Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nosferatu: A New Discovery

For many, the mention of the name Nosferatu invokes images of a German vampire film starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, which was released in 1922 under the full name, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. Although there's certainly a lot that can be discussed about that nearly 100 year-old film, it is not what I want to talk about in this week's post. Besides, I've been familiar with that particular vampire release for quite some time and therefore, didn't just discover it. Instead, I'm dedicating this post to a musical group that recently came to my attention.  

Thanks to a post I found last month on a website called Dark Side of the Net, I was pointed toward an entity known as Night Breed Radio, an excellent source of dark wave, Goth rock, industrial and electronic music.While listening in one day they played a song by a band bearing the name of Nosferatu and all I could think was, wow!  Within minutes I had sampled several more pieces of their material and these did nothing to lesson my enthusiasm for the group; if anything, I grew even more impressed. 

Nosferatu, a second-wave band, which heralds from the U.K.,was formed during the spring of 1988. It consisted of three original members, which included Damien Deville on guitar, Vlad Janicek playing the bass and Sapphire Aurora doing the vocals. At that time the small ensemble incorporated the use of a drum machine for percussive purposes. More recently however, it has employed the services of a live drummer and keyboardist.  Further, the group has gone through various personnel changes over the years and today, Deville remains the only original member of the group.

I could go on talking about how Nosferatu is one of the few British Goth rock bands to make it on t he charts in both the U.K. and Germany, or perhaps I could try listing some of their albums, of which Wonderland (2011) is the newest addition. The fact of the matter though, is that I really don't know all that much about them, what each CD sounds like, etc. Instead, I just like their music and that's why I want to give them mention here. Maybe some of you will check them out and will like them too. I do believe that they have turned out and are continuing to create some damn good Goth rock.

Check out Nosferatu's official website here.

Note: I do not own any copyright to either the music or any part of this video. I provide it under fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Raven: A Review of Sorts

On October 3, 1849 the great American author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe, was found on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland in a state of delirium. He was discovered by a man named Joseph W. Walker, who in a letter to a Doctor J. E. Snodgrass, reported Poe's condition in the following way

"There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan's 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, and  he says he is acquainted with you, and I assure you, he is in need of immediate assistance..."  

Poe was taken to Baltimore's Washington Medical College, where at 5:00 A.M. on Sunday, October 9, he took his last breath. 

That the famous writer drank excessively and used opium is a well known fact. Still, the actual cause of his death remains uncertain and speculation concerning the cause of his demise abounds. Some attribute his early passing to alcohol poisoning or disease. Another theory is that he fell victim to a practice called cooping, in which innocent people were kidnapped by corrupt political gangs. The victims were then beaten, given excessive amounts of alcohol and then forced to go from polling place to polling place in order to vote for persons supported by the gangs. 

What is known is that Mr. Poe was not wearing his own clothes at the time of his discovery; which incidentally, occurred outside the 4th ward polls on election day, a forum that served both as a bar and a place to vote. This lends credence to the cooping theory as it was a common practice to keep changing the victim's garments before forcing them to vote again. Additionally, the famous author was not able to describe what had happened to him due to his advanced state of delirium. Still, it's said that he kept repeating the name, "Reynolds," a reference to a manthe  no one was able to identify. 

Mr. Poe's life was not well documented and sadly, no official biography was ever written. It is said that he arrived back in Baltimore by mistake. Beyond that, the last days of his life are forever shrouded in mystery.  

I rarely go to the cinema these days, but after seeing the trailer for The Raven during the winter of 2011/2012, I intended to go attend one in order to see the film. Well, as it turns out, the movie didn't play here for very long and before I knew it, I had lost the opportunity to watch it when it was first released last spring. You can just imagine my elation then, when I found it in the DVD section a couple of weeks ago at the public library. 

There are a lot of good things I can say about the film, but what I love most about it is its own fictionalized but thoroughly believable account of Edgar Allan Poe's last days back in Baltimore. The screen play writers, Ben Livingston Hannah Shakespeare and director James McTeigue did a fantastic job of integrating what little is known about the writer's last days into the plot of this marvelous film. 

The story begins with a series of  gruesome murders carried out by a psychopathic serial killer. Police Inspector Emmett Fields (played by Luke Evans, quickly figures out that the first bizarre murders followed a method detailed in Poe's story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Edgar Allan (portrayed by John Cusack) is at first suspected and brought into the station for questioning. Soon it becomes apparent however, that he is not the killer and instead, some madman is both mimicking the gruesome murders from Poe's fiction and challenging the writer and Inspector Fields to figure out who he is and where he will strike next.

The film's pacing really picks up when Poe's childhood sweetheart with whom he had renewed a love relationship, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), is abducted from a ball thrown in her honor by her father. All I can say is, I was kept on the edge of my seat while Emily struggles for her life and Poe and the inspector struggle against time to save her. 

