Archive for the Horror Category

New Promotional Poster

Posted in Horror, Investigations, Magick, Occult Detectives, Paranormal on September 19, 2022 by Occult Detective

Lonely House by Michelle Belanger

Posted in Book Review, Horror, Paranormal on July 28, 2022 by Occult Detective

Bordermen Games

Michelle Belanger is an occult expert and author of more than thirty books on paranormal topics. You probably know Michelle best from appearances on A&E’s Paranormal State and the Travel Channel’s Portals to Hell. In addition, Michelle also creates tabletop games.

Michelle’s Ouila Board Scramble is a lot of fun (and a great tool for any horror themed rpg), Midnight’s Kiss is a solid gothic rpg, and I also have read Michelle’s work on World of Darkness: Ghost Hunters. All to say, Michelle does solid work in the gaming community, in case you weren’t aware.

Michelle’s latest is an immersive storytelling rpg, billed as “a solo game of collaborative fiction”, called Lonely House. It is a storytelling game, which tend to be really hit or miss with me (usually miss), but right out of the proverbial gate I could tell Lonely House was something special.

The…

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Now Available: Running Home to Shadows: Memories of TV’s First Supernatural Soap from Today’s Grown-Up Kids #DarkShadows

Posted in Horror, Media, Writing on April 7, 2022 by Occult Detective

The anthology Running Home to Shadows: Memories of TV’s First Supernatural Soap from Today’s Grown-Up Kids is now available on Amazon, and for less than $10. Invited to submit my history with the famed cult classic, I was also able to introduce Jim Beard, our esteemed ringleader, to both Mark Rainey and Elizabeth Massie, two of my favorite authors, and who co-penned my favorite Dark Shadows novel, Dreams of the Dark.

Dark Shadows meant everything to me as a child, and being given the opportunity to share my love for Shadows and Dan Curtis was a thrill. The fact that this anthology was put together to honor Jim’s late wife, author Becky Beard, made the experience all the more poignant. And I got to share a Table of Contents with some of my favorite people.

If you’re a fan of Dark Shadows, then this anthology is the love letter you’ve been waiting for.

School’s out, Barnabas is IN!

They were a generation all their own, the army of children who ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows, TV’s very first supernatural soap. A breed apart, they set aside the worship of mundane pop stars to follow vampires, witches, and werewolves. From 1966 to 1971, they were daytime Monster Kids…and today they have stories to tell.

Writer-editor Jim Beard has gathered these grown-up kids together in this tome to tell those tales. Their experiences are sometimes tragic and terrifying, yet also uplifting and inspirational, but above all, Dark Shadows touched them so deeply as to leave an indelible impression on their lives that lasts to this day.

Return to Collinwood to brave the stormy nights and rainswept days of yore to listen to this coven of writers spin yarns of childhood encounters with Barnabas, Angelique, Quentin, Vicky, Maggie, and their compatriots. Cross the threshold of the Old House, take a seat by the crackling fire, and make yourself comfortable to the strains of maudlin music issuing forth from the gramophone—the ghosts of the past are about to arise in RUNNING HOME TO SHADOWS. Won’t you join us?

Edited by Jim Beard with Charles R. Rutledge

Cover Illustration by Mark Maddox with Logo Design and Formatting by Maggie Ryel

Foreword by Kathryn Leigh Scott

Featuring Essays by Greg Cox, Mark Dawidziak, Dave Dykema, Bob Freeman, Ed Gross, Nancy Holder, Tina Hunt, Katherine Kerestman, Mark Maddox (with Ed Catto), Elizabeth Massie, Kimberly Oswald, Martin Powell, Dana Pride, Mark Rainey, Michael Rogers, Charles R. Rutledge, Chris Ryan, Frank Schildiner, Duane Spurlock, and Jeff Thompson.

Afterword by Rich Handley

Addendum: A big shout out to our editors. Jim was great to work with and extremely communicative (and he delivered a heartfelt introduction), and my pal Charles Rutledge was a lifesaver, catching a slight error that really improved my essay. Cheers to both.

Do you dare take the #FacesOfHorror Challenge?

Posted in Horror on March 14, 2022 by Occult Detective

Here’s a list of questions I’m seeing answered on youtube (first via Michael K. Vaughan). Up for the challenge?

1. A horror story that scared or disturbed you.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

I read this in 1976, a few years after I had seen the film. Yeah, I think disturbed would be the right word here. Watching the movie as an eight year old gave me nightmares. When I read the book at ten, those nightmares returned, but dialed up to eleven. Needless to say, I was far too young to have seen the film or read the book.

2. A horror story that depressed you or made you cry.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Masterfully written, I received this book from my wife for Christmas not long after its release. I tore right into it and subsequently sank into a funk for the next month after.

3. A horror story that made you laugh.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Pratchett is the master of comedic prose and Good Omens is littered with great characters and complex plot, all with a diabolic backdrop that makes this the very best of both worlds.

4. A horror story that made you angry.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Based on a true story, this could have easily been the answer to either of the first two prompts, but having read this in my early twenties, I think anger fits the bill. Being a Hoosier, I knew the story of Sylvia Likens all too well, but the graphic nature of Dallas’ prose brought all that to life. I felt tremendous sadness for the victim, but the rage I felt toward her tormentors eclipsed that and then some.

5. A horror story that is important to you.

Pigeons from Hell by Robert E. Howard

I had been a Conan fan for years, but it was my classmate Laurie Klein, whom you probably know better as Laurell K. Hamilton, who turned me on to Howard’s horror fiction. The first of those I read, Pigeons from Hell, opened up a whole,new world to me.

6. A non-horror story that you consider horror.

This a hard category, mainly because labels are often disingenuous. I thought of Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, but I think it IS horror. So I’m trying to think of something that is more obviously one genre, but clearly steeped in another. I think under those terms, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series fits the bill. It is most certainly a fantasy series, first and foremost, but the White Walkers chapters are clearly horror and chillingly written.

Girls and Boys Come Out to Play

Posted in Archive, Horror, Tarot on January 17, 2022 by Occult Detective

Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day;
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
And come with your playfellows into the street.
Come with a whoop, come with a call,
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A halfpenny roll will serve us all.
You find milk, and I’ll find flour,
And we’ll have a pudding in half an hour.

Still feeling the weight of my recent bout with COVID and some other unfortunate events over the past 40 days, give or take. I will, if the gods are willing and the creek don’t rise, see to publishing some reviews on Tuesday.

I leave you with this shot of the lovely Michaela Tippett modeling Amber Petty’s Tarot Tea House merch featuring “The High Priestess” from a Tarot Deck I designed what feels like a lifetime ago.

Holiday Horrors

Posted in Current Events, Horror on December 28, 2021 by Occult Detective

I quite liked the image above. So much promise contained within its simplicity. And the idea started out well enough, with the serialization of “Dreams of Winter”, a Landon Connors tale that was fresh to most eyes, buried as it was in an anthology that, while it had a slate of solid authors, didn’t sell exceptionally well. This, you’ll find, is the general case with most anthologies that do not include authors like King, Gaiman, Martin, and the like. But I digress.

I had intended to spend December sharing ghost stories with you, my friends, in that most time honored tradition. I have my fair share of those both real and imagined, but I ended up involved in a different sort of holiday horror story. I caught the dreaded COVID, and shortly after a protracted ear infection that laid me quite low.

COVID has been everything I feared it might be. And I say “has been” because I am still snookered by it. More than 20 days of it, and each moment I think I’ve turned the corner, I find myself hit with another debilitating bout of coughing that leaves me exhausted beyond all measure.

It’s been a struggle, for me and my family. My son, thankfully recovered fairly quickly. My wife has not been as lucky, I’m afraid. As for me, I did receive a monoclonal infusion, but it didn’t seem to take.

I am better today than yesterday. At this point, that’s good enough.

So, apologies for Yuletide Spirits to largely be a bust this year. I had such hopes, but we look now to a brighter year ahead. Next week I plan to post my annual Occult Detective Awards, and I will follow that with some smashing reviews, then it will be time to hunker down and figure out a way to navigate these pandemic waters.

I fear this is the world we shall be living in now and as such we will all need to make more permanent adjustments.

Cheers, dear sleuths. Pray these dark gods notice us less as we roll into 2022: Electric Boogaloo

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (4/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 5, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

IV

I stagger through the thick snow, following the vampire’s trail into the woods that run alongside Pipe Creek. My vision is blurred and I’m losing too much blood. I cast a quick spell, but it’s a mere band-aid. My whole world is pain. I set it aside and press on. The cruor geminus will not go far. It can’t. The smell of my blood will be too much for it to ignore. It will come for me and most likely finish me off, but not without a fight.

            My head is swimming now. I’m in someone’s backyard. I can hear the creek behind me, smell the pine of the woods. I don’t know how I got here. Everything’s coming and going in flashes. The bite on my arm isn’t deep, but it’s poisonous. The vampire’s foul venom is working its way through my system. I have to find it. Have to end this. A shadow ahead. I see a manger scene, the baby Jesus surrounded by its mother and father, animals and wisemen. The shadow is framed by a Christmas Angel hovering above the manger, its lights blinking in an eclectic rhythm. My heart thunders in time with those angel wings.

            “Landon.”

            The voice is coming from the angel.

            I stagger toward it, lumbering, limping against the pain in my ravaged knee, cane dragging along through the snow loosely, carving a snaking trail through the fresh powder. The shadow comes forward revealing a different angel.

            “Sarah,” I choke. I taste blood on my lips. “You shouldn’t… be here. Run, young one. Be safe.” I lose my footing and descend to the ground onto my hands and knees. “Run, damn it.”

            “No, Landon,” she says. She lowers herself to me, cups my face in her hands. “I’ll not abandon you, my dear sweet Doctor.” I’m lost in her eyes. In her youth… her beauty. She leans in toward me, lips parting, coming dangerously close to mine.

            This is how it ends for the occult detective? With a kiss from a fiery-haired angel, bled out in the snow with the failed dream of winter on my lips? I rise up on my knees as she lays my head to the side. Her lips brush mine on her way to my neck. I feel her hot breath on my cold flesh. Then she’s gone… an explosion erupts across the lawn and I see two Sarahs — one struggling up from the ground, a spray of blood across the virgin snow —  the other holding a smoking Ruger .357.

            “Get away from him, you monster!”

            The beast transforms before my eyes. Sarah no more as it assumes the shape of Edward and marches toward her. Sarah fires again, and once more, but the fiend shrugs them off. I reach deep down inside me and rise, raising my cane and swinging it with all my might. It connects with the back of the cruor geminus’ head. The beast spins about and I charge.

            With the cane before me like a knight’s lance, I drive the shaft home, straight through the vampire’s chest, piercing the foul thing’s heart and driving it back into the manger. The angel overhead comes crashing down and the cruor geminus becomes entangled in the wire frame and blinking lights. As the sun rises, the fiend dies before our eyes, its body bound by the illuminating lights of a Christmas Angel.

            “Huh,” Sarah says, “I guess sometimes vampires do sparkle.”

The End

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (3/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 4, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

III

Magick has its advantages. Case in point, I am standing in the corner of a fifteen year old girl’s bedroom, completely invisible to any who might look my way. No scent to detect, no heat signature to register, not even the sound of my breathing can be heard. On the bed, Sarah Jones, lies suggestively draped across the top of her pink and mauve comforter, dressed in a black tank top and skirt that makes her pale flesh seem like alabaster. As she clicks away on her laptop computer, I make the mental calculations necessary to ensure that she does not become victim number four.

            I know what you’re thinking. No, I’m not some kind of pervert, though I might be scolded for placing such a young and vibrant child in mortal danger. Thing is, Sarah Jones is not your average fifteen year old. Imagine Nancy Drew, if you will, but with a bit more piss and vinegar. As Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes had his Baker Street Irregulars, I too have allies that fall somewhat south of the legal drinking age. Sarah is a paranormal investigator, being an integral cog in the so-called Ghostwriters Society that are comprised of author Steven Parker’s sons Dale and Allen, and Sarah’s cousin Cassidy Martin. They have been tested by fire on more than one occasion. Still, I feel somewhat guilty for using the fiery-haired teen as my proverbial hare in a snare. She was, of course, willing enough. Quite eager even. But as a rock gently raps against her bedroom window, I pray that my confidence in hers and my ability is not found wanting.

            Sarah rolls off the bed and approaches the window. She steals a glance toward me and I grind my teeth in anticipation. It must be unnerving for her, trusting that, though she cannot see me, I am in fact there ready to spring into action. She grips the window and opens it cautiously, the bitter cold of winter racing into the room.

            “Hello, Bella,” I hear the cruor geminus say. Softly. Seductively. “May I come inside?”

            Does her skin crawl? No. I see her sway, sense her body’s relaxing shift from heightened awareness to that of wanton desire. Can the creature’s powers be so overwhelming? She backs away from the window and calls to him.

            “Come to me, my love.”

            She is entranced. There is no mistake. My plan is unraveling before me. I prepare a counter spell, but already it’s too late. The creature is inside the room in an instant. She and I see it as it wishes to be seen, as a handsome young man with powder white flesh and full, pouting lips. It’s hair in a mock pompadour, flashing pearly white teeth behind golden eyes. The illusion is intoxicating, even for me. It leans in toward Sarah, its lips parted, moist and hungry.

            Leaping forward from my concealing spell, the head of my cane flares to life, bright and as radiant as the sun. It is enough to give the beast pause. What I didn’t expect was for Sarah to turn on me, grabbing a pair of scissors from her nightstand, and charging at me like a thing possessed. Yes, possessed — enthralled — and filled with lustful desire for her faux-Edward.

            I raise my cane too late as the scissors find the back of my hand. As I push her aside, I am met by the creature’s full force as it barrels into me, knocking me into the girl’s closet, splintering the bi-fold doors. I collapse to the floor, clothes falling from the rack overhead, blinding me as a rain of furious blows connect with my ribs, arm, and face. It’s fangs find bare flesh. It burns like fire. The smell and taste of my blood has the beast in a ravenous frenzy. It is by sheer willpower that I am able to conjure a magical counter to its devastating assault.

            A blast of eldritch energy explodes from my left hand hurling the cruor geminus into the far wall. I struggle to my feet, telekinetically call my cane back into my bleeding right hand, and approach the foul creature wearing a heartthrob’s face. Bearing its fangs, I grimace as I meet its aggression by swinging the cane like a bat, striking the beast full in the face. The cruor geminus falls back and through the window amidst a crash of broken glass. I approach cautiously but caught unprepared as Sarah buries the scissors into my right shoulder. I scream in agony, but am able to turn and grab the girl by her face.

            “Quiesco,” I say, softly, and Sarah Jones crumbles to the ground.

            The pain is exquisite. It sets my mind afire and it’s all I can do to jerk the instrument free. I stumble forward, to the window, and climb out, bleeding profusely from hand and shoulder. I can feel my ribs grinding in my chest and I’m all but certain that I’ve a fractured forearm.

            This is not how I’d planned tonight’s operation.

Movie Review: Found-Footage “Documentary” Holes in the Sky: The Sean Miller Story

Posted in Horror, Media, Paranormal on December 3, 2021 by Occult Detective

First of all, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: Ash Hamilton is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for twenty years. We co-managed a Books-A-Million, we kicked around various comic projects, we’ve broken bread, I’ve been a guest on a couple of different podcasts he’s hosted, and we generally share a common love for horror, fantasy, comic books, and, well, all manner of pop cultural and conspiratorial phenomena.

That said, if this movie sucked, I would tell you, and I would bust on him gleefully until he started to whimper.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case.

Holes in the Sky: The Sean Miller Story, written and directed by my pal, has raked in a Brinks Truck worth of awards and accolades… and I’m happy to report after finally viewing the thing, it’s worth every bit of praise.

Ever since The Blair Witch Project dropped many moons ago we’ve been waiting to see the found footage documentary genre taken to the next level. Hellier, that magnificent paranormal entertainment series from Greg and Dana Newkirk, Karl Pfeiffer, and Connor Randall, tapped into this in their two season opus and legitimized the hunger for this type of storytelling. Holes in the Sky, while not quite elevated to Hellier standards, is in that same vein and a compelling and nail biting love letter to all those things that gave me thrills as a child growing up in the rural Midwest.

Holes in the Sky explores “a documentary film crew’s efforts to make a movie detailing the 2013 alien abduction of Illinois resident Sean Miller. A five-day shoot turns into a life-changing experience for everyone involved as events spiral out of control.”

The strength of the film lies in the superb performances by all those involved. This story feels real. All the people on camera are believable. Everyone seems natural. And the creepiest moments are beautifully shot. Ash does a great job of building tension and delivering legitimate chills.

Look, I grew up on UFO and Bigfoot sightings, ghost stories, and abduction narratives. Ash’s love for these same things really comes through on camera, and by firmly grounding it in the “Midwestern Gothic” atmosphere, it delivers a believable and ultimately terrifying tale.

This is a movie you’re going to want to watch late at night with the lights off.

On a scale of 1-5, this movie gets a solid 6 from me.

Addendum: I mentioned Ash and I kicked around some comic ideas back in the day. Here’s a little sample of something we were working on some 15 or so years ago. We should really get around to finishing it…

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (2/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Yuletide on December 3, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

II

Let’s get a few things straight. First, vampires don’t sparkle, despite what Megan Gamble’s late night reading might suggest. That’s right, of the eighteen varieties of bloodsucking fiends my family has cataloged over the years, not a one of them shimmer by sunlight. Granted, a couple of them do burst into flame when exposed to the sun’s attention, but that’s a far cry from all that sexy glimmering.

            I guess that leads into my second point, as in why I know these things to be true. My name is Landon Connors — Dr. Landon Connors, actually — and I hunt monsters (among other things). I came by this ‘profession‘ honestly enough. I guess you might say it’s the family business, though family is a looser term now seeing as I’m the only one left and I’m not exactly the marrying kind. My official title is ‘occult detective’ and yes, I wear a trenchcoat and fedora. Some cliches are just too good to mess with.

            Back at Caer Caliburn, the aged Victorian that my family has called home since the late 1800s, I diligently peruse the tattered Liber Monstrorum, a grimoire and bestiary of sorts that my forefathers have passed down through the years. Reading an entry by my great-grandfather, Gabriel Connors, regarding the cruor geminus, I find confirmation of my suspicions regarding Megan Gamble’s killer. Of course, she is not the only victim. There have been two others in as many months. All with the same telltale throat wounds. All with the same proclivity for reading material. Each a wannabe Bella. Each an eager vessel drained dry by a foul creature wearing an Edward mask.

            The cruor geminus is a nasty little beast with the ability to assume the appearance of someone their intended victim knows and trusts. And I’m pretty sure I’ve tracked this particular one before. The Cullen thing certainly fits his modus operandi. In the nineties, it trawled for victims wearing the face of Brad Pitt’s Louis. It’s a game for this damnable creature, wearing the cinematic face of the vampire, enticing its victims by playing to their erotic fantasies.

            But the game’s almost over. Though the three most recent victims had no physical connection to one another, I uncovered a cyber one. Each belonged to an online community, a messageboard upon which they poured out their longings for a romantic tryst with their undead paramour. All I needed was someone to use as bait for the cruor geminus, a lovely young girl to which the beast could not resist. Unfortunately for it, I have just the girl in mind for the job.

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