Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 20: Samhain & the Celts

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 20: Samhain & the Celts

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The ancient Celts had four Fire Festivals, and Samhain is thought by many to be their most significant celebration, held Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The Druidic festival divided the summer from the winter seasons. The Celts believed the veil and line between this world and the Otherworld, between the living and the dead was the thinnest and this thin line allowed souls and spirits to pass through into our world. Reckless travelers could meet any of these spirits at night, and that encounter could be either be pleasant or horrifying.  You can read a great article on Samhain and the Celts and its celebration in Ireland HERE.

Druids, who were important to this feast, were teachers, judges, historians, lawyers, priests, physicians and seers. They were thought to be shapeshifters and could state exact date and time by a single glance at the night’s sky. A druid required twenty years of training. They were so influential and powerful that the Romans launched a campaign to exterminate them and to destroy all their shrines and oak groves. There were only two religions that the Romans outlawed: the Druids and Christianity.
Here’s a short video about the Druids.



Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 19: Wee Annie’s Ghost

Little Annie,  of Mary King’s Close (a ghostly poem by Rickey Pittman)

In Old Town Edinburgh,
Beneath the Royal Mile,
I walked through Mary King’s Close,
To explore it for a while.

Once lined with houses,
Eight stories high.
Sealed off in days of plague,
The residents left to die.

Once a haunt of criminals,
Now a haunt of ghosts,
Grave robbers like Burke and Ware,
These were feared the most.

I heard footsteps behind me,
And the rustle of a dress,
A lady in black darted by
Fading in the darkness,

We came to where wee Annie lived,
I’ve never seen a sadder room,
Visitors had left dolls and toys,
To brighten Annie’s gloom.

Her family left her there to die,
When the plague touched her face,
She waited for death in the dark alone,
In that room’s tiny space.

As I walked on, I felt a chill,
And a tug on my coat,
A little hand slipped into mine,
I felt a lump in my throat.

She whispered, “Annie’s my name,
Please don’t leave me alone,
The little hand slipped from mine,
And I finished the tour alone.

I don’t know if I’ll ever return,
But I know I’ll never forget,
The day a little ghost held my hand,
The memory haunts me yet.

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 18: Japanese Horror

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 18: Japanese Horror

       In Japanese literature, anime, manga, theatre, and film, video games, and artwork, one can discover how popular horror is in Japanese culture. Japanese classics of horror date back several centuries.  In these tales, which the Japanese call Kaidan (strange stories), one can find ghost stories, giant monsters, demons, possessions, vengeful spirits, zombies, psychological horror, Shinto gods who morph into vengeful states, and women.  (There is an interesting website entitled, Femme Fatale: The Women of Japanese Horror.) And HERE, you can read a Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Horror.l For more extensive study, I would recommend the Encyclopedia of Japanese Horror. 

America was introduced to Japanese horror in films like The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and One Missed Call.  The Forest is an American horror film that is set in Japan. On Facebook, one can find pages and groups devoted to Japanese horror and horror films.

Here’s a great little video about Japanese Horror. also known as J-Horror. This contains some history.

Here’s a video where Executive Producer of Crow’s Blood, Darren Lynn Bousman, tells us his Top 5 films from Japanese Horror.

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 17: Tales of the Crypt


Hopefully, you will remember the demented, cackling laughter of the Cryptkeeper as he introduced HBO’s Tales of the Crypt that ran for seven seasons and 93 episodes from 1989 until 1996.  The series was very successful and featured numerous award-winning actors and actresses in each self-contained episode that the Cryptkeeper introduced with puns, costumes, and questions for the audience. Cartoons, comics, movies and radio programs were created and influenced by the series. The original concept began with William Gaines comic series, Tales of the Crypt in 1950. The comics and film productions utilized an impressive team of writers and artists. You can see a website devoted to Tales of the Crypt HERE:

Here’s a short video of the opening of an episode.


Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 16: Writing Horror, A Handbook – A short review


Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association was edited by Mort Castle. (I’ve always liked the name, Mort or Mortimer. It means executioner!)  For my readers who want to write horror fiction (and creative nonfiction), this book will prove very useful because of its practical and inspirational instruction. As the back cover blurb says, “Here you have it all: guidance on ideas, research and work-related reading; advice fr creating the elements of story; and analysis of the roles of passion, sex, and madness in powerful horror fiction.”

This book and the resources it provides will help you understand the appeal of writing and reading horror and how we can find our story ideas “in the mirror.” There’s an interview with Stephen King, there are insights into the concepts of horror, the new innovations of horror, and how to market horror writing. There’s also a fine reading on how to write horror for children, with do’s and don’ts.

There’s many good YouTube videos on writing horror, but I thought I’d share this one:

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 15: Grand Guignol Theatre

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 15: The Grand Guignol Theatre of Fear and Horror


This type of theatre began in Paris and ran from 1897 and lasted until 1962.  Began by the audacious Oscar Mentenier, who bought the smallest theatre in Paris (only 293 seats) to begin his work. The theatre was turned into a house of horror, crossing all boundaries without restraint. Productions were full of gore, torture, death, perversion, and psychological terror.  Mentenier and the directors who followed him measured the success of their plays by how many people in the traumatized audience fainted or vomited during the performance. These productions were often censored.

Grand Guignol was the inspiration behind Anne Rice’s Théâtre des Vampires in her  Interview with a Vampire. You can see the complete and  very interesting history of Grand Guignol theatre, attempts to revive it, and its influence on, stage,  movies, and literature HERE and HERE:

Here is an excellent introductory video to Grand Guignol Theatre:



Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 14: Two Sentence Horror Stories

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 14: Two Sentence Horror Stories

For a really creepy time this Halloween, I would recommend that you consider experiencing two-sentence horror stories, which has become a classic in the horror genre.. This technique is true horror boiled down to its essence. In this blog post, Here are a few links that are devoted to the Two Sentence Horror Story. These stories will keep you on the edge of your seat, perhaps even keep you awake at night. I can see how these could be used by storytellers to frighten their audiences or even song ideas for musicians.

  1. The first, with over 50 samples,  is “These 2-Sentence Horror Stories Will Send Shivers Down Your Spine,” by Inga Korolkovaite, of the BordPanda Staff. One example from this site is this: “There was a picture on my phone of me sleeping. I live alone.” Click HERE for the website. 
  2. The second  site is 150+ Short Two-Sentence Horror Stories To Freak You Out. Click HERE for the website.
  3. Two Sentence Horror Stories is series of five short (about 20 minutes each, constructed around a two-sentence framework. Absolutely haunting.  Here is a trailer for a sample. I found them on Netflix.

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 13: Friday the 13th, A Halloween Classic

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 13: Friday the 13th, A Halloween Classic

            Though it is not Friday today, it is the 13th of October, so I thought it fitting to make a post on Friday the 13th. There is a whole franchise of 12 slasher films, TV series, novels, comics, video games, and other merchandise. Camp Crystal Lake where Jason first drowned is the usual setting. Fans have created their own costumes, covered themselves with tattoos of Friday the 13tth artwork, and made Jason’s hockey mask one of the most recognizable horror images.

There are two books that could be valuable to hard-core horror fans: Making Friday the 13th: The Legend of Camp Blood and Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th


Here is a cool  trailer for the film!

A documentary was made entitled, His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th. This film has great information. You can watch the whole video HERE.

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 12: The Witch of Endor

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 12: The Witch of Endor

    If you are not familiar with I Samuel 28 in the Bible and the story of the Witch of Endor, Halloween is a good time to read it. I’m working on a detailed short story account of this rather strange event. Basically, the story is this: Things weren’t going well for Israel’s King Saul. David and his men were running for their lives and Saul and his army find themselves confronting a fierce and determined army of the Philistines. Saul literally trembles in fear.   He sought guidance from the Lord, but received no answer by dreams, by Urim, or from the prophets. So, he seeks help from a witch in the town of Endor. She was a necromancer (who could talk to the dead. He and two of his men disguise themselves and go to Endor and asks the witch to call up Samuel. Samuel’s ghost did indeed appear, the woman discovers Saul’s true identity. Saul seeks advice from the ghost of Samuel and is given the bad news: That the next day Saul and his sons would be with the dead Samuel. Here’s a short video that gives a short, but more detailed explanation of this passage.


Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 11: Classic Horror Stories, Edgar Allan Poe

Thirty Days to Halloween, Day 11: Classic Stories of Horror Everyone Should Read (Two of my Poe favorites)

               The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe:  I first discovered Poe at my Aunt Mildred’s house at the age of eleven. She lived in a little West Texas town called Knox City. The “Pit and the Pendulum” was included in one of those Reader Digest books that were a collection of stories and articles RD thought we should all read. I was sprawled out on the floor and read the story straight through with chills running up and down my spine. Published in 1842, the story is about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. Here is an excellent trailer video featuring Vincent Price from the movie made in 1961.

The “Tell-Tale Heart” was published in 1843 and it is a Poe story that I taught every year in ENGLISH 102. The story is a first-p[erson narrative from an unnamed and unreliable narrator (he is an insane, murderous caretaker) who tries to convince the reader of his logic and sanity. He definitely says some odd things. For example,  I asked how he could know the heart sounded like a watch wrapped in cotton unless he had tried it. I also tried to pantomime the murder as I read. Here’s a video based on the story that I’m sure you will enjoy.