Haunted Beauty by Tim Weldon

Haunted Beauty by Tim WeldonHaunted 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.

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Willy Adkins and Justin Romine talk “Headline News”

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.

Filming Headline News

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.

Coed Terror in the Ivory Tower of Doom

Please enjoy the following short story, excerpted from my book Six Tales of Terror. Originally published in 2005 as a chapbook, it’s now available only on Kindle. When I sat down to write these stories, little did I know one, “Coed Terror in the Ivory Tower of Doom,” would in 2011 become the basis for the indie horror film Headline News. I intended them to be short, campy tales in the spirit of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, and used the card game Grave Robbers from Outer Space to randomly generate the titles, characters, settings, and creatures.

Coed Terror in the Ivory Tower of Doom

six_tales_of_terror_cover3With the exception of a Channel 57 news van and three other cars, Brenham Community College’s parking lot was as empty as it usually was on any particular Friday night. A row of security floodlights illuminated the entrance to the science building, where a reporter named Gerald Waller and his cameraman stood impatiently. A golf cart with “security” stenciled on the door puttered toward them.

They had been waiting over ten minutes before the golf cart slid to a halt next to a row of Juniper bushes that marked the edge of the parking lot. A paunchy security guard with blonde hair and an equally blonde mustache threw open his vehicle’s wire door and strode arrogantly over to the waiting visitors.

“It’s about time,” Waller hissed to himself, unconcerned if anyone overheard him. He marched up to the security guard and thrust his index finger in the air. “I’m here to interview professor Hanft,” he said. “But these doors were locked when I got here.”

The security guard, with a nametag that read “Roy” stitched onto his tan uniform, casually detached a set of keys from a clip on his belt. “Yall just be patient,” he said with a strong Appalachian accent. “I’ll take you to the professor.” He strode over to the glass doors and unlocked them with the speed of a government employee.

Waller motioned for his cameraman to come with as he followed the guard into the well-lit hallway and towards the student laboratories. He had been sent to the community college to cover Professor Robt Hanft’s latest research into using local cave fungus to cure Maripose syndrome, a rare but serious illness of the renal vein. It wasn’t as exciting as covering the miner’s strike a few miles away, but it wasn’t mopping the floor of the men’s bathroom at the TV station either.

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Lair in the Mouth of Evil

Please enjoy the following short story, excerpted from my book Six Tales of Terror. Originally published in 2005 as a chapbook, it’s now available only on Kindle. When I sat down to write these stories, little did I know one, “Coed Terror in the Ivory Tower of Doom,” would in 2011 become the basis for the indie horror film Headline News. I intended them to be short, campy tales in the spirit of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, and used the card game Grave Robbers from Outer Space to randomly generate the titles, characters, settings, and creatures.

Lair in the Mouth of Evil

six_tales_of_terror_cover3Wayne Blagg worked diligently in the bowels of the Lawrence B. Hamlin Medical Research Center, which was located across from the New Dawn Christian Bookstore on the third floor of the Cheapside Mall. He had been hired for an internship there to assist in a cutting edge of biotechnology: reanimating deceased pets, which attracted millions of dollars in grants every year.

He was currently fixing a Golden Retriever some state senator’s daughter lost to a pool-related accident. The process was long and complicated. The dog had been frozen, shipped to the research center, and Wayne was in the midst of replacing its old blood with new, super-oxygenated blood. If he was interrupted for any reason, the consequences could be disastrous not only for the project, but also for his career prospects.

It was then that a whine pierced the air and interrupted his thoughts. “What do ya mean I can’t go in there?” the high-pitched voice yelled. “I can go anywhere I want!”

Wayne growled and tried to focus on the work at hand. The temperature had to remain constant or the animal would start to decay, and it couldn’t be resuscitated if there was any cellular degeneration.

“Ma’am, I can’t let you in,” a man’s voice shouted in the other room. His statement was followed by a series of alternating light and heavy footsteps that came closer and closer.

“I want to watch!” the girl yelled as the door to the lab burst open.

Wayne lost his concentration and bumped the temperature gauge. “Damn it!” he cursed before quickly correcting the mistake.

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Devil Trail Reloaded

Please enjoy the following short story, excerpted from my book Six Tales of Terror. Originally published in 2005 as a chapbook, it’s now available only on Kindle. When I sat down to write these stories, little did I know one, “Coed Terror in the Ivory Tower of Doom,” would in 2011 become the basis for the indie horror film Headline News. I intended them to be short, campy tales in the spirit of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, and used the card game Grave Robbers from Outer Space to randomly generate the titles, characters, settings, and creatures.

Devil Trail Reloaded

six_tales_of_terror_cover3If there had ever been a stranger sight at Camp Lake Totagatic, it was rivaled by the appearance of a black limousine that rolled over the gravel road and under the sign that arched over the main entrance as the sun sat low on the horizon. Birds chirped as the limo pulled up to an aging bunkhouse and idled for a moment, just before a bony woman wearing a black mini dress stepped out. Her stiletto heels sunk into the mud, and she checked the address on the card in her hand for the tenth time.

The bunkhouse door opened before the woman could raise her hand to knock, revealing a young man who was lean, but not muscular. Sunglasses hid his otherwise dusky eyes, and he leaned confidently against the doorframe.

“My name is Karina,” the woman announced. “Is this Camp Lake Totasomething?”

“Yeah,” the young man said in reply. “You can tell your driver that you’re at the right place.”

The woman turned and waved. The limo slowly pulled away in reverse and returned down the same road.

“Come in,” the man said. “My name is Dean. Dean Schuman.”

“You live alone at an old camp?” the woman asked. “I should have charged you more. This place creeps me out.” She swatted away a fly as she slipped past the young man and walked into the bunkhouse. Her heels clicked loudly on the cement floor.

“Actually, I work here,” Dean explained. “I know it’s lame, but it’ll look good on my resume, and my dad said it’ll build character. Anyway, the camp doesn’t open for another week. The only people here are me and the crazy camp counselor, Kincaid. I hope she didn’t see you on your way in, she’s a real stickler for the rules.”

Karina raised her penciled eyebrows and adjusted her swarthy hair as she looked around. Rows of bunks lined the walls, leading back to what looked like a smaller room. “Is that your room?” she asked, motioning towards it.

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What’s Wrong with the Suburbs? American Beauty and Desperate Housewives As Gothic Tales

There is a duality in American popular culture. On one hand, we idealize modern domestic life as safe, comfortable, and technologically advanced. On the other, we are aware that we’ve been unable to fully conquer our baser instincts. Writers and filmmakers often express this duality by criticizing a symbol of postwar American progress: the suburb. Carefully manicured lawns, safe neighborhoods, state of the art technology (for both security and cleanliness), and a car in every garage hold the promise of uninterrupted domestic bliss.

Yet the morning newspaper carries daily reminders that all is not right with the world. Despite ideal physical surroundings, dark human impulses remain. Murder, lust, betrayal, jealousy, and madness rear their ugly heads. Both the film American Beauty (1999) and the television series Desperate Housewives (2004-2012) tapped into this sentiment and portrayed the Janice-faced suburbs as a deceptively dangerous place.

american_beauty_posterWhile suburbs have technically existed for hundreds of years, the dramatic growth in modern suburbs began in the late nineteenth century as a consequence of rural residents moving to urban centers. As cities become overcrowded and began to experience high crime rates, congestion, and unsanitary conditions, the middle class sought refuge in nearby planned communities. These housing developments were meant to alleviate crowding, crime, and other inner city problems through strict zoning laws and community standards. Economic growth after World War 2  made it possible for millions of people to buy homes and seek out the “American dream” in the suburbs.

TV shows like Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963), The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), and Family Ties (1982-1989) portrayed the suburbs as largely idyllic and ideal for domestic family life. Pretty moms and wise, handsome dads taught lessons and safely guided their children to adulthood. Not everyone agreed with this portrayal, however. Ira Levin’s 1972 novel The Stepford Wives suggested suburban tranquility and conformity had a dark underside. Both the film American Beauty and the television series Desperate Housewives further capitalized on this sentiment.

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