Twisted Pulp Magazine Issue 031

Twisted Pulp is back! That’s right everybody’s favorite dumping ground of questionable literature and questioning artists is back and ready to do some damage to your medulla oblongata! With loads of horror fiction and loads of interviews you’ll be full of loads of awesome stuff! Don’t miss out on our interview with horror great, Elizabeth Massie, and an interview with artist, Jill Bauman. Not enough for ya? Dang, you greedy, but I got ya. We also have model, Ms. Nina Roe, as well as more horror fiction than you can shake a stick at. Happy Halloween and pick up your copy of Twisted Pulp Magazine today!


  1. Editorial: The Show Must Go On
  2. The Ghost of Potter’s Road By Wesley Critchfield
  3. Model: Ms. Nina Roe
  4. The Thing About Barbie By Thomas M. Malafarina
  5. Dragon’s Breath by Shauna Klein
  6. Interview With Elizabeth Massie
  7. Grimwood’s Devil By Mark Slade
  8. Interview With Jill Bauman
  9. Ten Questions For Liz Davinci
  10. Reanimating Corpses: A Review of Reanimator by Mark Slade
  11. Interview With Cover Artist, Kim Mixon Hill
  12. Interview with Snake Oil By Lucy Hall
Editorial The Show Must Go On

Editorial: The Show Must Go On

A little bit of housekeeping. I, your humble publisher, have gone through my cancer surgeries and am now going through chemo… yeah yeah so sad. During the time that we were on hiatus due to my condition, many more projects and many more people have come into our little Screaming Eye sphere. As such, Twisted Pulp Magazine will be moving to bimonthly, the bimonthly that comes out every other month, not the bimonthly that comes out twice a month. The main reason for doing this is because we have books racking up in the background that just aren’t making it to publication and aren’t getting the push they deserve. So expect a lot more books to be coming out during the off months.

That being said, we’d love to bring you more and are always working too. If you are interested in volunteering to edit, write and otherwise work on Twisted Pulp Magazine… Well, we double dog dare ya to reach out to us at

The Ghost of Potter’s Road By Wesley Critchfield

The Ghost of Potter’s Road

By Wesley Critchfield

Don’t ever go down Potter’s Road after dark. During the day you can traipse about in the hollow as much as you like. Ride your bicycle. Take your lady friend for a walk. Fish in the stream. Do anything you please. But when the sun sinks behind the hills, stay away.

Not all of Potter’s Road is haunted at night mind ya. You can walk safely from Vincent’s Bridge, all the way down into town. It’s getting past Robber’s Rock, to Vincent’s Bridge that gets you jiggered. Before Robber’s Rock, you’re as free as a bird, past it, and you’re doomed.

It all began forty years ago. Back then Potter’s Road was safe to walk at any time of day. The whole length of it. Other than a tree root or an ill placed rock, there was nothing there that could harm you.

One bright summer’s day a man walked into town. He had no horse and no bicycle, his only mode of transport was his own two feet. Now people say that this man had been lucky from birth. To all appearances he was one of the most vile looking beggars that ever walked into the town. He wore long robes that were old and full of bits of cloth that had been patched on, to keep the garment from falling apart. His face was dirty and his hair was prematurely grey, and wild. Even his shoes were full of holes; he himself seemed to have very little luck.

But the man himself was very lucky.

Lucky for others that is.

If you helped this man out, your fortunes would change for the better.

If your cows had been not putting out enough milk to feed even her calf, she’d suddenly be able to fill every bucket in the state. If your fields had been fallow and fruitless, they would sprout ears of corn three feet long, every last kernel plump and full, as a circus fat lady.

Yet, the opposite was true as well if you gave this man a wrong turn, as one man did, deliberately, tripping him up in the street.

If you went out of your way to give him trouble, your crops would die and your cow would run dry. Aye, the fates were with this man, which just goes to show that you should never judge any man by appearances. Not even beggars, who we all know, are never what they seem.

The roads were not paved back then and they were barely more than through ways of dusty dirt that had been walked, ridden, and galloped over so many times that they were packed together tight. I was playing beside the road and I saw him myself, and while I could never tell you how, I knew that man was special.

All the children seemed to know it. They followed him asking, “Who are you?” and “Where did you come from?” and “Ooh, how did you do that?”

The dogs followed along with the group, panting and prancing, wanting to know what the excitement was.

The man found an uninhabited tree stump, by the side of the road and began to speak to the children, and he told stories! He showed them tricks and entertained them for nearly two hours.

Oh, such stories he told. The like of which I’ve never heard again; stories of far away lands and magical creatures. A boy, who didn’t know the meaning of fear, trolls under bridges, and a man transformed into a monster by a curse, made human again by a kiss.

But as the evening drew on and the sun went down, the children were called away by their mothers. Dinner was ready, or it was time for bed, one by one the children went home.

When the last of the children went home, this traveling storyteller picked up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder. Walking down the dusty road, he made his way to the local tavern.

The sun was gone behind the hills as he padded over the dark street and onto the porch where two old local men sat on opposite sides of the doorway.

“Pardon me sirs,” he said, “but that tobacco smells so good, I couldn’t help wondering if I might have a bit for my own pipe.”

“Go away.” one man said.

“Eh, leave him be Charlie McGee, here sir you may have a bit of my leaf.” Said the other.

The storyteller withdrew a decorative pipe from his robes, “Thank’ee.” He said, stuffing the bit of shredded leaves down into his pipe and mashing it further with his thumb.

The kind old man offered him a match and he lit his pipe.

Puffing gently on it, to fan the flame, he said again, “Thank’ee” and then took a long draw, held it for a moment, and then blew out the smoke in a ring. “Ahhh,” he sighed contentedly, “that hits the spot.”

It was only then that Charlie McGee noticed the beggar’s pipe. It was beautifully made. The stem was ivory, with a ring of gold where it connected with the bowl. The bowl itself was beautifully made and in the form of a bearded old man’s head“Oi, where’d you get that?” asked McGee.

“Oh this?” the traveler said, bringing the pipe forward and examining it as if for the first time, “It’s just a pipe.”

“I know what it is. How’d someone like you come by a fine pipe like that?”

“It were given me by the Sultan of Arabie. He gave it to me as a gift when I saved him from a pack of wolves that attacked him as he walked in his forest.”

Charlie scoffed. “Nonsense.” he said, settling back into his chair.

The traveler took another long draw on the pipe, “Ah, that is good tobacco.” He said to the kind man, “I was wondering if I might have just enough for another pipe later tonight, or tomorrow?”

“See!” said Charlie, pointing at the beggar, “You see? You give to a beggar and what does he do? Asks ya for more!”

“Hold your gob!” the kind man said, reaching down for his tobacco pouch.

“I’ll be glad to pay you for it.” The traveler said.

Charlie laughed, “Pay with what? A flea? A dead rat?”

“With this.” He held out his hand, fingers splayed.

“There’s nothing there.” Charlie said, “You planning to pay with nothing?”

The beggar looked at his hand, “Oh silly me.” Without drawing his hand back, he wiggled his fingers, and suddenly out of nowhere there was a golden coin betwixt them. It danced over his knuckles as he moved his fingers, until it finally landed in the palm of his hand. The old beggar proffered it to the kind one.

“How did you do that?” McGee asked, dumbfounded.

“When you travel as much as I do, you can’t help but learn a few tricks along the way.”

He turned, and once again, offered the coin to the kind man.

“Sir, I canna be taking your last coin.” He said, offering the man his pouch, “Just take the whole pouch, it’s yours.”

“That’s very kind,” said the Traveler, taking the pouch, “I thank you sir.”

The tramp stood to his feet and walked into the tavern.

“Nice man.” said the kind one.

“He’s a beggar, his lot are all the same. Leeches, sponging off the working man.

“You don’t know what you’re…” the kind one started, and then stopped as he put his hand in his pocket.

“What is it man?” Charlie asked, leaning forward.

The man pulled his hand out of his pocket, and along with it, drew out the same gold coin that the beggar had offered him.

Inside the Tavern the traveler sat down at the bar. “A bottle of Uisce beatha!” he said, placing two identical coins on the counter.

“A bottle of what?” asked the bartender.

“It means, Water of Life.” The traveler explained, “Whiskey.”

Placing a bottle of his best before the man, the bartender picked up the coin and bit it. It was real. The soft metal bent.

An hour later, the traveler had finished the entire bottle by himself, and stood. He was clearly quite drunk, but able to stand on his own two feet. “I thank you gentlemen!” he said to the bar at large, “May your larders never be empty and your coffers always full! Now, would someone kindly direct me to the best road out of town?”

He stuck his arm out fingers together, as if he were a weathervane, swaying from side to side, as if looking for the right direction. The people told him that Potter’s Road was the best way and he said, “Thank’ee!” loudly one last time and stumbled out of the bar.

He walked down the streets, until he came to the hanging sign that designated the road he was looking for. He walked down the middle of Potter’s Road; singing snatches of old tunes as he walked.

Deep in the woods, past Vincent’s Bridge, two men hid behind a large boulder that lay beside the road.

Now, behind that rock, who should be crouching, but Charlie McGee his own self and the very barman that had given the traveler his whiskey earlier that same night?

While the traveler had been enjoying his bottle, The Bartender and McGee had been conspiring. They’d both seen the gold that the Traveler had and they wanted it for their own. Every last penny of it.

“Where do you suppose he got that money?” The Bartender, who’s name was Alan Cage, “It weren’t not currency that I ever seen before.”

“Who cares where he got it, fact is he got it, and I wants it.”

From somewhere in the distance they heard a voice singing. Such a beautiful, hardy voice it was too. A voice that could cause flowers to bloom and birds fall silent, so that they too might listen,

“Such a find lookin’ corpse, ya never did see…

Timmy my boy a-why did you die…

Dance with your partner… whirl the floor, your trotters shake;

Wasn’t it the truth I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake!”

“Hesh!” Charlie said, putting a finger to his lips, “he’s commin’ now!”

The two men lay in silence as the traveler came up the road, still singing his songs. They could see him as he walked over Vincent’s bridge.

“When he gets by that old broken tree stump,” Charlie whispered, “That’s when we make our move.”

The man fell silent as he neared the tree, the absence of his song made the night seem even darker and more foreboding. He seemed to be listening.

“You don’t think he knows we are here?” The bartender whispered.

“Hesh up!!” McGee shouted in a whisper.

The traveler laughed, a jolly drunken laugh that made you want to laugh along even if you didn’t know the joke. “You can come out now, Gentleman.” He said, “No good hiding, my hair might be grey but I’m only forty-two and my hearing is as good as ever.”

The two men came out from behind, what would forever after be known as Robber’s Rock. They could see him standing in the moonlight, his cloak wrapped around him to shut out the night’s chill.

“What can I do for you?” He asked, “A magic lamp? A handful of magic beans? That’ll cost you a cow, you know.” he waggled his fingers and smiled.

“It be your gold we’re after.” Alan said, taking out the small club he kept in his back pocket for when a row would start in the bar.

“Ah, isn’t it always?” Said the beggar, who was not so poor after all. “Could I interest you in a handkerchief that’s always clean a moment after you’ve used it?”

“Just the gold, hand it over.” McGee said, extending his hand, and drawing a gun with the other.

“Ah, me.” The Beggar said, calmly, reaching inside his robes and pulling out a small bag that clinked with coins.

He passed the bag over to them. “May I go now?”

“Is that all of them?” McGee asked.

“Quite.” The Traveler said.

“And the pipe! Gimme that too!” McGee said, and the beggar passed it over.

Alan moved to the side, as though to let the beggar pass, but McGee pulled back the hammer on his pistol and fired. The beggar fell to the ground, blood pouring from him.

Charlie stood over him and looked down at the beggar, “And have you runnin’ off to the cops and telling ‘em that you was robbed, and who it was, what done it? I think not.”

The Traveler, a man who had been over hill and mountain, river and stream, ocean and sea, one of the last traveling magicians, looked up at his assassinator and said, “Think not that ye shall escape the recompense for this deed. A curse on you and yours. A curse on this land, which shall be my home, until the one whom I deem, shall receive that gold which is taken from me.”

He muttered something in another language, perhaps Gaelic or Latin? No man living can say. And at last, he died.

But that’s not the end of the story, sometimes, a story doesn’t end with death, it begins. For all beginnings are endings, and all endings are beginnings.

Alan the bartender told McGee he wanted no part of the money, because it now had blood on it. He then went home that night and put a shotgun in his mouth. He had not wanted the beggar to die; there had been no malice in him, only greed. His suffering was at an end.

For Charlie McGee on the other hand, miseries would follow him to his grave. Before a week had passed, his wife caught a fever and died. His cows would give no milk, nor would his chickens lay eggs. His crops shriveled and died, even though the rain fell on them, and the soil was rich.

Creditors came calling, demanding payment and he had nothing to give them. He couldn’t spend the coins. Not yet, someone might recognize them and ask how he came by them. He might be locked away for murder.

Day after day, night after night, his life became more and more miserable, until he had to sell his farm, for a quarter of what it was worth, all of which was taken by the creditors. No one wanted ground that would not seed, no matter how rich it seemed.

His misery was doubly increased when, a year later, he was passing by his old homestead. There he saw row after row of golden corn, so plump that the husks were pulling away at the top, cabbages as big as bushel baskets and tomatoes, so big and ripe that if you squeezed them just the slightest bit, they would burst.

But worst of all, in a far corner of his property was a peach tree, a tree he’d meant to rip out years before, a tree which had never borne fruit. It was hung with peaches, each bigger than a giant’s fist. Unable to believe his eyes he climbed up into the tree and picked one. It was so round and full that he had to hold it with both hands. Rubbing his thumb gently over the soft fuss he was surprised to see the skin give away as though it were silk, and juice dribbled down the sides. He sucked the juice from the skin and then bit into the peach. The sweet flavor exploded in his mouth as juice flowed down his front.

If you or I were to have tasted those peaches, our taste buds would never accept the taste of anything else again, and everything afterwards in comparison, would taste dry and woody and stale. But rather than enjoying the taste, he wept. For all this had been his, and had been taken from him and given to another.

It was the coins. Those blasted, blasted, coins! He had to get rid of them as quickly as he could, surely if he returned them to the beggar, his luck would change.

The sun was setting, as he ran back to the one room shack that he now called home. He dug out the money and quick as he could, he was back on the roads of Washington. When he, at last, came to Potter’s Road, the sun was setting and before he reached Vincent’s Bridge, the sky was black as pitch.

“Beggar!” he called into the darkness, standing by Robbers Rock, “Storyteller! Wizard! Whoever and whatever you were, I am sorry! I have learned my lesson! I return these coins to you!” He threw the pouch that contained the beggar’s coins and pipe, down against the stump of the tree where the Beggar was buried, “Now leave me in peace! Trouble me no more! You have what is yours!”

The forest was still. There was no wind, only the sound of running water from August Creek. Then from behind him a croaking sound, as of a man trying to breathe through lungs that were nearly dust, a horrid sound of a beast trying to speak.

Charles turned toward the sound. Before him on the path toward the bridge, were two glowing eyes. Eyes without feeling. The flames of hell twinkling red in them. He moved and the eyes followed. He stepped forward, past Robber’s Rock and the eyes never blinking, quivered.

He tried to speak, “Ba… Baa… Beggar?” He asked the night.

There was another of those croaking, wordless replies and every hair stood on end.

“You… You have what is yours.” he pointed toward the tree stump where it seemed the ghoul was sitting, staring at him with its hellish glare, “It… It’s there, at your feet.”

He stepped toward the specter and the eyes went out! Disappeared!

Still there was that horrible croaking sound, sounding less and less like a voice trying to speak and more and more like a hungry predator about to pounce.

“Spirit.” he asked, “will you let me pass?”

The growl continued.

McGee gathered up his courage and started back toward the bridge. Passing the tree stump where he had last seen the specter and walking slowly away. He was nearly to the bridge when the growl suddenly became a roar, he turned and saw the fiery eyes coming toward him.

The next morning Charlie McGee’s corpse was found, lying dead at the foot of Vincent’s bridge. Some people say that McGee’s heart gave out from all his suffering, but the wiser ones know that his soul was whisked away by the ghost of the beggar.

So whatever you do, my dearios, my darlings, stay away from Potter’s Road when the sun goes down, lest you too are whisked away by the ghost of a traveling beggar… who was not what he seemed.

All that you have just read was a story that my grandfather used to tell me, from the time I was very young. I have recounted it here because, were it not for that tale, much of what eventually happened to me may never have happened.

I have tried to retell it here as he did, keeping as many of his euphemisms and turns of phrase as I could. But I feel it falls far short of the mark that he made upon me with it.

It is one thing to read, it is another to be heard as he and he alone could tell it. So the reader will forgive me, if some of the parts are not as scary to them as they were to me.

When he would tell the story, the hackles of every person listening would be raised and they would not sleep soundly for many a night.

After the story was over someone would always brush the story off as an “old wives tale”.

To which Grandpa would insist, “It’s as true as gospel.”

Either because I had heard the story so many times, or because I was just plain cocky, I once asked him, “How do you know that he was truly a wizard and not just a man who knew a few slight of hand tricks?”

Grandpa paused for a moment, as though this question had caught him off guard, “Well… umm… hmm…”

“See,” said Mike Lovit, who had been sitting in on the story, “he doesn’t even know the answer to something as simple as that.”

“Be quiet you whippersnapper!” he said, “It’s just that I ain’t been asked that in a long time, I know the answer.” He turned to me, “Bill, it’s because his ghost came back, it’s only wizards what can find their way back from the land of the dead. Besides, he cursed the land didn’t he?”

“I don’t believe that you are falling for this nonsense.” Mike said.

Mike was visiting for the night because his father was on a “mean drunk” again, and he didn’t want to risk getting another beating. We were sure that even as we sat there, his father was destroying the house and calling for Mike, but in the morning he’d be hung over and it would be safe to be around him… At least until six or seven o’clock that evening when he would return to the pub.

“I tell you it’s true, I seen the ghost myself.” Grandpa said.

Mike snorted, “You’re so blind, you wouldn’t know a ghost from a wisp of tobacco smoke.”

“I may not have the world’s best eyes anymore, but when I was a younger man, I had eyes as good as any, and I saw it, just like I described it to you. I tell you, if it had come after me, all hellfire and brimstone, I’d’ve died of fear, sure as shooting.”

Mike began to get angry, as he always did when people contradicted him, “It’s all crazy talk, your Grandfather’s told this story so many times he actually believes it!”

Grandpa’s fighting blood was boiling, “It’s true ya little troll and I’ll prove it to ya! Billy, get your coat, we are going for a walk.”

I didn’t move.

“Billy, I said, get your coat, we’re going to show Michael just how crazy I am.”

“You’re not going to Robber’s Rock are you?” I asked.

Grandpa’s eyes glittered, “Yer dang right, I am. Ever since the ghost first appeared, people have said I was a fool or just plain crazy for believing the legend. But I saw it with my own eyes and now you’re going to see it, both of you are, then you won’t think I’m crazy.”

“I’ve never thought you were crazy.” I lied, looking for some way to get out of going, “Mike doesn’t think you are, do you ya Mike?”

“Nah, he’s not crazy, he’s just tetched.” Mike said, standing to his feet, “I’ll go and see your ghost and when it turns out to be nothing but your imagination, I’ll tell everyone in Greene County that you are nothing but a fake and a storyteller.

“I ain’t going,” I said, “You two can go get eit by the ghost, I prefer to keep my head.”

Grandpa came over and twisted my ear. “Boy, I said you are comin’ and that’s final.” With one hand, he pulled me out the door, (without my coat,) into the chill fall air.

The moon was all but full, one more night and it would be a perfect circle of glowing light, but it was constantly being obscured by the large dark clouds that moved across the sky.

While cloudy and cold, the night was peaceful. Like most houses this side of Vincent’s Bridge and Robber’s Rock, it’s not near much of anything else, it’s at least a mile from one place to the next. We didn’t live all that close to Potter’s Road, and it was a five mile walk, just to get to where Potter’s joined Iams Road, then another mile to Robber’s Rock.

It might surprise the reader to know that this was the first time I’d ever been to Robber’s Rock, most young boys on hearing a story like my Grandpa’s would have dashed to the site of the tale the next day. I must admit, I never did. The story had always scared me so badly.

The wind blew gently through the trees and autumn leaves fell from the trees,  and chased each other across the street. I found myself wishing that grandpa had brought a flashlight, but at this time flashlights were still rather expensive, and we didn’t have one in the house, much less a car with headlights to travel the distance in. Besides, the moon gave plenty of light, even when the occasional cloud would block out its direct rays.

We arrived at Robber’s Rock, half an hour before midnight. In the distance, some hundred and fifty yards away was Vincent’s bridge, now old and falling apart.

People still used the bridge Grandpa later told me, but you wouldn’t dare drive an automobile across it. It would fall into the stream “sure as shooting.”

The road ahead and the bridge itself were hazed in a low hanging cloud of fog that came from the stream over which the bridge crossed.

The gentle breeze of night, or the stream itself seemed to move the fog along, but never cleared it away.

We stood there, looking down the road.

Five minutes passed.



 “So when’s this ghost supposed to show up?” Mike asked.

Grandpa, sounding uncertain, said, “It’s a ghost, they are mercurial, they show up in their own good time.”

“Well,” Mike said, sitting down, his back against the boulder of Robber’s Rock itself, “That’s convenient.”

Another fifteen minutes, and at midnight, precisely, the wind kicked, up and the clouds began to move.

Then from down the road, toward the bridge there was a small noise, it sounded like someone making an “R” sound, from deep in their throat.


As one, we looked toward the sound. Only darkness lay before us, as the moon came out slowly from behind a cloud, the bridge was illuminated, but that was all. Nothing.

“Probably, a frog.” Mike said, leaning back to relax against Robber’s Rock again, no sooner had he leaned back something caught his eye. A glint. A sparkle. A tease of red.

As he looked back toward the bridge, the wind died, and again, louder and longer we heard that cry, and it sounded angry this time.


Mike was on his feet in an instant.

There shimmering in the darkness were two glowing red eyes, literally burning into the night. There was a haze around them, a glow.

They weren’t exactly eyes the way that you and I have; they were more like animal eyes. There was no visible pupil to them, and they were extremely large, fully the size of your fist.

Furious, evil, unblinking.

“Think I’m crazy now?” Grandpa asked, not looking away.

Mike didn’t say anything, I don’t think he could.

No words can truly describe those eyes, they were terrifying, they seemed to warn, “Come no further!” but seemed also to beckon, “I’m waiting for you. Come. Come and die.”

I moved to the left, the eyes moved left. I moved right, they moved right. They were watching me.

Wanting me.

“I’m going to meet him.” said a strange voice beside me. Through a tremendous act of will I glanced to my left. It was my grandfather who had spoken.

“No Mr. Iams, you can’t.” Mike said, fear in his voice, “I believe you, I’ve seen enough.”

“I haven’t.” Grandpa said, never taking his eyes off the road and the eyes before him.

Grandpa started forward, and somehow, I found myself moving with him. We’d only taken four steps when the eyes suddenly flared, like a stoked flame.

Grandpa squeaked in fear, and we both stepped back, standing next to Robber’s Rock again.

“Come on Mr. Iams,” Mike said, “let’s go.”

“I’m with him Grandpa, lets go.”

Grandpa was still in another world, staring at the eyes, “Alright.”

Without any further discussion, we all backed away from Robber’s Rock, not daring to take our eyes off the thing.

When we were nearly twenty feet from the rock, the glow of the eyes was no longer visible, and fearing the spirit of the storyteller, all three of us turned tail, and ran.

As we ran I heard the last thing I’d expected.


I was even more surprised when I realized it was coming out of my own mouth. Then I looked at Mike, and he was laughing too. All three of us were laughing, and I had no idea why.

I know now of course that it was a release, we were laughing at ourselves, we were laughing at each other, and the fear we’d felt just moments before.

We slowed to a jog and then a walk, “Man, you were so scared!” Mike said, pointing at me, still laughing.

“Me,” I said, “what about you? ‘Don’t go Mr. Iams! I believe! I believe!’  You sounded like a charismatic! Isn’t that right Grandpa?”

Grandpa was out of breath, and grabbing his knees, “I… got, no room… to talk. I’m still scared.”

“If you were scared, then why did you go toward it?”

“Don’t know… felt… drawn. Hard to resist.”

There was no sleep that night. The three of us stayed up talking about what we’d seen until five in the morning, and even when we did retire, I could not close my eyes without seeing those fiery red ones that glowed so close to the bridge.

That afternoon I told my Ma, everything that had happened the night before.

