Ancient Egyptian Ghost Story

The best-known ghost story from ancient Egypt is known, simply, as A Ghost Story but sometimes referenced as Khonsemhab and the Ghost. The story dates from the late New Kingdom of Egypt (c. 1570 – c.1069 BCE) and specifically the Ramesside Period (1186-1077 BCE).

An excerpt from W.K. Simpson’s The Literature of Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, Stelae, Autobiographies, and Poetry:

Then the High Priest of Amun Khonsemhab said to him: “Please tell me your name, your father’s name, and your mother’s name that I may offer to them and do for them all that has to be done for those in their position.” The august spirit then said to him: “Nebusemekh is my name, Ankhmen is my father’s name, and Tamshas is my mother’s name.”

Then the High Priest of Amun-Re, King of the Gods, Khonsemhab said to him; “Tell me what you want that I may have it done for you. And I shall have a sepulcher prepared anew for you and have a coffin of gold and zizyphus-wood made for you, and you shall [rest therein] and I shall have done for you all that is done for one who is in your position.”

The august spirit then said to him: “No one can be overheated who is exposed to wintry wind, hungry without food… It is not my desire to overflow like the inundation, not…not seeing my tomb… I would not reach it. There have been made to me promises…”

Now after [he] had finished speaking, the High Priest of Amun-Re, King of the Gods, Khonsemhab, sat down and wept beside him with a face full of tears. And he addressed the spirit, saying, “How badly you fare without eating or drinking, without growing old or becoming young. Without seeing sunlight or inhaling northerly breezes. Darkness is in your sight every day. You do not get up early to leave.”

Learn more about the origins of this ghost story and read the story’s full transcript at A Ghost Story of Ancient Egypt.

Famous Witch: Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga is one of the most famous characters in Slavic mythology. The old crooked-nosed hag is as evil as she looks. She is both a force of nature and a cruel old woman who eats people who dwell into the deep forest. Her name comes from the Slavic word for grandmother “Baba.” The meaning of the word “Yaga” is not certain but some think it means “wicked.”

Baba Yaga

In some myths, Baba Yaga gives tasks to her victims and, depending on the successful completion of their mission, they are either eaten or rewarded. She is not only an evil villain but, in many cases, she could even help them, like in the Russian story of “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” where Baba Yaga gives Vasilisa tasks to accomplish in trade for help.

Vasilisa outside of Baba Yaga’s hut.

Read more about Baba Yaga at Baba Yaga – The Mythical Forest Witch from Slavic Folk Tales.

Horror Lit: Witchy Women

A library in Dublin, Ireland, recommends the following three books about women who “are different, the outsider who does not conform, the outcast who does not comply, and are therefore a danger.” Visit Witchy women on BorrowBox for descriptions of each title.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The Familiars by Stacey Halls

She’s dead as earth

King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia ,1786-8, James Barry (1741-1806)
Tate Gallery UK

KING LEAR:
Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!
I know when one is dead, and when one lives;
She’s dead as earth.

King Lear, Act V, scene iii
Shakespeare

Horror Lit: Psycho

When I came across a copy of Robert Bloch’s Psycho at a Books-A-Million, I picked it up without hesitation. I had wanted to read it since I discovered in April 2018 that the movie was based on a book (see Horror Cinema: Psycho).

Reading it, I was surprised by its gore and violence, especially for a book written in the 1950s. I was expecting it to be more of a slow burn like its movie adaptation. Instead, right from the start, there was gore. Early on, Norman Bates was described as reading books about human sacrifices where drums were made out of human skin. The classic murder scene in the motel shower was more intense than I would have ever imagined.

As a horror writer myself, I aspire to write stories that combine a psychological thrill with true-crime violence, and Psycho turned out to be just that. It was written in a clear and concise style with engaging characters.

After reading the book, I re-watched Hitchcock’s movie version. While much tamer than the book—to be expected for the time it was made in—it was an impressive film adaptation. The biggest difference between the book and film was how Norman Bates looked. In the book, he is described as overweight with thinning hair and rimless glasses, nothing like the tall, slim brunette cast in the movie.

I highly recommend this book to any horror fan.

Book
Bloch, Robert. Psycho, The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., 1959.

Film
Hitchcock, Alfred. Psycho, Paramount Pictures, 1960.

Death Lit: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I am a big fan of the YouTube channel Ask a Mortician by Cailtin Doughty. I especially love the videos on historical corpses. In all of her videos, Doughty not only provides tons of interesting information but shares it in a clear and direct style with a touch of humor. I could say the same about her writing. I was excited to pick up a copy of her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. At no point was the book morbid despite being about dying, death rites, the funeral industry and corpses. I found it informing and a pleasure to read.

I highly recommend it, particularly because I think it would be accessible to a wide range of reading skills. The style was straight-forward and easy to read, and the content never failed to keep me informed and entertained.