Category Archives: Spooky Side Up

ghosts and paranormal phenomena

Binge Reading – No, It’s Not What You Think

by Kirsten Weiss

Call it the age of Netflix.

It’s spoiled us for the wait – no longer do we have to hang on an aching seven days to find out what comes next on our favorite TV show. With shows produced by Netflix, we can now binge watch the entire season over a weekend. (And yes, I’m guilty of this – Longmire! Stranger Things!).

So when I heard about “binge reading,” I decided to take the plunge with my new Doyle Witch cozy mystery series. Fortunately, my patient editors at misterio press were willing to take this journey with me, because a lot ended up happening in a short span of time.

Witches of DoyleThe concept is simple – launch all the books in the series at once.

As a reader, binge reading was nothing new to me. How many weekends had I spent curled up with a good book, closing one cover only to open and devour the next in the series?

My Kindle made the process easier. I didn’t have to go to a bookstore or wait for a book to arrive in the mail. Instant gratification! Push a button, and it arrives on my screen.

Now some people may not care for binge reading. They may prefer to savor a story a bit after finishing it, before plunging on in the series.

One of my editors at misterio reminded me about this old commercial:

 

But my witch cozy mystery trilogy seemed to fit the binge model well. Each novel in the Doyle Witch cozy mystery series is a self-contained murder mystery (and romance). But there’s a paranormal mystery too, which arcs across all three books, making the trilogy akin to a TV “season.”

(And if you’re one who likes “anticipation,” by all means spread out the reading of these stories. But they’ll all be there waiting for you when you’re ready.)

As a writer, the process of launching everything at once was more stressful than I’d expected. I was never one for keeping my powder dry. Having to sit on the first two books while waiting for the third to be completed was… irritating.

It also made the stakes higher. Many more months of work were riding on a single launch date. The only feedback I got on the books was from my editors – champions, to be sure. But what if readers didn’t like the series I’d spent so much time writing? (No pressure there.)

kitchen witch courseMy launches are usually chaotic, but having the materials prepped for the first two books well in advance made this one smoother. I had teasers. I had quotes. I had covers.

But I also ended up spending so much time thinking about the launch, that I made more work for myself. A friend suggested putting spells at the back of the books (instead of the ubiquitous recipes).

I squeezed out a 5-day free Kitchen Witch course to promote the series.

I developed a supplementary novella that fits between books 1 and 2. I even wrote a companion book of poetry, Tales of the Rose Rabbit. This did not get launched with the other books because of a last-minute brainstorm to add illustrations, and is due out some time in December.

 

The complete package

That said, I’m happy I did it all – I’m thrilled with the total package of books and supplementary materials.

What about you? Are you into binge-watching/reading or do you prefer to anticipate and savor?

Here’s a bit about the books themselves:

Bound: Book 1 in the Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery Series

Bound cover

Bound by magic, bound by love, bound by murder…

The Bonheim triplets live seemingly ordinary lives, hiding their magic from the neighbors in the small, mountain town of Doyle, California. But when a body is found in big sister Jayce’s coffee shop, Karin, the practical one, is determined to prove Jayce innocent.

A murder isn’t the only bizarre event in Doyle. Why are hikers vanishing in the nearby woods? Why are some people cursed with bad luck and others with good? And why is Karin’s magic the weakest of the three sisters’?

As Karin digs deep to uncover the truth and regain her magic, her family is thrown into peril. Will her power return too late to save the people she loves the most, or will it be the cause of disaster?

Spells included at the back of the book!

ISBN: 1-944767-15-0  ~  Available at:    Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

Ground: Book 2 in the Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery Series

Ground cover

Her magic flows from the earth…

Jayce Bonheim is on the sheriff’s radar and not in a good way.

Always the reckless one of her triplet sisters, Jayce is trying to turn over a new leaf. No more wild partying. No more one night stands. But when someone leaves a dead body in her pickup truck, her resolve to become the sensible sister is sorely tested.

Caught in a web of love, murder, and magic, Jayce must clear her name and discover who is behind the curse that holds her family and town in thrall.

Spells included at the back of the book!

ISBN: 1-944767-18-5 ~ Available at:    Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

Down coverDown: Book 3 in the Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery Series

The answers lie below…

A shamanic witch and a poet, Lenore Bonheim hides in the world of books to escape reality, which for her includes seeing ghosts and forecasting death. But when her employer and friend dies under suspicious circumstances, she must use all her skills – magical and mundane – to find the killer and save her two sisters and her town.

As the three sisters pull together to stave off a growing menace, Lenore must discover what it means to be in this world and of it.

Spells included at the back of the book!

ISBN: 1-944767-20-7 ~ Available on:    Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

Spirit on Fire, A Doyle Witch Mystery Companion novella

Spirit on Fire coverWhat happens when a fictional character writes a romantic novella about a shaman and a fire demon? All hell breaks loose.

When fledgling witch, Karin Bonheim, began writing her paranormal romance, she never could’ve anticipated the world she created would bleed into her own…or the danger it would bring.

