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June 20, 2009

The House That Dripped...not exactly blood... by guest blogger Alexandra Sokoloff

Alex color midshot The Book Tarts are thrilled to welcome guest blogger Alexandra Sokoloff  today.  She's a screenwriter turned novelist, and the author of The Harrowing and The Price.  Her latest book, The Unseen is out this month.  To learn more about Alex, visit her website www.alexandrasokoloff.com


The House That Dripped... not exactly blood...

by Alexandra Sokoloff  

When I was asked to do a guest blog for the Tarts, it was suggested that I might do a post about sex.   Alternately, I might think about talking about sex.   And failing that, there was always sex.

Well, I’m not stupid, Jenny.

But I am a little – weird.  

I’m on this – very low key! – blog tour for my new book, THE UNSEEN.   And as those of you who know me know, I write supernatural thrillers.   True to form, my take on sex today is going to be a little… paranormal.Uneen

When you write ghost stories, PLACE is hugely important - it's got to be absolutely a character in the book, just as much as the human characters are.  

And THE UNSEEN   is a haunted house story – two psychology professors take a group of psychically gifted students into a house with a history of poltergeist manifestations, to replicate a controversial experiment from the 1960’s.  I was inspired by the real-life, world famous ESP testing and poltergeist investigations that took place at the Duke University parapsychology lab, headed by Dr. J.B. Rhine.

Zenercards

You probably recognize those cards, which were used in laboratory tests to determine through statistical analysis whether ESP really occurs.   Two test subjects would sit at a table divided by a screen, and one subject, the sender, would flip through a deck of 25 cards, concentrating on one card at a time, while the receiver would write down her or his guesses about what that card was.

Pure chance is 20% right, so any score significantly above chance was considered to be an indicator of some psychic ability.   And if you want to try it for yourself, here's an online version of the test! 

As the daughter of scientists, I was always completely fascinated by the idea of testing something as spooky cool as ESP in a laboratory setting.   But what really hooked me about the history of the Rhine lab was that in the sixties, the researchers started doing field research of haunted houses and poltergeists.  

Poltergeists!

I know what a ghost is, kind of, but a poltergeist is such an elusive - creature.   Is it the random sexual energy of an adolescent gone wild?    Is it a particularly noisy and mischievous ghost?   Is it an otherworldly entity?   Or is it just a teenager faking spooky effects for attention?

The mystery of it has always fascinated me.  

Now, I truly believe that when you commit to a story, the universe opens up all kinds of fantastic opportunities to you.   And while I was writing THE UNSEEN, I was able to spend a whole week in an isolated Southern mansion that is notoriously haunted, and was able to model my poltergeist mansion on that very real one.

I have a posse of mystery writer friends (I should say goddesses or divas!) I hang with when I’m in Raleigh: Margaret Maron, Sarah Shaber, Diane Chamberlain, Katy Munger, Mary Kay Andrews and Brynn Bonner.   We’re more a regular lunch group than a critique group, but several times a year we go on retreat to the beach or the mountains or some generally fantastic place.   We work all day long by ourselves and then convene at night to drink wine and brainstorm on any problem that any one of us is having (and of course, compare page counts!).

And one of our favorite retreats is the Artist in Residence program at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines, NC.  

Weymouth is an amazing place – a 9000 sq. foot mansion on 1200 acres (including several formal gardens and a 9-hole golf course) that’s really three houses melded together. It was what they called a “Yankee Playtime Plantation” in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the fox hunting lodge of coal magnate James Boyd.  James Boyd’s grandson James rebelled against the family business to become - what else? - a novelist. Boyd wrote historical novels, and his editor was the great Maxwell Perkins (“Editor of Genius”), and in the 1920’s and 30’s Weymouth became a Southern party venue for the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and Thomas Wolfe. That literary aura pervades the house, especially the library, with all its photos and portraits of the writers who have stayed at the house.

It’s a fantastic place to write – pages just fly.  

We came down to the house on the very day that my characters were moving into THEIR haunted house.

(I’m telling you, writing is a little scary.   More than a little scary, in this case…)

Now, some of us had some truly spooky encounters in that place.   Every time I turned around there was knocking on the walls (the pipes in the kitchen), weird manifestations (a ghostly team of horses trotting by with a buggy on the road outside) and rooms that were just too creepy to go into after dark.  One night I had to go all the way back upstairs, across the upstairs hall and around to the front stairs to get to a room I wanted to go to because I was too freaked out to cross the Great Room in the dark.   And another one of us had the classic “Night Hag” visitation:  she woke up feeling that someone or something was sitting on her chest.    Brrrrr…..

