Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Hellfire & Damnation

Post Script to “Hellfire & Damnation III” KDP Give-away

One of the Free Book Sites that is posting the knowledge of “Hellfire & Damnation III’s” being free on April 24, April 25, May 2, May 3 and May 4 asked me to post a link to their site. Here it is: www.fkbt.com

Also, in my previous article about same, when I said tarantula, I think the lifeguard who carted off that spider the size of a Buick said it was a form of scorpion and there were LOTS of smaller ones around. So, my “tarantula” reference perhaps should have been “scorpion.” Not sure WHAT it was that bit me, but the bite was not a puncture would, as a bee would leave. It was a horizontal slash mark about one inch across, like that a knife might leave if you slipped while cutting a tomato. It was “no big deal” at the time, but it sure left me with a big problem.

“Spirit Driven Events” Blog Talk Radio Show of March15,2013

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“Hellfire & Damnation II” Book Trailer is B=Now “Live” on Yahoo


Here is a link to the new trailer for “Hellfire & Damnation II.'” Hopefully, it will be posted to the dedicated site, www.HellfireAndDamnationTheBook.com by the weekend. The old book’s trailer will remain behind it.
Who knows how many books there will be? Only the Shadow knows, for sure.

“Confessions of an Apotemnophile”

[*The story reprinted below is just one of those from my short story collection Hellfire & Damnation, which is due out soon from The Merry Blacksmith publisher. Read more about the collection at www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com, which will be available from Amazon.com in both print and e-book formats this month. It is Stoker-recommended and nominated for a Silver Feather Award and an IPPY.]


by Connie (Corcoran) Wilson, M.S.

Apotemnophilia. What-the-hell is THAT? Sounds like a breed of hippopotamus. The word slid deliciously off my tongue as I sat in the waiting room, thumbing through the reference work the psychiatrist had given me.

Body integrity identity disorder. What’s that got to do with me? There’s nothing wrong with me. Nothing that a little amputation won’t fix, that is. I’ve wanted to be rid of my left leg, now, since I met my first amputee at the hospital with my mother when I was six years old.

“What happened to your leg, Mister?” I asked. Mom was around the corner in the hospital, visiting Grandpa, who was in an oxygen tent. She had parked me on a bench near the elevator. She told me not to move a muscle before she entered the room where my Grandfather lay dying. I think she was afraid that I would be too upset seeing Gramps in his weakened condition. The end was near.

The stranger smiled. “It’s a long story, little boy.”

“That’s okay. I’m waiting for my mom, anyway.”

“I think your mother should be here if I’m going to tell you how I lost my leg. She might not approve of my story.” He held his hands outstretched, in the universal gesture that means, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.” Sort of a half-shrug, palms upward.

And so Mr. Burden, sitting in his wheelchair waiting for the elevator, did not tell me until much later how he had gone to the park that warm September day in Florida, sat cross-legged on the lawn, rested the shotgun on his right thigh, cocked the trigger and intentionally blown off his left leg. The shot caused little pain. He made sure of that by aiming the barrel at a pre-selected point on his knee. Blood and muscle were exposed everywhere. The lower leg was hanging only by a grisly thread of bone and tissue. He tied the tourniquet tightly enough around his upper thigh to keep from bleeding to death.

Mr. Burden, a retired architect, then reached for the cell phone, which he’d placed next to him before the blast, dialed 911, and summoned help. Today, as he sat in the wheelchair in this hospital, five feet from the bench where I waited for my mother, he was not about to tell me his story. I would only learn it later, in adulthood.

But his story became my story.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the mysterious man and his missing leg. I kept looking at my left leg. When I returned home, I started tucking my left pants leg up under me, pretending that my left leg was gone.

“Gregory White! What are you doing?”

“Just playing.”

“Playing what?”

“Just playing around.”

“Go outside and really play. Run around with the other boys. Quit that!” My mother walked back into the kitchen from my room. She seemed upset.

Let’s face it: I was a strange kid. From the time I was six, I often thought of Mr. Burden’s missing limb. And I wished with all my heart that my own left leg were missing above the knee. I felt deep guilt at hating my left leg, but I couldn’t rid myself of my loathing for it. I wanted it gone. Permanently. It was my burden.

For a long time, I thought I was the only one in the world with this bizarre desire.  I felt deep guilt. I wanted this aberrant wish of mine to disappear. I wanted to be “normal.” If Mr. Burden had told me what had happened to his leg, that day in the hospital, would it have made me feel more “normal,” knowing that there were more of me? I don’t know.  Finally, I acted on my secret suppressed dream and contacted a physician. I was thirty years old.

“Doc, I want you to remove my left leg above the knee.”

The physician looked startled. He glanced away from me. “What?”

“I want you to amputate my left leg. Above the knee.”

“Is there something wrong with your leg?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then why do you want it cut off?

“I’ve had this feeling since I was six years old. I just do.”

The orthopedic surgeon took out a pad and scribbled Dr. Hans Frank, 210 West 42nd Street, Suite 703. Before he handed it to me, he said, “My agreeing to amputate a healthy limb would be crazy. It would be a violation of the Hippocratic oath. It would be tantamount to a paranoid-schizophrenic coming in here and telling me to ‘talk to the other voices’ in treating him. We all live by the credo, ‘First do no harm.’ You don’t need a surgeon. You need a good psychiatrist.”

Dr. Frank, in turn, recommended the article I had been reading in his waiting room, Apotemnophilia, sub-titled “Two Cases of Self-demand Amputation As a Paraphilia.” The only promising thing about the article was its inclusion in The Journal of Sex Research. I was sure Dr. Frank was a very good psychiatrist, but I didn’t think I’d be a very good patient. I tossed the article in the glossy magazine towards the stack of reading material on the waiting room table. It hit the top of the untidy stack, and a small landslide of stacked-up magazines and papers slid noisily to the floor, causing the other patients to stare in my direction.

Embarrassed, I rose to leave, before I had even been seen. Disappointment, again.

I knew I was absolutely fine, despite the first doctor’s reaction. I also thought that finding some other people like me would be helpful. That is how I met up with Paul Campagna on the Internet.

“The apotemnophilia group is divided into pretenders, devotees and wannabees, “ Paul told me during our first phone conversation. Paul would stop to cough a deep smoker’s cough every few minutes.

“What’s the difference?

“A pretender just wants to make a person think he’s disabled. He uses a wheelchair or crutches. Stuff like that.”

“OK. What’s a devotee do?”

“A devotee is sexually attracted to people who have had amputations.”


“Really,” said Paul.

“And wannabees?”

“Wannabees get the most attention. They really and truly live for the removal of the healthy limb. You and I are wannabees. Do you want to do something about it?” When he asked me this, he leaned forward, cigarette in hand, the ash on the end hovering perilously above my martini on the bar, “Jimmy’s Place,” where we had agreed to meet in person. There was a glint in his eye that told me he was not just making idle conversation.

Paul began, “I feel like my legs don’t belong to me. They shouldn’t be there. My legs cause me to feel an overwhelming sense of despair.” A heavy sigh followed that statement. The smoke from his cigarette spiraled towards the bar’s ceiling, as I re-distributed my weight on the bar stool covered in the fake red leather. Naugahyde, I think it’s called, and my butt made farting sounds when I slid atop it.  This was the neutral location we had selected to meet and talk about our mutual ailment. No commitments, no recriminations if we didn’t get along when we met. We’d just play it by ear. It was a seedy-looking place, with old Sinatra songs like “My Way” playing in the background, as Paul smoked and coughed his way through his comments.

I nodded my head in agreement with Paul’s words about being comfortable in your own body and cracked a joke, “I’m just trying to get a leg up on this thing.”  Puns were my weakness. If Paul had no sense of humor about our condition, we wouldn’t get along.  But he smiled appreciatively and raised his martini glass to clink against mine, saying, “Touché.” Followed by “Cheers!”  We drank in silence for a moment, considering our mutual plight.

Paul was not as new to this disorder as I was. He had been trying to convince a reputable doctor in his home state of Connecticut to amputate both of his legs for the past fifteen years. He had logged more shrink time on the couch than Woody Allen. Now he was sixty years old and he was just….ready.

“What can we do…if we’re wannabees?” I asked Paul.

“I’ve been doing some research,” Paul said. “There’s supposed to be a doctor in Matamoras, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. He’ll perform the surgery, …for a price.”

“How much does he want?” I asked.

“Twenty thousand dollars for me. It’s ten thousand per leg.”

I emitted a low whistle. Twenty thousand dollars was a fair chunk of change. But Paul was a wealthy attorney, and the insurance game had been good to me. Paul and I set off for Matamoras, full of hope that the doctor he had read about would free us both of our unwanted appendages.

