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.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Get a scary 15% off my equally scary books at Barnes & Noble

Get a scary 15% off my books through Sunday, October 26th. Online use coupon code: JP4KGWP3JPAGF  A best bet for Halloween is 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849.

An anthology finalist award winner in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a Gothic Readers Book Club Choice Award WinnerThe Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 delivers 12 of the greatest horror stories for the first half of the 19th century.

Andrew Barger, author of the award winning Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life as well as Edgar Allan Poe Annotated and Illustrated Entire Stories and Poems, read over 300 horror short stories to compile the 12 best. At the back of the book he includes a list of all short stories he considered along with their dates of publication and author, when available. He includes background for each of the stories and author photos. A number of the stories were published in leading periodicals of the day such as Blackwood's and Atkinson's Casket. Read 6a66le:The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 tonight!
  • 1836 The Old Man's Tale About the Queer Client by Charles Dickens (1812 -1870)
  • 1817 The Deserted House by E.T. A. Hoffmann (1776 - 1822)
  • 1836 The Minister's Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864)
  • 1843 The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
  • 1830 The Mysterious Mansion by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
  • 1828 The Severed Hand by Wilhelm Hauff (1802 - 1827)
  • 1826 The Lighthouse by George Soane (1789 - 1860)
  • 1842 The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
  • 1832 The Executioner by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
  • 1832 The Thunder-Struck and the Boxer by Samuel Warren (1807 - 1877)
  • 1845 The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
  • 1839 The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination" at the British Library

The British Library is doing what hundreds of other libraries around the world should be doing this time of year. It is hosting "Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination" that focus on the literary Gothic.

The exhibit contains rare manuscripts of fragments of the literary Goth over the past 250 years. It is running now until January 20, 2015 and sure to feature some of the scariest short stories ever penned in the English language.

If you are near London, you have to pay it a visit!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Did Edgar Allan Poe Have a Favorite Ghost Story?

Poe was a connoisseur of the supernatural. As the author of Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life, I am sometimes asked if Poe had a favorite ghost story.

Truth be told, Poe was quite clear on his favorite ghost story--or at least his favorite by an American, which I believe is a dig at Charles Dickens and his bias toward British literature. The pick is also, perhaps a dig at Washington Irving whose "The Legend of  Sleepy Hollow" and "A Tale of the German Student" (both included in the best ghost stories anthology for the first half of the 19th century) branded him the best American ghost story writer during Poe's day.

The ghost story is by William Gilmore Simms and is titled Murder Will Out. It was published in The Gift during 1842. I don't, however, agree with Poe since I placed it in spot 35 in my Top 40 countdown of the scariest ghost stories from 1800-1849. This is what Poe had to say about the scary ghost story in his review (published posthumously in 1850) of Simm's collection of short stories: "The Wigwam and the Cabin."

     All the tales in this collection have merit, and the first has merit of a very peculiar kind. “Grayling, or Murder will Out,” is the title. The story was well received in England, but on this fact no opinion can be safely based. “The Athenæum,” we believe, or some other of the London weekly critical journals, having its attention called (no doubt through personal influence) to Carey & Hart’s beautiful annual “The Gift,” found it convenient, in the course of its notice, to speak at length of some one particular article, and “Murder Will Out” probably arrested the attention of the sub-editor who was employed in so trivial a task as the patting on the head an American book — arrested his attention first from its title, (murder being a taking theme with a cockney,) and secondly, from its details of southern forest scenery. Large quotations were made, as a matter of course, and very ample commendation bestowed — the whole criticism proving nothing, in our opinion, but that the critic had not read a single syllable of the story. The critique, however, had at least the good effect of calling American attention to the fact that an American might possibly do a decent thing, (provided the possibility were first admitted by the British sub-editors,) and the result was first, that many persons read, and secondly, that all persons admired the “excellent story in ‘The Gift’ that had actually been called ‘readable’ by one of the English newspapers.”

Now had “Murder Will Out” been a much worse story than was ever written by Professor Ingraham, still, under the circumstances, we patriotic and independent Americans would have declared it inimitable; but, by some species of odd accident, it happened to deserve all that the British sub-sub had condescended to say of it, on the strength of a guess as to what it was all about. It is really an admirable tale, nobly conceived and skilfully carried into execution — the best ghost-story ever written by an American — for we presume that this is the ultimate extent of commendation to which we, as an humble American, dare go.

The other stories of the volume do credit to the author’s abilities, and display their peculiarities in a strong light, but there is no one of them so good as “Murder Will Out.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Metamorphosis by Kafka and His Family

To me, at least in his later years, Franz Kafka was our whiny man of literature. This is never so true as when he berated his family during the time of Metamorphosis and his portrayal of his family's treatment of him in the scary short story. Where is the thanks and gratitude?

One of the best things about Kafka, however, are his quotes on literature. Consider this one he wrote when 20 years old to his friend Oskar Pollak in January of 1904:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What was the first out of body experience story?

Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845)

One of the first short stories in the English language to feature an out of body experience is A Singular Passage in the Life of  the Late Henry Harris D.D. The early horror story was published in Blackwood's Magazine by Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845). This is little surprise given the many early scary tales Blackwood's published by authors mostly in the UK.

Without giving too much of this excellent story away, the protagonist finds her "spirit" teleported to another place where she does not want to be with people she would rather avoid as they practice their dark arts. Published in 1831, this story is ranked 35th in the Top 40 horror short stories from 1800-1849. Still, it is well worth a read to learn about the dark secret of this scary short story.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ring Up 15% Off My Scary Books at Barnes & Noble This Weekend

Score 15% off my scary books at Barnes & Noble through Sunday, May 4th by using coupon code: MJ64ACYYD36YS at checkout.

A best bet is the best ghost stories book, Phantasmal: The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849, the classic ghost short story collection I edited.

Or, if you are not in the mood to be scared, try out Tolstoy's short stories book, Leo Tolstoy's 20 Greatest Short Stories Annotated. You can't miss.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New Poe Statue in Boston with Tell-Tale Heart Feature

Any attention brought to Poe is much needed in this country, over two hundred years after the birth of one of its greatest and most mysterious authors. That's why I was glad to hear about a new Poe statue.

The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston has commissioned a statue of Poe that is shown in their photo above. It features poe in his trademark cravat, carrying his valise that oddly has a heart spilling out the back of it in remembrance of "his most famous short story" The Tell-Tale Heart. In my view The Fall of the House of Usher is Poe's finest short story (and scariest short story), but hey. In the foreground of the statue is, of course, a raven modeled after his famous poem that is still read today in schools throughout the world.

Read more about it in the Boston Magazine.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Coldplay's New Album--Ghost Stories--Drops in May

Coldplay's new album is called "Ghost Stories"and it drops in May. Let's hope some of the yet to be released songs draw from some of the best ghost stories in the English language. That would be scary. The first song is called "Magic" and you can watch the first video from the album below.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Vampire Short Story Set in France - Pepopukin in Corsica

Arthur Young (1741-1820)

What was the first vampire short story with a setting in France? In the English language it appears to be "Pepopukin in Corsica," published in 1826. It was in a British rag called The Stanley Tales. The author was only attributed to A.Y. and in The Best Vampire Stories anthology I edited, I give reasons why I think the author was Arthur Young who was an English writer that travelled extensively in France. He died in 1820, so it had to be published posthumously.

"Pepopukin in Corsica," was published for the first time in 175 years in BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Short Stories 1800-1849. It tells of scary vampires having claws and crushing bones. There is a nice review of the vampire tale over at the Taliesiin Vampire Blog.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Commentary on The Black Vampyre Short Story

There is a fine commentary on "The Black Vampyre" short story over at the Taliesin scary vampire blog: that I included in The Best Vampire Stories anthology.

I liked it so much I left a comment. Check it out.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who was the First Englishman to Write a Vampire Short Story?

The first Englishman to write a vampire story was John Polidori. He was a physician and traveled with Lord Byron as his personal doctor. He was with Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley when they made their famous dare about who could write a supernatural story. Mary, of course, would go on to write Frankenstein and Percy had nightmares about his tale, as recounted in BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Short Stories 1800-1849. Lord Byron started a fragment that he never finished. Polidori wrote "The Vampyre" in 1819 and in it he included Lord Byron as the evil vampire Lord Ruthven after a bad falling out with Lord Byron. Now that is scary.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Scary Short Story "Azra'eil & Fudgie" is Free This Weekend on Kindle

My short story Azra'eil & Fudgie is free on Kindle through January 19, 2014. A little scary action on Valentine's Day, anyone?

In "Azra'eil & Fudgie" a group of marines stationed in Afghanistan meet a cute little girl who is not all that she seems. This only adds to the tension for Private Fudgerié ("Fudgie") who is on his first mission to diffuse IED roadside bombs that the team calls "skulls". The question is, can Fudgie overcome the demons of his past and those of the present to triumph in the ever shifting sandscape of Afghanistan?

Download it now by clicking on the link above. I hope you like it.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Get 15% off my scary story books through Sunday January 2nd at Barnes and Noble online

A Superbowl Sunday for scary books! Get 15% off my books through Sunday January 2nd at Barnes and Noble online. (Andrew Barger books at Just use coupon code: 5B63U2CQNTQ61

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Happy 205th birthday to Edgar Allan Poe - The Great Scary Short Story Author

Happy 205th birthday to Edgar Allan Poe!

“Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me from the path. I shall be a litterateur, at least, all my life; nor would I abandon the hopes which still lead me on for all the gold in California.”

FEBRUARY 14, 1849”

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Shifters: The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849 is a Gothic Readers Choice Award Winner

By Gothic Readers Book Club on January 2, 2014
Although lycanthropy and shapeshifting legends have existed for countless centuries, werewolves are not considered a staple of the Gothic literary tradition. Editor Andrew Barger gives us evidence to the contrary with his collection of the best of the wolf stories from the early modern period. Many of these stories have not been republished in over 150 years. There are more than just ghosts and vampires lurking in the 1800s!

If You Like: Edgar Allan Poe, Honor de Balzac, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Prosper Mrime, James Hogg.