Guest Article: Black Aggie ~ retold by S. E. Schlosser

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When Felix Agnus put up the life-sized shrouded bronze statue of a grieving angel, seated on a pedestal, in the Agnus family plot in the Druid Ridge Cemetery, he had no idea what he had started. The statue was a rather eerie figure by day, frozen in a moment of grief and terrible pain. At night, the figure was almost unbelievably creepy; the shroud over its head obscuring the face until you were up close to it. There was a living air about the grieving angel, as if its arms could really reach out and grab you if you weren’t careful.

It didn’t take long for rumors to sweep through the town and surrounding countryside. They said that the statue – nicknamed Black Aggie – was haunted by the spirit of a mistreated wife who lay beneath her feet. The statue’s eyes would glow red at the stroke of midnight, and any living person who returned the statues gaze would instantly be struck blind. Any pregnant woman who passed through her shadow would miscarry. If you sat on her lap at night, the statue would come to life and crush you to death in her dark embrace. If you spoke Black Aggie’s name three times at midnight in front of a dark mirror, the evil angel would appear and pull you down to hell. They also said that spirits of the dead would rise from their graves on dark nights to gather around the statue at night.

People began visiting the cemetery just to see the statue, and it was then that the local fraternity decided to make the statue of Grief part of their initiation rites. “Black Aggie” sitting, where candidates for membership had to spend the night crouched beneath the statue with their backs to the grave of General Agnus, became popular.

One dark night, two fraternity members accompanied new hopeful to the cemetery and watched while he took his place underneath the creepy statue. The clouds had obscured the moon that night, and the whole area surrounding the dark statue was filled with a sense of anger and malice. It felt as if a storm were brewing in that part of the cemetery, and to their chagrin, the two fraternity members noticed that gray shadows seemed to be clustering around the body of the frightened fraternity candidate crouching in front of the statue.

What had been a funny initiation rite suddenly took on an air of danger. One of the fraternity brothers stepped forward in alarm to call out to the initiate. As he did, the statue above the boy stirred ominously. The two fraternity brothers froze in shock as the shrouded head turned toward the new candidate. They saw the gleam of glowing red eyes beneath the concealing hood as the statue’s arms reached out toward the cowering boy.

With shouts of alarm, the fraternity brothers leapt forward to rescue the new initiate. But it was too late. The initiate gave one horrified yell, and then his body disappeared into the embrace of the dark angel. The fraternity brothers skidded to a halt as the statue thoughtfully rested its glowing eyes upon them. With gasps of terror, the boys fled from the cemetery before the statue could grab them too.

Hearing the screams, a night watchman hurried to the Agnus plot. To his chagrin, he discovered the body of a young man lying at the foot of the statue. The young man had apparently died of fright.

The disruption caused by the statue grew so acute that the Agnus family finally donated it to the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.. The grieving angel sat for many years in storage there, never again to plague the citizens visiting the Druid Hill Park Cemetery.

You can read more Maryland folktales and ghost stories in Spooky Maryland by S.E. Schlosser.

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Wednesday Poem: Her Kind ~ Anne Sexton

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Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

ANNE SEXTON

Review: Skippy Dies ~ Paul Murray

skippy diesISBN ~ 978-0141009957
Publisher ~Penguin Books Ltd
No. Of Pages ~660 pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies is a tragicomic masterpiece about a Dublin boarding school.  Long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2010 Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the Search of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster is his roommate. In the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys, nobody pays either of them much attention. But when Skippy falls for Lori, the frisbee-playing siren from the girls’ school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest – including Carl, part-time drug-dealer and official school psychopath. . . A tragic comedy of epic sweep and dimension, Skippy Dies scours the corners of the human heart and wrings every drop of pathos, humour and hopelessness out of life, love, Robert Graves, mermaids, M-theory, and everything in between.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first book I’ve read written by this Author and, I’ll say this upfront, I’ll probably be hunting down some more of his books to read.

