Book Review: Her Dark Inheritance Meg Hafdahl

Book Review: Her Dark Inheritance by Meg Hafdahl

Don’t be alone. Not at Night. Not in Willoughby.

Willoughby, Minnesota is an idyllic small town in Middle America. It boasts one café, one motel, and a population of five-hundred-nine. But, there are more than small town secrets hiding in the shadows of the town square. Something lurks just out of sight—and out of mind—from the residents. A bloody history of accidents, violence, and murder plagues Willoughby and threatens the town even in the present.

In July 1982, someone brutally murdered three members of the Bergman family with an ax in their Willoughby home. For decades, town suspicion has fallen on the sole survivor of the bloody massacre: Caroline, the Bergman’s teenage daughter.

But Daphne Forrest knew her mother not as Caroline Bergman, but as Jane Downs-Forrest. It wasn’t until Jane’s death that Daphne found out that her mother was the suspected murderer that newspapers had dubbed The Minnesota Borden.

Daphne visits Willoughby for the first time, looking for answers to questions about the woman she thought she knew. She may not have grown up in Willoughby, but Daphne quickly finds that she shares a connection with the town that not even the residents can fathom. Willoughby wants to show her something, something that can save the town and, maybe, Daphne herself.

Thrust into memories of unfathomable violence and fear, Daphne must face her own mistakes and find a strength that her mother never had. If she wants to get out of Willoughby alive, she must face an evil that has stalked the small town since its founding.

Her Dark Inheritance follows in a glorious tradition of American ax murderers, but it’s far from the typical tale.

Meg Hafdahl creates characters real enough to climb off the page, including a monster that stalks you long after the novel’s last sentence. The town of Willoughby itself is as real as any character. Vividly described, it’s delightful and terrifying in equal measure. It embodies an abusive relationship that traps the residents in a situation where manipulation masquerades as protection and “this is for your own good” can be just as sinister as any threat. The story raises questions that strike to the core of all of us: What does it mean to be evil? What does it mean to be weak?

Hafdahl weaves an intricate tale of betrayal, murder, and small town intrigue. Her brilliant narrative style keeps you guessing from beginning to end about the next shocking twist. Whether it’s the truth about the Bergman murders or Daphne’s ultimate fate, Hafdahl keeps you at her mercy through every page.

I haven’t read a book in one sitting in a long time, but I couldn’t put down  Her Dark Inheritance. ‘One more chapter’ led to ‘one more chapter’ and ‘one more chapter’ after that. The book is labelled for Young Adults, but is just as gripping for adults. I recommend it whole-heartedly, especially for those who like to see the darker side of the American Dream.


Interview with Best in Blood Winner, Mark Taylor

1)      How do you feel about having the title Best in Blood?

It was amazing – and hearing my reaction back, I can say I was stunned. It is such an honor to hold the award!

2)      How did you start writing? What inspires you to write?

I was always interested in writing from a young age, but I had other interests that – at the time – became priority. I ended up on the slippery slope to being a rock star! *coughs* Well, I was the lead in a metal and for several years, and after that I concentrated on my career. Flash forward to me, mid-thirties. I took up writing again some years back, and found that I loved it.  I find that different writings can help me along with how I’m feeling. Bad day at the office? Someone’s getting murdered on the page. Perhaps skinned first. Who knows? Nice relaxing day? Time for a little humor.

3)      What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m finishing up book two of the Witches series, Blood of the Covenant. I’m also (still) editing Vampire Blue – the first in a series of novels that is all noir detective Bogart, with vampires. More detective, less biting.

4)      When you are not writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?

Moooooooovies! Ha. I love cinema. I run a movie site, and just adore film and television. I’m a massive supporter of Indie film, and short film. And, of course, I’m all about the horror. I’m also okay in the kitchen, and I pretty much watch all the decent cookery shows. And even some Guy Fieri.

5)      When did you start writing? How did you know you were going to be a writer?

