Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

After the failure that was the Grudge reboot earlier this year (see my review here), I was hopeful after learning a television series based on the original Ju-On movies was going to be released in Japan. And it was being brought to America through Netflix. And as soon as I could, I sat down to watch all six episodes of JU-ON: Origins. After all, it was guaranteed to be better than the Grudge reboot, but would it be legitimately scary?

JU-ON: Origins begins with a paranormal researcher named Odajima appearing on a talk show with an idol who experienced supernatural happenings at her apartment after her boyfriend goes house-hunting for them. At the same time, a troubled high schooler named Kiyomi becomes involved with a mysterious house near her school. This and other events leads to many people’s lives becoming involved with the house, a house whose history is alive and kicking, and in the worst possible way.

While this series bears very little resemblance to the original story of the movies beyond a cursed house and several men questioning if they’re the father of the children they’re raising, it’s definitely a better horror story than the Grudge reboot. And even better, it’s freaking scary.

First off, the show does a great job of setting up a mystery. The characters spend their time running down multiple leads, each one leading to a new aspect of the haunting. And each new aspect seems to add more questions than it answers. But even better, there are a number of terrifying moments. There were quite a few moments, especially in the later episodes, where I was squirming in my seat. Anyone who gets to episode five will shiver every time they think of it.

I also liked how they incorporated famous tragedies from Japan’s recent history into the story. A lot of the major events of the story occur around the same time as the murder of Junko Furuta, the sarin gas attacks, and the Kobe child murders (which, by the way, are terrifying in their own rights). Almost as if to say the house’s evil has some sort of connection to those events.

And if you don’t like subtitles, there’s an English dub on Netflix, and it’s decent. The English dialogue matches very well with the Japanese lip movements, and there are some well-known anime voice actors in the series (I had a lot of fun making jokes about that in the calmer moments of the show). Though I am sad to say, that’s not Nicholas Cage voicing the main character Odajima, but a guy named Brock Powell doing a really good Nicholas Cage impression.

This scene! Oh God, I’m shivering again.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was that I would’ve liked to see more from the original films incorporated into the story. I’m not asking for a direct based-on-the-movie or Kayako and her son to fully appear on screen, but I would’ve enjoyed more references or incorporation of the original story that’s become so beloved by fans.

And just a trigger warning: this series delves into subjects such as domestic violence and sexual assault. So if that’s a turn-off, maybe don’t watch this one.

For everyone else, however, JU-ON: Origins is a terrifying TV show that will satisfy anyone else bored with more recent entries into the Ju-On and Grudge franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this show a 4.5. Head on home and settle in to watch it. Just make sure to watch with the lights on.

Also, if you go house hunting and the house has a history, make sure that it hasn’t harmed anyone in at least a decade before deciding it’s your dream home!

Everyone, sing it with me.

Happy Birthday to the blog,
Happy Birthday to the blog.
Happy Birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Great job singing, everyone. Except you. Yes, you. You were off-key.

So, as this post says, Rami Ungar the Writer, the very blog you’re reading right now, is nine years old as of today. And even though my memory of starting this blog at my local library has faded over time, this blog hasn’t. True, there were times where I thought it would. During the first year or two of college, there were days where I was lucky to get one or two views a day. I would wonder if writing this blog was even worth it, given how few people were reading what I had to say as I tried to make something of myself as a writer.

But I kept at it. I’m stubborn when it comes to goals, particularly writing-related goals, and I kept blogging. And you know what? People found my posts. They liked them, commented on them. Some even decided to subscribe to the blog. When my books came out, some of those subscribers elected to read them. And many of my subscribers have become dear friends of mine. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few in person, and making happy memories with them. It’s been quite the ride.

As of writing this post (and I know it’s tacky to brag, but nine years! That’s a long time to be blogging, especially in Internet time), Rami Ungar the Writer has 1,694 posts (including this one); 1,217 subscribers; 6,160 likes; and 4,526 comments. Crazy to think about. Even crazier, despite all common sense, some of you are actually proud to be Followers of Fear. I think one or two of you even used the title in hashtags on Twitter. The world is truly something else.

So what’s next? Well, even without a pandemic, I doubt much would change. I’ll be writing and editing stories and working on getting them published. I’ll have reviews on new works of horror as I come across them (and a few new ones are now cheap enough to rent through YouTube, so that’ll work). If I want to discuss a particular aspect of writing or of horror, I will. And if there’s any ghost-hunting or travels to be done, I’ll post about it.

Anyway, thanks for celebrating the blog’s ninth birthday with me. I’m so glad to have so many Followers of Fear interested in my stories and what I have to say. I hope you’ll continue to read what I write, blog or book form, and even let me know what you think.

Also, what do you think I should do for the tenth anniversary? Buy a cake and some champagne? Do another AMA on YouTube? Throw a wild party? I guess we’ll just have to wait till next year to find out.

So, until next time, thanks for being here. And as always, pleasant nightmares!

Before I start on the main subject of this post, I thought I’d ask a question of you, my Followers of Fear: how are you? You doing well?

Hey, it’s a pandemic and the world seems to get crazier every day. Might as well ask. Let’s talk in the comments below.

Anyway, you see that title? Inspiration, Motivation, Focus, Consistency. They’re more than just words. In fact, I think they’re why I’ve had such a crazy output of stories since November, including two novels.

Inspiration. This isn’t just limited to ideas for stories to write. Yeah, you want to have stories that excite you and that you think will excite others to read as much as it excites you to write them, but you also want inspiration for your drive. Let me explain: since Rose came out more than a year ago, I’ve heard from so many people who’ve enjoyed reading the book. I’ve had the pleasure of signing copies and talking to people about it, and even meeting the narrator of the audio book!

Being able to share my work with people, and knowing that they like it and even want to read more, is a huge inspiration for me. Imagining what someone might say for Rose or another story inspires me to sit in the chair at my desk and pound away at the keyboard on the laptop.

Motivation. If inspiration comes from knowing that people liked Rose and want to read more, then motivation is making sure I can do it again. I’m motivated to prove to the world that I’m not a one-book author (or one book by a publisher and four books published independently). This is another reason why I sit down in front of the computer every evening.

It’s also a good motivator for me to spend more time reading and less time streaming TV or anime, even though that is fun. I’m reading authors who have gotten their stories published—sometimes a few, sometimes many—and I’m thinking to myself, “Why did this story get published? Why does this work? What can I learn from this to improve my own stories?” And I think it works. At the very least, even the rejections come with good feedback more often than not.

Getting to meet Sara Parlier and discuss the book we worked on together was a great inspiration.

Focus. I always set a goal in mind for when I’m working on a story. When it’s writing, I try to get around 500 words down on paper, and everything after that is icing on the cake. For editing, I aim for at least three pages, and again, everything afterwards is icing on the cake. They’re simple goals, but more often than not they work. And at some point, a switch usually flips and I end up getting way more done than just those goals above. So, it works.

Consistency. None of the above three work unless you’re doing them often, though, and I’ve noticed the productive authors are always the ones who are doing them often. I tell people that a time fairy isn’t going to come to grant you time to write or meditate or exercise. You have to carve out the time yourself. It may take away from watching Netflix, but those shows will always be there waiting for you. The goals you’re trying to achieve? They won’t be there unless you make them a priority.

And you don’t have to go crazy in being consistent. A gradual build is good as well. I didn’t start writing most nights out of nowhere, I had to build up that habit over time. And it may take a lot more time than you want to build up the habit. But that’s okay. Trying too much too soon may overwhelm you, so it’s better to take it slow and build up your stamina so you can eventually be as consistent as you want to be.

Inspiration, Motivation, Focus, Consistency. They’re not always easy to find or build, but when you gather them together and use them, you can accomplish amazing things (and not just writing, either). How you go about finding them is up to you. But once you have them, you’ll be amazed at how hard it is to let them go. And just how much they improve your life.

 

So that’s all for tonight, my Followers of Fear. I’m deep in researching and outlining, so I’ll get back to that. In the meantime, stay safe, ask your doctor if demonic possession is right for you, and until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Oh, and since I mentioned it, I’ll post the links for Rose down below. If you haven’t read it yet and would like to check it out, please do. And if you enjoy what you read, leave a review online and let me know. I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run. Enjoy!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Ramsey and I doing a selfie in Greenville. And we were in Ramsey’s car, which was why we didn’t wear masks.

