Tag Archives: So that happened

The Pileup

by Hope Madden

Damn, it is cold out. Cold enough for me to be oh so happy I no longer make that commute every day from Grandview to Crosswoods—easily the nastiest drive in Columbus.

In fact, I don’t have to drive anywhere, which means I don’t have to warm up my car, don’t have to scrape off the windshield. Truth be told, I don’t have to shower.

I mean, I do. Often enough.

But I did drive to Crosswoods last week to return a laptop and meet my friends for lunch and it was stupid-cold and it reminded me of that time I totaled my car.

Among the many casualties of the winter of 2011 was my Toyota Matrix. I’m not nearly over the loss.

This was the first new car George and I had ever purchased. It replaced our beloved, if ridiculous, 1993 Ford Festiva.

We got our new driving machine for a song. Columbus had recently fallen victim to another ludicrous weather patch—the great hailstorm of April 20, 2003—and Tansky Toyota had some damaged vehicles to move.

A bit romantic about our first new car purchase, we thought about going with an undimpled-by-hail version, until we remembered that we don’t have a garage. We could very well have paid an extra two grand for a car that would, by morning, have hail damage, depending on the zany Ohio weather. So we embraced the tiny divots.

That’s the voice of reason at work right there.

Dimples or no, the Matrix was a good car. It required almost no maintenance in the seven years we owned it. It got great gas mileage. It was paid off.

And yet, Mother Nature called it home.

Perhaps your morning commute was delayed one day that January because of three accidents on Rt. 315 north near the hospital curve. Mine was similarly delayed, as I was in one of the accidents.

Yes, if you waded through the metal carnage that morning, I was in the gold Matrix on the left berm—the only one of the six cars involved not to make it home on its own four wheels. Awesome.

Lest you mistake the morning’s escapade for a six-car pileup (how exciting!), it actually was three separate accidents within eyeshot of one another. Maybe less exciting, but certainly odd.

My own misadventure was caused by a slowdown of all lanes of traffic, causing me to veer from the center lane into the far left one. That maneuver allowed me the most stopping distance. It seemed like a smart move since the roads didn’t look bad in the slightest.

Yet, when I applied the brakes, my car continued moving forward at the same speed.

I turned the wheel, deciding it made more sense to hit the median than that black pickup ahead of me. But my vehicle still moved in the same direction.

The culprit? Black ice. Aaarrrgh!

I don’t know why, but the phrase “black ice” makes me want to talk like a pirate.

So I did hit that poor guy in the black pickup, which, unfortunately for me, came out victorious in that battle.

Jeff, the awfully nice man whose vehicle I hit, pulled his truck into the berm and then helped me push mine over. Then we wondered what exactly one does at this point. Call AAA? Contact the police? Notify our insurance agents? Surely all, but in which order?

We decided he’d call the police while I phoned AAA. As it turns out, either of us knew how to call the police except by dialing 911, which seemed like an exaggeration of our predicament, but that’s what he did.

Meanwhile, I forgot what my responsibility was so I got ahold of George.

Jeff never got through to the police via their emergency line, but a cruiser showed up nonetheless. The officer asked whether we’d called AAA, which reminded me to call AAA.

Somewhat obviously, it turned out I had a concussion. My poor car, though, suffered unfixable injuries. No amount of anti-inflammatories or ball bearings or whatever fixes cars would help.

Concussed as I was, car shopping took a backseat to trying to understand the words coming out of George’s mouth for a couple of weeks. And then the nasty winter weather goaded us into putting off the task for a few more weeks; we limped along sharing and bumming rides from friends.

And once springlike weather arrived, we claimed an altogether revolutionary idea—one that proves I learned shockingly little from the horrific weather we’d survived.

We bought a motorcycle.

Maybe I’ll blame the concussion. Anyone living in Central Ohio who buys a motorcycle can’t possibly be in their right mind.

So Many Movies Happened

Hey! What did you guys do last year? Did you watch some great TV shows, binge some fabulous whatnot from Netflix? Maybe have a life? Not us! No, sir, we watched 352 movies. And you know what? It was awesome!

Here it is – MaddWolf’s year in movies.

  1. Camera Person
  2. Anomalisa
  3. Sing Street
  4. Weiner
  5. Bright Lights
  6. Live by Night
  7. Gozu
  8. The Autopsy of Jane Doe
  9. Patriot’s Day
  10. Silence
  11. Detour
  12. Trespass Against Us
  13. Split
  14. Don’t Knock Twice
  15. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
  16. Founder
  17. A Dog’s Purpose
  18. Soul Survivors
  19. Comedian
  20. Resident Evil: Extinction
  21. Reckoning
  22. The Abominable Dr. Phibes
  23. Salesman
  24. Neruda
  25. Saving Banksy
  26. Rings
  27. The Space Between Us
  28. Hidden Figures
  29. La La Land
  30. House of Wax
  31. Monster squad
  32. Hell or High Water
  33. John Wick 2
  34. Oscar-nominated Documentary Shorts
  35. Oscar-nominated Live Shorts
  36. The Red Turtle
  37. The Last Horror Movie
  38. Sorcerer
  39. I Am Not Your Negro
  40. Theater of Blood
  41. Masque of the Red Death
  42. Love, Dance
  43. The Fall of the House of Usher
  44. Fist Fight
  45. Great Wall
  46. The Cure for Wellness
  47. Last Man on Earth
  48. House on Haunted Hill
  49. Dark Night
  50. The Girl with All the Gifts
  51. Get Out
  52. Collide
  53. A United Kingdom
  54. Socially Relevant Shorts
  55. Wolverine
  56. The Shack
  57. Logan
  58. Kong: Skull Island
  59. Stitches
  60. The Ottoman Lieutenant
  61. Staying Vertical
  62. The Lure
  63. Kedi
  64. My Scientology Movie
  65. Beauty and the Beast
  66. The Arcadian
  67. The Belko Experiment
  68. The Street Where We Live
  69. Hollow Child
  70. Two Trains Runnin’
  71. Capture, Kill, Release
  72. Trainspotting 2
  73. Power Rangers
  74. Chips
  75. Devil’s Candy
  76. Blackcoat’s Daughter
  77. I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House
  78. Boss Baby
  79. Dutchman
  80. Ghost in the Shell (anime)
  81. The Unwilling
  82. Ghost in the Shell (live action)
  83. Raw
  84. Endor
  85. A Closer Walk with Thee
  86. Phobia
  87. Frantz
  88. Queen of the Desert
  89. Gifted
  90. Aftermath
  91. Going in Style
  92. Prevenge
  93. The Void
  94. Demons Don’t Knock
  95. Mission Control
  96. Rupture
  97. F8 of the Furious
  98. We Are What We Are
  99. Free Fire
  100. Personal Shopper
  101. The Devils
  102. Born in China
  103. Hounds of Love
  104. Colossal
  105. Eraserhead
  106. Three Dead Trick or Treaters
  107. Dry Blood
  108. Three Dead Trick or Treaters
  109. You’re Next
  110. Graduation
  111. Below Her Mouth
  112. The Transfiguration
  113. Sleight
  114. The Circle
  115. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  116. Norman
  117. The Dinner
  118. Titticut Follies
  119. The Haunt
  120. Murder Made Easy
  121. King Arthur
  122. Antichrist
  123. Snatched
  124. The Wall
  125. Hounds of Love
  126. David Lynch: The Art Life
  127. Lovers
  128. Everything, Everything
  129. Bay Watch
  130. Alien: Covenant
  131. Chuck
  132. The Survivalist
  133. Pirates of the Caribbean 5
  134. Berlin Syndrome
  135. Violet
  136. Wakefield
  137. Wonder Woman
  138. Mulholland Drive
  139. It Comes at Night
  140. The Mummy
  141. Cousin Rachel
  142. Megan Leavy
  143. The 9th Configuration
  144. Lunacy
  145. Stonehearst Asylum
  146. Things Fall Apart
  147. House Sitters
  148. Hell of a Night
  149. Cars 3
  150. 47 Meters Down
  151. They Look Like People
  152. Free to Ride
  153. The Bad Batch
  154. All Eyez on Me
  155. Glass Coffin
  156. Rough Night
  157. The Beguiled (1971)
  158. Memory of a Murder
  159. Among the Living
  160. Transformers: The Last Knight
  161. War for the Planet of the Apes
  162. Baby Driver
  163. The Beguiled (2017)
  164. Beatriz at Dinner
  165. Okja
  166. Happy Hunting
  167. Found Footage 3D
  168. Despicable Me 3
  169. Spiderman: Homecoming
  170. The House
  171. Romeo’s Distress
  172. Two Pigeons
  173. Samurai Rauni
  174. Unnuyayuk
  175. The Hero
  176. American Valhalla
  177. The Big Sick
  178. Tony
  179. Killing Ground
  180. Easter Sunday
  181. After Image
  182.  I Saw the Devil
  183. Wish Upon
  184. Maudie
  185. It Stains the Sands Red
  186. Dunkirk
  187. Defiant Ones
  188. Dawson City
  189. Girls Trip
  190. A Ghost Story
  191. First Kill
  192. Valerian
  193. Little Hours
  194. Gracefield Incident
  195. The Code
  196. Atomic Blonde
  197. Landline
  198. The Emoji Movie
  199. Creature from the Black Lagoon
  200. Down Terrace
  201. Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers
  202. An Inconvenient Sequel
  203. Detroit
  204. Dark Tower
  205. Kidnap
  206. Detroit
  207. Midnight Son
  208. Ice Cream Truck
  209. Big Lebowski
  210. Annabelle: Creation
  211. The Reflecting Skin
  212. A Ghost Story
  213. The Glass Castle
  214. Nut Job 2
  215. Good Time
  216. The Ghoul
  217. Hitman’s Bodyguard
  218. Whose Streets?
  219. Dave Made a Maze
  220. Wind River
  221. Logan Lucky
  222. 2001
  223. Nosferatu the Vampyre
  224. Bushwick
  225. Thale
  226. Dance of the Dead
  227. Lemon
  228. Leap!
  229. Ingrid Goes West
  230. Patti Cake$
  231. Logan Lucky
  232. The Trip to Spain
  233. The Oath
  234. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  235. Salem’s Lot
  236. Beside Bowie
  237. Charismata
  238. Megan is Missing
  239. It
  240. Crown Heights
  241. Home Again
  242. Mothman of Point Pleasant
  243. Twins of Evil
  244. Devil Rides Out
  245. Brides of Dracula
  246. Columbus
  247. Dracula: Prince of Darkness
  248. Vampire Lovers
  249. Red Christmas
  250. Menashe
  251. Frankenstein Created Woman
  252. Ginger Snaps
  253. mother!
  254. The Spawning
  255. Loon
  256. The Muse
  257. Hostile
  258. Torment
  259. She Was So Pretty 2
  260. Nightmare
  261. Woodshock
  262. Battle of the Sexes
  263. Super Dark Times
  264. Nothing Bad Can Happen
  265. American Made
  266. Rabies
  267. Feed
  268. Blade Runner
  269. Gerald’s Game
  270. Blade Runner 2049
  271. Dead Alive
  272. Le Accelerator
  273. The Mountain Between Us
  274. New Nightmare
  275. Rock, Paper, Dead
  276. Flesh of the Void
  277. Tragedy Girls
  278. Greasy Strangler
  279. Marshall
  280. Happy Death Day
  281. The Foreigner
  282. Professor Martsen and the Wonder Women
  283. Hellions
  284. Brawl in Cellblock 99
  285. Spielberg
  286. Blade Runner 2049
  287. Capture, Kill, Release
  288. Jungle
  289. Only The Brave
  290. Mark Felt
  291. Snowman
  292. Same Kind of Different as Me
  293. The Florida Project
  294. Suburbicon
  295. Thor: Ragnarok
  296. Bad Mom’s Christmas
  297. Wonderstruck
  298. Blade of the Immortal
  299. Killing of a Sacred Deer
  300. Jigsaw
  301. Goodbye Christopher Robin
  302. LBJ
  303. Thor: Ragnarok
  304. El Topo
  305. Daddy’s Home 2
  306. Murder on the Orient Express
  307. Big Bad Wolves
  308. Mayhem
  309. Poor Alice
  310. Hex
  311. The Square
  312. Lady Bird
  313. Justice League
  314. Wonder
  315. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  316. Strange Frequency
  317. Deadtime Stories
  318. From a Whisper to a Scream
  319. Creepshow
  320. The Man Who Invented Christmas
  321. Who Is Lydia Loveless?
  322. The Disaster Artist
  323. Coco
  324. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
  325. The Post
  326. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamar Story
  327. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  328. Lady Bird
  329. BPM
  330. Sweet Virginia
  331. Downsizing
  332. Last Flag Flying
  333. Thelma
  334. The Big Sick
  335. I, Tonya
  336. Wonder Wheel
  337. War for the Planet of the Apes
  338. Shape of Water
  339. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  340. Jane
  341. Frailty
  342. Ferdinand
  343. Call Me By Your Name
  344. Loving Vincent
  345. Darkest Hour
  346. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
  347. Pitch Perfect 3
  348. All the Money in the World
  349. The Greatest Showman
  350. Molly’s Game
  351. Mudbound
  352. Mom and Dad

Space Race

by Hope Madden

About three days a week you can find my family glutting ourselves on beans and rice at the Chipotle on the corner of Northwest Boulevard and Fifth Avenue near Grandview, Ohio. Oh, how we love Chipotle. Well, I love it. George indulges me.

Though the food is great, the parking lot is a disaster. It’s like an experiment in Darwinism: kill or be killed. Once we make it through the carnage outside, we eat in—no takeout for us. If we’ve survived the parking lot conquest, we’re not about to turn right around and surrender our prize. And though we know as well as anyone that you take your life in your hands trying to find a space during busier hours, that’s really not an excuse to use one of their two handicap spaces.

Sometimes as we eat we watch out the window and marvel at the number of people who pull into the handicap spot closest to the door and walk in to order. It’s like a revolving door for parking law violators: The minute one pulls out, someone else pulls in.

And then one day we witnessed a magical event, a marvelous comeuppance. A driver with a handicap plate pulled in directly behind the illegally parked car, blocking its exit. Our new hero just shut off the engine and came in to order dinner.

We were hoping for a show. What would the first driver do? Come back in and ask, table by tale, who had illegally parked behind his car that was illegally parked? Or would he just sit and contemplate his actions while he waited for the other driver to leave?

We didn’t get to see the outcome, but the mom in me hoped for the latter.

I do have some empathy for those Chipotle lawbreakers, though. I’ve done it myself. Not intentionally, but, in retrospect, how did I not realize that the space at Metro Fitness was designed for handicap parking? Sure, the paint on the blacktop had faded, but how often is it just a coincidence that the spot closest to the door is always open?

At one point a patron asked me if I realized I was parked in a handicap spot. This was when the illogic of the situation hit me, and I moved my car—and haven’t made the mistake again.

But still, it can be a mistake—unless there’s a big metal sign advertising the handicap space. For instance, not long after the Chipotle incident, we pulled into a BP so George could get air in his tires. Our son Riley and I sat bored in the truck while George went into the convenience store to get the hose turned on.

As he walked past a car parked illegally, he made accusatory eye contact with the passenger.

These handicap-space thieves at BP are particularly objectionable because they can’t possibly be doing it by accident. A metal sign stares right into the windshield. There’s really no missing it. In fact, the sign is so obvious that George—subtle as ever—had no trouble finding it to smack it with his hand as he stared again into the illegally parked car on his way back to the air hose.

At this point, it was on. The passenger jumped out of the car and yelled, “What, because you’re a man you think you’re better than me?”

Yikes. Riley and I rolled the windows down so we wouldn’t miss anything.

“Not at all,” George called over his shoulder as he headed toward our car. “I think I’m better than you because I don’t take up handicapped spaces.”

The scene was awkward, which seemed to bother George and this parking violator not one iota. They traded jabs awhile longer and, eventually, the woman got into the driver’s seat and moved the car to a more appropriate space. Situation resolved, mercifully, until the driver came out.

She looked perplexed at her friend, who got out of the car and explained, “Captain Penis over there made me move the car.”

I swear to God, that’s what she said.

Maybe it was his cape.

They drove off in a peculiar huff, but I was just glad it didn’t come to blows. George would never hit a chick, which means it would have fallen on me to handle the situation. I may have principles, but no traffic issue means enough to me to take a punch.

The Gimpy Groupie

by Hope Madden

My husband George has lived through several Duran Duran concerts during our marriage—one in 2005 at Vets Memorial, the other a few years later at the Schott. In both cases, he made a valiant attempt to get me backstage to meet the objects of my absolutely rabid adolescent ardor.

George, who works in radio, culled favors from everywhere he could think of: other radio people, record reps, anyone. No dice. I know why he was unsuccessful. Every living female between the ages of 40 and 55 loves Duran Duran.

Seriously, it’s a documented fact.

Still, it was a failure that haunted him until he made good on his wish one weekend in Chicago at the House of Blues.

Having a gimp for a wife didn’t hurt.

Saddled with a walking boot from the foot surgery I’d had three weeks earlier, I approached the concert hall with crutches and a pin protruding from one toe.

It’s a great look.

The folks at the Houe of Blues couldn’t have been nicer, especially when their elevator broke down and I had to take three flights of steps to get to the standing room only concert. That was a lot of fun.

To make up for it, a security guard escorted George and me to a bar at the back of the room where a private party was happening.

Nearby, we saw a line of people making their way up a back staircase. George knows how to sniff out a meet-and-greet, so he began to investigate. He felt sure that, atop those stairs, we’d find Duran Duran.

But how to get there?

I was hardly in any condition to be stealthy or to outrun security.

George politely questioned several people as they made their way down the stairs. Some shunned him, but he persevered and determined that, yes, the line led to a backstage meeting. And I gleaned from conversations around me that some folks at the private party had paid $500 apiece for the honor of meeting the band.

It may sound excessive to you, but not to me. Or at least the part of me that still remembers being 13 years old and willing to sell a kidney—perhaps even my own—to meet Duran Duran.

Finally, George approached a woman who will forever be known as My New Best Friend. She saw my pitiful condition and lent George her pass to see the band.


I hobbled up the stairs. No one stopped me. Indeed, people felt merciful over my trudging around crippled and offered me a chair.

I could see Roger Taylor from where I sat in the hallway, injured foot tucked safely behind crutches.

For those of you outside the precious D2 demographic, Roger is the drummer and second cutest bandmate.

His spiky brunette locks and playful pout adorned my closet door.

It hung just below my most beloved John Taylor (bass player, born Nigel John Taylor, 6/20/60 to Jean and Jack Taylor in the Birmingham, England suburb of Hollywood).

I was the band’s last photo op, and I overheard their dismay when they learned the news, “Just one more.”

“One more,” Roger near-groaned as he walked toward the door. Then he eyeballed the gimp in the hall and realized the special circumstances of which I was so gleefully taking advantage.

“Oh, hon, what happened to you?” he asked me.

Mr. Roger Taylor just spoke to me. My brain began forming words. The 14-year-old Hope thought: My poster is talking right now. The fully grown adult brain began pulling together a response. My brain said, “I just had foot surgery.”

My mouth, on the other hand, let out a string of sounds bearing no relation whatsoever to the English language.

He winced in knowing embarrassment for me.

I assume I’m not the first female wearing a Duran Duran tee shirt who’s been unable to respond properly to a polite query from Roger Taylor.

Simon (singer) put his arm around me.

Nick (keyboardist with heavy lipstick) hoped I’d heal soon.

John steered clear, smiling from a safe distance.

Still: Best Day Ever.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my arm in a sling and research some Cory Hart concert dates.

Never surrender!

How I Invented Catfishing in 1991

When I was a kid in the ‘90s, we used to receive disks in the mail containing access to free hours of America Online. My father, an early adopter of the home PC would not, at first, commit to signing the family up for dial-up Internet service, but he’d gladly hand over the free disks and allow me to hole up on the living room couch with a laptop that had the approximate heft and thickness of the era’s yellow pages.

I’d slide the disk in, and after a series of clicks and high-pitched whines, be connected to a world wide web of shit I did not understand. At least until someone called the land line and I got kicked off.

Dungeon and Dragons-based chatrooms with a degree of etiquette and formatting requirement that baffled me. Rooms of people complaining about their children. And a seemingly infinite amount of rooms where people introduced themselves with details about the size and appearance of their own personal genitals (or at least what they pretended were their own personal genitals).

I’d gamely try to play along, typing by hunting and pecking, misspelling almost every word and failing to keep up with the rapid-fire conversation of experienced typists all trying to find someone to bone or to at least facilitate some sort of masturbatory fantasy.

That is, until I was banned from the Internet.

When I was in the fifth grade, my mom decided to go back to school to get her teaching degree. As part of the curriculum, she had to take a class on educational technology.

Back in the ‘90s, I guess it wasn’t common for folks to have their own computer or access to the Internet, so the good folks at the education department of Northern Kentucky University gave all the students in the class their own Macintosh Classic IIs and access to Tristate Online—a local mini version of the Web provided by the area telephone company that consisted mainly of a series of bulletin boards on various topics.

As my parents were aware of my desperation to immerse myself in cyberspace, my mom granted me permission to use her computer and access Tristate Online, provided I waited until she was done with her homework.

Big mistake.

I invented myself a new persona. I’d be 25, since that was the oldest age at which a person could still claim to be somewhat cool. I would be the older sister and roommate of the person the computer had been loaned to. I’d be lonely (this part was true) and looking for love.

And I put myself out there. I found a guy (at least I assumed it was a guy) who was in college (at least he claimed to be in college) who was also looking for someone. And we fell into a fraught series of chats conducted asynchronously via a bulletin board.

He liked me and seemed to buy into the persona I had created despite the rather glaring evidence that I was a child, or at least someone who lacked basic spelling skills. (This was before spell check and I honestly believed that the word sugar had an h in it.)

Meanwhile, at my day job, I was an elementary school student at a Catholic school so cliquish that my only friend had been lured away from me with the promise of joining the popular girl’s group…if she was willing to hold one of the scrawny and unpopular boys down on the playground and bite his ear until it bled.

Much to my horror, she went for it, leaving me with a chip on my shoulder and a tendency to take my lunch in the nurse’s office rather than sit at a table alone.

I wanted revenge against these chicks, and the sad boy on the bulletin board seemed like the best way to do it.

I was in the middle of arranging our first date when my mom had to turn the computer back in. But I’d given out “my” address, or rather the address of the head popular girl. And “my” name, or rather, her name, and set the date for our first rendezvous.

And I went to school, eagerly awaiting the gossip of how her parents reacted to the grown man showing up at their house to pick up their fifth-grade daughter.

I was unprepared for the fact that I was going to be the kid getting in trouble.

One afternoon my mom stormed into my room and slammed the door behind her, her eyes already watering from a barely repressed desire to rage-cry.

“What did you do?” she seethed.

My eyes slanted toward the cushion under which I tended to stash bits of candy for later consumption under the covers after bedtime while reading illicit Stephen King novels.

“What?” I asked, all innocence.

“I got a call from my professor today.”

I may have quirked an eyebrow here. I can’t be sure. I don’t exactly remember at what point I developed the talent of the one raised eyebrow although I do know it was something I consciously worked at for hours in front of the bathroom mirror. Anyhow, I’m sure there was some sort of quizzical look shot in her direction.

“Some man contacted her trying to find my,” big pause here, “sister.”

“That’s weird,” I squeaked.

“As you know, I don’t have a sister.”

“Maybe they mean Kathleen?” I offered, her childhood friend.

“Apparently I have a 25-year old sister who is my roommate. This, this man was trying to find her. To. Go. On. A. Date. I had to tell my professor that the only other person who has access to my school computer is my 11-year-old.”

There was a lot of screaming and crying after this.

The downside was that I was banned from the Internet for approximately five years.

The upside was that I invented Internet catfishing in 1991.

Thanks to Rory Sheridan for the kick-ass illustration.


My twin sister Joy and I have much in common aside from a birth date and pasty legs – we love her kids and mine; we love Pee-wee Herman; we enjoy a lovely nap and we eat soft boiled eggs over dry cereal – the important things. But our differences become more pronounced as we age.

She lived in Boston for maybe a decade, just a couple minutes’ drive from the greatest video rental place on the globe, Video Oasis.

Truly, it was an oasis of all things horror movie. It had everything. I would search the internet, compile lists, plot out every inaccessible horror film in creation and take said list with me to this glorious font of B-movies, where the overweight smoker of an owner always, always had what I was looking for.

1974 Blaxploitation classic Abby (aka The Blaxorcist)? Yep.

Martin Landau’s lost 1982 insane asylum flick Alone in the Dark? Got it.

Often I’d have to settle for VHS, sometimes for what was clearly a handmade, pirated copy, but what did I care? Sisters of Satan (noted by Satanist and film critic Nikolas Schreck as “the best soft core Satanic lesbian nun film that Mexico has ever produced”) wasn’t just going to find its own way onto my TV screen.

Alas, city life grew tiresome for my sister and her burgeoning family, and they uprooted to the wilds of Vermont. Only about three hours from Boston and its magnificent pool of schlock horror, Hinesberg, Vermont may as well have been another planet.

A heavily wooded planet.

They searched out their dream home, nestled in the woods on a lake. Technically – and by that I mean, if you ask Joy – they don’t live in a log cabin in the woods. For my purposes, it’s a log cabin. It is definitely in the woods.

I am not one with the woods.

In fact, of all my countless and paralyzing fears, nothing evokes the kind of panic in me that the woods does. The forest fills me with a pathological, deep and abiding, blind terror.

And yet—as if to get away from me—Joy moved her clan into one of my nightmares.

Joy’s family adapted quickly. I was on the phone with her and her wee one Vivian, then two, when Viv caught a fat frog. From my end of the phone I could make out Joy’s side of the conversation.

“Wow, it’s a big one. He has orange marks on his belly, can you see that? He won’t let you pick him up, though. Oh, look at that, he did let you pick him up. Be gentle. Be careful with him.”

“Don’t squeeze. Don’t Squeeze. DON’T SQUEEZE!”

The wildlife didn’t bother my little Vermonsters one iota. Ruby, Vivian’s older sister and bunkmate, came nonchalantly down the stairs one morning to announce on her way to eat breakfast, “There’s a bat in my room.”

“It’s black with a gray head,” she clarified as her dad Jeff made his way upstairs, as if he might mistake this bat with some other.

Given her utterly nonplussed response to the invader, Jeff assumed it was something else – a big moth, maybe. Ruby sleeps on the top bunk. Surely if an actual bat were flying around that close to her sweet little head, she’d be a bit more excited about it.

It was indeed a bat.

A good sized bat, which only made it all the more embarrassing for Jeff and Joy when they freaked right the hell out while their baby girls yawned and ate their morning granola.

But you have to get used to critters if you’re going to live where Joy and Jeff live.

At one point, their neighbors’ chickens were being picked off one by one.

“I think it’s a fisher cat,” Jeff said.

What’s a fisher cat?


“It’s not a wolverine,” Joy explained to me.

Wait, what?!! Is that supposed to be calming?

She has seen bears.

There are fucking predators in Joy’s yard.

Forgive me my ignorance. These are not worries we have at my house.

Off the deck out back Joy often sees woodchucks (according to Ruby, their babies are called chucklings), a fox or two, any number of birds – all of which possess a rustic charm when I can see them through the safety of a securely locked window.

At night, though, when these critters become nothing but glinting eyeballs, I prefer the comfort of the basement.

That’s where I stay when I visit, and that’s A-OK with me.

There are no windows in the basement.

In fact, I kid you not, the basement is so dark that Joy keeps a plastic miner’s helmet equipped with a light near the futon so guests can find their way around at night.

Whenever I visit the Family Vermonster I bring with me horror films set in the woods. I don’t know if it’s masochism or a clumsy attempt to face my fears, but it has become a ritual.

On one visit, after the girls went to bed, Joy, Jeff, and I lounged around the basement guest quarters and watched the sub-par Aussie camping nightmare Lost Weekend.

You know it? Fools dumb enough to spend time in the woods are unceremoniously picked off by angry animals.

Afterward, Jeff retired and Joy and I sat up making fun of people, as is our way.

We were interrupted by the sound of critters.

Joy kept talking, though through a nervous smile.

I silenced up and waited for Joy to share some comforting words about what that noise was and how it meant me no harm.

The noise came again.

It wasn’t a mouse, wasn’t even mice. It sounded like a multitude of medium sized mammals with claws skittering across the first-floor hardwood.

“What the fuck?” I queried.

She smiled again, shrugged her shoulders and held her hands out in a ‘kids do the darndest things’ kind of expression.

“What does that mean?!!”

“I don’t know,” she offered anxiously. “Maybe keep the basement door closed?”


That night I naturally lay awake until images of rodents and scurrying varmints overcame me, their glinting eyeballs creeping toward me from every dark recess in the basement.

Slowly the beings morphed with my dreamier brain into furry little beasties. Some were feline and fanged. Some had orange markings on their bellies, others, gray heads.

They dashed in and out of the shadows, under furniture, around corners, looking for what – meat?

It seems to me they were searching for meat.

I swear some of them were wearing miners’ helmets.

Quack Addicts

by Hope Madden

We were starting to think we had new pets. We had one already – a cat named Zappa. She’d been with us forever, rescued from Cat Welfare years ago when we were apartment dwellers and couldn’t have a dog. At the time, we felt like our 2-year-old son Riley needed a buddy.

A million years later, we still didn’t have a dog because Zappa was a 16-year old deaf, toothless cat who refused to eat anything but scrambled eggs and lunchmeat and really wasn’t adaptable enough for a sibling.


Since she was allergic to fleas, however, Zappa never went outdoors, so an outside pet or two would be OK.

But the heartbreak of outdoor pets, especially those that choose you rather than those you purchase, is that sometimes they waddle around in your pool and eat your store-bought feed and then fly away, never to return.

Like our ducks.

A mallard couple began hanging around our street in Grandview one spring.

They’d show up in the morning, loiter all afternoon, then fly away at night. There were sightings all over the neighborhood, and then, little by little, the waddling twosome zeroed in on a single yard for passing their daylight hours. Ours.

We have a small front yard far from any known body of water, so we hadn’t a clue s to why the ducks kept returning. We tried not to disturb them too much – made sure we entered and exited by way of the back door, scattered some birdseed for them. They seemed to appreciate it day after day, week after week, and we got used to seeing them.


The female would hide between two little bushes, and the male would sit in the middle of our front yard. We took it that he was guarding her, and we hoped she was making a nest.

We had become too attached. In fact, my husband, George, went the wild bird store to find out what was the best kind of feed for Gary and Fiona.

Yes, our son gave them names.

Once you name them, you’re doomed.

They seemed to like us, too. I think their favorite was George, who would approach them gently, shaking his jug of wild duck feed, and Gary would waddle right up to him.

George was utterly smitten.

In fact, I came home from work once to find a blue Scooby-Doo wading pool in my small front yard. Some might consider it unusual for a grown man whose only child was in high school to buy a toddler’s pool; others might find the thing an eyesore.


Nonetheless, there it was, and Fiona seemed pleased. So much so, the couple threw a few pool parties. We began to see a second female, Simone, who would show up to splash around.

We became mildly famous in the neighborhood- like those people who string too many Christmas lights, causing mild traffic jams.

We occasionally found children in our front yard trying to pet or catch Gary. We shooed them away, sometimes unpleasantly. As it turns out, we liked Gary and Fiona better than the neighbor kids.

I came home one day to find a teenage girl sitting in my front lawn, trying to coax Gary onto her lap. Her embarrassed boyfriend waited on the sidewalk. When he saw me, he said nervously, “My girlfriend likes your ducks.”

I told him thanks, but they weren’t my ducks. They just hung out in my yard. Like his girlfriend.

Shockingly oblivious and absorbed in her commune with nature, she asked me where I’d gotten them. I said again that they weren’t mine, to which she replied, “So I could just take on?”

“Get out of my yard, kids.”

I was nicer than George, though, who found this menacing neighbor boy chasing Gary around the yard. George shouted and then chased him down the street. It was outstanding.

We even received a complaint from a concerned citizen who told us we had no business keeping wild animals. Of course, we weren’t keeping them at all. They didn’t live with us; they were just well-liked squatters.


Then, they flew off one evening never to return.

For weeks George would listen for their quacking in the morning when he got up for work, but all we had left was a half-empty Scooby-Doo pool in the front yard and a half-full jug of duck feed on the back porch – and the memory of the heartbreakers who decided suburban life was not for them.

But we’re keeping an eye on this possum we’ve seen hanging around the garbage cans.

Maybe he could love us.

We’re thinking of calling him Craig.

It’s Not a Vibrator

My First B&E

by Hope Madden

When my sister Joy and I were about eight, our next door neighbors, the Manns, went on vacation. (I’ve changed their names in case the statute of limitation on breaking and entering is longer than I realize.)

They unwisely entrusted another neighbor up the block, Vickie Carmen (also a totally fake and not entirely convincing name), with the key to the house.

Vickie was to pick up the mail and feed the cats. Instead, she chose to bring her older sister Heather, as well as Joy and me, into the house for snooping, eating, and the stealing of coins from a giant container on the washing machine.

Heather was two years older than Vickie, Joy and myself, and we considered it a terrifying honor that she played with us. She also smacked and bullied us, bossed us around, mocked us without pity, and tricked us into doing dangerous and idiotic things that would land us in hot water.

But it was Vickie you had to look out for.

Together one afternoon, we four wandered through the neighbors’ home as some might an archeological find, examining everything. We ate their chips. We thumbed through their records. We opened cabinets. We stole Corey Mann’s Barbie clothes.

We went into the basement.

It was with starry eyes that we spied that jug o’coins, and promptly filled our pockets, fantasizing about the booty we’d buy at Cook’s Food Store down the block.

I looked forward to Caramel Creams or a Milky Way bar – or both! – since I was now a professional larcenist and could live it up bigger than I ever had.

Vickie would undoubtedly begin by hiding beyond the freezers eating baby food with her fingers, as was her Cook’s food-shopping tradition. Then, who knows what that freak would buy.

I once caught her eating the skin she’d peeled from a sunburn. I swear to God.

Before plunging headfirst into our illegally appropriated candy binge, we eyeballed the rest of the basement. Eager as we were for a sugar rush, we nearly overlooked an antique piece of exercise equipment.

Unfortunately, I did notice it. Indeed, it took my fancy and I recommended that we investigate.

Connie Mann was the youngest mom in the neighborhood and she insisted on being called by her first name. She was different. She was better. Not unlike Amy Poehler’s character in Mean Girls, but I can’t remember whether she had the same affinity for velour.

Connie had one of those weight-loss machines you’d see in old sit-coms. It was the kind of thing that resembles a doctor’s office scale, but at the top is a big, white belt that loops around your middle and vibrates away the fat.

I don’t know what you call this piece of equipment.

I’m sure you don’t call it a vibrator.

Whatever you call it, we turned it on.

Heather took the first tour. The knobs rotated furiously back and forth, back and forth, causing the movement in the belt that would make you sound like you were talking through the blades of a fan but would not, I felt sure, whittle away belly fat. Only a proper diet and sensible exercise regimen can do that.

The mistake I made – I mean, beside the mistake of breaking into a neighbor’s house and wandering around the dark and potentially dangerous basement of a home that would remain vacant for another week at least – was in examining the knobs too closely.

As I looked down, one tenaciously rotating gear grabbed the tips of my waist-length hair, yanked, and almost immediately my scalp was pressing cold metal.

“Turn it off! Turn if off! TURN IF OFF!”

They turned it off. My hair was already knotted around the knob, my head tugged so tight against the machine I thought the scalp would tear away from my skull. I was trapped.

My friends’ faces were ashen.

There was a long silence, and then Vickie, inching up the basement steps, whispered, “Let’s go. Come on. Let’s just go.”

Attached by the head to a machine at least twice my weight, stooped to one side and crying, I couldn’t even clearly conceive of my plight. My mind swam in terror.

And they did leave.

I didn’t scream or even slump to my knees looking for a more comfortable way to situate myself around my new anchor. I stared at the concrete block wall and did nothing at all. My brain ceased to function.

I know me, and I am terrified of everything. It’s hard to imagine that I didn’t stare into some dark corner, sure I’d seen movement or heard growls – human growls – coming from the darkness behind me.

It’s hard to believe I didn’t tear myself free, running bloody and half-hairless back to my house.

I honestly believe I was more afraid of my mom’s reaction to my breaking and entering than I was to dying alone in a basement.

Lucky for me, though the Carmens may have been the kind of bitches who’d abandon you to rot in the basement of your neighbor’s temporarily unoccupied home, my sister isn’t.

She strode somberly up to my father – likely relaxing with a cup of coffee and an episode of M*A*S*H – and told him, “Come with me. Bring your tools.”

Simple as that. My hero.

Dad dismantled the machine and freed my head. The hair on the left side tangled to about 1/3 its natural length, and the scalp remained raised and bumpy for months. To this day my hair does not lay flat on the left side. But we never told my mom, never narced on the Carmens, never fixed the machine.

Maybe the mysteriously broken equipment drew the Manns’ attention away from all that missing change.

Face Off

by Cat McAlpine

I have many fears.

I am afraid of heights. I am afraid of the dark. I am afraid of deep water. I am afraid I will never realize my potential, or that the car I just passed on the side of the road really did need my help, or that I’ll never get out of debt. I am afraid of how big the universe is and how small I am. The usual.

But the fear I encounter the most is my fear of small spaces.

I’m not afraid of being crushed. I’m afraid of not being able to get out of a small space, and then being probably crushed. Or suffocating.

This fear manifests in many places. On the tube in London, a crowded car would remind me that all of those hot, sweating bodies were stuffed in a tiny tin can, that was then stuffed into a cement tunnel.

Concerts are typically a non-starter. There’s nothing worse than being mocked by a glowing exit sign from the middle of a writhing crowd of bodies.

Given my litany of fears, you’d think I’d never leave the house. But I endure. And I push myself to confront my fears. I swim in lakes and cross rooms without turning on the light.

I just do it all while a very loud voice in my head screams “OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD YOU’RE GONNA DIE”.

When my friend, and local filmmaker, Michelle Hanson asked me if I’d be willing to be decapitated for her upcoming horror film, I didn’t realize I’d be confronting my greatest fear.

“A cast of my head?”


“Oh my god yes! Can I keep it?”

A few weeks before we were set to do the live face cast, (They call it this. Is there a dead face cast? Don’t tell me.) Michelle sent me a video via email. “Here’s the process. Watch this and let me know if you have any questions.”

I didn’t watch the video. I worried it might freak me out.

A few days before the cast, a friend asked me who was coming with me. I had planned to just meet Michelle there.

My friend looked nervous. “I’m NOT claustrophobic and I had to hold someone’s hand the whole time I got mine done.”

“I’m sure it will be fine” I told myself. The little voice had started to whisper “But what if you diiiieeeee?”

When I entered the prosthetics space, a small rented room lined with monster heads and spare limbs, I gave myself a few minutes to settle in. Then I dropped my bomb.

“Hey, I didn’t want to freak anybody out, but super casually I’m actually really claustrophobic.”

The room went silent as Michelle, and the two face-technicians (sure) stared at me in horror. Then there was a flurry of questions and pointers.

“Didn’t you watch the video I sent you?”

“It will probably be fine, most people are fine.”

“Let us know if you start panicking.”

“How claustrophobic?”

“It will take 30 minutes, tops.”

And then one of the technicians said something truly terrifying.

“Here’s the thing. If you freak out, its gonna take us just as long to get the thing off of you as it will to sit and wait until it’s dry. So you might as well just wait and not ruin the mold.” This man clearly had no fears.

No way out.

I tried to play it cool. I am not sure if this was successful or not. But I smiled and lightly joked as they taped a trashbag to my shoulders, glued on a bald cap, and vaselined my eyebrows.


“Okay, so we’re gonna cover your face in this goo-“ I don’t remember what any of it was called now, my inner voice was screaming, “- and then we’re going to put this cast material over that. As soon as it’s dry, we’ll take it off. When we cover your nose, just take one deep breath, and then blow air out of your nose really hard, and you should be able to breathe.”

Should. Be. Able. To. Breathe.

So I played it cool up to that point. And I played it cool as the technicians smeared by face with goo the consistency of clay. They covered my ears and I realized I couldn’t really hear. They covered my forehead. And then they covered my eyes. And the thick goo started to roll down my face. As the sludge crested my cheeks I lost it.

“Okay, uh, I’m gonna need to hold someone’s hand.”


I heard a distant, under water “How you doing?”

I couldn’t move above my elbows, so I simply gave a weak thumbs up. Michelle’s small hand had found me, and was giving a reassuring pat.

And then my mouth was sealed. And my cheeks. And my nose.

“Are you gonna cover the nostrils?” One technician asked.

“Uh…. No. I think I’m just going to fill in around it.” The other answered.


I’d been snorting out air like a wild horse, in a desperate attempt to keep clay from blocking my airway.

I realized I hadn’t asked how I was going to get out, but it was too late. I was buried alive. Every once in a while a technician would come by and tap on the cast to see if it had dried. I couldn’t hear them approach, but when they tapped on my face, it sounded like dirt thudding on the lid of a coffin.

“HELP!” the voice screamed. “I’M STILL ALIVE IN HERE.”

They told me the whole process would take about 30 minutes. I was there for an hour and a half. I didn’t ask how long I was entombed. I don’t think I want to know. But eventually, after many weak thumbs up and hundreds of nostrils-only breaths, I heard tearing.

They were cutting away my fake face.


I want to say that when they peeled away the cast and goo, I was reborn. I was without fear or doubt. I had conquered claustrophobia.

But I’m sweating right now just thinking about it.

I don’t know if you can conquer a fear. Maybe you just have a string of terrifying experiences in mosh-pits and crowded elevators. Maybe you just have to find someone to hold your hand, and live to tell the tale.

That head better look fucking awesome.

Magic Mushrooms

by Hope Madden

There was a time when, for at least a second or two, my boss thought I might have a severed human appendage in a filthy Kroger bag under my desk.

How did get myself into this mess?

I blame the mushrooms.

Each fall and spring I look into my yard to find that everything’s coming up fungi. During the moist, temperate seasons my lawn becomes home to the most heinous mushrooms you have ever seen. Their white 5 – 6 inch shafts end with a helmet-like, purplish brown tip.

Sound like anything to you?

Picture it, if you will.

Yes, it’s that bad.

And then picture a few dozen standing at attention throughout my lawn.

I never have seen this particular brand of fungus anywhere else on earth but in my yard. Lucky me.

They are upsetting to look at. Their unseemly appearance drives my neighbor kids crazy. One boy – normally sweet and smiley – cannot abide them. The minute he sees a bloom he gives it a swift kick.

Do you know what looks worse than a yard full of erect mushrooms?

A lawn littered with amputees.

I’m surprised the mailman will even deliver to our house.

I’ve tried to find out what type of mushroom they might be, hoping in vain to eliminate the fungus without killing my lawn. But they’re hard to describe if you’re looking for a serious answer.

The internet is no help at all. Type “mushrooms” into Google and you’ll come up with 15.1 million possible links. Narrow the search terms and you’ll likely get descriptions like “sexy science,” which, at first blush, looks like it actually might have the information you seek, until you realize the mushroom they’re talking about is only two inches long.

My mushroom is bigger than your mushroom.

Meanwhile, my husband, George, was doing his own sleuthing. He works for a radio station and, at that time, the station ran a gardening show on Saturday mornings. George emailed a picture of the plant to the show’s host for an explanation.

The host sternly responded, “I do not do that type of counseling. Try Dr. Ruth.”

I once had a colleague who believed, sight unseen, that these were the pre-bloom stage of a spectacular orchid. She advised me to dig them up and keep them in clear glass jars in my basement.

I appreciated the suggestion, but I feared what would happen on the holidays when all our nieces and nephews go downstairs to play ping pong and find a large collection of these severed appendages on my cellar shelves.

Merry Christmas, kids!

I’m creepy enough as it is.

Another colleague had run a landscaping business years ago and offered to take a look. She thought she’d dealt with the same lawn care menace once in a Dublin neighborhood. I bet it went over really well there.

So I dug up a sample and put it in a plastic bag to bring to work. But the stench! I hadn’t known about the odor – this is not the kind of plant you bend down to sniff – until I had one in hand.

It smelled exactly as I would imagine a severed body part left too long in a filthy plastic bag might.

My colleague was late to work and I simply couldn’t tolerate the odor, so I grabbed the bag to take it to the restroom garbage. Unfortunately, I ran into my boss.

“What have you got there?”

I wasn’t sure what would be more jarring and inappropriate, describing it or showing it to him.

I decided the least suspicious thing I could do was dash past him to flee to the ladies’ room, leaving behind a hideous stench. His horrified expression suggested that he got a glimpse of the package.

So that happened.