William Blackwell

Dark Fiction Author

Tag: supernatural

A magical healing stone and a witch

The Micmac are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. They were nomads who wandered all over the northeast coast of New Brunswick, the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, and all through Prince Edward Island. According to Joyce Barkhouse, THE WITCH OF PORT LAJOYE, the Micmac told many strange tales around remote wilderness campfires, “stories of the creation of the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars; of plants and animals; of stones; of stones and islands; of winds and floods; stories of the supernatural and the peculiar behavior of certain human beings.”

Passed on from generation to generation, one such legend (sourced from Joyce Barkhouse’s novel, THE WITCH OF PORT LAJOYE) is the stone of Mineota. As the story goes, a Micmac chief called Kiotsaton, grieving the loss of his wife, wandered away from the rest of his tribe along with his son Kitpou and daughter Mineota. Deep in the forest, surrounded by towering pines and looming spruce trees, they made camp near a shimmering spring-fed lake.

On the third night, Kiotsaton was confronted by the great god Glooscap, who warned him that an angry spirit inhabits the spring and if he dares to venture on the lake called Minnewauken, great harm and evil will visit him. And, although Glooscap told him to leave, Kiotsaton insisted on staying, saying his grieving heart found enormous comfort and healing at the spring-fed lake.

So Kiotsaton and his children grew up beside Lake Minnewauken, never forgot Glooscap’s warning, and never set foot in the lake. But one day, when her father and brother were off hunting, the beautiful Mineota went picking berries along the shore. Gazing at her reflection in the still water a short time later, her long hair accidentally touched the water. A ferocious gurgling sound followed and a whirlpool suddenly formed, widened, and tried to suck her down.

She was able to narrowly escape the danger, but not before glimpsing a green, slimy, ferocious monster rising out of the middle of the lake.

Although she told her brother Kitpou, he did not heed her warning. A short time later, he launched a canoe into the lake and the evil monster reared its ugly head, sucking Kitpou and his canoe deep into the bowels of the lake.

Angry and heartbroken, father Kiotsaton threw rocks into the lake, calling out the evil one. And when the monster appeared, he shot it with an arrow. Snarling and hissing, the head disappeared back into the lake, although it’s unclear if the arrow actually found its mark.

But what happened next was an apocalypse of sorts. The waters of the spring rose and towered in the sky and then a gigantic wave descended on the land, causing a roaring flood and massive death and devastation.

The great god Glooscap again confronted Kiotsaton, declaring that the only way to appease the angry spirit of Minnewauken and prevent more bloodshed and devastation would be to offer his daughter Mineota as a sacrifice. But Kiotsaton adamantly refused.

Overhearing her father’s words, Mineota silently slipped into the troubled waters and disappeared, appeasing the offended spirit, driving back the waters, and restoring calm.

Kiotsaton grieved for many moons until finally Glooscap appeared before him again.

“Your daughter’s sacrifice shall not go unrewarded,” the great god said. “The spirit of fair Minetoa shall return and live on within a stone which you will find where your wigwam stood. This stone shall have healing powers for the people of your tribe alone. It is for you, Kiotsaton, to use all the days of your life, but when you die it must be dropped into the deep bubbling spring of Minnewauken.”

“And after my death, may the medicine stone never be used again?” Kiotsaton asked.

The great god responded with a warning: “If the one who enters the waters of Minnewauken to seek it thinks only of the one to be healed, and has not thought of self, then the stone can be brought out and used again to heal those of Micmac blood.”

Kiotsaton found the magic stone, became a notable medicine man, and used its magic powers and the spirit of his daughter to cure many. Shortly before his death, he returned it to the deepest part of the spring, where it sank to the bottom and lay hidden for hundreds of years.

Until Micmac chief Kaktoogwassees, distraught over the failing health of his Caucasian wife La Belle Marie, plunged into the depths of the chilly water, retrieved the copper-colored stone, and used it to cure his ailing wife.

And that’s when things turned disastrous.

La Belle Marie’s husband was murdered.

Accused of being the witch of Port LaJoye, she was burned at the stake.

So you see, out of one old and sacred Micmac legend comes another tale of the bitter fate of La Belle Marie. Where one story ends, another begins.

According to Barkhouse, “To this day, the story of Marie is told by the Micmac of Prince Edward Island. The bubbling source is thought to be in the western part of the Island, a place now called Scales’ Pond. Some think it is near Fort Amherst or Rocky Point. Still others think the spring is, indeed, near St. Peter’s.”

The story of the magic stone of Mineota, the witch of Port LaJoye, and the witch’s tombstone, all form part of my research for my latest work in progress.

Tentatively titled The Witch’s Tombstone, here’s a short synopsis: A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendent of an evil witch who was reportedly burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

Combining myths, facts, legends and creativity, expect to see my latest supernatural thriller on bookshelves soon.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your day.

Where the hell is the witch’s tombstone?

Where the hell is the witch’s tombstone? I’ve started doing some preliminary research on a story idea that’s gelling in my head and I’m trying to locate the whereabouts of the witch’s tombstone on Prince Edward Island. PEI is rich in ghost folklore and haunted stories so maybe there is more than one.

Searching Facebook groups dedicated to the paranormal, I’ve unearthed a number of possibilities.

Location One. The witch’s tombstone is said to be in Charlottetown in The People’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, 110 Kensington Road, behind the Saint Pius Catholic Church. The tombstone, made from concrete and wire mesh, depicts a cloaked, grief-stricken young woman, with a weather-beaten cross leaning against her. Her left arm has been amputated, probably the result of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Location Two. In PEI’s Pioneer Cemetery Road and rumored to be the grave of a pioneer involved in a shipwreck. The ground is said to be mysteriously raised in a circle around a number of graves. Problem is, a Google search produced at least four Pioneer Cemetery Roads in PEI.

Location Three. On or near Cemetery Road in Borden in Seven Mile Bay area, beside or behind Saint Peter’s Catholic Church. Apparently that tomb stands alone, in the middle of nowhere. On a night near Halloween, a group of supernatural enthusiasts reportedly decided to visit the tomb. It was a dark and eerie night and none of them were brave enough to get real close to it. Eventually they decided to return to their vehicles and inexplicably they saw a downed tree on the road blocking their paths. It was a windless and calm night and they hadn’t even heard the tree fall. They cleared the downed tree away from the road, rushed to their vehicles and beat a hasty and fear-filled retreat.

The tombstone in Charlottetown is the one that intrigues me the most, primarily because I visited the cemetery a few days ago, located and photographed it. The image of Paddy McGuinness, rumored to be a witch, is both scary and sad. Scary, because she is rumored to have started a cult that poisoned and killed children before a successful witch hunt led her to the gallows where she was publicly hanged around the early 1900s. Sad, because the portrait of grief the tombstone depicts is deeply moving.

CBC News published a story August 11th, 2011, about a mother-daughter team who formed the Island Paranormal Research Group (IPRG) and visited the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown. A picture shows them at the witch’s tombstone taking readings with various electronic ghost hunting equipment. Many Google searches produced no evidence that IPRG still exists.

Multiple searches of previously active PEI paranormal groups suggests all of them are now defunct.

Trying to disentomb clues, I’ve smashed head-first into a weathered and mysterious concrete tombstone. None of the Facebook group members responded to my queries. Maybe there are several witch’s tombs on PEI, but for now I’m concentrating on the one in Charlottetown. I’ve heard some students at the University of Prince Edward Island did some research on the topic but so far my efforts in that department have led to a dead end. I do have a few feelers out however, and I might hear something yet.

During my recent visit to the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown, I noticed a phone number for the cemetery. I called the number and that led to three conversations—two with helpful cemetery officials and one with a helpful cemetery caretaker.  Here’s what I learned. That part of the cemetery where the witch’s tombstone is located is no older than the 1960s or 1970s. The tombstone or monument depicting a woman painfully carrying her life burdens is probably no older than 1960. There is no record of a female called Paddy McGuinness buried in that plot number where the tombstone is. There is, however, a male buried in that plot number by the name of Patrick Paul McGuinness. I am still investigating the date and details surrounding his death, but my information suggests it certainly would not have been in the early 1900s, since that part of the cemetery is much newer than that.

As well, Paddy (with that spelling) is a common nickname for a male named Patrick.

