I couldn’t resist throwing in one last Poe Sunday before officially ending the Halloween 2021 season.
Poe created the modern detective story by creating many story elements that other writers would use in their own writings. He was the first author to leave clues for readers to pick up on, and the most significantly, Poe was also the first to create a recurring sleuth character in C. Auguste Dupin, a man of superior intellect and keen sense, who solves the mystery by analyzing the facts of the case through the power of observation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle admitted to being heavily influenced by Poe, as his own masterful creation of Sherlock Holmes, shared many of the same qualities with detective Dupin.
On Sundays, we celebrate the Master of Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe
Fun Fact: Readers of the day were so horrified by the story’s violence, they complained to the editor of the Messenger, the first magazine to publish Berenice. Poe himself later removed 4 paragraphs of text, thus, many early publishings are missing the detailed heinous act of Poe’s story.
Poe was angry at being forced to self-censor his own work, believing a story should be judged solely by how many copies it sold.
On Sundays, we celebrate the Master of Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe
Fun Facts: Poe himself had an obsessive fear of being buried alive do to catslepsy, a state where someone occasionally falls completely still and is unable to move or speak. There were a few cases of it happening during Poe’s lifetime that made the papers. No doubt those stories left a huge impression on the author.
On Poe Sundays, we celebrate the Master of the Macabre, the grandfather of gothic fiction, writer-poet extraordinaire Edgar Allan Poe.
Fun Fact: Despite that readers the worldover consider the narrator to be male, there is no gender specified in The Tell-Tale Heart, thus, some critics have taken up the point that the narrator may in fact be a woman.
I’ve compiled a list of great holiday horror and Halloween books that your favorite Halloween and horror fan will love this Creepmas. I live in Los Angeles area so some of my suggestions reflect my current location, but free feel to check local bookstores in your area. Happy Holidays!
I know 2020 put a damper on our Halloween celebrations this year, which only means we should come back hard in 2021. This book is full of ideas and DIY designs to help get us ready for the perfect party next year!
This LA Times Bestseller, which topped all the 2019 ‘Best Of’ lists, uncovers the mysterious life of former Disney animator, Milicent Patrick, the only woman in history to create a Hollywood classic movie monster.
I absolutely fell in love with this beautiful, bright, fully-color collection of vintage Hollywood movie posters. It’s a great read for film lovers and filled with the history behind some of Hollywood’s best classic horror and sci-fi movies.
I predict once this pandemic is over, travel will come roaring back to life and 2021 will be the perfect time for a paranormal adventure. This awesome read breaks down what to expect when you visit some of America’s most haunted bars, breweries, wineries and more!
Poe Sundays are all about honoring the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Black Cat can be a tough read for many, as there’s quite a bit of animal cruelty, but that does play a part in the story and why it’s considered one of the most frightening short stories ever written. This blog does not condone the act of animal cruelty, nor do I believe that was the author’s intention.
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe (published 1845)
For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not — and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified — have tortured — have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror — to many they will seem less terrible than barroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place — some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and, in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point — and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto — this was the cat’s name — was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character — through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance — had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me — for what disease is like Alcohol ! — and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish — even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning — when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch — I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)
Poe Sundays are all about honoring the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Fall of the House of Usher is considered by many critics to be Poe’s gothic masterpiece. Despite never learning the name of the story’s narrator, we come to quickly trust his well-observed eye and candor about the events experienced during his journey to visit Roderick Usher, a boyhood friend, of whom he has not seen in quite some time. It begins with an epigraph from French poet Jean Pierre de Beranger, which translates to “His heart is a tightened lute; as soon as one touches it, it echoes.” The narrator wastes no time in suggesting to his audience that Usher and the crumbling mansion share the same doomed fate.
Son cœur est un luth suspendu; Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne. De Béranger.
DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down—but with a shudder even more thrilling than before—upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.
Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to myself a sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions in boyhood; but many years had elapsed since our last meeting. A letter, however, had lately reached me in a distant part of the country—a letter from him—which, in its wildly importunate nature, had admitted of no other than a personal reply. The MS. gave evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily illness—of a mental disorder which oppressed him—and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best and indeed his only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his malady. It was the manner in which all this, and much more, was said—it was the apparent heart that went with his request—which allowed me no room for hesitation; and I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singular summons.
Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and habitual. I was aware, however, that his very ancient family had been noted, time out of mind, for a peculiar sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages, in many works of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds of munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily recognizable beauties, of musical science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain. It was this deficiency, I considered, while running over in thought the perfect keeping of the character of the premises with the accredited character of the people, and while speculating upon the possible influence which the one, in the long lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the other—it was this deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and the consequent undeviating transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the “House of Usher”—an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family mansion.
I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish experiment—that of looking down within the tarn—had been to deepen the first singular impression. There can be no doubt that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition—for why should I not so term it?—served mainly to accelerate the increase itself. Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law of all sentiments having terror as a basis. And it might have been for this reason only, that, when I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy—a fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed me. I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity—an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn—a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.
Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.
Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the house. A servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence, through many dark and intricate passages in my progress to the studio of his master. Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. While the objects around me—while the carvings of the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebony blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy—while I hesitated not to acknowledge how familiar was all this—I still wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary images were stirring up. On one of the staircases, I met the physician of the family. His countenance, I thought, wore a mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity. He accosted me with trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open a door and ushered me into the presence of his master.
The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around; the eye, however, struggled in vain to reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.
Upon my entrance, Usher rose from a sofa on which he had been lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which had much in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality—of the constrained effort of the ennuyé man of the world. A glance, however, at his countenance convinced me of his perfect sincerity. We sat down; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher! It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the man being before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity;—these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity.
Poe Sundays are all about honoring the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Masque of the Red Death is perhaps one of my favorite stories. The visually striking story was written in such detail, it’s as if we are transported to the 14th Century Europe.
The magnificent concept artwork below was created by Sarah Kate Forstner. If you click the pic to link to Art Station, you’ll see even more stunning art that she created to accompany this beautiful masterpiece.
“THE “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avator and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death.””
The above is only an excerpt from The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. To find out what happened next to Prince Prospero and his lavish masquerade, please visit PoeStories.com
All works by Edgar Allan Poe are widely considered to be public domain.
The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly challenged Halloween 2020. In many parts of the USA, events have been canceled or scaled back, which means, no trick-or-treating, no public haunts or mazes, no festivals or parades, and no big parties.
Now, I’m not telling anyone how to spend their time nor how to celebrate the holiday. I’m simply saying that Halloween at Home can be a fun and safe alternative to going out during the Covid-19 epidemic. So, if you’re looking for ideas to make your Halloween night in more fun, please keep reading.
Halloween Camp-Out (Family)
This Halloween night, we’ll be able to bask under the blue moon like werewolves do! Now, whether you go camping in the woods or camp out in your own backyard is up to you. Just be sure to watch out for the creepy critters, flying witches, vampire bats, and Sasquatch.
Build a ghost fort outside (tent, tarp, cardboard, ghost clothing, you decide)
Play card games
Make shadows puppets
Read/Tell spooky ghost stories
Don’t forget to look up and howl at the full moon
Halloween Pinata (Family)
If your little ones are disappointed there’ll be no trick-or-treating in your neighborhood, try getting them a Halloween themed pinata. They can beat the pulp outta it and get their frustrations out. Kidding! Big kids should get their own pinata. No, kids love collecting and finding candy! It’s just as simple as that. Once that pinata bursts, they’ll be so happy to fill their bags with the sweet stuff, they’ll forget all about trick-or-treating.
Halloween candy, trinkets, and toys to fill the pinata (Try spider rings as a trick)
A baseball bat or something to hit the pinata
Halloween Jigsaw Puzzle Party (Family)
Jigsaw puzzles are the perfect indoor/rainy day activity. They’re super fun, and a great way to destress. In fact, puzzles help us cope with anxiety, depression, and stimulate cognitive activity. So, if you didn’t jump on the bandwagon when the lockdowns started happening back in March, now is your chance.
Any puzzle will do, but since it’s Halloween, why not get a Halloween themed puzzle? Check the links below for suggested retailers.
Another fun perfect way to spend the evening with family. Again, any board games will do, but Halloween/monster-themed games are best. You could also try spooky versions of old favorites.
