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Category Archives: ghost story

My last horror collection I wrote is entitled The Other Side of Despair. It was inspired by my studies in Psychology as well as the classic weird stories of Robert W. Chambers that was The King in Yellow.

I was posting a link to the book in a thread and happened to see a review. It was refreshing to see someone get the book as I intended it!

Here is the review by Arnstein H. Pettersen with many thanks from me, sir! I’m glad yo enjoyed it:

Using the science and art of psychology to descend from the ledge chiseled by Lovecraft, further into that dyscognitive abyss.
(Also containing the short story collection that amass to the tale of ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’, which firmly resides within the Cthulhu mythos.)

The horror genre often bring psychology into the mix as it plies its trade; dread does after all reside within the limits of our minds. Yet only rarely does one find an exemplar of the genre as The Other Side of Despair, where the matters of the psyche is at least nine-tenths of the tale. Its eclectic assortment of short stories persists in pitching the perceptions of the fantastical against the fabrications of the mind, leaving the reader lost for answers in a dilemma akin to that of figuring out which one initiated the (seemingly) etrnal cycle of causality between the chicken and the egg. And to present this dilemma as vividly as possible we have to gain a most intimate insight into the cogitations of the perceiver – or if you prefer the imagery: to observe the prancings of the Devil through the eyes that behold him. It is clearly no coincident that the stories consist mostly of monologues, excerpts of diaries, and personalized letters; ways of narration that are tightly bound to the core of the narrator’s world and interpretation thereof. Yet, despite their differences, they belong to a common literary universe, amassing the information of the individual story into something larger, perhaps even into something resembling answers.

The first monologue is titled ‘Shockley House’, and it is these 18 pages who serve as our introduction to the overall theme of the book. It details an attempt to research hauntings as a psychological phenomena – “Ultimately, it falls into the psychological realm because a statement of belief about witnessing something supernatural, […] is a statement about the psychological state of the person’s belief in what their senses have conveyed to them.” – where the researchers utilize a house rumored to be spectrally inhabited in order to coax their patients into believing the haunting to be real. It is a tale that goes to great lengths in attempting to give a scientific rationale for the phenomena, postulating that it is indeed made from mental fabrications; and much of it is, unexpectedly, quite persuasive. Yet, after wholeheartedly attempting to win the reader over to its logic – going so far as to make nearly testable hypotheses – the tale changes. The aforementioned dilemma begins to form as the rationale begins to shows its cracks, through which the fantastical seems to seep out into reality. The resulting horror results as much from the questioning of the world fabric as from the happenings themselves, making it a truly Lovecraftian experience despite lacking a common mythology.

The following short stories do an even greater job of muddling the dilemma, bringing such vagaries as shadows and dreams into the deliberation. Especially difficult is the tale called ‘Children of the Wasteland’, which bases its premise on Zhuangzi’s butterfly conundrum: “Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly […] unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened […] Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” (In fact, the tale is so convoluted that a tip is in order to facilitate the reading. It is not a spoiler and the reader will still have to do much puzzling to make sense out of that one. The hint is: Put to mind Brother Humphrey’s prayer.) Also, the tales are in a sense interwoven through a common world although the clues we are given to this lie discretely placed. The most obvious one is that several of the tales take place in Rathbone Asylum, but closer inspection will reveal others too. This is without a doubt one of the most intriguing works of horror which I have ever come across.

The bonus tale, ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’ – which is quite some bonus since it covers nearly a hundred of the two-hundred and twenty-four pages of the book – has no connection to the tales of The Other Side of Despair. It is constructed from several short stories, each of which present its own part of the narrative; it builds upon H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, not to mention the works of several other authors who have continued his legacy, but most importantly it builds upon ‘The Colours from Outer Space’ to such a degree that the reader should be adviced to read that short story before embarking upon it. Indeed, this tale could be considered a continuation of the excellent tradition of fanfics (a tradition ancient compared to the term ‘fanfic’ and its modern stigmas, even predating our Current Era/Anno Domine), or, if one prefers to describe it as thus, it is a honorific towards one of the inspirations and thus co-creators of any current work of penmanship. Yet, it goes beyond this and brings to light obscure bits of history and actual conundrums, with notes carefully added with the information on what is accurate and what is embellishment, so as to avoid corruption of the facts. I was particularily fascinated by how little embellishment was needed for the author to connect the fictitious cult of ghouls to real historical events. In my opinion, this is a very welcome addition to the Cthulhu mythos. Also, since it consists solely of letters, clippings, recording transciptions, and similar, it would be an excellent piece of source material for game masters planning role-playing forays into the mythos universe.

