Haunted Stuff is a collection of classic and new stories of items that don’t want to give up the ghost. Along with haunted dolls such as Annabelle and Robert, I’ve included larger items like the Golden Gate Bridge, the USS Constellation, and the White Eagle Saloon in Portland, Oregon. There are also personal stories such as a photograph of a young girl that tried to “speak” to her parents after her early death, and my own experiences at a haunted mansion. For fun, I’ve included sections on where to find possibly haunted items and how to do your own ghost investigations, plus jinxed objects like the Heart-Shaped Curse, and a Victorian-era doll that was hidden away in a wall for decades with a note from a very cranky young lady.
Have you ever owned anything that is haunted?
Right after I signed the contract to write Haunted Stuff, a Santa figurine’s bell began to ring while I watched. I took it as a good sign. I believe that there have been objects that have been moved by the random ghosts that wander through, such as hangers swinging on their own in my closets, but nothing I’d classify as haunted on a regular basis.
Which literary character are you most like, and why?
It’s a toss up between Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Nancy Drew, and Winnie-the-Pooh. I think I have Bennet’s sass, Drew’s curiosity, and Pooh’s rumbly tumbly.
There were quite a few, actually. The Island of Haunted Dolls in Mexico’s Teshuilo Lake district teases your imagination. As I dug deeper into the stories, I found myself wondering exactly what Barrera had seen and heard as he built his shrine to the drowned girl — and if she had finally gotten her wish to have a more permanent playmate.
There are lots of fake haunted items out there – how can you tell when something is real?
The best way to determine if your item has paranormal potential is to follow your instincts and follow the trail. Has there been activity associated with it before it came to you? If you think it may have something stuck to it, start your investigation by researching its history, then move on to observation: video, logging in a notebook if there are strange things afoot, and electronic voice recordings to see if anyone is trying to reach you.
What would you scare you most: a ventriloquist dummy, or an animal fallen foul of a taxidermist?
I think I’m pretty safe from both, but some of those stuffed critters give me the willies.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
Sorting through urban legends and finding the stories with real meat on the bones. I did a lot of research to see if stories matched up. If the story faded out before I could find a source — out it went. Photographs were also harder to come by. I didn’t want to include photos of items that only represented the haunted object, such as a skull, so if I couldn’t get authorization from the museum to use one of their photos or find the object itself, it didn’t go in. It resulted in a lot less photos than I’d like but I had to stay true to the vision of the book.
You work in both non-fiction and fiction, which do you prefer and why?
I love both. I’m always looking for something new to explore and share with others, especially children, so middle-grade nonfiction has always been a big draw. When writing fiction, I tend to write humorous horror, or horror-lite. Most of my short stories have a few sassy bits thrown in just for fun among the zombies.
Where can fans find you online?