Nightmare #368 – Scorpions

(20’s, Nevada) When you’ve spent most of your life in the desert, you develop a cavalier attitude. Sure, the desert is filled with things that can kill you, but let’s face it—-it’s probably not going to happen.

I know people who are terrified of black widows. Absolutely terrified. But, honestly, they’re not that bad. Unless you’re very young, or very old, or very sick, a black widow bite isn’t going to kill you. Chances are, you’re not going to get bitten in the first place. Not unless you do something stupid, like stick your hand in a gardening glove that’s been left out overnight. But people who live in the desert know better.

Even rattlesnakes aren’t that bad. They’re startling, sure. But unless you’re way out in the desert without any hope of getting to a hospital anytime soon, you’re probably not going to die from a bite. No, you won’t die, you’ll just have a crazy story to impress people with. Remember, that one time you got bitten by a rattlesnake?

And sure, people have been known to die from the heat itself. Bodies have been found with their insides melted. But for the people who live here, the extreme heat is just part of it. Experience enough 115-degree days and you don’t even notice it anymore.

Yes, it’s very easy to be cavalier about the desert. It is for me, anyway. With one exception: scorpions. I know they’re no worse than anything else in the Mojave, but I’ve never seen one. I know people who find scorpions in their homes as routinely as I find black widows in the yard. But it’s never happened to me. And with every scorpion-less year that passes, I become more afraid of actually seeing one.

So afraid that I’m even dreaming about it.

I wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom, pretty normal. But this night feels different somehow. Something feels wrong from the very start. Ominous.

I creep through the dark bedroom, turn on the bathroom light before entering. I expect to see something waiting for me there, I’m already flinching, pulling back. But the bathroom is empty. Everything is normal.

It’s not until the toilet is flushing that I see it. In the corner of the bathroom there’s a tiny scorpion. My stomach sinks. I start to sweat. There’s a scorpion and I have no idea how to get it out of my house. You can’t just swat or stomp on it.

And maybe it seems like it should be less scary since the scorpion is so small, but I know better. I’ve been raised in the desert, after all. It’s the little ones you need to look out for. They’re the most venomous. The most likely to kill you.

It’s one of those milky-clear scorpions. Which makes it seems worse for some reason. I could handle it better if it were black, or dark brown. There’s something more alien about this one. And sneaky. It almost blends in with the bathroom tile.

I’m terrified and I don’t know what to do. But I’m also relieved. I’ve spent so long dreading this moment that I feel almost powerful now. There’s something liberating about knowing the thing you’ve been fearing has already happened.

I guess that’s what makes me do it—-the sense of power, sense of freedom. Instead of trying to kill the scorpion, I find myself reaching out to it. I slide my hand along the bathroom floor. Closer, closer. It moves towards me. I inch my hand forward. And soon I feel eight tiny legs moving across my palm.

I stare at the scorpion in revulsion and wonder. I bring my hand closer to my face, examine the creature closely. The segmented tail, the poised stinger.

Then I see movement from the corner of my eye.

I glance down at the bathroom floor. And realize my mistake. My scorpion had not been alone.

They’re swarming from a crack in the wall. Tens of scorpions, maybe hundreds. I try to move back and stumble. My hand closes in a fist. That’s when I feel the first sting.

I wake up suddenly. I’m in bed. There are no scorpions. But my hand still has the memory of a sting.

I need to use the bathroom, but decide I can hold it until morning. It was just a dream, but you can never be too careful. The desert is full of things that can kill you.

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How To Haunt Your Home Part II: Setting The Scene

Zed's Hat

By Michael Cieslak

Welcome to part two of our discussion of how to haunt your home. As noted in our first installment, we’re investigating what is required to turn your residence into something fantastically frightening for Halloween.

In terms of full disclosure, I should let you know that my own level of haunting is probably somewhere around Beginner+ to Intermediate-. I have multiple fog machines, an extensive light array, and pneumatics. I both purchase and make my own props. I do have some experience with mask creation and foam latex prop making, but not much. My soldering skills are non-existent.

Oh, you can call me Zed.

Last time around, we discussed the importance of having a centralized theme around which your haunt is based. To explore this further, why don’t we take a quick look at two of the biggest haunts in the area, Realm of Darkness and Erebus. Both are located in Pontiac, but each approaches the idea of theme in a different way.

Realm of Darkness features the classic Quest To Defeat The Wizard. Visitors are lead through a medieval castle filled with various monsters and ghouls until they reach the Wizard at the end. All of the characters and props fits this theme.

Erebus, on the other hand, tells the story of a mad scientist who creates a rift in time and space which allows all manner of horrible things to fall into our world. Using this pretense, the owners can explain areas of science fiction technology next to dinosaurs, swamps inside of a building, and zombies and madmen inhabiting the same space.

So how do you choose your theme? The easiest way to decide is think about what scares you. If there is an idea which creeps you out, odds are it will do the same to someone else. Also, take a look at what you already have purchased. If you have already started building up a supply of props, get them out and see what they have in common. You might have your answer right there.

