Book Nerd Guest Post
JG Faherty grew up in the haunted Hudson Valley region of NY, and still resides there. Living in an area filled with Revolutionary War battle grounds, two-hundred year-old gravesites, ghosts, haunted roads, and tales of monsters in the woods has provided a rich background for his writing. A life-long fan of horror and dark fiction, JG enjoys reading, watching movies, golfing, hiking, volunteering as an exotic animal caretaker, and playing the guitar. One of his favorite childhood playgrounds was an 18th century cemetery.
JG’s first novel, CARNIVAL OF FEAR, was released in 2010. His next book, GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY, a YA supernatural thriller, was published in 2011. CEMETERY CLUB, his third novel, and THE COLD SPOT, a novella, will be released in 2012. His other credits include more than two dozen short stories in major genre magazines and anthologies.
Then you see the chair.
Small in size, but the remains of the straps on the arms and the broken head rest, combined with the oversized rusted metal square nearby on the wall, the one with the empty tubing for heavy electrical cable, tell you exactly what you've found.
The room where the shock therapy was performed.
In your mind, you hear them screaming.
Urban exploring is what they call it now (back when I was a kid they called it breaking and entering!), and we were hoping to find the holy grail of any exploration adventure – something cool to take home. On a previous trip by myself, I'd found a building filled with old file cabinets, many of which contained patient records from the forties, fifties, and sixties. This time, that same building had turned up nothing, but I had another spot in mind, a building I'd only been in once, and that had been many years earlier.
The day was cold as we wove our way through broken furniture, shattered glass, and overturned boxes of decorations and cheap medical supplies – plastic sample cups, face masks, gauze, even a few gynecology exam kits. The morgue building is an odd one, with three stories above ground and two below, but different staircases taking you to different levels. On a gray winter day, in a building with no lights, it's easy to get disoriented as to where you are, even with five people and flashlights. In addition, the building is home to dozens of feral cats, so there are always distant sounds teasing your ears.
We started at the top and worked our way down. The majority of the rooms were either empty or filled with junk; abandoned for more than 15 years, it had already been ransacked by hordes of urban explorers and defiled by too many adolescent vandals than you can count. Still, we uncovered some interesting finds: the afore-mentioned shock therapy room on the second floor; the dental offices in the first floor of the basement, with chairs still ready and waiting for patients; a back room filled with hundreds of patient dental files and x-rays.
We also located the small laboratory where patient samples were tested and God knows what kinds of experiments were run. It is common knowledge that in the thirties and forties the doctors at the institution experimented on the patients. They tested vaccines, tried out shock therapy and lobotomies, and then covered up all their mistakes by burying the dead in graves that remained unmarked until the late 1990s. Even today, the graves themselves have no names, just numbered crosses. A plaque with a list of names in alphabetical order sits at the entrance to the cemetery – a plaque erected sometime after 2000.
Was it then that I got the idea for vengeful creatures living beneath the town? Maybe it was when we found an attic filled with patient files, detailing the atrocities the inmates had experienced, both at the hospital and in their previous home lives. Beatings. Rapes. Abandoned by families and left to rot all alone in a strange place, crammed like sardines into living quarters meant for a much smaller population.
Maybe it was then. Or maybe it was afterwards, when the different rooms and the history of the place began to gel in my subconscious. All I know is that I always wanted to write a story with that place as a focal point, and over time I put the pieces of it together, in my head and on paper, until I knew what I wanted. Then it was just a matter of doing the research to find the specifics. What type of monster had no physical being and existed on negative energy? What kind of history would a town need to have in order to create such monsters? And how could I incorporate the physical dangers I needed without resorting to traditional zombies or underground creatures?
In the end I found out about Shades, and the last piece fell into place. I had what I needed on the supernatural end, and I knew the layout of the grounds, both above and below the surface. Naturally, some things I just made up – in real life, there is no pit below the hospital, there are no tunnels connecting the hospital grounds and the cemetery. My town doesn't have a history of violence like the one portrayed in my book, although we do have our fair share of ghosts and legends. After all, this is the region of George Washington's battles, Ichabod Crane's horseman, and tales of Native American maidens committing suicides. The maintenance tunnels under the buildings do exist though, and experiments performed in those buildings were probably worse than anything I wrote about.
So when you read CEMETERY CLUB – and I hope you do! – think about this, and how real horror can be in anyone's back yard.
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