Happy Halloween

by Steve Wetherell

 

I guess I was maybe five years old or so when my dog died. Her name was Sherry, a big loafy German Shepard who I assume was brought as protection, but whom I never recall even snarling. I had come down into the hallway on an ice white morning, barefoot in my pajamas, my parents not yet up. I found her lying there in a way that I must have known wasn’t natural. Her eyes were open, she had a dried trickle of blood on her nose. I suppose I must have been old enough to process this as ‘dead’ rather than ‘sleeping’.

I don’t remember being scared, horrified or even sad. I found my siblings and we told our parents. Then Sherry was taken away. It was just a thing that happened.

If I remember one emotion I attached to the event it was excitement. Let me explain, because I know that sounds pretty awful.

As a kid I was obsessed with the paranormal. Ghostbusters was my favourite movie, even though the librarian gave me nightmares. Thanks to a big sack of pirated VHS tapes and our parents often leaving us to our own devices, my brothers and sisters let me watch a whole host of horror movies we shouldn’t have. If you think the furry scene in The Shining is disturbing as an adult, try processing that shit as someone who is only a few years removed from learning where poop is supposed to go.

The night before the death of Sherry I’d been up with my brother and cousin, swapping tales about the White Lady. No, she wasn’t a pumpkin spice obsessed yoga instructor. She was a typical Victorian apparition of a long dead lady who had flung herself from a balcony. She was rumoured to haunt the private school my brother attended, but I later found out she was sort of a franchise operation, claimed by any old building with a balcony that wanted to jazz up their history. When I found the corpse of my dog, I didn’t process it as a natural death. I clearly remember exchanging hushed whispers with my siblings. It was the work of the White Lady. She had come in the night. Our dog had died protecting us.

This would similarly link up to the next time we saw a dog corpse. We were creeping around a junk yard, that same brother and cousin and I, when amongst the majestic piles of abandoned appliances and spindly old bikes, we saw a dog, lolling out of a pile of trash-bags as though frozen mid catch. Clearly this dog was another victim of the White Lady’s gaze.

I guess it’s understandable. I guess it’s just taking a big, complicated shape and squeezing it into something a child can hold in his head. What should have been at least a little traumatic became a jump scare in an ongoing game.

That obsession with the supernatural never really left me. I don’t believe in ghosts (except the brief moments when I do, before I remind myself I’m a 250-lb grown up with a Quarter 4 planning meeting early in the morning,) but I sort of want to. Maybe that’s just ingrained in me now. That when something awful happens, it’s because of something.

This is not a healthy habit, and I wonder how many other writers, comedians and creators have it at their core. That little part of you, in the midst of disaster, is already weaving this awful news into punchlines, blog posts and prose.

That thing that, when finding a pet dead on the floor, won’t let you stay with it. Is already licking the tip of its pencil.

I mean, that’s sick, right? That’s got to be some sort of obsessive compulsive narcissism? Or maybe it’s just sad, maybe it’s just a human looking through a window at a sky full of terrible void, and writing something distracting in the condensation. I dunno. It’s pretty scary.

Happy Halloween.

 

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My Favorite Monsters

By Renee Miller

Happy Halloween, Dolls! For my installment of the spectacularly spooky whatever this is, I’m going to talk about my favorite horror monsters. In this genre, authors have crafted all manner of terrifying, dark and weird creatures. I love them all, but I do have a few favorites.

Vampires

Yes, I know. So cliché! But I’m not talking about Twilight vamps here. I love vampires of the old days, with a hint of modern romanticism and (of course) sex. A dash of stoker with a sprinkling of Rice. A bit of Supernatural poured over a morsel of True Blood. I enjoy the dangerous, dark vampires that scare the bejesus out of you, but I also crave a glimpse into their minds. They can’t live forever and be completely without thought or emotion, right? What must it be like to live in the shadows like that? To dance so closely with death that your very existence depends on it?

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Yeah, like The Lost Boys vampires. Look at all that hair.

I like my vampires bloody and murderous, but I also enjoy knowing what makes them tick. That means, they can’t be “just” monsters. Some of their humanity has to have remained behind. Maybe it’s only the bad parts. That’s okay.

Ghosts

Not regular ghosts that are just hanging out for whatever reason. I’m talking dark spirits. Things that go bump in the night because they’re plotting to kill you. I tell myself I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe that anything lurks in the shadows around us, because when you’re dead, you’re dead. But I’ll admit, there’s way too many unexplained things out there for that to be entirely true. And it scares the hell out of me. This is pretty much how I imagine them, and why I’m not really a fan of The Grudge.

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After my dad passed away, there was this ratty old robin who would sit in the windows, staring at us. Sometimes, he’d peck at the glass. If we moved from one room to another, he’d follow. He’d sit on the fence when I took the dogs outside, just staring. Some might say, oh, it’s the spirit of your father. How comforting.

No.

Sea Creatures

After watching Jaws at a probably too young age, I refused to go into any body of water I couldn’t see the bottom of. No, I wasn’t afraid of sharks specifically. That movie made me terrified of EVERYTHING that might be lurking in the water waiting to kill me. I went two whole summers not swimming anywhere but pools. So, when I read or watch a film featuring a monster sea creature, I’m already scared. Listen, I can’t even dream about swimming anywhere without it turning into a nightmare where I get drowned and then dismembered by something slimy and horrific.

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Skin-Walkers/Shapeshifters

In Navajo legend, a skin-walker is a creature who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as any animal, usually for the purposes of harming people. Shapeshifters are similar, but they just shift, no possession. Most of the time, these things aren’t doing it for shits and giggles. They’ve got murderous intentions and I don’t like them.

The idea that something/someone can look like something/someone else, and I’d never know terrifies me. The idea that something could be inside you, just roaming around, getting cozy and shit before it kills you? No thanks.

renee skinwalker

Humans

Did you see this one coming? Too predictable? Well, I think humans have to be one of the most terrifying monsters I’ve ever encountered. We continue to surprise ourselves with the depths of our cruelty and depravity. I don’t even like watching the news anymore, because we just keep getting worse.

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And we’re real, so that makes us scarier than the rest.

 

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. What monsters scare you the most?

Before you go, don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

The Grave of the Female Stranger…

by Frank E. Bittinger

October, and thus Halloween, are upon us, and since the anthology in which I have a tale—Echoes & Bones—has also been released I thought sharing the tale of something I have found intriguing and creepy for many years would be appropriate.

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Like Nadine Earles and Rosalia Lombardo, I wrote about the story of the female stranger in my third novel Angels of the Mourning Light. Having spent time in Leesburg, VA, not far from Alexandria, of course I’d heard of the story and wanted to investigate further. It intrigued me even more when I found out the small amount of details known.

The grave in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery has become more than merely a local landmark; it has become a tourist attraction visited by those who want to see if for themselves and by those seeking the identity of the grave’s occupant.

The tale has been in the telling for nearly two centuries, and that only adds to the romanticism of the story.

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In the autumn of 1816, I’ve also heard the end of July, a ship from the West Indies docked at Alexandria and a handsome English gentleman and his beautiful wife, who was very sick with typhoid fever, got off. They rented the best room above The Bunch of Grapes Tavern, which was actually Gadsby’s Tavern, and the husband assisted his wife upstairs and then sent for the doctor, allegedly Samuel Richards.

Descriptions of the lady vary, from blonde to brunette, and she was said to have a pale, perfect complexion. Although I find any descriptions of her suspect when most of the stories I’ve come say she wore a veil. Even when the husband hired two woman, possible nurses, to assist with her care, she remained veiled.

Over the weeks, I’ve seen ten weeks reported, which would make some sense if the arrived at the very end of July, the lady did not recover; in fact, she got progressively worse until she passes away. Sometimes it’s reported the husband claimed she passed away in his embrace; other times I’ve read she passed away in the middle of a kiss.

Either way, the husband came downstairs on 14 October 1816 to report she had indeed passed away, and he set about making funeral arrangements, allegedly borrowing money from several businessmen to pay for the services. Still fearing someone might lay eyes on his beloved, he prepared the body himself, going so far as to seal the body in the coffin himself. And she was buried.

What appears to be a stone, sex-legged table marks her grave. It was originally surrounded by an iron railing, but that is gone, having been scavenged during the first World War.

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After the funeral, the husband exited town, leaving nothing behind.

He allegedly returned one year later on 4 October to visit the grave, staying only long enough to place flowers on the grave. Some versions tell of him returning each year close to the date of her death for twelve years to check on the grave and place flowers for her. After his visits stopped, for whatever reason. no one came to visit. Then some years later, an older man and woman, sometimes it’s said two men and a woman, distinguished, seemingly of British upper-class visited the grave, claimed to be relatives and ordered a more costly headstone–the top of the table–bearing the same inscription with the addition of another verse. Some stories state they claimed they would return with papers proving her identity and standing, but there were no other reports of them visiting again.

Other versions of the tale says the husband returned at some point, whether it was the year after or a few years after, with seamen from the ship to exhume her body and take it with him. There is a bit of a dip in the ground where it is suspected the coffin collapsed in on itself, but no other evidence to support the claim the husband ever returned to exhume the remains of his wife.

The grave marker is a stone table with six legs. On top the table is the inscription:

To the memory of a
FEMALE STRANGER
whose mortal sufferings terminated on
the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months
This stone was place here by her disconsolate
husband in whose arms she sighed out
her latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death

And allegedly the last verse, from Acts in the Bible, was added by that mysterious older couple who came to visit years later. Without evidence, the entire inscription could have been done at the behest of the husband. One a side note, could this older couple visiting years later have been the husband with another wife or companion?

Visitors will look up at the window of room 8 of Gadsby’s Tavern to see if they can catch a glimpse of her, for she has been known to look out the window while holding a candle. She has also been seen standing by her grave.

Who was the Female Stranger? Although there have been many guesses, the identity of the female stranger remains unknown to this day.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

A Halloween Rant

by Liam McNalley

 

Let’s just say that Halloween is not my favorite holiday. My dislike of this bizarre cultural ration of insanity only grows worse as I get older.

The creepy, sometimes disturbing “decorations” my neighbors put out to give small children nightmares is only the beginning. The worst part is that Halloween seems to be the time that all the stores start putting out all the cheesy Christmas stuff. Seriously? Can’t I enjoy Thanksgiving before I get inundated with wretchedly bad Christmas music, and visually assaulted by over-commercialized yuletide crap?

Halloween is also a stark reminder that autumn is slapping me in the face, and all the things I wanted to do during the summer never got done. It makes me feel old.

Speaking of feeling old, I dare not leave the house on Halloween. The idiotic tendency of people wearing dark clothing to walk right out in front of me while I’m driving makes me go bat-shit crazy. Delinquents tossing eggs on my truck makes me want to do Halloween the original way… by instead of carving a face in an oversized, vine grown, hard-skinned fruit, making a real jack-o-lantern. Originally this was done by hacking the head off an enemy, and tying it by the hair to a tree branch. “Get off my lawn.”

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Sure, pumpkins look cool, but butternut squash is much better in beer, and sweet potato pie is hands-down more flavorful.

Halloween also tweaks a pet peeve of mine… Just for the record, Cider is NOT that unfiltered apple juice everybody on the planet calls “apple cider.” Cider is by definition, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting apple juice. There is no such thing as “hard” cider, since ALL cider is alcoholic. A person is either drinking apple juice, or they are drinking cider… period. Adding the word “apple” in front of cider is as redundant as saying “I made an apple, apple pie.” Just because one idiot misuses a word doesn’t mean everybody has to. I recently saw some pear juice marketed as “Pear cider.” This is a labeling abomination. Cider consists only of apples, and if the pear juice was fermented into an alcoholic beverage, it is called “Perry.” This stuff wasn’t even fermented, so they failed miserably on all counts.

My favorite memories of Halloween are not even of dressing up in a silly costume, and guilting adults into giving me candy; they are of the food my mother used to cook. Roast pork and mashed potatoes drowned in rich gravy, and my favorite: melt a half cup of butter in a big cast iron skillet. Add a half cup of brown sugar, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, and one of nutmeg. Let this cook for a minute, and add a bunch of sliced tart apples, and some water. Let them cook until tender. YUM!

Staying up late to watch scary movies on a black and white television set, while stuffing my face with popcorn, was pretty fun too. But I can do that any night I want now, and the television is actually in color!

So there you have it, my take on Halloween. While you are enjoying whatever fun crap you have planned, I’ll be the drunk guy muttering profanities with all the lights turned off.

Why don’t you pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween… and me, I guess. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page to find chances to win book goodies.

echoes and bones final kindle

 

 

 

 

Two Ghost Stories

By Michael Keyton

 

There was, and maybe still is, a great tradition in our family of naming a son after the father. This in effect has turned us into a franchise of ‘Robin Hood and his Merry Men’ with: ‘Big John’ and ‘Little John’, ‘Big Frank and Little Frank’, ‘Big Mike and Little Mike’, ‘Big Dave and Little Dave’, ‘Big Owen’, and ‘Little Owen’ — and ‘Very Little Owen’

Very Little Owen (we didn’t really call him that) was my Uncle Owen, and his wife Pat lived close to us. I have very clear memories of my Aunty Pat, and I think something needs to be said: very young children recognise a beautiful woman well before all the nonsense of puberty kicks in. My Aunty Pat was beautiful and she died very young leaving two small children. My uncle was distraught, understandably drank a little more than he should, and sometime later took up with another woman who treated the children poorly.

One day she was found at the bottom of the stairs, scared out of her wits and claiming that she’d been pushed. Her account was quite graphic. She’d been walking up the stairway when a woman materialised out of thin air and pushed her down. The first time I heard this story I was about eight, sitting under our kitchen table attempting to turn the Liverpool Echo into a Magic Carpet with scissors and some complex origami. I remember closing my eyes, trying to visualise the scene. I wanted to pop out from under the table with a whole series of questions, but wisely stayed put. The general consensus was that it must have been Aunty Pat, coming back to protect her two children, and I remember waving my scissors in glee.

Now this, I confess is a second-hand story, though in a family Celtic through and through accepted as more probable than possible.

My second ghost story is a personal experience – and you can take it or leave it.

I was a student at the time, lodging in 17 High fields Road, Langland, Swansea. It was an interesting place, run by an ex officer in the RAF and his wife with the help of a small hunch-backed lady. Husband and Wife resented the fact that they had to take in students, and their servant was forever trying to explain away their distaste for us.

One night I woke up in pitch darkness, and there was a woman, standing at the foot of my bed. There was no colour to her apart from a generalised whitish glow. I remember easing myself on to my pillow in quiet excitement. There was no fear, just this intense excitement that something inexplicable had just occurred— was occurring —she was still there. The thought crossed my mind that it had to be a dream, so I scratched and pinched myself. Then came the fear that despite all this, in the cold light of day, I might well try and convince myself it was after all a dream. I pulled some hair— kept on staring— and slowly she disappeared. (And no, I hadn’t been drinking that night)

The interesting thing is that she came back a few months later. This time I was at home in Liverpool, and I woke up in the middle of the night to see her standing over me at the side of the bed. Again, no fear— a sense of peace— AND, possibly more significantly, instant recognition. It was the same lady. Don’t ask me how I know. Again I went through the pinching of the flesh routine; she faded a little more quickly than previously, but was there long enough for me to be sure I was awake.

I know all the quasi-scientific explanations that can explain most things away, and there are others who’d claim it was my Guardian Angel. People believe what they will whether ‘New Age’ or ‘Materialist’. My only regret is that I haven’t seen her since.

PS: For those who enjoy ‘real life’ ghost stories, ‘Bus Stop’ in Tales from the Murenger is based upon one such, though suitably embroidered. It was told to me by the brother of the bus conductor involved when I was a student working in a biscuit factory.

And, in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out ECHOES AND BONES, an anthology of dark fiction written by myself and the other Dolls. If you’re an American, you can enter to win a copy on Amazon. Live in another country? Keep an eye on our Facebook page for a chance to win.

 

echoes and bones final kindle

 

 

 

The Top 10 British Comedy Horror Films

By C.M. Saunders

That time of year again, eh? I was going to write about the history of Halloween and how it’s mired in ancient Celtic folklore. But all that stuff is freely available online and not very exciting. I wanted to do something special for you instead. So how about a Top 10 Horror Movie List? Not special enough? OK, how about a Top 10 BRITISH Horror Movie List? Still not good enough? Well, taking it to the next level, you know how us Brits are renowned for our unique, irreverent, occasionally wacky yet sophisticated sense of humour? No? Well, we are. Sometimes it can be as subtle as an autumn breeze. Other times it can be fast, bloody, and brutal. Like a good bout of period sex. So… how about a Top 10 British COMEDY Horror Movie List? Yeah, let’s do that.

 

10: I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)

vamp motorcycle

Once upon a time, in a faraway land called 1980s Britain, there was a very popular comedy drama TV series. Boon was its name, and it was about a courier service-cum-private detective agency. It was so popular that at its peak that a shrewd production company hired its two main stars, Michael Elphick and Neil Morrissey, to appear in a riotous low-budget horror romp in an attempt to capitalize on its burgeoning success. They only partially failed. In the beginning there are satanic rituals and rival biker gangs, climaxing in a motorcycle getting possessed and then purchased by an unsuspecting Noddy (Morrissey) who, coincidentally, is a courier by trade. And then, people start having terrible ‘accidents’ and it appears the motorcycle is to blame. This is like Boon with the gloves off and the volume turned up, with blood, gore, dismemberments, swearing, lewd behaviour and even a talking turd. I shit you not.

9: Inbred (2011)

inbred

This late-night Horror Channel stalwart sees a group of thuggish inner-city young offenders taken to an isolated Yorkshire town to do some community service. During a run-in with a group of local louts, one of their carers, Jim, falls and cuts open an artery in his leg. In a panic, the young offenders take him to a nearby pub to get help. Unfortunately, the locals (aka, ‘inbreds’) don’t like strangers in them parts. Not at all. They quickly decapitate poor Jim with a meat cleaver and lock the young offenders in the cellar, until they are taken out one by one to provide the village entertainment. Daft, disturbing and deeply offensive, the most puzzling thing about Inbred is just how far the makers managed to stretch a measly £109,000 budget, which is about half the cost of the average house in the UK.

8: Doghouse (2009)

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It’s got Danny Dyer in it, and it’s about a boy’s night out gone terribly wrong. Therefore, you just know it’s going to be crude, filthy and unashamedly misogynistic. What did you expect? At its core, it’s a parody of lad culture riffing on men’s supposed inherent fear of women. Luckily, it’s funny enough to compensate for all the Cosmopolitan schtick. Dyer, helped out by Noel Clarke, Stephen Graham and a few other less famous faces, head to a fabled town where women allegedly outnumber men 4-1. When they get there, they realize this is by no means a good thing as every female in sight has fallen victim to a biological toxin that turns them all into frenzied, blood-thirsty zombie types. It’s a battle of the sexes for sure.

7: Carry on Screaming (1966)

carry on screaming

Apparently, very few people outside Britain have heard of the legendary Carry On films. Quite frankly, this appals me. The films (all 30-plus of them, including such gems as Carry On Teacher, Carry On Behind and Carry On Doctor) are a British institution. Where else are you going to get fart jokes and edgy one-liners about hard-on’s and knockers on terrestrial telly at Sunday tea times? This particular outing is a parody of the Hammer Horror films, which were peaking in popularity at the time, and tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances in the English countryside, which ultimately leads police to a mad doctor in a castle and a monster called Oddbod. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin in this one, but the gags are timeless.

6: Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

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Before James Corden became a late-night TV host (or got his driving license) he starred in films like this. The critics hated it, with some bloke from the Times calling it an, “Instantly forgettable lad mag farce.” But that isn’t really saying too much. This was an era when it was fashionable to lamblast lad mags at every opportunity and besides, the Times don’t like any films. Even today it’s rare to see a film get more than two stars out of five, unless it’s an artsy fartsy French drama you need multiple degrees to understand. Personally, as far as low-brow humour goes, I thought this unofficial companion to Doghouse was a riot. When Jimmy (Mathew Horne) is dumped and Fletch (Corden), is sacked from his job as a clown for punching a kid, the duo decide to escape for the weekend to an idyllic village in Norfolk. A village which, unbeknownst to them, has been cursed, leading to a sizeable percentage of lesbian vampires. And you thought Eastern European immigrants were the problem.

5: Grabbers (2012)

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This is one of the more slick, big-budget entries on this list. Most of the time you just wouldn’t think it, which I guess is the point, as self-defeating as that is. Grabbers is essentially an alien invasion creature feature, the comedy aspect fueled primarily by the fact that alcohol is found to be toxic to the invaders, which encourages the inhabitants of a small Irish village to lock themselves in the pub and get rat-arsed as a defense mechanism. Think of this one as Father Ted crossed with the Blob and garnished with a liberal sprinkling of Cloverfield. It’s not a feckin’ lobster!

4: Severance (2006)

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Severance mixes humour, bravado, and some of the most brutal body horror this side of the Saw franchise to great effect, making it one of the stand-out Brit Horror films of the past two decades. The plot revolves around a group of office staff who are sent to Hungary on a team building exercise. As you would find in any office, the cast is made up of an eclectic and varied group of characters, all living up to certain long-held stereotypes. Danny Dyer pops up again, playing every-man caner Steve, who sees the getaway as the perfect opportunity to get off his tits. He’s munching magic mushrooms and puffing on a spliff in the toilet before the coach even stops (“Have I pissed meself?”). All in all, Severance comes off like a mash-up between Hostel and The Office. Brill.

3: Dog Soldiers (2002)

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There haven’t been many British horror films over the past decade or two more worthy of praise than Dog Soldiers. From the opening scenes, when a couple camping in the Scottish Highlands are ripped apart by a ferocious beast, you’re left in little doubt that this is a werewolf flick. If you like your horror bloody, funny, and gore-tastic, you can do a lot worse than this. You’re probably never going to see another northern bloke holding a flare aloft and singing, “Come and ‘ave a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough!” to a group of rampaging lycanthropes ever again. That man, incidentally, was played by an actor called Chris Robson, and he’s a French teacher in the north of England now. One of the few genuine, undisputed cult classics. Miss it at your peril.

2: An American werewolf in London (1981)

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Some films you see during your impressionable formative years make an impression on you. Others scar you for life. For me, An American werewolf in London belongs firmly in the latter category. The subway chase scene gave me nightmares and years later when I first moved to London I remember going out of my way to incorporate Tottenham Court Road station (where the scene was filmed) in my daily commute. It never failed to give me chills, largely because the only thing about the station that has changed in the past 35 years are the fucking posters on the walls. The story goes that when director John Landis first started touting it, he had trouble securing finances with most would-be investors claiming the script was too frightening to be a comedy and too funny to be frightening. Eventually, PolyGram Pictures put up the $10 million, and were glad they did when it went on to become a box office smash and win an Academy Award for its special effects (Rick Baker went on to win six more from eleven nominations. A record). The story? It’s about an American werewolf in London, innit?

1: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Could any other film really take top spot in this list? Not on your nelly. This, the first instalment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the others films being Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) is a bona-fide modern classic. Whilst dealing with feuding housemates, a demanding girlfriend and a shitty job, Shaun (Pegg) wakes up one morning with a hangover to find he’s in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. We’ve all been there. Naturally, the only place to go to wait for the world to restore order is the local pub. Brilliant performances by the cream of noughties British comedic talent and commendable special effects, topped off by a hilariously witty script. The perfect introduction to a positively booming sub-genre.

Honourable Mentions:

Cockneys Vs Zombies (2012), the Cottage (2008), Sightseers (2012), Stitches (2012), Boy Eats Girl (2005), Horror Hospital (1973), Nina Forever (2015) Stag Night of the Dead (2010), The World’s End (2013), Ibiza Undead (2016)

Human Waste: A Short Splatterpunk Story by C.M. Saunders is out now.

human waste

 

 

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also to enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

 

echoes and bones final kindle

 

THE EXORCIST SCARRED ME, AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT

By Katrina Monroe

 

When it comes to horror films, my worst fears are many and specific: creepy kids (and now that I have my own, this goes double), sharp objects near or around a person’s neck, demonic possession (I’m a recovering Catholic, so, duh), and jump scares (because I’m gullible as hell). In spite of ALL THAT, when theaters re-released The Exorcist in 2000, at the maddening age of fourteen, I gladly went along with my step-father and my two brothers (aged thirteen and twelve at the time) to see it.

exorcist

Don’t ask me what possessed (har-har) my step-father to bring a trio of barely teenaged kids to an R-rated film guaranteed to scare the pants off us. Maybe he thought it would be funny. He’d only just married my mother a year before (and she subsequently popped out child number six), so the dynamic between my siblings and Raul were in the “testing” stage. We tested him, he stared at us like we’d grown a second head, and we moved on to the next experiment. To my memory, he’d never tested back; Raul was (and still is) the calm-headed type. Experience and retrospect, though, have proved that the calm-headed ones are the craftiest.

So with what I can only assume was a blessing from my mother, I, my brothers, my step-father, and his best friend, Harley, went to the movies.

It was a disaster from the beginning.

I sat on the end next to an aisle with burned-out floor illumination, and the shadows played tricks on my already rattled mind. It didn’t slip my notice that my brothers and I were the only under-eighteens in the theater, though, and it was my first clue that something was amiss.

“So this has devils and stuff?” My brother, Danny, asked.

Harley chuckled. “Yeah. Stuff.”

Raul shushed him as the lights dimmed and the movie started.

By the scene in which Regan was being “treated” by having needles plunged multiple times into her neck, I was dry-heaving in the aisle. The world spun and I dripped coke-soaked ice down the back of my neck to keep from passing out. Once the feeling passed, I figured all would be well. If I could live through that, I could handle anything.

Four words—Let Jesus fuck you—and I was so wrong.

The End couldn’t come quick enough.

My brothers and I ran from the theater and waited by the car for Harley and Raul. We didn’t look at each other. Didn’t talk to each other. But I’m sure we all shared the same thought—it’ll be dark soon.

Danny—either in a show of bravado or stubbornness—slept in his room that night as usual, while my other brother, Buddy, and I slept in the living room.

We spent the night watching Disney movies—our favorite, Hercules, played no less than three times—while battling over who would risk getting off the couch to rewind the VHS (yes, we still had those, and no, there was no remote).

“I did it last time,” Buddy said.

“And you were fine. Obviously, you’ve got some kind of luck on your side.”

“That’s stupid.”

“You’re stupid.”

“I’m telling Mom.”

“Go ahead. Hit the rewind button on your way to her room.”

I have no proof, but I firmly believe Raul sat by the bedroom door and listened to all of this, snickering like Snidely Whiplash.

By the next day, Buddy had gotten over it.

Daniel, however, had gotten worse.

My mother paced the kitchen while on the phone with my grandfather, a devout Catholic. “Can you just come over and, I don’t know, talk to him?”

See, Danny believed that since he and Regan were the same age, it was only a matter of time before HE would become possessed, too. Despite my still lingering fear over the film, I found the notion of Danny spewing pea soup all over his Power Ranger bed sheets funny.

My grandfather spent the next several days quoting scripture and comforting Danny in the fact that, yes, the Devil was real, but no he wouldn’t possess Danny because the Devil had more pressing things to deal with like plagues and the End of Times.

I did mention I am a recovering Catholic, yes?

Anyway, I dealt with my fear the only way I knew how. I made deals.

If I didn’t move all night, The Exorcist (because I had to name my fear and, though it made no sense, I went with the movie title) wouldn’t get me.

[I’m sure there’s a twisted Freudian reason that, in naming my fear, it was a name that associated more with the religion side than the horror side of the experience. I’ll jot it down for my therapist, but we won’t be discussing it here.]

Then a week passed.

If I didn’t move all night, except moving my feet out of the blanket when it got too hot, The Exorcist wouldn’t get me.

Then another week passed.

If I didn’t move all night, except moving my feet and getting up to pee, The Exorcist wouldn’t get me.

This continued for months. Years.

Now, I’m allowed to move all I want, but The Exorcist will probably get me if I go into the bathroom before turning on the hall lights, or get into bed without a running start.

I’m thirty and, if I were to watch the movie again, I’m sure I would find it enlightening, compelling, and revel in the scare-factor. But there’s something about childhood trauma that drives me. Without it, I’d have no stories to tell and you’d be stuck playing Pokemon Go for the fourth hour in a row.

There is a moral to this tale, though.

They don’t give an R rating for fun, guys. Maybe don’t plop your twelve year old in front of Pennywise and expect to get her a clown for her next birthday, yeah? Glad we had this talk.

 

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny.

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You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

 

Book News!

by Renee Miller

Hello, Dolls! Halloween is approaching and we’ve been busy. Get ready for Deviant Dolls Publications’ first-ever anthology, ECHOES AND BONES, which will be available as e-book and paperback on Wednesday, October 11th. But you can pre-order your copy now!

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The Florida Keys, a psychic, and a chipped teacup; not very interesting on their own, but together, they weave dark, sometimes twisted tales of secrets, death, mystery and fantastic discovery. Join us as we listen to the echoes and wade through the bones, to unearth the treasures hidden in our deviant minds.

CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL – Michael Keyton
Cheating a houngan is bad news. A classroom won’t save you.

THE LAST READING OF MADAME SHAHRAZAD – Steve Wetherell
Stacey James makes a comfortable living pretending to talk to the dead, but a dangerous stranger is about to put her talents to the ultimate test.

THE PAST ENTOMBED – C.M. Saunders
Amanda has a tragic past. She also has a gift. Or maybe it’s a curse. Psychometry. The art of ‘reading’ inanimate objects. It’s something she has struggled with her entire life, but learned to accept. Until one morning, when she stumbles across an object at a market which brings the past and the future crashing together. There will be consequences.

WASHER WOMAN SHOALS – Liam McNalley
Between her part time job mixing drinks at her landlord’s bar and deceiving tourists as Madame Ezora, Belle earns enough money to allow for a simple new life in Key West. A strange object found on the beach, though, turns her world upside down. Now, the only way to avoid certain death is for Belle to actually contact a spirit from the other side.

MISBEGOTTEN – Frank E. Bittinger
Haunted by a memory or haunted by an actual spirit, that is the question. Even in paradise, it seems you cannot outrun the past. Will turning to one who communicates with those who have passed beyond the Veil provide answers or will it only lead to a dead end?

THIS ONE IS MINE – Katrina Monroe
Patty will look into a stranger’s past for a small fee. Now, it’s time to confront her own.

KEEPER – Renee Miller
Ford’s dusty pawn shop in the Florida Keys is full of both trash and treasure. The items he hides in the room behind the store, though, are his most prized possessions, and definitely not for sale. Rare beauty, exquisite gifts; each worth a price only Ford comprehends.

The anthology also includes bonus content like book excerpts and original short fiction by the Dolls.

To celebrate this and the many new things the Dolls have coming this month, we’re writing a series of Halloween/Horror themed blog posts, and we’re going to give away two paperback copies of the anthology, as well as two e-books, as well as other goodies.

To be entered to win, just go to the book’s Amazon page on or after the 11th of October and look for the “enter the giveaway” option. (Sorry, U.S. residents only, because Amazon’s not big on international giveaways, apparently, but there will be more chances for non-U.S. readers to win here and on our personal blogs). Stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook page for more Halloween posts and chances to win cool bookish things.

Five Thoughts with Renee Miller: Publishing Edition

I already did a five thoughts post, but lately I’ve had a lot of writing/publishing thoughts that I think should be shared. So, as I did the first time, I’m just going to free write the first five that come into my head. Cool? You know it is.

Here we go.

  1. Is ANYTHING fair? Seriously, life isn’t fair. Publishing isn’t fair. The average pay rate isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that every time I want something sugary in this house, someone else has already eaten it. I hate everything. Most of all, I hate that I bust my ass and see just tiny fragments of success while that piece of shit over there doesn’t work half as hard and he’s all “Oooh, look at me on the bestseller list.”

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Fuck that guy.