Throughout history, hundreds of people have been falsely accused and convicted of witchcraft, many tortured, publicly hanged or burned at the stake. Misinformed people believed they’d made a pact with the devil—consummated by sex—that gave them supernatural powers potent enough to wreak chaos, harm and death. They were considered heretics who had sold their souls to the devil and had become the devil’s hand maidens—implements of Satan’s evil agenda.

The term witch hunt has come to define a reckless crusade or investigation untethered to the truth.

So, was Paddy McGuinness a witch? Was she much maligned?

Did she even exist? Is she merely imaginative fiction unrooted in fact?

Or was she actually Patrick Paul McGuinness?

Either way, I plan on resurrecting the Paddy McGuinness story or another similar tale from the grave to haunt, educate, and entertain readers. I was hoping to write a fact-based narrative but so far I have no facts to support what my online paranormal research has said about the witch, Paddy McGuinness.

Does anyone know anything about the so-called witch called Paddy McGuinness? Does anyone know the story behind the witch’s tombstone at The Roman Catholic People’s Cemetery in Charlottetown? Does anyone know of any other witch’s tombstones on PEI (exact locations would be nice) and the stories behind them? Are there any active paranormal groups on PEI that wouldn’t mind an intrepid author joining them on some paranormal investigations?

Any light you could shed on this dark subject would be greatly appreciated.

The Paddy McGuinness mystery continues.

Please post your comments below and have an awesome day.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Ghost stories come in all shapes and sizes. Terrifying, funny, morally upright, morally bankrupt and some just downright unbelievable. As a young boy, I used to be a skeptic and would openly mock the veracity of ghost tales. As a sort of rebellion, I would endeavor to select the scariest Halloween costumes, would relish in scaring the crap out of my siblings and would even construct elaborate haunted tours, both outside and even in various upper bedrooms of the two-story home I grew up in. Often, I would charge admission for these haunted tours.

One night I invited a bunch of neighbor kids over for a tour of a haunted house I’d constructed in three upper bedrooms of the house. It was sufficiently ghastly, containing skeletons, candles, blood-dripping corpses and scary noises. I even hired friends to dress up ghoulishly, approach participants by surprise, and scare the hell out of them. We terrified one boy so badly he fled the house screaming in terror, only for his angry and distraught mother to return fifteen minutes later and admonish my mother for psychologically damaging and traumatizing her young and impressionable son. Needless to say, that spelled the end of my lucrative haunted tours empire.

I relished scaring others because I didn’t believe in ghosts. It was my way of poking fun at the supernatural and spectral entities. Even when I began writing novels, I remained somewhat of a skeptic, enjoying scaring readers who loved to be scared. They say karma is a bitch, especially when it rears its monstrous fangs and tears a chunk out of your ass. But it wasn’t until well in my adult years that I had to get fitted for a new derriere.

As part of my research on paranormal novel Phantom Rage, I joined a team of paranormal investigators on some investigations. On one such investigation, we got set up in an old house in Strathmore, Alberta, where a frightened woman had told us a story of seeing an apparition of a sad little girl playing a violin in one of the basement bedrooms. She said she’d also heard strange noises in the house and even relayed a story of an apparition attacking her in her sleep. She was convinced the only thing that had saved her was the guardian ghost of her recently deceased and beloved husband.

As we began to set up our equipment, we noticed that two of the bedroom doors had locks on the outside, suggesting someone had been locked inside against their will. I wondered if perhaps it had been the little girl. Although we did experience highly suggestive levels of electro-magnetic activity in those bedrooms, we never saw the little girl apparition. However, late that night, as we sat huddled around a coffee table in the dimly lit basement, we heard and recorded barely audible strange voices coming from the basement laundry room. We couldn’t decipher exactly what they said but one thing was clear. We weren’t welcome.

A short time later, from the laundry room, we heard a loud crash. I jumped so fast my heart just about sprang from my chest. Flashlights leading the charge, the lead paranormal investigator and I rushed into the laundry room. We couldn’t find anything amiss that might explain the crash and a few seconds later both of our flashlights died. Not five seconds later the batteries in the video recorder went dead, even though they were freshly charged prior to the investigation. Although I didn’t flee from the house screaming bloody murder, it was a wake-up call of sorts. Don’t play games with the supernatural. Don’t mock the paranormal. Don’t parody something you don’t understand.

