announcements

After a short hiatus, Elizabeth Edits is back!

I am super excited to announce that after a six-month break, Elizabeth Edits is back!

If you don’t already know, Elizabeth Edits is a service to help you with any writing problem. We help with copyediting, proofreading, research, and ghostwriting, if that’s what you need. We also provide developmental editing for independent authors.

Well, now that you know me a little better, we can talk about what Elizabeth Edits plans to do in the future. We are adding five more members to our team in order to better assist you with your writing needs. The newest additions to our family are being vetted for expertise, understanding, and overall excellence in their craft and genre.

Speaking of genres, Elizabeth Edits is also adding two genres to our list! Previously, we specialized in thriller/suspense, horror, mystery, true crime, and drama. Now, we have welcomed sci-fi/fantasy and non-fiction to join our spookier counterparts. We are exceptionally pleased to let you guys know we can now help more of you without sacrificing excellence.

This six-month break was much needed for the company to reevaluate what was truly important – You. Now that we have, we are thrilled to get back to work and can’t wait to talk with you about yours!

For more information about Elizabeth Edits and pricing, please email hartl_elizabeth@yahoo.com directly and type “More Info” in the subject line. (Our “More Information” page is also in the middle of being revamped.😁)

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book and movie reviews

The Fear Footage (2018)

I’ve noticed that every few years, a new found footage horror movie comes out that is better than the rest. Only every few years, though. The last good one was Hell House LLC in 2015. After three years of mediocre, run-o-the-mill flicks, 2018 brought us The Fear Footage.

Directed by Ricky Umberger, The Fear Footage follows deputy Leo Cole as he investigates a house on a quiet street in Darkbluff, Maryland. Several neighbors have called the police because, well, the house itself isn’t supposed to be there; It had been demolished two years prior. So, Deputy Cole turns on his body cam and goes to investigate. He does indeed find a house. He goes in.

From here, the film takes a creepy turn. In the empty house, Cole notices a VHS tape in the player. This tape contains three more terrifying stories, adding to Cole’s unease. He keeps hearing noises in the house, but no one seems to be there. From here, the rest of the story plays out like a haunted house story, but with a twist. I won’t spoil that twist here.

The best thing about this movie is that it’s simple, scary, and crazy suspenseful. This film was produced on a $300 budget. What Umberger and his crew were able to accomplish with this kind of budget is remarkable. Let’s give an example… The cinematography. The cinematography is the cornerstone for the suspense and scares. Since this footage was filmed on a police officer’s body camera, it stands to reason the audience can only see what Deputy Cole sees. The crew stays true to this theory. Deputy Cole’s flashlight plays a big role in the effectiveness of the overall movie. Deputy Cole can only see what his flashlight illuminates and that goes for us, too. This method is cheap, but effective, and is a great example of using your ultra-low budget to your advantage. A decent effort from all involved.

Now for the bad. You knew there had to be a bad, right? Remember how I said that the scares and suspense are one of the best parts of this movie? Well, they’re also one of the worst parts, depending on how you like your scares and suspense. Personally, I’m not into the cheap jump scare, and this movie is full of them. Also, while the suspense does build, Umberger ruins it by adding a glitch effect on the camera before every jump scare. C’mon. The movie is essentially warning you that scaries are coming! This kills the suspense, which is a shame.

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Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It’s one of my favorite found footage flicks of the decade, and certainly better than most out there. But the thing that just ruins the whole movie for me is the glitch effect. Why do you want to kill the suspense like that? You think your audience can’t handle the jump scare? Give them more credit than that.

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book and movie reviews

Hell House LLC (2015)

I’ve watched this movie a few times now, and it never gets old. It’s always just as heart-pounding as the first time I saw it.

Hold on. Much like the movie, I’m starting at the end. Let’s back up.

Hell House LLC is an incredibly believable mockumentary/found footage flick directed by Stephen Cognetti. It follows the crew of the haunted house company dubbed Hell House LLC as it prepares for its opening night in a new location. The bulk of the movie attempts to explain why, on opening night, there was a “malfunction” that killed 15 people, including most of the crew.

That’s it. As Gordon Ramsey might put it, “It’s simple, but fresh and done bloody well.”

Let’s look at the simplicity of the film for a moment. Some might argue that it’s too simplistic, but I think that’s the genius of it. The filmmakers take the thrills back to basics with lighting, editing, and point of view. For example, in one scene, the character of Paul is filming the testing of the lighting in one room of the house. There are several freakish dummies in the room, but as the lights go out and come back on, one dummy appears to have moved. Paul can’t be sure until they test the strobe lighting. This is a super simple scene that creates suspense with lighting. Anyone can do it, but it’s effective. This is a great example of how the entire movie is set up. With this flick, its simplicity is not a negative aspect, but a positive one.

I wasn’t going to discuss anything other than the above in this review, but I got to looking online at what others thought of this flick. So, this leads me to want to talk about the characters real quick. I have heard that a lot of viewers didn’t think the characters were fully realized. The characters in this movie aren’t supposed to be full, multi-dimensional characters, and here’s why:

The characters are facilitators. They have no purpose except to move the story along. The house is the real protagonist (and antagonist, actually). It’s the house’s story that you’ve come to watch. This is why none of the characters seem to have any qualities that make them stand out (except for Alex, but the house manipulates him, so one can still argue that it’s the house that’s giving Alex a forceful personality.) In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with the characters; They are doing exactly what they were meant to do.

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I’m going to give this film five out of five spooks. I think what I like most about this movie is that it taps into our innate fears. The fear of the dark, of danger lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. This is an ancient fear ingrained in all of us. The simplicity of the movie’s set up creates a believability that most movies don’t have. The suspense created with lighting, editing, and point of view is effective, and don’t worry about the characters, they’re not meant to stick around anyway.

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book and movie reviews

The Whisper Man (Alex North, 2019)

Imagine moving to a new town for a fresh start, only to find out that your child has become the target of kidnapping.

It begins when 7-year-old Jake Kennedy hears whispers outside his bedroom window. Tom and Jake Kennedy have moved to Featherbank after Jake’s mother dies, thinking they will start over and eventually forget the awful events of the past year. What they don’t know is that Tom and Jake have moved into a town that is battling demons from its own past, the “Whisper Man.”

Let me start by saying there isn’t much I don’t like about this book, but the elements I don’t like about it sincerely bug me. Overall, this book is written well. There’s no doubt about that. The issue I have is with the point of view and pacing. The pacing is a little slow for my taste, but the use of several different points of view really bothers me. I don’t mind a change in point of view in a novel. It gives the story depth. However, in this book, we get a minimum of four different points of view throughout its 300 plus pages, and it ruins the suspense of the story. The change in point of view always happens at a logical point and at the beginning of a chapter so the reader doesn’t get confused, but it slams the breaks on any suspense the story had built up thus far. By the time the reader finishes the very long chapter(s) and gets back to the previous point of view, any sense of foreboding or suspense is gone. This continues until the very end of the book. I find it frustrating.

Now for what I absolutely love about this novel. I love the characters, especially the seasoned police detective Pete Willis. All the characters are well rounded and are likeable, even when some have moments of serious un-likeability (I know this isn’t a word, just go with it). Although I wouldn’t classify this novel as horror or thriller, there are some genuinely creepy moments throughout the story, mostly involving Jake and his imaginary friend (the creepiness of the imaginary friend is shot down by the end of the story, but I don’t want to put spoilers here so give it a read to see what I mean) or the whispers he hears outside his bedroom window. It is definitely worth the read for the police procedural subplot alone, though.

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I’m giving this book four out of five spooks. This is a fantastic read with interesting characters. It’s more on the family drama end of the genre spectrum, but there are some chills to be had throughout the story. If you’re not a fan of frequent change in points of view, though, I’d leave this book alone.

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Legend Tripping

A Christmas Story: Terrifying Christmas Traditions from Around the World (pt. 2)

“He’s making a list, checking it twice. Going to find out who’s naughty or nice.”

It’s official. Santa Claus is coming to town this week. While excited children await presents and candy in the United States, in some parts of the world, children remain vigilant as they wait for their treats. These children have been told ghastly tales of frightening characters in an attempt to scare them into being good. In the first part of this list, we delved into Krampus, Pere Fouettard, and the Kallikantzari. Part two will focus on Frau Perchta, Mari Lwyd, the Yule Cat, and Hans Trapp. So, get ready. Things are about to get spooky in part two of A Christmas Story: Terrifying Christmas Traditions from Around the World.

Frau Perchta

Originating in Austria and Bavaria, the legend of Frau Perchta is that of a witch who goes to the homes of children to see if they’ve been naughty or nice. Like with Santa Claus, nice children receive gifts or candy. Naughty children are subject to a terrible fate. Legend states that Frau Perchta disembowels naughty children and fills their bodies with straw. That’s one way to make sure children will behave in the future.

Mari Lwyd

The tale of Mari Lwyd originates in Wales. This infamous figure is more of a New Year’s character than a Christmas one. Said to have a horse’s skull and wearing a long cloak, Mari Lwyd travels from home to home with a chanting group trailing behind, wishing everyone a happy new year. This creature is not responsible for punishing naughty children or rewarding good ones, as with the other characters on this list. Mari Lwyd may be fearsome, but is quite harmless.

The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat is an Icelandic legend. This Satanic cat stalks towns, peering into children’s bedrooms, looking for naughty children to devour. The only way to save yourself from the Yule Cat is to leave visible the clothes you got for Christmas (it was said that if you got clothes for Christmas, you had been good all year). If you do not receive clothes, you make sure to leave out old clothes and hope they pass muster because if you don’t, the Yule Cat will come for you.

Hans Trapp

Perhaps the most terrifying character on this list is Hans Trapp. Originating in France, Hans Trapp is said to have been a man known for his nastiness and greed, along with many deals with Satan to become wealthy. After being excommunicated by the Catholic Church, he lost everything and took to roaming the countryside dressed as a scarecrow. While stalking the countryside, he cooked a shepherd boy over a fire and was about to cannibalize him when Trapp was killed by a lightning strike. Hans Trapp sometimes comes back around Christmas, searching for tasty children that have perhaps wandered too far from home.

Those were four of the most terrifying Christmas legends from around the world. For those of you who like some scares with your holiday cheer, I hope you enjoyed this list as much as I enjoyed researching it. Happy holidays and keep it spooky!

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Legend Tripping

A Christmas Story: Terrifying Christmas Traditions from Around the World (Pt. 1)

Everyone in the United States is familiar with Santa Claus. He’s the big, jolly guy with rosy cheeks and a white beard dressed in red that breaks into your home via a chimney (or window if you don’t have a chimney) on Christmas Eve to leave you presents under a slowly dying pine tree. If you’re good, he’ll give you what you want. If you’re bad, you’ll get coal. This is the tradition followed in the United States, but in other parts of the world, naughty children have much worse to fear during Christmastime. Here are some terrifying Christmas traditions from around the world that will make you think twice about misbehaving.

Krampus

Feared in Northern Italy, Croatia, Austria and Slovenia, Krampus is the dark companion to Saint Nicholas. Krampus is a demonic monster, half-goat, half-human, who carries a whip and a sack to whip bad children, sometimes kidnapping them is their negative actions call for it. You can tell Krampus is near when you hear rattling, dragging chains.

According to the legend, Krampus is the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel. Krampus was originally thought to have been a part of the pagan rituals for the winter solstice. When Christianity began to spread, Krampus was adopted into Christian tradition as the negative counterpart to Saint Nicholas.

Now, on December 5, children await Saint Nicholas and his demonic companion Krampus. If children have been good, gifts are left for them by Saint Nicholas. If they have been naughty, Krampus whips them, taking the worse children straight to hell.

Pere Fouettard

Popular in Switzerland, France and Belgium, Pere Fouettard, or Father Whipper, is a fearsome figure and reminiscent of Krampus. As the story goes, Pere Fouettard was a butcher. He robbed, kidnapped and murdered wealthy children, carving up their bodies and hiding them in barrels. When Saint Nicholas discovered what Pere did, he brought the children back to life, and now forces Pere to accompany him on December 5 to punish naughty children.

While this story is fanciful, thought to date back to 1150, this is most likely just a folk story. The true inspiration for Father Whipper dates to the Siege of Metz. The fighting lasted eight long years. During one festive period, the locals burned and dragged through the streets an effigy of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. They created the Father Whipper story based on the appearance of the burnt effigy.

The Kallikantzari

Originating in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Serbia, the Kallikantzari are goblins with horns and tusks, usually male, who spend most of the year underground, trying to bring about the apocalypse. During the winter festivities, they terrorize humans, spreading their evil and making general mischief.

As the story goes, these goblins spend the year gnawing at the tree that supports the Earth in order to destroy it and, presumably, the world. However, every year around Christ’s birth, the tree renews, seriously angering these goblins. In their rage, they break ground and wreak havoc on human society during the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas.

Those are the first three terrifying Christmas legends from around the world. In part 2, I will be discussing Frau Perchta, Mari Lwyd, Hans Trapp, and the Yule Cat. That list will be out closer to Christmas day. I hope you enjoyed some Yule Tide scares and stay tuned for more!

Further Reading

“Kallikantzari.” The Free Dictionary.

“Le Pere Fouettard: The French Christmas Cannibal Who Serves Santa Claus.” All About History.

Basu, Tanya. “Who is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Beast.” National Geographic. Dec 5, 2018.

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Mysterious Occurrences

Voodoo Death

Can a curse kill you?

According to Walter B. Cannon it can, and we can see the evidence of this all around us if we look hard enough.

It’s called Voodoo Death, and it is a very real phenomenon.

The term Voodoo Death refers to the sudden and unexplained death that is a result from a curse, typically a Voodoo curse. Essentially, this is a death caused specifically by a threat.

I can hear you already. “Bullshite!” You say. I know. I said the same thing, but it is real.

According to Cannon, in his 1942 article “‘Voodoo’ Death”, there is a scientific explanation for death caused by a threat. It’s all psychological. It has been proven since Cannon wrote his article proposing this that emotions are closely linked to physical illness. Therefore, as extreme as it can be, intense fear can cause death, and this is precisely how a curse works. Believing you will die because someone said so with such conviction seems preposterous, but there have been cases of this around the world.

For example, in his article, Cannon describes an African man who ate wild hen against the orders of this tribe. The consequence for this action was death. Panicked and feeling helpless, this man died less than 24 hours later.

A more recent example, and something that happens all the time, is when a doctor gives an individual a diagnosis of terminal illness. Often, when diagnosed with terminal illness, the patient can die much sooner than a patient who has not been told that their life is in danger. Believing that you will die shortens your life span. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A curse is not just a plot device, nor is it fictional. Curses are very real and can induce actual harm, even if it is just psychological. The scary part is that curses can come from the unlikeliest of places, even your own doctor. Be careful out there.

Further reading:

Barber, Nigel. “Voodoo Death I.” Psychology Today.

Sternberg, Esther M. “Walter B. Cannon and ‘Voodoo Death’: A Perspective from 60 Years On.” American Journal of Public Health. v.92(10), Oct 2002.

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announcements

Book Sale!!!!

I have exciting news! Revelations: A Horror Anthology is 50% off just in time for the Holidays! It will be on sale until November 12, but I only have 50 copies available at the sale price. You’ve got to act quick to get this great deal!

Click the link below for the special sale price.

Revelations: A Horror Anthology 50% off on Smashwords!

*Within the week, look for my other book You’re Next: A Short Novel Inspired by True Events, which goes on sale on Amazon November 5!

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Fiend Fest 2020

Fiend Fest 2020: The Murder of Laetitia Toureaux

For our final obscure unsolved mystery of Fiend Fest 2020, I present to you the double life of Laetitia Toureaux.

Laetitia Toureaux was an Italian woman who moved to Paris when she married. A few years later, her husband died, leaving her penniless. Taking a job at a glue factory to make ends meet, Laetitia spent her days at the factory, and spent her evenings carousing on the streets of Paris.

On the evening of May 16, 1937, Laetitia boarded the Paris Metro. She sat in an empty train car. When the train reached its next stop 45 seconds later, the passengers who attempted to board the car Laetitia was seated in ran out immediately, screaming. Laetitia was dead; A dagger plunged into the back of her neck.

Authorities found that no one had entered or exited the train car in the 45 seconds between the two stops. Because of the angle of the dagger in Laetitia’s neck, it was impossible for her to have done this to herself. It was a true murder mystery.

Who would want a seemingly unassuming woman dead? Authorities later speculated that Laetitia was a spy. Shortly before her death, Laetitia was working as an attendant at a dance hall with a seedy reputation. To make matters worse, she worked there under a false name, all the while discreetly visiting the Italian embassy. Some even speculated that Laetitia was hired to infiltrate the violent political group La Cagoule.

Laetitia Toureaux’s case was dropped at the onset of World War II. It is still one of Paris’s most baffling unsolved mysteries.

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