Odds and Dead Ends : New Slains Castle / Dracula’s Scottish Home

You always find stuff that you didn’t know when preparing these articles, and this little nugget it happens is my find of the week. It’s been well reported that Stoker got part of his inspiration for Count Dracula from Vlad Dracula III (Vlad the Impaler), though retro-actively working the figure into his idea, rather than being originally inspired by him. I was also aware that one of Stoker’s colleagues, actor Henry Irving, who worked at the Stoker-owned Lyceum Theatre, was widely considered another inspiration for the character. However, I was not aware that one of the largest inspirations may have come from New Slains Castle, up in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.

Admittedly, my Stoker knowledge is, depressingly, severely lacking. The extent of it goes to lots of Dracula and its various adaptations, my undying devotion to The Jewel of Seven Stars (which people who read my section here a lot will know I bang on about constantly, but damn you, it’s an incredibly bleak and unnerving novel), and Lair of the White Worm on my phone which I’ve sadly never gotten around to. So it surprised me to discover that this castle, which is mentioned in The Watters’ Mou and The Mystery of the Sea (more well-read readers can confirm this for me), may not only have inspired the castle in Seven Stars, but also Dracula’s castle, particularly a specific octagonal room mentioned in the novel. It turns out that Stoker frequently went on trips to the area on holiday, and so would not only have known the area very well, but most likely been very familiar with the castle, both its location and grounds, and its interiors.

A brief history lesson first. The old castle was built in the early 14th century by John Comyn, part of the Comyns family who held it for many years. In 1594, it was attacked by King James VI of Scotland (who was also James I of England, successor of Elizabeth I, final ruler of the Tudor family) as the then-owner, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, was leading a rebellion against him. The old castle was mostly destroyed with gunpowder and cannon-fire, though remnants of it remain to this day. It remains a ‘scheduled monument’, a title given to architecturally important monuments in the UK and as such protected against change and modification.

The new Slains Castle (The one we’re interested in) was built by Hay upon his return from exile (the uprising hadn’t gone too well) a little ways up the coast. Originally a tower house and courtyard, it was expanded and changed over the years, with wings and towers built up as the centuries went past. In the mid 1800s, a complete redesign was ordered, turning what was there into a more contemporary, Baronial-style castle, giving it granite facing update. Large gardens were designed and laid out only a few years before Stoker visited for the first time. The whole thing was eventually unroofed not long after WWI, and has remained derelict ever since.

The history lesson over, this brings us back to Dracula, and the octagonal room in question. The novel has a small passage which reads as follows: ‘The Count halted, putting down my bags, closed the door, and crossing the room, opened another door, which led into a small octagonal room lit by a single lamp, and seemingly without a window of any sort.’ (my copy, p 21). It turns out that New Slains Castle has a similar room, specifically octagonal in design, and considering Stoker knew the castle well, the very unusual design seems to be a big red flag alerting us to the fact that New Slains is indeed where he got it from. Coupled with the fact that Stoker is rumoured to have been staying in, or near, the castle at the time he was beginning to plan, or even write, Dracula, it’s not too far a stretch to say that, even if parts of the castle weren’t intentionally lifted and transported to the rugged hills of Transylvania, there was more than likely a subconscious application.

Obviously, the location in the novel is nothing like the coastal views of the Scottish ruins, and there doesn’t seem to be any reports or rumours of ghouls, ghosts, or sunlight-fearing vampires lurking in Slains Castle. I would assume it’s now in the ownership of the National Trust, or some other organisation, so I’m not sure if you could just rock up and have a look around, but if you are ever in the area, might be a fun time to go and check out the real Castle Dracula.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Postscript: People interested in following up on this topic might want to check out When Brave Men Shudder: The Scottish Origins of Dracula, by Mike Shepherd. I haven’t read it, but it’s got an introduction by Dacre Stoker, great-grand-nephew of Bram, and plenty of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Brave-Men-Shudder-Scottish/dp/1907954694

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Spooky Places You Can Visit Virtually

As we’re all going a little stir crazy (Cabin Fever marathon anyone?), more and more museums and exhibits are moving online. For Horror Addicts, there are some great options. It may not be the same as visiting it for yourself, but it’s the next best thing.

Just try not to get your computer haunted in the process.

The Paris Catacombs

In the 18th century, Paris ran out of room in their cemeteries and undertook the monumental project to move over 6 million corpses into the abandoned mines under the city. The result was the largest human grave in the world and a massive, mesmerizing piece of macabre artwork. I wrote about my experience in the Catacombs for the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest (you can read it here!).

You can take a free virtual tour here.

The Winchester House

The Winchester House is a winding, confusing mess of stairways and rooms with doors to nowhere and ghost traps strewn within. Built by Sarah Winchester between 1884 and 1922, it is said that construction continued around the clock in order to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. Whether Sarah Winchester was genuinely haunted or actually mentally disturbed, we call all agree that her house is truly terrifying.

You can purchase the virtual tour here.

It might be safer than going in person anyway—less chance of getting lost.

The RMS Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is an ocean liner that is now permanently docked in Long Beach California. More importantly, it is considered one of the most haunted places in America. Over 60 deaths have occurred on the ship including a supposed murder in one of the staterooms.

You can watch the tour (the same one given in person!) here.

The Conjuring House

If you’re a fan of the Conjuring movies (and all their many, many spinoffs), you may be interested to know more about the real-life house that the original movie was based on. Supposedly haunted by the ghost of Bathsheba Sherman, the house was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970’s.

You watch some explorers walk through the house here.

The Lizzie Borden House

This house in Fall River, Massachusetts is the site of one of the most famous murders in American history. Though Lizzie Borden was acquitted for the brutal ax murders of her parents, popular culture has remained fascinated by the story, producing dozens of books, movies, and tv series dedicated to the alleged murderess.

You can watch an (unofficial) tour here.

Haunt Jaunts : Voodoo and My First Horse-Drawn Carriage Ghost Tour

With Courtney Mroch

The first thing I spotted as we took a jaunt to scope out the Jekyll Island Club & Resort’s surroundings was the A-frame sign listing all of the horse-drawn carriage tour options. Of course, the ghost tour caught my eye.

“A horse-drawn carriage ghost tour?” I exclaimed to my husband. “I’ve never taken one of those before. In fact, have we ever even taken a carriage ride together?”

“I’m sure we have.”

“Where?” I challenged, pretty sure we hadn’t.

He thought about it for a second.

“I don’t know, but it seems like we did once upon a time.”

“Well, to make sure we do, can we take one tonight if they’re offering the ghost tour? Wouldn’t that be so romantic?”

His expression answered better than any words could. His idea of romance and mine were very different.

Begrudgingly he agreed to the tour, though. Probably for a few reasons.

  1. We were only there the one night.
  2. We didn’t have anything else planned that evening, so he couldn’t very well make excuses for why we couldn’t.
  3. I think he was hoping that since it was past spooky season, as well as being the island’s offseason, there wouldn’t be a ghost tour.

Sadly for him, but lucky for me, there was. We made our reservation and then continued our exploration.

Along the way, we passed a shiny ebony horse pulling a white carriage whose occupants were getting a history tour of the island. I heard the driver call out, “Whoa, Voodoo, whoa!” as she maneuvered the carriage off the trail in front of one of the millionaire’s cottages.

At the same time that my husband said, “Did you hear the horse’s name?” I said, “Voodoo? I hope that’s the horse we get for our tour!”

I’ll save you the suspense. We did.

I’ve taken a few ghost tours in my day. Ones on foot, some by car or bus, but never in a horse-drawn carriage led by a horse named Voodoo.

Jekyll Island is nestled along south Georgia’s coast. It was a crisp late November night that we met the driver (who also served as our ghost tour guide) at the designated pick up point. We climbed aboard where a seat with thick, heavy blankets waited for us to bundle ourselves under them.

Our guide was wonderful. I wish I could remember her name. I thought I had written it down. I guess I was so excited about Voodoo and my first horse-drawn carriage ghost tour that I didn’t.

To my surprise, she had a plethora of stories to tell. I knew the Jekyll Island Club where we were staying for the night was rumored to be haunted. That’s why I’d booked us there.

I also knew from a previous visit to the island that the former cottage that had once housed the bookstore allegedly had a ghost. The last time I’d visited had been with my sister. Like me, she couldn’t pass a bookstore and not stop in.

It had been my sister’s birthday. She loved riding bikes, so my present to her was taking her up to Jekyll, renting bikes for the day and cruising all over the island.

Stopping in the bookstore also allowed us a little rest stop. That’s how my sister got to talking to the owner and somehow it came out the place was haunted.

This was years before I started my site, Haunt Jaunts, but it was another reason why I did. Back then I was always going on unofficial haunt jaunts. Except for that day. Ghosts hadn’t been on my mind. Yet, a story of one still fell in my lap.

I’d forgotten about that until our guide related a story about Phoebe, a little girl of one of the staff members back in the day who allegedly disappeared from the island. Her body was never found, but that’s who some think they see when they spot a child spirit in a couple of places on the Jekyll Island Club’s property. Among them being a small cottage that used to be the bookstore, which had since relocated and its former building now stood vacant.

But before we got to the part about the bookstore, our guide shared a little history about the island and its former inhabitants.

It had started as a private hunting club for America’s elite, such as Rockefeller, Pullitzer, and even the Macy family. However, they soon decided it would make a fine place to get away with their families in the winter, so several of them built “cottages.”

Their idea of a cottage, however, resulted in stunning seaside mini-mansions in a variety of architectural styles.

I have been enamored (and obsessed) with the cottages ever since I first saw them back in the late 1990s. I had only seen them in the daytime previously, though, as I’d never been fortunate enough to stay overnight on the island — until the night of the tour.

Voodoo led us down the live oak-lined trails where Spanish moss created a canopy above us that fluttered in the breeze. One of the first ghost story stops was the Hollybourne Cottage.

It would turn out to be my favorite stop.

Almost all of the cottages have lighting illuminating them at night. Hollybourne was no different. However, when Voodoo circled the carriage around the drive, the light cast a marvelous silhouette of his head against the cottage’s grey tabby facade.

For a moment I felt I had leaped back in time. Except I remembered what age I was in and that we had cameras on our phones. I scrambled to pull mine out so I could capture the sight of Voodoo in the light because it was Gothic and haunting and I wanted to capture that memory.

If ever there was a time for a ghost to appear, that would’ve been it. One did manifest — by way of the ghost tour guide’s tales.

Allegedly a little girl died in the house. Some claim to have seen her face appear when they stand before the home’s glass front door.

I didn’t have time to test it then, but I made a note to go back and try the next morning. (She didn’t appear for me, but that’s okay. Perhaps she sensed I might not have been as impressed by that as I was by the site of Voodoo in the light the night before.)

As we pulled away from Hollybourne, our guide asked, “What room are you in?”

I told her and she said, “I always ask because the little girl’s mother haunts room 3101 in the Annex.”

I think I surprised her when I said, “Darn. That’s just down the hall from us.”

I don’t think she meets many people hoping to stay in a haunted hotel room.

She shared other tales of the island’s ghostly inhabitants, like the helpful phantom bellman who assists wedding parties staying at the hotel.

The island had been abandoned during the Civil War and the animals had all been left behind. After the war, when people returned, they were trying to round up the animals, including a white stallion, but he kept eluding them. While chasing him, he ran into the water and drowned. Some say disembodied horse noises coming from the water belong to him.

She even showed us the photo of a ghost face in the Sans Souci, which was essentially an apartment building Rockefeller built. His quarters were on the top floor.  Some report smelling cigar smoke. He had a penchant for smoking them.

Does his restless spirit still roam there? Our guide believed he does. She showed us a photo of the building. It was taken during the daytime, but she zoomed in to show us a white specter’s face looking out of one of the top floor windows. (I spent a great deal of time the next morning trying to recreate the shot, to no avail.)

But the scariest part of the night was when Voodoo led us around a curve and not even five feet away stood a deer. Not that I’m afraid of deer, and maybe “startle” is a better word, because that’s what happened. It startled me to see the deer appear seemingly out of nowhere.

It was real, though. Not a ghost. It stood contemplating us inquisitively, its ears twitching a bit, its tail flicking a time or two. Voodoo clopped away, leaving the deer to watch us as we drove off.

As ghost tours go, it was short. Only about 30 minutes. But it couldn’t have been more perfect. A chill in the hushed air. Snuggled up next to the love of my life. The gentle glow from the few street lights interspersed with the carriage’s lantern. A perfect romantic atmosphere for listening to ghost stories.

And then there was Voodoo, who added an extra bit of pizzazz to make the evening pure magic.

Haunt Jaunts : McKamey Manor

How Long Do You Think You Could Last Before Using the Safe Word?

Are you familiar with McKamey Manor? The first I remember hearing about it was circa 2014. At that time it operated out of a house in San Diego, California, and apparently had been for several years.

However, McKamey Manor’s owner, Russ McKamey, has since moved and brought his house of horrors with him. It’s now open in two locations –Summertown, Tennessee (about an hour south of Nashville) and Huntsville, Alabama. Although, they might be part of the same location. I’m still not sure if you have to survive the Nashville location long enough to be taken to the Huntsville location or if you can opt to go straight to the Huntsville one.

All I do know is that McKamey Manor has become so popular it’s not just open for Halloween anymore. Now it’s open year-round.

It’s often called the most intense Extreme Haunted Attraction/Survival Horror experience imaginable.

Not everyone would want to do this, but of those who do, not everyone is allowed. Unless they meet a host of stringent requirements, including:

  • Completing a Sports Physical
  • Passing a background check
  • Providing proof of medical insurance
  • Passing a portable drug test the day of the show
  • Signing a 40-page waiver –which also requires initialing each clause in the contract

If you make the cut, you’ll endure torturous challenges involving mud, bugs (eating them and maybe them trying to nibble on you), water, fake blood and more. There are even rumors of eels and caimans being part of the deal.

It looks awful –unless you’d like to star in scenes from any of the Saw or Hostel movies, that is.

If you can’t handle it, you can use the safe word to end the experience at any time. The whole experience could last as long as 10 hours, but it never has.

Russ knows what will break a person. He doesn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops to break them as quickly as possible from what I read in a Nashville Scene article about McKamey Manor and the reporter who attempted it. That’s where I learned the average amount of time people last is only eight minutes.

How long do you think it’d take you to use the safe word? I wouldn’t even make it to reading the waiver.

 

Paranormal/ Hauntings Month: The Old Charlseton Jail by Violet Tempest

 

Excerpt from: Legends of Old by Violet Tempest

The Old Charleston Jail, located at 21 Magazine Street, Charleston, SC is well known to locals as being haunted. Some refuse to go near this structure while thrill seekers buy tickets from Bulldog Tours for guided tours. The long history of this jail does give creditability to its many hauntings. Having been used as a prison for over 200 years there was a great deal of suffering that occurred on the grounds and in the cells. (pg. 72)

My personal experience of the tour and afterward:

When our daughter was eleven years old, my husband and I decided it would be fun to start a Halloween tradition of going on a different Ghost Tour in Charleston, SC every year. These would allow us to spend time as a family and introduce our daughter to Lowcountry History.

The area goes back to 1670 when settlers landed on the shores of the Cooper River, founding what is now known as Charlestown Landing. Our first tour was a family friendly tour of the old churches and graveyards in Downtown Charleston.

Two years later we decided to take it up a notch. That’s when we took The Haunted Jail Tour.

By this time our daughter was familiar with the lore of the area, and like us she found the old tales intriguing. Little did we know that the tour would change our views on ghost tours.

We booked a tour for the Saturday before Halloween of 2008. It was chilly evening, and the tour didn’t start until after dark. WE made an event of it, like we had done in the past. Going out to dinner, and our daughter invited her best friend to go with us. The four of us were looking forward to a fun spooky filled evening.

We arrived at the Old Jail with about 20 minutes to spare, so we, along with others who were arriving for the tour, had to stand outside while the tour in progress finished up. Standing on the sidewalk we could hear an occasional loud bang followed by a scream or two. The girls moved to the sidewalk opposite the street, and we weren’t too far behind them. Even across the street we could feel the heavy despair that hung around the old building and grounds.

Finally, the tour ended, and it was time for us to take ours. Friendly, joking banter floated around as strangers teased one another. Nothing that anyone in the group took seriously. I mean, everyone knows the noises on these tours are false.

Right?

Before we could enter, we were told the rules; the most important was to stay together, no one was to wander off. Then the tour began. Standing outside the front entrance our tour guide told us that what is now known as the old jail started out in a hospital for the homeless and other impoverished people.

Years later, in 1802 that building was torn down and replaced with the building that currently stands. Over the years the building that was designed to hold 128 prisoners would at times have so many occupants that there was standing room only. Not only inside, but outside as well. The grounds would be packed with barely enough room for the prisoners to move, and men and women were placed together. They did not separate them.

As you can imagine, the conditions created disease, and many died before they were released. The city kept a body cart on the property where the dead bodies were stacked on top of one another.

When the cart was full, it was then driven to the river, and the bodies dumped. Our guide said that there were many times the bodies piled up before they decayed and so another site, further down the river, would have to be used. Her words painted a vivid image and my flesh crawled as my mind carried me back to that time.

That wasn’t the end of the horror she painted for us.

We followed her inside, and she showed us the shackles that are still on the walls. The torture devise varied from room to room. Our guide told us how the prisoners who were considered the worst of the Charleston population were tortured, shackled, and starved.

Next, we went up the narrow staircase and saw the huge rooms where,  in the winter there wasn’t any heat nor, of course, in the summer any air conditioning.

The criminals weren’t shown any kindness.

These harsh conditions made it almost impossible to survive. It is approximated that by the time the jail closed in 1939 over 10,000 people died on the property.

It was in the last room where we heard the tale of Lavina Fisher, according to legend she’s the country’s first female serial killer. And yes, while we were in the room a loud bang sounded out. Where exactly it came from I cannot say. The sound echoed all around us. Now, even though I have experienced the unexplained since I was a small child, I was skeptical.

“But surely it was Lavina?” some may be asking. I do not know. Personally, I feel it was all sound effects the tour company added to give their customers a thrill. I can tell you the despair that bore down on us before we started the tour did not leave me. There were times that it felt like someone was behind me, but when I looked no one was there. Other times a cold reached my bones that wasn’t from the chilly autumn air.

Throughout the whole tour I couldn’t shake the feeling of evil all around me.

No one was injured on the tour, and everyone took plenty of pictures. Nothing unusual showed in ours and driving away we talked about the history that we had learned that night. Little did we know that our experience with the old jail was far from over.

Over the next year our daughter and I could not shake the feeling of something watching us at all times. Even in our sleep. After a couple of months things progressed. Our daughter began staying in her room all the time and was always sleepy and moody. We chalked it up to her becoming a teenager, even though that didn’t squelch our concerns.

Then she started showing me her sketches. They were full of an evil crawling out of the darkness of her closest. It wasn’t until one night while she stayed with a friend that I discovered what was really happening to her.

My dear husband snores, and when I say snore I mean shake the walls snore. So that night I was awoken by what can only be called an Earth-Shattering Rumble, I went down to her room and crawled into her empty bed. The snoring was tolerable down there, and I eventually fell back asleep. How long I was asleep I do not know. But while I lay there on my right side, under her comforter, deep asleep,  I felt something jump on the bed, placing hands and feet on either side of me, startling me awake.

At first I thought it was our dog, and I turned to pet her and get her to snuggle up beside me.

What I saw was not our dog.

From the streetlight that peeked through the curtains, I could make out the thing on my daughter’s bed straddling me was a deep, dark, green. Its skin was slimy in appearance. Its squished face did not have a nose, but instead two slits located where one should’ve been. Two glowing red embers for eyes, and a thin, toad-like mouth. When it saw me, those lips pulled back in a snarl showing me sharp, pointy, yellow teeth.

That snarl told me it was not expecting me to be there. It raised its thin right arm and swung claws like a big cat at me.

I jumped from the bed. My muscles quivering, my heart pounding.

“How dare you! You meant to attack my daughter!” I said. The creature jumped down off the bed, and with a laugh that was full of evil, made its way toward me. I did the only thing I could think of.

I stood there in the room, shaking my head, anger filling every pore of my body. “No! You will not get away with this.”

I placed my right palm in the air, toward the ceiling, toward the universe. With my left hand I pointed at the creature and with every fiber of my being I said the only thing I could think of.

“I call on the power of the one who created me. I call upon the power of the supreme one to send you back to the depths of Hell from which you came from!”

As those words left my lips, I felt a warm energy enter my right palm, surge down my arm, through my core, before shooting out my left arm. A bright blue beam shown from my left hand.

The creature’s eyes grew big. Its slimy face filled with fear as its mouth opened in a silent scream. Then it was gone, and I was left standing alone in the center of my daughter’s room.

Looking around, I realized what had happened. A demon had come to attack my daughter and to its surprise found me instead. My heart felt like it was going to beat its way out of my chest, and my body trembled as fear started to take the place of anger. Finally satisfied it was gone, at least for the night, I turned and walked quickly back to our bed where my husband was still sound asleep, his snores now a sound of comfort. I slid back under our covers and laid there the rest of the night.

