I suppose it was growing up in Anoka, that warped me into a horror writer. For that, I am grateful. I don’t live there anymore, and I’m happy in my adopted home of White Bear Lake, MN, but I will always carry a certain affection for Anoka. It pleases my little dark heart to be able to post this tribute to the newest event to spawn from my hometown’s creepy cradle: Anoka’s First Annual Walking Dead Pub Crawl – October 13th, 2012.
Halloween has always been a big deal in Anoka, MN – the official Halloween Capital of the World. (In 1937, the town persuaded the United States Congress to award the title.) In the last few years, though, I’ve noticed a certain tameness creeping in to the season – the disgustingly healthy Gray Ghost 5K run comes to mind. This year, celebrations took a decidedly gruesome turn … finally!
As a creature of habit, I have always tended to patronize the older bars, the bars more familiar to me, like: Billy’s Bar and Grill, Serum’s Good Time Emporium, and the ever-changing, latest incarnation of the bar where I used to work (which was called Patty’s Pub back then and is currently known as as Beer Belly’s.) The official host bar for the crawl, however, was River City Saloon, a place I had never visited.
My Beloved and I weren’t sure which bar to choose as our base of operations, so we called some friends who still live in Anoka. They were kind enough to scout out the scene and find a table before we arrived. We met them at about 5:30p.
By the time we got there, my friend – Trish – who had been watching the zombies come out, was wishing she had dressed up for the event. After some discussion, I convinced her that I could do a quick makeup on her for less than $20 – if she was willing to to walk over to Party Papers with me.
The total came to $19.25. We could have skipped the putty/wax, which would have brought the total under $15.00. We bought the basics for a passable zombie and settled in to a corner of a hallway. Fifteen minutes later, we had done this:
I think we should have bought the next size up of the bottled blood. One of my favorite memories of the night involved standing on the sidewalk outside Party Papers, with me throwing handfuls of blood at her … as the Ghosts of Anoka Tour was guided past us. (I wish I had a photograph of that, but I was afraid to touch the camera long enough to hand it off to someone.)
In her simplicity, I think this was my favorite zombie of the night. She was just a little thing, and she absolutely invoked the mood of 1968′s Night of the Living Dead.
The Zombie-killer half of this duo is Jenny Johnson, creator of the event. I touched base with her a couple of times through the night. She was, by turns, excited, hopeful, overwhelmed and pleased by the success of her brainchild. (She also participated in the Thriller-dance flash mob that happened at 9p.)
A Ghost-Buster style wagon drew crowds wherever it parked. I liked the way the walking dead all streamed away from it at the same time in this shot.
Just a good ole boy and his woman. Some of the sweetest folks I met all night.
CONTINUE YOUR ZOMBIE CRAWL:
The Southern Northerner
Jenny’s House of Horrors
herding cats & burning soup
Author Sherry Soule Blog
Paranormal research Group Blog
Adult Urban Fantasy by Sherry Soule
Moonlight Publishing Blog
Ghost Hunting Theories
Above the Norm
A Dust Bunny In The Wind
Zombob’s Zombie News & Movie Reviews
Flesh From The Morgue
The Living Dark
Some One Else’s Cook
Forget About TV, Grab a Book
Zombie Dating Guide
The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Random Game Crafts
Carmen Jenner Author
Sarasota Zombie Pub Crawl
Not Now…Mommy’s Reading
Love is a Many Flavored Thing
Its On Random
Horror Shock LoliPOP
The Spooky Vegan
The Story In…
DarkSide Detectives Blog
Something wicKED this way comes….
Julie Jansen: science fiction and horror writer
Author/screenwriter James Schannep
The Zombie Lab
Sharing Links and Wisdom
This Blog Has A.D.D.
Shiny paranormally pictures here:
Not so shiny bipolary naval-gazing here:
I try not to write too much about my mood swings here at the blog. Still, my tagline does include Finessing bipolarity, so I’ll allow myself a post on the topic.Tonight I find myself unable to work up any enthusiasm for a paranormal- or Halloween-themed post, which is a little weird, because I did have plans in place, and I do have (just enough) time to craft something. I simply don’t want to.
That attitude has been creeping up on me, I think, over the last couple of days. Remember that night I didn’t manage to post until after midnight? That really took the wind out of my sails. Or it was an early warning sign that the wind was dying. I don’t think I’ve been manic in these last weeks. (My energy levels haven’t been that high; the writing hasn’t been coming to me easily, the way it does when I’m up.) I am concerned, however, because today’s crash does feel like the coming-down-from-manic stage.
I think my mood has been even (“normal”) for weeks. I’ve had a few awfully happy days – mostly when I’m out and about and taking pictures, but I’ve settled down as soon as my day off was done. I’ve had a few days where I felt tired and/or under the weather, but I’ve bounced back. (Sometimes a depressive skid pretends to be an illness, so I watch that sort of thing carefully.) Perhaps today will be like that. The problem is that I don’t have any physical complaints. I just feel … mentally tired. Also, my anxiety is eager to rise up, if I give it half a chance. (I’ve had a couple of long drives lately, and that seems to enable surges of anxiety. Drives gives me time to think about the legitimate stressors in my life.) Rising anxiety is a clear indicator of an impending depression for me.
Tonight I am mentally sorting through the factors that have been known to trigger sudden mood shifts. Alcohol is supposed to be a depressant, but I had barely a beer last night when we went out. I’d be surprised if that’s enough to mess me up. The weather has turned cold, and a little gray, but it hasn’t been terrible. Weather must remain a contender though, because I tend to be very sensitive to it. In fact this might be more about sliding toward the dreaded winter season than the actual temperature. There’s no way to deny that fall is past its peak now, here in Minnesota.
Maybe I am just depleted. My husband, who is a classic introvert, seems to think that I’m a natural extrovert, but I know better. Last night, at the zombie pub crawl we attended, I had to approach strangers to ask for permission to take their photographs and for them to sign a publishing release. (I’m paranoid about getting sued someday.) Everyone was friendly and receptive and cooperative, but each encounter took more out of me than anyone knows. As for other energy sappers, we all know I’ve been working a lot, and I’m only just now starting to feel competent at the new hotel. In the last months, there’s been an awful lot of me stepping out of my comfort zone and a lot of being on my best behavior … for readers, for guests at the hotels, for coworkers, for my bosses, even for my friends and family, who don’t need to have me falling apart during this 9+ month time of stress for us.
So, it’s really no mystery what’s going on – I just have to figure out what to do about it. For now, tonight, I’ll give myself this break from being “on”, as well as permission to see what happens tomorrow. I almost didn’t post at all tonight, but I don’t want to lose the pretty-darn-good streak of daily blogging I’m on if this is just a bad day. There’s nothing that keeps me even and grounded like achieving something I set out to do.
Wth? - I guess I have sex on the brain because I started writing a post, last night, about the prostitutes that frequent my hotel. I intend to get back to that, because I’ve got more to say on the subject, but I’m working under a time crunch (as usual) because I’m going to Anoka’s First Annual Walking Dead Pub Crawl in about an hour. (Which – I hope – explains the odd juxaposition of this post.)
Right now it’s raining, off and on, and we’ve had a half-dozen lovely thunder rumbles in the last hour or so. I’m hoping the weather doesn’t dampen the attendance at the crawl. (Polite titter appreciated.) I won’t be going dead this year; I guess I just ran out of time and money. I will, however, do my best to document the event in photographs. I’m even taking along an extra photographer, my Beloved. I’m a little nervous about approaching strangers who are likly to simply moan in answer to my request for permission to take a picture. Last night I made some photo release forms, just in case anyone in a great get-up is too recognizable.
Heads up, zombie-lovers – I’ll be reporting on the walking dead crawl next weekend, for a blog hop (as I believe these things are called) I’ll be doing October 19th – a virtual zombie walk that can be found if you click the following banner. I know some of you are zombie experts and you might want to sign up. (There’s a typo on the page, but I believe the last day to sign up is actually Wednesday the 17th. Monday the 14th might be safer though.)
Back to sex – I mentioned, on the last day of September, that I mapped out a flow for my daily posts in October. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to write a post about the prostitutes, consequently, I’ve been working on its companion Courting Creepy list, but I’m a little short of titles. Anyone want to chime in with suggestions? Here’s what I have so far:
13 weirdly steamy movies – with psycho-sexual themes – at Halloween (or anytime.)
Cat People (1942)
Cape Fear (1962)
The Beguiled (1971)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
The Hunger (1983)
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Black Swan (2010)
Tomorrow I have no plans other than to write, and catch up on some movies and TV (The Walking Dead starts tomorrow night!! – but I’ll bet you already knew that.) With luck, during the writing time, I’ll finish up my thoughts about the working girls and put the pscho-sexual list together.
Wish me luck in my evening interactions, won’t you?
A while back, I decided that I should use my Thursdays as personal time. (I don’t work Thurdays.) The plan is to use the day to go on an artist date (ala Julia Cameron) and the evening to relax and pamper myself a little. I’m about to slip into a bubble bath, so I’m definitely on track. Later there will be some great old movie.
I like having a day that is about visual and physical things rather than words on the page and screen. (And certainly rather than treating pissy linens.)
This week’s game is simple, can you guess what all I did with my afternoon? Where I went? What adventures I had? The background of the collage below depicts the most exciting destination of the day. Here’s the clue: I used part of my time (and some borrowed youth and courage from my son) to go someplace I’ve been afraid to go.
I’m off work tonight, so I’m trying hard to earn some spookypoints for the Halloween contest my daughter is running for our family. So far, I’ve photographed my household decorations and a shorn corn field, watched Wake Wood, and made a new Halloween countdown collage.
I’ve got a couple more movies to get through tonight … and I might do something crafty at the same time.
This week’s game: spot the 13 differences. (Special thanks to my Beloved, who has mad photoshop skills.)
By the way, I love these two photos of my old-school decorations. I also love the little pun I’ve made. (Check out their titles.) Bonus question: which of the displayed decorations actually dates all the way back to my childhood Halloweens, in the 1970s?
The Halloween countdown continues, but first, the answer to last week’s puzzle:
As for this week? One of these things is not like the other …
I should have started this project a while ago, but the idea, and my approach to it, only crystallized for me last night. For a few weeks now, I’ve been taking more pictures than usual, in an effort to capture the arrival and unfolding of my favorite season. It’s been sort of a treasure hunt. I’ve been challenging myself to really notice what is going on around me. Some of the questions I’ve been trying to answer include:
- When does summer transform in autumn?
- How can I immerse myself in the seasonal changes going on around me?
- When do the first signs and portents of Halloween appear?
- What seasonal images and sensations especially appeal to me?
I decided it would be fun to turn the images I’m collecting into weekly collages. (I might increase their frequency in the last thirteen days before the 31st.) These collages will serve as my countdown Halloween. Next year, I’ll try to start at least thirteen weeks before the 31st.
This week, I found all SIX of the following photographs at my local Target store:
The background of this collage is the sixth photograph. Can anyone figure out what it is? Here’s a clue: Creepy things come in threes.
Recently, I wrote about 108, a guest who scared me while I was working the night shift at the hotel. (Quick story synopsis: he arrived claiming severe spinal injuries, then repeatedly requested off-kilter assistance, then revealed his injuries were probably imaginary, then stalked me through the long night.)
My tension that night built up in layers. At first, I worried he would suffer a medical emergency on my watch, and I would be ill-equipped to handle it. Upon realizing how disruptive he was being, I dreaded complaints from other guests. Later, when it dawned on me that he was mentally unstable – and that he was taking special delight in deliberately startling me at every opportunity – I feared he would physically harm me. It wasn’t until the predawn hours, when I was huddled behind my desk waiting for him to emerge again from his room, that a final cloak of foreboding settled on me.
108 had been absent for a long time. The anticipation of his next appearance had me twitching at the faintest sound. As the minutes ticked by, I became convinced he had somehow sneaked out of his room without me hearing his door open or close. It was possible, I imagined, he had then crept down the hall, out one of the four exits I could not monitor from my desk, circled the building, and come into the laundry room through the service door. I cursed myself for not ensuring that door, which opens into the dumpster’s yard, was locked.
