A Tale of Unrelenting Horror & Bad Muffins for Halloween


Nevermore,”  I said through gritted teeth, as I felt my way up the creaking, long-disused stairs, breathing deep the gathering gloom, feeling moody and blue.

Why does gloom always do that?  Gather, I mean.  It could learn a thing or two from me, learn to dissipate a bit, at least on weekends.   

My nerve almost failed – – I mean, it’s hard to say “nevermore” with your teeth gritted, but then, the stairs hadn’t been swept in years, so I guess it would’ve been gritty no matter what I did with my teeth.  My throat was knotted with tension and my teeth were already on edge from the howling storm.  All in all, it was a desperately nerve-racking situation, dental-wise.

I paused to shield the guttering candle, almost snuffed out by a sudden icy draft.  Nevermore will I stay in a haunted B&B, when it’s only rated 1 1/2 stars, and the only muffins at breakfast were prune and artichoke.  Another icy draft filled the dank stairwell, and the storm outside rattled the windowpanes.  I thought some more about icy drafts, and how nice it would be to have a cold beer, just to wash away the dust on my tongue.  But one of the embroidered signs on the  bedroom wall asked Guests Please Refrain from Eating or Drinking in Your Room.  And Do Not Sit Upon the Counterpane.

I didn’t know what a counterpane might be, so I didn’t sit on anything, and slept in the bathtub.

Or tried to sleep.

The night was wild with a vicious storm, branches tap-tap-tapping on the window panes, some stupid raven trying to get in, too, but what really rendered the night sleepless was a horrible banshee wail  from somewhere in the upper, supposedly vacant floors!   Finally driven to distraction, I ignored the “Private.  & Kind of Creepy” sign, and forced open the door to the back stairs with a poker I’d snatched from the hearth, the splintering wood and rusty screech drowned out by the storm.   Man, beast, or spirit, I determined to climb the stairs and confront this evil, poker in my hand & black murder on my mind.  The wi-fi was out, so I had nothing else to do anyway.

I also had a candle, the Gideon’s Bible from the nightstand, and the bell from my bicycle.  No holy water, but I brought the little complimentary spray bottle of Lavender & Paprika linen freshener, which really stings if you get it in your eyes.

(That’s a lot of stuff to carry, but luckily, I always travel with vintage 1920’s bathrobes from Abercrombie & Fitch, in MacKay tartan, the long-discontinued model called “The Huntsman’s Friend,” with tons of pockets, a hip flask, and ammo loops.  You can unravel the belt for fishing line, in an emergency.  I really recommend it.)

The horrible keening continued, and I froze for a moment, but with nerves of iron, I steeled myself to, no I mean, with nerves of steel and a backbone of iron, I was galvanized into action.  That’s not quite right, either, is it.  OK, like an iron, I pressed on.  Whatever, I went up the stairs, metallically in some way, and burst open the attic door.


To be confronted

with a scene

of heart-stopping horror,

beyond the capacity of words to express!




Well, actually, we do have words to express it – – it was the B&B’s butler, playing the bagpipes.

The  ghastly shrieks died away, as the fiend drew breath, fixed me with a glittering eye, and intoned sepulchrally, “It’s not keening, laddie, ’tisThe Rose of Kelvingrove’.”

I snatched my trusty Webley .455 from my bathrobe pocket, the one with a built-in holster, and emptied it in his direction.

“Ha!” I cried – – the stupid sign in my room said “Please don’t disturb the tranquility of our guests by turning on the shower bath, radio, or TV after 7:15 PM,” but it didn’t say anything about shooting guns!

Ha!” I said again.  (In crisis mode, my thought process was so quick, the casual listener would be forgiven for thinking I’d said “Haha!” instead of two distinct “Ha’s!” but I figured, really, after discharging a large caliber pistol in a confined space, they probably wouldn’t have heard anything at all, so I pantomimed “Ha!” for dramatic effect.)

Six shots rang true.  The perforated bagpipe fell to the floor like last year’s haggis after a pub brawl in Glasgow.

The butler never flinched.

Totally impassive, he slowly turned, and bent to seize a large black leather portmanteau.

