Halloween Haunts: Halloween on Blood Mountain by Jeffrey LeBlanc
Halloween Haunts: Halloween on Blood Mountain
By Jeffrey LeBlanc
Golden and crimson leaves fall majestically from the ageless trees of Blood Mountain. As they drift along nearing the forest floor, I watch the wind wisp them up into swirls across the rocky bald, and shadowed crags of Blood Mountain. I smile warmly and place my hand to my brow shading my eyes from the crossing sun. I narrow my blue eyes and furrow my brow trying to trace the track of the turbulent leaf storm as it rolls and glimmers as elfin gold in a late-afternoon sun. It truly is a glorious October afternoon in Nature’s splendor.
But I’d be a fool to be lulled by the hypnotic sway of these towering emerald pines, red oaks, and hemlock. As I’ve learned the hard way on the mountain, my crypt of memory has made me complacent at the most inopportune of times. As in a blissful Samhain dream of firelight and swaying dances, I move amongst these creaking timbers, these lumbering giants that often have lead me astray…at my peril. But I focus and move onward and ever upward in my ascent of the summit. Standing at the peak of the mountain overlooking the vast expanse of the Appalachians, I regale in nostalgic grandeur of our harvest festival—Halloween.
But the shadows in the valley below grow long. I see that the golden sun is setting fast, and I have miles to go in my descent off the mountain. I’d better hurry down and head back to the warmth and safety of the tomb.
For no sane person stays in a howler’s woods after dark.
As I move in haste down the twisting, dark trail, avoiding the jagged rocks, I ponder these powerful words from the great sorcerer Clark Ashton Smith. These ancient woods—four hundred an eight-million-year-old woods mind you—conjure up his epic and enduring ‘Satan Unrepentant’.
Lost from those archangelic thrones that star,
Fadeless and fixed, heaven’s light of azure bliss;
Forbanned of all His splendor and depressed
Beyond the birth of the first sun, and lower
Than the last star’s decline, I still endure,
Abased, majestic, fallen, beautiful,
And unregretful in the doubted dark
The chilled winds are gusting from Blood Mountain tossing my salty brown hair as I walk the obscure trail. I narrow my gaze cautiously, and study a chestnut ridgeline, I feel Blood Mountain’s cold blasts as familiar icy fingers stinging my face like a playful friend who has been lost for ages. The frozen bite lingers a bit on my reddened cheeks as I hear the crash of falling crisped autumn leaves. I gaze wide-eyed onto the showers of red and burnished leaves all around me on this windswept mountain. It’s in this same joyous moment that I hear a distant crack and thunderous fall of a tree somewhere in the mid-climes. The deafening sound breaks the solitude and kicks my heart up a pace or two. In that moment, I remember with a shudder that it wasn’t so long ago on another walk in these ancient woods—lost under moonlight–that my life changed forever. I can’t help my compulsion to dart my eyes and rub my chin nervously. Rapidly spying to, and from while glancing over my shoulder. I make damn sure it’s just the wind and…nothing more.
What is it about the fallen tree up her in this labyrinth of granite and quartz that brings palpable dread? It’s a knowledge of knowing with certainty that humans are not the alpha predator in the Appalachians. And armed with that dark insight, I ready myself to scramble and sprint across these shadowed crags and winding dark hollers to evade the possible predator. That goes double if that particular noise came from something a little larger, and a whole lot harrier than me. Not that running would do much good with a mountain lion, coyote, or bear chasing behind. And I am sure as Hell, that I don’t want a repeat encounter with those ape-like creatures again.
I’m often asked—especially when I’m writing in other genres—why do I gravitate toward horror? What is it about loathsome horror that compels me back to its shadowed vaults time immemorial? I really wish I had a definitive answer. Maybe it’s the purity of the emotions that horror can draw out even in the bravest of us. In life, I’ve seen the coward under duress jump into a swirling ocean to save a friend. I’ve seen the professed brave hero cower in the corner when the chips fell flat in a hurricane or oil fire. In those harrowing, tense, and chaotic moments, dread, fear, and the deepest fear of all according to Lovecraft—fear of the unknown—are a beacon revealing the truest insight into the character of a person—proud pontification and embellished words be damned!
Now to our HWA family—for we truly are an accursed lot toiling in our torturer’s den creating and cursing even on a good day. This wondrous and devilish community of writer’s is a fang-tastic organization created thankfully by some very passionate poets and writers. I’ve been honored to meet with some of our founders and great writers through the years working or stumbling in New Orleans. I absolutely cherished our talks on the past, present, and future of horror. I truly pray to the darkest of demons—for embraced, they keep me warm on those snow-filled Appalachian nights—that our organization continues to burn brightly in the lost eons to come.
Over the years, as some of you know me too well, I decided to answer a few questions that have come up on occasion.
- The Lestat parties and The Mortuary? A Southern gentleman can never reveal such debauchery and extravagance to make the Devil blush. Nor can I reveal those absolute delightful conversations with Anne, Stan, or the participants in those lavish travesties of decadence. The latter out of sincere vampiric terror that a few of you will stake me.
The Mortuary is an epic haunted house—an actual former mortuary–with great production and tremendously committed actors. But Phil’s ‘House of Shock’ rocked harder back in the day.
- Did Stephen King really bring it at ‘The Academy of the Sacred Heart’ in New Orleans like an AC/DC concert? Are you kidding me? The dude had the whole gang swooning in the isles like Elvis Presley or Pantera. You heard me right Phil Anselmo! I likened a King book signing to a Pantera concert.
- Should Stephen take over the vampire parties in New Orleans? Beyond an epic idea! But sadly, I’m pretty sure his liver wouldn’t be able to handle it.
- Can I tell you the best place to write in the French Quarter? Pirate’s Alley right next to William Faulkner’s Museum. There’s a quaint little chair inside The Old Absinthe House. Then again, scratch that. You will probably be too distracted by the local scene to get any writing done. But you will find some fine spirits.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Jeffrey LeBlanc is giving away a copy of ‘Trail of the Crimson Claw and Other Horror Tales’.
Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.
Jeffrey LeBlanc finds the most terrifying thing to write is an author’s biography. He regards such things as altruistic meanderings and the pompous posturing of a peacock carved on the epitaph of a gravestone. He knows these embellished words– at any moment–will horrifically transform by the spectral hand of Guy de Maupassant to reveal the author’s real biographical account to his unapologetic shame. But he will do his best to abide by literary tradition.
Jeffrey LeBlanc is the author of six published novels, two published novellas, three collections of short stories, one collection of poetry, and one anthology. He has read over sixty-thousand books including horror, narrated over a thousand stories, and released three hundred and forty-four narrations in horror, science fiction, and fantasy on his monetized channels and podcasts– ‘Dweller of the Dark’. And to date, he’s ghost written for nine best-sellers in nine different genres, written four private memoirs for famous Youtubers, actors, and entrepreneurs. All the latter to keep the crypt brightly lit to read his growing collection of horror books. Links to Dweller of the Dark and Jeff’s books below. His latest novel—Crimson Moon—will be released September 2023. Plus a few other surprises.
Link to GIVEAWAY preview ‘Trail of the Crimson Claw and Other Horror Tales’.