Can I interest you in this charming little property called the House of Usher?

“He was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never ventured forth….an influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit—an effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence.” — Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher

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Image Source / CC0 Public Domain

Let’s just take a quick jaunt up this paved causeway, where at the end you’ll see a sprawling country manor that seems to open its arms wide in greeting. Almost as if it wants to wrap them around you. Cozy, right? Shall we get a little closer?

Take in those fantastic casement windows — all original, I might add. And on either side of the doorway, over the windows, that pair of spectacular Gothic arches. Exquisite stonework there. What’s that? No, I don’t think they’re judging you.

The current owner is the last of several generations of his family to live here. I think you’ll find this house is, in fact, an excellent place for ending an ancestral line. Were you thinking of having kids someday? Not anymore.

Note the fine web of fungi encasing the outer stonework. Rather like hair, you know, especially over there where it frames the casement windows. Incidentally, the owner also has a fine web of fungi instead of hair, and a flying buttress protruding from his left eyebrow. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. It doesn’t itch or anything. You’ll see.

Step inside and let’s take a look at this elegant music room. Please note, however, that this is intended only for string instruments. The owner tried to bring in an accordion, once. Next morning he found the bag impaled by a detached cornice and the keys splayed out like teeth after a bar fight. So, just strings then. Just a suggestion.

I think you’re really going to admire the spacious library and its stunning hand-carved marble fireplace. It’s perfect for a winter evening spent curled up by the fire with the latest Stephen King. Or perhaps some Shirley Jackson. I think those are accepted. Moving on!

In the basement you’ll find a vault that could be converted to underground parking. Or you could just use it for storage. It’s lined with copper just in case you need to store, you know, volatile compounds. Or hey, something organic. Good for that, too.

This property comes with all its original architecture, furnishings and landscaping. Incidentally, there’s no need to water the landscape at present — it may appear dead, but if you look closely you’ll see the plants are actually thriving. The last gardener gave them the wrong mulch, but they seem to have recovered. Also, he hasn’t been seen for some time. Ignore the camellias tenderly gripping that little rise behind the hedge there.

You’ll also notice this house is quite solidly built. That hairline fracture in the outer wall can just be spackled over, no worries. Also there’s the matter of the tarn (but that’s definitely potable water in there, I assure you. Know any good pool cleaners?).

Other than that, though, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Just look at that antique statuary!

Of course you should know the owner is looking for a quick sale, but if you’d like some time to think it over there’s no rush. I’m sure the house will still be here. Waiting.

So shall I follow up with you on Monday, then?

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Lois the Mean Girl

Source Text: Lois the Witch

With apologies to Tina Fey, et. al.

Engraving of the Salem Witch Trials

Image Source / Public Domain

Lois was brought before Mr. Hathorn, justice of Salem, to be publicly accused, in a dress that was probably from Sears. At the sight of her Prudence snickered, then covered it with weeping and stretched forth a finger in blame. Justice Hathorn bade Prudence keep her peace, though she wailed that she had been sorely persecuted. Then he commenced.

“Lois Barclay, you are hereby accused of witchcraft for having committed the following crimes: for having worn pink on Wednesdays, for having said that Pastor Nolan’s hair looked sexy when it was pushed back, for having opened an unholy book and therein written that Prudence Hickson was…was a…”

“Fugly slut!” Prudence burst forth. She lapsed again into tears as the crowd glared at Lois and muttered.

“I am innocent, my good sir,” Lois said quietly. “I protest, these are not such crimes as they may seem.”

The abhorrent multitude clamored. “Boo, you whore!”

A voice cried out suddenly from the courtroom. “Why cannot we all get along? I would that I could bake everyone a cake made of rainbows and smiles. Forsooth everyone would then be happy.” It was Widow Smith.

The crowd ignored her, for she was from Boston and did not even go here.

Then the judge called forth as witness Lois’ aunt, Grace Hickson, with whom Lois had lived these past several months. She was Lois’ only remaining relative.

