Tags: death

Is that ghost really who they say they are?

One of my online acquaintances told us, "It does seem to be quite unusual to me, to find a ghost that is purely itself and is trapped entirely. I do believe the saying 'the dead walk among the living'. I think it quite possible that although a person may move on to another place, perhaps their personality can be left behind, or fragments of them that do not act quite as an 'imprint' might but carry on being independant and aware although co-existing with whatever moment in time they are in. Almost as if the person has shed their skin and moved on, while these pieces act and think like they were in life."

I have run into some interesting ideas in this line of thought.

One is that we are made up of multiple aspects: Physical, life-force/breath, astral, and soul. At death, the physical portion rots in the ground and returns to the elements. The life-force joins the All Life. The soul goes on. That leaves the astral (one name for it). This shatters at death. It is made up of the "personality" of the dead, while the soul is the core essence.

These shattered bits of personality are not necessarily joined, and over long periods of time they eventually dissolve. But until then, they are as you say, just parts of the deceased's personality, and thus are incomplete and focused only on one part. So one person who was an alcoholic musician has astral fragments of alcoholism and musical ability (among other traits, addictions, etc.). This would come across as an odd obsessed, mad "spirit" because it is unidimensional and without real soul intelligence as such. Just a meme, a program, if you will.

The different elements are attracted to similar characters and places in order to survive and perpetuate itself. So the musician portion might attached to another musician, adding to his talents, or to a music hall, theater, etc. The alcoholism portion might go to another family member who has those tendencies and make that person a worse alcoholic. Or it might go to a local "dive"/tavern to seek alcohol and other alcoholic "vibes." (which is why some old bars are so dank with those kinds of vibes and seem haunted). Any addiction/obsession is especially liable to this self-perpetuation: drugs, booze, sex, etc.

These astral fragments are not true, full spirits, but they aren't just place-memories either. They are like viruses or parasites seeking to survive and perpetuate themselves. They go to family and familiar places first (which is why most indigenous cultures have religio-magical ways of protecting family members after a close relative's death).

Another thing that can happen is that these fragments can be gathered and collected by other spirits, human or nonhuman, and assembled and used as a mask or disguise. Sort of like how a hermit crab uses an abandoned shell from another organism, and glues bits and pieces of found objects to that shell. This is why one needs to be wary of spirits who claim to be friends, relatives, or others thought to be friendly or harmless (like a child ghost). This often happens during use of Ouija boards, channeling, or seances. That may not be your favorite grandmother at all, when it seems like her and knows some things only she would know, but on the other hand, your gut seems to feel something "different" about her at the same time.

Burial Among My People

I took this photo on the Upper Iowa River, in the ancestral homelands of my people the Ioway, in Iowa before we were moved to the reservation in Kansas. I was on a canoe trip during my graduate studies in landscape architecture.

My tribe the Ioway used to make a hole up on some high place where the setting sun's rays would touch the grave. This was called "The Sun Bridge." At that moment, the spirit lifted from the body and traveled on the ray towards the west, where it crossed the crack that separated the worlds, and began to travel the Road of the Dead, the Milky Way, where each star was a campfire, and you would eventually find the fire of your own people.

The body was wrapped in a buffalo robe or blanket, and sat upright in the grave hole, with one's weapons, and a bowl of food and a gourd of water for the journey. Over the top was placed a willow mat, and then some earth over that.

My grandma used to wander the hills above Dupuis Hollow, the family place, on the Iowa Reservation on the border of Kansas-Nebraska, where it touched the Nyishoje, the "Muddy River," the Missouri. She told me once she fell into such a grave up on a ridge, her foot going through into the darkness below. They peered in, and saw the person in there, sitting in the grave from long ago.

The cool thing was that if you actually had been buried alive for some reason, you didn't suffocate. All you had to do was stand up, eat and drink, wrap the blanket around you and go home. Surprised relatives eh?

Aokigahara: Death in the Sea of Trees

People can be pretty spooked about the woods. "The Blair Witch" phenomenon tapped into that. There are parts of some forests that have a "reputation." There are sometimes even entire forests that seem "different," "enchanted," or "haunted."

There is a famous forest near Mount Fuji in Japan, called Aokigahara Jukai. The forest is famous for being a place where people go ever year to commit suicide. It is the second-highest place of suicide in the world. Most often, the reason seems to be economic failure, which is a kind of social damnation in Japan (and also for many people here in America).

The contemporary urban myth is that a 1960 novel "Kuroi Jukai" by Japanese novelist Seichō Matsumoto, in which two lovers commit suicide in this forest, was the inspiration for so many people going off to die there. However, the association of Aokigahara with death is much older than that.

Aokigahara was a place where ubasute was practiced. Ubasute was the practice of taking the elderly and ill off to a remote location, and abandoning them to die from starvation and exposure. Aokigahara also was a place of demons in medieval Japan.

Below is a two-part video on some research for a Swedish documentary about Aokigahara.

Part 1

Part 2

More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aokigahara

Everything Must Change

Just got a book to review, "Eaarth," by Bill McKibben. Not a misspelling.

Imagine we live on a planet.
Not our cozy,
taken-for-granted earth,
but a planet, a real one,
with dark poles
and belching volcanoes
and a heaving, corrosive sea,
raked by winds,
strafed by storms,
scorched by heat.
An inhospitable place.
A different place.
A different planet.
It needs a new name.

McKibben says: "I make the case that we're going to have to figure out how to stop focusing our economies on growth and start thinking about survival. ...We've built a new Eaarth. It's not as nice as the old one; it's the greatest mistake humans have ever made, one that we will pay for literally forever. We live on a new planet. But we have to live on it. So we better start understanding what the hell is going on."

He likens us to being like unruly teens craving excitement and escape from boredom. It's time to grow up. Mature. The time for boyfriends has passed; now is a time of the husband, in the oldest and best sense (as in husbandry). Sure a Thoroughbred race horse is sleek and fast-- you can't go much faster. But if that horse hits rough track, hits some bad mud, and accidents happen, those slender legs get broken. Now is a time for Belgians, Percherons, Clydesdales. Steady as she goes, endure, adapt.

Basically, it's really too late to stop climate change, even if everything we did stopped this minute. It's past the tipping point. Future generations will curse us for our folly. We had better start adapting now. The real question, that whatever you believe the degree of human involvement in climate change to be, our civilization is built on finely balanced systems that can't stand much change. And things are changing, make no mistake. I am only 50, and I see it all around me in this Montana valley, which I have known since childhood.

When I lived in Iowa while going to grad school in the 90s, I went up to Minneapolis, to the history museum there. I was helping them interpret one of our ancestral Ioway tribal sites, the Jeffers Petroglyphs. Unlike most petroglyph sites which are on cliffs, Jeffers is out in the middle of the prairie. On the ground, on the recumbent bones of the Earth, looking skyward. The petroglyphs are under your feet, etched into the red quartzite.

