Sunday, August 23, 2015

Horror Book Heat Map

Above is a heat map showing where my books sell in the United States, with a few caveats. The first is that it is where my physical books sell, not ebooks. I sell about 20% more ebooks that physical books. The second is that it is only sales via, which is where I got the heat map. As a free service to its authors, Amazon publishes sales data through its Digital Text Platform.

It is surprising to me that Boston does not rank higher on the list. Boston does, after all, claim Edgar Allan Poe as it own. I have edited a number of Poe books and his annotated scary stories appear in 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849.

To the fine (and intelligent) Andrew Barger readers in Los Angeles--thank you very much. The same goes for New York and D.C. and Chicago. You are a good-looking bunch of intellectuals!

#BookHeatMap #AmazonDTP #AndrewBarger

Saturday, July 11, 2015

First Use of Hell's Bells in Literature

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

On a rainy day last weekend I was sitting around with nothing much to do and I started thinking about the origins of a now common term--hell's bells--thanks to a ringtone I heard go off. I began wondering from whence it came. And having the sometimes curse of a quizzical nature, and much time on my hands, I set about to find out.

For the risk of sounding like the title of an Ayn Rand novel, we the living have heard the popular AC/DC rock tune "Hell's Bells." Surely AC/DC was not the first to use the phrase. Like many classic terms and phraseologies, I knew it had to come from literature. But when?

The Bible tells us hell is a place of eternal damnation where the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched. That doesn't sound like a place that has chiming bells. I also knew that I did not uncover the first use in my research on Dante's The Divine Comedy for The Divine Dantes trilogy.

My guess was that it came out of nineteenth century literature; perhaps by Edgar Allan Poe. I reread his poem "The Bells" and it was nowhere to be found. I finally found it used in an unexpected place. I was right about it being in the nineteenth century, but I expected it from a horror author, perhaps in a scary short story.

Instead, I found it used by Thomas Moore (a very un-horror writer) in his "Tom Crib's Memorial to Congress," published in March 1819. Tom Crib was a well-known pseudonym of Thomas Moore, who was an Irish entertainer and poet. His memorial poked fun at an inept congress and included the following great lines:

Seeing as how, I say, these Swells
  Are soon to meet, by special summons,
To chime together like “hell's bells"

And there you have it. The first use of "hell's bells" in literature was not by Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. It was by an Irish poet named Thomas Moore.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Middle Unearthed: The Best Fantasy Short Stories Interview with Andrew Barger

Interview with Andrew Barger (June 22, 2015)

Q: As one of the ten best fantasy short stories for this period you picked one by Elizabeth Ellet, yet none by Edgar Allan Poe who did not hold her in high regard. Do you think Poe is rolling over in his grave?
A: Rolling? More like doing back flips against the lid of his coffin. I just like Ellet's witch story. It's a tight little thing and although Poe has more literary props in his little finger, Ellet seems to have beaten him in this genre for only this one fantasy story. She does admit that the general story idea, however, was based off fantasy legend.

Q: Fantasy has a broad meaning today. What types of stories did you exclude from consideration?
A: I have already edited the best horror, ghost, vampire, werewolf and science fiction short stories from 1800-1849, which can be found at It is those genres--or sub-genres--that I excluded.

Q: Modern readers may be surprised that Charles Dickens wrote a fantasy short story.
A: "The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton" is thought by many to be a precursor to A Christmas Carol because the goblins meet a certain grouchy sexton on Christmas Eve. Dickens's movements through time are unique for this time period. It was also surprising that Dickens had a story that rose to the level of those found in 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849.

Q: What is the oldest fantasy story in the collection?
A: "Rip Van Winkle". Washington Irving published it in 1819 and in it he gives the American Revolution special treatment. It is not a pure time travel story, but close to it.

Q: Was there any fantasy story you had never read that surprised you because of how good it was?
A: That's an easy one. Without question "Lilian of the Vale" by George Darley surprised me at how well it was written. Edgar Allan Poe even referenced it. Given its depth of character and storyline, to me it is the cornerstone of all modern fairy stories.

Q: No collection of fantasy stories from 1800-1850 would be complete without one by Mary Shelley.
A: You know, I am not a big fan of Mary Shelley stories and while I think Frankenstein was groundbreaking, it is not my favorite Gothic novel. Dracula far outshines it on every level and still puts chills sprinting down my spine. Bram Stoker, of course, had Frankenstein as a stepping stone, but it was a small one. I did include "Transformation" by Mary Shelley. It is her best fantasy short story, though her writing can be a little too dramatic. 

