Lights Out #49: Haunted Objects 3

It’s time for another visit to the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult. Come with me to Greg and Dana Newkirk’s lair, and meet Simon the haunted doll, give the Fetid Face the side-eye, and keep your hands off the voodoo drum.


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 .


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?

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.)

Upcoming Events

October may be over, but I’ve still got a few busy weekends.

This coming weekend (November 4 & 5), I’ll be at two authors’ fairs. On Saturday, I’ll be at the Peoria Public Library (North Branch — 3001 West Grand Parkway, Peoria), from 2 to 4 pm.

And on Sunday, I’ll trek over to the Twin Cities for an event at the Bloomington Public Library (205 E Olive St, Bloomington IL) from 2 to 3:30.AuthorFairPeoria

Salem Township Library Visit

On Thursday, I got to go to one of my favorite small libraries, Salem Township Library in Yates City, Illinois (just outside of Peoria). This is the second time I’ve been there, and the reason I call it one of my favorites is that they are just so welcoming there. Yates City is a small town, and it seems like everyone knows everyone else there. (There’s a flyer on the bulletin board advertising farm-fresh eggs, which the seller will deliver to the library for you. That’s what a small town it is.)

What I really dig about visiting Salem Township is that everyone feels comfortable there — the Q&A after a talk is lively, and people actually discuss the answers. It is SO much fun to be a part of a discussion, rather than just standing at the front of a room spewing the answers. (Not that I have a problem with that. It’s just that I enjoy people’s participation too.)

I’ll be at Jacksonville Library next Tuesday, for Halloween. Join me!SalemTwp2017

You Can’t Go Home Again … But Sometimes, You Can Visit

Most of the time — okay, ALL the time, I’m so very glad that time only moves in one direction, and that I will never, ever be in any danger whatsoever of having to attend high school again. (Except in those weird dreams about being late for Spanish class, and not even sure I’m actually enrolled…)

But sometimes, it’s good to reconnect with the people you knew in high school that were — okay, so maybe they weren’t cool, but at least they were as dorky as you were. Fellow dorks? Possibly.

A few months ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from someone who was actually a friend in high school. She now works at a library in Elgin, much closer to the Chicago suburb where we both went to school. She graciously invited me to do my Fractured Spirits presentation at her library, so I decided to make a weekend out of it.

On Friday, I did the presentation at the Lake Villa Library — and almost had my name in lights! Well, the asylum’s name was in lights, so that’s close enough.

Then I went to my friend Joe Diamond’s magic/mentalism show, with a tour of the haunted Dole Mansion for afters. And yes, I was allowed to record an episode of Lights Out there. Coming soon!

The next day, I joined my friend Tish Calhamer for lunch …

And the presentation. After the talk, I got a tour of the magnificent Gail Borden Library in Elgin.

After I got done being TOTALLY jealous of my friend’s workplace, I went to the Barnes and Noble in Crystal Lake for a book signing. I heard a GREAT ghost story there, so look for that in an upcoming episode of Lights Out. The next day, I headed for home. It’s good to travel, but I’d almost rather be home curled up with a book — especially as it’s very nearly hibernating weather!

Harvest Time

The weather here was gorgeous on Saturday, and yucky on Sunday. I wanted to enjoy a fire in the firepit Saturday or Sunday evening, but alas, that was not to be. Saturday night was far too windy, with the change in the weather coming, and on Sunday night, the wood was wet. Blah.

But I did get out in the garden Saturday afternoon, and look what I found hiding in the dirt — sweet potatoes!


MOS2017 – Ghost Stories With Sylvia Vol 3

Ron's Amazing Stories - The Blog

Welcome to week three, “Part 2”,  ofThe Month of Spooky 2017!

I hope that you enjoyed Tuesday’s podcast because we are going continue with the Ghost Stories. Since ancient times, ghost stories?tales of spirits who return from the dead to haunt the places they left behind?have figured prominently in the folklore of many cultures around the world. A large amount of these tales seem to involve historical figures ranging from queens and politicians to writers and gangsters, most of whom died early, violent or mysterious deaths.

