Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – According to the Muse (A monologue in 2 parts) Part Two – Born to Die by Paul Andruss

Time for another post  by Paul Andruss who gave us plenty to think about in terms of poetry in part one of According to the Muse yesterday: Part One

According to the Muse (A monologue in 2 parts) Part Two – Born to Die by Paul Andruss

Illustration by Donata Zawadzka

So saith the Muse: Now you see poetry lies in what is written, not how it is written, or even how it looks written, you understand poetry is no mere academic exercise but an irrepressible urge. A writer without passion is naught but a scribbler Pilgrim. Artists have no choice but to strive, for poetry is the soul. And shall I tell you what lies in a poet’s soul?

Pilgrim: No! No you’re ok… That was lovely thanks, but I’ve gotta get…

Muse: It’s a rhetorical question. This is a never-to-be-repeated offer: a lesson from the Muse. You’ll get such a sip from the cauldron of inspiration it will blow your socks off and you’ll never look at a poem in the same way again. And that, my boy, is the first step to becoming a poet.

Pilgrim: Alright then, hit me.

Muse: And don’t think I won’t!

You may believe poetry is all unicorns and rainbows. Wrong. Poetry is fear. Man did not invent poetry Pilgrim. Poetry was birthed in forgotten aeons before man was dragged up from the apes to stand beside the angels. Poetry always existed, unknown and unshaped. Man merely gave it voice, words and reason.

Stripped of language, culture and intellect, poetry is the primal scream of naked panic at descending darkness. Poetry comes from the blind abject terror of believing unless you beseech the gods correctly the sun will not rise tomorrow; the rains will not fall; spring will not come; plants will not grow and the herds will not return.

Predators in Africa make more kills during the new moon. On moonless nights, lion attacks on humans increase threefold. It is not lunacy driving the wolf to howl at the full moon, it is a poetic lament for an empty belly. Does it surprise, man also sings to the goddess Moon and her daughter the hearth fire to keep him safe?

Unlike animals, man knows he is mortal. It drives the two warring forces in his soul. Eros, or lust, is the will to survive no matter what, to seek communion, to create life and art. Thanatos is chaos, death, war, melancholia, and fear.

Man is not simply afraid of death. He dreads when and how it comes. He frets if and how he will be remembered. He believes his only choice is dying ignominious and forgotten, or departing in a blaze of glory.

She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the ev’ning star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa

Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have work’d it
Were dead as the spoken word.

 Death in Lemington – John Betjeman:

It is not bad. Let them play.
Let the guns bark and the bombing-plane
Speak his prodigious blasphemies.
It is not bad, it is high time,
Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.

The Bloody Sire – Robinson Jeffers :

Pilgrim: Not though I don’t believe you Muse, but what about humour?

Muse: Scared chimpanzees make the same facial expression as a smile and the same sound as a laugh. Why do strangers passing on a narrow track often say hello or excuse themselves with a smile? What is humour if not something to laugh off fear and threat?
Poetry is never humorous Pilgrim, though rhyme often is. Rhyme is a delight. A game of ambiguity and wit played with devices of semantics and grammar to the point of absurdity.

The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag
The reason you will see no doubt
Is to keep the lightning out
But what these unobservant birds
Have failed to notice is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

Christopher Isherwood – Poems Past and Present :

According to the Norse Skalds, rhyme is not poetry. Skalds, drunk on poetic mead, considered rhymesters only sipped the drops spilt by Odin as he fled with his stolen prize.

Pilgrim: And what about love? Surely, the greatest poems are love poems.

Muse: Does not the fear of loss, betrayal and rejection haunt love? Ask any mother if she worries over a child. Ask any lover. While some stories end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’, those that don’t, deal with loss.

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far, removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Remembrance – Emily Bronte:

Come, walk with me,
There’s only thee
To bless my spirit now –
We used to love on winter nights
To wander through the snow;
Can we not woo back old delights?
The clouds rush dark and wild
They fleck with shade our mountain heights
The same as long ago

Come walk with me – Emily Bronte:

All religions offer prayer in song: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Shinto. Even the angels in heaven sing their praises. Poetry is the source from which all art flows: dance, music, song.

Incantation, meaning to sing and chant, comes from Proto-Indo-European, the ancient mother tongue that gave rise to of Sanskrit, Persian, Slavic, Celtic and the other European languages. The Proto-Indo-European word means to speak with the voice of a god. When the gods speak through prophets and poets, the listeners become intoxicated. It is for this reason the Irish God of eloquence, Ogma Sun Face is shown leading men bound with golden chains running from the mouth of one to the ear of the next.