Q: Were any other fantasy stories based on legend?
A: Many of them started as legend and tradition seeds. They grew like kudzu from there. "The Doom of Soulis" by John MacKay Wilson, recounts a haunting legend of a wizard, much like Elizabeth Ellet did in retelling "The Witch Caprusche."

Q: Do any of the fantasy stories pull from the work of other authors in the collection?
A: "The Kelpie Rock," by Joseph Holt Ingraham, draws on the prior writings of Washington Irving in the Hudson River Valley while giving the world one of the best fantasy stories by an American during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Q: What is your favorite fantasy short story in the collection and why?
A: If I have to pick among my babies, I would have to say that "The Dwarf Nose" by Wilhelm Hauff is my favorite. There are better written stories in the collection from the perspective of big words, but this enchanting tale by Hauff excels in character generation like no other. In Germany it is a popular children's story to this day, but limiting it to a mere children's tale is selling the short story . . . well . . . short. The underlying meaning behind the story, which is set forth in the footnotes, is genius. 

#BestFantasyStories #BestFantasyShortStories #BestFantasyBook

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Middle Unearthed: The Best Fantasy Short Stories 1800-1849 is Published!

There has been amazing news in the book publishing world in 2015. It seems that every month we learn of another new book by a famous author, which has been discovered and will be published for all the world to read. First we heard about the great J.D. Salinger and his rumored five novels that he wrote for so many decades in obscurity at his modest home in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Next, a prequel of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird titled Go Set a Watchman was announced. How the book was found and whether Lee wanted it to be published are the source of a Southern-fried controversy. Then it was announced that a new book by none other than the long deceased Dr. Seuss is on its way to children everywhere. It’s being called What Pet Should I Get. “But wait, there’s more!” the chintzy infomercial’s tell us.

If these announcements weren’t enough to titillate the interest of bibliophiles everywhere, we find out that more than 100 years after Queen Victoria’s death that stories she wrote as a child will be published. There is no end to the literary surprises popping up in 2015.

What’s next, a new scary short story from Edgar Allan Poe? A forgotten werewolf story by Alexander Dumas? A lost fantasy story by Mary Shelley? Well . . . in a way, yes!

Legion are the people who have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but few have read her short stories. I have opined that they fall (ahem) short of storyline and characters of her most famous novel, but she did pen an excellent fantasy story called the “Transformation.” It is just one of the Top 10 fantasy short stories I uncovered from the first half of the nineteenth century:

2015 Middle Unearthed, an Introduction — Andrew Barger

1836 “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” — Charles Dickens

1839 “The Kelpie Rock” — Joseph Holt Ingraham

1831 “Transformation” — Mary Shelley

1819 “Rip Van Winkle” — Washington Irving

1824 “Lilian of the Vale” — George Darley

1835 “The Doom of Soulis” — John MacKay Wilson

1827 “The Dwarf Nose” — Wilhelm Hauff

1829 “Seddik Ben Saad the Magician” — D.C.

1845 “The Witch Caprusche” — Elizabeth F. Ellet

1837 “The Pale Lady” — George Soane

They are included in my new classic anthology, Middle Unearthed: The Best Fantasy Short Stories 1800-1849. Before there were lovable ogres named Shrek and a quizzical boy wizard named Harry Potter, there were these groundbreaking fantasy stories that laid the foundation of so many great works to come. This annotated collection is on sale now at $12.99 for the book and $3.99 for the ebook. Read these stories from Middle Earth of fantasy writing today.

Buy the Book
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Waterstones 

Buy the E-book
Apple iBookstore | Kindle | Google Books | Nook

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On Self-Destructing Books and the Permanency of Art

Recently, James Patterson announced the sale of his new book that would self-destruct within 24 hours. The details were scant as to how, exactly, it would destroy itself, but the joke remains: "Don't we wish all James Patterson's books would self-destruct?"

