Archive for the ‘Living and Life’ Category

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 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!

October is usually associated with Halloween, and obviously I’m doing everything I can to make sure you don’t forget that. But it is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when the United States recognizes how peoples with disabilities have contributed to the country and to our various industries over the years. This year especially, we are marking both the 75th anniversary of NDEAM, as it’s often abbreviated, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming a law.

And it’s good we have this month, because there are so many people with disabilities throughout the world and history who have contributed to our society. Harriet Tubman led dozens of slaves to freedom and acted as an armed scout and nurse for the Union Army, suffered from neurological issues due to a childhood traumatic brain injury; Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United States and led the US through some of its toughest crises, all while dealing with the aftereffects of polio from a childhood condition; Albert Einstein had a learning disability; and author Flannery O’Connor wrote enduring fiction while suffering from lupus.

Not to mention there’s a growing list of entertainers and athletes with disabilities inspiring us everyday. Magic Johnson, the basketball player, has dyslexia; Gaten Matarazzo and Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things have cleidocranial dysplasia and deafness in one ear, respectively; and Elton John has fought bulimia and epilepsy for years. And more amazing people with disabilities are emerging every day. Check out this video of a dance company, half of whose members have disabilities.

I point out all these people because, as Ms. Hamamoto points out in the video above, one in five people have a disability of some sort. Yet, despite the passage of the ADA and the many opportunities this law opened up for Americans with disabilities, this country isn’t always very inclusive. In fact, opportunities and services available for people with disabilities can vary greatly from place to place.

This astonishes me, because becoming disabled is something that can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, nationality, class, religion, political leanings, ethnicity or age. In fact, the likelihood of getting a disability grows as you get older. It can happen because of genetics, because of an accident, a side effect of an illness, or other causes. Lately, I’ve heard of people who get over COVID-19, but have side effects such as still being unable to taste or suffering from multiple headaches a week. These can, and likely will, be considered disabilities in the years to come.

And many members of the American military come back or discharge with disabilities. These can range from physical, such as war injuries, to mental or psychological, such as PTSD.

You might not even realize that someone near you has a disability. The majority of them are invisible. You may only see their struggles, if anything.

And yet, so many people don’t want to think about the disabled. Services for the disabled can be underfunded. Many homes aren’t always built with the disabled in mind. Education in general is often not given the funding it needs, and when it comes to budget cuts, special education is often on the chopping block. And there’s so little education on disability in general, that people may hold a stigma regarding disability for years: that disability is contagious; that they’re useless; that they brought it upon themselves; that the best thing to do with disability is to ignore it or hide it away or treat it as an annoyance.

As a person with several disabilities–some congenital, others acquired in adulthood–I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been. I’m gainfully employed at an organization where close to twenty percent of the workforce has some form of disability (as well as accommodations for them). And throughout my life, I’ve been able to receive services that help me with my disabilities. So I feel it is important to not only make disability more visible, but also to advocate and help out when I can.

Which is why I’d like to close out this post with some links to help my fellow peoples with disabilities. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has numerous resources for the disabled, and many states have programs or offices for the disabled, such as Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in my state.┬áIf you are or know a college student or recent graduate with disabilities, then might I recommend the Workforce Recruitment Program, or WRP, a great program that pairs students and graduates with disabilities with internships in the federal government, and which sometimes turn into jobs (please use Firefox when operating on the site). And the Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has numerous listings of individual disabilities and what accommodations exist out there. My office uses this site all the time, and we find it quite helpful.

And these are just a small sample of resources for the disabled, a group that should never be discounted or forgotten. Because not only can you become disabled at any time in your life, but because no matter the disability, you matter. You contribute. You make the world a better place. And if people forget that, then it’s up to you and to the rest of us to remind them.

What resources for people with disabilities are you aware of? What has your disability experience been like?

Happy October 1st, everyone! Yeah, who cares what 2020 has thrown at us so far? It’s now October, which means we’re in the best month of the year. The month where everything gets a bit darker, a bit cooler, and a whole lot spookier.

In fact, I have actual footage of myself waking up this morning and realizing it’s October 1st. Check it out:

Where did that light come from? How did my glasses get on my face when I don’t normally sleep with them off my face? Doesn’t matter. I am what I am, and what that is likely isn’t human, so why question it?

Also, if you haven’t checked out my YouTube channel, consider checking it out and subscribing. I don’t post there often, but what I do feels genuinely like something I’d post. So why not check it out?

Anyway, now that it’s October, you can expect plenty more horror content (more than usual, anyway) as Halloween approaches. Plenty of reviews, discussions of what makes good horror or horror-related topics, and who knows? Maybe some spooky good news on the writing front.

Plus a few posts that don’t fit that mold, because what’s life without variety?

Anyway, I expect even with COVID-19 and an election and a million other things making 2020 a shit show out there, this month will surely be fun. Even if we can’t go trick or treating or see most horror films in a movie theater. For instance, I’m going to be visiting the Bellaire House, a haunted house on the Ohio-West Virginia border, some time this month with friends for an overnight investigation.

Yeah, that’s right! I’m going to another haunted location! And this one supposedly has a demon in the attic. Sounds like I’m having a family reunion soon.

And who knows what else I’ll be getting up to this month?

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll surely have a couple of blog posts out soon. Until next time, Happy October, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

I’ve two words for you:

Fuck 2020.

That’s how people have been reacting since around January, though it really ramped up around March or April. I’ve been among the people who’ve been saying it. Until recently, however, I thought I was dealing with it pretty well. Except for that short period back in March, I’ve been able to keep my writing flowing. Hell, some even say my output is extraordinary or something to look up to. I’ve been doing really well at work. I’m maintaining a healthy lifestyle, for the most part. I’ve been reading a lot. I haven’t fallen behind on any of my bills. I still have a roof over my head, and I keep my apartment clean (or clean enough).

But lately, it’s been a lot. COVID-19; the election and those intent on derailing it for their own benefit, before, during and after November 3rd; hurricanes; wildfires; black people getting murdered and the justice system failing to help those left behind; the deaths of people like Chadwick Boseman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who inspired and brought hope to so many people; science deniers and “fake news” and “alternative facts;” and so much more. Add in that September has never been my favorite month, and also happens to be a really busy time for me at work, and it’s had an effect on me.

For one thing, I was actually sick today. Yeah, I think the stress had an effect on my physical health and I had to call off work. Sucks, especially since I was supposed to give a presentation today.

And not only that, but (*gasp!*) I haven’t been able to work on stories this week.

Yeah, I know. Last night, I only managed to edit three pages of Toyland. Took over an hour to do. I was just like, “Forget it! No point at working at it if I need an hour to get three pages edited!” If I was working on a new story, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t able to make my minimum of 500 words per writing session. I’d be disappointed, but not surprised.

It’s a shame, but sometimes life gets you down and affects everything.

So, I’m taking steps to improve things. I may only have so much power to change this world,* but I have plenty of power to help myself. In fact, since I was sick today, I spent the day doing self-care. I slept in, made Japanese rice gruel (great for when you’re under the weather), watched Enola Holmes on Netflix,** did some hypnosis for stress relief, and watch cute videos of foxes and cats and dogs (thank you, YouTube).

And I’ll be doing some more self-care over the next few days. Yeah, I know there’s an emphasis in this country on being constantly productive until retirement. But you know what? Fuck productivity! What’s the point of getting all that done if I’m a wreck? Sometimes, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do. And I wish more people realized that, rather than grinding themselves to death for…what? A possible bonus? Bragging rights? I don’t know.

So, I may not get much more done for the rest of the month. Whatever. Once I’m back in the saddle and feeling better, I’ll be pounding out words and stories at the usual crazy rate. And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the relaxation and self-care I can. Life’s too short and crazy not to enjoy it, after all.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Stay safe, take care of yourselves, and pleasant nightmares.

*I could use some of my dark powers to make really big changes, but that involves too much paperwork and some nasty unintended consequences. After this year, I’d like to avoid both.

**Short opinion: the mystery is a bit simplistic and obvious for a story involving a detective named Holmes, but it’s a lot of fun. Millie Bobby Brown is great, there are plenty of funny moments, and it scratches my Victorian itch. Give it a watch if you need something nice to get your mind off your problems.

My table at the Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines this past year. I’m hoping to have wonderful experiences at the events I’ll be attending this coming year as well.

I know it’s early. We still have three months and nine days left of 2020. I also know that, with COVID-19, any planned event is subject to change or cancellation. And there’s no telling when this pandemic will end. But I want to be optimistic and hope things work out before these events happen.

Plus, I’ve already talked about one of these events on most of my other social media in order to help get more vendors there. And if you want to get this stuff on people’s calendars, you gotta get the word out as early as possible. Before they put weddings and bar mitzvahs and other conventions on their calendars.

What was I talking about? Oh right. So, I’m signed up to be a vendor or author at a couple of conventions and book fairs next year. And I’m letting you know about them in case you’d be interested in them or going to them.

First, there’s Paranormal and Psychic Convention 2021, or ParaPsyCon 2021. This is an annual event at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. You know, the haunted former prison where they filmed the Shawshank Redemption. The one I’ve been to twice and filmed some of my best haunted footage at. It’s from May 22nd-23rd, 2021,* and all it takes to get in is admission to the convention is to pay for admission to the prison. You can find out more on their website here.

Fun fact: I was actually supposed to be at this convention earlier this year. But we were in the early days of the pandemic, and the convention organizers were wise to cancel it. They then offered to put me on the vendor list for 2021, and I accepted. I’m hopeful that by then, things will be a bit safer and we can go to the convention in peace.

Then the month after, I’ll be at an event hosted by Indie Author Book Expo, or IABE, the very same group who hosted the expo I went to in Des Moines back in July. However, this time, I’ll be at IABE Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. It’ll be held on June 19th, 2021 at the Quarry Chi on E. 75th street. Not sure what the parking situation is, or if this location has been used as a film set, or if it’s haunted. But hey, doesn’t mean it won’t be a good time. You can find out more about it, as well as the other events IABE will be holding next year, on their website here.

I’ll be at both events, selling books,** doing Tarot readings, meeting readers, writers and others alike, and just trying to have a good time. So, if you’re able to come to either, please do. I’d be happy to see you.

And if I sign up for any other events, I’ll be sure to let you know well in advance that I’m attending. Don’t know if there will be. Some won’t happen unless the pandemic gets better. Others won’t let you sign up unless you’ve had a book published within a certain time period, so my attendance will depend on what occurs over the next year or so. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If any of you are able to make these events, I hope I’ll see you then. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*Same weekend as StokerCon, I know, but I already had this on the calendar. What are you going to do?

**And some other things. I’ve had a few ideas on other items I can sell alongside my books. And I’ll probably think of a few more before the first convention.

What a mouthful of a title. Let me explain:

Back in college (I want to say 2012), when featured blog posts were advertised to WordPress users under the feature “Freshly Pressed,” I read a blog post from a father who recently had a run-in with someone else’s spawn. I can’t remember much about the blog post in question. I can’t remember the blog or blog post’s name, the blog’s general theme, or anything of that sort. However, one detail stands out in my memory and it’s why I’m writing this blog post:

After reprimanding another person’s child for selfish (and maybe violent? I can’t remember that well) behavior at a children’s playground, the child’s mother came to apologize. And the parent described the mother’s face as “crunchy.” You read that right, crunchy. For someone’s face.

I tried pressing the author in the comments about what he meant by “crunchy.” What makes a woman’s face crunchy? But no matter how much I tried or he tried, he couldn’t describe it better than “crunchy.” I’m guessing he doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to understand the meanings of adjectives in order to mix and match them in stories and not use the same word over and over again. That’s more of a creative writer thing, not a parent blogging about their experiences kind of thing.

Anyway, I put the issue aside, but every now and then, I would come back to it and wonder how you could describe someone’s face as “crunchy.” About two weeks ago, I decided to finally search for answers and decided to discuss it with my various writers’ groups online. And I got some feedback that proved quite helpful.

Among my writer friends and colleagues, there were three main responses:

  • The author really meant “scrunchy,” not “crunchy.” This would make more sense, as it’s easier to visualize someone’s face scrunch up.
  • He meant she was a crunchy-type person, as in a sort of neo-hippie that eats granola and lots of other natural foods that are crunchy when eaten (hence the nickname).
  • The person’s face was so covered in lines, that you could almost hear those lines crunching whenever their face moved.

Honestly, given that I mainly asked horror authors for their feedback, I’m surprised that only one person made a wisecrack about cannibalism, and the woman’s face looking like a crunchy snack. Like a Cheetos snack or a Crunch bar.

And now I’m hungry. Dammit.

What people tend to think of when they hear the word “crunchy.” Not in regards to people’s faces.

Anyway, of the responses listed above, it was a variation of the last one that rang right to me. One author commented that she’d seen people whose skin texture was like cornflakes due to too much exposure to the sun and applying too much beige make-up to “make up” for it. Given my vague memories of the original blog post and the context the author used for the woman he was conversing with, this felt right. In fact, it lines up with the image I conjure in my head when I think of the woman from this blog post.

So, that’s the description I’m going with. In fact, I’ve already figured out how I could work it into a story someday, as well as which story I’d like to use it in. And perhaps which foolish person who got on my bad side and received the ultimate punishment of getting a hateful character based on them to use the description on.*

But damn, it was a crazy trip just to get to the right description. At least I finally found a description that works for me and I can work into a story someday. And I got to write a blog post that hopefully was edifying and enjoyable. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, right?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this post was amusing. So, until next time, what are some other weird or mystifying descriptors you’ve come across in your reading? Any that you’ve struggled to find an answer for? Let’s discuss.

And until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and no eating people’s faces off. It’s generally frowned upon in Western society.

*Don’t mess with me. My retribution is not only dangerous and eternal, but safe from lawsuits owing to that little clause in the copyright section stating it’s a work of fiction and that any connections to real persons, places or events are just coincidences.

Queen Victoria and her grandchildren by her daughter Princess Alice, mourning their mother and sister Princess Marie.

Yes, this is another Victorian England post. Don’t worry, it’s going to be relevant to horror and to the stories I write, believe me.

During my research into the era, I found that the Victorians really had a thing for mourning. In fact, they made ritualized mourning into something of a fine art or a pseudo-religious practice (hence why I call it a cult). You know how during a funeral, it’s tradition to wear black? Victorians took that to extremes: when someone you know died, you were required to mix black into your clothing, how much depending on your level of closeness to the deceased. A widow would have to wear full black clothes, usually made from crepe fabric; a child would wear black with white cuffs and frills; and servants would wear black bands around their arms (maids could also wear one around their caps or bonnets, or fully black caps and bonnets).

Also depending on the closeness to the deceased would determine the length of the initial mourning period. Yeah, you read that right: initial mourning period. For the Victorians, there were stages of mourning, particularly for close relatives. For widows, for example, the initial mourning stage could last up to two years, during which time they could only wear black clothes and black jewelry; black clothes was hung on mirrors and windows; and they were to refuse all socializing. Any letters they sent out had black borders, and it was encouraged for them to forget the outside world to focus on the deaths of their husband.

Of course, this was slanted very much towards women: men were allowed to wear only a black armband and go out because they were typically breadwinners. They could also remarry or enter the social scene sooner, because men were expected to have wives to take care of them and a mother for any children.

Furthermore, only women from the middle or upper classes took part in the full mourning ritual. Women from the lower classes, while still wearing black, would have to go out to earn a living. If one could be earned, of course; I’m not entirely sure, but I think I read that women could have difficulty finding work during mourning, if they previously weren’t working. In fact, many women and families went into debt or became homeless by observing mourning rituals.

Why did they do all this? Part of the reason may have been Queen Victoria herself: when her husband Albert, Prince Consort, died, she went into lifelong mourning for him, wearing black for the rest of her life and refusing to remarry. For a time, she even retreated from her royal duties. This inspired the cult of mourning and its associated rituals.

Part of it may have also been (and this is just my hypothesis, but I could be onto something) the resurrection men, grave robbers who stole bodies and sold them to medical schools for anatomy lessons. Back then, there was a huge demand for bodies at medical schools, but never enough supply, so resurrection men would step in to meet the demand (as well as be paid handsomely for it).* And because not everyone could afford safeguards to keep their coffins from being raided and stealing a body technically wasn’t a crime yet, all resurrection men had to worry about was getting caught by an angry mob.

Ad for Black Peter Robinson’s Mourning Warehouse, and the image that inspired my current story.

Regardless of what caused it, the cult of mourning existed, and everyone was expected to obey, especially married women. To fail or to opt out was to be accused of never having truly loved or been family with the deceased, or to be cold and cruel.

And where there is devotion, there is money to make off it: while poorer families would dye their clothes black or got them secondhand, those who could bought them from specialized “mourning warehouses,” department stores that sold mourning wear, as well as coffins and items associated with mourning. Some even rented out hearses and horses for their clients! Some of the biggest were the London General Mourning Warehouse, or Jay’s, and the Black Peter Robinson Mourning Warehouse.

But wait, there’s more! Post-mortem photography was also popular during this period. Photography was a lengthy and expensive process, so many families would only get photographs of their loved ones when they’d just passed. They would then be posed and prepared to look like they were sleeping, often next to living family members. Rather than morbid, this was seen as a good way to remember the dead and help with grief.

A post-mortem photograph. Because of course I would include one.

Of course, a lot of this fell out of fashion in the early twentieth century, first among the upper classes and then trickling down to the lower. Cheaper funeral practices became preferred, and post-mortem photography became unnecessary as getting a photograph became easier and more affordable. Today, only characters in books and neo-Victorians still practice any of these (yes, that’s a thing, but for another post).

And yes, resurrection men are largely a thing of the past.

Why do I bring this up? Well, besides being interesting, the story I’m writing now focuses on Victorian mourning to an extent, and doing some further research into Victorian mourning practices made me want to blog about them. So thank you for coming to my TED talk (I love making that joke).

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll be back soon with more to rant or gush about. In the meantime, thanks for enabling my love of the Victorian era. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first recorded serial killers, did this with his victims, which leads me to think he was more interested in making easy money than in killing.