Family Values Month

With Halloween over and November’s winds blowing cold, one looks forward to the holiday season. This is when we reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. We also have a chance to consider our loved ones and take the time to appreciate family. That’s why we here at Elder Signs Press are celebrating the family this month.  And we’re not just talking about the Norman Rockwell family, that Anglo cherry-cheeked, freckled, nuclear family gathered about the Thanksgiving Day table, but families like the Addamses, the Bates, the Voorheeses. We’ll be embracing our inner dysfunction and looking for the bodies buried in the basement.

Of course, look for the usual film, book, and game reviews, along with insightful commentary and perhaps an interview or two. Some off topic, but nonetheless useful for the fan of genre.

Full Moon On The Sabbath? Sounds Like A Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Elder Signs Press on Facebook

Elder Signs Press on Facebook has gone through some changes. Come and see. With the new format, we’re hoping to engage people in conversation on our message board, as well as provide regular updates about events such as contests and giveaways, and new scheduled releases.

Along with this blog and the ESP twitter account, you’ll be invincible. And when someone asks if you have ESP, the answer will be a definite “yes.” Actually, you won’t even have to say anything, because people will just know.

Following us is now a matter of clicking “like.”

Don’t be shy, come join the Elder Signs Press Community. Also, recommend us to others to expand the conversation.  And don’t forget, there’s still time to register for our Kindle Contest and the Cthulhu Haiku.

Book Review: The Frenzy Way

By Gregory Lamberson

Medallion Press/356 pages
Trade Paperback $15.95 US/$17.95 CAN
ISBN: 978-160642107-0

Book Review by Chris Welch

There are wrong ways and right ways to write werewolf novels. Gregory Lamberson definitely knows the right way. In this case, the right way is The Frenzy Way.

This novel is part supernatural horror, part hardboiled police mystery, part ancient conspiracy, and part high-powered action/suspense. Additionally, this novel has complex characters, with complex interactions, and it is worth the reader’s time to invest in this novel.

The Frenzy Way has some serious emotional punches, and they will leave an emotional impact on the reader. So definitely get invested this novel — it makes the very good horror and suspense even better if you do. Of course, Lamberson’s taunt but flowing style makes it easy to for the reader to get involved in this story. This is a page-turner, and you will have trouble putting it down.

The main character of the novel is New York homicide detective Anthony Mace. Mace is a reluctant, if not outright hostile, media darling because he solved a mass-murder case several years ago. His fame came from a true-crime novel and movie based on his case. Now, another murder has occurred in New York, and Mace is assigned to solve it. The last thing he wants is another case made for Hollywood.

The victim was murdered, it would appear, by an animal, except animals do not leave messages written in victim’s blood. The only clues at the scene are a sword with a broken silver blade and book on werewolves written by the victim. As more and more savaged victims begin to pile up in New York City, Mace and his team have to figure out not just who the perp is, but where he will strike next. That is assuming, of course, that there is only person behind the slaughters.

Complicating matters are an American Indian police officer from upstate New York who may have a connection to the murderer, as well as a mysterious person that may be part of a secret, holy-warrior group that is still carrying out the mission of the Inquisition, which killed thousands of alleged werewolves in the past. Are they connected to the sword, and if so, why? These competing forces, though, may not be enough to stop the slaughter.

No spoilers are revealed by stating that the perp is, in fact, a werewolf — that is pretty clear from the cover of the book. One aspect of this book I would like mention without giving too much away is a particular action sequence about three-quarters of the way through the novel. There is a riveting chase scene through the streets of New York that involve more cop cars, police helicopters, and bullets than the Terminator movies combined. For a while, I thought I was watching a movie and not reading a novel because it was so vivid.

The Frenzy Way is must-read for horror fans and action fans alike.

Have You Ever Said Her Name? —Theresa Lucas

Fear comes naturally to us when we’re kids, don’t you think?

After seeing Jaws at the tender age of six (what were my parents thinking?) I became convinced a shark was lurking under my bed, ready to grab my succulent little legs.

My fear overrode the knowledge that sharks not only couldn’t fit under my twin bed, but needed water, too. I spent many years vaulting onto my bed from what I presumed was a safe distance from the snapping jaws of a great white .

I had the same kind of fear of the ghost known as Bloody Mary.

You know the story.

You stand in front of a mirror and with the lights off, maybe holding a candle, while you chant Bloody Mary and if you’re lucky (or not) Mary would appear. What happens next varies. Some stories say the woman in the mirror simply stares balefully at the summoner –which some people believe will drive the viewer insane– while others claim she will even attack or even kill those brave (or stupid) enough to call her.

There are lots of ideas of where the story of Bloody Mary comes from. Most frequently she is claimed to have been a woman who was executed hundreds of years ago for being a witch– though some stories give her a Lizzie Borden-type myth as a murderess. Some confuse the urban legend with the story of Queen Mary I of England, known as Bloody Mary during her reign thanks to the number of Protestants put to death in an attempt to establish Catholicism as the official religion; but as the challenge is usually passed kid-to-kid it seems unlikely Mary I comes up too often.

It’s amazing how enduring the Bloody Mary tale is and the story doesn’t really change. I heard a fairly mild version 30 years ago when my friends told me the bloody image of a woman would appear in the mirror if I chanted Bloody Mary’s name three times. Recently my 10-year-old daughter came home asking me if I had ever heard the name Bloody Mary and related to me an almost identical version of the story I heard so long ago. She was no more interested in taking up the challenge than I was.

Popular entertainment has also featured the story of Bloody Mary as a staple of urban legends featured on shows like Charmed and Supernatural, but the most memorable modern interpretation has to be Candyman— the 1992 movie based on a short story by Clive Barker titled “The Forbidden”– as it transfers a tantalizing childhood scare into a adult horror.

I never had the nerve as a kid to try to summon Bloody Mary.

The idea of deliberately courting a ghostly visitor was far scarier than a Ouija Board or telling ghost stories.  I think it’s fair to say my fear of Bloody Mary has evaporated along with my worries that a shark may be hiding under my bed. But I can still remember the thrill of dread the idea of chanting Bloody Mary’s name gave me all those years ago.

I never heard any good Bloody Mary stories either– maybe my friends were as scared as I was.

What about you — got any good stories?

Fortune Telling –Kate Jonez

Halloween is a Great Night for Fortune Telling

For the Ancient Celts, Samhain, the holiday which became Halloween, was prime time for fortune telling. The veil between the worlds was thinner than on any other night and with a little encouragement the spirits would happily give up their secrets. The Celts used simple divination methods.

  • Keep the skin intact as you peel an apple. When you throw the peel over your shoulder it will reveal the initial of a future lover.
  • By candlelight comb your hair in front of a mirror. The face of your future lover will appear over your shoulder.
  • Stick apple pips to the outside of your cheek, one for yes and one for no. Which ever stays longer is your answer.
  • Sit a blindfolded person at a table in front of several saucers. Each should be filled with something different. After shuffling the saucers, have the blindfolded person choose one. The contents of the saucers reveal his or her fate for the coming year.

water – travel
coin or salt – wealth
clay – someone will die
beans – poverty
ring – marriage

  • Place two nuts side by side on the grate of a fire. The nuts indicate a couple. Give the nuts the same name as the couple.

If a nut burns brightly without cracking, it indicates lasting love.
If it cracks and jumps, it foretells unfaithfulness.
If the nuts burn at the same rate, the two be will be or remain happily married.

  • After ‘apple-dookin’ in which a people take apples from a tub of water with their teeth, wait until midnight and cut the apple into nine sections. Sit with a mirror in the moonlight and eat eight of the apple pieces. All the while have a question in your mind. Throw the ninth apple piece over your shoulder. Look over the same shoulder into the mirror. You will see a symbol in the mirror that answers your question.

Happy Halloween fortune telling.

How To Make A Zombie — Lois Gresh


by Lois H. Gresh (author of BLOOD AND ICE, a futuristic vampire thriller — January 2011)


Our traditional notion of zombies originated with Haitian Voodoo culture.  In fact, the word, zombie, comes from the Haitian word, zombi, which means spirit of the dead.  As the story goes, Voodoo priests called bokors studied enough black magic to figure out how to resurrect the dead using a powder called coup padre.

The primary ingredient of coup padre is deadly tetrodotoxin from the porcupine fish, the fou-fou.  The tetrodotoxin disrupts communication in the brain and is 500 times more deadly than cyanide.  A tiny drop of tetrodotoxin can kill a man.

This weird poison, coup padre, was made by first burying a bouga toad (called a bufo marinus) and a sea snake in a jar.  After the toad and snake died from the rage of being confined in the jar, the bokor extracted their venom.  The toad’s glands held bufogenin and bufotoxin, each being from 50 to 100 times more deadly than digitalis.  The bufogenin and bufotoxin increased the victim’s heart beat.  In addition, the glands held bufotenine, a powerful hallucinogenic drug.

To these drugs, the bokor added millipedes and tarantulas to tcha-tcha seeds that caused pulmonary edema, nontoxic consigne seeds, pomme cajou (cashew) leaves, and bresillet tree leaves.  Both of these types of leaves were related to poison ivy.  Having ground everything into a powder, the bokor buried the concoction for two days, after which he added ground tremblador and desmember plants; two plants from the stinging nettle family, which injected formic acidlike chemicals beneath the victim’s skin; and dieffenbachia with its glasslike needles, which made the victim’s throat swell, causing great difficulty in breathing and talking. He then added the sharp needles of the bwa pine.

