EXCERPT: Love on All Hallows Eve by Martha Wickham

The cold fall air blew over Terra’s face and through her long, curly, black hair. It was the night before Halloween and Terra’s mind drifted away. She was on one of her late night strolls through the local graveyard. Sitting on a grassy mound she watched the blood moon turn slightly red. This part of Chicago was peaceful and restful. No city to disturb anyone.

Fall leaves blew and circled her a few times then left. Her black lips glistened as she smiled at the night. The reddish moon interested her and she wanted to know more. Why was Samhain so interesting? She didn’t know anything about it, but wanted to. She would start by studying the moon. The night was spent reading a book about it and the fall solstice. It was 1979 and little did she know Halloween had approached at midnight. Heading back home she began to feel alone. Going out at night made her feel lonely. Bride did not know anyone. Her new name was Johnston, but she was not married to that new monster she made long before he was destroyed for being evil. She reflected on her living time with him sometimes. She wanted to meet people. As the sun gave a hint of sunlight it was time to sleep at home and she wondered if Frankenstein would ever come back to claim her? Probably not.

On Halloween night Terra sat quietly in her room. Creepy cackling and bubbling could be heard, then footsteps. She went outside and saw nothing. The full moon lit the area well. Curiously she headed to the graveyard and sat on a large tombstone. Crickets chirped and fireflies flew, but that was all. It was time to go past the graveyard. Walking near a road she heard voices. Two young men were chatting and a little drunk because they were coming from a Halloween costume party. One was dressed as a vampire with teeth, dark slick hair, pale skin, and a dark cape. The other, his close friend, was Frankenstein. They looked very good. Tall and dark.

Bride approached them.

“It’s back that way,” Frankenstein said pointing in the direction of the party.

“I don’t need that info from you any more,” Terra said to what she thought was her ex. She walked over to the vampire and put her arm through his. “What part of this country are you from?”

“South of Chicago,” the vampire replied.

“I’m Terra. I’m the bride of Frankenstein, or was. Care to get a drink?” she asked the vampire.

“Why not.” The phony vampire’s teeth sparkled. He winked at Frankenstein. “I’m Dracula,” he said to her with a Transylvania accent. He looked so handsome in the dark. Terra didn’t look so bad herself.

“I’ll see ya later,” Dracula said to Frankenstein. They were off to have a romantic drink.

After the drink it was time to say goodnight. “Can we do it again some time?” she asked.

“Yes,” the vampire said. “I’ll come by and get you this Friday evening. We’ll have a candle lit dinner at my house.”

“That sounds lovely! Alright.”

He began walking her home. “Don’t hate my friend Frankenstein. He can be nice.”
“I know. I was engaged to him once. Didn’t know him well. You I’d like to get to know.” “I will see you then.” He kissed her on the cheek and left her sight.

“I’m going to go out with this girl again. I like her, but I drank too much last time,” Dracula said to Frankenstein with a stomach ache.

“Just don’t let her find out your not a vampire. Why does she believe we are monsters?”

“I don’t know. Good costumes,” he said shrugging.

“Watch her. I think she’s weird.”

“Pretty, but weird. She won’t find out. I’ll only come out at night,” the vampire swore. “How is it you’re not hung over?”

“I hold my liquor,” the green one answered and they both laughed.

“I need to prepare for our Friday dinner. Do you know where I can get a hearse and a coffin? And I want to shop at one of those Halloween stores. They are probably having clearance sales now.”

“I know a company. I’ll ask if we can borrow or rent,” Frankenstein said hatefully. “How long can this go on for?”

“I don’t know. When it gets tired I’ll wait until she loves me and cares for me too much to get mad. Then I’ll tell her.”


Boo-graphy:
Martha has studied writing with Writer’s Digest and has an associates degree in Social Behavioral Science. She has also written poems and songs and even studied screenwriting and horror. She still practices writing and likes getting writing prompts. Her favorite author is V.C. Andrews.

The Mystery of Frankenstein’s Bride
When love takes a turn, what are you willing to do to keep it?

Terra’s love life is a monster so she sets out to see her old flame Nathaniel Johnston. But when she finds he is no longer living either, eternity is theirs. Bringing him back will get her a husband because of her passionate feelings for him.

Johnston is her new life, but when they are on their honeymoon in Germany things take a bad turn. The castle they stay in creates too much distance between the two.

Can she get closer to him before it’s too late?

Love On All Hallows Eve
On All Hallows Eve Terra meets Bobby. He pretends to be a real vampire to her and they start dating. When they find out, Bobby and his friend, she is the undead bride of Frankenstein they have a violent breakup. After when Terra is haunted she gets the help of psychic Rose. The hardest part is for Terra to let go of the machine that brought her and Frankenstein to life.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alma Katsu

Meghan: Hi, Alma. Thanks for joining us here on Meghan’s House of Books for our annual Halloween Extravaganza. It is a pleasure meeting you. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Alma: Seeing what the kids in the neighborhood are wearing. It’s always fun to see them get so excited. However, now that we’ve moved to a mountain in a remote area, we get absolutely NO trick-or-treaters.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Alma: I used to love watching a cheesy horror movie late at night while eating a terrible frozen pizza (when I was a kid, there wasn’t a lot of frozen foods, so even a bad one was a treat.) Not to be a downer, but these days I tend to be doing events on Halloween so that’s another tradition out the window.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Alma: It is my favorite holiday, probably because it was one day that kids could do what they wanted to do—decide what they would dress up as, which neighbors they were going to. Maybe kids had a lot more autonomy back then. Parents didn’t worry much about anything bad happening to us.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Alma: I was somewhat superstitious as a kid, maybe because I was raised Roman Catholic, perhaps the spookiest of all religions, but I’m not superstitious anymore.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Alma: Vampires, for sure, because they’re so sexy. Frankenstein’s monster is certainly interesting, lots of emotions and drama there. I’ve never been able to get into zombies or werewolves for some reason.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Alma: The really sad thing is that unsolved murders have become so mundane in our culture. Murders happen all the time and so frequently that there aren’t enough police resources to keep up with it. Still, there is something that fascinates the public—maybe the “it could happen to you” aspect of it. It’s said that the audience for true crime stories is disproportionately female, probably because females make up a disproportionate number of the victims.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Alma: I find stories around abandoned towns and cities the most interesting. Even though the truth is probably a bit more prosaic—changing economies drawing people out of town, or construction of a highway away from city limits—seeing those empty, decaying buildings always makes me wonder. There are a lot of abandoned farms where I currently live, so maybe that’s why it’s on my mind a lot lately.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Alma: Jeffrey Dahmer, for obvious reasons (see The Hunger).

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Alma: So long ago for both book and movie that I can’t remember exact titles. I was probably inappropriately young, as in those days parents didn’t oversee children’s activities quite so much. Like, maybe 7 or 8? I remember reading Edgar Allan Poe at 8, and it was probably the beginning of my fascination with the Gothic, horror, and speculative fiction.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Alma: The book that made the biggest impression was probably The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I can’t say it unsettled me, but it opened my eyes to what a horror novel could be.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Alma: Not a movie but an episode of the original Twilight Zone, the one with the ventriloquist’s dummy. I was eight years old and in the hospital, and wandered into the common room (there weren’t televisions in individual patient rooms at the time). Young and alone and scared in the hospital. Yipes!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Alma: I wish I’d dressed as a pirate at some point…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Alma: Probably the Monster Mash (again, dating myself…)

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Alma: Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Anything with peanut butter. The worst? Candy corn or circus peanut-type things. Pure sugar, ugh.


Boo-graphy:
Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of six novels, most recently Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. She is a graduate of the master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies. She lives in West Virginia with her husband.

Red Widow
An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered–including one of her own–and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

The Deep –
Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on… And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic…

The Hunger –
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased… and very hungry?”

BOOK BLOGGER INTERVIEW: Shawn Remfrey

Hey, Shawn! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. I’m so excited to have you on one day to start this whole thing out!

Meghan: What Is your favorite part of Halloween?

Shawn: It has to be Slappy’s Escape. Slappy is a ventriloquist dummy from the Goosebumps series. He’s super creepy but so much fun! Every year at our Halloween/Birthday Bash, we set up this really cool trick or treating circuit. The premise of the game is that the group stops at each station in an attempt to find where Slappy has stolen all the birthday gifts to. Don’t tell anyone, but this year Slappy is going to be stealing the gifts by trying to ride the lawn mower to get away. At each station, a costumed person will read out a clue and then treats are handed around. The clue leads them to the next station. Setting this up is sooo much fun! We hand out Ramen noodles and fruit snacks and bath toys and all sorts of silly stuff. I get so much joy out of planning this! Last year Slappy tried to steal my car! It was such a blast taping his hands to the steering wheel and peaking at him through my windshield throughout the entire party!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Shawn: It’s easily The Sorting of the Ramen. Do you know just how many flavors there are?! Invariably, when the kids reach the ramen station at trick or treating, they rifle through to find their favorite flavor. Ramen noodle packs fly everywhere and people get whacked on the head. Last year I’m pretty sure somebody threw elbows over a pack of shrimp lime. It’s like Halloween Hockey!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday, why?

Shawn: It used to be my second favorite. Since the pandemic that has changed. For me, it’s all about the magic factor. Christmas used to be top of the list. I spend the entire year preparing for Christmas and then my entire family shows up to my magically lit home to open magically wrapped gifts and I get to see the magic release itself as they open each gift. Now I send boxes of stuff for people to open whenever they open them. Halloween gets to retain its magic. I get to dress up in costume and be someone else and throw joy and intrigue at people. Halloween is magical. You get to live in another dimension for a short time where pumpkins and blood and a little fear are at the core.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Shawn: I enjoy canning food. I only have one superstition. When the jars are lining the counter, while they’re cooling, they make a pinging sound as each one seals. Every time a jar seals, I yell out ‘Thank you for your service!’ If I don’t do this, the other jars will feel like I take them for granted and they won’t seal and I’ll be wading through rotted food up to my hips. No way! Thank you for your service!

Meghan: What/Who is your favorite horror monster or villain. 

Shawn: I gotta tell you, I don’t even remember his name but the guy that Jeffrey Jones played in Ravenous. Okay, yes, he’s a vampire. He’s gonna eat my brains with a spoon and that kind of stinks. But! What does he plan to use his eternity for? Knowledge! He just wants to eat a little flesh and study all the great philosophers and figure out the meaning of life. Who wouldn’t respect that?!  

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you most?

Shawn: Honestly, I can’t go here. This is a world that I don’t let myself get into. I’m obsessive and I know that somebody would end up writing a cozy mystery series about a crazy woman and her paper dolls that tour the country solving unsolved murders.  

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Shawn: My older son and I were talking about this last week. Final Destination. When Death wants you, it’ll get you one way or another. Oh you took the wrong flight? Didn’t die when you were supposed to? Guess what? Now rabid dogs will be eating your entrails.  

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Shawn: I can’t pick a favorite specific one. I just really love cannibals. If you’re gonna kill people, at least be productive.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie?

Shawn: Story time!!

I have this aunt, we’ll call her Aunt Smelley. You know, anonymity and all. So Aunt Smelly has me spend the night with her when I’m 8. I had no idea she’s a horror junkie. She knows I love Santa though. So we get our cappuccino and some cookies to nibble on and sit and she begins the movie. Silent Night Deadly Night. I’m doing just fine, thinking how cheesy it is. Then it reaches the scene where the guy peeks through the door and sees the couple getting intimate. I was even alright then. He walks in with his knife. I’m still alright. He plunges it into the woman’s side. Still, heh, not so bad. Then there’s the moment he’s sawing down her side and you can see the knife halting momentarily in the more gristly areas and you can hear that sound! Oh that sound! I still have nightmares.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you most?

Shawn: This is an easy one. There has only been one horror book that upset me so much I had to stop reading it. Spilled Milk by Paul Dale Anderson. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I couldn’t make it past chapter three.  

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Shawn: You probably think I’m going to say Silent Night, Deadly Night. I’m not. Big Trouble in Little China. Scariest movie I’ve ever seen. They don’t die! It doesn’t matter what you do, they just keep coming! And the fingernails! The fingernails! They want you dead and they’re not gonna stop when the movie ends. Oh no. They’re still coming. They’re still after me. They won’t stop until they get me!  

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Shawn: These are such fun questions! Okay so a few years back we went to a special needs trunk or treat event. It was amazing! I, in my infinite wisdom, chose to be She-ra: Princess of Poweeeeeeerrrrr! I bought these amazing gold knee boots. I bought this great costume to go with it. I went all crazy and got this wretched blonde wig that really finished off the look. We’re walking along and I’m having the time of my life. I’m She-ra! Then this sweet girl came over and started stroking my wig. I smiled at her and she scowled at me. “Is this a wig?” “Yes it is.” “I don’t like it. Take it off.” It’s such a fun memory! She-ra is awesome! I got to be her until this sweet little pumpkin told me to stop.

P.S.  I kept the dang boots.  I like to sit in the bottom of the closet and hug them sometimes.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Shawn: It’s a toss up between Rockwell and Alice Cooper. Somebody’s Watching Me or Feed My Frankenstein. Until they have a sing off, I’m gonna have to pick both.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy?  What is your most disappointing?

Shawn: I love candy corn!  Love it! Gobble a hand full and I’m Spider-man bouncing off the walls and ceiling. Love it! Sugar high! Anybody wanna send me some? 

As for my most disappointing, wow I don’t even know if they make them anymore. My grandma always bought them and everybody gave them out back in the 70’s and 80’s. They were these wretched peanut butter taffies and they were rapped in the prettiest papers of orange and black. They were the epitome of what a Halloween treat should be, until you took a bite. Peanut butter dust on the inside and since it was mostly a taffy texture, you couldn’t get it out of your mouth.

Meghan: Top Halloween movies/Books.  

Shawn: That’s like asking me which kid is my favorite! (It’s the smartass one) Okay so I don’t have a favorite Halloween book or movie, but I do have a favorite Horror book that is terribly underrated. It was a gift from one of my kids and I treasure it so much I keep it in the bathroom where I keep all my extra girly stuff. That way, if I wanna do a face mask or have a bubble bath, this book can keep me company.  

Bon Appetit: Stories & Recipes for Human Consumption edited by Hydra M. Star and Alder Strauss. It’s an anthology of short stories about cannibalism. Some of them are meh, but most of them are pretty dang good!  Plus there’s a mystery to solve!


Boo-graphy:
I’m Shawn and I began reviewing books about 20 years ago. I’ve been a blogger off and on for nearly as long. Though I started off reading everything, I really found my niche in the horror community. These days most of my time is spent teaching, learning, and arting. I’m still a part of the book community, but for medical and personal reasons I’ve had to really pull back. Most of my recent work has been behind the scenes as well as throwing up the random review on Goodreads. I think the hardest part of being a book blogger came a few years ago when I began losing my eyesight. In an electronic world, it’s difficult to be productive when you can’t see things very well electronically.  

Halloween holds a really special place in my life. I have a special needs teenager with severe cognitive delays. It was only a few years ago that he began to understand what a birthday was and that he had his very own. At that time, he was an avid Goosebumps fan. He still is. His birthday is in October and Halloween is his favorite holiday. We began throwing Halloween themed parties for his birthday and it’s been a huge success! The entire family shows up in costume and we have a rollicking good time!  

Halloween Extravaganza: Edmund Stone: STORY: Blackjacks Revenge

Blackjack’s Revenge

I’ve always thought Halloween droll. A holiday for children and way beneath a man like me, a college professor with a master’s degree. But here I am, picking out a pumpkin to carve from the local farmer’s market. I came with my trusted friend, Bojangles. All twenty pounds of the best little Jack Russell Terrier a man could own.

This small New England town is full of charm and since I’m new to this block, I thought it a good idea to blend in. Some of the displays people put on their front porches would be better suited for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. They really get into Halloween here. Even though I despise the holiday, I don’t want a good egging or toilet paper draped around my house. So, why not?

I peruse through the selection, while the smell of hot apple cider and fresh baked donuts prick my nose. Bojangles pulls at his leash, trying to veer me in the direction of the heavenly aroma. But I persist with my hunt. I can’t find the one I like. I want it to be right. A pumpkin to say, “Hello, I’ve arrived people!” The bigger and gaudier, the better. I’ll decorate smaller pumpkins and gourds around it. It’ll look like Halloween meets harvest moon. I should get some good nods around the neighborhood.

A farmer spots me and jumps out of his lawn chair, nearly tipping it backwards. He’s the typical bumpkin with bib overalls, chewing on a toothpick or piece of straw. I notice his hat has a logo; McCormick’s farm. He puts a grubby hand out but I only smile. He looks down at his hand, seeming a bit confused, then tucks it away in his pocket.

“Mawnin’, young fella! Can I help you find somethin’?” he says in a Yankee accent.

“Yes. I think I’ll take about twenty gourds. I need lots of them for the porch I have.”

“I got all yaw need. What about punkins? Can’t have a good porch decoration without a nice punkin.”

I look around his display but find nothing large enough to suit my needs. Then, just beyond his cart, I see it! The one I’m looking for. It’s large, with nodules adorning it. They look like warts. It’s a witch pumpkin. Perfect!

“I’ll take that one!” I say, pointing behind the man.

“Which one?” the man says, turning to look over his shoulder. His eyes widen. “Why, I’m not sure where that come from. Maude? You know anything about the warty punkin over there?” he says to an old woman in a rocking chair close by.

“Billy left it this mawnin’, brought a whole wagon of ‘em. That’s the last one, fer now. Said he’d bring more tommaw mawnin’” she said, never lifting her head.

“Hmm, musta come from the patch over next to the cemetery,” he says, taking off his hat and scratching his head. “Well then, fella. Looks like you got yerself a nice punkin!”

I bid the farmer farewell, as he finishes loading my car, then stop for a few of those donuts and some cider. Two for me and one for Bojangles, who yips in appreciation. When I get home, I consider the porch layout before putting the pumpkins and gourds there. I notice my neighbor’s porch and see a fodder shock. Why didn’t I think of that? Oh well, I have more gourds to go around my large pumpkin than they do.

