I’ll admit, when I bought my ticket to see this movie in the theaters (yes, I went to a theater), I didn’t have high expectations. It had a good trailer, but plenty of bad films have good trailers. But I wanted to see some new horror, and who knows? It could surprise me.

Surprised, I was.

Come Play follows Oliver, a young, non-verbal autistic boy who is stalked by someone named Larry, who wants to be his friend. However, Larry isn’t human. He’s an entity, one that lives in the world of the digital and the Wi-Fi and interacts with our world through electronics. And he wants Oliver to be his friend, whether Oliver wants it or not.

First off, I thought Oliver ‘s actor did a great job playing an autistic character. As you know, I’m on the spectrum, and I recognized myself as a child and as an adult in Oliver. Stimming to stay calm, going to therapy, dealing with people who don’t understand what you’re going well. And I’ve been through the experience of kids pretending to be nice to me only to show a nastier side. Believe me, the struggle was (and in some ways, still is) real.

As for the film itself, it wasn’t half-bad. Jacob Chase, the writer and director, did a very good job of putting together a unique monster story. There were several moments where the atmosphere was tense and I was kind of afraid. And the jumpscares, while in another film would have been over the top, fit very well here. And I definitely didn’t see the final twist coming until it showed up.

The use of the villain Larry was also done very well. He’s not based on any sort of ancient mythology or anything, so points for originality. And yeah, the monster using a children’s book has been done by better films (*cough* The Babadook *cough*), but it’s given a different spin here, and the fact that Larry can only manifest through our ever-present devices and electronics added a certain element of danger you don’t normally see in these sorts of horror films. We also don’t see Larry that much, and when we do, he’s usually in shadow so we can’t make out all the details. Makes the fact that he’s basic CGI easier to handle.

Of course, the film does have its issues. While Larry was used well in the movie, I never felt entirely afraid of him. Also, the film relies on a lot of tropes we could get from a below-average Blumhouse movie, so it gets a little tropey and predictable at times. Especially the second half.

On the whole though, Come Play is good. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.8. All in all, I’m glad I went out to see it. And if you need a bit of new horror as well, maybe you will be too.

That’s probably it for October, my Followers of Fear. I hope you had as great a Halloween season as I did, despite the pandemic and all that went with it. Let’s hope November is good as well.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares and WATCH OUT FOR THAT TENTACLE!!!

You know me. I tend to be a little silly at times. Okay, I tend to be a lot silly at multiple points throughout the day. And occasionally, I channel that into short videos I shoot for YouTube. One of which, by the way, I set to release this morning at 12:15 AM. Ladies and gentlemen, Followers of Fear, here is my contribution to YouTube for Halloween: Happy Halloween from a Gas Mask Zombie.

Yes, I am aware I am ridiculous. I don’t care.

So, if you watched all forty-two seconds of that video, you’re probably thinking, “What the fresh hell?” Let me explain: you guys know I’m a Doctor Who fan (or if you didn’t, now you do). And in the first season of the show’s reboot in 2005, the Doctor and his companion Rose Tyler end up in London during the Blitz. There, they encounter a form of pandemic zombie, the kind that are spread by virus?

Only this one’s a little different. It’s the result of a child being resurrected by alien nanotechnology. The child went out during the bombs looking for the woman he believes to be his mother. While wearing the gas mask. The nanomachines, not knowing what a human is, thinks that the being they resurrected is what a human is supposed to look like. And then they start spreading, turning everyone they come into contact with into things like the boy.

Imagine, a swarm of zombies wearing gas masks, all going about asking one question: “Are you my mummy?”

The gas mask zombie, AKA “The Empty Child,” from Doctor Who.

Ooh, I just felt chills up my spine!

Anyway, this story is pretty famous and well-regarded in the Who community. I even dressed up as a gas mask zombie for Purim one year (think Halloween for Jews). And since I recently started rewatching some of the earlier seasons because they relieve my pandemic stress, I thought it might be fun to dress up as the gas mask zombie for a YouTube video. It was.

Anyway, just wanted to post that for you. If you liked that and want to see more videos from me, check out my YouTube channel and subscribe. There are plenty of other videos there that don’t get featured on the blog (such as my recent celebration video for getting a hundred subscribers on that platform), so why not check them out?

Listen to me, I sound like a real YouTuber. Subscribe! Subscribe!

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m sure you’ll hear from me again before this wonderful month of October is out. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

“The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” by John Quidor, 1858

Recently, I rewatched a movie inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that I first saw a teen. The movie was better in my memory, but it did get me interested in the original Washington Irving short story. Which, I realized, I’d never actually read. The closest I ever came was a version that had been updated for the 21st century and dumbed down for kids. As it was America’s first ghost story and I’m a horror writer from America, I figured I should correct that.

So, I read the short story. And then I did some research into the story’s background and influences, as well as some of the other adaptations (I will maintain to my death that the best version is the TV series Sleepy Hollow, and not the Disney cartoon or the Tim Burton film). And once again, following my interests has led me both down a rabbit hole and to an idea for a new story.

Still my preferred adaptation.

But first, let me tell you some things about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that may surprise you. Turns out, there’s a lot about this story than most realize.

For instance, there really were two historical figures named Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel. Yeah, they were real people. Washington Irving liked to name characters after people he met. For Katrina Van Tassel, she was the daughter of a family Irving stayed overnight with, and was charmed enough by her to immortalize her in fiction. I wonder how she felt about her character being a flirty MacGuffin whose father’s fortunes and lands were more relevant than her appearance or lack of a personality.

As for Ichabod Crane, he was a colonel in the US Army who served for nearly five decades (yes, I believe that’s where the TV show got the idea to make him a Revolutionary soldier as well). However, his character was likely based on an actual schoolteacher, Jesse Merwin, who taught in Kinderhook, New York and came from Connecticut, like the fictional Crane did. So…yay for namesakes?

Speaking of Washington Irving, he’s buried in the real town of Sleepy Hollow. Yeah, that’s true. They even worked that into the movie I mentioned at the top of the post (though they left a lot of questions in their wake).

But the biggest surprise I found out about America’s first ghost story? It’s not a ghost story.

Now I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out: while it’s regarded as a ghost story by many, this is mostly because the Headless Horseman and his midnight chase of Crane has entered the public consciousness more than any other aspect of the story. In reality, the Horseman plays only a minor role until the story’s climax.

Disney’s Headless Horseman. Traumatizing children and contributing to the confusion over the story since 1949.

So what is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, if not a ghost story? Why, it’s a somewhat comedic tale of two self-centered men vying for the hand of the local squire’s daughter and the cunning trick one uses to get ahead of the other.

In one corner, you have Ichabod Crane, the educated but superstitious outsider who uses his learning and guile to ingratiate himself into the town, feed his gluttonous appetite and maybe marry into a wealthy lifestyle. In the other, you have Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the local tough who is more brawny than intelligent but is stubborn and cunning, and may be just as interested in Katrina Van Tassel as he is in her inheritance. Neither one is exactly likable, but it’s fun to see these two go to extremes just to marry Katrina.

And while most adaptations paint the Horseman as a supernatural entity, the original story strongly hints that Brom was dressed up as the Horseman to scare the superstitious Ichabod out of town, which is why the latter disappeared from Sleepy Hollow. In fact, the first feature film adaptation of the story, the 1922 silent film The Headless Horseman, explicitly shows Brom taking off the costume after Ichabod runs for his life for New York City.

As I said though, the Horseman, which is likely based on the Irish myth of the dullahan and other European myths of headless horsemen (trust me, there are a few, though the dullahan’s the most famous), is what made it into pop culture more than anything else, and may play a key role in why the story is still famous today. That, and the Disney cartoon, but mostly the Horseman.

In any case, all this has given me my own ideas for a sequel story to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. And while I’m working hard on that, I thought I’d mention this all now. Because let’s face it, it’s all so fascinating. Also, I probably won’t have time to mention it in the post announcing the completion of the first draft. Might as well do it here.

But tell me, what’s your take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Did you know any of this stuff? What’s your favorite adaptation? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now. I’ll be at work on the story if you need me. Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

Yep, I’m doing another one of these.

