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Varla Ventura Headshot

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

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SCARY
FOX

Of late I have found myself up well past the Witching Hour but not for the usual reasons: freaky movies, wild parties, the muse seizing me by the collar and insisting I write that story down right now! No,my insomnia was of a far more domestic nature than that. I was awake in the pre-dawn darkness with my wee babe, coaxing him back to dreamland with a raspy lullaby. And it so happened as I was rocking him softly that I was struck by a very strong sensation that I was being observed. Perhaps I had surprised the ghostly Woman in the Hall or one of the Spectral Children who have revealed themselves in little ways from time to time, invisibly scurrying past the nursery door? I turned slowly, mostly not to reawaken the nearly nodded off Baby Ventura, but alas, there was nothing to be seen.

The next day we were hanging in the kitchen with Halloween cookies in the oven and I was dutifully scooping mushy peas into my baby's mouth when I got the chills again. Big time. The windows weren't open and it wasn't terribly windy so I couldn't call it a gush of cold air, but the back of my neck seemed to ripple with the touch of icy fingertips (keep in mind too I was sitting near the nice, warm oven). Then I caught the baby looking not at me but just over my shoulder. Kind of mesmerized, in fact, with something just behind me.

It lasted about 20 seconds or so and then we cheerfully continued with our messy dining experience, basking in the cinnamon smell of the pumpkin cookies, and generally contented with our ghosts. Oh, it could have been this or that, babies stare intently at the oddest of things, but in light of the recent Midnight Observer I honestly couldn't just shrug it off.

Maybe I've just been reading too many ghost stories lately. (As if there were such a thing as too many ghost stories!!!) But I've been working on gathering some creepy collections for a new e-book series, and as a result I am reading through many more volumes of books I'd almost forgotten I had. Among the Edgar Allan Poe and Algernon Blackwood, I came across a story called The Haunters and the Haunted, or The House and the Brain, by Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a Victorian writer who had a real penchant for the paranormal and quite a vast knowledge of occult workings. He was the guy who coined the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night," which is now the name of an annual fiction writing contest, where "WWW means wretched writers welcome."

Bulwer-Lytton gets pretty well mocked for his writing, but this particular story seemed to be classic horror to me, and a surprisingly good read. He demonstrates a true knowledge of the occult, and certainly describes the incidents in a suspenseful fashion. And he takes a sort of Scooby Doo approach to the horrors he witnesses, sure there is ultimately a source, and determined, in spite of being terrified, to identify it. Well, I won't give it away in case you want to read it, (I chose it for one of the Paranormal Parlor books) but unlike a Scooby Doo episode, this horror maker isn't the homeowner in a freaky mask.

Speaking of freaky masks, I was sewing a tiny skeleton costume for my little one (come now, did you think I was going to just dress him up as a turtle or a frog something?) and thought I'd better start getting him used to the scary masks he might encounter on Halloween. Fail. Do not put on any kind of mask and expect a baby to like it. Well, it wasn't but a day after traumatizing him that I read a couple of stories about Halloween masks being used for evil, (and not the fun kind of scaring-your- brother evil.) Take, for example, the man in Madison, Wisconsin, who robbed a convenience store wearing a Scream mask. According to Madison.com the robber was "5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, 140 to 160 pounds, wearing black shiny gloves and all black clothing in addition to the 'Scream' mask used in the robbery." And then there is the 64-year-old Georgetown man who recently tried (but failed) to rob a bank by disguising himself in a skeleton mask. Apparently, he handed the teller a note saying it was a robbery but the teller told him she didn't have any money! He fled -- only to be arrested a few blocks away ("evidence found in the car [the mask, no doubt] linked the driver to the crime") and charged with "attempted first-degree robbery, wearing a disguise during a felony and terroristic threatening." Creepy in its own way.
As for me, I'll be sticking with bright lipstick and maybe a wig, which I've been wearing all week to prepare my little babe for the big night. (My husband thinks this time even I have gone too far.)

Enjoy your tricks and treats!
In Undying Spookitude,
Varla Ventura