Friday, June 13, 2014

Who You Gonna Call?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yesterday ,we thought we posed the question of questions. Steve Ulfelder said the world was divided into two camps; the dog people and the cat people. And we thought, well, that's true. Which side are you on?

But today our dear Laura Benedict (a long time friend of Reds and a fabulous writer and a constant delight) has a--possibly--more difficult question.  When she talks about cat people--she may mean CAT PEOPLE.

So,  Reds, read Laura's position on this--and the decide: which side are you on? And be very very careful how you choose. And a copy of Laura's wonderful new BLISS HOUSE to onw lucky commenter!


Here’s a secret about me: I write supernatural fiction, but I’m no longer a frequent watcher of horror films. Sure, I occasionally watch them (and I adore scary books), but I don’t find films so scary anymore. I fear it’s one of the vagaries of being in the business—and rare is the ghost story that’s told on film in a new, exciting way.

But you know what does scare me, disturbing me so much that I can’t watch anytime after dark? Any tv docudrama about ghosts or people being haunted: Paranormal Witness, When Ghosts Attack, A Haunting. Unlike Ghost Hunters (which I used to watch religiously, until Grant left—long story), these shows aren’t about proving or disproving the presence of ghosts. These shows dramatize the stories of people who have directly experienced being haunted. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “ostensibly” or “purportedly.” I totally (okay, mostly want to) believe these people.
And not only do I believe them, but I can’t stop watching!

One reason I believe: In fiction, hauntings hardly ever happen in ranch houses. Or trailers. But on these shows, hauntings happen in bars, restaurants, town halls, retirement homes. Who would think to make up a haunting in a ranch house or a house trailer? (Usually the ranch houses turn out to be haunted by a teenage suicide from down the street, or an insignificant historical figure named Pauline.)

Here’s how the shows work: They hire actors to do dramatizations of the stories, and the people originally involved are shot in a studio, talking about the events. Some stories are decades old, others only two or three years.

That’s the other reason I find these shows believable. I watch the victims’ faces: they are utterly and completely sincere. Sure, they’ve probably told their stories a thousand times so that even false details might become like real memories. But I find it hard to believe they’re faking a lingering fear. And many of these people are still very afraid.

Most of the stories go this way: Single mom finds the PERFECT run-down, historic house (complete with Silence of the Lambs basement) to rehab. She moves in with her young daughter and begins to tear down walls with sledgehammer. Daughter strikes up a friendship with invisible friend named “Cornelia.” Spends a lot of time whispering in her room with Cornelia. Rooms trash themselves when no one is home. Houseguests can’t sleep in the basement guestroom because of miasma of creepiness. Daughter starts drawing pictures of Cornelia—who happens to have long teeth and empty eye holes. The cat hisses at things that aren’t there.

Mom—who can’t afford to move out—calls in a medium. Or a priest. Or a friend who is “very spiritual.” The house gets blessed by someone reading random words from the Christian bible. The medium tells her a “very evil man” lived there. Mom does research and finds out the house used to be…a mental institution built on a Native American burial ground! (At which point I would sue my title company.)

Then end of the story usually goes one of three ways: 1) Mom never finishes the rehab, but the daughter moves in with a boyfriend just as soon as she’s old enough to have one. 2) Mom sells the house to people who never have a problem with ghosts.  3) Rarely, the blessing will work and all ends well and Mom opens a B&B.

I watch these shows with my grown daughter, whom I raised on frightening fare. One of our favorite games is to compare the actors to the original people. Sometimes the comparison isn’t flattering—either way. And it’s always fun to note when real spouses or significant others from the original events are significantly absent from the show. Boyfriends come and go, wives are divorced. We always wonder if they no longer believe in what happened, or they weren’t offered enough money, or the relationships ended badly. We also ask ourselves questions like, “Why didn’t they talk to the neighbors the first time the walls cried blood?”

Recently we got rid of satellite tv (too expensive, poor service), and I swear that these shows are the only thing I miss. Weather Channel? Internet. Local news? HD antenna (as long as it isn’t raining or there are no sunspots or whatever). Game of Thrones? I refused to pay for premium channels, anyway. Netflix carries a season or two of Paranormal Witness, and I can pay eleven or twelve bucks to Hulu to get a season of A Haunting. In fact, I could buy every single episode for less than a month’s satellite bill.

But there was nothing like having my girl come home for the weekend and settling onto the couch with her to watch four DVR’d episodes in a row of people running screaming through their half-demolished houses or perfect antique-stuffed living rooms yelling, “Mom! Mom! There’s something in the basement!” (We do not, by the way, have any sort of basement at our house. On purpose.)

Do I sound crazy to you? Perhaps I’m just one of those suckers who was born  in one particular, supernatural-leaning minute. It’s just too fun not to believe, at least a little.

What about you? Do you have a ghost story that we should all believe?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I *will* go down into the basement. But I DO consider it. And I do think there is more on heaven and earth than we have dreamed of in our philosophy.  I'd say: possible.

How about you? And a copy of the fabulous BLISS HOUSE to one lucky commenter...

Laura Benedict’s latest dark suspense novel is BLISS HOUSE (Pegasus Crime), praised as “Eerie, seductive, and suspenseful,” by Edgar award-winning author, Meg Gardiner. Laura is also the author of DEVIL’S OVEN, a modern Frankenstein tale, and CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS and ISABELLA MOON, both originally published by Ballantine Books. Her work has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, PANK, and numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads (Oceanview), and Slices of Flesh (Dark Moon Books).
A Cincinnati, Ohio native, Laura grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and claims both as hometowns. She currently lives with her family in the southern wilds of a Midwestern state, surrounded by bobcats, coyotes, and other less picturesque predators.

Tomorrow on Jungle Red: What makes good YA?

And the winner of TRUTH BE TOLD is Bev Fontaine
The winner of TERMINAL CITY is Plum Gaga
The winner of SMALL PLATES is Brenda Buchanan
The winner of WOLVERINE BROTHERS is Lynn in Texas
Contact Hank via her website to claim your prize!


  1. I’ve definitely got to hunt up a copy of “Bliss House” . . . .
    Oh, dear . . . I am so not a scary-movie-watcher. Neither do we watch those paranormal-ghost-hunting-haunted-house shows.
    However, we do have a basement, but it’s for storage and I guarantee you there’s not enough room down there for any self-respecting ghost to dwell.
    That said, I confess to most definitely being on the side of those who believe in ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night.

    Until I was about ten, we lived in an older house . . . the kind with the bedrooms upstairs, the furnace in the basement, and a screened-in front porch. When my twin sister and I were still small enough to sleep in a crib, my mom says we used to play with a little girl . . . that would be a ghost girl . . . all the time. Naturally, I don’t remember any of it, but my mom said she would hear us laughing; however, all the “baby chattering” and laughing would stop if anyone came into the room.

    When I was older, I would hear my younger sister laughing and playing with the little girl when she was upstairs in the crib by herself. Unfortunately, I don’t know her name, only that she was a little girl who would always come to play, but she only played with the babies in the house.
    Nor do I know if she might have been related to the “grown-up” ghost, Pearl, who lived in the house. We often heard Pearl walking around upstairs, opening doors, slamming drawers, and whatever. When we moved from that house, I remember my mom saying she tried to get Pearl to move with us, but she stayed behind.
    I’ve always assumed that it must have been her house before she was a ghost and she simply didn’t want to leave her home . . . .

  2. I spend half my time in my basement-- my office is down there. Doesn't scare me (though the basement in our house growing up did, because my dad, an amateur artist, had painted a picture of a scary guy that he hung down there-- that picture scared us all!)

    I cannot relate to the supernatural. My sister's reiki doesn't register with me. I'm a dead-center taurus (fixed earth), terribly practical, and almost half a century as a lawyer has made me even more skeptical. I can't turn off a TV magic show fast enough, and paranormal stuff bores me to tears. (Sorry) I don't read fantasy stories, either, although I am a fan of hard science fiction.

    As for having a basement, when you live in Tornado Alley (or on the fringes of it), you'd better!

  3. JOAN! I'd never have predicted!

    ELLEN! I'd totally have predicted.


    Off to give a speech--see you all later this AM!

  4. Hi, Hank! Hi, everyone! I'm thrilled to be here today.
    Joan, what a great story to start us off. The house, the spooky little girl, the grown-up ghost. Plus, twins! You had all the elements. How sad that Pearl didn't move with you. But I gather there are ghosts who will, and ghosts who won't.

    Ellen, I love that detail about your Dad painting the scary pic. I wonder what was down there that he didn't want the kids into. ; )

  5. It always amazing me that so many people, when the subject of ghosts comes up, say they'd lived with one.

    And the only thing that scares me is about my basement is when it floods in heavy rain.

    I love creepy, Laura, so this "Bliss House" will be right up my (dark) alley.

  6. Hi, Hallie. Thank you! I am always surprised at people's ghosts, too. And that the ghosts don't scare them away is truly amazing. We have had a basement--and flooding. I don't miss that!

  7. Put me in the "I don't know" camp. As Hank said, "more things in the world," but part of me is too practical. I don't watch ghost shows - just not my cup of tea.

    However, when I was a sophomore in college, our dorm room was supposed to be haunted. We jokingly called him George. Being girls, we put up a lot of posters. But the one above the closet would not stay up. We used ever increasing amounts of tape, tack, whatever to make this thing stay up. No luck. And then one day, it didn't only fall, it went sailing a couple feet across the room, as though someone had ripped it off and tossed it.

    We found another place to put the poster and left the wall above the closet empty.

  8. Laura, I think the picture was hanging downstairs (in the laundry room) because my mom wouldn't let him hang it upstairs-- so none of us would go into the laundry room. He had a workshop in the basement, with a table saw, but he taught us all how to use it safely when we were quite small so he wasn't keeping us out of there. There was also a "rec room," with shuffleboard tiles set in the floor, and a wet bar (and a Marilyn Monroe calendar behind the bar!) And a Wurlitzer juke box. I would dance for hours across that tile floor to the records in the juke box, so I wasn't afraid of the rec room (or the workshop), only the laundry room. My siblings felt the same way-- so our mom got no help whatsoever with the laundry.

  9. Welcome, Laura! I'm already such a huge fan of your writing — and like Hank, I believe that there's a lot that we _don't_ know.... Never met a ghost, though (as far as I know) although I do entertain the wish that our pets who have gone to the Great Green Field pop back in to visit sometimes.... I went through a phase where I was obsessed with the show Pet Psychic -- does anyone remember that?

  10. Hi Laura! so great to see you here!

    I do not do ghosts (except in your books)--way too scary.

    Tell us more about Bliss House!!

  11. I'm 62, and for more than 61 years I was skeptical, until last July. When I stayed at the last available motel room in Thermopolis, Wyoming, on my way to my annual visit to a friend's ranch.

    My encounter with a ghost there was on three levels: I heard it, then smelled it (super strong, too), and then it touched me on the shoulder. After driving all day I was incredibly tired, so I asked it to please leave me alone so I could sleep, and it did.

    Like Hallie, water in the basement in our old home freaks me out, but other than that, if there are any ghosts in this house they don't bother anyone. I suspect I will be the ghost here someday. :-)

  12. I wouldn't mind being visited by a ghost if I got to choose who comes back.

  13. No. I will not watch scary movies. Sometimes even books are too much--I read The Haunting of Hill House in daylight and it still scared the pants off me! Many ghost stories in my family and among my friends--too many not to believe there's more, as Hank said, than we mortals understand about the world around us. My favorite family history haunting--the old O'Bryan homestead in Kentucky. On a night with a full moon in October, Abby followed her husband John to the cornfield below a ridge with a cave near the top. As they harvested the corn by hand, Abby paused to glance up. A headless man stood in the cave opening. Instead of screaming or running, she continued to harvest until John finished and they left the field. Why? John could run faster than she could, and she wasn't about to be left behind.

    The most personal story? My brother Mitch died at 25. He was a great big brother to his younger siblings, loving, fun-loving, had-your-back-kind-of guy. Many years after his death, my father was in intensive care after major surgery. It was touch and go that day. My sister sat alone in the intensive care waiting room. Mitch walked in, with that wonderful smile of his, touched her on the knee, and sat next to her. He didn't speak. She was in shock. Some other people entered the waiting room; Mitch was gone.

    No proof that either event was 'real,' but too many other occurrences to dismiss them all.

  14. I believe in 'something else' but not sure if it's ghosts. I love to be scared by certain books or movies but not sure I could handle a ghost in my everyday life. When I was a teenager my father's ghost did appear to my mother, grandmother, sister and me for a period of time - rough patch and we thought he showed up to help us through. Nothing since then, though, and I think I am okay with that.

    Started reading Bliss House this morning - great!

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  17. Oh, this is so wonderful. FChurch, that is so poignant, and I totally believe it. Whatever it means.

    I definitely dream that my cat Lola comes back and talks to me..but that's a little different.

    But you know--I FIRMLY believe that "someone" leaves me little indicators. Reminders. A feather, a penny. Seriously. I am very grateful.

    (And those deletions were me fixing typos.)

  18. Mary, that poster story is so weird.

    And Susan, did you make up the Great Green Field? Or is that from a book?

  19. Mary--Love the poster story! College is such a tender time, full of emotions. I would think campuses would be ripe for ghosts. In fact, at this very moment I'm writing from the Hollins Univ. campus in Virginia. There's an entire haunted dorm here that the workshop participants love to stay in each year.

  20. Hi, Susan! You are so sweet--thank you so much!
    I would adore having a visit from our first cat--He was a great big tomcat with no brain, but a heart of gold. I've never seen Pet Psychic, but there is a fabulous British woman on Sirius every Sunday afternoon who takes calls about people's pets and tells everyone what the pets are thinking. She also communicates with pets who have "passed on" (as she says). No surprise, they're always having a great time in the afterlife, lol.

  21. Ellen--That's hysterical about your mom making him put it downstairs. And your basement sounds like me preteen dream!

  22. Hi, Roberta! I love seeing you here, and your Twitter posts are always so fun, too.

    I totally understand that scary stuff isn't for everyone and really respect that. I feel badly if someone picks up one of my books and it distresses them too much. BLISS HOUSE is about a woman, Rainey Bliss Adams, who brings her teenage daughter, Ariel, to live in the house (it was in her family for years) after her husband was killed in a horrific accident--an accident that also badly scarred her daughter. Ariel believes the house is healing her, but their lives are thrown into chaos after a murder occurs there soon after they move in.
    When I started writing, I made a conscious decision not to make it a horror novel, but a gothic. There's tension, mystery, ghosts--but I intentionally kept it from being...gory. I want as many people to enjoy it as possible!

  23. Hi, Karen! Yes, do come back and be a nice ghost. That's what I plan to do. ; )
    LOVE your ghost story. The way it haunted several of your senses--that is so powerful. Wow!

  24. Laura, then you'd love the fifth floor of the oldest dorm on campus. Tons of ghost stories - in is a Catholic school and they even did an exorcism there, I believe.

  25. Aside from minor things that can be readily explained, I have no proof that there's anything else out there, but I'm too much like Fox Mulder: I want to believe!

  26. Laura, I have Bliss House on my TBR list. It's getting some great buzz.

    I can't really talk about my two experiences with ghosts or other worldly spirits because they were bad experiences. Suffice it to say that my second time, I gathered my husbands and two children up from my parents' house in the middle of the night and went to a hotel. It says something that my husband, the practical one, readily left. My parents were both deceased, and we were getting ready to sell the house. Same house I had the first bad experience in. I consider myself lucky to escape.

  27. Yes, I believe (clapping my hands to bring back Tinkerbell). I have done reiki, visited mediums, had my "spirit guide" drawn. But I have never encountered a ghost.

    When my oldest daughter was celebrating her October birthday (maybe it was 2nd grade), we had a Halloween theme. We "hired" a neighbor, a teenaged boy, to hide in the basement closet dressed as Dracula.

    As the party got underway, he jumped out of the closet.

    Some of those little girls never came back to our house!!

  28. The more time I spend in the house alone or alone with the cats, the more I realize this place makes some weird noises.
    Furry things run around in the crawlspaces and walls all winter. The fridge throws ice. Something bumps into the underside of the tub. The kitchen sink turns itself off and on at random. The palm fronds and branches scratch the windows.
    And if you leave the back door open in the evening on a nice night, the rats and opossums will sometimes wander down the hall and stare at you.

  29. I love spooky tales. Simone St James and Wendy Webb write some good ones. I think there are spirits out there but I haven't had any up close and personal encounters. If I'm looking for them in haunted hotels they are hiding from me. I do remember when we lived in Ohio there was a presence out in the field around our cluster of houses that made me uncomfortable. Nothing I could see or hear, just something. And it was there a couple of weeks, then gone. But I would make the long walk down the drive at night to haul the trash can out for pickup, singing or humming a hymn. My offkey singing would scare anything away!

  30. Just saw your post that you're at Hollins! My best friend's daughter spent a year there for college. What a lovely campus. I look forward to reading your spooky stories Laura!

  31. Fun post - and I am lucky enough to have taken Laura's class at Hollins. Was a great week and I learned a lot. We learned about craft through all the critiques and laughter. Carolyn

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  33. FChurch--Two amazing stories. Thank you for sharing them. How remarkable that your brother came just when your sister and your family needed him. The Haunting of Hill House--gosh, I adore that book so much. Shirley Jackson is my hero! Isn't it fun how some books are just as scary in the daylight? : )

    Grandma Cootie--I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to deal with ghosts in everyday life--but it sounds like you did just fine when your dad came to visit. I've only seen one 'real' ghost, and he was a smiling old man in a suit. I'm thrilled you're enjoying the book! I hope you'll let me know what you think when you get to the end.

  34. Mary--Yes, I would love that. Real exorcisms freak me out, and always have!

    Diane--Exactly! (But I don't want the real thing to be too scary!)

    Kathy--That is such a powerful and terrifying story--I feel worried just reading it. Good for you and your husband trusting your instincts.

  35. Denise Ann--You are so brave-I've always wanted to visit a medium, but I may just believe a little too much. I've never even let my kids have a Ouija board. I bet those kids from the party will always treasure that memory!

    Neliza! I'm so glad you came by. The sink thing would definitely weird me out. As to the other stuff--I think the cats need to get on the job! (Speaking as someone with the laziest cat EVER. ; )

  36. Pat D--Thank you! That's a spooky tale, indeed. I wonder what was out there in the field...When I take our trash down the lane, in the dark, I always have at least one light and two dogs with me! The Hollins campus is one of my favorite places on earth. So lovely. I hate to leave.

    Carolyn--I love that you dropped by here! I'm going to miss seeing your smiling face at 9 tomorrow morning. The group was so fun--I'm leaving feeling very energized and excited about the terrific work we looked at and that you all have ahead!

  37. My grandfather grew up in Italy. Although he was a non-believer in paranormal things, he told a story of a couple of incidents from his childhood. His family lived on the bottom floor of an apartment building that was apparently haunted. My great-grandmother's name was Teresa. They would often hear a knocking, and a voice calling "Teresa, Teresa!" My great grandmother, who had no patience for the paranormal, would respond "oh, shut up and go away!", and the voice would stop!

  38. Yup, DebRo, you have to know how to handle those paranormal intruders!

    Ouija boards--whoa. We really freaked each other out in high school.

    And a medium...sigh. I agree, Laura, ridiculously, just a lit-tle too scary.

  39. I don't know if this is just a case of predestination or what, but the mobile home I live in was originally owned by a childhood friend of my late mother. I was not aware of this when I bought it from her daughter almost ten years ago. From newspaper clippings and a photograph addressed to my mother, my youngest brother and I learned of the connection.
    He came to stay with me when he was in Hospice Care and passed away here almost six years ago.
    I've never been fearful or uncomfortable here. I can only assume that everyone is at peace.

  40. Deb--Hank is so right. Funny how many people are able to handle ghosts in just that way. But I wonder who it was?!

    Anonymous--Hi, Leta! That's a lovely story. Truly serendipitous. I think everyone being at peace is the perfect assumption. : )

  41. And "Anonymous"-- that is such a lovely way to end a terrific day...

    so wonderful to see you all!

    Laura, come back any are fabulous!

    And there's still time to comment to win BLISS HOUSE.

    Tomorrow--what makes a great young adult book?


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  43. Ha. The Haunting of Hill House. When I was 12ish, babysitting back in the early 1960s (yeah, of course it's a babysitting story) for whatever reason, after the kids were in bed, I had nothing to read, and there was nothing on TV, so I poked around the bookshelves and found The Haunting of Hill House (Reader's Digest I think). Read it. Scared myself silly.

    About a year later, babysitting at the same house. Only one thing on TV that night. Yup, the movie, The Haunting. So I had to watch it. Just as scary.