Storage Containers of Gore

Fans of Storage Wars know that you never know what you’ll find in abandoned units, but no one expects to find body parts. A  recent discovery in Pensacola, Florida of an entire unit full of human organs in varying states of decomposition is enough to shock even the most seasoned horror fan.  According to the article:

A man reported horrible smells emanating from the unit after winning its contents during an auction. Further examination revealed  a ghoulish collection of human organs in various states of decomposition, all stored in makeshift containers including 32 oz. soda cups and plastic storage containers. The former examiner, Dr. Michael Berkland, was relieved of his official duties in 2003, but had conducted a number of private autopsies during his time in the area. Authorities are unclear who the organs belong to or why they were in the storage unit. 

Read the full article here: Storage Unit Yields Gruesome Discovery
Naturally this reminds me of one of my favorite-of-all-time stories from The Book of the Bizarre: 

In 2007, in Maiden, North Carolina, a man bought a smoker at a police auction of abandoned items from a storage facility. When he opened up the smoker, he discovered what he thought was wood wrapped up in paper. The bundle instead turned out to be a human leg that had been amputated at just above the knee. Police contacted the owners of the storage facility. It turned out that the owner’s son had had his leg amputated after a plane crash and kept the leg for “religious reasons.” She and her son drove some thirty-five miles to retrieve it from the man who had bought the smoker.

It gets better, though! I love this story and I’ve told it on radio interviews a number of times when asked what my favorite “shocking” story from the book is. During an interview with a radio station in North Carolina I received a follow-up to the story from one of the show hosts. They said that not only did they remember the story but it actually didn’t end there. Apparently the amputee didn’t get his limb back without a fight. The now-owner refused to give it up, saying it was his property. So the “original” owner of the leg had to go to court to get his limb back. But wait, that’s not all! They went to COURT TV!!!! And guess what? The amputee had to pay $5000 to win his leg back. That’ll teach him!

Ah, you just can’t make stuff up anymore bizarre than real life.

Afterdeath Communication on Huffington Post

Recent news had got me thinking about what kind of letters I’d leave behind if I were hit by a bus today, etc.

My mother and I have made arrangements for some post-death messages. What would you do? Read my latest post on The Huffington Post Weird News.

Click below:

Varla’s Huff Po Blog

Banshee Banter

A Kiss in the Dreamhouse

One of my favorite bands as a young, surly teen was Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose front-woman Siouxsie Sioux was a gothic chantress who howled like a mythological siren—luring you with her tales of travel and woe. So when I came upon Elliot O’Donnell’s book about banshees I simply had to dust off the old vinyl (for you youngins’ whose main experience with vinyl is the sheath you keep your iPod touch in, I am referring to a vinyl record) and paint on some heavy eyeliner so I could have a good ol’ fashion Banshee Bash.

Banshees are among the most feared creatures of the fairy kingdom, and this may be in part to the sympathies they invoke when you hear their wailing. You could easily be lured into the dark of night, hoping to help the pathetic creature who sounds as if she is in mourning. Some tales recount that banshees are the ghosts of women who have died in childbirth; others say they are the restless sprits of unrequited lovers.

Check out the story of The Malevolent Banshee available now as an e-book.

The link:

or on the nook:

Santa’s Corpse?

Oh dear readers! Where does the time go? My hiatus from the virtual world is not without excuses but I won’t bore you with the reasons I have been under a rock until I can actually reveal them! Let’s just say I’ve got a new project cooking with my publisher that I am very excited about but that has taken 666% of my time away from everything else. But don’t worry, Varla is here to stay and today I’ve got a doozie of a recent news story to kick off my new season of freakery.

A recent news story has surfaced about a man who was entombed in a chimney for 27 years.  In May of last year (2010) a construction worker at a Louisiana bank was helping to remodel the bank’s second floor into offices when he discovered the human remains. He pulled out some fabric that was in the chimney and down came tumbling the bones and bits of clothing that once were Joseph Schexnider.