I would like to mention that this post is not paid for by the South Carolina Board of Tourism. However, if they would like to pay me, they can figure out how to contact me.

As many of you know, after I left Iowa, I flew to South Carolina to visit my buddy Ramsey, whom you may remember from the New Year’s video I filmed back in January (such innocent times those were). Ramsey lives in Greenville, so we spent the first day there just exploring the city, and I have to say, Greenville was really nice to be in. And not just because it had Borderlands, a comic book store where I finally obtained a Stephen King FunkoPop (though that was cool). What I saw was a small city that’s growing and has a lot to offer. They even have something of a scenic nature park and waterfall in the downtown area. Made for some really great photos, like the one below.

A view of downtown Greenville, SC.

The buildings were also nice to look at, all with this regal nature in their construction and design. It was fun just to look at them, let alone walk around and see them. And of course, there were plenty of houses that looked like they’d been around since the antebellum period, and I enjoyed seeing them as well. They’re not Queen Anne Revival style, which was the preferred style of the Victorian era and my preferred kind of house, but they made me want to live there.

We also almost visited the Confederate History Museum, but it was closed when we arrived. Probably a good thing, because it might’ve been hard for me to hold my tongue in such a place.

Oh, and guess who else lives in Greenville? Sara Parlier, the narrator for Rose‘s audio book (which I highly encourage you to download and check out)! We met up for breakfast outside a nearby Starbucks and managed to have a nice talk (though we made sure to social distance and wear masks as well). That was a cool experience, especially since with everything going on, I didn’t think we would be able to meet. Glad I was able to see her, and I hope we can do it again someday.

Sara Parlier and I meeting for breakfast. We only sat this close because of the photo, believe me.

Ramsey and I also drove down to Charleston for a couple days, and–wow! Charleston is a beautiful city. Some of those buildings have been around since the 17th and 18th centuries or have been built/renovated to match that style, so it kind of feels like you’re stepping back in time. We stayed at the Meeting Street Inn in the historic district, which is just beautiful and enhanced the feeling of stepping back in time, and then spent a good part of the day exploring the Historic District and checking out the waterfront. And despite the Confederate monuments here and there, Charleston is a beautiful place to walk around and take photos of. There’s the Four Corners of Law, at the intersection of Broad and Meeting, which have building that are or were used for various kinds of law at one point or another; Rainbow Row, a series of houses and buildings where the houses are in a rainbow of colors; and the Circular Church, a church dating back to 1681 that looks like it could be the setting of a Gothic novel or movie.

And quite a few of these places ended up on the ghost tour Ramsey and I took (more on that in another post).

St. Michael’s Anglican Church, which you can see from almost anywhere in the Historic District, and one of my favorite buildings from the area.

Also, if you’re able to get a reservation, I recommend Hyman’s Seafood. It’s pretty famous in the area, has been around for decades, has had numerous celebrities eat there over the years, and it has a kosher menu! Yeah, apparently the owners are Jewish and took a few measures so that fellow members of the Tribe can have meat there as well. Second best brisket I’ve ever had (after my mom’s, of course).

The next day, we took a trip out to Patriot’s Point, where you could see both Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started, and the USS Yorktown, which saw combat in WWII. As we’d both majored in History at Ohio State, it was a treat for the both of us. Not to mention taking a ferry to and from Fort Sumter was pretty cool.

Fort Sumter from the ferry.

The USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier from WWII.

It would take too many words to talk about my impressions of both places, but to say the least, seeing these preserved testaments to past wars was humbling and a little haunting, too. You really get to see and even feel how people living in those places and fighting those wars might’ve felt. I especially liked the USS Yorktown, as WWII is of interest to me (and I have an idea for a story aboard an aircraft carrier). You get to see planes used in WWII and Korea, as well as the flight deck, the areas the soldiers and sailors lived, and even a Medal of Honor museum, among other things. When it comes time to do research for that story, I’ll definitely be coming back to see the Yorktown.

