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The Gothic Stories of Ste. Odile

Imagined and Written by

John S. McFarland

Harrowing stories within the historical fiction, turn-of-the-century town.


For paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited


These books are appropriate for teenagers.


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McFarlands's next collection of gothic historical fiction stories
featuring Ste. Odile and its hidden mysteries

"In Baby Monster, McFarland revisits the cursed town of Ste. Odile, where the darkest angels of our souls, all our souls, reside."
~ Dacre Stoker, author of Dracul and great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker

Return with us to Ste. Odile, a cursed town indeed.

We will also be lured to other areas of the world during periods of history that were dark, foreboding, and unsympathetic to humankind in general.

You will find recognizable characters within these pages when we revisit their unfortunate situations. You will also be introduced to some new ones who are unique enigmas on their own.

A familiar scientist is conducting a study on teeth, using participants from the women's wing of St. Mathurin's Home for the Insane.

A resolute woman must perform an unspeakable act to save herself from a life-ending condition.

An abandoned and crumbling orphanage hiding a horrific secret, a woman's obsession with speaking to the dead, and her husband trying to save their son from potential murder come together in a thunderous storm of shock and terror.

Step into the end of intimate acquaintances and the beginning of tenuous relationships. Mysterious men, undaunted women, warped creatures, maddened minds, human atrocities... all await you in McFarland's second volume of harrowing short stories, including two novelettes, published here for the first time.

"McFarland's stories are like gifts sprung from a dark chest full of wonders."
~ Michael Schmidt, Wandler/Verlag

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Ste. Odile is first featured in this
disturbing collection of frightful tales

The Dark Walk Forward

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"Literate and suspenseful... complex and lyrical... drawn from the traditions of Southern Gothic horror. John McFarland has a talent for drawing horror from raw human emotion. The Dark Walk Forward is a heartbreaking and sad as well as frightening, with characters that linger in the mind long after the pages have turned."
~ Elizabeth Donald, Author of Nocturne, Setting Suns and The Cold Ones

"McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted."
~ Publishers Weekly

The small town of Ste. Odile in America has experienced the Great War in ways that no one should ever have to endure.

Doctors must tend to births and deaths that make their most difficult cases seem benign.

An 1880s schoolteacher is faced with the worst blizzard of her time and must save the children under her charge.

A young man searches for his father in the abandoned orphanage the older man owns... and both know they will despair at what they find.

A primative woman experiences colonization and the stereotypes of men, yet finds her own method of retribution.

John S. McFarland has slogged through his characters' woes and woven them into sweetly emotional yet acutely distressing tales. We as readers are forced to understand the pain, the despair, and sometimes the hope of his creations.

We realize we are lucky to live in the era we do. We also realize anything can change to tear us apart. Is it fate? Destiny? Or do we bring about these changes on our own?

McFarland will let us know.


The mysterious events have begun within

The Black Garden

"An engaging, intricate horror tale that feels ripped from the pages of a penny dreadful."
~ Kirkus Reviews

"Richly imagined, this is an intricate, intelligent and absorbing tale of faith and sacrifice."
~ John Linwood Grant, author of Where All is Night, and Starless

The small town of Ste. Odile is about to host a new visitor.

Perdita Badon-Reed has come to this place to hone her skills as a sculptress, but also to escape a life behind her, including a fiancé, that she isn't sure she wants. For a woman in 1882, this is a huge risk, but her strong will determines she must take it. She believes staying at the home of her uncle, Father Condell, and taking on a commissioned sculpture will help clear her emotions and find meaning to her need for escape.

But all is not as it seems in this quiet community. Its secrets are dark and deep, and Perdita finds herself entangling in them. A young woman sentenced to death attaches herself to Perdita, an orphaned girl at the convent sees visions and illustrates them with a talent beyond her years, and a persistent strangeness hovers as to why Perdita's fiancé's sister lost her life in connection to this town. But the most mysterious of all is Orien Bastide, an extremely wealthy man who seems to be a benefactor to Ste. Odile but is an enigma, nearly a legend, to the residents.

Perdita's embroilment becomes an urgency to help those around her, to find answers to perplexing questions that continue to mystify. Her persistence and strength preserve, but will they be enough to save her from an unimaginable horror waiting in the shadows?

John S. McFarland successfully weaves together history and fiction to create this gothic mystery novel, a tale with a chilling narrative sure to pique your interest while slipping beneath your skin. Ste. Odile will stay with you long after you've left the confines of the page...

come and learn why.

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More dark secrets are revealed in

The Mother of Centuries

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"You are an herbalist, a doctor, a midwife, and a seer, some have said.