I set everything down and go in the house for a carving knife. As I’m looking through drawers something hits the window. I stop. Then hear it again. Are the kids starting early? I walk over and peek out the front window. Nothing. All I see is the porch with my large pumpkin in the middle. I do notice some of the gourds are out of place, scattered about the porch.

“Hmm, odd. I was sure I put them in tight around the pumpkin,” I say aloud. “Better check.

I put on my shoes and jacket, then walk onto the porch with Bojangles on my heels. I start to pick up the gourds. While I’m stooped over one hits me on the backside. I turn to see who the culprit is. No one is there. Bojangles is barking furiously at the bottom step.

Damn kids, but, where are they? I pick up one of the gourds and ease down the porch steps. If they want to play, I’ll play. They can’t outsmart me. One of those little pricks is going to eat a gourd.

I ease around the end of the porch, holding the small projectile over my head. I lunge forward, letting the squash fly from my hand.

“Take that, you asshole!” I say. I see no one, except Bojangles running into the yard, after the gourd, barking the whole way. Then, I hear a noise from the front porch. Ah-ha, they doubled back. I run toward it and I’m faced with a bombardment of gourds. Three of them come flying over my head, as I duck for cover. My dog jumps up and grabs one out of the air, as if it were a tennis ball.

“Hey! Get off my porch! I’m going to call your parents!”

I hear no response, only laughter. A strange kind of laughter. It doesn’t sound like a kid. Bojangles barks, as he runs up the steps to the porch. I run close behind him. When I get to the top step, I’m confronted with a sight I can’t believe. The large pumpkin is staring at me. It has dark eyes and a mouth full of yellow teeth. It grins, then produces a gourd from its mouth, spitting it at me. The thing nearly takes my head off!

“The Hell!?” I say, as I jump back, stumbling down the steps, scraping my knee. I land in the grass on my side. Bojangles steps in front of me, his chest swelled, yapping hoarse barks. I look at the pumpkin. Its moving now, rolling toward the steps! It plops down each one and stops at the bottom. The thing considers me with empty black eyes and dripping teeth.

“Blackjack is back!” the large pumpkin calls out.

Then it rolls toward me, chomping. I get to my feet, stumbling backward, falling then getting up again. What the hell is happening? What is this creature? Bojangles makes a surprised yelp as I pick him up. I make a dash for the car, aware its right behind me. I reach into my pocket. The keys! They’re in the house! Along with my cell phone. Damn!

I turn to see the pumpkin opening its large mouth. Damn if the thing isn’t growing! It’s as tall as a man now, at least six feet, and just as wide! It chomps down, as I move behind the car. Its teeth take off the side mirror. The sound of screeching metal and cracking plastic pierces my ears. The big squash rolls around the front of the car. It’s not as fast now but picking up speed, adjusting to its rapid growth. Bojangles is pulling at my arms, frantically barking, trying to break free. I hold on, I won’t let that thing have my dog!

I scan the area, looking for help. No one is on the street. It’s Halloween for God’s sake, you think someone would be out! I must get out of here! I see a bike leaning next to a light pole. It’s a BMX style, only twenty inches tall, much too small for me, but better than trying to outrun this thing. Thankfully, the bike has a basket. I jump on. Putting Bojangles on the front and start to pedal. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a kid running toward me.

“Hey, mister! You stole my bike!”

“Run, kid!” I say. The kid looks to the street and seeing the chomping jack-o-lantern rolling toward him, decides to make a run for the bushes. Too late! The thing swallows the kid up to his midsection. He didn’t even have time to scream. Legs dangle from the pumpkin’s mouth. Another chomp, and the kid is gone!

“Blackjack!” it screams.

My, God! What am I going to do! I must get away, but I have no idea where I’m going. I don’t know this town. My only hope is, Blackjack doesn’t either. I look over my shoulder and pedal faster, as the monster is bearing down on me. What is this thing, and why is it chasing me? Is this revenge for hating Halloween?

I furiously rotate my legs, until my feet can no longer stay up with the pedals, so I start to coast. I see cars, coming fast at me. I can’t get to the brake. I’m surely going to die! A car screeches to a halt right in front of me. I swerve into an alleyway, Bojangles is standing in the basket, protesting the insurrection. Blackjack rolls onto the car’s hood, smashing the windshield and getting to the people inside. I keep pedaling, hearing the screams behind me. I want to stop but know I can do nothing to help them. I must keep pedaling!

I emerge from the alley and see a cemetery. The gate looks too small for the creature to enter. I may be safe there. I ride the bike through the entrance. Throwing it down, I quickly close the gate and latch it. In the distance, I hear the creature bellow out, an inhuman cry! Cars are crashing, and people are screaming! I cover my ears. I’m shaking and sweating, trying to catch my breath after the ride. I hold my little dog close for comfort. He’s stopped barking but utters a light growl.

I feel safer now. Looking around the cemetery, I notice the strangest thing, there are vines growing everywhere; pumpkin vines. They snake throughout the ground and into the graves. Then I see where they are coming from. There’s a fenced in field next to the cemetery with a sign hanging from the metal lattice. It reads:

McCORMICK FARMS
EXPERIMENTAL CROPS

I raise my hands, letting out an exasperated sigh. I should have known those country bumpkins had something to do with this. Monsanto probably paid them to grow this stupid stuff!

I notice the pumpkins growing on the vines have lumpy protrusions all over them. Just like my pumpkin! Many of the vines growing into the graves have been picked clean. One I notice especially. Its growing into a grave, the earth looking recently disturbed. It has an ominous grave marker that says:

Here Lies the Body of Jack Burton
Better known as Blackjack Burton
The deadliest pirate and outlaw in
New England

Blackjack? No, that’s not possible. How could a GMO pumpkin take on the personality of a dead pirate? This is insane! Then I see something to help verify my suspicions. A bunching of vines growing over a post. This doesn’t seem out of place, but on closer inspection, I see it’s no post at all. It’s a man in a uniform. He’s covered with vines up to his neck and his expression is one of pure terror. His mouth is open, and vines are growing into it and down his throat. I turn away, starting to wretch, but then gather myself. Part of his outfit is showing through the vines. It’s his name tag. It says, Bill.

“Well, Billy, I guess you’re not bringing the next shipment in the morning after all,” I say to him.

A thought strikes me, what about the other pumpkins? Who will be the unwitting sap to get one, and will they be targeted also? I must do something! But what? Fumbling through my pocket, I find a box of matches. The one I was going to light the jack-o-lantern with. I’ll burn the whole patch, then no one will get an evil squash!

I sit Bojangles on the ground and go to the edge of the fence. I strike one of the matches. A whisper of smoke begins to rise. Its then I feel it, the hot wind, a smell of sulfur behind me. I turn to see Blackjack. He’s larger than before, at least ten feet tall, and just as wide; warts surround his eyes and all along his side. They’re seeping yellow goo! He doesn’t look happy. He blows the flame out before the fire has a chance to spread. His frown turns into a large smile with blood-stained yellow teeth.

“Ha ha ha. Blackjack is back!” he says to me. I jump into the pumpkin patch to take refuge. Bojangles runs ahead of me, disappearing into the brush.

“Brother’s arise!”

I gasp as I see who he’s talking too. The pumpkins in the patch start to move, vines wriggle toward me, taking my arms and holding them. I pull an arm loose, breaking a few. But they quickly regroup and pull me back. In my struggle, I drop the matches onto the grass. All the while Blackjack is getting closer. His mouth in a snarled grin. A large tongue snakes out from between his teeth and licks my face. The irony is not lost on me. I’m about to be eaten by a pie ingredient!

I look to my feet and see the matches. If only I can get free. Blackjack is almost on me. He opens his mouth and I can smell the horrid odor of rotted meat and decaying vegetables. Blood and pieces of flesh are stuck in his teeth. I close my eyes and wait for the worst. Then the brush begins to move, something is coming up quick. Blackjack and the rest of the pumpkin hoard look to the commotion. Like a cannonball emerging from a barrel, Bojangles flies from the undergrowth and attacks Blackjack.

“Good boy, Bojangles!” I say. The pumpkins release me and go for the pup, who is now chewing and burrowing his way into the side of Blackjack. The large pumpkin begins to scream, and the other pumpkins try to lend aid. But Bojangles is too fast. He’s inside Blackjack before they get to him.

Blackjack screams, bouncing erratically from side to side. The pumpkins hesitate, not sure if they should help their leader or stop me. I see my chance and grab the matches. I light one and then the whole box, sending it hurling into the dry underbrush. The wind picks up and the flames begin to fan out through the patch.

The pumpkins scream, as the flames lick at their heads. They begin to explode from the expanding heat, and whatever chemicals they are saturated in, starting a chain reaction. Screams of anguish rise from the patch, as vines wither. I look for Bojangles but don’t see him. Blackjack is tittering back and forth. He opens his mouth as if to say something and out pops an orange covered Jack Russel Terrier. He jumps into my arms. I clean the strings from his eyes and he licks my face in appreciation. The flames rise around us and I feel the heat on my skin.

“C’mon, boy! We have to go!” I say to my pup.

My shoes crunch the dry grass with flames traveling close behind. I hold my breath, shielding Bojangles from the intense heat. We step into the cemetery and I exhale the breath in my lungs. Bojangles is voicing his anger in the form of raspy protest barks. I turn toward the patch to see a large pumpkin bursting from the field, flames surrounding it; mouth open and ready to bite.

