The Headless Horseman returns

How I wrote a horror novel called Revolutionary Ghosts

Or…

Can an ordinary teenager defeat the Headless Horseman, and a host of other vengeful spirits from America’s revolutionary past?

The big idea

I love history, and I love supernatural horror tales.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was therefore always one of my favorite short stories. This classic tale by Washington Irving describes how a Hessian artillery officer terrorized the young American republic several decades after his death.

The Hessian was decapitated by a Continental Army cannonball at the Battle of White Plains, New York, on October 28, 1776. According to some historical accounts, a Hessian artillery officer really did meet such an end at the Battle of White Plains. I’ve read several books about warfare in the 1700s and through the Age of Napoleon. Armies in those days obviously did not have access to machine guns, flamethrowers, and the like. But those 18th-century cannons could inflict some horrific forms of death, decapitation among them.

I was first exposed to the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” via the 1949 Disney film of the same name. The Disney adaptation was already close to 30 years old, but still popular, when I saw it as a kid sometime during the 1970s.

Headless Horsemen from around the world

While doing a bit of research for Revolutionary Ghosts, I discovered that the Headless Horseman is a folklore motif that reappears in various cultures throughout the world.

In Irish folklore, the dullahan or dulachán (“dark man”) is a headless, demonic fairy that rides a horse through the countryside at night. The dullahan carries his head under his arm. When the dullahan stops riding, someone dies.

Scottish folklore includes a tale about a headless horseman named Ewen. Ewen was  beheaded when he lost a clan battle at Glen Cainnir on the Isle of Mull. His death prevented him from becoming a chieftain. He roams the hills at night, seeking to reclaim his right to rule.

Finally, in English folklore, there is the 14th century epic poem, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. After Gawain kills the green knight in living form (by beheading him) the knight lifts his head, rides off, and challenges Gawain to a rematch the following year.

But Revolutionary Ghosts is focused on the Headless Horseman of American lore: the headless horseman who chased Ichabod Crane through the New York countryside in the mid-1790s. 

The Headless Horseman isn’t the only historical spirit to stir up trouble in the novel. John André, the executed British spy, makes an appearance, too. (John André was a real historical figure.)

I also created the character of Marie Trumbull, a Loyalist whom the Continental Army sentenced to death for betraying her country’s secrets to the British. But Marie managed to slit her own throat while still in her cell, thereby cheating the hangman. Marie Trumbull was a dark-haired beauty in life. In death, she appears as a desiccated, reanimated corpse. She carries the blade that she used to take her own life, all those years ago.

Oh, and Revolutionary Ghosts also has an army of spectral Hessian soldiers. I had a lot of fun with them!

The Spirit of ’76

Most of the novel is set in the summer of 1976. An Ohio teenager, Steve Wagner, begins to sense that something strange is going on near his home. There are slime-covered hoofprints in the grass. There are unusual sounds on the road at night. People are disappearing.

Steve gradually comes to an awareness of what is going on….But can he convince anyone else, and stop the Headless Horseman, before it’s too late?

I decided to set the novel in 1976 for a number of reasons. First of all, this was the year of the American Bicentennial. The “Spirit of ’76 was everywhere in 1976. That created an obvious tie-in with the American Revolution.

Nineteen seventy-six was also a year in which Vietnam, Watergate, and the turmoil of the 1960s were all recent memories. The mid-1970s were a time of national anxiety and pessimism (kind of like now). The economy was not good. This was the era of energy crises and stagflation.

Reading the reader reviews of Revolutionary Ghosts, I am flattered to get appreciative remarks from people who were themselves about the same age as the main character in 1976:

“…I am 62 years old now and 1976 being the year I graduated high school, I remember it pretty well. Everything the main character mentions (except the ghostly stuff), I lived through and remember. So that was an added bonus for me.”

“I’m 2 years younger than the main character so I could really relate to almost every thing about him.”

I’m actually a bit younger than the main character. In 1976 I was eight years old. But as regular readers of this blog will know, I’m nostalgic by nature. I haven’t forgotten the 1970s or the 1980s, because I still spend a lot of time in those decades.

If you like the 1970s, you’ll find plenty of nostalgic nuggets in Revolutionary Ghosts, like Bicentennial Quarters, and the McDonald’s Arctic Orange Shakes of 1976.

***

Also, there’s something spooky about the past, just because it is the past. As L.P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

For me, 1976 is a year I can clearly remember. And yet—it is shrouded in a certain haziness. There wasn’t nearly as much technology. Many aspects of daily life were more “primitive” then.

