Dark Divinations: The Bell

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The Inspiration Behind “The Bell.”

By Jon O’Bergh

During the nineteenth century, epidemics like cholera periodically swept through the population and brought reports of premature burial. Although most of these reports were undoubtedly fake news, the resulting fear of being buried alive fueled a demand for “safety coffins.” I initially wrote a story about one such burial, told by an omniscient narrator but focused on the graveyard watchman, in which a wife deliberately buries her sick husband before he is dead.

When I saw the Dark Divinations call for submissions, I realized my story had the seeds of something ideal for the anthology. I’ve always loved the Victorian style of writing: the fancy turns of phrase, the old-fashioned word choices, the heightened emotionalism. I thought it would be fun to craft a story using that kind of voice—a Poe-esque story told from the perspective of the person trapped in the coffin. What would he experience? What thoughts would go through his mind? How would he deal with the situation?

Of course, that meant writing the story in the first person and completely re-working it. I decided it would be even more interesting to invest the character with occult abilities, another fascination of the nineteenth century. Not an outright charlatan (although there were plenty of those), but a flawed yet sympathetic character with some amount of real ability. The transformed story now had only a superficial resemblance to the original. Dark Divinations had inspired me to write an even better tale, one I hope is worthy of comparison with Edgar Allan Poe.

 Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel “The Shatter Point” after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jon O’Bergh

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Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California obergh-authorat Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel, The Shatter Point, after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

So many of my favorite authors were active during that era, from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain. The era also provided many of the classic trappings of horror we’re familiar with: the image of the haunted house, the decor we associate with funerals, the rise of spirit mediums, etc.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story? 

Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” Something to turn to during plague-haunted times.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

The Innocents is quite well done—based on the short story by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw. The film strikes just the right balance, never getting too absurd or bogged down in explanatory mumbo-jumbo.

Are your characters based on real people?

Sometimes I incorporate aspects of behavior I’ve observed, but in “The Bell” the characters are completely fictional.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I start with a plan on where I want to go, but the characters and the plot always take me on an unexpected journey, so things evolve and change as I write.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

I can’t say they have free will, because I need them to act in a certain way to further the plot and support my premise.

What are you most afraid of?

The irrational impulse in human beings. It causes all manner of unnecessary trouble for humanity. That and wasps!

What is your favorite form of divination? 

As someone who appreciates a good laugh, I would say geloscopy, which is divination based on interpreting the sound or manner of laughter.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Among contemporary authors, it would be Paul Tremblay. I appreciate how he plays with ambiguity, so you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. I believe we experience much in life that way, uncertain about things we’re told, about people’s true motivations, about what lies beneath the surface. He writes horror fiction that feels real to me.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

I’ve completed a second horror novel about a drag queen and his best friend who share a passion for art, fashion, and horror. When they learn that their apartment building might be haunted, they envision an entertaining episode for their horror podcast and begin investigating with the help of their quirky neighbors. But they uncover something far more sinister that threatens them all. It’s a tale with a message for our modern times. I’m currently seeking a publisher. I’ve also created an album of horror-themed music by one of the characters, titled Box of Bones, that may precede or accompany the novel. Until then, readers can check out my horror novel The Shatter Point. And I periodically write a blog with musings on music and horror, called Song of Fire.

Addicts, you can find Jon on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.