Archive | March, 2012

Ghosts of Prague

25 Mar

Prague, the city on the Vlatava river, is not only one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals, it is also one of its most haunted. This bustling, cosmopolitan Czech city is sited amid the tranquil Bohemian countryside, which is home to dozens of brooding castles and historic towns, whose appearance has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years. It is hardly surprising that a place with so many layers of history, that has seen battles, murders, executions and assassinations aplenty, as well as many of the key moments in the story of Europe, should also boast more than its fair share of ghosts. In the late Middle Ages, during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperors, Prague’s position as the crossroads of Europe aided its growth into a magnificent city (at that time far larger and more important than Paris or London). In the 16th century the Austrian Habsburgs took over and built many of the Baroque palaces and gardens that delight visitors today, few of whom suspect the many secrets and supernatural mysteries that lie beneath the glossy veneer. Whether you are a believer, a sceptic, interested in the unexplained or simply looking for a good old-fashioned scare, learning more about the dark side of Prague is a fascinating process. The narrow lanes, cobbled alleys, ancient churches and historic monuments of Prague are brimming over with tales of alchemists, murderers, executioners, and the many unfortunate souls who once lived there. Some of them are said to linger in these places, and who knows, perhaps they can still be seen today…

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Trap for the Unwary

18 Mar

It is interesting to note that Henry James, one of the most celebrated mainstream authors of the 19th century on both sides of the Atlantic, was also, throughout his illustrious career, attracted to the much-maligned ghost story genre. However, he was not fond of literature’s stereotypical ghosts, what he termed the old-fashioned ‘screamers’ and ‘slashers’. Rather, he preferred to create ghosts that were eerie extensions of everyday reality: ‘the strange and sinister embroidered on the very type of the normal and easy’ as he put it. The Turn of the Screw – James’ most famous entry in the supernatural genre – is no exception to this formula. The novella has had differing interpretations, often mutually exclusive. Many critics have tried to determine the exact nature of the evil hinted at by the story – are the story’s ‘ghosts’ an objective reality or simply a creation of the troubled protagonist’s mind? The author himself was little help on what has become a long-standing critical dispute about the reality of the ghosts and the sanity of the story’s heroine – in famously ambiguous terms James once described The Turn of the Screw as ‘a trap for the unwary’.

Continue reading

Whitechapel

11 Mar

One of my favourite shows on TV at the moment is Whitechapel, which explores the many dark and disturbing urban legends of one of London’s famous suburbs. The first series of the show focused on a suspected copycat killer who copied the modus operandi of the most infamous and terrifying serial murderer ever to plague old London town – Jack the Ripper. In the words of Jack himself:

“Below the skin of history are London’s veins. These symbols, the mitre, the pentacle star, even the ignorant and degenerate can sense that they course with energy… and meaning. I am that meaning. I am that energy. One day, men will look back and say that I gave birth to the 20th Century.”

In one sense this is true yet, in spite of the epidemic of 2oth century serial killers with sobriquets like the Boston Strangler, the Buffalo Slasher, the Sunset Slayer and the Yorkshire Ripper, it is Jack who still remains by far and away the most infamous. This is not due simply to the grisly picturesqueness of the nickname but to the fact that the murders took place in the gaslit, fog-shrouded London of Sherlock Holmes and that – unlike the other criminals mentioned above – the identity of Jack the Ripper is still a total mystery.

Continue reading

The 100th Post!!!

4 Mar

‘Are we at the 100th post already?’ I hear you ask. Or to put it another way (I hope): ‘Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?’ Either way, it’s a minor milestone but I thought it was worth an equally minor celebration so I hope you’ll all forgive me if I shamelessly devote this post to my own guilty and not so guilty pleasures. I’m not usually a fan of those ‘Best of…’ list programmes but what I’d like to do is share with you what, in my humble opinion, I consider to be the very best novels, novellas, short stories, films, television series and graphic novels in the field of horror, the paranormal and the supernatural.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: