Logbook of Terror: Ranger Danger

Russell Holbrook

The park ranger crouched in the bushes. Moaning voices echoed from a nearby tent. Black clouds collected overhead and the thick aroma of a gathering storm filled the night air. The ranger smiled. Roy had been doing this for years but it never got old. He looked up. A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Roy felt the familiar, electric buzzing in his bones. With stealth that was practiced and perfected, he crept up beside the tent. The mercury fillings in his teeth hummed. Roy stood up straight, right next to the tent. A woman in the tent announced that she was coming. A man testified in agreement. Their voices rose in tandem. They called out to God. Thunder roared. And a furious bolt of pure, white lightning hammered the tent. 

The lightning bolt pierced the tent’s ceiling. Burning heat struck the lovers. Electric waves fried their insides while their screams echoed in Roy’s ears. Flames danced inside the tent, growing and spreading over the thin fabric to create a funeral pyre. The bodies of the man and woman bounced in the fire. Their screams echoed through the mountains. Roy drew his gun. He waited. 

The woman sprung out of the fire, her skinned blackened and her hair ablaze. Roy shot her in the forehead. She stumbled into the brush and collapsed. The man followed. His arms flailed. He shouted and ran toward Roy. The ranger shot the man in the stomach. The young lover collapsed and Roy shot him two more times in the back of the head. Roy looked down at the young man’s charred skin. It glistened in the moonlight. “Barbeque for the bears,” he sneered.  

After watching the burning tent dwindle down to a smoldering pile, Roy stomped out the embers and strolled into the woods. 

***

“Yo, this weed is the bomb,” Mickey said. He coughed out a monster cloud of smoke and passed the joint to his left. Jane handled the fat spliff in her nimble fingers. She took a long drag and broke out in a coughing fit. Mickey giggled and took back the joint. “Damn, you’re gonna be so fried.”

Jane snickered. “I’m toasty.”

The two teens laughed and swung their legs from the tailgate of Jane’s truck. Leaves rustled and twigs snapped in the darkness behind them. 

“What the eff was that?” Mickey said, looking around. 

“What the eff was what?” 

“What?”

“That’s what I just asked you.” 

“Oh,” Mickey said.

“Oooohhhh!” Jane exclaimed.

Guffaws pealed from Mickey and Jane, covering up the rustle and crunch of approaching footsteps. 

Thunder cracked and shook the forest around them. Lightning burst through the sky, lighting up the dark, revealing Ranger Roy standing in front of them, his beady black eyes peering out from behind his thick glasses. His singed ranger hat sat snug on his head. A crooked smile crossed his face. 

Mickey and Jane started with a screech. Pure reaction caused Mickey to toss the half-smoked joint onto the ground. The ranger stepped closer.  

“Hey, kids, great night for a smoke, ain’t it?” Ranger Roy bent down and picked up the smoldering doobie. Smirking, he put the smoke to his lips and inhaled deep once, twice, three times. He held in the smoke and then let out a great plume into the air. The wind blew and carried the white cloud away. Another peal of thunder rattled the pines. “Ah, that’s a fine flavor there.”

Ranger Roy handed the joint back to Mickey and retrieved a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. “Helluva storm brewing,” he said. “You kids might wanna find shelter or head on home.”

Jane stared at the forest ranger through the thin slits that her eyes had become. “Old dude?” She said.

“Yes, young lady.”

She pointed at the black mark that covered the top of Roy’s hat. “What happened to your hat?”

“Oh, that’s just where I got popped with a bit of lightning,” Roy answered.

“Shit, man, I’ve heard of you!” Mickey piped in. “You’re that ranger.”

Roy grinned.

“What, is he like… famous?” Jane asked as Mickey passed her the joint.

“This old dude has been struck by lightning seven times!” 

“No shit?” Jane said.

“Seven times!” Mickey repeated. “He’s like, a fucking legend. You’re a legit legend, aren’t you, old dude?” 

The ranger cleared his throat and spit. “My name’s Roy, young man.” He straightened his hat and pulled his shoulders back. 

Jane elbowed Mickey. A deep, intoxicated smile came over her face. “Seven times… Seven times!” She fell into Mickey, laughing uncontrollably. 

