Stitched Saturday: November 12th

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

I’m your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid. I’m back with another round of Stitched Saturday for your writing pleasure. I’ve come across the picture we are using this week several times in my searches, and it always jumps out at me (art by virgilliocalzadi). It has a creepy, solitary, claustrophobic vibe that really tickles my horror bone.

I want you to put yourself in this room. Use the eyes of your imagination to explore the sights, sounds, and smells all around you. Dig deep into the fear of your character. Don’t tell me they are scared or frightened, show me! Show me with their thoughts, emotions, expressions, and body movements. What is after them? How did they get there? What is that thing in the middle of the room? Bring me into this room and scare the crap out of me!

Prompt: 500 words max. Base your story off the art. It can be from any POV. It can be from the perspective of the entity or the person(s) in the room. As always, submit your story in the comments section of this post.

Until next time!

Zeke

Into the Void Episode 2: Demonic Possession

Welcome back to another episode of Into the Void, where I interview and have discussions with people about real life experiences with the psychic and paranormal. In today’s post, I have an excerpt of an interview I did with a couple who went through an encounter with the demonic. The full interview is included in the latest edition of the House of Stitched Magazine, which you can find here.

In this issue of The Paranormal Pastor, I’m going to pause our series on Rethinking Satan to bring you something raw, gritty, and down right spine tingling. Not too long ago, I was contacted by a couple who I’ll call Luke and Dianna Pratt (names changed for privacy). This isn’t anything out of the ordinary for me, given my background as a pastor and interest in the paranormal. I get emails and messages asking me about ghosts, demons, psychic phenomenon, and everything in between. 

What struck me about this couple was I could relate to their plight all too well. Like Luke, I had narrowly escaped an abusive relationship. Also like Luke, I’m an addict in recovery. There were other similarities I discovered along the way, which made my heart go out to him even more. Needless to say, when they messaged me, I decided to hear them out. And I’m glad I did. 

I was able to sit down with the couple face to face and let them tell me their experience with Luke’s demonic possession. After talking with them, they asked if I would share their story with others. Not to sensationalize it but to serve as both a warning and a testimony of the dangers of opening oneself to unseen forces and the power of God to deliver a tormented soul. 

I agreed to share their story. I’ve also decided to change the format of how interviews are normally printed. Usually, it’s just the run of the mill Q&A format. But when you sit down and interview someone face to face, so much is lost when you go that route. As a reader, I want to take you there to that room. I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to experience their angst and see their expressions in your mind. With that said, I am presenting the interview in “story” format. Please, don’t misunderstand me. This is not a fictional story. To Luke and Dianna, the experience was very real and terrifying, and as you will read, has all the marks of an authentic case of possession. 

Am I trying to force an opinion or worldview on you, the reader? By no means. If you’ve been around me, you know that’s not my style. My job is to simply present things as accurately and truthfully as I can, and let you make up your own mind. 

Without further adieu, here is their story.

I sat down in the wingback chair in Luke Pratt’s study. The room was lined with bookshelves from top to bottom and a sturdy, antique desk sat against the back wall. The shelves were filled with theology books, old paperback horror novels, and an array of VHS tapes. This was definitely my kind of environment. 

Luke and Dianna sat across from me in an old, green, 1970s loveseat. Dianna twitched nervously in her seat, offering a half smile. Luke sat forward, elbows on his knees and fingers interlocked. He stared out at me through his long locks of black hair. 

“Thank you for coming, Zeke.” Dianna said. She tucked her red hair behind her ear and gazed at me through her solemn, green eyes. “Can I get you any more coffee before we start?”

I glanced down at my cup. It was half full and tentacles of steam swirled from the dark abyss of the black mug. “No thank you. I’m good right now.” 

“Where do you want to begin?” Dianna asked. 

I took a sip of coffee and set it on the table next to me. “Well, first things first.” I looked at Luke. “I see all the theology books. Can you tell me a little bit about your background?”

Luke sighed and sat upright. “Yeah…yeah.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Like you, I was in full time ministry for a while. Got some degrees. Served in some churches. Too many bad experiences so I got out.” 

I gave him a sympathetic smile. “I can relate all too well.”

“I know you can,” Luke said. “That’s why we wanted to talk to you. But it wasn’t just your background in ministry. It’s your interest in the paranormal and supernatural. It’s you having been through an abusive relationship. It’s you having been an alcoholic. When I read some of your stuff and your background, it was like I was staring at my own life. I figured if there was anyone who understood what we went through, it’d be you.” 

And Luke was right. I felt like I was sitting across from a thirty something year old version of me. “I’m glad you reached out. I’ll do my best to listen and offer any advice along the way. What really interests me is when this all started. Can you tell me?”

“Yeah,” Luke said. “Dianna and I just got married about two months ago. Moved into this house about a month ago. But the possession? This was last year and the things leading up to it about a year before that.” 

“Okay, then why don’t we start with the year leading up to the possession. What was that like?” I asked.

“It started with visits.” 

“What kind of visits?”

“The ghost of a little girl.” 

Cold chills snaked up my spine and I paused. “Luke, you know I had visits from the ghost of a little girl, too.” 

“I know,” he said. “Your ghost was named Theo. Mine was named Emile.” 

I leaned forward. “What? Emile?” 

“Yeah.” He nodded. 

I wasn’t going to say anything yet because I needed more information to see if my initial feeling was right. “What did she look like?” 

“At first she was sweet looking. About seven years old with red hair and green eyes. Looked like she lived in the eighteen hundreds or something like that. Then she would change into this evil, demonic looking form. Her face peeling all off and her eyes all white.” 

My cold chills turned to goosebumps, tingling all over my body. “Luke, I want you to hear me out but I’m pretty sure this was the same ghost who visited me.” 

Luke and Dianna gawked at each other, wide eyed and gaping mouths. 

“What,” Luke asked. “How?” 

“I’ll tell you. The description? That’s Theo to a T. She would do the same thing, too. Appear all sweet and innocent then change forms.” I leaned back in the chair. “And the name Emile. That was the name I gave her when I first wrote about her. I had changed it because I didn’t want people to know her real name then.” 

Luke and Dianna didn’t say a word. I continued. “And let me guess? She would come to you begging for help. Sweet one moment and in the next, a hell spawn as evil as the day is long?”

“Yeah,” Luke said. “She said she was being tormented by something evil and needed my help to set her free.” 

“That’s how she gets in,” I said. “She plays off your pity and compassion.” I took a sip of coffee and set the cup back down. “Let me ask you this: Do you have a soft spot in your heart for little girls?” 

Luke’s eyes glossed over and a tear trickled down his cheek. “I do.” 

“Tell me what happened with that?” 

“It was my ex-wife. She tried to destroy my relationship with my children, especially my youngest daughter. My ex was a professionally diagnosed narcissist and it just got worse the longer I was out of full time ministry.” He glanced over at Dianna. “Her hyper religion got extreme as well. She resulted to physical violence whenever she couldn’t control me anymore. I got a restraining order on her and then things went to shit. She lied to the social worker about me, telling her I beat the kids, even though my oldest two said she was lying. But because of the accusation, I couldn’t be around my kids for months until I was proven innocent.” 

“Good God.” I whispered. I didn’t let them know it at the time but this was almost exactly what happened to me. The similarities were getting more and more eerie. “And when your kids were taken away, this was when Emile moved in. Said she would be your daughter now and comfort you.”

Luke’s lips quivered. “How did you know?”

“Because she did the same thing to me.” I leaned forward and placed my elbows on my knees. “Luke, I’m not gonna go into any details, because this interview is not about me. But I went through a very similar situation, and Theo did the exact same thing. It was how she got close.” 

“Oh my God,” Luke said. “It was her, wasn’t it?” 

“Seems like it was,” I said. “What happened after that?”

Luke looked over at Dianna. “The details are fuzzy for me, and there is so much I don’t remember. But Dianna was there for it all. She’ll have to tell you.” 

I turned my attention to Dianna. Her face grew pale and her hands trembled. “Dianna, tell me what happened?” 

Dianna placed her hands in her lap. She breathed in deep and exhaled. When she spoke, her cheeks burned red and tears clouded her eyes. 

“Before we were married, we lived apart in separate states. We would video every night. By this time, I was very familiar with Emile. I had even seen her myself a few times. Also, by this time, Luke’s ex had done severe psychological and emotional abuse to him and he was in the depths of his alcohol addiction.” She glanced over at Luke.

He gave her a nod to continue.

“Before we were married, we used to video every night before bed and sleep together until morning. This is how I witnessed everything…night after night…” She stared behind me, an expression of remembrance on her face. 

“Sometimes, when it was early on in the night, Emile would overtake his mind and body. It was this haunting voice of a little girl that would call to me and talk about how I had to be good to her and to Luke, or she would take him away. She said she was his protector. She was going to watch out for him. If I hung up she would text through him, saying she loved Luke and thought of him as her daddy. Asking if I could be her mother. Sometimes she would talk about the dirty things Luke and I had done. You know, adult things, and said I was a whore for giving myself so freely especially because we weren’t married yet. For weeks leading up she would voice her concerns, saying Luke wasn’t going to make it and that I was a failure for not trying to save him. 

She glanced over at Luke. “She would say you were a failure. That you weren’t going to make it either.” Dianna swallowed and fiddled with her fingernails. “Then there were others who came to speak through him.” She looked up at me. “A man who died during a drug deal, Rachel, a girl who died of suicide, They all came through and said, ‘Hate to tell you this babe but he ain’t gonna make it. Be prepared. He’s going to die.” This went on every other night or so for weeks, with a blaring television always set in the background. So incredibly loud.” She shook her head. “And if I hung up, they would text or message in Hangouts through him until two or three in the morning or until I messaged back.”

Dianna grabbed a tissue from between her and Luke and wiped her eyes. “The last two weeks before rehab, something happened. It was like a switch. Gone was the sweet, funny, gentle man with hints of wildness. In his place was an enraged, desperate man. I remember it was a Tuesday, about a week or so before Luke went to rehab. He told me that he knew that I knew he was still drinking, and that he hadn’t stopped.” She crumpled the tissue in her hand and stared at me. “And that’s when the real nightmare began.” 

“Luke,” I asked. “Do you remember any of this?”

“No,” he said. “Not the stuff at night. Some of the things during the day I do. But everything that she said that happened on video? I don’t remember any of it at all.” 

“Dianna, please go on.” I took a sip of coffee and listened.  

“Luke wouldn’t leave his room,” she said. “He began to sleep all day long, and if I weren’t there, he would continuously call or try to video so I would be. And the television, constantly on and blaring. Silence through the day from the voices. But at night? That was when it got worse.”

I set my cup down. “Luke? Anything?” 

He shook his head. “I remember calling her during the day at times but that’s it.” 

“It began every night around ten or so, maybe eleven my time.” Dianna said. “At first it was Emile, that spooky high pitched voice, calling for me. Telling me that she was Luke’s daughter now, especially since his youngest daughter picked his ex and his oldest daughter was having a hard time. Emile said she was the perfect daughter, and that her and Luke only needed each other. She said I was either with Luke or against him. Then, Emile would go on and on how she loved him and she was never leaving. That she was finally living through him. She would know what it was to have sex, live, and have a life.” 

I went to interject something but paused. There was so much racing through my mind. I decided to save my comments until after I heard more. 

“Then a deeper voice began to boom at me, especially if I started to drift off to sleep,” Dianna said. “It was so deep…so loud. I’d never heard anything so menacing in my life. Then it began to cackle, especially if I asked what it was. It would sometimes even talk in tongues. Russian, Polish, Serbian, languages I could make out. Sometimes German. Shouts. More and more shouts. And  screams if I started to drift off. It would scare me so bad I would wake up screaming. Then I would see him staring at me. Growling or laughing at my tears.  This would last until the wee hours of the morning–the talking in many tongues and the shouting of my name in a demonic voice.”

“Luke?” I interjected. 

He cut his eyes at me. “Yeah?”

“Are you fluent in any foriegn languages?” 

He held out his hands and shook his head. “No. I mean, I can read a little bit of Hebrew and Greek from my Biblical studies but that’s it.” 

I looked at Dianna. “How do you know these languages were Serbian, Polish, Russian, and German?” 

“Because my family is of that descent. I’m a third generation Serbian. My grandparents and other family members moved to the States. At family gatherings, I would hear them speaking all these languages. That’s how I recognized it.” 

I nodded. “What were the demons saying?” 

Dianna turned as white as a sheet. “I…I don’t want to say.” 

Luke placed an arm around her. “It’s okay. You can tell him.” 

Dianna sighed. “Some of it I recognized. Other words I had to look up. And the ones I looked up? They were all names of demons. Demons of children. Demons of women. Demons of suicide. It made me sick to my stomach.” 

“These things are parasites,” I said. “They like to isolate and get a person alone. Once that happens they really begin the torment. They deal in absolutes as well, like what it told you about either being for Luke or against him. They deceive and manipulate their way in. Once they have a person they begin to try and separate them from everyone who cares about them so that they can destroy that person.” I looked at Luke. “That’s what it was doing. It wanted to kill you.” 

“I know,” Luke whispered. “I know.”

“The demon would appear if I began to pray or cast out in the name of Jesus or God,” Dianna said. “I even tried casting it out in the name of Emile but that didn’t work. It got so I wouldn’t let Emile speak and began to pray when she started to show herself.  When I did, the demon would come forth, laughing, taunting, angry and snarling. I didn’t believe that Emile was an innocent girl. Like you said, Zeke. She isolated Luke and said they only needed each other. That he didn’t even need his kids anymore. That Luke and her could be together forever.”

“Did you keep trying the prayers and exorcisms?” I asked.

Dianna nodded. “Luke would call at night. Demand that I get on video.  But when I did, he would be asleep with the television blaring… and then… always Emile. That damn creepy high pitched effeminate voice. Saying how I hurt her daddy and she would look after Luke now.  So I began to perform exorcisms. The Catholic ones that I had found.”

