Last month, I made a list of the goriest scenes in horror fiction for Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs. It not difficult to come up with memorable gag-inducing moments, but have you ever thought about the most heartwarming moments in the genre? This Christmas, to keep in the spirit of giving, good will toward men, twinkling lights, sugar cookies shaped like fir trees and all the joy the holiday brings, I want to focus on the softer side of horror lit. How hard could that be? I mean, it’s the author’s ability to touch our heart and soul that render the nasty bits so effective, right? Turns out this was more difficult than I originally anticipated. When I solicited other horror fiction fans for their picks via Facebook, Twitter, and my favorite message board, the Rue Morgue Mortuary, all that came back was the sound of crickets chirping. While the thread in the Mortuary for “Goriest Book Ever” went on for 3 pages, “Most Heartwarming Moments in Horror Fiction” got one response, and that was to say “Gonna have to think on this…” Still, bound and determined to prove that where there is blood there is heart, I managed a few choice moments from horror fiction that really tug on the heartstrings and get readers grabbing for tissues. Bust out your Kleenex, folks, these are my most heartwarming moments in horror fiction!
It’s been quite a while since the last Bloody Bytes, but on the eve of the biggest shopping day in the US, we definitely need it! I’ve searched high and low, near and far, for Black Friday digital deals & steals. While I didn’t come across many legit Black Friday sales, I still have some great digital reads for cheap that you can enjoy this extended holiday weekend and a couple miscellaneous goodies as well. So, if you’re gearing up for the door buster events and training for tomorrow’s Black Friday chaos, here are some digital treats for yourself at a low price that won’t make you feel guilty.
We enjoy all the diversity horror fiction has to offer here at Dreadful Tales, from a deliberately paced, atmospheric tale to a balls-to-the-wall action piece. While our bookshelves boast eclectic taste, we do love a nasty bit of fiction. The type of reading that not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, but refuses to acknowledge that such a thing exists. This is why we’ve decided to dedicate a monthly column to the nastiest, most brutally extreme gore in the genre in a new feature called Nasty Little Things. Each month could bring something different, but it will always offer examples of the most transgressive, sick, and twisted shit in horror fiction lit. For the inaugural post, I’m flying solo to bring you a list of the sickest gross-out scenes in horror fiction to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. For me, this day is all about food and that euphoric tryptophan-induced coma that sweeps over you right after the first meal. A holiday that celebrates eating ’til a near bursting point is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be terribly uncomfortable and full of regret. Once I’m past the third or fourth helping I just stand at the fridge nibbling right out of the Tupperware. But this year, not to worry because I’ve got a full-proof plan, and full-proof list, to kill even the strongest appetite. For the first edition of Nasty Little Things, I present “Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs,” my picks for the nastiest gross-out scenes in horror fiction that are sure to keep you away from the leftovers with your dignity in tact. Declaring what’s the sickest, grossest, and most depraved in horror lit can be problematic. A lot depends on the reader’s interpretation of the writer’s words or the reader’s own personal phobias etc., so keep in mind these are the scenes that I found to be the nastiest. You can play along at home by leaving your sickest scene in the comments section. Bon appétit!
Book / Author: Pressure by Jeff Strand
The Scene: Cactus Neck Tumor
Why it’s gross: Among the top picks for worst ways to die, I think choking on your own blood (say, from a stab wound to the throat) is pretty high up there. Not only is gagging on your own blood really gross, but you get just enough oxygen to keep you alive and struggling to breathe for hours. OK, that last part may not be scientifically accurate, but it’s definitely a slow, agonizing, and disgusting death. Worse than that? How ‘bout impalement by cactus in the freakin’ neck! The death of one of Strand’s fated characters in Pressure isn’t directly caused by cactus impalement, but it makes their last moments especially horrific. The thought of feeling thousands of little pinpricks in my neck is enough to make the bile rise in my throat because sometimes pain can be so excruciating it’s vomit-inducing. That’s why Strand’s Cactus Neck Tumor scene had to make my Thanksgiving Day Gross-Out list. Because “a large piece of bloody cactus…embedded in her neck” just makes my stomach turn. Big ole nasty, bloody piece of cactus hanging from her neck like a barnacle from another world. Yuck!
Best Served With: Gazpacho
Book / Author: Endless Night by Richard Laymon
The Scene: Pan-fried Finger Foods
Why it’s gross: Laymon has all kinds of nasty bits to choose from, but I have a particular aversion to cannibals. People eating people, people wearing people, it all gives me the creeps and seriously kills my appetite. To this day, I can’t forget what I was eating and drinking the first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Doritos with water! In this particular scene from Endless Night, we find one very disturbed character frying up faces and fingers in the skillet like a macabre breakfast only a sicko can appreciate! He even compares the fingers and thumbs to “stubby little sausages.” As if that wasn’t bad enough he continues to muse, “They were browning up nicely except for the nails, which had curled oddly.” Finally, without any regard for the weak-stomached readers, Laymon has this psycho eat a finger tip! Taken out of context, it may not sound so bad, but it was enough to keep me away from the franks for a while. That little detail about the fingernails helps make this scene particularly cringe-worthy.
Best Served With: Fried bologna sandwiches
Book / Author: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
The Scene: An Intimate Moment with Worms
Why it’s gross: There’s plenty in The Strain to challenge the reader’s gag reflex. These vampires are not the romantic and mysterious figures that daintily nibble your neck, sipping your blood while caressing your bosom. They’re nasty, violent, and ugly. Their curse spreads like a virus, literally. When you try to damage these vile creatures, their wounds secrete a milky white substance writhing with infectious worms. In one of the most unsettling scenes a woman finds herself being invaded by these creatures through every orifice of her body, and I mean every orifice. “There was then a most unnerving wriggling sensation around her crotch – and then a sudden, twisting discomfort in her rectum.” Being violated by capillary worms is a top tier kind of nastiness. Waves of nausea run through my body just thinking of it.
Best Served With: Rice Vermicelli
Book / Author: The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker
The Scene: Out with his tongue!
Why it’s gross: Barker is a master of brilliantly twisted worlds and boundary-pushing prose. The Midnight Meat Train is an apt example of his complex storytelling, but also his proclivity for pushing the limits of perversion. Blood flows freely and the innocent are slain with impunity in this story, but it’s the cannibals that come back to haunt me. At the climax of this gruesome tale, one man finds himself up against a great evil, an evil that wants to silence him forever. “Suddenly his tongue was seized tight and twisted on the root… Blood was in his throat, he heard his flesh tearing, and agonies convulsed him.” Tongues being cut, ripped out, or violated in any manner gets my stomach in tumbles, but what happens next tops that. This malevolent force “stuffed the tongue into his own mouth, chewing on it with evident satisfaction.” The texture of a tongue, all slimy and rough, is more repulsive to me than any other body part. Cooked well it might be an appetizing little dish, but raw and right out of a living man’s mouth!? No way.
Best Served With: Blood sausage
Book / Author: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Scene: The Unstoppable Libido of A Monster
Why it’s gross: Lindqvist is unabashed at representing a truly violent and brutal world full of human monsters. This is a beautiful, sometimes whimsical, tale of a charming friendship amidst a cruel and terrible world with plenty of scenes to make you gasp, wince, and gag. But probably the most disturbing and gut-wrenching is the self-inflicted acid bath one character takes in an effort to obscure his identity. His face is completely disfigured. Melted pieces of flesh hang from bone “as if the head had been replaced by a mass of freshly killed and butchered eels.” His mouth is melted shut, and one eye is melted down onto his cheek. It’s not just his horribly disfigured form that is so grotesque. Driven by a healthy dose of vampire venom and a sexual obsession, we’re treated to this mutilated man enjoying a rather enthusiastic five-knuckle shuffle! His “hand pulled the foreskin aggressively up and back, up and back, and the head of his penis appeared and disappeared, appeared and disappeared like a jack-in-the-box while he uttered a sound of pleasure or suffering.” That ain’t like no jack-in-the-box I ever had as a kid! That’s just plain sick!
Best Served With: Open-faced tuna melt sandwich
Book / Author: Slither by Edward Lee
The Scene: Parasitic Semen
Why it’s gross: No gross-out list could be complete without the maestro of morbid, Edward Lee. He knows how to warp minds and upset stomachs. When I think of gross, Slither is one of the first books that comes to mind. Plenty of nastiness in this book to chose from, but one scene stands out – the parasitic semen! First, a brief explanation, the island in which this sci-fi horror mash-up is set is overrun by worms. There are large ones, chitin-penetrating ones (that means they can penetrate shells), and even small parasitic ones, like those that star in this grossest of gross scenes. A nice gentlemen ejaculates in an equally nice lady’s mouth upon which she immediately spits it out due to the disgusting taste. But this isn’t because it’s her first time and the taste of splooge is foreign to her. It’s because it really tastes awful. And there’s no wonder why because “roiling amid his spat-out semen were hundreds of tiny yellow beads, smaller versions of the ones he’d plucked off his body the other night.” Now that is seriously sick!
Best Served With: Egg drop soup
So, those are my favorite gross-outs, what’s yours?
I’ve always wanted to spend a day in the life of my favorite author. I wonder where they like to hang out, what do they like to eat, and how do they get inspired. Do they take sip coffee at the local cafe while jotting notes for their next story? Maybe they enjoy an ice cold pint at their neighborhood watering hole while brainstorming ideas, getting inspiration from the staff and patrons. Well, I just so happen to live in the little Northwest Ohio college town of Bowling Green which was once home to the Gleefully Macabre maestro himself Jeff Strand. Back in the day, Strand was a student of Creative Writing at Bowling Green State University, so I picked his brain to find out what were his favorite spots during those wild college years. Then I set out to visit those places to find out what has changed and what has stayed the same. I took it a step further and I actually became Jeff Strand! I dressed like him, donned a not-quite-Jeff-Strand-but-it-will-have-to-do wig (it’s actually a “Tween Dream Wig!”), browsed the local shops and roamed the streets fending off fans seeking autographs to spend a day in the life of the horror genre’s most humorous writer and one of Dreadful Tales favorites. Join me for a look at Bowling Green, OH then and now through the eyes of Jeff Strand!
Just to set the timeframe here, I went to Bowling Green State University from 1989 to 1993. When I left campus, it was mostly to go to the following places…
Spectrum Video: This was back at a time when an independent video shop could not only exist, but be the biggest and best place in town! I rented VHS tapes from them almost every weekend. Any horror movie in that place that was released during my college years probably found its way into my VCR.
Video Spectrum, also known as “A Movie Buff’s Paradise,” was an unfortunate casualty of the digital age. Until this past July, Spectrum was still chugging along and they continued to boast the most expansive VHS collection in Northwest Ohio (hell, maybe even the entire state!) despite the recent DVD release of many titles. In fact, you couldn’t get some films, like Night of the Creeps, on DVD because they already had the VHS tape and wouldn’t carry the same movie in two formats. There is a Blockbuster in Bowling Green, but you won’t find the same knowledgeable staff of movie buffs like the ones that worked at Spectrum and you most certainly won’t find the out-of-print, never-before-released-on-DVD VHS tapes that Spectrum offered. The loss of Spectrum is truly one of Bowling Green’s greatest tragedies.
Cla-Zel Theatre: During my college years, my career goal was to be a screenwriter, so I literally saw every movie that played in Bowling Green during those four years. Cla-Zel was a single-screen palace-style theatre, kind of run down but managed by a very nice guy. I’d sit in the very front row, because they had a (closed) orchestra pit that kept you from being so close to the screen that you got a sore neck from looking up. My fondest memory is seeing all eight (at the time) Friday the 13th movies back-to-back from midnight until 12:30 the next afternoon…and I’d seen the Night of the Living Dead remake in the same theatre earlier that evening!
While Clazel Theatre is still around, instead of screening all-night horror marathons, it functions as Bowling Green’s hottest dance club. DJs get the college kids fallin’ in love and live bands like Real Big Fish get ’em waving their lighters, or I guess these days cell phones, in the air. Every once in a great while a cool act will come through, like alt-country singer Neko Case, but otherwise this is the place to hit up if you’re a single youth looking for a night of drinking and dancing.
127 N. Main St.
Bowling Green, Ohio
Woodland Mall Cinema 5: This theater was about a three mile walk from campus, which was not a big deal from an exertion standpoint, but the Bowling Green winters are COLD!!! If more than one movie opened on a particular weekend, I’d usually see both of them as a matinee on Saturday, so between movies I’d hang out at the mall, which did have a Waldenbooks but was otherwise about 90% shoe stores. The theater itself was just a regular old mall multiplex. These days, I live about a mile from a 24-screen AMC theater, and so every wide-release feature is available to me; back then, quite a few films simply wouldn’t open in Bowling Green, so I’d be desperately hoping that something like Halloween 5 would actually play there! (It did. Army of Darkness did not.)
Woodland Mall is like a ghost town these days. In fact, it looks more like a flee market after the sellers have packed up for the day than a mall but luckily Cinema 5, now known as Cinemark, is still around. There are still many films that don’t open in Bowling Green, but the tickets are really cheap so it’s a great place to see movies when you’re on a tight budget. Their website is a pretty apt representation of the mall itself – riddled with “404 page not found” errors and useless text that offer nothing really interesting. When you click on the “Movies” hyperlink it is a completely blank, white page!
1234 North Main Street
Bowling Green, OH 43402
Pauper’s Books: A used bookstore with lots of clutter and random piles of books everywhere, which was part of the fun. The owner was helpful and friendly on the verge of being too helpful and friendly (dammit, I just want to browse!). Today, my to-be-read pile is so immense that I could vanish into a cave for a decade and not get caught up, but back then I would actually be looking through the shelves for something to read that day.
Another unfortunate loss to the changing times, Pauper’s Books finally closed its doors for good several years ago in the early 2000s. While it’s definitely a painful loss to the community that Pauper’s is no more, that hole has sorta been filled by the local coffee shop Grounds for Thought. Right in the heart of Bowling Green’s downtown area, you can get a delicious warm cup of joe at Grounds, but it also doubles as a store for used records, VHS tapes, comics, and books. Home to thousands of used books, Grounds even has a special section specifically for horror. You can find a whole range of horror books depending on the day and the ever-fluctuating inventory. They even have a whole collection of books by that guy who keeps beating me at the Stokers. What’s his name? Sam? Steve something-or-other… ? Drawing a blank here.
174 South Main Street
Bowling Green Ohio 43403
Phone: (419) 354-3266
Finder’s Records: This is where I did a lot of searching for Alice Cooper and Dead Milkmen cassettes. In the world of Wikipedia it seems almost incomprehensible that you could be a fan of a musical artist and really not know what was out there, but without the internet, where are you gonna find a complete Alice Cooper discography? The endless browsing at Finder’s was more because of my friend Dave than me, but I definitely clocked in some hours there.
Finder’s Records is one of the few places that has survived the test of time. Cassettes have been replaced by CDs, but you can still find new releases and represses on vinyl although they tend to be a little pricy. The used record selection at Grounds for Thought may be hit or miss and you won’t find new music, but there is a warmth of community in the shop that can’t be replaced so when it comes to browsing for hidden jems I recommend the coffee shop instead (pictured above).
Restaurants: None, really. My lack of alcohol consumption meant that I had spending money available for movies, but not for eating out. Every once in a while we would try buffalo wings at different places, and I liked Subway, but that was about it.
Bowling Green still has a Subway – hell, who doesn’t have a Subway!? – but there are a few other great places to try when you visit. This may sound crazy, but the Bowling Green Dairy Queen is probably the best Dairy Queen in the Midwest. Not your run-of-the-mill chain restaurant, this Dairy Queen is old school. They have a variety of sodas in the bottle, serve the biggest blizzard portions you will ever get at any other Dairy Queen ever, and they have a breaded veal sandwich! This DQ is more like a local greasy diner than a chain.
Maybe you got a hankerin’ for pizza rather than greasy diner food, then Myles Pizza is your best bet. Myles is right next door to DQ on East Wooster. They have an old style pub atmosphere and the deepest deep dish pizza that can only be rivaled by a Chicago pie.
For the drinkers, especially those who enjoy a good pint, Reverend’s, located on East Wooster right before you hit Main Street, is the place to be. They offer a variety of burgers, some Tex-Mex options, fresh salads, interesting appetizer choices, but most importantly great beer! Boasting “No Crap On Tap,” Reverend’s always has a draft of your favorite poison available. The service is almost always exceptional for a bar and attracts a wide range of patronage, not just the young college crowd.
Overall, Bowling Green has lost some important community staples over the years, most notably Pauper’s Books and Video Spectrum. There isn’t really anything that would lure a horror fan here, for movies or literature, but whether you go to the school, you’re passing through or already live close, there are a few places that are worth visiting.
While it was an absolute blast playing Jeff Strand for a day and now it is time to go back to being Meli again. But, before I go one last thing…
I AM JEFF STRAND!
Well, its Friday which means that your friends here at Dreadful Tales have another edition of Free Fiction Friday. Enjoy!
I know we’ve mentioned it a few times but, WE LOVE JEFF STRAND!!!!!!!!!! Jeff currently has a free story on his site called, The Drop. The Drop illustrates exactly what Jeff’s “Gleefully Macabre” is all about.
If you are a regular reader of this site, you know that I absolutely love Bizarro which means I am a regular over at BizarroCentral.com. (Almost) Every Friday they have a free piece of flash fiction from a different author. The authors range from heavy hitters like Andersen Prunty and Cameron Pierce to extremely talented up-and-comers. If you’ve ever been curious about this amazing sub-genre, this would serve as a great introduction.
Scott Nicholson has a free story up on Amazon and Smashwords. The story is called The Vampire Shortstop. This is what Scott has to say: “It was an international Writers of the Future award winner in 1999. You don’t have to like baseball or vampires–it’s about a misfit kid looking to belong. I hope you enjoy it!”