Stories from the October Country

Here’s a good article on Russell Kirk’s collections of ghostly tales.

The October Country: A Place for Ghostly Tales

“…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…” From The October Country (1955) by Ray Bradbury.


The Woman In Black

Here’s the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s new film, The Woman In Black.

This film looks like it’ll be really creepy, just the kind of thing for Halloween–except it won’t be released until February 2012. Duh, guys.

In an upcoming post, I’ll share a couple of true stories about the Woman in Black from my family history. Stay tuned.

Camouflage: A Ghost Story Sung By Stan Ridgway

I was a PFC on a search patrol, huntin’ Charlie down.
It was in the jungle wars of ’65.
My weapon jammed and I got stuck way out and all alone
and I could hear the enemy moving in close outside.

Just then I heard a twig snap and I grabbed my empty gun
and I dug in scared while I counted down my fate.
And then a big marine, a giant with a pair of friendly eyes,
appeared there at my shoulder and said: “Wait.”

When he came in close beside me he said, “Don’t worry son, I’m here.
If Charlie wants to tangle, now he’ll have two to dodge.”
I said: “Well, thanks a lot.” I told him my name and asked him his.
And he said “The boys just call me Camouflage.”

Well I was gonna ask him where he came from
when we heard the bullets fly,
coming through the brush and all around our ears.
It was then I saw this big marine, light a fire in his eyes.
And it was strange, but suddenly I forgot my fears.

Well we fought all night, and side by side we took our battle stance.
And I wondered how the bullets missed this man.
‘Cause they seemed to go right through him, just as if he wasn’t there
and the morning we both took a chance and ran.

And it was near the riverbank when the ambush came on top of us
and I thought it was the end, we were had.
Then a bullet with my name on it came buzzing through a bush
and that big marine, he just swatted it with his hands…
just like it was a fly.

And I knew there was something weird about him
’cause when I turned around he was pulling a big palm tree
right up out of the ground and swatting those Charlies with it
from here to Kingdom Come.

When he lead me out of danger, I saw my camp and waved good-bye,
he just winked at me from the jungle and then was gone.
When I got back to my H.Q. I told them about my night,
and the battle I’d spent with a big marine named Camouflage.

When I said his name, a soldier gulped, and a medic took my arm
and lead me to a green tent on the right.
He said, “You may be telling true boy, but this here is Camouflage.
And he’s been right here since he passed away last night.
In fact, he’s been here all week long.”

“But before he went he said ‘Semper Fi’ and said his only wish
was to save a young marine caught in a barrage.
So here, take his dog tag, son. I know he’d want you to have it now.”
And we both said a prayer for a big marine named Camouflage.

So next time you’re in a jungle fight, and you feel a presence near
or hear a voice that in your mind will lodge,
just be thankful that you’re not alone; you’ve got some company
from a big marine the boys call Camouflage.

Watch the video:

There’s A Long, Long Trail A-Winding

In my thinking, there is no better way to hear a story than in the author’s own voice. He knows how the audience should hear it, what needs to be emphasized, what can be downplayed.

Russell Kirk’s best ghost story is called “There’s a long, long trail a-winding,” an eerie tale good enough to earn Kirk a Hugo award. In 1976, just prior to it’s publication, Kirk presented this story to an audience at Hillsdale College. The telling was recorded and is now on file in Mp3 format at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute website, and you can listen to it here along with additional anecdotes of Kirk’s personal experiences with the supernatural.

Kirk does not read in the dull monotone you might expect from an academic. Rather, Kirk is a master storyteller and proves himself a dynamic reader, even giving the protagonist his own voice characterization. Kirk even throws in a little singing to liven things up.

The lesser quality of the recording only serves to enhance the experience, reminiscent of the old radio broadcasts of yesteryear. And, given the time in which part of the story takes place, it is a fitting coincidence for this recording. It was easy for me to understand what brought people together around the old radio of an evening as my family and I huddled around the computer listening carefully so as catch every word.

Run time on this piece is about 1 hr. 22 min., but well worth it.

Click to hear “There’s a long, long trail a-winding.