Before ending the review, I’d like to note that David Maurice Garrett is not just a writer but also a musician (not to be confused with the violinist David Garrett) with currently six releases behind him, all of whom relate to the horror genre and Lovecraft’s works in particular. There is even a soundtrack for ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’ among them. Whoever intends to delve into this book would clearly do well to check out these releases as well (the soundtrack in particular, of course).”

 

The story entitled “The Children of the Wasteland” that Arnstein mentions was featured on the Podcast Random Transmissions.

David

My story “Shockley House” was published in this year’s Halloween anthology The Yellow Booke.

Hi! If you’ve read any of my blog and my weird writings, please take the time to post a comment about your thoughts and impressions. I’d love to hear what you think!

Also, here is an interview that I just did that delves a little deeper into my artistic vision.

Interview with David Garrett

Dr. Carlson: “What’s the story with Patient Dithers? The one everyone calls Old Charlie. Has he ever been communicative or has he always been catatonic?”

Dr. Harris: “Oh, Old Charlie used to be very much the talker. His unresponsive state was a gradual thing. I’m afraid he’s completely gone to us now, but his tale is quite bizarre.”

Dr. Carlson: “Bizarre how?”

Dr. Harris: “Do you know the story of Shockley House, Lisa?”

Dr. Carlson: “Shockley House. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. The legend of an old haunted asylum up in Denver? A cautionary tale of horrifying and barbaric psychiatric practices that someone told me in school, I believe.”

Dr. Harris: “Well, it’s not a legend, even though the place is no longer standing. In many ways it was the forerunner of this place. Walter Rathbone acquired the property and had it demolished before relocating here in Castle Rock and building our institution.”

Dr. Carlson: “Really? I had no idea. But what does that have to do with Old Charlie? Was he a patient at Shockley House?”

Dr. Harris: “No, not a patient then. He used to be a police officer and was the first to arrive on the scene the night that Dr. Matthew Remy went crazy, killed a resident and a nurse, and then committed suicide.”

“Father, you obviously believe people have souls, right?”

“Yes.”

“Do you believe that places have souls?”

“Hmmm, I don’t think so. I guess I’ve never really thought about it.”

“Well, I do. I know they do.”

“You do?”

“Yes, and that’s the nature of my sin.”

“How’s that?”

“Because I helped a man, um, relocate a place’s spirit to a new place.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow.”

“It was a nasty place. A nasty soul. And it had outlived the people who had lived there. It was suffering with loneliness. So I helped the man with what needed to be done. I helped the place’s soul.”

“What man?”

“I don’t really know the man. I can guess. He was probably just an incarnation of Him, though. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is the place.”

“What place then?”

“The soul of Shockley House.”

“Shockley House. I don’t belief I know it.”

“And you wouldn’t. Like I said, it was a lonely place that no one visited any longer.”

“And I’m to understand that you moved the house?”

“No. Not the house. I told you, it was the soul of the place. The malignant, horrible spirit of Shockley House.”

“And now it resides somewhere else?”

“Yes. Now it is the spirit of Rathbone Asylum.”

“But that’s here.”

“Yes. I know.”

The cover of the first book I wrote (Intertwined in Limbo) had absolutely nothing to do with any story in the book. The firm that created the cover just used a picture that was “ghostly”. So I decided to write a poem that told her story.

