My First (and so far, only real) Ghost Story

Back in the Dark Age of 1977, I (Chris) was serving my country in the US Navy, stationed at the Seabee base in Port Hueneme, Calif. There was a beautiful old mansion there, once owned by a Senator Bard, later appropriated by the Navy for its new Seabee force in World War II.  Legend had it that the place was lousy with spooks, and already being a journalist and nosy fellow, I somehow convinced the base commander to allow me and two companions (eyewitness and Seabee comrade Doug Jagd and base photographer Laura Beagle) to spend a night in the old manse. Long story short — we did encounter some fascinating and rather macabre things during that long and dark evening.

I told the story myself way back then, in the base newspaper, appropriately named the Seabee Coverall, along with some intriguing photos. Recently, I got a copy of the article from the base historian and am attaching it here for your reading pleasure.

Bard Mansion Haunting

Footnotes:  That summer, after I was already discharged, the article won honors as the Navy’s best story for 1977 — an honor of which I am still proud. Also, a professor at the UCLA School of Parapsychology (or some such name) looked at the spectral photo we’d sent him or her and pronounced it, rather routinely, as “an ordinary house ghost.”  Below is a scan from the original infrared print:

I can assure you that it has never seemed “ordinary” to those of us who spent the evening at the Bard Mansion. As for you?  Well, you’ll have to judge for yourselves.

A Halloween Tale To Bug You!

As we’re about to celebrate the glorious tradition of Halloween, I’d like to offer our dedicated readers a rare gem – a horror tale with a somewhat unusual subject matter…insects; namely, cockroaches.

Chris Leppek and I have always enjoyed digging up (pun intended) hard-to-find stories with equally obscure writers.  Such is the case with “Roaches” – a delicious work that we can’t recommend enough.

First published in 1965, the story was written by Thomas Michael Disch who had quite the following as both a science fiction author and poet.  In fact, he earned a total of two Hugo Award and nine Nebula Award nominations during his prolific career.

However, his rare excursions into horror are worthy of all who love to read about things that go bump in the night, or (in the case of “Roaches”) things that skitter and crawl in the night.

skitter. . . skitter. . . skitter

“Roaches” ( which appears in the 1987 Dark Descent anthology, edited by David G. Hartwell and published by Tom Doherty Assoc.) introduces us to Marcia Kenwell, a young lady who moves to New York in order to restart her rather dull and unfulfilling existence.  Her only warning delivered by her doting grandmother is to beware of cockroaches – insects she has never come across before.

Now in the big city, Marcia finds herself holding a proverbial dead-end job, living an even more unfulfilling existence in a squalid apartment building.  And she soon comes face-to-face with what she was warned about – thousands of darting, antennaed cockroaches; disgusting creatures that fester, feed and give birth in darkness, only to scatter to distant corners, cracks and crevices when exposed to light.

But her revulsion to cockroaches suddenly evolves to something else when she discovers that she is somehow able to communicate with these creatures and to actually command them to do her bidding, i.e. infesting the bed of her filthy, Eastern European neighbors that live beyond the wall of her tiny apartment.

In a touching, ironic stroke, Marcia becomes a perverse Queen of the Cockroaches at the shocking conclusion of the tale.

Like any good piece of horror fiction, the disturbing images of “Roaches” remains with the reader long afterwards.

So curl up this Halloween with a good story and pray that the furtive movements just beyond your periphery are absolutely nothing to be concerned about.

Ghost Blogger Dora Sigerson Shorter: All Souls’ Night

ALL SOUL’S NIGHT

O MOTHER, mother, I swept the hearth, I set his chair and the white board spread,

I prayed for his coming to our kind Lady when Death’s sad doors would let out the dead;

A strange wind rattled the window-pane, and down the lane a dog howled on.

I called his name and the candle flame burnt dim, pressed a hand the doorlatch upon.

Deelish! Deelish! my woe forever that I could not sever coward flesh from fear.

I called his name and the pale Ghost came; but I was afraid to meet my dear.

O mother, mother, in tears I checked the sad hours past of the year that ’s o’er,

Till by God’s grace I might see his face and hear the sound of his voice once more;

The chair I set from the cold and wet, he took when he came from unknown skies

Of the land of the dead; on my bent brown head I felt the reproach of his saddened eyes;

I closed my lids on my heart’s desire, crouched by the fire, my voice was dumb;

At my clean-swept hearth he had no mirth, and at my table he broke no crumb.

Deelish! Deelish! my woe forever that I could not sever coward flesh from fear:

His chair put aside when the young cock cried, and I was afraid to meet my dear.

Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918) was an Irish poetess who could combine the ghostly and the tragic as only the Irish can. Thanks to Vicki McDonald Leppek for contributing this. She found it in Edmund Clarence Stedman’s ‘A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895′.