Posts Tagged ‘haunted houses’

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!

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!

It’s hard to imagine, in the midst of this pandemic, that I have travel plans. In fact, I was SURE around March that these plans would be canceled. But, by accident and chance or by the grace of the Overarching Entity who runs this dimension, I’m doing some traveling very soon. And, as I have in years past, I’m telling you about it. Especially since there might be a chance to run into me.

Let me explain: next month, I will be traveling to Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, I will be visiting my good friend and fellow author Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog, as well as her husband Charles Naylor, whom you probably haven’t seen around the blog. While we’re together, we’re going to be doing some pretty cool stuff.

One of those things (and this is the part where you should pay attention), is to attend the 5th Annual Indie Author Book Expo in West Des Moines, Iowa. Specifically, we’re going to be selling books as authors. I’ll be hawking copies of Rose, of course, and Joleene will be likely selling copies of her Aramanthine vampire series. That, and there will be a whole bunch of other authors there selling wares, so you should totally come! It’s Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th, from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 5 PM on Sunday at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines (which is somehow both part of Des Moines and its own separate city). Come on by if you can, take some photos, get a signed copy of Rose, and maybe find some other reads to check out.

We will also be, along with two friends of Joleene and Charles, staying overnight at the Villisca Axe Murder House! That’s right, I’m staying overnight at another haunted location, and it’s another with a history of axe murder! And this time, I’m bringing friends and a GoPro along with my dowsing rods, and hopefully we’ll see some paranormal activity and catch it on video. Videos to be uploaded as soon as I can upload them.

After those adventures, I’ll be heading out to South Carolina to see my friend Ramsey Hardin, who you might remember from my New Year’s YouTube video (oh, such innocent days, when we thought 2019 couldn’t get any worse and 2020 would be full of happiness and joy! I miss those days). We’ll spend some time around his hometown, and then we’ll go to Charleston for a couple of days to explore some museums, enjoy the beach, and go on a ghost tour at night (because of course I would arrange for that! And yes, we will be taking video. Hopefully we’ll catch something cool). Should be a ton of fun.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my trip and am gathering everything I’ll need. If you’re able to come to the expo, I hope you do. I would love to see you. And if you’re not able to be there but want to see me in Charleston or something…maybe. You may have to email well in advance and take precautions against COVID-19, though. Just saying.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a horror movie calling my name, so I’m going to put that on. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York, one of the haunted locations I want to visit.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts. And for those of you who don’t know, I keep a rather extensive list of places purported to be haunted that I want to visit someday, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few of them, such as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and the Paris catacombs. I’ve even been to the Ohio State Reformatory twice (and if it weren’t for this damned coronavirus, I’d have been there this past weekend for a convention).

And as of last month, I’ve finally come up with enough additions to that list to warrant another one of these posts. So if you’d like to know what places I could possibly visit in the future to look for ghosts, or you want to know some places to avoid in the future, please read below. And you can check out the first three in this series here, here and also here.

And don’t worry. The places on these lists may be haunted, but the posts themselves aren’t. I think.

Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Head out to rural Scotland, and you’ll find an old, historic house on the north end of Loch Lomond. In addition to being a working hotel, the house also features good food, live music, and more than a few ghosts. Guests have reported flickering lights in midair, a ghost girl in a pink dress showing up in a photograph, the ghost of an angry cattle driver, and a family who died in a snowstorm looking for shelter, among others.

One room, please!

The Shanley Hotel, Napanoch, New York

Yeah, you’re going to be seeing a lot of hotels, motels, and inns on this list. Almost like these places attract spirits for some reason.

Anyway, the Shanley Hotel is a beautiful, three-floored bed and breakfast located in the northern area of New York. Built in 1845 as a hotel, it has gone under many names, but has always been known for an elite clientele and even has been an active bordello at times (scandalous!), and was a site active for bootlegging during Prohibition. To this day, there are many spirits who still haunt the house, including a few children of the previous owners who died young, one of the bootleggers, a cat that died, and perhaps even a few of the bordello women.

