Freaky Friday: The Ghost in the Fruit Cellar plus Black Cats and Skulls

Bloodcurdling Bizarre

It’s the last Friday in October and it’s time to really bust it out with freaky, Halloween-worthy, facts so have at it. Share them at a cocktail party, wow your blind date, or amuse your children. And if you want more, check out my books The Book of the Bizarre and Beyond Bizarre for loads more terrifying trivia and hilariously horrific facts. Happy Halloween!!!!!!!

black cat

  • When Stephen King had writer’s block while working on his novel It, he had a nightmare about leeches inside of discarded refrigerators. He says he woke up and knew immediately where the novel was supposed to go.
  •  In 1925, a few miles south of Portage Wisconsin, August and Patricia Heinz and their children suffered trauma of the supernatural variety. The family, which also included 7-year-old Freddy, 9-year-old Charles, and 11-year-old Elizabeth, had moved into the simple two-story farmhouse 10 years before and lived there happily without incident. But then, in February 1925, an unexplained fire destroyed one of the barns. In June, another barn burned, also without explanation. And then late one June evening, as the family sat down to supper., they heard the sound of footsteps descending from the second floor. Young Charles and his father investigated, but found no one else in the home. After they had sat back down with the rest of the family, the footsteps began again. This phantom sound continued on and off for the next three months. Further incidents began to occur. Patricia discovered that each morning her broom was missing from the kitchen, only to turn up in some strange place, such as a remote corner of the property or a different room in the house. Suspecting the children up to mischief, August and Patricia questioned each one, but all insisted they had nothing to do with it. Exasperated, Patricia decided to chain down the broom and lock the kitchen door. The next morning, she was horrified to discover the door still locked, but the chain broken and the broom outside in the yard.The events culminated one evening when August and his neighbor returned from a hunting trip. Once everyone, including their guest, were seated at the table, the sound of footsteps began. August recounted the story of this mysterious ghost to their guest. The neighbor decided to take action. Thinking that he might scare the ghost, the took his unloaded shotgun and crept towards the stairs where the sound of the footsteps had been heard. He leapt out, let forth a wild scream, and pointed his gun. Though he believed the gun to be unloaded, a shot flew out, shattering the plaster and wallpaper. Freddy and Charles recalled hearing a man moan after the shot, and all the family members heard the sounds of moans and cries coming from the fruit cellar. Once the sounds had ceased, the family was never again haunted by the spirit of the house.
  • In January 2008, an eight-one-year-old Chilean man woke up at his own funeral. His family dressed him in his finest suit and laid him out for a proper wake, only to witness him opening his eyes mid-mourning. Upon waking he simply asked for a glass of water. The family was overjoyed.
  • The black cat is the most common enchanted animal of the mystical world. Often the companions of witches, black cats are believed to have the power to reason, perform sorcery, and understand human language. Just about everyone knows the superstition that says when a black cat crosses your path bad luck will follow. But there are ways to counteract this omen. As soon as you spot the black cat, spit on the ground, turn yourself around three times, or walk backwards retracing your steps. As you pass the cat, reach down and stroke its back as a gesture of kindness
  •  During the seventeenth century, Azariah Pinney, a resident of Bettiscombe, a town in the heart of the English countryside, returned home after living in the West Indies for quite some time. Pinney brought a slave home with him to help care for his house, known as Bettiscombe Manor. The slave, unfortunately, soon fell ill, and lying upon his deathbed, requested one thing from his master. He asked that his corpse be sent home and buried in the land of his birth. Pinney agreed, but when the slave passed away, he broke the promise and buried the slave in a nearby church cemetery. Immediately after the burial, a strange moaning drifted up through the earth  under which the slave had been buried . Before long, the moaning turned into an endless and agonizing scream, which tore through the countryside. Upon finding out about Pinney’s broken promise, the local villagers demanded that he immediately dig up the body and remove it from the cemetery. Pinney did as told, and returned with the body to Betiscombe Manor, where he stored the body in the attic. The tortured screams ceased. The corpse remained in Pinney’s house, where it decayed over time, until all that remained was the skull.  As the years passed, Bettiscombe Manor saw many owners come and go. Some did not take well to sleeping so near the infamous skull and made the mistake of removing it from the attic. One owner threw the skull into a nearby pond, thinking it would sing, but the skull rose to the surface shrieking in anguish. Another family buried it in the backyard garden, but it dug itself out of the ground. In the end, the skull was returned to the house, where it is said to reside peacefully to this day.

