Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo has become one of my favorite books. It is like nothing I have read before and it tells a ghost story unlike any I have ever heard.  I have long had a fascination with Asian supernatural beliefs and The Ghost Bride is a journey into these beliefs.  The novel is set in old Malaya.  Malayasia at this time is still deeply set in old Chinese customs.  The novel is the story Li Lan, the daughter of a bankrupt family with no hopes of a proper marriage for her. It is because of this that her family considers an unusual offer for her from the rich and powerful Lim family.  She has received a rare offer to become a ghost bride to the Lim family's deceased son.

This dreamlike book pulls its heroin through the ghostly world of the dead and into a realm of superstition and magic.  It is beautifully written and oddly educational.  The author introduced me to a new concept of death and dying.  According to Choo,  "The folk tradition of marriages to ghosts or between ghosts usually occurred in order to placate spirits or allay a haunting.  There are a number of allutsions to it in Chinese literature but its roots eem to lie in ancestor worship.  Matches were sometimes made between two deceased persons, with the families on both sides recognizing the marriage as a tie between them.  However, there were other cases in which a living person was married to the dead.  These primarily took the form of a living person fulfilling the with of a dying sweetheard, or to give the rank of a wife to a mistress or concubine who had produced an heir.  In rare cases,  an impoverished girl was taken into a household as a widow to perform the ancestral rites for a man who died without a wife of descendants.  In such a case, an actual marriage ceremony would be performed with a rooser standing in for the dead bridegroom."

Choo does an amazing job integrating this old costume into a fictional account of a young woman coming of age.   I can't wait to read more books by Choo.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

American Horror Story's Madame LaLaurie

Anyone who has ever heard me tell ghost stories knows that the positively diabolical tale of Madame LaLaurie is my absolute favorite tale of ghoulish, ghostly, evil.  Madame LaLaurie makes most serial killers look like house pets and the mansion that stands as a rembrance of her cruelty is often called the most haunted house in the nation.  It is one of the few haunted locations that holds ghosts that have actually killed their victims (according to legend).

This is why I literally jumped for joy when I found out that my favorite television series, American Horror Story, will feature Kathy Bates playing Madame LaLaurie this year.  It really doesn't get much better than this.  Kathy Bates plays evil as deftly as any master and I can't wait to see her bring this iconic monster to life.  In order to celebrate, I've done a little history of Madame LaLaurie below.  American Horror Story premiers on FX at 10 pm October 9th.  I'm already there, in spirit.

 According to haunted New Orleans tours and Haunted America, the LaLaurie Mansion is the most haunted site in New Orleans. Sources say that the house is filled with tormented screams and terrifying wails. They describe chains rattling at night and the apparitions in chains wandering the halls. The house has been many things since the famous Delphine de LaLaurie abandoned it, but it hasn't been anything for as it has been quickly abandoned by every resident afterwards. Some stories indicate that the ghosts here are aggressive and that they have attacked residents with whips and some even claim that multiple deaths have resulted from the hellish, supernatural residents of 1140 Royal Street.

The history of this mansion can only be confirmed to a point. It is known that Delphine LaLaurie was a wealthy, socialite who resided until 1833. Many accounts from contemporaries show that Madam LaLaurie was uncommonly cruel and beastly to her slaves, even for a time when cruelty to slaves was somewhat common. Following a kitchen fire in the house in 1833, the remains of over 100 dead slaves were found. After this, the evidence becomes weaker. Many sources indicate that firefighters entering the house found a room in the house in which slaves had been tortured in the most gruesome ways. It is said that some slaves had been subjected to many unnecessary surgeries and had had their sex organs removed, mutilated, or sewn onto other slaves. Other slaves had their mouths sewn shut with feces in them and their intestines removed and nailed to the floor. The list of atrocities goes on and on and are so vile that I shutter to even write about them.

Whether the more gruesome elements of this story are true or not, it is true that LaLaurie was a beast and a serial killer and that reports continue that this house is tormented by constant ghosts and spirits. Anyone curious about this house will be easily appeased, as it is a regular part of all haunted New Orleans tours and the guides stories about the house are beyond chilling.  However,  the house's inability to maintain an owner still remains a problem.  Nicolas Cage bought the house in 2007 and it was foreclosed on in 2008.  The house is still vacant and owned by the bank.