March 5, 2012

More Strange Tales in the Works


I've begun writing up my next series of short stories: Timeless Ghost Stories: More Haunted Tales from the Dead of Night. Many of the ideas are already in place; now it’s a matter of developing them. As always, I’m looking forward to the process.

Vesuvius erupts
Shadows and Dreams, the first tale, was inspired by a long-ago trip to the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA—a replica of an ancient Roman villa uncovered at Herculaneum (another victim of Mount Vesuvius, which also buried Pompeii in 79 AD). I was privileged to tour the Getty Villa as it neared completion in the early 1970’s, before it was opened to the public. The visit was like a trip through a time portal. I was enthralled and haunted by the magic on the other side.

The structure, of course, was new, its massive columns recently carved, the colored stones and marble freshly quarried and shipped in from Italy, the many wall paintings mere replicas of ancient frescoes, the gardens newly planted, and so on. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that the past was very much here, linking hands with the present.

Amphora, Death of Priam
It was revealed in the ancient artifacts displayed throughout the villa. There were bronzes and marble sculptures of Greek and Roman gods, goddesses, and mythical beasts; of regal, detached korai; of heroes and victorious athletes. Displays of restored mosaics and painted vases told stories of the ancient world, both real and imagined. There were sculpted portraits of men who wielded great power in their day alongside those of priestesses and wives who exercised their own quiet powers. And every object was proof of a life that had been.

Golden laurel wreath
Objects as mundane as a child’s cup and as impressive as a gold laurel crown had been fashioned, used, or worn by persons long dead. Growing up and growing old, they had passed through this world with hopes and dreams, suffered periods of hardship, and celebrated times of great joy—not so different a life, in that regard, from yours and mine. Somehow their presence seemed to linger about these treasures so carefully unearthed, dusted off, and restored; so beautifully displayed, that we who value the past might view them and remember.

Over the years, I’ve returned many times to the Getty. Amidst the general hubbub of living voices, it’s harder now to hear the ghostly whispers; the echoes of the past. But the authors of these voices are there. I still can feel their presence.

Happy Hauntings,

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