Friday, December 07, 2018

Supernatural Friday: The Myths and Story Behind Candy Canes

Image result for candy cane images

I am reposting this as I saw a post about a principal in Nebraska (the state I was born in) who banned candy canes from his school as claiming they represent Jesus Christ. I posted the blog in 2014, so people (and maybe that principal) can see where t=candy canes might have come from and why. 

It is said that the candy cane came by a candy maker in Indiana who wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas candy cane. He took several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy, which symbolized the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, It had to be hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God. He formed the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus. It could also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.” 


Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes, using three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
  

These Jesus celebrating candies were then, the story goes, handed out to good children in the church or used as a form of identification among Christians when they were persecuted. But none of this is true! Candy canes were not invented in Indiana since the first reports of hard candy sticks (the precursor to candy canes) come from the 17th century.
 
Actually, white candy sticks were actually quite common at Christmas. One story says that they turned into J’s because one choirmaster bent them to look like a shepherd’s staff for children during the nativity scene. But there is no evidence that that’s true either. 
 
In America’s introduction to Christmas candy canes can be traced to August Imgard, a German immigrant who’s credited with introducing the Christmas tree to Ohio in 1847. The National Confectioners Association makes a claim that Imgard “decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes.” But an article from 1938 points out a ceremony that a different kind of sweet was used.
 
Ornaments were made of paper, festooned in long chains by the younger members of the pioneer community. Kuchen baked according to a recipe sent from Bavaria by Imgard’s mother, hung upon the tree and served both as ornaments and tidbits. The cookies were colored with brown sugar and the family spent weeks baking them in quantities for the guests. Gilded nuts were other ornaments and inside the gilded shells were warm messages of greeting.

Red-and-white striped candy didn’t show up until around the turn of the century in America. 
 
Other myths concerning the candy cane:
A sweet treat made for children who behaved in church.
A way for Christians to identify each other during a time of persecution.


Whether how the candy cane came to be, now they are as much a part of the holidays as Santa Claus. 

So, please, quit stressing where they or songs came from or why, and just enjoy the holidays, whether you believe in Christmas, Hannakuh, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Los Posadas, Diwali, etc....  The only thing you might worry about candy canes are cavities and if you're diabetic.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Book Cover Reveal of 13 Backyard Monsters

Here is the cover for 13 Backyard Monster anthology my story, "The Orange Bati," is included in. Also the back cover with the book blurb. It will be available as an eBook, print, and audiobook.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Story Accepted for Anthology and NaNoWriMo Winner 2018

My horror short story, "The Orang Bati," was accepted for the anthology, 13 Backyard Monsters, to be released around Christmas 2018. And I am a NaNoWriMo winner for 2018! 



Friday, November 23, 2018

Supernatural Friday: The Ghosts of Christmas Terror

Long, long ago, people didn’t stay indoors due to the “frightful” weather, but because it might have been dangerous from dark forces that lurked amidst the shadows of the snow drifts. Winter Solstice (December 21) was a time when the fabric between the mortal world and the world of malicious spirits became thin enough for things to snatch unwary victims. Though the fiends are out all year, especially at Halloween (Samhain-(pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in, Irish pronunciation: [sˠaunʲ])a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year.), still, this time prove to be the scariest.


Many gathered together to celebrate, and they hoped that the dark spirits would realize that with all the din that there might be too many bodies inside or caroling outside to grab one person. Another custom practiced were doors flung open at midnight to let out trapped evil spirits caught inside the building. A candle left burning in the window all night insured good luck for the family inside. Any candle that burned out before dawn was considered a bad sign.

 

It was also said that those born on Christmas are apt more to see a spirit than those not. Though they had nothing to fear from any ghost if they chance to encounter one. These same people were also protected against deaths by drowning or hanging.


This time of year, ghost stories had been told. Those Victorian people did more than go Christmas caroling or drank mulled wine by the roaring fires. Just as much as Halloween. This might be a good reason Charles Dickens wrote his novel, A Christmas Carol. There’s even that line in the song,  ‘It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ that goes "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago," that point to this.

 

Novels and anthologies come out this time of the year, ghostly fiction or horror stories, many are set around the holidays. Like the graphic anthology,  Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas by Michael Dougherty. It is connected to the new Christmas movie, Krampus, and tells of people in a small town that encountered Krampus (a Christmas devil from pagan times who is also considered Santa’s dark shadow who takes bad children to Hell) who came one night. Other books with ghosts and Christmas connected are Christmas Ghosts, an anthology edited by Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell.  Haunted Christmas: Yuletide Ghosts and Other Spooky Holiday Happenings by Mary Beth Crain, The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The 12 Terrors of Christmas  anthology, Bah! Humbug!, a Christmas Anthology of Christmas Horror Stories, plus many, many more books like these, just search Amazon or check out your local brick and mortar independent bookstore, Barnes and Noble, or Books A Million. Or go to your library and ask your librarian.

