What’s Your Frequency?


Turn to Ash Vol. 2: Open Lines is officially out in the wild as of this writing. The second installment of editor and publisher Benjamin Holesapple’s infant horror fiction zine centers on the midnight radio show of one Chuck Leek, an irascible DJ who opens up the phone lines one night to hear all the strange, darksome, and paranormal confessions his faithful listeners have to tell him.

My ongoing column, “Small Wonders”, focuses on a very special radio episode itself this time out, covering none other than the infamous “Thing on the Fourble Board” from that classic of old time radio, Quiet, Please. This story is claimed by many to be the scariest audio drama ever produced for radio, including a scribe by the name of Harlan Ellison who once confided to Patton Oswalt that “The Thing on the Fourble Board” came damn close to staining his britches as a boy. (And it almost did the same for me, too.)

Find out more about this traumatizing tale and read others like it in the new issue. Or listen to “Fourble Board” for yourself on YouTube.

But I advise you to do so only if you’re not in the house alone.


Vlogging Bout Dolls

Hey, everyone. I made a vlog. My first in about five years. Lots has changed, ya’ll.

In this episode, be prepared to:

SEE… my dusty as hell monster doll collection.

HEAR… my nasally, head cold-induced voice.

SHIVER… along to the fun facts and terrifying tidbits lodged in this inordinately-long dissertation on the wonderful Universal Monsters of Sideshow Toys!

By the by, I noticed after publishing this that my mustache is totally uneven. Glad I found out now before I did something really embarrassing like posting a video of myself online!

“American Gods”Summer Reprise!


For those who recall, this past Fall I placed my story “American Gods, American Monsters” in M. P. Johnson’s and Sam Richards’ Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits, the second anthology from Weirdpunk Books.

I’m very happy to announce that the tale has been picked up for reprint in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2 by editors Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax. This annual series sets forth to collect “the extreme, harder side of horror, stories that break boundaries and trash taboos.” My story, which concerns itself with the obsessed Editor of a trashy true crime zine unraveling the mystery of a phantom serial killer, certainly invades a few comfort zones in the telling. My thanks go to Johnson and Richards for accepting the story on the first go-round, and to Chandler and Mullenax for giving it a second chance at finding an audience.

The book is due to be released in June of this year. You can find the TOC of all the other fine contributors on the Comet Press website.

In the meantime, Hybrid Moments is still available for purchase through Amazon and is still hungry for reviews (and flesh, but it’ll settle). Be sure to check out the exclusive Rue Morgue interview with M. P. Johnson, who is kind enough to give “Gods” a small shout-out in his responses.

The gods (and monsters) will see you later this summer…

Monster Books of My Youth


Fandom is not grown overnight. Like a precious Mariphasa lupina flower, it takes years of cultivation and care to develop into the monstrosity that will eventually become your life’s passion and estrange you from your loved ones.

As a creepy kid growing up, my fertilizer was the monochrome horror films of the 30s and 40s. As an amateur writer, that last sentence sounded a lot better in my head. But when I had run the video tape thin from my Blockbuster rentals and saw that AMC’s Monsterfest was still months away, I needed to mine other sources for the nasty nutrients that my budding mind so hungrily craved.

Thank the Lord for monster books.

Without these little tomes of terror, my fandom and more so my love for learning about the genre would have been in a sad, depressing state (believe it or not, though, boasting that you can name all the actors that portrayed the Universal monsters has an impact on making friends and influencing people that is grossly lacking). They entertained me during many an afternoon and fostered my thirst for knowledge like drops of blood to a withered, evil weed.

Everyone tired of the plant metaphors yet? Great. Then let’s tiptoe through the tulips and take a look at these horror-cultural books.*

P. S. This post originally started out just centering on nonfiction works, but the eight-year-old in me started getting all giddy as I started to recount all the fearsome fictions that I read, so they started to pop up here too. Hooray!

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OHMC ’16: The Rest, In Pieces


So sadly I did not get a chance to undertake the October Horror Movie Challenge in proper this time around, “in proper” meaning for me not only watching the requisite 31 films but watching 31 films that were completely new to me that I would later blog about here as well. I love holding myself to ridiculous standards, apparently.

But for certain reasons, none of which were bad, including an extravagant, awesome, and fairly epic Hallow-Teen Party event that I’d been planning for my library since summer that brought in a record number of YA-specific participants (woot-woot!), the past month proved to be a real time-cruncher, so I thought that the least I could do was throw together a slapdash post enumerating the rest of the un-blogged movies I watched in time for Samhain with some brief words on each.

