Thursday 29 January 2015

The James Herbert Award

The publisher Tor UK (an arm of Pan Macmillan) and the family of the late James Herbert have instituted an award for horror novels written in English. The first award winner is be announced in March. Here is the shortlist, and I'm delighted to say that it contains a novel I've actually read. Even better, I gave it a decent review. Phew.


Nick Cutter, THE TROOP (Headline)

Frances Hardinge, CUCKOO SONG (Macmillan)

Andrew Michael Hurley, THE LONEY (Tartarus Press)

Josh Malerman, BIRD BOX (Harper Voyager) 

Kim Newman, AN ENGLISH GHOST STORY (Titan Books)

It's great to see a new author like Andrew Hurley up alongside an old stager like Kim Newman. Best of luck to Andrew and Tartarus. 

The Wanderer, by Timothy J. Jarvis

Imagine a novel that tries to define supernatural horror fiction while re-defining it for a modern sensibility. The nearest example I can think of is The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein, a book many considered a qualified failure. Well, a second contender has now emerged in the form of The Wanderer, a remarkable debut from a British author.

The book takes the form of stories within within a framing narrative, which is itself topped and tailed by introductory matter and appendices. The novel proper is purportedly the work of Simon Peterkin, 'a British Library archivist and writer of weird tales'. The Foreword states that Peterkin disappeared in December 2010 in rather odd circumstances. His MS of The Wanderer was found by his editor some months later, apparently abandoned by the author. Thus we begin in the hallowed tradition of the author, Jarvis, posing as the editor of the fictional Peterkin's work. But then comes the twist, as it seems that the actual text of the novel is down to someone else entirely.

And so begins a gory saga spanning many centuries. The story begins when the nameless narrator encounters a Punch and Judy show on the streets of London. This leads him into an underground realm of supernatural horror that almost deranges him, and prompts him to seek out others who've had similar experiences. The group meet in a pub and - in accordance with old-school tradition - tell their stories. But at least one of those in attendance is not what s/he seems...

If this stirs your interest, it should. The premise is at least as much a classic as a cliché, and Jarvis offers some very effective horror tales, all linked by the theme of a descent into a hellish Underworld that leaves innocent victims cruelly transformed. But all this is told within the context of a frame story, typed (yes, typed) by the narrator in the distant future. He has been cursed with apparent immortality as a result of his descent into 'Tartarus'. Unfortunately for him, he has still suffer, and someone knows how to kill him.

Thus we have a novel that manages to combine horror with science fiction, in that it attempts to offer a vision of the broad sweep of future history. Sadly, all the author can come up with is 'we'll have more of the same, then we're buggered' - admittedly a popular take on things, but I found it disappointing. It's also a bit difficult to credit a post-apocalyptic future in which literacy has been forgotten but typewriter ribbons still seem to be available. The passages set in this bleak future, while they have their moments, are often flat and unconvincing.

The book is also beset by info-dumping - the tendency to the throw in everything but the kitchen sink. The author has made his notes, done his research, and he'll be damned if he doesn't include every bit of it. Thus at one point a fake medium decides to make Marat, the French revolutionary, his spirit guide. Fair enough, but we are then give a potted biography of Marat, and no explanation as to how the storyteller (who is supposed to be an uneducated 19th century Glaswegian) came to learn French. Less is definitely more in such cases, especially since in what is ostensibly an account written purely from memory by someone who has lived many lifetimes.

Another difficulty is the author's tendency to use ten words where one would suffice. I can see why he does it - Poe and Lovecraft, who are listed (with many others) as tutelary spirits of this book, were notably wordy. But Bierce and Maupassant, who are also name-checked, were admirably terse. I am, I admit, more of a taker-out than a putter-in when it comes to prose style. But the frequent overloading of the text is, for me, an impediment rather than a powerful effect.

In case I seem too harsh, I must round off by saying that The Wanderer is a remarkable achievement, albeit a flawed one. As one review (quoted in the book) succinctly remarks, reading it is a little like wandering through a library assembled by some insane devotee of fantastic atrocities and excesses.

Monday 26 January 2015

Hayley is a Ghost!

I belong to a literary society dedicated to the tradition of the ghost story. This society, quite logically, consists of a group of people who meet up to chat about ghost stories, visit places associated with authors like M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu etcetera, and lof course get drunk. But every time we check into a venue as A Ghostly Company, or simply tell people that we're into ghost stories, there's one guaranteed reaction. People start telling you their ghost stories, or that the pub is haunted, or that you'll have to pay for the carpets.

There's no doubt that the literary ghost story is a pale, orphan cousin of the 'real thing', the supposedly verified and valid account of a haunting. Millions of people are in no doubt that there are ghosts and that ghosts are, in some respect, the spirits of the dead. I remain very sceptical about such accounts, for a variety of reasons. While discounting the possibility of the so-called paranormal, I think most 'true' accounts of ghosts can be attributed to true believers seeing what they want. As with UFOs, ghosts are usually seen not by level-headed folk who 'never believed in that sort of thing till now', but by those who really, really wanted to see them all along.

Which is why I'm linking this blog to Hayley is a Ghost, the blog of sceptical investigator Hayley M. Stevens. Like me, she's fascinated by the paranormal but described herself as at 'the Scully end' of the belief spectrum. Her blog is a fascinating, frequently updated account of the antics of professional ghost hunters and the UK tabloid (an unholy alliance is ever there was one), and also looks at the unscientific, gadget-heavy approach we've so often see in films. (Had you heard of the Stone Tape 
Projector? I certainly hadn't.)

Anyway, it's a good blog, and I recommend it as a fascinating read.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Haunter (2013)

Stephen King's Groundhog Day - how does that grab you? If you'd rather not be grabbed, this might not be the film for you. But Haunter, which I mentioned last year and recently re-watched, strikes me as one of several rather good recent movies that take the classic ghost story as their point of departure from predictable horror.

In some films the twist is that 'Hey! They were all dead all along!' In this film that's a given. We begin on Sunday morning, when Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin) is woken by her little brother telling her, via toy walkie-talkie, that he and Edgar have found the pirate cave and will be spending all morning in it. Come and play! The problem is, every morning is Sunday morning for Lisa. Every day is the same day in 1986, the day before Lisa's sixteenth birthday. The day when she, her little brother, and her parents all died.

What makes the first half hour or so of the film absorbing is Breslin's perfect portrayal of a sulky, Gothy Eighties teenager. (She spends most of the movie in a Siouxsie and the Banshees tee-shirt.) Lisa's insistence that she did  the washing yesterday, her mouthing of the script of the recurring episode of Murder She Wrote, her refusal to touch her mac and cheese all fit perfectly with the teen angst theme. The use of Peter and the Wolf as a recurring motif is also effective (Lisa has clarinet lessons).

Things start to go slightly awry when Lisa begins to hear voices. With help of a toy ouija board she attempts to make contact with whoever is calling. Instead she starts to experience more bizarre and disturbing events as other members of the family awaken from their grim version of the American Dream. Oh, and Edgar turns out to be far from imaginary. What Robert Westall called 'the metabolism' of the haunting is gradually revealed as Lisa, alternately bold and frightened, resourceful and baffled, explores the house she thought she knew. Suffice to say that this is a horror movie, and while not graphically violent there is much to disturb.

Haunter is a film that combines serious themes with playful use of ghost story conventions. Here we have a haunted house seen from the 'inside', a ghost from the past called into the contemporary world, and a take on the afterlife that recalls the best of The Twilight Zone. There is also a hint of Nigel Kneale in the notion that haunted houses are places that somehow trap the dead in recurring cycles of suffering. Suffice to say that - as in The Orphanage, an otherwise very different film - I find myself saying 'Alas! Poor ghost', but applauding the decision to provide an upbeat ending. Any teenager can be cynical.

I noticed that some YouTubers commenting on the trailer below didn't understand the plot. This is surprising, as what could be a confusing situation is spelled out pretty clearly to the observant viewer. Well, I figured it out, so anybody can.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Lands of Dracula

A documentary about Stoker's classic novel was made to commemorate his (death) anniversary in 2012. It's very good, but has yet to be shown on TV. However, the rough cut is on YouTube and you can watch it free of charge! I've decided to upload the third segment, firstly because each bit pretty much can stand alone (if you know the novel), but mainly because it features Tina Rath, PhD, renowned vampire expert, Queen Victoria lookalike, and sometime contributor to ST. Tina appears at around 8'30.

Monday 19 January 2015

The First Ghost Story Awards Are Looming...