“Bill haven’t I always told you that there are no such things as ghosts?”

“But Ma, I saw it, I saw it with my own eyes.” I said, gesturing wildly, “the eyes flared up when we walked toward them, they saw us, they knew we were there! The ghost knew!”

“Billy, whenever a person dies, their soul either goes straight to heaven, or straight to Hell, there are no stops in between. Now, I don’t know what you saw. You might have seen something; then again it could have been all in your head. What I do know is, you did not see a ghost.”

“Ma, I…”

“Not another word, young man!” she said, turning back to her dishes.

I turned to go, when I reached the doorway, she added, “There’s nothing there in the dark, that ain’t there in the day. Why don’t you go over there now and see your ghost.”

“Ghosts only come out at night Mom.” I said, walking away.

As I walked down the street, I thought about what Mom had said, I decided that I would indeed return to Robber’s Rock, and I would do it now, in broad daylight.

I approached Robber’s Rock carefully, and when I neither saw, nor heard any sign of the ghost I moved past it, still no sign or sound.

By the time I’d made it to Vincent’s Bridge, I knew that, (at least during the sunlight hours) it was safe. I turned around and looked back at Robber’s Rock. I was surprised at how much the view looked just as I had imagined it, from all those years of hearing Grandpa tell the story of the traveling stranger.

The cracked white paint on the ground-supports of the bridge, the large oak tree, now turning colors, its branches over the road. The old rotten trees stump from a tree that had been destroyed by a bolt of lighting, long before the beggar came to town.

The stump had broken in such a way that there were two prongs like points on either side of the stump, forming a U or V shape. And then there was Robber’s Rock, sitting there as it had for who knew how many years.

It was one of the great mysteries of Green County, how a limestone boulder ten feet wide and eight foot high, had managed to plop right smack dab in the middle of the woods when there were no cliff faces in any direction.

The reality would be discovered several years later that the “boulder” was actually part of a larger rock that had pushed out of the ground when that part of the world was formed a million years ago.

There were many things in Greene County, which were not what they seemed.

I explored that area for nearly two hours, and I still could not find one thing that could have caused the apparition we’d seen the night before. I was convinced, we had seen a spirit, maybe not the ghost of a beggar, a traveling wizard, but we had seen a spirit of one kind or another. I knew it, as surely as I knew I would come back to this place again, to see it.

That very night I returned, I could not stay away.

To this day I wonder why I couldn’t have waited a day or two.

I had planned to. I wanted to wait at least a couple nights, but something drew me.

Again the entire area from Vincent’s to Robber’s was coated in fog. I arrived around ten o’clock and waited till midnight. The moon was completely full now and caused an otherworldly glow to rest on top of the fog.

At last, I could wait no longer, and I stepped out from my hiding place, behind Robber’s Rock.

As though it had been waiting for me, the eyes were there, burning, staring into the darkness, “RRRaaaaarr!” it cried, in that horrible sound that was more and more like a man trying to speak with his lungs full of water, as though saying “Ah, there you are.”

I stepped toward the flaming eyes, that now seemed more green or yellow, than red, but no less fearsome.

It felt as though I were the prey of some great cat, which was ready to pounce on me.

Somehow I managed to find my voice, “Wizard!” I cried, and it seemed to me that the eyes flared, “The men who wronged you are dead. Why do you stay here?”

To this day, I do not know why, and I had no conscious recognition of it until I was very far along, but at some point I had started walking down the road toward the bridge.

There was another cry, and the closer I got, inch by inch, the longer they seemed to last, as if it were one long noise that got louder when the ghost would actually speak. I listened hard, trying to hear the words, but there was nothing discernable.

I felt then as Hamlet must have when he approached the ghost of his father, the warning of his friends ringing in his ears. I kept moving toward it, I decided, like Hamlet, that no matter what happened, I would meet this ghoul face to face. Even if I was killed, I would not turn back, I would not run.

Suddenly, without warning, the green glowing eyes flared up brighter than ever before, and went out.

I stopped dead in my tracks, not daring to move forward, or back.

If I moved toward it, I could no longer see it and something deep inside would not allow me to step back, let alone turn tail and run. I could see nothing in that fog, but the gurgling cries continued. After standing still for nearly five minutes, that seemed like forever, I moved forward again.

The eyes reappeared, but dimly and hazy in the fog, now seeming too long, not so much like eyes, but large greenish gashes, tinged with red. I was now less than five feet from the eyes. They were huge in the shrouding fog, and staring, unblinking.

I put out my hand, and advanced the remaining two steps before my hand. As I put my hand between the eyes they went out again. Stealing myself, I put my hand down and felt something beneath my hand.

It was soft and spongy. I feared that I had actually touched the body of a ghost.

Drawing my hand back I saw that there was something red on my hands, it glowed in my hands and for a crazy moment I thought it was Ghost Blood, but even then the realization of what it was, dawned in my brain.

Reaching forward again, I grabbed the spongy stuff before me and pulled on it, and by the light of the moon I saw that I was holding a mass of dead wood and glowing, bioluminescent moss.

The Ghost of Potter’s Road, the thing that had made this place full of fear was nothing but Foxfire, glowing plants living in dead wood!

Laughing so hard, I thought I might die from it. I fell to the ground, leaning against the stump of the dead tree, the same stump that I had noted had a peculiar V shape.

The Foxfire had grown up and populated those two highest peaks of the wood. When the moon shone down on it the glow of the wood intensified, and became visible from Robber’s Rock.

I could still hear the croaking cries, but now, being closer to the sound and without the fear of a ghost in my mind to cloud it, I realized that the gurgling cry had been nothing but a group of frogs croaking down by the stream. Mike had been correct!

I rocked back and forth on the ground laughing and gasping for breath, when I felt something underneath my rear end. I thought it was a dead tree root and put my hand back to feel it, but rather than being spongy, like dead wood, or solid like a rock, it felt soft, like cloth.

Getting up, on to my knees, I looked down at the thing, buried in moss and lichen and mud. I pulled from the ground a rotten cloth bag, full of holes from the ground. I bounced the bag in my hand and heard and felt the clink of coins, and metal on wood.

Ripping one of the holes in the rotted cloth wider, and into my hand fell 8 large gold coins, and a beautiful clay pipe, in the form of an old man’s head.

I had found the traveling wizard’s treasure. I laughed and laughed now because I was rich and my grandfather’s tale had been right all along.

But I stopped laughing as the woods were filled with a high musical laughter that would have made me want to laugh along, except for the fact that it came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

One final note, when we took the coins to a reputable dealer, we found that each coin was worth nearly two thousand dollars apiece. But the pipe, which as it turns out was a Meerschaum pipe from the 17th century, was worth nearly one million dollars.

Needless to say, we moved away from Greene County, into a nice new house with hot and cold running water, and basically never wanted for anything again.

The coins as it turns out, by the way, were Arabian.

(*Uisce Beatha is pronounced Ish-Ka-vah-ha)

The Ghost of Potter’s Road By Wesley Critchfield
Model Ms. Nina Roe

Model: Ms. Nina Roe

The Thing About Barbie

The Thing About Barbie

By Thomas M. Malafarina

“Brenda, this obsession of yours has gotten way out of control.” Herbert Weinstock said to his wife. He was standing in his living room with his briefcase, ready to head out to work. He looked about the room with a combination of disgust and frustration.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Herb,” she replied.

“Jesus, Brenda. You’ve gotta be kidding me! It’s this obsession you have with collecting all this Barbie crap! For God’s sake! You’re fifty-seven years old. Why the hell are you still collecting these ridiculous dolls?”

Herbert pointed to the hundreds of boxed Barbie dolls that lined the shelves on almost every wall. He had known his wife collected everything Barbie-related when he married her thirty-five years earlier, but back then, her collection had been relegated to a small extra bedroom in a seldom-used area of the house. Now, Barbie paraphernalia was found in abundance in every room.

Brenda replied, “You just don’t understand Herb. You never understood. The world of Barbie isn’t simply about collecting dolls; it’s so much more than that. The thing about Barbie is it’s a… well, I suppose it’s a lifestyle.”

“Lifestyle?” Herb shouted, “More like a cult of mindless idol-worshiping minions. That’s it! It’s idolatry; that’s what it is. Brenda, you’ve become an idol-worshipping pagan!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Herb. You just don’t get it. Barbie is so much more. Did you know that Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, and she was brought to us in 1959. Her creator was a wonderful woman named Ruth Handler. Barbie grew up in the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin, and she was named after Ruth Handler’s daughter, Barbara. And did you know Ken was named after Ruth’s son, Kenneth? But in Barbie’s world, he is actually called Kenneth Sean Carson, or Ken for short? Did you know he was introduced to the world in 1961, just two years after Barbie came into our lives?”

“Did I know? Of course, I knew. After all, I’ve been hearing you spew this ridiculous Barbie history nonsense for more than three decades.”

“Well then, Mr. Smarty Farty, did you know there were 176 different Barbie dolls produced with 9 body types, 35 different skin colors, and 94 different hairstyles?”

“No, Brenda, I didn’t know that, and guess what? My life has gone on just fine without knowing that.”

“Well, Herb, allow me to improve your knowledge. The Mattel company recently released a separate line of gender-neutral dolls called Creatable World?”

“Gender-neutral? All those stupid Barbie World dolls are gender-neutral. Ken’s got no equipment, neither does Barbie, and neither of them have nipples. If that ain’t gender-neutral, I don’t know what is.”

Ignoring his comment, Brenda added, “And for your information, that new Barbie movie had made around 1.5 billion dollars, Herb; not million but billion.”

“And I hate to think how much money came from you and your weirdo friends. I’ll bet you saw that movie like ten times.”

“Oh, I saw it way more times than that, Herb!”

“Like it’s not bad enough, you’re blowing all of our money on this doll garbage, but now the movie?”

“Think about it, Herb, Barbie’s popularity is rising again. It’s a rebirth of interest in Barbie’s world. My collection will be worth even more now.”

“First of all, your collection is worth nothing if you don’t sell it, and if you did ever decide to sell it, the junk is only worth whatever some other idiots are willing to pay for it.”

“Oh, Herb. You’ll never understand. Barbie is for everyone. Barbie now covers every aspect of society. There are hearing-impaired Barbies, heavier curvy Barbies, Muslim Barbies, Mexican Barbies, even a Barbie with Down Syndrome.”

“Wonderful! A retarded Barbie? I suppose that was made in honor of all you lifetime collectors.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say, Herb! It was a very kind thing for the Barbie folks to do. Now, truly everyone can find a place in Barbie world.”

“Really, Brenda? What about crazy 57-year-old overweight women who insist on living a fantasy life vicariously by collecting and hoarding stupid dolls? Where do those women fit in, Brenda?”

Brenda was taken aback for a moment, then regained her calm and said, “I’ll have you know, Herbert Weinstock, we Barbie enthusiasts are much more than collectors. We are the caretakers of the Barbie universe. That responsibility is a great and noble task. As you have so eloquently demonstrated by your juvenile comments, it can be a challenging duty, fraught with criticism and ridicule from those who are simply too ignorant to understand.”

“Ignorant? Ignorant? Look, Brenda. I’ve had it! I’m going to work, and when I get home, these dolls better be gone, or I’m going to pile them up in the backyard and burn them.”

Brenda screamed, “You… you wouldn’t! You couldn’t do something so horrible. You wouldn’t dare!”

“I most certainly would and most definitely will! Mark my words, Brenda!”

With that final declaration, Herbert left for the office, slamming the front door behind him. The impact caused several boxed Barbie toys to fall from their shelves. When one of the boxes fell, it revealed a small opening that had been cut into the wall and which was hidden by one of the boxes. Brenda reached into the void and retrieved a very special Barbie character. She had created it by modifying a damaged Ken doll she had picked up at a flea market. It was one Herbert had never seen.

She looked around the room at her prize collection and said, “Well, girls, I suppose we always knew it would come down to this someday.”


Herb sat at his office desk, still fuming over the morning’s confrontation with his wife. He realized he shouldn’t have lost his temper and given her the ultimatum. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel justified in doing so; it was just that now he was committed to act. If he did nothing, any of his future threats would become impotent. If he did what he threatened to do, his wife would never forgive him. There would likely be no need for future threats, as she would probably divorce him and take half of everything they owned, if not more.