Sleep did not return.

Come morning, I got up and went back into the room. The bed was still a mess like I’d left it and in the light of day, the previous night’s experience seemed unreal. My mind quickly brought up the images of my daughter’s sketches and I knew that thing had been after her. And I also knew where it had come from.

For some reason it latched on to us at the jail. Coming home with us; a sort of supernatural souvenir.

I talked to my daughter and husband about what happened that night and that’s when we found out the creature had been terrorizing her. It had thrown her clothes across the room. Even lifted her up and spun her around. I told her what I had done, and that I hoped that took care of it.

She changed rooms to what was the spare room. Who could blame her?

Never again has the creature made an appearance and no longer do we feel like something is watching us from the shadows. I will tell you this, The Old Charleston Jail is one place I refuse to go back to.

If you decide to take the tour remember this, there’s no telling what souvenir you will end up with.

To learn more about The Old Charleston City Jail and other South Carolina Lowcountry legends read Legends of Old by Violet Tempest with Bonus Feature section with short stories never before published.

Available as Kindle Unlimited, eBook, and paperback on Amazon.com. Click link above to purchase.

Logbook of Terror: Ruins Of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

The ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

After a frightful and dreary travel in which I mistakenly visited the wrong location and was chased from a decaying castle by the rotted corpses of a mob of re-animated skeletons, I finally arrived at my destination: the ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera. A chilly night had fallen and a storm brewed overhead, hiding the moon and stars behind layers of thick, foreboding clouds. Thunder cracked nearby and with only the light of my electric lantern to guide me, I set out to explore the ruins. 

I walked the perimeter of the formerly grand castle, treading carefully over rocks and desolate mountain terrain, wondering what lonely spirits might be left wandering these hills. After hiking to what seemed to be the edge of the property, I turned and strolled along the inner side of a disintegrating wall. After several minutes I halted to take stock of my surroundings and, up ahead, saw a spot of soft light swaying in the darkness. Could it be a fellow explorer making camp and a fire for the night? I hurried on my way to find out. 

Upon drawing closer, I saw that the light was pouring out through a doorway in another crumbling wall. I stepped through and found myself in a great dining hall. My head swam in disbelief, for the hall and all its contents were in pristine condition. The stone walls and floor were clean, polished, and intact. High wooden beams secured the solid ceiling and the entire room was alight with the soft glow of a myriad of candles. The luscious aroma of fresh cooked meat, bread, and vegetables drew my eyes to the huge table in the center of the room. A disembodied voice called out to me, welcoming me home, inviting me to feast. The ghostly voice spoke in French, a tongue completely foreign to me, yet I understood the voice’s every word.  

Smiling guests materialized around the massive banquet table, their regal clothes in tatters and covered in dust and cobwebs. Their gray skin was spotted with deep holes, from which worms wiggled in and out, and blood and pus trickled in rivulets over decaying flesh. With loud, hollow voices the dinner guests beseeched me to join them. Entranced, I approached the table. 

Thunder crashed over the high ceiling. A fierce flash of lightning lit up the table and I saw before me, two children, their flesh roasted, their small bodies chopped in pieces and placed carefully on garish silver platters. Their heads were intact. The two dead little girls turned their eyes to me. Help us! Help us! They pleaded. 

Lightning and thunder exploded. Rain poured from the ceiling. The pieces of the children joined and melded together, forming the hacked children into morbid wholes. Once reformed, they rolled off the great table and crawled toward me. The dinner guests sang a church hymn while their bodies melted in the rain. I felt the children’s small, dead hands grasp my ankles. Feast with us! They screamed at me. Feast with us! Their small eyes burned bright red with horror. I gasped. Shocked out of my trance, I broke the children’s hold and ran. 

Once out of the banquet hall, I ran to the path at the edge of the property. There, I saw a woman in royal dress. She stood upon a large rock. Tears stained her face. She held her arms high and screamed a curse into the night. I felt a sudden surge of heat behind me. Turning, I witnessed what surely could not have been: a fully intact castle engulfed in flames of grief and fury which were so intense, not even the deluge of rain could quench their angry burn. The royal woman turned her fierce eyes on me. I knew at once –it was Queen Jeanne! With terror in heart, lantern in hand, and my satchel over my shoulder, I sprinted away down the mountain, desperately hoping to outrun the curse that the queen was casting. 

I do not know how long I ran. Dawn seemed to arrive without warning and I was back on a road with the warm sun drying my sopping clothes. Not far into the morning I was able to secure transport with some locals who were en route to a nearby village. They spoke clear English and we began to converse. When I remarked on the previous night’s storm their faces turned grim. They inquired if I had been at the ruins during the night. I confirmed that I had. The driver shook her head and said that the region had seen no rain for over a week. The driver’s companion held up her left hand. Her skin was maligned, covered in burn scars. She said that she too had seen the queen, apparently too closely. 

After the kind couple dropped me off, I acquired proper food and lodging. I have resolved to stay in this quaint and pleasant country village until I receive my next assignment. The past several nights have been difficult. Sleep eludes me, for whenever I close my eyes, I see those of the dead children staring up at me.

Logbook of Terror: Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

More than any other human invention, I find firearms to be the most tragic, heinous, and unnecessary. Yet I found myself walking the halls of a mansion built with the blood money earned from the sale of untold thousands, perhaps millions, of the life-taking invention known as the Winchester rifle. A yawn escaped my mouth as the tour guide expounded upon the lavish architecture which surrounded the small group of which I was a part. Terminally bored and feeling that I could fare better on my own, I walked away to explore. 

First a left turn, then a right, then another left, another left, and a quick jaunt down a hallway full of windows that looked into more interior spaces. Alone with my thoughts, I indulged my personal scorn for automated weapons of all ilk while I followed one twisting and winding passageway after another until I had absolutely no clue as to where I was. I told myself not to worry, turned around, and went back the way I’d come, all the while listening intently for the voice of the tour guide, or the voices of the tour group to hopefully guide me along. Every turn led to another turn which led to another turn. Then, I saw a door ahead which looked familiar. Feeling heartened, I hastened to it and swung it open. Behind the door stood another door. I opened the second door to find yet a third, which opened onto a brick wall. Confounded, I closed the doors and made another attempt to find my way back to my starting point. A nervous fear set in, a sinking dread that I would be lost in this house and become stranded alone once business had ceased for the day. But, then I heard them: low murmurs, voices from somewhere nearby. My fear lessened. With stealth, I followed the sound in hopes to be led to the tour group. 

As I approached a closed door, I could clearly tell that the voices were just on the other side. Believing my troubles to be over, I opened the door and crossed the threshold into a dimly lit room. Two women sat at a round table in the center of the room, an oil lamp burning between them. Upon my entrance, one of the women –an elderly lady in solid black clothing, with a shock of unkempt white hair and wrinkled skin- looked up in my direction. The lamp light illuminated the woman’s eyes, of which only the whites were visible. She shook in her chair, announcing that the spirits were among them. The other woman demanded to know what the spirits wanted. I calmly told the elderly one that I was most certainly alive, not a phantasm as she claimed. She told the other woman that I wanted revenge for the deaths of my people. I protested and denied any desire whatsoever for vengeance of any sort, telling the woman that I was simply lost and looking for my tour group. The old hag explained to her companion that I was doomed to wander the halls of the mansion for all of eternity and that she must construct more halls for me to walk. Then it struck me –I must have happened upon a dramatic scene intended for the tour! I smiled to myself as I went to the room’s door, which seemed to have closed on its own, probably due to a wind or an old, uneven floor. I grasped the doorknob and turned. It was stuck. I jiggled the handle and pulled at the door. It did not budge. I glanced back at the two women. They sat closer to one another, staring at me, their hands intertwined. I slammed my hand on the door and yelled to be let out of the room. The women jumped in their seats. The elder shouted at me to leave at once. I told her I was trying but the door was stuck. Again she commanded me to begone. Frightened and frustrated, I returned her shouts with screams of my own. The women shrieked and huddled together. I cursed aloud and desperately twisted the doorknob in the opposite direction. The door latch clicked and the door swung open with a great gust of wind. The two ladies howled in fright. Just before I walked out, I looked back at the table to see it deserted and the room cloaked in gloom. I shuddered and tripped over my own feet as I hurried down the hall.

For what felt like ages I wandered twisting and turning corridors and passages. Daylight was fading. My heart raced. There had to be a way out of this dreadful house! I turned down yet another unfamiliar passageway and noted the scent of sawdust lingering in the air. The faint sound of a hammer on nails floated to me. I followed the sound to another door. I flung the door open. Entering an unfinished room, the ambient noise of heavy construction assaulted me. I held my ears and fell back out into the hallway. A gunshot rang out, its sharp report shattering my nerves. Another shot exploded at my back and echoed down the hall. I pitched forward and ran. A thousand invisible hammers beat on the wooden walls, the sound enveloping me, ripping at my eardrums and sending waves of pain through me. Hammers and guns escalated in their violence and intensity, creating a mad symphony that threatened to crush my skull. Peals of laughter joined the cacophony. I fell to my knees, screaming for the noise to cease. Blood began to flow from my ears. Please, please stop! I begged. The reverberations only increased and were joined by the sounds of sawing, sanding, and scraping. I struggled to my feet and stumbled down the corridor. A man’s coughing, the sound of someone taken violently ill, came from a room to my right. I looked and saw a middle-aged man, prostrate in a large bed, coughing up what appeared to be pint upon pint of dark, heavy blood. A doctor and a nurse attended the man while the younger woman from the previous room sat by the bed and wept. My skin crawled. I lurched down the hall and fell down a flight of stairs. 

My screams bounced off the stairwell walls. When I stopped tumbling, I opened my eyes. The tour group was gathered around me, eyeing me with curious stares. The tour guide knelt at my side and informed me that I must have fainted from the heat. After being helped to my feet I saw that I was still in the same room in which the tour had begun. It appeared that I had never left the group after all. The tour guide explained to the group that only the very weakest and worst guests fainted. A woman to my left suggested that they ought to simply shoot me so as to make for certain that I wouldn’t ruin any more of the tour. A hearty round of agreement sounded among them, and they all drew their rifles on me. The tour guide instructed the group to fire on her command. I pleaded to be spared. They laughed. The tour guide yelled, Fire! An explosion of gunfire filled the air. My body came apart in a hail of bullets. Blood showered the smiling faces of the tour group. My limbs fell from my body, severed by the storm of ammunition. I felt bullets enter my brain and erase all of my memories and thoughts, the last of which was, why didn’t I call my mother and tell her I loved her when I still had the chance.

I woke up screaming, still in the rocking chair on the Winchester Mansion’s front porch where I had decided to sit down and wait until the tour began. The guide walked out onto the porch and announced that the tour would begin momentarily. I lept from the chair and ran for my life, never considering looking back at that accursed abode. 

Logbook of Terror: Alloa Tower

Alloa Tower, Scotland

Why do I always seem to end up being chased by the ghosts of dead children? What did I ever do to them to deserve their seemingly endless scorn? Perhaps because I often end up at their haunting grounds? Whatever the reason may be, I hadn’t any time for further contemplation. On that terrifying night in Scotland at the fearful Alloa Tower, all I could do was run for my life.

After taking the official tour and listening to the tour guide’s tales of the Curse of Alloa Tower and its accompanying paranormal legacy, I was left to my own devices and I wandered the grounds aimlessly, soaking up the eerie atmosphere. I was having such a relaxing evening that I began to think that the grounds might not be cursed or haunted after all. However, when I stumbled upon the dungeon, the curse, in fact, became all too real. 

The dungeon was awash in the soft light of candles on each wall. Shadows played on the ceiling, distorting my view of the room. A cold breeze whispered over my shoulders. The hairs on the nape of my neck stood on end. I shuffled backward to leave the dungeon and collided with something soft. I spun ‘round. Before me was a monk in tattered black robes, hovering several feet off the floor, his face hidden in the darkness cast by the hood of his robe. He pointed a rotted, decayed finger at me. A voice bellowed forth from the figure. The words swirled around me, echoing off the chamber walls in ancient Latin. The dark monk floated toward me, pointing and chanting. I ducked and ran around his side, exiting the room through the arched doorway from whence I had entered, and bolted up the stairs.

The stairs emptied out into a long, pitch-black hallway. Was this the way I’d followed to the dungeon? Peering deep into the darkness, a dim light appeared at what I thought to be the end of the hallway. Cautiously, I held out my hands and walked forward. The light began to grow larger and brighter as I advanced. Perhaps it was someone with a flashlight or a lamp? Then, I saw the light quiver and wave. And then I heard it: horrid feminine shrieks of agony screaming forth from the flames. Then there were footfalls. And again: the light -shining brighter than ever, smashing through the dark, making everything all too clear with an overwhelming suddenness that threatened to shatter my sanity. With arms outstretched, a burning woman hurled herself down the hall, faster than I had ever seen any human move. Having only the dungeon stairs at my back and the woman ahead, I feared this was my doom, and that I would perish in agonizing, phantasmal flames. Closing my eyes, I pressed myself tight against the wall and waited for the end. A blazing wave of heat swept past me. My heart stopped. I opened my eyes to see the burning woman descending the dungeon stairs. Torturous screams and cries erupted from within the dungeon, flying up the stairs and filling the hallway. I was spared! I turned away from the dungeon and fled. 

As I ran further down the corridor, the screams from the dungeon were soon replaced by the sound of pounding hooves. Beating out a rhythm on the stone floor, closer and closer they came, until they were right on my heels. My foot caught on an uneven stone. My body pitched forward and I crashed to the floor. Instinctively, I threw my arms over the back of my head. The ghostly steeds passed over my trembling body and the sounds of hooves, neighing, and snorting faded into the all-consuming darkness of the hallway. Gathering my wits, I got to my feet and pressed on. I had to find a way out of this dreadful passage. 

I felt my way along the stone wall, placing my footfalls with care. My hands slipped, I fell into an open space, and I was engulfed in dismal, horrible black. No sight, only the dank smell of the centuries old structure accompanied by the sound of my own short, rapid breaths. Then, three tiny dots appeared, hovering before me. The dots grew into shining orbs, illuminating the surroundings. 

I stood in the center of a large room which may have been the great hall at one time. The orbs bobbed up and down and then floated away toward a towering, arched doorway. Perhaps a way out! My heart pounded and my mind gave thanks to these mysterious new friends who were leading me to safety. I followed the floating orbs through the doorway. 

We passed through the doorway and walked along another corridor. After turning a corner and entering another room, the orbs began to grow and change shape. As they danced and jittered and pushed and pulled at their form, something else began to grow out of the stone floor. Miserable cries bounced off the stone walls, coming from a man growing out of the floor. He wore the pitch-black abbot’s robe and glared at me with sinister blood-red eyes. The morphing orbs cast an eerie white glow over the risen clergyman, who towered above me. A scepter grew out of the palm of his right hand. Blood dripped from a large crystal attached to the end. He pointed at me and recited his famous curse. Reasoning that he must think I was the Earl, I knew that I had to make a hasty escape lest the curse befall me. Quickly, I backed away. Noting the light in my peripheral vision, I turned toward it.  Where the orbs had been there were now three ghastly children, dressed in regal splendor, glowing, a pale white luminescence emanating from their bodies. They screamed and ran at me. 

I ran with the cries of the children spurning me on, fleeing down hallways, twisting, turning, hurling through dark, empty spaces until by some miracle I spilled out of the tower and collapsed in its surrounding yard. The ghost children were nowhere in sight, nor was the abbot or the monk or the burning woman or the horses with their hooves of hell. I was alone. The night was silent. I gazed up at the tower. Feeling as if I’d run for miles upon miles, I pondered how so many rooms, and the labyrinthine passageways, could possibly be contained in such a structure the size of which I saw. There was only one answer: they could not. Unless… 

No. No, no, no, no! I could not ponder the possibilities or the depth of the dark magic that the abbot left on these grounds when he shouted forth his curse. With all my remaining strength I left the grounds to seek residence for the remainder of the night. In all my days, I pray that I never return to this cursed abode. 

Press Release: Dark Horizon: Point of No Return

Orlando’s Newest Haunt, Dark Horizon: Point of No Return
Announces 2019 Haunted House and Attractions
Experience GhostShip, Vodou, and Murder Island
Four Bars, Three Haunted Houses, Two Stages with DJ, Aerial & Fire Performances, One Exclusive RIP Lounge, Plus Panic! 4-D Experience, Hundreds of Monsters and More!
Tickets available now at DarkHorizonOrlando.com
Digital Creative of Dark Horizon’s Vodou Haunted House
 

[Orlando, FL] –August 9, 2019 –  Florida’s history is coming back to haunt you as Dark Horizon: Point of No Return makes its debut in Orlando, Florida October 4 – November 2, 2019, with the first-ever West Coast-style haunt in the East. Brought to you by the award-winning creators, producers, and directors for one of the most terrifying haunts in the world: The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. Dark Horizon is pleased to announce three gruesome haunted houses, two death-defying live entertainment stages, multiple immersive bars, private party Bootlegger Bungalows and more.

Dark Horizon emerges in Orlando with much anticipation, to feast upon fears, fray nerves, and curdle the blood of its daring visitors. The haunted attraction is divided into different zones, each highlighting pieces of Florida’s dark history, myths and lore. “We really like to dive into local legends and history,” shared Charity Hill Co-producer for Dark Horizon.

The Port is akin to one of the late 1700’s pirate ports in what is now Florida. This zone features the Bootlegger Bungalows, Walk the Plank Pub & Pier, Siren Stage, Dark Horizon Gift Shop, Shark Bites and the entrance to the Marketplace and Panic! 4-D Maze Experience. The Port is also home to the haunted house, Ghostship, a disease-infested, loot-filled vessel adrift on the high seas. This phantom tall ship is filled with deranged and decaying seamen bound to wreak havoc in Dark Horizon’s Port. Will you live to tell the tale or will Captain Killigrew, the most feared female pirate in history, and her derelict crew be your demise?

Escape the clutches of one of Florida’s first serial killer’s, Edgar “Bloody” Watson in the haunted house: Murder Island. Known as a hotbed for murderers, ancient creatures and bizarre tales, thrill-seekers will come face-to-face with the brutality that shadowed the 10,000 islands in the late 1800’s turning it into a shallow grave for at least 57 of Bloody Watson’s sugar cane workers. Murder Island is in The Glades Zone, a virtually lawless land, home to the VIP Storm Cellar, Outpost Pub and Gator Grub.

Experience Sacred Circle Stage and Shelter Patio in The Village. This area is under the enchantment of Mambo Cècile and the haunted house: Vodou. The high priestess has awakened the ancient Loa Agwe, spirit of the water, so proceed with extreme caution through the foggy bog to the underworld Volikan.

For those looking to elevate their experience, Dark Horizon offers an air-conditioned R.I.P. Lounge (or VIP Lounge), called the Storm Cellar R.I.P. Lounge accessed only by a coveted key. This experience includes two complimentary cocktails and grants access to a premium full bar featuring Moonshine Tastings. This key must be used in combination with an event admission ticket, and is for guests ages 21-years and older. Want to skip the lines? Expedite your entry into the event and all the haunted houses with a Fast Fright Ticket (starting at just $74 per person). Or, enjoy nearly instant entry into the event and all the haunted houses with an Evil Express Ticket (starting at $94 per person). Looking for a high-class VIP experience? Spring for the most exclusive experience at Dark Horizon with the Ultimate Scream ticket. This privately-guided and curated experience is extremely limited and available on select nights. Fast Fright and Evil Express Tickets are limited nightly and prices vary depending on date.

With Dark Horizon’s disturbingly creative minds, 4 bars and Bootlegger Bungalows, 3 haunted houses and scare zones, 2 live stages, 1 Panic! 4-D Experience, and hundreds of Monsters, Dark Horizon is certain to be a screamin’ good time.

Dark Horizon opens its doors on October 4 and continues to scare those who dare on select nights through November 2. General admission ticket prices start at just $20 online with Happy Haunting Hour, Fast Fright, Evil Express, Ultimate Scream tickets and Storm Cellar R.I.P. Lounge keys available. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.darkhorizonorlando.com/.

Logbook of Terror : Doll Island

A fictional representation of a real Cursed Location – Doll Island

I never should have taken the doll down from that twisted, blackened tree. I wish to heaven that I’d left its decayed, plastic corpse where I’d found it. But I’d promised my dear niece Tabitha a truly unique character to add to her growing collection of morbid and obscene figurines, and I would be damned if I was going to leave this cursed island without it. Taking a doll, just one of hundreds of thousands, seemed an innocent offense. I assumed that surely no one would notice its absence. Alas, I had been wrong… Dreadfully wrong.

The tourist group was easy to break away from. I waited in the shadows of a dense grove of tangled trees, observing until the last ferry boat had returned empty and the employees were gone for the night. Apparently, not even a single one of the workers had the courage to stay on the island after dark. When the last failing rays of sunlight gave way to the deep purple glow of sunset, I left my hiding spot and walked among the dolls. Thousands of eyes of every color and type stared at me, tracing my every footstep. Vegetation rustled beneath my shoes. Insects sang and welcomed the oncoming night. I breathed in the humid air, the odors of age and neglect, of rot and decay, that floated around me. A voice whispered behind me, high-pitched, like a whistling in the wind. I stopped. I shuddered. My eyes darted back and forth. Smiling doll faces, half-melted and faded by the sun, glared back at me. Cold fear slithered down my spine. Hairs rose along my neck. High, hollow laughter echoed through the trees.

I quickened my pace. I had to find a suitably awful doll and escape this place before I ended up in the trees myself.

In the steadily increasing dark, I rounded a curve and walked along the edge of the canal. Another laugh flitted through the air. I froze and looked into the trees. There, above me, I saw her: a most wretched, withered dolly hanging just within arm’s reach. Thin blonde hair covered in green mold, weaved itself over a grime-covered, cherubic face. A tattered and faded pink dress clung to the doll’s body. Her eyes pierced my heart with their cold stare. It was then that I knew. She was the one. Tabitha would surly adore her!

Retrieving the dolly from the tree proved to be as easy as I’d hoped. The twine holding the toy in place practically disintegrated in my fingers as I unwound it from the doll’s limbs. Night had fully fallen and I held the doll up, inspecting it in the moonlight. She was wonderfully awful–a truly unholy relic indeed!

After carefully placing her in my roomy satchel, I set out to find shelter for the night, as after a good night’s rest I planned on blending in with the first tour group of the morrow and taking the boat back to Mexico City as if I’d been with them the whole time. Nary had I taken a dozen steps when I heard the sound of quiet splashing among the lilies in the canal.

I stood in place and listened. My mind told me that any creature of the water could have made that sound but my heart told me that it must be something far more sinister. A trickle of sweat broke on my brow. I turned. With eyes wide, I saw her standing atop the lilies–the girl whose legend told of her drowning in the canal so long ago. She pointed a ghostly finger at me. Her black eyes stared like the marble eyes of the dolls. A thin, watery whisper crawled from her throat.

“Llevar a su espalda, ella me pertenece a mí!” The girl floated across the water toward me, her phantasmal form radiating a soft white glow, illuminating the mud, moss, and slime that clung to her tattered dress.

My mind told me to run but my feet would not obey.

“Llevar a su espalda, ella me pertenece a mí,” the girl repeated, her dark eyes fixed on the satchel slung over my shoulder.

Although I needed no translator to know that the girl from the water wanted me to fix the doll back in her resting place among the tangled tree limbs, through my limited Spanish vocabulary I knew that she was saying, “Bring her back, she belongs to me.” However determined as I was to bring a gift home to my adored niece, I would do no such thing.

Fueled by purpose and terror, I ran along the canal. The words of the girl floated on the wind and stung my ears. Still, I did not stop. A feeling of some strange possession came over me, warping my sensibilities. With my feet and heart pounding, my voice wailed in my mind, repeating, “She will never have her back. The doll is mine!” I then determined to commandeer my own vessel and leave the island at once after which point I would trudge back to the city on foot. I had lost all sense of reason. Onward to the docks–like a madman–I ran.

The drowned girl’s voice grew from a singular moan to a choir chanting a miserable command. Voices assailed me from every angle. I saw them in the trees. Small mouths of porcelain and plastic moved in their ghastly cadence. My eyes watered and my skin grew cold.

All the island’s dolls cried out, “¡Traerla, ella nos pertenece a!” Again and again they demanded, “Bring her back, she belongs to us!”

I shrieked at the dolls to cease their infernal wailing. Then, running across a tangle of roots, I lost my footing and crashed to the ground. I writhed about as if one stricken with demons, the rising chant of the dolls’ voices bearing down on me, enveloping me, tearing at my collapsing sanity. Cold, wet hands grasped my collar. The girl from the canal shook me and screeched. Her mouth stretched wide. Fetid brown water–mixed with blood–gushed onto my face, filling my gaping, scream infested mouth. I choked on the vile liquid.

The girl gazed deep into my heart with her pitch black eyes as water rushed from her mouth, pounding onto my face. Instead of splashing off my skin, the water held place and rose as if the girl were submerging me in a body of water.

I cried for mercy. Bubbles floated up through the water. The grim visage of the girl swam above me, fading, becoming murkier by the second. I felt my satchel slip from my shoulder. I sank deeper into the water, the pale moonlight barely visible above. I echoed a final plea for the girl to let me live before the water entered my lungs and my eyes fell shut.

What may have been moments or mere seconds later, an old man was beating on my chest and shouting at me in Spanish. Gasping, I rolled to my side and spewed bitter water from my mouth. I was on the bank of the canal, the full moon shining down. A young boy who carried towels and wore a shocked expression stood at the old man’s side. The old man sighed, shook his head, and helped me to my feet.

After leading me to their hovel, while drinking tea and drying off by the fire, the young boy explained in broken English how he and the old man lived on the island, that they were the keepers of the dolls, and that they had found me face down in the canal, on the verge of drowning. In return, I told them my tale of the girl who had pursued me and of the voices of the dolls which had driven me to the brink of madness. I inquired to the man and the boy if they had my satchel, and that’s its contents were of great import. They simply nodded and told me to try to sleep.

Dawn broke early on the morrow and cast a brilliant, sweeping glow over the island. Although the sun was warm and welcoming, it could not wipe away the previous night’s terrors. I shivered as I followed the old man and his young companion along the path to the docks. While en route, I dared look up into the trees. There the doll sat on her perch among the gnarled limbs, precisely where I had found her the night before. Upon seeing me, her eyes brightened and her lips curled. A faint laugh echoed from her chest and I fell to the ground screaming.

Two days later I regained consciousness in a hospital in Mexico City. I was informed that an old man and his grandson had admitted me and that I had been in a most fearful state, raving about dolls that wanted to kill me and destroy my eternal soul. I had been subdued and placed under watch. The physicians had seen this before and were apparently not surprised.

The next day as I rode the bus out of Mexico City, I vowed to never again trifle with dolls. Although I surely wanted to bring a present home to my dear Tabitha, she would have to grow her collection of foul figurines without my assistance.

 

Logbook of Terror : Plague Island | Poveglia Island, Venice, taly

Plague Island!

Pressing the sharp tip of the chisel hard against the young woman’s temple, I screamed at her to settle down and hold still. I was her doctor, I knew best. I kept telling her this, over and over, my voice rising in pitch and volume, my patience diminishing, my contempt for these unruly patients increasing. Didn’t they understand that I only wanted to help them? As I’d told her, I just needed to get inside her brain. If I could remove the plague infected section which caused her insanity, she would be cured, and then we could all leave this god-forsaken island. I steadied the chisel and raised my mallet high to strike.  

The male patient on the gurney to my right struggled against his restraints, spouting off some rhetoric about not hurting her. Oh, the cries of the insane, how they bore me! “Leave her alone, don’t hurt her! Please, doctor, please!” Always with the begging and pleading. Such weakness; how it sickens me! I am far above this station –a genius such as myself has no business in these wretched climes. How did I get here?

I felt my hands shaking. A sudden, agonizing jolt wracked my brain. Static, as if that of an olden television set in between channels, spit flurries of white across my vision. The well-lit operating room became a dirty, decaying chamber full of cobwebs and ruin. The female patient in front of me was tied to a grimy, rust-covered gurney, held tight by some type of colorful rope that I did not recognize. The man beside me was also strapped down with a similar colorful rope. He wore strange clothes which I’d never before seen: a coat made of a material unknown to me, orange and shiny and slick, that made odd swooshing noises when he turned beneath his restraints. As well, his shoes and trousers were indeed not from a time familiar to me. He howled at me in protest, his face turning red, spittle flying from his mouth, clenching his fists and struggling. I shook my head and blinked my eyes. It must be the ghosts again, I thought. When will they cease with their torments?

My eyes turned back to the male patient. He was once again dressed in his urine stained gown, his wrists bound with white cloth that held him to an almost clean gurney. I smiled. He screamed. Turning back to my female patient, I raised my mallet once again. 

A hard punch landed in my gullet. I doubled over, dropping the mallet and chisel. My patient had somehow wiggled free of her restraints. Curses! Another blow landed hard on my back, sending me to my knees. The woman was screaming. I could hear rustling cloth. She was freeing the male patient. No! They cannot escape! I must complete my work! I cried out for them to halt, snatching up my surgical tools and rushing after them as they fled the operating room. 

I gave chase to my patients through the corridors of the hospital, dodging pale and dirty patients who wandered the halls, their black eyes staring. Their mouths hung open, emitting a green vapor and filling the air with moans of pain and horror. How strange, the hospital’s residents seemed to appear almost translucent. Had they always looked as such? As we rushed past, the loitering patients turned to follow. 

Determination blazed in my mind –these two would not get away!  We scrambled through another short hallway, down several flights of stairs, and burst through a service entrance, out into the night. I grinned. I had anticipated their steps. As I suspected, they were heading for the tower! 

The sweet smell of rot and burned corpses filled my nostrils as I ran. The moans of the following patients echoed behind me. The screams of the two escapees led the way in front of me. Sweat poured from my brow, raining down my skin, stinging my eyes. I called out, commanding them to halt. I was their doctor, why weren’t they listening? Without looking back, my two patients rounded a corner and disappeared through the arched tower door. 

The ghoulish moans increased behind me, growing closer and closer with every step. I glanced back to see an endless stream of pale, rotted and decomposing patients hurtling toward me. They seemed to move effortlessly, as if floating at an ever increasing velocity, howling, crying out for my doom. Their empty eyes burned terror into my heart. These foul beings were not my patients; these were the cursed apparitions, back to torment me again! But they would not have their victory. I ran on, fleeing into the tower. 

Pursuing the living while being pursued by the dead, I pressed on, up and up the tower steps. Finally, reaching the top, I burst into an open room. Cool night air poured in through the open windows that lined the walls. I cried for my patients to show themselves. Without word, they pounced from the shadows, both assailing me at once. Grappling with one another, we stumbled back and forth. The male patient leveled a blow to my side. He screamed fiercely at me, calling me by a foreign name but speaking as if he knew me, telling me that some ghoulish force had taken control of my mind, begging me to halt my rampage. There was another flash of static –fierce and hot- and a quick, jarring memory filled my mind: A chance meeting at a café in Venice, a boat, a secret trip to a haunted island. Then my wits returned. I knew it was but a ruse, for he was my patient and I, his doctor and there was but one objective: to free him from the clutches of insanity. 

During our struggle, none of us had noticed the crowd of apparitions that flooded into the room. Icy hands gripped my shoulders, neck, and arms. My patients screamed anew, crying out for help. The female patient shouted in my face. I blinked. I saw her. It was Clarice, an American traveler who, along with her fiance Michael, had befriended me two days prior. We had met in the city. I had invited them to join me on my paranormal adventuring. 

I saw my own hands. I saw my own clothes. I remembered who I was. Horror filled my being at the realization that I had attacked my companions. But there wasn’t time to worry about that, for the ghosts were throwing us off the tower.

The three of us fell, screaming into the night. A dense bank of mist which surrounded the tower’s base swallowed us away. I waited for the impact of solid earth and the smashing of my brittle bones but such pain and agony never arrived. I floated in the mist, calling out to my friends, pleading for their forgiveness. Their voices echoed back at me from somewhere deep inside the fog. Then it came- the dreaded crash, only, it was soft. I rolled along the ground and came to a stop. The mist had deposited us at the island’s edge. We three watched in shock as the fog left us, floating out to sea and fading into the night. 

It seemed as if we screamed until we had no voices left. Just before dawn we were rescued by a passing craft helmed by local fishermen who were kind enough to ferry us back to Venice. Upon returning, my fellow adventurers and I vowed to never set foot on Poveglia again, the cursed plague island. May its malignant ruins one day be buried deep beneath the sea!

Haunt Jaunts with Courtney Mroch: An Introduction

Hello, boos and ghouls!

Self-introductions are always awkward, aren’t they? There you are, in front of strangers, trying to tell them who you are.

Maybe you’re in a room. Maybe it’s just a small office before a job interview or something. Maybe a larger one, like a presentation room at a convention.

Or, maybe like I am now, via the World Wide Web. Which in some ways makes it less awkward. Or at least less intimidating. I don’t have to see how many people have shown up –or have not shown up, as the case may be. (Which is even scarier. No one wants to feel ignored and unseen.)

So who I am, this new Addict joining the writing team here at HorrorAddicts.net?

Well, for starters, my name is Courtney Mroch. From the time I was able to read I wanted to be like them. The people who created the beloved books I’d devour one after the other.

I didn’t know what kind of author I wanted to be, apart from fiction. But as far as genre? No, that wouldn’t be decided for a few years.

Speaking of genres, I have published fiction in a few different genres: romance, mystery, thriller, suspense, and horror. Usually as some combination of two or more of them. For instance, my last novel, The Ghost of Laurie Floyd, was what I like to call a romantic suspense meets whodunnit with a paranormal twist.

But in my late 20s/early 30s I also felt called to write non-fiction. Mostly personal and travel essays. My essays tend to be more mainstream, but my travel interests are much like my fiction reading interests: dark, scary, spooky and macabre.

I had no confidence in my early travel writing because it wasn’t genuine. It was imitation. I was trying to emulate other travel writers people found popular. I hadn’t found my voice yet. Or, again, my “genre.”

By my late 30s, thanks in part to a battle with cancer and my fascination with jaunting to haunted places, I found the travel niche I wanted to work in: paranormal tourism.

I launched my blog, Haunt Jaunts, in 2009 and have continued to write about my haunted travels ever since.

Well, sort of. I’ve actually traveled quite extensively since 2009, both internationally and domestically. From Alaska, California, New York and Georgia to Turkey, England, Greece, and Singapore…these are just a few of the places I’ve been.

But I rarely write about my own travels. I always mean to, but…I don’t. Why? I don’t know. It’s complicated. It’s like I want to share what I’ve seen, but I also want to save it for some other time that never seems to come.

Odd, right? It is. So what do I write about then? Haunted places themselves, people within the paranormal community, spooky events, horror movies…I am at no loss for things to write about. In fact, that’s why I applied to write for HorrorAddicts.net. I’ve got 50 Evernote notebooks full of post ideas. (And that’s no exaggeration. The exact number is 51.) I could put them all on Haunt Jaunts, I guess, but… I’d also like to bring some more awareness to Haunt Jaunts. I’ve heard one way to do that is to put myself out there on different blogs and in different spaces.

So here I am.

What will I write about here? I’ve already got an Evernote list with some ideas, such as:

  • Would You Use Scaryrentals.Com If It Was a Real Service?
  • 10 States Where Clowns Will Be Delivering Donuts This Halloween
  • Come Unhinged This Fall with the Winchester Experience
  • A New Reason to Make a Trek to Dubai: Zombie Apocalypse Park
  • Places You Can Watch Horror Movies Where They Were Filmed

The titles aren’t set in stone, but it gives you a taste of what’s to come. We’ll start there and see what other dark paths we find to explore on this journey.

For now, I’ll thank you for your time. I look forward to getting more acquainted with each other. (You can give me a sense of who you are and your likes by checking-in with comments and such. You never know, something you may say or suggest may spark my muse and be the catalyst for another post. Love when that happens!)

Until next time, stay spooky (especially when others discourage it!) and ciao for now! ~ Courtney

Logbook of Terror: Myrtles Plantation

Myrtles Plantation

Even in the deepest, darkest hours of the night, the summer air of Louisiana is thick and oppressive. It bears down on me with a hot, wet weight that makes me want to sink into the ground and go to sleep. But I am not here to sleep. I stare at the massive Myrtles Plantation house that looms before me, an imposing giant cloaked in bleak black and mystery. A nervous fear trickles down my spine. I’m not supposed to be here, roaming the grounds at night, but I knew that to get the real story, I couldn’t simply tramp through the house in the daylight hours. Despite the rumors, despite what I had read online regarding sightings of spirits and apparitions during the day, the only time for me to visit this cursed abode was while the rest of the world slept.  

I let out a deep, steadying breath. Not a single light burned within the house or on the grounds, allowing me to approach in stealth. As I neared the steps leading up to the sprawling wrap-around porch, planning to seek entry through one of the windows on the lower level, a voice, its tone wrapped in the sludge of alcohol, beckoned to me. I turned. A lone man leered at me, pointing a pistol at my chest. I froze. No longer calling out to me, his pale lips emitted ghostly whispers that I strained to hear. His gaunt framed staggered toward me. The pistol held higher, he steadied his aim. I held up my hands and pleaded with the man to leave me be. His only response was to whisper to himself while his eyes bore into me with their insane glare. I screamed for him to halt. The pistol fired. Then I was looking up into the Spanish moss that swayed gently in the tree limbs above me, my hands clutched against my breast, my blood flowing out between my fingers. My ears rang from the pistol’s explosive shot, and within the ringing, I heard the mad laughter of the gunman. I struggled to my feet and stumbled up the stairs and onto the wooden landing. The insane cackling followed. 

I flung myself at the front door, grasped the handle, and turned. Miraculously, the front door flung open. I fell into the parlor and staggered to the steps which led to the home’s second floor. A young woman in an antebellum dress hurried through a doorway. She addressed me kindly and helped me to my feet. My only thought -obsessive, irrational, playing in a wretched loop- was to reach the seventeenth step. I had to climb the stairs, I told the girl. She grasped under my arm and steadied me. I looked into her face. Oh, how horrid was the sight! So pale, so ghastly, was her rotting skin! So foul her aura! So putrid her aroma! She had endless black holes for eyes, maggots and worms fell from her gaping mouth, and brown swamp water trickled from her ears. She shoved me onto the stairs. Horrid screeches creaked from her mouth, creeping out past the maggots and worms that squirmed and crawled on her mouth and chin. 

Seventeen, seventeen, seventeen… the number boomed and echoed in my skull, my final destination nearing as I counted each successive step, crawling with one hand while the other was held tight against my bleeding chest. My breaths were short and full of agony, my vision blurry, and the iron rich smell of my own blood filling the air. Only one more… 

When my hand hit the seventeenth step, an unseen force pulled me into the stair and I plunged into complete and total darkness. Wind rushed through my hair in a deafening roar as I fell and fell and fell, until…

I felt soft ground beneath me. Moonlight floated over my body. I ran a hand over my chest. My shirt was dry. I sat up. I was behind the great house. Glancing over myself, I saw that I had no injuries to speak of. My pounding heart slowed. As I sighed with relief and moved to get to my feet, hands thrust up through the ground, grabbing my wrists, tearing into my ankles. I screamed in terror. More hands shot out of the earth and ripped at my clothes and skin. I writhed in horror, fighting off the fiendish limbs. At last, I tore away, rolled, and sprung to my feet. I turned to run and an arrow pierced my side. I fell to my knees, howling. Blood gushed from the wound. I clutched the arrow to pull it from my flesh. I began to pull and another, deeper, older voice called out to me. 

A band of Native Americans stood before me. It was the chief who addressed me, demanding to know why I had chosen to dishonor his people by building my home on their sacred burial grounds. I pleaded with him, fumbling my words in hopes of explaining that it was not I who had built the house and that I was but an innocent traveler. The natives responded by brandishing their hatchets. The chief pointed at me and, with a dire expression on his face, uttered an admonishment in a tongue unknown to me. With grim faces, the tribesmen set upon me. I closed my eyes, cried for my life, and waited for the blows to begin. 

A soft hand touched my shoulder and I heard myself stop screaming. I opened my eyes to a sunny day and a group of tourists circled around me. A young man, his hand still resting on my shoulder, asked me if I was alright. Indeed I was not, I replied. 

I stood and ran from the plantation grounds. I must have run untethered until I reached the nearby town, though I cannot clearly recall, for the horrors of what I’d seen the night prior still plagued my mind and heart, as they surely will for days and weeks to come. Indeed, this cursed plantation is a home which I shall never visit again.

Logbook of Terror: Jump! (the dog suicide bridge)

Overtoun Bridge, Scotland

The voices screamed in my head. Insistent, unrelenting, the words pounded against my skull with their morbid demand: “Jump, Jump… JUMP!”

I hovered between the final two ramparts on the right side of the bridge. In crossing the structure, I’d neared the end of the bridge, I was almost to safety, but the voices stilled my movement. A malignant force beckoned me to the edge of sanity until I stood trembling, preparing to throw myself onto the rocks below. How did I get here? I was just out for an evening stroll. I must remember…

Ah, yes. Following dinner, I’d gone out for my customary evening constitution. I wandered aimlessly through the Scottish countryside, absorbed in the beauty that surrounded me, making mental notes so not to lose my way back to the inn where I was staying. After some leisure minutes had passed, I felt a presence behind me. Turning, I saw a large dog of an unknown breed, dirty and soaking wet, some paces behind me. Thinking strays were probably common here in the country, and not feeling threatened, I continued on. A short time later I again sensed that someone or something was following me. I glanced back and there again was the same large mongrel, only this time, the canine was joined by another dog of large size, yellow eyes, and filthy black, wet, mud-caked fur. The crisp air rushed over me, chilling my bones. Something about those dogs wasn’t right, something… I stopped, not giving my imagination another inch, and merrily pressed on with my country walk.

Evening settled into dusk, and a large moon loomed on the horizon. Fog drifted over the lane. I whistled and took in a deep breath of the fresh air. While relishing the chilly air, I wondered about the dogs I’d seen. Could they still be behind me? I listened intently and only heard the sounds of my own footsteps and the breeze caressing leaves of nearby trees. No padding paws, no panting –nothing but the quiet of the countryside and the day seeping into night. Considering my fears, I laughed under my breath. Dogs don’t follow people around on their evening jaunts. The thought is preposterous!

I told myself not to turn, not to look, then promptly stopped and spun around. Before me stood a pack of at least a dozen dogs of medium to large size, all of them sopping wet, covered in mud and filth, their eyes hollow yet fixed intently on me. I gulped. I stepped back. They stepped forward. The largest dog of them all, the first I’d seen, stepped out in front of the pack, barked, and showed his teeth. My blood froze. The alpha dog leapt forward, the pack followed closely behind, and I hurled myself along the path.

Trees rushed past me while the moon lit my steps and I rushed into an unavoidable wall of fog. Gray and white covered my vision. My feet and heart pounded in unison. I smelled water and the cooing of a flowing stream came to my ears.

I looked down. I was no longer moving. I stood still, my hands on the cold stone of this ancient, cursed bridge. And, to my right, there they were –the dogs, slowly stalking toward me, drenched in fog, their voices in my head screaming as one, commanding: Jump, jump… Jump!

I clenched my eyes shut and cried out for them to stop, to leave me be, to let me go. Suddenly, cold hands were grappling at my limbs, pulling me, pushing me to the ground. I thrashed and screamed to be set free. Then, a soothing voice, telling me I was safe. I opened my eyes. A kindly woman and man knelt over me. I recognized them as the keepers of the inn.

After bringing me to my senses, the couple helped me to my feet and we began our walk back to the inn. Along the way they explained that they’d heard my terrified cries and had run out to find me at the bridge’s edge, appearing as if I intended to throw myself into the stream below. Horrified and embarrassed by my own actions, I thanked them profusely for saving me from any possible self-harm and vowed not to take another solitary evening stroll for the remainder of my stay at their lodging. As we entered the inn I remarked that I was glad the pack of dogs had not attempted to follow us back from the bridge. The innkeepers fixed me with a curious look. I’d been all alone, they said, there hadn’t been a single dog in sight.

Logbook of Terror: Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Assylm

Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum, WV

Despite my loathsome misgivings toward any address with the words “lunatic” and “asylum” in its name or description, I agreed to visit this dreaded famed and supposedly “haunted” locale to investigate. I may sound like a cynic, a non-believer, but the truth is that I believe too strongly and that is why I despise such a place as this.

I know beyond any doubt that it is indeed cursed, that even its bricks and mortar waver in an unearthly trance –caught between worlds- and that I chance becoming infected with the lunacy myself.  For madness lingers, defying death, living on past the mind in which it once dwelt. It is in the walls, in the decomposing rot that lines the ceilings, and surely in the lonely apparitions who wander the dank, cob-webbed corridors of this derelict monument to insanity.

I could feel the terror building in my chest even as I approached the massive gothic structure, its peaks looming high above me in the West Virginia sky, looking down with a mocking sneer. Yet, even with the horror filling my bones, I entered this grand monolith to the wreckage of malformed minds. I simply could not help myself, for I had to know what lies behind the veil of sanity, and the tickets to the overnight ghost tour for which I had registered were apparently non-refundable.   

An hour after my entry into the asylum, I found myself on the fourth floor. Dusk had traversed the bridge into night. My senses had registered to the gloom which surrounded and enveloped me and I let the shadows wrap around me like a comforting blanket. Thankfully, I was in the company of a small group of fellow believers, the “tour group”, who walked the halls with me in a shared reverential fear. We whispered among each other as we listened for the moans of the trapped souls, staying close together, hoping for a glimpse of the otherworldly; even as we dreaded its presence.     

We took watchful steps along the corridor. Our eyes darted nervously back and forth. Even in the dank cold, sweat pricked my skin. The gloom thickened. A lonely laugh echoed down the hall. We halted, our small group frozen where we stood. Again, seconds later, the laugh, high and thin, filled with bleak mirth. Another laugh darted out behind us. Heads spun in different directions. Then, a moan, a dirge of confused sorrow and fear, rang out of the last room on the left.

Photo by Amanda Norman

My hands trembled. A cold breeze cut through me. I saw my own breath. It formed a ghastly image near my face, a visage with a demonic smile which hovered within arm’s reach. The image grinned at me, and, as it faded, whispered my name. I twirled and screamed, and I saw that I was suddenly, utterly, alone.

I called out for my fellow paranormal seekers. Answers in the form of moans and giggles from the rooms lining the hall were the only answers I received. I stumbled backward. Pale figures in glowing white gowns shuffled out of the rooms, through thin doorways, turning toward me, their faces fluid, contorting, their expressions waxing and waning between grimaces and grins. They held their arms out to me, beckoning me to them. Closer and closer, the spirits floated and whispered my name. How did they know me? Was I once one of them in another life? Their contorting mouths opened wide. The ghouls screeched in unison. Black, horrid clouds of insanity poured forth, filling the air, surrounding me, pressing in, holding me close.

I fell to the floor, calling out for help with the dark pouring down on me and the dead whispering my name, over and over, picking at my mind, slicing at my soul. The dark, the madness, the whispers, the laughter, the cries –make it stop! Make it stop! Make it stop!! I wailed in the bleak and the black and the dank and the dark.

Hands on my shoulders shook me awake. Or was I ever asleep? I opened my eyes. I was in the center of the fourth-floor hallway. The odor of urine and disinfectant drifted over me. A fly buzzed over my cheek. Harsh fluorescent lights beamed down on me. The faces of two nurses filled my vision. I slid back on the slick, tile floor, retreating in horrified confusion.

One of the nurses smiled at me. “Now, how’d you get out here again? You know you aren’t supposed to be in the hallway.”

I mumbled, attempting to explain. Somehow, my words scrambled and didn’t come out right. Why can’t I speak?!  I shouted something unintelligible. My eyes watered with horror.

“Now, now, don’t you be afraid,” the other nurse says. “Let’s get you back to your room.”

I cried out as the two asylum nurses hoisted me from the floor. My legs went limp and they dragged me through the corridor, all the way to the last room on the left. I groaned in protest, attempting to explain. Why couldn’t they understand that I wasn’t a patient? Why weren’t they listening to me?

***

That was last week or maybe last month or last year, I can’t be sure. But I am sure that I must find a way out of this godforsaken abode. Every day more patients arrive. I now share my room with five others. The nurses rarely walk our hall and whenever I see one I plead my case for release, telling them in the plainest of terms that I was never meant to be in this place, I was just a visitor! In my earnestness I often grab at their arms, hoping to impart my sincerity and the dire nature of my situation upon them. They look at me with disgust in their eyes and yell at me to leave them be and to “stop yammering.”

This written communique may be my last hope. I was able to smuggle it into yesterday’s mail, addressed to our San Francisco headquarters, and it is my most sincere prayer that a fellow staff member will read my account and take immediate action, for I know not in which dimension I now reside, but I believe with all my heart that the skills and imaginations and divinations of the ones in our organization will once again rescue me from certain peril. Godspeed you addicts! You are my only hope!  

Logbook of Terror: Tamerlane’s Tomb!

A fictional representation of a real Cursed Location – Tamerlane’s Tomb

It is a brilliantly sunny Saturday afternoon. Birds are chirping overhead, the sky is a radiant, cloudless blue. A soft breeze carries laughter and conversation of nearby tourists to my ears. It is a beautiful day, and I am scared out of my mind.

I can’t understand how these crowds of people file and shuffle in and out of this grand, horrid mausoleum without a seeming care, visiting the burial ground of a blood-thirsty conqueror, of a state-sanctioned maniac, a psychopathic butcher who brutalized and murdered millions. Yet here they are; the masses, oohing and aahhing in awe and wonder. They don’t know. They can’t hear them, but I can; I can hear the whispers of the deadTimur reconstruction03.jpg

I want to leave but the dead won’t let me. There seems to be an invisible wall or force of some sort keeping me here. Every evening for the past week I’ve followed the train of mindless tourists as they leave to board the shuttles that will take them back to the resorts, and every time I near the property’s edge, I blink and I am back in the tomb. Last night I was able to climb aboard one of the shuttle buses. I didn’t know where it was headed and I didn’t care, as long as it carried me away from this cursed place of blood and murder and damnation. Once I was seated and the bus began to move, my heart was cheered with thoughts that I was able to be gone from this cursed place. About a block away, I was overcome with tremendous weariness and fell into a deep slumber. When I awoke, I was alone on the stone floor of the tomb, my hands pressed fast against the resting place of the bones of Timur the conqueror. I cried aloud into the night and no one heard me or came to my aid. And still the dead, the countless victims of Timur, whispered in my mind, filling me with horror. Their voices swirled around my head, spinning faster and faster. I saw oceans of blood spilling into the tomb. Waves of crimson crashed against the stones. I rose and ran from the oncoming flood. Falling, my head crashed against Timur’s earthly cell and I fell into blackness.

When I came to the sun was high in the sky. I was dressed in clean clothes, in line with a mob of tourists filing into the tomb, with no memory of how I’d gotten there. A tour guide spouted off facts about the dreaded conqueror. My hands shook. Sweat broke on my brow. Immediately, I fetched my pen and pad from my satchel which was slung over my shoulder as usual and began scribbling the words you now read. Please send help immediately, for last night while my mind swirled in the deepest dark, the spirits charged me with a heinous duty which I must carry out for it weighs on me with the weight of immense obsession. I must open Timur’s resting place. I must disturb his bones. I must activate the curse anew and bring chaos, world-wide war, and terror to the earth! The spirits demand their vengeance, I am their servant, and I must obey! Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please send help now; stop me before it is too late!

Odds and Dead Ends: Welsh Folklore – Cyhyraeth

I’m not an expert on folklore or Celtic myths of any kind, but as a writer living in Wales, I find myself intrigued by them. In keeping with the watery theme of week 2 of this season of the podcast, I found myself stumbling upon a creature that caught my attention.

The Cyhyraeth is a ghostly spirit of ancient folklore, normally linked with the River Tywi, a river in the south west of Wales with its source in the Cambrian mountains and its mouth on the south coast overlooked by Llansteffan Castle. Glamorganshire also can be linked to the Cyhyraeth, but considering that the mouth of the Tywi isn’t too far away, I’d argue that it’s probably simply because of the location, and say the Cyhyraeth are linked to a rough area rather than a specific river. Welsh Myths and Legends suggest that it may even have been associated with as far north as Kerry in Montgomeryshire.

The spirits can be heard whenever someone is about to die. Usually, this takes the form of three ghostly moaning wails, with each one getting weaker and weaker to reflect the dying losing energy and effort.

The wails sound before someone dies overseas as well, perhaps in battle in a far off land. In Glamorganshire, it is said that the Cyhyraeth appears before a shipwreck on the shores. This will usually be accompanied by a corpse-light and the Cyhyraeth proceeding to the churchyard. I can’t find anything to say that the Cyhyraeth are siren-like in nature, luring sailors to the rocks themselves, but that they simply appear when a wreck is about to occur to mourn the loss of the sailors.

The wailing and moaning are usually described as disembodied in nature but has appeared as an old hag or beautiful woman. I’ve found in mythology that these two descriptions of female entities are normally interchangeable, and sometimes one is a disguise for the true form of the other.

The Cyhyraeth themselves are not too dissimilar to the Irish legend of the Banshee. Considering connections between the two countries going back a long way, the nations sending kings and queens to each other in folklore (specifically the second branch of the Mabinogion, which includes a war between the two over a princess and a cauldron of necromancy), I’d wager that the two started out the same and became separate creatures over time. Occult World suggests they are related to the Washers at the Ford, such as the Scottish Bean-Nighe.

Oxford Reference also mentions that the Cyhyraeth ‘may once have been a goddess of streams, which would make sense considering the connection to the Tywi. There may also be an issue with mixing legends, however, as the legend has many similarities to the Gwrach y Rhibyn, as Bertram notes in ‘Funeral Customs: Their Origin and Development’. The Rhibyn is very much a combination of the Cyhyraeth and the traditional witch image of an old woman that feasts on the unwary. Astonishing Legends has a good quick article on the Rhibyn for those interested: https://www.astonishinglegends.com/astonishing-legends/2019/3/12/gwrach-y-rhibyn

In the wider world, Cyhyraeth was the name of a small death metal band from Dallas, Texas. Also, Jane Aaron notes that the spirit haunts the protagonist of Bertha Thomas’ short story, ‘The Only Girl’, originally published in 1913.

Though other variations of this creature may be more well known, it’s certainly interesting to delve into the specifics of folklore and mythologies from a country where the most well-known creature is the big red dragon (or Draig, in Welsh) on the flag. How that came to be there, however, is a story for another time.

Article by Kieran Judge

Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

(trans), S. D., 2007. The Mabinogion. Great Britain: Oxford World’s Classics.

Aaron, J., 2010. Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Welsh Gothic Fiction. Literature Compass, 7(4), pp. 281 – 289.

Illes, J., 2019. Occult World. [Online]
Available at: http://occult-world.com/welsh-mythology/cyhyraeth/
[Accessed 20 04 2019].

Legends, W. M. a., n.a. Welsh Myths and Legends. [Online]
Available at: http://www.welsh-mythsandlegends.walesdirectory.co.uk/Death_Portents/Cyhyraeth_The_Death_Sound_Kerry.html
[Accessed 20 04 2019].

n.a, 2019. Oxford Reference. [Online]
Available at: http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095656118
[Accessed 20 04 2019].

Puckle, B. S., 2009. Funeral Customs: Their Origin and Development. n.a: Library of Alexandria.

Thomas, B. & Kirsti, B., 2008. Stranger Within the Gates. UK: Dinas Powys: Honno.

 

Logbook of Terror: Lake Ronkonkoma

Lake Ronkonkoma by Russell Holbrook

A fictional representation of a real Cursed Location – Lake Ronkonkoma

Watching the sun set over Lake Ronkonkoma, with the streaks of orange and yellow light glistening and reflecting off the water, is a breathtaking experience. On that particular evening, I was so moved by the sight I had tears in my eyes. After several minutes of gazing at this natural wonder, pondering life and the universe, and feeling an enveloping sense of awe at the wonders of our world, I decided to finish rowing across the lake and have dinner at the Light House. Although my friends had all told me that crossing the lake in my rickety craft was a bad idea at best, I’d decided to do it anyway, because, after all, well-intended advice is made to be ignored.

I rowed in silence, easing my boat along with wide, sweeping movements of the oars. My craft glided across the water, sending out ripples in its wake. While passing the center of the lake I peered down into the water. My eyes searched the darkness. I wondered if it could possibly truly be bottomless, as some of the locals claimed. I tried to fathom an endless expanse of water, ebbing and flowing down into eternity. Perhaps there exists a parallel dimension beneath the water’s surface? A watery heaven or a liquid hell, one filled with mermaid angels and another full of demonic denizens of the deep? No one knows and perhaps no one ever will. I stopped my musings and focused on reaching the Lighthouse. The late summer light was fading and my stomach was growling. I rowed faster.

About a hundred or so yards from shore, as I mentally perused the restaurant’s menu, thinkin of what I might order, a loud thud rang out from the bottom of the vessel. My heart jumped into my throat. My eyes shot to the floor of the boat. It was still fully intact. The craft rocked back and forth. I cried out and grabbed the sides. Another crash rocked me from side to side, nearly capsizing me. A third crash lifted the front end before letting it crash back into the water. I screamed and slammed my oars against the water, panicking to speed myself to shore.  Cursing and wailing, I screamed for help, thrashing the oars furiously against the water, fleeing for my life. Closer and closer I came to the sandy shore and hope filled my heart that I would survive.

The Legends of Lake Ronkonkoma-1Mere feet from the water’s edge, she ascended from the water with a shrill, horrifying cry -the lady of the lake, flying through the air before me! Frozen with fear while simultaneously enraptured by the lady’s morbid beauty – her grand, pale curves, her blank eyes, her wet, pitch black hair. She landed in front of me, her bare feet lighting on the floor of my boat, her hands wrapping tight around my throat. Before I could acclimate my mind to the reality of the events that had suddenly turned my life into a living nightmare, I was pulled from my boat and thrust down into the murky depths.

I flailed my arms and legs, I wrestled with the water maiden’s hands, but it was no use, for her strength could not be overcome. Down, down I went, further and further into uncharted depths. The pressure on my frail human frame was so intense that I passed from pain into ecstasy. Seeing that my life was fleeting, the lady released her grip on my throat. She took my hands in hers. I watched her bare breasts sway in the water’s ebb. Tiny fish and creatures of the deep eased past, observing our descent. The lady ran a soft, silky finger over my cheek, and, just before my skull imploded, I thought I saw her smile.

Black Horror History: Haunted Hickory Hill

Haunted Hickory Hill (The Old Slave House)
by James Goodridge

Chicago’s Hull House “Devil Baby” is high on the paranormal scale with its strangeness but Hickory Hill or The Old Slave House has a more horrific legacy. Located in the southern part of Illinois, Hickory Hill was once a tourist attraction but has been closed since 1996. Using his wealth, John Hart Crenshaw along with his wife, Franchine, constructed the pseudo-Greek house overlooking 30,000 acres of land. He was the owner of a mill and furnaces that converted water from salt springs into salt, which was in high demand to settlers headed west and the United States government. He was a man of means.

The house, built in 1834 had a carriageway unique for its time, where a wagon could be driven right into the house. But why? Crenshaw in his greed engaged in what was a reverse underground railroad in Illinois, a free state. The harshness of working in the salt works didn’t appeal to free white men and leasing slaves from Kentucky cost money, so Crenshaw—with the help of night riders—embarked on kidnapping free black families in the state and any fugitives that crossed the Ohio River. A secret tunnel from the Saline River that connected to the Ohio River helped Crenshaw in his noxious enterprise. Soon, the demand for slaves to be shipped back down south increased. How could he keep up?

Imagine yourself a free young black women arriving at night to Hickory Hill. You’re taken up narrow stairs to the attic, where there are twelve small cells with wooden bunks, iron rings to chain you to the floor, and bars across the windows. The cells were stifling hot during the summer, freezing cold during the winter, and manic to melancholy all year round. Chained to the bunk you have a sense of foreboding—then terror—as the cell door opens and a massive human frame is standing there in the doorway.

Uncle Bob was a slave Crenshaw kept for the sole purpose of forced breeding like a prized bull. It is said that he sired over 300 children. The same house a state representative named Abraham Lincoln attended a ball in 1840. Crenshaw’s evil bonanza began to recede when in 1842 he was arrested for kidnapping Maria Adams and her eight children who were sold off and taken to Texas. Crenshaw was not convicted of kidnapping, winning this and other charges over the years. However, a small bit of revenge did kiss Crenshaw in that persons unknown burned down his mill and a slave enraged at Crenshaw beating another slave, overtook to him with an axe, hacking his leg off.

In the late 1920’s famed exorcist Hickman Whittington armed with his “secret text bible” entered Hickory Hill intent on ridding the place of as he stated, “Shades of negro slaves.” Instead, it was said, he went running and screaming out of the house and dropped dead a few hours later. Further research revealed Whittington did not drop dead. In fact, in 1938 he tried to murder his wife. Whittington died in Anna State Hospital in 1940. After the Civil War, Crenshaw sold Hickory Hill to a German family. He died in 1871, followed by his wife ten years later. It was when Hickory Hill was sold to the Sisk family in 1913 (some sources date the sale as 1906) that paranormal incidents started. Voices mumbling from in the walls, shadows walking just out of view, the yelling of the name Janice, whimpering, and phantom screams in the night have unnerved visitors.

Over the years out of the 150 people that tried to spend the night in Hickory Hill only to escape the place before dawn, David Rodgers a reporter from WSIL-TV Harrisburg is one that stayed. On Halloween night, 1978, although Rodgers said he heard “noises” in the attic, the night was uneventful. Setting the Whittington episode to the side, something of a paranormal nature must been present for over 150 people to not stay the night.

Sadly, the pre-ghost horror story of those slaves can be found in many an African American family. In my family, there is a story that has been told through the years of one of my ancestors who was sold among a group of slaves to a new plantation in Georgia. While being transported, she became ill being it was a rainy southern winter day and the slaves were made to walk along behind the overseer’s wagon. After some time, she passed out along the side of a muddy road. Pressed for time and seeing her as damaged goods, the overseer got down off the wagon got a hand full of mud. He then shoved it down her throat, suffocating her to death. I only hope somehow her spirit gained some type of revenge.

Sources: Haunted Ohio Blog, Troy Taylor’s America’s Most Haunted, Haunted Heartland by Beth Scott & Michael Norman 1987 Warner Books, and Wikipedia.


aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.