FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Haunting Ladies!

Haunting Ladies Good and Bad by Kristin Battestella

Despite some of the famous names involved, these household horrors and haunting dames are good, bad, and ugly…

House Hunting – A low priced, seventy-acre foreclosure is too good to be true for two families in this 2013 mind-bender starring Marc Singer (The Beastmaster). Rather than a scenic credits montage, the obligatory drive to the horrors is a claustrophobic car conversation between a young wife and the unheard step-daughter. Shrewd editing places the divided family each in their own frame, and our second trio also argue over a teen son on crutches and a grumpy dad rightfully asking what the catch is on this dream property with automated sales pitches in every room. Surprise accidents, hidden guns, tongues cut out, crazy people on the road, and disappearing figures in the woods pack seven different characters into the SUV, but all the country drives lead back to this house. What choice do they have but to stay inside by the ready fireplace? Flashlights, hooded shadows in the corners, just enough canned food for all – the families stick together in one room but cigarette smoking, hooting owls outside, and chills in the air add tense while a bloody ax and a straight razor foreshadow worse. The men take watches but one woman wants to get to work on Monday while the other is almost happy to be there and clean the house. Can they wait for help to arrive? Instead of any transition, the screen simply moves to “One Month Later” with piled cans, smelly clothes, and nobody sleeping. Household papers reveal those responsible for the foreclosure are closer than they think, but they’re trapped in this routine, strained by violent visions and hazy apparitions. Is it really ghosts or cabin fever? If one family stays, will the house let the others leave? Finger-pointing, blame, and distrust mount amid suicides and new assaults. Of course, the metaphors on being trapped by one’s own consequences and reliving past mistakes aren’t super deep and the atmosphere falls apart in real-world logic. Why does no one do what the real estate recordings say? Have they no pen or paper to recount events? Why don’t they hunt for more food? This is a little weird with some trite points, unexplained red herrings, and an unclear frame – problems from a lone writer/director with no secondary eye to see the personal family connections through without changing the rules for the finale. Fortunately, the supernatural elements aren’t flashy, in your face shocks, and the plain fade-ins mirror the monotony, freeing the eerie to develop with meta jigsaw puzzles, doppelgangers, us versus them threats, injuries, and standoffs. Are they getting what they deserve? Will the house let them apologize and escape? The clues are there, but selfish bitterness and vengeance prevent one and all from seeing the answers. While slow for those expecting a formulaic slasher, this festival find remains unusual and thought provoking.  I Didn’t Think it was *that* Bad

Cold Creek Manor – New York skylines, business flights, morning rushes, and scary accidents lead to a perilous country renovation for Dennis Quaid (Innerspace), Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Stephen Dorff (Blade), Juliette Lewis (Strange Days), and Christopher Plummer (Somewhere in Time) in this 2003 thriller from director Mike Figgis (Stormy Monday). The prologue, drive to the scares, and less than friendly redneck rest stops are just a few of the usual horror staples for our pretty rich white city folk. However, there is a high-end style with a great brick manor, overgrown charm, and unusual slaughter tools amid the spiderwebs, children’s clothes left behind, vintage family portraits, and saucy Polaroids. Older cell phones and flip cameras feel more rural than dated, and overhead camera angles, closeup shots, in and out of focus usage, slow zooms, and pans in the stairwell add chills. Intercut conversations also build community tension with chats in a booth versus whispers at the bar revealing the small town connections as uncouth relatives insist there are no hard feelings over the foreclosure sale. The trailer park naughty, shirtless handyman steamy, and mano y mano contests, however, are weak try hards alongside several unnecessary characters compromising what should be taut isolation. Snakes – and I do mean snakes for those terrified of them – nursing home nasty old men, skull bashing and devil’s throat dialogue, and tavern violence accent the backwoods car chases, animals in peril, and buried evidence as storms approach. Rather than in your face hectic loudness, the most frightening scenes here are the quiet chills, but of course, nobody pays attention to the son who’s holding all the information needed and being upfront about the real estate deal would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. The evasive camera and poor editing are used to distract from confusing logistics, and drinking or affairs contrivances are planted to deflect from the wealthy people claiming they have no resources to leave before the weak rooftop standoff. This tries to be sophisticated and had the pieces to be better but fails in putting together a steamy, fatal, cerebral thriller. Ironically this derivative is better than the recent trite scares shilled out, and if you go in expecting the standard house horrors, this can still be bemusing.  But Skip

House of Bones – The 1951 baseball nostalgia opening this 2010 ghost hunters yarn starring Charisma Carpenter (Buffy) is totally The Sandlot complete with a chubby redhead hitting dad’s Babe Ruth autographed baseball over the ominous fence. Technicalities drag the arrivals as dude bros in a van with the latest gear are sure to announce themselves as the cameraman, the host, and the producer. Slow-motion strobe and in your face television credits for the internal paranormal program parody such series while playing into all they do with annoying crescendos, false jumps, and cheesy bumpers. Every horror moment has to be a bad effect – a glance at gross apple worms has to be some herky-jerky strobe when exploring the cluttered old house, skulls behind the plaster, roaches, suspicious ectoplasm, and disappearing assistants better build the eerie atmosphere. Black and white camera screens, creepy radios, and EVPs accent the attic artifacts and bloody toes yet the modern filming is too fast with no time for the haunted house mood or psychic sensations. The unlikable crew remain jerks trying to turn throwing up hair, shadows caught on camera, disturbing phone calls, and impaled police into a reality show angle rather than taking the danger seriously. Trying to be both a debunking paranormal show and a horror movie at the same time doesn’t quite succeed when the out of place humor and handheld camera sarcasm jar with the scary glass mishaps and arms coming through the walls. The television production asinine should have been dropped sooner so all can fear this alive house that feeds on blood and plays psychological tricks with vintage visuals, power outages, mirror images, and gear hazards. However, the find the blueprints plan of action is silly – an overly serious and contrived resolution meandering with a thin script and useless psychic before running out of steam. While fine for a late night millennial audience, this ultimately has very little haunted house merit.  And Avoid

Winchester – Hammering sounds, lantern light, staircases, tolling bells, and dark corridors accent this 2018 tale of the famed mystery mansion starring Helen Mirren (The Tempest) as Sarah Winchester. Period patinas, maze-like designs, carriages, and cluttered libraries add mood, however creepy kid warnings and opium stupors contribute to an unnecessary opening twenty minutes. The Winchester company lawyer wants a doctor to assess the titular widow’s state of mind – an unwelcoming, typical start with men hiring other men to outwit a woman in a superfluous modern script that does everything but focus on the eponymous subject. Jump scares and crescendos compromise subtle winds and ghostly movements, and the bright picture and special effects editing feel too contemporary. One and all talk about the construction oddities, spiritualism, and the reclusive Widow Winchester’s grief, but it’s too much telling instead of seeing her unreliability and the potentially paranormal. Eerie sounds from the call pipe system are an excuse for ill-advised exploring, dreams, and more disjointed flashes. Quiet overhead scene transitions and meandering tours of the house have no room to create atmosphere because there must be a back and forth mirror fake out – it’s a bathroom scare at the ye olde washstand! One can tell this was written and directed by men, for even as a trio there are no checks or balance on how to tell a women’s horror story. We don’t know her internal or external torment over this spiritual construction as the creepy veils, automatic writing, and supernaturally received architectural plans are too few and far between, and the audience remains at arms length through the keyhole rather than inside with the ghostly connections. Why isn’t the possessed kid with the potato sack on his head who’s jumping off the roof and shooting at the old lady removed from the house? Why should the spirits leave her family alone when the Mrs. begs them to when the script hasn’t given them or us any reason to listen to her? The backward perspective here puts viewers in a skeptical, debunking mindset, leaving the picture with something to prove and audiences looking for the fright around the corner – creating predictable haunts rather than period simmer. Though capable of a one-woman show, Mirren is a mere MacGuffin as old newspapers, flashback splices, and physical bullets bring down one disgruntled ghost as if that’s supposed to stop the silly whooshes, earthquake rattling, and exaggerated construction destruction. Maybe the ghostly shocks and turn of the century accents are fine for a spooky midnight movie. However, the historically diverging and problematic constructs here shift a unique, one of a kind women’s story in an amazing setting into a pedestrian, nonsensical copycat horror movie about a man facing his own ghosts. Good grief.

Odds and Dead Ends: Scary Shadows | Analysis of H G Wells’ ‘The Red Room’

 

H. G. Wells might be more known for his science-fiction novels, such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, but some of his short stories might as well have been written by H. P. Lovecraft. The Red Room is a straight up ghost story in the same vein as M. R. James. It’s a little gem of a story, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts as to what makes it such a delight.

The Red Room details the protagonist taking up a challenge of sorts to stay in a cursed castle bedroom overnight. The opening sets this up nicely in what might now seem a cliché. The opening line that ‘“I can assure you,” said I, “that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me,”’ is reminiscent of Jack Torrance in Kubrick’s The Shining saying ‘“That’s not going to happen to me”’ when Ullman speaks of the previous caretaker going insane.

This single line perfectly sets up the beginning of the character’s arc (from skeptic to believer), tells us the genre of story (supernatural), and the character of the protagonist. His skepticism is reinforced when he says that ‘I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house’. He is ‘abbreviated and broadened to an impossible sturdiness in the queer old mirror at the end of the room.’ He sees himself as a rock, immovable against anything that passes his way. However, the mirror has changed his appearance, and just as he sees himself to be a rock in a storm, his faith is soon to be changed.

The protagonist’s disbelief in ghosts is due to a fear of age and dying. It is said that he is ‘“eight-and-twenty”’, which is twenty-eight for those who don’t speak century old English, making him a young man. This is in contrast to the three elderly people who apparently live in the castle. This fear of their age presents itself when the protagonist remarks that ‘There is, to my mind, something inhuman in senility.’ Age removes human qualities, and so something very old is to be seen as disgusting, or feared. Spirits, dead for many years, must be terrifying to him.

As the protagonist leaves the group for the room, they are described as ‘dark against the firelight’, which is one of the many allusions to shadows peppered throughout the opening. This further links them to the spirits that will eventually come to haunt our protagonist. Just a little later the protagonist himself expands on this idea, even remarking that ‘their very existence, thought I, is spectral.’

Along with this is the line ‘“It’s your own choosing.”’ This line is repeated like a mantra throughout the opening, and though it may be a bit overdone, the message is clear. By disobeying the warnings given, he brings the doom upon himself. This cliché also gets played up in The Cabin in the Woods, when the group ignore the warnings not to go up to the cabin. You get what’s coming to you.

Soon, even before we enter the room itself, Wells drops the recurrent image that will pervade the remainder of the piece, that of moving, sentient shadows fighting against the candlelight. There’s something very primal about this opposition, very simply a play of light against dark, of good against evil. ‘My candle flared and made the shadows cover and quiver.’ That the shadows are anthropomorphised, being said to have ‘came sweeping up behind me, and another fled before me into the darkness overhead’ is disturbing. Light has to be controlled by man, dependent on him, but the dark can move as it wishes.

The repetition and enhancing of this play of ghostly shadows is what drives the remainder of the piece. ‘The door of the Red Room and the steps up to it were in a shadowy corner.’ The protagonist must move into the realm of darkness if he is to attempt to hold out against it. The room itself is a ‘huge shadowy room with its black window bays,’ full of dust and ‘black corners, its germinating darkness.’ And against all this the candlelight has very little effect, ‘a little tongue of light in the vast chamber; its rays failed to pierce to the opposite end of the room.’

Despite being disturbed by ‘some impalpable quality of that ancient room,’ the protagonist tries to ‘preserve my scientific attitude of mind,’ and examines the room ‘systematically.’ He lights several candles throughout the room, illuminating all that he can, but despite this he still puts his revolver ‘ready to hand.’ Have all his efforts been in vain? He tries to maintain that he is in control of his emotions and that his ‘precise examination had done me a little good,’ and yet ‘I still found the remoter darkness of the place and its perfect stillness too stimulating for the imagination.’ All the build up at the beginning of the story begins to pay off, as our anticipation for ghosts and ghouls overrides the common sense saying that there is nothing there. Every mention of a black spot, a shadow in the rafters, is somewhere we search for ghosts in between the lines, looking for subtext. We are literally jumping at shadows.

A draught enters the room, and soon the candle in the alcove begins to flicker, which ‘kept the shadows and penumbra perpetually shifting and stirring in a noiseless flighty dance.’ An attempt to light more candles gives us his humorous remark that ‘when the ghost came I could warn him not to trip over them.’ Though this line is obviously a joke to himself, he’s brought ghosts into his everyday vocabulary, thinking of them as existing in his world. He’s begun a path away from disbelief into acknowledgement.

And then the candles start to go out.

Now that Wells has ratcheted up the tension by implication alone, he brings on the scares. The alcove, where the deepest shadow has been, is suddenly in darkness again. A candle has gone out. When trying to relight it, two more go out. The shadows do not give him time to bring back the light, and immediately move in for the kill. Again the comparison of the darkness to calculated activity is drawn, as ‘the flames vanished as if the wick had been suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb.’ The protagonist moves closer and closer to hysteria, and ‘a queer high note getting into my voice somehow.’

The protagonist, hysterical, again breaches into the realms of ghostly belief by exclaiming that ‘“those candles are wanted… for the mantel candlesticks.”’ He begins to fight against the shadows’ continuous extinguishing of the candles, ‘the shadows I feared and fought against returned, and crept in on me, first a step gained on this side of me, then on that.’ It is a fight that he can only lose because as was said many times at the beginning, it was a fate of his own choosing.

And yet the ambiguity is still maintained, because the draught was never initially shown to be ghostly in nature, and when he picks up another candle, ‘abruptly this was blown out as I swung it off the table by the wind of my sudden movement.’ Wells continually holds the reader in suspense of wanting to see something overtly supernatural, so that we voraciously follow the protagonist’s stumbling with our own clumsy speed, running headlong through the pages. It is Wells at his finest.

His escape from the room is even deliberately non-supernatural, battering himself up by his own stumbling in desperation and anxiety. And in the end, the final revelation of the nature of the malevolence in the room is a beautiful touch. ‘“Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms.”’ It is described as being a supernatural force, but it is entirely possible to view it as a kind of mass hysteria. Somewhere creepy that instills fear that causes people to essentially, accidentally kill themselves in terror. The disorientation of a sudden acceptance of the possibility of spirits, of the loss of a guiding light, combined with his fear of age and decay, all fuel a Todorovian fantastic story. It’s a wonderful touch to end the piece.

In conclusion, The Red Room is a masterfully crafted ghost story that should be remembered with the best. A great build up to a frantic fight of the rational vs. the irrational part of the brain, with memorable descriptions of the sentient shadows, in a spooky gothic castle. It’s inspired my own work[1], and I hope that you’ll find something delightfully spooky from it as well.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

King, S., 1977. The Shining. United States: Doubleday.

The Cabin in the Woods. 2012. [Film] Directed by Drew Goddard. USA: Mutant Enemy.

Todorov, T., 1975. The Fantastic. New York: Cornell University.

Wells, H. G., 1896. The Red Room. [Online]
Available at: https://repositorio.ufsc.br/bitstream/handle/123456789/157356/The%20Red%20Room%20-%20H.G.%20Wells.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
[Accessed 23 06 2019].

Wells, H. G., 1897. The War Of The Worlds. United Kingdom: Pearson’s Magazine.

Wells, H. G., 1931. The Time Machine. New York: Random House.

[1] For those interested, the piece in question, The Voice-Snatcher, will be released in The Sirens Call #45 at the end of June/beginning of July.

David’s Haunted Library: Sleep Savannah Sleep


 

Jason Crandall needed to make a new start, he worked in Los Angeles as a Marketing executive for years. Sadly his wife died leaving him as a widower with an 18-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. He decided to start his new life in Shadow Springs by becoming a massage therapist. Shadow Springs seems like a nice little town but before long before cracks start to form in the town’s illusion of normalcy and secrets come to light.

First Jason has to deal with a jealous husband of one of his clients but life gets more complicated as the beautiful Savannah Sturgess goes missing. Jason starts to have horrible visions that make him doubt his sanity and some people are looking at him as a suspect in the disappearance.  Everyone in town has their own set of secrets, but the biggest secret is what happened to Savannah and why won’t the dead rest in peace?

Sleep Savannah Sleep by Alistair Cross is a book that works on several levels. It’s a murder mystery, horror novel and ghost story with the perfect setting of a small mysterious town.  The first half of the book takes its time making us feel empathy for the characters. By the time strange things happen in the second half you’re totally hooked and wanting to see what happens next.

The detail put into each character makes them come to life and while they are shown one way, to begin with you see other sides to them as the story moves along. Savannah, in the beginning, is seen as the town whore but when we get into why she is the way she is, she becomes a sympathetic character. Also, Flynn Garvey who is Savannah’s boyfriend has no personality in the beginning, but later we dig a little deeper and find he has a secret and there is more depth to him than we thought. Even the character of Tabitha Cooper who is not in the story much is someone you feel for. She is seen as a crazy old witch, but in reality is very different than others see her. All of the characters present an image to the outside world but if you scratch the surface a little they show another side. You care about these people because you can relate to them and that makes things even scarier when odd things start to happen.

The best part of this book was when Jason is questioning his sanity. You see him as just a guy dealing with the loss of his wife and trying to raise his kids to the best of his abilities but as he is having visions that make no sense his life quickly unravels. The feeling of losing your mind when you know people are dependent on you is the worst kind of fear and Jason is also dealing with ghosts from his past. In Sleep Savannah Sleep the horror doesn’t come from what you see, it comes from what you don’t see. This is an old school horror novel that preys on your emotions rather than showing you horrific imagery, though it does that too. Alistair Cross shows that he is a master storyteller by giving us memorable characters and a twist ending that you’ll never see coming.

 

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: SWEET RECENT SCARES

 

Sweet Recent Scares

by Kristin Battestella

 

Ghosts, vampires, and cults, oh my! This trio of recent tales get the scares right!

 

I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in The House – Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair) stars in this 2016 Netflix original written and directed by Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter). Poetic voiceovers tell of a house being borrowed by the living while dark screens and period silhouettes come in and out of focus, creating an aged feeling for our colonial house, ailing horror author, and her jilted live in nurse Lily – who must always wear white, can’t be touched, and slaps her own hand for snooping. Certainly there are obvious implications with repeated phrases, solitary scenes, one side phone calls, whispering voices, and no outdoor perspectives to disrupt our attention from the suspect footsteps and undisturbed décor. Old music with ironic lyrics, cassettes, rotary phones, typewriters, static TV antennas, and Grateful Dead shirts also invoke a trapped in the past mood implying that the thin veil between life and death is soon to be broken. Shadowed, almost black and white shots and doorways framed in darkness make the audience question which side of the looking glass we are on – slow zooms peer into the dark frames or blacked out night time windows. There are shock moments, but the one woman play design is intense without being loud or in your face. Blindfolds, old fashioned dresses, mirrors, musty papers, and mysterious boxes increase amid moldy walls and suspicious characters from our author’s 1960 novel The Lady in the Walls – creating slow burn literary flashbacks, parallel self-awareness, ghostly uncertainty, and feminine duality on wilted old age blooms versus forever beautiful flowers. Is this a linear story or are the past, present, living, and dead blending together? Again, the answers are apparent with book titles and name hints hidden in plain sight. No one eats, sleeps, or bathrooms yet this ghostly rot and repetition may take multiple viewings for full discussion, interpretation, and analysis. Although there are some pretentious arty for the sake of it moments – not the papa Anthony Perkins scenes on the TV! – knocking on the walls, a flipped up rug, buzzing flies, and a will requesting another woman writer come to chronicle this “House of Stories” are atmosphere enough without run of the mill wham bam effects. This individual horror experience remains can’t look away intriguing for old school horror fans not expecting thrills a minute and those who enjoy a seventies, no concept of time mood.

 

Midnight Son – An aversion to sunlight, skin conditions, and the need for human blood make for a deadly quarter life crisis in this 2011 indie gem from Scott Leberecht (Life After Pi). There’s not much dialogue early – and the DVD has deleted scenes, interviews, and commentaries but no subtitles – yet the visual storytelling doesn’t need anything uber talkative. Interesting schemes denote the false night time light with yellow lamps, neon accents, string bulbs, blue kitchen designs, and choice reds as the doctor diagnoses anemia, jaundice, and malnourishment. Rare steak isn’t doing the trick, but the sight of blood on a bandage at the ho hum night security job gets the heart racing for something tasty. Early Google research moments get out of the way in favor of painting memories of the sun, solitary vampire movie watching, checking for fangs, testing for a reaction to crosses, and having a laugh at the clichés. Loneliness, street peddlers, deadbeats, and debt – life’s already down on its luck so what’s a little vampirism? The vampire vis-a-vis for drug use and life sucks may be trite today, but this allegory has an older, working protagonist stopping in the corner butcher for some blood by the pint to hide in his coffee cup. Companionship and fantastic possibilities can be found in unlikely places, and it’s neat to see just how many things a basement dwelling vampire can really do at night. Although I like his bed with the blackout curtains, this is a potential turned bleak world – the natural awkwardness is understandable and casually realistic. Jacob’s smart, talented, and just hampered by his…health problems…and an ER opportunist is willing to trade blood for a price. Rather than shock horror exploitative, we have an intimate, invested view for the increasing slurps, bloody makeouts, and desperateness. Quick camera flashes leave room for suggestion as bodily changes, night vision, infections, and love bites interfere with potential relationships, murder investigations, gallery possibilities, and you know, trying to get somewhere in life. Can you be a good and normal vampire or is amoral violence the only answer? Though plain to some with nothing super unexpected, the simple constructs echo the mature progression, honest drama, and self-aware focus without the need for horror spectacle. This is a fine story with a small but well rounded, multi-ethnic cast, and it’s one of the best same writer/director pictures I’ve seen in a very long while.

 

Sacrifice – Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black), Rupert Graves (Sherlock), and David Robb (Downton Abbey) star in this 2016 adaptation of Sharon Bolton’s novel beginning with brisk New York pregnancy emergencies before moving to Scotland’s great mountains, rocky coasts, and end of the world island isolation for an adoption. Standing stones, jokes about mistaking “runes” for “ruins”, and talk of Druids, Normans, and ritual sacrifice pepper the scene setting job interviews, hospital tours, and dinner with the wealthy, well-connected, but secretive in-laws. A dead animal on the property reveals a buried body, and our lady obstetrician butts into the police investigation of this bog discovery, studying creepy photos and x-rays of the corpse to suggest the victim had recently given birth before her insides were excised. Quality science, Tollund Man references, and flood clues jar against trow myths, unique folklore, and inscription evidence. The authorities don’t want to hear any of that old sacrificial talk, but these mothers and lady cops are intelligent women talking about history and murder rather than men or gossip. While the well-paced, multilayered investigations may build the spooky versus facts with suspicions and tense cloak and dagger, this is not an overt horror picture. The story here feels caught in the middle when it should have been either a straight crime drama or gone with all out fantastics. There are some plot confusions as well – who is who and all the details aren’t totally clear, leaving an abrupt end with serious unanswered questions. Fortunately, surveillance, shadows, chases in the dark office at night, and lights going out add suspense. Late wives, a clinic full of pregnant but anonymous women – who doesn’t want this medical mystery solved and why? This is a small island, and not being in on its secrets can prove fatal with dangerous bridges or fiery car accidents. Body switches, clandestine interviews, identifying tattoos, hidden passages, and bagpipes tossed in for good measure seemingly tidy the case, and a likable, mature cast anchors the maternal fears and cult demands of this unique little thriller.

 

But Skip

White Settlers – A city couple moves to a too good to be true Scottish fixer upper on a medieval battle site in this 2014 British snoozer also called The Blood Lands. After the usual cool opening credits, are we there yet driving to the horrors, a somewhat shady estate agent, no phone signals, and a move in montage; the very unprepared wife realizes she’s afraid of being in an isolated handyman house without power. Of course, her jerk husband makes Scottish jokes, refusing to let up on his bullshit attitude even when there’s a scary break in and unseen attackers. The outdoor saucy, surprisingly immature and incompatible couple, and nighttime suspicious are typical clichés, and the divine scenery, historical references, and great house are never used to their full potential. When the description refers to ancient battles, one sort of expects something wild like ghosts or cults and past meets present horror – not guys in pig masks angry at the new neighbors. It’s tough to feel any of the supposed English versus Scottish subtext because the horror is so substandard. Eden Lake had better us versus them twists, and I swear I just saw this terrorizing hooligans in animal masks trope in at least three other horror house siege movies. Although flashlights and fog make it difficult to see much of anything here, and our wife has to apologize to her asshole husband for her being afraid even while she’s the superior fighter. Maybe this isn’t that bad on its own, but it’s certainly disappointing if you are expecting anything more than Brits chasing some other Brits through the woods in the dark. Nothing here is horror sentient – people go back to check the still body, bads talk rather than act to create a contrived victim escape, and who trusts the creepy little boy for help? Hello, McFly. If you didn’t want any English buying your Scottish property, why not blame the real estate lady who sold it to them? Or the bank that made the price so high? How is unrealistically terrorizing and ridiculously kicking out the new owners so you can move in going to get rid of any of the real world consequences?

David’s Haunted Library: Dead Over Heels

David's Haunted Library

33115353Veronica is looking for true love, it hasn’t been easy and now she thinks using a little magic may help. It works in the form of Sebastian and they hit it off instantly. Their first date is in a haunted restaurant and as luck would have it their romantic dinner is the scene of a supernatural encounter. They notice a young couple dining, but no one else does, and Veronica along with an apprehensive Sebastian decides to investigate further. They discover that they have a connection to the couple in question and they may be the only ones who can set the ghosts free.

Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun is a paranormal love story with  elements of horror and mystery. There is a lot going on in this book in a short period, and I loved how the story begins with a little foreshadowing to let you know this love affair is not your average affair. Everything was described in great detail from the characters emotions to the various settings.

I enjoyed how the couple’s relationship developed from the description of their first date to the point of when they realize that something strange is going on in the restaurant. My favorite part was when Veronica sees a couple very much in love and wishes that someday she can have something like that, not knowing what’s coming to her. There was also a scene where Veronica compares being abandoned to putting on a worn pair of jeans. With this line, I felt fully invested in this character and was hoping for a happy ending.

I loved how the author got you to like the two main characters before anything bad happened. During the second part of the book you get to witness the two changed by a paranormal revelation and they realize nothing will ever be the same. My one problem with the story is how it ended, without giving much away, it felt like there was no closure.  With that said, the writing was very good and I like how what happens in the past affects what happens in the future, showing that some things and people are connected. This is a good little ghost story and I would love to read some longer works from Theresa Braun.

 

Strange Happenings in Wisconsin

August_the_beast_of_bray_road_by_pyro_helfier-d7v0mcyA fan of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, Jeff Eickelberg recently sent us an email saying that one topic he would love to see us talk about was unexplained occurrences in Wisconsin. Specifically he asked about Great Lakes ghosts, cryptids, haunted farmhouses or anything else that could be considered ghoulish. Being that I live in Wisconsin I was more than happy to research strange happenings in Wisconsin. Probably the first thing people think about when they think of Wisconsin is The Beast Of Bray Road. The Beast is a werewolf that has been spotted several times in Southeastern Wisconsin. There have been at least two books written about the beast and a couple of paranormal TV shows covered the subject. There was also a movie that was released in 2005. If you want to hear more about The Beast Of Bray Road check out D.J. Pitsiladis article on the topic here.

Haunchyville

h2My favorite weird story from Wisconsin is about a small village of murderous dwarfs in the woods near Muskego. The village is called Haunchyville and is protected by an old albino man. The dwarfs live in small houses built to scale and don’t like trespassers. If you are unlucky enough to meet them they will cut your legs off at the knee and force you to live as one of them. Legend has it that the town was created when a group of dwarfs ran away from  the circus because the circus’ ringmaster abused them. When the albino man was a boy he got lost in the woods and found Haunchyville by accident. The dwarfs took pity on him and raised him, the albino re-payed the favor by using a shotgun to keep people away from Haunchyville.

I had heard of Haunchyville from a book called Weird Wisconsin by Linda Godfrey and Richard Hendricks and I was fascinated by the idea of a small village of killer dwarfs. As I was doing research to write this, I didn’t find any record of anyone seeing the dwarfs but in the woods where Haunchyville is said to be located you will find three buildings that look like they could be dwarf homes. Most people believe that the legend of Haunchyville was started by high school kids in Muskego in order to scare younger kids.

http://slpmode.com/a-v-club-milwaukee-dont-go-back-to-haunchyville/

 

Summerwind

20140127-003206Every state has more than its fair share of haunted houses and the most haunted house in Wisconsin was a place called Summerwind. Located in Northeast Wisconsin on West Bay Lake this mansion was built in 1916 by Robert Lamont. The hauntings began when Robert Lamont thought he saw an intruder one evening and tried to shoot him, the bullet passed through him and the intruder faded away. Upon the death of Mr. Lamont the house was sold to Arnold Hinshaw and his wife Ginger who were only able to stay in the house for six months. The couple saw vague shapes and shadows passing through the home. Also lights would turn on and off along with windows and doors opening and closing by themselves. What was most disturbing though was a ghost of a woman who would appear above the dining room table. Over a short period of time, the couple started to question their sanity. Late at night Arnold would play an organ because the demons in his head said he had to. One night after finding a corpse in the home(which they never reported to the authorities) Ginger tried to commit suicide and the couple decided it was time to move on.

People doubted that Hinshaw’s story really happened but then the next owners had trouble. The new owner was Raymond Bober and he claimed he knew the house was haunted and even knew the ghost’s name. The ghost was an eighteenth century British explorer and the land was given to him by the Sioux Indians. He wrote a book about his experiences in 1979 called The Carver Effect. Bober had nothing but bad luck in the house and abandoned it after a couple of years. The house then remained vacant until 1988 when it burned to the ground after being struck by lightning. Some people still believe that the land where the house stood is still haunted.

https://www.prairieghosts.com/summer.html

Boy Scout Lane

BoyScoutLaneWisconsin has more haunted roads then most states and one of those is called Boy Scout Lane. Located near Stevens Point, a Scout troop was killed on the road sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s. Stories vary on what happened, some say the troop was killed by their scoutmaster and another story says that the scouts dropped a lantern which caused a fire and killed the whole troop. It is said that the scouts are haunting the area and if you are there you will hear them hiking through the woods. People that have visited the area have said they had the feeling they were being watched and have seen floating lights that look like lanterns. No one has ever been able to prove that a group of scouts died in this area but the ghost sighting are still happening.

http://www.yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=601

Witch Road

witch_road3Boy Scout road isn’t the only haunted lane in Wisconsin, Near the town of Rosendale lies Witch Road. Legend has it that 60 years ago a witch lived on Witch road and when she died the road became haunted. Some of the people who have traveled the road say that parts of the road are unusually dark and cold and you can hear the sound of trickling water even though there is no stream near by. Others have witnessed white lights in the trees and a ghost of a young girl. The witches abandoned home can still be seen near the street, along with a tree that looks a lot like a witch.  Several people go to witch road because they were dared and even when they don’t see a ghost they still say it’s a very creepy place to visit.

http://www.unexplainedresearch.com/files_spectrology/witch_road.html

 

Dartford Cemetery

dartford-indian-chiefMany people think cemeteries are haunted but in reality most cemeteries are not haunted but are a beautiful memorial to those that have passed before us. But there is one graveyard that may be haunted in Green Lake called Dartford Cemetery. According to the locals there are several ghosts that wander Dartford at night. Graves here date back to the 1800’s and some of the ghosts include civil war soldiers, kids who died of polio and an Indian Chief whose headstone appears to glow in the light of the moon.

Several stories have been told about this place, One of them is if you sit on one of the mausoleums, a ghost will come and push you off. Some people who are brave enough to enter the cemetery after dark have seen tombstones that vanish and reappear. They have also seen shadows and orbs in the trees and have had the sensation of being watched.

http://www.unexplainedresearch.com/media/a_haunting_featuring_the_dartford_cemetery.html

Bloody Bride Bridge

c202126003ca8c4cfc617571c5d1f5d0Out on County Highway 66 near Stevens Point, lies a concrete bridge that crosses the Plover River. Though no one has ever been able to confirm the story it is said that years ago a bride and groom were driving home after their wedding in a thunderstorm. As they crossed the bridge the car spun out of control and the couple died in the crash. Since then people have spotted the bride standing on the bridge with blood covering her dress. It is also said that if you stop your car on the bridge the dead bride and groom will appear in the backseat of your car.

http://www.washingtoncountyparanormal.com/blog/the-mysterious-stacked-stones-of-bloody-bride-bridge-stevens-point-wi/

Hotel Hell

maribel-caves-hotel-photoEveryone has had a bad stay at a hotel but there is one hotel out there that some think contains a portal to hell. Built in 1900, Hotel Hell in Maribel was originally called the Maribel Caves Hotel. It had a rough history, it caught fire three times on the same date. One of the fires in the 1930’s killed all the hotel guests while they slept. These were not the only deaths that took place there, one night one of the hotel guests went crazy and killed some of the guests with a knife.

Though no one can say when it happened it was believed that a group of black witches who were attracted to the spiritual activity that went on there did a ritual and opened a portal to hell that released demons into the hotel. Luckily for the future guests a white witch came to the rescue and sealed the portal. The hotel has been abandoned since a fire gutted the inside in 1985. Since then many people have entered the hotel illegally and said that they heard disembodied voices and saw blood on the walls.

http://www.unexplainedresearch.com/files_spectrology/maribel_hotel_hell.html

Wisconsin Lizard Man

manbatWisconsin also has its fair share of cryptids, including a lizard man who was spotted at different times in the 1990’s on route 13 south of Medford. People who saw the creature say that it was covered in green scales and had large leathery wings.  The first person who spotted it said it was standing in the middle of the road and then shot up into the sky when the car got close. Shortly after that another person spotted it in the same area and said it was staring right at him but when the car got close he flew off into the trees.

About 10 years later in 2006, a creature that fit the same description was spotted near LaCrosse. A father and son spotted the lizard man flying straight at there car while screaming. They thought it was going to collide with them but at the last second the creature darted up into the sky. The picture to the left is an artist’s rendition of how the creature was described.

http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/81821-reptilian-sighted-in-wisconsin-by-man-son/

Pepie The Lake Monster

d3f36250d229c4a3623ade43e64569ebSo now you know Wisconsin has lizard men, werewolves and ghosts. But that’s not all we have, we also have our own lake monster. He lives in Lake Pepin which is along the Mississippi River about 40 miles from Eau Claire. His name is Pepie and he goes way back to when the native Americans lived there. Legend has it they would not take their canoes on Lake Pepin because they feared the giant lake monster would tip it over.

Back in 1871 some explorers said they spotted the creature and it looked like a cross between a rhino and an elephant. Since then there have been sightings and even some pictures of the creature, but no hard evidence has been presented saying the creature exists. People keep trying though, in 2008 there was an expedition to find it that came up empty-handed and currently there is a $50,000 reward for proof that Pepie exists. Pepie is so popular in Wisconsin that he even has his own website.

http://pepie.net/

Green Bay’s Griffon

article-2343642-1A5FD37C000005DC-129_634x518The last thing I want to talk about is The Griffon. If you are going to talk about ghosts in Wisconsin you have to talk about The Great Lakes. Ships have been crossing the lakes for centuries and up until the last 50 years or so, it wasn’t safe. Several books have been written on shipwrecks on The Great Lakes and where there are wrecks there are ghosts.

The Griffon’s home port was in Green Bay, in August of 1679 the ship was headed back to Green Bay from Niagara when it mysteriously disappeared. It wasn’t gone forever though. Throughout the years in the fog people have claimed to spot a ghostly three-masted ship that looked like it belonged to a different era. Could The Griffon still be trying to find its way home after 300 years? I guess we will never know for sure.

http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/04/the-ghost-fleet-of-the-great-lakes/

Do you have a favorite ghost story from your area you want to share? Please leave a comment or send us an email at horroraddicts@gmail.com.

David’s Haunted Library: Shadow People And Cursed Objects and Wicked Gardens

David's Haunted Library

28810445I have two anthologies that I want to talk about and they have one thing in common. They both include a story from Horror Addicts hostess Emerian Rich. The First book is Shadow People and Cursed Objects edited by C. Le Mroch. There may be a lot of ghost anthologies out there but what makes make this one different is that it challenges you to guess if each ghostly tale is based on a true story or not. At the end of the book  is a section that gives background info on each story and tells you if its true or the author’s imagination.

Shadow People and Cursed Objects has thirteen tales that are well written and delightfully spooky. The first story is The Busby Chair by Alice J. Black. In this one, a boy is dared by his classmates to sit in a cursed chair in a museum. According to legend, a ghost will come and kill you if you sit in his chair. I loved the atmosphere here and how it includes an old legend and kids doing something dumb due to a dare. This was the perfect set up for the rest of the anthology.

It’s hard to pick favorites, but one of mine was Bye Bye Blackbird by Emerian Rich. Set in 1926, it focuses on a shy woman who spots a raven necklace that she must have. Despite the shopkeeper refusing to sell, she ends up with the necklace after a series of events and wishes she hadn’t. What I love about it is how the twenties comes to life with references to flappers and the descriptions of the outfits they wear. I liked that despite the main characters getting warned about the necklace, they seem to think that the warning means something different and the woman with the necklace becomes a target. I loved the concept of a cursed object causing so much destruction.

Another story that stood out for me here is Doomsday Every Night At Five by Evan Dicken. The story looks at a simpler time where a young girl keeps seeing stories of the apocalypse on an old TV every night at 5. After awhile she comes to the conclusion that the people in the TV are watching her as she is watching them and there are things happening that she can’t control. There is only one way to end how she feels, I love the ending to this one.  I also enjoyed the next story in the anthology which again deals with a kid taking a dare. Fatty And The Nothing Man by Sean Ealy follows a boy named Fatty who decides to venture into a haunted house in order to impress his so called friends. Inside he meets the old woman who owns the house and finds that there is only one way to leave the house. What I liked here was how the woman talks Fatty into what she wants him to do and then Fatty makes a big revelation of his own. Does anything good ever come from a dare?

Another great one here is Pedro by the book’s editor C. Le Mroch. Did you ever have an invisible sibling that your parents talked about being perfect in every way? We’ll Peter had that, his name was Pedro and now Peter is an adult and Pedro is getting Peter’s son into trouble. How do you stop a ghost from causing trouble? Peter will find out that there is only one way to do it. This was an excellent story with a good message to it. There are no bad stories in Shadow People and Cursed Objects. The editor did an excellent job of picking the best of the best and the concept of deciding what is real or what isn’t also makes this book a must read. This is one book that you shouldn’t pass up.

The other anthology is Wicked Gardens Edited by Mark Slade and Gavin Chappell. This book is differentCfc5tMWWwAAYs7a than most books out there. In this collection, we have several stories that range from the bizarre to the horrific and they all have to do with an apartment building and a garden. Anything goes in this anthology and if I had to describe it in two words I would say it’s oddly original. I’m no stranger to Mark Slade’s work. When you read a book that has him involved you just need to check your brain at the door and enjoy the ride, and I did just that.

One of my favorite stories here was from Emerian Rich called The Garden. Belinda went to live with her Gram after her dad died and mom ran off. She feels lonely sometimes but the roses in Gram’s garden are always there when no one else is. I love the foreshadowing in the beginning of this story with Belinda being compared to the flowers that her grandma grows. There is also a good message about how your loved ones never really abandon you and you are strong enough to survive anything.

Another good one is Giving Up The Ghost by Mark Slade. This one has to do with an unhappy couple, a trapped spirit and a man who doesn’t want to give up his old apartment. I loved the idea of a spirit being kept against its will.

If you like strange, there is one tale in this book that really fits the bill. Apartment 6-A by L.A. Sykes is about a serial killer stuck in an apartment after the apocalypse. One word to describe this one is bleak. There is no light and no living people, just one man alone with the memories of his past killings and some dead bodies which he has conversations with. This was one deranged story.

This may be an odd little book but it’s not one that you should pass up. All of the stories and poems here show a lot of imagination and you have to love a book where anything goes. Wicked Gardens is the kind of book you read when you want to try something totally different because this book will remind you how creative horror writers can be.