Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Five

Okay, here’s a weird one for you.

What do you get when you cross a horse’s skull, a bedsheet, and a book of Dr. Seuss?

Well, the Welsh get Mari Lwyd.

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Mari Lwyd is definitely what you’d call a party animal. The “Gray Mare” is a bedazzled horse’s skull that’s carried around on a pole, the bearer being hidden under a white sheet. Mari Lwyd and her entourage go from house to house (or from pub to pub, because booze) singing Christmas carols and being generally rowdy. When Mari Lwyd shows up at the door, her posse and the folks inside have an insult contest in rhyme — a “yo mamma” fight brought to you by Dr. Seuss. No matter who wins, Mari Lwyd is invited into the house (or the pub, because BOOZE). The theory is that she is so disturbing that evil spirits are freaked out just by looking at her, and vacate the premises.

In Celtic Britain, the horse was a symbol of power and fertility. White or gray horses were thought to have the power to cross between this world and the next. So the Gray Mare, dressed in white with ribbons and spangles decorating her skull, returns from the Underworld at the turning of the year. She brings luck to any place she enters, in keeping with the Christmas spirit.

For more Christmas monsters, check out Spirits of Christmas, available online at Barnes and Noble and at Amazon. And possibly other places too.

And hop on over to  http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/ for more holiday happenings. Today Darren brings you “The Aircraft Carrier Glory“, “Number 149 Squadron” (one of my personal favorites!!!), “Back Already?”, “Told You So”, “Dear Theodosia”, and “Last Wishes”. If you like what you hear, you can always subscribe to the Weird Darkness podcast, to get more dark weirdness forever! Visit www.weirddarkness.com to subscribe.

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Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Four

I grew up surrounded by books (lucky me!!!). When I was in fifth grade, I discovered a book at my grandmother’s house called Mysterious New England. I blame this book in part for encouraging my childhood obsession with the weird and strange.

One of the stories in the book that has stayed with me all these years is the tale of the Vermont Resurrections. In the 1880s, a man wrote in to a Vermont newspaper to tell a tale he’d found in his uncle’s diary.

The uncle had been invited to a cabin deep in the Vermont woods to witness a strange and shocking process. Six people — two women, four men — were going to be frozen alive.

One of the men was young, only about thirty, but was crippled. The other five people were elderly. All six of them were given some sort of drugged drink. When they were knocked out, they were undressed down to their underclothes, and taken outside and placed on wooden boards. There, as the winter night fell and the hours dragged past, they were allowed to freeze. Their limbs stiffened, and their faces, hands and feet turned waxy. When they were considered ready, they were buried in a deep pit and covered with straw, then branches to keep out predators. The people overseeing this process encouraged the narrator to come back in May, when the frozen corpses would be brought back to life.

The narrator was appalled at this, but he couldn’t stay away. The next spring, he came back. The bodies had been dug up and placed in tubs full of warm water. After several hours, color began to seep back into the waxen faces, and one by one, the people blinked, sat up, and looked around. They seemed none the worse for wear — refreshed, in fact, by their long winter’s nap.

Do you call shenanigans on this story? It seems crazy, too strange to be true. I read it as an impressionable fifth-grader who wanted to believe. There were strange things afoot in the New England woods in the nineteenth century. Was this just a tall tale? Or did six people actually sleep the Vermont winter away under twenty feet of snow?

Find more tales of winter weirdness in Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and at fine booksellers everywhere. And please visit Darren Marlar at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/ for even more spooky winter fun. Today, Darren brings you “Strange Happenings at Tod House”, “Professor Gladstone and the Murderer”, “The Mackey Haunting”, “The Dug Hill Booger”, and “The Old Royal Ascot Hotel” from Spirits of Christmas. If you like what you hear, you can always subscribe to the Weird Darkness podcast, to get more dark weirdness forever! Visit www.weirddarkness.com to subscribe.

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Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Three

It was four days after Christmas in 1876, and the Lake Shore Pacific Express was behind schedule.

The express train traveled through the dark night, pulled by two massive locomotives, “Socrates” and “Columbia”. A storm made for slow going, even with the two engines. Winds in excess of 40 mph blew drifting snow over the tracks and cut visibility. The engineer riding in “Socrates”, the first locomotive, peered out through the whirling dark. The bridge over the Ashtabula River was just ahead, and a thousand feet beyond that was the station. Socrates pulled Columbia behind her, and they both pulled two express cars, two baggage cars, one smoking car, three sleeping cars and three coaches through the dark night.

The engineer listened intently to the clickety-clack of Socrates’ wheels as the train started across the bridge. In the blowing snow, with limited visibility, the engineer was guiding the train mostly by the cone of light in front of him and the sound of the wheels underneath.

Suddenly that sound changed from a steady, reassuring clacking to a jarring jolt. The cone of warm yellow light from the train’s headlight illuminated only dark blank sky. The bridge was collapsing, and taking the train down with it.

The engineer shoveled coal into Socrates’ boiler in a frantic race against time and gravity. Socrates surged forward, her engineer urging her to the other side of the bridge, to safety. The weight of the rest of the train hung in the air for a bare moment, and Socrates’ engines glowed red-hot with the strain …

 

Read the rest of the story in Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores.

 

And please visit http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/ for more holiday strangeness. Today, Darren will be sharing “Merry Christmas from the Bell Witch” and “The Murder of Thelma Todd” from Spirits of Christmas. If you like what you hear, you can always subscribe to the Weird Darkness podcast, to get more dark weirdness forever! Visit www.weirddarkness.com to subscribe.24167484_554090251607294_1831495809_o

Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Two: Fun Christmas Shenanigans

While puttering around the Interwebs, I’ve run across some great websites that are well worth your free time. I’ll be putting up links to a few: here’s the first one.

The dynamic duo of Greg and Dana Newkirk are the driving force behind the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult. I’ve done several episodes of Lights Out with the professional weirdos, and it’s always been a blast. (You can listen to those episodes here, here, and here, if you like.)

Dana and Greg are also great about keeping their fans entertained with their websites, which include Planet Weird. Here’s where you can find loads of fantastic articles about the paranormal, the strange, the macabre, and yes, the weird. And there are plenty of articles about the dark side of the holidays, too, like this one here. Go check it out … then don’t forget to check under the bed!

 

And Darren’s got a cornucopia of strangeness over at Weird Darkness. Today he’ll be doing “The USS Constellation”, “Lord Combermere Returns”, “The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall”, “The Ghost of Anne Boleyn”, “The Eilean Mor Lighthouse”, “The Mystery of the Mary Celeste“, and “The Palatine Light”. And if you like what you hear, you can always subscribe to the Weird Darkness podcast, to get more dark weirdness forever! Enjoy more festivosity at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/24167476_554090241607295_991366375_o

He’s Makin’ A List …

Are YOU making a list?

 

If you are, and there are, you know, books for deserving people on that list, you can find Spirits of Christmas at several fine bookselling establishments in Peoria (and coming soon to Maurie’s in Pekin, too). Spirits of Christmas is currently darkening the shelves at Lit. On Fire Used Books (712 W. Main Street, Peoria). Don’t let the “used books” part of the store’s name throw you. You can get brand-new, pristine, gorgeous copies of the book there, as well as other titles like 44 Years in Darkness and Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital. It’s also taking up shelf space at Acme Comics (2218 W. Glen Street, Peoria).

 

And I am very pleased to say that it spent less than a day on the New Book shelf at Fondulac Library before being checked out.

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Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day One

We are going to start things off with a bang, and with a brand-new episode of Lights Out! I am delighted to bring you this super-cool episode, recorded in June 2017 in Plymouth. I’ll be joined by the ever-fabulous Janice Williams, tour guide for Dead of Night Tours in Plymouth. She’ll tell us the creepy tale of the Wreck of the General Arnold, a brig that went aground on Christmas Day in White Flats just offshore from Plymouth. https://youtu.be/xZY-ntKexJk

 

There’s fun stuff over at Weird Darkness, too. Darren’s got wonderful Christmas ghost stories for you, including “The Flash Flood”, “The Haunting of Hundley House”, “The Messenger of Donner Pass”, and “House of Plenty”. And if you like what you hear, you can always subscribe to the Weird Darkness podcast, to get more dark weirdness forever! So be sure to visit http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/24167476_554090241607295_991366375_o

Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Coming Soon to a Computer Screen Near You!