I stifled my rising panic by remembering that the service door automatically locks so that no one can enter from the outside, and that no room door in this maintenance-hungry hotel can be opened and closed noiselessly. It just wasn’t possible for any living creature to surprise me, I reassured myself, as long as I continued to keep my back to the the laundry room.
My confidence lasted about two minutes.
True, no living creature could slip past my spooked vigilance. But what if – oh mother of God – what if he had died? What if his injuries were real, and his refusal to wear his neck brace had allowed him – in his agitated state – to snap the last important connection between his spine and his brain?
[That happens. My son took a first aid course last fall, and the instructor stressed the importance of keeping accident victims immobile. To emphasize his point, he described the relatively common phenomena of crash survivors wandering dazed until they they turn their head and drop dead.]
As I contemplated the possibility that 108 had died, I couldn’t help but think about what kind of ghost he would become. (In that moment, I did not doubt that he would become a ghost.) Unlike the spirit that may actually haunt this hotel, 108 would not be content with being perceived at the edge of my awareness. No, 108 would alternate between shuffling around the lobby and racing along the hall. He would open and close doors, rattle the ice in the ice machine, and make the desk gate swing on its squeaky hinge. He would repeatedly sneak up behind me, then wait silently for me to turn around.
That would be bad. (Oh so bad.) But what if he didn’t limit himself to the tricks he’d already played?
Certain horror movie images are particularly terrifying to me. Any human-type creature crawling on the ceiling? (As in The Exorcist III and Legion.) That freaks me out. The guy who stands in the corner of the cellar at the end of The Blair Witch Project? He gives me a serious case of the willies. The worst, though, is that ghost-girl from The Ring, and her way of fast-forwarding toward the camera in fits and starts.
I suspect 108 – with his need for attention and his penchant for hide and seek games – would have discovered, then mastered, all of those techniques and more. I know this: Had the man died in this hotel, I would never have stepped foot inside the building again.
I’m at work. It is 5:45a. It’s been a long night. As I type, I’m jumping at every sound. I can’t help but glance to my left, toward the long hotel corridor, every thirty seconds or so.
When I came in at 11:00p tonight, the clerk who worked the three to eleven shift – we’ll call her Annie – was in tears. (She’s my favorite “new” employee – a pretty, cheerful, nineteen year old, recently promoted from housekeeping to front desk.)
Her evening had been difficult, thanks mostly to a walk-in guest she had checked into room 108. By the time I got here, he had been plaguing Annie for a couple of hours. The troubles had started the moment he arrived. A friend brought him into the hotel, but then disappeared as soon as he ascertained there was a vacancy. The guest – wearing a plastic brace on his neck and a plaster cast on his left arm – explained to Annie that his neck was broken, and that he was feeling weak. She rushed to get him registered, then used one of our office chairs to push him to his room. Another guest noticed the spectacle and helped to get him settled.
Annie was shaken and concerned, but she had to return to her duties – there were other guests waiting to register. An unprecedented number of those guests wanted to pay with cash, which is more complicated for the clerk than accepting a credit card. Considering her inexperience, it would have been challenging for Annie to keep the evening’s business straight … even if room 108 had not immediately launched a barrage of phone calls to the front desk.
By the time I came in, Annie was a wreak. She told me about the guest in room 108, and worried that she maybe should have called an ambulance for him. On top of that, she knew the cash drawer was off by at least $260.00. She knew she had overcharged one woman by sixty dollars, and had forgotten to collect the tax from another guest, but the origin of the extra two hundred dollars in the drawer was a mystery to her. Aside from that, she had not had enough time to do much more than start the day’s laundry.
Before she finished telling me about her evening, the phone rang. I answered it.
It was the guy from 108, of course. In a weird, raspy whisper, he informed me there was no robe hanging on the back of his bathroom door. I told him we don’t provide robes. He thanked me and disconnected. Annie and I started to review the evening’s transactions, but the phone rang again. This time 108 wanted to know if room service could deliver a soda to his room.
I said, “We don’t have room service, sir.”
“Oh. I thought that, since I’m in a suite, room service would be included.”
“You aren’t in a suite, sir. We don’t have suites.”
“Oh. Okay. Goodnight then,” he politely replied.
In the next hour – as Annie and I searched for the source of the mystery money – he phoned or visited the front desk seven times. Sometimes, when he appeared, he was wearing his neck brace. Other times, he was not. He had some odd pretext for seeking us out each time, but mostly it felt like he wanted – badly – to talk about exactly what had happened to him, how his doctors are shocked that he’s not a paraplegic, and how his family and friends are not responding to his injuries with appropriate concern.
Eventually, having untangled some of the registration mistakes that had been made, I sent Annie home. That’s when the real fun began.
108, by then, had given up on using the phone. Instead, he began to wander up and down the corridor and through the lobby. He circled my desk like a crippled shark – sometimes stopping to ask a question or make a request; sometimes just slowly cruising past; sometimes stopping to lean on the counter, wheeze and moan. I wanted to go into the back room to fold sheets, but every time I did, he reappeared at the desk. I would fold a sheet, then check the desk. If he wasn’t there, I would fold another. Usually he was there. Just waiting for me to come out so that he could give me the name of another friend who would soon be stopping by to check on his welfare. (No one ever came.) Or to obtain the number of the local hospital, so he could call them, just in case.
At one point, when he happened to be out of sight, I came out of the back to make a note about some supplies we need. As I was writing, he came running down the hall, through the lobby and out the door. He was gone for about twenty minutes. When he came back, the door alarm chimed so I emerged from the back room and buzzed him in. He hobbled over to the sofa with a bag of fast food, saying he needed to sit so he could cope with the blood poisoning. “Did I tell you that I have blood poisoning?”
All night this went on. Once he came out to ask for a Styrofoam bowl. He appeared about ten minutes later – shirtless and barefoot – and said, “I better get that number for the hospital again. Because the strangest thing just happened to me.” (I busied myself looking up the number.) “I was heating my cup ‘o noodles, in the bowl you gave me, in the microwave. Then I woke up and my face was in the bowl.”
“Do you want me to call an ambulance for you, sir?”
“Well, I know my health is the most important thing, but my finances aren’t in the best of shape. I’ve had a lot of medical expenses lately–”
“Here’s the information you requested, sir.” I handed a slip of paper to him. “Remember to dial nine to get an outside line.”
I retreated to the back room. I peeked out a few minutes later. He was standing at the swinging gate between the lobby and the area behind the front desk. He was pushing the gate open, then watching it swing shut. I tried to fold another sheet, but my nerve broke. I became convinced that I’d flip a sheet to snap out the wrinkles, only to find him standing in the back room with me when the sheet settled.
I went to the front desk, sat down, set up the laptop, and began my vigil. I could hear every time he opened his door in the silent hotel. Then I would prepare for him to show up. Sometimes he did, which was bad. Sometime he didn’t, which was worse. When he didn’t, I could only assume he was wandering the hotel. Then I would hear the door open and close again.
At 3:30a, the time had come to do the stocking in the breakfast area. I would have to leave the (illusory) safety of my desk area, and venture into a space that would not allow me to watch the corridor that led to his room. I moved fast, and checked for his presence between tasks. Only once did he come around the corner and surprise me. Without saying anything he turned and walked away. Within minutes, I had stocked breakfast … except for the yogurt.
I checked again for 108, then crouched in front of the small display fridge, with my back to the length of the lobby. As I arranged the yogurt tubs, I listened for any noise behind me. I even glanced over my shoulder twice. The thirty foot expanse of the lobby was empty both times. I straightened a row of peach yogurt, then looked over my shoulder again. The man was standing ( not approaching, but standing, flat-footed and stable) not six inches behind me. Of course I yelped. In fact, I believe I shouted, “OH! Christ!”
108 did not recoil even slightly. Instead he continued to lean over me. “Oh my. What happened? Did you hurt yourself?”
“You move very quietly, sir.”
He took four or five strides backwards, then stopped in front of the coffee stand. He picked up a handful of napkins, shook them at me, brought them to his nose. “Well goodnight then,” he said, before turning and leaving the lobby.
I returned to my chair behind the desk. I did not go into the back room, or the lobby, again until some of the other guests started to move around the hotel at about 6:30a. Instead I sat and watched him prowl.
Just before I left, he engaged me again. He had been absent for half an hour. When he popped up in front of the desk, he was fully dressed. He was not wearing his neck brace. He was not wearing the cast. (I want to assure you that this had been no brace. Either it was a prop of some kind, or he had cut himself out of a plaster cast.) He wanted to know where he could find a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. He offered to follow me to his room, so I could show him that it was hanging on the knob, on the inside of his door.
I declined the invitation and, instead, found a spare sign. He accepted it and said, for the too-many-th time, ”Well, goodnight then.”
I’m on the schedule for Saturday night too. I am really hoping that he doesn’t extend his stay.
WriMoProg: 8 + 38 = 46/46
Hey, whattaya know? I made goal, even if the balance is off! That was more luck than anything. Perhaps there will be a more controlled success in September. (I’ll be setting up the September WriMoProg later today.)
It was a busy day: Spent the morning searching the online want ads. Spent the afternoon taking pictures. Spent the evening being a good helpmate. Spent the depths of the night previewing photo manipulation websites. (Yeah, the birds are singing as I type up this post.)
I know some of you are photographers. Maybe you too were heart-broken when Google+ gobbled up Picnik, only to spit out a less friendly, less fun, set of free photo editing tools. If so, check out Pixlr. I happily played with both the photo editor and the cool, “retro vintage effects” section. (The interface on that is fascinating.) For the following photographs, I just used the editor to add a credit line, but it looks like there are lots of other useful things there too.
I’ll be doing full posts about these locations later this month, and there will be more photographs. For now, I just had to share my favorites.
Tonight I watched some episodes of Dexter with my husband. It’s been a couple of years since I checked in with the show, and I had forgotten how much I like its opening title sequence. Of course, the experience sent me down the rabbit-hole otherwise known as youtube. I’m resurfacing at four o’clock in the morning, happily creeped out by a combination of real and remembered thrills inspired by my trip through TV’s horror-world. ‘Thought I’d share.
13. The Addams Famiy – a favorite childhood memory.
12. Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
11. Forever Knight.
10. Fringe – short but effective.
09. Millenium – does anyone besides me remember this show?
08. The X-Files – in truth, the sequence isn’t very creepy … but that music!
07. American Gothic – this is the “series trailer” which isn’t quite the same as the opening sequence I recall, but it’s got the right flavor.
06. American Horror Story – season one. Presumably season two will have a different opening, matched to the new story.
05. Carnivale – beautiful work here, but the real eeriness was in the show itself.
03. Tales From the Darkside – this one still gets me right in the creepy spot every time I hear it.
02. True Blood – Some graphic stuff here, kids.
01. The Twilight Zone – nothing will ever take its place in my heart.
Since I had my dream, about a hypnotist clown working in a traveling haunted house, I’ve repeatedly caught myself outlining a new novel inside my head.
This is not a good thing. I was warned that this would happen:
From Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers, Chapter 20 –
”When you’re working on your book, you will undoubtedly be tempted by Fresh Start Sirens. Gorgeous, tantalizing new book ideas will arrive, making juicy promises. These new ideas are going to pop up, assuring you a baggage-free new beginning. They want to lure you away from your existing project, those boring bad days of writing month after month, no end in sight. The Sexy New Book idea always promises it will never be difficult; it will never be a burden. It says it’s way, way more publishable, plus more fun. It whispers, Take me now. I’m all yours.
When this happens: Run. Run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do no get involved with this book!”
I remember reading those words, many months ago, and thinking there was no way I would ever feel the urge to cheat on my beloved baby-witch, Lizzy.
Lately though, Lizzy has been a bitch.
This clown on the other hand – with his smeared greasepaint and his insecurities – is seductive. I’ve been imagining a world in which he could live – a world populated by tattooed, pierced prop artist / roadies, and an acting troupe made up from self-identified vampires, their consenting blood dolls, militant pagans, and other societal drop-outs. There’s a middle-aged, asexual couple with fluid gender-identities too – I think they design the special effects, create the makeups and manage the books. I am in love with them all.
I never have trouble coming up with characters. When it comes to plot, though, it’s a different story. Where’s the conflict? What’s the story arch?