Anyways, I was at the museum and I went to see an exhibit there in 1995 or 1996. It was quiet. There was a recreated room there, from the 1940s or 1950s it looked like. A chair and a lamp. An upright piano. Framed photos everywhere. Like someone's parents' or grandparent's living room. There were small spotlights that faded on and off the various photos, while someone read from old letters written by people living their lives and loves, talking about people they had known who had passed away, and then those same people's own obituaries from local papers. The exhibit played a song I had never heard before, which I found out later was Oleta Adams' "Everything Must Change." So intensely beautiful and stirring was this exhibit, that I sat there alone. And the tears came unexpectedly as I felt my own mortality and all of those people I had ever known, my family, and those I would ever know.

They removed that exhibit a year or so later, because when I came to Minneapolis I wanted to see it again, and it was gone.

When I was a teen in the 1970s, I had a dream. I looked to the top of our street and saw clouds there, misty fog rolling down our street. Wherever the fog touched, the houses decayed, nails popping out of boards, roofs sagging, rotting into the earth. And the cars rusting, decaying, dissolving. Everything metal, everything built, as in time lapse, disappearing with the advancing fog. Closer and closer, block by block, it came. And I stood in the street to meet it. I did not hide. There was no where to hide. But I wondered what would happen when the fog touched me.

Candide, Books, Memories, Death

This has nothing to do with bioregionalism. It is 5 am as I begin writing this, and the full moon shines brightly. The season is turning rapidly now.


I haven't read anything classic or literary or important or which takes effort, for a long time. My reading muscles had atrophied since my youth. I had never read "Candide" and just finished it the night before last.

Before I picked it up at the library, I had no idea what it was about. I only knew Voltaire had written it, and that it was important. and that over the years, it kept popping up in references and my consciousness took notice of it and marked it. This is how one knows what one should read, or what plant to learn about. It keeps popping up, as a person's personal portent.

In this case, I found "Candide" to be a perfect match, as it is so direct, engaging, sarcastic, humorous, and true. Every page has something funny or shocking. The character of Candide also reminded me a bit of the invincibly innocent characters of Chauncey Gardener and Forrest Gump. There is a rollicking momentum in "Candide," like a cantering horse through a devastated landscape. I will read it again soon.

The edition I read is from Random House and is a facsimile of the first book ever released under the Random House imprint, in 1925. Almost every page had a small b/w illustration by Rockwell Kent.

That's another sign.
When I lived in Alaska, I came across the paintings of Kent, and bought a book by him (Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska--Including Extensive Hitherto Unpublished Passages from the Original Journal by Rockwell Kent and Doug Capra (Paperback - May 15, 1996)), about a summer he and his son spent on Fox Island in Alaska. His drawing is fluid and otherworldly, but it is his colors and handling of paint I enjoy most.

The final illustration by Kent is of the farm that Candide buys with the remainder of his fortune at the end of the book. It looked familiar.

...Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: "All events are linked up in this best of all possible worlds; for, if you had not been expelled from the noble castle, by hard kicks in your backside for love of Mademoiselle Cunegonde, if you had not been clapped into the Inquisition, of you had not wandered about America on foot, if you had not stuck your sword in the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the land of Eldorado, you would not be eating candied citrons and pistachios here."

" 'Tis well said," replied Candide, "but we must cultivate our gardens."

And sure enough, it was this illustration that is the origin of the famous Random House logo!


I don't sleep well anymore. My nights are flooded by terrible dreams, and my days by memories, some of which, sometimes don't seem to be mine. But some, thank God are mine. Just the other day my memory stirred its sediments and up bobbed three old songs my Grandma sang to me when I was a very small boy. She had a very good voice, smooth, like those 1940s singers.

1. Oh little playmate
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Shout down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we'll be jolly friends

2. They always always pick on me
They never never let me be
I'm so awful lonesome
Awful sad
It's been a long time since I've been glad
I know what I'll do by and by
I'll eat a worm and then I'll die
And then they'll be sorry
Wait and see
They'll all be sorry that they picked on me

3. Please Mr. Conductor
Please don't put me off the train
For the best friend I have in the world, sir
Is waiting for me in vain
She's expected to die any moment
And may not live through the day
Please Mr. Conductor
Before God takes my mother away

Reading Candide, remembering these songs, the terrible nights and days, all have contributed to thinking what to read next.


I used to love to go into used bookstores. Now it is like going into a charnel house. Desiccated corpses of thousands of abandoned and forgotten books. Each one represents months, days, years of an author's life. Time spent toiling over imagined fame, while life passed one by. Some of these books were never read, and will never be read. I smell dead books and tragedy in those stores.

Now that I have written a book myself, it really hits home, the shadows of used bookstores. Now that I will mark 50 years in the fresh air in a matter of months, mortality knocks at the doors of every sunrise and every sunset. And every full moon.

I want to read at least a little of Joyce's "Ulysses" and of Proust, because I don't know anything about them except readers of great books mark their works among the greatest. Snobs perhaps, but I want to see what the fuss is all about for myself. Odysseus was my first hero as a little boy, and the Cyclops was among the first things I ever drew (recognizeably, a Cyclops and a lion).

I came across this quote by Proust which struck me deeply, for I used to believe becoming an artist or writer would mean leaving at least some of yourself behind, moreso if one has no children: "Doubtless my books also, like my earthly being, would finally some day die. But one must resign oneself to the idea of death. One accepts the idea that in ten years one's self, and in a hundred years one's books, will no longer exist. Eternal existence is not promised to books any more than to men."

But some books do live on, and continue to be read, such as "Candide," because they are eternal. So far anyways. Get it? "So far" something is "eternal?"

The Trapper (1921), by Rockwell Kent

Animism and Bad Rooms

Animism isn't all sweetness and light. We know houses and rooms in houses can be haunted.

But the form of those hauntings can be so intense that it is as if the room itself has its own form of life. And not a pleasant form either. Here I am not talking about spooky feelings in a room, or seeing a shadow or apparition. Here I am talking about when the room itself comes alive.

The following is excerpted from borky's comment at Loren Coleman's Twilight Language blog. I was reading about a 9-year old kid named Montana Lance (!!??!!) killing himself in a bathroom by hanging himself...

...in the '60s, (in Liverpool, in the UK), when I was 8, my school, Tiber Street Junior's, made this great display of installing what was SUPPOSED to be a brand new cloakroom.

Anyway, not long after this took place, I found myself alone in this cloakroom with a pair of twin boys from the year below, celebrated throughout the school for having extremely trendy Beatle-style haircuts.

Anyway, that day we started playing tick, and ducking out of the reach of one of the "Terrible Twins", (as me and my younger sister'd dubbed them), I inadvertently smacked into one of the coat hooks.

To the amazement of the three of us, the whole section the hook was part of seemed to momentarily come alive with cold fury and loathing - almost as if, if only it could, it would've ripped itself up by its foundations and chased us off down the street - at which point a sort of miniature lightning bolt, about two-and-a-half to three inches long arced out of the hook and shocked my hand.

Then, even as we us stood there, jaws gaping and paralysed on the spot, keeping one eye on the coat hook and glancing back and forth at each other wondering what to do next, the three of us were terrified to hear this coat hook, in the utterly hideous voice of a thoroughly nasty old man snarl, "Ah, now you didn't know we could do that, did y', y'little sh*t!" at which point I ran back to class, shaking like a leaf, and the twins ran straight out the school, their parents subsequently refusing to bring them back.

Now, whatever you make of that story, it's all very well for some people to say oh, people're always seeing and hearing things that aren't there, as if somehow that's both the explanation and the 'cure', but I'm aware of adults who, under the well-intentioned onslaught of "it's all in your head", went on to kill themselves over far milder experiences than that; but - God! - until now, it'd never occurred to me kids might be taking that option, too, (if not something far worse, given other data available to me).

I just don't know what to make of it. A cloakroom coming alive and then talking like that. The world is surely a dark and mysterious place.

This reminded me just now of a story I read in my teens about another animated room, called "The Whistling Room." I read it in a book called "Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural" (see cover, here). It was illustrated by Edward Gorey, that fantastic artist of the macabre. I did a search (thank God I remembered the actual title of the story!) and found it.

Carnacki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson. Author of "The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig,'" "The House on the Borderland," "The Ghost Pirates," etc.

No. 3
From The Idler, March, 1910

(Thomas Carnacki, the famous investigator of "real" ghost stories, tells here the results of his peculiar and weird investigations in The Whistling Room)

Carnacki shook a friendly fist at me, as I entered, late. Then, he opened the door into the dining-room, and ushered the four of us — Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and myself — in to dinner.

We dined well, as usual, and, equally as usual, Carnacki was pretty silent during the meal. At the end, we took our wine and cigars to our usual positions, and Carnacki — having got himself comfortable in his big chair — began without any preliminary:—

"I have just got back from Ireland, again," he said. "And I thought you chaps would be interested to hear my news. Besides, I fancy I shall see the thing clearer, after I have told it all out straight. I must tell you this, though, at the beginning — up to the present moment, I have been utterly and completely 'stumped.' I have tumbled upon one of the most peculiar cases of 'haunting' — or devilment of some sort — that I have come against. Now listen.

"I have been spending the last few weeks at Iastrae Castle, about twenty miles north-east of Galway. I got a letter about a month ago from a Mr. Sid K. Tassoc, who it seemed had bought the place lately, and moved in, only to find that he had bought a very peculiar piece of property.

"When I got there, he met me at the station, driving a jaunting-car, and drove me up to the castle, which, by the way, he called a 'house-shanty.' I found that he was 'pigging it' there with his boy brother and another American, who seemed to be half-servant and half-companion. It seems that all the servants had left the place, in a body, as you might say; and now they were managing among themselves, assisted by some day-help.

"The three of them got together a scratch feed, and Tassoc told me all about the trouble, whilst we were at table. It is most extraordinary, and different from anything that I have had to do with; though that Buzzing Case was very queer, too.

"Tassoc began right in the middle of his story. 'We've got a room in this shanty,' he said, 'which has got a most infernal whistling in it; sort of haunting it. The thing starts any time; you never know when, and it goes on until it frightens you. All the servants have gone, as you know. It's not ordinary whistling, and it isn't the wind. Wait till you hear it.'

" 'We're all carrying guns,' said the boy; and slapped his coat pocket.

" 'As bad as that?' I said; and the older boy nodded. 'It may be soft,' he replied; 'but wait till you've heard it. Sometimes I think it's some infernal thing, and the next moment, I'm just as sure that someone's playing a trick on me.'

" 'Why?' I asked. 'What is to be gained?'

" 'You mean,' he said, 'that people usually have some good reason for playing tricks as elaborate as this. Well, I'll tell you. There's a lady in this province, by the name of Miss Donnehue, who's going to be my wife, this day two months. She's more beautiful than they make them, and so far as I can see, I've just stuck my head into an Irish hornet's nest. There's about a score of hot young Irishmen been courting her these two years gone, and now that I'm come along and cut them out, they feel raw against me. Do you begin to understand the possibilities?'

" 'Yes,' I said. 'Perhaps I do in a vague sort of way; but I don't see how all this affects the room?'

" 'Like this,' he said. 'When I'd fixed it up with Miss Donnehue, I looked out for a place, and bought this little house-shanty. Afterwards, I told her — one evening during dinner, that I'd decided to tie up here. And then she asked me whether I wasn't afraid of the whistling room. I told her it must have been thrown in gratis, as I'd heard nothing about it. There were some of her men friends present, and I saw a smile go round. I found out, after a bit of questioning, that several people have bought this place during the last twenty-odd years. And it was always on the market again, after a trial.

" 'Well, the chaps started to bait me a bit, and offered to take bets after dinner that I'd not stay six months in the place. I looked once or twice to Miss Donnehue, so as to be sure I was "getting the note" of the talkee-talkee; but I could see that she didn't take it as a joke, at all. Partly, I think, because there was a bit of a sneer in the way the men were tackling me, and partly because she really believes there is something in this yarn of the Whistling Room.

" 'However, after dinner, I did what I could to even things up with the others. I nailed all their bets, and screwed them down hard and safe. I guess some of them are going to be hard hit, unless I lose; which I don't mean to. Well, there you have practically the whole yarn.'

" 'Not quite,' I told him. 'All that I know, is that you have bought a castle with a room in it that is in some way "queer," and that you've been doing some betting. Also, I know that your servants have got frightened and run away. Tell me something about the whistling?'

" 'Oh, that!' said Tassoc; 'that started the second night we were in. I'd had a good look round the room, in the daytime, as you can understand; for the talk up at Arlestrae — Miss Donnehue's place — had made me wonder a bit. But it seems just as usual as some of the other rooms in the old wing, only perhaps a bit more lonesome. But that may be only because of the talk about it, you know.

" 'The whistling started about ten o'clock, on the second night, as I said. Tom and I were in the library, when we heard an awfully queer whistling, coming along the East Corridor —— The room is in the East Wing, you know.

" ' "That's that blessed ghost!" I said to Tom, and we collared the lamps off the table, and went up to have a look. I tell you, even as we dug along the corridor, it took me a bit in the throat, it was so beastly queer. It was a sort of tune, in a way; but more as if a devil or some rotten thing were laughing at you, and going to get round at your back. That's how it makes you feel.

" 'When we got to the door, we didn't wait; but rushed it open; and then I tell you the sound of the thing fairly hit me in the face. Tom said he got it the same way — sort of felt stunned and bewildered. We looked all round, and soon got so nervous, we just cleared out, and I locked the door.

" 'We came down here, and had a stiff peg each. Then we got fit again, and began to think we'd been nicely had. So we took sticks, and went out into the grounds, thinking after all it must be some of these confounded Irishmen working the ghost-trick on us. But there was not a leg stirring.

" 'We went back into the house, and walked over it, and then paid another visit to the room. But we simply couldn't stand it. We fairly ran out, and locked the door again. I don't know how to put it into words; but I had a feeling of being up against something that was rottenly dangerous. You know! We've carried our guns ever since.

" 'Of course, we had a real turn-out of the room next day, and the whole house-place; and we even hunted round the grounds; but there was nothing queer. And now I don't know what to think; except that the sensible part of me tells me that it's some plan of these Wild Irishmen to try to take a rise out of me.'

" 'Done anything since?' I asked him.

" 'Yes,' he said — 'watched outside of the door of the room at nights, and chased round the grounds, and sounded the walls and floor of the room. We've done everything we could think of; and it's beginning to get on our nerves; so we sent for you.'

" By this, we had finished eating. As we rose from the table, Tassoc suddenly called out:— 'Ssh! Hark!'

"We were instantly silent, listening. Then I heard it, an extraordinary hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman, coming from far away through corridors to my right.

" 'By G—d!' said Tassoc; 'and it's scarcely dark yet! Collar those candles, both of you, and come along.'

"In a few moments, we were all out of the door and racing up the stairs. Tassoc turned into a long corridor, and we followed, shielding our candles as we ran. The sound seemed to fill all the passage as we drew near, until I had the feeling that the whole air throbbed under the power of some wanton Immense Force — a sense of an actual taint, as you might say, of monstrosity all about us.

"Tassoc unlocked the door; then, giving it a push with his foot, jumped back, and drew his revolver. As the door flew open, the sound beat out at us, with an effect impossible to explain to one who has not heard it — with a certain, horrible personal note in it; as if in there in the darkness you could picture the room rocking and creaking in a mad, vile glee to its own filthy piping and whistling and hooning. To stand there and listen, was to be stunned by Realisation. It was as if someone showed you the mouth of a vast pit suddenly, and said:— That's Hell. And you knew that they had spoken the truth. Do you get it, even a little bit?

"I stepped back a pace into the room, and held the candle over my head, and looked quickly round. Tassoc and his brother joined me, and the man came up at the back, and we all held our candles high. I was deafened with the shrill, piping hoon of the whistling; and then, clear in my ear, something seemed to be saying to me:— 'Get out of here — quick! Quick! Quick!'

"As you chaps know, I never neglect that sort of thing. Sometimes it may be nothing but nerves; but as you will remember, it was just such a warning that saved me in the 'Grey Dog' Case, and in the 'Yellow Finger' Experiments; as well as other times. Well, I turned sharp round to the others: 'Out!' I said. 'For God's sake, out quick.' And in an instant I had them into the passage.

"There came an extraordinary yelling scream into the hideous whistling, and then, like a clap of thunder, an utter silence. I slammed the door, and locked it. Then, taking the key, I looked round at the others. They were pretty white, and I imagine I must have looked that way too. And there we stood a moment, silent.

" 'Come down out of this, and have some whisky,' said Tassoc, at last, in a voice he tried to make ordinary; and he led the way. I was the back man, and I know we all kept looking over our shoulders. When we got downstairs, Tassoc passed the bottle round. He took a drink, himself, and slapped his glass down on to the table. Then sat down with a thud.

" 'That's a lovely thing to have in the house with you, isn't it!' he said. And directly afterwards:— 'What on earth made you hustle us all out like that, Carnacki?'

" 'Something seemed to be telling me to get out, quick,' I said. 'Sounds a bit silly-superstitious, I know; but when you are meddling with this sort of thing, you've got to take notice of queer fancies, and risk being laughed at.'

"I told him then about the 'Grey Dog' business, and he nodded a lot to that. 'Of course,' I said, 'this may be nothing more than those would-be rivals of yours playing some funny game; but, personally, though I'm going to keep an open mind, I feel that there is something beastly and dangerous about this thing.'

"We talked for a while longer, and then Tassoc suggested billiards, which we played in a pretty half-hearted fashion, and all the time cocking an ear to the door, as you might say, for sounds; but none came, and later, after coffee, he suggested early bed, and a thorough overhaul of the room on the morrow.

"My bedroom was in the newer part of the castle, and the door opened into the picture gallery. At the East end of the gallery was the entrance to the corridor of the East Wing; this was shut off from the gallery by two old and heavy oak doors, which looked rather odd and quaint beside the more modern doors of the various rooms.

"When I reached my room, I did not go to bed; but began to unpack my instrument-trunk, of which I had retained the key. I intended to take one or two preliminary steps at once, in my investigation of the extraordinary whistling.

"Presently, when the castle had settled into quietness, I slipped out of my room, and across to the entrance of the great corridor. I opened one of the low, squat doors, and threw the beam of my pocket searchlight down the passage. It was empty, and I went through the doorway, and pushed-to the oak behind me. Then along the great passage-way, throwing my light before and behind, and keeping my revolver handy.

"I had hung a 'protection belt' of garlic round my neck, and the smell of it seemed to fill the corridor and give me assurance; for, as you all know, it is a wonderful 'protection' against the more usual Aeiirii forms of semi-materialisation, by which I supposed the whistling might be produced; though, at that period of my investigation, I was quite prepared to find it due to some perfectly natural cause; for it is astonishing the enormous number of cases that prove to have nothing abnormal in them.

"In addition to wearing the necklet, I had plugged my ears loosely with garlic, and as I did not intend to stay more than a few minutes in the room, I hoped to be safe.

"When I reached the door, and put my hand into my pocket for the key, I had a sudden feeling of sickening funk. But I was not going to back out, if I could help it. I unlocked the door and turned the handle. Then I gave the door a sharp push with my foot, as Tassoc had done, and drew my revolver, though I did not expect to have any use for it, really.

"I shone the searchlight all round the room, and then stepped inside, with a disgustingly horrible feeling of walking slap into a waiting Danger. I stood a few seconds, waiting, and nothing happened, and the empty room showed bare from corner to corner. And then, you know, I realised that the room was full of an abominable silence; can you understand that? A sort of purposeful silence, just as sickening as any of the filthy noises the Things have power to make. Do you remember what I told you about that 'Silent Garden' business? Well, this room had just that same malevolent silence — the beastly quietness of a thing that is looking at you and not seeable itself, and thinks that it has got you. Oh, I recognised it instantly, and I whipped the top off my lantern, so as to have light over the whole room.

"Then I set-to, working like fury, and keeping my glance all about me. I sealed the two windows with lengths of human hair, right across, and sealed them at every frame. As I worked, a queer, scarcely perceptible tenseness stole into the air of the place, and the silence seemed, if you can understand me, to grow more solid. I knew then that I had no business there without 'full protection'; for I was practically certain that this was no mere Aeiirii development; but one of the worst forms, as the Saiitii; like that 'Grunting Man' case — you know.

"I finished the window, and hurried over to the great fireplace. This is a huge affair, and has a queer gallows-iron, I think they are called, projecting from the back of the arch. I sealed the opening with seven human hairs — the seventh crossing the six others.

"Then, just as I was making an end, a low, mocking whistle grew in the room. A cold, nervous pricking went up my spine, and round my forehead from the back. The hideous sound filled all the room with an extraordinary, grotesque parody of human whistling, too gigantic to be human — as if something gargantuan and monstrous made the sounds softly. As I stood there a last moment, pressing down the final seal, I had no doubt but that I had come across one of those rare and horrible cases of the Inanimate reproducing the functions of the Animate. I made a grab for my lamp, and went quickly to the door, looking over my shoulder, and listening for the thing that I expected. It came, just as I got my hand upon the handle — a squeal of incredible, malevolent anger, piercing through the low hooning of the whistling. I dashed out, slamming the door and locking it. I leant a little against the opposite wall of the corridor, feeling rather funny; for it had been a narrow squeak. . . . 'Theyr be noe sayfetie to be gained bye gayrds of holieness when the monyster hath pow'r to speak throe woode and stoene.' So runs the passage in the Sigsand MS., and I proved it in that 'Nodding Door' business. There is no protection against this particular form of monster, except, possibly, for a fractional period of time; for it can reproduce itself in, or take to its purpose, the very protective material which you may use, and has the power to 'forme wythine the pentycle'; though not immediately. There is, of course, the possibility of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual being uttered; but it is too uncertain to count upon, and the danger is too hideous; and even then it has no power to protect for more than 'maybee fyve beats of the harte,' as the Sigsand has it.

"Inside of the room, there was now a constant, meditative, hooning whistling; but presently this ceased, and the silence seemed worse; for there is such a sense of hidden mischief in a silence.

"After a little, I sealed the door with crossed hairs, and then cleared off down the great passage, and so to bed.

"For a long time I lay awake; but managed eventually to get some sleep. Yet, about two o'clock I was waked by the hooning whistling of the room coming to me, even through the closed doors. The sound was tremendous, and seemed to beat through the whole house with a presiding sense of terror. As if (I remember thinking) some monstrous giant had been holding mad carnival with itself at the end of that great passage.

"I got up and sat on the edge of the bed, wondering whether to go along and have a look at the seal; and suddenly there came a thump on my door, and Tassoc walked in, with his dressing-gown over his pyjamas.

" 'I thought it would have waked you, so I came along to have a talk,' he said. 'I can't sleep. Beautiful! Isn't it!'

" 'Extraordinary!' I said, and tossed him my case.

"He lit a cigarette, and we sat and talked for about an hour; and all the time that noise went on, down at the end of the big corridor.

"Suddenly, Tassoc stood up:—

" 'Let's take our guns, and go and examine the brute,' he said, and turned towards the door.

" 'No!' I said. 'By Jove — NO! I can't say anything definite, yet; but I believe that room is about as dangerous as it well can be.'

" 'Haunted — really haunted?' he asked, keenly and without any of his frequent banter.

"I told him, of course, that I could not say a definite yes or no to such a question; but that I hoped to be able to make a statement, soon. Then I gave him a little lecture on the False Re-Materialisation of the Animate-Force through the Inanimate-Inert. He began then to see the particular way in the room might be dangerous, if it were really the subject of a manifestation.

"About an hour later, the whistling ceased quite suddenly, and Tassoc went off again to bed. I went back to mine, also, and eventually got another spell of sleep.

"In the morning, I went along to the room. I found the seals on the door intact. Then I went in. The window seals and the hair were all right; but the seventh hair across the great fireplace was broken. This set me thinking. I knew that it might, very possibly, have snapped, through my having tensioned it too highly; but then, again, it might have been broken by something else. Yet, it was scarcely possible that a man, for instance, could have passed between the six unbroken hairs; for no one would ever have noticed them, entering the room that way, you see; but just walked through them, ignorant of their very existence.

"I removed the other hairs, and the seals. Then I looked up the chimney. It went up straight, and I could see blue sky at the top. It was a big, open flue, and free from any suggestion of hiding places, or corners. Yet, of course, I did not trust to any such casual examination, and after breakfast, I put on my overalls, and climbed to the very top, sounding all the way; but I found nothing.

"Then I came down, and went over the whole of the room — floor, ceiling, and walls, mapping them out in six-inch squares, and sounding with both hammer and probe. But there was nothing abnormal.

"Afterwards, I made a three-weeks search of the whole castle, in the same thorough way; but found nothing. I went even further, then; for at night, when the whistling commenced, I made a microphone test. You see, if the whistling were mechanically produced, this test would have made evident to me the working of the machinery, if there were any such concealed within the walls. It certainly was an up-to-date method of examination, as you must allow.

"Of course, I did not think that any of Tassoc's rivals had fixed up any mechanical contrivance; but I thought it just possible that there had been some such thing for producing the whistling, made away back in the years, perhaps with the intention of giving the room a reputation that would ensure its being free of inquisitive folk. You see what I mean? Well, of course, it was just possible, if this were the case, that someone knew the secret of the machinery, and was utilizing the knowledge to play this devil of a prank on Tassoc. The microphone test of the walls would certainly have made this known to me, as I have said; but there was nothing of the sort in the castle; so that I had practically no doubt at all now, but that it was a genuine case of what is popularly termed 'haunting.'

"All this time, every night, and sometimes most of each night, the hooning whistling of the Room was intolerable. It was as if an intelligence there, knew that steps were being taken against it, and piped and hooned in a sort of mad, mocking contempt. I tell you, it was as extraordinary as it was horrible. Time after time, I went along — tip-toeing noiselessly on stockinged feet — to the sealed door (for I always kept the Room sealed). I went at all hours of the night, and often the whistling, inside, would seem to change to a brutally malignant note, as though the half-animate monster saw me plainly through the shut door. And all the time the shrieking, hooning whistling would fill the whole corridor, so that I used to feel a precious lonely chap, messing about there with one of Hell's mysteries.

"And every morning, I would enter the room, and examine the different hairs and seals. You see, after the first week, I had stretched parallel hairs all along the walls of the room, and along the ceiling; but over the floor, which was of polished stone, I had set out little, colourless wafers, tacky-side uppermost. Each wafer was numbered, and they were arranged after a definite plan, so that I should be able to trace the exact movements of any living thing that went across the floor.

"You will see that no material being or creature could possibly have entered that room, without leaving many signs to tell me about it. But nothing was ever disturbed, and I began to think that I should have to risk an attempt to stay the night in the room, in the Electric Pentacle. Yet, mind you, I knew that it would be a crazy thing to do; but I was getting stumped, and ready to do anything.

"Once, about midnight, I did break the seal on the door, and have a quick look in; but, I tell you, the whole Room gave one mad yell, and seemed to come towards me in a great belly of shadows, as if the walls had bellied in towards me. Of course, that must have been fancy. Anyway, the yell was sufficient, and I slammed the door, and locked it, feeling a bit weak down my spine. You know the feeling.

"And then, when I had got to that state of readiness for anything, I made something of a discovery. It was about one in the morning, and I was walking slowly round the castle, keeping in the soft grass. I had come under the shadow of the East Front, and far above me, I could hear the vile, hooning whistle of the Room, up in the darkness of the unlit wing. Then, suddenly, a little in front of me, I heard a man's voice, speaking low, but evidently in glee:—

" 'By George! You Chaps; but I wouldn't care to bring a wife home in that!' it said, in the tone of the cultured Irish.

"Someone started to reply; but there came a sharp exclamation, and then a rush, and I heard footsteps running in all directions. Evidently, the men had spotted me.

"For a few seconds, I stood there, feeling an awful ass. After all, they were at the bottom of the haunting! Do you see what a big fool it made me seem? I had no doubt but that they were some of Tassoc's rivals; and here I had been feeling in every bone that I had hit a real, bad, genuine Case! And then, you know, there came the memory of hundreds of details, that made me just as much in doubt again. Anyway, whether it was natural, or ab-natural, there was a great deal yet to be cleared up.

"I told Tassoc, next morning, what I had discovered, and through the whole of every night, for five nights, we kept a close watch round the East Wing; but there was never a sign of anyone prowling about; and all the time, almost from evening to dawn, that grotesque whistling would hoon incredibly, far above us in the darkness.

"On the morning after the fifth night, I received a wire from here, which brought me home by the next boat. I explained to Tassoc that I was simply bound to come away for a few days; but told him to keep up the watch round the castle. One thing I was very careful to do, and that was to make him absolutely promise never to go into the Room, between sunset and sunrise. I made it clear to him that we knew nothing definite yet, one way or the other; and if the room were what I had first thought it to be, it might be a lot better for him to die first, than enter it after dark.

"When I got here, and had finished my business, I thought you chaps would be interested; and also I wanted to get it all spread out clear in my mind; so I rung you up. I am going over again to-morrow, and when I get back, I ought to have something pretty extraordinary to tell you. By the way, there is a curious thing I forgot to tell you. I tried to get a phonographic record of the whistling; but it simply produced no impression on the wax at all. That is one of the things that has made me feel queer, I can tell you. Another extraordinary thing is that the microphone will not magnify the sound — will not even transmit it; seems to take no account of it, and acts as if it were non-existent. I am absolutely and utterly stumped, up to the present. I am a wee bit curious to see whether any of your dear clever heads can make dayling of it. I cannot — not yet."

He rose to his feet.

"Good night, all," he said, and began to usher us out abruptly, but without offence, into the night.

A fortnight later, he dropped each of us a card, and you can imagine that I was not late this time. When we arrived, Carnacki took us straight into dinner, and when we had finished, and all made ourselves comfortable, he began again, where he had left off:—

"Now just listen quietly; for I have got something pretty queer to tell you. I got back late at night, and I had to walk up to the castle, as I had not warned them that I was coming. It was bright moonlight; so that the walk was rather a pleasure, than otherwise. When I got there, the whole place was in darkness, and I thought I would take a walk round outside, to see whether Tassoc or his brother was keeping watch. But I could not find them anywhere, and concluded that they had got tired of it, and gone off to bed.

"As I returned across the front of the East Wing, I caught the hooning whistling of the Room, coming down strangely through the stillness of the night. It had a queer note in it, I remember — low and constant, queerly meditative. I looked up at the window, bright in the moonlight, and got a sudden thought to bring a ladder from the stable-yard, and try to get a look into the Room, through the window.

"With this notion, I hunted round at the back of the castle, among the straggle of offices, and presently found a long, fairly light ladder; though it was heavy enough for one, goodness knows! And I thought at first that I should never get it reared. I managed at last, and let the ends rest very quietly against the wall, a little below the sill of the larger window. Then, going silently, I went up the ladder. Presently, I had my face above the sill and was looking in alone with the moonlight.

"Of course, the queer whistling sounded louder up there; but it still conveyed that peculiar sense of something whistling quietly to itself — can you understand? Though, for all the meditative lowness of the note, the horrible, gargantuan quality was distinct — a mighty parody of the human, as if I stood there and listened to the whistling from the lips of a monster with a man's soul.

"And then, you know, I saw something. The floor in the middle of the huge, empty room, was puckered upwards in the centre into a strange soft-looking mound, parted at the top into an ever changing hole, that pulsated to that great, gentle hooning. At times, as I watched, I saw the heaving of the indented mound, gap across with a queer, inward suction, as with the drawing of an enormous breath; then the thing would dilate and pout once more to the incredible melody. And suddenly, as I stared, dumb, it came to me that the thing was living. I was looking at two enormous, blackened lips, blistered and brutal, there in the pale moonlight....

"Abruptly, they bulged out to a vast, pouting mound of force and sound, stiffened and swollen, and hugely massive and clean-cut in the moon-beams. And a great sweat lay heavy on the vast upper-lip. In the same moment of time, the whistling had burst into a mad screaming note, that seemed to stun me, even where I stood, outside of the window. And then, the following moment, I was staring blankly at the solid, undisturbed floor of the room — smooth, polished stone flooring, from wall to wall; and there was an absolute silence.

"You can picture me staring into the quiet Room, and knowing what I knew. I felt like a sick, frightened kid, and wanted to slide quietly down the ladder, and run away. But in that very instant, I heard Tassoc's voice calling to me from within the Room, for help, help. My God! but I got such an awful dazed feeling; and I had a vague, bewildered notion that, after all, it was the Irishmen who had got him in there, and were taking it out of him. And then the call came again, and I burst the window, and jumped in to help him. I had a confused idea that the call had come from within the shadow of the great fireplace, and I raced across to it; but there was no one there.

" 'Tassoc!' I shouted, and my voice went empty-sounding round the great apartment; and then, in a flash, I knew that Tassoc had never called. I whirled round, sick with fear, towards the window, and as I did so, a frightful, exultant whistling scream burst through the Room. On my left, the end wall had bellied-in towards me, in a pair of gargantuan lips, black and utterly monstrous, to within a yard of my face. I fumbled for a mad instant at my revolver; not for it, but myself; for the danger was a thousand times worse than death. And then, suddenly, the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual was whispered quite audibly in the room. Instantly, the thing happened that I have known once before. There came a sense as of dust falling continually and monotonously, and I knew that my life hung uncertain and suspended for a flash, in a brief, reeling vertigo of unseeable things. Then that ended, and I knew that I might live. My soul and body blended again, and life and power came to me. I dashed furiously at the window, and hurled myself out head-foremost; for I can tell you that I had stopped being afraid of death. I crashed down on to the ladder, and slithered, grabbing and grabbing; and so came some way or other alive to the bottom. And there I sat in the soft, wet grass, with the moonlight all about me; and far above, through the broken window of the Room, there was a low whistling.

"That is the chief of it. I was not hurt, and I went round to the front, and knocked Tassoc up. When they let me in, we had a long yarn, over some good whisky — for I was shaken to pieces —, and I explained things as much as I could, I told Tassoc that the room would have to come down, and every fragment of it burned in a blast-furnace, erected within a pentacle. He nodded. There was nothing to say. Then I went to bed.

"We turned a small army on to the work, and within ten days, that lovely thing had gone up in smoke, and what was left was calcined, and clean.

"It was when the workmen were stripping the panelling, that I got hold of a sound notion of the beginnings of that beastly development. Over the great fireplace, after the great oak panels had been torn down, I found that there was let into the masonry a scrollwork of stone, with on it an old inscription, in ancient Celtic, that here in this room was burned Dian Tiansav, Jester of King Alzof, who made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore of the Seventh Castle.

