Point of View Is Everything in The Others


     Anne, one of the children in The Others, sees ghosts…or does she? Point of view is everything in this ghostly film!

Anne tells her brother Nicholas that it is Victor that opens their bedroom curtains in the night over and over. Anne closes them, and moments later, they are closed again. Victor is to blame, Anne explains, and doesn’t Nicholas see Victor over there?

It’s not clear if Nicholas actually glimpses Victor or if poor Nicholas is just scared out of his wits by his sister’s stories. Anne claims to see ghosts throughout the film, but only at the end of the film does the audience learn that Anne is a ghost.

In fact (huge spoiler alert), Anne, Nicholas, and their mother Grace are all ghosts haunting that house. The hired help is also deceased, but continue to do yardwork even in the afterlife.
Victor is alive and the other members of his family are as well. Anne is not the girl seeing the ghost; she is the ghost seeing a living boy in the same house where she died.

Thinking back over the movie, Anne and Nicholas being ghost kids might have been hinted at in a Bible study scene. They talk about the “four Hells,” one of which is Children’s Limbo. In hindsight, perhaps they were in Children’s Limbo all along.

Having the ghosts as the main characters and experiencing things through their senses is what makes the movie special. If we’d seen it through the eyes of the living family inhabiting the house, it would have been just another haunted house tale.

Finding out that the mother smothered her children with a pillow and then shot herself, leaving them all trapped at this property, was an amazing twist. The clues and hints might have been there all along, but I didn’t guess that they were the ghosts. I was surprised, and it’s rare that a film twist catches me so off-guard.

Notice the Names in Nightmare House


     Nightmare House by Douglas Clegg is a haunted house tale published in 2012. I learned from Amazon’s website that this book is one in a series that revolves around the house. The books can be read out of sequence.

The names in Nightmare House are what most stood out to me. Let’s start with the house and estate named Harrow. From Google’s dictionary, a quick search yielded the definition of “harrow:”


an implement consisting of a heavy frame set with teeth or tines which is dragged over plowed land to break up clods, remove weeds, and cover seed.


1.draw a harrow over (land).

“they ploughed and harrowed the heavy clay”

  1. cause distress to.

By name of the house alone, the reader can decide about the sturdy farming implications of the word…or they can notice the “cause distress to” nuances of a potentially harrowing tale ahead. Calling it Harrow was a stroke of genius on the author’s part.

Ethan Gravesend is the grandson the reader meets as he inherits Harrow. “Gravesend” = graves end. What a delightfully creepy surname! If one’s last name is Gravesend and one has inherited a property called Harrow, spooky shenanigans are bound to follow.

Police chief and supporting character Pocket is another powerful name choice. As a name, “Pocket” feels like tucked away secrets, events hidden carefully away and kept safe.

“He sacrificed his daughter’s happiness to it,” Pocket said to Ethan. Again, another brilliant word choice. “Sacrificed” as in gave up something of tremendous value, but also “sacrificed” as in giving a life to feed the evil.

     Nightmare House is a satisfyingly haunted read, but my takeaway that I can apply in my own writing is the power of deliberate word choices. By careful selection of names, the author reinforced the tone of his haunted tale.

Ghost Story is My Literary Lloyd Dobler


Lloyd Dobler ruined me. He wasn’t always the best at speaking his feelings, but that evening, he made them so clear. Standing outside his beloved’s home, he held the boombox high and played her a love song.

Lloyd is a character in the movie Say Anything. If you aren’t familiar, you can check out a clip here: https://youtu.be/S5Y8tFQ01OY

Lloyd’s heart is on his sleeve and blasting out of his boombox. Every boyfriend I’ve ever had has been measured on my secret Lloyd Dobler scale. What is the likelihood that this boyfriend would stand outside and play me a love song, unashamed to woo me?

Ghost Story is the book equivalent of Lloyd Dobler for me. I’ve measured far too many books against Ghost Story and many, perhaps most, have failed miserably.

I first read Ghost Story in middle school, around 6th or 7th grade. I liked long books in the horror genre, like The Stand by Stephen King and Baal by Robert McCammon. I wanted a long and well-woven story as a reader, even at that age.