There are a number of staples for the haunted house which you might want to invest in. These include:

Spiders and webbing — Nothing says “old and creepy” like cobwebs, and spiders rank among snakes and heights as the things most people are afraid of. Large spider webs are also readily available at Halloween stores and are an inexpensive way to start making your house look frightening. The downside to this is that everyone else on the block will have them as well. If you do go the spider route, you might want to invest in a webspinner, a simple device that is essentially a hot glue gun with a fan attachment. This blows the hot glue wherever you point it (wind permitting) and creates gorgeous spiderwebs.

Tombstones — The cemetery is a staple backdrop, whether you are featuring zombies, ghosts, skeletons, or just something eerie. They are also inexpensive, fairly easy to make, and an efficient way to make your haunt look bigger than it is. Placing large tombstones in the front of the yard and progressively smaller ones as the boneyard continues rearward will create a forced perspective effect, and the illusion that the space is much larger.

Skulls, skeletons, and bones — We’ve all got them under our skin, but for some reason people are freaked out by bones. You can use full sized skeletons as scares, skulls as background decorations, or bones in the hands of your zombies and werewolves for an added ick factor. I recommend the 4th Rate Bucky Skeleton, available from a variety of retailers, including The Skeleton Store and the Skeleton Factory. Bucky is an anatomically correct skeleton, quite sturdy (I’ve had mine for ten years or more), and it won’t break your bank.

Fog-Machines — We will go into more detail on fog machines in a later post, but they are a great way to add atmosphere.

A number of resources will help you get ideas for your haunt and in some cases learn how to make your own props.

If you are in the Metro Detroit Area, you should check out the Motor City Haunt Club. This group of haunters and horror fans meets once a month on the campus of the University of Detroit-Mercy. They discuss prop creation, lighting, sounds, fog machines, and just about everything else related to home haunting. Meetings usually feature a how-to demonstration of a Make and Take session where attendees create a prop during the meeting.

On-line Resources:
The internet is an ever-changing landscape. A number of websites devoted to home haunting are only occasionally updated, but they are plenty of archives of useful information which has already been posted. These include the Home Haunters Association, Home Haunt News, and Halloween Show.

Several national conventions devoted to professional Haunted Attractions can be fantastic opportunities to learn. Although some of the material may be beyond the scope of the average home haunter, there are usually also panel discussions and demonstrations which can be applied on a smaller scale. Many include a sales floor that showcases all sorts of different ghoulish goodies as well. Some of the biggest and best include HauntCon, TransWorld, the Mid-West Haunters Convention, and local favorite Great Lakes Fright Fest.

Other Materials:
I recommend the following material for anyone interested in bigger, scarier Halloween material:

Boneyard Productions DVD set: Includes Horrific Haunted House Tips, Scenery Made Easy, Scares Made Frightfully Easy, and The Official guide to Haunted House Actor Training and Operations Management.

The DC Prop Builder’s Handbook: Devious Concoctions Custom Un-Earthed Creations Volumes 1 and 2. These books are excellent resources which cover everything from corpse and coffin creation to building pneumatic lifters.

Grande Illusions: Books I & II by Savini, Tom (2013) Paperback. The master of horror make-up illustrates some of the best of his cinematic creations including behind the scenes material on how they were constructed.

Stay tuned for more tips, tricks and guidance for building your best Halloween haunt yet.


(Original posting here)

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How To Haunt Your Home Part I: Planning

Zed's Hat

By Michael Cieslak

My name is Zed, and I’m a professional home haunter. I’ve been approached by the Head Nightmarian to discuss the ins and outs of turning your home and/or yard into something terrifying this October.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the home haunter dwells in the middle ground between person who puts up some decorations at Halloween and the Haunted Attractions which spring up around the end of September. The typical home haunt has detailed props, some of which may use light, sound, and pneumatics to achieve their scares. Some home haunts are large enough that they rival the professionals, drawing hundreds or even thousands of people a night.

If you are thinking “this guy is talking about Halloween already?” then this post might not be for you. Everyone else, read on.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to decorating for Halloween. One type of person puts up a whole lot of scary stuff and hopes that something will give passersby the willies. I prefer an approach centered around a theme. This allows each prop to build on the one before. Having a theme also prevents you from breaking the bank by purchasing everything you think looks frightening. If you are going to be creating a terrifying circus, you have an excuse not to buy that wonderful alien prop. If you are creating a zombie-infested cemetery, you don’t need to drop any money on werewolf masks.

The first thing to do, then, is start to plan your haunt. Decide what space you are going to use. Will you be covering your entire front yard? What about the backyard? Will you be inviting people into your home? Each of these has different issues which you should address. Keep in mind that you will still need access to your domicile while the spooky decorations are up. This means that your spouse will want to get the car into the driveway, the postal carrier will need reach your mailbox, and you will probably have to leave to get groceries and go to work.

Or you could just take the last two weeks of October as your vacation.

Set up properly, your decorations can tell a story, even for people who don’t go through it. Passersby can “read” the story you have created as they walk by. When most people think about reading, they picture eyes moving left to right on the page. This may not always be the best set up. Spend a little time examining the traffic patterns, both automotive and pedestrian.

For example, there is a streetlight at the end of my block. Most of the drivers in my subdivision use it as an access point for the major roadway. This means that most of the traffic moving down my street is going north to south, or right to left in the case of my yard. For 2014’s haunt, I decided to tell the story of an alien invasion that raises the dead. The spacecraft I employed was set up to the extreme right, as far as traffic is concerned. The next section featured the aliens themselves, moving towards a cemetery to the left with the reanimated corpses.

Regardless of how big your haunt, your primary concern should be safety. We will be coming back to this topic again and again. Nothing ruins your Halloween fun like a lawsuit.

Here are some things to consider while planning your haunt:

The walking path
If you are going to have people walking on your property, make sure that the path they will be taking is well marked, even, and free of trip hazards. I have invested in outdoor Rope Lighting 100v available on-line and in just about any hardware store. These provide a clear, unbroken pathway for where you would like people to go.

The safety of your props
Another benefit of clearly marking the walking path is that it will keep people from wandering around where you don’t want them. Direct their motions, and they will never see the behind-the-scenes set-up. It will also keep anyone from damaging your props (either accidentally or through malicious vandalism).

Public thoroughfares
If you live in any well-populated residential area, the odds are there are ordinances requiring streets and sidewalks to be free of obstructions. It may look cool to have something hanging from the tree over the sidewalk, but if someone walks into it, there will be problems. A good rule of thumb is if you are required to clear it of snow, you probably can’t block it with a prop. Now is a good time to check with the local gendarme.

Safe Access
This includes making sure that people can get to your haunt without putting themselves in danger. Make sure that there is no chance that someone could get so scared that his or her only option is to run out into the street.

Additional Insurance
If you are going to have people actually enter your home, you might want to consider adding additional insurance for the nights that the haunt will be open. This is a fairly easy process, and most home owners’ insurance companies are happy to help. Hopefully you will never need to use it, but it is always better to err on the side of caution.

Next time we will explore theme further as well as detail some resources to get ideas and information on building your haunt.

(Original posting here)

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Nightmare #369 – Full of Transformation

Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium LXXI by Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717)

Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium LXXI by Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717)

(Female, California) When I was pregnant, I had a series of bad dreams about what was going on inside me. First, I gave birth to a little stone that was only shaped like a baby, brittle and fossilized and everything a baby is not. In the next, I realized that my unborn child had somehow migrated to the outside of my body to continue its growth and was, in fact, a potato wrapped for the grocery store. I was attached to it through my navel by a tuber. I was afraid to move because I didn’t know what would happen if the tuber broke. It might kill the “baby,” or perhaps I might bleed to death. Finally, I dreamt that my baby rolled up against the outside of my belly, stretching the skin and revealing its form: it had two heads. When it was born, one head was upright on the neck, but it was defective, mostly brainless. The other head had curly blond hair and was gurgling musically with a sharp, smart look in its eye. But it erupted from the baby’s back, rooted between the shoulder blades. I was told I had to choose which head to amputate. I could keep the one that “looked right” or choose the smart head but condemn the child to a grotesquely misshapen body. What a decision I had to make.

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Nightmare #367: Millipedes

 (Male, West Virginia)  Millipedes disgust me.  They should disgust everyone.  The name comes from the root for million. I know they don’t have millions of legs, but who could ever be comfortable with something so ambulatory and unpredictable?

People keep telling me they are slow creatures, harmless creatures, that they eat only dead and decaying plants, not living and breathing humans. But it isn’t a fear of being eaten by millipedes I have. No. It is the fear of those legs. Segments upon segments of legs, crawling ad infinitum along my face and arms. Slick exoskeletons sliding into my mouth, my nose, my ears.  No orifice is safe.



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Nightmare #366: Hunting

(Male, Massachusetts) In the dream, I’m on a hunting trip with three friends: Roy, Liam, and Paul. In waking life, I’ve never actually been hunting, unless plinking a squirrel’s hindquarters with my slingshot as a kid counts. But in the dream, it feels vaguely familiar..?

Roy has brought us to a decommissioned quarry deep in the woods. We’re staying in an old cabin that seems to have served as an office for the mining company that was based here. Out of the way.

Maybe the second morning of the trip, Liam and Paul head out early. Roy and I are gearing up to head out in a different direction when Paul comes running back, out of breath and screaming that something came up out of the quarry and grabbed Liam. Something big, he says.

Roy insists that Paul take us to where he last saw Liam, but Paul flat-out refuses. “I’m not going back! We have to leave!”

