Prior to my trip to Universal Orlando, I researched what attractions I’d be able to take part in. Unable to find specific information dedicated to epilepsy, I decided to reach out to Guest Services via email stating that I couldn’t find anything regarding photosensitive epilepsy and if they had any tips or ideas. The next morning, I was sent a helpful and friendly email from one of the coordinators of guest communications.

They go on to explain that the Riders Guide does not specifically mention guests with photosensitive epilepsy, however, there’s a symbol in the Riders Guide, and outside each attraction warning guests that the “Attraction is not recommended for Guests who have medical sensitivity to strobe effects”.

Sifting through the Riders Guide I was a little overwhelmed at how many rides have this warning and that my trip may not have been worthwhile. This was NOT the case. I had a fantastic time visiting the parks and would love to take this opportunity to thank the Universal Orlando Guest Services for the valuable information they provided. Thank you!

With that said, within this blog post I’ll be listing the rides that have the strobe effect warning (marked with a red “X”), those that do not, and a few tips for those traveling to the parks with photosensitive epilepsy. (Like me! Woohoo!) Keep in mind that I’m not your neurologist and you should acquire a professional opinion before placing yourself into potentially dangerous situations. Also, some of the attraction lines are part of the experience and you are more than welcome to wait in line with your friends and family opting out of the rides before boarding. Hoping you find this information to be helpful!

If you’re staying in one of the Universal Resorts, there’s a bus that will drop you off at the entrance to City Walk from there you’ll be able to branch off to both of the main parks; Islands of Adventure (Left) and Universal Studios (Right).

Universal’s Islands of Adventure™

Seuss Landing™

If I Ran The Zoo™

The Cat in the Hat™

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish™

Caro-Seuss-el™

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!™

 

The Lost Continent™

Poseidon’s Fury™ X

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™

Flight of the Hippogriff™

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ X

The Hogwarts™ Express – Hogsmeade™ Station

 

Jurassic Park™

Pteranodon Flyers™

Camp Jurassic™ X

Jurassic Park River Adventure™ X

Jurassic Park Discovery Center™

 

Skull Island: Reign of Kong™

Skull Island: Reign of Kong™ X

 

Toon Lagoon™

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls® X

Me Ship, The Olive®

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges®

 

Marvel Super Hero Island®

The Incredible Hulk Coaster® X

Storm Force Accelatron® X

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall® X

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man® X

 

Universal Studios Florida™

Production Central

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem™ X

Shrek 4-D X

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit™ X

TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D X

 

New York

The Blues Brothers® Show

Revenge of the Mummy™ X

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon™ X

 

San Francisco

Fast & Furious – Supercharged™ X

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Diagon Alley™

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ X

The Hogwarts™ Express – King’s Cross Station

 

World Expo

FEAR FACTOR LIVE X

MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack™ X

 

Springfield: Home of the Simpsons

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

The Simpsons Ride™ X

 

Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone™

Animal Actors On Location!™

A Day in the Park with Barney™ X

Curious George Goes to Town℠

E.T. Adventure™ X

Fievel’s Playland™

Fievel’s Playland™ water slide

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster™

 

Hollywood

Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show™

 

Personal Tips & Tricks:

  1. Low Traffic Times and Sunlight

Foot traffic and wait times at the parks is at its lowest between mid-January and early February. I recommend booking your vacation during these dates and to avoid weekends and holidays at all costs.

The parks open at 09:00AM* and close at 07:00PM* with variations on possible early park access and/or holidays.

Once the sun begins to set, almost everything is brightly illuminated. Especially City Walk. Which can be beautiful, but also a potential trigger for epilepsy. Seeing as you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the parks and City Walk is the main exit, it’s best to plan your trip around the daylight.

  1. Bring A Crowd

Gather ‘round, friends! These parks are extraordinarily massive! Bring friends or family you’re comfortable spending time with to explore together. It’s quite easy to get distracted and accidentally lose track of your group.

If you’re traveling with photosensitive children set expectations before going to the parks. A majority of the rides are not photosensitive friendly, so make a list of the ones that are and plan your trip around them. Everyone deserves a day of adventure!

