Review of Archie’s Haunted House (Archie & Friends All-Stars)

 

 

Archie Haunted House CoverThink real hard – what’s the scariest work within haunted house literature?

Think even harder – what is the funniest work of the haunted house genre?

Think harder than “even harder” – which haunted house book best captures the spirit of today’s youth?

Think so hard that your brain bleeds – which haunted house novel has the best graphic illustrations?

Tired of all this thinking? Good, because I am going to give your brain a rest by dumbing things down a bit as I get into the subject of today’s review – Archie’s Haunted House (Archie & Friends All-Stars), which, by the way, is not the crowning achievement for any of the above categories. Truth is, I don’t know which haunted house novel is the scariest, funniest, trendiest or “graphiciest” (the superlative of “graphic.” See I.. oh never mind, just read on!) But it’s not Archie’s Haunted House, but we love Archie anyway. Why? Because he is Archie! (circular reasoning notwithstanding)

Maybe some of you don’t know what an “Archie” is. Archie is the star of fictional comic book series about teenagers who do “teenage-ish” things in the small town or Riverdale. He’s been around since – My god! Really Wikipedia? Since 1941? And here I thought he was the byproduct of the late fifties and early sixties with all that soda- shop/sock hop kind of humor. The all-American teenage Archie, with red hair and all, had a side kick named Jughead, known for his laziness and addiction to junk food. Archie dated either blonde Betty ,the sweet, girl-next-door, or brunette Veronica, the snobby rich girl. Then there was Reggie the conceited one, Big Moose the dimwitted but good-hearted jock, Dilton the brainy nerd. The list goes on.

Archie has survived over the decades, has gone through various incarnations for multiple publications. As previously mentioned, there’s the “sock-hop” era Archie, there’s “Little Archie” (the teenagers as children), there was even “Christian” Archie. Archie tried (but in my opinion, failed miserably) to stay with the times. In the 1980’s he was saying no to drugs, in the 1990’s he was listening to grunge rock – you get the idea. In a parallel universe of Archie (the Life with Archie series),the Archie gang appear as superheroes, secret agents. They marry each other. In one story, poor ol’ Archie dies. But he lives in one of the other 2,343,120 Archie publications (number may be slightly exaggerated.)

As a birthday gag-gift, my friend and colleague gave me this haunted house issue of Archie from 2010. He knows I dig haunted house stuff and he also knows that I am familiar with The Archie comics. I read it and thought “why not ‘review’ it.” But the sum of the review is as follows – “It’s Archie” – more of that circular reasoning for ya!

In the first story, a costume store opens in Riverdale. The costumes are special in that the person who puts them on becomes what they are wearing. Archie is running around Riverdale as a werewolf, Reggie a vampire, etc. It takes nerdy Dilton to break the spell of these magical costumes and return the gang back to normal

The second story is about the oldest house in Riverdale. It’s supposed to be haunted, but Archie Haunted House - Forefathersthe city council sees it only as an eye sore and wants it torn down. But wait! Archie discovers the house is an important piece of history and wants it preserved. But wait again! It really does turn out to be haunted and Archie changes his mind and wants it torn down – after convincing the council to preserve it. Oh brother!

In the third tale, the girls are having a “girl-only” Halloween party and the boys come to scare them. It turn out that the boys become the ones who are scared when they mistakenly conclude that Veronica’s aunt is an axe murderer.

Finally, there’s my favorite story! Archie and Jughead, dressed as vampires, miss Veronica’s Halloween party, and so they are invited to another party – at a haunted house. In attendance are real monsters. There are mummy ladies and werewolf women, There are things with many eyes, there are ogres. There’s even a medusa. When these monsters discover that Archie and Jughead are not real vampires, they are in trouble!

Archie Haunted House - Monster Party

If you want to know the truth, I prefer the Archie comics of the 1960’s and 1970’s. My older sisters had a bunch of these lying around the house when I was growing up. I read em’ and dug em’. I cringe when the comics go out of the way to show how much they have moved with the times. In Archie’s Haunted House, Veronica and Betty discuss a Pearl Jam concert. In 2010 I think it would be a little late for that. Later, they succumb to a magic spell, and the writers compare the trance they fall into to the reactions the girls typically have after watching Brad Pitt on the screen. I would think B and V as teenagers of 2010 would go more for Robert Pattinson of Twilight. That would definitely fit – since these are horror-themed stories.

Ah but oh well. My colleague has told me that Archie comics have always thrown in references to real people and places aimed at referencing the “current times.” I’ll take his word for it; I just don’t remember the older issues being so obvious about it while simultaneously being a decade off track.

Anyway, this is a fun comic book. Not really scary, not “ha ha ha” funny, and I’m not sure who the target audience is. It can’t be today’s millennials, they won’t go for this. And I would guess that many middle-aged folks (like me) and beyond would prefer the older issues. The drawings are decent. That’s good, right? Despite the shortcomings, it’s an enjoyable read. I don’t know why. Oh wait, yes I do – it’s fun because it’s “Archie”

Archie Haunted House Nightview

 

 

 

Review of Sker House

SkerHouseWhat is an epic? When I think of “epics,” I think of kingdoms, knights and warriors. I think of castles and magical caves. I think of a fictional place from a long time ago in a place far away. I think of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. All that said; let me move on to the book under review. There’s something about C.M. Saunder’s novel Sker House  that has me classifying it as an epic and yet, it has none of the aforementioned items. I need some help. Let me consult the ever-reliable online dictionary of Merriam-Webster.

