Ep. 211: Nightmare Fuel — The Crossroad Blues

620889BB-105C-4C1D-905E-821E5B116422Hello Addicts,

As I’ve mentioned earlier this season, music has a certain magic about it. It can touch us on a deeply emotional level in ways few others can. What if the power of a song could span beyond that? Can a song be powerful enough to harm someone, possibly being a curse to any who perform it? The Hungarian Suicide song is one, but for this week’s Nightmare Fuel, we look at another — “The Crossroad Blues” by Robert Johnson.

I’m sure we are all familiar with Robert Johnson. For those who may not be, he is a blues legend. Born in Mississippi on May 8, 1911, he was a mainstay at many a street corner, juke joints, and Saturday night dances. In life, he had little success, but recordings he made in 1936 and 1937 made him a legend following his death in August 1938. His music influenced the likes of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones, to name just a few. Many consider him to be a master of the blues and the grandfather of rock and roll.

While Robert Johnson’s musical style and songwriting are enough to make him a legend, you can’t talk about him without discussing the supernatural stories surrounding him. Some refer to Robert as the musician who sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads. He is also a member of the infamous Twenty-Seven Club, a group of entertainers who have all died at twenty-seven. This club includes Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Jonathan Brandis, and Anton Yelchin, among others.

The supernatural may not just surround Robert Johnson, but may also include his music. Some consider one of his songs, “The Crossroad Blues”, to be cursed. Tragedies have touched Lynyrd Skynrd, The Allman Brothers Band, Robert Plant, and Eric Clapton after performing the song. Kurt Cobain, also a member of the Twenty-Seven Club, considered recording a cover of the song prior to his suicide.

The catch with curses is the possibility of everything being coincidental. Humans look for patterns to make sense of things. It’s in our nature. However, one cannot completely rule out the possibility that curses may be more than just superstition. Many a strange thing happens in this world, some with no more an explanation than curse or coincidence.

Until next time, Addicts.


Chilling Chat: Episode #207 – J. Malcolm Stewart

chillingchatJason Malcolm Stewart
is an author, journalist and media professional who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His short fiction has appeared in the Pulp Empire Series, Grumpy Old Gods, Twisted Tales, TemptationJ. Malcolm Stewart Magazine, the Once Upon a Scream Anthology, the Killens Review of Art and Letters as well as on the Smoke and Mirrors podcast. His non-fiction Quicklets on a variety of topics can be found at Hyperink.com. He also hosts the YouTube features Seven Minute Takes and Active Voices.

NTK: When did you first become interested in horror? How old were you?

JMS: Horror became a thing for me around age 6-7 with a truly cheesy 60s anti-hippie movie called Equinox about some teens who are being hunted by the devil in the woods. Super silly in the light of adulthood, but scary as hell to a kid too young to be watching it on Bob Wilkins’ SF Bay Area version of “Creature Features” in the 70s.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

JMS: Wow! Hard question…What day of the week is it? The opinion changes from time to time. Today, I’ll say Friedkin’s Bug, but tomorrow it could be The Exorcist. Or the original version of Cat People.

NTK: What is your favorite horror TV show?

JMS: Man, more tough questions! I came up with love for so many of them. My most recent favorite was Ash v. Evil Dead for the obvious reasons of Rami and Campbell. I need to binge Lovecraft Country soon.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

JMS: Finally, an easy question! I sat down as an 11-year-old to read ‘Salem’s Lot and literally could not put it down. I remember mother asking if I was going to put that book down anytime during daylight hours. The answer was no. Forty years later, I still think it’s King’s best pure horror novel, from start to finish.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

JMS: King is the facile answer, as I read everything he did in the 80s with an eye on trying to crack the code. Along the way Straub, Benchley and Moore entered the consciousness. But I also consider Morrison’s Beloved a horror novel, so she would be the best at the endeavor by default.

NTK: Has King influenced your work? What do you consider your greatest horror influences in writing?

JMS: King as a prose writing source, but to be honest the various screenwriters and directors of the 60s era Hammer films probably had as much influence on my horror fiction as any prose author.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

JMS: No answer to that one. I tend to have story ideas and characters just show up for the party.

NTK: Tell us about your story, “Mr. Shingles.” What inspired you to write it?

JMS: “Mr. Shingles” started as just a weird-sounding name for a character. It was with the announcement that HorrorAddicts.net was doing a horror-style fairy tale anthology that he became a troll living under the Carquinez Bridge. That connection to the bridge happened as I used to have a job that would sometimes call for me to go over the bridge at like 4:00am, which, if you’ve done it, was always a surreal experience.

NTK: What are you most afraid of?

JMS: Writer’s Block.

NTK: What would you like to see in the horror field that you have not seen before? What new tropes do you think could be discovered?

JMS: Horror is very flexible and much more diverse than it’s given credit for. I’m optimistic it will always re-invent itself when it becomes cliche as the Vampire/Zombie tropes have.

NTK: You’ve written a story called, “The Duel.” What is it about?  

JMS: “The Duel,” sprang out of the response to my short story, “The Last Words of Robert Johnson,” which was first printed in 2010. After republishing it in my own short story collection, I realized there was more interest in the Johnson legend. So, an idea for a sequel piece (technically a prequel) came about where Johnson, whose story of selling his soul to the Devil made him a figure of folklore even during his lifetime, meets up with the preeminent Gospel blues player of the era, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Drama naturally flowed from the concept, so, “The Duel,” was born. 

NTK: Do you think Robert Johnson really sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads?  

JMS: Ahh, the eternal question. I gave my best guess in, “The Last Words of Robert Johnson,” on the whole Crossroads, soul-selling tale, so I’ll leave any speculation to its pages. As for where in the afterlife Bad Bob is, he opined in his own music that his spirit would find an old Greyhound bus to ride for eternity, so I’d keep an eye out for him next time at the bus station.

NTK: What work do Horror Addicts have to look forward to? What new stories and novels do you have brewing?

JMS: I have another full-length horror novel or two brewing. Also, the curtain will come up soon on “The Bride of Mr. Shingles.” The Monster Demands a Mate!