As I said before, I started seriously writing again in my thirties. It started at first not only about the writing, but also the close community. Back in the days of forums *shows age*. But I had some short story successes, which led to me taking on longer works, and now I rarely write short stories. I love putting the tale together. It’s part of the thrill for me, and one of the reasons I can’t see me stopping.

6)      Who are your favorite authors?

Well, I have an obvious list – King, Barker, etc – but there is some really hot talent out there at the moment. I’m currently reading Craig Saunders The Dead Boy – and man, does he know how to weave. I totally dig Chuck Wendig – particularly his Miriam Black books.

7)      Have you seen the new IT movie? What was your thoughts on it?

I’ve not seen it yet, but I can’t wait for the home release – in January here, I believe. I’ve heard good things about it. I love the TV miniseries, but I’m hoping this will one up it!

8)      Have you had writer’s block? How did you unblock?

Sadly the block gets us all sometimes. I can’t offer any great advice on beating it, but I have found that writing anything helps. Writing for my movie site is particularly good – my film reviews and features are just me expounding on my feelings, so it’s pretty easy to do. I think it’s just about flow, more than anything else, so starting the flow of words helps.

9)      Do you do something special for Halloween? Did you dress up? If so, what were you?

I’m not really a get out and party guy – and the area I live in has a lot of activities for younger people (Old man shakes fist at cloud).  But I do have a kick-ass Jedi Costumes that comes out on occasion. Being 6’4 and bearded makes for difficult costuming, but I think, given the opportunity, I might put together a Michael Myers costume. I could pull that off.

10)   What is your favorite monster?

Ack! So many to choose from! But honestly I’ve always been a Freddy fan. And Kong, of course. Maybe Gremlins, too. But not forgetting Dracula. And Frankenstein’s monster. Wolfman (He’s got nards, you know).

11)   How can we find your works?

The easiest place to find me is on my website, my Amazon page, or Facebook:

Movie Review: Caller ID Entity

The messages are real.

Caller ID Entity is a modern horror think piece, capitalizing on a form of reality driven fear that has become increasingly popular lately. The movie derives from actual messages and testimonials of people claiming to have been the victims of mind-control experiments. While the messages themselves are harrowing, creator Eric Zimmerman transforms them into more than the crazed ravings of deranged individuals. The film asks: whom can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?

Caller ID Entity follows four young men—Dale (Denny Kirkwood), Miles (James Duval), Noah (Nathan Bexton), and Tristan (Triton B. King)—after they enroll in an unusual graduate study program run by Dr. Adam Whitney (Douchan Gersi). At the beginning, they all believe the goal of their research is to understand the causes of psychopathy, but, as the practicalities of their studies grow increasingly disturbing, the men realize that they’re into something far more sinister than they could have imagined. They are the latest victims in a mind-control experiment that challenges the very basis of humanity. The film follows them as they spiral deeper into madness and discover a network of survivors trying to expose the people who used them. They must separate truth from paranoia and find justice before time runs out.

Set in urban Los Angeles, Caller ID Entity capitalizes on the masses of humanity to reinforce the movie’s themes. People are portrayed as pawns—easily disposed and forgotten. Cellphones and cameras are everywhere in the city. When that technology can be used to hijack the mind, the threat is everywhere.

The cinematography reinforces this further. Caller ID Entity pulls from a variety of genres, using filming styles from documentaries, reality television, and experimental film. The result is a story that feels as if it takes place just on the fringe of reality. It walks the edge between life and fiction, between the belief that it could be true and the conviction that it is too crazy to be so.

Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and interviews break up the narrative, creating a looming sense of doom. We suspect throughout that there is no happy conclusion for the characters, yet we cannot turn away from their downfall. We are kept in suspense, hoping for any outcome other than the one we’ve glimpsed and wondering how anyone could fall so far.

The story has more than one basis in reality. A psychology experiment in the 1960’s found that people are willing to commit atrocities if pressured by an authority figure (interested? Look into the Milgram Experiments). This premise finds new life in Caller ID Entity, where the four young men find themselves involved in increasingly sinister experiments, spurred on by Dr. Whitney with encouragement that it is all for the betterment of mankind. While we may sit back and say we would never do anything so twisted, science says otherwise.

Caller ID Entity does not employ jump scares or extreme gore, but if you’re looking for a form of speculative science fiction or experimental horror that piggybacks off the everyday, this film is for you.

Free Fiction: Breeder by Tanisha D. Jones



Tanisha D. Jones

            They had been traveling for what felt like months under the unrelenting heat of the sun when they finally reached the metal wall that encircled the Forbidden City.  Their food had been exhausted after the first week, their last rations of water just the day before, so seeing the gleaming metal in the distance had been a wondrous revelation.   Their bodies were so void of water that they no longer had the ability to perspire. Instead, they simply stumbled forward hoping to find relief.   At first, they had believed it to be a mirage, a trick of the mind.  But as they moved closer, the shine of the polished silver nearly blinding them, they knew that they had reached their destination. Finally, as they were ready to lie in the scorching sand and let death take them, they had received a reprieve.

They’d left the cool dank tunnels of the hidden valley in search of this dome of chrome and steel. The fabled Forbidden City had been spoken only in hushed tones in Gizli, their home since the great wars that had ravaged the planet.  Millions had died, but those that had survived had been forced underground in the lush mountain valleys of the east.  The west had been devastated, with many cities wiped from the earth. Only the myth of the domed city had remained, the city that had been protected and survived the annihilation of a planet. There had been stories of the strange and unnatural creatures that were to inhabit it. As children that had been told stories of the others in warning.  “Mind your mother or the other will take you to the Forbidden City”, had made many a child heedful. But today, it was to be their salvation.

Screaming for assistance with voices that barely worked above a whisper, they were relieved and horrified.  They had come so far, yet they still were outside of the city, still unable to reach help. Falling to their knees, they pounded the searing metal with hands crackled and bleeding from the unrelenting heat. Finally, exhausted, the two collapsed into a heap in the sun backed sand, too dehydrated to shed tears.

They flinched slightly as the blast of cool air washed over them as the massive wall parted. From inside the darkened cavern sever white clad figures emerged searching the horizon for more travelers. Realizing that these were the only outsiders to venture to their compound, they took them in.  They half dragged, half carried the limp bodies behind the great wall into their fortress, the heavy doors sliding closed as they went deeper into the darkness.

“Where do you think they came from?”

“I wonder if there are more of them.”

“They must come from a cooler climate. Look at the clothes.”

“They had to come from the east.   It’s been decades since we’ve seen anyone else.”

“They are so young. They will be missed.”

“How did they get so far from home?”  Men were speaking around her; she could hear them through the haze of her exhausted sleep. She could also hear tiny rhythmic beeps and the hiss of something over her head. There was something on her face, something soft and assaulting her with cool, fresh air.  She lay in a cocoon of warmth and felt herself drifting back into the darkness when someone touched her arm.

“She’s waking.”   She struggled to open her eyes to see who was speaking in the hushed, strangely accented tones around her.  She tried to speak, but she couldn’t find her voice. The only sounds she could make were soft moans and grunts.

One of the people around her ran something hard and metallic across her face and she opened her eyes, slowly at first.  The room was blurry then gradually came into focus.   The people she had heard were men, seven of them. They were tall and thin with intelligent eyes and dark hair. She stared for a moment, not sure if she were fully awake. They were of similar height and build, all dressed in white.  Some were older, some younger, but all similar. The resemblance was eerie and could only be familial, she thought.

She blinked and stared from one to the other before turning her attention to her surroundings. The room was bright with electric light, and unlike anything she had ever seen before.  She was in a bedroom.  A true girl’s bedroom with an actual bed and carpeted floors. There was a bureau and closets and deep fluffy down pillows and a soft duvet that enveloped her in a cloud of pink and white.

“Can you sit up?” One of the younger men asked, and she nodded, weakly pulling herself into sitting position.  She looked down at herself as the covers fell to pool around her hips and waist. Her thick dark hair had been loosened from the head wrap and tumbled over her shoulder in thick braids.   They had removed the long earth colored duster she’d worn to protect her skin from the sun and replaced it with a long and pristine white dressing gown with a high collar.

She’d seen gowns like this in the tattered books and magazines that had been housed in the records room of the Gizli.  The beeping she’d heard were machines that monitored her heart and breathing. She looked at her arms to see tubes running from her arm to a bag that was suspended besides the bed where clear liquid flowed into her.

“Is this a – hosepitol?” She asked through the mask that was secured over her nose and mouth.  He reached up and gently removed the mask, making it easier for him to understand her.  She flinched as the cool air hit her raw and hoarse throat from days of being exposed to the elements. Her eyes still stung as if sand had been embedded.  She had been cleaned though, bathed, her hair washed and her skin smelled of rose water. She looked at the men, wondering which of them had seen her bare body, or if they had all taken turns staring at her lithe, tanned body.

“Hospital?  Sort of.  This is your room.  What is your name?”  The youngest of the men asked.  His hark hair had not yet began to grey like some of the other men.  His eyes were bright and clear, and as blue as the sky.  She had never seen eyes like that. The people of her valley had dark eyes and hair, their skin a tawny brown, where these men were pale as if the sun’s rays never touched their skin.  They were pretty men with soft features, she thought, thin lips, high cheekbones and round faces.  The men from Gizli had strong angular faces.  She found them to be mystifying and peculiar creatures, alien to her.

The others stared at her, then at the young man before the six slowly and silently exited the room.

“I am Sebastian.” He said when she did not answer.

“Lucy.” She mumbled. Suddenly, her heart began to race and the beeping increasing as she felt the dread knot tightening in her chest.

“Oliver. Where is Oliver?” She asked, ripping the mask from her face.  Sebastian placed a staying hand on her thigh and shushed her as the other men backed away.

“Oliver is fine.  He was in much worse condition and he needs more rest.  You two came a long way. “ She relaxed, feeling a sudden calm over her. Something in this strange man’s soothing tone and gentle touch worked like the sleep elixir her mother had given her when she’d been afflicted with the fevers.

“What were you two doing out there, Lucy?” He asked. She liked the way he said her name. She liked the way he looked, she decided.

“Oliver and I left before the Goä  began the matching ceremony.”  She said, tears welling in her deep brown eyes. Sebastian’s pretty face creased slightly.

“What is the matching ceremony?” He asked.

“The matching ceremony is when the Goä, the elders, match breeders to husbands. “  She said as if this were common knowledge.

“Breeders?” Sebastian asked.

“Women who can born a child. “  She said, her own brow creased in confusion.

“I do not understand. “ Sebastian said.

“After the great wars, most of the women in the valleys were taken by illnesses. Of those left, only a few were able to born a child, a healthy child.  The Goä decided that it would be best that those women were matched to the strongest and smartest of men.  In the valleys, men outnumber women ten to one. After a girl has her first year of bleeding, she is matched.   She is given to a husband, and if she borns two boys, she is matched to another until a girl is born.  Some women have been matched ten time or more. My own mother had seven matches before I was born.”

“And you wanted to be matched to Oliver?” He asked. Lucy laughed and shook her head.

“Oh goodness no.  Oliver is my kin, we share a mother.  Oliver is outcast in the valleys. He is- he does not- he – he is of like mind of the women.”

“You mean he is homosexual?”  Sebastian asked.

“You use such words,” Lucy sighed, a smile on her lips.  She was quiet pretty when she smiled, Sebastian thought as he looked at her. “Oliver lies with men the way a woman does.” She said.

“How old are you Lucy?”  He asked.

“I am eighteen years old.”

“And this is your first time being matched?”

She nodded and tears, once again filled those expressive brown eyes.  She sniffed and smiled weakly.

“I was a later bloomer.  Mother said that it is good luck. The women who bleed later almost always born girls first.   I was matched to the Goä Supreme. “

“And you did not want this?” Sebastian asked.

“Goä Supreme is very old and very cruel.  All of his matches have died while trying to born his children.   They all went to the illness. All of them. I did not want to be the next.”

“So you came here?  How did you know of this place?”

“As children we are told the history of the great wars.  We are told of the wars that started across the seas, about the magic city under the dome where the forbidden men and women live and do evil things with magic and machines. Only Oliver, Oliver found a man. A man who had come from the west many many years ago.  He lived in the broken city near the seas, where the fruit trees grow.  The man told Oliver that as a boy he had come from the City in search of more survivors.  He said the people here were scientists and smart men and women who lived in peace. He said that people like Oliver would be welcome and accepted. Oliver asked him to bring him here, but the man could only show him the way with his maps. When it was foretold by the Goä Mother that I was to be matched with the Goä Supreme, Oliver and I ran. “

“This man, who was he? What did he look like?” Sebastian asked.

“I never met the man. Oliver did. All I know is that he was very old when Oliver met him and that his name was Adam. Can I see Oliver now?” She asked, her throat becoming raw and dry, her eyes becoming heavy.

“Later.  We will talk again after you have rested and eaten. Rest well, Lucy.“  Sebastian said and left the room as quickly and as quietly as the others had.  The electric lights dimmed as he exited the room and she immediately feel into a deep dreamless sleep.


             For several weeks, Lucy and Sebastian followed this same pattern. He would enter her room, waking her from her slumber to ask her questions about illness and those in the east, but mostly he would ask her about Adam.

“I did not know Adam,” she would say,  ”you must ask Oliver.” He would test her blood and look at pages of test results.  One of the older men, the ones who did not speak to her had come and taken the tubes from her arms.  The beeping machines had been taken from the room and she could stand and  walk across the room.

On the first day she was allowed to walk across the carpet, she had found the sensation exhilarating.  She had been eager to sink her feet into the plush pink carpeting.  She got on all fours and sank her fingers into it, then lay on her back and reveled in the feel of the softness of the floor. The food that was brought was the most delicious she’d ever had, fresh fruit and fish from clean streams, beef, chicken and vegetables. Sebastian explained that the dome had its own ecological system and there were farms and gardens as well as schools and entertainment vaults.  One some nights he would bring actual movies to her bedroom and they would watch television shows on DVDs. They would listen to music and he would bring her books that still looked new.  He would teach her his words spend time with her. He was her friend, but she still felt unease with him sometimes.

She had even attempted to lift the shades on the windows to see what was on the other side. She had never seen and actual window and was curious as to the world inside the dome.  Instead, she found the shade locked into place.  Every day, Sebastian would come and every day she would as to see Oliver.

“He is still resting.  You will see him soon.” Sebastian would say before leaving her to the darkness of the bedroom.  On her second day, Lucy realized that something was strange about this place.   She only felt that way when Sebastian was not in the room with her.    She was never allowed beyond these walls. She had her own bathroom with a bathtub with hot and cold water, and new clothes. Her every need met, and all she had to do was let Sebastian and the others take her blood every few days. A small price to pay for everything she could ever need or want, yet she felt trapped. Like a prisoner in a perfect cell.

During the fifth week, when Sebastian entered the room, he found Lucy standing at the window. Her arms wrapped around her waist, her face set in grim determination.

“Good Morning, Lucy.” He said with that smile.

“I want to see Oliver.” She said ignoring the pleasantries.  “I want to see him now.”

“Do not upset yourself. You are still very weak-“He reached for her and she moved away.

“I am not weak.  That is something you know very well, with all of your tests and machines. You know that I am strong. I am also very smart, Sebastian.  I want to see Oliver, Now!” She screamed.

“Please, be calm. I will take you to see him.  Come.”  She calmed as he went to open the door, but she did not come close to him. She would not let him touch her.  Something about his smile was much more sinister than it had been before and it made her skin crawl.  He placed a hand on her lower back, and from the corner of her eye she saw a flash of metal only a split second before she reacted.

Deftly, she slapped at his hand, surprising him with her strength. She crouched low and kicked, sweeping his feet from under him.  He fell to the floor with a muted thud, the syringe embedded deeply into his upper thigh.  He grunted , slowly pulling the needle from his thigh seconds before she made her way for the door.

She threw the door open and raced down a narrow corridor awash in harsh yellow lighting. She ran blindly, pausing only briefly at the doors that lined that hallway, testing them, calling Oliver’s name before moving on.  Sebastian was hot on her heels, his pretty face twisted in anger as he raced after her.

“Lucy, Come back. Wait!”  He pleaded.

She was nearly ready to give up when she saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Her feet hurt as they pounded against the concrete, her breath coming in painful bursts.  Her side ached and she felt as if she were going to vomit. Instead, she pushed harder until she reached the end of the hallway and her expected salvation.

Instead, she came up short, stopping abruptly as she  came to stand on a metal grate  at the end of the hallway. She stared ahead in confused terror, her heart pounding and her eyes filling with tears.  Slowly, she approached the railing that lined the grated balcony that loned the interior of the massive room, her jaw slack.   Behiond her, she could hear Sebastian approaching. His own breathing labored and strained as he came to stand beside her.

“What is this place?”

She stared up at the curved ceiling of the dome, and then down across that massive interior her heart twisting in her chest.   She stared straight ahead at the massive structure; the girders that crisscrossed the space were lined with hundreds and hundreds of pods, filled with a pale blue liquid.  Above and below, the dome was lined with platforms exactly like the one on which she found herself.  Men in white coats moved on the platforms, taking these pods from the girders and loading them onto mechanized trollies. While others added pods that seemed to be empty.

The illuminated egg like pods shifted and rotated as the process continued. The grinding of metal and the smell of medicine filled the   canned air that filtered into this part of the dome. As the pods moved, she could see shapes behind the thick milky glass and her stomach twisted into knots. Some were full grown; others still developing, but the faces, young and old, were all the same.  Dark haired, soft featured men, all of them were…Sebastian!

All of them accept the newest additions to the unending assembly line.  Tears welled in her eyes as the angular features of Oliver drifted past.  “What have you done?” She asked her voice that of a mouse coming from some far off place.

“We also were affected by the great wars.   But unlike your people in the east, it hit us much, much harder. The survivors were devastated and even with our medicines and  science, we began to die.  Until Adam, the first of us and he was the last of us.  Adam was a great man of science and he found a way to keep us alive. Each of us is Adam and he is each of us.  When he realized that he could no longer sustain us or the dome on his own, he went in search of the others.   He had been gone for many years and we had given up hope.  Our genetic code was starting to weaken and we were dying. You can only copy a copy so many times before it is no longer a viable copy. So when you and Oliver came, it was a blessing. A gift sent by Adam to continue our line. We needed you, and you came.  You and Oliver are adding to our genetic material. You are our salvation. Don’t you see? “He embraced her and she pushed away.

“I want to go. Let me go!” She screamed, turning back to the sight before her and gasped as the next row of pods moved into view, covering her mouth with her hand to keep from screaming as a row of faces just as her own, floated before her eyes. Some had her tawny skin and dark hair, some had dark hair and rounded features, but the faces were all a variation of hers.  The one that looked most like her, opened her eyes and she groaned inwardly. It was her face with deep blue eyes, the color of the sky.   She didn’t even feel it when he injected her, only felt the suddenly heaviness in her eyes as she drifted into unconsciousness.

“We can’t let you go, Lucy. Not ever.  We need you. We need a breeder.”

Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:

Twitter: @tanishadelill


Book Review: Sycorax’s Daughters

Sycorax is an unseen sorceress and presence in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She is present in the memories of men and though invisible; she is the force behind her son, Caliban.  The anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters, introduces us to women like her.  Women whose existence as storytellers is outside mainstream entertainment. Black women who weave stories of enchantment and horror.

And, they excel at it.

Sycorax’s Daughters is imaginative, lyrical, intelligent, beautiful, and terrifying. The editors, Kinitra Brooks, Ph.D., Linda D Addison, and Susana Morris Ph.D. chose powerful stories, poems, and novel excerpts. When you read them, you step into another world.

The book begins with a “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells Turns the World Round Midnight” by Sheree Renèe Thomas. In this tale, a man’s journey to meet his lover’s mother meets with chilling results. The story is a perfect introduction to the book. It gives a taste of what’s coming.

Within these pages, monsters receive fresh and startling retellings. Vampires aren’t tired, Transylvanian Princes. They are far more deadly and erotic. Mermaids are outcasts among their own kind, demons require vengeance, monsters prey upon males (and wear interesting footwear), paranormal detectives investigate, and ghosts seek to leech off the living.

My favorite story concerns a woman called Naomi and her spirit partner, Alexa. Though Alexa can possess Naomi, she is not a demon. Rather, she is an ally, one who aids Naomi in her chosen profession. Alexa also disapproves of Naomi’s choice in men and must take matters into her own hands. I hope the author will consider turning this tale into a book. The world she created is amazing.

The book ends with an afterword (in the form of a poem) by Linda D. Addison. It’s called “Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled,” and it’s a fitting and beautiful piece.

I’ve read many anthologies. Most have included big name horror authors. None of these previous anthologies thrilled me as much as this one. I kept expecting to find a lump of coal among the gems.

I never found one. I don’t think you will either.

Creepy Possessions: The New Orleans Doll

The only thing I knew for certain about the doll was that I received it as a gift.

My sister brought it back with her from a high school choir trip to New Orleans. It was a trinket really—a miniature jester wearing a leopard print costume, the face and hands made of porcelain. It wasn’t expensive, just a mass-produced souvenir. The heavy makeup on her painted face nearly tripled the size of her dark eyes. I had never liked clowns, never feared them either, so the doll was a strange thing for me to develop an attachment to. If she hadn’t been a gift from my sister, I never would have liked her much at all.

Odd as she was, I kept her for years, always in a prominent place on my desk or bookshelf. I suppose after a while I simply stopped thinking of her as strange. Whenever anyone asked about her, I proudly told them of my sister thinking of me while away and bringing her back.

I kept a number of art, trinkets, and toys on my bookshelves, mostly gifts from friends. That was where the doll sat since I first lived on my own. Despite being made of fragile porcelain, she survived four moves to and from college and three adult apartments. Occasionally, she would suffer an accident, when a cat or errant breeze pushed her off her perch, but she remained unharmed, now decades older and just as new as the day she arrived.

Then my sister came to visit.

“Jesus, Daphne, where did you get that thing?” she asked. “It’s creepy as hell.”

She could have been referring to anything (I own a number of things Wendy considered spooky, including my Ouija Board phone case), but was pointing at the doll on the shelf, where she sat guarding my reference books on vampire lore.

“You bought it for me,” I said, with all the confidence I had from years of telling the story.

“Why would I give you that?”

“You brought it back when the choir went to New Orleans.”

“When did the choir go to New Orleans?”

I tried to remember. She had gone to New Orleans. She had brought back the doll. Those were facts, as secure in my mind as my own birthday. She had given me the doll… but when had that been? She must have been in high school, but then why did I remember the doll from before then? And why would Wendy, who was notoriously frightened by anything remotely occult, have gone somewhere in New Orleans that sold an item so strange? It was a mystery that, I’ve admitted to myself, was unlikely to ever be solved. And without the special honor that came from having been gifted by my sister, my decades-long attachment and care for the doll no longer made sense.

The doll still sits on my shelves. I’m not one to get rid of a gift. And I am still certain that she was a gift, even if I don’t know who gave it.


I Married a Witch a Trickster Delight

By Kristin Battestella


While many adore the subsequent Bell Book and Candle or Bewitched, have had Peek A Boo hairstyles, or even know of Veronica Lake thanks to her sexy Oscar winning look-alike Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential; it seems not many today appreciate the 1942 magical romp that started it all, I Married a Witch.

Burned at the Salem Witch Trials thanks to the testimony of Jonathan Wooley (Frederic March), Jennifer (Veronica Lake) curses Wooley and all his male descendents to be unlucky in love. Centuries later when lightning strikes a tree and frees their spirits, Jennifer and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) continue to interfere with politician Wallace Wooley (also March), his campaign for governor, and his impending marriage to socialite Estelle Masterson (Susan Hayward). Jennifer plans to make Wally fall in love with her just to ruin him. Unfortunately, when she is injured, Wally mistakenly gives her the love potion she intended for him. Now that she’s in love with a mortal, Daniel disastrously interferes on his daughter’s behalf. Jennifer, however, has bigger plans now: using witchcraft to save Wally’s campaign.


I’ll get the bit of the bad out of the way first, for only the dated production here hinders I Married a Witch. The black and white looks somewhat unrestored, dark and tough to see sometimes. The historical montage opening the film also has poor period stylings or seems quick and on the cheap. Modern audiences might also be a little lost on some of the thirties mannerisms and dialogue, and the sound is often tough to hear. While kids might enjoy this partial inspiration for the television series Bewitched, viewers with short attention spans might groan at early scenes with only smoke, fire, and old speaketh voiceovers. However, having said all that, the light-hearted comedy and hijinks of love story from director Rene Clair (The Flame of New Orleans, And Then There Were None) and writers Robert Pirosh (Combat!) and Marc Connelly (Captain Courageous) win with magical charm and innocent fun.

Well then, let’s talk about that peek a boo queen herself, Veronica Lake. Although the diminutive star of Sullivan’s Travels and This Gun for Hire doesn’t actually appear for the first fifteen minutes, we like the off-screen witch Jennifer when we hear of her fun curses. Despite her initial vengeance and maliciousness, we enjoy her vocal tricks and thus are thrilled when we finally do get so see those famous blonde tresses. Lake may seem a one trick pretty, but her witchy ways are delightful and her comedic dialogue is right on time. Though the pair seem visually at odds and she spends most of the time being carried by March; Lake has the sardonic match and onscreen weight to be a 290-year-old witch testing Wallys’ heart. Jennifer’s supposed to be bad, purely a spiteful witch causing love trouble for the sake of a long ago wrong, yet she’s whimsical and adorable all the same. Likewise, Oscar winner Frederic March (Best Years of Our Lives, Death of a Salesman, The Desperate Hours) proves he’s more than the straight, heavy, and serious dramatic leading man we so often enjoy. Wally’s wedding day hysterics are almost side splitting- caught in a repeatedly false starting ceremony and running ragged over two women! March would be the exceptional straight man indeed- if not for his perfect balance of witty, proper performance and humorous presence.


While Lake’s luster may have fallen over the decades, the budding and future Best Actress Susan Hayward (I Want to Live, Reap the Wild Wind) is wonderful as the snotty socialite set to marry Wally. Any other time, we’d love to pedestal Hayward, but in I Married a Witch, the audience can’t help but appreciate her bearing the brunt of Jennifer’s tricks. Dads Cecil Kellaway (The Postman Always Rings Twice) and Robert Warwick’s (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex) J.B. Masterson are also great fun as the at odds parents who similarly enough have their daughters- and thus their own- best interests at heart. Classic fashion and style lends a wonderful visual support, too. Not to be outdone by slim cut suits or tilted fedoras, the pre-war ladies’ costumes here are glorious. The lengthy gowns and puffy sleeves just add an extra touch of class not often found in today’s recreations. I Married a Witch was contemporary at the time, but now it is a wonderful period piece to us with great music, sweet looking cars, and great old houses. Sure, some of the flying brooms and objects moving by themselves look hokey, but most of the smoke and mirror effects are simplistically good. Thanks to a fine story and great performances, fancy effects aren’t required to suspend the belief needed for I Married a Witch.

Fans of the old school cast, classic films aficionados, or families looking for some wholesome witchy fun can certainly find a short 80 minutes for I Married a Witch. Naturally, it is full of pre-war magical innocence rather than proper Wicca motifs, but again, the delight here wins against any datedness of the time.