"When I got the translation clear, I gave it to Tassoc. He was tremendously excited; for he knew the old tale, and took me down to the library to look at an old parchment that gave the story in detail. Afterwards, I found that the incident was well-known about the country-side; but always regarded more as a legend, than as history. And no one seemed ever to have dreamt that the old East Wing of Iastrae Castle was the remains of the ancient Seventh Castle.

"From the old parchment, I gathered that there had been a pretty dirty job done, away back in the years. It seems that King Alzof and King Ernore had been enemies by birthright, as you might say truly; but that nothing more than a little raiding had occurred on either side for years, until Dian Tiansay made the Song of Foolishness upon King Ernore, and sang it before King Alzof; and so greatly was it appreciated that King Alzof gave the jester one of his ladies, to wife.

"Presently, all the people of the land had come to know the song, and so it came at last to King Ernore, who was so angered that he made war upon his old enemy, and took and burned him and his castle; but Dian Tiansay, the jester, he brought with him to his own place, and having torn his tongue out because of the song which he had made and sung, he imprisoned him in the Room in the East Wing (which was evidently used for unpleasant purposes), and the jester's wife, he kept for himself, having a fancy for her prettiness.

"But one night, Dian Tiansay's wife was not to be found, and in the morning they discovered her lying dead in her husband's arms, and he sitting, whistling the Song of Foolishness, for he had no longer the power to sing it.

"Then they roasted Dian Tiansay, in the great fireplace — probably from that selfsame 'galley-iron' which I have already mentioned. And until he died, Dian Tiansay ceased not to whistle the Song of Foolishness, which he could no longer sing. But afterwards, 'in that room' there was often heard at night the sound of something whistling; and there 'grew a power in that room,' so that none dared to sleep in it. And presently, it would seem, the King went to another castle; for the whistling troubled him.

"There you have it all. Of course, that is only a rough rendering of the translation of the parchment. But it sounds extraordinarily quaint. Don't you think so?"

"Yes," I said, answering for the lot. "But how did the thing grow to such a tremendous manifestation?"

"One of those cases of continuity of thought producing a positive action upon the immediate surrounding material," replied Carnacki. "The development must have been going forward through centuries, to have produced such a monstrosity. It was a true instance of Saiitii manifestation, which I can best explain by likening it to a living spiritual fungus, which involves the very structure of the aether-fibre itself, and, of course, in so doing, acquires an essential control over the 'material-substance' involved in it. It is impossible to make it plainer in a few words."

"What broke the seventh hair?" asked Taylor.

But Carnacki did not know. He thought it was probably nothing but being too severely tensioned. He also explained that they found out that the men who had run away, had not been up to mischief; but had come over secretly, merely to hear the whistling, which, indeed, had suddenly become the talk of the whole countryside.

"One other thing," said Arkright, "have you any idea what governs the use of the Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual? I know, of course, that it was used by the Ab-human Priests in the Incantation of Raaaee; but what used it on your behalf, and what made it?"

"You had better read Harzan's Monograph, and my Addenda to it, on Astral and Astarral Co-ordination and Interference," said Carnacki. "It is an extraordinary subject, and I can only say here that the human-vibration may not be insulated from the astarral (as is always believed to be the case, in interferences by the Ab-human), without immediate action being taken by those Forces which govern the spinning of the outer circle. In other words, it is being proved, time after time, that there is some inscrutable Protective Force constantly intervening between the human-soul (not the body, mind you,) and the Outer Monstrosities. Am I clear?"

"Yes, I think so," I replied. "And you believe that the Room had become the material expression of the ancient Jester — that his soul, rotten with hatred, had bred into a monster — eh?" I asked.

"Yes," said Carnacki, nodding, "I think you've put my thought rather neatly. It is a queer coincidence that Miss Donnehue is supposed to be descended (so I have heard since) from the same King Ernore. It makes one think some curious thoughts, doesn't it? The marriage coming on, and the Room waking to fresh life. If she had gone into that room, ever .. eh? IT had waited a long time. Sins of the fathers. Yes, I've thought of that. They're to be married next week, and I am to be best man, which is a thing I hate. And he won his bets, rather! Just think, if every she had gone into that room. Pretty horrible, eh?"

He nodded his head, grimly, and we four nodded back. Then he rose and took us collectively to the door, and presently thrust us forth in friendly fashion on the Embankment and into the fresh night air.

"Good night," we all called back, and went to our various homes. If she had, eh? If she had? That is what I kept thinking. (From: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/carnack3.htm)

And then finally, I recall the movie, "1408," about a room in a hotel that is more than plain old haunted. It is a very bad room.

When I worked doing historic preservation for the National Park Service, I often traveled to various parks, and stayed overnight in some sketchy local motels. Some were definitely creepy. But I in particular remember one motel near Fort Davis in Texas that I stayed in, in about 1998 or 1999.

This motel was one story, and made of several clusters of buildings, separated from each other by parking areas. There were probably 30 or so rooms, and you could park your car just outside the door to your room. The lot was dirt and the buildings were lit by red-orange neon lights under the eaves. I think there might have been one other car in the lot besides mine.

I went in and got a room, no reservation, plenty of vacancies. They grinned and gave me a room way in the back of the furthest cluster. Kind of odd since so many were empty closer up near the road and the office. Now I have stayed in hundreds of motels over the years, from traveling with family as a kid, working as an itinerant archaeologist, periods of nomadism, and finally work for the National Parks. Hundreds of them.

I got in the room. Normal, not fancy, a little TV. A little odd feeling but that's normal for many rooms. I took a shower and got into bed and turned off the light. A feeling of menace and panic overcame me and I jumped up and turned on the light. It was still there. This sinister feeling of threat. It was late, I was tired. I left the room lights on and after, thinking in the heavy silence, turned on the TV as well. I left them on all night, the TV and the lights. I slept, had bad dreams, and left in the morning. That has never happened to me before or since. It was not a spook. It was the room itself.

I wondered if there had perhaps been a murder or something in that room. Drugs? Weird sexual activities? But I read something on the Internet years later that made me wonder.

Apparently, some folks who are into the dark arts like to rent motel rooms for their "workings." Because when you do some kinds of things in a place, the fabric of that place changes, alters, is "stained." So these folks, use motel rooms as disposable places for their activities. And those rooms are marked forever by what happened there. They are no good.

In "American Exorcism" by Michael Cuneo, in which he tells the story of the case that provided the inspiration for the movie "The Exorcist," the two places where the exorcism took place, the residence of the family and the hospital room, were stained by what happened there. Soaked, stained by the darkness. Never usable again.

To be haunted, to be animated so intensely, that cloakroom, the whistling room, 1408, the motel room, the places of exorcism, takes more than the tragedy of a human death.

Twilight Zone's "The Hunt" and the Sacred Nature of Dogs

"The Hunt" by Earl Hamner, Jr. (retold by Richard L. Dieterle)

Once there was a man of the name of Hyder Simpson who lived in a cabin in the mountain country of Appalachia. He had a dog that he loved like a member of his own family. Every night they would go out hunting for raccoons or possums, and his dog never failed to pick up the trail. Once his wife Rachel remarked, "Sometimes I wonder who you love more, me or that dog of yours." He loved his wife dearly, but he liked to get out of the cabin and hunt whenever he could. He was tracking a raccoon on a particularly dark night, and his dog got well out ahead of him. He was an old man, and it was not easy for him to keep up. Although the dog was in hot pursuit, it seemed that he could never quite catch up to the raccoon. The raccoon cleverly doubled back on an old dead branch that stuck out way over the water's edge at a deep forest pool. The dog rushed headlong up the branch and fell straight into the water. Soon the old man was upon the scene. He called frantically for his dog, and soon realized that he had fallen into the pool. He did not hesitate for a moment to jump right in to the rescue.


The next day he woke up sitting against a tree trunk, his trusty dog lying by his side. "Well, old boy," he said to his dog, "it seems we spent the whole night sleeping out here in the boondocks. By now the old lady is probably frettin' up a storm. Time we got on back, I reckon." They were very near home when he crossed a field where two men were digging a hole in the ground. "Howdy," he said, "what's y'all diggin'?" But they did not answer him, even though they knew him. This made the old man angry: "What's the matter, you boys forget your manners?" Yet they just kept on with their idle talk just like he wasn't there. One said to the other, "You know, it's too bad about that dog, too." Then the old man understood, and said to himself, "That's mighty sad. No wonder they don't want to talk, they've lost their dog," and he and his own dog moved on towards home. He walked right in his cabin and there, unexpectedly, was a coffin sitting right in the middle of the room. He went to the back room, and there his wife was with the minister of the local church. She was in tears and he was trying to comfort her. The old man said, "Who died?" but no one answered him. "Woman," he said, "what's that coffin doing in our cabin?" Still she did not answer him. He found their behavior mighty peculiar to say the least. "Well," he thought to himself, "if that's how people are going to treat me, then I might as well spend the day huntin'." So he set out with his dog with nowhere in particular as a destination.


After traveling a very long ways, he came across a well traveled dirt road that he had never seen before. He had not long been on that course when he came to a fork in the road, and on the north fork was a man standing in a small booth like he had seen at the county fair many years ago. He looked just like a carnival barker, complete with straw hat and ready smile. "Howdy," said Hyder, "what's behind this here gate?" "Why, I would have figured that by now you'd know you was dead — this is the gate to Heaven, and I'm fixin' to let you right in!" said the gatekeeper. "Well, don't that beat all," said Hyder, "I should 'a known. So, you're St. Peter, then?" "The bona fide article," he replied. The gatekeeper swung the gate open. "And this here is Heaven," he added. However, Hyder saw wisps of smoke in the distance and asked the man, "What's that smoke off yonder?" "Why, them's just clouds," the gatekeeper replied reassuringly. As Hyder started to step in, the dog balked, and when he tried to pull him in, the gatekeeper said, "Now hold up there! We don't allow no dogs in Heaven." "Well," said Hyder with some regret, but with a firm resolution, "if they don't allow no dogs in Heaven, then I reckon Heaven ain't for me." With that, he walked on down the road, not knowing what to expect.


He didn't travel too far when to his surprise he saw a young man walking towards him. The man was dressed much like Hyder's own kinfolk, only his plaid shirt and levi britches looked new, store bought. The young man looked happy to see him, extended his hand, and said, "Howdy!" Hyder replied in kind, but felt a little uncertain about what was going on. "I'm the feller they sent to show you the way to Heaven," the young man said. "Now that's mighty strange," replied Hyder, "just down the road I met St. Peter himself and I would have been in Heaven already, 'cept they don't allow no dogs there. I just couldn't see goin' in if I couldn't take my huntin' dog with me." "That tweren't no Heaven, friend, and he tweren't no St. Peter," the young man replied. "Don't you see? If'n they had let your dog in he would 'a warned you of the burning sulfur up ahead. That's why he don't much cotton to dogs taggin' along." "My dog's gotten me out of plenty of jams before, but this do beat all!" Hyder declared. "Just the same, if they don't allow huntin' where you come from, then I don't reckon I'll be comin' along." The young man smiled at his naiveté — "Now what kind of heaven would it be if there was no huntin' and no dogs?" Then Hyder knew for sure he was headed in the right direction, and the two of them strolled happily down the lane towards the setting sun.

Commentary from Richard L. Dieterle:

"When I first saw this broadcast in 1962, I thought the story was very touching and in many ways more "realistic" than the usual Christian fare of winged angels and harps. The realistic elements are precisely those found in Hočąk thinking. I think any reader acquainted with Hočąk ideas of the afterlife will find it impossible to believe that this story is not profoundly indebted to them. For these themes, see below under "Themes."

The close association of man and dog is a prominent feature of Hočąk culture. In the accounts of some clans, the road to Spiritland has a fork with one branch leading off to the great Evil Spirit, Herešgúnina. The gatekeeper plays the role of Herešgúnina, and the young man is like one of the guides who helps the departed soul find his way to Spiritland. In the accounts of some clans, the soul may go to a heavenly village set aside for members of his clan. In the present story, this is reflected in the socio-cultural affinity of the young man with Hyder, and contrasts with the alien abode that will not admit dogs."

An interesting nexus of synchronicities. This episode of the Twilight Zone, "The Hunt," was always one of the favorites of my brothers and me, sometimes THE favorite. Our family always had dogs, held them in great esteem, and we also believe dogs to have special qualities. We were almost religious about dogs, specifically hounds, as my grandpa was a big hunter with hounds in his youth in Nebraska and Kansas, mainly hunting raccoons. I did not know Hamner wrote the original story the episode was based on (http://www.magazine.uc.edu/0506/writing2.htm). He was also the creator of the series "The Waltons," which our family always watched. Many of our ancestors were poor rural whites from the hill country of the South, the Ozarks and the Appalachians. And the Hočąk are also known as the Winnebago, a tribe closely related to my tribe the Ioway. Interesting...

Soothing the Dead and Grieve Cakes

I had a dream some years ago, of a ceremony called "Soothing the Dead."

In this ceremony, one holds the bundled dead as an infant, cradling them and brushing their skulls tender, in whispering song like dry leaves.

It is a singing back to sleep after they are disturbed.

I had a dream also of something called "Grieve-Cakes." Not Grief Cakes or Grieving Cakes, but Grieve Cakes.

In the dreams it was very specific "Soothing the Dead" and "Grieve Cakes."

The "Grieve Cakes" in this dream were in a children's picture book and I still remember the text and pictures, at least some of them from the dream--

"Out of regrets unspoken in time to be heard
A message in a bottle
-to the other side
A message on a cookie
-for the other side

Grieve Cakes! Jolly Grieve Cakes!
With looping icing icicles
And nightshade raisins
Round like the moon
With words to the silent ears beyond the gate

Grieve Cakes! Silly and Serious Grieve Cakes!
"I will remember you"
"I'm sorry I never..."
"Remember me"
"I'm sorry I did that"
"I love you and always will"

Sharing the food of the heart
With the dead and soothing the dead
for ten thousand years
Get them hot! Grieve Cakes!"

Weird what you read in dreams. I remember reading it in a dream-library, all orange and purple and brown and black.