Book Review—The Haunted

[The Haunted Cover]Sometimes, my wife asks how I can read scary books just before going to sleep. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember and it’s never bothered me. Like most people, I read for pleasure. But as a writer, I also read for understanding. Usually, when I read books about the supernatural, I intellectualize everything down to the story, writing style, and authenticity of the characters. I may have to revisit that approach.

The Haunted is the true story of the Smurl family, devout Catholics living in Pennsylvania who find themselves being infested with a demon and other vengeful spirits. Based on everything I’ve read so far about demons, this situation can occur when someone invites the demonic into their home through the use of Ouija boards, spells, or cursed objects like the Annabelle doll. Not so with the Smurls. This family did none of those things, yet the demonic entered their lives and plagued them for years, terrorizing individual family members—and even the neighbors.

Despite everything that happens, the Smurl family remains rooted in their faith. It’s the main reason they were able to manage for so long, undergoing multiple exorcisms and hordes of tourists wanting a glimpse of “the dark side.” As for me, I am comfortable in my faith and have always believed the demonic will leave me alone so long as I don’t seek it out. After reading The Haunted, I’m not so sure anymore.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
The world’s most famous demonologists, Ed & Lorraine Warren, were called in to help an average American family who were assaulted by forces too awesome, too powerful, too dark, to be stopped. It’s a true story, supported by dozens of eyewitnesses neighbors, priests, police, journalists, and researchers. The grim slaughterhouse of odors. The deafening pounding. The hoofed half-man charging down the hall. The physical attacks, a vicious strangling, failed exorcisms, the succubus… and the final terror which continued to torment the Smurls. In this shocking, terrifying, deeply absorbing book rivaled only by The Amityville Horror—a case also investigated by the Warrens—journalist Robert Curran digs deep into the haunting of the Smurl home in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, and the unshakeable family bonds that helped them survive.

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COME AS YOU ARE on Channillo!

Hey, guys! Just wanted you to know that starting Tuesday, January 31st, I am posting chapters from my new YA horror novella Come As You Are at Channillo, a subscription-based online magazine that allows writers to share their work in regular installments. I will be publishing a chapter a week through the end of April, at which point the entire novella will be available for reading.

Please check out my series page. And happy reading!

[Come As You Are Cover]

Synopsis
Ivan Stein isn’t sure he can survive seventh grade—let alone middle school. Living in a town known for its poverty and violence, he is regularly bullied—along with his best friend, Ollie. But fortunes can change.

One day, Ivan finds an old notebook in an abandoned locker at school. Despite a nasty warning from the ill-tempered janitor, he takes the book home and soon learns that it once belonged to another kid named Craig and apparently possesses occult properties—powerful magic Ivan can use to punish his enemies.

The notebook describes five tasks Ivan must complete to unleash the full power of the book. But what he doesn’t know is demonic forces control the book’s pages—raw evil that will inflict suffering on the good as well as the bad and demand as payment Ivan’s very soul.

Read Come As You Are

 

Book Review—AN EXORCIST EXPLAINS THE DEMONIC

[An Exorcist Explains the Demonic Cover]As an author of horror, I am fascinated by demons—especially as portrayed in movies like ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Conjuring,’ ‘The Conjuring 2,’ and the more comic ‘Supernatural’ television series. But as a Catholic, I am in truth terrified of the demonic. I believe they not only exist but are striving every day to win over our souls. Strong words? Well, we’re talking about the ultimate battle between Good and Evil, after all.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who died in Rome this past September, was an exorcist and author. An Exorcist Explains the Demonic is the first book of his I have read, and I intend to read more. I found his words to be both direct and comforting. Direct, because he doesn’t mince words when it comes to Satan. And comforting because, in the end, he offers hope for those suffering from ailments such as Possession, Vexation, Obsession, and Infestation.

For authors interested in true stories of the paranormal, I can highly recommend this work. Movies and television may exaggerate some of what happens during an exorcism, but apparently, they get a lot of it right. And I believe that if you’re going to write about something unfamiliar, you should research the hell out of it. For believers, Fr. Amorth offers advice on how to keep yourself safe from the forces of Evil. And for nonbelievers, the book is a fascinating read.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Synopsis
From Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the renowned exorcist in Rome, comes this powerful, eye-opening book on the deadly antics of Satan and his fallen angels, as well as spiritual remedies for each. 

These pages provide a basic orientation in the dark phenomenology, succinctly explaining Catholic doctrine on the fallen angels and the innumerable manifestations. Among the many questions Fr. Amorth answers in this book are:

Where does the Evil One dwell in the human body?
How does the Devil appear and what does he look like?
What are the powers that comes from Satan?
Do the sins of ancestors influence our life?
How are spiritual evils contracted?
What is the state of souls in purgatory?
What is the role of sacramentals in fighting off temptation?
When should exorcisms and prayers of healing be performed?
What happens during an exorcism?
What you should do when a family is being attacked by a demon?

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SORROW’S EDGE—Taking Horror on the Road

Sequels are tough—trust me, I know. As an author, you must delve deeper into the mystery that is your hero, looking for new weaknesses to exploit. That’s right, what you want is to put this guy through more hell and see if he’ll survive. In Jimmy Holiday’s case, you’ve got an embarrassment of riches. He’s a former priest and, though still a tortured Catholic, finds himself seriously questioning the path God has apparently chosen for him. You see, Jimmy is a reluctant exorcist—and a marker. To make matters worse, he’s in a complicated relationship with Tabby, a mercurial young woman of the witchy variety. And if that isn’t enough, he’s the guardian of a six-year-old girl named Lucy who is, um, not all there.

The thing I love most about Danielle DeVor’s work is that she never takes the easy road. Her imagination seems boundless. Sure, there’s horror, demons, ghosts, and a myriad of other spooky goings-on. But I’ve noticed that she likes to mess with her characters. A lot. And the reader is better for it. And speaking of roads, the entourage is now headed for Tombstone, Arizona, where more ungodly things are brewing. Good luck, Jimmy!

There’s a lot you can love about Sorrow’s Edge. And though the book is a great read, I suggest you start with Sorrow’s Point. Pairing up an ex-priest with a witch and a ghost girl? Wish I’d thought of it.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb
[Sorrow's Edge Cover]

Uncovering The Truth…Will Take An Exorcist

Jimmy Holiday, defrocked priest turned exorcist, is trying to get his life in order. With his on-again off-again witchy girlfriend moving in, the spirit of the little girl from his last exorcism hanging around, and a secret organization of exorcists hounding him, Jimmy equals stressed. 

When a stranger calls in the middle of the night asking for help with a possession, Jimmy is about to land in a mess of trouble. Especially since the man on the phone claims to have gotten his number from Jimmy’s old mentor. Too bad his mentor has been dead for years.

After a mysterious silver flask arrives at his doorstep, Jimmy is left with two options: either ignore the newest enigma the universe has tossed him, or listen to Lucy and travel to Arizona to solve the mystery before all hell breaks loose…again.

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‘The Conjuring 2’—Hell on Parade

[The Conjuring 2 Poster]
Photo courtesy of IMDb

The Conjuring 2’ (2016)
Directed by James Wan
Screenplay by Cary Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Johnson
Horror
Stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe
Warner Bros.
Rated R
Log Line: Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.

For years, I’ve been telling people that the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen is ‘The Exorcist.’ Well, all that changed after watching ‘The Conjuring 2.’ All I can say is, Wow! James Wan, who I’ve been following since his 2004 feature ‘Saw,’ has shown amazing growth as a purveyor of the demonic. And his understanding of the intrinsic nature of evil from a Catholic perspective rivals that of William Peter Blatty, who I have greatly admired since reading his novel The Exorcist, upon which the movie was based.

Demons Are Real
Now, I enjoyed ‘The Conjuring’ which, like the sequel, is based on a paranormal case by real-life investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. After seeing that movie, I began researching the Warrens and learned about the case in England, where the story of ‘The Conjuring 2’ takes place. The fact that these are actual cases and involve demonic possession both intrigues and horrifies me. As a Catholic, I believe in Hell. And I believe that demons like the one featured in ‘The Conjuring 2’ have walked the earth long before man. Perhaps this is why, for me, the film is so frightening.

Flipping around the dial the other day, I happened across the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ reboot from 2010. Though well made, it wasn’t scary. I know Freddie Kreuger is a fantasy character and, despite the sharpness of his homemade claws, he’s just another homicidal killer. And I feel that way about most horror movies involving monsters. ‘The Babadook’ is a great example. Yes, he’s paper-thin and creepy. But that’s about it. I was more moved by the exasperated, sleep-deprived Amelia and her lonely, desperate attempts at creating a normal life for her troubled son, Samuel. Conversely, when the demon in ‘The Conjuring 2’ takes on the form of The Crooked Man, I ended up halfway out of my seat—which is a tribute to the genius of James Wan.

Becoming a Believer
Like most folks, I believe horror movies do well because people like to be scared. It’s a rush similar to riding a roller coaster. And when it’s over, you’re relieved. But every once in a while a film comes along that disturbs the viewer to the core, its aftereffect lingering for days. ‘The Conjuring 2’ is just such a movie. And an estimated $40M in box office receipts at the time of this writing—this kind of story sells.

Now, I’m not saying that a film like this will turn an atheist into a believer. But it might make those who are on the fence about God, angels and demons think twice before picking up the planchette from that Ouija board collecting dust in the corner with those other games. My advice—just say no.

SORROW’S POINT—Once a Priest, Always a Priest

Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of The Exorcist—both the novel and the movie. Also, I am Catholic which, I suppose, is why stories about exorcism resonate so well with me. Now, I’ve read Danielle DeVor’s work before and, when I began Sorrow’s Point, I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be telling me a story I already knew. While The Exorcist concerns a Catholic priest suffering serious doubts about his faith, her novel is about a priest who had been “laicized”—that is, he returned to the laity (“defrocked” has no meaning in the Catholic Church, by the way).

“Once a priest, always a priest” is a universal truth. In Jimmy Holiday’s case, it’s especially important, because a friend is pleading with him to help his young daughter, Lucy, who may be exhibiting signs of being possessed. I won’t provide any spoilers, but I will tell you that the house where Lucy lives is not nice. In fact, it is downright hellish. I mean, seriously. Would you live in a place called “Blackmoor”? Yeah, me neither.

Teaming up with an old girlfriend, Jimmy will be calling on supernatural powers other than those found in the Rite of Exorcism to help Lucy. And in doing so, he will discover a frightening, life-changing truth about himself. If you enjoy supernatural stories of the demonic variety, you will love this book.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Sorrow's Point Cover]

Not All Exorcists are Equal….One is Marked

When defrocked ex-priest, Jimmy Holiday, agrees to help an old friend with his sick daughter, he doesn’t expect the horrors that await him. Blackmoor, his friend’s new residence, rests upon the outskirts of the town of Sorrow’s Point. The mansion’s history of magic, mayhem, and death makes it almost a living thing – a haunted mansion straight out of a Stephen King novel. Jimmy must decide if the young girl, Lucy, is only ill, or if the haunting of the house and her apparent possession are real.

After the house appears to affect him as well with colors of magic dancing before his eyes, rooms warded by a witch, and a ring of power in his voice, Jimmy is met by a transient who tells him he has “the Mark”. Whatever being “marked” means, Jimmy doesn’t care. All he wants to do is help Lucy. But, helping Lucy means performing an exorcism.

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THE DEMONOLOGIST—Do Not Pull Back the Curtain!

As a writer, I am always looking to expand my knowledge of things real and unreal, which is why I read on a wide variety of subjects. Also, I like to watch movies and television. When I saw ‘The Conjuring,’ I was introduced to Ed and Lorraine Warren. In real life they were a married couple (Ed has since passed on) who spent the majority of their adult lives helping people plagued by demons. The movie was, in fact, based on one of their cases. After watching it, I decided to read The Demonologist to learn more about their lives and their work.

This book is terrifying. In it, the author interviews the Warrens and provides a sobering, detailed account of what happens when people—knowingly or unknowingly—invite an inhuman spirit, or demonic, into their home. I’ve always believed there are things out there that should not be disturbed. This book has helped me to understand that these dark entities are worse than I ever could have imagined.

If you are someone who is curious about the spirit world, I encourage you to read this book. And if, like me, you are a writer of horror, this title should be on your bookshelf, right next to the Bible. It’s filled with fact-based stories and transcripts about spirits and hauntings, and it compares and contrasts demonology with science and parapsychology. It’s a fascinating read and an invaluable research tool. And remember, “Doors must be opened before spirits can enter.” Do not pull back the curtain—ever!

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[The Demonologist Cover]

If you think ghosts are only responsible for hauntings, think again. The Demonologist reveals the grave religious process behind supernatural events and how it can happen to you. Used as a text in seminaries and classrooms, this is one book you can’t put down. Illustrated with photos of phenomena in progress from the Warrens’ private collection.

For over five decades Ed and Lorraine Warren have been known as the world’s most renowned paranormal investigators. Lorraine is a gifted clairvoyant, while Ed is the only non-ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church. Together they have investigated thousands of hauntings in their career.

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Danielle DeVor Interviews Me

Author extraordinaire Danielle DeVor has decided it would be a good idea to interview me. Go figure. My brain is pretty nonstandard, and I tend to run off at the mouth after too many espressos. Nevertheless, she is a brave woman and likes a challenge, I guess.

1. What drew you to the horror genre?

Like many, I grew up watching monsters in movies and on television. Also, I loved reading fairy tales as a child—still do. As you know, those can get pretty gruesome. I must have a pretty healthy dark side, because I am truly drawn to this genre.

2. Do you think monsters are the scary ones or are humans scarier?

I am really attracted to the misunderstood monster. One of my favorite stories is “Beauty and the Beast.” I remember in college watching the Cocteau film at one of those art house theaters late at night. If I think about humans and their dark sides, I definitely believe they are scarier. If you watch the news, you’ll see more monstrous behavior from people than the awful things we write about, supposedly perpetrated by monsters.

3. Do you think slasher films should make a comeback?

I like slasher films and, if they did make a comeback, I would really like to see a fresh take. Other than Michael Meyers, I can’t really think of a killer who was simply driven by pure Evil. Most of these types are motivated by some past trauma which, for me, is a little boring.

To read the rest of the interview, please visit Danielle’s blog.