From that moment on I became a believer. And I began writing about the supernatural with more passion, respect and conviction, borne of personal experience. I also became fascinated with information on the subject and I gobbled up everything I could read and everything I could watch. Some of the documentaries cast much light on the subject, while others infused me with a darkness that left me afraid to go to bed at night.

The single most compelling and terrifying documentary on the existence of the paranormal that I’ve ever watched is Demon House, directed by and starring Zak Bagans. In this recently released documentary, Bagans, a leading researcher on ghosts and demonology, purchases a house in Gary, Indiana, widely reported in the media as “the house of 200 demons,” and a source of demon possession.

In December, 2014, Latoya Ammons claimed that she and her three children were possessed by demons in the home. These are credible people who reported strange growling, barking, odd footprints, demonic chanting by children, even stories of levitation in which children were being hurled into walls by supernatural evil forces. Child Services, medical officials, even police verified many of the details. Staff at an Indiana hospital said one of Ammons’ sons “walked up the wall backwards… flipped over and landed on his feet.”

What Bagans doesn’t realize when he brings his film crew to his recently purchased home to conduct a series of paranormal experiments, is it might be the worst decision of his life. Strange things start happening the moment they arrive. Bagans inexplicably becomes violent and angry, pinning one of his crew against a wall and ordering him out. A camera man flips out and begins behaving erratically, believing he is possessed by a demon. A medium (and a good friend to Bagan) who claims to have contacted one on the demons winds up being murdered in a double murder-suicide. A home inspector develops cancer shortly after inspecting the property. A cop suffers a violent gash to his head after inexplicably falling. After visiting the house, a former resident, believing she is demon-possessed, must undergo an exorcism. One paranormal expert who conducts experiments winds up in the hospital with multiple organ failure. Even Bagan, after spending a night in the house, develops a strange, debilitating and potentially inoperable eye disorder that may haunt him for the rest of his life.

Dread Central reviewer Steve Barton says, “Demon House will leave you with a lot of questions about the existence of both the normal and the paranormal. It’s a masterfully created and seriously frightening account of what can happen when things just end up getting far out of control… when events occur that supersede rational human comprehension and reason. It’s one of the single most compelling documentaries on the existence of the supernatural that I’ve ever witnessed. Whether or not The Ammons House was haunted or is the portal to hell is still very much debatable. As always, there will be people who believe and those who do not. However, the effect that it has had on everyone who has ever walked through its doors is undeniable.”

Of Demon House, Bagans says, “This film is cursed.”

If you’re on the fence about your belief in the paranormal, or are looking for more evidence to back up your already strong convictions, Demon House comes highly recommended. Warning. Not for the faint of heart.

Good or bad, I would love to hear about your paranormal experiences. Please leave comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

The Dark Menace is born

After forty-five days of writing, The Dark Menace is born. I’ve completed the first draft of the supernatural thriller that also involved two months of research on the Shadow People and the Hat Man phenomenon. Now the editing stage begins. After one editing pass, primarily concentrating on obvious inconsistencies, plot holes, grammar, spelling and punctuation, the manuscript will go to a beta reader to try and get a general sense if it’s even a good story.

On the second and third editing passes, I will incorporate suggestions as well as examining plot, character development, motivational inconsistencies, cadence, conciseness, story arc, overuse of certain words, pace, point of view, believability, dialogue, etc.

After a month of rewrites and revision, The Dark Menace meets my editor. The talented Winslow Eliot, who represents New York Times bestselling authors, will apply another layer of polish and return it. After two more thorough coats of wax, The Dark Menace enters the publishing pipeline for yet one more proofread before it will be formatted for ebook and paperback distribution to major book retailers.

Wow. That’s a lot of editing and rewrites. Six editing passes in total before it’s finally released.

After an uninterrupted 7,000 word, seven-hour stretch of writing last Thursday, I reached THE END of the first draft. On one hand, I was exhilarated; on the other, exhausted. I mean I was so physically and mentally drained I was having a difficult time performing the day-to-day tasks necessary for survival. I forgot to eat, forgot to shower. Good thing I forgot to invite friends over on that day.

