Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Naching T. Kassa

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Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She’s created short stories, novellas, poems, and co-created three children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Nachingwriterpic2019Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Head of Publishing and Interviewer for HorrorAddicts.net, and an assistant at Crystal Lake Publishing.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

My interest began in 1985 with the Granada TV series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the BBC. I’d seen westerns and other period dramas, and I had always loved mysteries, but this was the first one which resonated with me. I became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and all things Victorian.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles. And even though Sherlock Holmes doesn’t appear in most of the story, it’s still a masterful tale. I love how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took a legend he’d heard from one of his friends and turned it into a great horror story. 

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

Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola is my favorite. Not only are the visuals sumptuous and beautiful, but the script is also close to the book. No other movie or television show I’m aware of has adopted the epistolary style. You also see Dracula as an old man with hairy palms, the scarring of Mina with the sacred host, and the ship Demeter which brings Dracula to England. Some liberties are taken with the story, and some of the actors are a bit wooden, but it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the story.

Are your characters based on real people?

My character, Jacob, is based on a real person. There have been many theories as to this person’s true identity, but I don’t think anyone really knows who he is.

What are you most afraid of?

Horrible things happening to those I love.

Dark Divinations is the first anthology you’ve every edited for HorrorAddicts.net. What part of the process did you find the most difficult?

The hardest part of editing this anthology was choosing from all the wonderful submissions we had. There were so many good ones, so many I wish we could’ve included. Unfortunately, a major reason why these stories didn’t make the grade was failure to include all three elements of the theme. There had to be an element of horror, a method of divination, and it had to take place in the Victorian era. If a story contained these elements, it made it to the next phase where I checked to see if the voice was true to the period. I also checked for historical accuracy.

It was difficult letting some of these stories go and I want to thank all the authors who subbed and didn’t make it. Your stories were good. They just didn’t fit the vision of the anthology. I think this is something we authors fail to take into account. We automatically assume we’re no good when we receive a rejection. And that’s not the case at all.

What’s the best part of editing an anthology?

Showcasing wonderful talents. The people who’ve written stories for this anthology are terrific writers, and their takes on the theme were diverse and imaginative. I loved that they did their research and came up with such exciting methods of divination. We have tea leaf reading, dreaming, scrying, stichomancy, entrail reading, crystal balls, seances, throwing the bones, and even arachnomancy. (Arachnomancy is the use of a spider to tell the future, in this case, the spider’s web.) These writers are so creative! I hope the readers will enjoy their work as much as I have.

You’ve mentioned all the elements you looked for in the story. Was there anything else which served as the deciding factor in your choices?

Yes, the story had to be fun. I don’t know about how others read, but I tend to cherry-pick the anthologies I read. I don’t read them in order from first to last. I pick what looks most interesting to me and go from there. All the stories in here are fun to read, no matter what order you decide to read them in.

What is your favorite form of divination?

The Ouija board! I’ve had some weird experiences with that particular divination device. It’s predicted some things which actually came true. Several had to do with stories I would write and jobs I would hold.

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

I have a Sherlock Holmes story called, “The Adventure of Marylebone Manor,” coming out this year. It’s in Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives, edited by John Linwood Grant and published by Belanger Books. And on April 3, my story, “The Darker Side of Grief,” was published in Arterial Bloom. The anthology was edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m really excited about this story.

I’m also a staff writer for Crystal Lake Publishing’s new fiction series, Still Water Bay. The series debuted April 27th.

Addicts, you can find Naching on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

 

Dark Divinations: The Pocket Watch

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The Inspiration Behind “The Pocket Watch”

By Emerian Rich

Have you ever woken from a dream and aren’t sure if it was a dream, a memory, or reality? Yeah, me too. A few years ago I woke from a dream so real, I could still smell the perfume, hear the scream, and feel the dread creeping over my shoulders.

In the dream, I was a Victorian lady who’d just found a pocket watch in the drawer of my vanity. I remember thinking it was strange that an object of such obvious wealth was just left in my drawer when I had never seen it before. Had my dream-husband left it there as a gift? Was it misplaced by a servant?

Upon opening the latch, I thought perhaps I’d find an inscription, but instead, I found a mirror. Not any old mirror. This mirror showed me visions and if I held it up in the room, it would show me echos of another time. And the most unsettling thing, I witnessed a man murder his wife. Was it just a vision? Was it a past occurrence, or one to come?

I woke in the same fear as I experienced inside the dream. Was I about to be killed by my husband? Was I supposed to stop a murder? Or was it a murder that had already taken place? Was I supposed to avenge her death or tell the authorities?

With a few deep breathes I came back to myself. I was not an English, Victorian lady of wealth, I was me… plain old Emz here in California in the 2000’s.

But this dream got me to thinking… What would happen if you found a pocket watch that either showed echoes of past transgressions or predicted future ones? And what would be the rules for such a gift?

I started to study the moons and found that many of the 2nd New Moons in October occurred on or about Halloween. And thus the mythos for “The Pocket Watch” came to be. I hope you enjoy this story and I wonder… what would you do if you knew your murder was imminent?

emz1smallEmerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.

 

Dark Divinations: Of Blood and Bones

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The Inspiration Behind “Of Blood and Bones.”

By Jeremy Megargee

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

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

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

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

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jeremy Megargee

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

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

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

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

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

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

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

Are your characters based on real people?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most afraid of?

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

What is your favorite form of divination? 

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

Who is your favorite horror author?

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

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

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

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Alan Fisher

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

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

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

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

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

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie?

I can’t say I have a particular favorite.

Are your characters based on real people?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you most afraid of?

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

What is your favorite form of divination?

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

Who is your favorite horror author?

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

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

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

 

Dark Divinations: Ghost of St. John Lane

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The Inspiration Behind “Ghost of St. John Lane.”

By Daphne Strasert

The inspiration for “The Ghost of St. John Lane” was threefold. Dark Divinations gave me the opportunity to blend several ideas that had long lived in my imagination, but had yet to find a narrative home.

First, the concept of a house haunted not by a spirit, but by a living person. I shudder at the thought of someone whose body persists, but their soul has moved on in grief. Blurring the lines between death and life is interesting to me. After all, can’t a living person be just as frightening as a dead one when they bring no life to the world around them?

Next, in divination, much is said about the ‘third eye’. Usually considered to be an internal ability, the phrase caught my attention from the first moment that I heard it. I was fascinated by the idea of the third eye as a physical manifestation, an outward mark of an inward ability. When imagining a psychic, I always pictured that they were mentally unstable, their mind torn between the past, present, and future, experiencing it all as a jumble.

Finally, while researching the Victorian Era and the Spiritualist movement that so influenced the times, I was struck by descriptions of mediums and, more importantly, false-mediums who used trickery to maintain their ruse. Their commitment to fooling others for financial gain struck me as singularly wicked and worth exploring.

Daphne StrasertDaphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and science fiction author located in Houston, Texas. She placed 3rd in the 2017 Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She has had many short stories published through HorrorAddicts.net and others. When not writing, she plays board games and knits.

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Daphne Strasert

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Daphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and science fiction author located in Houston, Texas. She placed 3rd in the 2017 Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She has had many short Daphne Strasertstories published through HorrorAddicts.net and others. When not writing, she plays board games and knits.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

Years and years ago, I liked American Girl dolls and Samantha (from the Victorian Era) was my favorite. That started a life long love affair with the Victorian Era. At first, I admired the seeming sophistication of the times, from the fashion to the elaborate social rules. As I grew older and did more in-depth research, I discovered the lurking darkness of social inequality. The juxtaposition fueled a desire to delve even deeper.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Dracula. Far and away my favorite. I do love Edgar Allan Poe and all his works, but Dracula was my first love in the horror genre and I’ll never let go of that. It is a slow burning book with so many facets to enjoy.

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

Crimson Peak.

The sets and costumes were magnificent. The actors gave masterful performances. The movie had a brooding atmosphere that drew me in immediately. The plot was not a typical haunted house story. It turned the tropes of the genre on their head. It left me guessing during every minute. It’s brilliant, and if you haven’t watched it, make sure you do!

Are your characters based on real people?

Not specifically. While doing research for my story, I was fascinated by the many famous mediums later revealed to be frauds (either through careful observation of third parties, or by their own admission), so this made its way into my writing.

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

I’m a strong believer in outlines. People (whether they realize it or not) expect stories to be told in a certain way. The rise and fall of action keep readers engaged without exhausting them. I love my outlines. I am always thinking about my stories, and ideas come to me much faster than I would be able to keep track with if I wrote consecutively. Outlines help me to keep track of where the story is going eventually.

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

I keep a strong leash on my characters. I do a lot of character development work to make sure that I’m always true to how they would act, but if my character ever went off course, then that would mean they weren’t the right character for the story. I would need to rethink their motivations.

What are you most afraid of?

Helplessness. Being in a situation with no escape or even a way to progress. So many of my fears can be conquered, but helplessness, by definition, cannot be.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I’m partial to Tarot cards. They have a rich history and many variations. The wide variety of art styles makes each deck unique. On an aesthetic level, I like the feel of the cards in my hands, the sound they make when they’re shuffled, even the smell of a worn and well-loved deck.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Edgar Allan Poe. I suppose that’s an old-fashioned choice, but I love his short stories. They have a breadth of style that is hard to find. I also do prefer horror stories written in historical eras and those can be hard to find with modern authors.

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

I don’t have any pending publications right now, but I have several novels in the editing stage. Hopefully, those will be submitted to publishers by the end of the year. There are a few anthologies for which I’m producing short stories, and I’ll post more information about those on my website and social media when I can confirm.

Addicts, you can find Daphne on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Dark Divinations: Broken Crystal

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Before the Crystal Broke: The Inspiration Behind “Broken Crystal.”

By Rie Sheridan Rose

I have been a fan of Victoriana since I was old enough to know it existed, and that was far too many years ago. I fell in love with the fashion, the architecture, the society in general. So, when I saw the call for Dark Divinations, I wanted desperately to earn a spot in it.

I had written a story about the spiritualism of the period before, but it was humorous, and that wasn’t the sort of story I wanted to tell this time. When it came time to choose a focal point for the divination type I wished to feature, the crystal ball was really the only option that resonated.

Crystal balls have been associated with divination as far back as the first century CE, when Pliny the Elder wrote of “crystallum orbis” used by soothsayers. What gypsy fortuneteller worth their salt is without one? For my story, I wanted the spiritualist to be the real thing—able to see the future and communicate with the dead. She doesn’t like to monetize her gifts, but her mother insists.

Researching the story was fascinating. A brief history of Victorian spiritualism in general (Turning the Table by Bekah June) came my way several years ago by way of a convention panel. It provides an interesting, if brief, overview of the spiritualism scene in the period.

But it wasn’t until I found an article titled “How to Use a Crystal Ball” on themoonlightshop.com that several key elements of the story came together. Using the information in that article, I was able to give some “verisimilitude” to what Madame Rose saw in her crystal ball.

One final thing of interest to the reader, perhaps, is the story was originally written in third person. One of my beta readers asked me if I had considered putting it in first person, and the rest—as they say—is history. I feel what makes it most haunting is that it is told by Molly herself.

Mysterious Rie RoseRie Sheridan Rose multitasks. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including On Fire, Hides the Dark Tower,  and Killing It Softly Vol. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Rie Sheridan Rose

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Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including On Fire, Hides the Dark Tower, and Killing It Softly Vol. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve Mysterious Rie Rosenovels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I don’t remember ever NOT being interested in it. Ever since I was a young girl…half a century ago—yikes!…I have been fascinated by all things Victorian. I’m an Anglophile in general, but the Victorian era had it all…

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

It isn’t a particularly “scary” story, but I’ve always been fond of Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” – I even adapted it for the stage as a kid. And if we broaden the scope of Victoriana to here across the pond, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of my absolute favorite horror stories. It was written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, so it just squeaks in under the 1901 wire.

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

Does Dracula Has Risen from the Grave count? It is set in 1905, but it does have Dracula… What attracted me to the film was that I saw it when it was fairly new, and it was the first time I knew how erotic vampires could be. Go figure—Christopher Lee gave me chills.

I am also very fond of Mary Reilly, because it was a fascinating re-invention of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Are your characters based on real people?

No.

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

No, not usually. I am a pantser. I sometimes have a vague idea of where I want the story to go, and then I start writing and let it tell itself.

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

Oh, I have had some CRAZY things happen which I did not expect. I wrote one story where a character had decided to give up some of his remaining years to his ill grandmother. When she refused, he was supposed to go out in the hall and pour it out. Instead, he gave the potion to a little girl he met in the hallway because she was also ill, and maybe that extra time could find her a cure.

In another case, I have written five books in my Steampunk series from the point of view of my main character. I wrote the first book in a new series set in the same world, and my main character in that one told me some major character points I had never known before…

What are you most afraid of?

I think probably dying alone. 

What is your favorite form of divination?

I would love to be able to read Tarot cards. I think they are fascinating, but I haven’t the gift for it. I’ve been to some truly frightening seances… I think when it comes down to it, the Ouija Board is the only form I feel I can participate in myself.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Stephen King. Since I read my first King, I’ve been hooked.

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

I am currently editing my next Horrified Press anthology. I have the previously mentioned novel Bond and Reilly Investigations: The Case of the Counterfeit Confederate almost ready to go to an editor, and I have The Beauty and the Bard out to beta readers. Hopefully at least one of them will be out by the end of the year. There are others in the wings waiting their turn.

For Horror Addicts, I recommend snagging a copy of Skellyman while it is still in print.

Addicts, you can find Rie on Amazon and on her website.

Dark Divinations: Breaking Bread

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The Inspiration Behind “Breaking Bread.”

By R.L. Merrill

Breaking Bread begins in the home of Fidelia Meek, the Meek Mansion, which is less than two miles from my house. The house is an historic site and I drive past it every week. The home was built in 1869 after William Meek and his family relocated to what is now San Lorenzo in order to plant orchards. He and his partner, Henderson Lewelling, got their start in the fruit business up in Oregon and brought their know-how to California to start anew. The area is now part of the Bay Area suburban sprawl, but the Hayward Historical Society has gone to great lengths to preserve the home. It’s a glorious white building with many windows and turrets. I’ve been inside a handful of times and it always feels full to the brim of stories, almost as if you could run your fingers along the wall or the banister and absorb the history through your pores.

When I discovered the submission call for Dark Divinations, I fell into a rabbit hole of research on the house, the area, and what women of the time may have been interested in. I discovered the use of Alphitomancy—the use of bread to determine one’s innocence or guilt—and away the story went! I was even able to score a couple of tickets to a paranormal investigation of the home one night and though it was a thrill to attend with my pal Karysa and to hear stories about the people who lived there, nothing much out of the ordinary occurred. Still, we got to explore parts of the house that are usually closed to the public, and I loved every moment.

When the place you live in and love is full of history, it doesn’t take much to be inspired.

Merrill_RL-HeadshotOnce upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Twenty-five published works later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill strives to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – R.L. Merrill

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Once upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Twenty-five published works later, with more tucked Merrill_RL-Headshotaway in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill strives to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

Everyone gets so excited about the Victorian era in Britain, but I’ve always been more interested in what was going on in my neighborhood. There are several historic homes in my area and I’ve often wondered about the people who lived here before us and what life was like, what the area looked like.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my literary heroes and I love his tales of darkness and despair. “Ligeia” is one of my favorites along with “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

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

I absolutely loved the film version of Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. It was incredibly well done. I also think Corpse Bride is brilliant and a much better Burton film than A Nightmare Before Christmas, which is not a popular opinion, I know.

Are your characters based on real people?

In “Breaking Bread,” the main character, Fidelia Meek, was the real lady of the Meek Mansion. I use the names of the Meek family as well. They were wealthy landowners in the East Bay; their orchards were vast.

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

I’m a plotser. I actually do character organizers before I write. Usually. Mostly. My current WIP? I’m pantsing the heck out of it.

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

Oooo pretty sure I’m a firm believer in fate. Things happen for a reason, despite whatever we may do to change our destiny.

What are you most afraid of?

Besides the obvious, something happening to my children, I’m also terrified of getting sick again. The coronavirus has reminded me how hard I’ve fought to not get pneumonia again, and I continue to fight.

What is your favorite form of divination?

Growing up, I loved the Magic 8 Ball! But for now? I’m fascinated with Tarot. I want to learn more about it. For my story, though, I wanted to dig deep and find something unusual, and that’s where the Barley Bread came from. According to several sources, Alphitomancy is an ancient method of determining the guilt or innocence of a suspect person by feeding him or her a specially prepared wheat or barley loaf or cake. If the person suffers from indigestion, or finds the loaf to be distasteful, this is interpreted as a sign of guilt. If enough people believe in something, it gives it power. Apparently lots of folks—including the Greeks and Romans up through the Irish—believed in this form of divination. Who am I to disagree?

Who is your favorite horror author?

Anne Rice. Her books fed my imagination for years. I also love Stephen King, Robert Louis Stevenson, the aforementioned Poe, and contemporary horror author Rick R. Reed.

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

I recently dropped a new supernatural suspense/paranormal romance called Healer: Havenhart Academy Book One, and book two will be out in early 2021. In June and October, I’ll be releasing my third and fourth Magic and Mayhem Universe books which follow a congregation of Alligator Shifters and witches living in the Bayou. They’re a lot of fun to write and I love being a part of a group project. And in June I’ll also be a part of the Love is All Vol. 3 anthology to support LGBTQ charities. That story will be an m/m contemporary romance.

Addicts, you can find R.L. on Facebook, Twitter, and BookBub.

Dark Divinations: Miss Mae’s Prayers

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The Inspiration Behind “Miss Mae’s Prayers.”

By H.R.R. Gorman

Miss Mae’s Prayers” was inspired by the area where I grew up. The Southern Appalachians are steeped in a rich history of superstitions, most of which are about health or weather, and many of which are considered about as Gospel truth as, well, the Gospels themselves.

The titular character, Miss Mae, is based on my next-door neighbor growing up (though “next door” meant something more like half-mile or a mile away). Though she’d grown up in a staunchly Christian community, somehow she’d made the decision to believe in no god. As a result, she was considered to be witchy, especially since the childless woman lived to be 102 before finally succumbing to pneumonia. Despite her status, she knew many mountain folk-cures and gave sought-after advice to others in the community.

Common practices in modern mountain churches stem from Baptist and Methodist missionaries that arrived in the late 1800’s. Circuit preaching, revivals, and camp meetings still happen in the mountains with surprising regularity, and they hearken to a time when only a few preachers tramped around the woods in search of souls to save. The story focuses on a highly respected circuit preacher who is skeptical of the mountain ways.

Elements of the present remind us of the past that created “Miss Mae’s Prayers”, and I hope reading this short can transport you to a fantastical world without the need to attend an old camp meeting…

HRR GormanGrowing up, H.R.R. Gorman listened to a circuit preacher every Sunday at her local church near Boone, North Carolina, and has accepted supernatural medical advice from neighbors and relatives. She now holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in chemical engineering, with which she makes modern cures for those less superstitiously inclined. In her spare time, H.R.R. enjoys training her dog, Hector, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her husband.  

Dark Divinations Watch Party & Facebook Party – Today

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Horror Addicts, in honor of the new book release, Dark Divinations, HorrorAddicts.net cordially invites you to:

THE DARK DIVINATIONS WATCH PARTY

Followed by

THE DARK DIVINATIONS FACEBOOK PARTY

Join us for an hour of charming videos celebrating the release of DARK DIVINATIONS. Then, stay with us for a Facebook Party of epic proportions. There will be virtual refreshments, games, and prizes!

The Watch Party will begin at 1 pm today. The Facebook Party follows at 2 pm.

Who: HorrorAddicts.net

When: Today

Time: Watch Party – 1:00 PM PST

Time: Facebook Party – 2:00 PM PST

How: Watch Party

Facebook Party

RSVP

Stay Spooky!

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Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – H.R.R. Gorman

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Growing up, H.R.R. Gorman listened to a circuit preacher every Sunday at her local church near Boone, North Carolina, and has accepted supernatural medical HRR Gormanadvice from neighbors and relatives. She now holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in chemical engineering, with which she makes modern cures for those less superstitiously inclined. In her spare time, H.R.R. enjoys training her dog, Hector, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her husband. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I’ve descended from a distinctive stock of poor Southern Appalachian people, grew up amongst Southerners, and have decided to keep North Carolina as my forever home. Throughout my life, I’ve been steeped in the continuing legacy of the Civil War and reconstruction in the South; though the war is long over, its effects still linger in many devious and dark corners of Southern society. I have enjoyed studying the war itself, the politics surrounding it, the cruelty that fomented it, and the devastation of its results. You don’t often think of things like Gone with the Wind as being Victorian, but they are.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” has long been an inspiration when I write Southern gothic fiction (though Bierce himself was, bless his heart, not a Southerner). Written in 1890, it’s a story about a plantation owner awaiting his execution over an Alabama bridge, rope already around his neck. What happens next I’ll leave for you to find out – the story is in the public domain and can be found on Project Gutenberg for free.

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

I don’t think I have a favorite Victorian horror movie. However, I must say I enjoyed the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell series on BBC, which has a spine-tingling feel and is set during the Napoleonic wars. It’s not quite Victorian because the industrial revolution wasn’t in full force, but it’s got a lot of similarities to steampunk or later 19th-century stories.

Are your characters based on real people?

Some of them are. In the story found here, for instance, Miss Mae was based on a real person. She was my neighbor growing up and died at 102. People respected her health advice (she pretty much saved my own mother when she had the flu sometime in the 1980’s), but many community members were scared of her because she was an atheist. “Godlessness” was unheard of for someone in our community. I changed her character a little bit for the story, such as making her a little witchy instead of an atheist, but much of her character still remains substantially the same as the person I knew.

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

I never outline anything, but I know in my head what kind of plot will happen. I make characters and a problem to solve, and most of the time I have an idea how to solve the problem, but I allow the story from beginning to end to take its own natural course. It’s like playing Dungeons and Dragons, but just in my head.

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

A little of both – I give them free will, but oftentimes I write myself into a corner where I don’t like where it’s going. In those cases, I tend to delete everything back to where I believe the disastrous decision was made and try to force them into choosing something else.

What are you most afraid of?

It’s a tie between Ebola, rabies, Ebola rabies, tetanus, tooth decay, polio, cancer, Hell, and septic shock.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I’m not much of one to believe in divination, but I am intrigued by cold reading.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Southern Gothic has always been near and dear to my heart, so probably Faulkner. His short “A Rose for Emily,” is probably the single-most inspiring story for any of my writing. I’m more into softer, creepy horror than the stabby jump-scare horror.

Other than that, I will admit I have a soft spot for Rod Serling…

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

Dark Divinations is the first anthology I’ve appeared in, but I’m just revving my engines and hoping to participate in more anthologies.

In the meantime, I post fairly regularly on my WordPress blog and am offering a free Southern gothic sci-fi novel called American Chimera. It’s being posted serially through the end of 2020 or can be downloaded immediately as a PDF.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Stephanie Ellis

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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her latest work includes the novella, Bottled, stephanie ellispublished by Silver Shamrock, who will also be publishing her novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel, in October. She has recently been published in Flame Tree Press’ A Dying Planet anthology with “Milking Time” and is included in Silver Shamrock’s upcoming Midnight in the Pentagram anthology with “Family Reunion”. She has collected a number of her published, and some unpublished, short stories in The Reckoning, her dark verse in Dark is my Playground, and flash in The Dark Bites, all available on amazon. She is co-editor of Trembling With Fear, HorrorTree.com’s online magazine. She is an affiliate member of the HWA. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

This actually began when I studied for my degree some years back with the Open University. Some of the history modules I worked on dwelt on the Victorian era and I found it fascinating how it was such a time of contradiction. Public morality vs. personal morality, position of women in society, the advance of science vs. religion. So much went on beneath the surface of Victorian life which was regarded as its ‘dirty little secret’ because of this veneer of respectability which took precedence.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

“Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe – and pretty much a number of others of his: “Fall of the House of Usher,” “Pit and the Pendulum.” He was a master of the macabre.

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

I’m not sure you would call this horror but it does have horrific elements and that is The Elephant Man based on the story of Joseph Merrick. The way he was treated as a freak and how he had to hide his face in public was heartbreaking, yet he retained his humanity and showed it was those who mocked and condemned him who were the monsters. I think that’s what I was trying to get at, it asks the question of what makes a monster? The emotion in this film really pulled me in. As a result of this movie, I actually did a study of neurofibromatosis as a result of seeing this film for my biology A-level!

Are your characters based on real people?

Yes. When I was studying with the OU, I loved reading primary sources, real accounts from those alive at the time. One of these was London Characters and Crooks by Henry Mayhew which talked about the penny gaffs and costermongers who attended them, as well as their owners. This led me to Tom Norman who really did operate a penny gaff opposite the London Hospital. He was the man who actually ‘exhibited’ Joseph Merrick. If you want authenticity, read Mayhew’s accounts, they are real interviews with real people. It is one of my go-to source books – and it’s a lovely Folio Society edition!

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

Seat of my pants. I can’t plan. I have a character or a situation and I start to write it and I just let it take me where it will. I have tried to plan because some swear by it but I found every single time my characters would not walk the path I’d set out for them.

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

They write their own stories.

What are you most afraid of?

On a ridiculous level, Daddy Longlegs – I can’t stand things fluttering around my head, moths aren’t too far behind that. Silly really, as I don’t mind butterflies. On a more serious level? The same things as most people – death, my own and that of those close to me. I’m also scared of the sheer scale of intolerance in society and the way thought police, trolling and abuse has destroyed free speech.

What is your favorite form of divination?

The Fortune Teller’s head was actually based on one I saw in operation at a local museum. I quite like the idea of the Tarot. I do have a pack of cards now which I am using to inform a new work of poetry and flash in conjunction with author friend, Alyson Faye. That is an ongoing thing with no fixed timescale but it is something I want to see through.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Aagh, it depends on my mood so I’m going to name a few: Adam Nevill, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Shirley Jackson, Amy Lukavics. I’m not going to mention Stephen King because it goes without saying.

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

Publications for this year have pretty much happened already (My novella, Bottled, and my short story, Milking Time, in Flame Tree Publishing’s Dying Planet anthology) so now I am working for future publication.

I have been extremely lucky to have been signed by Silver Shamrock Publishing this year. In January they published my gothic novella Bottled.  And soon, they will be publishing an anthology, Midnight in the Pentagram which features my story, ‘Family Reunion’ AND in October they will be bringing out my folk horror/dark fantasy novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel.

I have just finished a post-apocalyptic horror novel which is currently with beta-readers, I have a folk horror/psychological horror novel to finish and a post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi novel to find a home for.

I’ve a couple of short stories I want to turn into novellas, both post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi – sensing a trend here?

I’m building a collection of short stories set in the world of The Five Turns of the Wheel and which people would’ve got a taste of in my short stories, ‘The Way of the Mother’ (The Fiends in the Furrows, Nosetouch Press) and ‘The Dance’ (CalenDark from the Infernal Clock). I would also LOVE to write the story of how Betty came to be ‘Betty’ and can see that as a novella too. You’d have to read ‘The Dance’ and ‘The Way of the Mother’ to discover more about this character although I did publish a bit of flash on my website about him, here.

Having finished the novel for beta-reading, I am now giving time to another love of mine, dark poetry. I’m working on both my collection and the collaboration with Alyson Faye.

So, the future is busy. Fingers-crossed all of the above sees the light of day but whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing. I can’t not.

Addicts, you can find Stephanie on Twitter.

Dark Divinations: The Bell

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The Inspiration Behind “The Bell.”

By Jon O’Bergh

During the nineteenth century, epidemics like cholera periodically swept through the population and brought reports of premature burial. Although most of these reports were undoubtedly fake news, the resulting fear of being buried alive fueled a demand for “safety coffins.” I initially wrote a story about one such burial, told by an omniscient narrator but focused on the graveyard watchman, in which a wife deliberately buries her sick husband before he is dead.

When I saw the Dark Divinations call for submissions, I realized my story had the seeds of something ideal for the anthology. I’ve always loved the Victorian style of writing: the fancy turns of phrase, the old-fashioned word choices, the heightened emotionalism. I thought it would be fun to craft a story using that kind of voice—a Poe-esque story told from the perspective of the person trapped in the coffin. What would he experience? What thoughts would go through his mind? How would he deal with the situation?

Of course, that meant writing the story in the first person and completely re-working it. I decided it would be even more interesting to invest the character with occult abilities, another fascination of the nineteenth century. Not an outright charlatan (although there were plenty of those), but a flawed yet sympathetic character with some amount of real ability. The transformed story now had only a superficial resemblance to the original. Dark Divinations had inspired me to write an even better tale, one I hope is worthy of comparison with Edgar Allan Poe.

 Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel “The Shatter Point” after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jon O’Bergh

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Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California obergh-authorat Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel, The Shatter Point, after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

So many of my favorite authors were active during that era, from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain. The era also provided many of the classic trappings of horror we’re familiar with: the image of the haunted house, the decor we associate with funerals, the rise of spirit mediums, etc.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story? 

Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” Something to turn to during plague-haunted times.

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

The Innocents is quite well done—based on the short story by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw. The film strikes just the right balance, never getting too absurd or bogged down in explanatory mumbo-jumbo.

Are your characters based on real people?

Sometimes I incorporate aspects of behavior I’ve observed, but in “The Bell” the characters are completely fictional.

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

I start with a plan on where I want to go, but the characters and the plot always take me on an unexpected journey, so things evolve and change as I write.

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

I can’t say they have free will, because I need them to act in a certain way to further the plot and support my premise.

What are you most afraid of?

The irrational impulse in human beings. It causes all manner of unnecessary trouble for humanity. That and wasps!

What is your favorite form of divination? 

As someone who appreciates a good laugh, I would say geloscopy, which is divination based on interpreting the sound or manner of laughter.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Among contemporary authors, it would be Paul Tremblay. I appreciate how he plays with ambiguity, so you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. I believe we experience much in life that way, uncertain about things we’re told, about people’s true motivations, about what lies beneath the surface. He writes horror fiction that feels real to me.

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

I’ve completed a second horror novel about a drag queen and his best friend who share a passion for art, fashion, and horror. When they learn that their apartment building might be haunted, they envision an entertaining episode for their horror podcast and begin investigating with the help of their quirky neighbors. But they uncover something far more sinister that threatens them all. It’s a tale with a message for our modern times. I’m currently seeking a publisher. I’ve also created an album of horror-themed music by one of the characters, titled Box of Bones, that may precede or accompany the novel. Until then, readers can check out my horror novel The Shatter Point. And I periodically write a blog with musings on music and horror, called Song of Fire.

Addicts, you can find Jon on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

 

Dark Divinations: Miroir de Vaugnac

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The Inspiration Behind “Miroir de Vaugnac.”

By Michael Fassbender

To a certain extent, I think I fell back on my experience with my D&D game as I was brainstorming this story. I liked the idea of a seer who acquires a powerful but malign device, and once I set upon that path, I approached it like the creation of a unique magical item in my game. My players know that I enjoy throwing nonstandard magical items at them, ones that not only have unique game effects but also possess a definite history, even if only a fraction of that history ever comes out in the game. I approached my thoughts in this story in the same space, and the result was a scrying bowl with a dangerous spirit attached to it.

I connected this bowl to the Languedoc region in France because of its history of separatism and religious nonconformity. I imagined that fifteenth-century sorcerers would have an easier time operating there.

It was only then that I created my seer, Beatrice. I gave her a family background in Wales to offer access to the rich folklore of that region, even if that proved in part to be a red herring in the story. I also provided her with troublesome family connections on her late husband’s side to prod her out of any danger of complacency.

The ending developed organically as I wrote the story, but I always knew that the ne’er-do-well brother-in-law was going to provoke Beatrice into a drastic response.

M. FassbenderMichael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His first literary love is supernatural horror: Poe and Lovecraft inspired him to begin writing in high school, but 2016 marked his first appearance in print media apart from a few college journals. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, and “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine. A number of non-fiction articles are now available on his website,  and there is also a short story in the tradition of Poe on the fiction page.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Michael Fassbender

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Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His first literary love is supernatural horror. Poe and Lovecraft inspired him to begin writing in high school, but M. Fassbender2016 marked his first appearance in print media apart from a few college journals. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, and “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine. A number of non-fiction articles are now available on his website, and there is also a short story in the tradition of Poe on the fiction page.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

There are two separate answers to this question. As an historian, I think I found the most interest in the realm of military history. If we frame it in terms of the Crimean War to the outbreak of World War I, we are looking at a period of profound technological and organizational changes. We see the widespread adoption of rifles, the development of smokeless powder and repeating firearms, the emergence of the machine gun, and the advancement of artillery from a line-of-sight threat to a more distant danger. Armies are growing larger and employ more sophisticated logistics, and enhancements to the lethality of Victorian weapons inspires a more defensive mindset. The trench warfare that characterizes World War I has its antecedents in the Crimea.

Then we have my reactions as a horror maven. The look of the Victorian era is wonderful in horror, whether we have a haunted house tale or a vampire story. No matter how bright and cozy (or should I write, cosy) they may be by day, by night those houses look like a proper haunt. The characteristic funerary culture of the period is wonderful for horror fans, and I made substantial use of this in my story “Tisiphone.” And finally, it is in the Victorian era that the occult ceased to be a matter for locked rooms and became activity for parlors. While I am not a practitioner of the occult myself, it is a major feature of horror fiction, and this brings a unique flavor to Victorian horror stories.

Both of these elements contributed substantially to my story, “Miroir de Vaugnac.”

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

If we include Poe, then it would have to be “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842).

Should we set that master aside, I would probably pick J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla right now. For me, I think it’s the questions that this story suggested that make it stand out. Specifically, the last time I read the story, I found myself wondering about the long-term effects of the vampire’s attention after it was destroyed. Would the human victim be relieved, or would she perceive it as a kind of loss? Those questions inspired a flash fiction story of my own.

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

This proved harder than I expected. So many of the classic Victorian stories have been updated to a more contemporary timeframe when they are adapted for film. Oddly enough, the film I’d choose had the reverse effect: the filmmakers of the 2009 adaptation of The Wolfman grounded that version in the nineteenth century, and I thought it was a successful adaptation. I think it reinvigorated a story that had become a bit formulaic, and I always enjoy seeing Sir Anthony Hopkins in a horror film, whether he’s the monster or the monster-hunter.

Are your characters based on real people?

None of the main characters are real, but I did incorporate two historical figures to ground the story further in reality. I draw reference to Col. Arthur Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards, who undertook a private trip to observe the American Civil War from the vantage point of the Army of Northern Virginia. He is most famous for observing day three of the Battle of Gettysburg from the headquarters of Pickett’s command. Agnes is really his mother’s name, and I thought it reasonable that she might know Beatrice because of their shared experience of being Army wives. It is Agnes’ concern for her son that gives Beatrice her first chance to use the Miroir, and at the same time, the use of a known historical figure allows me to present an accurate reading without having to state that the reading was accurate. After all, Beatrice had no way of cross-checking what she’d learned.

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

I usually err on the side of spontaneity. I begin a story with a general idea of where it is meant to go, but as I write and come to know my characters better, the course they take will often shift, and once in a while I revise my plans for the story substantially by the time I reach the end.

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

I try to give my characters a sense of agency, even if the final scene was actually the first thing that I planned. The choices they make need to be consistent with who they’ve shown themselves to be all along. Sometimes this means that I need to tweak the character to fit the result better, other times I tweak the result to better reflect the character I’ve created.

What are you most afraid of?

This would probably involve catching some highly lethal disease, like rabies, or else contracting a really nasty form of cancer.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I don’t practice any forms of divination, so I have no practical preferences. From an outsider’s perspective, I find Tarot cards to be much more picturesque than astrology or numerology. What I liked about scrying is that it offered me the opportunity to describe scenes. I thought that would be more rewarding for me as a writer, and more entertaining for the reader.

Who is your favorite horror author?

For the number one slot, I’d still need to name my aged grandsire from Providence. H.P. Lovecraft is the reason why I began writing when I was in high school. As a writer, I’ve tried to grow past his limitations, but I’m still working on learning from his strengths.

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

I have a couple of other stories nearing publication. In one case, the final list of authors is not yet public, but for the other, I can say that my short story “Old Growth” will appear in the volume Scary Stuff, published by Oddity Prodigies.

 

Dark Divinations Watch Party & Facebook Party

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Horror Addicts, in honor of the new book release, Dark Divinations, HorrorAddicts.net cordially invites you to:

THE DARK DIVINATIONS WATCH PARTY

Followed by

THE DARK DIVINATIONS FACEBOOK PARTY

Join us for an hour of charming videos celebrating the release of DARK DIVINATIONS. Then, stay with us for a Facebook Party of epic proportions. There will be virtual refreshments, games, and prizes!

The Watch Party will begin at 1 pm on May 23rd. The Facebook Party follows at 2 pm.

Who: HorrorAddicts.net

When: May 23rd

Time: Watch Party – 1:00 PM PST

Time: Facebook Party – 2:00 PM PST

How: Watch Party

Facebook Party

RSVP

Stay Spooky!

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Dark Divinations – They Wound Like Worms

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The Inspiration Behind “They Wound Like Worms.”

By Naching T. Kassa

Inspiration is the spark which ignites the fire of imagination. It comes in a myriad of forms and from many different places. The inspiration for “They Wound Like Worms,” came in two forms, one from a book and the other from a BBC documentary. The book is Dracula by Bram Stoker. The documentary is The Diary of Jack the Ripper.

Dracula is written in Epistolary Style. This means every chapter is a letter or journal entry written by one of the characters. When I first read Dracula, I’d never seen anything like it. The reader sees Dracula, the other characters, and the scenes in the story from many points of view and attitudes. This got me thinking. What if I wrote a story from my main character’s point of view? What if I wrote it through letters he had written his sister? The idea was an intriguing one and I decided to go for it.

Now that I had my main character and style, I began to wonder who the story would be about. Who could make such a story interesting? The journal entries in Dracula led me to think of diaries and a documentary I’d seen as a teen. The Diary of Jack the Ripper was narrated by Tom Baker—of Dr. Who fame—and concerned the controversial book by Shirley Harris. The show claimed the diary of the Ripper had been discovered in 1992. It also claimed the author was James Maybrick, a cotton merchant from Liverpool. True or untrue, it was a fascinating take on the Ripper legend.

A second spark lit my imagination. I decided to create my own Ripper, someone with a different motivation for killing. My Ripper doesn’t kill for pleasure. He kills women because he needs to read their entrails and see the future.

And so, two sparks became an inferno and a fun story entered the world. I hope you enjoy “They Wound Like Worms,” and all the stories in Dark Divinations.

Nachingwriterpic2019Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She’s created short stories, novellas, poems, and co-created three children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Head of Publishing and Interviewer for HorrorAddicts.net, and an assistant at Crystal Lake Publishing.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Naching T. Kassa

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Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She’s created short stories, novellas, poems, and co-created three children. She lives in Eastern Washington State with Dan Nachingwriterpic2019Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Head of Publishing and Interviewer for HorrorAddicts.net, and an assistant at Crystal Lake Publishing.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

My interest began in 1985 with the Granada TV series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the BBC. I’d seen westerns and other period dramas, and I had always loved mysteries, but this was the first one which resonated with me. I became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and all things Victorian.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles. And even though Sherlock Holmes doesn’t appear in most of the story, it’s still a masterful tale. I love how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took a legend he’d heard from one of his friends and turned it into a great horror story. 

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

Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola is my favorite. Not only are the visuals sumptuous and beautiful, but the script is also close to the book. No other movie or television show I’m aware of has adopted the epistolary style. You also see Dracula as an old man with hairy palms, the scarring of Mina with the sacred host, and the ship Demeter which brings Dracula to England. Some liberties are taken with the story, and some of the actors are a bit wooden, but it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the story.

Are your characters based on real people?

My character, Jacob, is based on a real person. There have been many theories as to this person’s true identity, but I don’t think anyone really knows who he is.

What are you most afraid of?

Horrible things happening to those I love.

Dark Divinations is the first anthology you’ve every edited for HorrorAddicts.net. What part of the process did you find the most difficult?

The hardest part of editing this anthology was choosing from all the wonderful submissions we had. There were so many good ones, so many I wish we could’ve included. Unfortunately, a major reason why these stories didn’t make the grade was failure to include all three elements of the theme. There had to be an element of horror, a method of divination, and it had to take place in the Victorian era. If a story contained these elements, it made it to the next phase where I checked to see if the voice was true to the period. I also checked for historical accuracy.

It was difficult letting some of these stories go and I want to thank all the authors who subbed and didn’t make it. Your stories were good. They just didn’t fit the vision of the anthology. I think this is something we authors fail to take into account. We automatically assume we’re no good when we receive a rejection. And that’s not the case at all.

What’s the best part of editing an anthology?

Showcasing wonderful talents. The people who’ve written stories for this anthology are terrific writers, and their takes on the theme were diverse and imaginative. I loved that they did their research and came up with such exciting methods of divination. We have tea leaf reading, dreaming, scrying, stichomancy, entrail reading, crystal balls, seances, throwing the bones, and even arachnomancy. (Arachnomancy is the use of a spider to tell the future, in this case, the spider’s web.) These writers are so creative! I hope the readers will enjoy their work as much as I have.

You’ve mentioned all the elements you looked for in the story. Was there anything else which served as the deciding factor in your choices?

Yes, the story had to be fun. I don’t know about how others read, but I tend to cherry-pick the anthologies I read. I don’t read them in order from first to last. I pick what looks most interesting to me and go from there. All the stories in here are fun to read, no matter what order you decide to read them in.

What is your favorite form of divination?

The Ouija board! I’ve had some weird experiences with that particular divination device. It’s predicted some things which actually came true. Several had to do with stories I would write and jobs I would hold.

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

I have a Sherlock Holmes story called, “The Adventure of Marylebone Manor,” coming out this year. It’s in Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives, edited by John Linwood Grant and published by Belanger Books. And on April 3, my story, “The Darker Side of Grief,” was published in Arterial Bloom. The anthology was edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m really excited about this story.

I’m also a staff writer for Crystal Lake Publishing’s new fiction series, Still Water Bay. The series debuted April 27th.

Addicts, you can find Naching on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Emerian Rich

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Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series, Night’s Knights, and writes romance under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is emz1smallabout a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

My first love of the Victorian Era started with the fashion and decor. Beautifully gilded and over the top, I just love their eclectic design and the colors they put together that shouldn’t work, but do.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Either The Turn of the Screw by Henry James or The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

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

The Woman in Black is so creepy, scary, and has the classic mood I enjoy in films. I also read the book and loved the creepy almost Cthulu-like draw the house and bogs have in it that was missing a bit from the movie. 

Are your characters based on real people?

Only as they exist in my imagination, which can be more real than reality sometimes.

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

Pantser all the way, baby!

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

They always tell me which way they are going, whether I like it or not.

What are you most afraid of?

Monkeys freak me the hell out. They aren’t cute or cuddly. They are terrifying, scratch your face off and juggle your eyeballs monsters.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I used to read tarot cards for clients, but I never read for myself. I’d rather leave the future up to fate.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Anne Rice, Andrew Neiderman, Wilkie Collins

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

I am currently working on the third book in my vampire series, Night’s Knights. It’s titled Day’s Children and although I do have a cover, the book is as of yet unfinished.

Dark Divinations: Damnation in Venice

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The Inspiration Behind “Damnation in Venice”

By Joe L. Murr

I saw the call for submissions for Dark Divinations a week or so after I read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. So I had Venice on my mind. I had the character of Gustav von Aschenbach – the sickly, doomed writer and his unrequited passion, a self-portrait of Mann – on my mind. Then images from Nicolas Roeg’s film Don’t Look Now – the foggy passageways of Venice leading to a death foretold – flashed into my mind. And all of that suggested a story and characters. The final story evolved into something very different from what I originally had in mind – but that was the moment the seed was planted.

joelmurr-photoJoe L. Murr has lived on every continent except Antarctica and now divides his time between Finland and the Netherlands. His short fiction has been published in magazines such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Chizine and Noir Nation, and most recently in the anthology The Summer of Lovecraft.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Joe L. Murr

DarkDivBannerJoe L. Murr has lived on every continent except Antarctica and now divides his time between Finland and the Netherlands. His short fiction has been published in magazinesjoelmurr-photo such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Chizine and Noir Nation, and most recently in the anthology “The Summer of Lovecraft.”

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

As a kid, I devoured stories about Victorian adventurers in distant lands. That’s where it started. I especially loved H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne. Later on, I was fascinated to learn more about the era through a wider lens.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story? 

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. To be honest, I haven’t read all that much horror written during the Victorian era – mainly the usual suspects: Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc. I keep meaning to get stuck into Sheridan LeFanu.

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

One of my favorite films of all time is The Innocents. Chilling and masterfully made, it gets under my skin every time I watch it.

Are your characters based on real people?

Yes and no. I usually draw on the characteristics of people I’ve known, but I don’t recall ever basing a character solely on someone particular. Sometimes, as in the case of “Damnation in Venice,” one of the characters was loosely inspired by a fictional character that was based on a real person.

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

I usually prep a loose outline before starting to write – however, it’s very fluid, and I usually replot extensively as I go on. The main purpose of the outline is to help me ensure that the underlying structure is sound.

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

They tell me what they’ll do next. I often find myself revising the plot because it turns out that a character wouldn’t do what I initially thought they’d do.

What are you most afraid of?

A blank page (shudder).

What is your favorite form of divination?

I sometimes perform a Tarot reading for myself. The cards are a mirror.

Who is your favorite horror author?

It’s really hard to pick just one, but if I absolutely had to, Clive Barker had the greatest impact on me, particularly the Books of Blood.

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

I’ve vowed to write a saleable novel at some point, so I’m currently working on outlines and fragments to test out viable ideas. Mainly, I enjoy writing short stories, mostly horror and crime. Most recently, I’ve had stories published in Summer of Lovecraft: Cosmic Horror in the 1960s (an anthology from Dark Regions Press) and Shooter Literary Magazine in the UK.

Dark Divinations: Facebook Watch Party-TODAY

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Most sublime Horror Addicts, in honor of the new book release, Dark Divinations, HorrorAddicts.net and Mrs. Naching T. Kassa cordially invite you to:

THE CHOOSE YOUR DIVINATION

FACEBOOK WATCH PARTY

Join us for an hour of delightful videos in celebration of the DARK DIVINATIONS release. The party will begin at 1 pm PST today.

Who: HorrorAddicts.net and Naching T. Kassa

When: Today

Time: 1:00 PM PST

How: Facebook 

RSVP

Stay Spooky!

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Dark Divinations: Copper and Cordite

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The Inspiration Behind “Copper and Cordite.”

By Ash Hartwell

Hi, I’m Ash Hartwell and I wrote Copper and Cordite.

