The recent disclosure of a series of exorcisms performed on the children of the Ammons family in Indiana have a lot of people not only scratching their heads, but considering the reality of true evil. I’m well aware that many people are also rolling their eyes in disbelief. I mean, the stories of what happened to that poor family are pretty hard to wrap your head around. It makes The Exorcist look like an ABC family movie. But what if it’s true?
The possessed children in this case were ages 7, 9 and 12. Witnesses that included police, doctors, nurses and representatives of the Department of Child Protective Services all saw things that defied their versions of reality. The kids reportedly levitated, walked backwards up a wall and onto the ceiling, spoke in strange, terrifying voices and even had their facial features change. Ministers were called to the scene, as well as a host of medical professionals. They all found the mother and children to be of sound minds. There was no history of abuse. They were a normal family, until the demons took hold of the helpless children.
There are over 800 pages of documentation outlining the horror the Ammons family faced. Professionals with upstanding reputations have put it all on the line in confirming the impossible things they saw. Pictures of the house and family reveal disturbing images of shadow people, leering faces and unexplainable objects.
So what is this? A hoax? Hysteria? Mass delusion? A desperate cry for attention? Any one of these options brings comfort to the masses. We can let the story fade within the ebb and flow of the news cycle and go about our lives, unencumbered by big questions with even bigger consequences.
Exorcisms are real. That’s an undeniable fact. Just this month, Pope Francis announced that the Vatican is training a host of new exorcists to combat a rise in Satanic worship in Italy and Spain. I remember a couple of years ago when there was a similar call for trained exorcists in America. My family knew a monsignor who had been specially qualified to perform the rites of exorcism, and had been called to duty several times. He was reluctant to speak of them, simply reassuring us that evil was real, as real as the computer you’re reading this blog on, as real as love and happiness, life and death.
The big question is, does evil live in the heart and soul of man, or is it a dark presence outside of man, a demonic force waiting patiently for our weaker moments so it can take root? Worse still, is it both? In our every increasing secular society, people prefer to think the former. Evil is a character trait, an emotion, a momentary lapse in moral judgement. Devout Christians and a host of other religions will tell you it’s the latter, that demons do exist.
Whatever wellspring that spawns evil, the very concept chills us to the bone. Movies about demonic possession have been frightening people for decades. From The Exorcist to The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism, we are both attracted to and repelled by the notion. Like moths to an inviting flame, we can’t stay away, yet we’re terrified to stare too deeply into the fire.
I see movies and books about exorcism and possession as a kind of exorcism in itself. The more we fictionalize it, the less real it becomes, which, in turn, robs the concept of its power over us. The Ammons case, with all of its supporting evidence, has the ability to demolish the walls we build to keep out the evil things out while reassuring us that our bad decisions have no long-lasting consequences.
Or we can tell ourselves that they’re crazy, or liars, or fame seekers. Or better yet, just let the story fade away.
For people interested in learning more about exorcisms and the church’s stand on the practice, there’s a very good book I can recommend called American Exorcism by Michael W. Cuneo.
How could I not share this great interview with my Samhain editor and all around swell guy, Don D’Auria!
Originally posted on Horror Novel Reviews:
Interview conducted by: Glenn Rolfe
Samhain Publishing editor and lead dog on the company’s horror line, Don D’Auria, has been in the business since the eighties. Driven by love of horror and the passion to bring this fictional evil to a world in dire need of great distractions, Don has brought the literary world of terror (not manned by a King or Koontz) back from the dead (in the mid-nineties with authors like Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, and Jack Ketchum), only to watch his work sink in the great Dorchester Publishing debacle of 2010. He remerged in 2011 with Samhain and a boat load of amazing authors to once again conquer the horror world.
In 2011 Smahain author Frazer Lee’s debut novel, The Lamplighters, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. John Everson followed in 2012 with a nomination for Superior Achievement…
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Yes, I may be a fellow Samhain author, but that aside, this book is at the top of my ‘to-read’ list. Here’s a great interview and more than enough reasons to check out the book.
Originally posted on Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!:
Today, I finally have my interview up with Jonathan Moore, author of Redheads, after technical difficulties last week during his launch! I’ve been dying to share it with you, as I feel Jonathan is a new author who is one to watch! If you like horror, crime, thrillers, serial killer dramas, supernatural twists, or just great literature, this book is one you must read for yourself.
You can read my review HERE if you’re curious about my thoughts on the book! But set aside some time this weekend and check out our interview, we get in-depth about his work and genres and he shares some beautiful photos of his boat in Hawaii…oh, we went sailing, didn’t you know? *in my dreams*
Hi, Jonathan! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so excited to have you here to talk about your debut novel, Redheads, as well…
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8 writers, 1 image, 100 words to create a unique universe. Perfect snacking for Halloween.
Originally posted on Pen of the Damned:
Fillmore Street Park
He walked to the old bench at the Fillmore Street Park for his evening think. He’d done it for years. He was loving her that night. He’d done that for years as well. With a groan—his old bones protesting, he sat and smiled, wrinkling an old face. Children played while he slumped, his heart seizing. She came soon after, just to check on him. She had stayed behind to clean the dishes. Same thing every night of their marriage. The poisoned glass was something new. She tossed it in the trash and smiled, knowing it was no longer needed.
Name Your Poison
Two measuring beakers wait on the left. The poisons, skull and cross-bones displayed on the bottles, are sitting on the right.
The labels tell a story. Mix them all together and it spells one thing. Doom.
Two parts salt from Sodom…
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I am so happy to lease the space on this blog and chain to one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Janz. He has a serialized horror novel that just came out and let me tell you, this is one not to be missed! And in this case, you can judge a book by its cover(s). Totally kick ass. I’ll stop rambling and let Senor Janz take the stage.
How My Inappropriate College Friend Finally Came in Handy
The Genesis of a Savage Species Character
I had a friend in college we’ll call Teddy. Okay, maybe he was more of an acquaintance, but we had a couple classes together, and I thought he was a funny guy. Short, pudgy, prematurely balding, Teddy was smart, very nice, and in most ways ordinary.
Until he got near a pretty girl.
Then, under his breath, he would say things in this creepy Barry White voice like, “Ohhhhh, yeah. She knows it. Uh-huh. She loooooooooves it.” And I would stare at him in terror and take several large steps away so no one would think we were together.
I haven’t used that part of Teddy’s personality in a story yet, but at some point I’m sure I will. It’s too funny and offensive not to use.
But part of Teddy did indeed make its way into my latest novel, the serialized Savage Species. Teddy enjoyed a very specific type of…um…movie. No, not the kind a person would watch in a trench coat and sunglasses, but not the type of film you’d watch with your mother either.
No, these films were the ones shown late at night on Showtime and Cinemax (or, as Teddy called it, Skinemax). Not only was he a fan of these movies, he would go into great detail when discussing them, throwing around names like Monique Parent and Shannon Tweed the way most moviegoers would reference Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep. Actually, it was sort of hilarious hearing him soliloquize about his unique obsession, unless of course we were walking to class or something, and in that case I again moved several steps ahead of him so folks didn’t think we were together.
I bring all this up because there’s a great character in Savage Species named Frank Red Elk. He’s a Native American of the Algonquian tribe. He’s a big, powerful man with a great deal of intelligence. He’s also a huge fan of soft porn.
So when you read about Frank Red Elk and blush at the things he says, you can know that my inappropriate college friend had something to do with that.
But hey, at least the embarrassment I endured because of Teddy was worth it.
I’ve been a fan of Rob Zombie ever since I heard Thunder Kiss ’65 back in the grunge days of 1992. Hell, when my girls were born, I used to rock them to sleep to White Zombie. And believe it or not, they fell asleep like little angels while he channeled Blade Runner and chanted he was More Human Than Human.
When he made his directorial debut with House of 1000 Corpses, I was the first in line. I knew the backstory in getting that movie made (Hollywood nightmare), and even though it was choppy and strange, I dug it. When he unleashed The Devil’s Rejects on the world, I knew he had arrived. That was one sick, twisted flick. And I still attest that his hillbilly horror take on the Halloween movies would be appreciated even more if they weren’t remakes of a legendary franchise.
When I first heard about The Lords of Salem, I jumped out of my skin, itching to plug myself into Zombie’s distorted view on witches in Salem. It stars, of course, his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as a Salem DJ called Heidi who shares the airwaves with Dawn of the Dead’s own Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips (who could double for Rob Zombie). One of the things I love most about Zombie is his knowledge of the horror and 70′s exploitation genres and devotion to the stars who helped build them. This time around, he employs Dee Wallace (The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes), Judy Geeson (It Happened One Night) and Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as a trio of sisters with something nefarious on their minds. It also stars Meg Foster as a beyond filthy, evil witch from centuries past. I met her last year at a horror con and thought she was the sweetest person on earth. I couldn’t believe what I saw on the screen was the same woman!
Here’s the premise : A mysterious vinyl album shows up at the radio station one night. When it’s played on the air, various women around Salem become entranced, having visions of pornographic witchly ceremonies in the 1600s. There’s a strong tie between Heidi and the man responsible for the Salem With Trials and the girl is about to go on an acid trip through hell to find out what it all means.
I came ouf of The Lords of Salem with my head spinning. The imagery here is graphic high-strangeness, and at times, unsettling. It has a very 70′s B movie pastiche and will leave you feeling like you just double-downed on acid.
At times, the narrative felt a little disjointed and Sheri Moon’s performance, finally not playing a murderous psychotic or stripper, is a little better than I thought it would be, but not strong enough to give her character the gravitas it needed. It’s not a scary movie, per se, but it does provide enough fuel for many nightmares to come. If a Rob Zombie song could weave itself to life, this is exactly what it would look and sound like.
I think most people are going to have a hard time wrapping their heads around this one. It’s great for me, but too odd for normal folk. And that’s just fine. The day Rob Zombie makes a movie for the masses, ala crap like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, I’m catching the next comet to the far reaches of space. Humanity will have lost all meaning for me.
You need to go into it not expecting it to be a major feature cranked out by the Hollywood hit – I mean schlock – machine. Picture yourself in the back of a car at a dirty drive-in and enjoy.
As a dude who collected comics as a kid and has a Captain America tattoo, I was happier than a Mississippi leg hound on hump day when AMC announced its new show, Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men. It’s a brilliant idea to keep all us comic geeks tuned in after we get our Walking Dead fix.
Naturally, the Monster Men had to give our take on the show. I promise you, this is the funniest, best episode yet. And if you don’t like it, well, you’re probably way cooler than us.
I’d also like to take some time out to thank some wonderful folks who have been supportive of me and my book over the past few months : Diana Navarro, Annaliesje & Pink Kitty Paranormal, Anthony Ventarola, Tobi Delacruz, Tom Wolstencroft, Aniko Caremean and the mainstays of the Westchester Writers Round Table, Shai, Rod, Casey, Robert, Jackie , Ellen and everyone who has ever gone to at least one gathering. I couldn’t do this without all of you and so many more!
And now, on with the show!
I am so happy to have one of my favorite authors guest blog today, W.D. Gagliani. Readers are devoted to his werewolf books, a delicious combination of crime noir, sexy werewolves (yeah, you heard right) and good old fashioned blood and guts. You may have read some of them (Wolf’s Bluff, Wolf’s Trap and Wolf’s Gambit just to name a few), and if you haven’t, do so now! His latest book, Wolf’s Edge, is now out through Samhain Publishing. The cool part about being one of the Samhain gang with him is that I’ve gotten to know him as more than just this dude who writes books that I buy, and I’m beginning to suspect he may be my brother from another mother. Enough of my babbling, let the Wolf Man tell you how he came to be…
My parents took me to see Midnight Cowboy when I was about eleven.
Why, you may ask? Well, either they couldn’t afford a sitter (which was very possible) or my dad thought it was actually a cowboy movie. English was his second language, so he might have misunderstood. And it really wasn’t the kind of movie he would have chosen. At least, I don’t think so. But the thing is, when the plot became clear, he didn’t hustle us out of the drive-in theater to save my young eyes from the evils of “bad images.”
Nope, we stayed to the sad and bitter end. I learned about a side of life (and New York) I hadn’t known existed. My eyes recorded everything they saw.
I think I was a seventh grader when my parents took me to see The Godfather. I was the only kid in my parochial school class to see that movie, R-rating and all. I was older and didn’t need a sitter, but still pretty young and they took me anyway. You know what, I didn’t become a wiseguy. But I did immediately start to read the novels of Mario Puzo, and an endless series of nonfiction Mafia books like The Valachi Papers and Mafia, USA, while still in high school. My parents were also responsible for me seeing Serpico, and then I was off on reading the book, as well as other gritty Seventies cop books like The Super Cops and The Blue Knight.
I remember the ultra violence of The Wild Bunch. Yup, my folks didn’t bat an eye when those people bought it in glorious color and slo-mo. Add to that list movies like The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Straw Dogs (I guess we were a Peckinpah family), and such violent fare as The Anderson Tapes (Sean Connery as a thief, trying to ditch his Bond image). You know what? I went to read any books on which those movies were based, and when I couldn’t or they hadn’t been based on a novel, I sought out “just like ____” recommendations. My folks took me to the original Death Wish. And yes, I think they also took me to A Clockwork Orange, though I might have been too young to remember it. There wasn’t a spaghetti western I didn’t see on the big screen – I still think of them as the film noir of the western genre. There were horror movies, too: The Other, The Oblong Box, The Omen, The Exorcist. Eventually, my parents and I would watch just about every major ABC Movie of the Week: The Norliss Tapes, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, When Michael Calls, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Satan’s School for Girls, A Cold Night’s Death, Gargoyles, Duel… need I say more? If some don’t stand up today, be certain that they were rather effective for an impressionable kid who was already writing monster stories for school projects.
Oddball movies, too, led me to oddball books, and thank God for it. The Sterile Cuckoo, Little Big Man (made me a Thomas Berger fan for years and years), The Graduate (I still consider this my favorite movie) sent me to Charles Webb’s novel, which could be used as a scriptwriting textbook. The Seventies produced a lot of oddball movies. I think 1965 to 1979 may have been the best film era, because, on the whole, movies were made that were damned near uncategorizable. Some of the best oddball movies I saw in high school, as part of a progressive English program that showed movies on a big screen to all English classes and encouraged adventurous teachers to create writing assignments. I can still list the eclectic line-up I was thrilled to watch as part of my school day: David and Lisa, A Thousand Clowns, Harold and Maude (another favorite to this day), The Brothers Karamazov, The List of Adrian Messenger, Doctor Zhivago, and many more.
So what does this column about writing have to do with all these movies?
We are like sponges, especially when young and impressionable. We may not all want to admit it, but writers of thrillers and horror can very well be inspired and influenced by anything, and we are. In my case, I can thank my exceedingly liberal parents (considering they weren’t even born in the U.S.) for never censoring my viewing and reading habits. Well, there was this period in which my dad decided I was reading too many Hardy Boys books and banned them (which only led to a free-flowing black market operation). But all those movies they allowed me and even encouraged me to see, even if by mistake, turned out to be essential in making a solid foundation for a writer.
Movies led me to books – Bronson in Cold Sweat led me to Richard Matheson, Roger Corman led me to a million great things, Goldfinger led me to Ian Fleming and the British thriller authors I still revere). My desire to mix genres in my books and stories can probably be traced right back to the strange mélange of movies and books I consumed almost without restraint as a kid. I count myself lucky to have had parents who, despite the typical parental flaws I might have enumerated, never, ever tried to clap their hands over my eyes or ears. They never tried to “protect” me from the world and its imagery, or from history, or from the seedier side of life as portrayed in movies like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Klute, The Last Picture Show, Five Easy Pieces, Adam at 6 A.M., and so many more. These were the days of the Middle East (the Six-Day War happened about the time I learned to speak English), the Vietnam War on the television news, and more upheaval than I can even remember. Yet all these movies made sure that a curious kid writer would want to explore strange, dark, and never safe themes in his stories.
Movies and books are truly the basis of my entire writing career. In all the good ways, they inspired me to imitate what I saw and read. And they challenged me to learn about things I’d never seen, or would have seen, if the folks hadn’t for some inexplicable reason felt I could handle even the strangest, offbeat subjects.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. I think I owe you more than I realized.
You can follow W.D. Gagliani and get all the latest news on his website at www.wdgagliani.com or follow him on Twitter at @WDGagliani. And by all means, pick up your copy of Wolf’s Edge today!