The real issue here is the permanency of art. How long should it be around? How many times should the public be able to enjoy it before it returns to dust? If a sculptor creates a bronze bust of scary short story writer Edgar Allan Poe, they want the sculpture to last as long as possible and be enjoyed by everyone. If a sculptor enters a sandcastle competition on Siesta Key Beach, they know the public will only enjoy it for a weekend, tops. The same goes for sidewalk chalk artists. They have a few days or until the next hard rain or flock of loose-boweled birds fly overhead to have the world enjoy their art. No one could reasonably argue that the sculptor of bronze is more of an artist than the sandcastle sculptor or sidewalk chalk artists just because her art is more permanent.

Being a fiction writer and editor, I feel that books should be less permanent. Somewhere between 24 hour, self-destructing books and those we have with us from 2000 years ago, books should vanish back into dust. The ideas in the books and their characters should not go on living in the minds of readers, but the physical copy of the book should vanish sooner than later.

Of course many people see a painting or a bronze sculpture. But what about live art; performance art from playwrights and ballerinas? The consumers of this art buy a ticket, see the play and the art lives on only in the consumers' minds.

The businessperson inside me doesn't like selling one copy of a book that can be passed around for the next decade or two, falling in and out of the hands of hundreds of readers who have never paid me a penny for the entertainment they are about to enjoy. The money, these days, goes to Amazon and Ebay and a host of other online etailers that resell books--not the artist.

I wish (selfishly) that books were the same. If only an ebook could erase after one read and a physical book should self-destruct after one read, too. James Patterson should get to work on that issue. Meanwhile, I will keep slugging away at the keyboard.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"The Field of Terror" Scary Short Story by Baron Friedrich de la Motte Fouqae

Baron Friedrich Heinrich Karl De la Motte Fouquâe (1777-1843)

In 1827 the German author Baron Friedrich la Motte Fouquae published a fantasy story called "The Goblin of the Field" or "The Field of Terror." It is an excellent scary story for the first half of the nineteenth century, but failed to reach the level of the tales I picked for 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1850. Enjoy!


