Body Talk

To kickoff the Halloween Season, here is a story about Sydney and Tamara and how their first Halloween together began:

 Indiana Medical History Museum

“You couldn’t have wished for more in body” Sydney Poor was telling the other ghost about his corpse as they sat out in the corridor waiting for their autopsies to be finished.

The other ghost was a woman named Tamara and she told Sydney, “ Well I could have. I would have asked to be taller and blond and impervious to speeding cars. So do you know what…” she  shook her head “ sorry, what’s your name again?”

“ Sydney.”

“ Sydney. Sydney I could have asked for more. In fact, this time I’m going in with a laundry list of things I want this time around.”

“ I’m not sure you can not do that.”

“I don’t care what you’re supposed to do. Do you know why? Because not only did I get hit by a car, it rammed me into another car and it nearly cut me in half. I didn’t die right away. Also the woman who hit me drove off and I’m willing to bet you dollars to donuts that someone driving an expensive car like hers will ever find herself in a court room explaining her actions of October 3oth 2009. So as you can imagine I’m feeling a bit wronged here.”

“ She might.”

“ She might what Sydney?”

 “ Get caught.”

Tamara rolled her eyes up and slouched down in her seat.

“ I wonder how long this really takes.” She mumbled.

“ Well. Until they’re finished I suppose.” Sydney said.

“ So what happened to you?” Tamara asked Sydney.

“ Well. I’m a little embarrassed to say…”

Tamara straightened up in her chair and leaned over to Sydney and said “ Go on, your  secret is safe with me. Dead men tell no tales you know.”

“ But you’re a woman.”

“ Oh come on. Tell me.”

“ My neighbors -this man and woman. Well. They thought….that I was…well …”

“ A what?” Tamara said suspiciously as she leaned away from Sydney.

“ They thought I was a Vampire.”

Tamara’s mouth fell opened.

“ They snuck into my house, dragged me down into my basement and drove a stake through my heart. Then they stuffed my mouth full of garlic and cut my head off.”

“ Oh wow Sydney. Oh wow.”

Sydney’s face was turning bright red.

“ Oh wow. That was a freaking weird death.”

“ Yes” Sydney agreed “ yes it was.”

“Still.  What a way to go.”

“ I’ll say. But Tamara a vampire? How could anyone mistake me for a vampire?”

Tamara shrugged. “ I don’t know Sydney. People are funny things if you ask me.”

Tamara hopped out of her chair and went to the doors and waited. When they whispered open she told Sydney. “ Sydney. Come take a look. They’re right in the middle of  working on you. You have to see this- a woman is pulling the garlic out of your mouth with her fingers. I must say, that doesn’t seem very hygienic to me.”

“ That’s my dead body you’re cracking wise over you know.”

Tamara snorted and then she focused on what was going on in the autopsy room.

“ Sydney get over here, I’m stuck to the inside of the body bag.” Tamara laughed.

“ You’ve got a very odd sense of humor Tamara.”

He got up and when he got to the door Tamara grabbed his arm and dragged him into the autopsy room.

“ I really hate these places Tamara.”

“ Don’t we all.” Tamara said as she dragged Sydney up to the table her body was laying on.

“My word you are mess.” Sydney said.

“ Yeah.” Tamara said with a tinge of pride in her voice.

“ I mean it. A mess. You look like you melted. Wait. What’s that on your head… are those scars?”

“ Bullet wounds.”

“ You’ve been shot?

“ Yep. Good thing for me the people who did that were lousy shots otherwise you’d be sitting here all by your lonesome.”

“ And what about those marks on your hands?”

“ Knife wounds.”

And before he could ask she said, “ I caught on fire  a couple of times.”

“ You’ve led a very interesting life Tamara.”

She didn’t answer.

“ So. How long until …”

Tamara didn’t answer. She was trying not to laugh and failed.

“They thought you were a vampire.” Tamara grabbed her stomach as she doubled over laughing. “ What city were you living in? Stupidville? “

“ And that woman who hit you and drove off what town did she come from? “ Sydney asked

“ Very funny Sydney. The woman who hit me  was a cold hearted wretch.  I got in her way and smoosh here I am. I was no more then a dog to her. “

“ Well. At least you weren’t mistaken for a vampire in your final moments…speaking of- how much longer do you suppose.”

“ It’s a full moon tonight, this is going to go pretty fast. So tell me do we keep the old models  or snag ourselves some new ones?” she asked pointing to the room where the bodies were wrapped in plastic and neatly stacked on shelves.

“ Well. I can tell you this much. I never want to be mistaken for a vampire again.”

“ Oh come on Syd, I’m sure there are a lot of vampires who have been mistaken for Werewolves before and I’m willing to bet they aren’t as bent out of shape about it as you are.”

Sydney looked over to the autopsy tables and then through the doorway.

“ Once we take possession, they’ll be fine- on the other hand- you know we could get some new digs. What do you think?” Tamara asked.

 “ As far as bodies go, like I said before, was a good one. It used to belong to a writer. His name was Bancho Church”

“ Hey. I read his stuff. He was cool. I didn’t know he, you know moved on.”

