Friday, January 15, 2021

Currently Reading: 'The Unidentified' by Colin Dickey

Good news came yesterday in the form of an email from my local library: Colin Dickey's The Unidentified: Mythic Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsessions with the Unexplained was ready for me to borrow the audiobook. I started listening to it yesterday. 

I'd listened to the audiobook version of Dickey's previous book Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places some time in the last year or so - apparently I didn't record it in Goodreads, but it was some time when I lived in my apartment in downtown Indianapolis. I could barely put it down. I'm well-known to enjoy stories about hauntings (note that I don't believe in ghosts) and modern folklore

In chapters 1 through 3 of The Unidentified, Dickey discusses the modern folklore of Mount Shasta and the alleged Lemurians. In her Demonslayers novel series, author Kate Douglas used the mythology of the Lemurians to weave her tale. She got me interested in the discarded scientific theory of Lemuria - an incorrect but perfectly respectable theory about how lemurs ended up on the island of Madagascar - and how charlatan Helena Blavatsky turned the faulty science into a woo-woo spiritualism that endures among the alternatively spiritual today. 

What I didn't learn from Douglas's fiction but did learn from Dickey's nonfiction: the indigenous people of Mount Shasta and the surrounding region are the Winnemem Wintu nation. Just like reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series must be taken with a grain of respecting the Quileute people, who are real human beings and not Meyer's fictional creation. 

I highly recommend that readers of Stephenie Meyer visit the Truth vs. Twilight website. If at all possible, please help the Quileute tribe move its school to higher ground, out of the flood plane, by contributing to the fund for the school. 

(P.S. Yes, I am still working my way through Midnight Sun. It's not that I'm not enjoying it, it's just that reading physical books has been difficult for me during the pandemic. I've been reading ebooks on my phone almost exclusively.) 

But back to the Winnemem Wintu people: Visitors to Mount Shasta sometimes engage in various New Age spiritual practices: Leaving crystals, building makeshift shrines, leaving behind the ashes of their deceased loved ones, and similar behavior. By themselves, there is nothing wrong with these behaviors per se. I'm not judging New Age practitioners. 

The problem with this is that before New Age spirituality existed in California, the Winnemem Wintu were there with their own religion, in which Mount Shasta is sacred ground. Just like you wouldn't walk into a mosque and leave a Christian shrine there, you obviously shouldn't leave spiritual or secular items behind when you visit Mount Shasta. 

If I'm lucky enough to go back to California, I may get to visit Mount Shasta some day. If I do, I'll be sure to observe appropriate behavior for being invited to visit my neighbors' sacred space, just as I did when I visited Serpent Mound

By the way, if you can visit Serpent Mound once we get out of this pandemic, you definitely should. What archaeology can tell us about the ancient people of what is now Southern Ohio is fascinating, in addition to the earthwork itself. Plus you're in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which in summer is deeply green, remote, and gorgeous. 

After 4 years of outrageous disrespect for indigenous people's rights in the U.S., let's let 2021 be a return to recognizing the basic rights of all of our neighbors, no matter which sovereign nation they hail from. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

5 Recommended Podcasts

1. Oh No! Lit Class

With 93 episodes on Spotify as of today, you can probably find your favorite classic discussed among the episodes. The first episode is about Macbeth. More recently, Megan and RJ tackled "A Visit From St. Nicholas" and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

2. There Might Be Cupcakes

North Carolina writer Carla Pettigrew Hufstedler lives with multiple disabilities, and as a result her podcasting schedule isn't consistent. But no matter, because every new episode is like a shiny new gift to unwrap. She not only keeps listeners updated on her writing, knitting, drawing, and other creative pursuits, but shares ghost stories, synchronicities, folklore, and other subjects that readers and writers of speculative fiction will love. A personal favorite are Carla's Christmas episodes. In 2019, Carla introduced listeners to the tradition of Victorian Christmas ghost stories and read an early Charles Dickens tale that went on to inspire A Christmas Carol

3. Podcast Like It's 1999

This is a fun nostalgia trip for Gen Xers like me. (Relevant to my '90s NBA nostalgia zine? Not directly - yet - but maybe one of these days.) Journalist Brian Raftery argued in his book Best. Movie. Year, Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen that this was film history's greatest year. This podcast discusses individual films in detail, with occasional digressions into music and other 1999 topics. 

An especial favorite episode of mine discusses the movie Stigmata starring my sweet, sweet baby Gabriel Byrne. You may also remember that this podcast made me read A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

4. Book Vs. Movie

Want to know exactly how Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle is different from the Studio Ghibli movie? Or how closely the movie Clueless mirrors Jane Austen's Emma? The two Margos will not only fill you in on how the written version translated to the big screen but also render their verdict on which one is better. It's not always the book!

5. None of This Is Real

Many, many podcasts will deliver a weekly dose of weirdness, but this one holds a special place in my podcast rotation. It's a comedy podcast about everything weird, from conspiracy theories to cryptids to ancient aliens to historical oddities and monsters. This is everything I liked to read about when I was a kid, in podcast form. 

What other podcasts should I listen to?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

'Ship It' by Britta Lundin

Ship ItShip It by Britta Lundin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Destiel feels.

Forest and Rico are the Jensen and Misha of this fictional universe. (Supernatural exists in this universe, but we don't have time to unpack all of that). They're on the first season of a show called Demon Heart.

We alternative between the point of view of Forest and of high school junior Claire Strupke, who ships their characters HARD. Claire asks Forest about her OTP, SmokeHeart, at a fan conference and then things get...awkward.

No characters in this book are on their best behavior, but that's ok, because they grow as people over the course of the book. Claire learns a lot, including some lessons she needed to learn about understanding herself, and her own sexuality, better. She meets a talented artist named Tess and goes on a maybe-date with her. Forest ships it. All ends well because, well, the characters grow, making this an enjoyable, if somewhat fluffy, YA read.

I checked this ebook out from my local library using the Axis 360 app and wasn't obligated to review it in any way.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Horror Novella: 'The Atrocities' by Jeremy Shipp

Our protagonist Danna Valdez has taken a new job at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Evers. She's set to teach the Evers' daughter Isabella. Isabella has recently had an accident.

This Gothic novella eerily drifts back and forth between the waking world and dreams. It walks a fine line between the worlds of the living and the dead, between real monsters and works of art that are merely disturbing.

I purchased this book from Powell's as a spooky read for Halloween season, but there really is no bad time of year to read a chilling Gothic story. If you're looking for something weird and different, you will not be disappointed.

I bought this book with my own funds and was not obligated in any way to review it. Follow Jeremy on Twitter

Saturday, October 31, 2020

'Haunted Indiana' by James A. Willis

I finished this short book yesterday. The author is from Ohio, but I'm from Indiana. This is my two cents and experiences with Haunted Indiana: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Hoosier State.

Ghosts of Northern Indiana

The first section is called South Bend and Northern Indiana, which is where I'm from. The very first story is about Bremen, a very small town which can be most easily reached by going next door to South Bend - to Mishawaka - and then heading directly south on the highway. I've only been to Bremen a few times and know little about it, but apparently when teens go legend tripping, they go to Ewald Cemetery, reach through the high fence, and try to throw coins onto the graves of children, hoping to hear the ghostly voice of a child on whose grave a coin lands. 

Now, there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any actual living person has heard such a ghostly voice. That's the main drawback to this collection: the tales may be creepy, but they're basically only creepy rumors with nothing substantial to back them up. 

The third story in the collection is about a circus train that originated in Peru, Indiana, which during the 20th century billed itself as the Circus Capital of the World. There's still a circus museum there, but I've never visited it. (Peru is also the hometown of Cole Porter.) In 1918, the circus train from Peru got into a terrible crash with another train in Hammond, Indiana. Hammond is a stop along the South Shore train and is located in Lake County, technically the only part of Indiana that counts as Greater Chicagoland. 

It's the site of the crash that's said to be haunted. People report hearing the disembodied sounds of people and animals in distress as they would have been after the horrific crash of the wooden train cars and the fire that followed. (Wooden train cars were lit with kerosene lamps in the 1910s; that's just asking for trouble.) I've read this story before, although I can't exactly remember where. Maybe Wikipedia, maybe a magazine article about Chicago hauntings, since the bodies of the unfortunate victims of the circus train crash were buried on the other side of the Illinois border. 

Next comes the ghost story nearest and dearest to my heart, the one about the old Gipper. Unless you're from South Bend or a Notre Dame alumnus, you may not be familiar with the story of turn-of-the-20th century college football star George Gipp, who died tragically young from a terrible case of pneumonia. If you're old enough to remember former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, you might know that Reagan played Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne, All American. If you've heard of Rockne, you probably know he was Notre Dame's coach in the late 1910s and early 1920s. 

George Gipp is buried in his native Michigan, but an often-told legend around the Notre Dame campus is that Gipp's ghost haunts the old theater building, Washington Hall. Washington Hall is the place where I watched Richard III, but larger productions are now staged at the theater hall Regis Philbin donated to the Notre Dame campus about 10 years ago. I've been to Washington Hall many times, and although I've seen the bat that lives there, I've never seen George Gipp's ghost. 

From Notre Dame, the book skips to Merrillville and then to Lake County's Gary, both of which are said to have vanishing hitchhikers of the kind one might read about in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The next ghosts occupy a cemetery in Crown Point, a pretty little Lake County town you'll glimpse in the Christian Bale movie Public Enemies. Its jail once held the notorious Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger. 

Dillinger is buried in Indianapolis (his hometown), but Dillinger-related hauntings don't merit a mention in Haunted Indiana. He's sometimes said to haunt a building he once robbed in South Bend, a building that longtime SB residents will know as the Dainty Maid bakery building. One of my cousins used to work as a baker there, but she never saw the ghost. 

Nor is there any mention of Posey Chapel, where my sister-in-law was once menaced by some of kind of spirit as a Ouija board-wielding teen. Skipped, too, is Mishawaka's haunted house, now a Hacienda Mexican restaurant (part of a local chain) but once a home belonging to the Kamm family, whose former brewery is only a few yards away. The former Kamm house is said to be haunted by the spirit of a servant who killed herself over an ill-fated affair with a Kamm heir. 

Mention IS made of Mishawaka's tiny eastern neighbor Osceola. A house there is said to have been troubled by a poltergeist. The paranormal activity begin and ended, once and for all, in 1966. If you get a chance to visit Osceola, do so not for its alleged poltergeist, but for Ferrettie-Baugo Creek County Park. Baugo Creek is very pretty place to go for a peaceful canoe ride on a hot summer day. 

Ghosts of Indianapolis

If I wanted to get haunted in my current home of Indianapolis, where would I go? The two most likely candidates, according to this book, are the Slippery Noodle Inn and the campus of Marian University.  The Slippery Noodle claims to be the oldest continually-operating bar in Indiana. Located near Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, it's tremendously popular on the days of Colts home games. I'm ashamed to say I've never been there, even though I was within walking distance when I lived downtown.

It's said that barware at the Slippery Noodle will sometimes be moved around by ghostly hands, but for your best chance to spot a ghost, you have to go to the second floor. That's where the old bordello was. The ghosts of sex workers are said to prefer female visitors and may occasionally slap a man who wanders into their territory.

Marian University has two mansions on its campus that are said to be haunted. One is the current Admissions building, which used to be the private home of Frank Wheeler. Wheeler shot himself to death with a shotgun inside the home, but the most commonly reported haunting there is a phantom carriage that pulls up into the porte cochere. A phantom woman gets out of the carriage, heads toward the house, and disappears. Marian's other haunted house is Riverdale, the former home of James Allison, one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Allison is said to occasionally rearrange the books in his former private library. 

Should pandemic conditions ever lift and I ever go to see a show at the Old National Center, formerly the Murat Shrine Center, I might see the ghost of the old Shriner's temple's builder, Elias J. Jacoby. 

And those are the hauntings closest to me. What's haunted in your town?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October 2020 Currentlies

Currently Making: Another handmade, one-of-a-kind collage and art book that will be featured in my Etsy shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings like this one.

Currently Watching: The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which I finally read about Halloween time in 2019. In the TV series, the governess's name is Dani. The setting has been moved to the 1980s, which I enjoy for the nostalgia factor.  

Currently Reading: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer. I'm reading it slowly. I started it in the middle of July and so far I'm only up to the part where Edward and Bella have dinner together at the restaurant in Port Angeles. 

Currently Listening: I have a rotation of favorite podcasts. I don't listen to every single episode, but I do listen to all the ones that interest me. Some of my top podcasts include:

- Omnibus with Ken Jennings and John Roderick. Check out the recent Aztec death whistles episode: eerie and informative!

- FireStarters Podcast. Dan and Henry explain the history of everyone and everything mentioned in Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." We're learning world history of the 20th century and it's fun!

- None of This Is Real. Sarah and Damani are two North Carolina friends who tell each other stories about weird phenomena. On one episode, a listener shared a dream about a fictional person called Nut Guttson and I have been laughing at the name "Nut Guttson" ever since. 

- Terrible Book Club

- Book Vs Movie Podcast. The two Margots have done The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Toni Morrison's Beloved, In Cold Blood, Elton John's biography Me vs. the movie Rocketman, and many more. This is one of my very, very favorites. 

- You're Wrong About. Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall debunk pop culture myths one at a time, sometimes with the aid of a book. They're both writers and Sarah is currently working on nonfiction about the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s. The "killer clowns" episode references Loren Coleman, who writes the Twilight Language blog. It doesn't have anything to do with the Stephenie Meyer series at all, but it does have to do with eerie synchronicities and other kinds of things you might see on Ancient Aliens. 

I listen to all of my podcasts on Spotify Free, but many of these are available across numerous platforms.

What are your currentlies? What are you making, reading, watching, and listening to? 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Mini Review of 'Gone At Midnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam'

If you enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you'll likely enjoy this book as well. The author, Jake Anderson, is an indispensable part of this story the way that author Rebecca Skloot became part of the story of the descendants of Henrietta Lacks. 

Like Lacks,
Elisa Lam lost her life far too young. This book is part true crime story, part exploration of what it's like to live with a mental illness in the U.S. and Canada. It's certainly different from a typical true crime book. 

Featured in this book is YouTube vlogger John Lordan, whose video channel I subscribe to and who investigates primarily cases of missing persons. Lordan takes a very practical, rational, ethical, and empathetic approach to such cases, which I appreciate. 

If you're interested in reading more about true crime stories, I recommend checking out Mitzi Szereto's Best New True Crime Stories series. She doesn't pay me to say that; I've just liked several of her other anthologized collections of stories. 

Gone at Midnight is a book I checked out from my local library using the Libby app. I was not compensated in any way to read and review it. This mini review represents my own honest opinion.