Are you guys ready for Christmas yet? Let’s get everyone in the Christmas spirit with the Twelve Days — or Twelve Nights — oh heck, let’s do the TWELVE NIGHTMARES OF CHRISTMAS!

I’m pleased to say that I’m partnered for the next twelve days with Darren Marlar of Weird Darkness. We’ve put our heads together and come up with twelve days of Christmas creepiness for your holiday delight. Keep an eye on this space for ghoulish goodness, and do visit Darren’s podcast site or pop straight over to http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/ to see what he’s got for you. (Big huge thanks to Darren for designing the gorgeous banners you’re going to be seeing on the site for the next twelve days.) (And yes, I know the “twelve days of Christmas” is really Christmas Eve to Epiphany. I got it, so please don’t rip me a new one in the comments. I just wanted to get everyone in the Christmas mood before the big day.)

So! Grab your copy of Spirits of Christmas — or ask someone to get it for you for the holiday — and let’s curl up by the fire and rock out with some ghost stories! Find Spirits of Christmas at Barnes and Noble or Amazon, and don’t forget, the ebook is out there in electronland too.

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Well This is Fun!

Here’s what’s creeping around the Interwebs this weekend:

I went to an authors’ fair last weekend in Sterling, Illinois, at the library there. I had a great time, and there was a reporter wandering around. I snagged him and brought him over to the table I was sharing with another author. Here’s what happened next: http://www.saukvalley.com/2017/12/02/theyve-had-quite-the-storied-lives-readers-meet-the-writers-at-authors-fair-in-sterling/ao92lxn/

And way back on Halloween, I did a presentation, along with Loren Hamilton, at the library in Jacksonville, Illinois. The library now has copies of my books, and they were kind enough to brag about it: http://www.myjournalcourier.com/features/lifestyle/116650/shelf-life-115

 

And Now For Something Completely Different …

If you’re looking for something to fill up that Kindle, Nook, or other ereader you got for someone last year, here’s an idea: Get ’em a book bundle. Right now, 44 Years in Darkness and Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital are available as a matched set of ebooks. Fractured Spirits is all about the hauntings at the abandoned asylum in Bartonville. And 44 Years in Darkness is the compelling story of Rhoda Derry, one of the patients at the Peoria State Hospital. 44 Years  was selected as a runner-up in the Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book contest, and it’s also a Five-Star read from Reader’s Favorites.

You can snag both ebooks for $6.99, which saves you $2 over buying them separately. Which beats stepping on a Lego at midnight.

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5star-flat-hr Not too shabby!

Krampusnacht Is Here!

Ah, Krampusknacht. The night before St. Nicholas Day, when St. Nick and his dark helper, Krampus, go around to make sure kids are being good. The kindly saint has lots of goodies and presents in his bag … but Krampus carries a sack that’s empty. Why, you ask? Well, it’s because he has to have room in his sack to carry off naughty children to Hell. And if he’s feeling a bit peckish, he just snarfs the kids down right there, he doesn’t even bother with the sack.

Happy Krampusnacht, everybody!

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Apparently, I Am Not Myself Today

So about an hour ago, I started getting these weird texts through Facebook Messenger, from someone I didn’t recognize, and who I’m not connected with on Facebook. She started off with a cheery hello, then proceeded to tell me everything she’d eaten today, and that she was following everything up with a glass of water.

 

 

…..

 

 

I said, “Good for you, although I have no idea why you’re telling me this.”

Turns out that she’s on a diet, and her sponsor’s name is Sylvia, and she was just checking in. I’d gotten the Facebook Messenger equivalent of a wrong number. I said, “Well, best of luck to you!”, and we went our separate ways.

Here’s the thing: while I was processing that weirdness (which turned out to be not so weird, but it was weird at the time), the mail came. I got a shipment of Spirits of Christmas yesterday, and the box that came today was also from my publisher. However, this was most definitely NOT a book of ghost stories.

So now I’m home alone, and really kind of starting to question my identity. If I get to work tomorrow and no one recognizes me, or if it turns out that I work for the CIA instead of the library, I’ll know that the brainwashing has worn off.

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Does this look even remotely spooky to you? Nah, me neither.

What’s Coming Up?

So, you’d think that after October’s done, my schedule would have settled down. But no! There are still plenty of places to catch me (you know a moving target is harder to hit).

On Friday, December 1, I’ll be at Maurie’s of Pekin (522 Court Street, Pekin) for Christmas on Court. I should be there from 7 to 8 pm, but we’ll see what happens. Stop by the store before then to put down your guess as to how many candies are in the jar near the register. Closest guess wins a free copy of Spirits of Christmas!

On Saturday, December 2, I’ll be headed north, for an author fair at Sterling Library (102 W Third Street, Sterling IL). I’ll be there from 11 am to 3 pm.

Wednesday, December 6 (which is also St. Nicholas Day) will be quite busy. At 8:40, I’ll be a guest on the Greg and Dan Show on WMBD, during their morning drive time. I’m excited about this! And in the evening, I’ll get to hang out with my close personal friend Jerry Ayres, of The Calling. That show will start at 6:30 pm. (https://www.facebook.com/TheCallingRadio/)

On Friday, December 8, I’ll return to the Barnes and Noble in Peoria (5001 N. Big Hollow Road, Peoria). I’ll be hanging out there from 6 pm until at least 8 pm, or until they kick me out.

And on Saturday, December 16, I’ll head west to Galesburg, where I’ll be doing a book signing at Stone Alley Books and Collectibles (238 E Main Street, Galesburg), from 11 am to 2 pm. At 8:30 that night, I’ll be a guest on Into the Parabnormal, with Jeremy Scott. That’ll be fun! (https://www.facebook.com/ParabnormalShow/)

There may be other happenings as the month progresses, but this is what’s coming up as far as I know now. Come on out somewhere and let’s catch up!

SoC

Cyber Monday Deals

Hey, Cyber Monday’s here! And for lots of us, this means the chance to stock up on Christmas presents online, and the chance to score some great deals. And here on the ol’ blog, we’re getting into the Christmas spirit. (Oh, who am I kidding — I’ve been in the Christmas spirit for months now!)

So check this out: Spirits of Christmas (my new book. You knew I had a new book out, right? Yeah, I have a new book out), is out and ready for popular consumption. And here’s the best part: you can get yourself (or someone else) a big whoppin’ dose of Christmas cheer and fright to fit any budget … even free!

The actual book-shaped thingy can be found at Amazon here. The book itself (you know, the kind you can stuff in a stocking or throw against a wall) is available for $16. The ebook is out too, at the same link (here, if you missed the earlier one). Electrons also fit in a stocking, I suppose, or they seem to work really well on a Kindle or other e-reader. The ebook is $4.99.

And you can get some holiday cheer right here, on this very blog, for the low low price of absolutely free! I’m going to be running a Twelve Days of Christmas special in December. This onslaught of tidings of great joy will include special episodes of Lights Out, and excerpts from the new book. Also, I’ll be running this in partnership with Darren Marlar, over at the Weird Darkness podcast. He’ll be doing snippets of stories from Spirits of Christmas too, so you guys can get a double dose of ghostie goodness if you so choose! I’ll be posting links to his podcast too.

Wander over to Amazon, check out the book (tree or e-version), and be sure to stop back here between December 12 and December 24 for the Twelve Days of Christmas! (And YES, yes, I know that the actual Twelve Days is Christmas Eve to Epiphany, but hey, it’s my blog and I do what I want, so there. 🙂 )

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And Now For Something Completely Different …

So I was messing about on Amazon the other evening, you know, like ya do, and I found something that, in the hubbub surrounding Spirits of Christmas, I had nearly forgotten about.

This summer, I was asked by the hosts of one of the radio shows I work with to be a part of an anthology. The stories could be in any genre, but there were a few simple rules: they had to feature the hosts, Brian and Sherri, and, um, they couldn’t be killed off during the course of the story. (Sounds reasonable.)

Here are three of the stories that resulted from the challenge posed by the hosts of the Brian and Sherri Show.

Who Wants a Free Book?

Thanksgiving is here, and soon it’ll be time to start thinking about Christmas. But let’s take a moment to appreciate the subtle nuances of the season.

The mania and sugar high of Halloween has come and gone, and this year’s costume is memorialized in a hundred phone pics, selfies, and Facebook posts. Christmas shopping looms on the horizon, but we don’t have to leave the house for Black Friday just yet. The rich smell of good cooking fills the air, and soon we’ll be sitting down to a delectable feast, filling our plates with turkey, stuffing (or dressing, FINE, be that way), creamy mashed potatoes glistening with yellow pools of melted butter, slabs of pie crowned with dollops of whipped cream. (I just love that word — “dollops”. It almost sounds like the noise it makes when you push it off the spoon — dollop. Hee!)

Ahem! So now that it’s Thanksgiving, and we’re sitting on the couch enjoying the pleasant stuffedness of a food coma, let’s play a little game. (I promise, it doesn’t even involve moving from the couch.)

If someone, say, me, for example, were to offer free copies of Spirits of Christmas to a friend of yours, who would you choose to give a copy to, and why?

You read that right. Tell me, in the comments, who you would gift a copy of my newest book to as a Christmas present. I’ll make it happen for three lucky people. Let’s give it, oh, a week or so. On December 1st, I’ll choose three winners from everyone who weighed in with their wish list. I’ll message you privately, and you can tell me who gets an extra Christmas present.

And … GO!

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A Milestone!

I recently did something pretty stinkin’ cool … I did my one hundredth media appearance. Yep, counting radio shows and TV shows (cough cough Ghost Hunters), I now have one hundred shows under my belt.

And it was a blast! I got to chat for a (very short) hour with Becky Vickers, the lovely and effervescent host of Bridging the Paranormal. You can listen to our wonderful conversation here .

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Let’s Try This Again …

Some of you might recall that earlier this year, I went to the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts. I recorded my experiences there, in preparation for doing an episode of Lights Out. What I failed to foresee was that the guide for the ghost hunt wasn’t comfortable with me putting her on the show without talking to her agent first.

So! With her permission, I have re-edited the show, and simply used the recordings I did that do not feature her voice. You’ll still get the experience of being at the Lizzie Borden House for a ghost hunt with me, the humble host of Lights Out, your virtual campfire.

I do hope you’ll join me for a return to Lizzie’s house. Let’s see what turns up, shall we? https://youtu.be/dF7YpCzAgqM

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Now available on iHeart Radio

A Day Off

So Halloween’s presentation at the Jacksonville Library went well. I got to hang out with my friend Loren Hamilton, and we both got to entertain a room full of people — including a reporter from the local paper. Check out the resulting article here.

And since I was already halfway to St. Louis, I decided to spend the night in Springfield and continue on to the city on Wednesday, to visit the King Tut exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center.

First, I stopped by to say hello to my T-Rex buddy.

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Rawarggh!

Then I went into the Tut exhibit.

You guys, it was AMAZING. The premise behind the exhibit was the discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. So first, they had mockups of each of the rooms of the tomb. There is a WORLD of difference between seeing black-and-white pictures of the inside of the tomb, and seeing it in living color and 3-D — in other words, in real life.

Then — then — they had the exhibit of every single thing in the tomb, laid out to look at. It was GLORIOUS. And the way they had it set up, you really got a sense of what went where in the tomb. I’ve been drooling over these artifacts for decades, and I even learned something new about them.

I spent half an hour or so just staring at the gorgeous solid-gold innermost coffin. And probably another twenty minutes staring at the mask.

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Solid. Gold. And so freaking beautiful!

I have been obsessed with ancient Egypt since I was seven years old. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to the Tut exhibit when it was at the Field Museum in 1978 (even though I lived in the suburbs, just twenty minutes from the city). I did go to see it when it returned to the Field in 2006 (holy CATS, has it really been that long?). And of course, when there was a Tut exhibit at the Peoria Museum, I volunteered so I could go whenever I wanted. And I spent HOURS there. But this — this exhibit blew all the others out of the water. Seriously.

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And I loved that people were so respectful. It was quiet in the exhibit, no matter how many people (and schoolchildren) were milling around.

 

If you are anywhere near St. Louis before January 7, 2018, do yourself a solid and go see this exhibit. You’ll find it interesting — and if you are an Egyptophile, it will ROCK YOUR WORLD. I want to go back.

And as an added little bonus, while I was walking back to my car, I met the guy with the World’s Best Job.

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His name is Cowboy, and I got to pet his shoulder. (The horse. Not the policeman. I have no idea what his name is. I just want his job. Or his horse.)