I felt an instant of dismay, because his kilt was rather short.  He dragged the sinister case toward me.  I regretted having expended all six bullets on the bagpipes.

Placing it between us, his mad glare never leaving my face, with infinite menace, he slowly undid the clasps and opened it.

An appalling odor of stale mazurka flooded the attic.

His lips stretched into a hideous grin.

“Polka time, then?” he asked, as he removed the accordion.



A tale of B&B horror for Halloween.


All Hallow’s Eve in the Haste Ye Back Inn.















An early Halloween post.



All Hallow’s Eve in the Forest









Halloween, Uncategorized

Wayward Sisters’ Apothecary








OK I’ve enjoyed posting some photos for Halloween.

If you’re a “regular viewer”, thank you for indulging me, and I promise to simulate maturity for the rest of the year.

Probably posting a bit less for a while, my one-man PR campaign for Upstate New York will be on hold – –

Moving to Boston for six months, perhaps longer, starting a new job, which I expect will require total focus.

New job, new town.  Remembering lots of new names, figuring out the commute, where to get groceries.

There’s a Whole Foods across the street, expensive, and I cannot bring myself to disturb the produce displays,

it would be like vandalizing an art installation.

New language, too – – what is “scrod” and is that the same thing as “wicked pissah,” etc.

I’m looking forward to all the great museums, musical venues, and galleries.

Already learned that the Boston streets are an ironic art installation all their own, designed by M.C. Escher.

But I will, of course, continue to read everyone else’s posts, could not get by without that!  🙂



Halloween, photography

trick or treat, please go ’round to the back door





Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, Halloween, photography, Upstate New York

Haunted Walks Around The Finger Lakes. October. A walk in the woods on All Hallows’ Eve.







Autumn, Halloween, Nature, photography

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. Halloween. The twisted tree.








Finger Lakes, FLX, History, photography, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. Halloween In The Buck Settlement Cemetery.







Halloween, photography

an incantation by moonlight



Finger Lakes, FLX, Halloween, hiking, Ithaca, Upstate New York

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. Lucifer Falls. All Hallows’ Eve ’13.

Chile, Halloween, Pucón, Uncategorized

Night Noises of Pucón. An Early Halloween Post.


Once upon a midnight dreary… came a tapping…rapping at my chamber door… A ghastly grim and ancient Ibis wandering from the Nightly shore… Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!

I grew up in a sleepy rural part of New York State, that most people have never heard of.   It is pretty quiet.

A dirt track, on the edge of town, where go-karts used to generate a droning sound, audible all over the village on Saturday nights, went bust, years ago.  There’s only a subdued hum from the highway going through town;  the semis stick to the Thruway, five or six miles north of here.  The faint gunshots, from hunters, or the farm boys target-shooting with their knockoff AK-47’s, in the old quarry across the canal, end by sunset.   Occasionally, you can hear cheering and honking during high school football games, or snowmobiles whining around the fields during the winter.  But most nights, the only sounds are crickets, frogs, and cicadas.

Once in a while, you’ll hear a whippoorwill or mockingbird, or an owl quietly hooting, but we don’t have nightingales.  From a pine tree at one of my grandmother’s houses, you’d sometimes be bothered by a pair of Mourning Doves, no one’s favorite.

Then I went to College, where the dorms blared music, and spent a semester in Hong Kong — bustling with all-night markets and traffic, throngs of people 24/7, clanking air conditioners — endless light and sound.   A semester at an English university brought recitals of Disney tunes at 3am, by drunken rugby players in the back alley, complete with a percussion section, as they tripped over the dustbins.

chile-volcano2Currently I’m living in a small city, more like a large village really, in the Lake District of central Chile.

And in winter, the natural sounds of Pucón are louder than any place I’ve ever been in before.

I stay in a hostel, built around and above my host family’s house.  La familia is nice — a large, extended family with many children, aunts, uncles and others coming in and out, but during the winter, I often have the hostel to myself, and my hosts are pretty quiet really.  Even the youngest, who careens around all day, nonstop, crashing into things and laughing maniacally, settles down by nine.


