Archive for Paranormal

Photo Friday: The Overlook

I first visited the Stanley Hotel back in 2003. As a horror writer, it’s almost mandatory to drop by and check out the influence for one of the horror genre’s most famous landmarks, Stephen King’s Overlook from The Shining.

The Overlook

The Stanley Hotel: inspiration for terror

It’s a cool place. One of these trips I think I’d actually like to stay there.

The Stanley embraces its reputation, of course. While only the ABC miniseries was shot at the Stanley, there are memorabilia and movie posters from the original film version all over the place, and of course the coffee shop also sells “redrum” chocolates andĀ The Shining t-shirts and accessories. We took a few minutes to eyeball the movie posters for the Kubrick flick posted in the lower level mens room.

There was a wedding reception at the hotel while we were there, so the bride and groom and their guests were having pictures taken in the lobby and out front. That didn’t stop tour groups from going through, but we still took advantage of a quiet moment to take a handful of photos ourselves.

Wrecking Crew

If there are ghosts in the place, they were scared of us

TheĀ tours also include night tours and a ghost hunt, as well as a visit to Room 217, where King stayed. I wondered if it made sense to keep a room vacant like that, but I bet they make a lot more money in tours than they’d make on the room. I still have an old-style key to room 217 from my first trip, complete with an Overlook Hotel tag, but I didn’t see any reason to pay for the tour when Michelle Scalise used to work there and took us on a brief tour herself.

In any case, we enjoyed even our brief visit to the place, and it was good to be behind the camera again. I have a couple more sets of photos to upload from the last few months, and then I’ll need to decide if I can salvage the rest of Photo Friday 2012. Things blew up at work, got busy at the dojo, and got a little insane at home. When available time comes down to either working on photography or working on the writing, the writing has to win out every time.

But like the writing, it’s just a matter of developing habit and discipline.

More soon.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Hungry Hungry Aliens

Just a thought I had today:

The closest star to our planet is 4.2 light years away. Let’s assume life exists there, and they have ships advanced enough to fly ten times the speed of light. That means it would still take them over five months to get here. Even for a four-man (-being?) crew, you’re looking at stocking lots of food and water (or equivalent sustenance) for such a long trip, meaning the ship is going to need a sizable cargo hold (whether for stored goods or a garden). Then you need more space for propulsion unit.

This rules out the small UFOs most people claim to see as alien in nature. If they traveled through wormholes or jump gates, folded space, or traveled via some other sci-fi cliche, how is it we can spot the energy signatures of gamma-ray bursts in remote galaxies, but not something local to our solar system?

Not to mention the time and energy investment involved. They’re going to come all that way to buzz an airfield, make crop circles, probe a redneck, and fly home?

Yeah. Still not buying it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Your Modern World Kicks Your Balls In

Two more entries to Your Modern World tonight.

First up, diseases are a common problem in the modern world. Sure, we’ve made many advances and have eliminated things like smallpox, but we still have to deal with the occasional outbreak. Most societies deal with this through immunizations and vaccines, as well as prevent the spread of disease through hygiene, germ cleansers, and in extreme cases, quarantine.

That’s just not good enough in the backwater villages of India. How do they deal with it? They marry their daughters off to frogs. Yeah, that’s going to end well.

Next time I catch pneumonia, I’ll marry the Little Bird off to a hamster. Fix me right up.

In our second entry, we’re drawing closer and closer to the dreaded 2012 apocalypse as predicted by the Maya. There have been books and TV shows devoted to the date, and theories abound as to what the world-destroying event could actually be.

Putting aside the failure to learn a lesson from Y2K hysteria and the fact that the date is just a nice round number in the Mayan calendar (just like 2000 on our Gregorian calendar), has anyone stopped to realize they’re worried about predictions from people who practiced human sacrifice to appease their gods?

They needed rain, they sacrificed people. They needed more crops, they sacrificed people. They needed the sun to come up the next morning, they sacrificed people. I’m just not going to get myself too worked up over the last page of a calender worked out by some assholes who’d cut my heart out as an insurance policy for reaching that last page.

Makes me wonder if we’re really making any progress after all.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Your Modern World Spites Your Face

In today’s entry of Your Modern World, we find motorcyclists in Nigeria are using dried pumpkin shells as helmets in an attempt to comply with new helmet laws. Many of them are being arrested, yet they still refuse to comply with the law.

The first question a rational human being asks is “why not wear a helmet?” Good question. The first reason is because they’re afraid the helmets will be stolen. This is especially problematic for the motorcyclists who use their bikes as a taxi to get people through the insane Nigerian traffic; the drivers claim they get to the destination and the passenger runs off with the helmet, which costs $29US. That may not sound like a lot, but consider they only make about fifty cents a ride.

Okay, fair enough. What else?

I know some bikers who don’t wear helmets, and their arguments include: helmets restrict vision; helmets dampen hearing; helmets are uncomfortable; you don’t get to feel the wind in the face; forcing helmets on us hampers personal freedom.

Not a big deal in Nigeria. No, it’s their next concern that makes them a prime candidate for a Your Modern World entry:

Stories have also appeared in the local papers highlighting passengers’ fears that the helmets could be used by motorcyclists to cast spells on their clients, making it easy for them to be robbed.

“Some people can put juju inside the helmets and when they are worn the victim can either lose consciousness or be struck dumb,” passenger Kolawole Aremu told the Daily Trust newspaper.

Yes, you read that right: they’re afraid of magic!

I would kill to see ABATE present that argument to the state legislature.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Son of Your Modern World

I just read that albinos are being murdered in Tanzania for the alleged magical properties of their limbs and organs.

We’ve split the atom, condensed the sum total of human knowledge onto silicon chips, and have shot satellites into the depths of space, yet a significant portion of the world’s population is still living in the Dark Ages. There may be parts of some cities I wouldn’t walk through at night, but at least I don’t have to live in fear of marauders hacking my legs off with machetes because they want to mix up some potion or another.

Yeah, I’m glad most of us have put superstition and magic behind us. Modern societies just don’t have room for — oh, wait… never mind.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

This is Still Your Modern World

There’s a Czechoslovakian man who believes aliens are trying to assassinate him. Meteorites have struck his house five times in the past several months, and because this defies the odds, he’s concluded it must be aliens.

Now, I can understand the thought popping into his head. I once heard a thunk in my car and thought it might be a bomb (which, 13 years later, still amuses my wife to no end). How, though, do you hold on to this thought for more than a few seconds and not laugh about it? Let’s just assume for a moment that the aliens are out there. What does this guy do for a living that might make him a target? What could he possibly have done that could rouse their ire? Maybe they’re just doing it for the giggles, like some cosmic meatspace version of the Flying Spaghetti Monster game.

Even better is he’s reinforced the roof of his house to protect himself. Does this mean he thinks he’s safe if he’s having a beer at the local pub? Or if he checks into a hotel room every time it rains? Rather than spend all that money, why not just move? If the meteorites follow him to his new house, then it might be worth entertaining the notion of intelligent guidance behind the meteorites.

I can’t help but laugh at the image of him hiding under a table every time it rains. It makes me wonder what else he’s doing about it, like holding a rifle across his lap and shooting back when a new meteorite hits. We should put him in touch with Troy Hurtubise so they can turn the Angel Light into a superweapon and mount it on an Ursus Bearsuit to battle the aliens. Or at the very least he should file a grievance with the Vogons.

Shifting from the extraterrestrial to the divine, there’s a story in India about a girl born with two faces. Obviously that means she’s a reincarnated goddess. People from neighboring villages are already worshiping her as such, and the parents will not allow doctors to give the girl a CT scan.

I love it. When a goat is born with two faces or a cat is born with one eye, it’s a deformity. At the very least, superstitious or religious (pick your poison) folk will call it a curse or a bad omen. When it happens to a child, though? She’s a goddess! Can’t go tying bad mojo to our precious little babies! “Misfortune and mutation my ass, it’s a blessing!” As with all things religious, it’s all so arbitrary and convenient.

Taken together, these are a good example of how quickly people turn to paranormal or supernatural explanations for things they don’t understand. It doesn’t matter that one guy lives in a modern culture and the others in a Third World village; they both jump to extreme conclusions.

Welcome to your modern world.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Poltergeist Children

In what I’m sure is an April Fool’s prank, New Scientist is reporting Italian scientists are speculating psychic emanations from children going through puberty is responsible for poltergeist activity.

Brovetto and Maxia hypothesise that the changes in the brain that occur at puberty involve fluctuations in electron activity that, in rare cases, can create disturbances up to a few metres around the outside of the brain.

