Today I Learned …

Centipedes always have an odd number of body segments. (But an even number of feet.)


Today I Learned …

Astronauts can cry in space. But with no gravity to pull the tears down their faces, the water just pools into a ball on the astronauts’ cheeks. Even more annoying: No-flow crying “stings a bit”, says astronaut Chris Hadfield. (From Reader’s Digest, February 2019, “Strange But Impossibly True”)

Lights Out: Peoria State Hospital Cottage

Oh boy, do I have a treat for you! It’s another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire. And we’re going back to the hilltop! The Peoria State Hospital closed in 1973, but it is still a very active place. The Peoria State Hospital Museum is preparing to move into its new, permanent home: one of the cottages that remain on the hilltop. This building is steeped in history, and it even has its own ghost story. Join me for a very special sneak peek inside the building.


Book News!

Hello to everyone out there in electron-land! I hope you’re about to kick off a great weekend.

For fans of Fractured Spirits, and those who are waiting oh-so-patiently (or not-so-patiently) for Fractured Souls, I have some news. Someone has already ordered a copy from Amazon — thank you! And I did get a big box of preorder copies to send out to all you wonderful people.

But! When the books arrived, I looked through them, and they had egregious printer’s errors in them. You guys trust me to bring you a quality reading experience, and … this was not it. I’ve contacted the publisher, and we are working hard to fix this, and get you good-looking copies of the book — the book you all deserve.

This means, though, that the copy currently up on Amazon is also … flawed. Again, I got in touch with the publisher, and he says that he can’t make that one an un-book — all he can do is put up a corrected copy when it’s all fixed. Again, as soon as the corrected copy is available, I’ll let you know, and you can then feel free to order from Amazon. (And hey, maybe if you’ve already ordered a wonky copy, it’ll be worth buttloads of money someday! You never know…)

Meanwhile, I have a special gift for you guys. In a couple of weeks, Lights Out will feature a sneak peek into one of the men’s cottages at the PSH, the building that will soon become the permanent home of the Peoria State Hospital Museum. So, enjoy the look into Cottage B1, and I promise to let you know as soon as GOOD copies of Fractured Souls become available. Now go out and get this weekend started!

Today I Learned …

Scientists believe that wild beehives full of honey provided the energy that early humans needed to develop big brains. Other sweeteners — maple syrup, agave nectar, sugarcane juice — all need to be processed to be used, and that didn’t happen until much later. This means that honey is just as important to human evolution as fire, hunting, and tool use.

More Lovely News Bits!

If you’ve noticed (and it’s perfectly okay if you haven’t), there’s a new heading at the top of this page. It’s called Multimedia Links for Books, and boy is it ever cool!

See, if you’ve gotten Fractured Souls or Fractured Spirits, and you’re sitting there reading it, you may notice that there are little cartoon ghosties sprinkled throughout the text, in both the ebook and print versions. Those wee ghosties are there for a reason. Whenever you see one of these little dudes, that’s your signal that fun stuff awaits you on the Interwebs.

If you are reading along, and you say to yourself, “Boy, that video (or sound file) sure sounds interesting! I’d love to watch it (or listen to it),” well, guess what? You can! Just pop on up to the Multimedia Links for Books tab, or if you’re on Facebook, go to the Fractured Spirits page and click on Notes to find a page of links. You can browse through all that evidence to your heart’s content. Enjoy!

Today I Learned …

Okay, guys, this may just be the nuttiest TIL yet. Here goes: You know how animators usually draw four fingers on the hands of cartoon characters, because if you draw five, it just looks … kind of weird? The Simpsons is incredibly popular all over the world — except in Japan. That’s because to swear loyalty to the mob, Yakuza members amputate their pinkie finger. So, having only four fingers implies that you’re in the Japanese Mafia. (From Springfield Confidential, by Mike Reiss)

The Latest News …

Okay, you guys all know me. You know that when one of my friends has something to celebrate, I’m up there cheering right along with them. Well, I have some fabulous news, of the “rising tide lifts all boats” kind.