Mystery surrounds how exactly Joseph ended up in the chimney, and investigators are still working the case. Joseph had disappeared years before but his family, who said he was a bit of a drifter following carnivals and taking odd jobs, didn’t report him missing. The Abbeville bank’s second floor was largely left abandoned and no one reported foul smells or cries for help. Any cries from the chimney, police speculate, would have led to the roof. The chimney narrowed to a narrow 3 inch opening, so there was no way out. Exactly how or why Joseph was in the chimney remains to be seen (and we will certainly follow this story) but foul play has been eliminated.

His family buried him last week after detectives finished DNA and other testing.

By the Ghost Light

It has been awhile since my last post, still recovering from Halloween mayhem I suppose. I have been enjoying the autumnal crispness settling into my bones, gladly awaiting the darkness of winter and the time of candlelight and ghosts. But what about the daylight hours?

I had an interesting radio interview the other morning during which the host, Cleveland Rippons, asked me if I had any recent paranormal encounters, and if they were a regular thing for me. In all honesty the most vivid ones I have had I had as a child, before logic or cynicism set in. Still, I have had a few in my adult years. My answer to him was just that–my adult apparition sitings paled in comparison to  those experienced by some of my more psychic and gifted friends, and were certainly not as clear as those I had as a child. Shortly after I hung up the phone with him, I heard a series of odd noises coming from my kitchen. Pings and taps. Distinct. Strange.

I felt a little ripple of a chill down my spine. Ghosts come in unlikely forms, not always under cover of night. Sometimes they come to remind you that you aren’t as far away from them as you’d think. At 10 in the morning, on a bright sunny day.

Here is a story submitted to me for my first book. The Book of the Bizarre by a friend of my editor’s who heard I was looking for paranormal stories and asked if she could share it. It reminded me of something that had happened to me as a young child, and remains one of my favorite ghost stories from the book. And it is a ghost story from the light of day.


Dana was the youngest of four kids, living in an old Victorian house in the Minnesota suburbs. Her grand-father, who lived in the same town was sick in the hospital, but Dana was too young to really know what was going on or that he was dying. One day while her mother was at the hospital, Dana came walking down the grand staircase in her house. To her surprise, she saw her grandfather walking up toward her, looking healthy and happy. “I wanted to say good-bye, Dana, and I love you very much,” he said  and continued up the stairs. Delighted, the child raced into the kitchen to tell her mother that Grandpa was all better and that he’d come over for a visit. But her mother had just returned home from the hospital with some bad news–her grandfather had passed away earlier that afternoon.

Straight Talk on WCEM

Sinister Serial Sisters

It is nearly Halloween! I will have to post today as I will be well away from my computer come Halloween eve and Halloween night, what with freaky parties and tricks and treats. If you have the time to listen in on Halloween morning or evening, two shows will be on the air.

The first is a segment during a cooking show in Tampa Bay, Florida! The lovely Elizabeth Doughtery took some time away from her regular program to talk to me about some freaky Florida facts, including the haunted Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway and Zombie Ants. You can listen live, from 9am-11am EST, if you are in Florida, or tune in from the web.

For Elizabeth, I put up this picture of a marzipan witch finger. Edible, fairly delicious, and absolutely gruesome. Once you put them in the fridge for an hour, they really start feeling like dead flesh.

And if you are interested in hearing a great show 6pm PST, 9pm EST, tune in and listen live online to Jeremy Scott’s anything-goes Halloween show.

And finally, you can listen to the podcast of my interview from today with the venerable Ron Ross by following the link below.

Now that some business is in order, I will share with you one more tale of terror before I depart for Halloween Heaven. This one is about the sinister serial killers Delfina and Maria de Jesus Gonzalez, two sisters that owned and operated a brothel in Guanajuato, Mexico, in the 1950s and 60’s. The sisters had a successful business, but they also had a problem on their hands: the prostitutes who got too old to work expected continued financial support. Every good businessperson knows that carrying dead weight is unsustainable, and the sisters came up with a workable solution: killing their low-achieving sex workers. They also killed any customer who appeared to have a big wad of cash with him. When investigators finally questioned the sisters and examined the property, they found the bodies of 11 men and 80 women!

A true tale of terror for your Halloween weekend!

Six Feet Lower Than Most

Tonight I have an interview with Dave Schraeder from Darkness on the Edge of Town, a paranormal radio show. In honor of such a deep, dark night (a new moon too!) I thought I’d share this particularly gruesome story about a couple of brothers who owned a funeral home in Pennsylvania and were arrested in 2008 for body part trafficking.

In 2008, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Louis and Gerald Garzone, two brothers who owned and operated a funeral home, were found guilty of selling corpses to a black-market trafficker of body parts. The gruesome duo admitted to carving up nearly 250 body parts across the country for various purposes including dental implants, hip and knee replacements, and other medical procedures.

In an elaborate and grisly scheme, the brothers would sell the bodies or body parts to a man named Michael Mastromarino, who ran the company Biomedical Tissue Services. Mastromarino would collect bodies from several funeral homes in the New Your and New Jersey area. He would send a crew to cup up the bodies and then transport the parts to various biomedical facilities—at a hefty price. Tissue from a single body could be sold for as much as $4000.

The selling of bodies for medical purposes itself is not illegal, provided the family and/or the deceased have consented, and the body has been tested and certified to be free of disease. Most of the bodies sold by the Garzones and Mastromarino were given false names and documentation, received no medical testing, and in some cases, had not been stored or refrigerated properly.

Don’t forget to tune in tonight for some truly morbid and bizarre stories on Darkness Radio!

Chili Cook-Off

A funeral parlor in Pittsfield, Massachusetts goes to great lengths to keep business alive. The Devanny-Condron Funeral Home hopes that events such as a chili cook-off, a murder mystery show, an art walk and monthly birthday cakes at the Pittsfield Senior Center will serve as a reminder to folks that the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home is more than just a place to prepare your loved ones for burial. It is an important part of the community.

And ever wonder what happens to coffins that don’t make it six feet under? One company has created furniture that is truly to die for. They don’t come cheap, but you could make your friends jealous with a couch that would rival anything Elivra reclines in!

Coast to Coast Ghosts and Hosts

Now that it is just past midnight I am wired from having talked to the venerable George Noory on Coast to Coast.  So many amazing callers stories too. What a great way to kick off October.

A favorite freaky story that comes to mind after hearing a caller talk about “a dead man in the trunk” is the tale of the widow in Brazil. She was riding in the hearse when a rear end collision on the way to the cemetery caused the coffin to fly forward, striking the woman in the back of the head, and killing her instantly. Eternal love from beyond the grave? Simply a sad or strange coincidence? definitely bizarre.

Three Times Six

I was putting away some of the books I used to research my most recent book Beyond Bizarre when I came upon this article neatly folded among the pages of Troy Taylor’s Haunted Graveyards. I had included this story in The Book of the Bizarre, but it is certainly worthy of repeating.

From an AP Press story from 2007, comes this 1600’s tale of premature burial . Francis de Civille was buried alive not once, not twice, but THREE times! First he was buried when still in utero when his mother died while pregnant. His father had the mother’s body exhumed and Francis was delivered via cesarean. The second time Civille was wounded in battle in the siege of Rouen in 1563. He was tossed into a common grave where he remained for seven hours until a loyal servant dug him up to move him to a more fitting grave. He was still breathing and was slowly being nursed back to health when his house was raided by the enemy. His body was thrown upon a dung heap becoming partially buried for three days!! He somehow survived and was again nursed back to health after the enemy siege had passed. When he finally did die, at a ripe old age of 105, his family waited more than three days to bury him, just to be sure.