Today I Learned …

In the latter half of the eighth century, the Japanese began using incense to mark time by placing a stick of it horizontally in a wooden box with holes marked at specific intervals. You could tell how much time had passed by noting which hole the smoke was coming from. An incense stick could be made with a number of different scent blends, so that simply sniffing the air would indicate the time. (This scented method of keeping time was so efficient that until 1924, geishas were still paid by the number of incense sticks lit during their time with a client.) (From The Elements of a Home: Curious Histories Behind Everyday Household Objects, by Amy Azzarito)

Today I Learned …

During Hurricane Ophelia, tens of thousands of apples were blown off of the trees in an orchard in Clonmel, Ireland — but the fruits landed unbruised and ready for cider processing. The nearby River Suir flooded at the same time the apples were stripped from the trees, and when the water receded, the apples were laid to rest gently, blanketing the ground under the trees. (From Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: A Century of Strange)

Today I Learned …

For an art festival in Kassel, Germany, Argentine artist Marta Minujin built a full-size replica of the Parthenon using 100,000 books that have been banned at one time or another. Constructed with a steel framework, the sculpture was made with books donated by the public from a list of over 170 titles, including The Da Vinci Code, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Catcher in the Rye. And the coolest part? It was built on a former Nazi book-burning site. (From Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: A Century of Strange)

Today I Learned …

In April 1935, the Titanian, a tramp steamer carrying coal from Newcastle, England, to Canada, encountered an iceberg in the same area as the Titanic had done 23 years earlier. Crew member William Reeves had a premonition seconds before the iceberg came into view and yelled “Danger ahead!” to the navigator, who quickly reversed the engines and brought the ship to a halt. Reeves was born on April 15, 1912 — the date on which the Titanic sank. (From Eyewitness: Titanic)

Guess Whose Book Won First Place?

I have news! Good news! I’ve just found out that Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories has won First Place in the Bookfest Awards. How about that? And you can go here to get your very own copy, if you haven’t already:…/days-of-the-dead-a…/9781735668987

You can also get it here: Paperback:–2kxKyMMQo92XiWTOcAYgaBq8f6lHfINp-He4oeOQyH8

And here: Kindle:

Today I Learned …

The app RunPee advises users on the best time to take an urgent toilet break during a trip to a movie theater so that they do not miss a crucial moment. It picks out three- to five-minute-long movie scenes that do not contain essential plot twists, exciting action, or laugh-out-loud moments. (From Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: A Century of Strange)

Today I Learned …

A typo helped the Allied forces crack the famous Enigma code and ultimately defeat the Germans in World War Two. The UK Ministry of Defense recruited Geoffrey Tandy to work at its top-secret Bletchley Park headquarters in Buckinghamshire, England, in the belief that he was an expert cryptogramist — someone who deciphers codes — when in fact he was a cryptogamist, an expert on mosses, algae, and seaweed. Despite the mistake, he stayed, and when a German U-boat was sunk in 1941 and its cryptic documents captured, his knowledge of preserving water-damaged specimens proved invaluable in making the papers readable. (From Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Beyond the Bizarre)

Today I Learned …

George Romero, famous for his Living Dead zombie movie franchise, also made videos for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

When Romero got out of college, he and a few friends started a movie company called The Latent Image, and billed themselves as “Producers of Industrial Films and Television Commercials.” Some of Romero’s earliest jobs were short films commissioned by the show, shown on Picture Picture: “Things With Wheels”, “Things That Feel Soft”, and “How Light Bulbs Are Manufactured”. (Romero still jokes that the scariest film he ever made was “Mr. Rogers Gets A Tonsillectomy.”) With the experience he got on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Romero scraped up $114,000 to make Night of the Living Dead, helped by volunteers and free entrails from a local butcher shop. He really wanted Betty Aberlin, the human actress in the Land of Make-Believe, to play Barbara, the lead in Night of the Living Dead, but Mr. Rogers put his foot down and said NO. (And by the way, Mr. Rogers saw Night of the Living Dead — and loved it.) (From Kindness and Wonder: Why Mr. Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever, by Gavin Edwards.)

Lights Out: The Watseka Wonder

I KNOW, I know, it’s been positively AGES since you guys have enjoyed an episode of Lights Out! (Unless you’ve been watching or listening to past episodes, in which case, good for you!) I’ve got a great excuse — I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a new book for you all, so that’s why I’ve been slacking off a bit on the podcast/YouTube front. But fret not! Here is a brand-spanking-new episode of your virtual campfire.

We’re headed to the town of Watseka, Illinois, for a bit of Victorian-style ghost hunting at the Roff House. Enjoy!

Today I Learned …

When King Louis XVI of France was a child, an astrologer warned him to be on his guard on the 21st day of each month. Consequently, he never conducted any business on that date. Even so, on June 21, 1791, following the French Revolution, Louis, and his queen, Marie Antoinette, were arrested in Varennes while trying to flee France. Then on September 21, 1792, France abolished the monarchy, and finally on January 21, 1793, Louis was executed by guillotine. (From Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Beyond the Bizarre)

Today I Learned …

Salmonella is a bacteria in the Enterobacter family that causes food poisoning — we all know this. But here’s something you might not know: salmonella lurks not only in raw chicken, but also on the skin of reptiles. Which is why you really should wash your hands after handling, say, a red-eared slider turtle or an iguana. It’s also why the FDA came up with the “4-inch law” in 1975. It says that any turtles sold in the US have to have a shell length of at least four inches, because that makes it harder for a child to stick the turtle in his or her mouth. (Do you need to sit down for a minute? It’s okay, take your time…)

2022 Calendars Still Available!

Are you still looking at your 2021 calendar? The year is over (and thank goodness for that!).

There’s a great way to get your spooky fix for all of 2022. I’ve put together a new calendar, using twelve of the 366 stories in Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories. It’s bigger than last year’s calendar, so you’ve got lots of room to write down dentist’s appointments, swim meets, class reunions, stuff like that. $18 gets a calendar sent right to your door.

And here’s what else that $18 gets you: when you order a calendar, using the Contact Me link at the top of the page, tell me a date that’s special to you. Come closer … whisper it in my ear. It could be your birthday, or the day you brought your furbaby home, or the day you watched a really pretty sunset. Tell me about it, and I’ll write a special message on that day in your calendar.

So click that Contact Me button, and get ready to make every day spooky!

Welcome — I Think? — To 2022.

What can I say about 2021, besides things that would probably get my mouth washed out with soap? Good grief. (Literally. We lost many family members this past year, including a sweet dog.)

But life does have a way of going on. For instance, there are now two MORE places you can listen to my true ghost story podcast, Lights Out. It can now be found on Amazon Music/Audible (, and at ( So go, check it out, subscribe if you like. I’ve been promising a new episode for, like, forever, but I have several good excuses, including the fact that I’ve been working really hard on a new book for you guys. More on that later.

For now, go out and sneak your way into the New Year. Remember, no sudden movements. (It can’t see you if you hold still, or does that only work for T-Rexes?)

Also remember: I love you guys. Stay safe.