By: Thomas S. Flowers
Galveston, Texas. 1979
Sister Mary Martha held her breath as Father MacGowran knocked on the door of Amon Palace. Father Danforth and Father Harris stood behind the aged priest. The humidity of the swamps surrounding the house hung heavy in the air. Mosquitoes buzzed, singing in their ears. High above, a large moon shined down on them through a clearing in an otherwise cloudy sky. It had just stopped raining, but the forecast called for another downpour later in the night. Droplets trickled down the sides of the house on wet stone puddling in what she could imagine to be a beautiful garden—had anyone bothered to dig up the old dead roots, turn the soil, and plant the seeds. The vegetation was so brown surrounding the house, even an apparent invasion of kudzu only got as far as a few feet up the foundation before wilting into gnarled husks.
Father MacGowran, a tall dinosaur among the Catholic clergymen with long thin arms, hammered again on the large wood door, his gray hair just visible from underneath his Cappello Romano hat.
“They do know we’re coming?” asked Father Harris, a short and stocky priest with a large bald spot on the top of his head. He always seemed in need of a good night’s sleep to Sister Mary Martha, and she noted a certain odd glint in his eye whenever she saw him at St. Mary Cathedral for mass, a wariness of his professional, she supposed.
“Of course—wait, what time is it? Happy Days might be on,” joked Father Danforth, an average height middle-aged priest with wavy brown hair and a handsome smile who seldom acted his age or position with the Church. There was a rumor he was being groomed for Archdiocese of Galveston–Houston. Sister Martha had always liked him, he made her laugh in the most impromptu times when he helped around the Children’s Center.
Father Harris slapped his neck. He stared at his hand, examining his kill. “I don’t know which is worse, being eaten alive on the stoop of this ghastly house or listening to your horrid jokes.”
“You’re probably right, Father Tuck—they seem more like Mork and Mindy fans,” Father Danforth quipped, glancing back at Sister Martha with a rueful wink.
Sighing loudly, Father Harris said, “I do wish you’d stop calling me that.”
Hammering again on the door, Father MacGowran growled. “Highly irregular,” he huffed, shifting the large black leather M.D. paramedic bag he carried, seemingly oblivious to the conversation going on behind him.
Father Danforth posed to retort when the door finally opened.
Standing in the doorway a man dressed in jean overalls with a gaunt expression stared out at them. His icy blue eyes searching each in turn. His black hair parted perfectly in the middle.
Sister Martha pressed her lips. She hated to think ill of anyone, but this man was not who she expected to find opening the door of such an elegant mansion—even one with a tainted history as Amon Palace. He looked more like a carpenter or handyman than butler.
“Miss Driscoll is expecting us?” Father MacGowran reported, partly asking, glancing past their would-be doorman into the house.
“I know who you are—come on in. Marge is tending to the Misses medicine. She should be with your shortly,” said the man.
“Marge?” asked Father Danforth.
Father Harris groaned quietly.
“Marge—my wife, she tends to Miss Driscoll,” reported the man.
“And you, sir?”
“I’m John, John Anderson. When things break, I fix them. That’s what I do around here.” Mr. Anderson shuffled on his feet, looking very uncomfortable.
“Hello, John—I’m Father Danforth. This is Father MacGowran. This is Father Harris. And this is Sister Martha.” Father Danforth gestured to each in turn.
Mr. Anderson nodded, seemingly taken aback by Father Danforth’s cavalier manner. He took a step back to allow them passage. “Yes. Right, well go on inside. You can wait in the parlor down the hall.”
The group shuffled past him.
Father Danforth nodded more pleasantly than the situation required.
Sister Martha bowed slightly as Mr. Anderson gazed at her with his chilling eyes. “Thank you, sir,” she said meekly, avoiding eye contact as much as possible, and joined the others as they waited for John to guide them to the parlor.
Mr. Anderson shut the door and turned to the group somewhat surprised to find them standing there waiting for him. “Right,” he said, “this way,” and lead them down the hall.
As everyone settled inside, he reminded them Miss Driscoll would be with them shortly and then closed the parlor door, leaving them alone.
“Charming fellow,” tutted Father Danforth.
The others spread out, examining the different pieces of furniture and paintings and the rest of the antique looking collection.
Sister Martha marveled at the decadence. “So much space here—to think only Miss Driscoll lives here.”
“Is anyone else finding it cold?” asked Father Danforth.
Now that Danforth mentioned it, Sister Martha shivered, rubbing the back of her arms.
Father MacGowran turned away from the unlit fireplace, glancing at both Father Harris and Danforth. “Remember the case file. Almost all reports of hauntings, psychic invasions, and the like, all bear a strong parallel to the experiences Miss Driscoll herself has reported to the Church. What is referred to as cold spots,” he paused, looking over at Father Danforth, “also slamming of doors or banging on walls by some unknown force, there’s also retrocognition.”
There was a lulling quiet—and a thunderous boom on the horizon as the predicted night’s storm made its way toward them.
“These cases, Father MacGowran, correct me if I’m wrong but what was it that you published with the Vatican? I believe I read that you mentioned something about a correlation between hauntings and demonic possession?” asked Father Harris as he inspected a small picture frame with a young girl walking along a dark overcast beach.