Mickey sputtered and his sputters became wide, echoing booms. He and Jane clutched each other, wrapped in hysterics, oblivious to the lightning crisscrossing the sky overhead. 

“Seven times!” Mickey shouted, doubling over and nearly falling off the truck’s tailgate. “How does that even happen?”

Ranger Roy felt indignant. “Just an occupational hazard, that’s all.”

“Maybe you should get a new job, idiot!” Mickey howled.  

As the teens made fun of Roy, he felt the same, reliable buzzing in his back teeth. A pulse of electricity tickled his veins. The rolling chortles from the stoned teenagers punched him in the heart. He screamed, “Shut up!” 

 A monster bolt of lightning shot down from the clouds, forking just above Mickey and Jane, striking each of them in the face. Like melons under a jackhammer, their heads exploded. Blood and flesh and gore showered ranger Roy. Spewing blood from their necks, the teens’ headless corpses swayed and fell off the tailgate. 

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Roy shouted at the sky. He cackled triumphantly and skittered off into the trees. 

***

“Really, seven times?” The man asked.

Ranger Roy nodded from across the campfire that burned in the center of the small clearing. The man on the other side appraised the ranger.

“How’d you get all that blood on you?”

“Exploded teenagers.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

The man wore a careless, disheveled appearance. Roy figured him for either a weekend camper or someone on the run from the law, or, maybe even one of those hippie vagrant types. Ugh, hippies. The man took a long swig off the whiskey bottle and passed it to Roy, who allowed himself a generous gulp. He winced as the liquor burned its way down. Thunder struck above them, close. 

Ranger Roy glanced up. “Storms almost here.” 

The camper joined Roy in gazing up into the night sky. “Yep,” he added. 

Roy handed the bottle back to its owner. The man gripped the bottle and turned it up before setting it down at his side. He coughed and cleared his throat.

“So,” the camper began, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you still out on the job if you’ve been struck by lightning so many times? I mean, considering the probability, seven times is a high number.”

“I’m just doin’ the lord’s work,” Roy sighed. “Someone’s got to, you know.”

The camper snorted. “The lord, yeah right.” He spit into the fire. “I always wondered about you rangers. Are you protecting nature from us, or us from nature?” 

Roy grimaced. “Nature don’t need my protectin’, I’m just doin’ what’s asked of me, that’s all.” 

“What did nature… ask of you?” The camper said. His eyes glazed over as the whiskey took hold and slowed the man’s words. 

Roy looked at the man with hard, serious eyes. “Just to help maintain the balance. That’s what I do. I help.” Roy pulled out a cigarette and lit up.   

“Sure you do, old-timer, sure you do.” The camper eyeballed Roy’s cigarette. “You got another one of those?”

Roy reached into his front shirt pocket. The camper leaned forward and reached out his hand. A crack of low thunder bounced through the trees. A jagged streak of lightning shredded the darkness. The white-hot bolt stabbed the camper’s outstretched hand. A second flash lit up the pines and a ribbon of light nailed the man in the back. He cried out in agony. Electrical currents filled his body. Foam poured from his mouth.  

A third firebolt struck the camper on top of his head. Bright bolts of electricity bounced over the man’s convulsing body. He surged forward and fell face-first into the campfire. Ranger Roy stood up slowly. The camper’s body spasmed and became still. Roy threw his cigarette down on the man’s burning corpse. He removed a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. He grimaced.

“I thought I recognized you,” Roy said, looking from the paper in his hand to the man in the fire. 

In stark black and white, the leering face of the camper stared up at Roy from the flyer. Above the photo, bold letters announced that the man was wanted for the murder of a family of four. Roy tossed the flyer into the flames and watched it change form. He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved a short newspaper article. The headline read: After Killing Five Year Old Child in Hit and Run, Marijuana Using Teens are Released on Technicality. Roy thought of the teens’ exploding heads. He grinned and dropped the column of paper into the fire. For a third time, Roy reached into his pocket. Another article. A malicious husband and wife burned down a nursing home and eluded police. “They didn’t elude me,” Roy muttered. He tossed the paper into the fire. 

Roy lit another cigarette and listened to the quiet of the forest, of his home. He smiled and looked up into the dark sky. “Nice workin’ with you tonight.” 

A bright star peeked out from behind the cloud cover. It glimmered in the dark and seemed to wink at Roy. The tired old ranger laughed to himself and shuffled into the darkness, satisfied with a job well done. Once he was deep under the canopy of trees, the first drops of rain began to fall. 

Dark Divinations: Of Blood and Bones

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The Inspiration Behind “Of Blood and Bones.”

By Jeremy Megargee

I love the concept of Edward Hyde, this hulking abhorrent savage that emerges from behind an innocent veneer. I dressed as Hyde for Halloween last year and did a few little Instagram video skits to “get into character”…and it was so much fun. It’s cathartic to tap into that animal side which I think resides in all of us. I borrowed the classic monster for my story, and Camille gets to face him head-on…

I think with Camille, I got to really explore the aesthetic of the Victoria era. The style, the decorum, I focused more on the grimy back alleys of the time period, more of a Jack the Ripper vibe as opposed to elegance and frilly fashion. I feel like it’s the perfect time capsule for a horror story, there’s just this potential to introduce bloodshed, and I took full advantage of that. You can taste the muddy thoroughfares, feel the gore streaked across little boarder’s rooms, and when Hyde comes, that smothering presence just pulls you in…

I’m always aiming to inspire emotion with my stories, and I hope I was able to convey what a force Hyde was in this one, a dark and primal force, but a force nevertheless.

J MegargeeJeremy Megargee has always loved dark fiction. He cut his teeth on R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series as a child and a fascination with Stephen King’s work followed later in life. Jeremy weaves his tales of personal horror from Martinsburg, West Virginia with his cat Lazarus acting as his muse/familiar.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Perilous Weather!

Perilous Weather and Viewing! By Kristin Battestella

Lighting, mountains, bears, and storms – some of these horror movies are just as dangerous as the dark skies onscreen!

