Friday, February 15, 2019

The Flappening

No, not a new M. Knight Shyamalan film (but my following anecdote's still more thrilling than "The Happening"), this true tale of horror actually happened. And it can happen to YOU, too. Beware...

It's been so stupid cold in Kansas lately. So cold it would make a gang of street-tough penguins roll a polar bear for its coat.

My wife and I are bundling, layering (I vow to no longer make fun of long underwear), and snuggling.

The other night I disrobed and jumped into bed. Pulled those blankies up tight to my chin. My wife soon followed and, in the process, yanked the blankets from beneath my chin.

"Dang, honey, cut it out! I'm freezing," I screamed like a slasher movie victim.

"I know," she said, "it's the worst. But, you know what's even worse?"

I thought about it. Couldn't come up with an answer. "No, what could possibly be worse?"

"When you come to bed late, and I'm almost asleep, you flap the covers," she said.
Well, first of all, I don't flap. Flapping is what the aforementioned penguins do. Or my mom when she's angry at a store clerk. Me? I don't flap. Second, of course, the only other reason for a good, hearty blanket-flapping is the Ernest Borgnine-validated "Dutch Oven." I'm not gonna explain it here, look it up. (Hey George Foreman has his grill, Ernie used his device to torture Ethel Merman, the reason his marriage to her ended in 32 days). Finally, sheesh, how bad could a sheet flapping be? Hyperbole much? I mean, really.
"C'mon," I said, "even if I do flap, it can't be that horrible."

"Oh, really?" She picked up the blankets and started flapping them.

It truly was terrible.

"Gah! Okay, okay, stop! I give up! Cut it out!"

She said, "It's awful, right? It's like someone turned a fan on beneath the sheets."

Sigh. As usual, she was right. It felt like a harsh breath blasted from Mother Winter's lips.

People, don't let this happen to you. I've got an eye on my future flapphishness. Winter is hell.

Speaking of hellish winters, you probably might want to stay clear of the Dandy Drop Inn (essayed in my historical documentation, Dread and Breakfast), where there's a mean storm a'brewin'. Checking in's easy. Checking out only happens in the six feet under sorta way. (Cash or check only, please).
 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Sixty Years of Grease!

Have you ever wondered what sixty years of grease looks like (and I'm NOT talking about a reunion of the cheezy musical, either). Well, we uncovered this disturbing sight when we moved out an old range from a house we bought for my daughter.

Wait. Let me back up.

Maybe you remember my kvetching about when my daughter and her two dogs moved into our house not so long ago: Hell-Spawn Hound Dogs. It soon became apparent the only way to get these needy dogs of destruction out of our house was to move them into their own house. Besides, my daughter couldn't keep commuting two hours a day to work.

So. We went house shopping in the small Kansas town where she works at a bank.
Gross.

One realtor proclaimed his advertised house as "Ready to move into!" (Maybe if you're a rat.) The carpet was alternately black and green with hair and urine stains (I hope those were pet urine stains). One house visibly sloped to the side. We'll just call another house, "The International House of Mold" and leave it at that. I didn't think we'd make it out of that house of horrors alive. Things got worse from there.

My realtor buddy turned to my daughter, said, "Sarah, your town sucks."

Finally, we went back to the first house we looked at. In comparison, it seemed a hella lot better. Hey, at least it had a basement (cracked though it was), instead of all of those scary crawlspaces where, undoubtedly, bodies were buried.

So we bought the house. And have been working on it non-stop since, trying to make it habitable. Gotta get those dogs outta our house.

The problem is, the previous tenants (who'd been in the home for sixty years) had forgotten how to clean.
Really, really gross. Moving the dangerous range outta there exposed what sixty years of grease looked like. It wasn't pretty. Imagine "The Blob" if it was black. I went to town scrubbing. (Somehow I always get stuck with the less glamorous and triply gross jobs in the "World's Most Expensive Dog House.") Hours later, it finally came clean.

Proud of my handiwork, I turned to my wife, said, "You know, this is kinda fun. Maybe we should flip houses for a living."

Until the pain set in the next day and I came to my senses.

Speaking of creepy towns in Kansas, how about visiting the twelve or so sites on my spooktacular tour of Haunted Kansas? Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, just a nightmarish day trip away.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Deaf and dumb is no way to go through life...

Well, I've always been dumb. Just ask my friends and brothers. But suddenly, I'm deaf, too.
Okay, okay, not quite deaf, but pretty much overnight, I woke up with substantial hearing loss.

Whaaaaat?

So I'm now deaf and dumb, just one step away from being like "Tommy" (but I sure play a mean pinball).


How did this happen?  One day, I'm fine, the next thing I'm hearing things from inside a barrel. At first, I poo-poohed it, justified it as, "Ah, I just got fluid in my ears, no big deal, happened to me alla time as a kid."

Two months later, I got a little concerned. "Hmm, this doesn't seem right," I suggested.

I went to a clinic doctor, who said, "Yep, you've got fluid in your ears. Take a nasal spray." I did. It didn't help. I went back to my regular doctor. She said, "Huh, that's odd...I can't see anything wrong with your ears."

Uh-oh.

Off I trotted to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (who oddly enough shares an office with a dermatologist; yeah, I don't get it, either). So, the doc's tossing about some guess-work, sticks me in a sound-proof booth where another doctor straps electrodes to my scalp, and tortures me with a hearing test.

I flunked. The doc came back in, waving the failing grade paper around like my mean tenth grade English teacher, and says, "Yep, looks like nerve damage."

"But...but...doc," I said, "I'm too young for this to happen! And it happened over-night, no gradual hearing loss or anything!"

"That's how it always goes," he said, hardly the voice of reassurance.

See, if it had happened gradually, I might've had a chance to get used to it. Maybe eventually shake hands with the idea. But, instead...BOOM!

"So," continues Doctor Ear, Eye & Throat, "what I'm gonna do is punch a hole in your worst ear-drum, then fill the inner ear with a steroid. You'll have a 50-50 chance of getting your hearing back."

"Wait...what?"

"Come with me."

Down the hall I shuffled. Nurse Rachet forced me onto a bed and demanded I sign no-fault papers. Wielding a terrifyingly long needle, the doctors eyes sparkled as he said, "this is gonna sting for...oh, I dunno, six seconds."

"Wait...what's that? I don't...AIEEEEEEE!"

It didn't just sting, it made me kick and jerk like a hanged man. (Six seconds, my arse.)

About a week later and after I'd nearly given up hope, the treated ear improved. For two miraculous days, I could hear fairly well again. Then...it reversed course. Depressed, I trudged back to the doctor.

"Doc," I said, "now I'm dizzy and both ears aren't working."

"Hmmm, I think you have Meniere's Disease."

"Wait...what? Now I've got a disease?"

He explained Meniere's as where fluid sets deep into the inner ears and is treated with a diuretic. "So, we'll treat that," he continued, "but let's go ahead and puncture your other eardrum, too."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold up a sec! I don't think that... AIEEEEE!"

So, here I sit several days later, writing this from the bottom of a barrel, hoping to regain my hearing. I mean, some of it's come back. But I'm an all or nothing kinda guy.

It's not all bad, I suppose. For instance, as an unexpected bonus, I hear inexplicable music from strange objects. My white noise sleep machine mysteriously plays polka music. The fan in the bathroom favors '50's doo-wop.

Also, my weekly shopping trips with my hard-of-hearing mom have become even more fun...

"What do you need, Mom?"

"What?"

"Huh?"

"Did you say something?"

"....What?"

"I asked you what you said!"

"I can't hear you! Gah! We both need hearing aids!"

"Not me, Stuart, but if you need to urinate, go ahead."

People wonder why the mother and son in the toilet paper aisle are shouting at one another.

Still, it's an uncomfortable sensation when your body begins to betray you, a sign of fatalistic aging. Something I'd taken for granted finally had had enough of the one-way relationship, and sent me packing. Humph, thanks for the memories.

So, okay, okay, I'm not totally deaf, but it's scary. Worst case scenario is I'll have to get a hearing aid (I'm NOT going to be like my mom). But I'm still totally, totally dumb as anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis can attest to.

Speaking of dumb, there are a lot of characters making poor and dumb choices in my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. Furthermore, warnings of unnatural things generally fall on deaf ears. Check it out.

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Headless Sentry, a Drummer Boy and a Host of Extras – Ghosts of Edinburgh Castle by Catherine Cavendish

One of my favorite horror authors, Catherine Cavendish, is at it again. Sit back, maybe scooch a little closer to the fire on this cold Winter night. 'Cause things are about to get even chillier on up in here...

Standing at one end of Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile (measured as a Scottish mile which is somewhat longer than the English one), the fortress of Edinburgh Castle has stood since the seventh century and has a violent history. Small wonder then that some of those who suffered as a result of this, have left their mark, and indeed their spirits.

The castle has been at the heart of many a siege and bloody battle for control and was re-fortified in the twelfth century. King Henry took it in 1174, Edward I captured it in 1296, followed by a successful recapture by the Earl of Moray in 1313. Then, in 1650, Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army stormed and took it. All these and many more battles resulted in a horrific cost in human lives.

Over the centuries, reports of ghostly and other paranormal activity are rife and not confined to the psychic or those with overactive imaginations. Soldiers guarding the castle are a pretty stoical lot but one, on seeing an apparition, passed out in a dead faint.


One of the most often seen is a headless sentry, although he is sometimes witnessed in his other persona as a drummer boy.

Another spirit, most frequently heard rather than seen is believed to be that of a piper sent down to investigate tunnels running from the castle down the Royal Mile. He descended the tunnel and played his bagpipes to let everyone know he was alive and well. Then the pipes stopped. He was never seen alive again but to this day, the mournful sound of his pipes is heard in the castle and along the Royal Mile.

With this and much more spirit activity, it is small wonder that the castle was crying out to be the scene of a major paranormal investigate and this happened eighteen years ago, in 2001. A ten day investigation involving a team of nine researchers and over 200 ordinary people wandered the castle’s forgotten chambers and secret passages – and Edinburgh Castle is a huge site with plenty of these on a variety of levels, being perched on top of the hill. No one briefed the members of the public on which areas were reputed to be haunted and which were not. The results were interesting. 51% of those who had been in the haunted areas reported inexplicable experiences there and only 35% reported similar occurrences in areas where no paranormal activity had been previously reported. The experiences most commonly included seeing shadowy figures, sudden drops in temperature and having their clothes tugged by unseen hands.
These phenomena are among the most widely reported in Edinburgh Castle on an almost daily basis.

Edinburgh Castle has frequently acted as a military prison where men captured in battle from France, America, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Denmark and Poland existed in frightful dark, damp, dirty and insanitary conditions where disease was rife. Visitors have reported sightings of men who fitted that description – ghosts unable to leave their jail in death as they had been unable to in life.

Edinburgh Castle is a fascinating, atmospheric and massive place to visit. No trip to Scotland’s capital is complete without it and if you happen to encounter a ghost or two, send them my best wishes…        
For ghosts of a different kind, here’s what to expect from The Haunting of Henderson Close:

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone…

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released. Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face? The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real.

The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Flame Tree Press

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. In addition to The Haunting of Henderson Close, 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 near Liverpool 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.

You can connect with Cat here:  


Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads










Friday, January 18, 2019

Shopping With Mom, Part Kazillion

In my continuous efforts to save my mother money, I made the mistake of taking her to a different grocery store than the one she's accustomed to. I never learn.
With great trepidation, I called her the next day.

"Well, I don't think those chicken tenders you made me buy were real," she said.

"What?" (Sigh.) "I didn't make you buy--"

"I think the tenders were squirrel or cat."

"Mom, they weren't--"

"I KNOW what they were, I know what I know. It wasn't real chicken, that's for sure. I have a tummy ache."

First of all, if you've lived ninety years, you shouldn't be allowed to say "tummy." Second of all, really, "squirrel?" Third, she thinks Trump's a "God-fearing man," so credibility kinda goes out the window.

"Fine, Mom, we'll go back to your expensive grocery store," I said.

"I know what I know." End of conversation!

My mom knows what she knows and is a tad peculiar, but nothing's more peculiar than this: 




Friday, January 11, 2019

Tales From the Sofa

I am Stuart's sofa.

I'm the couch hub of the Midwest, the loveseat heart of suburban Kansas. An upholstery covered melting pot suitable for every race, color, creed, and religious bottom of humanity. There are eight million stories to be told from my cushions and this is one of them. For you see...

Wait. Hold on a minute. It's a lie. All of it!

My life is boring. I get to service Stuart's rear-end only. Day in and day out, he sits on me, writing. Sure, some times his wife parks on me, but as far as variety? Forget about it.

Frankly, watching someone write is really, really boring.

On occasion, though, I'm privy to the insights of the writing process. For instance, Stuart's frequently asked "where do you get your ideas?" Usually--as is his lame and lazy approach--he responds "I don't know." (See what I mean? BORING.)


This hammock thinks it has it bad? Try being me, Stuart's suffering sofa!
But last week, something interesting finally happened. While wearing me down (and would it hurt Stuart to sit on my other side on occasion?), Stuart received a text on his phone.

It read: Hey! It's Theresa! I'm using Tim's phone because I lost mine! See you in a bit! DON'T text back on this phone!

This set Stuart to thinking, never a good idea. He didn't know a Tim or Theresa. He couldn't very well text back, either, tell Theresa she had a wrong number. After all, she'd strictly forbidden him to do so.

Weened on thrillers and mysteries, Stuart started pulling pieces together. Clearly, Theresa was cheating on Tim. The heart emojis sealed the deal. Should Stuart warn Tim? Write back anyway and let Theresa know she had the wrong number?

What did Stuart, the man of inaction, the writer do? Nothing. Altogether now: BORING.

Several hours later, Theresa texted back: Thinking bout you. Had a great time.

Again, Stuart didn't respond. Through-out the day, Theresa kept texting, her anxiety ramping up with each missive: Helloooo? What's wrong? Why aren't you responding? Dammit, talk to me!

Finally, Theresa's final message: That's it. I'm talking to Tim. Even more troublesome? Theresa attached a photo of a baby in a car seat.

Like a Hitchcockian protagonist from days of old, Stuart had unwittingly become an unwilling, silent partner in an affair, the fourth member of a sordid situation that would undoubtedly end in murrrderrrr.

Yes sir, it was the most excitement I'd had since I was a wee settee at the sofa factory.

Stuart deliberated, didn't have a clue as to what to do. In his typically inert fashion, he decided to fashion the incident into a thriller to be written at a later date. The seed of an idea had been planted and his mind began to water it.

So...that's where one of Stuart's book ideas came from.

Wait! Here he comes! Gotta' run. I'll talk to--Oooff!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Putting the BREAK in Spring Break

Worst Spring Break ever!
And I'm not even talking about my failed college attempts at trying to have fun over spring break either. No, this unfortunate adventure occurred well into my adult years. I got some explainin' to do...

First, a little background: for as long as I can remember, my dad was in a wheelchair, a victim of Multiple Sclerosis. Yet it never kept him down. For many years, my parents were "snow-birds," fleeing to the warmth of Florida during the cold, Kansas winter months.

So I grabbed my wife and daughter on their various spring breaks (respectively from work and school) and had the lame-brained idea of visiting my parents at Daytona Beach! Fun in the sun! Except...

The minute we arrived, I knew we were in trouble. The streets were jam-packed with partying kids ("Get outta the way, you damn punk kids!") and bikers ("Excuse me, sir, please allow me to get out of your way."). 


The first night at our hotel, kids were screaming up and down the hallway all night long. A very hammered girl, drink in hand, knocked on our door. 

In a slurred voice, she says, "Hey, can I talk to Ricky?"

"Sorry, you have the wrong room," I replied.

"No, this is the room number Ricky gave me." She looks over my shoulder, puts a foot forward. Sips from her cocktail.

"No, I'm sorry, but you're wrong. I'm here with my wife and daughter."

"C'mon." She rolls her eyes. "Quit jacking around. Let me talk to Ricky."

Desperate now, hoping my wife will get out of the shower, I grab my young daughter, thrust her forward as a visual cue since the drunk girl won't listen to reason. "See!" I point toward my daughter.

Finally, she believed me.

That was our first night. As it turns out, our last night in Florida as well.
The next day, we gear up and go to some small-time, local, cheesy water park. The star attraction? A dolphin who paints pictures (kinda) with his flipper.

On the way out, my mom falls down on the sidewalk. Off we go to the emergency room! She'd broken her leg. As we pushed both of my incapacitated parents out of the hospital in wheelchairs (quite a parade), I knew it was a sudden end to Spring Break, 2004!

What to do next? Clearly, we couldn't leave my parents alone in Florida like that. Plans were formulated. My wife and daughter managed to get my mom on a plane and take her home. I, on the other hand, had to drive my dad from Florida to Kansas. Horrors!

In a way it was a good thing. I sorta reconnected with him (even though he told the same stories. A lot.). I also realized the courage the man had, how he kept going in the face of adversity, every day confronting new challenges to his wheelchair-bound life. But what a giant. He never let his situation drag him down. And even though he's been gone for several years, I still applaud the way he embraced life.

Finally, exhausted, we arrived home where the pampering continued for a while.

But, wait, there's a happy ending to the misery! The cheesy water park--in way of apology for their crappy sidewalks--sent my mom an autographed "painting" from Blippo, their star dolphin!

Speaking of horrors originating from Kansas, give a look-see to my first short horror collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, just up around the Twilight Zone and next door to October Country.