“Lord knows I did my best, out of memory for her own dear parents. But she is a most unnatural child and a stain upon our family forever,” spoke Grace. “Though I must own I am partly at fault. For though I was like a mother to her, I was not as other moms were. I was a cool mom. Because if she were going to do such witchcraft, I would rather she do it in the house.”

The crowd murmured again. In the close and stifling room, they began to stir.

Suddenly the courtroom was rent by a piercing cry. Prudence began to shriek and roll around on the floor. She cried out to Lois, and pleaded with her to cease her torment.

The masses started to declaim. Judge Hathorn called for silence.

“Is there no end to your demonic abilities?” he roared at Lois. “Have your powers no earthly bounds?”

Lois sighed, and said stoutly, “The limit does not exist.”

“Lois Barclay,” the judge intoned, “I find you guilty of the crimes you are charged with. I sentence you to be– what’s the word? Grounded. For two weeks you shall be confined to your home, and you shall not venture forth during that time.”

The multitude howled in approval, and cried out against her evil ways. Lois hung her head, overcome, and was borne out of the courtroom.

Prudence recovered her senses and fled outside, whereupon she was hit by a stagecoach.

As the mob clamored and raged, Judge Hathorn stared out over the court and shook his head. “I would that I had never left the South Side of Massachusetts for this.”

One-Star Travel Reviews of Yesteryear: Sleepy Hollow, New York, 1819

Source Text: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

John_Quidor_-_The_Headless_Horseman_Pursuing_Ichabod_Crane_-_Google_Art_Project

“The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane,” by John Quidor

Image Source / Public Domain

“In the six months that have passed since publication of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the dominant effect on the locale must be, I presume, an outbreak of tinnitus. What was once a quiet pastoral village now echoes with the sounds of holidaymakers, tradesmen, and any number of waggish local rantipoles. The knoll near the church is thronged with excursionists making oil paintings of the bridge, while their companions pose as if to race the Horseman across. These are invariably surrounded by a coterie of peddlers hawking their wares; the demand for pumpkin-print cravats and ‘Team Ichabod’ nightshifts must be insatiable. The noise from the crowds alone is enough to wake the dead, if any could still be found abed in these parts.

Nightfall brings no respite. It seems that rumors of the Horseman’s celebrity have reached even the farthest corners of the netherworld, and every two-bit specter and upstart haunt in the county has come for his share. The eventide roadway is mobbed with wraiths jostling and elbowing each other, screeching at passersby, with no concern for any drowsy mortals in the vicinity. Whilst leaning red-eyed out my window last evening, I was buttonholed by a banshee seeking a writeup. The Horseman himself rarely appears anymore, and from the unearthly racket I can’t exactly blame him. It’s not called ‘Stay Awake All Night And Listen To Spectral Traffic’ Hollow, is it? If I’d wanted to be kept up, I’d have stayed in Five Points.”

“I regret to note the local tavern, Balthus’ Bistro, is not quite the ‘five-star’ establishment it claims to be. We arrived early one afternoon for dinner yet were kept waiting for seats for nearly an hour. Then, my olykoeks came with a side of dysentery. We left no tip.

Upon departing, I found further cause for concern. The band of local youths that Mr. Irving christened ‘the Sleepy Hollow Boys’ have made industrious use of the last six months to expand their enterprise. Of late they have branched out into racketeering, the selling of unlicensed pharmaceuticals, and the proprietorship of a gambling den in the back of a local tavern. Calls for a magistrate go generally unheeded; complainants are left to search for one not already in the Boys’ (well-lined) pockets.”

“I was promised I would see the Galloping Hessian, but we saw only these old Dutch ghosts and some Major André fellow. More like Minor André. Then I figured Wiley’s Swamp might be a good place to sneak a pipe, but it’s been roped off by the Sleepy Hollow Regional Medical Society on account of the miasma. An utter waste.”

“Unable to leave the churchyard without being chased down for an autograph. Head gone missing again, probably carted off by some tipsy enthusiast. Goblin steed has developed a preference for carrots and sugar from devoted admirers, at present would lose a race across the bridge to a box turtle. Was zur Hölle? Not sure what the purpose is in staying around here anymore. May require a change of pace.

Have heard good things about Salem.”