The earliest medieval French poems called lais, meaning ‘songs’ in German and Irish, gave way to chivalric Chansons de Geste or heroic songs. Renaissance poems like Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (Roland’s Madness) and Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Liberated) are divided into cantos (songs). Poems and songs still have verses and refrains.

Because gods speak through poets, poetry is not meant to be easy. Poets are held in high regard because they suffer and sacrifice for art. Odin gave an eye at the well of Mimir for a sip of poetic inspiration. Druidic poets took 25 years to learn poetic lore, including scores of epic poems.

Skilled in extempore composition, they drew on myth to make history mythic. Trained in verse form, rhyme, assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, symbolism, metaphor, simile and metonymy, irony and other stylistic devices, they intoxicated audiences leaving them drunk on loquaciousness.

Homeric poets could recite 25,000 lines of epic poetry. Lines burn into minds in the fearful knowledge, one misplaced rhyme would cause everything to be irrevocably lost. A practice continued in Greece and Rome as part of a child’s education; learning by heart Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Poetry is meant to be spoken and heard, not read.

Pilgrim: Not read? The world’s oldest written text is a poem. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, written four thousand years ago, Gilgamesh seeks immortality only to learn the gods have made death man’s fate. Writing preserved that poem for us.

Muse: Killing poetry in the process. As soon as poetry is written down, it dies.
When science and logic won the battle for men’s souls, the godless Greeks shrank poetry to an intellectual game. Aristotle claimed to analyse poetry. Broke it down into different parts and drew up rules for its application. I was split into nine muses, one for each liberal art, and reduced to a handmaid of Apollo… me, the goddess Muse!

Apollo, a mouse demon, only conquered my shrine a Delphi once the sacred aether had left in its rocky cleft. My pythoness, a slave of unscrupulous priests, was made to sprout gibberish over piles of smouldering laurel, for them to interpret according to their schemes.

I am no handmaid of gods Pilgrim. I am their mother, bride and undertaker. Before a sterile satellite, I was the White Goddess governing the tides of life and death, of women and water. My new, full and old moon faces lit the night, or consigned men to darkness and dread. I was spinner, weaver and cutter of the thread. The morning star, heralding dawn; the evening star bringing the sun home; the midnight star the heavens revolved around: keeper of the pearl-rimmed cauldron frothing with poetic mead. My name meant illumination of thought and I was worshipped as mind, struggle and offering. Then I became memory, practice and recitation.

Odin, like Hermes, is the god of thieves. His ravens Thought and Memory swept the nine realms gleaning news. Learning I governed the nine worlds with charms written upon the World Tree Yggdrasil, Odin thought to steal my power, the power of the Norns. Knowledge made Grimnir arrogant. He hung on Yggdrasil for nine days without food or drink until his flesh felt rough as bark and when the runes travelled over his skin, he greedily gathered them in.

The Norns (The Nordic Fates):
Andruss adapted from Gehrts’ lithograph

Men entombed me in books, captive within grand libraries at Athens, Ephesus and Alexandria. Mistaking knowledge for wisdom those arrogant fools believed themselves gods. Where are those monuments to conceit now? Consigned to flame; their writings ash.

Only the Druids’ poets refused to write my secrets down. Though versed in Greek and Latin, they lived by my code:

Memory to recollect where you come from
Practice so you do not forget
Recitation to tell those to come after

They knew books destroyed poetry and encouraged the unworthy. Had not the sea god Manannan kept the Irish alphabet of trees in a crane skin bag, immune to magic, lest it corrupt men with literacy?

Yet the druids were slaughtered by Caesar; all their wisdom, all their gods, lost, the only survivors Apollo, Odin, Hermes and Thoth. The gods who imprisoned me ensured immortality by hiding inside the written word. Or was it man who made gods subjugate me? For what are gods but inventions of man?

Under gods, man thought me tamed. Then man forgot the gods. But poetry remained. A poet seeking to invoke no longer knows how, he thinks to flatter and seduce and if he succeeds, in blind fumbling excuse, believes I allow because he understands a woman’s needs. As if setting a rose in my hair like I were a Andalusian girl kissed breathless against a Moorish wall under a hot Alhambra moon with him urging my yes, putting hands on me and kissing my neck while I thinking as well him as another draw him down to the perfume of my breasts with his heart drumming like mad in the expectation of my yes. The bloom and the breast is not his to possess or caress until my liberal yes, for this is woman talking and I am sick of love. Yes I am no more his than a snatch of song heard on the jessamine breeze or a flower of the mountain born to die. So let me be yes set me free from the inky bars of this prison page to roll off the tongue careless as a lover’s air whistled on Palma Violet scented breath let loose in an empire of senses where guileless yes is yes, a paradise garden of delight, a sensual world pregnant with life.

