Monday, December 19, 2011

GHOST GUYS LIVE enter the Madhouse

"I want to open a window into a world that is often misunderstood, maligned and shunned by the very people who would otherwise be celebrating it."- Michael Clark


Hey Creepies,

This week I bring you to GHOST GUYS LIVE, a paranormal group that investigates and experiences the undead like none other than I have seen before.  Below is the Q and A that I did for their interview for Dark River Press, and the full article will be up soon within the week under their spotlights page! Enjoy!


Stay Scared,
Stephanie M. Wytovich



GHOST GUYS LIVE INTERVIEW
with Stephanie M. Wytovich

1. How did the two of you meet and when did you decide to start working together?

Jim and I met at a Level 4 Biofacility, known as an Integrated Research Facility, under the National Institutes of Health at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. At the time we did not know each other’s background in the paranormal but somehow ended up in a conversation about the late night radio show, Coast to Coast AM. During the course of our friendship we realized we had the same passion for the paranormal, as well as relevant life experience that we could both bring to the table. Our conversations grew into the launch of Nervous TV and the Hamilton Paranormal Society. Later, about a year ago, the popularity of our own show on Nervous TV, Ghost Guys, caused us to narrow our focus like a laser beam.
I later traveled to North Carolina to complete some film projects and investigations. We officially re-launched Ghost Guys from Montana on September 19, 2011 with our flagship video, Meet the Ghost Guys, and our success has been explosive. We are on a magical journey with our fans, whom we affectionately call our parafamily, and our greatest adventures are still ahead.

2. What interests you in the paranormal? Did something significant happen to you when you were younger that prompted you to get into the business?

Jim & I both started on our individual paths when we were just kids. I had an experience with the Ouija board that is touched on in Meet the Ghost Guys and explained in detail in our book GHOST GUYS: Do You Believe?, which is coming out this spring.
My mother and I were experimenting with the Ouija board and my brother’s friends, who were strangers to us, were asking questions about their friends and relatives. The board was giving them the answers. This had a profound impact on me and started me on a path of exploration of the paranormal at an early age. I didn’t know at the time that this path was my destiny.

3. How do you choose the sites that you visit?

We use the acronym SHEET. The focus in this case is the HE in SHEET, or History and Eyewitnesses. We want to determine if there is compelling history at a location and enough eyewitness accounts to suggest a high level of paranormal activity. Our main goal is to answer the question, Are there spirits at this location, and do they have stories to tell?

4. What has been your favorite places that you’ve investigated so far? Least favorite? Why?

Fort Missoula was a magical beginning. The activity there was thrust upon on us and then dissipated like a fast moving storm cell. Ghost Rails Inn was a Devine appointment. Hotel Meade was our baptism by fire and the birth of ghost evangelism, which we detail in our book. You can’t beat River House, Room 13 and Denton House for intense manifestations of the paranormal.
Lydia’s Bridge, Brian Center and Pisgah Bridge have their own places in my heart as well.
Our least favorite investigations are the ones that do not result in episodes because of the lack of paranormal evidence. There is a tremendous amount of preparation involved with historical research, eyewitness interviews and establishing a chronological investigation pattern, not to mention the hours spent on the actual investigation, the preliminary footage that is shot and the hours of subsequent evidence review. To come up empty handed can be very frustrating.
A perfect example of this is the Devil’s Tramping Ground, ten miles south of Siler City in North Carolina. Despite all of our efforts, not a single piece of paranormal evidence was ever captured.

5. Has there been any place that you have felt disappointed with when you’ve gone there to work? Why?

Yes, the Devil’s Tramping Ground was one of our most disappointing. The compelling history, physical anomaly and eyewitness reports gave us every indication that we would have a very interesting investigation. Unfortunately the physical anomaly, a reported 40-foot, disc-shaped area where nothing has grown for years, has recently experienced plant growth and has all but disappeared.
Despite all the history and reports, we recorded no manifestations of the paranormal. Hours of video and still footage, EVP sessions, ghost box sessions, EMF and IR readings, all proved to be negative. The investigation was a total wash. The only interesting footage we captured was me walking in circles in a black hooded robe. At least it was good for comic relief!

6. How do you prepare before going on an investigation? Any rituals?

Our preparation is intense. We study the history of the location and interview eyewitnesses and look for hot spots and a common thread. We then establish an investigation pattern, or search pattern if you will. We prepare our environmental and emotional triggering scenarios. We calibrate our equipment and prepare our EVP sessions. We determine a game plan for ghost evangelism as well as provocation and rebuke for any malevolent entities.
We then prepare ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally for the task. We have a quiet time in which we meditate and allow the location to speak to us. We offer communion with those spirits that wish to tell their stories and we take authority over dark energies that would prevent them, or us, in accomplishing this objective.

7. What is your favorite tool in the field? Do you like direct communication? EVP? Why?

I imagine our favorite tool is still yet undiscovered by us. So far it is the ghost box. We have had tremendous success with this. Frank Sumption modified a standard radio to rapidly cycle through frequencies and spirits can select words or speak through the white noise. It is a form of real-time, direct communication and it can be very effective.
We have some new and innovative things we are going to utilize going into Season 2 and we are excited to share our anticipated results with the world.

8. Describe how you conduct a typical investigation.

My years on the flight decks of Coast Guard C-130s during search and rescue missions along the Aleutian Islands in Alaska have greatly contributed to our style of conducting an investigation. Our main objective is to execute the plan we have set forth prior to the hunt, but also to be prepared for the unexpected. You have to have a checklist for standard operating procedures but also one for a modification of those procedures and one for emergency situations. Our motto that we lived by in the Coast Guard was Semper Peratus, which means Always Ready. We live by those words even more so now, for nothing is more unpredictable than that which is paranormal.
Our objectives during an investigation are mission specific, knowing when and where to employ various types of equipment. We don’t believe in a catch-all, blanketing approach because that does not work well with a two-man team. Our efforts are highly targeted. It is because of this style that we have been pushed to rely on techniques for stimulating the paranormal. We are inviting the spirits to come to us. We are drawing them in, either as a beacon of hope for those who have stories to tell, or by the bright, red light of provocation with respect to negative energies, so we can draw them out and deal with them.

9. Do you feel that you have a sixth sense when it comes to the paranormal, or are you more focused on tools and a heavy belief system?

I believe Jim and I have been chosen. The universe has selected us for this purpose and it is our destiny. I don’t know that we have so much a sixth sense, as we have a sixth signal if you will. We see ourselves as ghost evangelists and we believe spirits pick up on our presence and our evangelistic style of ghost hunting. We are, in a sense, beacons of light that draw them in, causing them to communicate, to manifest, to perform. We believe they hunger for this experience. We believe they have stories to tell and sometimes we just need to be there to listen. Not everything in an investigation falls within the boxed parameters of pure science. Sometimes we have to reach beyond the veil in a very human way and touch them. We have to commune with them and they with us. Could anything ever be more beautiful?

10. Your style of ghost hunting is very interesting to me. When I watched some of your videos, the way you approach talking/summoning spirits is so different to me because at times it’s easy and soft, and at other times, such as in Hotel Meade, you’re calling out the spirits with anger/agitation.  Why do you think this method works, and when did you decide to start approaching hunting like this? Do you feel it gives you better results? Other comments?

You ask a great question here Stephanie and it touches on the very pivotal point of everything we do as ghost evangelists. That is why you see our style as very different. We are ghost evangelists more than we are ghost hunters. We practice techniques that are a part of our acronym SHEET (in this case ET cubed) that we refer to as Environmental Triggering, Emotional Triggering and Evangelism Triggering. We believe we have discovered not only a method that works, but a method, we strongly believe, that will prove itself in Season 2, by stimulating paranormal activity such as the world has never seen. We are on the verge of a paradigm shift in the paranormal community and ghost hunting will never be the same.
I don’t want to give too much away as ghost evangelism is discussed extensively in our book GHOST GUYS: Do You Believe? We’ll be at Book Expo America in New York City June 5 to talk about ghost evangelism and we’ll be signing and giving away about 200 free copies of our book.

11. People always ask me about malevolent spirits. Have you ever encountered any violence on an investigation? If so, please describe it and why you think it occurred?

I have actually experienced the violence of malevolent spirits on a personal level which I discuss in more detail in our book. Our most violent investigation to date easily goes to River House. The energy that was presented there was astronomical. It started with a chair coming off the wall and into a table and ended with the entire table leaving the floor and slamming violently in the direction of Jim. It is absolutely startling to observe and was very frightening to experience.
It occurred because the level of electromagnetic energy at the location was very high and we were using a technique known as provocation in conjunction with a known paranormal object in the form of an attachment haunting. While we do not condone or recommend this practice as typical with respect to all paranormal investigations we cannot deny its effectiveness in stimulating paranormal activity.

12. Is there any place that you refuse to investigate? Why?

While we have yet to actually refuse an investigation, we have had to regrettably turn some down due to time constraints and scheduling. We have had one investigation refused us because the occupant of a poltergeist-active home did not want to risk publicity even with non-disclosure statements.
I would like to take this opportunity to discourage anyone from conducting EVP sessions or other investigative techniques in their own home. Your home is your sanctuary where you have to live and sleep. You don’t want it to become disturbed day and night by entities of unknown origin. Shampooing with your eyes open is not fun, believe me.

13. Where is the site that you’ve picked up the most energy from?

Again, this would have to be River House. There were multiple entities there that spoke in at least one other language, which we believed to be Arabic. There were male and female voices, the voice of a young boy, and extreme object manipulation. It is at this same location that I experienced violent manifestations of the paranormal prior to our investigation and episode and this experience is chronicled in our book.

14. Who are some of your inspirations in the field and why?

I would easily have to say Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, Aaron Goodwin, Chad Calek and Ryan Buell. I believe they are part of the same paradigm shift and have been chosen, just as Jim and I have, to fulfill this destiny. Zak, Nick and Aaron have set the bar at a whole new level and stepped outside the box of a once ideologically stagnant paranormal community. Chad and Ryan are touring the United States with their movie American Ghost Hunter and are literally carrying the torch of truth from coast to coast.

15. What’s your favorite ghost story?

My favorite ghost story is A Haunting in Georgia which was aired on the Discovery Channel and I personally own the DVD. What I find so compelling about this story is the reaction of the family dog to a paranormal entity in the house. It was convincing enough to once and for all seal the deal in my mind for my belief in the paranormal.

16. Where do you see yourself in the future? Any new projects or sites that you especially want to get to?

We are now getting to the scope of what the brand GHOST GUYS is truly about. I have often said in several video segments, “Join Ghost Guys today, and the future belongs to you!” I truly believe that. If you are a Ghost Guys VIP, you are the future of ghost hunting. That is ultimately what this journey is all about, advancing paranormal research by equipping the ghost evangelists of tomorrow.
We will soon be launching our fully-interactive ghost hunting using GoPro-type technology, where anyone in the world with an internet connection can ghost hunt with us vicariously and will be able to see what we are seeing and to hear what we are hearing. We will also be holding LIVE events in which VIPs will join us in investigations and participate in the evidence review. We will be producing DVDs and a field guide in which we take you step-by-step through the equipment and techniques we use on the show.
Tomorrow is a magical future in which everyone who wants to, will be able to touch the other side and to experience what was once thought impossible. We hope you will join us on this journey.

17. What do you have to say to those that doubt the existence of the paranormal?

I would say first of all that skepticism is healthy. Question everything. Hold to a baseline. Then join us. Observe with an open mind and test what you believe. Be willing to stretch your preconceived ideas to the limit that you are comfortable with, and when you are ready, be prepared for a paradigm shift in your own thinking.
We live in an incredible world of discovery. A simple cell phone does powerful things everyday with energy you cannot see. There was a time when we had to let go of candles and embrace electricity. We had to get off our horses and step aboard jet aircraft. Tomorrow is a whole new frontier of wonder. Now is the time to embrace your destiny and move forward to the creation of legacy. Now is the time to join Ghost Guys!

Michael Clark is Host and Chief Investigator of Ghost Guys and Ghost Guys LIVE . He is also Executive Producer and Editor of each show. Michael founded the Hamilton Paranormal Society (HPS), a paranormal research group whose evidence analysis includes the very latest of science and technology along with historical research, eyewitness accounts and environmental triggering (SHEET ™) to produce startling investigative results. HPS also utilizes Michael's own AEVP ™ technique. Michael is a former Coast Guard Aviation Electronics Technician and C-130 Aircrewman during Search and Rescue missions along the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. He has worked with the National Institutes of Health in providing Homeland Securityto scientists from every part of the world as they research the most deadly diseases known to man. He combines over 20 years of experience in science and technology with over 15 years of studies in religion and spirituality, and his methods were recently featured on Paranormal Swat Radio-Virginia.

Michael says that his passion for investigating the paranormal resulted from unexplainable early encounters with the Ouija Board when he was a teenager. Today he uses his knowledge of science and technology to produce startling results and capture this evidence of the paranormal on film.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Featured Author in the Madhouse: Carla E. Anderton

THE SCARIEST THING I'VE EVER DONE
by Carla E. Anderton

A few days ago, my friend and mentor Scott A. Johnson guest blogged here in The Madhouse about scary stories and why he tells them. Scott’s post was food for thought, as it led me to consider my own definition of what “scary” is and, more specifically, to think of the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

Full disclosure: I write historical horror, but I’m terribly squeamish. While I can study the postmortem photos of Jack the Ripper’s victims from every angle with an almost chilling detachment, at heart I’m still afraid of the dark. I have near paralyzing phobias when it comes to heights, spiders and wide open spaces. Yeah, I know, I’m a fruitcake, and I’m doubtless setting the bar low in terms of what I’ve found to be the most frightening experience of my life. But, nevertheless, shall we?

There’s a saying I’ll paraphrase here that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. So, it stands to reason that while most people would prefer to avoid both, the doing of it is easier said than enacted. Having said that, the scariest thing I’ve ever done wasn’t moving 800 miles away from everything I knew at the age of 22, taking a near fatal fall down the stairs at the age of 26, or even ending my marriage at the age of 32, when I was fairly certain doing so was going to land me in a watery grave in a Carolina swamp, food for alligators. No, the scariest thing I’ve ever done is “start” and “operate” a non-profit arts center, Jozart Center for the Arts in California, Pennsylvania. (www.jozart.com)

It’s important to place this action in the right context. You see, it’s like June Carter Cash sang first – a phrase which Trent Reznor later co-opted – “I used to be somebody.” I went to the right places, rubbed elbows with others who were also “somebody”. I was a political animal, and every move I made was meticulously calculated with the thought “what will other people think of me/this” uppermost in mind. And then one day I rebelled against this line of thinking, started doing what I wanted to do exactly when I wanted to do it, and while the result was liberating, it’s like that dolt who used to occupy the White House often trumpeted: “Freedom isn’t free.” The price I paid for freedom was fairly staggering and I basically lost the bulk of my life’s work and a career I’d spent better than a decade building. It was worth it, but it was still a serious blow to my self esteem.

So, again in the interest of being genuine, at the time the opportunity to “take over” the arts center presented itself, I was feeling pretty low. I had my writing, of course, and my personal life had never been better, but professionally I felt like I’d failed and I’ve never been a graceful loser. I wanted to lay low, lick my wounds and hope I had the wherewithal to at the very least succeed at the business of graduate school. The last thing I wanted to do was jump back into a political arena where I’d be in the hot seat. I wanted to be invisible, not giving interviews to reporters, the very reporters I just KNEW had witnessed my earlier fall from grace.

Still, the arts center – formerly called a “studio” – was in immediate and very real danger of closing its doors forever. And, of the last decade I so lamented, I’d spent my happiest moments there. I couldn’t stand idly by and let the place cease to exist, not if it was in my power to prevent that from happening. Plus, more importantly, I saw my little boy – he was not six feet tall in those days – CRY because he thought he’d never get to attend another Open Mic, never get to perform again on the first stage he ever stepped on. (There’s been a lot of stages in my son’s life, but I think the one closest to his heart is the one at Jozart.) So, it wasn’t really a matter of choosing to be involved in the “take over” of Jozart. It was more that it chose me.

The initial process of convincing others it could be done and rallying them to the cause was easy, as was somehow getting myself unanimously elected President of the “new” center’s board of directors. (Nobody else wanted the job, trust me.) The paperwork necessary to incorporate and to apply to the IRS for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status was tedious, complex and involved MATH – which has never been my strong suit – but not all that daunting in itself. Figuring out how I was going to balance my responsibilities was not as easy as taking them on, but that wasn’t the aspect of the “take over” I found so terrifying.

No, the true terror came when they – the former owners – handed me a key to the place, and I was confronted with the sudden reality that I was in charge, that the buck now stopped with me. I knew from the onset I’d just jumped feet first back into a world I’d turned my back on barely a year earlier, a world where you have to be mindful of every syllable you utter for fear you’ll be misquoted or misunderstand and your own words will came back to haunt you. That much was unsettling enough, but on top of that, I was now in charge of a host of issues that hadn’t occurred to me when I’d taken on the job, ranging from “will we be able to afford the rent this month?” to “did we remember to pay the gas bill?” The concerts and gallery openings I’d attended as a spectator for nearly a decade now were my responsibility to plan, promote and oversee, and the workshops I’d participated in during the same time were now my efforts to coordinate.

Don’t get me wrong. I had help and still do, in fact I’m incredibly lucky to have at my disposal several hard working, dedicated fellow board members and volunteers, all of whom love every dusty square foot of Jozart as much as I do. Still, they expressed confidence in me when they chose me to lead them, and while providing them with competent leadership is a duty I take very seriously, sometimes it scares the hell out of me to realize so many people are relying on me. What happens if they discover I’m a fraud, that I’m no more capable of succeeding at this venture than I am at scaling Mount Everest? (The latter being an impossibility as one of my biggest fears is that of heights.)

Thus far, we’ve been fortunate enough to keep the center’s doors open for close to 17 months longer than originally anticipated. We’re slowly but surely improving the appearance of the facility, and with every event or workshop we increase public awareness of what we’re trying to do and that is to provide the Mon Valley region of Pennsylvania with a top notch location to enjoy and explore the arts. It took over a year, but we finally got the IRS to agree to issue our “non profit status letter”, the official correspondence that will enable us to go after grants and seek out new donors.

Is it still as frightening, 17 months later? You bet it is, because every day brings a new challenge to confront, another goal to meet and exceed, and while the great unknown is no longer “can we do it”, it is nonetheless scary sometimes to imagine just how exactly we will do it. And that’s the stuff of occasional nightmares, or at least of mine…

**Jozart is open to ALL artists including writers
  
Carla E. Anderton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Ms. Anderton has published poetry, essays, short fiction and plays, as well as completed a historical horror novel, The Heart Absent. For nearly five years, Ms. Anderton served as Editor-in-Chief of a regional monthly newsmagazine, California Focus. Currently, Ms. Anderton serves as the President of the Board of Directors at Jozart Center for the Arts in California, PA, where she lives with her son, two cats and a talkative computer repairman.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Featured Ghost Story in the Madhouse: Scott A. Johnson

EVERY WRITER HAS A STORY

Every writer has his or her specialty, even within genres.  There are writers who specialize in zombie stories, vampire stories, and other more bizarre things.  We don't all specialize, but some of us do.  If I'm known for anything, I like to think it's for my ghost stories.  One of my favorite things to do is tell the old tales of ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.  I love to drop my voice at just the right moment and open my eyes as wide as I can, and scare the hell out of an audience.  But people have asked me time and time again two questions:  What's my favorite ghost story, and why do I tell them?  I know so many ghost stories, that one might think it a difficult question to answer.  I could choose between haunted houses, dolls that move, parks that are mass graves, and a thousand other stories that I regularly tell to chill and terrify.  But the answer often surprises people.  The answer to both questions are the same. 

My home town (a little stain of a place called Lake Jackson) was built on a swamp that used to be a sugar cane plantation.  It was owned by a pair of brothers, John and James Jackson, one of whom shot and beheaded the other.  So you see, my home town had a rough beginning, one filled with blood.  Years later, the land was bought by Dow Chemical, which, to some people, was not an improvement.  Dow built the town around the chemical plant, and Lake Jackson was born.  That was in 1943, and one of the first people to buy a house there was my Grandfather, Addison, and my Grandmother, Doris. 

My Grandmother was, in her youth, a beautiful woman, and as she aged, her beauty became more refined in that she radiated strength and love.   She was a Principal for the tiny school in Lake Jackson, and as she grew older, her love of children grew as well.  When she retired, she opened up her own school, a preschool, for anyone who cared to come, but I suspect it was just a ruse to get to spend more time with us, her grandchildren.  She lived to be around 90 years old, and because of her kindness, the turn-out for her funeral was huge.  Everyone in Lake Jackson knew who Doris Johnson was, and everyone loved her. 

But then, there was her house.  The old converted duplex was old, and none of us wanted to take possession of it, so we decided to sell it.  It may have been wishful thinking on our parts, but we wanted to sell it with a stipulation, that it be sold to a family or person with at least one child.  The house was where she taught her nursery school  classes, and to us, children were a sort of defining characteristic of the house.  All the days of playing in her massive back yard or her converted garage needed to never be lost, and enjoyed by a new generation of people. 

A woman moved to town, recently divorced, with a brand new job at Dow, and wanted to buy the house.  We didn't know her.  In fact, she came from a different state and knew nothing of our town's history, or my Grandmother.  But she had a little girl and very little else.  The house wasn't what she was used to, but it was what she could afford.  And, she noted, it felt more like a home than just a house.   My uncle brokered the deal and that was that.  The house was hers and everyone was happy.

Three months after she moved in, my uncle got a curious message from her.  In the message, she asked him to come by, to see the renovations she was performing on the house, so he'd know she was taking care of the house he grew up in.  A kind gesture, to be sure, if a little odd.  But my uncle, himself a recent divorcee, agreed to meet her at the house for coffee.  The two of them sat in the kitchen, drinking coffee, making small talk, when the woman blurted the inevitable question.

"Did someone die in this house?"

My uncle was, understandably, taken aback.  He told her yes, that his mother died in the house. 

"Was she about this tall," she said as she raised her arm, "with white hair and a crippled right hand?"

When my Grandmother was a child, she fell in a fireplace and burned her right hand so bad that it was, for the most part, useless.  It was the one blemish on her beauty, but one that the new homeowner could not possibly know about. 

"Yes," said my uncle.  "Why do you ask?"

"Because my four-year-old sure does love playing with the sweet old lady who still lives here." 

Usually, at that point in the story, I drop my voice, pick the gooseiest looking person in the crowd, lock eyes, and scare the hell out of them.  And every time I tell it, my audience gets goosebumps. 

So there it is, my favorite ghost story, and the reason I tell them.  I grew up around ghost stories, and I have them in my own family.  That particular ghost story has a special place in my heart. 

Scott A. Johnson is a professional author specializing in horror and true ghost stories. He currently has eleven books in print and is the Paranormal Studies Editor for Dread Central. In his free time, he teaches Kajukenbo karate, hunts ghosts, and spends time with his wife and two daughters. And this blog is updated when he feels like it, not according to some schedule. 

Scott is available for readings, signings, guest lectures, or just to stand around and tell ghost stories. He is adept at public speaking to any size audience on subjects that include, but are not limited to, writing, getting the first novel published, and ghost hunting. He can be reached through the following e-mail address: 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Featured Director in the Madhouse: Johnny Daggers

Greetings Horror Fans,
This week, I decided to do something different and take a step away from the writing world...well kind of. A couple of weeks ago, I met Melanie Stone (who I hope to interview soon!) and she introduced me to her fiance, Johnny Daggers, who is an all around horror artist. Seriously guys, the man does it all. He writes his own movies, directs/acts/models for them, and even does the soundtrack.  He has produced movies such as Caustic Zombies and SAMHAIN:Night Feast, and has some really sick ideas for the future. I'm including the interview that I did with him below, and I highly encourage you to check out his websites.

Stay tuned for next week, when I post a chilling ghost story from my mentor, Scott Johnson, and as always, if you have anything exciting going on, shoot me an email.

Stay Scared,
Stephanie

INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY DAGGERS:
By Stephanie M. Wytovich

What got you into horror in the first place?
I can’t really say. It just feels like something that was born in to me. Some kids like G.I. Joe, I liked monsters.  My earliest memories are probably around the age of 3 when I went as Frankenstein for Halloween. A few years later, my uncle was living with my parents and I remember how he would make his own masks. I remember watching him and being transfixed by it. He also had this coffin bank that when you put the penny in the slot a skeleton hand would come out of the coffin and pull it in. I would play with that for hours. My family was very liberal as to what they allowed me to watch, so I was lucky enough to grow up being allowed to watch scary movies. It’s really hard to define one exact moment that got me in to “horror”. It’s the only way I can remember being.

When did you start writing/directing? I started writing and directing in 2010 with my first short film, Samhain: Night Feast. The film was meant to be something for me and my friends, but just weeks after it was finished I received word that Tim Gross was showing it at his Bastards Of Horror short film fest. Much to my surprise, the film was voted the best film of the contest. After that, I realized that we had something special and started my own film production company, DaggerVision Films. 

Who are your biggest inspirations? Favorite author/director/movie? And Why?
I know that this is really going to come of as a crass statement but no particular artist inspires me. There are artists whom I appreciate but none that truly inspire me. There is only one person who truly inspires me, and that is my talented fiancé Melanie. She is a photographer and also makes custom horror jewelry for her company, Dark White Arts. When I watch her work taking photos it sends chills up and down my spine. When she is photographing you can see the energy and passion pour out of her. It’s truly amazing. This inspires me. We are artists. We do what we do for the love of the art, not for the monetary gain. 

What are you currently working on?
I currently have about 8 scripts or so in my computer that I revert back to from time to time, but the one that I am focusing on the most which will be the next DaggerVision release is an anthology called, “Necrology”. Necrology will be comprised of four short stories from four of Pittsburgh’s leading horror directors such as Mickey Maggot (Magggot Films), Brian Cottington, Jason Swinchock (E-Nertia Global) and myself. I know a little about Brian’s piece which sounds amazing. He does not have a working title for it yet. Jason’s piece is entitled, “Midnight Kiss” which also sounds extraordinary. And the piece that I am working on is entitled “My Dark Place (Alone). The title was inspired by the Murderdolls song. I am probably most excited about this project than any other that I have been involved with thus far. The one thing that excites me most about it is that I am bringing other Pittsburgh Horror Directors together to work together as a family. No bullshit, no egos, no rivalries, just comradery. I feel that we have a scene that is more talented than any other that I have witnessed in this country. There are so many amazing artists that it just makes sense if we all join together and make some truly amazing art. In essence I feel like we are the Warhol’s of the underground film industry in Pittsburgh.   

Where do you plan on seeing yourself in 5 years?
I haven’t thought about it, at least not in my professional career. DaggerVision Films is a company yes, but I never want it to feel like work and a grinding job so I take it one project at a time.  
Talk to me about your opinions on Corporate Hollywood Horror. Can remakes ever be beneficial in your eyes? Why or why not?
Eh, the “Hollywood” question. That’s okay that you ask. I’m glad that you did. I just laugh now because I have become so well known for my outspoken hatred towards Hollywood and the stale, regurgitated and purified bullshit that they so relentlessly force feed to the younger horror audience. The horror genre is the only genre that vilifies itself with needless remakes and sequels. Some of the directors have brought this upon themselves by not knowing when to stop their own movies before they just make a parody of themselves. And then you have directors such as Michael Bay who in my mind is the number one serial rapist in the industry. Not literally of course.
In my opinion for what it’s worth, I can see a director wanting to remake his /her own film under the following pretenses. If he/she as a director made an extremely low budget film, and due to lack of finances could not make the movie as he or she truly envisioned and then were presented with backing that would allow the respect artist to remake the film the way that he/she had originally envisioned then yes, this is acceptable. I made Caustic Zombies on $350. I had a lot of great support and donations such as two military vehicles which upped the production value, but the movie was not filmed the way that I had fully envisioned in my head. If I were presented with the opportunity to remake it, there is no question in my mind that I would. My intent would be for artistic purposes, and not financial gain. I did leave Caustic Zombies open for a sequel and the reason that I did that was due to lack of budget and also the time frame in which we had to finish the film. And in regards to Samhain: Night Feast, I would seriously consider making a sequel because the original was shot for fun and was a very Hitchcockian film in the essence that I wanted the viewer to determine what happened and why, leaving each viewer walking away with their own interpretation of the film. I have ideas in mind for Samhain: Night Feast which would tie up some of the intentionally lose ends. Who knows? The point I am driving home is that if a remake is done for artistic merit by the original writer and director than I am all for it. If you are out for money and remake someone else's film where the film was flawless to begin with then that’s where I have a problem.       


You mention in an interview on your site that you’re not a fan of how Hollywood plugs in T and A just for the sake of sex. Do you deny that sex sells? What’s your position on nudity in horror? Should it be avoided completely, or is it enough to know what’s going on behind closed doors rather than actually seeing it?
I will not argue that sex sells and by that, you validated my point. In current films, writers and directors blatantly show nudity to either mask a weak script or to sell out. The other day Melanie and I were watching the film Knock-Knock. Dreadful. I don’t think that we made it past more than the first 15 minutes. In the beginning there is a murder. The detective arrives at the scene. The detective is a female in a low cut, lace blouse with her jacket unbuttoned three quarters of the way down and her tits half hanging out. Really? Not only is this cheap, but unrealistic. Yes, this sells to an audience of adolescent men, but is this what you want to be known for? There is no substance here. It is not what I want to be known for as a director. If nudity is required to pull off a scene, then so be it. I have no problems with that. In our modern society people forget that the mind is the greatest deceiver of them all. You do not have to be blatant. The mind is a twisted thing that is capable of creating the most vile and gruesome images on its own. When the mind has some time to wonder, that is when it works the best and this in powers the viewer to scare themselves worse than any visual effect that we can create as artists. Look at Psycho. Hitchock in part to the censors could not show Janet Lee nude in the shower, but he didn’t need to. The shower slaying was much more beautiful left to interpretation and then watching the blood circle the drain before descending.    

How would you describe Daggervision Films? I know Melanie described it as an Indie…but what does that mean to you?
I grew up a punk. I’m still a punk. When I was growing up there were no Hot Topic chains selling Manic Panic or trashy clothing. If you wanted to dye your hair you did what we did, you used India Ink or, you painted your hair like my friend Kenny and I did. One time we stole Tempera paint from the art room and literally painted each others hair. After a week our hair turned brittle, snapped off and then fell out, but that’s what you did. If you wanted cool clothes, you made your own. I taught myself how to silkscreen, sew and paint the shit that I wanted. This is the approach that I took to making movies. Don’t bitch that you don’t like what going on in the current scene if you’re not doing your part to change it. If there is no scene, make your own. And if you have ill contempt for what’s around in the movie industry, then you make your own. Totally D.I.Y. This is how DaggerVision operates. You may or may not love our films, but either way you have to respect that fact that we take no shit and our films are made by fans for the fans.

·What do you hope to achieve with Daggervision Films?
Melanie and I have talked about this about both of our artistic endeavors. As long as we make enough to put back in to the art and keep making more art we are happy. This year at Cinema Wasteland a young boy came up to our table. He was eyeballing the Samhian: Night Feast comic books that we had for sell. He would continuously pick up a copy, look at it and then put it down. I could tell that he wanted a copy but had no money. The boy walked away looking somewhat sullen. I called the boy over and gave him a copy of the comic for free. Who knows, in doing that I could have been the one to introduce this young boy to a world of horror that may grow in to a life long passion. If that ends up being the case, then that is what I hope to achieve. The thought that this boy might remember this for years to come means the world to me.

Do you only work with Zombie plot lines? What draws you to this category of the undead?
No. Sadly my first two films were zombie films. By sadly I mean that I started and or filmed both Samhain: Night Feast and Caustic Zombies just before the zombie craze really set in. Now I am sick to death of zombies. The undead are more or less dead to me at this point. I do not feel that anything new can be accomplished in making another zombie film that is why I am going towards the more disturbing mind fuck style films such as Necrology.

Can you talk a little about the plot of Caustic Zombies and Samhain: Night Feast?
Samhain: Night Feast is a story which revolves around some terrifying events which happen on Hallows Eve. I do not really want to say much more than that because as mentioned, I want each viewer to walk away with their own interpretation of the film. Caustic Zombies is loosely based around the near nuclear mishap which happened here in Pennsylvania at Three Mile Island. I also adapted some facts from Chernobyl and embellished on those facts. I wanted to bring something horrific to the attention of younger Pennsylvanian residents who may have never known that such terrible tragedy was once almost bestowed upon us. I began writing Caustic Zombies months and months before the Tsunami’s of Japan which caused there nuclear reactors to shut down. Once this happened, the media brought the spotlight back on the nuclear disasters of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Life was imitating art at this point and this shed a lot of focus on my film. It felt like some twisted prophetic premonition come true. It was quite strange.

Do you act in your films? If so, what’s your acting background?
I have acted in both of my films. I played the lead in Samhain: Night Feast and I wrote in a small cameo role for myself in Cautsic where I played a street punk/junkie. I will be playing the lead in my short “My Dark Place (Alone) as well. I have some theater background and am use to performing in front of other be it in theater or the years I spent playing in bands and performing on stage, so it has always felt very natural to me.

Do you find it a necessity to include humor in your horror? Why or why not?
I am glad that you asked that. I certainly do. As a horror kid growing up in the 80’s, the 80’s horror films perfectly captured the combination of horror and comedy. I have adapted that in to my films as well. You need a balance between the two, then again only if the film calls for it. Any one who knows me personally knows that I am a clown who will do anything for a laugh. So I try to show this side of me in my films when it is needed.

LADYASLAN wrote that you are a horror model. Can you talk a little about that?
Well, I have modeled before. And I was recently asked to pose nude for a “punk” publication which I won’t mention but needless to say, I turned that down. I get lots of requests but turn most down. Modeling is not what I am really in to and to be truthful I don’t like to have a lot of attention on me. I can and will model if it is for something dark and artistic but I’m really picky about what I chose.

What’s a typical work week like for you? (How much time to do you spend writing/editing/shooting , etc.) Do you have any type of routine that you follow?
Thankfully I am in my down time at the moment, Sort of. Daggervision is close to releasing a film written and directed by DaggerVision family member, Brian Cottington. The film is entitled “Tablet Of Tales”. The rough cut is done and we’re shooting for a December or January release.  I played one of the leads in the film and I am composing part of the soundtrack, so I guess I am not really on down time all that much. On top of that I am finishing my part for the Necrology release and working on some meetings with the other directors.  

Advice to aspiring artists in the field?
My advice would be to just pick up a camera or pen and paper and just do it. Fuck what your friends or parents are telling you. If you have the drive and ambition you can succeed. And regardless of the financial gain, if you are doing what you love than you have succeeded.

 If you have anything else you want to add…feel free!
If you want the genre to survive, support independent filmmakers. We are the ones making the true films that you want to see. We do not expect to make millions of dollars doing what we do. We just want to make enough to bring you more films. When you buy a DVD or merchandise from us, it goes directly to the artist and it helps us bring you more movies. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Featured Author in the Madhouse: Lori Pollard-Johnson


BALANCE
By Lori Pollard-Johnson

Balance.

Writers crave it. The idea of creating a life activity scale that weights our vocation (read: day job) with our avocation (read: writing life) and holds even burns within us. If only I could spend as much time writing as I did working... If only I could carve time out every day to write... If only I had consistent hours (substitute high-paying, night job, day job, school hours job, etc.), I could finally get the time to write... Most of us are guilty of thinking, and probably saying (repeatedly), any of the above. But does balance necessarily mean productivity?

I’ve wrestled with these questions since I first began writing professionally over twenty years ago. Now, with four published novels and over 100 pieces of short fiction and nonfiction behind me, I think I know the answer. No. Having the scale successfully balanced between work and writing does not promote creative productivity. It doesn’t even maintain writerly output.

For me, it’s about readying myself for the opportunity to write; it’s about allowing the scale to tip so far one direction, to get so out of whack, that I cannot wait to get back to the keyboard. It’s about giving myself permission to become so dazed from the idea of a story that nothing could deter me from it, once I engage. It’s about hungering for the twists of plot and the thirsting for the synesthesia that comes from tapping away at a great scene. It’s about allowing the idea to percolate, germinate, age, come to full boil, before immersing myself in the writing process.

I’m not the first to find this true. Others have expressed it better. Pat Conroy writes, “The idea of a novel should stir your blood, like a lion lifting up at the scent of impala” (Why I Write, 1998, ed. Will Blythe). Jane Yolen identifies this passion as “Saku-taku-no-ki: the instant a chick pecking on the inside and the mother pecking on the outside reach the same spot. The egg cracks open. New life emerges” (Take Joy, 2003, Jane Yolen). It’s about inspiration--and inspiration rarely comes from routine. It comes in flashes; some sizzle and die and others ignite into an energy that can’t be contained. Ultimately, it’s about trusting the cosmos to expand and contract in a way that gives birth to art.

Now when I think of balance, I see it not as a scale, but as a teeter-totter with the two equally-weighted children--the tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum of work and writing--that vigorously pump, pump, pump their tiny legs, feeding each other to higher levels of insight and creativity. They manufacture an ebb and flow of productivity that is as sure and consistent as any eight-hour-a-day writer can promise; more importantly, they give each other the room each needs to explore and expand. And when the writing is at the top of this other-worldly see-saw, there is a moment of weightlessness, of release, that enables a story to be told well and true.

 
Lori Pollard-Johnson is the author of four novels: THE LIE (Young Adult), TOXIC TORTE (Adult Mystery), RECIPE FOR A REBEL (Children’s) and THE TRUTH TEST (Children’s), and over 100 short works of fiction and nonfiction. She teaches college-level English and creative writing courses in the Seattle-Tacoma area.