“What happened then? Did you get the same reactions as before?” I asked, 

“Luke would wake up. He would snarl and growl. Laugh at me and say, ‘There is no God to protect. We have him now.” Then the tongues would continue again. Like I said, in languages I recognized. Names of demons came through. Over and over. if I hung up, he would call back, enraged. The deep booming unnatural voices that came through and would snarl at me…” Dianna paused in remembrance. Her eyes glazed over and she stared.  “I didn’t know if Luke was losing his mind or if it was real.”

“Rest assured,” I told her. “This was all real. Very, very real.” 

“They would speak through Luke about how his kids were fucked,” she continued. “How they had his kids. They said they had his whole family and now they had him.” Dianna burst into tears and buried her hands in her face. 

Luke placed an arm around Dianna and pulled her close. She buried her face in his chest and wept. 

I didn’t say a word. I let her cry. I let them have their moment and waited. Waited to see if she wanted to keep going. 

Dianna lifted her head and wiped her tears. “I’m sorry.” 

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” I said. “You two have been through literal hell. It’s hard to talk about things like this. It’s like reliving it all over again. It takes a lot of courage to do what you two are doing today.”

“Thank you.” they both said in unison.

“Is there anything else?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Dianna said. “There’s more. When I prayed, it spat it back and started to laugh and groan and scream. As I would drift to sleep, the taunting became worse. ‘I am using your reach, Dianna. I can feel you.’ It would say.”

I held out my hand. “Hold on. What was it talking about when it said ‘your reach’?”

“It’s what Dianna and I named our psychic bond,” Luke said. “Being in a long distance relationship for so long, we developed a way to connect and communicate on a psychic level.” 

“Okay, I understand.” I said.

“But it wasn’t Luke reaching for me,” Dianna said. “It was whatever was possessing him. Then it would describe my burying toys to hide from kids who bullied me. My walking down the stairs at school and a lock being hurled at me. My father’s red thermos that I used to put his coffee in. How I would wake up each morning before he left for work and wave at him from my window. These demons saw everything, and knew everything about me. My stuffed animals. Memories Luke never knew about.”

“This is not uncommon for them to do stuff like this,” I said. “It is a literal mind game for demons. They do this to scare you and intimidate you. It’s a power play.”  

“It worked.” Dianna gave an uncomfortable laugh. “I would wake up when this would happen and try to pray. Casting out what was in him in the name of Jesus. One time it said, ‘That only works when you believe. Trust me, he doesn’t believe anymore.’ It would snarl at me and growl like an animal. ‘You still believe in that shit,’ it would say. “Tarot? Meditation? You’re into that shit? You’re fake! It doesn’t work! Your faith is fake! You’re a fake!” It would shout until its voice was deep, booming, inhuman. All night, until three in the morning. Then it would stop. One night it said it was the devil itself.”

“That’s how they operate,” I said. “They create doubt when there is none. They shame and condemn and lie. Sometimes, and forgive my language, it becomes a dick measuring contest.” 

Luke snickered.

“The appeal to the Devil is just a way for them to try and make themselves more than what they are,” I said.  

“I figured that,” Dianna said.

“Whatever happened to Emile?” I asked.

“She quit showing up. One night, she came to say goodbye. Saying that she knew Luke was going to die and she had no use for him anymore. That he was pathetic and a failure and that she should have known he would fail. After she left, I thought Luke had come back to me. He woke up, excited. I asked who or what was with him and he said, ‘It’s just me.’ Then he stared at me angrily, almost evil looking through the screen. He smiled at me with a sinister smile and showed me the sleeping pills.”

Dianna’s face went pale again. “He turned away and swallowed them right out of the bottle then took a big swing of alcohol. He started to sing to me. ‘Remember me, Dianna? How much you love my singing?’ Then he sang, ‘Goodnight sweetheart, it’s time to go!’ I cried softly and pleaded with him. He said, ‘Well, if you really love me you will go get your gun and join me.’ The demonic laughter began and he said, ‘Think of it! You won’t know if I will be alive or dead in the morning!” The laughter kept going and the demonic voice came through and said, ‘He’s ours now!’ It laughed and laughed. That was the last time, that last night, when they were there. At this point, I was terrified of Luke. I had lost twenty pounds in about three weeks. Wasn’t sleeping. Sobbed most of the time. I was heading for a breakdown.” 

“What happened after the demons stopped showing up?” I asked. 

“The Tuesday before Luke went to rehab, he asked me what day it was. He said he didn’t remember anything from the past week. Couldn’t even remember when he showered last. Then, he told me something I will never forget.”

“What did he say?” I asked.

“I looked at her and told her,” Luke said. “Baby, I’m coming back to you.” 

If you want to read more and find out how Luke’s story ends, click the link at the beginning of the article and grab the latest edition of the House of Stitched Magazine.

Until we meet again,

Ezekiel Kincaid

The Paranormal Pastor

Stitched Saturday: November 5th

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween and got your fill of scares. Meh, who am I kidding. We’re horror fans. We can’t ever get enough. Speaking of scares, if you haven’t gotten a chance to check out the latest House of Stitched magazine edition yet, you’re missing out. We’ve got some great interviews and stories in there. I also have my Paranormal Pastor column, where I interview a couple who went through a real case of demon possession. It will send cold shivers down your spine. You’re going to want to read it, trust me.

Now, on to today’s writing prompt for Stitched Saturday. The artwork is by Danny Ingrassia, and I fell in love with the piece as soon as I saw it. It’s creepy and chilling. For this week’s prompt, I want you to give me a story (500 words max) based on the picture. That’s the only rule for this week. What is this creature? Is she a ghost? What’s her story? Why is she holding a baby goat? These are all things you could explore. As always, please post your stories in the comment section of this post.

Happy Writing!

Zeke

House of Stitched Magazine

The new issue of House of Stitched Magazine ebook version is live on Amazon!

Interviews, reviews, stories, poetry, art, and more!

GET IT NOW!

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For those who want the full physical experience, the physical magazine will be released very soon.

Thank you again for your patience.


Stitched Saturday: Demons!

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

We are back with our final round of Stitched Saturday for the month of October and it’s just in time for Halloween. As always, I’m your host with the ghosts, the Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid. Our favorite time of year is just around the corner, and I’m sure many of you are already starting to make preparations for the big night. If you’re like me, you’ve already started the Halloween celebration over the weekend and are just going to ride the wave all the way to All Hallow’s Eve.

For this week’s writing prompt we are going with a classic. It’s one that has scared the pants off of us ever since we saw young, innocent Regan on the screen being turned into something vile and putrid in The Exorcist.

Demons.

Yes, the ancient possessor and tormentors of human souls. They seek to destroy all that is good and cause chaos in the lives of the unsuspecting. They are prevalent in most world religions and have been the subject of numerous movies and books. They are truly a staple of the horror genre. So, for this week, I want you to spin me a decadent demonic tale.

Writing Prompt: 500 words max. Draw your inspiration from the picture below (Art by Bahrull Marta). It can be a story of possession, torment, exorcism, etc. It doesn’t matter, as long as it involves a demon. It can be from the first or third person point of view, or from the perspective of the demon. Let those creative minds go to work! Be careful not to conjure up anything while your write! To participate, all you need to do is submit your story in the comments section of this post.

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween,

Zeke

Stitched Saturday: Ghosts

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

We are back with another round of Stitched Saturday, and this week I want you to take the creepiness into overdrive. You heard me right. I want you to give me the cold shivers. Make me think I’m seeing things moving in the shadows. Cause me to think twice before turning out the lights. This week, we are focusing on ghosts.

A good ghost story usually has several things going for it. First, there is an intriguing back story. Second, there’s atmosphere, whether it’s creepy, foreboding, or sinister. An effective ghost tale draws you in and submerges you in the setting. Third, there is the plot. How did our main character stumble upon such haunted circumstances? Finally, there is the appearance of the ghost itself and its interaction with the living. Is it benevolent or malevolent? Does it have a message to deliver or does it seek to cause harm? Hit me with some of these ideas this week.

Prompt: 500 words max. Give me a ghost story based on the pic below. As always, to participate, submit your stories in the comment sections of this post.

Happy writiing!

Zeke

It’s October

Happy Monday!

It’s now October! Did you know October wasn’t always the tenth month? It’s true.

The name October comes from the Latin octo, meaning eight, because it was the eighth month of the early Roman calendar, which was a lunar calendar. This lunar calendar contained 10 months: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December.

When Julius Caesar became pontifex maximus, he made changes to a solar calendar, at which time, the months named for which month of the year they were was no longer accurate, but October kept its name despite that fact that it was now the 10th month.

octOctober is when people in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Fall and all things associated with Fall. But October has many celebrations. Specific dates this year include the start of Yom Kippur at sundown on the 4th, Leif Eriksson Day on the 9th, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the 10th in the US.

Then there is the big one many of us look forward to: Halloween/All Hallows’ Eve on the 31st. We will talk more about Halloween this month, so watch this space.

Meanwhile, happy October, everyone.


*****

Cover Reveal!

We are very excited to present the cover reveal for the House of Stitched Magazine 2022 Halloween Issue! The cover art for this issue is by the talented J. K. Pevahouse.

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This issue will also feature an exclusive interview with Pevahouse, conducted by Thomas R Clark, and some flash fiction stories inspired by specific pieces of his art. You can check out more of J.K. Pevahouse’s artwork on his website: https://www.jkpevahouse.com/

House of Stitched Magazine Halloween Issue 2022

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Coming this month!

Stay tuned!


Stitched Saturday: Werewolves

It’s October, Stitches! 

The most happiest time of the year is upon us. The Halloween decorations are in full force, and horror movies get their day in the sun in households all across America. This is the time of year when horror takes center stage. And rightfully so. 

But for folks like us? Horror is always center stage. We live it, love it, and breathe it. For eleventh months out of the year, we might be “freaks” to everyone else, but during this season, we are the ones people come to for movie and book recommendations. And we eat it up. Why? Because we love sharing our joy with others and delight in bringing them into the world we live in year round. If you’re like me, you’ve already got your watchlist and readlist for the season made and have been chipping away at it. 

One of my all time favorite creatures of horror are werewolves. I’m diving into werewolf books and movies year round. I’m a sucker for transformation scenes. I love hearing the bones snap, watching the bodies contort, and seeing the claws and fangs protrude. So, to kick off October, our writing prompt is going to be werewolves. 

Prompt: 500 words max. It HAS to be written from the first person POV and from the perspective of the werewolf/person who is the werewolf. It also HAS to be a transformation scene. It can be either the transformation itself, events leading up to the transformation, or the person becoming cognizant after they have turned human again. I want you to take me up close and personal to what is going on in their thoughts and emotions. It can be bloody, gruesome, psychological, or all of the above. Just thrill me! As always, submit the stories in the comments section of this post. (Werewolf art by Zack Dunn).

Below are a couple of original werewolf stories I’ve done to give you some inspiration and get those juices flowing if you need a place to start. Happy writing, Stitches! 

Until next week, beware the full moon!

Zeke 

Art by Zack Dunn

Stitched Saturday: September Ends

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

Alas, we approach the end of another month and our final Stitched Saturday for September. I’m your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid, ready to make your skin crawl and your nightmares a reality. Our favorite time of the year is just around the corner, and oh boy, do I have some great writing prompts for the month of October! I can’t wait to share them with you! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we jump into this week’s writing prompt, I have a few announcements to make.

First, the release for the fall issue of House of Stitched Magazine is just around the corner. You aren’t going to want to miss this one. We’ll have some short stories, a debate between Team Michael and Team Jason (Halloween vs Friday the 13th), and lots of other cool stuff to sink your teeth into. I also have an interview in the magazine where I talk to a couple who went through a real life case of demon possession. It’s intense, and I can promise you, it will make your hair stand on end. More details coming soon!

Second, we have a few winners to announce. Congrats to David L. Repsher and RJ Remoraman! David won this past week’s Cannibal Chaos prompt, and RJ won the Serial Killer prompt from the week before. Each of you secured a spot in the House of Stitched Magazine! Great job!

Keep those stories coming, people. We’ve still plenty more to throw at you, so dig deep into those sick minds and churn something out for us!

Prompt: 500 words max. There’s no theme for this week. I simply want you to draw inspiration from the picture and write a story based on the image (art by Zdzisław Beksiński). Happy writing, Stitches! Show me what you got! As always, submit your stories in the comments section of this post.

Until next time, remember. The noise under your bed could be the last sound you ever hear.

Zeke

Stitched Saturday: Cannibal Chaos!

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

It’s that time, boys and girls. We are back again with another delectable dish of Stitched Saturday. It’s still me, your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid. This past week, we had a first for this round in the game. There is a tie for last Saturday’s stories. What this means is that the two stories will be sent out in the upcoming newsletter for our readers to vote. Once we have a declared winner, I will be announcing it here. May the sickest story win! 

Let’s get to this week’s prompt, shall we? I’ve always enjoyed the palatability of cannibal movies and stories. My all time favorite movie of the genre is Cannibal Holocaust. I’m a huge found footage horror junkie, so this movie is gold for me. There’s just something about cannibals that makes us squirm. Whether it’s a lost tribe, a crazy backwoods family, or a sophisticated intellectual–they all get under our skin (see what I did there?) Hannibal Lecter, Leatherface, and Jupiter. These are just some of the names in film that conjure up images of devouring human flesh. 

Now, I know technically speaking, zombies are cannibals. However, I DO NOT want zombie stories for this round. We’ll save them for sometime in the future. I want fully, coherent, and cognisant human cannibals. 

Prompt: 500 words max. Give me a cannibal story based on the image below (Fade to White by charro-art on DeviantArt). It can be in the first person POV or third person. It can be from the perspective of one of the cannibals, one of the victims, or the poor soul trying to survive. As long as it is based on the pic, it’s fair game. Like always, to participate, submit your stories in the comment section of this post. Get to writing, Stitches! Give me something to sink my teeth into!

Until next time, keep those fresh kills on ice.

Zeke 

Stitched Saturday: Serial Killers!

Happy Saturday, Stitches! 

Here we are again. Back with another serving of Stitched Saturday to satisfy your warped cravings. It’s still me, the host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor. Ezekiel Kincaid, right by your side to guide you into this week’s merry land of monstrosities. Last week, we served up some wicked tales of witches to kick off spooky season. All of our stories were morbidly delightful but as you know, there can be only one winner. A big congrats to Marcus Abshire. His story received the most votes, and he won a spot in the House of Stitched Magazine. 

Keep writing! Keep voting! Keep sharing your stories! We are always on the lookout for fresh victims. 

Speaking of victims, that leads me to this week’s writing prompt. A staple of the horror genre.Serial Killers! They’re sly. They’re twisted, sick, and warped. Sometimes they have a motive and other times? It’s just for the hell of it. Sometimes they are the unexpected person who blends in with society. Other times they are the ones with a traumatic past. For me, this is what makes the serial killer genre so interesting. I love seeing how authors or screenwriters will spin us a tale of the killer’s background and motives. But for this week’s writing prompt, our goals are more meager. 

Prompt: 500 words max. This week it is simple. I want you to tell me how your serial killer disposes of his or her victims. Do they grind them in a wood chipper? Sell their organs on the black market? Eat them? Do they keep a body part as a souvenir? Make wall art out of them? You tell me. As always, please post your stories in the comments section of this post. 

Happy writing! Until next time, Stitches. 

Beware what lurks in the shadows,

Zeke

Stitched Saturday: Woo-hoo, Witchy Woman!

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

It’s time for another round of Stitched Saturday. I’m your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid, and I’m ready to get this month of writing prompts kicked off. It’s officially Spooky Season! If you’re like me, you’ve already got all your books and movies lined up and are raring to go for the countdown to Halloween. 

I always kick things off with the Phantasm movies, followed by Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2. After that, I’ll do some Italian horror and Hammer films. The closer it gets to Halloween, I’ll pop in The Evil Dead Trilogy, some Video Nasties, and The Exorcist. Halloween night is saved for Halloween ‘78 and whatever black and white classic I decide on.

But enough about my rituals.

August was an excellent month and y’all churned out some great tales of terror. With that said, I’d like to announce our final winner for August. Congratulations to Kate DeJonge and her story “Retribution”! She received the most votes and won a spot in the House of Stitched Magazine.  

Now, honestly, I think y’all are just getting warmed up! I’m expecting things to shift into overdrive this month, and then hop into Ludicrous Speed the closer we get to Halloween. Keep those stories coming. 

Now, let’s move on to this week’s writing prompt. I could think of no better way to kick off the Halloween season than with a classic everyone loves. Witches! They have been terrifying us and making our skin crawl for years. Sometimes they are subtle. Sometimes they are in your face. But if there is one thing we have come to learn about witches, it’s always expect the unexpected. And that’s what I want you to give me this week.

Prompt: 500 words max. Draw your inspiration from the pic below (Scary Witch by Timo Hilger). Is she smooth and subtle? Brash and in your face? Does she have a curse to place on someone or is she out to collect vengeance? Is she summoning a dark entity or giving someone their hearts desire (with her sinister twist, of course)? You tell me. As always, to participate in the contest, drop your stories in the comments on this post. 

Happy writing, Stitches! 

Until next time, watches those hexes and ohs,

Zeke 

Stitched Saturday: Oh The (body) Horror!

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

Welcome to the fourth round of Stitched Saturday! I’m your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid. We are back this week with one of my all time favorite genres of horror. But first, let me just say you folks have been killing it! Your stories from last week’s Creepy Dolls really gave me the creeps. Everyone did an awesome job with spinning their tales of those micro sized murderers. However, as you know, the winner is based on votes–the amount of “likes” received on the story. This week’s winner is Becca Mitchell with her story “Mommy?” She received the most votes and won a spot in The House of Stitched Magazine! Congratulations, Becca. You’ll also be receiving a real life haunted doll, possessed with the spirit of a deceased Satanic cult leader (haha, just kidding. That would be cool though, right? Well…maybe not). 

For this week’s prompt, we are going to shift gears to the ghastly and macabre. If there’s one genre of horror that has induced more gags and dry heaves than any over the years, it’s body horror. David Cronenberg, Brian Yuzna, and Stuart Gordon are just some of the great names in film who have turned our stomachs more than once. Oh, and let’s not forget that gag-inducing scene from Human Centipede! Don’t forget to swallow!  

What I love most about body horror is the breadth of which it spans. You can go straight up human mutilation, or mix it in with insects, animals, technology, the supernatural, creatures, and aliens. The sky’s the limit with this genre. And that’s what I want you to do with today’s prompt. Let your imagination run wild! 

Prompt: 500 words max. Base your story on the picture below (art by Cyrus Kian). Is this a human genetic experiment gone wrong? An alien/human hybrid? Were demons involved? Is this a new species of shapeshifter? I don’t know, you tell me? Make it bloody. Make it gruesome. Make my stomach turn (bonus points for anyone who can make me dry heave). As always, submit your stories in the comment section of the blog.

Let’s see what you got, Stitches! 

And be careful out there. I wouldn’t want any of you to wake up with your mouth stitched to someone’s bung hole. 

Until next time!

Zeke

Coming Soon

Happy Friday, everyone.

I’m sure many of us are looking forward to the weekend, but you know what else we have to look forward to?

The upcoming Halloween Issue of House of Stitched Magazine! We have such things to show you!

hos2aWe are going to be talking about serial killers both historical and fictional, cult slasher movies and Halloween movies, Halloween horror reads, and other interesting dark things. We also have some guest author pieces, interviews, and industry articles.

Stay tuned for more on this upcoming edition, and remember you can contact us if there is something special you would like to see in future issues of House of Stitched Magazine.


Stitched Saturday: Creepy Dolls!

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

It’s time for another edition of Stitched Saturday! As always, I’m your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid. I hope your weekend is off to a good start, and you’re ready to get those creative minds of yours churning. 

Before we talk about this week’s writing prompt, I want to announce the winner of last Saturday’s competition. Everyone did a great job, so a big thank you to those who participated. However, there can be only one (read that in a Connor MacLeod voice). Congratulations to Rachel Kincaid and her story “Guaranteed Satisfaction”. She received the most votes and won a spot in the House of Stitched Magazine! 

If you didn’t win this week, don’t worry. There’s still plenty more writing prompts to go. Keep writing. Keep sharing your work and asking others to vote. Don’t quit! 

As you probably deduced from the title, this week’s writing prompt is about creepy dolls. If you’re anything like me, you may have cut your horror teeth on these types of movies when you were a kid. The genre has brought us some of the most creepy little bastards around. The Zuni Fetish Doll, Chucky, Annabelle, Billy Jigsaw, the crew from Puppet Master and Demonic Toys, and many more. They have given us chills, laughs, creative deaths, and fond memories. Like many of you, the dolls of horror hold a special place in my heart. For this week’s prompt, we are going to run with that theme. 

The photo for the prompt is a picture of a real life haunted doll that I own. Stitchers, meet Theodosia Whitfield. She was the inspiration behind my Dreadful Death series and Tetromet Universe I’ve created. No, the books aren’t about a haunted doll per se. They are about a haunted little girl. When I saw this doll, I had to get her because she was just how I imagined young Theo in my mind when I wrote her. In case you’re wondering, the doll is perfectly safe now. Whatever was attached to her has been cast out and the doll has been blessed. Since the exorcism, I’ve had no more paranormal instances with the doll. 

Now, on to the prompt!

Prompt: As always, 500 words max. We are going to narrow down our focus a bit this week. The stories must be about a TOY DOLL. This means no puppets (ventriloquist or otherwise), no voodoo dolls, and no stuffed animals. Again, toy dolls only. These, however, can be stuffed, porcelain, wooden, plastic, ceramic, battery operated, or animatronic (like the Child’s Play remake) etc. The dolls can be haunted, cursed, possessed, malfunctioning—use your imagination. They can also be any size you want. You could even give me a kaiju sized baby doll if you want! It doesn’t matter, as long as it is a toy doll. 

Sound good? All right, then Stitches! What are you waiting for? Get to it! 

Remember to submit all stories in the comments section on this post and share your work with others. Until next time, this is your host with the ghost, signing off. 

Oh, I forgot to mention. Don’t stare at the photo below for too long. It has a way of summoning the spirit that used to be attached to the doll. Nah, just kidding…or am I? Keep it creepy, kids!

Zeke

Stitched Saturday: Pulp Horror Edition

Happy Saturday, Stitches!

Welcome back to another round of Stitched Saturday. I’m your host with the ghosts, The Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid, and I’m itching to get started with this week’s writing prompt. Before we do, I wanted to thank everyone who participated in last week’s contest. We had six fabulous entries. All of you did a great job and I enjoyed reading each of your stories. 

With that said, it’s time to announce the winner of our first annual Stitched Saturday writing prompt. Congratulations to James Chin! Your story  received the most likes and you’ll be rewarded a spot in The House of Stitched Magazine! 

Didn’t win this round? Give it another shot this week! Share your tales with others and ask them to vote. Keep those stories coming! 

If you haven’t read the ground rules, click here and get acquainted. 

Let’s move on to this week’s prompt, shall we? 

I’m sure many of you remember the old, vintage pulp horror art. Most of us comic and horror fans are familiar with EC comics and the killer art they cranked out back in the day, along with the stories that made our childhood imaginations swarm with fright. Today, we are taking it back there. I’ve always been an avid fan of pulp horror art. There is just something foreboding and chilling about the creepy viscerals it gives off. 

This week, I want you to take those vibes and spin me a tale that will make my hair stand on in. I want to feel the cold shivers. I want to smell the bleak, dank scent of decay. I want to hear the harrowing voices of nightmares and see the darkness painted in living color. You up for the challenge? Then please, read on.

Prompt: 500 words max. Draw your inspiration from the picture below. It can include one or all of the things from the artwork. The lady in white, the witch, the dungeon, the bat, the skull…as long as it is based on something in the image or the entire image itself. Simple enough? Good! Now, get those creative minds churning and let me see what ya got!

Remember to post all stories in the comments section of this post. Until next week, this is your host with the ghosts signing off. Keep it creepy, you bunch of sickos! 

Zeke 

Welcome To Stitched Saturday!

Happy Saturday, Stitches! 

Today is an exciting day for me personally. Why? Because we are kicking off this year’s Stitched Saturday! This little writing exercise has always been a favorite of mine. I love the prompts, the pictures, the creativeness, and the unexpected. I hope you will, too. For me, this is what makes Stitched Saturday so much fun. You never know what you’re going to get when you click on the next post. An entire new, horrific world awaits to get those creative juices in your mind flowing. 

Another reason I’m head over heels about this round is I’ll be moderating. Yep, I’m your Host with the Ghosts, the Paranormal Pastor, Ezekiel Kincaid. I’ll be making sure everyone follows the rules and has a good time. Also, no acting a fool, or I’ll excommunicate you and sentence you to the bowels of hell for all eternity (Muahahahahahaha!).

With that said, let me relay to you how all this is going to work, what the benefits are, and follow up with some ground rules. This is all important stuff so don’t zone out on me. 

Every Saturday we are going to have a writing prompt, usually in the form of a photo or pic. There will be specific rules for each prompt. One week, it might be writing from a certain point of view, and the next could be having to use a certain weapon for your villain to kill with. The main thing is it will be different each week. At the end of the month, a winner will be chosen based on the following: 

  1. They have the most likes.
  2. If there is a tie, the members of the newsletter will be prompted to vote (So sign up for the newsletter).

At the end of each quarter, the winners will be featured in House of Stitched Magazine. You will get one ad for promoting your other works. If you don’t have anything to promote (book, art, etc.), we’ll ask to print your short story and do a brief write up with a Q&A style interview. 

Sound good? 

Awesome.

Now, a few ground rules. 

First, we want you to share and promote these posts and your stories. This means more exposure for you and your work. Rally your fans and readers to get them involved. 

Second, no trash talking other people’s stories or work. This will get you booted. There’s also to be no trolling of negative behavior on any of the House of Stitched social media, etc. This will get you booted. No arguing, fighting, or trying to win on loopholes. You shall not pass! 

Ultimately, we want everyone to have a good time and get some exposure for their writing. 

If you agree, please spill some drops of your blood in a vail and mail it to: 

House of Stitched…

Ha ha, just kidding. In the words of Seth Gecko, all we ask is, “Everybody be cool. You, be cool.” 

Now, for the moment you have all been waiting for! Let’s get to the first writing prompt and get this shit kicked off, House of Stitched style! 

Today’s art is entitled, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here”, and is brought to you by theycallmedanyo from DeviantArt. 

The prompt: Word limit 500 words. It must involve a field of some kind. It can be a ghost story, a slasher, body horror, or aliens. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s dark and as long as it involves a field. All you need to do to participate is put your stories in the comments on this post. The picture for the prompt is below. 

Happy writing, Stitches! Let me see what you got! 

Zeke

True Crime Sunday: The Night Stalker (Cecil Hotel, Part 3)

Welcome to the third and final installment of my series featuring the Cecil Hotel! I thought I’d wrap things up by talking about a subject that makes everyone warm and fuzzy—serial killers.

To recap, the Cecil Hotel was purchased in Los Angeles prior to the Great Depression and was intended to be a luxury hotel. However, thanks to the Great Depression coming, the hotel didn’t quite become the hotspot the investor originally thought. It did, however, become quite the infamous landmark and a true crime gold mine! If you want to read more about it, you can see the first post of the series here.

In the mid-1980s, the hotel was home to Richard Ramirez who would later come to be known as the “Night Stalker.” Between 1984 and 1985, Ramirez killed at least thirteen people via torture, shooting, strangulation, and stabbing. Reports indicate he also left satanic markings on his victims. His victims were seemingly chosen at random, and the murders primarily happened at night. Police patrols were increased and a task force was formed to catch the Night Stalker. People also took matters into their own hands with purchasing guns, alarm systems, and guard dogs. People were terrified.

For most of his crimes, he was a resident at the Cecil Hotel. For $14.00 a night, he had himself a home in a hotel where no one batted an eye when he waltzed into to the lobby in his underwear (or less) after depositing his bloody clothes into the hotel’s dumpster. Yikes.