A companion novella of romantic suspense to the Witches of Doyle trilogy, this novella takes place between books 1 and 2 of the Doyle Witch cozy mystery series.

ISBN: 1-944767-21-5 ~ Available on:

Rose Rabbit cover

Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble

And coming in December:

Tales of the Rose Rabbit (Poems)

~ preorder on Amazon now ~

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective urban fantasy/mystery series, the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries, the Rocky Bridges mysteries and the Witches of Doyle cozy mystery trilogy.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Are You More a Trickster or a Treatee? (and a new release!)

created on tagul.com

word cloud created on tagul.com

For Halloween this year, we asked our authors to share some childhood memories, specifically to answer this question:

Which did you prefer, playing tricks or getting treats? Here are their answers.

Kirsten Weiss:

I was too busy scavenging candy to play any Halloween pranks. Trick time = less treat gathering time, though the folks who gave out raisin boxes on Halloween definitely deserved some payback.

I mean, seriously? We’re going to be healthy tonight? I don’t think so.

Given my candy maximization focus, it’s weird that the treat that always delighted me most in my pillowcase full of loot was Smarties. I think they’re basically sugar + fruit acid, so I’m not sure why I find them so appealing. Plus, they’re super small. Purely from a mercenary perspective, I should have been going for the full-sized candy bars. But nope, it was always Smarties, followed by their tangier cousin, Sweet Tarts.

Smarties (R)

Smarties (R)

Kassandra Lamb:

When I was a kid, I loved trick-or-treating, but not so much for the candy. I was more into the costumes, and the excitement of being out after dark without adult supervision. This was back in the days when parents naively thought kids were safe in their own neighborhoods. I was allowed to go out with just my older brother to look out for me.

My mom made our costumes and they were pretty neat. Often she came up with some theme, like Lone Ranger and Tonto (I was younger so guess who was saying Kimesabe).

I'm the one in the middle with the dorky clown hat. And no, my mother didn't let us go out alone when we were this small; that was later when we were in elementary school.

I’m the one in the middle with the dorky clown hat; big brother’s to the right. (Don’t know who the kid hogging the limelight in front of me is. And no, my mother didn’t let us go out alone when we were this small; that was later, when we were in elementary school.)

When I was a teenager, and my brother was now beyond such juvenile pursuits as trick-or-treat, I went in more for tricks. My friends and I would come up with excuses to get out of the house (collecting for charities was my favorite, and I did collect money for them, but I did so after school before my parents got home so I could go wild that night). Looking back our “tricks” were pretty lame. Mostly we rang doorbells and then ran. Occasionally we toilet-papered the trees in people’s front yards. Again, the appeal was mostly about the forbidden fruit of being out after dark, footloose and fancy-free of adult supervision.

Vinnie Hansen:

My brothers pulled legendary Halloween pranks like moving an outhouse to the downtown hill. But I was a good kid, hustling to Mrs. Wampler’s house because she gave out full-sized Hershey’s bars. I also liked homemade treats such as candy apples.

photo by photogmateo CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

photo by photogmateo CC-BY 2.0

Mrs. McKay gave out popcorn balls. She may have been a teacher, but she didn’t get the concept of Halloween. When you rang her bell and said, “Trick or treat?” she said, “Trick,” and she expected you to do a trick to receive her treat.

I went into her carpeted living room and stood on my head. I guess she deemed that satisfactory because I received a popcorn ball wrapped all fancy in colored cellophane.

K.B. Owen:

I don’t have much memory of Halloween as a kid, because I was usually sick with asthma during that time of year (I remember one Halloween in the hospital, all us kids were given paper grocery bags, markers, and scissors to make masks). I carved my first pumpkin at age 22.

11700834_10207866511490704_3801784215681188918_oSo for me, the fun of Halloween really got going with my kids! And we’ve had a grand time: making a PVC skeleton we put out every year, concocting decadent goodies, and yes…carving pumpkins! Here’s one of my fave pics, of my now-14-year-old, getting in on our pumpkin-carving action by sampling the goods.

Shannon Esposito:

Trick-or-treating in rural Pennsylvania meant my parents had to drive us around in the car because the houses were miles apart. It was always freezing anyway, so the heater was welcomed. Needless to say, we didn’t get much candy, but we didn’t mind because one of the houses belonged to the Sarrises. They own Sarris Candies, which makes the best chocolate in the world (OK, maybe just in the US). Every year they gave out pure chocolate suckers shaped like pumpkins, cats, ghosts… whatever, it didn’t matter. They were all delicious.

And if you were lucky, there were enough costume-clad kids that you could sneak back around and snag another one. Often they would recognize you and give you a stern look, but it was worth the try.

They don’t know it, but they’re responsible for one of my favorite family traditions: On Easter and birthdays, our family members send each other Sarris chocolates. A piece of childhood wrapped in chocolate. Nothing sweeter.

photo by The Culinary Geek of Chicago, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

photo by The Culinary Geek of Chicago, CC-BY 2.0

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYONE!

How about you? Did you prefer tricking or treating as a kid?

Or do you still go trick-or-treating as an adult? (I know some people who do.)

 

Please check out Kirsten Weiss’s new release, the grand finale of the Riga Hayworth series. Her books are pretty spooky. They make great Halloween reads!!

Also, she’s having a Halloween blog party today. Check it out for more fun Halloween posts!!

THE HERMETIC DETECTIVE, A Riga Hayworth Mystery

A Monstrous Assassin. A Metaphysical Detective.

Housebound with five-month-old twins, Riga Hayworth just wants to get back in the metaphysical detecting game. But when she’s called to help an elderly woman, haunted and alone, a deadly threat follows Riga home. Can Riga prevent a tragedy and protect her family?

The Hermetic Detective is the seventh and final book in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels. Buy this book to finish the epic series today.

Amazon    Kobo    Nook

Kirsten Weiss worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of The Metaphysical Detective mystery series and the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang. We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Spooky Nights

by Vinnie Hansen

As night falls, we advance toward the 100-year-old mausoleum in the cemetery. There is no electricity. Candles and a kerosene lamp light the way.

vINNIES POST mausoleum

Me reading by lamplight

Vinnie reading by lamplight

Here in Santa Rosa Memorial Park, I join seven other mystery writers to read our spooky stories in the echoing marble chambers.

Even though we are competing with the Giants playing in the World Series, the annual event draws a standing-room-only crowd.

No one rose from the dead around us except in our tales.

However, two nights later, at the Dead Writers Costume Party, three local Santa Cruz writers used an Ouija board to conjure up Edgar Allan Poe. Asked what he wished he’d written about, Poe replied: H-O-E-S

Three "dead" authors conjuring up a 4th one.

Three “dead” authors conjuring up a 4th one.

vinnies post HP Lovecraft

This delightful evening, a fundraiser for the Young Writers Program, featured H.P. Lovecraft as an animated host.

I resurrected my Emily Dickinson outfit for the evening. Before I retired as a teacher, I would wear the costume when teaching Dickinson. I’d stay in character for the entire class, in spite of questions like, “Are you a virgin?” and “What’s it like to be dead?”

I also rubbed shoulders with the lovely Beatrix Potter who brought along her hedgehog and Peter Rabbit.

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with "Beatrix Potter"

Vinnie as Emily Dickinson, with “Beatrix Potter”

Among others in attendance were Kurt Vonnegut, Dashiell Hammett, Mark Twain, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, and an imposter Emily Dickinson. Authors were invited to read and I recited “my” poem:

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

If you had gone, which author would you have impersonated? Why? And which author would you have wanted to contact in the Great Beyond?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Most Haunted House in New Orleans

by Kirsten Weiss

We’re hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate the Halloween release of my new book, The Hoodoo Detective! The prize? An ARC of the novel!

But first, a bit about the most haunted house in New Orleans…

In The Hoodoo Detective, Riga Hayworth travels to New Orleans for her paranormal reality TV show. The book opens mid-way through shooting, and Riga has found little to get excited about in the haunted houses they’ve filmed so far.

What would have happened if they’d filmed at the Lalaurie House, considered the most haunted in New Orleans?

The stucco-over-brick mansion, on Royal Street in the French Quarter,  was built in 1832, and an invite to the fashionable Lalauries’ abode was considered a hot ticket.

On the afternoon of April 10, 1834, a fire started in the kitchen while the Lalauries were away.  Neighbors rushed inside, dousing the fire, and found hapless slaves chained in their quarters, near death from starvation.

The newspapers reported – and it’s suspected they exaggerated – the wretched conditions the slaves had been discovered in, and authored follow-up stories of gory torture and degradation, including one about a slave girl who Madame Lalaurie chased with a whip until the terrified slave jumped to her death from the roof. Today it’s believed the Lalauries may have been one of America’s early victims of yellow journalism. But they kept human beings chained and whatever else happened, that in itself is enough. (It’s a surprise more southern mansions aren’t haunted).

The paper’s tales of the torture, dismemberment, and abuse of the Lalaurie slaves inflamed New Orleans’s sensibilities. An angry mob ran the Lalauries out of town and ripped the mansion apart. The couple escaped and eventually made their way to France.

The apparitions of tormented slaves and of Madame Lalaurie have been reported in the house, as well as  moans and weeping.  Ghostly re-enactments of the fire have also been reported. People have heard shouting, doors slamming, and even the servants begging for help with putting out the flames. Furniture has moved of its own accord, and visitors to the mansion have reported feelings of oppression.

Adding to the general spookiness, some say Madame Lalaurie was an amateur occultist and a friend of the voodoo queen, Marie Leveau. The mansion was reputedly even too haunted for one of its more recent owners, the actor Nicholas Cage. You can watch him discuss his rationale for buying the home on his interview on Letterman, along with the possibility of whether he’s a vampire. (Nicholas Cage denied the vampirism).

Today’s Lalaurie house doesn’t look much like the original, and the most recent owner hired an upscale designer who played off the haunted theme. (She says she wore holy water whenever she visited the house).

