Friday, September 15, 2017

The Horror of the Beeping Basement

For months I've cowered in my house, afraid. Shaking and shivering like latter-day Elvis. Beneath me, in the basement, unspeakable horrors await. Horrors too awful to mention. (But I'm going to anyway.)

My basement beeps.
Several months ago, when it first started, I rolled my eyes, told my wife, "Stupid sump pump's acting up again." Wasn't the first time. Get this...when the sump pump runs a while, doing what sump pumps are supposed to do, it beeps a warning sound. Really dumb manufacturing flaw. So I head downstairs, cursing, then unplug the two cords (why two?) and take out the battery. Sure, the basement might flood, but at least it won't beep.

The sound stops! Huzzah! Problem solved, I head back upstairs. I sit, relieved. I know what I'm--

Beeeeeep!

"Great Caesar's ghost!"

I jump out of my recliner. Rush downstairs like that father in A Christmas Carol. As I tumble down the steps, the noise stops. Mid-beep. Taunting me.

I say (because I'm in the haunted basement and it helps to hear my voice, any voice), "Huh, that's weird. Just a fluke, though. Pretty sure I resolved the issue. It won't beep again."

Upstairs I settle once again into my recliner. Relaxing. Basking in the peaceful meditative--

Beeeep!...Beeeeep!

"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!"

It's not the sump pump. Clueless, I get tough. I decide to ride out the storm, figuring the infernal sound will tire after a while. It does.

Until three in the morning.

"Sweet Christmas!"

The shrill, incessant beep wakes me. Every 45 seconds, Swedish clockwork. Pillows over my head don't help. Copious amounts of alcohol just intensify it, transform it into a nail-driving drill.

Sleep deprived, the next morning I head back into the dungeon. Determined. Angry. Half crazy.

Seven steps down, the beeping stops. As usual. Making it impossible to track the source.

"Why me? Why have you forsaken meeeeeee?" I cry to the cobwebs. I forget I'm too tall for the hobbit-made basement, stand straight in my drama.

Tunk.

"Ow! Dammit!"

I unplug everything that's plugged in. Wipe my bleeding head, sigh, pat myself on the back for a job well done. Upstairs, I snuggle back into my posterior-conformed recliner to write and...

Beeeeep!

"Holy mother of pearl!"


I'm back on the hunt. I check high, I drop low. It's a dirty, gross job, but the heinous beeping source will be found! I pull out the tubs of my daughter's childhood toys, denude all the Furbies and other automated varmints of their batteries. Anything that's suspect, anything of a battery-driven nature, I gather in a box to take upstairs where I can keep an eye on it.

For I will solve this exasperating mystery, I will!
Beeeeep! Beepity-beep-beeep!

"Cheese and crackers on Matlock's grave!"

Down again I go, down, down, down. Farther than before, down into the depths of hell itself. I tear everything apart, look in every box, poke every water-damaged cranny, knock things over, pick them up, and do it again. The narrator in Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart has nothing on me. Except I haven't killed anyone. Not yet. But the skeevy sales kid banging away on the doorbell comes close to being my first murder victim.

Beeeeep!

"Jimmy Hoffa's pantaloons!"

Internet trolls aren't any help.

"Hmm. Do you have any enemies?" someone asks.

"No," I write. "Well, there's my high school bully and that dumb neighbor who won't talk to me for whatever reason and my grade-school friend who I kinda dumped because he wasn't giving me the hallway cred I sought but I--"

"Someone's planted a bomb in your basement."

Beeeeeeeeep!

"Shoehorn of the devil!"

I race downstairs. The sound stops again. A demon with a vicious sense of humor. 

I cover every square inch of Hades. On my knees, I crawl. On chairs, I teeter. I'm covered in grime and cobwebs and great heaping dollops of defeat.

Until...until... Celestial trumpets poot!

There! Something I've never seen before! A weird device hidden by the light-bulb screwed into it! I undo it. Smoke detector. Figures. I take it upstairs. Set it next to my wife's mail like a trophy, a savage beast I finally bagged after a lengthy hunt.

Satisfied, exhausted, I retire.

Yet, I still hear beeps. Phantom beeps. Beeps in the night that wake me up, a faint ghost of a beep, a reminder of hauntings past. But it's not my imagination gone wild, it's...

Beeeeeeeeep, dammit, beeeeeeep!

"Bea Arthur's bunions!"

Drowsy, woozy-eyed, I concede defeat to my wife. "I give up. It's still beeping." A sudden teensy-tiny ray of hope strikes me, though. "Wait...what'd you do with the smoke detector?"

"Threw it away. In the kitchen trash."

Like a bag lady, I go scrounging. Past chicken bones and other unmentionable detritus. There it is. Beeping!

I take it to the garage, toss it in the bin.

Beeeeeeeep!

Like a cockroach, the device can survive even nuclear Armageddon. I roll the bin out to the street. Let the neighborhood deal with it. Finally--finally!--silence.

But I know it's still out there... Waiting...lurking...laughing...beeping...

For more obsessive behavior over ghostly hoo-hah, click here to read!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Check into the Banff Springs Hotel with author Victoria Chatham!

I’m not usually one to read romance books, but good writing is good writing no matter the genre. In the BWL Publishing Inc. book, Brides of Banff Springs, author Victoria Chatham’s prose is marvelous. Vicki was nice (daring?) enough to go on the Tornado Alley grill.
SRW: Welcome, Vicki! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed on Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. I promise (fingers crossed) I’ll be on my best behavior. First, tell everyone what Brides of Banff Springs is all about.

VC: Brides of Banff Springs is the first book in the Canadian Historical Brides Collection which was devised by my publisher, BWL Publishing Inc, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. There is one bride   for each province and two of the territories. The mandate was to write a historically correct book with a sweet romance because the story had to appeal to a wide range of ages from thirteen upwards. I grabbed Alberta because I know a bit more about it than anywhere else in Canada, and chose the town of Banff particularly because it is such a beautiful place. 

Set in 1935, the story is of Matilda (Tilly) McCormack, who needs a home and a job after her father dies. She leaves drought-defeated southern Alberta to take up a position as a chambermaid at the Banff Springs Hotel. On her way there she meets Ryan Blake, a local packer and trail guide. Working at the hotel is not at all what she expects, from the people she works with to the guests who arrive there, and the ghost she sees in the ballroom. When one of the guests, a bride-to-be, is missing, Ryan and Tilly set off to find her, an experience that brings them closer together and sets them on their path to a happy ever after ending.

SRW: You were born and raised in Bristol, England, jolly good and wot, ‘ey, guv? (Sorry. It won’t happen again. Feel free to fire back and make fun of Kansas hick speak.) How in the world did you come to write a historical tale of early Canada?

VC: I can pin a Bristolian accent at fifty paces but I’ve never met anyone from Kansas! I met and married a Canadian, and love Calgary and its surroundings. Because I enjoy Banff so much I had no problem setting my story there. Conducting on-site research didn’t hurt one bit! I pulled elements from stories of the guides and outfitters who helped geologists, mountain climbers, photographers, naturalists, tourists, and current day librarians and historians.

SRW: I really enjoyed the character of your protagonist, Tilly. Plucky doesn’t even begin to describe her. No matter where you resided in the ‘30’s, life was hard for women, particularly those who had no other choice than to enter the work force. Tilly takes control of her life—again, I imagine a very tough thing to do in the time period—and while somewhat constrained by the rules of the hotel, she won’t accept things she doesn’t like. Do you see Tilly as an early feminist or an individualist?

VC: Definitely an individual. It is my firm belief that whatever the era, there are always extraordinary men and women who rise above the mores and constraints of their time. I read and watched a lot of archive material on the Dirty Thirties which was enough for me to appreciate the real misery people experienced, but in so many instances the women didn’t just endure their circumstances but dealt with them in varied and imaginative ways.

SRW: Early on, Tilly’s dashing love interest, Ryan, boldly states he’s going to marry Tilly. While I like the guy’s moxie, Tilly later wonders why Ryan hasn’t considered what she wants. Good question. A question you never see brought up in movies from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s and even later sadly… Clearly, Tilly’s ahead of her time. Do you think there were more women like Tilly in the ‘30’s then Hollywood would have us believe? (Sorry, Vicki, Hollywood’s the only frame of reference I have for the time period!)

VC:  I think Hollywood portrayed what they thought or wanted women to be. But you only have to look at Hedy Lamarr to knock that theory on the head. She famously said, ‘Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid,’ which fit the Hollywood bill. But Hedy had smarts behind her glamour. It’s thanks to her work in wireless communications that we now have Wifi. Personally, I think many of the star names during the 30’s and 40’s were extraordinary women with lively intelligence and wit behind their captivating faces and were quite different to the characters they might have had to portray on screen. If they hadn’t had that, why is that even now names like Bette Davis, Lucille Ball and Katherine Hepburn immediately come to mind?

SRW: Okay, now I'm in awe of Hedy Lamarr. 

I liked how every chapter ends on a mini-cliffhanger, even if just a question or line of dialogue. I could practically hear the musical zing! You’ve got the chops to write a straight-up suspense thriller and there’re some thriller elements in the book. Ever consider writing a straight-up suspense?

VC: Thank you! I’m not sure which author workshop I learned that trick from. I think it may have been E.C. Sheedy. I am flattered you think I have the chops to write a straight-up suspense thriller and think the second book in my Buxton Chronicles trilogy might come close. I always enjoyed the Nick and Nora Charles stories by Dashiell Hammett and created my Lord Randolph and Lady Serena Buxton with them in mind.

In Cold Gold, the first book in the trilogy set in a Californian gold mining town in 1907, the Randolphs help a Pinkerton agent, Stuart Montgomery, solve a case. In the second book, On Borrowed Time set in 1913, they return to California to assist Montgomery again. There are murders in this book! The third book, Shell Shocked is set in 1918 shortly before the end of WW1 and ends the trilogy.

SRW: Of course you had me at the ghost, one of the titular Brides of Banff Springs. Usually, I write about ghosts who’re a bit more frightening. Yet, Tilly just accepts her haunting, actually seems to enjoy it a bit. Vicki, we’re looking at a double-whammy question here. First, is the “Ghost Bride” based on actual lore? Second, how would you react to your own haunting?

VC: Yes, your ghosts gave me the creeps! I discovered there are two tales of a Ghost Bride at the Banff Springs Hotel. One apparently started in the early 1920s, another citation states the early 1930s. As I could not verify either one of them, I set my story in 1935 to cover both eventualities. One story is that a bride descending a winding staircase at the hotel tripped on the hem of her gown and fell to her death. The other is much the same, but instead of tripping on the hem of her gown, she brushed against a candle flame and, startled she fell. Either story ends in a death but many people claim to have seen the Ghost Bride.

As for how I would react, I really don’t know. I think we all from time to time imagine what we might do or say in a given situation but none of us can know for sure. I did, however, wake up one morning to find my grandmother holding my hand. I was just relieved and very happy to see her looking so serene as she had died the previous year. After my husband passed away I felt his presence for a long time, and still do but not so frequently.

SRW: How much research did you put into the tale, Vicki? (Personally, I hate research and pretty much make my assistant, Mr. Google, handle it all.) I recognized a few historical names and places in the tale. How much of the book is based on fact?

VC: All of it! I have to say I love doing research. I always have. Mr. Google is a great place to start, as is YouTube. I also read – a lot. Would you believe I walked out of the Banff Public Library with two bags of books about the town and the area? Ryan and Tilly are my own characters, but both were inspired by real people. I met a young Park Ranger at Logan’s Pass at the summit of the Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier National Park, Montana. The depth of his knowledge of the area and his enthusiasm in sharing it really impressed me. He was a born story teller and it wasn’t long before he had quite a group gathered around him. Another Ranger, dressed in period costume at the Cave and Basin in Banff, also impressed me with his knowledge as did a well-informed trail guide from the Warner Stables. When I read about June Mickle, (June 29th, 1920-December 28th, 2010) who grew up in the foothills area west of Calgary, I knew she was the gutsy kind of character I wanted Tilly to be. 

SRW: There’s a riveting two chapter set-piece toward the conclusion of the book, a primer on how to stay alive in the snow-capped wild. I don’t camp (my idea of camping is a hot tub and no phone service), so I don’t know how much of Ryan’s can-do, campsite manner is real, but it certainly sounded like it. Based on fact? Your experience? If I ever get lost in the woods, can I call you?

VC: You can call me whether you get lost in the woods or not, but Kansas is a long way to go for coffee! I can honestly say that camping was never high on my list of favorite things to do, thanks to a miserable experience as a Girl Guide. Slashing rain, collapsed tents torn from their guy ropes and carried off by gale force winds over the Black Mountains in South Wales, and then being billeted in the nearest village at midnight is not exactly a memory of a good time.

Having said that, I have been camping several times with a friend here in Calgary who has many back-country skills of her own. At one point, she taught wilderness first aid and I went along on several exercises with her Search and Rescue group as a victim/patient. That was actually a blast because we had scenarios to enact and were made-up according to what accident we’d been involved in and is where I learned how to treat hypothermia. 

I also went back-packing with her to a remote wilderness camp called Top-of-the-World high in the Kootenay mountain range in British Columbia and that’s a trip I will never forget. We had a snowball fight on July 1st, which is Canada Day; we saw a pair of North Pacific loons in breeding plumage, and a pair of ospreys teaching their young how to catch fish in a lake teeming with them and, not surprisingly, named Fish Lake. I also watched a lot of YouTube clips on how to build campfires, especially with wet wood and made notes of everything. 

SRW: As I said earlier, I don’t read romances. Based on your book, maybe I’ll start. No, no, scratch that, I just got carried away for a moment! But I truly enjoyed your book. Tilly’s a wonderful heroine, one to root for. Without giving anything away, I had a stupid, Kansas grin pasted across my face during the final chapter. I’m betting romances are written differently than other genres. Did you have the ending planned all along? Do most romance writers?

VC: I don’t think romances are really written any differently to other genres. Some authors prefer to plot every scene and nuance and often know the ending better than the beginning. Others just start writing. I usually start with my characters firmly in my head and a rough idea of what I think will happen. That they often disagree and lead me down paths I never expected tends to be more organic but I like to make sure all my threads have a satisfying conclusion. I find it gratifying that, as a non-romance reader, you took the time to read Brides of Banff Springs. That you enjoyed it is a bonus.
  
SRW: Put on your travel agent hat and sell a tourist on the following hotels: A) The Banff Springs Hotel; B) The Bates Motel.

VC: If you enjoy mountain scenery, quaint towns and magnificent hotels, you could do no better than to book a vacation at the Banff Springs Hotel, nestled in the town of Banff in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Opened in 1888 and one of the jewels in the Canadian-Pacific Railway’s crown, it has long had the reputation of being haunted. Now named the Fairmont Banff Springs, this luxury resort is open year-round but it doesn’t have to be winter for you to experience all the chills and thrills you could ever want. Hidden rooms, unexplained cold spots, ghostly encounters, this hotel has it all.

Now, the Bates Motel...


If you are touring through coastal Oregon, look out for the Bates Motel. You’re not likely to miss it. Set beside the highway, by day the family’s Gothic-themed mansion looms over the property. By night, the flickering neon sign advertising the accommodation lights the gloom. Its reputation for odd occurrences has affected more than one visitor. If you survive the experience, you are guaranteed to never forget it. Oh, and don’t shower alone.

SRW: Vicki, you're quite good at the travel agent business! Based on your descriptions, I just don't know which hotel I'd rather stay at!

There you have it folks! Let’s give Vicki a nice round of cyber applause. Thanks for being here and let readers know where they can find Brides of Banff Springs.

VC: Thank you for inviting me, Stuart. It’s been a pleasure answering your questions. For details of Brides of Banff Springs and of all my other books, the best place to go is my author page at Books We Love, http://www.bookswelove.com/authors/chatham-victoria-romance-historical-canada/. Simply click on the cover and that will take you to all the markets where the books are available. Or, visit my website at www.victoriachatham.com.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ghosts of the Midwest

Kansas has its fair share of hauntings, one of the most "haunted places in the United States."
 There's Fort Leavenworth, home of the haunted military fort where a priest's ghost ("Father Fred," not the spookiest of names) roams the land. The Hollenberg Pony Express Station in Hanover, Kansas, purportedly hosts long-dead pony express riders, hootin' and a'hollerin' from the spiritual plane. My favorite's gotta be the Stull Cemetery in Douglas County, home of nothing less than the gateway to Hell!

So, Kansas is not only known for fields of wheat, sunflowers, meth labs, rednecks, guns, and stupid Toto, but lots of ghosts abound here, too.

Why?

'Cause Kansas is spooky, that's why. You try living here all your life and tell me differently. Ever since I was a kid and peeked through the windows of a supposedly haunted house in Kansas City ("Ygor's House," where it was said you could see Ygor swinging from a rope on certain nights), I've been fascinated. (Of course, at the same time, I can't wait to move out of this God forsaken state). Of course I had to write about it.

Peculiar County, my first YA book for BWL Publishing Inc., is the result. It's a ghost tale, sure, but it also encompasses nostalgia (in my opinion, all effective ghost stories should be somewhat nostalgic), suspense, romance, humor, paranormal, murder mystery, and a coming of age tale. It's also my attempt at evoking the early sixties in a Midwest small town; a turbulent time not only for my fifteen year old heroine, but the entire world.

I'm gonna get a bit writerly here, so hang on...

The year the book's set, 1965, is a metaphor for my young heroine, Dibby Caldwell. The first major shock of the sixties had happened two years earlier: the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy. The tragedy portended the end of the easy-going fifties, a time of silly, blinders-on innocence. The world wasn't adequately prepared for the radical changes of post 1963: hippies, the Vietnam War, rampant drug use, free love. Bell bottoms, for God's sake! Culture shock at seismic levels.



Talk about a nation haunted...
 

Dibby's experiencing similar changes on a more personal front. Fifteen years old, hormones are rattling her to her core. Not just changes to her body, but of her self-perception, an awakening of sexuality and adulthood. The arrival of "cool" bad boy, James--representative of the new, scary times to come--really triggers matters.
And, of course, there's that pesky ghost in the cornfield next door, haunting Dibby into finding out who murdered him.


Welcome to haunted Kansas! And thanks for stopping by Peculiar County. Perfect reading for the upcoming fall season.


Peculiar County...CLICK HERE for spooky Midwest shenanigans!
 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Swimming in Sewage

Nothing brings a family together more than a time of crisis.

Well. Maybe not my family.
Couple Fridays ago, I got a call from my mom.

"Something terrible's happened. My apartment's flooded."

Naturally, I thought it was case of Negative Nelliness, a curious illness my mom's prone to. Sure, Kansas City'd been struck by horrific storms the previous night, Noah's Ark worthy floods. (The weather forecast had called for "a slight chance of rain."). But my mom's a "Drama Mama."

Except this time she hadn't exaggerated. If anything, the situation was far worse. Everything was soaking wet, half her stuff destroyed. Cars were playing bumper pool in the parking lot. The entire lower level of the apartment complex had been devastated. Not just by the rains, either; sewage had backed up.

I know, right?

We had to move fast. My brother, his wife and I packed all her crap up and moved her into a new apartment in three days.

The moving task seemed endless. How many boxes of back-breaking China does someone need anyway? Mom continued to offer China out like it was candy. I declined (as did everyone else). She lamented that today's youth just don't care for China. I kinda think that goes for everyone under the age of 80.

Anyway, the last day of moving got off to a bad start. A team of smarmy insurance people dropped by, said they wouldn't pay for any of Mom's personal loss. Just the apartment's structural damage. I raged, ranted, chased them down the sidewalk. Hulk smash!

Which just primed me for the main event to come later with my family. Tempers boiled, voices rose into screams, and curses were flung. Making sure Mom's new neighbors got a good first impression. We were three folding chairs shy of a full-fledged Springer show. Wallowing in sewage for three days has a way of doing that to people, I guess. Family togetherness.

Mom's now farther away from me than she was before. Waaay out South. She just called, said she can't operate the TV.

Gotta run. Another emergency crisis.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Floundering in the Path of Totality!

My wife had been prepared, super-hyped, for the eclipse for months. She'd picked up tons and tons of eclipse glasses. Scheduled her work around the day. The whole nine yards.
I said, "So, I know it's a big deal and everything. But, really, can't we just step out on our deck and look at a partial sun?"

Boy, was I ever schooled.

"You just don't get it," she said with a sigh. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It only happens every hundred years or so."

I did the math. Figured I probably wouldn't be around for another hundred years. Unless they freeze me next to Walt Disney.

"In Kansas City," my wife continued, "we're going to be in about 98% of the path of totality. To truly experience 100% totality, we'll have to travel North about, oh, 45 minutes or so."

"The path of totality" was a new one on me. Matter of fact, I'd never even heard the word "totality" until my wife dropped it on me. 

"Wow," I said, "the word totality is kinda..." The term sounded downright apocalyptic. Bigger than me, than you, than the universe. Words betrayed me. I couldn't describe it.

But my wife did. "Sounds so total," she said with a knowing, scientific nod.

So, yeah, if the solar eclipse was such a big to-do that a new term was created for it, a term so full of awesome that it's only used every 100 years, then color me excited!

Slowly, the days passed leading to the big event. Every layman was using the very special word: "I completed my meal to totality. Soon I'll have to make a path of totality to the bathroom." (A term only scientists should probably use, really, if you think about it.)

The Big Day came! Rain storms ushered it in! Torrential downpours of Arkian proportions! Skies so cloudy, the sun was nowhere in evidence!

Wait...what?

Undeterred, yet holding out for the best, we headed North. I never voiced my optimism out loud, but I thought surely if this event only occurs every 100 years, we wouldn't be ripped off out of our chance to see it. Right? RIGHT?

My wife and I discussed our destination. Consulted various weather channels, charts, diagrams. Crystal balls. Just like scientists. And we postulated a very scientific conclusion: "We'll go to Weston, Missouri. We can drink wine. That way should it still be cloudy, it won't be a complete washout."

Spirits high, we traveled North! So did everyone else! Nothing could stop the path of totality! Epic!

In Weston, home of some of Missouri's finest wineries, people took to the streets. Frankly, being a macabre sort, I'd worried that the eclipse might have a strange effect on people. You know, turn them into rapid zombies or something.

To my great surprise, the impending event appeared to bring out the best in people. Jokes were made ("Sorry, folks, the eclipse has been called off."). Young hipsters offered strangers eclipse glasses. Doors were held open. Weather reports were passed on. Smiles shared. Politeness ruled. For the first time, since...well, since at least the last presidential election, I felt a sense of community. That we were all in it together.

Together in misery.
Hopes were dashed. Clouds remained and like big cumulus bullies, they were there to stay. Someone reported from her phone that in Kansas City, they had a clear view.

Dammit! Better 98% totality than none at all!

Quickly, we hopped in the car and raced back. Darkness fell. We pulled off in along the highway, chunked into a Ruby Tuesday's parking lot, for God's sake. So did a lot of people. And watched some totality. But not the whole shebang.

Crushing disappointment reigned. Made much worse by listening to the ecstatic nerds on NPR describe the path of totality they were experiencing. President Trump proved himself Bigger than Science when he looked directly into the eclipse with superhuman eyes, treating it with the same disdain he does that other great scientific hoax, global warming. (And scheduling his war talk the same day as the eclipse? Bad form, President Trump, bad! Honestly, isn't his ego big enough without having to compete with astronomical events? Is he vying for the Kurt Russell role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as "Ego, the Living Planet?")
And all we got for our month-long efforts was some wine and 48 leftover pairs of eclipse glasses. I'm selling them now. Cheap.

Or I'll just make some lifestyle changes and live to be in the next path of totality.

Hey, you guys visited Peculiar County yet? Oddly enough, it's in the path of totality a lot of the time. Click here! 


Friday, August 18, 2017

It's a Man's World...unless, of course, you're a praying mantis.

And you guys think you have it bad!
Pity the plight of the poor praying mantis. Gather around for a little science lesson...

The other day my wife and I are sitting on the back deck. She's tending to a potted plant and says, "Hey! A walking stick!"

"Kill it," I scream, because everyone knows sticks shouldn't walk, a mutant aberration of science gone awry. And because everything I know about science I've learned from cartoons.

Upon further exploration, my wife says, "No...wait... It's a praying mantis."

Which is even worse. "Squish it! Get rid of it! For God's sake, destroy the beast!"

"No," says my wife, "praying mantises are good. She'll eat the bad bugs."

Hmm. "What in the world makes you think it's a female?" I ask.

She rolls her eyes, says, "There's a huge difference between male and female praying mantises."

I reached deep into the darkest pockets of my useless and dusty stored facts and plucked out something horrific. "Oh, yeah! It has a head, right? Because after the mantises procreate, the female eats the male's head."

"That's not the difference I'm talking about, but, yes, they do that."

"But why?" I knew the females feasted on heads, just couldn't figure out their motivation. "Are the females tired of a lifetime of male oppression? Are they into weird insectoid, extreme S&M and get carried away? Do they hate males?"

At this point, my wife's not a firm believer in the adage, There's no such thing as a stupid question. "They're just bugs doing...buggy things."

"Well...humans can't do it," I grumble.

Ever the scientist, my wife gives it more thought. "I imagine the males' head is full of protein and good for the eggs. Mantises only mate once, then it's off with the males' head."

"So...you're saying that the male kinda just hangs out, has sex once, then at the peak of his short life, he gets his head eaten?"

"Pretty much."

"...No wonder they pray all the time." 

For more strange science (not really) and weird wonders of the world (or at least a spooky lil' Kansas town in the sixties), check out Peculiar County by clicking....wait for it...RIGHT HERE! 
 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Kansas Power Corporation!

Behold the mighty strength of the "Kansas Power Corporation!" Sounds kinda like a Trump side-dish, doesn't it?

Nope! Guess again! It's just another example of Hollywood's predictably insular view of Kansas. The movers and shakers in Hollywood think all of Kansas is generic, nothing but one giant burg of hick-town Mayberry hi-jinx. Now, granted, the drive across Kansas is hellish, nothing but flat, boring land for the most part, but still...there are big cities here and there.

Recently, my wife and I watched an episode of Supernatural. One of the heroes asked where the villain was. Someone responded, "Kansas."

That's all the cast needed to  pinpoint the villain's location. Because everyone knows the state of Kansas is tiny. Just one giant backward town. In the offending episode, a single utility company under the moniker of "The Kansas Power Corporation" covered the entire state's needs. 

Stop it! Bad Hollywood! No cocaine!

Research, writers!

I swear, popular entertainment abuses Kansas more than any other American state.

Kansas is depicted in one of three ways:

1) Hicks sitting around the ol' fishing hole. No teeth, no smarts, no shirts. Que the Deliverance theme. (Okay, granted there are pockets of Kansas that do indeed cater to this rather specific stereotype, but we also have big cities with indoor plumbing and everything!)


2) "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto" jokes. (It's time to retire this right now! It wasn't funny the first kazillion times either.)

3) The wild, wild west with shoot-em-ups in the dirt streets. (These days, the only shoot-em-ups in our streets are gangsta drive-bys.)

I say enough! I want to take Kansas back from the incompetent Hollywood writers! Set them straight! Educate them!

(And then move out of this Godforsaken state.)

Click here to read true tales of Kansas (um, except for the ghosts, multiple murderers, witches, and things that go bump in the night).