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26 Days Until Halloween

I'm a big fan of Librivox.org and the unabridged narrations its volunteers offer for free download. Now, just in time for Halloween, Librivox has added an unabridged reading of the 1786 classic Gothic novel The History of the Caliph Vathek by William Beckford.

Here are some of the other 18th-century Gothic works Librivox has available for your Halloween listening:
* The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764)
* The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve (1777)
* A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe (1790)
* The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794)
* Sign up for email alert when narration is available: Bungay Castle by Elizabeth Bonhôte (1796)

Talk about getting into the spirit of the season! Science fiction author Michael Swanwick has posted a Halloween story called "October Leaves" on Flickr, written one word at a time on autumn leaves and photographed where they lay in parks and cemeteries and city streets. Read it here or click on the image below.

October Leaves

Text of the Day: Something spooky this way comes, and it's "Ghost Glen" by Henry Kendall (1839-1882). I hope you enjoy it!

"Shut your ears, stranger, or turn from Ghost Glen now,
For the paths are grown over, untrodden by men now;
Shut your ears, stranger,” saith the grey mother, crooning
Her sorcery runic, when sets the half-moon in.

To-night the north-easter goes travelling slowly,
But it never stoops down to that hollow unholy;
To-night it rolls loud on the ridges red-litten,
But it cannot abide in that forest, sin-smitten.

For over the pitfall the moon-dew is thawing,
And, with never a body, two shadows stand sawing
The wraiths of two sawyers (step under and under),
Who did a foul murder and were blackened with thunder!

Whenever the storm-wind comes driven and driving,
Through the blood-spattered timber you may see the saw striving
You may see the saw heaving, and falling, and heaving,
Whenever the sea-creek is chafing and grieving!

And across a burnt body, as black as an adder,
Sits the sprite of a sheep-dog (was ever sight sadder?)
For, as the dry thunder splits louder and faster,
This sprite of a sheep-dog howls for his master.

“Oh, count your beads deftly,” saith the grey mother, crooning
Her sorcery runic, when sets the half-moon in.
And well may she mutter, for the dark, hollow laughter
You will hear in the sawpits and the bloody logs after.

Ay, count your beads deftly, and keep your ways wary,
For the sake of the Saviour and sweet Mother Mary.
Pray for your peace in these perilous places,
And pray for the laying of horrible faces.

One starts, with a forehead wrinkled and livid,
Aghast at the lightnings sudden and vivid;
One telleth, with curses, the gold that they drew there
(Ah! cross your breast humbly) from him whom they slew there:

The stranger, who came from the loved, the romantic
Island that sleeps on the moaning Atlantic,
Leaving behind him a patient home, yearning
For the steps in the distance never returning;

Who was left in the forest, shrunken and starkly,
Burnt by his slayers (so men have said, darkly),
With the half-crazy sheep-dog, who cowered beside there,
And yelled at the silence, and marvelled, and died there.

Yea, cross your breast humbly and hold your breath tightly,
Or fly for your life from those shadows unsightly,
From the set staring features (cold, and so young, too),
And the death on the lips that a mother hath clung to.

I tell you that bushman is braver than most men
Who even in daylight doth go through the Ghost Glen,
Although in that hollow, unholy and lonely,
He sees the dank sawpits and bloody logs only.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
Man, I do love Michael Swanwick...
Oct. 6th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
Isn't he great? This was such a terrific idea. Well executed, too.
Oct. 5th, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
"October Leaves" is amazing! What a neat concept and spooky, sad story.

"Ghost Glen" was kind of fun to read out loud; I liked the pacing of it.
Oct. 6th, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
I agree about "October Leaves." What a great imagination he has. I'm so glad you liked "Ghost Glen," too!
Oct. 5th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
WOW - October Leaves is SO MADE OF WIN, I have no words. If you read the last page, it is also available in hard copy - I am *sorely* tempted.

PS: If you get the Livejournal newsletter, check there - COUPONS for the site that is selling the hard copy. \o/

Edited at 2010-10-05 07:08 pm (UTC)
Oct. 6th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC)
Isn't it great? Thanks so much for the news re: the coupons. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )