Halloween, Green Men, and Greenjacks

Halloween is my favorite season and I wanted to write a book about the holiday as well as childhood terrors, about the panic that children feel when the lights go out and they know that something is there, lurking in the dark, watching, waiting to steal them away. That book became Bad Things and it began with a poem.BadThingsMan_1000

Big Jack

Winter cold, winter dreary

Winter leaves

No sap, no fool

Winter bones

No need to panic

Big Jack sleeps, the little ones too.

March buds, April flowers

May blood

So green, so new

Spring veins pump

And children panic

Big Jack wakes, the little ones too.

Summer heat, summer passion

Summer nights

So hot, so hungry

Dark desires

The children cower

Big Jack stands, the little ones too.

Autumn red, autumn brittle

Autumn cravings

So harsh, so clear

Child, run

Before he gets you

Big Jack walks, the little ones too.

                        © Tamara Thorne

As a child, there was nothing I liked better than going outside at twilight, especially in the fall, when the crisping leaves whispered and cackled about the arrival of Bad ThingsHalloween, making the night sounds even spookier. Oh, how I loved to scare myself! The good kind of scare, involving misty ghosts, eerie birdsong and, most of all, the greenjacks. The greenjacks were the best. They still are.

I became aware of green men when I was very small; my parents took me into Los Angeles to visit the museums at least once a month. I loved the natural history museum where the dinosaur bones towered and roared, where and the dioramas of cavemen and mammals in that great dark hall threatened to move if I so much as glanced away.

I loved peering into the mummy’s case, waiting for his papery whisper, wondering if he was aware of my shameless stare – and imagining what he might do if he could find the magic to reach out and grab me. At that point I would giggle and flee the room.  

In the space museum, there were rockets. I loved them, too, because my brain was locked and loaded with Ray Bradbury’s stories about Mars and outer space. Mars, I thought, really was heaven.ween

But most of all – next to the mummy and dinosaurs – I loved part of the history museum where huge old English tapestries festooned the walls. That’s where I first spotted green men hiding from hunters and ladies and dogs, peering around trees and through the leaves, watching… and waiting. They often had puckish goat legs, and always leered, full of wicked humor. I could – and did – spend hours sitting on a bench studying my latest find, telling myself endless stories about these green tricksters.

At home after dusk, I would go out in our vast backyard and sit cross-legged on the grass and stare at the ivied wall behind the swing set until the faces would come. They moved in the breeze, the shadow-faces, green eyes glinting, green lips moving. I could pretend the soughing wind and the mockingbirds’ cries were their calling voices, and that the chittering leaves were their whispers as they plotted and planned what they’d do if they caught me.Ruth Sanderson green man

The fear was delicious and I’d fight it, trying to stay put, to remain outside in the dark, but inevitably I’d run inside, frightened in the best way possible. Soon, the thrill would subside and I’d go back out to play the greenjack game again.  

Back then, I called them green monsters or green men and I made up stories to tell my friends when we camped out in the backyard on sleepover nights. Inevitably, we’d land in the safety of my bedroom long before midnight, where we’d hold a seance and try to talk to lingering ghosts or call up Bloody Mary.

But the green men were always my favorites. A little research led me to watch for them on the corners of old buildings, so I loved it when we’d go into the city because I could watch for them there too, and make up stories about how, at midnight, they would come to life and climb down to cavort in the meager trees and bushes by the buildings.

When I decided to write Bad Things, the green men became greenjacks.  “Jack” is a name  commonly used in conjunction with green men in England.  “Jack in the Green” was my inspiration.  May Day, May Poles, fertility rights are all tied up with this version of the green man.

greenknight1Around the world, there are many variations on the green man, but mine are American with English and Scottish roots. (In The Sorority, the Green Knight (from the Arthurian tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) makes several appearances and he’s pure Britannia.)

There are plenty of other modern green men. Tolkien’s Ents are probably the best known but the forest sprite, Tom Bombadil, from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, captured my interest even more. Groot, of Marvel Comics fame, is popular in these days of superhero worship. Bad ThingsTom-bombadil

The Green Man is also known to change with the seasons, becoming a holly king by winter and oaken royalty cloaked in a riot of fall colors in autumn. As the ruler of spring, he is festooned with tender young flowers, and in summer he is seen with bright blooms, corn, and wheat.

I wanted to create my own green man to match southern California since green men are always local deities. My Big Jack would be darkly green and lush, even at Halloween, alive and growing and terrible, and his minions, the greenjacks, would be nature spirits that only a cursed few (like our hero, Ricky Piper) can see. Normal people see only catch glimpses of whirlwinds and dust-devils, if they spot anything at all.

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In my lore, the greenjacks, like many “little people” of legend, and Big Jack, their master, are tied to changeling myths, but mine are also tied to All Hallow’s Eve. Poor Ricky is afraid to say anything because his parents already think he’s overly sensitive and imaginative – but he is tormented by these capering, terrifying entities as they search for a proper sacrifice as Halloween approaches. Ricky can’t even enjoy the holiday because of his fears. He is a boy terrified of the dark and what it holds. As an adult, he must confront those fears once more in order to protect his own son.

As Halloween nears, take a moment to sit outdoors and enjoy the leaves on the trees and shrubs and see if you can find any greenjacks. And if you see them, be especially careful on Halloween night  – don’t let Big Jack, a monster made of branches and leaves that pulse with green blood, catch you!

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Dia de los Muertos Booksigning and Halloween Sales!

Tamara will be signing all her books, including the latest release, Thunder Road, Saturday Nov. 1 at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. Come join us for a great Dia de los Muertos celebration, complete with goodies! Read more about the books and other authors here.

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  Mysterious Galaxy:   San Diego ~7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite #302, San Diego, CA 92111 ~ 858-268-4747

If you can’t come but would like autographed and/or personalized books, just contact the store. They’ll take speedy and easy care of you.

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Bad Things, Tamara’s novel of Halloween horror, is on sale through the 31st for just $2.99 in all ebook platforms.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Bad Things, Horror’s Roots, and Rock and Roll

So, my favorite DJ, Mimi Chen, on my favorite classic rock station, 100.3, The Sound,  gave me a Facebook thrill this morning when I found her post about loving Bad Things. Mimi isn’t a horror reader, but she liked it so much she reviewed it on Amazon.

Bad Things

Bad Things is a coming of age Halloween tale about Ricky Piper, his legless twin, Robin, and the greenjacks who cavort and taunt and try to steal the souls of those who can see them.  As a boy, Ricky is terrified of everything – the dark, greenjacks, his brother, and especially, Halloween.  As an adult, he returns to his childhood home with his own kids, having spent years convincing himself the greenjacks – and their leader, Big Jack, don’t exist…  And you know how that always goes.

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Inspired by my own childhood game – sitting outside at night watching leaves move in the breeze and pretending to see faces and figures dancing among them – greenjacks – Bad Things was a labor of love. Writing it brought back all those nights spent gleefully spooking myself then racing into the house to write ghost stories. But many other things played into Bad Things, too.

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I’ve always loved the Green Man – the guy you see with leaves growing out of his mouth – grinning down from the ornamentation on old buildings – including churches, or staring at you from his hiding place amongst the foliage on English tapestries, and old paintings. The Green Man even has his own story in beloved Arthurian Legends. (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight). A pre-Christian figure, he has been embodied by such diverse figures as Pan, Bacchus, Dionysus, Robin Hood, Herne the Hunter, Shakespeare’s Puck, and Tolkien’s Ents.

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He is the lord of the forest. There are lords (and ladies) associated with the other elements – fire, water, and air – as well. (In fact, my collaborator, Alistair Cross, and I have just turned in a new novel that deals with one of these other elementals.)

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I love the green man so much that I incorporated him into The Sorority as the Forest Ghost, along with tales of greenjacks told by my recurring professor, Dan S. McCobb. (Say it out loud.)

Sororityhand_1000There’s much more to Bad Things than green men, though.  Santo Verde, Rick Piper’s hometown in SoCal, is based on a very real little city called Redlands. It’s an hour east of Los Angeles, a place full of citrus orchards, greenery, and Victorian mansions. Years ago, it was a favorite weekend retreat of Hollywood’s elite.  The cemetery in Bad Things is a clear reflection of Redland’s own fabulous boneyard. Redlands/Santo Verde is also only a few miles from the apple-growing mountain town of Oak Glen which provided inspiration for my  witchy Halloween tale, Moonfall,  (FOr that matter, Thunder Road‘s Old Madelyn is based on Calico Ghost Town, two hours north, in the desert.)m 180x300But I digress.  The next thing you should know about Bad Things is that Todd Browning’s classic Freaks also helped inspire it. Years before I wrote it, I was fascinated by the legless boy, Johnny Eck, who walked on his hands. This grew into an interest in freaks in general; their history, their lives.

220px-Kobel-JohnnyEck-handstandJohnny Eck is particularly inspiring. He lived a long life, was well-loved and a master of many trades.  What I didn’t know when I researched for Bad Things – it wasn’t in the books I used – was that Johnny Eck had a “normal” brother, Robert, with whom he traveled and lived his entire life. Just like Ricky and Robin. Synchronicity rules.

The final thing about Bad Things is that, well, that’s a secret… Suffice to say, I don’t like practical jokers.

41QZH57ZEELBad Things is one of my favorite tales not only because Halloween is a subject dear to my heart, because it helped me understand why I am endlessly fascinated with human nature, especially its dark side. As for my love of ghost stories – there’s nothing to understand. I was just born that way.  Yowza.

http://tamarathorne.com

 

 

 

 

 

Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live!

Our new show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live!, is all about horror. We’ll be interviewing your favorite authors, discussing books, movies, and your ghost stories, among other things. Our first guests include Douglas Clegg, Glen Hirshberg, and Michael Aronovitz!  The show premiers November 6th on the Authors on the Air station at Blog Talk Radio. URL coming soon!

ShhfrescoT&C_edited-3By the way, my Halloween novel, Bad Things is currently on sale!

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http://alistaircross.com

Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live!

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A few months back, Alistair Cross and I we were interviewed by Pam Stack at Authors on the Air. We had a great time on the show and the three of us quickly double entendered ourselves into a fast friendship.  A few weeks ago, Pam asked us if we would be interested in hosting some horror-themed shows in October. This sounded like a lot of fun and we agreed, though we’ve kept it under our Halloween masks until today.

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Since, Pam has invited us to host our very own brand new radio show… so starting in November, we will be hosting Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live. We will be interviewing horror authors and other macabre personalities, talking about horror in general, telling ghost stories – ours and yours – and are planning some very special T&A – style features for your amusement.

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Already, we have an impressive list of excellent horror authors on tap, ready to share their personal stories in the horror industry as well as the secrets of their writing processes. But don’t expect deep dark critiquing and heavy duty analysis. If you follow us on Facebook, you know we like to have fun. We’ll talk about books and movies, the publishing world and about our own writing processes, as well as our unique methods for breaking writer’s block and other catastrophes.

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A shiny new Facebook page for our show will appear soon, but you can friend us right now on our individual Facebook pages at Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross. We welcome questions and suggestions.

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We have a vision. We want Haunted Nights Live to be the liveliest show about dead things in existence! It will be Halloween all year long at Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live. Boo!

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$1.99 – Cheap!

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Bad Things is on sale at Amazon for $2! Meet Ricky and his legless twin brother, Robin. He walks on his hands with the greatest of ease and he licks your butter, too!  Bask in the badness of Aunt Jade and her creepy poodles! Get ready for Halloween with Big Jack. He’s a real scream, as are his minions, the greenjacks.  Do you have symptoms of greenjack infestation? Find out now!

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I Want to Show You My Bad Things

Bad Things is all about childhood fears, night terrors, day terrors, evil brothers who lick the butter and pee in the lemonade, crazy aunts, greenjacks, freak shows, and Halloween. Especially Halloween. It’s one of my favorite – and most personal – books.

Bad Things (Kindle) is on sale at Amazon for $1.99 today through August 24.  Get yours now and get in the mood for Halloween.

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About Bad Things

THE FRONT PAGE FOR HALLOWEEN!

That’s where you’ll find my Halloween feature if you’re in southern California today.  It’s running in these papers:  LA Daily News, Pasadena Star-Bulletin, Daily Breeze, Press-Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Bernardino Sun, and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The feature is all about hauntings you can visit in the southland. I’ve been to all of them and they’re great any time of year, but especially during Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos!

Speaking of the Day(s) of the Dead, two of the places mentioned, Rose Hills Cemetery, and Hollywood Forever Memorial Park, both hold big celebrations this weekend.  See the article for links.

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You can also catch the article online at any of the newspapers’ sites. Here’s a link to the story via the LA Daily News.

ALSO: if you listen to KNX today, you may catch a short interview with me about haunted hotspots around the LA Metro area.

See the next blog down for a recounting of the first two paranormal events I was involved in!  I have incorporated many of my experiences over the years into my novels. Check ’em out at http://tamarathorne.com  And if you feel like it, share your stories with me here!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!Booksman_edited-1