 Image result for spooky christmas images



Of course, there is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Perfect read for this time of the year. Nineteen years after A Christmas Carol was published, Dickens published another ghost story (no elements of Christmas in it, but still what Victorians like to tell around Christmas time) in the Christmas edition of the publication All Year Round. 




So, besides a season of “good tidings,” it is also a time of terrible fear. Make sure your children are in at night and make sure they stay good. And the same for yourself. For you never know if that shadow moving along the street past your front yard is just someone looking at your Christmas lights, or something else waiting to get you.




Have a Scary Little Christmas!


Image result for spooky christmas images

Friday, November 16, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Witching Hour



The witching hour. The hour when witches, demons, and ghosts are supposed to appear, usually midnight. So, says one dictionary.

In folklore, the witching hour or devil's hour is a time of night associated with supernatural events. Creatures such as witches, demons, ghosts, and gremlins are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful. Black magic is thought to be most effective at this time. The hour between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. in European tradition was considered a period of peak supernatural activity, due to the absence of prayers in the canonical hours during this period. Women caught outside without any sufficient reason during this time were sometimes executed on suspicion of witchcraft.

The Witching Hour can vary slightly,  but it should always be in the middle of the night, sometime between 12-3am.
One of the biggest reasons the Witching Hour is so vitally in the middle of the night (even though it is technically the beginning of the day) is because the liminality the time offers. Another reason, why many people focus on midnight as much as 3am because midnight is the time between two days, and many believe the veil between the worlds is at its weakest point then, allowing for a heightened level of communication between our world and another.

This makes it the perfect time to swap ghost stories, communicate with spirits, or why people take out an Ouija board or perform spells in the old days (think Victorian and before).

Additionally, even back in the centuries before, the hours between 12-3am are usually when most people are dead asleep. The cover of darkness and the sleeping world allows witches and other creatures to convene publicly, but without being seen or otherwise persecuted for the meeting. For demons to possess easier? Or when succubuses and incubuses invaded dreams to seduce mortals. For 12-3 are three hours and when someone has three scratches in a haunting, they say that means a demonic entity.

Another thing about this time is a lot of people wake up at around 3 am. Although this is said to be in relation to something wicked, experts argue that you’re in your REM sleep cycle during the time bracket. Your heart rate, cardiac pressure, breathing rate, and arterial pressure becomes irregular at this time, which is why you may feel anxious when you suddenly wake up at those odd hours. It is interesting that we are irregular and on alert at those
hours naturally. Is it a coincidence, or is it an evolutionary tactic developed to better protect ourselves?






Friday, November 02, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Dia De Los Muertos

 
 Image result for day of the dead images
Many of us think about spirits 365 days a year, but there are those who began to think of them as soon as pumpkins start to appear in grocery stores and the cooler autumn breeze whips leaves changing color off the trees. Those same people want to hear scary ghost stories, and if those tales have a basis in fact, well, that’s all the better.

Humankind has been fascinated with the dead since the time of the cavemen, their shaman telling them tales around a blazing campfire built to keep the dark and worse away. Some cultures honor their dead and welcome their ancestors to come to visit them, bringing them foods and gifts. Just like Mexico does with their Day of the Dead (Día De Los Muertos). More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock deathIt was a ritual that the indigenous people had been practicing for at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards tried with no success to eradicate. 
 
 
The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth. The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month-long ritual. The Spaniards thought death as the end, while the natives embraced it, as to them it was only the beginning. Not separating death from pain and wealth from poverty, unlike in Western cultures.
 
Not able to kill this barbaric ritual, the Spanish merged it with “All Saint’s Day” and “All Soul’s Day,” the first two days of November. When the natives celebrated it for a month, always falling on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as "Lady of the Dead.” 

 
 
Nowadays, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. They placed wooden skulls on altars dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend. Families would also visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones. Strangely enough, in Richmond, Virginia, families would come to town and visit their buried dead at Hollywood Cemetery, picnicking by the graves. Today, in the contract, it is stated that when you purchased a gravesite there, no picnics are allowed there!
 
Honestly, the dead may haunt the graveyards, but they don’t stop there, for paranormal activity has been cited in homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, amusement parks, so many places. And they don’t wait for Halloween or Day of the Dead or All Soul’s Day, but any day of the year works for those who passed away.
 
After all, the dead don’t stay dead anywhere you look!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

HAPPY HALLOWEEN (Original Poem, "Halloween Warning")




“Halloween Warning
By
Pamela K. Kinney



Cool breeze of autumn
Darkness now earlier,
October days, leaves of color
Halloween looming with menace.
With this time come things,
Things unmentionable;
Unsettling and haunting.
White and gray wisps,
Fluttering in the night
Jack-o-lanterns with leering grins
Hear that howl?
Is it the neighbor’s dog?
Or something else?
Blood-chilling;
Downright frightening.
Phantoms, werewolves, ghouls,
Many other kinds of fiends. . .
RUN! HIDE! SAVE YOURSELVES!
Or welcome these harbingers of Samhain,

                 What’s a little fear among friends on Halloween?





