Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Witch's Woods

On the heels of my most recent geocache hides, "The Curse of Lillian Gadwick" (GC705N3) and "Oren Grey" (GC705P2), I have set up a new night cache, called "The Witch's Woods," based on the same faux legend of witchcraft and deviltry I concocted for the former two caches (see my blog entry, "The Curse of Lillian Gadwick"). It's a fairly lengthy hike — at least three miles round trip — along the Osprey Trail at Lake Townsend in north Greensboro, but unlike at least one of the aforementioned caches, no strenuous and/or hazardous acrobatics are required to retrieve the container. No, the real hazard is venturing into the witch's territory, which begins at a long footbridge across the treacherous marsh and extends along the lake, where taking accurate coordinates is a damn near impossible task, and strange things gibber and leer at you from the deep darkness beyond the water.

Hopefully, this one will be published within the next few days, and any number of daring souls will go forth to meet their fates....

Addendum: Went out after dark to check out my reflector trail and shot a bit of video. Pardon the shaky cam.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"The Curse of Lillian Gadwick"... the name of a geocache (GC705N3) I hid a few days back out on the Osprey Trail, not too far from here, and for which I created some brand-new Guilford County folklore, since hiding a supernatural-themed cache — or two, actually — seemed just the ticket. (If you know anything about my geocaches, you know I never do anything like that.) The second cache, called "Oren Grey" (GC705P2)  follows the same legend. The story from the cache listing page goes as follows:

"One of Guilford County's lesser-known legends involves a woman named Lillian Gadwick (1723–1781), reputedly a practitioner of witchcraft, who resided in the area that is now Lake Townsend in northern Greensboro. The story goes that she lived alone in a cabin in the woods and was suspected of occasionally abducting and slaughtering children from the nearby community, then known as Capefair — though numerous investigations could produce no evidence of such deviltry. However, just prior to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, a company of troops from General Cornwallis's advancing army came upon her cabin and caught her 'rendering the fat' of several young children, which she presumably intended to consume as a means to enhance her supernatural abilities. Horrified by such unspeakable wickedness, the troops hung her from a tree and burned her cabin to the ground, then departed to rejoin Cornwallis. However, the troops failed to report and, in fact, were never heard from again — except for one, who came back stark, raving mad. A scout was sent back to find the missing men but, at the site of Lillian Gadwick's cabin, discovered only a number of strange stick figures hanging from trees — forty-two to be precise, the same as the number of troops who had vanished. (Such 'witch symbols' have been referenced in literature and movies, such as in Karl Edward Wagner's short story 'Sticks' and in the films The Blair Witch Project and its sequel, Blair Witch.)

"Little else is known about Lillian Gadwick, but she reportedly kept as a familiar a strange creature called Oren Grey, which resembled a huge possum with a grotesque human face. (The witch Keziah Mason, as recounted in H.P. Lovecraft's story, 'Dreams in the Witch House,' kept a similar creature, named Brown Jenkin). Though no such creature as Oren Grey can be proven to exist, it was said to keep itself hidden in dark, hard-to-reach wooded areas, traditionally avoiding human contact except when it accompanied the witch on her unholy expeditions to abduct local children. Certain curses cast by witches who practice dark magic can supposedly alter time and space, and there were those who said Lillian Gadwick possessed such power.

"While creating this cache, I found taking coordinates in this area to be worse than problematic. Ten or so readings at exactly the same spot, taken over a period of 30 minutes, resulted in variations of hundreds of feet, and in one case, in a nonsensical set of numbers that appeared to be no coordinates that could actually be found on Earth. I left the area and returned an hour or so later, took another set of coordinates, and averaged what appeared to be the best — which I hope will get you reasonably close to the hide. While at ground zero, I took a number of photos of the area, and in some of them, a strange stick figure appeared, one of which I will post on this page. If you see such a construct on your hunt, you may be sure that you are close to the cache."

"The Curse of Lillian Gadwick" cache is, in fact, rather dangerous to retrieve (especially if you suffer from acrophobia), and I did have considerable difficulty getting good coordinates for the hide, doubtlessly due to strange, supernatural influences. But hey, if you're a geocacher and you're fearless, come visit these caches. You might even come back alive. At least a few have... so far.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Well, that was a hoot. Four Old Farts gathered early this morning for geocaching on and around the American Tobacco Trail in Durham. Bloody Rob, Yoda Rob, Diefenbaker, and Old Rodan began with a couple of quick traditional caches in a crazy busy shopping area, but then we had to adjust our elevation to go after one of Vortexecho's (a.k.a. "Gone 2 Far") ubiquitous underground culvert hides. Just to get to the entrance, we had to hack our way through a veritable jungle of briers — that nasty, tiny, barbed type that cling to you like Velcro, shredding your skin and clothes until you somehow separate yourself from the little bastards. Bloody Rob was not the bloody one today, though, because I went first and did most of the clearing of the passage to the tunnel entrance. This resulted in considerable bloodletting and the occasional hollering for Mom that would have surely prompted Mom to clap her hands over her ears and sing "La, la, la, la, la!"

Naturally, no sooner had we cut our trail through this field of natural barbed wire than we saw Diefenbaker waltzing down the hill off to our right, which he cheerfully proclaimed free of briers. This was a really rotten thing to do, but we did use his route to go back out once we had completed our errand.

Then, for us, it was a delicate dance to get across a few rocks and into the pipe without drenching our boots. Done and done. The pipe wasn't too tight, and we could walk by bending over slightly — this was encouraging. We did notice raccoon tracks and droppings along the way, and I recalled a log indicating that a previous cache hunter had encountered a coon in the pipe. Mainly, though, since it was (and is) ridiculously warm out, around 80 freaking degrees, I was more concerned about encountering Copperheads, which tend to be fond of the environment we were occupying.

At the next junction, the pipe got narrower, resulting in more than a few conked noggins, and the going became a bit slower. Then, stepping into the chamber at the next junction, I glanced up and, sure enough, there was our raccoon friend lounging on the rungs of the ladder. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and I wanted to name him George and hug him and pet him and squeeze him, but mean old Uncle Bloody Rob said no. C'mon, jeez, just because the little fellow had sharp teeth and claws...? I took a couple of photos of George, but they ended up blurry because I was also trying to hold the flashlight and keep from slipping and falling in the cramped chamber. That's him hanging out at the manhole cover in the accompanying image. (You can click on these to enlarge.)
"Hello? Is it me you're looking for?"

Anyhow, we still had a ways to go, and this pipe was the smallest of all, necessitating either crawling or — as I did — lowering to one's haunches and shuffling along a hundred feet or so through shallow water.

At last, mission accomplished. Back through the pipe, wave to George as we pass, and finally reach sunlight — and few more briers, just for good measure.

From there we began our hike on the American Tobacco Trail, found a fair number of mostly traditional hides (an old telephone in the woods was something of a favorite), and eventually made our way to Ted's Montana Grill, which specializes in bison and is thus one of my favorite establishments to frequent. Service was very slow today, but the food was incredible, as always. I figure that will pretty much take care of today's vittles, and if I actually do care to eat to anything more tonight, I can go outside and nibble on some grass.

Ta ta!
L: Old Fart #1 (scary). R: Old Fart #2 (scarier).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bottoms Up

Too busy to blog much recently, but I did want to add a personal entry since I do enjoy having some written/visual record of certain occasions. Last night, headed up to Martinsville with Ms. B., had a nice dinner at The Third Bay, where we ran into old friend Rod Berry, as is fairly traditional. Then sank some wine — even Mum joined in for a little — and watched The Blair Witch Project, which I had watched not long ago, though it had been many years for Ms. Brugger. I do rather enjoy it, apart from the annoying characters.

After the usual morning errands with Mum, Brugger and I headed down to Autumn Creek Vineyards, where we met Joe & Suzy Albanese for another happy spot of wine and stimulating conversation (a bit political, but spirited rather than ugly). One of the highlights here was a visit by Winery Duck, who made quite a few friends out on the patio. Autumn Creek's logo is a graphic of a duck butt with "Bottoms Up" imprinted on it.

Tomorrow, there will be much hiking and geocaching. Yay!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blair Witch (2016)

I love movies and fiction about scary things in the woods, probably because I grew up around woods, and when I was a kid, the sounds that came out of them at night scared the crap out of me. I attended several summer camps, and horror stories about the surrounding woods abounded. I watched countless movies about Bigfoot, kith and kin, such as The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Creature From Black Lake, The Legend of Bigfoot, et. al. — in fact, I've recently been on one of my periodic Bigfoot movie binges, watching everything from the best to the worst of them.

When The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999, I was hoping for something as chilling as the hype portended. To be sure, the movie had a lot going for it, at least in concept, and it laid the groundwork for a long line of shaky-cam-found-footage successors (I don't think I can offer any thanks for that). But the dopey characters and nauseating cinematography just about ruined the experience for me, despite some genuinely chilling moments, such as the discovery of sinister stick figures (which appeared to have taken their inspiration from Karl Edward Wagner's brilliant short tale, "Sticks"), and the strange, unidentifiable night sounds around the characters' campsite. The sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, at least did something altogether different with the premise. Different, of course, doesn't mean inspired, and at best, Book of Shadows is a moderately enjoyable, rather standard horror flick.

Here there will be spoilers.

Perhaps the most successful treatment of the Blair Witch property is 1999's Curse of the Blair Witch, a 45-minute, made-for-television faux documentary that expanded on the backstory of both the Blair Witch and the three lead characters, to more satisfying effect than the actual movie. This short film illustrated in detail how well-conceived the Blair Witch legend actually is, and also — no doubt contrary to its original intent — highlighted how the first movie (and by default, the second) fell short of so much promise. A couple of other "mockumentaries," Sticks and Stones: An Exploration of the Blair Witch Legend (1999) and The Massacre of The Burkittsville 7: The Blair Witch Legacy (2000), further elaborated on the Blair Witch backstory. Taken together, these mockumentaries create an appealing sense of authenticity about the Blair Witch mythos.

Having enjoyed steeping myself in Blair Witch lore over the years, despite not caring so much for the original film, I couldn't not check out the most recent entry in the series, titled simply Blair Witch, (known as The Woods prior to its release, as a means to keep its connection to the franchise a secret). This one takes place seventeen years after the original — which, if the film is actually set in present rather than 2011, would create some incongruity, as the events of the original ostensibly occurred in 1994. The story centers on James Donahue (James Allen McCune), brother of Heather Donahue from the first film, and three cohorts, Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez), Peter Jones (Brandon Scott), and Ashley Bennett (Corbin Reid), who set out for the woods around Burkittsville, MD, on a quest to find the long-missing Heather, who James believes may still be alive after some footage in which she appears is posted online. They are accompanied by Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who posted the footage, which they claim to have found in an area of the woods where the original Blair Witch Project kids disappeared

In the woods, the group sets up camp and prepares to spend the night. Now, unlike Heather's crew, James and friends have come prepared to face the outdoors, with GPS units, cameras of all sorts, a camera-equipped drone, and plenty of flashlights. Once settled in their tents, they go to sleep but are awakened in the middle of the night by strange rustling sounds and voices in the woods. When they get up the next day, they discover that it is two o'clock in the afternoon and the strange stick figures, like those that appeared in the first movie, have been strung all around the campsite. Lisa notices that Lane is carrying some twine that exactly matches the twine used to bind the stick figures, and also that his old video camera uses the exact same kind of tape that he supposedly found in the woods. After some pressuring, he admits that he and Talia created the stick figures to scare them off, but only because they genuinely believe the Blair Witch exists in the cursed woods. Angered to the point of violence, James, Lisa, Peter, and Ashley run Lane and Talia off, ordering them to stay away from them.
Heading out into the woods, Lisa (Callie Hernandez) takes a last, worried look back at the "normal" world.
Scary stick figures that have mysteriously appeared around the campsite during the night
James and his party hike for the rest of the afternoon but — in a too-eerie repeat of events from the first movie — they find, even after following their GPS, they have gone in a circle and ended up back at their campsite. Lisa sends up the drone to get an aerial view of the forest, and she is stunned to find that the road, which they had previously been able to see, is no longer visible from above. Then the radio controls freeze, and the drone falls from the sky to crash somewhere in the woods. The group is forced to spend another night at their original campsite.

Talia (Valorie Curry) stumbles back into camp, after having
been trapped in perpetual night for five days.

Peter, while searching for wood to keep the fire going, encounters something that attacks him, and he disappears. Meanwhile, Lane and Talia reappear, haggard and exhausted, claiming that they have been wandering for five days — but in perpetual night. Sure enough, sometime later, though their watches tell them it's morning, no sun appears. And once again, they discover the campsite surrounded by stick figures. One of them appears to be bound with Talia's hair, and when Lisa snaps the figure in half, Talia's back breaks and she dies. Lane disappears in the darkness, and James, Lisa, and Ashley become separated from each other. While wandering hopelessly, Ashley sees the lights of the drone, stuck in a tree high overhead. Desperate to retrieve it, she climbs up the tree, but just as she reaches the drone, something impacts her, and she falls to her death.

James and Lisa meet up again, but now they come upon the old Rustin Parr house, where, in 1940, seven children were abducted and murdered. James believes he sees his sister in a window, and he goes inside after her. Lisa follows him in, but here, she encounters an aged and wild-looking Lane, who attacks her. She manages to stab and kill him, but now a bizarre, distorted-looking figure, barely visible in the darkness, comes after her. With Lane's camcorder, she runs up the stairs to the attic (creating the footage that Lane originally posted online), where she once again meets James.

He tells her to face the corner and not look around, believing that the witch will only kill them if they look directly at it. However, he hears Heather's voice speaking to him, and he turns around, only to be whisked away in the darkness. Then, Lisa hears him apologizing to her, and she turns around....
To escape from the Rustin Parr house, Lisa is forced to crawl through a dank underground tunnel.
Critically, Blair Witch was far from a howling success, with most reviewers and audiences calling it a more polished but beat-by-beat retread of the original film. To some extent, this is true — my first impression was that it was basically the The Blair Witch Project on steroids. Indeed, it's louder, annoyingly frenetic, and full of unnecessary jump scares in place of genuine suspense. Yet it also delivers more substance, particularly toward the end, than it's usually given credit for. While the characters may not be likable geniuses, they come across as relatively sensible and, as characters go, far more palatable than the three dolts in the original. It may be James's repeated insistence that his sister Heather could still be alive in the woods after seventeen years that most stretches his credibility, particularly since the video that inspires his quest reveals only a vague glimpse of the female in question.

There are several central aspects of the Blair Witch mythos introduced in the original movie, explored in the mockumentaries, and expanded upon to varying degrees in this film. To summarize, the Blair Witch was a woman named Elly Kedward, who lived in the village of Blair, Maryland, in the late 18th century. She was accused and convicted of witchcraft, taken into the woods, hoisted into a tree with heavy rocks hung from her arms and legs, and left to die. Shortly afterward, all her accusers as well as half the town's children vanished, and the rest of the town's inhabitants fled, fearing a witch's curse. Later, the (real) town of Burkittsville was built on the site of the old village.

Other noteworthy events followed. In the early 19th century, a child drowned in a shallow stream in the woods, after witnesses said an arm reached up from the water and pulled the kid under. In 1886, another child was reported missing and a search party went into the woods, never to return. The child returned unharmed, but another search party was sent out in search of the first. This group found the remains of the first search party at a location called Coffin Rock, the bodies tied together, all disemboweled. Then, in 1940, a hermit named Rustin Parr, who lived in the woods outside of Burkittsville, abducted eight children and took them to his house, where he had one child stand in a corner while he murdered and mutilated the others. He was arrested and confessed to the killings, saying he had been incited to murder by a disembodied voice, which might have been the Blair Witch. After being convicted, he was hanged, and the townspeople burned his house to the ground.

Yet — it is clear in the films that the house in the woods is, in fact, Rustin Parr's house, though we know it was burned decades earlier. In Curse of the Blair Witch, we learn that the videos made by Heather, Josh, and Mike in the first film were discovered by archaeology students in the ruins of an old structure — presumably one of the original buildings from the old town of Blair — under rocks and earth that had not been disturbed since the 18th century. Furthermore, in both movies, the groups end up hiking in circles, unable to escape the woods. In Blair Witch, we have several days of night passing for one group, while for the other, only a single night goes by. And the most novel paradox may be the fact that the footage which drew James and his party to the woods is actually filmed by Lisa in the Parr house.

So, indeed, the Blair Witch curse involves an altering of time and space. In the first movie, this premise is merely suggested, while in the 2016 Blair Witch, it's spelled out in huge neon letters. I read an interesting suggestion that the strange noises in the woods at night are actually the sounds of space reshaping itself to prevent the characters escaping. It's the curse's shifting of dimensions that I find most fascinating about the franchise, hearkening back to concepts in H. P. Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House" and others. Years back, when discussions about The Blair Witch Project were in vogue, plenty of viewers argued the kids were simply too dense to find their way out of the woods and there was no supernatural influence at work. That argument simply doesn't hold up, however, for — as the characters even stated in the film — in that area of Maryland, simply by way of the geography, they would have emerged from the woods, and devoting half the film's running time to highlighting their ineptitude hardly squares with the movie's theme. In the new Blair Witch, the supernatural transformations of time and space render the countering hypothesis moot.

For bringing on a rush of sheer visceral dread, it would be difficult to top the scene of Lisa making a harrowing escape from the Parr house by way of a narrow, underground tunnel, choked with tree roots and half-filled with water. At one point, she gets stuck in the passage, and since I have crawled through a subterranean passage called "The Birth Canal" at Worley's Cave in Tennessee, not to mention innumerable underground culverts after geocaches, I found myself holding my breath during this scene. For any viewers suffering from claustrophobia, I can see it hitting a sensitive nerve.

For the first time, we get a glimpse of what we must assume is the Blair Witch herself. While the characters are trapped inside the Parr house, in a couple of quick, almost subliminal shots, a tall, spindly figure can be seen moving in the shadows, presumably reinforcing the idea that Elly Kedward's arms and legs had been stretched as if on a rack by the heavy rocks tied to them. The shots are effective since they are so quick and vague.

Blair Witch's most serious shortcomings — the obvious intention to "out-scream" the original, the myriad pointless jump scares, and a structure too closely matching its predecessor's — are not trivial, and they only diminish the positive impact of its better elements. But I do believe that a lot of viewers, overwhelmed by the frantic pace, the oftentimes too-jerky camerawork, and the shrill squalling of young people in terror, may be missing or underestimating the strength of the underlying story. Beneath all the rick-rack and racket, there are some genuinely frightening, even Lovecraftian concepts at work here. On that count, I heartily approve.

While Blair Witch respects its source material and expands on concepts introduced in the original, it doesn't break any new ground or set any new film-making trends in motion, which — whether you approve or don't — The Blair Witch Project certainly did. It's a mixed bag: effective enough to admire yet dopey enough to disappoint. If you enjoyed the original movie, you may well enjoy this one. If you didn't, you'll hate this one, maybe more than the first. I'll give it a thumbs-up but with some eye rolls.

Three out of five Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis.
Peter (Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid), James (James Allen McCune), Talia (Valorie Curry),
and Lane (Wes Robinson)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Live, From Lovecraft eZine, It's....

It was a fun yakking session on the Lovecraft eZine Video Show this evening. Host Mike Davis, along with writers Matthew Carpenter, Rick Lai, Joe Pulver, and editor Kelly Young, grilled the old man on such sensitive topics as "Why do spiders make you scream like a girl?" and "Where were you when Mark wore his drop-bottom red pajamas?" Other highlights include Frazier interrupting the proceedings to flop on my shoulder, me having to don my Geocaching hat to keep the reflection from my bald head from blinding the panelists, and a spirited recitation of the Sears & Roebuck Catalog of Alternative Facts. All in a day's work, it is.

Stephen Mark Rainey on
the Lovecraft eZine Video Show

The audio-only podcast is available here. It's also available on iTunes — search "Lovecraft eZine Podcast."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Coming Up on the Lovecraft eZine Podcast

This weekend — Sunday, January 22, right about 6:00 PM EST — you will find me live on the Lovecraft eZine Video Show, along with host Mike Davis and some or all of his gang of cutthroats — Joe Pulver, Rick Lai, Pete Rawlik, Salome Jones, Matthew Carpenter, Kelly Young, Philip Fracassi, and S.P. Miskowski. You may have had the misfortune to tune in on one of my previous appearances, but I'd like to invite you to make the same mistake twice. We'll be talking horror, lots of it, on film, in literature, and in your backyard. It'll be broadcast live and also available afterward in ye olde archives.

Mark your calendars, grab a drink, and come visit...

Friday, January 20, 2017


It is with a heavy heart I say farewell to President Obama and his family. I have admired him, disagreed with him, sometimes sworn a little at him, praised him, laughed with him, and been shocked for him. I know a lot of people will disagree when I say that he and the first family brought a much-needed sense of dignity to the White House; but when you consider the relentless obstructionism from his political opponents, the unwarranted personal attacks by the ignorant masses he and his family suffered, and the unknowable challenge of being the first US President of African American heritage, down to the end, he refused to stoop to the level of his detractors. From day one of his presidency, his opponents brazenly boasted of their intent to make him a one-term president, and despite one attempt after another to reach across the aisle to them, the president was forever rebuffed, derided as "divisive," and subjected to increasingly ridiculous attempts to discredit him (birth certificate, anyone?). He was and is blamed — quite wrongly — for racial divisions that have come to the forefront of our national consciousness. There is all kinds of fault to go around, to be sure, but at the end of the day, we, not the president, are responsible. And yes, I know many of you disliked his policies, not his skin color, but racism was, in fact, a horrifyingly huge component of the hatred heaped upon the Obamas. For god's sake, I have personally witnessed racists coming out of the woodwork way too often, not just on social media but in the world at large. I stopped going to one local establishment I had frequented for years because, since 2008, the owners and staff constantly bitched and moaned about the "Muslim nigger from Kenya." Those exact words. Over and over and over. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I have disagreed with President Obama on any number of issues; he did spend too much, he tended to go for over-regulation rather strike a fair balance between necessary protections — for the environment, for minorities, for labor issues — and executive overreach. I think he too often caved to special interests rather than stand up for the middle class. That said, however, the more he braved the slings and arrows of his detractors, the more I admired him. When his initiatives failed, he was derided as weak and ineffective; when they succeeded, he was vilified as a tyrant. From the right, no consistency, little logic, and never a reasonable alternative proposed. Nothing he did could please his detractors. And again, the uglier his detractors become, the more I came to admire him. Little illustrates the ridiculousness of the prejudice against him than the right's condemnation of his farewell address (to which I was going to link, but the White House site has apparently removed it), in which Obama's usage of the first person was condemned as "narcissistic." I did a little math on this myself. The speech ran approximately 4,800 words long. Obama referred to himself in the first person 75 times. That's 1.5 percent of the word count. To those of you in opposition, I defy you to produce a 4,800-word missive detailing one's eight-year tenure, one's accomplishments, one's failures, one's hopes, one's recollections of how it personally impacted one's family, one's forecasts for our nation, without mentioning yourself using no more than 1.5% of the total word count. I defy you.

"Oh, but the speech shouldn't be about him, it's about us." Next breath: "We never could get to know Obama because he was distant and disconnected." Sure. Sure thing.

A personal disappointment: more than anything, having seen the complete, utter failure of our pre-ACA health system to address severe, chronic illness — up close and personal — I truly wanted Obamacare to succeed. There are so many positive tenets of the plan, it's a damn shame it was implemented so poorly; I have never felt it beyond repair, however, and I fear the direction we'll be going in the coming days with healthcare is going to be an even greater disaster. I hope I'm wrong.

In fact, when it comes to President Donald Trump, I hope I'm very, very wrong in my, oh, maybe slightly negative evaluation of him. No, really. I have, with more than due conscientiousness, evaluated every conceivable rationale for accepting his shortcomings, every argument for his strengths, and I'm sorry, but there's just nothing there. Nothing. What we have today is a narcissistic, immature, tone-deaf bully, who has assembled the least-qualified bunch of clowns to staff his cabinet positions that any sentient being could imagine. I can't see any good coming out of this, and if you can, you must give me the name of your eye doctor.

All that said, I do not want to see Trump crash and burn. Our country, our fortunes, our lives depend on this man being an effective leader, a respected player on the world stage, a partner in the success of the United States. But at the end of the day, Trump works for us, we Americans who put him where he is, however unwillingly. Me, I will oppose his every utterance that does not reflect my values. As I have from the day I reached legal voting age, I will speak with my vote as well as whatever ability I might possess to influence rational, reasonable people to see what I see, as objectively as possible. If Trump follows through with his promises to bolster the middle class, to present a workable health plan that does not leave the most vulnerable of us to the wolves, to boost a still-struggling economy, to keep America a respected world power without thrusting us into yet another avoidable conflict... I will say to you, to the world, to Trump, to anyone with an ear to hear it... that I was wrong in my evaluation of his abilities. My ego has no vested interest here. But my well-being, and the well-being of my loved ones does. However, I will never apologize for condemning this man's lack of character, not only admitted to but celebrated by his most rabid supporters. Given that a disproportionately large number of Trump's supporters are diehard Christians... I'd call that an irreconcilable absurdity. Wouldn't you?

Yeah, I understand a dislike of Trump's opponent. Hillary Clinton brought enough baggage with her to kill a train of pack mules. But I tell you this, I'd vote for her again in a heartbeat over what our now-President Trump brings to the table.

If you don't see things as I do, I'm fine with that... up to the point that you and I get thrust into a void from which we can never return. I'm not fine with that. And truly, despite having been brought up in a period when fallout shelters were ubiquitous and we rather amusingly learned how to drop, duck and cover, this chapter of life is one that brings with it a unique trepidation, a sense that the territory into which we're treading is anything but Great.

No, I'm not religious, but I pray that I am the wrongest son of a bitch to ever walk this land. I pray this. If I'm wrong, in four years, you can have a front row seat as I eat humble pie. Deal?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Das Boot

I was off work today for Martin Luther King's birthday, so Bloody Rob (retired and almost always available for geocaching, the miserable old rat) and I headed over to the American Tobacco Trail in Wake County to finish the "Boot Print" geoart, which we had begun back in October (see "Getting the Boot," October 16, 2016). Dummy coordinates form a boot print on the map; to get the actual coordinates for the caches in the pattern, you must correctly answer a question on each cache listing page about Wake County Parks. There are 40 caches in total, which we've picked up on three separate hiking trips to the ATT. I was hoping at least a couple of the irregular Old Farts and Cupdaisy might join us today, but it was not to be. Thus, we had to tangle with all kinds of monstrous critters, such as the one you see to the left, all by our aging lonesomes — and tell me that big old beast right there wouldn't spoil your picnic. Our cache hider, the dastardly and devious NCBiscuit, a.k.a. Linda, concealed many of the caches in the series in such fashion, some of them even scarier than a big-ass fire ant (such as this mean old rotten bastard).

On a sad note, I understand that Linda's faithful canine caching companion, Miss Biscuit (for whom she adopted her geocaching handle), just passed away. Miss Biscuit was a constant companion to her, I know, so I send out my deepest sympathies. I could never get along without a houseful of critters, and I know how hard it is to lose them. Adieu, Biscuit!

My appreciation for a clever and fun series of caches.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Another Paranoid Shizophrenic

Another Songwriters' Showcase at the Daily Grind in Martinsville, and another fun racket, courtesy of the old man and a slew of other talented individuals from all around Virginia, North Carolina, and even as far away as LA — as in Los Angeles, not Lower Axton, as some Martinsville natives have dubbed the neighboring community. The first songwriters' event, back in September, drew a respectable crowd. This one, with twice as many musicians, drew what appeared to be about three times the number of attendees.

Ms. Brugger and I got there a little early to partake of their wine tasting, which proved decent enough, as did the paninis we attacked with ferocious delight, as neither of us had eaten in about a month. Our friends/fellow geocachers Tom and Linda Imbus from Browns Summit showed up to heckle me, as did old friends Ashby and Lynn Pritchett from Martinsville, and to their credit, none of them took it upon themselves to hurl undesirable objects or epithets my way. Sporting souls, our fine friends.

The event ran from roughly 7:30 to 10:00 PM, with eleven musicians, including me, signed up to play. My set consisted of three original songs, "Paranoid Schizophrenia" (again), "Ice Blossoms" (whose origin is recounted here), and "The Watcher" (yet again). I was hoping to include the video of "Ice Blossoms" here, as it's my favorite of the lot, but between electronic glitches and crowd noise, the video didn't turn out very well. I may go ahead and upload it to YouTube regardless, and I'll leave it to you to decide whether to give it a look or avoid it all costs and preserve your sanity.

I'll post the lyrics to "Paranoid Schizophrenia" — which is the second song I ever wrote, back in 1978, while I was at Ferrum College — beneath the videos below. Enjoy or run like hell, your choice.

Paranoid Schizophrenia
Talked with him just yesterday because I was all alone.
I heard his voice and what he said; it's different now you've gone.
In darkened halls and haunted paths, I hear him sing his song.
He told me what I thought I felt; he told me I was wrong.

Run away, I told myself. Run away, I cried.
I'm mad, I must be mad. Run away.

He told me to calm myself. He told me never run.
He told me to help myself. He told me never cry.

He's right again, he's never wrong; how could he ever lose?
I've talked with him, I can't believe there's nothing left to choose.
Talked with him just yesterday because I was all alone.
I've heard his voice inside of me — my heart, my guide, my soul.

Run away, I told myself. Run away, I cried.
I'm mad, I must be mad. Run away.

"Paranoid Schizophrenia," ©1978, 2017 Stephen Mark Rainey

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Songwriter's Showcase — Friday, January 13, 2017

Coming up next Friday — the dreaded 13th of January — I'll be making a racket at The Daily Grind in Martinsville, VA, at their second Songwriters Showcase. At their first event back in September, along with several other musicians, I played to an enthusiastic crowd, with nary a tomato or rotten egg chucked at the performers. It's all original music, no covers allowed, and I can tell you that the first such event featured some accomplished and innovative talents. I'll be playing several of my originals, including a couple I did not perform at the first ("Ice Blossoms" being one of them, the origin of which can be found in yesterday's blog, here). There will also be a wine tasting, which might entice you further, and certainly Brugger and I will look forward to it. If you're in the vicinity, or in comfortable traveling distance, please come round and enjoy yourself.

Songwriters Showcase at The Daily Grind
303 E. Church St., Martinsville, VA 24112
7:30 PM–10:00 PM

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Ice Blossoms

The obligatory snow selfie. I feel impelled
to watch The Shining.

A nice big snowfall last night and this morning. So far, it's one of those where it's just snow, rather than that god-awful mix of snow and ice that takes out the power, which is what we more frequently get around here.

Here's a semi-random snow story from way back when....

After graduating from UGA in December 1981, I spent a little over a year in Martinsville, trying to make enough money to move to Chicago, which I eventually did, mostly by selling my artwork and teaching art. All the while, I entertained myself and tortured others by playing guitar, singing, and writing original music (I still occasionally torture others with this very endeavor; in fact, next Friday, 1/13/17, I'll be playing at The Daily Grind in Martinsville). It was one night in either late '82 or early '83 when we had a pretty big snowfall, and I went out walking in the neighborhood, and by the time I got back home, many hours later, I had the lyrics to a new song, called "Ice Blossoms," composed in my head. It's about freezing to death, and I plan to play it at The Daily Grind next week.

At the time, my brother, Phred, was seeing a young lady named Leslie, and earlier that evening he'd driven up to her house, a mile or so away. I decided to take a walk in that general direction, figuring that I'd eventually run into him on his way home, and he could give me a ride back. Well, I got as far as the corner of her street, and he still hadn't left, so, being the adventurous soul I was (and still strive to be), I found myself a tall tree that offered a good view of the neighborhood and climbed up it — way up it, figuring I'd be able to spot my brother's car coming well in advance.

I sat up in that tree for at least an hour, freezing my hind end off, eventually questioning the wisdom of my decision and wondering whether I should just get down and walk back home.

No. No, no. I sat up there well into the wee hours, at least partially bolstered by select botanical compounds I'd had the foresight to bring with me. By the time I finally saw my brother's car coming, I had the following lyrics firmly in my head, and the accompanying music written by the next afternoon.

Ice Blossoms
Wind in your hair, the snow in your eyes,
Feeling the chill of a cold winter's night.
Breathing the air brought by winds of the north,
Ice blossoms blooming forever.

Clear songs from forests a-glaze under ice,
Joining the spirits who dance in the night,
Who call to you in a crystal clear voice,
Reaching your soul from the nether.

Snowfall soft, open your eyes aloft,
You feel no cold, no pain. Open your eyes again.
There is no fear of the night, only hope inside.
There is a song calling you, so strong.

Then, in the sky, colors dance, glowing bright.
And your lifeline's gone. Spirits howl their song.
Colors bright.

Ice blossoms blooming in cold morning light.
Forests breathe songs that arise to the sky.
Standing alone torn by winds of the north,
Silently brooding forever.

Eyes dead and glazed under snowfall so fine,
Hands clutching nothing thrown wild at your sides.
Spirit has gone with your brothers of ice,
Singing your sad song forever.

Fortunately, I didn't freeze to death, but I was probably as close to hypothermia as I've ever come. Mighty cold in that tree, I was.

Today's snow, so far, has been pretty, and I took an enjoyable mile-long walk through the neighborhood this morning while it was still coming down. Currently, there's about nine inches of accumulation. No ice blossoms.

"Ice Blossoms," ©1982, 2017, by Stephen Mark Rainey

The homestead as the snow falls
L: devilish hoofprints leading to my back door? R: Corner of Martin Ave. and Wilcox Dr.
I had never noticed there was a little footbridge — now half-collapsed — over a stream,
a short distance down the street
A little hidden glen near Martin Ave.
Heading north on Martin Ave., toward Pine Needle Dr.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Next Chapter, Please

Old dude getting up close and personal with some fire
Unlike some past years' festivities, last night's New Year's Eve celebration was fairly low-key, with dinner, drinks, and fireworks with friends at Ms. Brugger's house. While I almost always enjoy New Year's Eve, I've never cared for the whole business of changing the calendar, which primarily serves to remind one that the clock is ticking, the countdown drawing ever nearer to zero. These past few years, the clock has been zipping right along, and it just keeps speeding up. No like! No like!

For me, 2016 had many wonderful moments. But every moment of every day, my mom's declining health, which has required me to manage almost all her affairs, is a specter that takes no holiday. My day job, which I have held and loved for going on 18 years, has seen all kinds of changes due to our owner putting the company up for sale, the results of which will soon be revealed. While I'm very thankful that I will, in all probability, keep my job, I'll be facing a whole different daily dynamic, involving considerably more commute time, far less convenience for shopping and personal appointments, and lord knows what other changes; I can only hope that any new level of stress will be relatively minor, for my health's sake. I can feel how much dealing with Mom's diminished capacity has worn me down, and that aspect of life is not going to get any easier. Quite the contrary.

It's no secret that I have little but contempt for President-elect Donald Trump, and I cannot have anything like high hopes for where he and his cabal of billionaire bitches will lead this country. I've never been much stressed out over politics before, but there is nothing normal about what's happening in the USA, and I think we're going to have a hell of a bad ride. I want to be wrong; I pray to be wrong. But I bet I'm not.

The passing of people, famous and infamous... holy cow. Again, I've never been one to get shook up by the deaths of individuals who may be high profile but that I've never personally known. But this year... so many personalities that I have greatly admired, such as Mohamed Ali, David Bowie, William Christopher, Carrie Fisher (followed almost immediately by her mom, Debbie Reynolds), Ron Glass, John Glenn, Florence Henderson, George Michael, Prince, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, and so many others. It's just about enough to rattle one. Not to mention several deaths that did impact me personally, such as our friend, Dan Shannon, who died of cancer this past summer, as well as a number of old acquaintances from my hometown, many taken too young.

Some good stuff:

Several of my stories published or accepted for publication in very reputable markets. I was more prolific in the fiction department this past year than I have been for some time. My story "The Nothing" very recently came out at My novelization of the Smith Brothers' movie, Young Blood was published early in the year. My short-short nonfiction piece, "Arachnid Alley — Or 'How I Learned to Stop Screaming and Love the Spider'" appeared in the anthology of geocaching stories titled GPS: Great Personal Stories of Geocaching Firsts. And I'll have quite a few new ones coming up in the near future, all quite gratifying.

Shin Godzilla. Far from a perfect movie, but it was great to have a theatrical release of a film with so many powerful, impressive moments.

Star Wars: Rogue One. Me, a Star Wars geek? Well, some people would say so. I quite enjoyed this one, maybe a bit more than last year's The Force Awakens, which I also liked a lot.

Numerous gatherings and/or geocaching outings with some of the best friends and family in the world — my daughter, Allison; my brother, Phred; Joe and Suzy Albanese; Doug Cox and Jenny Chapman; Scott Hager; Faun de Henry; Tom and Linda Imbus; Rob Isenhour; Tom Kidd; Bridget Langley; Robbin Lee; Terry and Beth Nelson; Debbie Shoffner; Cortney Skinner and Beth Massie; Sarah Stevens; Beth Walton (whom I'd not seen in too many years), Gretchen and Todd Wickliffe; and lots of others — forgive me if I didn't drop your name. And at the risk of being mean, this year saw the (hopefully permanent) departure of an individual or two from my sphere of influence who really needed to depart, for their sake and mine.

And, of course, Kimberly Brugger remains the one human being in my life who keeps me sane and relatively stable. This year will make seven years together, all of which were made better — even damn near perfect — by her presence, her energy, and her love. At times in the past, I thought I knew what it meant to love, to be in love. The hell I did. I wish I had, as it would have been fairer to all involved. Sometimes, I think, it takes a rough ride, even a wrong ride, to get where one is meant to be, if this is even possible. Maybe, just maybe, it is.

To all my readers, my friends, my peers, and the rest of you out there: please, be good to each other. Lord knows, if there's anyone who has a hard time with that, it's me, but I'm working at it. Truly.

Happy New One Day Closer to Death to all of us.

The video of the fiery maelstrom shown in the photo above — one of several fiery maelstroms we produced.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's Time Again — Put Some Fear into Your New Year


STARTING TODAY — 12/29/16 — and running for the next six days, you can pick up my novella, The Gods of Moab, for your Kindle at the special discounted price of 99¢ (regular price $2.99).

A pleasant New Year's Eve outing becomes an experience in otherworldly horror when two close-knit couples discover a shocking secret in the darkest corners of the Appalachian mountains. At an opulent mountain inn, Warren Burr, his fiancee, Anne, and their friends, Roger and Kristin Leverman, encounter a religious zealot named John Hanger, who makes it his business to bear witness to them of his peculiar...and His efforts rebuffed, Hanger insidiously assumes control of the couples' technological devices, leading them to stumble into unexpected, surreal landscapes...landscapes inhabited by nightmarish beings that defy explanation and rationality. To return to the world they thought they knew, Warren and his friends must not only escape the deadly entities that pursue them but somehow stop John Hanger's nightmare-plague from spreading to the outside world.

"The Gods of Moab is a chilling novella of Lovecraftian horror by Stephen Mark Rainey, acclaimed author of Balak, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Nightmare Frontier, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), and former editor of the award-winning Deathrealm Magazine."

The Gods of Moab is just the ticket to put a little fear in your new year. Check it out from here: The Gods of Moab by Stephen Mark Rainey

Love it or hate it, reviews are always appreciated. Thanks!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Krakens, Krampuses, and Krankies

It was a fairly low-key Christmas for the Raineys, mainly due to Mum's ongoing health limitations. But it was generally good family time, with plenty of vittles, nice presents, and even a spot or two of exercise for the old man. For me, Christmas vacation began on Friday, which I spent on the hunt for a couple of caches in Burlington/Alamance County. Once home, I spent most of the rest of the day wrapping presents and preparing a big old pot of chili for Christmas Eve dinner.

Saturday, Brugger and I made our way to Martinsville by way of the nearby Grove Winery, same as we did last year on Christmas Eve. However, we didn't realize that they were closing at 3:00 PM this year, and it was 2:45 when we arrived. The proprietor, however, was kind enough to give us a couple of glasses, and I picked up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for later. Nice lady and I decided to proceed to M'ville and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at the bar at Rania's, which, as I have no doubt indicated in this blog before, served as the inspiration for the bar in my novel, The Lebo Coven way back when. Once at Mum's, Ms. B. and I discovered a special visitor on the back porch — a Christmas bat, which was hanging on the wall beside the back door. I suspect the poor little guy was old and/or infirm, as he remained back there the whole weekend, alive but seemingly only just. Kind of sad, as I do like bats. Anyway, Ms. B. and I at last proceeded to get the chili fired up, which turned out perfect, and then we worked off a calorie or two on a long walk through the neighborhood around Lake Lanier, during which time I regaled the lady with endless stories about my childhood, most of which she had heard umpteen times. But taking these long walks does bring forth many vivid memories, and most are entertaining, at least to one of us. To continue one of our favorite annual Christmas Eve traditions, we finally planted ourselves in Mum's sunroom and watched the 10:00 PM showing of A Christmas Story, which still turns both of us into madly laughing fools. To be sure, this year, we're needing as many mad laughing fits as possible, so this was time well-spent. Some Kraken rum with eggnog made for the perfect nightcap, and finally something akin to Christmas spirit managed to settle in.

Christmas morning came a bit dreary but not cold, and I spent some time listening to Christmas tunes and sending scary, animated images of the Krampus to friends on Facebook before returning to the kitchen to help Ms. B. prepare a big dinner of chicken-ham-swiss cheese roll-ups with cheese and mushroom sauce, fresh asparagus, smashed potatoes, and assorted pies and cakes for afters. Brother Phred arrived late morning, and we proceeded to hurl gifts at each other. Made out nicely, with a new shirt, a CD collection of Ennio Morricone western scores, Lara Parker's newest Dark Shadows novel, a Michigan-shaped cutting board, and lots of other items both necessary and fun — some Krankies coffee from Brother Phred being among the most necessary.

Following the feast, naps overtook at least a couple of the troops, while I went out on walkabout through the woods and about wore myself out going up and down many of Martinsville's rolling hills, which have apparently gotten considerably longer and steeper than they were just a few years ago. Then came one of the day's true highlights — a visit from Todd and Gretchen Wickliffe, of whom I see far too little these days, since they rarely make it up from Atlanta, at least when I'm at Mum's. We spent a good couple of hours talking about life here and there, then and now, and shocking Mum with stories about how certain of us barely survived our childhoods. Of course I'm referring to the Wickliffe kids, as I would never have taken brazen risks or done anything monumentally foolish when I was a youngster.

For our evening's viewing pleasure, Ms. B. and I settled in the den and streamed Don't Breathe and Insidious on, which kept us occupied until well past midnight.

We arrived back in Greensboro early this afternoon, and I immediately headed out after a new cache over at the Laurel Bluff trail head on Lake Brandt Road. Retrieving this one required a fun terrain challenge, which I made doubly difficult by attempting it the old fashioned way — by climbing the tree — before playing it the way it was more or less meant to be played: by getting a boost from an appropriate elevation-increasing device, in this case, my car (see the sequencing diagram below).

Later this week, I anticipate a bit more geocaching and probably an enjoyable evening or two with Ms. B., but there is more than plenty of work to keep me busy, including a new piece of fiction I'm laboring over. Overall, it's bound to be better than this time last year, when Mum's health situation reached a crisis point. It's still very, very difficult for me, and knowing that she simply will never get better is both emotionally and physically taxing. The past few days have been more melancholy than truly happy, but there were many transcendent moments, with Mum, Brother Phred, Kimberly, and the Wickliffes. It's these times of recharging that keep me going, I think.

And I'll keep going, as there are people to see, stories to write, and caches to find.
Christmas lights at Lake Lanier. What the L?
The cauldron of Christmas Eve chili
Our little Christmas bat, who seems to have seen better days. Poor chap.
The bonny swans down at Lake Lanier. They came to see if I had any goodies for them. When they
determined that I did not, off they swam.
The emblem of our Kung Fu club when I was in ninth grade, circa 1974, carved in a beech tree back in
the woods behind the old homestead. "Marakumo no Tsurugi," it says, which I think means pretty much
nothing, although I had intended it to mean "Sword of Swords" or something such.
Krank up the Krankies, men!
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step 1
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step 2
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step3

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Wretched Canticle

It's a rare and pleasant surprise when I learn that a band or musician has recorded a song based on one of my works of fiction, and last night, guitarist and vocalist (and former editor) Steve Sommerville, of the band Gates of Endor out of Raleigh, informed me that they had recorded a song inspired by my tale “Sabbath of the Black Goat,” which originally appeared in the Chaosium anthology The Shub-Niggurath Cycle (1994), edited by Robert M. Price. My story involves the discovery of a coven of witches in a remote area of North Carolina, and — naturally enough for one of my stories — these are not benign practitioners of Wicca or any such business but malevolent followers of the Lovecraftian title character. The Gates of Endor song is titled "A Wretched Canticle," and it takes the malevolence portrayed in my story to a whole new level. It's a heavy, driving heavy metal dirge that forgoes any of the quiet build-up of the story and skips straight to nerve-shattering terror, with pounding percussion; growling, screaming guitars; and coarse, raging, animalistic vocals by Mr. Sommerville. Now, make no mistake, I've never been a knocked-out fan of heavy metal, but once in a spell I enjoy a good dose of decibels, and there's a sense of sly fun about this piece that I find endearing.

You can can listen to "A Wretched Canticle" using the embedded link below, and visit Gates of Endor's Bandcamp site, featuring several of their compositions, here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Orchestra of the Antisemite

I just chanced upon a kind review in a blog — from 2014 — of my story "Orchestra," which appeared in CD Publication's October Dreams some years ago. It's the same story that led at least one reviewer to conclude that I must surely be antisemitic because "only someone who harbors a hatred of Jewish people could come up with such a story." My character was an exceedingly nasty entity who sprang from Old Testament days; he did despise the Jews and acted on his hatred in unabashedly brutal fashion. However, attempting to psychoanalyze an author based on a single work is, to my mind, an exercise in futility, not to mention less than professional. In the case of "Orchestra," my delving into the character's deviant mindset was neither easy nor pleasant, yet in the context of the story, it served a crucial dramatic purpose. It's natural enough for readers to attempt to glean what they can of writers' personalities based on their writings; however, If authors — particularly those in the business of horror — were to be defined by the actions of their characters, most of us would have to be chained up and locked away. In my experience, many writers who've portrayed the worst possible human beings in their work are themselves individuals of the highest caliber. I'll not necessarily make that claim, but I think it's fair to say I'm anything but antisemitic. I'm actually a fairly well-rounded misanthrope. I'm pleased that this particular reviewer "got it."

Read the review here: "Orchestra" by Stephen Mark Rainey

Order October Dreams from

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nightmare Music and More

This one goes out to my author friends, particularly those who specialize in works of the scary persuasion and who enjoy writing with something other than silence in the background. When I'm hard at work, I actually find silence distracting, so I generally write with music playing at low volume — preferably mellow tunes, with few or no lyrics, and that are rich in atmosphere. I listen to lots of smooth jazz, lounge music — samba, bossa nova, et. al. — and dark, ambient compositions that evoke the spirit of Halloween, regardless of the season. Relatively recently, I discovered the perfect writing companions on YouTube: several collections of moody, nightmarish music on the Cryo Chamber label, known as the Atrium Carceri project. Several videos are available, each running over an hour, with titles such as “Nightmare Music” (embedded above), “Ambient Winter Music,” “Alien Abduction Music,” “Dark Gothic Music of Abandoned Castles and Forgotten Temples,” and many others. For me, these provide the ideal soundtrack for whatever dark piece happens to be forthcoming from my brain at any given moment.

From the Cryo Chamber website:

“Atrium Carceri is a Swedish musical project by Simon Heath. Atrium Carceri’s albums incorporate cinematic themes that help make the sound that much more haunting. The perfect soundtracks to untold horror movies.... Atrium Carceri is typically described as dark ambient and industrial ambient music. Similar to projects like Lull and Lustmord, Atrium Carceri uses synthesizers, sound effects, field recordings, piano and other instrumentation to create 'slow rhythms, bitter melodies and complex textures' generally based on themes of desolation, loneliness (especially solitary confinement) and environmental decay.”

Naturally, one mustn't be a writer to enjoy these works — I figure they're bound to please about any aficionado of the outrĂ©, especially when played with the lights out. Hell, I'd happily write in the dark listening to this stuff if my eyes wouldn't think the rest of me was stupid. So listen to some Atrium Carceri for yourself, check out the many other offerings at Cryo Chamber, and have yourself some pleasant little nightmares.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Nothing at

My investigative report of ghastly paranormal activity in your area... er... rather, my short story, "The Nothing," is now live at It's a tale I wrote a couple of years ago about a nothing that is actually something, and if you don't watch out, it might just do you in. Very scary.

Check it out for free right here: "The Nothing" at

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Poor Ellen Smith, Haunted by the Grue, and Others

A fine and fun bunch of diverse geocaches I turned up in Winston-Salem yesterday, I can tell you. Everything from an unexpected venture into subterranean darkness; to a couple of healthy trail hikes; to navigating over bodies of water via rocks, logs, and pipes; to finding the site of a Victorian-era murder; to ascending trees. That right there is seriously good geocaching. Ms. B. and friend Beth had gotten together for a day of crafting in Winston, so my plan was to spend the day caching and then meet up with Terry, Beth, and Ms. B. for wine and dinner in the evening. The plan proved perfect.

The most enjoyable cache of the day was surely one called "Haunted by the Grue" (GC6AYAY) which took me to a restaurant near where my brother used to live. To my surprise, I found that the building had been constructed over Silas Creek, which flows beneath it, and the cache itself lay somewhere down below. The hint on the cache page gave me an idea of where I'd need to look, but I made the mistake of going underneath the building on the wrong side of the river. Once I determined my error, rather than take the long way around by clambering back up to ground level, I found a handy-dandy pipe to cross — only slightly precarious — and then managed to lay eyes on the cache readily. This is one of those that may not be for the claustrophobic or those who fear dank, dark spaces and/or subterranean monsters.
Handy-dandy bridge across Peters Creek
Although the cache itself was hidden in traditional manner, "Poor Ellen Smith" (GC6BV1C) took me to the reputed scene of a murder back in Victorian days, the story of which goes roughly as follows: Ellen Smith was a young woman who worked at the Zinzendorf Hotel (which itself had a brief, tragic history) and became enamored of a reckless, hard-drinking, pistol-carrying rake named Peter DeGraff, who may have also worked at the hotel. During their relationship, DeGraff may have fathered a child with her. Predictably, things went south for them, and at one or the other's request, Ellen went to meet DeGraff in the woods behind the hotel (now the site of the cache). DeGraff shot her at close range with his pistol and left her there to die. At first, the authorities did little to apprehend him, until he was reportedly seen in the woods, attempting to bring Ellen back. Supposedly, he was heard to exclaim "Ellen, if you are in heaven, arise. If you are in hell, remain there." DeGraff was eventually captured and sentenced to be hanged. He protested that he was innocent until the end, yet as he went to the gallows, he proclaimed, "I stand here today to receive my just reward. I again say to the people here, beware of bad women and whiskey. Don't put your hands on cards, bad women, and dice. Hear my dying words."
The famous Walking Tree of Dahomey

The hotel Zinzendorf was a massive, four-story wooden structure, completed and opened in early 1892, only to burn to the ground later that same year.

More information about Ellen Smith and Peter DeGraff may be found at "Murder by Gaslight." There is also a recording on the site of a folk song about the murder by Estil C. Ball.

Horror of horrors, at one cache, I lost my pen, which resulted in me having to scratch my initials in the log book of the next with a mud-covered stick. However, on returning to the previous cache, I found not only my original pen but another stuck in the mud along Silas Creek, so, as that pen still worked, I not only came out to the better, I avoided a lifelong loss-of-writing-pen trauma. At another cache, I found what I'm certain must be the famous Walking Tree of Dahomey, pictured above left. And while strolling along a roadway near Winston-Salem State University, I happened upon a single reindeer antler lying in the gutter, the ghastly remains of some hideous crime, almost certainly the work of a grandma, driven by vengeance after Rudolph's merciless mowing down of one of her aged compadres.
Someone call the fire department, please.

The last cache of the day found me up a tree. Not all that high up a tree, but somehow at an angle that made it difficult to twist around that I might lower myself gracefully back to earth. While I pondered my situation, I sat in the limbs typing out my cache notes and online log, all the while watching the sun go down and wondering whether I might ought to call the fire department to rescue me. After some time and effort, I managed to extricate my foot from the branches that were causing my dilemma, and with a stylistic flourish, I dropped to the ground, only to catch my arm on the limb that had caused my foot to hang, abrading my forearm sufficiently to elicit a very minor naughty word. But as my friend Robgso says, "No blood, no fun," so this little bloodletting just meant that the fun was flowing.

The only damper on the day was discovering that some useless piece of shit masquerading as a human being got hold of my bank card information and had been attempting to make a significant number of purchases between here and Durham. Fortunately, the bank caught things pretty quickly, and I'll get the missing money back. I'll be without a bank card for a few days. But it's been scam-and-theft central lately, and I'm of a mind that setting these motherfuckers on fire is way too good for them. May they burn for extended periods, no ifs, ands, or buts.

May your holidays be merry and scam-and-theft free. Don't fall out of any trees.
Reindeer got run over by a grandma.