“Blackjack is back!”

I turn to run, as Bojangles jumps from my arms, leaping toward Blackjack.

“Bojangles! No!” I scream.

He jumps into the open mouth of the great pumpkin. Blackjack snaps his teeth together and grins.

“Mmm, tasty,” He says, as he laughs.

An October wind picks up, blowing the flames out on Blackjack, but giving fuel to the fire in the field behind him. It chills me to the bone, as he rolls toward me, I’m sure to deal the death blow, just as he did to my pup. Then he stops, looking at me with a pained expression. In the distance, I hear the faint yapping of a small dog.

“Bojangles?”

The little terrier comes bursting out of Blackjack’s eye. The pumpkin screams, rolling and undulating to the side; his eye spewing orange and black liquid. The gargantuan squash lands in the fire and begins to spin, protesting the barrage of heat. But to no avail, he succumbs to the torrid blaze, as pieces of pumpkin burst in every direction.

“I think we can say the pumpkin pie is burnt. Hunh, Bojangles?” I say relieved, as he licks my face. The flames rise high into the dusky Autumn sky. Small sparks fly above them and go out, raining ash below. I sigh and turn to the road. Bojangles is at my feet, yipping and dancing in approval. We walk down the main street through town. My dog begins to bark and growl.

“What is it boy? That old pumpkin won’t bother us anymore.”

Then I see it. People running. A car screeches onto the road and swerves into a pole, knocking it down. An electric line sparks, as it falls across the street. It looks like a large black snake wriggling on the ground. It moves along until it hits the car. I see something rolls out that makes my blood go cold. It’s a warty pumpkin. It’s grinning with blood stained teeth. It hits the electric line and explodes along with the car. Bojangles is barking incessantly. I step back and look around at the houses. There are no pumpkins for decoration anywhere to be seen. I call for Bojangles to jump into my arms. I stroke his fur.

“Oh my, boy. This is going to be a long night.”

Edmund Stone is a writer and poet of horror and fantasy living in a quaint river town in the Ohio Valley. He writes at night, spinning tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives with his wife, a son, four dogs and a group of mischievous cats. He also has two wonderful daughters, and three granddaughters, who he likes to tell scary stories, then send them home to their parents.

Edmund is an active member of The Write Practice, a member only writer’s forum, where he served as a judge for their Summer contest 2018. Edmund’s poetry is featured in the Horror Zine, Summer 2017 issue and in issue #6 of Jitter by Jitter Press. He has two poems in issue 39, one poem in issue 41, and a story in issue 42, of Siren’s Call ezine. He also has three short stories in separate anthologies, See Through My Eyes by Fantasia Divinity, Year’s Best Body Horror anthology 2017 by Gehenna & Hinnom, and Hell’s Talisman anthology by Schreyer Ink Publishing. Most of these stories can also be read in Hush my Little Baby: A Collection by Edmund Stone.

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Halloween Extravaganza: Robert Herold: Movie Maven Mausoleum Films to Die For

Movie Maven Mausoleum
Films to Die For!

By Robert Herold
Author of The Eidola Project

Finding obscure and/or largely forgotten gems in our genre is a bloody-good treat. And, in addition to reading a great book, what better way is there to celebrate the season? (Or any season!)

Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon (1957)

The film opens with an admittedly goofy-looking monster. Don’t let that put you off! The director, Jacques Tourneur (of Cat People fame) did not want the creature in the film, but he was overruled by the studio. Night of the Demon is the British version of the film and is thirteen (lucky) minutes longer. Given this is one of my all-time favorites, I’d go with the longer version.

The movie concerns an egotistical warlock who is eliminating those who criticize him. Dana Andrews (who also starred in The Best Years of Our Lives and the noir-classic Laura) and Peggy Cummins (star of another noir classic, Gun Crazy) run afoul of the warlock, played by Niall MacGinnis.

The film has some wonderfully creepy moments, especially when MacGinnis is demonstrating his power during a little picnic he is hosting for the kiddies in the area. Check it out!

A Chinese Ghost Story I, II, & III (1987, 1990, 1991)

(Note: The first of the series was remade in 2011 by Wilson Yip (of Ip Man fame) I have not seen the remake, but most reviewers rate the original higher. I love the original, so I recommend you go with it.)

The first film is about a hapless but good-hearted tax-collector in Medieval China who is forced to stay in a haunted locale and falls in love with a beautiful ghost. Too bad for him, and anyone else who strays near the place, the ghost is under the control of a nasty tree witch. A wonderful story, great special effects for the time, humor, romance, and insane action—what more could one want? Number II in the series is more of a stand-alone film, whereas number III is a sequel. These are a bit difficult to find, but are worth the trouble!