The Hoodoo Detective will be released on Halloween! If you’d like to win an advance review copy, click on the link before the blurb to enter the raffle.

Hoodoo Detective collage of cover and excerpts.Hoodoo, Haunts, and Horror.

Riga Hayworth just wants to wrap up her supernatural TV series exploring the magic of New Orleans. When she stumbles across a corpse, she becomes a police consultant on a series of occult murders, murders that become all too personal.

The Hoodoo Detective is book six in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels.

 

Click here for: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you ever been inside a house that was truly haunted? I’d love to hear about it.

Posted by Kirsten Weiss.  Kirsten is the author of The Hoodoo Detective, book six in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasies, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. She’s also the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Halloween Haiku, Just for You

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

party logo of New Orleans cemeteryOur own Kirsten Weiss is hosting a Hoodoo Halloween Blog Party this weekend to celebrate the upcoming release of her new book, The Hoodoo Detective. She also suggested we do a haiku post for Halloween, so we decided to make this our contribution to her party.

photo of pumpkins

And since this was Kirsten‘s idea, she gets to go first:

Footfalls crush dried leaves
Pumpkins cast malformed shadows
Gimme candy now.

 

Shannon discovered she was even more mathematically challenged than she’d thought. It’s 5, 7, 5, Shan. She finally nailed it:

Brillant red leaves

(photo by Mckelvcm CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia)

Confetti of gold
Flutters, falls, lands on hard earth
Creates skeletons

 

And from Vinnie:
Closure:
Time of ripe walnuts
my sister’s hope shimmers like
golden aspen leaves.

 

Along similar lines, I chose to contrast the autumns of my years in Maryland with those of my new home in Florida:

red apple hanging from branch
Crisp air, brilliant leaves,
Plucking apples from the trees–
Autumns of my youth.

Black cats and palm trees,
Ghosts and gators and brown leaves–
Southern Hallowed Eve.

And another from the poetic Vinnie:

For Micah:
Like a genie or
sunflower, wispy and bold,
magic, dancing gold.

And if you prefer spooky…

painting of moon in the trees

19th century painting by Stanisław Masłowski

From Kirsten:
Brooding autumn wind
shivers skeletal branches
clawing at the moon.

From Kathy:
Eve of All-Hallows
brings moon-cold fog, wisp-fingered,
circling huddled souls.

*shudders*  That sent a shiver down my spine.  And finally some fun images:

flying witchFrom Vinnie:
Fall:
Crows bombard the street
with walnuts, then strut and pluck
the sweet exposed meat.

From Kathy:
Battered, bruised flyers
need night-vision goggles, or
headlights on broomsticks.

Heroes, ninjas, ghosts:
“Get candy, get candy, get-”
Mission accomplished.

Check out the other posts at ParaYourNormal, then try your hand at your own autumn/Halloween haiku in the comments.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from the crew at misterio press!!

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Magic, Mysticism and the Paranormal

Magic, mysticism, and the paranormal. Figuring out what they are is confusing enough. But what’s the difference between the three?

As a paranormal mystery writer, these are questions I get to ask on a fairly regular basis. To smarten myself up, I’ve been taking a class on mysticism and modern psychology. And it’s getting me a bit closer to answering the above question.

So get ready to dazzle your friends at cocktail parties, because here we go:

1.    Magic is all about changing the world around you, ala Harry Potter. Well, maybe not quite so dramatically. But just check the Internet – people are buying magical assistance every day such as love charms, spells for wealth, etc. And at heart, the goal is to make something we want happen in the real world.

2.    Mysticism, on the other hand, is about changing our perception of the world. Mystics will try and change the way they experience reality. In turn, when we start seeing the world differently, we tend to start interacting with it differently.

And in case you’re wondering where the psychology comes in, this is it. In common with mysticism, psychology tries to change the way we interact with the world, perceive the world, and hold ourselves in the world. Like mysticism, psychology attempts to change our internal space.

3.    Paranormal abilities seem to almost combine magic and mysticism. Mystics believe that the mind transformed by mystical practice has different abilities than the ordinary mind, and this can grant them paranormal powers. But don’t call it magic. Mystical paranormal abilities are based on how the mystic has changed his or herself.

Of course, there’s another “magical” theory for paranormal abilities as well. Many modern day magical practitioners believe that amulets and spells and incantations are simply a method to… change the way they perceive and act in the world. And this in turn changes their world.

Because if you’re behaving differently, it’s a good bet that those around you are reacting differently.

I can’t get enough of this idea. In fact, it’s threaded through my Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels, including my latest, The Elemental Detective.

To sum it all up, magic and mysticism may simply be two sides of the same coin. What do you think?

If you haven’t already done so, check out Kassandra Lamb’s post over at The Dark Side of Love, on why some women are attracted to abusive men. Talk about needing to change something on the inside in order to change what is happening in the world!

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten works part-time as a writer and part-time as an international development consultant. She writes the Riga Hayworth urban fantasy/paranormal mystery novels. (Riga is a Metaphysical Detective.) Kirsten is currently working on Book 6, The Hoodoo Detective.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Why Is Being Scared Out of Our Wits Fun??

Halloween will be here very soon–that time of the year when we celebrate all things creepy and scary. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why we humans enjoy being scared out of our wits?

spooky jack-o-lanternAs a psychologist, I had my theories about this, but since it’s not my specific area of expertise, I did some research as well.

As I suspected, it all revolves around the part of our nervous system called the autonomic nervous system. This system has two branches: one that controls arousal and one that controls relaxation. I’ve discussed this aspect of our nervous system before, as it relates to stress.

But there are a couple other things we need to know about it before we can answer the question: why is being scared out of our wits fun?

1.  The arousal side is triggered not just by things that are threatening, that scare and/or anger us, but also by things that are exciting in a positive sense. Our hearts race and we get a little shot of adrenaline when we think about that big party we’re going to this weekend, and on the day of the party, even more so.

two chincillas in party hats

Let the party begin! (photo by Melissa Wolff, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia)

2.  We humans need varying degrees of arousal throughout the day. We need calm times when we can rest and recuperate, but without some degree of arousal at other times, life would be totally boring and we would eventually slip into depression.

Research says that we naturally seek our own optimal level of arousal (which varies from individual to individual). When our arousal level is too low, we feel bored and seek more stimulation. When it is too high, we feel a bit overwhelmed and seek less stimulation.

Now with that basic info, let us look at why being scared is fun:

No harm, no foul:  When we are scared by something we know is not real (like a horror movie) we experience the adrenaline rush from the fear as enjoyable. But the key is that we have to know there is no risk of harm.

For example, hubs and I watched an episode of Criminal Minds the other night in which a killer is stalking college women. He breaks into a house while one of his victims is babysitting and kills her. This was ‘fun’ stimulation for us sixty-somethings who know that the risk of some crazed killer breaking into our house is minimal. But a young woman who is babysitting, alone in a house at night (cue spooky music), she might not want to be watching this show!

Clinical psychologist, David Rudd, told the online science magazine, livescience, that people “…may well scream but quickly follow it with a laugh since they readily recognize there’s no chance for real harm.”

Novelty:  We humans are wired to attend to novel things. Paying attention to something that is different in one’s environment was a survival necessity in more primitive times because that change in the surroundings (like the jungle suddenly going quiet) might mean there is a threat nearby.

Environmental psychologist, Frank McAndrew, explained it this way in the livescience article: “We’re motivated to seek out this kind of [novel] stimulation to explore new possibilities, to find new sources of food, better places to live and good allies. People enjoy deviations from the norm—a change of pace, within limits.”

Another well known psychology website, PsychCentral, agrees with these two reasons but adds a couple more:

Lingering arousal:  The high level of arousal from the fear leaves a lingering state of arousal that heightens other emotions. So if you are having a fun evening out with friends or home with your mate, the arousal from the horror movie, haunted house, etc. will increase your feelings of enjoyment of other aspects of the evening as well (Okay, I know where some of your minds went re: the home with your mate scenario. LOL).

Sensitivity to arousal:  Each individual’s nervous system is wired in its own unique way. Some people are more easily aroused than the average person, and others are not all that easily aroused. Those who are less easily aroused are likely to seek more intense stimulation, in order to achieve their optimal level of arousal.

Night of the Living Dead movie posterOur mp author, Catie Rhodes, loves horror!! On the other hand, if I were offered the choice between watching a horror movie or having a root canal, I would probably opt for the root canal. At least then I would be given Novocain to dull the pain!

In a WebMD article on the subject, Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, combines this variation-in-arousal aspect with the novelty-seeking component. “Through movies, we’re able to see horror in front of our eyes, and some people are extremely fascinated by it. They’re interested in the unusual and the bizarre because they don’t understand it and it’s so different from our everyday lives.”

(I’m curious to hear how Catie feels about this theory, especially since she is particularly fascinated by ghosts! 😉 )

The challenge:  Dr. Farley has studied people who have what he has dubbed a “type T” (thrill-seeking) personality. They thrive on the kinds of experiences–bungee jumping, for instance–that most of us would consider terrifying. They’re not just in it for the adrenaline rush, however; they also crave the feelings of accomplishment that they have overcome these scary challenges.

Now to all these theories, I’ll add my own:

The rebound effect: The autonomic nervous system operates like a teeter-totter. What goes up must come down. To whatever degree we are aroused, we will experience an equal level of relief and sense of relaxation after that arousal fades.

We scream, and then we laugh… and then feel relaxed afterwards, oddly enough. Playwrights understood this as far back as Ancient Greece. Get the audience to experience intense emotions and they will be pleasantly drained at the end of the play. They dubbed it catharsis.

I hope you’ve found these explanations interesting and not so demystifying that they’ve taken the fun out of being scared – especially since I have a new release out, my own little mystery/ghost story.

Catie critiqued it and said it was “quite creepy.” Please check it out.

