Don’t you love paranormal protagonists, like Koontz’s Odd Thomas? I do. Any fictional character with paranormal powers—abilities that most readers consider supernatural—moves your story into one of the speculative genres. This could be sci-fi, fantasy, horror, paranormal, or magic realism. Actually, you can blend the paranormal with any genre, as I do in DEATH PERCEPTION, which is a supernatural crime cake iced with horror and sprinkled with dark humor.
In fantasy, a character’s abilities may be a given, established in your story’s genre ruleset from the very start. For instance, Tolkien’s Gandalf is a wizard, and there’s no explanation for him. In The Wizard of Oz, monkeys fly, and that’s that.
Other stories with a mooring in everyday reality require that a character’s supernatural abilities be explained. There must be a reason why the character can do the things she does, and this explanation encourages readers to suspend their disbelief. We often see this technique in books and shows that put the character through some accident or experience (in backstory or the present) that changes him and grants him supernormal powers.
It happens to Johnny Smith in Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, when he’s injured in an accident and revives from a coma after five years. It happens to superheroes (or antiheroes): Dr. Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after he’s accidentally exposed to the blast of a gamma bomb he invented. The same for Peter Parker/Spiderman. Or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (it works for villains too).
In DEATH PERCEPTION, Kennet has suffered childhood abuse, making him hypersensitive to changes in mood energy. He’s also encountered an old Pentecostal prophetess, who lays her hands on him, prophesies his future, and imparts a gift to him.
Most characters who develop paranormal abilities go through a period of denial when they refuse to believe or accept their new faculties. That is, until they encounter a situation where their powers must be used, giving them no choice but to accept them, usually because a loved one is endangered.
Kennet discovers his psychic abilities in his late teens when he toasts marshmallows over the ashes of someone he’s just cremated. Later, after a near-death experience, his mediumistic abilities flower, enabling him to see and hear the dead—and solve murders. Kennet comes by his abilities both naturally through his past and supernaturally through the ministry of the prophetess. Through an accidental consciousness-expanding event, his prescient inklings develop dramatically into something useful in avenging victimized ghosts, a call he must accept based on what’s most important to him.
Whether a story is based in the realm of fantasy or the real world, the writer must establish the rules and then stick with them throughout the story. This entails giving the character not only extraordinary strengths (with limits), but human weaknesses too. If your characters have psychic abilities, keep them real and relatable, and readers will follow your story to the end.
DEATH PERCEPTION is available in trade paperback, Kindle (.mobi) and Nook (.epub) at http://leeallenhoward.com/death-perception/.
Lee Allen Howard writes horror, dark fantasy, and supernatural crime. He’s been a professional writer and editor of both fiction and nonfiction since 1985. His publications include The Sixth Seed, Desperate Spirits, Night Monsters, “Mama Said,” “Stray,” and DEATH PERCEPTION, available in various formats at http://leeallenhoward.com.
You can keep in touch with Lee on his Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lee-Allen-Howard-author/117844011639457. Follow him on Twitter @LeeAllenHoward.
It’s that time again to go through my grab bag of people, places and things that have grabbed my interest and, in some cases, admiration. When it comes to horror and all things preternatural, I’m a total junkie. Even if I quit my job, I don’t think I’d have enough time in my day to read, watch and listen to everything that interests me.
So, seeing as we all have limited time in our busy lives, I’ll present you with a half dozen items you can check out at your leisure. They all get the Hunter Bloody Seal of Approval.
Websites. Don’t be fooled by the name, Who Forted is a treasure trove of all things strange and paranormal, not an ode to flatulence. The FORT comes from Charles Fort, the writer and researcher who delved into the world of the unexplained, giving rise to the phrase Fortean or Forteana to describe the mysterious and unfathomable. Who Forted is packed with videos, articles and discussions on everything from aliens to black-eyed kids and, in a current post, monster vomit. Come on, who isn’t curious about monster vomit??
Movies. The only problem with The Bigfoot Hunter : Still Searching is that it’s only an hour long. You can watch it for free on YouTube. It’s a low budget documentary created by a handful of young guys following a couple of, shall we say eccentric, Bigfoot hunters. It’s funny, at times creepy and a tad frightening. And I’m not talking about Bigfoot doing the scares. A must see for any squatcher.
Podcasts. I’ve become seriously addicted to the Mysterious Universe podcast. I download each weekly episode from iTunes. Hosted by a pair of informed, entertaining Aussies, this has become one of my favorte podcasts. From their own website, they describe their show as : bringing you the latest news and podcasts covering the strange, extraordinary, weird, wonderful and everything in between. We strive to maintain a balance of healthy skepticism and entertainment while never losing our sense of humour.
Books. Fellow Samhainer Russell James is the proud poppa of a bouncing, baby book, his third with our illustrious publisher. Black Magic is one of the most original, gripping books I’ve read in a long while. You have to check this one out. Here’s the book’s description. Just click on the cover to order a copy from Amazon today.
In this magic shop the magic is real. And the trick is on you.
Citrus Glade is a dying town that needs new businesses, but the one that just opened is doing much more harm than good. Stranger Lyle Miller’s magic shop seems to only stock what its select customers desire. When four outcast boys buy common party tricks, only Lyle knows what those tricks can really do. As subtle changes occur around town, a few residents realize that something is amiss…and getting worse. But it may already be too late. Lyle’s black magic has empowered more townspeople to help him execute his Grand Adventure, a plan that will reduce the town, and half the state, to rubble.
Short Stories. I came across Allison M. Dickson’s short stories while cruising through Amazon on my Kindle. She has a good number of taught, thought provoking, horrific stories out there, each for under a buck! So far, I’ve read Vermin, Dust and Taste and have dug them all. Perfect little appetizers that you can devour any time you’re hungry for horror.
EVPs. There’s something about EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) that just sends a tingle down my back. I’m sure a lot of them have a natural explanation, but even if just 5% are genuine, that’s enough to give me the willies. You can check out a bunch of them at Texas Wind Talker. Best listened to during a sunny day with people close by.
My tale of the mysterious doppelganger, Sinister Entity, keeps rolling along. I signed on to do a week long book tour this month, starting on May 20th. Here are the stops where you’ll find reviews, interviews and blog posts straight from my diseased mind. I’ll update the links on the SIGNINGS and APPEARANCES page during that week so you can get right to the ruptured heart of things.
OK, I’m well aware that hillbilly TV is the hot thing right now. Duck Dynasty is the #1 reality show on the boob tube. Everything southern is in, from crazy kids with too much time on their hands to gator wrestlers, loggers, pawn shops and everything in between. So it was only a matter of time until Syfy caught on and melded rednecks with ghosts, giving us Deep South Paranormal.
My immediate family are the only ones in the line that are sided with the Yanks. All of my cousins and aunts and uncles can be found in North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. I may live in New York, but I love listening to Gretchen Wilson and Shooter Jennings and pretty much walk around looking like Larry the Cable Guy once the warm weather sets in. I can appreciate the love of the south (though I am no fan of the heat and humidity that comes with the territory).
Fans of shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures may not take a shine to this addition to ParaTV because it’s not really about the ghosts. Nope, Deep South Paranormal is about the folks who like to traipse around haunted places in the dead of night. And oh what a group they’ve assembled.
When you look at the cast, your eyes immediately go to the 2 ZZ Top dudes with beards that leave me green with envy. The true star of the show is old man Hart, a colorful Cajun who walks around with a gris gris stick to call on spirits. He’s fast talking, funny as hell, and introduces us to colorful terms like getting the frissons, which means the shudders. I could watch this guy all day.
Then there’s Keith, our narrator (who makes every episode sound like we’re setting down to catch the latest Dukes of Hazard) and rocker. Keith looks like he’s half asleep most of the time, but he does have a nifty little trick of playing his guitar to pique the interest of any nearby spirits.
Randy is young and brash and has more tats that an Attica lifer. He’s perfectly paired with Hart. Young and old really work well together and you can tell they genuinely like one another.
Jonathan is the head guy and seems to be the more level headed of the group. He’s aided by Benny, who is another funny good old boy, Kali (Randy’s sister) and Kevin, the gadget guy.
So, what makes this show tick? So far, it isn’t the ghosts. Even though they’ve investigated plantations and a saw mill, I’m more amused by watching them feed their friend’s pet gators, suck the breath from a frog for voodoo protection, pluck feathers from a live rooster and go mudding with their trucks.
Is Deep South Paranormal adding anything new to the world of paranormal investigations? No. But they are fun to watch. And it’s about time we had a ghost hunting show where everyone doesn’t walk around as dour as the Tall Man in Phantasm. Thanks Syfy.
While I was perusing the bookstore on Jim Harold’s Paranormal Podcast website, I came across a tale of a true haunting in the Union Screaming House in Missouri called The Uninvited, by Steve LaChance and Laura Long-Helbig. I’m a sucker for a true ghost story, but the cover sealed the deal for me.
Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:
In this true and terrifying firsthand account, Steven LaChance reveals how he and his three children were driven from their Union, Missouri, home by demonic attackers.
LaChance chronicles how the house’s relentless supernatural predators infest those around them. He consults paranormal investigators, psychics, and priests, but the demonic attacks—screams, growls, putrid odors, invisible shoves, bites, and other physical violations—only grow worse. The entities clearly demonstrate their wrath and power: killing family pets, sexually assaulting individuals, even causing two people to be institutionalized.
The demons’ next target is the current homeowner, Helen. When the entities take possession and urge Helen toward murder and madness, LaChance must engage in a hair-raising battle for her soul.
Yeah baby, that’s the kind of high strangeness that motors my boat. Now, I know that with a lot of these ‘true haunting’, books, there are usually more misses than hits. Poor writing and/or simply insane premises have me throwing these books against the wall by page 20.
Not so with The Uninvited. The writing is crisp and tense, delivering some solid tingles to the spine as LaChance (now a paranormal radio host) relays the events his family and a subsequent family went through at the Union House. If even half of what LaChance reports is true, the place needs to be burned to the ground and sown with salt (yes, I’m a huge fan of The Haunting). Objects crash to the ground, the air is ripped in two with maniacal screams, people are pushed, scratched, possessed. Simply nuts.
I will give LaChance major props. The moment he realized the house was haunted, and not in a friendly Casper way, he grabbed his three kids and hauled ass. He gets even more kudos for befriending the next family that moved in after him and wearing himself thin trying to help them.
The Uninvited is a very fast read that is almost impossible to put down. A definite solid addition to your paranormal library.
Read any good true ghost stories lately? Let us know and share the night terrors.
Ouija boards have long been a controversial topic in paranormal circles. Are they tools for good, positive communication with the spirit world? Do they open portals to the demonic and lead to possession? Are they a device for simple parlor tricks or a silly kids board game?
Over the years I’ve heard and seen it all. In most cases, the mention of the word Ouija (which translates to ‘yes, yes’ – pretty odd when there’s a ’no’ on the board itself) strikes a chord of mild terror. Bad Ouija stories abound! Personally, I’ve only used it twice in my life. Once on an actual board - you know, the one you got from the games section at Toys R Us - and one with a homemade ‘talking board’ in a house next to a cemetery. Anyone care to guess which one went south in a hurry?
I have to admit, after all these years, I’m still on the fence. I truly believe that the board itself is completely benign. It’s the intention of the people around it that provides the energy necessary to communicate, though with what I’m not sure. That unused 90% of our brains is there for a reason and not just sitting around enjoying the latest episode of Justified. I’m beginning to feel that a lot of the supernatural is, in fact, very natural. We’re just not at the point where we can quantify the how and why.
And it’s so hard to find folks willing to have a rational discussion about the subject.
That is, until I listened to the recent podcast by the guys at SEPS Paranormal. Finally, level headed folks with experience in the field of the supernatural not jumping to crazy conclusions! If you’re have any questions about Ouija boards, you have to listen to their podcast. Very, very well done.
One test they brought up to verify the veracity of a Ouija experience is to put everyone in a completely dark room. We’re talking zero light. One person mans an infrared camera to track where the planchette goes. If it starts spelling out names and places and answers to questions, even though the participants can’t see the actual board, you may have linked up with the great beyond.
When it comes to Ouija boards, you get back what you give. If you’re an evil little bastard, you may just meet your match. If you’re sweeter than an Equal packet, you could be in for a pleasant hour or so.
As for me, for now, I’m still keeping my distance. I wrote a Ouija board scene with 2 teen girls in my book, Sinister Entity, but that’s as far as I care to tread. Though I am intrigued about the darkened room experiment. Damn. I have a strong feeling there will be a later post dealing with my personal experience of the experiment. I’m like a dumb old moth to a flame.
Now, I know that there are plenty of you reading this who have had your own dalliance with a Ouija board. Tell me what you think about it.
Ouija – out!
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.
Growing up across the street from a cemetery, I never thought I’d actually want to hang out in one, especially one that is purpotedly the most haunted cemetery in the northeast. But, thanks to fellow Monster Man Jack, we packed up our gear and headed for the Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut on a cold but sunny Saturday. You can watch the video of our visit here.
A little background on the Union Cemetery. It first came to be in the late 1700s and still hosts new internments today. Sightings (and even recorded ones) of The White Lady, a pair of glowing, menacing eyes, voices, shadows and physical interactions have all taken place there. No one knows the origins of the apparitions that are heard and seen in and around the cemetery. Ed and Lorraine Warrren spent a great deal of time walking & investigating the grounds and even wrote a book about it called Graveyard.
Jack and I and our friend Anthony went there during the day because the cemetery is small and heavily policed at night. Vandals laid waste to the graveyard last August and we saw plenty of broken and shoddily repaired tombstones. A word of caution. If you go there at night, you will be arrested. It’s a small cemetery, flat and open and surrounded by 2 main roads. Knowing this, we set about doing a daytime investigation, since I believe that although the freaks come out at night, true hauntings don’t have a time clock.
The star of the Union Cemetery show is the White Lady. She’s been seen drifting through the rows of gravestones, pretending to be hit by cars outside the cemetery gates, only to disappear, and sometimes weeping over the loss of something or someone we may never know. We set out to see if we could capture her, or any other spirits, on audio. All will be revealed as you read on…
When we first arrived, we spent a good deal of time walking through the cemetery, trying to read tombstones hundreds of years old, and just getting a feel for the place. Because it’s so tiny and open, I didn’t get that special tingle up my back I tend to feel in large bone orchards.
We tried EVP sessions at multiple locations, taking turns asking questions and often leaving the recorder atop graves in the hopes that someone would want to reach out to us. At one point, I laid down on a very old grave in an attempt to get closer to any spirits, and put myself in their shoes. The tombstone had a creepy angel head etched on it, as you can see below.
There’s also an old Baptist church connected to the cemetery. When Jack was there over 15 years ago, he caught what looks to be a face in one of the windows. We took lots of pics this time around. It could have been a trick of the light, as each glass window also has a plastic covering. Add sunlight and treee branches to the mix and anything can happen, but it adds to the spooky factor.
Before I get to the EVP part, here are some more pictures of the cemetery…..
Paranormal ‘experts’ claim that running water can provide energy for spirits to make themselves known. We found a good sized creek that runs along the back end of the cemetery. Could that be what energizes the White Lady?
OK, now for the good stuff. We weren’t just out to find the White Lady, but we did devote one EVP session exclusively to her. About a minute in to the session, Jack asked if she was here with us. My daughter, Ivy, did the first level of audio review. She and I both found audio bits that could have been footsteps and a possible sigh, but it was the answer to the question put to the White Lady that made our hair stand on end. We heard a soft but firrm “Yeah.” We play it several times in our Union Cemetery Monster Men episode. Click on over to hear it and tell us what you think.
We’re leaving it open for debate. Did we see the White Lady? No. Did she speak to us? Maybe. Will we return? Definitely. We’ve only just begun.
Have you ever been to the Union Cemetery? If so, do you have a story to tell? If you live in the New York tri-state area and know of other haunted cemeteries, let me know. We’re always up for a dalliance with the dead.
OK horror hounds, it’s time for some basic training. I understand there are a lot of new recruits out there, and even some lifers, that need the foundation to become a true horror aficionado. Now, put your chainsaws and machetes down and listen up. I’m going to give you a list of books and authors you must know inside and out. Are you hearing me Private Pyle?
Decades later and I still obssess over Full Metal Jacket. I’m not going to say you look like 50 pounds of chewed bubble gum. I won’t raise my voice. I’m simply here to open your horror eyes a little wider. Shall we begin?
This is what you should read to see how a master works their trade. I’m only leaving out Stephen King because he’s soooo obvious.
Algernon Blackwood. Get your hands on everything he’s ever done. Read it at night and enjoy your nightmares.
M.R. James. I can’t count how many horror writers cite him as an inspiration.
Richard Matheson. He’s the author of I Am Legend, Hell House, the best Twilight Zone episodes and Kolchak, The Night Stalker. “Nuff said.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Maybe the scareist haunted house novel ever written.
The Store by Bentley Little. So close to the truth that it’s terrifying.
The Magic Cottage by James Herbert. I’m always astounded by how many folks in America have never heard of Herbert. He’s only like the Stephen King of the UK. You can’t lose with any of his books, but I highly suggest you start with this one. He just passed away last month, so cherish each book as you tread down the path of discovery.
Curfew by Phil Rickman. Another UK import, Rickman’s books can be hard to find, but when you do, treasure them.
Richar Laymon. He was taken from us way too soon, but thankfully he was prolific. Almost every up and coming horror super star waxes poetic about his books. My favorites are Bite and One Rainy Night.
Ghoul by Brian Keene. Yes, Keene may be responsible for resurrecting the zombie genre, but Ghoul is still my favorite.
Oh no, I’m not stopping at 10. My list goes to 11.
Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. Words can’t express how great this book is.
You have your list, now hit the bookshelves. Hard. Stay tuned for part 2 where I highlight movies.
And if there are any books/authors you feel should be on the list, speak now or forever hold your peace.
Want to help me haunt the world?
For folks in the US only, spread the word about my novel, Sinister Entity, as well as the companion story, The Graveyard Speaks, on Twitter, Facebook, you name it, and you can win a Prize Pack that includes signed copies of my first two books, Forest of Shadows, & Evil Eternal. Think of it as advancing literacy and a love of the paranormal.
Here’s how you do it. If you’re on Twitter, tweet the books with a link to them (Amazon, B&N or Samhain) with the hashtag #HunterShea. Promote them on other social media platforms and send me the link either on my FB fan page (link to it on the right) or email me at email@example.com. Once I see it, you’re in the drawing.
The reviews right out of the gate have been fantastic. “A skillful blend of supernatural terror and blood-chilling suspense; the result is an intriguing and unique tale that will leave your heart pounding in your chest long after the final page has been closed.” — Matthew Scott Baker, Shattered Ravings Reviews
“Sinister Entity is a great, chilling ghost story with a satisfying twist on the usual. Sinister Entity – for a good scare, but keep the lights on.” — Fresh Fiction Reviews
One winner will be announced Friday, April 19th. And knowing me, I’ll have some extra goodies to give out.
***Congratulations to Gem Blackthorn who won signed copies of Forest of Shadows and Evil Eternal! Thank you to everyone who participated. — Hunter