Embrace the Creepy – Five Must Do October Activities

© Romolo Tafani – Stock.Adobe.Com

October is all about the Spooky Season. Relishing in the creepiness, we seek out ways to scare ourselves. Horror movies and scary books are a great start. Why not take it to the next level? All Hallows Eve only comes once a year after all.

Here are my top Five Spooky Season Activities:

#5 – Fall Festivals – Think pumpkin patches, cider and hayrides

#4 – Horror Classics on the Big Screen – Grab a bucket of popcorn and attend a special showing of your favorite classic horror flick at the local movie theatre

#3 – Zombie Crawl – Plaster your best Walking Dead make up on and join the rest of the mob as they search for brains in your city

#2 – Haunted Houses (or Amusement Parks) – Enter at your own risk for a ghoulish good time! While these are super scary, I have to say, “Ghoul Please!” I was at a REALhaunted house this weekend. Which brings me to my #1 October Activity.

#1 – Ghost Tours – I’ve been on ghost tours and hunts all over the United States and some places in other countries as well. These tours are always an eye opener, especially when you discover the chilling history of your home town.

Bonus Activity – Regional Events. Your home state/province is unique. Clever organizers use that special something to plan themed events. Here in Colorado, one of our special somethings is our mountains. A few of the foothill and mountain towns offer haunted trail walks through the creepy woods at night.

So many October activities. So little time! Let that inner little kid dressed in the super hero costume out. Go have some fun!

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.Be Spooky. Be Gruesome. Be Goofy.

A special Halloween treat on DTJ next week! Stop by for a book cover reveal for Creed of the Guardian(Book Three of the Heart of the Warrior series)!

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A Halloween Story – The Dirt Room

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[Halloween-art.com]

Folks have asked me where my inspiration for fantasy comes from and I tell them about my grandma. Visiting her house was like visiting the gates of Otherworld. She’d tell us stories about the gnomes and other magical creatures. Often we’d wake up in the morning to find candy in our shoes. Grandma would assure us the pixies had filled them with sweet treats during the night.

The next question I’m usually asked?

You seem like such a nice lady. Where did the horror stuff come from?

I usually shrug and tell them how I’ve always loved ghost stories. Writing dark fantasy is a great way for me to share wonderful spine tingling tales. It also allows me to explore the darker side of human nature. Then I started gathering ideas for this blog post and a repressed memory bubbled to the surface.

My grandmother’s house (built in the late 1920’s and made out of copper) rests at the mouth of Bingham Canyon in the little town of Copperton, UT. Once consisting of several little mining towns – including Galena Gulch and Highland Boy Mines – Bingham Canyon was eventually gobbled up by the Kennecott Copper Mine. The land was once home to several miners. If you ask me, they never left.

I still remember the narrow stairs descending from her kitchen to the backyard. Go left instead of right and you’d find yourself headed down into every kid’s nightmare. Some of you may be old enough to remember your own grandmother’s house. Do you recall the grumbling roar of those furnaces or the hiss of steam heat coming from the radiator pipes in each room?

Her basement was best avoided, but sometimes we’d have no choice. Grandma would send us down to her wash room for one errand or another. Braving the hollow sounds of my shoes striking the stairs, I’d descend toward the roar of the furnace. I remember the washroom and my uncle’s empty bedroom were painted a sickly mint green. Following the high gloss (and I’m sure lead-based) paint around the wash room, I’d head to my grandpa’s work bench.

Standing between me and my objective was a 3’ x 3’ door suspended in the very center of the wall. Reaching it required a ladder. Open the door and an unsettling darkness greeted you. Grandma called it the ‘dirt room’. I thought of it as the gates of hell. Every lost soul who’d ever passed through the mouth of the canyon could have stepped upon the dark earth in that room. I could feel them every time I went near that door.

Grandma passed away several years ago. Her children and grandchildren had the sad job of gathering her things. Somehow I got stuck with the basement and its Dirt Room. My flash light was a comfort as I climbed inside. The confident belief in “childhood fantasies have gone now that I’m grown up” vanished as soon as my feet hit the dirt. Utter darkness surrounded me, suffocating my courage. I clung to the only source of hope – the flash light.

