Macabre Media: John Barleycorn by Steve Winwood & Stephen King’s ancestry.


Here it is, the first of September, the end of Labor day weekend. There will still be hot summery days, and thunderstorms, but harvest season has come. In that spirit, I’d like to share a harvest song:

Here are the traditional lyrics of this British folk song which pre-dates the 17th century:

There were three men coming out of the west
their fortunes for to try
and these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn should die.
They ploughed him in
they harrowed him in
threw clods all over his head.
And these three men they swore and vowed:
John Barleycorn was dead.

They let him lie for a very long time
till rain from heaven did fall.
And little Sir John sprung up his head
and so amazed them all.
They let him stand till midsummer’s day
he looked both pale and wan.
And little Sir John’s grown a long long beard
and so became a man.

They hired men with the scythes so sharp
to cut him off at knee.
They rolled him and tied him ’round the waist
and served him barbarously.
Then they sent men with pitchforks strong
to pierce him through the heart.
And the loader served him worse than that
for he’s bound him to a cart.

They hired men with crab-tree sticks
to cut him skin from bone
the miller served him worse than that
and ground him between two stones.
And little Sir John and the dark brown bowl
and he’s brandy in the glass
and little Sir John and the dark brown bowl
grew the strongest man at last.


Stephen King will be featured on PBS’s celebrity ancestry research show, Finding Your Roots.  His episode – the first of the season – is In Search of Our Fathers, and it will air Tuesday, September 23rd at 8/7c.

As usual, I’ll give you a heads-up a little closer to the broadcast on my Twitter / Facebook / G+ feed.


Catch up on Sherlock, before the new season starts!

2014.01.22 UPDATE: The streaming option at PBS has now expired. All 6 episodes from seasons 1 & 2 are available via Netflix streaming: HERE.


I saw this notification from PBS and thought I might not be the only one who is just discovering the PBS Masterpiece Mystery series, Sherlock.

TV show Sherlock

I stumbled onto the show in the last couple of weeks. Prior to that, I knew the show was on TV, but – when I first heard about it – I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a Sherlock Holmes adaptation set in present day.

I think I was under the weather when the first episode was recently rebroadcast. Too lazy to look for something else, I watched it. It was quite entertaining … in large part because of the relationship between Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martín Freeman.)

So far, I’ve seen A Study in Pink, The Blind Banker, and The Hounds of Baskerville. All of them took an interesting, even sly, slant on the classic versions. The series is both fresh and respectful. (And there’s a fair bit of funny – always a good thing.)

The new season starts this Sunday, but you can catch all the previous episodes online.

Sherlock, Season 1:

Sherlock, Season 2:

The Paranormalist gets cozy.

Last night, instead of watching another great horror flick, I settled onto the sofa – properly equipped with a cup of tea and my knitting – to enjoy a Miss Marple mystery. As my cats passive-aggressively dueled for my lap-space, and my dog warmed my feet, I added another 2-3 inches to the baby blanket I’m hoping to finish before Solstice eve. (One of my goals is to knit an item for charity each season. This one, I think, will be dropped off at the hospital with a request that it be given to the next baby born to a young single mother.) When the movie finished, I went to sleep. It was not yet three o’clock in the morning.

Last night was a portent of things to come. My blog is likely to … soften a bit in the next month – for two reasons:

1) Despite my general dislike of the yuletide season, I am not entirely immune to the warm fuzziness of Christmastime, with its sentimental music, uplifting movies, and incessant good cheer.

2) My autumnal bout of hypomania has all but faded away. Coming to this realization so quietly is a good thing. By acknowledging and accepting what is happening, I am less likely to spiral into a depression. With luck, I will simply shift gears and become more domestic for a little while.

This month I will cook and putter more. I will stay home as much as possible. I will dote on and pet my menfolk as much as they will allow. I will make a point of taking the dog for a walk in the brightest part of the day. When the real cold comes, I will fret about the chickens and the feral cats, and make warm meals for them. (A grain and veggie mash for the hens, a kibble and gravy mush for the felines.) Despite my resolution to not fuss over the holiday, I will probably decorate something with twinkle lights. I will listen to classic standards by the likes of Mel Tormé and Bing Crosby. I will watch White Christmas. Probably more than once. Because it features the incomparable song and dance man, Danny Kaye.

But I will also re-read Stephen King’s It, as I have done, during winter break, for the past 25 years. And, if I follow my pattern, I will spend more time in my closet-office, with the door closed, wearing my headphones, listening to Midnight Syndicate, writing about witches and ghosts, pretending it is whatever season my characters are living in.

Here in the blog, I might not write about haunts and horror as much, but my interests will remain skewed toward the mysterious and the magical. In that vein, let me point you to a wonderful web find: Edinburgh’s mysterious book sculptures.

mystery book sculptureWatch a news clip about the sculptures HERE.

I’d recommend that you search the web yourself for more information. I poked around enough to learn that a total of ten sculptures were gifted to libraries in Edinburgh, and that the artist has indicated she is female. I don’t really want to know any more than that – I prefer that some mystery remains.

A dark Halloween. (2011)

Thirteen years ago – in what I now recognize as a 3-day-long manic state – I made a tripod website called Dark Touchstones. (Remember tripod websites?) As a special treat to myself, I spent much of Halloween day bringing that content to The Paranormalist. Have a look by visiting Dark Touchstones – a lifetime’s worth of creepy stuff, circa 1997.

NOTE: Most of the tags listed below actually refer to the content of Dark Touchstones. (Apparently I can’t tag pages, only posts.)

P.S. If I were writing Dark Touchstones now, my favorite authors (with their best) list would now have to include Joe Hill and Heart Shaped Box.


I didn’t spend the whole day in front of the computer, though. At about 5p, my 16-year-old son and I decided to raid the old costume trunks and take our dog trick-or-treating in Anoka. (We might be past the age for such things, but Fierce Guard Dog is only 13 months old.)

I donned the dog-suit and fashioned myself a leash and collar from a scrap of red velvet, duct tape and a belt. We put our dog in a one of my favorite t-shirts. (Get it? I was the dog, the dog was me.) The boy opted to dress as a rather dashing pirate. As we rummaged for pirate-y accessories, we found a pair of devil-wings that looked to be the right size for the dog, so we put those on him too … which messed with our “theme” but looked cute.

We didn’t really trick-or-treat of course, though some friends we visited did scrounge up a biscuit for Fierce Guard Dog. Instead we met up with my husband for a walk through the loveliest Halloween evening we’ve had in years. Sadly, there were few costumed children dashing through the warm night, and most of the houses were dark, their stoops devoid of pumpkins. I am reluctantly beginning to believe that Halloween, as we knew it, is dying.

Still, the crescent moon rode bright in the cloud streaked sky, the leaves crunched as we kicked through the gutters and the dog’s devil-wings flapped as he pranced along beside us.

Now, to finish my nostalgic day, I’m going to settle in with a handful of fun-size Milky Way bars and the classic 1978 film, Halloween. (In which there are many glowing jack-lanterns, and my favorite holiday is eternally preserved.)


Image by wwarby via Flickr