EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired screen rights to Dracul, the first prequel authorized by the estate of Bram Stoker. The film will be developed as potential directing vehicle down the line for Andy Muschietti, reteamed with It producers Barbara Muschietti and Roy Lee. Written by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker, the tale is set in 1868, where a 21-year old Bram Stoker meets with an ungodly evil that he traps in an ancient tower all the while scribbling the events…
There are ghosts behind the ghosts.
There are legions of the dead,
Lined up to peer
Over my shoulder.
They breathe with satisfaction,
Upon the hand
That writes the word
The millions of departed,
Disturb the air enough,
To stir the hair,
On my moving wrist.
They keep a place in line,
For me to join them.
Samhain/Halloween is a night of death and ghosts. Ghosts to fear and ghosts to help along their way to the Otherworld. But not all ghosts are troubled and fearful. There is nothing wrong with being dead if one is content.
This excerpt is from a non-spooky novel, where a man goes looking for a new place to live. He comes across many houses on his quest. Many.
From: He Lives In The City/He Drives To The Country
It had been a house of dreams, it was now a house of ghosts.
Ghosts tranquil and benign peered through the dusty upper windows, stood in wait behind the boarded doors. The dreams of long ago, which had tumbled down the stairs, and frolicked through the rooms, were now memories in the minds of ghosts.
The ghosts were themselves memories, destined to further fade with each new birth. But there would be no births in this house, as it slid inexorably toward decay. The lackluster brown shingles would be more smudged, the remaining panes of old glass would break, the floors would warp and collapse, the unkept roof would succumb to the years of harsh weather.
Even the `No Trespass’ sign was barely legible. Then where would the ghosts go?
Blaine left his car and walked toward the house.
If he had eyes to see, who would be there to greet him? Would children’s dreams, fair-haired and boisterous, burst through the front door and surround him in games of tag and laughter? Would he get caught by their enthusiasm (would he become a child himself), and race behind the trees, burrow into the hay, hide between the bins of potato and turnip, intent not to be `it’.
Or would he meet the ghosts, quiet and tentative at the top of the steps, moving slowly with their uncertain smiles. Would they greet him with a wave, invite him into their warm-smelling kitchens, offer him fresh tea, and squares right out of the pan? Would he sit in the stream of fall sunlight flowing across the well-oiled floor, and talk about childhood?
Blaine walked part way up the drive before he stopped.
He knew what lay beyond the boarded windows, and the sagging door upon its rusty hinges. Wallpaper would be water-stained, and curling off the plaster walls. There would be lumps of refuse in the corners of the rooms, with one inevitable rusty bedframe lying on its side. There would be gaps in the ceiling, where beams of sunlight shimmered through motes of dust. There would be holes in the baseboards, where earnest rodents made comfortable homes.
There would be musty smells offering a hint of long-ago meals, and something gone bad in the pantry. There would be one upper window (at the back) which still had a tattered lace curtain, half obscuring what had once been totally private. At night he would hear bats.
It was not this house he had come to see, of course. Of course, not this derelict house, which he knew could never be restored, and which was so beyond help even death slept while visiting.
In my novel, “There Has Been A Sighting”, sightings of Satan are tracked and confronted. An antechamber to such an encounter occurs in the crypt of the St. Marien church, in Berlin.
Dorkas removes the keys from her pocket. “Which is worse, do you think. Keys keeping things out, or keys letting things in?”
“They each – ” begins Breeze.
“You may as well have the flashlight.” Dorkas interrupts her. “Until we get the damn door open.”
Breeze has to hurry to stay in step, and almost drops the flashlight in her haste. When they reach the door, Dorkas quickly inserts the key. It works with ease.
“Fortune smiles on my enterprise,” mutters Dorkas.
“I don’t understand.” The young woman is perplexed as she looks around. “I’m certain when I was here, the painting was on these walls.” She watches Dorkas put the other key into a second door. “We didn’t go anywhere else.”
“What did Agnes tell you?” Dorkas opens the door, and glares down a darkened flight of steps.
“I’m not supposed to say.”
“Mother Ursula certainly expects me to go down into the gloom.” Dorkas is harsh. “Otherwise, why am I here?”
