Saturday, July 26, 2014

Thoughts on Camp NECON and Axe Murderers


For about two years now, I’ve had friends from all over the world telling me that I had to go to NECON, that it was the best writing conference out there, that it was all about family, all about support and celebrating what we do as artists. As most of you know, writing is lonely. It’s a very solitary kind of craft. We spend most of our time alone making up stories in order to connect with others, and truth be told, even if we are out in public, we’re still probably lost somewhere in our heads, talking to our characters, building our worlds. For this reason—amongst others—I find writing conferences to be extremely uplifting to my mood and to my creativity. So after all the late night talks at World Horror, I decided to drink the Kool-Aid—which I actually learned is called a Staggering Squirrel—and go to NECON. I bought my membership, a last minute plane ticket, and before I knew it, I was in the sky and on my way to Rhode Island.

I had no idea what to expect when I got there, but I was met with big hugs from old friends, and warm welcomes from new ones. It was great to finally put some faces to names as I moved through the conference and met people that I’ve been reading and communicating with online for quite some time. I attended great panels—my favorite being The Best Monsters in Modern Horror—ate saugies, drank Staggering Squirrels (which side note, I will not be doing next year) and had great conversation and many, many laughs.  The great thing about NECON is that it gives you the opportunity to be yourself in a relaxed environment and just be. We stood around a campfire and listened to people play the guitar, we watched the sun come up in the courtyard, and we told ghost stories and just enjoyed each other’s company. And maybe it’s just because I’m a writer and I appreciate the importance of words, but there is nothing better in this world than having good conversation with people, and when you can talk at ease with those you admire and love, it becomes something more than a discussion about books, about business, about life.

It’s becomes a comradery.

A friendship.

A family.

And speaking of family… I also got invited to spend time with another very special clan that I’m sure you’ve all heard about: The Borden’s. Yes, my love for all things paranormal and disturbing sent me to Fall Rivers, MA with Sephera Giron, Gardner Goldsmith, Dennis Cummins and Heather Graham Pozzessere and her husband, to spend the night with Lizzie Borden and learn about the infamous axe murderess. We walked the house, heard the stories, and reenacted the murders.  It was surreal to lay in the spot where Abby died, to sit on the couch where Andrew was bludgeoned 11 times in the face. We got to see the autopsy boards were they were laid out, got to spend time in the basement where Lizzie found solace twice after the murderers, and then we got to pick our rooms.

I have a ritual when I spend the night at places like this. I don’t like to make blind decisions about where I’m going to sleep. I normally walk through all the rooms in the location and see how I react mentally/physically to the space. Part of me wanted to stay in Lizzie’s room just because I wanted to say that I did it, but I had no reaction to either of the places that she called her own while she lived there. However, when I made my way up to the third floor—the attic—I knew this was going to be it. I walked into the room of Bridget Sullivan—the Borden’s Maid—and was immediately overcome with paranoia and anxiety. I kept looking over my shoulder expecting to see someone as the room felt very crowded to me. I felt my body go cold and I wanted to get the hell out of there ASAP. So naturally, I did the opposite: I brought my suitcase upstairs, unpacked, and claimed the room as my own. Then, to top things off, I went downstairs and had birthday cake for Lizzie while I looked at the autopsy photographs and ate on the table where her family was briefly laid out.

Totally good luck if you ask me.

But back to Bridget. In my opinion, Bridget was involved in the case, maybe not directly, but definitely during the aftermath. If you look into the murders, Bridget has a solid alibi, but there’s something about the way things were handled afterwards that doesn’t quite add up: the clean up, the disposal of the clothes, the weapon, how she came into money after Abby and Andrew’s deaths, how she skipped town. It seems a little suspicious to me. Plus, throw in the fact that she wouldn’t talk during the trial, and even if she did, how she didn’t say a single bad word about anyone, especially Lizzie. Now naturally, during that time, it wasn’t wise to speak out about your employers for fear of not getting another job, but there’s also a flip side to that.

Maybe she was afraid of talking.

Maybe she was afraid for her own life.

I think that’s why I got the anxious feeling when I walked into the room. Plus, there’s this terrifying rocking chair in the corner that you just know is going to kill you the second you fall asleep…which probably accounts for the reason I didn’t get much shut-eye that night. The sleep that I did get was wrought with horrible nightmares. I was in the attic, pacing the hallway, wringing my hands together in panic. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what, so I came back into the room and laid down. The rocking chair was violently moving back and forth and then there was a woman standing over me screaming, screaming for help.

When I woke up, I saw that rocking chair rocking, swinging back and forth. The only problem is that I can’t account that it really happened. I have a tendency to stay in my dreams after I wake up. I still see whatever or whoever it is for a few moments as I’m coming out of the dream so it’s hard for me to delegate fact versus fiction in those moments. Do I personally think it happened? No. But it was enough of a scare to get my heart racing and to make stay awake for the rest of the night.

This was the first place I didn’t write in.

Case in point, I was too scared.

I think it will be different next year when I go back and I’ll definitely be able to get a grasp on things and get some writing done, but this year, it was more or less about surviving the night, about making sure I stayed alive.