  1. Be Prepared

On average you’ll walk anywhere from five to seven miles spending a day at one of the Universal parks. As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this that two of the biggest triggers for epilepsy can be exhaustion and dehydration. Bring what you need, or may need, into the parks with you. I always carry my backpack while traveling and inside is an extra pair of clothes and emergency meds, alongside a water bottle secured tightly to my side. Also, my medical alert tag proudly strung around my neck.

Once again, these are just a few of my suggestions and you should acquire a professional opinion before making plans. If there’s anything I may have missed feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Instagram: @iMarrowsJ. Wishing you the best and I hope your next adventure is full of wonder and excitement!

© John Marrows Some Rights Reserved

Waking to an unbearable pain, I begin to grind my teeth failing to convince myself to fall back asleep. Scrolling through my symptoms on the internet I’m fed ridiculous amounts of red flags and hypotheticals. Unable to fully extend my torso I stumble half-bent, like a miserable hunchback towards the front door. Trusting the fresh air may give some relief, I step outside to admire the clear Texas night. The moonlight accompanies millions of stars dimly illuminating the surrounding farmland. With a moment of peace, I take a deep breath through my nostrils lengthening my poor posture. Immediately regretting this decision, the pain heightens as I’m forcibly bent over once more. After a short spout of obscenities and pleading to a deity I don’t believe in, I ask a friend to drive me to the hospital. Like a determined senior citizen rushing for the early bird special, I shuffle to her car.

“I’m so sorry,” I mumble in agony trying to find a comfortable seating position.

“It’s alright… if it was me, I’d want someone to do the same,” she expresses.

“I really do appreciate it,” I continue.

“I was up anyway, wasn’t sure why…but I was up,” she explains.

About twenty minutes from the emergency room, I roll the window down letting the crisp Texas fall air cool the back of my neck. At this point, nausea is an understatement. The pain has reached a point where I’m unable to speak without some type of abdominal repercussions. Pulling into the parking lot, I’m astonished how empty it is. Growing up in a city, I guess I’m oblivious as to how empty the ER might be on a Saturday at 01:30AM in rural Texas. Anxious, my brain begins to cycle through the possibility of surgery, my fear of needles, the chances of having a seizure because of the added stress, dehydration, and sleep deprivation. Before my thoughts get the best of me, a throbbing protuberance from my gut reminds me to keep hobbling inside.

Greeted by an empty waiting room, a security guard stands patiently behind the intake window. A nurse pops his head out of the unit door as my friend casually gestures at me hunched over. Turning my head, I smile grinding my teeth. Explaining my symptoms, they presume appendicitis as a possible diagnosis. Beginning to prepare an IV, the nurse throws me a gown asking the generic medical history questionnaire. Struggling to find a comfortable seating position, I writhe around clenching my fists. After changing into the gown, another nurse hands me a urinalysis sample cup. Having to pee anyway, the only issue is the level of pain it might take to stand back up. With assistance from a few, I make it to the restroom to provide an adequate sample, then make my way back to lay down.

Asking for my arm, he doesn’t grasp how intense my phobia of needles truly is. I’m not upset, I’m afraid, and he’s just trying to do his job. My entire body begins to tremble as my nerves act up and my mind plays an amateur snuff film where I’m the unpinned voodoo doll of a deranged witch doctor. Offering her hand, my friend consoles graciously understanding this is an uncomfortable situation for me.

“The fluids may feel a bit cold,” the nurse states taping over the IV catheter.

“What’s your pain level at?” he asks.

“Around a seven,” I reply continuing to shake on the hospital bed.

“Alright, well we’re giving you fluids, Ofirmev for the pain, Zofran for nausea, and Toradol for the inflammation while we get you set up with a CT scan here shortly, in the meantime try to relax a bit,” he continues.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m shaking…I’m sorry,” I continually apologize as my pain level rises.

“Not a problem, that pain medicine takes about twenty minutes to take effect. If you’re still having issues, we can give you something a little stronger. I’ll give you some space and check on you in a few minutes,” he finishes with a pleasant smirk.

