Friday, November 14, 2014

Supernatural Friday: The Truth or Maybe Falseness of Legends and Urban Legends

Everyone participates in the reading of legends, myths, or folklore at some point in their lives. Who hasn’t read Greek mythology in school, or the folklore of Paul Bunyan, or even tall tales of famous, real people like Calamity Jane or Johnny Appleseed? What about urban legends? Urban legends are myths told in modern society, in cities or online, unlike many of the old tales set in the countryside. Even now, these get passed around in emails or are posted on the Internet—stories about the serial killer with the knife hanging around Lover’s Lane, Bloody Mary, the terrible smell under the bed in a hotel room or even the computer virus story that may have been true three years ago, but is still sent out as a warning.

A legend (Latin, legenda, "things to be read") is a narrative of human actions told about someone that existed in reality, once upon a time, but the true events have been twisted, making them more fascinating. Legend includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility,” defined by a highly flexible set of parameters. These may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened. There is the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arose, and in which the tale may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh, vital, and realistic. It is kinda like that game you played with your classmates in school, where you whisper to the next person a story, and by the time it comes full circle, that story has changed drastically from what it began as.

A myth is a sacred or traditional story that concerns the origins of the world or how the world and the creatures in it came to be in their present form. Myths serve to unfold a part of the world view of a people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. Parables and allegories are myths. Nothing is supposed to be real about it at all, even if someone mentioned in the story is a real person, like some famous Virginians in my book, Haunted Virginia: Legends Myths and True Tales. There are stories told about their habits or life that are not true.

Folklore is the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. It is popular, but unfounded beliefs. Or, as Merriam-Webster says: “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.”

The flavor of people and their culture, all interwove with day to day life when settlers came to the New World. They brought with them their folk tales and beliefs, and founded new ones in the new country. Some old stories mutated into different ones. There were older tales told by the Native Americans who were already living in Virginia before the white man came. Then, when slaves were brought to the New World, they brought with them tales from Africa and changed them, molding them to fit their new home.

Today, in modern times, we continue this with urban legends. Who hasn’t heard of the killer with the hook in lover’s lane? Or who hasn’t said, “Bloody Mary” while staring into the mirror, hoping to make a ghost appear? Or spread the story of the fried rat found in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. There’s the hitchhiking woman dressed in an evening gown that is picked up and climbs into the back seat, giving directions to an address to the driver. Once they arrive at the house, though, the driver discovers that she has mysteriously disappeared. When he goes to the door, he is told that his hitchhiker is the daughter of the owner of the house, who had been killed just after she left a party several years before, never making it home. But stories like the hitchhiking ghost existed long before they ended up as urban legends. I know I’ve read stories when it was a buggy or wagon being driven, not a car. So how many urban legends started as folk tales by those who colonized America? How many are false, but again how many are based on truth? Like the smell under the bed in the motel--that was proven to be true, both happening in Northern Virginia motels.

Many of the legends and folk tales told by our ancestors have some kind of moral attached to them. These may be warnings. Watch your womenfolk and children, so that marauding Indians could not kidnap them. Don’t dare approach some old woman living in the woods for a much needed potion to rid one of an unwanted pregnancy, for she may conjure a spell and convince you to crawl into her oven to be cooked.

All of the above are the start of human storytelling, most likely around the campfire at night and told by the village shaman or official storyteller. What stories do you remember and still like to tell?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Supernatural Friday: Petersburg , Virginia Is Full of Spirits

People talk about the most haunted spots in the worlds, using top tens and twenties. Of course, many of these are logical places in Europe and elsewhere, but many of those in the United States are ones I’ve seen done by "Ghost Hunters" or "Ghost Adventurers" TV shows. There are many more I’ve been to, not mentioned on these shows I have seen activity. Many have stories behind them, from legends to people actually experiencing things.  So whose to say these aren’t as haunted as many of those from top tens and twenties?

