Scared Witless

I was a small boy with a huge imagination. I often read late into the night, well past the witching hour. My home was a small cabin, not far removed from the desolate heart of the Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area. The elevation meant a ceaseless wind, all too often accompanied by the blood curdling screams of coydogs.  A peek out the window might have revealed stars scattered like body glitter across the black skin of the night sky. Or perhaps a swollen yellow moon.  Round and ripe.  An unblinking eye on the gathering mayhem.

At the time, my preferred form of artistic entertainment was the horror novel.  We’re talking about paperbacks discovered at the garage sales my mom haunted. Pages were often fragile and yellow, remniscent of ancient papyrus.   Have no doubt, dear reader, they cast a spell. It still lingers. Please allow me to share a few of my most demented discoveries.  I assure you, they’re culled from the creepiest corners of Castle Crandall, and bound to leave you scared witless…


Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. And you know what they say about fiendish fruit not falling far from the tree.  In light of this, get ready to be afraid.  It’s about a rock star well-past his sell by date, love gone sour, and a haunted suit acquired via online auction.  Perhaps you might consider packing a spare set of undergarments before you head down this road, and I double devil dog dare you to turn off the lights when you’re done.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer sums up Heart Shaped Box just right:

“A fast-paced journey on wheels borrowed from hell’s used-car lot, and there aren’t a lot of comfort breaks…The pictures [Hill] painted colored my dreams and darkened my mood even after I’d put the book down.”


There’s no need to worry if you’re jonesin’ for more Joe Hill after you’ve finished Heart Shaped Box.  As it turns out, Mr. Hill, much like his father, is apparently possessed by the spirit of prolific.  Even better, he’s not just a hard worker, my man’s got game.  And although all his works are worth taking a stab at, super librarian Jennifer “I Love Graphic Novels” Boyer wants to recommend the Locke and Key series.  As she ominously enthuses:

“Dark.  Atmospheric.  Chilling.  This graphic novel series by acclaimed horror novelist Joe Hill will stay with you well after you turn the last page.  In volume 1, Mr. Hill introduces the reader to the Locke family, who relocate to the family estate in fictional Lovecraft, Massachusetts after tragedy strikes.  Tyler, the eldest, along with his sister Kinsey, and their little brother Bode encounter a house filled with mysteries, including hand forged keys with mystical properties, and an ancient evil dying to get out.  Volumes 1 through 5 in a projected six volume series have been released, so check them out, and immerse yourself in this Eisner award winning series.”


Botanophobia refers to the fear of plants. Ridiculous, you say? That’s what I thought until I devoured The Caretaker of Lorne Field in a single psychotic sitting.  Penned by Dave Zeltserman, it’s about a family curse from way back when, and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. It’s about Jack Durkin and the wicked weeds he wages war with. Or is it just a figment of a rather colorful imagination?  Who knows?  You won’t.  This one messes with your head to the very last page.  But don’t take my word for it.  Maybe you’d prefer to check-out testimony given by The Midwest book Review:

“The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a fabulous amusing tale that grips the reader with a need to know whether the monster is real, a centuries old con, or generational lunacy.”


It’s alive! August 2, 2012 saw the release of Zeltserman’s thirteenth novel, Monster, a deft spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it’s the monster’s turn to talk, and critic and crowd alike are raving.  Author Ed Gorman calls it:

“A masterpiece of originality, beauty, ugliness, eloquence, wisdom and power”


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2 responses to “Scared Witless

  1. Shiver, shiver! LOL
    Hi Frank. Thanks for the recommendations.
    I went to Wiki to see where “Hoffman Notch” is. I found the following:
    “The Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area, an Adirondack Park unit of the Forest Preserve, lies in the towns of Schroon, North Hudson and Minerva in Essex County.”
    Interesting! I had never heard of it before this.
    Joy 🙂

  2. Joy-
    It was an awesome place to grow-up, and it’s still in my blood! You can find a brief history at the following link:

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