by Christa Carmen, Author of Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked
When you were married at the Stanley Hotel on October 31st, with thirteen immediate family members by your side, the snow-capped, portentous mountains in the background, and Beetlejuice blasting from the sound system, there is only one Halloween you can write about when a horror reviewer is looking for guest posts on authors’ favorite All Hallows’ memories.
Getting married at the Stanley Hotel was exactly as amazing as you’d expect it to be, and Estes Park in October is rife with ‘haunted’ activities in which visitors can partake. My now-husband, John, and I played Monster mini-golf and saw Ouija: Origin of Evilat the local cinema. We signed up for a historical tour of the hotel, as well as a ‘spirit tour,’ on which guests are introduced to the “active phenomena” and supernatural folklore surrounding the 100+ year old hotel, and educated on how to interact with the type of activity guests have claimed to encounter on excursions past.
On our second night in Colorado, I bought a ticket to attend Illusions of the Past, a theatrical séance put on by the Stanley’s then-in-house illusionist, Aiden Sinclair, in the Billiards Room of the main building. The show made use of supposedly haunted artifacts to summon the ghosts of former hotel guests, and the audience got to manipulate actual historic antiquities from events such as the hunt for Jack the Ripper and the sinking of the Titanic.
Emboldened by my desire to have a memorable wedding week, I volunteered to participate in a séance, for which I and four other women chose either a black bead or a haunted pearl from an opaque drawstring bag. The illusionist would have no idea who had chosen what, and we were to go around the room declaring, “I have the pearl,” despite each participant being uncertain as to whether or not that was true. When the individual who didhave the pearl declared as such, the planchette would flip off the Ouija board and into the air, coming to rest on the ground when the spirit had departed.
When it was my turn to state, “I have the pearl,” I did so with much hesitation and little faith. I felt something stir within my hand, a disturbance among the molecules of whatever material my clenched fist concealed. With a screech of metal against wood, the planchette flipped, the room grew cold, and in the mirrored walls behind the illusionist, something scampered away for the abandoned quarters of the hotel before its presence could be more widely-discerned.
John did not attend Illusions of the Past, however he was in for a paranormal phenomenon of his own. On the night of our wedding, while I stood on the dance floor with my sister and three sisters-in-law, channeling Winifred Sanderson and belting out “I Put a Spell on You,” John felt a hand on his shoulder, as unambiguous and concrete as the feel of my fingers on the keyboard as I type. He spun and looked up, expecting his mother or another family member to be standing over him. There was no one there.
An undigested bit of beef, perhaps, or a fragment of underdone potato? Cedar Hollow Horror readers can judge as to whether there was more of gravy than of grave about my and John’s experiences, whatever they might have been.
As every horror writer and reader knows, the Stanley served as the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, and in 1980, the novel became the basis for Stanley Kubrick's film of the same name. The exteriors of Kubrick's Overlook were supplied by the Timberline Lodge, located on the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon. My husband and I would love to celebrate a future anniversary at the Timberline, and on some fortuitous Halloween in the future, we will undoubtedly return to the Stanley.
Perhaps those ghosts present on our wedding night will be there to greet us when we do.
Christa Carmen is a writer of dark fiction, and her short stories have appeared in places like Fireside Fiction Company, Unnerving Magazine, Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Outpost 28, DarkFuse Magazine, and Tales to Terrify, to name a few. She has additional work forthcoming from Lycan Valley Press Publications' all-female horror anthology, Dark Voices, and her debut fiction collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, will be released in August 2018 by Unnerving.
Christa lives in Westerly, Rhode Island with her husband and their ten-year-old bluetick beagle, Maya. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in English and psychology, and a master's degree from Boston College in counseling psychology, and she's currently pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard Extension School. Christa works at a pharmaceutical company as a Research & Development Packaging Coordinator, and at a local hospital as a mental health clinician. When she's not writing, she is volunteering with one of several organizations that aim to maximize public awareness and seek solutions to the ever-growing opioid crisis in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.
Amazon Author Page:https://www.amazon.com/author/christacarmen
Praise for Christa Carmen
“Christa Carmen’s 'Red Room' is a different beast altogether. This story has some wicked imagery, a sinister and brooding atmosphere and a terrific ending. I’d go as far to say that this is one of the best short stories Unnerving has published in the magazine." – The Grim Reader
“I was pulled in from the first story: ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,’ by Christa Carmen. It was also one of my favorites and I have to say that the title gave me a dark chuckle when paired with the band mentioned in the story.” – Sci-Fi and Scary
"This beautifully macabre collection of urban legends and ghastly encounters is a cold whisper, a dripping axe, a shattered camera lens. Walk carefully into Carmen's night. But if you hear flies, run." -Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Brothel.
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