Archive for September, 2015

A Tale of Two Houses

Two housesThe house I live in now is lovely. It’s not my dream home (that would be a house with a wide front porch and a view of a lake), but it has beautiful features, like a coved ceiling in the living room and a gorgeous tree out back that explodes with white flowers each spring. The neighborhood is pleasant, and my family is happy here. I feel content living in our house, which we’ve rented for almost five years. More than that, I feel safe living here.

That’s a contrast to our old house. It looked normal enough—it was built in the 90s in a middle class neighborhood, and had a pretty front porch with brick pillars, a welcome respite from the sun. We bought it as a foreclosure, and quickly got to work renovating it, installing new appliances and cabinets in the kitchen, and countertops in the bathrooms. By the time we were done fixing it up, I was familiar with every inch of the place, having painted the entire house inside and out. I even taught myself how to tile.

I never had the same sense of peace in that house as I do in our current house, and I didn’t realize how edgy I felt until I moved. My sense of unease started when we first looked at the house with my in-laws. They had brought their dog with them. The poodle went everywhere—she was smart and house-trained, so there was little fear of her messing up the place. Still, when she followed us into the bedroom that was to become mine and my husband’s, she acted strange. She padded over to the wall where our headboard would eventually rest, and squatted down as though she were going to urinate on the white carpet. It was completely out of character, but there was nothing visibly unsettling about the house. It looked like a regular house.

A number of strange things happened in that house. I’d see shadows out of the corner of my eye, or get a sense of someone watching me. A year after moving in, I gave birth to twin boys. That was a tough time. Although I was thrilled to have my sons, I felt constantly overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. It was easy to blame the things that happened on a tired mind, particularly since my husband never experienced anything odd. That was better than the alternative, that what I was experiencing was real, or worse, that I was having a psychotic break.

Now that we live in a peaceful house, where I’ve never experienced anything remotely supernatural, I do believe that those things were real, and I wasn’t experiencing some kind of post-partem insanity. I may be eccentric and overly fond of ghost stories, but I’m sound of mind.

After the boys were born, we were drowning in baby gear. Some of it was electronic, with flashing lights and cute sounds designed to keep infants entertained. Sometimes those toys would go off by themselves. My husband blamed it on static electricity, or a button that got pressed and stuck.

One night, when he couldn’t sleep, my husband decided to go grocery shopping at a store that was open 24 hours. (When you have young children, you do odd things like that. It’s easier than dragging kids to a store.) Meanwhile, I was having a nightmare.

The dream was so vivid, I thought I was awake. I sat up in bed, and looked over at our closet. The door was open, which was weird, because I always insisted on sleeping with it closed. My room was dark, but I could make out the white louvered closet door, and the darker interior of the closet. There was someone—something—standing in my closet, a shadowy form even darker than its surroundings. Frozen in fear, I watched it for a few seconds, and I could feel it watching me. Then, it took a step toward the bed.

I jerked awake, breathing hard, my heart thudding in my chest. Immediately I looked at the closet door. It was shut tight. But my husband was missing from his place in the bed, and that’s when I realized he wasn’t home. It was just me and the boys.

I sat there in the dark, trying to calm myself, shaking off the nightmare. Then, out in the living room, one of the baby toys went off by itself, playing its happy little song in the middle of the night, in our otherwise silent house.

I stared into the hallway toward the living room and then looked back at the closet. I decided I didn’t want to sit there by myself in the dark, and I didn’t want my children to be vulnerable to whatever was paying us a visit.

I turned on some lights and checked out the house. There was no one in the living room. No one had broken in and tripped over the toy, setting it off. I went through the rest of the house and found nothing.

My kids were safe in their room, sleeping peacefully. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep again, and certainly not alone. I grabbed some blankets and my pillow and made a bed on the floor of the boys’ room. Having other human beings near me helped, and somehow I fell back to sleep, this time with no dreams.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015


Bloody Mary’s Mirror

Julie DawnauthorphotoHi guys! I’m so excited to introduce you to fellow Oregon coaster Julie Dawn, author of Yosemite Rising. Julie grew up in southern Jersey, spending the summers collecting bee stingers in her feet. After graduating from Richard Stockton College, she dipped her toes in the environmental field for a few years, got married, moved to North Carolina, and finally got to become a mom. Four years of living in state parks was enough to make her relocate to the Oregon Coast. Under bright stars, she started writing again, determined to change the world one story at a time.

Today Julie will be sharing about her book (check out that cover!) and her version of an urban myth familiar to many of us. I remember hearing about Bloody Mary in the fourth grade, standing with my friends in a school bathroom with the lights off as we tried it. Chilling.

Yosemite Rising

A legend that will change the world.

It’s been 150 years since the Ahwahnee Indians lived where Yosemite National Park now stands. Their last surviving Chief appears to Elizabeth Hutchings, a twenty-year-old biology student, the very day her parents die. Within 24 hours, she too is clinging to life as his whispers echo in her thoughts.

An ancient prophecy has begun. A plague rips through the world’s population, taking everyone and everything she has ever cared about. As agents of a mysterious organization called Meadowlark hunt her, she must find the strength to fight the infected even as she struggles to keep herself alive.

Just when she thinks she can’t go on, a man from her past arrives. He holds the key to understanding the prophecy. If she can unravel its secrets, she not only may change her own fate—but the fate of the entire world.

Julie Dawn Book

 Yosemite Rising is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.

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Want to win a copy of Yosemite Rising? Check out the giveaway!

 owl

Bloody Mary’s Mirror

In elementary school there was a tale known all too well by every little girl. I first heard it at a friend’s sleepover party. The Monday in school, the class filed down the cement brick corridors toward the bathrooms. The whole class split into two groups based off sex. Five at a time were allowed in the large, windowless, fully tiled, tomb of a room. I hovered over the toilet with my pants down, avoiding urine and disease another little girl might be carrying. Then the lights went out. Darkness suffocated the room. One of the girls giggled and pulled the door open. Faint light flooded the floor outside the stall. She whispered, “Bloody Mary.”

My heart jumped.

Then the bathroom room shut, locking all the light from it.

She’ll be coming soon. We had already opened whatever keeps her in the mirror. Any moment now. She had already followed us to school, waiting. Waiting for this moment. She’s always waiting.

Now it’s my turn to tell a story—her story—with a modern twist to it….

The year was 2007. The remaining good music of the 90s was fading quickly into pop. Jan arrived before the others. It was my first sleepover. Mom and Dad had held out until I was 13, but agreed for my birthday. Tonight was my night.

The second to arrive was Alice, my sister’s friend. I never saw Hazel anymore, not since Alice moved to our school—into our lives. No one knew why she had moved all the way from New Jersey, but the piercing in her nose made me suspicious.

“What’s up skin,” Alice said, stepping past me through the doorway. “So where’s Haze?”

I nodded toward the back bedrooms.

Jan stood behind me with her arms crossed, letting out a sigh.

Brakes screeched as Becky’s dad’s 1970s Dodge pulled up. Chips of paint crinkled to the ground as she opened the passenger door and waved bye to Mr. Burke. He was nice, but lately really messed up from the divorce.

She came running up the walkway with a shitty-ass grin. It was her idea to invite Misty Morgan. Mom still hadn’t received an RSVP, but Becky heard from Ava that Misty’s best friend, Polly, was sick. Even she wouldn’t waste a Friday night at home with her parents.

Sure enough she showed up last.

We did the pre-planned games Mom had agonized for weeks over, devoured two trays of pizza, and scarfed down a sheet of cake.

Hazel microwaved popcorn and turned out the lights.

Alice cracked open a bag and sat down in front of us. Steam rose out and she shoved the yellow balls down her throat.

Sleeping bags filled every inch of carpet, squished between the couch and entertainment system. Jan unrolled her sleeping bag to my left. Becky laid her thrift-store Thunder Cats bag to my right.

Alice clicked on a flashlight and pointed it like a gun underneath her chin. Her face morphed into a demon’s. Dark circles drooped beneath her eyes and her voice deepened. “Who’s ready for some scary stories?”

I looked over at Misty. Her eyes widened and she drew her knees into her chest. Two of my other friends, sitting with her, imitated her every move.

“Why don’t we play Truth or Dare first?” Misty looked at me and lifted her eyebrows.

“Okay,” said Alice directing her eyes at Misty. “Truth or Dare?”

Oh, this will be good. I wanted to know if she really made out with Kenny, or if she really stuffs her training bra, or if she has a crush on Becky’s Dad. Truth.

Misty looked at her and sat up straight. “Dare.”

“I dare you to sleep tonight.” Alice pointed the flashlight at her.

Definitely stuffed.

Alice laughed, brought the light back to her face, and began to sing, “I’m Henry the Eighth I am. Henry the eight, I am. I am. I’ve been married to the widow next door, seven times before…” Her tone went dark. “Henry the Eighth was married six times, throwing away his first after 24 years of marriage. They had one child named Mary.”

Hazel whispered, “Bloody Mary.”

Alice grinned. “Legend has it, if you walk backwards up a flight of stairs, holding a candle, look into a mirror, call out her name three times, she will appear to you.”

“Then what?” Becky yelled out, sinking into her bag.

Misty shifted and the other girls moaned.

Alice reached into her pocket and pulled out a lighter, flicking on its flame. “Who wants to try it?”

The room went silent. The sound of the refrigerator hummed through the house. My heart pounded. No fucking way!

“How about the birthday girl?” said Misty.

All the other girls nodded their heads. They didn’t want to be the sacrifice.

I have a bad feeling about this. No, no, no. “We don’t have any stairs.”

“I’m sure the hallway will work just fine,” said Misty.

I shouldn’t have invited her. I pushed out of my sleeping bag. I’ll show her. “Sure.”

They all gasped, each breath created a chorus that filled the room for a moment.

Alice handed over a candle and I turned my back to the hallway, taking small, careful steps over the river of sleeping bags.

Jan leaned over, “You don’t have to do this.”

I looked at her, glanced over at Misty, and whispered in her ear, “Yes I do.”

She knew I had to. This was the year I wasn’t going to be whispered about behind closed doors, the year I was going to become someone. I took a step backwards and held my head up, taking a breath.

Alice’s eyes were wider than normal. Hazel stood beside her with worry covering her face.

I shouldn’t be doing this. I took another step and they all took one to follow. Three more got me to the edge of the hallway. The hum of the refrigerator had faded against the pounding of my heart. The soft glow of the stove light had disappeared. The candle flickered like a mad woman against the wall.

Jan was the closest to me. She stopped.

I was there—at the edge of the bathroom. I can’t do this. I closed my eyes and felt the cold, damp air spilling between my toes.

“Come on,” said one of the girls.

I stepped in. The room lit up as the flame caught its reflection in the mirror. I turned around and set the candle by the sink. The candlelight made my blonde curls sparkle in the mirror. Just get it over with. I said, “Bloody Mary.”

Nothing happened. I exhaled. “Bloody Mary.”

I searched the candles glow for anything in my reflection. My heart pounded to get out of my chest. There’s nothing there. I exhaled again. The mirror fogged where my breath would be, if I had been standing closer. My curls looked like they were turning red, my irises darkened.

“Move,” said Misty pushing through the girls stuffed in the doorway. She looked at the mirror. “Bloody Mary.”

For a second, I looked like a whole other person, older. Then my face turned and looked at Misty. I stood there watching as my reflection turned.

“Ha. See. Nothing,” Misty said. She looked at me, my reflection still watching her.

The woman in the mirror smacked her palm against the mirror.

I jumped back and pressed my back against the wall.

“What’s wrong with you?” said Misty.

Bloody Mary’s Mirror was scribbled on her hand. The ink smeared as she pressed harder against the glass.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015


The Thing in the Closet

My grandmother used to tell me stories about a ghost named Ella, who liked to fix things. Apparently the same spirit haunted my great-grandfather, following him from house to house. Can ghosts be inherited, passed along like a family heirloom? It’s a disconcerting thought. I don’t have an answer, but it’s always interesting to chat with my family and compare notes. We’ve had some strange experiences.

This week my aunt shared a story with me about something that happened to her when she was twelve or thirteen. She and her family lived out on a farm, and one night they were all sitting in the living room, watching TV. During a commercial break, she went to her room to get something. She planned a quick in and out trip since she knew just what she was after and where it was. She didn’t turn on her bedroom light (though she now says she always turns on the light, and I can’t say I blame her). She headed straight to her dresser, which was situated next to the closet.

BogeymanAs she reached out her hand to retrieve the item she had come for, she felt pressure on her left shoulder. She froze, and then heard a hissing whisper. “Suuuusssaaannnn.” What is weird is my aunt is deaf in her left ear, and yet, she clearly heard the voice. She said she remembered fighting back panic, and then getting angry. She thought, “I will not show fear,” even though her insides had turned to Jello. She drew herself up as tall as she could, squared her shoulders, and forced herself to stand there. She grabbed the object she had come for and then calmly turned and went back out to the living room. Her family was still sitting there, watching TV, completely unaware of her encounter with the thing in her closet. My grandfather is known for playful attempts to surprise people, so my aunt asked him if he had tried to scare her. He insisted it wasn’t him, and my grandmother and my dad backed up his story.

Oddly enough, I had something similar happen to me at around that same age. Nothing touched me, but one night when I was in bed, I thought I heard my dad call my name. Something about the voice wasn’t right though—it sounded like my dad at first, but then I realized it sounded hollow, more like someone imitating my dad’s voice. I knew my dad was downstairs, talking to my mom, but the voice sounded like someone was right there in the room with me. I got a strange feeling that someone was hiding behind my closet door, which was propped open. That freaked me out, so I went downstairs to see if Dad had called me. He hadn’t.

The question remains: what called out to us? Could it have been the same entity, even though our encounters happened decades apart and in different places? I don’t know, but it is weird that we had similar experiences. This is why neither of us sleeps with the closet door open.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015


Things We Don’t Like To Talk About

Today I’m thrilled to feature a guest post from USA Today Bestselling Author DelSheree Gladden! DelSheree has several bestselling young adult series, including Invisible (which I absolutely loved and highly recommend, and which was part of the USA Today Bestselling box set, Pandora). The Date Shark Series is her first contemporary romance series, and her first book in her upcoming new adult series, The Ghost Host, will be releasing 2015.

Bio:
DelShereeGladdenDelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing, and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.

Here’s a description for The Ghost Host, and check out that cover! I LOVE the creepy house.

Book Description:

Everyone thinks Echo Simmons is crazy, but being The Ghost Host isn’t just a YouTube hoax like people think. It’s the only way to control the ghosts haunting her…at least until the FBI shows up asking questions.

The first eighteen years of Echo Simmons’ life have been less than ideal. On more than one occasion her parents have considered committing her. They don’t believe she sees ghosts or that they harass her on a daily basis. So when a rogue ghost begins tormenting her, they’re the last people she’s going to tell. Her best friends Holden and Zara are doing their best to help, but ghost attacks are only the beginning of Echo’s problems.

Handling the ghosts by giving them a voice on YouTube through her webshow has been her saving grace—even if her parents think it’s all a hoax—but that gets a little complicated when the ghost of Madeline Crew reveals a little too much about her previous life and the FBI shows up at her door wanting to know how she gained access to long-buried government secrets.

It just keeps getting worse from there. Madeline’s message to her great grandson sparks a strange connection between Echo and Malachi, which leads to Georgia, secrets, mistakes, love, lies, and life changing revelations.

The Ghost Host NEW

DelSheree’s Story:

The scariest story I have isn’t very scary. I was home alone as a teenager—I think my parents were out of town for a few days—and they had asked some friends of ours to check in on me. My friend’s dad loved to pull pranks and scared me half to death when he snuck up next to the living room window where I was watching TV and started whispering in Spanish and tapping on the window. I’m a big fraidy cat even on a good day, so I freaked out. When he started laughing and knocked on the door, I almost didn’t answer it even though the laughing was a clue I’d just been punked. I laughed later and he apologized for scaring me so badly and we still laugh about it now.

Even though I’ve never experienced anything supernatural, I grew up in an area that is absolutely rife with myths and legends that will keep you looking over your shoulder. To be more specific, I grew up just outside of the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. We lived on the “rez” for several years when I was little while my dad was working at the hospital there before moving to a nearby town. New Mexico has a fascinating mix of Native American and Spanish culture and stories. Every few years the news will report about people seeing Chupacabras…as a real news story. There are usually pictures, even. Less publicized are stories of Yee Naaldlooshii, or Skinwalkers.

Photo 1 DelSheree postThere’s a reason stories like this don’t end up on the news, and that’s because they really freak people out around here. Navajo friends I had growing up would barely talk about skinwalkers, even the adults. Every once in a while these creatures will pop up in movies or literature, but often it’s not a very accurate portrayal because it’s tough to get people to talk about them or their encounters. Why? Well, when you believe something evil is real and could come after you, you don’t talk about it, right?

So what are skinwalkers? I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve always loved scary stories and this is what I’ve learned growing up and hearing stories about them.

Skinwalkers are evil, products of black magic and not so nice intentions. They aren’t creatures, like a Chupacabra or Big Foot. Creating a skinwalker requires someone capable of using dark magic and a person willing to do what it takes to take on the form. Many Native American traditions believe certain people have the ability to utilize power from a spirit animal, but this is a little different. Some stories say the witch, or practitioner of the Witchery Way, needs to actually cover themselves in the pelt of an animal to shape change, and other stories say this isn’t a requirement. It’s believed by some that high level practitioners of the Witchery Way must commit evil acts and cultural taboos that strip them of their humanity before they are able to fully use their power. Seen as a perversion of their cultural and religious beliefs of beneficial magic meant to help the Earth, these witches are greatly feared and despised.

While skinwalkers are usually seen in the shape of coyotes, wolves, crows, eagles, and such, they can take on any shape depending on what skills you need to “borrow” from the animal form. Navajo culture rarely uses pelts of these types of animals because of their fear of what they might be used for. Mimicking animals isn’t the only thing skinwalkers can do, either. Many believe skinwalkers can copy voices of family members to lure people out, and even steal faces. Sometimes they look more human than animal, though never completely human. Looking into a skinwalker’s eyes may even open the window to them stealing your image, power, or energy.

What can skinwalkers do that scares people so much? Using their animal abilities they can go after enemies with unstoppable strength, speed, and agility. They are relentless, impossible to capture or kill, and may attack houses and cars, though they aren’t supposed to be able to enter a house without invitation. Many sightings of skinwalkers are of them watching a person or home, waiting for a chance to attack. Others are seen running alongside vehicles, even at high speeds. If they can’t accomplish their purpose by attacking, they can also utilize their magic and charms to harm their enemies, such as using corpse dust to poison victims. Practically unstoppable and difficult to identify, it’s no wonder nobody likes to talk about them, especially at night.

So, now that I’ve thoroughly creeped myself out, I’d love to hear what cultural myths and legends you grew up hearing, and which ones you’re still afraid of as an adult! And if you have any good ghost stories, please share! My newest project is a supernatural new adult mystery called, The Ghost Host, and I’m all about spooky, ghostly things lately.

 Photo 2 DelSheree post

Thanks DelSheree! I’m a little freaked out myself, but what a fascinating post. I appreciate you sharing about skinwalkers and your wonderful books! Want to find out more about DelSheree’s work? You can connect with her on:

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© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015