Now that I've seen the film to its conclusion, all I can say is, wow! It details the mysterious last days of Edgar Allan Poe in a manner that is totally believable. As a matter of fact, I find myself wanting to believe that this is how Poe's life really ended as it somehow, seems befitting a person with his imagination and creative stature. And who knows? Perhaps it really did happen like that! 



Monday, April 8, 2013


This post is dedicated to Sally. The truth of the matter is that I know hardly anything about her. About all I do know for sure is that her grave lies back in the nearby woods--abandoned, set several feet away from the other abandoned graves. But at least the others once had an enclosure of sorts--a fence defining a family plot. Sally's marker however, stands alone. It bears no last name and no epitaph. A shroud of mystery surrounds the person who once was known as Sally.

Some speculate that Sally departed this world as a child, but there's really no way of knowing. Still, an article written in the spring of 1951 by Walter J. Lemke, founder of the Washington County Historical Society, speculates somewhat on Sally's identity:

"I was about to leave the gloomy thicket when I spied a little headstone, all alone, almost buried under the creeper. I brushed the vines aside and read on the sandstone slab the single name, 'Sally.' I was still thinking of the unknown little girl when I passed the senator's grave on my way out of the historic but neglected graveyard."

Clearly, Mr. Lemke considered Sally a little girl, but his reference to her as "unknown" negates his very assumption. Interesting enough though, a partial restoration of the abandoned cemeteries was attempted during the winter of 2011 to 2012. The person who spearheaded the attempt had a ten year-old daughter, who I soon learned, had developed a fascination with Sally's grave. At the time, her father told me that the youngster was insisting that she had seen a little girl moving around the grave. After reassuring the young lady that I was open minded and wouldn't laugh at anything she wanted to share with me, she went on to describe what she saw--a blonde girl about her age who wore pigtails and clothing, of which after hearing her description, I can only describe as nineteenth century. Sure, kids have vivid imaginations but then again, are often more willing to accept things that we older people are likely to reject as foolishness or the products of active imaginations. So who knows?

On the other hand, Sally could have been a servant to the Walkers or one of the other wealthier families that existed here during the community's early days. During the same winter that the partial restoration took place, the University of Arkansas' archeology department conducted a survey around and in back of the abandoned graveyards in order to determine if there could be any former slaves buried there. While the survey was inconclusive, department representatives did place markers where various rock formations are situated. Personally, I'm a bit skeptical as these look like nothing more than rocks to me--and the Ozarks are filled with them. Either way, the university's efforts did little to explain Sally's presence back there in the woods.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine wrote a wonderful poem entitled The Forgotten Woman. It tells the story of a young lady who lived and loved, but who eventually came to be forgotten. That's how I like to think of Sally. Even though her life will likely, remain a mystery, I hope that during her time on this Earth, she lived fully and experienced everything that life has to offer, the bitter and the sweet, joy and sorrow. After all, without having experienced both, how can it be said that a person truly lived?

Most importantly, as long as someone, such as myself and now you, dear readers, are aware of her existence, Sally will not be completely forgotten.

Read The Forgotten Woman

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Tell-Tale Heart

It's a cold and rainy day here on East Mountain--a day representing a radical change from the warm, spring-like conditions we enjoyed just yesterday. As we transition into the warmer months of the year, which will eventually bring upon us long days of intense sunshine and relentless heat, it's nice to hearken back to those gloomy winter afternoons of not so long ago when a mix of dark music, a horror story and a cup of tea were the order of the day.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me and between re-writing a story for possible publication and addressing life's every-day issues, I really haven't had much time to add anything new here. Instead and as a filler, I thought I would post one of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe stories here for your reading pleasure. The Tell-Tale Heart, published in 1850, shows Poe at his very best; at least in my opinion. I hope that you'll enjoy this story as much as I have.    

The Tell-Tale Heart - by Edgar Allan Poe

TRUE! - nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily - how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded - with what caution - with what foresight - with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it - oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly - very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously - cautiously (for the hinges creaked) - I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights - every night just at midnight - but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers - of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back - but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out - "Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; - just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief - oh, no! - it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself - "It is nothing but the wind in the chimney - it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel - although he neither saw nor heard - to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little - a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it - you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily - until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open - wide, wide open - and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness - all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? - now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! - do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me - the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once - once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.
I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye - not even his - could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out - no stain of any kind - no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all - ha! ha!
When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock - still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, - for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, - for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search - search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: - It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness - until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew _very_ pale; - but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased - and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound - much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath - and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly - more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men - but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed - I raved - I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder - louder - louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! - no, no! They heard! - they suspected! - they knew! - they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now - again! - hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! - tear up the planks! here, here! - It is the beating of his hideous heart!"


The stories of Edgar Allan Poe are currently in the public domain.