  1. I think submission guidelines are the publisher’s revenge for all of the shitty writing they have to read in the slush pile. I mean, sometimes the things they ask for are just ridiculous. I get that they have to weed out the lazy fuckers, but damn, guys. Just damn. Sometimes the ones who aren’t lazy are all “I don’t have time for this shit when you’re paying me less than 1 cent per word.” But I’d totally do it for the pro markets. Cut off my left arm? Okay. You got it. Sacrifice a goat on the fifth Saturday after the first quarter moon? Done. Do a triple back flip, followed by the two-step, and end with a downward dog on a bed of knives? Pfft. Hold my beer and make note of my PayPal email.

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I got this shit.

  1. Why am I writing all of these things? I’m just going to have to submit them somewhere or decide whether or not to publish them myself. I’ve got SO MANY THINGS. Should just quit. Take a holiday or something. But if I stop, even for a little while, I might, I don’t know, never start again. And then what? What if I never have another good idea because I stopped using the other ideas? What if I stop and the world keeps going, because we know that’s exactly what will happen and my special bubble will burst and I’ll have to accept I’m not the shit at writing. I’m just another cog in the wheel of publishing that is easily replaced when it breaks.

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  1. I’m exhausted like 85% of the time. Maybe even 90%. Does anyone else roll their eyes when a new writer comes along with his “Ooh! Everything is so shiny and I’m so full of hopes and dreams. Can you help me get started?”

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But seriously, new writers are great You’re wonderful. Just… stop being so… happy all the time. God.

  1. Rejection letters that begin with “We loved the writing and the characters are fantastic” or “your story made it to the final round,” and end with “But it’s just not what we’re looking for at this time.” You know what, editor person?

no

Just say no.

Don’t tell me how close I came. Don’t let me know that if I’d just chosen another genre, setting, whatever, I’d have sold that fucking piece of shit I sent to you. Just tell me no. “Sorry. It’s a no.” That’s all. Don’t open the door to ‘what might have been’ with your “you’re just awesome and we almost said yes” nonsense. I can’t take it.

Bonus thought: This industry is great, though. Really, it is. I mean, you get to meet new, fascinating people. You’re always learning, so it almost never gets boring. Sure, it’s hard on the pride. Makes you cry from time to time. It’s sent a few people across the border of Crazy Town. Maybe ended a few relationships. Blew up some families. But all-in-all, it’s pretty awesome.

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Five (More) Thoughts with Katrina Monroe

by Katrina Monroe

  1. I can’t science.

I like science. Science makes things blow up and makes my phone cooler and takes care of animals. I appreciate science. I do. I just can’t do it. I started going back to school this year to finish up an English degree I’ve been drooling over for over a decade, and part of it is taking an environmental science class. I read the chapters and cry when I can’t make them stick in my head. I take quizzes that don’t make sense. But, at the end of it, I’m coming for you climate change denying mother-fuckers, so WATCH OUT.

 

  1. Academic writing bores me to tears.

Okay, yes, more school stuff. If I have to obsess about it, you have to hear about it. My required writing class is led by a professor who thinks stylized writing is “confusing.” (I can’t wait to see what he thinks of my rogue italics and one-word paragraphs in our first paper. *eyeroll*). At the beginning of the semester, he emphasized that we would be reading non-fiction. That’s fine. I read A LOT of great non-fiction. Except, in this class, it’ll be academic essays from the medical field, to appeal to the eleventy-billion nursing students in my class. Gag me.

 

  1. You’d think momming got easier once the kids started becoming independent. Guess what, losers. It doesn’t.

When my kids (now ages 9 and 10) were smaller, it was easy to write off their little eccentricities and forgetfulness as a result of their being little. Of course she won’t remember to pick up after herself, Katrina, she’s a toddler for fuckssakes. Now, they still don’t clean their room; they still forget things at school; they still leave behind little trails of pizza cheese and homemade slime, except NOW it’s willful. I have no point other than I’m losing my god-damned mind. Send help.

 

  1. Get your flu shot.

Otherwise you’ll be stuck chain-sucking sugar-free cough drops so you don’t hack up a lung in the middle of class. Oh, and those cough-drops? They give you the runs. Your PSA for the week, kids.

 

  1. Sometimes strangers will sniff your furniture.

This week, I sold our old recliner on the Facebook market because I figured it’d be safer than throwing it up on Facebook and attracting creepers. Facebook users have pictures, right? And you can totally tell a creeper from a non-creeper by their photo (yeah, I’m laughing too). After dodging a few bullshit offers—“I’ll give you twenty bucks and that’s being generous,” fuck off, bro—a legit offer came through and someone showed up to pick up the recliner. Which he sniffed. Allllllll over it. The seat. The back. He said he was looking for mold, but he paid cash so I didn’t ask questions. The chair’s gone now, and so is the sniffer.