There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Life is paradox.
-The Voice before the Void

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Works mentioned:
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
“The Fiddler” by Herman Melville
50 Great American Short Stories edited by Milton Crane
“I and My Chimney” by Herman Melville
Great Short Works of Herman Melville edited by Warner Berthoff
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Arma Virumque” by Ambrose Bierce
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Other authors mentioned:
Homer
Mark Twain
Robert Benchley
Patrick F. McManus
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
H.P. Lovecraft

“The Man Who Went Too Far” by E.F. Benson

Summer Vacation:
A monster story and a philosophical story about summertime, communion with the natural world, spiritual youth, the inescapable horror of death, and the inescapable horror of life.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Man Who Went Too Far”

E.F. Benson

The little village of St. Faith’s nestles in a hollow of wooded till up on the north bank of the river Fawn in the country of Hampshire, huddling close round its grey Norman church as if for spiritual protection against the fays and fairies, the trolls and “little people,” who might be supposed still to linger in the vast empty spaces of the New Forest, and to come after dusk and do their doubtful businesses. Once outside the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so long as you avoid the high road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the length of a summer afternoon without seeing sign of human habitation, or possibly even catching sight of another human being. Continue reading

“The Moon-Slave” by Barry Pain

Walpurgisnacht. Springtime Halloween.
A famous tale… of the danger of dance.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Moon-Slave”

Barry Pain

The Princess Viola had, even in her childhood, an inevitable submission to the dance; Continue reading

“Oh, For a Home of Rest!” by Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney

The contemplation of suicide in the aftermath of loss.
-The Voice before the Void

“Oh, For a Home of Rest!”

Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney

Oh, for a home of rest!
Time lags alone so slow, so wearily;
Couldst thou but smile on me, I should be blest.
Alas, alas! that never more may be.
Oh, for the sky-lark’s wing to soar to thee!

This earth I would forsake
For starry realms whose sky’s forever fair;
There, tears are shed not, hearts will cease to ache,
And sorrow’s plaintive voice shall never break
The heavenly stillness that is reigning there.

Life’s every charm has fled,
The world is all a wilderness to me;
“For thou art numbered with the silent dead.”
Oh, how my heart o’er this dark thought has bled!
How I have longed for wings to follow thee!

In visions of the night
With angel smile thou beckon’st me away,
Pointing to worlds where hope is free from blight;
And then a cloud comes o’er that brow of light,
Seeming to chide me for my long delay.

“A Good War” by Lord Dunsany

Armistice Day:
Such is every war.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Good War”

from Unhappy Far-off Things

Lord Dunsany

Nietzsche said, “You have heard that a good cause justifies any war, but I say unto you that a good war justifies any cause.”

A man was walking alone over a plain so desolate that, if you have never seen it, the mere word desolation could never convey to you the melancholy surroundings that mourned about this man on his lonely walk. Far off a vista of trees followed a cheerless road all dead as mourners suddenly stricken dead in some funereal procession. By this road he had come; but when he had reached a certain point he turned from the road at once, branching away to the left, led by a line of bushes that may once have been a lane. For some while his feet had rustled through long neglected grass; sometimes he lifted them up to step over a telephone wire that lolled over old entanglements and bushes; often he came to rusty strands of barbed wire and walked through them where they had been cut, perhaps years ago, by huge shells; Continue reading

“The March” by J.C. Squire

Armistice Day
World War I poetry, in commemoration of all wars

“The March”

J.C. Squire

I heard a voice that cried, “Make way for those who died!”
And all the coloured crowd like ghosts at morning fled;
And down the waiting road, rank after rank there strode,
In mute and measured march a hundred thousand dead. Continue reading

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

All lost, all forgotten.
-The Voice before the Void

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

“Gavon’s Eve” by E.F. Benson

Halloween:
Legend and mystery and scandal, a witch and a ghost, and a blasphemous ritual in a castle ruin in the autumnal midnight.
-The Voice before the Void

“Gavon’s Eve”

E.F. Benson

It is only the largest kind of ordnance map that records the existence of the village of Gavon, in the shire of Sutherland, and it is perhaps surprising that any map on whatever scale should mark so small and huddled a group of huts, set on a bare, bleak headland between moor and sea, and, so one would have thought, of no import at all to any who did not happen to live there. But the river Gavon, on the right bank of which stand this half-dozen of chimneyless and wind-swept habitations, is a geographical fact of far greater interest to outsiders, Continue reading

The Ball in the Basement, and The Radio in the Dark

Halloween:
We were drinking Cuba Libres and telling stories.
-The Voice before the Void

The Ball in the Basement, and The Radio in the Dark

Alsazzi Terrato and The Voice before the Void

Sophie, the Ghost of Harvey, North Dakota: Interview with Carolyn Feickert at the Harvey Public Library, and “Sophie’s Legend Lingers in Harvey Library” from Dakota Mysteries and Oddities by William Jackson

2016-august-north-dakota-harvey-public-library-sophia-eberlein-sophie-ghost-haunted-folk-lore-legend-usa-nd-photo-by-the-voice-before-the-void2016-august-north-dakota-harvey-house-1-sophia-eberlein-sophie-crime-ghost-haunted-folk-lore-legend-spooky-tree-usa-nd-photo-by-the-voice-before-the-void 2016-august-north-dakota-harvey-house-2-sophia-eberlein-sophie-crime-ghost-haunted-folk-lore-legend-for-sale-usa-nd-photo-by-the-voice-before-the-void 2016-august-north-dakota-harvey-house-3-sophia-eberlein-sophie-crime-ghost-haunted-folk-lore-legend-creepy-front-door-usa-nd-photo-by-the-voice-before-the-voidHalloween:
An interview with the lovely librarian Carolyn Feickert in August, 2016, in the very busy Harvey Public Library in Harvey, North Dakota, along with the story of Sophia Eberlein from William Jackson’s first book of North Dakota lore, and some thoughts about folklore, tourism, and small town economies.
Fair use of copyrighted material is claimed under U.S. copyright law for the purposes of education and commentary.
-The Voice before the Void

Interview with Carolyn Feickert at the Harvey Public Library in Harvey, North Dakota

The Voice before the Void

and

“Sophie’s legend lingers in Harvey library”

from Dakota Mysteries and Oddities

William Jackson

Also mentioned:
Gorman UFO Dogfight over Fargo, North Dakota
Hazel Miner of the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard

SasWhat podcast and SmallTownMonsters.com
Fouke, Arkansas and the Beast of Boggy Creek
Inverness, Scotland and the Loch Ness Monster
Deadwood, South Dakota and Aces over Eights
Roswell, New Mexico and the Roswell UFO Crash

Harvey, North Dakota
Harvey Public Library
Ben Franklin store in Harvey
Tastee Freez restaurant in Harvey

“Sims, North Dakota” from Wikipedia

Walpurgis Night Special:
Visit North Dakota.

“Sims, North Dakota”

Wikipedia

Sims is a ghost town in Morton County, North Dakota, United States. The town was founded in 1883, and Sims Scandinavian Lutheran Church was constructed the following year. Today, the church has been restored and still worships every other Sunday. The church parsonage has also been restored and is home to the Sims Historical Society Museum.

During her trip to North Dakota in October 2008, First Lady Laura Bush visited Sims and toured its church.

History

Sims was founded in 1883 as a coal town. Coal mining and the town’s brickyard helped Sims grow to a population of more than 1,000 people. However, the 1910 Census recorded a population of just 86 people. The population fluctuated over the years, with an estimated 98 people in 1940.

The post office was founded in 1883 and closed in 1947, with mail routed through Almont, North Dakota, to the south.

Sims Scandinavian Lutheran Church was built in 1884 as a combination church and residence. A new church was built in 1896 next to the parsonage. The church is reportedly North Dakota’s oldest Lutheran church west of the Missouri River. The congregation still has roughly 50 members, even though they do not live in Sims. Locals report, however, that the town does have one remaining resident: a former pastor’s wife who died between 1916 and 1918. Dubbed the “Gray Lady Ghost,” her spirit is reported to haunt the old parsonage, wandering the rooms and playing the organ.

“A Genuine Ghost” from The Philadelphia Press

Walpurgis Night Special:
Totally genuine; no doubt.

“A Genuine Ghost”

The Philadelphia Press

Dayton, O., 1884 March 25.—A thousand people surround the grave yard in Miamisburg, a town near here, every night to witness the antics of what appears to be a genuine ghost. There is no doubt about the existence of the apparition, as Mayor Marshall, the revenue collector and hundreds of prominent citizens all testify to having seen it. Last night several hundred people, armed with clubs and guns, assaulted the specter, which appeared to be a woman in white. Clubs, bullets and shot tore the air in which the mystic figure floated without disconcerting it in the least. A portion of the town turned out en masse to-day and began exhuming all the bodies in the cemetery…. Continue reading

“The Witch of Coös” by Robert Frost

Halloween Special:
Insanity, horror-haunted by adultery and murder, with secrets and lies and talking with the dead, from America’s favorite poet.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Witch of Coös”

Robert Frost

I staid the night for shelter at a farm
Behind the mountain, with a mother and son,
Two old-believers. They did all the talking.

The Mother
Folks think a witch who has familiar spirits
She could call up to pass a winter evening,
But won’t, should be burned at the stake or something. Continue reading

“Curse of the pharaohs” from Wikipedia

Halloween Special:
There is no curse, and there is.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Curse of the pharaohs”

Wikipedia

The curse of the pharaohs refers to an alleged curse believed by some to be cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person, especially a pharaoh. This curse, which does not differentiate between thieves and archaeologists, allegedly can cause bad luck, illness, or death. Since the mid-20th century, many authors and documentaries have argued that the curse is “real” in the sense of being caused by scientifically explicable causes such as bacteria or radiation. However, the modern origins of Egyptian mummy curse tales, their development primarily in European cultures, the shift from magic to science to explain curses, and their changing uses—from condemning disturbance of the dead to entertaining horror film audiences—suggest that Egyptian curses are primarily a cultural, not exclusively scientific, phenomenon.

Anubis Shrine jackal statue grave goods Tutankhamun tomb ancient Egyptian King Tut pharaoh curseThere are occasional instances of genuine ancient curses appearing inside or on the façade of a tomb, as in the case of the mastaba of Khentika Ikhekhi at Saqqara. These appear to be directed towards the ka priests to protect the tomb carefully and preserve its ritual purity rather than as a warning for potential robbers. There had been stories of curses going back to the 19th century, but they multiplied after Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Continue reading

“On the Dunes” by Sara Teasdale

Summer Vacation Special:
The great promise of death.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“On the Dunes”

Sara Teasdale

If there is any life when death is over,
These tawny beaches will know much of me,
I shall come back, as constant and as changeful
As the unchanging, many-colored sea.

If life was small, if it has made me scornful,
Forgive me; I shall straighten like a flame
In the great calm of death, and if you want me
Stand on the sea-ward dunes and call my name.

“Ashes of Soldiers” by Walt Whitman

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
Whitman’s love is unbearable.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Ashes of Soldiers”

Walt Whitman

Ashes of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.

Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or
single ones they come,
And silently gather round me. Continue reading

“Legend tripping” from Wikipedia

Bunny Man Bridge Colchester Overpass Fairfax County Virginia at night photo by Secretsqurl

Walpurgis Night Special:
…out there in the dark.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Legend tripping”

Wikipedia

Legend tripping is a name recently bestowed by folklorists and anthropologists on an adolescent practice (containing elements of a rite of passage) in which a usually furtive, nocturnal pilgrimage is made to a site that is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting. Continue reading

Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard

1920 North Dakota Blizzard Anniversary Special:
Thirty-four people killed, one of them a folk-hero legend.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard

compiled from Wikipedia

The 1920 North Dakota Blizzard was a severe three-day blizzard that killed 34 people from March 15 to March 18, 1920, in the state of North Dakota. High winds and an eight-inch snowfall stopped rail service in Bismarck, knocked out telephone service between Devils Lake and Fargo, and left only one functioning telephone line between Fargo and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is one of the worst North Dakota blizzards on record.

Myrdith and Emmet Miner photo from State Historical Society of North DakotaAmong the victims across North Dakota were Charles Hutchins, who lived north of the town of Douglas; the 12-year-old son of Matt Yashenko, who lived five miles south of the town of Ruso; “Chicken Pete” Johnson, an eccentric who was found dead in his dug-out on South Hill in Minot; the young mother, Mrs. Andrew Whitehead; the four Wohlk brothers; and Hazel Miner. Continue reading

“The Devil” by Zitkala-Sa

A young Dakota girl deals with Christian culture as it is thrust upon her.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Devil”

Zitkala-Ša

Among the legends the old warriors used to tell me were many stories of evil spirits. But I was taught to fear them no more than those who stalked about in material guise. I never knew there was an insolent chieftain among the bad spirits, who dared to array his forces against the Great Spirit, until I heard this white man’s legend from a paleface woman.

Out of a large book she showed me a picture of the white man’s devil. I looked in horror upon the strong claws that grew out of his fur-covered fingers. His feet were like his hands. Trailing at his heels was a scaly tail tipped with a serpent’s open jaws. His face was a patchwork: he had bearded cheeks, like some I had seen palefaces wear; his nose was an eagle’s bill, and his sharp-pointed ears were pricked up like those of a sly fox. Above them a pair of cow’s horns curved upward. I trembled with awe, and my heart throbbed in my throat, as I looked at the king of evil spirits. Then I heard the paleface woman say that this terrible creature roamed loose in the world, and that little girls who disobeyed school regulations were to be tortured by him. Continue reading

Last letter to Sarah Ballou by Sullivan Ballou

St. Valentine’s Day Special:
Made famous by Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary The Civil War, Union Army Major Ballou’s final letter to his wife before he was killed at the First Battle of Bull Run is an unbearable expression of love. All of life is made more rich and more agonizing through acquaintanceship with this letter.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Last letter to Sarah Ballou

Sullivan Ballou

July the 14th, 1861

Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. Continue reading

“Lincoln’s ghost” from Wikipedia

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Special:
The spirit of Lincoln haunts the halls and paths of the United States, even if it doesn’t.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Lincoln’s ghost”

Wikipedia

There have been several stories about ghosts of former Presidents revisiting the White House. However, the most common and popular is that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s ghost, otherwise known as the White House Ghost, is said to have haunted the White House since his death.

Lincoln’s premonitions

It is believed that Lincoln anticipated his assassination. According to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and biographer, three days before his assassination Lincoln discussed with Lamon and others a dream he had, Continue reading

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce

Influential weird fiction.
The scariest thing about ghosts is that you might become one.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa”

Ambrose Bierce

For there be divers sorts of death – some wherein the body remaineth; and in some it vanisheth quite away with the spirit. This commonly occurreth only in solitude (such is God’s will) and, none seeing the end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey – which indeed he hath; but sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant testimony showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also dieth, and this it hath been known to do while yet the body was in vigor for many years. Sometimes, as is veritably attested, it dieth with the body, but after a season is raised up again in that place where the body did decay.

Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their full meaning, as one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than that which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind striking my face revived in me a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment that everything seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled in the autumn wind with heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting Continue reading

“Dark romanticism” from Wikipedia

Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday Special:
All great and dark.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dark romanticism”

Wikipedia

Dark romanticism (often conflated with Gothicism or called American romanticism) is a literary subgenre centered on the writers Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville.

As opposed to the perfectionist beliefs of Transcendentalism, the Dark Romantics emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform.

1. Characteristics

G.R. Thompson stressed that in opposition to the optimism of figures like Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the Dark Romantics adapted images of anthropomorphized evil in the form of Satan, devils, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and ghouls,” as more telling guides to man’s inherent nature. Continue reading

“The Kiss of Death (The Inexorable)” by Carmen Sylva

Chillundity by the Queen of Romania.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Kiss of Death (The Inexorable)”

Carmen Sylva

translated from the German by Helen Zimmern

The sea was running high and was black as night. Only the crests of the endless waves glistened in the lightning that flashed across the heavens. The storm was raging towards the land and threw the ships upon the rocks, so that hundreds of human lives perished in the ocean. Then of a sudden it seemed as though the storm grew entangled among the cliffs on the shore, and condensed into a form that reared up tall and pale against the mighty heavens. It was a grave youth with unflinching black eyes, who leaned upon a sickle and held an hour-glass in his hand. He gazed across the waters with an indifferent air, as though the wrecks, and corpses beneath, concerned him as little as the sand in his glass, which trickled down evenly, steadily, regardless of the blustering of the storm, or the sudden quiet. There was something iron-like in the youth’s features, in his eyes there lay a power that destroyed all things they looked upon; even the ocean seemed to be numbed by them, and to grow silent with fear. Day dawned, and flooded with roseate hues from the rising sun. Sorrow came stepping over the cliffs. She stretched out her arms to the youth.

“Brother,” she cried, “brother, what have you done! You have raged terribly, and did not hear how I called you, ay, cried for you so eagerly.”

“I heard nothing,” said Death. “I felt myself too quiet, so I roused myself. A few vessels were lost in the act.”

“O pitiless one!” said Sorrow.

“I do not comprehend your grief,” answered the somber youth; and turning from her, he walked away. Continue reading

“Armistice Day” by Roselle Mercier Montgomery

Armistice Day Special:
Until war is abolished.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Armistice Day”

Roselle Mercier Montgomery

I think I hear them stirring there, today,
Who have lain still
So long, so long, beside the Aisne and Loire,
On Verdun hill.

I think I hear them whispering, today,
The young, the brave,
The gallant and the gay–unmurmuring long,
There in the grave. Continue reading