Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Brocken Spectre

Now here’s a curiosity – one which is well documented, features frequently in classic works such as Goethe’s Faust and, above all, is true.

It is a natural phenomenon known as the Brocken Spectre, named after the mountain on which it was first observed back in the eighteenth century.

The Brocken, or Blocksberg, is the highest peak in the densely forested and often eerie Harz mountain range in German. For up to 300 days per year it is shrouded in mist and fog and it is the prevailing weather conditions that cause the spooky phenomenon known as the Brocken Spectre. It got its name when, according to legend, a hiker was startled by a ghostly apparition looming out of the mist. He was so terrified by what he saw that he fell to his death. Now local folklore has it that if you see the spectre, a death will surely occur – and it could be yours. So do think carefully before deciding to go searching for ghosts on the Blocksberg.

 If I haven’t deterred you, then you will have to ensure that the weather conditions are right.  You need a foggy, misty early morning or early evening. Climb the 3747 feet to the summit and then look down into the mist. Make sure the sun is behind you. Your shadow will appear distorted – your legs too long and your head too small, in a sort of triangular shape. You certainly won’t recognise yourself. Not only that, it won’t be in the right place. The white mist will alter your depth of perception and the shape will appear to be opposite you, rather than next to you. You will feel you are staring at a ghost. Owing to defraction, your shadow will appear to have a rainbow halo. Again this is the action of the sun behind you and the millions of tiny water droplets in the mist.

Blocksberg isn’t the only place you can see such phenomena but it is probably the best documented. In Shelley’s  Scenes from the Faust of Goethe, he writes:

"Now to the Brocken the witches go;

The mighty multitude here may be seen

Gathering, wizard and witch, below"

Authors and poets from Bram Stoker to Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, Thomas de Quincey and Thomas Pynchon have all drawn inspiration from this fascinating mountain.

The Harz Mountains form the magical, and frequently scary, backdrop to many famous children’s stories. The Brothers Grimm set Hansel and Gretel there. Snow White, Cinderella and a host of myths, legends and folklore abound.

So next time you go climbing in the mist and fog, with the sun behind you, remember the ghost opposite you is just your shadow...probably.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Haunting of Boom Hall

Northern Ireland – or Ulster if you prefer – boasts some particularly scary and creepy haunted houses. None more so than the derelict Boom Hall in Derry. Built in 1779 by John Alexander (one of the family who founded of the Bank of Ireland), the Hall stands on the banks of the River Foyle. The land on which it stands is itself haunted, apparently by Captain Browning. His ship -the Mountjoy - was one of three which managed to break through the wooden boom, which Jacobean forces had erected a a barrier across the river, to prevent food reaching the besieged city in 1689. Sadly, Captain Browning died of the wounds he had received in the battle to relieve the city.

His ghost can be seen when the weather turns misty over the water. He appears as a tall, upstanding – if almost transparent - figure dressed in a dark blue tailcoat trimmed with gold braid.

The estate of Boom Hall passed through a number of hands, from John Alexander’s grandson to Lord Caledon (a distant relative),followed by a wealthy merchant named Daniel Baird. Eventually it was requisitioned by the Navy for use by the WRNS during World War II. Latterly, the house fell into disrepair, ending up with the daughter of the last owner, Michael Henry McDevitt. She closed most of the Hall while she lived there. Now it is in a dangerous state, but proves to be a magnet for paranormal investigators who sometimes get more than they bargained for. The online newspaper, Derry Now , reported a few days ago that two ghost hunters became trapped there and had to be rescued by the Northern Ireland Fire Service!

One tragic story of the house concerns a young girl related to the house’s owners. She had become romantically involved with a young groomsman employed in her home in England and her parents had decided that such an unsuitable match could not continue. They removed her to Boom Hall. The young man though was determined and followed her there. He hid in the stables and they secretly met there until they were discovered. The girl was confined to her bedroom with the door locked. The young man got away and the girl grieved for her lost love.

A few weeks later, her bedroom went up in flames and all efforts to save her failed.  When the flames were eventually extinguished, the family fully expected to find her poor charred body – or at least the ashes of it. But nothing was found of her. Maybe she escaped and eloped with her young man, for she was never heard of or seen again. Well, not alive anyway.

It wasn’t long before people started reporting ghostly sightings of her, walking along the corridor at the top of the house. One servant said the girl had appeared to her, whispered something unintelligible and then taken her by the hand to the stables. There the servant found a brooch which had belonged to the girl. She took it to her mistress who identified it and took it to mean the girl had escaped.

She has been sighted on a number of occasions since and ensures the diehard ghosthunters’ fascination with the Hall remains firmly in place.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Writing Nasty: Human Monster

Today, I am delighted to welcome fellow horror author, Glenn Rolfe. He's here to talk about the art of writing characters who, well let's just say, they're not the sort of people you would want to take home to Great Aunt Maud...The stage is yours, Glenn

For my latest novella, THINGS WE FEAR, I brought in a real nasty piece of work in the form of antagonist, Matt Holmes. Matt’s got a smile worth a million bucks, he’s fit and he’s friendly, and he’s also a psychotic, serial rapist. Nice guy, right? As a writer, sometimes creating a despicable character like this is draining. People think because we write horror we can wallow in this sludge and come out smiling. Well, maybe some can, but I’m not one of them. When I write someone like Matt or Dennis Greely, the main character in my short story, “Flaws,” I walk away carrying the grime and the filth of the character as if I’d just fell in the sewer. You can take a shower and wash away the sewage, but the mental scum lingers. And that’s true of the places you allow your mind to go when putting together a human monster like Matt or Dennis. At the same time, that’s when you know you’ve created something or someone that’s going to make people react. 

