In medieval Europe the gallows was often placed overlooking the most beautiful view of the countryside. If you were guilty, the last thing you saw was what you were leaving. And if you were innocent, well, it was a nice view.
It’s a little odd walking down the dog down our California street. It was 85 degrees today, barbecues were fired up, “grilled beef” in the air. But now the moon presides, the leaves are rustling, and the lawns are suddenly filled with skulls and head stones.
They go all out here. When we first drove through town, years ago, thinking of moving here from Hollywood, we had forgotten it was Halloween night, and were delighted by the posses of sugar-filled kids zigzagging across the neighborhood. It looked like a Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
We hope you’ll join us this weekend for a celebration of this Druidic season, led by three American authors at their spooky, autumnal best. Edgar Allan Poe takes us to a bone-filled wine cellar far below Venetian streets in “The Cask of Amontillado”. Stephen Vincent Benet pitches America’s greatest lawyer against the Prince of Darkness for a New Englander’s soul in “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, and a sunny American town shows a much, much darker side in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. In adapting these stories, I hoped to capture the same fun and reverence that Parson’s Nose brings to Shaw and Molière.
I used to visit Poe’s grave in Baltimore before it was “gentrified” - a cold, cracked, crypt in a forgotten, weed-covered churchyard, visited for fifty years on Poe’s birthday by a black-clothed fan who left a flask of Cognac and a rose. His genius shines through in this relentless tale of revenge, far below the streets of the "Venice Carnivale”.
Stephen Vincent Benet, on the other hand, gives us the ultimate American hero, Daniel Webster, taking on the Devil himself in post-Civil War New Hampshire.
And in 1948, our newest, and perhaps most frightening classic, Shirley Jackson’s tale of a small American town’s macabre ritual kindled the greatest response in The New Yorker Magazine’s history.
So we hope you’ll join us for a glass of wine or cocoa and a chat with your friends and the Parson’s Nose family. You’ll get to know these works, and you’ll stop at a bookstore on your way home. I promise.”
By Lance Davis