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1972)

Made toward the end of Hammer Studios’ heyday, this gem is largely forgotten. Too bad, because it’s a great film. Dashing Captain Kronos, accompanied by his faithful hunchback friend, Professor Grost, gallop all over the 18th Century English countryside in search of vampires. They’re in luck, or maybe not, depending on your perspective. There’s some nice variations on the familiar vampire theme. This would have made a marvelous television series. I’ve love to write it, if there are any producers out there!

Eyes of Fire (1983)

A precursor to the marvelous the film The Witch (2015), which you must see if you haven’t, Eyes of Fire is also a tale of witchcraft set in early rural America. A group of settlers stumble upon a haunted locale and are terrorized by dangerous spirits. A mysterious girl appears who may hold the key to their survival. The excellent story, acting, and production values make this a great film!

Borgman (2014)

Few people saw this Danish film in America when it was first released. Fortunately, it is available on a ton of streaming services (many for free). This is one of the creepiest films I have ever seen. It gets under your skin like a parasite, making your flesh crawl, and then wiggles around in your brain for days afterward. Are you ready? Prepare for a little confusion, it’s meant to be so, as it is a horror mystery, but you will never be the same again. ‘Enjoy!

The Wicker Man (1973) – Original Film

You may be familiar with the 2006 remake, but I am recommending you go back to review the vastly superior original, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. Cinefantastique Magazine at the time declared it “The Citizen Kane of horror films,” and I agree. It’s an eerie film with excellent acting and a great story. It involves a strait-laced religious policeman who is sent to a remote British isle to investigate a missing girl. Things are amiss in this seemingly idyllic town.

Dark City (1998)

The line between horror and SF is often blurry (consider Alien and its sequels), so you may have missed this gem from the 90’s. The director of The Crow, Alex Proyas, takes us on a noir nightmare with wonderful special effects and acting. The actors and production values are top-notch. The actors include Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland (in one of his best roles), Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt. It’s a heady mix of horror, mystery, and science fiction you’re sure to love!

A Portrait of Jennie (1948)

If your taste runs toward paranormal romance, I recommend The Portrait of Jennie. This well-acted film features many top actors from the time: Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Ethel Barrymore, and Lillian Gish. Cotton plays a down on his luck artist, whose career starts to change when he meets an enigmatic young woman.

Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)

You have probably seen the original film (if not, do so!), but you may have missed Werner Herzog’s outstanding remake. It is a stylized horror film with excellent acting and sets. Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani are wonderful in the lead roles, and the rats deserve a shout-out too! (I hope they got paid union-scale wages!)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Set the Way-back Machine ™ for one hundred years ago: Following the nightmare of deaths and dashed dreams of glory experienced by Germany because of World War One (to say nothing of the other countries involved) came the genius of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. From the expressionistic sets to wonderfully weird characters and expressionistic acting, the film still has remarkable power to unnerve you. Incidentally, Conrad Veit, who plays the somnambulist, was later considered for the role of Dracula (ultimately given to Bela Lugosi) and still later went on to chew up scenes as Major Strasser in Casablanca. Note: I strongly recommend seeing a version with the contemporary orchestral score by Rainer Viertelboeck. Since Caligari is a silent film, music is a key component, and this soundtrack adds to the creepiness!

The supernatural always had the allure of forbidden fruit, ever since my mother refused to allow me, as a boy, to watch creature features on late night TV. She caved in. (Well, not literally.)

As a child, fresh snow provided me the opportunity to walk out onto neighbors’ lawns halfway and then make paw prints with my fingers as far as I could stretch. I would retrace the paw and boot prints, then fetch the neighbor kids and point out that someone turned into a werewolf on their front lawn. (They were skeptical.)

I have pursued many interests over the years, but the supernatural always called to me. You could say I was haunted. Finally, following the siren’s call, I wrote The Eidola Project, based on a germ of an idea I had as a teenager. Ultimately, I hope my book gives you the creeps, and I mean that in the best way possible.

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The Eidola Project

It’s 1885 and a drunk and rage-filled Nigel Pickford breaks up a phony medium’s séance. A strange twist of fate soon finds him part of a team investigating the afterlife.

The Eidola Project is an intrepid group of explorers dedicated to bringing the light of science to that which has been feared, misunderstood, and often manipulated by charlatans. They are a psychology professor, his assistant, an African-American physicist, a sideshow medium, and now a derelict, each possessing unique strengths and weaknesses.

Called to the brooding Hutchinson Estate to investigate rumored hauntings, they encounter deadly supernatural forces and a young woman driven to the brink of madness.

Will any of them survive?