Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haunted Attractions from Around the World

Over the years, I’ve celebrated Halloween in a myriad of ways, from trick-'r-treating as a child and sorting through all the candy (mini Reeses buttercups, Snickers bars, and candy corns) to attending local haunted houses and faraway castles as an adult. Having traveled all over Europe and the U.S., I consider myself a world traveler. And being a writer of the macabre, I love locations where there are scary historical attractions to explore. Here is an article originally published on Priority One Jets blog.

7 Terrifying Haunted Attractions from Around the World

The arrival of All Hallows Eve is lurking around the corner and haunted attractions housing zombies, vampires, and ghosts are popping up all over the world. While the staged acts use special effects and fog machines to conjure up a few screams, for some, the creepy history alone is enough to send chills down their spines. Whether you are looking to travel for some eerie entertainment or to hit up a historical haunt, this list has enough scary and scripted options to leave you shaking in your boots.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary : This Philadelphia prison was the first to practice solitary confinement. The prisoners were kept isolated and did all activities alone, until overcrowding forced the institution to abandon inmate separation. Along with this treatment, the guards and facility counselors developed different physical and psychological torture techniques that ultimately caused mental illness in many of the inmates. Since closing in 1970, visitors have reported sightings of dark figures and sounds of lonely wails echoing through the halls. The prison is open for tours year-round, along with a haunted house attraction from September to November.

13th Gate : Feel like crawling through a crematory oven? How about wandering through dark, underground tunnels? This popular Baton Rouge Halloween hot spot has been consistently rated as one of the best-haunted attractions from several outlets over the past 7 years. From September to November, 100 professional actors and 12 special effects make-up artists come together to create grisly characters such as fiendish zombies and voodoo loving witches.

Edinburgh Castle : With a history dating back to the 12th century and hundreds of reported ghost interactions, it’s no wonder that Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions. The castle has stood through numerous executions and attacks, ultimately becoming one of largest sites of paranormal activity. Drops in temperature, shadowy figures, and the feeling of tugging on clothes and body parts are only a few of the many reported experiences of visitors.

SCREAM! At Madam Tussauds London : Forget standing around like a statue! Visitors travel through the Chamber of Horrors with hair-raising surprises, such as crazed inmates, hidden in every corner. With live and on-the-loose actors running around, expect a sore neck from constantly checking over your shoulder for things that go bump in the night. From New York to Tokyo, haunted house enthusiasts from all over can stop in for a quick scare while visiting this infamous wax museum.

The Winchester Mystery House : Once owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun tycoon William Wirt Winchester, this property has become a haunted landmark in Northern California. A medium told Winchester in order to prevent the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns from harming her, she needed to continuously build a house for them. The house was under construction every hour of every day for 38 years, with the hopes that no spirit would settle there. With a total of 160 rooms, doors that open to brick walls and stairs that lead nowhere, this mansion has become a heavy influence in pop culture.

The Darkness : Labeled as one of the premiere haunted houses in Missouri, this devilish dwelling has drawn attention from media giants such as the Travel Channel, The History Channel and USA Today. From flying zombies to a live reptile section featuring piranhas, pythons, and scorpions, the attractions are completely renovated every year with an annual budget of almost $1 million. With a monster museum, a 3D house tour and a two-story walk through exhibit, this is the trip of a lifetime for the ultimate horror fan!

The Catacombs : Underneath the brightly lit streets of Paris, millions of human bones act as a type of structural support for parts of the city. This underground cemetery originally acted as a temporary solution to improper burials and strengthening the structure of the streets. In the 1860s, city workers dug up many of the surrounding graveyards for bones to be used as building materials. After opening a small portion of the underground catacombs to the public in the late 18th century, there has been no shortage of reported ghost sightings throughout the years.

For private jet charters, sales and leasing, be sure to check out Priority One Jets.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Interview with Kristopher Rufty

As my special guest for Halloween week, I have interviewed horror author Kristopher Rufty. He’s one of the busiest writers I know. He churns out new fiction daily, writes, directs and produces movies, and on top of all that he’s a heck of nice guy. If you like your horror extremely scary and dark, I highly recommend you check out the books by Kristopher Rufty.

Kristopher Rufty and myself at HorrorHound Cincinnati, March 2013

BM: Kristopher, thanks for joining me on my blog. You and I had the pleasure of signing books together this year at HorrorHound in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. I also got a chance to read a pre-released version of your latest novel PRANK NIGHT, which I absolutely loved. Tell us about PRANK NIGHT. What’s it about and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

KR: Thanks, Brian! It was such a great time at Horrorhound, wasn’t it? I can’t wait until we can do that again. I’m very happy you enjoyed the book as much as you did. Your words of encouragement helped usher PRANK NIGHT’s progress along.

PRANK NIGHT is about a small North Carolina town predominantly known for their annual Halloween carnival being attacked from within by an enigmatic force of evil. It starts off small but quickly escalates to a full-blown siege when a holiday that has kept the town alive suddenly turns on them. I based the town of Autumn Creek off of two cities: where I was raised in NC and a small town that I’ve visited in Wisconsin. The residents in the book are simple people. Not much happens in the way of crime, so when something so big hits all at once, they are not prepared. Even the local police don’t know how to stop it. The original idea came to me on a plane ride back from Wisconsin a couple years ago. I sat in my seat, head leaned back and eyes closed, as I let the idea percolate. By the time the plane landed, I had a decent chunk of the story mapped out. The first version was much more isolated but with time, the impact grew, as did the story.

When I first sat down to write the original version, it was intended to be a low-budget horror movie. But, it never quite worked for me. I believe it was because I had to leave out so much of the backstory to keep the shooting budget low. When I decided to write it as a novel, I included all those elements—plus tons more—from that plane ride. What’s in the book now is pretty much what’s been in my head for three or more years. 

BM: You have already written several great books Pillowface, Angel Board, The Lurkers, A Dark Autumn, Last One Alive, Oak Hollow. Who are three authors who impacted you as a horror writer?

KR: There are many authors who have impacted me and still do. Plus, there are a slew of newer authors that I really enjoy reading, who I learn so much from. But my three most impacting authors would have to be:

Richard Laymon: His books are fast-paced and incredibly intense. The suspense he manages to evoke in so few words is magical. I’m rereading his book ENDLESS NIGHT and the first few chapters are nonstop action and four people have been brutally slayed so early on. I already care about the lead characters and, though I know how it ends, I’m pulling for them to survive. Reading Laymon early on influenced me greatly in my own writing. He made me understand you don’t have to spend two paragraphs describing every bit of scenery, or to drag out the prose. Tell it how the character sees it and let the reader experience the ride with him/her. He was such a fiction-writing genius. He also used words that I had only ever heard my dad say, such as rump, when referring to someone’s behind.

Jack Ketchum: When I read OFF SEASON for the first time while recovering from surgery, I knew I had discovered something special. I read the book in a day. The impact it had on me was severe, and inspired me in so many ways to write. I’ve read it two more times since then and usually gobble up anything he writes.

And since I can only choose three, I’ll go with the recently passed Gary Brandner. The first book of his I read was THE HOWLING and immediately began tracking everything else of his I could get my hands. I only have two of his books left to read and they are sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently. I see a lot of Brandner’s influence in Laymon’s writing, plus the unique amount of love they both have for their characters. They put their leads through hell and I can tell in the writing that Brandner and Laymon are rooting for them to make it through the bloodshed okay.

I also collect old 70s/80s/90s paperbacks. There are many great authors I’ve discovered this way. Too many to name here. One day I’m going to construct a list of all these great authors. And to choose some other authors who have influenced me along the way, I’ll select these:

Stephen King
Bentley Little
Clive Barker (I also adore his movies)
Dean Koontz
John Saul
So many great authors to choose from.

BM: All of those authors have influenced my writing, as well, especially Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon and Clive Barker. You also write and direct movies. Your gruesome movie Psycho Holocaust has one of your most ominous and iconic book characters Pillowface in it. Which do you love more, writing novels or screenplays?

KR: Thanks, Brian. Pillowface is one of my favorite characters, ever. Writing him is always an adventure. I’ve written him a couple times now and his mind is so expanded and filled with much contaminated logic that I sometimes get lost in there trying to decipher it all. Hopefully I get to return to him sometime soon.

I equally love writing novels and screenplays, but for different reasons. I write both very similar, although I’m using different formulas. I even include the character’s inner thoughts in certain aspects of the screenplay so the actor can get an idea what their character is thinking in those particular moments. I’ve been told some actors prefer this, so they can relate their own personal experiences to who the character is. But with screenplays you have to keep it short and sweet. You can’t linger because you have to try and pack it all in without going over 120 pages, especially in the low-budget realm. Keeping that in mind can make writing screenplays very exciting, yet also frustrating.

Some of my favorite characters have come from screenplays that have yet to be filmed. Recently a novella of mine, LAST ONE ALIVE, featured one of my favorites, Amanda Carpenter, who I rescued from a trunked screenplay. I’m sure I’ll take my character helicopter out again and drop down the ladder to save another one before too long.  

BM: What are five of your favorite horror movies?  

KR: There are so many horror movies that I admire and adore. But five that come to mind right away are:

Friday the 13th (original)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original)
Anything early on by John Carpenter. His movies are huge influences on my own writing because I also don’t always wrap up the stories with happy endings.
Redneck Zombies—a low budget movie I absolutely love. I watch it two times a year, sometimes more.
Night of the Living Dead (original) ties with Evil Dead (original)

BM: I love all those movies, especially John Carpenter’s early stuff. I haven’t seen Redneck Zombies yet. I’ll have to check it out. I heard you’re writing a sequel to The Lurkers. Tell about that book and any future books coming soon.

KR: Yes, I’m currently writing The Lurkers II. I’m not sure if the title will change, or stick to the Roman numeral. I can’t say a whole lot because the story hasn’t taken me to the end yet. I have my notes, but usually stray so far from them that by the end of the book I don’t even refer to them anymore. But what I can tell about now is the story picks up a year after the massacre in Doverton, Wisconsin. The Haunchies are even more crazed after losing so many of their own in the first book. They’re looking to repopulate their colony by any means necessary. 

Also, giving how the original book ended, we will find out what happened to the two remaining characters on the last page. It will be a book that can be read on its own, if you haven’t read the first, but it faithfully follows the events in the first one.

Next year will also see the release of THE SKIN SHOW, PROUD PARENTS, and PLAINFIELD GOTHIC—which features Ed Gein accidentally unleashing a vampire while robbing graves in Wisconsin. There might also be a novella in there somewhere as well.   

BM: I’m looking forward to adding those titles to my collection. Got any fun plans for this Halloween? Are you going to dress up as anything?

Halloween began for my family shortly after Labor Day. It’s been a nonstop event for weeks. So far, we’ve carved four Jack-o’-lanterns, our kids carved a fifth one, and we’ll probably do two more before Halloween. The yard has been invaded by spooky decorations. We’ve baked cutout cookies of ghosts, pumpkins, and gingerdead men. 

Every weekend we’ve watched Halloween-themed movies the kids can enjoy (I’ve watched many on DVD they’re not old enough to see after they’ve gone to bed), and even a few we’ve let them sample on AMC during the Monsterfest. Just particular scenes. Our son got his first taste of Cujo last weekend and is begging me to let him watch the whole thing. Maybe next year. We’ll do tons more before Halloween, and then go trick-or-treating, hopefully avoiding the pranks.

BM: Sounds like a fun Halloween for the Rufty family. Well, thanks for stopping by my lair and best of success with all your books. Everyone should get themselves a copy of PRANK NIGHT. It’s the perfect read for Halloween or any night you feel like reading something that’s wicked fun.

KR: Thank you for letting me stop by, Brian. It’s always a great time hanging out with you.

BM: Kristopher Rufty’s books are available through SamhainPublishing, Amazon, and all major booksellers.