Category Archives: Reality Meets Fiction

Reality Meets Fiction: Doom and Gloom

By Sue M. Swank

Ever since I can recall, my husband and children fondly call me “Doom and Gloom.” This stems from when I would say something and it would come true.

Just now, I thought back to an incident that occurred several years ago between my husband and myself.

We were getting ready for an evening out. I was putting on my makeup while my husband was talking with me when I got slightly fuzzy headed. This is usually how my guides send me visions.

I closed my eyes and leaned against the bathroom sink, which prompted my husband to ask what was wrong. I explained that I had a glimmer of a vision and began to describe it in detail: Dark and rainy, we are parked on the side of the road and surrounded by swirling red and blue lights. Then I heard a small pop that followed with a small fire explosion.

My husband was quick to respond with, “Alright doom and gloom! Don’t go jinxing us tonight!” I simply giggled, and then proceeded to finish my makeup.

In an effort to prove me wrong, my husband rushed to check the forecast for our area and proudly told me that the weather was all clear skies with no chance of rain. I just smiled and nodded, knowing that if the vision were to be correct, it would happen as we were on the road anyhow.

As we were getting in the car, the same vision hit me once more, only harder. I glanced over at my husband, who quickly exclaimed, “Woman don’t start that doom and gloom stuff!”

Just as we got halfway across the bridge, it began to sprinkle. I giggled. My husband gave a sideways look of annoyance.

It wasn’t long after we exited the bridge, when a deputy turned his lights on, signaling us to pull over. His lights were red and blue.

“Dear just pull over!” I exclaimed. Showing more displeasure at my persistence, he pulled over to the side of the road near the only streetlight.

Once we pulled over, the streetlamp went out, leaving our car flooded with red and blue swirling lights…and me giggling.

By now it’s raining solid. My husband rolled the window down in time for the deputy to walk up and ask my husband for his driver’s license and insurance.

Flustered to no end, my husband reached over to the glove box, and in doing so, he inattentively knocked a penny into the empty cigarette lighter.

A small explosion, along with a pop, erupted suddenly, causing me to hysterically laugh, which resulted in my husband blurting out jokingly, “You bitch!”

Not understanding the situation fully, the deputy requested my husband to step outside the car, as his partner walked around to my side of the vehicle. Mind you, I was still horse-laughing at the time, which probably made both deputies think I was some kind of a lunatic and my husband a jerk.

Several moments later, he returned with a ticket, and we drove to our destination silently.

Over drinks, my husband finally spoke, and his statement initiated ANOTHER round of wild horse laughter from me.

“So let me get this straight sweetheart,” my husband said. “You see a doom and gloom vision…I ignore the vision…the vision plays out…I am placed behind a squad car as they run a check on me…and I am then given a ticket and allowed to return to the car all because you forgot to renew our tag stickers on the car.”

What could I do? I paid for the drinks and dinner that night and horse-laughed the rest of the night!

It’s always interesting in our home!


If you enjoyed this fascinating real-life story by Sue M. Swank, you won’t want to miss out on her next story, titled “Excuse Me”, which will be featured on August 1!

Those inspired to create gothic, horror, fantasy, or psychological realism short stories, poems, and art should consider submitting their work to The Dark Sire for publication. Works based on the “Reality Meets Fiction” series will be given special consideration.


If you have any questions for Sue, or would like to talk about your own psychic interactions, please leave a comment below. And, if you’d like to connect with Sue, visit her on Twitter (@sueswank) and Facebook (Sue M. Swank).


The Creative Nook with Sue M. Swank

THE DARK SIRE has paired up with Sue M. Swank, psychic medium and screenwriter, to bring you more fascinating stories in the Reality Meets Fiction series. Reality Meets Fiction started last year, with Barry Pirro sharing his ghost hunting and paranormal experiences with us. Now, Sue will join that tradition by sharing her psychic stories. The first story, Doom and Gloom, will appear on Friday, July 1, with subsequent stories released on the 1st of each month. We sat down with Sue to discuss her psychic gifts and thought this interview would be a good way to introduce you to the woman behind the real-life stories.

TDS: Hi, Sue! Tell us a little about your psychic gift. For instance, when did you discover you were psychic?

Sue M. Swank: I always knew I was different. I first realized my gifts when I moved into my childhood home in Richmond, Virginia. I was seven years old at the time.

While the movers and my mom were trying to sort the furniture, I repeatedly saw the body of a dead woman and her blood all over. Later, at night, the woman returned and revealed to me about how she passed, her kids, and where to find the kids’ toys in the attic.

TDS: Wow. I couldn’t imagine seeing all of that at such an early age. Did you learn anything else from the woman? Anything that might help her?

Sue M. Swank: Several months later, the husband of the dead woman came for dinner. I knew he orchestrated her death and I confronted him with this knowledge.

TDS: You can’t stop there! What did you do? What happened?

Sue M. Swank: As years went on, the woman continued to appear to me and revealed where to find newspaper articles about her death and her husband’s dirty deals. I received the last communication with this woman at the age of 18, confirming that her husband died of a heart attack on his boat in Florida.

TDS: Ah, case closed, I take it. Is this when your psychic career began?

Sue M. Swank: Yes. Since then, I’ve committed to giving sessions: tarot, psychic, and mediumship.

TDS: That’s fascinating – and reality! And speaking of reality, this series is called Reality Meets Fiction. So, do you mind telling us what attracted you to collaborate with The Dark Sire Literary Journal and what Reality Meets Fiction means to you? 

Sue M. Swank: I’ve known Bre for some time now on social media, and when she posted about submitting non-fiction to the magazine, I messaged her. And, to me, Reality Meets Fiction is when something so unexpected and seemingly “unreal” happens in real life and in person.

TDS: I definitely agree with the “unreal” happening in reality. And that brings up my next question: How do the movies (and TV) get psychic abilities right and/or wrong?

Sue M. Swank: Sometimes, the movies are accurate, but they are usually wrong when they claim that psychics know everything about what they see and feel. For example, I only see parts of an event, not the whole thing. Once I saw a man bleeding from his stomach but had no idea what happened or who the man was. Another thing that movies get wrong is that psychics use all of their senses when they are having a vision. Personally, I can smell, see, and hear events. When I saw the vision of the bleeding man, I could taste the blood and smell metal every time I closed my eyes. Oh, and my ears and eyes exploded. The whole experience is an ordeal, one that you don’t expect, can’t control, and don’t always understand.

TDS: That sounds like a lot to happen all at once. The story about the man, will you be sharing it with us through Reality Meets Fiction?

Sue M. Swank: As a matter-of-fact, it is. Bre asked me to include it.

TDS: Great! I can’t wait to read it. Before I forget, do you still receive visits rom spirits, like you did when you were a kid? If so, what are their usual motivations for appearing to you?

Sue M. Swank: Yes, I do – quite often, actually. In most cases, the spirits want to relay messages to others.

TDS: Oh, that’s cool. I thought they might have stopped when you were 18, but it was actually the start of many more visitors. Do you feel that others you meet are receptive to the spiritual world and psychic phenomena around us? Is it something you believe anyone can develop in themselves, or is it just for those special few?

Sue M. Swank: To answer your first question, mainly yes, people have been receptive to my abilities. Though, there have been a few that asked for my services and then later said I was going to hell. And to answer the second question, I truly believe that all of us are psychic on some level, but mediums are born with the gift, as well. I don’t feel it is something that can be learned… discovered later in life, yes… but not learned.

TDS: Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you. One last question: How do you think the real experiences you’ve encountered can inspire writers, artists, and photographers? Have any of your experiences inspired your screenplay work?

Sue M. Swank: Good questions! Reality overall, whether it’s the news media, social media, neighbors, can or should inspire writers. I hope my work can spark the imaginations of writers to create stories that will entertain readers. For my own work, I actually wrote my first self-published book, Through Jade’s Eyes, which I also wrote as a 5-season TV episodic series, with many of Jade’s experiences coming from my own psychic mediumship experiences.


We look forward to hearing Sue’s stories unfold in explicit detail. Don’t forget, her first article titled “Gloom and Doom” will be released on July 1 at 11 AM (EST). Then join us again every 1st of the month for more fun-filled eeriness.

Those inspired to create gothic, horror, fantasy, or psychological realism short stories, poems, and art should consider submitting their work to THE DARK SIRE for publication. Works based on the “Reality Meets Fiction” series will be given special consideration.


If you have any questions for Sue, or would like to talk about your own psychic interactions, please leave a comment below. And, if you’d like to connect with Sue, visit her on Twitter (@sueswank) and Facebook (Sue M. Swank).


Reality Meets Fiction: Communicating with Spirits

by Barry Pirro

Don’t you just love spiral staircases? I know I do. You don’t see many in houses these days apart from the narrow, metal ones that are installed as an afterthought when converting a garage or some other such space into a proper room. But the spiral staircase I was climbing down this particular day was a real beauty. It was broad, carpeted in a deep white pile, and it was in a house in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

The young couple who contacted me were experiencing a lot of unusual, disturbing activity — the sound of phantom footsteps in the night, objects moving by themselves, and sighting of the ghostly figure of a man in a blue plaid shirt. They asked for my help in figuring out what was there, and hopefully to get rid of it. Of course, I was more than happy to oblige.

As I continued making my way down the staircase, a feeling of apprehension began to build, as if someone was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. The feeling didn’t frighten me because I’ve felt this kind of thing many times before. I’m never afraid during investigations, but I’m always curious. ‘Knock-Knock. Who’s there?’ I thought. 

I made one last turn of the helix, and as my foot left the last step and set down on the hardwood floor, I knew. Something was in the room with me, and it wasn’t happy to see me. This wasn’t exactly the warm welcome I was hoping for, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

I stopped for a minute and scanned the beautiful finished basement with hardwood floors. A leather couch faced a large stone fireplace, and sliding doors led to a deck overlooking a sunny, spacious backyard. Overall, it was a bright, cheerful space that anyone would love to spend time in. The only problem was, the place was haunted as hell. How did I know? I could feel it.

As I stood there allowing my intuition to take over, the thing in the room crept closer and closer to me. Then, it suddenly rushed at me and gave me a message loud and clear — You are not wanted here.

‘That may be the case,’ I thought back calmly. ‘But whoever you are, there’s something you need to know — I never back down. You don’t frighten me, so don’t even try. I’m here to help you. Why are you here, and what is it that you want?’

Although people’s stories about the ghostly activity in their home is interesting, I don’t really need to hear them. If a house is haunted I’ll feel it right away. What does it feel like? Each experience is different, but more often than not it begins with a feeling of being watched, observed, studied.

Imagine being in a room where there’s a security camera in the corner, and every time you take a step the camera follows your every move. It’s that kind of a feeling; as if I’m being scrutinized by someone I can’t see, but I know that they’re there.

Next comes a flood of emotions that usually have nothing to do with the way the surroundings look. I might walk into a warm, sunny room and suddenly feel sad, depressed, or lonely. Likewise, I can walk into a dark, dingy basement and be flooded with feelings of happiness.

Then, I begin receiving intuitive information. Sometimes the messages come in the form of names or dates, other times I see visual ‘snapshots’ of the past in my mind’s eye. One common thing about these clairvoyant messages is that they are always extremely persistent.

During one investigation, I kept “hearing” a voice say, ‘I’m Elizabeth. Ask them about Elizabeth.’ I pushed the message away, in case it was just my imagination, but it kept coming back and repeating over and over again — ‘I’m Elizabeth. Ask them about Elizabeth.’

Finally, I said to the homeowner, “I don’t know if this means anything to you, but I’m supposed to ask you about Elizabeth.”

“Elizabeth?” the homeowner said with a start, “Why, she’s the woman who lived here before I bought this house. She was very old, and I was told that she died in a nursing home. I never met her, but I’m certain her name was Elizabeth because that name was on all of the documents we signed when we bought the house. How did you know?”

“A little bird told me,” I said with a smile. “A little bird named Elizabeth.”

Most times, intuitive information is very brief. Just a word or two, then it’s gone. But other times it’s extremely detailed, as if I’m watching a movie. Once while taking a tour of an historic home, the group stopped in a bedroom on the second floor. The room was tiny with a small bed pushed into a dark corner. The tour guide was talking about the history of the house, but I was barely listening. I was beginning to receive intuitive information, and it was very strong.

As I stood there looking around the room, waves of happiness washed over me. In my mind’s eye, I could see lots of very young children running through the door and around the room. All of the children were barefoot. The boys wore light colored, loose fitting pants that went to the knee, and shirts with buttons. The girls wore simple, light colored dresses that went down to their ankles. They were running in circles through one door and out the other. Then they would loop back and run in again. There was a man sitting on the bed, and as the children ran by he was pretending to try and catch them. The scene was extremely vivid and filled with laughter and joy.

There had been no mention of children up to this point in the tour, so before we moved on to the next room I casually said to the tour guide, “There were a lot of children in this house, weren’t there?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile. “There were a LOT of children in this house. Eleven! And they were all born in this very room. You wouldn’t think that a house as small as this could hold so many kids, but somehow they made it work. They were a very happy family.”

Not all of the sensations I get are intuitive. Sometimes they’re purely physical. These include feeling pains and other feelings in various parts of my body. The pains usually correspond with what the spirit was feeling during their lifetime, or when they died. Sometimes I’ll feel sharp pains in my head or my chest, or I’ll feel short of breath. Once during an investigation, my legs suddenly became stiff and leaden, as if I had arthritis. It felt as if I could barely walk. I later learned that the person who lived in the home was an invalid, and that she walked with the aid of a walker.

Then there are the ghostly touches; soft caresses on my arms, face, and hands. And if you’ve never been poked by a ghost, I highly recommend it. Poking seems to be their favorite way of letting me know that they are with me. I’ll be walking down a hallway when all of a sudden I’ll feel a very strong jab in my arms, back, or shoulders. It feels exactly like someone is poking me a few times with two or three fingers. I usually only experience this once or twice during an investigation, but in very active houses I’ll get poked several times.

One of the most striking examples of a spirit communication happened during an investigation I conducted at a haunted day spa in Connecticut. The owner contacted me because she and her employees had been witnessing very disturbing paranormal phenomenon at the spa.

One morning two of the workers watched as a large, heavy metal bowl levitated off of a table, then floated down to the floor. Another day, one of the employees caught a glimpse of a man walking into one of the treatment rooms. When she went to investigate, the room was empty. Every morning, the person opening the shop finds objects thrown on the floor in the gift shop area. But the last straw was when the owner and another employee heard the blood curdling scream of a man coming from one of the treatment rooms. Needless to say, they investigated and there was no one there.

After interviewing the owner and staff, I did a walkthrough of the spa. I immediately felt a male presence in one of the treatment rooms. As I tried to communicate with him, the spirit would move to another room. After following him from room to room, trying to get him to tell me what the problem was, I decided to conduct a clearing and send him on his way.

The two women came into the room to ask what I had come up with when all of a sudden, soft music started playing in all of the treatment rooms. The owner was shocked, and totally baffled. The only way to turn the music on in the spa was to login to the computer with a password, login to Spotify, then choose the Meditation Music station. But neither of the women had touched the computer.

As we were talking about this strange occurrence, the music started playing louder, and louder. The ghost was actually turning the volume up on the speaker that sat on the shelf. The music in all of the other rooms remained quiet. He clearly wanted us to know that he was there.

The shop owner and her employee went back to the front of the spa while I conducted the clearing. To clear a space of a spirit, I talk to them and try to make them realise the situation they are in. They are no longer living, they don’t belong here, and there are loved ones waiting for them on the other side.

“It’s time for you to move on,” I said out loud. “You don’t belong here any longer. There is a beautiful place waiting for you filled with light and love. Your friends and family have been waiting for you for a very long time. It’s time for you to go to them.”

Suddenly, an overwhelming sense of sadness and abandon washed over me, and I could hear the spirit’s voice in my head. ‘There’s no one waiting for me,” he said. ‘I have no one. No one is waiting for me.’

The feeling of despair and hopelessness was so powerful that I felt it to my core, and the sadness and loneliness that came over me was so strong that I actually started to cry.

A few minutes later, the women came into the room from the front of the store. I told them that I finished the clearing, but that the spirit was refusing to move on. I didn’t share any of the details about the emotional exchange I had just had.

“I have to tell you,” the owner said. “While you were back here doing the clearing, we both got very sad. We both felt like we wanted to cry.” I was amazed. They had picked up the same feelings and emotions from the spirit that I had.

The most important tool in a paranormal investigator’s toolbox is his intuition. Cameras, recorders, meters, and sensors can give you a clue that a ghost is present, but the real proof comes from direct communication with the spirit.

My advice to anyone wishing to have these kinds of experiences is to stop blocking thoughts and feelings. If you walk into a room and it doesn’t feel quite right, let that feeling sit with you for a while. Silently ask, ‘Is there someone here with me? Can you tell me your name?’ Just don’t be surprised if you get an answer. It’s not just your imagination. Chances are, you just communicated with a spirit, and you’ve just taken the first step toward a new and amazing journey.


UPDATE: Due to lack of reader interest, Reality Meets Fiction will be ending in two months. That means, just two more stories will be published (October and November). If you’d like for the series of paranormal investigation stories to continue, please let us hear your voice in the comments.

“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch the last article on November 26th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: Have you had or have heard of spirit communication and encounters? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Spirit Communication). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story using spirit communication and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through AmazonThe Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio), and now Poe’s New & Used Bookstore (New Berlin, Pennsylvania).

Until we meet again, take care!

Spirit Photography: Hoax or Reality?

Spirit Photography, or the capturing of a spirit on film, first became known in the 1850’s and 60’s with the rise of photography in general. As more individuals gained access to cameras, as well as the means to sit for photographers, the greater chance there was to witness spirits of the dead or supernatural beings captured on film. At least, that’s what photographers like William H. Mumler would wish us to believe.

Mumler was among the first to see spirits lurking in his freshly developed photos. Allegedly, after sitting for a self portrait and developing the film, Mumler noticed an otherworldly image hovering behind him. Assuming it was merely his inattention to detail and the result of not properly cleaning his lens, Mumler sat for the photo again. After development, the figure appeared once more and Mumler claimed it was the spirit of a deceased cousin of his.

With this newfound ability of his, or his camera, Mumler became the first to turn such a gift into a well-oiled, lucrative business, photographing multitudes of people with the spirits of their loves ones. That is, until P.T. Barnum sat for Mumler just after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Lo and behold, the president’s spirit haunted Barnum’s sitting, appearing behind the circus tycoon in his photo. As it turns out, the self-acclaimed trickster of all tricksters simply enjoyed a good humbug and wanted to see if Mr. William H. Mumler and his medium wife were the real deal.

When Mumler was charged with fraud, Barnum was called as a witness as, according to Oxford University Press papers, an expert on “humbuggery.” Upon reciting his encounter with the spirit photographer, Barnum admitted that he saw the process and even examined the glass himself. Nothing was out of the ordinary, and Lincoln’s ghost appeared as soon as the photo was developed in the dark room. Regardless, Barnum claimed it all to be a hoax. Other spiritualists came forward in Mumler’s defense, claiming their deceased loved ones had truly been there and Mumler had captured them. More skeptics came forward claiming to have seen some of the ghosts in Mumler’s stills walking the streets in living color, alive and well. Ultimately, the court found no true evidence of Mumler’s supposed fraud and he was acquitted. However, his career as a Spirit Photographer was over.

Many skeptics claim that spirit photography is simply a trick of the light, or the result of budding photographic techniques of that day and age. Two methods often blamed for hoodwinking the general public are Double Exposure and Stereoscopic Illusion.

Double Exposure. For an explanation of this technique, we must first understand that in the early days of photography, exposure time was 20-40 minutes at the very least. This means the subject(s) had to remain as perfectly still as possible, lest their image appear blurry. Therefore, if a subject, say, rose from their seat and moved to another, their image would appear twice in the final shot, most assuredly a little blurry at the edges and rather translucent. This effect would also occur if someone shrouded in white linens jumped in the frame for a moment and then jumped back out. This effect can also be achieved post-shooting in the dark room. This is a delicate process, but the layman’s gist is that the photographer essentially sandwiches two negatives together and exposes them for longer than a single-negative image. 

In our day and age, it is commonplace to shoot double exposure, or manipulate it easily within moments using editing software like PhotoShop. To show how easily this can be accomplished, I created this graphic in about five minutes’ time.

Another technique often used was stereoscopic illusion. 

Stereoscopic Illusion creates depth in an image by moving the subject ever so slightly. The brain combines the two (or more) images to create depth. Again, anything recorded with movement during a long exposure time would appear transparent and ethereal.

We can all see where the skeptics are coming from now, yes? But let’s take a journey with the believers…

To delve deeper, we must traverse the difference between Spirit Photography and Ghost Photography. Spirit Photography is when an individual, or individuals, sits for a photo, specifically waiting to see the spirit of one of their loved ones. Ghost Photography occurs when a photo is taken without knowledge of a spirit’s presence and that spirit is only visible on the film or digital camera after the fact.

Here are some of the greatest, inexplicable ghost photographs from the ages between Humbuggery and PhotoShop. 

In 1919 Sir Victor Goddard’s RAF squadron encountered a recently deceased air mechanic, Freddy Jackson, who died two days prior.

In 1963, The Spectre of Newby Church absolutely shattered the conceivable. Reverend K.F. Lord was particularly fond of the altar area of his church and snapped a photograph of it, along with several others detailing the interior of the building. Upon developing the film, the reverend was flabbergasted to find a blurred figure ascending the steps.

Many believe this to be a hoax because the figure is somewhat posed. However, as he claims, the reverend was entirely alone in the church when the photograph was taken. No double exposure was used, and, allegedly, the photos were developed by no one with means to tamper with it. When skeptics came forward, the reverend, guarding his reputation, sent the photo off to scientific experts. The report came back stating that, though the figure in the photo was perfectly poised on the steps and looking at the camera, it was nine feet tall and the photo had not, in any way, been tampered with by any means.

On August 17, 1997, a loving granddaughter, Denice Russell, snapped a photo of her grandmother as they visited that afternoon. Prints were made and almost everyone in the family had the photo of Grandma. It wasn’t until they all sat around one Christmas three years later, looking at old photos, that someone noticed a foggy shape of a man behind her head. The family immediately stated it was the exact representation of their grandfather who had died in 1984.

There is also a distinct case that occurred in Manila in the early 2000’s.  Two young girls in the Philippines posed for a photo, not sensing anything out of the ordinary. When the photo popped up on the screen of their digital camera, the ghostly image of a third person could be seen holding onto one of the young women. They have absolutely no explanation for this occurrence.

There are all kinds of theories and camera tricks, but what do you think? Can film truly capture the spirits of the dead, or is it all a hoax? Leave us a comment with your thoughts.


READERS: Do you have a paranormal true story to share with us? We’d love to read it and maybe even publish it on our blog. Send your non-fiction story to: eic.tds@gmail.com (Subject: Non-Fiction Paranormal Story).

CREATIVES: Did this article inspire your paranormal storytelling? Please write that short story, craft that poem, paint that picture, and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @darksiremag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through AmazonThe Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio), and now Poe’s New & Used Bookstore (New Berlin, Pennsylvania).

Reality Meets Fiction: Voodoo Dolls

What do Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Target have in common? They all sell Voodoo Dolls! And they’re not the only ones. You can buy Voodoo dolls and kits from hundreds of online vendors, and browsing through the many different types of online Voodoo dolls is quite entertaining. There’s the “Mini Office Voodoo Kit” that you can use to put a curse on your boss or co-workers; the “Happy Couple Voodoo Doll Kit” to cast love spells; the “Passion Masters Sex Voodoo Doll” to ‘attain massive, animal-like sex stamina’; and my favorite–the “Photo Revenge Voodoo Doll” where you send a photo of your ex, wait for the doll to arrive, then go to town sticking pins in the doll that has your ex’s face on it.

Those who use dolls in Voodoo-type rituals swear by them, but do they really work? Apparently so. In Connecticut, a Voodoo doll was used to cause the death of two people.

In 2008, John Brightman of New England Paranormal Research was contacted by a woman named Amanda in Westport who was experiencing paranormal activity in her home, such as objects moving on their own, and doors opening and slamming shut. In addition, a deceased family member was reportedly seen in the home.

During the investigation, Brightman learned that three people who had been living in the house had died several months earlier–Amanda’s mother, Esther, her brother, Roger, and her younger sister, Vivian. After the deaths, Amanda inherited the home. When she arrived to clean the house, she discovered a hand-made altar in Roger’s room. Four candles were on its surface, and in the center was a box about eight inches long and four inches wide. Inside was a stuffed doll, and tacked to it were three photographs. One was a photo of Amanda’s younger sister, and the other was of her mother. The third was of a man Amanda did not recognize. Small pins had been inserted into the doll in various positions, and it was charred in several places. The box also contained herbs, and small bottles containing oils and ointments.

Amanda told the investigator that Roger discovered that his sister Vivian had convinced their mother to cut him out of his inheritance. Apparently, he used the doll to put a curse on his mother and sister, and it worked. Esther died shortly after Roger found out about losing his inheritance, and two months later, his sister Vivian died of a ruptured spleen. But it seems that Roger’s scheme backfired because he died a few months later. So, in the end, three people died as the result of using the Voodoo doll.

In order to understand the use of dolls in ritual magic, it’s important to understand the concept of sympathetic magic whereby a magician believes that he can produce any desired physical effect merely by imitating it. In addition, there is the belief that whatever is done to a material object will also be done to the person that it was once in contact with. This is why dolls used in magic rituals are often constructed or decorated with hair, nail-clippings, or pieces of cloth once owned by a person.

The use of dolls in sympathetic magic goes back thousands of years. The melting or burning of ritualistic dolls was written about in great detail in some ancient Greek texts. In ancient Egypt, enemies of Ramses III used wax images of the Pharaoh in rituals to help bring about his death. Greek dolls, known as Kolossoi, were used for various ritual purposes, such as to restrain a ghost, to ward off an evil entity, or as a way to bind lovers together.

Voodoo dolls are the most familiar type of doll used in casting spells and curses, but there are actually a number of different types of dolls used in ritualistic magic and witchcraft. The oldest examples of dolls stuck with pins and used in ritual magic don’t come from Africa or the Carribean, they originated in Britain where during the middle ages, practitioners of magic called ‘cunning folk’–also known as wizards, wise men or women, or conjurers– would make cloth dolls made to resemble a person in the community who was thought to be a witch. The doll would be stuck with pins to do the witch harm, and to help break any magic spells she may have put on anyone. 

If you ever get a chance to visit England, be sure to visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, England. Among the museum’s many interesting artifacts is a curious figure–a small, crudely formed female clay doll stuck with four pins. This type of ritualistic doll is known as a poppet, and this particular one appears to be blackened in places as if it had been charred by fire.

Poppets are made to represent a person and they’re used to cast spells on that person for good or for evil, or to put a curse on the person. They can be made out of a number of different materials such as carved roots, corn husks, a piece of dried fruit, wax, clay, branches, or cloth. Dolls made out of cloth are often stuffed with herbs or other materials thought to have magical properties. Poppets that have a curse on them would be hidden in a home to make sure it is close to its intended victim.

Now let’s get one thing straight, Voodoo has very little to do with so-called Voodoo dolls. In fact, the name Voodoo isn’t even the actual name of the religion. Vodou (the proper spelling and pronounced VOO-dow or VOE-do) originated in the 17th century French colonial empire among enslaved West Africans. An 1685 law required all slaveholders to Christianize slaves within eight days of their arrival, and this was often Catholicism. Over time, the slaves combined elements of their religious beliefs with Roman Catholicism. Because they were forced to adopt Catholic rituals, slaves gave them double meanings and in the process, many of their African spirits became associated with Christian saints.

Vodou is a fascinating and complex religion, and although dolls are used in Vodou, they are usually used for good, or for protection against evil, similar to the use of religious statues in churches and homes. Dolls are used for a variety of purposes such as love, healing, guidance, fertility, and empowerment.

When West African slaves were brought to the United States, they retained their religious practices of using dolls. One type of doll that they made was called a fetish which was thought to be possessed by spirits connected to the doll’s owner. The fetish would be worn for good luck, or to access magical powers. Fetish dolls are also used to create a bond between the physical and spiritual worlds. They are also known by the names ‘juju’ and ‘grisgris’. The term ‘grisgris’ also refers to charm bags filled with magical powders, roots, herbs, bones, spices, stones, feathers, and so on. So, grisgris bags are actually a type of magic potion–a combination of ingredients designed to produce an intended outcome. The bags are usually worn by a person, but they are sometimes tied to fetish dolls as part of a spell.

Psychologists say that Voodoo dolls work only if you believe in them, and that there is a real psychological benefit to getting your frustrations out on another person by sticking pins in their effigy.  But as we’ve seen, you don’t have to believe in a curse to be affected by it. In fact, you don’t even have to be aware that you’ve been cursed for the curse to take its toll.

If you’re interested in experimenting with Voodoo dolls, I would advise you to keep the Wiccan “Rule of Three” in mind. The rule of three states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it for good or bad, will be returned to that person three-fold. So, using a doll to help heal or to bring joy and happiness to someone should bring you a handsome reward. But be warned–before you go sticking black pins in a doll made to resemble your worst enemy, keep in mind that, in the end, the person you’ll be hurting the most is yourself.


UPDATE: Due to lack of reader interest, Reality Meets Fiction will be ending in two months. That means, just two more stories will be published (October and November). If you’d like for the series of paranormal investigation stories to continue, please let us hear your voice in the comments.

“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article on September 24th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: Have you used voodoo dolls or have heard stories about them? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Voodoo Dolls). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story using voodoo dolls and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through AmazonThe Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio), and now Poe’s New & Used Bookstore (New Berlin, Pennsylvania).

Until we meet again, take care!

Reality Meets Fiction: Psychomanteum and Seeing the Dead in Mirrors

by Barry Pirro

A woman walks into a dark room and sits in a comfortable chair. All around her, the walls are obscured by a black curtain, and in front of her is a mirror set at an angle so she only sees darkness reflected in its surface. The only light comes from a single candle on a table behind her. As she gazes into the mirror, a fog begins to cover its surface. Soon, bright flashes of light are seen dancing around the perimeter of the glass. Suddenly, a figure appears in the mirror. It looks so real that the woman feels as if she can reach out and touch it. The figure is that of the woman’s mother who died several years earlier, and she looks young and alive.

As the woman looks in amazement, the figure of her mother steps out of the mirror and into the room with her. The two embrace and talk, and the woman’s mother tells her that she is fine and that it is beautiful where she is. The vision ends as quickly as it had begun and the woman is left with a sense of peace, happiness, and closure.

The use of mirrors as divination tools has been around for centuries. Scrying is a technique whereby the seer gazes into a mirror, a pool of water, or a crystal ball until images appear. But the real magic of scrying as it relates to seeing dead loved ones lies in something called a psychomanteum: a room designed to induce apparitions through gazing into a mirror. The word comes from the Greek and translates roughly as “theater of the mind”.

A reflective surface is the key to having this type of visual experience. In his book Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones, Dr. Raymond Moody tells the story of a woman who saw her deceased husband on the surface of a hotel picture window. He ran right up to her in the window, and the experience was so real that she said that she could actually smell him when he came near her. He smiled at her and said, “Everything is fine here.”

Although visual encounters involving mirrors or other reflective surfaces can occur spontaneously, a true psychomanteum experience needs to be made. Luckily, it’s easier than you might think.

Dr. Moody describes the psychomanteum he made in his home this way:

“A room was set aside for use as an apparition chamber. At one end of the
room, a mirror four feet tall and three and a half feet wide was mounted
on a wall. A comfortable easy-chair was placed about three feet from the
mirror and inclined slightly backward to keep the reflection of the gazer
from being seen in the mirror. In effect, the angle of the chair created a
clear depth view of the mirror, which would reflect only darkness behind
the person who was gazing. The result was a crystal-clear pool of darkness.
This pool of darkness was assured by a black velvet curtain draped all
around the chair from the ceiling (Moody, 1997, p. 82).”

Prior to using a psychomanteum, subjects are asked to look at photographs of the deceased person they wish to communicate with, and to try to recall vivid memories of the time they spent together. They also are encouraged to bring mementos into the room with them such as a piece of clothing or jewelry owned by the person.

The experiences people have in the psychomanteum vary, but most are extremely vivid. The visions they have don’t come across as misty, indistinct images. People report seeing clear, full-body apparitions that look as real as any living person, and some even appear to walk out of the mirror and into the room.

Most people go into the psychomanteum hoping  to make contact with a particular loved one; but interestingly, some end up encountering deceased persons other than the one they were prepared to see. One such example in Dr. Moody’s book comes from a businessman named James who described himself as an ‘interested skeptic.’ He was using the psychomanteum to attempt a visionary reunion with his father who died when James was twelve-years-old. After preparing for the reunion by looking through family photos and pictures of furniture that his father had made, James entered the apparition booth.

After being in the booth for a long time, a man’s image began to form in the mirror and suddenly, the man stepped right out of the mirror and into the apparition room. But it wasn’t James’ father; instead, it was James’ old business partner who had died of a heart attack a few years earlier. Interestingly, the two had been business partners, but they were not very close friends.

The man who stepped out of the mirror looked totally real, and he told James that he was fine where he was. He also gave a message about his daughter who once blamed James for her father’s death. This was all done telepathically, so he did not hear a voice in the booth. When the experience was over, the vision vanished quickly.

Afterward, James said that he felt that he had made peace with his business partner. He insisted that the man he saw in the booth was not an apparition or an hallucination; he said that it was actually his business partner in the room with him.

Visual encounters in the psychomanteum are usually highly emotional experiences. Moody reported that one woman not only saw her deceased grandfather in the apparition booth, but that she also spoke to him and felt his touch. She said, “I was so happy to see him that I began to cry. Through the tears I could still see him in the mirror. Then he seemed to get closer and he must have come out of the mirror because the next thing I knew he was holding me and hugging me. It felt like he said something like, ‘It’s okay, don’t cry’” (Moody, 1997, p. 93).

Another woman was reunited with her deceased grandmother, her aunt, and her great-grandmother in the apparition booth. She said, “I was so overjoyed during this whole meeting. I was so happy. There was no doubt in the world they were there and that I saw them, and it was as real as meeting anyone” (Moody, 1997, p.123).

As we’ve seen, these visual encounters are often so real that people feel as if they can reach out and touch the apparitions, but they are not always able to. One man who used the psychomanteum in an attempt to contact his sister described the experience in this way: “I was sitting in there, and all of a sudden it seemed that these three people stepped right into the room all around me. It looked as if they stepped out of the mirror, but I felt that such a thing couldn’t be, so I was shocked. For a moment I thought it was someone trying to play a joke on me, so I reached up quickly, trying to touch them, and when I did, my hand hit the curtain, but I still saw them. I got a look at all three. My sister, Jill, was there, but two others also, my friend Todd and my grandfather. All of them looked very much alive, just looking at me” (Moody, 1997, p. 135).

Although visual encounters are the most common, some psychomanteum experiences don’t involve vision at all. One man who entered the booth had a purely auditory experience. He said, “After what I guess was no more than five minutes, I began to hear the voice of this friend of mine who was killed in a boating accident. It was just like her speaking to me. I’m not talking here about thoughts or day dreams or imagination. I’ve never heard anything like it. She just talked to me and said it was wonderful where she was. I could hear each word plainly and separately. There was a quality to it, like an echo, I believe, like maybe she was speaking through a tin tube. It was her voice, though, definitely”  (Moody, 1997, p. 144).

Some psychomanteum encounters don’t happen right away. Dr. Moody calls these delayed experiences ‘Take-Out Visions.’ One example of this type of experience comes from a woman who used the apparition booth to make contact with her deceased husband.

While in the booth, the woman saw images of people in the mirror, but they quickly disappeared when she tried to focus on them. After leaving the booth, she went home and had the distinct feeling that someone was with her. A night later, she had a strong sense that her father was in the room with her. The following evening she woke up in the middle of the night and also felt her father’s presence, and she could smell his aftershave lotion. She said, “I looked up, and my father was standing at the door of my bedroom. I had been lying on the bed but I stood up and walked over to him. I was within four steps of him. He looked just like my dad, but not sickly like he had been just before he died. He was a full figure, and he looked more fleshed out than when he died. He looked whole, like everything was wonderful” (Moody, 1997, p. 138). Her father told her that he was fine, and that he didn’t want her to worry.

Some who use the psychomanteum have symbolic visions. These typically occur when a person goes into the booth without the goal of contacting a loved one. In these cases, the apparition booth seems to act as a gateway to the subconscious. One woman reported seeing snakes in the mirror. Some were rising up and hissing at her, but others were smiling and friendly looking. But no matter what type of snake showed itself to her in the mirror, she always felt fearful and she wanted to run away. Afterward, she said that she realized that the snakes represented trust because she has always been afraid that people will appear one way, then turn against her.

Another woman went into the booth just to see what would happen, and she saw a huge peacock with brilliantly colored feathers. The peacock seemed to have a human face. Then she noticed that behind the peacock was what looked to be a sacrificial altar with a person laying on it who appeared to be dead. Suddenly, the woman found herself dancing with Jesus at the last supper! These visions most likely represented the role that religion unconsciously played in this woman’s life.

Are the visual encounters experienced in the psychomanteum proof of life after death, or are they simply projections from our subconscious? As we’ve seen, the people who used the booth claim that the people they saw in the mirror looked as real as any person. They were convinced that they had actually made contact with their deceased loved ones. Dr. Moody himself said, “After conducting a number of mirror-gazing sessions in which apparitions were facilitated, I decided to try to have one myself. The result was a personal encounter that has totally changed my perspective on life” (Moody, 1997, p. 22).

For Moody’s experiment in the psychomanteum, he chose to focus on his maternal grandmother, but instead he made contact with his paternal grandmother. He said, “In no way did she appear “ghostly” or transparent during our reunion. She seemed completely solid in every respect. She appeared no different from any other person… [the experience left me] with an abiding certainty that what we call death is not the end of life” (Moody, p. 27-28).

It may not be a simple question of whether or not people were actually reunited with their loved ones in the psychomanteum. Perhaps mirror gazing puts us in a state of consciousness where we are able to be in two worlds at once, a place where there is no barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Resources
Moody, R. A., Jr. (1997). Reunions: Visionary encounters with departed loved ones. Ballantine Books. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0449001199

Read more on psychomanteum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychomanteum


“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article on September 24th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: What scrying or psychomanteum experiences do you have? If you have experience with either, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Psychomanteum). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story on Psychomanteum or scrying and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through AmazonThe Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio), and now Poe’s New & Used Bookstore (New Berlin, Pennsylvania).

Until we meet again, take care!

Reality Meets Fiction: The New England Vampire Panic

by Barry Pirro

A century after the 1693 Salem witch trials, citizens of Rhode Island began hearing whispers and rumors of something that frightened them even more than witchcraft. They began to suspect that there were blood sucking vampires in their midst. Even more disturbing, they thought that the vampires were members of their own families, and that they had to be stopped at any cost. But like Stoker’s Van Helsing, these would-be vampire slayers were determined to hunt down each and every one to make sure they stayed where they belonged–in their graves. 

In June of 1784, The Connecticut Courant and Weekly Intelligencer published a letter to the editor from a Willington, Connecticut town councilman. In it, he cautioned readers against being influenced by a local doctor who was encouraging families to dig up and burn their relatives’ bodies. The letter said that several children’s bodies had been exhumed at this doctor’s request, and that families were told that the burning of the bodies would stop consumption, now known as tuberculosis, from spreading throughout the family. 

Today, the claims in the letter may sound far-fetched. Even laughable – but they were true. In the late 18th century, people actually were digging up their dead family members’ bodies and burning them because they thought that they were vampires. 

Where did this gruesome practice of exhuming and desecrating dead bodies originate? Many immigrants came to America from Europe, and with them came their traditions, folklore, and superstitions. Throughout Europe, exhuming the bodies of those thought to be vampires was not uncommon. Some corpses were beheaded. Others had their feet bound with thorns to keep them in their graves. If a body was badly decomposed, the skull would be placed facing backwards, and the rest of the bones were carefully rearranged to prevent the vampire from rising. Further methods used to keep the undead down included placing a sickle over the skeleton’s neck, putting a stone in the skull’s mouth, or pinning the skeleton to the ground with a stake. 


The first recorded case of New England vampirism was that of Rachel Harris Burton from Manchester, Vermont. In 1790, Rachel died of tuberculosis less than a year after marrying Captain Isaac Burton. A year later, the Captain married Rachel’s stepsister, Hulda, and soon after she began exhibiting symptoms similar to Rachel’s. 

Around this time, rumors of vampirism had begun spreading across New England, so family and friends began to suspect that Rachel had risen from the grave as a vampire and was making Hulda sick by sucking her blood. The Captain agreed and decided that something must be done about it. So, on a frigid day in February of 1793, three years after Rachel’s death, over 500 Manchester residents gathered at the cemetery to watch as the liver, heart and lungs were removed from Rachel’s exhumed, rotting corpse, placed on a blacksmith’s forge, and set on fire. 

Sadly, Hulga died seven months later. Because the ‘cure’ didn’t work, the townspeople figured that Rachel hadn’t been a vampire after all. Their conclusion? Witchcraft must have been responsible for Hulda’s sickness and death. 


One of the most famous cases of the New England vampire panic occurred in 1799 in Exeter, Rhode Island. One night, a farmer named Stuckley Tillinghast had a disturbing dream in which half of his apple orchard died. A few days later, his daughter Sarah came home complaining that she wasn’t feeling well. She took to bed, and, within a few weeks, died of tuberculosis. 

Several weeks later, the family was still grieving Sarah’s death when her brother James came down to breakfast one morning looking pale and sickly. He complained of feeling very weak, and that it felt as if there was a heavy weight on his chest. Then he said something chilling: Sarah came to him in the middle of the night and sat on his bed. He said that she didn’t speak, but that her pale form sat on the edge of the bed and stared at him all night long. Weeks later, James was dead. 

Shortly after James’ death, two more Tillinghast children died after saying that Sarah had visited them in the night. The family began to suspect that Sarah’s nocturnal visits meant that she was a vampire, and that she was returning from the grave to draw life from the remaining family members. 

A few months later, three more of the Tillinghast children died, then Honour Tillinghast, mother of the deceased children, became ill. She told her husband that all of her dead children kept coming to her in the night, and that she could hear their voices telling her to come with them. 

For Stuckley Tillinghast, this was the last straw. Early one morning he and his farmhand, Caleb, went out to the cemetery where his daughter Sarah was buried. They took with them a long hunting knife, a bottle of lamp oil, and two shovels. As the sun was rising, the two men dug up Sarah’s casket and turned back the creaking lid. 

Even though she had been dead over 18 months, Sarah looked as if she was just asleep. Seeing his daughter’s face looking flushed as if with blood, Stuckley took his hunting knife and thrust it deep into his daughter’s chest. He would later claim that as soon as the knife blade cut into her body, the wound gushed blood. Digging through flesh, muscle and bone, he cut out her heart and lay it on a nearby stone. There, he doused it with lamp oil and set it on fire. He and Caleb watched until the heart was reduced to ashes, then the two of them reburied Sarah. 

In the end, Stuckley Tillinghast’s dream had come true in a symbolic sense. Half of his ‘orchard’ (seven of his fourteen children) had died. After burning Sarah’s heart, Honour Tillinghast recovered from her illness, there were no more deaths in the family, and there were no further reports of Sarah appearing at night. To the Tillinghasts, the vampire curse had finally ended thanks to Stuckley’s intervention; and because the entire town knew how he had saved his family from further deaths, the belief in vampires was strengthened and the word spread near and far.


For the record, although the exhumation of bodies and the burning of hearts and other vital organs were often clandestine, lantern-lit affairs, some were quite public and even had an air of festivity. In 1830, one “vampire heart” was set on fire in front of a large crowd in the Woodstock, Vermont, town green; and in Manchester, up to a thousand people turned up to witness the burning of the heart, liver and lungs of a suspected vampire.    

Mary Brown of Exeter of Rhode Island has the distinction of being known as the last American vampire. George Brown must have felt as if his family was cursed. In 1883, tuberculosis claimed the life of his wife Mary. Six months later, his 20-year old daughter, Mary-Olive, succumbed to the same disease. Then in 1890 George’s only son, Edwin, contracted tuberculosis as well. George watched helplessly as his son struggled to breath, and constantly coughed up blood. While Edwin grew weaker and weaker, his 19-year-old sister Mercy died. 

George Brown was at his wits end. He had to do something to save his son Edwin, the only remaining member of his family. Since medical science failed to help Edwin, residents of Exeter began to suspect that vampires were the real culprit. They thought that either Edwin’s mother or one of his sisters must be one of the undead, and that they were leaving their grave at night to suck the life out of poor Edwin. 

On March 17, 1892, George Brown reluctantly agreed to allow his relatives and neighbors to exhume the bodies of his loved ones interred at the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in an effort to stop the disease. George said that he did not believe in vampires, but he was willing to try anything. 

That morning, a small crowd gathered in the graveyard behind the town’s Baptist Church, and the bodies of Mary Brown and Mary-Olive Brown were exhumed. They opened their caskets, but the only thing they found inside were bones–no surprise, since both had been dead and buried for nearly ten years. 

Next, they turned their attention to the casket of Mercy Brown who had been buried just eight weeks earlier. When the lid was lifted off of her coffin, the townspeople gasped in horror. Mercy was lying on her side, and her face was flushed as if she was still alive. Someone quickly took a long knife and thrust it into Mercy’s chest, then cut out her heart and lungs. Mysteriously, there was still blood in her heart and veins.

While he was unable to explain why Mercy was lying on her side in her coffin, Dr. Harold Metcalf, who had raised objections about the exhumations from the very start, said that the preserved state of the body was simply due to the short amount of time Mercy had been dead, and that the cold weather had preserved her body. 

The people of Exeter ignored the doctor’s explanations. They built a fire on a pile of rocks in the churchyard, then took Mercy’s heart and lungs and cremated them. But their job wasn’t done just yet. The group went to Edwin’s house with the ashes of his dead sister’s heart. They mixed the ashes with water, then fed them to him. Disgusting? Yes! But it was thought that this was the only way to prevent Edwin from dying. Sadly, and not unsurprisingly, the “cure” didn’t work, and he died two months later. 

Looking at the timeline of events, it’s baffling how anyone could have suspected that Mercy was responsible for her family’s illness, vampire or no vampire. Her mother and sister had died nearly 10 years earlier than she had, and her brother had become ill two years before she died. But cases of mass hysteria grow out of fear and superstition, and those caught up in the hysteria rarely stop to think whether or not any of it makes sense. 


In 1990, a group of boys playing near a hillside gravel mine in Griswold, Connecticut, found something that they thought was really cool–a skull that was in a grave with other bones. One of the boys ran home and showed his parents. The police were called, and it soon became clear that the bones were more than a century old. Archaeologists were called in to excavate the site, and they discovered that the bones were part of a large family burial plot from the colonial-era. 

A stone crypt was unearthed, and when the slab that covered the coffin was removed, archaeologists were shocked by what they discovered. Some time in the distant past, the bones of the individual buried there had been completely rearranged, and the skeleton had been beheaded. The beheading and other injuries to the bones were thought to have occurred roughly five years after death. The conclusion of all who examined the man’s remains was that he was suspected of being a vampire, and that his heart was removed to prevent him from rising out of his grave. 

The New England Vampire panic died out in the late 1800s after science finally discovered the cause of tuberculosis. But it illustrates what lengths people will go to protect themselves and their families. It’s only a matter of time before some new mass hysteria panic rears its ugly head. Whatever form it may take, historians will surely shake their heads and wonder, “What in the world were they thinking?”


“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article on August 27th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: What real-life vampire stories do you have? If you have experience with vampirism tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Vampirism Story). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story on VAMPIRES (as predators!) and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through Amazon and The Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio).

Until we meet again, take care!

Reality Meets Fiction: Premature Burials

by Barry Pirro

In his short story The Premature Burial, Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction. To be buried alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality.”

In Poe’s day, fear of being buried alive was very real. During epidemics of plague, cholera, and smallpox, stories of people being buried alive found their way into local newspapers with increasing frequency, and public panic ensued.

A French newspaper of the time told of a young woman who was thought to have died from cholera, and she was buried the following afternoon. When the sexton started shoveling dirt into the grave, he heard a noise in the coffin, so he quickly sent for the medical officer. Upon unscrewing the coffin lid, the onlookers were horrified to discover that the now dead woman had been alive when sealed in her coffin. A terrified expression was frozen on her face, and there were deep scratches on the inside of the coffin lid from attempting to claw her way out.

In another story, a young woman died after a short illness, and the doctor who was present certified her death. He recommended that she be buried immediately due to the intense August heat, so she was laid to rest in a mausoleum just six hours after her death. Several months later, the woman’s husband decided to remarry, so the mother of his late wife decided to have her daughter’s remains removed to her native town. When the vault was opened, a horrible sight presented itself. The woman’s corpse lay in the middle of the vault. Her hair was disheveled, and the cloth that had lined the coffin was in shreds, having been torn apart by the poor woman as she fought her way out of her coffin.

The British Medical Journal ran an article about a case of premature burial that resulted in a court case. A woman from Naples, Italy, was buried after all of the proper steps were taken to assure that she was dead. Several days later the mausoleum in which the woman had been placed was opened for the reception of another body. Her body was discovered lying outside of her coffin. The clothes she wore were torn to pieces, and the woman had broken several bones as she attempted to extricate herself from the living tomb. A trial was held, and the doctor who signed the death certificate and the mayor who had authorised the interment were both found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

One of the earliest and most well documented cases of premature burial is that of Alice Bluden of Basingstoke, England. One day in 1674, Alice made herself a drink of poppy water–a type of tea made from poppy seed pods that contains morphine and codeine. Taken in small quantities, the tea acts as a sedative, but Alice must have ingested a substantial amount of poppy water that day because soon after drinking it she sank into a coma so deep that she appeared to be dead. She was examined by a doctor, but he failed to detect any breath or a pulse, so she was pronounced dead.

Alice’s husband, who was away on business at the time, asked for the funeral to be postponed until his return, but, in those days, freezers weren’t available for body storage. In addition, Alice was a large woman and obese bodies decay at a faster rate than lean ones. At the behest of the doctor, Alice’s family agreed that it would be best to bury her without delay.

Because the burial was so rushed, there was no time for a custom-built coffin, so Alice’s large frame was put into a casket that was so small that poles had to be used to force her arms and legs down so that the lid could be securely nailed shut. But Alice’s coffin wouldn’t remain closed for very long.

Two days after her burial, children playing in the graveyard heard mysterious moans and cries coming from underground. They reported this to the headmaster of their school, but he didn’t believe them. The following day the headmaster decided to check out the children’s story himself. He visited Alice’s gravesite and he too heard the strange sounds coming from underground, so he quickly had the body exhumed.

When the coffin was opened, there lay poor Alice, alive but bruised and bloody from trying to escape her coffin. She was so weak from the ordeal that she collapsed and died yet again. Unfortunately, no one thought to call a doctor to check if she was actually dead, so for a second time, Alice’s body was forced into her tiny coffin and she was reburied.

This time, the family hired a guard to watch over the grave to listen for any suspicious noises coming from underground that might suggest that Alice was alive. But sometime during the night, it began to rain and the guard headed over to the local pub to stay warm. Little did he know that amidst the claps of thunder and the rush of falling rain was another sound–muffled, blood curdling screams coming from Alice’s grave.

The next morning the family discovered that the guard had left his post, so they had the grave dug up just to be sure that Alice was indeed dead. To their horror, when the coffin was opened they discovered that Alice had revived sometime during the night. In her frenzied state, she had forced her hands from her sides and clawed at the inside of the coffin. Witnesses said that her hands were bloody and torn to shreds from attempting to escape. But this time, Alice was truly dead. She most likely suffered a heart attack brought on by the terror of being buried alive not once, but twice.

In Victorian times, fear of premature burial was so strong that a society was formed to prevent such a thing from happening. It was aptly called The Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive, and over time people devised a number of methods to make sure the person thought to be dead was actually dead. Some of these methods were… well, let’s say they were a little off-putting to say the least.

Paris physician Antoine Louis had the idea of blowing tobacco smoke into the rear ends of the dead to awaken them if they weren’t quite dead yet. Why? No one is quite sure, but it does give the expression “blowing smoke up your ass” an entirely new meaning, doesn’t it?

Other methods assumed that pain would sort the living from the dead. One involved pouring scalding hot water on the corpse’s arms. If they blistered, the body was considered to be alive. A French clergyman came up with the novel idea of thrusting a hot poker up the rear end of the newly dead. In 1854, another Frenchman invented the “pince mamelon” (nipple-pincher), a particularly strong pair of giant tweezers designed to shock the supposed-dead back to life by squeezing the nipples very hard.

But there was a much simpler way to make sure that someone was actually dead. Don’t bury them right away. The term “wake” comes from the practice of waiting three days before burying a body to make sure that it doesn’t wake up. In Victorian times, wakes were held in the parlors of people’s homes. By the 20th century, funeral services were moved to funeral homes and the home parlor took on a new name, the living room, because it was no longer used to display the dead.

Some thought that three days wasn’t enough time to guarantee that a person was actually dead, so the Germans came up with their own solution–Leichenhäusers or corpse houses, chambers designed to hold the recently dead until their bodies began to rot. The first Leichenhäuser held up to eight bodies at a time, and it was kept constantly warm with pipes that fed the room with steam to hasten the decomposition of the bodies.

Between 1795 and 1828, Leichenhäusers were built all over Europe. Heaps of flowers were placed around the building to mask the stench of decay, and professional “death-watchers” placed mirrors and feathers in front of the corpses’ faces to check for any hint of breath. The bodies were periodically stuck with pins to check for a physical reaction, and they were attached to a system of strings and bells so that any movement would be immediately detected.

After a while people actually began paying admission for the privilege of wandering amongst the bodies. In Paris, viewing the dead became so trendy that a special morgue was built as a public exhibition space. Behind glass on slanted marble tables were the naked bodies of unidentified victims of crimes, drownings, and suicides. Although the intent was to have the public view the bodies in the hope that some might be identified, the Paris Morgue instead became a wildly popular tourist attraction with thousands visiting each day.

Fear of being entombed alive eventually led to the invention of a number of patented devices known as “coffin alarms.” Some included battery-powered alarms, spring-loaded rods that would raise flags to the surface of graves, ducts to feed fresh air into the coffins, and even ladders so the not-quite-dead-yet could climb out on their own.

Poe was well aware of such accounts of people being buried alive, and he played on the public’s fear by incorporating the theme into five of his short stories: Bernice (1835), The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), The Black Cat (1843), The Premature Burial (1844), and The Cask of Amontillado (1846).

With all of the marvels of modern medicine, you would think that the possibility of being buried alive would be a thing of the past. Not so! In 1994, an 86-year-old woman was declared dead, and the examining doctor had her body sent to the morgue. Ninety minutes later, an attendant noticed that the body bag the woman was sealed in was moving. She was quickly moved to the hospital emergency room where she recovered, but she died a week later.

In 2007, a 33-year-old Venezuelan man woke up during his own autopsy when the medical-examiner began cutting into his face with a scalpel. When the grieving man’s wife arrived at the morgue to identify his body, she was shocked to find him alive and waiting for her in the corridor.

In 2014, doctors examined 91-year-old Janine Kolkiewicz and declared her dead. Eleven hours later she awoke in the hospital mortuary with a craving for tea and pancakes. That same year, 79-year-old Walter Williams from Mississippi was declared dead by a hospice nurse. The next day, he woke up at the funeral home. When asked about the experience, he said that he thought that he had just fallen into a deep sleep.

Talk about a close call! A 24-year-old man from Johannesburg, South Africa, was declared dead after an auto accident. He spent two full days inside a cold metal box in the mortuary before workers finally heard his cries and rescued him.

Poe tells us that the terror of being buried alive is “too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction”. But fiction is the place where the subject of premature burial should stay, because the reality of waking from the sleep of death entombed in a cold, dark, damp, silent box six feet underground is far too terrifying to imagine.


“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article on July 23rd. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: If you have experienced or have heard a real story of being buried alive, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Non-fiction Buried Alive Story). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story on premature burial and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through Amazon and The Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio).

Until we meet again, take care!

Reality Meets Fiction: A Demon in Upstate New York

by Barry Pirro

Of all the paranormal cases I’ve been involved with, the following is one of the most disturbing; not only because of the bizarre and frightening nature of the activity reported, but because I discovered that this was not a haunting–this was a demonic infestation. 

Demonic infestation often begins with the typical innocuous haunted house stuff, such as the sounds of mysterious footsteps and disembodied voices, the sighting of ethereal figures, and the movement of small objects. But unlike a haunting, the activity doesn’t end there. It quickly escalates and transitions into physical and mental attacks; bizarre and grotesque hallucinations; the smell of rotting flesh; cuts, bruises and burn marks on the skin; horrific nightmares and sleep paralysis; severe illness; and suicidal thoughts. And, once a demon enters your life, it is very, very difficult to get rid of.


When Claire and her sister Linda moved into their charming two bedroom apartment in Upstate, New York, it seemed like the perfect place. The apartment complex was quiet and meticulously cared for, and the property had a sweeping lawn that overlooked a small river. But a few months later, out of the blue, all hell broke loose in the sisters’ apartment. 

It started when Claire woke up one night with a feeling that something just wasn’t right. She looked over at her window and was gripped with fear as she saw thick red blood dripping from the shades. Claire stared in amazement at the horrifying sight, then watched it slowly fade away. The vision left her terrified and confused, and she spent the rest of the night trying to figure what she had just experienced. Coincidentally, Linda woke up one night to see her sister Claire slumped over in a chair in the corner of the room. Claire’s lifeless body was riddled with gunshot wounds which soaked her nightgown with blood that ran into puddles on the floor. Linda was terrified because the vision was so real, but after a while it dissipated, then vanished.

Later on that week, Claire and Linda were regularly woken out of their sleep where they would see strange, grotesque objects floating in the room, including knives and axes covered in blood. They would never witness these things together but, in the morning, they would compare notes and were shocked to discover that both were having the exact same experiences. 

A few weeks later the demon finally decided to show itself. It first appeared as a hooded figure dressed entirely in black. The demon came to them in their dreams, and when they woke it would be standing next to their bed, close enough for them to touch it. In another appearance, it showed itself as a monstrous looking creature with a large trunk that seemed to be a conglomeration of a number of different types of animals. And yet another time, it showed itself as a ghoulish looking little creature with rows and rows of fangs in its mouth. The demon kept shifting its appearance, sometimes even taking the shape of a huge spider-like shadow that would crawl up the wall and slowly melt into it. 

The scenes of horror, and the visitations by the hooded man and the grotesque animal creatures, continued nightly for over a year, wearing down the sisters and affecting their health. The demon’s activity increased to the point where it began to enter their bodies when they were sleeping. Both sisters would wake to a feeling of being held down in a state of paralysis; they would have to fight the demon to get out of its hold before they could open their eyes.

The women called in a Catholic priest to bless the apartment, but it didn’t do any good. In fact, the activity increased. Attempts to use holy water and prayers seemed to make the demon retaliate, as it would litter their dreams with images of unspeakable sexual acts between animals and demonic looking creatures.


The reason that a simple blessing didn’t work is that getting rid of a demon requires a priest conducting the rite of exorcism multiple times, and it can take over a year for it to be successful. Knowing this, I contacted the Archdiocese of New York to find out if an exorcist could intervene, but their only advice was to have the women contact a local priest. Since that had already been tried, I decided to contact a demonologist. Although this person was not a priest, he had a reputation of being able to help people who were afflicted with demonic infestation, so the sisters agreed to work with him.

The demonologist came to the house and tried to banish the demon with prayer. During a reading from the bible, the demon actually showed itself to all who were present by flying above them, then disappearing into the wall. In the end, the demonologist’s prayers and rituals didn’t work and the sisters moved from their home, hoping that the demon wouldn’t follow them–but it did. 

Today, six years later, the women are still plagued by the demonic entity that entered their lives for no apparent reason. They hope that someday the church will grant them permission to be exorcised of the demon.

Although religious leaders warn that playing with Ouija boards, attending seances, conjuring spirits, or even getting an innocent Tarot card reading is enough to cause a demon to enter your life, we don’t really know why demonic infestation happens. I’ve conducted three demonic investigations in my life, and in all three cases none of the people involved have admitted to being involved in activities that might account for the demonic presence that entered their lives. In his book, Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans Possession, Father Malichai Martin warns, “Possession is not—nor was it ever—some tale of dark fancy featuring ogres and happy endings. Possession is real; and real prices are paid.” Unlike fiction, real life stories are by their very nature open-ended, and life isn’t always fair. Every day, people develop catastrophic illnesses or get into accidents that change their lives forever. In the case of those afflicted with demonic infestation, some are freed from their plight and go on to live perfectly normal, happy lives, while others fight for years to be freed of their living nightmare. For Clair and Linda, the nightmare continues.


“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article on June 25th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: If you have personally had a real-life encounter with demonic infestations, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Non-fiction Demonic Infestation Story). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story on Demonic Infestation and then submit it to us online for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through Amazon and The Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio).

Until we meet again, take care!

Reality Meets Fiction: Shadow People

by Barry Pirro

There is a paranormal phenomenon known as shadow people, and the sightings people have of them are often terrifying. Shadow people are humanoid figures that witnesses describe as looking ‘blacker than black’ or ‘totally devoid of light’. Unlike a real shadow, shadow people look solid.

While some appear to be bulky and muscular, others have been described as being incredibly thin. The creepiest sightings are those of inky black, paper-thin figures that bend around objects as they navigate their way through rooms. In all cases they are solid black, and they are often accompanied by a feeling of negativity or even evil.

The following story comes from a woman who contacted me about a shadow person she saw when she was a young girl.


            Like most people, I don’t remember many details about my early years. I don’t remember how I learned to tie my shoes, or when I first learned that blue and red paint mixed together makes purple. I don’t remember a lot of things about my childhood, but there is one thing I vividly remember. The night of my seventh birthday. What’s more, I’ve thought about it every night for the past thirty-one years.

All the kids in my class had come over for my birthday party that day, and by bedtime I was really wiped out. Sleep came quickly, and I slept soundly until around 2 AM when I awoke suddenly. At first I thought that a bad dream might have woken me up, but that wasn’t it. Something just wasn’t right. It felt like someone was in the room with me, and that they were standing there in the dark just staring at me.

My room was dim, but it wasn’t totally dark. I looked to see if my mom or dad had come in for some reason, but the only things I could see were the shadows of discarded clothes on the floor, and the pile of presents that sat on my chair. The room was deadly quiet, but the feeling that something was watching me grew by the second, and mixed with it was another feeling; whatever was watching me was bad–very, very bad.

My eyes scanned the room. The farthest corners were lost in murky shadows, but the area near my window was fairly light. Next to the window was my dresser, and next to it stood something tall and dark that at first puzzled me, then terrified me. It was a deep black shadow, blacker than the blackest black, and it was in the shape of a man. This shadow man stood in front of my dresser, and even though I couldn’t see his eyes, I could feel him continuing to stare at me. I’m telling you, this wasn’t just a child’s imagination, this was real.

My dresser had a mirror attached to it, and the shadow figure blocked both the dresser and the mirror. It was very human looking. It stood about six feet tall, and apart from the fact that it was completely black, there was nothing unusual about its appearance. It had a normal sized head, arms and legs.

The thing moved its arms ever so slightly, as if it was becoming impatient from trying to stand still. That’s when I noticed its hands and the thing it was holding–a “shadow knife” about the size of a large kitchen knife. He was holding the knife in his right hand and holding it down on his right side so that it was close to his thigh, and the tip was pointed down toward the floor. The hand that held the knife moved up and down, ever so slightly.

This pitch black figure continued to stare at me, and it seemed as if it was trying to gauge the best time to spring at me. That was one thing I wasn’t going to let it do, so I called out as loud as I could to my mother.

“Mom! Mom! Come in here quick!” I shouted. The hall light came on, and my mother rushed into the room to see what was the matter.

When she came into my room I became even more frightened because she didn’t see this figure standing there. She walked right past it as if it wasn’t there at all! The dark figure never moved, even when she walked right in front of it, which I found terribly scary at the time. Now that I’m older it makes me wonder why this thing stayed so still.

Seeing how frightened I was, my mom stayed in the room with me, and all the while she was with me I could see this black figure standing there. I never told her what I was seeing because I was so scared I couldn’t even get words out of my mouth, and I thought that if I did tell her it might attack us.

Despite how young I was I could tell that it was very negative. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the way that it made me feel only caused me to be more afraid of it. As best I can remember, it took about an hour and a half for the shadow figure to leave. It either faded out into the air, or it ran out of the room – I can’t recall which.

Years later, I came across an article that talked about the paranormal phenomenon known as shadow people. I was amazed to read that many people have seen these things, and that they described them as looking exactly the way the man in my room looked. I didn’t read about anyone seeing these creatures holding knives, but they’ve seen them moving around rooms, and they sometimes leave by walking right into walls.

I know now that what I saw the night of my seventh birthday was a shadow person, and to this day it’s something I wish I could forget.


The shadow person the little girl saw that night was clearly trying to intimate her. The knife it held was most likely something it manifested in order to appear menacing. But why would it do this? Why try to scare a little girl? What threat could she possibly pose to this incorporeal being?

I think that this particular shadow person was there as an observer, a type of alien or interdimensional being sent to gather information for some unknown purpose. It had probably been in the girl’s house for an extended period of time, and its “mission” was to simply watch the family going about their normal routines. When it was spotted by the little girl, it borrowed a symbol from her mind that it knew she would be terrified of–a knife. It knew that she would be too frightened to tell her mother about it that night. It also knew that no one would believe her if she told them about a dark shadow man holding a knife, so it would be free to continue watching the family for as long as it needed to.

There are many theories about what shadow people may be. These include aliens, ghosts, interdimensional beings, djinn, sprites, fairies, and demons to name just a few. Whatever they are, have no fear. Shadow people are harmless. They can intimidate by sending out feelings of fear and evil, but they can’t do any physical harm. They are literally ‘no body’, and nine times out of ten they’ll literally run away when spotted.


“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article, Demon Encounters, on May 28th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: If you have personally had a real-life encounter with Shadow People, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Non-fiction Shadow People Story). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story on Shadow People and then submit it to us online for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting The Dark Sire! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through Amazon and The Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio).

Until we meet again, take care!

The Creative Nook with Barry Pirro

by Maureen Mancini Amaturo

The Dark Sire has paired up with Barry Pirro, ghost hunter and paranormal investigator, to bring you a new series of articles, “REALITY MEETS FICTION.” Barry will be sharing his real-life paranormal stories with you every 4th Friday of the month. His first story is on Shadow People, coming this Friday, April 23. But for now, it is our pleasure to introduce you to the man behind the real-life stories, through an interview with the paranormal expert. Sit back and relax as we delve into the investigative world of the paranormal.

TDS: What attracted you to collaborate with The Dark Sire literary magazine?

Barry Pirro: I’m a paranormal investigator, so I’ve been to every type of haunted location you can imagine–private homes, historic buildings, businesses, cemeteries, outdoor locations, you name it. I’ve seen ghosts with my own eyes, seen objects move of their own accord, and I’ve recorded the voices of spirits on my digital recorders. But my experiences pale in comparison to those of the people who actually live in a haunted house. Their experiences are ongoing, and while some of them might sound downright bizarre–they’re true.
            I’m really excited to be collaborating with The Dark Sire because these stranger-than-fiction paranormal experiences that I write about are the perfect source of inspiration for horror fiction writers. Some of the best fiction is based on fact, so I’m sure that horror writers will have a field day incorporating some of the more unusual paranormal phenomena into their works.
            The Japanese, for example, believe that there are different classifications of ghosts. There is the Funayūrei, the ghosts of those who died at sea. These seabound spirits are often depicted as scaly, fish-like humanoid creatures who sometimes resemble mermaids or mermen. Or take the Zashiki-warashi, the mischievous ghosts of children. Just imagine the horror stories that a writer could build around these mysterious entities.

TDS: What does “Reality Meets Fiction” mean to you?

Barry Pirro: Reality meets fiction is obviously not a new style of writing. There are countless examples of authors who have based their main characters on real people. Oscar Wilde based the character Dorian Grey on a real person, John Grey who was a poet, translator, and priest. Truman Capote practically invented the genre of the nonfiction novel when he wrote In Cold Blood. So why should horror fiction be any different?

TDS: How do you think the real experiences you’ve encountered can inspire writers, artists, and photographers?

Barry Pirro: I’m sure that horror writers are hungry for unusual topics, and true paranormal stories can provide an almost endless source of macabre material. People have reported seeing mysterious doppelgangers, inky black shadow people, unspeakably horrific looking demons, and the ghosts of loved ones. They describe seeing floating apparitions, solid looking people who suddenly vanish into thin air, and ghosts who leave a room by walking straight into walls. My clients have reported seeing cryptid creatures skulking in the shadows of their backyards, and black apparitions with red, glowing eyes roaming the hallways of their homes. There are chilling Ouija board stories and tales of haunted objects being brought into homes that end up causing havoc. In the hands of a skilled writer, any one of these topics can be woven into a truly terrifying horror story. I can’t wait to see the horror fiction that contributors to The Dark Sire come up with after reading my true paranormal stories.

TDS: Do you think your experiences with the paranormal are effective examples of “Reality Meets Fiction?”

Barry Pirro:  My own experiences are the perfect example of reality meets fiction. The saying “you can’t make this stuff up” really applies to most of the cases I get involved in.

TDS: What can you share that could help/inspire others to be more receptive to the spiritual world around us?

Barry Pirro: Although I can sense spirits–and I often pick up very specific information while conducting an investigation, such as suddenly blurting out the name of someone who died in the house–I don’t have any special intuitive gifts. Everyone is intuitive, they just don’t know it. Anyone can be more attuned to the spirit world. The secret? Stop blocking it! If you walk into a room and you feel uneasy for no particular reason, don’t push it away. Get in touch with that feeling. Allow yourself to feel it, and allow images to come to you. Don’t consider it as just your imagination. Start to voice your impressions and see if any of them make sense.

TDS: Do you have a sense that more and more people are accepting that the spiritual world is a reality? More believers now than in the past?

Barry Pirro: There are far more believers in the supernatural than there were a decade ago, and people are more open to talking about their experiences. Even celebrities are opening up about their ghostly encounters. These include Keanu Reeves, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Helena Bonham Carter, Kate Hudson, and Matthew McConaughey to name just a few.


We look forward to hearing Barry’s stories unfold in explicit detail. Don’t forget, his first article on Shadow People will be right here in The Dark Sire this Friday, April 23 at 11 AM (EST). Then join us again every 4th Friday of the month for more fun-filled eeriness.

Those inspired to create gothic, horror, fantasy, or psychological realism short stories, poems, and art should consider submitting their work to The Dark Sire for publication. Works based on the “Reality Meets Fiction” series will be given special consideration.

If you have any questions for Barry, please comment them below. But, if you want to learn more about him and his investigations, simply visit his website: ConnecticutGhostHunter.com. Until we meet again, happy hauntings!

Reality Meets Fiction

by Maureen Mancini Amaturo

Introducing REALITY MEETS FICTION, a new addition to The Dark Forest blog.

To kick off our Spring issue (launching April 30) and to honor the lore, legends, and influence of all things gothic, The Dark Sire will spotlight the continuing fascination gothic holds in the contemporary world by sharing experiences from modern life that mirror the haunting nature that defines gothic. To unveil our series of dark, true stories, we are honored to partner with well-established, highly respected paranormal investigator, Barry Pirro.

Ghost hunting since the age of 12, and professionally for almost 20 years, Barry has encountered the unimaginable, unexplainable, and unholy first-hand. “There are particular physical sensations you get when you are in a haunted house, areas that feel off or make you feel ill. Names pop into your head for no reason. You experience sudden pains in parts of your body, or you suddenly feel very hot or cold. The tools I use are for the benefit of the homeowner. They corroborate or expand on what my intuition is telling me.” The tools in his “ghost bag” are remarkably low-tech: digital recorder for EVP (electronic voice phenomena), EMF (electro-magnetic field) recorder, camera, and a vibration sensor, not unlike what pet owners may use to keep a cat off the couch. Barry not only conducts investigations but also does clearings. “A clearing attempts to rid a house of negative energy and encourages spirits to vacate the premises.”

Now, Barry will be sharing true stories from his experiences in all their eerie, mysterious details. Every 4th Friday of the month, one of Barry’s articles will be available to read. He will discuss Shadow People in his first article, out this Friday, and then for May he’ll discuss demons. You’re not going to want to miss it!

Writers and artists: Since truth is stranger than fiction, what Barry has to tell will be as inspirational as it is fascinating. Could reality inspire fiction? We hope so, as that’s the goal of the “Reality Meets Fiction” series. Imagine the stories, poems, and images lurking in the dark waiting for a bite of inspiration. Write a fictional piece based on Barry’s real-life encounters and then submit it to The Dark Sire for special publication consideration. And, if you have a non-fiction story to tell that aligns with Barry’s paranormal series, send it directly to the EIC of TDS by emailing darksiremag@gmail.com. Your story may be published on The Dark Forest blog, too.

Barry’s book on his life as a paranormal investigator that features expanded stories and experiences is forthcoming, and we will keep you posted on when it’s available. Until then, look forward to the articles that Barry will write for The Dark Forest. And if you’re hungry to find out more about this paranormal expert, be sure to visit his website: connecticutghosthunter.com

EXTRA, EXTRA!
As an extra treat, I’ve interviewed Barry about his collaboration with The Dark Sire, which will appear on The Dark Forest blog tomorrow. Watch for The Creative Nook with Barry Pirro beginning at 11 AM (EST).

What supernatural experiences have you had? What subjects do you hope Barry will write about? Have you already written fiction based on reality? Tell us about your stories in the comments below.