. Jesus. Help me. A moment later, I opened my eyes. The malevolent presence was gone. The soul-sucker had vanished. I looked around the room with
my heart pounding wild and fast. All was right and in order. I thought about getting up to close the door, but I was still immobilized by fear. So, I closed my eyes and said another prayer, a longer one, but no less intense. Afterward, peace settled over and within me. I fell back asleep and slept like a baby. When I woke later, my eyes went straight to the corner where the evil spirit had been. There was nothing there, no signs that evil had marred that spot. I rolled out of bed, wondering if the encounter had been a dream. But given my residual fear and unsettled mind, I knew it had been real. That day was not my best. I couldn’t concentrate on the valuable writing knowledge that was being imparted. I didn’t offer any constructive feedback on my fellow writers’ work, and I paid no attention to the native charm of the island. Yet oddly enough, when we broke for personal writing time, I had great focus and clarity. Scenes for my workin-progress, Fuller’s Curse poured out of me. The story of a mother searching for reasons why so many family members were dying marked my transition from romance to horror fiction. While the genre switching had
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The Raven started months before the retreat, the previous night’s terrifying experience seemed to validate my decision. I looked up from writing to realize night had fallen, bedtime neared. I hurried over to the patio door and tested to make sure it was locked, even though I knew a closed, locked door was no impediment for a ghostdemon. As I prepared for bed, I kept glancing at the spot where evil had stood, wondering, will that thing come again tonight? I climbed into bed, said another long, earnest prayer, then snapped out the light. In the dark, I shook violently, my eyes fixed on that corner. At some point, I fell asleep and slept the night through. The evil spirit did not make an appearance. Nor did it the following night or the next. My week in Maui ended without further ghostly, evil encounters. That was twenty years ago. Since then, I have been visited by other spiritual beings – some, nice and helpful; two others, not. But those are stories for another time, maybe when I am once again poking about on Facebook, which itself is a different kind of scary.
What about you? When was your first encounter with a ghost or demon? What happened? We’d love to know. Email us at email@example.com.
GhOst in the Machine
If you haven’t met Margo Monroe and her crew yet, you’re in for a treat. The fearless heros of The Haunted House Symphony and The Science Professor’s Ghost never met a ghost they couldn’t handle. In fact, as we’ll see in this three-part series, ghosts are the least of their worries. Join the ghost hunters as they investigate the haunting of a downtown office building and prove once more that ghosts are harmless—it’s the living you have to watch out for.
by Sue Latham “Oh for crying out loud!” Before starting out tonight, I had fully charged every battery in every electronic device I owned. But now my flashlight was dead, and I bumped—hard—into a filing cabinet. I was on a ghost hunt; I’m a ghost hunter—it’s what I do. Tonight we were investigating
a small tech start-up company on the ground floor of the old Morris Building in downtown Indian Springs. “Of all the times for my flashlight to flake out.” There were spare batteries in my equipment bag, if only I could find it. In the vast windowless space, the only source of light was from an exit sign at the end of the hall. I set out in search
of the office where we had set up our command center and I had left my bag. Unexplained battery drain is a very common phenomenon during paranormal investigations, so we always carry spares. Still, it’s annoying, and I uttered a few choice words when I accidentally tripped over a garbage can.
April 2021 - The Plague Continues
The Raven I paused for a moment to let my eyes adjust to the darkness. Just as I was getting my wits about me, I was overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of dread. Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead and I fought back nausea. Then the feeling passed as suddenly as it had come on. Looming in the dark before me was one of those big furnituresized printers. As I walked past, it suddenly came to life and spat out a page. From past experience I know that potential evidence can pop up in the most unexpected places, so I grabbed the piece of paper and took it with me. At the end of the hall there was a faint glow from the office where Ernie and I had set up our equipment earlier. “Hey, Ernie, did you just send something to the printer?” Ernie turned in his chair to look at me as I entered the office. “No. Why do you ask?”
“That’s not funny!” I said. “What? You don’t still think it was me?” asked Ernie, clearly annoyed. “No, of course not. Sorry. Are you sure there’s no one else in the building?” Ernie looked at me over the tops of his nerdy black glasses. “At this hour of the night? No, according to my 3D modeling program, not to mention the security cam, there’s not another living creature here but us. Unless you count the goldfish in office 4-C.” He pulled the computer monitor around so I could see it better and showed me a virtual 3-D model of the building constructed from readings from the meters we had placed strategically on each floor. “Somebody logging in remotely?” I asked.
“I was walking past it and something printed out.”
“It’s always a possibility,” he said. He stood up and shouldered a bag of electronic gadgets. “Say, are you okay? You look a little pale.”
“Well, what does it say?”
“I just need some water.”
“Don’t know,” I replied. “My flashlight died.”
“Okay. I think I’ll head to the lobby and see if I can get any EVPs.”
“Oh, well, I guess that’s par for the course,” he replied. Ernie reached for a small flashlight and turned it on. “My batteries seem to be okay.” He focused the beam on the paper. MARGO GO AWAY, it said.
ear. Why an entity might be able to make an electronic device register a sound that the human ear doesn’t hear has been subject to much debate. We rely heavily on EVPs and have used various kinds of equipment with varying degrees of success. In the lobby, Ernie put his smartphone on the small coffee table and I got out one of my recent equipment purchases: a high-end voice recorder with lots of bells and whistles. I put on some headphones and set out a modified phone equipped with a seismometer app, then settled back onto the small sofa next to Ernie. “Is there anybody here that would like to speak to us?” I said quietly. “We’re here as friends. We don’t want to bother you. We just want to know a little bit about you and why you’re still here.” “Can you give us some sign of your presence?” Ernie asked. And so it went for the next couple of hours, without so much as a flicker on the EMF meter, or wobble on the temperature gauge, that might indicate any sign of paranormal activity.
“I’ll come with you. I saw a water fountain around here somewhere.”
Ernie finally stood up and stretched. “I don’t think anybody wants to come out to play. How about we pack up?”