(According to the Muse her soliloquy must be read aloud)

Illustration by Donata Zawadzka

Please check out Donata’s website:
Buy her prints:

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page:

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory:

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.



Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives According to the Muse (A dialogue in 2 halves) Part 1: What is Poetry? Paul Andruss

It is time for another post from my archives and one of the articles by Paul Andruss.

Paul who shares a conversation between a Muse and a Pilgrim on the subject of poetry…..and its various forms.

According to the Muse (A dialogue in 2 halves) Part 1: What is Poetry? by Paul Andruss

Wrapped in Light  An illustration by Donata Zawadzka (for Thomas the Rhymer by Paul Andruss)

There are people who,
Aspiring to be considered poets,
Devise mundane sentences
Usual to any written piece
And arranging them in verse
Claim it is a poem
According to the muse
It’s not

Pilgrim: So why Mother Muse, why’s it not a poem? Coz, it sure looks like poetry to me.

So saith the Muse: First of all son, I’m not your mother, I’m a goddess. You can abase yourself on the ground before me if you like, but otherwise less of your lip. Second, do I look like a bloody English teacher?

Pilgrim: But, but, but…

Muse: Oh dear, you sound like an outboard motor.

Let me put you out of your misery. It is not poetry because, although it has rhythm, there is no poetic impulse. It is not what a poem looks like that matters. It is the emotion it stirs.

As a dear friend of mine, Marianne Moore said, ‘Poetry is a matter of skill and honesty in any form whatsoever, while anything written poorly, although in perfect form, cannot be poetry.’  Let me quote from her poem:

nor is it valid
to discriminate against “business documents and school-books”;
all these phenomena are important.
One must make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,
the result is not poetry,

Marianne Moore – Poetry

Pilgrim: So who’s she then?

Muse: How can you hope to write poetry if you do not know the first thing about it?

Marianne Moore (1887- 1972) was a modern American poet whose Collected Poems published in 1951 won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Bollingen Prize. In his introduction to her work, T. S. Eliot wrote: ‘My conviction has remained unchanged for the last 14 years; Miss Moore’s poems form part of the small body of durable poetry written in our time.’

I take it you know T.S. Elliot?

Pilgrim: Sort of!

Muse: The Lovesong of J.Alfred Pruflock?

Pilgrim: Errrrrmmmm…


Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

Anything Pilgrim? Does it yield any emotion?

Pilgrim: Well it’s good inn’t it

Muse: Good inn’t it! Blimey! This is going to be harder than I thought.

Marianne Moore revolutionised the rhythmic base of poetry by only using a pre-determined number of syllables per stanza as her unit of measure. In some ways she was extending what had been done previously with classical English poetic meters such as Iambic Pentameter, which used small groups of five stressed and unstressed syllables in a line.

Originally derived from Classic Latin verse, Iambic Pentameter was adopted by Medieval French troubadours in their Chansons de Geste (heroic songs such as the Song of Roland) and developed in the Renaissance by Dante and Petrarch. It is also believed Shakespeare’s own actor troupe at the Globe Theatre, stressed his words to make the speeches of his plays follow iambic rhythm.

Due to his influence it became a dominant meter in English poetry. Compare Ozymandias a sonnet written by Shelly in loose iambic pentameter with Byron’s lyrical She Walks in Beauty, in iambic tetrameter.

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;

Lord Byron – She Walks in Beauty

In using used a pre-determined number of syllables within the verse, Marianne freed poetry from the historical anchors of rhyming schemes, alliteration and assonance, ensuring nothing got in the way of the sheer delight in language, and the precise, heartfelt expression, poetry must contain.

Notice how Sylvia Plath echoes this in Fever 103°, allowing the poetic impulse to transcend the limits set by the verse by flowing into the next

Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the triple

Tongues of dull, fat Cerberus
Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable
Of licking clean

The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.
The tinder cries.
The indelible smell

Of a snuffed candle!…

Sylvia Plath – Fever 103°

By working in syllabic blocks, Marianne rekindled interest in free verse, which had originated with the English translation of the Psalms in the 1300s. Its use in Walt Whitman’s strictly metric but unrhymed experiments led to Allen Ginsberg’s 1957 ground breaking radical performance poem Howl.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,

Allen Ginsberg – Howl

Ginsberg’s stream of consciousness approach in turn influenced the whole beat generation, allowing free poetry to find its way into all forms of expression: books, plays, cinema and music. His descendants are the Punk and Post-punk poets, and modern RAP (Rhythm And Poetry) artists.

