This past Saturday, Dan and I took our fourth hike of the year so far, which is already notable just in the fact that it’s more than I think I’ve ever done in any year past. I’m well on my way to my goal of seven hikes, and I’ll probably surpass it.
This time around, we went to the Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield, NH. It’s one of our first hikes out of the Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire book that we have, and it was my favorite hike overall so far, not only for the “haunted” aspects but also the area itself.
The forest houses the ruins of Madame Antoinette Sherri’s “castle,” a grand, fifteen-room house that she’d had built to house parties over the summertime. As she grew older, though, she no longer be able to host the parties and instead took up residence in a Vermont nursing home. The castle went into disrepair before burning down in 1962, presumably due to arson. The site is allegedly haunted because, well, what’s a ruinous site in the forest without a few ghosts to go along with it? It’s said that you might spot Madame Sherri at the top of the staircase, and if you take a listen, you can hear phantom laughter and music.
We didn’t hear anything, but it was a beautiful place to start our walk nonetheless. The ruins are on a little side path before you get to the actual trail, and there’s honestly not a whole lot there: a staircase with archways and a fireplace at the top. I was kicking myself when we left the house, though, because I forgot to pack the digital recorder that Dan got me for our anniversary a few years ago; even though we didn’t hear anything ourselves, who knows what the recorder might have picked up? So on top of going back just to hike another one of the trails, I want to go back just to do a little more investigating at the ruins.
After our stop at the ruins, we headed out to the trail. There are a few different options–the Ann Stokes Loop, Daniels Mtn. trail, and Mt. Wantastiquet trail–and we went with the Ann Stokes Loop for our first trip. This took us up the mountain, with another trail that we stopped on, this time at Indian Pond, on the way up. All of the views along the trail were great, from the tree canopy, to the pond, to the view from the top. Most of my photos didn’t do them justice, but I love what I did get.
This was a moderate trail, which means I spent a fair amount of time grumbling and yelling, “Oh my god!” every time we were going uphill, which was often. As with all of our hikes like this, though, it was worth the trouble. I felt incredibly proud of myself after, and everything we saw was breathtaking. From just the trails signs to the view of Chesterfield from the ledges above to the plant life, the whole experience was beautiful and invigorating.
As I’ve said, this is the most hikes I’ve ever done in a year for the simple fact that I’ve never really been a “hiker.” While Dan’s gone on a couple of overnights, I just haven’t been that serious about it (or any kind of exercise to be honest), but something about this year made me want to start trying more, and I’ve been enjoying each trip so much so far. I’m looking forward to see what others we end up doing, haunted or not (although the more haunted the better in my opinion).
I have this distinct memory from around the time that I was five years old or so: I’m sitting on my living room floor watching a red-headed doll in overalls bludgeon a man with a golf club. I’ve been a horror fan for nearly my whole life, and the only reason I haven’t been one since the womb is that my mom isn’t a fan, so it’s almost impossible that she watched any while pregnant. Still, it’s been a long time, and while I’ve mostly stuck to the same old favorites–Scream, Bride of Chucky, House of 1000 Corpses–through the years, my love has grown nonetheless.
Most recently my love manifested in scouring iTunes for horror podcasts. There are a fair few narrative podcasts–Darkest Night is fab, for example–but what I really wanted was one that would discuss horror and maybe make me think about it, maybe (hopefully) introduce me to some new-to-me horror movies.
Enter the Faculty of Horror.
I was ecstatic to find this podcast not only because it sounded like exactly what I was looking for–an analytical look at the world of horror–but it turned out to be hosted by two super cool woman, Alex West and Andrea Subisatti. It’s not a strictly feminist podcast, but they do both identify as such, so I appreciate when that perspective comes up in their discussions.
This podcast is basically everything I was dreaming of. Each episode looks at anywhere from one to three films, usually revolving around a similar theme, such as summer camps, witchcraft, or eating disorders. Episodes only come out once a month, which can be a little disappointing because they’re so dang good, but it’s also completely reasonable; so much thought, research, and preparation go into each that the time between episodes is necessary and really contributes to that quality that I appreciate. It’s a completely fair trade.
A lot of the movies they discuss I either haven’t seen in a long time or haven’t seen at all, but I’ve started trying to watch either shortly before or after an episode to make listening even better–though to be honest the discussions are so interesting that it doesn’t seem necessary to watch to make listening enjoyable.Most of the time, though, it is interesting enough that if I haven’t watched ahead of time, I’m dying to see it after, which is exactly what led me to finally watch The Evil Dead for the first time and falling madly in love with both the franchise and Ash/Bruce Campbell. (I refuse to make the distinction between the two.)
Gosh, what else can I say? I adore this podcast, and I already know I’m going to be bummed when I’ve caught up. I make any excuse to listen, whether it’s while doing the dishes, driving around with Dan, or just sitting on my couch coloring (in my Beauty of Horror coloring book, of course). I’m learning so much from these ladies, and it’s really bolstered my love for horror to new heights. If you’re at all interested in critical thinking, but with personality, in the horror film genre, please, please check out this podcast!
On a cold, sunny day the weekend before the March 2017 Snowpocalypse, I trekked my way north with Dan and some friends to achieve a life goal that took me far longer than it should have to reach. Taking Interstate 93 north through Ashland, Plymouth, Woodstock, up to exit 33 to Lincoln. We pulled off onto Route 3 and drove for maybe five minutes, keeping our eyes peeled against the bright white of the snow–a stark contrast to all the brown we’d had at home up until the following Tuesday–for the Indian Head Resort.
Twice Dan almost stopped too early because there were two large signs for the resort (one mile ahead, half a mile ahead…), but we finally came to it and spotted the opening to the parking lot at the last minute. We pulled in, and my head whipped left and right as I looked for the green sign with white lettering marking the event my home state for over twenty years deemed historical: The Betty & Barney Hill Incident.
The short story is that Betty and Barney Hill, a New Hampshire couple, were driving home from a vacation to Canada when they spotted a bright light in the sky. Maybe it was a plane. Maybe it was a star. Jupiter was out that night, too. They continued driving for a while before finally pulling off the road and watching the bright light, which moved erratically, in ways a plane or any other known aircraft should move, before realizing it was coming down to meet them.
The first part of story was that they watched it for a while before growing scared, jumping back into their car, and driving away, continuing their journey home. But as they drove, they realized they suddenly couldn’t account for about thirty-five miles of travel distance. They’d experienced missing time. The second part of the story only came later, after connecting with several members of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) and were put under hypnosis by a doctor to whom they were referred.
The second part of the story says they were abducted, tested, and returned to their car after, having their memories scrubbed to avoid the news getting out.
(That worked out well.)
Along with the official marker on Route 3, there’s a little gas station and convenience store that serves as something of a makeshift memorial. it features a plastic-covered painting on the outer wall at the front of the store. Inside, among the candy, chips, and beer, are newspaper clippings, summaries of incidents in other states and countries, photos, and a bulletin board devoted purely to the Hills’ experience.
Despite everything being so small and looking underwhelming, the entire experience was thrilling for me. When I was a little girl, I got a book from Borders that had a blurb about the Hills in it and I was floored to find out that they were from New Hampshire–that’s where I lived! It was unbelievable to me at the time that something so exciting could have occurred so close by little ol’ me.
I would often spend evenings outside, sometimes alone and sometimes with my dad, watching the skies for a hint of something strange. Usually it was just an airplane or a blimp or even a hot air balloon once, but my faith in what’s out there has never once wavered. On long drives home late at night, it’s not uncommon for my head to snap up and my body to move with the sky to keep the best view on something I’ve seen. I almost always end up seeing the blinking lights of a plane or checking the sky map on my phone to determine it’s a planet, but once or twice I lost sight of a bright light in the sky before I could be quite sure.
Visiting this little monument to the strange and unusual has fanned the tiny flame that was already in me to do some investigating this year, even if it just means camping up in the mountains or visiting other strange places in New England. Maybe I’ll never have the chance to see something obvious in the sky, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop looking.
I don’t know if it’s much of a secret that I’m a fan of horror. Am I the biggest fan? Probably not. But I am writing my next issue of Whatsername about it in part, and I do spend a lot of time trying to scare the shit out of myself. My horror fandom doesn’t lie strictly in the obvious–gore and the like, and in fact I’m not much of a fan of gore and torture porn-style horror, though even those have their exceptions–but I’m open to just about anything that could be enveloped by the horror umbrella. My favorite things are ghost stories, the occult, and extraterrestrials (think Close Encounters or Fire in the Sky), but I’ll try just about anything that looks like it’ll keep me up at night. As a result, I’ve racked up a somewhat staggering number of favorites over the years, and I’ve decided to share a few in the hope of connecting with someone–anyone–over our heretofore unknown mutual affection for being terrifyingly entertained.
Some of these favorites are pretty popular, but hey–that means we’re more likely to bond over them, right?
- Rue Morgue magazine. / This is a relatively recent discovery for me. Last October I did a browse through the entertainment section of Barnes & Noble and spotted Rue Morgue in the racks. The alluring shade of green on the cover of their 19th anniversary issue–a Frankenstein special–caught my eye, and I snatched it up. They specialize in all things horror, from the classics, like Dracula and the just-mentioned Frankenstein, but also new work coming out of the genre, like The Girl With All the Gifts (both the book and film, which I am dreaming of devouring asap), Split, and 2015’s Krampus.
- Locke & Key. / Locke & Key by Joe Hill was my first horror comic series, and there’s a reason I’m still obsessed with it years after my first reading. Not only is the story itself perfectly terrifying, but the art takes everything to an even greater level of scare. Gabriel Rodriguez’s skills are astounding, and I am so happy to have this collection in my bookcase.
- Basically anything by Stephen King. / Okay, but really–if you know me at all then you know by now how much of a Stephen King fan I am. I’ve still only read a handful of his books relative to his total repertoire, but I’ve got a few favorites already, and I have yet to be disappointed in anything of his. I’ve read Carrie the most times, I assume because it appeals to my young adult/coming-of-age tale sensibilities, even if it’s not strictly described as such. I’d also list It as a favorite because it’s the only one of his novels thus far to truly terrify me.
Honorable mentions: The Shining. Horns. 20th Century Ghosts. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Afterlife with Archie.
- Bizarre States podcast. / I’ve been listening to Bizarre States for about two years, and it is hands down my favorite podcast. It’s not always the most organized–no matter how hard Jess and Bowser try–but it’s great entertainment, and they are so genuine in their love for all the weird, spooky shit they talk about each week. Plus, they never fail to have me laughing my ass off in the middle of my Thursday night bubble baths. (They literally have an episode titled, “Can you shit out of your mouth?” So there ya go.)
- My Favorite Murder podcast. / While this one is relatively more professional than BStates, it’s still kind of a hot mess at times, but that’s part of what we murderinos love about it. Karen and Georgia may take nearly an hour to get to talking about that week’s murders, but it’s another podcast full of authenticity. They make no habit of faking tight-laced professionalism and instead produce the podcast like two friends, just chatting about murder–which is exactly what they are and exactly why I like it.
- Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls by Murderdolls. / A little different from the other two of this category, this album by horror-punk band Murderdolls is so much hardcore fun. My favorite tracks include “Dead in Hollywood,” which makes reference to an array of classic Hollywood horror icons (Dracula, Norman Bates, and actor Vincent Price, to name a few), “B-Movie Scream Queen,” and “Love at First Fright,” a love letter to The Exorcist’s protagonist Regan. The references have a hilarious creativity to them, and it’s just a fun album to listen to for a horror lover.
Honorable mentions: NoSleep podcast. The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold. History Goes Bump podcast. Welcome to Night Vale. The Horrorpops.
- House of 1,000 Corpses. / Something of a “modern classic” for me, and my favorite so far of Rob Zombie’s film work. While its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, is a great film as well, it’s a little glossier than House of 1,000 Corpses, and I think half of what makes House so fun is its lack of frills. While it’s not as strictly campy as other horror selections might be (like Bride of Chucky, below), it has some darkly comical moments to it–at least if you have the right twist to your sense of humor. Plus, it has Chris Hardwick and Rainn Wilson, so it can’t be bad.
- Crimson Peak. / I’m honestly obsessed with this movie. I saw it in the theater with Dan when it came out, and I straight up fell in love with the aesthetics and the beautiful way that it was a ghost story without being only that. I’ve always heard good things about Guillermo del Toro, and while I never doubted any of them, I also had never really experienced them for myself until this film. Now I want to go through every other film he’s ever worked on and thoroughly acquaint myself with his mastery.
- Bride of Chucky. / While I like the original Child’s Play films well enough, and they’re closer to the serious horror end of the spectrum, I can’t deny my love for the camp that is Bride of Chucky. Jennifer Tilly’s portrayal of Tiffany is a hilarious, sexy, and scary character alongside Chucky, inhabited by the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray. I watched this a lot as part of my middle school goth-punk days, and it’s one I still adore for its hilarity and horror.
Honorable mentions: The Exorcist. Ouija. Fire in the Sky. The Conjuring. Krampus. Poltergeist (1982).
One thing I haven’t gotten into yet is horror video games. For some reason, those scare me more than absolutely anything else–it’s why I’ve never managed to play my way through Resident Evil 4, despite having it for years. I do love watching playthroughs, though, and I’d love to get into the subgenre more in the future.
Are you a fan of the horror genre? Do you have any recommendations?
From the back:
Written by [Joe] Hill and featuring artwork from Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them… and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all…
I’ve never questioned whether or not graphic novels could be considered “real writing,” or anything silly like that (of course it’s real writing!), but if I had, Locke & Key definitely would have cemented for me the belief that it is.
I have a fairly small collection of comics and graphic novels, including Northanger Abbey, Adventure TIme, and Watchmen–a decent mix, though overall straying from the typical superheros. The closest I come to that is a Harley Quinn book and my Watchmen collection. However, I’d never looked at horror comics or graphic novels, and when I heard about Locke & Key while listening to the Nerdist podcast a few weeks ago, I immediately googled it and added it to my to-read list. Over the weekend when I had friends over, I of course used it as an excuse to find a new comic book store nearby, since we’ve moved away from my usual haunt. I ended the search with a pleasing stack of reading material to leave with and a hearty recommendation from the guy at the register confirming that Locke & Key was a good choice.
Boy, was he right.
For my first foray into horror graphic novels, it was a fantastic choice. The art is wonderfully creepy without being overbearing like a lot of horror movies can be in their use of gore. There were certain panels where I would look, shudder, then keep staring; I was sucked into how effective the art was in making it horror without making it gore. Gore bores me, honestly. I much prefer suspense, which this has plenty of.
As for the story itself, the concept is sad, tense, and a little bit heartwarming all in one. The entire plot of this volume kicks off on a murder that leaves one family member racked with guilt and all of them on edge even after the arrest. Despite the concept of the “creature” inhabiting Keyhouse, the opening murder and its consequences provide a real-life issue to the story that perhaps makes it even creepier than had the story been focused solely on the supernatural.
One thing I do wish I got more of from this volume was a sense of character. While I do understand the members of the Locke family and their motivations, I wish I’d gotten to know them even more, especially Kinsey. For me, it felt like there was a lot to know about oldest brother Tyler, but notably less about the middle sister, Kinsey, and youngest Bode. Still, it’s a gripping start this series, of which I’m already dying to read the next installment. With each piece of the overall mystery that came to light, I couldn’t help but ache for even more details.