Cover Reveal – Dark Hollow Road

It’s been a long time coming and the end product is almost here. Today, I’m SUPER excited to share with you all the cover for my soon-to-be released psychological horror novel “Dark Hollow Road”.

DarkHollowRoad-FrontOnly_Halfsize

If you’ve been following along the past few months, you’ll know some of the things that inspired the writing of this book.  In case you’ve missed those blog posts, here are the links back to them.

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road Part 1
UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road Part 2
UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road Part 3

The fourth and final entry in this blog series will be posted in the very near future. This novel has taken me down a very strange and dark road, indeed. This isn’t Barnesville by any stretch of the imagination – although – if you’re a long-standing reader of my work and have been paying attention, you’ll know there is some sort of connection between this work and those.

More info to come on this one including a trailer and a reading by yours truly. Stay tuned and stay away from those old, abandoned houses … seriously.

Book Review – Rise of the Forgotten by Jason J. Nugent

The brothers, Eron and Timo (Nagi) are reunited only to be torn apart in the earliest stages of war. Eron desperately searches for his lost love, Mina while Nagi is going nearly mad looking for his wife and children. All while being hunted down by the evil ADF. Other members of Eron and Timo’s family emerge from the mayhem in the most unexpected of ways.
Having read the first book of this series, I was eager to dive into the second. I’m happy to report I found it even more delightful and engaging. Jason has rounded out his main characters very nicely in this book, giving them much more depth.
Rise of the Forgotten is a fast-paced read full of hope and despair, love, hate, suspense, death and some very unexpected twists. It’s probably the best work I’ve read by Jason so far. I am so looking forward to reading the third book in this series!

Four out of Five Ravens. 

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 3

When last we met, I was leaving the property of an old brick mansion once located just outside of Watkins Glen, NY, contemplating a 1990s adventure in Urban Exploration (UrbEx) or if you prefer Urban Spelunking. This particular trip left a lasting impression and raised several questions to which I still do not have answers. But, thanks to my overly-active imagination, I was able to make one up and use it as part of the creation of my upcoming novel Dark Hollow Road.

Spelunking is ‘the hobby or practice of exploring caves’. Urban Spelunkers commonly explore empty and abandoned homes, mansions, hospitals, factories, and the like regardless of No Trespassing signs. Though they are breaking the law, UrbEx-ers also have a certain code of respect for the places they enter. Unlike vandals, UrbEx-ers are there to document, not destroy or tag with spray paint. It’s considered a big no-no to take anything from the buildings or former homes. If you do touch something, you put it back where you found it. You leave with the experience, still photos, video, and nothing more no matter how tempting it may be.

And, oh man, were we tempted exceptionally hard one summer day in yet another grand home just north of Watkins Glen.

Unlike the previously mentioned brick house, this white, Greek Revival home was anything but empty. We found it during one of our many drives in the country, seeking out old cemeteries and abandoned homes to explore. This time, we had a few friends with us. Drawn curtains obscured our view from the outside. Someone tried the front door. Locked. A door on a smaller side wing, also at the front of the building, had a padlock on it, an open padlock. Bingo.

We were instantly awed and nearly speechless. The first room was filled with glass showcases and displays containing one antique item after another. Had we just walked into a museum or something? Though a bit on the dusty side, it was pristine and carefully laid out. There were even labels on many of the items stating their history.

After this room, we went into the main part of the house and became even further enthralled. It was as if we’d walked into the late 19th century. Here was a kitchen with a cast-iron cook stove and hand water pump at the sink. A prep table for cooking, glass jars filled with canned fruits and vegetables in the cupboards, cutting boards, and mixing bowls waited the cook to return any moment. The dining room table was set with white lace and china, crystal and silver. A buffet lacked only to be filled with steaming plates of food. We passed through a servant’s quarters where a pair of well-worn shoes had been placed beside a narrow bed with thin blankets. Upstairs, the owners sleeping chambers proved much more opulent. Clothes even hung in the closets. This was completely unbelievable and slightly insane.

During this surreal visit, that sixth sense of mine kicked in. Each time I walked through the dining room this almost overwhelming feeling of being watched would prickle the hairs on my arms. It was so strong that I could barely remain in that room. The room felt cold, heavy, and wet, making it hard to breath. I felt dizzy and disoriented and all around creeped out. I’m convinced we were being scrutinized by the ghostly inhabitants of the place as they made sure nothing was taken. What they would have done had anything been stolen, I don’t want to guess. Karma is freaking weird like that and I’m not taking the chance.