EVPs are sounds captured on an electronic device. They aren’t usually audible to the human
As it was almost two in the morning, I had been thinking along the same lines. “Marcie
The Raven mentioned some possible activity in the employee break room. I’m going to go take a quick peek in there. You can start packing up.” According to our client, the coffeemaker would sometimes come on by itself. I was a bit skeptical on this point—the coffee maker in question was identical to the one we used to have in our old lab. It was at least 10 years old. I reckoned it would be a miracle if it didn’t occasionally come on by itself. I spent 15 minutes trying to gently convince our theoretical entities that a cup of Joe would be pretty tasty right about now, but finally gave up. When I made my way back to the command center, I was mildly annoyed to find Ernie sitting at the computer. Nothing had been put away.
work, hand dryers in plEASse WE NEED yur HELP both restrooms going on when no one is near’…” I paused, unsure of what to make of it. “You don’t seriously think I wrote that, do you?” he asked. “No, but I don’t get it.” “I was using dictation to text, speaking into this microphone. I didn’t even know it was there until I went back and read it just now.” As we watched, before our astonished eyes, words began to appear in Ernie’s log. THIS IS OUR HOME THIS IS OUR HOME HELP US. “Well,” I said, “maybe this isn’t going to be a wasted evening after all.”
“I thought you were going to start packing up.” “I started, then remembered that I forgot to make the log entry. Look at this…” He pointed to the computer’s monitor. I read his log entry out loud. “‘Thursday, April 4. Offices of Rent-a-Geek, Morris Building, 1485 Main St. Start time approximately 12:45’….no offense, Ernie, but it’s late and I’m tired.” “Keep reading.” “‘Client claims: odd noises reported by people working late, coffeemakers in break room being on when people arrive for
The next day I got to my office in our new lab—I freely admit it—just in time for lunch. We had only recently moved here from our old quarters in an ancient building on the campus of the college in Throckmorton, a small town just down the road from Indian Springs. Though they lacked some of the quirky charm of our old digs, the new quarters were spacious and comfortable, and provided us with 24-hour security. Ernie was already there, perched on a lab stool in front of a computer monitor. “You’re early. How long have you been here?” I said.
“Long enough to find something. Come over here take a look at this,” he said, beckoning me over. I dropped my purse on the counter and pushed a tall chair next to his. Ernie pulled up a video file. “On a hunch I stuck a couple of web cams in the lobby before we started. Look at the timestamp.” According to the timestamp, the clip he was showing me was taken well into our investigation. “What am I looking for?” “Just wait a second. You’ll see.” On the clip, a tiny spot of light appeared. “What do you see?” Ernie asked. “Looks like the elevator call button.” Ernie zoomed in on the image and it became obvious that we were looking at the elevator doors. “Watch!” he said. The tiny spot of light winked out and the elevator doors slid open. After a couple of seconds, they closed. “What do you think about that?” asked Ernie. “Mechanical malfunction?” “Possibly,” he replied, “but we would be remiss in our duties if we didn’t check into it.” “That wasn’t one of the incidents Marcie reported,” I remarked. “That’s true, but since paranormal phenomena tend to occur mostly at night, she might not know,” Ernie pointed out.
April 2021 - The Plague Continues
The Raven “Good point. It warrants further investigation. I propose we pay Rent-a-Geek a visit. But after lunch.” “How does pizza sound?” “When have you ever known me to say no to pizza?” He thought about it for minute. “I seem to remember an occasion about fifteen years ago.” “I was on a diet. Come on, let’s go.”
Marcie dismissed our elevator evidence right off the bat. “There’s nothing weird about that. According to the night security guard, it happens all the time.” “You should have mentioned it. Does it ever happen during working hours?” I asked. “Well, no…” “And you’ve never had anybody check into it?” “As long as the elevators work okay during business hours, why would we care?” She seemed genuinely puzzled. “Any chance you could put us in touch with the company that services your elevator?” Ernie asked. “It’s for a good cause.” Marcie gave him an exasperated look. “Come back in a few minutes.” “Maybe we’ll just have a quick
chat with the other tenants in the building while we’re here,” he said. “Well, Dante the designer upstairs is a nice guy, and he’s usually around. But good luck trying to get anybody on the third floor to talk to you,” said Marcie. Ernie just smiled. “Thanks for your help.” Which is Ernie-speak for ‘You have issued a challenge, and I accept.’ “Oh Marcie, before I forget,” I said, “do you know if it’s possible to print remotely to a printer here in the building?” “What? You mean from outside? No, I don’t think so. But you’d have to talk to our network guy. He’s the one who handles all that stuff.” “Is he here?” “He’s always here,” Marcie replied. “Perhaps you could just point us in the right direction,” I said. “Two cubicles down, on the left. Name’s Sanjeev.” We found Sanjeev on his hands and knees under his desk. Mumbling, he extricated himself from under the desk, pulling a handful of wires of various colors behind him. “Marcie said you might be able to help us,” I said. “We’re paranormal investigators…”
“Oh yeah, they told me you were going to be here.” “We were just wondering if it’s possible for someone to print from a remote location to one of your printers,” Ernie began. “No, we have a few support people with remote access to the database and emails, but the printers aren’t set up for remote printing. It wouldn’t make much sense. I mean, what’s the point of printing something when you’re not even there to get it?” said Sanjeev. “The only access from the outside is by means of tunnel through the firewall over a VPN—a virtual private network. That’s a secure connection through the firewall…” “We’re familiar with the term,” Ernie said patiently. “Well, it’s strictly controlled, and it’s me that sets everything up here,” said Sanjeev. “Would it be possible,” asked Ernie, “if you could check if there was any activity at all on your network last night?” With a weary sigh, Sanjeev clambered to his feet and flopped heavily into his chair. He pulled the keyboard toward him and typed, lightning fast. “Two field techs logged on remotely yesterday at six and 8:30…looks like they checked their e-mail… oh yeah, and Twitter. Need to talk to them about that… strictly against company policy.” “Okay, thanks,” said Ernie.
The Raven “You’ve been a big help. Sorry to have disturbed you.” “No problem,” he said, disappearing under the desk. “Shall we pay the designer a visit?” I asked on the way out. We headed to the elevators. Marcie was on the phone when we passed her desk. She flagged us down. “Hang on a minute,” she said, and put the receiver down. She tore a slip of paper from a notepad and handed it to me. “That’s the elevator company’s number and address. I told them to expect to hear from you.” “This seems like kind of a strange place to set up shop as a fashion designer,” I commented, pushing the elevator call button. “Why do you say that? It’s right in the center of town. And it comes complete with ghosts, apparently.” “I guess, but the ambience just doesn’t seem right. Why poky little Indian Springs?” “Oh, I don’t know,” said Ernie. “This is a great historical building; one of the oldest in Indian Springs. It has a certain charm.” In the elevator lobby on the second floor, we were confronted by a floor-to-ceiling translucent wall upon which was etched in an elegant script “Dante Desjardins Designs”. We opened the door and stepped
into a vast space. The floors were bare wood, the walls red brick. Except for a vintage iMac housed in a translucent plastic purple case on a sleek desk in one corner, it looked like a 19th century sweatshop manned by a small army of dressmaker’s dummies. Half a dozen tables were covered with fabric of every color, overseen by mannequins in various states of dress and undress. Amidst all this, at one of the sewing machines, was a man about my age or a little younger—late 30s or early 40s. He was wearing a three-piece suit of a cut reminiscent of the Edwardian era, except it was made of fabric in a combination of colors and patterns not seen in public since Woodstock. He looked up, surprised. “Ummm…hi. We’re looking for Dante the designer,” I said. He looked us over a little bit suspiciously. “Dante Desjardins, at your service.” He pronounced it day-jar- dahn, which I assume is the correct French pronunciation. Ernie approached him with an outstretched hand. “I’m Ernie Stapleton, and this is Margo Monroe. We…”
air on each side of my face, then did the same to Ernie. I have to hand it to Ernie—he didn’t so much as flinch. Dante was perhaps the most flamboyantly gay man I could recall ever meeting in Indian Springs—quite possibly also the best dressed. “I can’t believe the famous Margo Monroe is here in my studio, in person. I know all about you… that symphony caper—that was so fabulous!” I was a little too taken aback to return his air kisses. “Ummm…pleased to meet you,” was all I could manage. “We’ve been looking into some claims of paranormal activity downstairs…” Dante clapped his hands excitedly. “Oh my! A ghost in this building?” “We don’t know anything yet for sure,” said Ernie, “but we’d like to talk to all the tenants, in case anyone else has seen or heard anything.” Dante waved his hands excitedly and ushered us over to a small, elegant seating area nestled in a corner of his studio. “Is this a good time? We don’t mean to be any trouble,” I said.
“The Margo Monroe?” Dante leaped from his chair and flew towards me. “To what do I owe this honor?”
“Oh, sweetheart, but I’m absolutely thrilled. Now tell me what’s been going on. I’m happy to help any way I can.”
I thought he was going to hug me, but instead he kissed the
“Well, the folks downstairs have come in some mornings and found items rearranged on desks,
April 2021 - The Plague Continues
The Raven papers on the floor. The night watchman has heard voices—that sort of thing,” said Ernie. “Occasionally they’ve come in and found the coffee maker turned on,” I added, looking around. “You don’t even have a coffeemaker, do you?” Dante looked deeply insulted. “Of course not.” “Computers?” asked Ernie. “Oh no, there’s nothing here but that old thing.” He gestured toward the ancient iMac. “Nothing strange with any of the sewing machines?” Dante wrinkled his brow. “Now that you mention it, I came in one morning about a week ago and found all the sewing machines turned on. I thought it was the night watchman’s idea of a joke. Oh, and according to Thornton—that’s my assistant— sometimes the elevator doors open and no one’s there. I’ve never seen it. Does that count?” Ernie smiled. “That’s what we’re trying to find out. As far as we can tell, the activity is limited to late at night. The tech shop downstairs has some people who keep odd hours.” “Well, I tend to keep fairly regular hours,” said Dante. “I’m not usually here late. My mother lives with me, you see, and she worries.” For a second it seemed to me that he was a little bit uncomfortable, perhaps even
slightly sad. Just then the translucent glass door swung open, and a man walked in juggling two oversized Styrofoam cups that bore the logo of the fancy coffee shop down the street. He was wearing a black leather jacket and heavy black eyeliner, and his hair had been gelled into gravity-defying spikes. Dante leapt to his feet. “Ah, coffee at last. Allow me to introduce Thornton, my associate.” Thornton nodded in our general direction. Ernie fished a business card out of his shirt pocket and handed it to Dante. “We’d better get a move on. We thought we’d stop in at the law firm upstairs before lunch.” Thornton scowled. “Good luck.” “Excuse me?” said Ernie. “You’ll see,” he answered. “Well, thanks for your time,” I said. “Don’t hesitate to call us if anything happens that you think we might be interested in.”
We stepped off the elevators on the third floor into a lobby that couldn’t be more different from the one we had just left. Two imposing heavy wooden doors, adorned with a single nononsense brass plaque that said “The Law Offices of Welcher and Butz” barred our way. I pushed the door open, and Ernie
followed me inside. The walls were paneled in dark wood. Discrete spotlights illuminated several wall-sized paintings of sailing ships and nautical scenes. A thick Persian rug muffled the sound of our footsteps as we padded across it to a massive wooden desk, behind which sat an immaculately dressed and coiffed woman of about 35. She peered from behind her nononsense glasses. “May I help you?” Ernie turned on the charm. “I’m Ernie Stapleton, and this is Margo Monroe. Maybe you’ve heard of us?” We approached the desk. She said nothing, so Ernie continued. “We’re paranormal researchers. We’ve been doing some work for your neighbors downstairs, and we’re hoping you might know if anyone on this floor has been experiencing any unusual activity.” “Paranormal activity? What? You mean like… ghosts?” She gave us a condescending look over the top of her glasses. “Well, um… yes, actually.” It’s seldom that I see Ernie flustered. I would almost have enjoyed myself, but I was starting to feel a tad uncomfortable myself. “Please have a seat.” She motioned us to some chairs and disappeared behind a heavy wooden door without a backward glance. We took our seats on a hard Chesterfield sofa that had been
The Raven designed for looks, not comfort. Ernie turned to me and said, “You know, Dante seemed really familiar.” “Maybe you’ve seen him on TV. It’s not like Indian Springs has a plethora of fashion designers.” “Hmmm, I don’t think so. I swear I know him from somewhere,” said Ernie rubbing his chin thoughtfully. The woman returned, the heavy wooden door gliding shut behind her soundlessly. “Someone will be with you in just a moment.” She turned to her computer. The minutes ticked by, but we might as well have been invisible. Occasionally the phone rang, and she answered it with a graceful “Welcher and Butz. How may I direct your call? One moment please.” The minutes turned into half an hour, but neither of us spoke. My butt was becoming numb from the fiendishly uncomfortable sofa. Ernie started to fidget. After a while he jumped to his feet. “Back in a flash.” He was gone an unusually long time. When he finally did return, he seemed to be in a remarkably good mood. I shot him a glance, but he just smiled smugly. After what seemed to be another eternity, the door behind the receptionist swung open, and two men came out. Both were nicely dressed, but one of them somehow just looked like a
lawyer. The two men shook hands jovially and bade each other fake fond farewells. As soon as the door closed behind the visitor, the lawyer’s smile disappeared. He shoved his hands in his pockets and turned toward us. “Is that them?” “Yes, Mr. Butz,” answered the receptionist. Ernie and I stood up. Butz, his hands still firmly in his pockets, made no effort to acknowledge our outstretch hands. “I’m Margo Monroe…” “I know who you are. And I don’t appreciate you barging in here with your nonsense. This is a law office, not a circus freak show.”
The elevator arrived with a soft chime. The door whooshed open and a man stepped off, brushing rudely past us. He exuded, if such a thing is possible, even more arrogance than Butz. A weasel-faced young man in a cheap polyester suit followed close on his heels. They paid not the slightest bit of attention to us. We got on the elevator and as the doors closed behind us, we could hear Butz greeting them obsequiously. “What do you have,” said Ernie as soon as the door closed, “when you have all the lawyers in the world buried up to their necks in sand?” I sighed wearily. “I don’t know, Ernie. What do you have?”
“Excuse me?” I stammered. I could feel my face turning red. “All we need is a minute of your time…”
“Not enough sand. You know who that was, don’t you?”
Ernie poked me in the ribs. “Of course… we understand,” he said. I was completely speechless. “Sorry to have taken up your time.” He grabbed me by the arm and propelled me towards the door.
“The smarmy one.”
He pushed me out the heavy wooden door. As soon as it closed I turned on him. “Are you crazy?”
“The big-shot developer? Are you sure?”
Ernie punched the elevator call button with enough force to assure me that he was not unaffected by our confrontation with Butz. “We’ll talk about it later.”
“They were both pretty smarmy.” “I mean the guy that got off the elevator just now. That was Ronson Rummel. Of Corvus Enterprises.”
“Yep. He and his partner Clay Hawk have been in the news a lot lately. I wonder what he wants with a small-town outfit like Welcher and Butz.”
April 2021 - The Plague Continues
The Raven Ernie and I got to work at the same time the next day. He dove enthusiastically into his favorite activity: dismantling and reassembling electronic devices into new and improved ghosthunting gadgets. I settled down at my computer to plow through the deluge of e-mails that I find myself dealing with every day. The lab was quiet except for the sound of Ernie clacking on the keys of his computer. A chime sounded and a reminder popped up on my screen. “Hey, Ernie. I just got a reminder that we’re supposed to go talk to the elevator guy today.” “Oh yeah,” he replied. “I almost forgot. We can stop by on the way to lunch.” I was looking through the monthly newsletter from a distant ghost hunting society, when the door burst open and our research assistant stormed in. Sandy is normally the most cheerful of people, but today there was an angry frown on his face. He rolled his bike to its usual spot along the wall and kicked the kickstand in place brusquely, without a word to anybody. “Everything okay?” I asked. “Huh? Oh, sorry.” He flopped into a chair. “I just came from a city planning commission meeting. It wasn’t pretty.” “Ah yes…the proposal for that MonsterMart on the edge of
town,” I said.
studio on the second floor.”
“Yep. Good ol’ Corvus Enterprises. Largest property developer in the state. Both Ronson Rummel and Clay Hawk were there.”
“Yes,” I said. “We spent a few minutes with him.”
“Wow…the big guys in person,” remarked Ernie. “We ran into Rummel yesterday—literally. Or more like he ran into us.”
“Yesterday morning. Why?” I asked.
“Lucky you,” replied Sandy sarcastically. “How did the meeting go? Or should I not ask?” I said. “I’m afraid Corvus has us outgunned. The last time I saw so many hand-stitched silk Italian suits in one place I was in Neiman-Marcus. The parking lot at city hall looks like a Mercedes dealership. We’re just a rag tag band of students and artists. I very much fear we don’t stand a chance,” he said with a sigh. “We had a confrontation with one of Rummell’s lawyers. Butz, of Welcher and Butz. It wasn’t pleasant.” “How’d you manage that?” “The investigation for that tech start-up. They’re in the same building,” said Ernie. “We decided while we were there we would pay the other tenants a visit.” “Ah, yes, the Morris Building,” said Sandy. “Then you must have met Dante Desjardins. He has a
“When was the last time you spoke to him?” Sandy asked.
“Because he was supposed to be at the zoning commission meeting today. He had to miss it, because his studio was vandalized last night.” “Oh, no!” I exclaimed. “Who would do such a thing? He’s a sweet guy.” “That’s anybody’s guess,” said Sandy. “But he’s been particularly vocal in his opposition to the MonsterMart. In fact, it was Dante who got the neighborhood organized. He lives just a block away from where it’s supposed to go in. He’s a local boy—bet you didn’t know that.” I was surprised. “No, I had no idea.” “Yeah,” said Sandy. “He graduated from Indian Springs high school a few years after you. Of course, back then his name was Gordon Plunkett.” Ernie snapped his fingers. “I told you I knew him from somewhere!” He tapped around on the computer. “Come look at this.” I looked over Ernie’s shoulder at the grainy black-and-white
The Raven photo that he found from an online high school yearbook service. Sure enough, there was the younger version of Dante, sharply dressed even back then, and still looking pretty much like the guy we met. “What are you doing now?” I asked. Ernie was clicking around, searching for something. And he found it. A few pages down was Ron Thornton— apparently Thornton is his real name. Minus the heavy Goth make up and black, spiked hair, I barely recognized him. “I feel really bad for Dante. I hope he has insurance. Ernie, what are you smiling at? It’s not at all funny.” “It’s possible that I just might be able to offer Dante some assistance. Just give me a minute.” Ernie turned to his computer. In a few seconds some slightly blurry images appeared on one of the large computer monitors. There wasn’t much to see, just some elevator doors and a timestamp in the corner. “That’s the elevator lobby on Dante’s floor. You can see from this timestamp that it’s almost two in the morning.” “So that’s what you were doing yesterday when we were sitting there waiting for our audience with Butz.” “Yep, I hid wireless surveillance cameras in the elevator lobbies
on the second and third floors. What did you think I was doing?” “I thought you were in the bathroom,” I replied. “No wonder you gave me that look.” He chuckled and went back to the security vids. “What are you doing now?” asked Sandy. “Running the comparison tool that isolates changes in the images, so we don’t have to look through hours and hours of video. Sorry about the camera angle. There weren’t a lot of places to stash the camera where it wasn’t likely to be found. Here’s something.”
assistant. “Well, what do you think about that?” Ernie mused. “Do you know him? Who is it?” Sandy asked. “We don’t know his name,” I said, “but he works for Ronson Rummel. He was at Welcher and Butz yesterday when Rummel showed up.” “Well, now…things are starting to get interesting,” said Sandy.