“ Yes, well he did.” Sydney looked down and cleared his throat. “ Sort of.”

Tamara watched her body being washed and then it was bagged and someone took it to the backroom.

“ Cheer up Sydney, it’s Halloween, there’s a full moon and the night is young.”

Sydney’s body went through next and Tamara followed it “ Come one Syd, if we shake a leg I’ll bet we could get a little Trick or Treating in.”

“ You don’t…” he said.

“ Yeah. I shift and knock on doors. I swear last year I scored about five pounds of candy and got my picture taken about a thousand times. Imagine that, people  have a picture of real …

“ Mental  case.” Sydney interrupted her “ Okay after what we’ve been through we could use some fun. It’s a date let’s go.”

Tamara  said “ Yeah. It’s a date. Happy Halloween Syd.  And just so you know, I’ve ruined lives  of those who stood between me and Choco-Bursts.”

Sydney waited for Tamara to laugh and when she did not, he did it for her.

And she let him.

glow pumpkin

From The Collection of A.M. Moscoso

Halloween Writing Challenge #1

During the month of October, we at Danse Macabre have created special treats to be served  for to enjoy at your leisure.

Three Words.

One Picture.


What do you see?

A story? A poem? A memory from Halloween Past or Present?

Use the words, twist the words, dress them up and make them yours

Pingback here and let us know how it went.

We’re dying to see what you’ve created!





Hope you find this one to be tasty!




The Quiet Lady

When I was little, my Grandfather told me that Spirits-especially the bad ones don’t have feet.

I have no idea why that is so because they have hands

( all the better to grab you with )

And they have legs

(all the better to chase you with )

And they have ears

( all the better to hear your rapid heartbeat with )

Still, that little factoid about feet has stayed with me.

I guess it’s no surprise then that this painting by Vilhelm Hammershøi is one of my favorites.

The lady is dressed in black, her back is turned towards us and there are no hard lines in the picture so it’s like a dark fog came together and just to ask us- what is she doing there and what is in her hands? It just occurred to me that maybe you  don’t want to know, well I do. But I’m speaking for myself here.

So this is why I love this painting:  if you look down you can’t see her feet and her shadow is creeping out from under the table towards you- which is funny because she’s not facing a window.

So many words coming from inside of painting, something that has no mouth, or a tongue- but you know, I’m thinking and I am pretty sure that

it does have teeth.



If You Know Where To Look

You can find the Devil


you know where to look:

Sydney Curnow Vosper 1908

( Click the smaller picture to read an article about how to see

the devil in the woman’s shawl )

Interesting fact- the artist said there is no Devil in the shawl- but he did paint the ghostly, if not devilish face  looking in through the window over the woman’s shoulder.

By design or not, I think this is a great example about how stories and art

take on a life of their own.

Of course if that life is odd and macabre and a little wicked- well, it does not get much better then that, does it?


Will You Visit The House of Usher?

Are you brave enough to enter the world of Edgar Allen Poe and visit ‘The House of Usher’? How will you capture your experience of visiting this famous house?

Usher House – The work of Ozmur Dogan

Extract from ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Allen Poe

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, a sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain— upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows— upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil.

There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down—but with a shudder even more thrilling than before—upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom, I now proposed to myself a sojourn of some weeks.

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway.

Perhaps you will begin by making artistic impressions of what you see as you approach the House of Usher.

Consider using visioning and visualization to approach and enter this place. What doorways will you pass through? Which parts of the house will you explore? Who will meet you in this gothic house? What truths will emerge?

The Spooky House
by Joseph Gagaridis Grade 5/6

When I walked into the house something didn’t feel right. I went to pick up the phone. There was no electricity. I saw stairs so I went up the stairs into a room. Suddenly the door closed behind me. There was no way out. I went to jump out of the window but there were spikes and swords sticking up. When I looked out of the window, a long distance away from here, I could see a truck had crushed my Ferrari into bits.

I realized that I shouldn’t have come to this house. I heard the door upstairs open. I hid in a closet waiting for someone to leave the house. After I heard the door open and the person leaves the house I tried to get out of the closet but the door was stuck. I looked behind me and saw two people hanging on the hooks in the closet. Dead! I screamed! I pushed the closet door hard. It opened.

I ran to another room. It was too dark to see anything. But then I turned around and saw two red eyeballs. I couldn’t see the body so I ran away from it. It was throwing heads covered in blood. One of them hit my eye. I couldn’t see. I fell on the floor and something bit me on the neck.

After a couple of hours, I woke up and I said to myself. “It was all just a dream.” I looked around me and I saw dead people who had been bitten on their necks. Spider webs were all over them. I tried to get out but it was all a maze. “I would need a book of mazes to get out of here,” I thought.

Then I heard footsteps coming closer and closer. I looked behind me but I didn’t see anyone. I could still hear footsteps. I ran from the noise, but I lost more and more energy because of the bite on my neck.

I looked behind me and I bumped into a dead person with spider webs on him and holes in his body. When I bumped into him I got very dizzy and I didn’t know where I was going. Suddenly I bumped into an invisible person and he said, “Go away and don’t touch me.”
Then he ran away. Then I saw the two red eyeball again.

“What do you want from me,” I said to the red eyeballed person. The red-eyed person told me that he wanted my brain but I told him he would have to come and get it and ran away. I turned my back to see if he was behind me but I didn’t see anyone. I stopped running.

Suddenly the two red eyeballed people said “BOO!” I almost had a heart attack and I had nearly lost all my energy. I couldn’t run any further and thought that this was the end of me. So I hid. In my hiding place, I found a book of mazes. I followed the pictures o the book and I walked until I saw a light. I walked towards the light and then I noticed that the red eyeballed person was going away from the light. Two zombies were guarding the way out. I picked up a sword and slew them and ran outside.

Unfortunately, all my energy had run out. I smelled the air and dropped dead on a big rock.

More Edgar Allen Poe Stimuli

The Masque of the Red Death

Dug up to Inform, Honor and Stimulate Ideas

Make sure to read the article linked to this great photo.


James Parks was notable for doing a job that most people had no desire to do–digging graves. It was a respected job and one that Parks didn’t have to worry about too many people wanting.

The Macabre Life of a Grave Digger
Mahmoud Ahmed, Arab News Staff
published 2003
Dug up from the Way Back Machine

MAKKAH, 25 February 2003 — Grave digging is a job about which there are many stories and not a few mysteries. But many of us think listening to grave diggers’ tales macabre and would prefer not to know the nitty-gritty when it comes to their daily work.

Gravedigging is not like most other work in that it is not done at a specific time, Al-Madinah newspaper commented in a recent article on the subject.

It is definitely not a 9-5 kind of job. It has its own special rules and tools.

Many of the men working as grave diggers are different from other men. After all, they bury our loved ones. So what about the strange stories we hear about this profession? People use it as an excuse to spread false or malicious rumours. Is it because most grave diggers are silent about what they do? Or is it because they work in places nobody else ever visits?

“I learned the job from my father when I was young,” Muhammad Abbadi, who has been a gravedigger for 40 years, told Al-Madinah. “I used to go down in graves with my father to gather bones and bury them somewhere else.”

The custom is for gravediggers to check a grave about two years after burial. If the body has not decayed, it is covered and left. If it has decayed, the bones are then moved to another place. This frees the grave for reuse.

“I was a professional by the time I was 15. Gravedigging is a noble job but only a few people realize its worth. We grave diggers lay to rest those whom we love as well as those whom everybody else loves.”

He went on to explain how he learned what he needed to know by watching everything his father did — “from the smallest to the biggest details.”

“We place the body in the grave and then put a large rock or stone inside to close the grave. But some families ask for grass and wet soil to be put into the grave and then for it to be closed with a rock,” he explained.

Speaking of the time it takes for bodies to decay, he said it took longer now than in the past and felt this was because of the depth of the grave. In the past, graves were nearer the surface. Now they are deeper, and so the contents take longer to decay.

“We work silently, as everything around us encourages us to be quiet,” he said. “My friends and I believe that talking too much may undermine our courage.”

Abbadi said the tales of genies and demons living in graves are nonsense.

“In 40 years of digging graves, I have never encountered such things. Those stories are the products of overactive imaginations. What we do find in graves, however, are reptiles and scorpions. I have been stung many times by scorpions but, thank God, without being seriously harmed.”

He went on to explain how bodies are buried.

“We put the head into the grave first and then turn it on the right side to face the Qibla (the direction of Makkah). When the time comes to open the grave, the first problem is the unpleasant smell. If the body has not decayed, we close the grave again and leave it. It’s a simple job, but difficult to do. When we see the body and the bones, we feel the sadness of the deceased’s family.”

Muhammad Mukhtar, another gravedigger, told Al-Madinah that he has been working in the job for 14 years. It needs strong men with nerves of steel, he said, and men who believe in the work they do.

He talked about the process of reburying bones.

“We bury many bones in one grave. We organize the bones in a way that only professional grave diggers know. When we open the grave to make sure the bones have decayed, we let fresh air in for at least 15 minutes. Otherwise, no one could stand the heat from inside.”

He explained that more than one man is needed to put a dead person into the grave. He said that scorpions were indeed a problem, but “they do not keep us from doing our jobs.”

“We have to make sure that there are at least 25 graves available for use every day. It’s not necessary that all the empty graves be used in one day, but if there is a shortage, it will take about 30 minutes to dig a new one.”

He admitted that the grave diggers did not like to bury people at night, but they have had to get used to doing so. “Standing on a grave makes a person think about his own life,” he reflected. “Sometimes, I wonder why young people are deciding not to work in this profession. It’s honest work and a noble job.”

In the past, he said, Saudis worked as grave diggers, but these days only non-Saudis do the job because “only they seem to have what it takes.”

Some Responses

The Grave Tale of Murder Dog and Trash Panda