Author Interviews/Guest Bloggers

Graveyards, Ghosts, and Odd Sensations in Bangkok with Author Morgan A. Pryce.

Image of Thai cemetery copyright Morgan A. Pryce

This month sees the release of Among the Headstones, an anthology of graveyard tales, edited by Rayne Hall (see details below). I’ve ordered my copy, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

We’ve been fortunate so far to have author, Lee Murray, on the blog, where she discussed the macabre act of body snatching, and the inspiration behind her story.

This week, I have the honour of hosting author, Morgan A. Pryce, who shares with us some of the burial rituals of Thailand, as well as one of her own experiences with the paranormal. Her story for the anthology of a mythical creature from Thailand, sounds fascinating. Thank you, Morgan, for sharing and being with us today.

* * * * *

What are Thai funerals like? The pre-burial rituals in Thailand are exciting, entertaining, and creepy.

You get the meditative chant of monks, happy reunions with people you haven’t seen in ages, and of course the inevitable food boxes, and the cremation itself – especially if you are lucky enough to attend a cremation under royal patronage and get to experience the handing over of the flame as it is delivered from the palace.

Some traditions are downright gruesome, such as the fluid used for cremation that turns the body green. Or the custom that some of the deceased forego immediate rebirth and offer their dead bodies to be displayed in a part of the temple for monks to meditate over their decay as a memento mori.

If the deceased person’s ashes aren’t solemnly and beautifully scattered over a river or the sea, the urns are usually placed inside little niches in a wall surrounding the temple or a sacred space around a bodhi tree, the symbol of the path to enlightenment. These niches are sealed with a marble plaque that displays a photograph, a name and the dates of birth and death. And that’s it.

But then there are the old Chinese and Christian graveyards.

According to local tradition, these cemeteries are naturally haunted by all sorts of ghosts, ghouls, and spirits, the benevolent kind who may help you with lottery numbers if you ask nicely, or the not-so-nice kind who might just as well eat you alive, suck you dry, at the very least scare you to death, or drive you mad.

It’s perfectly normal to see one.

Small wonder I feel at home in this country…

You see, in “enlightened” Europe, it is usually best to keep certain things to oneself so as not to be instantly branded a nutcase. It is quite different here in Thailand where people far more likely to consult a soothsayer, a tarot reader, or a monk with supernatural powers than they are to visit a psychologist or a therapist, and where spirits and ghosts are considered a natural part of life who may be consulted for anything from murder to fertility issues to lottery numbers.

How did I find out?

Purely by chance, almost 25 years ago.

One day, I was in my office, which also doubled as my Department’s library at that time. I had started working at my university only a month or so earlier, it was the semester break, hardly anyone was ever on campus, and I barely knew anyone there. I quite liked having the place almost to myself as it gave me the time to sort my books and prepare my first semester: what texts to choose? how to teach my first all-Asian class? And then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman. She was standing in front of one of the book cases, running her hand over the spines. I turned around to see who it was and to introduce myself to my colleague – but nobody was there.

Later that day, I told my Head of Department who had the desk next to mine. Playing it cool, I told her about the incident and laughed it off, thinking I must have imagined things, probably a late aftereffect of jet lag, not quite being accustomed to the tropical heat or something. To my surprise, she was entirely serious and asked if I could describe the person I’d seen.

“Yes,” I said. “She was a rather small lady, very slim, very elegant, wore a black dress,” and so on, down to a particular hairstyle that I now know is that of a lady at the royal court. My boss looked at me, and said, as matter-of-fact as can be: “Ah. You met Ajarn Dussadee from the Spanish Department. She used to come into the library, she loved to look at the books.” And she’d recently died of cancer.

She advised me not to tell my colleagues. “If they know that our office is haunted, they may not feel comfortable here anymore.”

About Morgan A. Pryce

Morgan A. Pryce is a writer and academic who has been living in Bangkok for the past twenty-odd years. In her writing, she covers just about any genre where things get weird and/or someone dies. Although she loves her students dearly, her urge to erase ancient villages (and the odd galaxy) may have its roots in suppressed classroom trauma.

In the anthology Among the Headstones: Creepy Tales from the Graveyard Morgan tells a story about a Thai krasue, a mythological creature with the head of a woman whose body consists of floating guts.

About the Book  AMONG THE HEADSTONES: CREEPY TALES FROM THE GRAVEYARD

This anthology, edited by Rayne Hall, presents twenty-seven of the finest – and creepiest – graveyard tales with stories by established writers, classic authors and fresh voices.

Here you’ll find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.

You’ll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.

Now let’s open the gate – can you hear it creak on its hinges? – and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.

But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement… They may be right behind you.

Purchase Link:  mybook.to/Headstones

The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2022. (After that date, the price will go up.)

The paperback is already published.

Author Interviews/Guest Bloggers

Body Snatching: A Morbid Curiosity with Author Lee Murray

Free image courtesy Attila Lisinszky on Unsplash.

Happy new year, everyone! 😊

To start off 2022, I have the pleasure of hosting multi-award-winning author, Lee Murray, to the blog. Her flash fiction story, Heart Music, appears in the upcoming anthology, Among the Headstones, edited by Rayne Hall (further details below). I’ve ordered my copy and I look forward to reading Lee’s story, along with a host of other talented authors.

Today, Lee shares with us some of the history behind body snatching, including two modern cases that are both shocking and macabre.

Thank you, Lee, for sharing and being with us today.

* * * * *

Body snatching, the theft of a body or body parts from a burial site (as opposed to graverobbing, where sites are excavated for valuable artefacts), is an ancient and macabre practice, and curiosity is a key motivation. Indeed, scientific curiosity, coupled with this morbid practice, contributed much to our early understanding of the human body, for example. While da Vinci is believed to have dissected around thirty cadavers obtained with permission from various hospitals to inform his anatomical drawings, his contemporary, Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius, reportedly pillaged cemeteries for the corpses he dissected, his subsequent book of anatomical drawings, published in 1543, dispelling long-held theories about human biology. In the 19th century when anatomical research was at its zenith, despite the associated cultural taboos, there was a high demand for corpses, so body snatching became a lucrative industry, with the desecration occurring in the few days before the dead had time to decompose. In fact, in many western countries, body snatching for medical use became so commonplace that people took measures to protect their dead, including introduction of mort-safes (iron cage structures), or hired guards.

Body snatching is not confined to the distant past, however. In a bizarre New Zealand case, four young men stole a dead baby’s skull from a Wellington cemetery in 2002. The trio had roamed the cemetery previously, attempting (unsuccessfully) to break into a concrete crypt, stealing a marble ornament instead. Then, six days later, together with another friend, they returned to the cemetery after a night of heavy drinking, this time bringing a spade and a hacksaw. While one of the men served as a lookout, the others broke into two century-old vaults. In the first, the ring-leader—a man named Holland—sifted through an urn of human ashes with his hand. The group then stole the remains of a baby from the second vault, carrying it back to Holland’s flat in the lead lining of its coffin, where they cut a section from the baby’s crown and removed part of its jawbone. Holland went on to use the skull as an ashtray and the infant’s jawbone as a necklace (which he later lost). The group disposed of the rest of the corpse and the coffin lining by throwing them into the harbour. Days later, a man walking his dog through the cemetery reported that the vaults had been vandalised and a subsequent inventory uncovered the missing coffin. In his diary, one of the convicted men confessed to the crime, writing: “We stole a coffin with a dead baby in it and took it back to our place and broke into it. This is as bad as murder; I can’t believe we did it.” He could not explain his involvement, putting it down to madness: “I am deranged. Today has been terrible and we have earned backstage tickets to hell.” However, ring-leader Holland’s explanation for his role in the bodysnatching was that he was “curious”.

While I’m not at all tempted to scour the cemeteries for freshly opened graves, I can attest that my flash fiction tale, “Heart Music”, which appears in Among the Headstones (edited by Rayne Hall) was the result of my own grisly curiosity surrounding body snatching. I was drawn, not to the cemetery, but to multiple news reports of Russian scholar Anatoly Moskvin, who was arrested in 2011 for stealing the remains of forty-four dead girls between the ages of 3 and 12 years. Moskvin mummified twenty-six of the girls in salt and soda and kept the resulting ‘dolls’ in plain sight his parents’ apartment, claiming at a parole hearing in 2020 that he had “brought them home and warmed them up” after their parents had abandoned them to the grave. Some of the ‘dolls’ had music boxes wedged in their chest cavities, hence the title of my piece.

I’ll admit that while the reports of Moskvin’s crimes are gruesome and shocking, they hold a certain fascination. Such a macabre story. Moskvin, who suffers from schizophrenia and remains incarcerated, claimed the children “sang to him” and that he did not exhume them until they responded to him, giving him their permission. His motivation for bringing the corpses home? In part, it was because he was getting too old to spend the night in cemeteries, so instead he brought his “children” home where they might be more comfortable. But another motivation was his curiosity, as Moskvin was convinced he would one day discover a way to revive his beloved corpses, either through science or black magic.

With “Heart Music”, I hoped to bring a fresh perspective to the reports, taking the point of view of an imaginary teenager, one who had died before she’d had a chance to live, curious as to how she might respond to the body snatcher’s advances.

References

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/graverobbers-who-used-skull-as-ashtray-jailed/UGSINXO5S543XRMBWMGZDPWWTY/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8904599/Graverobber-stole-girls-corpses-doll-collection-refuses-apologise-parents.html (Warning: Graphic content).

About the Author

Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning writer and editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror from Aotearoa-New Zealand, and a USA Today Bestselling author. Lee’s flash fiction, “Heart Music”, a 2021 Ladies of Horror Fiction Award finalist, first appeared in her Bram Stoker Award®-winning fiction collection Grotesque: Monster Stories (Things in the Well, 2020) Read more at  https://www.leemurray.info/

About the Book

This book, edited by Rayne Hall, presents twenty-seven of the finest – and creepiest – graveyard tales with stories by established writers, classic authors and fresh voices.

Here you’ll find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.

You’ll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.

Now let’s open the gate – can you hear it creak on its hinges? – and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.

But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement… They may be right behind you.

Purchase Link:  mybook.to/Headstones

The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2021. (After that date, the price will go up.)  A paperback will follow.

My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall, The Stranger Within

‘The Stranger Within’ Now Available!

Free image courtesy JillWellington on Pixabay

It’s time to bring out the champagne because I’m ending the year on a bit of a high with the release of my fifth book. Yes, my fifth (although, mind you, my idea of celebrating is planning my next writing project).

The Stranger Within, the second novella in the Marsden Hall series is now available!

I’ve received some early feedback from advanced readers and word is – they love it!

Many thanks to my advanced readers and those of you who have pre-ordered their copy. Also, a very big thank you to those of you who have been with me throughout my writing journey on this blog over the years. Honestly, I wouldn’t have got this far without your support (and of-course my wonderful husband).

You can get your copy on Amazon for only $1.50AU/$1.06US. It is the second story in a series of stand-alone novellas.

Dreams don’t always come true.

Young governess, Louisa Campbell, yearns for love and dreams of a better life. She wants nothing more than a happy ever after. When the man she loves denies her that dream and tries to discredit her, she faces an uncertain future.

Meanwhile, the ghosts of Marsden Hall begin to stir, and a restless spirit traps Louisa in its wake. For Marsden Hall has secrets of its own.

Will those secrets destroy her chance of happiness?

If you haven’t read the first novella in the series, now is a good time to get your copy of The Curse of Marsden Hall. It is available on Amazon for the same low price of $1.50AU/$1.06US.

Have a lovely weekend! xx

My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall, The Stranger Within

‘The Stranger Within’ Available for Pre-Order.

Free image courtesy pixel2013 on Pixabay.

This is just a short note to let you know that The Stranger Within, the second novella in the Marsden Hall series, is available for pre-order.

This is a series of stand-alone novellas with a common link and is currently available as e-books.

The Stranger Within will be released on 17 December, but you can order your copy NOW on Amazon for only $1.50AU.

Dreams don’t always come true.

Young governess, Louisa Campbell, yearns for love and dreams of a better life. She wants nothing more than a happy ever after. When the man she loves denies her that dream and tries to discredit her, she faces an uncertain future.

Meanwhile, the ghosts of Marsden Hall begin to stir, and a restless spirit traps Louisa in its wake. For Marsden Hall has secrets of its own.

Will those secrets destroy her chance of happiness?

Horror, Movies/Television

My Top 5 Horror Movies for Halloween.

Free image courtesy Eleni Petrounakou on Unsplash.

A few months ago, I revisited the movie Sleepy Hollow, which is good viewing for this time of year. As Halloween is only a few short days away, I thought I’d share with you a couple more movies that have stuck with me over the years (one way or the other), that is sure to get you into the spirit of the season.

Aliens (1986)

With a strong, kick-ass heroine in Ripley, great supporting cast, good lines, and wonderfully creepy Aliens, what’s not to love? Together with the theme of motherhood, this is my all-time favourite horror movie.

Halloween (1979)

It’s just not Halloween without a visit from Michael Myers, and I’m talking the original here. The quiet streets of suburbia hides a silent killer lurking in the shadows of darkness. He could be anywhere, and the creepy music helps heighten the suspense. Totally!

The Exorcist (1973)

The ultimate story of good versus evil, this movie is terrifying as a malevolent entity possesses a young child, the very symbol of innocence. You can literally feel the chill in every bedroom scene. What’s even more frightening is the movie is based on a true story. (If you want to find out more, you can listen to the podcast Inside the Exorcist).

Wolf Creek (2005)

The Australian outback can be a lonely, desolate place, and is the perfect location for a serial killer. You can feel the vulnerability and fear of the backpackers, and after all my years of watching horror movies, there is one scene that even had me horrified. John Jarrett’s performance is both terrific and creepy, but he’s a nice guy really.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

I’ve put this one on the list because Halloween is supposed to be fun, and there are plenty of laughs in this one. I’ve always appreciated British humour and I love the characters Shaun and Ed, probably because they’re gamers, like both my kids and my husband. The best zombie movie I’ve seen.

What will you be watching this Halloween?

Movies/Television

Revisiting ‘Sleepy Hollow’

Halloween is rapidly approaching, so I’ve decided to get in a bit early on watching movies for the season. Recently, I re-watched Sleepy Hollow (1999), and with scary pumpkin heads (amongst other things), makes this a good Halloween movie.

Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a young police constable sent to the village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some gruesome murders.

Classified as a Gothic supernatural horror film, there is a suitable amount of gore without overwhelming the audience. Beheadings, digging up graves, and dissecting corpses is balanced with the arrival of impending doom of the headless horseman.

Despite the horror, the film has some lighter moments, mainly through Johnny Depp’s character, who at first comes across as awkward, weak and a bit eccentric. It is his unconventional approach to the investigation that helps him to solve the case, as well as become a stronger person.

There is a good cast alongside Johnny Depp, including Michael Gambon and Richard Griffiths (both of Harry Potter fame), Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter, Blackadder), and of-course the legendary Christopher Lee (always a winner in my book 😉 ).

Boo! I love the gloomy atmosphere of this film.

My favourite moments throughout the film would have to be the headless horseman and the outdoor scenes.

The combination of set design and visual effects helps make this film one of the best in terms of gloomy atmosphere. The village is a perpetual dark and eerie place, and the nearby forest is surrounded in a thick fog. The appropriately named ‘Tree of the Dead’ is old and gnarled, with a bloodied past.

The headless horseman, played by Christopher Walken, has a facial appearance every bit as horrific as the rest of him, with wild hair and eyes, and sharp, pointed teeth.

With such a menacing presence, the film comes to a satisfying, but frightening conclusion.

What films do you have planned to watch this Halloween?

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Writing

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ is Now Available!

Free image courtesy of Pixabay.

The day has finally arrived! My novella, The Curse of Marsden Hall, is now available!

Many thanks to those of you who pre-ordered a copy. I really appreciate it! 🙂 Your support means so much to me. It’s nerve-wracking releasing a book into the world, but knowing that my stories are being read (and enjoyed) is what keeps me going.

Here is the blurb:-

Some things are better left alone.

Australia, 1875.