In 2014 I was introduced to whom I believe is the finest, funniest and best ghost storyteller there is. She has a way of making you feel fear and see the humor in that.Sylvia Shultshas spent years in the pursuit of the weird and the strange. She now shares those experiences telling true ghost stories and has five books on…

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It’s Okay. It Really Is.

Ever have words of wisdom show up just when you need them the most?

So I’m getting ready to start promoting Spirits of Christmas, and I’m thinking back to just about a year ago (exactly a year ago yesterday, how ’bout that?), to when 44 Years in Darkness came out. I’m thinking about the hopes and dreams I had for that book when it came out. Man, I was gonna take over the world!

I was at work today, covering books, and I came across a book called The Self-Love Experiment by Shannon Kaiser. In it, she described her “real life” ( as in, “as soon as I accomplish XXXX my “real life” can start … we’ve all been there): sitting next to Oprah, with Elizabeth Gilbert heaping praise on her book, standing on the stage for a TED Talk and getting a standing ovation. This is pretty much identical to the hopes and dreams I had for 44 Years, I’m not gonna lie. Of COURSE I wanted to do a TED Talk on Rhoda Derry’s life. (I still do.) And I really, REALLY wanted to get onto NPR with Rhoda’s story, on Weekend Edition or The Diane Rehm Show, before she retired.

Well, none of that happened.

But another book had more words of wisdom for me. In the book Code of Trust, by Robin Dreeke, I happened upon this little gem:

“Dreams don’t always come true. Sometimes they don’t even come close. But falling short of your ultimate goal can be fine, if you come close enough to savor most of its rewards.”

That is really, really what I needed to hear. And I DO get to savor most of the rewards of the goals I set for myself. So maybe I’ve never been reviewed by Publishers Weekly. So maybe I’ve never been interviewed on NPR. So maybe I’ll never get to sit next to Oprah. Instead, I get to do one of the things I love best in all this world. I get to stuff myself silly with true ghost stories, and cherry-pick the best of them and share them with you guys.

(I still want to do a TED Talk on Rhoda Derry, though. Someday…)

Something Very Cool To Share …

I’ve just hit a personal milestone.

I wrote a book that’s over 100,000 words long.

I’ve never written anything this long. Most of my books come out to around 75,000 words–78,000 if I’m really smokin’. But this? This is something else entirely. And I’m not yet done typing!

Seriously, I cannot wait to share this book with you guys. It’s gonna be awesome!


Schedule Update

Okay, so, you know how I said I was going to be at Lincolnland Community College in Springfield on Halloween? Well, that’s where I was last year, and I thought we’d be doing that again. But I just found out last night that plans have changed.

For the better! I’m going to be partnering with the awesome Loren Hamilton for a presentation at Jacksonville Public Library (201 W College Avenue, Jacksonville) at 7 pm on Halloween night. It’s going to be a blast … Loren will be talking about ghost hunting, and I’ll get to talk yet again about my beloved Peoria State Hospital. So change your plans, stay flexible, and join us! (Or not. But if you go out trick-or-treating instead of coming to see us, you owe me some candy. And the good stuff, not the Double Bubble.)

October’s Here!

Hey, it’s October, and that means extra-crunchy ghostie goodness!

Here’s a fairly complete list of where I’m going to be during the month, and when:

— This Saturday, October 7, I’ll be in Galesburg for the afternoon. At 2 pm I’m doing a program on Fractured Spirits for the Galesburg Women’s Club, and at 3:30, I’ll be at the Galesburg Library (40 E. Simmons Street) for a talk on 44 Years in Darkness. Then I’m driving up to Chicago for the Chicago Ghost Convention, which will be at Brauer House in Lombard.

— Next weekend is a doozy! On Friday, October 13, I’ll be doing a program on Fractured Spirits at Lake Villa Library (1001 E. Grand Avenue, Lindenhurst) at 3 pm. Then on Saturday October 14, I’ll be giving another talk on Fractured Spirits at Gail Borden Library (270 N. Grove Avenue, Elgin), then shooting on over to the Barnes and Noble in Crystal Lake (Bohl Farm Market Place, 5380 US-14, Crystal Lake).  Wheee! (Good thing I have Weird Al to keep me company as I drive.)

