Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome to My Entry And Beware!

You know, most of my home is sort of an Ikea meets a Celtic garden, contemporary feel. You really wouldn't know a horror-writing ghost-hunter lives here.

The other day, when moving my son out to his apartment, I was left with two huge aged steamer trunks left in the desert to age for who knows how long. I love them to death! I thought they'd be appropriate near the entryway as kind of a nod to travel since it's near the exit. My son was in such a rush to get the last things out of the house, he had this ventriloquist doll I gave him years ago (WC Fields supposedly). We used it for the Halloween party but mostly the guy was kept hidden. Admittely, he didn't want the thing staring at him while he slept.

Somehow, Mr. Doll-face ended up atop of the steamer trunks and I walked into the room and saw that and said, "I'm going to keep it." The only nod to my dark spooky stuff is in my personal office in the house, but nowhere else do you get that I'm a horror writer. I love the imagery. One of these trunks could be his own trunk for travel. Actually, inside the larger one, I stored those creepy dolls from the Halloween party because it was lined inside for a ventriloquist doll setup. Creepy, huh?

My friends were over one night when my son had moved out and hubby was away on an ATV ride to the dunes. We watched horror movies and had a nice takeout Chinese supper and when we were done and they were leaving, they said, "you're not keeping him like that, are you? You won't sleep. You did see Dead Silence, right?"

I had to admit he is creepy and dolls do freak me out, but I'm counterphobic. When something scares me, I poke at that sore spot until it's numb. I decided that night to sleep alone in the house on the sofa near the doll. In fact, my friends kidded that I should see if he would move during the night, so I humored them and took a picture of him.

I went to bed on the couch and had the TV on the timer. The glow from the TV lit up his face and he smiled at me. I turned over and fell asleep. During the night, I woke up to the sound of something tapping the wall. I sat up and noted the turned off TV, the clock on the wall, and then squinted into the darkness. The sound had stopped. I went back to sleep.

The next morning, I remembered to grab my camera and get a shot of him. I left it in the camera because just glancing at him, he seemed the same. Today, I went through the pictures and realized that, yeah, he did move. I took the shot at slightly different angles, but look at his left hand--it went from his lap to up against the wall. That must be the sound that woke me up!

I have to admit that it really does creep me out. I'm going to keep my eye on that little booger from now on! I don't know how I'll ever see "Dead Silence" with him staring at me! Being a true debunker; however, I put his arm back to where it was originally to see if perhaps there's a bad shoulder joint or some mechanism that makes it want to swing back. Nope. So far, he's staying in his pose. Crafty little demon! Guess I'll have to see what he does tonight!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Short Story: Killing Season

(I thought I'd share with ya'all another short story. I just found out about a contest for a zombie short story that had an end date of January first and since today is my day off, I sat down this morning and put this together. Once I knew the premise, I understood the theme. I had a lot of fun with it because I adore zombie stories and wanted to write one more about the poignancy of the flesh eaters. I hope you enjoy this entry submission. Wish me luck!)

Only four hours had passed and yet Donna McClintock’s life had changed in a way that was irreparable. She stood at the foot of the bed watching her Cousin Joe struggling in the damp sheets. For the past two hours, his body drenched in sweat, he contorted with seizure-like movements, making sounds that were completely inhuman, his breathing coming in short fast pants like a dog on a hot summer day. She turned away, feeling guilty. It would almost be humane if the last breath came soon and the room turned to silence rather than the tension that existed right now.

“They’ll get help” Sandy offered.

Donna’s brother Carl and her Uncle Tim had gone for help an hour ago, but the cabin was a good 20 miles from the nearest civilization. Then, it would surely take even more time to get back in to the cabin. After all, that lumber road was an impossibly slow trek.

Oh, I never wanted to go to this stupid hunting cabin.

Donna hated guns, hated violence, hated the killing of animals. She only came to support Joe when he stood up to his father.

Glancing at Joe’s ashen face and agonized expression, however, she could kill the raccoon that bit him. How could an animal bite turn so quickly? Even if it were rabid, would it cause symptoms within minutes?

Poor Joe.

He tried to rescue the raccoon trapped inside the trash can. Uncle Tim proceeded to mock him and tell him to kill the creature instead of rescuing it. Joe continued with his efforts, only to be bitten as the creature scrambled from the can. His father, as usual, just snorted and told him he got what he deserved.

In fact, her uncle’s last words were another bullying taunt, “Men are killers. We eat meat. You eat meat. Are you a man?

Uncle Tim never gave up trying to push his macho deer hunting mentality on his tender-hearted and gay son. It was a reality the man would never accept. Every autumn he dragged the family back to the cabin. This year, with Joe graduating from high school, the family was fed up with the usual drama and refused to come. That left Donna and Carl tagging along for moral support. Without them there to referee, it would have been a bloody battleground.

Donna glanced around at the wood paneling and the beautiful afghan now sliding from Joe’s slender body as he kicked and growled deep in his throat. Drips of foam exuded from the corner of his mouth as his head locked into a position that was impossibly awkward. Sandy wrung her hands, as if not sure what to do. Donna suspected her brother’s girlfriend had led a pampered life and had absolutely no idea what to do with a sick pet, let alone a sick human being.

No, I’m in this one alone.

For a brief moment, Joe’s pale gray eyes met hers and Donna thought there was recognition. The pupils were strangely dilated and black against his anemic eyes.

“Joe?” She leaned forward.

His arm lashed out towards her and Donna tried to calm him down by pressing his hand back against his chest, but his long fingers clawed into her hand and pulled her forward. Losing her footing, she fell against the headboard with a grunt of discomfort and surprise.

“Joe!” Sandy on the other side of the bed tried to hold his shoulder back as he continued to pull at Donna’s hand.

“I-I can’t get loose.” Donna screamed out.

His mouth opened, drool streaming down his chin as he growled, pulling her hand towards his mouth.

“He’s going to bite you!” Sandy gasped.

Knowing if she were to be bitten she might turn just like Joe, Donna planted her foot on the edge of the bed frame and shoved backwards, freeing herself as she fell to the floor with a thud. Sandy came around and helped her up.

Joe began another round of thrashing on the bed, the sheets sliding from his sweat-soaked body. Every muscle was chiseled and spastic; his head twisted upward, the long corded muscles of his neck jutting. He screamed out in an agonizing gurgling cry and then went strangely silent.

“He stopped panting.” Sandy whimpered.

Donna leaned over her cousin’s body stiffened in a strangely epileptic posture.

“He’s not breathing.” She announced, her fingers pressing his taut neck for a pulse. His skin was wet and cold, the muscles beneath still stiff and bulging.

“I can’t find a pulse. Oh God.” Donna sobbed.

“We should do CPR.” Sandy offered.

“No.” Donna shook her head. “We can’t risk exchanging fluids with him. If this was some variation of rabies, we can’t take the risk.”

“Should we cover him up?” Sandy asked.

“I’ll take care of it. You go see if you can find phone signal somewhere.”

“We already tried that.” Sandy complained.

“We didn’t try the roof. Why not use the ladder by the shed?”

“I’m not going out there.” Donna whined. “The raccoon is out there.”

That was true enough. Besides, he was dead and Carl and Uncle Tim would be back soon with help.

“Let’s go in the other room. Get something to drink.” Donna ushered the useless woman from the room. The silence of the cabin became evident now that the poised listening and waiting were over. Every muscle in Donna’s body burned and her temples ached. She felt around inside the cabinet above the stove for the bottle of aspirin.

“I’m so sorry.” Sandy offered.

“Thank you. I suppose I should call Aunt Kathy.”

“Not yet.” Sandy patted her shoulder. “We’ll wait until the authorities tell us what went wrong. His family will want to know what killed him.”

That was perhaps the first bit of wisdom and insight Sandy had ever shown in the one year since she started dating Carl. For a brief moment, Donna felt a twinge of pride in the woman’s ability to stay composed. Those hours in the room with Joe, Donna imagined Sandy falling apart, not wanting to see the graphic truth of a dying man, and crying and begging for comfort, but she had surprisingly risen to the occasion. Always of the belief something good comes out of something bad, Donna had to admit that this trauma made her brother’s girlfriend a bit more respected in her eyes. Perhaps in some way, it might settle some guilt in her uncle’s heart, as well.

Donna slumped down on the sofa, a boneless wreck.