But we’re not done yet…

The bokor next added poisonous animals to the deadly powder.  Two species of tarantulas were ground up and added to the skins of white tree frogs.  Another bouga toad went into the mixture, followed by four types of puffer fish, the fou-fou carrying the coup padre.  The final ingredient was dead, human flesh.

If a family or community despised someone sufficiently, they called upon the bokor to turn that person into a zombie.

After ingesting the coup padre, the despised villager or family member immediately became numb.  His lips and tongue went numb first, followed by his fingers, arms, toes, and legs; then his entire body went numb.  He was sick with feelings of weakness, floating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and headaches.  Quickly, the victim’s pulse picked up, he had trouble walking and talking; and finally, paralysis set in: his breathing became shallow, his heart nearly ceased to beat, and his body temperature plummeted.  The victim’s body was blue, his eyes were glassy.  In essence, the victim was in a coma.

While still alive, the poor, despised victim was buried as if already dead.  Because he wasn’t really dead, the victim often heard his own funeral and was horrified to suffer through his own burial.

Later, the bokor dug up the body and brought the person back to life.  Physically, the person appeared as he did before ingesting the coup padre, but mentally, his mind was gone and his soul was dead.  Being traumatized, the victim believed he had been reanimated, brought back to life.  As a mindless drone, this new zombie remained under the Bokor’s power and did the Bokor’s bidding.  The bokor gave his new zombie an hallucinogenic mixture of Datura stramonium, cane sugar, and sweet potato.  There is absolutely no antidote for tetrodotoxin, so once a zombie, always a zombie.

–Excerpted from Exploring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials by Lois H. Gresh  (St. Martin’s Press, 2006)

The Poe Museum by Stewart Sternberg

If  you’re passing anywhere near Richmond, Virginia in the near future, or if you live in that area, give thought to visiting the Poe Museum.

The museum, according to its website,  “boasts the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings.” Opened in 1922, its located in The Old Stone House,  blocks away from Poe’s first home.

Recently I had an opportunity to put some questions to the curator of the museum.

Stewart Sternberg:) Edgar Allan Poe never received the recognition he deserved in life, what do you think he would make of the museum?

Chris Semtner, Curator) Poe would probably think his museum is not big enough. He is reputed to have had quite an ego.

SS)There’s been a good deal of speculation about the cause of Poe’s death, and even on your website you encourage visitors to speculate. Do you have a favorite theory? If so what is it and why?

CS) The Poe Museum has no official stance on Poe’s death because there has never been a definitive theory. Even the day after his death, newspapers were publishing conflicting accounts. Poe’s own attending physician’s various accounts conflict with each other.

SS) How many visitors does the museum receive each year? I assume this is a number which has grown with the internet?

CS) The Poe Museum sees about 20,000 visitors a year. The number grew last year with Poe’s bicentennial. With our recently expanding website, we are reaching new audiences, and we will be able to exhibit some items on the website that are not always on display at the Museum due to space limitations or sensitivity to light.

SS) What are some of the most popular attractions within the museum?

CS) The most popular attractions in the Poe Museum are the lock of Poe’s hair and his vest. The lock of hair is the closest one gets to seeing Poe in the flesh, and, seeing his vest on display, one can almost imagine Poe standing there wearing it. The Poe Museum is the owner of the only articles of Poe’s clothing that have survived to this day.

SS) Last year Poe was given a funeral, two hundred years after his passing. Apparently his cousin neglected to mention his passing…only a handful of people showed. However last year, he received a proper send off and it looks like it was quite an event. Did you attend?

CS)I did not attend the Poe funeral in Baltimore in 2009 because I was at the International Poe Conference in Philadelphia. (As his bicentennial, it was a busy year for Poe.) The Poe Museum observed Poe’s death day last year with a reenactment of Poe’s final days and death in a recreation of his hospital room. Two years earlier, in 2007, we staged a Poe funeral similar to what Baltimore would do in 2009.

In October 2010 the Poe Museum held a memorial service featuring coffin races and an appearance by Poe’s last fiancee, Elmira Royster Shelton. (Poe died just ten days before he was to have married her.) Later this month, the Poe Museum will have a “Fall of the House of Usher” Party on October 28 with performances of Poe’s works and a demonstration of ghost hunting techniques by paranormal investigators, who will also be exhibiting some of the ghost photographs taken at the Museum.

Kindle 3G+Wi-Fi Giveaway Contest

What better way to get a Kindle 3G+wifi?

Elder Signs Press is giving away the latest Kindle with 3G+wifi capabilities. To qualify for the drawing, simply like the Elder Signs Press page on Facebook, follow on us on Twitter, or post a link to Elder Signs Press on your own website or blog.

If you’re already doing this, then simply mail your Name, Mailing Address to and include which of the above qualifying things you’ve done to enter. Please include “GIVEAWAY CONTEST” in the email title. The winner will be randomly drawn on December 1st, 2010.

An entry will be added for each Facebook friend, Twitter follower, and website link. That means, if you’re a Facebook friend, follow Elder Signs Press on Twitter, and have a link to the Elder Signs Press website, you get 3 entries into the contest. And yes, it is limited to 3 entries.

Only verified entries will be added to the drawing. This means you must be a “friend,” “follower,” or have a link to Elder Signs Press before you email your information to the contest.

Privacy Information: Elder Signs Press will not release email addresses, or mailing addresses to anyone. These are being used for verification purposes. While one or more entries can come from the same mailing address, they must be different people. None of the information will be used for mailing lists or promotion in any fashion. All of it will be deleted once the contest is finished.

Vanished! Mysterious Disappearances Haunt the Imagination–By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Vanished! Mysterious Disappearances Haunt the Imagination

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Is there anything scarier than meeting a ghost in a graveyard or finding a demon in the pantry? How about a mysterious disappearance? Nothing gets our ticker going like a good mystery and the best mysteries involve a disappearing act that baffles – and sometimes chills – the reader.

Consider the Flanna Isles mystery: three lighthouse keepers vanished from their post in 1900. The rational explanation is that a powerful storm swept them away. But immediately our mind can begin to conjure more elaborate answers. Perhaps Cthulhu wanted a midnight snack?

There is also the case of the Mary Celeste, the abandoned ship discovered in 1872. The crew was never heard of again, leading people to hypothesize that everything from a tsunami to a supernatural event might have been the cause for the disappearance. Whichever explanation you prefer, the name Mary Celeste has become synonymous with ghost shop.

It’s one thing to lose the crew of a ship, but what about a whole village vanishing into thin air? That is exactly what happened in 1590, when John White arrived in Roanoke expecting to find more than one hundred British colonists which he had left behind in what is now North Carolina. Instead, he stumbled into a deserted settlement. The only clue the settlers left behind was the word “Croatoan” carved into a post. Several theories have been advanced, with the more logical one being that the settlers, facing a famine and other troubles, went to live with a nearby Native American tribe. That, however, hasn’t stopped imaginative people from picturing far grimmer fates, some of them connected with the supernatural.

Joe Citro, who has written several books about hauntings and supernatural occurrences, mentions the “Bennington Triangle,” an area in Vermont which, he says, seems to have swallowed a large number of unwary travellers. According to Citro, the area was shunned by Native Americans and the disappearances stretch back since the 19th century. Web forums are filled with speculations about this part of Vermont, with some pointing to UFOs, while others imagine a doorway to another dimension or even a monster.

Of course, if we are going to talk about triangles, we have to mention the Bermuda one. Probably the most famous incident associated with it is Flight 19, a squad of bomber planes which disappeared in 1945 during a training flight. Not content with the idea of dangerous weather conditions, paranormal writers have found this a juicy source for speculation, with some saying the area is a time travel vortex.

Mysterious disappearances also pop up in fiction, such as in the novel and movie Picnic at Hanging Rock (schoolgirls go missing) or Dean Koontz’s Phantoms (a creature eats a whole town, and was responsible for the Roanoke disappearance). Sometimes a fictional story is so enticing, that people begin to repeat it as though it were fact. Such was the case of Ambrose Bierce’s short story in which a farmer disappears in plain sight, which has now popped up as “fact” in many websites and books. Ambrose Bierce, by the way, vanished while covering the Mexican Revolution. Though he was probably killed in Chihuahua, Charles Fort joked that perhaps some supernatural force was collecting Ambroses (Ambrose Small, a Canadian magnate, went missing in 1919).

There is also the tale of Lake Angikuni, Canada. The story goes that in 1930 a fur trapper who traded often with the Inuit people living by the lake was shocked to discover that the village was empty, with food left hanging over fire pits. The Royal Canadian Mountain Police has explained that the story is nothing but an urban legend, but that hasn’t stopped people from believing it.

The Stonehenge Mystery, another urban legend, pops up in several forums dedicated to paranormal phenomena. The story goes that in 1971, a group of people who were camping in the famous stone circle disappeared after a freak storm, leaving behind little more than a smoldering fire. Despite its slim patina of veracity, people seem to believe this tale.

Whether rooted in fact, a writer’s imagination or the product of modern folklore, tales of disappearances are very enticing, and creepy. The lack of answers haunts us more than any poltergeist could. Because, in the end, isn’t fear of the unknown what keeps us up at night?