Yes, folks, 2015 is the year in which we will see the first Ghost Story Awards given for best ghost story and best collection/anthology published in 2014. Here's a reminder of the rules.

To vote, you must be a member of A Ghostly Company or a subscriber to the Ghosts & Scholars Newsletter or Supernatural Tales.

You may send your vote by email to; (The fifth character in the email address is a lower case L for Lima, not i or a number 1.)

Your vote must arrive by midnight on February 28th [2015].

You may vote for up to three ghost stories and up to three ghost story collections or anthologies. You do not have to put your votes in any order: they will be treated as of equal weight. You also do not have to give three titles in either category: you may if you prefer give only one or two.

Remember that the story or book must have been first published in English in print and paper format in 2014. The term “ghost story” will be interpreted broadly to refer to work about any supernatural entity and to allow for ambiguity.

You should head your email or letter GHOST STORY AWARDS and follow this format:

Your Name 

List (up to) three ghost story collections or anthologies: Title/Author or Editor/Publisher
(Please do not include other correspondence, although of course this may be sent separately).

State AGC/G&S/ST (to show which qualifies you to vote)

List (up to) three ghost stories: Title/Author/Publisher

The X-Files to Return?

I'm a huge fan of The X-Files, a show that - along with Buffy - proved that the Nineties did not absolutely suck if you love weird fiction. So I'm naturally pleased at the prospect of Mulder and Scully being re-united in the 21st century (the future!) to do some more paranormal crime-busting. Well, not so much busting as turning up when things are well under way and coming up with a theory that he likes, she doesn't, and which in any case has little material effect on the outcome, usually.

That was one of the great mysteries of The X-Files. Week after week they would comprehensively fail to make a case that could stand up in any court, but they were never sacked. It's been suggested that Mulder was insane and Scully was his minder, assigned by the Bureau to keep an eye on the once-promising son of a truly great agent. While this seems unlikely, it's not odder than the 'against the grain' readings of some literary works.

There is of course one caveat. I couldn't be doing with all the UFO crap. It was a confusing shambles, almost from the start. (Indeed, it would only make 'sense' if Mulder were insane and most of this stuff was happening in his head.) So I hope that, if a new series goes ahead, they'll go easy on the alien abduction/conspiracy stuff and focus more on stand-alone tales of the paranormal and generally bonkers.

Oh, and I really hope Mark Snow does the soundtrack...

Thursday 15 January 2015

Leap in the Dark - 'The Mind's Eye' (1977)

Leap in the Dark, a British TV series of the Seventies, was a documentary that tackled paranormal and generally weird themes. The format was docu-drama. In this episode, presented by Colin Wilson, we hear the strange tale of an evil clergyman, his sexy accomplice, a drunken sailor, and a haunting. Gorblimey, it was an 'orrible murder and no mistake, guv'nor! But is everything what it seems? The appearance of Jilly Cooper at one point certainly suggests otherwise...

Trigger warnings - Seventies fashion, British television acting.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Creepy Tombstone Central

The internet is awash with people making lists of things, many of them stupid/mad. But this is weirdly appealing to those of us who enjoy simply wandering around graveyards and finding out about other people's mortal coils etc.

I mean, what's the deal with this bloke?

Josep Llaudet Soler

Kinky is not the word. I thought those broken columns were a bit flashy.

And then there's this lady...

Lilly E Gray

Author/editor Jim Rockhill, a good pal of ST, found this explanation of Lilly's inscription.

I'll bet you can figure out your own explanation for this one.

Harry Thornton

Monday 12 January 2015

Daydreams and Nightmares - Introduction

It occurred to me that I should reproduce the introduction for my friend Kate Haynes' first collection of stories, published by Phantasm Press. So here it is, in all its profound and scholarly glory...

Katherine Haynes has been writing stories for many years. She claims that she's been publishing for thirty years, in fact, which suggests that she began in very early childhood, if not a previous incarnation.