Father MacGowran nodded, his gaze downcast, as if he were preparing himself for something incredibly difficult. “Yes, hauntings such as these sometimes serve as the first manifestation of an entity ultimately bent on demonic possession. According to my research, odors of human excrement or rotting eggs, sulfur can be a characteristic clue of demonic infestation.”
Sister Mary Martha listened to the aged priest with a feeling of both awe and a sickening in her stomach. Though she had never met him personally, she sensed a great wealth of both experience and suffering emanating from him. She herself had only one such experience to which Father MacGowran had dedicated his entire career. And it was only by happenstance. A boy under her care at the Children’s Center Orphanage had gone through peculiar changes. He became distant from the other children. Prone to illness no doctor could identify—they’d assumed it was all psychosomatic. The sisters and herself included had almost believed them until other strange phenomenon began occurring—just as Father MacGowran had described. Lights flickering. Banging on the walls. And a foul odor. Eventually the boy became too far advanced for their unexperienced fumbling efforts and the Archdiocese reached out for the Church to send an Exorcist.
“Is that what you believe is going on here?” Father Harris asked. He found a comfortable plush leather chair and eased into it.
Realizing their wait could be longer than he probably expected, Father MacGowran set down his large black medical bag and his Cappello Romano hat on a nearby table and turned back to the fireplace. From inside his black coat he produced a wrinkled pack of Pall Malls and lit one without answering Father Harris.
Father Harris and Father Danforth exchanged a quick glance.
Just as Sister Martha had decided to rest in a leather armchair, a knock came at the door. Miss Driscoll arrived, pushed in a wheelchair and covered heavily with blankets.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” said the old woman as a tall stern looking woman guided her around the large dark couch, positioning her in front of the group beside the darkened fireplace. She gazed at each of her guests. “I’m Elizbeth Driscoll—and this is my caretaker, Mrs. Anderson,” she gestured to the prudish looking woman with a tight hair bun and dressed in a long grey skirt and an eggshell colored long-sleeved shirt buttoned all the way to her chin. A true opposite in appearance to her benefactor. Despite her age, Sister Martha thought Miss Driscoll had beautiful features—hidden partially by the many wrinkles that lined her face. Her white hair was long and immaculately brushed, almost silky in appearance. Her body and limbs, from what she could see, seemed withered and unused. A woman who was very much elderly and sick, yet her dark brown eyes held a certain power and her voice was sown with charm.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Driscoll,” said Father Danforth, speaking up as he glanced curiously to Father MacGowran. “I’m Father Danforth, this fellow here in the armchair is Father Harris, over there is Sister Mary Martha, and this gentleman before you is Father MacGowran. The Archdiocese has sent us—”
“Yes, I know why you are here,” Miss Driscoll interrupted. “It only took the Church more than a decade to answer my call.”
“Of course,” Father Danforth bowed slightly, “these are…unusual circumstances, you understand?”
Miss Driscoll seemed expressionless except for a slight curve of a smile, like a fox’s smile. “It is my understanding that all matters dealing with spiritualism are unusual, wouldn’t you say?”
Father Danforth smiled politely, nodding his head, apparently unsure how to take Miss Driscoll’s comment.
Father MacGowran cleared his throat. “The Archdiocese has informed me you have requested a Rite of Exorcism of your house—is this correct?”
Miss Driscoll turned her attention to the tall aged priest. “Correct,” she said curtly.
“I have read the letter you sent to the Church, but in your own words can you tell me why you believe your house needs to have this rite performed?” Father MacGowran asked, his voice even and calm.
For a moment, the old lady regarded Father MacGowran, as if measuring him with her eyes. And then she nodded and said, “Even before what happened to my dear friend, Amon Palace has been a place that has never felt entirely safe. I was born within these walls, have lived here all my life, and for all those many years while the presence has been keenly felt, it has never been hostile.”
Father Danforth stepped forward, leaning with his hands to the back of the couch. “You are referring to the…incident involving the Grice family? We are to understand she was a family friend?”
Miss Driscoll looked into her withered hands. “Amy Grice was a dear friend who loved her two girls and her husband dearly. I do not believe she would ever have intended to hurt them. It was my fault. I should have never allowed them to stay.”
“You believe the house—this presence you mention—what? Provoked her; Possessed her?” Father Harris asked from the armchair.
Looking up to meet his gaze, Miss Driscoll nodded and said, “Yes—whatever residues and has resided in the bones of Amon Palace influenced her to murder her girls and husband.” She looked over at Father MacGowran, “And henceforth I have been inquiring upon the Church to cleanse my home of this wretched evil.”
Father MacGowran gazed at the old lady for some time before finally nodding and saying, “We will do what we can, Miss Driscoll. As Father Danforth has said all too correctly perhaps without even realizing it, this is an unusual case.”
Miss Driscoll once again smiled with that cunning sort of way and said, “That’s all I ask.”
Sister Martha watched quietly as the priests dawned the vestments Father MacGowran brought with him in his large black leather medical bag. The old priest himself dressed in a black surplice and purple stole over his black clerical uniform. Together in the parlor, they took Communion. Each in turn eating the Body of Christ and drinking the Blood of Christ as the old priest blessed them and prayed over them.
