Archive | October, 2011


30 Oct

The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World, September, 2005.

Way back in 2007, I wrote a ghost story set in Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction; it was originally intended to appear in Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World, but was cut because, despite the fact that it was a ghost story, it was a different type of ghost story than was in the collection and it just didn’t seem to fit.

In addition, it was so attraction-detailed that I didn’t feel that anyone who hadn’t ridden theHauntedMansion inDisneyland or Walt Disney World would appreciate it.

So, HAPPY HALLOWEEN to all you die-hard fans of theHauntedMansionattraction: I give you the story “Grave Error” as a treat! This story won’t be published anywhere else—it’s exclusively for you; feel free to download it and share it or pass it on to friends who are also fans.

Grave Error-A Halloween Treat for Disney’s Haunted Mansion Fans

And if you missed my four-part series on some imagery in Disneyland’sHauntedMansionattraction and the ghost stories that may have inspired them, here are the links:

Part 1: The Cemetery’s Caretaker & Dog

Part 2: The Attic’s Portrait

Part 3: The Skeleton in the Coffin

Part 4: The Changing Portrait Hallway’s Ghost Ship

Enjoy, and Happy Haunting!


29 Oct

Nathan’s apartment decked out for Halloween, 2005. Yes, he carved all those pumpkins. It’s one of his favorite activities.

Ghost stories have always been an oral tradition—shared around the Victorian hearth, intoned around the campfire, whispered while passing the haunted house.

For Halloween, Canada’s Paranormal Eh? honors that tradition with an audio treat—a reading of my out-of-print ghost story “House Sitter”…followed by the true story that inspired it.

Enjoy…and Happy Haunting! Listen here:



28 Oct

Some of the tableaux in the Haunted Mansion may have been inspired by classic ghost stories. Find out which ones—well, some of which ones, anyway, we’ve barely scratched the surface—on Dave’s Disney View Podcast Episode 72. Dave and I had a great time talking all things spooky in the Haunted Mansion, just in time for Halloween!


If you’re a Disney Parks fan, then consider checking out his other episodes as well. Good stuff.


You can listen to the Haunted Mansion episode here:



27 Oct

Brandon LeJeune rehearses for his zombie role at the House of Torment haunted house in Austin, Texas on Oct. 24, 2011. Credit: REUTERS/Charlie L. Harper III

Austin-based Reuters writer Karen Brooks contacted me recently to ask my thoughts about trends in haunted attractions and what, in this day and age, scares people. The article came out today, and I was thrilled to share space with Peter Block, producer of the Saw movies, Gary Handman, director of the University of Calfornia-Berkeley’s Media Resource sCenter, and Tim Deal of Shroud.

You can read the article here:

Halloween Horror Trend: Less Gore Is More


26 Oct

Writer Stacey Longo, left, and me, in the early hours of the Open Air Market. It was so cold and we hadn’t had time to drink coffee before leaving for the fair, so that coffee was so good it was scary, believe me!

Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole joined The New England Horror Writers at the 9th Annual Open Air Market and Festival in Middletown, Connecticut! Here’s a virtual trip through the weekend—and if you’d like to see some videos, you can head over to the website here:

I planned on spending the night before at Stacey and Jason’s. I stopped at a rest area on I-91, and the trees were so beautifully lit in the setting sun I just had to take a photo. This hasn’t been a spectacular fall here in New England, but it’s in a moment like this I could see that the ghost of it is there.

On the table is NEHW member Dan Keohane’s book, Margaret’s Ark. The skull glass is mine—a Poe Season favorite for me.

Pizza! Whenever there’s an event like this, I always think it’s important to really turn it into…well, an event. Do some fun things surrounding it. The thought of getting up at 6 in the morning from home and driving all the way to Middletown and back just wasn’t as exciting as hanging out the night before with a couple of friends.

Piranha 3-D, which happened to be on one of the movie channels. This is a scene from near the end. I didn’t care for this movie at all, but the fish themselves were about the coolest-looking beasties ever; I wouldn’t mind having a photo of one up close for my wall.

Jaws was on after Piranha 3-D. I always loved this particular shot of Roy with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth because for some reason he reminds me of my Dad, back in the 1970s.

Seriously. This horror movie about an alien terrorizing an adult film crew as they shoot a porn in the middle of nowhere Stacey had on DVD, and we went into it expecting it to really stink. But you know what? Aside from the fact that the premise was a little silly, it was a damn good movie—it had a classic killer-creature plot structure, the script wasn’t that bad, and the story and character points introduced in the beginning came back full circle in the end.

See how intense this acting is! This guy plays the ubiquitous geek, the one who figures out how to defeat the beast.

Serious. This situation is extremely serious.

Really. The acting in this scene wasn’t bad—obviously, it was so surprisingly good I had to get photos so that people would believe me—and also so that I’d have the memory.

The back of Jason’s truck the next morning, loaded up to go to Middletown.

The sign marking the New England Horror Writers tent space.

The very cool skull rug that Stacey keeps for all of our outdoor events. Since everyone asks: she got it at Christmas Tree Shops.

We begin the unloading process at the site; Stacey checks on the “Hell in a Handbaskets” (more on this later) to see how they survived having been crammed in between all the plastic tubs.


The beginnings of the Stage Left table. Books by Nathan Wrann are on the right.

A close-up of the beginnings of Stage Left. Here, we see the NEHW flyers, postcards for the upcoming Anthocon, apple butter, and a giant chocolate rat. The skull is for decoration although at least once or twice during any event we get asked if it’s for sale.

A close-up of the other side of the beginnings of Stage Left. Hell in a Handbasket, the NEHW T-shirts, and Nathan Wrann’s books and Burning Inside DVD.

A close-up of Nathan Wrann’s books.

The Stage Right table: Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole and In Poe’s Shadow (my books, as well as swag); Kasey Shoemaker’s urban fantasy Silver Vengeance, and several collections featuring Stacey Longo’s short stories.

The Skeletons corner.

A close-up of Kasey and Stacey’s books.

More of Stacey’s books, and copies of Shroud—Stacey’s work is in there, but Tim Deal and Danny Evarts, minds behind the mag, are members of NEHW.

Left to right, Jason Harris, Director of Publicity for NEHW; Kasey Shoemaker, author of Silver Vengeance; and writer Stacey Longo.

Breakfast. The apple muffins were pretty good, actually.

We had treats on hand. Jason and the Fangtastic cupcakes.

These Fangtastics were very popular with the kids who stopped by our booth.

A close-up of the Fangtastic cupcakes.

A long shot of the 9th Annual Open Air Market in Middletown. Our booth was at the beginning end. This was taken standing in the center, right near our booth, and looking up toward the Wadsworth Mansion.

A shot of the booths and the Wadsworth Mansion, where there was an orchestra playing.

The day’s scheduled music events.

This is a view of the Open Air Market looking back toward the entrance. The New England Horror Writers booth is all the way down on the right.

I do love New England harvest festivals, especially in the fall. There’s something about being able to buy products directly from a farm.

There’s a story behind this—Jason, Stacey and I had a heck of a time trying to figure out how to set up our tent (referred to as an “Instant Shelter Product” on its accompanying instructions). The owners of Clark Horse Farm—who specialize in making custom chicken coops—were so kind; the husband came over and helped us (I’m sure he was quite entertained watching the circus for awhile). Thanks to him, we were able to get it up and get rolling in just a few minutes. Visit their website at!

The Boo-nana Bread sign.

A close up of the Boo-nana bread.

Visitors check out our offerings.

A young visitor checks out the Hell in a Handbasket his mom just purchased.

A good look at one of our Hell in a Handbaskets. These would make great gifts for any Halloween or Horror freak—especially for Christmas. Each basket contains an autographed book by a New England Horror Writer member, fun gadgets like skull corkscrews or ghostly cups and plates, candy, and some other fun goodies.

A shot of the Hell in a Handbasket display.

Kasey and writer Kurt Newton share a laugh.

Kurt Newton with his book display.

Writer Rob Watts signing autographs. Check out the line!

Rob Watts’ book, Huldufólk, was just released.

Kurt Newton, Rob Watts, and me.

CHEESE FRIES! Stacey and I couldn’t resist. We were right next to a food cart, and so we were finally worn down by smelling the good stuff all morning. It probably also didn’t help that we were freezing. Hot food was a help.

At every event there’s a stand-out moment, and this was one of them. My friend Marianne Lyons came all the way up from Danbury to see me and get a copy of Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole. Here I am with her husband, Michael.


Stacey signs a copy of Hell Hath No Fury (an all-female zombie anthology) for a young zombie lover.

Rob Watts signs a copy of Huldufólk for a fan.

Just as the tent was a nightmare to get up, it was also a nightmare to get down! Here, we see everybody working on it—Stacey at the left, Jason’s ducking into the fan, Kasey has her back to the camera and the girl on the right is Rob Watts’ girlfriend, Maria Arakil. I wasn’t doing anything. My job was just to stand there and listen to Rob Watts yell, ‘somebody get that camera away from her.’

Stacey and Rob confer on the instructions.

As I recall, whatever it was they were instructed to do didn’t exactly work.

The spoils of having a man who loves me at home! “Went up to Bridgewater” means the boys went up to the cemetery for cocktails, a Poe Season tradition.



24 Oct

The three stages of transformation of the ghost ship in The Changing Portrait Hallway in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, taken in May and June, 2008. Photos by Dave DeCaro and used with permission; if you’re a Disney Park fan, you won’t want to miss his site!

If you love classic ghost stories, Disney’s Haunted Mansion offers more than thrills and chills. This four-part series takes a look at classic ghost story images the attraction brings to life.

You exit the elevator and walk down a corridor adorned with eerie mutating portraits, among them a ship…which transforms into a ghostly galleon on stormy seas.

Of all the portraits, the ship was always my favorite, for I have long been a fan of sea-faring tales—especially those that involve ghosts. While I could say that this portrait could have been inspired by countless stories, among them Poe’s “Descent in the Maelstrom,” the first work that always popped into my mind when I saw the portrait wasn’t a short story at all—it was Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which is really a pretty terrifying ghostly tale.

Consider the first portrait, and the following lines from “Rime”:

The first stage of the portrait, which depicts a ship sailing on a clear day in decent weather.

The Mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather, till it reached the Line.[1]

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,/Merrily did we drop”[2]

The opening of the Mariner’s tale describes his voyage’s rather uneventful beginnings. The above image seems to depict the Mariner’s ship under fair skies and calm seas.

Now consider the second portrait—the actual transformation, and these next lines from “Rime”:

The transitional stage of the portrait, which shows a violent storm and is colored in copper—showing the next two phases of the Mariner’s terrible adventure.

The ship driven by a storm toward the south pole.

“And now the Storm-blast came, and he/Was tyrannous and strong;/He struck with his o’ertaking wings,/And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,/As who pursued with yell and blow/Still treads the shadow of his foe,[3]

“All in a hot and copper sky,/The bloody Sun, at noon…

Water, water, every where,/And all the boards did shrink;/Water, water, every where,/Nor any drop to drink.”[4]

The ship hits a terrible storm, and ends up in the South Pole amongst the ice. An albatross appears, however, the ice splits and loosens the ship, accompanied by a breeze. The ship is propelled into foggy waters. It’s at this point in the story the Mariner commits his crime—he shoots the Albatross, considered a sacred bird of good fortune. Thereafter, as retribution for the Mariner’s crime, the breeze stops and the ship and its crew are stranded in a terribly hot, still environment, thirsting to death.

The transformational stage of the portrait—especially with the copper coloring toward the end—almost seems to illustrate this section of the tale.

The third and final stage of the changing portrait seems to signal the approach of the ship of death in “Rime.”

And horror follows…It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship…And its ribs are seen as bars on the face of the setting Sun.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)/How fast she nears and nears!/Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,/Like restless gossameres?[5]

After the dehydrating sailors have been adrift for many days and have mouths so dry they can’t speak, they spy something on the horizon—sails of a ship. They believe, at first, that they’re saved…until it draws closer, and its skeletal appearance and tattered sails reveal that it is a spectral vessel which harbors Death itself. Although, in the poem, the ship appears to them at the height of another scorching afternoon in the broad daylight and theHauntedMansion’s ship is set against the stormy darkness, the ship’s condition seems to match what’s described in “Rime” (especially the gossamer sails).

There is, of course, the rest of the Mariner’s tale, which is quite lengthy. But what I find interesting is that if, indeed, “Rime” served as an inspiration for this portrait, the portion of the tale at which it stops is just before the portion in which it becomes a true ghost story. The fact that it stops there—and it’s before you even board your Doombuggy to ride through the ghost story that is the Haunted Mansion—suggests that this portrait was hung with foreshadowing in mind.

If you’d like to read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” you can for free here: If you’d like to own a copy in print, you can get it here: If you’d like it for your Kindle, it’s available here:

[1] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 5.

(Special Note: This is one of the Penguin 60s series—small, slim volumes usually containing a short story or poem or two by one author or a couple—which were published on the occasion of Penguin’s 60th anniversary).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 5-6.

[4] Ibid., 9.

[5] Ibid., 12.


20 Oct

A far shot of the Open Air Market and Festival at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, CT. Photo Credit: Mel Tavares, Rocky Hill (CT) Patch ~

Already seen Paranormal Activity 3? Then you’ve got only one more thing to do this weekend—visit me at the 9th Annual Open Air Market and Festival at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, CT Sunday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

I’ll be there signing books and socializing with New England Horror Writers Association members Stacey Longo, Rob Watts, Kasey Shoemaker, and Dan Foley. Don’t miss your chance to pick up some signed spooky reads for Halloween!

The event will feature Connecticut grown or made products, entertainment throughout the day, horse-drawn carriage rides, face painting, and docent-lead tours of the mansion (which I hope I get the opportunity to do!). It’s held at Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate, 421 Wadsworth Street, Middletown,CT 06457.

For more information, you can check out this article on Patch: or visit

Hope to see you there!


17 Oct

A shot of the coffin scene in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Photo by Dave DeCaro and used with permission; if you’re a Disney Park fan, you won’t want to miss his site!

If you love classic ghost stories, Disney’s Haunted Mansion offers more than thrills and chills. This four-part series takes a look at classic ghost story images the attraction brings to life.

You’ve just boarded your Doombuggy at Disneyland’sHauntedMansion, and it isn’t long before you come upon a room full of decaying funeral flowers. In the center, on a pedestal, is a rattling, thumping coffin. A pair of skeletal hands are desperately trying to loose the coffin’s lid, and if you listen closely, you hear: “Let me outta here! Please! Le-let me outta here!”

While the dead rising from graves is pretty common in the horror story canon, the specific image of a skeleton rattling his coffin lid is an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Premature Burial.”

For those who haven’t read the short story but have seen any of its film or television adaptations, the tale’s storyline is different. The story opens with several accounts of premature burials—most likely inspired by newspaper articles of the day. Consider these notes by Stephen Peithman in The Annotated Tales of Edgar Allan Poe:

“While rather farfetched today, premature burial did occur occasionally in Poe’s day, although not to the extent one would think after reading his tales on the subject. Some instances are recorded in George Alfred Walker’s Gatherings from Grave Yards (1839)…apparently due to a lack of sophisticated medical equipment. In order to avoid this problem, a “life-preserving coffin” was invented in 1843, mentioned by N.P. Willis in the New Mirror of November 18, so constructed as to give the victim air and a means to signal to those above ground that he was alive.[1]

Commentary on Poe’s description of aBaltimoreincident:

“A similar story appears in the Lancaster(Pennsylvania) Democrat December 5, 1845.”[2]

Commentary on Poe’s description of the unfortunate story of a wealthy young girl:

“Poe’s source here may be a story in the PhiladelphiaCasket, September 1827, entitled “The Lady Buried Alive,” which in turn admits to borrowing from two older stories…As for the names, they are all Poe’s invention, as is the date.”[3]

Whether Poe’s piece was based on real incidents or not, it’s reasonable to think that the terrified skeleton clawing to escape his coffin may have been inspired by a few passages in his “The Premature Burial.” One of the reports Poe presents contains direct reference to a skeleton:

“…how fearful a shock awaited the husband, who, personally, threw open the door. As its portals swung outwardly back, some white-apparelled object fell rattling within his arms. It was the skeleton of his wife in her yet unmoulded shroud.”[4]

And here are references to struggles within coffins:

“…that her struggles within the coffin had caused it to fall from a ledge, or shelf, to the floor, where it was so broken as to permit her escape.”[5]

“On the Sunday following, the grounds of the cemetery were, as usual, much thronged with visiters[6]; and, about noon, an intense excitement was created by the declaration of a peasant, that, while sitting upon the grave of the officer, he had distinctly felt a commotion of the earth, as if occasioned by some one struggling beneath…Spades were hurriedly procured, and the grave, which was shamefully shallow, was, in a few minutes, so far thrown open that the head of its occupant appeared. He was then, seemingly, dead; but he sat nearly erect within his coffin, the lid of which, in his furious struggles, he had partially uplifted.”[7]

If you’d like to read “The Premature Burial,” you can for free here: If you’d like to own a copy in print, you can get it as part of his complete works here: If you’d like it for your Kindle, it’s available here:

[1] Edgar Allan Poe, “The Premature Burial,” in The Annotated Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Stephen Peithman (New York: Avenel Books, 1986), 149.

[2] Ibid., 151. It is, however, interesting to note here that the very first published appearance of “The Premature Burial” that included the passage was in 1844, so obviously, Poe wrote the story long before this newspaper article appeared.

[3] Ibid., 151

[4] Ibid., 151

[5] Ibid., 151

[6] This is how it is spelled in the original text.

[7] Ibid., 153


16 Oct

I’ll be at the New England Horror Writers’ table at AnthoCon: The Anthology 2011 Conference Friday, November 11 – Sunday, November 13 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the Best Western Wynwood Hotel & Suites.

To get a sense of why this first annual conference is so unique, you can read my article up on the NEHW blog here:

For me, the highlight of the weekend will be getting to meet Literary Mayhem’s Peter Schwotzer (, who’s commissioned my short story “Growlers” for a feature in January 2012, in person. We’ve been corresponding for awhile now and it’s going to be great to put a name with a face.

There are really so many awesome panels, guests, and other activities going on at this event that you really should just visit the website for complete details:


14 Oct

Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World is now available for Nook! You can get it here:

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