Ghost Story blew my mind. It might have been the first book I’d read that was a story about stories or many stories within one overarching plotline. Reading it again, it still blows my mind, maybe even more so now that I’m trying to write stories myself.

Not only was there a masterful blending of stories, but there are passages and phrases that are absolutely beautiful to me. It was my first time really considering that there could still be lovely prose in a story that was meant to have tension or scares.

In my copy of Ghost Story, this dialogue takes place on pages 376 and 377:

“We were in a sort of sexless, pre-Freudian paradise,” Ricky finally said. “In an enchantment. Sometimes we even danced with her, but even holding her, watching her move, we never thought about sex. Not consciously. Not to admit. Well, paradise died in October, 1929, shortly after the stock market and Stringer Dedham.”

            “Paradise died,” Sears echoed, “and we looked into the devil’s face.”

There is so much there to unpack! Memories of youth labeled as paradise read to me as idyllic, and I found myself immersed in a vision of what it must’ve been like and felt like to be dancing with Eva, spinning around, laughing and carefree. The turn of the scene with the phrase “paradise died” left me eager for what catastrophe must be next, artfully moving me from the dance floor into the “cyclone of hate” that unfolds on page 379.

Straub is a master of painting a mood for the reader and doing it quickly. On page 217, Don and Alma are staying at David’s vacation home.

Thus, there we are, mornings and afternoons in David’s house while the gray fog slides past the windows and the noise of waves slapping the beach far down suggests that any minute water will begin to come in through the bottom of the door.

For me, that short passage gives me the mood, dark and somber, as well as the distinct feeling that something bad or weird (or both) is about to happen.

Ghost Story is amazing. It is my literary Lloyd Dobler, a measure of a well done tale. Oh, you say you wrote a haunting novel? Well, how does it compare to Straub’s Ghost Story?


Paranormal Activity Still Holds Up


Sometimes when I watch a movie again years after it was released, it doesn’t always stand the test of time. The special effects might appear hokey, or it might be a storyline that would be crushed with a tool as simple as a mobile phone.


Maybe I’m alone in my thinking, but I felt like Paranormal Activity is still full of fun scares. It’s similar to Blair Witch Project in that we, the viewers, are supposed to believe we’re watching found film footage, not a scripted movie. Because it’s in this niche of found footage, I believe that gives Paranormal Activity staying power.


In Paranormal Activity, Katie and Micah are experiencing what might be a haunting in their townhouse. Katie explains that this has been happening for as long as she can remember, that the haunting follows her. Micah is a little annoyed that she didn’t mention the bit about being a ghost magnet before they started living together.


They decide to film what’s happening day to day and even record in the bedroom while they sleep. This approach works well to build up tension because there are sounds, for example, that take place well off camera. That’s a terrific plan for a tight movie-making budget since you don’t have to show anything scary for most of the film.


Noises, footprints, and even a photo found in the attic build up the creepy layers, but we haven’t seen the ghost or poltergeist or whatever might be haunting Katie and the home she shares with Micah. For me, this works well in the same way that the movie Jaws created tension. It’s allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Perhaps that fails with folks who have no imagination, but for my whirling scary-go-round brain, filling in my own blanks is a major scare.


As a fan of scary movies, I was absolutely livid that Micah wanted to use a Ouija board. Has he really never seen any scary movies? This NEVER works out well, and it doesn’t work out well for Katie and Micah either.


Random side note: I was irritated by the pronunciation of “Micah” as “Meeka” instead of with a long “I” sound. I listened to several recordings of how to pronounce the name in English, and they all had the long i. Picky? Maybe, but it’s one of those pesky things that will break my interest in a movie. All they had to do was give him a name like “Scott” and there would have been no problem!


The big ending (spoilers!) mostly happens off camera. Again, this works because we believe that this is found footage. Micah’s body is thrown at the camera, knocking the camera down. We’re treated, at long last, to a glimpse of the demon, now making itself comfy in Katie. Totally scary when demon-possessed Katie screams and lunges at the camera to end the movie.


Paranormal Activity still holds up. The timing of the thumps, bumps, footsteps, and so on just builds and builds until it explodes into a demonic possession. Is it a profound artistic masterpiece? No way, but it’s still a reliable movie for startling scares without gore or crazy effects.

Ghost Makes Women Touch Their Own Cleavage (my summary of Hell House)


            Hell House by Richard Matheson was intended to frighten the reader. Four people enter a haunted house in Maine to find proof that there is life after death. Their time in the house corrupts their behavior. Not all the investigators survive the investigation. Scary stuff, right?

            Unfortunately, I fell out of the hypnotic trance of a good spooky book with scenes that are now laughable. When the two women are possessed by a spirit, they suddenly become nymphomaniacs, eager for sexual delights.

Edith attempts to engage in a naughty tryst in the sauna with her husband. He responds with horror, as the only way his wife would behave in such a saucy manner is if Edith were being manipulated by an evil spirit.

Really? The only way a woman might want to have sexy time in the sauna with her husband is if her freewill has been seized; clearly, that’s the only explanation. I had to stop reading to roll my eyes.

Overcome by wanton lust, Florence strips and straddles Edith, trying to get Edith to touch her bare breasts. Florence announces that they are both “that way.” Florence would only feel free to waggle her bosoms at Edith when possessed by a wicked ghost, as a proper woman would do no such thing.

This book was published in 1971. Perhaps the author was shocked by the sexual liberation of the 1960s and the new freedoms for women with the availability of birth control pills. Clearly, Richard Matheson wasn’t a fan of women being forthright in their pursuit of sexual pleasure.

It also felt to me that Matheson was homophobic, referring to the character of Edith as a “lesbian bitch.” One might argue that a fictional character made that comment to another fictional character in the context of a story, so maybe it isn’t a reflection of Matheson’s world views. I believe his characters didn’t need to have such a conversation at all, so his choice of words is telling.

The sexual scenes weren’t shocking or frightening to me. I found them ridiculous and foolish, the ramblings of a boring old fart. Fifty years after the publication of Hell House, the world has changed enough that what was appalling to a reader of that era is not even a little scary today. Those aspects of the story didn’t age well.

The concept of a house haunted by an evil ghost stands the test of time. When the group arrives and finds the windows of the house have been bricked over, I felt their dread. The reader is treated to the full experience of a creepy abandoned home, and I enjoyed being introduced to the house.

As soon as a ghost fondles Florence’s derriere roughly seventy pages into the book, I was pulled out of the spooky ambiance. A spectral butt grabber is rude, but Florence seems amused by it. Again, this is something that didn’t stand the test of time. A female character today would have been angered by such an action rather than thinking it clever or rambunctious.

Clearly, I was not a fan of this particular book, but I understand that I, with my modern opinions and healthy libido, was never its intended audience.

The Haunting of Hill House versus The Real World


Shirley Jackson’s book The Haunting of Hill House might be the literary version of MTV’s The Real World. The premise of The Real World television show was putting strangers in a house together and following what happens “when people stop being polite and start being real.”

Our characters in The Haunting of Hill House are strangers, brought together when Dr. Montague seeks to document the allegedly haunted house. Theodora and Eleanor are brought in to assist the doctor in his summer of research. Luke is a member of the family that owns the home, and the family will only allow Dr. Montague to rent the home with Luke there. Four strangers find themselves living together for the sake of paranormal research, so what could possibly go wrong?

Just like every season of The Real World, it seems in the beginning as though everyone will get along and have a lovely time. They take meals together and relax with chess and brandy.

Hill House is full of things that go bump in the night, which was their reason to be there in the first place. Like The Real World, it’s not enough to live together without taking sides and ostracizing someone.

Eleanor wants so badly to belong somewhere and fit in to a group. That desperate longing to be included is part of what brought her to Hill House. Eleanor tries to get close to Theodora, even offering to follow Theo home after their research is done, but Theo is having none of that. Eleanor sets her sights on a grand romance with Luke, and that effort goes nowhere. Theodora won’t have her, and Luke won’t have her. All that’s left to do is lose what few marbles she has and give herself over to the house.

Eleanor feels a sense of belonging in the house and she opens herself to the house and its spirits. She feels at home there, the only time in her life she’s felt that sense of being part of something large and important.

