Horrors – A Full Year of Horror #40

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

10/07/2017 – 10/13/2017 

 

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

 

This Friday is the thirteenth. Better not go to any camps, have sex or do drugs. In fact, it’s safer to just not move. So curl up with our site for some scary stories and hope Jason isn’t lurking outside your door.

 

 


Shooting EvilLawrence C. Connolly

Synopsis:
A man and his new lady love take some boudoir photos of her lying on the bed. Afterward, while developing the film, something’s not quite right. She doesn’t seem to be in the photograph…

Review:
I loved the angle this story took on the vampire myth. I also didn’t know that silver was used in black and white photography. Unfortunately for the femme fatale I don’t think she thought her plan through very well.


ShutterGordon Linzner

Synopsis:
Annette is being photographed by an unknown man. Despite various tricks he always seems to be there, click, taking his pictures. While being mugged he carries on, click. a police officer is on hand to help, however, and annette thinks her troubles are over. Or are they?

Review:
This story seemed a little strange to me. Annette thinks to herself that it would be silly to report the man to the police as he’s only taking pictures. I do believe that’s still referred to as stalking. If this were a more recent story it would make good commentary on what certain people think of as their right to take pictures of total strangers and post them wherever they please with no regard for that person’s privacy or possible consequences of doing so.


Sibling RivalryBrian Hodge

Synopsis:
After a traumatic incident a woman buys herself what sounds like a Chucky doll and bizarrely names it Annabel Lee. Then they invite their nephew over for the week and Annabel Lee does not want to share her mother’s affection.

Review:
A creepy doll story that is pretty gruesome, to me. I did think it weird that the doll seems like a boy doll but is named Annabel Lee. I get the reference but it seems rather wedged in.


The Silver and the Damage DoneScott M. Brents

Synopsis:
Walter is a werewolf. He pounces on a peasant girl and is shot down in quick order. It replays again…and again…and again.

Review:
First of all, I’m curious if the author got his title from the Neil Young song ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ (which is far more depressing than this story). It had an interesting side to it in that the ‘werewolf’ is a VR game called ‘Silver Death’: “A werewolf game so real it should be outlawed”. Walter, the man in question, had hooked himself up to the machine and died of dehydration. Actual cause of death? The quarter he had used was a silver quarter. And we all know silver and werewolves don’t mix.


Silver FuturesStephen Dedman

Synopsis:
A werewolf is under arrest aboard a spaceship. Very cocky he believes that the officer has bitten off more than he can chew. However, leaving the moon’s reach it may be the werewolf has bitten off more than he can chew.

Review:
This did raise an interesting question. Would the Earth moon be the only moon to have an effect on werewolves? And would a planet with more moons have more of an effect or less?


Six Deaths MoreJudith Post

Synopsis:
Teresa’s nightmares are getting worse. They start with a Roaring Twenties gangland slaying as she and her date are gunned don in a restaurant. The next is a nightmare of the Civil War, dying at the hands of the Yankees as she fires on them. The third is as one of the ‘Witchcraft Girls’ in Salem, fingering Tituba as the instigator of the witchcraft panic which claims five more innocent lives. as she dies again in her most recent nightmare she realizes that she will have to ‘die’six more deaths before her sin is purged.

Review:
While I liked the idea behind it, some parts didn’t make sense. For starters, Tituba was not hanged for witchcraft. She was imprisoned and released, which is a bit surprising., given the times. While it was true that most who confessed did avoid the gallows they also had their land and money stripped from them. Since Tituba had no land or property she knew that confessing would save her from the gallows. Also, the story states that five other lives (besides Tituba’s, two other slaves and five other innocent women were dead before the witch panic died down. This also is untrue. In total 24 accused witches had died. Nineteen were hung, four died in prison and one was pressed to death (Giles Corey, who refused to say anything, therefore allowing his family to keep their lands). I know, I know. I’m probably being way too particular for a short story but these are easily obtainable facts, even before the internet. I did like the idea of working out your past ‘guilt’ through the nightmares but it does seem like a bit of a light punishment, comparatively speaking.


SkepticTim Waggoner

Synopsis:
Two teenagers are watching a wrestling bout on tv. one of the boys keeps snarking about how fake and unrealistic it is (a little ironic after my two paragraph harangue on the witch trials in the review above). Finally the other boy turns it off in a huff and accuses the first boy of having no imagination. They decide to head out for a bite to eat…after they sharpen their claws, that is.

Review:
I really liked this story. We all have that friend. You know the one I mean. The one who, when you question the motivations of a character in a movie their only answer is “Because it’s in the script.” And we’ve all been annoyed by them. I liked the twist at the end.


Favorite of the Week:
The run of good stories continues! I attribute it to the Gods of Bookdom and Halloween to be in a favorable mood! It’s another hard choice. I very much liked Shooting Evil by Lawrence C. Connolly as the lady’s thoughtlessness could be written off as cockiness. I also loved Skeptic by Tim Waggoner. It had a fun and amusing twist at the end. Two (presumably) supernatural creatures arguing about whether or not televised wrestling is real or not.


Thank you for joining us yet again for another round of frightful tales! Please join us again next week as we move closer to the horror fan’s ultimate holiday!

Horrors! A Full Year of Horror #28

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

07/15/2017 – 07/21/2017

 

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

 

Hello and welcome back to this week’s round of small, frightful delights! So get ready to hide under the covers but make sure you bring a light. It’s dark under there.

 

 

 


Mother LodeOjvind Bernander

Synopsis:
Finn is amazed to find an egg in a hole in his lawn. He’s even more amazed when it hatches out a Griffin. A Griffin that eats junk an excretes gold. Finn thinks he’s hit it rich but he’s forgotten one thing. Where there are babies there’s usually a mother…

Review:
I loved this story and I’m jealous. I want a Griffin. Preferably one that won’t eat me.


Mr. Bauble’s BagScott David Aniolowski

Synopsis:
Old clowns never die, they just wait in the shadows.

Review:
This was a very good, creepy clown tale. It’s not the usual serial killer clown or child eating clown. In fact, it’s a little unclear what it is that Mr. Bauble eats. But he seems genuinely disappointed that children fear him. Or whatever he is.


Mr. Brubaker Goes to WorkLyn Nichols

Synopsis:
Mr. Brubaker jauntily heads off to his work. He’s a butcher, happily carving good steaks and he takes pride in his work. Just don’t ask where the steaks come from.

Review:
I started out assuming that Mr. Brubaker was a killer but it took a slight zig-zag that I didn’t expect. A wonderful twist.


Much More Than You KnowBrian A. Hopkins

Synopsis:
Love can make people do crazy things. Especially disappointed love.

Review:
it’s a story that has been done before but this caught my eye because it was well written. Almost musical in that it flows so well.


Mud Juleen Brantingham

Synopsis:
A guy who’s rough on his women, especially the ones that can’t be bought with the price of popcorn and a movie, is leaving a girl in the rain as he drives out of the bayou. Little does he know that his friend Wes knows about the bayou, and what it will do for the people who care for it.

Review:
Loved, loved, loved this story. Great set-up and a great monster.


The Music BoxLisa Lepovetsky

Synopsis:
Julia holds the music box that her mother treasured and would never let her open. Now, more than anything, Julia wishes her mother was there with her. She’s about to get her wish.

Review:
A very good story that did not turn out how I expected it would. It also, in a weird way, reminded me a bit of Hellraiser.


My Evil TwinBrian Craig

Synopsis:
Two twins, separated by divorce. Assuming he is the ‘good’ twin our narrator has learned to keep from becoming what he thinks his brother must be. Deciding to track his brother down the narrator gets the surprise of his life…he may not be the ‘good’ twin, after all.

Review:
Another great story. It’s interesting to me how much twins are used in horror. No offense to any twinnies out there. There always seems to be a good one and an evil one. I have to admit that I have always found it pretty fascinating that a lot of identical twins seem to lead very similar lives. However, that rarely happens with fraternal twins. It kind of makes me wonder about genetics and whether or not our behavior is truly ‘individual’.


Favorite of the Week:
Oh, lord, do I have to pick? They were all really, really good. Even the Mr. Bauble one was good and I’m not usually gung-ho on clowns. They are creepy but the formula for using them in horror stays pretty basic. If I had to pick then these three are definitely the tops for this week: Mother Lode by Ojvind Bernander, Mud by Juleen Brantingham, and My Evil Twin by Brian Craig. They all had a little something more to them.


Well, this was a great week for stories. Let’s hope the awesome streak continues and I’ll see you guys next week for another week’s worth of tales to chill you.

Footsteps in the Dark (Dark Fantasy)

Title: Footsteps in the Dark | Author: Carlo Armenise | Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc. | Pub. Date: 05/16/2017 | Pages: 132  | ASIN: B072J2MVCF | Genre: Dark Fantasy | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received from the author for review consideration


Footsteps in the Dark

“Footsteps in the Dark” is a collection of eight short stories, with a Twilight Zone flavor, that highlight the eternal struggle between good and evil, brought on by the human condition and the lengths we go to satisfy our desires. In addition to predominately supernatural themes, each of the stories present an intricate character study that identifies the flaws, frailties and weaknesses of a host of interesting characters, and the outcomes of the actions they take to get what they want. “Footsteps in the Dark” is written in an extremely engaging and intriguing story telling style that will get and keep your attention as you take each of the “Footsteps in the Dark”

Footsteps in the Dark Review

I really liked this collection although I found it to be a pretty good mix of Tales from the Darkside and Twilight Zone. That’s not a dismissal or put down at all, I love Tales from the Darkside. I liked the way it was set up, with each story being another step into the dark. I also liked the pictures in it, they fit well with the stories.

A Conversation with Death is definitely at the top of the list for me. It was creepy, touching and I loved The Diner. I thought it was a very cool idea and the end surprised me. A lot.

The Potion had a very ‘Death Becomes Her’ feel to it but with a much better ending to it.

Deadly Dream was a bit…middling for me. It seemed very repetitive for such a short story and the ending was a little easy to predict.

Best-Laid Plans was one that really brought the Twilight Zone feel to it. It had that level of irony and gotcha! to it. It was a story I liked very much.

The Not So Wise Guy was hilarious and I loved it. It had a great twist at the end that was also worthy of the Twilight zone.  In fact, Frank reminds me of a character in the Twilight Zone I just watched.

The Set-Up was a good story. The ending was a bit easy to see coming but it was very satisfying when it did.

Deadly Diagnosis was a great story and would probably come in second to A Conversation with Death. It’s also a bit more realistic that he does serve a bit of time before the actual legal finding happens. It also gets to a more emotional depth than some of the other stories.

The Collector was another ok one. It seemed a bit of a rush to the end when it actually could have done with a bit more of a led up to the actual plot point.

All in all, I would recommend it. Even for people who don’t typically like short stories these stories are very short and conclude satisfactorily. Which is a common complaint with some short stories. They either leave too much undone or conclude so fast it barely feels like you’ve read an actual story. These are somewhere in the middle of that and they are good. I’d like to see what the author has in store for future stories.


4 out of 5 Skulls

      

Horrors! A Full Year of Horror #24

Horrors! 365 Scary Stories – A Full Year of Horror

06/17/2017 – 06/23/2017

 

The horror short-short isn’t easy to master, but more than 100 of the genre’s critically acclaimed authors & hottest up-&-comers have taken a stab at it in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, an anthology that contains a short tale for every day of the year. Steve Rasnic Tem, Wm F. Nolan, Tom Piccirilli, Yvonne Navarro, Peter Atkins, Brian Hodge, Martin Mundt & 166 others give you short, sharp shocks.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

I am enjoying the warm summer evenings. So pull up a log, grab a marshmallow and let’s tell some ghost stories.


The Lamia’s SoliloquyS. May Amarinth

Synopsis:
A lamia tells her victim three things about herself and her kind, counting on a human’s short memory. For the blood they take they give inspiration for poetry and art.

Review:
Short with beautiful description. I liked it quite a lot.


Last FightPeter Cannon

Synopsis:
As the widow of a famous occult writer lies dying her fans and caretakers scoop up her husband’s books. An enterprising young leech gets a bit more that he bargained for when he swipes a writing award.

Review:
I liked the story but the statuette in question just doesn’t seem to have a price tag high enough to make it worth conning for.


The Last ResortRichard Gilliam

Synopsis:
Bobby “Music-in-the-Morning” Walters is a dj on the radio who enjoys his job. The talking part of it anyway. He’s not too fond of the notion of the new Respect Radio, radio that doesn’t talk over your music. And now he’s been taken to the Orientation Center to cure him of his nasty habit.

Review:
I loved this story. No offense to the people out there who do like the talkative dj’s but that is one of the reasons I quit listening to the radio. Too much talking and not enough music. MTV stopped playing music and now look at them.


The Last WishScott Edelman

Synopsis:
A man who has trouble making up his mind about everything is on death row. He couldn’t even make up his mind about his last meal. So what does a guy who can’t make up his mind do when he gets one wish?

Review:
A dark and humorous story. I love the reason for there being only one wish (cutbacks are a bitch).


A Late DateTomi Lewis

Synopsis:
A woman is sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring. Maybe this time he’ll actually talk to her.

Review:
A kind of weird story. The woman gets all snazzied up for a creep call. I’m guessing she must be a very lonely woman.


Liar’s DiceAdam Niswander

Synopsis:
When you call someone a liar you get to play Liar’s Dice. Somehow I think Liar’s Dice is more unfair than a floating craps.

Review:
If your kid ever tells you there’s a monster in the house it’s best to give them the behefit of the doubt. Just in case.


The Light of Truth Benjamin Adams

Synopsis:
The Cult of Inner Vision is a fast growing cult that has attracted the attention of the F.B.I. Too bad the last guy that got sent in became part of the cult. Now they have to send more in. What could possibly go wrong?

Review:
I liked it until the end. The ending doesn’t tell you what they see and frankly, I’m a bit annoyed. It’s kind of a cheat.


Favorite of the Week:
The Last Resort by Richard Gilliam caught my eye this week. Mostly for the reasons I mentioned above. Every time I actually try to listen to the radio it’s just people talking. And, worse, they’ll start talking over the song itself. If we’d had streaming services when I was growing up I would have been in heaven. and maybe not screw over some of those tape clubs (sorry Colombia).

10 Things That Get Us in the Mood (to Read)

A banner with the words The Top Ten Tuesday List on it.This Top Ten Tuesday, the theme was things that make us instantly want to read a book. There are lots of things that get us in the mood, but we’ve managed to narrow it down for you. (Mostly.) Note that this is a list from both Gracie and I but we’re not saying what belongs to whom. Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you courtesy of Broke and Bookish.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things That Get Us in the Mood (to Read)

 

Monsters (and I’m talking proper *creatures*, not vampires and werewolves, thank you!)

If you put a Megaladon, a gigantic Squid, or even just some part of a monster like it’s ferociously intent eyeballs on the cover… I’m sold! Gimme. Gimme gimme gimme gimme.


Demons (or Possession)

Book cover for The ExorcistI may be an atheist, but if you tell me someone’s immortal soul is in danger, and some do-gooder is gonna have to go toe-to-toe with Satan or one of his minions? Let me grab the popcorn and I’m there!


Haunted/Haunting (or Ghosts. Ghosts is a good word too.)

Demons are the ultimate scary, but there’s something deliciously shiver-inducing about a haunted house (or car. Or anything, really.) The creak of a floorboard, the faucets turning on suddenly, a dark figure looming behind you when you look in the mirror. It’s all good. (And by good I mean terrifying, of course.)

 


Lovecraft / Cthulhu (Coolthulhu!)

Book cover for The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror by John Llewellyn ProbertIf you didn’t expect Lovecraft or Cthulhu to show up on this list, then you obviously don’t know where you’ve ended up. And you might want to back away slowly. Lovecraft’s mythos is legend, Cthulhu is awe-inspiring, and that is all there is to say about that.

 

 


Spaceships

The book cover for We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. TaylorI know, I know, I’m a walking cliche, but I love going into a book knowing I can anticipate a good shoot-em-up happening in space.  In terms of things that get us in the mood to read, you can’t go wrong with a long, strong phallic symbol getting ready to wreck death and destruction on some alien scum! *cough* Or a cute story about an AI named Bob works for me too.

 


Hard

Book cover for Tau ZeroYes, right on the heels of talking about phallic symbols, I’m bringing the word hard into it. However, I’m talking about hard science fiction, of course. So if you thought otherwise, well, we should be friends. That’s all there is to that.


Anthologies

Book cover for Book of CthulhuJust to prove I’m not a lecherous female (most of the time), we’re back to playing it perfectly innocent. I’m always drawn to collections of short stories whether they’re by the same author or a variety of authors. If it’s an anthology that has the words ‘Haunted’, ‘Ghost’, ‘Lovecraft’, or ‘Cthulhu’ in the title then it’s instant attraction.

 

 


Plague/Virus/Infected

Book cover for The Laptev VirusOooh, there’s just something about those words that make me happy. I don’t need it to promise death and destruction upon the world, of course (shut up, Coolthulhu Crew). But a breath-taking thriller starring something that needs to be stopped just in the nick of time, preferably by a smart-aleck anti-hero? Mine mine mine mine mine mine! (FYI, Laptev doesn’t have an anti-hero, but it’s still a bloody good read.)


Shutter/Camera

Book cover for Shutter I love photography, so any time there’s a book with a horror or paranormal bent that involves cameras, I’m going to pick it up. I just have to. There’s not even a question about it. (I might pick it up and put it right back down after reading the back cover, but I am, at least, going to lift it from the shelf and cradle it gently whilst I peruse its prose.)

 


A Great Cover

Book cover for The Red TreeOkay, this isn’t a word or anything like that, but it’s true. There have been times when both of us have picked up a book we might normally not even look twice at just because the cover was so eye-catching. There are books I’ve carried home from the bookstore that I never end up reading, but I had to get it just because the cover was so shiny fantastically well-drawn or conceptualized.

Power Rangers (2017)

Title: Power Rangers

Synopsis: A group of high-school students, who are infused with unique superpowers,harness their abilities in order to save the world. – IMDB

Tagline: Back to Action!

Trailer: Power Rangers

Release Date:  03/24/2017 | MPAA Rating: PG-13 | Skulls: 4 out of 5


Power Rangers Review

I have to admit. I was a Power Rangers addict in my early to late teens. I first got hooked on it when I watched it with my nephew…and then without. When I had my son I refreshed my love of it. I don’t pretend to be a Power Rangers expert but I have an abiding affection for it. So, it set my geeky little heart all a-flutter when I saw the trailer for it. It was also a good trailer. It showed just enough to make you want to see it and not too much.

Power Rangers started in the early nineties (1993), ran for quite a few seasons and with different variations. The show itself was pretty basic. Some kind of monster would show up, the Rangers would morph, kick some bad guy butt, rinse and repeat. They did start adding a bit more story as the show went on but the formula remained pretty much the same. It caught some flack because some kids were trying out the moves on each other and it was “extremely violent”. Never mind the fact that the show stressed teamwork, friendship and loyalty.

I really wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, even with the cool trailer. I was very pleasantly surprised. More than pleasantly surprised.

I loved it.

The story starts out normally. The usual detention Breakfast-Clubbers are thrown together by chance and after a mis-guided explosion at a gold mine they find the Power coins. That’s when the fun begins. Afterwards they start noticing they’ve changed. They discover a buried spaceship, which tells them their purpose and what they’ve become. They are now the Power Rangers and have approximately eleven days to save their town (and the world) from Rita Repulsa, who (coincidentally) has also been re-awakened.  Then the fun really starts

The acting was quite good, much better than I expected. The relationships were pretty realistically portrayed. They weren’t instant friends nor instant antagonists. There was also no insta-love or love triangles for which I was profoundly grateful. There was also no petty bickering or cattiness between the two female leads which was very refreshing.

There were a few cheesy moments but I expected a little cheese and it was good cheese. The difference between generic slices and real chedddar.

There were some very unexpected twists and parts that actually surprised me. I mean, really surprised me. I’d love to say more but why spoil it for you?

One thing I’d also like to mention is that the PG-13 guideline is well-earned. There were some moments that were very intense and one or two made me cringe a bit. Not cringe, as in it’s terrible and hokey, but a cringe as in it was a little hard to watch.

And the villain? I’m not going to say much but don’t go in expecting the doofy Rita Repulsa of old. This chick is scary. And pretty awesome looking.