A protector of women."

So is described Euphrosine, Meres de Sicles, the Mother of Centuries. Her age is unknown, but she knows her purpose: to protect women from the demon Balphoroth, a monstrous being who infects the bodies of men to carry out his lustful desires against innocent women.

Euphrosine's journal from 1757 details her time in November of 1948 through January of 1949, her destiny leading her to gain the trust of young Seraphica to save her life. Back then, she knew the ancient demon was influencing Orien Bastide, an affluent man who was grateful for time immortal life he'd been granted, even though it was turning him into a living corpse.


"I hoped you would not have the sight, but you do...

and stronger than anyone before you."

Anatolia Montes is a young woman gifted - or perhaps cursed - with prophetic abilities. In 1888 she was at St. Perpetua's school for girls in Ste. Odile when she met Perdita Badon-Reed. Perdita sacrificed her own life but sadly failed to save Anatolia from Bastide, who has now attacked the young woman as his newest victim.

Anatolia must now return to Ste. Odile to meet with Moira Keane Parnell, Perdita's dear friend. Moira has found Euphrosine's journal and believes Anatolia's life is at stake. When Anatolia discovers herself pregnant, she knows she is the key to stopping Bastide's evil reign and that she must find him. Her desperate search leads her to South Carolina, to meeting the Gullah people who understand the curse and can lead her on her journey. She must find the strength to get to Bastide, stop him, and banish the demon Balphoroth forever.

McFarland has woven two time periods together in this gothic historical novel, the sequel to his highly praised work The Black Garden. Come learn the fate of the loving Anatolia, the history of the enigmatic Euphrosine, and how both women's lives will entwine to hopefully save countless women to come.


About the Author


John S. McFarland's short stories have appeared in numerous journals, in both the mainstream and horror genres. His tales have been collected with stories by Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and Richard Matheson. His work has been praised by such writers as T.E.D. Klein and Phillip Fracassi, and he has been called "A great, undiscovered voice in horror fiction." The Black Garden was previously published in 2010 to universal praise. Now that he is working on the sequel, Dark Owl has reprinted the novel. His young reader series about Bigfoot titled

Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom, was previously printed in three languages. Dark Owl will be republishing both it and its upcoming sequel very soon.

Visit John's website at

Praise for McFarland's Work
The Mother of Centuries

"Excellent work."

~ John Padgett, Vasterien, a Literary Journal

"John S. McFarland wrote with poetic brilliance while creating intriguing and sympathetic characters.

A truly masterful story."

~ Nella Warrent, author of Sin Full and Time Thief

"Masterfully written with the perfect blend of historical setting, folklore, suspense, and horror.

I couldn't put it down."

~ D. L. Andersen, author of Across Unstill Waters and That Far Distant Country

The Black Garden

"McFarland's precise prose evokes the period without ever feeling too stiff or mannered... Ste. Odile is richly rendered, a Cajun fever dream that blends nearly all the tropes of Southern and Continental Gothic... The author has mastered the simmering miasma of Victorian horror fiction, whetting readers' anticipation for terrible things that take chapters and chapters to arrive... For those who love a good, old-fashioned, slow-burning novel of the occult, this one more than delivers."

~ Kirkus Review

Click here for the entire review

"McFarland takes his stories concerning the strange, history-haunted town of Ste. Odile to new and Gothic proportions in this novel of a young woman who must confront an unnatural horror which spans both centuries and continents. Richly imagined, this is an intricate, intelligent and absorbing tale of faith and sacrifice."

~ John Linwood Grant, author of Where All is Night, and Starless

"The Black Garden is literate and suspenseful, a complex, lyrical story drawn from the dark traditions of Southern Gothic horror. John McFarland has written a grand opera of a tale."

~ Elizabeth Donald, author of The Cold Ones, Nocturne, and Setting Suns

"In The Black Garden, John S. McFarland sets the mood early and keeps you immersed in it until the end... John McFarland creates a dark atmosphere with great skill that keeps you reading this gothic horror tale."

~ Debbie Monterrey, KMOX Radio

"Part of the appeal of any historical novel is the detail given about a time and place. McFarland's descriptions of Ste. Odile are elaborate and fascinating. The extensive research McFarland undertook to complete this novel contributes to the suspense of the story. Fans of horror fiction will find much to admire in McFarland's novel. The combination of historical detail, appealing characters, and sinister story make The Black Garden a good choice for discriminating lovers of the genre."

