Spooky Inspiration In New Orleans…part 1

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My husband and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary this year and decided to take a rare trip by ourselves. You see we have/are raising five kids and haven’t gotten away by ourselves for more than a night in over 8 years! We decided to go somewhere we had never been before, New Orleans! It seemed like an interesting place to explore and maybe I could get my spooky creative juices flowing.

In part one of this two-part blog series, I’ll share some of my overall impressions of the city to warm you up for the spookier entry of part two!

You never know what to expect when going someplace you’ve never been. If our hotel was any indication of what the rest of our experience was going to be like, we were in for a good time! The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel is classic elegance and charm. From the people to our suite, to the hotel bars, to the food, to the rooftop pool and bar, every little thing was spectacular.

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We got a full view of some of the damage left behind by Katrina from our room. It is a shocking contrast between the scene from the window and the elegance of the sitting room of our suite, most notable was the back side of Charity Hospital.

Founded in 1736, The Charity Hospital for the Poor is the second oldest public hospital in the US. The now abandoned building, built in 1939, was at the time the second biggest hospital in the US and was primarily for the poor and needy.

The story of how the rising flood waters in the wake of the winds and rain from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 trapped 360 patients and 1200 staff inside the large art deco style building for five days is both inspiring and heart-wrenching (click here for more). It was difficult to imagine the situation as it unfolded from here in the Rocky Mountains, not so much looking at it with my own eyes. It would be no wonder if lost spirits roam the empty hallways. We didn’t explore it any further as it felt that would be somehow disrespectful to the heroism of the doctors and nurses and the anguish of patients and their families.

As you can see by the nearby cranes and construction, the city is thriving and plans for redeveloping the old hospital site are being explored.

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To celebrate our anniversary (the whole reason for this trip) we took a River Boat Cruise down the Mississippi on the Creole Queen. It was pretty incredible. I have never been on a big boat like that or seen the Mississippi River! Here in Colorado most of our rivers have rapids, but not this one! It was hotter than Hades, but the breeze off the river was wonderful. The food was delicious, and the sunset was quite romantic!

 

 

As far as spooky juices flowing. The river served up some various sights that may work their way into a storyline or two.

 

The sugar factory – loading sugar and monsters at the pier! It’s how the otherworldly creatures traverse the Earth, moving to always more fertile hunting grounds. Perhaps the zombies will hold up here until the time of the apocalypse begins. Look at the pilings under the pier, beings of the night slumber under there in the daylight, waiting for darkness to fall. The murky water – perfect for underwater creatures, aliens, or mutant alligators to hide out, seeking their next meal from unsuspecting boaters gone overboard. Not to mention, it could not be better for covering bodies. Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, standing guard during the day, but even it is overtaken by the darkness.

Oh, pardon me! I got lost there for a moment! Writers are never completely on vacation. New Orleans was a terrific choice for creative fodder, but more on that later.

We took some time to wander around the Garden District and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. If I ever strike it rich, I’m buying here! I fell in love with the distinctive New Orleans architecture. It was peaceful, dynamic, beautiful, and mysterious all at once. It wasn’t hard to imagine many of the homes being sanctuaries for sophisticated vampires!

Coming up in part two: cities of the dead, haunted places, strange sightings, and of course…bourbon street.

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Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

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Jeannie Wycherley’s Beyond the Veil, Excuse Me While I Fangirl

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Crone BragI have a very long and ever-growing “To Be Read List”. Many months ago I added a book called Crone by Jeannie Wycherley after she graciously agreed to be spotlighted on this blog for Women in Horror Month, read that post here.  I was just about to read Crone when I saw on FaceBook that Jeannie was releasing a new book. With an interesting premise and amazing cover, my attention was hooked, and I began reading the second it hit my iPad.

 

BTV ebook

I am now a devoted Jeannie Wycherley fan. I tossed my current Stephen King read on the floor of my office and read Beyond the Veil every chance I got. My family had to eat pizza and hot dogs for a couple nights because I Could. Not. Stop. Reading. And I’m not even the least bit sorry.

