The Rockland Horror 5: preview chapters

The Rockland Horror 5 is presently in production. The fifth book will mark the end of the historical arc of the series. The series will continue in modern times (post-1985) with a spinoff series.

If you’re new to The Rockland Horror series, start here. If you’ve read the first four books already, you can preorder Book 5 here.

Below are the first three draft chapters. (These have not yet been edited, so you may find a typo or two.) These will give you a preview of what’s coming in Book 5!

Chapter 1

Wayne Wyman stood at the edge of the ballroom in the Briggs House, in the room’s large open doorway. The same room where Theodore Briggs, back in 1882, had hanged his unfaithful wife.

The ballroom was oval-shaped, with a vaulted ceiling and high windows. The windows were hung with thick velvet drapes; but these were pulled back, so as to admit plenty of natural light.

It was a sunny September afternoon in 1945. According to the calendar, the dark events of 1882 were in the distant past. But where the Briggs House was concerned, the past was never too distant. The past was always capable of making itself known, and maybe even more than that. 

Wayne had discovered as much over the previous two years, since Wyman Realty had purchased the old mansion, at the insistence of his father, Cornelius. The seventy-five-year-old Cornelius Wyman had believed—and still believed—that the Briggs House would turn out to be a moneymaker.

But that had yet to be proven, a fact which distressed Wayne to no end.

Wayne had been up here many times, throughout the home’s renovation. But the renovation was now complete, and the war was over. The time had come to get serious about selling the house, or at least finding a renter for it. 

In the center of the ballroom was the big, multilevel chandelier. The infamous chandelier. Wayne tried not to look at it, because he knew that Briggs had hanged Ellen there. Everyone in Rockland knew the story: Briggs had made Ellen climb the ladder, and place the noose around her neck. Then he had made her jump. 

Briggs had written as much in his final testimony, or so the old stories said. Wayne had not been alive in 1882. Cornelius, though, had been a boy then. 

***

Wayne heard footsteps behind him, on the hardwood floor of the first-floor hallway. These were not the footsteps of any monster or apparition, but the shuffling steps of his father.

Wayne turned to see Cornelius. The old man was thin and bald, and he had wrinkles everywhere. His back was hunched. And though he walked, he walked with visible effort. The sight of Cornelius reminded Wayne that his own age of forty-two was still young. 

Ah, yes, young! But still too old for Mary Casey!

Wayne pushed these thoughts away, reminding himself that Mary Casey, now Mary Clark, was a lost cause.

“Something on your mind, son?” Cornelius asked.

The old man never missed a trick. He could still tell when Wayne’s mind was elsewhere. Which was a lot of the time, of late.

“Just the usual,” Wayne said. “Business.”

“Uh-uh,” Cornelius replied, inscrutably.

Cornelius might be seventy-five; but he still dressed in a suit everyday. His mind was still sharp.

“Everything okay in the ballroom?” Cornelius pressed.

“It would appear so, Dad.”

Cornelius stepped forward to join Wayne in the doorway of the ballroom. The two of them had driven up here to check the place, a preventative ritual that was necessary in an unoccupied property outside town. The crest of Washington Hill was not far from downtown Rockland, as the crow flew. But it was at the top of a long and winding wooded road. And there nothing else up here, really, besides this old mansion.  

Cornelius indicated the chandelier. “I remember when it happened, you know. The hanging and the other killings, I mean. I never saw it, of course; but I heard about it. That summer and fall, it was all anyone in Rockland was talking about.”

“I would imagine so,” Wayne said with an involuntary shudder, despite the early autumn heat. 

“I was twelve years old in 1882,” Cornelius noted. 

“I suppose you were.” Wayne knew that his father had been born in 1870.

“Briggs was a madman,” Cornelius went on. “But he did have good taste in architecture and interior accoutrements.” 

“He should have, don’t you think? With all his money.”

“Money is no guarantor of taste, son. Look at that chandelier. It may be sagging now, and I suppose that we’ll have to take it down and replace it eventually. But it was a fine-looking thing in its day. A work of art, you can be sure.”

Wayne nodded. Cornelius was probably right about that. Briggs had imported the chandelier from Europe, in all likelihood. 

Cornelius was also right about the inevitable need to take down the chandelier and replace it with something more modern. The chandelier had been made for the pre-electric age. It was ringed with dozens of candle holders. The candle holders were all empty now, and would never be refilled. The age of candlelight was long past. Even folks of Cornelius’s generation preferred electric light nowadays. 

Wyman Realty would eventually need to install a new chandelier with electric lightbulbs. But that would have to wait, even though the house had been electrified. The Briggs House was so large, that it was impossible to complete the renovation in a single phase. 

The house would have to be put on the market with some finishing touches left undone, and the ballroom chandelier was one of them. 

But that shouldn’t matter to too many prospective buyers—assuming that anyone would be interested in the Briggs House to begin with. The mansion was more than adequate to live in as it was. 

If you didn’t mind living in a house with a history of murder and suicide, that was.

“Well,” Cornelius said. He removed a silk handkerchief from the beast pocket of his suit coat, and began to wipe his brow. “What say we head back? We’ve more than looked the place over, I’d say.”

“Sure.” 

“I’ll lead the way,” the old man said, turning away.

Wayne turned away, too. Then he stopped before he’d taken more than two steps.

Once his back was to the ballroom, he heard the dry sound of a rope swiveling under tension. A rope with a significant weight attached to it.

If he turned back around, he knew what he would see: the corpse of Ellen Briggs, nee Sanders, twisting in the air. 

