Category: Ghost Stories


Not Even a Proper Meeting

Not sure how effective it’ll actually be, given that spirits are ephemera rather than solid, but I found a gym that offers boxing classes. If nothing else I feel a little better about if we ever have to fight a possessed person again.

And it fills the time.

Keeps my mind off the fact that we let a couple of heavily TB infected Uratha wonder back into Pearly Oaks where vulnerable humans live nice and crammed close together. Which I didn’t even think of after the fight and we would have never learned about if Skip and I hadn’t headed over to see if we could learn more from them. So many people getting sick while Brook and _ had recovered completely.

Even more than Brook vibrating after drinking anything with caffeine in it or having seen their wolf forms running off after the fight, that really drives home how not human the Uratha are. Which adds an extra flavor of weird to Alpha Storm seeming interested in Viv’s health but not seeming to care at all what had happened to Louis. Not sure what’s going on there.

Brook asked if Louis was doing better. Maybe the others just seem odd by comparison to her since we interact with her more than the rest of them?

I suggested that maybe we should meet somewhere else where there was less of a risk of anyone getting infected but all anyone would say to that was that they were too busy keeping order at Pearly Oaks for anyone to leave. Didn’t seem too orderly to me, but who am I to say? Maybe Storm figures that with Consumption out of Viv it isn’t our business anymore. Maybe he figures that they don’t need us anymore. He’s wrong on either count but I’ve seen people be more stubborn over dumber things.

I’m not going to go risk getting infected to try and learn things they don’t want to teach me. I can always hit up the forums that I first found the First Speak in.

Which I have since then, of course, there’s an item that might help us keep tracking Consumption, the Judge’s Eye, it seems like it should be some kind of lens for scrying through. It’s smoked with an incense that I’m just not familiar with the ingredients for. Not sure if that’s a matter of it being common things with names that the Uratha use that just don’t translate well or if they’re something completely new that I’ve just never heard of. Google isn’t any help either way because of the First Speak. It also mentioned needing a “gift of essence” as part of its crafting and needing to be smoked in the incense beyond the Gauntlet. I’m assuming that the Gauntlet and the veil are the same thing, which might be dangerous, but the context seems to bear that out. Talking to Viv about it, “essence” is what Consumption called the stuff it took from ghosts. Might be some kind of needed sacrifice?

Both of those leave me with no clear idea of how to continue. I’m sure there’s a way to get the essence for this, but I’m not sure what it is or if it needs to be freely given to qualify as a “gift”. Likewise, for this thing to exist and have as much information available as it did, there has to be a way to cross the Gauntlet or veil or whatever you want to call it, do the ritual, and come back all while still alive.

When I talked to Jimmy about it he thought it might be more trouble than it’s worth, that maybe I should go back to working on that spell to see spirits. That would work for me, but only for me. The Eye should work for anyone who uses it.

At any rate, Jimmy’s running a class tonight with some of the other more experienced magic users in the alternate religion side of the club about warding and spiritual protections. He invited me to come help and I think that Skip and Matt are coming too. I might have more to add on that later.

Meeting 8 (Meeting 7 follow up??)

We saved Viv!

Ish.

She has just, so much TB. Like, the folks at the hospital were amazed that she was alive much less that she’d been able to walk into the Old Drugstore. That badly infected.

Louis, Brook, and the Uratha Elder who was actually there to do the exorcism ritual were also all infected.

Louis and Viv’ll be in the hospital for at least the rest of the term. Skip, Matt, and I all had to be tested and are quarantined again. Some old law apparently. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have. And the Uratha can apparently just sleep off their TB infections no big deal.

Which is cool but weird.

I want it noted that things didn’t start off this badly.

The Meat Market was a bust because the haunted part could only be accessed through the current business. So we moved on. It just didn’t seem like the kind of place we could both get into and do anything with. The Crumbling Pioneer House definitely had powerful ghostly activity but, of the three there, the only one actually in the house was super aggressive. It seemed more likely to go ahead and attack us itself instead of letting us set our trap and wait. The other two didn’t seem dangerous, but then they just seemed to be bratty kids.

Note, right, note that this doesn’t mean that the Drugstore ghost was harmless. Salt and iron do not block supernaturally created, I think it was at least, ether from spreading throughout the room. The ghost himself wasn’t aggressive at all, he was just working on whatever he’d been working on when he died, but also leaking horribly flammable gas. I would bet my last dollar that that was the cause of all those mysterious fires.

Note also, tasers and stun guns produce major sparks.

So, what I’m saying is that, after deciding that the Drugstore was our best bet for the trap. Setting everything up. And, in face, managing to actually trap Consumption in with us with the needles and what not.

What I’m saying is that we set Viv on fire and then had to rush out of our own carefully set trap in this carefully chosen building so that we didn’t kill her before Consumption had the chance.

We mostly managed to pin her after that. Between the needles and the Uratha pinning her and the exorcism, Consumption was separated enough from Viv for Louis to blast it a couple times before. That was enough to make it separate and to chase it off, but it’s still out there.

It still could do this again.

I denied it out of hand at the time, but we got it out of Viv. She’s going to be fine eventually. Matt’s already doing everything he can to help her get things back to normal, calling her professors, canceling her classes, everything he can to help her and, maybe, make himself feel less like he failed her somehow. We could just let things go back to normal and leave it be.

Let the Uratha deal with whatever Consumption comes up with next and go back to being a normal college occult club. Stop having to worry about if this’ll get one of us killed.

It’ll probably be like that for awhile any way. I mean, people need to recover. There’s not much we can do with half a team. But it also feels wrong to even think about letting Consumption keep going with whatever it has planned.

Recovery first though.

Things’ll be quiet for a couple weeks probably. I can’t say that I won’t have anything to report to you guys, but it seems unlikely.

Meeting 7

Right, just not talking about the danger doesn’t work for either of you. Got it. You guys are worried that I’ll get myself into something I can’t come back from.

Maybe have a seat or do some breathing exorcises before reading this one?

So, lot of research, same as ever. Skip and Louis worked on their weapons, something to get another charge out of the stun baton and a drive for the detector grid to store data for later going over. I think at least. I could really have asked better questions on that, but I was kind of burning up my own research.

Got a big copy of a map of the city from the library. Working from sites mentioned in local folklore and place that Brook, our Uratha contact, scoped out for us. Those give me a solid idea of which places had ghosts, which had spirits, and which were busts from the start. Between those and Brook reporting which places she’s been that were already hit, we figured out where it’s headed and that we can probably get ahead of it and trap it.

Like, Skip figured that it probably doesn’t have a base of operations. It doesn’t seem to be doubling back or staying in any one area long, and it’s moving fast. The more or less direct line it’s going in suggests that it’s just grabbing everything it can as fast as it can, which could tell us that it’s got a plan to put into place that it wants the power. Maybe it’s worried about the Uratha catching it.

I don’t think it plans on them catching it any time soon either way, so I lean towards it having a plan. I don’t think it’s counting on us being a threat to it, so that plays in our favor.

The fact that our current plan has us bringing the Uratha with us and making use of their exorcism ritual and greater experience should just tilt things more in our favor. They should be able to separate Consumption from Viv, assuming that the fusion hasn’t gone too far, leaving us able to attack it without hurting her.

Our general plan is to find a place in the line Consumption is traveling in to set our tap. A site with a powerful enough ghost to definitely be on its radar but also easy enough to lock down that it can’t make a break for it and double back or change directions and leave us having to track it down again. That would risk Viv way more than I think any of us are comfortable thinking about.

Side bar, my research turned up something called a Shadowblind Cloak that, if we can get our hands on one, should make ghosts and spirits less interested in Viv once we’ve gotten her free. I asked Brook about it, but she didn’t know anything about it. Though I’ve apparently been digging into things that concern her. I mean, I know that Google doesn’t like some of my research, especially the First Speak, but Brook’s reaction suggests that I might be getting further into things that regular mortals aren’t meant to know than is safe. But then none of this is safe, is it? Best not to think on that too much just yet.

Back on track though.

Skip, Louis, and I are going to go scout out the three likely locations we’ve found for setting our trap. While we do that, Matt and Brook will head back to Pearly Oaks and collect the Uratha who’ll be helping us. Once we’ve picked the location and let Matt know, we’ll get the trap set. Then it’ll just be a matter of getting everyone settled in and waiting for Consumption to kick the plan into action.

I think Skip’s excited to be looking into the locations we zeroed in on. He called it a job that seemed made for him.

All three are historic locations. The Underground Meat Marker has a new butcher shop built over it, so there’s no telling if we could even get in. It isn’t like Consumption hasn’t broken into places with proper doors and locks and all before, but it hasn’t really broken into a business yet. Might be too much trouble for it.

The Crumbling Pioneer House is a semi-active archaeological site, theoretically we should ask the city for access to it. But then that would take weeks that we don’t really have and most of what was there has already been taken to local museums. There’s a lot of reports of strange activities there, so definitely ghostly things happening. At least, Professor Croft had a lot of stories going weird when she was working there a few years back. She really doesn’t seem entirely the type to make things up just to pull her students’ legs.

The last is the Old Drugstore in the old down town. It’s near some museums and what not. Nothing really big in the area. Most of what I could find about it was reports of mysterious fires.

Full honesty, we’re heading out right after I send this, so try not to worry too much. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you on the situation in a day or so. Just, try not to worry for a little while.

Not much to say here this time. It was really hard to write this without including spoilers and I have enough left that I want to talk about that I might do an “And Another Thing” post about it some time. That said, this one is thanks to the nice folks at Entagled Teen. Here is Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. Enjoy!

8 Souls cover

Villisca, Iowa is known for murder. For the deaths of eight people in 1912. For the Ax Muder house.  The house that seventeen year old Chessie has been dreaming about her entire life, sometimes new and lived in, sometimes as it is now slowly falling in on itself across the street from her grandparents’ house. Across the street from where she’ll be spending the entire summer while her parents work out the details of their divorce. Amid nightmares and ghostly voices, Chessie finds herself stuck trying to figure out her connection to the Ax Murder house and David, the mysterious boy who knows more than he lets on and so, so many secrets.

So, I make no secret of the fact that I love haunted house stories and horror in general. The promise of a small town with dark secrets and a house that can’t forget pulled me to Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. It’s a book that was pretty good for what it is and than just misses the mark for what I wanted it to be. Notable differences there.

This being a book published by Entangled Teen, I knew to expect a fairly large romance side plot. That’s just what they do as a publisher. The mysterious boy is mentioned in the blurb. It’s something that I was going to have to roll with. My issue, of course, comes not from the existence of this romance plot but from how much feels underdone in the face of and about it.

There were a lot of ideas that could have been fantastic if they’d been given more room or if they’d been introduced earlier. Most of the stuff about the haunting and David’s whole deal could have worked fantastically if they’d been worked in earlier and given more page space. Make that a thing alongside Chessie thinking that David and Mateo were pranking her with the whole ghost hunting deal. Spend more time with Chessie trying to figure out what’s going on instead of avoiding David and watching Netflix instead of looking into the thing haunting her. Even the romance itself felt rushed along once Chessie decided that she could trust what David was saying.

The antagonist gets hit with this harder than most other details. There’s a thread throughout the book about these little girls having gone missing and that there’s more disappearances and strange deaths in Villisca than most cities its size. But there isn’t much done with that until right at the end. It was almost to the point that I’d forgotten about it in a couple of places. There were a couple of characters who might have been antagonists or, in a more horror focused book, solid red herrings. But nothing came of them and the antagonist was left feeling like they’d been brought in out of left field. A last minute, one more thing, secret that David hadn’t bothered to mention yet. It was an idea that got introduced and used within pages so the story could rush on to the climax. That was frustrating for me, because the antagonist and the climax both could have been so, so good with a little tweaking and a little more page space.

That’s pretty well where I land on 8 Souls. Rust did a good job with the setting, a small town that’s losing people as time goes on. The real world Villisca, Iowa was actually the scene of an ax murder of eight people, so that’s something that could be interesting to look more into after reading this. But it is very much a book that wants for a little more. A little more to the horror, and the characters, and the buildup. As a YA romance with supernatural elements, it’s functional. With more time to percolate it could have been fantastic, and for that I give it a three out of five. I would be willing to read Rachel Rust again, but I also want to see what she would do in another genre.

I’ve mentioned something that I’m super excited about a few times in the past couple of weeks. This is that. See, there were a number of books this year that I really enjoyed and really want to share with you all. So, three readers are going to win one of three books that I’ve either reviewed this year or that come from a series I’ve reviewed this year.

Cool, right? Let’s make it even more fun, all three books are going to be signed by the author. So, what are the books I’ve decided excited me the most this year, the books I am so ready to share with all of you?

Well, there’s the first book in a series I talked about a bunch of times back during the Fall Into Books challenge. K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech. I still want to talk about these books anytime I’m given the chance and probably will.

Necrotech cover

And, as much as I enjoy a good cyberpunk story, let’s add a ghost story to this list. Let’s talk about a hitchhiker who’s been wondering America’s roadways since she was killed, the girl in the green silk gown. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire, a book that left me hunting the sequel through a number of bookstores.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

Then let’s follow up the ghost story with a nice Saturday morning cosmic horror story. Those kids and their dog have been waiting an awfully long time to solve that last mystery, the one that split them up and left them broken. Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. This is another one that I still want to talk more about, so look forward to that.

Meddling Kids cover

So, rules and whatnot. How can you get your hands on one of these awesome stories?

Sometime between now and when the giveaway closes at midnight central time on December 31st, you’ll need to follow this blog and then comment below.

As to what you should comment about, let’s make it thematic. The year is coming to a close, tell me about your favorite reads of the year. And, of course, which book you want or your order of preferences on which books you want.

You’ll also need to live in the continental US and be comfortable with sending me your mailing address after winners are announced. I’ll be using random.com to choose winners for the sake of fairness and that announcement is going to come January 1st by midnight.

Good luck!

After a pause over the weekend I’m ready to get back into it. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at First Second, here’s Antoine Revoy’s Animus. Enjoy!

Animus cover

There’s a strange playground tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. The swings see into dreams and the concrete animals hear all within the park. When they accidentally stay past sundown, friends Hisao and Sayuri meet the park’s resident ghost. He knows all about the magic of the playground but can’t remember his own fate. When their friend is injured finding out what happened to Toothless might be the only way to save him. They’ll have to bring Toothless’ story and remains to light with nothing to go on but a handful of vague memories.

I find Antoine Revoy’s Animus frustrating. The concept is fantastic and I am, repeatedly admittedly, a sucker for a good ghost story. The idea of a playground haunted by a dead child, his trapped spirit anchoring magic to the playground itself, is fantastic. The protagonists needing to break his curse to save their friend is great. But then the end falls apart and everything feels like lead up to skipped side plots.

There is a lot going on in Animus, and it all feels like it should add up to something. The police superintendent is shown talking about the missing kids a couple of times. There’s whatever connection is between Toothless and the playground. And there’s the maybe saving their friend by saving Toothless. But then it feels very much like our friendly ghost is up to something nefarious. Like he isn’t on the up and up where the hurt friend is concerned. But the connective tissue isn’t there.

There are hints at maybe things and a second or third read paying close attention will offer some connections, but it isn’t anything solid. Things never tie up neatly or otherwise and I found myself with more questions at the end of the book than I had to start with. Not in a fun way that leaves me hoping for a sequel either. I felt like Revoy forgot to include half of his story or got bored part way through writing it and spun up an ending so that he could get to the art.

The art is pretty fantastic though, especially the backgrounds. There is a section with a bridge and the forest around it that is absolutely gorgeous. The art for the human characters isn’t as great, but I feel like that is more for effect than an issue with Revoy’s skill. The faces are a sort of cartoony but in a way that feels like an exaggeration of life rather than a simplification of it. That lends itself really well to moments of uncanny creepiness.

My issue with Animus comes entirely from how rushed the ending feels. There are things that happen that aren’t adequately set up or that are only hinted at in such a way that the payoff for them feels really weak. Again, I’m left with more questions than answers on this one, which is unfortunate because if more time had been taken to work things into the story everything that bothered me about the end could have been awesome pay offs for character work. This could have been a really cool first book in a series with side plots digging into the characters and what makes them tick, but instead it winds up being a lot of build up to a nothing ending.

I keep coming back to that, like a missing tooth or a scab, Animus could have been really good with a little more work put into it. It could have been but, as it stands, it’s a five star start with a one star follow up. I would check out something else by Antoine Revoy, but it would definitely be a library borrow. That lands Animus with a three out of five.

I’ve gotten the chance to review a number of Seanan McGuire’s book now and I’ve enjoyed them all. So, of course I was excited to see Sparrow Hill Road on netGalley, even more so when I was OKed to review it. This is one of those books that I had been meaning to read and meaning to read. Bonus in that the second book is coming out soon. Enjoy!

Sparrow Hill Road cover

Rose Marshall is sixteen and running from the man who ran her off the road. She’s been sixteen and on the run since prom night. Since she’d made a rash decision while angry. Since 1952 when she took the keys to her brother’s car and the short cut on Sparrow Hill Road to look for her boyfriend.  Bobby Cross is still hunting her, trying to catch the one that got away and feed his immortality a little longer.  He won’t stop until he catches up to her. But at least he can’t kill someone who’s already dead.

Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road is interesting to me in a lot of ways. It started out as a set of twelve short stories published across a year. Those stories were well received enough to be reworked a little and republished as a novel. That, to me, is all kinds of awesome. Then you jump into Sparrow Hill Road being a ghost’s story rather than a ghost story. It’s Rose’s story to tell and she’s well aware of a lot of the folk lore surrounding her and those like her. I actually have a little trouble talking about this one because of how much I enjoyed it.

This isn’t a settled book by any means. It roams from decade to decade and coast to coast, from living to dead and back again. The characters likewise never seem to settle. Weather that means the phantom driver who spends his afterlife racing the road he died on or the route witches whose magic is called from driving and the road itself. Pauses are brief and stopping or being stopped always seems to carry a risk. That doesn’t mean that the book moves at a breakneck pace throughout its run, Ms. McGuire does a fantastic job with her pacing here. It never felt like I needed to pause and reread something to understand what was going on. It also never felt like the book was dragged down by over explaining things.

Rose’s ability to borrow life from a willingly offered piece of outer ware is fascinating to me, likewise the rule that she can enjoy food and drink only if it’s willingly offered by a living being. Both serve to allow her to, temporarily at least, experience the parts of living that she’d enjoyed and interact with normal people as though she were one of them. It also serves to limit Rose. She can only borrow life until the sun comes up so she’s a ghost, cold and insubstantial, during the day and any food she eats that isn’t willingly offered tastes of ash. The aspect of Rose having chosen to guide the dead is also an interesting one. It isn’t something she’s bound to, at least not beyond feeling a sort of responsibility for the newly dead. It’s something she doesn’t always want to do and, in fact, something of a mirror to her habit of trying to help drivers avoid their deaths. Of course, both of those choices lead to her being seen around horrific traffic accidents and being blamed as a result.

That feels like sort of a running thing through the book, people act without knowing the full story. It happens with Rose, with the story of the pretty dead girl up on Sparrow Hill Road and all the people she’s supposedly killed. It happens with a number of the characters introduced within each section of the book, they react to the bits they know but act before digging further. They jump to conclusions while angry or confused and go based on their impressions. It’s a sort of humanizing thing that allows for a lot of the conflict in the book without it feeling like it was just thrown in.

Speaking of conflict, if there’s a bit that didn’t entirely work for me it winds up being Bobby Cross himself. This goes back to Sparrow Hill Road having originally been a set of short stories. Bobby Cross feels like a week antagonist, largely because he doesn’t have much to do early on. He’s the one who killed Rose. He wants to finish the job. Not has to, wants to. But for a lot of the book’s run it doesn’t feel like he’s a threat. The antagonists from other sections tend to be more present, likely because that’s their moment while Bobby is running a long game. When he’s effective, he’s great but when he’s not he just sort of feels like a disposable villain of the week.

I started writing this review knowing that I was going to give it a five out of five. I enjoyed it enough to not really know how to write about it without just throwing words for pages on end. Even now there are bits that I want to go back and add more thoughts on. I think I’ve come to a decent place to end this though. Sparrow Hill Road is well worth the read and I’m super excited for the next one.