Month: August 2013

The Haunting of Reindeer Manor

The Haunting of Reindeer Manor (Part 1 of the Haunted Houses of Anderson)

Kevin Michael Guest

Accessed via Kindle App

182 pages

While I do like to read a variety of ghost stories, including fluffy, happy ending type stuff, I have to admit that I really like the darker fiction. I’ve always been drawn to movies like 13 Ghosts and House on Haunted Hill (the 1999 version). I know that some of you are rolling your eyes right now, because they’re both main stream and not entirely dark, not really anyway, but I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that I tend to be drawn to the heavier, darker end of haunting fiction.

This is one of those books. Reindeer Manor is probably actually one of the darkest pieces that I’ve reviewed for this blog in a very long time, and I have to admit that I liked the change of pace. That being said, this one will also have one of the longest lists of disclaimers for the same reason.

The major weakness I had with this short is that there’s not much new in this storyline. An almost discredited academic seeks out one of the most haunted houses he can find in Anderson, Texas and sets out to prove its haunting with the aid of a team made up of another psychologist, a psychic, his secretary, and an observer. Each member of the team has a twist or secret in their past that the house pulls from to help bring down the entire team’s destruction.

Why, yes, if you’ve seen any 90s horror that is pretty much the central plot to the Haunting of Hill House.

That being said, I actually can enjoy a piece that does a known trope and does it well. I liked this one. At 182 pages, I think the length helped with this book keeping the plot moving along fast enough that the climaxes hit where the tension was highest. There was a lot of questioning regarding motives-were the people caught up in this mess actually being manipulated by the house, or were they really just nasty people? And honestly, I thought that the dining room scene was well executed and frankly not an overused trope (though not completely original either, admittedly).  My only issue with the plot as a whole is that by the final climax, the storyline jumps just frequently enough that I had a hard time keeping track of what was going on but not so much that I lost track of the overall plot.

This isn’t heavy reading or the type of horror that wants to look at themes or symbols. But it was a fun, if fairly stereotypical, read.

Now for the disclaimers: This is definitely a book for mature readers. There’s a fair amount of violence, especially towards the end. Fair to heavy amount of profanity. Implied and/or attempted sexual violence. Discussion of occult themes, though not in great detail and relevant to the plot.

Good Intentions

I was watching this episode of the Twilight Zone while I was working on tearing out the first version of this project and casting on the new version.

The project in question should be identifiable to long time readers by the theme of that episode. If not, well…this shawl’s going to be hellish. Heh.

Haunted Western New York-Utica Psychiatric Center



Returning to my stomping grounds, the Utica Psychiatric Center is cited as one of the most haunted locations in Utica. The building was opened in 1843 as the country’s first public mental health center. This was prior to the era of the Kirkbride Plan and moral treatment, which helped to make mental health care more humane for patients; the H.H. Richardson Complex was a Kirkbride building with an eye towards the safety of the patients, even if the treatment fell well below what we would currently call humane and safe.

The first director of the Center was Dr. Amariah Brigam, who would later help to found the American Psychiatric Association. However, the development that the Center would become known for was the Utica Crib. The crib was an adult-sized restraining device that was used to control patients who doctors believed could not be controlled in other ways. Even as early as the 1860s the crib was controversial, with some suggesting that it had a calming effect and others arguing that it was dehumanizing (see here for a photo).

Claims about the haunting seem pretty typical for haunted asylums, and run parallel to those claims made about the Richardson Complex. Orbs, ectoplasm, voices, and other traditional haunted phenomena seem to be the most common.

Please do not enter this site, it is currently not open to the public.

Haunted Places in Utica Area

Kirkbride Plan

Utica Psychiatric Center

Utica Lunatic Asylum

The Most Notorious Ghosts, Haunts, and Urban Legends in Utica

Black Stick-men

I’ve been avoiding talking about shadow people on this blog for years. I don’t want to do it. I have some rather strong views on the subject, and I have to admit they come firmly down on the side of ‘skeptic’ and not ‘believer’. I suppose the most polite and least likely way to word this without getting me flamed will be to say that I don’t deny that people are encountering something-I’m just not willing to label it a shadow being wearing a fedora.

That being said, the black stick-men phenomena is one that I’m so unfamiliar with that I’m honestly baffled by it. I’ve spent a large chunk of time looking for the original list that I found the legend on, and finally! managed to do it (it’s here, by the way). I really have no idea what could be going on with this one.

The story goes that people are seeing what amounts to animated stick-men of the type that kids draw or that show up on bathroom door signs. They are completely two-dimensional in that you can only really see them by facing them head-on or walking behind them; they disappear into nothingness when seen from the side. They seem to favor…top hats? These stick men seem to be very tall and fairly peaceful but they seem to not like being looked at. According to the legend the sight of them inspires fear or dread, but then I’m not sure ‘elation’ would be an expected reaction to a situation like this.

The obvious response is that a two-dimensional creature can’t exist in a three dimensional plane. However, I would like to point out that while I don’t believe in these creatures, the physics of a legend rarely seem to factor into the belief in a legend. Some of the Internet discussion seems to suggest that perhaps what people are seeing are birds like cranes or herons, which in low light conditions do admittedly look weird as all get out.

I’m going to label this one as cryptid, though to be completely honest I’m going with ‘created legend’. Some of the Internet discussion says that there’s no diffusion effect going on like with a normal legend and that there’s reports of sightings, but there also appears to be little to no evidence of these things existing, and there’s very little to no historical back story. They seem to just have appeared out of nowhere, so to speak, once Listverse mentioned them. However, once they do come up people start to relay stories of sightings-often involving children or while the respondent was a child. Discussion seems to want to place these as something inter-dimensional, alien, or something else entirely. Perhaps what we’re looking at here is something more archetypal than paranormal?

Or, they’re completely made up-which honestly is almost interesting in its own right.

Black Stick Men

The Black Stick Men Phenomena

Black Stick-men: The Next Paranormal Fad?

Self Care

How do you practice self-care?

Part of the reason that I’ve been quiet with the blogging, and with the blogging about projects or recipes, is that I’m forcing myself to get into a habit of self-care. I want to have something in place before my SAD kicks in before the winter and frankly the last time I had a stable routine I was in college and therefore had a radically different schedule.

I think that even if you’re not dealing with depression issues, self-care is an exceptionally important idea. It doesn’t have to be based around the physical but you really need to have a routine that will allow you to make some space for yourself and unwind. For me, what I’m finding is most helpful is a routine that is three-fold: active, physical, and spiritual.

The active is that at least once a week I need to engage in activity, whether it be read a book, socialize online or in a group (I got to go to a new coffee house on Saturday and meet up with a new group of people), or make something. The physical is find a way to pamper myself, take care of myself better, or both. I’ve been playing around with different skincare techniques to figure out what my skin likes in my late twenties, and getting back in the swing of cosmetics. I bought a brush and started dry brushing my skin. The spiritual is the easiest for me and has been for a couple of years. I walk past a small lake every day and it helps to ground me. I pray, I pray a lot actually. I guess my level of religiosity surprises people.

With the exception of the physical I don’t do everything, every day-and even that varies from day to day. Some days it’s all I can do to brush my teeth, let alone put on a face full of make up. But I do try to find some time every day to take care of myself, because one of the realities of being adult is that no one is going to just give you the time. You have to learn to prioritize yourself, even if it’s just a ten minute walk or five minutes washing your face in the way that feels best for you.

What does self-care mean to you? Do you feel like your routine is fulfilling, or would you like to change it? What is your routine? Do you have one?

The Crow Report: A List of Random Facts

Mythological and folkloric facts that I’ve come across, thought were interesting, but were too short to make a full post out of!

1. The akaname is a Japanese demon that is based around the fear of going to be the bathroom at night in the dark. Its name means red or filth licker and its job is to lick up the dirty and grime left in bathrooms at night.

2. Padfoot-another black dog commonly found in England, this one also has a habit of appearing as a giant, demonic sheep with glowing red eyes. It can also be identified by the clinking of chains.

3. England is home to another superstition-the idea of the screaming skull. The idea is that problems can break out ranging from attacks to poltergeist activity to the titular screaming if a specific skull is removed from a certain location, normally a private residence or historical home. The idea may or may not be related to older, more developed folklore.

4. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotels in Canada had a bellhop named Sam that loved his job so much that he didn’t stop working there after he died. It’s said that his ghost still works the front desk.

5. The White Death

I guess the story comes from Scotland*, where a young girl became so depressed that she decided to commit suicide. However she wasn’t satisfied with just not existing, she didn’t want to have ever existed at all. The note that she left was strange, saying that eventually no one would be left who remembered her. According to legend, her family was found shortly later dismembered but no explanation or suspect was ever found. The legend further states that once the story started being told, people would get knocks on their door. The girl’s ghost was tracking down the people who were telling the story and killing them as well.

She was pretty serious about making sure that no one remembered her.

*The legend seems to appear in other countries as well.

6. The legend of Elisa Day says that Elisa was a beautiful young woman who loved roses. One day an attractive young man appeared in town, a stranger. He seduced her for 3 days, and on the third day he brought her roses. He begged her to meet him at the river on the fourth day. When Elisa arrived on the fourth day, the man clubbed her to death with a rock, exclaiming that all beautiful things must die. He adorned her body with roses and slipped her into the river.

They say that she still walks the river, leaving the scent of roses in her wake, bleeding.

7. Eastern Airlines Flight 401 is a phantom vehicle with an odd history. The actual flight is not considered to be ‘phantom’ as the plane actually did exist and crashed in 1972. However, many of the parts from that crash were salvaged and re-used in other planes. In this case, THOSE are the planes that are considered haunted as several of these flights reported the presence of the ghosts of at least the pilot and co-pilot (and the ghosts of other members of the crew on some occasions). To make the story creepier, it’s even been claimed that the ghosts -talked- to travelers on the plane.

8. The Nephilim conspiracy-this is more about not being to find a solid source that wasn’t, well, a little whackadoodle (listen, we all have our things but this one falls a little high on my oddity meter, is all I’m saying). The Nephilim conspiracy suggests that Earth is being controlled by reptilian humanoids who came to Earth and began to interbreed/hide among our populations. Eventually these reptilians, known as the Nephilim after the race created from the intermingling of angels and man in the Old Testament, took over our political systems and are just in general running the show.

9. Continuing on with the conspiracy theory train, because Mid was excited to tell me about this one, there’s HAARP. Standing for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, HAARP is said to be the government’s program to control the weather. Essentially, if there’s a major weather event that negatively impacts the nation’s functioning it’s [insert president’s name here] fault, he called up HAARP. This one gets a little messy because HAARP did exist at one point, but was never used on the scale that it’s accused of.

10. That this year is actually 1717 (the Phantom Time Hypothesis). Honestly I’m not sure what’s going on with this theory because it’s not exactly a historical secret that every so often someone comes along and resets the calendar; the way that we measure time is not the same way that people were measuring it 2000 years ago (someone had to invent the leap year, if nothing else). Essentially the argument suggests that the Earth is almost exactly 200 years younger than what it’s claimed to be (Mother Jones states that the years that are missing are 614 to 911, specifically), the Middle Ages weren’t a thing, and everything we’ve dated from that period is an outright fake or based off of faulty information at best. The argument seems to think that one, one individual, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III wanted to have lived earlier in history than what he did-regardless of the fact that the only way this theory works is by ignoring the histories of the entire world that wasn’t in Europe. Ok, then.



Screaming Skulls

The Haunted Banff Springs Hotel

Conspiracy Watch: Were the Dark Ages Faked?

Sunday Legends-Black Aggie


The connection between ghosts and cemeteries is probably obvious to many individuals, but occasionally the haunt extends into the actual architecture of the site as well as the ghosts of those who are buried at the site.

One of the most involved of these legends is Maryland’s Black Aggie. Black Aggie is the name that has been given to a copy of the statue Grief that was housed in the Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, Maryland. The statue’s notoriety extends in the late 1920s with claims that the statue is capable of becoming animated at night. It is said that the statue’s influence also prevents grass from growing at the location of its instillation, and that the statue seems to be a magnet for the souls of those buried on the grounds. Supposedly the statue is also capable of influencing the health of visitors-legend claims the statue can strike a person blind or bring on miscarriage.

There is another layer to the story, that is probably equally strange but perhaps grounded slightly more in reality. During the 1960s, the statue disappeared. It appears that the family controlling the grave site Aggie adorned had donated her to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC but the museum claimed to have no knowledge about it or its location. Eventually the statue was found outside the Federal Courts building in Washington, where it stands today. The statue had been donated in part to stop the number of illegal visits to the grave site drawn by the urban legends surrounding the statue, and there is no word if Aggie still receives visitors, or if it has similar effects as it did while in Maryland.

The Gingerbread Man

The Gingerbread Man

Maggie Shayne

340 pages

Accessed for free for Kindle, free at time of review’s publication

I’m always unsure if I should review material that’s just set at Halloween but isn’t necessarily horror. Or things that are about horrific situations that aren’t actually genre.

This is one of those books that fall into that gray area. Falling completely out of my normal genre reading range. The Gingerbread Man is a crime novel set in Upstate. Honestly, because it fell so far outside of my normal reading range, the only thing that kept me reading past the past few pages was homesickness-and Shayne does seem to be familiar with Upstate (or can fake it well, I’m not sure which).

There’s a certain quality to living in Upstate that can be hard to peg down, including certain language patterns (does anyone say Moxie outside of CNY and Upstate anymore?) and attitudes towards strangers (we’re not known for accepting outsiders with open arms, regardless of what people would like to have you think otherwise, and often to the shock of people who are trying to move into small Upstate towns thinking that it’s quaint and loving). I want to say that Syracuse isn’t as gritty as what Shayne makes it sound like but then I’m reminded of the string of assaults occurring just of Le Moyne’s campus when I was enrolled at Oswego.

Once I was drawn in by the setting I did find the storyline to be solid. I will say that I figured out most of the twists relatively early in the reading but there was enough misdirection that I was wondering for most of the book if I was right, or if I had misread the clues. I had some issues with the characterization however, or rather, the quality of writing during the characterization. Shayne’s male characters remain pretty solid throughout the entire book but the quality of writing improves dramatically in relation to the female characters once she stops trying to convince the reader that they’re weak people. She has a habit of trying to set up the women as victims during early introductions, but then show the reader that no, they’re really strong, powerful people! And the quality of writing drastically improves once she’s make that shift.

Fair warning however, the book centers around crimes occurring to children, so if that’s a trigger subject I would avoid this one. The discussion surrounding the actual crimes however is pretty vague and with one notable exception occurs out of scene. There is a slight amount of sexual content, but actually far less than what I was expecting for a crime-romance. There is a small amount of profanity and two direct murder scenes in the book, the rest of the violence is implied.



I keep finding myself in an odd place, at least for me.

I’ve become people’s fitspo-and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Somewhere around June I took up walking fairly regularly, somewhere in the range of 30 to 90 minutes five days a week. The thing that got me to do this was donuts.

There’s a Dunkin Donuts at the end of the complex I work in, the exact opposite end of my complex. I timed the walk and found that I can get to Dunkin, get a donut and coffee, and walk back in an hour. Listen, I know some people could do it faster but I’m in business casual dress and there’s geese. Attack geese.

At some point people started stopping me and talking about how amazing it is that I’m doing it. Or how they wish that they were doing it and how I make them feel guilty that they don’t do-which always makes me feel awkward. A conversation that I had yesterday at work, for example:

Individual: “I saw you walking by the side of the road today.:

Me: “Yeah, I do it most days if it’s not raining or too hot. My bus gets here really early [unspoken: and that’s where the coffee lives.]”

Him: “Oh, I think that it’s great that you’re doing it. Really, I do.”

…Thanks. I guess.

So this morning I took myself on a nice long walk. I was out for over an hour. I guess I would like to say that I was going out for the joy of doing something for my health, when in reality I was making the rounds at the drugstores to see what was on sale and if the Halloween displays were out yet. It’s a little strange telling people that you’ve taken up exercise for donuts and cosmetics, but you know.

Random Things I’m Loving

1. Mighty Taco

BBQ pork burritos. Not attempting to be authentic, by any stretch. Totally my favorite fast food fix right now.

2. Gold Eyeshadow

While gold is never going to overtake my love of orange shadows, I love what gold’s been doing against my skin and weird eyes lately.

3. Self Care

I’ve been going a little bit overboard with the skincare lately. I mean, it’s probably better than not taking care of it at all but it’s probably a little strange to want to go home to wash your face.

4.  Mick Foley

Apparently I’ve forgotten to tell people that I have a passing interest in wrestling.

5. Puffins