So, I’ve done several posts where I list haunted places before I become some sort of spirit myself (and yes, I plan on having that happen). And as I come across more places that are alleged to be haunted, the longer my list grows. Here’s my latest list. I hope you’re ready to note what places you’re going to avoid from now on. If you’re not as brave as me, that is.

The Amityville House, Amityville, New York
Also known as 112 Ocean Avenue, this house is as infamous as it is famous. You know, the Amityville Horror and all that. I’m just wondering how much of it is real. You’ve got people of all sorts saying one way or the other. Hell, even paranormal enthusiasts and investigators are unsure if it’s haunted. Only one way to find out, right?

Drift Inn Saloon, Globe, Arizona
The Drift Inn Saloon is a well-known restaurant and bar in Arizona. The building itself dates back to the early 20th century, and it has a lot of history to it. Which might explain why it’s rumored to be haunted. In fact, I think it’s been investigated by a few paranormal groups at some point. I would enjoy going there myself. Maybe some fish and chips, a bit of beer, and some ghost hunting. What more could I ask for?

63rd and Wallace Street Post Office, Chicago, Illinois
It may look like an ordinary post office. And for all intents and purposes, it is an ordinary post office. Except for one thing. It happens to be on the land where serial killer HH Holmes built his World Fair Hotel. A place like that might be filled with spirits. In fact, I heard a report (unsubstantiated) that a paranormal investigative team did go into the office and try to contact some spirits. I don’t know if they found anything, if the investigation did happen, but I would like to go into that post office and see if anything’s floating about in there.
Maybe I’ll at least drive by when I visit Chicago next year…

Boston Township, Ohio
It looks like a quaint little burg in Northeast Ohio, but that might not be the case. Part of the township was evacuated, and there are rumors it was because of a chemical spill. Whatever the reason, people have alleged that since, the town has become a hotspot for cults, spirits, and even mutants. The area has since been nicknamed Helltown, and while some of the structures have been torn down, others that are still standing have been rumored to be haunted.
I don’t know if any of it is true, but a colleague did go there, and she said there was some weird and creepy stuff about the area. So maybe I should go there myself and check it out with my own eyes.

Deerpark Christian Brothers School, Cork County, Ireland
A few years ago, videos surfaced of what appeared to be violent poltergeist activity at a school in Ireland. The videos went viral and there’s been a lot of debate about whether the videos were staged or real. There are arguments for both, obviously. Either way, I’d enjoy seeing an investigation in there to check for anything weird. Obviously, I would lead the charge to investigate.
Thank you to my Uncle Arthur for telling me about this one in the first place. Much appreciated.

Anchorage Mansion, Marietta, Ohio
A lovely Victorian mansion, it was built in 1859 by Douglas Putnam for his wife Eliza, who died in the house three years later. It was also a nursing home for a time, before becoming a historical landmark. Supposedly Mrs. Putnam’s spirit haunts the place, as does another former owner and two children.
Compared to the Bellaire House, this is the kind of haunted Victorian I’d like to live in. But since that won’t happen, I’d like to investigate it one day. And guess what? They offer tours!

Hayswood Hospital, Maysville, Kentucky
An old hospital from Maysville, it’s gone through numerous hands, forms and name changes, including at one point a seminary. But for most of its history, it was a hospital, and I’m sure plenty of people passed away there. Nowadays the structure is closed and boarded up, possibly so that it can be renovated one day. However, I’ve heard through the grapevine that people who’ve broken in have witnessed orbs and other strange phenomena. And it’s just a creepy sort of setting.
Sounds perfect for me.

Chillingham Castle, Northumberland, England
Supposedly the most haunted castle in the UK, the castle dates back to the 1200s and is full of history. It may also be full of spirits, including that of a “blue boy” who appears in certain rooms glowing a brilliant blue color. Supposedly, the sightings of this child ended after renovations uncovered a skeleton in a wall, but there are likely plenty of other spirits about.
Can I please check in?

Capuchin Catacombs, Palermo, Italy
What would possess a monastery to house its former dead and many patrons in a catacombs as mummies? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s real: there’s a series of catacombs in Palermo where monks used to place the mummified bodies of their brethren, as well as patrons whose families paid for their spot. This includes the mummy of a little girl whose eyes appear to open and close at certain times of the day.
It’s a macabre tourist attraction, and it sounds like my kind of thing. And who knows? Perhaps there are a few spirits roaming about.

Sleepy Hollow, New York
Turns out, the place where America’s first ghost story was set has a few ghosts of its own. In addition to the Headless Horseman, that is. Supposedly there’s a statue in the cemetery (where, by the way, Washington Irving is buried alongside many other luminaries) that weeps. And perhaps other people are haunting that cemetery and the old houses.
I’m curious enough to find out. Are you?

“Haunted: True Tales of the Paranormal.” Definitely not something to miss this Halloween.

Well, that’s the latest list from me, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you found this a wonderfully chilling list. But tell me, have you heard of any of these places? Have you been to any of them? Any more you might recommend? Let’s discuss.

And make sure to check out “Haunted: True Tales of the Paranormal” from Gestalt Media, an audio collection of people relating their supernatural and paranormal experiences. There’s plenty of spooky tales and episodes, including a chilling recounting of my night at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast three years ago. Trust me, it’s not something you’ll want to miss this Halloween. And you can check it out by clicking this link.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Finally, Part 3! Hopefully it’s the last part. Click here and here for Parts 1 and 2, respectively.

When we last left off on the Bellaire House, we had finished up a rather silly attempt at a spirit box session in the basement and had moved to the seance room to try there. This is the room, according to legend, where Lyde Heatherington died of a heart attack by the fireplace, and her brother Edwin attempted to contact her spirit, which may have opened a portal in the house.

We started up with the spirit box again, Nikkie putting on the blindfold and headphones again. As I said, this was to form another layer of veracity. If the one repeating what they heard through the static couldn’t hear what was being asked, any correlation between answers and questions could be evidence of paranormal activity.

This was, by the way, when we came into contact with the spirit I’ve come to call George’s Friend, as whoever she is (and we’re pretty sure she’s a woman) wanted us to help George.

If you watched the video, you saw how often certain words, like “George” and “water” and “underneath” were repeated. There was also the word “hundred,” which could correlate with the word “century” from another spirit box session (not on camera).

You can also hear the sadness in the speaker’s voice. She speaks through Nikkie, but it’s apparent that she’s desperate and sad and is pleading to help George, whoever that is. Honestly, I felt my heart break when I was there. And every time I watch this video, I get a little sad.

And how she asked us not to go at the end. That’s not only persuasive, it kind of makes you want to cry.

We would talk to George’s Friend again very soon…

After this, we had a few more spirit box sessions. I put my phone and GoPro at this time so they could charge, so I don’t have them on video, but they were something else. I even took another turn on the spirit box, and that was where things got a little freaky. You see, during my turn in the seance room, I got the name “Lucifer” again. And not just once, but five times!

Again, this could be me just attributing meaning to sounds that are entirely random. Lucifer is, after all, not only my favorite name for the Devil (whom, by the way, I don’t believe in), but my favorite TV show. Still, to be on the safe side, Kathy did give me some means to protect myself using salt, which the Lees recommended.

At that point we split up to do experiments in other parts of the house. I can’t speak to what the other group did on the second floor and in the attic, but I was in the seance room with Dave and Danette, and this time we tried an experiment of our very own.

Now, you all should be familiar with my dowsing rods, which ghosts are believed to use to manipulate to answer yes or no questions. But the GhostTube app is something new. It’s not only a camera, but it measures electromagnetic energy and volume in the area. And it has some sort of dictionary that spirits are able to manipulate so they can communicate. The idea was we could combine both tools and see if the results correlate.

This was when we got George’s Friend again, and learned some more about George. But we may have also learned some stuff about George’s Friend.

So if you didn’t watch the whole video, according to this session, George died of a stroke in the attic while George’s Friend was in the tunnels. And the way the answers on the dowsing rods line up with the answers on the GhostTube app is striking. I don’t know if anyone’s ever done an experiment like this, but if not, it’s a good sign for this kind of experiment.

We also learned that George Friend might be evil. Or, some spirit was evil. Perhaps we were hearing from the spirit that wanted to go to Hell and was obsessed with the devil. It might have been interfering with George’s Friend’s response.

After that, things wrapped up pretty quickly. Greg, Kathy, Nikkie and Dan went to their hotels. Dave, Danette, and I stayed in the house overnight (and I made sure to do one of the salt cleansings Kathy taught me while I was in the shower).

The bedroom I slept in. I actually slept pretty well.

I woke up around 8:30 the next morning on Sunday, October 11th. All told, it was a good sleep. I only woke up once, and I don’t remember having any bad dreams.

To my horror, Dave and Danette were gone!

But it turns out they simply had to get on the road and didn’t want to wake me up. They left a note in the seance room with instructions on how to lock up the house. Yeah, if they’d run out of the house because of fear, they wouldn’t have left a note. Hell, if they’d run out in terror, they wouldn’t have left me. They’re not the type to do that.

That being said, I didn’t stay too long in the house. Maybe an hour and a half at most, long enough to pack up, turn off all the lights, and make sure nothing was out of place. Like I said, that house has a bad energy to it. Even in calmer, kinder moments, it’s not the sort of place you want to spend too long in. It’s a toxic environment.

After I locked up and did one more salt ritual to keep myself safe, I filmed one more video, just summing up my thoughts on the Bellaire House and then headed north to visit some other places, including my folks in Cleveland.

If you didn’t watch the video, I just said that the house does appear to have spirits, and that some of them are aggressive or malevolent. I didn’t say this in the video, but if I had to guess, there’s probably a portal of some sort, and that’s why the house has such a range of spirits. Just a guess.

In any case, I probably would come back to the Bellaire House again for an investigation if asked. However, I’d come packing plenty of salt, and I would not stay in there alone. Not for longer than a few hours, and definitely not overnight. I also wouldn’t stay more than a day. Like I said, that place is toxic, and the Lees acknowledge it has an effect on relationships if you stay too long.

So that was the Bellaire House in Bellaire, Ohio. It’s an intriguing and hopping place, but also a dark place. One filled with spirits that may be friendly, but may also be quite dangerous. And I’ll remember my night there as long as I live.

Also, managed to keep this in three parts. Yay on me.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have more to tell you very soon. But until then, pleasant nightmares.

There was an unfortunate delay last week, but I’m happy to let you know that “Haunted: True Tales of the Paranormal” has been released!

Now, if you missed the announcement last week, let me tell you about “Haunted.” To put it simply, it’s an audio collection of stories of the paranormal. Real people have come forward and told their stories of encountering the paranormal and the supernatural in the form of a campfire story. And I was one of the people who got interviewed!

I’m very excited for you to check out “Haunted.” It’s available from Gestalt Media, the company that put the collection together, and you can buy just the audio collection for 3.5 hours of creepy stories. Or you can buy the companion guide, which contains the complete transcripts of the interviews, follow-up questions, photos of the locations, and maybe an actual image of a spirit!

And it can all be found on Gestalt Media’s website.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the collection. I’ll be listening right alongside you.

Now if anyone needs me, I’m either going to be at work or I’m going to be competing on a nightmarish version of The Bachelorette involving torture, demons, and a Gothic, labyrinthine castle in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. I forget which. Either way, I’ll be listening to “Haunted” and having a ton of fun.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

As promised, let me tell you what the rest of the investigation into the Bellaire House was like (for Part 1, click here).

After the Lees left, we began our investigation into the house. As you may recall, I was joined by Dave and Danette, friends I’d met at the Ohio State Reformatory’s public ghost hunt last year, and Greg, Kathy, Dan and Nikkie of the Tri-C Ghost Hunters. Since all the equipment had been laid out beforehand (as well as bedrooms claimed for those staying overnight), we went right up to the attic. Partly because, as the Lees explained, “servants” were kept up there during the Underground Railroad. It’s also the place where a spirit (possibly a demonic one) named Emily Davis hangs out. It’s also the place where some of our more sensitive members felt a very strange energy.

While up there, we started out with laying some devices and trigger objects, objects which may energize a spirit or make them want to interact with us. In Emily Davis’s case, this was a big, bouncy ball. After that, we started spirit box sessions.

Now, if you’re not familiar, a spirit box is a device that sweeps through radio stations at a fast pace, like four per second. This is too fast for a regular radio station to play music or an ad. The idea is that the spirits will speak over and through the sweeps in order to interact with us. Because only a spirit would be able to work through that noise!

To add some veracity to the experiment, we would have someone sit by the spirit box, blindfolded and wearing noise-cancelling headphones plugged into the spirit box. They would listen for words in the radio waves and repeat what they heard. Since they wouldn’t be able to hear the other members’ questions, anything that the listener would say wouldn’t be influenced by questions. If it meshed in a weird way, it could be evidence of the paranormal.

The downside to that is the possibility that you could hear something said while listening to the static and ascribe your own meaning to it. For example, a Dungeons & Dragons fan would hear “duh-duh” and maybe think “dungeon.” See what I mean?

Well, we had two sessions, one by Kathy and the other done by Nikkie. And they were rather scary. During Nikkie’s session, she actually got on the horn with a spirit that kept saying it wanted to go to Hell. Yeah, you read that right. A spirit that said it wanted to go to Hell! Who says that? We called a break so that we could refocus and do some reiki techniques to protect ourselves. Let me tell you, those of us who did them felt a bit safer after that.

I also used that time to order a pizza for dinner. And then we went back up for a few more sessions. Including my first dowsing rods session.

So, not a lot of luck on the dowsing rods the first time out (first time that’s happened in a haunted location). But then I got the chance to try the spirit box myself. And that had some results. Here’s my video of it, complete with a little explanation of what we were going to do.

Spooky, right? I got “Lucifer” during my session. And I couldn’t hear a word anyone was saying to me, so when I heard it, it wasn’t influenced by anything anyone was saying to me. Though it could’ve been influenced by my love of that show. Later on though, I said, “You look,” and whoever I was speaking for laughed when Nikkie finished with “fabulous.” Not a very nice spirit. Then there was an argument with the spirit saying “Stop! You stop!” near the very end.

Now, let me take a moment to tell you about the session. When I had the blindfold and headphones on, my world retreated to that static and noise I was hearing. I was trying to make out any words, and my concentration was solely on that. At the same time though, I was taking notes on what I was feeling and hearing. For example, I felt like the sweeps had an almost musical beat to it. And when I heard that beat more clearly, I felt like words were just about to break through.

Also, and this would hold for the other spirit box sessions I would do, I often felt an energy over my head, and I had the distinct impression like something wanted to rip the headphones off my head. As far as I know, I was the only one who felt that way.

After a few more sessions, we headed down to the basement, which had its own creepy energy, especially earlier in the day. However, things did not go as planned. By that point, I’d eaten some pizza and a lot of Diet Coke, and the basement wasn’t conducive to catching radio waves. Add in some silliness on our part (possibly to get rid of those scary vibes from the attic), and you get this:

We’re such silly adults.

Anyway, after all that, we headed upstairs to put on some sessions in the seance room. What happened then? Well, I’ll tell you all that in Part 3. Yes, I’m afraid there’s going to have to be a Part 3. This post is getting long. But I swear, Part 3 will (likely) be the last part.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Hunger, looking rather snug with my spices and seasonings.

After reading The Deep earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before I read Alma Katsu’s other book, The Hunger, which follows the Donner Party. Which, if you don’t know who that is, were a caravan of settlers who got snowed in the mountains of California in the winter of 1846-47 and had to resort to cannibalism to survive.* And this October, I made it part of my Halloween reading.

As I said above, The Hunger follows the Donner Party, a pioneering wagon train led by George Donner and his family as they head west to California. However, this isn’t a simple retelling of a horrific tale. Something’s following the wagon train, picking off members. As tensions rise and odd events pile up, it becomes clear that’s something afoot. And it could be human. It could be animal. Or it could be something man has never classified before. Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure: it is very, very hungry.

The Deep was good, but The Hunger was even better. It’s a slow burn, but what’s burning away isn’t just the plot, but the sense of ease. As you go further along in the story and more strange and terrible events occur, you start to feel this awful tension. You’re going to get to the inevitable, but it’s not going to be what you expected. And you have no idea what’s going to happen while on your way there.

Speaking of which, the twist on what the source of the terror was at the end was great. I wasn’t expecting it, which is saying something for me. And when I finally did get an idea of what it was, it left me extremely satisfied. As well as worried about what could happen if such a thing were to exist in this world, but I think that was what the author was going for.

I also liked the characters. Alma Katsu has a talent for taking these huge casts and giving the majority of them enough development to make you like them. George Stanton, trying to outrun his past; Tamsen Donner, suspected of being a witch, when all she wants is to fill a great void within her; Elitha Donner, who hears voices no one else does; Mary Graves, who wants adventure in the great wide somewhere; and Edwin Bryant, who knows so much more than he lets on. These, and others, are characters I came to care for, even as I knew what was likely to happen to them.

There were a couple of downsides to this novel. One was that there were chapters where the reader was taken to significant events in the characters’ pasts, events which likely had an effect on them joining the wagon train. Some of these were relevant to the story and fleshed things out, but a few, especially earlier chapters like this, felt unnecessary.

That, and if you’re here for the actual Donner tale, it should be obvious by now that The Hunger isn’t that. Not a downside, just a different kind of horror based on a real-life horror.

All in all, The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a deliciously terrifying novel. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m granting it a 4.7. Grab a copy, order a steak dinner, and get ready for a slow ride across the US to the land of frights. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

*When I would describe this plot to people who asked me what I was reading, I would follow it up by going, “Om nom nom nom nom!” Totally worth the reactions I got.

The Bellaire House in Bellaire, Ohio. Looks like it was made for a haunting, doesn’t it?

You’ve been patient, you’ve been supportive and kind. I apologize for the delay, but it’s finally here. Let me tell you about the Bellaire House, where I did an investigation with friends this past weekend (October 10th, if you’re reading this in the future).

So, how did this come about? Well, I made some friends at the public ghost hunt at the Ohio State Reformatory last year. Among them were Dave and Danette, a couple who weren’t afraid to visit some haunted locations while on their road trips. They let me know they were going to be going through Ohio, and might be visiting a haunted house for an overnight. They wanted to know if I would be interested in joining them, as well as members of Tri-C Ghost Hunters, a group of paranormal investigators whose members included friends we’d made last year at the ghost hunt.

Obviously, even with a pandemic, I wanted in, and after some back and forth, we settled on the Bellaire House, a location I’d never heard of before but which, after a little research, I found quite entrancing. Located in Bellaire, Ohio, the house was built and owned in the mid-19th century (I originally thought it was the 20th) by the Heatherington family. One member, Edwin Heatherington (I thought he was called Edmund), did some seances after his sister Lyde died in the house. That may have opened up a portal in the house, leading to the hauntings.

Years later, the house would be bought by the Lee family, who would discover its many spirits and try to flee Amityville style. Only instead of never returning, they ended up turning it into a paranormal research hotspot. (I go into more history in the videos).

I arrived in Bellaire on October 10th and met Dave and Danette at a diner for a late lunch. After eating and catching up, we went to the house. And after I got my stuff inside, I started filming, starting with the exterior.

After shooting the exterior, we went back inside and I did a tour of the house. This time, I got out the GoPro again to do the tour.

Spoiler alert, that skull was real! Yeah, the Lees confirmed it. I just don’t have it on video.

Now, before I go any further with this story, there’s something you should know. Normally when I enter haunted places, I feel pretty peaceful. Even the Lizzie Borden House, where the titular ghost threatened me while I was sleeping in her room, didn’t put me on edge. However, the Bellaire House was different. It had an energy to it. From the moment I walked in, it felt weird. As cool as it was, it was not a house I would not want to spend too much time in.

Later on, it would feel peaceful. Especially in the light of morning. But I knew it was a calm before a storm. Like I said, that house had a feel to it. And it was even stronger in the attic. I felt tingles in my fingers when I first went there.

Whatever that house used to be, it’s no longer a happy home. It’s not meant to be.

Anyway, around five-thirty or six, the rest of our party for the evening arrived: Greg and Kathy, whom Danette, Dave and I had met at the Reformatory last year, and Nikkie and Dan, who are apparently from my county (small world). We got to talking and getting to know each other. And after that, the owners of the House, Daniel and Kristen Lee, arrived to tell us about the house, it’s history and their experiences there.

If you didn’t watch the full video, then let me tell you something. I could tell the Lees were really uncomfortable in the house. They laughed it off, but you could tell. And I kind of understand. While I would like to live in a haunted house, I don’t want one that has a malevolent or toxic presence in it. And I’m a horror and paranormal nut! The Lees are what I would call normies. And they were so disturbed by what they went through, they tried fleeing to Massachusetts! Yet they still had to come back. Now this house is part of their livelihood, and it must be a mental and psychological toll on them.

Like having to work in a jailhouse, I’d imagine. Only, who exactly are the prisoners and who are the jailers?

I’ll end this post with that thought. I’ll go into the investigation in Part 2. However, if you go to my YouTube channel, you’ll find all the videos I took already there.

And as for Haunted, the audio collection of paranormal stories I’m apart of, it’s been delayed due to technical issues. But it should be out before too long. And it’ll be worth the wait, believe me. I listened to part of it, especially my section. Believe me, it’s quite spooky. And I’ll be posting the links as soon as I have them.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have Part 2 out soon (among other posts). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Do you remember Never Hike Alone, the Friday the 13th fan film that was leagues better than the 2011 remake? I reviewed it about two years ago, and I still stand by that review. It is a great film, and way better than that crap remake.* So, I was excited when I found out last month that Womp Stomp Films, the YouTube channel that created Never Hike Alone, were making more Friday the 13th fan films! Even better, the first would be a prequel, Never Hike in the Snow, and was coming out on October 13th, 2020. Yesterday.

Yeah, I watched it. And now I’m spreading the word about it.

Never Hike in the Snow (which I’m told takes place three months before the events of Never Hike Alone), begins with a missing persons investigation in the woods near Crystal Lake. A teenager has gone missing in the middle of the snow and trees, and the only clues are his mother’s car and a pool of blood. While some, like the local sheriff, won’t admit the truth. But some, like Tommy Jarvis, who survived Jason not once but twice, know the truth, and are prepping for the inevitable.

You know, prequels are naturally things people get wary about. People remember all the problems with the (albeit entertaining) Star Wars prequels. But this was really good. The best part was the opening, which depicts the missing teen’s run in to Jason. It’s epic and thrilling, and feels like the best of the classic Friday the 13th chase scenes ramped up to eleven. And the way it ends, you’re so entranced by what’s happened, you ignore how bright and corn syrupy the blood looks!

The rest of the movie shows various characters’ reactions to the situation, especially for those who are in the know about what lives in the woods. It’s a great change from the first fan film, which focused solely on one person’s experience with Jason. And it proves that there’s still plenty to do with this franchise and characters than sending them to New York or to space.

There’s plenty of other stuff to enjoy with this film, of course. The cinematography is beautiful, the actors put their all into their characters, and the finale was bloody brilliant (in more ways than one). And it even has Thom Matthews reprising his role as Tommy Jarvis from both the first film and from Friday the 13th Part VI (yes, they got the actual actor from the film series. How crazy is that?).

This shot says it all about this fan-made film.

That being said, I had a few problems with the film. The film’s only thirty minutes long, and while it has an epic finale, the way it ends makes this feel less like a prequel and more like the first episode of a TV series. Knowing we won’t get an episode two kind of cheapens the effect.

That, and there’s a moment where we see things from Jason’s unique perspective that I didn’t care for. I mean, I like the idea of it, but it was just too sweet. It runs into the same problem with the Rob Zombie Halloween movies: if you humanize these mythic killers too much, you lose their effectiveness as movie monsters. His backstory is enough. No need to pull at our heartstrings.

All in all though, Never Hike in the Snow is a violent and excellent tribute to the Friday the 13th franchise and the place it has in the minds of the fans. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4. Bundle up, sit down and check it out.

Also, can’t wait for the next film in this fan series. Whenever that comes out (probably a decade before an official Friday the 13th film comes out. I mean, how long have they been developing a new film?).

*Granted, that’s not hard to accomplish. Most films are better than that Michael Bay-produced piece of crap that feels more like an excuse to show off half-naked women than anything else (no, I will never waste an opportunity to hate on that film). But there’s being better, and then there’s taking the time to actually create a great film around Jason Voorhees, and Never Hike Alone was the latter.