As an editor and as a friend (the two are not mutually exclusive) I've long been impressed by Katherine's capacity for sheer hard work. All her fiction is distinguished by well-crafted prose, economical characterisation, and efficient plotting. Her best work is imbued with a cool, detached , slightly cynical view of human nature. This is particularly true of 'Encapsulated' (a disturbing 'science fantasy' of the sort pioneered by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and Robert Bloch) and 'Mother's Own Ghost Story', which has a deceptively innocuous title. 
In this collection, Katherine offers keen insights into our sometimes petty human concerns , and contrasts them with the threat -or, occasionally, the promise- of intervention by phenomena beyond our ken and control. And several contrasting stories also show how easily she slips between genres and styles. Thus 'The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick-Maker' offers a rather Grand Guignol view of life in contemporary Brighton, while 'The Cupped Hands' is a well-realised tribute to the great Arthur Machen. 
You will note that – in accordance with horror tradition - some characters seem to get what's coming to them. Yet sometimes a victim is just that and nothing more, as in 'The People Collector'. That, it seems, is life – or afterlife. But, while clear-sighted about human failings, Katherine's view of feline nature is a little fuzzier – see 'The Lure of the Copse'. And the plot of 'A Good Try' pivots on a classic work by that cat-lover, Monty James.

I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I have, gentle reader. Settle down, in the right surroundings, perhaps with a glass of something moderately potent to hand, and let them speak to you in their quiet but insistent voices. And – as shadows lengthen – bear in mind that, since they are fiction, nothing recounted in theses pages will happen to you. In all likelihood.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Cats on Film!

There's a spiffing blog by the writer Anne Billson that features lots of films with cats in them. It has categories, of course. And puns. But - as you've probably guessed - it is principally of interest here at STHQ (trademark pending) because an absolute shedload of films feature cats in spooky, horrific, or otherwise weird scenarios.

Indeed, so replete is the blog with images of pussycats in various stages of furry fiendishness that I thought I'd have a quick, impromptu competition. Can you match the moggie to the movie? It's multiple choice because these results will count towards your GCSE in Corporate Serfdom.


nightoftheeagle01a. The Fall of the House of Usher
b. Night of the Eagle
c. Dawn of the Dead


a. The Dunwich Horror
b. Cat People
c. The Tomb of Ligeia


'Me? 'Ow?'

a. The Uncanny
b. The Black Cat
c. The Raven

And I've just noticed that there's a blog called The Horror Cats. This is a good day.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Colour from the Dark (2008)

Yesterday night the all-too-real horrific events in Paris made me long for a bit of mindless escapism, and I suppose I found it in this very odd Italian adaptation of Lovecraft's 'The Colo(u)r Out of Space'.

I'm not an expert on Italian horror, so I can't say where this film sits among recent productions of that country's film industry. I can only say that it is a very good-looking film. The plot, however, is a bit of a strange hybrid...

Set in rural Italy in 1943 (the locations are given by imdb as Ferrara and Emilia-Romagna) the film begins with a nightmare for Alice, the younger sister of farmer's wife Lucia. Alice can't talk and has the mind of a child, and this is conveyed rather well by Marysia Kay with the aid of a ragdoll. Our attention is quickly drawn to the farm's well, from which Alice (pronounced al-EE-chay, if you were wondering) routinely draws water. She becomes jumpy about the well, associating with a strange glowing Something from her nightmare. Sure enough, when a bucket is lost Lucia's husband Pietro's attempts to recover it with a gaff lead to the piercing of the well bottom and the release of a strange miasma. But the well's water seems pure enough...

And thus best plot Lovecraft ever devised kicks in, without a bolide or a boffin in sight, or indeed any of paraphernalia of sci-fi horror that old Howie went to such trouble to bequeath us. Instead we get old-school good v. evil horror that totally undercuts the intention of the original work, and Lovecraft's entire project of reinventing the genre for a secular, scientific culture. Weird, but there it is. We get the crucifixes, the unwary priest, the attempted exorcism, the demonic entity turning the victim's eyes black and giving them super-strength (and the customary hyper-randiness), and so on and so forth.

As well as betraying the author's intent re: the nature of the horror, the film is also heavily padded. The setting allows the introduction of two fairly pointless sub-plots. One involves neighbours Anna and Giovanni, who are harbouring an escaped Jewish refugee. The other concerns Pietro's brother, who is away at the war. (The German film Die Farbe does much better in this respect, and it never drops the Lovecraftian ball, so to speak.)

As I said above, the film is visually fine. It also has a good soundtrack, and the gradual transformation of the family and the farm's crops by the 'colour' is well-handled. The cast is a little odd - mostly Italian, but with Irish and British participants - but the actors turn in decent performances. Events are telescoped into a few days instead of the months of the original story, and this works well enough. But the impact is undercut by familiar gimmicks (not least a bungled attempt at exorcism) and the sense that nobody involved has really got a grip on what Lovecraft is about. Cosmic horror is absent, conventional horror is all too present.

'Don't look!'

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Phantoms at the Phil (again)

Despite being under the weather for viral reasons I wended me way to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle last night to hear three new ghost stories. As always the evening was hosted by Dr Gail-Nina Anderson, art historian and expert on much that is Gothic. Like me, she's lost count of the number of these ghostly evenings, which goes to show how successful they've been - a literary institution created by unpretentious hard work on her part.

Having told us all to settle down and stop chewing, Dr A. began the proceedings with her story set in and around Halifax conference centre. Having been to the place she described, I was very impressed with how she captured the ambience of the converted mills and warehouses, and a decent pub nearby. She also evoked the unpleasant strangeness of modern, no-frills hotels, which to me feel like open prisons you have to pay to get into. What might not be encountered in such a place? Oh, and she also slipped in a sly tribute to Douglas Adams.

Second came regular Sean O'Brien, who - as an academic and a poet - delivered a fairly comprehensive demolition of the idea that poets are sensitive, profound souls who feel for suffering humanity. As well as a perfectly-evoked Venetian setting and much humour at the expense of the life literary, his story played fast and loose with great poetry and even delivered a moral, of sorts. A worthy, slightly scurrilous addition to the ever-growing list of tales that really should put sensitive people off Venice for good.

Rounding off the evening was a treat - a ghost story by a writer new to me. Not that Lesley Glaister is new to writing, so clearly it's me that's not been paying attention to modern English fiction. Typical. Her story was an interesting variation on a familiar theme, involving a perfectly-evoked detour during a holiday in the Highlands. It's always interesting to hear (or read) a professional author's first venture into the genre, or sub-genre. I hope Lesley Glaister finds the time and inspiration to write more ghostly fiction.

All in all, another good night for tales of the supernatural, during which I wasn't one of the ones coughing loudest. The next proceedings will be in summer, and I intend to be there. If you're within striking distance of Tyneside around the solstice, why not come along?

Monday 5 January 2015

Reminiscences of a Bachelor

Yes, I remember when I first heard the Ramones... No, hang on, it's another bachelor entirely we're concerned with here. The chap in question is the creation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu, and his reminiscences - two of 'em - make up the contents of the latest fine volume from the Swan River Press.

I'll begin by stressing how beautiful this little book is. The dust-jacket illustration by Paul Lowe is quite brilliant, with our man surrounded by the world of his imagination. The covers themselves are adorned by two contemporary illustration from the stories 'The Watcher' and 'The Fatal Bride'. Inside, as well as two stories narrated by Le Fanu's amiable unmarried gent, there are notes by Brian Showers and Jim Rockhill, plus an introduction by Matthew Holness.

Yes, you may say, but is it worth buying a very familiar tale by Le Fanu - one anthologised hundreds of times - simply to get another tale, non-supernatural, that hasn't appeared since it was first published in the Dublin University magazine in 1848? As an admirer of Le Fanu I would say yes, not least because placing the two together gives a valuable perspective on the author as artist.

'The Watcher' is, if you're struggling to recall, the one about the sea captain who returns to Dublin laden with prize money from the French wars and sets about finding himself a bride. It's notable that so long as Captain Barton is simply swanning around the smart parties he is not persecuted. But as soon as an engagement to the lovely but impecunious Miss Montague becomes likely that The Watcher takes steps. Barton's life only becomes forfeit when he sets out to find connubial bliss because - as we discover - he had 'ruined' an innocent young woman during his naval career.

This is interesting, and something I hadn't given a lot of thought to. Because the second story is also - as the title suggests - concerned with the pitfalls of courtship. A Gothic novella, 'The Fatal Bride' concerns the course of true love running very turbulently indeed. While I won't give away too much of the plot, it is full-on Victorian in its desire to both emphasise and conceal the sexual aspects of our passions. It has improbable plot twists, but that was expected and the 'sensation' was all the more intense. Oh, and there's a duel.

What Le Fanu does in both stories is emphasise how dangerous the marriage market was for women. Miss Montague narrowly escapes being wed to a man who has already treated one woman in a cruel, depraved manner. Mary Chadleigh, eponymous heroine of 'The Fatal Bride', fares slightly better, but it's clear that she is regarded by her appalling father as his property. The bachelor's chivalrous attitude toward her - while admirable in its way - only underlines the point that chivalry is a very poor substitute for equality before the law and other democratic niceties.

Am I claiming Le Fanu as a proto-feminist? Only if one views most Gothic writers that way. The horror in both stories is born of entrapment in a world that might seem well-lit, privileged and secure, but is in fact morally murky and largely contemptuous of individual happiness. Le Fanu's particular gift lay in his ability to be both disturbing and witty about this world, often in the same sentence. The description of the climactic duel in 'The Fatal Bride' is a little masterpiece. Le Fanu does, admittedly, give us a happy ending of sorts, as his readers would have expected. But the overall sensation in leaving both stories is of the remorseless way darkness closes in upon his ill-starred characters, and how goodness and honesty can at best light a guttering candle against it.

Saturday 3 January 2015

What the Papers Say

Newspapers at home and abroad seem to be covering ghost stories and horror in general more than usual. Perhaps at this time of year they're looking for anything vaguely wintry in theme that isn't mind-numbingly depressing news/current affairs. So here's the dear old Guardian giving a bit of well-deserved publicity to Rob Lloyd Parry.
"Remember to wrap up warm!" says Robert Lloyd Parry, before my trip to see his performance of the MR James stories Count Magnus and Number 13 at Cambridge's Leper Chapel. I take it for nothing more than a pleasantry – the same thing you'd say to any acquaintance venturing out on a snowy January evening – but it turns out he really means it. The Leper Chapel, which is about as portentously magical as any building situated a couple of hundred yards from a branch of B&Q could be, is 900 years old, with toweringly high ceilings and no heating.
Having enjoyed the same performance at the rather warmer Lit & Phil in Newcastle I can imagine how effective the stories are in a very weird setting. (Well, not weird at all if you're a mediaeval leper, but you know what I mean.) Tom Cox of the Graun has apparently been on 'a month of rural horror pilgrimages I have been making in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk'.

Cox rightly praises the BFI's collection of the old Ghost Stories for Christmas. I'm not sure, though, that you don't get that kind of horror storytelling any more - didn't Remember Me manage it rather well? I would agree that this subtle approach is all too rare on our screens. But I suspect we would become rather bored with it if it were commonplace. That is one of the paradoxes of supernatural fiction - to be of value it must be (at its best) comparatively rare. And it's a fragile genre, reliant on a temporary suspension of disbelief that's best suited to short fiction. The intermittent, seasonal nature of ghost stories on TV is part of this, I think.
Winter is James time. It also means that, when you step out of the Leper Chapel into the snowy gloom, reality is suspended for that much longer. All the better too, if like me, your route home takes you alone through a darker, more rural part of East Anglia, where the skeletal trees and isolated churches, smudgily visible beside the back lanes linger in the imagination, with little around them to bring you back to the mundane clarity of the present.
Monty James gets a mention in the Wall Street Journal(!) too. I'm not sure that James' stories are part of 'fin-de-siècle horror fiction', but since he began writing in the Naughty Nineties one could take that line. Interesting to see him alongside Wells and Machen, reminding us what an extraordinary time that was for imaginative fiction of all kinds. And again, we're reminded that the spirit of place is a vital ingredient in the traditional ghost story.
This is horror fiction at its finest, its most intellectual and its most austere—a sort that makes superb use of the stark, flat East Anglian landscapes in which the author grew up.

Friday 2 January 2015

Voodoo Economics?

A fuss has, as the media pros put, erupted in Trinidad and Tobago over some new banknotes. They are rather lovely, but apparently some are concerned that they contain elements of the occult.

Apparently the lady in the headdress above is seen by some as a 'serpent queen', or even the Devil, This seems a bit harsh. In fact, I wish British currency was as interesting to look at. Anyway:
The Central Bank said Trinidad and Tobago is the first Caribbean country to use polymer in the making of local currency, and the picture of a young female masquerader in an award-winning Carnival costume “captures the energy of our people”.
But that's what these sinister occult conspirators always say, innit?

Read an AI generated ghost story

I gave MS Copilot the following prompt, which is not complex and you can see where problems arose.. Please write a ghost story in the style ...