Running the beam along the floor, I found old metal toys from the 40s and glass bottles from gawd only knows. Gathering as many as I could, I continued the search. Then my light hit them. Discarded doll heads. Not just any doll heads, but porcelain ones with the open and close eyes. You know. The ones that are usually possessed by a malevolent spirit.

Then the furnace roared. Something moved in the faint fringe of the flash light. I don’t know what it was. I don’t care what it was. Backing toward the door, I kept the beam in a protective circle about my legs. I crawled back out and shut the door. The house has new owners now. If they had any sense, they’d sheet rock over that door and forget it’s there.

Meanwhile upstairs in the light, the rest of the clan had been busy. Imagine my giddy excitement when my mother showed us the two intact porcelain dolls she’d found in the hidey hole above my grandma’s closet! A Shirley Temple doll and a Roxie doll (named for my grandma’s other daughter who’d passed away as a child). Both of them had those blinky demon possessed eyes. Shiver. My mother had them refurbished and still displays them by her bedside. I believe her plan is to leave them to one of her granddaughters. Maybe they can terrify a new generation?

So what childhood terror do you still carry around? Besides clowns I mean. Everybody hates clowns. Snakes maybe? Bugs? A deceased relative’s painted face in a casket? Leave your answer in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy Halloween!

Oh Horrors! The Wisdom Court Series

Horror

Focus on Horror

I’m starting off the Horror features with Yvonne Montgomery’s The Wisdom Court Series. Enjoy the summaries for books one and two. Then hop over to the newsletter for a write-up on the author.

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When forensic artist Andrea Bellamy receives a 1-year, all expenses paid grant form Wisdom Court, she jumps at the chance to pursue her delayed dream to become a painter. The only catch: she must move to Wisdom Court. Upon arrival at the century-old Colorado mansion, Andrea learns that Caldicott Wyntham, Wisdom Court’s founder, has died. The housekeeper, Aura Lee Witherspoon, is demanding a seance to contact Caldicott while the court’s other associates try to explain away “strange happenings.” Andrea turns to her easel, intent on fulfilling her grant, only to discover she keeps painting the same unknown face, contorted in fear she can’t explain. Now Andrea faces a terrifying choice: believe her trance-painting is evidence of a mental illness, or side with Aura Lee and agree that Wisdom Court is haunted by an evil set in motion a century before.

Available for Purchase:

Amazon

Nook

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Grieving the loss of her beloved grandmother, filmmaker Brenna Payne receives a much-coveted invitation to Wisdom Court, the famed institute that helps women explore their deferred dreams. The only catch: Brenna must live at the institute for one year. Making the film of her dreams while garnering a fresh start is exactly what Brenna needs. But when the filmmaker arrives at the century-old Colorado mansion, her daytime hours are spent unraveling supernatural events plaguing the other women while her nights are consumed with terrifying dreams. When Brenna finds a journal written by the Wisdom Court founder, the supernatural maelstrom taking over the house focuses on her. Brenna can run for her life or use the clues around her to discover the source of the ancient evil threatening the women of Wisdom Court.

Available for Purchase:

Amazon

Nook

Check out the special December Edition of my Books and Banter Newsletter for more information about today’s stories. The newsletter features new book releases from several talented authors. Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery and Suspense, and Romance. You’re sure to find a good read!

The Prankster Nun

HappyHalloween

Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States, so over time it has picked up a few ghosts.  Like other souls chained to a world that has forgotten them, Santa Fe’s ghosts haunt places which held significance when they were among the living. I could understand how a former prison would keep tortured souls within its walls. Historic hotels are logical haunting spots as well. But a chapel gift shop?

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Loretto Chapel – When visiting Santa Fe, you have to stop at the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is still an active church were services are conducted, babies blessed, etc. A few blocks over is another historic religious structure. Loretto Chapel (a must see) is famous for its beautiful spiral staircase. Known as the Miraculous Staircase, it was said to be built by a mysterious carpenter. He used no nails or screws – an amazing work of engineering. Legends say it was the work of the supernatural.

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Maybe the notion I was misbehaving inside the church was a lingering superstition from my youth. I felt the sensation of being disrespectful to a deity that was no longer worshiped there. It was a little too much like being back in Sunday School for me. I left the chapel and made my way into the cramped gift shop. The creepy vibe really ramped up at this point.

What I discovered when I got home: I ordered Santa Fe Ghosts by Susan Blumenthal. The author examines reports of paranormal activity around Santa Fe and has uncovered the background of each historic site.

The author interviewed individuals who were very open and honest about their experiences in Loretto Chapel. One gentleman arrived at work each morning to find several crosses on the floor of the chapel gift shop. They were put there courtesy of one of the nuns who had passed away.

Another staff member shared her experiences with the ghostly Sister George. This prankster nun enjoys playing practical jokes on the staff within the chapel and gift shop. One invisible music fan liked to manipulate the gift shop kiosk containing sample music. Each time the ghost would select the same song, playing it over and over again. It drove the gift shop staff crazy. Could it have been Sister George playing one of her pranks? You’ve got to love a nun with a sense of humor.

And Now For Something Really Scary!

You only have one more tour stop left for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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Check out a summary of the reviews for Pariah so far on my website. (Located at the bottom of the page along with links to the full reviews)

The Rose Room

One of my hobbies as I visit new places is checking out the ghost scene. I try to book in hotels with paranormal activity. Ghost hunting in Santa Fe, New Mexico was not on my “To Do List” this time around. I went to Santa Fe to heal and rest, but the spirits had other ideas.  It began as I entered my room…

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La Posada de Santa Fe is a beautiful resort and spa located downtown. Once the Victorian mansion of Abraham and Julia Staab, it has been converted to match the adobe buildings of the resort. My room was off the main house on the first floor. The strange feeling began as I entered my room. Something wasn’t quite “right” about the space. I was growing uncomfortable. Then a kind of peace came over me. Impressions came into my mind of a welcoming family who were happy I came to visit. I began to feel as though I was staying at the family home of a dear friend.

The lobby of La Posada is a welcoming place which draws the locals of Santa Fe to visit for S’more Night each Tuesday. Walking up the stairs past lovely exhibits of local artists will take you to Staab House proper. The home has been restored to its original Victorian style. A beautifully restored wooden bar offers a comfortable gathering place for guests. Across the hall is the magnificent Library. I enjoyed spending many hours there reading by the fire.

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And then there’s the Rose Room. Decorated in dark wood and rose colored furnishings, it houses many pieces of flower art by local artists. I DO NOT LIKE THAT ROOM. The moment I stepped across the threshold I felt a heaviness come over me. I’m not one to shy away from exploring creepy places, but the feeling of being watched was overpowering. This wasn’t my first paranormal rodeo. I knew that room had a history the minute I stepped inside. It took every ounce of restraint to resist asking the staff, “Okay. What happened in the Rose Room?” I was there to heal and rest after all, not to chase ghosts.

Curiosity eventually got the better of me. I had to know. Rather than ask the staff, I decided to look into the history of the hotel on the sly. There was a little book shop down by the Plaza. I attempted to purchase a book about local ghosts. Santa Fe being the laid back town it is, I was not surprised to find a note on the bookstore door.

“Sorry. No set hours yet. Be back sometime in the afternoon.”

I tried three days in a row, but was unsuccessful in catching the store open. My research would have to wait.

What I discovered when I got home: I ordered Santa Fe Ghosts by Susan Blumenthal. The author examines reports of paranormal activity around Santa Fe and has uncovered the background of each historic site.

In her book, the author details the life of Julia Staab or as the staff call her “the hostess with the mostess.” She was one of the most famed socialites of old Santa Fe, throwing wonderful parties and expertly entertaining guests. The stories say Julia went insane after the death of her seventh child and eventually died. Today the Rose Room in the Staab House is believed to be dedicated to Julia.

There are many tales of ghost sightings surrounding Staab House. They say the spirit of Julia Staab can be felt in her lovely gardens throughout the property. She is also the presence fussing about and making certain the modern day guests are taken care of. One employee experienced her maternal nature first hand. He was working the nightshift and decided to take a nap on one of the couches. When he woke, he’d been stripped and his clothes had been neatly folded.

There are accounts of the shadow of a woman when no one else is in the Rose Room. Was the presence I felt Julia? I remember making a “yucky” face at the red walls and vibrant flower paintings (not my taste). Perhaps she didn’t like my editorial comment on the decor?

The next time I visit La Posada, I’ll be prepared for a midnight visit to the Staab house. And I’ll keep my opinions on interior design to myself.

Next Time on DTJ Blog: The Prankster Nun