Which brings me to The Traveling Vampire Show. I am pissed off by it’s very existence. The title suggests a brilliant premise – one that encapsulates conflict. We all know carnivals and traveling troupes are creepy. The idea that such a show could conceal real monsters behind nothing more than gel lights and face powder is stunning. The book should write itself.
Years ago, I bought the promisingly titled paperback, rushed home, slipped into a hot bath, and started reading. I vividly remember throwing the damn thing across the bathroom an hour later, thinking: “I could write a better book than THAT!” (‘Turns out that doing so is harder than I thought it would be. I should take this opportunity to offer up a sincere apology to Mr. Laymon, may he rest in peace.)
Even then, I knew I was furious because Richard Laymon didn’t allow the book to write itself. Instead he imposed a graphically violent, verging-on-pornographic, coming-of-age story on it, forever ruining the best title ever conceived.
So now I have my hypnotist clown, and I know he is perfectly suited to being a monster keeper, but his story is stillborn. It doesn’t matter that I want to write The Traveling Vampire Show. It’s been done. And done well enough, by an author famous enough, to win a Bram Stoker award. (How that happened is beyond my ken.) Oh, and it looks like there’s a movie version in production too.
But, I guess, that is a good thing. Because I have to put aside my brown-eyed hypnotist anyway, so that I can crawl back to Lizzy, with declarations of faithfulness on my fingertips.
Maybe I could give him a cameo.
I had the most wonderful nightmare – one too long and involved to relate in full because … well, because they always are, aren’t they? An aspect of it, though, has been niggling at me all evening. My attention may be partially on the movie (Sometimes They Come Back) I’m streaming from Netflix, but, in truth, mostly I’ve been surfing the web, looking at hundreds of images of clowns.
My dream, you see, ended abruptly in the middle of an encounter with an intriguing haunted house performer: a clown / hypnotist.
[For an interesting look at the perils of working as a haunted house performer, check out this post at Huffington Post's Weird News.]
He was beautiful in a way that isn’t to my usual taste – small, dark, wiry and of some indeterminate, but fully adult, age. His eyes were his most striking feature – with amber-brown irises which had the clear depth of a sunlit pond. He wore a shabby tailcoat, done up in a faded orange and yellow fabric which would have been better suited to upholstering a ’70s era chair. Under the coat, he wore a dirt-smudged, cream-colored Henley shirt and jeans – modern clothes which nonetheless invoked early 20th century carny garb. An untrimmed peacock feather was tucked into the water-stained, citrus-toned ribbon band on his fedora. His makeup was minimal – just a suggestion of traditional paint.
Guiding my group through his tunnel-like section of the fun house, he seemed to take an interest in me, and I caught him marking the hem of my jacket with chalk. When we emerged from the tunnel into a room lined with large, spinning spirals, he launched into a hypnotist’s patter. I deliberately led him to believe I’d be a good target for his schtick – even though I was certain I was unhypnotizable.
Meaning to play along, I was surprised when he was able to partially mesmerize me – a fact I became aware of when I realized he was causing me to have hallucinations even as he thought he was failing to affect me. When I didn’t cooperate he shifted his attention to someone else. I sensed he was embarrassed – perhaps even feeling duped – as he struggled to refocus the crowd on another mark.
I was left to come out of my semi-trance on my own. When my head finally cleared, he was gone. I felt guilty. Amazed that he had been able to affect me at all, I wanted to congratulate him and apologize for making him look bad. I went back to the beginning of his section, but a different clown was waiting at the entrance to the tunnel. Disappointed, I scanned the crowd, but failed to locate him. I was about to leave when I heard his voice bidding the replacement clown a good night. His face was devoid of paint and he had stripped out of the tailcoat and hat, but I recognized his eyes. I realized, then, that I must have been been disoriented for far longer than the few minutes I had thought.
As he swept past, I reached out to stop him. It was too loud for him to hear my apology. I pulled him toward a nearby bench, suddenly convinced I had need of his skill in a paranormal investigation I was conducting. I was about to explain exactly what I needed to him when I woke up.
It’s bugging me. What use would a hypnotist be in a ghost hunt? There’s gotta be a story in there somewhere.
Facts to guide the discussion:
- I am not sensitive to clowns; I neither fear them nor particularly enjoy them.
- I do not believe I can be hypnotized. And I’m not sure if I believe the phenomena is real for anyone.
- The early part of the dream was more traditionally nightmare-ish: fleeing a murderous psycho, a “real” haunted house (as opposed to a fun house), etc. All very exciting.
Let the psychoanalysis begin
I spent the entire day (except for a trip to the dog park and a short practice drive with my boy) sitting on my deck, trying to find my place in my work. Whenever frustration overwhelmed me and I looked up from my keyboard, I could watch the Mallards and Canada geese glide around on the black water of the pond. (Did you know a cloudy sky turns small, still bodies of water black?)
Now that it’s after midnight, I can only listen to the sounds of the creatures that live beyond the deck-rail. Mostly, I’ve been hearing the geese and the easily identified spring peepers, but an unfamiliar frog is calling – actually sort of clicking – from the far bank. An owl – one that is not a barred owl like those that lived near my old house – is hooting in a strange, quavering voice. (Wait … now that I’m paying close attention, I realize there are two.)
Once in a while, the muskrat splashes in the water. I think he chirps to himself as he goes about his business … unless there are two of them here as well.
Last night, I found a quarter-sized painted turtle in the underground garage. When I released him onto a pile of damp leaves near the pond’s edge, I shined the flashlight into the water and saw fat, healthy leeches, quick little water beetles and dozens of silver-swift minnows.
It’s a good pond. One that will help me find my place, I think.
The talented, funny folks over at eyelaugh.wordpress.com have included me in this Versatile Blogger Award thing that I’ve been seeing around. It was a pleasant surprise. Eyelaugh is a bright spot in my often dark (by choice) blogroll, and I always enjoy coming across one of their new comics in my reader. (Thanks for choosing The Paranormalist guys!)
When I think about the award itself, I realize that it’s all about the networking. It’s a nice way to share other blogs with one’s regular readers. With that in mind, I’ll follow the rules and offer the award to 15 folks on my list. With a couple of exceptions, I’ll try to keep my suggestions in line with my theme.
Each recipient can do as they please with the award – some folks might not have the inclination to play along, and that’s ok with me.
Before I list my nominees, I should share “The rules for the Versatile Blogger Award”:
1) Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in a post
2) Share 7 things about you
3) Pass the award on to 15 more bloggers
4) Contact the bloggers you have chosen to let them know that they have been selected
Seven things about The Paranormalist:
- I already have a ‘13 things you’d hate about me‘ list on my Backstory tab.
- I chose to educate my son at home, independent of a school for entirely secular, academic reasons
- …and the term “home school” makes me choke every time I use it. (It makes me think of homespun.)
- My favorite flowers are freesia and wild roses.
- I adore seafood – well, more specifically, shellfish.
- I sleep, almost every night, with the TV on.
- I believe there are very few situations that a hot – really hot – bath can’t improve upon or make better.
Now, my nominees:
First, my Tumblr blogs(?) – I’m not sure they are blogs in the traditional sense, but I subscribe to them via my google reader. I can’t even figure out how to comment on their posts – so I don’t know how I’m going to inform them of my selection. In truth, I still haven’t really figured out what a Tumblr is supposed to be, but I love these images that come streaming at me. (Be aware – in the first two, there is occasional partial nudity in the form of Victorian images.)
- Strange is Beautiful
- Maudelynn’s Menagerie
- Huff’s Weird Blog (This and the next are more traditionally styled blogs.)
- My Paranormal Podcast
Now for the at-least-slightly-paranormal-flavored blogs at WordPress and Blogger, as well as the self-hosted:
- Ghost Cities (these first four are writers to watch, who also happen to write entertaining blogs)
- Hunter Shea
- Mark My Words
- Creature with the Atom Brain (horror movie reviews)
- Aden Moss (I haven’t wrapped my head around this, but I think there’s something brilliant going on.)
- My Ethereality (a lovely, historical blog with a steampunk feel)
And, finally, these are distinctly not-paranormal – but I really enjoy the voice / writing / work of the authors:
- Cultivating the Art of Sustenance (hog farming and writing in Michigan, USA)
- Hoola Tallulah (crafting in rural Hertfordshire, UK)
- Commonplace Crazy (free grammar lessons included)
- Sad Man’s Tongue Rockabilly Bar & Bistro – Prague (all things rockabilly, including pinups)
- # 16 – don’t forget to check out EyeLaugh while you’re surfing the links.
That was harder than I thought it would be. I faithfully read other blogs as well, and I enjoy each for its own strengths. In the end – I guess – I chose the blogs which I think might most appeal to you – let me know if you find a new love thanks to my recommendations.
If you are one of the blogs I selected above, and you want to participate:
- Download (save file as) the Versatile Blogger Award icon found above, then upload it to your blog in a post similar to this. I’ll be looking forward to your suggestions.
I just finished reading Into the Shadows – America’s Unsolved Mysteries and Tales of the Unexpected, by Troy Taylor. As a veteran reader of books on the paranormal, I can say this collection of stories is the best I’ve discovered. Often the actual writing in such books is barely tolerable, but Mr. Taylor’s work is clean, his voice is personable, and his tone is not overwrought. One story, in particular, fascinated me.
In Missouri, in 1913, a childless, 30 year old housewife named Pearl Curren regularly met for afternoon tea with her mother and a neighbor. On July 18th the women decided to experiment with a Ouija board – a gadget that was all the rage in the spiritualism-friendly era. A presence which introduced itself as Patience Worth came through. Over the next weeks, Patience showed a particular affinity for Pearl. Eventually, Pearl was able to dispense with the slow Ouija board, and simply recite and/or write that which Patience wanted to share.
And Patience wanted to share a lot – over the course of the next twenty-five years, she dictated personal communications, essays, a play, several novels and over 5,000 poems. Much of her work was critically acclaimed.
*Lullaby – Patience Worth
Dream, dream thou flesh of me!
Dream thou next my breast.
Dream, dream and coax the stars
To light thee at thy rest.
Sleep, sleep, thou breath of Him
Who watcheth thee and me.
Dream, dream and dreaming,
Coax that He shall see.
Rest, rest thou fairy form
That presseth soft my breat.
Rest, rest and nestle warm,
And rest and rest and rest.
The story becomes particularly interesting when the pre-Patience life of Pearl Curren is examined. By all accounts, she was an “indifferent student”, with no particular knowledge of history nor attraction to spiritualism or writing.
Of course I’ve been all over the web, but I would say the best source for more information and further details is over at Smithsonian.com.
By the way, I would never touch a Oujia board. I hesitated to even post a picture. ‘Too many horror novels & movies for me, I guess.
*I found the text of this poem at Google Books. It was in the public domain title Antholgy of magazine verse.
Last night, instead of watching another great horror flick, I settled onto the sofa – properly equipped with a cup of tea and my knitting – to enjoy a Miss Marple mystery. As my cats passive-aggressively dueled for my lap-space, and my dog warmed my feet, I added another 2-3 inches to the baby blanket I’m hoping to finish before Solstice eve. (One of my goals is to knit an item for charity each season. This one, I think, will be dropped off at the hospital with a request that it be given to the next baby born to a young single mother.) When the movie finished, I went to sleep. It was not yet three o’clock in the morning.
Last night was a portent of things to come. My blog is likely to … soften a bit in the next month – for two reasons:
1) Despite my general dislike of the yuletide season, I am not entirely immune to the warm fuzziness of Christmastime, with its sentimental music, uplifting movies, and incessant good cheer.
2) My autumnal bout of hypomania has all but faded away. Coming to this realization so quietly is a good thing. By acknowledging and accepting what is happening, I am less likely to spiral into a depression. With luck, I will simply shift gears and become more domestic for a little while.
This month I will cook and putter more. I will stay home as much as possible. I will dote on and pet my menfolk as much as they will allow. I will make a point of taking the dog for a walk in the brightest part of the day. When the real cold comes, I will fret about the chickens and the feral cats, and make warm meals for them. (A grain and veggie mash for the hens, a kibble and gravy mush for the felines.) Despite my resolution to not fuss over the holiday, I will probably decorate something with twinkle lights. I will listen to classic standards by the likes of Mel Tormé and Bing Crosby. I will watch White Christmas. Probably more than once. Because it features the incomparable song and dance man, Danny Kaye.
But I will also re-read Stephen King’s It, as I have done, during winter break, for the past 25 years. And, if I follow my pattern, I will spend more time in my closet-office, with the door closed, wearing my headphones, listening to Midnight Syndicate, writing about witches and ghosts, pretending it is whatever season my characters are living in.
Here in the blog, I might not write about haunts and horror as much, but my interests will remain skewed toward the mysterious and the magical. In that vein, let me point you to a wonderful web find: Edinburgh’s mysterious book sculptures.
Watch a news clip about the sculptures HERE.
I’d recommend that you search the web yourself for more information. I poked around enough to learn that a total of ten sculptures were gifted to libraries in Edinburgh, and that the artist has indicated she is female. I don’t really want to know any more than that – I prefer that some mystery remains.
I took my dog out for his last walk of the night just now, but I was feeling lazy. I snapped him to a long-line (40+ feet) and let him wander off into the darkness. I stood in the middle of the extraordinarily quiet yard, gazing up at the stars.
At first, he calmly took care of business. Then he found a stick that he could toss for himself. I knew this, not because I could see him in the pitch black beyond the cozy glow cast by the porch light, but because I could hear him romping in the lawn’s thick layer of dry leaves. When he crossed from the mowed yard into the meadow, all the crunching and crackling ceased. The night’s silence was broken only by the sighs of the tall, soft meadow grass as he swished through it. After a while, he started tugging a bit too much, indicating to me that he was actively running back and forth.
Not wanting him to get tangled around any of the many trees and posts in our yard, I positioned myself so that his line ran straight and taut from where I stood to where he played. Then I called his name. By the sound of it, he responded by coming out of the tall grass fast, crushing leaves and snapping twigs as he bounded toward me. In a few strides, I could see him, running flat out and low slung, like some sort of Savannah predator. I was about to brace for impact when I heard something else crashing through the leaves beyond him. It sounded like it was a few yards behind, but it was drawing closer. I strained into the gloom, trying to see what creature could possibly be fast enough to gain on my athletic boxer-cross. Whatever it was had to be small, because I could see nothing.
One of the feral cats? No. They run away. A fox? Only if it’s rabid – it would have to be crazy to chase my powerfully built dog. Something … else?
My heartbeat sped up. I urged my dog to come faster. I turned to run toward the house. Then my very-good-dog leapt into the space next to me, happy that I was obviously going to play with him. His panting and prancing was the only sound I could hear. The pursuing creature had stopped … in fact, had disappeared.
It was a few heartbeats later that I realized what I had heard. The long-line was lying in a narrow curve that stretched from hand, out toward the meadow, then back to my dog’s collar. This curve had been dragging through the leaves behind him as he ran.
Maybe I should cut back on the horror movies a little.
This is my boy when he was only 17 weeks old.
He’s much bigger now
P.S. In case anyone is wondering about this hypomania I keep mentioning, this a good description.
The moon was new on Friday night. Right now, it is a waxing crescent. I care about this because I’ve been using the lunar phases as my new measurement of time. When the moon was last new, I committed to two daily tasks: meditating (for at least 10 minutes) and using two online trackers, (one to monitor my mood fluctuations and one to keep account of my routine chores.)
I’m a veteran of dozens of organizational systems, from Getting Things Done to FlyLady.net. I keep lists for everything, including my 101 things in 1001 days list. (Which is now about 6% complete.) It feels like my entire adult life has been about learning to manage my time and energy … which is not unusual for a bipolar. My biggest obstacle to effective self-management has always been my resistance to routine and repetition. This is a problem for a mother, a home school facilitator and a writer.
Common wisdom dictates that it take 21 days to establish a new habit. Or six months. Or a year and a day. Depending on what self-improvement guru you subscribe to. Obviously, there is no magic number. The key, I believe is to choose a time frame that makes sense to you.
I use Google calendar religiously. I track many of my practical goals in terms of months, weeks days and hours. Some personal tasks though – like meditation and mood management – don’t seem to want to fit inside those neat, even boxes you can find in a daily planner.
So. For the entire last cycle of the moon – from new through full and around to new again – I managed to persuade myself to honor my commitment to my two goals – even when I was dead tired. It helped that I could step outside, breathe, and look up into the sky – where Luna was showing me how far I’d already come.
In the current cycle, I will add daily yoga or walking into my day. I’ll let you know how it went, when the moon goes dark again.
Last night, as the midnight NaBloPoMo deadline approached, I was completely caught up in a rollicking game of Catch Phrase. Unwilling to step away from the game, I begged my great-niece to write a blog post in for me. She is the only person in my family who shares my fascination with creepy things. (This fact amuses me because she is also my namesake – her middle name is Renae.)
She had no idea that I was going to ask her to do it, nor any familiarity with my blog. Of course she knows I’m a horror writer, and that her mother and I are preparing to do paranormal investigations together – so she wasn’t too startled by the request. She did have to think on her feet though, because I gave her almost nothing to go on. I merely pointed her at my blog, told her to read a few entries to get a feel for the theme, showed her how to add a new post, and let her go.
I was surprised by what she wrote … but not shocked.
I suppose I was about Chammi’s age when I experienced my own nocturnal visitation.
(Forgive the picture quality. This a snapshot, taken with my cell phone, of a snapshot taken when I was 14.)
I remember coming awake slowly in my twin bed, turning from my habitual fetal position onto my back. As usual, my nightgown wrapped uncomfortably around my legs. (I still hate to feel constricted or constrained when I’m sleeping.) I decided to get out of bed – I suppose intending to stand up and straighten out my bedclothes – but when I opened my eyes, I froze.
A figure was leaning over my bed. Its featureless “face” hovered inches above mine. I did not get the sense it was a solid thing. I did not feel any malevolence from it. When I think of it now, I conjure a mental image of a tall, willowy, feminine … presence. And I think of the color blue.
Like Chammi, I didn’t scream or freak out. I think I just went back to sleep. Of course it could have been a dream. I dreamed a lot when I was a child and teenager. Most of my dream images were recurring. (There was one in which I saw the shadow of a wolfman on my bedroom wall, another in which I bounded through an endless meadow.) The Blue Lady, though, I saw only once. Like Chammi, I can’t exactly articulate how or why I became convinced that this single event was not a dream – if it wasn’t, however, I don’t know how to explain it. It doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any of the most common paranormal categories. (Ghosts, apparitions, poltergeist, grays, etc.)
