Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Tell Tale Heart

In honor of Halloween-- one my favorite 'horror' stories---- Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart (1843)."

TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture -- a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded -- with what caution -- with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously -- oh, so cautiously -- cautiously (for the hinges creaked), I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed , to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers, of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was opening the door little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea, and perhaps he heard me, for he moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back -- but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening , and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, "Who's there?"
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening; just as I have done night after night hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief -- oh, no! It was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself, "It is nothing but the wind in the chimney, it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or, "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions ; but he had found all in vain. ALL IN VAIN, because Death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time very patiently without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little -- a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it -- you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily -- until at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.
It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness -- all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.
And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! -- do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me -- the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once -- once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.
I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye -- not even his -- could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out -- no stain of any kind -- no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that.

When I had made an end of these labours, it was four o'clock -- still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, -- for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.
I smiled, -- for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search -- search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My MANNER had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat, and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct : I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definitiveness -- until, at length, I found that the noise was NOT within my ears.

No doubt I now grew VERY pale; but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased -- and what could I do? It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND -- MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS A WATCH MAKES WHEN ENVELOPED IN COTTON. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why WOULD they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! what COULD I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly , and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! -- no, no? They heard! -- they suspected! -- they KNEW! -- they were making a mockery of my horror! -- this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! --
"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! -- here, here! -- it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

3 Question Personality Test

If you haven't got much time, and can't afford a shrink, then take the 3 question (3 second) personality test. It's based on the Myers Briggs system, which I think is one of the best. I'm an INFJ, hence, an idealist. See what you are.....

Your Personality Is
Idealist (NF)

You are a passionate, caring, and unique person.
You are good at expressing yourself and sharing your ideals.
You are the most compassionate of all types and connect with others easily.
Your heart tends to rule you. You can't make decisions without considering feelings.
You seek out other empathetic people to befriend.
Truth and authenticity matters in your friendships.
In love, you give everything you have to relationships
. You fall in love easily.
At work, you crave personal expression and meaning in your career.
With others, you communicate well.
You can spend all night talking with someone.
As far as your looks go, you've likely taken the time to develop your own personal style.
On weekends, you like to be with others. Charity work is also a favorite pastime of yours.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Scooter!

There can't be anything more exciting than buying a new scooter! I just got to ride it 11 miles back to my house. It goes faster than my other scooter, and it's black! I also bought a new raincoat/ reflective vest, and a lock. Too bad the weather wasn't better for riding today.........

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Little People

Anthropologists can't believe it, but in 2003 they actually found evidence of a 'hobbit-like' people that lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia, as recently as 18,000 to 13, 000 thousand years ago. These people, which evolutionary biologists think were an offshoot cousin (pardon the pun) of the Homo erectus in Asia, were about the size of a three year old child. As modern humans moved into Asia, and our Homo erectus ancestors eventually became extinct, scientists believe that the 'hobbit' people were locked in time on the island, and survived. "Homo Floresiensio" may have co-existed with modern humans for 30,000 years until they died out!

Apparently there are legends in the surrounding Indonesian islands about little people living in caves. Indeed there must have been some interaction between modern humans and Homo Floresiensio. Anthropologists believe that the Flores people may have evolved a small stature through natural selection. Living in a contained environment, their small stature may have been an advantageous adaptation to food supply sources and sharing territory. Despite their small brains, Homo Floresiensio hunted in groups, formed stone tools, crossed water barriers, and used fire.

Other anthropologists dispute that the hobbits were a separate species of Homo, but think they were a group of 'cretin' or deformed modern humans that were isolated on the island. But Homo Floresiensio existed on the island from 95,000 thousand years ago to 13,000 thousand years ago,
before modern humans arrived in the area. Homo erectus was the only known species of Homo living in Indonesia 95,000 years ago.

It is truly amazing that Homo Floresiensio (13,000 years ago) may have been our last Homo cousin to walk the earth, at a time when scientists assumed modern humans completely dominated the planet.
Unless Yeti is real......

Friday, October 17, 2008


There's nothing like autumn in New England. Beautiful scenery and fun things to do. Here are some photos of my nephew and niece having fun last weekend in Maine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Haunted History

In honor of my love for Halloween, and history, take this haunted history quiz. I got 8/10 correct.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making Wool and Cider

Yesterday I visited a gentleman's house in Berwick, Me, with my family. His name is Peter Cook, and he's a former colleague of my brother-in-the-law. Currently he's a professor at Lesley University, among other duties and activities. Peter's an expert in Early American History, particularly on the subject of textiles. In 1996 he was the historical consultant for the movie "The Crucible."

Peter lives in an early 18th century farmhouse, with all the fixings. He gave us a tour of the house and barn, and also treated us to 'real' apple cider. We made the cider using a grinder and presser from the 1700's. On the farm there are also "Lincoln Longhair" sheep, which were the sheep raised during Colonial days. Peter uses their wool to demonstrate the carding and spinning techniques of the olden days. It was quite an arduous process, spinning wool.

Idealistic Dolly............................................................Real Dolly
My Nephew Grinding the Apples

The finished product

Saturday, October 11, 2008

All in the Family

granddaughter............................... grandmother

It's a bit uncanny, but I guess expected too, how family resemblances will skip generations, or appear if you compare people at similar ages. Here's a view of some members of my family......


niece (left).........................................................................aunt in Norway (3rd from left)

mother (back, 3rd from left) ....................................daughter

son, age 5 .....................................mother, left, about same age

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Famous 1862 Battle Seige at Uxbridge, Mass.

Well, not exactly, as there weren't any Civil War battles fought in Massachusetts, but there was a reenactment this weekend. I did not participate, but was a spectator. I enjoyed standing in the audience and listening to people confuse the Civil War with the Revolutionary War. Still, it was interesting to get another perspective, and to not have the taste of gunpowder in my mouth, or to have briars stuck on my butt.

By the way, Lee and Grant were there to orchestrate the battle of 200 soldiers. I know. Critics may find reenactments grossly inaccurate. But overall living history does get the public interested. This past July at the reenactment of Gettysburg, there were 14, 000 soldiers and 70,000 spectators! Reeving up interest in American history also helps us to save the precious remaining Civil War battle sites from development.

The Blues marching off for battle, my unit among them, after getting primed. Everybody has to clear their rifle. At large reenactments, people have gotten killed with bullets and projectiles left in rifle barrels. The gunpowder charge alone can injure or kill too.

The battle. Unfortunately, my camera's battery died, so it ain't so exciting. But you can hear
a little kid in the background. very cute.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Nicholas Brothers

The amazing Nicholas Brothers, Fayard (1914-2006) and Harold Nicholas (1921-2000), have been called the greatest tap dancers of their time, perhaps ever. The brothers were born in Alabama and North Carolina, respectively, but grew up in Philadelphia during the 1920's. Their parents were both talented musicians with their own band, and Fayard and Harold Nicholas as youngsters were exposed to various vaudeville acts at the Strand Theatre, including dancing. Later as teens Fayard and Harold Nicholas performed at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem in 1932.

Amazingly, the brothers never had any formal training in dance, yet were both teachers and masters in every respect. Their style of dancing was called "Flash Dancing," a combination of tap, ballet, and acrobatics. Their most famous dance sequence---'Jumpin Jive'--- in the movie "Stormy Weather," was cited by Fred Astaire as the greatest filmed dance sequence he had ever seen. This sequence is where the brothers dance their famous "leapfrogging' move. See for yourself.

Stormy Weather 1943

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holy Sightings

The Virgin Mary is getting around these days. Most recently, she's been sighted in a hospital window in Milton, MA. That might seem apropos, since she's busy saving lives or souls at the hospital.

But what the hell (heck) is she doing on a piece of toast, a frog's belly, a rock??? Seems a bit undignified.

(Looks more like Greta Garbo to me)
(Proof of evolution? No, it's the Virgin Mary)

People will come for miles to see Virgin Mary sightings, and lay down flowers and light candles and pray.