Kill For a Copy – Book Review

kfoc1Kill For a Copy – Book Review

Out now in Paperback and Kindle from Dark Chapter Press

Titling a short story collection must be hard. You either have to go for something weird and evocative like Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew, or a bold title like Stephen Jones’ Best New Horror. More obtuse titles draw you in with the promise of mystery rather than quality, but when you go down that bold road, the one that promises quality before you even crack the spine, you really need to deliver.

Whatever you call a short story anthology, the reality is that there are always going to be duds. Kill for a Copy from Dark Chapter Press is no exception, but there’s enough good stuff in here to make it worth picking through, notably:

Robert J. Stava’s Blynd Haus . This may sound like a great German synth-rock band, but it’s actually a bizarro creature-feature story, which really gets going after a slow start. Creepy fun.

Silver Bullets by Steve Jenner just drips with detail, reading like a factual account of tomb-raiding, weird artefacts and living skeletons. I went in expecting werewolves and got something more like dark fantasy.

S.L. Dixon offers a laugh-out loud take on the killer animals genre in Bovine Rule – it’s a mad mash-up of Black Sheep and Maximum Overdrive of all things.

Redwood by Angus Fenton drops you into the titular town with an unseen monster nipping at someone’s heels, and doesn’t reveal the beast until the very end. Solid, entertaining stuff that reads like a transcript movie (which I’d like to see!).

Brian Barr’s Bedlam Betty is like a pulp retelling of Clive Barker’s The Forbidden, seen through the lens of comics rather than modern folklore. Good stuff.

Last of all, M.R Wallace’s Madness in Death Valley lurks around the edges of Lovecraftian horror with a pulpy first-person account of desert monsters. If you like the last account of a man gone mad kind of story, this is a worthy addition to that subgenre.

As for the other two-thirds of the 17 tales on offer, some were just too short to have any impact, and others revelled too much in their gory concepts to offer any meaningful chills. There’s also some weird sci-fi in here, including a story about imprisonment in a virtual world and the heralded death of the world.

Killer cooks, werewolves, possession…one thing this collection doesn’t lack is ambition or variety. But, as much as its title promises unmissable chills, this wasn’t one that I’d be willing to pick up an axe and get choppy for.

Score: 5/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993062032
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/0993062032

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 22: The Thing That Stalks The Fields

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 22: THE THING THAT STALKS THE FIELDS

creepypasta

While it is easy to look at Creepypasta as simply a throwaway form of light entertainment, that is doing the genre a gross disservice. What Creepypasta has become, is a post-Millennial form of folklore. The stories are spread by the readers, often embellished along the way, and frequently mistaken for fact. There is a reason that so many touch on very familiar fears and dangers from old-fashioned word-of-mouth folklore before it — these are at the core psyche of all people.

Be it the dangers of missing an insidious evil right under our own noses and the threats posed to us by the natural world outside the comparative safety of the developed areas in which most of us live, these stories serve as both warning and a vicarious, cathartic release for our own fears.

This week’s offering is one that feels more like a traditional folktale than most.

It is The Thing That Stalks The Fields, by author David Feuling.

The earliest version of the story that I’ve found online was published at Creepypasta.com on 24 February 2010, although I have seen it credited to Feuling as far back as 2008. You can read the story here (http://www.creepypasta.com/the-thing-that-stalks-the-fields/), and I very much recommend taking the time to do so. Feuling’s story is told from the perspective of an unnamed farmer who lives alone in an isolated rural setting.
One evening the farmer notices that the hay bales in the fields around his farmhouse have been moved, far out towards the boundaries of his property. Cursing this as the work of pranksters, the farmer moves the bales back to their original position. That evening something shocking occurs to some of the farm’s livestock. The bales are also moved again.

After tidying up the mess, the farmer grabs his shotgun and waits on his porch to apprehend his tormentors.
However, in the dead of night he finally lays eyes upon ‘The Thing That Stalks The Fields’… and slowly he comes to realise exactly what it wants.

The Thing That Stalks The Fields has become tremendously popular with the Creepypasta community, regularly cropping up on recommended reading lists, such as this post that appeared at TV Tropes in February 2012: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=12975264200A04640100&page=12
The titular ‘Thing’ has also gone on to inspire plenty of fanart at all the usual sites, such as DeviantArt, which now boasts hundreds of images. It’s easy to understand how the story struck such a strong chord with the audience — Feuling is an excellent writer and his story, while simple is extremely atmospheric and boasts some genuinely startling imagery — not least of which the description of the monstrous Thing and the the manner in which it moves.
The story preys on some of our strongest fears, not least of which isolation, as the unnamed farmer faces his adversary alone, far from any potential aid.

tttstf1The Thing itself is a great creation, utilising fear of the distorted human form, the inherent ‘wrongness’ of something like is yet still different — that which combines the savagery of the bestial with the implied intelligence and cunning of humanity. It also preys on the fear of insects, giving the creature a chitinous, bug-like quality. The fear of creepy-crawlies is a common one among people, from beetles, to moths, to (of course) spiders, entomophobia (the fear of insects) is among the most common phobias. That the monster in Feuling’s story is described as spindle-legged, like an oversized daddy longlegs, just adds to its nightmarish quality.
I think that, ultimately, it is the imagery of Feuling’s story that makes it most striking. As such it’s no surprise to see that filmmakers have been drawn to it.

In 2014 director Chris Triggiani launched an Indiegogo campaign (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-thing-that-stalks-the-fields–2#/) to raise the funds to finish an adaptation of the story, while in June 2015 director Adrian Huff posted his own (albeit heavily altered) version of the story to YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ4H1PcGWl0).

I reached out to Huff to ask him about what drew him to Feuling’s story, and he gave me the following responses.

UK Horror Scene: On a similar note, you’ve also adapted other Creepypasta titles, such as OCD (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0c_f0bDUJY). What attracted you to Creepypasta?

Adrian Huff: Creepypastas have always intrigued me, before I even began filmmaking I used to love reading them. There are very few that attract me enough to make me want to adapt it into a film. It’s a mix of what resources I have available and what speaks to me.

UKHS: Why do you think The Thing That Stalks The Fields resonates so well with readers and viewers?

AH: The Thing That Stalks The Fields is a very creepy and eerie story. My film is very different from the original story but I still wanted to keep a lot of the original key points.

UKHS: Did you have any contact with author David Feuling during the film-making process?

AH: I actually haven’t contacted to author yet, I would like to think he enjoyed it, I always give credit to the author though.

UKHS: Finally, what can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead? Will there be any more Creepypasta adaptions?

AH: I have very many creepypastas planned along with some other original short films. Plus some other video I’m experimenting with. Very excited for the future.

You can see more of Huff’s work over at his YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/AmazinglyEpicVideos/featured

tttstf2As well as movie adaptations, there have been plenty of Creepypasta readings of Feuling’s story, including a frankly superb version by the always excellent Otis Jiry over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJmfJKr7oZ4). Jiry’s iconic drawl really captures the country setting of the story and comes highly recommended.

But as great as these adaptations are, that’s because they come from such fantastic source material.The author, the very talented David Feuling, is a true fan of Creepypasta and very appreciative of the support that the community has shown his work. Feuling was kind enough to take the time to speak with UK Horror Scene at length about The Thing That Stalks The Fields, Creepypasta and his other projects. You can read the interview below.

UK HORROR SCENE: The most obvious first – what served as your inspiration for the story?

DAVID FEULING: Gosh, The Thing That Stalks the Fields was originally written so long ago I’m sure I can’t remember the specific inspiration. Mostly, I write from images, though. A disgusting insect makes me imagine strange creatures, and an idyllic landscape makes me wonder about places that don’t yet exist. The plot is secondary, admittedly, although I do certainly try to structure and shape what happens in a satisfying way for the reader. The main thing, though, is definitely that I write from a sense of inspiration that is visceral. If something makes me want to cry, or sneer, or even just feels sublime in some way to me, then that is usually what I’ll write about next.

UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

DF: Stephen King is God, obviously.  I also love Kurt Vonnegut and Dostoyevsky and Ray Bradbury and, let’s see…  Tim O’Brien blew me away recently; I hadn’t tried him until recently. But in terms of horror I’m mostly a disciple of King, I suppose, but also very much of horror cinema. There are so many amazing directors doing such fantastically gruesome stuff right now! I am thinking of New French Extremism and other recent movements, mainly. I want to achieve that cinematic effect more than anything. It’s that feeling of needing to “cover your eyes” — that what I love best.

UKHS: What work of your own are you most proud of?

DF: In terms of sheer popularity, the answer can only be The Thing That Stalks the Fields.  In terms of what I personally thought was most brilliant or worthwhile? It’s funny, but the stories of mine that I like best usually are poorly received (or sometimes don’t even get published anywhere to be seen because the reaction is so negative!) But maybe that just means I’m a good writer with bad tastes, or something strange like that. But I’ve written so much I really couldn’t name a favorite anymore. Some stories have great imagery; others have plots I’m surprised I could write. At the end of the day I’m just happiest when people are enjoying and sharing my works. I’m proud of them all.

UKHS: What is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?

DF: Great question! The one about the “Goatman” shape-shifting creature that spasms all over the cabin floor while they’re all sleeping is a classic one. Ooh, also the “Russian Sleep Experiment” one where the subjects begin to mutilate themselves upon witnessing the afterlife and Hell or whatever. I hope these other authors don’t mind these relatively vague titles/descriptions; I think the point of Creepypastas is to leave that vague impression. I certainly hope my fans describe my stories as “the one where that bug monstrosity thing is tearing the heads off horses”…

The point of these stories is to leave that lasting image, or impression — but I’m pontificating again…  Oh God, there are too many favorites to name! Anything involving an afterlife that isn’t too friendly or grotesque body horror or experimentation really keeps me up at night.  So if you’ve written something in that vein (and I’ve seen it), you can be sure that I love it.  WAIT — My all-time favorite Creepypasta might have to be “Candle Cove”!
That’s the one where all these local children remember a demonic and monstrous local TV show that never actually came on. The whole story is formatted like forum posts in a crummy, online local forum. It’s so immersive and amazing; I WANT TO WRITE SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the story. Are there any examples of fan art, such as films or readings, in particular that have impressed you? I saw an Indiegogo for a short film adaptation. What role (if any) have you had with that?

DF: I am very “hands off” with fan projects in general, and often I don’t even hear about them! My mentality has always been one of sharing, and I would not be nearly as well-known or “popular” (if you can call if that), had I ever been stingy with giving people the rights to do whatever they want with my work.If you’re out there reading this and want permission to use one of my stories for something, CONTACT ME!I love seeing what fans and my fellow artists can create, and I am always honored to be included creatively in a project. To answer the first part of your question more directly, YOU ALL IMPRESS ME SO MUCH!! I do check up on the communities that have grown up around certain stories occasionally, and I am always sincerely so impressed and amazing at the sheer talent that’s out there in general.

UKHS: I’ve heard a fantastic reading of the story by Otis Jiry over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights. What were your thoughts on the adaptation?

DF: Mr. Jiry and Mr. Groshek and the whole Chilling Tales for Dark Nights crew are always completely amazing to work alongside in the production of this kind of storytelling! I am always so impressed by the quality of their productions, and I always feel very honored to hear my works spoken by Mr. Jiry. I think Chilling Tales for Dark Nights is doing amazing work, and I have told them so!

tttstf3UKHS: You have a few stories up at CTFDN, what encouraged you to work with them? Is this an ongoing partnership and what else can we expect to see the guys there cover in the future?

DF: Is there an ongoing partnership? I really hope so!! I have been busy and not writing as much as I did in my best “heyday”, and I think the gang over at CTFDN has been working with a lot of very cool talent as well, so we just haven’t been “clicking” on our available projects recently. But I do hope for that to change!

UKHS: And finally will you ever return to the story of The Thing That Stalks The Fields in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?

DF: I actually just had some very cool success writing in the veins of internet and deep-web horror! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdpUciL8whs)
I’ve been working with a very talented producer that goes by the moniker “Corpse Husband”; I’m sure some of your fans have heard of him and enjoy his work. I hope to write more about the “APPLESEED SYSTEM” which is introduced here in these works, and yes — I would absolutely be excited to write more in the universe of The Thing That Stalks the Fields! As I said in an earlier answer, what I truly love best is when a story is enjoyed by lots and lots of people. If my fans write me and say: “David, please write more about The Thing That Stalks the Fields,” I will be more than happy to do so!

I’m sure I’m not the only fan out there who’d love to see David return to The Fields in the future, so get writing!
Until then, we have his original and still very popular tale of rural horror and an unspeakable monster hiding among us.

I’m going to be taking a short break from these features for the next week or two, but upon my return I’ll be looking at another story of insidious evil… one of the very oldest and most popular Creepypasta stories of all time.

Amaranthine and Other Stories by Erik Hofstatter – Book Review

amaerik1Amaranthine and Other Stories by Erik Hofstatter – Book Review

Available Now – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amaranthine-Other-Stories-Erik-Hofstatter/dp/1533416036/

It is unusual that you will find me in this seat, reviewing a novella, but if you’re extra nice and ask politely, unbelievable things can happen!

Amaranthine and Other Stories (AOS) is a collection of nine short stories of various lengths and varying themes, but the core theme is the horror of everyday life; that people are the real monsters.

The opening story really sets the tone for book itself, it is clear Hofstatter doesn’t take himself too seriously, diving straight into dark irreverent humour off the mark. Many stories here are left ambiguous, owing to necessity, due to their length. This works well for some but others have a forced exposition that turns into a red herring or isn’t paced very well. There’s some flip-flopping too within some of the stories world building, one story in particular involving a born again Christian repenting for his sins.

There are a handful of strong stories that really shine here that I won’t go into as most rely on a very simple plot and hook. If I had to pick a personal favourite from the selection it would be the closing story “Pins and Needles” though not without its flaws (the noticeable interchanging of British and American slang, certainly not intentional). A close second would be the opening story “The Birthing Tub”, a tale of loss, grief and new beginning *wink*.

There is a great section at the end where the author talks through the inspiration for these tales. Some I was surprised to learn of their genesis and others it put them in perspective as to the reason they are the way they are.

amaerik2This is a review after all so let us get into the nasties. There was repetitive use of language and phrasing and odd punctuation with skulls. A disproportionate amount of the stories painted women in a negative light be they victims of violence or adulteresses (nothing malicious let it be stated, just a disproportion). I did however enjoy the stories for the most part, that were being told and the playfulness in which the author delivered the horror.
Overall AOS was a flawed yet entertaining collection of stories by blossoming horror writer Erik Hofstatter.

If you’re a fan of horror and a fan of reading; AOS is a great way to breeze through an afternoon to keep that blood lust sated for a little while more.

6/10 Brief Horror Fun

Erik can be found at Twitter here – @ErikHofstatter

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – Book Review

mbfe1My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – Book Review

Grady Hendrix has a good eye for concepts. I’ve read both of his books now – the first being Horrorstör, the IKEA catalogue-themed tale about ancient evil contained within a furniture store, and now My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a love letter to both the 80s and demonic possession, all wrapped up like a high school yearbook. It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as gimmicky, but to do so is to forget that old missive: never judge a book by its cover. Especially as the packaging here doesn’t form an integral part of the story in the same way Horrorstör’s did.

Starting out like a typical 80s tale of friendship, pop songs and bad fashion, …Exorcism focuses on the friendship between two girls – Abby and Gretchen, as they deal with various teenage quandries like boys, drugs and overbearing parents, amplified when Gretchen is possessed by a malignant spirit.

Friendship really is the key theme here, and whilst the horror pulls no punches – expect to deal with dead babies, good old-fashioned vomiting fits and an especially horrible moment with an emaciated body which brings to mind all the best body horror Richard Bachman’s Thinner had to offer – there’s a lot of emotion as well. True teenage horror often stems from a feeling of isolation, of losing a best friend and being ignored by your parents & peers. Which is just what happens here, only with a demon taking delight in it all – kind of like a John Hughes movie smushed up in a cupboard for seven second of heaven with The Exorcist.

As admirable as it is to smash two genres together and come out with an original, entertaining story, I did feel like I was having to power through at times. I was expecting more dread from an exorcism tale (because every time I read / watch anything exorcist-like, I can only ever picture The Exorcist movie in my mind), but there’s a lot of teen angst and drama – perfectly well written, but there was just too much of it for my liking. Get past this though, and you’ll be rewarded with some truly horrifying scenes, and when the inevitable exorcist arrives, he proves to be less of a hero than you might expect, which was a great twist on the typical religion saves the day trope.

What this book did more than anything is make me wish for a past where more 80s movies had latched on to the exorcism genre alongside slasher pics. I hope someone picks up on this and decides to convert …Exorcism to the big screen, it’d make for a gory – and gaudy – good time.

Until then, if you’re looking for an exorcism story that will make you worry about owls, pine for the days when the Go Gos yelled out hits over the airwaves, and wish you held on to your friends from school much longer than you did, then this is well worth a read.

Score: 8/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1594748624/
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/1594748624/

You can follow Grady @grady_hendrix

And you can find out more about Quirk Book releases at quirkbooks.com

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – Book Review

lastcallLast Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – Book Review

Out Now (links Below) from Quirk Books

Cocktails are magic. Alchemy. Take one part boring old orange juice, splash some cranberry juice and vodka into it, and bang! You’ve transformed three things into a powerful elixir, containing vitamins and liquor – two of your most essential daily nutrients. If you want to get technical, a cocktail is just two liquids mixed together, so even a glug of lemon barley with some water in it is a cocktail. The simple blending of two things to make a satisfying whole. Hey, that describes Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger pretty well! What a happy coincidence! Let’s find out why.

Taking a cue from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Last Call… features Bailey Chen, a young woman with lots of potential but no direction. Stuck doing back-bar duties at the titular Nightshade Lounge, she learns of a secret cabal of bartenders, whose mixological skills – and special bottles of booze – help them fight the forces of evil. Discovering a special knack for making a tasty beverage, Bailey joins forces with this ancient group to stop a growing threat and discover the secret behind the mystical Long Island Iced Tea.

As a fan of both cocktails and action-horror, I was into this from the very start. The prologue gives you a nice aperitif of action & comedy, which is kept up throughout the entire novel. Bailey is a smart, spirited lead character who has to deal with the gnashing teeth of real life as well as those attached to the evil Tremens, the weird, fleshy dog-octopus-thingies that prey on any unfortunate Chicagoans who bump into them. She isn’t one to wallow, and it’s her drive to succeed on her own terms that really powers this novel.

Well, that and the booze. There’s something to be said for a book that makes you laugh and makes you thirsty all at once. Kinky Friedman does it in his crime novels, but Krueger doesn’t just make you wish you were supping on an ice cold screwdriver; he tells you how to make them. And provides a little history – some of which is bound to the lore of the book – on how the drinks came to be.

Having a kick-ass drinker for a heroine is all well and good, but Bailey and booze don’t carry the book on their own. The supporting cast is well realised and rounded out, from the stuffy court of bartenders to Bailey’s eventual mentor Vincent – a classic gruff old man in the Stick from Daredevil mould. Each of the players surrounding Bailey have their own stories and surprises, right up until the end.

Most of all, the book blends action and horror in a satisfying way. The Tremens are creepy in that B-movie kind of way, enough to make your imagination fire up but not terrifying enough to make you want to clutch your covers at night. But this isn’t a Shane McKenzie book, this is more new adult in its ambitions, but no less entertaining for it.

Whether you’re teetotal, straight edge or a raving drunk, there’s enough action and genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy in Last Call… to make you want to guzzle it all down in one sitting. Now, where did I put my jigger?

Score: 10/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1594747598
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/1594747598
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/last-call-at-the-nightshade-lounge-paul-krueger/1122503203

And you can follow Paul at @notlikefreddy

Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons – Book Review

dbu1Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons by Christopher Lombardo & Jeff Kirschner

Available now in Paperback & Kindle (links at bottom of review)

I don’t much like lists. If I go shopping, I prefer using my increasingly colander-like memory to go over what I need for the week. I avoid Buzzfeed as much as possible, and if people ask me what my Top 3 somethings are – well, I don’t have a Top 3 anything. Why collate likes on some mental spreadsheet? I like to enjoy things on the fly, apart from chili. That’s probably my favourite foods. And I do have favourite bands, movies, books, authors… Hypocritical? Maybe, but that’s what makes me OK with loving Death by Umbrella so much.

Lovingly curated by Christopher Lombardo and Jeff Kirschner, Death…is a list of 100+ unusual & creative movie weapons. After a suitably Tromaesque introduction by Uncle Lloyd Kaufman, I dove in expecting a few brief rundowns of gloriously daft death scenes, but this book has a lot more to offer than that.

Like a Buzzfeed article pumped up on the brain juice from Gremlins 2, Death… takes a gleeful yet insightful look into the world of movie gore, celebrating bizarre offings in schlockfests like Leprechaun 2 and Killer Rack to more surprising inclusions like There Will be Blood and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. The deaths from these non-horror titles deserve their place as much as the corny (ha!) killing in Sleepwalkers, showing that the authors really know their stuff when it comes to cinema.

And that’s what makes this so much more than a read-and-forget coffee table book. Every article goes beyond a simple recounting of death scenes to include making-of trivia, references to related movies, nods to classic literature and more. The authors clearly know horror, but it isn’t their only area of expertise, which makes for a fascinating read. Of course, you could just skim through to the juicy bits – and for the far less attentive, there are plenty of stills, theatrical posters and illustrations to gawp at – but take your time and you’ll find yourself up to your eyeballs in well-researched facts. Now there’s a way to go!

dbu2Even though this is out on Kindle, I’d recommend picking up the paperback. This is one you’re going to want to keep handy every time you watch an Asylum movie and think “there’s nothing stupider than that out there, is there?” Not a page or sentence is wasted, and I genuinely can’t think of another non-fiction horror movie book that’s gripped me as much as this one in a long time. Though that could just be the lack of oxygen from laughing so hard.

Score: 10/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593939310/
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/1593939310/

You can get more goodness from Lombardo and Kirschner by checking out their podcast Really Awful Movies, their website of the same name, and their twitter @awful_movies

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 18: Search And Rescue Woods

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA PART 18: SEARCH AND RESCUE WOODS

creepypasta

In my last Creepypasta feature, I wrote about the critically acclaimed Penpal, a novel born out of a series of connected posts over on Reddit’s r/nosleep board.

This week we look at a similar success story, a number of posts that was met with plenty of recognition from the notoriously discerning readers of one of the internet’s top breeding grounds for fantastic Creepypastas.

On 26 August 2015, user searchandrescuewoods posted a story to r/nosleep entitled ‘I’m a Search and Rescue Officer for the US Forest Service, I have some stories to tell’ (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3iex1h/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/).

sarw1It comprised of a number of anecdotes from the narrator’s career as a Search and Rescue officer in an unnamed heavily wooded area of the United States. The narrator lists several cases — some heart-wrenching, some head-scratching, and some legitimately disturbing — before wrapping up. Among these stories are tales of children mysteriously snatched away then recovered dead in places in which they had no right to be and, bizarrely, stories of strange but dangerous staircases standing in the woods.

At first glance this seemed like a fairly scattergun approach to telling spooky stories, but then the following day a second batch of stories was posted to Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3ijnt6/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/). These also seemed rather haphazard, but on closer inspection certain elements from the first story were expanded upon.

Then came a third entry (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3iocju/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); followed by a fourth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3jadum/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); a fifth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3kd90k/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); a sixth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3ppq81/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/); a seventh (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3sktwj/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/) and a ‘final’ eighth post (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/3ydj67/im_a_search_and_rescue_officer_for_the_us_forest/).

Over the course of these posts a rich ‘mythology’ is laid out, from the aforementioned stairs to the ‘fuzzy’ man and faceless people. We are given no answers, no cast-iron solutions or detailed exposition, instead we receive details of a series of incidents that encourage us to think about the links and draw our own conclusions. That element of mystery really adds to the storytelling process, causing the reader to engage with the subject material on a personal level.
But it isn’t just the format that draws the reader in. Searchandrescuewoods is an accomplished writer. The stories and subject matter are written with authority and include enough subtle details to help convince the reader that they are really hearing from an experienced and qualified US Forest Service agent.

sarw3They are so convincing that plenty of readers have linked the stories with the work of David Paulides.

For those who don’t know, Paulides is a writer/investigative journalist who once served as a police officer in San Jose. He has carved out quite the niche by writing bookss on both Bigfoot and unexplained disappearances (especially those in the US’s national parks).

Paulides founded a research group, North American Bigfoot Search (http://www.nabigfootsearch.com/home.html), while his extensively researched books on the subject — Tribal Bigfoot (http://amzn.to/1qZI1er) and The Hoopa Project: Bigfoot Encounters in California (http://amzn.to/1qZIg95) — are widely regarded as THE authority on Sasquatch sightings in North America.

Paulides’ Missing 411 project, which has been the subject of several nonfiction books he has penned, focuses on unexplained disappearances and deaths and was allegedly instigated by a conversation with an off-duty park ranger who recognised Paulides’ considerable investigative talents and asked him to look at a number of baffling cases. Since then Paulides has discovered a huge number of utterly bewildering cases around the world that very much match the stories told by SARwoods.

In fact, the events in Paulides’ books and the Search and Rescue Woods series are so similar that he has been asked, multiple times, about stairs in the woods and other SARwoods stories at public speaking engagements.
It became such a problem that SARwoods has had to include a disclaimer at their Tumblr blog and recently commented:

‘It is with great regret that I think back to the initial impact that my stories had on Paulides’ work. I have, of course, apologized, but unfortunately I suspect that irreparable damage has been done as far as our potential friendship goes. I hope this isn’t the case. I also hope that in the future my fans will express my feelings on this to him. He is my greatest inspiration; without him these stories would not exist. ‘

I think it’s actually a testament to SARwoods’ writing talent that people read these stories and feel compelled to check them out with the real world’s most esteemed expert in the field. But this should come as no shock. SARwoods’ own blog reveals that the author has studied writing at length, a study that has yielded real dividends. The r/nosleep audience is clearly enamoured with the stories — it received a staggering level of support which saw the series scoop one of NoSleep’s coveted Best Monthly awards.

And perhaps most excitingly, SARwoods has suggested there is more to come, stating that work has started on a manuscript of a novel that will collect and expand on these stories. Like the legions of fans SARwoods has cultivated, I for one cannot wait to see what other macabre wonders this talented storyteller has in store for us.
It was my pleasure to converse with the very friendly, charming SARwoods while researching this piece, and the author was kind enough to answer some questions for UK Horror Scene.

UK Horror Scene: Hi, thanks so much for agreeing to speak with UK Horror Scene. I’ll ask the most obvious question first — what served as your inspiration for the story?

SearchAndRescueWoods:  I’ve always really enjoyed the woods as a setting for both horror and fiction. I think that there is a very ancient kind of fear in us of the trees that can be incredibly powerful when used in the right way. As for the stairs, they were inspired by some of the themes and imagery in House of Leaves.

UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

SARwoods: I have too many favorite authors to count. I enjoy an incredibly broad range of material, and there’s very little I won’t try. In particular, I enjoy Ann Beattie, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Brett Easton Ellis, and J. D. Salinger.

UKHS: The stories use a very interesting structure — a series of anecdotes that when read together hint at several larger plot lines. Why did you choose this format for storytelling? And what challenges did the format give you?

SARwoods: I enjoy writing from the close first person because it is a very intimate form of storytelling. We get the impression that the narrator is speaking directly to us, and in horror this is critical in order to maintain tension. I think the casual tone also makes the story more approachable, and a bit easier to understand. When we aren’t caught up trying to understand the material itself, it frees us up to imagine more. The challenge, of course, is that you are working so closely with the character. In a horror setting especially, everything that happens to the narrator has a consequence, and this has to be dealt with in a realistic manner.

sarw2UKHS: How does it feel to know that people are still posting questions to the web wondering if the events of your Search and Rescue stories are real? Do you feel proud that your work was so well written that it’s often mistaken for fact?

SARwoods: It makes me incredibly proud and flattered that people are still mistaking my stories for fact. In fiction, belief is the highest form of flattery!

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the story. I’ve seen plenty of very atmospheric creepy images of stairs in the woods over at your Tumblr page (searchandrescuewoods.tumblr.com) Are there any examples of fan art, such as films, images or readings, in particular that have impressed you?

SARwoods: I am amazed with and am incredibly grateful for every piece of fanart I receive. I have incredibly talented fans!

UKHS: At the end of the eighth and final Nosleep post you mention assembling and expanding on these tales in a book in the future. Is that something that you are still pursuing? If so, how is it coming along? I’m sure I’m not the only fan who wants to know when we might be able to buy a copy!

SARwoods: I will be releasing more details on that at a future date.

UKHS: Congratulations on the stories’ tremendous success over at Nosleep. What was it like to receive that level of positive feedback and recognition from the Reddit community?

SARwoods: It’s been incredible to see how much Reddit, and NoSleep, have embraced my work. I am the top rated story of all time on NoSleep, and hold numerous other positions, which is absolutely mind-blowing. I would never have imagined that there would be so much interest in my work!

UKHS: Finally what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?

SARwoods: My fans can continue to look forward to, and receive, more work from me. I am switching gears from learning mode to application, so I will be producing much more content in the coming months.

Ultimately, the reasons that SARwoods’ stories resonate are twofold.

First, they tap into the natural fear of nature in modern man. We’re a civilised bunch and we have shaped the world to our own will, but there are still those places in the world, older than our society, that maintain their original primal form. Places that are dangerous, without the artificial safety we have built into our own habitat.

In the depths of the woods it is easy to feel both alone and completely surrounded. It’s a place devoid of human contact, utterly isolated, yet still teeming with life. It’s just that this life is the savage, instinctive kind, the sort that thrives in the kill or be killed environment of the wild.

The question is, are you?

The second reason the tale hits the mark is it’s engaging and unique method of story-telling. It matters not a jot how strong a plot is, if the story is poorly told it will not find an audience. And it is here that the talented SARwoods is a resounding success.

Come back next week when I’ll look at another unique and original story-telling method for a Creepypasta guaranteed to chill.

Until then, stay safe… and avoid the stairs.

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 16 Jane The Killer

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPY CRAPPYPASTA – PART 16: JANE THE KILLER

creepypastaCrappypasta. No, that’s not a typo, it’s a real thing.

I think you can probably guess what it is, but just in case you can’t (or missed the earlier entries in this series, in which case I suggest you go back and doing some catching up! Go on, you’ve missed some great stories!) it’s a play on words. In much the same way that Creepypasta came from the online term Copypasta (referring to a block of text spread throughout the internet via users copying and pasting it to email/forums), Crappypasta refers to Creepypasta that is, well, Crap.

That’s not to say it’s without merit — even junk food hits the spot now and then and as a horror fan there are films that I adore that are so bad they’re good. In fact, the runners of Creepypasta.com look at all submissions and those that are below the required standard, but show some glimmer of potential if worked on, honed and polished, find their way onto Crappypasta.com. (http://www.crappypasta.com)

Notable examples of Crappypasta include the notorious story below, which was posted to 4chan’s /X/ board on 28 March 2008:

So ur with ur honey and yur making out wen the phone rigns. U anser it n the vioce is “wut r u doing wit my daughter?” U tell ur girl n she say “my dad is ded”. THEN WHO WAS PHONE?

janetk3Yep, this is a story so deliciously dire that it birthed its own meme. Unsurprisingly, ‘THEN WHO WAS PHONE?’ has become as popular as ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ with a certain kind of web user. However, it’s not just a poor grasp on basic grammar that can see a story dismissed by discerning fans — no, arguably the biggest bugbear guaranteed to infuriate CP fans is somebody fanficcing or piggybacking on the success of another popular story to find an audience.

This week I look at a character (and stories) reviled by some and positively adored by others for precisely this reason — Jane the Killer.

I’ve already spoke at length about the success of the Jeff the Killer Creepypasta. A story fuelled by a nightmarish image of an inhuman grinning face, Jeff has gone on to become one of the most recognisable icons of Creepypasta lore. It’s a story so popular that it still spawns countless imitators, with scores of serial killer monsters now flooding the web, such as Eyeless Jack, Laughing Jack and Liars’s Jimmy.

However, there’s a marked difference between imitation and actively adding a new piece to the lore. As Creepypasta is largely an unregulated commodity, authors often adapt elements created by other writers to create their own spin on the tale. The growing legend of The Rake was very much a collaborative effort, while the stories that make up The Holders series can be credited to multiple authors.

Jane the Killer is one such attempt to add a new element to JtK legend. With his ‘Go To Sleep’ catchphrase and a back story that varies from telling to telling but often involves a brother named Liu, a gang of vengeful bullies and terrible chemical burns, there’s already a fair amount to work with when telling Jeff’s tale. What the creators of Jane the Killer attempt to inject is a nemesis.

janetk1The first Jane the Killer story appeared online back in 2012. Originally titled Jane’s Letter, it has been credited as the work of AngryDogDesigns, a DeviantArt user (http://mrangrydog.deviantart.com/). You can read his post here: http://mrangrydog.deviantart.com/art/Jane-the-Killer-283722710

The story is short, sharp and serves solely to introduce readers to its new antihero. It depicts Jane as somebody with a deep, personal vendetta against Jeff. She is portrayed as somebody so unhinged by her hatred for the grinning, white-hoodie-wearing super psycho that she is prepared to kill people just to rob him of the pleasure.
It also comes with a striking image, a heavily doctored photo of a young woman with an almost featureless white face.

This image comes with a spin on Jeff’s ‘Go To Sleep’ catchphrase — instead it reads: ‘Don’t go to sleep. You won’t wake up’. Shortly after the first appearance of this story, another entitled Jane the Killer: The Real Story was published by PastaStalker64. This was a lengthier, slightly better written effort, that claimed to be the true story of Jane as told by her.

You can read it at the Jeff the Killer wikia (yes, that really exists) here: http://jtk.wikia.com/wiki/Jane_the_Killer:_The_Real_Story

It elaborates on Jane’s background, revealing that she was a neighbour of Jeff and witnessed many of the events in his story, even playing a role in saving his life. However, she would go on to become of his victims, losing her friends and family along the way and being left deliberately disfigured by the maniac. Driven by hatred and an insatiable hunger for revenge, she has taken to hunting Jeff.

In some ways this is quite skilful storytelling. By threading the well-established events of JtK through the story the author (PastaStalker64) is able to connect with an existing audience. The writing itself leaves a little to be desired, but let’s not forget that the original Jeff the Killer stories weren’t exactly Tolstoy. In many technical ways, this is actually better than the Jeff origin tales.

Since then original Jane creator MrAngryDog has released his own ‘origin tale’ writing that Jane (now given the surname Richardson)’s seemingly superhuman abilities derive from a scientific experiment funded by the Government involving something known as Liquid Hate). He was even kind enough to create a handy infographic to explain it. Oh, and she’s also a lesbian with a girlfriend called Mary and a wide circle of friends. Seriously.

There has emerged quite the rivalry between camps of Jane fans, those that prefer the original Jane Richardson born of science, and those that prefer PastaStalker64’s Jane Arkensaw AKA Everlasting, born of fire. This eventually led to a surprisingly civil exchange between the two authors in which PastaStalker64 apologised for any unintentional treading on of toes and admitted that the original Jane image and character was created by MrAngryDog. However, it was agreed between the authors that Jane Richardson and Jane Arkensaw would just be recognised as two separate entities in the JtK mythos and culminated in the writers becoming positively chummy. You can read the whole exchange at MrNgryDog’s Tumblr blog here: http://themrangrydog.tumblr.com/post/97000399066/surprise

janetk2

Further subgroups of fans have penned their own stories, from the inevitable ‘shipper’ takes on the story that suggest romance between the two (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10311954/1/Withered-Love-Jeff-The-Killer-x-Jane-The-Killer) to those that detail the climactic showdown between the two (http://www.crappypasta.com/jeff-the-killer-vs-jane-the-killer/). In one of these a rather implausible plot development occurs in which Jane disguises herself as a hooker to get close to Jeff, then they sleep together (because obviously that’s the first thing you’d do when you tricked your mortal enemy upon whom you’d sworn bloody vengeance to lower his guard in a location far from any witnesses). After eventually dispatching Jeff some time later, Jane’s body is found dead from blood loss, having died during childbirth. There is no sign of the infant, and more tellingly, smeared on the wall in Jane’s blood is the slogan: ‘Go To Sleep’. This has inspired a whole slew of Jeff/Jane the Killer’s Son/Daughter stories.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these fall squarely into the Crappypasta category, and are widely reviled by a large contingent of the Creepypasta community.

However, there are also massive groups of fans (the majority of which appear to be teenage girls) who are extremely passionate and vocal in their support of their preferred Jane. A quick look at DeviantArt turns up page after page of Jane fanart, and there are also plenty of pictures on Tumblr. YouTube hosts a number of Jane the Killer videos, many of which set to the emo strains of an Evanescence track, obv.

They regularly clash with Jeff’s own fangirls, plenty of whom hate Jane as a character because she wants to kill their beloved Jeff. To be honest, it’s all a bit Take That vs East 17 (I’ve a very strong suspicion I may have given my age away with that analogy!).

One of the major criticisms levelled at Jane is that she’s seen as something of a Mary Sue (especially the Liquid Hate, superpowered Richardson). For those unfamiliar with the term, a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu, Marty Stu or Larry Stu for male characters) is a type of young character (especially prevalent in fanfiction) who is impossibly perfect and seen as an idealised author insert. The name comes from a character (the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old) in Paula Smith’s 1973 parody A Trekkie’s Tale, which was published in her fanzine Menagerie #2. The story itself poked gentle fun at a lot of Star Trek fan fiction, but since then this term has come to carry heavy negative connotations. The worst of these is that a Mary Sue serves as a wish-fulfilment proxy for the author, a perfect example of what they want to be, which in turn makes the character unrealistic in their perfection and not developed enough to be interesting.

janetk4There have been several people who are outspoken about the damage the term Mary Sue has done to fanfiction. It seems now that as soon as anybody inserts a female character into an established mythos, that character is quickly dismissed as a Mary Sue. It implies a certain sexism in online fan communities ,and poses the question, if Jane were to have been a male character (Jake the Killer perhaps) would the backlash have been as strong? The characters of Masky, Hoody and Ticci Toby have been widely accepted into the Slenderman canon. Of course a simple reason for this could be that they are allies of the popular original creation, rather than sworn enemies. Let’s not forget how popular these Creepypasta icons have become, and how fiercely protective their fans feel towards them.

Which brings us back to Crappypasta. Is it fair to dismiss a work purely because you don’t approve of the character’s motivations? Isn’t all art — including literature — subjective, and as such, beyond traditional criticism? There are definitely some works that resonate better with an audience than others (as well as writing these features, I review horror films so I’m encouraged to rate or rank the work of others based on my conceptions of quality), but to discourage any artist who was brave enough to put their work out there by simply labelling it as ‘crappy’ is pretty harsh.

Jane the Killer is not my favourite Creepypasta creation, but there are elements in the stories of both Richardson and Arkensaw that I appreciate. What’s more, I think the character gives us a fascinating microcosm of internet fandom — a character written into an existing online mythos, since adopted into multiple personas by different groups of fans who feel ‘Their Jane’ is the best one, and sparking an almost equal amount of love and hate from the community for a wealth of reasons.

With so much invested emotion from people who feel passionately about the character, plus an ever expanding mythos and fresh developments and new directions for the story on an almost daily basis, Jane the Killer is actually a hugely successful icon, despite her naysayers.

With so much going on around this particular story, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no danger that onlookers will ‘go to sleep’.

Aberrancy by Su Halfwerk – Book Review

Aberrancy by Su HalfwerkAberrancy by Su Halfwerk – Book Review

Book links:

Amazon UK: amazon.co.uk/dp/B01CYX1MBG
Amazon US: amazon.com/dp/B01CYX1MBG
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/aberrancy/id992269011?mt=11
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/aberrancy-su-halfwerk/1121877211

I love a good title, especially one that perfectly evokes a mood. Call a book Terror Land and as long as you throw some proper terror into the narrative, that’s a good read, and a good overall package. Tell your reader what they’re getting, and deliver. So, call your book Aberrancy, like Su Halfwerk has, and you’re giving an expectation of wrongness. Something nasty waiting in the wings.

In part, Aberrancy delivers. There’s definitely something wrong about the way that lead character Robert goes about seeking the truth surrounding the deaths linked to his daughter, and the ways in which the people around him suffer as an evil witch seeks to hide her true motives from him.

Now, the only reason I say this only delivers partly is the author’s use of old-fashioned storytelling to spin a modern tale. The descriptions used, as well as the language spoken by most of the characters, gives this more of a 1900’s feel, which doesn’t mesh with the present-day setting. That said, the further you get into the book, the less this jars. In places, it even adds to the mood of the novella. I guess there are only two ways you can go with witchy stories anyway – full-on period pieces, or the hackneyed ‘sexy modern witch’ trope, so it’s nice to see a story that straddles both of these ideas.

As well as turning back the clock with its language, the story skips between the present and the past, between Robert’s interrogation of a woman who may just be the latest reincarnation of the witch he’s been terrorised by through the decades, and recollections from some of those years. I enjoyed this back-and-forth switch, though it takes some of the immediacy away from Robert’s brutal interrogation scenes.

Even if it can’t quite decide what time period it’s set in, this story offers some real gut-punching moments of emotion and terror. The setup for the mystery surrounding Robert’s daughter is devastating in the way parent’s emotions are toyed with, and there’s one shocking outburst of gore straight out of Final Destination which left me wanting more. Even when the book seems to be losing steam, the final scenes take an interesting international turn, and the inevitable twist / big reveal leaves a kind of Rosemary’s Baby taste in the mouth.

The fact that Su writes paranormal romance makes me wonder whether she’d ever blend genres a little more in the future to make more of a Cliver Barker-esque mix of sex and death. It also makes me think that her writing style owes a little to the romance genre. But that’s the strangest thing about this book. For all its odd choices with language and structure, it all pulls together by the end, even if it does remind you of other stories told differently. I was engaged all the way through, despite some frustration with the author’s choices, and I’m definitely curious to see how far her other works go. The titles are definitely as good as this one, so who knows?

Score: 7/10

You can find Su online here:

Website: http://www.su-halfwerk.com/
Blog: http://www.suhalfwerk.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Su.Halfwerk
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SuHalfwerk
Instagram: https://instagram.com/suhalfwerk/

Malevolents: Click Click by Thom Burgess & Joe Becci – Review

malevolents1MALEVOLENTS : ‘Click Click’ Book One

Out now from www.greatbritishghosts.com

Buy Here – http://malevolents.bigcartel.com/product/malevolents-click-click

Writer: Thom Burgess
Illustrator: Joe Becci

Synopsis:
Malevolents: ‘Click Click’ tells the story of four school friends, that have obviously never seen a scary movie before as they decide to spend a night in London’s most haunted house.

Review:
Malevolents: Click Click is a brief, atmospheric ride that every horror fan should experience, this is a therapeutic way of telling a horror story with simple, yet beautiful illustrations, one that finds the right words at the right time, this graphic novel could be the start of an amazing franchise.

A quick heads up about myself I’m the type of person that goes to the movies, and 10 seconds after the credits have ended am in a coffee house having a cup of tea in hand discussing every scene of that movie. 10 seconds after reading ‘Malovelents: Click Click’ I was on those Internet forums with like minded comic book and horror fans discussing the collaboration between Thom Burgess & Joe Becci.

One of the topics that was frequently discussed within the chat forums, pertains to the story writing and the illustration, and how they decided upon putting the story together, as sometimes it feels like the story does not match up with the illustrations, but in a way it still works. This is a very clichéd tale but do not underestimate the way they have told it’s very common story about teenager’s spending the night in a desolate location.

I don’t want to say there are super tropes in this graphic novel but.

Ouija board, check
Teenagers, check
Creepy old house, check
A telling of a story about another teenager, check
Fun story that you walk away wanting to come back to, check

This is definitely the hardest review I’ve done as I’m trying my hardest not to give away any spoilers.

“Your welcome in advance” as you turn each page you know deep down you are getting closer and closer to the end of the comic book, I wanted more and as it was coming to an end, I felt like a teenager again as I was experiencing Malevolents: Click Click.

My final thoughts:
This graphic novel is pretty much for anyone, but people that are in their twenties and above could appreciate it somewhat more as they might just remember horror movies and TV shows from the 80s / 90s.

The characters are very clichéd, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.

If you like campfire type stories, If you like horror, there is a big chance you will like Malevolents: ‘Click Click’.

8/10