My novel DARLING will be released by Bad Moon Books on October 26th. To celebrate, I’m posting a series exploring some of the mythology that inspired the book. This is an old post, but since it deals with one of the core concepts of the book I thought I’d do a little re-purposing. To learn more about DARLING, check out it’s page here or visit the Bad Moon Books site. You can also find a preview of the novel here.
Check out Part 1 of the series, “Black Hounds.”
A GHOST STORY FOR HALLOWEEN
I don’t believe in UFO’s. In fact, the whole idea of “Ancient Astronauts” being responsible for the pyramids and any other great achievement of ancient man offends me as an amateur historian and a human being.
I think psychics and mediums are frauds and scam artists. I think these people are the lowest of the low, using illusion and parlor tricks to prey on people in pain.
Loch Ness is empty of anything larger than an old truck tire and crop circles are, without a doubt, elaborate hoaxes. “Ghost Hunters” is, quite possibly, the most bullshit laden program I’ve ever sat through. I doubt most ghost stories that people tell me, understanding as a writer both how imaginative people can be and how fallible our senses (and our minds) are. I am, in short, a skeptic.
But I do believe in ghosts.
An odd contradiction to be sure, but there is something about the idea of ghosts that clicks in my lizard brain, something about the fact that it’s a shared phenomenon across every culture with little deviation from the idea of what they are and how they behave. Leprechauns are strictly Irish, penanggalan strictly South East Asian, yet ghost stories permeate every single culture that has ever existed on planet Earth.
Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, you tend to develop a peculiar taste for ghost stories. There’s a definite cultural aspect to it, generations of Scottish and Irish immigrants bringing tales of black hounds howling along windswept moors and phantom highwayman stalking the crossroads at night into the storytelling atmosphere that pervades the South. Surely there’s a geographic element to it. How can anyone live amidst those dark, ancient mountains on streets named for long dead Cherokee and Creek chieftains and not feel like something stands at the foot of their bed at night?
But I still think most people who do think they saw something at the foot of their bed did not. Maybe I’m an asshole like that, but to me the mark of intelligence is a combination of keeping an open mind while applying logic and a healthy dose of doubt.
Webster has a couple of interesting definitions for the word “skeptic.”
The two definitions I like are:
*a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual
*a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece,the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that true knowledge of things is impossible
Those two definitions perfectly encapsulate how I view “otherworldly” phenomenon. I question stories of encounters with anything that could be deemed supernatural, yet, like Pyrrho, don’t think that science is able to attain all the answers.
In the van ride home from KillerCon 3 in Las Vegas, Hal Bodner looked out the window at the desert speeding by. Behind him, John Skipp flipped through his CD’s with John Palisano, trying to find the perfect road trip music. Lisa Morton and Shannon Neil sat in back, sunglasses on, Shannon napping while Lisa was deep in thought. The speed at which she works, she probably wrote another novel on the ride home.
I was tired. Hell, we were all tired. KillerCon will do that to you. It will wear you out, but in the same way that a beautiful hike or a one night stand wears you out.
“How many bodies do you think are buried in the desert here?” Hal bit his nails and squinted toward a dust-stained trailer surrounded by empty oil drums.
I glanced into the rear view and met John Skipp’s eyes. Skipp scratched his cheek and I could still see the blood caked under his fingernails.
In the beginning it was rather nice. We were into all of the same books, the same movies, liked the same restaurants. We’d take turns going to work or cleaning the house. And he was always brutally honest about what that shirt looked like on me.
But then things changed.
The year was 1985. The Cola Wars were dying down as the Cold War was flaring up. Michael Jackson and Madonna ruled the airwaves and everyone was asking: “Where’s the beef?”
I was six years old, sitting down in front of the television to watch cartoons and draw monsters. And probably eating something made with peanut butter. But what was this? A videocassette was in the VCR. The sticker on it said “New Release.” Already a movie junkie at such a tender young age, I pressed play.
The film, of course, was DEBBIE DOES DALLAS.
Oh. Woops. That’s actually a different story.
No, the movie I popped in that day was Tom Holland’s horror comedy FRIGHT NIGHT.
As a writer, I’m often drawn to horror. Not exclusively, perhaps not even most of the time, but often enough. I grew up on horror films and ghost stories. One of the first “grown-up” books I read was `Salem’s Lot. I was probably eight at the time. Even now, on a dark and stormy night, I can conjure up the fear I felt reading about Ralphie Glick’s cold corpse scratching on his brother’s window and whispering, “Danny, let me in.”
Even when I work in comedy or drama or that non-genre that tweed jacket wearing types call simply “literature,” I always come back to horror. It’s in my blood, you could say.
I remember watching the Los Angeles Riots in the early nineties. As a kid in East Tennessee, it might as well have been footage from Mars. I’d never seen anything like the bubbling anger and resentment that poured into the streets and erupted in fire. Years later, I’d see old footage of the Watts riot. I’d see news coverage of protesters in Egypt and Libya march for freedom on their capitals. I’d see people buckling under oppression and refusing to take it anymore.
Now those were some riots.
But these kids today…
Wednesday night there was supposed to be a concert in Hollywood. DJ Kaskade was supposed to show. Thousands of teenagers turned out only to find that the show had been cancelled.
And they rioted.