Showing posts from October, 2022

The Nightmarish Demon Child of Southeast Asian Folklore

In a nod to the Halloween season, I’d like to talk about what I consider one of the creepiest creatures in Southeast Asian folklore—the toyol. Some of you may already know what that is. A toyol is the spirit (some say zombie) of a fetus who died before he or she could be born. To create a toyol, a bomoh (a witch doctor or shaman from Malaysia or Indonesia) searches for the grave of a woman who recently died in childbirth. The bomoh digs up the mother’s corpse and extracts the fetus. He enslaves the fetus through black magic and binds it to a piece of its body, such as a sliver of bone. The bone chip is placed in a bottle in a suspension of corpse oil. The oil is produced by burning the chin of the fetus’ mother with a candle. Once the toyol is enslaved, it has to do its master’s bidding. In folklore, toyols were used to steal from the neighbors, harass enemies or vandalize property. In more recent times, it is said a toyol may help you obtain valuable information such as winning lo

A Spooky Night at the Library

I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening Oct. 27 telling and hearing ghost stories at the Strasburg Community Library. The library is housed in a building that started out as a log home in 1778. In 1882, the property was bought—and subsequently enlarged—by one Dr. James Crawford. I and other library patrons traded our true-life tales of terror in the parlor, which served at one time as the room in which Crawford examined his patients. Let me just say there was plenty of atmosphere in the parlor for the event. One of the stories, told by library manager Cheryl Metz, involved the ghost haunting the library itself. If you’re at the library at night, you can sometimes hear footsteps as the ghost walks to and fro on the second floor. I also heard chilling accounts of homes haunted by the ghosts of civil war soldiers, shadow people, and disembodied voices. There was even one wendigo sighting. I shared a story in which an errant spirit attached itself to my mother after she drove by a graveya

Have I Seen a Ghost?

I’ll be participating in a Halloween ghost story-sharing event at my local library Oct. 27. I’m really excited about it because I love ghost stories, and my books feature ghosts, monsters and the supernatural. I have not personally seen a ghost. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t not believe in ghosts. I have gotten the chills in some places. Witnessed an actual apparition though? Nope. Well … maybe. There are at least two occasions in which I thought I saw something . The earlier incident was when I was much younger. I was backpacking in Europe at the time. I was in London, visiting a friend at an old building that had been converted into a youth hostel. It was in the afternoon. I went to the women’s restroom on the ground floor. You had to walk through two doorways connected by a narrow five-foot-long hallway to get to the restroom. The outer door opened to the lobby and the inner door led to the restroom. As I opened the outer door, I saw the inner door close behind someone just ahea

What's Halloween Without Ghost Stories? Join Us ... if You Dare

I’ll be participating in a Halloween ghost story swap meet Oct. 27 at my local library.  I can't wait. I've loved ghost stories since I was a little girl. My mother used to tell the best ones, and every one of her stories was real ... so she said. They made such an impact on me that I wrote my own collection of ghostly tales.  My stories in Joss Paper feature Southeast Asian ghosts and folklore monsters. Please check the book out.  And please join us for the library event if you’re in the area. It’s from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Strasburg Community Library. It’ll be a chance to enjoy a slice of pizza and some chills. Don’t forget to bring your scariest tale of terror … ***** Strasburg Community Library 195 W. King Street Strasburg, VA. 22657 540-465-8464

A Hat Tip to Halloween Decorators Everywhere

As part of my Halloween countdown, I’d like to give a shout-out to people who go all out in decorating their homes and yards for the spooky season. They must be fans of the genres I love—urban fantasy and horror. Halloween decorating is a sign of how much people want mystery and magic in their lives. For one or two weeks in the year, we can pretend we live in a world populated by witches and warlocks, or ghosts, or giant spiders. As the chill October wind blows and the leaves drift down from the trees, anything seems possible. I used to love walking the dog in my old neighborhood when it was close to Halloween. Many of my neighbors were enthusiastic decorators. Their decorations ran the gamut from tasteful to deliciously tacky. Some of the offerings were gruesome, while others were adorable and kid-friendly. Some people decorated on a theme (say pirates or demented clowns). Others threw in everything but the kitchen sink. One of the neighbors even rented a fog machine one year to ad

Halloween Countdown: the Story Behind the Jack-o'-Lantern

As an author who writes urban fantasy books based on Asian myth and magic, you know I like folktales and mythology. I was delighted to find that October 11 is Myths and Legends Day. What better way to celebrate that, AND the spooky season, than to tell you the Irish folktale behind the jack-o’-lantern? It all starts with a man they called Stingy Jack. Jack invited the Devil to drink with him. He didn’t want to pay for it, so he tricked the Devil into turning himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy the drinks. Before the Devil could turn back, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from transforming back to himself. Jack agreed to release the Devil only if he promised to leave Jack alone for one year. Jack also made the Devil promise not to take his soul should he die within that year. Before the year was up, Jack tricked the Devil again by making him climb a tree to get fruit. Before the Devil could climb down, Jack trapped the D