And then talk to us about why you enjoy having the @#*& scared out of you. What’s your favorite kind of Halloween spookiness?

book cover of Echoes, A Story of SuspenseECHOES, A Story of Suspense

James Fitzgerald is looking forward to a weekend getaway with friends at the country house that once belonged to his parents. Instead he walks in on a bloodbath. And a cryptic message on a shower curtain points to him as the killer.

The small town sheriff is smarter than he looks. He knows he doesn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest… yet.

Virtually under house arrest, James tries to distract himself from his grief and worry by investigating his parents’ backgrounds. Maybe he can find an explanation for the strange fainting spells he’s been having. He finds out more than he bargained for, however, and starts to wonder if sometimes it’s better to let sleeping ghosts lie.

Available at:   AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE     KOBO     iTUNES

P.S. We’re having a BIG HALLOWEEN PARTY over on Facebook this Friday (4-7 eastern time… or longer if the virtual cocktails hold out 🙂 ) You all are invited so come on over and join up so you get notification on Friday when the fun begins!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Belle Grove Lives Again…Sort Of

a portion of Bell Gorve plantation house

Belle Grove Plantation (circa 1936; public domain)

There’s Something About Old Houses

I live in a newly developed area. The subdivisions are filled with thousands of homes based on maybe five exterior styles and maybe ten floor plans.  When I first moved down here, I drove up to the wrong house fairly regularly. They all looked exactly the same (and still do).

I’ve always loved old houses, but living here has given me a new appreciation for them. Old houses have character and presence newer homes just don’t have. One old house might have original stained glass windows. The next might have hand carved molding or unique tile work in the kitchen or bathroom.

Yes, the newer homes are more energy efficient and have fewer (expensive) age-related issues. But I still like old homes better. The uniqueness and the attention to detail simply can’t be matched. This might sound weird, but I sometimes think I can feel the history of a place speaking to me.

My Fascination with Belle Grove

The grandest of old homes are, of course, the plantation homes sprinkled throughout the South. I’ve toured quite a few in Louisiana. The juxtaposition of the plantation homes’ beauty and the horror of their role in history is both fascinating and repellant.

(Those who know me know I have a lurid interest in repellant things.)

One of the grandest plantation homes ever to exist was Belle Grove. Built in Iberville Parish, Louisiana between 1852-1857 for the cost of $80,000, it is said to be the largest mansion ever built in the South. Its seventy-five rooms were spread out over four floors.

front of Belle Grove

Even neglected and falling down, she’s impressive!

Belle Grove was abandoned in 1925 and burned in a mysterious fire in 1952. In its place now sits a neighborhood of modest homes, much like the one I currently live in (and sometimes mistake for other houses on other streets).

Belle Grove

( all pictures circa 1936, public domain)

Belle_Grove_Plantation_06 pub domain

 To learn more about the Belle Grove, check out its website or Facebook page. Click here to watch a really neat You Tube video featuring pictures of Belle Grove Plantation set to music.

The Connection to Black Opal

I first encountered Belle Grove in a book called Ghosts Along The MississippiLooking at the pictures awakened my imagination. That this beautiful place no longer existed made me sort of sad.

So, when I hired Kimberlee Ketterman Edgar to paint the cover of Black Opal, I asked her to include a plantation house based on Belle Grove. Here’s the cover art Kimberlee created:

 

BlackOpal_Ebook for BN
My series heroine, Peri Jean Mace, ends up stuck at the huge house on the cover after charging off to confront her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on her. She ends up getting into more trouble than she ever imagined possible and discovering secrets she never wanted to know. But that’s the norm for Peri Jean.

Download it today at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

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Interested in trying out my Peri Jean Mace stories but aren’t quite ready to purchase anything? Well, today is your lucky day.

Subscribers to my newsletter can read a brand new, exclusive 14-page Peri Jean Mace short story titled “Peckerwood Bocephus.” This story takes place twelve years before the events in Forever Road and is the story of how Peri Jean got the tattoo on her arm.

Click here to sign up.

After you sign up, look for instructions on downloading “Peckerwood Bocephus” in the Final Welcome Email.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Are there any fellow admirers of old houses out there? Which ones have you visited and which one was your favorite?

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of Forever Road and Black Opal, of the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Slenderman’s Coming For You

Howdy, folks. This is the first post I’ve written expressly for misterio press blog, and I’m excited to share it.

Today, we’re going to be talking about an Urban Myth called Slenderman. The unique thing about Slenderman is that he got his start online. Every evolution of him can be traced back to something that originally appeared in cyberspace.

Before we start, let me make one thing clear. This article is not intended as a definitive post on this topic. It’s merely a starting point for those brave enough to venture into the world of Slenderman.

Firsthand Experience

The best way to introduce y’all to Slenderman is to share the experience of someone who saw him:

As to personal stories, when I was four or five, we were driving home from my grandparents’ house through a dark part of the city. I saw a tall, slender man walking toward the car as we rolled slowly by. He looked eerie to me so caught my attention. As we came parallel to him, he happened to enter the glow of a streetcorner light and I saw that his face was like ashes. It looked as if it would crumble at a touch, all dark grey, wrinkled, and papery. I was startled and said, “Mummy, look at that man.” She craned around and said, “What man?” He was gone. No sign of him. Had he merely turned the corner we would still have seen him. No idea what that was but it fits the meme.