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US / 1991

Though I’m not very big on Valentine’s Day as an actual celebration, I have a huge soft spot for Valentines that come in the form of movies. CAST A DEADLY SPELL is a love letter to the genre if ever there was one, right up there with CREEPSHOW in its unadulterated affection for all of horror’s luminaries and trappings and the sophistication with which it communicates that love. Screenwriter Joseph Dougherty and director Martin Campbell also demonstrate a deep knowledge and love for the mechanics of noir as well, and this is what keeps the viewer from ever feeling shortchanged on either front. This is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of genre mash-ups: two tastes that taste great together. “A hardboiled shamus tracking down the whereabouts of the Necronomicon” is a concept that might scream trouble to some and the blatant name-checking of figures like Lovecraft and Bradbury surely won’t bode any better, but like the heartfelt homages of Fred Dekker CAST A DEADLY SPELL manages to rise above faint lip-service and exist as its own assured and lovably goofy entity. The connection to Dekker isn’t just tangential either; CAST… was an original TV movie produced by the film branch of HBO, the same channel that had found recent success with their TALES FROM THE CRYPT series, a program which Dekker had written several teleplays for and even directed the season two episode, “The Thing from the Grave.” Much of the black humor and comic book-imagination that fueled that series and Dekker’s own projects like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and THE MONSTER SQUAD turn up in CAST A DEADLY SPELL, and together this small cluster of mid-80s to early-90s productions form a distinctly jovial and joyous brand of horror that we just don’t see anymore in an age of post-modernism where every trope and well-worn plot must call attention to itself in well-meaning but essentially jaded films ranging from SCREAM to THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. CAST A DEADLY SPELL is content with just being itself, and what it is is the stuff dreams are made of.



US / 1966

Do you remember that recurring bit from the Three Stooges where a couple of innocent diners would look on in horror as one of the boys chased a rascally cat or dog from the kitchen and would later return with dishes whose contents were highly suspect? Watching THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS is not so very far removed from that experience. While I had been vaguely aware of the film’s Sweeney Todd-inspired “accidental cannibalism” conceit and its tongue-in-cheek manner, the abundance of overt slapstick found here did give me a good goosing. The proper frame of mind to enter this film with is to understand that nothing is to be taken seriously, not even the verbal interactions of the characters, to say nothing of the snowball’s-chance-in-Hell likelihood that our three eponymous criminals could possibly  get away with their “master plan.” That probably sounds like a knock against the film, but it isn’t really. It’s refreshing to take a dive into the deep end of lunatic cinema from time to time, where women enthusiastically punctuate every fired round from their guns with a pelvic thrust; where slaughtered girlfriends are instantly forgotten as soon as a new piece of cheesecake walks through the door who is in turn instantly forgotten as soon as she’s killed and her identical twin walks through the door; where restaurants come equipped with vats of acid in the kitchen for the sole purpose of dunking bodies both living and dead. And so on. With a running time barely clocking in over an hour and a director helming the production by the Stooge-worthy moniker of T. L. P. Swicegood, THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS ensures a goofy afternoon folly for those crypt-kickers who like their treats with an extra helping of kinky treats.



Canada / 1983

“Will I be this way when I am dead?” asks the old woman all skin and bones, and John Vernon is there as the ringmaster to this circus of trick poodles all vying for the same treat and says that, yes, this is what your dead face will look like but it’s your truest self now, the nucleus of your being waiting to be born after your perfect Samantha Eggar cheekbones been shed away like so much human dust. CURTAINS is one of the smartest slashers to have risen during the subgenre’s Golden Age and it’s a wonder that this Canuck chiller isn’t spoken of more frequently or in the glowing terms that it deserves. The film is a meditation on not just the vagaries of aging and accepting that we’ve already seen the back of our personal glories but on the very concept of “acting” itself, on what drives us to assume another’s identity and become someone else whether it’s in front of the unblinking eye of the camera or a lover, on the diminishing returns of satisfaction that can be reaped from our efforts when we need to crawl over a growing pile of broken backs to get what it is we want. That the movie contains some of the most deliberately paced and fiendishly executed suspense setpieces feels like a bonus award for the viewer when really it’s just an honor to be nominated. We eventually discover the true identity of the masked killer, but when we see that haggard wraith wielding its scythe as it glides across the ice in torturous slow-motion, in that moment we know the figure for her truest self. She is Lady Death, and she is gliding towards us all.