My pain level gradually escalates as I’m attempting to distract myself talking to my friend about work and checking my phone. Unable to mask the level of pain, my body squirms as tears roll down my face. The sensation of fire ants seeking shelter within the burrows of my intestines becomes a growing constant. This is it, I thought to myself. This is how it ends.

The radiology technician explains the process of the CT scan as others help in transferring me onto the motorized exam table. My friend stands patiently behind the window viewing the screen with the technician.

“Essentially, the system is going to take a three-dimensional image of your abdomen,” he begins.

“Once you’re under the imaging device, I’ll need you to hold your breath as it processes through, can you do that?” he requests.

I nod in agreement as a nurse fiddles with the injection port of my IV.

“You’re going to feel a warm sensation throughout your body,” The radiologist calls out a little too late.

An extreme warmth floods my insides conjuring nausea unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Turning my head to the side, I believe I might vomit. The unpleasant feeling lingers as the exam table begins to slide into the cylindric imaging device.

“The warmth is from the omnipague and it lights up your organs on our monitor here so we’re able to see better,” the technician explains as I’m attempting to breathe through intense nausea.

“Alright, I’m going to give you a countdown. When I get to one, I want you to hold your breath as long as you can or until the imaging is complete, you understand?” he requests.

“Yes,” I reply swiftly, anxious to get out of this claustrophobic death magnet.

“Three…two…one,” he counts down.

Taking a deep breath in through my mouth the exam table underneath me evaporates as I fall into a cratered pit dropping into a lake of murky water. Opening my eyes, the surrounding water is a dreary shade of grey with floating remnants of dismembered limbs and shredded hospital gowns. Making my way to the surface, I spot a rocky shore a few meters out. Sprinting through the foul open waters, my hands pull through unknown extremities as my feet are teased by the leftovers of nameless corpses.

Trudging onto land, the jagged stones dig into the bottoms of my feet bringing me to my knees. In disbelief, I lay ashore for a moment as the rancid waves continue to crash onto me. Crawling forward, two torches ignite posted at the entrance of an ominous cavern.

“Oh, c’mon, am I dead?” I complain attempting to pick myself up off the rocks.

Rising to my feet, I notice my abdominal pain has subsided. Examining the rest of my body, my fingers run across a delicate burn that travels up the side of my torso. Seeking better light, I walk towards the cavern entrance grabbing a torch. As I shine the flame upon my flesh it begins to pulsate rapidly, stressing scales that glow in its embers.

“Alrighty then…painkillers must have kicked in,” I conclude resuming into the depths of the cavern.

Passing the threshold, the other torch dies down, disintegrating to dust. A gentle gust hauled its ashes along the bouldering moist walls of the cavern. Funneling through the seemingly endless depths of the hollow, the only element that seems to differentiate is the air temperature. As I decide to take a moment of rest a violent quake strikes the ground followed by a powerful wind that carried the stench of the waters below. The sounds of roaring rapids approach as I begin running in the opposite direction. A dim light ahead inspires me to dash promptly towards it. Within arm’s reach, the waters engulf me, viciously tossing me around like a ragdoll in the washing machine.

My frightened eyes awaken on the exam table now surrounded by doctors. The pillow underneath my head covered in sweat, I attempt to adjust to the light of the room becoming increasingly dizzier. Spewing onto the soiled linens, the doctors assist in shifting my body, so I don’t choke on my own vomit. Gagging, my eyes grow wider as something blocks my airway. Encouraging me to cough, the nurse begins delivering back blows as they rise me to a standing position. Expelling blood from my throat, a charcoal black serpent slithers from my esophagus to the floor making its way down the hospital halls leaving a trail of blood, bile, and ash. Falling lifeless to the floor, my corpse begins to burn, crumbling before the feet of the group of mystified health professionals. My friends’ whereabouts are still unknown.

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Consider helping me deliver more content: https://www.patreon.com/imarrowsj

This historic mansion in Texas was built in 1895 and rumored to be home to the spirit of a young girl. Dawning an old-fashioned dress, the young lady has been seen staring out the bay windows of the first floor. An apparent suicide has also been rumored in the upstairs nursery. Arriving at night on this residential street, my team and I were able to capture a few photos of the exterior while quickly roaming the grounds. Peeking inside the windows from the porch, we only found antique furniture and a grandfather clock.

Once home to a blacksmith and hardware merchant F.W. Schuerenberg, this was the second location marked by the Texas Historical Commission on my journey through the lone star state. Later research uncovered the great grandchild of F.W. Schuerenberg claimed that her father “…Schuerenberg Joseph Marek lived in this house while growing up and never heard stories about happenings. My father died, suicide not in Texas, when I was 13.” She states. “Had contact with my aunt and visited this house and asked questions about family but no comments about ghost.” She goes on to say here: F.W. Schuerenberg House Haunted History

Consider helping me deliver more content: https://www.patreon.com/imarrowsj

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© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

The Idea and Inspiration

The Killing Floor, my first screenplay ever to come to life outside of my university acting and film classes (I was a theatre major…shocking, right?). Eager to share my art with the world, I hastily began to draft a short film after gaining inspiration walking through an arboretum at the university I was currently employed at. I remember walking through the thick forestry up a steep hill coming across this open, and flat patch of land. “This must be where the students have their satanic rituals.” I think laughing to myself. Embracing the open space, a story begins to form in my head as I pace quickly leaving circular tracks in the snow. The Killing Floor was born.

Poster

SCENE ONE

Michael Karon sits close to his Christmas tree grasping an almost empty bottle of whiskey. His clothes are tattered and covered in blood. A half-wrapped present lies before him and a pistol on the floor to his side.

Michael’s takes a final swig of whiskey and tosses the bottle in front of him.

Michael picks up the pistol next to him, cradling it in his palms.

Matthew stands atop a mountain pass within a firing trench. Michael Karon, Matthews father, stands beside him giving verbal pointers. Matthew draws his arrow taking aim. Breathing in the fresh mountain air, he focuses his attention to the beaten target ahead.

MICHAEL: Envision the arrow puncturing the target before you release. Push your shoulders downward. And when you’re ready…slowly release your breath and let it fly.

Matthew slowly releases his breath; the arrow takes flight. Striking the target meters out, he celebrates.

MATTHEW: I did it…I did it dad! Did you see that?

Matthew hugs his father who proudly embraces his sons’ accomplishment.

Michael places the barrel of the pistol against his temple.

Matthews head lies upon his father’s shoulders.

MATTHEW: I love you dad.

MICHAEL: I love you son.

A loud gunshot is heard.

Snow falls over Michael Karon’s home, his Christmas lights are perfectly fastened, and beautifully organized. His Christmas tree can be seen through the window of his living room. A dog can be heard barking in the distance.

Matthew 4:16 “…the people dwelling in darkness

    have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

    on them a light has dawned.”

Scene 1 BTS

Pre-Production

Beginning to draft the screenplay for fun, one of my friends was still a film student at the university that needed content for their senior film. During the early stages of pre-production, holiday break was drawing closer. University students were tired, and finding a crew was becoming more difficult than we imagined. Still, we persisted to go through the casting process and get everything we could. Obviously, in projects like this people wear many hats. Attempting to create casting calls, reach out to locations to lock down shoot dates, find necessary film equipment, and a few extra hands to help on set. In a small mountain town, right before holiday break…this wasn’t impossible, but we found ourselves running short on time.

SCENE TWO

Elementary language arts teacher, Michael Karon, wraps up a lecture on dramatic reading.

MICHAEL: When portraying a character from any script, not only do outside forces effect their motivations, but internal conflicts may also affect the way our character walks, talks, and reacts.

Brian rests his head in his palm staring out the window. A student in the back raises their hand.

MICHAEL: Yes, Amy.

STUDENT: I don’t understand Mr. Karon. How would we know if our character doesn’t feel good?