There were many a part that made my geeky little heart flutter. There were a few in-jokes here and there that were balanced perfectly. Not too many, so as to make it nothing but referential humor. The dramatic parts were balanced quite well with the more comedic and action parts. I was afraid it would go ‘Godzilla’ on me. Too many people, not enough action.

I was a tad bit leery early on with the way a couple of the car chase scenes were shot. They were very choppy and quick so I was worried that the action sequences would be the same. I needn’t have worried. They were great! I loved The Zords. If there hadn’t been people sitting in front of me I may have squeed a bit.


In wrap-up it was an awesome nostalgia to indulge in with my son. It’s always nice to have a nerd-out together every now and then. For some younger viewers some of the scenes might be a bit too intense, though.


4 Skulls out of 5

             

‘Tis the Season

Every Sunday during October, Sci-Fi & Scary will be bringing you a fresh article from a horror author.  They’ll be talking about everything from why they love horror, to their favorite parts, and everything in between. Our third guest post comes from Bill Schweigart. You can find more information about Bill at the end of this article.


’Tis the Season

by Bill Schweigart

 

The first time I realized I was a horror writer was when my agent urged her Twitter followers “to welcome horror writer @billschweigart to the team.” I was shocked. Until that moment, I honestly hadn’t realized I was one. The Beast of Barcroft was my second novel—my first was a thriller about the Coast Guard—so at that point, only half of my output was horror. What did this new designation mean? I immediately thought of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry explains to George why he can’t go through with a ménage à trois: “Don’t you know what it means to become an orgy guy? It changes everything. I have to dress different, I have to act different. I’d have to grow a mustache and get all kinds of robes and lotions…. I’d have to get orgy friends….” Substitute horror for orgy and you’ll begin to understand the mini-existential crisis this Tweet had provoked.

What did it mean to be a “horror writer?”

Turns out it means the same as being any other kind of writer: you simply write the stories you would like to read. And when I wrote The Beast of Barcroft, Northwoods, and Untitled Schweigart #3 (more on that later), I wanted to read about monsters, myths, and legends. And that’s still the case, especially this time of the year, when the encroaching darkness and the new chill in the air conspire to make everything feel just a bit more sinister. So when Lilyn invited me to contribute to Sci-Fi and Scary during October, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to be a horror writer and share some of the cryptids that captivated me. ’Tis the season to huddle round a campfire and tell stories of the folklore lurking just beyond the tree line….

 

The Beast of Gévaudan

First, what’s a cryptid? A cryptid can be an animal that is exceptionally large (think Jaws) or an animal outside of its natural range (think Jaws in a river). Or, as I like to portray cryptids, creatures out of legend (think Scottish Jaws, a.k.a. the Loch Ness Monster).

One creature that transcended real life to become a mythic cryptid was La Bête du Gévaudan, which I reference in The Beast of Barcroft. From 1764 to 1767, this beast—or beasts—reportedly racked up over two hundred attacks, with over one hundred kills, in the mountains of south-central France. The precise death count is disputed; however, this was no fairy tale. Victims were often killed by having their throats torn out, and many victims were partially eaten. The creature or creatures in question caused so much hysteria in the Gévaudan province that it drew the attention of King Louis XV, who dispatched professional wolf hunters to kill the beast. A large wolf was killed, and victory was declared! (Think Jaws again, this time when they catch the smaller shark and reopen the beaches for the Fourth of July.)

beast-attaque - cryptids
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Beast of Gévaudan’s rampage continued for another year and a half. Finally, a local hunter, Jean Chastel, killed a second wolf. And legend has it Chastel shot it with a silver bullet. Personally, I’m inclined to believe the kill wasn’t due so much to the bullet’s composition as its velocity, but that’s just me. Regardless, the wolf died, but a legend was born.

 

The Horror of the Hodag

 

the_hodag - cryptids
And it was also a 100% genuine hoax.

Though likely a wolf, or wolves, we can’t be absolutely certain of the Beast of Gévaudan’s true identity, but the identity of the hodag was never in doubt. The hodag was a sturdy four-legged creature, long and low to the ground, and its back was lined down the center with sharp, white spikes that ended in a long tail. It had two large, curved horns on a massive head filled with long, sharp teeth, including two especially long tusks. It was described as “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor-sharp claws on the earth.”

The hodag originated in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, a logging town that was in crisis during the late 1800s, as its supplies of pine and hemlock became depleted. A land surveyor—and noted prankster—named Eugene Shepard “discovered” the hodag, claiming to have killed it with the help of some friends…and some dynamite. Then they captured a “live” specimen and displayed it at the Oneida County Fair. Thousands came to see the creature. The story of the hodag gained enough traction in the national media that a group of scientists from the Smithsonian announced they would travel to Wisconsin to inspect it. Shepard had to admit it was a fake; however, the hoax actually boosted the community’s fortunes and Rhinelander willingly adopted the hodag as its beloved mascot. Drive through Rhinelander today and you’ll be greeted with a giant statue of the beast and locally-owned stores named after it. Most impressively, the beast reached the absolute pinnacle of monsterdom: it has its very own episode of Scooby Doo, “The Horror of the Hodag.”

 

The Underwater Panther

 

What I find fascinating about the hodag, whether it was intentional or not on the part of the Eugene Shephard, is its similarity to another legend: the Ojibwe’s Mishipeshu, or the Underwater Panther. The Underwater Panther is one of the Ojibwe people’s most powerful deities. It dwells in lakes, rivers, and caves. It represents the power and mystery of the deep. Some tribes call it the Great Water Lynx. Others, just the Underwater Monster. The legends vary, of course, but the most popular renderings feature it with the body of a dragon or a sea serpent, with spikes along its back, and mighty horns on its head….

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons -cryptids
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Jersey Devil

No two descriptions of the Jersey Devil are perfectly alike, but some features are common. Two legs. Cloven hooves. Forked tail. Small arms with claws. The head of a horse, sometimes a dog or a goat, but usually with horns. And giant wings like a bat’s. It’s a cryptid with an identity crisis. Legend has it the Devil was the 13th child of Mother Leeds, a woman from the hardscrabble New Jersey Pine Barrens. Mother Leeds was so distraught at the prospect of yet another mouth to feed that she cursed the baby: “Let it be a devil!”

But its origins don’t interest me. What fascinates me about the Jersey Devil is 1909.

jersey_devil_philadelphia_post_1909 - cryptids
Jersey Devil from the Philadelphia Post 1909 – public domain
jersey-hoax - cryptids
Public Domain

First, full disclosure: I’m a Jersey Boy at heart. But as much as I’d like to claim our Devil should be counted among folkloric greats like Bigfoot, even I have to admit the Jersey Devil is less Loch Ness Monster and more chupacabra. He’s a second-stringer at best…except for one week at the dawn of the last century. During the third week of January 1909, my beloved second-stringer took a shot at the title and crisscrossed no fewer than 30 different towns in the Delaware Valley—from Delaware, through southern New Jersey, and into Pennsylvania—causing mass hysteria.

Women swooned. Posses of men plunged into the woods to trap it. People locked their doors. In Mount Ephraim, NJ, many people would not leave their homes and the school in town closed for a day for lack of students. Mills in Gloucester and Hainesport were forced to shut down for a day due to a high rate of absenteeism. The mayor of Burlington ordered his police to “shoot the creature on sight.” A Camden theater cancelled a performance. Trolley drivers began arming themselves. Major urban newspapers treated the appearances as front page news.

 

I repeat: schools and factories closed—during the 20th Century—because of the Jersey Devil. Obviously, there were some hoaxers out there, attention-seekers, some cases of mistaken identity, and maybe some lunatics. Still, there were plenty of honest citizens—police, county officials, and more—who saw something. A sort of mass hysteria spread throughout the area and, just as quickly, the spell broke. My beloved Jersey Devil faded back into the obscurity. That is, until he decides to take flight once more from the Pine Barrens to raise a little hell.

 

 

I Want to Believe

 

Despite my horror take on cryptids, all cryptozoology really means is the study of hidden animals. Literally. From the Greek kryptos, meaning “hidden,” and zoology, the “study of animals.” Just as UFO means unidentified flying object and not necessarily alien spacecraft, cryptids are not always mermaids or yetis. Cryptids can simply be amazing animals that haven’t been discovered yet, like the Philippines’ golden spotted monitor, a six-foot lizard, already well known to locals, but just discovered by scientists in 2004. Cryptids can be animals that have reappeared, like the coelacanth, a living fossil thought to be extinct but was rediscovered when a fisherman caught one on a rod and reel in 1938. Cryptids can also be animals found far outside of their normal range, like the unfortunate mountain lion from the Black Hills of North Dakota who went on a 1,500-mile walkabout in 2010, only to get struck and killed by a car in Connecticut.