A Lonely Place to Die – Beautiful but perilous vistas, thunder, and misty but dangerous mountains – a risky place to whip out the camera! – open this 2011 hikers meet kidnappers parable starring Melissa George (Triangle), Alec Newman (Dune), and Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey). Eagles and aerial views quickly degrade into mistakes, hanging frights, and upside down frames. Ropes, gear, risk – people cause disaster among the otherwise still, respected beauty where they aren’t supposed to be resulting in cuts, scrapes, and falls. Weather interferes with their plans to climb the next killer facade but wishing one could paint the lovely forest and rocky scenery uncovers mysterious echoes from an ominous pipe and a trapped little girl. The hikers split up – several take the longer, safer route back to the nearby town – however there’s a more difficult path called Devil’s Drop that one couple brave climbing to reach help faster. Unfortunately, short ropes and sabotaged equipment create shocking drops and fatal cliffs. They aren’t wearing helmets so we can see the heroics, but no gloves against the sharp rocks, rough trees, and burning ropes, well that’s as dumb as not having a satellite phone. Unnecessary fake out dreams, annoying shaky cams, and distorted points of view detract from both the natural scary and the mystery of who else may be out there – fear on people’s faces is always more powerful than effects created for the audience. Guys with guns encountering more crazed men all in black with yet more kidnappers in pursuit also break the isolated situation too early. Unknowns snipers would better layer the environmental fears, raging river perils, terrain chases, and gunshots. Attacks from an unseen culprit are much more terrifying than knowing what poor shots they are even up close and with scopes. Injuries, screams, thuds, and broken limbs provide real menace, and we really shouldn’t have met the killers until they are over the victims asking them how much the price of their nobility hurts or what good compassion did for them today. Although double-crossing criminals playing the mysteries too soon compromises the good scares and surprise fatalities, fiery sunset festivals progress the mountain isolation to a ritual village suspicious. Fireworks and parades mingle with hog masks and alley chases – again suggesting people are where they shouldn’t be as the hiking dangers become congested public confrontations. While the crooks’ conspiracies get a tad ridiculous when innocent bystanders are killed in plain sight, this is a unique natural horrors cum kidnapping thriller remaining tense and entertaining despite some of those shout at the TV flaws.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Dead of Winter – Lovely snow-tipped trees, mountains, and chilly rivers begat hiking perils, rock tumbles, ropes cut, snowy crashes, and hungry wolves in this 2014 Canadian geocaching terror. Of course, there are bus driving montages, DUI histories, annoying music, getting gas in middle of nowhere clichés, and ridiculously hammy dialogue like “Is your cock ever soft?” “Only in your mommy!” WTF. One jerk films everybody in a camcorder point of view even as they clearly all have chips on their shoulders, but the sardonic documentation is forgotten as we quickly meet the cliché, overly excited nerds, angry lesbians, and the dude bros who want to watch amid nighttime scenery, windshield wipers, and the increasingly icy road. Although people are bundled up for this snowy treasure hunt, their faces are still Hollywood exposed as the teams run to and fro in the woods following creepy clues in a kind of humorous montage before no phone signals, a bus that won’t start, garroting logger cables, and explosions. If they’re stranded two hundred miles and at least four days walk from anywhere, why doesn’t anyone stay near the fiery bus for heat and signal fires? Everyone continues following the increasingly bizarre geocache reveals such as a gun with no bullets and a stopwatch promising screams in ninety seconds despite falling snow showers, waterfalls, and damaged bridges. One dumb ass know it all thinks a creaking old wood bridge with over a foot of snow on top the buckling boards is safe so they all go for it because he says there’s a quarry shortcut and a convenient cabin nearby, too. Somebody has to take a dump in the snow, it’s obvious who’s going to die next – cough one lesbian and the black guy cough – and the hip acting hampers the finger-pointing group divisions. Thanks to the straightforward rather than herky-jerky filming, we can see the bloody hangings, torn limbs, and splatter gore, but arrows and crossfire reveal the killer far too soon when a movie about a treasure hunt shouldn’t give up its reward until the end. Head scratching cutaways, airplane rescue fake-outs, and whining about missing pizza further break audience immersion as no one complains about blisters, cold, or frostbite on their gloveless hands. No one is tired – least of all the driver who drove all night and then drank all day who says he’ll stay up on watch while the others sleep. They didn’t follow the river but are later glad to have handy flashlights and booze to drink as they joke about eating the tubby jerk first rather than addressing any real cannibalism horror. Jealously, one person that is not so mysteriously absent, a knife plus a pen and suddenly anybody can do an instant tracheotomy – it takes an hour for someone to realize this was planned revenge thanks to some prior competition because geocaching is a mad competitive and dangerous sport! The riddles and underground hideouts run out of steam with sagging contrivances and overlong, predictable explanations. This is watchable with entertaining horror moments, however the cliché points and outlandish but wait there’s more on and on will become too laughable for some. Our survivors may have beaten the horror hunt, but everyone apparently forgets they’re still stranded in the wilderness before the fade to black. Oops.

One to Skip

Backcountry – From packing in the parking garage and highway traffic jams to embarrassing sing a longs and a Cosmo quiz for relationship backstory, this 2014 Canadian survival thriller from writer and director Adam MacDonald (Pyewacket) has plenty of cliches for this city couple in the woods. Sunlit smiles, peaceful canoe pretty, and happy hiking montages can’t belie the ominous when the audience enters in with full knowledge of the impending horror. At the country rest stop, a ranger warns them of bad weather and closed, out of season trails, however our big man insists he doesn’t need medical kits or a map. He ignores minor injuries, mocks his inexperienced girlfriend’s preparations, leaves his ax behind, and lights a fire before leaving it to go skinny dipping. Not only do these actions completely contradict everything Survivorman taught us, but these people also don’t know they are in a scary movie. A sudden stranger at their campsite creates obvious jealousy and inferiority complexes but weird accents, racist questions, contrived dialogue, and stereotypical characterizations interfere with the attempted tension. Fortunately, askew angles on the trail, going off the path doubts, isolated nature sounds, and lookalike trees invoke better suspense as the camera blurs and pans with confusion or pain thanks to disgusting toenail gore. Up close views inside the cramped, not so safe tent build fear alongside snapping branches and bear footprints, but of course this guy doesn’t believe the supposedly overreacting woman who wants to go home when she hears something amiss. No dumbass, it isn’t acorns falling on the outside of the tent, and you should have never taken her phone and left it in the car! It takes a half hour for the innate wilderness horrors to get going, but the suspense is continually interrupted by the obnoxious behavior – wasting water, blaming her for their situation when it is clearly his fault, and her apologizing after confessing he is a loser just trying to impress her. Why couldn’t they have gone on an easier hike when she never wanted to go in the first place? Proposal excuses aren’t enough when you continually ignore dead carcasses nearby and claim it was just a raccoon that ate your food. Drinking the mini champagne bottles is not going to help their situation! Despite well-done heartbeats, ringing in the ears, and tumbling down the ravine camera views, there’s simply not enough character development and story here to sustain the wait for the superbly bloody, frenetic bear attacks in the finale. Gore, scares, screams, growls, and maulings fall prey to a just missed ’em helicopter rescue opportunity as our final girl inexplicably becomes an expert runner, rock climber, and field medic before pretty deer and dumb luck save the day. Is this uplifting music and girl power ending just a dream of what she wishes happens because otherwise, it is ridiculously unlikely. Where Pyewacket expressly defies the horror tropes checklist, this does nothing but adhere to it – becoming only worth watching if you want to yell at the people or fast forward to see them get what they deserve. ¯\_()_/¯ The bear isn’t the villain, human superiority is!

Camp Country

Stormswept – Grand columns, bayou scenery, candles, thunder, ghostly gusts, and possessions start this almost seventies feeling 1995 romp starring Kathleen Kinmont (Renegade) amid realtors avoiding a house of horrors disclosure and muddy accidents. The chandeliers and staircase grandeur can also be seen in North and Southbut there are spiders, covered furniture, and flashes of past boobs, blood, and some kind of skeleton dildo thingie. Saucy paintings abound, naughty books contain graphic ejaculation or cunnilingus art, and red four-poster beds await. This is obviously low budget Skinemax style – so despite the eerie atmosphere, some scary filming, ominous silhouettes in rain slickers, and frightful reflections in the window, one can’t tell if everyone is going to die or have sex, probably both. Four women and two men are Marilyn Chambers numbers! It takes too long for the crew to get stranded at the plantation, but the film within a film chases feature girls in white shirts and no bras while playing into girl on girl fantasies with let’s get off your wet clothes talk and accidental towel drops. I laughed out loud at that, I really did! Although the dated midriffs, acid wash jeans, giant old portable phone, and faxed paperwork are bemusing, most of the sexual dialogue is uncomfortable. The men say once a guy has sex with another man he’s a homosexual but it’s okay for the women to experiment for them as it doesn’t make them lesbians. Truth or dare demands the women kiss, word association games start with “pink” – it’s disturbing the way actor turned luxury rehab guru Justin Carroll’s director character has these women trapped, doing what he wants and not caring if anyone is upset by the sex chats. Whooshing storm effects live up to title and there’s a torture history binding everyone to the house, but not much sense is made of this evil spirit driving one and all to sex and kill. The overlong wet dream confessions and lez be friends scenes embrace the step above soft core rather than exceed that lower rung with the horror. I almost wish this could be redone to be more quality. Hidden people in the basement, secret diaries, murders – but our actress has never had an orgasm and it’s more important for the manipulative director to hypnotize her into touching herself in front of everyone like Showgirls thrashing in the pool. She recalls painful abuse and incest memories, but he tells her she need not be guilty over masturbating with her brother and can go ahead and have her ultimate sexual fantasy about Alex Trebek. O_o o_O I thought this was supposed to be a horror movie! While terribly laughable and base level entertaining, I just… insert Nathan Fillion confused gif here. Is there even a saucy ghost or is this what happens when you lock messy horny people in the house on a stormy night?

Revisit More Dangerous Weather Viewing:

Water Perils

Witches and Bayous

Forest Frights

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jeremy Megargee

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Jeremy Megargee has always loved dark fiction. He cut his teeth on R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series as a child, and a fascination with Stephen King’s work followed later in life. Jeremy J Megargeeweaves his tales of personal horror from Martinsburg, West Virginia, with his cat Lazarus acting as his muse/familiar.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I think I’ve always liked the idea of the Victorian era. The fashion, the architecture, the whole aesthetic… 

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”…one of my all-time favorite stories in general. I love the duality and the descent into excess and depravity, Dorian drinking down sin and remaining flawless, but his portrait taking on all that ugliness.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Crimson Peak is high on my list. The monster designs were great, and the time period was so well captured.

Are your characters based on real people?