But here, in a stunningly beautiful place, next to a sparkling lake, in the shadow of the Andes and a spectacular nine thousand foot snow-covered volcano, it’s harder to sleep than anywhere I’ve been before.

Perhaps it’s the winter weather, not especially cold, compared to home, but often unrelentingly gray and rainy, which has been blamed for the region’s high suicide rate.  Perhaps it’s a psycho-electrical effect  on my brain cells, from the unfamiliar pull of the volcanic region and the southern magnetic pole.  But despite all the natural beauty, there is something unsettling and almost unworldly about Chile during the winter.

For creatures like us, mostly dependent on sight, noise is amplified at night.  And the hostel, a weird echo chamber, exaggerates the weather.  Once inside, it seems like wind storms and rain almost constantly buffet my little fragile house, and as soon as I step outside, there is sun and calm. I go back in, and it sounds like the storm of the century is sweeping in.

My hostel is wooden, casually minimalistic in construction, added as a kind of afterthought-second-story, precariously hanging over the house below. Rickety and probably a fire hazard.

Some of my light comes from a plastic sky roof, loosely bolted into the tin roof.  So, when it rains, it reverberates like a thousand drums; and the wind threatens to rip the corrugated tin and plastic panels off the roof. I watch them twitch and rattle in the storms, and wonder just how long before it comes flying off or crashing down.

Threatening sounds echo off the angular roof.  Sound is reflected strangely. If someone is walking down the hallway, it sounds exactly as if they are walking on my roof.

There are few street lights, and most people heat with wood, creating a smoky haze. At night, this is a very dark town, and you cannot see your hand in front of your face.  And that is when the howling winds start to tear at the roof, while rain batters it – deafening and threatening.  During the winter here, it isn’t a pleasant pitter-patter of rain on tin, like you get on a warm spring day – this seems more like some horror movie, where the denizens of a haunted hostel attack and devour visitors once the storm strikes!

At least the House of Usher sank into its bog quietly, in a reserved, British sort of way, without all this demonic clamor.

The din is compounded by the pervasive and never-ceasing uneasiness you feel when you learn the history of this region.  We are surrounded by the sites of graves from centuries of Mapuche-Spanish conflict, and victims of a great drought, one of the most devastating earthquakes in recorded history, and Pinochet’s police state.  There are active volcanoes, and at night, all in all, it seems pretty likely that some angry spirits are out, looking for blood.

And on top of that, the dogs.

The strays of Pucón, apart from a few Labradors, are very large wolf-like animals – and I like them all.  They’ve proven to be sweet and friendly. After a couple of days here, trying to find my way to work, one of them seemed to recognize that I was lost, and walked along with me, until I got to the school.  He showed up every morning after that to walk with me.  Even though they’re strays, the community feeds them and gives them blankets in cold weather.

But at night, they roam the town.  You see their glowing eyes in the dark, like the Hound of the Baskervilles, and during the worst of the storms, when it thunders, they howl.

So picture:  lying in bed, already feeling uneasy as the building shakes and vibrates, rain is smashing down on the roof, the wind slams the plastic panels against the tin, and the tin against the wood rafters — and then there’s the sound of footsteps above you, like someone insane is walking around up there in the lightning storm.  And then dogs begin howling and baying like wolves from the depths of hell.

All this heap needs is a soundtrack playing the “Danse Macabre” and “Mephisto Waltz”.

Even the birds hereabouts are creepy at night.  During the daytime, there are beautiful green parakeets near the lake, and all sorts of ducks, geese, and diving birds on the lake.  In the hills around town, the Roadside Hawks are very handsome little guys.  But at night…

When I first arrived here, after an 12-hour bus ride from Santiago, pretty exhausted, I lay down, but with the rain bashing down on the tin roof, I couldn’t sleep.  Then, during a lull in the rain, there was a weird, unholy keening.

It sounds like…out there in the darkness…a bagpiper is dying.


But not…quite…dead.  Trying to finish his last Lament.  “A Haggis Fell Upon His Head, An’ Now My Love Is Deid,” or “The EU’s Ga’n Awa’ O’er the Sea, And So’s Our Economee,” or something like that.

