March Roundup: Cemeteries, Graveyards, and Death, oh my!

Our team put our skeleton brains together and picked some themes for fun. March was graveyard and cemetery month for us at the Midnight Society. There have been so many fantastic and interesting posts, that I wanted to round them all up and share them all together. Here are some of my favorite macabre graveyard and cemetery posts.

 

Sunnydale Cemetery by Amy Guiffrida

The Wandering Taphophile Returns: A Cemetery Bucket List by Kira Butler

House for Sale: Great View…Don’t Mind the Headstones by Kathy Palm

 

 

Great Graveyard Scenes: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives by Brian LeTendre

In love and death: Lizzie Siddal by Kira Butler

The Neighbors Across or Why I Do Not Love Basements by the Davis girl

 

 

Buried Alive by Jan Bonderson: the perfect bedtime read by Mary Rajotte

Call Me, Maybe? by Jenna Lehne

Ghost Month: The Tale of Resurrection Mary by Jolene Haley

 

 

Own Your Own Graveyard – Seriously. by Jolene Haley

The Graveyard Book: Graphic Novel! by Faith McKay

 

Victorian Valhallas

 

Victorian Valhallas: Cemetery Picnics by Kira Butler

 

Do you have a favorite graveyard or cemetery post from somewhere on the web? Share it below!

 

Ray Fawkes’ UNDERWINTER Will Haunt You

I had no idea what to expect when I sat down with the first issue of Underwinter this week, but I’m still thinking about the book days after I read it. It’s a hauntingly beautiful horror story that reminds me a lot of Hellraiser with a splash of Eyes Wide Shut thrown in.

Underwinter follows the story of a group of four very talented musicians–a string quartet that has seen better days. They get offered a very high-paying gig at a posh estate–if they can follow the rules of the performance.

The book opens with one of the characters recounting a nightmare they had, and the scene reminded me so much of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. And like Barker, Fawkes’ artwork feels completely unique and perfectly captures the mood he is going for. The watercolors not only convey the state of the characters when we meet them, but they help blur the line between dream and reality.

The book ends on a terrifying note, and promises that what we’ve seen is only the beginning. But as beginnings go, this one is fantastic. You should absolutely check out Underwinter #1.

Sunnydale Cemetery


The Sunnydale Cemetery was Buffy Summer’s playground. Night after night, she’s patrol and take down the newly undead as they rose from their graves. What many don’t know, is where
these scenes were actually filmed.

Ever wonder with the cast felt about the cemetery scenes? E News has recently shared Sarah Michelle Gellar’s feelings on the subject:

In the beginning of the series, the cemetery was actally built and scenes shot in the studio staff parking lot. Sarah Michelle Gellar had a real fear of cemeteries, crying hysterically after filming an episode where Buffy was put in a grave. “I have an irrational fear of cemeteries and being buried alive,” she told Rolling Stone. “It’s really hard to be a vampire slayer if you’re scared of cemeteries.” (A fake cemetery was later built on the set.)

Of course, Buffy’s own grave was in the very same cemetery that she battled vampires night after night. She also had a few romantic moments here, too.

Last week was the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I remember watching this show for the first time and being in awe. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed, but yet BtVS remains an integral part of pop culture. Thank you, Joss Whedon, for giving us this amazing show!

Buried Alive by Jan Bonderson: the perfect bedtime read

Fellow Midnight Society member Jenna’s post on Security Coffins had me pawing through my bookshelf to find a book I’d bought a few years ago for story research (if that makes you think my library is questionable, you should see my browser history…).

Buried Alive by Jan Bonderson
The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear

Funny thing is, on the jacket flap, it’s also touted as “an engrossing and witty history” that “deserves a place on every bedside table in America”.

Sounds good to me…but I have a feeling not every one would agree with that suggestion 🙂

Anyway…the book itself is a fascinating read. It covers a variety of topics related to being buried alive, from medicine to folklore, history and literature.

SECURITY COFFINS

Just as Jenna touched on the topic of security coffins, Buried Alive features the strange devices in a decent chunk of the book. The coffins were constructed with a window for light; an airhole to prevent suffocation; a lid with a lock & key mechanism; and even a pocket was included on the burial shroud to hold two keys – one for the coffin lid and one for the vault door.

WAITING MORTUARIES

Another section of the book touches on so-called “hospitals for the dead“.

In 1787, French doctor Francois Thierry put forth a proposal for special “waiting mortuaries” which he believed should receive the recently deceased. His invention sprang from the belief that most people didn’t die until some time after the official signs of death.

He opened an elaborate one of these mortuaries, called a Leichenhaus, in Munich, which included a unique way of detecting any potential revivals. Strings from the fingers and toes of the deceased were connected to a harmonium, a type of pump organ. Every day, the attendant played the organ to demonstrate it worked properly. The only problem? As the bodies swelled and shifted during putrefaction, they often set off a ghastly symphony from the corpse chambers. Not exactly a job for the skittish, huh?

LITERARY DEPICTIONS OF BEING BURIED ALIVE

One of my favorite sections details a number of literary depictions of premature burials. There is much talk of Edgar Allan Poe’s fascination with the subject and his various works, including The Premature Burial, The Cask of Amontillado and The Fall of the House of Usher.

But the icing on the cake was the illustrations for Poe’s works included in the book.

Illustration for Poe’s “The Premature Burial”, by Harry Clarke

Illustration for The Fall of the House of Usher by Alfred Kabin

Although much of the content might seem morbid or taboo to talk about, it offers a unique glimpse into the topic of death. Buried Alive also shows different ways people choose to deal with the topic – from elaborate constructions to allay the fears of those who fear their end of days, and those who choose to face the topic head on and work out their fascination in an artistic way.

So, remember, when you finally turn up your toes that last time, it may not necessarily happen six feet under.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Surviving the Apocalypse With a Friend–7 Days to Die

I’ve been playing a lot of co-op horror games lately, and while in some ways it takes a bit of the edge off, in others it adds a whole new layer of horror.

7 Days to Die is a game where you are trying to survive in the zombie apocalypse, but it has a very particular twist–every seven days, a zombie horde attacks you. So, you spend the days in between the hordes gathering supplies and building materials to build a shelter that can withstand the assault.

This element of the game adds a constant sense of tension, as the moment you make it through one horde assault, you are on the countdown clock to the next one. The tension builds each day as what seemed like plenty of time turns into a race against time to get ready for the coming horde. And each week you survive, the horde gets more difficult. New types of zombies are introduced, and more of them come for you.

The fear of getting separated from your fellow survivor is ever-present in 7 Days to Die. Because time is always an issue, you often have to be doing different things, whether it’s hunting for food, gathering resources or building up your shelter. So when a random group of wandering zombies cuts you off from your partner, things get scary really fast.

It’s a fantastic blend of games like Minecraft and Left4Dead, and I can’t stop playing it. My friend Nick and I have over 20 hours into the game already, and we’ve only survived 21 days in the game.

If you want a great combination of scares and fun, I highly, highly recommend 7 Days to Die. You can watch the entire series of let’s play videos we’ve done so far over on our Co-Op Critics YouTube channel here.

House for Sale: Great View…Don’t Mind the Headstones

My daughter, somewhere around age 7 or 8, told me that her friend insisted they put their hands up when driving by a cemetery. If you didn’t…a ghost would follow you home. I told her that wasn’t true. No amount of putting your hands in the air would stop a ghost from following you home. Mom of the year…right?

She asked me if I believed in ghosts. I said yes. And I do believe that cemeteries are full of paranormal goodness. Though I am unsure of the odds of something following you home, I do believe it could happen.

Cemeteries are strange places, a constant reminder that life ends. Among the headstones, we face death. Among the headstones, we mourn. Among the headstones, we leave bits of ourselves…emotions, thoughts, fears.

Are all cemeteries haunted? I have no idea. But I wonder every time I pass a house sitting across the street from one or next to one. What might happen if whatever lurks in the cemetery decided to visit their neighbors? What if the people in the house next door didn’t know to put their hands up?

So I wrote a little tale. I wrote it fast…pulled it from my twisted brain a couple days ago. (Thanks Erica for reading and commenting! I wondered if it was terrible!) A fictional romp through the possibilities of living next to a cemetery. Nothing spectacular…just a story.

Enjoy!

*****

The View

 

Who would build a house next to a cemetery?

Maybe the better question is…who would buy a house next to a cemetery?

My parents. That’s who.

I twist my long blonde hair between my fingers as I stare out the window. My nightshirt flutters in the hot breeze, the air unwelcome against my skin. The heat, I can handle. But what lurks under the innocent whisper of the wind throws icy fear over the normal thoughts of life. A hum, that has become deadly. Words, that have become insanity.

Moonlight creeps over the ground, touching every headstone and illuminating every statue erected in loving memory. Shadows cut across the well-kept lawn, spots of darkness that jump and slither.

I pace. The floor creaks under my bare feet that stick to the wood. Mom chose this room for me, said it would be perfect. My new room. The size. The afternoon light. The view…

But the view…

The small grove of apple trees and the creek that winds along beside them.

But the graves…

Something whispered my name the day we moved in to our new house, a chill wrapped around me in the heat of summer. Bright and green under the sun, except the cemetery, a gray spot. The sight made me tremble. The rows of crumbling stone markers spoke of death. A sense of danger sank into my soul. I begged to change rooms, to share with my little sister. I told Mom and Dad about the strange feelings. I told them the cemetery scared me.

They laughed.

Why wouldn’t they?

I cross my room again. And again. My gaze drawn to the view.

A sixteen-year-old afraid of the dark. It’s funny.

Mom patted my shoulder. I needed to get used to a new place. Just a trick of the light. Nothing to worry about.

Right.

I pause in a spot of cold moonlight, preparing myself for what could happen. Only there is no way to prepare for what will appear when midnight covers the world.

One week in this old house…

A week too long.

The nightmares attacked the first night.

My hands shake as I push my hair from my sweaty face. I thought the muttering, the strange almost-voices were leftover shards of the dream.

I stare at my bed, the sheets a crumpled mess of tossing and turning. I won’t sleep. Can’t sleep.

The first night…

The second night…

The third night…

I hid from the voices, whispers that turned to speaking that turned to yelling, and wrapped myself in the scent of new…new sheets, new paint on the walls, new life. I convinced myself it was the wind and the odd sounds of the country. My imagination.

On the fourth night, the once-whispers morphed into screams, viciously buzzing around my head. With hands pressed to my ears and a cry perched on my tongue, I ran to the window. I had to see. I had to know what was there. In the dimly lit world, human figures, as if carved from the obsidian night, stood at the far edge of the cemetery. With a gasp, the cacophony of voices stopped and the figures looked up at me with glowing green eyes.

I screamed. Mom and Dad came, slamming my door open. All I could do was point out the window. Before they could get there, before they could see, the beings melted into shadow.

I was seeing things. I was tired. Mom settled me back in bed before gazing at me with that look…the look that spoke of frustration, of annoyance, of trouble.

The fifth night, I woke drowning in waves of voices, so many that words became a weapon of sound, as if to cut me from the world, as if to shatter my mind. When I looked out the window, the figures stood in the center of the cemetery.

Closer.

Green eyes locked on me.

Again, I called Mom and Dad. Again, the shadow people disappeared, leaving me with my parents’ pitying looks.

The sixth night, last night, I didn’t sleep. I didn’t climb into bed. I waited at the window. For the voices. The black forms rose from the graves, gathering and slipping and sliding through the night to hover at the crooked fence at the edge of the cemetery.

Closer.

The voices melded into a chant. My name. Had they said my name?

I didn’t call for Mom or Dad. I couldn’t take the sad smiles, the exchanged glances filled with worry I witnessed during the day.

And I won’t call for them tonight. They don’t have to believe me.

Tonight, the seventh night, I stand at the window, gripping the molding as if to hold onto my sanity. I stare at the fence. The line separating me from them, the boundary I hope will keep them from entering our yard, the space of the living.

The rush of voices hit, a weapon to hurt, to break my thoughts to pieces. The shadows creep out from behind the headstones. They float towards our house. As they reach the fence, green eyes flash as they gaze up at me.

They are saying my name. And something else…

Closer.

I don’t know why they’re coming. If only I could hear what they’re saying.

Closer.

They pass from the cemetery into our yard.

I drop my trembling hands to my sides and take a step back. But I don’t lose sight of the group of shadows, of their green eyes. Sweat drips down my back.

They are coming.

Some night…maybe tonight, I’ll discover why.

Maybe tonight Mom and Dad will believe me.

*****

I think we should all go buy a house next to a cemetery and see what happens!

Happy Friday!

A reminder that tonight I will live-tweet Annabelle! Get your DVD ready! Pop the corn! Get the M&Ms! Turn the lights out and press play at 9 EST! Join me at #Annabelle and add your tweets!

Annabelle movie poster

Happy Holi!

Happy Holi!

Holi is a traditional Hindu festival, originating in India, that dates back into the 4th century.

The timing of Holi is synchronized with the moon, so the dates vary each year, in accordance with lunar cycles.

It is a two day festival; the first day is known as Holika Dahan and the second day is known as Rangwali Holi. This year, Rangwali Holi takes place today, March 13th, while the pyres of Holika Dahan were burned yesterday.

Holika Dahan is set up the night before the big day. People gather for a purification ritual where a pyre of logs and dung-cakes are burned, representing the victory of good over evil. During this time, families gather to roast popcorn, coconuts, and chick peas together.

Rangwali Holi is the main event, and perhaps the one you’ve likely seen pictures of. Festival-goers throw handfuls of gulal (fine colored powder, historically made from turmeric, paste, and flower extracts) and spray water.

Gulal thrown during the festival comes from the legend of Krishna, whose skin was dark blue. He was worried that he wouldn’t be accepted by his love Radha, so he mischievously colored her face to make her more like him. Lovers today continue the tradition by matching their own faces when gulal begins to be thrown.

The four main powder colors are used to represent different things: red reflects love and fertility, blue is the color of Krishna, yellow is the color of turmeric, and green symbolizes spring and new beginnings. You can learn how to make your own gulal here.

Holi celebrates the beginning of spring, fertility, and love and it marks the end of winter. It also, most interestingly to me, celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

The different celebrations of Holi derive from the various Hindu legends. I perused several websites and found several stories. One in particular stuck out from Hindu Vedi scriptures.

Holika, a malevolent devil, was burned to death after her brother, the demon king Hiranyakashyap, ordered her to pass through the flames carrying his son (her nephew) Prahlada. Prahlada had angered his father and turned away from evil, becoming a devotee of Vishnu. The boy survived, thanks to his faith, while Holika was cremated–a punishment for her evil intent.

There are many ways in which Holi is celebrated. Different states, different cities, and different villages have unique and innovative styles of celebrating Holi.

Do you celebrate Holi? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear how you celebrate, your favorite part of the celebration, or anything you’d love to share!

Sources: here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

Call Me, Maybe?

Hello, Ghosties…

 

As I write this, my dogs are standing at the top of my stairs, peering into the basement. The short, coarse hair along my boxer’s spine is rising,

strand by strand. My Shepard is letting out low, throaty growls. I could get up, but nothing is at the bottom of the stairs.

 

At least nothing I can see.

**Trigger warning – deceased children**

Anyhoo, like most people, I often fall asleep with  my phone nearby. My husband jokes around that I’ll be buried with it. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way. After reading so many stories about people being prematurely buried – like this one – I want to make sure I have a solid back-up plan in case I spontaneously start breathing again. So until I update my will, let this serve that I want to be buried with my iPhone and I want my phone plan to keep going for at least a week after I pass.

In the good old days, they didn’t have iPhones (obviously), but they had a few back-up plans of their own. In 1791, Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick had the first recorded Safety Coffin commissioned. It had a window for light, a tube for fresh air, and rather than being nailed down, his coffin lid was locked in place. The Duke was buried with two keys – one for the coffin lid and another to open the door of his tomb.

Unfortunately, some were buried without an escape route. In 1901, a pregnant Madame Boubin *apparently* died of yellow fever and was buried shortly after. The nurse that treated her insisted the body was still warm and the muscles in her tummy were trembling, so Boubin was exhumed. Though she was dead,they found not one but two bodies in the coffin. Boubin had been buried alive and delivered her baby in the coffin. An autopsy was shown that Boubin did not have yellow fever and died of asphyxiation.

**End trigger**

If that’s not enough of a tale to ensure your  local graveyard has good cell reception, I don’t know what is. So until I can punch my way out of a coffin, Kill Bill style, I’ll be buried with my phone in hand.

My Book Stack Brings All The Ghosts To The Yard

You  may recall I grew up across from a graveyard. So, now that I think about it, it’s no surprise that 66.6% of the books in my personal library are situated in, around, near, or under a graveyard.

Here, in no particular order (cover art on a scale of wtf to gtfo) are my personal favorites:

Awesome MG horror series. Don’t let the funky/cute cover fool you. There was some dark sh!t buried in this one.

 

Goes without saying that this gem has a special place in my heart and salt circle.

 

This book is batsh!t creepy. I think my big sister got it from one of the scholastic book fairs or weekly reader catalogues back in 1803. If memory serves: On more than one occasion I’d sneak into her room while she was babysitting and just stare at the cover.

 

Don’t let spooky cover and hand drawn font fool you. This book has issues. Creepy ones.

 

Stop what you’re doing cuz I’m about to ruin everything I ever thought I knew about my half-assed religious upbringing. There’s a reason I don’t go to Mass anymore. And you’re looking at it.

 

I bought this book based on the cover. FML Mary Downing Hahn delivers a spine-punch.

 

Holly Black, for when the creepster in you needs a hug. From a doll. Made from real bones.

 

What ever it was that happened to Mary Downing Hahn to make her like this, I thank It.

 

My book stack, does indeed, bring all the ghosts to the graveyard.

Any graveyard books in your book stack?

Digging Deep For Grave Inspiration

As a writer, many of my stories start from a tiny little seed of an idea planted in my brain. Imagine these little tidbits, coming from various places, fermenting and growing in the depths of my brain until they start to germinate and sprout into something creepy.

That’s how my story, Flowers for the Dead, came to be.

HOW IT STARTED
One of my favorite things to include in my stories? Superstitions. Folk Lore. Strange and arcane beliefs that inspire people to do some curious things.

Some of these ideas seem not so strange. But others? They make you wonder how such thoughts ever came to be. I guess you might think that very thing when you read the tale. But that’s kind of why I write what I do – to keep people wondering 🙂

Flowers for the Dead grew out of a mish-mash of ideas. The first was a tidbit I read on a Victorian funeral customs and superstitions website.

“If the deceased has lived a good life, flowers would bloom on his grave; but if he has been evil, only weeds would grow.”

When I read that, my brain perked up a little. But I needed something more…

Another part of the equation came from one of my Dictionaries of Superstitions (yes, I have more than one):

“Giving people bunches of flowers (preferably odd numbers) has always been considered a loving gesture and one liable to bring good luck with it.”

The number of flowers matters? Why? What would happen if you gave them an even number?

The last bit to cultivate the story came from my idea to change the event in the story from a wedding to a Day of the Dead celebration. It still had the coming-together of a family, but under very different circumstances.

That’s when the wheels started to turn. Family. Good and bad luck. Those who are gone…and those who remain. And those flowers. A very specific number of flowers.

BAM. STORY SEED GERMINATED INTO FULL BLOWN IDEA.

I know…you still don’t get it, do you? How could all these disparate ideas turn into something cohesive, something that haunts and terrifies?

Well, the only way to find out is to read the story! And the best way to do that?

HEAD TO MY WEBSITE TO DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY!

That’s right kids! As a special treat for those visiting the humble abode of The Midnight Society, you can now use a special code to grab your very own digital copy of Flowers for the Dead!

ABOUT FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD
In a multicolored display of pomp and pageantry, the Flores Family gathers for their annual Day of the Dead ceremony.

But when jealousy arises, and the tradition hundreds of years old threatens to divide the family for good, Trina discovers that she is engaged to a man with secrets she isn’t sure she can live with.

HOW TO GET IT

Head over to the Flowers for the Dead page on my website, add the e-book to your cart and use the following coupon code to get your free copy!

COUPON CODE: OBIT

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any trouble grabbing your freebie. And hey! When you’re done reading it, I’d love to hear what you thought! Head over to my Amazon Author Page to leave a review.

ENJOY!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save