The whole book is centred on a group of teenage boys, one of whom dies within the first few pages.  However, this is not the last we read about this character as the book covers events leading up to the moment of his death.  Teenage boys are a totally different species to any walking the earth and the Author manages to catch their peculiarities perfectly in his character building.  He covers all those one would meet at a boarding school from the bookish to priests to parents, bullies and beyond; he then brings them to life and throws them into a story that grabs the reader from the very first.  The Author is able to capture their adolescent humour, their obvious obsession with anything remotely female (this being an all boy’s school) and set it down in a way that appeals to all readers.  Each of the characters is written skilfully, pulling on the different personality and traits that can be found in a variety of guises in this age group.  As a parent myself I remember my own son going through his teenage years and I picked him out of the crowd with no difficulty, along with a bevy of his ‘associates’.  The Author has managed to capture the classroom antics, attitude towards the teachers and classmate banter so well that there is no character that stands out from the others as the main protagonist; not even ‘Skippy’

This is by no means a ‘Lord of the Flies’ type book, and I would defy anyone not to be caught up in the humour of everything in this easy read.  Despite there being a huge number of characters, major themes and plot points the Author is able to juggle them all seamlessly and well.  I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a light and humourous read.

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Wednesday Poem: Tree of Life ~ Erin Hanson

tree of life

This is the tree of life
And this is how it goes:
No one gets to choose the way in which the cold wind blows.

We can say our branch is strongest
That it’s highest and it’s best,
but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s connected to the rest.

So instead of ripping leaves off
Perhaps we ought to stop,
To ask ourselves why we’re convinced we belong right at the top.

And in this storm that we’re creating?
Well, the best view will be worst,
For when the lightning finally strikes

It strikes the top branch first.

Erin Hanson

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Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1) ~ M.J. Rose

witch of painted sorrowsISBN ~ 978-1476778068
Publisher ~ Atria Books
No. Of Pages ~ 384 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

3 Thumbs-UpAlthough the first in this series, this is the third novel written by this Author and, to be honest I’ve not read either of the previous two.  However the synopsis intrigued me and held a certain promise, so I set off to wind my way through its pages.

I’m going to come straight out and say this; I did not like the main protagonist at all.  I did not understand her or her motivation for anything she did, and had even less understanding for those things she didn’t do but probably should have.  As much as I tried I could not find myself either empathizing or sympathising with her in any way which resulted in her just being a downright annoyance throughout the whole novel.  Why she had to keep banging on about her one and only failed attempt at watercolour painting just confused the heck out of me, and she seems to use this as an excuse for all her bad behaviour and dishonesty when related to art school.  I did feel sorry for her Grandmother who tried her hardest to steer the lead character in the right direction but was constantly ignored and dismissed.  But again I was also disappointed in her, for a woman who had made a living in her given profession she was not very strong-willed at all, and usually ended up just giving in to the main character for the sake of a quiet life I felt.

So why did I give this book a three thumbs rating?  As already said it was not the characters that helped the novel achieve this rating, but rather the location and the way in which the Author used the words on the page.  The streets of Old Paris leapt of the page through the descriptions of the courtyards around which people made their homes, and the words rolled of the page not in a rush and bluster but as if they were taking a leisurely stroll down the Champs Elysees on a warm summer day.  As much as I enjoyed the relaxed way in which the book was written I felt somewhat let down too; after all the synopsis had promised witchery and there was nothing remotely ominous and witchy that I could find in these pages.  Maybe I like my witches too dark, and the kind featured here were just so innocuous they escaped my attention.

If you are already familiar with this Author, you may just enjoy this book; as for me I doubt very much that I will be reading anything by her again… as the saying goes ‘it wasn’t you, it’s me’

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Taking the week off

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I have a crazy-busy schedule for this week, so I will be taking this week off the blog in order to concentrate everything I need to for my Husband’s retirement ceremony.  That’s right, after 23 years of wearing the uniform he’s finally hanging it up.  There is a lot going on this week; family flying in from the East Coast, friends from out of country, ceremonies to attend and rehearse for, not to mention all the cookies I’ve got to bake and things to pick up for presentations.

I hope you will all understand and I’ll be back on the 18th October when everyone has returned to their homes.

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