Limbo

 

The White Lady

 

Little Mason Morbid was a melancholy lad

While the other kids were playing, he sat brooding, looking sad

His cloths were black and gray and his heart was a hole

And the only thing ‘twas darker than his mind was his soul

 

On the thirteenth of the month he would adjourn unto a tomb

In an old forgotten graveyard under darkness of the gloom

He’d commence to crank the handle of a tiny music player

And then the strains of Moonlight Sonata would drift upon the air

 

Somewhere from the blackness an apparition would appear

A radiant diaphanous figure who was draped in gossamer

She would float about the graves as little Mason Morbid crooned

“White Lady, white lady, tell me of your doom.”

 

“It was in the dead of winter and the snow was falling down

Like little drops of clouds to form a blanket on the ground.

The people of the village were all huddled with each other

And the young Reverend Smithe had stopped by to pray for Mother.”

 

“He sat and read his Bible and then he joined us in our meal

Then he told my worried Father how his faith would help her heal.

He was smitten by my beauty and I was taken by his charm

Before I knew what happened, he had lured me to the barn.”

 

“The passions of the flesh overcame the strictures of the mind

The reverend’s Puritan values gave way to pleasures for a time.

I was left defiled and the guilt would take its toll

Darkness and depression were like weights upon my soul.”

 

“Consumed by misery and ashamed for being so beguiled

But the real scandal was when I found that I was with child.

And all about the gossip started that descended upon me

The Reverend Smithe could not be charged, it must be sorcery.”

 

“They drug me through the village with curses that were vile,

Accused me of witchcraft and held a mockery of a trial.

And so it was, betrayed, abused and blighted in the soul,

I was made to pay the reverend’s sin on the rope of the gallows’ pole.”

 

Little Mason Morbid heaved a heavy sigh of grief

The White Lady’s tragedy was sad beyond belief

He watched her go back to her grave then he mused aloud,

“Life is futile and so unfair, and we are wrapped within her shroud.”

 

The Creepy Scientific Explanation Behind Ghost Sightings

Here are a few links to some great tips for writing horror!

Hellnotes

The Feckless Goblin

Horror Factor

Initially, our research was conducted in our offices. We conducted interviews on patients in order to find the right candidates and fully informed them of the nature of our research into paranormal encounters. After gaining the consent of 21 patients, we began our research by using electromagnetic frequencies while patients were hooked up to an EEG machine.

The results were horribly inconclusive. In Matt’s eyes the results were an utter failure. So we decided to try new methods. Again we met with poor results. This cycle continued until we found ourselves slipping closer and closer into Moody’s original methods. Finally, one day Matt came into my office and announced that he was beginning the renovations to Shockley House.

“It has to be done, Keith. We need the right environment in order to prime the patients. The office here is just too clinical an environment for a ghost sighting.”

Three months later the work was done and the house was refurbished throughout. We were ready to begin with a new batch of eight patients who would be living in the house for a two-week “retreat”. Matt had finally convinced me to keep the real nature of our research from these patients while the experiments were conducted. Gradually, ever so slightly, we had acquiesced on protocols to the point that were now duplicating Moody’s research almost exactly.

We hired on for the staff two nurses, a housemaid who handled cooking and laundry, and a technician to assist with the EEG and EMF machines. Matt and I worked the day shifts and the two nurses were to work the night shifts.

On the third day we still had nothing significant to report. I left for the evening and was awoken in the middle of the night by my phone. I was met with the frantic voice of Nurse Stephenson.

“Dr. Ballinger! You must come quick! Dr. Remy and a patient are fighting!”

“Edith? What are you talking about?”

“Dr. Remy stayed late after you left and apparently tried a procedure on Meagan.”

“A procedure?”

Then there came an awful yell from somewhere in the background and the line went dead. I dressed as fast as I could while trying to call back Edith. She didn’t answer so I tried Matt. There was no answer from his cell either. As I ran out of my house to the car I found myself confronted with a hellish thunderstorm. I was thoroughly soaked by the time I unlocked my car and jumped into the seat.

It’s a wonder I even made it to Shockley House with the storm raging, my car speeding, and me trying to frantically call Matt, Edith, and Mary, the other nurse. No one answered and a feeling of dread began to settle over my rain-drenched body.

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When I pulled up to the house the first thing I noticed was how dark the place was. The storm had obviously taken the power out. Lightning cut through the sky followed by a cacophonous boom of thunder. In the brief moment of illumination I saw that the front door stood wide open. I rummaged through the glove compartment and found the small emergency flashlight and then I stole my nerves, took a deep breath, and ran for the house.

No sooner had I made it to the steps than I saw Donald, one of the psyche patients in our experiment, ambling across the yard. I called out to him but he was unresponsive. I ran over to him and was taken aback by the expression on his face. The poor man was in a daze. His features were vacant and his eyes glazed. He acted as if unaware that the rain was pelting his face. He was mumbling something I couldn’t make out.

I tried to talk to him but it was useless. I managed to hold him by the arm and guide him to the back seat of my car. “Wait here Donald,” I said even though I knew he didn’t hear me. It was then that I was able to discern what he was mumbling.

“It’s always watching me. It’s always watching me. It’s always watching me. . . .”

I shut the car door and made my way to the front door again.

The house was dark and quiet. I played the flashlight over the front room but saw nothing. “Matt!” I yelled into the darkness. “Hello! Matt! Are you there? Edith! Mary! Hello!” Nothing.

I started towards the old office of Dr. Moody. Then a blood curdling scream split the silence from somewhere above me. The flashlight beam shot up the stairs just in time to see a shape flying towards me. By the time I realized what it was the body landed head first on the first few stairs with a sickening crack.

I rushed over to the body and rolled it over. It was Mary; one of the nurses. Her head was flopped over to one side and blood was coming from her nose, mouth, and ears. She had broken her neck upon impact against the angulated stairs. The worst part was her eyes. They were wide open staring into oblivion but still held a look of horror; as if she had seen something so terrible that it froze her expression even after death. I checked her pulse to ensure she wasn’t still somehow alive. Nothing. I stood up and a wave of nausea hit me. I had to rush back out into the rain and vomit.

bloody_nurse___blood_spills__by_mariemystery-d4qakho

I wiped the foul taste from my lips and pondered calling the police but just then a scream from the upstairs grew in volume over the din of the storm. I rushed back inside and made my way upstairs calling for Matt once more.

When I reached the landing at the top of the stairs I paused, scanning the hallways with the flashlight beam. There was no movement anywhere. And then I caught a faint light coming from one of the patient’s rooms. Slowly I walked down the hallway straining to hear if there was any movement within. Reaching the door, I shined the light into the room. The room was empty of people but it was in complete disarray. The bed sheets were strewn about and equipment of various types were knocked over. The light emanated from a digital camcorder mounted on a tripod. I recognized it as the one Matt and I used to film various interactions with patients.

I pressed the menu button in order to retrieve the last video clip. I pressed play and watched. The clip began with a shot of the room less than an hour prior. Meagan, one of our patients, appeared in the clip strapped to the bed. Her wrists and ankles were secured in leather straps, but most disconcerting of all was that her head was immobilized. She was struggling against the restraints, obviously panicked by what was taking place. She was screaming and kept crying out “No, Dr. Remy! No! No, Dr. Remy! No!”

Then Matt’s back appeared in the frame as he approached the bed from the angle of the camera. I could see that he held instruments in his hands. He reached the bed and then crouched over her head. As he turned to gain a better angle above her head I caught a look at his face. It was somehow not right. It was and wasn’t Matt all at the same time. Something in his features had contorted. Then he said in an angered voice, “I told you! It’s Dr. Moody; not Dr. Remy!”

Then he lifted the instruments and I realized what they were. In one hand was a mallet and in the other was an orbitoclast, an instrument used in transorbital lobotomies. He placed one into her eye and began to pound. Meagan began to scream a tortured wail that shot ice through my body.

Suddenly the room’s light changed. It was the flicker of lightning followed by a clap of thunder. Then the lights went out in the room. The last image the camera caught was a mysterious figure materialize from the wall behind Matt.

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I stood perplexed; in shock about the meaning of the film; about what in the hell to do next. What happened? Where were Meagan and Matt now? Where were the other patients? Where was Edith? My thoughts fumbled over each other in a blind chaos of adrenaline fueled madness. Then I heard a long scrape followed by a thump from up above and it repeated ever so slowly again. And again.

While I stood listening and trying to interpret the nature of this sound another sound came from down the hall. It was a moan. A pitiful, sorrowful moan as if someone was sobbing. I inched my way to doorway and called softly, “Hello? Who’s there?” The light shot down the hallway and illuminated a crouching figure in the corner. They faced the corner and it was impossible to tell who it was from just the hump of their back but I believed it was Demetrius, another one of our patients.

I walked slowly whispering his name, “Demetrius. It’s alright Demetrius. It’s me, Dr. Ballinger.” As I reached him I could tell from the back of his head that I was right. It was Demetrius. He didn’t respond to his name, though. He just shivered and kept sobbing. I reached out and touched his shoulder. He jerked as if hit with a Taser and looked up in stark, naked terror. He was pitiful to behold. His eyes were hollow and spittle ran down his chin. A long, pathetic moan crawled from his idiot mouth. The poor man was worse off than Donald.

As the moan died away my attention once again locked onto the slow scrape-thump coming from upstairs. I made my way back to the steps and probed the darkness above. The only thing up there was the thing that I always found the most ominous about the place – the octagonal room that brooded over the whole house like a lurching vulture.

Slowly I mounted the creaking stairs. Millions of years passed as my heart thundered in my chest. I reached the first landing and turned to make my way up the final set of steps. Shining the light up above I saw what made the noise. It was Matt Remy hanging from the rafters by a rope about his neck. At his feet sat Edith, her lunatic features distorted into a look of sheer madness. She turned towards me and began to cackle an insane gurgle of laughter as she continued to push Matt’s legs, swinging him like a child swings its dolly. His feet scraped the wooden floor and then he thumped into the wall only to return to her for another push. The worst part of the whole daemonic show was Edith’s eyes. Protruding from each socket was a bloody, gore-encrusted orbitoclast.

THE END

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In order to gain some insight into Moody’s methods, I’ll give here the story of one of the case files which he cited in his treatise. The patient was only referred to as Marla; most likely a fake name used to protect her real identity. Marla presented to Moody as a patient suffering from numerous personal issues that she felt were keeping her from leading a normal, healthy social life. She was neurotic and suffered from chronic anxiety and depression. She struggled with both personal relationships and professional relationships, having been through many boyfriends and jobs. The catalyst for her seeking Psychiatric help was a nervous breakdown.

After several weeks of sessions, to include some sessions of hypnosis, Moody determined that her neurosis was rooted in her feelings of guilt towards her father. Marla’s father was a stern man who was mentally abusive in how he manipulated Marla’s emotions. Marla and her father’s relationship was horribly strained up until her early 20’s. He was heavily controlling and she rebelled against his attempts to control her so thoroughly but he would always manage, in the end, to force her to feel guilty about her behavior. Usually this would end in him drinking too much and breaking down into a drunken fit of apologies and entreaties for her to understand that his actions were out of love and not out of malice towards her.

Marla’s mother had left her husband when Marla was just a small child and there were also issues of guilt associated with Marla not feeling like she was good enough for her mother’s attention and approval. Marla’s mother had died several years after leaving of some unknown reason and had been so estranged from her ex-husband and daughter that Marla had no real closure with her mother. Marla had no siblings.

Marla tried to distance herself from her father once she reached her 20’s but he would always manage to call or contact her, usually in a fit of drunkenness, begging for her assistance and playing upon her guilt. At one point Marla met a man and they dated for several months in which time Marla had, through a struggling willpower, managed to avoid her father and his antics. Tensions built to ever increasing extremes and her boyfriend began to grow tired of the inconvenient intrusions of Marla’s father.

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One night, he drank himself into an uncontrollable rage that led him to Marla and her boyfriend’s doorstep. Marla and her father argued in the front yard, screaming at one another, and causing such a commotion that Marla’s boyfriend had to intervene. The old drunk became ever more belligerent towards the young man until the argument became physical. This escalated quickly out of control and suddenly Marla’s father attacked. In his liquor-addled brain, however, he was too dull of sense to find his mark and the boyfriend found a rock and crushed the old man’s skull. He fell dead.

The authorities arrived and the boy was immediately charged with murder. The outcome of the trial was that he was found guilty and the man was given a life sentence for his crime. The relationship between Marla and her boyfriend ended as well.

Marla was left feeling like she was the cause of both her father’s death and her boyfriend’s incarceration. The guilt plagued her for near 20 years at which time she found her way into Moody’s care at the age of 41.

Marla was also a semi-religious person, not devout but open to the idea of a supernatural reality. Dr. Moody took her feelings of guilt and her open mindedness towards the supernatural as traits he felt would be a perfect fit for one of his test subjects.

Moody’s experiment entailed subtlety in causing Marla to be haunted by one type of “The Guilty Haunting”. He could never overtly persuade her to believe she was being haunted, though. In order for his theory to work, he could only expose her to the right symbols that would push her to believe some type of apparition was haunting her.

The first thing Moody did was to convince her to move into Shockley House for a short period of time. Having her as an inpatient would allow him more control of her care and her environment as well as more ability to observe her.

The room Moody prepared for Marla was carefully decorated to include a large, dark portrait of a man with an intense gaze whose eyes seemed to follow you no matter where you moved in the room. There were many other lesser pictures, but all contained subjects whose eye produced a similar such optical illusion. The room was also painted and decorated with darker colors with the lights engineered in such a way that the room was only ever dim at best.

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The real priming of Marla’s psyche took place in the one-on-one sessions with Dr. Moody. During these sessions Moody steered Marla into conversations about her relationship with her father and why she felt his judgment still held sway over her life. Each week there were also sessions of hypnosis; in these sessions Moody would help her connect the symbols of judging eyes with her guilt. Of course, Marla would have no memory of what was discussed while she was under hypnosis. And, while Moody did allude to judging eyes always upon her, he never told her directly that she would see any ghosts or mysterious figures stalking her.

Finally, after nearly two months, Moody’s efforts paid off. Marla was found early one morning in the living room looking quite haggard and obviously shaken. Moody brought her into his office and during this session Marla became emotional and began sobbing. Marla told Dr. Moody that she needed to leave Shockley House but would not articulate exactly why. Moody had to coax her for quite some time till she finally revealed that she had seen a shadowy figure several times in the house. The first time she saw it was at the end of the darkened hallway as she was walking from the bathroom to her room across the hall. She described the figure as a tall, dark figure with pale eyes intensely staring at her.

She quickly ran into her room and convinced herself that she had only seen a trick of the shadows in the hallway. It was many nights later that she saw it again and this shook her up so bad that she began to suffer from insomnia. The room became an intolerable place for her. The previous night she had awoken to see the figure standing in the corner of the room watching her. This is why she was found in the living room.

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After this success, Moody convinced Marla to remain in his care but agreed that it would be better for her to move out of Shockley House. His treatment plan for Marla took a different direction after this. He stopped focusing on the symbols that encouraged her guilt and began to treat her in a manner that removed those guilty feelings.

This particular case was an example of a very successful case. Not all cases progressed in such a fluent manner. In some cases it took more time to yield results. In other cases Dr. Moody eventually resorted to medications. Generally, he tried not to augment the treatment with drugs, but was willing to do so when results were not forthcoming. And finally, in yet other cases, there were no results at all.

Most unusual of all, though, was how the cases took a dramatic turn towards the end of the research. Just before Dr. Moody committed suicide, the patients began to experience extreme hauntings much more easily than prior patients. This anomaly was quite inexplicable to Matt and me until our own research struck a similar crescendo of terror.

Looking back upon this now, I expect some might see with clarity the unethical aspects of Moody’s research. Keep in mind that in his day, such experimental techniques would’ve been considered normal fair. Also be aware that our research took a slightly different approach in which the ethical concerns were addressed. Still, considering the unintended course things took, our naiveté is no excuse for inflicting such horrors as resides in Shockley House upon anyone. And, while I stand guilty, it was poor Matt who paid the ultimate price with his life just as his forebear, Calvin Moody, did.