“I don’t deny that’s the way it is now.” Breeze stands beside her, peering into the dark. “I just wonder if it is what we would find tomorrow.”
“I may as well take their kind illumination.”
“Agnes only had a candle.” Breeze gives her the flashlight.
“Agnes could not fear half the terror I feel.” Dorkas shines the light down the stairs. “She expected to come back.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“If I’m not forever, then I won’t be long.”
As Dorkas descends, the stone walls absorb the light, pockmarking the surface with rough shadows. She pauses before entering the room, perturbed by the dimness. Her light had shone brightly minutes ago, but now its beam seems submerged in water.
She slaps the flashlight against her open palm.
“I’d do better with – ”
She stumbles on the bottom step, twisting her right foot as she is thrown against the wall.
The flashlight falls and rolls across the floor. She hears its metal casing scratch over the stones, and watches the beam of light spiral like a demented beacon, until it turns around to shine back into her face.
“I won’t stay if that goes out.”
Dorkas deliberately speaks aloud.
“Whether I’m in Berlin for a night or a year.”
She tests her foot and finds her ankle is slightly injured. “If I break my leg, what will they do? Leave me down here?” She bends over to get the flashlight.
“A permanent fixture.”
As she takes the light, she points it away from herself.
The feet are bare, and dirty, and raising dust as they dance. A cloud of dust rises up their emaciated legs to their knees. Although Dorkas is in a crouched position, she jerks away from the figures, and sprawls on her back.
She starts to cough in the dust, and the ragged, whirling band begins to encircle her. The light gripped in her hand strays across their bodies, and catches the glint of bleached, protruding teeth as they grin down at her.
“A tomb.” Dorkas shouts.
She can not count the number of hands reaching toward her, their flesh mottled from the iridescence of putrefaction. The frayed cuffs of their funeral finery trail strands of unravelling cloth, and she cringes from the touch.
“You want me with you?” Dorkas struggles to her knees. “To end on your wall?”
Bejewelled rings and bracelets rattle against bony fingers and wrists. The sound fills her ears as the hands, extending to grab her, are jostled by the tempo of the dance. They can not stop their own feet, and they can not stop their partners who hurry them ever on.
“I won’t.” Dorkas holds the light in both hands. “Alive or dead.”
Der Totentanz becomes smaller as the figures tighten the circle around Dorkas. A whiff of their decay permeates the dust, and she turns her head, coughing even more. But she can’t avoid their movement, their grasping hands, their stench. Victory is etched upon their faces.
She barely hears her name as she huddles more closely to the floor. She is afraid to stand in case the frenzied dancers graze against her. She fears that the slightest brush – whether from their knees, their fingers, or even their rotting clothes – will lift her to her feet and make her a part of this final procession.
“Dorkas! I can’t turn on the electric lights.”
“You wouldn’t want to see.” Dorkas tries to shout, but her throat is clamped by hysteria. “This is worse than buried alive. I’d rather be in the dark.”
The dust of the dead is filling her mouth as she switches off the flashlight.
“Dorkas! For God’s sake.”
Breeze comes plunging down the stairs, scraping her hands as she steadies herself against the wall.
When she reaches the bottom, she stops in the blackness. Her hesitation is brief, and she starts forward at her usual pace, hands outstretched. She strains to hear the slightest sound.
“Dorkas? Did you drop the flashlight?”
“Are you alive?”
“Dorkas?” Breeze turns abruptly, for the voice is behind her. “Of course I’m alive.”
“Then I guess we both are.”
Dorkas gets to her knees, and slowly stands.
“Berlin proves to be as wonderful as I anticipated.” She brushes dust off her shirt. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Did you lose the flashlight?” Breeze starts to move toward the other woman’s voice.
Dorkas is momentarily puzzled, then realizes it is still gripped fiercely in her hand. She switches it on, casting a beam over Breeze’s legs.
“I thought you were it.” Breeze looks down at her legs, then follows the light back to Dorkas. “When you didn’t answer, I thought something had gone wrong.”
“I’m in Berlin.” Dorkas laughs harshly. “Everything goes wrong.”
She approaches the younger woman slowly.
“I don’t know where I would be if you hadn’t come to me.” Dorkas strokes Breeze’s arm. “Your intervention won’t make the others happy.”