— On Monday, October 16, I’ll be at work at Fondulac Library (400 Richland Street, East Peoria). But! At 6 pm, I’ll join with GUARD Paranormal to bring you guys a fun look at the life of a paranormal investigator.

— On Saturday October 21, I’ll join several other authors for a book signing at the Book Nook (6944 N. University Street, Peoria).

— On Thursday October 26, we’re switching things up a bit. It’s a Thursday night, and at 6 pm I’ll be at Salem Township Library (101 N. Burson Street, Yates City) to do a presentation on Hunting Demons.

— And on Halloween night, Tuesday October 31, I’m planning on being on a panel with other paranormal nonfiction authors at Lincolnland Community College (5250 Shepherd Road, Springfield). We’ll talk about ghosts, what else?

— Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I’ll be doing two author fairs the first weekend of November, too. On Saturday November 4, I’ll be at Peoria Public Library’s North Branch (3001 West Grand Parkway, Peoria) from 2 to 4 pm. Then on Sunday November 5, I’ll be at Bloomington Library (308 W. Olive Street, Bloomington) from 2 to 3:30 pm.

— And holy cats, I’m going to be a recurring thing on the radio! Ron Hood, host of Ron’s Month of Spooky, has invited me back for my third appearance on his show. And he’s doing replays of the first two shows. So if you missed it, tune in to Ron’s Month of Spooky here . Volume 1 (2015) will air October 17, Volume 2 (2016) will air October 19, and the brand-new show (2017 — duh) will air October 24. Download it on iTunes, or stream it here . Or you can go old-school and find your closest radio station here. Ron will also be a guest on an upcoming episode of Lights Out, so keep an eye out for that.

So! That’s the schedule so far. Good thing the book’s done! (Did I mention I have a new book coming out in November?) A moving target is harder to hit, so I’ll be moving all through October. Hope to see you out and about!



So What’s the Book About?

Yes, I’m still typing.

Those folks who saw my “yay, I got to 55,000 words typed” post last week may have seen a few of the titles of stories that will be included in the book. That’s sort of a sneak peek for you, if you’ve got sharp eyes (and can decipher my chicken-scratch scrawls to myself).

I was going to post a Table of Contents about now, to whet people’s appetites for what’s coming for Christmas. But geez, by the time I was done, there were over 120 stories in the book! And I refuse to bore you with a list that long. So instead, here’s what you can look forward to in the pages of Spirits of Christmas.

The book is divided into seven parts.  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” takes a look at the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas … Or Else!” outlines some of the stranger Christmas customs over the years. “He Sees You When You’re Sleeping” is a rogues’ gallery of Christmas demons and monsters. “In The Bleak Midwinter” tells of strange happenings in the dead of winter, not just in December. “The Darkest Midnight in December” is about tragedies that happened during that cold month. “‘Tis The Season” is for ghost stories and spooky experiences in December. And “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is for ghost stories that happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

So that’s what’s on tap for the book! I had a blast writing it, and I truly can’t wait to share it with you guys. And keep an eye out for special Christmas-themed episodes of Lights Out in the next couple of months too. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!


An Apology of Sorts … And News!

Okay, so I know I’ve been sorta kinda MIA from Facebook for a good long while. (Sorry about that. And thank you so so so much to everyone who was still kind enough to post birthday wishes on my wall, like [mumblemumble] three weeks ago. I love you guys!)

But there’s a really good reason for the recent radio silence. I am THISCLOSE to finishing the new book! I expect to have it done by the end of this weekend. And to celebrate, I have yummy pictures for your enjoyment.

