Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis


October 2015

Blog Fest Day 20 and 21-HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

sentence scares

[The picture above accompanies the Goodreads post I’ve linked below.]

Ok so I lost steam and did not post as much as I would have liked but work got busy.  Since tomorrow is Halloween and I will not be available to post tomorrow, today is my final blog fest post.  Today’s post will celebrate the things about Halloween that make us enjoy the holiday the most as writers.  Goodreads had a wonderful and creative blog post titled “15 Two-Sentence Horror Stories That Will Give Your Nightmares,” the link to which can be found here.  These are fantastic and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did (you’ll even find one from Stephen King, dubbed the Master of Horror).  This is the power of the sentence.  Something short and sweet can bring so much fright and horror!  I always find it hard to condense my thoughts.  It is hard to put so many ideas into a short amount of space.  I have listed the sentences below and added my own at the end.  Enjoy, Happy Halloween, and be safe with your kids trick-or-treating tomorrow night!

1. “The faces that stare back at me from the kitchen window don’t scare me. It’s the blood on their clothes that have me worried.” (Michele Holguin Barchuk)

2. “I heard heavy snoring so I turned to nudge my partner, remembering in time that he died last year.” (Tracy Shephard)

3. “When she got the text saying, “You die tonight,” she replied asking, “Who is this?” She heard a message alert outside her bedroom door.” (Kathryn West)

4. “I have a body of a supermodel. It’s in the fridge.” (Petina)

5.“I had a dream I was stabbed to death in my bed at 2:45am, and the clock was the last thing I saw before the knife. I awoke screaming, and glanced at the clock to see it was 2:44am—and the bedroom door was opening.” (James Holmes)

6.“When the long winter came, Mom promised us we’d never go hungry. We never asked where she got so much meat.” (Nyssa 23)

7.“My mum said God always listens to little children. If I collect enough of their tongues, maybe he’ll listen to me as well.” (Ibrahim)

8.“He stood in front of me, menacing red eyes gleaming in the dark of the night. He lifted my book above his head and TORE IT APART.” (Storm Arashi)

9.“As I washed my face, a voice cautioned, “Watch your back.” Startled, I looked up into the mirror to see my reflection pointing behind me.” (Karin Pike)

10.“I love the sound of her voice. Too bad it’s muffled by six feet of earth.” (Christopher Provost)

11.“A disembodied voice echoed out of the darkness, raspy and low. ‘Student loans.'” (Alisia Strautins)

12.“She had a roast on the table despite the empty shelves at all the markets. They could always have other children. ” (Brendan)

13.“I woke up with a picture of myself sleeping on my phone. I live alone.” (Lisa Kuik)

14. “Five years after Timmy’s sister drowned, he found her standing in his closet. Her eyes were full of water.” (Stephen King)

15.“There’s no more coffee or chocolate. Oh, your Kindle broke, too.” (Malina Bennett Vasquez)

“In the dark of the mountains, where no one would hear her scream, she saw the floating eyes.  She did not know whether they were alive or the ghosts of past travelers, or which would be worse.”

Book Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

still missing

This was another book I listened to as an audiobook and I have to give props to the narrator. She was so emotional and read with such a passionate voice that I could not help but be drawn in to the story even more than if I had read it. The premise for this story was excellent. Successful realtor is abducted, held prisoner in an isolated cabin by a madman, raped and beaten. There is such a huge overwhelming sense of helplessness in Annie’s story and (I don’t want to sound sick) but I loved it. Chevy Stevens is an amazing writer. I started by reading her latest, Those Girls, and someone suggested I read all of her books. So here I am starting at the beginning and I am so glad I did. I thought, at first, that I would be distracted from the story by having Annie narrate the story of her abduction to her shrink. I thought that it would be like spoiling something for the reader. Obviously she doesn’t die if she’s telling her shrink about it. But adding that second dimension to the story was a brilliant move. It allowed the reader to really delve into the mind of a victim. I watch Law and Order SVU all the time, it’s my favorite show, but there you only see the investigation. The girl has already been raped or the cops are working over a dead body. But Chevy Stevens brought us into the minds of the victim herself in her most raw and exposed moments and it was captivating and extremely emotional.

SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!   I must say that this book also held, for me at least, the mother of all stupid decisions made by a fictional character. Sleeping with the detective on your rape case???? Really???!?!? Ok, I’m done being childish about the situation but that was seriously one stupid move. I guess it was Annie’s way of moving on, and in a way I’m happy it was with Gary and not someone who had no idea what she was going through or what her mental state was like. I know he wasn’t taking advantage of her, but I still felt it was idiotic on her part and insensitive on his. I also must admit that I guiltily guessed that Christina and Luke had something to do with Annie’s disappearance, but was in a twisted, weird way glad that I was wrong and that it was her own mother. From very early on in this story I hated Annie’s mother. I knew she was self-righteous and conceited from the first time I met her and found myself yelling at the audio in my car, “Just cut her out! Your mother is awful, just cut her out of your life! You deserve so much better than that!” It made it more tragic and harder for her to deal with of course, but something had to shake Annie, to get her to realize how terrible her mother was. There is an unbelievable sense of shame and guilt that victims heap upon themselves, and this book did a great job of unfolding that. From an outsiders perspective it can be kind of frustrating. I kept thinking, “He raped you, and beat you, and got you pregnant, then inadvertently killed your baby! Why are you blaming yourself???” But I can’t imagine being in Annie’s shoes. The doubts and the questions, “What could I have done differently? Could I have fought harder? Could I have tried to escape?”

Overall, this book was an epic, gripping, and suspenseful thrill ride and I cannot wait to dive into the next Chevy Stevens book.

Blog Fest Day 16- Witches of Appalachia

appalachian trail

I always wanted to write a story dealing with witches in the Appalachian Mountains.  I don’t think its a far stretch because I’m sure there are some witches in the high country.  I wanted to add a fantasy element to the story, however.  I’m short on time, but hopefully I can pull you in enough tonight that you’ll want to come back for more later!

The Witches of Appalachia

Carla’s lifelong dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail. She had trained for this moment for months, working with coaches and therapists to prepare her body and mind for the grueling task ahead. She had friends with whom she had hiked portions of the Trail before, but this expedition would be several months of extreme living and she would do it alone.

She expected the beginning to be a breeze. She expected to love the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors. She expected to feel at home even in places she’d never been before because man after all came from the dirt he treads upon, and she knew there would be places along the Trail that she recognized, especially through her home state of North Carolina. She knew the journey would become tiresome and grueling at some point and that she’d miss her bed and her friends and family.

What she did not expect, what no one expected, and what she could not in a million years prepare herself for, was her encounter with the witches.

Blog Fest Day 13

henryton tunnel

The picture of the tunnel above is also the source of some interesting memories.  Among other things, my friends almost got hit by a train here once.  This tunnel is some distance from the location of my story but this is a great image to share with you anyway.  I hope you enjoy the conclusion of the Unknown of Henryton.

The police had starting parking at the empty dirt patch just down the road from the entrance to Henryton Sanatorium almost every night. This made it nearly impossible to park nearby, forcing people who be creative about how they got onto the property. Jacob was always the designated driver (not because they were drinking, just because he was good at it). He had discovered a small gift shop about a mile away from the entrance. It was next to the railroad tracks that led directly past the sanatorium. Jacob had the idea to park at the shop, which was presumably closed at one o’clock in the morning, and follow the railroad tracks. They had done it a few times before so they were fairly convinced that no one would see them.

The first time they followed the tracks a train came through and they had to hide in the brush. Tonight, there was no train.

There was very little sound. Even the forest on either side of the tracks was eerily quiet.

They hopped out of Jacob’s SUV and started down the tracks.

They had their flashlights but no one wanted to turn them on until they were out of sight from the road. The street light provided enough light that they could see their way down the tracks for a short distance. Silent as the night itself the three trekked on, bundled in their coats on that cold, autumn night. Every once in a while they would glance behind them to make sure no police pulled into lot.

They were alone.

Just about the time they were through the tree line and out of the sight of the road, they decided to turn on a flashlight. As they continued walking something drew Sarah’s attention and she quickly looked behind her down the tracks, toward the road.

There was a solitary light coming toward them from the shop.

“Guys,” She alerted. “Is someone following us?”

They turned around. “Just stay still.” Cameron said. “It’s far enough away that it could just be someone who lives there.”

“I thought it was a store.” Jacob whispered.

“Yeah, but someone could live upstairs.” He paused for a moment. “But I don’t see a car.”

The light was swinging as if someone was carrying a lantern.

“Maybe we should go back.” Sarah suggested.

“Then they’ll see us for sure.” Cameron replied. “And hear our car start.”

They stood in silence. The light swayed but it didn’t seem to come any closer so they quietly pressed on. What seemed like a second later, Sarah turned and looked again. The light was closer. Impossibly closer. She jumped and grabbed Cameron’s hand.

“What the-” Cameron whispered under his breath. He had seen it too. No one could have moved that fast without the three of them hearing something.

“What should we do?” Sarah asked.

Cameron shushed her. The light seemed to hover but they still could not see whoever was carrying it. It was so dark. They could see the outline of someone but no defining features. Cameron slowly led them to the brush a few feet away where they all crouched low. The light once again remained stationary some distance away.

“What if it’s the cops?” Sarah was beginning to get nervous. She could feel her heart flutter inside her ribcage. She did not want to get arrested. Yes, they were trespassing. Yes, they were technically breaking the law. But what they did at Henryton never hurt anyone and it wasn’t morally wrong. Would a cop understand that? Or would he just see three kids looking for a fun time.

She hated the idea of hearing the person holding the lantern yell, “What are you kids doing?” They were hardly kids. All of them were old enough to drink, one was a manager, two were college graduates. But nonetheless a ticked off resident or cop would refer to them as kids.

That’s when it occurred to her. “It can’t be a cop.” She pointed out. “That’s not a high powered flashlight. A cop would have called out to us by now.”

She felt Cameron’s hand relax slightly in her grasp but he was still tense. “And whoever lives in that house would have also yelled at us, or threatened to call the police. Or done it by now.”

“So who the hell is following us?” Jacob’s voice quivered, even in the hushed whispered.

“I don’t know,” Cameron replied, slowly rising. “But they’re not moving. If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to get a move on. If they keep following us, we’ll confront them. Maybe it’s just other trespassers.”

Trespassers, plural?” Sarah hissed. “I don’t see multiple people.”

“Let’s just move.”

With that, they started moving again, faster this time. It did not take long before they all turned to see the light was even closer than it had been the previous time.

“That’s it.” Sarah said. “I’m done. Let’s go back to the car and when we pass them we’ll just say we’re sorry and that we’re leaving. I don’t want to go any further and be caught out here alone with anyone. If that’s not a cop or a resident, I don’t want to get stuck out here with them.”

“I agree.” Said Jacob.

Defeated, the three of them turned and nervously approached their stalker. The light was moving toward them as they approached. Very soon they would meet and they’d finally see who was holding the lantern.

Sarah thought of excuses she would use. If it was a cop, she would apologize. She would say they were just there to get some EVP readings and some photographs for paranormal research but they understand they were trespassing and they were leaving. If it was a resident she’d give them the same speech. It was the unknown element of the figure that mystified her. If not a resident and not a cop, who could it be?

They got closer and the light moved across the tracks away from them. The light was still coming at them but it was as if they were also trying to be avoided by whoever was holding the light source. They were on top of it now and surely would see the person walking across the railroad.

Suddenly, the light disappeared. Sarah blinked and rubbed her eyes as if they were playing a trick on her.

“Where’d it go?”

No one responded. Even in the pale light of the street lamp ahead that was now visible she could see Cameron and Jacob’s faces were ashen. Cameron started walking faster, trying to catch whoever had eluded them. All of a sudden they had become the stalkers.

Cameron swore under his breath but the figure was nowhere to be seen and the light had completely vanished.

“I don’t like this.” Jacob said. “Let’s get out of here. I got the keys out, let’s go.”

He was gone. Sarah grabbed Cameron’s hand and dragged him with her as she followed Jacob to the car. The climbed into the SUV as fast as they could. Jacob cranked the engine and they sped off, taking one last look behind them. There was no life inside the store as they drove past. There were no lights on the porch, no lantern in the clearing, and no movement toward the tree line and the railroad tracks. Whatever they had seen was gone.

As I said in yesterday’s post, this is loosely based on a true story. I can honestly say of all my ghost hunting experiences, and of all my trips to Henryton, this was the scariest. Isn’t this true of all of us?? Not knowing is almost always worse than knowing. The great Alfred Hitchcock earned his fame on this philosophy. He did not have gore or blood in his films. He had the unknown, accompanied by some really creepy music. Up to this point in my life, I’d felt the presence of evil, seen ghosts, felt the presence of ghosts, and had some odd inexplicable experiences, but nothing compared to the light on the railroad tracks that night. There was simply no explanation. The people I was with also do not scare easily and we were all on edge that night. I actually to this day still wish it had been a police officer or resident. At least then we could have made excuses and talked to a flesh and blood body. Sadly, Henryton was demolished last year (or maybe the year before), and we never went back after that night, but while it was standing, that facility held some history, sorrow, and fear that emanated off the walls. It was one of many such hospitals across the country that represent a time in American history where medical practice was still young and inexperienced, oftentimes ignorant. We did not know how to treat such deadly communicable diseases or deal with the patients suffering. I think this place was a way for some to linger and communicate their feelings and I am proud to have been a part of that communication even if on a small level. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this story and I hope I made it creepy enough for you. Maybe it was a You-Had-To-Be-There moment, or maybe I just made you think twice before you go ghost hunting at an abandoned hospital 🙂

Blog Fest Day 12

A view of the rear of the main building in the Henryton complex. Originally built in 1922 as a sanitarium for African-Americans with tuberculosis, it was employed four decades later as a facility for developmentally disabled adults.  Closed since 1985, there've been 70 fires there over the past decade and other acts of vandalism. The abandoned buildings are slated for demolition, but no date is set. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

This is another ghost story, and another loosely based true story.  I have placed a picture I found online of the Henryton Sanatorium in Marriottsville, Maryland.  I was there years ago, before the demolition (which just makes me want to cry because those buildings were beautiful).  This picture above is actually a picture of one of my darkest moments at the hospital.  The ground floor door of the front most part of this building is where I experienced some very macabre emotions.  There was something evil in that doorway and I never wanted to go back.  Although I did not return to that part of the campus, I returned many times to witness other paranormal activity.  This is the story of my last visit.

The Unknown- Part 1

Sarah, Cameron, and Jacob had been visiting the Henryton Sanatorium in Marriottsville, Maryland for years. It was a prime ghost hunting location. Originally built in 1922 to house African Americans suffering from tuberculosis, the place was riddled with troubled spirits and sometimes they even encountered evil things in those halls. The place was full of asbestos and vandals over the years had set fires and spray painted the walls, and the state had discussed several times the notion of tearing the buildings down. But this place was special to these three inseparable friends. Sarah had not put much stock in ghost hunting before she met Cameron and Jacob, but before long they had convinced her to go with them and she decided she needed something to toughen her up. She was kind of a scaredy cat.

The first time they had visited Henryton, Sarah swore she saw something in one of the windows of the administration building. She did not want to sound neurotic but whatever it was, was watching them. Cameron suggested they investigate the building not knowing she had seen something. She did not want to object, but she was afraid that she was not going crazy; she was afraid that she would see whoever was watching them. Once they were inside the building, Sarah had to wait for her eyes to adjust. The moonlight outside illuminated the old parking lot but inside the dark played tricks on her eyes. Shadows moved inexplicably and noise seemed to reverberate off of every remaining stick of furniture. There in the corner, sitting on a green metal chair, was a man. He was an African American wearing jean overalls and a blue flannel shirt. For the first time, Sarah felt what Cameron referred to as The Feeling. She did not feel cold or spooked like the movies made you believe you felt whenever a ghost was present. She did not feel scared or terrified as if this was an evil spirit. This man was just lingering, observing. She wondered why he was not wearing a white hospital gown when she remembered they were in the admin building. He was waiting to be admitted.

“Sarah?” Jacob’s voice sounded behind her, causing her to jump. “You ok?”

“Yeah,” She replied breathlessly. The man was still sitting there, watching them. He looked almost real, as if a solid piece of flesh sat before her, but then the moonlight shone through the window revealing his transparency.

“You see something don’t you?” Cameron stated.

She nodded.

“It’s ok.” He assured her. “Take the camera and try and take a picture of whatever you see. Then we’ll go.”

He handed her the camera and she raised it, pointing it at the man in the corner. She snapped the photo. The man did not even flinch. She slowly handed the camera back to Cameron as they exited the building. Sarah took one more glance behind her. The man was no longer looking at them but staring blankly out the window. She wondered if he saw a dark, abandoned parking lot, or if he saw a bright sunny day as it had been the last time he sat in that chair.

She had come a long way since that first visit. They had taken several photos. Mostly orbs showed up and occasionally a misty haze, as was the case of that first picture Sarah took of the sitting man. A slight haze appeared around the chair. Cameron said the apparition probably did not generate enough energy to appear on the photo.

“Does that mean he was weak?” She ask him.

“Not necessarily. It just means that his need to remain was not as great as others.”

She wasn’t sure she completely understood that concept, but she just accepted it.

Over the years they had brought outsiders with them. One time they took Sarah’s college roommate who drew a picture of a vision she had had the week before they visited the grounds. The image she drew was an exact replica of a long narrow corridor in the morgue wing of the building. Every detail was exactly how she had envisioned it. Having said that, no one wanted to go down the corridor.

Another time they brought one of Sarah’s boyfriends who had the idea to drive up into the parking lot and make siren noises to scare teenagers off the property. It had worked. Normally Sarah would have felt guilty, but she had reasoned with herself that those kids were the type to set fires and vandalize, making it harder for legitimate trespassers to gain access. Police presence had already escalated since they started visiting and it was only a matter of time before the state made a final push for demolition.

This trip, however, was different. After all the unexplained occurrences they encountered, one would think they’d be prepared for anything. But nothing prepared them for their encounter this night. This encounter was not even on the property. After this night, they would never see Henryton again.

[To be continued…]

Blog Fest Day #???


Today I am introducing vampires into my blog for the Halloween Blog Fest!  I haven’t decided if I want to expand on this blurp or not.  Originally I was going to treat this like I did my last two ghost stories by writing a portion then placing the ominous “To be continued” at the end.  But this is a creepy excerpt and I like it the way it is.  I don’t know if I want to elaborate and risk ruining a good thing.  What do YOU think??  Do you like this as is stands or do you want a conclusion?

Day 11- The Vampires of Wellington Hall

Margaret stood in the shadows watching the silhouetted figure of the duke’s daughter in the dark alley behind the bakery. The streets were quiet except for the sound of an alley cat digging through the trash and the sounds of the drunks from the tavern at the end of the street. Margaret had been preparing dough for the morning’s ovens when she saw someone slip past her window which was in the back of the bakery. She wanted to make sure it was not the young boys who had destroyed her cart the night before come back for more fun. She knew it was foolish to venture into the darkness alone, especially with a murderer on the loose.

There had been bodies found throughout the town. Over the past several months, bodies that had been burned to a crisp had turned up. Whatever was left of the bodies that could help identify victims had always turned up either drunks, street urchins, or orphans; people no one would remember or miss. Regardless of the status of the murdered people, the town was on edge at night. The revelers stayed in the taverns most nights for fear of whatever roamed the streets at night. The street urchins who had broken her food cart had done so just before the sun went completely down. They obviously wanted to be in before nightfall as well.

She was no match for a murderer, or even a gang of young men, but her cart was her livelihood when it came to selling her baked goods and she would not stand for it being ruined again. She grabbed her baker’s roll and silently slipped into the night.

What she saw had shocked her.

The rumor was that the duke and his family were blood suckers. They were strange for sure, but Margaret placed no stock in the back alley legends most likely created by drunken lechers and tavern wenches in the dead of night to satisfy their need for a good story. There was no such thing vampires, and there certainly was no family of vampires living in Wellington Hall.

She was wrong.

The girl in the alley was Lady Rose Wellington, daughter of Duke Wellington, an ambassador from the Serbian nation to the British crown. He had been granted immunity by the British government after the Ottomans had split their empire. He had been named ambassador and later, Duke of Wellington, when it became clear he had no ambition of returning to his war torn home. Very little was known about the family but they were good to the people of the town. Lady Rose was beautiful like her mother. Margaret had seen the family in the town from time to time, mostly just the duke, but she had seen Lady Elizabeth Wellington a time or two with her husband. Lady Rose was pale and slim in figure with long locks of coal black hair that reached to her thighs. Margaret wondered what she would be doing out of the Hall so late at night, let alone in a dark alley behind the bakery.

Before Margaret could call out to her, to see if she was well of course, a drunk from the tavern had wandered down the street. He was singing to himself but he was otherwise alone. Margaret watched him step into the alley several paces to relieve himself. She thought to look away, embarrassed that he would be so brazen, but a flash of movement caught her eye. Before the man could scream, Rose Wellington was on him, breaking his neck in the time it takes to bat an eye, and hovering over his dead body on the ground, her red lips to his neck, biting down.

In her trance of disbelief, Margaret stood transfixed upon the situation, not knowing whether to scream or run, both options would give her away as being a witness and Lady Rose’s next potential victim.

She noticed suddenly that she had shut her eyes. She willed herself to open them again just in time to see Lady Rose standing up again, blood dripping from her elongated canines. She took a vile of something out of her corset and doused the dead man, lit a match, and dropped it on the corpse.

Blog Fest

You know when you plan on ending a story a certain way and then something happens that surprises even you, the writer, and the story ends in a completely different way than originally anticipated?  This is one such example.  But I must say, I am not disappointed at all.  Everyone knows a “Becca,” and everyone knows that every Becca should be reached.  Here’s to the Beccas out there!

The conclusion of the Ghost of Pattee

Betsy Aardsma had been senselessly murdered in the stacks of Pattee Library on November 28, 1969, the day after Thanksgiving by an assailant who was never caught. Her unsolved homicide had been the source of countless ghost stories, but Becca had never put much stock in the supernatural. She had been intrigued by the murder of a young coed and had even researched the incident herself. She read books and even found old newspaper clippings in the archives. Although she was no closer to knowing for certain who committed the act, Becca had read enough to know that Betsy’s death was a tragedy and even more so that it had gone unsolved and no one punished for such a heinous act, but Becca did not actually believe the place was haunted.

Or did she?

That English book had not been on the floor in her row seconds earlier yet she had found it there all the same. That book belonged on a shelf in this part of the stacks. Then she remembered that Betsy had been an English Grad student. Had this been the book she was holding when someone approached her from behind and stabbed her?

Becca held her breath as she placed the book in its proper place on the shelf, listening to the silence that surrounded her and willing something to make a sound. What was she waiting for? A ghostly whisper? What would a long dead grad student have to say?

Betsy Aardsma had no final words. Witnesses said she made no sound at all, and most likely wouldn’t have if the knife had hit an artery and caused her lungs to fill with blood. The thought made Becca turn away. She started to walk away.

There was the sudden sound of falling books.

Becca screamed and turned to look at the row behind her, the row where Betsy was killed, and saw a dozen books now scattered on the floor. She could have sworn she saw a shadow quickly move down the aisle, toward the stairs. In the pile of books was the one Becca had just returned to its rightful place.

Becca, against her better judgement, turned to follow the shadow up the stairs. On the wall going up she saw a smeared bloody fingerprint. There had been one there decades before but the detectives attributed it to the emergency response trying to push the stretcher up the tight stairs with Betsy’s body lying on it. Now Becca realized it had in fact been left behind by the killer. She looked up and saw that the door to the next level was swinging slightly, as if someone had just walked through it. She was about to follow the shadow, and also find her way out of the creepy stacks when she heard a faint whisper on the stale library air.

Somebody had better help that girl.

The phrase had been muttered by an unknown male to bystanders who had been in the library at the time of the attack. The man had fled, pursued by one of the bystanders, but was lost in the crowd of people exiting the building. He was never identified and many speculated that he was the murderer. Becca could not understand why she stopped and even less why she turned and went back down the stairs to the place where the books had fallen.

The aisle was clear.

It was as if nothing had happened. But Becca had seen with her own two eyes the books scattered on the floor and had heard with her own two ears the sound of them crashing to the ground.

Before she could wrap her head around what had just happened, she heard someone shout from the top of the stairs.

She ran back down the aisle, arriving out of breath and looking as if she’d seen a ghost (she had hadn’t she?), she looked up into the face of a security patrol officer.

“What the hell are you doing down here after hours?” He asked, but his face hinted at more worry than irritation. “It’s not safe for students to be down here. What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry.” Becca stuttered. “I was rushing to get one book I needed for a paper before they closed and when I came upstairs the door got stuck. I couldn’t get out.”

“Well I already kicked your friend out, so she’s probably waiting for you outside. You should be more mindful of the time.”

“Friend? I don’t have a friend.”

The guard eyed her pitifully.

“I mean,” Becca corrected herself. “I have friends, but I came to the library alone tonight. I didn’t have a friend with me.”

“Oh well,” The officer continued carelessly. “Then you weren’t the only reckless student in the library after hours, I guess.”

Becca thought about the shadow. As she climbed up the stairs, she took one more glance down the aisle and saw the smiling apparition of Betsy Aardsma, standing next to the row where the books had fallen and wearing her bright red dress. Becca found herself smiling back, then turning to go back up the stairs.

As she parted ways with the patrol officer outside the library she called back to him.

“What was my friend wearing? The one you kicked out.”

“She had on a red dress.” He looked around. “I don’t see her though, so I guess she left without you.”

Becca smiled as she headed toward the bus stop that would take her back to her apartment. Her friend had not left, she was sure she would see her again, and she didn’t feel absurdly silly or irrational having those thoughts.

Blog Fest #I don’t even know what number I’m on anymore….

Apparently on my days off from work, I don’t get to post anything.  Poor excuse I know, but here is the continuation of Becca’s experience in the haunted stacks of Penn State’s Pattee Library.  Thanks for reading!

Becca was a rational young woman. She was not prone to wild thoughts or unrealistic superstitions, but the noise of the footsteps had rattled her. How could anyone be walking around where she had just been when the doors were shut and stuck and she was the only person here?

“H-Hello?” She stuttered quietly. The footsteps stopped.

Becca summoned her courage to make her way back down the aisle to where she had been. There was a book on the floor that hadn’t been there a few moments earlier.

Becca bent over to pick it up.

Citing Sources for Students of English. The call number was for level 2, the stack directly above her and the same place where she had heard the noises. She clutched the book in her hand and peered around the row one more time to make sure she was alone before darting out toward the stairs. She was going to try one last time to open the door.

This time, miraculously, it opened.

Her mind told her to make her way to the exit, if the librarians had not completely closed up she could still leave. She’d be chastised for staying late, but she could still get out. She could put the English book on the counter on her way out and they’d put it in its rightful place in the morning.

Something else, however, nagged at her. The book went on a shelf on this very floor, presumably just around the corner. It would take her no time at all to return it herself. Maybe she would find out how it made its way to her floor. She found the section and felt a sudden chill deep in her bones. She had no idea how the book came to her, but she knew this section of the stacks well. Everyone on campus did.

This is the exact place that Betsy Aardsma was murdered in 1969.

Blog Fest Day 8- Murder in the Stacks


This is a story that is near and dear to my heart because it takes place on the campus of my Alma Mater, Penn State.  This November will mark the 46th anniversary of the mysterious death of Betsy Aardsma, the young grad student whose murder in the stacks of the library was never solved.  Her memory will live on especially in the minds of those who attended Penn State and definitely felt her presence in those stacks.  While this story is not based on a true story recounted to me personally, I am sure there has been more than one student since 1969 who has felt the unease in the Level 2 stacks of Pattee Library.

Ghost of Pattee

No one was allowed in the library fifteen minutes prior to closing. The building was huge, and Becca understood that the Pattee Library staff did not want to have to worry about students getting locked in the stacks after they locked the doors. Her class across campus had let out late and she had to find something to help her start her research for tonight’s assignment. She had no choice but to slip in unnoticed. She’d be out in no time anyway.

Her favorite place in the stacks of the Penn State library was a little nook in the west corner of level 3B which very few people even knew about. It was tucked away between a wall and a bookshelf, so no traffic would bother her. There was a small window which overlooked the beautiful campus and allowed her to escape every now and then from her studies. The small table and solitary chair was located only a few aisles away from the rows of books where she found most of her history material. Today, however, she would not be enjoying her favorite spot. She only had time to run down the small, confined, and winding stairway to level 3B.

She quickly walked to the row she needed, turned the aisle light on, and began looking for the subject she needed. Above her, the florescent light flickered.

Not now, she thought. Just let me find what I need before you burn out.

The book she wanted was nowhere to be found. Frustrated, she began to search the area for something else she could use. Thankfully, her history subjects were organized chronologically, so everything she could want was in front of her. She scanned with her eyes, head tilted to the side, as the light above her flickered again.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang on the floor above her.

They’re going to come kick me out, she assumed as she scanned faster. She glanced at her watch.

12:02 AM.

The library was closed. No one had come down to make their rounds to tell her it was time to leave. She allowed herself five more minutes to find what she needed. She had the uneasy feeling that someone was watching her. She peeked around the stack but no one was down the aisle, nor should they be since the library was closing. She brushed off the queer feeling and went back to choosing a title.

Moments later the light above her flickered a final time and went out, but she was already pulling the book she needed from its place on the shelf. She shoved it in her messenger bag and bolted toward the stairs. She got to the top of the stairs and pushed the door but it wouldn’t move. Each level was actually a half level, each stairway being small and cramped with a door at each landing. The door had a window in it and Becca peered out but no one was blocked the door from opening. There was no handle; it would only push open. She pushed again, harder this time thinking maybe it was stuck. Nothing. There was no place for a lock that she could tell, but she also could not see the library staff diligently locking each and every stack door. They would be there all night.

Flustered and not wanting to be locked in the stacks for the night, she went back down the stairs and found her way through the maze of the stack to the east side of the building to the second set of stairs. After climbing them as well, she was equally disappointed to find that it was also sealed shut.

How the hell am I supposed to get out of here? Now she was beginning to panic. Becca was not one to overreact so she calmly made her way back to her side of the stacks, the side in which she was most comfortable. Before she could pull out her phone to call for help, she heard the same loud thump from the level above her.

She rushed to the top of the stairs again, hoping someone was there and would hear her banging on the door.

“Hello?” She called while banging her fist on the window. “The door is stuck, can anyone hear me?”

No one answered. The floor was eerily quiet. She reached for her phone but her heart sank when there was no signal to be found.

That’s when she heard another noise, shuffling footsteps. This time it was coming from level 3B. Someone was walking around in the stacks, down the aisles where she had just been.

[To be continued…]

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

On publishing, clients, writing, and queries


Erik Kwakkel blogging about medieval manuscripts

The Grey Havens Group

A Literary and Philosophical Nonprofit for Everyone!

Coffee. Write. Repeat.

Writing my way through life, one word at a time.

A Tolkienist's Perspective

A blog for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, from complete beginners to avid enthusiasts, exploring the author's imaginary world, influential writing and cinematic adaptations.

Heirs of Durin

Thorin Oakenshield and Allies

The Oddest Inkling

An exploration of the works of poet Charles Williams (1886-1945)

Torrent of Diapers

Ramblings of an At-Home Dad on Life, the Universe and Everything


High fantasy. Heroic fantasy. Epic fantasy.