We stayed maybe twenty minutes before heading back out, undiscovered and as far as I know, empty handed. In the days that followed one of our number found out who the owner was – who verified that the building had once been a museum open to the public – confessed our visit, and told them about the padlock. The lock was quickly replaced and properly locked. Unfortunately, far too many people don’t have the respect or self-control we had that day.

Fast forward to 2011 and a new TV show called “Haunted Collector”. The creator, John Zaffis, is a paranormal investigator who collects items that he and others believe to be trigger objects for all manner of haunted activities. The premise is that any item can hold the memories and emotions (both good and bad) of its owners. It can be anything from a painting to a ring, an old, rusty toolbox or a gun possibly associated with a murder. Zaffis and his crew hunt these items down and theorize that by removing them from the property (with the permission of the current owner) they can end the paranormal activity.

It works for them, but what if the reality of the situation has the complete opposite effect and not on the home owner, but the person who took the item? I’ve heard many cases of people taking trinkets from places and finding themselves haunted or even possessed by the spirit who holds that seemingly useless item in very high regard. Is that a risk you, as an Urban Spelunker, are willing to take? Is that little chipped teacup or battered old postcard worth risking your life or sanity over?

Welcome to rural Pennsylvania and the Brown resident, the only house on this side of Dark Hollow Road. Since the flood of ’72 and the washing out of the bridge, Dark Hollow Road has been a dead end. No one lives there, or so it seems. The yard is a tangle of overgrown weeds. The front porch is unstable and rotting away from decades of neglect. Cardboard has been tacked over the windows from the inside on the ground floor and the window frames are nailed tight to the sills. Should you find your way inside, save for an old cast-iron cook stove and a few items of no real value or consequence, you’d find nothing but a quiet emptiness.

And yet – there’s something, isn’t there? Something not quite right. Something not quite sane. Something not quite dead. How much do you value that trinket now?

Dark Hollow Road – a disturbing psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare. Due for release March 2018 from Ardent Creations.

Author Interview – Mark Cassell

UK author, Mark Cassell is the best-selling author of The Shadow Fabric, a novel so rich with dark mythos he couldn’t keep it contained in one book. From page one, I was sucked right in, thankfully not by the actual Shadow Fabric. I haven’t read a book so fast in a very long time and am eager to learn more about the world Mark’s created as well as the writer himself.

1.Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Mark. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started as a writer? Was it childhood dream or something you fell into more recently?

I blame my English teacher, Mr. Brown – Damn, that was way back in 1991. He told me I had more potential than just the class jester, so I wrote a werewolf story titled “Moons of Blood” and gave that to him. At first he accused me of plagiarism, but when he saw my scribbled notes he soon believed it was my work.

2.Every writer I know is also a big reader. What books were you reading as a young man that got you started down this dark road of horror? Which author’s influenced you the most to become a writer yourself

It was James Herbert and his magnificent novel, Magic Cottage that started it all. From there, Clive Barker and Brian Lumley massively inspired me. And I guess you can’t be a horror writer without reading at least one novel by Stephen King. These days, I don’t read as much as I’d like, though when I do I may occasionally pick these guys up again. Back to my roots, you know?

 

HellcatHolt

Hell Cat of the Holt: http://mybook.to/Holt

3.As I mentioned earlier, I just loved The Shadow Fabric. There’s got to be a mountain of research behind this whole series. What was the inspiration behind the story and mythos and how fleshed out was your research before you started to actually write it?

 

The Shadow Fabric as a title came to me in 1992 and it remained precisely that until 2013 when I figured I was big and ugly enough to start taking this writing game seriously.

As far as the research goes, I began jotting down all the typical horror tropes we’ve come to drown in. Anything to do with demonology and witchcraft, I set about turning it all on its head. I never intended to rewrite history, it just happened. It took hours of head scratching, planning and plotting.

Though I must say, I am shocked and humbled at how well received the Shadow Fabric mythos has become. And it’s still unravelling.

4.You haven’t limited yourself to strictly horror, either. You’ve also done a book of Sci-Fi short stories. Tell me a little bit about Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill. Can fans of this genre look forward to anything more substantial from you in the future?

The guys from Future Chronicles are keen for me to pick this up again so one day there will be more. It was through their cosplayers that Chaos Halo became a thing. Maybe there’s a novel there somewhere.

 

CompanyOfFalseGods_Cassell

In the Company of False Gods: http://mybook.to/companyof

5. You’re most recent release, In The Company Of False Gods, looks very intriguing. You’ve dubbed it Lovecraftian Steampunk Horror. Would you explain more about what that actually means and could you give us the elevator pitch for this latest title?

 

Inspired by HP Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors, In the Company of False Gods is a novelette set in an alternate Victorian era. The story follows wheelchair-bound Attacus whose clockwork creation runs amok and leads him to the threshold between worlds.