In January, Ron Hood, of Ron’s Amazing Stories, asked me to be a regular guest on his show once a month, with the segment “Ghost Stories With Sylvia”. (I’d been a yearly guest before that, appearing on “Ron’s Month of Spooky” five years running.) We have been having a dandy time, sitting around talking about things that go bump in the night.

I recently found out that Ron has been successful at getting “Ron’s Amazing Stories” onto Pandora! You read that right — my friend’s podcast now appears as part of the lineup on freakin’ Pandora. Which means that, once a month, I get to be on Pandora too! I am so very stoked!

So, congratulations, Ron, and I am SO looking forward to many, many more months of Ghost Stories With Sylvia. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your show. ❤

Fractured Souls

Hi there! Hey, you look great! Did you do something new with your hair?

. . .

So guess what? The wait for the new asylum book is (nearly) over! I’m jazzed to be able to tell you that the ebook version of Fractured Souls is now available, and now … drum roll please … I can show you this magnificent cover, courtesy of Christina Morris and volunteers at the Pollak Hospital. The building in the background of the photo, by the way, is not the Pollak — it’s one of the B Row cottages, the building that will become the new and permanent home of the Peoria State Hospital Museum.

“Sylvia, how do I get the ebook?” I hear you cry. Fractured Souls is available in Kindle , mobi, and epub formats. The Kindle version is up on Amazon right freakin’ now, and here’s the link:

As it’s a new book, it’s priced at $4.99. For the price of a Starbucks iced latte (which, admittedly, is really quite appealing this time of year), you can immerse yourself in the history and hauntings of the Peoria State Hospital. And unlike the iced latte, you can enjoy the book more than once! (Unless it turns out that you’re deathly allergic to coffee, and it comes back up, and … okay, you can still only enjoy the latte once, my bad.)

And to those who preordered the print version: you guys rock. Seriously. That means a whole lot — it lets the publisher know that people out there are eager to read the book, even plunking down cash (or PayPal) on the table for a book that doesn’t even have turnable pages yet. And it gives me a huge confidence boost too — thank you so much for placing your trust in me, to give you a good read. It’s coming. I promise. And when it does come out, I’ll announce it here, so you can get a heads-up that your copy will soon be in your mailbox. Thank you all for your patience.

(PS, you guys can see the cover too! Here it is:)



Lights Out: St. Louis Canyon

Here’s another episode of Lights Out, for your listening pleasure! The area around Starved Rock State Park in Illinois is breathtakingly gorgeous. But the park itself has a dark history. Join us as we visit St. Louis Canyon, where three women were brutally murdered in March 1960. We’ll also visit Moon Point Cemetery outside Streator in search of the Hatchet Lady.


Oh Say Can You Hear …

I’ve got some very cool news to share! First of all, I found out from my good friend and colleague Ron Hood that his show, Ron’s Amazing Stories (which includes the monthly installment of Ghost Stories With Sylvia) is now sponsored by Audible. That’s really great news, because now, when you listen to Ron’s show and click on the Audible link to get a free trial, the show gets a bit of coin, and you get to keep listening to this fabulous show for FREE. (You can listen to this podcast on Thursdays at Ron’s Amazing Stories, download it from iTunes, stream it on Stitcher Radio or on the mobile version of Spotify. Do you prefer the radio? They are heard every Sunday Night at 8:00 PM (PST) on AMFM247.COM.)

And the second part of the very cool news is that one of my books, 44 Years in Darkness, is now available on … Audible! So if you wanted to do the whole “two birds, one stone” thing, you could listen to Ron’s show, get yourself a free trial, and — ta-dah! — listen to the incredible story of Rhoda Derry, one of the patients at the Peoria State Hospital. (The publisher told me that the narrator was in tears several times as she was reading it. It’s that good.)

So go! Check out Ron’s show — the next Ghost Stories With Sylvia will air on July 4, BTW — and while you’re there, support the show by giving Audible a try. And while you’re at Audible, check out 44 Years in Darkness. See? Circle of life, baby.

And Ron says that since he’s such a stand-up guy, he’s giving you guys a free link! Here it is:

Book Review: The Murderer’s Maid, by Erika Mailman

Four and a half stars. I’m a sucker for anything related to Lizzie Borden, just because her case is SO strange and the family relationships SO dysfunctional. Mailman does an amazing job of describing the atmosphere leading up to the Borden murders, casting LOADS of suspicion on Lizzie while never quite coming out and saying she’s the one whodunnit. (And I could tell Mailman had done her research. I’ve been to the Borden home, and I was able to mentally follow the characters through the house — it was almost as fun as going back for a return visit!)

The modern story was well-done too, and had me guessing up ’til the end. There were parts of the modern story I did NOT see coming, which is always super fun.

Mailman took a certain liberty with Lizzie’s story, in order to link it to the present day, but I’ll allow that for the sake of the storytelling. 🙂 All in all, I would recommend this to anyone interested in Lizzie Borden’s story. Well done!

The Murderer's Maid by Erika Mailman

Today I Learned …

In World War II, US heavy bomber pilots would make ice cream by strapping buckets of ice cream mix to their planes before missions. The cold and turbulence of the flight would churn the mix into ice cream, and by the time they landed, it would be done.

Here’s the rest of the story. During World War II on the island of Peleliu, a Marine squadron was getting really, really bored waiting for the Japanese to come out and fight. So what do you do when you’re bored and there’s no enemy action? You make chocolate ice cream. Naturally. According to Air and Space Magazine, “(Squadron commander) Reinburg, determined to raise morale on a humid tropical island with no fresh food and no refrigeration, had a plan. His maintenance crew cut the ends off an old belly-mounted drop tank, strung wire at both ends, and mounted an access panel to the side. Into this panel, secured by the wires, went a waterproof can that ordinarily stored .50-caliber bullets. And into that, the mess sergeant poured a mixture of canned milk and cocoa powder. Reinburg planned to ascend to high altitudes, where temperatures are well below freezing, and return with a gift for his men: five gallons of homemade chocolate ice cream.”

On the first flight, the ice cream didn’t freeze properly, as it was too close to the hot engine of the Corsair. For the second flight, they mounted two cans in a different place (which also, happily, doubled the amount of ice cream to ten gallons). This ice cream froze nicely, but it just wasn’t as smooth as the commander would have liked. (The men ate it anyway.)

On the third flight, the maintenance crew stuck a propeller in each of the ammo cans, to churn the ice cream. This time, it came out perfectly. Many B-17s used this setup on combat missions, and P-47s were also used in various theaters.

Base Commander Colonel Caleb Bailey called the squadron and told them he knew exactly what they were up to. “Listen, goddamnit, you guys aren’t fooling me. I’ve got spies. You tell [Reinburg] I’m coming over there tomorrow and get my ration.”

Today I Learned …

And you thought your cat was lazy … desert snails can sleep for literally years. A staff member at the British Museum glued an Egyptian desert snail to an identification card, assuming (naturally) that the specimen was, you know, dead. Four years later, someone noticed a bit of slime on the card. When the staff pried the shell off of the card, the snail crawled out.

Today I Learned …

In the Middle Ages, the scions of old families wanted a way to keep their family histories straight. Prominent families hired artists to create visual propaganda of these unbroken lines of hereditary descent. The artists decided that the easiest way to depict a family’s history would be to paint a simple tree. They put the founder of a lineage at the base of the tree, and painted his descendants on the branches. The French gave these pictures a name that reflected their forking shape: pe de grue, or “crane’s foot”. In English, the word became pedigree.

Today I Learned …

The Egyptians loved cats, but they always referred to them as “miu” (the Egyptian word for “cat”). Dog’s names were recorded in tomb inscriptions, but not those of cats … until one cat owner decided to give his cat a name and inscribe it for posterity. The lucky kitty was called Nadjem, which means “pleasant one”.