Archive for November, 2015

El Fantasma de la Madrugada

I was introduced to Mike Nettleton by Carolyn Rose, who shared her ghost story earlier this fall. When I heard he too had a spooky tale to share, I asked him if I could feature him on the blog. Check it out–it’s a great story.


Mike is the author of The Shotgun Kiss and co-author with Carolyn Rose of Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma. He and Carolyn also collaborated on a collection of short stories called Sucker Punches. More on these books and what he’s up to lately on the website

Mike grew up in Bandon and Grants Pass, Oregon. A stint at a KSOR, a college radio station in Ashland(The big SORE, flinging 5 watts from the top of the science building), led to a multi-state radio odyssey with on-air gigs in Oregon, California, and New Mexico under the air name Mike Phillips. In 1989 he returned to the Northwest and in 1994 joined KEX Radio in Portland where he hosted news and talk shows. Retired since 2011, his hobbies are golf, pool, Texas hold-em poker, and acting and doing tech work in community theater.

The Shotgun Kiss

TSK 600x800px@72dpi Kindle embedded cover Neal Egan, former police detective turned golf hustler, can’t escape from the gravitational pull of his beautiful ex-wife Desiree Diaz, the daughter of one of New Mexico’s most prominent men. When Dez becomes the prime suspect in the brutal shotgun slaying of her current lover, Neal is drawn into an investigation that promises to end badly.

Neal faces crazed and violent bikers, the Mexican mafia, and a sleazy television host exploiting the case to jack his ratings. On top of that, an angry golfer who has discovered Neal’s pedigree threatens to blow the whistle and destroy his primary source of income.

With the help of his friends—a roly-poly lothario private investigator, an eccentric audio expert and information broker, and a gifted computer hacker—Neal follows a trail that leads into the dark world of methamphetamine labs and internet pornography. When he discovers the dirty secret behind the homicide and confronts a crazed killer, Neal nearly loses his life, his sanity, and the love of a woman who could be his salvation.

(Originally published as Shotgun Start, 2011. Revised and re-released, 2013)

Available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo.

Mike’s Story:

In the mid-eighties, I took a break from on-air gigs and partnered with Rick Huff, a longtime friend, in an audio production and copywriting business. Initially, we operated out of the studio of KHFM, a classical station in Albuquerque housed in an old stucco building in a residential neighborhood. In exchange for free rent on the studio, we handled their commercial and promotional production needs. This made it necessary, on a regular basis, to conduct our outside business evenings and even late at night and into the wee hours.

One morning about 3AM, having procrastinated our way into panic mode over an upcoming deadline, we sat, swilling cold coffee and trying to invent a creative way to sell furniture, cars or fast food. I disremember which. We’d been bouncing ideas back and forth, none of which sounded promising. Rick sat at his desk facing the door to the office. I was sprawled across the client chair facing him.

“So what if we had a singing and tap-dancing avocado to sell the guacamole burger,” I said, (Or words to that effect, depending on what we were trying to flog). Rick’s face went ashen, his eyes bulged out of his forehead and his mouth dropped open. He pointed at me, but no words came out of his mouth.

“Hey, it’s not that stupid of an idea.” I protested.

“M…M…Mike, turn around. “She…she…she’s right behind you.”

I felt ice crawl up my backbone and into my neck. Swiveling the chair, I caught a glimpse of something: dark cloth; flesh tones; long flowing hair; flitting away down the hallway. Rick rose from his chair and careened after whatever it was. As if magnetically drawn to him, I followed. Strangely, I felt no fear. Whatever it was didn’t radiate threat.

When we arrived in the lobby, we saw her standing near the glass door, hovering an inch or two above the floor. Middle-aged, petite and Hispanic, with flashing eyes and long dark tresses, she wore a dark gauzy dress and a multi-layered lacy top. Her lips drew back in a sly smile and in the wink of an eye, stepped through the solid wall of the building as if it was made of smoke. We bustled outside, but didn’t see or hear any trace of her.

Later, when we’d worked up the nerve to tell others who worked in the building what we’d seen, we found some of the old-timers had also spotted the apparition, usually late at night. Since the building wasn’t old enough to account for the kind of clothing she wore (it definitely felt like 19th or even 18th century garb) we theorized that another house or ranch had once stood on that site and she returned regularly to check up on the current status of the property.

Although we continued to brainstorm well after midnight, we never caught another glimpse of our female Fantasma of the Madrugada (ghost of the early morning).

Thanks for sharing your story, Mike!

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015

Haunted Rocking Chair

Rocking chairThe following stories were shared with me by a reader named Cathee, about some creepy experiences she’s had. Aside from light editing, I’ve kept this post in her words. If you’ve got a spooky story to share, you can email me at

Story 1:

Between 2004 and 2009, I was working at a child development center at a local community college in Kansas. I was a sub, so I worked in all the rooms with kids between the ages of one and five.  A lot of times I worked in the toddler room (babies who were walking to two-year-olds). This age group is so fun and cute.

One day, I was working in the toddler room and sitting on a mat on the floor in one of the centers. I was by myself on the floor, knowing a few littles would be toddling over soon. I glanced at a lone car on the yellow part of the mat where a child recently vacated. All of a sudden, the small car moved about ten inches! Like I said, I was the only one in the center; there was no movement, breeze, or anything that would cause the car to roll across the mat. This is a fairly new building, and I’ve never heard of any out-of-the-ordinary activities happening.  It didn’t creep me out; I thought it was pretty intriguing. You never know who may be lurking around.

Story 2:

This one is a little bit more on the creepy side.

In 2011, I went to my 30th class reunion at Notre Dame de Sion. Part of it was at the school. It had changed so much in these last decades. Additions had been built, walls torn out, rooms enlarged, you name it. As I was walking through the front door, I about freaked out. Nothing at all looked familiar, and I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  Although there was a part of the building that still looked like it did back in the day, I had to walk around by myself and process everything.

One thing that had not changed one bit was the Grande Salle (a big room we used for assemblies, plays, etc.).  There were no theatre chairs. We had (and still have) these orange-ish plastic chairs we’d set up and stack again.

Anyway, on my journey to familiarize myself with my past, I walk into the Grande Salle. Had I been transported into the late seventies/early eighties, I would never have known it. It was the same everything.

So, as I was looking and strolling around, I happened to go up on the stage, walk around to the back of the stage, and then down the stage steps again to the floor. There were three or four rocking chairs on the stage.  As I turned back around to face the stage again, I noticed one of the rocking chairs was slowly moving. I hadn’t touched or bumped into any of the chairs, and I came back down from behind the curtain.

This school was built in the 1960s (although it was in another part of town until then). Obviously, there have been many an alumni student who died throughout the years, including a girl from my class named Sue, who passed in the mid-nineties at the age of 31. She was always fun and outgoing and friendly, and was on that stage many times. My first thought was that it would be just like her to haunt her classmates here at our old school. So…was it Sue or another alum? I guess we’ll never really know.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015


IMG_5318San Pedro Nolasco Island, Gulf of California, Mexico. The place where I could have died.

Water has always enchanted me. I adore swimming and I love everything about the ocean, even the sharks. I attended Sea Camp my senior year of high school, and ever since, I had dreamed of becoming a scuba diver. Many years later, when I worked for the University of Arizona, the recreation center offered a scuba diving course, with several sessions in the pool and a trip across the border for the open water certification.

I leapt at the opportunity, even though it meant finding a babysitter for my twin boys, who were in preschool, and piling into a van with the instructor and a bunch of college students I didn’t know, who were much younger that me and in better shape than I was. The trip started out great—a few hours’ drive to where the live-aboard boat was docked, and then a ride out to San Pedro, where we’d dive.

The island was a barren rock in the middle of the sea, several hours from the marina. Sea lions lounged on the boulders at the base of San Pedro, and we could hear them barking at night. During our dives, they would swim with us, zooming over our heads. I also saw a moray eel and all kinds of fish. It was an incredible experience.

Our first few dives were without incident. We knelt on the sandy bottom about twenty feet underwater and practiced clearing our masks. We increased our depth during each dive, practicing navigation skills and hand signals. In between dives, we took a couple of kayaks and explored the island. The sea lions would swim right up to us, popping their heads out of the water to check us out. Finally, it was time for our most challenging test: sharing air.

The exercise is simple. You take a breath from your regulator and pass it over to your dive partner. Your partner sticks it in their mouth, takes a breath, and gives you the okay signal, showing that they’ve got air. Then you reach back and grab your backup regulator, stick it in your mouth, press the purge button, and voila! You’re breathing again. No sweat.

We’d practiced this exercise in the pool at the university, and the hardest part was psychological—not panicking while holding your breath. I was mentally prepared for the challenge. What I wasn’t ready for was an equipment failure forty feet below the surface.

I was partnered with my instructor, and the first part of the exercise went as planned. I took a breath and handed off my regulator. He stuck it in his mouth and gave me the okay signal. I reached over, grabbed my second regulator, and stuck it in my mouth. Then I pressed the purge button.

Instead of air, I got a mouthful of saltwater. I might have been able to spit it out, if I hadn’t been so caught off guard while trying to hold my breath. I swallowed the water and pressed the button again, desperate for air.

Nothing but seawater. My lungs burned, and I began to feel light-headed. I swallowed the water again, staving off panic. I tried once more, pressing the purge button…but there was no air. I swallowed yet another mouthful of saltwater. Detached from my growing horror, I thought, “Oh. This is how I’m going to die.”

I pressed the purge button one more time, and finally, there was blessed air. I gave my instructor the okay signal, and then a thumbs-up, communicating that I wanted to go to the surface. When we reached the top, I ripped the regulator out of my mouth and took a deep breath. It felt amazing to simply breathe.

I dove again soon after the incident, even though the saltwater I’d swallowed made me want to vomit. I was worried that if I didn’t, the fear I’d experienced would dominate me. I couldn’t let that happen.

Scary as not being able to breathe was, it made getting my certification even sweeter. Now I know what to do if my purge button sticks. Rather than swallowing a mouthful of seawater, I should have spit it out and started for the surface at the first sign of trouble. The incident was terrifying, but I learned an important lesson.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015

Kitchen Apparition

No-Sub-smallestAt a recent book festival, I had the pleasure of sharing an author table with Carolyn J. Rose, a mystery writer living near Portland. Not only is Carolyn hilarious, she is a fellow Firefly fan and Wildcat, and she likes ghost stories. When she told me about her own encounter with the supernatural, I begged her to write a guest post for my blog. If you like mysteries, I highly recommend her Subbing isn’t for Sissies series. I’m currently reading No Substitute for Murder, which is about a substitute teacher who finds a body in a classroom. Carolyn’s writing is wonderful, and I absolutely love her sense of humor.


Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

Carolyn Photo

Carolyn’s Story:

I grew up in the Catskill Mountains in a tiny community my mother referred to as a hamlet. Bearsville is a mile or so from Woodstock, and a mile or so from what we called “forever wild” lands preserved by the state. That part of New York is famous for the tales crafted by Washington Irving, and my grandparents shared them all with me—the story of Rip Van Winkle and those chilling events in Sleepy Hollow. I had no trouble believing thunder echoing from the mountains was the sound of Henry Hudson and his crew bowling. I was certain those ancient hills were populated by all manner of ghosts.

But I never saw a wisp of a spirit. Never heard a whisper from a wraith. Never detected the swish of a ghostly garment.

Until I joined VISTA and moved to Arkansas in the early 1970s.

During my second year in service, another volunteer and I rented an old house in Benton, a small city south of Little Rock. The house sat on a hillside beyond the home of the owners, a family that raised rodeo stock—goats, steers, and several bulls including a mammoth Brahma that once stuck its head through the window screen and into the living room. The house had three bedrooms, two along a short hallway, and one tacked onto the rear that could be reached from the outside, through the kitchen, or from the bedroom I used. That third room was narrow and without heat, so we used it only for storage.

Someone else, however, apparently used it for more than that.

More than once I woke in the night to see a strip of light at the base of the door. The first time that happened, I assumed my roommate had gone into the room for something and left the light on. I got out of bed, opened the door, and turned off the light. The second time I made the same assumption. After the third incident, I asked her what she’d been looking for in the back room late at night.

When she denied being in the room for days, I checked the windows and outside door. All locked. I checked them again before I went to bed. Still locked. Later, when I woke to find the light on, I armed myself with a letter opener and checked again. Still locked. And no evidence anyone had broken in.

The next day I stacked boxes in front of the outside door, moved my dresser to block the door from my bedroom, and leaned a broom against the locked kitchen door. I woke up deep in the night to find the light on. I listened hard, but heard no sounds of an intruder. I considered the possibility of an electrical malfunction, then ruled it out because the light never came on during the daytime or evening. That left a possibility that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I pulled the sheet over my head and eventually fell asleep again.

A few days later I came home in the afternoon to take a bath before heading to a community meeting. (It was summer with triple-digit humidity matching triple-digit temperatures. Darn few places had air conditioning, so we made liberal use of baths and showers.) While I was soaping up, I heard footsteps pass in the hallway. I called out to my roommate. No answer. The footsteps returned, coming the other way. I called again as they passed the door. No answer. I splashed off the soap, threw on my clothes, armed myself with a toilet brush, and burst forth. I saw no one. I found the outside doors all locked.

The next day the dirt disappeared. My roommate—more of a homemaker than I was—had swept the kitchen but, while searching for the dustpan, realized she was late for an appointment. She leaned the broom against the wall and hurried out. When she returned, the broom was back where we normally kept it, and the pile of dirt was gone.

Not long afterward, my roommate woke from a nap and found a woman standing nearby—a woman wearing a sunbonnet, a floor-length dress, and an apron. A few days later, I caught my first glimpse. She seemed to prefer to materialize in the kitchen in the early morning or late afternoon. Sometimes she appeared as little more than a faint image, like one retained after you stare hard at something and close your eyes. Other times the image was sharper.

Hemlock LakeWe asked the owners of the house if they knew they had a ghost. They exchanged sheepish glances and admitted they’d heard stories about the house before they bought it and had it moved to their property. They hadn’t realized the ghost would come along.

Since then I’ve seen the Gurdon Light, and experienced a moving cold spot in a house in Eugene. If there’s a haunted tour in a city Mike and I are visiting, we try to work it into the schedule—Savannah was especially eerie. One sultry July night, we walked by the light of the moon through the Gettysburg National Cemetery on the anniversary of the Civil War battle. So far I haven’t caught a glimpse of another ghost, but I’ve written several onto the pages of Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone, a trilogy of mysteries set in the Catskills.

Thanks Carolyn! You can connect with Carolyn via her author page on Facebook, and don’t forget to check out her blog and her website,!

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015