These disturbances would be similar in character to the quantum mechanical fluctuations that physicists believe occur in the vacuum, in which “virtual” particle and antiparticle pairs pop up for a fleeting moment, before they annihilate each other and disappear again.

Brovetto and Maxia believe that the extra fluctuations triggered by the pubescent brain would substantially enhance the presence of the virtual particles surrounding the person. This could slowly increase the pressure of air around them, moving objects and even sending them hurtling across the room.

I love it! Straight out of comic book science. If this were real, these guys would take the top spot on my crackpot list.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Human Ingenuity

In my aliens-as-religion post a couple weeks back I mentioned the way some people undersell human ingenuity. For example, there are those who believe aliens must have built the pyramids because they can’t fathom the primitive Egyptians being capable of assembling the blocks.

Then along come people like Wally Wallington. He’s rebuilding Stonehenge by hand, using nothing more than wood and rocks. Who’s to say the same or similar principles weren’t used to build the pyramids? Just because we can’t figure it out doesn’t mean they couldn’t.

Lack of evidence is not evidence itself.

In more modern times, some propeller heads also figured out how to better convert radiation to electricity using nanomaterials. This, too, is something that would have been unfathomable a century ago, and something we couldn’t yet pull off in the 1960′s. That doesn’t automatically mean we must have reverse-engineered it from Roswell wreckage.

Yes, people as a whole are stupid and ignorant. However, it only takes a few visionaries to come up with something great.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Join the Space Cult

I glanced at a table near the bathroom in the local Borders store and found an Illinois MUFON application staring back at me.

I was in the mood for a laugh, so I snapped one up. It turns out for twenty bucks, I too can join the search for little green men in flying saucers. I wonder if there’s a membership card and a secret handshake. I’m half tempted to join just so I can find out if the majority of the membership is comprised of Stanton Friedman types or if they’re just your garden variety, mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling dweebs. (One may may be indistinguishable from the other from a distance, but at least you can hold a conversation with someone like Mr. Friedman.)

While it does make sense to me that there could be life on other planets, perhaps even (now or in the past) on other planets in our own solar system, I find most people are too quick to assign extraterrestrial origins to anything they can’t otherwise explain.

For example, an ex-governor of Arizona claims he spotted a UFO. The article has the following quote:

“As a pilot and a former Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man-made object I’d ever seen.”

That’s often enough for most people to tag him as an expert on the subject. However, when was his Air Force experience? What was his job? What was his security clearance? Engineers can conceivably be working on all kinds of strange and unusual technologies that he wouldn’t be privy to.

Consider the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. I don’t doubt when it was first under development, many pilots would never have recognized it, much less your average Joe who spotted it flying high overhead. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of UFO reports could now be attributed to the B-2. In fact, some say many of today’s UFO sightings may be attributable to the hypothetical Aurora or other deltoid aircraft with exotic propulsion systems like external burn.

Are there unexplainable events out there? Sure. But does that automatically make them the result of visiting aliens? Of course not.

2,000 years ago, people thought the Earth was flat. They explained things they couldn’t understand as the work of gods and monsters, including things like thunderstorms, which we now take for granted. They thought tornadoes and hurricanes were divine punishment (hell, we still refer to them as “acts of God”) rather than natural weather phenomena. People today have a much better grasp on science, however, so they instead conjure up science-based strangeness to explain the unexplainable. They replace Zeus and Hera with Martians and Greys.

On another side of it, the UFO chasers are very much a cult. I think so many of them so badly want to believe that they latch on to anything they can’t easily explain and call it alien rather than fully investigating the object or event in question. The Haitian UFO video is a perfect example of people disregarding the obvious because it contradicts their faith.

How odd it is to see a hybrid of faith and science when the two are so often mutually exclusive. Does anyone else think it’s funny that both divine creation and alien genetic engineering both site a Missing Link as a proof? They can’t both be right, and something that simply may not have been found yet is a flimsy piece of evidence anyway.

So I think I’ll take a pass on joining the great space cult. While UFO’s, extraterrestrial life, and spacecraft are, and always will remain, a fascinating subject for me, I’m not sure there’s such a big difference between alien abduction claims and the Virgin Mary appearing as a water stain.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

News of the Web

So much to blog, so little time. Here’s a couple quick hits:

Congrats to Automattic, creators of the bestest blog software on the planet (WordPress), for landing $29 million in funding. Not too shabby for a product that’s being given away for free. And they say Open Source doesn’t work. Ha! Version 2.5 already sounds delicious.

A man got through a TSA checkpoint in an airport, realized he still had his gun on him, and went back to report it. The TSA goon squad promptly arrested him. Lesson learned? If this happens to you, keep your mouth shut. They suspended the screener who let the man through for the investigation, but I don’t understand why the man’s arrest was bigger news than the TSA failure. Yes, he tried to make good on his mistake. But look at it this way: in some states it is legal to carry a firearm, but illegal to carry that firearm onto school grounds. If I were legal to carry and walked into work with my gun, I’m sure I’d be arrested whether or not I told the principal “oops!” ahead of time.

A mysterious blob is clogging sewer drains in Maine (found via Boing Boing). Maybe it’s The Stuff. Run for your lives, Mainers!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Scaring Them Senseless

CNN has a timely Parenting article about what scares children and how to handle it. It’s not bad reading, and a lot of it rings true to my own experiences. But what they really need is a little more specific advice for dads.

Some examples:

  • A recycler I visit is right across the street from a cemetery. It probably wasn’t a good idea to tell the Midget to “be on the lookout for zombies while I unload.” (To be fair, I did tell him a shuto strike to the head will put a zombie down.)
  • Letting the Midget watch — at the age of two — the alien queen chase Newt through the floor at the end of Aliens was, in retrospect, not a good idea.
  • When the Midget was terrified of the vacuum, going behind the couch and pretending to get sucked in was not the smartest decision I have ever made. If you try this one, here’s your fair warning: you will indeed think it is the funniest thing in the world. Your wife, on the other hand, most certainly will not.
  • Convincing the Squirt I was hungry and was going to eat his little sister was probably just plain mean.
  • Jumping out of hiding and scaring the children is fun. Jumping out of hiding and scaring the children when they are just out of bed, still half-asleep, and crying because they just had a nightmare, is the opposite of fun. By the time your realize this, it will already be too late.
  • You really can scare the piss out of a child. I don’t advise you to try.
  • A giant, man-eating chicken lurking in the bedroom may be ludicrous to you, but I assure you it is serious business to your child. It is also unwise to convince the child that said chicken is eating you and send him screaming for his mother. You will feel bad afterward, and you will feel even worse when your wife gets her hands on you.
  • Your child has no reason to believe Cthulhu (or any other mythical beast or monster, for that matter) is not real. Save yourself some time and diffuse that shit right now.
  • The flightless eagles at the zoo are not going to leap off their perches and carry the child away. Nor are the snakes and spiders going to break out of their cages and bite people.
  • Jesus is not a zombie.
  • Dracula does not eat children who don’t eat their supper.
  • The Krampus is not real. Don’t bother showing them this painting, either.

Wow. It really is a bitch growing up the child of a horror writer.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

This is Your Modern World

Watching Windows install itself is about as exciting as watching paint dry, particularly when it’s going onto a new hard drive in a server that puked its guts up the day before, Dell failed to deliver a new hard drive, and there are two buildings full of people relying on services to be restored, so I’ve got another just-for-fun post for you.

Server meltdowns aside, we like to think we live in a fairly advanced world. We’ve got TV, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and many more cool, electronic toys. Science and technology take longer strides every day, and the next big breakthroughs are always right around the corner.

Then I read something that reminds me we’re still the same sad, superstitious fools we’ve always been.

Witness the Indian airline who sacrificed goats to appease a sky god. Can’t fix the (man-made) flying machine? Make the gods happy.

Observe the African politician who hired a witchdoctor to influence an election. Can’t appeal to the people with your charm and wit? Cast some spells on their asses.

Go see how Ugandan police arrested members of a doomsday cult who believed flooding in their country heralded the coming Apocalypse. Their leader thinks he talks to God, and is undeterred by the world’s failure to come to an end in 2000 (when another cult killed 800 of its members, apparently just to be sure).

Check out the guy who says angels live on Mars (found via Tim), which is not merely a planet but a representation of the pain Jesus suffered on the cross and was named after Satan by the Romans. (No, really. Go read it. I’ll be here when you get back.)

I can show you right now that they’re all wrong. See, Jesus lives on this guy’s driveway. Not to be trumped by His son, God put his signature on an eggplant. Suitably chastised, Jesus retreated to somebody’s kitchen. (Then again, maybe he was embarrassed about his Mother hanging out in pizza parlors and slumming under the Kennedy expressway.)

Welcome to the Devolution.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.