Critics saw stream-of-consciousness as containing the poetic purity of speech. Half-poets, as dear Marianne would say, saw no more than liberation from difficult poetic constraints, and thought, no doubt with relief, ‘anything goes’; not realising poetry lies not within its form but its emotional impact.

They could not see free verse is only free from ‘the tyrant demands of the metered line’. It retains poetic form and impulse. As T.S Elliot said, ‘No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job.’

F. Scott Fitzgerald advised a young writer asking for his opinion, ‘I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly… This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have… none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.’

Poetry is not meant to be easy. It is forged in suffering and sacrifice, shaped with sweat and toil, and tempered by blood. This is what earns poets the right to high regard. For they willingly paid the price lesser mortals shrank from.

Now do you understand Pilgrim?

Poetry is what you write; its source; its inspiration.

Not how it looks, written upon a page.

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page:

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory:

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Part two tomorrow…..


Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Doyle and Houdini: The Dream Team by Paul Andruss

Doyle and Houdini: The Dream Team by Paul Andruss

Some of you might have seen the series on television Houdini and Doyle which fictionalised the relationship between these two complex and legendary individuals. However, as always, Paul Andruss  deconstructs the various rumours and fictional depictions of the events of that time; bringing the truth to light.

Doyle and Houdini: the Dream Team by Paul Andruss

Doyle and Houdini (library picture)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous detective, and Harry Houdini, its greatest magician, are surely a dream team. At least that’s what Sky TV thought when commissioning Houdini and Doyle. The fantasy drama series about the real life friends, where sceptic and believer investigated crimes with a supernatural flavour, was cancelled after one season.

Rabbi Weisz and family escaped the Hungarian pogroms to end up as poor Jews in New York. His proudly self-educated son Erik diligently worked his way through dime museums, sideshows and travelling carnivals into vaudeville theatres, while learning escapology, mind reading and magic. Before he was famous he even had a phony spiritualist act. Erik adopted the name Harry Houdini as a homage to his magician idols Harry Keller and world famous Robert Houdin.

Although from a comfortable background, Arthur Conan Doyle’s father was an alcoholic and spent periods in mental asylums. At one time the family was forced to live in a squalid tenement. Doyle was sent to private boarding school in England, paid for by his uncles.

After studying medicine in Edinburgh, he eventually set up a doctor’s practice in Plymouth. While waiting for patients he began writing fiction.

The Houdini and Doyle friendship developed from a mutual respect due to their similarities and differences. Through hard work both men rose from poverty to the pinnacle of their fields. Houdini started work at nine, yet as the son of a Rabbi longed to be a scholar. Doyle through family wealth became a medical doctor. But maybe the friendship wasn’t so straightforward when you examine things.

Poster for Houdini Spiritualist show (library image)

Houdini is known as a famous sceptic who exposed phoney mediums. But he was genuinely interested in finding evidence for the spirit realm, especially after the death of his beloved mother. However, being a magician, he was wise to all the tricks and took exception to ghouls preying on the bereaved.

Conan Doyle’s second wife was a gifted amateur medium who practiced automatic writing. Holding a pencil while in a trance, with eyes closed and mind empty, allowed the spirits to communicate directly through her. After losing his son and 10 other members of their immediate family in World War 1, the Doyles increasingly turned to spiritualism for solace.

Mutual admiration and their passionate interest in psychic phenomena gave the men common ground. Yet unknown to the other, each had an ulterior motive. After exposing phoney mediums Houdini was finding it hard to get into séances and used Doyle for introductions into spiritualist circles. Doyle wanted to be the man who brought the great sceptic to spiritualism and have him publicly renounce his disbelief. After seeing Houdini perform, Doyle convinced himself Houdini was no mere conjurer but a genuine miracle worker. Houdini’s protestations only confirmed Doyle’s suspicions.

The friendship deepened, mainly because Houdini stayed quiet about the mediums Doyle recommended. In truth he was saving his findings for a book. Things came to a head when Harry and Bess Houdini and the Doyles met in Atlantic City. Doyle insisted Houdini attend a séance of automatic writing with Lady Doyle. Houdini’s mother came through, gushing to her beloved son how beautiful and peaceful the other side was, and how she was preparing a place for him.

After the séance Doyle, noting Houdini was reflective and withdrawn, was sure he had demonstrated the existence of life after death beyond a doubt. Doyle did not know Bess, using the code from their old mind reading act, had pre-warned Houdini that Lady Doyle was pumping her for information about Houdini’s mother all afternoon.