Varla Ventura’s Gruesome and Ghoulish Gift Guide for the Holidays

Over the weekend I was haunting my local Haight Street shops and went into one of my favorites: Cheap Thrills. This store is like what Hot Topic wishes it could be. It’s packed full with everything from tiny rubber chickens to Day of the Dead skull dresses. The Baby Ventura (whom I should really start referring to as The Toddler Ventura) LOVES this store almost as much as I do.  The second I walked in the PJ Harvey and Nick Cave duet Henry Lee started playing over the speakers (one of my favorite songs!)  so as I browsed the mermaid tattoo patches and stripey socks, I was feeling pretty good. Imagine the “cheap thrill” I got when I looked over at the books and saw my very own The Book of the Bizarre stacked neatly on top! Like a total nerd, I still get excited over such things, and I exclaimed to the shopkeep, “Hey! I wrote this!” And no, she didn’t ask me to sign the copy but did smile nicely and seemed pretty tickled that I was so tickled. This got me thinking I needed to plug their awesome store, and while I’m at it, I decided to create Varla Ventura’s Gruesome and Ghoulish Gift Guide for the Holidays.

So here are 13 (or so) fun, freaky, and fabulous gifts for every man, woman, beast, and child on your list. (Not necessarily in that order.)

1. Day of the Dead Mirror

I’ll start off with one of the a real cheap and thrilling item from Cheap Thrills. Their online store, http://www.thrillomatic.com/ features such great categories as Bacon Stuff, Cupcake Stuff , Monkey Stuff, Devil Stuff, and Unicorn Stuff. This one is a perfect stocking stuffer, sweet little gift for a girlfriend, babysitter, co-worker, etc. It’s a Day of the Dead mirror, cute, compact and only $2.99!!

2. Aventurine Witch’s Apple

And speaking of magic mirrors, did you get my e-book collection, The Poison Apple and and Other Tales of Magic Mirrors and Wicked Queens? No? Well it’s pretty cheap ($2.99) too. If you are a fan of Snow White here is the perfect gift for every wicked or white witch on you list. A super-charged magical apple charm from one of the coolest purveyors of witchery, White Magick Alchemy. According to the witches at White Magick, Aventurine (the apple in the picture in the gallery is made of Aventurine but other options are available) “promotes relaxation, recovery, and regeneration. You should never buy a lottery ticket without aventurine in your left pocket!”

3.  Skull Decanter

Some of you may be familiar with my other favorite shop on Haight, Loved to Death, thanks to the show Oddiites. This is one of those stores you can basically randomly point in any direction and find the ideal gift for the likes of me, or any other pirate/goth/archeologist in your life (I’m talking bout you, Pirate Chris). But one of the recent stand outs is this gorgeous skull decanter set with glassware. It’s a little pricier at $150 but so divine!

4. Silver Tentacle Jewelry from The Bone Room

Get thee to the Bone Room and purchase me the skull jewelery. Or a gravestone locket. Or a Spider poison ring. Or order up a realistic replica skull for your bookshelf. Or….Just be sure and call the store for availability on the jewelry. It’s artisan fortified and not mass-produced.

5. Sea Monster Collage Kit

For the little adventurer in your life, this awesome collage kit can be purchased from Paxton Gate online or in their real-world kids store (Curiosities for Kids). I mean really, what kid doesn’t love sea monsters? You’ll also find freaky jewelry, terrariums, taxidermy, and orchids.

6. Books! of the Bizarre

Of course I’ve got to add my own books to this list. Both The Book of the Bizarre and it’s sister Beyond Bizarre are cute lil’ 5 x 7 packages with flaps, lots of fun and freaky art, and packed to the gills with bizarre stories, paranormal tales, and things you need to know for your next cocktail party. And for you e-book geeks out there, I have collections of Paranormal Parlor and Magical Creature books too, which are very affordable and fun. Available on Amazon, B&N, and where ever books are sold!

7. Skull Pot Scrubber

Make household chores a little less boring with this amazing purple skull pot scrubber from Plasticland.com. This store, by the way, has a bit of everything cool you could imagine. Dresses, shoes, (I like the Spineless X-Ray shoes) Mermaid Tattoo pillows, and so much more. It’s very affordable, fun, and offers a great flat rate shipping on all orders–so fill up your cart and check it out!

8.  The Overlook Hotel T-Shirt from 6dollarshirts.com

This website offers t-shirts from pop-culture to horror to humor and all for just six dollars! It’s actually $6.50 for a cute babydoll cut shirt for the gals in your life, but still an amazing deal. You can also get 10 shirts for 50! They’ve got a couple Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King themed shirts that I’ve already ordered! But this Overlook Hotel t-shirt, featuring the freaky twins in the center of a maze, is a must have for any fan of the horror movie (or book. Of course nerds like me know it’s not a hedge maze but hedge animals in the book…)

9. Bat Cameo Book Mark

I’ve already purchased a gorgeous cameo and two rings from this amazing website, Starrlightjewelry and Design. She also has an Etsy shop that offers an array of incredible items at incredibly low prices! Seriously, $11 dollars for this gorgeous little bookmark, I can personally attest to the quality of this woman’s work! Plus, she donates money to bat conservation. And she is a cat lover. Oh and runs an animal sanctuary. Word to the wise, her etsy shop is currently closed for the holidays. But you can shop through her website (which is linked above for the bookmark.) Go Lady Starrlight!

10. Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Milk Pirate Onesie

Piratemod are the premier purveyors of pirate themed t-shirts, sweatshirts, doggie shirts, and baby/toddler items with amazing quality and a wide variety of super sweet Pirate themes.  Plus these people are the master minds behind the Northern California Pirate Festival. Check out their online shop and get something for your dog, your baby, and your husband/lover/girlfriend/wife. My other favorite–a black t-shirt with the wise words: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

11. Sacred Heart Print by artist Benjamin A. Vierling

One of the most magnificent artists of our time, Vierling uses old world Renaissance techniques to create a layered depth rare in painting today. His painting Sacred Heart features botanicals and creatures aligned with witchcraft and high magick. This high quality limited edition print  Sacred Heart, has been produced via 6-colour offset lithography and printed on archival coated stock, the 16” x 20” print is strictly limited to 250 copies, hand-signed and numbered by the Artist. It’s reasonably priced (under $75) and makes a unique and incredible gift for the witch, alchemist, lover of the macabre, or art fanatic in your life.  (Check out the image in the gallery to see the splendor.)Vierling offers his original paintings and a limited number of prints through his website here: http://www.bvierling.com/

12.  Dead Sexy Bath and Body

This perfume from Tokyo Milk is described as having hints of  White Orchid, Vanilla, Ebony & Exotic Woods. With a super cute skull and crossbones, the Lady of the House will be delighted with this gothically minded gift. Comes also in a hand cream!

13. Monster High Doll: FrankieThis enchanting alternative to Barbies (the Monster High crew look like they’d carve Barbie, Ken, and Skipper up and eat them for a midnight feast) my personal favorite is Frankie Stein, the daughter of Frankenstein of course.  Her favorite color is black and white stripes, and claims that her biggest pet peeve is that every morning when she comes upstairs her father shouts “It’s alive!”

I’m proud to tell you my nieces are obsessed with these dolls, so be warned. Once you buy one (Draculaura is cute too!) they will want them all.

Check out the gallery below to see pictures of all these fun gift items. And now, as the mommy zombie said to the toddler zombie, go forth and consume!

Haunted Dorms

I just returned from a lengthy week off-the-grid at my sister’s place, where I spent evenings looking into the starry abyss (for UFOs, of course!) and days swimming in the murky lake straight out of Stephen King’s short story The Raft. The lake was once a blown out sinkhole caused by a mining explosion, and it even has a “plug” at the bottom that leads to an underground shaft. When we were young there was actually a raft floating in the middle of the lake, with a big chain attached to the bottom, that we would swim out to. Until the summer we read that short-story. After that, my sister refused to swim there and I was left swimming out on my own–much more boring. It is murky, icky, oozy, deep blue, icy-cold and completely isolated. In short, it was great! The perfect place for a grown-up-goth to spend her summer days.

Anyway, I got back and had a fun email in my inbox from a reader of my post about haunted places (5 Haunted Places I’d Love to Stay the Night)with a link to an article about some haunted college dorms.

Check it out! I know there are probably hundreds more out there, too!

http://www.thebestdegrees.org/7-college-dorms-that-are-allegedly-haunted/

Big thanks to Crystal for sending this article. And for all you freaks out there, feel free to email me your own freaky stories and links at varlaventura@gmail.com. I will try and post them, and who knows, you might just make it into my next book!

Haunted Houses on Huff Po!

ImageFor those of you who love a good horror story and you fans of the freaky, I’ve got a new post on the Huffington Post’s Weird News site about 5 Haunted Places I’d Love to Stay the Night! You can read it here and comment on where you’d stay. I think the list could easily be in the hundreds once we all get going!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/varla-ventura/best-haunted-houses_b_1539754.html