MICHAEL: Well, we can only go with what the writer gives us…right? So, if our character is described by our writer as ill. They might walk around holding their tummy, or they sound nasally always about to sneeze.

Brian joins in the conversation.

BRIAN: What if your character wasn’t sick, but they were not themselves?

MICHAEL: How so?

BRIAN: Well. Just because a character doesn’t feel themselves, doesn’t mean they’re sick. What if they’re just sad, or another character hurt them? What if they love someone, but don’t have the courage to say so?

The class laughs, Michael waves them off.

BRIAN: I just…I don’t think it’s always that obvious. You know?

MICHAEL: I do. We all know. True internal conflict stems from our emotions, our desires, and the obstacles pushing us further away from our objective, our goals, our dreams. Remember, what makes a great story isn’t always where the characters end up, it’s how they overcame their failures, how they celebrate their triumphs, and what they…

The bell rings indicating the end of the period. The kids quickly scurry out to the door as Michael attempts to get a final word in.

MICHAEL: Don’t forget to have your group presentations and skits ready by Monday morning-

They’re gone before he can finish. Michael begins to pack his things as a student approaches his desk.

BRIAN: Mr. Karon?

Michael turns and greets the young man, a friend of his sons.

MICHAEL: Sorry Brian, didn’t see you there. What can I do for you?

Brian avoids eye contact while standing awkwardly. He stammers as he begins to speak.

BRIAN: Matt and I…I…I just…

Michael stops him with a consoling mannerism.

MICHAEL: Brian. It’s alright buddy. Matthew is just…he’s just lost. He’ll find his way home.

There’s a long pause as Brian collects his thoughts.

BRIAN: I think I know where he is.

Michael’s expression quickly changes as Brian continues to ramble on.

BRIAN: Well, where we were. He went through and I told him not to. I wanted to tell you, I just didn’t think you would believe me {and then my dad said that I’d just make things harder for you}

MICHAEL: {Brian…Brian!}

Brian flinches, Mr. Karon lowers his voice.

MICHAEL: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. Just…just slow down and start from the beginning. What do you mean “he went through”?

Brian reaches inside his bag and places a tattered leather-bound book on Mr. Karon’s desk.

BRIAN: Matthew and I found this book. He thought…we thought, it would be cool to follow its instructions.

Michael picks up the book slowly thumbing through it as Brian elaborates further.

BRIAN: I mean, it’s old…we didn’t think it would work. It has a map of town with cool places we’ve never explored-

MICHAEL: Your dad’s seen this, right?

BRIAN: Not really.

MICHAEL: What do you mean?

BRIAN: Well, he said not to tell you and just to stay out of it, but I couldn’t just leave-

MICHAEL: Has. He. Seen. This?

BRIAN: No, but-

Michael quickly packs the book with his things and exits, Brian follows.

BRIAN: Mr. Karon. Mr. Karon wait.

SCENE THREE

Pastor Stephen hangs Christmas lights outside his church. Atop a ladder he reaches across hammering in some nails, continually stringing the lights as he goes along. Michael approaches smoking a cigarette.

MICHAEL: Need an extra pair of hands pastor?

PASTOR STEPHEN: (surprised) Michael? (beat) Hold on. One second.

Pastor Stephen quickly finishes hammering in the nail he was working on, then heads down the ladder to greet Michael. Michael goes in to shake hands, but Pastor Stephen goes in for a hug.

PASTOR STEPHEN: It’s been a while.

MICHAEL: Yeah.

PASTOR STEPHEN: I…um…I’m sorry to hear about Matthew. I’ve been praying for you.

MICHAEL: I appreciate that.

There’s an awkward silence between the two of them.

PASTOR STEPHEN: What brings you here?

MICHAEL: Surprisingly, Brian did.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Everything alright? He really enjoys your class.

MICHAEL: Ha-ha. Yeah, everything’s great in class. He brought a strange bit of text to my attention. Claims him and Matthew followed its contents to open some type of…doorway or portal?

Michael hands Pastor Stephen the book. Pastors Stephens eyes light up in shock as he glances upon the cover, he tosses the book on the ground before him. Michael retrieves the text brushing off its casing.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Where did you get that?

MICHAEL: Brian handed it to me after class. What’s the problem?

PASTOR STEPHEN: My son?

MICHAEL: Yes.

PASTOR STEPHEN: No. no. no. It can’t be.

MICHAEL: Steve, what’s the issue here?

Pastor Stephen heads towards the entrance of the church up the stairs.

PASTOR STEPHEN: We can’t talk here. And do not bring that inside this building.

MICHAEL: Steve, can you tell me what the fuck’s going on here? What is this?

Pastor Stephen approaches Michael aggressively pushing him into the wall.

PASTOR STEPHEN: If my son held that book, then my life is in danger.

MICHAEL: Get off me!

Michael pushes Pastor Stephen away.

PASTOR STEPHEN: That book has been only heard of, never seen. Its contents are dark, but not as ancient as it may seem.

MICHAEL: Oh enough with the end of times bullshit, come on Stev-

PASTOR STEPHEN: You want answers or what!?

Michael nods.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Stemming from this town, I only thought they were rumors, but it must be true.

Pastor Stephen heads back up the stairs, Michael tries to follow.

MICHAEL: What are you talking about?

PASTOR STEPHEN: [To himself] The bastard child strays from the flock. [To Michael] Your son is alive Mr. Karon. Meet me at the old docks tomorrow after church and I’ll explain further.

Pastor Stephen locks the door in Michaels face vanishing. Michael pounds on the door calling out to him.

MICHAEL: Steve? Steve! Steve?! Where is Matthew? Steve!?…Fuck!

Scene 1 BTS 2

Portraying A Character That I Created

Not going to lie, I thoroughly enjoyed becoming the character Michael. The look and motivations were loosely based off a professor I had in college. He spoke about his kids and how he would do anything to protect them. Obviously, I wanted the character to care about his son. The self-loathing and medicating was more of a reflection of my personal thoughts on the holiday season. Self-medicating is something I’m very familiar with, especially during the winter months. Those scenes, I found, really hit home as an artist and actor on set, but also as a reflection of what my holiday season used to look like. Taking the partner out of the equation was crucial to the motivations of Michael. His son is everything, and without him during this time of year should feel more than detrimental.

Michael Karon

MKMK

Production and Downfall

All the promotional shooting was complete, and we began filming scenes when we could. We all had day jobs and responsibilities that had to come first, time was already…not on our side. One of the kid actors was very experienced on camera, the other was almost brand new with some stage experience in school. Eager to learn and passionate about the project, we decided to take time aside and give him some acting lessons. It’s not hard to explain, but he was the character he was cast for. Being himself was what we wanted and being a character is what he believed it to be. Which is fine, like any film set the down time should be filled with banter and fun. We cast T.J. Tranchell, author of Cry Down Dark and Asleep in the Nightmare Room, to play Pastor Stephen and he was all for it from the beginning. Introduced from a mutual friend, T.J. and I immediately connected as horror fanatics and writers. Be sure to check out his Author Website. The families were taking holiday vacations, so we began pushing back shoot dates and our time eventually became so tight. With another job starting out of state I was getting ready to leave the area. Alongside the film to-do list, I was training two individuals on my day job and that had to be my main priority. We completed about half of the filming, then the project was terminated.

Full Cast

SCENE FOUR

Snow covered pines surround an old fishing dock. Michael waits sleepless smoking a cigarette on the dock, gripping a coffee cup dozing off.

BRIAN: Mr. Karon? Mr. Karon? Mr. Karon!?

Brian is heard attempting to snap Michael out of his blur.

BRIAN: You alright Mr. Karon?

Michael sits up, his cigarette is burned to its end next to his feet. Pastor Stephen approaches the dock with his dog Guinness by his side.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Hey Brian take Guinness for a walk, let me talk to Mr. Karon for a while. Alright?

BRIAN: Yeah dad. Come on Guinness.

Brian runs off the dock off onto some trails, Guinness follows. Pastor Stephen takes a seat next to Michael. They stare off admiring the silence over the reservoir and picturesque view of the snow caps in the distance.

“You can always rinse the surface, but the stain will remain.”

PASTOR STEPHEN: It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

There’s a moment of silence.

MICHAEL: I taught Matthew to fish here. Diane and I would come camping and he’d wake us up before the sunrise ready to cast off.

PASTOR STEPHEN: You must keep it together Michael, he’s still out there.

MICHAEL: Ha. Yeah.

Michael lights another cigarette and begins to pace around the dock.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Michael…you smell like an old sock soaked in whiskey.

MICHAEL: Kentucky bourbon to be exact.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Even in the worst times, you have a quick wit. I know the holidays aren’t really your favorite time of year, especially since your wife passed-

MICHAEL: Look. Steve. I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but I just want to find my son.

Michael places the book on the bench between the both of them.

MICHAEL: What is this? And how does it correlate with my son’s disappearance?

Pastor Stephen takes exasperating sigh, then proceeds to explain the meaning of the text.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Alright. In the early 80’s the Palouse area was home to an estranged cult that believed bastard children possessed satanic powe-

MICHAEL: Steve. What does this have to do with Matthew?

PASTOR STEPHEN: Just hear me out. I’m not preaching at you, okay?

MICHAEL: I’m sorry, continue.

PASTOR STEPHEN: This cult believed a child born out of wedlock could be used to open doorways or portals of some kind directly connecting our world to the nine circles of Hell. This book is basically their “how to guide” on opening these circles to earth.

MICHAEL: So…then where’s Matthew?

Pastor Stephen flips through the book for a moment.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Here. Limbo. The first circle of Hell, an inferior form of Heaven.

MICHAEL: But he’s not dead, so couldn’t he just leave?

PASTOR STEPHEN: I’d imagine it’s as if a ghost surrounded us in our world. We wouldn’t be able to see them, but they could see us. So, if Matthew’s alive in Limbo then-

MICHAEL: Then he’d be invisible to the others in Limbo.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Exactly.

MICHAEL: Wait. When Brian handed me this book he said something like “he went through, I told him not to go through”. He didn’t think I’d believe him.

Michael’s cigarette burns to its end singeing his fingertips he jumps up.

MICHAEL: Ow, fuck!

 Guinness barks aggressively in the distance, Pastor Stephen runs off after Brian and Guinness.

PASTOR STEPHEN: Brian!?

Michael grabs some snow to ice his finger and glances over the water. Matthew stands across the reservoir alone, Michael yells out to him.

MICHAEL: Matthew? Matthew!?

Pastor Stephen quickly makes his way through some brush on the back trails searching for Brian and Guinness. Pastor Stephen stops for a short moment hearing Michael call out to his son, then proceeds searching for Brian and Guinness. Guinness screeches from afar, Brian screams in anguish. Pastor Stephen picks up his pace in fear for his son’s life calling out to him.

Michael turns back towards the water, Matthew sits on the edge of the dock fishing singing “I’ll Fly Away”. Michael approaches slowly.

MATTHEW: “I fly away, oh glory. I’ll…fly away. In the morning. When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I’ll…fly away.”

MICHAEL: Matthew?

MATTHEW: [Monotone] Diane says hello Michael.

Michael reaches for Matthew’s shoulder, he turns quickly covered in ritualistic paint and blood. Michael falls over the bench behind him, as he recovers Matthew is gone. Michael gathers his things quickly, then runs to the trails after Pastor Stephen.

SCENE FIVE

Michael makes his way through the thick brush following the barks of Guinness. Slightly off the trail in a large snowy clearing Brian lies motionless in a pool of blood. Guinness’ barks are silenced, Michael sees Brian and approaches quickly. Pastor Stephen is nowhere to be seen.

MICHAEL: Brian. Brian wake up. Brian!?

Brian regains consciousness slowly. Noticing the blood next to him, Brian begins to panic.

BRIAN: Who’s blood is that? {Dad. Dad! Where’s Guinness? Where’s my dad!?}

Michael attempts to comfort Brian.

MICHAEL: It’s alright. {Brian. Brian, it’s alright, but we have to go.}Let’s go!

