Welcome my good friend, Greg Mitchell, to the Occult Detective. Greg and I met through The Midnight Diner, a neat little anthology that we both contributed to a few years back. Greg and I bonded over a mutual appreciation of each others writing and our love and fascination for those things that go bump in the night. Having read Greg’s debut novel, The Strange Man, I can assure you that he knows a thing or two about what scares folk. He invokes a sense of dread, conjuring up the very essence of evil and foreboding doom like few others. With that being said, it is my pleasure to turn over the reins to him today as he shares with you what being scared is all about.
You would think that I like to be scared, judging by the stories that I write. Monsters populate my grisly tales, stalking victims, visiting tragedy and despair on the innocent. Readers have certainly been scared by my writing (in a good way, I hope), but always come to a similar conclusion: “Greg must like being scared.”
On the contrary, I hate being scared.
As I write this, a tornado warning has just been lifted off our small Arkansas town. My wife and two little daughters were huddled in the bathroom, praying that, should a touchdown occur, it’d pass us by. For half an hour, I watched the weather report, pacing between every window in the house, looking for signs of a funnel cloud. I was scared and I didn’t like it.
Growing up, I was pretty much scared of everything—other kids at school, finishing my homework on time, meeting new people, going new places, and reaching adulthood period. Where did I find solace for my fears? Well, my faith, certainly. Since I was about eight, I have relied on God as I’ve understood Him through the Bible, and that’s taken me through life’s darkest hours. But, perhaps ironically to some, the other place I have found warm security is in horror movies. Ghost stories told around a flashlight. Books on urban legends, checked out from my school library. I often found peace in the world of the macabre, because here I could face my fear head-on and survive.
The same can be said of me today, at age thirty-two. I still love monster movies. They still ease my fears and remind me of simpler times. Of fighting off childhood bogeymen.
Being so afraid, it’s no surprise that the characters I gravitated towards in my favorite movies and stories were the monster hunters. Those greater than myself who could protect me should a werewolf or Phantasm’s Tall Man darken my door. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan, not Hugh Jackman), the Frog Brothers from The Lost Boys, Fright Night’s Peter Vincent, or Michael Myers’ nemesis Doctor Sam Loomis. Or perhaps most of all, my greatest childhood heroes—The Real Ghostbusters (yes, I watched the cartoon before the movie. Sue me, I was young), and The Monster Squad. My fondest summer as a boy was spent watching The Monster Squad nearly every single day before rushing outside with my neighborhood chums. We’d assign roles—I insisted on being Rudy—and do battle with invisible hellish beasts. We’d draw maps, form tactics, and bike pedal to the local library to do long hours (probably just thirty minutes) of research on the best ways to kill a vampire, or what Freddy Krueger’s weaknesses were (I settled on fire). We investigated neighborhood houses we believed to be haunted (you’d really think our block was sitting on a Hellmouth, by how many “discoveries” we made), and we kept each other in the loop when rumors surfaced of a local Bigfoot sighting. We had our own little Monster Squad and I’ll never forget it. Looking back, it was a powerful experience for me as a ten/eleven-year-old boy. I found my courage, tested my wits, and, best of all, faced my fears. Those were scary times—we often convinced ourselves of supernatural happenings and, while it was nothing but children’s overactive imaginations, it was real to us. To me. And I fought it. I was a monster hunter.
Writing, these days, is about recapturing that fearlessness of my youth. About lassoing my deepest fears of the Bogeyman and binding him to the printed page—and then fighting him. My novel The Strange Man is one such tale, the first of a trilogy about ordinary people learning how to be heroes. How to fight devils. It’s about coming of age and finding the strength to face our demons. It’s about faith, God, doubt, regret—but at the heart of it all it’s about me, still a boy looking for monsters in the dark places, ready to drive them back with the light of day.
ABOUT THE STRANGE MAN: Dras Weldon lives in a world of horror movies and comic books. Twenty-two and unemployed, he is content to hide in the shadow of adolescence with a faith that he professes but rarely puts into action. But when a demonic stranger arrives and begins threatening his friends, Dras is drawn into a battle that forces him to choose which side he is on. In a race against the clock, he must not only fight these evil forces but also somehow convince his best friend, Rosalyn, to join him–before she is lost forever.