To be continued.... Join Margo & Company
On the video, we saw the second floor elevator doors open. A man stepped off and looked around. He was dressed in dark clothes and carried a duffel bag, from which he extracted a tool.
as the investigation at
“What’s that he’s carrying?” I asked.
sinister goings-on behind
“Looks like a crowbar to me,” said Sandy. The man walked toward Dante’s door. Before he walked out of camera range, we got a clear view of his face.
the Morris Building and a tip from a surprise visitor hint at some the scenes. Who are the entities and why are they so angry? Who’s behind the break-in at Dante’s studio? And does Ernie
“Right there!” I exclaimed. “Can you pause it?”
know more good lawyer
Even before Ernie zoomed in, I recognized the beady eyes and scraggly mustache. It was Ronson Rummel’s weasel-faced
issue, coming fall of 2021.
jokes? Find out in the next
April 2021 - The Plague Continues
True Ghost Stories as told by the Indominable, Unshakeable
Echo Bodine Bob and the Masseuses One day I received a panicked call from the owner of a massage parlor. She complained of noises, a loud banging on the walls that was highly disruptive for clients and scary for the staff. The banging was so loud, so terrifying the masseuses who worked there started missing work. Business was suffering. Curious, I promised the owner, “Okay, we’ll be over tonight.” At the time, I was teaching psychic classes and I thought this would be a good experience for one of my students, so I selected one and we headed to the massage parlor. We arrived, got out the car, and stepped inside the business. I was expecting a dirty, smelly, dark, sleezy place, but was pleasantly surprised. It was light and airy, attractively decorated, and the atmosphere was calm and quiet like a meditation center. The first thing we did, what we
always do on an assignment, was walk around and look for ghosts. The owner led us through the place from room to room. There were lots of rooms, all of them very nice. It took a while to make it through but as we were nearing the last of the rooms, all of a sudden, a ghost appeared; a ghost wearing a police uniform. That was my second surprise of the night. I gathered my wits and started in with the standard questions I always ask a ghost. “What’s your name?” “Why are you here? What happened?” “Why don’t you go to the light?” The ghost dutifully and in a nice, polite voice answered, “My name is Bob and I’m a cop.” “When I was alive, I was assigned to this beat. Occasionally, I would drop into the parlor to check on the girls,
Echo Bodine was born with psychic abilities and the gift of healing, skills that were amplified when she began psychic development classes at age 17. Within two years, Echo had gobbled up every bit of learning she could and turned to practicing her newfound skills on friends and family. Twelve years later, she hung out her sign as a full-time psychic, healer, and ghostbuster. All three disciplines sound awesome, but it’s her ghostbusting experiences we’re pleased to showcase. Grab some popcorn and your favorite beverage, then sit back and be entertained.
to make sure they were okay. One day, I was killed on duty, nearby here.” Bob hesitated and I asked him about going to the light to cross over. Bob admitted that he knew the light would lead him to heaven, but he wanted to stay Earthbound. “Sometimes the parlor draws dangerous, mean men who want to hurt the girls. I want to stay and protect them.” In a matter-of-fact voice, he continued, “I make the banging sound. When I knock on the walls that’s to let the girls know that the man in her room is not a good person and to stay away from him.” Then Bob really threw me for a loop. He said, “I’m sorry about the other night. I didn’t mean to rip the shower curtain off the rod, but I was angry.” I was astounded that this seemingly caring, upright ghost had amassed enough energy to perform a physical feat. That was not unheard of but unusual. I got over that shock quickly and moved on to the most pressing matter. What curtain? What rod? I had no idea what Bob was talking about. I relayed Bob’s words to the owner who was right beside me but could not hear or see Bob. The owner gasped, “Oh my God!” She collected herself – as much as one can when it’s your first time conversing with a ghost – then explained, “There was a customer in the shower and all of a sudden the curtain ripped down. The man came out, got dressed, and shot out of here.” Bob said, “He was a priest and it really made me angry that he was here. I didn’t mean to rip the curtain down, but I was so angry. I’m sorry.” Bob finished with, “I really feel like I need to stay and protect the girls.” I turned to the owner and relayed Bob’s explanation, his apology, and his request to stay. “What do you want to do?” I asked her. The owner left to go talk to her workers. She told them the whole story and the ladies all agreed. They wanted Bob to stay. To my knowledge, Bob is still there, banging on the walls, protecting the girls.
The Raven Ghosts Galore and the White Picket Fence
I used to teach psychic development classes and one day after class, a student approached me. “Would you please come to my house? I think I have ghosts.” Of course, I said, “Yes, I’ll be there later this evening.” The student left and I immediately called my brother, Michael. At the time, I was still inexperienced in my interactions with ghosts. Michael was much more developed. I asked him, “Do you see spirits?” “Yes,” he replied. “Do they scare you?” “No.” “Good. Can you accompany me to one of my student’s house? She thinks she has ghosts.” We rode together to the house and pulled up to the cutest little adorable home, complete with a white picket fence. My student met us outside and explained the house had been on the market for a year. Realtors told her prospective buyers would get as far as the front door then turn around. Even when the realtors coaxed with, “But it’s a charming little house. Just come take a look inside,” the prospective buyers refused to go in. They always left. Always. Michael and I looked at each other and I could tell he was thinking the same as me. What in the world are we walking into? But walk in we did, following my student into the house.
The Raven We’d barely cleared the threshold when we saw six to eight male spirits. Souls. My brother asked them, “Why are you here?” One of the guys said, “We’re Quakers and we meet every Sunday night here for prayer.” The owner of the house could not see or hear the Quakers, so I told her about them. She confirmed that indeed the house had been built on an old Quaker settlement. Okay, fine, I thought, that lines up. But the Quakers seemed uninterested in scaring away potential homeowners. I was more concerned about what was spooking buyers. The owner had kindly bought us pizza since we were missing dinner. So, we decided to go to the kitchen and eat. When we got there, we saw a male ghost standing over the pizza, smelling it. We walked to him and he began pacing back and forth.
