Calling all Banshees!

Banshee CounterpartsBanshees are among the most feared creatures of the fairy and supernatural realm,  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.

It is common for families to inherit the banshee, who arrives time and time again to warn of an impending death.

To quote Raymond Buckland from his book The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts:

“It has been said that a banshee is really the disembodied soul of someone who once lived and was attached to the family in some way.  It depends upon the relationship that the banshee had with the dying family member as to how the banshee announces his or her coming death.  If the person about to die was of a gentle, kind disposition, then the banshee will appear and sing soft songs of warning, summoning the person to death.  But if the person destined to die was of a hateful disposition, then the banshee will make her announcement with horrible cries and screams.”

Have you ever seen or heard a banshee? I want your first-hand accounts for my upcoming book, Banshees, Werewovles, Vampires, and Other Creatures of the Night (Weiser Books, October 2013).

Contact me at varlaventura AT (you know how to actually type that, right?) and let me know what creepy creatures you’ve encountered.

Who Do Voodoo? You Do! Or at least, Lee does.

Do you watch Secret Circle? I came to it a bit late to the game, but I am officially addicted (again!). Yes, I’m a teenager deep down inside.

As you may have seen in one of the most recent episodes,  the always-mischievous Faye and the always-trailing-behind Melissa have started spending more and more time in Faye’s new love interest, Lee’s, voodoo shop. While Faye insists that Lee is a fake, that none of his “voodoo” powers are actually real, she’s started realizing that there might actually be something to Lee’s odd voodoo spells and totems when he effectively cast a spell to draw out Cassie’s dark magic a few episodes ago.

I was struck by a warning Lee gave about Voodoo practitioners, about his Devil’s Spirit drug dealing friend, Callum, and about the nature of voodoo and the dangers of dabbling in something you don’t understand. Because lord knows Varla loves to dig into things she doesn’t understand! If it is freaky and sneaky or ghoulish and foolish, I can’t seem to help myself. And not to totally freak you out but my editor at Weiser Books found out about my Secret Circle fetish (and blossoming interest in Voodoo) and sent me this super cool book by Denise Alvarado. The truth is much of the history and practice of Voodoo is shrouded in superstition and false truths, and Alvarado’s The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbookis an excellent resource for anyone looking for authentic Voodoo and Hoodoo root0work and magic.

Not for the faint of heart, this book is the real deal. It has money spells and love spells, and quite a few curses and hexes for good measure. This is not white magic! But it is full of amazing ideas and incantations. I love the author’s website and her crafts.

Check it out!

A Ghostly Visit Sparks a Lifetime of Hauntings

I was five years old the first time I saw an apparition. I was half-asleep, the pre-dawn crickets had gone silent, and I was stirred into waking by a gentle pulling on my toe. When I opened my eyes I saw my paternal grandfather standing at the foot of my bed. He smiled. I slid my toes out of the covers into my slippers, preparing to lean into a nice big hug, but he was gone. I thought it strange, but to a five-year old the very regular world can seem like a strange place, so I drifted back to sleep. The next morning when I told my mom about my nighttime vision, she burst into tears. My grandpa had died just after midnight, perhaps an hour before he visited me.

As I grew up and started collecting strange stories of the supernatural variety, I found that this kind of manifestation is actually fairly common. An after-death farewell. Yet the idea of visitors from the great beyond is a subject that few dare to discuss in open company (unless you are hanging out with me) lest their experiences be ridiculed or their ideas sound crazy.

What kind of paranormal pasts do y’all harbor? What freaky things have happened to you?

The Ghost of Mark Twain

The latest Huffington Post blog gets into some details about a lone grave, the Ouija board, and the ghost of Samuel L. Clemens!!

Read it here:

Paranormal Parlor Games

The Curious Case of the Haunted Toothbrush

In honor of my upcoming dental trip, I’ll share my latest Huffington Post blog with you. Too much Halloween candy!!!

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

“Half-Hangit” Maggie

I’ve been neglectful in writing of late, up to my bony elbows in pre-Halloween activities. The evolution of a gruesome cake, last minute additions to my costume, and pumpkin carving have all kept me up through the wee hours of the night. Tonight I will be finishing most of my All Hallows Eve prep, because once the 28th hits, it is all Halloween, all the time. Yes, I celebrate more than just one long dark night.

The celebrations begin early tomorrow (Thursday) morning with a quickie segment of bizarre briefs with KGAB, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. That will be at 7:07 Pacific Standard Time, and you can listen live online if you don’t happen to live in Wyoming.

And then tomorrow night, Badlands Radio has invited me to be a guest for a 2.5 hour freak fest of paranormal proportions! Based in Central Texas, this station can be heard across the country online. The show starts at 6pm Pacific Time, and we will take callers! Should be quite the fest with Captain Jack Harris. You know I love anyone I have to call Captain!

I wanted to share a creepy story of life beyond the grave in honor of this fantastic time of year. The story of Maggie Dickson. Maggie was hung in 1724 in Inveresk, Scotland, presumably for attempting to self-induce an abortion. She was hung in the town square, and it is said that the hangman pulled and swung on her legs once the noose was tightened and the ladder kicked out, just for good measure. They cut Maggie down, apparently dead, and placed her body into a cart that was used by her relatives to transport her home for burial. Along the way her mourning family and friends stopped at an alehouse for a bit of consolation. While the bereaved were inside, Maggie regained consciousness. Her weak cries attracted the help of a local surgeon who helped to revive her.  Later, she was granted her freedom (it being ruled that she had taken the court-appointed punishment) and went on to live many more years, widely known as “Half-Hangit” Maggie.

For more stories like these, check out my first book The Book of the Bizarre and also Norman Adam’s book Scottish Bodysnatchers: True Accounts.

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.

Rattling Rafters and Haunting Moons

Recently I had the privilege of staying overnight at Preston Castle, an old boy’s reform school in Ione, California. It looms above the sleepy little gold rush town, peering down upon the vineyards and scraggly pines with half-shuttered window-eyes and a toothless brick grin. When we arrived the moon was on the rise, nearly full and streaming through the holes in the roof to the floorboards below. Bats swept in and out of the rafters just below the nest of white barn owls, that screeched all evening long. Hair pulling, whispers, orbs of light, and words of warning were but a few of the delights we encountered that night. As midnight approached we waited in breathless anticipation to see what wonders the witching hour would unfold.

Tonight, as the witching hour approaches, I will be in conversation with the one and only George Noory on Coast to Coast AM. I hope you can join us for a couple of hours of bizarre stories and freaky facts, and maybe you can even call in! 10pm -12pm, PST.

And perhaps you too can visit the beautiful and haunted Preston Castle. Proceeds for overnight ghost tours benefit the restoration. You can also read more about the history of the castle, including philanthropy, abandonment, and murder, on their website! And they will be hosting a Halloween Haunt!