It was supposed to be a quiet camping trip. There weren't supposed to be lights in the sky. Nobody was supposed to go missing. Nobody was supposed to die...
Here's a short sample from my UFO/First contact thriller...
Joe turned back to the grill and shuffled the foil-wrapped corn around as Alex and Wilt belted out an enthusiastic rendition of Bob Dylan’s Stuck Inside of Mobile. Joe wondered how true it was they would surely return. Little Annabelle coming along would certainly change everything, and he couldn’t help the swell of nostalgia that rose in him. He loved these trips and couldn’t share in Alex’s certainty they’d return. If anything, Alex was probably just saying it to make him and Wilt feel better, knowing how much they loved it up here. The heat from the coals warmed Joe’s face and the fire crackled in the background.
Joe could hear the fire. They had stopped playing.
‘Hey, maestro, where’s the music?’
Joe turned to look at his friends. They both sat slack jawed, gaping at the woods across the lake.
Wilt pointed. ‘It’s back.’
Joe went cold. He reluctantly turned to where his friends had fixed their astonished stares. It was back. He still thought it could be a helicopter or ball lightning, but through the trees across the lake the pulse of a yellow light pierced the darkness. For a minute or so, time stood still. The buzzing and chirping bugs backing Alex’s playing all night had lost their voices. Wilt stood. Alex put his guitar down, then rose to his feet. Joe checked for signs Wilt and Alex were as nervous as he was.
Alex looked over at him. ‘What do we do?’
Joe had no idea. Part of him wanted nothing more than to be back in Boston. In O’Malley’s, watching the Patriots with the guys from the firehouse, preseason or not. But he was curious about what the light was. So was Alex.
‘Let’s go. Have a closer look at it,’ Alex said, that same excited gleam in his eye.
Wilt’s shocked response came out in a thick Boston twang. ‘What? Are you fuckin cuckoo?’
Alex looked at Joe.
He doubted Wilt would go for it. It was a chance to find out once and for all what the light was. It could have been anything. Ball lightning. Experimental government craft. He just wanted to prove to Alex it wasn’t little green men.
‘It would be interesting to find out what it is...’
Joe wanted an adventure. He always did. But what he really wanted was to debunk the whole thing. Then they could get back to reality and fishing and screwing around like they were back in their teens.
Alex smiled a little and turned to Wilt. ‘What do you say, buddy?’
Wilt saw Alex’s grin and smiled a little himself. He glanced over at Joe as he stared at him.
‘I say I must want my fuckin head examined.’
Alex gave a small cheer of victory, Joe quickly wrapped the food he was grilling, and they left the roaring fire behind. Instead of heading for the Beast and back to their favorite Boston bar and the Patriots, they headed for the rowboat and the light.
They should have picked the Patriots.
Wilt’s huge fire was a match light in the distance as they reached the far shore of the lake. Joe stopped the recording he had been making on Wilt’s cell and handed him his phone. Alex led the race through the woods toward the pulsating light, filming on his own phone all the way. The light flashed its green glow through the trees as Joe dragged Wilt ever closer to the next lake. Nobody spoke. It was difficult to judge the distance through the trees, but it looked as if the light was about halfway across the second, smaller lake as it hovered silently above the calm waters.
‘It’s fuckin huge.’ Alex’s voice trembled as he spoke.
He was right. Now they were closer, it was clear whatever they were looking at was more than just a light. It was a craft. A metallic, saucer-shaped flying machine. The color, like the lights, was nothing Joe had ever seen before. Silver, gray and blue all at once. Looking now it was hard to say if the craft had lights or was made of light. Either way, Alex didn’t care. He continued on, turning back every few steps to check the others were still behind him. If Wilt had suggested there and then they go back, Joe would have gladly obliged. Unfortunately for all involved, he didn’t.
For as long as Joe could remember Alex always had a genuine fascination with the unknown, but it was clear to see even he was terrified. In all the time he and Joe had known each other, Joe had never seen him afraid. They had to deal with some pretty hairy situations with their work - they dealt in life and death on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. Joe had seen this guy do things that would turn your hair white. When he’s on the job, he’s all business. Now he trembled. His face was chalky. Joe should have seen it as a sign to stop. To turn back, get in the Beast and drive back to Boston as quickly as possible. To the bar where the rest of Ladder Company would be watching the game.
Joe wanted to stop. Pick a tree to hide behind. Turn and go back, as far away as possible, and yet, he couldn’t. He had to go on. He had to know what this thing was. He gulped uncontrollably, even though his mouth was as dry as the soft ground beneath his feet. Perhaps it was the unknown element of this that was the source of fear for Alex. It had dawned on him this wasn’t a game. Now he had Annabelle to think about. When you’re unsure of what’s going on around you, instinct is a pretty reliable survival guide.
The men were all in good shape (as members of Ladder Company, they had to be), but by the time they cleared the trees at the edge of the second lake they were breathless. Joe and Wilt stopped alongside Alex and stared at the glowing object some two hundred yards away. Wilt continued filming. The saucer was a hundred feet across, suspended silently fifty yards above the water’s surface. The friends all gaped as it rose slowly. When the idea came it could be leaving, Joe was shocked his overriding emotion was sadness. That was short-lived as the disc dropped back to its original position, bobbing like a buoy on water. Again it rose and fell, like it was putting on a show, then, the third time, when it dropped it stopped just feet from the surface of the lake. Huge circles expanded across the water from the center as if something massive had breached the flat calm.
Alex whispered, ‘Guys, I don’t like this. I changed my mind. I want to go back.’
No sooner had the words left his lips than the object rose to twenty yards above the surface, then, in the blink of an eye, it was in the air above them. Just like in Joe’s dream. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, and the air was thick with electricity. Joe had felt faint, now his knees gave out from underneath him. Somebody caught him at one side and the other shouted, ‘Run!’ He would struggle to tell for sure who did what.
They raced back through the woods. Joe’s legs felt empty as though he’d just run a marathon, energy sapped, he was in the slow-motion sprint of a nightmare. A beam of white light pierced the canopy and fell upon Joe. He did his best to zig and zag, to remove himself from the beam’s intrusive scrutiny. He felt weight lifting from him. A lightness came. Time slowed and sounds faded, and he looked down to see shadows growing beneath twigs and stones. They were levitating. That was the lightness he felt. Then it was gone. Unable to get a fix on him the beam had moved on.
The sounds of breathless endeavor rushed back, feet pounding the soft earth, lungs gasping for air. As they dashed through the trees, the beam flashed from one of them to the other. Wilt overtook Joe, gripping his phone. Joe peered over his shoulder to see Alex dodging the beam. Round Alex’s feet, twigs and leaves floated then fell as the light passed over them. Then the beam was gone.
Joe looked up to see Wilt clear the woods. He was halfway between the trees and the rowboat, feet spraying pebbles across the beach as he raced for the sanctity of that roaring fire and the cabin across the water. Then, the bright white beam fixed on him.
Joe watched on, awestruck as small stones levitated around Wilt’s feet as he ran. Joe was a few yards behind, and Alex a few behind him, then, just as Wilt reached the boat, he let out a bone-chilling scream. He was frozen, paralyzed by the beam. Joe stopped dead and Alex ran into the back of him, throwing both to the floor. There was a blinding flash and a roar like thunder. They looked up.
The boat rocked lightly back and forth, and gentle waves lapped the beach.
The disc was gone.
So was Wilt.
THE EVENT is available NOW from Amazon!
Welcome! Today’s post is an excerpt from my debut novel The Death of Laszlo Breyer, set for Halloween release for your Amazon Kindle device/app!
(This post was updated April 2021. The book is out now! Link after the excerpt!)
Alcoholic ex-detective Jack Talbot is accused of stealing the remains of his dead wife’s killer, but when new killings start, he has to find out who is passing themselves off as lycanthrope psychopath Laszlo Breyer, before the copycat exacts his bloody revenge and kills those closest to Jack.
In this excerpt, David saw something unusual on his CCTV cameras and their dog, Freddy, is missing. He is preparing himself to go outside and look.
David tramped downstairs re-tightening the belt on his dressing gown. In the kitchen he rifled through his drawer, ignored the ball of string and screwdrivers and WD-40 and assortment of light bulbs and grabbed the torch. Outside, the wind whipped up again. He looked down at the torch, unsure of the last time he’d used it and flicked it on, off, then on again. Gripping the cold barrel, he stood by the back door.
From upstairs came a click and warm, welcoming light cascaded from the landing.
‘What’s going on?’
David’s grip released on the torch and fastened again just in time to stop it falling to the floor. He breathed deeply, ‘He’s gone... again.’
David sighed, ‘He’s gone again. Your beloved Freddy.’
‘Well go out and find him.’
‘What do you think I’m doing?’ he snapped. ‘Go back to bed.’
He heard muttering as the light went off and then the only sound in the house was again the sound of that biting wind.
David stared longingly upstairs in the direction of his warm bed, then turned back to the door. He did the maths. It would take ten seconds, maybe fifteen, to get outside, round the corner and to the back of the property. Once there, he would check the rope which tied Freddy. If it was chewed through (again) it was nothing serious, just another escape attempt. He could come back inside, go back to the nice, warm bed upstairs, and start looking for him tomorrow. Thirty seconds. Max.
And if it wasn’t an escape attempt?
He frowned. Deep down he sensed that this was different from the other times that Freddy had escaped; that the scene on the monitor was somehow wrong. He couldn’t swear to it, but he thought he’d seen a shadow on screen as he entered the study. He drew another deep breath, turned the key in the door, and opened it.
Once outside, the bitter wind snatched at his dressing gown as he strode to the rear of the house. Five seconds. The silver torch beam twinkled on the snowy ground a few feet ahead of him. As he rounded the corner the harsh security light flooded his tired eyes. Ten seconds. He shielded them, before turning his attention to the kennel and rope. He kneeled to inspect the rope when, above the wind, came a sound from the trees. He span, half falling against the house, and trained the torchlight into the dense greenness of the conifers.
The wind died to a whisper. In the distance a car door slammed shut and he thought about calling out to the neighbour for help. But what would he say? That his dog was missing?
He stood now and gingerly stepped towards the trees, bobbing and leaning to get a view through the branches, his heart racing.
Then he heard it.
A low growl.
The pounding heartbeat rose in his ears again as the torch settled on a pair of glowing eyes.
‘Fred. Stop fucking about,’ he shouted, unable to control the quiver in his voice.
As he stepped back he noticed footprints leading into the trees. Too big for Freddy’s? His mind was at the point of contemplating the patch where whatever it was stopped walking into the trees and started to be dragged
Please not Freddy
when, between the gusts of wind, the growl rose.
David dropped the torch. He turned and sprinted for the door. Behind him, he heard the trees part. His shadow shrank in the fallen torchlight only to be swallowed by something huge. He stumbled around the corner and leapt at the kitchen door expecting to feel the cold grip of death at any moment…
The Death of Laszlo Breyer is available now on Amazon in ebook and paperback. If you’d like more info on new releases, or almost daily posts on horror and the unexplained, head to my Facebook page...
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Hello, dear reader! I've taken time out of writing the new book to bring you a short story. Enjoy!
In the dim hallway, just feet from the sanctity of his bedroom, he stared at the flickering candle. And while he didn’t want to, he knew that he should blow it out. You heard terrible stories of candles not extinguished causing fires.
Burning to death. Yes, that would be the only thing worse than the darkness. The darkness. That inky blackness in which his nightmares wandered. He’d had the same nightmare three nights in a row. The shuffling outside his bedroom door – in this very hallway – the creeping blackness. But he couldn’t leave it. What about the fire? The only thing worse than the dark. He drew a deep haltering breath, and blew...
Standing in the hallway, he watched as the tendrils of smoke rose from the smouldering glow of the freshly extinguished wick. His eyes darted to the flame dancing atop the candle at the far end of the narrow hallway: it bobbed, threatening to plunge him into total darkness.
Well, not quite total, he thought – he still held a candle himself. The fragile halo of light would protect him, at least until he was locked safely in his room.
As he ambled along the uneven passage, towards that gentle sphere of light at the far end, the floor creaked. And aside from him footsteps, the silence was complete. He’d take comfort from an outside breeze, or a patter of rain against the window. But tonight, as in his nightmares, the elements offered nothing. He toyed with the notion of extinguishing the candle that sat outside his room, but instead turned towards his bedroom door.
He reached into a pocket and gripped the cool metal of his key. He slid it into the lock, strangly comforted by the weight of it, and listened to the tumblers as they rattled into place. He pushed the door and it squeaked on its hinges, slowly swinging open.
He turned and eyed the dancing flame of the candle behind him. He blew this out and the hall would be consumed by blackness.
Well, not completely, he thought, tightly gripping the candle in his hand. He drew another deep breath and…
He jumped as his own breath broke the silence. He dashed into the bedroom, removing the key from the door as he went. He daren’t move too quickly, the flickering flame of the final candle wobbling a warning in his hands. The hinges squeaked as he shoved the bedroom door shut, closing out the deathly black of the hall. He quickly followed with the key, again listening to the click of the tumblers.
The door was locked. Safe at last. But he would not blow out his candle. Not yet. And maybe not at all. It was in the darkness of his nightmares that it came, and when it did, a swift certain death followed with it.
He placed the candle onto the bedside table and slipped between the cold sheets. He wouldn’t sleep: Not straight away. Like every other night he would wait. He would wait and listen.
There was something different about tonight. It wasn’t the shadows; their presence was felt every night. It wasn’t the cold, for the house was rarely touched by warmth. It was the silence. Normally, there was something: dry autumnal leaves scratching at the windows; drops of rain gently tapping their staccato beat. Tonight, neither made a sound. In fact, it was so quiet that he could hear the gentle sizzle from the burning wick. Just like his dream.
Suddenly, he whipped his head around to the door. To the place where he heard a sound. Not the door itself, but beyond. In the hallway.
Was it not the same creak his own feet had made?
He waited. The next moment was surely the key turning in the lock. Turned by an invisible hand. Clicking the tumblers. Then, the squealing of hinges. The door opening to endless blackness. And from the blackness. The swift shadow of death.
He stared at the door. At the flaking paint around the lock. At the key, still housed within. At least that had not moved. He was still locked in. Still safe. Safe and alone!
He stared at the door. Waiting to hear the sound of footsteps from beyond. But he didn’t.
He threw his head back and barked out a relieved laugh. He didn’t hear footsteps. He didn’t hear creaking. No, as he sat, his heartbeat thudding in his ears, as he stared at the door, the protective candlelight jigging in his peripheral vision, what he heard was much, much worse.
Then, in the pitch blackness, came the rattling of tumblers...
And the squealing of hinges...
And then he heard no more...
Here's a short story to keep you going while I write my new book! Enjoy!
Loud applause erupted from the studio audience of the Wheel of Fortune. Her family would have no doubt complained that the volume was too loud, just as they would have complained that the room was too warm. She liked it warm. Maybe they would have been right. Maybe it was too loud. But Gladys wasn’t listening.
Her eyes had strayed as they so often did to the wall behind the television where the photograph had hung for the past fourteen years. It was, had been, her favourite photograph, at one time. That was a long time ago, shortly after it had been taken. Now she hated it.
It had been taken at her 40th Wedding Anniversary celebration. At her and Ron’s favourite restaurant. The Cow and Crab. A steak and seafood place out in the sticks that they’d stumbled upon on a scenic drive back from the coast. She and Ron were pride of place in the centre of the photograph, with the fireplace a warm and welcoming backdrop. She and Ron were seated, with Tony, Stephen and Janice standing behind them – their three kids in order of age (it also looked good because Stephen was the tallest). And beside them stood their two grandchildren, Timothy at one side, and Jackie at the other. Sarah (Jackie’s mother) had shouted smile!, and smile they had. It was an evening that Gladys would always remember fondly. But the photo? The photo she hated.
She’d tried to get rid of the damned thing, after Ron died. She took it down and put it in the shoebox that she kept all her special memories in. The shoebox beneath the bed. It seemed a sin to put this awful object in there with the cinema and concert tickets she’d kept from special occasions, but at the time she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away. That afternoon, when the photo was gone, she had been able to focus on Wheel of Fortune. And all of the shows that came after it. Her eyes no longer drawn to that cursed picture lurking in the background serving as a constant reminder of…
That night, she’d gone to bed and slept well for the first time in God knew how long. The following morning, she peered beneath the bed just to check the shoebox was still there. And it was. British Racing Green with a thick tan elastic band, corners a little tattered. For the first time in years she went to the kitchen and prepared breakfast with a smile on her face. But the smile disappeared when she sat in the living room to eat. On the wall, behind the television, like it had never been away, was the photo.
At that time only three of the seven people in the picture had died. Ron most recently, of his heart condition. Before him Stephen, victim of a motorcycle accident. The first to go had been young Jackie. Only seven years old. Kidnapped and missing for four weeks. Gladys had been the first in the family to know she was dead. Earlier that week, before the police visited Tony and Sarah with the awful news, Gladys had found that God forsaken photograph not on the wall, but on the floor. Frame intact, string in one pristine piece. She looked up at the nail where the picture had been hanging, and it was fast in the wall. She’d never been the superstitious type, but that morning when she found the photograph on the floor, she knew. Balls to bones as Ron would say, she just knew.
It had, of course, fallen again in the week of Stephen’s motorcycle accident. And again in the week Ron was rushed to hospital. That was the first time she’d taken it down. After Ron had died. She never told the family. They’d make fun of her. After the first reappearance of the photo, she locked it in the cupboard where Ron kept his whiskey, only for it to be back upon the wall the next morning. She even took it into town. She removed the photograph and gave the frame to a charity shop collecting for cancer research. And when she got back home she cried as she put a match to the smiling faces in the aluminium kitchen sink. She watched as the flames consumed them one at a time. She sat in a chair and sobbed as the acrid blue smoke hung in the air. She’d cried until the smoke cleared, and when it had, she hoisted herself up and staggered into the living room. As she slumped into her chair, the chair she was sitting in now, she screamed. She screamed at the seven faces smiling at her from the wall behind the television.
Now, as she sat staring at the photograph in the warmth of her living room, another burst of applause exploding from the studio audience, she cried. That picture had fallen three more times since Ron had passed. Once each for Tony, Timothy, and Janice. Now there was nobody to complain that the volume was too loud. It was just Gladys and the picture.
There was no one to complain that the room was too warm. But was it? Gladys pulled the thin cardigan up over her shoulders and tight around her chest. She rolled the sleeves down over her forearms where the goosepimples had formed. The sound from the television seemed to fade as once more her eyes were drawn behind, to the wall – to the photograph.
Now her eyes went from the blurred soft lines to hard focus. Onto those seven smiling faces, six of whom were now gone. Onto the frame that she’d left behind in the charity shop years before. She looked at the faces and they smiled back at her. Suddenly she realised that for the first time in years she didn’t feel the old bitter animosity towards that picture. She didn’t feel the fear. As she stared now, the old feelings of warmth and happiness came back. The happy memories. The love of those in the picture.
The picture. And as the warmth crept back into the room, she stared at the picture. She stared at the picture: then it fell.
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So, I asked the beautiful people on my Facebook page to select a writing prompt for me to write a short story from. They duly replied (you can find the prompts on the above link, and I should say this one's for Karolina, Sally, and David. If you don't like it, gee, I'm sorry, I guess), and so, I present you...
I’d known this day was coming for a long time. God knows I’d prepared for it, and now it had finally arrived. Prepared for it emotionally, I mean. Before I even opened my eyes I knew what was going on. And I knew why it was going on. The last thing I could remember was the party.
It had been a good one, for the most part. Sad, poignant (like all Last Parties were), but the music was pumping, the drinks were in rich supply, and even though it was his party, Remy was in great form. Only 26 years old, turning 27, but drinking like a Viking and joking around like he always did. His wife, Chrissy, sure she was emotional. I mean, she’s the guy’s wife, and his Last Party. The reasons for her sadness were pretty much the same for everyone.
Firstly, and this one I shouldn’t really have to explain, it’s his Last Party. Emphasis on the word Last. They’re always emotionally charged. Come on, it’s the final meeting with everyone you know and love. If somebody invites you to an LP, you go. You go, and you take as much food and drink as you can carry, and if there’s any left over (and this is a fucking huge if), the guest of honour gets to keep that shit for however long he’s got. The Second Reason Chrissy was upset about her husband’s LP is why everyone gets upset at their significant other’s LP. It’s selfish, but my inkling is it’s the main reason; it’s a glimpse into your own future. Your own very near future.
Chrissy’s birthmark was the same as Remy’s. In the same place as everyone else’s (obviously). On both of their wrists was the number 27. That was the thing with the birthmarks. Everybody could pick someone with a number close to their own. Unless you’re too high or too low. That’s one of the reasons I’d always been single, but that’s another story. Chrissy was a few months younger than Remy, and by the time her LP came around, it was anybody’s guess if he’d still be around, at least the kid would be born, and who knew, maybe he’d be luckier. Just because his folks were both 27s, didn’t mean he’d be a 27. If he was lower they’d be too dead to reap any benefit from it.
If you’re like a 40 or a 50 or even an 80, basically a number high enough to benefit from it, you have a kid and that poor little scrap of life comes out in single figures, you get to retire, well, for five years. Four before, one after. (Or one before and four after, if that’s all the maths allows.) All on the government’s bill. Your old job waiting for your return.
And the birthmarks were the reason I always wore long sleeves. The birthmarks didn’t develop until you were two years old (unless you were a 1), so there was no official record of anyone’s number. It was illegal to request the information too, like at a job interview. It could be used to discriminate. Unless you were a cop or a soldier or something like that, the government never knew. So yeah, my folks always told me to cover up, and they were serious as shit when they did. So I covered up. And stayed single. Girls always wanted to know your number. Christ it was worse than the discussion of how many women you’d slept with. No, I’m not a virgin, before you ask. Yes, prostitutes. No, I don’t feel bad.
So when the day finally arrived, I had been expecting it. I peeled my eyes open, the strange taste of my last drink at Remy’s Last Party still in my mouth, and saw the birthmark. But it wasn’t the unusual thing. An infinity sign birthmark is an unusual thing, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t see all of it. Because of the shackles. Cold, heavy iron shackles. I mean, seriously? I’m going to live for ever but I’m not the Hulk.
“And which assface spiked my fucking tequila sunrise?”
Yes, I drink tequila sunrise as my beverage of choice. Little judgemental, aren’t we?
I could see one of them. He looked about Remy’s age, but skinny, and white, dressed like Iggy Pop if you ever saw him wearing clothes. I addressed the room, though, because I heard another voice, deep lots of bass. Probably a black dude. Oh, I’m racist now? Do you think it belongs to a little old Chinese lady? No, so let’s move the fuck along. When the third voice answers, I get a surprise.
It’s just when I’m dealing with this minor surprise (yes, I’m aware that women can do nefarious shit, I just wasn’t sure it included drugging people and shackling them to old wooden doors) that I see it. On Iggy Pop’s wrist. His birthmark is like my birthmark. Now it’s not too much of a stretch for even my groggy mind to imagine what the others birthmarks look like.
“You got it,” Iggy says, presenting his wrist, “we’re like you.”
“I have never drugged anyone and shackled them to a shitty old splintering door in a cold and frankly unwelcoming warehouse.” I answer, because even though I’m groggy still, and my head feels like it’s got three potatoes rattling around where my brain used to be, being next to impossible to kill brings out the cocky in most people.
The black guy appears from around the back of me at the head end, “Sorry bout that, we’re kinda new at this.”
He talks like Samuel L. Jackson, but he looks like somebody stuck Scottie Pippen’s head on Usain Bolt’s body, oh and I fucking told you he was black. Then the girl appears and she looks so much like that speedster chick off that TV show Heroes that I swear to God, it might be her.
“Can you take these off? They’re pretty uncomfortable.” My head’s clearing now and I manage to raise one of the shackles.
“Answer this question first, then we’ll talk,” she says.
And I know what’s coming before Iggy Pop opens his skinny mouth and I know, I know I’m supposed to be all Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and refuse the fucking call, but I’m tired of fucking prostitutes and I can already imagine watching society making the same fucking mistakes over and over and me not forming any real relationships and any I do stumble into end with me having to watch people I actually give a fuck about die so when he says, “We’re getting a group together. It’s serious shit. Serious enough to get you killed,” I look him square in the eyes and smile.
Iggy stares back at me expressionless, “You look like you’re gonna say yes, and you don’t know what it is yet.”
That’s true. “Well, I trust you guys know who I am. So I don’t think you’re gonna ask me to kill somebody.”
They just look at each other.
“Are you going to ask me to kill somebody?”
The Chick answers, “No, we’re not. But when you find out about them, you might want to.”
In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.