Exorcists Take Over

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I always wanted to read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I wanted to know how scenes from the movie looked in written word. How did he use vocabulary to express the sights and sounds and smells? When I found an audio version, read by the author himself no less, I snatched it!

I will tell you that there is no other way to delve into a book about demon possession other than with an audio version. I got chills from the places of the text where the demon speaks. At one or two points I felt like I should pull my earbuds out and douse them in holy water! Weirdly, this book became my soundtrack as I trained for a 10K and anticipating the next installment served as wonderful motivation to get that next workout in.

As I was deep in the midst of my unique routine, I heard that FOX was making a television series based on The Exorcist. I was very curious to find out how the writers of the television series would develop their storylines. On the premier evening, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch. My men were out at an overnight campout, and I was alone with my girls. It might sound weird, but it was the first time I found myself without my spouse overnight since my home security system, a large German Shepherd named Carmen, passed away. What if I freaked myself out and in turn scared my girls? As is true most times, my need to know won out.

I tucked them into the family room with a Disney movie and crept up the stairs to my room. I wanted to turn the volume low on the TV, I didn’t want them to overhear it, but it was stormy out, and the wind was howling through the eaves of the house. I adjusted the volume so I could hear and hoped the sound wouldn’t carry over the happy sounds of Disney.

The opening scenes with the lone priest walking through a ghetto, dark things scurrying in the shadows, and screams in the night had me expecting to go through the house turning on all the lights. Just when I thought I was going to be fine, the final scenes from the attic rolled across the screen. It takes a lot to scare me, and I was not disappointed!

It would have been easy for this show to be a rip-off of the movie, but it forged its own path into terror. As the story went on it got deeper, twistier, and scarier. The way the story intertwined with Blatty’s original tale was brilliant

Towards the end of the season, Ben Daniel’s character, Father Marcus, said the most profound line to ever be uttered on television, IMHO. Satan’s allies were torturing him, and all he had to do to make it stop was join them. He refused. The head baddy expressed his disbelief that Father Marcus would rather die for the Church that had excommunicated him than be a part of the evil that would welcome him. To this Marcus replied, “I’m not dying for the bloody Church, I’m dying for Him.”

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There is something terribly appealing about a character who reveals that his principles are deeper than you thought. He walks the talk to the bitter end, a man of integrity who knows where his true devotion lies.

These tales intrigue me, and maybe many of you, because they are scary to be sure, but deeper. Not just shock and jumps. They explore the ancient human question of what faith is and how hard it can be to hang on to that faith. It challenges us to ponder what exactly is it that we have faith in? And why. It begs the question, what is the purpose of suffering? They show us the power of mercy, sacrifice, and service to others. Most importantly, they tell us that we are not powerless against evil. Contact with evil will change us, but we can fight back. There is hope that we can overcome it.

William Peter Blatty passed away on January 12, 2016. I’m glad I got to hear his classic novel read with his intended character inflections and tone. It was fantastic. I let his word usage wash over my brain, I hope something stuck!

bookcoverexorcismJust when I was about to move on from this theme of possession that organically emerged in my life, my library app told me that a new addition to the collection might interest me. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. I loved HorrStor by this same author, so of course, I borrowed it! Not as chilling as the tales above but still good. I was a teen in the early 80’s like the characters, and it brought back some delicious (can you say TCBY) and cringe-worthy memories. It’s a coming of age story with the added challenge of a terrifying chain of demon-inspired chaos. Check it out!

I’m still open to this theme of possession! I’d like to read some Indie authors on the subject. I’m taking suggestions! I just watched Hostage to the Devil, a documentary about real-life exorcist Father Malachi Martin, and so now I think I’ll have to read his book by the same title.

What have I learned from all this? Well, if you happen to see someone you love speaking with an imaginary friend, acting strangely, and speaking in strange voices…you might need a Father Marcus. Or maybe…just maybe…they are a writer!

Until next time Never Turn Off the Lights!

Did the Supernatural Affect History?

The first week of July is when I get to celebrate two holidays, Canada Day and America’s Independence Day, the 4th of July! Why both? I’m an America, who was expatriated to Canada during my childhood and then repatriated during my teen years. I have family and friends in both places, so I celebrate the 1st and the 4th!

The U.S. and Canada are pretty good buddies, and some Americans are eyeing it as a good place to resettle these days, but did you know that America and Canada once went to war? Well, to be accurate, it was war with Great Britain, but Canadian and Native-American troops participated with the British effort against the United States for 32 months.

Catalysts of the War of 1812 were British attempts to limit U.S. trade, the Royal Navy’s impressment (forcibly taking American seaman into their naval service) of sailors, and America’s growing desire to expand her territory to the north. In fact, at the very beginning of the war, America launched a failed attempt to invade Canada! Can you imagine star-spangled maple leaves?

What does that have to do with the usual weird things and things that go bump in the night on this blog, you ask? I’m getting there.

Perhaps one of the most shocking incidents of this war came in August of 1814. A British force led by Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn overtook and occupied Washington, D.C. It is the only time in history that the U.S. Captial has been occupied by a foreign military. They burned most of the city, including the White House and other government sites. A dark day for Americans, but before you take up pitchforks and head north, understand that the attack was spurred in part as retaliation for the American destruction of Port of Dover in Ontario, Canada. Tit-for-Tat, the usual business of war, but I digress.

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Rear Admiral George Cockburn. Behind him is the US Treasury and Capital Building in flames.

Here, my friends is where things get juicy.

Perhaps a coincidence, or supernatural divine intervention, the occupation would only last 26 hours.

While the invading troops were busy setting fires, the skies began to turn dangerous. The

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Tornado*

gathering storm clouds blotted out the sun plunging the city into darkness. The blackened sky came alive with lightning and sheets of rain began to fall. The howling winds joined forces in a swirling tornado that ripped through the center of the town headed directly for the British on Capitol Hill. The tempest picked up cannons, tore buildings apart, and tossed trees aside like toothpicks. The torrential rains continued for two hours, dousing all the fires. Several British troops were killed by flying debris or crushed by toppling buildings. In the wake of the storm, the British withdrew from the city and returned to their ships that had also been ravaged by the storm.

Many American commentators at the time saw it as divine intervention and favor for the U.S. They invoked stories from the Bible for comparison, such as in the book of Joshua. God hurls hailstones at Isreal’s enemies during a battle, killing many. The British would disagree with that assessment. As reported in the meteorological book Washington Weather:

As the British troops were preparing to leave, a conversation was noted between the British Admiral and a Washington lady regarding the storm: The admiral exclaimed, “Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?” The lady answered, “No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city.” The admiral replied, “Not so, Madam. It is rather to aid your enemies in the destruction of your city.”**

Tornadoes are a rare occurrence in Washington, D.C. Since the storm of 1814, that spawned three tornadoes, I can find data on only seven other reports. Do the math, that’s a total of eight tornadoes in the past 200 years or so!

Coincidence? Proof that God loves the U.S.? A show of favor for the British? Meddling from something/someone else? Maybe God just hates to see his kids fighting, and he sent everyone to their room. You will have to come to your own conclusions. This may not be as weird as some of the stuff I write about here, but any way you slice it, it was a very strange occurrence.

For me, it’s a good reminder that there are forces that all mankind is subject to. Powerful militaries or not.

Happy Canada Day! God Save the Queen! God Bless the U.S.A., and may we always remain friends.

Happy 4th of July everybody.

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* Photo by Justin1569 at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5943918

**“NMAH | The War of 1812.” Accessed July 3, 2016. http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-war-of-1812.aspx.

More Than Just Mr. Spock

Today we saw the passing of a legend. Leonard Nimoy passed away earlier this morning in Los Angeles at the age of 83. He is most widely known for his portrayal of the half human-half Vulcan Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series.

I am a proud Trekkie and Mr. Spock was my favorite character, by far. My interest in Science and technology was influenced, in part, by this character. I don’t talk about it very much, but I spent the first several years of my working career as a computer and technology professional. Back in the day I boldly went where few women had gone before. It was the logical choice for me.

Leonard Nimoy further influenced me with In Search Of and later, Ancient Mysteries. In both shows, Mr. Nimoy would direct us through pieces of evidence of strange and mysterious myths, legends, unexplained phenomena, and the like. It was appealing to see experts looking for explanations of the supernatural in the natural. This is the approach to the paranormal I use in my work and my life.

Mr. Nimoy was also a talented writer, director, poet, and photographer. You can go to http://www.leonardnimoyphotography.com to view and purchase his work. You can also go to http://www.shopllap.com/default.asp to purchase merchandise associated with his Mr. Spock character. There will be a special shirt for sale that the proceeds will go to the COPD Foundation.

I am grateful for his contributions to my world. He will be missed, but he lived long and prospered. We should all strive to do the same.Live Long and Prosper

Reading to Improve Writing

I feel a little sorry for my kids. I’m a recovering educator and I know how easy it is over the summer months to forget everything that went in the brain all school year.  So, I have an easy “keep it in there” program going. We have Math Mondays where everybody practices math facts, usually with a card game. Each kid gets a math challenge problem on our refrigerator every week to solve to keep those math juices flowing. We have “read aloud to Mama” while I cook dinner and ask questions for understanding. But their most favorite thing is the timed reading frequency game we play. I time them for one minute on a passage to see how many words they read and we chart it to see improvement over time. There’s more to reading frequency evaluation but for our purposes this is fine.

Reading and understanding what you just read is the most important skill I can try to arm them with, academically. It’s also one of the most important things I do as part of being a writer.

In the day-to-day-work-for-a-living I write businessy stuff. It’s a much different style from the fiction that I enjoy writing. It can be a difficult thing to do the brain switch when going from one to the other. Reading fiction and non-fiction of all types helps me with that a bit (so does good editing and beta readers). It also helps me to evaluate my own writing: what works, what doesn’t, why did this author use the word “totally” twelve times in the same paragraph, that kind of stuff. I read or listen to an audio book every day and have at least two to three books going at any one time.

So far this year (since January) I have read:

  • The Shining, Stephen King (re-read, first time I read it I was 11 years old way back in the 70’s)
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Missing 411: Western United States and Canada, David Paulides
  • Black Magic Rose, Jordan K. Rose
  • Ransom Lake, Brent R. Taylor
  • Looking for Alaska, John Greene
  • Ours, Regina Puckett (short story)
  • Real Vampires, Night Stalkers, and Creatures From the Dark Side, Brad Steiger
  • In the Shadow of the Mountains, M.R. Graham
  • The Body Finder, Kimberly Derting
  • How I Kept My Head When I Lost My Breasts: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Journey, Sandra Fuentes
  • Four to Score, Janet Evanovich (currently)
  • On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King (currently)

Spurned by my recent stay at the Stanley Hotel, I seem to be on a bit of a Stephen King rant right now. Not such a bad thing, in my opinion.

I write almost every day, too. I get up very early, before my little kids get up, to work on my fiction. Some days the words just flow and my fingers fly across the keyboard and other times it is a flurry of fits and starts. I need to get a better habit down and go from almost to every day. When I write every day things just move better.

My little kids (that’s how we refer to the ones still at home with us) love to write as well. Maybe it’s from watching me, I don’t know. One kid writes hilarious comics in the vein of his favorite author, Dav Pilkey. He’s a pretty good artist and has an excellent sense of humor, granted it is mostly potty humor but that’s what he likes! The twins write about mermaid princesses and hippo-unicorns. Of course these are my girls, so the princesses always know karate or can shoot a bow and arrow or know the secrets of picking berries and save the day (my oldest arrests shoplifters and burglars and the like for a living, that’s the kind of girls I raise).

Plumbing Problems by my kid!

Plumbing Problems by my kid!

Reading does improve my writing but I also really enjoy it. It’s relaxing to get lost in another place or character. I hope I’m not just raising comedians and hero-warriors but readers and writers.

What are you currently reading? What was the last book you read? Can’t answer that? UGH! Pick up a book, will ya! I hope my novels will be on your list when they are released into the wild but for now, thanks for reading this…quiz to follow, just kidding.

The Stanley Hotel Does Not Disappoint (chapter one)

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Me, at the fabulous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

It was a bit overcast but warm when we headed for the Stanley Hotel a week ago today. However, I had put my ear muffs and mittens in my purse on the way out the door. When we were about 30 minutes away from Estes Park, Long’s Peak snowy appearance told me I had made a wise decision, you just never know in the Rocky Mountains.

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Driving up through Longmont, CO the still visible scars of last year’s flood were shocking to see. We knew it had been bad but to actually see it drove the point home. It was a sobering moment on an otherwise light-hearted trip.

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View of the Stanley from the highway.

Some people might be shocked to find out that the movie The Shining was not shot at the Stanley Hotel, even though a stay here gave Stephen King the idea for the story. For the movie Stanley Kubrick used the Timberline Lodge in Oregon so this hotel looks nothing like that hotel. It’s clean white exterior and welcoming red roof are clearly visible from most of Estes Park. The mini-series of The Shining was filmed here and some upgrades were made to the interior for that shoot, including painting some of the interior plaster to look like wood.

The first thing your eye is drawn to when you enter the front doors is the split main staircase. Flora and F.O. Stanley’s ghosts have both been reported being seen on this staircase. I thought they had not shown up for our stay but when I started examining my photos closely to write this post I noticed something surprising just to the left of the staircase. Granted it’s in a window so it could be a reflection of some type, but hmmm. As you can see from the next photo looking down the staircase from the first landing there isn’t anything that could really be reflecting from behind me when I took the photo.

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Main staircase of the Stanley Hotel view from the lobby.

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Close up of area in question. ~ Looking down the staircase.

 

 

Blissfully unaware, we headed over to get our film festival passes and schedules first thing and to see if we could get on the Stanley Tour sometime during our stay. This area has a small display of Stephen King’s books and memorabilia from the movie. There was a lot to do and see and we knew we wouldn’t be able to hit everything.

IMG_0077This hotel was first opened in 1909 and the creaking floor boards hidden under impeccable carpet sang out to prove it as we headed for our room. The room we stayed in was clean and cozy with an oversized plush bed. Right below our window was a waterfall and outside patio. We opened the window because it was warm in the room, high mountain hotels rarely have air conditioning. I thought the sound of the falling waterfall would pose a problem when we were ready to sleep but it proved exactly the opposite. However, every time someone walked in the hallway or opened or closed a door our door would bang and rattle. The door didn’t quite sit square in the frame and voices from the hall carried very clearly into our room. I could see how someone could mistake that for ghostly activity.

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Our guest room at the Stanley Hotel

A shot of the waterfall through our window.

A shot of the waterfall through our window.

Hallway outside our room. No, that is not Zak Baggans.

Hallway outside our room. No, that is not Zak Baggans.

I was stretched out on our bed, lying on my side facing the headboard, as my husband and I chatted about what screenings we wanted to see, where we should eat some dinner, and the fact that I wanted to have cocktails in the hotel bar at some point (just like Stephen King did). He was facing the window and reading the schedule to me.

I saw a brief shadow cross the massive headboard from right to left and at first thought someone was walking past our window, then I remembered, we are on the second floor!

To be continued…

Ouija Boards, too Scary or Explained by Science?

I’m contemplating a Ouija board scene in my book. I’m evaluating its relevancy to the plot among other things. To help me make a decision on the scene I did some brainstorming and research. What I discovered was rather interesting.

I had numerous brainstorming questions: What are they? How do they work? Is it spirits or demons? Is it our subconscious  mind?  Or is it simply involuntary minute muscle movements? Do they open a portal to hell or just harmless fun? I probably haven’t touch one myself since my twelfth birthday.

Although the origin of the Ouija board seems shrouded in mystery there is a patent for one in London from 1854 by Adolphus Wagner. In his patent he clearly states that the messages spelled out on the board are accomplished by the unintentional movements of the people using it. In the 1890’s it was sold in America in novelty shops and made by the Kennard Novelty Company. They were able to receive a patent in 1891 because they had proven to the patent office it worked when they were able to get the board to spell out the name of the Chief Patent Officer, which they supposedly did not know before hand.

From there the Ouija board obtained a strong foothold in American culture. Using the board was not a controversial activity early on like it is today. Norman Rockwell portrayed a man and woman using the board on the front page of the Saturday Evening Post in 1920. That’s like seeing someone use a smartphone on the evening news today. Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game in 1967 and sold 2 million boards that year.

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

Perhaps one of the most interesting things to me as a writer are writers who used the board to help guide their writing. Here are just a few that made me go, hmmm.

  • In 1917 Emily  Grant Hutchings published a book called Jap Herron, about a diamond in the rough young man who blossoms under the tutilage of a graceful couple. She claimed the book was dictated to her via the Ouija board by none other than Mark Twain, who died in 1910. Reviews at the time called her claim into question not because she used the board but because it was terribly written. One critic wrote, there was no way Mark Twain would have written such drivel, dead or alive.
  • In 1957 Sylvia Plath wrote Dialogue over a Ouija Board after her experience of a Ouija session. Apparently, she used the board quite a bit and even took some writing direction and advice from the board. It begs the question, did her use of the board have anything to do with the way her life ended?
  • In December of 1972 an Eastern Airlines jet, flight 401, crashed into the Florida Everglades. The crashed was caused by the flight crew’s distraction of a landing gear light not functioning. While their attention was on the light the plane lost altitude and crashed into the swamp. 101 people perished. The ghosts of the 12 flight crew members who died were reported by numerous reliable people to have been seen around the company and on other flights. Salvageable parts from Flight 401 had reportedly been installed in these aircraft. In 1972 John G. Fuller wrote The Ghosts of Flight 401 about the phenomena and used the board and a medium to contact the spirits as he wrote the book.
  • Not exactly a writer but quite surprising, Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, is reported to have used a Ouija board to develop the familiar 12 steps.

The board did not really become controversial in popular culture until after The Exorcist came out in 1977. In case you have been living on a deserted island for many decades, a young girl plays with a  board and begins chatting with an entity. This fun and games end with the girl being possessed by a demon. Not the portrait of a harmless parlor game.

Ouija board advertisement, via Pinterest

Ouija board advertisement, via Pinterest

Even in the camp that believes it is spirit energy moving the planchett there is strife. On one end of the spectrum there are those that believe your intent when using the board dictates the outcome. If you intend to communicate with departed loved ones or good spirits that is all that will come through. For those who think they are an acceptable tool for contacting spirit they stress exercising caution. They say that before you use one say a prayer of protection, know how to close anything you open, smudge the board with sage, and the like.

Way over on the other end are those who say it is definitely spirit communicating through the board but your intent doesn’t make one bit of difference. It can only be demons moving the planchett, impersonating loved ones or good spirits to lead people astray. They point out that scripture forbids believers from participating in communication with the dead. People with this viewpoint would never touch one under any circumstance and suggest we all do the same.

Skeptics and science have a different opinion, not surprisingly, it does not include spirits. It is the live humans using the board. The planchett moves because of something called the ideomotor effect. This term describes the small, automatic muscular movements we all make and are totally unaware of. Experiments have suggested that the planchett movements to spell answers to the questions asked are caused by the ideomotor effect working in conjunction with our own subconscious mind. These two things combine to generate the effect of an outside force moving it. To disprove this notion there have been experiments of people using the board blindfolded to minimize user influence with mixed results.

There is a strange phenomena around the board that shows just how mucky the understanding of the way the board works is. It’s been coined the Zozo phenomena by paranormal investigator Darren Evans. People from all over the world report the board spelling out “I am Zozo”. These encounters are characterized by extremely negative encounters with death threats and blasphemous messages. Believers feel this is a demon or negative entity that attaches to users and affects their life in detrimental ways, proving the boards are dangerous. Listening to their personal stories make for a compelling viewpoint.

Skeptics say it is simply the ideomotor effect and the subconscious that has knowledge of this phenomenon at work. Others say it is the ideomotor effect and the “collective subconscious” that causes the common experience to emerge. Mostly, it is dismissed as internet folklore.

Lunch anyone?

Lunch anyone?

Here’s my own experience.

The year I turned twelve I was living out on an acreage just north of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We lived in a large home which was good because there were seven kids living in the house. We had a walk out basement that had a large open room with a wood fireplace that we called the rec room. Just off this room was my favorite area of the house, the den. It was floor to ceiling book shelves with a heavy desk under the window. I got to commandeer these two areas for my birthday party sleep over.

At some point during the evening we settled down in front of the fire to tell scary stories. I don’t remember exactly how it came about but we pulled out the Ouija board and I suggested we go under the desk in the den where it was really dark.

We huddled under the desk and sat with the board balanced on our legs. Not everyone could fit so some of the girls sat on the floor as close as they could. The only light source was the slowly dying fire in the other room. We started asking questions and the room was very quiet as we were all very intent on what we were doing. Not much was happening.

I finally said in my most dramatic voice: If there are any spirits in the room, give us a sign. At that exact moment there were three very loud and slow knocks on the window above us. We shrieked and bolted up the stairs in a jumble of legs and arms like the devil himself was chasing us.

By the time we reached the kitchen we were laughing. Of course, it was the older kids heading into town for Saturday night. They must have seen us get the Ouija board and waited around to scare us. When my aunt heard the ruckus she came in and we explained what happened. She didn’t laugh. She explained that the older kids had left for a movie in town over an hour ago. Needless to say we slept upstairs in the living room that night.

I don’t know how to explain that using the ideomotor effect, unless someone’s  subconscious was able to tap the window.

I still haven’t decided whether or not to use the scene in this particular book. Feel free to share your experiences, they might just make me lean one way or the other.

For now, never turn off the lights, especially if you’ve been messing with one of these and somebody or something or (holy crap) Zozo knocks on your window.

