Monthly Archives: February 2012

This weekend: it’s POE FOREVERMORE! We’re off to Baltimore!

Poe’s Memorial at the 200th Birthday Event in 2009.

It’s been a tradition in our house for several years: we head to Baltimore, usually in January, for the annual Poe Birthday Celebration at Westminster Hall. We started going in 2004, and truth be told, we haven’t been every year, but we’ve been at least five times since then.

Me, the Saturday afternoon of the 2004 event.

This year, the celebration is being held this weekend, Saturday, March 3, at 7 p.m….and we’re there. The program will feature John Astin reading Poe, greetings from the usual gang of baddies (the drunken Fortunado, freaky Madeline Usher and a few more, I’m sure), performances by the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, and of course by a few others familiar to the Poe Celebration-goers, John Spitzer, Tony Tsendeas, and Mark Redfield. All kinds of great Poe stuff, including Gaia’s Raven prints, will be available for sale, and a display of rare Poe artifacts – including Poe and Virginia’s locks of hair – will be on display (I’ve seen them, wow, they’re creepy in a great way). And even though the Poe Toaster didn’t show up…there will be a toast. There always is!

Me and Mark Redfield, Producer/Director/Writer of the film The Death of Poe, at the 2007 event.

Poe’s birthday cake at the 2007 event.

Originally, the program was a séance, and since we purchased our tickets the day they went on sale, we were guaranteed seats despite the program change. Tickets are now only available at the door beginning at 6 p.m. March 3 (the day of the performance) and are $30.

We also plan to visit the Poe House, which will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, and hit the awesome Annabel Lee Tavern for dinner before the show. That’ll be special for me, because a pivotal scene in my short story “Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole”—yes, the book’s title piece—takes place in the tarvern, and it was my meal there in 2009 which inspired that whole story.

We’re very excited!

Me and John Astin at the 2009 event.

If you’re in the Baltimore area this weekend, please consider joining us. I’ve had many a magical weekend in my life, and all of the ones I’ve spent at the Baltimore Poe Celebration rank high. There’s just nothing like being in a concert hall full of Poe fans when you’re one yourself. It’s like…well, it’s like being in a very special club.

For complete details on the event, visit here:

I’ll be posting plenty of photos when I return. We are not allowed to flash photograph or videotape the performance, but as always, there are many interesting things to see before and after the show.

Annabel Lee Tavern owner Kurt Bragunier, left, me, and Nathan at the tavern in 2009.

The following videos (thirty-five seconds each; they were on a very old digital camera and that was its limit) were shot at the Annabel Lee Tavern in 2009 – it was a treat to find these; I’d forgotten they even existed, because I’m pretty sure I filmed them and then never watched them. They’re not the greatest visually, but you can get a sense of the vibrancy of the place and the energy we had the night we ate there. The owner, Kurt Bragunier, and patrons at other tables all joined in some great Poe-related conversation. We already can’t wait for dinner Saturday night!

Scary Scribes Bonus: John Palisano answers Twitter listener questions!

Scary Scribes Episode 2 taught us we need to have a Twitter feed directly into the studio—our guest John Palisano, author of Nerves, got a few questions from listeners! John was nice enough to answer them for us after the fact, and we’re presenting them here as a bonus.


Did Hell Raiser or Clive Barker inspire your work?

Clive Barker is an enormous influence on my work. He’s a huge inspiration: when I read his stories, it makes me want to explore my own imagination to its fullest. I love how he straddles genres, like fantasy and horror. Of course, his writing is gorgeous. Hellraiser was not a direct influence on Nerves, although it is one of my favorite horror films and stories of his that I’ve read. If anything, I would say Nerves would be closer to Clive’s Weaveworld and/or Imajica.

Who would you want to play the main character on screen?

While I was writing Nerves I pictured a young John Malkovich as Josiah, complete with no hair, super-pale skin, and red eyes. I think Jackie Earle Haley would be amazing in the role. He’d really nail the anger and loneliness. As far as Horace? I always saw Ron Perlman, who I bet would be properly intense and troubled. I bet Doug Jones would make an amazing Ogam. He’d be charming and manipulative, but would then be able to turn on the pure, unhinged evil when the time is right.

Will the book be on the iBook store?

The e-book versions of Nerves will be released within 90 days of publication. It will be available in iBooks, Kindle, Nook, and any other format you may like. I’ll post the news on my site when it breaks ( and you can monitor Bad Moon, as well. (

Thank you so much for these great questions. I hope you all enjoy your journey into the world of Nerves.

Miss Episode 2? You can listen here: Scary Scribes Ep 2 – John Palisano, 02-26-2012

The Writing Life: The Balance of Work and Play

Someone had once written that being a writer was like having homework for the rest of your life; someone else had once written if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life. Both are true, at least for me, when it comes to writing. But that still doesn’t mean that just because I love the work I don’t like to kick back—in fact, knowing when to stop and cut loose, especially if you’re an intense writer, is one of the key factors in creating a balanced life (if you think it sounds like an excuse to party, you’re probably right, but you know how the cliché goes—all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy). Taking a break, no matter how much work you have on your plate, can often refresh you can get you going again—and in some cases, back on track if you’ve been derailed.

The New England Horror Writers sponsored a workshop on Feb. 4 at Annie’s Book Stop inWorcester,MA, and I was a presenter. I spent the weekend with fellow presenter Trisha Wooldridge and participant L’Aura Hladik, and even though I was buried under much more work than I thought I was going to get done in the two weeks ahead of me up at the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony, I found it actually paid off—when I got to the Colony I was rested and ready to work, and in the end, got twice the work done I would have if I hadn’t cut myself a little bit of a break.

In addition, Trisha needed to check out a local eatery which she was going to review, so we got to sample some great dishes—more than she would have had she been on her own (who orders three meals for one person)? Talk about balance!

Here’s pix from that weekend (and some video of us making absinthe). It was also my birthday). Enjoy!

Me and Trisha at her house on Friday night.

L’Aura Hladik, left, author of Ghosthunting New York and Ghosthunting New Jersey, enrolled as a participant. L’Aura makes fantastic cupcakes in a variety of flavors which are available for purchase here: She brought me something new for my birthday!

L’Aura and Trisha meet.

Trisha prepares absinthe—it’d be L’Aura’s first time trying it out.


Not sure L’Aura liked this too much!

Trisha finishes the drink.

L’Aura gets out the rum and Coke.

Trisha pours me wine.

I had to take a photo of this goblet! It’s way cool!

We ordered in pizza!

Saturday, after the workshop, we visited Loft 266 Restaurant and Bar at 266 Park Ave., Worcester, MA. Trisha was going to write a review on the establishment; I’ll say the service was terrific.

Trisha, L’Aura, and me at the bar.

We ordered three things to try:

I eat a lot of spinach and artichoke dip—it’s a favorite when I go out—and I was impressed with this one. Many spinach/artichoke dips are just bathing in oil, and this one wasn’t—not at all. It was moist, but not oily. I’d highly recommend it.

L’Aura ordered the nachos, and the dish was just about as good as I’ve found at other places. However, we both came to the same conclusion: there just wasn’t enough cheddar cheese, and what little was there was crisped to chip form. That was our only criticism; otherwise, the salsa, guac, vegetables and everything else were fresh and delicious.

This was the most interesting on the menu, so Trisha ordered it just because it sounded so unique: Reuben Egg Rolls. Wow, just wow! They were awesome! Definitely unique. I would drive to this restaurant in Worcester just to get these. In fact, when I’m back up in the area for Rock and Shock in October, I’ll make sure to come over here and get these.

Horsing around!

We had a nice time talking with this gentleman.

Trisha ordered Mango Cheesecake for dessert, which L’Aura and I—having grown up around New York City—were disappointed in. It wasn’t real cheesecake; it was like ricotta or something. It tasted nothing like cheesecake as you’d know it but a big slice of flavored ricotta cheese. Not recommended.

This Key Lime pie, however, was pretty good; the restaurant probably gets a brand called Mike’s, which is what we buy around here in Connecticut. It’s the best Key Lime you’re going to get in this area. I think you can find it at Trader Joe’s and Stew Leonard’s.

Get your nerve to go: listen to Scary Scribes Episode 2 here!

Writer John Palisano.

If you missed John Palisano and an exclusive presentation of his newly-released novel Nerves on Scary Scribes, you can grab it to go here:

or here:

Scary Scribes Ep 2 – John Palisano, 02-26-2012

The book was released on the day the show aired, so we truly did get the jump! Don’t miss it!

Think you’ve got nerve? Then don’t miss John Palisano on today’s Scary Scribes!

Get an exclusive listen to the first few pages of John Palisano’s Nerves, now available TODAY from Bad Moon Books, today on Scary Scribes! You’ll be able to tune in live at 2 p.m. EST here:

Writer John Palisano.

Going to miss it? No problem! We’ll have archives available soon after so you can get your Scary Scribes to go!

You can read more about John Palisano here:

To watch the Nerves trailer, head here:

52 Weeks of Spam: Winners, Week of February 20

Winners, Week of February 20:

offshore bank account

From: panama-offshore-services

PROVIDENCE,R.I.–Providence native and cult horror writer H.P. Lovecraft will be the subject of a a popular annual walking tour and film series during the annual FLICKERS: RI International Horror Film Festival (RIIHFF), October 21 – 24, 2010.

Why is an offshore bank account services place in Panama informing me of an event that happened in Rhode Island a year and a half ago?


Everybody hates Spam—it fills up your Inbox (unless you’ve got G-mail, which does a great job of putting it in an appropriately-labeled folder), clogs your blog (WordPress does a great job filtering, too), and can threaten your computer’s security.

I have to say though, I love my Spam. It cracks me up—it’s poorly spelled, illiterate, and often leaves me wondering who would be dumb enough to click on the link for whatever product/service/lottery winning from mysterious relative in a country you’ve never heard of. So I decided in 2012 I’d go through my Spam each week and pick my favorites to share with the world. I remove the sender and any links that might be damaging (plus, who wants to give them press?).

See you next week! If you get any great Spam, you can post it here, just strip any links and the sender’s e-mail. And be sure to say something in the post to let me know you’re real. Otherwise I might think you’re…well, Spam.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find “disconnecting” a constant struggle. It was nice to see that I’m not alone. And in a way, for me, this article is a call to action: I have to find a way to not be so wired. Even if it’s one day a week in which I don’t connect at all. How about you? Are you all wired up 24/7, like me? Does it bother you? If it does and you want to change it, how would you go about it?

How I Met The Woman in Black: A True Story

Over the weekend, I saw the film The Woman in Black.

I don’t bend to reviews—I like to make up my own mind. I admit, it scared me. Then again, I probably found it more terrifying because I have a little bit of a personal history with The Woman in Black.

This was one of the earliest teaser posters for the new film -- this was the one I saw that made me aware of the film's upcoming release.

Back in 1998, I was stage manager for a local theatre’s production of the play adapted by Stephen Mallatratt.

The theatre had been built in the early 1900s as a church, so backstage areas weren’t typical. My stage left quarters were cramped—I spent most of the play on a tiny stairwell in the dark. To my left was a foot-high crawlspace beneath the stage, crammed with insulation and old wiring; however, someone had nailed plywood over the joists so it could be used as a shelf, which was where I kept my script, coffee, and the few props I needed to work with during the show, because essentially—although we had a fine actress who appeared as The Woman in the Black in a couple of brief scenes—it was me who manifested her when she wasn’t “physically” present.

The cover of my script from the 1998 production in which I was stage manager.

I used my script as my checklist for stage management -- I made the book into a "clipboard" if you will. This is page one of my pre-show set checklist.

Page 2 of my pre-show set checklist.

If you’ve seen the movie or play or read the book, then you know the nursery’s rocking chair and its moving of its own volition is integral to the story. Our “nursery” was upstage in a nook that was where the baptismal font had probably been. To shield the area from the audience when not in use but give it a distant, creepy feel during the couple of scenes when the nursery was visible, the area was cordoned off with a scrim. The rocking chair, of course, was the most prominent object behind that scrim. To create the rocking on its own effect, we attached fishing wire to the base of the rockers, just in front of one of the legs. The wire ran back to my tiny area on the back staircase, where it was looped for my index finger and, when not in use, secured on a hook. It was the appropriate length so that there was almost no play; if I wanted that rocker to move, I had to give it a good yank.

We didn’t start working with effects until a couple of weeks before opening. We were running Act II. I was downstairs, following along in the script and making notes on my positions, when the play’s director, Rich, screamed:

“Petersen, quit screwing around!”

“With what?”

“The rocking chair. That’s not until the next page.”

I was confused—I was at the base of the stairs. I wasn’t anywhere near the trick wire for the rocking chair; in fact, the fishing wire’s finger loop was firmly on the hook, although it was moving because the chair was moving.

“I’m not touching it!”

“Cut the crap and cut it out.”

Then the chair halted. Literally stilled. As though someone had forced it to stop.

“Thank you,” he said. “Okay, move on.”

I just sat there, trying to process. Well, I’d just struck the bureau and a few other items in a previous scene, maybe I had bumped into the chair.

I knew damn well I hadn’t. Even if I had, it wouldn’t have still been moving five minutes later.

The section of the script in which I was supposed to move the rocking chair; the incident I just described occurred during the previous page.

There was another effect that gave me trouble a couple of times; it wasn’t in the original play, actually. It was one that Rich added, one that I felt was quite brilliant and also necessary.

Toward the end of Act II, they prepare to leave the house, and Kipps begins gathering his things. In the original script, he notices the nursery door is open, and this calls his attention to it so that he goes in and sees that The Woman in Black has completely destroyed the place, breaking all the toys and furniture.

Rich wanted an impetus for Kipps’ character to go and look—he felt that him just “noticing” really wasn’t strong enough, and I agreed. In a nod to 1980’s The Changeling, he added the emergence of a child’s ball: as Kipps was packing, the ball would suddenly roll out on stage…and then roll back offstage, attracting his attention to the nursery. Who was going to make that happen? Me, of course.

The ball coming back offstage to me required a certain twist of the wrist upon rolling that had taken me weeks of constant practice to master, but I had done it. I never had any fear that when I rolled that ball it wasn’t going to return. I think I could still impress people at parties by doing it today.

Basically, I rolled it out, it went about ten feet, spun, and then came back. Kind of like a yo-yo, if you can imagine that. It never stopped moving; it simply came back.

On opening night, I rolled the ball on cue.

It went ten feet, like normal.

But then it just stopped. Like it’d hit an invisible wall.

Marc, one of the actors, didn’t break character. He simply carried on with the scene.

I was panicked. I had to get that damn ball off the stage, which meant I had to wait for the lights to go out.

Then, from a dead stop and with incredible speed—as though someone had pushed it—it rolled back to me. It hit my hands with a slap.

That night, a little confused about how I’d screwed up the ball, I resolved to come in early the next day and practice the trick some more. The ball was placed securely backstage within the rungs of one of the stools so that it wouldn’t roll when it wasn’t supposed to. And it was wedged between those rungs to the point that sometimes you’d hear that scrape of rubber trying to wrench it free. That thing wasn’t coming loose on its own. I jammed the ball back between the stool rungs and left.

When I came back the next night, I went to get the ball and it wasn’t there.


“Yeah?” He was turning on lights.

“Was anybody here today?”

“Nope,” he said. “I have the only keys. Why?”

“I can’t find the ball.”

“That’s ’cuz you didn’t put it away.”
“I did, Rich. I know I put it away.”

“What do you mean? It’s right there.”

I came up out of the stairwell.


“Right there. In the middle of the stage.”

It was. It was sitting downstage center. As though someone had set it there.

The section of the script where Rich added the rolling ball effect. It was during this scene that the incident in which the ball stopped occurred.

Most of the performances passed without incident, although a couple of times I spied the rocking chair moving when it wasn’t supposed to. Eventually, I stopped being frightened by it; I’d just don the black veil and gloves I wore for striking/setting the nursery so the audience couldn’t see me, slip out there, and make it stop. Over time it became so commonplace I chalked it up to uneven flooring. The incidents with the ball never repeated.

The experience, though, that scared the absolute crap out of me, the one I’ll never forget, happened on closing night. At one point in Act II, I’d put on the gloves and veil and, in the dark, slip behind the scrim to strike the bureau and rocking chair and set a Teddy bear in place for an upcoming scene. I had quite a bit of time to do it, which was good, because I had to be absolutely silent.

I struck the bureau, then went to get the rocking chair. But when I turned around, I couldn’t see the rocking chair. Yes, it was dark, but not that dark. It was also closing night. I had done this maneuver, literally, fifty or sixty times. I knew exactly what I should’ve seen at that moment.

And I knew exactly what I wasn’t seeing.

I wasn’t sure what to do. Had Rich come back here and struck it because I was running behind? No. There was no one back here but me—and the only exit to the nook was the one from which I’d come; there wasn’t one on stage right. And I was right where I should be, according to the lines being spoken on stage.

Then, suddenly, while I watched, a black something—it looked like black tulle—shot off stage right, and the rocking chair was revealed.

I remember just standing there, thinking, what the fuck was that? Then I remember feeling sick, a chill on the back of my neck, and panic: indeed, what the fuck was that? Mentally I scrambled for Psalm 23, but all I could remember was the first line and something about a rod and a staff being comforting. Then I recalled my parents’ advice, it’s your eyes. You know, like when you’re outside at dusk and you think you see things moving in the trees because the light’s fading. That’s all. Now move it or you’re going to screw things up.

The section of the script during which the incident I just described occurred.

The section of the script during which the incident I just described occurred.

I collected myself and finished what I had to do. When the show went dark that night and I was about to leave, I remembered, as I was gathering my bag, that I’d left my cigarettes backstage.

I decided instead to just buy a new pack on the way to the closing night party. I was sure it had been a trick my eyes had played on me and I’d just gotten spooked—I mean, hell, I’d been living and breathing this damn ghost story for almost three months, and I still didn’t really have good explanations for the rocking chair or ball incidents—but there was no way I was going back up there alone.

These couple of experiences were not the first I’d had at that theatre, actually, and they wouldn’t be the last. At that time in my life—probably because I was there nearly all the time (I wasn’t only on the theatre’s board for a couple of years but performed or worked backstage for a countless number of shows)—I wouldn’t accept that these experiences could be anything other than me getting “spooked” and my imagination running wild. After all, every time I had issues with this type of stuff when I was younger (in the house I grew up in), my parents would tell me it was just my imagination. And I believed them.

I stopped working in community theatre in 2001 because, after six straight years, I wanted to do something else (that’s when I went into aquarium work). I had no issues working at either Norwalk or Mystic Aquarium, though occasionally, at Norwalk, which was in a refurbished oyster processing plant, I’d get spooked and feel like I was being watched—the place was kind of creepy at night, so it was, again, easy to write off.

I didn’t think about my experiences at the theatre or, more specifically, the ones I endured during The Woman in Black until I met Nathan. I don’t remember exactly how I ended up telling him about the theatre, but I did, and it led to his taking in a team and conducting a paranormal investigation.

He captured a couple of EVP’s that would forever convince me that the experiences I’d had during The Woman in Black and other shows were not my imagination. That, in fact, because of the almost taunting nature of the experiences, something had been, maybe, even, toying with me.

Why? I don’t know. What I do know is that The Woman in Black made a believer out of me. If not in ghosts, then at least in the fact that being spooked most likely isn’t in my imagination.

And that’s probably the scariest thought of all.

The Act I stage pre-set.

Craziness, cosplay and creativity at Queen City Kamikaze Con!

The New England Horror Writers had a blast up at the Queen City Kamikaze Anime and Video Game Convention at Manchester Memorial High School Saturday, February 18, in Manchester, NH. While none of us participated in cosplay, there was certainly plenty of it around (and lots of teenagers hopped up on sugar). We had a great time, and I think most of us agreed: man, we wish we’d had something like this in high school.

Originally I was going to post all these pictures with captions I spent at least an hour writing. But then, on the way home today, I heard this song on the radio for the first time and loved it, and I decided instead to subject you all to one of my usual slideshows…comment here, Peter Dudar…enjoy, all!

(Note: if you’d like high-rez of any of these photos, please contact me and I’ll get them to you.)

The admission wristband.

Stacey Longo, co-author of the upcoming Screams of Autumn: Stories from Creepy Connecticut, setting up.

Jason Harris, publicity for NEHW, taping down.

I don’t know who brought this, but thank God. The eggs at the Comfort Inn at which Nathan and I stayed tasted like soap, so I’d had no breakfast except some soggy bacon.

Sugar! Sugar! And more sugar!

It’s a little too early for occult specialist Nathan Schoonover.

Tracey Carbone, author of The Soul Collector, and Scott Goudsward, co-author of Shadows Over New England.

Nathan, preparing his video feed.

K. Allen Wood of Shock Totem and me. I believe we were discussing the drop in submissions to magazines due to the single short story Kindle self-publishing boom.

Here’s a virtual tour of our tables.

I was a Star Wars kid…it was really nice to see characters I recognized! They seemed surprised everyone was taking their photos—mostly adults. I don’t think they realized that most of the adults there were in the same boat.

There were movies playing all day in this area, many of them horror films. I didn’t see many people there during the morning, but in the afternoon, the chairs were filled.

A colorful cosplay sea.

Talk about talent! Alyssa Trinidad of Manchester, left, agreed to let me have my photo taken with her. Her zombie make-up is amazing…it’s no surprise her dream is to become a professional effects artist. As well she should.

Nathan and Rob Watts, author of Huldufolk, chat it up.

Rob Watts.

It’s the infamous photo of Ken and Stacey talking! There’s one from every Con. We don’t want to break the record!

Tracey, left, with Sci Fi Saturday Night’s The Dome, center, and The Dead Redhead.

Me with Sci Fi Saturday Night’s The Dome and Drusilla.

Sci Fi Saturday Night’s The Dead Redhead and me.

Scott. I like the “So Good It’s Scary” next to the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. I’d say that’s about accurate.

Sci Fi Saturday Night’s Illustrator X and a giant squirrel.

Stacey gets ready to pull the name of our raffle to benefit MS winner.

Our raffle winner!

The NEHW presented two panels at the Con.

The auditorium's schedule for the day!

The Women in Horror panel: from left, Stacey Longo, me, horror writer Alyn Day, and Tracey Carbone.

Trends in Horror: from the Apocalypse to Zombies panel. Left to right, Jason Harris, Stacey Longo, Rob Watts, Nathan Schoonover, and K. Allen Wood.

Jason Harris speaks at the Trends in Horror panel.

K. Allen Wood at the Trends in Horror panel.

Nathan at the Trends in Horror panel.

Stacey Longo and Rob Watts at the Trends in Horror panel.

K. Allen Wood and Nathan. I know they’re getting all squatchy (????)

Video Excerpts from NEHW Panels


Women in Horror: Nancy vs. Laurie

Women in Horror: Sookie got a shot

Trends in Horror:  For possession, I get double

Trends in Horror: People relate to found footage

Trends in Horror: Things move in cycles

52 Weeks of Spam: Winners, Week of February 13

Winners, Week of February 13:

whats your facebook profile?

Of course, 1099-form! I’ll totally give you my FB profile so you can spam the hell out of it. My friends would really get a charge out of that.


Everybody hates Spam—it fills up your Inbox (unless you’ve got G-mail, which does a great job of putting it in an appropriately-labeled folder), clogs your blog (WordPress does a great job filtering, too), and can threaten your computer’s security.

I have to say though, I love my Spam. It cracks me up—it’s poorly spelled, illiterate, and often leaves me wondering who would be dumb enough to click on the link for whatever product/service/lottery winning from mysterious relative in a country you’ve never heard of. So I decided in 2012 I’d go through my Spam each week and pick my favorites to share with the world. I remove the sender and any links that might be damaging (plus, who wants to give them press?).

See you next week! If you get any great Spam, you can post it here, just strip any links and the sender’s e-mail. And be sure to say something in the post to let me know you’re real. Otherwise I might think you’re…well, Spam.

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