by JG Faherty
Growing up as I did in a small, rural town, Halloween was a much different experience than for people in larger towns or cities. Oh, sure, we did the usual pranks on Gate Night (or Mischief Night, if that’s what you called it), and we went around trick-or-treating until we outgrew that phase.
But there was so much more to the season.
Not 500 yards from my parents’ house was an old cemetery; so old that most of the gravestones were worn away to near-indecipherability. The few that were still readable had dates on them from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Woods had overgrown the entire back section of the cemetery, so the tombstones sprouted like gray, square funguses between the trees. Many of the plots had sunken, creating two and three-foot deep depressions in front of the head stones. I guess it was only natural that we’d come up with a game: one person would hide in the depression and we’d cover him with leaves. Then we’d find one of the younger kids in the neighborhood and bring them to the cemetery, ostensibly to let them “hang out” with the cool, older kids. We’d sit around the booby-trapped grave as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the red and yellow and orange leaves of October to miniature flames, and we’d tell ghost stories.
And at the right moment, the kid in the grave would leap out and grab the unsuspecting victim.
If this seems cruel, remember, the older kids did it to us; that’s how we learned it.
Halloween also meant camping out in the woods and telling each other the classic horror stories: the man with the hook at lover’s lane, the road in town where cars rolled backwards at midnight, the ghostly milkman who sometimes could still be seen driving his horse-drawn cart at night. Except in our town, many of these stories were true, as were the tales of a bigfoot-like monster in the woods, the spaceships that sometimes hovered over the nuclear power plant on Hudson River (you can Google that one), and the palm tree that bled red sap on Easter Sundays (I witnessed it myself).
In a town that saw more than its fair share of violent deaths, illegal medical experiments, Revolutionary War battles, and Native American struggles, is it any wonder Halloween was a magical time for me?
About The Cemetery Club (forthcoming, January 2012)
20 years ago, four friends awoke an ancient evil living beneath the town of Rocky Point, NY. Now it’s back again, and only the Cemetery Club can stop it before the whole town is dead. Or worse.
That is the concept for my upcoming novel, THE CEMETERY CLUB. It is actually based on the assorted rumors and facts surrounding the Letchworth Village facility for the mentally disabled, which back in the 1930s also doubled as a ‘research center’ for various drugs and vaccinations, a euphemism for conducting experiments on human subjects (electroshock therapy was also widely used). The facilities are now abandoned, and will be the subject of an upcoming reality show about haunted institutions.
Being an HWA member played an integral role in my obtaining the contract to do this book. In addition to the professional aspects of being a member – garnering more attention from magazine and anthology editors, learning about contracts and other business requirements on the HWA website – the social aspects often end up being as much, if not more, important. In this case, while discussing books, contracts, and the state of the publishing industry with the owner of JournalStone Publishing at the 2011 Stoker Awards Weekend, he let it be known he was interested in expanding the number of books he wanted to put out in 2012. When I pitched him The Cemetery Club, he immediately asked me to send him the entire manuscript. Three weeks later, we worked out a contract with a professional advance and industry-standard royalties (naturally, part of my knowledge of current royalty rates came from discussions on the HWA boards). Plus, I was able to privately contact other HWA members and ask their opinions. All in all, it’s very likely I might not have ever gotten this contract if I wasn’t an HWA member.
Praise for The Cemetery Club
“The Cemetery Club is like a plastic pumpkin bucket filled to the top with all of your favorite candies. Loads of gory fun!” –Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller.
“JG Faherty nails the whole small town horror concept with a King-like flair. I definitely identified with the main characters, both past and present. All in all, I thought it was excellent.” – Michael McBride, author of Predatory Instinct and Quiet, Keeps to Himself.
“With plenty of new twists on some old favorites, Faherty’s latest novel provides readers with as much fun in a graveyard as the law will allow. Ancient legends, demonic shadow-creatures and ravenous zombies–what more could you ask for?” -Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable and Diabolical.
JG Faherty is offering a handful of brave souls copies of Carnival of Fear and Ghosts of Coronado Bay, with one print edition and three e-book editions of each book available. To enter post a message in the comments section below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be chosen at random. Contestants may enter once to be considered for all giveaways, but multiple entries are permitted.
JG Faherty grew up in the haunted Hudson Valley region of New York, and still resides there. Living in an area filled with Revolutionary War battle grounds, two-hundred year-old gravesites, ghosts, haunted roads, and tales of monsters in the woods has provided a rich background for his writing. A life-long fan of horror and dark fiction, JG enjoys reading, watching movies, golfing and hiking with his wife and dogs, volunteering as an exotic animal caretaker, and playing the guitar. His favorite holiday is Halloween (naturally), and as a child, one of his childhood playgrounds was an 18th century cemetery.
JG’s first novel, Carnival of Fear, was released in 2010. His next book, Ghosts of Coronado Bay, a YA supernatural thriller, was published in June 2011. The Cemetery Club, his third novel, will be released in early 2012. His other credits include more than two dozen short stories in major genre magazines and anthologies. You can visit him at www.jgfaherty.com, www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, and www.facebook/jgfaherty.
Excerpt from The Cemetery Club
Rocky Point, NY, 20 years ago
“It has to be me,” Todd Randolph said, clutching the bag to his skinny chest as the rain continued to drench the cemetery. Muddy streams cascaded alongside the blacktopped paths and cut miniature canyons between graves “I started it. I have to finish it.”
Cory Miles shook his head. “We can do it together. We should do it together. All of us. The Cemetery Club.”
John Boyd and Marisol Flores voiced their agreement. The four of them were huddled under the overhang of a mausoleum that was so old the date on the plaque couldn’t even be read through the crust of dirt and corrosion. The door stood open, exposing cobweb-covered cement casket boxes to the dim light of the stormy afternoon. In the center of the floor, a ragged hole several feet wide showed black against the gray cement. A fetid odor rose up from the darkness, death and mold and wet soil all entwined into a palpable stench that seemed bent on forcing their stomachs to turn somersaults.
“No. I’m the only one who can stop it.” Todd lowered himself into the pit, his rail-thin body disappearing from view almost immediately.
“What do we do?” Marisol asked. Her dark brown hair hung in long, dripping strands and her bra was visible beneath the pink Duran Duran t-shirt that clung to the curves she’d started developing over the summer.
Cory knew that image of her would stay with him the rest of his life, just as he knew he was more in love with her now than he’d ever been. “I don’t know.” He took a step towards the hole and stopped.
John frowned. “We can’t let him go down there by himself. The aliens…”
Cory shook his head, sending water droplets cascading in all directions. “John, they’re not aliens. There’s no such thing…”
“Fine. Aliens, demons, it doesn’t matter. They’re all fucking impossible. But we can’t let Todd…not alone.” I think it’s Todd… not alone
“I know. But…”
“Maybe it’s better if we split up. That way, if anything…happens, there’s still two of us to try something else.”
“Like what?” said John. “Go to the police? They’ll think we’re crazy.”
“Well, we can’t just stand here. We–”
A terrible scream rose up from the hole, the high-pitched wail reverberating off the stone walls until it sounded like a thousand people were crying out in pain. As abruptly as it started, the cry of distress cut off, leaving nothing but a mental echo in everyone’s head.
“Shit! We have to help him.” John glanced from Marisol to Cory. Even in the near-dark, the pleading look in John’s eyes was too powerful for Cory to ignore.
“Let’s go.” Cory walked to the hole and stepped into the black depths, which seemed to swallow his legs as they vanished into the darkness.
When Cory’s head dipped below the edge, it was as if someone had turned off all the lights in a room. He held out his hands to either side for balance and cold, damp earth met his palms. Rocks and old tree roots made the footing tricky, forcing him to walk with a shuffle-step motion so he wouldn’t trip. Scuffling sounds behind him told him his two friends were doing the same thing.
“Cory? Can you see anything?”
Marisol’s voice, a few feet back. Her words sounded strangely flat, as if the hard-packed dirt of the tunnel had drained all the life from them.
“No. Just keep walking slow.”
Cory followed his own advice, advancing one deliberate step at a time as the tunnel gradually sloped downward at a gentle angle. The pounding of his heart grew worse, until it felt like it was inside his head instead of his chest. He found himself breathing in rapid, shallow bursts, and he tried to force his lungs to draw in slow, deep breaths. The fear built inside him until it was an almost physical being, a creature lodged in his guts, pressing against his stomach and bladder. Never in his life had he felt so scared, not even back in June, when he’d ridden the Category Six roller coaster at the amusement park.
Something brushed against his foot and he stopped, praying it wasn’t a hand – or a tentacle – ready to pull him down to Hell. Behind him, Marisol let out a short scream.
“It was a rat.” John’s voice, sounding close and far away at the same time, thanks to the impenetrable darkness that clouded all sense of distance.
Without warning, bright light exploded from further down the tunnel, so intense it blinded him as effectively as the darkness had. At the same time, a terrible BANG echoed through the tunnel. Cory had time to yell “M80!” and then the ground started to shake and dance all around them.
“What’s happening?” Marisol shouted, as the rumbling in the earth grew stronger.
“I don’t know!” Dirt and stone cascaded down on them. “Hang on to something!” Cory dug his fingers into the tunnel wall, groping for a root or anything solid. Something wrapped around him, and he let out a terrified shout until he realized it was only Marisol, clutching at him from behind. He felt her breasts pressing against his back and her hair falling on his neck like a wet mop as she clung to him.
The earth shifted again and Cory fell to his knees. Marisol landed on top of him, and another body fell across them. He hoped it was John, but his mind provided a different picture: a rotting corpse, its eyes glowing with putrid light, its mouth ready to sink decayed brown teeth into soft human flesh.
Cory opened his mouth to scream, and then the ceiling collapsed on them in a rain of dirt and stone.
Something hard struck his head and the world disappeared.