IN A FERTILE district of Silesia [European region located primarily in Poland] situated at the foot of the Ogre mountains, [Eiger Mountain ofBernese Alps] a party of relations were collected together, a short time before the peace of Westphalia, [Series of Geman peace treaties that ended the Thrity Year War in 1648] for the purpose of dividing the property of a wealthy farmer, who had died without children, and whose large estates lay scattered about in the neighboring country. In furtherance of this object, the several claimants were assembled in the principal inn of the village, and the adjustment of their respective shares would soon have been brought to a conclusion, but for a small estate, which common report had endowed with singular qualities, and which was called the “Field of Terror.”
It lay amid the surrounding fields, covered with flowers, and an abundance of rank and luxuriant shrubs, which, while they bore ample testimony to the vigour and fertility of the soil, were equally indicative of the neglect, and desolation, to which it was abandoned. For a long seriesof years, no ploughshare had penetrated its surface, no seed had been cast on its furrows; or, if at intervals the attempt was made, the cattle had been invariably seized with phrenzy, had wildly broken from the yoke and the plough-men and hinds, had rushed from the spot in fright and alarm, affirming, that it was haunted by the most terrific phantoms, who followed the laborer in his duties with a kind of awful familiarity, looking over his shoulders in a manner which no human understanding could bear, and which nothing could prevent from producing delirium and madness.
The question now in dispute was, who should receive this more than suspicious field, as a part of his inheritance. Every man seemed to think, as is the common course of the world, that this self-same spot, which would be useless and of no possible value in his own care, might be extremely applicable, and even advantageous, to his neighbor; and thus the contest, for its right appropriation continued till a late hour of the evening. At length, one of the party proposed a remedy, which, though not directly benefitting any one present, seemed to promise a settlement ofthe dispute.
“By a codicil in the will,” he said, “we are enjoined to show some mark of kindness, to a poor relation of the testator, who lives hard by in the village. It is true, the girl is very distantly related to us; and there can be no doubt that portionless as she is, she will yet procure a warm man for her husband, for she is a clever, frugal lass, and the people call her the pretty Sabina. Suppose, we give up this Field of Terror to her. We will at once get rid of the testator’s injunction; and to say the truth, it is no inconsiderable gift, provided she gets a husband who knows how to go the right way to work with it.”
The others immediately consented to this proposal, and one of the relatives was dispatched to announce the gracious benefaction.
In the meantime, as the twilight began to descend, somebody had knocked at Sabina’s door, and to her question of “Who’s there?” a reply was given, which had the instant effect of withdrawing the bolt of her little bedroom window. It was a voice long and anxiously sighed for, the voice ofher faithful Constantine; who, poor as herself, had two years before joined a regiment on foreign service, in the hope of facilitating a union with his beloved Sabina, whose heart filled with the purest affection, was entirely devoted to him.
It was a beautiful sight to see the joy which lighted up the lovely countenance of Sabina, as her eyes diffused in tears, her face covered with smiles, appeared through the winding branches of columbine which grew before her cottage, and, as the erect and youthful soldier gazed upon her in modest silent bliss, and extended towards her his faithful hand.
“Oh! Constantine,” she exclaimed, in a low and bashful tone of voice, “heaven be praised, that it has sent you once more home again, and living. This has been the burden of all my evening and morning prayers, even when you may not have succeeded in obtaining the hoped for fortune.”
“As for fortune,” replied Constantine, as he shook his head and smiled, “that indeed wears but a very indifferent aspect. Still, it is better than when I went away, and if you but feel courage enough for the undertaking, I fancy we may yet be married, and manage to get through the world in tolerable decency.”
“Faithful Constantine!” ejaculated Sabina, “thus to connect your happiness, with the fortunes of a poor deserted orphan!”
“Come!” my love, said the ardent soldier, “if you can but trust me, say so. Give me at once your consent to our union. I assure you, things will not run so badly with us; we shall be happy in each other, and, with such a foundation, we may yet live like princes.”
“And have you obtained your discharge? Are you really no longer a soldier? Is the war at an end?”
“Why as for that,” rejoined her lover, “the matter, at present, is hardly decided in either way. The peace is not in fact concluded, but then, the war is quite at a stand; and on this account, my colonel has thought it right to disband his regiment.”
Sabina now extended her hand to her eager lover, in all the joy of youthful, ardent affection, and permitted her future bridegroom to enter the cottage. The youthful pair were speedily seated, and Constantine informed his mistress, that he had obtained his small stock of wealth from an Italian prisoner, whom he had captured on the field of battle, and who had paid this, as the price of his liberty and his life. Sabina, as she turned her wheel, listened with deep attention to her lover’s recital, bestowing, from time to time, a smile of fond approbation upon his conduct; and inwardly rejoicing, that no reproach could hereafter be thrown upon their slender means, thus honorably acquired.
Their conversation was now interrupted by the appearance of the messenger, dispatched by Sabina’s relations. Covered with blushes, and in a faltering voice, the modest girl presented her destined bridegroom to the stranger; and the latter replied:
“Why then, it would seem, as if I had been sent most opportunely; for if your betrothed lover has brought no very considerable share of wealth with him from the wars, the addition which I am commissioned to offer, in the name of the collected heirs to your relation’s property, cannot but be a welcome gift; and it was indeed enjoined us, by the testator’s will, that we should remember you in a handsome way.”
There was something too much of arrogance in the manner in which this piece of good fortune was tendered, to please the lofty spirit ofConstantine. But the humble Sabina, wholly ignorant of the mode in which her relatives had evinced their generosity, received the communication as a special interposition of Providence, and could only hold down her head, while her face was covered with a smile of heartfelt, grateful joy. But, as soon as she heard that the Field of Terror was the promised boon, with which her claim was to be liquidated, the base injustice of her relations pressed to her heart, with a painful sickening coldness; and she felt it impossible to restrain the overflowing tears of disappointed hope. Her relation, with a smile of half-suppressed contempt, expressed his regret, that she should have allowed herself to expect more than her friends had thought right to allot her.
“And indeed,” he observed, “this is a much larger proportion of the inheritance, than you could fairly hope to receive.”
With this speech, he was about to retire, but Constantine threw himself in his way; and with that intrepid coolness, which so frequently attends a mind conscious of its own superiority, he said: “Sir! I perceive, that you and your fellows, have been pleased to convert the benevolent intentions of the deceased, into mere derision and mockery; and that it is your joint resolve to withhold a single shilling of his property, from the worthy girl who is now my bride elect. We will still accept your proffered boon, in the full confidence, that, under the guidance of Heaven, this dreaded Field of Terror, may be productive of more advantages in the hands of an honest soldier, than can enter the imaginations of such a groveling, selfish set of poltroons.”
The messenger, who felt rather uneasy at the tone and manner assumed by the young soldier, did not hazard a reply; and with an altered countenance, hurried out of the cottage.
Constantine now kissed away the tears from Sabina’s cheeks, and hastened on the wings of joy, to fix with the curate, an early day of marriage.
After a few weeks, Constantine and Sabina were married; and entered upon their humble mode of house-keeping. The money brought from the wars was chiefly expended in the purchase of a fine yoke of oxen; part of the remainder was invested in seed and necessary articles of household furniture; and the rest reserved for daily expenditure to be doled out in the most economical manner, till the harvest of the succeeding year should replenish their stores. But, as Constantine drove his cattle and plough to the field of labour, he looked back on Sabina with a smiling countenance, and assured her, he was now going to sow the real seed of gold, which another year would restore with two-fold bounty. Sabina could only follow him with her anxious looks, and wish, in her heart, that he were once safely returned from the detested Field of Terror.
It is true, he returned home, and that long before the vesper-bell [Bell rang by Catholic priests to summon the congregation to church for prayers in the early evening] had sounded; but far from being so joyful, as in the native confidence of his heart, he had promised himself in the morning. He dragged laboriously after him the fragments of his shattered plough; before him paced with difficulty, one of his oxen sorely maimed; and marks of blood were seen on his own head and shoulder. But he bore up under his numerous misfortunes, with a sound and even cheerful heart; and consoled with undiminished spirit, the grief of his weeping Sabina.
“Come,” he said, with a smile, “get your pickling tubs in order; for the goblin who reigns in the Field of Terror, has made us a present of a large quantity of beef. The beast I brought home with me has so injured himself in his phrenzy, that he will never more be fit for labour; and, as for the other, he darted off into the mountains, where I had the joy of seeing him cast himself into the torrent, from whence he will never again make his appearance.”
“Oh, my relations! My wicked relatives,” sobbed the disconsolate Sabina. “They have not only deprived you, by their pernicious donation of the little property for which you so sorely travailed; but they have also covered you with wounds, and crippled your strength.”
“That is an affair of but little consequence,” rejoined the intrepid Constantine. “The beasts managed to get me between them, just as their fury had reached its summit; and I was determined not to relinquish my hold. But, Heaven be praised! Things might have gone a great deal worse with me; and in the morning, I will be in the field again.”
Sabina used every means in her power, to dissuade her husband from his resolution; but he only replied, by saying; that so long as he could move an arm or a leg, the field should not lie idle.
“If we cannot plough it, we will dig it; and I am no timid beast of labor, but a tried and dauntless soldier, over whom a goblin can have no power.” He now slaughtered the wounded ox; cut it in pieces; and, on the following morning, while Sabina was busied in preparing it for pickle, pursued his road of the previous day, scarcely less alert and cheerful than then, though now obliged to handle the hoe and spade, instead ofguiding his oxen, and well mounted plough.
This time, he returned rather late in the evening, rather pale and exhausted; but full of spirits, and soon capable of tranquilizing his agitated wife.
This kind of labour makes one weary,” he said, with a smile; “for there is a sort of goblin fellow who stands constantly beside me; sometimes in one form and sometimes in another, and mocks me both with word and deed; but he seems to feel no little surprise, that I give no heed to his pranks; and, it is this which fills me with fresh courage. Besides, these kind of creatures have no power over an honest man, who is laboring in his vocation.”
This continued for many days together. The persevering Constantine, pursued, without interruption, his daily labour of digging, sowing, and eradicating the weeds and useless plants which had overspread the field. It is true, the slow process of the spade, only enabled him to cultivate a small portion of the estate; but this served to make him the more zealous and industrious in his occupation; and he, at length, saw a crop spring up, which promised, and eventually produced, a sufficient, if not an abundant harvest. Even the toil of reaping, and transporting it from the fieldto the barn, was thrown entirely upon his own shoulders; for the laborers in the vicinity would not have engaged, for any consideration, in spending a day upon the dreaded Field of Terror; and he would, on no account, permit Sabina to lend her assistance, since her advanced state ofpregnancy, led him to hope for that increase of his family, with which she shortly presented him.
The child was born, and in three years an addition was made of two more, without any change in the worldly circumstances of Constantine. By perseverance and undiminished zeal, he continued to force from the fearful Field of Terror an annual extension of produce, and thus redeemed his pledge to Sabina of bringing her through all her difficulties like an honest man.
One evening in autumn, as the shade of night began to set in, and Constantine was still busied with his spade, a tall robust man, of unusual size of limb, black and sooty as a charcoalburner, and holding a furnace poker in his hand, appeared suddenly before him, and said: “Are there no cattle to be had in this part of the country that you labor away with your two hands? One would suppose, by the extent of your landmarks, that you were a wealthy farmer.”
Constantine was perfectly aware of the stranger’s character, and treated him in the same cool way with which he usually received the goblin ofthe field. He remained silent, endeavoured to withdraw his attention from the figure before him to his work, and labored on with double application.
But the swarthy visitor, instead of disappearing as was the usual practice of the goblin to present himself again in a more frightful and alarming form, remained where he stood, and in a friendly tone continued: “My good fellow, you are doing both yourself and me injustice by this line of conduct. Give me an honest and candid answer. Perhaps I may know of a remedy for your ills.”
“Well then,” rejoined Constantine, “in Heaven’s name be it so. If you should but cajole me with these friendly words, the fault will be at your door and not at mine.”
With this he began to relate the whole story of his adventures since he had taken possession of the field. He gave an undisguised recital of his first distress, a faithful representation of his just and honest indignation against the goblin who haunted his property, and detailed the difficulty he found under such continual interruption and provocation, of supporting his family by the mere application of his hoe and spade.
The stranger gave an attentive ear to the narrative, seemed lost in thought for a few minutes, and then broke forth in the following address:
“I see, my good fellow, that you know who I am; and I look upon it as a proof of your frank and manly disposition, that you have made no concealment, that you have spoken out boldly of the displeasure you entertain towards me. To say the truth, you certainly have had sufficient cause; but in thus putting your mettle to the test, I will make a proposal which may indemnify you for a good deal of the past. It sometimes happens that, when I have fairly exhausted myself in wild and fantastic tricks, through wood, and field, and mountain, I begin to fancy I should like to attach myself to some quiet family, that I may live for half a year or so, a peaceful orderly life. What do you say to taking me for six months as your servant?”
“It is not right, from people of your sort,” said Constantine, “to pass your jokes on an honest man, who reposes confidence in you.”
“No! No!” replied the other, “there is no joke in it. It is my serious intention. You will find in me a sturdy, active servant; and, as long as I live with you, not a single spirit or spectre will venture to show himself on the Field of Terror, so that you may admit whole herds of cattle to brouse on it.”
“I should like the thing well enough,” rejoined Constantine, “if I were but sure that you would keep your word; and above all, that I were doing right in making the engagement.”
“That must be your own affair,” said the stranger; “but I have never broken my word since these Ogre mountains have stood, and a mere creature of evil and malice I certainly am not. A little merry and wild and mischievous sometimes I own—but that is all!”
“Why I almost believe,” said Constantine, “that you are the celebrated Number-nip.” [Spirit of the Eiger Mountain in Silesia]
“Harkee!” cried the stranger, with a frown, “if that be your opinion, I would also have you to know, that the mighty spirit of the mountains cannot endure that name; and that he calls himself the Lord of the Hills.”
“That would be an odd sort of a servant whom I must call my Lord of the Hills;” said Constantine, in a tone of raillery.
“You may call me Forester then,” rejoined his companion. Constantine looked awhile on the earth, pondering on the course he should adopt, and at length exclaimed:
“Well! Agreed! I can hardly do amiss in accepting your services. I have often seen a poor senseless brute drilled into domestic use, by carrying parcels, turning spits and other household duties—why not a goblin?”
His new servant burst into a hearty laugh at this observation, and said: “I must acknowledge such an estimate was never before made of one ofmy family. But I am not the less pleased with it, so give me your hand my honoured master.”
Constantine made a further condition, that his new servant was, on no account, to inform Sabina or the children of his connexion with theField of Terror, or rather of his descent from the caverns and shafts of the Ogre mountains; nor was he, on any occasion, to exhibit any of his fearful goblin tricks about the house or courtyard; and, as Forester promised all that was required of him with every token of good faith, the bargain was soon at an end, and they now proceeded home.
Sabina, after a time, wondered at the increasing prosperity of their domestic economy; and was not wholly free from feelings of secret dread at their swarthy gigantic assistant. At first the children never ventured outside the door, when they perceived him at work in the yard or garden; but, by degrees, his friendly industrious habits gained upon them all; and when he occasionally indulged in a fit of fantastic merriment, by chasing the dog or the poultry round the house, it was considered more amusing than surprising; and a single look from Constantine was, at any time, sufficient to bring him within the proper limits of order.
In full reliance on the promises of the mountain spirit, Constantine applied the slender savings of many years to the purchase of a fresh yokeof oxen; and with his newly amended plough drove to the field in the highest glee. Sabina looked after him with an anxious sorrowful countenance, and with an equally anxious mind awaited his return in the evening, fearing a renewal of the same disaster, the same disappointed hopes, or that his personal injuries, this time, might be more dangerous and alarming than before. But with the sound of the vesper-bell, Constantine came singing through the village, driving his sleek well fed yoke before him, kissed his wife and children in the fulness of his joy, and shook his servant cordially by the hand.
Forester now frequently went to the field alone, while Constantine remained behind working in the yard or garden. A considerable piece of theField of Terror was cleared for cultivation; and, to the great astonishment of the village neighbors, and the equal discontent and envy of Sabina’s selfish relations, everything assumed an air of prosperity and comfort. It is true, Constantine, when alone, often reflected that all this could be butof short duration, “and Heaven knows” he exclaimed, “how I will manage with the harvest; for Forester’s time will then be out, and the goblin of thefield may choose to appear with replenished spirits.”
But he considered that the gathering in of the crop was a labor which, of itself, gave additional vigour to the workman’s arm and heart; and it was possible that Forester, for old acquaintance sake, might keep the land free from guests; as in fact, at times of cheerful relaxation, the latter seemed to imply.
In the course of time, the needful labors of the field were completed. Winter arrived, and Constantine daily drove to the forest for a stock of fuel and wood. On one of these days it so chanced that Sabina was entreated to visit a poor widow in the village, who lay dangerously ill; and whom, as far as their increasing means admitted, Constantine and his wife, had been accustomed to relieve. She was at a loss at what to do with the children during her absence, but Forester offering his services, with whose stories the children were always delighted, and with whom they were ever pleased to remain, she proceeded on her charitable purpose without further hesitation.
About an hour after her departure, Constantine returned from the forest; and having disposed of his waggon in the barn, and prepared the stall for his cattle; he proceeded towards the house to revive his numbed and frozen limbs by the blaze of a cheerful fire. On approaching the door, his ear was saluted by a cry of painful distress from his children. He darted into the house, and, on entering the sitting-room, found the children hidding behind the stove, and crying out for help, while Forester was wildly jumping about the room with shouts of violent laughter, making the most hideous and disgusting faces, and with a crown of sparks and fiery rays playing about his head.
“What is all this?” Constantine said, in a tone of indignant anger, and the supernatural decorations of Forester’s head disappeared; his fantastic merriment instantly ceased, and he began to excuse himself with great humility for thus trying to amuse the children. But the children ran towards their father, complaining that Forester had first of all told them a number of horrific stories, and then he assumed a variety of frightful disguises, sometimes appearing with the head of a ram, sometimes with that of a dog.
“Enough! Enough!” exclaimed Constantine. “Away, sir. Ah! You and I no longer remain under the same roof.” With this he seized Forester by the arm, and shoved him violently out of the house, desiring the children to remain quietly in the room, and to dismiss their fears.
Forester suffered all this without uttering a single word of expostulation; but, as soon as he found himself alone with Constantine in the open court, he said with a smiling countenance: “I hope, master, we will make the matter up. I know I have done a very foolish thing, but I assure you it will never happen again. Somehow or other the old mad fit came on me and I forgot myself.”
“For that very reason, because you can forget yourself,” rejoined Constantine, “we part. You might terrify my children into a frenzy, and, as I have said, our contract here terminates.”
“My time is not up,” said Forester, in a dogged tone. “I will go into the house.”
“Not a step further—at your peril!” cried Constantine. “You have broken the agreement by your cursed goblin tricks, and all that I can do is to pay you your full wages. Here, take it and pack yourself off.”
“My full wages?” said the mountain-spirit, with a sneer of bitter contempt. Have you never seen my stores of gold in the caverns of yonder hills?”
“I do this more on my own account than yours,” said Constantine. “No man will call me his debtor.” And so saying, he forced the money into his servant’s pocket.
“And what is to be done with the Field of Terror?” enquired Forester, in a solemn but almost ireful tone.
“That which it may please God,” rejoined Constantine. “Twenty fields of terror are of no importance to me in comparison with the safety of a single hair of my poor children’s heads. Take yourself away, or I will give you that, you will long have cause to remember!”
“Gently!” cried the mountain-spirit. “Gently! My friend. When any of my family condescend to assume a human form, they choose one of rather stern materials. You might chance to get an under birth in this same fray, and in that case Heaven be merciful unto you!”
“That it has ever been,” said Constantine, “and has also given me a frame of no slender power. Away to your mountains, disgusting monster! I now warn you for the last time.”
Excited by this reproach to a pitch of violent fury, Forester sprang on Constantine, and an obstinate fight ensued. They struggled about the yard for a considerable time, each using every means in his power to overthrow his adversary, without victory declaring herself upon either side; till at length Constantine, by his superior skill in wrestling, managed to bring his opponent to the earth, and having placed his knee on the chestof his fallen foe, began to pummel him most furiously, exclaiming: “I’ll teach you to attack your master, my precious Lord of the Hills.”
The Lord of the Hills, however, laughed so heartily at this address, that Constantine, conceiving his manly efforts to be the subject of derision, only laid on with redoubled vigour, till at length the former exclaimed: “For God’s sake, hold! I am not laughing at you, I am laughing at myself and I humbly beg your pardon!”
“That is another sort of affair,” said Constantine, as he rose up and assisted his conquered adversary to regain his legs.
“I have now learned what human life is, from the very foundation upwards,” said the latter, still continuing his noisy laughter. “I doubt if any ofmy kindred have ever pursued the study so profoundly. But harkee! My good fellow, you must admit that I carried on the war in an honorable way. For as you will see yourself, I might with ease have called in half a dozen mountain-spirits to my assistance, though amidst all this laughter, I know not how I should have set about it.”
Constantine with a serious air, now looked at the still laughing Number-nip, and said: “It is clear you must entertain a grudge against me, and this will not only be repaid me at the Field of Terror, but in many an evil chance elsewhere; still I cannot repent of what I have done. I have only exercised a paternal duty on behalf of my children, and were the thing to do over again, I should, on mature reflection, repeat it.”
“No, no!” said Number-nip laughingly, don’t make yourself uneasy. I have had quite enough for once. Cultivate the Field of Terror from year to year, at your own will and pleasure. I here pass my word that no fearful phantom will be seen on it from this day forwards, as long as the Ogre mountains stand. And so fare ye well, my honest, but rigid master!”
With this he gave a friendly nod of adieu, and disappeared; nor was he ever more seen by Constantine. But Number-nip kept his word, and even more. An unusual degree of prosperity attended all the labours of his former employer, and Constantine soon became the richest farmer in the village. And when his children were permitted to play in the “Feld of Terror”—a spot which both they and Sabina now visited without the slightest dread, they sometimes related in the evening that Forester had come to see them, and told them some of his former amusing stories. On such occasions they generally found their pockets filled with either comfits, [Sugar-coated nuts and seeds] toys, or pieces of shiny money.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Scary Way the Polish Buried People to Prevent Vampires

(NEWSER) – To make sure certain people didn't rise from the grave to feast on the living, villagers in 17th- and 18th-century Poland buried them with sickles across their throats or rocks in their jaws, and researchers think they now know why.
According to a study published in PLoS ONE, the suspected vampires were not immigrants to the area but locals who probably perished in the cholera epidemics that swept the region at the time. Ancient lore says being the first to perish in an epidemic is one of the things that can turn a person into a vampire, study co-author Lesley Gregoricka tells LiveScience.
"People were up close and personal with death at this point, but didn't have a good way to explain what was happening," she says.
"People of the post-medieval period did not understand how disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it were explained by the supernatural—in this case, vampires," says Gregoricka, a bioarchaeologist at the University of South Alabama, in a press release.
Dying a violent death or being an outsider also put one at risk of becoming a vampire, according to lore, but the bodies bore no signs of violence and testing revealed they were from the area. The sickles were in place to decapitate the body if it tried to rise, and rocks or bricks were placed to prevent them from feeding, the study says — though strangely enough, the "vampires" weren't segregated in the cemetery but were buried among other villagers.

Read the Best Vampire Short Stories for this time period.