Eleanor wakes everyone as she runs through the house, hearing what she believes to be her mother beckoning her. Eleanor ends up in the library at the top of a rickety staircase, trying to climb out to the turret. Luke plays the hero and gets her down from the stairs.

In the morning, everyone is insisting that Eleanor leave. This is another great parallel to The Real World, where every season someone is bullied to the breaking point and the others all victim-blame. Instead of being excited that the house is just strange enough to have shattered Eleanor’s fragile mind and digging into what happened, they want her to leave. They have decided that they are done with Eleanor, and she needs to go. Eleanor, of course, doesn’t want to leave but they have made up their minds.

They pack her in her car and insist she skedaddle. They underestimated Eleanor’s commitment to give herself over to the house. Instead of driving away from Hill House, Eleanor drives into a tree, committing suicide to avoid leaving the place she thinks of as her only true home.

Eleanor’s death ruined the whole summer research shindig for the remaining group, and they all went their separate ways.

Why aren’t you wearing a werewolf hoodie?


Werewolf Jersey

There you are, staring into your closet, wishing for a fashion miracle to happen.  “Why oh why don’t I have a shirt with a werewolf on it? How will I ever be cool at the craft brewery/tailgate market/gym if I don’t stride in wearing a werewolf on my shirt?”

This is a common concern here in Asheville, NC, and all around the world.  I’m here for you today with a solution.  You can have werewolf-wear delivered right to your doorstep.  Need a jersey? A hoodie? A t-shirt? I’ve got you covered.

All you need to do is skedaddle on over to my merch store on Cafe Press and go wild!  If you join the Cafe Press email list, they send out great coupons all the time that can be used in my store so you can come back and get that werewolf shower curtain, too!

Sunday Funday: Let’s Go to the Movies

The Lodge Movie Poster

The Lodge Movie Poster

Sunday is usually our day to get out of the house in search of some fun.  With both of us fighting off some February germs, my sweetie and I decided to take it easy and just catch a movie.

We’d seen the trailer for The Lodge a few weeks back when we went to see Color Out of Space.  I thought The Lodge looked suitably creepy and have been on the lookout for it to land in the local theaters.

This is not a blood, chainsaws, and jump scares movie.  This film is a heavy, stressful kind of scary.

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” — Stephen King

You have Dad’s new girlfriend caring for his two kids in Dad’s winter vacation cabin just before Christmas.  Dad’s a workaholic that skedaddles back to his job in the city, leaving the kids with this woman who is pretty much a stranger to them.  He’ll be back in two days, so what can go wrong?

Everything goes wrong.  The kids are jerks.  The girlfriend is more than a little off her rocker.  Let’s toss a blizzard into the mix and lose power so the cell phones are dead.  Everyone’s stranded in this cabin miles from nowhere with no communication and no vehicle.  Sounds like a super good time in the making, right?

What’s horrific in this movie is the churning of emotions.  The landscape is bleak, frozen white as far as the eye can see.  The situation is awful and getting worse every moment.  Our characters are cold, hungry, and desperate.  The two days that Dad is supposed to be gone seem more like a month.

Who is the villain in this movie; who is the monster?  Every character shows their ugly side, their darkness, at some point, but they also show their weak spots.  They are all at fault on some level; that’s why the movie stressed me out, because there really are no innocents and there is no happy ending lurking around the corner.

When the credits rolled, I was like, well, at least there weren’t screaming alpacas (Color Out of Space was stressful, particularly the alpacas).  I let out a sigh of relief for being set free from the weight of this movie.

The Lodge is scary because humans are terrifying.  There are no vampires or mask-wearing nuts roaming the woods, but this movie doesn’t need those gimmicks.


Let’s Be Creepy Together


Creepy Book Cover

This is a super short read, but it is one of my favorites.  These are true stories from my life experiences with ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.

I asked an artist to do the ghost design for the cover based on some ideas I had, and I love the design she created.  I love this design so much it’s available on mugs and t-shirts on CafePress.com.

I think there will be more of these stories to come, or perhaps I will share bonus stories to my website followers!