In late summer of 1985, the Night Stalker’s reign would end. The end would come courtesy of his own carelessness and oblivion. That August, Ramirez was spotted outside a witness’s house, and he left his car (and license plate) out for the world to see.

When police tracked down the car, they were able to get enough of a fingerprint to run through the system. Interestingly, the system at that time was only able to track people born after January 1960. Luckily for the public, Ramirez was born just after that in February. Fingerprints led to old police records which led to mugshots. The mugshots were then released to the public.

Now, 1985 was before the days of the 24/7 information blast of the internet and things like social media. So, Richard Ramirez, who had been out of town, had no idea that his face was all over the news until he walked into a convenience store and saw himself on the front page of the newspaper. He tried to run, but alas, a mob of bystanders who recognized him caught and detained him. Reports indicate they beat the daylights out of him. When the police finally got to him, he tried to escape but was unable.

He was convicted of thirteen murders and a number of other crimes, including rape and assault.

Ramirez was sentenced to death, but would not be executed. He was held in San Quentin Prison for the remainder of his days. His first appeal wasn’t heard until 2006. He would later die in prison in 2013 of lymphoma.

In the early 1990s, another serial killer took up residence at the Cecil. Officials say he was inspired by the Night Stalker. Speaking of questionable choices, a woman began writing to and would later marry Richard Ramirez in prison. Okie dokie then.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if it were still a hotel (or partially a hotel) open for reservations, I’m not sure I’d want to stay there. There are places with strange histories that I would be cool visiting. The Cecil Hotel, however, would probably not be one of those locales. Or it might.

We’ve talked about horrible deaths for the past three weeks. What do you say we take a little break and talk about a con artist or a disappearance for next week? Or maybe we’ll talk about more killers… The shadowy corners of true crime are fascinating and endless. Who knows where we’ll end up?

Looking for more?

The Night Stalker: The Disturbing Life and Chilling Crimes of Richard Ramirez by Philip Carlo

Ultimate Richard Ramirez Collection by James Gilks

True Crime Sunday: John Orr and His Burning Passion

One of the intriguing things about the show, Dexter, is that a vigilante serial killer has a day job one might not expect—working with the police department. He was a blood spatter expert, which makes sense, I suppose. Dexter was good at his job because he had some rather unique experience. Our story today is similar in the sense that a prolific arsonist also happened to be an arson investigator.

John Orr, born in Los Angeles in 1949, was a member Air Force and their firefighting program. During his time in the service, he discovered he really liked to have authority and adulation. When he got out of the Air Force, he decided he could certainly hold a position of authority as a police officer. He failed the psychological exam and didn’t get to become a policeman.

He then applied to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Again, he was passed over for a spot after having failed his entrance exams. Orr eventually applied to the Glendale Fire Department and became a fire fighter and was later promoted to captain. He still hadn’t found the exhilaration he was looking for in his career.

Orr decided to go back to school and study criminal justice and fire science. He was thrilled when the Glendale Fire Department announced they were looking for a fire investigator. He worked hard and eventually got the position.

In 1984, a horrible fire broke out at a home goods store in Pasadena. Four people, including a child, died in that fire. Coincidentally, in what would become a pattern, a fire was set in another location, a grocery store, likely to divert attention. The investigator at that fire requested the assistance of Orr, who by then had made a name for himself as a top-notch arson investigator. Hmm… I wonder why that was. Orr was able to help the other investigator find the point of origin and explained how flammable potato chips can be.

When the investigator finished up at the grocery store, he headed over to the home goods fire and was reportedly surprised to see that Orr was already there. It’s said that the other investigators ruled that the home goods store fire was the result of an electrical issue. Orr, as you may guess, was fuming. He argued that it had to be arson and had some pretty good points as to what made him believe that. That was his fire, dangit!

For the next couple of years, more fires broke out. After a while, the investigators put together the pattern of multiple fires as well as the makeshift timer, cigarettes, and matches at the scene. In 1987, a fire broke out in Fresno where an arson investigators’ convention was being held. More fires were set in other convention locales. Of course, the rosters were checked out. Three guesses whose name appeared on each one.

Finally, a fingerprint was recovered from the paper that was part of the incendiary device. However, investigators weren’t able to get a good enough match. But Orr was low-key under surveillance after his name popped up on the convention lists. Plus, that guy always seemed to be first on the scene. What are the odds?

In 1991, the “Pillow Pyro” task force was formed. The name came from the number of fires that originated in the home section of several stores, mainly the pillows. After expanding their cross-referencing, they were able to get a match on the fingerprint recovered at the scene a few years before. Authorities were also able to prove that John Orr purchased materials for the devices—including cigarettes and matches. Strange that Orr, a non-smoker, would be buying cigarettes the same brand as those found at the scenes. Hmmm…

After Orr was arrested in 1991, authorities found a manuscript, Points of Origin. The story was about a firefighter who was an arsonist. Many of the details in Orr’s manuscript, including secret details only the arsonist would know, were pretty darn close to details of the rash of fires. Hmmm…

Orr was convicted of four counts of murder and a number of arsons. All told, it is estimated that John Orr set over 2,000 fires between 1984 with the home store and 1991 when he was finally caught. These included structural fires and brush fires. He’s currently serving four life sentences plus twenty-one years for arson.

This was a pretty heated story. If you knew me, you’d be very proud of my restraint with the fire puns.

What shall we talk about next week?

Looking for more?

Points of Origin by John Orr (fiction… probably)

Fire Lover: A True Story by Joseph Wambaugh

True Crime Sunday: The Axeman of New Orleans

For the last of January’s unsolved crime theme, I wanted to take a look at the Axeman of New Orleans. This case interests me because of the number of possibilities and variety of angles from which to look at it. This is one of those cases that gets me thinking. Plus, there’s a supernatural element—if the letter is to be believed. You may be asking “What letter?” You’ll see.

From May 1918 to October 1919, a collective feeling of fear wound its way through the streets of New Orleans courtesy of a man creeping through the city streets and attacking citizens. While there was some connection, there was also enough unpredictability that no one felt safe. His routine was to gain entry to the victim’s home by removing one of the panels on the door or a hole in a wall and attack the victims with their own axe or hatchet. He would ransack the homes, but not take anything, and then flee into the night.

Police were stumped and the people of New Orleans were panicked. A number of arrests were made, but there was little to no evidence against any of them. In one case, a woman claimed she was attacked by her lover. He was acquitted. Another woman accused her neighbors of the Axeman attacks. They were arrested and convicted, but were later released when she recanted her claims. Yet another claim was made by the nieces of one of the victims. They said they saw a large, dark-skinned man wearing a dark suit and a slouched hat.

In March, 1919 a letter from Hell was sent to a newspaper. You read that right. He taunted the authorities in saying that he could really kick things up a notch if he wanted to and that he was buddies with Satan. But the Axeman wasn’t all bad. He confessed he was a big fan of jazz music, and promised that anyone playing jazz when he passed through town on March 19, 1919 would be spared.

As you can imagine, the city of New Orleans was alive with jazz music that night. True to his word, no one was killed that night. There was even a song written that was inspired by the occasion.

In October 1919, the Axeman’s reign ended as suddenly as it began. After the final attack, he was never heard from again.

One main theory in this case is that the perpetrator acted out of xenophobia. Most, but not all, of the victims in the case were Italian grocers. A second theory looks at the fact that a number of victims were women. Some supposed that the men were only attacked if they got in the way of his attacks. One of the women was eight months pregnant at the time of the attack. She survived and went on to give birth to a healthy baby girl. What a warrior!

Then there was the letter. Let’s be honest, the odds of the Axeman being one of Satan’s minions and but a specter in the city are pretty slim. But the element has intrigue. This is one angle where my interest in psychology comes in. What was the endgame there? Aside from frightening the populace, of course. He could have made any number of threats and claims, but he went with a jazz loving demon.

Though there are a number of theories about the whys of the case, there were never any solid leads as to the person responsible for it all.

So, what do you think? Was the Axeman a violent opportunist with a love for jazz? A guy with a grudge against Italian grocers? Was there something otherworldly going on or was he a bored guy looking to add some extra intrigue to the case? What if the letter wasn’t from the Axeman at all?  It makes sense that it was from him, but there’s enough weirdness in this case that I kind of wonder…

And a final question: What will we talk about for February? There’s only one way to find out.

Looking for more?

Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis

The Axeman by Ray Celestin (fiction)

True Crime Sunday: Ken McElroy

I don’t know about you, but I love a good vigilante story. There’s something satisfying, but unadvised, about seeing someone take matters into their own hands and seek retribution. This week’s True Crime Sunday post deals with a real-life group of everyday citizens who, tired of a bully and criminal constantly going unpunished, decided to take care of the matter themselves.

Ken McElroy spent a good portion of his life terrorizing the farming town of Skidmore, Missouri. He was tall, big, and cold. When he moved there as a teenager with his family, he started with such activities as hunting racoons and taking livestock and moved up to burglary and assault. McElroy was also accused of child molestation and statutory rape. His wife was a teenager when she married him under duress. He allegedly threatened to burn her mother’s house down if she didn’t approve the marriage. Once they were married, Trena McCloud wouldn’t be able to testify against him in court.

And there were many court cases. McElroy was indicted in twenty-one crimes and was only convicted in one. His longtime attorney was skilled at delaying the cases and McElroy allegedly did his part to aid in his defense by stalking and intimidating victims and witnesses. His one conviction came in 1980 when he shot shopkeeper Ernest Bowenkamp in the throat. Miraculously, Bowenkamp survived.

McElroy was charged with attempted murder, but was found guilty of assault. Though it was a lesser charge, the community was happy that he wouldn’t be able to bully them while he was in jail. But it was not to be. His lawyer filed an appeal, and he was released on bond. He violated the terms of his release by possessing firearms, one of which he took with him into the local tavern. He got the names of a couple of witnesses that were set to testify against him at his bail revocation hearing. They were afraid for their lives, and they weren’t the only ones.

Local law enforcement couldn’t help the townspeople, and the people felt abandoned. Dozens of Skidmore’s citizens met near the tavern to discuss what to do about the situation. McElroy, possibly alerted to the meeting, pulled up with his wife to the tavern. He sat in his pickup, seemingly unconcerned with the crowd around the back of his truck.

Whether it was planned or not, several shots were fired at McElroy. He was hit by two of them and died in the truck. No one called an ambulance.

Law enforcement, of course, investigated. And surprisingly (not really), not one of the many witnesses saw a thing. McElroy’s wife gave the sheriff the name of one of the men, but he was never charged. The community kept their secret for years. Author Harry MacLean told Inside Edition that the FBI couldn’t make any progress in the investigation either. He said, “They get mobsters to turn on each other, but they couldn’t get one of those farmers to turn.”

It’s been forty years and no one has said a word.

There’s a lot to unpack with this case. No one is giving the town of Skidmore any medals or praise for heroics. The citizens must have felt they were given no other choice—it was him or them. It speaks to their acknowledgement of wrongdoing as well as their conviction that the murder was a desperate act to protect themselves.

Eventually the population of the town dwindled as businesses closed and people moved away in search of better opportunities. But there are as many questions now as there were forty years ago.

Who killed Ken McElroy? That’s a question that may never be answered.

Looking for more?

In Broad Daylight by Harry MacLean

True Crime: Missouri: The State’s Most Notorious Criminal Cases by David J. Krajicek

Uncanny Tuesday

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Except This One. It’s REAL HIGH.

What would you say was your greatest moment? Your finest achievement? The most amazing sight you have ever seen?

Mine is the time right before Covid when I saw the magic of Celine Dion in concert.

 

MAGICAL

Seriously, magical.

But maybe for you it’s finishing a marathon or like inventing Post-It notes or something. I don’t know your life.

Whatever high you reached, just know that there’s a much more deadly and expensive one. It’s called climbing Mount Everest.

Located in the Himalayas, on the border of Nepal and China, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. It’s 8,849 meters tall. That’s 29,032 ft for you people not on the Metric System.  Let me try and put that distance in perspective for you. Jet Airliners cruise at 31,000 ft. It’s 5.5 miles up, 96 football fields stacked end on end.

Dude, that’s freaking high AF.

 

Norgay and Hillary

The first person to summit Everest was a badass Sherpa from Nepal named Tenzing Norgay and his buddy from New Zealand, Edmund Hillary. They reached the top of the mountain on May 29th, 1953. If you read last week’s blog, you’ll know exactly how Wolverine bad-ass Sherpas are. New Zealanders are cool too, I guess. I mean, Xena is, so…

 

She has many skills.

Since then, over 9000 people have summitted and 305 people have died trying.

I know. I expected more too. In comparison, 1 out of 4 people die trying to summit the world’s second tallest mountain, K2. That’s 25% death. Way more METAL.

 

DUNH DUNH DUNH YEAH

How can you die? Okay, so:

  1. Your ass can fall. It’s 8,849 meters high. SMUSH.
  2. It’s cold AF. It’s a freaking snow-covered mountain. It’s ice and rock and you gotta climb it. It’s like -4F and the winds gust over 100 mph, which is a Cat 2 hurricane. You’ll freeze to death and die.
  3. There’s very little oxygen, which you kind of need. On the summit of Everest there’s only 33% of 20.9% of the oxygen that is at Sea Level. Last week we went over all the terrible shit that happens when you’re at altitude. Let me sum it up: CHOKE…HEART ATTACK… STROKE… CAN’T SLEEP… CAN’T POOP. DIE
  4. Yeti Attack.
He’s NOT here to carry your shit up the mountain.

Okay, so a 1 in 30 chance of DEATH doesn’t scare you and hey, mountains are there to be climbed, right? (No, they’re actually not…) So how do you do it?

First, you better work, bitch.

 

Seriously, workout. You need to be in the best shape you can be. Strength training, cardio, hiking, hiking carrying a heavy pack. You better do all of it. If you’re out of shape, you won’t make it and you may endanger other people climbing, so don’t be THAT GUY.

 

Next, save up. Climbing Mount Everest isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s stupid expensive. Let me break this down for you:

  1. Airfare to Katmandu: $2000
  2. Hotel and Accommodations in Katmandu: $700
  3. Visa: $100
  4. Vaccinations: $200
  5. Food and Stuff as you trek to Base Camp: $1000
  6. Some yaks: $600
  7. Porters to tote your crap and handle the yaks: $700
  8. Permits: $20,000
  9. Guide Service: $5000
  10. Insurance: $3000
  11. Gear: $30,000

I had to take off my shoes and socks to cypher all that up, but it comes to $63,300. That’s a shitload of money. And it doesn’t count all the stuff you had to do to get ready, like climb other mountains and such, which are also expensive.

Okay, Richie Rich, you got the monies, now what do you do?

Just stop drinking lattes and switch to Gieco.

Carve out a few months. Fly to Katmandu, which is where most expeditions depart from. Hang out there for a while, because remember our good friend, altitude sickness?  Katmandu is at 2860 m. Yeah, you’re gonna get sick, so hang out, rest, and let your body add some hemoglobin.

Next you’re going to walk uphill to Everest Base Camp. That’s going to take at least 7 days, more like 14. Everest Base Camp is at 5500m, which is extreme high altitude. Again, you’re going to need to slow your roll and chill because you need to acclimatize.

Then the real shit begins. You begin hiking up to 3 higher camps to build up your skills and endurance. Camp 1 is 6100 m, Camp 2 is 6400 m, and Camp 3 is 6800 m. You hike up and down many times until you can go Base Camp to Camp 3 quickly enough and don’t die. Once you can do that, you’re ready to attempt to climb the whole thing.

Climbers usually take a day to go to each place and rest. So, you go to Camp 1, stay the night, Camp 2 next day, Camp 3 the 3rd day, then on to Camp 4. You hang at Camp 4 and rest a little. Camp 4 is 8000 m, so you can’t dick around. The clock is ticking. You’ll start for the summit in the middle of the night. The goal is to be up to the top about midday. Why?

DEATH ZONE

You cannot stay above 8000 m very long. Just long enough to take a selfie or call your partner from the Sat Phone, and then you gotta haul ass back down.

Important thing to consider: You just expended all your energy climbing up. That was hard but going down is a lot more dangerous because you are tired and gonked in the brain due to low oxygen. You gotta bust a move, but be careful, because if you wonk up, see the 1-4 list above. DEATH.

Anyhoo, if you don’t biff and the Yeti doesn’t eat you, you descend down to at least Camp 3 before nightfall. You rest a bit, then you hike down to Base Camp and pop the bottle of Bolly you saved to celebrate your great success.

 

Congrats, you lived and achieved your dream. Unless you died, in which case they will straight-up-now-Paula-Abdul leave your corpse on that mountain because nobody cares to haul you back. It’s dangerous up there. And it’s full of corpses and Yetis and probably that guy:

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Training

 Cost

Or just watch all the climbing movies on Prime from the safety and comfort of your sofa:

EVEREST

PROJECT POSSIBLE

These are some of my favorites and you won’t get et by a Yeti. Probably.

 

Until next week,

 

Jessica

Black is my Happy Color: Top 3 Goth Icons in Film, Male

As we did last week, we will discuss today who are my favorite top 3 Goth Icons in film: Male category.

Without a doubt, the 90s and ”goths” all got their leathery wings raised up in celebration when Brandon Lee appeared as The Crow. Not only was he an icon in his own right, being the son of legendary martial artist and philosopher, Bruce Lee … but the soundtrack was so on point.

Burn by The Cure

Big Empty by Stone Temple Pilots

Dead Souls by Nine Inch Nails

Color Me Once by Violent Femmes

It Can’t Rain all the Time by Jane Siberry

To name just a few songs off the soundtrack and their performers, it was a movie that brought goths, comic book lovers, and people from all backgrounds together under one theater roof.

Next on my list would have to go to Johnny Depp. Where would we be without him, to be honest? From Edward Scissorhands to Sleepy Hollow, he’s bled our dark hearts since he walked onto screens with A Nightmare On Elm Street. However … I would fail my community if I didn’t add that in a tie for this spot is the incorrigible, talented, and beautiful Tim Curry.

From Legend, as the romantic but twisted Darkness, to Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim showed us that talent came from being unafraid of breaking down barriers and expectations. Fuck anyone who thought otherwise. Hail to King of beautiful legs and fishnets, baby.

And last but certainly not least; Clive Barker. Yes, I know he’s not a face on the screen but he’s brought us iconic figures like Pinhead from Hellraiser, and extreme body modification. No one can deny the influence the Cenobites had on the goth community as a whole.

True Crime Sunday: The Somerton Man

As one wanders through the world of true crime, they might stumble upon a particularly intriguing area: unsolved cases where there’s no clue as to the who for either the victim or killer, the why, or the how. Thanks to forensic science, investigators can usually estimate the when and where. But even then, sometimes just guesses.

One such case is that of the Somerton Man. In December 1948, a husband and wife were walking along Somerton Beach near Adelaide, Australia. At that time, the man sat propped against a sea wall. The couple who passed the man later guessed he was drunk based on the way he slumped against the wall and motioned with his hand like he was trying to raise it to light a cigarette. Strangely, he wore a clean, neatly pressed suit and shoes immaculately shined. Not your typical attire for a day at the beach.

The next morning, the man who was walking with his wife came out of the water after a swim to see a crowd gathered around the area they saw the drunken man the night before. The man was dead.

When the body arrived at his office a couple of hours later, the medical examiner could not see any obvious signs of trauma. After performing a preliminary autopsy, he concluded the man likely died of heart failure and suspected poison was also a factor. A second autopsy was performed and the medical examiner found here was blood found in the Somerton man’s stomach, indicative of poisoning. So, who was this guy?

The man’s pockets held items such as gum, matches, and cigarettes. However, there was no wallet or identification of any kind. They also found that all of the labels had been carefully cut out of his clothes and that one of his pants pockets was sewn shut with a strange orange thread. After they were unable to ascertain the man’s identity and were only able to give an educated guess for cause of death, authorities were left scratching their heads.

Fingerprints circulated through Australia and beyond. No results. Random people were permitted to walk into the mortuary in the hopes someone would know who the man was. No results. At this point, there were no leads and investigators searched for luggage or other belongings. Eventually, a suitcase was found at a train station in Adelaide. Inside that suitcase was a roll of the same orange thread used to sew the man’s pocket.

They searched the man again, this time finding something new. There was a hidden pocket in the man’s suit, and in the pocket was a rolled piece of paper, later found to be torn from a twelfth century poetry book, with the words “Tamám shud,” Persian for “it is ended,” printed in a unique type face. There were also imprints that were later found to be some sort of code that has yet to be broken.

After they found the match for the torn page, authorities contacted a woman found through a phone number in the back of the book. She swore she had no idea who the Somerton Man was, but appeared upset and on the verge of fainting when she was shown a mold of the man’s face.

Every lead had been explored, and authorities still had no answers. Who the heck was this guy?

Over the years, a number of theories have been investigated. One was that the Somerton Man was a spy. That theory is particularly interesting given the scant evidence in the case, including the book of poetry. Investigation revealed that there were only five copies of the book printed, but there was another man who died with a copy of the book near him. His book and the Somerton Man’s would make copies six and seven. What was going on with these books?  

To this day, the mystery of the Somerton Man remains unsolved.

Last week, I talked about the case of D.B. Cooper, another unsolved case. What makes these cases so compelling? I think it’s the unknown in a situation that obviously has an answer, and also the sheer number of possibilities as to the who, why, and how in each case.

Though there have been astounding advances in forensics, these and other cases keep their question marks. Will we ever know the story? Possibly…

Looking for more?

Tamam Shud: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood (fiction)

The Unknown Man: A Suspicious Death at Somerton Beach by G.M. Feltus

Uncanny Tuesday

Up Where We Don’t Belong…

 

Howdy Stitchers!

Another year has passed us by and 2022 is upon us. I was sure by this time I’d be married to Tom Cruise and have a car that flies, but all I got was almost destroyed by a cult in 2021 and  bought a new Honda CRV, so, I mean, close enough.

New Year, New You, amiright?

No?

Well, my friends, your attitude determines your altitude so… oh. Wait. No, the distance you are from sea level determines it, and that’s where I come in. For the next four weeks we’ll be going high, not low.

 

Up where we belong…

 

High…

 

Higher…

Yeah. That’s about right. Wait. No. Not that kind of high. Like this kind of HIGH:

 

I am fascinated by high altitude crap. Death, stuff it does to the body. Mount Everest. You get it. I watch documentaries and movies from the safety of my sofa because in reality, I’m scared shitless of heights. And I have watched basically everything, which means I am full of fun facts and it also means I’m about to vomit a mountain of facts upon you people.

You’re welcome.

This week we’re taking a look at Altitude and the Human Body. All of the terrible things that happen to you when you choose to get out there and walk uphill for no good reason.

You get what you get.

First, what is high altitude? I mean, I know you get that high altitude means like, higher than sea level, but how high is high? Well, fortunately, some nerd somewhere made a scale for us. High Altitude is 1500-3500 m above sea level. For reference, a meter (m) is about 3 feet. There are 1609 m in one mile. So high altitude is 1-2 miles above sea level.  Denver, Colorado would be considered High Altitude as it’s about 1600 m above sea level.

 

Denver, Colorado. The Mile High City

Next comes Very High Altitude, which is classified as 3500-5500 m, which is pretty freaking high. And anything above 5500 m is Extreme High Altitude, which as you’re going to see, is no place you want to be for any length of time. The Base Camp at Mount Everest is 5500 m, so just to get to the SAFE part of Mount Everest is at Extreme High Altitude, where you’re going to encounter a myriad of terrible shit.

 

Everest Base Camp. 5500 m

So why is that? Well, kids, it has to do with a human’s need to breathe. First up, humans are designed to live at sea level. Low. We are low creatures.

 

We also require oxygen to live. The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of lots of gases. It’s actually only 20.9% oxygen. But that is true anywhere you go. So, like, on the Copacabana Beach in Rio, it’s 20.9% oxygen and at the very top of Mount Everest it’s also 20.9% oxygen. So why you die?

Okay, it’s because PIVNERT. PIVNERT is the name I call the Ideal Gas Law. It tells us how gases behave. Usually. Anyway, I call it PIVNERT (and so do most cool science geeks) because it says that the pressure and volume of a gas is a function of the amount of a gas relative to its temperature and its gas constant. Written out it looks like:

PV = nRT

See? PIVNERT.

I know what you’re saying, “JFC JESSICA THIS LOOKS LIKE MATH. WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU? I HATE MATH.”

Oh, it is math, but it’s DEATH MATH.

 

DUNH DUNH DUNH DUNH YEAHHHHH

 Why? Because PIVNERT says that the amount of oxygen in some volume of space at some temperature is dependent on pressure. At Sea Level, the pressure is 1013 mb but on top of Mount Everest it’s 356 mb. The higher you go, the less pressure and the less molecules of oxygen you have available in the same space. So, at the Copacabana Beach, where I’m enjoying the fine people of Brazil and a very strong Caipirinha, I have plenty of oxygen to breathe. At the top of Everest, where I will be frickin’ freezing and not enjoying Brazilian rum, I will have only 33% of 20.9% of oxygen and that means I’m going to DIE.

Now, we all know I LOVE hyperbole, so will you really DIE?

Yep. You sure will. Without supplemental oxygen, if you stayed on top of Everest for very long, you’ll die. There is not enough oxygen there to sustain human life long-term.

And truthfully, you don’t have to go very high to feel shitty. The least severe thing that happens to you at high altitude is the creatively named, Altitude Sickness. Altitude sickness happens when you ascend to greater than 2500 m above sea level too quickly.  Truck your ass up too fast and you’ll get a headache, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Very much like a terrible hangover.  Which you did not get from delicious Caipirinha. It gets worse. If your body doesn’t acclimatize to the altitude, your brain can swell and fluid can fill your lungs. If either of those things happen, well…

 

Some other fun things that happen is that since your oxygen levels are low, you’re going to have lots of brain troubles. Poor coordination, slowed reflexes, and bad decision making. Now do you really want any of those things at any time, let alone on the side of a mountain?

Altitude above 8000 m is called THE DEATH ZONE, (also what I call being in a relationship with me,) and if you stay up there, things are going to suck. Your body diverts all its resources to just keeping your blood circulating. You won’t sleep. You won’t digest food. Your heartrate will go bonkers so you’ll have a heart attack, and you’ll stroke out. It’s legit shitty.

Your body can adjust to high altitude. It’s pretty amazing. When you hike your candy ass up above 2500 m, your body will produce more hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the crap in your blood that binds and carries oxygen to all your cells. So, more hemoglobin means more chances to grab oxygen and therefore, things to suck less for you. Climbers at Everest Base Camp routinely measure 2 g/dL more hemoglobin in their blood than at sea level.

Now that’s cool and all that you get Wolverine X-Factor blood or whatever, but it’s temporary. You’ll lose it when you go back to your normal friends in low places.

 

But what if you didn’t? Well, you will, but some humans have adapted to live at high altitudes and it’s totally fascinating. Scientists have studied two main groups of people who live at high altitude—the Tibetans in the Himalayas and the people of the Andes Mountains in South America.

Tibetans live at very high altitude, duh, on average at about 4000 m. Remember how people bitch about going to Denver? That’s cute. Anyway, Tibetans are basically altitude X Men (and Women). They don’t have more hemoglobin. Their blood composition is fairly normal. Instead, they have enlarged lung volumes and they breathe more rapidly, taking in as much oxygen as possible. Tibetans have an increased capacity for exercise and cerebral blood flow, which makes them boss AF. And guess what? Those physiological adaptations don’t go away at low altitudes, so they’re still Wolverine at Copacabana.

People in the Andes have a different adaptation. The Andes are not as high as the Himalayas, so native Andeans have evolved elevated hemoglobin in their blood as well as increased lung capacity. They will lose their hemoglobin increase if they move down in elevation. Less like Wolverine. More like when they put the inhibitor collars on the Suicide Squad in Belle Reve Prison. I know. I mixed Marvel and DC. How dare I?

Look, this is the gist of it. Humans are not designed to stay at extreme altitude. If you go up, you’ll die a miserable, horrible, terrible death, not sleeping, and panting, and not being able to take a crap, so, just don’t.