Being English I often find inspiration in the country’s long, rich and varied history, and Copper and Cordite is no exception. In 1854, during the Battle of Balaclava, the Light Brigade charged headlong into the Russian guns. Although a military catastrophe, their action and bravery became immortalized in the poem by Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade. My grandmother used to own a house built as officer’s accommodation during the Napoleonic wars and as with all houses of this age, it had its ghosts or rather, the whole street had its ghosts. Many people have reported seeing officers, dressed in full uniform, riding down the street, some even say they can hear the horses’ hooves.

To write Copper and Cordite, I took both events and merged them into one story. If a mother could foresee her son charging into a valley of death, would she not try and stop him? At whatever cost?

I hope you enjoy my story and the many others included in this anthology. And, while you’re about it, why not check out Tennyson’s classic poem as well.

Ash HartwellAsh Hartwell has had over fifty short stories published in a range of anthologies from Stitched Smile publications to The Sinister Horror Co. JEA published a collection of his stories Zombies, Vamps and Fiends in 2015 and his first novel Tip of the Iceberg was awarded Best Horror Novel 2017 by Critters.org and made the reading list for both the HWA and BFS awards for the same year. Ash lives in the English countryside with his wife, kids and too many animals.

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Ash Hartwell

DarkDivBannerAsh Hartwell has over fifty short stories published in a range of anthologies from Stitched Smile publications to The Sinister Horror Co. JEA published a collection of his Ash Hartwellstories Zombies, Vamps and Fiends in 2015 and his first novel, Tip of the Iceberg, was awarded Best Horror Novel 2017 by Critters.org and made the reading list for both the HWA and BFS awards for the same year. Ash lives in the English countryside with his wife, kids and too many animals.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I have long been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle and read the usual HG Wells/Jules Verne stories as a child. The gothic nature of literature, the image of Jack the Ripper lurking in London’s foggy streets, and the classic Hammer Horror films have all helped cement my interest in the period. I have returned to it for both novels and short stories often in my writing career. It is a period where society is advancing yet without the convenience of mobile phones and automatic weapons so stories can have a purer nature.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Carmilla and Dracula are obviously in there. But there are many other tales, often serialized in the newspapers of the time, which are notable reads. Henry James, MR James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle spring to mind. The period provides rich pickings for readers of the genre and there are some very good collections available for anyone wanting to read further, obviously after reading Dark Divinations!

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? 

Maybe Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) but I remember hiding behind the couch watching the classic film version of The Time Machine.

Are your characters based on real people?

No, but my grandmother lived in a house built for officers during the Napoleonic Wars. There are many ghostly sightings including officers in uniform riding down the street associated with the place. The barracks didn’t close until the 1990’s. I think that, subconsciously, my story has its roots in those sightings and stories.

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

I write an outline then career wildly off course until I have something which looks nothing like the original plan. It seems to work…sometimes! On longer pieces, I do have a story arc in mind that forms the framework of the main narrative and I try and stick to the broad parameters of that arc, but sometimes they are very broad parameters!

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

I allow them a certain amount of free will, although I define the world and situation within which they can exercise that freedom. Some characters, through necessity, have a pre-destined path which often forms the skeleton of the story. I have allowed characters too much freedom and they have gone off on an unexpected tangent – but that never ends well for them, after all, the pen is far mightier than the sword! 

What are you most afraid of?

A global shortage of coffee! Seriously I think I worry about the future my kids will inherit. The way society has lurched in recent years, and months, has caused me to fear for the future. Do ghosts and vampires scare me, no.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I don’t think I have a favourite. Palmistry and tarot cards both interest me as does the idea of an old crone dispensing words of wisdom from her hovel. I think it’s a case of horses for courses – and if you can predict the winner then lets me know!

Who is your favorite horror author?

Joe Hill and Adam Nevill of the current crop spring to mind, but Edgar Allan Poe, James Herbert, Neil Gaiman and Richard Laymon could all lay a claim.

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

I have just signed a contract with Terror Tract Publishing for my second novel. A Cursed Bloodline will, hopefully, appear during the summer (2020) and is set in Victorian England. Witches, demons, a religious artifact from the crusades and an ancient curse; what more do you need?

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Hannah Hulbert

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Hannah Hulbert lives in urban Dorset, UK. She is on a permanent sabbatical from reality as she raises two children and devotes her time to visiting imaginary worlds, some of her own creation. You can find her short stories in the British Fantasy Society’s Horizons, the Hannah Hulbertanthologies Curse of the Gods (ed. Sarah Gribble), Once and Future Moon (ed. Allen Ashley), and the forthcoming Beneath Strange Stars (TL;DR Press). You can find her tweeting and doodling when she should be writing. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I first studied the Victorians at school when I was nine and loved the aesthetic – the ornate architecture, the heavy fabrics, the way that even the most mundane items were made beautifully. 

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

I find Victorian fiction rather stodgy, but there’s a lot to enjoy in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’. I am a bit obsessed with the decay of man-made structures, as they are reclaimed by nature. I also really like fiction within fiction interacting with itself. And you just can’t beat a bit of pathetic fallacy.

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

It’s a bit early, but I adore ‘Sleepy Hollow’. I mostly like my horror hammy, beautiful or ecological, and this ticks two out of three.

Are your characters based on real people?

Not at all. I love writing wicked mothers, but my mum is the best!

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

‘Power and Shadow’ actually started life as a steampunk flash. It evolved to fill the specifications for the anthology call and is a lot better for it. 

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

I think my characters grow alongside the plot symbiotically. The two are inseparably entwined, affecting each other simultaneously. 

What are you most afraid of?

Anything that might harm my kids. 

What is your favorite form of divination?

I chose tasseography for my story because I adore tea! But I prefer my future to reveal itself in real-time.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Shirley Jackson. I love ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle.’

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

My story ‘The Librarian’ is in The Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse anthology from Camden Park Press. I also have a story forthcoming from Metaphorosis about witches and mushrooms that I am excited to share with the world.

 

Dark Divinations: Facebook Watch Party

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Most sublime Horror Addicts, in honor of the new book release, Dark Divinations, HorrorAddicts.net and Mrs. Naching T. Kassa cordially invite you to:

THE CHOOSE YOUR DIVINATION

FACEBOOK WATCH PARTY

Join us for an hour of delightful videos in celebration of the DARK DIVINATIONS release. The party will begin at 1 pm PST on Saturday, May 9th.

Who: HorrorAddicts.net and Naching T. Kassa

When: Saturday, May 9th

Time: 1:00 PM PST

How: Facebook 

RSVP

Stay Spooky!

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FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Penny Dreadful Season 3

Penny Dreadful Season Three a Disappointing Finale

by Kristin Battestella

I loved me some Penny Dreadful. Previously, I watched the First Two seasons twice or more before writing my reviews a few months after I had simmered in the immersion of all things sophisticated Victorian macabre. I re-watched the entire series again when finishing this obviously late review, but Season Three’s still blindsiding finale and haphazard resolution of the series undermines the glorious potential that was yet to be found in Penny Dreadful.

Year Three hits the ground running with some delightful circumstances in “The Day Tennyson Died.” Our quirky little family of evil fighters – Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett), Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and His Monster (Rory Kinnear) – is scattered about the globe from London to the Old West and Africa to the frozen north. Their townhouse base is shabby with covered furniture and piled mail before the titular solemn and lovely poetic references reconnect old friends with tenderness and sympathy. After all they’ve been through, those in London are allowed to stew and cry – unlike the unforgiving railroad and lawless land of the New Mexico Territory. Though blindingly bright compared to the British bleak, there’s an underlying ominous to the witches and werewolves among the lawmen. Letters from Africa with burials made right also find Chiricahua Indians in the most unlikely Zanzibar alley while faraway frozen trawlers debate cannibalism and melodies remind monsters of when they were men. Famous names face racism at Bedlam as pale minions with anemia excuses lurk. Penny Dreadful has a lot to do but does it with superb conversations, new allies, and bloody vignettes. “Predators Far and Near” adds vintage photography, jurisdiction technicalities, a modified barber’s chair for experimenting on patients, and fear of the gramophone cylinders recording one’s sin. Therapy confessions recount prior indiscretions, but the prescription for godless loneliness is doing something innocent and happy no matter how small. Women debate on light and dark souls while men bond over their love of daughters and a son not birthed to them but bound with their suffering. Talbot family history, ritual chanting, and colorful vision quests counter the sophisticated Victorian science lectures and whimsical memories of adventures the likes of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Unfortunately, our dreadfuls are more familiar with lunatics and monsters rather than childhood heroes, with Jekyll and Hyde-esque transformations on crazed victims, deceptively charming courtships, a wise Apache woman reminiscent of the fortune teller in The Wolf Man, and a desert full moon to aide one’s bone cracking escape.

Unholy alliances between witches and the Wolf of God continue in “Good and Evil Braided Be.” Is it the beast or angel, good or evil that’s the real persona? Does the mind create phantoms and demons to explain the darkness and pain? Do you bury the animal inside or unleash it? Between the werewolf curse, divided locales, tug and pull father figures, and hints of Hyde, Penny Dreadful creates superb dual themes alongside several racial moments and of the time derogatory Native American comments. Sophisticated light and dark visuals and good and evil motifs are interwoven against crudeness, triumphing over those who define what’s black and white or right and wrong solely based upon skin tone rather than soul. The audience isn’t hit on the head with the social commentary, but one scene beautifully addresses the sadly still lingering attitudes upfront. New, risky hypnosis techniques further retrace past darkness and despair in Episode Four “A Blade of Grass.” Memories and present offices blur in a dreamy act with current doctors and familiar faces in unexpected places uncovering new revelations of a forgotten padded white room. In camera foregrounds and backgrounds accent the confined or expanded four walls as needed with overhead views, zooms, face to face close ups, and wide angle warped. Finite descriptions of precious few details, amplified sounds, and demon shadows match the kindness of an orderly or the evils that await. Precious blankets are taken away amid growling, crying, straight jackets, and water torture. Can God find you in a place like this or are you alone? Our patient fears the evil within and wants to die over the betrayals and sins committed, yet the tender bonding with her jailer turned poetic advocate provides an unlikely compassion. Whether you can face yourself in the mirror or not, these fugue state manifestations overcome evil with the truth at Christmas in one excellent parable. The least amount of effects, minimal characters, and few locales leave nothing but the emotion and anguish upon their faces. It’s divine, just everything television should be and perhaps the best episode of the entire series.

And then, somehow, Penny Dreadful went to shit.

Series writer and creator John Logan hands Penny Dreadful over to new writers mid season – a maneuver suggesting a viable transition rather than leaving unknowns to resolve your planned finale with rushed characters and compressed stories. Andrew Hinderaker (Pure Genius) pens “This World Is Our Hell” with The West as a barren purgatory full of symbolic multi-layered pursuits on who the righteous should save or whom the evil would kill. Water is scarce among the grave sins and shame worn as redemption; forgiveness versus temptation comes in revealing fireside chats recounting past ambushes and the difficulty of serving multiple masters – fathers, duty, Lucifer. Unfortunately, these lofty topics are undone by nonsensical mysticism. Witches can summon snakes to conveniently wipe out pursuers but cannot heal injured mounts or conjure water and dying people somehow have enough energy for awkward evil sex after days of thirst. The Victorian mad science and desert shootouts jar in an anchor-less back and forth when the confrontations between our converging father figures are more interesting. Lengthy exposition on past horrors feels odd in a series that often shows rather than tells. Why not have an entire Talbot past hour the way “Closer than Sisters” showed us how Penny Dreadful really began? Otherwise the audience is left confused over who’s really at fault for the faithful turning evil. It was Ethan’s dad’s fault for making it the army’s fault who made the Apaches to blame??? Penny Dreadful always had pacing issues and uneven characters, but this Old West excursion could have ditched the dead weight characters and been back to London in half the time. I don’t think it is necessarily Hinderaker and newcomer Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ fault, but “No Beast So Fierce” throws even more at the screen with too many threads regarding who’s evil or who’s the law amid busy shootouts, vampire minions, Bedlam serums, how to kill a man tutorials, Egyptian wonders unrealized, and new steampunk introductions. What’s supposed to be important – monsters being kind to sick children or sassy sword wielding new characters? If the key to defeating evil is holding fast to loved ones, why has our family been apart all season? Perhaps one writer should have been responsible for one set of characters the entire year, as Dracula’s apparently content to wait out the cowboy adventure while other isolated and aimless immortal plans go round and round and pull Penny Dreadful apart at the seams.

Penny Dreadful has an innate melancholy – cemeteries, grave digging, mourning shrouds – but the dark romance is used for unnecessary preachy in “Ebb Tide.” Separated characters finally meet, but one knock on the door and a brief scene reconciling the past and present is not enough. Friends that could fill this empty manor and fight the bloodshed are pushed away while our team in the West doesn’t heed ancestral warnings. Despite insisting London is home, characters remain obstinate just for the sake of creating drama, leading to contrived betrayals and more speeches begging for the fast forward button. Touching conversations on who will bury whom are interwoven with weaker plots, straying from the core and repeating exposition we already know. Visions unite players who have been apart but such mystic conversations and wisdom on rescuing one another from darkness should have happened much sooner – two episodes ago, nobody cared. Krysty Wilson-Cairns writes the quick at forty-three minutes “Perpetual Night,” and it’s the shortest episode of Penny Dreadful when the series desperately needed more time. The boys rush back to Londontown amid foggy cityscapes, morbid voiceovers, tasty frogs multiplying, and rats amok. Dead wolves and toothy minions everywhere require swift blade work and fireplace pokers to stave off vampire infections – but no one thought to call Dr. Frankenstein away from Bedlam’s dungeon when people are said to be dying by the thousands? Penny Dreadful bites off more than it can chew, takes too long to achieve what matters, and spits out the excess when there’s no time left. Ironically, the “The Blessed Dark” finale also delays, saving choice moments with its stars rather than going full tilt with the dream hazy, bodies on hooks, and bats as sad lullabies over the special credits recap the sad state of our separate characters. It’s very exciting to see the reunions and werewolves fighting vampires in true monster mash up fashion as it should be – Dr. Jekyll passes by as Dr. Seward hypnotizes Renfield! As a season finale, this hour provides closing moments on some toiling plots. However, as a series finale, it barely resolves anything. Brief mentions on her destiny, his destiny, and previous prophecies don’t make sense anymore, and Victor literally bumps into the gang at Bedlam. The team is together again by accident! Major moments with his monsters earn one scene each, and none of those super strong immortals join the End of the DaysTM battle. Instead, bad ass walking down the street filler and a few ridiculously outnumbered pistols struggle with conveniently confusing action choreography. Bitter ties to the First Season become unrealized tangents, and new characters are inexplicably more steadfast than our original crew. Four episodes ago, life was worth fighting for but now isolated characters give up because the script says they should in a one hundred and eighty degree turn that’s painful to see end this way.

Vanessa Ives begins alone, a recluse living in squalor before rising thanks to words and wits with her therapist. Eva Green’s heroine cleans up and humbly restores the manor. Despite losing her faith, Vanessa is inspired by Joan of Arc’s confidence and says she will remain resolute. Oddly, she doesn’t seem as psychic or intuitive anymore and fails to recognize evil tendencies she previously pegged so astutely. It’s sad to see Vanessa open herself, revisiting innocent things that make her happy or having a man’s company once again end in terror. She’s willingly hypnotized to face her repressed psychiatry treatment, addressing her past doubts, regrets, and battles with Lucifer. “A Blade of Grass” shows her at rock bottom before a ray of hope and renewed prayers – if you believe in evil, then you must believe God is there to defeat it. Unfortunately, Penny Dreadful squanders the Lucifer issues, fast tracks Dracula, and circumvents Vanessa’s body and soul versus the fallen brothers with a past event cheating viewers out of a current victory. Vanessa can sense and see Kaetenay when the plot says so, but her lack of psychosexual possession and failed insights inexplicably have her give up despite knowing overdue help is on the way. Green saves this sloppy writing and deserved more hardware for Penny Dreadful. I don’t blame her if she recognized the tone had changed and was ready to depart. The series could have continued in searching for an evil Vanessa as an absent lead a la Blake’s 7 rather than two scenes with bad girl red eye shadow trying to make up for rushing to resolve Vanessa’s story. Josh Hartnett’s Ethan “Lawrence Talbot” Chandler is also not only reluctant to see his real father, but he’s angry at being adopted as Kaetenay’s Apache son. Ethan knows there is blood on his teeth and his soul deserving of punishment and wears his guilt on his sleeve. Unfortunately, his history comes from three different sources – so for all this New Mexico excursion, we don’t get a clear picture. The Wolf of God also spends about fifteen minutes being evil, standing up for Hecate over Malcolm because he won’t repent and belongs in hell. Ethan speaks evil prayers at the dinner table, but isn’t this the guy who’s Latin single-handedly exorcised Vanessa? His reciting of the Lord’s Prayer in the finale feels hollow thanks to his satanic reversal just a few episodes earlier. Was Ethan’s western escapade and Vanessa’s evil each meant to be it’s own season storyline? They both have a scene or two of darkness, and one moment in the finale doesn’t make up for Ethan’s back and forth. Meanwhile, Sarah Greene as Hecate travels in white, an unassuming Gibson girl who loves horses and animals but loathes people. She wants to be evil beside Ethan, but her powers are both handy or nonsense as needed. Hecate kills unnecessary to teach him a lesson and lingers too long in this uneven capacity – crowding an already busy Penny Dreadful while not being a character in her own right. The English Sean Glider (Hornblower) may be an unusual choice as a U.S. Marshall, but his crusty ways balance the British tidiness of Douglas Hodge as Inspector Rusk as they pursue Our Mr. Talbot. Rusk may ask for tea in the bar car and insist Scotland Yard Inspectors do not carry firearms, but he doesn’t underestimate the ruthless West. He begins to believe the Occult upon his case and does take up more violence as the blood on their path increases – before a thankless end, of course.

The beard is back for Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm, and even if he doesn’t know all the details, he’s ready to respect Wes Studi’s (Geronimo: An American Legend) Chiricahua Kaetenay if it will help save Ethan. Like an oasis in white in the mostly unlikely place, it’s wonderful when Malcolm and Ethan finally meet up for some shootout action. However, Malcolm really doesn’t have a whole lot to do this season beyond listening to Kaetenay. Most of his dialogue is responsive filler, and even before the surprise series finale, I suspected Dalton would not be returning for Season Four. You don’t keep a talented name without giving him quality writing, and Malcolm ends up repeating the same plot. Chasing after lost lamb Ethan, fighting a vampire to rescue Vanessa – he’s again saving his family even as his travels keep him from his home and any relationship with Victor. Malcolm could have returned to London post-Africa, maybe to meet Catriona sooner or dislike Dr. Sweet, as it’s a disservice to reduce him to little more than Kaetenay’s sidekick. That said, yes please to more of Studi’s set in his ways Apache. He still scalps because old habits die hard, but he doesn’t drink and believes one can’t die until his purpose is served. Granted, Penny Dreadful is trading the mystical negro trope for the mystical Apache stereotype, but the moonlight visions and enigmatic destiny talk tie the blood, suffering, and wolves together. Kaetenay pushes on after Ethan no matter what – he and his people have endured much but he’s prepared to face this darkness over London. There should have been more time for his revelations, and Penny Dreadful only makes use of Kaetenay when needed. It takes seven episodes for Ethan to heed his warnings about what is to come, and he should have mystically connected with Vanessa from the start. As Ethan’s father, Brian Cox (Coriolanus) also has some great one on one’s with Malcolm. They are wonderfully alike, right down to the conquest map on Jared Talbot’s wall, the mountains named after him, and an empty home as the cost. However, a boat load of family history that Ethan already knows is repeatedly told rather than seen, leaving Talbot Senior unevenly written with sorrowful or crazed exposition amid one gunshot and stand off after another. Had we seen the first terrible shootout that has him so angry, then this second battle in his ranch chapel would have had much more meaning. Kaetenay provided connecting visions when necessary, so why not have some kind of mystic Talbot dream that showed the betrayals and horrors causing all this pain?

Fortunately, Rory Kinnear’s Creature aka Caliban aka John Clare has some superb redemption on Penny Dreadful. He won’t harm a dying cabin boy, recalls more about who he was, and realizes who he may yet be after touching moments in the Fourth and Fifth episodes showing his life before his death and resurrection. He is again at the window or in the eaves, on the outside peering in on those that think he is dead. The Creature risks rejection and reaches out despite the pain, blossoming from being an angry violent child to almost the man he used to be. His resurrection allows Caliban to find his family – only to loose it again thanks to innocence versus the unnatural. This season, Clare is almost totally separate from everyone else, alone on this sympathetic journey beyond too brief moments with Vanessa, erroneously on the fringe without even seeing Dr. Frankenstein. He may piece together his past, but not enough was done with the connection between Vanessa and the Creature. She recognizes him, but not him her, and Penny Dreadful cops out by resolving their past in a flashback. Again, just because we the audience saw it does not mean the characters themselves received any current resolution. Why didn’t Caliban ever knock on Malcolm’s door? He would have been welcome in this misfit family dang nabbit! Reeve Carney’s Dorian Gray and Billie Piper’s Brona cum Lily Frankenstein, however, should have stayed home. By his very nature, Dorian is a supporting character that never changes. They aren’t missed when absent but Penny Dreadful uses him and Lily to shoehorn in some kind of modern feminism vengeance that goes nowhere fast with repetitive, ad nauseam speeches. Whether it is justified man hate or not, the appearance of Jessica Barden (The End of the F***ing World) as Justine perhaps a la the de Sade wastes time with back alley torture, nudity, and bloody threesomes. The warped justice is all over the place with even less to do Dorian getting stabbed for funsies before he gets bored from having seen such depravity already. Episodes grind to a halt with their round and round male behavior psychoanalysis, briefly tossing in suffragettes and violence that makes them just as bad as the abusers from who they claim to rescue women. Penny Dreadful has done better psychosexual themes, and compared to Caliban’s soul searching, Lily realizes her humanity too late in one great soliloquy that should happened the moment she was reborn, and Ethan never finds out Brona has been resurrected!!!!

Harry Treadaway’s junkie Victor Frankenstein becomes a mopey little piss ant bent on proving his superior science can conquer death, and he arrogantly thinks he can perfect on Jekyll’s methods. Maybe there’s a parallel between his wanting to create angels instead of monsters and Lily’s superior woman army, but their uneven storylines barely intersect beyond a few redundant stalker scenes and never factor into other plots. Victor goes about getting Lily back in the worst way possible, becoming like his originally angry Creature in a fitting poetic justice. He’s deluded in thinking Lily owes him anything, and it should be a great destructive character arc. However, rather than having him freaking call on Vanessa while they are both in London twiddling their thumbs, Penny Dreadful treats Frankenstein as an afterthought before one last lesson on how to be a human rather than the monster. One poetic voiceover from Victor such as, “Sir Malcolm, I hesitate to confess it now, but I must inform you I have a singular talent for defeating death as we know it…” could have ended Penny Dreadful in a uniquely twisted vein. Sadder still is that Shazad Latif (Mi-5) as Dr. Jekyll somehow turns into a handing Victor the scalpel lackey. He has history with Dr. F. – roommates and dare I say something more – and faces much “half breed” Victorian racism. Jekyll despises his white father but wants his acclaim and title to help prove his serum on anger and duality. Simply put, there is no way he was intended as a throwaway character and we deserved to know him more. Although scheduling conflicts necessitated the departure of Simon Russell Beale as Mr. Lyle, his being written off as going on assignment to Egypt just begs to be told! Did everyone forget all the prophecies on Amunet and Lucifer or the hieroglyphics carved onto the vampire bodies? Of all the friends still about London who never bother to visit, it’s Lyle who draws Vanessa out and into therapy because thanks to his closeted sexuality, he understands what it is like to be unique and alone. Of course, he might have mentioned Perdita Weeks’ (The Tudors) thanatologist Catriona Hartdegen when they were studying all that Fallen Angel and Mother of Evil stuff. She’s a woman of occult science fencing and wearing pants who doesn’t blink at the thought of Dracula being in London. Her one on one scenes with Vanessa are well done with possible replacement or lover vibes, “It’s ‘Cat’ for you, as in cat o’ nine tails.’” Wink! She calls Malcolm “Sir M” and I would have liked to see more of them together, but Catriona’s style provides a steampunk cum The Time Machine and albeit meaningless potential. Her cool fighting skills are ultimately convenient and inexplicable – if we weren’t going to learn more then all these superfluous characters should have never been introduced.

We are however given some divine new characters with Patti LuPone returning to Penny Dreadful as Dr. Florence Seward – an alienist said to have distant Clayton ancestry due to her resemblance to LuPone’s previous cut-wife role. Though rigid and progressive, Seward is there to heal the ill, who aren’t bad or unworthy, just ill. She calls out every politeness or mannerism, pegging Vanessa’s loss, isolation, and depression in delicious two-hander scenes with award worthy dialogue and delivery. A moving session recounting Vanessa’s tale, however, makes the doctor strike up a cigarette. She refuses to believe the paranormal causes or that vampires are after her patient, but she does understand pain and has some murderous history of her own. Samuel Barnett’s (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) seemingly innocent Renfield is Dr. Seward’s secretary, but his red light district cruising leads to bloody encounters and insect snacks. Where Penny Dreadful initially had to dance around the Stoker limitations, these superb character interpretations deserved more than this season’s rushed attention. Christian Camargo (Dexter) as zoologist and charming widower Alexander Sweet is a man smitten using rapid fire science references to woo Vanessa, but his reveal as Dracula is too darn early. This romance seemed so happy and Sweet is almost empathetic, but evil lurks in the House of Mirrors of all places! He doesn’t want Vanessa’s submission, just to be seduced by she, the Mother of Evil and serve her. Sadly, unraveling toppers instead go unresolved. After admitting he was directly responsible for Mina’s demise and all of Season One, Penny Dreadful lets Dracula exit stage right and we aren’t supposed to notice? What is worth noticing are the trains, dime western action, and steampunky flair alongside our usual penny blood, gore, buzzing flies, broken necks, and bat silhouettes. The cobwebbed and boarded manor opens the windows and clears the dust as the camera focuses on the period touches – vintage motion picture cameras, spectacles, brandy decanters, nibs, and ledgers contrast the hay, canteens, wagons, saw dust, and Native American motifs. The fashions are a little more modern, but the museums, taxidermy, skeletons, and specimens in jars invoke Victorian sciences amid the carriages, cobblestone, and tolling bells. Although some CGI backgrounds are apparent with a foreground actor and fakery behind, the desert vistas, mountains, and ranch compounds create bright lighting schemes to contrast the British grays, developing a unique style like nothing else on television.

Unfortunately, with NBC’s Dracula long gone, Crimson Peak’s less than stellar box office, and Penny lost too soon, the promise of more Victorian horror and a new dark romanticism appears short-lived. Whether the cast or Logan wanted to depart or Showtime disliked the production expenses, something behind the scenes was the final nail in Penny Dreadful‘s coffin. The two hour finale burned off the last episodes yet advertising promoting the event as a season finale later backtracked with the series’ fate. More merchandising opportunities never seemed capitalized upon, and there was little award campaigning. Having had Season One available on other streaming platforms might have helped the show find more audiences, however Penny Dreadful wasn’t available on Netflix until after its cancellation in a tidy Three Season binge package. The series’ props have been auctioned off, so it appears no one shopped Penny Dreadful to any other networks. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but in late 2015 while this Third Year was filming was also when Tom Cruise swept in to take over The Mummy and start Universal’s highly anticipated but ultimately D.O.A. Dark Universe monster revival. Did somebody squash the competition? Maybe it isn’t as simple as that, but I will always be skeptical of Logan and Showtime’s he said/she said claiming that this was always how Penny Dreadful was supposed to end. With new locales and more colorful literary characters among our beloved team, why couldn’t Penny Dreadful sustain itself? Previously, one could overlook any small inconsistencies because the sophisticated scares and morose design far outweighed any negatives. This season, however, becomes a chore to continue and is best left at Episode Four. After finishing Dexter and losing interest in Homeland and Ray Donovan, we’ve canceled our Showtime subscription since Penny is no more. There were other ways to do Penny Dreadful justice than this, well, what seems like internal sabotage, but gothic viewers shouldn’t let this rushed Season Three dampen what has otherwise been a stellar and macabre program.

Kbatz: The Oblong Box and Scream and Scream Again for April

 

The Oblong Box Along and Scream and Scream Again Dated, but All in Good Fun

By Kristin Battestella

 

The Vincent Price fest is never over, so along comes The Oblong Box and its double bill with Scream and Scream Again. Though not as special as some of Price’s previous Poe and Corman collaborations, this duet celebrates not one horror master, but two. Vincent Price, meet Christopher Lee.

Julian Markham (Price) has returned from his family’s African plantation with his cursed and deformed brother Edward (Alister Williamson) – who Julian keeps locked in an upstairs room. Despite the mysterious behaviors at his estate, Julian hopes to marry the young and beautiful Elizabeth (Hilary Dwyer). The Markham lawyers Samuel Trench (Peter Arne, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and Mark Norton (Carl Rigg, Marked Personal), however, plot Edward’s escape and cure along with African witchdoctor N’Galo (Harry Baird, The Italian Job). Unfortunately, Edward is accidentally buried alive in their scheme. Once rescued by Dr. Neuhart (Christopher Lee) and his grave robbers, the masked Edward romances the pretties and plots his revenge.

 

He may be top-billed, but there’s not as much of our beloved, over the top Vincent Price (The Tomb of Ligeia, House of Usher) in 1969’s The Oblong Box. Although he’s less than a decade removed from the early success of American International Pictures’ Poe series, Price looks a little old for his leading lady Elizabeth. Fortunately, outside of these quibbles, there’s still plenty to love. Julian looks the worn, conflicted English noble. Can he dare to hope while he’s also walking a deadly line of guilt and destruction? Price makes the most of his given scenes, both as a disturbed brother and a charming husband. Again Hilary Dwyer (Wuthering Heights, Hadleigh) seems a little young, but this works in her tender relationship and naivety with Julian. Likewise, Sally Gleeson (Bless This House) looks and acts the pretty -if a little naughty-maid.

Hammer Horror alum and Lord of the Rings veteran Christopher Lee also doesn’t have as creepy a role as I might have liked, but his mad doctor is a high brow mad doctor. He pays slick swindlers to steal the bodies of the recently deceased for his research, but Neuhart does his doctoring while wearing a silk tie and waistcoat. He gets down and dirty with cadavers in the name of science, but Neuhart objects to Edward’s blackmail and murderous revenge. There isn’t much time for this stylized ambiguity in The Oblong Box, but Lee’s presence and voice command your attention in all his scenes.

 

Price, yes, Lee, lovely- but The Oblong Box is Alister Williamson’s (The Abdominal Mr. Phibes) picture. Yes, the masked man who’s true face you never even see and who the voice was actually dubbed steals this picture. It would have been intriguing for Price to play both brothers-or even Lee take a turn under the crimson hood- but the voice and style of both men are too easily recognized. Williamson and his Edward are mysterious, unknown. What does he look like under that hood? We know he’s been wronged and wants to see Edward find justice, but how far will his revenge go? Which side of the law is he on -and why do the ladies find him so irresistible? This is England, 1865 as only 1969 could recreate. Williamson gives Edward charm and tenderness with some ladies, then rapacious violence with others. He’s naughty, nice, misunderstood, and vengeful-not bad for our unknown, unseen, and unheard actor, eh?

The cast keeps The Oblong Box charming, but this very loosely Poe inspired adaptation from Lawrence Huntington (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents) and Christopher Wicking (Murders in the Rue Morgue) isn’t as strong as it could be. Director Gordon Hessler (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) spends too much time on the stereotypical mistreatment of colonial Africa and blaxploitation-like zooms and voodoo montages. If you want to talk about the unjusts of slavery, set the entire picture in Africa and let the actors go to their scary depths.

 

Thankfully, the visual mix of the sixties and Victorian styles ties The Oblong Box together. The color and costumes are great even though Americans might be a little confused by the English style. When we see 1865 on tombstones, we think hoop skirts and Civil War extravagance ala Gone with the Wind. Here, however, the ladies “be-bustled” in a more mid to late 1880s style. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of bawdy English taverns and cleavage bearing working girls. The outdoor locations are also a treat, and there are even a few daytime graveside scenes- a rarity in these old horror flicks.

The Oblong Box isn’t perfect, but there are a few filmmaking strides here, too. The early, up close, claustrophobic deaths are from the askew killer’s point of view. We want to look away, but can’t. Despite the story’s thin execution, the charm and classic stylings of the cast win out -along with the mystery at hand. We can’t help but watch just to see if our hooded killer is caught and unmasked. Freaky faces, scares, voodoo, and violence -we just can’t help ourselves, can we?

Thankfully, Hessler, Wicking, Price, and Lee reunited the following year for 1970’s Scream and Scream Again. Who could they possibly add to up the horror ante? Why, Peter Cushing, of course!

 

 

Superintendent Bellavur (Alfred Marks, Albert and Victoria) and fellow officer Sylvia (Judy Huxtable, The Touchables) investigate a string of vampire murders. Each victim has ties to local scientist Dr. Browning (Price) and his nurse Jane (Uta Levka). Before Bellavur and morgue assistant David (Christopher Matthews, Scars of Dracula) can solve the case, Intelligence commissioner Fredmont (Lee) must strike a deal with torturous foreign dictator Konratz (Marshall Jones, Crossroads), who wants the files detailing the vampire case. Konratz has overstepped Major Benedek (Cushing) and taken control of a very grim conspiracy that has its subjects screaming and screaming some more.

 

Vincent Price is another year older now, and his old style presence and charisma is a little out of place amid fast-paced Brit coppers. The juxtaposition of all these young go-go folks would make Price seem past his prime -even though we know he has another thirty years of solid work ahead of him. His scenes are few and far between, but his Dr. Browning is so slick. He proves his worth against the hip stylings with suave answers for our detectives and high Frankenstein ideals. He’s a mad scientist with the best of intentions and Price leads us to Scream and Scream Again’s big finish. If the body stealing doctor with the vat of acid isn’t our bad guy, that’s scary.

Well, our man Dracula, aka Christopher Lee, as a good guy police minister-surely this can’t be? Again, there’s not nearly enough of him in Scream and Scream Again, but it’s a treat to see Lee young, modern, besuited and fedora wearing! Fremont has all the lines and politicking needed, using Konratz and Browning to his advantage. Who will come out on top? Who’s really behind all our slim and shady? In the end, Lee’s dominating presence is delightful, as is the freaky style of Uta Levka, another alum from The Oblong Box. This nurse’s devoid eyes and lack of lines would make any patient shudder.

 

Fellow Hammer Horror veteran and Sherlock Holmes star Peter Cushing doesn’t appear for the first half hour, but it’s no surprise that he would be the Major in charge of a Nazi-esque dictatorship successfully taking over a small European country. Unfortunately, his suave class and control over such ugly business is all too brief for Scream and Scream Again. I don’t know who the rest of the people here are and I really don’t care -and it seems the marketing folks who put Price, Lee, and Cushing in bold print knew that. Don’t Wicking and Hessler realize we can handle Price, Lee, and Cushing at the same time-nay we want to see them, we have to see them, we need to see them in more than these briefities! Forget the teenyboppers and bell-bottoms already!

It’s annoying and misleading, yes, as it has little to do with the film; but you have to admit Scream and Scream Again is a crafty title. There’s a nice chase sequence ala Bond as well, but is this so titled flick hip action or horror? Scream and Scream Again has a very interesting concept of realistic, multiple storylines amid scares and fast pacing. Unfortunately, the non-linear and jumpy approach disjoints and unravels any strides made. Each story could have been its own film, and each isn’t given its full deserving depths here. The swanky 1970 music and British contemporary style are very dated now. Scream and Scream Again might have been served better as a traditional period piece, but that probably wouldn’t have worked with Peter Saxon’s source novel. Fans of the cast’s other horror work might feel a little alienated by these vague thoughts on science and conspiracy, and Scream and Scream Again spends too much of its time trying to be hip and avant-garde with its pop music and interweaving trio of storylines.

 

I’ve been critical of the dated styles and misdirection of Scream and Scream Again because it’s a lost opportunity to do something really spectacular with our trio of horror masters. Having said that, it is still a scary and freaky film-psychotic and experimental doctors, cops chasing pseudo-vampire killers, maniacal governments torturing its subjects. When you look at Scream and Scream Again like that, well, then any fan of old school horror should be all for it!

Although these double billed DVDs are an affordable, quick and easy bang for your buck; most of them are a little older, and often double sided. It’s kind of a pain to flip the disc, but it’s better to have these gems digitally restored than not at all. (Insert rant here about how half the films made before 1950 no longer exist and that all the classics that aren’t available on DVD should be restored before any more Disney Direct to Video drivel comes out, thank you.) There are subtitles here at least if no features beyond trailers. What’s really unfortunate for Prince and Lee fans? Their next collaboration with Peter Cushing-and John Carradine- 1983’s House of the Long Shadows, is not available on DVD. Thankfully, The Oblong Box is viewable online.

Though seriously flawed and imperfect by modern standards, both The Oblong Box and Scream and Scream Again make for a fun night of horror and camp. Both may be too bawdy or uninteresting for the kids, but horror enthusiasts and fans of the cast can have a fun, quick marathon for Halloween or any time of the year.

Kbatz: Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

Frightening Flix

Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe Surprisingly Good

Several months ago, I saw an interview with Cassandra Peterson-aka Elvira-discussing Tomb of Ligeia, one of her favorites in the American Pictures International’s Poe series by director Roger Corman. Unfortunately, for the life of me I couldn’t recall having seen this final adaptation starring Vincent Price. When the 1969 film came on out on a double billed DVD with An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe, I gave the set my full attention. Perhaps it’s not a total shocker since I like the rest of Corman’s Poe series, but Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe are surprisingly good.

Verden Fell (Price) vows that his late wife Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) will defy death. He becomes reclusive and keeps away from sunlight with his dark colored glasses-until the beautiful Rowena (also Shepherd) erroneously comes to his ruined abbey. The couple falls in love, despite Rowena’s previous attachment to Verden’s friend Christopher (John Westbrook). They marry, but Rowena is ill at ease in Ligeia’s former home. Ligeia’s Egyptian antiques are everywhere; her spirit seems to linger over Verden during the night, and there’s a nasty black cat about that makes her displeasure known.

Director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) takes a few departures from his earlier Poe films by brightening up Tomb of Ligeia with natural locations and a little more romance than usual. Adapted by Robert Towne (Shampoo, Chinatown, Tequila Sunrise) from Poe’s short story, the analysis of mind and will power over death itself weaves the film together with ancient Egyptian allusions and plenty of ambiguity towards black cats. Each plot resolves satisfactory, but Poe’s twists and Corman’s interpretations leave the viewing thinking longer than prior pure shock conclusions.

Even though this is the last of the Poe pictures, Vincent Price looks younger here. His Verden is a little more sympathetic than his earlier, often evil roles. Not only is Price not as over the top as we love, but he’s actually sad sometimes, even pathetic with his dependence on his little glasses. But of course, Tomb of Ligeia does have the bizarrity we’d expect, including some ambiguity about necrophilia. Ew! Thankfully, Price looks good with Elizabeth Shepherd (Bleak House, Side Effects, Damien: Omen II). Any age difference doesn’t seem to factor in; they match well, and have nice, genuine chemistry. The more romantic tone between Verden and Rowena isn’t so tough to believe amid the scares. Nice as it is to have the sweet emotion amid the creeps; Shepherd is freaky in the duel bits as Ligeia. It’s obvious it is she, of course, but the showdown with Ligeia and the dream sequence with the ladies are well done. John Westbrook’s (The First Churchills) Christopher is in the odd middleman position in this love triangle, but his outside, sane perspective helps the audience balance out some of the horrors.

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While not as stylized as its Poe predecessor The Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia has some beautiful natural locals and production. There’s a hefty amount of daylight scenes here-and they all work in the spooky, gothic, Early Victorian setting. There are some great ruined abbeys, the English countryside, and even a romantic stroll through Stonehenge. You might think these pieces don’t go together, but the morbid set interiors match the abbey in gothic look and spooky tone. The Victorian costumes are also early in style, alluding to a bit of the Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. And of course, there’s a very disturbing classic Corman dream sequence that scares better than some of the stranger, more bizarre visual dream trickery previously done.

Side B of our set offers more Vincent Price in a one-man show called An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Price showcases four tales from Poe in various stage settings, beginning with “The Tell Tale Heart.” I imagine you’re familiar with the tale, and Price is delightfully over the top here. His crazed style suits the story. The production here looks a little low and bare, but theatre fans can certainly enjoy this spirited Poe dramatization. “The Sphinx” is actually a Poe story that’s new to me. Price changes his looks and time period for each tale, strengthening his suave approach to the audience. He is clearly enjoying the punch line here, and this tale is better dressed than “The Tell Tale Heart.” Some might think a one-man production is stale and boring, but swift camera movement keeps things fresh. Not the crazy angles and dizzying modern zooms, but there’s just enough cuts and close ups to create the illusions needed.

So, that’s how “The Cask of Amontillado” is pronounced! I was never quite sure. The older Price is made up even older here for this unusual interpretation. You’d expect to see this one played out, not in effect told as perhaps “The Tell-Tale Heart” can only be. Price, however, does the voices of both men involved, playing on the amusement of the story and the unreliable status of the narrator. The camera again moves with him, cutting from several sides and using duel tricks almost like Gollum and Smeagol in The Two Towers. It’s a simple maneuver, but it works with the very handsomely dressed dining room stage.

It’s strange that director Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) would do “The Pit and the Pendulum” here in 1972 when Roger Corman did the feature length film ten years earlier. Nevertheless, Price looks the old and crazy part. Each tale has progressed his age, the time period, and the story’s deceit. This short here is more abstract and dream like than Corman’s back story filled movie. The fire and brimstone effects in this Pit go for more frights rather than a Twilight Zone twist ending. You would think Vincent Price effectively reading books line for line onscreen would be boring, but no. The stories dramatized in these readings are all told in the past tense with Poe’s great unreliable narrator telling his askew interpretation to the audience. Even though it may look old or too theatre to modern audiences, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is perfect for Vincent Price fans, film students, or literature teachers looking for a short and sweet visual accompaniment for the classroom.

The DVD set of Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is relatively simplistic, with only a commentary of Roger Corman and Elizabeth Shepherd. It’s a little slow in pacing, but fun and informative for the die-hard fan. The subtitles for Ligeia are great, too. Fans of the previous Poe pictures or sixties horror films can enjoy Tomb of Ligeia, but period piece and gothic fans should tune in, too. However, hardcore viewers looking for a blood fest and straight horror should skip these stylized tales. Likewise, I also don’t know about cat lovers enjoying Tomb of Ligeia. Feline folks will delight in the pesky cat scenarios, but cat enthusiasts won’t like some of the black cat bashing, either. Ah, it’s the beauty of Poe, something for everyone!

Interview with John DiDonna of Phantasmagoria

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We’ve all seen horror on the big screen but have you ever seen a live Victorian Horror show?  I recently had a chance to interview  John DiDonna, the creator of Phantasmagoria Orlando who has been bringing live horror to audiences for seven years.

 

Cimorene (Dion Leonhard) of Phantasmagoria breathes fire at Reninger's Industrial Steampunk Show in Mt. Dora Oct. 17, 2015.

Cimorene (Dion Leonhard) of Phantasmagoria breathes fire at Reninger’s Industrial Steampunk Show in Mt. Dora Oct. 17, 2015.

What is Phantasmagoria?

So many words to describe. . . it is a Whimsically Macabre Victorian Horror Circus!  We bring stories of horror to life in “Phantastical” dance, live music, explosive stage combat, large scale puppetry and enthralling storytelling!  It has also been described by many as a “Graphic Novel come to life!”

What is the legend behind Phantasmagoria?

The legend goes back to the ancient storytellers of Greece who wandered the countryside, . . never knowing that they were immortals born of the story. They wandered alone, till one day two came upon each other and they realized they were a race differing from mortal humans, and they travel through the centuries finding each other, and bringing the stories to horrific life!

 

When did Phantasmagoria start?

7 years ago – it was brought together for one show and has continually built upon itself with all newPhantasmagoria wicked0079

shows each year, and eventually to a 12 month a year ongoing theater troupe!

 

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have spent my entire life loving horror, but most especially literary horror. The dread of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic writers who brought these stories to feverous minds.

 

What were some of your past performances?

We have performed our large mainstage show for the entire month of October for the last seven years at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.  Over that time we have performed close to 60 stories of the macabre, all culled from literary horror, mythology, legend and folklore (all adapted from the public domain into our own style of storytelling)  With that we also have two touring shows, and a myriad of special event style shows that we perform 12 months a year that range from fire performance, to dance, to storytelling to even children’s shows of the whimsically macabre.

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How long does it take to put a performance together, including set design, writing of the script and finding the right actors?

Oh my. . . for the script? About a year of research, story reading, inspiration, adaptation, edits, etc. Then for rehearsals about 2 – 3 months for developing a mainstage show. The puppets are the big design element, sometimes as large as 20’ long and 14’ high.

The troupe itself is ongoing so the actors are already here for the most part, though we add new people through our yearly auditions.

What do you look for when someone wants to be a part of your organization?

Ensemble. Collaboration. Energy. And a multitude of skill sets from movement to dance to stage combatPhantasmagoria wicked0089 to acting to puppetry etc.

 

How many performances do you put on per year?

Between mainstage and special event/appearances probably topping 50 at this point in time!

 

When is your next performance?

Coming up we have our touring show “Wicked Little Tales” in Baltimore, Maryland from March 17 – 20th, then we perform a series of mini shows upon our return, and then our second touring show opens for the Orlando International Fringe Phantasmagoria wicked0039Theater Festival in May 2016. The summer is filled with appearances and children’s shows, and then this fall we premiere Phantasmagoria VII “The Cards They Are Dealt” for the month of October!

 

What can people expect at the show?

To be enchanted, to be frightened, to be overwhelmed with all the senses. . . to become PART of the show as the audience IS the show, they share in these adventures with us, trapped as we are in the same room with

Allegra (Mary Beth Spurlock) of Phantasmagoria eats fire during the VIP aftershow following a performance at Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre July 25, 2015.

Allegra (Mary Beth Spurlock) of Phantasmagoria eats fire during the VIP aftershow following a performance at Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre July 25, 2015.

these stories. We have heard many a scream, many a gasp, many a laugh. . . and even some loving tears throughout the years.

 

What does Phantasmagoria have planned for the future?

To keep touring and growing! We have mini troupes planned now for further performances and we want to bring the stories to as many people around the globe as we can! We are experimenting with some interesting technologies right now too to bring that to the world through this little computer screen.

Check in with us at:

www.facebook.com/PhantasmagoriaOrlando

PhantasmagoriaOrlando.com

https://twitter.com/PhantasOrlando

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