Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

“The Power of Friendship!” as symbolized in Yu-Gi-Oh’s famous hand smiley face.

So yesterday I watched a YouTube video about a common trope in fiction (you can check it out HERE), which is (say it in your heads with a big, echo-y voice) “The Power of Friendship!” Now, if you aren’t familiar with the trope and you didn’t have time to watch the video, “The Power of Friendship” is a trope in which the bonds of friends is so powerful, it becomes a power in and of itself, capable of cosmic-like acts such as giving heroes power ups, stopping psychic mind readings, snapping people out of brainwashed states, and occasionally even defying gods. This power shows up in a ton of popular media, including a ton of anime and manga (the Fairy Tail series  practically is nicknamed “The Power of Friendship” manga).

Now the video I linked to goes into much more detail about the various intricacies of this trope (go watch it if you do have the time, the channel that produced it is awesome), but I wanted to focus on one particular aspect of “The Power of Friendship” trope that the video didn’t go into: how it surfaces in the horror genre. Or rather, how it doesn’t surface in the horror genre. At least, not all that much.

So if you didn’t watch the video (and you’re missing out!), the trope works like this: you have friends, and those friends can help you out of a bad situation, whether that be isolation or a powerful demon overlord is about to destroy the Earth and your power alone is not enough to destroy the demon’s power. It can be a metaphorical power to help a character out during a bad patch, like the former situation, or it can be a literal power and the equivalent of taking one of those mushrooms in a Mario game, like the latter situation. Thus, “The Power of Friendship!” And you can kind of see why it shows up so much: we all wish we have that power, or believe our relationships are that powerful.

But horror doesn’t feature this power as much as other genres, and there’s a reason for that. Horror is horror. It incorporates the darker aspects of the world around us and sometimes amplifies them for maximum effect. And in real life, friendships aren’t as powerful and as lovely as in fiction. In the stories, friendship is powerful and unyielding. It can overcome all sorts of obstacles, and the more you try to destroy it, the more it bounces back and kicks bad guys in the ass. But in reality, friendships grow, cool, and break all the time. It can take only a little bit to destroy a friendship, and a lot to repair it once it’s broken. Horror writers not only recognize that, but incorporate that into their stories. And it’s such a well-known fact about life, writers don’t draw attention to it, because it’s so well known among readers.

That’s not to say that “The Power of Friendship!” doesn’t show up in horror fiction at all. For example, Stephen King’s It pretty much says that the friendship of the seven main characters is what allows them to fight the malevolent entity in their town.* It just doesn’t say it as loudly as other media does, and also tells the reader that the characters’ friendship, while powerful, can be broken or is less effective if they aren’t all in sync or allow their fear to divide them. This is what leads to that one infamous scene in the novel, and is also shown in the new movie after the first fight with It.

Weirdly enough, the power of love or family is shown more than the power of friendship in horror, and I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because love and family, unlike friendship, has a more powerful evolutionary purpose, and therefore is given more power in fiction in general. If you’re willing to do more to save your perfect partner for creating offspring or the lives of your offspring, it’s going to show up more in stories than the grouping of creatures of the same species to ensure survival.** Hell, a lot more of my stories revolve around romance and family than friendship. One of my stories even involves a friendship gone bad, but that’s about it.

If “The Power of Friendship!” can be portrayed as it was in It, you can include it in horror stories more effectively.

That doesn’t mean we can’t include “The Power of Friendship” in horror stories. It can be used, but it’s more effective if used as it was in It: not overstated and a bit more realistic.  Showing a friendship form, grow, and overcome obstacles in a story, without drawing too much attention to it and showing how fragile the friendship can be under certain pressures, will work fine for the horror audience. If you go for overblown storytelling and basically say, “The Power of Friendship can overcome anything,” it will take the audience out of the story. Let the friendship’s strength demonstrate itself, rather than shoving it in through dialogue or just outright stating it. In other words, show, don’t tell.

While still not that common a trope in horror, “The Power of Friendship” can be part of horror. It may require being handled differently than in other genres, and with a bit more realism (weird for “realism” to show up in horror, but there you go), but it’s not impossible. You just need the right touch, and “The Power of Friendship” can best even shapeshifting entities that take the form of clowns.

That’s all, Followers of Fear. I’m in a bit of a blogging mood right now, so expect more posts from me soon. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

*There’s also some sort of power up thanks to a turtle from another universe, but let’s not get into it, shall we.

