Today I Learned …

In 1899, an ostrich escaped from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and jumped off the high bridge in Lincoln Park, which at that time was known as “Suicide Bridge”. The ostrich was okay.

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Today I Learned … Valentine’s Day Edition

Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, kept her dead husband’s heart for thirty years. A year after her death in 1851, the heart was found in her desk drawer, wrapped in a copy of one of the last poems Percy Shelley ever wrote.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

Thoughts on Life

About thirteen years ago, I was struggling with a severe bout of depression and anxiety. I took some time for myself, and it actually did me a lot of good. I had always heard of the benefits of meditation, so I decided to give it a try. It brought me a lot a peace.

So I’ve been meditating for thirteen years or so, and last night, I had … well, I had a pretty profound revelation as I sat in meditation. I thought I’d share it with you all. (I think it was worth waiting thirteen years for.)

I had gotten into a really deep relaxed state. I was aware of everything around me — the hum of the fan, the feel of the blankets at my feet, my hands resting on my knees — but at the same time, I knew that I was deep into my own consciousness. I had found a center of peace and stillness, and I relaxed into that feeling, knowing I had succeeded in finding it. (I don’t always get there every time I meditate.)

That’s when it struck me: a gentle voice deep in my soul said, “You know, this feeling of peace and tranquility is always here inside you. Just like your heart is always in your chest, your bones are always there to hold you up, your brain is always cradled in the protective bony case of your skull — this feeling of stillness is also always here, just waiting for you to be aware of it. So be aware, even when you’re not this deep in an alpha state.”

I basked in that realization, letting it settle deeply into my mind, so I could call on it whenever I need it in the future (as I’m sure I will). Today, I feel calm and at peace, knowing that that feeling is always inside, as sure as my heart beats.

(tl;dr) Stillness and peacefulness are always inside us. No matter what’s roiling around on the surface, it’s always there, just like our bones are inside our flesh. We’re not always conscious of our bones, but there they are, holding everything together. And so is tranquility.

Thanks so much for reading this. You guys rock.

Mystic Paranormal Interview

I’ve been keeping up with the radio appearances, and last night’s show was a blast and a half as always. I chatted with Shawn Lonkert of Mystic Paranormal. We talked about childhood fears, the difference between ghosts and demons, and of course, the Peoria State Hospital. I always enjoy talking about the theories behind our fascination with the supernatural, and the hour just flew by. If you’d like to listen in on our conversation, you can find the link here: https://play.radiopublic.com/mystic-paranormal-691q51/ep/s1!92e746ffbab401cea17f1d83557d0331ba559e11  I’m told that the producers of the show have just gotten a deal to actually make some moolah off of the podcast, which is cool. You can listen on the Radio Public app for Mystic Paranormal, which ensures that the show collects a bit of cold hard cash.

Happy Groundhog Day!

I love reading collections of true ghost stories. I mean, I really, REALLY love it. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been drawn to books with the words “true ghost stories”, “mysterious”, “weird”, “unexplained” — you get my drift.

I recently finished a book by paranormal author Mary Beth Crain. I’ve read her stuff before, and I’ve enjoyed it. This book was Haunted Pet Stories (Morris Book Publishing, 2011). There was a story in there that kind of freaked me out, and that is NOT an easy thing to do. It was in the chapter about pets and other animals that have been demonically possessed. (My husband used to have a cat that was possessed, but that’s a different story.)

Here is the tale, as retold by Mary Beth Crain: “One woman reported that she and her brother encountered a possessed groundhog ‘screaming like a child in excruciating pain’. An uncle who was also there ran into the house and returned with his high power rifle. He shot the animal three times in the head, and as it was dying, it was heard to cry out, ‘Mommy!’ ”

So yeah, Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! Yeesh!

Ebook Sale!

Here’s another reason to read Fractured Spirits: it’s a bestseller! Crossroad Press recently released their top fifteen bestselling titles, and my little haunted asylum book is number three on the list! And right now, you can get a matched set of the ebooks for Fractured Spirits and 44 Years in Darkness, because they’re on sale. Go here to get yourself a great deal on a couple of ebooks.

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Book News — It’s Here!

This past Saturday, I went to Maurie’s in Pekin to sit down for a chat with Tammie Judd, who wanted me to sign a copy of Fractured Spirits for her daughter’s birthday. We had a wonderful conversation in the renovated and very spiffy coffee shop, and as we walked out, I had a chance to look at the bookshelves across from the register. I’m pleased to say that Spirits of Christmas is now available at Maurie’s! They’ve got that on the shelf, as well as Hunting Demons  and 44 Years in Darkness.

So if you find yourself on Court Street in Pekin, and you want a really excellent cup of coffee and a great book to read as you’re enjoying it, stop in at Maurie’s (522 Court Street, Pekin). They’ve still got loads of fine candies and caramel corn. And now they have even more — coffee, teas galore, chai, a stunning array of ice cream, and really lovely sandwiches. I’m told the ham and Brie is marvelous, and next time I go, that’s on my list of things to try.

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Today I Learned …

Okay, it’s time for a nifty new addition to this blog. I hope you guys dig it. It’s random snippets of cool stuff — okay, trivia, I guess — and for lack of anything better, I’m giving every one of these posts the same title. You know, to avoid confusion.

I wanted to do this every Monday, but I missed out on doing one January 1, because reasons. So today, you get two, to make up for the one I missed last week.

Today I learned:

Hummingbirds can’t walk. Some hummingbirds weigh less than a penny, but that doesn’t mean they’re light on their feet. In order to reduce drag and to be able to hover and fly backwards, hummingbirds have very tiny feet — so tiny they can’t walk on them. They can perch, and shuffle sideways a bit, but that’s all.

Today I learned:

Wombat poop is cube-shaped.

New Year, New Projects, New News!

Hey hey, welcome to the first post (sorry) of the new year!

I had to go back to work after January 1, so there were a couple of fun posts that I didn’t quite get to this week. But here they are, for your perusal.

First off, I got the news on New Year’s Day that Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital is number 3 on the top fifteen best-selling titles at Crossroad Press! How cool is that?

 

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Second off, I found out that Lights Out is now available on Spotify. So if that’s your go-to for podcasts, give it a listen for fun true ghost tales.

And third off, I’ve decided to make a new feature on the blog. It’s sort of something I’ve wanted to do from the very beginning, but it’ll be shorter than I’d planned. It’ll be fun, I promise. You’ll get more about that on Monday.

Stay warm, and I’ll catch up more with you guys soon!

Oops …

Reposted from Amusing Planet, via Reddit:

The University of Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life has caught a mouse in a trap, but not on one laid by the museum staff to catch pests and rodents that frequently enter the museum’s building and cause menace. This rodent managed to get caught in a trap that was 155 years old and stored in the museum so that it could be put on display.

When the museum’s assistant curator discovered the mouse inside the trap when searching for objects to use in an interdisciplinary research session on animals, he was puzzled because the mouse wasn’t supposed to be part of the object.

Here’s the whole story: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/02/155-year-old-mouse-trap-in-museum.html

Am I overthinking this?

So I saw this sign as I was driving around town the other day, and I got out to take a picture of it. It gave me a giggle, and I hoped it would do the same for you.

Sign

And then I realized that the top part of the sign used to have the name of an accounting firm on it. I started thinking, well maybe the firm went out of business, and I’m deriving pleasure from someone else’s failure. (Anxiety’s SO MUCH FUN, you guys!!!)

So here’s the sign. Maybe the firm just, you know, moved or something. Maybe they’ve got better digs elsewhere in town, and they moved just in time for the new year. That’s what I’m going with.

 

‘Cause the sign’s still kinda funny.

A Short Little Tale for the Holiday

Merry Christmas, everyone! Reblogged from Rose Blackthorn because I dug it.

Moonlight and Thorns

I wrote this a few years ago for a drabble contest – 100 words or less, and the requirement to use certain words in the story. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, and actually placed in the competition. I thought I’d go ahead and share it here:

A Different Christmas Tradition

Grak burped long and loud, then added a flatulent note to the already redolent air. Teeja sighed theatrically, but her disgust was lost on him.