True Urban Legends

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Urban legends are one of my favorite things; passed on from person to person with just a bit of “well maybe that could happen” to make it interesting. On doing research for some writing, I discovered that some urban legends are based in truth. Doesn’t that make them even more disturbing? I thought so. Here are few of my favorites to make you laugh, paranoid, freaked out, and just plain unsettled.

Tainted food urban legends abound, from bodily fluids in your fast food to spider eggs in your bubble gum. While some of those are plausible (maybe even likely and true!) I ran into one regarding my favorite food.

I love coffee. I make no apologies for my unabashed love of the stuff. When on a writing binge I’ve been known to drink a pot with maybe a Starbucks thrown in for good luck. At work the most annoying thing ever was to find the coffee pot empty and have to wait for a pot. Well, after I found this story I’m happy to make my own coffee and I’m very glad I work from home now.

badcoffeeIn 1994 workers at Wire Rope in Missouri knew their morning joe just didn’t taste right. These sleuthing workers set up a camera and discovered a fellow employ, Milton Ross, relieving himself right into the coffee pot. The information I found said the video made it to the news but I haven’t been able to locate it. Ross said his actions were due to an ongoing feud with a coworker. He was charged with assault and sentenced to 100 hours of community service cleaning public restrooms. Yes, very glad I work from home.

Ah, revenge. I used to have a scorched earth policy when it came to revenge but I have mellowed a bit with age. The longer I live the more I see that “what goes around comes around” is a true statement. It may take a long time for it to get back around but it always does. And when it does, it’s extra special when the fates allow you to watch, particularly if the baddies sin against innocents. There are many urban legends about getting yours but this one is true.

In 1982 two guys, David Grundman and James Joseph Suchochi, decided to do a little target shooting at saguaro. In case you don’t know, saguaros are tall cactus which grow in Arizona, California, and Mexico. They can live for an upwards of 300 years, get as tall as 60 feet, and weigh up to 8 TONS. For this excursion, Grundman picked a 100 year old specimen that stood about 26 feet tall. His crack shooting severed a 4 foot arm from the cactus which promptly fell and crushed him to death. My dad always told me to respect nature because it doesn’t respect you, it can kill you if you are reckless or disrespectful. Good advice, Pop.

Saguaro Cacti Specimen

Saguaro Cacti Specimen

Dumb criminal stories are a favorite around here. But a story about a criminal that ends with the criminal learning a lesson is truly treasured. I’ve heard urban legends about criminals getting stuck in the chimney (true, it turns out) or calling 911 on themselves (also true) but this one has a poetic justice that appealed to me.

Darker_nights_are_here_–_burglary_advice_(8124500096)In New Zealand, a young man illegally entered what he thought was a vacant home to burglarize it. He ran screaming after bumping into a hanging corpse in the darkened home. To his credit he phoned the police to report the body and turn himself in. It was determined that the person had hanged themselves a day or so before. Inspector Greg Nicholls is quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying “I’m hopeful that this might be a career-changing moment for that burglar.” You think?

Halloween has become one of the highest grossing holidays in America. Americans spent nearly $7 billion last year on costumes, decorations, and candy. Halloween attractions, such as haunted mazes or haunted houses can earn an upwards of $3 million in just a little over a month. I’ve seen some really well done holiday displays in front yards. Some I had to take a second look at they seem so real. I thought that’s what I would find behind the urban legend of people mistaking a real corpse for décor but I was wrong.

In 1990 as part of a haunted hayride attraction, a young man was supposed to pretend to be hung on a gallows set. He had successfully pulled it off for several nights but on this night something went terribly wrong and he accidently hung himself. The hayride driver became concerned when the boy didn’t finish his spoken lines as the wagon came by. There have actually been several tragic reports of accidental hanging during Halloween pranks.

This one is little more macabre and a twist on the first story. A few days before Halloween of 2005, a Delaware woman committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree near a busy road and in sight of many homes. She was first spotted around 7:30 that morning but people thought it was part of a Halloween prank. She stayed there until the police were notified at 11 am being observed by numerous passers-by. It’s quite sad and astonishing that it took that long for anyone to report it. Around here the HOA police would have been all over it in about 10 seconds, not that I’ve been in trouble for over the top Halloween displays or anything.

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Hanging Tree by Joy Yehle

That’s just a small sampling of true urban legends that I found. So the next time someone starts a story with “my cousin’s-best friend’s-uncle’s-sister” keep these in mind. Lastly, never turn off the lights because that roommate in the dark…well she may not be what you think she is…alive, that is! Tell me if you know what urban legend that is and I will be very impressed!