Father MacGowran then led the Rite holding an aspergillum, shaking the silver stick, sprinkling Holy Water as they walked down the hall towards the staircase. Behind him, Father Danforth recited from the Litany of the Saints, while Father Harris gently swung a metal thurible, spreading frankincense and myrrh incense. Sister Martha followed the single file march holding a large wooden crucifix, repeating the prayers spoken by Father Danforth.
“Lord, have mercy,” the priest chanted.
“Lord, have mercy,” the rest chanted in reply.
“Christ, have mercy.”
“Christ, have mercy.”
“Lord, have mercy.”
“Lord, have mercy.”
“Christ, hear us.”
“Christ, graciously hear us.”
“God, the Father in heaven.”
“Have mercy on us.”
“God, the Son, Redeemer of the world.”
“Have mercy on us.”
“Spare us, O Lord.”
“Graciously hear us, O Lord.”
Further into the house they continued chanting and spreading Holy Water and incense. Pausing at the staircase, Father MacGowran gazed up with a sort of unsettled expression.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
…Hallowed be they name, Sister Martha recited to herself.
“Is something wrong?” Father Danforth asked quietly, almost whispering.
For a moment, Father MacGowran said nothing, and then he whispered to them, “Can’t you feel it? Like a cold undertow, pushing against us?”
“Or pulling us,” Father Harris added.
Father MacGowran glanced back at him and nodded, “Indeed.”
Finally, the old priest took the first step and ascended the staircase.
On the second floor they walked past what Mrs. Anderson had described to them as the guest quarters. Continuing with the Litany prayers and spreading incense and Holy Water, sprinkling droplets on the rug and walls and doors, Sister Martha could feel a growing pressure, like being under water, deep, deep undertow. The hairs of her arms stood on edge. She squeezed the large cross in her hands, focusing her mind and repeating as Father Danforth recited the Litany.
Together they march with Father MacGowran, passing a large portrait of a woman with a hooked nose and gaunt face. The still image glared at them as they passed, spreading more Holy Water and smoke. The condition of the house seemed to worsen, and she wondered if the Andersons ever dare venture to this part of the house to tend to its needs, to dust or clean. Sister Martha noted the dust covering tables and lamps and paintings and cobwebs laced in the crown molding, broken items and large cracks in the wall and plaster eroded exposing the skeletal ribs of dark wood, as if confirming her suspicion that they in fact did not. The hall stunk of musk. And it felt very narrow, as if Amon Palace itself was coiling around them like a giant snake, squeezing around them.
Suddenly Father MacGowran stopped.
Sister Martha looked around Father Harris.
Before them stood a large red door covered with loathsome looking carvings, each mark dark as if the door bled black ink. Along the outer edge there were partial pentagram stars within stars with pyramids farther in. At the center was the largest and most odious symbol by far, a spherical shape within circles over tentacled looking wisps and a great seeing eye like orb at the center.
“What is that?” Father Harris whispered. “Looks occultist.”
“Did Miss Driscoll neglect to mention if she was even a member of the Church?” Father Danforth quipped, but his voice waned and cracked with strain.
For a moment, no one said anything.
And then Father MacGowran mumbled, almost too quiet to hear, “No—something here isn’t right. This is no ordinary demonic possession. We need to turn—”
As he spoke, the large red door flung open.
Sister Martha flinched, dropping the wood crucifix. The hand carved image of Christ thumped on the rug, but she did not take notice.
She stared—they all did—into the doors open maw.
What seemed like a black voidless space began taking form. At first, just sounds, like thousands of snapping fingers. Over and over growing in intensity. And then shapes and mass congealed in the unmentionable darkness. Immense amorphous eyes with a blasphemous intelligence gazing upon them with disinterest, Sister Martha could not be certain what it was.
She exhaled loudly, taking in gulps of air. Her voice trembled, whimpering, “Lord have mercy…”
Father MacGowran glanced over his shoulder, his eyes wide and bloodshot. “TURN BACK!” he shouted, dropping the silver aspergillum, struggling to close the door.
Sister Martha stubbled backwards, her legs unsure what to do.
“Father?” she cried softly.
Through the black maw of the door, a pale blue phantasm, like a giant root of a tree pulsing with bulky ghostly flesh and sinew and nerves, shot out. Pushing aside the priests and impaling Sister Martha.
Gazing upon herself, Sister Martha watched as her feet left the floor.
To her right, Father Danforth pressed himself against the wall—eyes wide and spasming with fear. His once handsome features dissolving into a hideous mien.
And to her left, Father Harris sat dumbstruck and watched, his mind seeming to have snapped, the thurible forgotten smoldering on the floor.
In front, Father MacGowran regained his footing and continued struggling to close the door, the nerves throbbing along his neck.
Sister Martha coughed as red froth bubbled from her mouth. She tried not to move for each movement sent a crackle of molten pain through her body. Blood spluttered from the bluish wisp pulsing limb that penetrated through her flesh, soaking into her white habit, pooling on the floor under her feet.
Looking up, she muttered, “Lord save my soul,” and then she was snatched and swallowed into the open door.
The priests fled Amon Palace, shaken and silent. Father Danforth had no jokes to give, his humor seemingly drained from his soul. Father Harris kept his gaze into his palms, as if the answers to the nightmare they had all just witnessed could be found in the lines. Father MacGowran said nothing to the men with him. His withered paper skin paler now and cold. When asked by the Archdiocese what had happened, he told his Superior what came of the lost Sister Mary Martha.