An unlikely trio, a cop, a near-death experiencer, and a physic girl who lives in a cemetery are thrown together in the midst of a horrible crime. United in grief and horror they must face a terrifying soul warrior who will stop at nothing to collect a wayward soul, even murder! The creep factor is a solid ten, the characters (I adored them!) are a 10, the plot with eerie twists is a definite 10!

This book does everything right. From deep, believable characters to story pacing, to spinetingling suspense, and outright terror!

If you like spooky, suspenseful, mysterious tales with characters that you will be immediately invested in, this is the ticket for you!

Jeannie stopped by to answer some of my burning questions. Excuse me if I squeal in delight.

I have been stalking…er…I mean following you on social media for some time now. So, I hope this isn’t creepy, but can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m a Brit living on the coast in East Devon in the south west of the UK. Previously I worked in education, and I have a PhD in modern and contemporary history. I’m married with three dogs, love cop shows and spy movies (James Bond, Bourne and Mission Impossible) and popular sci-fi (Star Wars and Star Trek). I enjoy cooking and make a lot of one-pot meals (curry, chili, soups, etc.). I have an obsession with the forest and love British wildlife.

What led you to become a writer?

I always wanted to write, but somewhere along the line I thought that being a grown up meant holding down a soul-destroying and energy sapping career. I was in a creative wasteland, and after some counselling realised I needed art in my life more than I had supposed. I had some time off sick over the summer of 2012 and enrolled in a writing bootcamp with The Writer’s Playground. It was fantastic and started a habit of writing every day.

The things I wrote were pretty bad in the beginning, but the feeling of exploring the world using words totally fulfilled me. I kept at it and when I was offered redundancy I accepted– mainly so I could spend more time with my dog! I didn’t have much luck finding alternative work I wanted to do, so I began copywriting. I wrote for clients in the morning and myself in the afternoon, and that’s how it all started!

I had a long apprenticeship – writing constantly – and had numerous short stories accepted here and there, before embarking on novel writing. I queried a few agents for Crone, but I’m ridiculously impatient and the process is so slow, I opted to self-publish.

One of the reasons I choose self-publishing as well. I read across genres and was curious what genre or genres you write in. 

Horror and dark fantasy is where my heart lies. I love the weird, and I totally relish venturing into shadowy places – both within the mind, and in a given locality or environment. I have also written some erotica and a little erotic horror (as Betty Gabriel), and have ventured into dystopia (which I love). I also wrote a love story earlier this year. It’s a great story, but I doubt I’ll write many more of those.

I don’t want to be pigeon holed and I see myself as a story teller, but I do appreciate people who read my work may get a little confused if I genre hop too much.

What is it about those genres that intrigue you most?

There is so much about the world that is scary, and so many infinite scenarios to battle the monsters that lurk within us and around us. Plus I really love to put female characters into dicey situations and see how they react. Women are so much stronger than horror tropes (both literary and film) would have us believe. I want to work with strong women characters and find something unique that readers haven’t come across before.

I absolutely loved Beyond the Veil. It is such a unique premise with amazing characters. Where did you get the idea for the story and the characters?

Beyond the Veil grew from a sad situation. A wonderful friend of mine passed away far too young after a brave battle with cancer, and her husband made the announcement by telling us she had ‘stepped beyond the veil’.

That expression wouldn’t let me go, and I explored it for a while. I had a wonderful image in my head of a veil curtain, and I wondered what would happen if someone attempted to step back through. But also, is there just one door to the beyond? Doesn’t it get crowded? What happens if there is a mix-up? Is there anyone controlling who goes through? I did some free writing around that (some of which ends up in the prologue), and the plot came to me quite quickly. Originally I envisaged a novella, then maybe 60,000 words, but the story took over and I ended up with a full-length novel.