**Best explanation I can come up with given my aromantic nature and already jaded worldview.

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Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I am on the autism spectrum, and that I’ve had opportunities to speak about it a couple of times, including a widely-circulated video which I posted back in March. I was able to get my job partially because of my autism, and a lot of the work I do involves working with, accommodating, and advocating for people with disabilities in the workplace, including but certainly not limited to autism. I don’t go around everywhere broadcasting my diagnosis, but it does come up on occasion.

One of those recent occasions was for my organization’s newsletter. I was asked to write a short essay, about a page long, about having a disability, about the program that helped me get a job in my organization, and what that’s been like. That article was published recently, along with a couple of other testimonials, and it’s been getting around. A lot of people have been coming up to me and thanking me for being so open with my story.

Today, I got an email from someone in my organization who had read the article, and had contacted me asking for advice. His adult nephew had been diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago, well past the point where intervention can be at its most effective. And in the  years since his diagnosis, his life has not gotten easier. I won’t go into details, but it was heartbreaking to read the man’s email and to hear about his nephew’s suffering.

At the end of the email, he asked what could be done for his nephew, and if maybe the program that helped me get my job could help his nephew.

What do you say to something like that? What sort of comfort can you give when there’s already so much pain?

I don’t know if I ever meant to be an advocate for people with disabilities. But over time, that role has kind of been molded around me. A good part of this has been because of my job. As I said, I have to advocate for people with disabilities in the workplace. To that end, I’ve learned how to market to people who are able-bodied why they should hire more people with disabilities. I can tell them that people with disabilities have a much lower turnover rate than the general population, 8% compared to 45%, that getting them accommodations rarely gets anywhere near the $500 mark, and then back all that up by talking about my own satisfaction with my position, and how the only accommodation I’ve needed for my ASD was permission to listen to my iPod or audiobooks while doing certain tasks. I’ve also been asked to do essays, like I did for the newsletter, and the video I recorded back in March. And sometimes it just comes up, like when explaining how I got my internship in Germany (yeah, my ASD played a part in that), or using it to illustrate a point in conversation, or a hundred different scenarios.

One way or another, it seems like I was meant to be an advocate, especially at this point in my life, when I’m doing so well at work, living on my own, and even as a writer.

But as a giver of advice? I’m not sure I expected that. And I get why it’s happening. Autism is a scary diagnosis for anyone to get, as well as for the loved ones of those diagnosed. It’s a disorder that varies widely from person to person, it can never be cured, the cause is still unknown,* the number of people being diagnosed with it has grown exponentially with improved diagnostic tools. Depending on what traits are present or what other disorders are present with autism can also affect everything from therapy to school choices to possibilities in adulthood. And when the diagnosis is made in adulthood, as happened with the young man whose uncle emailed me, it can be a sort of terrifying that no horror story can tap into. With all that in mind, hearing from someone who not only has the same diagnosis, but is successful in the real world, can be a soothing balm for the mind and soul.

I just wish I had all the answers. Or that I was more confident in the answers I have to give.

But if I’m going to give any sort of advice, it’s that we shouldn’t deny or try to hide our diagnoses. We shouldn’t try to be “normal,” because normal doesn’t exist, especially not for us. We process the world so differently than everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we have to be ashamed or afraid. I’m able to succeed and do the things I do every day because I process differently. So embrace your different. It may be called a disability, but it can be an asset too. Some of the greatest innovators and creators the world has ever known have been on the spectrum. And once we learn to work with the issues we have, we can learn to become those great innovators and creators.

And don’t be afraid to look for or ask for help. Even if you’re diagnosed later in life, there’s still plenty of resources for you. Many states, including my beloved Ohio, have programs that offer help and direction for people with disabilities and families, whether they be children or well into adulthood. Many schools have or are adding programs to ensure the disabled can take full advantage of their educations. More and more employers are recognizing the importance of hiring people with disabilities, and what they can contribute. We’re not being left alone like a ship in a storm. There is help.

Living my life strong, no matter what my diagnosis is.

And it’s important to be open about your diagnosis, especially with your friends, family, coworkers and teachers. Keeping it a secret has never helped anyone get by. It’s better to be open, so that those around us are better equipped to work with us, and join us on our journey as we work our way through life. I know it’s scary, and you don’t want to be any different than anyone else. But remember, there’s no normal. We’re all different, and many of us wear it on our sleeves. Might as well display this different too, if only to make life a little easier.