Thursday, October 25, 2018

Supernatural Friday: 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.
 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Supernatural Friday: A Ghost By Any Other Name Still Will Haunt You







Ever done a ghost tour, or been on a paranormal investigation?  Listen to some ghostly tales told before a fire burning in a hearth? I’ve done all three myself. Ever had a feeling of being watched or even dread wash over you—though the dread may be unintentional, as the phantom may not be evil. What are spirits, ghosts, phantoms, and the other various names gave them? Are they each something different, or really a single entity with just many titles?

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 that concerns an apparition is that it is 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, specter, 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, although there are 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, 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 is the Union soldiers marching into Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg, Virginia every year at a certain time on January 24th. An interesting fact about the steps the soldiers march up is that they are not even the original staircase from the Civil War era, but new ones put in by Charles Davis. And yet, like clockwork, the soldiers march up those steps at the same time each January 24th.  None died, but after the fall of Petersburg, Centre Hill became occupied by Union troops, led by General George L. Hartsuff. President Abraham Lincoln visited Centre Hill on April 3, 1865, to go over the local situation with General Hartsuff. This meeting took place only eleven days before Lincoln’s assassination.  The museum holds a Ghost Walk each year on one special date. 

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 exorcize a possessed person, and instead of an 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 upon us, ghosts are on people’s minds. When you answer the knock at the door to hand out treats to the trick-or-treaters or head out for a Halloween party, enter that haunted house or step upon the trail of the haunted trails attraction, do be unnerved if you see shadows move in the darkness. It might be shadow people. Spirits roam Halloween as the legends claim that the opening of the veil is more certain on Samhain than any other night.  So maybe, just maybe, you did see something out of the ordinary that is not a person in costume.

After all, the dead want to party just like the living—right?



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Supernatural Friday: Forget Godzilla, the Gashadokuro is Japan's Real Giant Monster!




The Japanese always had giant monsters attacking them. Although, one of the first terrors wasn't radioactive reptilian or a bug or a dragon, it was the gashadokuro. The tales of the gashadokuro goes back over 1000 years to a bloody rebellion against the central government by a samurai named Taira no Masakado. His daughter, Takiyasha-hime, was a famous sorceress. When Masako was eventually killed for his revolt, his daughter continued his cause. Using her black magic, she summoned a great skeleton to attack the city of Kyoto. 

The Japanese have many wild and wonderful legends of ghostly beings, known as Yokai.  One of the most malevolent of them all is the Gashadokuro.  The name literally translates to “starving skeleton”, but that doesn’t do this spirit justice.  Known also as Odokuro, which is apt, as it means “giant skeleton”.  The Gashadokuro is, in fact, a gigantic skeleton that roams the streets after midnight and bites off the heads of anyone unlucky enough to get in its way. It is usually found near mass-graves or battlegrounds and has no diet, but still enjoys feasting on human beings!

The name came from the fact that it’s created from the bones of people who have died of famine.  When a village, for example, dies of starvation, there is a good chance the rotting bones will knit together to form a Gashadokuro, which will then seek to fulfill its unending appetite.  The resulting skeletal ghost is said to be fifteen times the size of a man (or about 90 feet tall!).

if being a giant skeleton wasn’t bad enough, the Gashadokuro is completely invisible before it strikes.  The only way to know one is close is to hear the sound of bells ringing in one's ears just before it attacks.  Shinto charms may also make the monster visible.  There’s no real way to defeat these monsters; escape is the only way to survive an encounter with them.  Laying the bones to rest with offerings of food may work, but the giant ghosts are very difficult to defeat.  Otherwise, eventually, these creatures will burn themselves out, the spiritual energy necessary to hold together all of the bones finally giving way, and they collapse.


The origin of the Gashadokuro is shrouded in mystery, but one possible explanation comes from 10th century CE. During a very bloody conflict within Japan’s government (which are quite common in the island nation’s history), the daughter of a warlord sought to protect her father and castle from an invading army by summoning a giant skeleton.  She used a spell inscribed on a scroll and the skeleton appeared from a dark void to attack the soldiers.  There is the famous woodblock painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, titled Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre that depict this event.  It is said that after this mythical battle, Gashadokuro were unleashed upon the world.



Monday, October 08, 2018

Author Book Signing of Ghost Books at Barnes and Noble Saturday

It's October, and with Halloween at the end of the month. A good time to read ghost stories and urban legends. Not just for Halloween, but signed, they make great Christmas gifts as Christmas is not far behind October.

I'll be signing copies of all of my nonfiction ghost books at the Barnes and Noble at Chesterfield Town Center this Saturday, October 13, 2018, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. That's Haunted Richmond, Haunted Richmond II, Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths, and True Tales, Virginia's Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and Other Haunted Locations, and Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area. 

So come by and get a book, and there'll be chocolate too in my shadow person candy dish!

Barnes and Noble,
11500 Midlothian Turnpike
Richmond, Virginia 23235
Bookstore Phone: 804-794-6640


Sunday, October 07, 2018

Supernatural Friday: A Dark and Terrible Thing Is Coming! (Original Poem by Pamela K. Kinney)




"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.