“More grog,” he growled, slamming his cup down on the table.

“More manners,” she snarled, dropping a new jug beside the cup.

“We’re goblins,” he said, filling his cup, “Spending the ass-end of winter in a cavern in Finland. Who cares about manners?” and he gulped some more ale.

“It’s Christmas,” Teeja said sorrowfully.

Grak rolled his eyes. “I’ll take you into town later, you can slay a caroler.”

Her smile…

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Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Twelve

This story is excerpted from Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays.

It’s become somewhat of a joking urban legend to claim that Elvis Presley is alive and well and flipping burgers somewhere in East Podunk. As a part of American culture, “Elvis sightings” are right up there with UFO encounters.

But even with all the National Enquirer articles shouting otherwise, the undeniable fact remains that Elvis Presley did indeed die on August 16, 1977, at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

So what sort of phantom Elvis are people seeing? The best guess is that it’s just that simple–people who claim an Elvis sighting are actually running into his ghost.

The spirit of Elvis seems reluctant to leave this plane of existence. He appeared to an acquaintance, an elderly farmer named Claude Buchanan, just after he (Elvis) passed away. Claude said that before the news of Presley’s death was announced, the figure of Elvis showed up and told him, “I’ve come to say good-bye for a while, Claude.”

But one year, Elvis decided to go home for Christmas.

On December 20, 1980, a truck driver named Jack Matthews was taking a load to Memphis. About a hundred miles outside of the city, he picked up a hitchhiker. The night was dark, and the hitcher was just a dim form in the passenger seat, a hat pulled low over his face. But the hitcher didn’t seem like a threat to Matthews; on the contrary, he was well-spoken and polite, just the kind of company you’d want on a long trip. In a light Tennessee drawl, he told Matthews that he was going to Memphis to see his “momma and daddy” for the holidays.

The hours passed in pleasant conversation. They talked quite a bit about cars, and the hitchhiker mentioned that he owned several Cadillacs. Matthews took the boast (for surely that’s what it was) with a good-natured grin and a grain of salt or three.

The truck rolled into Memphis, and in the glow of the streetlights, the hitchhiker’s face began to seem somehow familiar to Matthews. The man asked to be dropped off on Elvis Presley Boulevard, and that’s when the penny dropped for Matthews. His passenger looked startlingly like the late entertainer.

Matthews found the boulevard and carefully pulled the sixteen-wheeler over to let his passenger out. He stuck his hand out to wish the guy a Merry Christmas, and realized he’d never told his passenger his name. “I’m Jack Matthews, by the way.”

The hitchhiker looked Matthews in the eye. “I’m Elvis Presley, sir.”

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For more Christmas spookiness, read Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, available in both paperback and ebook. And enjoy even more creepy stories at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/

On this last episode of the Weird Darkness version of the Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas, Darren has pulled out all the stops to bring you even more wonderful stories of holiday chills from Spirits of Christmas. On this Christmas Eve, enjoy “Christmas Carols in the Woods”, “St. Mary’s Church”, “The Lady in the Pantry”, “Mrs. Eustace Returns”, “The Phantoms of the Mamie R. Mine”, “The Wreck of the General Arnold” (which is a), one of my personal favorites, and 2), available as an episode of Lights Out), “Up In Flames”, “The Battle of Edgehill”, and “50 Berkeley Square”.  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.

Thank you so much for joining me and Darren Marlar of Weird Darkness for these Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas. It’s been such a joy sharing tales of winter weirdness with you! We wish you the happiest (and spookiest) of holidays!

Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Eleven

When you hang out with ghosts, like I do, it’s quite possible that you have … more than a passing interest in things that other people think are ghoulish, macabre, or downright creepy. So it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I am a proud subscriber to Ask A Mortician on YouTube.

I found Caitlin Doughty’s YouTube channel quite by accident (as I find most things on the Interwebs, quite honestly). I watched several episodes and found them utterly fascinating. (Not even realizing, as I did so, that Caitlin Doughty the mortician was also Caitlin Doughty the author. She wrote Smoke Gets In Your Eyes a few years ago, and she’s just released From Here to Eternity.)