After taking a full three days to recover, I started editing yesterday. And that’s what I spent the first four hours on this morning. Edits. I’m moving along at a decent clip, although I still feel a little drained. I’m still waiting for that burst of creative juice that often infuses my edits. Maybe it will visit me tomorrow. Maybe the next day. Maybe I just need to take a week or so away from the manuscript as I sometimes do and revisit it with fresh eyes. I honestly don’t know write now (that’s a deliberate pun).

I like to say I write with this tunnel-vision focus and commitment to please myself. And that’s true to some extent. But I also do it to please my readers; to educate them and plant a small seed of positivity, so that in some small way I might make their lives just a little bit better. That’s why, in The Dark Menace, I examine both the good and bad aspects of the Hat Man. Many people, both in their sleeping and waking worlds, have been tormented and haunted by the Hat Man. Many others have felt spiritually uplifted or in some inexplicable way protected by his presence.

It begs the question, is he a benevolent or a malevolent force? I’m not going to offer any spoilers obviously, but let’s just say in The Dark Menace, I give equal weight to each argument. And, since the Hat Man is ultimately not scientifically verifiable, I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to view the Hat Man through a negative or positive lens.

Here’s a teaser summary: Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to hell.

And, for your reading pleasure, here’s the raw, uncut, unhinged, unleashed, first chapter of The Dark Menace.

Thanks for your time and have an awesome day. I hope you enjoy it.

The Dark Menace Chapter One

A kaleidoscope of brilliant colors flashed before his eyes. Deep greens, dark purples, vibrant pinks, reds and blues. Inside the colors, images appeared—faceless apparitions with indistinct and undulating shapes. Some of the ghost-like images were black, some white. They twirled in the rainbow of colors, shrinking and growing, shrinking and growing. Then the black images began attacking the white images, slicing them with machetes, stabbing them with knives, biting into their heads and bodies with menacing fangs. Blood-curdling screams punctuated the eerie silence and Noah, eyes opening in shock and horror, bolted upright.

Where am I? He looked around at the darkness and saw large trees looming in the distance, illuminated faintly by the white glow of a full moon. The ghostly combatants had disappeared. A forest. But where? Brushing off dirt and leaves from clothes, he stood up, trying to make sense of his surroundings. But try as he might, he couldn’t figure out how he got here. Worse, he couldn’t remember events of the last week. He tried to take a step, but felt a numbness and an electric tingling sensation in his body that strained his efforts. He managed one step and stopped, frozen to the spot. A terrible feeling of cold dread surged through his veins. He felt his heart begin to pound in his chest furiously; struggling to escape its rib cage prison cell and leave him to fend for himself. He took a few deep breaths, trying to restrain his cardiovascular prisoner. It took a few long and slow deep breaths.

“What’s going on?” Noah asked. “Where am I?”

In Noah’s panic-tinged tone, the forest echoed back a response: “What’s going on? Where am I?”

Fighting paralyzing protestations, he brought the other foot forward and crunched it into the forest carpet. It brought him renewed confidence, helping to diminish the fear demons. That’s it. You can do it. Do what? Go where? Noah had no idea, but knew he wanted to leave the forest, find some city lights, find his apartment in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, find his bedroom, resume his sleep and wipe this nightmare of the map; if indeed that’s what it was.

Finding a path in the forest, he crunched his way along, rubbing his shoulders and arms in an effort to eliminate the tingling numbness and the bone-chilling cold that was slowly enveloping him. He was still looking down at the path when he felt its evil presence. He snapped his head up instantly, knowing but not wanting to know what he was about to see. But it was different this time. He was different.

Noah stopped dead in his tracks.

Illuminated by the ominously glowing moon, the old man grinned. He produced a machete and held it high in the air, adjusting his tattered straw hat and scratching his stubble with his free hand.

“You’ve finally come to meet your maker,” he said. Then he cackled in an incongruously high-pitched voice.

The cold chill coursing through Noah’s veins turned to ice. Oh my God, no. He had seen the man in many forms in his childhood years and didn’t waste any time on small talk. He turned around and ran, taking some measure of satisfaction in the realization that the ice miraculously thawed and his legs willingly complied.

He turned a corner in the path, allowing himself a quick glance behind. The man was coming for him, and if he caught him there would be no mercy. Sliced and diced to smithereens.

You’re dreaming, you’re dreaming, you’re dreaming, Noah thought as he ran. Hide.

As if the man was reading his thoughts, he heard his throaty voice. “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

Panting and puffing, Noah rounded another bend and came into a clearing in the forest. In a corner, just inside the tree-line, was a large hollowed-out log. Quickly he bent down and crawled inside, curling up in a fetal position as soon as he was out of sight, hoping against all hope that the menacing man was wrong. He could hide. He would hide. He would wake up and return to the comfort of his bed.

He struggled to control his breathing as the twig-snapping footfalls grew nearer. Then it became quiet. Eerily quiet. But out of the quiet, Noah heard the sound of breathing, not his own, a raspy, nasally inhaling and exhaling that grew louder. In a terrified instant, he knew it was too late. He was caught. Time to die.

“I got you now,” the man said, the sound of his approaching footfalls nearing. “You can run but you can’t hide.”

Before he could move, Noah heard a splitting sound and he knew right away what it was. Metal on wood. The man was chopping at the rotten tree trunk with his machete. Chopping through to him. But a split-second later, instead of the sharp metal of the blade, Noah felt the stomping of a boot heel on the small of his back and a bolt of red hot pain shot up his spine.

He tried to scream. Nothing. He tried to move. Nothing. Frozen once again.

The man cackled. “I bet that hurts. What I’m gonna do next will really mess you up.”

Noah tried to crawl out of the log but he was still frozen. He pressed his eyes shut tightly, gritted his teeth and tried with all his strength to break free from the paralysis. When he opened his eyes, he was sitting bolt upright, staring at the small green nightlight that instantly told him he was back in his house, back in his bedroom. With a loud sigh, he laid back and melted his head into the pillow, relieved. His heart stilled. The fear slowly melted away. A terrible nightmare. Nothing more.

But it wasn’t long before a dark presence invaded the room—thick and palpable. His heartbeat once again thumped louder, faster. Beads of perspiration sprouted on his forehead. His throat became dry and parched. The numbing, tingling sensation returned. Green dots danced in front of him and he tried to reassure himself. It’s from the nightlight. Don’t worry.

But he was too afraid to open his eyes, lest the inbred-looking hillbilly return. Finally, it became too much. He felt like he was being completely engulfed by this dark and evil presence, as if it was swallowing him whole and turning him into some kind of a monster. Emotions swept through him—anger, rage, anxiety and finally a powerful sadness that slowly began to give rise to fear.

He opened his eyes. Of God, please. All this time. Why now?

The blackly cloaked man stood at the foot of his bed staring at him. Staring at him as if he was trying to reach into his soul and snatch it away. He raised a hand and touched his wide-brimmed black hat. Noah tried to shout, scream, speak and move but it was no use at all. He was paralyzed, frozen like a chunk of ice. The Hat Man walked around to the side of the bed and leaned down, his black face, a dark mask with no discernible features whatsoever, moved in closer.

Like an incubated alien fetus, Noah was sure his pounding heart would snap his rib cage, tear his muscles and flesh, leap right out of his chest, and escape its humanoid incarceration once and for all. He had an image of a slimy extraterrestrial creature suddenly exploding onto the Hat Man and wrapping its deadly tentacles around his throat and face, constricting and suffocating the life out of the monster. If he wasn’t paralyzed with fear, he might have grinned at the image.

The black face moved closer and stopped six inches or so from Noah’s face. Noah’s breathing became labored and he felt a painful tightening in his chest. The small of his back still stung from the hillbilly’s heal. Time to die. This is what it feels like to die. Not now, oh please God, not now. With raw panic rising up his throat like a sick green bile, he mustered all his strength and jerked. His body twitched and convulsed and he instantly sat upright, gasping for breath, sweat streaming down his face. Eyes wide with terror, he watched the Hat Man shrink, retreat and disappear out of sight, trailed by a green dragon tail emanating from the glowing green nightlight.