Camille is 100% fictional, but Edward Hyde belongs to the public domain courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Always by the seat of my pants. Ideas click together for me, and I’m able to fit them into something resembling a coherent jigsaw puzzle.  It’s a method that has always worked out well!

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

Usually, I’m aware of their fates far in advance, but if something changes in my mind, the character can easily go in a totally different direction.

What are you most afraid of?

Public speaking. I hate it with soooo much passion, but I’m working to overcome that fear. I think I’m desensitized to most other “fears” people would have just because I eat, breathe, and sleep the horror genre.

What is your favorite form of divination? 

The one featured in my story, “throwing the bones”.

Who is your favorite horror author?

All-time favorite is Stephen King, modern fresh voice on the horror scene is Nick Cutter. 

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Hopefully more writing and more opportunities to work with all kinds of different publishers. I’m almost always writing and submitting new short stories, and it’s pretty much a steady trickle when it comes to output for me depending on what gets accepted and what gets rejected. I have several things coming out later this year with a variety of different presses, and I’m stoked to keep it going. If you want to follow my writing updates and general dark-humored craziness, find me on Instagram.

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

 

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Alan Fisher

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Alan Fisher is an attorney living in Washington, D.C.  He’s published two novellas, Servant of the Muses and A Pearl for Her Eyes, under the name Brad White.  His story, “The Alan FisherConfession of Diego Stoessel,” was included in Alban Lake Publishing’s Lovecraftian anthology, City in the Ice. Another short story, “Pangloss,” was featured on the Hugo Award-winning podcast Starship Sofa.  His favorite authors include John le Carré, William Gibson, Raymond Chandler, and Neal Stephenson.  When not writing, he enjoys playing board games with his wife and sons and running role-playing games for his friends.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I’ve always been a reader of history, with a particular focus on military history.  The Victorian era was such a critical time for the shaping of the modern world that I naturally was interested in it.  From the Great Game in Central Asia to the Scramble for Africa, you will find a lot of threads we’re still pulling at today started back in Victoria’s time.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Probably not regarded as a horror story by many, but any beast that can make Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson freeze, even for a moment, is one to be reckoned with.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie?

I can’t say I have a particular favorite.

Are your characters based on real people?

Not really.  The Constable of the Tower could be seen as an echo of the classic Colonel Blimp stereotype, the aged colonial soldier with the big mustache, I suppose.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I dislike the term ‘pantser,’ but it is what I am.  My first work started simply from the idea that “my muse had left me,” which ended up as the first line – “My muse walked out of my life on a cool October morning . . . .” – in a noir urban fantasy novella.  I really had nothing more to go from.  Similarly, for The Moat House Cob, the story started with a quick check of Wikipedia’s list of divination methods, which led to arachnomancy, and from there the story unfolded.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

How could they have free will?  I created them and determine what will happen to them.  That’s part of their horror!

What are you most afraid of?

These days all my fears seem horrifyingly mundane, but I’ve never been a fan of spiders (as my story attests).

What is your favorite form of divination?

I don’t believe any of them work, but I’ve always enjoyed Tarot decks for the art and the symbolism.  A particular favorite is Edward Gorey’s Fantod pack.  They’re interesting to study and, when you have no good ideas, tossing a few around might spark something.

Who is your favorite horror author?

I’m almost hesitant to say old Howard Philips Lovecraft, but I must give credit where it’s due.  I’d also add early Steven King, Lord Dunsany, Neil Gaiman, and Charlie Stross.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Sadly, I haven’t done much writing lately.  I’m about 50,000 words into an actual novel, but not a horror piece.  I have about a dozen fragments and starts, some horrifying, and some just horrifically bad.

 

Odds and Dead Ends : Gothic influences in Wes Craven’s Shocker

When people think of Wes Craven and supernatural slasher films, they think of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Perfectly justified, of course, as Freddy is one of the biggest icons of horror cinema. However, often overlooked however is his 1989 film Shocker, for some justifiable reasons including awful 80s CGI and an incredibly messy second half with little regard for laws of its own unreality. But at its core, and especially for the first third of the film, the gothic elements of the story are undeniable, and it’s a genuinely interesting case of a modern ghost story in the urban gothic vein.