Successful businessman, Richard Marsden, is going to marry his sweetheart and has built the house of his dreams. Despite the scenic location, Richard’s house in the Wolfrose Mountains sits on land with a chequered past, one full of violence, witchcraft, and murder. He does not believe in curses or superstition.

When something unexpected happens, he wonders if the land he built on is indeed cursed and begins to question his own sanity.

Meanwhile, someone or something is watching… waiting.

Get your copy here!

It is available through Amazon for only $1.20AU ($0.93US).

Thank you for your support and have a lovely weekend! xx

Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

 

My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ Available for Pre-Order.

Free image courtesy of Pixabay.

Hi everyone! I hope you are well.

Just a quick post to let you know that my novella, The Curse of Marsden Hall, is now available for pre-order.

It will be released on 21 May, but you can order your copy NOW. It is available through Amazon for only $1.20AU ($0.94US).

Thank you for your support and have a great weekend! 🙂

Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

My Books, The Curse of Marsden Hall

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ is Almost Here!

Here it is everyone! I can finally reveal the cover for my upcoming novella, ‘The Curse of Marsden Hall.’

With this book, I decided to experiment and do something a little bit different. I asked for opinions from some friends on Facebook and was pleased with the feedback I received.

That experiment was putting my other creative side to the test and creating my own cover. As this is the first book in a series (I have two more in the pipeline), I will be creating the covers for those as well. I hope you like it!

Here is the blurb: –

Some things are better left alone.

Australia, 1875.

Successful businessman, Richard Marsden, is going to marry his sweetheart and has built the house of his dreams. Despite the scenic location, Richard’s house in the Wolfrose Mountains sits on land with a chequered past, one full of violence, witchcraft, and murder. He does not believe in curses or superstition.

When something unexpected happens, he wonders if the land he built on is indeed cursed and begins to question his own sanity.

Meanwhile, someone or something is watching… waiting.

* * * * *

‘The Curse of Marsden Hall’ will be released on 21 May. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for pre-order. 🙂

Looking for more spooky stories? Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

Movies/Television

The Horror of ‘Seven’.

Recently, I was prompted to revisit the film ‘Seven’. I have not watched the film in years, so had therefore forgotten how good it is.

After the opening credits with a nod to Nine Inch Nails, we are quickly introduced to the jaded Lieutenant Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and ambitious Detective Miller (Brad Pitt). The film is set in an unknown city, a place where Miller wanted to transfer to, surprising Somerset and perhaps also, the audience. The city is portrayed as a dark, miserable place full of crime and drug users. Miller and his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) having recently moved to the city, live in an apartment where trains pass and rattle their living quarters whenever they go by. The local library is seen as the only redeeming feature within the city, a place where Somerset is a frequent visitor.

The film is certainly gruesome as the killer works his way through the seven deadly sins; gluttony and sloth, in particular. It is not just the imagery of the victims themselves, but also what we learn the killer does to them, that adds to the horror and the tension.

I don’t want to give anything away in case anyone has not seen the film, but the killer (Kevin Spacey) is patient and methodical, and as Somerset points out ‘he’s not the devil, he’s just a man.’

In the final scene, where we really get to see the killer, known as John Doe, we are taken out of the city to a remote desert location. It is here, where both detectives and the viewer are transported into the unknown, that culminates into a memorable gut-wrenching scene, making John Doe a notorious on-screen villain.

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

John Wayne Gacy: Killer Clown’s Revenge (Foxtel)

I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers and John Wayne Gacy has always been high on my list. This show is in four parts, covering his childhood all the way to his arrest. It was interesting to hear tape extracts of Gacy’s interviews, as well as hearing from detectives on the case. Although the narrator’s voice and the occasional ‘clown laugh’ irritated me, I found this compelling viewing.

The Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance (Netflix)
I admit to having watched this show before; in fact, this is my third viewing. I enjoy the plot, the characters, and the little snippets of humour. I never tire of the sheer magic of the puppetry and set designs, that there are moments I get so caught up in it, I forget I’m watching puppets. I’m really looking forward to the second season (and hope there will continue to be one).

What have you been watching? Have you been preparing yourself for Halloween? Have you revisited some favourites lately?