The other challenge here is crafting a devil so mean with the economy of words you’re allowed in a novella (or short story). The author in you always wants to write more… always, but you have to decide how much or how little you can do to make the character get across the appropriate amount of jerk/scumbag and still be believable. It can be very tricky, but if you’re disciplined in your writing and are able to step back see the overall piece, it can be accomplished.

Some of my favorite shorter pieces with horrible people:

RED by Jack Ketchum (see McCormick, Danny and McCormick, Michael)

A DARK AUTUMN by Kristopher Rufty ( see Lucy, Helen, Amanda, and Michelle)

My all-time favorite character to hate due to despicability? You have to go to a novel-length work to find him, but beyond the shadow of the demon on your bedroom wall….that character for me is Dale from Wrath James White’s novel, THE RESURRECTIONIST

Do yourself a favor and find those titles. I hope you’ll also give my thriller, THINGS WE FEAR, or my three novella collection WHERE NIGHTMARES BEGIN a chance. Feel free to find me on Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads and let me know what you think.

Things We Fear

Summer has just begun, and fear is in season.

School’s out, and the faculty at Fairington Elementary School are free for the summer. Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her classroom, but she’s afraid of being hurt again. Meanwhile, Aaron is determined not to let his phobia of drowning prevent him from enjoying the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town.

But they’re about to learn real fear. Fairington is home to a monster. Phys Ed teacher Matt Holmes has more to offer the ladies than a perfect smile. He’s a killer and he’s got his sights set on Emily.

Who at Fairington will conquer their fears? And who will fall to a psychopath’s hellbent rage? 

Where Nightmares Begin

(A collection of the three novellas Boom Town, Abram's Bridge, Things We Fear)
Monsters can hide anywhere. Under a bridge, below the earth…or behind a smile.

Abram’s Bridge

When Lil Ron realizes the beautiful girl he met under Abram’s Bridge is a ghost, he sets out to make things right for Sweet Kate. His quest leads him into a tangle of small-town secrets as he uncovers a story of heartbreak, violence…and fear.

Boom Town
Thirty years after a notorious UFO encounter, the town of Eckert, Wisconsin, is besieged by mysterious rumbles from deep in the earth. As the earthly tremors grow stronger, two pre-teens discover a dislodged pipe spewing a strange, bubbling ooze. Their curiosity unleashes an afternoon of unbridled terror for the entire town.

Things We Fear
Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her Fairington Elementary classroom, but fears she’ll be hurt again. Aaron is determined to overcome his drowning phobia and enjoy the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town. But real fear lurks closer than they think. Fairington harbors a psychopath seething with hell-bent rage—and he’s got his sights set on Emily.

 About the Author

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.

He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author of the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and his latest, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will also be released in March 2016. His next book, Chasing Ghosts, will be coming by 2017.

He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

Praise for Things We Fear

"Things We Fear is a compulsively readable tale of obsession and dark suspense, with one of the creepiest villains I've encountered in recent years." -- Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh
"Glenn Rolfe's new thriller is addictive. A quick, compelling read. Rolfe creates tension with a minimal amount of words. His characters are so well-drawn they come alive (before they die)." -- Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage

"Fast paced and tense, with one of the most interesting monsters I've read about in recent times." -- Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to Be Paid

"Glenn Rolfe is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of a number of excellent new writers to ensure the horror genre is kept alive and well. His previous books – Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town and Blood and Rain – have also served to show the extensive breadth of his imagination and Things We Fear carries on that trend. Quite simply, each story is fresh, new, exciting, and unpredictable." -- Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel

"In this frighteningly real look at true horror, Rolfe manages to up the ante of tension while balancing genuinely heartbreaking moments, while showcasing his talent for creating unforgettable characters placed in equally unforgettable moments." -- David, Beneath The Underground

"There is a definite old school feel about this novella. It isn’t an over the top gore fest. Instead, what we have is a tense, psychological thriller that builds steadily towards a fitting climax." -Adrian Shotbolt, at Ginger Nuts of Horror

Praise for Abram's Bridge (a novella within Where Nightmares Begin)

"This is a stellar debut from Glenn Rolfe, a tale that will give you chills as much as it will make you question the hardness in men's hearts and the spirit of redemption." -Hunter Shea, Author of The Montauk Monster and Island of the Forbidden

"If you're looking for a page-turning who-done-it with a touch of the supernatural and a solid all around story that satisfies, then look no further." -David Bernstein, author of Goblins and Unhinged

Praise for Boom Town (a novella within Where Nightmares Begin)

"Short and sharp, Glenn Rolfe’s BOOM TOWN packs in in for a novella. An excellent blend of horror and sci-fi, with way more character development than you usually see in a shorter work like this." -Russell James, Author of Q Island

"Boom Town is a fun, fast-paced read packed with action, copious amounts of alien slime and an aura of creepiness that is sure to appeal to both horror and science fiction fans." -Rich, The Horror Bookshelf

Things We Fear and Where Nightmares Begin are both published on March 8th. Here are some of the outlets where you will find them:

Things We Fear
Barnes & Noble

Where Nightmares Begin
Barnes & Noble