“I-I’ll make something to eat.” Sandy offered.

Food sounded horrible right now, but Donna nodded, glad to give the woman something to do. For some reason, the tears wouldn’t come. The reality hadn’t quite set in. She knew Joe was dead, but she couldn’t seem to comprehend that tomorrow they wouldn’t wake up to him singing in the kitchen and making a killer omelet. Her uncle would wake up and come out grumbling, but eat the omelet without compliment. He in no way wanted to encourage Joe’s interest in cooking.

The cabin had always been a battleground for her uncle and cousin. Uncle Tim continually pushed Joe to hunt and do manly things. As an only son, the pressure was on. At the same time, Joe grew more and more certain of himself by visiting the cabin. It somehow confirmed to him that he would never make the transformation to killer.

“I think I hear something.” Sandy called from the open kitchen.

“A car?” Donna jumped up. Ashamed of herself, she felt a moment’s glimmer of relief someone else would take over this burden. She didn’t want to be strong. She wanted to curl up in her bed and sob her heart out with no witnesses.

“No, not a car.” Sandy came into the living room. “It sounded like a thud.” Her eyes rounded. “Oh, God! You don’t think it’s the raccoon trying to get inside?”

“Where did you hear it?” Donna asked.

“In one of the bedrooms.” She pointed down the hallway.

Donna stepped into the hallway and studied the open doors. The only closed one was Joe’s room. She poked her head inside each room to see the hazy gray sunlight of the dismal day playing in the moldy air to create a colorless palette. The place was deathly still.

“I don’t see anything back here out of place.” Donna called out.

Just then, something heavy fell against Joe’s closed door. Donna leapt back in surprise.

Sandy raced to Donna’s side and huddle against her. “What could have done that?”

Sandy had barely asked the question when the heavy weight thudded against the door again, rattling the knob.

“Someone’s in there.” Sandy trembled violently.

“L-let’s get out of here.” Donna ushered her past the door quickly when the wood splintered and something large fell from the broken door to the floor of the hall.

Sandy screamed directly into Donna’s ear. While her head was ringing, Donna squinted into the semi-dark hallway to see Joe’s body face down on the floor.

“How did he do that?” Sandy whimpered.

Donna peeled the woman from her side so she could see.

“Maybe he wasn’t dead?” Donna asked hopefully as she raced to his side. His stiff body was strangely clutching the floor at jutting angles like a pile of lumber caught downstream in a river bank.

She tried to turn him over, but he was so stiff and too heavy for her. One of his disjointed arms lurched forward and then a leg unfolded.

Donna stood up and backed away, heart racing. Something was not right about his posture, his actions. He seemed robotically driven and mechanically challenged as he unfolded himself to a semi-standing position and then lurched one more time to ratchet himself to his full 6-feet 4 inches.

The two petite women backed away, studying the shadow cast by the gray-faced man whose eyes were now completely blackened by his pupils, his mouth unhinged strangely, little gurgling sounds emitting from deep within his chest.

That is not Joe!

Donna backed up, pushing Sandy further into the living room area. Something inside her split into two parts, the one who wanted to rush forward and help him and the other who felt an imminent unexplainable threat.

The door to the cabin swung open and Carl bounded inside, their Uncle Tim shoving him aside with a meaty hand. Uncle Tim stopped and swayed on his sturdy legs.

“Jesus, will you look at that. He’s up and around already. Christ! I told you he was faking it. He just wanted to get out of hunting. It won’t work this time, Joe!” He lumbered forward.

Joe’s head tilted to the side, his complexion waxy and pale gray, his mouth twisted open, drool dribbling from one corner.

“He’s in no shape to hunt, Uncle Tim.” Carl warned him as he too came forward.
“Don’t worry, Joe. We called for an ambulance. They’ll be here soon.” He stopped before Joe and apparently the same instincts struck her brother because Carl stepped back and studied Joe’s blackened pupils and emotionless face.

“He looks like hell.” He remarked under his breath. “How’d you get him out of bed?” Carl turned to her.

“I didn’t. He died. He stopped breathing. He had no pulse.” She whispered desperately.

Carl’s eyes widened and he looked back at his cousin as his Uncle grasped Joe’s arm.

“Okay, okay. You got a good nap. Now, it’s time to hit the woods. You’re not getting out of this. Today, you become a man. Today, you’re gonna come out of those woods having killed.”

“Uncle Tim!” Donna cautioned.

Just then, Joe’s head swung around and he yanked his arm back jerkily, throwing his uncle across his body. The two fell with a thud to the floor. Carl stepped forward to offer assistance, but their cousin was atop of their uncle, growling menacingly as he held the big man down. Their tall slender cousin suddenly had the strength of a lion predator upon its prey. His head lowered and his uncle cried out as Joe sunk his teeth into Uncle Tim’s shoulder. The man’s legs thrashed wildly as he tried to pitch his son from him, but Joe’s hold on him was rigid and iron-like.

The crunching, gobbling, slurping sounds filled the air and Sandy screamed and raced out the front door. Carl didn’t pay any attention to his girlfriend. He leaned over the pair, trying to pry Joe from their uncle, but his hold was vice-like.

“Donna, help me get him off.” Carl called out.

Donna came over behind Joe, trying not to pay attention to the pleading screams of her uncle and the distinct sounds of hungry feasting. The metallic smell of blood filled the air and Donna fought back a wave of vomit that rose to her throat. Joe’s body was rock hard, completely stiff and locked in position. Their uncle quit screaming, his body limp beneath Joe as their cousin began to tear as the tender flesh of the throat.

Carl grabbed up Donna and pulled her away from the grisly scene. The pool of glistening dark blood followed the ancient wooden floorboards, filling the grooves, trickling towards their feet. The pair leapt away from the seepage. Carl backed her towards the door and away from the scene. The last thing Donna noted as they exited the cabin was the distinct crunching and chewing and gorging sounds of her cousin Joe digesting his father’s flesh in a killing frenzy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Short Story: The Hook

Trying my hand at a short story based on the urban legend of “the hook.

Barbara Roeder was finally getting her first date with Cliff Matheson and nothing in the world was going to stop it from happening. The fates had already made them miss two opportunities to go out and even if her appendix was rupturing, Barbara was getting into his Camaro and spending the evening with the most popular and handsome boy at Springfield High.

This is going to be my lucky night!

Although her mother nagged her to finish her research for her term paper and her father asked her a million questions about her date, Barbara somehow managed to get dressed in an outfit Cliff hadn’t seen at school, did her hair silky straight and her makeup just the right amount to make her eyes look huge and her lips full and plump. With a sigh, she internally patted herself on the back for managing the task while her little brother taunted her in the mirror the whole time.

“I don’t feel good about this at all.” Her father shook his head as she descended the stairs.

Barbara glanced at her jeans and top and found nothing he could complain about.

“The news just flashed a warning on the screen. Some lunatic escaped from the mental ward. He’s a killer.”

She sighed. “Dad, we’ll be just fine. Besides, Cliff’s a linebacker. You don’t need to worry. We’ll be out in public. It’s not like we’ll be on some back road where a crazy person would hide.” Sometimes, she felt like she was the parent and voice of reason in her worrisome family. Thankful she didn’t get the sourpuss gene, Barbara gathered up her purse and dropped her mints and lipstick inside.

“Seems like a bad idea. Maybe you two should plan it another night.” Her father insisted as the doorbell rang. “You be sure you don’t stray from his side.”

“Dad.” She cautioned.

“They said he has a hook for a hand.” Her little brother taunted as she reached for the doorknob.

“Then I’ll send him after you, Joey. Maybe he can pick your nose better than you can.” She stuck her tongue out at the 8-year-old who proceeded to toss a pillow at her. Used to dodging such missiles, Barbara threw the door open, relieved to see a face she’d been admiring across the cafeteria for three years of high school.

“Ready?” He asked.

Her father cleared his throat and Barbara sighed, yet again, and introduced the two. Her father made some comment about the last home game and his brilliant plays, slapped him on the back, and sent him out with his “baby girl” without any rules or warnings. Barbara looked back at her dad still smiling and waving to Cliff. Her father was star struck. She would have chuckled if it weren’t for that darned story about the crazy man with a hook on the loose. She hated scary stories and even changed the channel during Halloween commercials. If a hint of anything frightening crossed her path, Barbara had to hurry and turn on a happy song to distract herself.

Once inside Cliff’s car, she immediately tried the CD to find Hip Hop playing. She turned on the radio and started fussing with the channels until she found something adequately cheerful.

“You like that stuff?” He snorted.

“I just wanted something not too distracting so we can talk.” She lied.

“So, you wanna hit Peco’s Pizza and maybe go for a drive?”

She nodded breathlessly. When she had his full attention on her, Barbara’s stomach fluttered.

It took no time at all for him to start talking about his plans for the upcoming summer break and all his accomplishments as if he were reading off his resume. Barbara tried to remember the details for the future. Her mind was buzzing as they pulled up to the pizza parlor where she knew everyone from school would be. It would now be official he was dating her. That he picked this place was a good sign.

He took her hand and pulled her along to the door, not noticing her distraction. A man stood in silhouette in the shadows near the dumpster. His cigarette glowed as he inhaled. He turned his head towards her and she felt a strange knot in her stomach. Though the details of him were unclear, his right hand was tucked under his left armpit as he used his left hand to smoke the cigarette. The pose was awkward and his stare unsettling. Barbara rushed inside after Cliff.

Strangely, she wasn’t able to be fully present for the gathering. It was more or less an opportunity for him to boast with his buddies, play foosball, and bond with the boys.

Barbara remained in the background with the beautiful girls; the top four cheerleaders who had the monopoly on looks, money, and boyfriends. They attempted to draw her into conversation, but Barbara couldn’t keep her eyes from the door when that man stepped inside.

His jacket was wet. It must have been raining. His narrow eyes squinted against the light of the pizza parlor and he studied the contents of the room, his stringy wet hair dripping water into his dark beady eyes. He locked his gaze on her and Barbara choked on her Coke. His right hand tucked in his pocket now, he lifted a cigarette to his mouth awkwardly with his left hand as if it weren’t natural for him. He reached into his pocket with the cigarette in his mouth and fumbled for a lighter. He looked up at the shiny "no smoking" sign and turned, exiting out the door, still using only his left hand.

The conversation distracted again to the discussion of the new clothing store at the mall. Barbara wondered how the girls even finished their homework with their short attention span. She looked around the room for the comfort of Cliff’s smile and found him laughing with his buddies against the pool tables. As if he sensed he was getting attention, he scanned the room and nodded to her with a handsome dimpled grin. Suddenly, Barbara felt better. She was his date. They were going for a ride in his car soon. Really soon, she wished. The girls were giving her a headache and the creepy man with the cigarette and the weird manners made her feel unsafe.

Before she knew it, Cliff came over, swept her up, and escorted her out before she could barely say goodbye. His two buddies came with him. They stepped into the dwindling dribble of rain, the ground slick and wet, the air clean. With a click of the remote, he unlocked the door and opened it for her. Barbara slipped in, wondering if his shadowing friends were joining them. Instead, he went around and opened the trunk. Barbara heard their muffled voices and then something big was hoisted from the back. They came around to the front of the car and she saw the big friend holding an ice chest. They talked some more and took off through the parking lot. Cliff opened the door and slipped inside, his hair damp and curly.

“Sorry about that. The guys had a plan for a party this weekend and it took me a week of sneaking beers here and there to get them enough supply.” He smiled sheepishly. “I’m not a drinker myself, but I have a dad who drinks beers by the case, so it’s not too hard to get them a supply.”

“That was nice of you.” She offered.

He leaned forward and kissed her lips. His own lips were icy cold but the surprise and spontaneity made her shiver with pleasure. He started the purring engine and they were off on the rain-slick roads.

“So, where to?” He asked.

She shrugged. “You have the car, you pick.”

He chuckled. “Okay.”

They passed by the last of the town and down the scenic route. Barbara knew the place. Admittedly, she had never been taken there by a guy before, but she had summer picnics with her family at the historic park. It also made a very private place to park cars and all the local kids knew it. If he wanted to take her there, it meant he wanted to make out. If he wanted to make out, he must find her attractive. Suddenly, Barbara was fussing with her long hair, trying to find something to do with her sweating hands.

The car headlights lit up a picnic table as they pulled into the large cul-de-sac. He pulled into a spot and turned off the lights.

“No one’s here.” He smiled. “This is rare. Must be the weather.”

With the radio playing and the engine still going, he turned to her and put his hand along the seat. His fingers played with her hair and she felt a rushing anticipation of need to be desired by him. He licked his lips lightly and studied her mouth.

“You have lips like Angelina Jolie, you know.” He told her in a low voice.

This made her lick her lips.

As he leaned into her, the car shook.

“What the hell was that?” He looked around them, turning on the car lights. Everything looked in place. Cliff flicked the rearview mirror and studied the area behind them. “Look at that. The wind must have hit my trunk. I left it open the whole drive. Jeez!” He snorted. “Just a minute, okay?”

Barbara felt once again the fates were trying to stop her from having this monumental conquest of winning his heart. He slammed the trunk shut and came back inside as the rain began to pick up again.

“It’s coming down now.” He ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it more. “Now, where were we?”

The radio announcer cut into the song. “The escaped man from the Asylum for the Criminally Insane was thought to be headed directly to Springfield.”

“Crazy, huh?” Cliff reached for the knob, but Barbara stopped him.

“Wait.” She begged.

“He’s described as 5’10” tall, lean, brown eyes, brown hair, in his early 40s. This criminal will not be hard to identify. He has a hook for his right hand.”

“I thought my brother was kidding.” She marveled. “That’s creeping me out, Cliff.”

He put his arm around her and pulled her towards him. “I’ll protect you.” He promised as his mouth captured hers. Barbara wanted to be present for the kiss, but her mind was filled with the reality of the pitch black park, the pinging rain on the rooftop, and how truly alone they were.

“What’s up?” He pulled back. “You do know how to kiss, right?”

She nodded. “Yes, I’m just…” She grasped for something legitimate as an excuse other than her silly anxiety. "It's uncomfortable.”

“Oh.” He looked down at the console. “Let’s go in back, huh?”

Before she could express her anxiety, he reached for the door handle.

“No!” She shrieked.

The frown on his handsome face told Barbara this was not going right. Why had the entire evening gone against her? That stupid announcer cutting into her big kiss opportunity and leaving her with a trembling fear, that shadowy man at the restaurant, her father’s concerns…

“Look, I’m not saying I want to bang you, Barbara. I just think we could cuddle up and kiss a little easier without the console digging into you. Come on. I have a blanket back there.”

Why does he keep blanket there?

Suddenly, the evening was over for her. Barbara was not leaving the car to climb in back and she wasn’t going to lay on a blanket some other girl used. No doubt, he hadn’t washed it. That thought made her as sick as the man with the hook.

“Cliff, I think I’m ready to go home now.”

“Barbara.” He took a deep breath.

She startled when the sound of something metallic clicked along the side of the car.

“What is that?” She gasped, looking out into the darkness, rain dripping down the glass in front of her.

“Probably a tree limb. Dammit! I can't scratch the car up. I just got it.” He reached for the handle.

“No! Please! Cliff, let’s just leave.”

He turned on the lights, pulling the car around quickly. Something banged against her side of the car and Barbara cringed.

“If my car is beat to hell, I’m going to be a lot of trouble.” He growled as he drove her silently home.

The rain started to let up as they reached the town’s center. Barbara felt ridiculous for being so spooked. It was just a dark park, a lot of rain, and scary stories. She really was a big baby. It seemed that the fates had conspired to ruin her date before it began and she somehow managed to finish it off on her own.

“I’m really sorry.” She told him as they pulled up in front of her house.

“Yeah.” He nodded but wouldn’t look at her as she opened the car door.

“Wait.” He reached over and grasped her arm. “I’ll get it.” He conceded and shoved open his door and came around to open hers.

When the door didn’t open, Barbara looked over to see him standing on her sidewalk, the streetlight shining on his face as he his mouth remained unhinged, his eyes fixed on the side of the car. Cold fear crept into her belly.

He scratched his car. I just know it. Now, he'll always associate me with a botched date and his own financial ruin.

She grasped her door handle and rushed from the car to share in his misery. When she did so, something clanked to the ground. She stumbled back and Cliff caught her.

“Is that…?” She choked, scrambling to get away from the shining metal creation.

“A hook. It was caught in your door handle.”

She choked at the sight of the cold prosthesis.

“Jesus, you know, if you hadn’t have told me to leave when you did…”

She shook her head and cowered in his side. Cliff tightened his grip on her.

“I saw him.”

“You did?” He asked.

“At the pizza place. I know it was him. Just like they described. He was hiding his right hand.”

“How the hell did he get on foot all the way to the park?” He asked. Cliff studied the car and then the hook. “He could have climbed into my open trunk and rode there with us.”

She shivered uncontrollably as he pulled her away from the sight and towards her house. Calls to the police and terror aside, Cliff managed to leave Barbara’s home three hours later without one word of a future date or attempt at a kiss. His cold manner showed her just what she suspected. It was the fates intervening for a reason. Even the horrifying escaped lunatic kept her from another sort of terrible fate, being one of Cliff’s conquests.

The last policeman left her house and met her on the curb.

"You're lucky, miss. We got a call they caught him in the park. If that man you saw at the pizza place was the escapee, he might have been targeting you."

"Me? Why?" She cringed.

"Seems he had a hangup about people looking at him. If someone stared and made eye contact, he'd kill `em. He killed four people at his work place who stared at him after his hand got caught in the gears. Killed two women in Upton for staring at him too. Your boyfriend said the doors weren't locked. He could of had you before your boyfriend could have done a thing." He shook his head. "Yes, this was your lucky night."

Poltergeist Video?

I find anything posted on YouTube dubious, but admittedly the features of this film were so remarkably close to the poltergeist experiences I witnessed as a kid, including the very distinct dog-hiding, cat hissing features, and random timing, strange things being thrown around... Gave me chills even if it is a hoax. Thought you might enjoy seeing what it's like to live with such a phenomenon--this is a very good portrayal.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The Haunting" (1963): The Most Authentic Movie Ghost Story

Although this black-and-white gem might be “lame” by most scary movie standards today, it is probably the most realistic haunted house movie ever made. You want to know what it’s like to stay in a haunted house? Watch this movie. Better yet, add it to your collection. I guarantee it’s as authentic as they get.

This movie very closely mimics the book “The Haunting of Hills House” by Shirley Jackson for which it is based. I won’t get into the book on this post because this is really about the movie’s portrayal and all the senses involved. The book, however, is probably one of the finest scary novels of all time and also should be on your shelf.

I snuck and watched this movie on a little black-and-white TV in our big old spooky house when I was a kid. It so frightened me with its authenticity that I had a great deal of difficulty sleeping that night. I lied there in bed, studying the patterns in the flowered wallpaper and pulling my feet and hands into the blanket and away from the edge of the bed, waiting for the activity to begin. What was a guardian-type haunting to me before then took on the dark possibility of something with plotting intent. Up until that time, the unseen mischief-makers in my home were of the quality of "Casper" in the ghost world. The idea of a malicious ghost was a new concept for a child who admired the soldiers who had died in the building. In fact, my parents had done a good job of making ghosts seem more like pets than something watching and waiting for opportunities to instill fear.

The basis of the movie, for those who haven’t seen it, is a parapsychologist doing a study of a famously haunted house with a group of chosen participants. The music is moody and suspenseful, the setting rich with darkness, heavy drapes, gilded mirrors, ornate flocked wallpaper, giant canopied beds, and lots of gothic touches creating a “taste” that is decidedly ghostly inviting. It also involves one of the guests who is the "vulnerable" one to the haunting. In fact, this movie first gave me the idea that some people take to hauntings in negative ways and therefore have a completely different experience.

The elements that make it the most realistic to a true haunting are the pacing and the methods:

It begins with being startled easily because of the creepy surroundings, a natural reaction to a large dark mansion and learning of its history.

It moves into fear of being alone, feelings of being watched, and cold spots.

It progresses into banging, footsteps and doorknobs turning.

Eventually, it escalates to voices, scrawled messages, and invisible hand holding.

Ultimately, at its crescendo, all the participants in the ghost study experience the same loud pounding in the halls, doorknobs rattling, door panels seeming to be breathe in and out, as they huddle in absolute terror.

The descent into madness sets in for the weakest occupant as it would in a truly haunted home. At some point, the occupants win or the house wins. In this story, the house has the last word.

I think the aspects of the movie that most struck home with me were little things like the muffled child's voice whining in an unknown location, the cold spots, the feelings of being watched, the heavy footfalls in the halls, the banging and doorknob turning. Also, the distinct feeling someone or something is trying to distract you to a new location.

I would never want to alter a movie that is this perfectly gothically frightening, but should I have a chance to enhance some of the scenes for something closer to my experience, I'd add some poltergeist activity, tall dark shadows pacing the hallway, and doors opening and closing. Perhaps if those had been in the movie, I would not have slept at all that night I first watched it. As it stands now, watching this movie is a bit like being back in the thick of it again. Yeah, I'm nostalgic about the haunting of my youth, but had this not happened to me, I might not be the curious, knowledge-seeker I am now.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Psychokinesis: The Ultimate Covert Manipulation

Psychokinesis is a broad term for the ability to affect objects with the mind. Telekinesis is under that umbrella as the ability to move and manipulate objects with the mind. Other forms of psychokinesis can include the ability to bend metals, teleporting objects from one location to another, creating images and words in another’s mind, changing matter, passing through matter, levitating, swapping bodies, and poltergeist phenomenon.

Interestingly, there is no actual irrefutable evidence of psychokinesis existing and yet it is perhaps one of the most studied psychic abilities in hopes of capturing mind control. As you can imagine, the military (especially former Soviet Union) found this concept worth pursuing extensively. There have been a great deal of “magician” types who’ve come forward to say they have these abilities. Their sleight of hand and breathing techniques can appear to make items move. One demonstration showed a debunking of a “psychic” who used techniques of letting out breath directionally to move a pencil across a table. It appears that those who claim the ability run into the same issues as ghost hunters trying to show film of phenomenon and having people dismiss it for shadows or objects in the room.

Sometimes, it feels as if we’ve been dinking around with the paranormal for way too long. It’s either been a purely entertainment issue as it is with people like Uri Geller or shows like "A Haunting" or it’s some kind of military secret Cold War obsession for weapon development.

What’s necessary is the interest of scientists, specifically quantum physicists, in this realm. Experienced testing engineers could help too in the development of controlled testing. What else is necessary is the public's access to the process. right now, testing is usually done in university labs, who publish their findings, but no one is going to believe in the paranormal because a professor said he saw a pencil move across the table. The public wants to believe, but they also want these studies to quit hiding and come out in the open where we can be equally impressed by the testing conditions and the results.

So far, the paranormal world has been like the world of religion, we're expected to believe without proof. You are either a believer or a nonbeliever. Religion (for its own self protective reasons) has said that we are not to question the miraculous and unseen, but the paranormal has not made such a statement, although it is commonly accepted. To whom does it benefit us believing in the paranormal without proof? No, this is a study that needs to be dragged into the world of physics and dealt with there.

Belief shouldn't be blind for the paranormal, it should be earned.

Admittedly, unless there are controlled studies, a lot of stories of psychics being able to do such things are purely anecdotal. As I would ideally love to be able to do a ghost study with purely controlled conditions, with shielding from radiowaves and other signals, as well as EMF protection, I’d love to see testing for psychokinesis done in the same manner. It really is very frustrating when any phenomenon can be explained by outside conditions, whether it is the psychic himself hoaxing or radio signals interfering with EVPs. It’s really time for us to sit down, create an ideal testing lab, and begin the process. Forget the concepts of psychokinesis being a wonderful military tool and start looking at it to simply prove it in the first place. Once proven, let’s use this knowledge to find out how our minds can be made to be more efficacious.

I’d be curious to hear if anyone has tried to manipulate an object or another person with their mind. I’ve had many strange things occur for me as far as affecting electronics and watches, but one day I had an incident that truly shocked me. I don’t know what the conditions were for the day (I wish I would have noted geomagnetic activity), but I was driving down the road and thought to myself “since I’m going by the convenience store on the way home, I should get some lottery tickets.” I’m not a usual lottery ticket person, but from time to time I think of it when I have a bunch of change building up in my car’s ashtray. So, as I was running my chores, I was thinking periodically “don’t forget 7 Powerball tickets.” I went to the grocery store, the post office, the Target store, thinking “don’t forget the 7 Powerball tickets.” I finally was on my last part of the trip and stopped at the convenience store. I dashed inside out of the rain and the woman behind the counter looked up at me and said, “7 Powerball tickets?” and turned to the machine and started entering it. I hadn’t even reached the desk or spoken. The other people nearby stopped and looked at me and then at her. My hand was trembling as I paid her the $7 I had in my pocket. I heard one of the people say to the other, “did you hear her say anything?” I will never be able to explain that one, but it’s as if I somehow either sent her the message or the message was so apparent mentally that she thought she heard me say it when I was only thinking it in my head.

Does psychokinesis exist? My own personal view is that, yes, it does. Anyone who knows how skeptical I am to believe in anything, would realize that is a big statement. The fact is, I’ve seen poltergeist activity including objects moving on their own. I know it happens. I’m not sure how it happens, but I tend to believe it has more to do with the people in the house than the spirits in the house. I also believe that it’s very possible to pass thoughts to others. I can’t deny astral projection, as I have quite clearly done it myself.

I believe that the powers of the mind do surpass the human body. To think it is contained within its defined borders is perhaps naïve.

I’ve decided it’s long since time I tried my hand at telekinesis. My hope is that I can move a pencil on a table. First, I’ll put a mark where the pencil is to see if it moves. I will also make an attempt to be certain my breath is not in some way going to affect movement by wearing a pollen mask. I believe by using my mind as if I want to move my leg or arm, seeing the pencil as part of my body and under my command, I can manage to send those signals to the pencil. I will also test it using my hands nearby to use my "aura" to push the pencil as if my fingers extend further than my body's limits. Strong visualization abilities will also be key. I need to believe it can move. I’ll be trying this experiment and I hope to keep you posted if I find a way to move anything with my mind and take note of the methods I used so I can find out what worked and what did not.

I encourage you to attempt it, as well.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Coach

Well, my friends, I'm exhausted and kind of sad. I helped move my son out to an apartment with his girlfriend about a mile away--not far at all, but definitely feeling the empty nest. It will be a very hard adjustment. It's like missing a limb. He has the same interests, same sense of humor, finished my sentences. I'm so thrilled for him to be making this exciting step in his life, but my routine and habits and priorities will be undergoing change. I expect to transform through the process with new hobbies, activities, and goals.

I watch him starting his adult life with everything open to him and the future a big question mark. I'm not sure when life turns into a period instead of a question mark, but I do hope to use his example and no longer limit myself about what I can do and how I can be. He has been my very best mentor. In fact, my nickname for him is "Coach." He taught me everything I know about how to be a loving person who puts someone else before herself. I've never been the same.

So, you will all have to be the focus of my motherly tendencies, fussing and fretting, concerned and bothersome. Perhaps if you survive the process, you too can be called "Coach." Thank you for your wonderful support.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Anyone Can Capture Phenomenon - Photos

The advent of digital cameras not only made it possible for people to take photos who were reluctant to sit and wait at the drugstore for the prints, but also changed the field of ghost hunting. However, now it's easier than ever to get phenomena in photos.

For years, there was a huge debate about orbs. Eventually, it became quite apparent how easy orbs were to get in photos and to conversely note that on dusty or rainy nights, we got more orbs, as well as inside of dusty old mansions and museums. The flash being so close to the lens, it makes it possible to illuminate particles and create truly gorgeous orbs. Admittedly, I dismiss all orbs, but I do collect some photos of them for examples of windy nights or spring pollen conditions or drizzle or snow. However, upon occasion I get one that is so amazing because it is perhaps obscured by something in the distance or has a clear tail to it, that I keep it to ponder how it occurred.

I've put in some photos here taken by various people with various cameras capturing some phenomenon and how they went about debunking what it was and was not. You don't need to necessarily go to a famously haunted location. Begin to let your instincts tell you when and where to take shots and by now you probably know me well enough to suggest waiting for a night of geomagnetic storm (if we ever get one again!)

The first picture shows something shooting in the distance beyond the bars. The problem is, absolutely zero light in the cemetery. Nothing at all. It gets even weird because at a completey different time, the blue spinning thing (similar) in the second picture showed up in the same place. Still, no source of light. Nothing to reflect off of. Completely baffling.

The next photo intrigues me. It was taken by a skeptic of the strongest kind (you know the type, so adamant nothing unexplained exists in the world that it's nearly reaching religious zealotry--I'm not going to budge--mode). The same place the blue things were found in a cemetery. Years apart. This strange light is intriguing because if for some reason there was a light (there is no light in the cemetery whatsoever), then the light from the ground bouncing to the sky or sky bouncing to the ground should have illuminated the bars of the fencing, but did not. They appear like two separate unrelated lights.

There's a light "squiggle" in this one that doesn't belong. Having tried my hand at shooting a light in the dark with a slow shutter speed while moving the camera, I know how they turn out. The problem with this one was that it was utterly completely and totally dark--not a light, not a particle of light in the entire place. How this squiggle came to be, I don't know, but earlier before it got dark, we did see someone who disappeared within seconds in that same spot.

This pool one is particularly interesting to me. I got a shot of my swimming pool because I wanted to show someone the vines I was going to start growing on the walls. When I looked at it on the screen, I was shocked to see an orb overhead (well, not shocked, this is the desert), but if you look closer, you can see what appears to be the orb reflecting in the pool--now how is that possible???

See these perfect orbs? Not so perfect, actually. My son took this one in the dark and came inside and excitedly showed me the picture for me to only say, "Those are my fake orbs." He didn't know I'd taken styrofoam balls, painted them, put florist pins in them with fishing wire and hung them from the tree. I enjoyed swimming in the pool at night and seeing the glowing looking orbs hovering. It was a nod to my ghost hunting hobby.

"Don't ever give up your wonder, but always be practical"

That is my credo as a hunter. I want people to be amazed and excited about the things they capture in photos, but I also want them to be critical, noting the conditions and factors that might make things appear they hadn't expected. The only photos I truly get excited about are the ones that I know I can't even come up with a practical explanation for. I don't like to have a nagging doubt when saying a photo is genuinely phenomenon captured. I will always be vigilent so that when something is the real deal, I can smile and know I've covered all the explanations.

You can and you probably will capture photographic evidence. Did you get a new digital camera for Christmas? Be sure and get used to its qualities. Go outside and do shots in the dark while the sprinklers are on, in cold weather when you're breathing hard, and in a dusty house when you shake out a curtain or blow dust off a window blind. Once you have a good example of how your camera shoots these natural explanations, you'll be able to proudly debunk what you find on pic's.

Be sure and let me know if you find anything. I just love seeing new stuff I haven't seen before.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Carol Syndrome

For this auspicious holiday, I thought I’d leave you with a thought about ghosts and their potential role in our lives. My favorite part of ghost hunting (besides getting evidence and being in scary dark places) is helping people reframe their interpretation of the phenomenon they’ve encountered. It can actually be a testing ground for a family and its coping skills. Sometimes, however, it is a sample of a much deeper problem.

There’s a phenomenon I personally call the “Christmas Carol Syndrome.” This occurs when a family dynamic is so dysfunctional that the ghost becomes the scapegoat for everything that’s wrong. The family looks to the unseen to blame for their fear, anxiety, sleeplessness. It’s not the father that drinks too much or the mother who is absent or the siblings who are depressed, it’s the ghost.

The unexpected sounds, feelings of being watched, hair pulling, and visitations at the bedside become an obsession. There was a family on “Ghost Hunters” show (probably more than one, but one that I know of) who had several teams to their home, were on several ghost hunting shows. They seemed really normal. They must have a ghost problem, right? One has to wonder. When a family seeks out so many teams, so many shows to come inside their home to prove “it’s the ghosts,” they’re either attention seekers or desperately wanting confirmation from others, “no, no, it’s not you, it’s the ghost.” These are the sort of folks who need to feel helpless and victimized, tormented, and afraid. They need it because the ghost explains why they’re feeling these things in their home life. Therefore, they don't need to place blame where it belongs and face issues they really don't want to try to approach.

In the tale “A Christmas Carol,” the main character is visited by ghosts from his past, present, and future to show him what he did wrong in the past, how it led to his miserable present, and how much worse it could get in the future if he continues this path.

There are times I wish I could send those three to certain family’s homes.

It’s true that a family in distress can create poltergeist-like activity. What does one do about that situation? Every poltergeist situation I’ve seen involved a repressed anger. Getting the open talk going about the elements that might be unspoken of amongst the family members is the ideal start. Presented to them in the form of everyone putting their cards on the table to band together against the ghost, presents it in a positive light. If they feel helpless, they will continue to feel fear. And the reverse.

I have been very interested in the concept of feng shui and home organization in terms of keeping the house energy flowing properly. You’ve probably noticed the cluttered and dark houses that attract ghostly happenings on the ghost hunting shows. You don’t see ultra modern, neat, and bright homes that have issues. The same goes for families. The energy of the family itself can become balled up and twisted. If they clean out their closets (get their frustrations off their chests), there are no dark places to hide, no taut energy inside their bodies and minds, no feeding source for activity. It sounds rather new-age, but these are trends I see in homeowners complaining about hauntings; congested homes, congested emotions.

The ultimate question is, do these people attract spirit activity, somehow cause phenomenon? Or, do they create a haunting to blame for their bad dynamics? Perhaps they move into a house that is haunted and don’t handle it well because of poor coping skills or team work? It’s really all three of these reasons.

The Christmas Carol Syndrome may sound like a hokey name for a complex problem, but whenever I think of that term in my mind, I immediately want to ask “what about your past? What about your present?” To determine their future.

Have a happy holiday and perhaps take the time to review your own ghosts from the past and the present to determine your future, especially at this time when everyone is prepared to turn a new leaf and resolve to change their habits. If you put it down in writing, for example, “I tend to think of others and their feelings and want everyone around me to be happy. As a child, I hated to see my family sad, so I would be extra cheerful and accommodating. Nowadays, I anticipate loved one’s needs and rush in to fulfill them and make their lives easier.” What is this person’s future? “I will continue to neglect my own needs at the risk to my dreams, goals, and health.”

So, I wish for you a chance to get a visit by the 3 wise ghosts. Don’t forget, these ghosts don’t just show you what you’ve done wrong, but also what you’ve done right. For example, someone might realize, "I am not afraid of hard work. As a child, I could work for weeks on a treefort and not give up. I'd find older kids to teach me how to do it right, ask my parents for the right tools, and work away. Today, I don't give up on projects. If I don't know everything, I find someone who will teach me, a mentor. In the future, I see that no matter what happens, I will always work hard at my projects and have success." Look at your past, your present, and your fate. You can’t get anymore powerful and in control than that.

Happy holiday!

Ho-Ho! Oh-No!

Hope everyone has a super happy holiday, whatever spirited event you participate in. This is my little gift to ya'all. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ghost Hunting Shows: Compare and Contrast

I wouldn’t be much of a ghost hunter or ghost hunting theories blogger if I didn’t talk about the entertainment world of ghost hunting (notice I don’t say the research world). Palemother asked if I’d reviewed some of the shows and I realized I’ve never really set them up against each other. I’m going to do it here. Haunt Jaunts did this brilliant post about the impending death of ghost hunting shows. When I’m done, hopefully you’ll know exactly what’s worth tuning into and what’s not.

Show lineup (as of this minute)

“Ghost Lab” Discovery Channel
“The Haunted” Animal Planet Channel
“Paranormal State” A&E channel
“Ghost Hunting” SyFy
“Ghost Hunters International” SyFy
“Ghost Academy” SyFy
“Ghost Intervention” TLC
“Ghost Adventures” Travel Channel
“Most Haunted” (British import) Travel Channel
“Psychic Kids: Paranormal Children” A&E channel

Jeez, I’m sure there’s more but, let’s just take them on one at a time:

“Ghost Lab” (Team rolls into town with decked out trailer and lots of theories)
Pros: They test theories (a huge plus for me since not many teams even probe theories), they have lots of equipment, they have my favorite guy narrating (Mike Rowe), they go to more obscure places, they consult professionals
Cons: Abrasive loud Texans tromping around, aggressive, angry, and way too much testosterone for true research. Bad techniques—walking around while holding the recorder to do EVP (hand, movements, wind sounds). Get horrible evidence and call EVPs class A when they’re B or worse. Think everything is proof.

Why should I watch this show?
You want to know about theories in the field of ghost hunting and ways a team could go about testing them.

“The Haunted” (Animal-related haunting documentary-style stories)
Pros: If you like a kind gentle ghost story told in a narrative documentary style and involving animals and kind-hearted people with strange but not terrifying occurrences, this is the ideal ghost show for a family to see together.
Cons: Do not expect this to be a true ghost hunting show. It serves no investigative purpose, but is a storytelling show.

Why should I watch this show?
You just want a creepy but not scary tale involving children and animals, families and homes.

“Paranormal State” (Penn State college students want to encounter the dead)
Pros: Very moody, well edited, and entertaining. It puts the spooky factor back in.
Cons: Scooby Doo on Adderall. It’s edited so well that everything lines up like breadcrumb clues—completely unbelievable. They incite families into tears and fears, bring in priests and psychics to convince them they’re being possessed, and then move on after a happy little prayer. This is the very worst of the old turn-of-the-century snake oil feeling ghost hunting.

Why should I watch this show? Purely for entertainment, moody dark music, creepy story telling, people emotionally on the edge, lots of hocus pocus ghost hunting techniques, this is the show.

“Ghost Hunting” (TAPS team hunted long before the show started)
Pros: They first introduced America to the concept of actual debunking and trying to capture phenomenon. They are likeable bunch, run into the usual problems of keeping a group together over time and travel, and have ethics about how to handle clients.
Cons: They don’t bring in professionals, rarely try new theories or equipment, do the same thing over and over and over again with the same pairings of team members in places that are usually over-studied by other groups.

Why should I see this show? If you want to have a chance at seeing the kind of phenomenon that makes a person say “I just encountered a ghost,” maybe you haven’t ever experienced anything paranormal, this is the show for you.

“Ghost Hunters International”
(Offshoot of “Ghost Hunters” that goes to other countries)
Pros: Same as “Ghost Hunters,” with the exception of some really cool places we haven’t seen before.
Cons: Same as “Ghost Hunters,” with the exception that their crew changes rapidly and so we don’t get a chance to get a feel for them. Hoping they keep Robb, Paul, and Barry. Everyone else? So-So.

Why should I see this show?
To see haunted places in the world we don’t usually get to see or hear about.

“Ghost Hunters Academy” (Offshoot of “Ghost Hunters” involving training college aged kids to become full-fledged hunters)
Pros: (Give me a minute, I’ll think of one…) I lied, I can’t think of one, even entertainment
Cons: It’s infantile and ridiculous. One pathetic girl said, “this is what I want to do with my life.” She wanted to make it her career. Does anyone make a career or ghost hunting? It’s without fees to clients, an expensive hobby, basically. The show is over, but I suspect they will run more youngsters through the hamster wheel next season to choke as much out of the GH brand as possible.

Why should I watch this show?
For Pete’s sake, do you devalue your life that much?

“Ghost Intervention” (new twist of psychics and case manager going to haunted homes and helping the people living there)
Pros: Talented counselors/psychics. Fairly good advice. This is also something that isn’t out there—how to help the people that live in homes with phenomenon (I won’t count “Paranormal State” because it’s the evangelical version of ghost hunting counseling).
Cons: I’m not thrilled by having psychics come in and read the place and talk to the homeowners. I find it impossible that they will ever go into a place and say “no ghosts” and people are very vulnerable to psychic’s advice. This is a good time for them to help them to cognitively reframe how they interpret phenomenon instead of giving them lush stories about the crippled man who wants to light them on fire or whatever other horrible “reads” they get on the place that will then haunt the family when they leave.

Why should I watch this show?
To see psychics at work

“Ghost Adventures”
(3 buddies with their own cameras, lock down in places and taunt the dead)
Pros: (sigh) They do find some obscure less known places. The idea of no filming crew is a fair one—less people to be creating phenomenon.
Cons: They are the 3-Stooges of ghost hunting. If you don’t mind 3 guys who seem like they were bullied in school and now take it out on the unseen where they can be plenty “brave” and not get hurt (I don’t count little scratches), then this might be the show for you. Their techniques don’t illicit any good proof and they are so uneducated about the ghost world that their leader invited an incubus to come and get him (male ghost looking for sex)

Why should I watch this show?
Purely for entertainment. It is hilariously funny and I just find it one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t expect it to be a ghost hunting show. It’s more like watching frat boys daring each other to stay in an abandoned building.

“Most Haunted” (British show involving a huge team of crew and people and psychics)
Pros: Beautiful Great Britain locations, lots of castles and historic sites.
Cons: It’s just so ridiculous. The psychics they use are ridiculous. The dramatics about every single creaky sound (they’re in 500-year-old buildings, for Pete’s sake), and the tons of people tromping around. There is absolutely no ghost hunting value here.

Why should I watch this show?
If you want to see old English places and hear people weave a scary story and watch a hostess constantly gasping at every sound, this is your show.

“Psychic Kids: Paranormal Children” (show for helping psychic kids understand their skills and their families learn to live with them)
Pros: A nice concept. Psychic kids really have no way to deal with their being different than to just push it down. They do involve counseling and opportunities to take what might be a scary skill and turn it into something they have control over.
Cons: I get the sort of icky feeling this is really about taking advantage of the process for entertainment purposes and putting the children sometimes in very emotional situations like having to find clues to a person’s missing loved one. A giant responsibility to one so young and inexperienced.

Why should I watch this show?
This show is a good way to see the different forms of psychics that are out there, how they interpret what they read, how it comes to them, and the emotional aspects of what it’s like to be a teen and psychic and feeling outcast.

Paranormal Night Tonight

Tonight’s paranormal TV lineup:

A&E has their “Paranormal State” (or as we like to call it “Paranoid State”) show on with a new episode about: “Church of the Damned” An abandoned Kansas church a family is renovating. This is followed by a repeat episode previously aired.

Following that on the same A&E channel is “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal” About Mother and daughter psychics team up with teenage sisters to try to solve the puzzle of a mysterious girl ghost at an inn that dates back to the Revolutionary War.

This is followed by more repeat episodes of “Paranormal State.”

In you want to avoid the repeats of “Paranormal State,” switch over to Discovery and watch “Ghost Lab” (or as we like to call it “Ghost Rehab.”) Tonight’s episode is about The USS Lexington, an allegedly haunted WWII carrier, is probed. Also: the team investigates the Ye Kendall Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Happy viewing!

Dark Matter Discovery - Paranormal Broth?

In an earlier post, I discussed whether neutrinos (particles that can go through things) were part of the paranormal “broth” that helps to facilitate ghostly activity and psychic abilities. In my SciFi novel I’ve been writing, my concept was that dark matter was the “broth” that carried psychic information.

Interestingly, an exciting new article just came out discussing how some dark matter might have been detected in…(get this) a defunct mine! Sound like theories are linking together here? The question for me has always been geology in relation to ghostly activity, but also mines.

From the article: In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine (Minnesta) half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.

Dark matter is what created the structure of the universe and is essentially what holds it together. When ordinary matter falls into lumps of dark matter it turns into galaxies, stars, planets and people. Without it, we wouldn't be here.
Some dark matter particles could explain why ordinary matter is not radioactive, while others may help scientists understand why time – so far as we know – always runs forward.

Dark matter particles are peculiar because they pass through objects as if they were not there. Their aloof nature has led scientists to name them weakly interacting massive particles, or Wimps. Vast amounts of these are thought to be constantly moving through the Earth and everything on it, us included, as the solar system spins around our galaxy.

What this actually means for the world of the paranormal, it’s not certain and probably won’t be for a long time, as certainly the bigger questions of dark matter’s importance will be explored first. I’m hopeful, however, that we might have found the linking substance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie Review: "Frostbiten" and "Sauna"

I’m an absolute nut for Scandinavian horror movies ever since I discovered my favorite vampire movie of all time, “Let the Right One In.” I watch them and feel immediately at home, as if my soul recalls my ancestors living there. If there is DNA memory, mine is activated by scenes from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Lapland. This time of year, these are two "cold" movies to watch, but "Sauna" is by far one of the best I've ever seen. That says a great deal, too!

This weekend, I curled up in the dark with a “woobie” (my protective blanket, of course!) and watched these two choices:

Frostbiten” is a fantastic Swedish movie about a doctor and her daughter who move to a town up in the northern Lapland region (where my grandma was from) . It’s dark there because of the sun being in the south and it’s snowy and cold. Life is strange in the darkness going to and from work and school in it. But, the darkness also holds other secrets—vampires! I’d put this one on the level of the original “Friday the 13th” for tension, effects, and storyline. It was an enjoyable watch, but not a “must see,” however, I am glad I saw it. It had the feel of an 80s horror movie to me. Still, it did have a few unique moments, like vampires being able to hear what dogs are thinking. This will be in subtitles, but Swedish is a funny language. At times, you swear they’re speaking English. Many tones and syllables transfer well. On a rating of 1-4 autumn leaves, I give this one 2 leaves.

Sauna” was an amazing find! Absolutely bloody brilliantly beautiful! I will buy this one for my collection asap! This Finnish movie takes place in the 1500s when Sweden and Russia were done warring and making boundaries for their countries. A team of soldiers set out to map the new territory and come across a strange village in the middle of a swamp. It appears to have the ability to make people face their sins. This movie was so beautifully filmed—like nothing I’ve ever seen. I wanted to jump right into it. It was the land of my dreams when I fantasize about the perfect place in the world. The characters were rich and interesting, the costuming unbelievably impressive, the tone and plotting brilliantly crafted. I am watching this filmmaker from now on! If I had an unlimited budget and the ability to direct-this would be a movie I would wish to do. Even the bad lead character, Erik, is totally sexy and bad-ass in his crazy costume that I just adore and his weather-worn face and his bloody past. He’s an evil character but he’s just “cool” beyond belief. Really well developed and really well executed. This movie had some of the most unique and amazingly original things I’ve ever seen in a movie (the building in the swamp—sooooo cool!) and I put it right directly beside “Let the Right One In” as my favorite foreign movies of all time. Once you go into that world, it haunts you. I had the most amazing dreams that night! Wow! So, you can see by my previous post of the Techno Viking that this movie really put me in the mood for the great north! On a rating scale of 1-4 autumn leaves, this one gets 4!

As usual, I like to compare movies to other movies so you can figure out if this might be a good match.

Frostbiten: “30 Days of Night,” “Halloween 2,” “Jeepers Creepers”

Sauna: “Pathfinder,” “Let the Right One In,” “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” “The Keep.”

My Favorite YouTube Video of All Time

"Techno Viking"

This is just the most bad-ass totally cool video. It was taken on the street in Germany during a celebration. I can't explain why I'm fascinated with it, but I just am! It was one of those moments in time that everything came together to make a story and entertainment at the same time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is There Any Mystery Left to be Discovered?

Are you kidding?
Here’s only a tiny handful for 2009:

Over 4 million years old, the most ancient relative of humans was found, named “Ardi.” (I probably would have called him “Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Uncle Ardi”)

The Hadron Collider, a 17-mile long particle accelerator, turned on in September (and we were not sucked into a black hole--yet).

In rainforests of Papua, New Guinea a team of scientists found a new fish, rat, bat, and several frogs (and probably 80 new species of bugs that ate them alive).

40 light years away, a planet much like earth is discovered and it contains lots of water (see my posts in the year 3013 to see what happens when we finally land there).

Upon crashing a bomb into the moon, we discovered it had a significant amount of ice (so when did the moon start developing weapons of mass destruction and become a threat?)

A new ring around Saturn was discovered. (Perhaps we should consult with Elin, Tiger’s wife, she seems to be missing hers…)

Skin cells are turned into stem cells, negating the need for embryo stem cells and ethical issues (and opening up a black market for scratch-and-run thieves).

Yeah, science is still out there. You won’t hear the news casters chatting about it like they do Tiger’s sex life, but it’s always been the unsung hero. How else would anything from health to communications to recreation to transportation be possible without it?

It continues to grow at leaps and bounds and in our lifetime we can expect fantastic accomplishments like a cure for cancer and stem-cell advances to make it possible to regrow missing limbs, repair spinal cords, and cure debilitating diseases such as MS and Parkinsons. And, that’s just in the field of medicine. Don’t even get me started on what we’re learning of the universe, the ocean, the rainforests, and green technology...

Some great sources for what’s up in science:
New Scientist
Science Daily

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Characters

Continuing my series of writer's workshop, this time I want to talk about characters and their development.

Most people assume that character development is probably the easiest part of writing, after all, we live with characters all around us. The fine line is taking such characters as the homeless preacher on the street corner and not turning him into a stereotype. Once we think we can classify someone, we put them away in our brain and don’t look at them again. When they have an unusual quirk that is incongruous, they suddenly are intriguing:

A Harvard-educated day laborer in East LA?

Remember, people can have tic’s, nervous habits, phrases they use over and over again, rituals, obsessions, addictions, mental issues. We are the sum of what we’ve been through. Your character wasn’t just born on your pages. He had a life until this moment you’re writing about. It’s all those things that he went though which lend him his maturity level and explanatory style and convictions. A person can be beaten as a child and grow up to be extremely gentle and considerate or he can beat his children too. Be certain to lay out your character’s life journey even if none of it will be referred to in your work:

Sarah’s mother died when she was 8 years old. Since then, she has been obsessed with taking photographs and scrapbooking every moment of her life and her loved one’s to the point of obsession, trying to permanently keep every second, but forgetting to actually participate in that life.

People are never all one thing. They’re contradictions and quirks. You can be an uptight engineer and play drums in a rock band. You can be a religious zealot and believe in UFOs. You can be a tomboy who is competitive with the boys and yet dream of being a fashion designer.

Try and describe your quirky character in an easy sentence:

Dr. Alan Grant (“Jurassic Park”): A paleontologist who fears computers, technology, and children.

Brody (“Jaws”): A sheriff who is afraid of water but lives on an island.

Sandy Olsson
(“Grease”) A good girl cheerleader falls for a slacker bad boy.

Often times in teaching about writing, we’re told our characters must have a strength and a weakness.

Johnny is extremely loyal and he cries at the drop of a hat.

That’s pretty boring, I think. To me, a person’s strength is also his greatest weakness.

When Johnny is strongly loyal, his greatest weakness is that he will stay with someone who treats him poorly.

Remember this important key: People need a character who is real, has a vulnerability. No one likes Martha Stewart because she preens and pretends and acts as if she never so much as farts. An unlikable character, to be sure. Have you ever met someone and they were so unrevealing about themselves that you never feel you know them and consequently never feel a bond? We see this in characters in movies like “Halloween” where the characters are “corrupt” and “expendable,” with the exception of Laurie Strode who is a good girl, does her homework, saves her babysitting money, and instinctively protects the children in her care.

There will always be a bit of you in every character. It’s unavoidable to not put in something you identify with, whether it’s something physical, mental, emotional, or historic. This kind of bonding is good. I’ve written lots of short stories about men as the main character, but there can be something in them I identify with. The grumbling character in my Halloween short about the nasty neighbor was a crusty angry old man, but I identified with his frustration with neighbor’s dogs shitting in his yard.

Do remember, however, that your character is like your child; you influence them, but you do not expect them to be you. Their growing up experience was completely different, in a different era, with different siblings and parents, and different events. You can see hints of you in them, but they have minds of their own.

Happy writing!

Uncanny Valley

(Wikipedia) The "uncanny valley" hypothesis holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's life-likeness. This hypothesis was created by a robot-maker, Masahiro Mori.

Basically, it is the point at which a person observing the creature or object in question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough off-kilter to seem eerie or disquieting.

Have you ever seen a wax museum figure of say, Princess Di, but there’s something just a little bit off about the proportions of expression that makes it just wrong.

Have you seen those awful commercials where they use actors but the “cartoon” them up just slightly? Does it give you the shivers?

Ever see a video game where the animated characters are so human like, you have to study them closely to realize they aren’t and when you find that not-human aspect of them, they suddenly make you uncomfortable?

Ever seen a dog look at a stuffed dog and bark and get very upset, even though the doll is very dog-like?

Those are all examples of the uncanny valley.

Future development of robots might just depend on that brilliant theory. Just look at the two robots above? Would the one little guy be like having an adorable helpful pet? Would the other be like having a human without a soul nearby?

With the exception of lonely nerds wanting a dream girlfriend in their home, the sale-ability of near-human robots looks very iffy. Personally, I'd like to think of a robot as a helpful machine. I don't want it to be human-like. I don't want to make an emotional connection with it. I don't want to transfer my bonding I should have with a living breathing being to a mechanical creation. It would be like talking to my vacuum cleaner and expecting it to care about me in return.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Blues? Pining Your Childhood? Get Over It!

This post is for the holiday season when many of us mourn the “idyllic” Christmas, become frustrated the season isn’t like we imagined it should be, and those who just pine for Santa again. In other words, anyone fighting change…

I was in line at Target store getting items checked out. The old man working the counter rolled his eyes when a little girl nearby screamed out. (The girl’s hair was caught in the cart when her mother pushed it forward—understandable scream). He sighed wearily and said, “I miss the old days when children didn’t run crazy and showed respect.”

Usually, I’m a very compassionate person, understanding everything is within a person’s context or the kind of day he’s having, but I couldn’t stop my mouth from blurting out to the sour old man. “Oh, you mean the good old days when we didn’t have antibiotics to cure TB and simple infections? Or the good old days where a lady like her (nod to the woman with child) had no options to get out of an abusive marriage? Or maybe the good old days where that man (pointing to the African American worker at the customer service desk) couldn’t work here, couldn’t even ride in the front of the bus? Those good old days?

Duly chastised, the man’s face fell and he sighed again. “I never thought of it that way. Oh my.” I gave him a wink and left him to think about my words.

Sometimes, we get so focused on the negative (thank you news outlets) that we forget about the progress we’ve made. I can’t tell you how many times I turn off the news because all they do is report that someone strangled their kittens or stomped on an elderly person. A hundred years ago, the same things happened, we just didn’t get told about them every day, every hour, every minute. People could go an entire lifetime and never even see a portrait of the president, had no idea where India was, and didn’t know there was a war starting at the Mason-Dixon line. So, if people pout about the old days, they might want to keep a few things in perspective:

Remember that world where when we were kids we could wander and play outside all day long without stranger danger? (Feeling nostalgic?) Well, that was also the world where we rode in cars at 70 mph down the roadway without seat belts, played in houses made with asbestos and lead paint, had parents who smoked indoors, and completely trusted molesters because we were taught respect for elders and their orders without question.

Nostalgia has a way of distorting memories. I believe my childhood Christmases were absolute perfection. I forget, however, that we got cabin fever when it was cold and there was no snow. It only managed to snow on Christmas one year. My brother liked to throw the Monopoly pieces around the room whenever he lost at the game. The men when they had a football game on TV won out over everyone else for what to watch. I ended up having to do much of the cooking for events. Since I was so much younger than the others, no one wanted to tell me Christmas stories or watch the cartoon shows. I wasn’t trusted with the ornaments that were breakable. My parents were some of the world’s worst gift-givers and they didn’t buy toys. One Christmas, Santa brought me a large pillow??? Another year, a hair dryer (I already had a brand new one—oops!) I so related to the kid in "Home Alone!"

When I think back to youthful Christmases, what I really miss (besides all the family members who have gone) is the basic element—hope. The hope that it will snow. The hope of getting the dream gift (the child equivalent of hitting the lottery). The hope the Anderson family gave out their cookie gifts early. It’s also one time when the family is most forced to be together. Not only are there family events, but the weather simply begs everyone to stay inside. The trappings of “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer,” Christmas music, lights, egg nog, and trees were only the teasers for the big day countdown. They were like the Pavlov’s bells that made your mouth water. You get these cues and you begin to get excited. As an adult, however, you don’t get so excited because you realize you are now the gift-giver, shopper, pocketbook emptier. Christmas becomes a chore.

Oh, if only we were kids again.

I’m not in a cold snowy place anymore. My tree is artificial and not smelling of pine. I look out at a desert landscape. The daytime temperatures are in the 70s. Nearly all my family of origin is gone. Yet, Christmas is joyous to me. I am no longer the child waiting helplessly for the ideal gift. I am the giver. I am Santa. I make the cookies and gift them to people who are kind all year long. I pay attention to the tiny things about my loved ones to find the most custom and unique gift that says “I get you.” I refuse to pass a Salvation Army bucket without dropping money in it, even if I have to dig for change at the bottom of my purse. I curl up with a fire in the fireplace and hot cocoa and write out my cards. For all the exhaustion and expense, I do so love being the giver instead of the receiver.

Childhood Christmases are adorable and precious, but adult ones are a time to show your true nature, your role in your family, your appreciation for those you love.

You may never be so genuine all year long as you are on that one precious time of the year…

Embrace the change, become the giver.


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