Welcome back to the Paranormal Party! We’re celebrating the release of my debut YA, This Is Your Afterlife. Are you having a good time? Have you been freaked out by some of the spooky tales we’ve shared over the past week?
I’m so lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of excellent writer friends. Today I’d love you to meet another one, the brilliant Stephanie Kuehnert!
Steph and I ‘met’ online years ago when we were both looking for critique partners. She has this amazing ability to see both the big picture and the nitty-gritty details, and I really have no idea where I’d be without her guidance. Music and cats are a huge part of her life, and those are just two of the many reasons why we get along so well. Steph’s first two YAs were published by MTV Books in 2008/2009. Keep an eye out for Steph’s upcoming memoir from Dutton Children’s Books.
Ouija Boards & The Ghosts of Forest Park
My first encounter with a ghost was with George Washington. Like the first president of the United States, that George Washington. At least supposedly. It happened during a fifth grade slumber party at the queen bee/head mean girl of my grade school’s house where I used the Ouija Board for the very first time. There were maybe five or six of us and we were all sitting on the bed that folded out of the coach. The room was dark except for a couple of candles, most of us were nervous and giggly. I have no idea how we chose George Washington. I guess because we were eleven and no one had any dead people in their own life to call on—at least none they wanted to call on in front of everyone else—and he was a famous dead person who came to mind pretty easily and didn’t seem scary or evil.
However one of the first things someone asked him about was that cherry tree he chopped down as a child and apparently he didn’t to talk about it because suddenly the fold-out bed collapsed, we all screamed and a few people claimed to have seen a flash of green—you know like a dollar bill??? OMG—and then first Ouija Board experience was over right as it had just begun. I’m not going to lie, even though I didn’t see the green flash and I was pretty sure that the bed had collapsed from our weight, I was a little freaked out and I decided that the spirit world was best left alone… at least until I had something interesting or important to ask about.
My interest in the occult—tarot, the Ouija Board, psychic dreams, and love spells—arrived with puberty. I was thirteen, suddenly interested in boys, too terrified to actually talk to them about my feelings, so my best solution was to try to communicate those feelings psychically or magically and when that yielded no real results, I just wanted to hear what my future held. Every sleepover in eighth grade involved the Ouija Board. Instead of trying to think of some famous person to contact (though we did try to reach Sid Vicious once; he just spelled rude words over and over again, so that might have actually be real!), we decided to ask if any spirits wanted to talk to us, specifically we asked if there were any ghosts living in our houses.
I was a little nervous about this—even though my house was practically a hundred years old, I’d never seen anything spooky go down, but what if I somehow stirred up something awful and my family was suddenly living in a Stephen King novel! As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. The ghost who lived in my house was named Lulu and she was a sweet 20s flapper who was happy to tell me all about my crushes.
I’ve a few other ghostly experiences over the years, mostly in cemeteries because I had a little bit of an obsession with hanging out in them, which I wrote about in detail for Rookie magazine if you are interested. Two fun facts that you’ll learn about in that essay are that I actually named one of the main characters in I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone after a ghost from a Wisconsin cemetery and I was very excited when I bought my first house because it was located within a couple of blocks from three huge cemeteries. This was in Forest Park, Illinois, a town where the dead outnumber the living thirty to one!
There are a lot of great stories about Forest Park cemeteries. Emma Goldman and the Haymarket Martyrs are buried in one, which erm is actually the cemetery I used to go jogging in and Belle Gunness, one of the first female serial killers may or may not be buried there as well—it’s a mystery! Another cemetery is the final resting place of one of Liz Taylor’s husbands, Michael Todd, and home to Showmen’s Rest a mass grave of circus employees who were in a train crash—there’s a ghost story there, as you can imagine. And then there is the legendary Forest Park Flapper Ghost, a young hitchhiking ghost similar to Chicago’s Resurrection Mary.
When I heard about the Forest Park Flapper, I thought of my first ghostly friend, Lulu. Since Lulu lived…er, rather, resided, in my childhood home in a neighboring town, I started to fantasize that maybe my flapper ghost was the flapper ghost. I’d thought about writing a ghost story starring Lulu and when I was invited to contribute to Month 9 Books Very Superstitious charity anthology (which benefits the SPCA), I finally got the opportunity. It’s my first—and so far, my only!—piece of supernatural or paranormal fiction. I had a blast writing it, so it is my honor to give away a copy of this anthology in celebration of Vanessa and This is Your Afterlife!
Steph, I’m honored to have you with me on the blog! Thanks for sharing these fascinating stories. I’m so glad Lulu was well mannered compared to Sid Vicious!
- Enter my Rafflecopter giveaway HERE to win a Kindle copy of This Is Your Afterlife and a $50 Amazon e-gift card!
- Leave a comment to win a copy of Stephanie’s Very Superstitious anthology. If you could have a, um, conversation with a dearly departed historical figure, who would it be?
Tomorrow, join us for the final day of the epic Paranormal Party and the arrival of RITA-nominated author Tina Ferraro!