I hope you find this helpful. I hope the man who emailed me today found my advice helpful. And if you or someone you know has autism, I hope that no matter what, you or your loved one is able to hold their head up high and know this: you are great the way you are.

*And if you’re about to comment saying some bull about vaccines, let me tell you a story, since anti-vaxxers seem to value testimony more rather than scientific consensus: my mother has told me a few times that I was different from the day I was born, well before I received my first vaccine. I was nothing like the baby books predicted I’d be, and it wasn’t until my younger sister was born that she saw any of that stuff. I trust her word, so that means vaccines had nothing to do with the way I am. And if you still insist that vaccines had something to do with the way I am, you may be calling my mother a liar, and them’s fighting words.

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know I’m a huge fan of horror. I read horror novels, I write horror stories, I sometimes write articles examining various aspects of horror, I watch YouTube videos about dark and creepy subjects, I decorate my apartment with horrifying artwork and dolls and stuff, I…well, you get the idea. And of course, I watch plenty of horror films and shows.

And as every true horror fan knows, it can be hard to find good horror sometimes, particularly in the movie department. We fans watch a lot of horror movies that are really bad hoping that they may be good and even give us a few nightmares (or in my case, some good inspiration). I sometimes think of it examining piles of shit looking for gold nuggets, only you can’t tell the difference without special examination (imagine if that was the actual case. Nobody but the really desperate would ever look for good horror movies!). And I’ve seen plenty of bad horror films over the years while looking for good ones. I’ve even written about them, on occasion.

But lately there’s been something I’ve been wanting to try. You see, some of those horror films that I’ve hated, I’ve heard lots of people praising. They tell me the shit is actually gold. I’ve even seen some very thorough examinations of these films, in essays and videos, and the writers/creators of those videos have made me wonder if maybe I should rewatch some of these films, and reexamine my opinions of these films.

So now that I’ve seen It and there aren’t that many horror films coming out in the next couple months that I’m absolutely dying to see and review, I think it’s time to do what I’m going to call the Rewatch Review series. I’m going to watch ten films that I’ve hated and/or given bad reviews in the past, and see if my opinion has been changed. Some I may have watched in the wrong light, others I just think I missed something the first time around. Either way, I’m going to take a look again and then let you know if I’ve got any new thoughts to share.

And with the first film waiting for me at the library even as you read this, I should be able to start watching in earnest soon. It may take some time, depending on how quickly I can get these movies, but either way, you’re going to get something from me.

As for what these films are, I’ll list them below. When I’ve written my (hopefully changed) thoughts on each movie, I’ll post a link to this article. That way, if you want to read all my thoughts at once, you’ll have that option (though I don’t know if anyone’s THAT bored!).

Perfect Blue (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
The Witch (2015)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Oculus (2013)
Evil Dead (1981)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Shining (1980)
Mama (2013)
Whispering Corridors (1998)

Why did I dislike some of these films? You’re going to have to wait till I actually write about them. Haven’t I reviewed a few of them before? Yes. Why am I reexamining them if I already reviewed them? You’ll have to wait till I watch them. And that’s all I’m saying on the subject.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m heading off to bed. Until I write again, pleasant nightmares.*

*And if you have any, let me know. I might write a novel based off it.

Last week I read an article where Adam Winguard, the director of the disaster that is Netflix’s adaptation of the Death Note franchise, had to quit Twitter because he was receiving so much hate mail and even death threats over his adaptation. And yesterday, the admins of a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing and discussing anime and manga received death threats for posting a positive review of the movie.

Let that sink in for a moment. A whole bunch of people are sending people hate mail and threatening to kill them over the Internet for either making or liking what many consider a bad movie. And I’d bet one of my anime figurines the majority of these angry people are fans of the Death Note anime and manga who are incensed that the director cast white actors in the movie and the numerous changes from the source material, as well as just making a really bad film, or that anyone would like the film.

Now, all three complaints are legitimate: the casting of white actors as what were originally non-white characters is a serious problem that Hollywood and the public are continuing to grapple with even now. The many changes from the source material were not only unnecessary, but actually made the film more of a mess than a wonder. And it was a really bad film (check my review here for my own thoughts on the subject).