“I’ll handle himself if you take care of the old girl.”
“Let’s take a look.” Breeze reaches for the flashlight.
“At the bloody painting.” Breeze is turning the light toward the wall. “I know it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but maybe we can figure how its now in a different place.”
“No.” Dorkas swats the flashlight with her hand. “If you accept that there is God and Satan, then you accept there are things beyond your power.”
She stands close to Breeze, the light between them.
“You do not invite what can destroy you – that is dangerous folly.”
“But you came here.”
“Yes.” Dorkas takes back the flashlight. “I came here. And that courage – and you – enables me to walk out of here.”
She looks Breeze in the eyes.
“I have light, and I have a friend, and I’m not going to be buried alive. Not tonight, at any rate.”
She shakes the flashlight.
“Not here, at any rate.”
Dorkas sighs deeply.
“But I’ve done my part.”
“These are distinctions I don’t understand.” Breeze begins to feel uncomfortable. “Here we are – standing right here. Haven’t you won?”
“If you tempt fate?” Dorkas speaks softly. “No – fate will always win. Fate has all the cards.”
“That sounds fatalistic.”
“Life is fatal.”
“Perhaps I’ll come back tomorrow and be a tourist.” Breeze wants to hear her own voice. “Will a bunch of loud Italians and pushy Americans keep the dancers in the painting?”
“It might make it easier for them to mingle.”
“I’m not going to see them step from the wall,” insists Breeze.
“I suggest you look closely at the mustiest Italian, or the most hysterical American.” Dorkas shines the light toward the exit. “And then keep your distance.”
Dorkas is impatient as she watches the young woman walk through the beam of light, and quickly begins to follow.
“Did you say something?”
“No.” Dorkas answers curtly, but she has heard it too.
It is a sound which stays in her ears, until the door is firmly closed and locked behind them.
The sounds of an interrupted dance, where she knows partners are still being sought.
Not to flee from them
Not to hide from them.
The moon is full and the trees are bare and the old year ends and they come to dust us with their cold hands. To seep away a little of our warmth. To have just a taste of the life they once had. Blood in their veins. Breath in their mouth. Tears in their eyes. From the cold.
Of course, we are fearful of their touch. We are told they might have the stench of the grave upon them. We are told their skin might slough off on our own. We are told their rotted clothes might fall from their bones, and we will see things to make us scream.
We are told the fresh decay of our parents and uncles and aunts and grand folk will be the worse. They have had their year in the ground and are beyond any excuse to linger. They are the most reluctant. They have the clearest memories of what it is like to live. They, more than all the others, want it back. They might wish, if they can, to suck life right out of us and feel warm once again.
It is best we disguise ourselves from them.
It is best if we hide our faces with masks and wear clothes not our own.
As a last resort we can fill frightening faces with flame and scare them away.
We are all prepared for that.
And when the day passes over into the night and the full of dark and the promise that the cocks will again bestir themselves to start us into the cold of winter, we will light pyres of wood and open the cask of ale and have a feast with dance and song.
If we manage to get through the night.
This is a true ghost story, that I troop out for every Halloween season. Although it did not happen at Halloween, let nothing go to waste.
I was visiting the Bay of Fundy island of Grand Manan. I had booked a room in a bed and breakfast and arrived mid-evening. I went elsewhere for a meal, but did meet the owners, and noted there were a couple of others staying there. I returned around eleven, chatted to the owners and one guest, then went up to bed.
The room was top of the stairs and across a landing. Comfortably rustic with a radio. The bed was fine and I was not long getting to sleep. In the dead of the dark (no streetlights here) I was awakened by the touch of hands on me. I was sleeping on my left side. One hand was over my groin and the other on my chest. There was also the weight of a body next to me and the pressure of an arm across my side. I was initially surprised and confused but not frightened.
Time probably stretched but it seems to me I lay like this for ten or fifteen seconds. Then, the very first coherent thought which came to me was that someone laying behind me could not have both arms over my body. There could not be two hands placed on the front of my body. I got out of bed very quickly and did indeed experience fear. I turned on the overhead light but saw nothing. I heard nothing. The temperature was not unusual. I was frightened and certainly uncomfortable, but I can’t say that that aura was present.
I went to the bathroom across the landing. The house was silent. I returned to the bedroom, thinking both of leaving the light on and turning on the radio. But then I thought that that was just giving into fear, and might encourage the fear instead of ease it, so I did neither. I did not seem to take very long to get to sleep.
The next morning I went downstairs for breakfast. I heard the owner talking to two other guests as I approached the kitchen. Just as I entered she interrupted her conversation and turned to me. She said: “Let’s ask him. He’s the one sleeping in the haunted room.”
I don’t know if they had been talking about ghosts or if something else had happened in the night. I relayed my experience and the owner then told the story of the house. As with many buildings on the island it had been a farm house, with the owners also fishing. It was a century or more old and left to a daughter. When she herself got old and could not look after it, her family forced her to leave, something she fought against. The present owners then bought the building and started taking in guests. However, whenever they attempted renovations, they were discouraged by having paint cans overturned, new wallpaper peeled from the wall, ladders moved, hammers and such hidden.
The new owners’ daughter lived next door, and looked after the house when her parents went away (trips to Florida in the winter). She inevitably had to come over to the house and close doors, turn off lights, put furniture back in place. The old woman who was forced to leave had the reputation of being a mean and unpleasant person. I don’t know if she was taking a liking to me or not.
Halloween [All Saint’s Eve] has been imposed upon the Celtic festival of Samhain. That’s what the Christians did as they replaced other religions. Keep all the good bits and call it something else. In my novel, A Lost Gospel, Druids and the Celts go one better. They have to make sure that Yeshua [Jesus] gets crucified.
The following is a portion of the first chapter of A Lost Gospel, edited for clarification.
Segment from A Lost Gospel:
It was a Sorcerer’s moon.
At least that is what the boatmen called it, and they feared travelling under its light. It gave false hope in the fog, disappearing just when it promised to show the way. And when it emerged again, it was only to reveal the distance the foundering sailors would have to swim.
“We can’t go in this, Head Druid.”
“No, Ogma. We can’t.”
“I don’t concern myself with the things you deal with, Head Druid.” Ogma stared into the fog before he continued. “You plot and plan.
You tell me our voyage will affect the world for thousands of years.” He laughed again. “You may be right, or you may get visions from the ale.”
“There isn’t drink strong enough to show me what I’ve seen.”
“None of us doubt you.” Ogma’s voice became lower. “You tell me what to do – and I do it. But I can’t do my job if I begin to worry about what might happen.”
“It isn’t that simple.”
“For me it is.” Ogma took a couple of steps closer to Cowin.
“You’d pull the oars alone, if you had to.” The Head Druid’s voice was less tense. “I don’t know if that’s single-minded, or simple-minded.”
“This might prove no worse than sailing around the island.” Ogma debated whether or not he should be insulted by Cowin’s last comment. “Going around the north tip of The Isle of Man is like going to the end of nowhere. We do it often.”
“That’s right enough.” Cowin turned his back to the water. “We add some days to our usual voyages, and we can reach Europe.” His voice became animated. “And after we arrive in the Alps, we won’t be travelling alone.”
“What do we know of these Mountain people?” Ogma turned abruptly from the sea. “We should stick to our own kind.”
“Do you need things repeated into your ears time after time?” The Head Druid was quickly annoyed.
“Perhaps.” Ogma pulled his cloak against the damp.
“What is it you want to be told again?”
“How are we supposed to kill a God?” Ogma’s voice rose as the words spilled out. “And why do we go to this place called Jerusalem to do it?” He leaned toward the other man. “And in this giant heathen encampment, how will we find one man named Yeshua?”
“We’ll know these answers when we get to Jerusalem.” Cowin’s voice betrayed his impatience. “We’ll get there with the help of these mountain people.” Cowin bent down to speak directly into the little man’s ear. “And they are our own kind. They’re Druids, and they join us with their unicorn.”
“The beasts.” Ogma shook his head. “One is trouble enough.”
“We need their woman, Glarus. She was with this god when he was born.”
“Why didn’t she smother him then?”
“Because it was not the time!” Cowin stared at the smaller man. “You’ve heard the oracles. You’ve seen the signs. You know the way the unicorn behaves. This Yeshua must die only when he is a man – and we must make certain that the man dies.”