 

Yes!  The dictionary came through like a charm!  It gave me a definition I can use:

 

Extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size and scope.

The definition fits. Sker House is a rich tale goes beyond the ordinary.

It’s not that it’s a long book (amazon has it a 299 electronic pages). There’s just so much packed into this tale. And nothing is crammed in hastily. Saunders gives the characters the necessary space to grow. As he giveth unto the characters, so doth he giveth to the plot (how do you like my Shakespeare impression?), which thickens into a filling story capable of satisfying any reader’s hunger for intrigue. Take for instance, the house at the center of the story – Sker House, which is a seaside inn located in South Wales. The inn and its surrounding property are not content to toss a mere ghost or two at the reader. The book has multiple hauntings and ghosts, including the mysterious Maid of Sker and the creepy shadow people. Then there are the strange ghost lights from ships of another day. Readers will encounter hidden passages, secret gardens, mysterious scribblings, possessions of the body, and unexplainable power outages.

Any good house haunting tale, especially one of epic proportions, is in need of a telling backstory. Saunders explores the history of Sker House from multiple avenues, including the firsthand tales from a strange old codger, the revealing dreams that manifest in the sleep of the protagonists, and the image provoking photo of doomed seamen.

A strong sense of place is important to epics. Although this is not a story from a time long ago in a place far away, the author does take a foreign setting (foreign to me here in the U.S.) and make it relatable. By and large, this is accomplished through the richness of the characters with all their prides, prejudices and patterns of speech specific to this locality. Saunders seems confident describing the mannerisms of his characters. The same is true concerning descriptions of the terrain and geography. He uses his knowledge of local history and legends, borrowing loosely from these stories. But in the end, his tale is his own.

SkerHouseOriginal

(Read about the original Maid of Sker and the real Sker House. Picture above is the original house, taken from this site)

 

Here’s a little more about these colorful characters. They include Dale and Lucy, two young and adventurous journalist-wannabes who stay at the nearly abandoned inn because they wish to learn more about the ghostly legends that are associated with Sker House in the hopes of publishing an article concerning such accounts. There is the landlord/proprietor of the Inn – Machen – a suspicious curmudgeon who is both goodhearted and endearing at the same time. Then there’s Old Rolly, Sker House’s only resident. He is a quiet and mysterious man who sits at bar of the inn day after day. Even background characters such as Ruth and Izzy, the mother and daughter maid team of Sker House, are well-rounded and personable.

The only failings that I came across have to do with some of the specifics within the wide breadth of material. At times I felt the author had too much on his plate and therefore neglected to fully explain certain happenings or resolve particular issues. I don’t want to identify these exact moments for fear of giving away too many spoilers. But if you read this book (and you should!) perhaps you will notice them as well. Despite this criticism, I admire the epic quality of this work – very much so. So a few details are sacrificed in the creation of the larger picture. The point is that the larger picture fairs well. Therefore, I strongly recommend this book

Review of The Time of Their Lives

AbbottAAAAAAA-BBAHHHHHHET!!!!       Costello      

 “Cut! Actors and Actresses, take five. Uh, Mr.   Blogman, may I have a word with you?”

Blogman Dan: Sure! What’s up?

Inner Critic: You really shouldn’t have Lou Costello shouting “Abbott.” It’s not appropriate for this film.

Blogman Dan: Aw gee, Mr. Inner Critic, but when I reviewed that other Abbott and Costello haunted house movie, Hold that Ghost, I began the post with Costello’s signature “AAAA-BBAHHHHET” and the post was a success.

Inner Critic: You were wrong about that too. In Hold that Ghost, the actors do not go by the names Abbott and Costello.  Abbott’s character is Chuck Murray and Costello plays the role of Ferdie Jones. So it would not have made any sense for Ferdie to be calling out a name that was not even in the movie.

Blogman Dan: Okay, so I made one boo boo!

Inner Critic: I’m afraid this time around, you made more than one. In The Time of Their Lives , Bud Abbott plays both Cuthbert Greenway and Dr. Ralph Greenway. Lou Costello plays Horatio Prim. Once again, Abbot and Costello go by different names. In fact in most of their films they go by the names the writers of  each respective film have given them.

Secondly, the two men are not partners in this film.

Blogman Dan: They’re not?

Inner Critic: No! They’re not even friends. So it would not make any sense to have Costello call out to him! The next time you begin a blog post, I suggest you….

Pow

 

Every once in a while, you have to punch that inner critic right in the nose! An annoying buttinski he can be!

Hi everyone, welcome to my review of The Time of Their Lives. This is a hilarious film that is also surprisingly creepy at the same time. And yes it’s true: Abbott and Costello are not partners.  It was far from their first film and far from their last. I guess somewhere in the middle the comedy duo just wanted to experiment with a different formula. And it worked! I loved their brilliant performances as stand-alones.  Sometimes they are in cahoots and sometimes they work together. But this “togetherness” is made difficult by the fact that Costello is a ghost and Abbott is not. Abbott cannot see Costello. And there was no cellular coverage for interdimensional communication (it was the 1940’s what to you expect?), so it is rather difficult for them to talk to one another.

The movie begins during the Revolutionary War. Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) is a travelling tinker who has come to the estate of Tom Danbury to meet with his love Nora O’Leary, one of Danbury’s servants. He wishes to marry her. To win over Danbury’s approval for such a marriage, Horatio has a letter of recommendation from General George Washington. Ah but he runs into all sorts of hurdles. First, there’s Cuthbert Greenway (Bud Abbott), Danbury’s butler. He wants to be the one to marry Nora. So he ends up locking poor Horatio in a crate. Furthermore, Tom Danbury turns out to be a traitor in alliance with Benedict Arnold. He kidnaps Nora and hides Horatio’s letter in secret compartment within a clock. Later on, the Patriots arrive on horseback. They burn the house down. Horatio and Melody Allen, Danbury’s fiancé, are shot and killed. (Oh yeah, Horatio had escaped from the crate by then) THEY are accused of being traitors (they were not!).  Their bodies are discarded in a well and a curse is placed on them – as traitors, their souls are bound to the A and C Timewell and its surrounding land.

For a black and while comedy flick in 1946, it was surprising to see the bodies at the bottom of the well. Not quite a barrel of laughs, or in this case, a “well” of laughs. The scene was a bit disturbing.

Time passes. One hundred seventy odd years go by. A new house is on the property. It is built to resemble the original colonial house and includes much of the original furnishings. Somehow these pieces of furniture escape the fire. I forgot how.

Anyway, four people are spending a weekend in the home. One of the occupants is Dr. Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott), a descendant of the mean old butler that locked poor Horatio in the case. Meanwhile, the ghosts of Horatio and Melody decide to haunt the house. Actually, they are searching the place for the long lost letter written by George Washington on behalf of Horatio. Perhaps it’s hidden inside one of the original furnishings (the clock!). This letter will prove the innocence of the ghosts, and they may then be free to leave the premises and rest in peace.

Now the house haunting begins! There are some “not so bad” special effects going on – pretty good for them there olden days! It was fun to see Horatio and his lady friend their semi-transparent states. It was even more fun to watch a car drive right through them. And I’ll never forget the “walking dress” that descended the staircase! Melody was wearing it but since she herself was invisible, the poor woman that saw this frightful scene was scared out of her wits!

The film does have a problem with continuity when dealing with the physical laws that govern how the ghosts can and cannot interact with physical objects. As mentioned before, a car passes through them. And yet, the ghosts are able to handle objects such as lighters, dresses, etc. They can sit their ghostly rumps down on tree branches. During their very first scene as ghosts, Horatio and Melody try to hug each other. They fail, for they pass right through each other! But later, Melody rests her arms on Horatio’s shoulders. Ah but this is a comedy, so I’ll let it go. Even the famous Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore movie “Ghost” had its inconsistencies. Patrick couldn’t reach out and open doors, couldn’t kiss Demi without possessing the body of Whoopie Goldberg (ewww!). But for some reason, he could sit in chairs and walk on the soles of his feet. I guess the physical laws that govern ghosts are just sooo complicated.

But you want to know what I like best about this film? I like that Costello gets revenge on Abbott. I’m not only referring to how he pranks the Dr. Ralph Greenway Abbot to get back at his ancestor Cuthbert Greenway Abbot. I’m taking in consideration the totality of Abbott and Costello’s antics across all their spooky films. In all these comedic horror movies, it’s usually Costello that is the butt of the supernatural and/or scary jokes. It’s Costello that freaks out over the moving candle in Hold that Ghost. It’s Costello that first encounters Dracula and Frankenstein in Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. By the time Abbott gets around to seeing what in the heck is spooking his friend, the ghostly/monstrous shenanigans have stopped, leaving Abbot to chide his companion with an “Aww you’re imagining things!”

A and C time 2The tables have turned. Costello, as a ghost, pulls tricks on Abbott and nearly drives him out of his mind. He disturbs his sleep by playing the harpsichord. He lights his cigarette, but Abbott doesn’t see Costello- he only sees a lighter hovering in the air. He gives him a good kick in the ass over a chair! You go Costello!

Mind you, Costello gets into his own fixes as well. It just wouldn’t be an Abbott and Costello movie without hearing Lou trying to catch his breath while he is freaked out by something.

Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein is probably my favorite comedy horror film from this duo. The Time of Their Lives might be my second.  Regardless, I catch all their frightfully funny films whenever they are shown on Svengoolie on Saturday nights on MeTV.  I love my Svengoolie. And you should too!

 

Review of The House on the Moor

The House on the Moor CoverThere’s an accepted adage that one should ‘never judge a book by its cover.’ Sorry Mr. Adage, but that is exactly what I am going to do. Not only am I going to judge the cover, but I an going to evaluate the paper, fonts, and even the box it came in.  I am going to offer my opinion on the illustrations as well. And my opinion is this = Saul Goodman. (it’s all good, man!)  Oh and the story is all right as well.

Why all this mumbo-jumbo about the physical book? Well see, I stumbled onto Author William Meikle’s thread on Goodreads.com.  He posted a link to Dark Renaissance Press –the publisher for his book – The House on the Moor.   Unfortunately,  the Dark Renaissance website is down at the time of this post.  But Meikle describes exactly why I was attracted to his book in his blog.  I’ll leave it to the author to tell you about it:

The Deluxe Hardcover Edition is bound in smooth black leather, and the front cover stamped with a haunted house in red foil, further enhanced with solid black headbands and a red book ribbon. The book will be protected by a black slipcase and deluxe hardcover edition will be signed by the author and the artist.

The Signed and Numbered Hardcover Edition is bound with the printed front cover art. It is furthered enhanced with black headbands, and a black book ribbon. The signed and numbered hardcover edition is signed by the author.

From – https://williammeikleblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-house-on-the-moor-signed-hardcovers-in-stock/

 

Now how could a lover of haunted house literature such as myself not be interested in something like this! Then, after seeing the illustrations of the talented M. Wayne Miller , I was sold. See some of Mr. Miller’s work below:

In the age of digital downloads, I am impressed that authors such as Miekle take the time and effort to publish a well designed, hardcover book. Not that there is anything wrong with ebooks – I read the all the time! I publish them myself!  But the pleasure of holding a book, flipping through the paper pages and then storing it on a cherry wood shelf cannot be replaced. The House on the Moor is joy to multiple senses.  I have already expressed how attractive the book looks.  But there is more. The cover is feels smoothly sensual when an open hand glides across its surface. And it seems to have that new car smell! Ah but it is a book – so the olfactory pleasure is, perhaps, more intellectual?

As for the other senses, I wouldn’t know how it sounds; this is not an audio book. I have made no attempt to eat it so I wouldn’t know how it tastes. But what about that other sense, the one called “imagination” which yields the power to bring all the senses together inside the brain?  The plot certainly stimulates the imagination.  It is a simple yet engaging story, filled with mood-setting charm.  John and Carole visit a mysterious old man named Blacklaw in his house on the moor.  John’s grandfather Hugh was a dear friend of Blacklaw’s in the olden days. In their prime, both men, bold and dashing, were celebrated for their feats and adventures, until one final act of daring caused Hugh’s demise. This act occurred in the cellar of the house on the moor. John is ready to hear the tale. Cautiously, over the course of several sittings, Blacklaw tells the tale as his energy is slowly drained.  It is a story of the occult and magical spells.  It is a story that explains the haunting that is occurring inside the house during present time Now readers, cue in the imagination – this power that brings together all the senses inside the brain.  I could almost taste the Scotch that guests and hosts of the house drink during the tellings. I The House on the Moor Spine 2could almost feel the warmth from the fireplace and nearly hear it crackling.  Could my mind hear the eerie chanting rituals that arise from the cellar? I think so. Could it see all the way up to the top of the library tower, where hidden in the shadows of the rafters was some kind of phantom? I believe so.

This is a book to cherish, to read by the fireplace in your favorite sitting chair with a sifter of brandy at your side. When not in use it belongs on the bookshelf in its protective black case, with a spine of shiny-red etching that spells to each and every onlooker: The House on the Moor.

The Lord of Winter – An Interview with Author Bryan Alaspa

 

The Lord of the WinterAs promised, here is the follow-up to the segment I did with Author Bryan Alaspa and his new book The Lord of Winter (The Elementals Book 2). Last time Bryan appeared as a guest and contributed a thoughtful perspective on why a writer writes. For this segment, I interview Bryan Alaspa. Together we discuss The Elemental series in general and the Lord of Winter specifically.   So put your reading glasses on and settle on in. You are in for a treat!

 

Smiley

 

 

 

 


 

Daniel W Cheely – To clarify, the Elemental series belongs in the YA fantasy genre and is about youth with special powers, is that correct?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – Yes, the Elementals series is meant for young adults. They are about an offshoot of humanity known as Elementals that can control one of the four elements that make up the universe. They are very long-lived, generally stronger than regular humans and have vast powers.

 

Daniel W Cheely – The heroes of the series – they are youth?

 

 Bryan W. Alaspa – Well, most of them are. There are older folks in there, adults. One main adult, Christopher, is going around recruiting these young Elementals, youths, to be part of his team to ward off a great evil.

 

Daniel W Cheely – I want to come back to the ancient race of elementals in a bit. But for now let me ask this: These youth that manipulate the elements, are they normal, average kids that one day realize they have this magic?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – Most of them, yes. Most of them are offspring of other Elementals. Similar in some ways to the mutants in the comic book world of the X-Men. The Organization, the villainous conglomerate at the heart of the story, has ways of finding Elementals when they are young and recruiting them to teach them how to use their abilities.

 

Daniel W Cheely – The themes in your book do remind me of the X-men series, I was going to mention that. But I’m also reminded of Harry Potter and even Spider-Man in that both of these characters were normal kids until they suddenly realize that have special powers.

For many, the teen years are filled with anxiety and low self-esteem. Teens are trapped in a moratorium, not knowing who they are in relation to the larger world. Maybe they take to characters that suddenly break out of the “teen trap” and become somebody fantastic. Do you think this is why younger kids/teens are attracted to novels such as yours?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – I know that is why I was always attracted to these kinds of stories. I loved Spider-Man because he was a teenager who had powers. It’s why I loved the X-Men. I think that most teens want something that makes them cooler- to stand out from the others around them.

 

Daniel W Cheely – Also teens want to belong. Often they aren’t allowed in certain cliques. They are shunned, etc. To one day discover that you belong to a race of Elementals – that can be a major ego boost in that you belong to a group that is way cooler than, say, jocks.

OR…is it the opposite? Do they feel as if they are misfits for belonging to this race? Or is it a little of both?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – They are generally feared by the public and for the new recruits, suddenly finding out they are not “normal” or like anyone else is a little disconcerting.

 

Daniel W Cheely –Now in regards to the newest novel Lord of Winter – I have to ask, does the Lord of Winter = Bryan Alaspa? I know of your loathing for hot and humid weather and I can picture you, if you had the ability, smothering the heat with snowstorms to spite the summer.

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – Well, the name sure did come from there. In some ways, Robin Frost is a little based on me and my love of the colder months. It’s not a perfect match, but pretty close. If I did have his abilities, the summer months would be much more bearable for me.

 

Daniel W Cheely –In other words, you would be a responsible Lord and not whip up blizzards on the 4th of July.

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – 

thumbs up 

 

Daniel W Cheely – I’ll take that as a “yes.”  How about the young man in the story, is he responsible with his powers?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – In the story, Robin Frost has had an accident earlier in his life that has damaged the part of his brain that would allow him to control his abilities. He has now lost control and threatens the entire city of Miami.

 

Daniel W Cheely – Yikes for Miami! Now, if The Elementals are an ancient race, could it be that such a calamity or near-calamity has happened before? Was there any tragedy or near tragedy that might have happened, say hundreds or thousands of years ago on account of their powers, or is it best to read the books for this answer?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa –  I have yet to explore that, but in the third novel my intention was to delve a bit deeper into the history of some of the main characters and explore more Elementals history, so it may come up then.

 

Daniel W Cheely – Ah – the third novel. First there was The Lightning Weaver , second The Lord of Winter. What powers might the third character have?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – The third novel is called The Water Witch, which I think gives you an idea. The fourth novel will be The Firedrake.

 

Daniel W Cheely – So, if I recall, the four elements are Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. The third novel is water, the fourth is fire. How about The Lightning Weaver and The Lord of Winter? The remaining elements are earth and air. Does The Lord of Winter = air while The Lightning Weaver = earth?

 

 Bryan W. Alaspa – The Lightning Weaver draws her power from the earth’s electrical and magnetic field, making her an earth elemental. The Lord of Winter manipulates the air to create the intense cold, snow and ice. I have also added a fifth element, dark matter, but only the villain can manipulate that

 

 Daniel W Cheely – That is awesome – having a villain manipulate dark matter! I wouldn’t have thought of that. Kind of like Star Wars and The Dark side of the Force, where only The Sith use the red lava elements or whatever it is that they use to make red lightsabers. Or how only The Sith making lightning.

What can the villain do with the dark matter?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – Well dark matter is what scientists believe is pushing the planets away from each other. At the start, he mostly just gestures and causes people to blow apart. He gets a boost during the first novel and dark matter becomes a kind of primordial substance that was there before the humans or Elementals. Now he can teleport purpleghost2 , create powerful blasts of energy, shapes, all kinds of things.

 

Daniel W Cheely –I don’t think I would want to mess with that dude!

I have found the four-element myth/philosophy interesting, although I must confess I don’t know how the belief system came about regarding people finding healing, power, insight, etc. from the four elements. I know astrology uses the theme as do some martial arts and various eastern philosophies. Do you have any insight into the history of this myth/philosophy?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – I don’t really. I just always bought into the idea that everything was made up of the four elements. I think that’s true of our bodies, the things around us. Controlling one of the four elements would make someone extremely powerful

 

Daniel W Cheely – These are all the questions that I have. Is there anything you want to mention that we haven’t covered?

 

Bryan W. Alaspa – This was one of the more thought provoking interviews I’ve had. I think we’re good

 

Daniel W Cheely – Well thank you for taking part in this interview

 

Bryan W . Alaspa – You’re Welcome.

 

Architecture, Design, and Furnishings of a Haunted House

haunted house color

 

A well-described setting is essential to a good haunted house novel. Readers need to be able to “see” the house with their minds’ eye. Therefore, authors often take special care when describing the architectural layout. This same care is applied to describing the inside of the house. From marble statues and ornate wall décor to  winding corridors or spiral staircases, it is the author’s job to convey these visuals in such a way that encourages the reader to temporarily forsake their off-page surroundings and take in the haunting environment that that exists within the pages.

In order for this vicarious relocation to be accomplished, writers and readers need to be familiar with certain terms that are related to architecture and interior design. I have come across many of these terms in both in my reading and writing. When reading, I may have come upon a word that described, say, a part of the roof, but I was at a loss to understand the description since I was unfamiliar with the term. Likewise; when writing, I found myself searching in vain for the right set of phrases to describe an architectural component, only to discover that there was a single word that could define the whole shebang.

This piece will examine the physical components of the houses within this genre. I will provide pictures along with definitions and examples ripped  from the pages of classic and indie novels. Definitions are provided courtesy of Merriam-Webster.com. Hopefully this will be helpful to readers and writers of this genre.


Eaves

EAVES

Definition: the lower border of a roof that overhangs the wall.

“Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation.”  The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.


 

CANDELABRUM  Candelabrum

Definition: an object with several branches for holding candles or lights.

“Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers.” – The Red Masque of Death by Edgar Allan Poe.


 

PinaclePINNACLE

Definition:  an upright architectural member generally ending in a small spire and used especially in Gothic construction to give weight especially to a buttress.

“Little curved towers and pinnacles, with outlines suggestive of leaping flames, predominate; while the body of the building is in the form of a circle.” – House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgeson.

 

 

 


 

GABLE

Definition: a section of a building’s outside wall that is shaped like a triangle and that is  Gableformed by two sections of the roof sloping down.

“It faced south, with one gable end buried to the lower windows in the eastward rising hill, and the other exposed to the foundations toward the street. Its construction, over a century and a half ago, had followed the grading and straightening of the road.” – The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft.


 

                                                                                              Hearth

HEARTH                                                                    

Definition: a brick, stone, or concrete area in front of a fireplace

“The fire he had left to die was roaring to life again, the blaze filling the entire hearth. He could feel its searing heat.” – The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson.


 

VERANDA                                                                                                                                                Veranda

Definition:   a usually roofed open gallery or portico attached to the exterior of a building

“…she put her feet down firmly and went up to the veranda and the door. Hill House came around her in a rush; she was enshadowed, and the sound of her feet on the wood of the veranda was an outrage in the utter silence.” The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


 

MantelMANTEL

Definition: 1 a :  a beam, stone, or arch serving as a lintel to support the masonry above a fireplace. b :  the finish around a fireplace 2) A Shelf above the fireplace.

“..from the exquisite symmetry of the marble mantles to the filigree of the wrought iron handrails, only the best had been good enough for the man or woman who’d owned this place.” Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story by Clive Barker


 

 

FLUE                                                                                                                                                 

chimney-flues

Definition: a channel in a chimney for conveying flame and smoke to the outer air

“They searched for him in the attic room and cubby hole and press, and even up the chimney flue and everywheres I guess, but all they ever found of him was his pants and round-abouts. And the goblins will get you if you don’t watch out.” The Little Orphan Annie by James Witcomb Riley

 

 


 

manaclesMANACLES

Definition: either one of a set of two metal rings designed to lock around a person’s wrists or ankles.

“The room was empty and quiet. Manacles and chains hung from the walls.” The House on the Moor by William Meikle

 


 

RAFTERS                                                                                                                                  

rafters

Definition: any of the parallel beams that support a roof

“He looked up, but all he could see were dark shadows high in the rafters.” – The House on the Moor by William Meikle

 


 

balustradeBALUSTRADE

Definition: a kind of low wall that is placed at the sides of staircases, bridges, etc., and that is made of a row of short posts topped by a long rail.

“They reached the second floor and, turning to the right, started along the balcony corridor. On their right, the heavy balustrade continued. To their left, set periodically along the paneled wall, were bedroom doors.” Hell House by Richard Matheson


 

TAPESTRIES                                                                                          black tapestry

Definition: heavy cloth that has designs or pictures woven into it and that is used for wall hangings, curtains, etc.

“The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue.” – The Red Masque of Death by Edgar Allan Poe

Why a Writer Writes – by Bryan W. Alaspa

TheLordofWinter

Hello Readers!  I am honored to host author Bryan Alaspa.  He has been a guest on this blog before, and I was happy to help him promote his book: The Lightning Weaver – The Elementals Part One.  Well, Bryan’s been channeling those elements once again! He has followed up with the sequel – The Lord of Winter (The Elementals Book 2). It is available for pre-order this very moment!

 

The first book of the series is about a girl that can manipulate electricity. Alaspa follows up with a story about a boy that freeze entire cities.  Some might ask why anyone would imagine these fanciful scenarios. What’s wrong with staying firmly planted in the mundane world of reality?  There are perhaps a hundred different ways to respond to that question. A quick answer is that it would be too damn boring without the gift of imagination.  But Alaspa gives a more in-depth analysis of the subject.  Please enjoy his essay on “Why a Writer Writes”

 


 

 

A writer writes. That’s what you hear when you get started down this rather crazy and weird career path. You are supposed to be constantly writing, because every time you put down a word, create a new sentence and develop a new story, you get better. I know that was what happened with me.

 

I started writing stories all the way back in third grade. I was obsessed with the movie Jaws and I pounded out a three page single-spaced, non-existent-punctuation story called Jaws, Jr. It was terrible, of course, but the magic I tapped into when I wrote my first story was a high I have been pursuing ever since.

 

At first, like many, I copied the styles and writing techniques of the authors I loved to read. I wrote many short stories that were total nods to Peter Benchley, Stephen King and HG Wells. That’s not a bad thing because the other adage that you hear, although it is less known, is that “a writer reads.”

 

You have to read. You cannot think yourself so above the rest of the literary world that you do not read other people’s work. I find that I get some of my best inspiration reading other books. Not that I want to write my own version of what I’m reading, but somehow reading a really good book just tickles the part of the brain that taps into the world of stories I have been granted access.

 

So, why does a writer write? Well, I can only tell you that this writer writes because he has to. Because when I sink into the fictional world I have created it is only then that I am truly at home, truly in command. Outside, I am shy, nervous, uncertain. In the world of story, I am king, commander, god, benevolent dictator and friend.

 

I write because the stories come to me. They just hit me hard in the side of the head, inside my skull. They haunt my every private moment and are lurking there, hiding in the shadows when I try to fall asleep. When the story reaches a kind of critical mass, it seems like a thousand voices are running around in my head and I have to sit down and let it all out.

 

See, I believe that I don’t necessarily make up the stories that I write. No, I believe that I have found a way to tap into these stories. They just walk up to me in my mind and start telling me their tales. I transcribe them, offer some advice, but basically I am just pouring out words told to me by people that only I can see in my head.

 

I guess that makes me just a tiny bit crazy.

 

That’s OK, you have to be a bit crazy to want to make stuff up for a living. I think writing is necessary and telling stories is necessary. We need those distractions from the horrors of the real world. The real world is far scarier and more horrifying than anything I have ever written.

 

So, why does this writer write? Because I have to. Because I was made to. Because I love it. Because I want to entertain you.

 

I just hope you like the tales when the come.

 

BWA

 

Bryan W. Alaspa’s new novel is The Lord of Winter: Elementals Part Two, available in print and Kindle editions.

http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Winter-Elementals-Book-ebook/dp/B01BH6C6XO

 


 

Stay tuned – Bryan Alaspa will make a third appearance on this blog. This third entry will focus on the content of his Elemental Series.

Review of The Haunting of Blackwood House

Haunting of Blackwood HouseThe Haunting of Blackwood House  is the second book of Darcy Coates that I have read and reviewed. It certainly won’t be the last. I admire her talent as a storyteller. I learned of her talents by exploring her novella The Haunting of Gillespie House. It treated me to a good old-fashioned haunting, so it was only natural that I would want to visit another of her haunted abodes. So The Blackwood House was next. This house accommodated me as well, nestling me with ghostly delights and treats of terror as I snuggled in my bed, reading only by the light of my e-reader. Thank you Darcy for taking in a late night lodger and leaving the lights off for me so that your ghosts may shine!

I foresee myself as becoming not merely a fan of her books, but a friend of her work as well. As any good friend should do, I accept the good along with the mediocre. So far I see no bad. Here is what’s good about The Haunting of Blackwood House: the haunting of Blackwood House. No, the preceding sentence is not an exercise in redundancy. What I am saying is that the haunted house itself is what makes this book. It has a rich back-story – build on grounds known to be a hotbed for supernatural energy, founded by a mysterious spiritualist many decades ago, to later be inhabited by an axe-wielding serial killer that turns victims into ghosts. The house changes ownership over the years and for each set of inhabitants, there is danger. It just so happens that the families that live in the house just can’t keep from killing each other.

Mara is the house’s latest resident. She lives there alone, but her boyfriend Neil keeps her company. Sometimes he sleeps over, but often Mara spends the night in Blackwood House alone. It is when she is by herself that the house tends to show off its ghostliness. Footsteps are heard in the attic. Voices of crying children are heard from the fireplace. There are the ghostly images of a hanging man in the foyer; of a deceased woman rocking an infant in the rocking chairs. There are some eerie moments here folks, and I love them all.

So, what is mediocre about this book? Answer – the characters. Mara was raised in a family of spiritualists. She has “the gift” but throughout the story, she is in denial of it to the point where she abhors all things religious and supernatural (later it will be revealed that her “gift” tends to feed the haunting). Her animosity can get under the skin of the reader when she constantly tries to rationalize away the ghostly phenomena. Mara is somewhat of an enigma. She is high maintenance yet independent minded. Her boyfriend Neil suffers on account of this, never knowing whether to step in to offer her assistance of back off in fear of cramping her style. In short, she is annoying and he is a doormat, and these two don’t break out of these molds too often. Their love story is a side story, that doesn’t really branch off or melt into the larger story of the haunted house. Therefore, it’s a bit distracting. Mind you, these aren’t “bad” characters; they are believable (as with Mara’s case, all of us are haunted by contradictions of character), they just lack that special something that absorbs readers into their essences.

It can be summed up as follows: Mara’s psychic abilities strengthen the haunting power of The Blackwood House. In turn, The Blackwood House, with its mysteries, history, and spooky spectacles, makes for a strong piece of haunted house fiction. The brawn of the book is enough to carry its weaker elements – the characters – to the home stretch. For at times, they are baggage for the larger story. But when the baggage becomes burdensome, have no fear, for soon the focus will return to the strengths of the story – and the reader will once again feel hauntingly at home.

Review of Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story

ColdheartCanyonFame! Fortune! Power! Pleasure! – these things are the gods of this world, so sayeth a religion teacher I knew many moons ago. These are the lower-case gods; false gods, gods that are appetizing to the flesh but poisonous to the soul. I’ll add a few more – Beauty! Youth!  In sum, these gods represent an overwhelming lust for “the good life.”

 Many religions have a geographical center. There is Israel, Mecca, Babylon, and The Vatican. Where might the practitioners of “the good life” congregate?  Which city values youth and beauty? Where do these youthful and beautiful creatures go to seek out fame, fortune, power and pleasure?  The answer – Hollywood! Become a movie star! Be the face that everyone in world loves! Earn your millions. Party on down! Work the scene for a while and become a producer. Make and break careers!  Oh what fun!

There is a microcosm of such vanity and decadence in Hollywood’s own backyard. It’s called Coldheart Canyon. Over the years, the biggest names in the film business gathered in a hideaway house in the heart of this canyon. While concealed from the spotlight of the motion picture’s capital, they kept its values alive with decadent parties, mass intoxication, and bizarre orgies. This was true in life…and in death. Magic within the house helped some to achieve eternal youth. For others, it provided a desire for pleasure eternal; for fame that never ceases. Even after death, the spirits of celebrities return to this canyon to dwell in its foliage, hoping against hope that they should be permitted inside the house once again and “relive” the glory. These spirits – they materialize in solid form! Remember – I said that the gods of fame, fortune, power and pleasures appeal to fleshy beings – beings that still want to feel the erotic pleasures that only their sexual organs can muster. Out in the canyon these “spirits” wait and yearn. While passing the years, they mate with the creatures of the canyon; coyotes, birds, rodents, anything that moves and breathes.  The offspring of such couplings are quite an abomination; their body parts are half human and half animal.  All this on account of that room inside the house; a room with walls of supernatural tiles that pull its occupants into a magical forest where time stands still, where the strange and erotic come to life, where youth and beauty can be restored. Alas, the house and room are guarded by Katya Lupi, the owner and mistress of the house. Once a beauty from the silent era of film, she lives on in pristine form in the year 2001.  She is the queen of this kingdom and she deprives her former peers of the silver screen of this restorative power.  For she is cold. She is heartless. Hence the term Coldheart Canyon.

If you haven’t already guessed, I have been describing the meat and guts of Clive Barker’s novel – Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story.  So please don’t go looking for Coldheart Canyon, you will not find it. It exists only in the imagination of Barker. But he ColdheartCanyon2has generously shared the contents of his mind with us so that we may also get a glimpse of this macabre world. Now there are some (and you may be one of them) that do not want any part of Clive Barker’s imagination. This is understandable, for there are sensitive folks out there. Barker graphically describes the human anatomy and the situations that arise when one piece of anatomy meets another. He also describes the anatomy of things that are not human. For instance, there is this goat boy (who happens to be the son of Satan) that is quite often visibly aroused. I’ll leave it at that.

One of the most common complaints in the one-star reviews (but there are plenty more 5 star ratings) is that this book is nothing more than a glorification of porn. Folks, it is a lot more than that. Yes it’s explicit at times. But to condemn this piece solely on account of its X-rated themes is to miss out on its profound exploration of human nature. From the no-holds-barred examination of Hollywood culture to the rich descriptions of the characters, Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story is certainly a unique and compelling piece of work.

I must admit – I did not always feel this way. I first read this book shortly after it hit the bookstores. Initially I was not overly impressed. At the time I purchased this novel, I was in the mood to read a kind of ghost story like the ones I had grown up with and was anxious to vicariously explore a haunted house in the tradition of Amityville..  I did not find the kind of familiar tale I sought out.  In the beginning and with interest, I followed the plight of the main character Todd Picket- a movie star that was just beginning to show signs of aging. When his face-lift operation went wrong, he was forced to hide from the public eye in an isolated house in a canyon until he recovered. I was anxious to read about the ghostly footsteps he might hear, or the trespassing of specters across his halls, or the moans and groans of midnight ghosts. Instead I got a tale that was part fantasy, part macabre, part erotic. I was disappointed and I’m not sure I even finished the book.

Ironically, I came to like The Coldheart Canyon – A Hollywood Ghost Story after I became dedicated to haunted house lore. This second time around, I accepted the tale for what it was and not for what I had once demanded it to be. It is not your average haunted house tale. Most of the ghostly activity takes place in canyon outside of the premises. The fantasy and adventure occurs within one room of the house. Although this is not my favorite haunted house novel, it certainly belongs within the genre. Some of it I found a little hokey.  Nevertheless, it’s entertaining and intriguing. The story is unique; it’s not enslaved to formula – it is not a follower. But does it lead? I don’t know about that. Some would say it does. For me, it just “is.” As such it just persists, like many of its ghosts that are damned to its canyon.  Try the book. You might like it.