Supposedly this place is so haunted, you need to sign a waiver and pay a handsome fee to stay there. But like that is enough to scare me off. Nope, I’m in, and I’ll take anyone who’s brave enough with me.

Wolf’s Creek Inn, Wolf Creek, Oregon

The oldest still-running inn in the Pacific Northwest, this beautiful building features lovely rooms, a restaurant, and more than a few ghosts hiding within its walls. It’s been featured on paranormal shows like Ghost Adventures, and advertises ghost hunts and paranormal tours on its website. If you ask me, it sounds like a good excuse to go out west further west than I’ve ever gone before.

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

The Queen Mary is a former British ocean liner that first set sail in 1936. It briefly saw use as a troopship, ferrying soldiers to the war. Afterwards, it became a passenger ship and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean until the 1960s. It was retired in 1967, and has been moored in Long Beach, California ever since. It has since become a tourist attraction, and there have been rumors of hauntings ever since, including shadow figures and one room where the ghost of a murdered passenger still hangs around.

Normally I’m not one for cruise ships, but I’d make an exception for this lovely lady.

Hell’s Bridge, Algoma Township, Michigan

If you go into central Michigan, and then into the woods, you’ll find an old, metal bridge spanning a narrow river. It looks unassuming, at least in the day time, but at night it looks rather eerie. Especially when you learn about the legend surrounding the bridge. Supposedly during the 1800s, a serial killer named Elias Friske murdered several children and threw their bodies into the river off a stone bridge. When the bodies were finally found and Friske identified as the killer, he claimed the devil had told him to kill those kids before he was lynched by the locals.

While there are no records of Friske or these supposed crimes, at least none that I could find, the area where the stone bridge was and where the metal bridge now stands has gained a reputation. Supposedly, if you stand on the bridge at night, you’ll spot the spirits of Friske or the children he killed, and perhaps even the forces that he claimed influence him to kill. I’d check it out if I had the chance.

Wisner Bridge, Chardon Township, Ohio

Yeah, there’s a few bridges on this list as well. Another haunted location in Ohio I need to visit, the Wisner Bridge was a Crybaby Bridge, or a bridge where the spirits of dead children can supposedly be heard crying. In this case, the Wisner Bridge supposedly was haunted by spirits of melon heads, diminutive humanoids with bulbous heads in American folklore. While the legends vary from state to state, in Ohio it’s believed the melon heads were orphans who were experimented on by a sadistic doctor, either causing or worsening their appearance. They later killed the doctor, burned down the orphanage, and retreated to the woods near the bridge to live in the wild.

Today the bridge itself is gone, having been torn down in 2013. However, locals still report hearing crying babies at the site where the bridge stood. Whether or not you believe the urban legends, this might be a place for me to check out.

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

A wooden bridge that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this bridge is also known as Emily’s Bridge, owing to the legend surrounding it. While stories vary, most of them agree that a young woman named Emily was supposed to get married or elope, and when her lover never showed, she died on or by the bridge. There’s no evidence Emily existed and the legend first popped up in 1968, after a student wrote a paper about how they used an Ouija board and made contact with a spirit named Emily.

Since then, many people using Ouija boards and other devices to contact the dead have supposedly come into contact with Emily and learned her story. Even stranger, many people passing over the bridge have been touched or scratched by her, whether on foot or in their cars. Is Emily the spirit of a real person? The result of overactive imaginations? Or did belief in her bring a spirit into existence, one that took on Emily’s identity to answer the demand to see her? I want to go and find out!

Franklin Castle, Cleveland, Ohio

Another Ohio location, the Franklin Castle is an old Victorian manor with a reputation. Its original owners, the Tiedermann family, suffered several deaths while they lived there, including four of their children, and there were rumors of horrific crimes within its walls. Since then, the house has changed hands several times, and several of its past owners and residents have reported hauntings. One family even performed exorcisms in the house before moving out. And in 1975, human bones were found on the property, though there is evidence to suggest they may have been planted.

The good news is, my dad lives up in Cleveland, so there’s a good chance I’ll visit this house the next time I visit my dad. The bad news is, the house is privately owned and there’s very little chance the current owners will let me in. Still, I can at least drive by and take photos. And who knows? Perhaps someone living there will allow me in. Whether that someone is living or not, however, is up for debate.

LaLurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana

Fans of American Horror Story will know Delphine LaLurie as the sadistic southern slave-owner who took pleasure from torturing her slaves. What they may not know is that the house featured in the show was not her actual house. Or that her real house is still standing in New Orleans, and that it may have a few spirits living in it. Supposedly there have been moans heard from the room where the slaves were kept and the sounds of footsteps at night. When the building was an African-American girls’ school, many of the children there reported being attacked by a mysterious woman, and when the building was converted into apartments, one resident was found murdered after claiming a demon was after him.

Sadly, today the house is privately owned and the current owners show no interest in having investigations conducted in the home. So, like the details of LaLurie’s life and the full extent of her crimes, we may never have the full truth. However, ghost tours passing by the house occasionally have encounters of the weird kind. And I would be happy just to have that.

Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Speaking of American Horror Story, the Cecil Hotel was another inspiration for the fifth season, Hotel. Originally a luxury hotel for businessmen and travelers, after the 1940s the hotel became a home for transients as the neighborhood took a dive. Even before that, though, the hotel had been known for murders and suicides. Other violent and illicit activities occurred there over the years, and the hotel was a temporary home for serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. In 2013, a Canadian student was found dead and naked in the water tank on the roof. Footage was found of the student acting erratically, poking in and out of and hiding in an elevator hours before her death. The footage is, to say the least, unsettling.

While the hotel has since been renamed the Stay on Main and is trying to gain back its reputation as a luxury destination, the building cannot escape its reputation of sinister and violent occurrences. And perhaps, if I were to check in, I would find some guests that had never checked out.

 

There you go. Ten more haunted or strange locations I’d like to visit after this pandemic has run its course. But tell me, have you been to any of these places? Do you want to go to any of them? Maybe with me? And what haunted places have you been to that I haven’t named? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my  Followers of Fear. I’ll be busy writing this week, so hopefully I get plenty done. And in the meantime, you can still order signed copies of Rose by sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Until next time, stay safe, be healthy and pleasant nightmares.

I heard first heard of Mr. Hamill and his novel after I came across his article on contending with the legacy of HP Lovecraft as a writer. The idea of his book interested me, so I put it on my reading list. Took a few books to get to it and a few weeks to get through it, but I read A Cosmology of Monsters from front to back. And with that out of the way, it is my pleasure and duty to review the book.

A Cosmology of Monsters follows the Turners, a family living in North Texas and running their own haunted house, The Wandering Dark. Told by the youngest member of the family Noah, the story begins with the meeting of his parents in 1968 and follows them as various tragedies befall the family throughout the decades, as well as the threat following the family through the years and generations.

Cosmology is literary horror at its finest.

Told in the style of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (which I’m told was a major influence on Cosmology and which I recommend as a read on its own) Noah Turner narrates how his family began, and through the decades the many hardships his family endures. It’s an engrossing way to tell the story, because every decision has far-reaching consequences on the Turner family. You also get a deep understanding of each character through this storytelling method, what their motivations and their troubles are, and how those play into the events of this story.

Noah himself is a fantastic narrator. He’s talking from the perspective of a grown-up looking back over fifty years of history, but he does a good job of calling up his childhood feelings of loneliness and isolation, of feeling alienated and not understanding why the people around him do what they do.

I also like how weird it can be sometimes (makes sense, since it’s me). The supernatural aspect of the story is very slight at the beginning and only gains prominence as you move deeper into the novel, and as you do, you find yourself with more questions than answers. Conventional monsters do play a part, so to speak, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and it gets weirder with every layer revealed. It took me a while after I finished the book to really understand what all these revelations meant, and even now as I write this, I’m only half-certain I understand what everything meant.

All that said, there were things that I had issues with. There’s a section in the book where, instead of black letters against a white page, it’s white letters printed on a black page, and for some people, especially for people with certain eye issues, that might make things difficult to read (and why I don’t use my blog’s original theme anymore). And if you’re looking for a more typical horror story, with monsters popping out every five seconds or the supernatural aspect a constant presence in the story, this won’t be your kind of novel.

That being said, A Cosmology of Monsters is a mesmerizing read and one of the best books I’ve read this year. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.8. Grab your flashlight, and prepare to walk through a house haunted by the tragedies of the family. You won’t want to leave till you get to the very end.

And then you’ll want to think about both the deeper meaning of the book as well as what it’d be like to create your own haunted house attraction. Or is that just me?

I don’t remember much of the Scary Stories series from my childhood days, but what I do remember terrified me shitless (thank you, Mrs. Paulowicz, for scaring your entire third grade class with the story of the grave digger who stole silver coins from over the eyes of a dead woman). So when it came out that a movie based on the stories was in the works, people were excited, skeptical, curious, and terrified (of their beloved childhood memories being tarnished). And then we saw those initial trailers on Super Bowl weekend. And we were like, “Ooh, this should be good.”

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark takes place in a small Pennsylvania town in the fall of 1968. Several teens, led by aspiring writer Stella Nichols, go to visit the old Bellows mansion, an abandoned house supposedly haunted by the spirit of a murderess who was kept hidden in a basement from the world, poisoned kids who came to hear her scary stories through the wall, and hung herself. They end up finding the book of Sarah Bellows, which is still being written, with the teenagers as the main characters. Now they have to find a way to stop Sarah before the antagonists of the stories take them and kill them all.

I’ll admit, the story has a predictable structure, and the third act could have been a lot scarier and less reliant on CGI monsters. Still, Scary Stories is a decent horror film. Much better than some other films I’ve seen lately (looking at you, Midsommar!).

For those wondering, this film does contain a lot of favorite monsters and references to other stories. Jangly Man, the Pale Lady, the girl who had spiders birthed from her cheek. They even make several references to The Hearse Song, which many people were first exposed to through the book series (and which is one of the inspirations for my short story Pinochle on Your Snout).

The best part of this movie is its scares and atmosphere. While there are jump scares, they’re not overused and for the most part are pretty effective. The filmmakers used a combination of settings, such as the house, a cornfield, or a hospital wing,* along with lighting (or lack of it) and practical/make-up effects to create a claustrophobic and suspenseful atmosphere that will make you curl in on yourself in terror. I swear, the scene in the cornfield with the scarecrow had me genuinely freaked out. Especially when it moved!

The actors also do a good job with these characters. I really empathized with Stella, played by Zoe Colletti, who loves horror and writes, but at times has trouble interacting with others and has to deal with bullies (girl, I’ve been there). And Ramon Morales, played by Michael Garza, came off as truly kind and sympathetic.

Also of note is the theme of persecution in the film. There’s a reason that this film takes place in 1968, when the first book was released in 1981. Sarah Bellows, whom we only really see at the end, is revealed to be born with a disability, and is treated horribly by her family for it. Several of the main characters have dealt with bullying for being different, and Ramon is persecuted mainly because he’s Hispanic. The Vietnam War and the 1968 election also comes up quite a bit in the story. All this comes together to give this film a rather poignant undertone that one could find ways to apply to our current political climate (just saying), and that never hits you over the head to get the message across.

But as I said, the story is kind of predictable and the third act has some issues. Specifically, there’s too much attention paid to making Sarah Bellows a sympathetic villain, along with wrapping things up with a nice bow, that the fear kind of dissipates by the end of the climax. Doesn’t help that they chose a monster requiring lots of CGI to bring to life in that act.

But all in all, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will delight fans of the series and should satisfy regular horror fans. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Scary Stories a 4.2. Atmospheric and creepy, you’ll be drawn in and learn to be afraid of the power of stories. Go and check it out.

*By the way, one of the locations in the film is the Pennhurst State School, one of the haunted locations I want to visit! Not the real one, but a great recreation. Way to tie in a real haunted location with a sordid past into a horror film, filmmakers. I’m impressed.

I discovered this novel, which came out on Halloween last year, on Audible as an audio book while looking for my next listen/read. It sounded interesting, and nothing else I was finding in the catalog was really grabbing my attention, so I decided to listen to it. I’m really happy I made the decision to do so: this is probably one of the best scary stories and one of the best novels I’ve come across in a while.

Kill Creek follows four famous horror novelists: Sam McGarver, a writer with a past who’s struggling to start his fifth book; TC Moore, an abrasive novelist who likes to explore the blurring of pain and pleasure in her stories; Daniel Slaughter, a religious man who writes Christian horror fiction aimed at teens; and Sebastian Cole, a veteran horror writer who’s considered the King of Modern Horror. They’re invited to Kill Creek, a house in the middle of rural Kansas that’s considered one of the most haunted houses in America, for a Halloween publicity event. This results in the awakening of a powerful entity, one with plans for the authors. Plans that will not only jeopardize their sanity, but their very lives.

I loved this story. For one thing, the book’s language. Thomas doesn’t spend time floating around with flowery language or writing confusing passages. Every word is there because it’s meant to be, which keeps the reader (or listener) invested in the story. I never once felt lost, wondering what the heck just happened or thinking that this or that word or paragraph was unnecessary. And that also helps create the unsettling atmosphere: when they’re at the house, you feel like you’re there with the characters, and you’re feeling every uneasy feeling they’re feeling. For horror fanatics, that’s a great feeling.

I also like how the story is unpredictable. Plenty of times I was sure that I knew where the story was going to go, only to be proven wrong a chapter later. And I’m the guy who prides himself on being able to predict where movies are going to go couldn’t predict each twist or the change of direction the story goes, so that says something about how well-written and unique this story is. The story itself is even a cool and clever twist on the haunted house trope!

But my favorite part was the main characters. They all felt like real people, and we’re given enough time with each of them to reveal their hidden depths. My favorite character of the bunch was TC Moore. My God, was she entertaining! I always looked forward to the narration switching to her perspective, when she would swear like a sailor and just eviscerate anyone who rubbed her the wrong way (which was everyone). I doubt I’d get along with her if she was a real person, but as a character, you just have to love her (kind of like Sheldon Cooper, but even harder to get along with).

And by the way, I count the house as a character. And it is a freaky character, let’s leave it at that.

On the whole, I only had two real problem with the story: one was there’s a minor character who appeared in the story for maybe two or three pages. Honestly, you could’ve kept them entirely off-stage, mentioned only in flashbacks or in exposition, and I would’ve been fine. They really didn’t add anything when they were in the story. The second is that there’s a scene in the first half of the book that I felt was kind of gratuitous and unnecessary. It could have been left out and the novel would’ve been fine.

Other than that, I absolutely loved the story, and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas is a wonderful example of modern Gothic horror. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.5. A great debut novel from an author I hope to read more from in the future. Check it out and get lost in the madness.

And if you get it in audio book, you’re in for a treat. Bernard Setaro Clark is a great narrator who gives each character their own particular sound and whose voice goes great with the book’s language.

A bit of background before I start this review: in case you didn’t know, or you’ve never read my third list of haunted locations I want to visit, the Winchester Mansion, known today as the Winchester Mystery House, is quite real. It was first started in 1884, but was continually worked on and added onto, around the clock, for nearly forty years. Sarah Winchester, the widow of the owner of the Winchester Rifle Company, believed that the spirits of those killed by her husband’s company’s rifles were after her family and had previously killed her husband and infant daughter. On the advice of a medium, she moved out to California and started building a house that doubled as a maze, meant to confuse the spirits who were after her family. She kept adding onto the house until her death, after which work completely ceased. The house is now a national landmark, and is reputedly haunted to the brim. It is this house, its mistress, and its hauntings that this movie is based on.

Everyone got that? Good.

Winchester follows Jason Clarke as a troubled psychiatrist who is sent by the Winchester Rifle Company to evaluate Mrs. Winchester’s mental state to see if she’s still fit to be a majority shareholder. Mrs. Winchester, played by Helen Mirren, allows the psychiatrist into her home at the same time as a powerful and angry spirit arrives. Together, they must confront this spirit before it kills every member of the Winchester family, and then some.

I went with a friend to see this film. I don’t know what my friend was expecting, but I was hoping, based on the trailer and what the film is based on, that it would be decent at least. At the end, we both agreed it wasn’t that.

Winchester suffers from a number of issues. One of the biggest issues is script. The film’s story is underwhelming, bogged down in exposition and with a villain who, while in concept sounds cool, in execution seems kind of boring. The villain actually reminds me of people’s reactions to Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. This is a character that’s supposed to be powerful and menacing, but for a lot of audience members (not me, though), the character’s film treatment was not intimidating and lacked menace. For me, Winchester’s villain was like that.

Another issue is the scares. There are a few good jumpscares and creepy imagery, but other than that, the movie isn’t that scary. It tries to build atmosphere, but it doesn’t go as far as it could to build an atmosphere. In other films, we’d see ghost children running in the background, shadows threatening to attack a character before someone walks in and interrupts. Stuff in other films that works very effectively. If we had more of that, the film might actually be a little scary.

I also didn’t care for Jason Clarke’s performance. He’s never been my favorite actor, but this time he was just terrible. Half the time he just mumbled his lines. After the film I just looked at my friend and I was like, “Would it have killed him to speak up?”

But the biggest thing going against the film, at least in my opinion, is the house itself. Or rather, the lack of the house. The actual Winchester Mystery House is a gargantuan structure: four stories, 161 rooms, two bathrooms, seventeen chimneys, two basements, three elevators. Stairs going nowhere, doors that open onto sheer drops, skylights and windows, etc. Even fake bathrooms. An entire maze of a house. But we wouldn’t know it, based on how little we see. A few key hallways and rooms, and some stairs for the arthritic, but barely anything else. If you never saw one set of stairs or a few key exterior shots, you would never know that the house was as huge and confusing as it is. I know the film didn’t have a huge budget, but come on! If you’re going to make a film about a giant maze-house, utilize the maze-house! You could probably make for a more exciting climax if you did that!

Did the film have any good points? Well, Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester was actually kind of badass. She’s portrayed as this strong woman who works through her grief by battling the supernatural every day, and she doesn’t care what you think of that. It’s pretty cool. That, and the costumes and rooms, what rooms we see, anyway, look true to the time and are absolutely beautiful.

But that’s it. It’s not exactly awful, but it’s not very good either. It’s just below average.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Winchester a 1.5. There’s a lot of potential in the concept, but this film definitely did not live up to it, producing an unremarkable period piece trying to be a good horror film. So if you’re looking to be scared, I suggest skipping this one entirely. It’s all bark, and absolutely no bite.

Boston, Mass.

So in the past when I’ve had opportunities to travel to exciting locales, you guys have tended to enjoy my posts about those experiences. To this day, my posts detailing my trip to the Paris catacombs, to Munich, and to Wewelsburg Castle still get lots of reads, even though that last one was nearly two years ago. In that spirit, and because I’m just super excited (wouldn’t you be?), I’m happy to announce that next month, I’m heading out to Boston!

To be more precise, my dad and I are heading out to Boston for a couple days and nights, with one final night in Fall River about two hours south of Boston. We don’t get to see each other that much these days–we’re both busy adults and have a lot on our plates–so it’s an opportunity to spend some time together, see some cool sights, and remind each other why we don’t live together anymore (it’s always good to have a reminder of that).

Now, you’re probably asking, “When are you going to Boston, Rami?” Well, I can’t really tell you that, if only to keep people from trying to rob me while I’m gone. Last thing I want to do is give people an idea of when it’s a good time to make off with my couch and TV. I can tell you some of the things my dad and I plan to do, though: we’ll be visiting Salem, where the famous witch trials took place; we’ll probably take a duckboat tour, which is a tour on a WWII-era vehicle that goes on both land and sea; we’ll be visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, which will be having a very interesting exhibition involving the Holocaust while we’re in town; and we’ll be spending all three nights in reportedly haunted hotels (I bought a digital recorder just to see if I can pick up some ghost voices while I’m on my trip). Our last night, we’ll be spending the night at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Fall River, which is on one of my lists of haunted places I really want to visit.

Yeah, I’m going to be very busy and having a lot of fun while my dad and I are in Boston. And I plan on telling as many stories and posting as many photos as I can.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you have recommendations for places to eat in Boston (especially places with kosher/vegetarian/fish dishes), please let me know so my dad and I won’t have to search so hard for a place to eat. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

A couple of years ago, I published a couple of lists about haunted locations I wanted to visit before I die and become a ghost myself (click here and here to read those lists). And yes, I am planning on becoming a ghost after I die. I’ll hang around a century or so as a wandering spirit, see some sights, and then ascend to heaven. And if you don’t read at least one of my books and leave a review before I die, I WILL HAUNT YOU!!!

So anyway, it’s been about two years since that last list, and I figured now would be a good time to come out with a new list. Especially since I’ll be visiting a few haunted locations this summer (more on that in a later post). So without further a-BOO! here’s even more haunted places that I plan to visit before I also become a ghost.

BEWARE!!! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

1. Old Licking County Jail

Location: Licking County, Ohio

I swear to God, as soon as I get a car, I’m going to visit the ones that are located in my home state. It is so hard to get to these places when you know basically no one who’s willing to go with you and drive you!

Old Licking County Jail is a prison in Licking County, Ohio. Like the Ohio State Reformatory, more than a few inmates died here, some under violent circumstances. There were also corrupt guards, beatings, and everything else you can think of when it comes to jails in an era more prone to punishment than correction. It’s been shut down for a number of years, but since then, there have been claims of full-body apparitions, voices from nowhere, and even spirits following paranormal investigators home.

I’m not going to say throw me in and throw away the key, but do throw me in for a night.

2. Double Eagle Restaurant

Location: Mesilla, New Mexico

I’m hungry. How about you? At the Double Eagle Restaurant, you not only get dinner, you get dinner and a ghost or two! The building the restaurant is housed in used to be the family home of a wealthy Latino family. The family’s eldest son reportedly fell in love with a servant girl, which ticked off his social-climbing mother. One day she returned home early from visiting friends, and caught the two lovers in bed. In a rage, she murdered the girl, and accidentally wounded her son, leading to his death three days later. The mother later was committed and died in an insane asylum. Years later, the house has become a restaurant, but apparently it’s also become a home for various kinds of spirits. Poltergeist activity has been recorded, and there have been voices and even full-body apparitions too.

Not only that, but the room those two lovers were killed in has since become a private dining room with two chairs kept in there for the lovers. It’s said that anyone who sits in those chairs will have horrific nightmares.

Um…waiter? Ghosts please!

3. Goatman’s Bridge

Location: Denton, Texas

According to local legend, back in the 1930’s a black goat farmer named Oscar Washburn moved across the Old Alton Bridge, where he ran a successful goat farm, and became known to the locals as the Goatman. He apparently took that in stride, putting up a sign on the bridge that said, “This way to the Goatman’s.” And because white racists get upset very easily, in 1938 they hung him from the bridge, only to find that the noose was empty when they looked over the side. These men, dressed up as Klansmen, later went and murdered Washburn’s wife and kids.

Since then, there have been reports of a demonic, satyr-like figure stalking the bridge and the surrounding woods. Glowing eyes have been seen, people have been attacked, and women have reportedly suffered attachments that have tormented them all the way home. There have also been reports of Satanic activity in the area, leading to a negative charge about the bridge.

This sounds like one billy goatman I’d love to meet trip-trapping on a bridge!

4. Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

You guys know I’m a big Ghost Adventures fan and the team’s lead investigator, Zak Bagans. Well, apparently he’s bought a 30-room mansion in his home city of Las Vegas, and he’s been converting it, room by room, into a museum for paranormal objects he’s collected over the years. There’s a room devoted to haunted dolls and puppets, a room devoted to the Kevorkian van and the hospital room where Dr. Kevorkian did assisted suicides, to skulls, and to all sorts of weird and interesting things. I even hear the famed Dybbuk Box, whose previous owner I know and which inspired a short story of mine and The Possession, is in the museum.

All this is sure to create a rather interesting mix of paranormal energy, which would make for a very interesting visit. Don’t you agree?

5. Dorothea Puente Murder House

Location: Sacramento, California

Dorothea Puente was a serial killer who used her job as a caretaker for the elderly to kill off her charges, dispose of the bodies, and collect on their rent checks. Several of her victims were later dug up in the yard of her building. She was sentenced to life in jail, still insisting on her innocence, and died in 2011. Since then, her home/boarding home has become something of a tourist spot, part private home, part attraction with weird stuff in the front yard. There are also reports of paranormal activity in the house, and thus a few paranormal investigators have been allowed inside the house.

How about a novelist with weird interests?

6. Winchester Mystery House

Location: San Jose, California

Weirdly enough, this location hasn’t been featured in any episode of Supernatural. Too bad. I think Sam and Dean would have a blast in a house that shares their last name.

The Winchester House was built starting in 1884 and going on around the clock for thirty-eight years. Its owner, Sarah Winchester, was the widow of William Hart Winchester, owner of the Winchester Rifle Company, maker of the famous guns. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Winchester became convinced that the ghosts of those her husband’s guns had killed were haunting the Winchester family, and had even been the cause of her husband and infant daughter’s deaths. A medium later confirmed this, and told her move out West and continually add onto a house so that the spirits would get lost and never find her. This she did, buying property in California and having a mansion built there until her death in 1922, after which work ceased immediately.

The house is well-known for its massive size and oddities, including staircases that lead to nowhere, and doors that open to the outside…on the second floor. Windows at odd locations, glass doors on the bathrooms, and even rooms that have yet to be discovered (they actually found a new room in 2016). It’s also become a paranormal hot spot, with plenty of documented activity taking place there (some think the activity might even be slightly demonic).

Sam and Dean, I’ll meet you there! Bring the Impala and your hunting gear. I’m bringing the humor and the beers (oh, if you’re a Supernatural fan, that line’s hilarious).

7. The Clown Motel

Location: Tonopah, Nevada

The name says it all. It’s a clown-themed motel, with tons of pictures, dolls, and even a life-sized clown mannequin! Worst place to read or watch Stephen King’s It ever! And if that’s not all, it’s right next to a graveyard! Yeah, talk about creepy! And a great source for the supernatural activity that has been reported at the motel.

Yeah, I’ll take whatever you have available.

8. Moonville Tunnel

Location: Moonville, Ohio

Moonville was a small mining town in Southeastern Ohio during the late 19th century. It was small as heck, it was never prosperous, and it was dead by the 1950’s. The only thing keeping it from falling into obscurity is the train tunnel built into the side of the mountain. Supposedly, a train engineer was hit by a train (or possibly two, the record’s not exact) one night, and since then, glowing lights and white mists have been spotted in the tunnel. There have even been rumors of further deaths.

ROAD TRIP!

9. Haunted London

Location: London, England

I know. I’ve already been to London. I’ve even visited the Tower of London, which has a few ghosts in it. But I WANT TO SEE MORE! I never saw as much of London as I wanted to, and that includes haunted locations. There are haunted hotels, Highgate Cemetery, and so many more! There are even supposedly haunted Underground stations.

Cool guv’nor! Let’s go!

10. Akasaka Mansion

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Now known as Akasaka Weekly Mansion, it’s a hotel with more than one building, and it’s Building #1 that has been known for the paranormal activity. There have been reports of figures standing at the end of the beds, noises being heard at night, guests being touched (sometimes sexually), and a woman being dragged from her bed. Even creepier, there’s supposedly a woman who crawls from room to room on her hands and knees. That’s something right out of a J-Horror film!

I’ll go, but I’m not watching any Ring or Grudge movies right before I do.

What haunted locations have you been to recently?

Have you been to any of these? What were your experiencces?