As he sat at his desk, staring at his clasped, sweaty hands, he suddenly felt a sharp pain at the back of his neck. The agony was incredible, worse than anything he had ever experienced before. It felt like his flesh had been flayed. He reflexively tried to reach his hand back to the painful spot, only to discover he couldn’t move. Whatever malady had suddenly hit him, it had completely paralyzed him. He wondered if perhaps he was experiencing a stroke.

Herb believed he might be having a panic attack because he couldn’t breathe. It was as if something was cutting off his airways. Then the pain shifted to the front of his neck, and as he dropped face-first onto his desk, a steady stream of blood-tinged drool leaked from the corner of his now-dead mouth.


“Well, that should take care of things. Don’t you agree, ladies?” Brenda asked the silent Barbie figurines staring out from the clear plastic display windows of their coffin-like boxes.

She was looking down at the customized Barbie character he had made herself. It might have once been a Ken doll, but it no longer looked anything like one. Brenda had meticulously sanded off most of its hair, leaving only a semicircular fringe of hair around its head. What remained was hand-painted gray. She had also given the figure a gray mustache.

Brenda had hand-made a pair of plaid boxer shorts and a white wife-beater undershirt, complete with beer and pizza stains. She had made a round foam pot belly that filled out the shirt. It was no coincidence that the doll looked exactly like Herb. Nor was it surprising that the doll’s clothing had been made from Herb’s unwashed underwear or that the doll’s belt had been made from a string woven from strands of Herb’s hair Brenda had taken from his hairbrush over time. In fact, most people would probably say the doll could be Herb’s doppelganger if it weren’t for the fact that its head had just been sawed from its body.

The Thing About Barbie
Dragon’s Breath by Shauna Klein

Dragon’s Breath

by Shauna Klein

Brandon awoke to the sun streaming in his window through a crack in the curtain. He watched the dust particles float and swirl in the light until he heard the sound of his mother yelling at him.

“Brandon, get down here and eat something if you plan on hanging out today with your little friend.”

Brandon’s little friend happened to be his very best friend that lived a few blocks away. Brandon had grown up in the same house since he was born, but Billy had moved to town just a few months ago. While they had little in common other than sharing a zip code, what started out as the two of them sharing the same bus stop had turned into a bond that only 12 year old boys can have.

Today was Saturday, and the two boys had planned on walking down to the creek to swim. The summer sun was sweltering even at 8 a.m. but Brandon didn’t care—all he could think about was hanging out with Billy and going exploring. The swimming was just part of what they’d told their parents, but they also loved to explore the woods and since it was fairly close to home, Brandon’s parents allowed him to go; Billy’s parents simply didn’t care.

Brandon tried to eat his cereal as fast as possible, but his mom kept a watchful eye on him, making him take his time, which only seemed to make the corn flakes soggy and unappetizing.

“Next time, why don’t you invite Billy over to eat with you so you don’t have to rush?”

Brandon thought about how Billy would probably love to spend time at his house. While Brandon’s parents were pretty much a typical middle class family, Billy lived in a run-down house with weeds growing in the yard. His parents weren’t home much and when they were, they were either fighting or drinking, sometimes both. Even though they lived close to each other, the neighborhood couldn’t have been more different.

“Sure mom, that’s a great idea. I’m done now, can I go?”

“Okay, but you be back by lunchtime and bring Billy with you.”

“Sure, Mom—thanks!”

He grabbed his backpack and headed out the door. Billy was already standing by the stop sign down at the end of the block and had his things in a wrinkled Wal-Mart bag.

As they headed towards the woods, they talked about school and how things might change in the coming year. Mostly, they goofed off and talked about exploring the area, joking about what they’d do if they found a bag of money or a dead person—both of which sounded equally exciting.

Entering the wooded area was a relief because the trees made the temperature drop considerably. It was almost pleasant in there and the breeze cooled the sweat on their necks. The plants and detritus were greener, and the whole area smelled different—more like they were exploring a great forest surrounding a medieval castle instead of the woods near their neighborhood.

At first, they simply wandered around exploring before eventually heading towards the creek where they’d hang out and try to cool off.

“Hey, what’d you bring?” Brandon asked.

“I swiped a beer from my dad and a couple of candy bars.”

Brandon didn’t know about drinking the beer. It wasn’t as if he was some kind of prude, but he’d heard all about what it did to Billy’s dad and if that’s how someone acted when they were drunk he wanted no part of it. He’d seen the bruises on Billy in the past and figured his dad must have done it during one of his benders. He’d asked Billy about it, but his face darkened and his had simply said that he didn’t want to talk about it. Why would Billy even bring something like that in the first place?

As they walked through the woods they came across an abandoned well. The weeds had grown over it, almost covering it up entirely, yet they could still see a bit of moss-covered stone.

Billy stepped closer to it and leaned down.

“Whoa, we could have fallen in that thing, Billy. What are you doing, be careful!”

“I want to look inside.”

As Billy pried on the wood covering the well, they both heard something inside. It sounded almost like a rustling noise with a slight roar to it.

“Dude, what if it’s a huge bug? There can’t be anything in there that isn’t a snake or a bug or something.”

Finally, one of the boards came off, knocking Billy onto his butt. Brandon laughed at him and then walked a little closer to see what was in there.

The creature they saw looked somewhat like a lavender colored lizard, yet it had wings that were golden. It was making mewling noises and looked like a baby of some sort.

“What the hell is that?”

“I don’t know Billy, but I’ve never seen anything like it.”

About that time the little creature opened its mouth and a tiny stream of fire shot out, similar to those lighters used to light the grill.

“Holy shit, Brandon did you see that?”

“Yeah, I saw it. It’s a freaking dragon or something.”

“Those don’t exist, right? I mean, how is it possible?” said Billy.

Brandon reached down and held out his hand. “Come here little guy, we won’t hurt you.”

The little creature was hesitant at first but slowly flapped its wings and settled on Brandon’s fingertip.

“Holy shit,” Billy yelled again, scaring Brandon a little.

 “Shh, be quiet you’ll scare him,” Brandon said in a whisper.

 “Heck, how do you even know if it’s a girl or a boy?”

 “Who cares? It’s an honest-to-God dragon, I think.”

 “What’ll we do with it? What’s it eat, how will we keep it?”

 “I don’t know, but he seems to like me. I’ll take him home and keep him,” Brandon said.

 “Why do you get to take him home? It was my idea to open up the well and look inside.”

 Brandon felt himself start to get angry. “What’s Billy going to do anyway? Take the dragon home and raise it around his drunk dad?”

 And with that very thought swimming around in his head, the sun beating down on his face, and his anger growing with every second, Brandon bent down and let the dragon climb down to his backpack.

He stepped forward where Billy was standing by the well and yelled in his face, “You’re not taking him!”

 “Oh, and why not? My house isn’t good enough? Why are we arguing about it anyway? Maybe we can take turns or something.”

 All Brandon could do was think of how Billy would ruin what they had found, how he’d tell everyone, and maybe even become famous. All the while, Brandon would become nothing—just someone who was there and let the opportunity slip through his fingers.

 While they argued, the little dragon sat there on Brandon’s backpack—cocking its head to the side every so often when the boys raised their voices.

Brandon had never been an angry child and had never even been in a fight, but suddenly he pushed Billy as hard as he could.

 Watching him fall into the well meant nothing to Brandon; he simply watched his friend disappear, his screams following him down until they could hardly be heard.

 Brandon reached down and tossed Billy’s things in after him—the Wal-Mart bag, which floated down slowly as the breeze almost lifted it back out. The beer was next, and then Brandon sat down on the grass beside the well, eating the candy bars until he could no longer hear Billy calling his name.

 He had no idea how long he sat there, but the wind had started to pick up and the light was fading. He spent the hours talking to the dragon, telling it how he had to do what was necessary.

 He knew he’d be in trouble for being out so late, but he didn’t care. The dragon hopped up on his shoulder and Brandon headed for home.

 His mom yelled at him when he finally got home, and he was grounded, but he didn’t care. He’d carried the little dragon in his backpack, sneaking it into his room where he put it in an old fish tank he found in the garage.

 Brandon played with his dragon all weekend—watching it breathe tiny gusts of fire out of its mouth. He didn’t know what the dragon would eat but after looking on the Internet, it seemed that most sites implied that dragons were either carnivores or omnivores. The little dragon seemed content with the bits of raw hamburger Brandon took from the meat his mom had thawing for dinner, and he had put a saucer of water in the tank for when he didn’t have the dragon out. While the dragon seemed to be able to fly, it never left the tank while Brandon was sleeping, as far as he could tell.

 On Monday, Brandon was supposed to go to his grandmother’s house and while he didn’t want to, he couldn’t very well tell his mom why not. Besides, she was already asking about Billy, and he had no plans to discuss that. He simply told her that he hadn’t heard from him lately. Billy’s parents hadn’t even reported him missing as far as he knew so everything was fine.

 After spending all day with his grandmother, he was finally picked up and could go home to see his prized possession, the dragon he named Fraener. As he ran to his room the first thing he noticed was that the tank was gone.

 “Mom! Where’s my dragon? What’d you do?” Brandon screamed.

 “Oh, that thing? I threw it out. I’ve told you about bringing home lizards and frogs; I won’t have them in my house.”

Interview With Elizabeth Massie

Interview With Elizabeth Massie

Elizabeth Massie is known for her work in horror and dark fantasy and has written numerous novels, short stories, and novellas, often exploring themes related to the supernatural. Massie's works have earned her critical acclaim and awards for her contributions to the genre, such as the Bram Stoker award from the Horror Writers Association. But, most of all, Massie has a dedicated following among fans of horror literature, including your humble staff here at Screaming Eye Press.

Where are you from? What is your background?

My family has lived in my region of western Virginia since 1747, having immigrated from Scotland. I live in Augusta County, just 6 miles from where I was born. My grandfather stared our town’s newspaper and my father was, likewise, a journalist who wrote well-crafted articles as well as clunky and hilarious poetry. I’m the first family member (as far as I’m aware) became a career fiction-writer, but, like a journalist, I do love researching topics for my fiction.

What inspired you to become a writer?

As a child I always inundated my family with “what if?” questions. At the gas station prior to a road trip: “What if that dog over there got into our car and wouldn’t get out?” In the backyard at night: “What if there was a witch hiding in those shadows?” In the movie theater: “What if that man in the movie hopped out of the screen and came down to sit with us?” So I don’t know if I was inspired to be a writer; I think I just was!

So many writers sold their first if not one of their first stories to David B. Silva’s The Horror Show Magazine. Did you submit “Whittler” just for that magazine in other markets, and what was the inspiration for it?

I met Brian Hodge at a writers’ conference in Boston many years ago, a conference that focused on horror. I’d never sold a story; had never even submitted a story for publication. Brian told me about The Horror Show, and how he’d just sold his first story. Up until then, the stories I’d written were all quite long, but he said The Horror Show preferred stories 3,000 words or less. When I got back home to Virginia, I challenged myself to write a very short, complete horror tale, and “Whittler” was born. It was inspired by time my family spent in the Smoky Mountains and we would watch people from the mountains have whittling contests. I sent it off to Dave Silva (snail mail back in the day!) and within just a few weeks got an acceptance letter and a check for $2.

What inspired you to write the novels Sineater and “Stephen”?

Sineater, my first novel, was actually inspired by a made-for-television movie starring Lindsay Wagner as a nurse who spends time in Appalachia. There was a minor character in that movie, a sineater, who was outcast and despised, in spite of the important role he played in the community. I felt someone like that needed a story of his own. As to “Stephen,” which actually is a novelette rather than a novel, it came almost fully formed from a dream. Except in my dream, Stephen was housed in a barn, not a rehabilitation facility.

You have a series called Ameri-Scares, was it a conscious decision to write for a younger audience?

Oh, absolutely. I was a middle science school teacher for 19 years. Middle school kids are awesome and curious and energetic. Encouraging them to read was and remains a goal of mine. Knowing that so many of those kids (like I did when I was about 10 years old) love to read scary books, I decided to launch the Ameri-Scares series. The series is spooky, exciting, and features protagonists of middle school age. The books are not gory or over-the-top, but are what I consider age appropriate. I’ve heard from readers who love the series, and that’s very satisfying!

What advice can you give to new writers?

Read a great deal, in a wide variety of genres. Know that first drafts are rarely if ever perfect. Don’t be upset by constructive criticism. Some say you have to write every day but I disagree. Sometimes you just need time to step back from what you’re doing so when you return to it, you have a fresh eye.

How do you feel about the current state of genre fiction?

It ebbs and flows like everything else. At the moment, horror as a genre seems to be doing well, what with shows like The Last of Us, movies by Jordan Peele, and the Shudder network. I’d like to think that such exciting, visible horror translates into readers seeking out actual novels and short fiction, but I can’t say for certain. With fewer bookstores and fewer horror sections in the stores that are still with us, it looks discouraging.  Yet, though big-house publishers seem less into horror than back when, say, Stephen King started out, there are many quality specialty/small presses offering amazing horror fiction, which is great. The flip side, though, is that there are plenty of amateurish “publishers” who don’t know what quality fiction constitutes and lots of writers who aren’t ready to publish who go ahead and self-publish poorly written material. In short, people are into horror, there is a great deal of excellent horror fiction to be enjoyed, and it’s just a matter of wading through the junk to find the good stuff.

Do you think your environment, past area you’ve lived in, has an effect on your writing?

Sure. I’ve lived within six miles of where I am now for my entire life. Much of my work is set in Virginia or the South.

I see that you wrote media-tie-in for the Tudors TV show. We’re they strict with plot points, or were you allowed to take stories where you wanted?

The books I wrote for the Showtime Tudors television series were a specific kind of media-tie in, a novelization. I was sent the scripts, which were in many cases bare bones dialogue with a little bit of scene description, and I fleshed out and crafted the scripts into novels (novelizations.) So, yes, I need to follow the plot points very carefully.

What projects are working on now?

Following a year fighting cancer during which I had a hard time focusing, I’m back in the saddle. I’m juggling two commissioned short stories as well as the novella sequel to my novel, Sineater.

Madame Cruller's Couch and Other Dark and BIzarre Tales
Grimwood’s Devil By Mark Slade

Grimwood’s Devil

By Mark Slade

A friend of mine named Hal Pressman called and said, “Hey, Walt! You gotta come over here and see this!” He hung up with a chuckle, not even giving me a chance to say I was working in the garden with Marci.

She noticed the perturbed expression on my face.

“Who was that?” She asked, rising from the ground and dusting dirt from her bare knees.

“Hal,” I rolled my eyes, put my phone back in my jean pocket.

“Good grief,” Marci said, exasperated. “What does he want?”

“He wants me to come over to his cottage.”

“You were just there yesterday.”  Fuming, Marci added, “Watching Porky Pig cartoons for twelve hours, I might add.”

“Popeye,” I corrected her.

“What’s the difference?”

There was no arguing a point when a person has no interest in the subject of their outrage.

Marci continued. “When the University job starts you won’t have as much time for Hal. Because what little time you will have will belong to me.”

“I know,” I whined.

Marci had hammered home that statement since Coleman University hired me to teach Film studies last month.

“Why is he obsessed over cartoons?”

“Animation,” I corrected.

“Whatever it’s called, Walter, a grown man shouldn’t be watching that stuff as much as he does.”

I shrugged. “He’s writing a book.”

“So he says. I think he’s just lazy. Weird to quit a good job managing one of the biggest resorts in the country,” Marci said. “He does know you have a wife, doesn’t he?”

“Marci, what can I do?”

“You can say no. That you are spending the day with your beautiful, charming wife.”

“I could.”

Marci sighed, rubbed my back affectionately.

“But you won’t.”

“The man is lonely. After Debbie left him, he went to pieces. Finally, he’s back to normal—”

“Whatever normal is for Hal,” Marci said.

“No wonder she left him.. He’s so  obsessive. I don’t know how she stood it for six years. All those VHS tapes of those old weird cartoons—”

“I didn’t mind… most of the time. It was all I could do to get him off the bottle,” I said. “I feel I have to keep an eye on him “

I knocked once and the oval shaped door sprung open. A small, pear shaped man with tiny black eyes looked left, then right, his lampshade haircut jostled sporadically in time. His rubbery lips spread wide across his face in a huge smile.

“Hey!” Life appeared behind those usually dull  eyes. “You came!”

“Of course I came, Hal,” I barked at him. “I didn’t have a choice.”

A serious expression momentarily danced across his face.

“How do you mean?”

I sighed heavily. “Nevermind.”

Happiness brightened him. “Well, don’t just stand there in hundred degree weather. Come into the air conditioning, you big lug.” He guffawed, stood to the side to let me inside his very small cottage.

The place was a mess.

Hal was always a packrat and a hoarder. One of the many problems his ex-wife had with him. Not engaging her in conversation, was one. Not showing affection, another. Terrible with money, and not very interested in sex, was capped with anger in Hal’s voice. The list went on and on, as part of a teary, drunken confession Hal carried on with me last year.

Boxes and boxes were stacked everywhere. Books piled on the love seat, unwashed clothes scattered on the main sofa, as well as bags and packages of junk food, discarded remnants of food on the linoleum floor as well as empty water bottles on the window seals.

“Jesus, Hal,” I said, covering my nose in hopes to muffle the awful, dank smell offending and possibly burning off my nose hairs. “You could invest in some Air Wick candles.”

“Oh, that smell isn’t coming from me,” he said very seriously.

“All the dirty clothes and rotting food, I’m sure of it.”

“The clothes aren’t dirty. I just washed them. And the packages on the floor are from a ripped trash bag.”

“Why didn’t you sweep it up?”

“I did. Tossed the trash in a new bag, was getting ready to take it to the dumpster when you knocked. I sat the bag on the floor and… well. You see it.”

“At least put the clothes away,” I told him.

“I did. I leave the bedroom and they’re back on the sofa again.”

I gave him a disappointed look.

He said with childish enthusiasm, “That’s not why I called you over.” He walked to a small staircase, glanced over his shoulder and motioned for me to follow. “Down here. I got something to show you.”

He scampered down those narrow steps. Reluctantly, and much slower, my feet gingerly pummeled the loose boards. An unshaded bright bulb lit the basement, nearly blinding me. All I saw were more boxes and a cot with a piss stained mattress and a very old fake Christmas tree missing the plastic limbs.

Hal went directly to a cupboard built into the wall, breaking up the dull visual of gray brick and mortar. He flung the door, turned to me with the biggest and shiniest Kool-Aid smile I’d ever seen.

“This,” he said breathlessly. “I can’t believe I am sharing this with my best friend.”

An endearing sentiment, but overstated in my opinion. I liked Hal very much. I didn’t consider him my best friend at all. My best friend was living in New Mexico at the time. Karen, my sister. We were always close. So close, rumors in our highschool unbounded unfavorably about us.

“Okay, Hal,” I held my hands palm up. “Take it easy. This wouldn’t be that box of vintage Blue Films your Dad had in his collection years ago?”

“No,” he said calmly. “I sold that to the Carver museum of Film and Television Institute two years ago. I told you that already.”

“Oh. So you did,” I feigned a smile.

Hal reached into the cupboard with both hands. He pulled out a bunch of papers, causing dust to swirl around his face.

“You’ve heard of Nat Grimwood, right?”

I thought about it. “Yeah. I think so. Cartoonist in the 1900s?”

Hal nodded. “Yep. What else?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, Hal.”

“Political cartoons. Comic strips like Funny Tales, about a monkey and a crocodile. Mrs. Winston, a socialite in New York City, Crikey and Spitfire, boy and girl trouble makers—”

“Okay, okay, Hal,” I interrupted impatiently.

“Hold on. You need to hear this. Has to do with what I found.”

He walked over with the dusty photo albums and brittle pieces of yellowing paper. He shoved them in my arms

“Hey,” I protested

“Carry these upstairs and I’ll bring the rest.”

“The rest?” I struggled to keep all of what was in my arms because the weight and awkwardness of the paper sizes

“Oh, yes,” he giggled maniacally. “There’s more, Walter. There’s more.”

I did as he said, dumping the photo albums and papers on top of the piles of clothes on the sofa. My arms were grateful. Thirty seconds later, Hal stumbled into the living room and dropped a few sheets of Cels on the floor.

Animation celluloid, if you are unfamiliar with the term, are transparent sheets on which objects are drawn or painted for traditional, hand-drawn animation. Actual celluloid (consisting of cellulose nitrate and camphor) was used during the first half of the 20th century, but since it was flammable and dimensionally unstable it was largely replaced by cellulose acetate. With the advent of computer-assisted animation production, the use of cels has been all but abandoned in major productions.

I stared at the brittle transparencies.

They should have crumbled or caught fire decades ago.

On the three sheets, I found myself glaring at, consisted of a semi-realistic black and white ink drawing of a hideous little devil climbing out of an ink jar, his clawed fingers gripping the rounded sides. His pointed ears set back on a rounded head, little pug nose flared, furrowed brow on tiny slit eyes, and  upturned lips tangled in two fangs revealing a sardonic, evil smile.

“A little Devil,” Hal laughed heartily.


Momentarily, I shifted my eyes from the drawings to glance at an overly happy idiot smiling from ear to ear.

 “The Grimwood Devil, buddy!” Hal exclaimed.  “I found the comic strips he drew for the Southern Daily and for three years published in thirty newspapers all over the world.”

I blinked a few times.

“Nat Grimwood,” I said.

“Yeah! Isn’t it great?”

It was great. But my mind was still foggy.


“Aren’t you going to look at them?”


“The Cels? The cartoon strips?”

“I will, yes. I have a question?”

Hal tugged at his plastic gloves. I hadn’t noticed he was wearing them. He must’ve slapped them on before I got to the basement. Anyway,he dropped to his knees, picked up  a cel and examined it carefully. Several seconds passed before he answered me.

“What’s the question?”

“How did you come by all this?”

Hal glanced at me, then back to staring at  the cel.

“Chance, I assume.”

“There’s no way you just stumble onto an important find like this “

“I didn’t exactly stumble on this,” he said.

“Uh-huh,” I nodded. “Do tell.”

“I read Grimwood may have owned this cottage.”

“Did he?”

“Well, obviously, Walter. I found all this,” he waved his hand across the pile of drawings that lay at his knees.

“How did you surmise he owned this particular cottage out of all the cottages in the city, or even in this remote area?”

“I Researched it. Hey, are you interested in helping me write a biography of Nat Grimwood?”

“A book?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled, shaking his head. “I don’t mean baking a cake. Of  course a book. I’m almost done with my Guide to the Greatest Animated Shorts book. I talked to Maurice. He’s really into publishing all the Animated Film book ideas I have—”

“This is really happening?”

“Yeah. This is a thing.” He stood, went to a desk I didn’t know he had because so much junk was sitting on it. He removed his laptop, and showed me the email exchange between him and Maurice Ben, Publisher at Pinnacle books.

“I’m impressed, Hal.”

“Thanks, buddy,” he chuckled. “Whadda ya say?”

“A book?” Marci said, wide-eyed. She was in the kitchen preparing lunch, two bowls of salad sat on the counter already, and Marci was in the middle of making the second ham sandwich.

“Yeah. Apparently, this is going to be his third book,” I said.

“He never said anything,” she said. “Nothing on his Facebook, or his Instagram. You wouldn’t know, you don’t do social media,” she held her fingers in the air to mimic quote marks. “Why didn’t he say he was published?”

“I asked him that,” I poured my Fiji water into a glass of ice, and grabbed her a can of Tab. “He said he was embarrassed to tell anyone, apart from me, that he was working on one.”

“Is he getting paid?”

“Yes, Marci,” I flashed a smile. “He showed me the statement. Royalties. Um, not too shabby. Not enough to pay the mortgage, he can, however, pay his Electric bill.”

“Hmm. You get to spend more time with your bestie than with your wife—”

“Marci.” I warned her.

“—While writing a book, making a prestigious name for the family, I might add.” Marci drew closer, studying my dour face. “Why do you have that look on your face?”

“Well,” I said slowly, still clutching to a thought. “While I was looking through the drawings, holding them in my hands…”

“Okay.” Marci scoffed.

“I could feel heat from the paper. Each drawing felt warmer and warmer…I thought I heard a voice.”

“A voice?”

Marci stifled a giggle. She found her composure, and asked, “What did it say, Walter? This voice?”

I shrugged.

“Yes?” She held her hands in the air.

I cleared my throat. I didn’t want to say it, but Marci goaded me.

“Walter, you can’t leave a girl hanging.”


“Flesh.” She repeated.

“Yeah, flesh.”

“Oh,” she said, after another study of my face. She’d become concerned.  “Walter. You look haunted.”

“I feel haunted,” I said.

“Maybe you should tell Hal you don’t want to work on the book with him.”

“I can’t do that, Marci. I promised.”

She nodded. “Don’t bring your hauntings home.” She said sternly, slightly fuming.

I didn’t like the ultimatum. Still, she had a point. I smiled and kissed her on the cheek.

“Okay,” I said.

“Okay. And you are going to write this biography of a cartoonist with him,” Marci looked at me incredulously as she handed me a ham sandwich.

“Oh,” I handed her a yellowing sheet of paper with a pen and ink drawing of a hand holding the little devil by the nape of his neck, skin between a forefinger and a thumb. “Hal said you can make copies of this drawing for invitations to our Halloween party.”

She laughed and cried out, “How cute! Oh, that’s very sweet of him. Walter, you are silly. Feeling haunted?” she tsked, tsked at me. “This is cute. Thank Hal for me.”

“You can thank him yourself. Come with me tomorrow to his cottage—”

“No, thank you—”

“You’ve never been, Marci—”

“And I don’t plan to. You know I don’t like Hal very much, Walter.” She waited, then added: “He creeps me out.”

I was tasked with researching Nat Grimwood’s life, while Hal traced the evolution and dates of his newspaper cartoons and the only animated film Grimwood made, based on his first successful strip, the Grimwood Devil. Online, I really only found bits and pieces, a wikipedia page that contradicted some online sites. I also found one book that had been written about Grimwood.

Written by animation students, Ferlin Klusky and Deedee Brinin, the mid eighties. The two of them ended up as a couple until Ferlin’s suicide just before the book was published. The book has been out of print for years, still I wanted to track down a copy, which proved difficult.

The University Library helped quite a bit. With an interlibrary loan from a very small Library in Omaha, the dogeared book arrived with several pages looking as if they had been chewed up. Also, I found pages with burn marks, and the smell of sulfur, piss, and shit, which forever invaded my delicate nose hairs.

What I found out about Grimwood was that his birthdate was sketchy at best. Three different dates were given in the book, online; which I do not trust at all, and a side note in a little known/little seen hour long documentary made for British television about fellow cartoonist and animator–Winsor McCay. November 13, 1871 in Queensfist, South Carolina. April 2, 1868 in Buffalo Springs, Georgia. And July 10, 1874 in Richmond, Virginia, is what he’d told people, and that was from the documentary.

He also said on numerous occasions his family had owned Virginia’s oldest newspaper in America, Chesterfield Carrier. His mother had been a successful actress and singer, from the famous Jolene family of Artists and performers.

It was a lie.

His mother, Maggie Grimwood, was an unmarried housekeeper for Joseph Dale, a Virginia lawyer who was possibly Grimwood’s father. They lived in a tiny shack behind the Dale residence, a three story mansion. Dale paid for Nathan’s art lessons at Richmond Art Institute. From Art School to his first job at Charlottesville Daily in 1907, until 1915, he drew political cartoons, and later drew his most popular strip, Grimwood’s Devil.

Basically, every strip began the same way. A realistically drawn hand dips his pen in an inkwell and when the pen rises, a semi-realistic black devil is sitting on the tip. Three panels of hand trying to stop the devil from causing chaos, either in panels already drawn—-such as the devil disturbing a wedding, or in Grimwood’s own life—such as eating his sandwich or taking flames from the fireplace and trying to burn Grimwood’s house. The last panel always ends with the hand stained with ink, holding the devil by the nape of its neck and placing it back into the inkwell, the other hand ready to screw the top back on. 

So popular was Grimwood’s Devil, he followed Winsor McCay into animating his first and only completed film in 1914, using two plots from the strip, the hand stopping the devil’s hijinks of eating the sandwich and jumping out the apartment window to ruin a wedding. The four minute animated film played to huge box office numbers, making Grimwood quite a bit of money, but cost him his job at the Charlottesville Daily.

I went to the University Library where they still had archival materials of the Charlottesville Daily from 1908, scattered through our months of January, September, and December in years 1909-1911, and one paper dated February 3, 1915 showing headlined Editorial about Nat Grimwood, disputing a rumor Grimwood’s Devil was coming out the newspaper and terrorizing readers and their families, neighbors and friends. The Editorial went on with this note: “We at the paper sincerely apologizes for the trouble, if any of the fantastically, nonsensical events actually occurred”. It ended with the announcement that Bat Grimwood would be leaving for other opportunities.

Grimwood died of suicide in 1917, after discovering he had no more money for his second animated film. His throat had been smashed, and his fingers chewed to be bone. The police closed the case, rules as a suicide, and declared Grimwood had been practicing self mutilation. No weapon was found.

As I was reading the biography written by Klusky and Brining, the pages dissipated into dust.

I went to see Hal to tell him the progress I had made in my research and possibly bring up the weird suicides connected to Grimwood. Hal didn’t answer the door. I was a little confused, because we just traded texts less than ten minutes prior. I pounded on his door. I sent more texts and even called his phone.

“How odd,” Marci said. Almost as an afterthought she added, “I’m printing out the Halloween invitations. You think fifty is too much?”

“Oh, it gets odder,” I said.

 I caught her at the computer, she’d been scanning some pages. Her eyes grew bigger when she looked up at me.

“Walter… look at you! Your clothes are in tatters!” Marci jumped from the swivel chair and ran to me.

She hugged me and I winced.She pulled away, softly touched my cheek.She asked what happened.

Slowly, I began revealing the events of the afternoon.

“I went around the back of the cottage—”

“You climbed a fence!” Marci interrupted as she burst into laughter.

“I… climbed a fence, yes.”

“Crawled through a tunnel of briar Holley.”

I pulled my shirt up to my neck, showed Marci the long scratches all over my back.

 “Poor baby!”

 She rushed to the bathroom, and returned with a jar of salve. “Tell me all about this strange incident with Hal while I fix you up,” she said, dipping her hand in the jar.

I had to break a window to get inside Hal’s cottage.

I found him completely naked, balled up in a fetal position.  A can of lighter flud sitting beside him and a drawing of Grimwood’s Devil. His whole body was covered in scratches and bite marks. He was shaking, weeping and sobbing, whispering to himself.

“Hal? What happened to you?”

Took him a long moment to recognize me. He sobbed uncontrollably as hugged my neck.

“Walter, Walter, Walter,” was all he could manage.

I helped him to his feet, and into some clothes that hadn’t been torn to shreds. We sat on the couch after I shoved some books to the floor.

“Tell me what happened, Hal,” I said.

He wiped his tear-stained cheeks with open hands, shook his head. “You won’t believe me,” he said.

“Doesn’t matter, Hal,” I told him. “Just tell me, please. I’m very concerned for you.”

“They’re after me, Walter.”

“Who’s after?”

“Them,” he pointed to a black and white drawing of Grimwood’s Devil.

I also saw a large black spot on the floor near the fireplace. A pile of blackened ashes and tiny pieces of paper surrounded the open  folders Hal kept Grimwood’s art in.


“Yes,” he choked back a sob. “I’ve been burning Grimwood’s drawings. Tearing them up. Even the Cels.”

“Why? Why would you do that!?” I screamed. “We need those for the book—”

“To hell with the book!” He squealed. “I don’t give a damn about that book, Grimwood, or Grimwood’s Devil. Listen to me, Walter, I-I-I know you won’t believe me. I… know–no one is going to believe me. Those things—” he pointed to the last remaining drawing of Grimwood’s Devil, lying there on the floor. “They come to life. They come to life and they attacked me. You know, you know my clothes, they-they ripped them up! That awful, horrible smell, that comes from them! The trash… Oh, God. They love to dig in the trash. All my vinyl records, they broke them. I-I was playing Neil Sedaka… Made one of them really, really angry…” he stopped talking, twisted his head around violently. Turned quickly back to me. “Please help me. Walter, take me  somewhere safe.Away from… them.”

He broke down, covered his face with his hands as he wept.

“What did you do?” Marci asked, hanging on to my every word.

“I took him to the hospital,” I sighed deeply. “After the nurses and doctors settled him in, and I explained to them, the Police eventually, I found Hal outside his house, naked on the lawn.”

“Did they believe you?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Better than what he told me. They asked me if I thought Burglars had been there and assaulted Hal. “That would have been a better than what he told me. More believable.”

“I admit,” Marci said. “That’s a very strange story.”

I nodded.

“You’re not going to like mine either.” I told her. “I went back to Hal’s cottage.”

Frightened, Marci touched her lips with a hand.”Oh,Walter. Were there burglars there?”

I shook my head no.

I’m not sure why I went back.  I felt compelled to. Maybe a part of me believed Hal. If what he told was true, I needed to find out for myself.

In the midst of the turmoil and confusion, we forgot to lock the front door to Hal’s Cottage. I pushed the door with a hand and it swung open. An awful odor, the smell of death–a body that had been decomposing for months–hit me right away. Dread filled my every being.

Cautiously, I walked inside. I stood just outside the threshold and surveyed my surroundings. I held my breath.

I heard the whisper.


Then small, hollow pounding of running footsteps. I jerked my head to the left. Nothing. I jerked my head to the right. Nothing. Again, I heard the whispering.


Hollow pitter patter followed.

“What the hell?”

Suddenly, I was on my face. I hit the floor with such terrible force, the wood floors bloodied my nose. Something had  swept me off my feet and I felt a burning sensation on the back of my left ankle.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a black lined drawing of a little devil crawling up my leg. His tiny taloned fingers dug  deep into my pants; shredding the fabric of my jeans, and taking long strides of skin with them.

The cartoon devil, the thick black inked devil from Grimwood’s newspaper strip, was attacking me!

I screamed, rose up to my knees, using the palms of my hands for balance. That little devil had slid from my leg, tumbling to the floor. I rolled over and saw the horrible little thing was rushing towards my face with a sharpened taloned index finger.  I quickly spring to my feet. The devil just missed my left eye.  Grumbling under its breath, the terrible thing swiped at the air and spun around to catch me in the back of my ankle.

I squealed like an injured animal.

It’s one claw was embedded deep into my skin. It swung back and forth to avoid drops of blood draining profusely from my wound.  I stumbled around, shaking my leg, trying in vain to rid myself of the three inch murderous cartoon character.

He started climbing me, using his claws as if he was using a mountaineering blade. Screaming, I swirled around and around. In the meantime, his claws were shredding my clothes and causing several small wounds. I fell flat on my face.

The devil was on my back, clawing and biting my shoulder. Shrieking, I reared my head back and felt the creature take a bite like it was an apple.

That’s when I saw the can of lighter fluid lying on its side, a puddle of clear liquid leaked onto a drawing of the little devil. To the right of it, just a few inches, was a lighter. I reached for it with my right hand.  As if that little fucker knew what I was going to do, it hopped to the floor and clamped its  tiny sharp teeth onto my index finger. Shrieking again, I waved my hand around like a mad man. The little devil wouldn’t budge. So I grabbed the lighter with my left hand, rolled the wheel once and a flame sparked just enough to catch lighter fluid and the drawing.

The little devil let go of my finger just as it caught ablaze. This time there were echoes of its shrieks. Right before my eyes, I saw the devil’s body fizzle into a charred carcass, and explode into a pile of sulfur as it hit the floor.

“My God,” Marci said,shocked, half-believing my story.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell you,” I said. “I see in your eyes you aren’t sure if you believe me.”

“Walt, I don’t know… has to be… true? Look at the state of… you?”

“I know,” I sighed. “I almost don’t believe it myself.”

Marci gasped.

Both our eyes shifted to the printer. Several sheets of white bond paper lie in the tray, all bearing black and white drawings of Grimwood’s Devil.

Grimwood’s Devil By Mark Slade
Interview With Jill Bauman - Weed Species

Interview With Jill Bauman

Jill Bauman is renowned for her exceptional work in the realms of horror, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. With numerous award nominations, her talent has been recognized on both the World Fantasy and Chesley Award stages. Bauman's art has graced prestigious venues such as the Delaware Art Museum and the Science Fiction Museum of Seattle, while her book covers have adorned bestsellers and iconic works, including Lilian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who..." series.

Where were you born? What is your background?

I was born in Brooklyn, NY. My parents then moved to Long Island and

later on I moved to Queens, NY. New York is in my blood. Three years ago I moved to Tucson, Arizona and love it here.

Were you creative as a child?

I was very creative as a child. When I discovered the “Magic Stick” and could make marks on paper, I was hooked. I had to figure out how to control this tool. You could always find me drawing or reading. Who knew that years later I would combine my two passions. So, illustrating books became my love & vocation.

Who influenced you to be an artist?

My mother created some art until my sister and I came along, but it all stopped there.

I loved art history, museums and reading biographies of artists.

How did you go from being a child to later become an artist?

While in Brooklyn, there was a class trip to the Brooklyn Museum on a school trip. Here I opened my eyes to another world. Later on it was the Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and Frick Museum in New York City that gave me a place that felt like my home away from home. Each year I would purchase a membership in whichever museum featured an artist I really admired. I have very eclectic taste in art from Franz Marc to Rembrandt to Magritte and of course Picasso and Dali. I love Flemish art, Renaissance to Surrealism.

How did you break into commercial art?

For as long as I can remember, I was always creating art. I graduated college with an art education major. I became a teacher. I was still drawing and painting through it all. Years later, I met Walter Velez and at some point I became his agent and he became my mentor. He had clients such as Scholastic, RCA, Essence Magazine and more. I jumped right into it and got him assignments while still learning the business of art. Walter told me he needed an agent and in exchange he would help me prepare my work for illustration. There was a catch to this, he said I must work with him, but cannot show my work for two years. At the time, it seemed like an eternity, but I agreed.

Finally, one day, he said, “OK you can show your work now.” I went out and got my first assignment.

Were you ever bothered by the stories you had to do covers for or are you a horror fan?

There were stories that were disturbing, but when it comes to creating a cover for a book, I choose to disturb, not disgust. I’m a fan of good storytelling and good writing no matter the genre.

Is it true you refused to paint dead bodies or anything gruesome for the covers?

My assignment is to create a cover that will help sell the book. The cover should catch the essence of the book. In horror novels & mystery novels there are dead bodies, but there will be those who are turned off by that imagery. I use other symbols rather than a dead body. Dolls, a trail of blood, or sometimes a skull says it all.

Who were some of your favorite writers you did covers for?

I have been fortunate to get assignments by great writers such as Charles L. Grant, Ramsey Campbell, Alan Ryan, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Richard Laymon and many more.

Were art editors difficult to deal with?

Most art directors are great to work with. They work in conjunction with the editors to make sure the art works with the story. No one person makes the final decision. It’s a joint decision as to the look of the art for a book.

Did you have problems with censorship?

I’ve never had a problem with censorship.

Those covers you did were creepy as hell. What was your technique for creating them?

Creepy is good. I usually say that I want to disturb, not disgust. I’m very careful to create a cover that catches the essence of the story. I want it intriguing and bold. I try to create a look for the cover that people will notice, pick up the book, buy the book and hopefully read the book. Then I’ve done my job.

What projects are you working on now?

I recently created a cover for the current Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine. Currently, I’m working on a submission for a local gallery. The gallery sends out a “call for entries with a particular them. I will send out the art when I’m finished and hopefully my art will be accepted for the show.

Jill Bauman
Illustrator and Artist: Jill Bauman
Ten Questions For Liz Davinci

Ten Questions For Liz Davinci

Hailing from California and currently residing in Munich, Germany, Liz Davinci is a musician and pianist renowned for her hauntingly beautiful vocal style, often drawing comparisons to the iconic Kate Bush. With classical piano training as her foundation, Liz embarked on her musical journey with her debut album "Obstruction Destruction" in 2017, steadily delving deeper into her creative imagination and intuition to craft distinctive and expressive compositions.

1. Where are you from? What is your background?

I was born and raised in California and studied music in San Diego after many years of piano lessons. Later I moved to The Netherlands to study at the music conservatory there with the composer Louis Andriessen.

2. What inspired you to become a musician?

Music has always drawn me in more than any other thing because I feel I can express myself best in music and I feel good when I am making music, no matter what is going on in my life.

3. What was the first song you remember hearing as a child?

I remember my Mom singing “Cat’s in the Cradle” to me when I was really little and I had an ear infection. She was holding me and it made me feel better.

4. What performer or artist/writer inspires you the most?

Many people inspire me but I will go with Ludwig van Beethoven as my biggest inspiration.

5. What methods of recording do you use?

I use a high-quality audio interface and very standard quality microphones, pianos, guitar, bass guitar and/or drums.  I go back and forth between more “studio” type recording and live, solo recording depending on the project.

6. Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on type of art you create?

Where I live has an immense impact on my art. I love living in Europe because of the diverse architecture and scenery and this makes up much of my video work. The lifestyle is very different than my lifestyle was in California, which brings me more into contact with people. I always talk to strangers wherever I go, as I feel now totally comfortable in this culture. Surprisingly though, even having lived here for years, a part of me always feels on holiday.

7. What long term goals do you have?

I believe my ultimate goal is to create a high-quality Gesamtkunstwerk, which I envision as a sort of artistic movie, with music and text.

8. What do you think the popular culture will be like in ten years?

I think the perfectionism that AI has enabled in art, music, film and the like will become less enjoyed by the masses. I believe that people might move away from smartphones and the internet and will get into “old-fashioned” arts such as learning an instrument, painting a picture or making pottery. Local scenes would then likely develop.

9. What other things would you like to explore as a musician?

I would just like to encourage anyone who has thoughts about starting to learn or play guitar or wants to make a painting, just as examples, to do it even if you have very little time and feel you will never progress. When I had very little time, even 5 minutes a day at the piano became the basis and discipline for my monsoon of songs and musical enjoyment that followed.

10. What projects are you working on now?

I am finishing up an 11-track solo album and a music video that I plan to release in March or April. This is my first 100% solo album and I am happy with how it is turning out.

A Review of Reanimator by Mark Slade

After the review, watche the Trailer or the Complete Film.

Reanimating Corpses:

A Review of Reanimator by Mark Slade

It’s funny how some movies on their initial run can be forgotten, ignored, or simply divide an audience. Years later, they are considered classics. That is the case with Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985). Based on the 1921-22 serial short story, Herbert West—Reanimator, by H.P. Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon and his cohorts go all out with this Horror-comedy. Believe it or not, it was written as a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and ran in the amateur magazine Homebrew. According to some, its believed not to be Lovecraft’s best work, and he himself disliked the story. Actually, the story is pretty damn good and works as a parody. It fit well with Gordon’s humor.

The movie begins with Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs in one of his best performances) hold up in a room of University of Zurich, working on Dr. Gruber, when the cops and a colleague break in and find Dr. Gruber lying on the floor, seemingly dying. The Colleague says: “You killed Dr. Gruber!” And West replies, “No… I gave him life!” The look on Combs face is priceless, then again, all of his reactions in this film are.

Then we meet struggling medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) at Miskatonic University.  Cain works hard, cares too much for patients, has a girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton) who won’t move in with him and can’t pay his rent. Herbert West enters Cain’s life. West is introduced to Cain and Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), whom West accuses of stealing Brain Death idea from West’s mentor, Gruber. West has invented a serum that can bring the dead back to life. After that, he reels Cain into his world, and what a depraved world it is.

West moves in with Cain, in spite of Megan’s concerns. West can pay the rent. He in particular is very happy there is a basement in the house. Dr. Hill in the meantime has dinner with the Dean (also Megan’s father) and he is a little upset that West has moved in with Cain, but more upset Cain is dating Megan. He turns the dean against West and Cain. They are kicked out of the University and not allowed in the medical facilities. Cain discovers West has re-animated his cat, thus stumbling on to West’s experiments. They begin stealing from the morgue. Re-animating a corpse that goes on a rampage. The Dean stumbles on their work and the corpse kills the Dean. West kills the corpse with a band saw. They inject the serum into the Dean and he is in a zombified state of incapacity. The dean tries to kill West, Megan walks in on them along with a security guard, and the Dean runs away.

Herbert West–Reanimator by H. P. Lovecraft

Gory, over the top, yes. And funny as hell. You almost question why you are laughing when you should be offended or even frightened. Not only that, Gordon’s camera movements are vivacious and masterful. Of course we could talk more about the infamous scene. I’d have to reveal more of the film, but by now most horror geeks and movie cultists have already seen this film.

The scene I am referring to is that of Dr. Hill has already lost his head, which sits in a pan of the serum that keeps him going. His body is being controlled by his head. Megan has been kidnapped and is lying on a slab, the body begins to feel her up and we cut to Dr. Hill’s face, his expressions climbing higher to an orgasm.

But then there’s the conversation between West and Dr. Hill’s unattached head. “You’ll never be able to take credit for my work,” West tells Dr. Hill’s head. “Who’s going to believe a talking head—get a job in a sideshow!” definitely the best line in the movie, if not the entire decade of 1980s films.

Originally, Gordon wanted to adapt it for stage (which he eventually did) and according to Wikipedia, the idea stemmed from a conversation with friends regarding there were too many vampire films. The Lovecraft story was suggested. Gordon was a huge Lovecraft fan, and strangely he’d never read Herbert West. He had planned on making it a half hour TV show, writing a script. Advised that it wouldn’t work in that format, Gordon and two other writers rewrote the show as twelve one hour episodes, plus a pilot. He was introduced to Producer Brian Yuzna and a deal was struck to make it into a film. Yuzna made distribution deal with Charles Band and Empire Pictures in return for post-production services. John Naulin did the makeup job, and has said it was the bloodiest film he had ever made. Before this film, Naulin never used more than two gallons of blood. On Re-Animator, he used twenty-four gallons of blood. The biggest problem was the effects involving a headless Dr. Hill. One effect they had to build an upper torso big enough for actor David Gale could stick his head through so that it appeared to be the one that the walking corpse was carrying around.

Jeffrey Combs in Re-Animator 1985
Jeffrey Combs in Re-Animator 1985

The film is driven by fantastic performances, and a funny script didn’t hurt. Of course having the lead character as the bad guy and a great character actor who could sink his teeth in that role, as well as David Gale as the second villain, was a major coup of the filmmakers.

There are different versions of the film that was released on home video. A Rated R and an unreleased, with footage that would have gotten the film an X. There were sequels such as Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) and the musical stage adaption (2001) mentioned before.


Kim Mixon Hill

Interview With Cover Artist, Kim Mixon Hill

Kim, can you give us a little biographical information? Where are you from, where were you born?

I was born and raised in Florida. I have two degrees in criminology, and work as a marketing director part time. I also do freelance writing, photography, and similar type things. I am married, and my kids have feathers, fins, and fur.

What was the first thing you remember reading?

I grew up reading things like Pippi Longstocking, Little House in the Big Woods, and The Wizard of Oz. But I started reading horror pretty young. I was an incessant reader and during the summer I’d sometimes read two books a day. Every vacation we went on I was allowed to pick out a couple of books, and wasn’t allowed to read them till we left—which was very difficult.

Who inspired you to be an artist/writer?

 I’ve always written things, but I never thought I could do any kind of art. I’ve found there are multiple mediums I can at least get a few likes for, whether it’s perfect or not. I love abstract painting, photography, writing, and things like that.

Is it hard to get noticed these days?

I think that depends. It’s probably easier now with social media. Yet, there are so many competing for the same recognition it seems just as difficult as it was before a person could go viral for a short clip of a video.

What is your creative process with art and writing?

With both, I flesh out an idea I’ve been thinking of. I keep a list for the short stories, and some of the ideas are years old.

Have you had any problems with censorship of any kind? Editors changing things to suit cultural sensibilities?

No, but I now keep my more extreme stories to myself. I wrote a couple that are considered extreme, one was for a Richard Laymon tribute that was never written. I later sent it to another venue that used it. But now? I’d never write anything like I did just for that reason alone—cancel culture.

Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?

I might get more on-track if I’m given an assignment, but I’d rather think of my own ideas.

Do you think your environment has an effect on the type of art you create? Or your writing?

Most definitely. I would love to see an anthology about the weather. Living in Florida, we have our share of tropical weather, including a category 5 storm in 2018. I published a second book on abandoned places, this time it was those lost to the storm. Write what you know, and all that.

Kim Mixon Hill

Where do you think the culture will be like in ten years?

I hate to say I think it’ll get worse. I fear we’ll be living in The Handmaid’s Tale’s Giliead pretty soon. It certainly seems that way. I love watching old sitcoms—anything from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, and there is so much they say and do that no one could get away with now—yet, it’s funny.

What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your visual arts career? A specific commission for a client?

I’m not really sure. We’ve shot a lot of pinup model type photography and have done some “different” kinds of shoots, but nothing comes to mind that is that weird, at least in my mind. Maybe it’s just me.

What projects are you working on now?

I’ve had to take a break from many new projects because I was diagnosed with cancer last year. I’ve had four surgeries in the past six months or so, and start immunotherapy soon. I’ll still work in artistic ways, but I’m not pressing my publisher about the two contracts they sent me for new abandoned books.

Kim Mixon Hill

Interview with Snake Oil By Lucy Hall

The band, called Snake Oil, is by far no traditional tribute band. Their journey began when founding member, Darren Moore decided to form a classic rock cover band as an addition to his many other music projects. During the early formation of the band, they played a wide range of classic rock spanning the decades and later decided on narrowing it down to 1980s rock. There are other cover bands out there, but no one plays the characters and creates the live experience of big rock shows like Snake Oil. They truly are the ultimate theatrical tribute to ‘80s rock because they put forth great effort to make each song sound as close to the original as possible, and the costumes and theatrical effects are top-notch. The group consists of five talented and accomplished musical artists, they are Darren Moore guitarist, vocalist, and keyboardist, vocalist Christelle Dussault, lead guitarist Kurt Krezanski, bassist Darcy Labiuk, and drummer, Tim Sutton. The Snake Oil performers embody the complete essence of the ‘80s rock icons they portray onstage. They put a lot of care and effort into not only learning the sound and style of each rock star they are imitating but even their personalities and mannerisms. Another unique aspect of the band is that, unlike other cover bands, they don’t just pay tribute to one act, just to mention a few, the band covers Kiss, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Joan Jett, Heart, Ozzy, and many more. All these elements combine to create a truly authentic arena concert experience.

The group went from opening for other acts to headlining their own shows alongside some of the rock performers they were imitating and building a rather large following. Unlike other cover bands, Snake Oil has written their own original material for their first album. Their self-titled debut album was released this year on May 29th from Lion’s Pride Music. I love the combination of softer tracks and heavier tracks on this album. It suits the taste and needs of various listeners. It has the feel of being an ode to the height of ‘80s rock but with a modern take. Some of my favorites from the album are the heavier tracks “Vampire” which has a very cool, gothic feel which I love, and the intro immediately drew me in, “Blink of an Eye”  is a quintessential arena rocker with heavy-duty riffing that channels ‘80s glam rock style and attitude, “Simon Says” has a ‘90s industrial, hard rock, sexy groove that makes me want to get up and hit the dance floor. “Dance in the Rain” has a catchy chorus, and it really showcases Christelle’s mesmerizing, and solid vocal abilities. Her rich, powerful voice hits overdrive in this melodic keyboard and riff-filled ballad. Twisted Pulp caught up with Snake Oil to discuss the new album and their amazing live show.

Twisted Pulp: Before we dive into the new album, let’s go back a bit. Take us through the formation of Snake Oil, which for those that don’t know is a premier theatrical icons of rock live shows.

Snake Oil: Yes, actually Ikons of Rock show was/is the brand and media tag. Going back to its inception, Snake Oil started as a retreat for “junior” musicians from different Canadian recording acts, looking to play together on their downtime from touring. By “junior” we mean not one of the original members, but younger full-fledged members with Canadian Hall of Famers Harlequin, Streetheart, Kim Mitchell Band, and SAGA.

The band performed house shows at local clubs, doing basically whatever we wanted to do. From AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Queen, KISS, and Def Leppard, to Rage Against The Machine, Shinedown, to Rob Zombie. The band was good enough that we could pull off pretty much anything and we changed our set every time we played. We would substitute members every weekend as musicians were pulled back out onto the road with the touring acts. Darren Moore had the idea to start putting on flashy costumes, he started with a makeshift throw-together KISS costume with platforms he found at the local “stripper” store. The rest of the band followed, all dressed in theme, indulging their alter egos. The audience loved it and it began attracting some very interesting people who liked to dress in drag or relive their youth in costume. To cut to the chase, Darren put together a full-time project fronted by strong male and female vocalists. They had all of their costumes professionally tailored and became the characters in mannerisms and vocal imitation. The performance headlines all over the US and Canada. We have also been invited to share stages with the likes of Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Starship, The Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, etc. It’s a seriously strong performance. Now that the band has started building a strong following, we felt it was time to complement the show with the original Snake Oil. Both male and female vocalists on stage together with songs that complement our material… giving the people what they want! (It’s the kinda stuff we like too.)

Twisted Pulp: How would you describe the dynamics of the band?

Snake Oil: The band is a tight unit. All professionals, we’ve “sowed our oats” independently in past lives, so not much bullshit. We respect one another as musicians, all like to laugh, travel, share a drink or two, and hang out with our fans post-show. Darren heads up the band, inspires the music from his home studio, and coordinates recordings and tours.

Twisted Pulp: What is the inspiration behind the band’s name?

Darren came up with the name at the first meeting. It sounds good, a little dark, a little scary, but very rock n’ roll. We are portraying artists as good as they were in their prime and often, we will bring out the actual stars to join our show, Stephen Pearcy from Ratt, Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, and Darren joined Brett Michaels on stage. The name is analogous to the snake oil salesman riding into town in his big wagon, setting up his soapbox stage and attracting the community to gather round and behold, while he sold them the snake oil medicine that cures all ails. Maybe it worked, but more than likely it was a placebo or narcotic. Well, we’re not claiming to cure rheumatism or the like, but we will take you on a “high” where you can leave any unwanted baggage behind.

Twisted Pulp: How did five musicians with global recognition concerning the music of their own come to form a supergroup cover band?

Snake Oil: We fight the cover band or tribute label frequently. It is much, much more than that; we believe it is more of a performance. The show is given just as much attention as the music. Playing original music is gratifying, but for some of us, you know the “junior” members of the recording acts. Although honored and gratified to be a part of the band, we felt pigeonholed into an act, where the original radio hits were not written by us, there was a past success, but not much hope of a future resurgence. Snake Oil promised an open road, with no boundaries. We’ll get them hooked with the songs and characters they/we all know and love, and then we’ll reveal our own alter egos in the original music.

Twisted Pulp: Snake Oil is well known for its spot-on performances. You guys are far beyond a simple tribute group, and at a glance, you guys truly do emulate and look the part of every act you choose to portray. What level of commitment does it require to put on the type of show that you do, and harness the aesthetic in the way that you have?

Snake Oil: That’s a never-ending chore. We know the characters we portray intimately as fans. To honor them and not embarrass yourself you have to work at it constantly. That means listening to the songs constantly, as singers have a way of making the songs their own if they’re not mindful. That means watching how they move on stage, how they talk including accents. Not to mention sourcing the pieces for authentic costumes, thank goodness we have a very meticulous rock n’ roll tailor. And the hardest is keeping the midriff tight… yup the local craft breweries at the various places we perform are a double-edged sword… bittersweet.

Twisted Pulp: Tremendous vocal chops are needed to pull off most of those hard rock vocals. Not to mention the amazing instrument work that Snake oil imitates so well. What kind of preparation/education/vocal exercises do the members of the group do, to be able to emulate the greatest rock musicians of all time?

Snake Oil: Christelle does a quiet vocal warm-up before every show. She is all pro. Darren on the other hand takes a shot of tequila and one long note stretching up to his falsetto, which triggers the band to all imitate him backstage. Which leads to the ritualistic “band prayer,” a brief band toast of the strongest thing on the rider, and then onto the stage.

Twisted Pulp: With so many legendary, chart-topping hard rock acts throughout history, how did the band come together in agreement on the set lists?

Snake Oil: The key to picking characters is to be able to recognize them in costumes before they sing a note. Obviously, we pick what we believe are the most popular artists too, but that’s a precursor.

Twisted Pulp: What is the biggest misconception about the band?

Snake Oil: We never wanted to be a tribute or cover band. There’s a stereotype by the music industry, some musicians and music buffs (unless they’ve seen us), that we are imitating others because we can’t write or couldn’t write good enough material to do our own thing. Well, doing our own thing is what we’ve always been doing and the original music is seeping out now. We took a path whereby we could all financially survive and performed until we build a solid foundation and now we can independently support our own material. We have our own tour bus, trailer, and crew without having to borrow a dime or take advances from record labels or publishers. We can still navigate our own path.

Twisted Pulp: Let’s step forward to this all-original self-titled debut record, tell me a little bit about the making of it.

Snake Oil: The band agreed that most importantly the songs had to be accessible to our existing audience. That means something old, something new, and a little bit from out of the blue. During the global shutdown (we won’t say the C word) Darren isolated himself in the studio and drafted the first passes of 10 of the 12 songs. One was provided by Christelle, the other by Pat Benatar. The songs were then sent to Christelle for her vocal input. Important to plant the vocal melodies in and work the finishing touches around them. It was intentional that both male and female vocals are present in every song, although some are male-led, some female, and some equally shared. Once the song was melodically complete, we brought the drums and bass in. Then the icing, the extra guitars, and guitar solos. We engineered and mixed-produced the entire project ourselves. It was a pretty clear vision.

Twisted Pulp: Can you break down for us, what kind of record it is and what fans can expect?

Snake Oil: It is definitely a classic rock album. However, no two songs are alike. There was a time when you could buy an album and expect a little bit of diversity from edgy, to melodic, to something completely off the wall. It casts a wide net over fans that appreciate different styles of the genre. The trick is to take that diversity and make it clear that it’s being delivered in complement to the rest of the album. We’re going to blame corporations and their revenue streams for forcing so many artists to continue writing using the same formulas. So much so, that after listening to two songs on an album you’ve pretty much heard it all. It kills the art form and people don’t want the whole album anymore, they just cherry-pick one or two songs. It’s not fair to the artist. The album is dedicated to all the artists we’ve portrayed and inspired us. The songs are accessible and the feedback is; that they feel familiar on first listen.

Twisted Pulp: What are some other points of interest worth mentioning on the record if you were to take someone on a tour of the album?

Snake Oil: The songs are chocked full of ear candy if you play them up close with a great stereo or headphones. We intentionally attempted to touch on every emotion with the songs; lust, fear, regret, love, hope, anxiety, anger, and angst but all in fun.

Twisted Pulp: The album is fun, edgy, and also emotion fueled with a good balance of rockers and ballads. “Vampire” and, “Simon Says” are two songs that stood out for me. What are some of your personal favorites, and why?

Snake Oil: It honestly depends on the mood. But generally, for me, the upbeat driving songs move me the most. Which is why we already have another album ready to go. With a planned approach to not making all the songs the same, I wrote a pile of driving songs that were put on the back burner for the next release. I tend to naturally gravitate to odd chord changes with a bit of power behind them. Christelle on the other hand takes to alternate stuff, which is a good mixture of elements.

Twisted Pulp: I am delighted to see Christelle Dussault represent one of my musical heroes, Joan Jett. Throughout her career, she has been asked to comment on the state of women in rock. What is Christelle’s take on women in rock today? How does she feel to be the only female in the group?

Snake Oil: Women in rock today are still following in the footsteps of Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, and Ann Wilson. They are strong, talented, and motivated. Closely followed by artists like Amy Lee and Alanis Morrisette, who continued to pave the way for women who are currently giving us hard-hitting rock n’ roll music that we love to hear and see in concert, The use of social media has really enabled more and more women to create, perform and engage audiences with their music. I believe we will continue to see an evolution of female rock artists who will use these past icons as an influence in the future. I consider every one of the members of this band as a brother. I don’t have biological brothers, but I imagine the shenanigans and goofy behavior are quite similar. I’ve always felt like one of the guys and we always treat each other as equals, as family. Most of the time it doesn’t even occur to me that I am the only female. That is, until we are on stage and someone has to hit the really high notes, that is when I am fully aware!

Twisted Pulp: What kind of show/performance can concertgoers expect when they come to see one of your shows?

Snake Oil: A night of great rock music, great theatrics, special effects, audience interactivity, and an extremely upbeat audience to party with.

Twisted Pulp: What do the members do when they aren’t covering Snake Oil? Are any other bands or projects our readers should know about? Any tour plans?

Snake Oil: We are constantly touring US and Canada. We are constantly writing new music. With a European global release, we intend to cross the pond to meet and perform for Europe, the UK, and Asia.

The classic rock sound and style still remain popular around the world and thank God we have Snake Oil who continue to carry the torch creating and performing the rock we love. If you want an exhilarating rock n roll experience like no other check out Snake Oil’s debut album and keep your eyes peeled for upcoming new material and videos to come. Snake Oil is a group you will want to follow.

Official Snake Oil Website: