Tag Archives: Horror Fiction

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!

The Creative Nook with Corey Nyhus

by Zachary Shiffman

A red-skinned demon. A winged abomination with a curved blade. An insect – wide-eyed and dying – ripped from the pages of Kafka. These are images that can only come from the mind of an artist. I wanted to gain a glimpse into that mind, so I invited Corey Nyhus, an artist currently living in New York, into THE DARK SIRE’s Creative Nook on YouTube.

We started by discussing some of the images mentioned above — such as Redboy, the demon who acts as a sort of mascot to Nyhus’ works, as well as the blade-wielding Corvian and Nyhus’ Metamorphosis-inspired piece, “Kafkaesque.” We discussed the tools used to create these characters and pieces and how they relate to Nyhus’ vision, along with the relationship between handwriting and art.

Nyhus and I also talked about the dynamic between himself and his art — how the mind can affect the artistic and vice versa. Then we discussed Nyhus’ recommended readings, including the web comic Kill Six Billion Demons by Tom Parkinson-Morgan and surrealist novel The Vorrh by Brian Catling.

I had a blast interviewing Nyhus. If you like horror and gothic art as much as I do, then you’ll love this interview!

https://youtu.be/cxboVaL3JHM

September New Release Books

It’s time to look ahead and see what the publishers are offering in our favorite genres. What mouth-watering, mind-expanding delights are awaiting us in the up-coming month? There are a few on this list that I, personally, can’t wait to sink my teeth into. How about you?

GOTHIC

September 21th

The Bronzed Beasts by  Roshani Chokshi. This is the third book in The Gilded Wolves Series. After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of Venice, Italy to locate Séverin.

Meanwhile, Séverin must balance the deranged whims of the Patriarch of the Fallen House and discover the location of a temple beneath a plague island where the Divine Lyre can be played and all that he desires will come to pass.

With only ten days until Laila expires, the crew will face plague pits and deadly masquerades, unearthly songs and the shining steps of a temple whose powers might offer divinity itself… but at a price they may not be willing to pay.

September 28th

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by  Christina Henry. In this atmospheric, terrifying novel, everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play Sleepy Hollow boys, reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?

The House of Dust by Noah Broyles. Deep in the heat and silence of rural Tennessee, down an untraveled road, sits the forgotten town of Three Summers. Mere miles away, on an overgrown river island, stands the house that once presided over the grand plantation of Angel’s Landing, moss-draped, decrepit. Waiting.

Failing crime writer Bradley Ellison and former prostitute Missy Holiday are drawn to this place, fleeing a world turned against them. For Brad, it is work—he must find a compelling story before the true-crime magazine he writes for judges him expendable. For Missy, it is recuperation—four years at “the club” have left her drained.

But the price of peace is high, and soon Brad and Missy discover that something hides behind the quiet. Something moves in the night. Something that manifests itself in bizarre symbols and disturbing funeral rites. Something that twists back through time and clings in the dust of the ancient house. A presence they must uncover before their own past catches up with them.

The Liar Of Red Valley by Walter Goodwater. Don’t trust the Liar. Don’t go in the River. Do not cross the King. In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But even that isn’t enough to protect Sadie now that she’s unexpectedly become the Liar: the keeper and maker of Red Valley’s many secrets.

In a town like this, friendships are hard-won and bad blood lasts generations, and when not everyone in town is exactly human, it isn’t a safe place to make enemies.

And though the Liar has power—power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?


HORROR

September 7th

Certain Dark Things by  Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?

Empire Of The Vampire by Jay Kristoff. Twenty-seven years have passed since the last sunrise, and for almost three decades, the creatures of the night have walked the day without fear. Once, humanity fought bravely against the coldblood legions, but now, we exist only in a few scattered settlements—tiny sparks of light in a growing sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is the last of the Silversaints, a holy order dedicated to defending realm and church, now utterly destroyed. Imprisoned for the murder of the vampiric king, Gabriel is charged with telling the story of his life.

His tale spans years, from his youth in the monastery of San Michel, to the forbidden love that spelled his undoing, and the betrayal that saw his order annihilated. Most importantly, Gabriel will tell of his discovery of the Grail—the legendary cup prophesied to bring an end to the eternal night.

But the Grail was no simple chalice; and its secret was held by a smart-mouthed teenage urchin named Dior. Their journey with a band of unlikely allies would see Dior and Gabriel forge an unbreakable bond, and set the broken paragon on a road to redemption.

But now, the Grail is shattered. And with the cup of the Savior destroyed and the last Silversaint awaiting execution, what can bring an end to this unholy empire?

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull. One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark? The world will soon find out.

The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley. As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…​ She cannot die.

Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.

To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.

If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.

The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates. Sometimes the dead reach back… Leigh Harker’s quiet suburban home was her sanctuary for more than a decade, until things abruptly changed. Curtains open by themselves. Radios turn off and on. And a dark figure looms in the shadows of her bedroom door at night, watching her, waiting for her to finally let down her guard enough to fall asleep.

Pushed to her limits but unwilling to abandon her home, Leigh struggles to find answers. But each step forces her towards something more terrifying than she ever imagined.

A poisonous shadow seeps from the locked door beneath the stairs. The handle rattles through the night and fingernails scratch at the wood. Her home harbours dangerous secrets, and now that Leigh is trapped within its walls, she fears she may never escape.

Do you think you’re safe? You’re wrong.

The Summoning by J.P. Smith. When it comes to contacting the dead, it’s easy to go a step too far. Every year, as the anniversary of 9/11 inches closer on the calendar, Kit Capriol scans the memorials published in the New York Times. It’s a simple thing to look up a name and phone number, to reach out to surviving family members who might still be yearning for connection with their lost loved one… to offer assistance. After her husband went down in the north tower, Kit scraped by as an actress, barely supporting herself and her daughter. But now Zoey is in the hospital, bills are due, and the acting work has dried up. Becoming a medium is almost too easy for someone used to pretending for a living—and desperate clients aren’t hard to come by.

Now, though, something has changed. The seances Kit holds in her apartment are starting to feel unsettlingly real, and the intriguing man she met at a local bar could be more complicated than he seems. As the voices of the dead grow louder in her head and the walls of her apartment close in, Kit realizes that despite her daughter’s absence, she hasn’t been quite as alone as she thought…

September 28th

Court by Tracy Wolff. This is the fourth book in the CRAVE SERIES. This series is a TWILIGHT-like YA series written especially for modern youth and filled with your typical brooding teenagers both vampire and normal. The series follows the adventures of Grace who, after the death of her mother, moves to a small part of Alaska where her uncle and cousin run a boarding school which is not your normal boarding school.

The Ex Hex by Author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling. Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik. Book 2 in the Scholomance Series. A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .

September 30th

Shaula by A.M. Kherbash. The second book in The Stringer Series. The sight of the body did not sicken Ben. Not right away. Guilt was what got him: the mounting consequences rising in his throat, and the truth which would inevitably come spilling out.

Sometime after the events at Duncastor (See Lesath), two men are dispatched to make a delivery. It was a straightforward assignment: take the sealed cargo—a container roughly the size of a child’s casket—and deliver it to a reclusive specialist residing in a lakeside cabin. What this specialist did or specialized in was never mentioned. Not that it mattered, when the task was simple—simple enough that even a young and inexperienced bureaucrat like Ben could handle it. If only he weren’t charged with keeping an eye on his wayward senior.

The lakeside cabin was the last remnant of a closed down resort, which Ben guessed was bought by a dummy corporation belonging to their employers. All the other cabins were torn down, leaving them with an empty property that served to distance the lakeside cabin from public grounds. Something about it reminded Ben of the horticultural practice of pruning spent flowers to further enhance the beauty of the crowning blossom. Not that it did anything to improve the cabin’s appearance he observed, as they stood in front of the stocky wooden building, sheltered under interlacing branches of towering evergreens. Much like the faded photos, an eerie hush permeated the place: no breeze ruffled the reflected image on the lake’s surface, nor whispered through the green needles above. It was all very quiet.


FANTASY

September 14th

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell, When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest—and the growing darkness in herself—in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Defy The Night by Brigid Kemmerer. A fantasy about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

September 21th

The Leopard Behind The Moon by Mayonn Paasewe-Valchev. There are three important laws in Ezomo’s village: Do not go to The Valley, do not go out at night, and never, ever, ever open the magical door that protects them all. But when Ezomo encounters the leopard believed to have killed his father, he and his two best friends embark on a journey that leads them past the boundaries set by their elders.

With his friends by his side, Ezomo chases after the leopard, certain that it has the power to cure all, and in the process he discovers the true history of his village, and that cautionary tales exist for a reason.

The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis. Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed a Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence. They navigate their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death.

September 28th

Beasts Of Prey by Ayana Gray.

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.


PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM

September 7th

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott. Erin and her brother Alex were the last children abducted by ‘the Father’, a serial killer who only ever took pairs of siblings. She escaped, but her brother was never seen again. Traumatized, Erin couldn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the Father was never caught.

Eighteen years later, Erin has done her best to put the past behind her. But then she meets Harriet. Harriet’s young cousins were the Father’s first victims and, haunted by their deaths, she is writing a book about the disappearances and is desperate for an interview. At first, Erin wants nothing to do with her. But then she starts receiving sinister gifts, her house is broken into, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After all these years, Erin believed that the Father was gone, but now she begins to wonder if he was only waiting…

The Magician by Colm Toibin. An epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II. The novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.

In a stunning marriage of research and imagination, this novel explores the heart and mind of a writer whose gift is unparalleled and whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire. The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile. This is a man and a family fiercely engaged by the world, profoundly flawed, and unforgettable.”

September 9th

Keep Me Close by Jane Holland. Someone is hurting the most vulnerable person in your life, but they can’t tell you who it is. What would you do?

When shy publisher Kate Kinley finds mysterious bruises on her mother’s arms she assumes the worst. Suffering with early onset dementia, her mother insists that nothing is wrong; it was just a clumsy accident. But was it an accident, or has her mother’s illness made her forget what really happened?

In desperate need of someone she can trust, her isolation and paranoia grow as the closest people in her life become key suspects.

With each heart-stopping revelation, Kate begins to realise that the perpetrator is no longer interested in inflicting bruises; they want blood.

Keep Me Close is a compelling story of gross immorality, a cautionary tale of how easily wicked people can take advantage of the vulnerable elderly people in your life.

September 14th

Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari. A Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.


So many amazing books coming out next month!
Which will you be reading?


TO OUR READERS: Do you have a favorite author that you would like THE DARK SIRE to keep track of? Or did we miss a title that came out that should have been listed? Let us know in the comments. We love to uplift amazing writers. In fact, if you drop the name of an author for us to include, we will add them to our future new release lists – which are now a MONTHLY staple of The Dark Forest. Check back at the end of September for our late Fall and early Winter new releases.

And don’t forget to ORDER TDS’ DARK SUMMER Issue 8. More details available at darksiremag.com/issue8.html.

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!

The Creative Nook with Dan Stout

by Zachary Shiffman

Dan Stout is no stranger to THE DARK SIRE. He has served as a judge for THE DARK SIRE Awards for two years now, providing us with his invaluable perspective on submissions. So we were excited to get that same perspective into THE DARK SIRE’s Creative Nook on YouTube, where I sat down with Stout to discuss a range of topics surrounding the April release of his latest novel, Titan Song.

Titan Song is the third installment in Stout’s The Carter Archives, a noir-fantasy series that blends magic with mystery, murder, and disco. In the interview Stout and I discussed the series and his various balancing acts within it. How do you write an overarching narrative while maintaining a standalone quality to each book? How do you blend mystery and fantasy? And how did these two concepts come together in The Carter Archives? Stout delved into his interweaving of disparate ideas into the final (immensely entertaining) product.

Further into the interview, Stout talked about The Carter Archives’ social themes, such as the depiction of the working class and how that compares to other fantasy media. We also discussed his take on magic (“manna”), his perspective on research, his own personal process for writing, and Stout’s other passions.

We ended the interview with a brief discussion of Stout’s future works and how to stay up to date with them via the Campfire, Stout’s monthly newsletter that you can join on his website.

You can watch the whole interview on THE DARK SIRE’s YouTube channel!

https://youtu.be/g5du2Cgz-mo

The Psychology of Psychological Realism

Psychological Realism is a narrative genre that explores the internal thought processes and motivations of its characters.  The method of narration in the story explores the characters, both protagonists and antagonists, spiritual, emotional and mental lives in order to put meaning to their behavior.  At THE DARK SIRE we hold the works of Fydor Dostoevsky to be the pinnacle of this genre; however, authors like Henry James, Stendhal, and Knut Hamsun are also to be considered at the top of the list.

The success of a Psychological Realistic novel rests solely on the painstaking detail with which the author describes/examines/dissects the various relationships, desires and struggles of the characters.  Much of it boils down to the whole idea of what is real.  A person’s reality is the product of their individual perception of what is happening around them.  We tend to thing of reality as what we can see, feel, hear or experience in some way.  But in reality, no two people see, feel, hear or experience the same event in the same way.  Each person filters that event through the psychological veil that makes that individual an individual.  It is the classic problem of the accident that is viewed from three different vantage points by three different people.  Each person has seen the event, but that does not necessarily mean that each person will describe the event in the same way.  Kurosawa’s RASHOMON is a perfect example in movie form of this phenomena.

This genre allows authors to explore the gritty underbelly of human nature as a character interacts with their environment whether that environment is the slums of St. Petersburg or the social elite enclaves of the New York 400.  However, one of the most interesting facets of this genre is that it also includes the reader’s response to what he or she is reading.  The author of a psychological piece is also asking for the readers to make an interpretation on the actions, thoughts and emotions of the characters in the story… which leads us to an interesting juxtaposition.

The very nature of a psychological realism story forces the reader to internalize that which they are reading.  Is the character correct in what they are doing?  Or is that character mistaken because of their internal thought process is in error?  Like the witness to the accident in the example above, each reader must decide, based on their own psychological make up, whether or not the character in the story is reacting properly to the basic situation at the story’s core.  Which leads us to the interesting conundrum that readers from different generations will interpret the same story differently.  One generation might find a story amusing and the following generation might take offense at it.  Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a prime example of this.

So, what we have in Psychological Realism is a confrontation between the character’s social and environmental realities interpreted by a reader’s social and environmental realities.  Maybe that’s what makes Psychological Realism so fascinating: the author forcing the reader to confront the characters’ psyches through the veil of their own.

Fyodor Dostoevsky is known for delving into the psychology of humanity and wrote that psychology into his work. And that’s what we at THE DARK SIRE love about the psychological realism we publish. The tales delve into the psyche of the characters – their motivation, emotions, reasoning. A good psychological tale – and some would say a crossover from Gothic Literature – conveys the the torment of the character itself, through world building, mood, and tone.

We’re always looking for those stories that examine the psyche of its characters, especially those with dark sensibilities. Issue 4 is our favorite for its psychological realism content. But, we need more!

If you write psychological realism, submit at darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

The Creative Nook with Richard Chizmar

by Zachary Shiffman

Odds are, you’ve heard of Richard Chizmar. The horror giant is the editor of several anthologies, the founder of horror press Cemetery Dance, and the author of multiple works, including the book The Girl on the Porch and the novella Gwendy’s Magic Feather (the sequel to Gwendy’s Button Box, which Chizmar co-authored with Stephen King). What you may not know is that Chizmar is no stranger to THE DARK SIRE literary magazine; he played a role in THE DARK SIRE Creative Awards Ceremony in February 2021, presenting the award for Best Fiction. And so, it was the natural next step for me to invite him into THE DARK SIRE Creative Nook on YouTube for an interview.

Our first topic of discussion was Chizmar’s next book, which will be released on August 17th, 2021: Chasing the Boogeyman, a small-town thriller surrounding a serial killer. In the interview, Chizmar delves into the backstory of the novel—its inspiration, how it developed, and the intriguing quasi-autobiographical elements to it. Chizmar described the book as a sort of “campfire story” that any reader will be able to have a good time with. And if his previous works are any indication, then he’s correct and you should add Chasing the Boogeyman to your TBR list today.

We moved on to talk about horror and writing in general, from Chizmar’s process to the disparate experiences of writing his various projects (including those conjoined with Stephen King). We also delved into his role at Cemetery Dance and how Chizmar balances writing and publishing. Finally, we closed the interview with Chizmar’s advice to emerging writers and anyone attempting to enter the publishing industry.

This interview is chalk full of great information that will entertain readers and writers alike. You’re not going to want to miss a single second of it!

https://youtu.be/YvQbIBsaWU0

July and August New Release Books

Time.  There is no getting around it.  It takes time to write a book and put it through the process that eventually gets it into the hands of readers.  And all we can do is wait.  To help pass the time, here are a few of the anticipated books in our favorite genres:

GOTHIC

AUGUST 19

A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Perry
Fans of the Perry collaboration should look forward to this tale in which a person’s status cannot evade a fate written in blood. Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.


HORROR

AUGUST 3

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee This is s a twisted, atmospheric thriller about a girls’ boarding school haunted by history and witchcraft.

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore Jack the Ripper meets the Devil in the White City.  When Zuretta’s youngest sister disappears during the Chicago World’s Fair, she follows in her sister’s footsteps taking a job an hotel called the Castle.  The job turns into more than she bargained for.

AUGUST 5

Long Shadows by Jodi Taylor This is the third in Ms. Taylor’s supernatural series. The identity of Elizabeth Cage has always been a mystery. Even she doesn’t know who she is. But someone has suspicions.

AUGUST 10

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko This story follows the adventures of a middle-grade student, who, although she loves ghost stories, never expected to live one.

Mark of the Wicked by Georgia Bowers   A young witch tries to unravel the mystery of who is framing her for dark magic.

AUGUST 17

Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar Mr. Chizmar masterfully blends Horror and True Crime.  It’s clever, heartrending, and terrifying in the best tradition of Stephen King. In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. **Look for the TDS interview of Richard Chizmar on 8/10, where we talk about the release of Chasing the Boogeyman.**

AUGUST 24

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis   Is a live body worth more than a dead apparition?  I guess you’ll have to read the novel to find out.


FANTASY

AUGUST 3

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert
When a princess is murdered, her vengeful spirit is doomed to remain with her loved ones until that murder has been avenged.

Monster Hunter Bloodlines by Larry Correia The chaos god Asaq has been quite since the destruction of the City of Monsters, but Monster Hunter International knows that he is still out there, somewhere, plotting for his chance to unravel reality.

August 10

Escape from Puroland by Charles Stross
Bob Howard has been assigned to police the Yokai, traditional magical beings.  A simple assignment turns into a deadly confrontation.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino   Tess finds herself working at her boarding school’s library dealing with the intolerable patrons.  The worst of whom is Eliot Birch who is constantly requesting forbidden grimoires.  Together the two of them accidentally unleash a book-bound demon.

The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng One minute, Kelly is a free-spirited artist in Chicago.  The next, she opens a door and mysteriously emerges in her Michigan hometown.  Suddenly her life is unrecognizable.  She’s got twelve years of the wrong memories and she’s married to a Eric, a man she barely knew in high school.

AUGUST 17

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price  It will be released August 17th.  Shape-shifting warriors are sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines to find the fabled cure for a disease that is affecting their children.

AUGUST 19

Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent   For as long as sixteen-year old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounded by the dark woods.  It is a forest filled with horrible monsters and that light cannot penetrate.  Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves whose jobs is to protect the village without letting any of the villagers know of their existence.

AUGUST 31

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker
Rora, a shifter with magical powers, uses her abilities to spy for the king.  When a magical illness surfaces in the kingdom, it’s up to Rora to discover the truth.

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund This novel is the thrilling conclusion of the Dragons of Terra trilogy. Action-packed and full of fast-paced adventures, the story follows Bershad, the most successful dragon slayer in history—he’s never lost a fight. But now he’s faced with a dangerous conundrum: kill a king or be killed.

Requiem of Silence by L. Penelope This is the fourth book in the Earthsinger Chronicles.  Former assassin Kyara will discover that she is not the only Nethersinger.  She will need to join the others to harness a power that can save or end Elsira.  But time is of the essence and they may not be ready by the time the True Father strikes.


PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM

AUGUST 3

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson Told through three different points of view, it is the compassionate portrait of a community and a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation.

AUGUST 5

The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood Vanessa has always found it easy to pretend to be somebody different, somebody better.  When things get tough in her real life, all she has to do is throw on some nicer clothes, adopt a new accent and she can escape.  Until she couldn’t.

AUGUST 24

A Million Things by Emily Spurr This story follows 55-days in the life of a 10-year old after she wakes up one morning and finds her mother gone.  It’s a gut-wrenching tale of abandonment and what it’s like to grow up in a house that doesn’t feel safe.  It’s an astonishing psychological portrait of resilience, mental health and families we make and how they make us.


So much to choose from, so little time to read everything!
Get your TBR lists ready, because you’re not going to
want to miss any of the above new releases.


TO OUR READERS: Do you have a favorite author that you would like THE DARK SIRE to keep track of? Or did we miss a title that came out in July/August that should have been listed? Let us know in the comments. We love to uplift amazing writers. In fact, if you drop the name of an author for us to include, we will add them to our future new release lists – which are now a MONTHLY staple of The Dark Forest. Check back at the end of August for our Fall new releases.

And don’t forget to ORDER TDS’ DARK SUMMER Issue 8, set to release on July 31. More details available at darksiremag.com/issue8.html.

Celebrating TDS Issue 8: DARK SUMMER

Let’s celebrate the July 31st release of Issue 8!

To celebrate the release of Issue 8, we’re hosting a TDS Authors Event! The events is this Saturday, July 31st, from 11am – 1pm at The Bibliophile Bookstore in Dover, Ohio. Issue 8 authors will read their work from Issue 8, discuss their writing processes, and sign paperback copies of Issue 8. Come meet John Kiste (Kettering Hall, Issue 2; Tropical Excursion, Issue 8), S. M. Cook (Kyuuketsuki, Issues 1-5; Vampire – Intense, Issue 8), Krista Canterbury Adams (Erebus: Darkness, Issue 4; Nyx Unnested and Phantom Queen, Issue 8), and Rami Ungar (Blood and Paper Skin, Issue 8). And did we mention that literary agent Bre Stepehens (brendaleestephens.com) will be there to talk to any authors? Yep, get your pitches ready because she’s building her list! Anyone attending the event will be eligible for a free giveaway drawing, with prizes including digital and paperback copies of Issue 8, copies of attending author’s books, and other TDS swag.

And now for the Issue 8 reveal of content…

THE DARK SIRE strives to bring you the best in Gothic, Horror, Fantasy and Psychological Realism literature, and Issue 8 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s packed full of original, spine-tingling stories, poems, and artwork by top-notch authors. And this time, we even have a fantasy screenplay! Here’s what you will find inside:

SHORT FICTION

Grave Fools by Maureen Mancini Amaturo — (Gothic) — A vampire’s loyal servant works diligently to find the best resting place for his master.

The Bookworm by Taylor Hood — (Psychological Realism) — A story-starved boy confronts his zealous father in a darkened room lit only by a halo of light. Their struggle, the consequence of a family destroyed, pits two worldviews against each other. Either the boy must go on endlessly reciting his father’s beloved holy text, or he must at last find freedom.

Tropical Excursion by John Kiste — (Horror) — A man finds fun in the sun, but his day out is interrupted when he’s confronted about his crimes.

We by Alyssa Netters — (Psychological Realism) — A relationship gone wrong until one stood strong to overcome the debilitating effects of being held down. This story was inspired by the need for mental health awareness in today’s society.

Hand in Hand, Dear Sister by Connor Pope — (Horror) — A distraught sister must do the unthinkable to save her sister. This piece is a 100-word flash fiction short story.

Thirst by Zachary Toombs — (Gothic) — In the night, Lex must hunt to survive, but he must listen to more than just his fangs to successfully fetch his prey.

Six Feet by Julie Zack — (Dark Fantasy) — As with most things, it was the mother’s fault. She hadn’t seen the harm in letting the boy run around the cemetery on a summer evening. It was socially distant, after all. That was until they came across a man in a hat, and their lives would be forever changed.

POETRY

Skewered Memory by Casey Aimer — A couple must overcome a psychological break, caused by infidelity, if they are to survive. This poem touches on mental health awareness.

Nyx Unnested by Krista Canterbury Adams — The night is not as dangerous as when the Nyx appear, there to hover, haunt, and devour. The moon will not save you this eve, for the Nyx are utter and pure darkness. Nyx Unnested won 1st place in the TDS Gothic Summer Contest in May 2021.

Phantom Queen by Krista Canterbury Adams — The woods glow brightly, hungering for destruction and chaos. Will it ever find peace?

Vampire – Intense by S.M. Cook — A vampire awakens, hungry, and goes out for a bite.

The Beginning by Dee Espinoza — Dracula, a fallen angel who was cast out of heaven after a holy war and banished to Earth, creates an army of undead blood thirsty creatures.

HOMETOWNWOTEMOH by E. M. Roy — A free-verse poem about the familiar becoming strange the longer you look at it. The longer the speaker exists within her hometown, the more places she knows like the back of her hand start to eat her alive. HOMETOWNWOTEMOH won 2nd Place in the TDS Gothic Summer Contest in May 2021. 

ART

Shaun Power’s This Is Fear is our feature cover art for this issue.  The look, even the style of his pictures, vary wildly on his state of mind. Fortunately for us, he was in a dark mood when he created this pastel on A4 paper.  Other artwork by Shaun in this issue include Hand of Fate and Perchance the Dream.

Also featured in this issue are the abstract works of Christian-Rhen Stefani.  Her style, known as COLORISM, is a mix of Abstract Expressionism and mood creation.  In this issue we present her The Land beyond the Surface and River of Consciousness.

SCREENPLAY

Hobgoblins by James Hancock — (Fantasy) — A young woman ends up trapped in an enchanted storybook and must complete the story to escape.

SERIALIZATION

Blood and Paper Skin by Rami Ungar — (Horror) — Several young adults go out to buy drugs one night, only for some of them to be kidnapped and held in a mysterious jail by their would-be dealer. Their captor, whom they call Old Man, lets them know he has a horrible purpose in mind for them. And if they don’t find a way out of the jail, more than just their lives will be lost.


