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Thursday, July 12, 2012


Our Book Club Friday guest today is Esri Allbritten, author of the Tripping Magazine mystery series, which covers the adventures of a low-budget travel rag that features destinations of paranormal interest. The trouble is, there always seems to be a crime behind the supposed supernatural event, making Tripping’s staff scramble to keep their story while they uncover the terrible truth. Chihuahua of the Baskervilles is now available in paperback or ebook. Book two, The Portrait of Doreene Gray, just came out in hardback and ebook. Critter from the Black Lagoon is in the works.

Esri likes nothing better than to have her characters visit real towns and wreak fictional havoc in them. You can read free chapters of her books and find out more at EsriAllbritten.com.

Esri is offering a copy of either of her current titles to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog.
-- AP

Crafting a Local Legend

A lot of us grew up with stories of a local monster or ghost – creatures that thrilled our childhood selves and gave us a sense of shared lore. Maybe your current city lacks this vital spark. Never fear; you can “discover” your own questionable creature, and summer is the perfect time to do it. All the raw materials are there: spooky noises outside a tent, murky shadows in a sun-warmed lake, and the unspeakable sounds of mating raccoons. Throw in a twelve-pack of beer on a muggy evening and you’ve got yourself a receptive audience! So what are the right ingredients to make sure generations of kids run screaming from the woods?

An unusual method of locomotion. Your average supernatural creature does not amble through the woods like a teenager at the mall. No, it crawls, floats, creeps, slithers, flies on scaly wings, or bounds along the ground in twenty-foot leaps. It can also vanish suddenly, and almost always does.

A grab bag of physical features. Excessive hair is always in fashion. Goat horns or hooves were popular in the 1800s. Wings and scales are fine, but they’ve kind of been done to death. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m seeing empty eye sockets, albino skin, and tentacles. Lots of tentacles.

Glowing eyes. You must have glowing eyes, because there are tons of things that look like glowing eyes. Car headlights, driveway reflectors at weird angles, glints off windows and chrome – even the actual glowing eyes of an animal caught in the shaky beam of your flashlight.

A fondness for authority figures. If you want your story to be believed, make sure your monster is witnessed by a police officer, a reverend, or a “prominent businessman.” Rarely are these people named or still alive, but if they are, so what? Are you going to call up Officer Robert Cullough of Atlanta, Georgia and ask if he really saw a creature that looked like “a cross between a rabbit and a seahorse”? What I heard was that he was in his patrol car one night when he saw something hopping through the trees alongside the road. It had the body of a giant rabbit, but with gauzy fins on its back and a scaly, jointed tail. Sometimes it would leap up and use that tail to grab a tree branch and swing itself forward. Also, its eyes glowed.

Cullough’s friends called it Jumping Lizzy because Liz was the name of Cullough’s ex-girlfriend. When she found out, she hanged herself, and if you sit under the right tree at midnight, you can hear her crying and stomping her large, hairy feet.  

The most popular monsters are shy. Yes, they’re frightening in some way (large, toothy, made of ectoplasm) but they’re essentially harmless. Your average bear may rip off the arms of anyone who gets between it and a convenience-store dumpster, but Bigfoot is shy. Alligators might be tacky enough to jump for raw chicken, but the Loch Ness monster, like Garbo, wants to be alone.  Real supernatural creatures are sensitive in some way.  Those ghostly teens who ask for a ride to the nearest diner? They just want to do a quick review for Yelp before going back to the spirit world. Strike up a conversation about pie and they fade through the wall.

So there you have it, the elements of a local legend. If you do it right and do it quick, you could win $2,000. The blog io9 is offering a bounty for the best photo of a mystery creature. You can also tell them a story, but they won’t pay you for that. Words are cheap.

What’s your favorite local legend? Tell us that, or anything. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles or The Portrait of Doreene Gray, your choice. -- AP


Anonymous said...

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Kathleen Kaska said...

In our small Central Texas town, it was the goatman who lived in the pasture at the end of our road. No one ever saw him, but you could "feel" his presence. He has since gone elsewhere since the pasture is now home to our community center.

GBPool said...

Sometimes you don't have to go any further than your own family history to find a haunted house. My mother and her sisters spent summers in the Old Sauer Castle in Kansas City, Kansas, the home of their aunt. The house has its own legend that I discovered when putting together my mother's scrapbook. I was amazed.

Anna Taylor Sweringen said...

NYC has so many real monsters its tough to pick a legend. : ) I guess I'd have to pick the sewer alligator purported to be as large as a prehistoric reptile.

Mary Marvella said...

Esri, I LOVE your titles! I'll try to apply your advice for my next local spook!

That goat man traveled to Macon, Georgia!

My novella FOREVER LOVE has a legend, a ghostly black cat which appeared just before a member of a certain family would die. Harbinger or demon of ghost?

Thanks, cool blog!

Esri Allbritten said...

Poor goatman. Bumped by yoga and kiddie crafts.

Esri Allbritten said...

How cool is that? Will have to Google that place.

Esri Allbritten said...

Nice. Wonder if it's ever an albino alligator? Cause a giant white alligator would be AWESOME.

Esri Allbritten said...

I vote for Alien Big Cat.


Lynn Franklin said...

Esri, wonderful blog! I love your sense of humor. You've gained a new reader!

Esri Allbritten said...

Ooh, Lynn, I like you. You might enjoy going over to Esriallbritten.com and reading the first couple chapters of both books, as well as a free short story with some of the characters from Chi of B. You can also find a sample of a book I self-published on Kindle, called Jokers and Fools. Don't forget kids, you can download a free Kindle app for any of your devices. I do most of my reading on my smartphone.

Anonymous said...

Since I have a ton of interests, many of them of the crafts persuasion, I'm drawn to books about the same. Local legends is something new to me, but no less interesting. I love play-on-words so book titles fascinate me and colorful covers lasso me in. I'd love to win your current contest. Thanks.

judydee said...

Since I have a ton of interests, many of them of the crafts persuasion, I'm drawn to books about the same. Local legends is something new to me, but no less interesting. I love play-on-words so book titles fascinate me and colorful covers lasso me in. I'd love to win your current contest. Thanks.

Amber Polo said...

Every town has a legend. If yours doesn't, start one! My town was the site of a campy William Shatner movie about spiders in the 70s. It would be fun to start a rumor that some of the spiders escaped into the mountains and are coming back to.....

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there must be some legends about where I live but since I did not grow up here I don't know and I don't remember of any where I did grow up. But that being said both of these books sound GREAT!!!

Esri Allbritten said...

Kingdom of the Spiders! They're coming back to kick TJ Hooker's ass. Good luck with that.

Esri Allbritten said...

Kingdom of the Spiders! They're coming back to kick TJ Hooker's ass. Good luck with that.

Michelle Fidler said...

I'm in Ohio and there's a haunted restaurant called the Colombian Inn in Waterville. Another haunted restaurant is the Oliver House in Toledo. I collect ghost story books so that's why I know the local ghost stories. In Elmore there's a ghostly motorcyclist. Not sure if he's headless or not, but that would make the story spookier.

I read the first Chihuahua book, which I got from the Mystery Guild.

Barb Goffman said...

You can't beat the great campfire yarn about the man with the hook who follows teenagers when they go parking near the woods.

Loved your first book and am looking forward to the second one, Esri.

Kathy said...

Here in New Jersey we have the Jersey Devil that roams the pine barrens in south central New Jersey. There are books and there was a TV special about it too.

Esri Allbritten said...

Hi, Barb! The guy with the hook is a classic, which dates back to the 50s. There's a great exploration of how this scary story functions as a morality tale, on Snopes.


Esri Allbritten said...

Portrait got picked up by the Mystery Guild, too, so you can look for it there if you don't win it here.

I like the idea of a headless motorcycle rider. Maybe he has a spectral helmet bungeed onto the back of the bike. Tsk, tsk.

Esri Allbritten said...

I LOVE the Jersey Devil. It's been around a long time, and has an almost medieval feel, what with the father maybe being the Devil, the mother maybe being a witch, the 13th child, a possible curse, etc. Not only that, but it is described in distinctly dragonlike terms.


When I first starting seeing drawings of the Chupacabra, I thought maybe it was the Jersey Devil legend, somehow transported to Puerto Rico. But it turns out that the first eyewitness apparently confused the movie 'Species' with reality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chupacabra (see subhead, "Solving the mystery of the Chupacabra."

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Species' designers took some inspiration from the Jersey Devil. There is a 2002 movie, The 13th Child, that's based on the legend.


Of course, I haven't seen any of these movies, because I'm sensitive, and can't watch anything scary.

Unknown said...

A small little village by my hometown had the Muddy monster. This was a creature sort of like Big Foot and there were many accounts of people seeing the monster. Other than that there were your typical ghosts running around!

Esri Allbritten said...

Muddy Monster would make an excellent band name. I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

All I've got is the Las Vegas Black Widow, but my dad used to be married to her sister. In fact, there was some speculation that my step-brother helped dump the body.... Ah, the memories of late nights with him...way back before the purported dumping. I don't communicate with that portion of the family and haven't in years, so the whole thing has an air of mystery about it.

Maybe your nth book should have a genealogist in it. It's amazing what one can find rooting around in old newspaper clippings and cemeteries.

Esri Allbritten said...

WOW. Brush with creepy greatness. Now I have to Google the Vegas Black Widow.

I find those kinds of crimes the most riveting. First, because you have to overcome so many taboos to commit a cold-blooded crime within the family circle, so they have a lot of emotional content, and second, because they take place in that most accessible of arenas - the family - rather than in politicaI, corporate or even organized crime. I attended last year's Bouchercon and heard someone talk about how everyone in her family was pretty certain that her aunt had poisoned her father. The audience sat there slack-jawed. Don't ask me who it was...I have a terrible memory.

I am actually toying with a new series idea that has a little bit of genealogy in the plot.

Esri Allbritten said...


P.S. You should write a book.

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