Friday, July 19, 2013

Got Ghosts?

Posted by: Jax Garren
My little sister is in town, which means new story ideas are sure to come. A couple years ago we drank too much vodka and watched 80s television--a fortunate event that resulted in The Tales of the Underlight's first hero, burn-scarred warrior Wesley Haukon. But my sister is not only my '80s TV pal, she's also the only one of my close friends who will watch horror movies with me. I'm not so big on slasher films; if there's a serial killer in it you can count me out. But I love a good paranormal horror--particularly if ghosts are involved. And I've heard great things about today's release The Conjuring. I'm particularly excited because it looks like a throwback style to the old 70s horror flicks with their slow build terror. My favorite kind!

Anyone else planning to see The Conjuring? I did a little behind the scenes research. Like a lot of horror movies, this one claims to be "based on real life events." But, uh, so is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie based on a guy who wasn't in Texas and didn't use a chainsaw. So I took the claim with a grain of salt. But when I heard the protagonists of the show were real life paranormal investigating duo Ed and Lorraine Warren (most famous for having investigated the Amityville Horror) I decided to take a deeper look. This movie, depicting the Perron family's horrifying encounter with an evil presence haunting a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, sounds like it might somewhat match up with "true" events--or at least the events as claimed by the Perrons and Warrens, depending on your take on ghosts.

Personally, I don't know what I think about ghosts. I love Ouija boards and can consistently get them to work. Once, to my panic, after I asked the board who we were talking to, it answered, "You know." Eek! I have one non-Ouija ghost encounter to share. It's easy to explain away, I think, but I still remember it with a happy chill.

Back in college I went to New Orleans with my university choir for Jazz Festival. It was just after 2 a.m. and several friends and I were leaving Bourbon Street on foot to head back to our hotel. Earlier in the evening one friend and I had gone on a Haunted History Ghost Tour --which was a lot of fun, if you're ever in NOLA and looking for something spooky to do!

Our path to the hotel took us past Jackson Square, with St. Louis Cathedral presiding in its eerie, Spanish-Colonial splendor. The alley beside the cathedral had been one of the stops on our ghost tour, so my fellow "ghost hunter" and I hauled everyone down it to tell them about the spirit of the priest haunting the site. We prefaced the story as our tour guides had by explaining, "A ghost encounter usually has three elements. Most people are familiar with two: the drop in temperature (cold spots) and sounds that have no source or cause (like rattling chains). With this ghost, the bells of the cathedral can sometimes be heard even when they're still. What most people don't know is that before the sounds and cold spots, the first sign of a ghost is usually--" At this point, a friend wrinkled her nose and announced, "Does anyone else smell incense?" My fellow ghost tour member and I exchanged glances, and he continued, "As we were saying, ghosts have scents and this one's is incense. You can smell it right before he show up." I started to smell the incense, too, coming from the sacristy door. At two in the morning. We all ran screaming from the alley!

Anyone else looking forward to The Conjuring? And do you have any personal ghost stories to share? I'd love to hear them!


  1. Yes, I'm excited to see this movie too, Jax. I actually have a cool story kind of related to this movie. My best friend grew up in a haunted house. She used to tell me stories, and I was a bit skeptical about the things she told me. After her mom died, I was helping her clean out the house to sell it. We were in her bedroom, just the two of us. Her husband was outside painting. I thought I sensed someone behind me and caught the glimpse of a man in a blue t-shirt walk into the closet. I turned around, thinking it was my friend's hubby. My friend had turned too, having seen the same thing. Then her husband poked his head through the window from outside and asked us something. I carefully went over to the now-shut closet and peeked inside. It was empty. My friend's first words were, "See! I told you!" Not long after that, when things escalated for my friend, I actually contacted a well-known paranormal organization for help. Lorraine Warren responded to my email that my friend needed to get out of that house. She also mentioned some things in her email that I hadn't told her and that she couldn't have easily known (I believe she's psychic), and she gave me her phone number to call her because she wanted to help. We never called Lorraine because my friend moved quickly, and she just wanted to put it all behind her. Funny thing is, we've noticed that house is always being sold and resold. I can't help but wonder why.

    1. Wow!! That's crazy! Did LW imply all ghosts are bad? I've been told that most are just chillin' and nothing to worry about. I'd love to hear more about what happened. I'm contemplating a ghost story after I finish this proposal for my next TotU book and am dipping my toes into research. :)

  2. Yes, if I'm remembering correctly, she did. She called my friend's situation a "demonic infestation." You can email me anytime. I've done loads of research on this topic. :)

  3. ~shudders~ I have no intention of seeing this one. I love horror movies, but there are two kinds I wont see: torture porn and "based on a true demonic/evil spirit story" movies (and I'll include alien visitations in this category). I don't believe in demons (except for the kind I write about ;) ), but the idea of evil spirits scares me nonetheless. Not in a good-chills-movie kind of way, but in a looking-over-my-shoulder-and-jumping-at-shadows kind of way. Frankly, it makes me angry when people make these claims, because there's some kind of fictional world/real world agreement that seems to be violated. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's one thing for someone to believe something like that has happened to them. I'm not going to argue with them. But for horror fiction to be touted as "based on real events" seems like the worst kind of manipulation. Like a threat almost. Does that make any sense? LOL. I can't articulate this, but it bugs the crap out of me. I guess it's probably a reaction to having grown up in an Evangelical Christian home. There was always the threat of demon possession and torment lurking around every corner, and I resent that kind of manipulative BS to this day.

    1. Oh, wow. I grew up in a household where it was never considered real (mainstream Protestant). I can see how I would feel very differently about this time of film had I been raised in an environment where people believed and used it to control behavior.

      I tend to roll my eyes at the "based on true events" horror claim; it's such a staple and usually schlock. I also know people who truly believe in ghosts and other manifestations, and most of the people I've met who believe do so because they've seen something that convinced them. Whether or not what they saw is real, I don't pretend to know. So, like for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre which is just not even vaguely like anything that happened, that claim is just crap. But on ghost stories...I don't know. Was it a hoax? Or did something happen that really convinced these people? Or does someone have a mental condition that caused them to see/hear something? Or did it, uh, actually happen? I do believe the movie will make the story more grisly/creeptastic than it actually was, because hello Hollywood.

      100% with you on the torture porn. I I can't do that. Other people can do as they will and mazel tov, but no part of that is fun or entertaining to me. I just can't watch it! :)


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