The characters were interesting to me too. Originally, while plotting, I had Heidi as my main character, but the problem was her injuries (terrorist attack) meant she needed to be incredibly vulnerable. I couldn’t make her strong enough to carry the story and keep the essence of who she was and what made her tick.

I played with a female detective instead but the plot didn’t work. Also the Dan character was a young woman originally, but when I started exploring the relationships I knew I needed Adam Chapple as my detective, and to explore the father-son dynamic. I wanted some real multi-faceted and dynamic characteristics of them as individuals and within their relationship. Adam has a wonderful nurturing side that is real – no toxic masculinity here! Adam is a red-headed whisky drinking, running detective and is based on my brother!

So that brings me to Cassia Veysie. Wow. Where did she come from? I have found on several occasions that I’m writing away happily – sticking to my plot sheet – and a character pokes their head up, waves, and says, “Your story needs me!” It happened with Mr. Kephisto in Crone, a character by the name of Phineas in the forthcoming The Municipality of Lost Souls, and of course here we have Cassia in Beyond the Veil.

She totally steals the show. She was the strong and weird character I needed to balance out Adam’s rational common sense approach to the world. She’s also flawed in so many ways, over confident at the beginning, reduced to a bit of a mess after she bungles the séance. Over the course of the novel her mask breaks down, metaphorically and figuratively, as we see her losing the dramatic goth make-up and stepping into her powers.

I don’t know whether there will be a follow-up to Beyond the Veil, but certainly Cassia, Adam and Polly – another character I loved (I modelled her on the actress Gwendoline Christie who is my girl crush) may find themselves resurrected because I feel like there’s more to do with them.

I am going to hope for a follow-up. I agree with you, I ended the book feeling like there was more of the character’s stories to be told.

Past me pestering you for a follow-up (please don’t block me on FaceBook LOL) what’s next for you?

A slightly mixed bag. I spent a few months experimenting earlier this year. I wrote a loveWW1 promo story (Keepers of the Flame) and I wrote a cozy witch mystery. My editor loves the cosy so much that she’s persuaded me to write a series. The first in the series is The Wonkiest Witch and will be out in October (pre-order up soon). I am plotting the second, The Ghosts of Wonky Inn, and will write that in September.

My next dark novel is The Municipality of Lost Souls, slated to go to the editor on September 1st for an October release, HOWEVER I want to make sure it’s perfect so may delay that release. It has a complicated ensemble cast so I need to make sure it works. I don’t want my readers to get confused – it makes sense to me, but then it would, wouldn’t it? Ha!

The Municipality of Lost Souls is a fantastic story – my favourite so far. It’s a kind of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn meets TV’s The Walking Dead but with ghosts instead of zombies (of course – because I love ghost stories). It is a bit of an homage to Charles Dickens (my literature hero) and it is set on the rocky coast of Durscombe (the same as Beyond the Veil) but in the autumn/winter of 1861 rather than now (I knew my background in history would come in useful one day LOL). We get to meet Cassia’s foremothers.

It’s a story about how social cohesion can rapidly break down when we look the other way and follows the fortunes of three ‘witchy’ cousins, Agatha Wick, Sally Parrett and the inimitable Amelia Fliss.

It’s such fun! In a scary Mary kind of way, of course.

Those sound amazing! See, now I’ll be too busy reading these to pester you too much for a follow-up to Beyond the Veil! 

Being a horror author, I keep a running tally of things that scare people, so I have ideas on how to spook readers. What kinds of things scare you?

Politics. Brexit anyone? What a mess.

Ugh. It seems like a global time of political dumpster fires.

Heights! I freak out just climbing the stairs LOL. The first novel I wrote explored the whole height fear thing I have. I haven’t redrafted it yet, because it is a nasty piece, shocking in parts, but at some stage I will do some serious work on it, and publish it. It needs an audience.

