While popular haunted places in the Midwest struggle to gain recognition and help from local governments and mainstream business/tourism organizations, one state is getting it right. When I began researching legends in Upstate New York, I came across this website, and I was surprised to discover that the website was the result of cooperation across more than a dozen local tourism bureaus. This year, they released a full-color, 24-page guidebook to dozens of allegedly haunted places you can visit around New York, with phone numbers, addresses, and websites divided by region and type of experience.
Whenever the subject of haunted places or tours is discussed with community leaders in my home state of Illinois, it is usually in hushed tones, as if they are speaking of porno theaters or international crime rings. Despite the benefits of paranormal tourism, for example, a number of years ago local church leaders in my hometown petitioned the public library board to shut down a friend’s ghost tour, which she had ran successfully in cooperation with the library for years, because it was allegedly “occult” related.
Haunted History Tour of New York State is an effort by dozens of public and private organizations, including the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., Livingston County Office of Tourism & Marketing, Syracuse Convention & Visitors Bureau, Oneida County Tourism, New York State Tourism (creator of the popular “I Love New York” campaign), and many others. Their website and brochure offers a guide to over 30 different locations across the state, many of which have appeared on paranormal-themed television shows. The website also has an audio tour, haunted road trips, and a calendar of events.
Located on the strip in central Lake George, New York, Dr. Morbid’s Haunted House and House of Frankenstein Wax Museum are fun, campy throwbacks to the haunted attractions of yore. Dr. Morbid’s operates from July 1 through October 31 and the wax museum is open roughly from the second weekend in April to the fourth weekend in October, so if you want to get your scare on, you don’t have to wait for Halloween. This is a rare treat. When it comes to commercial horror, I can’t think of another example in the northeastern United States.
Dr. Morbid’s Haunted House is located at 115 Canada Street. It features some animatronics and macabre scenes, but relies heavily on its story for chills. “Recently, during attempted renovations to Morbid Mansion, workers discovered a secret passageway leading to the ruins of an old abandoned waxworks,” the story goes. “Dr. Willy S. Morbid, the proprietor of Morbid Mansion, and known to locals as the Mad Waxmaker, is said to have used bizarre methods when filling his wax-works with statues.” Dr. Morbid also had two daughters, one of whom he locked away in a secret room. Look for Morbid’s preserved corpse to also make an appearance.
A woman of mysterious beauty dressed in black guides you through Dr. Morbid’s lair. My guide seemed immersed in the role, her voice adding to the macabre atmosphere. On entering, she asks you to stand against the wall, where you wait in near complete darkness. Seconds seemed like minutes as I waited for the inevitable scream. The only question was how close she would get.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved diners, especially 1950s-themed diners or old, out of the way places that haven’t changed their decor in forty years. Greasy spoons that wouldn’t pass a health inspection. Unfortunately, there aren’t many classic diners in Illinois. No, Denny’s doesn’t count. When I moved to New York, I discovered the East Coast loves diners too. I decided to start posting travelogues/reviews of some of the diners I’ve visited over the years. The following is a list of some of the ones I’ll be writing about.
- Mother’s Cupboard in Syracuse, NY
- Doo-Wah Ditty’s Diner in Kimball, SD
- Prospect Mountain Diner in Lake George, NY
- Knotty Pine Diner in Wampsville, NY
- Flo’s Diner in Canastota, NY
- Suburban Diner in Paramus, NJ
- And many more~!
Keep a lookout for my All-American Diner Tour, coming soon!
Haunted Beauty: Aesthetics and Mindfulness in the Traditional Ghost Story by Tim Weldon is a brief but insightful book. Published in 2015, Haunted Beauty examines the literary tradition of the ghost story. Weldon, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois, succinctly explains what makes ghost stories so popular. Though its academic tone is sometimes challenging, all readers will delight in the insights offered by this book, which includes examples from both modern and classic ghost stories.
In his introduction, Tim Weldon points out that ghosts are one of the only supernatural beings whose existence is continually in question. “As a subject, ghosts stand apart from the too far-fetched (no one asks if you believe in zombies),” he writes. In ghosts, we hold out hope for our own immortality. More than that, however, ghosts offer an intimate connection with the past. Ghost stories also offer us a pleasurable feeling of thrill, fright, and “the fun of the shudder.” Finally, Weldon argues that a great ghost story is great literature. One of the most beloved stories of all time, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, is a ghost story.
Haunted Beauty is divided into two parts. The first, “The All that Lingers,” is an exploration of sense and setting, time, and place in ghost stories. Part Two, “Thoughts Haunted,” is about why ghost stories are so psychologically appealing.
Back in the dingy DeKalb office building in the summer of 2011, Willy Adkins, director and executive producer, and Justin Romine, directory of photography, paused from filming Headline News to record this interview with me. Headline News, based on my short story “Coed Terror in the Ivory Tower of Doom,” premiered at the Chicago Horror Film Festival on Saturday, September 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm at the Portage Theater. What a walk down memory lane! Check out the interview below.
On a summer day in 2011, I met director Willy Adkins and his cast and crew at an office building in DeKalb, Illinois. We were there to film Headline News, a horror short based on a story I wrote for my book Six Tales of Terror. Jason Sullivan adapted my story into a script. All the cast and crew, especially Michael Schmid, Michael Wexler, James Pusztay, and Kelsey Zukowski, really brought the characters to life. It was a surreal experience, to say the least, to see characters come to life I had previously only imagined! I even got to play a small walk on role, as a crime scene photographer. Here are some pictures from the filming. Tragically, Michael Wexler died after being hit by a car in December 2015. I only met him a few times, but he was a talented actor and seemed like a great guy. I was very sorry to hear about his loss.