It isn’t at all difficult to believe that during that long-ago summer, the Headless Horseman might have come back from the dead to terrorize the American heartland…

View REVOLUTIONARY GHOSTS on Amazon

A crime novel that came from a casino visit

One day in the early spring of 2018 I traveled to a rural part of southern Indiana to attend to some family matters. (I live in Ohio, but I’m half Hoosier. My dad grew up in nearby Lawrenceburg.)

I spent most of that day in Switzerland County. You’ve probably never been there. Switzerland County, Indiana looks nothing like Switzerland. In early spring, that part of Indiana, along the Ohio River, can look a little bleak. 

(Portions of the 1988 Molly Ringwald/Andrew McCarthy movie, Fresh Horses, were filmed in Switzerland County. McCarthy said of the area, “There’s the whole starkness up there; it helped the mood of the movie.” )

Southern, rural Indiana is home to several large casinos. I ordinarily have no interest in gambling venues. I ate lunch at the nearby Belterra Casino that day, though, because…there weren’t many other dining options in the vicinity.

My visit to the casino got me thinking: What if a young couple in debt visited the casino in a make-or-break effort to get ahead financially? What if they were lured there by a special offer? $300 worth of ‘free’ gaming chips?

What if their beginner’s foray into gambling went horribly wrong, and they fell further in the hole? Then suppose that a narcotics kingpin offers them an alternative plan…another way to get ahead. 

All they have to do is run an errand for him. What could possibly go wrong?

That’s the premise behind my 2020 casino novel, Venetian Springs. Set in a fictional version of Belterra Casino, Venetian Springs is a story of two down-on-their-luck high school teachers who succumb to the lure of easy money. They soon discover that easy money doesn’t exist. But this is a lesson that may cost them both their lives.

Watch the Venetian Springs trailer below.

View Venetian Springs on Amazon.

Read the first 8 chapters of Venetian Springs here on Edward Trimnell Books.

The Beatles in Hamburg, and ‘The Cairo Deception’

As many of you will know, I recently wrapped up The Cairo Deception, my 5-book World War II series.

One of the final chapters of the book depicts the Beatles performing in Hamburg, West Germany in December 1962. (I won’t go into more story detail than that, so as to avoid spoilers.)

This is actually true. When I discovered this lesser known piece of rock music history, I just couldn’t resist putting it in the book, as an Easter egg for Beatles fans.

The Beatles both resided and performed in Hamburg from August 1960 to December 1962. The Beatles’ Hamburg residence took place shortly before they became a global phenomenon. The band also performed at a music venue in Hamburg called The Star-Club, as described in Postwar: Book 5 of The Cairo Deception. 

The Beatles of the Hamburg period involved a slightly different lineup of the band: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. After the group returned to England at the end of 1962, Sutcliffe and Best left the band, and Ringo Starr was hired on as the new drummer.

Click here to view THE CAIRO DECEPTION series on Amazon

Horror in Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s main subscription ebook reading program. Kindle Unlimited gives you virtually unlimited (hence the name) reading privileges to a wide variety of titles, for a low monthly fee.

Not every title listed on Amazon is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Literary fiction from the big New York publishing houses generally is not included. You likely won’t find the latest Jonathan Franzen novel in Kindle Unlimited anytime in the near future.

Kindle Unlimited is heavy on genre fiction. This means: romance, space opera, LitRPG, fantasy, and horror.

I have a fair number of horror titles in Kindle Unlimited. I write supernatural horror, in the tradition of Peter Straub, H.P. Lovecraft, Bentley Little and E.F. Benson.

And yes (I know this sounds a bit pretentious) Stephen King. I have achieved barely a gazillionth fraction of King’s commercial success. But his formula of character-based, fast-moving horror is always on my mind when I sit down to write a horror tale.

What kind of horror don’t I write? If you want splatterpunk, or “extreme” horror (aka “torture porn”), then you should skip my books and stories. I have no interest in writing horror fiction that is endlessly grim and/or sadistic. My horror fiction is more akin to the campfire ghost story.

Below are the horror titles that I presently have enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. This means that you can read them for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

To view one of these titles on Amazon, simply click on the image of any book, or any hyperlink below.

(Don’t have a Kindle Unlimited membership? Click here.)

Eleven Miles of Night

A college student takes a walk down the most haunted road in rural Ohio for a cash prize. This is a “haunted road” story, basically a tale of being stuck on a cursed country road at night. Ghosts, evil spirits, and hellhounds abound. Also, an evil witch that inhabits a covered bridge.

View Eleven Miles of Night on Amazon!

12 Hours of Halloween

A coming-of-age story set on Halloween night, 1980. This is a tale of supernatural events in the American suburb. A classic horror tale for Generation X.

View 12 Hours of Halloween on Amazon!

Revolutionary Ghosts

The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again. This coming-of-age horror thriller is sure to please readers who appreciate character-based supernatural fiction with lots of twists and turns.

The basic idea is: the ghosts of American history coming back to haunt Middle America in 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial. (And yes, I’m old enough to remember the Bicentennial, although I was rather young at the time.)

View Revolutionary Ghosts on Amazon!

Luk Thep

In early 2016, I read an article in The Economist about the luk thep “spirit dolls” of Thailand.

Manufactured and sold in Thailand, these are factory-made dolls with a unique sales point: each doll is supposedly infused with the spirit of a young child that passed prematurely.

The luk thep are intended to bring comfort to their owners. (They are marketed to childless women.) To me, though, the whole idea sounded rather macabre.

And I couldn’t help thinking: what if one of the dolls was infused with a child spirit that wasn’t very nice? What if that same doll ended up in the possession of an American woman who happened to visit Thailand on a business trip? Luk Thep is a fast-paced ghost tale that spans two continents.

View Luk Thep on Amazon!

The Rockland Horror saga

Spanning a nearly 140-year period from 1882 to 2020, The Rockland Horror is a series about dark events at a cursed house in rural Indiana.

View The Rockland Horror series on Amazon!

Wait! One last thing…

Looking for horror stories you can read online for free?

While I recommend Kindle Unlimited for fans of horror fiction and ebooks, I should also point out that I have a number of horror stories you can read online here for FREE.

From classic ghost tales to creature features, you’ll find a considerable range. Check them out!

Merry Christmas 2022

Wherever you are, dear reader, I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas 2022. Enjoy this special day with family and/or friends. Or at least Netflix, a good book, and a well-stocked refrigerator.

Like much of the continental United States, my part of the world is still emerging from the aftermath of Winter Storm Elliott. But a substantial warm-up is forecast for the second half of the week. 

I might also point out that today begins the last full week of 2022. Use the remainder of 2022 safely—and wisely.

The VCR revolution: December 24, 1984

Though I certainly do remember Christmas, 1984, I can’t claim to remember the above cover of Time magazine. But as the magazine cover proclaims, VCRs were a big deal back then. 

My parents had purchased a VCR a few years earlier…probably in 1982. It was my favorite device in our household, and my parents loved it, too.

If you’re too young to remember the world before the VCR, then you don’t remember the days of fitting your schedule around your favorite TV programs. Continue reading “The VCR revolution: December 24, 1984”

Trouble in Kentucky

Blood Flats is the story of Lee McCabe, a former U.S. Marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lee comes home from the war to find that home has changed.  Lee’s hometown of Perryston, Kentucky, has been taken over by meth dealers and out-of-town organized criminal elements. 

When Lee is framed for a double homicide he did not commit, he is forced to go on the run. 

Lee must battle hostile elements on both sides of the law, to clear his name and to bring the real killers to justice. 

But will he find them before they find him?

Below are YouTube readings of the first two chapters of the novel. Blood Flats is available on Amazon, in either Kindle or paperback format.

At present, Blood Flats is also available in Kindle Unlimited. 

World War II historical fiction series now available in an omnibus edition

THE CAIRO DECEPTION OMNIBUS BOXSET 

**Spies, lies, and the race for the atom bomb!**

In 1938, the planners in Nazi Germany know that war is coming. They are eager to acquire the atom bomb.

They are working against Allied governments, operating both in Germany and abroad. (And not all of the Reich’s accomplices are German nationals.)

A group of ordinary Americans and Germans are forced to choose sides. Their choices will lead them into a web of betrayal, murder, and espionage.

Their paths meet in Cairo, Egypt, where the Reich is hunting a fugitive atomic physicist. 

The main characters:

Betty Lehman is a 19-year-old girl from Dutch Falls, Pennsylvania. Her family is active in the German-American Bund. Betty has been recruited to betray her country in the service of the Reich.

Rudolf Schenk is an undercover agent of the German Gestapo. He wants to do his duty. But can he abandon his last shred of conscience?

Jack McCallum is an American treasure hunter in Cairo. He falls for two women: one who is working undercover for the Third Reich, one who is fleeing the Gestapo.

Heinrich Vogel is a physicist who fled Germany for Egypt. He and his young adult daughter, Ingrid, face a daily game of cat-and-mouse with the Gestapo. His goal: to reach Britain or America before the Gestapo reaches him and his daughter!

