Friday, November 9, 2018

The Problem with "Jonesy"

There are a lotta issues going on with "Jonesy."
That's "Jonesy," the guy smiling even though bleeding out.
Okay, let's break 'em down.

First of all, outside of war films from the '30's through the outliers of the late '70's, I've never heard this nick-name. Where'd it come from?

More importantly, "Jonesy" always dies in the movies. ALWAYS. God bless you future Jonesies, 'cause you've got about as much chance of surviving in a movie as a "Red Shirt" does in Star Trek.

My research assistant, Prospect Google, looked up Jonesy. She found out it means "sorta cute." I fired her. My next research assistant, Professor Google, found out it's a nickname of the suffix Jones. Duh.

I'm currently looking for a new research assistant.

Okay, we all know women and men named Jones, right? How many of them do you call "Jonesy?"  Do you walk past fellow employees at your business, saying, "Hey, what's up, McCallistery? How're you doing today, Sheldsteiny? Oh, look out, here comes,  Smithy! Your time to pay the coffee fund, Feldsteiny!"

Of course not. For the love of God, please let Jones be Jones.

If nothing else, it will save his life. 

*This endorsement has been paid for by The Right To Jones' Life Foundation. 

Ain't no Jonesies in Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley! If you can find one, you've just won the right to punch me in the face. Accept the challenge!

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Devil Made Me Do It by Catherine Cavendish

In my novel – Damned by the Ancients – a young girl with acute vision is able to see what others cannot and becomes possessed by an evil spirit. My book is, of course, fiction, but in real life there are numerous documented cases of demonic possession. One infamous one led to the first time being possessed by the devil was entered as a serious defense in a murder trial. The judge dismissed the plea but the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson will forever remain in history as a unique case. As well as a media circus.

The trial became known as ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ case and involved the killing of a landlord, Alan Bono in Connecticut.

Eleven year old David Glatzel lived with his family, mother, father, brother Carl and sister Debbie, who soon became joined by her fiancé, nineteen year old Arne Johnson, in a rented home.

According to accounts, David Glatzel recalled that, on his first visit to the rental property that was to become their home, an old man appeared to him warning him of dire events that would happen to them should they move in. His sister and her fiancé had initially thought David was using his assertions as a way of getting out of cleaning the place up prior to their move, but David insisted bad things would happen to the couple if they set foot over the threshold and moved in.
David began to experience terrible nightmares from which he would awaken, screaming about a ‘Beast Man’ with jagged teeth, pointed ears, and horns, and also claimed to see a terrible demon who spoke to him in Latin and threatened to steal his soul. David remained the only one who could see the ghost although the rest of the family did hear strange noises coming from the attic.

As David’s nightmares became worse, he began suffering from terrible visions during the day as well as at night. Gone was the happy-go-lucky young boy he had been. He developed unexplained scratches and bruises. Debbie and her mother claimed they had seen him choking as if invisible hands were throttling him. Meanwhile the boy began to growl, hiss, bark and recite passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the bible. He also spoke in unfamiliar languages. 

After twelve days, renowned demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (of Amityville and The Conjuring fame) were summoned and they witnessed a black mist forming around David – evidence of an evil presence. It was alleged that he was possessed by 43 demons. During the multiple exorcisms which followed – each performed by a Catholic priest – David levitated, convulsed, and even stopped breathing for a time. He also predicted what would happen to Alan Bono. In October 1980, the Warrens contacted the local Brookfield police to warn them of a dangerous situation developing around David Glatzel.
Meanwhile the exorcisms had resulted in an unfortunate turn of events for Arne Johnson. Normally mild-mannered and personable, he was attacked by one of the demons that fled from David’s body. It proceeded to cause him to behave in outlandish and increasingly dangerous ways, even wrecking his car by forcing it into a tree. Fortunately, Johnson was uninjured and he returned to the rented home. Here he examined an old well which was supposed to house the demon. Sure enough, the demon appeared and this is the last time Johnson claims he was lucid. The demon took possession of him at this point and from then on, his behaviour became increasingly more unstable and frightening. 

Debbie continued to stand by him although the couple decided to move out of the house into a flat owned by Alan Bono. (Debbie had recently gone to work for him as a dog groomer.) Soon after they moved in, Johnson’s behaviour started to deteriorate until it mirrored that of David’s before the exorcisms. Debbie witnessed her fiancé falling into a trance-like state, barking and hallucinating, yet having no recollection of anything untoward when he returned to normality.

Then on February 16th, 1981, Alan Bono took his sister Wanda, employee Debbie, Arne and Debbie’s nine year old cousin Mary to lunch. Bono drank heavily. The group returned to the dog kennels after lunch but Bono had become irrational. He grabbed Mary and refused to let her go. This angered Johnson whose behaviour became wild, animal-like. He growled, spat and set upon Bono with a five inch pocket knife, stabbing him repeatedly.  Bono died of his injuries a short time afterwards. 

Lorraine Warren stated to police on the day following the killing, that Johnson had been possessed by a demon at the time of the stabbing. Once the media got hold of the story, they went wild. All roads led to Brookfield, Connecticut – a town which had never before experienced a murder.

Johnson’s lawyer, Martin Minnella decided to go with a plea of demonic possession and consulted with lawyers and exorcism specialists all over the world. He even threated to subpoena the priests who conducted David’s exorcisms if they refused to co-operate with the defence of his client. Meanwhile, the Warrens insisted every word was true, resulting in a movie deal, books, interviews and other coverage.

The trial began on October 28th 1981 in The Superior Court in Danbury, Connecticut where the plea of not guilty by virtue of possession was summarily dismissed by Judge Robert Callahan who asserted that such a claim could never be proved. The jury were instructed to not even consider it.
On November 24 1981, the jury convicted Johnson of first degree manslaughter and he was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. He served five.
All these years later David Glatzel and his brother Carl have denounced the Warrens’ version of events and even sued authors and publishers of books about the alleged possession.
Arne and Debbie, however, take a different line. Debbie stood by Arne and the couple married. They support the Warrens’ version of events and say that Debbie’s brothers are merely looking to cash in.

Whatever the truth of it, David appears not to be troubled by any demons now.

In Damned by the Ancients, the Mortimers’ happy life is about to be turned upside down when little Heidi sees something in the cellar…


Vienna, 1908

Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .

Vienna, 2018

The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.

Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .

Damned by the Ancients is available from:

About the author:

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy - Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ghosts of UMKC

In honor of all things Halloween, my wife and I went on a local "haunted" tour of the University of Missouri in Kansas City campus.
Wait...that light just turned on, right?

Fascinating history hosted by the very knowledgeable Chris Wolff, unofficial historian of UMKC and author of A Pearl of Great Value: The History of UMKC

I only yawned a few times. Unfortunately, earlier in the day I'd forgotten about the impending tour and made the bad decision of having a heaping bowl of bean-loaded chili for lunch. Talk about hauntings.

All that's left of the University Playhouse. Except, of course, for ghosts!
One of the first stops was the grounds of the (now demolished) University Playhouse. In the 40's and 50's, Broadway actress Vaugn Burkholder worked at the theater, known for prowling the catwalk in an almost obsessive manner. In 1957, she keeled over in the playhouse from a heart attack. After she died, students claimed to have seen her in the rafters. Her high heels tic-tic-tacking across the boardwalk were heard by many. After the building was torn down, some believe her spectral figure still haunts the newer UMKC Conservatory, a replacement for the old playhouse. Hey, ghosts gotta hang out somewhere!

Next was a morbid tale that shed some surprising light on one of America's most notorious, unsolved murder cases. In 1941, UMKC education major, Leila Walsh, returned from a date and went to bed. Later that night, Leila's mother heard a strange thumping sound. She searched the house, found nothing awry. Leila's door was closed, and her brother, George, was sound asleep on the sofa. The mom went back to bed. The next morning, Mrs. Walsh went to wake up Leila and found her dead, savagely bashed with a hammer, her throat slit, and a strip of flesh ripped from her back. Not the best way to start your morning.

Leila's brother, George, was arrested for the murder because some guy claimed he sold the murderer's gloves (found in the yard) to him. The witness was later discovered to be a kook, reneged on his testimony, and said he'd had a vision of selling brother George the gloves. Holy O.J! George was exonerated, primarily on his mother's testimony that he was sleeping during the crime. Plus a chair had been lodged beneath Leila's doorknob.

The Kansas City police were embarrassed, the mob got involved, everything was sorta swept under the rug. Until the KCPD got a call from the L.A. Police Department. Back in 1947, the brutal murder of actress Elizabeth Short shocked the country. Better known as the infamous "Black Dahlia" murder, a name and phone number was found in the victim's purse. It belonged to a World War II veteran, Carl Basinger. Basinger claimed he'd only met Short for a few hours which later proved to be a lie. Furthermore, Basinger trained at Camp Cooke where Short volunteered until leaving due to harassment from a soldier.
I now know who killed her! Probably a little late to collect that reward, though.
More intensive investigation unveiled that Basinger went to UMKC at the same time as murdered student Leila Walsh. Hmmm... Also, the two murders were markedly similar, the signature of a strip of flesh torn from the back a giveaway. Alas, the lame Kansas City PD were still embarrassed by the entire unsolved debacle, didn't want to dredge it up again, and didn't cooperate with the LAPD. To this day, the two murders remain unsolved... OR DO THEY?

Let's move on to the haunted Epperson Mansion! Way back in the early 20th century, long before smart phones (and maybe even dumb phones, too), millionaire couple, Uriah and Elizabeth Epperson (along with organist, Harriet Barse--their living arrangement quite the scandal at the time), built and lived in this kooky mansion. The floor plan's apparently super bizarre, every five feet a new set of steps leading to other honeycombed rooms. 
Not as scary looking in the daytime!

Barse died in the mansion from gallbladder issues (the good ol' days!) and her spirit is said to haunt the mansion. The mansion's closed now, but not too long ago it'd been donated to the university where the music school resided. Students heard footsteps constantly, some saw Barse floating through the labyrinth hallways. Notoriously, an antique car nearly ran a cop down in the driveway and then vanished. And, of course, lights mysteriously go off and on.

Sadly, we weren't able to enter the haunted mansion. But as we stood on the cobblestone driveway, a light went on in the now abandoned mansion, then went off. I saw it. Some others (including our guide) remarked on it. My wife totally Scullied me, said it was a reflection from an outside light. (Whatever. The damn mansion's haunted and I saw it with my own eyes! I want to believe, Scully!)

Then...someone said, " guys smell that? It's like... It's like...sulfur."

Quickly, I stepped away from where I stood. Said, "Whoa, that's weird." Although hellish smelling, it wasn't sulfur. More like hours-old chili.
Speaking of hauntings, have you guys visited the very strange and haunted town of Peculiar County in Kansas? Perfect for Halloween reading, it's just a day-trip away (best not to travel at night, though.).

Friday, October 19, 2018

Hell-Spawn Hound-Dogs!

Tis the season for all things spooky and wondrous, so I thought I'd relate a true tale of haunting that's at least ONE of those things.
For circumstances beyond her control, my daughter's moved back into our house. It's just like the old days (good!), but instead of one hormonal teenager, we now have a mob of out-of-control kids on our hands (not so good!). My daughter has two dogs--crazy and untamed--and they're haunting the entire neighborhood.

All day long (and into the night), their baying continues, a sound more likely heard on the foggy moors of Devonshire. These dogs--one big, the other little--haunt my every waking moment and slither into my nightmares. Needy as toddlers, the dogs trip, push, fight, holler, broke one of my ribs, and destroy everything in their path. Nothing is safe, nothing is not considered too yummy. Nothing.
I've already written about Baron, the devil-spawn Houdiniesque hell-hound who escaped me on a day watch. At the time, I thought his bigger, younger bro, Merle, was the angelic one of the twins of terror. That's no longer the case. One time Merle escaped my daughter and proceeded to knock down every trash receptacle along the block. Just for fun.

Couple days ago, I kicked both of the lil' debbils outside. The usual hijinx ensued: barking, digging, eating out of the compost pile. Whatever, at least they were entertaining themselves. I took advantage of the brief respite and prepared lunch. In the kitchen, I looked out the window, wondering what hellish tortures they'd newly unleashed on my poor neighborhood. Suddenly--worse than Jason, Freddy or Michael--a small furred face, a supernatural hellhound, popped into the window. I shrieked, not afraid to admit my lack of manliness in the face of terror. Just as suddenly, he vanished! Baron's about eight inches tall. How he made it up to the window is beyond me.
I lay in bed at night, fearful for my sanity, my health. These dogs are truly of a preternatural bent. Baron can fly, for Gawd's sake! Merle knows how to open doors and gates! No one's safe!
Speaking of all things scary, it's time to bone up on ghost stories, and I'd like to give a shout-out to my (kinda, sorta) true, historically-based (somewhat) spooky tale, Ghosts of Gannaway. Read it by candlelight!  But without your dogs. They know things...

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's that smell?'s love!

Something smells very, VERY funny. Click to explore that scent.
“The Smell of Romance.” Hmm…

Let’s consider that for a moment. Doesn’t really evoke love, does it?

Yet as a writer, I stubbornly—stupidly?—keep striving to incorporate all five senses into my tales while my characters grapple and rassle in the name of romance. 

Sight? Easy-peezy, lemon-squeezy. Sound? Sure: heavy breathing, groans, moans, and hands ruffling over corsets and what have you. Taste and touch I’ll leave to the erotica writers.

But the sense of smell’s a curious quandary, a puzzle for this writer. Generally (and without trying to sound sexist, gotta be careful these days), women writers are more successful in describing the scent of love than men, I think. Yet—and I see this constantly—most female writers who dare to venture into olfactory romantic territory, tend to comment on the male partner’s scent of “musk.”

Well, I dunno from “musk,” but I’ve been in more than my fair share of men’s locker rooms and the only scent that comes to mind would be dirty socks (and that’s putting it politely). I looked up the definition of “musk.” Ms. Google says “musk is a pungent and greasy secretion from a gland in the male musk deer.”

Go figure. Even if men could secrete such an odor, I wouldn’t think it’d be an attractive one. I don’t see a lot of musk-scented air fresheners hanging in cars. Yet I read about this masculine scent... All. The. TIME.

Sometimes I even see men’s odors described in books as “musty.” Again, my assistant, Ms. Google helped me out. “Must” is even worse than “musk.” The definition reads “having a stale, moldy, or damp smell.” Ever so eloquent, Urban Dictionary goes on to add “the smell of armpits.” Clearly, you ladies don’t like the smell of us men. (Psst…you would be right).

Male writers, on the other hand, stumble around, attempting to describe how female characters smell. A lack of male vision keeps the scents narrowed to two options: some kinda floral arrangement or food. Which says A LOT about where men are coming from: their stomachs. I’m guilty of it, too. “She smelled of vanilla, touched with a dash of cinnamon.” (Apparently my character's ready to eat the female character. Just toss in some fava beans and a nice chianti and we're set.)

So, class, the takeaway from this lecture is men smell like armpits and women smell like food. There’s gotta be more to it than that. And as a writer, I vow to go on olfactory high alert until I’ve upset the cliché cart and created some new scents.

In Peculiar County, everything smells fishy...

Friday, October 5, 2018

A crazy, screaming, big dumb guy running down the street carrying a jar of peanut butter!

Yes, that's me. And this is a true tale of Shakespearean woe and trauma.

Let's back up a bit.

My daughter's dog is a furry sociopath. Sure, he's cute. Supposedly a pure beagle (I suspect there's a little dachshund mixed in), there's a lot of Houdini in Baron, because this guy can escape out of any situation, any circumstance, any enclosure.
Devil Spawn!
We have a fenced in back-yard, perfect for entertaining canine pals of all sorts and sizes. On occasion, I watch Baron and his younger, bigger brother (a particularly sloppy--but very lovingly sloppy--"coon hound"), Merle. It hadn't been a problem. Until now.
Sweet angel (even though he knocked me over and broke one of my ribs).

Last time I doggy-sat, Baron had found a way into the next door neighbor's yard, where a day care is in full-swing. Things got screamy, barky, and cryesque.

Totally MacGyvering it, I fortified our fence. Up and down the perimeter, I wedged in logs, bricks, stones, bones (where'd those bones come from? Must've been left over from my neighbor, Bob Burdella. Look him up.) along the fence. Safe and sealed.


Last Friday, Baron got into the day care yard again. How, I don't know. Naturally the little jerk never comes when called, so the trick is to ignore, then lure him in with food. I let his brah, Merle, inside, thought Baron would come whining at the door like last time.

But I heard nothing. I went outside, couldn't spot the lil' hellspawn anywhere. 

Panic reigned! I didn't think to even grab a leash, but had the mindset to snatch a jar of peanut butter. Into the street I ran, panting, sweating, near tears, craning my head in every direction. Screaming "Baron, c'mon boy, look what I got!" while holding at arm's length my jar of peanut butter (generic, yet crunchy). I'm surprised the S.W.A.T. team didn't lower on me from a task force helicopter, crazy man unleashed in the mean streets of suburban Kansas.
Incredible man of action!

Of course, the cow-patterned shirt was an unlucky sartorial choice, just kinda adding to how crazy I looked.

After twenty minutes, I spotted Baron down the block, a minor miracle with my crappy vision. I pursued. He ran. Fun! The chase continued. Soaking wet, panting like a respirator, I finally cornered Baron into a fenced-in backyard three blocks away. I knelt, stuck my finger in the peanut butter jar, held it out... Warily, the brat came toward me. And I snagged him!

Three blocks--three horribly long blocks--I carried him beneath my arm, cursing, smacking his butt. Crisis averted. 

I SO didn't want to have to give my daughter bad news that I'd lost her dog on my watch. Even though it nearly put me in the E.R. or jail.

Hey, speaking of screwed-up Kansas shenanigans, check out my first short story collection, Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley. Every band-aid of Kansas creepiness is ripped off, no shying away from the humorous horror of the Midwest.
Take the plunge! (Not responsible for any emotional damage.)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Look out! Here comes Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley!

Finally, I hear you saying, Stuart's done yakking about his trip to the Amazon, just like that drunk uncle at Thanksgiving who can't quit going on about his visit to a Wisconsin cheese factory.

So it's back to shameless self-promotion! Hold on, hold on...don't go anywhere yet. I promise it'll be easy. If it helps, just read this post in a stilted, hammy William Shatner voice and I swear we'll get through it together.

In an odd manner of serendipity, my brand-spanking-new (First! Evah!) short story collection is also entitled "Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley." Just like my blog! Weird coinkydink, yeah?

This short story collection is full of horror, suspense, dark humor, satire, shameless guffaws, and terrifying edge-of-the-seat, turn-the-lights-on scares. (I hope. YOU be the judge).That was my intention when I began the project, at least.

But the more I got into it--all tales taking place in the Midwestern state of super bizarre Kansas--a theme developed, one not entirely intentional. A few of these stories had appeared before on a blog, but have been extensively revised and altered. Yet all of the tales--particularly the newer, longer ones--started forming a cohesive theme.

As my British critic/artist extraordinaire pal, Karen Ruffles, said, "It's a peek beneath the blankets of Kansas."

It is. And then some. It ain't pretty.

Most of the stories were written directly after the last American presidential election. I was angry. So was the entire (un)United States . It didn't matter which side of the political fence you fell over, everyone was splintered, distraught, shell-shocked, empowered, helpless, you name it. The only thing people had in common were negative feelings and a sense of outrage. A country torn apart, the worst America's been since the Civil War.

Nowhere was this seismic melt-down felt more than in my little Kansas City suburb. The worst in people came out. (Not getting into sides here, but yes, my political party of choice was/is guilty of tossing rocks as well).

Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley can be seen as allegory, social satire even. The stories are still horror and entertaining (again, I hope), but sometimes things just work out the way you hadn't intended. For once, I think my book turned out even cooler than my original vision. 

Witness the incredibly bitter, hateful old woman who wages war on trick or treaters (think Big Orange with his dreamed about wall). Pity the guy, insistent he's not racist, who wakes up in the body of a Middle Eastern man. Freak out over the trauma that happens to a young college woman (based loosely on a true incident), who literally goes deep, deep underground into the pits of Hell. Visit the super-secretive night school class where tolerance for vampires and zombies is preached. Break bread with the mafia (yes, the mafia still exists in Kansas City) at a particularly spooky Thanksgiving dinner. Watch Bigfoot deal with marginalization and monster-shaming. See how corporate downsizing ruins a family and chases them into a rural dump of a haunted house.

My wife said the closing, go-for-broke, straight-up, no yoks involved horror novella is the most intense and dark thing I've written. Strong praise from my harshest critic.

There's lots more and I'm really proud of the writing on this book for once. Come see for yourself. Pull up a cracker barrel, sit a spell, lock the doors, and turn down the lights. There's a lotta haunting--perfect for Halloween--both supernaturally and of a nation torn apart (not perfect for any time) in your immediate future.

Pleasant nightmares. From the fine folks at Grinning Skull Press comes Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley.
One click away from madness!