Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Haunted Asylums: Pennhurst

There aren't enough good haunted asylum movies. I love Grave Encounters. I've seen other movies about haunted asylum but most of them are terrible. Old buildings, in general, are scary. Asylums are a special kind of scary because of the padded cells and rusted equipment. Their dark history makes them even more terrifying.

 I might spend the night in a haunted house. Don't know if I'd do a haunted asylum. I'd like to tour one during the day, get some nice pictures and inspiration for my stories.

 Here's a "real" haunted asylum.

Image Credit: Flickr-Daniel Hellerman
Pennhurst State School and Hospital was an institution for mentally and physically disabled individuals. In 1908, Pennsylvania built the school as an asylum for patients with special needs. It was first known as the State Institution for Epileptics and Feeble Minded.

By the mid-1960's, Pennhurst housed around 2,000 people, most of them children, which was about 900 more than the buildings could comfortably accommodate. Because of the overcrowding, many patients spent their days and nights trapped in metal cribs. Others were so desperate for human contact that they went to great lengths for attention that they injured themselves or smeared themselves with their own feces in hopes of a bath.

Image Credit: Flickr-Craig Kuhn
Patients were abused, tortured, and even murdered by staff. In 1968, “Suffer the Little Children,”  a program on NBC, showed the terrible treatment patients underwent. That broadcast and repeated allegations of the staff’s abuse of their patients led to Pennhurst’s closing in 1986. Thing like equipment and patients’ belongings were left behind. 

Today, people believe the buildings and underground tunnels are haunted by the angry spirits of patients who suffered and died here. There are reports of slamming doors, footsteps and sounds of vomiting coming from empty rooms. Witnesses have even seen the spirit of a little girl roaming the buildings.

It's now a haunted house attraction. 

Pennhurst State's Haunted History

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Horror in Attack On Titan

Whenever I come across good horror, I want to pick it apart so I can make my own stories scarier. Attack on Titan isn't strictly horror but it's got the elements. The end of episode 1 in the new season freaked me out.

I don't usually get that creeped out, especially not by a show. When something does affect me, I find it fascinating. I want to know why it's different.

For those who don't know, Attack on Titian is an anime set in a dystopian world. Humans live behind tall walls because man-eating Titians roam the world. Season one began with a Titan breaking through one of the walls and destroying an entire town.

The Monster
I'm the last person to say gore is scary because generally, it's not. There's something cringe-worthy about watching a person get eaten, though. But, I've watched zombie movies without flinching. What's so disturbing about Attack on Titan?

Just the way the Titans look, move, give me the willies. I read something awhile ago that talk about why people found things like clowns and dolls so terrifying. They look human but their appearance is off. For clowns, it's the make-up. Titans look like giant, naked humans with something off about their appearance... besides behind huge.

They're much creepier than zombies. It also could be I've gotten used to zombies that they don't affect me anymore. Man-eating Titans are a new terror.

Feeling Powerless
It's humans against giants. The humans' main weapons are basically blades and equipment that get them close to the Titans. They're at a disadvantage. Humans have cannons but those weapons are stationary.

The feeling of being powerless is all throughout horror, especially haunted house stories. The person or family is being hunted by something but they can't do a thing about them. Or, they try to fight but in the end, they still lose. In Attack on Titan, the characters begin at a disadvantage. Then, they keep encountering new, stronger Titans.

Fear and Dread
Most people think of horror as ghosts or serial killers. The genre is a bit vague. Horror aims to create fear, dread or disgust in the viewer/reader. In Attack on Titan, the look on the characters' faces when they encounter a Titan... you can feel the fear.

The story built the Titans to be these nearly unstoppable monsters. At first, they just look silly. Then you learn their true terror and they're not so silly anymore. We see how the characters become froze at the mere sight of them. We feel their fear and that's what makes a scene scary. Don't just give me a monster, show me why I should be afraid of it.

Also, Attack on Titan is like Game of Thrones in the way it treats its characters. We don't know who will live. No one is safe. That creates dread in the viewer and the character.

Can it be a good horror story without memorable or even likable characters? Sure. I watched this movie with two annoying main characters. The story was creepy enough to hold my interest. I think a good horror story should get you invested in the characters, though. That's where the fear and dread come it. The story makes you like the characters then puts them in danger. Attack on Titan does this...a little too often for my poor heart.

Yeah, I can't turn my writer brain off. When I find an interesting story, I have to pick it apart to find out why.

Anyone watching any good anime?

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Week in Links 4/21/17: Game of Thrones, Netflix, Fahrenheit 451

Welcome to the weekly roundup of links for fellow writers and nerds.

Book Marketing and Branding
Netflix May 2017: New Arrivals And What's Leaving

Want to see your post in the next The Week in Links? Email me at The post needs to be published between today, 5/6 and next Friday, 5/13.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Explore The Unburned Island at Your Own Risk

The entire island was on fire. Everyone disappeared. One schoolhouse survived unscathed. People believe it's now haunted. The school and the island remained abandoned for years.

One day, Kiran, En and a team of magical investigators travel to the island to banish whatever haunts the schoolhouse. It takes them no time to realize the building isn't the problem. The island is.

Visit The Unburned Island. See images that inspired the story on Pinterest.


Grass rustled. Kiran stopped. A figure headed towards her. It jerked as though it wasn’t used to its body. The head turned at impossible angles. It twitched like the broken hands of a clock. It clicked as though each step snapped a bone.

Kiran spread her feet shoulder length apart. She made sure all the lines of her body were straight so power could flow freely. She lifted two fingers and drew a level one ward symbol—a circle with a simple X in the middle.

Nothing happened.

She tried level two— an X with a line down the middle, from the sky to the ground.


She hit level five and her patience was growing thin. Symbols at higher levels took longer to create. Knots twisted in her wrist and side. The thing was close now. The smell was so bile she could taste it. She didn’t want to inhale and get more of that stuff in her. Kiran needed to breathe. If she wasn’t calm, the spell wouldn’t do what she wanted.

She stepped back, making sure to keep her body straight. This was taking too long.

Hopefully, level ten would work. She made the ward sign. The creature shattered.

Kiran hit the ground. She couldn’t hear the clicking of bones anymore.

Some magic had a strong recoil. Wards were dangerous. You felt the effects only after the enemy was gone. Kiran’s limbs trembled. That was about all the moving she would do for a while.

What was wrong with this place?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Photos and A Story

“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.” -Yoko Ono

Flowers swayed as they walked by. Tree branches brushed their arms. The tall grass wound around their legs. The entire forest was alive and it wanted them.

Lyov Ness stretched his arms over his head. Sleeping all winter left his body stiff. His mind tried. The cold months trapped him in dreams full of fear and soul deep pain. This bright world released him. 

"Spring is the best," Vira Nin said, cracking her neck.

Her slim fingers danced over a purple flower. A violet ball of light rose from its center and sank into her palm. The smell of lavender chased away the lingering effects of his bad dream. More plants grew around the one Vira fed off. Lyov absorbed energy from a yellow flower. It multiplied. 

His body moaned and whined. The meal was delicious. He needed more.

"Did you have the dream again?" he asked.

Vira nodded. Her expression darkened. "Same as always. I was afraid, but I don't remember why."

Winter tortured them. Spring was their savior. Lyov felt refreshed. The forest was begging them to absorb its power. Lyov and Vira drew energy and the forest prospered. Soon bare trees grew vibrant, thick leaves. Bright flowers turned the forest floor into a rainbow. Lyov could scarcely see the ground. 

He no longer knew how many springs he saw. Vira was always beside him. Neither knew what they were, only that winter dragged them into a deep sleep. Spring woke them up. They fed off the energy in nature but didn't know for what purpose. 

"Maybe this year we'll find others like us," he said. 

Vira nodded. "We haven't visited all the overseas lands yet." 

Vira was more interested in exploring than finding their own kind. He asked her about it years ago. She clicked her tongue and said, "I have you. Why would I be lonely?"

Rushing water led them to a clearing. 

A small waterfall run into a clear pool. Vira stripped off her clothes and stepped into the water. A tree branch presented them with fruit. He and Vira didn't need to eat food but they enjoyed the taste.

Voices neared the clearing. Lyov paid them no mind as he joined Vira in the pool. The talking stopped as humans came into view-- an adult male and two children with enough similarities to be father and child. The man's face was full of pride while the children's held nothing but wonder.

They looked right through Vira and Lyov. He didn't always enjoy being invisible, but at times like these, he was glad no one could see them naked. 

The two males roamed the forest, picking fruits and plants. 

The little girl, probably the youngest, headed for Vira.

Lyov and Vira weren't invisible to everyone. This girl wasn't all human. Curious. She stood at the pool's edge. Vira handed the child a piece of her orange. Giggling, the girl took it. Vira then pulled a glowing red ball from the closest plant and made it dance around the half-human. The child's laughter made the forest shiver. 

"This is why we fight," the older man said to his son."This forest keeps our town alive." He handed the boy a leaf. "The plants taste like magic."

The boy chewed on the leaf with wide eyes. He nodded. Neither paid any attention to the little girl. 

Vira dropped the half-eaten orange into the child's hand and gently pushed her toward her family. Th girl waved and joined her father. He didn't ask how she got the fruit. Flowers brushed against her leg while branches pointed her to useful herbs. She tipped her head as though hearing nature speaking to her.  

"She's different," Vira said. "We should keep an eye on her."

Lyov nodded. The forest liked her. Maybe this girl could give them some clue about their origin and purpose. Maybe this year they could learn what those terrible dreams meant.