A Parliament of Crows: Horror that Happened (™)

Murder in the service of maintaining wealth and status. That’s not uncommon, but when it is done by seemingly “proper” Victorian women, three sisters who teach social graces in women’s colleges in the old South, the contrast sets us up for a good Southern gothic. Based on crimes committed by the infamous Wardlaw sisters against members of their own family, A Parliament of Crows, explores in fiction the emotions and the thinking behind such crimes. The novel was released this month under the new IFD Publishing imprint, Horror that Happened (™). I have changed their name to Mortlow and made some other changes to drive the story, yet I’ve tried to follow what history has told us about the Wardlaw sisters’ crimes. The tale unfolds from their respective perspectives, the chapters rotating through the three POVs.

Murders committed over the course of many years left the three Mortlow sisters, Vertiline, Mary, and Carolee, with many secrets to keep. Differing in personality, faith, and outlook, they were at odds with one another from the start—more so even than with those they killed. Jealousies, grievances, and mistrust threatened to break their loyalty and shared silence.

With a final crime, the murder of Mary’s daughter, authorities caught up with the sisters. They were indicted for murder and insurance fraud. That’s where the story begins. The backstories of all three are revealed as the court case proceeds.

The mystery here is not whodunnit, but how they found it reasonable to do what they did.

Concerning the title, some have asked if I meant owls, because a gathering of owls is referred to as a parliament. There is also a parliament of crows that is less description of them as a group and more something the group may do when they gather together in large numbers, say in an open field. In such gatherings of perhaps fifty or more crows, occasionally an argument breaks between one or more of the birds. The others seem to watch. When the argument is done, the crows turn on one of the participants, presumably the loser, sometimes maiming, killing, or even cannibalizing the creature. Some people who have viewed this phenomenon have likened it to a trial in which the defendent is convicted and punished. A parliament of crows is the term for that type of gathering. With the way the sisters go after each other and because they habitually wore black mourning clothes, I thought the title appropriate.

A Parliament of Crows, by Alan M. Clark, is the second novel to be included in the new IFD Publishing imprint Horror that Happened (™).

The outrageous is all the more extraordinary when we know it actually occurred. Horror that Happened (™), provides riveting stories in three catagories: True Crime, Based on a True Story, and Lifted from the Past. We hope you will come back to IFD Publishing for your high-quality reading entertainment.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

A Scary Hallows Eve to All

By Cheryl Owen-Wilson

October is my favorite time of the year—a time of vibrant reds and oranges from falling leaves, and also a time when we celebrate Halloween and The Day of the Dead.   I love all the accoutrements, from dressing up and becoming something or someone entirely different, to candles dripping with blood, to cauldrons boiling—I look forward to it all. For most of my friends their holiday is Christmas. They have storage units filled with shiny, sparkling baubles. My storage unit contains costumes, a coffin (see last years blog), cobwebs, spiders and of course skeletal remains. Most have a Santa and sleigh to adorn their roof. I however, have another vision and they’re not of sugarplums dancing in my head. I have a vision of skeletons crawling up and over my roof. I think perhaps after Halloween I’ll leave them and in December they can sport Santa hats. As a writer of Southern Gothic tales my Halloween props serve to inspire me. The other tool I use to get my muse going is to write poetry about my subject. So in honor of this month of howling wolves and all things long departed, I’ve redone a classic poem to suit my taste. I hope you enjoy, and if you happen to have a spare cadaver or two please send them my way. My collection is growing day by day. Please take a moment to tell me what inspires your writing.


A Scary Hallows Eve to All

Twas the night before Hallows Eve when all through the house,               the Spirits were a’stirring,                                                                               why there was even a dead mouse.

The cauldrons were hung by the chimney with care,                                   bubbling and brewing a potion most rare.

The children were rising from their casket beds,                                         while visions of voodoo dolls danced in their heads.

And mamma in her shroud and I with my top-hat,                                     had just started rising from our long undead nap.

When out in the graveyard there arose such a clatter,                               I sprang from my crypt to see what was the matter.

Away to the mausoleum I flew like a flash,                                                   tore open a tomb and threw out some trash.

The hunter’s moon was just rising and cast a bright glow.                         Which gave a lustre of crimson to objects below.

When what to my bleary undead eyes should appear?                               But a gleaming black hearse,                                                                           pulled by eight phantom deer.

With a sinister old driver so evil and bad,                                                       I knew in a moment it must be Count Vlad.

More rapid than banshees his courses they came,                                       And he screeched, and he shrieked,                                                             and he called them by name.

Now Basher! Now Lancer! Now Cancer and Vixen!                                       On Vomit! On Pudrid! On Squander and Nixon!

To the top of the graveyard, to the top of the pall,                                       now slash away, bash away, thrash away all!

As dry brittle bones rattle, shake, scream and cry,                                       when they meet with an obstacle,                                                                  upon the most high,

So up to the tomb-top the ghoulish crew flew,                                               with a hearse full of corpses,                                                                         and Count Vlad of course, too.

And then in the darkness I heard on the roof,                                               the scraping and clawing of each phantom’s hoof.

As I drew in my carcass and was turning around,                                         down through the catacombs                                                                           he came with a bound.

He was dressed in a cape from his head to his foot.                                     His white shirt was all splattered                                                                     with the blood he’d just took.

A bundle of bones he had flung on his back                                                   And he looked like a grave-robber                                                                   just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they gleamed! His gaze was quite scary!                               His skin was like marble, his fangs made me wary.

And when he opened his mouth in a smile, don’t you know?                       Those fangs actually gave off a stunning, white glow.

Drips of scarlet still clung to the points of his teeth,                                     and I drew in stale breathe as a blade he unsheathed.

He had the chiseled face of a Botticelli.                                                           But his demeanor was straight from the pages,                                                of M. Shelley

Was he here on a mission, a demented black elf?                                         I pondered and worried in spite of myself.

His eyes sought a tomb just above my skull’s head                                       And soon I knew I had nothing whatsoever to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,                                     and filled the tombs coffers then turned with a jerk.

And laying a bony finger aside of his nose,                                                     And giving a nod up through the graveyard he rose.

He sprang to his hearse, to his demons gave a shrill whistle,                       And away they all roared like a death seeking missile.

But I heard him cry out ere he drove from my sight,                                   Scary Hallows Eve to All and to All a Good-Fright!

Day of Dead Moon
“Day of Dead Moon”
An Original Painting by Cheryl Owen-Wilson (MeCo)