6. Thanks for taking part, Mark. Where are all the best places to find out more about you and your work?

 

My website is the best place to visit: www.markcassell.co.uk

Thanks for having me!

More about Mark:

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous reputable anthologies and zines. His best-selling debut novel The Shadow Fabric is closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit. The novella Hell Cat of the Holt further explores the Shadow Fabric mythos with ghosts and black cat legends.

The dystopian sci-fi short story collection, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography where he works closely with their models and cosplayers. His latest release, In the Company of False Gods, is a Lovecraftian steampunk horror story about one man who had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.

Mark’s work has been compared with British horror authors such as James Herbert, Clive Barker, Dennis Wheatley, and Brian Lumley. Also, his influences spread over to the US where he admits to having been first inspired by Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, and H P Lovecraft.

Top Ten Reads of 2017

Thanks to GoodReads, I now have a quick and easy way to keep track of my reading accomplishments. For 2017, I set my goal at 24 books. I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I lean more in the direction of thicker tomes, 300-400 pages and I did manage to get a few of those in. However, I must thank those authors who write on the shorter end of the stick for helping me make that 24 book goal.

Of those 24, I’ve selected ten that have left the best impressions. The only order here is the order in which I read them, earliest to most recent. Maybe one or more will strike your fancy and make it to your To-Read list for 2018.

TheWillowsThe Willows by Algernon Blackwood. Published in1907, The Willows was one of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite reads. It’s a truly creepy tale of two friends who take an intentionally wrong turn while on a boat trip down the Danube, despite the warnings of the locals. Something bizarre and malevolent dwells within the willows along the shoreline, enticing one member of the party to a near-suicide. This being, or collection of beings, it’s never quite clear what’s out there, continually stalk and threaten the travelers. It seems the willows harbor another life form, of this world, the next, or perhaps from the stars. Whatever it is, or wherever it comes from, you’d be much wiser to follow the right path than in the steps of this stories two main characters.

 

 

SinisterEntity_SheaSinister Entity by Hunter Shea : Even at the tender age of eighteen, paranormal investigator Jessica Backman has seen and experienced more than her fair share of things that go bump in the night. She’s always worked alone, until a series of emails arrives from Eddie Homes, a total stranger. Who is this clown and how has he learned so much about her? Jessica has always been very careful about keeping her privacy, but Eddie knows things he absolutely should not know. When Eddie tells Jessica that her dad sent him, she takes notice. Jessica’s father died horrifically when she was only six, and boy does Dad have a job for her and Eddie to do! Sinister Entity is the prequel to the first Hunter Shea book I ever read, Island of the Forbidden. After reading this I’m just itching to get the first book of the series, Forest of Shadows.

 

DATTOML digital coverDreaming at the Top of My Lungs by Israel Finn : There’s always a touch of envy in me for people who can pull off a successful short story. In a mere 112 pages, Israel Finn managed to keep me engaged and amused for the past couple weeks. As with any collection or anthology by even the most famous of writers, there are some stories that are better than others. There were a few in here that I didn’t quite get or felt that were lacking, but the vast majority I thoroughly enjoyed and enough so that I’d easily consider picking up more work from this up and coming author.

 

 

 

Boggy_BlackburnBeyond Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn : A must read for anyone interested in Bigfoot, specifically those associated with the southern United States. Blackburn gives us numerous examples from Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. (I may have missed some). Be that as it may, I was amazed there were so many sightings in all of these states. I had no idea! And not just from a hundred years ago, but within the past five years.

 

 

 

 

ShadowFabricThe Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell : On the second day of his new job, Leo is witness to a murder. His boss, Victor, stabs his own brother, Stanley, with a mysterious dagger known as the Witchblade. But Stanley suffers from no normal stab wound. Instead he is drawn into what appears to be a black piece of fabric and is consumed. The Shadow Fabric is an action-packed and fast-paced run through the underbelly of a realm of darkness, insanity, and a secret mythos that all but the very few are aware of. Leo took my hand, gripped it tight, and yanked me along through it all right along with him. His fears became my fears. His desire to find the answers, were mine. The feelings of betrayal and hopelessness that he felt made me cling to each page, urging him to continue to fight and find the truth.

 

 

TheSelectionThe Selection by Jason J. Nugent : A coming-of-age story taken to its most basic level, survive! Every eighteen-year-old boy has to go through it. Most will not make it. Not long ago Eron’s brother Timo entered The Selection. The last thing Eron remembers is the sound of his older brother’s screams. Now, Eron must face whatever awaits him and he’s understandably terrified. It was a little slow at the beginning, but once the greater action began, I really got involved with the characters and was cheering for Eron every step of the way. Jason has done a great job creating another world, environment, and belief system that is part of, yet so far apart from Earth, that it’s unrecognizable.

 

 

 

77ShadowStreetKoontz77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz : The first of several books that feature the Pendleton Hotel, 77 Shadow Street was my first voyage into the writings of Dean Koontz. I know! Don’t judge! There’s something very wrong going on at the hotel and for those that call the place home, it’s a matter of life and death. An entity that calls itself The One is dedicated to destroying those it deems unworthy and saving those that share its apparent lack of respect for the foolish, overly-sensitive and emotional human race. Your average Joe is a waste of this things time. All must be destroyed or assimilated. This process has been going on for generations and each cycle results in a series of gruesome deaths. What is The One? An alien intelligence? A powerful demon? An over-zealous, future computer that believes itself to be God? All of the above? Whatever it is, Koontz captured it perfectly. I can’t recommend this book enough.

 

watchingWe Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea : After being hit by very hard times, fourteen-year-old West Ridley and his parents are forced to move in with his ornery grandfather, Abraham. As if living with the grumpy and less-than-hygienic old man isn’t bad enough, the old family farmhouse is falling to rot and ruin and Grandpa couldn’t care less. In fact, he seems to intentionally want to drive them out with insults and rage. But, the family has no other place to go and no money to get there if they did. Buttermilk Creek, Pennsylvania is the bottom of the barrel, isolated, creepy, and filled with more terror than even the Horror-loving West can take. We Are Always Watching is loosely based on real events that Shea has taken and run with, twisting them into his own horrible version of a nightmare, as he does with all his work. Family secrets begin to leech to the surface and the more West finds out, the more he comes to realize he and his family need to get the hell out of Grampa Abraham’s house! Like, NOW!

 

Shattering-the-LeyShattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier : I was first introduced to Joshua Palmatier’s work about ten years ago through the Throne of Amenkor series and I really loved them. He has a marvelous way of combining Fantasy and Science Fiction, two genre’s I’m usually not all that into, but Josh may make a convert out of me yet. Shattering the Ley is no exception to the amazing work Palmatier does. He creates a myriad of characters that you quickly grow to either love or hate and his visual descriptions easily draw you into the world of his creations. A wonderful, engaging read and I am super eager to get into the next book in the series!

 

 

 

GehennaGehenna & Tartarus by Jason Brant : Alright, technically two books, but you just can’t have one without the other! This Zombie Western series is gory, thrilling, and laugh out loud funny all at the same time. Who could ask for more? Gehenna was my introduction to Jason Brant’s work and I couldn’t be happier. I love a good zombie movie, but in all honestly, these West of Hell books are the first zombie BOOKS I’ve read and am thoroughly enjoying. Tartarus picks up right where Gehenna ends. Both are super fast-paced and well-written. I only bought the first two and am now chomping at the bit to get my hands on the third.

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 2

Urban Exploration, also known as UrbEx or Urban Spelunking (spelunking being ‘the hobby or practice of exploring caves’) takes its practitioners into the realms of man-made structures, most commonly empty and abandoned homes, mansions, hospitals, factories, and the like. No Trespassing signs don’t seem to mean much to the dedicated UrbEx-er. In fact, to some that’s as good as a welcome mat, even if one has to enter these sometimes dangerous structures at night under the cloak of darkness.

As a teen living in a small town surrounded by rural farmlands, UrbEx didn’t come into play very often. If an empty place did happen to crop up, chances were it was in pretty close proximity to another house and the person who lived there probably knew you, your siblings, your parents, and your grandparents. It wasn’t a chance many were willing to take. Getting grounded from what little there actually was to do around town was not a punishment we took lightly.

However, once you or your friends earned yourself a driver’s license and access to a car, more opportunities to explore begin to arrive. I was a late bloomer when it comes to driving. I didn’t get my license until I was nineteen. My own car didn’t come into the picture until I was twenty-two and permanently moved out of my childhood home.

DSCF3599For the next five to ten years, urban spelunking took on a whole new thrill. We, meaning the man I would marry in 1989, didn’t have a lot of extra money so our sources of weekend entertainments were limited. Luckily, we both loved to search for and explore abandoned houses. Looking back I am surprised at how many we actually found. There were dozens! Many times we could do little more than peek into the windows. We’d never break locks, doors, or windows to gain access. When we could get in, the first order of business was to make sure the floors weren’t so rotted away we’d find ourselves crashing through them into the unknown darkness below. Once in, we’d start photographing our finds, and I’m somewhat ashamed to say, taking a small memento from the place if something appealed.

Some dwellings had little to offer beyond a dead bird that had gotten trapped inside who knows how long ago. Others would show signs of some sort of occupation going on, squatters, a hangout for partying teens, drug users, maybe the place a homeless person called home. In one instance, we walked into a fully furnished, museum-quality mansion that blew our minds. There was also that little psychic-ghost hunting part of us that hoped to feel or see something paranormal in every dwelling we made our way into. This actually happened twice that I can recall.

DSCF3601At one location, a massive two-story brick home only a few miles outside of Watkins Glen, NY, was nestled quite a ways back from the road with the driveway barely passable. It was nearly impossible to even see in the summer unless you knew exactly where and when to look as you drove by. The leafless trees of winter offered a much better view of the place from the road. Our visit took place on a hot summer day, pulling the car in as far as we dared to keep it out of sight. We went in through an already open back door by way of some sort of garage full of empty plastic milk jugs. The ceilings in this place were at least ten feet high and the original woodwork around the doors and windows intact. There was evidence of an occasional occupant, small piles of empty beer and soda cans, filled ashtrays, a battered sofa and some ragged chairs with crumbled clothes nearby, the burnt out nubs of candles. When you see things like this, you really start to pay close attention to the sounds around you.

As we headed out and began walking around the outside, a soft sound drifted by on the warm breeze. It only happened once, but it sent a strange little shiver down my spine. It was the sound of a woman humming; just two notes, a bit like “yoo-hoo” only gently hummed and nearby. The image of an elderly, heavy-set woman sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch snapping beans, popped into my head. Real or imagined? Spirit or something much more of this world? I don’t know.

It does give one pause, though. If the spirits of the dead are lingering in and nearby these abandoned places, that do they make of UrbEx-ers with their cameras and flashlights. Do they see us as we might see them, wisps of sounds and motions? Or are we as solid to them as we are each other? Do they resent our intrusion and consider us trespassers and thieves? This incident and the questions it raised have stuck with me for close to thirty years now and would eventually contribute to the writing of my psychological horror novel “Dark Hollow Road”.

There’s a house on Dark Hollow Road that by all appearances is unoccupied, just like the one mentioned above. The locals say the last time anyone lived there was back in the late 1970s. The doors are all locked. The windows on the first floor are nailed shut and covered from the inside. To date three children have gone missing in its proximity. The house contains a past filled with terror, a present full of dread, and a future obsessed with revenge.

Stay tuned for further posts about my UrbEx adventures and how those experiences led to the creation of “Dark Hollow Road” – a story driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare. Heading your way Spring 2018. 

“The Blob”: Frog Spawn From Outer Space or Jersey Devil Chow?

It’s 1958 and you’re standing in line for the latest horror movie to hit the big screen, The Blob starring Steven McQueen. What you and your fellow movie-goers may be unaware of is that the terror-filled film you are about to watch was inspired by real events!

Flash back to the September 27, 1950 issue of the Philadelphia Enquirer and the headline that announces FLYING ‘SAUCER’ JUST DISSOLVES! The article begins, “Four South Philadelphia police officers had a new explanation last night for what happens to those flying saucers that people are always seeing. They dissolve.”

Two veteran police officers, John Collins and Joe Keenan are out on a routine patrol when they see something unusual in the night sky, a large, glowing, purplish-colored object drifting down to earth. They immediately head towards it in their patrol car and determine the object is going to land in a large, open field about half a block from Vare Avenue and 26th Street. The object reportedly glittered in their headlights as they got closer. After parking, the officers grabbed their flashlights and entered the field, finding a ‘purple jelly’. The substance, approximately six feet in diameter and nearly a foot thick at the center, quivered and appeared to pulse. As if that were not strange enough, when they turned off their flashlights, the purple glob glowed brightly enough to illuminated part of the field. The officers said they got the distinct impression that whatever it was, this thing was alive and they needed backup!

Two more officers, James Cooper and Sergeant Joe Cook, arrived minutes later. After what must have been one of the most bizarre conversations the four men would ever have in their lives, it was decided to try and lift it and get some sort of sample. They circled the mass. Collins was the first to work up the courage to actually touch it. Upon doing so, the blob immediately began to dissolve. It left some traces on his hands, but those too quickly vanished, leaving nothing more behind than an ‘odorless scum’. In less than half an hour the entire object had dissolved.

Seven years later, this particular purple glob would go on to inspire the movie 1958 you is standing in line to see.

StarJelly

Star Jelly. Not Purple. Not Glowing.

However, this was neither the first, nor last, reported incoming glob-blob sighting to fall to earth. Reports date back to as far as the 14th century and as recently as 2001 in both England and Massachusetts. The most common explanation is a substance called ‘Star-Jelly’, believed to be material carried into the Earth’s atmosphere via meteors. It’s not alive, it’s just space goo, the skeptics claim. Another explanation reports that these masses of quivering gel are nothing more than puddles of dead frog eggs. It’s claimed by experts that the eggs could have been dropped by a bird who caught a female frog primed to deposit her eggs. As the bird’s sharp talons disembowel its grab and go meal on the wing, the eggs are unceremoniously spilled and fall back to the ground.

FrogSpawn

Frog Spawn. Still not purple. Still not glowing.

This is all well and good and may explain some of this mystery, but neither of these hypotheses explains the purple glow, the pulsing, or the massive size of the 1950 Philadelphia sighting. That had to have been one hell of a big frog, not to mention the size of the bird it must have taken to catch and carry that unfortunate amphibian away. Remember, it was said to have been six feet across and a foot thick in the middle. Maybe the Jersey Devil was involved in some way. He/She/It is reported to be nocturnal, big, and strong and the Jersey Pine Barrens are less than an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, and a lot closer as the Jersey Devil flies. Plus, since when do frog eggs dissolve when you touch them? I’m a small town girl who’s had more than my fair share of frog egg encounters and, trust me, they don’t just dissolve as described by the four police officers.

So, what was it? Due to lack of any physical evidence whatsoever, we’ll probably never know. Either way, the real events from 1950 certainly inspired one of the greatest B-movies of all time and it’s one I would strongly recommend you see if you haven’t already.

For more in-depth information and speculation on these mysterious globs, check out Rob Morphy’s 2011 article “Beware The Blob” at Mysterious Universe.

UrbEx & The Dawning of Dark Hollow Road – Part 1.

The popularity of UrbEx (aka Urban Exploration) doesn’t really surprise me. What does surprise me is how so many people seem to think it’s a new phenomenon. It’s more visible now thanks to such YouTube channels as Baltimore, Maryland-based Dan Bell’s FILM IT and the European (Dutch, I believe) BROTHERS OF DECAY, but it’s been around for generations.

Also known as Urban Spelunking (spelunking being ‘the hobby or practice of exploring caves’) UrbEx takes its practitioners into the realms of man-made structures, most commonly empty and abandoned homes, mansions, hospitals, factories, and the like. No Trespassing signs don’t seem to mean much to the dedicated UrbEx-er. In fact, to some that’s as good as a welcome mat, even if one has to enter these sometimes dangerous structures at night under the cloak of darkness.

In one of the earliest memories I have as an UrbEx-er, I couldn’t have been any older than ten or eleven and very much the tomboy. Across the road from the house I grew up in was a mysterious barn-like structure.

This wooden, red building had three large garage-type doors on the front, no windows on the ends and only one at the back. This single window was usually made inaccessible by stacks of rough-cut timbers. It was owned by the lumber mill and fine furniture factory at the end of the street, appropriately named Mill Street.  You can find some awesome pictures of what is left of this mill at The Explorographer’s SLEEPY HOLLOW SAW MILL post. 

 

HowlandsMill_6_2016

Not much remains of the mill anymore.

Much to my parents and grandparents horror, we played a lot across the street during the weekends when the mill was closed. We climbed on, raced between, and flirted with gravity and the possibilities of one of those tons-heavy twenty-foot long timbers shifting and crushing us to death on a regular basis. The cut wood was bundled and placed in stacks that swayed precariously as we climbed to the tops and jumped from one to another, like Superman leaping across buildings in a single bound. We scrambled and clawed our way to the top of the sawdust pile made by the enormous saws that did the initial bark removal outside, and rolled down them, sometimes into a puddle of mud. It wasn’t only dangerous play, it was messy.

 

But, what we really needed to know was, what was in that red building and how could we get in to find out?

During one fateful summer afternoon, the opportunity presented itself. During a game of hide and seek, someone discovered the stacked wood was at such a height and distance as to provide the thin and nimble kids that we were, easy access to the lone window some ten feet up. A sheet of outward-swinging hinged plywood covered it and we could see the simplest of hook and eye latches holding it loosely in place. That lock and the inch-wide gap it displayed was no match for a sturdy stick. The hook was quickly popped from the eye and the covering opened wide.

Behind it we were met with a multi-paned glass window and another simple hook and eye latch. In this case the window swung open inward at the bottom and the latch holding it shut was right there, unobstructed from our eager fingers.  It was freed, offering us a two foot wide gap into the building. One of our hooligan numbers peered in, ooohed, and slithered in through the gap.

What wonders awaited us? What was so valuable to the lumber mill that they kept it under lock and key in an almost windowless building? The rest of us quickly wiggled our way in one at a time, ready to be amazed!

As we passed through the window, each of us rolled onto a very smooth, hard, light brown surface. Cardboard. Huge sheets of cardboard, strapped together in giant bundles ready for the forklift operator to come along and haul a stack back to the factory to box up fully-assembled hardwood tables, chairs, dressers or cabinets. Box storage. That’s all it was, boring, folded up boxes! What a rip-off. We’d endangered life and limb to find a bunch of stupid, flattened out cardboard boxes!

We spent a few minutes atop the stack we’d entered on and talked. I’m sure pondering the thrill of it all, but quickly grew bored, as the minds and bodies of restless ten and eleven-year-olds will do. We crawled out the way we came in, slipping the hook and eye lock of the glass window back into place and closing the plywood shutter as best we could before climbing down to the safety of ground level – an adventure had, a mystery solved.

For me this was the dawning of a new fascination. This interest would wax and wane over the years and would eventually lead to the writing of my Psychological Horror novel, “Dark Hollow Road”. You see, there’s a house on Dark Hollow Road that by all appearances is unoccupied. Even the locals say the last person to live there was back in the late 1970s. The doors are all locked. The windows on the first floor are locked and covered from the inside. And, to date, three children have gone missing within close proximity to the place.

Stay tuned for further posts about my UrbEx adventures and how those experiences led to the creation of “Dark Hollow Road” – quite possibly the darkest and most disturbing story I’ve ever written. Coming your way in the Spring of 2018.

The Horrors That Grew Me – Witchcraft

It’s no secret. I’m fascinated by witchy things and things associated with witchcraft. This does not mean I am one. I have a huge interest in vampires, too. Their lore and mythology, the novels, the movies, the whole nine yards, (Except for Twilight. I hate Twilight. Sorry. Deal with it.) all enthrall me. This does not mean I am one or believe I am one.

As with so many other horrors that grew me, I wasn’t entirely clear on when this interest first blossomed until recently. It has simply always been. But, the more I’ve thought about it for the writing of this post, the more I’ve come to understand about its origins. There’s a bit of interest in Spiritualism that I can easily trace to a particular relative on one side of the family who would later not only purchase my first Ouija board for me as a birthday gift (my 13th birthday, btw) but would also teach me how to use it – much to the rolling of her husband’s eyes. Another close relation on the other side of the family was really into the meaning of dreams and astrology.

As I was exposed to dream interpretation from my earliest days, let’s start with Ballantyne and Coeli’s Your Dreams And Your Horoscope : 25,000 Interpretations of the Messages Received in Sleep and the Predictions of the Stars, Planets, and other Heavenly Bodies, a copy of which was given to my great grandfather for Christmas in 1943. This same book now holds an honored place in my private research library. From Abacus to Zoo, we are presented with dream interpretations of all kinds in the first 564 pages of this yellow-paged tome. This is followed by finding numbers associated with dreams based on numerology. On page 574 we start our lessons in astrology, which continue for another 300+ pages. Hm. It all seems rather witchy to me.

 

Zolar

The Mysterious, Zolar?

This book would lead me to buy a dream book of my own, Zolar’s Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Dreams along with his Compendium of Occult Theories and Practices. This Zolar fellow has thirty books listed on Goodreads, but there’s an overwhelming lack of any actual information on who Zolar really was (or is). Other than a picture I found of a bearded man wearing a tweed suit with matching hat and smoking a Sherlock Holmes-style pipe, I haven’t found a thing. I strongly suspect that he’s the Simon and Schuster equivalent of General Mills’ Betty Crocker.

 

Once the research fuse on this particular study was ignited, things really got interesting. I quickly found myself diving into the non-fiction book Witchcraft At Salem by Chadwick Hansen and The Complete Book Of Magic and Witchcraft by Kathryn Paulsen. Much like the vampire library, the library of books on witches and witchcraft grew.

For my high school senior paper I wrote about the causes of the Salem witch trials and as part of my research was granted access to Cornell University’s massive Witchcraft Collection at the age of seventeen. I was taken to a small study room that contained nothing but four large tables with two chairs each, and several surveillance cameras. I was permitted to take in a pencil and a notebook. That’s it. Having looked at the card catalogue prior to my admission, I had a list of documents and books I was interested in seeing. These were brought to me and for the next few hours I gathered as much information as I could that pertained to my topic. I was in Heaven – and some would say probably working my soul’s way to Hell. Little did I know at the time, but I was also gazing at documents that pertained to my own family lineage.

For a good twenty-five to thirty years or so, I was very involved in all manner of occult dabbling. I taught myself to read the Tarot and other methods of scrying. The use of the Ouija board was common practice. I gathered stones and crystals. I burnt cedar and sage. I met and hung out with a lot of pagans whose practices ranged from Druid to Wicca and participated in numerous drum circles. It was fun and I learned a lot spiritually about myself.  It’s been a solid ten years since I’ve done any of that and a good five since I’ve spoken to anyone from those days.  My interest is still there, but it’s really just an interest now, not a practice. As I said, it was educational and it helped me find a pretty content zone when it comes to all this spiritual, in the religious sense of the word.

A few years prior to my maternal grandmother’s passing, she gave me a book she highly prized. It was THE family genealogy book, researched and written by her cousin. When she gave it to me she said, “You’re the only one who really seems to care about this so I wanted to make sure you got this.”  It would not be until 2009 that I would find a passage in this book that thrilled me beyond words, despite the sad injustice of it all.

In the Preston line of family is this entry:  Thomas Preston, born abt 1642, per his deposition 30 Jan 1690, stating he was then 48 years old. He m’d in Salem Village, Mass in 15 April 1669, Rebecca Nurse, d/o Frances & Rebecca (Towne) Nurse.  Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was born 16 Feb 1621 & was executed as a witch 19 July 1692.

Thomas Preston’s brother Roger was my 7x great grandfather, making Rebecca (Towne) Nurse my 8x great aunt. It’s a thin, frail line of descent, I grant you, but I’ll take it. Of course, the 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse accused and hung as a witch was no such thing. In a similar vein, my Godfather is descended from Judge William Stoughton – also of Salem fame – and his wife, my Godmother, is also descended from an accused Salem innocent.

Last but not least, all this love of genealogy research led me to work on a lineage for a friend – just for fun. Through that I discovered the Connecticut Witch Trials that ran from 1647 to 1697, before, during, and after Salem. No fewer than thirty-four men and women were formally charged with witchcraft. Eleven were hanged. And from these people grew my idea of the Barnesville witches that you’ll find in my Barnesville Chronicle series.

RTNurse_woodcuthomestead

So, there you have it – my love and fascination with witches, the good ones, the bad ones, the factual ones, the fictitious one, and the ones that weren’t really witches at all, but innocent victims of their culture and circumstance. The apex of this horror that grew me will be the day I walk into the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse that still stands today in Danvers, Massachusetts (the original Salem Village) as a museum and feel some strange, magical, and witchy sense of coming home.

The Music of the Muse

Back when I was a kid, all the really cool movies had accompanying soundtracks. I was in love with these things. There was a section of my record collection devoted to Jesus Christ Superstar, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Dunwich Horror, The Hunger, and The Shining, just to name a few. With the black light on and the incense smoke swirling in the room, I listened to these just as much as I did all that screaming 80s hair band music and loved them just as much, if not more, because of the moods they would create. I can’t help but wonder if my parents thought maybe I was conjuring up old Beelzebub when some of these albums were playing … talk about your Devil Music!

While I was writing my first novel, an epic fantasy adventure called “The Pride”, I listened to a lot of Enya. She was big back in the 1990s. I even made a soundtrack for the novel, basing each selection on a certain scene and putting them in chronological order on the cassette tape. Good times.

I didn’t write much of anything but short stories and poetry in the ten years following “The Pride”. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of other author’s being asked if music plays a role in their writing. Most seemed to choose music of a similar genre to whatever they were writing in, to set a certain mood, I guess. The horror writers leaned towards dark, gothic stuff and metal. Romance writers seemed to linger in the Classical section. You get the idea.

For a long time, I needed near total silence in order to focus on my writing. Anything with words in it was completely distracting. I’d sing along instead of working. For a while, I’d use Mozart or Chopin for that simple reason, no singing! And then, for no recallable reason whatsoever, I had my headphones on listening to the Blues as I wrote. And I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. My fingers danced over the keyboard. One scene after another rolled out of me in thousands upon thousands of words. I was thrilled! What had I just discovered? Was this a fluke or had I stumbled upon my Muse’s music? The Blues seems a very odd choice to write Horror to.

In the years since this revelation, the effect has remained the same. BB King, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Stevie Ray Vaughn along with so many others would rock and croon their way into my writer’s brain, waking up that little Muse and sending her into action. It’s almost a fool proof way of smashing writer’s block. And if I can’t get any writing done even then, I know it’s time to save, close, and go do something else for a while, cuz if it isn’t happened then, it ain’t gonna happen.

How about you? Is there certain music that helps you progress with your chosen craft, be it writing, painting, scrap booking, or even housework? What kind of music inspires you and your Muse into motion?