Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Round-Up Wednesday

Hello friends, readers, and gothic romance fans!

It's been a while since I posted a round-up, I apologize for the absence.  I haven't had much to report in the way of updates, other than the usual reviews I post.

I thought about doing a gala Halloween celebration here on the blog, but felt it would just be better to resolve to posting more than often here during the month of October, since Fall is such a perfect time for the creepy tales we all love.

I do have a few things in order for this lovely, darkly October:

1)  A Sitcom Review & Interview with Screenwriter

2)  An Author Spotlight of some ghostly books sure to turn your chills up a notch or two.

3)  I will begin the daunting task of providing a play-by-play summary (with screenshot photos) of the original Dark Shadows television series (from the first episode to the last!).

4)  My October Reading List (I have tried to pick stories reminiscent of hauntings, curses, sinister secrets, vacations gone awry and scarily brooding houses but really, what gothic romance doesn't have one or two of these elements?).  Here is my list of reviews you can find on the blog throughout October:

 The Moonlit Trap by Ruth Willok

What more pleasant prospect could there be for two young American girls like Constance and Peg than to fly to Europe for a summer trip? Constance would study in London for a few weeks, then join Peg, who is interested in Medieval carved figurines, in Zurich for a mountain holiday in search of treasure. Both have romance in mind as well as foreign travel.....

 House of the Whispering Winds by Elizabeth McCrae

Were Joycelyne's ravings to be believed? Was this really the grave of her mother who had been murdered? A grave that would soon make room for one more? What, and who. was buried in the recesses of the Villa Miramont? Anne Travis seeks a woman believed to be dead for forty-five years and is led by a quirk of fate onto the ground where a nameless body has rested since the war. It is a crypt whose secrets demand the ultimate price: insanity -- or violent death.

Unholy Spell by Claire Vincent

Emily had long cherished the hope of meeting her mother's friend Amanda and of residing with the Parkers of Beacon Hill as "one of the family." But Emily's first impression of the balconied mansion with its fancy grillwork and leaded panes was fear. What secret lay beneath those dank stones? Then Emily learned that the Parkers had much to hide. A baby of uncertain parentage. A woman who always wore purple. A brooding son who insisted Emily wear the gowns and jewels of his dead wife. As Emily grew closer to the dread secret of Beacon Hill, the fabric of evil enclosed her like a shroud.

The Whisper of Shadows by J.L.H. Whitney

From the moment librarian Ruth Carson set foot in the gloomy magnificence of Chinois, her instincts told her to flee. The house had an atmosphere of evil that made a mockery of its elegance, but created a perfect backdrop for Stephen Bonner, the mysterious, surly but attractive male animal who was its master and Ruth's employer.

With mounting horror Ruth soon found that violent death was a fellow guest at Chinois, and that her presence was a threat to someone in that strange, Oriental household -- someone who would stop at nothing, including murder, to get her out of the way.

Was that someone Stephen Bonner? Did his eyes follow her every move out of love--or was he even now plotting to destroy her...?

The Shrouded Tower by Theresa Charles

Was she too late to save her sister from the fate that awaited all the mistresses of that shadow-haunted estate?

House of Dark Illusions by Caroline Farr

Even before lovely young Megan Marshall crossed the threshold of the House of Ferrari, her dead mother's family mansion, she sensed that a chilling menace reaching out to her from the great stone house that rose from the swirling sea fog. Why was her aunt, Lissi Ferrari, suddenly behaving so strangely? What dark secret from the past hovered in the shadows of the vast old house?

The nameless fear mounted as Megan found herself caught in a macabre web of evil that slowly tightened around her. When Denis Fulton appeared on the scene, Megan longed to turn to the blond young man for help. In his searching gray eyes she had glimpsed something more than friendship. But did she dare to trust him...?

The House at Fern Canyon by Willow Davis Roberts

An unbreakable web of terror traps Deonna Tyler in the dark past of her dead love...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Witch's Tale - "The Mannequin"

I briefly introduced old time radio shows, and The Witch's Tale in a previous post.

Today I'd like to share with you another of my favorite episodes from this little radio sitcome, titled Mannequin.

It has all the eccentric elements of a creepy gothic read, with  just a little hint of The Twilight Zone thrown in for good measure.

An artist visits an old shop in Paris, he claims he is in search of something that called to him, something that wanted him to have it.

The shop clerk leads him through a series of locked doors, until they open a closet only to find a mannequin. Eerily, the mannequin is hanging by the neck with a rope, her wrists and ankles tied.

The mannequin is exquisite, so lifelike that the artists can't believe the shop-keeper offers such a work of art for free so long as the artists takes it. What with hair that has been drilled into her head hair by lone hair, joints that move without sound or effort and eyes that seem to convey a bit of intelligence. He feels he's found quite a bargain and offers to purchase the mannequin.

She is so lifelike that even the artists wife claims she is a corpose, espeially how she seems to drape her arms around his neck each time he lifts her. His wife claims, “Her arms move with life, she is more than a mannequin, I do not like her.”

The artists and his friends later claim that the mannequin is sighing and making hissing sounds, with eyes that rave towards his wife with hate.

Later, as the the artist and his wife embrace for a kiss, something suddenly strikes his wife. Upon examination, the hammer that was used to free the mannequin from the box for which same came, lay near the wifes feet. The wife claims that mannequin is trying to kill her out of jealousy. She says the mannequin wants her husband!

Is it true? Could the mannequin, indeed, be a real entity? Can a mannequin really come to life? And what will happen if she can? What lays inside the stuffing and wood of the exquisite mannequin?