So here’s the story: my publisher wants my books to be at least 55,000 words long. So for encouragement, I went to Pandora’s Box in Pekin (hi Lori!) and picked out fifty-five lovely little stones, things like hematite and rose quartz and maybe there’s some citrine in there and a bunch more I can’t remember, but they’re pretty. These are all supposed to have qualities like, oh, inspiration, creativity, FINISHING PROJECTS, things like that. And every time I write a thousand words, I get to move a stone from the “To Write” jar over into the “Words Written” jar. Which is now full! So that’s an awesome milestone.

But here’s the very best part, guys: I have a LOT more typing to do, which means that lovely word count is going to go up up up in the next couple of weeks. I’m a slow typist, because I only use two fingers. And they’re not even mine. So I write everything out longhand, then type it up. That means you guys can look forward to waaaaay more than 55,000 words. That’s just what I’ve got typed up so far.

Stay tuned for lots more book news over the next few weeks, including a cover reveal this weekend to celebrate getting the writing done!

Lookit the empty “To Write” jar! And the full “Words Written” jar! And the badass dinosaur!
Ah, that beautiful beautiful word count …

Well This Is Nice!

It’s always fun, since I work at a library, to stroll past a book display in the course of my day and see something familiar.

In other news, I’m going to be at work today when the eclipse is at totality. Bleh. My boss assures me that we’ll all have a chance to go out to look at the sky, but it may not matter. When I got up this morning, the sky was overcast, and it’s just gotten gloomier since then. It’s like living inside Tupperware. So all this fuss over eclipse glasses may have been for naught. We’ll see around one!

So what plans do you guys have for eclipse-watching? Any parties planned? (I know, a party in the middle of the day on a Monday, kinda weird, but hey.) Does anyone else have to (gasp) be at work today?


A Little Background

This marketing crash course has been a week’s worth of interesting. The prompt generator is … well, it’s not reeeeealy set up for what I need to do. It’s geared more towards business applications, I think, which makes for some interesting prompts.

So after a couple of false starts (“What are some tips for saving time with ghosts?” “What is the #1 WordPress plugin for ghosts?” “Which tasks should be outsourced when it comes to ghosts?”), I finally landed on “How long did it take to get where you are with ghosts?”

Well, I figured THIS was a question I could take a stab at answering with a straight face. So here goes.

I blame my dad for starting me down this dark path. JK, I’m really super glad I grew up with a dad who loved to tell ghost stories. I grew up in the Chicago area, and so did Dad, so he was the one who passed down all the local Chicago ghost lore to me. I grew up enthralled with tales of the monks of Saint James-the-Sag, the screaming mummy of the Field Museum, and all the lovely spots on Archer Avenue. (He never mentioned the Grimes sisters case, though. Dunno if he wasn’t familiar with it, or if he wanted to shield me from that particular ugliness.)

Growing up steeped in ghost stories was wonderful, but I reached my adult years believing that ghosts were something that happened to other people. I didn’t grow up in a “haunted” house, so I figured that ghost stories were something I could enjoy, but at arm’s length. I started writing horror fiction, keeping the monsters safely on the page.

In 2009, though, I got a very interesting phone call — at work. My coworker came up to me and said, “Hey, I took a phone message for you. It was a publisher. I put the message in your mailbox in the staff room.” I almost thought she was pulling my leg, but sure enough, there was a pink phone message slip in my inbox. I called the 800 number on the paper, and got Bruce Carlson of Quixote Press.

Turns out Bruce was a publisher of true ghost story collections, and he had tapped me to write a book called Ghosts of the Illinois River. I couldn’t believe my luck; here I was, a struggling fiction writer, being asked — no, invited! — to write a collection of true ghost stories, about the river that flowed almost through my own backyard. It was a childhood dream come true.

While doing the research for that first nonfiction book, I started going along on investigations with different groups. That, in turn, led to the Lights Out podcast, and all those wonderful true experiences people have so graciously shared with me. But first, foremost, and always, it has been the writing of stories that has driven me forward. Ghosts of the Illinois River led directly to Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, which led in turn to 44 Years in Darkness. Now I’m working on Spirits of Christmas, and I am happy as a pig in … well, I’m exceptionally satisfied with the path my writing career has taken.

And it all started with my dad telling ghost stories around the supper table.