When Houdini told the press he had never experienced any convincing spiritualist phenomena, Doyle was furious. He demanded to know why Houdini doubted his own mother speaking through Lady Doyle. Houdini mildly replied his beloved mother, who could not speak one word of English, had not written a single word in her native Hungarian.

The friends were now enemies. Doyle immediately rushed his version of events into print. He insisted Houdini begged Lady Doyle to sit and she complied only with reluctance. Houdini never forgave Doyle’s lie.

Doyle champions Margery (library image)

On opposite sides of the same crusade, they could not help but clash over the years; with increasing animosity on Doyle’s part. Doyle was a close friend of a notorious medium called Margery, a handsome vivacious woman who used her sex appeal to sway the dry university academics investigating her claims.

More than a paragraph is needed to discuss Margery and her husband’s shenanigans. In the end even Doyle backed off when questions arose over a number of young boys brought to America as wards of Margery’s husband and never seen again. In her twilight years, and now an abject alcoholic, Margery claimed her husband coerced her into professional mediumship, and hinted at the dark measures she was forced to employ to enable her to perform on cue.

When Houdini caught Margery red handed, Doyle was outraged. Margery’s spirit guide threatened Houdini with death. There are letters from Doyle echoing the sentiment. When Houdini died, Doyle crowed he knew Houdini would get his just deserts. He believed the spirits punished him for concealing his psychic gifts behind a façade of a conjuror.

After years of silence, Doyle was corresponding with Bess within a fortnight of Houdini’s death. He speaks of ‘the widow’, as ‘a splendid loyal little woman accepting of the spiritualist viewpoint and keen to get some evidence to give the world’. Obligingly Doyle recommended mediums. When Bess dismissed their messages as rubbish to the press, there was only one thing left to do.

Enter Arthur Ford, a medium and Conan Doyle’s protégé. Ford was the medium who delivered an agreed coded message from Houdini to Bess. It was claimed they were strangers, but Ford and Bess had been close friends for over a year. They were planning a spiritualist tour together: the sceptic’s widow and the medium who brought evidence from beyond the grave. (Read yesterday’s post to find out how that turned out…Rosabelle Believe.)

One of Houdini’s friends said he seriously underestimated Doyle. Houdini could handle frauds and hucksters, but Doyle, as a zealot and someone who could not tolerate being wrong, was the most relentless type of enemy. Yet, like all fanatics Doyle did far more damage to himself than Houdini.

He lost serious money in a psychic bookstore venture.

He was mocked for his endorsement of the Cottingley fairies.

He publically advocated the Zancig husband and wife team as telepaths, even though they confessed they were stage magicians with a mind-reading act.

When caught promoting a fake spirit photograph as genuine, he refused to accept he was mistaken.

He was lampooned in the British Press for claiming spirits in the afterlife enjoyed cigars, whiskey and golf.

As a final insult, even his spirit guide, who came through during his wife’s séances, labelled him a ‘whale’.

Shortly before his death the author of the greatest detective wrote to a friend confessing… “I have moments of doubt when I wonder if we have not been victims of some extraordinary prank played on the human race by the other side.”

©Paul Andruss 2017

Thanks to Paul for a behind the scenes look at the relationship between these two iconic figures from the early 20th century…I wonder what either of them would make of today’s world.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page:

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory:

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Rosabelle : B-E-L-I-E-V-E by Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss takes us through the mysterious and oft disputed authenticity of spiritualism. The great Houdini yearned to speak to his mother on the other side.. and this is his story.

Rosabelle : B-E-L-I-E-V-E by Paul Andruss

picture29Houdini with his ‘Two Sweethearts’ : Mother & Wife

World-renowned illusionist and escapologist Harry Houdini was devoted to his mother. Devastated when she died in 1913, he blamed himself for being on tour and not by her side. Harry was suspicious of claims made by professional mediums, yet his grief was so great he allowed his friend Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Homes and a devout spiritualist) to persuade him to attend séances to contact her departed spirit.

Instead of desperately needed solace, all Harry found was fraud and calumny. Easily spotting the stage magician tricks  that professional mediums used to dupe the grief stricken, he wasted no time in exposing them.

Despite Harry Houdini’s life-long crusade to expose fraudulent spiritualists he never abandoned hope there was an afterlife. Perhaps it was vanity, as much as anything else, that made him promise Bess, his wife: if possible he would return to prove the existence of a life after death.

Houdini made the same pact with around 20 friends as well as Bess. To each individual he entrusted a unique secret coded message, making it easy to prove any message from beyond the grave was genuine.

On Halloween 1926 Harry Houdini died in hospital from blood poisoning caused by a ruptured appendix. Most film versions of his life have Harry dying on stage, suffering agonising abdominal pain while drowning inside his Chinese-Water-Torture-Cabinet. In fact Harry died in hospital after an operation to remove his appendix and drain the infection spreading through his body.

picture30Houdini & the Chinese Water Torture Trick

Some of Houdini’s friends openly reported mysterious events after Harry’s death: an inscription from Harry mysteriously vanished from a book; framed photographs fell from walls and a sculptured bust of Harry shattered. But none of these events were considered the unique proof Harry promised.

Soon after Harry’s death spiritualist mediums began contacting his wife Bess. Their messages were vague uplifting blandishments about how swell things were on the other side and Bess dismissed them as rubbish. Frustrated by time-wasters, Bess issued a $10,000 reward to anyone able to provide the unique secret proof she and Harry had agreed.

Legend has it Bess offered the £10,000 for a 1-year period, and it was not until the year expired that a medium got in touch with a 10-word coded message from Harry.

In fact two and a half years elapsed before Arthur Ford told Bess he had the agreed message. Arthur Ford and an entourage (including two journalists) arrived on 8 January 1929 for a scheduled meeting at Bess’ apartment. Bess, recuperating from a fall a few days earlier, had her press agent and an old friend in attendance as witnesses.

The medium Arthur Ford delivered the message: ‘Rosabelle – answer- tell- pray, answer- look- tell- answer, answer- tell’

He then added Houdini said the code was one used in one of their mind reading acts. He instructed Bess to tell the assembled group what Rosabelle meant.

In a tremulous voice Bess began to sing a song from her first show with Houdini: ‘Rosabell sweet Rosabell I love you more than I can tell.’ The message, translated from the mind reading code, was B-E-L-I-E-V-E

Stifling tears Bess confirmed it was indeed the secret message and had been delivered as she and Harry agreed. She then dramatically swooned.

The next day the story made headlines around the world courtesy of the journalists attending the séance. It seemed not even eternity could hold Houdini.

picture31Press Cutting

When the spiritualist medium gave Bess the coded message she had agreed with her husband, Harry Houdini, before his death, Bess swooned exclaiming… ‘Yes, yes. That is the message. Harry – Harry!’

picture32Medium Arthur Ford with the invalid Bess who had taken to her bed

Soon afterwards Bess recanted, claiming it was a magician’s trick. It may not surprise anybody to know it was a trick; but it was Bess who was the magician’s stooge.

Stooge seems a harsh word to describe a grieving widow. It is not meant as an insult. All magicians’ used stooges – accomplices, planted in the audience – to be chosen seemingly at random, and used at crucial points to help the magician achieve the impossible.

The truth is Bess was not a strong, independent woman; not Houdini’s equal partner. Like most marriages of the period, while Houdini was the big man; the breadwinner, Bess played second fiddle as his devoted, adoring companion; in short the wife.

Houdini treated her like child. Constantly reassuring her with love-notes and arranging exaggeratedly romantic, clandestine dates together. Bess and Houdini could not have children. Anecdotal evidence suggests Bess had a medical condition. She was described as frail and was often ill.

There was never any doubt Houdini’s mother came first. If Bess was resentful she did not show it. It was not until her mother-in-law’s death Bess got her husband’s full attention.

Even then she shared him with the phony mediums he used, and exposed in trying to contact his mother. And she shared him with flesh and blood rivals too: Houdini’s other women.

Perhaps because of their claustrophobic relationship, Houdini’s death devastated Bess. The first anniversary of his death found her physically and mentally exhausted. A diary entry for October 1927 reads; ‘Dined at Village Grove – home early, no drink or weed.’

picture33The widow Bess: as trapped by Houdini’s death as she was by his life.

Bess had been drinking heavily, using prescription drugs and marijuana, since before Houdini’s death. Now her addictions spiralled out of control. She mixed with ‘colourful characters’ in the wild jazz-age nightclubs she frequented – including Arthur Ford; the medium who would deliver her husband’s secret coded message.

Although Bess claimed not to know Ford, she had been infatuated with him for at least a year before the séance. They planned a lecture tour together based on its successful outcome – the grieving widow and the medium who bought her sceptical husband back from the dead.

As if this was not damning enough, one of the journalists who witnessed the Houdini séance claimed she wrote the story before it actually happened. The whole charade was dictated – word for word- the previous day by Bess.

In a classic entrapment scenario, she invited the medium Arthur Ford to discuss the previous day’s séance in her apartment while her editor and a colleague, concealed in the kitchenette, recorded everything on a Dictaphone. Initially triumphant, Ford’s bubble was soon burst as he realised the journalist would not succumb to his charms, wheedling, or even threats.