~By Gene Stewart

Find Gene online: Facebook, Website

Who is Slenderman?

This is a list of Slenderman descriptions I’ve collected:

  • Unnaturally tall and thin figure who wears a suit and has no facial features
  • A fairy from the Black Forest
  • A boogeyman who lives in the woods
  • A shapeshifter who assumes the form of trusted adults to lure his victims (usually children)

What Does He Do?

The following is a list of Slenderman’s interactions with his victims:

  • Can extend his arms (tendrils, tentacles) to trap his victims
  • Able to appear and disappear at will (teleport)
  • Has the ability to brainwash his victims and control their actions
  • Kidnaps children
  • Starts fires
  • Causes sickness
  • Mutilates victims

First Mentions

Slenderman began on The Something Awful Forms in this 2009 thread as “paranormal pictures” contest. Forum users posted photos to which they had added supernatural images. A user named Victor Surge posted the following two images with accompanying captions.

The Pictures

Picture Number One:

Licensed on Creative Commons

 

Click here to see Senderman Picture Number Two

The Captions:

Caption 1:

We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time

~ 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.

Caption 2:

One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as The Slender Man. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence.

~1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.

These two images and their accompanying captions spawned all sorts of discussion and stories. The idea of Slenderman later morphed into fiction, videos, and video games.

The Fiction

Creepypasta, a website where readers are invited to contribute creepy, shocking stories, has a whole sub-genre of scary stories which center on Slenderman. Click here for the Creepypasta Slenderman Tag.

The Games

Slender: The Eight Pages and Slender: The Arrival

Slenderman’s Shadow

Slenderman for IOS(The linked game is one of several. Go to the iTunes Store and do a search on “Slenderman” to see what I mean.)

The Videos

Marble Hornets

The Slenderman phenomenon/story morphed into a You Tube Video series called Marble Hornet.

The story on which the You Tube videos is based is that of Alex Kralie. A film student, Alex stumbled on “something troubling” while shooting his first full length project Marble Hornets. Click here to read a longer version of this story.

If you just want to watch the videos, go to the You Tube Channel for Marble Hornets.

The Documentary

There is an Irish Slenderman Documentary on You Tube. Click here for Part 1 of 5.Look for subsequent installments in the “recommended videos” section.

Slenderman’s Origins

Mythology from all over the world seems to support the existence of Slenderman (or something like him). Here are two of my favorites:

Der Ritter or “The Knight” — Germany

418px-Der_Ritter

This is a 16th century woodcut by Hans Freckenberg. The woodcut was re-discovered inÊHalstberg Castle in 1883.

“The Faceless One” — Wales

Hush, thy childe, do not stray far from the path,
or The Faceless One shall steal you away to Fairieland.
He preys on sinful and defiant souls,
and lurks within the woods.
He has hands of ebony branches,
and a touch as soft as silk.
Fear The Faceless One thy childe,
for he shall take you to a dark place.
And what shall become of thou?
Noone knows, so be good, thy little one-
Alas! He is here to take thou away!

This lullaby dates back to the 18th century. Like many lullabies of the time, it was didactic in nature, intended to teach children not to go near the forest.

Have you ever heard of Slenderman? Ever seen him? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Sources:

Special thanks goes to Gene Colwell. He gave me more information on Slenderman than I dreamed possible.

Special thanks to Gene Stewart for providing an “up close and personal” experience with Slenderman.

Slenderman on Know Your Meme

Slenderman in Mythology and Culture

The Abilities of Slenderman

“Why Slenderman Works: The Meme That Proves Our Need to Believe” by Patrick Dane

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of Forever Road, Book 1 in the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Ouija Boards Debunked (Maybe)

This is a combination psychology and paranormal post, written by Kassandra Lamb and Kirsten Weiss.

Kirsten here to start things off.

A few weeks ago I posted on the origins of Ouija boards. The post got some interesting reactions. Apparently there are quite a few people out there who have had very spooky experiences with them.

Ouija BoardIndeed, many psychics believe that this simple piece of wood with letters and numbers on it is a portal to the underworld. I’ll have more on that in a minute. First Kass Lamb (who’s a retired psychotherapist) is going to explain what makes the planchette move.

Take it away, Kass.  

When I was a teenager, a Ouija board was standard fare at sleep-overs and Halloween parties. We thought it could predict the future, so we’d ask it who we were going to marry. The third time it told me that the boy I was currently infatuated with would be my future husband (a different boy each time) I became a bit disenchanted with Ouija boards. But I still couldn’t explain how that little wooden planchette seemed to move on its own, spelling out the name of my current flame.

Forty some years and a couple of degrees in psychology later, I can explain it with a phenomenon called ideomotor response. This term refers to an idea (ideo) being able to cause minuscule muscular responses that can actually cause (motor) movement without the person consciously telling their muscles to move.

No, it is not magic, and no, I’m not making this up! This phenomenon was first described by William Benjamin Carpenter, M.D., F.R.S. (I’ve no idea what F.R.S. stands for). He presented his findings to the Royal Institution of Great Britain on March 12, 1852.

At the time no one had a clue how this worked, but today we know enough about the brain to attempt to explain it.

Freud speculated in the late 1800’s that only a small part of what’s going on in our minds at any given time is actually in our conscious awareness. He used the analogy of an iceberg, the tip of which is the conscious mind and the bulk is underneath the surface.

Freud's Id, Ego and Superego diagram on an iceberg

Freud’s iceberg, depicting the conscious vs. unconscious mind  (public domain)

Freud’s theories weren’t always right but with this one, he was spot on. There is a lot going on in our brains at any given time, most of which is not conscious. Part of our brains (the cerebellum) is moving our bodies around–walking, chewing gum, typing, etc.–without our having to pay attention to each little movement. Other parts of our brains (in the limbic system and parts of the cerebral cortex) are processing emotions, making connections between current events and past experiences, etc. while we are consciously thinking about other things (in another part of our cerebral cortex).

And it is indeed possible for a part of our brains, that we are not currently consciously controlling, to tell our muscles to move a certain way. You think the thought and the movement happens, without any specific signals to the muscles that you are aware of.

Let me demonstrate with a simple makeshift pendulum–a metal clip and two rubber bands.

Holding the top of the rubber bands between my index finger and thumb (relaxed but intentionally holding my hand as still as possible), I think the word “swing” while imagining the pendulum swinging back and forth. Lo and behold, it starts to swing. When I think “circle” (I say it out loud in the video so you know when I started thinking it), it changes directions, and when I think “stop” it comes slowly to a halt.

Click the video below and watch the pendulum do its thing, then watch a second time and keep your eye on my hand. (Note: my husband took this video with his digital camera. Every time I watch this I’m amazed myself that this works!)

Note: some of the related videos that come up at the end mention hypnosis; that is because ideomotor signals are sometimes used by hypnotherapists but it is NOT a hypnotic phenomenon. It is a purely physiological response. No hypnosis required, although the power of suggestion may be involved as we are about to see.

So back to the Ouija board. I’m fifteen and madly in love with a boy named Bobby. I’m at a sleep-over. The hostess whips out a Ouija board and we start fooling with it. My fingertips are on the planchette along with those of one or two other girls. I ask out loud who I’m going to marry. The other girls’ fingertips have no vested interest in the outcome but my fingertips are listening to my brain chanting, “Bobby, please let it be Bobby.”

I am NOT telling my fingertips to move, but they get that signal anyway and the planchette starts to slowly stutter across the board toward the B. Yay!!! Then I hold my breath as I think, “Make it an O, please make it an O.” But I’m being very careful not to intentionally move the planchette because I want the TRUTH. Sure enough, we slowly slide over to the O. Somewhere around the second B the planchette really picks up speed and whizzes over to the Y, and then maybe flies right off the board as my excited nervous system goes into overload.

This is the explanation for what makes the Ouija board planchette move. Our own ideomotor response is doing this. Now the next question is, who is controlling the messages in our brains that are being sent to our fingertips, bypassing our conscious minds along the way?

When teenagers ask it stupid questions about who they’re going to marry someday, it’s their own wishful thinking controlling the planchette. But when we ask the Ouija board to allow us to contact spirits from beyond, what happens then?

Is it still our unconscious minds–our own wishful thinking or our own greatest fears–controlling the planchette? Or is it something else?

Back to Kirsten and what psychics say on the subject.

I don’t claim this to be a representative poll, but the psychics I’ve spoken with believe that yes, you can contact the “other side” with Ouija boards. But you don’t know who (or what) you’re inviting into your home.

Most psychics and magical practitioners will erect magical wards and protections before attempting any sort of contact with spirits (not just through a Ouija board). These are to keep out anything with negative intentions.

They warn against the use of Ouija boards by the layperson who doesn’t know how to protect him/herself.

Kass here again.

Personally I don’t quite know what to believe about the spirit world but if Ouija boards can open a portal to the other side, I think it is very wise to avoid them. (Google “psychics and Ouija boards” if you don’t believe us.)

If a spirit can indeed enter your mind (when you’ve invited it in via the board), that spirit would then be able to use the board to communicate. The spirit could influences your thoughts (you would not necessarily be consciously aware of that influence nor even the thoughts themselves). Those thoughts then would move the planchette via ideomotor response.

I’m very grateful that my friends and I never asked to contact the spirit world with our Ouija boards.

Do any of you have cautionary tales you are willing to share about Ouija boards? Any thoughts or questions about ideomotor response?

Posted by Kirsten Weiss, author of paranormal mystery novels and the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective series and Kassandra Lamb, retired psychotherapist and author of the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press on Tuesdays, sometimes about serious topics, and sometimes just for fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)