Centralia, PA: The Beginning of the Fire

Centralia, PA smoke

Smoke from the underground fire

I’ve always had a certain interest in ghost towns. The abandonment of towns that were once heavily invested in by families, businesses, and governments is a rather intriguing topic, and one that is fertile for exploring many different ideas in fiction, including many dark ones.

This blog series will be focused on exploring the history and present day condition of the near ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. I should point out that my current work-in-progress, my novella Black Blood, has a fictional town that is based, in

Mine Fire

A sign warning people of the dangers of the mine fire. It no longer stands.

part, on Centralia. Also, please note that this blog series will be most likely in three parts, so be sure not to miss the next in the series.

Before the beginning of the mine fire, Centralia was a very small, prosperous coal town, with its peak of about 2,761 people in 1890. In 1962, a fire started in a mine beneath the town. There is some disagreements about how the fire started, and a few theories:

  1.       David Dekok, the author of Unseen Danger and Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire, argued that volunteer fire fighters had burned trash in a landfill in a strip-mine pit above the abandoned coal mines. The fire was not fully extinguished, and an unsealed opening in the pit allowed the fire to enter the complex system of Centralia’s underground mines. According to Dekok, this happened on May 27, 1962.
  2.       Joan Quigley, the author of The Day the Earth Caved In, argued that the fire had started the previous day, May 26, 1962. According to Quigley’s theory, a trash hauler dumped either hot ash or coal into the strip-mine pit, and that this ash or coal fell through the unsealed opening. She noted that the borough council notes from June 4, 1962 referred to two fires at the dump.
  3.       Also, there is the Bast Theory, which is mostly legend. The Bast Theory states that the Bast Colliery coal fire of 1932 was never fully extinguished, and in 1962, it reached the landfill area.

No matter how exactly the fire started, it soon led to many complications and to the eventual abandonment of Centralia. These complications are what I will talk about in my next post.

Devil’s Due Movie Review

Devil's Due

Devil’s Due Synopsis (from bloody-disgusting.com):

After a mysterious, lost night on their honeymoon, a newlywed couple finds themselves dealing with an earlier-than-planned pregnancy. While recording everything for posterity, the husband begins to notice odd behavior in his wife that they initially write off to nerves, but, as the months pass, it becomes evident that the dark changes to her body and mind have a much more sinister origin.

First things first— I tend to like it when filmmakers and other creative types try their best to be original. Innovative twists on old concepts earns my respect as well. There’s nothing like new variations and fresh perspectives, and when someone creates something, they ought to reach for that goal.

However, in my opinion, Devil’s Due doesn’t do that. Demonic pregnancies have already been done before, and done a lot better (Rosemary’s Baby). I wouldn’t have mind as much if Devil’s Due had a fresh take on the subject. But, to be honest, the movie seemed to be somewhat uninspired, and lacking very much in scares and originality.

For one thing, it’s another film trying to piggyback off of the “found footage” trend in horror films (think Paranormal Activity). Even though these type of shaky camera movies can be amazing (see my review of [REC] here, if you want to see their potential), in my experience they’re usually hit or miss. In Devil’s Due, it was a miss. Though the explanation for why the husband (Zach Gilford) was filming everything makes sense in the beginning, towards the end it’s unexplained and confusing. There were also several instances where things felt cut off and not developed fully, most likely due to the limited POV nature of found footage films.  There were several times while watching the movie where I felt as if it would have been a lot better if it had been traditionally filmed.

Then there’s the fact that Devil’s Due is bland and predictable. There are a few moments of genuine creepiness, but they are few and far between. The movie seems to rely on jump scares more so than on anything else. And right from the beginning, I had a good idea of what was going to happen. The first scene, (I mean, literally, the first damn scene), shows us the ending. This was a very bad move on the part of the directors, because it revealed (POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILER AHEAD) that one of the main characters survived. This is unacceptable, mainly because it severely undercuts suspense. If I already know who survives, how can I possibly be invested in the outcome of the movie?

Other than these issues, the overall movie was okayish enough. The acting was decent, and despite everything I did get a feel for the main characters. But these things were not enough to make up for general “blah” feeling I had once the credits had began to roll.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Poem- The Poppy Fields

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She stood by herself in
the red poppy fields,
examining the feel of the
opium flower.

She touched her fingers onto the delicate petals,
feeling the silky softness that was like a newborn’s breath.

The center of the flower
was black lined with yellow vertical strips,
like her own shadow facing away from the
currently setting sun.
The stem
was lime green,
like her own silken dress against her skin.
The petals
were scarlet red,
like her own stilling blood.

She thought to herself:
“This too can be masked.”

She looked up at the setting sun,
wondering something distant and vague.

And then she laid down
in the poppy fields,
still holding her singular flower.

And there she slept.

Blæc Blōd Title Change Poll

information point this wayBlæc Blōd is the title of one of my current writing projects, a novella I have talked about somewhat on this blog. “Blæc blōd” is an Old English phrase, and a phrase I used a lot in my novella, with some other Old English words. In modern day English, “blæc blōd” would roughly mean “black blood”, though I’m not 100% sure since I’m no Old English expert, though plan to (eventually) talk to people who could double check my own research into this. Since I used “Blæc Blōd” exclusively in my story for plot purposes, I decided to also use it as the title for my novella.

However, it seems like I’ll have to change that for several reasons:

  1. Since my novella is set in modern times, it now seems counter-intuitive to name it using what is effectively a dead language (having been replaced by Modern English).
  2. “Blæc blōd” is easy to pronounce, however, because of the unusual spelling and the fact that most people are unfamiliar with Old English words may make it hard to roll of the tongue.
  3. Also, it might be harder for readers to really get meaning from the title, since they won’t know what it means until they open my book to see the translations (or go on to read the story to see what it would mean in context).

Because of these reasons, I think it’s best to change the title of Blæc Blōd to reflect what it is more clearly to the average reader: a modern day horror story dealing with modern issues like love, abuse, redemption, etc. If I use Modern English, people will be able to pick up on the book’s meaning more intuitively.

I’ve come up with several options for a new title:

 

Please pick which title you like best, just so I better understand which title speaks the most to potential reader. When choosing, please consider what the title really says to you on a gut level, and what it would say to you about a book with that title. Also, feel free to share these observations in the comments.

Voting in the poll and telling me your opinions about which title you like best will really help me make a final decision. Thanks! :-)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark- The Movie!

From the "The Red Spot"

From the “The Red Spot”

There are only a few times in my life where I’ve gotten news that literally made me yell out “Yes!” with a pumping fist. And this is one of those times. I’m excited to announce that the series of children’s books known as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will be made into a movie! ;-)

Just in case you didn’t already know, the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a three part series filled with horror short stories for children. The stories were written by Alvin Schwartz, who collected them from folklore and urban legends, and originally illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Gammell’s work in particular helps the books and stories to stand out, with its eerie and sometimes graphic images forcing themselves into your mind. These books are among some of the most challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s, which I will say is a great accomplishment in and of itself. ;-)

The books were a very powerful influence for me in my childhood, and I have talked about that a little bit here on my blog. I have written about a few specific stories from the collection here, here, and here. As you can see, for whatever reason the stories really inspire a lot of fondness out of me, even now as a 22 year old college student. Which is why I’m very interested in this upcoming movie, and hope that the to-be creators (Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, two writers from the last four Saw movies) stay loyal to the spirit of the original concepts.

This is the basic concept of the movie: a group of outcast kids stand up to their fears to save their town when nightmares come to life. Even though it sounds somewhat like IT, I hope the strength of the initial concept will keep the movie fresh and interesting. I should note that there’s no word yet on which stories will be included, but since most of the stories in the collection were enjoyable for me, that doesn’t matter too much to me. I just hope it’s good, at the end of the day.

I’ll keep the news flowing about this project as it comes in, I pinky swear. ;-)

Araneae, Part 8

This will be the very last part of my short story, Araneae. Read it to find out the end! :-)

And if you haven’t read any of it yet: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

I will also uploading the PDF version of this story on my blog soon, so be very prepared for that! :-)

So, without further ado:

Caprice soon awoke from her slumber, her near fatal wounds almost completely healed. She looked at the belly showing through her torn dress. There were only two small scars where the bullets had penetrated.

I shouldn’t have changed while I was wearing this dress; I got too carried away. She thought about how she would now have to get another version of the dress from George, and how upset he would be about her destroying another one of his much treasured creations. He did hand-sewn it, after all.

Ah well, too late to do anything about it now. Caprice looked around some more, only to see the girl some distance away. The very same girl she had intended to snack on before the Meeting, which would have satisfied her for at least a month. Caprice sighed. The girl was dead now, and useless.

I should do something with the body.

Caprice walked over to the girl. Once she got a closer look at her, she persed her lips and folded her arms.

Hmm…is she…alive?

Caprice picked up the girl, and began to walk towards her mansion.

Araneae, Part 7: Poem 3: Amber

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Hi there! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while; I was taking a break for Thanksgiving! :-) Here is the seventh part in my short story, Araneae, and it’s also the last poem in the story. Feel free to click on the highlighted links below to read the previous parts.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Poem 3: Amber

what was that—
what was that—
spider woman—
woman spider—
blue, crawling, terrifying!…

Is it dead?
Am I dead?
questions! questions! questions!
maybe I’ll find out when I die
assuming I’m not already dead
assuming questions are answered
when someone closes their eyes—
for the final time,
or when someone opens their eyes—
for the final time—