What you’ll need:
(Halloween) Board Games
Suggestions: Clue: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, It, Scooby-Doo, Supernatural, etc. Monopoly: It, Nightmare Before Christmas, Scooby-Doo, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, etc. Scooby-Doo: Betrayal at Mystery Mansion Trivial Pursuit Horror Edition (for Adults) Villainous (Disney) The Walking Dead Board Game
Halloween Relay Games (Family)
The internet is filled with ideas for indoor/outdoor relay games and races. Below are some of my favorites. Don’t forget the Halloween prizes or ribbons for winners and participants.
Mini Pumpkin Races
Not all mini pumpkins are cut from the same gourd. Some are much faster than others. Use masking tape to make a relay track with start and finish line. From the start line, roll your pumpkin. The first pumpkin to reach the finish line, wins!
What you’ll need:
Eyeball Spoon Race
Just like a traditional egg and spoon race, kids balance the eyeball on the spoon and try to get to the finish line first. Use music as a greenlight/redlight for more ghoulish fun.
What you’ll need:
Bobbing for Donuts
Now, this one can get messy, so make sure you lay down some covering or have your broom or vacuum handy. Hang donuts from a string/twine. Try different heights for added fun. The first to finish eating their donut wins! Works best with cold or firm donuts.
What you’ll need:
Tape if don’t have a way to tie the string
Halloween Scavenger Hunt
Why should the Easter Bunny get all the fun? Hide mini-pumpkins or various objects around the home or yard, then sit back, and sip Halloween margaritas, while the kids hunt for their candy. Easy peasy.
What you’ll need:
List of items for each player to find (optional)
Halloween candy, mini-pumpkins, trinkets, and toys to hide
Good hiding places
Host a Themed Movie Marathon in the Dark (Teen/Adult/Family)
Choose a theme you want to explore (Halloween family, paranormal, zombies, Universal monsters, etc.) and pick out 4-6 of your favorites or never seen before movies to watch alone or with friends for a watch party. Check out my picks for scariest movies to watch on Halloween night
There is nothing scarier than reading a scary book on Halloween night, in a dimly lit room, with atmospheric music in the background. Don’t believe me? Try one of the best horror books on Refinery 29’s spooky reading list and tell me how it goes.
Halloween Dress-up/Dance Party (Teen/Adult)
All dressed up and nowhere to go? Well, that’s why the world wide web was invented! Seeing as most people will be stuck at home this year, I suspect there will be no shortage of online costume contests, virtual dance parties, and ‘show us your costume’ requests on social media. Beware of pervs and internet demons.
Between wishing complete strangers a Happy Halloween, changing costumes, showing off your smart phone’s Halloween filters, and blasting your Halloween playlist loud enough to wake the dead, that should pretty much take up the whole night.
Lights-out Dinner Party* (Adult/Family)
Ever seen those Dining in the Dark events that are supposed to introduce you to the dark, sensory experience? Well, this is basically a mini home version of that. Same experience, without the hefty bill. For home servers, I think the trick is to set the food on the table so you know where everything is before sitting down eat, but there are several methods. Go check out Delishably’s great article with suggestions on how to enhance your dark dining experience.
What you’ll need:
Halloween themed Food/Drinks
Plate covers or tin foil to cover plates of food
Disposable/Plastic dinnerware (Let’s be honest, things could get messy.)
Patience and a sense of humor
Hallo-wine Party* (Adult)
The boo’s are the best part of Halloween! Oh, were you thinking ghosts, cuz I was talking ’bout the vino!
Set up wine stations in different areas of the room/home and rotate periodically, ensuring each person has a chance to taste wines. Try to pick new wines or wines you haven’t drunk before. Then, dim the lights, put on a spooky playlist, and have fun!
Remember to wear a mask when not eating/drinking, and social distance as much as possible.
What you’ll need:
Wine – If everyone brings a bottle, that’s at least six different wines to taste.
Cheese, crackers, fruit, bite-size desserts, other Halloween snacks
Mini pencils/slips of paper (tasting slips) for people to rate wines
Halloween jar or bowl for the tasting slips
Halloween décor & lights
Halloween Playlist or Halloween background videos, movies, 3D Effects, etc.
Halloween Drive-up Experiences (Adult/Family)
Covid-19 isn’t scaring some folks. There are a number of Haunters across the USA that plan to host a drive-up experience throughout the month of October. Below are some links to events in SoCal. Check your local listings for such events in your area.