But there is absolutely no excuse or reason–ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE OR REASON–to send hate mail or threaten someone’s life. Especially not for their creative work, no matter what decisions they make or the quality of it. And those who think nothing of doing it have some serious issues that need addressing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time fans of a franchise or a character or something along those lines have gone a little bonkers. I was ranting about this issue of fans going crazy back in 2013, when people were leaving intentionally bad reviews of Charlaine Harris’s last Sookie Stackhouse book because it was the last book, and threatening harm to themselves and others if their favorite couples didn’t end up together (and possibly followed through after a copy leaked in Germany). Later that year, people were sending tons of mail to Warner Bros. and trying to get the White House to intervene in the casting of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (not sure what they expected to happen with that one).

Seriously, was this worth the hate campaign? I actually enjoyed the movie.

Since then we’ve seen negative reactions to the idea of the Ghostbusters reboot, and then the female-led cast, which was so hateful everyone involved in the movie felt the need to comment and even make a joke about it in the movie. We’ve also seen people react negatively to Captain America becoming an agent of Hydra in the comics, with some people threatening the writers behind this move. One man claiming to be a Marine even said that he would abandon his moral code and become a stone-cold killer because of the change (seriously, did any of these nincompoops think that maybe this was a mind-controlled Cap, or one from another dimension, which apparently is the case?). We’ve probably all seen articles about angry males attacking women online for attempting to be part of the video gaming community and industry. And there are more of these than I’m probably aware of, with this Death Note thing just being the latest.

What’s causing people to become so angry and violent over fictional characters and worlds? Well, it might actually be nothing new. As long as there have been creative works and their creators, there have been people who have gotten passionate about them, sometimes a little too passionate (*cough* John Hinckley Jr. and Ricardo Lopez *cough*). And sometimes people even feel that their love of a property gives them some sort of ownership over said property, and therefore they have a legitimate voice in any decisions over said work. And with the Internet as both means to reach like-minded individuals and platform to voice their vitriol without worry of censure, some of these overly-passionate fans can gather en masse and make their anger heard, warranted or not. Sometimes, a few of them even feel emboldened to make threats of violence.

And I get it. I hated the Death Note movie too. I can think of several ways the Star Wars prequels or some episodes of Doctor Who could’ve been better (I actually nearly threw a shoe at the TV once because I really disliked an episode). And God, was I upset when shows I really liked, such as Dracula or Sleepy Hollow, got canceled. I would have loved to find the people responsible for all these mistakes and given them a piece of my mind.

But therein lies the problem: none of these fans have any actual ownership or say in the decisions revolving around these stories, and at the end of the day, it’s the creators themselves who get to make those decisions. And we should let them. After all, they are spending valuable time and energy to bring us these stories we love so much. It’s essentially a gift from them to us, the readers and viewers. And while not all these creative variations are welcome (*cough* first three DCEU movies *cough*), some of these creative risks have led to some the greatest pieces of storytelling ever made. Remember there was a time when the Winter Soldier wasn’t a thing, let alone a former friend of Captain America gone evil. When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, people swore it was the worst casting decision that could be made, and yet Ledger’s Joker is arguably one of the best Jokers ever brought to life. And let’s be real, William Shakespeare ripped off and made changes to most of the stories he’s famous for! And look at him!

A decision that turned out to be right after all.

And this is not just for variations in already established characters and stories. Creators should be able to experiment with stories and characters. Otherwise, would we have Doctor Who? Harry Potter? Death Note the manga? Stephen King’s IT?

So what should you do if a story you like or an adaptation of a story goes in a direction you dislike? Well, there are two possible decisions that you could go that won’t make you look like a tool (trust me, as both fanboy and creator, they work). One is to do what I did with Death Note: calmly point out what was wrong with it or what you disliked. You don’t have to be angry to get your point across. I’ve found calmly discussing what you disliked about something does more than shouting. And besides, being rude or angry or telling someone to die never convinced anyone to your point of view or made them change their ways.

The other is to just not take part at all. After Jodie Whitaker was announced as the 13th Doctor, many fans reacted by simply deciding not to watch the show anymore. I even have a friend who decided to do that, and while I disagree with their view, I respect how adult their reactions were. (Thought to be fair, after all those years of Moffat tropes, it might’ve been easier to leave than to work up anger over a casting decision). So if you don’t like what the creators are doing, just leave. Don’t ruin the experience for everyone else who may want to try out the new direction.