soul. Michael asked him, “Why are you here?” The teen said, “I was killed in a motorcycle accident nearby. I didn’t know where to go so I came here.” We could barely process what he said because there was so much noise, so much activity, so many ghosts. Thankfully, our spirit guides were now talking to us; they took control. “We’re going to teach you what to do. First, go back to the kitchen, sit at the table, and write a list of everything you’ve seen in this house.” We followed our spirit guides’ instructions, heading downstairs. In the kitchen we began writing. While at the table, yet another ghost—not the pizza sniffing ghost—walked up behind us and said nothing. It was as if he were double checking our list to make sure we’d accounted for every ghost. When our list was complete, the guides told us to go
Michael said, “Hi, why are you here?” No answer. The ghost ignored us. He kept pacing and would occasionally stop to sniff our pizza. Michael and I conferred and decided, if already in two rooms we’d seen a handful of ghosts, there must be more. We both knew ghosts liked to congregate. Just like the living. We took off to inspect the rest of the house and arrived at the main bedroom. Lying on top of the bed was a very elderly woman. We could tell she was deceased. She was a skeleton. Michael greeted her, but no response. We kept going and ended upstairs. There were so many spirits up there, it was like a grand party. We saw a single male ghost doing nothing but staring at us. There were children playing in the closet. We saw a young teenager, a young
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The Raven to each spirit and tell them to go to the light. Michael was more confident about this task than I. He boldly went to the Quakers and told them to cross over, to go to the light. They did. We did the same for each ghost both up and downstairs. They all went to the light. The only exception was the skeleton woman in the bedroom. She was still non-responsive. Our guides told us, “We’ll take her over to the other side.” It took a while to clear out all the ghosts, but once cleared, the atmosphere inside the house was so nice. So quiet and still. So empty. I had initially assumed we would encounter negative spirits and that would be the reason why potential buyers were running away. But feeling and sensing the atmospheric difference in the house post cIearing, I changed my mind and pinned the cause on the busy frenetic energy discharged by all the ghostly apparitions. Our spirit guides told us we had one more step. We needed to burn sage, which would clear out all residual ghostly energy. Michael and I walked through each room of the house and heavily smoked it with sage. After that, we left. A week later, my student called and excitedly told me the house sold.
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As told to the Ghost Scribes by José Vargas, photographer & artist
Los Niños (The Children) Gelatin silver photo In the late ‘50s, the above photograph was taken using a Kodak camera (think analog; think darkroom). The negative was forgotten but found many years later. It was in terrible shape, but luckily with a background of working in photo labs and studying photography, José was able to reverse print the negative to create a gelatin silver photograph – 38 years after the original photograph was taken. Imagine his surprise when he saw the final image.
The setting he knew. It was the old family home in West Dallas (Texas). The three young boys on the front porch he knew; they are his nephews. But the girl behind the screen door staring out? His sisters, the original photographers, had unwittingly captured the image of a ghost. José states, “When I saw the final image, I thought it was eerie, but cool. It reminded me that there are other worlds that we cannot see. Who knows how many other dimensions there
are?” Well stated. Turns out the photo was not José’s first ghostly experience. As a young boy, he was asleep one night when a knock sounded on the bedroom window. The noise woke José. He looked out the window to see his dead sister. José said, “Hi, Mona. What do you want?” “I want to talk to Virginia,” Mona replied.
The Raven Dutifully, José woke their sister Virginia. “Mona wants to talk to you.” Virginia asked him, “Where is she?” “She is standing outside, next to the window – just turn around.” “What does she want?” “She wants to talk to you!” José then covered his eyes and face with the bed sheet, hoping to go back to sleep as soon as possible. Many years later, José questioned himself, asking “How often does a dead person come and talk to you?” Feeling some remorse and regret about the actions he’d taken or rather not taken (not interacting with his deceased sister), José decided he’d been rude. “I don’t know why I felt scared that night. My sister was a good person. She was nice to me.” He saw it as a missed opportunity. José acknowledges that he’s always been different from his siblings and other relatives even as a child. Not many years ago, a cousin asked him, “Hey, are you still taking those crazy pictures? I remember you wouldn’t advance the film and took photos on top of photos.” To José, that is natural. “I am always interested in pushing the boundaries and experimenting. As an artist, I am constantly asking what can I do? How can I create with a camera an image that’s in my mind? I want people to see what I see. I have always had an eye for certain things. I am sure that through meditation, sleep, near death experiences, and being highly attuned, we can all tap into our creativity and other dimensions.” According to José, “An artist has their head in the cloud and one foot on the ground.” We agree with José’s summation but also add, it is artists who keep the world sane and ripe with promise.
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What We’re Consuming Did you miss the 2020 Poe International Festival? If so, we have a suggestion. Create your own Poe Fest. We’ll even start you off with a few ideas! The Banshee
Masque of the Red Death
Composer Henry Cowell makes the heart tremble with this dramatic piece. This version, performed by Sonya Kumiko Lee, does it justice.
What’s not to like? This partyrock band from Madison, Wisconsin describes themselves as “A symphony of guitars and voices, soaring melodies wrapped around hyper literate poetry and wicked rhythms.” We call it scary-good mix of rock, poetry, and devilish beats. Check out “I Don’t Wanna be a Ghost.” They even have a paranormal podcast called “See You on the Other Side”, available on Stitcher or Apple Podcasts.
We don’t like to brag (OK, maybe we do, but just a little bit) but this heart-pounding, bilingual rendition was performed by Blanca Reyna at Poe in the ‘Hood, which your humble editors organized and produced. Watch it on YouTube.
The Raven This 2012 murder mystery movie, directed by James McTeigue and starring John Cusack as Poe, is set against the backdrop of Poe’s poems and stories. Check out the trailer here and watch on HBO or rent or buy on Amazon Prime.
The Haunting of Bly Manor This modern adaptation of Henry James’ A Turn of the Screw is currently showing on Netflix, It has some surprises, and when it starts to get really good about halfway through the season, you’ll want to be sure the lights are on when you watch it.
Book Review In which Ann Fields reviews The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian. Meet Zoe Faust, the Accidental Alchemist. A recent transplant to Portland, Oregon, Zoe buys a house that has been abandoned for years and has fallen into disrepair. And the house is haunted! Everybody in the neighborhood knows this except Zoe. Even the new friends she meets at the local coffee shop know the house has lights that come on at odd times and eerie noises that echo the streets at even odder times. Which is why no one except Zoe is surprised when a body is found on the front steps of her porch. Not only that, but the murderer also broke into Zoe’s
house and stole several priceless books. The theft of one of the books in particular—a centuries old alchemy text—causes Zoe much distress. She needs the book to save her sidekick, a gargoyle named Dorian, from being entombed alive. A long list of suspects parade through the police station, including Zoe herself, and just when the police zero in on the number one suspect, the lady is poisoned and falls into a coma. The police believe the poison was self-inflicted, but aware of the rarity of the poison. Zoe is not convinced. Her suspicions force her to revive her past occupation as an alchemist, a past she was trying to escape with her move to Portland. Soon, Zoe and Dorian are entangled in a mess that involves kidnapped laborers, underground tunnels, wayward teenagers, and drugs. Oh, and of course, her haunted house. Just when the amateursleuthing team untangle the mess and close in on their target, a new twist and even more suspects emerge. It is looking hopeless for Dorian until two unrelated events merge that point Zoe and Dorian to the real murderer/robber.
At its heart, The Accidental Alchemist is a cozy mystery bearing all the standards of the genre: no violence, limited sex, amateur sleuths, a small community feel, and a body that appears seemingly out of the blue, the actual killing is not shown. Zoe simply comes home one day to find the contractor she’d hired to repair her house dead on her porch steps. As amateur sleuths go, Zoe and Dorian exceed the standards. They are equally matched in skills and responsibilities, their proclivities rest on opposite ends of the spectrum, and both have back stories that are extremely interesting. There is one area where the story deviates from the cozy standard. The tension in this story is intense; suspense is high. As mentioned earlier, Dorian’s life hangs in the balance. One of the stolen books contains the secret for saving his life. Also, the stolen books serve as a source of income. Without them Zoe’s online business, her survival is at risk. The clock ticks loudly in this story. The pair must work quickly and accurately. To ease the thick tension, the
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The Raven author uses humor. Although Zoe and Dorian are natives of France, Zoe has lived in America so long she is Americanized. Dorian, however, is pure French and takes every opportunity to remind Zoe of his distinctive heritage as one of the vaulted gargoyles of Notre Dame. In keeping with his haughty pedigree, Dorian insists on fresh food. Not to eat—he is a gargoyle, after all—but to cook with. He churns out delectable meals that are wasted on Zoe. Dorian’s requirements don’t stop at food. He insists on a daily delivery of Le Monde and only the best liquor, coffees, and teas. Zoe is peeved about the daily trips to the grocery store and gourmet markets. Gosh darn it! They have a murder to solve and books to recover! The variant lifestyles of the roommates create many lighthearted scenes. Speaking of food and drink, it appears as another character (metaphorically speaking) in the story. Natural teas, smoothies, and healing drinks are often discussed at the neighborhood coffee shop. Vegan recipes, herbs, spices, and gardening are featured in various and numerous scenes. And of course, as mentioned, Dorian slices and dices on the daily in Zoe’s barely functioning kitchen, which would be functioning if someone hadn’t killed her contractor. Another contender for character is the city of Portland, the backdrop of the story. Many of
Sue &Ann’s TBR List *
* To Be Read
The Poe Shadow: A Novel
6 Feet Under Texas: Unique, Famous & Historic Graves in the Lone Star State
by Matthew Pearl
by Tui Snider
White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe a fiction series for the kiddos by Gordon McAlpine
Available at an independent bookstore near you. Online is good too.
The Raven the city’s features, current and historical, play a prominent role, adding spice and interest to the story. Powell’s, one of the longest operating bookstores in the country, is mentioned as are the Shanghai labor trade, the underground tunnels, and certain neighborhoods. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. During a time when disasters, natural and manmade, have challenged my ability to concentrate on any text longer than a paragraph, I was surprised and happy that this book kept me fully engaged. I found the story inventive, well-written, and historically informative. Certain topics in the book were so intriguing I am now on a quest to learn more about the gargoyles of Notre Dame, alchemy, and natural healing teas. It’s only fair that I mention the story runs long—340 pages. However, given all the twists and turns, I can’t imagine it coming in in fewer pages. Also, don’t expect to end the reading with any great moral, morale, or life lessons. There is not a call to action nor noble ideas to hash through. This is a read designed purely for entertainment (other than the topics that might pique your interest for further research), escapism at its best. Edgar Allan Poe is credited as the father of the modern detective story. I believe he would be proud of how far his
literary invention has come. In this one book alone, three different types of mysteries (cozy, murder mystery, and police/crime procedural) are represented as well as the historical fiction genre. The Accidental Alchemist is available in hard copy and e-book, and can be purchased at local, independent bookstores as well as online retailers.
We know you’ve heard of Edgar Cayce, but did you know about Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E.? The Association for Research and Enlightenment is celebrating their 90th anniversary this year! Their website is worth a visit. You can find a vast selection of articles about diverse topics, from the Akashic records to reincarnation. They also offer educational opportunities, paranormalrelated events, travel, crisis resources, and a chance to connect with others like you. Their website offers tons of free resources, and memberships start at $8.25 a month for those seeking more in-depth inspiration. Learn more here, and visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/edgarcayce.
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Poetry Corner A. F. Stewart’s most recent collection of poetry, Horror Haiku Pas de Deux, has been described as a “volume of poetry that mixes horror with haiku and verse to chill the bones.” In this collection – dark words, spells of terror, and worlds burn, yet, poetic beauty lives forever with the undead. Enjoy these Poe-inspired selections. Black Heart
Ever More Tap, tap, come the raven,
Shush, shush, quiet now
Salient wind, blow me the ash
no, it is not him
the raven circles here
He flies far above the path as the light grows ever dim
Let me inhale the acrid smoke The Faerie Queen calls for you from annihilation and all that you hold dear
I march the path of Death
Flee, flee, into the woods
ignore the raven’s caw
I bring every wailing soul
Hear the silent monster march
to the cavern in the maw
The Raven A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. Like Poe, she favours the dark and deadly; her genre of choice - dark fantasy and horror. However, upon occasion she will venture into the light. As an indie author, she has published novellas and story collections with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. Printed with permission – A.F. Stewart.
Dear readers, your humble editors are so taken with Horror Haiku pas de Deux that we want you to have your very own copy. All you have to do is be the 7th (EAP’s death date) and 19th (EAP’s birth date) person to email us stating you’d like A. F. Stewart’s book. Email GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com by May 31, 2021. Good luck!
I have quite possibly the coolest job in the world. Officially, I call myself a “research I sing obsidian I howl oblivion I roar oppression
specialist.” My name is Margo Monroe and what I really am is a
I am Stygian Hell
I am the Unhallowed I am Blackheart and I know your name
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Spooky Happenings Salem Horror Fest Returns! Do you make horror films? Then you need to know about the Salem Horror Fest, “an exploration of cultural fear in celebration of diversity and innovation within the horror genre.” You can find them on Facebook at https://www. facebook.com/ salemhorror/.
Saturday Visiter Awards Now Accepting Entries The Poe House Baltimore is seeking entries for the 2021 Saturday Visiter Awards. The awards honor works in two categories: adaptations of Poe’s life or writings, and original works inspired by Poe’s life or writings. Deadline for entries is May 30, 2021, so sharpen those virtual pencils and get to work! For more information, visit https://poefestinternational.com/saturday-visiter-awards.
See last year’s winners here.
Poe House Baltimore Speaking of Poe House Baltimore, we’re thrilled to announce that the Poe House has reopened to for-real, in person actual visits. Social distancing guidelines are in place, and you must have reservations. Visit the Poe House website for the latest info.
Spooky Spectacle is Back for 2021!
Submit your entries at https://filmfreeway. com/salemhorrorfest. Deadline for submission is July 31, 2021. Issue 2
If you’re anywhere near Granbury, TX, you definitely don’t want to miss Spooky Spectacle 2021. After last year’s haitus, we’re double excited to have this fantastic event to look forward to. This year’s event is September 25 and 26 and is back at the Lake Granbury Conference Center. Tickets are a steal at just $5 per person per day. Check ‘em out at www.spookyspectacle.com.
Speaking of Art
In this issue of The Raven, we’re pleased to present our featured artist, the multi-talented Jerry Weiss. He is a novelist, screenwriter, actor, painter, illustrator, cartoonist, and teacher. It’s his cartooning skills we were excited to talk to him about recently. How did you get your start? I took one cartooning class as a kid but didn’t learn much. The instructor was more interested in promoting himself than teaching. Later, I realized I learned best by analyzing the work of others and adapting the idea and art so that it was my own. I read a book on cartooning by Larry [Lawrence] Lariar, an American cartoonist. Like most of the cartooning books at the time it didn’t deal with how to be funny, but how to draw funny pictures. It, nonetheless, inspired me to learn more–– about cartooning. As a college student at Arizona State College, I did a comic strip for a fraternity magazine and advertising cartoons for a car dealership. After getting my B. A., I attended Art Center school in Los Angeles until drafted. I spent two years in New York at the Army Signal Corps Pictorial Center in Queens, working on animated training material. Upon discharge, I stayed in New York and got an M. A. in Art Education at C.C.N.Y. Taught art in the Bronx until offered a job to teach at Arizona State College. After a few years, I got the bug to return to school and got a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, eventually retired, and got interested in writing and cartooning again.
What’s your process for creating a cartoon? Cartooning requires multiple hats. The cartoonist is the writer, the art director, acts the parts of the characters, and illustrates the idea with his art. Any one of the elements can come to me first. Sometimes it’s the funny idea, the gag line, or the character. I like dealing with a particular character’s emotional response to what would be an upsetting situation to the average person, and then highlighting the character’s emotions with words and picture. The written gag line is equally important because it’s part of that emotional response. The picture must add to the overall feeling of the gag or there’s no laugh. An author’s prime directive to create a finished piece of writing is “Write, then rewrite.” A cartoonist draws and redraws to achieve a final cartoon. Creating, tweaking, putting the piece away for a time, more tweaking. It’s a process that boils down to always trying to improve my work.
What’s most challenging when creating a cartoon? Coming up with good ideas. I will suffer for days, weeks on end to come up with something funny. I guess you can call it cartoonist block. Then one day, my muse will allow ideas to start rolling.
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The Raven How would you describe your style? I developed my cartoon style through admiring and studying the work of famous cartoonist of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Ed Fisher and Peter Arno were only two of many New Yorker cartoonists I admired for their humor and artwork. So, I guess it was their work that influenced my style.
Other than Ed Fisher and Peter Arno, who or what else influenced your cartooning career or style? There were many cartoonists, painters, and illustrators who influenced me. When Pablo Picasso was accused of stealing from Monet, he laughed and said, “When you take not from one, but from as many artists as I have, it’s called research.” I’ve done a lot of research of various artists. Around the turn of the last century, there was a famous American painter and teacher of famous illustrators. His name was Harvey Dunn. He said that to create a powerful work, the artist needed to relive the emotion he felt that caused him to want to create that specific illustration so that the illustration could communicate that feeling to the viewer. I believe Dunn was saying that artists can learn to create a colorful or realistic piece of art, but it’s the emotional spark within the artist that must be communicated through the painting or drawing itself. This is also true of cartooning. I believe the cartoon gets a laugh because the cartoonist is able to somehow put his own laughter at the situation in it. We all have different emotional responses to events and see things differently. A writer learns from Edgar Allan Poe’s work by imitating it, but the work will be his own because that person’s brain and experience is different from Poe’s. We all learn by doing. To get better at your work, find something you like and do it your own way.
The Raven You mentioned your Muse earlier. Can you elaborate on that? My Muse is the creative part of my brain. I try to be friends with my Muse. Whatever it advises is the direction I go in. Mark Twain said it best when he said that the creative process is usually unconscious and can’t be forced out. In fact, he claimed his best writing was done in bed, relaxing. I also think that’s when the mind is willing to send out its best ideas. And that’s usually when I can visualize and feel the emotional aspect of the idea. Once I’ve played with the characters and situation of a cartoon or painting, then the Muse in my brain can bring it into the world and I can put it on paper.
How has the work of cartooning changed since you first entered it? Cartooning, like everything else, changes over time. Automobiles looked one way in the 1930s and another way in 2020. The artwork and humor of cartoons in the 1930s are different than those of today. Our culture and what our culture will accept changes over time. Standup comics today can make jokes about things that would have them thrown in jail 50 years ago. Change is the constant.
You’ve mentioned both illustrating and cartooning. What’s the difference between the two? The illustrator takes what’s given to them and comes up with emotional artwork of an event the writer has created in the story. Cartoonists do it all – come up with the emotional idea for a cartoon, write it out [usually in one line of dialogue], create and draw the characters who can fit the idea, and finally they pull all the elements together in one or more panels.
Jerry is the creator of Weiss-Cracking which appears in The Writers Guild of Texas’ newsletter, The Mentor, and he is the cartoonist for The Weekly Chronicle. It’s been said of his cartoons that they bring new insight and humor into our daily lives. Jerry is also a member of Texas Cartoonists, a retired New York City teacher, and a licensed Clinical Psychologist. He is in fact Dr. Jerry Weiss. You’ll see more of Jerry’s talent on display in The Raven as he’s agreed to provide cartoons for the publication. We start with this issue with his wonderful illustration that accompanies My First Time: a true story of fear. To check out Jerry’s online portfolio, visit Jerry Weiss - Texas Cartoonists.
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