Saturday, October 17, 2020

Beware Of America's Creepiest Roads!

They've been called urban legends, ghost stories, creepy encounters.  But they all have one thing in common—unexplained happenings on dark roads in the dead of night.  If you'll pardon the use of the word dead.

Or maybe it's more appropriate than you realize.  :)

Since October is the month of things that go bump in the night as well as Halloween, it's the perfect time of year to explore these creepy lanes and the unexplained happenings.  Here's a sampling of some of these haunted places.

Shades of Death Road in Warren Co., NJ:  Yes, Shades of Death Road is the real name of the street, but no one is sure exactly how the name came about.  Over the decades many murders have happened along this stretch of road, each its own ghastly tale, which certainly explains why so many different ghosts haunt the area.

The San Antonio Ghost Track:  If you put your car in neutral on the tracks, the car will move by itself off the tracks.  And if you cover the bumper in baby power, you'll find child-sized palm prints.  However, be careful if you decide to try it out.  There have been reports of bandits waiting in hiding for people to start their paranormal test.

The Georgia Ghost Roads:  Travelers late at night along Railroad Bed Road and Old Ghost Road (Robertson Road) see a faint orange light flashing in the distance.  As they drive closer to it, a man will appear who is digging a ditch…or perhaps a grave.  He turns and walks toward the car, but disappears before he gets there.

Buckout Road in Harrison, NY:  The shocking murders committed by Issac Buckhout are believed responsible for the area's many reports of notorious activities such as farms burning, vandalism in a local historic cemetery, and people who claimed to have been attacked by flesh-eating monsters because they parked in front of a specific red house and honked their car horn three times.

Meshack Road in Tompinsville, KY:  This is supposedly the original location of the oft repeated story of the young woman in the prom dress who is walking along the road and given a ride by a young man.  He gives her his coat to keep warm.  The next day he returns to the house where he took her in order to retrieve his coat.  The woman living there told him her daughter had died several years ago…on prom night.

Milford Road in Oxford, Ohio:  The story of star-crossed lovers.  The boy and girl were in love but the girl's father hated the boy.  The boy would flash his motorcycle headlight three times and if he saw her porch light flash three times in return he knew it was safe to go there.  One night he's killed on the road, but the flashing lights continue to haunt the area.

Mona Lisa Drive in New Orleans:  A philanthropist donated a collection of statuary to the city with one stipulation.  The statue commissioned to commemorate the death of his only daughter, Mona, be placed in a special location in the park by itself.  One night a car chase ended with a car crashing into the statue and shattering it.  After that, rumors began to circulate that Mona lurked in the park where the statue had been, haunting innocent and unsuspecting visitors.

Archer Road in Justice, IL:  Resurrection Cemetery is the site of a story similar to the Meshack Road haunting.  A young man met a pretty blond at a dance.  At the end of the evening, he drove her home.  When they reached the cemetery, she asked him to stop.  She got out of the car, walked toward the gate, and disappeared.  He went to the house where she said she lived and the woman told him her daughter had been dead for five years.

Spook Hill in Burkittsville, MD:  In addition to the ghostly reputation courtesy of the 1990s horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, an unexplained recurring happening here is similar to the Railroad Crossing in San Antonio.  When driving up Spook Hill, if you stop and put the car in neutral it won't roll back downhill.  It will continue uphill as if being pushed.  The local ghostly tale claims it's Civil War soldiers who think they're pushing one of their cannons up the hill.

Clinton Road in New Jersey:  If you find yourself on this haunted road, be sure to toss a coin into the river at the Old Boy Bridge. The ghost of a boy who drowned will throw it back. There have also been reported sightings of UFOs, mutated circus animals, and mysterious glowing eyes.

Highway 666:  This highway was originally named because it was the 6th spur off of US Highway 66 (now mostly replaced by Interstate 40) through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. Travelers on this haunted highway, known as the Devil's Highway, have reported speeding ghost cars, packs of devil dogs, and a flaming demonic semi-truck that drives directly at the spooked travelers. Many people attribute these sightings to a biblical association between the numbers 666 and Satan. In 2003, the highway number was changed to Highway 491. There are still a few places where you can see the Highway 666 sign labeled as old next to the Highway 491 sign labeled as new.

Do you have any ghostly tales or spooky happenings where you live?

Saturday, October 10, 2020

10 Halloween Superstitions

Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures.  Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how, or why they came into being.  Friday the 13th always brings out superstitions and the rituals used to thwart them.

And then there's Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic, and superstition.  It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.  They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits.  They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.  Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Here's a list of ten superstitions that seem to apply specifically to Halloween.

1)  If a candle goes out on its own on Halloween, it is thought a ghost has come to call.

2)  A burning candle inside of a Jack-o-lantern on Halloween keeps evil spirits at bay.

3)  You invite bad luck into your home if you allow a fire to burn out on Halloween.

4)  A person born on Halloween can both see and talk to spirits.

5)  Seeing a spider on Halloween could be the spirit of a dead loved one who is watching you.

6)  If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don't look back because it could be the dead following you.

7)  Don't look at your shadow in moonlight on Halloween night.  If you do, you will die within a short period of time.

8)  If a bat flies around a house three times, it is a death omen.

9)  Ringing a bell on Halloween will scare evil spirits away.

10)  A bat that enters a home may have been let in by a ghost.

Do you have any superstitions that apply to Halloween?

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Horror Movies For The Halloween Season—and the lessons they teach us

Today at Halloween time, we think of horror movies as being series such as Friday The 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and even a horror series titled Halloween. But these modern horror movies rely on slasher and gore for their fright factor.

What has happened to the scary horror movies from the past that traded on the atmosphere of fear rather than the visual of spurting blood and flying body parts?  The tingling sensation that made the hair stand on the back of our necks and goose bumps on our arms as our imaginations ran wild.  The spooky ground fog that slithered over and around the tombstones, cloaking the cemetery in an eerie silence and spectral glow.

I'm talking about the traditional horror classics from many decades gone by such as Frankenstein from 1931 with Boris Karloff's brilliant performance as the monster.  Also from 1931, Dracula with Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the vampire as both elegant and mesmerizing which left the horror to the imagination of the viewer.  The next year gave us 1932's The Mummy with Boris Karloff once again turning in a stellar performance, this time as the two thousand year old mummy in search of the reincarnation of his mate.  Then came 1941's The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the stricken and cursed Larry Talbot.

True to Hollywood tradition, these classic horror movies spawned numerous sequels—Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter.  And as long as Hollywood was on a roll, they added to the profit factor by capitalizing on the popularity of the characters by having them co-star in such movies as Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.  Then there were the myriad remakes that came over the ensuing years, some serious attempts and others totally ludicrous.  Each one pushed the envelope in its own way in order to hopefully make it better (as in more box office dollars, not necessarily better quality) than its predecessor.

And the award for the most remakes over the years goes to Dracula.  Some were serious films and others were more on the ridiculous side with titles such as Dracula's Dog. And don't forget the use of the characters to sell products such as Count Chocula cereal from General Mills. And even Sesame Street has a character called The Count who, no surprises here, counts things.

With all four of the above mentioned original movies, the remakes never really captured the essence of the originals…in my humble opinion.

But these classic horror movies have done more than provide us with entertainment.  They have given us some valuable lessons for handling real life as well as those evil things lurking in the shadows.

Here are 9 important lessons Halloween season horror movies have taught us.

9)  When it appears that you have killed the monster, NEVER check to see if it's really dead.

8)  If your companions suddenly begin to exhibit uncharacteristic behavior such as hissing, fascination with blood, glowing eyes, or increasing hairiness, get away from them as fast as possible.

7)  Do not search the basement when the power has just gone out especially if it was NOT knocked out as the result of a storm or if yours is the only house on the block without power.

6)  If appliances start operating by themselves, move out.

5)  Stay away from certain geographic locations such as: Amityville, Elm Street, Transylvania, Nilbog, the Bermuda Triangle…or any small town in Maine.

4)  If your children speak to you in any language which they should not know or if they speak to you using a voice which is not their own, be afraid…be very afraid.

3)  When you have the benefit of numbers, NEVER pair off and separate from the group (are you listening to this advice Scooby Doo gang?) or worse yet go it alone when searching the spooky old mansion for the source of the strange noises.

2)  As a general rule, don't solve puzzles that open portals to hell.

And last, but not least…

1)  If you find a town that looks mysteriously deserted, there's probably a good reason for it.  Take the hint and stay away!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

THE SEDGWICK CURSE—A conversation with Taylor and Donovan

With Halloween arriving in a month, I thought it would be appropriate to start a series of Halloween blogs by featuring an interview with Taylor MacKenzie and Lord Donovan Sedgwick, from my Harlequin Intrigue mystery/romantic suspense novel THE SEDGWICK CURSE, one of my 17 Harlequin ebook reissues from my 21 Harlequin backlist of print titles.

Good morning and thanks to both of you for joining us today.  I think my first question is for you, Lord Sedgwick.

Donovan:  Please, call me Donovan.  (pauses) I still haven't been able to completely reconcile being the owner of the title, especially considering the circumstances that passed it on to me from my father.

It's a title that's been in your family for a long time, isn't it?  Along with the large estate located in the Cotswolds area of England?

Donovan:  A very long time…for centuries to be exact, starting in the late 1600s after the monarchy was restored to the throne with Charles II.  (brightens as he grasps Taylor's hand)  But on the other side, if my family history hadn't taken a strange twist along the way I never would have met this lovely lady and would have always felt as if something very important was missing from my life.

So, Taylor…your family history and Donovan's family history were somehow connected?  You're from the United States and had never been to England prior to your initial meeting with Donovan, is that correct?

Taylor:  Yes, it was over a century ago that the connection between our families resulted in the curse placed on the Sedgwick family.  In my correspondence with Donovan's father, I lied about the purpose of my trip to England.  The reality of it was to trace the origins of the crime that had resulted in the brutal death of my great grandmother and great grandfather who were tenant farmers on the Sedgwick estate.  My grandmother was an infant at the time and was whisked away to safety by some of the villagers and eventually arrived in America by way of Canada.

Donovan…you didn't have any idea who Taylor was when she showed up at your front door one night?

Donovan:  (chuckles) The name Taylor misled me. I assumed my father had been dealing with a man who wanted to research the annual festival we hold on the estate grounds for a book he was writing on British country festivals.  Our particular festival has been an annual event for over 250 years.  My father had invited the writer to stay at the house while doing research.

And Taylor was that 'man'?

Donovan:  (sly grin) She didn't fool me for a moment.  I knew as soon as I opened the door that it wasn't a man standing there!  (turns serious) But her timing was terrible.  My father had…uh, he had died a couple of months earlier.  It was the night before her arrival that the century old curse had seemed to come to fruition with the evil of the past turned loose on the present, followed by a string of grisly murders…

(Donovan's voice trailed off and Taylor picked up the conversation).

Taylor:  I had never been as frightened in my life as I was shortly after I arrived at the Sedgwick estate that night.  I felt as if I was being stalked by some evil presence.  Sometimes it seemed so close that I could literally reach out and actually touch it.  Or worse yet, that it could touch me.

Was there someone…or something…actually stalking you?  Was any of it real or merely the result of the centuries-old gothic atmosphere of the older sections of the house?

Taylor:  Oh, it was real…very real.  And so was the resulting danger.

Donovan:  There was much more going on than just the sense of a malevolent presence playing havoc with everything and everyone.  There was an entirely separate agenda happening at the same time involving blackmail, deceit, and extortion.  All-in-all, a very messy quagmire of conflicting facts and feelings.

That sounds like quite a tangled web.  Obviously whatever happened was finally put to rest for good and the two of you are now married and still living in the manor house at the estate.  How did all of that come about?

Donovan:  (Taylor started to speak, but Donovan got the words out first) For the answer to that one, you'll need—

Ah…I know what's coming next.  You're going to tell me I have to read the book.

Donovan:  Exactly!

Romantic Times review/4 out of 5:

Shawna Delacorte pens a fun read with lots of spooky ambience and a daring twosome.

CataRomance review/4 stars out of 5:

THE SEDGWICK CURSE by Shawna Delacorte is a spine tingler from the very beginning.  I spent a nail biting evening racing through the pages to a wonderfully, satisfying, aha ending.  Lovers of romantic intrigue and suspense will be totally captivated by THE SEDGWICK CURSE.

Rendezvous review:

Every emotion is felt by the reader in this dramatic story which mesmerizes the reader as it builds to one shattering revelation after another.  A cast of secondary characters add spice to the story.

Blurb:

THE CHILLING TRUTH

To learn the truth behind her great-grandmother's past—and the curse that still surrounded both her family and the old woman's tiny country village—Taylor MacKenzie made her way to England. But from the moment she arrived at her ancestors' manor house, an eerie chill echoed the evil of the past and a shadowy figure seemed to follow her every move.

Donovan Sedgwick, the new lord of the manor, had eyes that pierced Taylor's soul and held her in an otherworldly thrall. But he seemed ravaged by demons of his own—demons that only her kisses were able to calm.

Publisher's Excerpt:

She whirled around, her gaze staring into the darkness of the garden. Someone was watching her, staring from the safety of some hidden place. She gasped for air as if all the oxygen had been taken away from her.

"Who's there? Who…?" The words came out as a whisper then they died in her mouth. Her heart pounded in her chest and the sound roared in her ears. A wall of fear surrounded her. She forced her feet to move, to carry her toward the house. Her plodding steps turned into a run as she headed for the light at the kitchen door.

"Where have you been?" The words came at her from the darkness. A jolt of adrenaline raced through her body before she identified the voice as Donovan's. Then he grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her toward him….

THE SEDGWICK CURSE, a Harlequin Intrigue mystery/romantic suspense by Shawna Delacorte is available in ebook at http://ebooks.eharlequin.com (do search for author name Shawna Delacorte).  Also available from Amazon and other online vendors.  Excerpts and full reviews are available on my website along with information about my other Harlequin ebook reissues.  www.shawnadelacorte.com 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Say Goodbye To Summer And Hello to Autumn

Tuesday, September 22, 2020, marks the official end of summer and start of autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere—the Autumnal Equinox, the date that daylight and darkness are equal.

Earlier this month in my little corner of the world we had a delightful taste of the fall weather to come. That crisp feel in the air with cooler temperatures replacing the heat and dryer air shoving aside the retched humidity of summer. That change to cool dry air brought a renewed vigor, a revived energy to replace the lackluster feeling resulting from the summer heat and humidity...at least for me. (Do you get the impression that I don't function well in heat and humidity?)

Just as I love the renewal of life in the spring—bright green new leaves on the trees, colorful flowers, the awakening of nature from winter's long hibernation—I also love the change of the leaves to their brilliant array of fall colors in autumn. This year we've exceeded our average amount of rainfall, so I'm hoping for a more colorful autumn than we've had the last couple of years.

I can say with all sincerity that I'm happy to welcome the end of summer. Oh, yeah…also happy to welcome the start of fall. But it's mostly the end of summer's heat and humidity that thrills me. I do have to admit that the summer of 2020 was a strange mixture of several triple digit temperature days and periods of cooler temperatures. However, we did have many super high humidity days. Ugh!

Welcome autumn...I'm thrilled to see you! But, on the other hand, I'm hoping for a mild winter. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

What Your Sleeping Position Says About You

Ah…yet another survey of a bunch of people somewhere.  :) This one is about your sleeping position. According to a survey of 1,000 people in Great Britain, the position you choose to sleep in can reveal a lot about your personality.

You sleep in a fetal position? That says you're potentially shy and sensitive.

How about a log sleeper (lying on your side as straight as a stick…or log)? You are likely social and fun. One of the good time people.

If you sleep with your legs slightly bent and your arms tucked under the pillow, you are a 'yearner'. Often suspicious, always have a plan, always up to something.

Or, if you're a soldier sleeper (lay flat on your back), you are likely quiet, reserved, and not very gregarious.

If you sleep in a freefall position (just like it sounds, face down on the bed with arms and legs splayed)—this type of person is always loud at the party and wants to be the center of attention. Some people might try to avoid this person.

The starfish sleep position is like a reverse freefall position with arms straight out and one knee up. This sleep position means you are a giver, a listener, everyone wants to be your friend, you put others needs before your own.

Do any of these positions match your personality type? If so, is it the position you sleep in? 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

FOOTGOLF—WHAT IS IT?

I heard about this sport on the news one morning. Footgolf? What in the world is footgolf? I felt compelled to check it out.

As the name implies…it's golf played with the feet, a combination of golf and soccer. The definition I found said, "Footgolf is a precision sport where players kick a football [for those of us in the U.S., football refers to soccer] into a cup in as few shots as possible. Its name is a combination of 'football [soccer]' and 'golf.' It is closely related to golf."

The object of the game is to play either a 9-hole course or an 18-hole course, kicking the ball into each hole in as few shots as possible and the person having the lowest score wins the game.

The origins of footgolf are unclear and have been attributed to several countries. The first 9-hole footgolf tournament played on a golf course as the sport is known today was organized in the Netherlands in 2009. The first Footgolf World Cup was held in Budapest, Hungary, in June 2012 with 8 countries participating—Argentina, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, and the United States. About 80 players played 18-holes on the first day and another 18-holes on the second day.

Footgolf is a growing sport, due in part to the 2008-2012 world-wide recession which produced declining revenue for golf courses. With the advent of footgolf, some existing traditional golf courses have been converted to footgolf in addition to new footgolf courses being built. Without the need for all those expensive golf clubs, golf bags, and other associated paraphernalia, it's a more financially feasible sport.