And if you’re a parent with kids who may get overly passionate about fictional works, maybe have a conversation with them about how to respond to this sort of thing. It might save someone a lot of headaches later on.

While I doubt this problem will go away anytime soon–if anything, it might get worse over time–we can at least approach it in a healthy manner, rather than with further fear and anger, as well as to find healthy alternatives to anger and/or death threats. Either that, or we never get any sort of new stories ever. And I really don’t want to see that.

 

That’s all the ranting for now. The next week and a half will be crazy for me, so I have no idea how much, if at all, I’ll be able to post until October 1st. I’ll try and get something out next week, though if I don’t, please don’t hold it against me or send death threats.

Until next time, Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

You may have heard me speak of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game franchise about a haunted pizzeria filled with killer animatronics before on this blog (if you’re unfamiliar with what that is and want a quick lesson to know what I’m talking about, click HERE), including the novel released about two years ago, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes, that’s part of the franchise’s lore (click HERE for my review of that novel). I find the franchise itself fascinating, though I did not care for the novel that was produced from it, finding it cliched and predictable, as well as poorly edited. So when I heard that a sequel to the novel, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones, was coming out, I was skeptical. Could this be an improvement? Or would it just be terrible? I decided to get a copy and find out.

And if you’re a huge fan of the franchise or whatever, don’t expect me to delve deeply into the lore and try to figure out the exact mythology of the game. I’ll leave that to the people on the Game Theorists channel on YouTube. No, I’m going to evaluate the novel as a novel: how it was written, if it was scary, how good the plot and the characters are, and what could’ve been fixed or improved. Why? Because that’s what I do here.

So, FNAF: The Twisted Ones takes place not too long after the events of the first novel. Charlie, the protagonist of The Silver Eyes,  is at college learning about robotics and trying to sort out all the things that have happened in her past. However, a series of murders that can only have been caused by the sentient animatronic suits from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria draws Charlie, as well as her friend Jessica, old flame John, and hometown sheriff Clay into a bizarre nightmare, with more mysteries to uncover and an old enemy out for blood.

Was it any better than the first book?

Well, it did have some improvements. For one thing, The Twisted Ones is edited much better than The Silver Eyes. You can tell that franchise creator Scott Cawthon and writer Kira Breed-Wrisley took their time making sure the grammar, spelling and punctuation was up to scratch, as well as ensuring that the indentation wasn’t all over the place. There was also way more animatronic action, something that was sorely missing from the first book. And I have to admit, the plot was somewhat unpredictable, with the final third–especially the climax–being actually a bit of a whirlwind in how it gripped and held onto you. And there were new elements introduced into the story that actually did shed a little light on the franchise (I won’t go into them here, but observant readers should be able to put the pieces together).

However, there were a number of things I didn’t like about the book. For one, these characters feel even flatter than they did in the first book. In the first, they were just given enough characterization to carry along a slasher movie, but those characters that have come back feel even less like actual people. The exception might be Charlie, but most of her character is fretting over the events of her past rather than getting to know her and see her grow as a character. Speaking of characters, I also found the character of Arty totally unnecessary. He’s introduced as this classmate/friend of Charlie’s and a possible rival to John, but he’s only in about two percent of the story, and he doesn’t contribute anything. If you took him out of the story, it seriously wouldn’t make a difference. I wonder why he was even in the story in the first place.

I also found Charlie’s obsession with her past and her brother coming across as melodramatic. You can have a character affected by a horrible experience that exposes a lot about their past, but here it felt almost corny in how over-the-top the emphasis was. Please, can we scale back on that? Surely there’s more to this character than “Oh, my past is so tragic! I’ll live my life around my dark and horrible past!”

The next book. Hopefully it’s good.

But the biggest thing that I didn’t like was that during one scene about two-thirds of the way through the book, the scene is set in Charlie’s dorm room. A few paragraphs later, however, they’re in the car, and it’s such a sudden transition. How sudden, you ask? Imagine in a Marvel movie, Nick Fury and Captain America are talking in a hangar bay in one frame, and in the next they’re in an open field, but none of the characters notice the change. It’s that sudden, and it’s very sloppy.

Still, The Twisted Ones is a better novel than The Silver Eyes. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this book a 3.0, an improvement of 0.4. The characters aren’t that interesting and there are problems with the book, but I honestly prefer it. Though you can’t get me to love this series, and I honestly would like Cawthon to stick to video games. Just being honest.

Speaking of which, Cawthon is releasing a new book late next month titled The Freddy Files, which is supposed to go over game mechanics and even answer the complex lore of the series. I might read that, but I honestly don’t know if I want to. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure Cawthon’s going to release a third book in the franchise at some point. Like I said, I wish he wouldn’t, but with any luck, he’ll take another year and a half to release his next book, enough time to improve his next literary venture by another 0.4 or more.

Anything’s possible, especially when killer animatronics are involved.

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast (and my new profile pic on Facebook).

So I decided to go a little out of order with recounting my recent trip to Boston. Why? Because this was probably the highlight of my trip, because extraordinary things happened to me while I was at this location, and because, like a freshly-cooked meal at a restaurant, this is just too hot to leave lying around. So, without further ado, I’m going to recount my recent trip to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, complete with photos and videos.

So if you’re unfamiliar with the house and its namesake, Lizzie Borden was a woman who in 1892 was accused and tried for the horrific axe murders of her stepmother Abby Borden and her father Andrew Borden. Plenty of things made Lizzie a good suspect: there were numerous inconsistencies in her statements to the authorities, she had an odd demeanor even before the murders, and the timeline of the murders as well as her proximity to them while claiming not to have heard anything. However, the authorities made some major mistakes during the investigation and trial, which lead to Lizzie being found not guilty. To this day, the case remains unsolved and there are a number of theories as to who killed the Bordens and how (Lizzie is still a popular figure for the acts). The house where the murders occurred has since become a bed & breakfast noted for paranormal activity.

Does it not surprise you that I wanted to stay there? It’s even on one of my lists for haunted places I want to visit! And when my dad and I decided to go out to Massachusetts for our vacation, I knew I had to go here. Somehow I managed to convince him to try the house out, and before I knew it, we’d made reservations.

Lizzie Borden’s room, where I slept in the house.

Emma Borden’s room, where my dad slept.

On July 6th, we left Boston in a rental car to head about an hour south to Fall River, a former textile town on the Massachusetts coast. We got in a little after four, and checked in at the B&B, this old three-story house with brown paint and a parking lot and barn used for business and souvenirs in the back (I bought a couple of souvenirs, believe me). We then dropped our stuff of in our room (I stayed in Lizzie’s bedroom, while my dad was in the adjoining room that belonged to Lizzie’s older sister Emma), and took a little time to explore the house before too many guests arrived. One of the tour guides, Rick, told us where to find Lizzie’s home after the trial and where she was buried in the cemetery, so my dad and I decided to go find those. The house, Maplecroft, is now a private residence, so we couldn’t go very close, but the cemetery was open to the public, so we were able to get up close and personal with the grave (only I would enjoy that!).

Maplecroft, Lizzie Borden’s home post-trial.

Lizzie Borden’s grave. People left some very interesting tributes to her.

After dinner, we returned to the house, where other guests were checking in and getting ready for the evening tour. It was at this point that I noticed the house kept its own set of dowsing rods. And I had to try them.

Which led to the video below:

I may need to get my own set of dowsing rods for future explorations of haunted locations. They’re very good at picking up responses from the dead. And as for what my later paranormal experience was, I’ll get into that in a minute.

Anyway, the last of the guests checked in, and we had a pretty diverse group, with folks from as far away as Canada and California joining us. Our tour guide Rick did a great job of taking us through the house, reconstructing the lives of the Bordens, the murders and the subsequent trial, and the hauntings (this last one he backed up with testimonials and even some really creepy photography of shadow beings and weird faces in windows).

During this tour, my dad actually left once or twice because he suddenly had to use the bathroom. The only reason I’m bringing this up now is because Rick mentioned to us that prior to the murders, many of the Bordens were dealing with vomiting and stomach issues, possibly because their food was bad or because Lizzie was poisoning her family (there’s evidence for both). Were the ghosts, despite our requests, affecting my dad? He did mention feeling a cold presence at one point during the tour, right as Rick mentioned a cold presence.

Or it was just something he ate with dinner affecting him. But I hope, for my own reasons, that’s it the former.

Also, during the tour, Rick pointed out a very weird feature of the basement: if you look at the below photo, you’ll notice what looks like a face in the brickwork in this small section. That face is supposed to look like Andrew Borden, Lizzie Borden’s father, leaving his presence on his home. Weirder still, there seems to be another face within the face in my photo, though what that is nobody knows. Actually, nobody knows what that bigger face is supposed to be, but the second face is even weirder.

Do you see the faces?

After the tour, some of us stuck around on the first floor to snack on cookies, talk, and even try recording sessions. I went to bed around 11:30, and dozed off pretty quickly. And that’s where my other paranormal experience occurred:

I woke up in the middle of the night, and it felt really cold, like someone was blasting an air conditioner right in front of my face. And I heard a woman’s voice shout, “Go to sleep and DIE!!!” And I just knew it was Lizzie, though it would be another minute before I realized that she was probably angry for asking about her hand in the murders earlier. And I simply said to her, “I wish you peace, Lizzie.” I hear a scream, and the cold air is gone, and I know Lizzie is too. Later I would remember seeing a blue room for a short second, which I think may have been Lizzie’s room as it looked back then (remember, the house has been restored to look like it did in the 19th century, but there’s no way to know if it was exact down to the paint and wallpaper). And then I’m back in the room, and I’m alone again.

I realize that it was possibly just a very vivid dream, but there’s still a possibility that Lizzie was trying to communicate with me in a dream. And it wasn’t sleep paralysis, because I’ve experienced sleep paralysis, and this was very different. In any case, I’ll take my paranormal experiences where I can get them.

Me imitating Andrew Borden as he was found in 1892. I couldn’t resist.

I should also mention that during the night, my digital recorder ran out of battery. Most likely it wasn’t properly charged before I went to bed, though it’s also possible the spirits drained the battery to use its energy. Either way, I don’t know how much was recorded that night. When I have a chance to investigate, I’ll find out.

To wrap up, the next morning my dad and I had breakfast, and we talked with the other guests about our experiences last night (people were really impressed with mine). Then my dad and I packed up, checked out, and left, my dad saying the whole time how creeped out he’d been staying in that house. I just exalted in the fact that I got to stay in the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, and got to bring back so many great memories as well.

So yeah, I highly recommend going to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast if you get the chance. Even if you can’t or won’t stay overnight, doing a day tour is pretty awesome and edifying. And who knows? Like me, you may get a paranormal encounter that’ll stay with you for years to come.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’m going to try to get out the last couple posts about my trip in the next few days, so hold tight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Today is April 1st, which as we all know is April Fool’s Day, a day to have an excuse to be cruel to one another by making jokes or putting people in embarrassing situations. I absolutely love this day, because I love a good joke, and I love being the one to tell it. Or in some cases, to pull it. So I thought, as a departure from the norm, I’d list some pranks and practical jokes I’ve been part of over the years. It’s a list I hope you find as hilarious reading it as I did doing the pranks in the first place. Enjoy!

That time with the Jason Voorhees costume. I’m a huge fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, and so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have the costume for the series’ main villain. So during my second year of college, when I still lived in the dorms, I decided, in honor of April Fool’s Day, to ride up and down the elevator in my dorm building, wait for people to get on, and scare the living daylights out of them as they got on. It worked like a charm. Most people jumped, a few didn’t really react. One girl I was friends with screamed like a murder victim and then cussed me out for scaring her.

To this day, I’m still surprised I wasn’t punched.

I make this costume work.

That time with Bones and Booth’s engagement. Going back a few years to high school, my mom was driving my sister and I to a youth group event, and my mom and sister were having a debate about the TV show Bones and the relationship of the main characters. My mom thought for some reason the leads were married, my sister insisted Booth, the male lead, was seeing someone else. Neither had seen the most recent episodes, and this gives me a great idea. I pull out my phone, and pretend to call a friend of mine. I have this whole fake conversation with my friend about the show, and my sister and mom buy it up without question. When I finish the fake call, I tell my mom and sister, “Bones and Booth are engaged.”

My sister freaks out! She’s screaming, “How is this possible! No! NO! How!” My mom and I are laughing hysterically, and I’m trying not to throw up in the car. This goes on for about five minutes before my sister fishes out her own phone and starts texting everyone she knows, trying to find someone who’s seen the most recent episodes. By the time we get to where we’re going, she’s finally found someone who’s seen the most recent episodes, and has found out the truth. Oh, I slept with one eye open that night.

The many times with the phone. How do you do a crank call in the age of Caller ID? Well, there are two ways: one is that you answer the phone in wacky ways. My dad and uncle are used to picking up the phone and getting a hello from a pest exterminator, a law firm with wacky partners, and even once or twice a kink shop (my dad hates that one!). The other is get transferred around a few times so that your number is hidden from Caller ID, and see where it lands you. I’ve called my high school headmaster a few times, pretending to be anyone from “Doris Widdershins,” a stuffy upper-class Pittsburgh socialite with a son she’d like to enroll in the school, “Kay Cappuchio,” a reality star with a dog, and “Rabbi Abraham Irving,” a rabbi from Yeshiva University who wanted to award the school for excellent graduates. He’s only figured out it’s me about half the time! And the best part is, I got away with it every time, which is remarkable considering some of them I did while still his student! He was way too lenient with me.

The time I got featured in a prank video. This one isn’t of my doing, but one I just happened to stumble into. This guy on YouTube named Dennis Roady does all these pranks, and during my last year in college, he did one where he went to various libraries around Columbus, including Ohio State’s Thompson Library, and used a Bluetooth connection to make us hear sex noises and wonder where the hell they’re coming from. The video is below, and I come in about two and a half minutes. It was actually pretty clever.

Naughty!

The time with the text and the drugs. A while back, there was this thing where you’d text your parents and pretend you had accidentally sent a text meant for your drug dealer, and see what happens. I did it on my parents back in 2014. My dad figured out pretty quickly that it was a prank. My mom actually called me right before one of my classes started to see if I was actually on drugs. It was pretty funny. I told my mom, “Ima, do you really think I’d do drugs?”” She replied, “You told me you were hit by a car last year, and I didn’t believe you! It actually happened!” (And it did, by the way. Story for another time).

Lesson learned: careful with what pranks I send my mother’s way.

The time at camp. This prank actually backfired on me: the summer before eighth grade, I was at sleep away camp, and a couple of my friends and I decided to sneak over to one of the girls’ bunks in our year and scare them on a night the counselors would be at a staff meeting, just for the heck of it. The older bunks at our camp back then had trap doors in the back storage rooms in case of fire, so we sneak out those and somehow get to the girls’ bunks without getting caught. We disguise ourselves with masks one of my friends smuggled in, intending to pop up through the trap door in their bunk, run around screaming to get the girls screaming, and then run out and back home before security or counselors can catch us. We find the trap door, and I go first.

I pop up through the closet, screaming like a ghoul. And I see a girl sitting on an empty milk crate, reading a paperback with a skull on the cover by flashlight (I think it may have been some edition of Silence of the Lambs) in the back storage room I’ve appeared in. And the girl falls off the crate screaming, flashlight shining everywhere. At the same time, something wet and yellow flies through the air and hits me right in the mask, getting into my eyes and mouth. Apparently I scared her enough to pee her shorts and me with them.

Naturally, I fall out the trap door, spitting and laughing and trying not to vomit. My friends are asking me what happened, but I can’t tell them, and anyway, it doesn’t matter, because there’s a passing security team, and they hear the noise. We run for home before we can get caught, and somehow make it back safe, at which point I throw away the mask, take a second shower, and brush my teeth about ten times. Never found out who the girl was, but I think we both got stuck in each other’s memories that day.

That time with the cult. This actually happened last year. I met up with a friend of mine at Starbucks and, because it was April 1st, decided to play a prank on her. I told her my dad and I had had a fight because I was leaving Judaism for a religious group called The One (complete with cult-like hand motions when referring to the group or anything associated with it). She bought it until I said we worshiped a fox god, at which point she asked if this was an April Fool’s prank. I admitted it was, though I did also blow her mind by telling her that The One is a real thing. It’s just not a cult: The One is the name for fans of Babymetal, the Japanese J-Pop/metal fusion band I’m a huge fan of (so I technically am part of The One), and the band’s members say they get their ability to rock out from a fox god.

Weirdness never ceases, does it?

The Fox God

That time I pranked you. That’s right, you’ve been pranked. How, you ask? One of these stories is actually fake! That’s right, you read them, and you may have believed all of them! But the question is, which one is it? Give your thoughts in the comments below. Here’s a hint; it’s not the one with the video.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you laughed yourself silly reading this, and I hope you have a hilarious April Fools’ Day. I know I will. Until next time!