One prevalent theory of hauntings is that a haunting is an imprint of a violent or strong emotion that lingers in a place like an echo or recording.   I’ve always liked that explanation.

Well, this house was imprinted, all right, but far beyond what I had expected.

Because besides the requisite spooky things… that house was downright sexy.  There’s no other way to say it.   Seriously - hot.

I had ridiculously, I mean – embarrassingly -  erotic dreams every night.  There were rooms I walked into that made my knees go completely weak.   The house, the gardens, even the golf course, just vibrated with sex.

Now, maybe that was just the imprint of creativity – the whole mansion is constantly inhabited by writers and musicians, and as we all know, creativity is a turn-on.

But also, consider the history.   As I said – Weymouth was a “Yankee Playtime Plantation”.   Rich people used that house specifically to party - in the Roaring Twenties, no less.   (Think THE GREAT GATSBY!).   God only knows how many trysts, even orgies, went on.   So could sex imprint on a place, just as violence or trauma is supposed to be able to imprint?

It makes sense to me.

That sexual dynamic surprised the hell out of me, but it completely worked with my main character’s back story - she’s a young California psychology professor who impulsively flees to North Carolina after she catches her fiancé cheating on her.  (Actually, she dreams her fiancé is cheating on her, in exactly the scenario that she catches him in later.)    So her wound is a specifically sexual one, and one of her great weaknesses is that she’s vulnerable to being sexually manipulated.  

Add to that that the most prevalent explanation of a poltergeist is that it’s hormones run amok:  that the projected sexual energy of an adolescent or young adult can randomly cause objects to move or break.

So of course I went with it.   It wasn’t anything to do with my outline, but California girl that I am, how can I not go with the obvious flow?

I think it adds a great dimension to the story, in a way I never could have anticipated, and I’m pleased to have been true to the - um, spirit - of poltergeists.

So I have two questions for the Tarts today.    First, of course, I’m always interested in hearing your ghost and psychic experiences.   Come on, I know you have them.  

But also I’d love to know – what’s the sexiest place you’ve ever been, and why?    I wouldn’t mind having a list to file away.   You never know when you might need it.

- Alex

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Comments

Can I just say that I'm insanely jealous of your local retreat group? OMG, Alex, you're all amazing!

I took the test. I have zero ESP ability.

I love the idea that poltergeists are repressed sexual energy. No wonder the world has run amok!

I'm not telling you my sexiest place because Margie would hve a field day. But thanks for being our guest!

Here's a link to The Unseen: http://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Alexandra-Sokoloff/dp/031238470X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245501245&sr=1-1

Okay, now I'm dying to stay at Weymouth! How fascinating.

The countryside of the New England coast, from New York City all the way to Maine, is sexy to me and my husband for some reason, especially in the fall, or any other time. No idea why, but your explanation of accumulated history could be one reason.

And I'm equally fascinated by the idea of a blog tour. What a great idea, promoting your book without leaving home. Or leaving, if you need to. Best of luck with The Unseen, Alex.

No ESP here, either. I suspect that if someone in my family were involved the score would go up, though.

Thanks, Nancy! Yes, I really feel like I dropped onto Olympus with that writing group. I'm totally the upstart.

Amazing authors, and amazing women.

(Oh, I get it... your sexiest place...)

Karen, I believe you about Maine. I went there for the first time last year and OH, what a beautiful state, just staggering. My idea of Maine comes from Stephen King books so I never knew!

Yeah, the blog tour. I'm not doing it like some other people are doing it (ie there was no organization involved whatsoever) - but it does open up new audiences. Or turn them away, I guess, depending on what you post!

So you DO have a gifted one in your family, hmm?

I took the test again, and once again, I scored LOWER than random chance. I swear I have anti-ESP.

I grew up in Southern Pines, a few blocks from Weymouth. Never really thought of it as all that sexy, I must confess. Now, across the street, on the grounds of the Campbell House, was a place where we used to hang out and indulge in our favorite green leafy substances. Made out with my girlfriend there a couple of times, so I guess that counts.

Oh, the horse and buggy? That may have been real.

Best of luck with THE UNSEEN!

I'm with Nancy and Dusty in my ESP ability--absolutely none. But I am pretty good at knowing when one of my teenagers is lying so that counts for something.

UNSEEN sounds amazing (and terrifying). Very cool.

Sexiest place? Well one would have to be New Orleans.

It's not that we have a gifted one in the family, it's just that we have intuitions about one another. Don't all families have that?

Dusty, I'm reading Safe and Sound right now. You're creeping me out, dude! Good book, though.

But Dusty, you know that the Campbell House was once the other half of the Weymouth House, right? When two Boyd brothers inherited it they split the house in half and took the Campbell House across the street (by mule!! The mind boggles!).

So really, all those makeout sessions? Totally inspired by the Weymouth house. You just didn't know it.

Judy, agreed, New Orleans is one of the sexiest places on earth. That and Paris. Well, London, too, but that's a lot because of the men.

I don't know if knowing when people are lying is psychic, but it sure comes in handy.

Alex, I couldn't wait to read your take on Weymouth, as it is one of my favorite places to work.

The night-time sitting on chest thing is well documented among writers who have stayed (or left in the middle of the night completely freaked out) there.

My personal theory is that James Boyd's brother is the one doing the sitting. He knew of Katherine Boyd (James' wife) before James met her, and invited James to go with him to a big party in order to meet Katherine. But James ended up meeting her too and they fell in love and married. The brother ended up spending time at Weymouth, with his brother the wife he had wanted for himself, and I think he stays there in a ghostly form sort of hanging on to the fantasy that HE is the master of the mansion now.

If one is not afraid, he can actually be very flirtatious and helpful. I have found things I needed (a hairband, pen, etc.) but didn't have, sitting on the dresser of my bedroom on several occasions.

Anyway, fun to read your experience of the place! I'll be there in October... :)

I had to drop in one more time with this: Italy is a darn sexy place, too.

Off to the farmers' market!

Billie, is that a true story about James Boyd's brother and Katherine? Or are you speculating (what brother doesn't pine for his brother's wife, anyway, right?)

Either way, I love it! That whole brothers splitting the house thing... the mind just HAS to run wild.

Italy, yes. Well, travel is sexy, in general.

Alex, I'm ashamed to say that I did not know that story about the Campbell House. Fascinating.

Soooo....welcome Alex! Weymouth sounds like a wiener place! We must have a field trip!
Having danced all over the world I'm having a tough time selecting one place so I'm having to wander through the memory banks of boyfriends to recall what we did and where. It's a nice travelogue.
After further research it seems the sexiest places involved water, mountains and sunshine or being underneath something like a waterfall in Venezuela or back to back Steinway pianos in Spain.
Just saying.

Alex,

Thanks so much for blogging with us today -- great topic!

Okay, I took the ESP test, and sadly, I cannot add clairvoyance to my list of skills.

As for sexiest places, my all time favorite is the top of the island on Capri, Italy.

Lisa

Xena, I have always found underneath a piano to be an amazingly sexy place. On top, too.

Steinways, especially.

Lisa, it's great to be here!

Hmm, no ESP in this whole group yet? I'm beginnning to think that test is bogus.

I have always found underneath a piano to be an amazingly sexy place. On top, too.

"Forte! Forte! Accelerando!"

Alex, yes, it's true! I did some research and uncovered that much of the story - the speculation that he's ghosting about there is mine though.

I need to take the ESP test but have to hit the feed store before it closes. :)

Deep woods for me Alex, standing in lush moss, doing yoga. Trees just drip sex, expecially in the spring with all the sap rising.
Actually I met a really luscious man that way....

I absolutely believe in ESP and think that it's not SUPERNATURAL, just a natural ability that we all have, just most of us ignore it.


I really enjoyed The Unseen. I was concerned that it would be too scary ala Jack Kilborn...but it was great. Suspenseful, smart, sexy, beautifully written...and a great satisfying ending. What else could you ask for...and when does the movie come out????

Get some rest missy!
Hugs!
Karen

P.S.
I might be biased... LOL... I have a post on my blog page titled "Alexandra Sokoloff, Goddess"

but it really is a great book! Run, don't walk, go buy it.

Dusty - laughing and blushing out loud.

Billie, it just makes total sense to me with the rest of the history of the house. It must be so.

Karen, so glad you liked the book, thank you!

No, you'll never have to worry about in-your-face horror with my books - I don't like it and I don't write it. No gore, either. I like the "what's behind the door?" kind of spooky.

IMO, you can't beat antebellum plantation homes for romantic, which, if you are lucky, can lead to sexy.

Alexandra, are you familiar with The Myrtles? Haunted plantation home.

Link: http://www.prairieghosts.com/myrtles.html

I came in with anti-ESP scores also -- not sure about that test . . .
I thought Jamaica was a very sexy place when I taught there in 1983.

I had super-high telepathic scores, until I watched the instruction video and realized I was doing the test all wrong . . . .

London. Skye. Student apartment in former 15th century stables.
Not telling (self-defense, as Her, Margie, is listening).

Now that I know there's no in-your-face horror, I'm going to find your books, Alexandra! Thanks for blogging.

P.S. Storyteller Mary--see last entry for yesterday.

Soooo....okay it's not just me and my (ahem) love of music.
AND I forgot a Renaissance Fayre in Crandon Gardens back in the early 80's. I was doing improve theatre with a group called The Wenches. It was the old zoo turned into a park on Key Biscayne.
It sounds like a board game mystery now.
In the bear cage with the flute man in the rain. Again...water involved.
Oh Yeah!
Those renaissance men. >WHEW<
Just saying.

And where is Me, Margie with her tell alls?

Xena, Her, Margie might be unwilling to compete with you. It sounds as though you might have something to teach her! LOL

I showed zero ESP on the test too. Disappointing.

Wonderful to see you here, Alex. I would love to stay in a haunted place! Of course, I may change my mind about that if I actually do, lol.

Your books have been on my list for a long time. Now they're right at the top.

Laraine and Avis, thanks for the "heads-up" on nightshade. As I already avoid tomatoes and potatoes, I may try to avoid eggplant and peppers for a bit to see if all the "itis" complaints quiet just a bit. The rheumatologist said I DON'T have arthritis, but he never said what it is.
SisterZip, your recipe for Bourbon Slushes sounds delicious -- and incapacitating. It's nickname could be "Under the Table" . . . which might be a segue back to the topic of sexy places . . . though I like parks better . . .

How exciting for you, Alex, and I can't wait to read your new book!

Took the psychic test. I placed in the negative range but I don't think that makes me the anti-psychic. When I had "the other white" flu 2 months ago (lasted 5 weeks), dead relatives visited me in my sleep. Okay, so even though my friend Carol who's also a psychiatrist/M.D. said this was just a symptom of not getting enough oxygen to the brain, I'm still pretty sure I interacted with these people, if for no other reason than these dreams scared the living hell out of me.

As for the sexiest place, I dislike the phrase "been there, done that" except for the fact that I've been there and done that and I can't tell you where it is/was because I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who's ever been there and done that (well, he and I are the only ones)! But let me just say, that place is tres, tres famous, and if I ever did take leave of my senses and spill the beans, you'd be gobsmacked, not to mention envious. And I'd probably get arrested.

First, I'd like to address the ESP test. As a computer engineer, I have to point out that this is likely using a random generator activated when you click the button, so I am doubting this is the same as having a person putting out "mental vibes" while they look at the card and you try to guess. So although I got 6 hits out of 25, I'm not lending too much credence to any clairvoyance on that basis. I think that this group of creative Tarts are more intuitive than this test would indicate. I've had those experiences, like I'm sure many others have had, where you think of (for example) a person you haven't seen or thought of in ages, and soon after you run into them. It was kind of fun though...

Second, I was hoping to see more spooky tales! I'll share one of my own to hopefully get the ball rolling.

When I was 11 I went to the birthday/slumber party of a girl named Naomi who had recently started attending the elementary school in my small foothill town. She and her mother had moved into the Grandmother's home, which was their long-time family home probably built in the 20's or 30's. There were about 10 of us set up to eat, play games and watch movies in the large living room with beautiful high molded ceilings and french doors leading to other parts of the home. I remember that her Grandmother was quite elderly and confined to her bed upstairs, but those of us still waiting the next day for our parents to come and pick us up met her briefly. I was always a fairly gregarious kid, comfortable with just about anyone and never homesick, but this place inexplicably creeped me out the minute I stepped foot inside. That night when we all finally got in our sleeping bags and drifted off, I had a series of disturbing dreams about the house; images of spiritual bodies coming out of the walls and ceiling, and a feeling that it was trying to swallow me up. In my dreams I felt I was never going to be able to leave. I got very little sleep that night, and the next day I couldn't wait to get out of there. I just couldn't escape the feeling that something bad had happened there, that something was inhabiting it, and that it was affecting the three women who lived there. These are strange thoughts for a 10 year old, but the feelings I was having were very strong. Naomi moved away the next year, and the home was sold to someone else. I never knew where she went, but a guess would be that her Grandmother passed, and that they had been there in large part to take care of her. Now here is the creepy part.

A couple of years later, I was in the 8th grade. My best friend Natalie, who was a year older than me, was now attending high school. She invited me to go to an outdoor school dance that they were having late that Spring. That night at the dance Natalie introduced me to a guy she was dating and his (tall, dark and gorgeous) friend. We had fun dancing and running around that whole night, he was shy and sweet, and at one point we all chipped in to have some polaroids taken at the photo stand they had set up. It was a hawaiian themed backdrop with a couple of lawn chairs, so we piled onto our "dates" laps and had a snapshot taken for each of us. We parted company when it was time for us to go home, promises to get together sometime, etc. A week later my sister and my girlfriend showed up at the elementary school to pick me up. They were both in high school, and would often "save me" from the much despised bus ride home, on which mine was the very last stop. It was then that she told me that the boy I had spent that evening with had hung himself in the gazebo outside his home. Even more terrible was that his little sister had been the first to arrive home that day, and she had found him. I later found out that they were the ones who had purchased Naomi's family home. I still have the polaroid. Every once in a while when I pull out my box of memories I run across it, and those feelings wash over me as fresh as they have ever been.

I guess that is somewhere between a "ghost" and a "psychic" experience, but I always wondered if whatever presence was in that home had influenced him. Merriam Webster defines clairvoyance as "able to see beyond the range of ordinary perception", and I think that fits.

Jennifer, that is a powerful and very sad story. Thank you for sharing it. If I ever need a house "checked out," I'm calling you.

Jennifer, your story gave me chills.

A guy I went to high school with has for the last 30 years or so hunted ghosts with a movie camera, and I've seen him several times on TV. The last I knew, he had not found a single unexplained "haunting", but that doesn't mean there aren't any.

"Under a Steinway" reminds me of that super-sexy scene in The Fabulous Baker Boys with Michelle Pfeiffer slinking around on top of Beau Bridges' piano, while she sang a steamy torch song. Phwew, that was hot!

A private spot on the river, no one but the two of us . . . sexy fun ensued.
Until one of us (not me) realized - sunburnt butt - hurts!
Well, I had fun. But I still divorced him.

Sorry, everyone, I had to run out to a signing at the great The Mystery Bookstore in L.A.

Bobby and Linda are the coolest, as ever.

Back now!!

The Myrtles I've heard of but have never been. Goes on my list! I love all the plantations around New Orleans, Oak Alley and Laura.

Really, maybe online ESP tests just don't work.

Mary, it must have been amazing to teach in Jamaica, and yeah, I bet it's sexy. Just went to the Bahamas for the first time a few months ago, and yow! They say it's the conch...

Laraine, I think your test scores show you outfoxed the test.

Now you've all got me scared of Me, Margie... she's obviously holding some people in thrall.

Xena, you and I definitely have some history and tastes in common. Those Renaissance shirts? Men in tights? Yeah, baby!

Laura, thank you! And it's really interesting about haunted places. The experience never sounds like much when you tell it to other people, but when you're inside it, it can really be uncanny... or even borderline terrifying.

That's what's so much fun to try to capture in a book.

I totally missed something about nightshade and bourbon slushies. And I'm dying to know because nightshade plays a huge part in my next book AND we had bourbon slushies at the party I was at last night. (Lemonade, tea and bourbon, right? Wow....)

So how can I not find that post? Poltergeists?

Laurie, you are an UNBELIEVABLE tease! If we are ever at a con together I will have to get you massively drunk to find out this place of yours.

And seeing dead people while in a fever is a very common pattern of psychic occurrences. Any altered state, it seems... that's what I love about real people's stories. You hear the same things so often it's just hard to believe there's NOT something to it.

Omg, Jennifer, what an amazing and chilling story! This is another thing I've run into in all my research of haunted houses and experiences... the incidences of suicides seem very high. And it makes sense that a teenager would be vulnerable.

I COMPLETELY agree with you about a computer test not being at all the same as two people interacting with ESP cards.

Karen, that Fabulous Baker Boys/Makin' Whoopee scene is one of the hottest in film history, if you ask me.

Have to see that movie again, soon.

Gaylin, LOL!

I met my SO on a river. Water is sexy, period.

Alex - yesterday's blog was summer drink recipes, and there was talk of nightshades in the comments. At the top of this page, click under Recent Posts (to the right) on the link for "Summer Drinks".

Have you ever watched "Ghost Hunters"?

Ohh, got it! Thanks, Laura, for clearing that up.

I've seen Ghost Hunters a couple of times, and Paranormal State. It's so hard for a show like that to convey what a haunting FEELS like, though.

OMG, what great recipes! Thanks, all!

Bourbon Slushes were exactly what we were having last night. Divine, and I'm not hungover a bit.

Miraculous, really...

I believe that I heard the ghost of Mary Becker Green tap, tap, tapping when I was sleeping in the lounge of the Delta Queen a few years ago. (I had to change my room the next morning -- mold allergy, couldn't breathe).
The "mate" in charge that night said "no one will mess with you there," and I think she was making sure no one did. She ran a tight ship, after all, very respectable, no alcohol on board until after she died, and even then a barge, the "Mary B" ran into the side nearest the bar the day they opened it . . . but that's a whole other story.

Welcome to TLC, Alex. I've had several paranormal experiences and some I've caught on camera. A few years ago, I went on a haunted building tour in Baltimore on a rainy day near Halloween. The group scoped out the undercroft of the church where Edgar Allen Poe is buried and Fort McHenry where the Star-Spangled Banner was written.

The person leading us would point to a place in a room or outside area saying she saw a spirit and for us to take a picture. Although none of the rest of us saw anything at all, like excited paparazzi we'd group together, point and shoot.

In Fort McHenry, we recorded an EVP. The group watched the leader set up a tape recorder with a new tape, we all walked out of the building, and no one else was allowed in. A little later we went back inside and listened to the tape. You could hear what sounded like the murmur of talking men and cannons being shot not too far away. Spooky.

One week later the group met again to look at all the pictures we'd taken. (BTW, all of us had purchased disposable cameras at the place of our choice, opened them right before the tour and had the pictures developed wherever we wanted.) Most of the pictures had the ubiquitous orbs, while some others had bits of smoky anomalies. However, only two of us (me being one) took pictures with a preponderance of unusual lights, orbs and possible figures. In fact, the other person and I discovered we both had what looks like a small green face with a little hat show up in a few of our pictures in the undercroft site, and in one of my pix it appears I photographed a male figure emitting sparks from his major and minor chakras. Very spooky but terribly exciting!

I still have the pictures and look at them every once in a while. I've taken pictures in other historic places hoping to have something show up, but I only get an occasional orb. But I'll keep trying. Maybe one day I'll be lucky and get some more spirits on camera. It could happen.

Storyteller Mary, you were "sleeping in the lounge of the Delta Queen"?

That sounds like the real story, here...

Becky, "just the occasional orb"? I love it.

The chakra photos are really interesting to me. I might have to use that, sometime.

Welcome Alex! This is what I love about TLC, finding 'new' authors to enjoy!
I've always had premonitions. Picking out a dress suitable for my cousins funeral, right before we got the call that he had died in an accident. Dreaming 3 nights in a row about a friends motorcycle accident, that happened the 4th morning etc.
But Cyndi has written about my ghosts. Since my Dad & brothers died (they were all electricians) everywhere I have lived, lights will blink on & off in sequence, till I say 'Hi"
The couple that built this house, died here. Leona was always cooking & I will smell certain dishes, even when I haven't cooked ANYTHING in a week. Cliff was a handyman with his workshop in the garage. More than once, he has guided me to something I can't find out there.
I always thought the smell of pot was from my dearly departed husband & brother but have found out a renter named Jerry, who also died here, was a doper too!
The only time I've been totally freaked out was at a cemetary in New Orleans when I was 11 or 12. Bad juju there!
Can't wait to read your books!

You're welcome to use my chakra guy in any of your projects. Then you'll be able to say that story was "inspired by true events." Just let me know, and I'll be glad to send a copy of that picture to you.

(I literally just bought THE UNSEEN, and I can't wait to read it!)

Well, so far Jennifer from California gets the prize for the most heart-wrenching story, but I think Rita gets the prize for "most psychic, overall".

I guess I'm going to have to send you both copies of THE HARROWING.

e mail me your addresses at
alex at alexandrasokoloff dot com

But the night is young... still a chance to win...

Becky, you ROCK, and yes, I would love to see your photos of chakra guy.

That's worth a book, I think...

Well, now, if there's a book in the offing.

I'm fairly sure my husband's first wife guided me to marry him. Here's the story:

Two years before we met, I moved into apartment 7 in this lovely old 10-unit building. When I was moving in I went out to the trash and found some pheasant feathers, plus two sweet little prints of some flowers. Since my art budget was a bit low I dragged them back into my place where they took pride of place.

Fast forward two years. Two dear friends who had been married, divorced, and were trying to get back together, were supposed to be meeting me after work. They were both late, a common occurrence with both of them, so I went home, had something to eat, changed, and went back. They were there, and they were talking to this very cute guy who they introduced me to. We started talking, since my friends were kind of wrapped up in each other, and we hit it off. After a bit the guy friend said this guy and I should go out. I didn't want to, but he was so gracious that I went, and we had a good time. Then we started dating; this was in 1979.

Again fast forward a couple of years. I'm sitting in the house of one of his hunting buddies, admiring a sheaf of pheasant feathers on their mantel, and I remarked on them. He said my boyfriend should have a pair, since he had only shot one pheasant in his life. Our friend said I went completely white, since I realized there was only one way I could have gotten the feathers in my apartment. My boyfriend's first wife had moved out of apartment #6 the same weekend I had moved into #7.

Not only that, but my best friend had been friends with his first wife (who died shortly after they were married in a tragic accident). And we also later realized that a unique car I'd had with my first husband had originally been owned by boyfriend's mom.

Years after we were married I found a photo of her in an almost identical pose to one of me, in almost identical clothing, in the exact same spot. It's one of the creepiest things I've ever seen.

I'm also convinced that our oldest daughter was conceived at his first wife's sister's home, where we stayed when we were visiting--in New England, by the way.

True story.

Oh, yike, Karen. That IS worth a book. I've got chills.

These stories just make me more and more sure that EVERYTHING is connected, if we just look.

Ooooh, Karen. That's really eerie, and I think way more than a simple coincidence.

Thanks, Alex. I absolutely love to receive books.

Storyteller Mary, so glad you liked the story. I hadn't thought about it for a long time, but was glad to have the memory stirred by today's topic.

Karen-- I hope they were good chills! I think I need to balance this with a contribution to the "sexiest place" topic before I get typecast. I'm new to TLC, and I have to say I do like which of today's topics you all chose to take up first. Tarts indeed!

Taking long pause to mentally rate the choices...

I would have to say, a place just outside of Yosemite I spent camping out with my first "serious" love. The location is one of those places known mostly to locals (The guy in question was one such local), a gorgeous series of pools and waterfalls with great places to camp right next to the water. In the tent, in the pools; all of those places were sexy. We had fun, had the whole place to ourselves, and I'm guessing we weren't the first couple to take advantage of those circumstances. Perhaps others had left a "sexual imprint" there as well. It was probably just teenage hormones though, tee-hee.

And Karen, I loved your story about how you met your husband. What a strange set of events, all the tie-ins with his first wife. I'd give you a book;)

Laurie, Alex is right. You are a terrible tease. I'll have to bring the tequila and help her pry that story out of you!

Becky-- I knew one of the East Coast ladies would have a great paranormal experience to share (so much interesting history there), and your tale did not disappoint. I bet those pictures are fascinating.

Last but by far least, Alex, thank you so much for inspiring such a fun exchange today. As I mentioned above, I just found TLC and I am really enjoying reading everyone's posts, and finding new authors to read. Your offer of a book is so generous, and I will graciously accept should I still be in the running by the end of the night; thank you. I've enjoyed reading this thread and learning how/what you research, and your approach to writing mysterious tales (suspense vs. gore/horror). I was turned on to Stephen King by my husband many years ago. I was reticent to read his books because I had just discovered Tom Robbins, and I was all-consumed with his Gonzo, Infinite Goof fantasies. I was pleasantly surprised that most of them were not as graphic as I had anticipated, and were really well written. He does have his moments, and "Gerald's Game" is a book so disturbing from the first chapter that I put it down and never picked it up again (Even though my husband assured me if you could get past the first part, it was a good story with tie-ins to other stories of his I had read). I'm looking forward to exploring this genre further, and will definitely be seeking you out at the bookstore. Best of luck with your new book-- one California girl to another!

Oh! And Rita, you are "most psychic" indeed! Your stories were so interesting, and they reminded me of some I heard years ago from a long-time employee at a hotel & restaurant I worked at while I was in college. It was in an old gold mining town that had been turned into a State Park. The guy who told me the story was now working in the kitchen, but had done a stent as the night watchman at one time. He told me tales about strange events he and his young daughter experienced when they used to spend the night there. He noted strange noises and smells, and lights being turned on, too. There was supposed to be a story of a woman who died giving birth in one of the rooms. Now, every small town Historic Hotel loves to tell the guests it's haunted, and I suppose that may or may not be true most of the time, but it did seem quite possible given the history of the building which had had many incarnations.

"sleeping in the lounge of the Delta Queen"?
That sounds like the real story, here...
Thanks! I love to tell it at Halloween gatherings. She's not a scary ghost, more of a watchful presence, like Mary Sibley in Sibley Hall on the Lindenwood Campus in St. Charles, keeping watch over "her girls."

Instead of making the lights flash on & off, I wish my ghosts would fix the damn pixelating picture on the TV! Or make my Mega ticket win, something useful, not just entertaining! LOL

Hi Alex, very interesting and exciting post.

Sorry to be extemely late to the party, but we had electrical problems today. What does a 16 out of twenty five on the test make me?

I called my mother early one day--normally only called her in the evening--She told me she'd call me back later because the ambulance was in the driveway to pick up my Dad. I did stuff like that a lot.

Jennifer, I have to agree about Yosemite being a sexy place. Any national park, really. I worked a summer at Glacier and it was constantly breathtaking, so much sheer beauty.

Peg, 16 out of 25 is WAY into the psychic range, statistically speaking! Are you sure you didn't cause the electrical problems? Psychic people often do!

Thanks to all the Tarts and Tartletts for having me and for all the fantastic stories! You all are the best.

Rita and Karen, please e mail me your snail mail addresses: alex at alexandrasokoloff dot com

GO NORTH CAROLINA! yeah - especially western NC -- :)

I'm gonna take that test....although I expect I'll be completely abby-normal

As always, I love reading your posts . . . :)

There´s something disturbingly sexy about the paranormal...or maybe I´m just disturbed, but I feel they just naturally go hand in hand. Cant wait to read ALL of your books Alex. I´m your number one stalker. I´ve read your blog over and over and I must say, it´s the best information i´ve found on the web so far. ( AND ITS FREE!!). THANKS. I´m trying to write a horror/gothic/erotic novel myself and your page has been a true gift.

Sexiest place I´ve ever been to: I´d say a half deserted beach in Mexico. There´s something about the heat and the ocean that just brings out the sexy in me.

And well, here´s a story: My youngest daughter has always had trouble sleeping. AS a baby, it was a terrible ordeal. She would cry her self to sleep every night while doing her best NOT to fall asleep. Her pediatritian always said it was a stomach problem, or that she was just a nervous child. WE tried it all. The only thing that seemed to work was to hold her in my arms while she slept. As soon as i´d her down she´d wake up crying...anyway...several years later, when she was about 6 ( and still having problems with sleep), we were at a reunion and this very nice, gentle yet powerful woman came up to us and she caressed my daughter´s head and she said to me, out of the blue: you do realized your daughter is possessed don´t you?
Well, you can image the look on my face. My heart just sank!
And then she said " She doesn´t get much sleep, does she? That´s because she´s afraid of the other child".
Well I just stood there gawking. Then, this woman took my daughter in her arms and prayed something over her and kissed her forehead and then said. "There, she´s gone".
Well...you guessed it. My daughter has never had any problems with sleep again. It seems that this entity had been with her since birth. And it was most likely a family memeber who had died young. I did learn that my mother had a sister who died when she was just 2.

SCARY! But I´m sooo glad we had that encounter with the claravoyant.

Gosh, Clara, your story gave me complete chills! I'm sorry I didn't see it until now.

I hope you're writing about all of this.

And STOP LURKING on my blog! I'd love you to post.

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