~ Jennifer Alexander, West End Word

"McFarland captures the claustrophobic social milieu of the period skillfully: his strong female protagonists are victims of an oppressive society, curbed by prejudice and stuffy morality, long before they are Bastide's. I enjoyed the way the narrative progressed, interspersed generously with letters exchanged between [characters], allowing periodic respite from the increasingly sinister environs of Ste. Odile, yet never quite enough to loosen the tension the author relentlessly builds up."

~ Lavanya Karthik, book critic, Mumbai, India

"John McFarland's novel, The Black Garden is a loving homage to the horror thrillers of old, where men were men (despite the tuxedos and flowery verbiage) and women were women (despite the corsets and lack of suffrage), and the monsters went bump in the night instead of twinkling like a disco ball at the Laser Floyd show."

~ Raul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

"While ghosts and goblins and their human foil can be fun, I enjoy horror that is far more personal, stuff you suspect isn't just written but bled upon the page. Stuff that is more exorcism than entertainment, where the writer is tacitly saying it is either the notebook or the noose. The stuff that, when you read it, you feel as though you just stumbled upon a scene that you shouldn't have seen, that you should not be seeing, and that you should forget about as quickly as you can (a feat that often proves all but impossible.)

"John McFarland is one of those writers. His stories put me in mind of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman (fine company for sure) whose work reveals bits and pieces of the world-weary psyche behind them. He takes as grist for his creative mill the plight of the lonely, the psychological malaise of the alienated, the deception of love, and the general cruelties and absurdities of mankind; and churns out tales that hit you right in the heart as the best fiction should...

"McFarland wields his pen with confidence and an artistic vision rooted in the ordeal of living."

~ Evan Romero, Reviewer

The Dark Walk Forward
and tales from the collection

"It's a really unusual and impressive collection - not only harrowing, as promised on the cover, but also frequently quite touching.  ...I very much admire the elegance - at times, where appropriate, the old-fashioned elegance - of [the] writing."

~ T.E.D. Klein, author of The Ceremonies and Dark Gods

"McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted."

~ Publishers Weekly

Click here for the entire review

"McFarland is adept at creating unsettling scenarios within very human, everyday contexts. The horrors that plague his characters feel like something that could happen to anyone, anytime, which is a great way to creep under a reader's skin and stay there a while."

~ Philip Fracassi, author of Behold the Void

"The stories are... extremely well written."

~ John Linwood Grant, author of A Persistence of Geraniums

"The stories creep with dread. No jump scares will startle you. Instead, horror will crawl closer on six legs until it wraps boneless but muscular fingers around your heart and squeezes."

~ Jonathon Mast, author of The Keeper of Tales

Click here for the entire review

"At less than two hundred pages, this book can be polished off in a single evening, but I encourage any prospective reader to go slowly and note the web of references interlocking the stories. This is the author's first short-story collection, and the quality of these pieces should encourage readers the next time they see McFarland's name on a bookstore shelf."

~ Robert Bolton, Mountain Statesman newspaper

Click here for the entire review

"McFarland's writing is lush and sensual, filled with textures, sounds, smells, and primal terrors that have lurked beyond the firelight since prehistory. It is filled with wit, psychological insight, and intelligence, counterbalancing the deepest dreads that curse our collective nightmares."

~ Kenneth Anderson, editor of Charon II

"McFarland's style definitely whispers of older writers, like Lovecraft, but his handling of language is much more crisp and focused. The perfect combination of literary and contemporary. One of the great, undiscovered talents of horror fiction."

~ C.P. Dunphy, Gehanna and Hinnom

"A beautiful and absolutely terrifying collection of stories. What's unique... is that all of the stories are sorts of intertwined in a way. They had little references to the other stories, even though they all take place in different periods with different people from all walks of life. It's so clear they're all part of the same world. It really brings a realism and gravity to each story, which, when it comes to horror, the realer it is, the scarier it feels... They all have darkness that looms over them that I've never seen over an entire collection. John really has a way with atmosphere."

~ Shelby Scott, Scare You to Sleep podcast

"Classic horror, worthy of H.P. Lovecraft."

~ Michael Gerber, author of the million-selling Barry Trotter series

"The sort of tales I very much like... Extraordinarily powerful."

~ T.E.D. Klein, author of The Ceremonies and Dark Gods

Interviews for The Dark Walk Forward - INTERVIEW: John S. McFarland (The Dark Walk Forward)

Puzzle Box Horror - Interview with Horror Author John McFarland

KTRS 550am Max on Movies: John S. McFarland, Da 5 Bloods, Trial of the Chicago 7

Monster Complex - Horror Author Q&A: John S. McFarland (The Dark Walk Forward)

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