 

Unless you’re making cool documentaries for my amusement. Then go higher. More. I’ve run out of free movies on Prime.

Next week we’re climbing every mountain and fording every stream.

 

You can hear it, can’t you?

Just kidding. We’re doing EVEREST!

Bring supplemental oxygen and Caipirinhas.

Saude!

Until Next Week,

Jessica

Black is my Happy Color: Top 3 Goth Film Icons, Female

As we all know, the 90s was a decade of amazing music and amazing Gothic films. Below is my top three Gothic females. Post a comment to let me know if you agree or disagree!

  1. Nancy Downs (The Craft)
  2. Wednesday Addams (The Addams Family)
  3. Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

In the 90s, I’m pretty sure every teenage goth girl wanted to be Nancy Downs played by Fairuza Balk. Growing into our teens, we were introduced to the ”goth” scene by Wednesday Addams and we grow into our Crone Goth image of perfection … Wednesday’s mother, Morticia.

Lydia Deetz was the lighter side of Nancy. So, in part, the two embodied both sides of goth teens of the 90s.

Their iconic looks and influence on us is what earned them their spots in my top three gothic icons in film (female category).

Stay tuned next week for the male counterparts!

True Crime Sunday: D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper Hijacking — FBI

Happy new year! We made it to 2022, and a new year means all kinds of possibilities. A new month, however, means a new theme for True Crime Sunday. While I there was a part of me that wanted to dig into the archives of St. Olaf, I decided there are some stories that only Rose Nylund could tell. And so, I will instead talk about the unsolved mystery of a man who jumped out of an airplane and into legend.

On a rainy day in November 1971, passengers in Portland, Oregon boarded a Boeing 727 headed for Seattle, Washington. One of those passengers passed a note to one of the flight attendants. The note indicated he had a bomb. Once she saw he was telling the truth, things were set into motion. This passenger, later named as D.B. Cooper, demanded four parachutes, $200,000, and a fuel truck waiting for them at the airport.

Once they landed in Seattle, Cooper allowed the other passengers and all but one of the flight attendants to depart the aircraft. Once his demands were met, he told the pilot to head south toward Mexico City and set some specific guidelines for his flight. The pilot was to fly at or below an altitude of 10,000 feet and the lowest speed possible.

About 45 minutes into the flight, Cooper ordered the flight attendant into the cockpit, put on one of the parachutes, lowered the rear stairs of the plane and, out he jumped, never to be seen again. Wild, right?

Authorities searched based on estimates of possible landing spots, but found nothing. The only clues they had were the necktie Cooper left behind and the name under which he purchased the ticket.

In 1980, the case was still open, but wasn’t being worked as urgently as it had at the beginning. Until some of the money was found. A family was out enjoying nature near the Columbia River when they uncovered a bundle of $5,800 in bills with serial numbers matching those included with the money authorities handed over to Cooper. Another search was conducted and again failed to yield any leads.

While the mystery of D.B. Cooper remains unsolved, there have been some promising theories and tips over the years. Based on Cooper’s knowledge of airplanes, his mention of McChord Air Force Base, and the way he jumped from the plane, some officials theorized that he may have been in the Air Force. However, they also took into account his lack of proper protective clothing. Given the conditions into which he jumped, some officials argued there was no way he could have survived the jump.

In the first few years of the investigation, the FBI eliminated hundreds of suspects and kept a short list of possibilities. Throughout the life of the case, there were people who came into confess that they were the infamous D.B. Cooper, but no one’s fingerprints matched those left behind on the plane. The most promising lead came in 2011 when a woman contacted the FBI claiming that her late uncle confessed that he was D.B. Cooper. Authorities looked into the claim, but findings were inconclusive.

In 2016, the FBI declared they were not closing the case, but would stop using their time and resources on the case. D.B. Cooper is firmly placed in the company of other mythical figures.

I’ve written about a couple of other stories in which the culprits had some unbelievable nerve. This case is no different. Cooper pulled off this incident before there were tougher security measures in place, but he still took a huge risk. The hijacking alone was bold, and the way he was polite and considerate—well as polite and considerate as a hijacker could be—makes one take notice. However, the escape is what is the most mystifying. How did this man, equipped with his parachute and a bag full of cash, simply vanish into thin air? And just who the heck was he?

A bundle of cash was found, so they were searching in an area where he conceivably landed. But there was no trace of him. Whether he was a veteran or not, there’s no denying his know-how and nerve. Did that skill keep him alive? Maybe. Cooper’s body never was found and the cash was never spent, so while those who say he couldn’t have survived could be correct, there’s also the possibility he made it to whatever the next part of his plan was.

And that’s part of what I find so compelling about this case. As the years go by, it seems more and more that D.B. Cooper’s identity, as well as the fate of the cash, will forever be a mystery.

Looking for more?

DB Cooper & Me: A Criminal, a Spy, My Best Friend by Carl Laurin

Escape at 10,000 Feet: D.B. Cooper and the Missing Money by Tom Sullivan

Uncanny Tuesday

Cheers!

What drink do you reach for when you want to celebrate?

Yeah, me too.

Wait. No. I’m classy.

Champagne. The fanciest of wines. Bottles of the stuff are used to celebrate all sorts of wins and occasions. But why? What is it? What makes it special?

Never fear, because I’m an alcoholic who reads, so I got you covered!

Champagne is a sparkling white wine from the Champagne region in France.

Yeah, look, there are all kinds of memes and jokes about the snobbiness of calling champagne special just because it’s from France, but look, you don’t like to be called something you’re not either, so give Champagne a break.

So, the source of the grapes matters. White Chardonnay grapes can be grown lots of places, but they’ll taste different if they’re grown anywhere but that little pooch of France.

The other thing that matters is the process. Making Champagne is hard. You can’t just make it in a toilet in prison. Unless I guess the prison is France… hmm… that’s interesting. 

The process, Methode Champinoise, is involved. First, you have to wheeze the juice. Yeah, they call it pressing the grapes, whatever. Second you ferment the wine by transferring it to a big vessel and letting it rot. I mean, ferment.

After the first fermentation, the winemaker enters into Assemblage, where they chuck in other wines and blend it all together to create the signature taste they’re looking for.

Step four is the second fermentation and this is the second thing that separates Champagne from sparkling wine. The winemaker dumps in yeast, sugar, some gunk and the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. It has to or else you just can’t call it Champagne, not even if there’s a fire!

The fifth step is called remuage, and it’s to get rid of the nasty dead yeast and crud from the fermentation process. The wine bottles are stored at an angle, opening down. They turn it periodically, increasing the angle until it’s upside down and all the dead yeast and crap is settled at the neck. Before they disgorge the yeast corpses, they age the champagne. Champagne is aged for a minimum of 15 months, but 18-30 months is more common.

Ok, time to evict the dead yeast. They freeze the neck and then physics, pressure and shit, forces the gunk plug out when the bottle is turned upright.

WHEE!

After that, they dump in some more sugar. The amount they chuck in is regulated and that fancy name you see, Brut or Extra Brut, tells you how much they added. Brut means less than 12 grams of sugar was added. See?

They also add a special wino mixture which fills it to volume. They cork it and then you can drink it. Unlike most wines, Champagne is ready to rock when they cork it.

Now, the important part, how to drink it?

You’re doing it right.

Well, I mean, chill it first. Chill the bottle to 45 degrees F, then uncork and pour. Just be sure to do it fancy, like with a sword and shit.

You can drink it out of whatever you want, but the shape of a glass does matter to taste, so if you’ve come this far, grab a flute or champagne coupe. The flute’s long slender shape enhances the bubbles and flavor.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Jessica, I like my wines cheap.” I agree, friend. I also like cheap-ass wine. But I’m here to tell you, you can tell the difference. I always thought I hated Champagne, but one time, at Band Camp, I mean, Total Wine, I bought a bottle of Champagne to celebrate something and as it turns out, I don’t hate Champagne, I just hate cheap, sparkling wine.

How much will the good stuff run you? Well, there’s a Champagne for every budget. Well, I mean, not for like a Boone’s Farm budget, but you can get a nice bottle of Champagne for $50.  It can also be super expensive. A cheap bottle of Dom Perignon is $200. My favorite is the Veuve Clicquot, which will run you about $75.

I know, this makes me sound bougie, but just so you know, I like Coors Light beer, I’m no stranger to moonshine from a mason jar, and once I licked a handrail at a concert for a free frozen margarita, so…

Happy New Year!

I hope you can let 2021 go, and you’re ready for a wonderful 2022!

We’ve been working hard to get ready for the new year and bring you the best of weird, dark things!

We have such sights to show you…

See you next year,

Jessica

Beast of the Week: The Yule Family

With Christmas lurking just around the corner, all the little eyes will be watching the skies for the jolly fat man in his sleigh. Those eight gorgeous reindeer, the red-nosed one leading the herd as they spin and spiral through the stars, spreading delight across the planet. Inside, fires crackle, families and friends gather around trees and lights and presents, feasting on food and drink, and watching classic Christmas films such as A Christmas StoryThe Polar Express, or Die Hard. 

But not every family is engaged in such jovial merriment. Some families thrive on naughtiness and chaos. This week’s Beast of the Week is not a single creature, but rather a family that celebrates Christmas with their own style debauchery. Allow me to introduce you to this very special family that originated in Icelandic folklore in the 17th century.

Gryla:

This bitch. Originally depicted as a giantess troll in 13th century folklore, Gryla wasn’t connected to the Yule season until the 17th century. She is huge, hideous, and often described as parasitic. She lives in a cave in the mountains, taking stock of which children misbehave during the year. Then, around Yule, she emerges from her cave and comes to the villages to collect the naughty children in her sack. With the sack slung over her shoulder, she returns to her cave and cooks the children into a stew, which she devours with her bare hands.  

Leppalúði:

This ass is Gryla’s third and present husband. He’s lazy and fat and literally does nothing. He lumps around the cave, waiting for Gryla to bring home the ingredients for their stew. 

The Yule Cat:

Yep. This odd couple has a pet. Little mittens isn’t an adorable cuddler that like to play with yarn, though. The Yule Cat, Jólakötturinn, is massive and full of rage. He comes out at Yule time, lurks around the countryside, and eats anyone who has not received new clothes for Christmas. This legend is thought to have originated as a cautionary tale to get farmers to finish processing their autumn wool. 

The Yule Lads:

Sons of Gryla. These thirteen fellows are nasties that like to prank people and cause general trouble around the Christmas season. Each is identified by the stunt they pull. For example, one is known as The Spoonlicker—this dude sneaks into houses and licks all the spoons. Then there’s the Window Peeper—cover your tatas, ladies. Here is a list of the lads in all their glory, along with their nicknames that allude to their behaviour of choice. 

Stekkjarstaur: The Sheep Cote-Clod

Giljagaur: The Gully Gawk

Stúfur: Stubby

Þvörusleikir: Spoon-licker

Pottaskefill: Pot-scraper

Askasleikir: Bowl-licker

Hurðaskellir: Door-slammer

Skyrgámur: Yogurt-gobbler

Bjúgnakrækir: Sausage-Swiper

Gluggagægir: Window-peeper

Gáttaþefur: Doorway-sniffer

Ketkrókur: Meat-hook

Kertasníkir: Candle-stealer

So although family time at Christmas might stress you out, just be thankful that you aren’t a member of this dysfunctional Yule family. Though those boys sound like they might be a bit of fun after a few drinks…

Uncanny Tuesday

It’s the Thought that Counts…

When you were a kid, did you eagerly await the JC Penny’s Christmas catalog so you could peruse in wonder? Then did you get out the Magic Marker and circle all the things you wanted so your parents would get the message and then relay that to Santa? I sure did. Every year I circled the Snoopy Snow Cone Maker and the Castle Greyskull and yet never did Santa bring them.

I got a pink sweater and a loom kit, which if you know me, you know. One year I did get that Barbie Perfume Factory, which was awesome because I ditched the instructions and dumped everything together to make my own toxic mixture. Again, if you know me, you know. Anyways… this week we’re talking about the MOST important thing about Christmas, which is the gifts. Obviously. Have you not been paying attention to commercials since June? Or are you one of those rich people who can afford the Hulu without commercials? Whatever. Gifts.

Last week we talked about where gift giving at this time of year comes from (Io, Saturnalia!) The gifts are to promote good harvest and wealth.  That’s evolved into appreciation and love. (CUE SARCASTIC EYEROLL)

And what are the most famous gifts in all of Christmas?

An Official Red Ryder carbine action two -hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock?

No

They came into the house and saw the young

child with Mary, his mother, and they fell

down and worshiped him. Opening their

treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold,

frankincense, and myrrh.

                        -Matthew 2:11

We’re talking about the crap the three wise men brought Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Why would anyone give a baby these things? Those are terrible baby gifts. No diapers? Not poop wipes. No stroller? Did they even look at Mary’s Target baby registry?

So, let’s look at what these substances are and why anyone would want them.

First up, gold. Yeah, no mystery here. You want gold too. Everyone wants gold. Why? Because someone way back in the day decided that it was worth something. Seriously, that’s it. Gold is pretty cool stuff though, so let’s not just discount it as being shiny.

Gold is a metal. There’s a lot of chemistry junk that goes along with that but the gist of it is gold is useful AF. It’s soft, malleable, and ductile, which means it is easy to move it and shape it into wire or thin sheets, or other stuff. It’s a good conductor of electricity and heat, and it’s highly reflective. Gold doesn’t tarnish or corrode; it’s inert and pretty much indestructible. It’s used in the electronics industry and fun fact, the visors on astronauts’ helmets were coated in a very thin layer of gold to enhance reflectivity.

The downside to gold is that because it is so soft, it sometimes needs to be mixed with other metals. By doing so you change the properties, like hardness, color, and strength. Gold purity is classified by the karat value. 24 karat gold is 100% gold, whereas 12 karat gold is 50%.

So gold is useful and valuable. And just so you know, every country in the world accepts it as payment. It’s symbolically a gift for kings. Get it? Kings? Yeah, great gift for Elvis.

As of a few weeks ago, it cost $21,000/lb., which is like, a lot.

Next up: Frankincense.

It has nothing to do with Frankenstein’s Monster.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin, harvested from the Boswellia tree. This tree grows in Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. It’s used in religious and cleansing rituals. It would have been used to make really expensive incense. Like, way more expensive than that crap you get at Hot Topic.

So, in this case, frankincense would have been meant as a gift for a priest, the conduit to God.

And last, myrrh.

WTF is myrrh? Well, it’s like frankincense only darker and I don’t mean in color. Myrrh is a resin harvested from the Commiphora tree. In ancient times it was used as an analgesic, especially for the mouth. People used it as a mouthwash and to treat toothaches.

The Egyptians used in it their embalming process.

When mixed with oil and other junk, like frankincense, it’s also used to anoint people, like umm… monarchs.

So basically, all of these gifts weren’t exactly a Pink Nightmare.

They were symbolic of royalty, holiness, and death, and at the time, they would have been valuable.

Fine, but still, they should have all chipped in and gotten Mary a car seat, because donkey traffic was legit dangerous.

So, if you’re looking in the JC Penny catalog and you see gold, frankincense, and myrrh don’t be afraid to circle them. You’ve got holy, kingly taste. And you won’t shoot your eye out.

Happy Holidays! I hope it’s weird!

Until next week,

Jessica

Beast of the Week: Frau Perchta

Santa. Yeah, he’s fun. He’s the mascot of the merry season, and one we see everywhere from greeting cards, to artwork, to movies, to the blow-ups on your neighbour’s lawn. But here at House of Stitched we like our Yuletide season a little darker than the jolly fat man. Krampus is a favourite of ours, but I cover him in the winter edition of House of Stitched magazine. But Krampus has some competition in the department of holiday evil. A big, badass bitch known as Frau Perchta, or The Belly-Slitter.

Peruehty in Kingdom of Bohemia. 1910

Where Krampus beats naughty children with chains and rutes, tosses them in sacks, and transports them to some lovely hellscape. Frau Perchta chooses a more visceral approach. Her trademark punishment is to slit open the bellies of disobedient or lazy children and restuff them with straw, rocks, and rubbage. She has been known to feast on the blood and flesh of her victims, and also takes a liking to stomping the shit out of people who offend her. She’s an all-around delight!

How is she associated with Christmas? Her name is associated with Epiphany or Twelfth Night—January 06th. The name Perchta is a corruption of the Old High German term for Epiphany, “giberahta naht,” or “night of shining forth or manifestation”. She is known to visit homes during the twelve days before Christmas and Epiphany, doling out her punishments and accepting bribes from folks hoping to avoid her bitchiness. Mention of Frau Perchta can be found in Austria and southern Germanic folklore, but tales of her have spread all across Europe. Some know her as “The Shining One”, and there is some evidence to suggest that she started out as a goddess but was later twisted into a hag-witch when Christianity muscled pagan cultures to the side.

Frau Perchta has a particular pet peeve. She is a super fan of Epiphany, and loathes those who choose to work on this day. Interesting factoid—she takes a particular interest in spinners. No, not you, Peloton folks. Yarn spinners. If anyone dares spin yarn on Epiphany, you best be prepared to have Frau Perchta slice your belly open, yank out your intestines, and replace your innards with garbage and straw. Beware, knitters and crocheters. Other people that irritate this hag? Lazy folks. Though she wants you to take a break and feast on Epiphany, you better be working your sorry ass off any other time or she’ll stomp you into ground meat with her mangled, gigantic, taloned feet. Then she’ll commence the belly slitting and excavation and such. Another thorn in her side? Lying children. Those little punks get their tongues scraped with broken glass. And finally, introverts beware. Drop your crocheting, put aside your book and/or yarn, and socialize with friends and family during the holiday season. Or else, slit, scoop, stomp, scrape. You know the drill. 

Portrait of Perchta of Rosenberg (1425-1476). Found in the Collection of Telc Castle. Artist Anonymous. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

As lovely as she sounds, Frau Perchta  is not pleasant to look at. In art, she is often depicted as bird-like, with a beaklike nose and elongated face. In fact, she has been rumoured to occasionally take flight with The Wild Hunt, or the Sluagh, which we discussed in last week’s Beast of the Week blog. She is large but hunched over, and is sometimes depicted as walking with a cane. She wears white robes which she uses to conceal her long, sharp knife. Her skin is mottled and old, and she generally looks like a haggard old crone. 

What if you want to be lazy? What if you don’t wish to put down your knitting and crocheting and socialize with that uncle who talks way too much about football and politics? Well, there is a way to appease Frau Perchta, even if you are engaging in her list of forbidden behaviours. This ol’ gal likes a good bowl of porridge. Yes, whip out the oatmeal, the old Quaker man is here to save the day! Offerings of porridge, or, specifically, Perchtenmilch, can be set aside as an offering to the holly jolly hag. If you provide this snack, she’ll let your indiscretions slide. It became custom for citizens of Austria and Germany to leave out porridge during the Twelve Days, just as many families leave cookies for Santa on Christmas eve.

“Berchtengehen” (“Going as Perchten”) from illustrierte Chronik der Zeit (1890)

Don’t feel sad for Frau Perchta. Yes, she’s easily irritated. Yes, she has lots of work to do, slitting bellies and filling body cavities with garbage, rocks, and straw. But she enjoys her work, she gets a free supply of porridge, and she is not lonely. Frau Perchta travels with friends. Dead things accompany Perchta on her hunt and share in the offerings people leave. These companions have been known as Heimchen, or the spirits of unbaptized children. She is also accompanied by Krampus-looking critters called Perchten, who also love a good oatmeal mixed with belly blood.

So go ahead and cry, shout, all the things Santa doesn’t want you to do. What’s the fat man gonna do to you? Bring less presents? What you really ought not to do is be lazy or avoid people unless you want your Christmas dinner to appear outside your body, and have your plentiful holiday body stuffed to the brim with rocks, straw, and the garbage from your grandparents trash can. Unless you’re into that kind of this. So beware, and yarn properly. 

Io, Saturnalia!

OFF THE HOOK

Okay, so do you remember the most boss party you ever went to? Maybe it was a pizza party at Chuck E Cheese. Or a birthday party at McDonalds. Or maybe it involved a bathtub full of Purple Jesus, a llama in a tuxedo, the 80’s band, Expose, and swimming pool filled with glitter foam. Well, if you combined all those parties into one and added in Pauley Shore, then you might approach the magnificence of Saturnalia.

You’ve never heard of it? I’ll bet you have only now you know it as Christmas.

Do they have Christmas in France?

The Saturnalia was a festival dedicated to the Roman god of Agriculture, Saturn. It was celebrated during the Winter Solstice. (SOUND FAMILIAR?) Ok, there’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get all Julie Andrews and start at the beginning, Sound of Music Style.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Saturn, the god, not the planet, was a pretty important guy to the Romans. He was pretty important to the Greeks too and they called him Cronus. Cronus was a son of Uranus (CUE GIGGLE). Cronus thought he dad was a complete douche, so he took a sickle and he castrated his dad. So much symbolism there, right? Anyhoo, off with the dad junk and the Cronus was in charge. Now he was a smartie. He figured if he had kids, they would all think he was a big of a choad as he thought his old man was and sooner or later, somebody would cut off his twig and berries too. Cronus wasn’t about that life. But what are you gonna do? Well, he married his sister and every time she had a baby, he ate the baby. His old lady was getting sick of that shit, so on the last kid she fed Cronus a rock instead. That baby was Zeus and when he grew up, he was pissed. So, he got Cronus to puke up his brothers and sisters and then they all threw down. Zeus and his peeps won, became the Olympians, and Cronus got to spend eternity in god prison. He kept his junk though, so, you know, good for him.

Eventually, we begin to associate him with time, as in Father Time, and he’s the patron of the Harvest, which was a pretty big gig. As the Romans generally did, they kind of opposite the Greeks while still stealing their cool shit and called him Saturn instead. The Romans associated him with wealth and agriculture. Harvest is generally a time of plenty (wealth) and at the same time, death, because the plants die and we kill animals and store up for the winter. That time of year in the Roman locality was December, the Winter Solstice.

Science, whatever.

The Winter Solstice is the point at which the Earth’s poles are the maximum distance from the sun. That means short days and lots of dark.  At the poles, it’s continuous darkness. Everywhere else, we get colder weather and very short amounts of daylight. Not much grows in those conditions, right? Well, if you were an ancient people who didn’t understand science, you might do some religious biznas and pray to buddy Saturn to be cool and bless you by making stuff grow again. That’s what they did. They had a gigantic party and celebrated the reversal of seasons. Down was up and Up was down.

The Saturnalia started on December 17th and ended on the Solstice, which on the Roman calendar was December 25th (YOU DON’T SAY).  Normally, in the temple of Saturn, his feet were bound, you know, because, control. The priests cut these bonds during the Saturnalia and thus, Saturn was ready to par-tay.  People decorated their homes with greenery, feasted, and gave gifts.  Popular gifts were candles. Seriously. They were light in the time of darkness. So, definitely don’t feel bad about re-gifting that Yankee Candle. The Romans would have loved it.

Nobody worked and that included the slaves. For the week, slaves were given time off and they were allowed to eat and drink with their masters, showing a full reversal and suspension of social norms. Each household elected a person to be the Lord of Misrule. His job for the week was to dress in ridiculous clothes, play pranks, and cause as much chaos as possible. It defied the normal world order to the Romans.

I mean, does any of this sound at ALL familiar? Decorating with green plants? Giving out gifts? Eating and drinking as much as possible? On December 25th?

No? Okay then, I guess go celebrate your Festivus then.

I GOT A LOTTA PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE…

Obviously, much of what we do now to celebrate Christmas came from the Saturnalia. It was the most legit party of the year for the Romans, pretty much like today except we now mark it with credit card debt and the coming of The Mariah.

Io, Saturnalia! And Happy Festivus for the rest of us.

Until next week!

Jessica

Uncanny Tuesday!

I Just Want Your Extra Time and Your…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Ah, December! Jam-packed full of holidays and traditions and whatnot. No matter the holiday you’re celebrating (Yule, Hannukah, Kwanza, Christmas, Festivus), it all about the light from the darkness and showing family and friends how much they’re loved and appreciated.

And what better way to show someone how much you love them than by shoving your tongue into their mouth underneath a parasitic weed? (I mean, like maybe a gift card?)

Anyway, we’re talking about mistletoe! Yes, that festive sprig of green with berries that we hang in doorways.

Mistletoe is part of our holiday tradition, but do you know why and even what it is?

Fear not, Curious Reader for unto you this information is born!

Is it a beautiful, noble flower? Nope. It’s a parasitic plant. It attaches itself to strong trees, oak trees, for example, via a haustoria. Which is like the BORG.

TERRIFYING
TERRIFYING

The haustoria burrows into the flesh of the host tree and the mistletoe bogarts water and nutrients.  Mistletoe can also synthesize its own food via photosynthesis, but see, it’s really kind of lazy and it would rather just skim off the host, kind of like your friend who could pay for dinner, but also has to make a big deal of using coupons and splitting the check down to how many mozz sticks you ate versus him. That guy.

Also, it’s kinda toxic, especially the European variety so don’t like eat it. Some cultures use it to treat ailments, but I mean, it’s probably not a good idea so maybe skip the tea and whatnots.

Even its name is kinda eww. The word derives from Old English, mistel, meaning “dung” and tan meaning “twig”. Give those two words a while to roll around and mushup in the mouths of the Britons for a few thousand years or so and you get “mistletoe” aka, CRAP TWIG.

YEP

Bird eat the berries, then crap out the seeds on another tree and thus, mistletoe remains.

But how did this bogarting crap twig become a cherished symbol of Christmas? Well, it turns out that mistletoe has a lot of cred in the folklore world. The Romans viewed it as a symbol of peace, love, and understanding and they hung it in their homes during the Saturnalia, which is another fascinating historical blog post coming your way soon. The Celts looked on it as a symbol of male fertility, as in the white berries, often calling it the semen of the god Taranis, Celtic God of Thunder. Since gods of thunder and lightning are often associated with the oak tree (Zeus, Thor), it was called oak sperm.

YEP

To the Druids, mistletoe was sacred and part of human sacrifice ceremonies (ALLEGEDLY). Fun fact, the thunder god, Taranis, well he liked it when they put people and animals inside of big wickerworks and then burned them. What fun guy! Just like in that STELLAR Nic Cage movie.

Nooooo…

Anyway, back to mistletoe. Mistletoe is central to a great Norse myth about death and resurrection (DOES THAT SOUND AT ALL FAMILIAR?) the story of Baldur. Baldur was a beautiful god in Norse mythology. He’s the son of Odin and Frigg and he’s beloved by everyone. He’s so beautiful he radiates light. Yeah, that awesome. Anyhoo, Baldur starts to have dreams about his own death and this upsets his mommy, Frigg. She goes around to every substance on the planet and gets them to promise that they won’t harm Baldur ever, making him invulnerable. Problem solved! Right? Well… it seems that Frigg forgot to ask one thing… yep, mistletoe. So, while all the gods are friggin’ around throwing shit at Baldur and laughing when it just bounces off him, the trickster, Loki, always sus, gets the T from mistletoe that Frigg forgot it. Mistletoe just gave up that info, no problem. Stupid crap twig. Loki makes a spear from mistletoe, then he gets the blind guy, Hodur, to whiff it at Baldur. Baldur croaks. Whoops.

Anyway, mistletoe feels shitty about it, being the shit twig that it is, but nobody holds grudges and it ends up being a symbol of peace and love even though it’s a bogarting parasite and it killed the greatest guy ever since like Tom Hanks. Or before. Whatever.

Now we hang it in doorways and if you get caught under there with somebody, you have to kiss them. Nothing says peace and love like forcing people to make out.

And there you go!  We’ve got soooo much planned for this special time of year! We won’t stop til Mariah does!

Until next Tuesday!

Jessica

Beast of the Week: Lake Monsters

The lake is glass—a smooth, dark surface reflecting the ombre oranges, pinks, and lavenders of the morning. Mist rises like smoke, giving an eerie ambience to your spot on the water’s edge. Your campfire crackles. The bacon in the pan sizzles. Off in the distance, a loon cries, telling its secret legends to the forest. 

But wait. What is that floating out there in the water? Driftwood, gnarled and knotty? Remains of a small watercraft? Sleeping bags all tied together, the man-made chrysalis of a half-dozen victims who refuse to be sunk?

Oh. No. It’s just chubby Uncle Merle floating on his back with a Molson balanced on his plentiful belly.

But you know what it could have been? It could have been a lake monster. And after laying eyes on Uncle Merle’s pie-plate nipples, perhaps you’ll wish it was. 

The most infamous lake monster is one that is known the world round: Nessie, or the monster of Loch Ness in Scotland. Tales of this beast inhabiting the lake span all the way back to ancient times. The first written account of Nessie appears to be from a St. Columba in 565 AD., who claimed swimmers were getting chomped by the beast, until he himself intervened and told it to go away. It listened, of course, as giant man-eating lake beasts do. Sure, Columba. Sure. 

Urquhart Castle beside Loch Ness in Scotland, UK.

In 1933, crews completed a road that ran adjacent to Loch Ness. With increased traffic, sightings skyrocketed. People claimed to spy a long, lean beast akin to a dragon, serpent, or prehistoric monster. One couple claimed it moved across the road in front of them and into the water. Others saw its form breaching the lake in arcs. In December 1933, the Daily Mail hired a big game hunter, Marmaduke Wetherall, to locate the fabled lake monster. What he found were large tracks and theorized that a “very powerful animal about six meters long” had made them. It was later discovered that this was a hoax; the tracks were made by a large ashtray that had a decorative hippopotamus foot as a base. I shit you not.

Antique Hippo Foot Ashtray. Not fucking kidding.

Regardless of hoaxes and hippos, the legend stood firm. Folks snapped pics of the elusive Nessie on their cameras, and Loch Ness became a tourist attraction for lore hunters, folk creature fanatics, and connoisseurs of the unexplained.

There are more examples of Nessie-esque creatures in other nooks and crannies of the planet. As a Canadian, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Ogopogo monster of Lake Okanagan. Okanagan Lake is a large fjord lake in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. The folklore of Ogopogo was birthed from First Nations myths, from the tales of the Okanagan peoples—the Secwepemc and Sylic tribes. Legend had it that Naitaka (translated to water-demon, water-god, or sacred creature of the water) was a long dragon serpent that resided in the lake. Naitaka required a live sacrifice from anyone who wished to cross the lake in their canoe—and we’re not talking about poutine or bacon. They’d have to toss a person or animal in for the beast to eat to ensure safe passage across the water. The name morphed from Naitaka to Ogopogo by English songwriters after they took a keen interest in the lake monster. 

Okanagan Lake near Summerland British Columbia Canada with orchard and vineyard in the Foreground

In 1872, Susan Allison documented a sighting of the famous Ogopogo. She was the first white person to live in the region and was there to establish relations with the Indigenous people. She gave a detailed account of a serpentine creature with three humps gliding in the middle of the lake. In the 80s, a local tourism agency offered a cash reward for anyone who could come up with solid proof of Ogopogo’s existence. Greenpeace even stepped in to tell people to document the beast, but DO NOT CAPTURE IT. Because, well, you know Canadians…

Children’s playground in Penticton, British Columbia

Lots of video and pictures were taken in all areas of the lake. Most showed disturbances in the water, solid masses floating too far out to identify, or the infamous humps and head of some mysterious beast. Most of the footage, though inconclusive, challenged the idea of the actual size and existence of Ogopogo, offering up logical explanations such as a raft of otters, driftwood, a dislodged beaver lodge, or an extra-large snake or fish of some sort.

Legends are fascinating. Their origins are steeped in myth and folklore, and live on in the form of tales, both tall and otherwise. Are there lake creatures milling about below the surface of our planet’s bodies of fresh water? Quite possibly. I like to think there is much we don’t know about, beasts included. I do find it telling, however, that in the age of cellphones, sightings of these beasts have dropped off to almost zero. 

I guess will just have to settle for gazing out at the water, at that can of Molson bobbing on Uncle Merle’s gut. 

The Crows of Smith’s Booth

Happy Tuesday!

In September, we did a #tbt on Ash Hartwell’s novel Tip of the Iceberg. Well now Ash Hartwell has a new novel out.

Let’s look at The Crows of Smith’s Booth.

thecrowsofsmithsbooth1aOn the Winter’s Solstice of 1569, the villagers of Smith’s Booth hang three of sisters, accused of witchcraft. Their mother curses the village before stepping into their funeral pyre, while the sheriff spares Calena, the fourth and youngest of the sisters, placing her into The Church’s care.

Three hundred years later, the Archer family return in search of their sister’s corrupt soul and the family’s ancient grimoire.

On the same night, Victoria Wellsby comes of age, receiving a pendant that belonged to her dead mother. By Christmas Day, she will discover her twin sister and her family’s terrible secret. Heartbreak and loss will throw her into the centre of an age-old battle of Good v Evil.

And all the while, the crows will be watching.

“Your deeds of this day will cast a shadow long into your tomorrows!”

Bibliophilia Templum said, “(it) is a Victorian story about a witch’s curse … about love and lies, loyalty and betrayal, Good and Evil,” and called it “an engrossing, creepy, and brutal story full of suspense, intrigue, terror, and gruesome death … a brilliant spin on the traditional stories and legends of witches and curses and the evils that go with them.”

Ash Hartwell’s first novel, Tip of the Iceberg, published by Stitched Smile Publications, was voted Best Horror Novel 2017 by the readers at Critters org and appeared on reading lists for both the Horror Writers Association and British Fantasy Society. The Crows of Smith’s Booth is his second novel. Ash’s stories appear in anthologies published by Old Style Tales, Stitched Smile Publications, Horror Addicts(.)net, and J.E.A Press among others. He has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from MMU and lives in Northamptonshire, England with his wife. He is currently working on his first novella and third novel.

The Crows of Smith’s Booth and Tip of the Iceberg are available on Amazon.


*****

Cyber Monday

Happy Monday! It’s time for Did You Know.

Today is Cyber Monday, a day of celebrated online holiday shopping when there are many sales and discounts to be had. But did you know Cyber Monday was created by the National Retail Federation (NRF) in 2005?

cybermondayIt’s true.

Cyber Monday takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving, two days after Black Friday. The NRF coined the name “Cyber Monday” in 2005, introducing it in a press release that claimed it reflected a trend of spikes in online shopping after Thanksgiving. Online retail outlets were quick to adopt the term and capitalize on the idea.

In more recent years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have turned into a single four-day shopping event with Small Business Saturday stuck in the middle. Some advertised sales start as early as Thanksgiving Day, and many online outlets have Black Friday sales now too.

While Cyber Monday itself is clearly a way to promote spending to boost the economy, buyers are just glad for the discounts.

However, in spite of all the early shopping, there still seems to be no shortage of last-minute shoppers during the holidays. Which are you?


*****

Black Friday

Happy Friday.

In the US, it is Black Friday, this big holiday shopping day.

As your thoughts turn to holiday shopping, remember tomorrow is Small Business Saturday. One might not see the same kinds of sales the big stores have, but supporting small businesses is a great way to spread holiday cheer and often the best way to find unique and special items. And on that note, keep in mind many authors sell signed books direct.

The holidays are not all about presents, though giving is always a wonderful thing.

Some small businesses to consider:

Darque Pixie Designs: https://www.facebook.com/darquepixiedesigns

darquepixie

.

Killer Cords: https://www.killercords.com/

killercords

.

Unsaintly merchandise: https://www.unsaintly.com/merchandise

unsaintlymerch

However you spend the holiday season, stay safe and be kind.


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Unsaintly Art

unsaintlyart1aCome to the world of UNSAINTLY ART.

Multimedia art: AI, acrylic, pencil, ink, digital.

The art of the Unsaintly Queen can be found on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unsaintlyhalo

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Thanksgiving

Happy Monday! It’s time for Did You Know.

Last week we talked about Thanksgiving turkey, and I left you with the phrase “what we call the first Thanksgiving feast” and mentioned it has very little to do with the first Thanksgiving holiday. Let’s look at that today.

HappyThanksgiving1bMany people in the US believe that the current Thanksgiving holiday is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people, which was a 3-day celebration. The truth is the colonists regularly celebrated different days of thanksgiving, as did many cultures throughout the world at the time. The harvest feast was one of many thanksgiving celebrations in many European cultures.

But did you know the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate today was originally a political holiday not associated with the feast of 1621?

It’s true.

The Thanksgiving holiday we have today finally came to be in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Most importantly, that came as the end of a long political process and debate that started in the 1700s. The whole process was, in fact, the government forcing the practice of celebrating Thanksgiving onto the populace in an effort to create unity. The US Thanksgiving holiday has traditionally been as political as celebratory and originally had no connection to the harvest feast of 1621, which obviously did not take place in November. The association with that day was added to symbolize unity, despite the fact the English settlers later went to war with the Wampanoag people.

The Thanksgiving holiday, like so many modern holidays, bloomed from cultural heritages. These cultures practiced celebrations of thanks for food, rain, and other bounties. It is not about the feast of 1621. Your traditions for Thanksgiving, old or new, are what Thanksgiving should be.


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Social Media

Happy Friday!

socialmedia1aThe weekend is upon us, and we would like to take a moment to give a friendly reminder on a currently hot topic.

Social media has become such a big part of our everyday lives, we have forgotten it is not a public service. It’s not something we have a right to, and our legal rights don’t necessarily apply when we use it.

Social media platforms are owned and/or run by companies, organizations, sometimes individuals. It’s their space. They make the rules. The right to freedom of speech does not apply. The right to protection from words and topics one may find upsetting does not apply (outside of those things specifically governed by law). Having an account with/a page on a social media platform allows one to participate, but you agree to follow their rules when you sign up.

Some social media platforms offer extras you can pay for. You don’t have to pay to use the platforms themselves, and you don’t have to subscribe to the paid services, they are one way for the platform to make money because running a platform costs money and the platform is often a business endeavor to make a profit. Conversely, people subscribing to paid services are often using the social media platform to promote themselves or a business.

An example is forums where businesses can pay for their own subforums to advertise services or products. Forums are generally topic specific and will have tighter guidelines on what you can post. The entity or individual running them may also sometimes give subforum space to other people or entities they choose to promote as part of their endeavor, which is a normal thing in forums because they are designed to be more personal and focused. This has been the nature of forums for years and is probably why broad-scope social media platforms became more popular.

The important thing to remember is social media platforms are where you share content and interact with others in someone else’s space. You have a right to your opinion about them and a right to not use them, but except for the rights dictated by the guidelines you agree to, you don’t have a right to much else when you join a platform. You do have the power to control who you interact with and whose content you see, though, so that should be your first line of defense in avoiding undesirable content.

Protect yourself by being aware of who that person is before you accept a friend request or follow someone, utilize privacy and security settings, and enjoy interacting with the people you choose to.

Stay safe.


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Dark Places

Happy Throwback Thursday.

In October of 2018, the story “Mazzie Shade of Winter” by SSP Darque Queen Lisa Vasquez appeared in the charity anthology Dark Places, Evil Faces: Volume II.

darkplacesiiDark Places, Evil Faces is Volume 2 in this Horror and Dark Suspense anthology series. Including works of fiction by Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and many more. All the proceeds raised from the sale of this book will be donated to Rethink Mental Illness.

Within these pages you will find tales of horror and dark fantasy, something for every appetite from some of the finest exponents of their craft.

Other SSP authors in the anthology include Mike Duke, with his story “Confessions of a Righteous Killer,” and Veronica Smith, with her story “Mile Marker 76.”

Dark Places, Evil Faces Volume II has over 30 stories and has 2 tribute pieces. It is available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

For more information on Rethink Mental Illness, go to https://www.rethink.org/


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Almost Normal

Happy Tuesday.

Today we are talking about author Christine Morgan. Christine is known by many for her impactful extreme horror stories and novels. But not everyone cares for extreme horror, and that’s okay. The good news is Christine Morgan does not only write extreme horror. She has a singular talent for creating less graphic folklore, supernatural, and cosmic horror. In June, we looked at her novel Birthright. Today, let’s look at her upcoming collection Almost Normal Horror.

almostnormal“When are you going to write something normal?”

Such a simple question, yet the bane of many a writer. Especially horror writers, for is not horror itself, by its very definition, already abnormal? Isn’t it horror’s basic nature to be, well, kinda messed up?

Christine Morgan—ask anyone who knows her—has not been “normal” for a long, long time. If ever. These sixteen stories, spanning over two decades, demonstrate that even when writing on the less extreme and graphic side of things, she still just somehow ain’t right.

From creepy kids and troubled teens to expectant mothers and put-upon daughters … from giant hummingbirds to tiny tragic kittens … suitcases and mannequins … phobias and madness and more, welcome to what she considers

ALMOST NORMAL HORROR

For more about Christine Morgan, her books and stories, and her editing and proofreading services, visit her website at https://christinemariemorgan.wordpress.com/

Almost Normal Horror is available on Amazon and Godless.


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Thanksgiving Turkey

Happy Monday! It’s time for Did You Know.

It’s November, and that means the Thanksgiving Holiday is approaching in the US, and that means people are talking about turkey.

But did you know that no one knows if turkey was part of what we call the first Thanksgiving feast?

turkeyIt’s true.

Documentation from the time refers to “wild fowl,” which could mean turkey because wild turkey was plentiful and one bird is large enough to feed several people. But it could also have referred to goose or duck. Or it could have meant a combination of wild fowl since there is one other first-hand account that mentions both water fowl and wild turkey.

The Thanksgiving holiday would not come to be for over 200 years after what we call the first Thanksgiving feast, and celebrating with turkey as a main course is thought to be as much a matter of economics as anything.

But why do I keep saying “what we call the first Thanksgiving feast?” Because it has very little to do with the first Thanksgiving holiday. But that’s for another episode of Did You Know.

So, see you next week.


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