Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

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 show 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?

From the moment I heard about this film, I wanted to see it. It’s horror, it takes place in Japan, specifically Aokigahara (one of the places on my first list of haunted locations I’d like to visit), and the trailers made this thing look awesome. I was excited.

Sadly, the trailers were better than the movie itself, and I will explain why:

First, the story. Natalie Dormer plays Sarah Price, a woman with a cliched psychic connection to her troubled identical twin sister Jess, also played by Dormer. When there’s a disturbance in the Force, Sarah learns that her sister, who was teaching in Japan, has gone into Aokigahara, a forest near Mount Fuji that is a common place for suicides and has a reputation for being haunted by the extremely angry spirits trapped there. Sarah heads to Japan to save her sister, and ventures into the forest, which in turn brings all sorts of hell upon her and unearths inner darkness Sarah never wanted dredged up.

I had a lot of problems with this movie. First, there’s the protagonist. Sarah Price is not a very interesting character. It’s no fault of Dormer–I’ve seen her in other stuff, I know she’s a great actress–but beyond the psychic connection and a reckless love for her sister, the character is rather flat and dull. She does border on interesting when talking about her past, but that’s it. In fact, most of the characters are rather boring. Probably the only one that peaks your interest is Aiden, who helps Sarah look for her sister, but that’s mostly because you’re never sure what his motives are or if he can be trusted. And Sarah’s husband? You really could cut him from the film and it wouldn’t affect a thing.

Next, the storytelling and the mood. The movie moves rather slowly through most of the first hour, establishing exposition and introducing us to the relationship between Sarah and Jess. Important, but not particularly interesting. It isn’t until they’re already deep in the forest that the story actually tries to scare you, but even then most of the scares are jump scares, and even the best of jump scares are meaningless if they’re not tempered with other stuff, like a tense, suspenseful and horrifying mood, which the movie only really does just the once. By the end of the movie, when the film tries to surprise you with a few twists, one feels forced and awkward, while the other you saw coming a mile away. Just not very effective in terms of storytelling or making you feel scared.

Finally, there’s the effects. Now, I know on a budget of ten million dollars you can’t do much in the special effects department, but the effects they use in this film are for the most part pretty stupid. There’s a scene where a ghost is revealed in a cave, and I was expecting like out of The Ring or The Grudge (originally Japanese stories, if you didn’t know). Instead we get a goofy fanged monster-girl that looks more like a carnival attraction monster than a real ghost, and in the last few minutes of the film we get some CGI ghosts, which are about as scary as a frying pan. There’s one shot in the last few seconds of movie with such a ghost, and I felt more contempt than fear when I saw it, because it was so obviously fake. They might as well have had an actor put on a sheet with eye-holes, save a few dollars on computer-rendering, because that’s how lame it was.

So did The Forest have anything I liked? Actually yes: besides beautiful shots of Tokyo (always nice to see Tokyo when it’s not animated or hand-drawn), the film does a great job of making you question what’s real. Once Sarah is really trapped in Aokigahara, you find yourself questioning everything: river directions, people’s intentions, whether anything you’re seeing is real or all in Sarah’s head. You even question for most of the film what is the real source of the hauntings Sarah experiences: is it ghosts or a living forest? Or is it maybe psychological or even an infection from some bug? The movie makes a good case for all four throughout the course of the story, and even now I’m not really sure what the true answer is. Not that I’m spending a lot of time thinking about the answer, mind you.

Another thing that the movie has going for it is that when the jump scares occur, you really do jump pretty hard. One woman in the theater even cried out after one particular jump scare. That’s not enough to redeem the film, but it does work in its favor. And finally, the film’s got the wheels in my head turning, looking for stories that could come out of it. In my opinion, inspiring me and other writers and creative types is always a good thing, especially if it leads to good stories.

On the whole though, I find The Forest below average, earning a 2.6 out of 5. It’s premise is promising, and it tries hard, but on the whole can’t deliver. You’d be better off staying at home and renting The Ring or The Grudge if you want Japanese-inspired horror. At least this film didn’t ruin my desire to visit Aokigahara (only to see it and sate my horror author’s interest in creepy stuff, though. I would not visit it for the reason other people do).

And if you would like some good horror, consider some of my work. Right now, all my books are on sale until Thursday from Amazon, Createspace and Smashwords. Check them out now and pick up a great read for an even greater price. Trust me, this is an opportunity you do not want to miss.

Back in 2011 and 2012, I did two reviews on different book series that I’d come to enjoy. I was still in the middle of them, but I was pretty much hooked on them, enough that while I hadn’t finished either series at that point, I wrote reviews on both of them. Sadly though, the reviews didn’t really do either series justice. I was still figuring out the components of a good review at that point in my blogging career, so that probably explains why they weren’t as good as they could be.

In any case, I read the last book of one series earlier this year and last night I finished the last book of the other. In honor of these achievements, and because I haven’t done a proper review since August, I thought I’d do a double review on both of these series.

So, let’s begin!

Kieli by Yukako Kabei

Volume 1 of “Kieli”. I swear, the series blew my mind when I first started reading it.

Everyone loves a unique story, something that has never been seen before on the printed page. We felt that way with Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, and so many other famous stories. Kieli does just that. A light novel series* out of Japan, Kieli mixes just about every genre possible: paranormal, science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, romance, Western, and then some! All while telling a very compelling and heart-wrenching story.

From a young age, Kieli has been able to see ghosts, but she doesn’t tell anyone lest her theocratic society think her a heretic. One day she meets an immortal soldier named Harvey, who is delivering a haunted radio to a battle site so that the ghost haunting the radio can finally be at peace. Thus starts their adventures together, as Kieli joins Harvey on his quest and ends up helping him fight off ghosts, Church soldiers, other immortal soldiers and a plethora of other antagonists. At the same time, Kieli starts learning about her past and about what it means to grow up and be an adult.

While at times it may frustrate readers that Kieli has a hard time separating her own identity from being with Harvey, it’s a compelling story. The characters are troubled and have to learn to sort out their own problems as well as the antagonists facing them, and the mix of genres is done almost seamlessly without looking too weird or contrived, and the relationship between the two main characters feels real. You’ll want to keep reading all the way through the final book, which nearly made me come to tears.

All in all, I give Kieli a 4.5 out of 5. This was a series that made me want to create fantastic worlds like the one depicted int he series, and I wanted to create characters that felt just as vibrant and complicated as Kieli or Harvey. Maybe thanks to Kieli, someday I will.

Book Girl by Mizuki Nomura

The Japanese cover for the first entry in the “Book Girl” series, “Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime”.

Another Japanese light novel series, Book Girl is told from the point of view of Konoha Inoue, a troubled high schooler who actually published a massively popular novel under a pseudonym in junior high. However his success came at the great cost, and he swears never to write again.

That is, until he meets Tohko Amano, a girl who literally eats the stories told in books to survive. After Konoha sees Tohko “eating” a story, she forces him to join the literature club and write stories for her as snacks. That’s only the start of his problems though, because a lot of strange stuff tends to happen around Konoha, including missing students and attempted murders. Against his will, Konoha is often dragged into solving these mysteries by Tohko, who often finds a literary equivalent to the mystery being investigated (such as Wuthering Heights or The Phantom of the Opera, in some cases).

While Kieli made me want to create worlds, Book Girl made me want to tell incredible stories with wonderful language. Nomura is able to weave words together in order to make you feel like you really know the characters, especially Konoha, and become really attached to them, as well as attached to finding out how the mystery is solved, as well as how Konoha confronts his past and learns to stand on his own two feet again. It’s a great series if you happen to love mysteries as well.

For telling a compelling story with wonderful clarity, emotion and language, I give the Book Girl series a 4.8 out of 5. I really will end up missing this series now that I’ve finished it, but hopefully I took enough away from it so as to improve my own stories.

We can hope, right?

 

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got some homework to do before I go over to my mother’s house, so I’m going to get to work on that. Happy Thanksgiving, my Followers of Fear. This year, I’m thankful for you guys.

*A light novel is a form of literature that was born in Japan and grew out of the pulp magazine industry. Light novels are usually around the length of a novella (40,000-50,000 words), have dense publishing schedules, are often serialized in anthology magazines before being published as cheap paperbacks, and usually include illustrations, about one per chapter usually. The format is very popular in Japan and popular series have been adapted into numerous formats several times over. There’s also a growing market in the English-speaking world for light novels, and many companies have begun licensing and translating these series for new audiences. I’m hooked on the genre myself.