Well, that’s it – like that isn’t enough! We know you’re going to love our delve into DARK SUMMER, our only themed issue of the year. Copies are now available. Order your copy through Bibliophile Bookstore (support indie booksellers!) or by visiting darksiremag.com/issue8.html.

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!

The Creative Nook with Villimey Mist

by Zachary Shiffman

Vampires prowl the night in the Nocturnal series by Villimey Mist; fearsome and glitter-free, just how Bram Stoker envisioned and how we at THE DARK SIRE enjoy them. When I read the first book of the series, Nocturnal Blood, I fell into its world of deadly sharp teeth and complex character dynamics, and I wanted to speak to its author as soon as possible. Enter: The Creative Nook on YouTube with myself and author Villimey Mist!

We began by talking of Mist’s series and her ambitions for it. Mist admitted that it didn’t begin as a series. Nocturnal Blood was supposed to be a standalone novel, but sometimes stories and the worlds within them don’t die easily. There are currently three installments of the Nocturnal series: Nocturnal Blood, Nocturnal Farm, and Nocturnal Salvation, with more to come. We also discussed the intentional absence of romance in the Nocturnal series and how that relates to Dracula, the patriarch of vampiric and gothic texts, as well as the series’ portrayal of mental illness through its protagonist, Leia Walker.

We moved on to discuss Mist’s writing process (which includes a lot of notebooks), as well as her other projects, one of which includes the short story, “The Banquet,” with proceeds from the sale of which go to supporting survivors of sexual assault.

If you have any interest in vampires and gothic literature, which – if you’re a reader of THE DARK SIRE – is likely to be the case, this interview with Villimey Mist is a must-watch!

https://youtu.be/uxiLJw6G5io

Associate Literary Agent: Bre Stephens

Congratulations to our EIC Bre Stephens, who is now an Associate Literary Agent with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency! It’s not every day that our EIC steps out of the shadows, so today we’re celebrating her new role and further accomplishments in the publishing industry.

“I am pleased to announce that I have officially joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency as an Associate Literary Agent,” Bre posted on her Twitter account. “I am open to #query and look forward to #reading #author works in #mg #ya #adultfiction #nonfiction. My favorite subgenres are, but not limited to: #horror #fantasy #gothic #psychologicalrealism (sorry, no romance or scifi).”

Bre’s full wishlist is on both her agenting page AND her newly updated professional website: brendaleestephens.com.

You can follow her on Twitter (@brelstephens) and Facebook (@brestephens2019). And don’t forget to bookmark her website for event appearances. She already has at least 5 events coming up, beginning July 13. In fact, TDS has an author’s event that she’ll be attending on July 31, from 11am-1pm, at Bibliophile Books in downtown Dover, Ohio. (Details on her professional website!)

We’re so proud of this remarkable woman. She’s a great advocate for all our creatives, and there’s no doubt she’ll bring that same passion to her new clients. Good luck, Bre!

May and June New Release Books

Anticipation – there is an electric joy that surrounds that emotion, like a child waiting for morning on Christmas Eve.  For those of us who have favorite authors, that joy can turn into angst/anger/annoyance as we toe-tappingly await the new release of the next book or the next installment of a series that has captured our imaginations.  For some of us at THE DARK SIRE, our love and anticipation for our favorite authors simply cannot be subsided unless we know what’s coming next – and when.

Therefore, in order to keep our Gothic, Horror, Fantasy, and Psychological Realism readers abreast of what’s happening in their favorite genre, we thought we would look into the publishers’ crystal ball and see what they had scheduled for May and June.

GOTHIC

Gothic never looked so good in June!

Early June saw the release of The Shape of Darkness (Penguin Random House, June 2021) by Laura Purcell, whom some tout as the queen of modern Gothic Fiction. As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another. Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back.

Another period piece is The Ghost Finders (JournalStone, June 2021) by Adam McOmber. Henry Coxton, a fledgling occult detective, has taken up recent stewardship of a ghost finding firm, investigating gaslit mysteries in the damp cobblestone streets of Edwardian London. Along with his friends and associates—Violet Asquith, a telekinetic with a mysterious past, and Christopher X, a monster of dubious origins—Henry must work against the clock to solve the agency’s most terrifying case, one that threatens to destroy all he holds dear and perhaps even the very fabric of reality itself.

To lead the independently published authors is W.J. Cintron’s Ill Shadows (June 2021). Foxtail Valley is a confined territory where all technology is prohibited. It is home to the forbidden Black Sands beach. Rumor has it, no one ever comes out alive. No one… but them. Jeremy has lived in the Outland for most of his life. Mason is the brother of a convicted criminal, and Natalie is the mayor’s daughter. Bri just wanted to join the fun. Now, they are locked up in dorm arrest after breaking into the forbidden beach, winning the title of the ILL SHADOWS, the only survivors of Black Sands Shore. A reputation like that sure comes with its advantages, but when they see the girl they accidentally killed that night – alive and breathing, the circumstances turn for the worst.

Gothic is our first love! So we hope you enjoy the above titles. You never know, you may just find a classic gem among these new books. Summer doesn’t last long. Read as many as you can before the fall shadows call for something even more sinister – if that’s at all possible.


HORROR

Anyone who thought horror was reserved for Fall should read this list of new releases for the summer. Watch out summertime, something wicked this way comes!

Top of our list is Hailey Piper’s new book, Queen of Teeth (Strangehouse Press, June pre-orders for Hardcover and other releases in August and September). We were totally enthralled by her earlier book, The Worm and His Kings, which well deserved its 5-skull review and Must Read status.  Her new book promises to explore new turns in horror.  In it, the heroine goes from finding teeth between her thighs to becoming hunted by one of the most powerful corporations in America.  In addition to the vaginal teeth, her condition further generates horns and tentacles and possession by a creature with a mind of its own. 

Fans of Riley Sager can look forward to Survive the Night (Penguin Random House, June 2021). A must read summer book that has been touted by the likes of The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, The New York Post, Good Housekeeping, Thrillist, and BookRiot, just to name a few.  In it, Charlie (female) finds a ride home to Ohio on the campus ride board and accepts a lift from Josh.  As they travel an empty, twisting highway in the dead of night, Charlie begins to think that she is sharing the car with a serial killer who has been preying on her college campus.  For Charlie, there is nowhere to run and no way to call for help. 

Jen Karner’s Cinders of Yesterday (City Owl Press, June 2021) is the first book in the Legacy of Shadows series and features paranormal hunter Dani Black, who is out to revenge the murder of her partner in a paranormal hunt gone wrong.  While searching for a unique weapon capable of killing the Spectre that killed her partner, Dani encounters Emilie, who is on a quest of her own to reclaim her life and the magic that protects her from the same Spectre that Dani is hunting.

For those of you interested in story collections, you’re going to want to consider Unfortunates (Unnerving, June 2021) by Leo X. Robertson.  The stories are eclectic in nature: a sadistic blogger documents the murders of Hollywood celebrities; a journalist infiltrates a sex club for the physically impaired, finding he has more in common with them than he first assumed; a soon to be dad gets seduced by a water spirit; and a primary school teacher meets his most difficult class, yet —  a class of undead children.  In these stories, ordinary people must confront their deepest fears, ones that they have created for themselves.

For those who like translations of international writers, The Queen of the Cicadas (Flame Tree Press, June 2021) by Violet Castro, translated from the Spanish La Reina De Las Chicharras, is just for you. Set in 2018, the heroine Belinda Alvarez returns to Texas for the wedding of her best friend and must confront the urban legend, La Reina de Las Chicharras, who has also returned to the site in order to avenge a murder from the 1950s. 

Representing independently published authors is Nei Borgert’s The Morning Before Darkness (June 2021), a tale for those of you who love vampire novels. A young man during the English Civil War has spent centuries laying low and feeding off others. But as civilization develops, it becomes increasingly difficult for vampires to exist unnoticed. Seeking his place in the new world, he is soon overwhelmed with a haunting sensation—a call from a force more powerful than himself.  Summoned by the same haunting sensation, other vampires are drawn to the summoning: a former slave from Brazil; a samurai and yakuza enforcer from Japan; and an influential ex-Nazi.  Caught up in a mission that will take them to the ends of the world, humanity’s ultimate predators join together to solve a bloody and terrifying mystery—one that could lead to the enslavement or tragic end of human civilization.

Another independently published author Len Handeland with the novel The Darkest Gift (April 2021).  It is a dynamic, enthralling tale of love, jealousy, and rage wrapped up in the supernatural.  A self-loathing gay man meets an elegant yet incredibly mysterious gentleman who leads him down a nightmarish path involving paranormal experiences, vampirism and possible reincarnation.  Is this love or something much darker? The Kindle Edition will be released in late June.

Yet another independently published representative, Aron Beauregard‘s In The Hands of Heathens (May 2021) made its debut. A group of college students set out to the remote jungles of Madagascar to study a nocturnal endangered species. But things do not go quite as planned. After being saturated with supernatural folklore, an unexpected act of violence forces them to abandon their study and face an attack of chaos and terror. It promises to be a wonderful tale of trauma, paranoia, and horror.

Last but not least for the horror releases is Eddie GenerousThe Walking Son (The Seventh Terrace, May 2021). When a worksite accident leads to a dead hitchhiker with a pocket full of strange coins, the hero is drawn into the grip of a traveling curse born of old, deep wounds. The clock it ticking as the hero embarks on a road trip to uncover the history of the hitchhiker and reverse his terrifying metamorphosis before time runs out.

For fans of horror, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Traditional publishers as well as the Independents have their fingers stirring the pot that keeps all of us enthralled.  We anticipate what they are about to set on our reading platter.  Sometimes, the choices are almost too many – but we try our best to read as many as possible.


FANTASY

For those of you into witches, magic, and all things phantasmagorical, June promises to be a great month.

Look for The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin (Sourcebooks Fire, June 2021). The world is on the brink of destruction and only one witch wields the power to save it. Only, by doing so, it will cost her everything she holds dear. The book was released on June 1st and has already made THE NEW YORK TIMES best sellers list for YA titles.

Million Dollar Demon (Ace, June 2021) by Kim Harrison is #15 in the Hollows series. It’s a vampire story, featuring the new master vampire Constance of Cincinnati who wants Rachel Morgan out. No matter where Rachel goes, Constance is there causing city-wide chaos. Ever since Rachel found a way to save vampire souls, the old-school vampires want her gone.

For fans of Mercedes Lackey, you will love the first book in her new Valdemar series BEYOND (DAW, June 2021 with paperback in March 2022). Within the Eastern Empire, Duke Kordas Valdemar rules a tiny rural Duchy. Anticipating the day when the Empires militant leaders will cast their avarice eyes their way, Kordas’ father sets out to gather magicians in hopes of finding a way to protect their people. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

For those of you interested in more modern Fantasy, check out Carrie Vaughn‘s Questland (Tor Books, June 2021). Literature professor Dr. Addie Cox is living a sheltered life in her ivory tower when Harris Lang, the famously eccentric billionaire tech genius, offers her an unusual job. He wants her to guide a mercenary strike team sent to infiltrate his island retreat off the northwest coast of the United States where Lang has built INSULA MIRABILIS, an isolated resort where tourists will one day pay big bucks for a convincing, high-tech-powered fantasy-world experience, complete with dragons, unicorns, and, yes, magic. Unfortunately, Addie is wrestling demons of her own—and not the fantastical kind. Now, she must navigate the deadly traps of Insula Mirabilis as well as her own past trauma.

With so much to choose from, readers are bound to find something they enjoy in the above list of fantastical finds.


PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM

As the more literary genre represented, the following is sure to please the palate of any discerning reader who wants more character development while also going for one hell of a ride.

Animal (Avid Reader Press/Simon and Schuster, June 2021) by Lisa Taddeo tells the story of Joan, who has spent a lifetime enduring the cruelties of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child–that has haunted her every waking moment–while forging the power to finally strike back, evolving from prey into predator. Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society.

If you like your psychological realism to be of the white-knuckle type, check out Bath Haus (Penguin Random House, June 2021) by P.J. Vernon. Oliver Park, a recovering addict, finally has everything he ever wanted: sobriety and a loving, wealthy partner. Despite their difference in age and disparate backgrounds, they’ve made a perfect life together. With everything to lose, Oliver shouldn’t be visiting a gay bathhouse. But he does. Inside, everything goes terribly wrong, and Oliver barely escapes with his life. He races home in full-blown terror as the hand-shaped bruise grows dark on his neck. The truth will destroy everything he and his partner have together, so Oliver does the thing he used to do so well: He lies. Bath Haus is a scintillating thriller with an emotional punch.

Who They Was (Harper Collins, June 2021 with paperback in April 2021) by Gabriel Krauze. This is a visceral autobiographical novel about a young man straddling two cultures: the university where he is studying English Literature and the disregarded world of London gang warfare. The unforgettable narrator of this compelling, thought-provoking debut book goes by two names in his two worlds. At the university he attends, he’s Gabriel, a seemingly ordinary, partying student learning about morality at a distance. But in his life outside the classroom, he’s Snoopz, a hard-living member of London’s gangs, well-acquainted with drugs, guns, stabbings, and robbery. Navigating these sides of himself, he is forced to come to terms with who he really is and the life he’s chosen for himself. In a distinct, lyrical urban slang all his own, author Gabriel Krauze brings to vivid life the underworld of his city and the destructive impact of toxic masculinity. 

As you can tell, we like a darker literary bent in psychological realism. And the more modern version does just that. There are some definite powerhouses here, ones that will make you think about the world around you.


TO OUR READERS: Do you have a favorite author that you would like THE DARK SIRE to keep track of? Or did we miss a title that came out in May/June that should have been listed? Let us know in the comments. We love to uplift amazing writers. In fact, if you drop the name of an author for us to include, we will add them to our future new release lists – which are now a MONTHLY staple of The Dark Forest. Check back at the end of July for our July/August releases.

And don’t forget to PRE-ORDER TDS’ DARK SUMMER Issue 8, set to release on July 31. More details available at darksiremag.com/issue8.html.

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!

Making Vampires Scary Again

Vampires are no longer scary.  In last week’s blog, I traced the path that has led us down this unforgivable (to a horror fanatic) chain of tales to the situation now where a vampire is merely another angst-ridden young adult feeling marginalized by the society around them.  The Cullens (Twilight Saga) are almost the kind of people you would like to have dinner with (as long as you are not the main course).  You feel sorry for Gary Oldman’s Dracula because he is doing everything for LOVE.  Vampires seem to be only dangerous to other vampires.  The Originals was nothing more than a vampire version of Dynasty.

What would it take to make vampires scary, again?  Well, first of all, they would have to lose the “good-guy” image.  From ancient Mesopotamia 6000 years ago, until relatively recently, vampires were monsters.  They were the top of the food chain and humans were their prey.  We need to make vampires monsters again.

Granted, this poses a problem.  It’s going to call for a new mindset, or, rather, a mindset that returns to values held by previous generations.  It calls for a delineation between good and evil, a realization that some things are black and white with no shades of gray.  Evil in any form cannot be explained away.  You need to FEAR evil.  Vampires were once the epitome of evil.  They killed without remorse then desecrated the dead by having imbibed the blood of their victims.  They were a power that the average person could not overcome.  You needed specialized knowledge and specialized weapons to stop the vampire dead in its tracks.  (Pun intended.)

But above all, vampires need to recapture the unpleasant emotions linked to danger: pain and extreme harm.  The people in the stories need to be running away from the vampire and not running to it.  Some of those people will have to die and die horribly in order to get the point across of just how evil a vampire is.  And that will make your vampire hunters all the more heroic, because with a totally evil vampire comes a true definition of heroism (another concept we are short on, in this day and age.)

The hero is as much a folkloric character as is the vampire; in a sense, you can’t have one without the other.  He or she is the person who steps in the gap to fight a battle that they have no chance of winning in order to protect people that they sometimes don’t even know.  They recognize that it is their duty, their calling, their fate, if you will, to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.  I am not talking about some screaming virgin tossed into a volcano to appease an angry god, or a young maiden tied to a stake to be eaten by a dragon or scooped up by the likes of King Kong.  I am talking about someone who walks towards the danger knowing that they might not be walking back. 

A scary vampire story is metaphor for good vs. evil.  Once upon a time, we believed in Evil.  Various religions even gave it a name.  We even celebrate a holiday (Halloween) which began as festival to keep evil at bay.  Now, it’s just a night for children to get candy and dress up.  We have forgotten that people were scared in real life and wanted relief from the horrors of world events.  Horror, then, is an escape from reality.  But what scares us now? 

To make a vampire scary again, an author needs to discover what scares us today, and embody that in the vampire character.  The author needs to make the reader sitting at a table at their favorite coffee shop look over their shoulder and wonder about the person sitting behind them.  Is it safe to leave your table?  Is it safe to walk to your car?  Do you need to look into the backseat before you get in, even though you know it’s empty (or supposed to be)?

With all the social issues of the 21st-Century, it would be easy to play on real-life horror to embody a vampire’s evil nature.  Vampires have, after all, been used as metaphor for drug addiction and substance abuse, physical trauma, the outsider, immigration laws and policies, and so much more. Why not use the vampire to reflect our present-day issues, like human trafficking, opioid addiction, the pandemic, governmental greed, immigration, racism, women empowerment, the dysfunctional family unit, religion or lack of religion, and tolerance? Any one of these topics is a sensitive topic in today’s society, and thus important to us – global humans. By embodying the vampire with the evil traits of these devastating issues, we can reflect society, use vampire as metaphor, and fill the vampire with dread once again, the evil necessary to make vampires scary again.

For anyone interested in writing scary vampire stories, focus on the thought that vampires need to recapture the feeling of dread. Dread: to anticipate with great apprehension or fear.  When you really dread something, you get weak at the knees and there is a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  You do not want to confront or have anything to do with what is making you feel that way.  At its very essence, dread makes you want to flee, and as quickly as possible.  Your characters are going to have to dread the presence of the vampire.  Even the people hunting it are going to have to overcome their basic primal fears of being eaten alive just to go up against one. And the most dreadful fact of all is that some won’t survive.

So, what is going to be the new evil?  Here in The Dark Forest, we would love to know.  What do you think needs to happen for vampires to regain their horror and fear factor?  Do you have a favorite vampire character that still gives you chills or goosebumps?  Share your thoughts in the comments below to let your voice be heard. We’re listening!


A challenge to writers, poets, and artists: THE DARK SIRE is looking for vampire tales that bring back the scary vampire. Submit your evilest vampire short stories, novellas, poems, art, and screenplays for inclusion in Issue 9 – our 2nd year anniversary issue! Simply visit darksiremag.com/submissions.html. Together, we can strike fear in our readers, one page at a time.

When Did Vampires Become Cool?

The other night I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, LEGACIES.  There was one particularly touching scene that got to me.  It was a proverbial “Aaawww” moment.  MG, a good-natured vampire, wipes the memory of his one true, human friend in order to keep him safe.  It was a true act of ultimate friendship because MG desperately wants a friend.  And in the middle of this sweet scene, I began to wonder: Why isn’t he tearing this kid’s throat out?  He’s a vampire, for goodness sake.  He needs the blood and with the kid dead, his secret is safe.  And then I realized, none of the witches, vampires, werewolves and assortment of “other worldly” characters in this story are particularly threatening to non-other worldly creatures.  But monsters, beware!

When did it become okay to be a vampire?  When did it become okay to give up your humanity, die, and accept the role of blood-sucking, night-dweller who supposedly preys on the living?  I’m old-school.  When you watch the re-runs of horror movies on Svengoollie or whatever your Saturday night monster fest show is called, you have to understand, I saw these at a first run theater as a kid.  The Hammer productions starring Christopher Lee (Dracula) and Peter Cushing (Van Helsing) were the perfect duo to justify your cuddling with your girlfriend in the back seat at the drive-in.  (Google: Hammer films.) 

Dracula was the bad guy.  Van Helsing always killed him before the closing credits ran.  Then, in the next movie, some servant of the dark lord would always resurrect him, and the chase was on again.  Then you had Count Yorga, and he was guaranteed to have your girlfriend screaming to get into your arms.  The hero would go in to stake the Count and, suddenly, the Count was behind him and the tables were turned.  Count Yorga never had to be resurrected because he always won.

Ah, the good old days.  For decades, Dracula by Bram Stoker dominated the genre.  In fact, it was the genre.  It was published in 1897 and virtually dominated the vampire market until 1954.  There were authors who tried their hand at vampire literature, but they are merely footnotes in literary history.  None were able to capture the imagination like the original Count.

In 1954, Richard Matheson published I Am Legend, which took the vampire into the post-apocalyptic age and crossed into the science fiction genre.  But that said, vampires were still the bad guys.  The novel was successfully adapted into several films: The Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price (1964), The Omega Man starring Charleton Heston (1971), and I AM Legend starring Will Smith (2007). 

Some people credit Steven King’s Salem’s Lot (1975) for ushering in the modern wave of vampires.  However, his vampires were still evil and needed destroyed.  It wasn’t until the following year that the vampire rose from the ashes anew.  Anne Rice took the literary community by storm with Interview With The Vampire (1976).  She gave us a wondrously villainous vampire in the character of Lestat, and the vampire with scruples, morals, and, dare I say, a heart with Louis (played by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, respectively, in the 1994 movie.)  Then, in 1978, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro published her first Count of Saint-Germain novel.  In it, she combined historical fiction, romance, and horror all centering around a cultured, well-traveled, articulate, elegant, and mysterious vampire.  Between Rice and Yarbro, the transition to break away from the traditional vampire clichés and create a totally new vampire character was underway.

The split could be seen in the next couple of movies and TV shows. I remembered the 1983 movie The Hunger, based on the book of the same title by Whitley Strieber, starring Catherine Deneuve (Mariam), David Bowie (John), and Susan Sarandon (Sarah).  Although John and Mariam were both vampires, it was John who becomes the monster when he kills a child in hopes that her young blood would stop the degenerative process that his ancient body was undergoing.  Not much after John’s death, Mariam turns her sights toward seducing Sarah. Though innocent compared to John, Mariam still wasn’t a good guy, per se, though love was a theme throughout the movie. And let’s not forget Forever Knight, the 1992 TV series about an 800-year-old vampire, Nick Knight, who lived as a detective and lamented his immortality.  In fact, Knight was trying to break the curse of being a vampire through blood letting and transfusions.  Though he couldn’t allow himself to forget he was a monster, he tried to correct the wrongs of his life but aiding humans and protecting them from other monsters (human and otherworldly).  Of course that leads us to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), where loving a vampire, though a faux pas, was realized.  The relationship between Buffy and Angel showed a new side to the lamenting, emotional, witty vampire – one that had a loving heart and whom was not as scary as he first seemed. 

The vampire was surely on a path of change, and that change led us to the next transition. Once you felt sorry for Pitt’s Louis, felt intrigued by Saint-Germain, felt vindicated by Knight, and felt empathy for Buffy, the flood gates opened for the romantic and thus Stephenie Myer to pen The Twilight Saga (2005).  If Rice’s and Yarbro’s work gave us the groundwork for good guy vampires versus bad guy vampires – all fighting for dominance, then Meyer’s grabbed a page from Buffy and ran with it to create the all-new romantic vampire being that dripped with teenage angst.  Old vampires passed for young teenagers, lived among humans, and even had romantic relationships with them.  Now, vampires were sexy creatures that humans wanted to be with, not fear, and the humans weren’t very remorseful or shy about their love. 

Fear of the monstrous vampire had been waning before Meyer, but her work was the final straw for irradicating the vampire fiend.  At present, vampires are known for their beautiful/handsome appearance, their human emotions, their strength – both physically and psychologically, and their romantic relationships with humans.  They are your friend, your family, your lover.  They aren’t feared or scary; they are the cool people that everyone wants to be like.  For some of the younger generation today, “it’s hard to be afraid of a vampire who sparkles” because “vampires are dangerous.”  And that’s the problem.

Contemporary vampires are mostly portrayed as romantic, anti-heroes caught in the tragic web of their existence.  And when you look at vampires in this light, there is no other way to view vampires than as watered-down fabrications of what they once were.  Though evolution and progression are good things in general, it hurt the vampire genre a great deal, with the oversaturation of vampire romance fiction an indication that a new transition is way overdue.  So, what will the new vampire look like, feel like, behave like?  Only time will tell.  But I, for one, hope for a return of the fiendish monster who scares viewers at every turn.


What do you think?  Are you ready for another evolution?  Should vampires be scary again?  Or is the romantic vampire still wanted?  Share your ideas in the comments.  And as always, you can read non-romance vampire stories in THE DARK SIRE by purchasing an issue in the TDS Store. Better yet – submit your vampire stories! We’d love to read your work.

Creative Nook with Samuel Marzioli

by Zachary Shiffman

As his blog declares, Samuel Marzioli is a “writer of dark fantasy and horror.” Considering the type of works we publish and massively enjoy at THE DARK SIRE, I knew right away I had to get a better look at this author from the West Coast. That led to my reading of Hollow Skulls and Other Stories, Marzioli’s anthology published by Journalstone, and it only took a couple of stories from that collection for me to know that we needed to invite Marzioli into the Creative Nook for an interview.

Marzioli and I spoke first of his anthology: its origin, its compilation, finding a home for it in Journalstone, and its ultimate publication in January 2021. Then we discussed the Filipino influence present in one of its stories, Multo, which concerns a man reflecting on his childhood encounters with a multo (Tagalog, meaning ghost). It is a story that will linger with you after you finish it, because of its careful and engrossing prose which casts an ominous, yet somewhat nostalgic, tone over the characters. Multos, among other figures and creatures of Filipino folklore, are topics of interest to Marzioli, and he hopes to write more on them in the future.

We went on to discuss Marzioli’s writing style and how he balances the good with the bad, the light with the dark, and the horrific with the hopeful. Marzioli also offered advice for writers frozen in their creative tracks, as well as a book recommendation to take with you after the interview.

Overall, it was an intriguing conversation, one that we at THE DARK SIRE sincerely thank Samuel Marzioli for engaging in and encourage you, our readers, to watch it in full on the Dark Sire’s YouTube channel!

https://youtu.be/bL-kGX_WPLk

Dark Chances Contest: Winners Announced

by Bre Stephens

The Dark Sire and Second Chances Lit teamed up to bring the writing community a fun-filled writing contest that held horror close to the chest. The theme was “second chances” in all its interpretations. There were many entries for this swag contest, but only three writers could win.

Among my personal favorites, Juno Dufour’s O, Fortunato struck a gothic cord with a truly unique interpretation of the “second chances” theme; Allison Miehl’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie pitched an emotional curveball; Marie Kelly’s Bury Me in My Dreams hit a home run in psychological horror and mental health awareness; Connor Pope’s Hand in Hand, Dear Sister conjured chills in all the right places through amazing word choice and description; Matthew Hisbent’s Hearts of Darkness tore into the flesh – literally – to escape with a second chance; and Liam Hogan’s Sirens had a twist not expected.

Though all the stories had a fresh take on the theme and were masterfully written, only three authors could rise to the top. And without further ado, I’d like to congratulate the WINNERS of the Dark Chances Contest:

1st Place
Mario Aliberto III
Rescue Me

The water rushed into her mouth, cold, filling her up. Above, sunshine broke upon the ocean’s surface. The man splashed through, blotting out the light. Handsome, strong, swimming towards her. Reaching.

She fell deeper, but in the ocean, it was not called falling. Diving, yes, the man would call it that. But to lure a man it had to look like falling.

His eyes saying, I will save you.

A strong swimmer. When he grabbed her wrist, she grabbed his back. Then she released the breath she was holding, air bubbling up from her neck gills, before falling—diving—deeper.

Bio: Mario Aliberto III lives in Tampa Bay with his wife and daughters, and yet the dog still runs the house. Twitter: @marioaliberto3.


2nd Place
Jenni Meade
Hang Him High

It has rained for days, drops falling on me from the sky, from branches heavy with rot, from his bloated fingertips. My clothes are as ragged as the hope that led me to replace his noose with a chain. Thunder rumbles; prayers rise. 

I kiss his bare ankle. All I need is one strike. The wind howls in fury at my obstinance. 

The crack rends the night—the tree—his limb sunders, the dead of tree and dead of man falling at my feet. 

Neither of us breathes.

“Wake up,” I whisper. 

His hand convulses, cold and pale and alive, alive, alive—

Bio:   When Jenni Meade isn’t writing, she’s either running a construction company, making pork dumplings, or chasing a feral child. When Jenni Meade is writing, she is the feral child. She can be found on Twitter (@jmeadeski) or online at jennimeade.com.


3rd Place
James Hancock
The Chamber

Had I a tongue, I might beg for mercy.  But I know my fate; there would be no second chance.  My room stinks of blood and sweat, and had I eyes to see, the dancing candlelight would show the shadowy form of my keeper.  He who scrubs the rack clean as I fumble in the darkness.  My waist chained tight, forcing me to stand, and pain stabbing with every shallow breath.  I paw with broken fingers, feeling the cold metal walls of my upright coffin.  Eagerly, he approaches and the door before me slams shut.  I succumb to the maiden.

Bio: James writes stories which are a little bizarre, often dark, and somewhat twisted. He lives in England with his wife and two daughters and their many pets. Follow him on Twiiter: @JimHank13.


CONGRATULATIONS to these amazing writers! I enjoyed your work tremendously. Aliberto grabbed and pulled me under the water; Meade left me wanting more, more more; and Hancock delivered a powerful THUD! that echoed in my mind when the chamber closed. Powerful imagery, great description, and a ride filled with adrenaline – that is what these authors delivered. And I was here for it all!


Are you ready to submit to THE DARK SIRE? We’re always looking for short stories, poetry, art, and now screenplays in the subgenres of gothic, horror, fantasy, and psychological realism. To submit, visit: darksiremag.com.

Writing Short Fiction Horror

So you’ve just put down THE DARK SIRE Issue 7, and you were enthralled by David Gibbs’ story Devil’s Acre or Kolby Diaz’s Rattling or one of the trilogy poems by S. M. Cook, and now you are inspired to write a horror story of your own.  Good for you.  TDS is behind you 100%.  It is our fervent hope that our stories not only entertain you but that they will also inspire you to try your creative hand.

But where do you begin?  Horror is a unique genre.  It is one that inspires intense feelings of fear, shock, or disgust.  But not everyone is afraid of the same thing, or shocked by the same thing, or feels disgust by the same thing.  In other words, it is not a genre that appeals to everyone.  However, that said, there are primal fears that are fundamental to the human animal, as a whole.  As a writer, you have to search yourself to discover what basic fears you and your contemporaries have and use those phobias as the basis for your horror story.

Take Edgar Allen Poe, for example.  Written over a century ago, his stories retain their power to haunt us because he played on the fundamental fear of people not being what they seem.  Shirley Jackson, in The Haunting of Hill House, builds on Poe’s fear about people not being what they seem by adding a house that seems to have a malevolent intent for those lured inside it.  In Pet Sematary, Stephen King capitalizes on the simple concept of a place where buried things come back to life… sort of.  In Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury rides the carousel of peoples’ fear of losing the natural order of their lives.

Written in different centuries by authors who were incredibly different from each other, these stories all have several things in common that make them great horror stories:  They all have innocent characters with whom the readers can identify while operating on the premise that bad things happen to good people.  Each story preys on what the author feels to be their readers’ common phobias.  There is something sinister about each fear, and those authors take full advantage of that.

Steps to writing a good horror short story:

1.  When writing horror, first start with setting, taking specific care to create a solid, believable location. Ernest Hemingway once said that if an author can get his readers to believe in the place in which the story occurs, they will then believe everything that happens in that location.  This is completely true with horror.  Location, location, location. Sell the location to your readers and they will shiver at whatever terror you unveil, be it psychological fear, gross-out horror, or bone-chilling dread. Establishing the location at the beginning is key, of course, but does not mean just stating the location (e.g., New York City; Hyde Park, 1969; a dark basement). More importantly, use descriptive language to paint a picture for the mind’s eye of the reader. Just enough information will let the reader create a vivid image of the location on their own. Guide your reader through well-crafted suggestions (i.e., smell of flowers, a chill of wet dirt pressing down… could all indicate being buried alive when crafted correctly). Location can be sprinkled in throughout the story with location markers such as these that enhance the story’s premise. Location, then, becomes an integral part of the story and thus works with the unfolding of the narrative. When your readers feel like they are inside the setting and experience the location for themselves, they will feel the terror first-hand.

2.  Make your protagonist’s stakes high.  Will your story be one of life or death for the hero?  For the hero’s loved one?  For the hero’s town?  The higher the stakes, the more evil the villain needs to be; keep the two forces balanced so you don’t have a weak or over-inflated villain.  A good horror story is all about the characters: the hero trying to achieve a goal and the villain trying to thwart the hero’s plan. And remember, the villain doesn’t need to be a person, but can be weather, insanity, animal, self, disease, or monster. So how does the villain conflict with the hero and why is there conflict to begin with? How will the conflict create tension in the story? And finally, how will the protagonist overcome the antagonist while the stakes remain at their fullest intensity?

3.  Avoid cliché.  As the author, you need to balance reality with whatever is going bump in the night in your story.  The hardest thing you will probably come across is coming up with a new angle for your horror story and avoiding trite rehashing of stories that have already been told.  Old stories can be told with new twists.  It’s your job as an author to create them.  With editors reading hundreds of submissions per month, they see a plethora of stories that use the same cliches repeatedly, to the extent of boredom. How many times must editor’s read a character falling when running away or a character being knocked unconscious only to wake up tied and oblivious to their new location? These are cliches that writers should avoid. Instead, think outside the box and ask yourself what you can do to change things up. How can your character react differently? How can they turn the tables? How else can you switch the scene? What other scenarios, actions, dialogue or settings can be created to turn the normal, boring, overused cliché on its ear? The answer is easier said than done: Do the opposite.  By doing the opposite of what is expected, you break the cliché and thus write “in the new.” If you can do that, you’ll get the right kind of attention from readers – and editors.

4.  Point of view.  Who is telling the story?  Choosing the right point of view for your story allows the reader to get into the mindset of what you are trying to achieve.  If you want your reader to be an observer and shocked by the things that are happening, you might choose the third person omniscient point of view.  As a writer, the third person omniscient point of view allows you to enter the minds of all your characters to reveal what they are thinking, their motivations, their hopes and fears… of both your heroes and your villains. Don’t want your narrator to know all? Simply use third person limited, which means that the narrator only knows what has already been experienced – not all.  Or, you could tell the story through the eyes of just one of your characters, through the first person point of view.  If you use first person, you can only reveal what that particular character is thinking and feeling – a personal account.  For instance, a story told through the eyes of the victim can only express the victim’s hopes and fears triggered by what the villain is doing, though it could be totally opposite to the villain’s real intentions, which would have to be revealed through some kind of communication.  First persona and third person limited point of view are limited in nature because they can only reveal what the narrator has experienced or is experiencing; yet, the third person omniscient is unlimited due to the narrator knowing all. Though the omniscient point of view allows the author to express what ALL the characters are experiencing and whether or not they are aware of how everyone else in the story is reacting, it’s not always the best to choose. So which point of view should you use? Think of the characters you’ve created and the story you want to tell. Then consider what the reader needs to know. A story that is written in first person will be a close account story, personal, and great for a bird’s eye view of the main character’s thoughts, feelings, moods, and action. If a more distanced approach is needed, then try third person. The best advice, however, is to try them all to see which one feels better when read aloud.

5. To Twist or not to twist.  The trick with a plot twist is to avoid the cliché. You know, the person you thought was dead isn’t; the monster isn’t a monster at all; the victim is really the killer.  All of these were great plot twists WHEN THEY WERE FIRST USED.  But now they have been used ad nauseum.  To recreate the old into something new, you must think outside the box – again. What isn’t expected that can happen? What hasn’t been done a million times? A correctly written plot twist, especially at the end, is awe-inspiring and hits your reader in the chest. It’s what keeps the story fresh in the reader’s mind long after they have finished the story. But then again, maybe your story doesn’t need a twist.  Maybe your story flows well to an expected and anticipated feel-good conclusion.  Readers love when they know more than the characters and see the hero’s plans falling into place. A twist isn’t always needed to fulfill a reader’s thirst because we all cheer when the hero overcomes all the insurmountable odds the villain has placed in his or her path and succeeds in fulfilling the quest nonetheless.  Whichever you choose, be sure to end with an impact on the reader. There’s nothing worse then a weak ending that will disappoint the reader’s expectation. Remember: The best stories are the ones that leave a lasting impression.

6. Storytelling technique.  A horror story is still just that… a story.  Never forget that.  The drama, the horror, the darkness are all part of the story, so don’t let them overpower your characters’ wants and needs.  Your readers should feel empathy for your characters to give them a reason to continue the reading journey.  It is your job, then, to balance the drama and the horror with realism, suspense, and belief to guarantee that your readers remain engaged and entertained to the very end. This means that story takes precedence. Don’t get caught up in so much exposition that the story stalls – or worse yet, stops. Instead, keep the story in mind at all times and KEEP IT MOVING.

So now all you have to do is write… right?  Believe me when I say that it’s easier said than done.  But if there is a story in you, let it come out.  Don’t be afraid to sit at the keyboard and type away or pick up that old fashioned pen or pencil and scratch away until your fingers get sore.  No one (especially those of us here as THE DARK SIRE) ever said that writing was easy.  It isn’t.  It’s work.  But it can be very rewarding work.  Every author puts their heart and soul into the things they write.  That might sound like a cliché, but it’s true and more than just metaphor.  Your heart beats at around 72 beats per minute.  It might take you hours, days, or even weeks to write a good story and get it ready to send out to a magazine.  How many times has your heart beaten during that process?  Those aren’t just words on a page.  They are the embodiment of your heart beats.  We know – because we’ve been there ourselves.  So get to work, and write your hearts out!


Practicing the six tips above will help you master short fiction horror writing. Here are a couple of application prompts to get you thinking outside the box.

Prompt 1:  A secondary character is running away from the villain.  Brainstorm at least three ways that the character gets away without the stereotypical run and fall and scream method.

Prompt 2:  Write 2-3 paragraphs in a haunted house, where someone is haunted without using a ghost/spirit/or some kind of otherworldly being.

Prompt 3:  Brainstorm 3 ways to invoke terror/horror in someone who is confronted with a common, everyday object. 

Prompt 4:  Using dialog only, convey one person’s horror of something to another person.  Make the second person as terrorized as the first.

Prompt 5:  Write 2-3 paragraphs of a scene with the main character in first person point of view. Then, rewrite the exact same scene in third person limited point of view. Now, rewrite the scene again but in third person omniscient. Read each aloud to see the difference in feeling, mood, and tone.  Which point of view is best for your next story?

Let’s build a supportive writing community.
Share your brainstorming and paragraph work in a comment.


When you have a horror short story ready for publication, we want to read it!
Read our submission guidelines and then submit your work via our website.

The Door: A Review

Rating: 💀💀💀

Alfred Hitchcock, the unequalled master of suspense, defined suspense this way:  You have five people playing cards on a train and suddenly a bomb goes off under their table – that’s surprise.  But you have the same five people playing cards and the audience knows that there is a bomb under their table and the audience can see the timer counting down – that’s suspense.

In The Door, Boris Bacic has constructed a masterful story in the best Hitchcockian tradition.  His preamble sets up Hitchcock’s ticking bomb for his readers.  There is something evil behind the door of the apartment.  In fact, there is another world back there.  We are swept along as a young woman is trapped behind the closed door and then attacked.  The readers know that.  Nathan, the new occupant of the apartment, does not. 

Nathan lives in a rat trap apartment with a do-nothing landlord who won’t even fix a broken toilet.  Looking for a new place to live, he comes across an apartment that is too good to be true.  The place is stunning and it’s well within his economic reach.  Nathan immediately jumps at the chance to rent it.

While the rental agent is checking on his credit, Nathan notices a door and tries to open it.  It won’t budge.  When the agent comes back, Nathan asks what’s behind it.  The agent doesn’t know because that door has never been opened.

We follow Nathan’s angst as he waits to find out if he has been approved and we follow his continuing battles with his landlord.  Then comes the great news.  He has been approved.  Nathan moves in as quickly as he can.

Despite the grandeur of the apartment, things don’t go right from the very beginning.  Nathan has nightmares.  He thinks he hears scratching coming from somewhere.  He tries to open the so-called storage door, but it resists his every effort.  He even hires a door-opening specialist who also can’t make a dent. 

While the door is the focal point of the story, Mr. Bacic peoples his apartment house with an assortment of characters that pleasantly flesh out his novel.  He even brings in Nathan’s close friend, Sam, making Nathan a sympathetic character.  You can’t help but like him and the people around him.  As things grow darker with the door, Nathan discovers that several of his newly made friends know more about the evil than they were willing to tell him when they first met.  When the door opens of its own accord, Nathan sets out to explore what’s behind it.  His exploration leads him down an even darker path.  But despite his own fears, he goes. 

Nathan is a heroic character.  He overcomes his personal fears to attempt to overcome and rid the world of the evil that exists behind the door.  It costs him dearly.  But that is exactly what defines a hero in the classic sense, and Mr. Bacic has created such a sympathetic protagonist. 

Had this book been presented to me as an audio file, I would have no problem giving The Door 4 or 4 ½ skulls.  It is a great story.  It contains all the darkness and horror that readers of THE DARK SIRE enjoy.  But… it wasn’t presented as an audio book.  It was presented as a print book and as such has numerous problems.  When you ask a reader to buy what you have written, you have effectively raised the bar.  You are no longer an amateur but are entering the ranks of the professional writer and as such, you have an obligation to make your book as professional as possible.  Unfortunately, that’s where The Door falls short.  It is not professional.  It is not ready for publication.  The story is ready, but the mechanics of it – unfortunately – are not.

Maybe the trouble is due to language barriers, as the author is not a native English speaker. Though I applaud his efforts and encourage him to continue writing, studying the English language a bit more would serve him well. At the moment, the author doesn’t seem to know basic conversation punctuation.  He also has trouble with when to use had and has.  And there are several places where he has chosen the wrong word, indicating that English is a definitely struggle. 

This book needs to be professionally edited for an American audience so that grammar and mechanics do not distract from the quality of the writing.  The story is too good and the characters too real for anything less.  In short, this book needs a professional presentation that mirrors its actual high-quality of the story itself.

Bottom line: If you are the kind of reader who is more interested in the story than in the presentation, by all means, buy this book – you will enjoy it tremendously.  However, if you are the type of reader who gets distracted by mistakes or insists on a professional presentation, you will quickly be disappointed and should buy with caution.

The Door is available on Amazon.com in paperback, hard cover, and ebook formats.

UPDATE: The version presented in the paperback versus ebook formats seem to use different formatting and spacing. The ebook formatting is much more reader friendly, as the paperback has spacing issues that make it hard to read.


RATINGS: TDS rates all books based on the dark content and how well the reading experience lends itself. Of course, author craft, storytelling, and mechanics are considered, as well. For this purpose, we use skulls (💀💀💀💀). And explanation of the skull system follows.

RATING:  💀
Boring, not dark, not interesting. Do not recommend.

RATING: 💀💀
Fair plot, not too dark, fairly interesting. Read at own risk.

RATING: 💀💀💀
Good plot and mild darkness, good reading experience. Encouraged read.

RATING: 💀💀💀💀
Great reading experience with heaps of dark tone. Strong recommend.

RATING: 💀💀💀💀💀
Excellent prose, tons of dark tone. A MUST READ!