But what’s the truth behind cryptids like the Beast of Gévaudan or the Jersey Devil or the Loch Ness Monster? The truth is, I don’t care.

In 2006, an adult giant squid was caught by researchers from the National Science Museum of Japan…and caught on camera. This was the first-ever live video footage of a giant squid, a small female about 11 feet long. She was pulled aboard the research vessel, but died in the process. And after the initial thrill of seeing the footage for the first time wore off, I was left with one thought: “One less sea monster. How sad.”

If I may paraphrase Richard Severance, the wealthy cryptozoologist in my books, cryptids live where the real meets the unreal. Where science shines a light into the dark corners of legend, and folklore becomes fact. For the month of October, I propose switching off that light, breathing in the dark, and letting the animals stay hidden. A few shadowy corners and a little room for the mind to breathe are necessary. A little romance, a little wonder, even a little danger, are good things. And I can think of no better time for those good things than October, and no better place to discover them than in scary books. And blogs about scary books. So thank you, Lilyn, for giving us this not-so-safe space.

Untitled Schweigart #3

 

So, what’s next? I’m hard at work editing my next novel, where my characters will face their next cryptozoological challenge. I want to thank Lilyn for the opportunity to take a break from my manuscript and have a little fun here. That book, the final installment of my trilogy, should be out mid-next year. In the meantime, I’ve learned that The Beast of Barcroft and Northwoods will be available in audiobook format in November and December respectively. In those books, my characters Ben and Lindsay have been on the defensive, reacting to otherworldly threats. But in Untitled Schweigart #3, they’re going to take the fight to its source: New Jersey’s dark heart, the Pine Barrens. I had an idea for a title, but my wife, my agent, my mother, and Lilyn all vetoed it with a vengeance. So stay tuned…

-Bill


Bill Schweigart is one of the few people that I genuinely enjoy interacting with. Given how much of a reclusive anti-social hermit I am by nature, that’s quite the praise. You can find the reviews I’ve written for Beast of Barcroft and Northwoods by clicking on their titles.  (And yes, there’s a reason several of us told him to nix the title for #3.)

You can find Bill at http://billschweigart.com/ or on Twitter: @billschweigart

Beast of Barcroft - cryptids

Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down—way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.

First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.

Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals. – Goodreads

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A Review of Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

The book cover and synopsis for Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

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A Review of The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

What’s it about?

71717711These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?

-Goodreads Synopsis

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The Last Kids On Earth Review

What’s it about?

Its been 42 days since the monster apocalypse hit, and 13 year old Jack  Sullivan is holed up in his tree house. He knows he can’t take on the hordes alone, and needs to build a team of whatever kids he can find. He’s lucky enough to find his best friend Quint still alive, and somehow they end up partnering with the last person they would have expected!

Can Jack’s team bash the monsters, save the girl, and become the Post-Apocalyptic Action Heroes?

My Review of The Last Kids On Earth

Told in a mix of black and white graphics and easy-to-read paragraphs, The Last Kids on Earth was a quick, enjoyable read that anyone over the age of 8 could easily appreciate it. I giggled at least 5 times while reading it. It has hilarious lines, perfect illustrations, and the swash-buckling adventure spirit that any imaginative kid (or adult) can get behind.

The characters are a nice assortment, with the sole female definitely not playing the role of damsel-in-distress. The plot is simple. The wording is perfect. The main characters are boys, but I can see adventurous young girls enjoying this book just as easily as young boys.

While not the best middle-grader’s book I’ve ever read, it definitely ranks high!

4 Star Rating

Click here to find The Last Kids on Earth now on Amazon.com

Title: The Last Kids on Earth | Author: Max Brallier (site) | Illustrator: Douglas Holgate (site) | Publisher: Viking Books (site) | Publication Date: 2015-10-13 | Pages: 240 | Genre: Children’s | Language: English | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Triggers: None | Date Read: 2015-11-1 | Source: Library