The phenomena which seems most similar is called sleep paralysis – which occurs when a person retains a type of consciousness even though the brain/body is in a REM sleep state. It can occur either at the beginning or end of the REM cycle (when falling asleep or waking up.) Sufferers of sleep paralysis report sensing an evil presence or feeling watched; feeling pressure on the chest / suffocated; being unable to move (which is accurate – the body does enter into a paralyzed state during REM, so that the sleeper doesn’t injure themselves or others during dreams;) feeling panicked or threatened; and seeing hallucinations.
Renae is my aunt and is spending time with family, and asked me to do her blog.
I was sleeping soundly one night, and woke up feeling as if something was watching me. I hadn’t quite woken enough to open my eyes yet, but when I did I was startled. There was a young female standing there with one hand outstretched towards my cheek.
She had very long silky hair, a very dark shade of brown. She was wearing a night gown of sorts, lined lace trim. Her eyes were puffy and red as if she had been crying for days. She moved slow and mechanically out the door, not bothering to open it. I figured I had been dreaming and wouldn’t remember it in the morning so I shrugged it off and went back to bed. I knew that it couldn’t have been a dream, for when I awoke I still had it burned to memory.
Last night, before I settled in at the computer to make my nightly post, I saw a phantom figure of a young girl in the hallway upstairs.
Phantom may refer to:
Ghost, in traditional belief, a physical manifestation of the soul or spirit of a deceased person
Illusion, a distortion of the senses
It was late, of course. All the living souls – human and animal – in my house had been asleep for hours. As usual, I was tidying the bathroom as I brushed my teeth. I adjusted the shower curtain, wiped off the edge of the tub, straightened the bath mat. I turned toward the sink so I could spit out my mouthful of foam. From the corner of my eye, I saw the girl – simply standing – just beyond the threshold of the open bathroom door.
She was wearing a pastel nightgown. (Pink? Peach? Yellow? Certainly very pale.) Its bodice was smocked; its sleeves were short and puffed; its hem reached mid-shin. The girl’s bangs obscured her face because, I think, she was looking at the floor. By the time I registered what I had seen, and wrenched my neck to look directly at her, she was gone.
I do not believe I saw a ghost. Nor an apparition – at least not in the usual sense. (I mused on the difference between ghosts and apparitions in my post I am not a ghost hunter.) In the ten years I’ve lived in this house, I have never sensed a spirit presence. My cats have never stared into empty corners. My children have never complained of boogie-men in the closets. I have no reason to believe my home is haunted.
Besides, I know what happened. I saw the girl because I needed to be reminded of one of my quirks.
When tired – spacey tired, I mean – I’ve seen all sorts of things. Things like a bowl falling (but not really) off the edge of a counter when I go to fetch another soda from the fridge, or a pedestrian strolling the shoulder of deserted road when I’m driving at midnight.
I’m not a good sleeper. Never have been. It’s hard for me to sustain slumber. As a child, I sleepwalked. As a teenager, I had nightmares. As a young mother, I had to check on the children, multiple times, throughout the night.
Even harder than staying asleep, though, is falling asleep. My mind doesn’t like to shut down so – when I fail to keep it busy with other things – it keeps itself awake by gnawing on all my fears and worries. I believe this problem is common to many adults, but for me it’s been true since I was little.
I used to wait about an hour after being tucked in, then pretend to fall out of bed, so that my mother would come switch on the radio to lull me back to sleep. It helped, but often listening to music wasn’t enough to quiet my mind. Then I would think of sad things, so that I could cry, which made me sleepy. (I adored songs like One Tin Soldier and Seasons in the Sun.) As soon as I could, I read anything I could get my hands on – including, I swear, hundreds of Harlequins – until my eyes burned. (Which worked just about as well as a good cry.)
I spent most of my childhood being really, god-awful, exhausted … and seeing a whole host of not-real things.
Somewhere around the age of 13-14, I discovered that I could painlessly drift off while watching television. I’ve rarely since slept in a room that didn’t have one.
In recent years, I’ve mostly figured out how to avoid becoming spacey-tired. I’ve convinced myself that my children are probably breathing. (Now that they are 25 and 16.) I’ve become a connoisseur of documentary narrators. (Peter Coyote and Paul Winfield are the best of the best.)
Since I recommitted to writing fiction and blogging, however, I’ve been getting by on less and less sleep. I checked my sleep log today, and discovered that in the last week I averaged five hours a night. Apparently that is not enough. When I saw the little girl last night, I realized that I have to be careful – even if I’m very much enjoying my new schedule. I won’t be a very reliable paranormalist if I keep this up.
Today was fraught with too many contrasting sensations and emotions. I basked in the warm sunlight, while ignoring the wintery scent (or absence of scent) that hung in the air. I celebrated a fantastic accomplishment with one friend, and cried at frightening news from another. Then I did the weirdest thing – I went back to working. I have checked every chore off my daily to-do list, yet I know something important has been left undone.
I can’t stop thinking about
what I should do about
a situation that I think I can do nothing about.
And, just a few minutes ago, I found this when I went to investigate a loud thump from upstairs:
I know one of the animals did it. I don’t know how or why. They were all looking sleepy and innocent in another room when I got up there. It’s nothing. But I had to take a photograph of it to share … because, somehow – when I saw it – it perfectly captured how I feel tonight.
This week, I half-watched / half-napped my way through a backlog of sappy chick-flicks. My animals gleam from long sessions of petting and brushing. (They’ve taken full advantage of my constant availability on the sofa.) The house, beyond my small recuperative area, feels weirdly unfamiliar. I’ve run out of clean fleece in which to swaddle myself.
I’m ready to not be sick anymore.
Today, I managed to watch Dementia 13 without falling asleep. (Probably because, earlier, I crashed during the second half of The Thin Man.) I ventured into the kitchen to make a pan of brownies. This evening, a riotous, southerly wind came up and I had to go outside – albeit briefly, and wrapped in a blanket – to enjoy the tumult. I must be feeling better.
Francis Ford Coppola’s directorial debut: Dementia 13 at IMDb.