I peer out the window, but don’t see anything ghostly in a kilt.  Or any sinister crones ’round a cauldron with curséd kazoos.

But then, wait, there is something moving on the rooftop opposite my window.


It’s a bird, with a long, curving beak.  And it’s making a god-awful unhappy sound, like it was in deep mourning.  And extremely constipated.

This was my introduction to the Black-Faced Ibis of South America.

Edgar Allen Poe had his raven, the Ancient Mariner his albatross, Hitchcock his homicidal gulls.

Me, ibises.  Why did it have to be ibises.






Thoth. Not much worshiped anymore, and feeling a bit blue. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tut, Tut, it’s raining birds

Yes, there are ibises here.  And they are horrible.  What normal birds sing funeral dirges at night during a lightning storm?

If you’ve ever looked at those old stone Egyptian carvings, full of hieroglyphics and weird half-human creatures, there’s an ibis-headed god sometimes called Thoth.

Thoth was the patron of magic, math, and accounting among other things, so you know right away, he’s gotta be maladjusted.

I won’t even get into his other hobby, weighing human hearts.


M0001949EB Wall carving, gods Thoth and Horus Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Wall carving, gods Thoth and Horus pouring the water of life over the King, Temple of Komombo, Egypt Half-tone Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

“What hath night to do with sleep?”


And so, getting back to the midnight revels in Chile — since I’d never seen an ibis outside a zoo, or mummy exhibit, I thought ibises lived in Egypt.

I believe, that the Black-Faced Ibises feel this way, too.  Misplaced and resentful.  Chile is not the warm Nile delta, they’re not worshiped here, there are no pyramids, and they are pissed.


When I looked them up, some birder described them as “highly sociable.”  I guess you could say, that Charles Manson liked to have people all around him, too.  Ibises are also intensely territorial.  One night, I woke up to find two of them fighting to the death on the rooftop across from my window.  The larger one, in a “highly sociable” way, snapped the neck of the other, and then slammed its body again and again on the roof, to make sure it was dead.

These birds are just plain creepy, and their ominous, mournful song really does sound like a creepy dirge. They stare at me.  Even during storms, when it sounds like the winds of Satan are blowing my roof off, and all other birds have vanished, the ibises sit on my window ledge and stare at me, as if watching for me to die so they can come and peck out my eyes. The dogs howl, the winds try to cave in the small weak hostel, and the creepy birds start their eerie dirge.

So this is the kind of crap that haunts the nights around here.  And this is why I come to school exhausted.


I wrote this as my first diary entry from Pucón, and re-reading it, it sounds a bit…overwrought?  feverish?  As it turned out, I wasn’t just feeling creeped-out, I actually was feverish, and having a flare-up of a medical problem.  So I took the bus down to Valdivia, where there’s a hospital, had some tests, pills, antibiotics, etc. and feel a lot better now.  And spring is on the way.

Feeling much more like myself, but sticking to the story, sorry, at night, this is still the noisiest Halloween-kind-of-place I’ve ever been.

Love my school, the students, the teachers, the stray dogs, the Andes, and my host family.  And man, all God’s creatures got a place in the choir, and no doubt I’m invoking the wrath of Thoth, the Audubon Society, and the Ghost of Roger Tory Peterson, but I don’t care, I still hate these wretched Black-Faced Ibises.

When I cannot sleep, I send emails to KFC, praising the bird’s flavor and low fat content, hoping they’ll take the hint.

In a museum in Holland, there’s an ancient papyrus, listing all the calamities that finished off Egypt’s Old Kingdom (long before Moses) and one of the curses?  “Men behaving as wild ibises.”

And at Saqqara, in Egypt, they say they’ve found a million and a half of them, mummified.  The historians think this has deep religious significance.

Personally, I think they just got on everybody’s nerves.

And I also think ol’ Pharaoh had the right idea.  Wrap ’em up tight & stick ’em in a sand dune.

Over and out, from me and the Weird Birds of Doom, here at Night on Bald Mountain, Chile.