“A God which is a man. A God which is able to die.” Ogma’s voice rose. “And you ask why I don’t understand.”
“Our own gods decree this change.”
The Head Druid made a cutting motion with his hand to show the discussion was over, but Ogma ignored him.
“These are not our beliefs.” Ogma moved his own hands in an agitated manner. “You mix us together with strangers, then cast us into the oven of Jerusalem to bake with Romans and Jews.” He shook his head empathically. “I’m more than willing to die, Head Druid – but for something which makes sense.”
“If you will die for our ways and beliefs, consider the glory of a God who accepts to die.”
“Such a God would be dead.”
“Ogma.” Cowin forced himself to be patient. “We go to a wondrous place when we die. And it is most glorious to go through the Door of Death if we die for a valiant cause.” The Head Druid grabbed the small man’s shoulder, his voice no longer controlled. “Try to imagine where a God must go, once he is dead. How magnificent it will be. How powerful that God will become. Greater than any of the Gods we know.”
“A dead God greater than our Gods which live?” Ogma was silent for a long time, surprised by Cowin’s fervour.
“Much greater.” Cowin nodded his head.
“You talk like the Oracles, who speak of thoughts I don’t understand.” Ogma suddenly laughed, and slapped the Head Druid on the back. “But if this Yeshua becomes more powerful than our gods, it is wise to get on his good side.” Ogma grinned broadly. “I’ll be glad to kill him myself.”
“We don’t raise a hand.” The Head Druid walked away from the shore. “We make certain that the Romans nail him on their tree.”
“What?” Ogma hurried to catch Cowin. “We trap this Yeshua, and do the dirty work of the fucking Romans?” He grabbed the sleeve of the other man’s tunic, and forced him to stop. “I won’t help those dogs.”
“You’ll do what’s necessary.” The Head Druid waited until the small man loosened his grip. “We join these other people, and we do this job.”
“A slave’s job.”
“We deliver nobody to the damned Romans.” Cowin resumed his brisk walk. “We help the woman Glarus get to Jerusalem, and she makes Yeshua deliver himself.”
“Yeshua is to surrender to the Romans?”
“What real man gives up?”
“Ogma.” The Head Druid paused to look closely at his companion. “The reason you can never lead the Council, is that you don’t see past the end of your sword.”
They have learned that every celebration has its risks. The Druids have taught them this, and the Druids are correct.
Samhain is a festival of the harvest; the end of summer; the preparation for the winter to come. Samhain is a juncture. As they all know, junctures lead to sundry places. There is both the leaving and the coming. A time of disquiet. A time of danger to those unprepared.
It holds the magic and the power of midnight. Midnight is a powerful time because it is the juncture of two days. Midnight of Samhain thus holds double the power. It can not be avoided. It must be met with all the power that mortal man can muster. It must not be met alone.On the Eve of Samhain, the border between Life and the Otherworld is breached. A door swings invitingly open, but it is not inviting to those who live. It is inviting to those who have died.
The Dead who still miss their lives. The long Dead who still are curious.The distant Dead who get a whiff of fresh air and have their memories stirred.
So the Dead approach.
The Dead approach.
The living must prepare to meet them, just as they prepare for the vicissitudes of winter. The same threatened cold holds sway over both.
The living assemble the treats and threats that will assuage the longings of the Dead. Because the living have a healthy fear of death, they equally wish to avoid the Dead. The Dead can prove to be envious and attempt to relieve the living of their lives.Lanterns from the earth are hollowed out of turnips. Their light will guide the dead to safer places (safer for the living). Candles will shine through carved faces.
Some faces are friendly and welcoming.
Some are ugly and fierce to give any aggressive Dead a pause.
There will also be treats to entice the Dead – apples and pastries and savouries and some roasted game fresh from the bonfires. There will be ale and other spirits to keep the Spirits at bay.The living will wear costumes and masks to disguise themselves from those Dead who might wish their company to be more permanent.
They will remove the masks if the Spirits are friendly.
They will dance and sing and raise a right ruckus to entertain the Dead.
The boneyard is on the outskirts of town. The revellers approach with noise and caution. The bonfire is set. The moon hangs from the trees. The gated fence stands closed and latched.
The living pause.
Is it the wind, or do the hinges scrape the stone?