Ghosts, Spirits & Phantoms, Oh my…

Before deciding to move to Colorado Springs, I did a thorough investigation of weather patterns, tax rates, housing, population, demographics, crime statistics, employment – in other words, the works. I was able to find about everything I needed to make an informed decision. Needless to say, I relocated to the Centennial State. I knew as soon as I settled here that I’d come home. Sometimes you have to make a move to find yourself.

 Wanting to pursue writing but not having a lot of extra cash, I found affordable courses online. Rob Parnell was offering his  Easy Way To Write series at the time, and I found them quite helpful. While taking his  Dark Fantasy & Horror Writing For Profit class, a story idea began to form in my head. It developed into my current project, Dead Ringer. Since I wanted to locate the story in the general area of Colorado and Manitou Springs but didn’t want to tell someone else’s story – I dug into research mode again. This time on a paranormal level.   

Colorado Springs is a large city covering about 186 square miles. Downtown is the city’s hub, and there you’ll find what’s now the Kimball Peak Three Movie Theater. Tales of a ghostly little girl who skips up and down the hall of the projection room and screams in the bathroom can put you off your popcorn. Folks have also seen the specter of an old man, thought to be the projectionist who died in a fire. 

 Down the street from the theater, the Antlers Hilton is a hotspot with several ghosts. Employees and guests report encounters with a little girl that appears in some of the rooms. In Judge Baldwin’s Bar, a man with a mustache appears after hours. There are also sightings of an elegant young woman dressed for a night on the town.

 The Broadmoor Hotel is a five-diamond hotel with beautiful, spacious grounds, a first-class golf course, and enticing restaurants to tempt your palate. Many have seen the apparition of a young woman late at night – usually floating down the hallways or up the staircases, wearing clothing from the 1930s. Talk is she’s Julie Penrose, wife of Spencer Penrose – founder of the Broadmoor. Employees note lots of activity in the penthouse Julie lived in until the 1950s – cold spots, lights going on and off, and objects moving on their own.

  At the former Ward’s location in Colorado Springs, which is now the Memorial Hospital Administration Building, sounds come from the walls. And in the women’s restrooms, toilets flush on their own, and lights turn on and off. It was reported in the 1990s, a young girl and boy went into the restroom while the parents waited outside the door. The children never came out. 

 In Colorado Springs, the reports of ghostly activity go on and on. Other well-known locations around town are St Francis Health Center, Garden of the Gods, Evergreen Cemetery, Gold Camp Road, Rock Ledge Ranch, Pioneer Museum, and The Underground. 

  In Manitou Springs, it’s hard to find a place that isn’t haunted. Situated between Garden of the Gods and PIke’s Peak, Native American tribes lived in the area and held it sacred. 

 Miramont Castle was built in 1895 by the French priest, Father Jean Baptiste Francolon, and later used as a care facility for tuberculosis patients by The Sisters of Mercy. It’s considered one of the most haunted places in America. Staff and visitors alike have recounted unusual experiences at the castle. Orbs of light appear from nowhere, and in the chapel, disembodied voices can be heard, and things go missing from the castle from time to time. One guest was startled when her cell phone played a religious song, and she didn’t listen to that type of music. Curiously her phone wasn’t connected to a music source or have any music files.

  Next door to the Cog Railway and The Incline is Iron Springs Melodrama & Dinner Theatre.  Former owner J.G. Heistand (who died in 1916) is often spotted around the place. A Woman in White haunts the theater and has been seen in the bathroom mirror and an upstairs window. Unseen mischief-makers have goosed employees as they’ve left the kitchen, and props and costume items randomly disappear – reappearing days or weeks later.

 Briarhurst Manor Estate offers a deliciously decadent dining experience and an event venue for weddings and conferences. It’s also one of the more famous spots in town. GhostHunters came to town several years ago and did a thorough investigation of the actively haunted manor. Things move on their own, lights go on and off, chimes and music can be heard coming from nowhere. Small footprints appear mysteriously, and visitors say they’ve been grabbed or touched. Apparitions are plentiful – children are seen and heard playing outside or running on the stairs. There’s also a little red-haired girl who likes the dining room and appears to diners. Guests and staff claim to have seen Mrs. Bell, wife of Dr. William Bell, who built the current Brianhurst in 1889, wandering the grounds.

 Some of the other active locales are The Peacock Bed & Breakfast Inn, The Cliff House, The Oneledge Hotel, The Crystal Valley Cemetary, The Craftwood Inn, the Avenue Hotel B&B, and Cave of the Winds.

  Researching Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs was an eye-opener. I found no need for concern about the originality of my story idea but instead found lots of inspiration for future tales. Great news for this horror /paranormal writer. 

10 Movie Favorites for Halloween

There are lots of memorable horror movies out there. The Wolfman, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Poltergeist, The Shining, It, The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity, Alien, The Sixth Sense, Saw, Crimson Peak – to name a few. I love going to the movies, sitting in the dark with a couple of hundred other people, munching on popcorn, and holding my breath through the scary parts. Watching those movies on the small screen, well, they’re a little less scary. No matter – frightening or not, I enjoy the stories. 

The following are some of my favorites. Not necessarily big films or money makers, or even great movies – but something about them draws me back to them again and again. 

1) The Uninvited (1944)

 The 1940s were a heyday for scary movie monsters. The success of the 1930’s Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy, etc. continued. Watching those creature features on the old black and white TV provided hours of thrills and chills for me while I was growing up. But of all the horror films produced during the ’40s, my very favorite is RKO’s, The Uninvited, starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. This little gem is a sophisticated, well-written ghost story that never fails to put a shiver down my spine.  

2) The Other (1972)

This creepy thriller is the story of twin brothers, Holland and Niles Perry. The setting is a beautiful family farm in the 1930s. Holland’s a sweet and gentle little boy while his dead brother Niles likes to do “bad things,” getting Holland into trouble – He should never have played The Game

3) Ghost Story (1981)

I remember practically jumping out of my seat during the opening scenes of this dark tale of revenge. Between nightmares, ghost stories, and the undead, the Chowder Society, played by veteran actors Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Melvyn Douglas, are being stalked by a real terror… And it wants to take its vengeance on all of them.

4) The Lady in White (1988)

I didn’t realize when I put this list together how many of my faves were about spirits. This ghost story about innocence lost is based on the memories of the main character, Frankie Scarletti – a born storyteller who grows up to be an author. He retells via flashback his own experience with a ghost when he was just nine years old. The Lady in White gives the audience a peek at a simpler time, but not a happier one – A child killer lurks. 

5) Dead Alive (1992)

This is an oddity among my usual flick picks. I came across it one day while looking over Peter Jackson’s filmography. Dead Alive was on the list, and having never heard of it – I had to check it out. Listed as Spatter Horror – It is gross, funny, gory, stupid, violent, sick, and silly. I’m not a zombie fan but will make an exception for Dead Alive…  and Shawn of the Dead. I suppose the only way I can bear to watch zombies is if they’re stupidly funny. 

6) The Prophecy (1995)

I was tempted to see this movie simply because one of my favorite actors – Christopher Walken, starred in it. But a story about an ongoing war in heaven caught my interest. This dark fantasy peppered with sarcastic humor had me thinking it was right up my alley. When Viggo Mortensen appeared as the Devil, I was sure. Good, evil, and faith are questioned as angels, demons, and humans face the consequences if the war is not resolved.

7) The Relic (1997)

 Set in the Chicago Field Museum, this sci-fi, thriller – chiller has people losing their heads over the new exhibit – Superstition.  Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, and James Whitmore lead the cast in what I think is an underrated monster movie. It’s fun and creepy with plenty of decapitated bodies strewn about to keep you wondering who or what is killing all these people… and why? 

 The Relic introduced me to co-authors – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, who wrote the book, and they quickly became favorites. Of course, the book’s better than the film. But now, as I read – whenever I come across LT. D’Agosta, I still imagine him looking like Tom Sizemore.

8) 1408 (2007)

  Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 is a showcase for actor John Cusack. (Who knew he was so versatile?) Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a gifted writer who’s lost his love of life after the death of his daughter. He’s settled on writing books about haunted and supernatural places (of which he doesn’t believe) to make a living. That is until an anonymous someone sends him a postcard from the old Dolphin Hotel on Lex. in New York City and a warning – “Don’t enter room 1408.” 

Researching the hotel, Enslin discovers there’ve been over fifty horrible deaths in that room since the hotel opened. Thinking it might make a good chapter in his next book, he’s determined to check it out for himself. Well, you know what they say…  Be careful what you wish for. Writer, Mike Enslin finds all of his nightmares coming true in 1408. 

9) Devil (2010)

 Agatha Christie’s, And Then There Were None is a classic. M. Night Shyamalan has taken a cue from the story and made it his own. Devil is only 80 minutes long, but the tension sets in early in this supernatural- horror film and runs all the way to the last minute.   

 A troubled police detective is on scene at a Philadelphia skyscraper investigating a suicide – the note talks about the Devil approaching. Meanwhile, in the same building, five strangers become stuck in an elevator between floors. Things start to get scary when the lights fail, and one of them’s attacked. Fear and suspicion build, and when the lights go out again, one of them is dead. Unable to gain access, the detective and security crew attempt to identify the individuals as they watch on a closed-circuit camera as events unfold. Ramirez, one of the security guards, thinks he sees an image of evil in the elevator. Recalling the tales his mother told him as a child about the Devil, he shares the story. As expected, no one gives any credence to the old fables.

 While the fire department attempts to cut through the walls and access the elevator, the detective confirms the identity of the unlikable occupants – except for one. It becomes a race against the clock to get the survivers out and stop the killer – but the Devil has other plans.

10) Cabin in the Woods (2012)

  I’m an admitted fan of Joss Whedon’s entertaining imagination. Having enjoyed Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly – I try not to miss anything he puts on the screen. When my daughter and I walked in to see Cabin in the Woods, we thought we’d walked into the wrong movie – couldn’t figure out who all the people in lab coats were. A few minutes later – we got it. I am not a fan of bloody, slasher movies. Still, this horror movie bends and twists all the rules about horror movies. I thoroughly enjoyed this particular ride by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon as they show just how twisted their little minds really are.

 As usual, there were lots of familiar faces – I love the way Whedon uses actors from past productions in current projects. And was happily surprised to also see Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, and Sigourney Weaver in this devilishly sick and twisted monster movie mash-up. 

   

 

 

Devils in the darkness

I was eight years old when I had my first paranormal experience. Funny that I can remember it happening as if it were yesterday – when I have so few memories of my childhood.

We lived in a large, three-bedroom green stucco house that stood at the back of a deep lot. I can still see the orange Spanish tile roof on the house. Mom was way ahead of her time with the xeriscaping and had a large garden out front, mostly made up of succulents, cacti, and rocks.

At the time, my brothers hadn’t come along yet, so it was just my folks, my two younger sisters, and me. Life was pretty ordinary. Mom was a housewife, yes, that’s what they called stay-at-home moms at the time. Dad was the breadwinner, working as an auto mechanic.

School was out for summer vacation, and Daylight Savings Time wasn’t even a thing yet. That made no difference; Mom’s always been a structured soul, and though it wasn’t dark out, we kids still had to go to bed at the usual time. It seemed wrong somehow that we had to be in bed, and it wasn’t even night time – but at eight years old, you don’t get a vote. I remember faint sunlight glowing through the curtains as I fell asleep.

It was the middle of the night. The house was quiet, but something must have wakened me. I thought I’d gone blind because I couldn’t see anything but dark. It was unnerving, and I was afraid. The hairs on my neck stood up, while my eyes probed the darkness for the source of my fear.

Across the room near the door were two red eyes staring at me. Set at an adult’s height, they blazed in the dark. My breath hitched in my throat, and I was momentarily speechless. When I found enough courage to call out, my voice shook, “Da-dad, Daddy?” There was no response.

I pulled up the covers and hid my eyes; maybe it was just my imagination. Lifting my gaze, I saw the glowing eyes still looking directly at me. My heart pounded in my chest – I tried calling for my dad, mom, anyone to come to help me. Nobody came. Pulling the covers over my head, sobbing and trembling with fear – I heard a voice telling me to pray. I did, never looking outside the blankets again, but crying myself to sleep.

The next morning, I told Mom what happened. She’s a very rational person and assured me that no one could have gotten into my bedroom – the house was locked up at night. It was only a bad dream – that neither she nor dad would let anything happen to me. Mom hugged and patted me, trying to make me feel better. I didn’t feel any better.

From that time on, I was afraid to be alone in my room at night. I often sneaked the light on if I woke up in the night. Dad must have had radar or something because he’d come in and turn the light off. I never felt safe in that house again and developed a deep fear of the dark. Fortunately, we moved out of the house a couple of years later.

PostScript – At eight, I had a child’s faith, and when I heard a voice telling me to pray, I knew God would protect me. I believe HE did. Over the years, I’ve learned that many have reported seeing glowing red eyes in the darkness. The most common answer to Whatis Shadow People. The WhyNo one knows for sure.

Shadow people – w:User:Timitzer [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D

Putting Myself Out There

I’ve told stories most of my life. Yes, even the kind my mother told me were wrong and shouldn’t tell. As the oldest of five siblings, I was always looking for a way to escape my real world. Mom introduced me to books at an early age. A reader herself, she knew the power of stories as a means to escape. I devoured stories and went through almost every book in my mom’s collection. At school I read endlessly in the library, and couldn’t wait for those days the Bookmobile would drive into the schoolyard with even more books to borrow. When I discovered the public library, it was like being given the keys to the kingdom.

As a Baby-Boomer, I am unapologetic about being a TV addict. Its a whole other wide world of stories. In my house, we watched a lot of family-style entertainment, but my favorites were the shows like Thriller, Chiller, The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Creature Features, and Night Gallery to name a few. I became so enthralled with these old horror shows that my parents would use them as leverage – If I didn’t do my homework, or wasn’t being nice to one of my siblings I wouldn’t be allowed to stay up and watch that night’s favorite.

I know now that many of our best horror writers contributed to these shows, but at the time I simply enjoyed the outpourings of their broad and twisted imaginations. Their stories have been an influence for me to write my stories.

While my own children were growing up I fantasized about being a writer, but simply didn’t have the time or the energy. It’s taken me many years to arrive at a point in time where I can take the time to write. I have no excuses. Now that I’m here, I want to put myself out there and not be afraid to share my stories. Fear is a theme in my writing – it’s something that’s held me back from a lot of living – I refuse to let it stop me now.