“From behind the curtains there still sounded the terrible high long-drawn scream… It died away in a horrible kind of giggle. Then there came the thud of a body falling…”
“The Last Séance is a new collection of Agatha Christie’s short stories with supernatural elements and includes a story that had never been published in the US, “The Wife of Kenite.” From séances, ghosts, and possessed dolls to visions of murder in mirrors and dreams, this collection is wonderfully spooky. Though Agatha Christie’s great detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple make appearances in this collection, it’s the stand-alone short stories that make it such a compelling read. I loved that many of the stories were first time reads for me. I loved the unnerving ghost child in “The Lamp,” and alarmingly real cult in “The Flock of Geryon.” But, the most spine-tingling story was “The Dressmaker’s Doll.” Agatha Christie’s version of “Annabelle.” A doll suddenly appears at a dressmaker’s shop and no one remembers when or where it came from. It gives everyone the creeps and seems to move when no one is watching.
“The doll was on the sofa. She was not lying in her usual limp position. She was sitting upright, a cushion behind her back. She had the air of the mistress of the house, waiting to receive people.”
I’ve had an aversion to dolls for years. It has almost nothing to do with the “Annabelle” or “Chucky” sagas, though they certainly didn’t help. Several years ago, I stumbled across an article about the Island of Dolls (La Isla de las Munecas). The story goes, a little girl drowned near the island and people started leaving dolls for her, either in memoriam or for her ghostly spirit to play with. Either way, a few dolls turned into hundreds hanging from trees, decaying, and scattered into broken bits. You can’t see pictures without being completely creeped out. Go ahead and click here and tell me I’m wrong. I’ll wait. I told you it was creepy.
But I think what concretized my dislike of dolls happened at my parents house a few years ago. My uncle was going through some old things at my grandmother’s house and came across some of my mother’s old toys. He brought them over in a plastic grocery bag, and eventually pulls out a gallon size Ziploc bag with my mother’s old naked doll AND a random doll head with stringy yellow hair, scratched blue eyes, and a facial expression that screamed demonic possession! I wish I had a picture, but it was similar to this picture I took at the local thrift shop of other potential vessels of demonic forces.
Even more creepy is a week later, I went back and almost ALL of them had been sold. Who buys old creepy naked dolls?)
So yes, “The Last Séance” has some spine tingling tales and I definitely needed some comfort while reading. Nothing is as comforting, nor as British, as hot tea and scones. And bonus, the triangular shape of the scones is almost planchette like, but is less likely to open portals to bad places.
I’m not a fan of the classic raisin or current scones, because I’m firmly in the camp that raisins do not belong in baked goods, so I swapped them out for chocolate chips. I used Two Peas and their Pod’s recipe. You can find it here. These are perfect right out of the oven or toasted the next day with a little butter.
Chocolate Chip Scones
2 ½ c all-purpose flour
¼ c sugar
¼ c light brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter cut into pieces
1 c cold heavy cream plus 2 Tbsp
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c chocolate chips
*Turbinado sugar for sprinkinling on scones
*I was out of turbinado sugar and just used regular granulated sugar. It worked out fine.
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of heavy cream, egg, and vanilla extract.
- Add the pieces of cold butter to the dry ingredients and lightly toss until all the pieces are coated. Using a pastry cutter or fork, quickly cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is pebbly. You want there to still be little chunks of butter, about pea size. Don’t over mix.
- Pour the cream mixture over the dry ingredients and use a fork to gently stir together. Don’t over stir, the mixture will be wet and sticky. Stir in the chocolate chips. Still in the bowl, knead the dough a few times until the dough come together.
- Place the scone dough on a lightly floured surface. Gently pat and shape the dough into a ¾-1 inch thick circle. Use a sharp knife to cut the scones into 8 even triangles. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and brush with the remaining heavy cream. Sprinkle the scone generously with turbinado sugar. If the scones are soft and have heated up too much, place the baking sheet with the scones in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before baking. I usually do this just to be safe.
- When ready to bake, place the baking sheet in the oven, on the middle rack and bake for 17-22 minutes or until the tops and edges are golden brown and the scones are set but still slightly soft in the center. Remove from the oven and let scones cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
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