There are gothic influences all over the film, but what tipped me off was the police invasion of Pinker’s TV shop. We head past the initial lobby of televisions playing visions of war and death and enter a dimly lit series of dusty hallways, hardware packed into the shelves on either side. We’ve dispensed with the creaky castle library and entered a modern equivalent of television sets. Noises in the dark. Turn around. Nobody there. We feel a presence nearby but can’t see them. This is classic haunted house stuff going on here.

And then we get the big tip-off as to the influence. We get a POV shot, very Hitchcockian (thinking especially of Norman Bates peering through the peephole into Marion’s room in Psycho), of Pinker’s eye up to a gap in the shelf, peering into the shop. The monster’s hiding in the walls. A policeman stands guard nearby. Nothing. And then hands shoot through the shelves, catches him. He’s pulled back against the shelves, and the whole thing pivots in on a hinge. The cop is dragged inside and the shelf snaps back in line, never to be considered again.

A few minutes later Jonathan (the MC) and his father appear, none the wiser save for a smoking cigarette on the floor. And then they discover the horrible truth when they see blood pooling out from underneath the shelf, like those ghostly legends of old mansions where the walls drip red. Breaking their way in they find cats flayed and dead-on hooks, red lighting from the cinematography department reinforcing the demonic aspect. And then there’s the body in the middle of the room, throat cut, blood on the floor.

This is classic gothic stuff. The secret passageway in the walls is complete Scooby-Doo, Agatha Christie, even some Sherlock Holmes (I’m thinking here of The Musgrave Ritual in particular). The Cat and the Canary did it as well. We’re in the middle of a slasher movie, and we’ve got secret panels and hiding places? We might even claim that these secret passages go even further back, to the origins of the gothic, in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the story we take the term ‘gothic’ from in its now traditional literary application.

And yet somehow it doesn’t feel out of place, doesn’t feel corny, because we can understand that Craven is deliberately drawing upon these influences to create a gothic atmosphere. This is important, as it subtly clues us into the paranormal parts of the film that come into play when he is electrocuted in the chair, turned into a horror version of the Phantom Virus from Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (those movies were great, Cyber Chase an underappreciated meta gem of Scooby-Doo lore for the final third act).      If the ghost aspect had come out of nowhere, we might have complained that it was too much of a shift from straight serial killer to paranormal horror, but here these elements help to ease the transition over. Not much, because it’s still a jolt switching subgenres, but it helps nonetheless. I’m not sure how the blood pooled all the way from the chair to spread under the shelf because it’s a hell of a long way. Perhaps this is faintly paranormal in origin, the cop’s spirit doing what it needs to do to alert the living to its final resting place in a bid to stop his killer? Most likely it’s a goof and I’m reading way too much into it, but it’s certainly a possible reading if you wanted to go that far.

Let’s also remember that, even after the electrocution, the film is in essence a ghost story. Whereas in centuries before a spirit might have inhabited a suit of armor, or roamed the walls of the courtyard in which they were executed, here we have a modern updating, inhabiting the electricity that we have harnessed for our own ends. This criticism of our device-ridden society which wasn’t as prevalent when the film came out, but certainly on the rise, was inherent in genre storytelling of the time. Cyberpunk arose as a subgenre a few years before to question our reliance on technology.

And a few years after Shocker, we see the influx of films from Asia that combined a malevolent spirit and technology to demonstrate new fears of a society rapidly flying into the future. Films like Ringu, One Missed Call, Shutter, Noroi, even The Eye to a certain extent (the elevator scene is my example here, with the apparition not appearing on the security camera), would be films that take this concept and run with it, infusing into their tales a very gender-based morality tale of using a stereotypically male industry (technology) and using it as a vehicle for the classic avenging female spirit of folklore.

Could one orient Shocker as a modern gothic gateway to these tales? I suspect most would argue against it, but as has been critiqued in countless essays, articles, and books, there is not one film history, but multiple readings of film histories. As it stands, the genre itself is also fluid and a very pliable concept in itself. I’m not using any of these arguments to state that Shocker is a great film, because although fun, it’s most certainly hovering just in the ‘mediocre’ range of horror films. However, that these more traditional elements find their way into divisive and forgotten films might go some way to showing that it’s not just the revered masterpieces of regarded canon that have interesting literary facets to their makeup.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental