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5 Scariest Episodes from the LORE Podcast

When technology meets the terrifying truths of the past, you get one of our favorite podcasts: Lore. Hosted by Aaron Mahnke since 2015, each episode explores various myths, urban legends and folklore that show the dark side of human nature. While there’s plenty of ghost stories for the classic horror fans, you’ll also be exposed to chupacabras, clairvoyants, captivating creatures and more to put a little spook into your morning commute. These are the scariest episodes of lore we have found to date.

Lore Podcast Logo and text reading sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction

Ready to add Lore to your podcast list? There are over 100 episodes – and below are 5 of the scariest episodes.

“A Devil On the Roof” 

lorepodcast.com/episodes/9

Before there was Bigfoot, there was the Jersey Devil. Said to have the body of a kangaroo, head of a goat and dragon-like wings, there have been hundreds of documented sightings of the creature around New Jersey for nearly three centuries.

This episode discusses its origins and spookiest sightings. The scariest part? For plenty of Jersey natives, the existence of the Jersey Devil is less folklore, and more fact.

“Half-Hanged” 

lorepodcast.com/episodes/12

“Half-Hanged” tells the story of Mary Webster – a woman in the era of the Salem witch trials. She became the scapegoat after the town hero blames her for his worsening health and accuses her of witchcraft – simply for being a little different. She goes through (not to!) hell, but doesn’t go down without a fight.

While the story took place in the 1600’s, it’s a twisted tale that would not be out of place today. Fun fact: Mary Webster is an ancestor of The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood – who dedicated the book and television series to her. 

“Black Stockings”

lorepodcast.com/episodes/11

While exorcisms are extremely common in the horror genre, you’re usually trying to rid your loved ones of demons – not evil fairies. In “Black Stocking,” Manke discusses the folklore surrounding fairy changelings, and the desperate measures people went through to get rid of them.

“Rope and Railing”

lorepodcast.com/episodes/23

What’s more frightening than the depths of the sea? The lighthouse that stands beside it. This episode holds back on ghosts, monsters, or even villains – and tackles one of society’s greatest fears…ending up all alone. 

“Echoes”

lorepodcast.com/episodes/6

“All monsters are human.” Jessica Lange says it to Evan Peters in American Horror Story: Asylum, and this iconic line comes to life in one of Lore’s most disturbing episodes. Manke takes a terrifying trip into the asylum as he discusses the events at Danvers State Hospital, the first icepick lobotomy, and the horrifying ways in which the mentally ill were treated in asylums. It’s a tough, but necessary, look at human psyche and the progress we’ve made today. 

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Book Recommendation – Crossroads

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Crossroads by Laurel Hightower

Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son and two rescue animals, Yattering the cat (named for the Clive Barker short story) and Ladybug the adorable mutt. She loves discovering new favorite authors, and supporting the writing and reading community. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories. Whispers in the Dark is her first novel, though there are always more in the pipeline, and she loves researching anything horror related. She can usually be found working on the next project into the wee hours, sometimes as late as ten at night, as long as her toddler allows.

Laurel Hightower author photo

SYNOPSIS

How far would you go to bring back someone you loved?

When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything. 

A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil?  

Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again. 

Reviews

Crossroads is a gripping, deeply emotional ride. From its very first sentence to its shattering finale, this novella held me spellbound. If you aren’t reading Laurel Hightower, you’re missing out on one of horror’s brightest rising stars.”

Jonathan Janz, author of The Raven and Children of the Dark

Grief addicts unite! This book should come with a free therapy session, or at the very least a box of tissues. What a heavy read. I could feel the sorrow and pain coming off the pages as I read, and after finishing it I was completely wrecked. Overall this is an incredible novella, and one of my favorite reads of the year so far!”

Ben (@reading.vicariously)

To read the full review, click here!

Crossroads by Laurel Hightower is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace.

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Book Recommendation – Sour Candy

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Hailed by Booklist as “one of the most clever and original talents in contemporary horror,” Kealan Patrick Burke was born and raised in Ireland and emigrated to the United States a few weeks before 9/11. Since then, he has written five novels, among them the popular southern gothic slasher Kin, and over two hundred short stories and novellas, including PeekersBlankySour Candy, and The House on Abigail Lane, all of which are currently in development for film and TV.

Most recently, he adapted his work to comic book format for four volumes of John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night series of anthologies and contributed a short story to Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors.  He recently completed a new novel, Mr. Stitch, a collection of novellas entitled Guests for Suntup Editionsand a graphic novel for Storm King Comics. He lives in an unhaunted house in Ohio with a Scooby Doo lookalike rescue named Red.

Kealan Patrick Burke author photo

Synopsis

At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam are just an ordinary father and son, no different from any other. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to set his own bedtimes and eat candy whenever he wants. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined.

What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life.

Review

“I was truly enraptured as I read. I couldn’t look away. I had to know what was going to happen next to Phil as his life is turned upside down in a most upsetting way. The young boy is seriously creepy, and I was legitimately worried about what was going to happen. And speaking of, there are numerous twists and turns that I did not expect. And that ending…wow. In fact, it’s the type of story that is best read with your expectations at the door. Just buckle in and enjoy the ride!”

Ben (@reading.vicariously)

To read the full review, click here!

Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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Book Recommendation – The House That Fell From the Sky

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is The House That Fell From the Sky by Patrick Delaney.

Award-winning author Patrick Delaney grew up in varying cities in the greater Los Angeles County. After leaving the city of Santa Clarita, he relocated in Redding, a small city in Northern California. It was here Patrick began his literary career, slowly writing his first novel. After receiving an Associate of Science degree in Social Sciences at Shasta College he continued his higher education at Simpson University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Throughout his undergraduate career he gradually polished his debut novel “Dante’s Town of Terror”, which would go on to win the gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards(IPPY) in the horror category for 2018.

Author Patrick Delaney

SYNOPSIS

When twenty-nine-year-old Scarlett Vantassel comes to the conclusion that her life doesn’t resemble any of the things she actually wanted for herself, she drops out of school and moves back home, attempting to reconnect with the people she left behind. But a shadow falls over her return one early October morning when a sinister house miraculously appears in the center of the city, sparking a media frenzy that attracts attention nationwide.

Soon after the newspapers label it, “The House that Fell from the Sky,” Scarlett’s childhood friend Hannah becomes obsessed with the idea that the house holds the key to discovering whether there really is life after death. Undeterred by her friends’ numerous warnings, Hannah becomes increasingly consumed with the desire to enter the house, convinced it would allow her to reconnect with her recently deceased mother.

Despite a series of escalating events suggesting that the house may be more dangerous than anyone ever thought possible, a privately owned company seizes control of the property and hosts a lottery to lure the city’s residents, promising the winners a large cash reward if they dare to enter the house.

To Scarlett’s horror, Hannah uses her vast wealth to secure a spot among the winners to gain access to the house. Now, it’s up to Scarlett, her older brother Tommy, and her friend Jackson to face their fears and journey into a place where nothing is ever quite as it seems, and decide if they can help a friend in need, or if Hannah truly is lost.

Review

“Now this is how you do an original take on the haunted house genre! Sure, it borrows tropes and imagery from other books and movies, but not in a bad way. It’s more of an homage to those that came before, while also carving out a unique niche of its own. This book hit a lot of personal likes of mine: a focus on character building, themes of family, friendship, and grief (a la Haunting of Hill House) an irresistible mystery that needs solving, and terrifying scenes of monsters and dark chaos. I love that there’s such a cool mix of horrors (ghosts, ghouls, creepy crawlers, monsters, eldrich terrors, etc). Also healthy doses of Silent Hill, Lovecraft, King, and more. At over 500 pages it drags just a bit in some spots, but overall I was definitely down for this epic tale!”

Ben (@reading.vicariously)

To read the full review, click here!

The House That Fell From the Sky by Patrick Delaney is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace.

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Book Review: The Burning Girls Explores the Horror and Hope of Religious Faith

The Burning Girls horror book Cover
The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

Is there anything more complex than religious faith? Faith can be ineffably inspirational and intractably inflexible, a source of hope to motivate some of humanity’s greatest heroes and an excuse to defend some of our most despicable monsters. And when most people talk about the subject, they tend to focus on one quality to the exclusion of the other. 

So it’s to the credit of British author C.J. Tudor that her novel The Burning Girls incorporates faith into horror story in a humane and principled manner. The book’s title refers to two young girls martyred in the 16th century for their Protestant beliefs. Today, villagers in their hometown remember “the Sussex Martyrs” as champions, holding memorial ceremonies and constructing twig dolls in homage. And sometimes, the girls’ flaming ghosts appear as omens to those who are in trouble. 

The most important troubled person is Reverend Jack Brooks, a vicar who has been moved, along with her fourteen-year-old daughter Flo, to the tiny Sussex village Chapel Cross from her urban parish in Nottingham. Jack brings along her troubled past, including the murder of a young parishioner, her husband’s shadowy death, and a family history that she does not want to discuss with anyone, including us readers. 

Despite her increasingly weighty baggage, Jack makes for a kind and engaging lead. Serving as the narrator for the majority of the book’s chapters (Tudor employs third-person voice for chapters focusing on other characters), Jack is quick with a quip and a forgiving aside, without ever feeling like a saint. The mercy she extends to others stems from an awareness of her shortcomings. When she begins judging a colleague for engaging in a sin of omission, she checks herself and thinks, “Who am I to judge?” 

This isn’t to say that Jack doesn’t make mistakes. She gives into anger and (like all parents) constantly flubs in her decisions with Flo. But given how easily this smoking, swearing, horror-movie-watching woman of the cloth could become a “cool priest” cliché, there’s something refreshingly real to Jack’s grounded approach to the transcendent, especially to a lifelong practicing Christian like me. The Burning Girls insists that everyone has their demons and fights them their own way. 

Despite the certainly admirable quality of this theme, the novel does become laden with tragedy. Everyone from a small-time reporter to a fellow vicar’s wife has a tragic backstory, which can become overwhelming. Given the mundane atrocities that mark The Burning Girls, pyro specters and crooked exorcism blades seem excessive.  

The problem is exacerbated by Tudor’s sometimes too-lean prose, which prioritizes snappy dialogue over clearly defined spaces and characters. The book often reads like a script, as conversations between characters can go on for over a page, with little more than a signal phrase to break it up. As a result, the characters feel thin, as we’re forced to construct our mental image of them from the things they say, rather than the physical attributes the narrator allows us to see. This tendency crosses over from frustrating to irritating when the characters indulge in pop-culture references, talking about Evil Dead, Bill Hicks, and (with surprising frequency) The Usual Suspects. Unless you’re Nick Hornby, readers shouldn’t know more about your protagonists’ movie collections than we do about their physical features. 

Fortunately, Tudor balances these issues by moving the plot along swiftly. The author shows a deft hand at revealing clues and mysteries, allowing connections between the Sussex martyrs, the disappearance of two teen girls and a local priest, and Jack’s biography, to float into view with satisfying elegance. The reader feels like an active participant in the adventure, never ahead of the characters and rarely trailing behind.  

The Burning Girls treads some truly horrific ground, recounting some of the worst things humans can do to one another. And it does not shy away from the fact that religious faith often drives these acts of brutality. But it also shows us how faith can be a healing element, compelling us to care for each other, all the more in the face of such cruelty.