Just then, we hear a cracking noise, like rocks smashing. Paul looks over his shoulder, then at us, and says something that rhymes with “no fit.”

It comes up the side of the quarry, and freezes when it sees us. It’s insectile in a way that makes me think of scorpions, spiders, and maybe crabs…with the key difference being that this thing is at least 10 feet high and half as long as a city bus. It reminds me of some creature-double-feature horror movie monster I saw as a kid – something warped by radiation or a toxic spill.

Roy stands his ground and fires while Paul and I start backpedaling. Roy’s hunting rifle is no use, though – bullets ricochet off the thing’s armor with the kind of twang I’ve previously only heard in movies. He might as well be shooting at solid rock. When it starts moving toward us, and we all turn and run.

Paul and I make it to the cabin only to realize we lost Roy: he’s gone for the Jeep instead. He’s already inside and backing down the overgrown path. Paul and I are cursing him for leaving us…but then the creature lands on the Jeep and starts peeling the sheet metal apart with giant lobster-like claws. It tears the roof off with roughly the effort it would take to open a can of Pringles. Once you pop, you just can’t—

Never mind.

The creature can’t pull wedged Roy out. So it pulls out parts of him instead. He screams and screams, and it eats him in mincing, tidy bites.

Paul and I hunker down and fortify the cabin as best we can. We take stock of our supplies. We push furniture against the windows and doors when the roof groans. The creature is finally done with Roy and has moved on for us. We keep as quiet as possible, hoping it will leave. The creaking and groaning noises eventually stop, but we’re convinced it’s still up there, waiting.

We pass a restless night, whispering escape plans back and forth. None of our ideas are very good. For every idea either of us has, the other quickly points out how it’ll get us killed. We quickly remember it was Roy who brought us here, and Roy who got the Jeep destroyed. Having someone else to blame settles us down.

Stupid, selfish, eaten Roy.

Early the next morning, I feel Paul shaking me. It’s gone, he’s saying. It has to be. It hasn’t made a noise in hours.

He wants to make a run for it. He thinks if we can make it down the trail as far as the tree-line, the creature won’t be able to follow. I think this is a stupid idea, but Paul doesn’t listen. As I’m still disentangling myself from my sleeping bag, he cracks the door, and I realize he’s not waiting around. He turns one last time, urges “Come on!”, and then he’s gone.

I expect the thing on the roof to leap down and grab him, but nothing moves up there, and I realize Paul was right. It’s gone. I’m on the threshold, about to follow, when the creature appears out of the quarry. Paul never gets to test his theory about the tree-line. He doesn’t get nearly that far.

As I slam the door, the roof groans and there is a rumble as something enormous leaps down from it: the first creature never left.

I’m numbed by the realization that there are two of these things. I understand that I’m never going to make it out of here alive. I start searching the cabin frantically, upending furniture, prying at floorboards, convinced there has to be some sort of hidden access point, an underground tunnel leading to safety. Unrealistic, but I keep looking anyway, and I’m still looking when the alarm pulls me out of that cabin.

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Nightmare #365: Spider

(Male, 30’s) On a normal night, one where you wouldn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to happen, I am sitting in my living room, in my favorite spot on the faded couch, when I notice a large spider in the corner. Not only does its appearance frighten me — it has markings unlike a natural spider, with bright red rings around its body and fangs that seem to drip with venom, although I dare not draw nearer to make sure — but I can sense a malevolent aura coming from it. Its strange eyes transfix my own, and I feel myself trying to discern its desire. For it is clear that this spider wants something from me, something bad, but I wake up before I can find out what.

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Nightmare #364: Ruined Vacation

isolated island

(Female, 40s) I was spending Christmas vacation on a tropical island, maybe Hawaii or Tahiti. It was really lovely.But I wandered off to another island and came upon some criminals who were holding 2 people hostage. And so they kept me hostage too.

But I had tickets home for a high school reunion, and rather than expose their plot, the criminals let me go to the reunion. They made me promise to come back or they would kill the other hostages.

The reunion was a a big university library. I saw friends I hadn’t see in years. But I was torn about what I should do about the island hostage situation. Was I supposed to keep it a secret or should I get help?

I decided to tell some of the teachers in charge. At first they were not that interested. They thought I was making up the story or that I was crazy. They didn’t really seem to care at all– until I mentioned the stolen property that the criminals had: some maker-bot 3-d printers and a big yellow robot — 6 feet wide and 6 feet tall. The teachers had only the empty boxes the stuff came in. Seems those things had gone missing so my story might be true after all.

Then I was back as a hostage in the house on the island. The criminals came and they had me hold their gun on one of the other hostages while they tied them back up again. They wanted to make us afraid of each other too. I pointed the gun at the other criminal however and pulled the trigger. I was going to shoot him, but there were no bullets in the gun.

So we hostages decided to escape. Trying to get out of the house, I ran into a man I knew. I asked for help, but it became apparent that he was on the other side. His eyes glowed like LEDs. He’d been brainwashed or taken over; he was going to hurt me, strangle me. So I had to kill him. We fought and wrestled. I was sitting on top of him, finally, and I had to drive a chisel through his neck. It was hard work and bloody, but he was dead. Then there were more people I ran into as I tried to flee the house– a lawyer, an actor, my husband. They all had to be killed in specific ways– with knifes or saws or chisels — through their necks or cutting off their heads. They were possessed and would kill me if I didn’t kill them. I didn’t want to fight them but I had no choice. I just wanted to go home.

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Hail Zombo

Hail Zombo

It’s time to take down that ratty Sisters of Mercy poster, the one you taped to your dorm room wall, the one that’s followed you into this so-called adult life that you’re leading. I understand why you cling to this relic. It reminds you of when you were with-it, when you were relevant. I agree. You need better things to hang on your walls than the soul-less, mass market crap from Kmart. But face it, there’s not a lot left of the paycheck for home decorating. Let me tell you about

Every single day, features a different hip, reasonably priced art print. For a few bucks more, they’ll frame it using archival materials and ship it to you so well packaged and cradled it’s almost like they are home delivering babies or something. The runs are limited editions, signed and numbered and the images are from some of the freshest contemporary artists. I have a whole wall full of pieces by John Dunivant, the crazy genius behind Theatre Bizarre and they’re all from 1xrun. Other folks of interest to DailyNightmare readers are Glen Barr, Mimi Yoon, Chet Zar, Sarah Joncas… seriously, lots of great images. From time to time, also offers the original art associated with the print run for more serious collectors with deeper pockets. Subscribe to the mailing list at least to slap something interesting in your face on a daily basis.

"The Twins" by John Dunivant from

“The Twins” by John Dunivant from

From time to time, has “Archive Sales” where they sell the final few pieces from some of their recent runs. This is the gold mine, the last-train-to-Clarkesville chance for missed opportunity. For instace, I was able to pick up Dunivant’s “The Twins” from a run printed long before I was hip to 1xrun. If you can keep a secret, there’s another Archive Sale happening this weekend and when I just checked, one of Dunivant’s “Illusionist’s Ball” prints was available, that cool poster from the last Theatre Bizarre but printed on metal.

"The Illusionist's Ball" by John Dunivant from

“The Illusionist’s Ball” by John Dunivant from

You took an art history class, didn’t you? You have a taste for the better things, cooler things. 1xrun will hook you up.

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Escalator to HELL

The Doktor filmed this video on our recent visit to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the World Horror Convention. It’s 1:46 seconds of a slow, steep ride down an escalator which appears to be lit a light green for added eerie effects. Although I do not suffer from escalaphobia or acrophobia (I rather enjoy both escalators and heights), my grip on the handrail was steady and tight the entire time. I may have held my breath as well!

Take a trip with us to the underworld on the escalator to hell, or at least, the bowels of the MARTA system!

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Nightmare #363: Trapped in the Sinking Car

Sinking Car

(Michiganian, 30’s) I’m at my old job, and my co-worker and I are driving somewhere in her car. She’s always pretty nervous and anxious, but today she’s even more nervous than usual. I wonder if someone said something that freaked her out? Or maybe she’s just nervous that I am in the car with her. I have no idea where we’re going.

It’s winter, the roads are a little snowy. We drive over a bridge. Are we crossing a river? a lake? I don’t know. The bridge is very low, very close to the water, and it is very narrow, very much like a pier, actually.

She drives the car off the pier/road into the icy lake, and the car crashes through the ice into the frigid waters beneath. She’s hit her head on the steering wheel, she’s lost consciousness.

I suddenly remember an episode of Mythbusters where they talked about what to do if you are in a sinking car. The water pressure on the outside of the car makes it very difficult to open the doors and get out. So you have to open the windows (ideally before the car has sunk under the waters surface), and let the car fill with water. The pressure equalizes, and you can open the door and swim out. They did their mythbusting in a swimming pool in California, not an icy Michigan lake. I’m not excited about sitting in a car placidly as it fills with icy water, but that may be my only chance to survive if i don’t die of hypothermia first. I try to open the window. The car has power windows, and the system must have shorted out because when I press the button nothing happens.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST – Nicole Cushing Interview

Several works by Nicole Cushing

Several works by Nicole Cushing

The World Horror Convention is a great opportunity to meet authors, publishers and agents from around the world… and from around the corner. I was able to talk with Nicole Cushing, one of my favorite up and coming authors of darkly weird fiction who just happens to live in Indiana. I had only read her novellas, Children of No One (DarkFuse 2013) and I am the New God (DarkFuse 2014) when I interviewed her, but I am currently working through her first collection of short stories, The Mirrors (Cicatrix Press, 2015) which I picked up at World Horror Convention 2015. I also grabbed her Bizarro work, “How to Eat Fried Furries“(Eraserhead Press, 2010). Her novel, Mr Suicide, will be released this July and is already getting some stellar press from folks whose opinion counts.