“And what of Amon Palace—do you believe it is demonically possessed?”
“No—there is a presence, but its not demonic. Not really.”
“Then what? What could have done this?”
“I don’t know…”
If you dug what you’ve read here, you can nab Palace of Ghosts on Amazon. eBook is currently marked down at $0.99 through May 31 in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month with the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Both paperback and audiobook are available also on Amazon and Audible.
Among the celebrations today for Fat Tuesday, I am also extremely excited to announce the release of my latest novel Palace of Ghosts. For those looking for something in the vein of Jacob’s Ladder meets The Haunting of Hill House (with touches of Lovecraft), I think Palace of Ghosts may be a story up your alley. Palace of Ghosts is a story that addresses my own ghosts. I wanted to explore the question of what would happen if traumatic memory could take physical form and terrorize and haunt the host.
Since 2008, I have sought some way to express what I’ve buried deep inside myself, what bubbles up between the cracks in my mask. I also wrote this story to hopefully give another perspective on how veterans returning from war think how other people see us, as if we’re otherworldly shadows…ghosts you might say, or something else entirely. I also wanted to talk about exposure therapy, a very real form of therapy that psychologists use to help veterans, and in a lot of cases to produce productive and healthy results. Some are not as lucky. The story is not a criticism of exposure therapy. Perhaps a warning, though. Be careful searching the psyche of men and women who have been to war and come home, you may not like what you find.
I want to personally thank my team for helping make Palace of Ghosts a physical reality. To Luke Spooner for the amazing cover design, to Patrick Loveland for his awesomely creepy interior chapter images, to Duncan Ralston for his support, confidence, and proofing, to my editor Chad Clark, for making me kill more than a few darlings on this, but all for the better. And lastly, to my wife, Kaia, for her support, love, and patience as I once again entered and exposed that dark world called memory.
Palace of Ghosts
Now Available on eBook and paperback (audiobook coming soon)
Four veterans of the Iraq War seeking a cure for Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder arrive at a notoriously haunted house in the bogs of Galveston Island called Amon Palace.
Samantha Green, a friendless former Army K-9 handler looking for a way to put her loss behind her. Brad Myers, a lighthearted former Military Police Officer severally wounded in war wanting nothing more than a good nights sleep. Andy Lovejoy, an overweight light spoken drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become. Marcus Pangborn, a headstrong Marine who desperately wants a dead friend’s forgiveness. The group joins Doctor Frederick Peters, an experimental psychologist looking to prove his exposure theory hypothesis, and his two assistants, Tiffany Burgess and Dexter Reid.
At first, their stay seems to conjure nothing more than spooky encounters with inexplicable phenomena. But Amon Palace is gathering its powers—and soon it will reveal that these veterans are not who they seem.
Again, huge thanks to my team for their contributions and support. And also to you for taking a chance and (potentially) reading my new book. I know horror is not for everyone and subjects such as PTSD can be too heavy for some, and that’s okay. My goal is to relate my own emotions on these complex matters, to be as honest as I can, even if that means the truth being ugly (because it often is). I also want to write something that is entertaining and will (hopefully) give you nightmares. Can’t say I didn’t try! Until next time friends, don’t forget to…
Live. Laugh. Scream!
It occurred to me that my first Reflections of an indie writer article mostly just talked about my developing philosophy regarding being an indie writer and didn’t really include any of the different strategies I employed. What worked? What didn’t? etc. etc. so, I thought I’d spend some time thinking back on 2018 and then on some new goals for 2019. Maybe something I pass on here, you could use or try for yourself. The indie writer is foremost a community.
Let’s kick things off with… Continue Reading
Another year, poof…gone. Funny how time works. Relativity and all that. And it has become (or has always been) customary to reflect on the past years achievements, failures, and experiences and then to cast our gaze into the new year that waits before us. 2018 was an interesting year, to be sure though not as traumatic as 2017. But, a year being a year, it would be difficult to go through all the many turns and dips in the road, so instead I’d like to reflect on some of the bigger impressions.
2018 began with a very slow start. I had just started a new “day job” and had just released my second short story collection (Beautiful Ugly: And Other Weirdness). The release had a decent initial push, but then fell flat in the coming months of what i call “The Dead Zone.” This dead zone consisted of the months between April and July, or what some indie authors sometimes call “the summer slump.” This “summer slump” hit me pretty hard. Sales dropped significantly, as well as Kindle Unlimited page reads. It seemed in those four months that an inevitable question came to mind: “Why am I writing if nobody wants to read my books?” Its an honest question, but as I thought about it more, the more I realized my priorities and objectives were not in sync. NO, not the band, its the general understanding of what you want, why you want what you want, and setting goals to get there. Continue Reading
Wow. Not to sound cliche, but I can’t believe the holidays are already upon us. Halloween will always be my favorite holiday of the year, but truth be told, I favor the others just as much. Of the two, Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving has a different vibe. Halloween and Christmas have a “wow factor” to them. Lots of decor and movies and books and songs and overall loud celebration. Whereas Thanksgiving has a quiet disposition. More humble, taking stock of what we have to be thankful for, and not just the historical roots of the reason for the season. I know I personally have a lot to be thankful for.
And of course I haven’t even mentioned the best part of Thanksgiving–THE FOOD!!! There’s the turkey, of course (baked, smoked, or fried). Mash potatoes and gravy and yams and green bean casserole and corn bread stuffing. Hmm….its all so good. But my favorite dish is sweet potato casserole. Below is a recipe from Food Network that I’ve used before. Its certainly a crowd pleaser, and it doubles as a side dish + dessert. Continue Reading
Behold! Dracula, the movie that launched a twenty-three year progression of monster movies we call Universal Classics. Who could have predicted the success despite a rather tremendous stage career of not only the film but also the glowing eyed antagonist, Bela Lugosi? Dracula, the dashing, mysterious godfather of modern horror cinema, released at the Roxy Theater in New York City, on February 12, 1931. Even the cleverly crafted “fainting” rumors and “on-call” medical staff in the lobby orchestrated by nervous executives, hoping to induce some natural sense of morbid curiosity, was unnecessary. According to film historian Michael Fitzgerald, within the first 48 hours of Dracula’s release, the Roxy Theater had sold over 50,000 tickets. Horror had just become mainstream. Dracula’s acclaim paved the way for the other classics we’ve grown to love, our other Universal Studios Monsters, such as: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Wolfman, each owing their existence to the success of one film, even if said film wasn’t entirely all that great. There were some issues, on and off stage. But I think, by and large, the success, as it began at first, was due to the period in which the film released. Lets take a look back in time (key Twilight Zone theme).
The golden era of Universal Studio monster movies is one of most interesting bits of Americana cinematic history. Why? I’m glad you asked! As the roar of the 1920’s was coming to an end, the decade that had ushered in high booms and some of the best silent pictures would eventually end in the same dramatic fashion. The Stock Market Crash, also known as “Black Tuesday,” on October 29th, 1929, while still under much debate among certain historical circles, we can say that following the panic, America went into the greatest depression she, thus far, had ever known. By March 1930, 3.2 million people would be unemployed. And while Americans were growing uncertain regarding the future in the face of food riots, strikes, and lamentable upheaval, not to mention prohibition, even more uncertainty was developing on the horizon.
Beginning in 1928, against the backdrop of Germany’s almost two decade long depression following the end of the Great War, and the peoples utter discontent with what they considered a failure of Wiemar Democracy, the Nazi Party (The National Socialist Party) slowly began taking over the Reichstag (Reichstagsgebäude). Fascism was a darkening cloud over the Atlantic. By January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor. By 1935, the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws were established, and in 1939, with Germany’s invasion of Poland, World War II officially began.
This, of course, is just a brief look at the world during the era Universal Horror shared. Only with the luxurious logic of hindsight can we contemplate why executives were nervous over Dracula’s success in the first place. Some things we can guess. This was a film, based on a stage play, based on a novel that was, at the time, rather dark and perhaps too sexualized for tastes during the 1930s. And across the pond, the world was in turmoil. And not just that, but Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, the producers first pick as Dracula, had recently and tragically passed away.
Who would they cast now?
In the end, it boiled down to Lugosi, and mostly only because he was literally the last option and would work for cheap, about $500 a week. Certainly, the film was a risk for Universal, but as history proved, Dracula became one of the greatest escapes for worrisome audiences listening in on radio broadcasts about invasions, famine, poverty, and war. And of course this was no simple drive to the movies! Not at all. For the silent and talkie black & white era “going to the movies” was no humbug experience with sticky floors and hoodlum teenagers. Especially for theaters such as Roxy, in New York City. The Roxy was a Grand Theater, a “Cathedral of the Motion Picture.” Going to the movies to see Dracula was not the same experience as going to the movies today, to say the least. Going to the movies during the 20’s and 30’s was like going to the Opera in today’s standards. Folks got dressed up for cheap tickets and excellent performances. Live orchestras opened the night before a large velvet curtain pulled away revealing the white projection screen underneath. Going to the movies, was indeed The Greatest Show on Earth.
But that was then. Now, we’re sitting at 87 years since Dracula’s original release. What does Dracula say for today’s audiences. Well, to be honest I’d say most people probably feel Dracula is rather dated. Tod Browning’s directorial control seems very lacking in many regards. Consider the piece of cutout cardboard left on a lamp for one of Lugosi’s closeups. In fact, we should probably give more directorial credit to Karl Freund, famed cinematographer of 1927’s German Expressionist masterpiece, Metropolis. And the lack of a musical score gives one the impression of empty space, like watching a High School stage production than a big budget Hollywood movie. Its choppy. There’s a sense of discontinuity.
Despite all that, Dracula, in my most humble opinion, is an incredible film that at times is still scary today. The fact that the movie is, in its own way, still disturbing stresses something important about the kind of story being told. A horror story playing on fears realized in the hearts of humanity told since the first campfire. Dracula tells us about (though, i’d argue for socially different reasons between 1931 and today) our fears of the so-called foreign invader, fears of madness, fears of hierarchical purity (Nazis called this, Volksgemeinschaft; the United States called it, Eugenics), fears of the unknown, fears of losing free will (especially the freedom of choice), and fears of death.
One of the greatest (of many) appeals with Dracula is its quality of acting. While Dracula was Bela Lugosi’s signature role, a role he played beautifully and held audiences with his mesmerizing Hungarian accent, my favorite was actually Dwight Frye’s portrayal as Renfield. Watching the movie, even now 87 years later, Renfield gives me the chills. His sensibility as Dracula’s minion, his raving lunacy, devouring spiders and flies alike, was delivered with pure genius and incredible character acting. Especially during the scene aboard the Vesta, when the London longshoremen discover Renfield hiding below deck, the look on his face looking up at them from the staircase is, to say the least, disturbing. And this pretty much goes for the rest of the supporting cast. Edward Van Sloan as Abraham Van Helsing was marvelous. And who could deny the captivating charm of Helen Chandler as Mina Harker, the subject of Dracula’s desire?
Yes, Dracula has some production issues that could sway you away into settling with a few YouTube clips to satisfy your curiosity. If I could somehow convince you otherwise, I hope this review helped. There’s certainly an historic importance with Dracula, but not just that. Dracula was, regardless of the all its mistakes, hauntingly human, and, as it was billed back in 1931, a strange [otherworldly] romance that started a chain of monsters that we for better or worse take for granted.
From the battlefields of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front to the horrors of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot to even the absurd cult classics of J. Michael Muro movies, Street Trash, Thomas S Flowers’s love for gross and equally deeply emotionally things has no bar or limit. Such appetites saturate his own writings, from the paranormal happenings of his PSTD ridden thriller series Subdue, to his gory zombie infested PLANET OF THE DEAD series, to even his recent dabbling of vampiric flirtation in THE LAST HELLFIGHTER. He hopes that his love for the genre seeps into the minds of his readers. And that you will enjoy his books just as much as he enjoyed writing them. You can follow Thomas and get yourself a FREE eBook copy of FEAST by joining his MONTHLY mailing list. Sign up by vising www.ThomasSFlowers.com
(available on eBook, paperback, and audiobook)
Here in Houston, Texas, the weather has finally let in a little sunshine and “cooler” temps. Yes, “cooler,” as in less humid, which in Houston creates our version of fall. Indeed, it does feel like fall outside, my favorite time of year. A relief from the sweltering summer AND the beginning of the season of the macabre. That’s right, I’m talking about Halloween folks! And for us fans of what goes bump in the night, Halloween is no mere one day a year holiday, Halloween is a month long celebration.
This year feels…what’s the word? More horrorcentric, perhaps? It seems horror has become more or less popularized in that there are more than the usual blockbuster movies hitting theaters, and Netflix has begun releasing more original titles, and not just small B-rated stuff, but the real McCoy, such as the new show The Haunting of Hill House, which I believe just released today. Over on Machine Mean, we’re almost mid-way through Fright Fest. This year’s theme, voted by popular demand, is vampire movies. From Blade to Dracula to Let the Right One In to Interview with the Vampire to Nosferatu and even Blacula, we’ve got just about every vampire movie ever filmed covered. 31 days of horror from a number of guest contributors. Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss this seasons Fright Fest lineup.
In Other News…War for the Planet of the Dead released this past week on Oct 9, 2018. The preorder, of course, was made available last month. You can now purchase on eBook and paperback over on Amazon. The audiobook is currently in production with Rick Gregory doing the narration. Speaking of audio books, the audiobook for The Last Hellfighter also just released this week. Thus far its making a big splash with historic horror fans.
It may just be October and we’ve still got two more months in the year, but i’d like to share with you some ideas for new books in 2019. I have 3-4 solid stories that I’d love to explore and by nature force my readers to explore with me. First up will be Island of the Flesh Eaters, this will release early 2019–either late winter or early spring. What’s it about? Think 1980s zombie movies and there you go. The cover is already done, designed by the very awesome Michael Bray. This title will release through Darker Worlds Publishing.
The next title will carry with it a more serious note, called Palace of Ghosts. It’s mostly mapped out in my head. Though I never try to force a story to go somewhere. If it wants to turn right, its turns right. If it wants to turn left, it’ll turn left. What’s it about? I don’t want to give too much away, but the premise is that a psychiatrist invites a group of veterans suffering with PTSD to spend a week in a haunted house (palace) as an experimental form of therapy. Luke Spooner is doing the cover for this title, which I’ve been given a preview–and yes, I’m very excited to see this book unfold. Luke is an fantastic artist, his stuff always amazes me. You can check out his work here. I’m aiming for a summer release with this one.
Also slated for 2019 is the third book in the Planet of the Dead series, titled Escape from the Planet of the Dead. As per norm, there will be new stories set within the universe of Planet of the Dead, and a few more continuations, including Doctor Ying from War of the Planet of the Dead, and Polk’s crew. My friend Travis Eck will be doing the cover work again on this title–i’m curious to see what he’ll come up with. And Shadow Work Publishing will be releasing it come October 2019. And if you’re curious, this title WILL NOT be the last. I have at least one more book mapped out for the series.
Lastly, for late 2019, I’m itching to explore this idea of a vampire western book called A Bullet for Nosferatu. Other than the concept and title, I do not have much else. My aim is to have more on this later on in 2019. 4 titles total, not a shabby plan for a blue collar writer such as myself. And how, pray tell, will I accomplish such as task? Like anything else, I can’t do it alone. The only part of writing that truly comes from just me is passion, a passion to tell stories. But passion alone is often not enough. I also depend on the support of my family who allow me some quiet time in the evenings to write. The support of my readers who not only support through buying my tales but also leaving me some feedback in a review. And lastly, I couldn’t do it without the support of my writing community and publishers. Take my advise, writers who live on a island do not survive for very long.
The Last Hellfighter
WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD
Thank you for reading and for the continued support. Remember to stop by the movie review site, Machine Mean. Lots of good stuff there from some really talented writers. Great movie suggestions too, if you’re in the market for something scary to watch for Halloween. For those interested in supporting me on Patreon, follow the link here. And as always, don’t forget to…
Yup. It’s about that time when I start fantasizing about which actor and/or actress would play what character in my latest book. I know these castings will never happen, but it is fun to pretend. Isn’t that what part of writing is, pretending you are somewhere or someone else? And truth be told I think the Planet of the Dead series would be difficult to turn into a movie (or easy depending on how you go about doing it) considering the format of the book is broken down into character stories instead of traditional chapters.
That said, here are the actors I imagined for my ideal pretend movie casting!
For Polk, I’d pick a strong but relatively young actress. I really liked Sophie Turner in the new X-Men movies as Jean Grey. I think the part would fit Miss Turner perfectly. In the story, Polk has the weight of the world on her shoulders–a kind of battle worn fatigue from her service related injury and guilt for the loss of close friends. Polk is a quiet loner with a badass bionic arm, perfectly suited to be a lone wolf, but as things progress she discovers perhaps being alone is not the smartest way to go about surviving the zombie apocalypse.
For Jelks, while based on a good friend of mine from my Army days, I imagined Jensen Ackles from Supernatural playing the role of the all-around-ruff-around-the-edges-good-guy. In the story, Jelks may be AWOL from the Army, but he has a heart of gold. He’s a survivor with a strong moral compass. When he runs into Polk, he can’t help but want to help her even though she doesn’t seem to need it. He wants to survive but he doesn’t want to lose his humanity in the process.
For Collins, while also based on a good friend of mine from my Army days, I imagined Anthony Mackie (Falcon from Avengers) in the role as a modern take on Ken Foree as Peter from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Compare the two actors and you’ll see what I’m talking about! In the story, Collins is a thick skinned solider who teams up with Jelks to try and survive the spreading zombie apocalypse. While he would do anything for a friend, he has his doubts about helping Polk.
For General Rusk, if you’re going to go big, why not shoot for the moon? If I were to imagine a stern, creep as hell Army General, Mel Gibson would be my man. The guy is not stranger to playing what i call quiet eccentric roles. Quiet as in you can see the madness in his eyes, but he’s not goofy, he’s utterly insane. In the story, Gen. Rusk was a washed out General reborn in the zombie apocalypse. He’s smart, tactical, efficient, and worse of all patient.
For Doctor Ahuja, I wanted an older actor with a silent charisma about him. After watching Jurassic World, Irrfan Khan would be my pick. In the story, Doctor Ahuja is oddly disconnected to what is happening in the world around him. The very fact that his sister dying and then turning into a zombie in front of him hardly phasing him is a bit off putting. His motivation seems to be focused almost exclusively on his research. What research is that? Designing advanced (wink wink) prosthesis for the United States military.
There are way more castings we could do, like I said, the book is filled with “short story” style chapters. There are a lot of one-off characters that help tell the global story of the spreading zombie apocalypse, from news anchors to scientists and junkies to hillbillies from the world over. While I cannot cast everyone, here are a few Bonus Castings!
Peter Stormare as… Vladimir Ryazanskiy. Yeah, so okay, Peter Stormare may be Swedish born, but I think he would be awesome for this role as our hardened, experience Russian cosmonaut—trapped on the International Space Station with British and American crew members who are no so fortunate in the zombie apocalypse while the world below collapses. Stormare has played his share of interesting characters. In the story, Vladimir will do what he must to survive and try to make it back home while there is still a home to make it back to.
Michelle Yeoh as… Doctor Ying. From James Bond to Hong Kong action films, Michelle Yeoh has certainly proven her versatility as a meek but strong character actor. In the story, Doctor Ying must persevere after being devastated at being forced to leave behind her husband to join a special research team at a top secret facility off the coast of China. She’ll join some of the People’s Republic’s greatest minds–protected by a strict military unit. Doctor Ying is my introduction to a Day of the Dead (1985) inspired story that will further develop in Escape from the Planet of the Dead (scheduled to release in 2019).
“This author’s writing style is interesting. I kind of dig this little stories…”
“The story has a lot of promise for development and growth. The author presents interesting and compelling characters and I look forward to seeing their paths, decisions and adventures in future chapters…”
“Planet of the Dead was one of those stories that I didn’t know I was going to enjoy. Sure, I love zombie books as much as the next guy – but I just didn’t know going into it. Well, I loved it and had a blast flying through this book. Flowers way of skipping from person to person explaining the story from their viewpoints really made this so easy to read. Even if you didn’t like a person or a point of view – you knew it was going to move on to another person soon after…”
“Planet of the Dead is incredibly fast paced. Once things start going, they don’t calm down until the end. Some people think there is nothing new in the zombie world, but Flowers proves them wrong. I read A LOT of zombie books and Planet of the dead is most definitely in my top 3-5 favorites…”
Where will you be when the world ends? When it comes to apocalyptic movies, the beginning has always been my favorite part. Sure, its fun to see the aftermath, what the world looks like when the dust settles, but what I find absolutely intriguing is what happens in those defining moments when normalcy gets flipped on its head. This is a huge reason why I’ve always enjoyed George A. Romero’s films. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are (among other things) about what happens in the moment when the world ends. Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead are films about how people are doing after-the-fact. Good movies, but they’re missing that special punch. As we discuss Diary of the Dead, let that defining question sink in, that is, What will you do when the world ends? Continue Reading
Happy Friday, folks! It is my extreme pleasure and utmost excitement to officially announce the next chapter in the Planet of the Dead series, WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD. And to unofficially announce the upcoming titles of later sequels in the series. In 2019, ESCAPE from the PLANET of the DEAD is planned to release. And in 2020, VOYAGE to the PLANET of the DEAD. Those are the planned books, thus far. Could there be more? Time will tell. For the foreseeable future, I have stories and characters planned out for the listed titles above. WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD is scheduled to release October 9th 2018 on Amazon Kindle, paperback and audiobook shortly thereafter. You read right, next month!
Huge thanks to my friend Travis Eck for designing all these awesome original covers. And my new editor, Chad A. Clark. And of course to the man Duncan Ralston for spearheading Shadow Work Publishing and taking on all these flesh eating tales.
But that is not just it… WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD is currently available for preorder on Amazon Kindle. And as per norm, I’ve marked down the preorder to $0.99. Why? Because I know I’m no big shot writer, I just like telling stories. Why not make my books super affordable? Right? As for this story, I had a LOT of fun writing this one. PLANET of the DEAD was my homage to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). It had a somber tone throughout all the different character stories. WAR for the PLANET of the DEAD is less somber and more action oriented. This is my homage to THE greatest zombie movie ever made, Romero’s DAWN of the DEAD (1978). Several parts in this book were inspired by Dawn with the cutthroat in your face brutality. The PLANET of the DEAD is truly at WAR in this new chapter in the series.
Following the events of Planet of the Dead, survivors of the expanding outbreak take shelter in homes and bunkers and apartment complexes. Across the world, armed police and military struggle to maintain safety. Tensions mount as the worst imaginable comes to pass when nuclear weapons are used on civilian populations overrun with the living dead. Soon afterward, a coup mounts between warring factions of Generals, ruining the best-laid plans of two AWOL soldiers, a cybernetically enhanced veteran, and a scientist, forcing them to fight both humans and flesh-eating hordes of undead as they seek refuge from a planet plagued by war.
Thanks for reading!
Available on eBook, paperback, and audiobook
From the author of FEAST and REINHEIT comes a collection of 9 dark fiction stories inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
They Came to Gordium an elderly man is haunted by the crimes of his past.
Immolate a widower detective struggles to solve the connection between a series of eerily similar suicides.
Sunnydale Wolves a romantic stop at a popular overlook turns deadly.
The Hobbsburg Horror is a Lovecraftian tale of a weary reporter pulled into an otherworldly story of murder and a lodge with reports of strange colors at night.
Hobo a well-to-do housewife’s picture-perfect life is shattered by a home invasion.
Are you hungry, dear? down on his luck divorcee Jacob Miller, after consuming a free pizza is possessed by an internal parasite.
From the Sea is a tale of an amateur sailor and his wife who are besieged by creatures that come from the sea during a storm.
Neon Fortune Teller Madam Drabardi reads the future of paranoid businessman Ronald Murray who believes his wife is cheating on him, but infidelity is not all Drabardi sees.
Nostos Katherine Adonis journeyed light years to escape the nightmares of her past, but some ghosts can never be escaped.
“…extraordinarily enthralling novel which weaves from contemporaneous society into the future and back to the early 20th century American culture and the Great War” -The Haunted Reading Room.
“…an unique take on the Dracula legend with some great historical aspects to it” -Amazon Reviewer.
In the year 2044, reporters from the Public Relations Ministry gather at the home of Benjamin Harker, the last surviving member of the Harlem Hellfighters. At the age of 144, he is the oldest recorded man alive.
Hidden among them, Clyde Bruner is looking for a different kind of story. Across the United States, despite the Great Walls and patrol drones built to keep America secure, something has found its way in. And now towns are vanishing during the night. Entire populations, gone. Only to return after the sun sets, changed, unholy, and lethal. And whatever this evil is, its spreading west.
According to a bedtime story Bruner’s grandfather told him when he was a boy, Benjamin Harker has seen this before. He’s faced this scourge. Fought this evil. Survived them. Killed them. From the trenches of the Great War to the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of Iraq, Harker will search his past to save our future. But as each city light extinguishes across the country, is there no time left to stop what’s coming?
From the author of FEAST and Reinheit comes a new chapter in horror…
News reports speak of mass panic and violence spreading across the globe. Negligent leaders hide behind misinformation. But in an age of paranoia and suspicion, who can say what is true anymore? Struggling to survive against a sweeping epidemic that has engulfed the planet, survivors will have to make hard choices in a world that no longer makes sense.
Live. Die. Or become one of the undead.