Halloween is coming soon. Let’s first talk a little about ghosts, goblins, and scary books and movies and then close with a small bit of writing news.
Before other events in my life overcame good intensions, I had thoughts of scribbling a small, ridiculous story about Halloween. It was a just for the heck of it notion, something intended to bring a smile to anyone who might care to read it. The story would have featured a middle class Ghoul family that inhabited a tomb at the corner of the graveyard -- a prime location overlooking the largest, most opulent crypts and a mortuary across the street. The story would mostly have been about the family’s three sons – Drool, Rancid, and LeRoy – (Drool Ghoul has an especially nice ring to it, don’t you think?). Father Ghoul was the manager of a movie theater that showed first run movies catering to the cemetery’s ghost and goblin clientele. The theater was noted for showing major productions featuring A-list ghoul movie stars such as Robert Deadford and Meryl Screech. Mrs. Ghoul taught an eighth grade Beginning Shriek class at Mausoleum Middle School. And then … other events caught up with me: medical checkups and a broken clavicle (our daughter Laura) and a damaged hand with stitches, cast, and pin inserted (Nita). Each incident has a back story that can wait for another day. Laura continues her teaching duties and Nita, despite initially lugging around a cast, is staying with her to help with transportation, school preparations, and housekeeping chores. September was quite a month for us – we are all very glad that it is now past us. All the walking wounded are healing well.
Given the time of year, I thought it might be a hoot to check out lists of the scariest movies and scariest books. See how many strike a chord with you. I’m not a big movie goer, so some of these I am not familiar with at all, and others I’ve heard about only by reputation. Here’s how one list ranks them:
The scariest movies
- The Shining (Nita, Karen, and I once spent a night at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where a famous scene from the movie was filmed.)
- Paranormal Activity
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- The Train to Busan
- A Quiet Place
- & 10. Halloween I and Halloween II
A second list also ranked “The Thing,” “The Fly.” “Psycho,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and Rosemary’s Baby.”
I saw the original “The Thing” when I was nine years old. Holy crud that was a scary show. At about the same the movie came out there was a novelty song on the charts also called “The Thing.” So … my friend and I went to the movie thinking it was probably a light hearted comedy. That was probably among the first of the many major mistakes I’ve made in my life. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep well for a week. Our rickety farm house had the usual creaks and groans anyway, and I may have kept a baseball bat close at hand. There was an upstairs room across from mine that was used strictly for storage. I made sure the door was closed at night (because you could never be sure what might be in there).
A bit of movie trivia: the actor who played the alien monster in the original “The Thing” was James Arness, who later was Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke.”
The scariest books (From the “Reader’s Digest list of the 25 scariest books of all time.)
- Salem’s Lot (Stephen King)
- Those Across the River
- The Exorcist
- The Ruins
- White is for Witching
- The Haunting of Hill House
- Something Wicked This Way Comes
“Ethan Frome,” “Frankenstein,” and “Lord of the Flies.”
A bit of writing news before signing off. The pandemic has caused disruptions to schedules and to the editorial staffs of many magazines. As a result, replies to query letters and story submissions are not always as timely as customary. I am still waiting for responses on a few short stories and verses. One that I am most curious about is the fiction short story that I’ve mentioned before that concerns the transition of authority when the nation is tearing apart at the seams. Some earlier replies liked the concept but were wary of touching it in this divisive time. One very recent reply wanted to use the story in an anthology of short stories but also wanted the length increased to 20,000 words (from the present 6,500). I didn’t like that thought very much. I was wary that increasing it to three times its present size would risk interjecting too much fluff and filler material into what is essentially already a complete story. The publisher’s deadline for making those changes was very short, so I respectfully moved on.
The interesting thing, as I told the editor, was that early on I had given some thought to lengthening the story or perhaps even making it a short novel. As it is now written the story describes the circumstances that lead to the transition of authority and ends in the Oval Office with the individual assuming control of the government. What was suggested by one reviewer was to add a “recovery” section to the story that would include the actions that came later to keep the nation from tearing itself apart and eventually restore democratic government. But, putting that together will have to wait for a later day. As I said, the deadline was very short and the women in my life keep interrupting things with repeated trips to the hospital – even though I have urged them many times to stop falling down.
By the time you receive next month’s newsletter, the election will have taken place. I personally will be glad to have it done with. Regardless of which candidate wins, my fondest hope is that the decision will be clear cut and there will be no ambiguity regarding the results.
The election is such a prominent topic in our lives, I thought it would be good to close the update with some humor regarding it (even though it means dispensing, just this once, with the much acclaimed --well, a few people have said they’re okay -- bad puns feature).
“An interesting turn of events: President Trump getting COVID-19 has caused Republicans to believe in science and Democrats to believe in God.” (from my Air Force friend Jim Lloyd)
Soon after the first debate, the following joke began making the rounds in Europe:
Question: “What borders on stupidity?” Answer: “Mexico and Canada.”
Best wishes until next time. Stay safe.