Brown River Queen cover art

Friday, October 7, 2011

Going Bump #2: The Phantom of the Yocona River

When asked, I usually tell people that I've never seen anything I can point to and say 'I believe that was a ghost.'  And that's true.  Try as I might, I just can't sneak up on a Class IV Free-Floating Vapor, or catch a poltergeist lounging in front of a TV.

Which is not to say I've never seen anything I can't explain.  I have, and since this is October it's time to spill the beans.  Maybe some of you will have insights into the matter, because after pondering this for some thirty-three years I still don't have a clue.

I was, I believe, 15.  And let me preface this entire recounting by noting that no alcohol or other recreational substances were at all involved.  Honest.  I know that may sound unlikely, but it's the truth.

So, I was 15, and the snake-infested banks of the Yocona River beckoned.  The Yocona is a slow, muddy river which winds its way through the hilly woods of north Mississippi, and as a wild and dangerous place it was a natural magnet for all the kids who lived near it.

One fine August evening my good friend John Redmond and I decided to camp out on the River.  We spent a lot of time on the River, and knew its perils well.  So we loaded his pickup with supplies and an aluminum boat and set out.

We pitched camp on a sand bar not far from what everyone simply called The Structure.  The Structure was actually a concrete waterfall built by the Corps of Engineers to halt the Yocona's erosion of the fields on its borders.  I can still hear the roar of the water rushing over it today, on still nights.

But on that night, John  Redmond and I saw something neither of us can explain.

It started sometime after midnight.  We both saw a light of sorts playing among the boughs of an enormous old water oak about two hundred yards upstream.  It towered up above the outline of The Structure and was silhouetted against the night sky.

We sat and watched, considering the source of the light.  Our first thought was a flashlight.  We quickly rejected that, as it became obvious that what we were watching wasn't merely a projected beam of light being played amid the branches, but a glowing, moving mass that spun about the tree as though tethered somehow to the trunk.

Swamp gas, we decided.  Even though the tree stood on high, dry ground.  But as we kept watching, we rejected that too, because the light, whatever it was, grew brighter and began to change shape and color.

This is where it gets weird.

And let me remind you again that no drugs or alcohol were involved.

The glowing thing began to morph into recognizable shapes.  Faces.  Outlines.  Now a perfect yellow sphere.  Then a scowling red face.  A half-moon.  A flying man, arms outstretched.

No noise.  Just the light, changing, moving, orbiting that oak for purposes unknown.

Were we frightened?

Um, yes.  We're on a sand bar miles from anywhere.  It's far too dark to risk a panicked flight through the water moccasins and the copperheads and the tangles and the snags.  We're observing an inexplicable light show which, for all we know, is both being presented for us and is the preamble to something more sinister.

So we do what any reasonable pair of fifteen year olds would do -- we turn the boat on its side as a shield, arm ourselves with clubs and knives, and hunker down until sunrise.

That glowing thing, whatever it was, danced and flew all night.

We darted out briefly, now and then, to replenish our campfire with driftwood.  And we watched the clouds sail past while the lazy sun took his time in rising.

When the skies did finally begin to lighten, our visitor dimmed, made a final blurred circuit from the bottom of the tree to the top, and then simply shot up into the sky, where it vanished.

We stamped out our fire as soon as it was light and made haste in getting out of there and we never ever camped on the Yocona again.

As far as I know, nothing like what we saw was seen before or since.  There's nothing particularly sinister about the spot.  No old murders, no hangings, no drama of any kind.  It was just an oak tree.

So, what did I see, that night more than three decades ago?

I have no idea.

As I said, I can still hear the River pouring over the lip of the Structure on still nights.  Sometimes I listen to the dull distant roar and wonder if a certain old oak tree is being lit by a whirling, changing light, or if what we saw was meant only for John Redmond and I, and only appeared that night.

If so, what did it mean?  What did it want?  What were we supposed to take away from there, aside from mosquito bites and sand in our britches?

Still don't know.  Probably never will.

So that's my tale of the Yocona River, and the flying light.

What's your story?

Email me at

Thursday, October 6, 2011

News, and More!

First of all, a bit of news!

The print version of All the Paths of Shadow should be available on October 18.  That's at both amazon and the publisher's site, Cool Well Press.  So if you don't have an e-reader yet, no worries, you don't have long to wait to grab a printed copy of your own.

Also hitting the stands on the 18th of October is the YA horror anthology Shadow Street.  I've got a story in this one, so I'm eager to see it.

If you're on Facebook, you can chat with Meralda and Mug, who have been known to post on the new All the Paths of Shadow Facebook page.  Please, stop in, poke at Mug with a stick, leave a comment on the wall.  Mug is especially eager to offer advice in the fields of finance, horticulture, and romance, though I'd be wary of placing any credence on his advice in at least two of those fields.

So hit Facebook, because we *know* you've got a session up, and say hello.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Going Bump #1: Voices in the Graveyard

I just looked up and realized it's October.

If I had to pick a favorite month, it's October.  The weather is mild.  The leaves are turning.  The lawn can jolly well go mow itself.  The stores are full of jack o' lanterns and poorly-made scary stuff and both SyFy and the Chiller Channel make a half-hearted effort to show a few decent horror movies.

And then of course there's the culmination of the season in Halloween.

I love Halloween.  Spare me the crushing emotional baggage, the doomed expectations of some Hallmark moment, the mad rush to buy gifts for people you barely know.  The other holidays have all that covered.  Halloween is scary and cool and fun.  Nobody expects or even wants you to have some misty-eyed moment over eggnog or tinsel.  Instead uou can paint your face green and put in fake fangs and go out shambling and moaning and people will laugh and smile and not once will they dial 911.

So, in honor of Halloween, I'll be blogging this month about things that go bump in the night.  Ghosts, spectres, haunts, haints, poltergeists, residual hauntings, intelligent hauntings, bad pipes, good pipes, dogs and cats sleeping together -- you know.  The usual spooky stuff.

So, do you believe in ghosts?

Do I?

I can't answer for you, and the best answer I can give for myself is yes, and no.

I believe rational, sober, intelligent people on occasion see, hear, or otherwise experience phenomena that can't be explained by mundane means.  No, I don't believe *every* sound in the night is a spook.  Most are water pipes or wind or passing headlights.

Most, but not all.

Which still doesn't mean that even the unexplained phenomena are ghosts.  They're just that -- unexplained phenomena.  Without better data, and a lot of it, I don't think anyone can categorically claim 'Ghosts exist, and are composed of this and that, and exist in realm X, and interact with us via this mechanism and for these reasons.'

Yeah, I know a lot of people say that very thing, filling in the thises and thats with whatever floats their belief system, but I've never seen anybody back it up with good hard data of any kind.  Show me physical evidence of ghostly manifestations that proves they exist.

I can prove radio transmitters exist with ease.  Turn on a radio.  Track the signal source using triangulation.  Measure the EM output.  Record it, analyze it.

That's the kind of proof I need.

We've all seen the flashing lights on K2 EMF meters on all the ghost hunting shows.  And sometimes they do seem to indicate the presence of some unseen source of weak EM emissions.

I have a K2 meter myself.  It's fun to wave around.  It's also fun to make it light up at surprising distances using nothing but an outgoing call on my cell phone.  Am I saying that's what you're seeing on TV?

No.  Not necessarily.  I am saying the instruments weren't designed to be hand-held ghost detectors.  So I don't fully trust their flashing lights -- it could be reacting to so many mundane sources.

In addition to the K2, I've got a Ramsey TM3 Tri-Field meter, an IR thermometer, a couple of digital recorders, and an ion detector I designed and built myself.  And yes, I've dragged all his stuff around in various cemeteries, just to see what might happen.

I never got so much as a blink on the K2 meter, which isn't surprising since these were rural spots well off the beaten path, much less the power grid.  Ditto on the TM3 and the ion detector.

I have, though, recorded several very interesting sounds.  EVPs, in the parlance of the paranormal.  Electronic Voice Phenomena.  And believe me, I was shocked when I heard what sounded like actual voices on recordings I made, when I knew I was alone in a quiet graveyard.

To make things even weirder, I tried recording EVPs in less spooky locales.  The warehouse at work.  My patio.  My office.  Here, in my study.

Not once have I picked up an EVP anywhere but a cemetery.

Now, when I say voices, I don't mean perfectly clear words of the 'Hi, my name is Bob, you're standing on my grave, you idiot' variety.

They've faint.  They're indistinct.  Some are little more than distant murmuring.

Take this one, for instance.  I was in a tiny old cemetery in Tula Mississippi.  My wife and I were the only people for miles.  She wasn't speaking.  And yet on playback I clearly heard a conversation taking place nearby, even though no one was there.

I'll upload the audio clip to my site and post a link to it.  If you've got headphones, use them, and crank the volume.  It's very short -- I only included the actual EVP.  And no, I won't play any silly jokes like inserting a loud BOO or anything like that.

Here is the file:

Voices in Tula Cemetery

If you've got ghostly photos, stories, or EVPs of your own, I'd love to see or hear them.  Email me at!

Finally, what would a blog be without a pitch for my new book, which you can get from Amazon for your Kindle here, or in epub for your Nook or other device here!

Go on, you know you want a copy.  And if you listen really closely to the voices in the EVP, that's what they're saying..."buy the boooooooooook..."