A Sailor, A Daughter, A Lost Hope

Note: Students in Horror during the Fall 2015 semester had, as an extra credit assignment, the opportunity to compose a short story describing the events they imagine to be depicted in the painting below, which was made by the artist Danny Compton.  Danny generously agreed to judge the stories and chose the one you will read here as the winning submission.


By: Jaclyn Peraino

Several decades ago, a sailor and his eight-year-old daughter planned to explore the possibility of purchasing a lighthouse. The mother and son recently died in a house fire, and the sailor needed a fresh start. He had high hopes for restoring the lighthouse on a long peninsula. His daughter was nervous to leave her friends but excited to live in a new house. The two packed up the few belongings they had and set sail up the coast ready to leave their past behind.

Upon their arrival, a realtor, who would show them the house, greeted them. The sailor thought to himself that the realtor seemed like a quirky man and had an eerie feeling about the house. His daughter, on the other hand, loved the place. She skipped up the stairs, played with the light, and even began to plan where her things would go in her room. Not wanting to disappoint his daughter after everything she had gone through, he told the realtor he would take the house and man the light. As the realtor extended his hand to shake on the deal, the sailor noticed strange markings on the man’s wrist. He shook the man’s hand and bought the house.

Before he left, the realtor warned the sailor not to get too close to the water at night because the tides have a strong undercurrent. He also mentioned that the doors sometimes get jammed shut. The little girl and her father waved goodbye and began to unpack their belongings. While she set up some decorations around the house, he went around to do small repairs to windows and doors, making them open and close properly. Though the house needed some larger repairs, the sailor decided it would be best to wait until the weather became warmer. For tonight, the small repairs would be enough and the two could enjoy the first night in their new home.

Around two in the morning, the sailor awoke to the sound of a door slamming shut. He rushed to the window and saw that his daughter was wandering outside around the front yard and then back toward the ocean. He opened the window to shout for her to come back inside. He shouted for her to stay away from the water. He shouted and shouted but she didn’t respond. He thought she might be sleepwalking, something she had never done before. He threw on his slippers and jacket to run outside after her, but the door wouldn’t open. The sailor grew frantic pounding on the door and watching through the window, as his daughter grew closer to the water. He used all the force he could to push open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He watched, yelling hysterically, as the current pulled his daughter under. Suddenly, the door burst open and he ran to the water, but he was too late. Her limp body came back ashore and the sailor began to weep. He lost everyone he loved and knew he couldn’t go on. He created a grave at the front of the house for his daughter and dug one for himself, too.

Now, every full moon the father and his daughter can be seen roaming the lighthouse. No one has drowned in those waters since, and people say they saw a man pull them out of the water just before they couldn’t hold on any longer. It’s uncertain whether something supernatural caused the freak accident that night, but there is no question that the supernatural are saving people at that lighthouse today.




A Ghost by Serritella

By: Gina Brandolino

When you teach a course on horror stories, as I do, people are always offering recommendations.  “See this scary movie!”  “Read this terrifying book!”  Lately, I’ve even gotten some online horror recommendations (truth be told, these are really scary, and easily the scariest recent additions to my course).  But no one has ever recommended any horrifying art to me. In my course, I teach a story by H.P. Lovecraft, “Pickman’s Model,” that is about just that, and through that story I found the work of Henry Fuseli, Francicso Goya, Sidney Sime, and Clark Ashton Smith. I also follow a blog focusing on ephemera relating to the film The Shining from which I learned about the unsettling work of artist Alex Colville, whose paintings are featured in the film. So for a while now, thanks to this course, I’ve been thinking about art and horror.

I’m thrilled to say that my own original piece of art featuring a subject of horror (to my mind, the best, most interesting subject–a ghost!) has found its way to me.  This is the art, and below is the story behind it.


My sister Amy is an art historian, and last year, she told me about the artist Vincent Serritella, who had undertaken a project–Project 365–to give away one original piece of art a day for a year.  You can read all about Project 365 here. When Vincent decided to make a book about the project, Amy, who had received one of the 365 pieces, offered to write the foreward, and I lent a hand with the editing of Amy’s foreward and Vincent’s introduction. In exchange for my help, Vincent offered to make me a drawing on the subject of my choosing. I knew instantly: I wanted a ghost.

I think it’s a pretty tall order to draw a ghost. Drawing anything supernatural is tough because the artist is competing with what viewers’ imaginations can come up with.  But, though there is some variation, there are clear cultural ideas of what devils are supposed to look like. Many monsters have sort of “set” appearances–werewolves, vampires, zombies–but the thing about a monster is that you can invent one, appearance and all, and no one will question its uniqueness (don’t we all do this all the time? I know I do…). But most of the time, a ghost doesn’t appear; that is, we suspect a ghost when there is movement or action but no physical presence.  How do you draw that?

Of his drawing, Vincent wrote to me in a note, “I went classic with this one,” and he did. I did a little poking around online and learned that the shrouded ghost was originally an invention of theater. The shroud distinguished the ghost from other characters onstage; the character underneath it, the covering made clear, was not a living one. This convention evolved over time to emphasize the shroud more than the body–in effect, the shroud became the ghost.

This is true of Vincent’s ghost, too–the shroud is the thing. Looking at it, there appears to be a form under there–but is there?  And if so, what form? Vincent’s decision not to include the bottom of the ghost leaves the question of whether there are feet or not (and hence, if there is, after all, a form under that shroud) open, eternally unanswered.  And check out the right side, where you can make out the shadow of what looks like an arm.  Now compare it to the other side, where there is no matching shadow, just a sheet flap. The eye holes, too: Are they vacant? Or are they deep, dark hiding places from which something’s watching? The best part of this drawing is, you don’t know.


The Painting of Satan

By: Ariel Roberts

A few years ago during Art Fair, my friend was walking around and stopped at a booth with trippy paintings. Amongst the art was an older painting of Satan and my friend, who jokingly acts like a Satanist, decided to buy it. The artist offered to bag the painting, but my friend refused, saying it wasn’t going to rain, and it was fine in the plastic sleeve. Immediately afterwards it started to pour. He thought it was odd, but the rain had been building up that week anyways. He then ran to a school building in the pouring rain, using the Satan painting as a shield.

My friend decided to hang the painting in the main living area for all to see, but he hadn’t framed it yet. One night it fell off the wall, and he decided to leave it there, not having time to deal with it. That very night, my friend, who slept in the bedroom that shared the wall the painting was on, began to have night terrors. He continued to have night terrors, even after putting it back up. Eventually his first roommate moved out and he switched to the second bedroom. His night terrors stopped immediately afterwards. Although his first roommate never had night terrors in the apartment, he did say that when he was alone in the living room, the painting of Satan would watch him.

My friend got two new roommates, one of them being a girl who moved in the room with the shared wall. By this point my friend had finally framed the painting, and he hoped that this would make things better. The girl never had any problems, but my friend found that if you were to do anything against the painting, it would cause something bad to happen. He realized this after a few of his friends had shot Nerf darts at the painting and had bad luck for a few days afterwards.

One day my friend was coming home and he found a card with a saint on it. He contemplated bringing it in, seeing as it was something interesting, but he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea considering Satan was up in the apartment. He decided to prop the card up where it was and hope that the owner would find it and take it home instead. Interestingly, his female roommate came home later that night with the saint card in hand, happy she had found something cool. She decided to place the saint card in Satan’s frame, and they jokingly (or possibly seriously) believed that Satan possessed the saint, and that the offering had pleased him to some extent.

My friend’s lease on his apartment ended this summer, so his female roommate moved out a few months early for a job. He decided to move back into the other room in order to have his own space since he was originally sharing with his third roommate. The entire time he stayed in that room he had night terrors again. My friend is now my current roommate, and all of this happened before he moved into my apartment a month ago. I am highly superstitious and after hearing everything, I told him he was in no way allowed to bring the painting with him when he moved in and that was final. The painting of Satan now sits in his basement at home. He hasn’t had night terrors since moving into my apartment, but he’s not sure how things are going at home either since he hasn’t been back into the basement since. I’m convinced that the painting of Satan is highly upset and is waiting for him to come home.