Aura, Carlos Fuentes
If you’re a Poe or a magic realism fan, don’t miss this gripping novella about a man who accepts a mysterious job Read the rest of this entry
For an early-winter chill, read Matt Hoffman’s “Bro,” now up at Read Short Fiction: http://www.readshortfiction.com/2011/11/bro-by-matt-hoffman/
If I make any comments about this story, it will spoil it. What I will say is that if you enjoyed Poe’s “William Wilson,” and the last scene in Drag Me to Hell terrified you, then you’ll get chills reading this. If you’d care to know why I loved this story so much, my comments appear at the end of the story.
October may be a strange time to choose to put GhoStory Guru on hiatus, but this month, I decided to do a special five-part series on Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the real ghost stories that may have inspired some of its scenes. The series runs every Monday, and on Sunday, October 30, 2011, I’m releasing a never-before-published short story from the original Tales from Haunted Disney World collection called “Grave Error,” written just for Haunted Mansion fans.
Here are the links to episodes #1 – #4 of “A Lit Look at the Haunted Mansion.” Enjoy, and visit this blog on Sunday, October 30 for that Halloween Treat!
A “Lit” Look at Disney’s HauntedMansion: The Cemetery’s Caretaker & Dog http://wp.me/pIXRs-Y1
A “Lit” Look at Disney’s HauntedMansion: The Attic’s Portrait http://wp.me/pIXRs-Y7
A “Lit” Look at Disney’s Haunted Mansion: The Skeleton in the Coffin http://wp.me/pIXRs-Yd
A “Lit” Look at Disney’s HauntedMansion: The Changing Portrait Hallway’s Ghost Ship http://wp.me/pIXRs-Yk
On Saturday I met my friend Rachel Kovaciny for our monthly writing date. When she arrived, she reached into her pocket and extracted a black silk pouch. “I saw this and I said, ‘Kristi has to have this!’”
Inside the bag was an oval pendant containing a miniature version of the Brady Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe.
“For your birthday,” she said, “I’m giving you a man who won’t break your heart.”
Interesting comment. Poe certainly had his share of romantic heartbreak—his beloved, young wife Virginia died of tuberculosis (we need only to read his two-line lament “Deep in Earth” to understand just how inconsolable he was). But most people forget that Poe had quite a failed love life both before and after his wife. He returned from the University of Virginia to find his childhood sweetheart engaged to someone else; he shared an “intensely emotional friendship” with “Fanny” Osgood, but she went off with Poe’s rival; both Marie Louise and Helen Whitman, briefly Poe’s muses, turned down his marriage proposals; he fell in love with Annie Richmond, who was married and unattainable. And there were a few more.
I admired the pendant. No matter which way I shifted my palm, Poe was looking at me—in fact, he was never going to not be gazing at me. He couldn’t look away from me any more than he could’ve looked away from his loves long after they were gone. After all, Poe’s horror stories didn’t necessarily deal with haunted houses or objects, but with haunted people. People who couldn’t escape their pasts or their broken or unrequited loves. “Ligeia,” “Berenice,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Morella,” and “Eleonora” in particular feature men who are haunted by their lost lovers. In the scarcely-mentioned “The Oval Portrait,” it’s a woman whose love isn’t returned.
Poe wasn’t the only writer who did this. There are, perhaps, hundreds of ghost stories by others out there that deal with those haunted by lost or broken love—one of my favorites is David Huddle’s “The Day Ghost”; another is Kipling’s “The Phantom Rickshaw.” And it’s interesting to note that Sting’s song “Ghost Story,” which appears on his Brand New Day album, has nothing to do with the paranormal—it’s a lament for a broken romantic relationship.
In short, when a love-bond breaks, probably the last place we’d think to seek comfort is in a ghost story. But it’s worth considering. Ghost stories can be reminders that we aren’t alone in our intense suffering—and that if we don’t let go, we may be doomed.
A friend sent me a video of empty chairs on his back porch in the rain. He told me he’d left them sitting there in the same position for nearly a year—even through the winter—because it had been a favorite hang-out of his and someone who’d left his life, and he missed her, so he couldn’t bear to move them.
Sounds like the makings of a good ghost story.
 Since there are several well-known daguerreotypes and portraits of Poe, it took me awhile to track down which one was in the pendant. Thankfully, the Spring 2009 Issue of Richmond, Virginia’s Edgar Allan Poe Museum Newsletter, Evermore, happened to feature the perfect match in one of its articles entitled “Rare Early Poe Photos on Display”:
 “Deep in earth my love is lying/And I must weep alone.” According to a note in Poems & Tales of Edgar Allan Poe at Fordham: “‘Deep in Earth’ was presumably written after Virginia Poe’s funeral in February, 1847. It was found in the manuscript of “Eulalie,” a poem about a happy marriage. (See Mabbott).” Elizabeth Beirne, ed., Poems & Tales of Edgar Allan Poe at Fordham (New York: The Bronx County Historical Society, 1999), 3.
 Jeffrey Meyers, Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy (New York: Rowman & Littleman Publishing Group-Cooper Square Press, 2000), 29.
 Ibid., 174
 Ibid., 208
 Ibid., 224
 Ibid., 237
 “The Day Ghost” by David Huddle is available in the anthology Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers, edited by Robert Weingarten. It’s available for purchase here: http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Writing-Haunted-Contemporary-Halloween/dp/096796833X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274227370&sr=8-1
 A short summary of the plot of “The Phantom Rickshaw” can be found here: http://www.kipling.org.uk/rg_phantom1.htm. The full text is available here: http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/kipling/Phantom-rickshaw.pdf.
It’s also interesting to note that in an article in the October, 1999 issue of the South African magazine SA City Life, Mike Behr writes: “’Ghost Story’, one of ‘Brand New Day’s’ most poignantly beautiful tracks, is all about processing painful memories of the past. (It’s very possibly a love song to his father.) ‘That’s what ghosts are,’ says Sting. ‘They haunt you until you acknowledge them. The song is about being haunted on a nightly basis by the past that tortures you mentally until you say, OK, this is the truth now let’s move on.’” You can read the full text of that article, “Sex, Lies, and Media Tape…”, here: http://www.sting.com/news/interview.php?uid=3754
My short story “Smoke Brake” is now available in Issue 16 of The Legendary.
I feel privileged to have this piece—which I wrote five years ago—not only in the ’zine, but in its special Poe-dedicated issue: Editors Jim Parks and Katie Moore ran a Poe Contest for Fiction a few months back, with the winning entries published in this edition. While I didn’t enter—I didn’t have anything that wasn’t a reprint which would have filled the bill—it’s how I found out about The Legendary in the first place, as I frequently Google all things Poe.
The point of the contest was to write something inspired by Poe’s work—dealing with his most prevalent themes or echoing his style. The guidelines are long-gone now since the contest is over, but I do remember them making reference to Poe as the “father of the modern short story,” which I’ve often thought—and others have, too—he was.
I’ve read the winning stories and will re-read them when I’ve got time to look at what the writers were referencing in Poe’s work. The one that is my favorite—probably because it deals with one of Poe’s themes that I often play with—is Jess Dunn’s “Little Yellow Sundress,” which received Honorable Mention.
Given my love of Poe’s work, there’s no more appropriate home for “Smoke Brake.”
*Special Note* The April 20, 2010 Issue #16 of The Legendary in which this story appears is no longer available online. I’ve published a special PDF version that you can download, print or read by clicking here: Smoke Brake-The Legendary. For everyone’s convenience, I’ve also added this to my Read My Work page. Enjoy! –KPS 6-5-10