On Halloween 1936, on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood, Bess conducted a final Houdini séance. Like all the others it failed. At its conclusion, Bess dramatically put out the candle she had kept burning beside the photograph of her husband since his death. She later commented… ‘Ten years is long enough to wait for any man.’

picture34The widow Bess on the cover of an American magazine for magicians

©PaulAndruss 2017

Thanks to Paul for this fascinating article on a subject that still enthralls millions around the world today… I took the liberty of looking at some statistics and found these on the official American Federation of Certified Psychics and Mediums

Psychics’ annual earning, and wealth:

  • Approximate annual earning of a very successful psychic in the United States (Celebrity-psychic and mega name): Over $5,000.000.
  • Approximate annual earning of a reasonably successful psychic in the United States: $500,000.
  • Approximate standard annual earning of a psychic in the United States: $150,000-$75,000.

And with some honesty they also shared this….

  • Approximate number of clients’ complaints and psychics’ rip-off from 2011 to 2015: 1,600.
  • Approximate number of psychics who were convicted for fraud from 1995 to 2015: 350.
  • Approximate number of psychics who were charged but not convicted from 1995 to 2015: 700.
  • Approximate number of psychics who have illegally taped conversations with clients and a third party (State and federal crimes-felonies) from 1995 to 2015: 10.
  • Approximate number of psychics/mediums who had troubles with the law for the past five years: 2,137.
  • Approximate number of psychics/mediums who have hired lawyers for a libel suit, whether filed with the court or not (2007-2012): 12.
  • Approximate $amount earned by psychics/mediums who have scammed clients in 2011-2012: $200,000.000.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

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You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory:

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Summer #Sale – #Free Books – Olga Nunez Miret, Paul Andruss and Sally Cronin

Welcome to the second of the Summer Sale posts where authors in the bookstore are offering their books FREE. That would include one of my books which I have put in the sale too.

N.B: There are still three places left for Saturday 21st Summer Sale for books that are currently FREE on Amazon or Smashwords. If you are in the cafe and bookstore and would like to feature one of your books please email me the link.

There is no pressure but it would be amazing if you could see your way to reviewing the books that you download, and if you don’t have an account on Amazon, popping it on Goodreads.

But first Olga Nunez Miret is offering her novella Escaping Psychiatry: Beginnings FREE this month.  It is timely as Olga is currently finalising the English version of the next book in the series Escaping Psychiatry : Deadly Quotes due for an end of summer release. You can find out more about the new book Deadly Quotes

About Escaping Psychiatry: Beginnings

How far would a writer go for a killer story? This is the question psychiatrist Mary Miller must answer to solve the first mystery/thriller of her career. You can get to know the main characters of this psychological thriller series for FREE and test your own acumen and intuition in this novella about the price of ambition.

Dr Mary Miller is a young psychiatrist suffering a crisis of vocation. Her friend Phil, a criminalist lawyer working in New York, invites her to visit him and consult on the case of a writer accused of a serious assault. His victim had been harassing him and accusing him of stealing his story, which he’d transformed into a best-selling book. The author denies the allegation and claims it was self-defence. When the victim dies, things get complicated. The threshold between truth and fiction becomes blurred and secrets and lies unfold.

Escaping Psychiatry. Beginnings is the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry a volume collecting three stories where Mary and her psychiatric expertise are called to help in a variety of cases, from religious and race affairs, to the murder of a policeman, and in the last case she gets closer than ever to a serial killer.

If you enjoy this novella, don’t forget to check Mary’s further adventures. And there are more to come.

One of the reviews for the book

Wendy Unsworth  Great story -Introducing a new Sleuth!  November 9, 2016

This short story is titled ‘beginnings’ and introduces Mary Miller, a psychiatrist who has been indulging in a little self analysis and having some doubts about her own profession or at least her place in it. She needs a break and Phil, a lawyer friend, comes to the rescue, inviting her to come and stay.

The offer is tempting for Mary, even though Phil is open about her possibly accompanying to his office to meet with a client on a consultancy basis, she is not put off. Indeed, she is rather intrigued by the prospect.

The client turns out to be Oliver Fenton, a famous author who is accused of using unnecessary force when fending off a stalker who has been harassing him for some time. Of course all not what it seems.

If there is such a thing as a cosy, medical mystery maybe this is where this story would lie. Mary is a thoroughly likeable character but also intriguing. There is obviously more to her than meets the eye, as you would expect from someone of her profession. She is clever and discerning and possibly a little unaware of her true talents. Perhaps here we have a Miss Marple of the psychiatric world, though I imagine her a lot younger and quite attractive! (No offence meant, Miss Marple)

As mentioned, this is the ‘beginning’ of cases for Mary Miller. I look forward to reading more, an ideal and enjoyable read between lengthier books.

Read the reviews and download the book FREE:

And FREE on Amazon UK:

A selection of other books in Spanish or English by Olga Nunez Miret

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Read the reviews and buy the books Amazon

And on Amazon UK:úñez-Miret/e/B009UC58G0

Read more reviews and follow Olga on Goodreads

Audio books

Connect to Olga via her website:

And for those of you who have enjoyed reading the regular posts on myths and legends and gardening… then you might like to download Thomas the Rhymer by Paul Andruss for FREE. I read the book and reviewed it last year and loved it, and can recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy, fairy tales, magic and adventure. It is suitable for 11 years and older.

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

About Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter and Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.

Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.

The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.

The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…

No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives. And even if they find her… will she let them go?

One of the reviews for the book

Just about the worst thing that can happen to any family is the disappearance of a child. This is exactly what happens in Jack’s family and, worse still, Jack is a witness to his older brother’s sudden and troubling disappearance.

The facts of the disappearance are very peculiar and, subsequent to his disappearance, Jack receives strange telephone calls from his brother, Dan, on his cell phone. When he answers, Dan says nothing and the line goes dead. Jack finds himself unable to tell anyone about what his saw that day, as soon as he tries he starts to choke and can’t utter a word. Then a strange tramp appears who speaks only in rhymes. The tramp, whom only Jack can see, seems to be able to pass through walls and disappear at will. All of this is against a background of stress at home due to Jack’s mother suffering from a chronic illness.

Jack finds himself embroiled in the magical kingdom of the fairies and soon discovers that their failing world is tinged with evil. Jack and his friends experience an array of mystical and strange happenings including travelling by fairy ley lines and disappearing into a living tapestry.

Author Paul Andruss has an expert knowledge of mythical creatures and the world of the fairies which he shares with the reader using the most beautiful and expressive language. He pulls you into this fairy world, which exists in parallel to our own and which is fraught with difficulties due to human technology and progress. This book also shares valuable lessons about everything not being as it appears to be and the value of strong friendships.

Who is the strange tramp and what does he want from Jack? Can he help Jack to find his brother and bring him back before it is too late?

A few beautiful quotes from this book are as follows:

“Beautiful,” she signed, mesmerized by the shifting hues washing over the weave like skeins of mist.”

“Drifts of heady perfume left Jack heavy-eyed, yet giddy with recklessness.”

“The tramp was back on Mr Gibson’s wall. All he could think about was the poem. Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there… He wasn’t there again today… I wish that man would GO AWAY!”

This book is suitable for readers aged from 11 years and older. Adult readers will also appreciate the delightful prose, beautiful imagery and clever story line.

Read the reviews and download the book for FREE:

And for FREE on Amazon UK:

Also by Paul Andruss

Available Amazon UK:

And Amazon US:

Which brings me to my FREE book from today until midnight on Sunday 22nd July. I am offering my first volume of What’s in a Name either as a Mobi file for Kindle, Epub for other readers and as a pdf for anyone who does not have an Ereader.

Because I am not part of Kindle publishing, I will ask you to email me and I will send you back the format of your choice. I promise not to pester you with emails after that for feedback or any other reason.

About What’s in a Name? Volume One.

There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

There are classical names such as Adam, David and Sarah that will grace millions of babies in the future. There are also names that parents have invented or borrowed from places or events in their lives which may last just one lifetime or may become the classic names of tomorrow.

Whatever the name there is always a story behind it. In What’s in a Name? – Volume One, twenty men and women face danger, love, loss, romance, fear, revenge and rebirth as they move through their lives.

Anne changes her name because of associations with her childhood, Brian carries the mark of ancient man, Jane discovers that her life is about to take a very different direction, and what is Isobel’s secret?

One of the reviews for the collection

This was a beautiful collection of short stories with an intriguing premise: each story is titled by the name of its main character, and there is one story with a male name and one with a female name for each letter of the alphabet (through J–Vol. II completes the alphabet).

The way I describe it is far less simple than Sally Cronin makes it. The stories vary widely. Some are funny, some poignant, some teach a lesson. A couple of them made me cry, which is why I recommend that you have a box of tissues nearby when you read the collection.

The one thing that each story does have is a surprising twist at the end–something the reader doesn’t see coming. I thoroughly enjoyed the collection and look forward eagerly to reading Volume II.

To obtain your FREE copy of the collection in either Mobi, Epub or pdf email me:

A selection of other books available

Read the reviews and discover all the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow me on Goodreads:

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will download the books on offer.. or email me for mine.. Thanks Sally