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A Much Darker Take On "Sleeping Beauty"

Some call her a witch, others a goddess. The rats do her bidding and she has eyes everywhere. She will know everything about you before you’ve even met. But none of these characteristics are the strangest thing about Evie Black: when she falls asleep, she will wake up again. In a world swept up by the Aurora, she is the most enigmatic piece of the puzzle. And she has been hidden away in the Dooling Correctional Facility for Women.

Reports of women falling asleep inside cocoons have been broadcast worldwide by the time the citizens of Dooling County start their morning. Civilians are strongly advised not to try waking up their loved ones; even slightly tearing the gauzy material has violent consequences. This is a lesson harshly learned for those who didn’t turn on the television with their morning brew. Anton Dubeck, pool servicing entrepreneur and local homewrecker, ripped the cocoon off of his mother only to get his head completely bashed in by her feral subconsciousness, and he’s not the only one.

“Who do you think cleans up the battlefields after the shooting stops?” -  page 665

“Who do you think cleans up the battlefields after the shooting stops?” - page 665

Word-of-mouth instills panic faster than any news broadcast in a small town. The bloodier the situation in Dooling got, the more frenzied everyone became. Caffeine, drugs, and every other possible “wake-up” method were being used to keep the women awake for as long as possible. Superstores and pharmacies were ransacked for anything that could help. But what’s the point in holding off the inevitable? It isn’t long before most of the women fall asleep, their bodies secreting the strange substance that will cocoon them where they lay.

The men of Dooling County have good reason to believe Evie is the orchestrator of the dubbed “Aurora Sickness”, but when asked, she only ever claims to be an emissary: the linchpin of a plan larger than herself. Her arrival is, ironically, a wake-up call for all of humanity, and she has set this backwater Appalachian town as the stage to present an ultimatum.

Rebirth or rebuild.

A collaboration between renowned horror writer Stephen King and his son, Owen King, an established writer in his own right, Sleeping Beauties is a multi-layered narrative composed of differing perspectives, interrelational conflict, and lasting consequences. The authors blend wit and memorability into their descriptions and character interactions, making the reader forget they are holding on to 700-pages of text and not experiencing these events themselves. 

As I previously hadn’t read anything by Stephen King, I have nothing to compare this father-son collaboration to in order to see how Stephen’s writing differs. What I can say is that the narrative is seamless. It’s quite clear that both writers knew what they wanted and were on the same page.

Being more of a thriller novel than a classic horror case, most of the terror in regards to the Aurora Sickness is presented in the first part of the novel, which readers quickly become used to as the story progresses. Thrill and apprehension were the driving sensations of my experience, even at parts where I knew what was coming. 

And small towns are perfect, secluded backdrops that allow a writer to block out the rest of the world and focus on their storytelling. Sometimes establishing the simplest setting is the perfect canvas for in-depth exploration into a more complex narrative. In Sleeping Beauties, the King writers used this to their advantage to piece together their fictional county. While Dooling County is nothing special or memorable itself, through the events of the Aurora it is transformed into a fairytale-esque landscape, with Dooling Correctional as the dragon’s keep.

Although the title of the novel and the Aurora Sickness allude to the story of “Sleeping Beauty”, the reader is not rewarded with a fairytale finale. The conclusion is abruptly realistic after reading through the novel as if in a fever dream, and despite not being what I personally hoped for, it hits home.

There is no happy ending, but it is not necessarily a bad one either. As with all things in life, it simply is what it is. Take it or leave it, but move on; a lesson both the men and women of Dooling County harshly learned.


Interested in reading Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King? You can find it at Chapters and other bookstores in your area, as well as your local library.

Please support your local independent bookstores whenever possible.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

Memento Mori

Acceptance—and grief—has many forms. 

When a loved one dies, we don’t want to imagine what our life will be like without them.

We grasp for whatever we can in order to hold on to them. We cut a lock of their hair, carry photos of them, wear their favorite accessory or article of clothing to feel as though they are still with us. Anything connected to a memory of them we can cling to.

Funerals are a common way for us to gather around and share memories of our loved ones when they pass on, yet they are usually seen as dreary, solemn rites that are a mandatory part of mourning. Our loved ones are colorful and unique individuals who should be celebrated, even as we grieve our loss. So why not send them off in a similar fashion?