While puttering around on the Ask A Mortician channel, I was utterly delighted to find a couple of very festively seasonally appropriate episodes. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! Have fun with “We’re Here To Ruin Santa” , “A Very (Un)Merry Ask a Mortician With Mike Zohn , and (my personal favorite) “Gruesome Christmas Monster Showdown” .

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For more Christmas spookiness, read Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, available in both paperback and ebook. And enjoy even more creepy stories from Weird Darkness! Darren’s got loads of great tales from Spirits of Christmas for you today. Get ready for the holidays with “The Eternal Beatle”, “Home for the Holidays”, “The Kennedy Road Phantom”,  “Santa Stuffs the Stockings”, “Santa and the Elf”, “The Ghost in the Living Room”, “That’s Not Santa!”, and “Poe Finds His Inspiration” (the story behind the latest Lights Out episode, by the way). Find them at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/

Book Review: Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

Here are some kind words from a fellow blogger! Thanks, Cristian!

Cristian Mihai

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… but are you sure about that? The dark winter nights can hold many secrets, along with tales of both horror and hauntings. In this chilling book, Sylvia Shults has gathered over 120 tales of Yuletide Spirits, Holiday Horrors, and Christmas Catastrophes that give a new meaning to the “dead of winter.”

These pages include rollicking legends of holiday helpers with dark sides; gripping accounts of Christmas season fires, train wrecks, and disasters; winter tales of phantoms and haunted houses; and a collection of Christmas spirits that are sure to send a shiver down your spine! Hearkening back to the days of the paperback anthologies of the 1960s, you’ll be delighted when you unwrap this package on Christmas morning and start turning page after page of eerie and frightening tales. It’s the perfect collection for…

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Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Ten

This story is excerpted from Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays.

 

     One night in December 1942, a British airman stationed in London was out for a stroll. He was crossing Pond Square in Highgate when he heard a strange sound for the mid-twentieth century–the sound of carriage wheels on cobblestone. Then he heard an even more incongruous sound for a chilly December night in the middle of London–the loud screech of a chicken.

The airman looked around in confusion. He couldn’t see a carriage, but he did see a chicken, running in disoriented circles and squawking with fright. And probably also with cold–because this chicken had already been plucked! The airman took a few steps towards the bird, hoping to help the poor shivering creature. But as he got closer, the chicken vanished.

This chicken ghost has been seen in Highgate for over three hundred years. It has a perfectly good reason to haunt Pond Square … and its story affects us even today. You see, that was the world’s first frozen chicken–and it led to a revolution in food preservation.

The story goes that in April 1626, Sir Francis Bacon was riding in a carriage through London with his friend Dr. Witherborne, a physician to James I. The sight of the snow-covered ground led to a discussion of the possible commercial use of snow to preserve food. Looking out at the rolling wheels, and the path left behind the carriage, Bacon pointed out to Witherborne that the wheels were packed with chunks of snow, and the grass revealed by the passing of the wheels looked fresh and green, even in late winter. Bacon’s friend belittled his theory.

Irritated enough to want to prove his point immediately, Bacon ordered the carriage to stop. He trotted to the nearest house and bought one of the household’s chickens. He wrung the hen’s neck, plucked it, cleaned it, and stuffed the carcass with snow. Then he packed more snow around the prepared bird.

Bacon’s experiment worked, and a new era in commercial food preservation was born. Unfortunately, Bacon’s impetuous adventure on the snow led to his contracting pneumonia. He faded quickly, and died on April 9, 1626.

Soon after Bacon’s death, visitors to Pond Square began to hear the squawking of a chicken about to be butchered. But no chicken was in sight. Then the audible became visible. People would see a plucked chicken running in confused circles before vanishing through a brick wall. The airman’s experience in 1943 was just one in a series of naked chicken sightings down through the years.

