Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

My friend and fellow blogger whose tastes are way different than mine, Kat Impossible, tagged anyone who was interested in doing this tag. It sounded fun and informative, so I thought I would give it a try. It took me a while to get around to writing my own version and answering the questions–Kat’s post came out right after I got back from my trip, and I had a few posts to write before this one–but it’s finally out.

All credit goes to The Long Voyage for the original version of this tag. You can read it here.

NEVER HAVE I EVER…

…started a novel that I did not finish.

Before age 12 or 13? All the time. I wrote maybe five or six novels (which probably had word counts of short stories or novelettes at most) that didn’t get finished. There was a pirate story, a Frankenstein story, a caveman story, and a few zombie stories. Finally started getting some vampire stories to completion in middle school. I think it was a problem of focus and interest, rather than the story themselves. Then again, I was so young. Youngsters aren’t very good at staying focused on goals without seeing immediate gains from all their hard work.

More recently, I have some short stories and novelettes that I started in the past two years and stopped working on after awhile. Still figuring out why, but I think they may have leaned a little too far from horror and into dark fantasy to keep my interest. It’s sad, but what are you going to do?

…written a story completely by hand.

I did once! And it wasn’t one of those cute, two or three-page school assignments, either. One of my teenage attempts at novel-writing, a vampire novel called Mahiro, was written entirely by hand for its first draft. I had, like, seven notebooks filled with vampire fighting. And subconscious exploration of my sexuality through homage to Anne Rice and the movie Van Helsing, but that only occurred to me after I realized my sexuality.

…changed tenses in the middle of a story.

I think the first couple of attempts at Rose were in the past tense. But on advice from my thesis advisor, I changed to present tense. It worked out in the end.

…not researched anything before starting a story.

Most of my earliest stories started out that way. It wasn’t until maybe high school that I started to do research, and I only got good at it around college, when research became important for passing classes and getting my degree.

…changed a protagonist’s name halfway through a draft.

I don’t think I have, actually. Maybe the surname of a minor character, but never a protagonist’s name, personal or surname.

…written a story in less than a month.

Several times. Especially this past year or so.

…fallen asleep while writing.

Never. When I get tired, I’ll just go to bed.

…corrected someone’s grammar in real life or online.

Too many times to count. It’s a bad habit of mine.

…yelled in all caps at myself in the middle of a novel.

Um…I don’t think so. Is that something people do?

…used “I’m writing” as an excuse.

I think so. I didn’t want to go somewhere with my dad and sisters, even though a friend of mine would’ve been there to play. I just had to write that day. I hope the friend didn’t take it personally!

…killed a character based on someone I know in real life.

More than once. In fact, it’s something I warn people I’ll do if they get on my bad side. In fact, there are two people on there now. I just have to find the right stories to place them in…

Don’t ever mess with me.

…used pop culture references in a story.

Oh, all the time! Game of Thrones was mentioned once or twice in Rose, the 1960s Batman TV show gets a mention in River of Wrath, and I include so many references to some of my favorite anime in Toyland. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

…written between 1 AM and 6 AM.

Plenty of times. I’m actually thinking of changing my sleep schedule so I could do it more often (like Franz Kafka did), but I worry about the effects on my health should I need to get back on a normal schedule.

…drank an entire pot of coffee while writing.

I hate coffee, so that’s a no. I’ll usually have tea or, if it’s a weekend, beer or wine.

German wheat beers are my favorite kind of beer.

…written down dreams to use in potential plots.

Yes. One early story from college, Daisy, was inspired by a dream. And I think a couple more have been, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

…published an unedited story online/Wattpad/blog.

Oh hell no! I know the importance of editing. It can literally save a story from being thrown into the trash.

…procrastinated on homework because I wanted to write.

I don’t think so. I’m pretty good about getting that stuff done so I have time to write later. Besides, that stuff can creep up on you if you’re not careful.

…typed so long my wrists hurt.

Only if I’m wearing my watch. Which is why I normally type with it off.

…spilled a drink on my laptop while writing.

Not while writing, but once. I aim to never let it happen again.

…forgot to save my work/draft.

Never! How dare you insinuate I have!

…laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene.

Um, yeah! All the time! And sometimes when I’m not writing. It’s me, come on!

…cried while writing a scene.

Not my thing.

…created maps of my fictional worlds.

No, because more often than not, my stories take place in this world. All I need is a Google search and I’m good.

FOLLOWERS OF FEAR, I TAG YOU!!!

If you want to try this, go right ahead. Just make sure to link back to me and to The Long Voyage. And, as always, have fun with it!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re having a good weekend so far. If I got at least twelve hours of sleep, I know I did. If you need me, I’ll be doing what I do best on weekends…whatever that is. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

My latest Tarot reading. What it indicates…only I can tell.

About five years ago, I bought a Tarot deck and a how-to guide on how to use the cards. And after a few readings, I used it infrequently, maybe once a year. Until recently, that is. A book I read and really enjoyed featured Tarot quite heavily, as well as a few friends and acquaintances who read the cards (including one who mentions it on her blog quite regularly), spurred me to try reading the cards again. Which became something of a regular habit. And then I hit upon the idea of doing readings at the Indie Author Book Expo in Iowa last month. I bought a second deck (never use a deck for yourself and for others. It mixes energy in all the wrong ways).

And I’ve come to an opinion on Tarot. One I would like to share with you.

But before that, let me tell you about Tarot if you’re unfamiliar. Tarot cards are like playing cards, but instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs as the four suits, there are wands, swords, cups and pentacles (sometimes called disks). In addition, there are twenty-two trump cards called the Major Arcana, for a total of seventy-eight cards. Originally used as playing cards, the cards started being used in cartomancy, or fortune telling through cards, in the 18th century, with each card having a different meaning, often several meanings, and affecting the reading.

So yeah, I’m breaking the Torah’s prohibition on fortune-telling. But I already break the prohibition of consulting spirits at least twice a year, and God hasn’t struck me down since, so I think I’m fine.

In any case, Tarot isn’t supposed to tell the future. Many users will attest that Tarot is supposed to be used more for insight and guidance, like asking for advice. Perhaps it’ll tell you what could happen in the future, but like the future, that could change from day to day. That’s what I say, anyway.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, what are my thoughts on Tarot? Well, before this week, I would’ve maintained that I’m undecided, and that perhaps the cards do have something to them, but it could all just be coincidence and humans looking for patterns where there are none.

But on Sunday, I had a reading that proved scarily accurate. So far, it’s been very on the nose about events that have occurred this week, to the point I shouted a very naughty word to my otherwise-empty apartment. Now, I’m not sure. Perhaps there is something there, like with the haunted locations I visit. To say the least, it’s weird.

Whether or not there’s anything to Tarot, I can’t lie that it has an effect. At the Expo last month, I did a reading for a young woman asking something near and dear to her heart of the cards. The reading the cards gave her seemed to lift her spirits and give her hope, and she seemed very interested in buying a deck of her own. I hope things work out for her, and I’m glad I was able to put some joy in her day.

So, I’ll keep reading the cards. I’ll use my Gilded Tarot deck (a reading of which is pictured above) for myself, and the Ghost Tarot deck (pictured to the right) for others. Besides being something I could do at conventions and expos, it’s fun and does give insight. Never a bad thing.

Do you have any experience with Tarot? What are your thoughts on it?

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!

St. Michael’s Anglican Church. Supposedly a couple of brides haunt the place, having died on their wedding days.

My last post recounting my adventures from my recent trip to Iowa and South Carolina is about the haunted tour of Historic Charleston in South Carolina. The tour was operated by Ghost City Tours, which apparently has tours across the southern United States. I was joined by my buddy Ramsey Hardin, who you remember was my host while in South Carolina. And you know what? It was a fun experience.

Ramsey and I arrived at the meeting place around ten in the evening, and joined a group of people waiting for the tour. There were three other tour guides there, to ensure that everyone could social distance while still getting the tour. Ramsey and I were placed with a young woman named Caroline, who is actually a fellow Ohioan originally. Yeah, we had a lot to talk about.

And we did talk a lot. Between locations on the tour, those of us who had had paranormal experiences were encouraged to recount them. Obviously, I talked about my many experiences, including the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, the Ohio State Reformatory, and my recent excursion to the Villisca Axe Murder House. I don’t think anyone else related a story, but Caroline did mention an occurrence involving a friend of hers. At least, I think it was a friend.

As for paranormal activity captured or witnessed…well, I thought I got something on my phone’s camera. Check out the photos below.

These photos were taken one after the other, and if you look at the far left of the second photo, it appears there’s a small orange light on the other side of that pole. One that’s not in the first photo. However, further inspection showed that I took a step to the left (hence why the streetlight is hidden behind a tree). That light I thought was a ghost orb was actually a reflection from the streetlamp off a length of metal. To quote Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures, “this piece of evidence is debunked.”

However, I did catch something on video. Those photos were taken at the graveyard at St. Philip’s, which is known to be the resting place of Susan Howard Hardy, a woman who died in childbirth and who was secretly buried with her stillborn child. After I took those photos, I gave Ramsey my phone and managed to catch her on the dowsing rods. Here is the video of our short conversation.

Cool, huh? The “signal,” so to speak, was weak, but I managed to get some answers from her, and the information I got was consistent with the historical record. By the way, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is not too fond of the fact that a ghost is known to roam their graveyard. They’ve taken a lot of measures to try and disassociate themselves as a haunted location, so it would be really bad if it became well-known as a location for a ghost that likes to show herself to anyone looking to contact her.

Hint, hint. Wink, wink.

Finally, the tour revealed some places I would love to do a ghost hunt or investigation if ever given the chance. Here are those places and why they’re haunted (AKA why I’ll have trouble convincing Ramsey to join me).

FW Wagener Building

Built by architect FW Wagener himself, the building lies on a street that is part of a busy shopping district near the bay, and has many great restaurants, hotels and galleries nearby. But in the past few years, this building has had several buildings come and go in the past few years. This may be related to the spirit of George Poirier, the son of a rich businessman who never worked a day in his life, living a life of leisure. Which became a problem when a series of events caused George to lose his fortune, leading to him hanging himself in the topmost window. He’s said to still be there, taking his rage out on patrons, which is why there’s so many businesses coming and going from the building (allegedly).

Four Corners of Law

At the intersection of Broad and Meeting in Charleston’s historic district are four buildings that have been used for various types of law: Charleston City Hall (city law), Charleston County Courthouse (state law), the US Post Office and Federal Courthouse (federal), and St. Michael’s Anglican Church (ecclesiastical law). Supposedly, a variety of spirits are known to haunt the buildings, including Lavinia Fisher, possibly America’s first known serial killer, who is said to haunt the Charleston County Courthouse, and two brides supposedly haunt St. Michael’s. Caroline showed us a photo supposedly taken of one of the brides in the church’s window, and it is scary. Like, what every CGI ghost tries to be, but way more terrifying.

The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

Also known as the old Exchange and the Customs House, this building has seen a number of uses throughout the years, and is now a museum. Various ghosts are said to haunt the place for various reasons, but I’m especially interested in the Provost Dungeon in the basement. Conditions in the basement were terrible for prisoners, as the building regularly flooded with the tides, drowning prisoners and causing them to contract a variety of diseases. Supposedly the ghosts on this level are quite upset and are known to be violent. One tour guide was supposedly so terrified of what he experienced, he quit and has never come back.

USS Yorktown

Okay, this one wasn’t on the tour, but as I said in my Impressions of South Carolina post, the air carrier is rumored to be very haunted. To the point that they sell a book about it in the gift shop. And I thought I saw a ghost on the main floor, and felt like I was being watched in the Engine Room when I visited. And they advertise ghost tours on the website. You can see why I would want to investigate the ship.

 

In fact, you can see why I would want to investigate any of these places! And I would have never known any of this stuff, except for the Yorktown, if I hadn’t gone on the tour. So thanks to Ghost City Tours, and to Caroline, for giving me the opportunity to learn Charleston’s creepier side. And I hope to be back down in Charleston very soon. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to stay overnight at one of these locations, and see if something is there.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you were spooked out by this post. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and YOUR RESIDENCE IS HAUNTED! RUN WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE TIME!!!

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 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!

I’ve never reviewed a true crime book on my blog before. As you well know, I tend to specialize in horror of the fictional variety. But for a while now, since first hearing of the Cecil Hotel (which made one of my lists of haunted places to visit) and the death of Elisa Lam there in 2013, I’ve wanted to learn more than what I could glean from a ten minute YouTube video or from reading the Wikipedia page. And earlier this year, someone finally released a book about the case. Despite mixed reviews, I decided to buy a copy, and read it over the course of my vacation.

Here are my thoughts.

Gone at Midnight focuses on the case of Elisa Lam, a Chinese-Canadian student who disappeared in early 2013 in Los Angeles. Several days after her disappearance is reported, she is found dead in one of the water tanks of the infamous Cecil Hotel, a location known as “The Suicide” for its history of violent deaths and even having serial killers as residents at certain points. The incident is only made weirder by the release of footage from a hotel elevator showing Elisa acting strangely on the night she disappeared. Author Jake Anderson traces Elisa’s path over the last two years of her life, as well as how the case took a viral life of its own with websleuths on the Internet and the many problems with the police conclusion on the case.

I have to say, Anderson does a very good job of writing a convincing narrative. The book could easily have gone into the deep end a la The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, with talk of synchronicity, paranormal happenings at the hotel, and theoretical physics, among other subjects. However, he keeps the narrative on track, only bringing up the weirder aspects as they relate to the case of Lam’s death and his own investigation into the case as a journalist. Anderson also does a terrific job of laying out the various problems with the police’s conclusion, and offers several alternative possibilities about what may have happened.

His reconstructions of what Lam may have been thinking during her final years (something I’ve found in a lot of true crime I’ve read), based on her many blog posts, also has an eerie authenticity to it. And his examination of the websleuth community, the pros and cons of the movement and how it all relates to Lam, is quite interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is used later for a sociological study into websleuthing.

There is one major criticism I have, and it’s one I share with a lot of other critics of the book: Anderson spends a lot of time on his own mental health. And while in some places it’s relevant to what we’re reading about, at other times it’s distracting. I understand why he did it: like Lam, the author has his own mental disorders, and his struggles strengthened the kinship he felt with Lam, despite having never met her. I too feel a strange kinship with Lam: not only was she a little older than me when she died, I also have my share of mental struggles, and enjoy writing and blogging like she did, among other things.

However, as I said, it’s distracting at times, and I feel like Anderson’s struggle with his mental state, while relevant, should have been kept in a foreward or afterward to the book, or maybe even in an essay published separately from the book.

All told, Gone at MIdnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson is as of this moment the definitive book on the Lam case, and deserves to be so. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.3. After reading this, I’m going to be doing a bit more research into the case, but Anderson might have me convinced on his take on the Lam case.

Grab a copy, take a deep breath, and jump right in. You’ll find yourself on a roller coaster that may, as it did for me, hit close to home.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m finally back from my trip, so I’ll be posting quite a bit over the next two weeks (especially since I’m quarantining myself to make sure I didn’t catch anything). Keep an eye out for more reviews, breakdowns of the paranormal activity I encountered, the places I visited, updates on my writing, and so much more.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!