It took a few minutes for Noah to calm himself down. When his breathing finally returned to something approximating normal, he glanced at his digital alarm clock: 3:33 am. He climbed out of bed, wincing as the small of his back ignited with fiery pain. He was still trembling by the time he reached the bathroom of his third-floor apartment smack in the center of downtown Charlottetown. Still too terrified to look in the mirror, he wiped his face with a towel, relieved himself, and sat down gingerly on his living room couch and flicked on a table lamp. He needed some incandescent comfort right now to try and make sense of the nightmare that seemed so much more than a nightmare.

The Hat Man had returned. With a vengeance. He counted the years. He had been only six the last time he saw the Hat Man, thirty-four years ago. But he remembered the haunting experience as if it had happened yesterday. As a child, he’d suffered from frequent nightmares, many of them paralyzing. There were variations of many themes, but most involved some kind of a monster chasing him with the intent to kill. And while they’d terrified him, none of them had resulted in physical injury. Except for the Hat Man. As a child, the darkly cloaked intruder had bent down to his bed, wrapped cold fingers around his throat and began choking the life out of him. He felt the pain then as he gasped for breath. He felt more pain when he leaped out of bed, rushed from his bedroom in terror and face-planted the hallway wall. He’d suffered a concussion that dislodged his cognitive function for two weeks and displaced him from school for three weeks. He absently rubbed the scar above his left eye, the result of the concussive cut that had required six stitches to repair.

But, after that ill-fated evening, the nightmares had stopped. All the monsters and the Hat Man had vanished. Maybe the concussion, which doctors had described as moderate to severe, had helped but Noah had also managed to banish the Hat Man, along with all the other shadowy creatures, from his waking and sleeping world. Blocked them out and successfully expelled them from his existence.

Sure, growing up in Calgary, Alberta, was tough, but he’d also managed to block that out. He was eighteen when his father-in-law Garrett and his mother Barbara combined lethal doses of opioids and alcohol one night during a horror-movie binge-watching session. The irony at the time wasn’t missed on Noah. They’d been watching a remake of a Jack the Ripper slasher movie, when the grim reaper, with his death-dealing scythe, decided to pay them a life-ending visit.

But, like the Hat Man, Noah put it behind him like a fading shadow, and focused full-tilt on work, not willing to admit to himself on any level that at best the workaholic cure would only serve as a Band-Aid solution to a gaping traumatic wound. In spite of himself, images began to float into his head, images of Barbara slumped into the couch, her glass of vodka and orange juice, her signature poison, still held tightly in her hand. Garret, the loser that he was, nestled in beside her, his head slumped on her shoulder, mouth agape in an O of horror, still clutching his poison of choice, a Molson Canadian beer.

But, as he’d done successfully throughout his life, Noah, in spite of a knot of sadness and grief tightening in his stomach, pushed the dark shadows into the dark recesses of his mind. In his mind’s eye, he grabbed the Hat Man forcefully and tossed him into the cavernous hole along with the others, locked the closet door and threw away the key.

He smiled, a half-fake, half-real smile. He was starting to feel better already. “Mind over matter,” he said, trying to boost his confidence. “That’s all it is. Mind over matter.”

A few minutes later, as he drifted off into what would be a dreamless and peaceful sleep, the only thought that crossed his mind was one that brought anticipatory chills of excitement. Last week, he’d asked Angela Rosewood, a cashier at a nearby Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, out on a date. And, finally, after four unsuccessful entreaties, she’d accepted. Tomorrow was the big day.

As he drifted off, her acceptance speech echoed in his head: “I used to think you were weird. And I probably still do. But you’re weird in a positive sort of way. You’re five times lucky. I guess I’ll go.”

The Hat Man Returns

My research has taken me into the fascinating world of lucid dreaming and sleep disorders. I’ve delved into nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralysis, sleep talking, sleep walking, even sexsomnia—a condition in which a person actually has sex in their sleep and wakes up with no recollection of it.

I‘ve uncovered some shocking and terrifying stuff.

Take, for example, the case of a Vancouver man who, after passing out at a party, was charged with sexual assault. He was later acquitted after the defense proved that he was a sexsomniac and therefore not responsible for his actions.

Then there’s the infamous case of the Toronto man Kenneth Parks, who was charged with murder after police discovered his mother-in-law bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her home. There was no question Parks had committed the murder. But was he cognizant and therefore responsible for his actions? The defense was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Parks was sleep walking at the time. The result. Acquittal. Not guilty, by reason of sleep walking.

These true stories are frightening in their own right. But it was during my research on sleep paralysis that another, perhaps even more disturbing phenomenon, emerged. Sleep paralysis is a condition that occurs during that transitional stage between waking and falling asleep whereby a person becomes completely immobilized. During these episodes, people may hear, feel, or see things that are absolutely terrifying and panic-inducing. They might be awake and aware of their surroundings, but otherwise completely frozen, leaving many to wonder if they’re actually dying, or even traveling out of their bodies. Some have reported soaring through visually stunning colors and passing through a time warp and into another dimension.

During sleep paralysis, some people see the mysterious Hat Man, a darkly cloaked shadow man with a wide-brimmed hat. Widely documented, some believe he is a powerful evil force who actually exists in another dimension.

Seeds of The Dark Menace, the working title for my work in progress, began to grow. “What is this Hat Man?” I asked myself. “Is he a sleep-paralysis induced figment of one’s imagination? Or is he real?”

Theories abound on the existence and agenda of the Hat Man. Many people report seeing him in their waking lives. Some claim he’s a guardian angel of sorts while others are convinced he’s the devil come to harvest their souls. He has been connected to alien abduction, preying on fear, and striking you when your defenses are low and you are down and out. Some claim he’s trashed their houses and tried to strangle them to death in the middle of the night.

According to Heidi Hollis, author of The Hat Man, The True Story of Evil Encounters, the Hat Man is not only real, but he is the devil.

She writes, “Victims worldwide have reported seeing this man peering into their homes, their bedrooms, their baby cribs, their cars and even—their souls.”

Some have been able to defeat him by calling out the name of Jesus, or having their homes blessed, while others simply just beat the crap out of him. Some simply order him out of their homes.

So what is he? A guardian angel, a figment of the imagination, or a powerful evil force?

That’s exactly what Noah Janzen, the troubled lead protagonist in The Dark Menace, my work in progress, intends to find out. Noah is plagued by a terrifying sleep paralysis that often invokes horrific images of the feared Hat Man. To his horror, he learns he also suffers from night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking and even the dangerous and little-known condition called sexsomnia.

One morning he wakes up in his pickup truck in the middle of a grassy meadow with no idea of how he got there and no memory of the night before. It isn’t long before he learns two sexual assault charges have been filed against him and one of his enemies has been found brutally murdered. As the noose tightens around him, his life begins to unravel. He’s thrust into a battle to prove his innocence, preserve his precarious relationship with his girlfriend, and confront The Dark Menace he believes is responsible for all the carnage—the soul-harvesting, evil Hat Man.

While everyone around him thinks he’s plunged off the precipice of sanity, Noah believes the Hat Man is not only real, but actually exists in a dangerous and deadly other dimension—one the Hat Man affectionately calls “the dead zone.”

The Dark Menace, a fact-based “fun thriller,” will be released sometime this summer or early fall. I’m excited about its possibilities. Due to the creative process, plot elements are subject to change. Here’s a tantalizing teaser for your reading pleasure:

The muffled scream echoing eerily from the hallway leading to Noah’s bedroom wasn’t enough to stir Barbara Jansen from her couch-potato, channel-surfing position. With one hand, she reached into the glass bowl cradled on her lap and shoveled a mouthful of potato chips into her mouth, unaware of a few chips that spilled down her gray sweatshirt, one lodging in the crotch of her sweat pants, a few others spilling onto the couch. She grabbed the remote, adjusted her bulk, and turned up the volume. The crotch-trapped chip crunched into powder. Oblivious, she flicked the channel quickly six or seven times and finally stopped at Bride of the Monster, a 1955 B-grade cult horror film. She leaned back and grinned, exposing crooked, decaying and nicotine-stained teeth.

“Mooommmmy… heeeeeelp me!”

Have you seen the Hat Man? If so, drop me a line. Good or bad, I’d love to read about your experiences.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll see you in the tenth dimension. Don’t worry. It’ll be a riot.