Her long red hair would be tangled, and matted to her head. Ellen’s skin would be mottled. All of her fabled beauty would have been erased by the grotesque manner of her death. 

Wayne knew this, because he had seen Ellen hanging from the chandelier in the ballroom before. Not every time he came here, but often enough.

If you came to the Briggs House with any frequency, you were going to see something, sooner or later. It was practically inevitable.

The question was: did the visions that manifested themselves here have sentience, and independent wills of their own? Or were they merely psychic echoes, left over from the trauma that had taken place here, more than sixty years ago?

 A good question, Wayne thought, as he followed his father to the front door of the house. 

Chapter 2

Ten minutes later, they were riding down Washington Hill Road in Wayne’s Chevrolet. 

Washington Hill was heavily wooded in spots, primeval forest, more or less. Wayne concentrated on the downwardly sloping curves as he steered the car through the shadows and the dappled sunlight. 

He also took care not to look into the woods. Just as it was now common for him to see things in the Briggs House, he had also caught glimpses of things on Washington Hill Road that were not quite right. Trees sometimes appeared to have faces. He occasionally saw brief flashes of small, humanoid figures in the canopy of leaves and branches overhead.

Such visions, though, usually disappeared when Wayne looked at them straight-on. And when they did persist, it was never for more than a few seconds.

“Do we have any inquiries on the house yet?” Cornelius asked, when they were about halfway down the road. 

Wayne nearly flinched at the sound of his father’s voice. Cornelius, though, did not seem to be affected by the atmosphere up here, even though he was old enough to remember 1882. If Washington Hill Road and the Briggs House did bother Cornelius, he kept quiet about it.

“I’ve had some inquiries,” Wayne said, steadying himself, “from the ads that I’ve placed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Indianapolis Star, and—of course—the Rockland Gazette.”

“What about the Louisville Sun?” Louisville, Kentucky lay about two hours to the southwest of Rockland, along the Ohio River.

“Some from the Louisville Sun, too,” Wayne clarified. “But when I explain the dimensions and location of the house, most people balk.”

“The Briggs House is not far from downtown Rockland,” Cornelius countered. “Not in a direct line.”

“No.” Wayne squinted as bright sunlight broke through a hole in the leafy canopy above the car. “But until we find a prospective buyer who can fly, that won’t make much of a difference. Washington Hill is a bear to drive in the winter. Most people can figure that out.”

Cornelius harrumphed. “Perhaps.”

“The bigger problem, though, Dad, is that no one with fewer than twenty kids can possibly make use of all the space in that house. The Briggs House was grandiose and overdone, even by the standards of its time.”

Cornelius nodded. “That’s true.” 

“And then there’s the history of the place.” They were almost at the bottom of the hill now, and the road that would take them into town. 

“I know all about the history,” Cornelius said. “But 1882 was a long time ago. Like I told you, I was only twelve years old then.”

“And I wasn’t even born. Yes, it was all a long time ago. But long ago or not, there are few women who want to sleep with their husbands in the bedroom where Theodore Briggs dismembered his young wife’s lover. Women are funny that way, I guess.”

Cornelius paused to consider what Wayne had said. He knew all of this, of course. But he had a counterargument.

“According to the newspapers, the country is in the midst of a housing shortage. All those young men, recently mustered out of the military. They’re all coming home, and starting families. The pundits and journalists are already predicting a postwar baby boom, you know.”

“I do know,” Wayne said. “And during the war, construction on new civilian housing came to a near standstill. Just like the manufacture of so many consumer goods. So the demand for housing is outstripping supply.” 

“Exactly my point,” Cornelius said, with obvious self-satisfaction. 

Wayne was dismayed that his father still didn’t get it. The old man was by no means senile; but he was set in his ways.

“Here’s the problem, though, Dad. Those returning soldiers, sailors, and marines aren’t interested in living in a haunted house from the nineteenth century. And their young wives definitely aren’t.”

Wayne temporarily diverted his attention from the road to glance at his father. He had told Cornelius more than two years ago that the purchase of the Briggs House was a bad idea. The investment could sink Wyman Realty, given all the money that they’d put into it. Never mind that the First National Bank of Rockland had sold the property for pennies on the dollar. In its original state, the Briggs House had been next to worthless, anyway. 

“And we furnished the place, too,” Cornelius added.

This was was true, after a fashion. At Cornelius’s insistence, Wayne had purchased “gently used” furniture from various places, and had it staged in a about a dozen rooms in the vast mansion. Cornelius’s theory was that the furniture made the Briggs House look more like a potential residence, less like a haunted house of horrors. 

“The furniture might make the place look a bit more homey,” Wayne conceded. “But there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome.”

Cornelius, though, was undaunted. “We just need to find the right buyer, Wayne. And the right buyer—or possibly renter—is out there. You’ll see.”

Chapter 3

That night after dinner, Wayne stood from the table and said to his wife, Joanne, “I’m going into my  den for a while. I have some paperwork to finish up.”

“Okay,” Joanne replied. “Don’t stay at it too long, though. You don’t want to give yourself eyestrain.”

Joanne was the understanding and attentive wife, as always. Her constant forbearance made Wayne feel guilty. But not guilty enough to stop his thoughts of Mary Casey.

Mary Clark, he reminded himself. 

“I’ll be careful, Joanne. And my eyes thank you for your concern.”

Wayne walked through the two first-floor hallways that connected the kitchen, living room, and formal dining room of their home with his den. 

The hallways, like the rest of the house, were tastefully decorated. All Joanne’s doing. On many of the walls were family portraits of past years: Wayne, Joanne, and their two children. Both of the kids were out of the house now: their daughter was away at business school. Their son, having narrowly missed minimum age eligibility for service in the war, was a freshman at Indiana University.

All in all, Wayne did not have a bad life. But he didn’t have the one thing he really wanted right now. Or, more accurately, the one person.

Mary.

Joanne suspected nothing about him and Mary. But there was not much to suspect, Wayne supposed. 

Mary Casey had been his secretary at Wyman Munitions during the final two years of the war. He had pursued her romantically, so far as was possible within the bounds of propriety…and maybe a little beyond such bounds. But he had gotten nowhere. She had insisted that she would remain faithful to Tom Clark, her beau who was then missing in action in the South Pacific.

Mary had rebuked him for his advances, and even threatened to expose him. Chastened, Wayne had backed off, and nearly given up.

And then…the breakthrough. While on a business trip last summer, he and Mary had spent a single night together in her hotel room.

That glorious night had just…happened! Wayne had not plotted it, engineered it, or jumped through many hoops to make it happen. He had, truly, all but given up on Mary by then.

That night, he had been drawn into the hallway of the Benjamin Harrison Inn by something strange. A woman in an old-fashioned dress, who had apparently knocked on his door and then fled. He had never caught up with the anonymous prankster; but subsequent events had made him forget all about her.

When he’d walked by Mary’s room, he’d heard her crying.

He had knocked on her door. Not with the intent of seducing her. Just to make sure she was all right. 

Mary had allowed him in.

And then it had happened.

The most glorious night of his life, actually. And maybe, he had dared to think at the time, the start of a new life.

In the morning, however, Mary had immediately shown him her regret, and with that, her rejection. 

Then, only days later, Tom Clark returned from the South Pacific. There was quite a story behind Tom’s disappearance and rescue; and the people of Rockland were still talking about it. Tom Clark had spent weeks alone on an island, dodging the remnants of the Japanese force that had been there. 

The Marine Corps awarded Tom a Bronze Star Medal. His story had been written about in the newspapers. A radio station in Chicago interviewed him, too.  

And of course, Tom and Mary Casey had gotten married. Wayne and Joanne had attended their wedding reception, like so many other people in Rockland. 

And so Mary Casey was now Mary Clark. She and Tom were away on their honeymoon at present. They would probably return to Rockland within a day or two, but that would make little difference to Wayne. 

Rockland was a small town, and he might see Mary now and then in passing. But she would give him little more than a brief nod in his direction. Maybe the occasional hello. Certainly there would never be another night with her. That privilege belonged to Tom Clark now. To him and him alone. 

***

Wayne stepped into his unlit den, and made his way to the room’s desk without bumping into anything. He knew his home office space intimately. Also, behind the desk were two glass doors that opened onto the back porch. A small amount of ambient light came in from outside. There was a three-quarters moon tonight.

He turned on the desk lamp. He really did have some paperwork to finish up. Since the Briggs House was shaping up to be such a white elephant, he would have to work harder to make the most of Wyman Realty’s other assets.

Before he even sat down, though, he knew that he was in no mood for paperwork.

***

A few minutes later, Wayne was standing on the back porch with a glass of bourbon in one hand. Wayne liked his bourbon straight, with no ice. 

He was leaning against the brickwork of the house, just looking at the moon. He wondered how he would react, the next time he ran into Mary in town. And even more importantly—how would she react to him?

Then Wayne became aware of another presence in his back yard.

Standing in the darkness beneath the big honeylocust tree in the back yard was a tall, bearded man. The man was wearing a mud-splattered, old-fashioned suit, and a battered top hat.

The man held an ax in one hand.

Theodore Briggs looked at Wayne through two oversized black pupils. 

Wayne felt a chill, and a ripple of real fear, but nothing he couldn’t control. Wayne had seen Briggs before, too. 

The first time, he had been absolutely terrified, and had cried out in fear. Wayne had since learned, though, that Briggs would do him no actual harm. Nor would the dead, nineteenth-century railroad tycoon come much closer than he was now. 

The Briggs House clearly emanated some form of energy. There was a kind of psychic radiation there, not unlike the atomic radiation in the recently destroyed Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

It was also apparent that the psychic radiation at the Briggs House could cling to a person who spent too much time there. As a result, sometimes the house’s visual echoes manifested themselves beyond the confines of the mansion itself. 

As with Briggs’s doomed young wife, Ellen, Wayne wondered if the apparition beneath the honeylocust tree had any meaningful existence beyond the confines of his own perception. Did that apparition of Theodore Briggs think? Did it have any independent intentions?

Wayne turned away from Briggs, opened one of the glass double doors, and stepped back inside his den. 

He did not expect the projection of Theodore Briggs to follow him. But once inside, he was careful to fasten the latch, nevertheless. 

View ‘The Rockland Horror’ series on Amazon!

Demonic samurai in Kansas!

Below is a series of scenes from THE ROCKLAND HORROR 4, an upcoming installment in THE ROCKLAND HORROR series.

In the following scenes, undead samurai warriors have invaded the town of Cumminsville, Kansas!

They’ve come across the Pacific Ocean and half a continent. They’re on their way to Rockland, Indiana, of course!

***

From THE ROCKLAND HORROR 4:

As the dusk fell, a man named Roy Hollis pushed back his wife’s frilly curtains from the living room window of his one-story farmhouse. Roy’s farm lay four miles outside the town limits of Cumminsville. The middle of nowhere, really. 

Roy gazed out across the rows of his cornfield.

He had a bad feeling tonight. 

Something foul was afoot.

The sun had begun to set about an hour ago, but there was still a trace of sunlight above the western horizon. It burned the top of the cornstalks gold, orange, and red. 

Roy strained his eyes examining the cornfield. He was sure he had seen a trace of movement amid the cornstalks. 

There was no wind tonight. It might have been a stoat or a bobcat. The little farm was surrounded by woods, and animals of every kind.  

Roy hoped that it was something as harmless as a stoat or a bobcat.

“Whatsamatter, Pa?” Randy asked. Randy was Roy’s fourteen-year-old son. 

Roy turned around, and was a little startled to see Randy standing just behind him.

“You alright, Pa?” 

“I’m fine, son. It’s just—don’t sneak up on me like that, okay?”

“Sure. But what’s wrong outside? Why are you looking out the window?”

“I just thought I saw something moving out in the cornfield,” Roy said. 

“You want me to fetch the .22 and go have a look?” Randy responded eagerly. 

Randy was disappointed that the war had ended before he was old enough to serve. He was always looking for some excuse to fetch the family’s .22 rifle and go on a mock patrol.

“No,” Roy said. “Don’t you go out there.”

“Why?”

“Just don’t go. Now listen to me, son.”

“Yessir,” Randy said, deflated.

Randy’s other son, twelve-year-old Micah, sat at the kitchen table, poring over a copy of Life magazine. 

Life magazine was filled with news about the war. Roy did not need to read Life. He already knew all about the war. He had been there, done that. Roy was a recent veteran, after all. 

Although he had been married and old enough to avoid the draft, Roy had nevertheless enlisted after Pearl Harbor. He had honestly believed that Hitler and Hirohito had designs on taking over the United States. They would plant their Rising Sun and swastika flags not just in godless New York and Washington DC, but also in little salt-of-the-earth towns like Cumminsville, Kansas.

That prospect might seem far-fetched now. It had seemed all too realistic in December 1941, when Germany and Japan were winning all the battles, and taking territory left and right. 

Roy had joined the United States Navy and served in the Pacific. He had had a few close calls near the end of the war, when the Japanese started going after American ships with those kamikaze suicide attacks. 

His war, though, had been nothing like that of the marines who had been tasked with the duty of going ashore, and removing the enemy from their entrenched island positions. Roy was very grateful that he had chosen the Navy, and not the Marine Corps.

Since returning to Cumminsville, Roy had occasionally found himself on edge. Lingering anxiety from the war, he supposed. There were articles about that in the newspapers, too. Men who had returned from the war, but who could not remove the war from inside their own heads. 

“Got a bad feeling tonight,” Roy said to no one in particular. 

His wife, however, answered him from the kitchen. 

“You need to relax, Roy,” Mabel Hollis said. “No one’s going to be sneaking up on the farmhouse. There are no Japanese soldiers in Cumminsville.”

Mabel was cleaning up the remains of their dinner, recently concluded.

“I know that, Mabe,” he said, closing the curtain. “I know there are no Japanese soldiers in Kansas. Of course I know that.”

Tonight, however, he wasn’t completely certain that was true. Tonight he had a bad case of the heebie-jeebies, and he couldn’t say why.

***

Some time later, the Hollis family was listening to a broadcast of The Jack Benny Program on the big Magnadyne radio in the living room of the farmhouse. Mabel, Randy, and Micah all laughed uproariously throughout the show, but Jack Benny’s jokes simply didn’t resonate with Roy like they had before the war. 

By the time the thirty-minute show ended, Roy had barely cracked a smile. 

Moreover, he had a persistent feeling that something was in his barn that didn’t belong there. The same thing that had been in his cornfield an hour ago.

He couldn’t have described exactly how he knew this. It came to him in a vision. Not a vivid, picture-perfect vision like the evangelical preachers sometimes claimed to have. This was a vague sensation, partly seen and partly only felt.

In any case, though, Roy sensed that it would not let him go until he checked, and knew for certain. 

He began to stand up from his rocking chair. 

Mabel looked over at him uneasily. She had been sitting on the sofa, working on one of her knitting projects while she listened to the radio. 

Randy and Micah usually occupied the floor while the family consumed radio programs. The boys sat Indian-style throughout the broadcasts, leaning forward with rapt attention. They were still there, even though Jack Benny had just concluded. 

The evening news broadcast was beginning. Randy was interested in news about the emerging postwar order—or rather, disorder. Randy was still planning to enlist when he turned eighteen. He said that by then, there would be another war, this one with the Ruskies. 

Now Randy and Micah were looking up at their father, though. Roy stood in the middle of the living room.

“I think I’ll go have a look-see in the barn,” he said.

“Why?” Mabel asked. “Did you hear something?”

“No,” Roy answered. This was the truth. Also, Mabel was no fool. There was no way she would believe that he had heard something in the barn while Jack Benny was playing on the radio. No one’s hearing was that sharp.

“Want me to—?” Randy began.

“No,” Roy said. “Stay here with your mother and brother.”

***

Roy did not take the .22 rifle to the barn with him. He took a 12-gauge shotgun that he kept in the home’s mud room, immediately off the kitchen. 

Before he set off, he lit a kerosene lantern. That would not only light the way, it would also keep the mosquitos at bay. 

Roy desperately hoped that all of this would turn out to be nothing, that a few hungry mosquitos would be the worst perils he would encounter on his way to the barn and back. 

He exited the farmhouse through the door off the mudroom. He began his walk out to the barn, the lantern in one hand, the 12-gauge in the other.

The short walk, across the main yard and skirting the edge of the main cornfield, was uneventful. No mosquitos, even.

Then he came to the big, unpainted wooden barn. The barn had been there since the late 1800s, when Roy’s grandfather, father, and uncles had built it.

He pushed the sliding barn door open, making it creak on its runners. He set the lantern down in the grass while he did this, to free one hand.

The barn door open, Roy picked up the lantern again and looked inside. He was reminded again that he needed to electrify the barn, now that he was home for good. That had been on his to-do list even before the war. There was adequate light, though, between the lantern, and what moonlight came in through the barn’s two clear glass windows.

The family had one horse, a gelding named Priam. Priam was edged back against the rear of his stall. The horse’s eyes were blank, almost as if the animal were drugged.

Priam was…scared? Was that possible? 

Roy set the kerosene lantern on his nearby workbench. (He kept the 12-gauge in his right hand.) Then he spoke soothingly to the horse.

“Whatsamatter, Priam?” 

The horse did not answer him. He just continued to stare at Roy with those blank, dark eyes of his. 

What was there for Priam to be afraid of? There were no wolves in this part of Kansas; there hadn’t been for nearly a hundred years. 

And on a related matter: why, exactly, had he deemed it necessary to come out here? 

It was just that very intense feeling he had gotten, while listening to Jack Benny. And that half-formed vision of an intruder

Roy heard something shift behind him. He turned around and saw the intruder. And yet, that description did not really do justice to what he saw. 

The creature standing in the open doorway of the barn looked vaguely like a Japanese soldier from the late conflict. And yet, it wasn’t a Japanese soldier, either. It was some hideous malformation that was based on a Japanese soldier, but it had elements of something else.

Since returning from the war, Roy had taken an odd interest in Japanese history and culture. This interest bewildered even him. But he felt a compulsive need to learn more about his former enemy.

There were several books on Japanese history in the Cumminsville public library. These books informed Roy that Japan had long been a martial society. He had read about the samurai warriors, who had hacked each other to pieces with curved, razor-sharp swords.

The samurai had dressed for combat in armor that was designed to intimidate the enemy, as well as protect the wearer. Roy had seen illustrations of the old samurai warriors, clad in full battle gear.

The creature standing in the open doorway of the barn looked something like one of those medieval samurai warriors. Or a misshapen version of that.

The thing had glowing red eyes.

“Wha—?” Roy said, trembling. 

The intruder opened its mouth, revealing rows of long, canine teeth. No—more like crocodile teeth.

In the space of just two seconds, a complicated series of thoughts went through Roy’s mind. There was no way he could even begin to understand what this thing was, or exactly what it wanted.

What was clear enough was that it was hostile. He had to kill it now, or it would kill him.

Roy began to raise the shotgun. 

But the intruder was too fast.

Roy Hollis’s shotgun did go off in the final second of his life, as the intruder raced forward at him, but the muzzle of the gun was knocked astray. The shotgun boomed, and buckshot scattered harmlessly into the far wall of the barn.

Roy’s blood splattered on the wall of the barn, too. 

Priam, the gelding, began bucking and whinnying in his stall. 

The horse drew the attention of the supernatural creature. 

The intruder moved with impossible speed, covering the floorspace of the barn in a mere second.

A few seconds after that, Priam was silent, too.

***

“Did you hear that?” Randy said, addressing his mother and younger brother. “Out there in the barn, I mean.”

Micah and Mabel nodded. They had all heard the sound of the shotgun going off. They had also heard Priam, whinnying in what sounded like distress, before his whinnying was abruptly cut silent. This far out in the country, sounds carried long distances with clarity. And the barn was a short walk from the house. 

“I heard it,” Mabel said. Then she added, hopefully, “Your pa might have killed a weasel or a skunk out there.”

Randy didn’t immediately contradict his mother, but he didn’t share her interpretation, either. That wouldn’t explain why Priam had whinnied, and then gone instantly silent.

“I’m going out there to see,” Randy said.

Mabel began to object. Randy, in a rare act of outright adolescent defiance, cut her off.

“I’m going out there,” he said. “Pa may be in trouble. He may need my help.”

“All right,” she acquiesced. “But give him a few more minutes, okay? Then you can go out there and see.”

“A few more minutes,” he agreed. “Then I need to go.”

***

Randy stood on the front porch of the farmhouse, holding the twenty-two.

His mother had still not liked the idea of him going outside to investigate. But when another ten minutes had passed with no sign of Roy, Mabel had relented.

Looking out into the night, Randy called out for his father.

“Pa! Are you there?”

No answer. 

Then a dark blur, roughly the size of a man, moved across his field of vision, in front of the barn.

Randy blinked. The shape had moved so fast that he could not fully catch sight of it, especially with the darkness factored in.

Then another blur. And another. Both of similar size and shape.

Then more blurs, rushing to and fro.

There were three shapes in total. They were moving across the yard in a bizarre, zigzagging pattern.

Randy knew, somehow, that these things were responsible for whatever had happened to his father.

(And something had to have happened; because his father had not returned to the house, or answered Randy’s calls.)

But what the heck were they? He had anticipated nothing like this. 

“Where’s my pa?” Randy shouted, his voice trembling.

One of the blurs paused, perhaps midway between the barn and the front porch of the house. 

It looked at Randy. And now Randy could see it, partially illuminated by the moonlight. But he could not believe it.

Randy took in the creature’s glowing red eyes. Its mouth opened, exposing razor-sharp teeth.

His hands shaking, Randy aimed the twenty-two and fired. 

The thing darted out of the way,  before Randy had even pulled the trigger.

Randy lowered the gun. Beneath his terror, and his dread regarding the fate of his father, was bewilderment. How had it moved so quickly? The thing traveled at a blinding speed, like a large, monstrous hummingbird. 

That was the last thought that would ever go through fourteen-year-old Randy Hollis’s mind. 

One of the thing’s companions took Randy from his right side. Randy never even saw it coming; and he never learned the full truth of what had happened to his father, either. 

That’s the end of the excerpt! 

This is a secondary plot line—which takes place far from Rockland, Indiana. But it will give you a taste of that the book will be like.

THE ROCKLAND HORROR is where history meets horror!

THE ROCKLAND HORROR 4 will be released in early April!

20th-century horrors in Indiana!

Here’s the first chapter of The Rockland Horror 3

Chapter One

It was a chilly, wet day in March 1917, and thirty-year-old Joe Cullen was overdue for a smoke break.

Joe shot a quick glance over his shoulder. He wanted to make sure that his foreman was nowhere in sight.

Joe was relieved to find himself completely alone on the tree-lined road. All around him, there was nothing but the silent woods. And the light, cold moisture falling from the leaden sky.

Well, almost nothing. There was the Briggs House, too.

This thought made him smile self-consciously. Country people and their superstitions. Never mind that Joe was as country as they came. He also read books, dagnabbit. He had knowledge of the broader world.

He bent and laid his shovel down in the long, sallow, late-winter grass at the edge of the road. The road itself was muddy, owing to the wet weather. He did not want the handle of his shovel to get muddy, too. He still had a lot of work to do with that shovel before quitting time.

That done, he stood, removed his gloves, and slipped them into the lower left side pocket of his coat. From the lower right side pocket he removed a box of Lucky Strikes and a box of wooden matches.

Joe was wearing a broad-rimmed hat, a treated canvas raincoat, and heavy boots. The overhanging tree branches—though still bare of leaves—also caught some of the light rainfall. But when you were working outside in weather like this for an entire day, it was impossible to avoid either the dampness or the chill.

Today’s precipitation was not a hard, driving rain; but it was a steady, unrelenting spittle that varied between mist and drizzle. Fireplace weather, Joe’s mother would have said.

But there would be no fireplace for Joe today—not until quitting time, at least; and that was still several hours away.

***

Joe was currently employed by the Indiana Department of Transportation, a brand-new state agency created by the Indiana Highway Act of two years prior. Joe was part of a crew that had been charged with preparing Washington Hill Road for paving.

At present, the road was all packed earth and gravel. It was literally the same road that had been used in the pioneer days. Washington Hill Road turned to mud every springtime, or even during a midsummer thunderstorm. That might have been suitable for the age of the horse. It would not do for the age of the automobile.

As he paused to light his cigarette—cupping both the cigarette and the match in his hands to shield them against the moisture in the air—Joe allowed himself a look at the Victorian mansion that was impossible to miss at this point on Washington Hill Road.

The Briggs House rose above him in the distance. The decrepit monolith appeared old-fashioned and dark, even when silhouetted against today’s cloudy gray sky.

The Briggs House was on the left side of the road. It stood at the top end of a long, winding, overgrown private lane that rose to a promontory. When the trees were bare, the roofline of the mansion could be partially glimpsed far below Washington Hill, Joe knew. He was a lifelong resident of Rockland, Indiana.

He smiled to himself, and took a drag on his cigarette. Joe Cullen knew all about the Briggs House—the murders, the whispered stories of witchcraft and necromancy. Much of that was pure fabrication, and at least half of it was pure nonsense.

Joe Cullen had no way of knowing that within a matter of minutes, he would hold an entirely changed attitude about the Briggs House.

About The Rockland Horror saga:

“A terrifying multigenerational horror saga set in a cursed house in Indiana. Zombies, evil spirits, and supernatural monsters!”

View The Rockland Horror saga on Amazon!

Read it in Kindle Unlimited!

The Rockland Horror saga is FREE to read in Amazon Kindle Unlimited!

‘The Rockland Horror 3’ is out!

The third installment of The Rockland Horror saga is now available on Amazon:

The 20th century holds new horrors for Rockland, Indiana!

The year is 1917. In faraway Europe, the Great War rages on. The world waits anxiously to see if U.S. President Woodrow Wilson will take America into the conflict.

By now, the events of 1882 are fading into the stuff of legend, for all but the town of Rockland’s oldest residents.

But a few still remember what happened. Continue reading “‘The Rockland Horror 3’ is out!”

Fiction/release updates

The big item here is The Rockland Horror 3, which is presently in the editing/final revision stage.

The Rockland Horror 3 will be somewhat longer than the previous two books in the series. Both The Rockland Horror and The Rockland Horror 2 were around 72K words. The third book will be closer to 90K words.

This is one reason why it’s taking a bit longer to complete. But  I think you’ll like the final result.

I’m working on some other projects as well, including a World War II epic. More details to come.

The Rockland Horror 3: sneak peek

The Rockland Horror 3, the third installment in the Rockland Horror series, is in the final editing stages. 

The Rockland Horror 3 takes place thirty-five years after the first two books, in 1917.

For those of you who are interested, here is a sneak peek at Chapter 1. (Note: This has not yet been through the editing/proofing stage, and thee may be a few typos.)

Chapter One

It was a chilly, wet day in March 1917, and thirty-year-old Joe Cullen was overdue for a smoke break.

Joe shot a quick glance over his shoulder. He wanted to make sure that his foreman was nowhere in sight.

Joe was relieved to find himself completely alone on the tree-lined road. All around him there was nothing but the silent woods. And the light, cold moisture falling from the leaden sky.

Well, almost nothing. There was the Briggs House, too.

This thought made him smile self-consciously. Country people and their superstitions. Never mind that Joe was as country as they came. He also read books, dagnabbit.

He bent and laid his shovel down in the long, sallow, late-winter grass at the edge of the road. The road itself was muddy, owing to the wet weather. He did not want the handle of his shovel to get muddy, too. He still had a lot of work to do with that shovel before quitting time.

That done, he stood, removed his gloves, and slipped them into the lower left side pocket of his coat. From the lower right side pocket he removed a box of Lucky Strikes and a box of wooden matches.

Joe was wearing a broad-rimmed hat, a treated canvas raincoat, and heavy boots. The overhanging tree branches—though still bare of leaves—also caught some of the light rainfall. But when you were working outside in weather like this for an entire day, it was impossible to avoid either the dampness or the chill.

Today’s precipitation was not a hard, driving rain; but it was a steady, unrelenting spittle that varied between mist and drizzle. Fireplace weather, Joe’s mother would have said.

But there would be no fireplace for Joe today—not until quitting time, at least; and that was still several hours away.

***

Joe was currently employed by the Indiana Department of Transportation, a brand-new state agency created by the Indiana Highway Act of two years prior. Joe was part of a crew that had been charged with preparing Washington Hill Road for paving.

At present, the road was all packed earth and gravel. It was literally the same road that had been used in the pioneer days. Washington Hill Road turned to mud every springtime, or even during a midsummer thunderstorm. That might have been suitable for the age of the horse. It would not do for the age of the automobile.

As he paused to light his cigarette—cupping both the cigarette and the match in his hands to shield them against the moisture in the air—Joe allowed himself a look at the Victorian mansion that was impossible to miss at this point on Washington Hill Road.

The Briggs House rose above him in the distance. The decrepit monolith appeared old-fashioned and dark, even when silhouetted against today’s cloudy gray sky.

The Briggs House was on the left side of the road. It  stood at the top end of a long, winding, overgrown private lane that rose to a promontory. When the trees were bare, the roofline of the mansion could be partially glimpsed far below Washington Hill, Joe knew. He was a lifelong resident of Rockland, Indiana.

He smiled to himself, and took a drag on his cigarette. Joe Cullen knew all about the Briggs House—the murders, the whispered stories of witchcraft and necromancy. Much of that was pure fabrication, and at least half of it was pure nonsense.

Joe Cullen had no way of knowing that within a matter of minutes, he would hold an entirely changed attitude about the Briggs House.

View The Rockland Horror series on Amazon

‘The Rockland Horror 3’ and the Model T

The next installment of The Rockland Horror series is set in 1917, early in the age of the automobile. 

That, of course, means Henry Ford’s iconic Model T. The Ford Motor Company  manufactured  the Model T between 1908 and 1927.

The Model T was mass-produced with simple specifications. The car originally came only in black, though a few other color choices were added in later model years.

The Model T was also quite affordable. The base price for a 1916 Model T Runabout was just $345, or $8,324.76 in 2021 dollars.  This was, obviously, much cheaper than just about any car manufactured for the U.S. market today.

But this simplicity came at a price. If the Model T was cheap (even by early 20th-century standards) it was also far more difficult to use than modern vehicles.

The Rockland Horror 3 (now in production) will be a horror novel, not a book about early automobiles. But the story does involve some car chase scenes, and I wanted to make these scenes reasonably authentic.

My maternal grandfather was born in 1921, and even he never owned a Model T. Driving the Model T is one of those experiences that has passed out of “living memory”, so to speak.

I therefore went to YouTube, where there were, indeed, a few videos about starting and driving the Model T. I’ve embedded two of them here.

You probably already know about the crank start. But even that isn’t the worst of it. To start a Model T, you had to arrange a series of switches and levers inside the car in the right combination. Then you had to “choke” the engine by priming it with gasoline, and then…

Let’s just say it’s complicated!

Experience ‘The Rockland Horror 2’

The Rockland Horror 2 is available on Amazon!

(But you’ll want to read the first book in the series, The Rockland Horror, first.)

Both books are filled with murder, betrayal, evil spirits, zombies, supernatural monsters, and characters you’ll never forget! 

Here’s a sample chapter from The Rockland Horror 2:

Chapter 1

August 1882

Ellen Briggs, née Ellen Sanders, was in her own house, and she was absolutely terrified.

Of course, this was not really her house, was it? It was her marital residence, where she now effectively lived in a state of captivity.

Not to mention…absolute terror.

She had married Theodore Briggs—railroad tycoon, necromancer, and murderer—only a few months ago.

In the early days of the marriage, Briggs had warned her: Stay out of unfamiliar rooms. Although the house was not old, it was home to many old secrets, Briggs had explained.

But she had forgotten his warning, in light of all that had happened since then…

Today Ellen had been wandering through the first floor of the massive house. Since her escape attempt earlier in the summer, Briggs seldom allowed her leave. But she could not sit still within these walls. If she remained in one place, she would go completely mad.

So today she had gone wandering, even though she had known better.

That was how she came across the undead child…

The door to the room containing the undead child was located adjacent to the first-floor ballroom. Ellen had opened the door, not realizing that the room connected to the basement via one of the home’s labyrinthine internal tunnels.

She reckoned that only later—after it was too late.

It was in the basement that her husband kept his worst secrets. Bodies were buried in the basement—and they didn’t always stay buried. Sometimes, they found their way to other parts of the house…

Nevertheless, this miscellaneous room had seemed harmless enough when she had first entered it. Heavy draperies were drawn on both of the room’s high windows, but some late afternoon sunlight filtered through.

The room seemed made for casual exploration. Various works of art had been stored within it. Paintings bound in frames, but not yet hung, stood stacked against all four walls.

Throughout the floor, in a random arrangement, were various statues: of nymphs, cherubs, and Greek deities. There was one life-size replica of the Venus de Milo. There were waist-high vases, and teak dividers carved in what looked like Turkish patterns.

The fortunes of Ellen’s husband were vast. He had no doubt purchased most of these items in bulk from a broker, with the intention of placing them around the house at a later date.

That work might have been left to Juba, the maidservant whom her husband had ordered killed, for her part in Ellen’s escape attempt. That same escape attempt had also resulted in her husband murdering Wilbur Craine, her former beau and would-be rescuer. 

As she made her way through the cluttered room, Ellen endeavored to push those thoughts from her mind. She couldn’t think about Juba now. And certainly not about Wilbur.

She was kneeling down on the hardwood floor, admiring one of the paintings leant against the wall, when she heard something shift from a corner of the room.

Ellen immediately looked away from the landscape painting, toward the movement. She stood up. Something had stirred behind the teak screen in the room’s far corner, near one of the windows.

The teak screen was suspended above the floor on a set of wooden legs. In the gap between the screen and the floor, Ellen could see two small feet, clad in simple leather shoes. The shoes were caked with dried mud.

The feet moved toward the edge of the screen, but not in proper steps. One foot dragged behind the other.

A small figure stepped out from behind the screen. It was short, between four and five feet tall. The very sight of it was absolutely terrifying.

Chapter 2

Ellen immediately recognized the figure as a child. And at the the same time, this was not a child at all.

There was an unholy, yellowish glow in the thing’s eyes. Ellen had seen this glow in the eyes of Ni’qua, Briggs’s undead first wife. Ni’qua lurked around the house, and appeared before Ellen when least expected.

But this child was even worse. Ni’qua had been dead for decades, after all. This victim had been taken only months ago.

“Come play with me!” the thing croaked hoarsely, through rotting lips.

Ellen didn’t speak. There was nothing to say to this thing; and that would only slow down her escape, anyway.

She needed to think.

No—she needed to get out of this room. Immediately.

Ellen turned and bolted for the door.

Behind her she could hear dragging footsteps. The child was giving chase, but Ellen moved much faster, owing to the damage Briggs and his valet had done to the child’s injured leg prior to burial.

The thing was now cursing at her—using the vocabulary of some ancient language that she did not understand.

A few more steps, and Ellen was at the threshold, then beyond it.

She had never moved faster in her life, she thought.

Then she was on the other side of the doorway.

She did not want to turn around, did not want to look back. She knew, however, that it would be necessary to close the door, lest the thing pursue her out into the hallway.

When Ellen turned around, the creature was within sprinting distance of the doorway, if not for the ruined leg.

As Ellen reached for and grasped the doorknob, an expression of bottomless rage contorted the already rotting and grimacing face. This evil before her was intelligent; it knew what she planned to do.

Ellen ignored her terror, for the time being, forced herself to focus.

She yanked on the doorknob, and slammed the door shut behind her.

Then she twisted the external catch on the doorknob. Another strange thing about this house: Her husband had designed it so that many of the rooms locked from the outside.

That done, the thing was effectively contained inside the room. A second later, there was a loud thud, as a creature that had once been a human child slammed into the closed door.

“Let me out!” it roared. The voice was ancient, booming. It echoed against the walls of the hallway.

Ellen stepped away from the closed door. She looked in one direction, and saw that the hallway terminated there in a bare wall.

In the other direction, from which she had arrived here, the hallway ended in another doorway.

With the thing still pounding on the door of the storage room, still cursing in that hideous language, Ellen made her escape through the high-ceilinged hallway. She fled toward the doorway.

There was a locking door here, too. Ellen closed it behind her and locked it.

The undead child was now locked behind two heavy doors. Was that enough to make her safe?

She shook her head at the very notion. There was no such thing as true safety in this house.

View the book on Amazon!

Supernatural horror with an American gothic twist

The Rockland Horror 2 is now available!

Recommended for fans of:

  • Stephen King
  • Peter Straub
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Joe Hill
  • Bentley Little

And, of course, readers of the first book in the series (or my other horror novels).

The Rockland Horror continues!

**The terrifying second installment in the multigenerational saga about a cursed house in Southern Indiana**
A young wife, an older husband, a haunted house

In 1882, twenty-one-year-old Ellen Sanders finds herself trapped in a macabre marriage to Theodore Briggs, a semiretired railroad tycoon, Civil War hero, necromancer, and murderer.

She resides in a luxurious Victorian mansion filled with evil spirits, supernatural creatures, and the undead.

Infidelity and bloodshed

As Ellen begins a rebellious extramarital affair with the Italian laborer Silvio, she sets in motion a chain reaction that will end in murder and suicide.

Horror descends on the town of Rockland

With blood spilled, the full horrors of the haunted mansion are unleashed on the town of Rockland, Indiana.

Only three people know the truth: a local lawman, a young woman with psychic powers, and an agnostic Roman Catholic priest.

But can they solve the secrets of the Briggs House in time to prevent another wave of death and destruction?

Get The Rockland Horror 2 on Amazon!

(Or, if you haven’t read Book One, start with The Rockland Horror.)