And speaking of which, I may have encountered some paranormal stuff aboard the Yorktown. Wasn’t expecting it, though I did buy a book about hauntings aboard the ship earlier in the day in the gift shop. While buying a snack from the vending machine, I turned around to see where Ramsey had gotten off to, and in turning my head, I swear I saw a woman who was gone the second I looked back. I was like, “Did I just see that?” And in the Engine Room, which was empty but for Ramsey and me, we had this strange feeling of being watched. Which isn’t so strange, when you read in the book that people have had experiences in that room as well. At the time though, we had no idea about that, and we were just freaked out about feeling watched. We were almost glad to be out of the Engine Room, with its oppressive air!

Not saying it’s ghosts, but I am saying it’s unexplained.

Our last stop was Folly Beach, a small beach town where, surprisingly, people were social distancing while still enjoying themselves. Ramsey and I took turns watching our stuff and swimming in the ocean, which I hadn’t done in years. And there’s something wonderfully childlike about swimming in the ocean. You get such a kick by bending down so you’re up to the shoulders in the sea, of jumping so the waves carry you along with them.

I’m honestly sad we had to leave the next morning. South Carolina was a beautiful place to visit and I would love to come by again and see it again. And given my friendship with Ramsey and the stories I could write inspired by my trip, I think I will.

Thanks to Ramsey and his mother for being such wonderful hosts while I was with you, and showing me your lovely state. I hope we can see each other again very soon. Until then, hope you’re all doing well, and stay safe.

And I’ll have more posts out this week, my Followers of Fear. So until then, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but it took me about two months to get through the audio book of this novel. Not because of how I was reacting to the book, but COVID-19 has changed my audio-book listening habits in a major way. Which is a pain in the ass when you decide to read more works by writers of color and this particular book and author comes highly recommended. But I finally got through it, so let me tell you about this book I just finished (the audio book of which, by the way, was narrated by the author himself, and he did a great job).

The Devil in Silver follows Pepper, a large man who gets thrown into Northwest at New Hyde Hospital, a mental institution in Queens, New York. Not because of any mental illness, but that doesn’t keep him from being there. And as Pepper gets a crash course in the mental health industry, he also has to contend with a terrifying resident with its own wing of the hospital. A demonic figure, a devil, who seems to enjoy the pain and suffering of other patients. And Pepper finds himself in the unwelcome position of having to face this monster and stop it, lest it hurt him and his new friends in New Hyde Hospital.

Despite the title and the monster mentioned in the second half of the preceding paragraph, the true horror of the story doesn’t come primarily from the devil. It actually comes from the setting: LaValle does a great job of writing about people trapped in an industry that doesn’t always have the well-being of its patients in mind (and quite a few of the characters note this in the story). As someone who has his own share of mental health issues, reading this book, whose author drew on his own experiences with mental illness and mental institutions, made me very much aware of my experience with mental health and the industry, and how much worse it could be things were a little different. I’ve since put a book on the industry on my TBR list, which I hope will further educate me and make me more aware of a segment of society that the rest sometimes wishes to forget exists.

That all being said, the titular devil is scary too. There’s something about a bison-headed monster popping out of the ceiling of a mental hospital, one that enjoys hurting the patients and can manipulate the staff for its own benefit. Just makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise and makes you wonder about what it might be like if a monster such as that existed.

I also really grew to love the characters. Pepper comes off as honest and likable, if impulsive and a bit thick-headed at times. You really got to see him grow throughout the course of the story as he interacts with the other characters and deals with the trials and tribulations set before him. And speaking of the other characters, even the minor ones were given enough development to feel real. Some of my favorites include the Ugandan immigrant Coffee, who really does want someone to listen to what’s happening at the hospital, and the sassy Luchee, a young woman trying to have some semblance of normal given her situation.

If there was anything I didn’t care for, I found the climax to be a bit anticlimactic. I think I get what the author was going for with that ending, but I kind of wanted something more, and I didn’t get it. That, and there are a lot of digressions in the story. Some of these digressions are quite helpful: they help flesh out the world of the story and what the characters are going through. At the same time, there are some that made me scratch my head, like the one from the POV of the rat living on the second floor of the hospital.

But all in all, The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle is both a scary story and a story that hits deep at what it means to be human. And after reading this, I’ll likely read another book by LaValle very soon. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 4.3. Grab a copy and get ready to see a side of life many would rather forget existed.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As promised, more posts are on the way, including on my recent trip to South Carolina. Keep your eyes peeled. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I didn’t think I’d complete a new story this month, what with all the traveling. But somehow, I pulled it off. And without sacrificing any lives or limbs in the process, might I add. Good for me.

“Agoraphobia” is a short story I started before I left on my trip to Iowa and South Carolina earlier this month. The story follows a man with severe agoraphobia and social anxiety, to the point he never leaves his home. Which is a problem, because he lives in hurricane country and one’s bearing down on his area, forcing him to have to consider evacuating with everyone else. And that gets a bit more complicated when it appears the storm lets something into his house. Something that aims to do him harm.

So, this was pretty different from my normal fiction. It ended up being more literary horror than what I originally intended. Even so, I think it came out pretty well. Whether or not it’s good enough to publish is anyone’s guess, but I think with some feedback from the right beta reader, it could improve considerably.

Also, fun fact: I actually finished this story late Tuesday night. But during the writing, I started writing the story with a particular idea for the second half, only to change that idea midway through writing the first draft. So during these past few days, I’ve been going through it to cut out the parts that were written when the goal was the original ending.

Anyway, I’m going to see if I can find a beta reader for “Agoraphobia.” After that, I’m going to likely start work on my next story. Yes, that’s right, I already know what I’m going to write next. Let’s hope that story will be worth something when it’s done as well.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, avoid summoning demons into your home, and pleasant nightmares!

From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; myself; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother, Chris Harris, offscreen.

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, click here.

This morning I received a message from the mother of Harlie Jones, the teenager who joined us for the investigation. Apparently Monica was filming the dowsing rods session, but unlike mine, there was a lot of static and white noise in her recording. And she was using a cell phone, too. Not saying this is a ghost or definitely paranormal, but it is strange and unexplained.

If Monica ever posts that recording of the event online, perhaps some intrepid editor with a better grasp of digital editing than you or me can find something within the static and white noise. Perhaps an electronic voice phenomena (EVP)? Or an odd shape in the static?

Speaking of strange and unexplained, let’s start Part 2 of the recap with some unexplained weirdness. After dinner in town and after taking the above photo in front of the house, we reentered the house. And because of the house’s history, I thought it was a good idea to go through the house with a poker to make sure there wasn’t any killers hidden in the structure (fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…). All was normal until we reached the children’s room on the second floor. And realized the door to the closet, the one we’d locked Joleene in temporarily and which we’d left open when we’d left, had closed on its own.

Here’s a video clip of our reaction to finding that. BTW, the guy in the Hawaiian shirt is Chris Harris, Joleene’s brother.

So yeah, that happened. And we’re still not sure how that happened. The second-floor air conditioning unit is in the parents’ room at the other end of the floor, and there’s no way the breeze from that could’ve pushed the door closed. That, and there was no breeze or draft up there. So how did it happen?

As it was getting late, we decided to do one more dowsing rods test, this time in the attic of the house, where the killer supposedly hid while waiting for the family to return. This time, we got Josiah Moore to answer our questions. And…the results were unexpected. Turn up the volume on your computer or phone to hear the full audio.

So if you watched the whole thing, Josiah Moore somehow made a dog outside the house bark. I’m not sure how a spirit can be in two places at once again like that, but I’ll go with it. What do I know about the afterlife?

Now that I think about it, maybe Josiah was answering, and it was one of the other spirits setting off the dog. His wife, for instance.

Also, some weird things happened when I asked about the killer. Josiah said his spirit was still with them, but then flip-flopped on whether the killer was in the room with us. Assuming that the rods aren’t manipulated by tiny movements in my hands and arms (and the copper cylinders around the rods are supposed to prevent that), why the change? Did the killer’s spirit only manifest in the room then? Or is it just a residual haunting? Not the spirit of a person, but a spiritual imprint or recording that, under certain circumstances, gets played back? That would be my guess, though as I said, I’m no expert.

Soon after that experiment, and some discussion with Joleene and the others, I recorded one final video. This time, a vlog in the children’s room about why it was so quiet in the house.

If you didn’t watch that video in full, I speculated the reason why the house wasn’t more active was because the Moores and the Stillinger girls only did enough “haunting,” so to speak, to let us know they were there. I also included Joleene, Charles, and Chris’s observations regarding the house feeling “creepy” and whether or not people were there.

Soon after recording that, I went to bed. Monica left at some point because she had work in the morning, and Chris went home as well. Harlie was told she could go back to the Naylor’s at any point she wanted, but she ended up staying the whole night, as did Charles, Joleene and I. And while nothing directly out of a horror movie happened, some weird things did occur:

On my end, I often found myself waking up in the middle of the night with my fingers interlaced on top of my chest. Not only is that unusual for me to sleep like that, but it’s also similar to how the Moores were posed after death by the killer. That, and at one point I thought i heard a whispered conversation, which I now believe was coming from the closet in the downstairs bedroom. However, at the time I woke up, around 4:30 in the morning, I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. I even poked my head out into the main living room to see if anyone was talking, but nobody was. Harlie, who had been sleeping on the couch, noticed me there and confirmed that nobody had been speaking near her later when I asked about it.

Speaking of Harlie, she had some experiences of her own: as she told me that morning, while she was sleeping on the couch, she felt something like a finger trace down her back. Yeah, creepy. She turned over to avoid being touched like that again, especially since she was alone in the room. Not too long after that, she saw me poke my head out.

And some time during that early morning, she saw a shadow figure walk from the door into the kitchen towards the stairs. Yeah, she saw that! I’m so jealous.

Maybe it’s because she’s been around the same age as the children haunting the house both times, or maybe she’s born for ghost hunting. Either way, Harlie could do this as a hobby, if not a career.

And if you’re wondering what Joleene or Charles saw, they say they didn’t have any experiences. At least none that they noticed.

I survived the Villisca Axe Murder House!

In the morning, we woke up and figured out what had happened to us (or hadn’t happened). We then got our stuff together, made sure we left the house in a state similar to how we left it, did a sage burning to ensure that nothing attached to us and followed us home, and returned the keys to where we were told. Not too long after that, Chris gave me a ride back to Des Moines for my flight to South Carolina. Thus ended the investigation into the Villisca Axe Murder House.

So what are my final thoughts on the Villisca Axe Murder House? Well, I do believe it’s haunted. I do think the Moores and the Stillingers are still living there, with residual energy from the killer. And I think that the Moores and Stillingers prefer to keep to themselves. They’ll let you know they’re here, but unless you’re a kid like Harlie, they’ll only let you know in the hopes you’ll leave them alone. They suffered at the end of their lives and stuck in the house in the afterlife. Can’t be easy having a bunch of random people appearing in the house at least once a week.

Still, I recommend you visit if you want. Daytime tours are available, and of course if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you can stay overnight. Depending on the how the spirits are feeling and your luck, you might catch a thing or two. Hopefully not an axe to the head, though.

And with any luck, you might also run into Fish the cat, a friendly stray who likes to hang around the house and with the people staying there. Charles spent a lot of time with her and she spent some time on my lap, as you can see.

Me hanging with Fish the cat.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back to post on other stuff, including the South Carolina part of my trip, sooner than you think. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; me; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother Chris Harris, offscreen.

You’ve been waiting patiently for this post. Now here it comes. My recap of our amateur investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House! Or at least part one of it (what can I say, a lot happened in two days!).

Now, a little refresher for those of you not up on your macabre American history. In June 1912, the Moore family–Josiah Moore, Sara Moore, their three sons and daughter–plus two friends of their daughter were murdered overnight at the Moore residence with an axe. The crime is currently unsolved and is Iowa’s oldest cold case. The house where the murders happened still stands, and is available for tours and for overnights, and is reputed to be haunted.

The Villisca Axe Murder House has been on my list of haunted places to visit since 2015, and my friend/colleague Joleene Naylor lives right by the house, so it was inevitable that I would someday visit. And when an opportunity afforded itself earlier this year, we reserved the house for a night with the hopes of experiencing paranormal activity.

Before we visited the house itself though, Joleene and Charles showed me around their hometown of Villisca. And I have to say, it’s a beautiful little town. There’s a central square where most of the town business and activity takes place. Some buildings are closed down, but others are in the process of being remade into new businesses, even in the midst of a pandemic. What really surprised me, though, was the business on one of the main streets.

Yeah, you’re seeing that right. That’s Needful Things, as in the shop from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Trust Leland Gaunt to find a town with dark history to set up shop in! Joleene, if you and Charles are reading this, your family better be prepared to save Villisca from itself!

After that, we headed out to the town cemetery to see the actual graves of the Moores and the Stillingers, the two girls who were murdered alongside the Moores.

Front entrance to the Villisca Cemetery.

The Moore family tombstone.

The Moore children’s tombstone. Many people leave toys and, for some reason, coins on the graves.

Me at the Stillinger girls’ graves.

Yeah, sobering reminder that the only reason this house is known is because of a grizzly murder. One involving six children. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to find ghosts and interact with them, let alone the ones in that house, but it’s something to think about before you go into that house.

We also passed by the Senator’s House, pictured below. Named after its famous former owner, Senator Frank Jones, who was rumored to be involved somehow in the murders. It’s a beautiful old house, though one with a history. Which might explain why it’s currently unoccupied, if I remember what Joleene and Charles told me.

The Senator’s House

After seeing those sights, we went through the suburbs of Villisca, allowing me to see my first view of the Axe Murder House, and Joleene’s beautiful home, featured below. I loved seeing the many homes in Villisca. Most of them are beautiful Victorians, the kind of home that I would love to live in (no surprise there). And apparently it’s very affordable to live in Iowa, which tempted me to buy a house or at least put down a down payment. I had to really think about that before I did, though.

Hilariously enough, Joleene said many people prefer the ranch houses, which I saw fewer of but were present in the neighborhood. I don’t know why. Yeah, Victorians are a lot of work to maintain, but they have such beauty and history!

Now, onto the investigation of the Axe Murder House! Joleene, Charles and I arrived a little before four o’clock, and our guide came by a little while later. And after I signed the papers and set up my new GoPro, we got started on the tour, which you can find in this video.

Yeah, I figured out how to turn the video off. And I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a ton of coins around the home. I know the parents’ room was rather dark, owing to my GoPro not having night vision, but they were there too. We think that might be from people hoping the ghosts will knock the coins off surfaces or move them. Nothing like that happened while we were there, but other stuff did.

More on that in a bit. First, let me make a few observations about the house. As I said, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. But it differs in other ways from expected. I think part of me expected it to be like the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, recreated to look very close to what it looked like back in the day, though with a few modern amenities. In actuality, it’s been mostly preserved in the same state it was in when the house was turned into a museum. In addition, the house is also full of toys, dolls and other knickknacks. It feels more like it was decorated to be more pleasing to the spirits living there, especially the children. And you know what? I kind of like that.

Also, it’s not a bed and breakfast, and the only amenities are the air conditioning units on both floors.

After the tour guide had left and we got settled into the house, we decided to pass the time waiting for our two other companions for the night, Joleene’s friend Monica Ware and her stepdaughter Harlie Jones–the little girl mentioned by Joleene at the end of the video–by doing a dowsing rods session in the girls’ room. You know, the room where those two girls were killed and where a dude stabbed himself a few years ago?

Here’s that video for your viewing terror.

We cut the session short because Monica and Harlie arrived and we wanted to get them up to speed. After another quick tour through the house, during which Harley refused to check under the bed where, as a toddler, she saw those “weird kids,” we had a little fun locking Joleene in the upstairs closet.

Yeah, we’re still laughing about that one a week later. Especially now it’s on the Internet forever.

After the fun and games were over though, I somehow managed to convince Harlie to do a dowsing rods session in the girls room downstairs. I figured that since she was around the same age as the older girl, Lena Stillinger, and had seen the kids’ spirits when she was younger, she might have better luck than me in communicating with the spirits. And although she was a little too freaked to actually ask the spirits to manifest (understandable, I guess), she did a very good job drawing them out and asking questions.

Forgive how dark the video was. We were working with what daylight we had, and it appeared brighter when we were filming. Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t explore the basement of the house, it’s because while we could access it, the door needed repairs, and we didn’t want to worsen that.

After that session, Joleene’s brother Chris, who took the photo at the top of this post, arrived. We then locked up the house and left for dinner in town, unaware of what would occur while we were gone.

But that will have to wait until Part 2 of my recap.

That’s Part 1, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have Part 2 up very soon. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Some of you who have been following me since last year may remember that, with all the marketing I was doing to promote Rose being published, I sponsored a YouTube video. As of today, it’s been a full year since that video came out. And you know what? It’s still as cool now as it was then.

So for those of you who don’t know, 101 Facts is a YouTube channel that uploads new videos once a week, each video giving–you guessed it–one-hundred and one facts about a particular subject (countries, upcoming movies and video games, the occasional major historical event, etc). And, like many YouTube channels, their videos are occasionally sponsored.

I got into contact with the 101 Facts team a few months before Rose was set to release, and, after a lot of emailing back and forth, they agreed to let me sponsor an upcoming video. I can’t remember if they already had it on their schedule before I contacted them, or if they just took one of my suggestions and decided to role with it, but the video I ended up getting to sponsor was 101 Facts about Stephen King (after all, what better video to sponsor than one about the author who made me want to write horror in the first place?).

There were several more emails, they showed me the promo they would give Rose in their video, and then a few weeks later, on July 20th, 2019, the video was released. And guess what? You can check it out below.

Pretty cool, huh? And in the year since it’s released, it’s gathered over two-hundred and twenty thousand views, more views than across either my YouTube or blogging platforms. I still watch it on occasion, especially when I’m writing or working on a blog post. And it’s still a bit of a shock to hear the host, Sam, say my name and talk about Rose in the video.

Speaking of which, thanks again to Sam, Chris, Georgia, and the crew over at 101 Facts for letting me sponsor them. It was really awesome to work with you guys, and I wish you nothing but the best with your videos, which are my favorite things to watch with my Saturday morning breakfasts.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t yet, you should check out their channel, linked here. They have a lot of informative content presented in a fun way. You might learn something you never knew on a topic you’re interested in.

And if you’re interested in reading Rose after watching the video above, I’ll include the links down below. If you do end up reading Rose, please tell me what you think of it. Positive or negative, I love reader reviews, and they help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s my first day back at work today, so I better get to it. I promise I’ll have more to post soon. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Some of you may remember I reviewed the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, the inspiration for the anime horror film I’m a huge fan of. Turns out the novel had something of a sequel, an anthology of tales by the same author, Yoshikazu Takeuchi, about idols being stalked by obsessive fans. I’ve been meaning to read it forever, but only just got my paws on a copy recently. Hoping it would compare well to the original novel, I read it in about a night.

Um…I’ve read better.

The anthology has three stories inside, a short story called “Wake Me From This Dream;” a novella called “Cry Your Tears;” and a novelette called “Even When I Embrace You.” Yeah, they all sound creepy just from the titles. However, the quality ranges from story to story.

“Wake Me From This Dream” follows one fan’s strange experience when he actually gets to be with his idol (after a fashion). It’s kind of creepy in how it approaches its premise, as well as hard to look away until the end. The story actually reminds me of Stephen King’s quote about short stories, about it being a kiss in the dark from a stranger. It’s especially true of this story, though the author seems to confuse social anxiety and laziness in a less-than-helpful way.

“Cry Your Tears,” the longest story, is a standard celebrity stalker story. Guy is obsessed, in love with his favorite singer; his idol is creeped out by his intrusion into her life; a bloody climax ensues. Meanwhile, our heroine whines about how hard her life is. Like I said, it’s standard and doesn’t really do anything to pull itself away from the other standard stalker stories.

“Even When I Embrace You” is probably the weirdest story: a new idol singer who isn’t even sure being an idol is what she wants to be as an entertainer is pursued by a guy in a bunny costume. The premise is interesting, I’ll give it that, and it’s nice to see a heroine who’s a bit more rounded and doesn’t mind fighting back when she has to. However, the supernatural element to the story isn’t well thought out, and the bunny costume just sounds like another impractical movie killer costume.

On the whole, Perfect Blue: Awaken From a Dream is probably best left to the die-hard fans of the original novel and/or the movie. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 2.3. Outside of that first story, the rest feels run of the mill and uninspired, though they are well-written.

Yeah, not the best book. But I did get an idea for a novel from something the author said in the afterword, so that’s a plus.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and STOP TRYING TO FIND OUT WHERE I LIVE! I mean come on, do you know how dangerous that is? You might as well walk into the tiger enclosure at the zoo (and you’d probably have a better chance of survival while there).