When we arrived in Matamoras, we searched for the doctor’s office in the winding streets of the old city, near the Cathedral. The trees in the park across the street from the church were festooned with winding, upward-spiraling strings of white lights, as it was near Thanksgiving. It was a surreal Disneyland effect, given our reasons for being here. When we couldn’t find the doctor’s office, we called the cell phone number he had given us.

“No. I don’t do the surgery in the office, and I’ve recently moved,” he told Paul on the phone. “Check into a suite at the brand new Holiday Inn on the edge of town.” It seemed that being brand-new was a trade-off for not being a hospital.

“But…you won’t do the surgery there, will you?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. It’s quite safe,” he said. “Do you have the money?”

Paul quickly reassured the mysterious “Dr. X,” as he wished to be called, that he had twenty thousand dollars for the removal of both of his legs, and I had ten thousand dollars for the removal of just my left leg, below the knee. We proceeded to the Holiday Inn, as directed, and checked in. I used a fake name; I was prepared to pay cash. The motel already had Christmas trees set up in the lobby, decorated with gold bows, even though it was only Thanksgiving. Nothing like rushing the season, I thought. And then I thought, Christmas this year I won’t have to live with my left leg. And I smiled for the first time since I had left home in New York, thinking what a nice early-season present that would be.

At the desk, we asked the receptionist if she knew “Dr. X.”

She looked away and then said, “Yes.” Nothing more. After that, she scurried from the desk and into the back room. Paul and I exchanged wary glances.

When we had each checked into our suites, which were, as advertised, brand new, we met in the bar for a drink. Paul began chain-smoking immediately, as the plastic palm tree in the corner alternately lit up blue and then green, advertising a brand of tequila I had never heard of.

“I don’t know, Paul. I’m not so sure about this,” I said. Paul sensed my uneasiness, but, by this point, he had adopted a certain fatalistic attitude.

“Nothing ventured; nothing gained,” he responded. He put out the cigarette he was smoking, shrugging as he did so and coughing as though he might not make it till surgery in the morning.

“I know you’re right, but what do we really know about this doctor? He won’t even give us his real name.”

“Well, you understand why that is, don’t you? He’d be arrested. No doctor in the United States will knowingly amputate a healthy limb. This doctor is from Brownsville, but he crosses the border to do the surgeries here, for fear he’ll lose his license to practice medicine if the authorities in the United States find out. If it’s any consolation to you, I found out that his real name is Dr. Miguel Ortega, even though he wants us to call him ‘Dr. X.’”

“Yes, I understand why that is,” I said, “but it’s hardly confidence-inspiring.”

“Look at it this way, Gregg. You don’t have to go through with it. I’m going to do it. It’s now or never, for me. I’ve been this way for over twenty-five years. I just don’t want to go on living this way any longer. This doctor has done many sexual reassignment surgeries. Compared to cutting off some guy’s schlong, cutting off my sixty-year-old legs shouldn’t be a big deal.” He threw back another vodka martini and smiled. We both laughed at his use of the word “schlong,” and Paul lit another cigarette.

And so it was that Paul’s legs were surgically removed at the Holiday Inn in Matamoras, Mexico, at daybreak. During the night, I had a moment when I realized I could not go through with my surgery. I dreamt of limbless legs, like those iron statues in Grant Park in Chicago, marching towards an open flame-filled crematorium door. Bodiless legs. When I awakened, I was shaking like a Mexican hairless and drenched with a cold sweat. I just was not as brave as Paul. Or maybe not as desperate.

When I left him, Paul was recuperating in his suite, two Mexican nurse’s aides by his side.  He was very groggy and doped up on painkillers. I squeezed his hand, wished him well, and left for the airport. I pocketed an OxyContin pill or two from the tray near his bed, figuring I’d find out what old radio Rush found so addictive about them. Might not have the opportunity again; Paul wouldn’t mind. Plus, Paul was currently in no condition to argue about it, if he did.

One week later I read about the arrest of a Dr. Miguel Ortega in Brownsville. He was charged with murder after the body of a sixty-year-old man, Paul Campagna, was found in a suite at the Holiday Inn in Matamoras, Mexico. The victim had been dead for three days. Gangrene.

I put down the USA Today, stunned and nearly bit through my lower lip. Paul! It’s Paul! I can’t even honor his memory by going to his funeral. If anyone were to find out that I had been Paul’s companion in Mexico, who knew what might happen? I could lose my job. Insurance agencies frown on their top agents running off to Mexico to have their healthy legs amputated. I could hear the water cooler talk now. Thank God I paid cash and used an alias when I checked into that Holiday Inn!

A few months passed, and my longing to become limbless grew more intense. First, I contemplated killing my lower left leg by submerging it in a vat of dry ice. I’d read about a woman in Wales who had succeeded in doing that. After that, the doctors had to help her. Then it came to me.

I would follow the lead of the very first amputee I had ever encountered: Mr. Burden. Only I wouldn’t use a shotgun because, quite frankly, I feared I would lack the necessary courage to pull the trigger at the moment of truth. After all, I had failed to pull the trigger in Matamoras, figuratively speaking.

First, I charged up my cell phone. I already had an Amtrak schedule. Sometimes I use the train to travel into the city. I began drinking vodka martinis in the afternoon, in honor of Paul, and I drove to the deserted railroad crossing. The midnight train would come through. I would tie a tourniquet in place before the train’s arrival, place my leg on the track, and call 911 to summon help. It would work! It had to; I owed it to myself, and I owed it to Paul.

I had taken the Oxycontin I had taken from Paul’s motel room (Paul’s purloined pills) and the several martinis I’d drunk helped me quell my fear, as I held tightly to the cell phone that would summon the ambulance after the train had done the dirty work. To be honest, I was so smashed by the time I heard the sound of the oncoming locomotive that I was actually drunkenly humming “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The wet grass beside the tracks had stained my white shirt. The cold steel of the rail, cooler in the drop of the evening temperature, felt comforting, somehow. It reminded me of my childhood bicycling days, when I’d put my legs up on the handlebars and roll full-speed down Twelfth Street near my house. I was ready to roll now. Full speed ahead.

The pain, when the train crossed over and amputated my leg, was excruciating.  I was almost zonked out… just drunk enough to lay there, my left leg extended across the tracks. I was scared, yes, but I was determined. This time, there would be no turning back. I kept thinking, I hate my leg, I hate my leg, I hate my leg.

After the train came barreling through, oblivious to my presence on the tracks, I picked up my cell phone and dialed “911.”

I heard, “We’re sorry. Your carrier has no service in this area.”  The no-service message repeated five times, followed by a tinny three-toned beep.

Please hang up and try your call again. Robotic. Chilly. Useless. The phone fell from my grasp as I lapsed into unconsciousness.

Book Signings Coming in December

Ava (Wilson) and I sign books on October 30th at Barnes & Noble in Davenport's Northpark Mall.

After over 6 years of hard work, 3 publishers, and many other aggravations, my new nonfiction book It Came from the ’70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now is nearly ready. Advanced reader copies have arrived and only Quad City residents will have the opportunity to see the book “up close and personal” at a benefit for the Midwest Writing Center to be held at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Northpark Mall on Saturday, December 4th, 2010, from 1:30 p.m. until whenever everyone else has left. I am arriving late, due to an appearance at the East Moline Public Library that will start at Noon and end about 1:00 p.m….just when the other E.M. authors are arriving. It is always thus.

I’ll be there with copies of my new movie book of 50 reviews written for the Quad City Times between 1970 and 1979, with 76 photos, major cast and trivia.  The book is not self-published, but put out by a small independent publisher in Rhode Island (“The Merry Blacksmith) and you can see  it on Amazon.com with a “peek inside” feature there.

It’s really a sweet book, if I do say so myself (and I do) and, after the appearances at the library and bookstore, I’m going to be traveling with the book to a Family Video store near you.

First appearance will be on Friday, December 10th, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I’ll be there signing books and, if you buy one, your name, address, phone number and e-mail will be entered into a drawing for $50 of free movie passes at the local theater of your state (Rave or Escape). The drawing for the winner(s) (one per state) will not take place until just before the Academy Awards (Feb. 27).

Why such a long delay? Because I hope to visit still more Family Video stores after we return from Florida, which will be for 2 weeks in February, before the Oscars.

Other appearances between now and Christmas that will earn you a spot (one entry per book purchase) for the free ticket drawing will be held on Saturday, December 11th, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Family Video store in Moline (12th Avenue) and Saturday, December 18th, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Family Video store on North Division in Davenport, Iowa. I have been assured that the video stores, themselves, may have some “specials” for you, as well. So, come on out and get an autographed copy of this unique book for that movie buff in your family.

The book is not (yet) available as an e-book. We’re working on it, but it will not have as many pictures as an e-book, so this is the book you want. Again, take a look at the “peek inside” feature on Amazon.com and you can see, for yourself, the quality of the contents, including about half new articleson movies like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Godfather” (1 and 2), the films of Woody Allen, etc. There were so many great films in the ’70s that I can’t begin to list them all here, but the Table of Contents on Amazon will give you an idea.

I will have my other books with me…everything from “Hellfire & Damnation’ (www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com) to the three-book trilogy of ghost stories set along Route 66 (www.GhostlyTalesofRoute66.com).

But you can only get the book signed at one of the events listed above, and it is nominated, right now, for 3 awards (to be awarded in late May.)

Quad City Book Fair Programming Set for May 8th at RME

Vol.-I-GTThe first Quad City Book Fair, to be held May 8th from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. inside the River Music Experience at 2nd and Main Street in Davenport, Iowa, will offer something for everyone. Local author Sean Leary will M.C. the presentations from the stage  of Mojo’s Café.

First up at 10 a.m. will be Chicago author Lawrence Santoro. Larry is a multiple Bram Stoker nominee and frequently called upon to record other authors’ works. He will read from his new novel Just North of Nowhere immediately after Mary Ellen Chamberlin’s opening remarks to the 40 Midwestern authors assembled.

Following Larry’s presentation will be Cindy Puck, who will talk about “Teens and Money” at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Eight-year-old Anna Shammus of Riverdale Heights, who has written 8 books, will follow Cindy,  reading from her works and answering questions until 11:15.

There will be a short break for AV set-up, from approximately 11:20 to 11:30 a.m.

HD3At 11:35 a.m. local author Connie (Corcoran) Wilson, recent winner of the David R. Collins’ Writing Award at the Midwest Writing Center’s March 20th banquet, will present professionally made trailers of her most recent books, including the three-book trilogy set along Route 66 (Ghostly Tales of Route 66, Vols I through III, www.ghostlytalesofroute66.com) , the short story collection Hellfire & Damnation and her first novel Out of Time (www.outoftimethenovel.com).

At noon,  the 40 participants at this first Quad City Book Fair event, some from as far away as Oklahoma, will be welcomed by local politicians, including  Mayor Bill Gluba of Davenport and State Representative Jim Lykum.

Karen Craft will follow the dignitaries with her presentation on “Animal Communication” from 12:15 to approximately 12:30 p.m.

At 12:30, the three student winners of the Midwest Writing Center’s essay contest will read their winning 500-word essays on the topic, “My Favorite Book and Why.”

carmeA 40-minute lunch break will follow Ms. Craft’s presentation, from ten minutes of one until 1:30 p.m. (Box lunches will be available inside the RME).

At 1:30 p.m., Muscatine native and author of the graphic novel Road to Perdition Max Allan Collins will speak about writing collaborations. Mr. Collins and his wife have collaborated on several books, and Mr. Collins also was involved in the Dick Tracy comic strip narrative. Collins has been a frequent presenter at the Midwest Writing Center’s summer workshop and at other conferences throughout the nation.

Another well-known author who will be present throughout the day, signing her books at the Barnes & Noble table, is children’s book author, Jill Esbaum, author of Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-comin’! and Stink Soup.

CovermockCartoonist Steve Lackey will give a 15-minute presentation on cartooning from 2:15 to 2:30 p.m., after which live music begins onstage at Mojo’s Cafe within the River Music Experience and continues until 4:30 p.m,  the end of the book fair day.

KUUL radio will be outside the River Music Experience, broadcasting live for three hours in the morning and awarding prizes.  Within the RME throughout the day there will be interactive activities for children and adults, alike, with prizes awarded every 15 minutes.

Stop by and meet the 40 authors present for the Quad City Book Fair, being held at the same time as the Beaux Arts Fair in downtown Davenport. When the shopping for jewelry and pottery and other crafts takes its toll, come to the River Music Experience at 2nd and Main, pull up a chair, meet the 40 Midwestern authors present and enjoy.

Clarification of Review Below

In response to a reader’s comment, I wanted to clarify that the review of  Hellfire and Damnation (www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com) that appears below, it was sent me by the reviewer, Adam Groves, who agreed to review the book in electronic format (early). As he states, it is posted on his his blog at this time, where you can (also) see it.

REVIEW of “Hellfire & Damnation” (www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com)

Just letting you know that my review of HELLFIRE AND DMANATION is now up at http://www.fright.com/edge/HellfireAndDamnation.htm

I liked the book a lot–hopefully my review will help spread the word!

Adam Groves

On&off Productions

By CONNIE CONCORAN WILSON (Sam’s Dot Press; 2009)

In horror fiction, as in most any other sort, true originality is an increasingly rare commodity.  But it does exist, as proven by Connie Wilson’s HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, an anthology that is genuinely, blazingly original.

The collection is rigorously structured around the nine circles of Hell as laid out in Dante’s INFERNO, yet the contents couldn’t be more varied in subject matter.  What unites them is the unerringly rational, straightforward prose, which is unlike anything else in horror fiction (usually typified by subjective “you-are-there” descriptions).  Stylistically it’s not unlike Wilson’s previous book GHOSTLY TALES OF ROUTE 66, a journalistic compendium of American folklore that was likewise distinguished by its novelty.  HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, however, far outpaces the earlier volume in every respect.

“Hotter Than Hell,” categorized under the Gates of Hell, starts things off.  Inspired by the final words of real death row inmates, it’s a gritty and depressing account of prison life.

From there we move into the first circle of Hell, where Pagan souls reside.  Illustrating this is “Rachel and David,” set in Webster Groves, Missouri, and apparently based on folklore from that region.  It’s about a young couple and their fateful meeting with two odd kids.

In Circle Two, Lust, we have three stories.  The first, “Love Never Dies,” is a strange little number set in ancient Rome and headlined by an undead prostitute!  “Konerak” takes a real-life incident, of the man who almost escaped the clutches of the late Jeffrey Dahmer, and spins a wild tale of Oriental sorcery emerging from the Hmong of Laos, who fought for the United States against the Viet Cong (obviously this is the only place you’ll find Eastern mysticism, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Vietnam War combined).  “Effie, We hardly Knew Ye!” is another folklore-based tale, this one of an Oklahoma City hotel haunted by the spirit of its founder’s wronged mistress.

Circle Three is Gluttony, as represented by “Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken.”  In this tale a chicken gets its head cut off and still lives–and I’ll leave you to discover the rest of it on your own.

From there it’s on to the circle of Hoarders and Wasters, with “The Lemp Mansion Curse,” a jaunty account of a family curse, and “Queen Bee,” about an all-too appropriate revenge taken on a woman whose personality and social standing are accurately encompassed by the title.

Circle Five is the Wrathful.  It contains “The Ghost Girl of Howard “Pappy” Litch Park,” set along the author’s favorite highway, Route 66.  Here, in what may or may not be a fact-based tale, a father’s wrath causes his young daughter to be whisked away…but glimpses of the girl can of course still be seen in the area.

Heretics populate the Sixth Circle, containing the quietly unnerving “Hell to Pay.”  It combines a look into Amish life with an intriguing speculation on the origins of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.  Also in the Heretics circle is “On Eagles’ Wings,” concerning a weird cultist, a young girl and an unhealthy obsession with birds.

Circle Number Seven is reserved for The Violent.  It begins with “Going Through Hell,” about a serial killer and his woman police officer victim, and continues with “Living in Hell,” about a young boy who visualizes a serial killer’s crimes in nightmares.  This tale is particularly shivery: the concept isn’t terribly original, but the nasty subject matter and clinical prose make for a skin-crawling read.

Circle Eight consists of The Fraudulent, represented by “Confessions of an Apotemnophile.”  That word refers to an person desiring to amputate his own limbs, in this case a man who’s harbored an all-consuming desire to lose his legs ever since conversing with a like-minded individual as a child.

Circle Nine is the final circle, featuring “An American Girl,” the collection’s creepiest story.  Its subject is the factual murder of a teenage girl in snowy Illinois, with the bulk of the tale taken up with a methodical depiction of the pubescent killers’ attempts at disposing of the corpse.

You won’t find another collection like this one.  Some readers, I’m sure, will be put off by its oddness, yet it fulfills most every expectation one might have for a horror anthology, being readable, entertaining and deeply unsettling in a manner unique to itself.

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