I am also a member of the Nicole Cushing postcard club which we discuss in the podcast and which is, frankly, a hoot and a half. A selection of these monthly missives can be seen in the photo above.

Nicole’s business card bills her as a “freelance nihilist” which suggests the dark wit that I find so compelling, both in her fiction and in person. I thank her for being so generous with her time for this interview.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST – World Horror Convention 2015

Doktor Leech and Elsa L reminisce about the World Horror Convention 2015 held in Atlanta.

Highlights include:

Lucy Snyder wins as Michael Knost and Michael Arnzen grovel in awe.

Lucy Snyder wins as Michael Knost and Michael Arnzen grovel in awe.

Midwest Shoutout to Lucy Synder who won TWO Bram Stoker Award®
Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide
Soft Apocalypses (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Linda Addison reading poetry

Linda Addison reading poetry

Dark Poetry Readings
— Linda Addison (Being Full of Light, Insubstantial)
— Mary Turzillo
— James Dorr
— Sydney Leigh
— Stephanie Wytovich (Mourning Jewelry)
— Marge Simon
— Bruce Boston
— Michael Arnzen

Balogun Ojetade, Jeff Carroll, Gerald Coleman and John Edward Lawson

Balogun Ojetade, Jeff Carroll, Gerald Coleman and John Edward Lawson

The “World Horror” programming track

— John Edward Lawson
— Usman T. Malik
— Toni Morrison’s Beloved which came up as a topic on several panels.

Southern Vampires
Charlaine Harris

Good Greens at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

Good Greens at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

Good Greens
Sweet Auburn Curb Market
White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

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Tempest Bradford told me I WILL DIE

I'll likely DIE before I finish reading books like THESE!

I’ll likely DIE before I finish reading books like THESE!

I already own more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime–not that this fact slows the rate at which I buy more books, mind you. Perhaps part of my mind is blissfully unaware of my eventual mortality. Perhaps some scrap of my psyche buried since adolescence thinks I *will* be able to read everything. Thanks a LOT, Tempest Bradford, for reminding me that I’m going to die with most of my books unread.

Seriously, that’s the most controversial, click-bait-y spin I can put on the challenge made last February by K. Tempest Bradford. Read it, why don’t you? Some of the dust has settled… or maybe it’s just been eclipsed by other, more pointless controversies. I blog about as slowly as I read, so I’m only getting around to boosting this idea now.

Don't be DECEIVED by that smile! Tempest Bradford makes White Men CRY! (pictured here with Chesya Burke, Mary SanGiovanni and Lucy Snyder at MoCon X)

Don’t be DECEIVED by that smile! Tempest Bradford makes White Men CRY! (pictured here with Chesya Burke, Mary SanGiovanni and Lucy Snyder at MoCon X)

TL:DR? To paraphrase, Tempest proposes that readers might construct a self-directed reading list that looks beyond white, straight, cis-gendered male writers. Try it for a year, even if you happen to be non-white, non-straight, non-cis-gendered, non-male yourself. You might learn something.

But I take a different approach to what is, basically, the same point. I know my own experience… and it bores me. I read to extend that experience, to visit the universe next door, to sample what it might be like to be someone else. Reading allows me to bolt on enhancements to my factory-standard life without sutures, scar tissue or electrodes on my neck. I suspect most folks who are drawn to speculative fiction are particularly familiar with this interest in literary transcendence, so to speak. The mainstream world confuses it with “escape.” I prefer to view it as a choice to live more fully and deeply.

And I am particularly susceptible to challenges. (Perhaps the less said about that character trait the better… unless proof surfaces on Youtube.)

After I read her article, I scanned my disheveled shelves and scooped up a tall pile of books that I already own which would satisfy the challenge. Some of these works I had wanted to read for years. Worse, some of these works I had *pretended* to have read. Egad, in at least one case, these authors are my friends. Clearly, following the challenge would allow me to stop this madness, assuage some guilt, in addition to gratifying that weird predilection I have to peer pressure.

This mound of books (only a small portion of which is depicted in the photo above) was far taller than I could realistically read in a year at my current rate of consumption so I made further subdivisions. One stack of “non-male,” another stack of “non-white.” I only balked at the non-cis-gendered category for some really egg-headed theory-licious reasons that I won’t delve into here. The piles were still too high, especially when I factored in the new books that I know are coming out this year that would qualify. So I made another set of subdivisions that are relevant to this blog: I focused on works that were any combination of Midwest + Snob + Horror. Such sub-divisions, I believe, would be cool with Tempest.

Note: these are mostly books I’ve already decided I want to read. I’m just going to, y’know, actually READ them.
Note further: I still plan to BUY books by straight white dudes this year. Woe be to one who tries to stand between me and my occasional retail therapy.

I met Tempest Bradford this weekend at MoCon X and we chatted a bit, once I steeled my courage with alcohol. She’s rather charming in person, despite her big bad reputation for making white men cry.

And even if her post, y’know, reared the dark foreboding of the Grim Reaper over my library, one bony finger pointing to my waiting grave.

Wanna know the specific titles I’ve been reading or the ones that are on my shelf? Stay tuned.

Elsa and I make similar points, though with far fewer words and in a largely caffeine-deprived state in this Podcast.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST: Bradford Challenge

Elsa and the Leech Doktor discuss the challenge issued by K. Tempest Bradford to plan a year of reading focused on expanding one’s experience. Why not take the Bradford Challenge yourself?

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DailyNightmare PODCAST: Penguicon 2015

Doktor Leech and Elsa L. mention some darker highlights from Penguicon 2015, the annual convention that celebrates open source culture. (

Topics include:

• gelatin prosthetics for costumes. Shout out to Jeannie Arquette of ArtificeFX who makes silicone prosthetics and airbrush stencils (;

• speculative poetry. Shout out to Matt Betts, novelist and dark poet ( ;

• Michigan cryptids . Shout out to Shetan Noir, paranormal expert (

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Gothic/Romance in Nerve’s “The Heights”


A view from “The Heights”

I’d intended to follow Nelly, to watch her reactions even when the focal action was elsewhere but I lost my way, so to speak, on the urban moors of Nerve’s production of “The Heights.”

Such decisions are encouraged during immersively staged “consensual theatre” which is Nerve’s stock and trade. Audience members mingle around the action and are free to follow their hearts. Going into this production, based on Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I was oh-so-certain that Nelly would be the linchpin. She tells the tale, after all, this questionable narrator. Marisa Dluge, a Nerve regular, vividly conveyed this mesh of verbiage, modulating between narration and mimickry. My initial hypothesis was that Nelly would present the tale like she was playing with mental dolls, that every detail would be clearest through her perspective. The playbill even asked “Should we do what is right… or real?” and that seemed to be the kind of question that would vex Nelly, that ever vigilant, proper servant.

Nerve’s gritty, visceral production, thankfully, problematized my easy pre-interpretation.

First Obstacle: I found it impossible to ignore Catherine’s very embodied ghost. Just as Rachael Harbert was a revelation as the Red Queen in Nerve’s Alice, her portrayal here was eloquently gestural. Though Catherine never speaks a word during the performance, she and Nelly engage in a near constant dialogue, with Harbert providing physical response and counterpoint to Dluge’s accounts of the story. (If I were smarter, better read and only slightly more pretentious, I might launch some observation involving Sedgwick’s notion of homosociality, that Nelly and Catherine both use Heathcliff as an object of gratification, a token of exchange. But fuck the footnotes, OK?) My favorite moments of “The Heights” involve Harbert’s Catherine. For instance, her unabashed welcome of the returning Heathcliff, played by the handsome and talented Steve Xander Carson, where she fused herself to his body like a tattooed glyph, brought tears to my eyes. In another scene, she struggled palpably beneath the figure of Edgar, who is literally no more than a stuffed shirt, so painfully evocative of the weight of her ill-considered marriage. Her portrayal of that pivotal scene made sense of an enigma I found in the story. Catherine, too, broods on the question of rightness and realness, which honestly, I missed in my quick perusal of Brontë’s novel.

A second obstacle to my facile pre-reading was the evocatively creepy stage design. Full disclosure: I helped build some of the pieces but the way my scant contributions were woven into the complete design was quite remarkable. I particularly liked how the weird assemblages of Book/Trees cast textural shadows around the room. Lines from the text were written in large letters across the floor, some of which were only legible from the balcony. That raised alcove offered other treats for the curious. The set was interesting before the performance but was even more intriguing after the actors had their way with it. While audience members filed out, I wandered the set again, taking in the family grave site that had been erected in one corner during the performance, and in another corner, the site where Heathcliff (nearly) exhumed Catherine’s corpse. It felt appropriate that “The Heights” was staged in Gallery 17, an art gallery in the Russell Industrial Center since the set evolved in respond to the actions of the play, becoming an art installation all its own. In fact, before the final performance this Saturday, Nerve is allowing patrons to tour this installation (3:00 – 4:00 PM, Saturday April 25)

I could quibble about certain infelicities. The echoe-y cement walls swallowed some of the dialogue. Before the show, we were warned about proper behavior, which gave a sense of undue delicacy to this rather rough and tumble ballet. And the audience clumped together at times like they’d been given assigned seats. No matter, the production roared to life subsuming all impediments.

Spring is the time for lovers, and Nelly’s stormy tale of Heathcliff and Catherine is indeed a timeless affair. In proper fairy tales, love ends in happy ever afters, a happiness which apparently relies on rightness and propriety. “The Heights,” however, is no such comforting bedtime story. If you’re fortunate enough to score tickets, this production portrays other passions, ones that leave us breathless, ruined, quite unfit for Heaven, yet darkly fulfilled.

Right or Real? Nerve leaves the choice to you.

Check here for ticket availability.

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“The Heights” — Nerve’s invitation to Wander the Moors

10978521_1571869419721918_1248196256115469464_nExpect to get your hands dirty if you were lucky enough to score tickets to “The Heights,” the latest production by Nerve, the Detroit based performance company. Nerve productions typically immerse audience members inside the playing space, and their adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is no exception. Ticket numbers are limited to allow participants space to roam the “urban moors” that Nerve has constructed at Gallery 17 in the Russell Industrial Complex. The run is extremely limited as well, just four performances, April 17 and 18, 24 and 25. (Tickets might still be available here.)

Any reader of the DailyNightmare really should be familiar with Brontë’s tale of stormy gothic passions, of sex and death and ghosts… though I confess I wasn’t. To prepare for the show, I listened to the free audio version available from I am also prepared, however, to have a unique experience apart from a “traditional” reading of the text. Nerve has pared the tale down to its most vital spine to sharpen the essential question “…should we do the right thing or the real thing?” The drama is enacted by Steven Xander Carson, Rachael Harbert, and Marisa Dluge.

If you are wondering what to expect from the performance, Nerve’s mission statement provides some hints: “We define success as sensation. We take space and use it. We make consensual art. Our audience is everywhere.” From attendance at previous productions, we know Nerve’s “consensual art” invites but does not require the audience’s participation, yet the magic of the performance is enriched by the attendees’ willingness to play. The final alchemy of the event is more easily experienced in person than explained in abstract.

Nerve is (in)famous for its puppets, and I’m told several constructed actors will appear in this production as well. I’m curious how they will fit into this production– and the only way to find out for sure is to be there, but here are some previews:

Fair warning: all tickets must be purchased in advance, so if you want to wander these urban moors this spring, you’ll need to plan ahead. In fact, act right now.

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Nightmares about Bugs!

If you are looking for bug-related nightmares to inspire 100-word stories, follow the links below. Keep in mind that we’re defining the category broadly, so topics can include insects and arachnids, worms and slugs, ants, bees and creepy crawlies as well as diseases, biological, mental and spiritual.

The March 30 deadline approaches quickly! Submission details can be found here.

Nightmare #249: House Consumed by Bugs and Rats

Nightmare #222: Water Bugs

Nightmare #182: Bugs Everywhere

Nightmare #339: The Needle and the Conqueror Worm

Nightmare #336: Pick on Someone your own size

Nightmare #225: Smothering Humidity and Heat

Nightmare #310: Larval Goddess

Nightmare #75: Snakes and Straw

Nightmare #71: Snakes and Chain Fence

Nightmare #143: The Dark Carnival

Nightmare #84: Bees and Spiders… and Nazis?

Nightmare #26: Monstrous Bees

Nightmare #360: House of 1000 Copses

Nightmare #358: Child Vampire

And to be sure, there are many MORE nightmares about bugs among the collection that would prove suitable for a 100-word prose poem for the Quick Shivers about Bugs anthology. We invite you to explore, to experiment, and frankly to shake up the editors’ mailbox. Be clever, horrific, reflective, playful and wise in your word choice. 100 words allows no time for fillers, dull words, or repetition. Are you ready to try? Good!

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Le Marche du Nain Rouge 2015, Detroit

According to legend, le Nain Rouge, a feisty local demon, cursed Père Cadillac over 300 years ago as he tried to found the city of Detroit. This “red dwarf” has continued to plot Detroit’s demise ever since… until Detroit took action.


Every year, on the first Sunday after the Spring Equinox, the Nain Rouge re-appears in Midtown to heap scorn and sow discord in the the Motor City. And every year since 2010, Detroit has united to march the troublemaker out of town in grand style.


Called the “Mardi Gras of the Midwest,” the annual Marche du Nain Rouge is a glorious expression of community pride. Equal parts Carnivale-type floats, home-town parade, semi-pagan rite of spring and old-fashioned Motown party, the Marche has steadily grown in attendance.


Participants are encouraged to wear costumes so that the vindictive Nain Rouge doesn’t seek retribution. Creative folks live in southeast Michigan, as these photos attest.





The predominant color is red, fitting both to the Nain Rouge and to local hockey team, the Red Wings.




The Nain Rouge perched atop a mechanical cockroach that spewed smoke and dour music…


But the revelers included the Detroit Party Marching band who countered his gloom with butt-shaking jams.
IMG_5668This year, attendees paraded the mean-spirited Dwarf down Second Street, starting by Traffic Jams and ending at the Masonic Theatre, where he was successfully banished for another year.
A dance party ensued in the sumptuous Fountain Ballroom in the basement of Masonic. If tradition holds, that cantankerous dwarf will return next Spring so why not plan to join the resistance and take your place in the next Marche du Nain Rouge in downtown Detroit, Michigan?


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