View THE CAIRO DECEPTION BOXSET on Amazon!

Note: The individual books will still be available on the series page!

What about Kindle Unlimited?

THE CAIRO DECEPTION BOXSET will also be available to read in Kindle Unlimited.

Click here for a Kindle Unlimited trial membership.

New extended preview: ‘The Consultant’

I’ve added an extended preview here on the site for The Consultant.

The Consultant is the story of an American marketing consultant who takes a business trip to Osaka, Japan, and talks to the wrong woman in a bar.

One thing leads to another, and he ends up in North Korea.

The story is loosely (I emphasize loosely) based on real events.

The North Korean government has carried out targeted kidnapping campaigns of civilians over the years. Most of the known targets have been South Koreans and Japanese. But there is no reason why an American couldn’t be the target of such a kidnapping. This novel explores that scenario.

The Consultant is a good read for Tom Clancy fans who also like James Clavell…or James Clavell fans who also like a bit of action.

View the preview here!
View THE CONSULTANT on Amazon!

Southern Ohio’s Dead Man’s Curve

Not far from where I live, there is a stretch of Ohio State Route 125 that has been dubbed Dead Man’s Curve

The spot is just a few miles from my house, in fact. I’ve been by there many times.

According to the urban legend, if you drive this section of rural highway a little after 1 a.m., you might see the faceless hitchhiker. From a distance, this male figure may look relatively normal. Once you get close, though, you’ll see that he has no face.

Sometimes the hitchhiker isn’t content to stand there by the side of the road and watch you. There have been reports of the phantom actually attacking cars.

Creepy, right?

Yeah, I think so, too….

Dead Man’s Curve on Ohio State Route 125 has a long and macabre history. Route 125 is the main road that connects the suburbs and small towns east of Cincinnati with the city. But much of the road (including Dead Man’s Curve) was originally part of the Ohio Turnpike, which was built in 1831. (Andrew Jackson was president in 1831, just to put that date in perspective.)

That section of the Ohio Turnpike was the scene of many accidents (some of them fatal), even in the horse-and-buggy days. The downward sloping curve became particularly treacherous when rain turned the road to mud. Horses and carriages would sometimes loose their footing, sending them over the adjacent hillside.

In the twentieth century, the Ohio Turnpike was paved and reconfigured into State Route 125. In 1968 the road was expanded into four lanes. 

As part of the expansion, the spot known as Dead Man’s Curve was leveled and straightened. (As a result, the curve doesn’t look so daunting today…unless you know its history.) This was supposed to be the end of “Dead Man’s Curve”.

But it wasn’t.

In 1969, there was a horrible accident at the spot. The driver of a green Roadrunner—traveling at a speed of 100 mph—slammed into an Impala carrying five teenagers. There was only one survivor of the tragic accident.

Shortly after that, witnesses began to report sightings of the faceless hitchhiker during the wee hours. (The hitchhiker is said to be most active during the twenty-minutes between 1:20 and 1:40 a.m.) There have also been reports of a ghostly green Roadrunner that will chase drivers late at night. 

Oh, and Dead Man’s Curve remains deadly, despite the leveling and straightening done in 1968. In the five decades since the accident involving the Roadrunner and the Impala, around seventy people have been killed there.

Is there any truth to the legend of Dead Man’s Curve?

I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is that I’ve heard many eyewitness accounts from local residents who claim to have seen the hitchhiker. (Keep in mind, I live very close to Dead Man’s Curve, and it’s a local topic of discussion and speculation.) Almost none of these eyewitnesses have struck me as mentally imbalanced or deceitful.

I know what your last question is going to be: Have I ever driven Dead Man’s Curve between 1:20 and 1:40 a.m. myself?

Uh, no. But perhaps I’ll get around to it someday, and I’ll let you know in a subsequent blog post!

***

Hey!…While you’re here: I wrote a novel about a haunted road in Ohio. It’s called Eleven Miles of Night. You can start reading the book for FREE here on my website, or check out the reviews on Amazon.

You can also start reading my other two novels of the supernatural in Southern Ohio: Revolutionary Ghosts and 12 Hours of Halloween. 

Check out my FREE short stories, too….many of them have macabre elements.

And stop back soon! I add content to this website every day!

WKRP turkey drop

Today is Black Friday, and I suspect that many of you spent the wee hours waiting in line for stores to open. The Best Buy near my house opened today at 5 a.m. 

Not me…there is nothing in the stores that I want that badly, even at a steep discount. 

To close out Thanksgiving here at the blog, I present you with this Cincinnati favorite, the infamous “turkey drop” episode from WKRP in Cincinnati, a sitcom that aired on CBS from 1978 to 1982. 

Cincinnati, Ohio has never gotten much attention from Hollywood, even though several movies (Rain Man, Fresh Horses) were filmed here in the late 1980s. So to have a primetime sitcom named after Cincinnati, and set in Cincinnati, was kind of a big deal. (Keep in mind: this was before the Internet or cable TV, and folks were more easily amused.)

The above ‘Thanksgiving turkey drop’ episode, which originally aired in 1978, has long been a cult favorite. This is one of those television memes that just never goes away.

Rewatching the pivotal scene above, I found it “mildly amusing”, worthy of a chuckle.

But worthy of four decades of persistence in the collective memory? I’m not so sure, my predilection for nostalgia notwithstanding. 

I’ll let you be the judge, upon watching the video clip above.

Handheld football, 80s-style

In honor of Thanksgiving, when many people like to watch football.

Back in the day, I had one of these handheld football game units from Mattel Electronics. As I recall, the players of each team were represented by little red dots of light on the screen.

This was probably an overly ambitious game for the technology of that time (late 1970s/early 1980s). I found it somewhat confusing to operate, and I never did learn what the difference between “Pro 1” and “Pro 2” was.

There’s also the fact that I am not–and never have been–much of a football fan. So maybe I’m not the best 80s kid to ask about this one. 

 

Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings

In honor of simpler, saner times in America, here is a look at some of the Thanksgiving-themed paintings produced by artist Norman Rockwell during the mid-20th century.

Wherever you are, dear reader, I hope you enjoy the holiday with family and/or friends.

Be safe, and beware that second slice of pumpkin pie.

El Dia de los Muertos

Today is el Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) in Mexico. Though it roughly coincides with Halloween and has similar themes, el Dia de los Muertos is something quite different.

Think of it as a national (Mexican) acknowledgement of the inevitability of death, with a fusion of Christian and Aztec symbols and traditions.

That’s a simplistic and incomplete explanation, but it’s a start.

I was in Mexico in 1995 during the annual observance. It is something to see, especially to gringo eyes. 

The above video is in Spanish. But even if your Spanish isn’t so good, you’ll get a feel for what the holiday is all about.

Halloween costumes of the 1970s and 1980s

Door-to-door Halloween festivities in the 1970s and 1980s (otherwise known as “trick-or-treat) could be fun. My last trick-or-treating Halloween was in 1979. 

But there is no denying that costume technology of that era left much to be desired.

If you were very, very lucky, you had a stay-at-home mom with arts and crafts expertise, and lots of time on her hands. If this was you, your mom would make you a comfortable, individually tailored costume.

That wasn’t me, and it wasn’t most of my friends, either. Such kids were in the minority in those days. This was the time of the working mother and the latchkey kid. My mom, wonderful as she was, worked a full-time job. She had a Singer sewing machine, but rarely turned it on after about 1976 or so.

That meant going to Woolworth, Kmart, or Ben Franklin (there were few Walmarts then) to pick out a mass-produced costume in a box, probably made in Taiwan. 

As the above meme suggests, the masks that came with those boxed costumes were usually thin but rigid. The holes for breathing and seeing were seldom adequate. For a four-eyes like me (I’ve worn glasses since my tenth year), proper alignment of the eye holes was next to impossible. 

Another thing about the masks, which is not readily apparent in the above meme: the thin rubber bands that slipped behind your ears (to keep the mask in place) inevitably threatened to cut off the circulation in those portions of your head.

The costumes that came with the masks were made of plastic or vinyl, and didn’t breathe. Even if it was cold on Halloween night, you were sweating after two hours of trick-or-treating.

And yet…the whole affair was almost always lots of fun.

Kids in the late 1970s and early 1980s didn’t have as much as kids have now. I was a middle-class white kid, growing up in the Midwestern suburbs in an intact, two-parent household. I was therefore what we would now call “privileged”. 

Nevertheless, few kids, circa 1980, had much material abundance lavished on them. To begin with, many of the toys and gizmos bestowed on children today didn’t yet exist. 

But such distinctions have always been relative. My grandfather, who was a kid in the 1930s, was never without a story about the Great Depression, and how tough they had it then. For that matter, my dad grew up in the 1950s, in a house without central air conditioning. 

Fair enough. While I recognize that kids today have access to luxuries that were beyond the technology and economics of my childhood years, I’m quite grateful for the childhood—and the Halloweens—that I was given.