You'll have to listen to this exceptionally creepy tale to find out!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

"The Devil's House" by Julia Tremonte

Published:  1974
Setting:  Modern Day


The eerie moonlight flooded the hallway where she stood, covering everything with a thin veil of translucent gauze.  How strange everything seemed in this light.  How unearthly the formal living room looked.  The massive pieces of furniture crouched in the corners, as if waiting to spring out at her.  She looked down the hallway toward the kitchen.  It was a long tunnel of darkness- an endless tube of gloom that seemed to be drawing her forward.  Almost against her will.

A sudden sound made her whirl around.  Directly behind her, framed in the doorway, stood a tall figure dressed in a black cloak.  A pointed hood shadowed the face, and only the large, burning yellow eyes were distinct.  Sally was too frightened to make a sound.  The figure raised a hand and pointed a long, bony finger at her.  The voice was like a moan:  "You are ours."  As the words were spoken, the eyes of the creature grew in size and intensity, burning into Sally's soul.

It was only then that the strangled fear managed to wrench itself from her throat and escape as a horrified scream...

Back Cover Synopsis:

Whispering Voices From Beyond

As night  creeps into the old, timeworn house, Sally huddles in a corner, alone.  Without any apparent reason, her husband has strangely disappeared.

Outside the window, hovering trees make low, morbid sounds as they beat tormentingly against the glass.  Oh my god!  She wonders in terror, Could there be voices in the cellar?

Sally rushes to the phone, her heart pounding wildly, like a fish dying in a pit of sand.  The phone is dead.  The lines have been cut.

Frantically, she stumbles around the house, locking the doors and windows.  Then, moving stealthily into the kitchen, she grabs a knife, hiding in the folds of her skirt

Trembling fiercely, Sally edges toward the basement door.  She opens it but hesitates at the top of the stairs.  Abruptly the lights go out.  A faintly sweet smell assails Sally's nostrils as her body convulses with sobs.  Emanating from the depths of the basement, a yellow glow dances in the black air.

"Sally, Sally, Sally," chants a chorus of soft voices rising from the darkness below...

The Devil's House.

Best Gothic Elements:  witchcraft and witches, evil emblems, mysterious murders, religious sacrifices, spells, family secrets.

This book was just okay.  To be honest, it was rather flat.  The characters were never really explored.  Nor was the backstory.  And the whole idea with the evil being, or apparition was never resolved.  I was left wondering if it was her husband, or really the ghost of the evil man who once inhabited the house.  I had a hard time completing the book, it was just boring.  Wouldn't recommend because it barely kept my attention and the mystery wasn't tight enough to keep a feel of suspense going.

My Rating:
2 Stars

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"House of the Evil Winds" by Millie J. Ragosta

Published:  1973
Setting:  Modern Day

....the congregation began to chant anew.

All this time I had been clinging to the wall in frozen desperation, hardly daring to move.  Now I realized that I had only minutes to escape from this terrible place before the ceremony was over.  If I could get away undetected, I would run to the highway, beg a ride from a passing motorist, or, if I had to, walk to the nearest house.   Whatever happened, I had to get away from Maison des Vents Mauvais.  I eased back along the passage, slipped through the doorway, and ran silently across the hall.  I threw back the bolts on teh great door and went swiftly out into the morning.  

The winds had sunk to their customary low moaning, but the swamp was noisy with awakening wildlife.  Mist rose in pearly iridescence from every inch of swampy ground in the chill morning air.  I ran across the intervening lawn and plunged into the thicket.

The ground was wet and uneven, and my slippers were soaked almost instantly, but I was grateful that my footsteps made little sound.  The driveway was off to my right.  I stood frozen for a moment...Henri had warned me about the poisonous snakes that lived in the swamp, but they held less terror for me than the witches I had just fled from.  I plunged blindly into the marshiest center of the woods, losibg my slippers, ignoring the roots that tore at my feet.  The bayou glimmered off in the trees and I made toward it...

Jacket Blurb:

It all seemed to innocent at the beginning.  To Victoria Chase, stranded in New Orleans at Mardi Gras time with no money, the offer to act as a companion to the invalided wife of writer Henri Rousseau came at a most opportune moment.  And the prospects of assisting Henri with his history of the occult were equally enticing.

But before Victoria began her duties at Maison des Vents Mauvais- The House of the Evil Winds- Henri and his wife's twin sister, the dark and statuesque Francine Benet, took Victoria to a masked ball at the home of wealthy Madame Heloise Dulac.  Madame Dulac expressed her delight that Henri had found someone so suitable to tend Monique, his wife.  Earlier, Francine's approval of Victoria had also seemed rather profuse- and Victoria wondered fleetingly why these people- strangers, really appeared so enchanted with her.

It was at Madame Dulac's that Victoria met widower Stefan Thomas, and though their time together was brief, Victoria knew that she had fallen in love.  But Stefan had not seen Victoria unmasked, and it looked as if he were unlikely to, for her new positio did not permit her visitors of phone calls.

When Victoria discovers that odd religious rites are being conducted in a cave beneath the mansion, she fears that her continued presence in the House of the Evil Winds will only lead to her destruction- and she knows that only Stefan can save her.

Best Gothic Elements:  an orphaned girl, disease and death, paid companion, a creepy house in the midst of the bayou where howling winds ceaselessly blow,  Witchcraft, occults, spells, body-snatching, and murder.

This probably isn't the best gothic romance I've ever read, but it holds up well as an Avalon gothic.  It has all the great, spooky elements that surmise of good gothic romance reading.  Also sustains a dark hint of danger throughout the complete story.

Some parts of the story are a little too fantastic to believe, but then it is a work of fiction.

It's a short read, as all Avalon gothics are.  I would recommend to fans of the vintage gothic, as it held my attention fairly well.  I just wish it had 1) been longer and 2) the characters had been fleshed out.

My Rating:
3 Stars