 

For more Christmas spookiness, read Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, available in both paperback and ebook. And enjoy even more creepy stories at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/

Today, Darren will be sharing several more stories from Spirits of Christmas. In this episode: “Mrs. Pickman’s Ghost”, “Haunts of Hartland”, “The Things We Do For Love”, “The Christmas Rosebush”, “Please Help”, and one of my favorites, “Footprints in the Snow”. Also, you can hear Darren read “The Chicken Ghost”, the story excerpted above. 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 Nine

Enjoy this throwback to Ghosts of Christmas Past: Lights Out Christmas 2016

 

And the folks at Weird Darkness have some wonderful tales for you too, straight from the pages of Spirits of Christmas. Today they’ll be sharing “The Perfect Christmas Tree” (which ROCKS), “A Rose For Her Hair”, “Eternal Love” (which is all KINDS of awesome), and “Guides in the Snow”. Enjoy the shenanigans at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/24167484_554090251607294_1831495809_o

Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Eight

Enjoy this throwback to the Ghosts of Christmas Past: Lights Out, Christmas 2015.

 

And don’t forget to check in on the Weird Darkness podcast! Today’s stories from Spirits of Christmas include the deeply creepy “The Mystery of St. Luke’s Church”, “The Guttenberg Poltergeist”, “The Tickling Terror”, and another of my all-time favorites, “The Thing at the Foot of the Bed”. Enjoy more festive shenanigans at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/24169441_554090224940630_1664839010_o

Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Seven

Oh, have I got a treat for you for today! Here’s another Christmas episode of Lights Out. I sit down for a conversation with paranormal author Holly Nadler, an expert on the ghosts of New England. Pour a cup of eggnog and settle back for a tale of ghosts, betrayal, and Edgar Allan Poe. https://youtu.be/I1o74O6A-aw

 

And enjoy the shenanigans at http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/ In this episode, he’ll be sharing “The Ghost of William Terriss”, “Christmas Hauntings”, “Calvert Mansion”, “The Dana House”, and the super-cool “I Am Your Brother” 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.24167476_554090241607295_991366375_o

The Best Christmas Gifts Evoke the Horror of Christmas’ Past

A big thank you and a Merry Christmas to the Haunted Librarian, who kindly reviewed Spirits of Christmas!

The Haunted Librarian

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The Best Christmas Gifts Evoke the Horror of Christmas’ Past

The Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, written by Sylvia Shults, debuted last month, appearing in independent bookstores across Illinois. It can now be purchased online directly from the publisher, American Hauntings Ink (https://squareup.com/store/american-hauntings-ink) for $16. The 240 page compendium is overly ambitious—bulging with tales. However, book lovers live by the adage: More is actually, well, more—and the more tales the better! This book is packed with domestic and international folktales and historical events occurring around the Christmas season. Each of the sections could stand as its own title. But for the 2017 Christmas Season, Ms. Shults’ book will warm the bodies circled around the hearth celebrating “the weirdness that has swirled around the Christmas season for many centuries.”

Ms. Shults rarely delves into any paranormal events circulating around these horrific stories. Instead, she…

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Twelve Night(mares) of Christmas: Day Six

Can’t get enough spooky stories? Then head on over to https://www.americanhauntingsink.com for a whole website full of the strange, the mysterious, true crime, and ghosts galore! Troy Taylor, one of the country’s premiere paranormal investigators, has written well over a hundred books on the macabre and the supernatural. Fans of true crime and of ghostly tales will find well-loved stories and hidden gems among Taylor’s many works. Love history? Visit  troytaylorbooks.blogspot.com for tales from America’s past.

 

Be sure to stop by http://darrenmarlar.com/2017/11/28/twelve-nightmares-christmas/ to see what the folks at Weird Darkness are up to today! Today, Darren will be bringing you several stories from Spirits of Christmas: “The York Museum Ghost”, “The Sea Captain’s Ghost”,  “The Frozen Lovers”,(another of my favorites!), “Ghost Cat”, “Saying Goodbye”, “The Death Coach”, and “Sir Geoffrey Walks”. Sit back and enjoy a full evening of Christmas spooky, brought to you by myself and Weird Darkness. If you like what you hear, you can always subscribe to Darren’s podcast.Visit www.weirddarkness.com to subscribe.

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