Monthly Archives: October 2011


Culture: the word on cheese, a magazine for cheese enthusiasts, retailers and the like, is running its second annual “Scary Dairy” Contest with a winner announced on November 4.

If you’re looking for something short (and cheesy) to read in between the trick or treaters, head on over there and enjoy the current entries. My short “Slow Grill,” written specifically for this contest, is over there, and so are stories by friends and New England Horror Writers members David Goudsward and Stacey Longo. The other entrants I don’t know, but all of the stories are fun to read.

Writer? I think there’s also still time to enter—entries must be 500 words or fewer. Take a shot at it! The cheese basket they’re offering as a prize sounds YUMMY.

Enjoy and Happy Cheesing!


The morning sun fights its way through the fog while the tree limbs seem to reach toward it.

If you’ve never been to New Englandor have moved away and are missing it, this post is for you.

The unusual October New England Nor’easter has given this Halloween a strange vibe. We lost power and had to hit survival mode—because even with a fireplace it’s cold and not much fun—but when this morning dawned, one look out the window at the out-of-the-ordinary fog that had rolled in, and how it had shrouded the downed trees and landscape, put me back in the spirit.

On that note, Shadows Over New England co-author David Goudsward has picked his Top 6 New England Horror Films here: The (Danbury) News-Times’ Chris Garafola has posted his Top 20 Haunted Spots in Connecticut here:

With creepy in mind, I drove out into the fog to get these photos below. If you’ve never been to New England, I can tell you as someone who’s lived here her whole life that these shots have just the right atmosphere. If you’ve lived here, have moved to warmer climes and are missing it (I know some of you are), hopefully this reminds you of home—but hopefully it also inspires gratitude that you’re not dealing with the crazy weather, power outages, frozen pipes and unpredictability anymore.

This tree along Stadley Rough Road in Danbury appeared to be split in half by lightning; on closer look, it wasn’t. But I still got the shivers from it.

This tree on a Karen Road corner property seems like it’s sad.

A tree that came down on our property. I love the tangles against the backdrop.

Another shot of what I’m going to call the “Thistle Tree.” I got another shot of this because I’m working on a new ghost story and will definitely use this as a visual.

A tree that fell elsewhere on our property.

This is a “stream” that runs through our property. It’s not a stream, it’s really just run-off, but because of that it has a stagnant look to it that’s bone-chilling. For some reason it reminds me of the settings in the 1968 Vincent Price film Witchfinder General.

The fog on Karen Road. It reminds me of what I always visualize when I read a Victorian ghost story (well, minus the asphalt and the double yellow lines and the power lines).

This fallen tree on Stadley Rough Road seems like it will attack any passer-by that gets too close.

This tree at a dangerous bend on Karen Road gives new meaning to the words “speed trap.”

This tree fell across our driveway during the storm. We literally dragged it out of the way since our chainsaw wasn’t working. It doesn’t look like much, but it was heavy, let me tell you.

Another shot of the tree that blocked our driveway during the storm.

A shot of the morning fog out my dining room window.

The morning fog shrouds my back woods.

The morning fog out my back door—I love this photo because of the way the evergreens are ghostly in the mist.

Nathan’s Zombie Crossing Sign near another downed tree on our property. I think this photo would’ve been creepier if A, Nathan’s car hadn’t been there, or B, Nathan’s car had been a bombed-out wreck. Shades of The Walking Dead, anyone?

This shot reminded me of what the foliage might look like in front of a Haunted House.

The watery eye of the sun keeps watch over all.


The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World, September, 2005.

Way back in 2007, I wrote a ghost story set in Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction; it was originally intended to appear in Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World, but was cut because, despite the fact that it was a ghost story, it was a different type of ghost story than was in the collection and it just didn’t seem to fit.

In addition, it was so attraction-detailed that I didn’t feel that anyone who hadn’t ridden theHauntedMansion inDisneyland or Walt Disney World would appreciate it.

So, HAPPY HALLOWEEN to all you die-hard fans of theHauntedMansionattraction: I give you the story “Grave Error” as a treat! This story won’t be published anywhere else—it’s exclusively for you; feel free to download it and share it or pass it on to friends who are also fans.

Grave Error-A Halloween Treat for Disney’s Haunted Mansion Fans

And if you missed my four-part series on some imagery in Disneyland’sHauntedMansionattraction and the ghost stories that may have inspired them, here are the links:

Part 1: The Cemetery’s Caretaker & Dog

Part 2: The Attic’s Portrait

Part 3: The Skeleton in the Coffin

Part 4: The Changing Portrait Hallway’s Ghost Ship

Enjoy, and Happy Haunting!


The bloody handprint on my front door watches the snow comes down a little harder, 1:23 p.m.

The last time in my memory we had a storm like this here in the area where I grew up was in 1988. Although this storm has fouled not only my plans for the weekend but so many others’—my friend Stacey couldn’t go to a Duran Duran concert, my friend Lisa’s catered party is canceled, my friend Nanette’s party in the wilds of upstate New York will see fewer guests (she lives in a tiny town; those nearby can walk), we won’t be able to go cocktailing tonight, what would have been our last time after fifteen years, in our favorite cemetery—I’m no longer upset about it…in fact, the visual conflict between Poe Season and George Washington Season is magical and interesting.

I started chronicling the storm just for fun. Nathan was out trying to get last-minute supplies…and the storm hit early, leaving him stuck on the roads trying to get home (his harrowing tale on video below is definitely a don’t-miss). Our Mayor lost power (he put this on Twitter). I have to say something nice about our Mayor here: the man is ALWAYS on Twitter, and if you Tweet him, he answers. Very cool. Last I heard, he was sending trucks out to get people off the roads, as the roads are closing here to all but emergency personnel at 4 p.m.

So, where are we now? Nathan made it home. We’re stocked. We’re ready to lose power. And we’re enjoying the last of our Poe Season activities while there’s a GW Bday blizzard outside. Right now, we’re watching Halloween (the original), and we have The Haunting and a few others slated. Charles has a martini. Nathan has a glass ofTawnyPort. I have a bowl of wine. It feels like Halloween, and it feels like winter. It’s disorienting in a very Dali-esque way—and that’s something every horror/ghost story writer should keep in mind. It’s another unsettling current we can use to instill terror in our readers.

And I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s the contrast in things that makes life really interesting and takes the sting out of an otherwise huge disappointment.

Here’s some video and photos so far. Ah…New England in October. Time to write a ghost story…this one I’ll set in summer.

The bloody handprint sees the first few flakes of the storm, 12:04 p.m.

The first flakes of the storm begin falling, 12:04 p.m.

Our Cemetery of the Dismembered Dolls huddles on the porch as the storm begins, 12:08 p.m.

The first flakes begin to fall while the Cemetery of Dismembered Dolls huddles on the porch.

The Weather Channel’s forecast for our area at the moment, 12:09 p.m.

The bloody handprint, 12:22 p.m.

A view out my dining room window. This is actually my favorite view in the house no matter what time of year. It’s so serene, so Frost-ian.

A view out my kitchen nook. I love the bloody “BEWARE” in contrast with the snow. It’s just something we never see together.

No, I’m not “GETTING OUT” at the moment. The roads are so bad there’s nowhere to go!


The snowfall increases while the bloody handprint keeps watch.

Nathan’s glass of port, 2:47 p.m. He left the house at 11 a.m. for supplies, went to two stores, and then spent the rest of the time trying to get home. He deserved this and I was more than happy to pour it for him!

Nathan relates his hellish how-I-barely-made-it-home adventure.

Nathan relates a harrowing tale of slipping, sliding, cars careening off the road, cars at dead stops, trees cracking—and transformers on fire.

The Cemetery of Dismembered Dolls begins to succumb.

The Cemetery of the Dismembered Dolls begins to succumb. We didn’t move their bodies, only the stones, because, you know, we want some poltergeist activity. The lights ARE beginning to flicker…

The fact that this tree is so laden with snow is scary. Normally with snow like this, the trees are bare, so there’s no threat of them caving under the weight like there is now.

The Gods of Halloween watch over us from their spot on the refrigerator.

My bowl of red wine. This glass is the inspiration for the set that appears in my new short story “This Poisoned Ground.”

Check THIS out! The power was blinking way too frighteningly…and as we all know, when that happens, wireless phones go out. So…here I am, talking on the phone with my friend Maureen, on THE GOOD OLD-FASHIONED 1980s phone. Damn. The sound is so good, and the “Call Waiting” button is so satisfying to press, and when the power goes out you don’t drop the call…yeah, modern technology, but this stuff is GREAT!


Nathan’s apartment decked out for Halloween, 2005. Yes, he carved all those pumpkins. It’s one of his favorite activities.

Ghost stories have always been an oral tradition—shared around the Victorian hearth, intoned around the campfire, whispered while passing the haunted house.

For Halloween, Canada’s Paranormal Eh? honors that tradition with an audio treat—a reading of my out-of-print ghost story “House Sitter”…followed by the true story that inspired it.

Enjoy…and Happy Haunting! Listen here:


Some of the tableaux in the Haunted Mansion may have been inspired by classic ghost stories. Find out which ones—well, some of which ones, anyway, we’ve barely scratched the surface—on Dave’s Disney View Podcast Episode 72. Dave and I had a great time talking all things spooky in the Haunted Mansion, just in time for Halloween!

If you’re a Disney Parks fan, then consider checking out his other episodes as well. Good stuff.

You can listen to the Haunted Mansion episode here:

…or, you can play it directly by clicking below:



Brandon LeJeune rehearses for his zombie role at the House of Torment haunted house in Austin, Texas on Oct. 24, 2011. Credit: REUTERS/Charlie L. Harper III

Austin-based Reuters writer Karen Brooks contacted me recently to ask my thoughts about trends in haunted attractions and what, in this day and age, scares people. The article came out today, and I was thrilled to share space with Peter Block, producer of the Saw movies, Gary Handman, director of the University of Calfornia-Berkeley’s Media Resources Center, and Tim Deal of Shroud.

You can read the article here:

Halloween Horror Trend: Less Gore Is More


My Poe action figure. I can't write without him around!

October may be a strange time to choose to put GhoStory Guru on hiatus, but this month, I decided to do a special five-part series on Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the real ghost stories that may have inspired some of its scenes. The series runs every Monday, and on Sunday, October 30, 2011, I’m releasing a never-before-published short story from the original Tales from Haunted Disney World collection called “Grave Error,” written just for Haunted Mansion fans.

Here are the links to episodes #1 – #4 of “A Lit Look at the Haunted Mansion.” Enjoy, and visit this blog on Sunday, October 30 for that Halloween Treat!

A “Lit” Look at Disney’s HauntedMansion: The Cemetery’s Caretaker & Dog

A “Lit” Look at Disney’s HauntedMansion: The Attic’s Portrait

A “Lit” Look at Disney’s Haunted Mansion: The Skeleton in the Coffin

A “Lit” Look at Disney’s HauntedMansion: The Changing Portrait Hallway’s Ghost Ship

HOW MANY WRITERS DOES IT TAKE TO TEAR DOWN A TENT? (or, Teamwork’s Key: what I learned at the Middletown Open Air Market and Festival)

Writer Stacey Longo, left, and me, in the early hours of the Open Air Market. It was so cold and we hadn’t had time to drink coffee before leaving for the fair, so that coffee was so good it was scary, believe me!

Writing is a solitary business, and can be a lonely one at that—that’s why it’s so important to find people like ourselves with whom we can connect. What I’ve always found interesting, though, when we get together, is how we connect—depending on the reason for the gathering.

For example, I’ve been a member of six critique groups and four of them I founded and moderated for several years. The way we supported each other—regardless of which group it was, how many members there were, or the meeting’s format—was on sharing each other’s disappointments, improving work, and creating a safe social space. At both Burlington and Goddard Colleges, where I pursued my writing degrees, the focus was on survival and moral support. At the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony, the focus is on how we live a writer’s life. And when I am working on National Novel Writing Month (not this year, I’m just too busy!), the focus is always on the escapism and joy of writing, and sharing that joy behind this crazy thing we’ve chosen to do with ourselves.

New England Horror Writers, an organization I joined way back in 2008 but didn’t get even marginally involved with until earlier this year, showed me yet another plane on which to connect—teamwork. We’re here to help publicize each other and get our work out there, but we’re also here to help each other in this most-contrary-to-a-writer’s-nature endeavor: see me, I write. And sometimes, it’s not about publicizing, it’s about teaching each other how to be comfortable in our own skins so we can better work together. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the 9th Annual Open Air Market and Festival in Middletown, Connecticut—we spent the day matching customer’s preferences with each other’s books to getting the tent…down (somebody else had to put it up! Maybe teamwork doesn’t go smoothly ALL the time?).

So my parting thought is this: if you’re a writer who’s feeling a little isolated, consider what it is you’re missing—and then search for it.

Here’s a virtual trip through the weekend.

I planned on spending the night before at Stacey and Jason’s. I stopped at a rest area on I-91, and the trees were so beautifully lit in the setting sun I just had to take a photo. This hasn’t been a spectacular fall here in New England, but it’s in a moment like this I could see that the ghost of it is there.

On the table is NEHW member Dan Keohane’s book, Margaret’s Ark. The skull glass is mine—a Poe Season favorite for me.

Pizza! Whenever there’s an event like this, I always think it’s important to really turn it into…well, an event. Do some fun things surrounding it. The thought of getting up at 6 in the morning from home and driving all the way to Middletown and back just wasn’t as exciting as hanging out the night before with a couple of friends.

Piranha 3-D, which happened to be on one of the movie channels. This is a scene from near the end. I didn’t care for this movie at all, but the fish themselves were about the coolest-looking beasties ever; I wouldn’t mind having a photo of one up close for my wall.

Jaws was on after Piranha 3-D. I always loved this particular shot of Roy with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth because for some reason he reminds me of my Dad, back in the 1970s.

Seriously. This horror movie about an alien terrorizing an adult film crew as they shoot a porn in the middle of nowhere Stacey had on DVD, and we went into it expecting it to really stink. But you know what? Aside from the fact that the premise was a little silly, it was a damn good movie—it had a classic killer-creature plot structure, the script wasn’t that bad, and the story and character points introduced in the beginning came back full circle in the end.

See how intense this acting is! This guy plays the ubiquitous geek, the one who figures out how to defeat the beast.

Serious. This situation is extremely serious.

Really. The acting in this scene wasn’t bad—obviously, it was so surprisingly good I had to get photos so that people would believe me—and also so that I’d have the memory.

A tense moment from the film One-Eyed Monster. I was struck by the similarity of this little speech to Quint’s “I’ll catch him and kill him for ten” scene…hard to believe he’s talking about a penis; on the other hand, if you think of it in terms of metaphor for a burgeoning woman’s fear of sex, it gets even more entertaining.

The back of Jason’s truck the next morning, loaded up to go to Middletown.

The sign marking the New England Horror Writers tent space.

The very cool skull rug that Stacey keeps for all of our outdoor events. Since everyone asks: she got it at Christmas Tree Shops.

We begin the unloading process at the site; Stacey checks on the “Hell in a Handbaskets” (more on this later) to see how they survived having been crammed in between all the plastic tubs.

The beginnings of the Stage Left table. Books by Nathan Wrann are on the right.

A close-up of the beginnings of Stage Left. Here, we see the NEHW flyers, postcards for the upcoming Anthocon, apple butter, and a giant chocolate rat. The skull is for decoration although at least once or twice during any event we get asked if it’s for sale.

A close-up of the other side of the beginnings of Stage Left. Hell in a Handbasket, the NEHW T-shirts, and Nathan Wrann’s books and Burning Inside DVD.

A close-up of Nathan Wrann’s books.

The Stage Right table: Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole and In Poe’s Shadow (my books, as well as swag); Kasey Shoemaker’s urban fantasy Silver Vengeance, and several collections featuring Stacey Longo’s short stories.

The Skeletons corner.

A close-up of Kasey Shoemaker and Stacey’s books.

More of Stacey’s books, and copies of Shroud—Stacey’s work is in there, but Tim Deal and Danny Evarts, minds behind the mag, are members of NEHW.

Left to right, Jason Harris, Director of Publicity for NEHW; Kasey Shoemaker, author of Silver Vengeance; and writer Stacey Longo.

Breakfast. The apple muffins were pretty good, actually.

We had treats on hand. Jason and the Fangtastic cupcakes.

These Fangtastics were very popular with the kids who stopped by our booth.

A close-up of the Fangtastic cupcakes.

A long shot of the 9th Annual Open Air Market in Middletown. Our booth was at the beginning end. This was taken standing in the center, right near our booth, and looking up toward the Wadsworth Mansion.

A shot of the booths and the Wadsworth Mansion, where there was an orchestra playing.

The day’s scheduled music events.

Here, the Middletown Symphonic Band fills the air with a Frank Sinatra Medley. The portion I filmed was of one of my personal favorites of his “It Was a Very Good Year.” 

This is a view of the Open Air Market looking back toward the entrance. The New England Horror Writers booth is all the way down on the right.

I do love New England harvest festivals, especially in the fall. There’s something about being able to buy products directly from a farm.

There’s a story behind this—Jason, Stacey and I had a heck of a time trying to figure out how to set up our tent (referred to as an “Instant Shelter Product” on its accompanying instructions). The owners of Clark Horse Farm—who specialize in making custom chicken coops—were so kind; the husband came over and helped us (I’m sure he was quite entertained watching the circus for awhile). Thanks to him, we were able to get it up and get rolling in just a few minutes. Visit their website at!

The Boo-nana Bread sign.

A close up of the Boo-nana bread.

Visitors check out our offerings.

A young visitor checks out the Hell in a Handbasket his mom just purchased.

A good look at one of our Hell in a Handbaskets. These would make great gifts for any Halloween or Horror freak—especially for Christmas. Each basket contains an autographed book by a New England Horror Writer member, fun gadgets like skull corkscrews or ghostly cups and plates, candy, and some other fun goodies.

A shot of the Hell in a Handbasket display.

Kasey and writer Kurt Newton share a laugh.

Kurt Newton with his book display.

Writer Rob Watts signing autographs. Check out the line!

Rob Watts’ book, Huldufólk, was just released.

Kurt Newton, Rob Watts, and me.

CHEESE FRIES! Stacey and I couldn’t resist. We were right next to a food cart, and so we were finally worn down by smelling the good stuff all morning. It probably also didn’t help that we were freezing. Hot food was a help.

At every event there’s a stand-out moment, and this was one of them. My friend Marianne Lyons came all the way up from Danbury to see me and get a copy of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole. Here I am with her husband, Michael.

Stacey signs a copy of Hell Hath No Fury (an all-female zombie anthology) for a young zombie lover.

Rob Watts signs a copy of Huldufólk for a fan.

Just as the tent was a nightmare to get up, it was also a nightmare to get down! Here, we see everybody working on it—Stacey at the left, Jason’s ducking into the fan, Kasey has her back to the camera and the girl on the right is Rob Watts’ girlfriend, Maria Arakil. I wasn’t doing anything. My job was just to stand there and listen to Rob Watts yell, ‘somebody get that camera away from her.’

…so, how many horror writers DOES it take to get the damn tent down?

…is that like ‘tripping the light fantastic?’

Stacey and Rob confer on the instructions.

As I recall, whatever it was they were instructed to do didn’t exactly work.

The spoils of having a man who loves me at home! “Went up to Bridgewater” means the boys went up to the cemetery for cocktails, a Poe Season tradition.


In Providence, Rhode Islandand looking for a spectacular way to kick off your Halloween festivities? The Brown Bookstore is holding its 1st Speculative Fiction Fest this Thursday through Saturday (Oct. 27-29), featuring readings by several popular speculative fiction authors, films, and panels.

Daniel Pearlman

Paul DiFilippo

The event kicks off at 4 p.m. Thursday with a showing of Val Lewton’s film classic, Cat People (I am assuming this is the Lewton film and not the 1980s remake, but I could be wrong) followed by readings from authors Daniel Pearlman (probably from his newest collection, A Giant in the House and Other Excesses) and Paul DiFilippo (Harsh Oases).

Brian Evenson

On Friday, author Brian Evenson (Fugue State) will read; at 6 p.m., there will be showing of the 2007 film Peur(s) du Noir (Fears of the Dark).

Paul Tremblay

John Langan

Laird Barron

Saturday’s offerings being at 2 p.m. with a talk on Graphic Fiction and the Comic Form; at 4 p.m., the writers will offer a panel discussion on the Speculative Fiction genre. At 5 p.m., authors Paul Tremblay (The Little Sleep, In the Mean Time), John Langan (Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters), and Laird Barron (The Imago Sequence and Occultation, both of which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection) will read from their work.

For directions and more about Brown Bookstore, visit here: For the event’s official flyer, visit here:

%d bloggers like this: