Category: Articles

Epeolatry Book Review: The Ghost That Ate Us by Daniel Kraus

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Title: The Ghost That Ate Us: The Tragic True Story of the Burger City Poltergeist

Author: Daniel Kraus

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press

Release Date: 12th July, 2022

Synopsis:

You remember the brutal crime, don’t you?

Maybe you read about it on Twitter. Maybe a friend sent you a news clip. Maybe you saw it on an episode of Spectral Journeys that night you were flipping through channels, unable to sleep.

Maybe after reading the true story, you won’t ever sleep again.

On June 1, 2017, six people were killed at a Burger City franchise off I-80 near Jonny, Iowa. It was the bizarre and gruesome conclusion to nine months of alleged paranormal activity at the fast-food joint-events popularly known as “the Burger City Poltergeist.”

The story inspired Facebook memes, Twitter hashtags, Buzzfeed listicles, Saturday Night Live sketches, and more. But the case was never much more than a punchline…until bestselling writer Daniel Kraus (The Shape of Water, The Living Dead) decided to head to Iowa to dig up what really happened.

Presented here is the definitive story of “the most exhaustively documented haunting in history,” including-for the first time ever-interviews with every living survivor of the tragedy.

The employees of Burger City were a family. They loved one another. At least, at the beginning.

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May 2022: Tarot Cards for Writing Inspiration

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(Although this fictionalized tarot card reading is, as usual, purely for creative and writing inspiration, and should not be taken as any sort of reflection, critique, diagnosis, classification, or judgment pertaining to actual mental and emotional conditions, this month’s reading is, however, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. If you find yourself in need of help and support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or to a crisis line.)

Sometimes, the enemy lies deep within oneself. Sometimes it’s external forces that can’t readily be seen, or identified. Sometimes one may not even be sure they exist at all. Are they even real, or simply a figment of someone else’s imagination? Perhaps one of the most terrifying situations in horror fiction is when the character’s reality is deliberately distorted by those around them, and they simply have no way of knowing which way is up, or what the truth actually is. They’re faced with a situation where they’ve been taught that their own perception, knowledge, and intuition can’t be trusted. Such is the situation our fictionalized main character is facing.

 

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Character: Knight of Swords. This character is the royal heir to a wealthy and expansive kingdom. The kingdom is so widespread that the regents, the main character’s parents, have difficulty in holding onto their power. These regents face challenges both without the castle walls, where war and bloodshed is almost a constant presence, and within, where not even the regents’ inner circle can be trusted. As a result, the royal heir, as the regents’ only child, lives a life of near-total seclusion. In fact, the only people the heir has come in contact with are his parents. Within their suite of rooms, the heir knows only luxury, peace, and security, despite the wars raging outside the castle.

 

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Setting: The Tower. As the heir comes of age, however, the regents provide them with a companion, thought by all to be trusted, and the pair become very close. It’s a blow to the heir when the regents inform their child that the companion was involved in an attempted assassination and the heir is left with a broken heart, having fallen in love with the companion. What the heir doesn’t realize is that, even with his once-trusted and once-beloved companion gone, the danger is closer than anyone realizes. The heir awakes one evening to the smell of smoke and the sound of screams and running footprints from inside the castle itself. Gone are the flowery scents and the soft music the heir is usually surrounded with day and night. Instant terror replaces the heir’s complacency when a series of loud bangs sound against the door to his suite.

 

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Theme/Development: Nine of Pentacles (Reversed). The door splinters into pieces, and a cadre of masked people rush into the room. The heir is forcibly seized from his bed, and as he’s thrown over the shoulder of one of the heavily armored intruders, he sees the others set fire to the velvet drapes that line his bed. The heir, despite his sheltered existence, realizes that the betrayal his parents have always feared has finally happened. The heartbreak over his lost companion doesn’t compare to the pain he now feels. Outside the room, the smoke is even thicker, and he can barely make out dark masses scattered over the floor. Once outside, the smoke clears, and the heir realizes the masses are bodies. He looks up to see flames shooting up out of the castle’s roof and windows. He closes his eyes, afraid that he’ll see the bodies of his parents among the slain masses. He’s tossed up on into a horse, and he struggles to get away before his captor mounts. There’s a curse, a sharp pain, and true blackness overtakes the heir.

 

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Conflict/Climax: Two of Swords (Reversed). The heir comes to, and he hopes that all of what has happened was nothing but a bad dream. Although everything is still dark, he feels warmth off to his left. The fireplace in his room, and he snuggles down deep into his sheets. Instead of the finest silk, the sheets are of a coarse fabric that rasps against his skin. Before the heir can register that he wasn’t dreaming after all, light pours in abruptly. A shadowy form blocks out the light, and the heir scrambles backwards until he hits a solid wall behind him. The form grabs him and hauls him upright and pushes him out the door and into even brighter light. As his eyes adjust, colours flood in. Colors only nature can provide. Vibrant greens of trees stretching out to the horizon, even brighter flowers growing at their base, and the prince’s breath catches in his chest, followed by a swift, sharp, yet oddly pleasurable pain. There, in front of him, is his companion. And nowhere, as far as his eye can see, is any trace of the dangerous and war-ruined landscape he’d been told existed outside the castle walls.

How to Write a Depressed Character That Won’t Depress Your Reader

How to Write a Depressed Character That Won’t Depress Your Reader

 

Presented by BetterHelp.

 

Writing a believable character with physical and mental health conditions can be difficult for some writers, regardless of how much experience they have with the condition itself. When trying to develop a character that has a condition like depression, a common worry is that the writing will also depress and sadden the reader. However, there are many ways you can create a believable character that can draw empathy from your audience without getting them caught up in their own sadness. 

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May 2022 Horoscopes: [Undead] Party Like It’s . . .

Nope, not that beloved immortal!(Canva.com)

 

Read on to see how each undead zodiac sign will fritter away their eternal time!

 

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Party like it’s…1940s: The WWII-Rationed Dinner Party with Taurus (April 20—May 20). The trusty Taurus has spent its undead eternity planning perfect dinner parties. As much as this sign likes everything the same, even the tradition-bound Taurus fears the day their parties will be labeled a “one-note” after so many centuries. Therefore, they’ll seek out new ways to challenge their party-planning skills—such as designing a full wartime-rationed menu for their nearest and dearest bloodsuckers. And who cares if the meal that the hard-working Taurus slaved over goes uneaten? The vampirific digestive system won’t be a problem when it comes to the alcohol-free, blood-infused mocktails served as an accompaniment to the traditional, and also more digestible, fruit gelatin. And no 1940s-inspired party would be complete without a rousing game of charades. Because when the Taurus and their guests have lived for over a thousand years, the possibilities are endless, even though the evening is not! After all, there’s no risk that the Taurus’s fellow nocturnals will overstay their welcome, right?

 

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Party like it’s…March 2, 1699 to Present: New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Celebrations with Gemini (May 21—June 20). After all these years, one would expect the Mardi Gras festivities to wear on the chimerical Gemini. But it doesn’t, because the Gemini has the opportunity to present a new “face” by virtue of their costume and mask that always changes to match the current theme of the float they’re on that year. Plus, the flood of new people victims to the French Quarter provides the Gemini vampire with an endlessly varied and diverse menu to choose from. And, in this town steeped in old-world magic and honorific celebrations of death, Gemini’s status as an immortal will barely begin to be remarked upon by the time the next generation replaces the local old-timers. The only attention this sign will attract in the “anything goes” party culture is its attachment to the non-traditional red color of the beads they toss into the crowd from their float. Red for blood, of course!

 

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Party like it’s…1990s: The Goth Scene Redux with Cancer (June 21—July 22). Where else would you find a moody undead Crab then hiding in the dim shadows of a goth club? Even if it is a 90s reboot, it’s a reboot spawned by a new generation of black-eyelinered, black-velvet-clad maudlin types. This was the generation of twenty-somethings that had embraced not only “coffin classics” like Bauhaus and The Cure, but welcomed the fictional vampires of Anne Rice into their gloomy midst. Surely, the Cancerian feels, they’ll similarly welcome a real-life vampire. Or so the Cancerian hopes anyway, as they strike a poetic pose with their pitch-black cloves and their glass of blood-rich (literally!) red wine. For this nostalgic Cancer, the goth club is a modern-day version of the old-world see-and-be-seen high society—at least until the rave scene strips the atmospheric mystery from the club with their glow sticks and urban-baggy pants. The poor undead Cancer will have no choice, then, but to retreat to their desolate and crumbling estate to await the next reboot of an elegant, Victorian-inspired subculture to appear.

 

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Party like it’s…1600s-1700s: Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles with Leo (July 23—August 22). For the flamboyant and dynamic Leo vampire, there is no gothic-styled waiting in the shadows. This vibrant sign lives for the sun, even though they can no longer be out and about during the day. And the Leo makes the day happen with advancements in electric lighting that mimic natural sunlight. It’s expensive, sure, but money is never an issue for the Leo, as they do in post-death just as they did in life, which is to surround themselves with the best of everything. And the best of everything, in this case, is to rent out the former Louis XIV’s Palace at Versailles, and replicate the grand events the old Sun King used to host back in the day. While the Leo’s wealth buys a lot, it can’t quite buy authenticity, and every so often, the Leo misses the excitement when all of this was new and yet familiar. People today, the Leo undead has found, just smell—and taste—different. But the Leo would never appear in public at less their personal best, so they touch up their face paint, fix their wig, make sure there’s not a loose thread to be found on their luxurious garments, and hope tonight will be the night they’ll find someone that tastes as exquisite as a French blue-blood once did.

 

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Party like it’s…1980s: The Roller Skating Rink with Virgo (August 23—September 22). As they did in life, the Virgo undead continues to relish the simple things. And that no-frills simplicity is best represented by evenings spent in the innocent haven of the roller skating rink. Rainbow socks, day-glo neon, and stacked bracelets that merrily jangle as the Virgo vampire zips around the track—much faster than they did when they were alive. Things are now even more simpler with their undead state, because they can’t be hurt when they wipe out after taking a turn too fast. However, even a vampire needs a breather, and Virgo skates off the rink to snag a churro, or breathe in the heavenly smell of nachos with gooey, drippy cheese. Luckily, the pink lemonade is tart enough to hide the taste of blood the Virgo has never quite gotten used to. The Virgo undead, as opposed to when they were alive, has no hesitation about wasting all their quarters at Skee Ball, or by beating their top scores in their favorite arcade games. Just as they’ve exchanged all their tickets for the latest in plastic mementos and jelly bracelets, the disco ball starts to sparkle, and the Virgo grabs their latest victim love of their life, and skates into a happily-ever-eternal-after, hand in hand.

 

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Party like it’s…Late 1880s: Coney Island, the “Playground of the World” with Libra (September 23—October 22). For the vampirean Libra, Coney Island has a midway feel to it in more ways than one. The sheer number of people it draws allows the Libra to feed almost undetected. Even if the careful Libra were interrupted in the middle of a meal, who would believe such a thing of the philanthropist who contributed a sizeable amount of funds in not only restoring, but preserving, the Coney Island site? As far as anyone knew, the Libra was a born-and-bred New Yorker. Which was true, just not in anyone’s current lifetime. Still, even after all these years, the Libra’s undead heart had its’ childlike playfulness restored the minute they set foot within the chaotic energy that characterizes Coney Island. And it’s exactly their status as one of the main benefactors of Coney Island that allows Libra an all-access pass long after the sun goes down for not only them, but all of their suspiciously gaunt friends. Which the staff of local carnies think is just due to them being from somewhere upstate. A very rich, posh somewhere upstate.

 

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Party like it’s…1920s: Prohibition Era’s Speakeasies with Scorpio (October 23—November 21). Even though the Victorian era was probably more unconventional than originally depicted, it’s still too tame for the walk-on-the-wild-side Scorpio vampire. They want something more exciting and dangerous than the artfully melancholy Victorians and their more modern subculture counterparts (like Goths). These undead scorpions find their thrills in banned and illegal undertakings. And, of course, nothing represents this better than the sometimes seedy, sometimes upscale, environment that defined the speakeasies of the 1920s. Within these tucked-away dance clubs and bars, the Scorpio once found liberation from societal mores. While the Scorpio vampire is now eternally liberated from the dramas and the rules of human society, their undead existence is a long one. These Scorpios still seek the feeling of being alive, and they recreate this sensation by embracing all things back-alley. They’ll set up shop in the most conservative state (which could also be a dry state) and flaunt everything from banned books to their non-conservative flag of choice. And they’ll be running their modern-day version of a speakeasy right under the noses of the local authorities—just as they did in the old days. The really old days, in fact.

 

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Party like it’s…1500s: The Ottoman Empire during its peak under Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) with Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21). Even as an undead, Sagittarius never gives up their quest to reach the highest state of evolution a human can obtain. Throughout history, this noble archer can be found hanging around human civilizations at the height of their political, cultural, and societal accomplishments. While the Sagittarian vampire may eventually conclude that humanity can only evolve so far (in comparison to themselves and their fellow vampires), they still seek to absorb more from the human race then the warm blood that runs in their veins. These higher-minded vampires hope to distill their essence, their knowledge, and their entire history, if they can. And a good example of where to find the best and the brightest of humanity is in places like the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman I. While no society (or its leader/government) is perfect, Suleiman I did have a vision that fostered political, cultural, scientific/technological, and artistic growth under his leadership. Essentially, the Sagittarius is a collector, and they are preparing themselves for the day when they, alongside their other vampire brethren, will be the leaders that launch a new “Golden Age” on Earth.

 

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Party like it’s…1970s: The Disco Clubs with Capricorn (December 22—January 19). It’ll probably seem strange to find the oft-conventional Capricorn (even in their unconventional undead form) embracing the anti-establishment, anti-status quo movement of the 1970s. But within disco music, anyway, there’s a certain structure to the rhythm and to the dance steps that accompany the music. Although disco couture also stood out, there were underlying rules to creating the disco look, just as there were rules to the dancing style the music inspired. Certain other elements that belonged to the party scene of the disco movement made it easier for the Capricorn to go on the undead prowl, and avoid detection once it fed. Besides, what would a Capricorn vampire be if they didn’t think everything through completely and methodically? This old goat never acts on impulse, which is why it is probably among the oldest vampires in existence. And, millennia from now, they’ll still be on the dance floor, strutting their stuff while the young whippersnapper undeads gawk in horror.

 

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Party like it’s…1960s: The Hippie Movement with Aquarius (January 20—February 18). Peace, love, and the cosmic transformation that comes from imbibing humanity’s most ethereal red-hued substance, right? After all, red is a sacred color, the Aquarian vampire will tell you,. representative of both birth and death. Welcome to the heady world of the most enlightened of all the undead zodiac signs. Or so they like to think, anyway. These hippie-styled vampires will be both old in spirit but young in character. They’ll probably always need an undead elder to watch over them. You know, in case they go so deep into a meditative state that they aren’t aware of the first pink touches appearing in the morning sky. Or they accidently consume an elixir of garlic because they’ve learned it can be powerfully healing. Paradoxically, their deep spiritual connection to everything around them, even after their bodily transition, will protect them if they wander into a church while on a nighttime hunt. Eventually, though, the undead Aquarian is determined to see what awaits them in a higher dimension, and not even the most dedicated elder can protect them from their human-like curiosity.

 

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Party like it’s…1910s: Paris Art Salons with Pisces (February 19—March 20). It’s a certainty that an undead Pisces will be at the forefront of any and every major art movement throughout the course of history. They see the world through different eyes, and becoming a vampire only increases that creative vision. The good news is that, being undead, the Pisces will never freeze (but they may starve!) in a cold Parisian garret. They’ll be part of every group exhibition that has ever been held at a notable 1910s-era (and beyond) Paris salon. These sensitive souls do run the risk of another unfortunate fate that befalls many artists…the line between “reality” and their creative imagination becomes blurry. Like the Aquarian, the Pisces may need extra looking after by its vampire family once it becomes the stereotypical “mad artist”. But even the most ancient, cold-blooded vampire will be unable to resist the sweet charm of the dreamy Piscean vampire. They’ll indulge the Pisces when it breaks with vampire protocol, and allow the Pisces to decorate the walls of its crypt with pictures of frolicking animals and pastel-hued draping fabrics. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that the Pisces undead extinguishes all of their scented candles before they are allowed to crawl into their coffin for the day’s rest. Nobody wants to live out the rest of their undead existence as a charred husk, of course.

 

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Party like it’s…1950s: Rock ’N Roll with Aries (March 20—April 19). The Aries will probably “live fast and die young” and are poised to become the eternal rebellious teenager of the undead community. Luckily, as an undead, there’s little risk to all their rebelling—unless, of course, they’re arrested and put in jail, where their inability to age normally becomes markedly apparent. And these anarchistic-minded vampires may only shift sideways as they age…trading the tight white t-shirts and greased-back hair, and the tight skirts and shirts/sweaters characteristic of the rock ‘n roll era for the tattered clothing and more brightly coloured haircuts of the later punk rockers of the 1970s and 1980s. They could even embrace the heavy rocker/glam rocker look for a while until they discover that their makeup doesn’t stand up too well to their constant brawling. There are other, more recent versions of rebellious teen stages and culture, of course, but the Aries vampire will always prefer teenage-esque subcultures that allow them to express their more aggressive, confrontational, and combative sides.

Four Things Star Wars Can Teach a Writer

As an author, you never stop looking for inspiration and knowledge on the craft of writing.

Star Wars IV is a great piece of writing and a master class in the fundamentals of storytelling.

From using archetype characters, good and evil themes, foreshadowing (who starts with Episode 4?), plotting, and editing, watching this movie is never boring; which you never want your writing to be.

Here are four more things that a writer can learn from Star Wars.

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The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror

  1. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Introduction
  2. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Carnivals and the counter culture
  3. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Good versus evil
  4. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Hardcore wrestling and the slasher film
  5. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Monstrous bodies and body horror
  6. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The unkillable monster
  7. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – A Word On The Devil Scheduled for May 18, 2022
  8. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – The Covid era and cinematic wrestling Scheduled for May 25, 2022
  9. The Hammerlock of the Gods – Pro Wrestling and Horror – Conclusion Scheduled for June 1, 2022

Monstrous bodies and body horror

The body is everything in professional wrestling. Like the sport itself, the bodies of its practitioners can be seen to represent excess. More so in the past than the present era, the actual size and freakish look of a wrestler was enough to get them noticed, and hopefully, to draw mainstream attention and fans to the arena. This list of mammoth wrestlers rolls off the tongue – Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, The Undertaker, Giant Gonzales, the Big Show, Kane (the Devil’s favourite demon), Abdullah the Butcher, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Umaga, The Great Khali, Omos. These human monsters are replicated in traditional horror by outsized freaks like werewolves, mummies, zombies and other flesh rending ghouls.

An addendum to the outsized monstrous figure in wrestling is that of the truly grotesque, the villain whose body is designed to repulse the viewer. Wrestlers fitting this paradigm include Bastion Booger, the Adorable Adrian Adonis, and Playboy Buddy Rose. The excess in these bloated wrestling bodies is mirrored by the misshapen monsters of horror, like the Blob or the Toxic Avenger.
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How Star Wars Has Changed Fiction

If there is one thing that can be said about the cultural impact of Star Wars, it’s that it has had a profound effect on popular fiction. From the earliest days of cinema, Star Wars has been a touchstone for writers and filmmakers looking to create stories with mass appeal. And while its influence is evident in all sorts of genres, no other series has had as profound an impact on the way we see storytelling.

Since it was first released in 1977, the Star Wars movie franchise has had a profound impact on popular culture. The films have spawned books, comics, video games, and more, and have even inspired spin-offs outside of the movie theater. One of the most notable changes that Star Wars has wrought on fiction is its ability to introduce science fiction concepts to a wider audience. Previously, science fiction was often relegated to being a niche genre enjoyed by only a few readers.
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How to Write A Character With ADHD in Your Fiction

How to Write A Character With ADHD in Your Fiction

 

This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.

 

When it comes to developing your characters, you want to make sure they’re as genuine as possible. Whether this is through their dialogue, actions, or description, staying true to your vision is important. However, it’s also important to ensure that if you’re writing characters with physical and mental conditions, you’re also portraying them realistically. Relying on stereotypes and stigmas can be harmful to your readers with similar conditions. In addition, if you’re a writer that’s trying to develop a character with a condition that you also live with, it’s necessary to develop a full picture from others that have the condition since everyone’s experiences can vary. As the author, it’s a great practice to conduct research and dive into the depths of a condition in order to write as authentically as possible. 
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