Crowds and noise. I’m very introverted and get tired and stressed in social situations rather too quickly. I’m happiest in my study with only a snoring dog or two for company. My idea of hell is doing a presentation or a book signing. Happy to leave that to other authors. I know it’s not a particularly great idea to self-publish and hide your light under a bushel but I prefer to let my writing do the talking.

I hear you. I’m ridiculously shy. Doing all that mingling with folks is on my list of things I’m scared of, too!

Jeannie, I adore your writing and will try to wait patiently for anything and everything you write. Crone is my now current read, Stephen King will just have to wait. Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

Stalk me!

http://author.to/JeannieWycherley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeanniewycherley/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady/

I will stalk away and if you are a fan of strong female personas, interesting characters, dark stories, and other assorted deliciousness you should stalk her too!

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

 

Thanksgiving Flash Fiction: Turkey is Served

 

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The new baby.

I’m calling the following Thanksgiving story flash fiction in that it is well under 1,000 words. A quick and hopefully entertaining tale I jotted down at my kitchen table at 5 am this morning. Such is life when you have a new baby that needs to go out to potty every hour!

 

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Turkey is Served

“What a time for Ron to get called out of town on a trip,” my brother-in-law, Rick, said.

I was putting the finishing touches on the sweet potato casserole and was feeling a little annoyed to have anyone in my kitchen while I was cooking. Lately, everything had been irritating and the holidays were exacerbating my foul mood. I loved the cooking, but having my in-laws over for dinner was always daunting.

My sister-in-law, Rick’s wife, Lisa, always drank too much wine and spent the entire time bragging about her job and her decades-old business degree. Their kids were zombies attached to their electronic devices and never even grunted so much as a greeting let alone appreciate the excellent meal I always provided. Rod, my husband’s youngest and unmarried brother, usually brought his trollop-de-jour and spent his time ogling her and making kissy faces. My widower father-in-law did not waste the opportunity to remind us all that his only daughter, Regan, who never came to Thanksgiving, would be heir to all his worldly belongings when he died since she was the only one who helped him when my mother-in-law was dying.

He forgot about the part where I had actually helped, every day. Regan just happened to be present at the time of her passing. I had been at the hospital for two days and a night and had just left to go home and shower when she passed, but thank God for Saint Regan. Maybe it was because my name didn’t start with an “R” and thus I’d never be real family.

No wonder my husband could be such a monumental jerk, it was apparently genetic.

“Oh well, it couldn’t be helped,” I said.

“Can I help you with anything?” Rick said, and he glanced at his watch. “He had to leave in the middle of the night, huh?

“I guess so. He said the scheduled pilot got food poisoning or something.”

Rick grunted, “That’s my brother, always jetting off somewhere. Want me to take a look at the bathroom upstairs?”

“The bathroom?”

“Yeah, you said it was backed up and to use the one down here instead.”

“Oh! No, it’s fine. I’ll call the plumber tomorrow,” I said.

“Okay, then,” he said, and he left to plop down on the couch.

I was glad to have him out of my way. I needed to get the meat out of the oven, feed these people, and get them out of my hair. I would have to deal with the bathroom, but I couldn’t do it until after the meal.

Rick was right, Ron was always jetting off, as a commercial pilot it was his job. It had never bothered me that he was gone for days on end sometimes, that is, until recently. I had come to realize that he was never around when I needed him, like when his mom was dying. And before that, when I had to have shoulder surgery after a fall, he left to fly an overseas trip the day of my surgery. I had to have a neighbor bring me home from the hospital.

When I pointed all of this out to him and shared my thought that he was doing it on purpose, he said I was exaggerating and being over sensitive and paranoid. He started telling me that he missed appointments and dates because I forgot to tell him about them. We began arguing about it almost every day.

During one of these arguments, he literally smashed most of our wine glasses and then had the nerve to say I did it! He went so far as to cut his own head and tell me that I did it to him when I threw a wine glass at him! These types of incidents began to happen at least twice a day. I actually started to worry that I was losing my mind.

But now I know the truth.

Obviously, it was Ron’s memory that was faulty. Thank goodness because if he hadn’t forgotten to check the pockets of his slacks, I still would have no idea. If our dry-cleaner weren’t meticulous about preserving every little item left in the laundry to return to the owner, I would be clueless. But he is, and I’m not.

Admittance paperwork. Folded over into a small square as if he were trying to conceal it, which I’m sure he was. Daniel’s Behavioral Health Hospital blazed across the top of the first page. My name was neatly written in Ron’s hand on the line labeled, Patient Seeking Services. He’d been gaslighting me this whole time, just to put me away and be rid of me. Pretty clever, actually. Insurance would cover it, and there would be no financial hassle of a divorce.

No matter. A slice, a slash, and a stick and I was having the last laugh.

I pulled the roaster pan out of the oven and had to admit that it smelled like turkey. It even looked like turkey, but I knew it wasn’t turkey. Well, Ron had been a turkey if he thought his plan would work. I snickered to myself.

“Turkey is served,” I called to the rest of the turkeys in the other room. I couldn’t help but smile with pride in my resourcefulness.

sliced-turkey

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Disclaimer! I just want to say that this is a work of fiction and in no way reflects any true holiday that I am aware of. My husband isn’t even a pilot!

Have a nice holiday and enjoy your family (hopefully not in the way of the story)! Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

 

 

Ghost Light Stories Featuring Author Richard Crofton

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By LouisHeon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17896781

Just in time for Halloween!

Ghost Light Stories Episode 2! Visit my YouTube channel and subscribe!

Connect with Richard Crofton:

Website: https://richardcrofton.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/richardcroftonauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterCrofton
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16367519.Richard_Crofton
Amazon: Richard Crofton’s Amazon Page

 

I Know Who Took It, But What is IT?

angle-19887_1920Sometimes the universe smiles on you…even if it is a creepy grin!

I’ve seen this photo here and there all over social media and found it to be very compelling. I couldn’t attribute the creator with confidence and was beginning to think that it was a Photoshop deal. I wanted to know three things.

  1. What the hell is that?
  2. What, when, where, how, and who took the photo.
  3. Is it Photoshopped?

The person who took this photo, Julie M., contacted me and I got most of my questions answered!

Julie is indeed the person who took the photo, she has the memory card to prove it! Watch here to find out all the info. It is worth the watch and includes other spooky and unexplained photos taken on the same night.

Many times with a picture of this nature the photographer is associated with a ghost hunting group or paranormal research team, but in this case, Julie was just out showing this strange park to some friends from out of town. She did not take or post this photo hoping to gain attention or market anything.

I’m not sure if knowing that it is the real deal is better than suspecting (maybe I was hoping) it was faked! Knowing the location just makes it even weirder. Memory Grove Park in Utah features memorials to Utah’s veterans and various other monuments. Like most parks, it has hiking trails, a dog park, and a facility for weddings and such. However, unlike other parks, the ghost of a bride killed on her way to her nuptials at the park now walks the garden paths of the scenic area in her wedding gown. Based on Julie’s photos there are some other very strange symbologies and structures on the property. I don’t think the ghost bride walks alone!

The missing child poster in the picture not only gives context to the photo but makes it even more ominous!

Back to the photo in question. I have looked at this thing from every angle, and I just don’t know what it is.

I know what it looks like…

Like a demon crawling out of the ground! He is so solid he is casting his shadow on the rock wall behind him!

I asked Julie if anything weird happened to her after she took the photo and she said it had. Here’s Julie’s account of the night she took the picture and got home:

“Actually, weird things did start happening, or maybe I was kind of scared and had all these people telling me it would follow me now, so I might have paid more attention to anything weird. But the crazy thing was that very night (or early morning, I must have gotten home around 3:30 or 4 AM), my sister was up and I was showing her the pictures I had taken on my camera. We zoomed in on that picture because we saw the bright orb by the “demon”. Then we saw the figure and we both screamed and freaked out!! I had seen that I was capturing a lot of orbs in my photos, but nothing like that!

About fifteen minutes after we first discovered the figure in the photo another strange thing happened. My room at the time was in the basement of an old 70-year-old house. There was an old, small window in my room that used to look up into the backyard years ago, but since then an addition had been built on the house, so my window looked into a crawlspace with a dirt floor which was now under the addition.

I had actually never really even noticed that window! The house was a rental and there were heavy drapes over it, it was high up on the wall, and small. But when I went down to my room, for the first time in living there for almost 2 years, the drapes were pulled over to the side and I could see the blackness through the window! I had never even noticed the dang thing before, or what was behind it.

I was so scared I didn’t even want to go near that window! I called my sister in and went over, and when I pulled the drapes back into place to cover the blackness they FELL DOWN ON ME and the window fell open!! It was the kind of old window with hinges on the bottom and opened that way. We SCREAMED and were so scared, and I really had a hard time sleeping that night! I had to put furniture in front of it!

It’s funny because the picture scared me so bad I jokingly named the “demon” Matthew. Whenever anything weird happened after that I’d say, “Matthew!!” It became a kind of a running joke with me and my friends and family.”

Umm. Holy Cow! Glad she can joke about it!

Julie first posted this photo on Tumblr about four years ago and has since then seen others take credit for the photo. This is one of my favorite “hmmm” paranormal photos, and I wanted to give credit where credit is due. Julie certainly captured one of the most fascinating images I have seen! So, if you share it, please give her credit for the photo. Julie is, after all, the one who traipsed around at night in this creepy park to get the shot! She says that she has not caught anything strange on any other photos she has taken.

Julie says she is not a believer in the paranormal, per se, but has an open mind and is open to any and all explanations of this photo (me too!). If you think you have an answer, please feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll pass the information on to Julie.

I want to thank Julie for reaching out to me with her story. I’ve been so curious about this photo, like an itch I can’t reach! Although I’m thrilled to have my questions answered, I’m feeling kinda uneasy now. I hope that chatting about “Matthew” doesn’t get him looking my way…but it would make for some good writing material!

Until next time, Never Turn off the Lights!

 

 

 

Is Mothman Trying to Warn Us, Again?

It feels like our world is unprecedented turmoil. Every day there is a new piece of alarming news, from the weather to terrorist attacks to social unrest and violence to nuclear testing. In uncertain times people tend to look for meaning in the terrible, it has to mean more than just being, well, terrible. We examine the incident to see if there was any fore-warning or another way to avoid it, or perhaps, all of these happenings are warnings of worse things to come, and we must uncover their meaning before it is too late.

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By Tim Bertelink (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Perhaps the most recognized harbinger of doom is the Mothman. He’s been described as a large black, red-eyed, winged humanoid. The movie “Mothman Prophesies” fictionalized the Mothman sightings in West Virginia from 1966-67 directly before the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1967, killing 46 people. The creature was seen in various areas by credible witnesses and many claim to have seen the Mothman near the bridge directly before it fell into the river. The sightings were covered by various newspapers at the time, and it was speculated that it was possibly a large owl, a previously unknown species of animal, or an alien being.

People began seeing him again, twenty years later, far away from West Virginia in the area of Pripyat in what was then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union (USSR). Did you guess that Pripyat is near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant? In April of 1986 people began reporting sightings of a giant winged humanoid with no head and piercing red lights that could be eyes in the neck area. The people reported having terrible nightmares after seeing the creature. On the morning of April 26, 1986, the No. 4 reactor at the nuclear power plant exploded killing at least 30 people directly with more than 9,000 deaths related to the subsequent radiation. Workers who survived the initial blast reported seeing a large black bird-like creature flying through the smoke of the resulting fires. It was never described again after the Chernobyl disaster and although it was dubbed “The Black Bird of Chernobyl” many believe it was indeed the Mothman.

Now, a winged humanoid has been spotted near Chicago. Since 2011 there have been almost 50 sightings of something that looks a large black bat between six and eight feet tall with a twelve feet wingspan flying around Chicago. One even jumped from the Sears Tower and flew away as reported by a man who claimed to be a police officer. A group of people reported seeing two of the creatures perform aerial acrobatics near the planetarium.

Could it be just that? Large bats? After all, megabats or flying foxes can have wingspans up to 5 feet. However, they are not indigenous to West Virginia, Ukraine, or Chicago. A costumed drone? Drones were not a thing in 1967 and maybe not even in 1986. A guy in a flight suit? I’ve only seen those coast on the air, not do acrobatics.

Does this mean something terrible is going to happen in Chicago, aside from the gun violence (as if that isn’t horrible enough)? I don’t know. There is a debate regarding whether the Mothman is simply a warning or does the creature actually cause the destruction. It’s the same for the Black Eyed Kids in my novel DREAD, and we may never know the answer.

Fortean researcher and author Lon Strickler has an interactive map of sighting reports on his website Phantoms and Monsters if you want to check out the reports for yourself. It’s quite astonishing to see the visual of how many sightings there are and their close proximity to one another.

A few years ago, someone that I trust who lives in a Denver, Colorado, told me the following story:

I was coming home with both dogs, kind of late in the evening. The sun was almost down but still light enough. I got the dogs out, and we started walking up the front walk to the house. I just happened to glance up at the sky and flying right over me was a dark shape. All I could say is that it looked like a giant bat with a dog’s head. Its wings were stretched out and were probably over six feet across. It just silently glided away. I watched it until it disappeared behind some trees. My dogs didn’t notice it all. For the next several weeks I was scared to look up, afraid I might see it again. It really freaked me out to know that something like that could live around here.

Nothing terrible happened, and he never saw it again. It does sound like it could be a flying fox. If it is, why and how did it get to Colorado? Why hasn’t anyone reported seeing them or found a dead one? Just what is going on? Weird. I’m keeping tabs on this story.

Got your own encounter or sighting? I’d love to hear about it!

Until next time, keep looking up (or not) and Never Turn Off the Lights.

Tales from the Ghost Town Writers Retreat

15493618_10154899107475972_7094799763006043672_oI have had a difficult time writing this past year. I have a novel that I have started and stopped more times than I care to admit and a Christmas project that I decided to postpone from the planned November publish date. I had amazing momentum coming into this year, but it fizzled quickly, and I’m not sure why.

I decided many months ago to attend the Ghost Town Writers Retreat at the beginning of August to see if I could get my groove back, then my Grandma passed away a few weeks ago, and I almost canceled. Losing her hit me harder than I expected and I just wanted to hide out. My darling husband took time off from work to go with me and said it would give us some time away from the kids together, I suspect he knew I needed him to give me an extra push.

The retreat was held in the small mining town of Georgetown, Colorado. I’m a Colorado native but can say I’ve never hung out in Georgetown for anything more than a bathroom break, fill up, or to get to the pass to go to Clear Lake. I remember when I was little my parents looked at buying a piece of property there. The day they went to look at the property they dropped me, my two siblings, and my grandparents off at the little park in town to eat lunch so they could speak to the realtor without distraction. My sister would not play or leave the bench she sat on. It wasn’t until I told her where I was going that she said the park was full of spooks and they demanded to know why she was there. It scared the hell out of her, and that’s why she wouldn’t play. Weird story, I know, but totally normal in my family.

Georgetown is only about an hour from our house on I-70, but the ride up was hairy. The retreat needed to borrow some grills for the Grill and Greet, so I volunteered ours. Since my husband was coming along, we took his truck and loaded our old gas grill into the bed. The day was overcast, and the wind was picking up. Just as I inquired if the grill was safely tethered a huge bang shook us. The grill had fallen over but not out of the bed. Sadly, the handle didn’t survive. After readjusting the bungee cords, we journeyed on. We drove through dense fog, drenching rain, and pounding hail. It didn’t help that I woke up that morning with a nagging headache. Maybe it was a sign to go home, I thought.

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I-70 Westbound

 

When we got to the hotel we discovered that it would be some time before for our room would be ready and we were a little confused about where to check in for the conference, but we did figure out where to take the grill. After an uninvited cloud burst, my husband helped cook up some buffalo hot dogs and burgers, and we had a tasty little dinner with some fascinating folks.

One of the things I really wanted to do was check out the park. I still had a headache, but the next morning I grabbed my camera and off we went. The moment I entered the park through the iron archway my headache was joined by a turbulent stomach. No one demanded to know why I was there, but it felt heavy and strange. My husband asked if it used to be a cemetery because it gave that kind of vibe. As a side note, I got a terrible headache working on this piece, and I kept getting an error message when I tried to upload the photos of the park, it took several tries. Coincidence? Maybe, but my husband says I should quit messing around with this subject!

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The Park Entrance

Even though my head and tummy were very unhappy, I continued to hit up all the sessions I could. Every single session was terrific, and the presenters (some first timers) were great. When we got home and were describing some of the things we learned my daughter laughed and said it sounded like a murders’ convention! Most of the sessions were held in the historic Heritage Center, the old school house. The building restoration was fabulous!

The marketing sessions were beneficial, as that is the area I dislike the most about this author thing and find the most challenging. I’m a quiet, shy, introverted person which is a huge hindrance to my marketing efforts. I made a commitment to myself to move way out of my comfort zone in the coming months regarding this.

I also had an epiphany. I believe my difficulty in writing has come because I know the marketing will come after. Yes. I hate it that much. I think I got some tools and resources at the retreat that will help me, though.

Being the very first Ghost Town Writers Retreat, there were some hiccups and places where there is room for improvement. I thought Georgetown was a great location and I had the best burger ever (after my tummy finally settled down) at Round About Burgers. The waffles at The Happy Cooker were amazing, and the Family Dollar is stocked better than a full sized Walmart! It turned out to be more of a conference than retreat, however. I would have liked more opportunities to meet up and write with other writers. And coffee! Coffee at the venue for morning sessions, please!

I wasn’t sure where or how to sign up for editor/agent sessions, but since I didn’t feel well, I opted not to pursue it. Maybe for next year,  the signup and location information could be available a few days before the event begins.

There was a walking ghost tour that I would have loved to attend, but it happened on Sunday evening, and I was already jonesing for my kids. We opted for the train, mine tour, and of course, the cemetery.

We really didn’t need a ghost tour anyway. I drug my husband around the town late on Saturday night, just to see what we might see. He always warns that I better not get him arrested, but I’ve been doing this to him for years, and so far we are arrest free, knock on wood!

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Haunted Hamill House After Dark

 

Even though I didn’t feel well for the first three days, I feel like I got out of it what I wanted. I have a strategy to push through my writing wall, and I got to spend some time with my husband. He got a better idea of what it is I do and struggle with and ended up getting into it himself! I said we should just write spooky books together and forget everything else!

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My Handsome Husband – It Looks Good on Him!

 

I can only imagine what it takes to organize a thing like this. The speakers and moderators were great. The movie screening of Dead Awake was fun, and I wanted to ask Jeffery Riddick (Dead Awake, Final Destination) what led them to cast Lori Petty (Orange is the New Black), she was great by the way, but my head was killing me.

How you go about contacting all these folks and getting them to come to a retreat in a tiny Colorado mountain town is beyond me. I’m grateful for the opportunity and that I ignored my headache AND did not go back home. I am already looking forward to next year, but I think I’ll stay away from the park…or not!

roy and joy