Adam Light has been one of my cheerleaders since I first began book blogging, and along with his brother, participated in the very first Halloween shenanigans – back in 2014 when this thing only lasted SIX days. Unfortunately, as happens, life kept getting in the way after his second Halloween appearance, and he was unable to share in the frivolities… until this year. He mentioned that he was going to write me a little story (the two of them each surprised me with stories in 2015) and I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that. I have been a fan of the Light Brothers since I first started reading their stories and feel honored to share this, Part 2 of one of my absolute favorite stories by him (Tommy Rotten). Make sure you turn the lights off for this one… for dramatic effect. They are the PERFECT tale for the Friday before Halloween.

The Rottens

The Donnerly House languished in utter disrepair at the end of Cypress Lane, where once upon a time an opportunistic killer had taken a boy’s life, and started the legend of Tommy Rotten.

The boy, Tommy Rachen, had vanished without a trace on Halloween, and it was said that he now haunted the Donnerly House, and lured other children into his pumpkin patch to “rot” with him. Thus, the name.

The local legend had grown when a girl from a nearby home had disappeared on Halloween a few years ago. It had been whispered that Tommy Rotten had taken a wife. And now their tale’s woeful lesson gained traction not just in the neighborhood, but across the state, and beyond.

Carol Rotten only wanted one thing, a child. There was a growing divide between Tommy and her, a hole only the love of a child could fill.

Though she had sought out her new husband willingly enough, he had thoughtlessly pulled her over to this wasteland, and imprisoned her with him.

There was no escape, but in true death. She was content to stay in whatever state that passed for life she existed in now, but she needed some better company if she was going to be damned to rot with Tommy.

Tommy had sternly warned her that if she crossed back to the other side, she would not last very long, as the dead could never be reinstated into the world of the living, having long ago left their corporeal selves behind.

This was why he had drawn her to him, by tapping into the supernatural energy that flowed through the pumpkins that grew here, harnessing the power of his will to control the vines, and though the vines had taken her from that mortal coil, his love for her was also able to preserve her in death for eternity with him, here in their paradise of eternal life.

He had the power to control reality itself, but he stubbornly denied to use it for her benefit, claiming he felt horrible for killing Carol, and did not wish to take another child from its parents.

Carol understood this, and she loved Tommy with her very being, but she needed more. And she knew that Tommy was slightly power mad.

“My sweetest Carol,” he professed, “please understand that taking a living soul requires so much power that it nearly cracked the moon and scattered the stars the night you came to me.” He boasted, and paused for effect. “I also doubt you’d be able to live with yourself after taking a poor child’s mortal soul away from their poor mother.”

He eyed her, though maggots crawled in the empty socket like animated rice instead of eyeballs, which never ceased to make her smile. She never thought too hard about the fact that she probably appeared the same to him.

The moon and stars had not been in any danger that night, and he was well aware of it. He liked to exaggerate. Carol didn’t appreciate it much.

The pull of motherhood persisted like the tides, a power of nature itself, and though her longing consumed her, she resisted for as long as she could, hoping that some wayward child would seek her out.

After all, she wasn’t a killer.

Nor was she evil.

Was she?

She could no longer be sure it mattered either way now that she was dead.

Still, Tommy had taken Carol from her life, and damned her to an eternity of nothingness in his kingdom of rotted fruit, and his wormy company, which proved inadequate to long sustain happy feelings, much less love. She wanted a baby, and taking the child was the only way it was going to happen. She had to convince Tommy to help her.

There was no escape from this place. Tommy argued that she had wanted to be here, and no one should be alone, even him, and because of his loneliness, he had wrongly taken her. But she had been keen to come here, nevertheless. Though he had guilt over it, it was not so bad that it had prevented him from killing her.

After all else failed, she threatened to throw herself back to the other side, so she could just die. She knew there was a way to do it, and he knew she wasn’t bluffing.

The thought of losing Carol was too horrifying to seriously ponder. He simply would not allow it. So, reluctantly, he agreed to help her.

And then, a few days before Halloween, a young girl, no more than 10 years old, came strolling up to the fence.

Charity Crane knew the stories, but still braved the trek down to the old spooky place, and faced the Donnerly House with a challenging smirk on her rosy ten-year-old face.

She was far from brave, but she was intensely curious about Tommy and Carol. Their story held her in sway. They wanted a perfect child.

Charity’s own mother was not much company to her now that dad was gone. The woman had been drowning her sorrows in the bottle for nearly two years, and wanted little more in life other than getting plowed.

There were no friends, no hobbies for Charity. Nothing really caught her attention like the story of these ghosts in her very own neighborhood.

Charity came to the fence, willingly enough. The girl’s shining presence held sway over all things out there in the land of the living, or so it seemed. To Carol’s mind, Charity was the one she had known would come.

Together, she and Tommy watched the girl curiously poking around in the honeysuckle that draped the chain linked enclosure, trailing her fingers lightly, but with little trepidation, only interest bordering on awe.

“She must know about us!” Carol gleefully shouted

Carol was over the bloated corpse moon with delight.

“Of course, she knows about us,” he chided, “what else do you suppose brought her to the creepy old deserted house, if not the spooky tales of Tommy Rotten and his Undead Wife?”

He thought he was funny, but Sally didn’t. She felt ridiculed, mocked. If she had cheeks, they would have been red. If she had tears, they would have spilled over her cheeks in tiny waterfalls.

Carol went on, doing her best to ignore mean old Tommy’s blasé reaction. “I can feel her looking for us, Tommy! If only she could see us. Can we take her now?”

“Not now. Only on Halloween.”

“Dammit, but okay. Fair enough, Tommy.”

She twirled her way gracefully, carelessly, Tommy might have said, down the front steps, out into the pumpkin patch, over to the fence where merely

fragrant flowering vines and metal mesh – not to mention the veil between life and death, of course – lay between her and the curious child.

Charity was truly special. She was brooding and intelligent, shining with a brilliance that could be seen as a hopeful aura, and smelled a thousand times sweeter than the most fragrant flowers draped between them. At once, she knew there was a deep well of sadness inside the girl, and that was the moment their noses were an inch apart.

Carol could take this girl’s sadness and make her whole.

The time was almost right. It was nearly Halloween. This was evident in the plumping of the pumpkins. The moon had grown cheeky, as well. Indeed, it may even be in full blaze come the magic night.

Carol watched Tommy as he whispered, cricket calls in the wind, his hollow eyes reflecting nothing, showing only the nothing that was, and the worms that wriggled. She could see the transmissions from his toothless smile, the bottom jaw cracked and splintered down the right side, a delicate fissure that threatened to eventually give way, and then what?

Tommy and Sally were bound together in their postmortem fairy tale marriage, and soon they would make it a true family.

Halloween came floating around as it does every year. It was a cool, pleasant day, and it fell on a Saturday, so the kids had the run of the weekend for their special holiday. It promised to be a Halloween for the ages.

Carol and Tommy embraced in the pumpkin patch, and stared deep into each other’s souls. Unbeknownst to Carol, Tommy had held Charity in his sway from that moment she’d arrived at the fence until now. For this to work, it was necessary for Charity to be extremely suggestible, for a stubborn soul could fight them off, and it would be for nothing.

“Charity!” their voices in unison called to her. Sang to her in mellifluous tones, enchanting her thoughts with their silky vibrations prodding into the deepest space between one world and the next. “Charity, its’s time to come home.”

“Are you sure this will work, Thomas?”

He grinned lasciviously, but the reason for his mischievous demeanor remained hidden on that shining curved slab of bone, broken and sagging, cracked and moldering in a couple of places, jaw slightly askew.

“What makes you think it won’t work, Carol my sweet?” “Never mind. Just hold me.”

They embraced again on that night of mist-shrouded moonlight, through the veneer of Spanish moss-laden limbs, and spider webs dotted with tiny cocoons. Their voices in unison, blasted out from eternity and into the hallowed night.

Their light blazed through the Halloween night. It came through the house, the fence, the vines, the pumpkins, and finally through her and Tommy. Eldritch beams shone and coalesced into a bridge of light arcing across the black sky, down through the trees and out of sight.

Carol and Tommy locked bony fingers, and rode the beams together.

The bridge conveyed their spirits out of death’s palace, and into the living world, past the sign reading Sunny River Estates, the housing development where their precious child currently awaited their arrival.

In the diminutive house on Tallow Lane, Charity cowered in the corner of her bedroom, while her mother slept drunkenly in the tattered old recliner adjacent the front door, whiskey bottle and old tattered bible forgotten where they lay at her feet. She snored like an aging old hound as the vines crept into the house through a portal which had opened in the hall.

The vines crept along the walls, and slinked over to where the large woman slept. Then one of them inch-wormed its way up her nightgown, and up her ample bosom. It stopped, inches from her face, while more caught up.

Mother slowly stirred, and when she opened her mouth to yawn, the vines rushed in and filled up her lungs.

All afternoon, Charity had waited in her bedroom, knowing that something was going to happen, but unable to put it into words. She felt like she was about to die. Because she had nobody and nothing to really lean on, she felt as if she was nothing more than a ghost anyway.

And now, the monsters had come. They were here for her.

“Mama!” Charity tried to scream, but that single word croaked out maybe an inch from her sweaty face and died. She saw the vines, and two lumbering skeletons behind them, closely followed by eerily glowing pumpkins, as they all poured forth from the tunnel in her wall.

The vines enveloped her.

Charity fought and tore at the ropy attackers, but her strength was inadequate to the task. She weakened easily, and she was easily subdued.

She felt a sudden loosening, as if she had become unhinged and had fallen out of gravity’s hold, and into the air above her. She had screwed her fists into her eyes to shield her from this horror show, but she now quickly opened them, and wildly surveyed the scene. She screamed in horror as

Tommy and Carol Rotten materialized out of the opening in the wall in front of her.

Though Charity had initiated the contact with them, she had not really believed the Rottens were real, or that they could physically harm her or her mom.

But they had come for her, and they meant to kill her.

She had known her situation was about to get infinitely worse, and a gasp of terror and perhaps a bit of joy intermingled and caught in her throat, as the pumpkin vines knotted around her wrists and ankles, looped around her waist. Then, the vines gracefully lifted Charity into the hole in the wall with them. The tunnel through the wall impossibly stretched on and on, though the hallway should have been inches away, just on the other side of it.

She screamed as loud as she could, but her cries were cut short by the coiling vines, as they rushed in.

The two skeletal ghouls reached out of the darkness and grabbed Charity tightly and immediately the vines retreated back, releasing her to their masters and her new parents, the Rottens, to whom cruel fate had bequeathed her immortal soul.

Charity was transported then to her new life with the Rottens. She was reminded of a film, the name of which floated just out of reach. It was of little consequence, though. No part of her past life mattered any longer, now that she was dead.

Wanting only to curl up into a ball and cry, Charity was instead gathered into Carol’s dead, loving arms and held close to that awful, fleshless breastbone, and that new mother of hers hummed a sweet, lovely tune to her.

Though she had no ear to hear it, she did hear, and the wordless melody quieted her turbulent soul, just enough to ease her anxiety, if only for a fleeting time.

As she faded into unconsciousness, one thought came through with perfect clarity, just before she slept. She would bide her time, but one day she would have her revenge on the Rottens.

Boo-graphy: Adam Light writes stories both weird and horrifying. Most of his previous short fiction is now collected in Dreams for the Dying, published by Corpus Press in 2021. He is currently working on more.

Tommy Rotten: A Halloween Tale — Tommy Rotten lies immersed in a billowing blanket of fog, wringing his cold hands in elated anticipation. He is optimistic that this year someone will finally come. He fantasizes about the potential candidates that will come tromping through the neighborhood, roaming the night in their delightfully hideous homages to the serial killers and demons and ghouls – normally inhabitants of their nightmares – but tonight, Halloween, brings them endless delight.

Dreams for the Dying — Bad dreams don’t always evaporate in the light of day.

Some refuse to fade, forever haunting dark corners of consciousness:

The dread of an approaching headlight on a deserted road . . .
Swirling black clouds claiming the sky, bringing death and madness . . .
The cabin of a trucker’s rig, where a waitress lies bound and gagged . . .
A cursed soul in a moonlit pumpkin patch, desperate and lonely . . .

These are songs for the damned, poisons for the cure, and Dreams for the Dying.

For years, Adam Light has frightened and delighted readers around the world with his stories of horror and the bizarre. Fully revised to best represent the author’s original vision, these fearsome tales of the macabre are finally collected under a single cover for the first time.


Anyone who has ever asked me for a horror book recommendation can tell you that somewhere in the list is something by John Boden. He is not only one of my favorite people (when we met at a con, he actually KNEW who I was – I will never get over how important that made me feel) but one of my favorite authors. Everything he has written has been… perfect. He writes characters that could be any one of us and puts them in stories that you feel like you’re experiencing along with the people on the pages. I absolutely can’t get enough. So when he reached out and offered to write a story for this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, there was NO WAY I was going to turn him down. He took this a bit further by telling me to select a few tropes he could choose from to create this bit of flash fiction. I was super excited… and also drew the BIGGEST blank EVER haha. What could I say? I asked the people in the Halloween Extravaganza 2022 Facebook group if they had any ideas and got a few things, but the only thing I could think about was how much I absolutely ADORE Carnival Horror and if anyone could write something to satisfy that need, it would be him. So… here we go. Let me know what you think?

The Pretender

The slight young man just stared at the faded and mildew dotted banner that sagged between the wooden poles at the edge of the old carnival grounds. He had walked there slowly and alone, without even paying attention to how much the town had changed in the few years since the last time he had made that trek.

Hometowns don’t change.They age but always manage to open their arms.

Cadamn was just such a town. A mile and a half along either side of the two lane paved road, with two alleys running behind the main street buildings and the back street, some of those having a small splinter off or access road but mostly beyond the houses that lined the alleys were just woods or derelict fields of high grass and weeds. The Friend family had lived in the house that squatted atop the hill as you came into the town’s west end. A large brick troll that stared down on the burg with window eyes and a bricked porch that jutted like a belly to the waiting earth. It had been the a great house for the family until things cracked and broke away.

A family can be just like a precious dish, that first drop can sometimes cause it to shatter, or just leave a single deep crack that will spawn others to join it over time. When dad left to start a new life with a new woman, that was the crack. When Mom stopped talking as much and began to take long walks alone in her head, when meals were forgotten and he had to step up to assure he was fed, that his clothes were clean and in decent repair, that was another. By the time he had managed to limp through school and see graduation within his reach, Jamie Friend had kicked the surname to the curb. He found it vile in the juxtaposition of the behavior of the man who branded tethered them to it and the terms definition.

“Just Jamie” was the answer whenever he was asked his name. Never any more or less. 

Jamie pulled his mind back to the present and focused tired eyes on the banner once more, CARNIVAL in large block letters, dimmed by time and sunlight. Generic. Punctuating the one word declaration was a cartoonish rendering of a man. A bearded man with a large open mouth, black as an eye socket but lined with tiny points under a porcine nose and flat eyes that were painted a bright red, the only real color on the cracked vinyl. Jamie took a step towards the entrance, which was anywhere, not like the hole in the rolled snow fence as when he was a kid. There was no barrier, nothing but the banner strung between the poles. Frayed rope ends batting against the wood in the slight breeze. Jamie took a step and stopped at the implied threshold. The high grass hadn’t even been cut down and there were no paths or bare spots from foot traffic. He felt a flutter in his chest as he scanned the grounds. The bingo pavilion was empty, The wooden tables and benches bowed by time and elements. A canvas for the art of bird shit. No old folks beneath a cloud of cigarette smoke gossiping as they waited for the elusive letter number combination that would land them a new electric skillet or  forty bucks.

The concrete building where the fire company had always sold their fundraising food during that one week in the death wheeze of summer was shuttered and silent. No waft of vinegar and hot grease. No odor of french fries and hamburgers. No one hollering and laughing. Just brittle abandonment and quiet. Jamie looked at the spot near the corner of the building where old man Stuckey used to sit with a bucket at his feet and his harmonica to his mouth and play and sing until the ride were stopped and the lights winked out. He would then lift the bucket of change and crumpled dollars and go to the fireman’s building window and hand it to the folks inside, always saying the same thing.

“If I ever catch fire, this is so you’ll put me out.” He’d chuckle and that one tooth he had would shine in the light. Then he’d walk out of the grounds and across the street to the little trailer he shared with his blind cat, Missa.

He died in that trailer the summer Jamie turned seventeen. By the time anyone missed him and they got into the dwelling, Missa had eaten his eyes.

Jamie walked through the weed-choked grass and looked at the buildings and the barren spots where once trucks of strangers would arrive and assemble metal monsters to care for the children of the town for the evening while the parents laughed and talked and ate and gossiped. Pied pipers with jailhouse tattoos. Magicians with Zippos and body odor. The laughter of the children was a thick ribbon that swirled around the carnival grounds for that one week every year. Until the year Jamie ran away. That year, the ribbon became a noose, the scrawny neck of Cadamn awaiting its embrace.

 Jamie had been in the Ghost Gallery…or whatever they were calling their fun-house attraction that year. He had been the only kid in the ticket line, he side-eyed the small clusters of kids and teens that dotted the perimeter. The old man at the door held out his hand for a ticket and Jamie noted that it was a prosthetic and not one of quality. The hand resembled a mannequin hand with lines drawn in black marker to denote where fingers should be. Jamie laid it in the upturned palm and waited while the man dropped it into his waist apron pocket. With his other arm he pushed open the door and winked at Jamie. “Don’t get scared now.” as he gave a small push with the plastic hand. A sharp edge gouging the flesh of Jamie’s shoulder. There was a bang and then darkness. A thick smell of mildewed cloth and dirt. That earthworms-after-rain fragrance of Autumn. Jamie wrinkled his nose and took a few furtive steps along the floor. His feet squished into something that gave like moist sod thick carpet, just enough to make one apprehensive about their foothold. Something brushed his cheek. A faint blue light flexed through the cracks between the boards of the walls. Pulsing in time with his breathing.

He heard a small noise to his left. Rattling. Laughter. A meaty cough. A voice, not speaking at full volume but sounding as though in another room, like when he would eavesdrop on his parents when they would argue/discuss. Jamie found his lip with his teeth and allowed them purchase, a salty taste as the blood came. He swallowed and listened harder. The voice was his father’s.

The best decision I ever made was to unshackle myself from that lot. That needy woman and that little leech. I was a mammoth mired in tar, I was. Horrid fate for a man. Barbaric.

Jamie took a few more steps and his hand found the doorknob on the wall before him. It thrummed in his sweaty grip and he turned it, pushed until the darkness was stained by the gauzy light from the new room. It was a kitchen. It was their kitchen. Jamie watched as his mother sat at the table and stared at its pocked and filthy surface. The cigarette between her fingers burnt to the filter and leaking acrid smoke into the hazy air. She drops it into the ashtray nearest her hand and has a fresh one in its place in a blink. Jamie sees that the table is full of ashtrays, or more accurately things that became them. Cups and bowls heaped with ash and bent butts. Plates full of dead lighters and skeletal burnt used matches.

There was no sound. As though watching a film, muted. Jamie coughed and his eyes watered.

“Mom?” He stepped forward, the toe of his sneaker bumping one of the table legs and causing ash to sift from one of the piles onto the floor. He followed it with his eyes and saw the linoleum was stained with great dark splatters. When the light flickered, the razor blades hidden in the gloom winked to life and twinkled like stars in the belly of night. The smoking woman stared ahead and her lips began to move. After a few seconds of silence, her voice followed but was out of sync.

Everything I have ever loved leaves, evaporates. Like all this smoke I eat it just is and then isn’t. That man left me with that boy who grew into a shadow. A cumbersome weight around my neck, as I stood on the deck and held my bow and knew…my shame was home to stay. Suckling and biting the nipple free. Swallowing it with the blood of any future I might have had.

Jamie slammed the door as he backed out of the room. Tinny laughter rose in pitch and volume from speakers nested above him somewhere. He felt dampness on his cheeks and knew why. He had always felt like his parents didn’t want him. Had held that close to chest like a medal or a surgery scar. But to hear it spoken aloud.  He tried to go back the way he came. The soft floor was tacky and he felt every step being argued with. He smelled garbage and smoke. Something tapped his back right below his shoulders. He turned and saw shining eyes in the darkness, gone in an instant.

He didn’t see the door before he met it with his nose. Hard enough to cause spots to dance before his eyes. He touched it with trembling fingers and they came away wet and dark. He touched his tongue. Blood. The speakers crackled and a new voice appeared. It was throaty and he smelled his Grandmother’s perfume as soon as he heard it.

He was playing on the steps, sliding down the railing and his father would catch him. It was a game. He got on and slid again too quickly and Paul wasn’t ready and Jamie hit the wall face first. It was an accident. Then the doctor had us hold him down and he cauterized the boy’s nose. They stuffed it with cotton and taped his face. He looked like a goddamn mummy for a few days. But let me tell you, Mary, the silence of those few days was sublime. That kid just never shut up or sat still. I won’t lie, Mary, there was times after where I thought about busting his nose again just for the peace and quiet.

From the speakers leaked the piano theme from The Young And The Restless. Not quite at the right speed. Slow and hobbled. Jamie smelled chicken noodle soup and cats. His eyes grew wet and he sniffed hard, the back of his throat slick with snot. He was only fifteen but he knew what he was hearing. Concrete proof of the suspicions he’d harbored for years. His father left to be free of him. His mother stayed put and left at the same time for the same reason. His Grandmother…all of them. He had felt bombarded by side-eye glances and smirky winces all these years and now he knew why. He had always known but now it was certain.

Jamie pushed the door and it wouldn’t budge. He kicked it and heard laughter from behind him. He turned and the wall of darkness met him. He tried to step forward but the shadows were solid, feeling like a cold stone wall. Jamie turned and tried the door again. The knob turned and the door pushed open with a groan. Jamie nearly tumbled into the room. The flickering light on hundreds of candles creating the warmth of a campfire in the small space. He took a moment to assess his surroundings. The room was barren save for the candles that sat on the floor, lining the walls, some in the necks of bottles, some melted to plates or in ornate candelabras. The far wall had a mirror directly mounted in the center of it. It was a tall mirror. Framed in a carved wood rectangle that was adorned with screaming faces and jeweled eyes that glittered and winked in the light. He stepped closer to it and as he came into direct view of its reflective surface, saw himself. He was the same poor postured skinny boy with the too-long hair and the unclear skin that had walked to the carnival what seemed like hours before. But where that boy’s blue eyes should have been were things that were weary and bled of color, set in bruised baggy wrinkles. Behind him, the carnival grounds were bustling with adults and children. Laughter and bright lights. Technicolor treats in tiny sweaty grips. Jamie turned to leave and the door was no longer. Nor the walls or any evidence of the attraction at all. Jamie stood still in the midst of mad commotion as people walked and ran to rides and games. He was an image super imposed over a scene. He turned to look back to where the fun-house had stood and saw only a rectangle of space  where it had been. Like a doorway cut into the very space itself. He took a step closer and saw himself in it. Behind his was a grinning darkness. Smoke swirled around him like serpents and his cheeks glistened with tears.  The reflection. Jamie held up a hand and offered a feeble wave before lowering his head as if in prayer.

Just Jamie, with a backdrop of carnival frenzy and fun, stared at the mirror from the other side, his stomach dancing.

He started the walk home with a feeling in his gut that he couldn’t quite reconcile. His other half in that funhouse realm of shadow, where secret lies were voiced, where barbed truths stood emboldened. That realm of slings and arrows and wounds that wail. Ghosts that slap and pinch. Jamie was uncertain which he, he was and which world was real. Maybe the worlds just turned and he came out on top for once. A restart, possibly. He looked up the small hill at the house, it was just like it had been the day of the funeral. He had sat in it’s emptiness for a long hour before he finally departed to see his mother’s shell on display.

Jamie mounted the steps to the back door of the house and paused as he looked up at the dim light in his mother’s bedroom window. He listened hard and heard the thin web of music waft through the screen.

He knows that all his hopes and dreams, begin and end there…

Jamie opened the door and was greeted by the stale waft of cigarette smoke and fried food. His mouth slid into a smile as he slipped inside.

Above and around, the night simmered and burned itself to feel.

Boo-graphy: John Boden lives a stones throw away from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons. A baker by day, he spends his off time writing or wasting time watching terrible horror films from the 70s and 80s. He likes Diet Pepsi, cheeseburgers, heavy metal and old country music, and often sports ferocious sideburns. While his output as a writer is fairly sporadic, it has a bit of a reputation for being unique. The books Dominoes, Spungunion, Walk the Darkness Down, and Jedi Summer are his doing alone. Detritus in Love, Out Behind the Barn, Rattlesnake Kisses, Cattywampus, and the nearly finished Black Salve… on those, he had assistance from Mercedes Yardley, Chad Lutzke, or Robert Ford. He’s easily tracked down on the Facebook or the Twitter and as rumors have it, a pretty friendly feller… honest.

GUEST POST: Jeff Strand

I have been a fan of Jeff Strand since way back in August of 2016 when I loved and hated Specimen 313 (haha). Having him back on the blog makes me very, very happy. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. And Jeff – this post brought back some memories haha.

The Night I Was a Skeleton

I don’t want this essay to immediately involve you saying, “Goodness, but you’re old!” but in my day, kids, Halloween costumes came in boxes that looked like they should contain birthday cakes. You got a cheap-ass plastic mask that only covered the front of your face, and then a very thin jumpsuit to complete your transformation.

In the early days, the jumpsuit would not be the outfit worn by the character you were trying to portray, but, rather, a picture of that character. If, for example, you went trick-or-treating as Spider-Man, the costume would have Spider-Man on the front. It was like he damaged his suit fighting Doctor Octopus and settled for wearing a shirt with his own picture on it. Eventually this would change, but in my early trick-or-treating days I was cosplaying as somebody wearing a Spider-Man shirt.

If you were dressed as C-3PO or Batman, the mask was okay. If you were going as a human, like Evel Knievel or one of the Dukes of Hazzard, the mask was an eerie, haunting representation that fueled a thousand nightmares. Have a crush on Bo Duke? You wouldn’t for long. This was a demonically possessed version of Bo Duke whispering for you to kill for him.

Oh, they had cool costumes back then. Rubber masks and stuff. But I, lacking the financial means to purchase one myself, was forced to ask my parents to buy me one. Every year, they’d consider my request for exactly zero seconds and then say, no, choose one of the cake boxes.

But one year I saw a rubber skull mask that I had to have. It was actually the skull mask from Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but I didn’t know that. I just knew that I needed this mask if I wanted to be the coolest skeleton of them all for Halloween. And that meant I had a lot of saving up to do.

Save I did. Every time we went into Pay-N-Save, I looked at that mask, and imagined how amazing I was going to look in it. I already had a black shirt that had a skeleton torso on it, and I was going to get bone socks and bone gloves to complete the illusion that I was a walking, talking skeleton.

My friend was going to affix Dr. Scholl’s Lamb’s Wool all over his face and arms and be an amazing werewolf. Fangs! Yellow contact lenses! We had absurdly long and detailed conversations about how incredible our Halloween costumes were going to be that year.

And eventually, yes, I had enough money to buy the skull mask.

“Don’t buy the skull mask,” my mom told me. “If you wait until right before Halloween, it’ll be half-price.”

Sure, and if I waited until right before Halloween, it might be gone! Had you thought of that, Mom???

I bought the mask at full price. And, yes, right before Halloween it was half-price. But that cruel lesson in economics is not what I’m here to write about. I had the mask! And I was going to be the skeleton! On Halloween night, I put on my costume, and it was sweeeeeeet.

Of course, I could only use it for the indoor portion of the spooky celebration. I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, so it was freezing by the end of October, which prevented me from using the skull t-shirt as my trick-or-treating costume. So I was a skeleton in a heavy winter coat with boots.

At least I got to look cool indoors. And my friend’s werewolf costume was…okay, he skipped the fur part of being a werewolf, and the fangs, and the contact lenses. What he did have was a plastic dog snout, with no way to affix it. So he would kind of shove it on his nose and try to contort his face so that it would stay on, which it wouldn’t, and he quickly gave up and just trick-or-treated as Kid Who Couldn’t Be Bothered This Year.

Though this is a tragic tale, it does have a happy ending. I kept the mask for over thirty years, until a friend who collects Halloween masks freaked out that I had a first-run Halloween III: Season of the Witch mask (later ones were glow-in-the-dark). It now sits as a treasured part of her collection.

Watching. Waiting for the right moment to strike.

Boo-graphy: Jeff Strand is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 50+ books, including Blister, A Bad Day For Voodoo, and Wolf Hunt. Cemetery Dance magazine said “No author working today comes close to Jeff Strand’s perfect mixture of comedy and terror.” Several of his books are in development as movies. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Allison — Allison can break your bones with her mind, and she can’t control her power.

Now forty-five years old, she’s spent her life trying to stay away from other people. But a random encounter with a couple on the street leaves her believing that she may have done something horrible. Something unforgivable.

Killer-for-hire Daxton and his girlfriend Maggie know the truth. Instead of easing Allison’s anguish, they come up with a cruel plan to take advantage of it. But with Allison’s abilities exposed, there may be a bloodbath very soon…

The Odds — After a disastrous evening playing slot machines, Ethan Caustin wonders how he’s going to explain his massive loss to his wife and kids. As he tries to find his way out of the casino, sick to his stomach and filled with self-loathing, he’s approached by a stranger who offers a solution to his problem.

It’s a simple game. A 99% chance for him to win ten thousand dollars. In the remote chance that he loses…well, he’ll be strapped into a device that shatters his left arm.

The odds are very much in his favor. But this is only the first round.

As the game goes on, the prizes and penalties keep changing, along with his chances of winning. As the high stakes get out of control and Ethan desperately wants to quit, he’ll learn that they’ve only offered him one means of escape: play the game to the very end…

Twentieth Anniversary Screening — This mockumentary-style dark comedy recounts the grisly events surrounding the terrible slasher flick THE ROOFER, remembered only because an obsessed fan tried to reenact the murders as they played out on the screen. When the same theater shows the film twenty years later, will the warnings that this is a really, really bad idea be justified?

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Rufty

Meghan: Hey, Krist! Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: I couldn’t imagine not being a fan of Halloween. Next to Christmas, it’s the one day when everyone can be a kid again. People celebrate horror and openly admit to being entertained by it. Plus, it’s just so much fun. That’s never changed throughout all my life.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Kristopher: I don’t know if “easily” describes it. But a lot of things do scare me. Now that I’m older and a father, I have worries that I never thought about when I was younger. Plus, I’ve seen relatives get sick, friends have passed away, and marriages haves ended. I never thought I was indestructible when I was younger, but such fears never crossed my mind. Now they dwell there.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Kristopher: Probably The Changeling with George C. Scott. I saw it when I was very young and some of it really disturbed me. Even now, I still feel the same way I did as a kid whenever I watch it. The images, locations, and music just really messed me up all those years ago.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Kristopher: Probably the flashback seen in The Changeling. I don’t want to give it away, but that one bothered me when I saw it for the first time. Still does.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Kristopher: I don’t think so. If anything, it had the exact opposite influence on me. The scarier the better. Especially when I was younger. I’d talk about the trailers with my friends, and we’d imagine what the movies would be like. Usually, they didn’t come close to our imaginations, but sometimes they far exceeded them.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Kristopher: Probably Just Before Dawn because of the beautiful scenery. I’d just have to make sure I steered clear of the inbred family.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Kristopher: Maybe the Scream series since, until recently, the core group have lasted so long.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Kristopher: The werewolf, for sure.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: All of it. I don’t think I enjoy one more than the other. It’s all a buffet of scary fun.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Monster Mash. I have loved it since I was a little kid.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: The Girl Next Door. Nothing comes close. Jack Ketchum was a master, and he stuck to the basics in that story and conjured up a truly disturbing book based on real events.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Kristopher: A candle flew off a shelf and smacked into a wall right in front of me. I think it was going after my wife at the time. She’d been standing where the candle hit seconds before it launched. I entered the room just as it took flight. Once, in the same place, when I was completely alone, I watched hand-prints appear on the ceiling and vanish within seconds of emerging. Needless to say, we moved out of there first chance we got.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: I’m fascinated by most with a supernatural element. Unsolved murders and things like that don’t really fascinate me much. But anything with “monster sightings” or paranormal components will hook me in. If it involves a cryptid, even better. Water monster sightings also interest me a lot.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Kristopher: Surprisingly, I haven’t heard a bunch. But there was a local legend about a Wildman that lived in the woods around my house growing up. When I was a kid, I swore I saw him once. I was in the woods and saw a man just walking around, dressed in ragged clothes and carrying an ax. I told people, and that was when I learned about the “Wildman.” Don’t know how true that story was, but I did see the man.

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Kristopher: Unlimited gun supply. I’d want them to be as far away from me as possible. No up-close battles if I can help it.

Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun. Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Kristopher: Werewolf!

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Kristopher: Probably a zombie apocalypse. But an alien invasion would be quicker, if I was on the losing side.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Kristopher: Ew! Zombie juice. Unless it was just one bite from a dead body.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Kristopher: Amityville. The Poltergeist house is terrifying!

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Kristopher: Nasty! The melon, for sure.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Kristopher: Give me the cauldron.

Boo-graphy: Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his three children and pets. He’s written numerous books, including All Will Die, The Devoured & the Dead, Desolation, Pillowface, and more. When he’s not writing, he’s obsessing over gardening and growing food. For more about him, please visit his website.

All Will Die
A year after a group of teenagers were brutally murdered in the mountains, their parents return to the scene of the crime in hopes of luring the killer out of hiding. Unfortunately for them, they are successful. Though they expect the fight of their lives, they quickly learn how unprepared they are for the savage brutality that awaits them. One by one, they will experience exactly what their children endured in their own night of hell.

Their obsession has led them to this nightmare and their one chance at retribution. But if they don’t succeed…

Bone Chimes 2
A woman battles a madman to save the package she ordered…and her life! A Christmas party in the mountains is invaded by otherworldly creatures. A man teams up with his son’s favorite toy to kill someone. And a Halloween prank might lead to the end of two boys’ innocence.

These are just a few of the stories in Bone Chimes 2, the second collection from Kristopher Rufty that features nine more demented tales for fans of monsters and childhood fears brought to life. With an introduction by Aron Beauregard, this collection will leave you squirming with fear and delight!

Bone Chimes

CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Noah Archer (The Enlightenment Project, Lynn Hightower)

Meghan: Hi Noah. Welcome and thank you for joining us today. What is one word you would use to define yourself?

Noah: Haunted

Meghan: Do you see yourself as “the good guy” or the “bad guy”?

Noah: The good guy

Meghan: What does the plot require you to be? How does this requirement limit you?

Noah: My need for keeping the dark part of my life private means I cannot be honest with the ones I love and that I bring dark things into their lives.

Meghan: What is your quest?

Noah: To find a way to give my patients a fast track sure fire way to meditation. So that they can deal with depression, addiction… and the haunting and possession of dark entities.

Meghan: What do you hope to accomplish, find, or become during the course of your book/series?

Noah: To find a protocol for people who are possessed or oppressed by dark demonic entities. To keep them safe, to give them their lives back.

Meghan: What do you like about the other main characters? What do you least like about the other main characters?

Noah: Father Perry Cavannaugh, an episcopal priest, rescued me from possession when I was just eleven. He was young then, and has always been like a brother to me, and he has guided me through the dark part of my life, and I owe him everything. I love my wife, Myra, my sons. I am very fond of my friend and associate Dr Hilde-Sweetwater, and when she did not believe I was possessed as a child, and was horrified by my beliefs, it was humiliating, and I felt betrayed.

Meghan: When was the last time you lied. What made you do it?

Noah: A lie of omission. I never told my wife about the possession, and when it came back to threaten our children, she felt angry and betrayed and I had to earn back her trust or lose our marriage.

Meghan: Who have you betrayed lately?

Noah: Myra, by that lie of omission.

Meghan: Would you say that you are an optimist or a pessimist?

Noah: A hopeful pessimist

Meghan: What is your superpower?

Noah: Life experience – this happened to me, and it shook me to my core, but I survived and now I am going to help other people survive.

Meghan: What is your biggest secret?

Noah: That I was possessed at the age of eleven.

Meghan: Do you live in the right world? How necessary are you to your world?

Noah: I am in the world that I love.

Meghan: What is your role in this setting? Are you okay with this role or would you like to change?

Noah: I have everything I want. I am a neurosurgeon doing the work I have wanted to do since I was a child. I have a family I love. I have everything I want and my goal is to keep it.

Meghan: Did you turn out the way you expected?

Noah: Yes. The possession has fueled my entire life. For the better.

Meghan: What, if anything, would you change about your life?

Noah: That’s hard for me. My first impulse would be to tell you that I would like to never have been possessed. But I think this is what made me and I think my work is important. So the one thing I would change would be to have been honest with Myra about this from the beginning of our relationship. To trust her to love me, or give her the option of turning away if she did not want this in her life.

Meghan: How do you feel about your author?

Noah. I adore her. She listens to everything I say.

Meghan: If the two of you got together for coffee, what would you want to say to them?

Noah: We get together for coffee every day. Her voice is my voice.

Boo-graphy: Lynn Hightower grew up in Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Kentucky, where she studied creative writing with Wendell Berry and earned a degree in Journalism. She also teaches novel writing in the Writer’s Program at UCLA. Survival jobs include writing television commercials, catering waitress, and bartender for one day.

Her books have been included in the New York Times List of Notable Books, the London Times Bestseller List, and the W.H. Smith Fresh Talent Awards. She has received the Shamus Award, and been nominated for the Kentucky Literary Award, the Kentucky Librarians First Choice Award, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Hightower’s books have been published in numerous foreign countries, including Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Israel and The Netherlands.

Hightower spends ridiculous amounts of time curled up reading, but also enjoys small sports cars and tame horses. She is married to The Frenchman, writes full time, shares an office with her Belgian Shepherd, Leo the Lion, plays bad but fierce tennis, loves to dance and is learning to Tango.

Hightower enjoys canoeing and is witty after two glasses of wine. She has studied French and Italian, but is only fluent in Southern.

Hightower is a Kentucky native, and lives in a small Victorian cottage with a writing parlor.

Noah Archer is a renowned neurosurgeon, with an impressive success record. He has a happy home, with his beloved wife Moira, their two adopted sons, and a dog who’s a very good girl.

But Noah keeps a dark secret, shared only with his old friend Father Perry Cavanaugh. When he was just a boy, he was possessed by a demon – and it was only thanks to the exorcist priest that he survived.

Now, Noah works at the cutting edge of medical science and religion, researching the effects of spirituality on the brain. His current research study – The Enlightenment Project – promises breakthrough treatments for depression, addiction and mental illness, and preliminary results are astounding.

But after a late-night emergency surgery, Noah returns to his office to find Father Perry waiting for him, with a terrible warning. The Enlightenment Project may not be closing the door to the darkness at all . . . but instead letting it in.

Demonic possession is now a recognized psychiatric condition, and the number of exorcist priests in the US has quadrupled in the last decade. As well as being a thrilling read, THE ENLIGHTENMENT PROJECT is an intelligent and fascinating view into the complex worlds of both the medical and the supernatural.