I’m going to talk about a town I feel can match many of those. Petersburg, Virginia. When I submitted a book proposal to Schiffer Publishing, I wasn’t sure how much I would get just in the town itself. I added the whole Tri-Cities area, including Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.  I got more than I bargained for, especially in Ole Town section of Petersburg. Had some experiences that will chill some readers, and did freak out with a paranormal incident, one investigator who investigated a couple of spots with me back in July 2014. Even weirder (or maybe not), there had been a full moon that Saturday night.  Won’t go into it—it will all be in the book that I heard may be out Spring 2015.

In 1645, Fort Henry was established for the defense of the inhabitants on the south side of the James River. Fort Henry's commander and owner, Abraham Wood, rose to the rank of major general of the militia, participated in Indian relations, revised laws of the colony, and led expeditions to the south and west. From 1638 to 1675, Fort Henry became a center of trade and exploration.

Peter Jones succeeded Abraham Wood as leader in the area in 1675.  He married Abraham Wood’s daughter, Margaret, and continued the trade established by Wood. He took charge of Fort Henry and established his own trading post.  Local tradition indicates that Petersburg may have been named for Peter Jones; however, there is no documentation to prove that.

Separate in the beginning, the towns of Petersburg and Blandford incorporated in 1748 followed by the town of Pocahontas in 1752. The towns of Petersburg, Blandford, and Pocahontas, along with the suburbs of Ravenscroft and Bollingbrook, all became one town called Petersburg.  Petersburg elected John Banister as its first mayor in 1781. As you will read later, he is still a presence around Petersburg.

And during the War of 1812, the city was named by President James Madison, “Cockade of the Union” (or “Cockade City,” in honor of the cockades the Volunteers wore on their caps. They had fought at the Siege of Fort Megis. No, this was not in Virginia.

Petersburg suffered the Great Fire on July 16, 1815. More than 350 buildings were destroyed with an estimated $3,000,000 in damage.  After that, Petersburg residents began building out of brick.  Between 1815 and 1817, Petersburg saw the emergence of approximately three hundred brick buildings.

The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign or the Siege, was a series of nine offensives by the Union forces against the Confederates defending Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. The Siege of Petersburg happened between June 9, 1864 and March 25, 1865. Upwards of 50,000 Union soldiers and 32,000 Confederates died during this time. Construction trenches were erected around the eastern portion of Richmond to the outskirts of Petersburg. The city was a major supply hub to the confederate army led by Robert E. Lee who finally abandoned the city in 1865 and retreated, leading to his ultimate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Siege of Petersburg was an early example of trench warfare used extensively in World War I.  

Today, Petersburg is a city of history dressed in the latest fashions. But its historical beginnings still show beneath its skirts. And some of those skirts belong to the dead still hanging around.


Lets’ talk about the haunted spots in this part of town. Like Wabi Sabi, Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House, Blue Willow Tea Room, The Bistro at Market and Grove (investigating tomorrow for Paranormal World Seekers episode straight to DVD), Peter Jones Trading Post,  High Street (including Dodson Tavern), and some places in buildings along Old Street. Plus I imagine many other places in town. Nearby is Centre Hill Mansion, famously haunted with the lady that has been seen and heard and the soldiers that march on January 24th, into the house, go up stairs, a half an hour later downstairs to walk back out the front door. There should be another Ghost Watch in 2015 as my husband and I attended the one this past January 24th. Wait until January 1st and call

804-733-2401, or keep tabs at http// to see when they will take reservations.

Not too faraway Blandford Cemetery and Church and Petersburg National Battlefield.  Ragland Mansion Bed and Breakfast is close by in downtown Petersburg has some stories.  

Where else would you find a house made of Civil War soldiers’ tombstones? Back in the Thirties, the city of Petersburg needed money, so they sold the tombstones from what is now Poplar Grove National Cemetery, owned by the US Government. Back then it was Petersburg. They replaced the missing stone gravestones with wooden markers. Today, small marble ones replaced those by the government. 

The man who bought the tombstones was a builder, O. E. Young, for $45.00. The ones used to build the house were placed facing inwards, and then Young plastered over the inscriptions. He even made the walkway out of the tombstones that face down. Okay, that is weird you say, but does that make the house haunted? For a long time, there was no stories about the house. Not until I overheard a docent at Blandford Church and Cemetery talk to another about the haunting that had happened there. Seems an owner of the place (not sure if it is the current owner) had a nephew stop by who had drank too much, so the man told the other to go upstairs and take a nap. The man was awakened by a ‘Rebel’ yell and sitting up, saw a Civil War soldier standing there. The spirit faded away. 

Another place was Battersea, the home of Colonel John Banister, the first mayor of Petersburg and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Ghost stories are mentioned and reenactors have told me about experiences.  Unfortunately, the Easter Sunday I was there for the Revolutionary War re-enactment of the 1981 battle in Petersburg held at Battersea, I forgot some of my equipment and the chance to investigate the house and land myself.

The Bistro at Market and Grove stands on the spot where the warehouse for Peter Jones Trading Post was. Before the restaurant  a gas station stood on the land. Between the gas station and the warehouse, no knowledge. The night in July, we got the voice of someone from the trading post—maybe Peter himself, as he called himself Peter. We had gotten other male voices and female ones too. One of the men knew who the owner of the restaurant was when I asked. He said, “The owner!” I even got darting shadow or shadows in front of me when I switched my camera to video.  This was about fifteen minutes to 1:00 p.m.  Could this be the dancing female spirit caught in a photo from a past investigation, one that appeared to love dancing in the dining room? The one Russ and his workers called Francine, but told me over the ghost box that her name was Ann?

It wasn’t any one living. Customers were gone from inside since 10 p.m. and outdoors in the patio since midnight. As for the rest of us, my fellow investigators sat with me around the table we used, while the two male workers had already left at midnight and one can see the waitress entering the kitchen when it happened, to tell the owner she needed a ride home as her husband had just called to tell her he would be working late.

Need a restaurant that has good food? Try The Bistro while in Petersburg. Just don’t be surprise if your napkin disappears, or some see-through woman dances by your table, it’s just the entities still haunting the building.

Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House actually back in the 1930s was owned by Hiram Haines, friend of Edgar Allan Poe and a fellow poet and editor. He had convinced Poe to honeymoon at the place, staying upstairs in the second floor suite. You can find out more about Poe in Petersburg in the book by the current owner of the building, Jeff Abugel. It is called Edgar Allan Poe's Petersburg: The Untold Story of the Raven in the Cockade City. You can fine it also at, besides at Amazon.

Strangely, through my ghost box or on EVPs, Poe nor Virginia did not answer. Others, like the nurse who took care of the Confederates and the soldiers themselves on the third floor where it had been a Civil War hospital during the Siege, and the Frenchman, Richard Rambaut, did though. Richard even gave me an answer in French, when I asked him to say something in French to prove to me it was him. The answer: “Oui.” 

Right now, Hiram Haines is closed, but may reopen in January. The owner is trying to make the second and third floor up to code for the city so Hiram will be a bed and breakfast, not just an eatery. He has a Kickstarter up for it. You can find it HERE. The minimum donated can be a dollar—same price for an item on McDonald's dollar menu.  Help if you can and you might able to stay where Poe did sleep and even have your own ghostly incident.

Blue Willow Tea Room doesn’t have the ghost in the shop itself (unless they are not showing themselves to the living), but upstairs. Second floor above is full of antiques for sale by Penniston'sAlley Antiques and Collectibles next door to the tea shop. But it appears that the first mayor of Petersburg, Burgess. I did get one word, “Bur” over my ghost box, when I asked if any ghost was with us and a man;s voice said, “Yes.” Bur for Burgess? Can’t prove that one way or another, but still I felt it was him. The third floor, particularly the room upstairs from the third floor had no doubt spirits from the Underground Railroad. The owner who went with me heard the male and female voices that spoke from my box as much as I did.  They even admitted to scaring off a couple of guys who were investigating one night, filming.  Next time you got for a cup, try Blue Willow. You just might have the first mayor of the town sit down with you.

Another kind of African-American spirit is seen and heard at Wabi Sabi. Not a runaway slave, but a black Confederate soldier. I even got two photos of this man peeking through the glass door of the downstairs room. Not the only phantom to stalk the rooms of Wabi Sabi and the whole building (formerly the Nathaniel Friend house). I myself got a woman’s voice over my ghost box and a young boy who called himself Philip. A boy who grew excited when I said that maybe I needed to go back upstairs to fetch a ball from my ghost bag I’d left up there.  He even told me what my earrings I wore, which were snowmen, saying, “Snowman.” When the owner joined me, and I said to tell him hello, the man did, the woman said, “No,” and the boy said nothing.  Next time you want some sushi, try Wabi Sabi. Just be forewarned, more than the living enjoy the place.

 Need some good haunted places not in the top ten or twenties to visit? Come to Petersburg, Virginia. Between the  the good food at the eateries, shopping, and historical places and events, you just might catch sight of a Civil War soldier, or a man in a cockade hat, or a woman still dancing away. After all with such a long history connected, the dead do not want to give up their residency in the town.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


The below flash fiction belongs to Pamela K. Kinney and is copyrighted to her only, so please share thr blog link to your friends and not take off this blog to put on yours, or on forums or websites. Thank you.



Pamela K. Kinney

Janie and Bobby dressed in costumes trudged up the sidewalk as they passed other similarly dressed children. It was Halloween, their favorite time of the year. When all children could go door to door, knock, and candy were poured into their waiting bags after yelling, ‘trick or treat.’ If the adult refused, the kids could play tricks on them and get away with it.

Janie and Bobby loved the treats, but they loved doing the tricks even more. They loved doing nasty, terrible tricks.

“It is tradition,” Mama told them. If the adults gave them candy, then fine and dandy, don’t do anything. But for that one who said, “No treats for you here, now go away!” they had permission to go ahead and do what their family had been doing since the early 1900s.

Janie and Bobby couldn’t wait. For the past couple of years they hadn’t been able to play any of their tricks, as every door they had knocked at the owners handed over candy, fruit, popcorn balls, tiny toys, and money. But when they woke up this morning, they sensed that this night would be different. They would finally be just like the rest of their family.

Nothing happened so far. Both of their bags laden heavy with the fruits of their labor, they stopped before the white picket fence that surrounded the yard of a pretty white Cape Cod home. It looked normal and so . . . suburbia.

This was it. They felt it. They would finally get what was owed them. They couldn’t wait.

Janie and Bobby tipped up their masks and looked at each other, shark grins flashing on their sweet, chubby faces. They pushed the gate open and wandered up the leaf strewn path to the front door. No Halloween decorations shown anywhere and no lit Jack-O-Lantern greeted them, just the closed door, painted a cheery blue.
They knocked and waited.

The door opened without one creak, and a little old lady stood on the other side. Her white hair was swept up in a bun and she wore a cheerful flowered print top and white pants. She peered at them, then blinked her eyes behind tortoiseshell glasses.

“Sorry,” she said, “but I forgot to buy candy to give out tonight.”

Bobby grinned. “That’s okay. We rather not have any treats. Tricks are oh so much cooler.” He tossed aside his bag and the sweets scattered across the front stoop.

He lifted his real axe. He had dressed as serial killer on purpose this morning. His sister was garbed as Lizzie Borden, her own axe gripped tight in her fist. She dropped her own bag and raised it high above her head.

The old lady stepped closer and smiled. “I know. I’ve been waiting for you, my dears. Human killers are not very smart. Not when inhuman ones have perfected their own bag of tricks for eons. My kind has been hunting their prey the hard way for centuries. Many still do. Not me though, I found a much easier way. Usually I decorate my place to attract regular human children on this night, but when I moved here and heard of the murders that been going on in this town for a very long time, I devised a different tactic.” She giggled. “It’s justice for the humans in this town after all and delivery food for me.”

Her face cracked and it split apart, falling to the floor. The rest of the body followed. Amidst the scattered pieces of the flesh, a giant shaggy wolf-like creature stood on clawed hind feet. It snatched both children to its breast. Bobby and Janie screamed, but the sounds were cut off when they were taken indoors and the door slammed shut behind them.


A Dark and Terrible Thing is Coming

"A Dark and Terrible Thing is Coming!"
It’s coming,

Like a terrible thing

It’s scary,

Dark, and with a toothy grin.

So you better beware,

Have everything ready

Decorate appropriately,

For the end is near.

Just remember one thing,

It only comes but once a year

Halloween, costumed in orange and black,

A mask upon its gruesome face

Ringing your doorbell with persistence,

Innocent child or demonic being

Feed it candy, just to be safe.

Trick or Treat.
 I hoped you enjoyed this poem I wrote, "A Dark and Terrible Thing Is Coming!" It's an original poem and copyrighted to me, so do share the link with friends, not the poem, please. Thank you. 

It Will Be a Ghostly Halloween!

They haunt right alongside us, around us, and in places you never think would be haunted. They can be where the least you expect them. And spirits are not “trick ponies,” they will not perform on cue every night or day, so invisible, they might still be there, leaving you a feeling of being watched or even dread. Though the dread may be unintentional, as the phantom may not be evil (though there are times a bad one may be haunting the spot), but your own psychic attention may make you feel it.

What are spirits? Where did the words come from?

In traditional belief, a ghost is the soul of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestations, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely: The mode of manifestation in photos or seen by the living’s eyes can range from an invisible presence, shadow people, translucent or wispy shapes, and orbs, to realistic, life-like visions—solids. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as a séance. Paranormal investigators use equipment to find proof of paranormal activity and to make contact with phantoms.

In many tales, ghosts were often thought to be deceased people looking for vengeance, or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. The appearance of a ghost has often been regarded as an omen or portent of death. Seeing one's own ghostly double or "fetch" is a related omen of death.

Another widespread belief concerning apparitions are that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Early beliefs were that ghosts were the person within the person (the person's spirit), most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of "breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin spiritus and the Greek pneuma, which by analogy became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible, God is depicted as animating Adam with a breath.
Ghosts are also termed spook, spirits, phantoms, fetch, haint (a common feature of southern oral and literary tradition), wraith, revenant, apparition, spectre, shade, and entity. Poltergeist, German for a “noisy spirit,” is for a spirit said to manifest itself by invisibly moving and influencing objects. The Bell Witch was considered a poltergeist.

Most times, a poltergeist is just mischievous, though there instances of it being sinister, not unlike the Bell Witch. Was the Bell Witch a poltergeist or more along demonic lines? Good question. It was an entity that tormented a pioneer family that lived in what was then Red River, Tennessee in 1817-1827 ( Red River is now known as Adams, Tennessee). It was substantiated by eyewitness accounts (other than the family), affidavits, and manuscripts written by those who witness the phenomenon. More about this interesting tale can be found in author Pat Fitzhugh, The Bell Witch: The Full Account.

Besides the poltergeist phenomena, there are three other types of hauntings. First are residual hauntings. These are a recorded playback of what happened in the past. Maybe it could even be a time warp (one idea of mine, though I can’t prove this, but who knows, a feasible one like any other theory). There is no interaction with the living -- the ghost does not see or hear you because the ghost is not actually there. Only his/her energy remains, it is a remnant of his living form that you are seeing, just like when you watch a video. This cycle continues in the same place at usually the same time of day or year indefinitely until the energy is exhausted or diminishes to a low enough level that it is undetectable by human perception. One account of residual hauntings are the Union soldiers marching into Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg, Virginia every year at certain time on January 24th. An interesting fact about the steps the soldiers march up is that they are not even the original staircase, but a new one put in by Charles Davis. And yet, like clockwork, the soldiers march up those steps at the same time each January 24th.  The mansion's tour last year now say it could be soldiers from the War of 1812 marching indoors and up the stairs and back down and out the door. That it was heard before the Civil War.  Again, maybe it is the Union soldiers taking over the house. Take the tour yourself, and decide for yourself.
The museum holds a Ghost Walk that you can reserve by calling the Petersburg Visitors Business Center at either 804-733-2401  after the first of January for prices and times. Do it quick and call early to reserve your spot as they fill up fast.

Traditional, or intelligent, hauntings are the second. Whether actual human spirits that had not crossed over into heaven and had some unfinished business with a living person, or a message they wanted to deliver before they could move on, or even those that just want to stay in a place they lived in life or be on our plane of existence (more and more, I suspect they can travel back and forth between here and the “other side.” These ghosts will unlock doors and open windows, run the faucets and even interact with you directly because they are an "intelligent" presence, the personality of a person who was once alive but has stayed behind rather than passing over.

The third type of haunting, and undoubtedly the most frightening, is a demonic, or inhuman, haunting. To me personally, I think when a human was evil in life, they too would be considered under demonic. There have been stories of where priests have gone in to exorcise a possessed person, and instead of a inhuman demon, this one claims to be the parent or someone alive once, tormenting the person.

The entity is similar to a traditional haunting because the spirit is intelligent and are existing in the present moment with you. These spirits are malevolent and hostile, suffering from psychological instability or distress stemming from an unresolved conflict with the people who are being subjected to the demonic activity. Demonic presences tend to be ‘unleashed' in order for them to manifest. This is one reason why the use of an Ouija Board is customarily discouraged among many ghost hunters. So if you find one in the game section of the store, don’t buy one. Not understanding and without protection, one can open up a portal, letting in things they can not handle and most times, demonic in nature.

With Halloween nearly here, ghosts are more so on people’s minds. When you step out into the night for that Halloween party or that haunted house or trails attraction, do be unnerved if you see shadows move in the darkness. It may be just shadow people. Spirits roam Halloween as it is said the opening from the “Other Side” is more so on certain days of the years then the rest. And they want to party just like the living—right?

Again, it may be your imagination, least, you tell yourself that. Then again. . . wait. . .is those shadows closer than before? Watch out—
Check out the four nonfiction ghost books I wrote:  Haunted Richmond, Virginia, Haunted Richmond II, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales, and

Virginia's Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg,Yorktown, Jamestown,and Other Haunted Locations. In Spring 2015, I will have a new one about Petersburg and the Tri-Cities area available from Schiffer Publishing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fear and Halloween

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. It's a basic reaction to a stimulus, such as pain or dangerous threat. Fear is separate from anxiety, which occurs without external threat. It means to terrify, or to frighten.

The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response), which in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) can be a freeze response or paralysis.

In humans and animals, fear is modulated by the process of cognition and learning. Thus fear is judged as rational or appropriate and irrational or inappropriate. An irrational fear is called a phobia.

People develop specific fears as a result of learning or experiencing. Psychology calls this fear conditioning. John B. Watson's Little Albert experiment in 1920 might be the beginning of this. After observing a child with an irrational fear of dogs, the  study of an 11-month-old boy had him conditioned to fear a white rat in the laboratory. The fear became generalized to include other white, furry objects, such as a rabbit, dog, and even a ball of cotton.

Fear can be learned by experiencing or watching a frightening traumatic accident. For example, if a child falls from a swing or falls off a boat into a lake and almost drowns and he or she may develop a fear of heights (acrophobia), enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), or water (aquaphobia). I myself had the near drowning experience at age four to keep me from learning to swim.
Studies of the areas of the brain that are affected in relation to fear have been done. When looking at these areas (such as the amygdala), it was proposed that a person learns to fear regardless of whether they themselves have experienced trauma, or if they have observed the fear in others. The amygdala affected two subjects when one observed someone else being submitted to an aversive event, knowing that the same treatment awaited themselves, and when subjects were subsequently placed in a fear-provoking situation. This suggests that fear can develop in both conditions, not just simply from personal history.


Physical reactions from fear are:

Rapid heart rate

Increased blood pressure

Tightening of muscles

Sharpened or redirected senses

Dilation of the pupils

Increased sweating

Guess that could partly what Halloween is all about. The need to scare ourselves silly. And yet once the masks are off and the decorations put away, we laugh and say it was all for fun. That we weren't really frightened. But what if the monsters and ghosts are real (Doing paranormal investigating, I believe ghosts to be real--demons too.)? Serial killers are real. Spiders are. Some are poisonous, some like the brown recluse can kill you with its bite. Bats can give you rabies with a bite.

It all began with a Celtic festival called Samhain ( pronounced sow in or sow an), and even a Christian one called All Soul's Day (November 1st). Though some folklorists claim that it goes farther back to a Roman feast of Pomona, goddess of seeds and fruits, or even to a festival of the dead, Parentalia. The Celts on Samhain built bonfires on All Hallow's Eve, where they burned animals and crops as sacrifices to Celtic deities.

The Celts believed that the veil between the mortal world and the spirit world was thinnest on this one day of the year. That spirits, demons, monsters, and other frightful beings, could enter more easily. Harmless ghosts of ancestors were made welcome by family, while those who meant harm to mortals were warded off.

No doubt this was how the wearing of masks and costumes came about. Someone wanted to get home, or go to a friend's or relative's. They wore a costume and mask, looking like a dark spirit, so that they would be safe from any supernatural threat. 

Today, scary movies and stories in novels and short stories, even the haunts set up in October, most likely don't help. They have become our own self induced fear conditioning. Even once November 1st rolls around and we look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, that fear conditioning remains, coming out at unexpected times. 

Halloween has much to answer for.  But you know what, I do not care. I love it. And as a writer of dark fantasy, if my readers want feel the safe thrill of the monsters that inhabit my novels, short stories, poetry and nonfiction ghost books, well that is fine with me. None of it is real. 

Neither is that lit Jack-O-Lantern on the porch, the ghost drifting down the street is just a trick-or-treater in a sheet , and the haunt you just entered with your buddies nothing more than people made up and animatronics.


Just beware of when you go out that night. After all, the worlds of the living and the dead are blurred this very day. And that partner you're dancing with just might not be human....or alive!



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monsters Don't Exist (Yes, They Do!)

Enjoy this original poem of mine, which I first posted on this blog in 2012. It is copyrighted by me, so just share the link with friends, not the poem. Thank you.

Monsters Don’t Exist

Pamela K. Kinney

Mother said that monsters didn’t exist
That they came from fast food or scary movies.
She lied!
And kept lying when the monster came that night
He instructed Daddy to change and attack,
To rip her throat out and tear out her heart.
Her eyes pleading as she screamed,
“Run! Don’t let the monsters catch you!”
But I didn’t run,
Why would I?
Then the monster held out its clawed paw to me,
And I took it, asking, “Can we play?”
He called me his dear child, the promised one,
“I’ll teach you all I know, how to do what I do,”
He said, “Just as the one before me taught me.”
And so among the fires and slaughter we went,
I skipped beside him, only stopping
To play catch with bodiless heads.
When we left that place near to morning
What remained of the township right behind us
Inhuman sheep leaving for desolate pastures.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Supernatural Friday: A Ghoulish Friday in October

"They are neither man nor woman
They are neither brute nor human
They are Ghouls"
Edgar Allan Poe

When George Romero's Night of the Living Dead came out, the press called the undead in that film zombies. Except Romero never coined them that way. Instead he had called them ghouls. Which would be the right term, as zombies are connected to voodoo and people are drugged and controlled, and are not flesh eating monsters.

What are ghouls? A ghoul is a legendary evil being that robs graves and feeds on corpses.  It is one who shows morbid interest in things considered shocking or repulsive and supposedly lives in burial grounds. In Arabic folklore, ghouls are a type of jinn that could change their shapes but had one unchanging feature: donkey's hooves for feet. Even more horrible, it kills young children and even can lure unwary folk into abandoned places. By extension, the word ghoul is also used derogatorily to refer to a person who delights in the macabre, or whose profession is linked directly to death, such as a gravedigger.

Ghoul is from the Arabic ghul, from ghala "to seize." It is even thought to come from Gallu, a Mesopotamian demon. In Sumerian and Akkadian  mythology, the Gallus (also called gallu demons or gallas [Akkadian: gallû]) were great demons/devils of the underworld. Their job was to haul off unfortunate victims to the underworld and even accompanied Istar when she headed down to the underworld.

The ghul is a fiendish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis, known to the Devil in Islam. A ghoul is a desert-dwelling shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, and eats the dead, taking the form of the person most recently eaten. In the Arabic language, the female form is given as ghouleh and the plural is ghilan. In colloquial Arabic, the term is sometimes used to describe a greedy or gluttonous individual.

In stories and films, I think Gollum as closest to the idea of a ghoul, and wouldn't be surprised this is what Tolkien had in mind when he wrote him into The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.