The sleek straight walls of our arcology
Penetrated by organic rot.
A flower brought in, unseen,
On the sole of a shoe or in a guilty heart.
Our antiseptic citadel protected us
From burning seas and mistakes long made.
We sustained ourselves with sterile survival
While the world outside decayed.
An expedition to the wild outside
And some failure of our defences
Brought in our first fresh flower
And long buried consequences.
Stems and springs sprouted
From burnished glass walkways.
Escalators and elevators grew silent,
their gears all clogged with grass.
Attempts to decontaminate and control
Only spread unsettled seeds.
Vines clung about our structures
and ruptured slowly from our skin.
The first few people tried
To rip or tear these new appendages.
The fungal tongues growing from their chests and
The poison ivy tangled in their hair.
But they only grew back stronger
Until all resistance stopped.
The sinews coiled around our community
Tendrils spreading one-by-one.
Soil dripping from vacant eyes
As they forgot their dull humanity.
They shuffle around the corridors,
Overtaken by new life.
Bursts of red and green and yellow
pulsating from walls and floors and mouths.
Their minds are gone, but some life remains.
Rebirthed in the barren womb of our last redoubt.
I watch and wait for the dirt to take me.
The last, but not alone.
Butterflies and insects
Spring from living, moving bone.
Tangled metal flowers
Grow around me in this room.
I feel the fear of death abandon me.
I know the world will be here soon.
Danny Shaw is a conflict researcher based in Scotland, but in his fiction he prefers horror to war. He loves horror with existential and political themes, like Thomas Ligotti, Brian Evanson and Hailey Piper. You can find his short stories and poems @WeirdAndFearty and his political work @DanielOdinShaw on Twitter.
Don’t try to monetize a poltergeist.
Greed’s bad ghost karma can’t be rectified.
Disgraced, divorced, and homeless, one man saw
Redemption’s outstretched hand where others paused.
Abandoned, curiously cheap to rent,
This mansion’s past inspired its second chance.
Accomplices were needed. Two arrived
When Gerald Laughlin hatched his hapless plot
To profit from aged, angry entities.
In 1967, he lured folks
Who paid to tour dark rooms suffused with gloom
Inhabited by visible deceased
Who followed paying guests—but would not speak.
Published accounts have chronicled his woes.
Too many harrowing encounters there
Encouraged Gerald and his cohorts—men
Who never were right-minded after that--
To flee, unseen foes hanging on their coats.
Since bad ghost karma can’t be overcome,
Investigate who’s haunting your house first.
Respect the dead, whose turmoil can’t be priced.
Don’t try to monetize sly poltergeists.
Background: After a professional crisis cratered his chiropractic career and his marriage, Dr. Gerald Alexander Laughlin [c. 1926—24 Jun 2001] needed inexpensive lodgings and a new purpose. A dilapidated 33-room mansion [1161 N. Liberty at Atlantic Ave.], rumored to house inhospitable spirits, was vacant and well below market value. In 1967, Laughlin transformed the 19th century residence into New Castle, Pennsylvania’s first “commercial” haunted house with the help of two young bachelors from Lawrence County whose work was compensated by free room and board. Tours ($5) were popular.
Increasingly, however, witnesses told of unsettling things. Spectres attached themselves to attendees.
The longer Laughlin let folks explore the premises, the more mayhem ensued.
Were numerous car accidents and heart attacks really caused by vengeful apparitions?
In June 1970, the three-story structure was closed for fire safety violations; condemnation proceedings were considered. When the haunted mansion was totally gutted by fire on October 9, 1970, arson was not suspected.
For more information, please read, "The House of Lost Souls" by Patrick Glendon McCullough
Native New Yorker LindaAnn LoSchiavo, a Pushcart Prize, Rhysling Award, Best of the Net, and Dwarf Stars nominee, is a member of SFPA, The British Fantasy Society, and The Dramatists Guild. Elgin Award winner "A Route Obscure and Lonely," "Concupiscent Consumption," "Women Who Were Warned," Firecracker and IPPY Award nominee "Messengers of the Macabre" [co-written with David Davies], and "Apprenticed to the Night" [Beacon Books, 2023] are her latest poetry titles.