Step into my Murder Castle…

Holmes jacketMy second poetry collection, The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, is now live on Amazon!

If you might be into some serial killer poetry, check out my book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Here’s a sneak peak from one of my poems in the book titled “Scarlet Siege”

 

Scarlet Siege

Insanity splits through the air
like a serrated knife cleaving
melons in half, juice pools out,
lightly blood-tinged, flowing into
the mob mentality of fair-goers
flies stick to the glistening liquid
churning out tiny spawn to harvest
inside the mind of crowds

stop and sample the new
flavors of candies,
watch in awe as Tesla
sparks electric excitement,
conducting lightning through
his body like a melody,
marvel at the Ferris Wheel,
that monstrosity of a ride
hovering between adrenaline
and a drop straight down to skull-
cracking fear

within the White City’s celebration,
the water stays pure, the air cool,
horrors belong on the outside
where suicides have popped up
like cherry-tinted daisies,
where horses drop dead
in the streets from exhaustion,
muzzled and blinded
they never stood a chance,

where blood runs thick enough
to brew gurgling tarns
around the great fair,
drown all the attendees
beneath a scarlet siege,
consume that split of insanity
cleave the city in half as it bleeds

Friday Fun Facts: Serial Killer Edition

My next poetry collectionThe Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, will (hopefully) be out in a few weeks! Dr. Holmes and I can’t wait to welcome you into our nightmares…

But for now, I thought I’d list some of my favorite “fun facts” about Holmes that inspiredScreen Shot 2018-10-19 at 12.25.31 PM a few pieces in the collection. Holmes is a tricky case — many of the “facts” we assume were actually tall tales that morphed into a kind of accepted truth; however, playing around with those blurred lines and blending historical horror with fictional interpretations was deliciously morbid and fun for me to do in this collection.

1. Holmes was “married” to three women at the same time. Only the first marriage to Clara was legal. He would later go on to “marry” Myrta Belknap and Georgiana Yoke though he had never divorced Clara. Holmes killed several women, including a few mistresses, but he never killed any of his three wives. This inspired my poem “Three Wives Dressed in Black,” which makes an appearance toward the end of the collection as Holmes sits in his jail cell before his public execution.

2. While the rumors and ideas linking H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper as the same person are amusing and intriguing to think about, I’d never buy into it. Logistically speaking, from what we know of Holmes and where he was in the states and when, I think he would have had to been able to teleport to truly commit the Ripper’s acts. While some may be able to speak around this, the number one reason I would never credit them as being the same is because of how different their killings were.

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 12.26.51 PMThe Ripper was vicious and intimate. He literally reached inside of his victims and had his fun with their organs or slicing off women’s breasts (I imagine the Ripper is a deeply fascinating case to all the Freudians out there). Holmes was never that intimate or messy. In my head I imagine his neatness likens to that of NBC’s Dr. Lecter on Hannibal. Holmes was cowardly in his approaches though, using chloroform or gassing victims to their deaths. He was more fascinated by the psychological approach, by seducing and charming before quietly extinguishing lives rather than tearing someone apart into a gooey bloodbath. I have two “Holmes vs. The Ripper” poems in my collection, and they were two of my favorite to research and write.

3. While in prison, Holmes wrote two notable texts. One was a rather idyllic memoir that he crafted in hopes to gain public sympathy and to try and convince people that he was

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Georgiana Yoke, Holmes’ last wife, at his trial. 

being falsely accused of all these crimes. After that failed to work and he was convicted, Holmes wrote a rather odd “confession,” in which he wrote of murdering people who were in fact proved alive. There are some really interesting analyses out there that go through who he may have actually murdered vs. who he, for some reason, claimed to have killed but did not. I found access to both the memoir and confession, which easily inspired the voice I use for Holmes within my collection, and inspired many poems toward the end within the sections where he’s in prison. What struck me the most was Holmes’ undeniable intelligence and merits of literacy within his writing. An articulate madman with a pen, wielding words with expert manipulation, is truly a frightening thing.

4. Appearance wise, Holmes was considered handsome at the time. His blue eyes get noted often, but I also came across in my research that he may have been cross-eyed, which inspired my poem “Strabismus,” and a few others in the collection. One eye on the victim, one searching elsewhere…studying the shadows…looking for the devil.

5. After leaving Chicago, Holmes eventually went to Texas where he engaged in more money schemes and fraud, as he did in Chicago and elsewhere. He also attempted to construct the Fort Worth Castle, a building similar in strangeness and massiveness to the famed “Murder Castle” in Chicago. By this time, numerous lawyers, unpaid workers, and members of law enforcement were trying to find Holmes to get some answers for their missing payments. Holmes would leave Texas, soon after embarking on the wild chase across the states that would lead to his arrest, but of course not without a few more dead bodies along the way. I have a section of poems in my book that go through this chess board pursuit, and I can’t wait to take you along for the ride.

So wait patiently. Buy your train ticket. The good doctor is already there, seated quietly in first class, drinking his tea and eyeing you as you walk past…one eye on you, the other on the shadows…searching…waiting…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Holmes, With Love (and murder)

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Herman Webster Mudgett, alias Dr. H. H. Holmes. *source*

In 2015 I watched a documentary on Netflix titled H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer. I took notes, fascinated, wanting to do something with this savagely strange killer…a couple years, an MFA degree, and some publications later, I finally found precious time to sit down and research Holmes for my next poetry collection, The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, which should be out later this year.

So until then, let me offer you some Valentines, H.H. Holmes style, while I continue researching and writing and dreaming in the darkness. Who better to do romance than a serial killer doctor who had three wives at once, courted mistresses, and stuffed some of them into trunks after killing them?

Ah, amour!

Actually, a couple years ago the Pittsburgh ScareHouse featured a Holmes “murder hotel” theme in their Basement that I went to for Valentine’s Day. You had to sign a waiver before entering since the Basement allows the actors to touch you. Thus, I was electrocuted, blindfolded, shoved in a safe, slightly strangled, chained up by the H.H. Holmes actor, and more! It was great!

Please enjoy these love notes from my muse, this strange, manipulatively charming,

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What do you mean everyone doesn’t have stacks of Holmes books and a Holmes coaster? (In my defense, some of these were gifts, ha.)

swindler of a man…or, of a devil, as he would have you know….Try these out on your loved ones and let me know how it goes.

*Roses are red, your lips are blue, I’ll hide your body so well, and poison your daughter, too. For Julia and Pearl

*I want to strip off your clothes and your skin

*With a body like that, you’d make a beautiful research cadaver

*I’ve never met anyone like you. Be my fourth wife? No, it’s okay, I left them alive and only killed the mistresses. I swear!

*Love isn’t refundable, now sign your property and life insurance over to me
-(Holmes was a notorious conman and loved money)

*What’s the key to your heart? *pulls out dissection knife*

*Love is like chloroform, sweet-smelling at first, but then you wake up naked and chained in the basement…

P.s. Artist Holly Carden designed this cool as hell illustration of the Murder Castle here. You should check it out.

The doctor and I bid you farewell, for now. We can’t wait to invite you back into the nightmare dreamland later…

 

Friday the 13th — Academic Style

Having a Friday the 13th in October was too fun for this horror writer to pass up, even in the classroom. I had my Composition & Culture students discuss the pros and cons of what would happen if social media suddenly vanished from campus, and then we took a look at some horror films (and the excellent show Black Mirror) that portray social media/technology as an ultimate and relatable in-your-face evil as compared to the more metaphorical/societal evils vampires, demons, witches, and other baddies in horror tend to represent. (Check back later for another post on this comparison because I think it’s a fascinating one to delve into).

For some creative fun, I brought in my pal and poetry colleague Mike Arnzen’s Fridge of the Damned Poetry magnets and challenged my students to use the poetry bits to create something inspired by our social media conversation (because poetry is fun!) I was both impressed by each group’s abilities to provide a great analysis to convince me how their poems tied into our earlier conversation, and quite happy to see the overall engagement in creating poetry because, as anyone who has met me knows, I believe in the power of poetry and doing any kind of creativity, always. With about 10ish minutes on the clock, I set the challenge, played some spooky soundtracks in the background, and they got to work.

Check out each group’s poem below! And while they are dark and I love horror, I obviously like some social media (I mean, I am blogging about this after all), but I very much believe in the importance of discussing our social media-obsessiveness, and maybe poking fun of our habits can lead to some introspective moments of reflection and encourage us to put the phones down and enjoy the fall foliage or read a book beneath the autumn sunlight. Or write wacky poems with friends.

Tommy's group

“Fear is human…” Tommy, Devin, and Cory show us how sometimes people are childish on social media, but hurtful comments can seal into one’s mind. And sometimes, social media claims our very souls…duhn, duhn, duhn…

Sam's group

Sam, Megan, Josh, and Kylie give us some abstract lines to show how time disappears when on social media. It can hook us in, render us numb, and end with the shrieks of the innocent.

Mike's group

Demons within chocolate? Oh yes. Mike, Kate, and Camila delve into how sweet someone can seem on the internet versus the inner demons that may be lingering beneath the surface.

Lauren's group

Lauren, Katie, Allison, Teegan, and McGarity present a dark analysis of the fragility of our nerves when on social media, and how despair can grab us when we dangle our hearts on the internet.

Azaria's group

“broken humans / in agony” — the glare may hide some words, but Azaria, Alma, Nelson, and Brooklynn don’t glare away from showing how broken people can break even more inside the noisy world of social media.

Kelsey's group

Kelsey, Lexi, Mackensi, and Kamyron chop us up with this abstract and detailed piece on the potential darkness lurking when we give too much of ourselves to social media.

Andrew's group

The glass machine, is it social media or is it humanity? Andrew, Taylor, Gabby, and Trent provide some interesting thoughts on different elements on various social media in this one.

Josey's group

“swallow you dead” — it certainly can. Owen, Liz, Anna H., Anna M., and Josey provide us with these final thoughts on the costumes we sometimes wear on social media compared to our true selves.

 

 

 

Broken Crayon Creative (EDITING BOSSES)

I am delighted to announce I’ve partnered with some incredibly talented writers and editors (who I am lucky enough to call my friends), to establish our own company of editing services. We are a passionate group who hopes to use our love of writing to help others in the field. Whether it’s creative, nonfiction, social media, or business writing, we have someone for any writing/editing services you may be looking for.

Check out the lovely website my colleagues designed and take a look at the many services we offer. Here! Here! —> BROKEN CRAYON CREATIVE

You can also stalk us….
on Facebook
on Twitter

Human Casket and Flower Stitches

How’s National Poetry Month treating everyone? Here’s a couple poems I’ve done so far to kick the month off:

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human casket- made with The Fridge of the Damned magnets! This piece is also over on Michael Arnzen’s Flickr page where he posts the poems made with these deliciously dark magnets (there’s also a link to get your own set!). Check it out.

And here’s one more piece for the day.

Flower Stitches

My heart is dark and dry,
but you water it with love,
pure in its coldness

the drops trickle down
my ribs and grow flowers
inside my lungs

their stems wrap around
my bones and clutch
me together

small green stitches
with black thorns
piercing from my pores

scars that bleed
make me pretty
with the blood of our love