Here are some interesting funerary rites for you, your friends, and family members to consider being remembered by.

If you’re interested in helping sustain the environment even after you're gone, there are plenty of ways for you to do so. 

Photo courtesy of ckohtala via Flickr

Photo courtesy of ckohtala via Flickr

Capsula Mundi are egg-shaped pods that encapsulate one’s remains and buried under the ground with a sapling of your choice. The sapling grows from the nutrients provided by the remains and flourishes into a tree. The pods themselves are biodegradable and assist in the sapling’s growth.

But if becoming a tree doesn’t interest you, then how about a coral reef?

Photo courtesy of Richard Lindley via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Richard Lindley via Flickr

In the United States, a company called Eternal Reefs will attach your remains to a reef, helping to stabilize the ecosystem. When you pass, your remains are compressed into a Reef Ball. Reef balls are constructed habitats that prevent ocean hazards from displacing the remains or destroying the coral reefs. This establishes a safe environment for oceanic wildlife to thrive.

Many people have heard of turning corpses into diamonds, but what about something as simple as beads?

In South Korea, many families have their loved ones compressed into an array of colourful beads. These beads are then displayed at home as a reassuring reminder that they are always around. Having such a dense population, South Korea doesn’t have the capacity to bury its dead anymore. As such, a law was established in 2000 that a body can only be buried for 60 years, and then the family has to dig up the remains and find something else to do with them. This is one of the main reasons why South Koreans simply choose to have their loved ones transformed into something more meaningful than just leaving them to rot to begin with.

I’ll admit, the term “fantasy coffin” sounds a little...strange.

But I also have to admit that these bad boys are pretty cool.

In Ghana, these “fantasy coffins” have kicked your standard wooden boxes to the curb. I mean, why get buried in any old casket when you can get one specially designed to look like that 1969 Ford Mustang you’ve always wanted?

Photo courtesy of Regula Tschumi via Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Regula Tschumi via Wikimedia Commons

“Fantasy coffin” maker Joseph Ashong has had all sorts of requests, from seashells to animals to tributes to the deceased’s idol. The purpose of these coffins is to represent something that was important in that person’s life. I personally think it’d be bad-ass to be buried in a pirate ship. For specific communities in Ghana, however, these coffins are extra-special as they believe these are what will take them to their next life, which is why it’s so important to have something that represents them.

Funerals don’t have to be dark and depressing. 

In New Orleans, funeral progressions are often accompanied by a jazz band, filling the streets with music and enticing everyone to dance. These progressions are honestly more like parades celebrating the life of the loved one. In the past, they could last for as long as an entire week.

Personally, I’d like to be cremated or planted with a tree. And while I hope none of you have to prepare for a funeral anytime soon, I hope you found these rites interesting and unique, and that this article reminds you to keep your loved ones close. Never miss a chance to let them know how much you cherish them.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

The Apparitions of William Mumler

Engraving of Mumler published in Harper's Magazine, May 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Engraving of Mumler published in Harper's Magazine, May 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Picking up a camera out of personal interest, the Boston jewellery engraver probably never imagined that any fame he’d garner would be for capturing the spirits of the dead.

This was the golden age of modern spiritualism; much of what we consider today as superstition was held as steadfast belief for many.  Spiritualists clung to anything that validated their beliefs, so when word got around that William Mumler was capable of producing photos of the dead, everyone flocked to him.

People sat poised in the hopes of seeing their loved ones, and many of them proclaimed Mumler’s legitimacy as the images of long-dead family members emerged from the negatives. Most of his clients had lost relatives in the Civil War and sought closure from his services. And while he advertised his work as a balm for the grieving heart, charging $5-10 for his compassion afforded him a rather comfortable lifestyle for that era.

Mumler welcomed numerous skeptics to investigate his process and catch where he was at fault; they all found nothing. His developing methods were standard, as was his equipment, and no one detected any possible sleight of hand. Every theory they prepared was not given a shred of solid, credible proof. It truly seemed that he was the real deal, and his fame spread with each attempt at debunking him.

It didn’t last. His business in spiritual photography soon declined in Boston, however, when even other mediums and spiritualists began denouncing his reputation. Mumler packed up shop and headed for New York, but he still wasn’t clear of accusations.

Mumler was charged with fraudulency and put under criminal investigation. At a hearing, multiple photographers voiced all of the potential ways trickery could produce a spectral figure, the most likely explanation being double exposure. But there were also many professional photographers who stood by Mumler, giving his case credibility in the courtroom.

Unknown woman with a spectral child, taken by Mumler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unknown woman with a spectral child, taken by Mumler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s worth mentioning that Mumler never guaranteed his photos would produce any spirits. In his personal advertisements, he declared that his main object was to bring families comfort in their mourning.

Mumler’s defense team also arranged for a number of his clients to take the stand, and they all testified that the images were legitimate and provided the comfort they sought. In turn, the prosecution called upon Phineas Taylor Barnum (P.T. Barnum).

A well known showman and hoax artist, Barnum was known for revealing the truth of phony acts created to deceive people into forking over their dollars. He himself had lined his with pockets with money made from deceptions, his most famous being the “Feejee Mermaid”.

Barnum swore before the judge that he had, in the past, purchased some of Mumler’s photographs for his museum, and that Mumler himself admitted that they were all fake. But since Barnum was unable to provide the condemning letters, this part of his testimony held no weight in the courtroom.

However, Barnum was able to provide some key evidence against Mumler. He hired professional photographer Abraham Bogardus to take a photo of him and use it to recreate Mumler’s famed spirit photos. Bogardus easily duplicated a ghostly image of Abraham Lincoln into the background. But this was the only solid piece of evidence presented in the courtroom, and since duplication was still presented as only a potential method of deception, witnesses were divided amongst themselves.

In the end, the judge ended up dropping the charges due to the lack of substantial evidence against him, even though he also believed Mumler was a fraud. Mumler was free to leave the courtroom and continue conducting his business. 

However, his reputation had once again been dragged through the mud, and this time it was stained. 

Although the evidence brought before the judge was not enough to put Mumler behind bars, it was more than enough to turn away potential customers. The technical explanations professional photographers presented outweighed the lack of evidence in their minds. No one wanted to place their money on a scam. 

His works have since been discredited as acts of double-exposure since Mumler potentially had access to already existing photos of the deceased to develop over, thus creating the illusion of their spirit. As for how he would have accessed these photos, or how more professionally trained photographers were unable to catch any proof of fraudulency, one can’t say for sure.

In any case, Mumler destroyed all of his negatives before he died, so there is no longer any way to examine them further with today’s technology.

The only notable commission he received after his hearing would be from Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Aware of Mumler’s negative reputation, she was nonetheless still pleased with the results and found great comfort in the photograph for the rest of her days.

Eventually, his photography career would pick back up again, as he stopped taking commissions for spirit photos and only produced legitimate photos of living persons. His success would never reach its former heights, though.

But what about the people who swore the phantom figures held the likeness of their loved ones?

Most of Mumler’s photographs were not extremely detailed—most of the alleged spirits showed up as a blur or an outline. So the most logical explanation is that their loved ones appeared simply because they were desperate to see them again. Their minds made the likenesses out of the obscure lines just to once again have something tangible to cling to.

Perhaps the true deceptor was in their own minds.

The photo taken of Mary Todd Lincoln, found on Wikimedia Commons.

The photo taken of Mary Todd Lincoln, found on Wikimedia Commons.

The only notable commission he received after his hearing would be from Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Aware of Mumler’s negative reputation, she was nonetheless still pleased with the results and found great comfort in the photograph for the rest of her days.

Eventually, his photography career would pick back up again, as he stopped taking commissions for spirit photos and only produced legitimate photos of living persons. His success would never reach its former heights, though.

But what about the people who swore the phantom figures held the likeness of their loved ones?

Most of Mumler’s photographs were not extremely detailed—most of the alleged spirits showed up as a blur or an outline. So the most logical explanation is that their loved ones appeared simply because they were desperate to see them again. Their minds made the likenesses out of the obscure lines just to once again have something tangible to cling to.

Perhaps the true deceiver was in their own minds.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

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