Michael picks up Brian and carries him quickly off the path as Brian continues to cry for his father.

Brian is silent in the car staring off out the window as Michael drives back towards town.

MICHAEL: You alright bud?

Brian doesn’t respond.

MICHAEL: I’m sure your dad just got scared and head back home. He’s probably there waiting for us now, alright? It’s going to be fine.

With no response from Brian, Michael pulls the car over turning it off.

MICHAEL: Look, Brian. Please talk to me. We’re in this together now. What’s wron-

Michael reaches out to console him, but Brian’s frustrations lash out.

BRIAN: I saw him, okay!?

MICHAEL: You saw who?

Again, no response. Michael becomes frustrated.

MICHAEL: You saw who Brian? Who did you see!?

BRIAN: Matthew! I saw Matthew, alright!?

Michael stands down. There’s a moment of silence.

MICHAEL: I believe you. I saw him, too. Except…it wasn’t him. He was angry…hurt, and his face was-

BRIAN: Painted.

MICHAEL: Yes.

Michael fumbles through his things quickly and pulls out the book.

MICHAEL: Brian, he’s trying to reach out to us. He needs our help. You have to show me where you guys went the night Matthew went missing.

BRIAN: Area occisio…

MICHAEL: What? {What does that mean? Brian?}

BRIAN: {Area occisio…area occisio…area occisio!}

Brian takes the book out of Michael’s hands and thimbles through diligently.

BRIAN: Look.

Brian hands the book back over to Michael marked at a certain page.

BRIAN: When we first read through the book we weren’t sure if it was explaining how to get to a certain place or a specific time.

MICHAEL: That doesn’t make any sense.

BRIAN: Of course it doesn’t…you have a very limited imagination. Alright, it’s a map of a timeline. A journey of this group…kind of? They explain where they go and when they go, time being specific and seeming important. You follow?

MICHAEL: I guess…

Brian points to a specific note on a page.

BRIAN: Here. “Et trahentium ius vel sinistram non furca, esse certus ut semita levi. Cum pervenire ad magnitudinem planitiem quae non est remedium ad te pervenit occisio areæ.”

MICHAEL: And that means…

BRIAN: And you’re the teacher? We translated here: “The trail will fork left or right, be sure to take the path with light. When you reach the vast plateau there is no cure, for you have reached the killing floor.”

MICHAEL: So, let’s go there!

BRIAN: Hold on. Like I said before it’s a timeline. Next to each instruction or clue or whatever you want to call them, there’s a specific time. Plus, I didn’t go past this point. Matthew went through, I left.

MICHAEL: Why not?

BRIAN: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you…

MICHAEL: Try me.

BRIAN: At the fork, it says to take the path with light, right? Well, you think there was anything lit at 09:45PM in middle of the woods?

MICHAEL: No…

BRIAN: Exactly. There was this blinking light that was showing us where to go…we could feel it. It was like a presence was guiding us, almost pulling us towards the plateau. I waited at the fork as Matthew went in, he kept saying everything was getting brighter and darker at he same time until he just stopped talking. I yelled for him, but he never responded. The blinking light got faster and faster, like it was coming closer trying to get me, so I ran.

MICHAEL: So, what’s the first step here? How do we find him? Where do we go first?

BRIAN: I’m not going!

MICHAEL: What?

BRIAN: I’m not going…just take me home.

Michael takes a moment, then starts up his truck. ‘Two Minutes to Midnight’ is heard coming from the radio.

MICHAEL: Fine.

Michael turns the radio up, angrily puts the truck in gear and heads back towards town.

What I’ve Learned and What I Take Away

In a nutshell, be prepared and have time set aside.

I believe this project could’ve been completed if we began much earlier than we did. Juggling a full-time job and making a short film was not ideal. Focus needs to be on the project and the people participating. The people involved deserved our full attention. Especially if actors are working for free, there’s no reason not to put them first.

At all costs, avoid mixing hats you’re wearing.

At times I was writing parts of the script while on the phone scouting locations and emailing talent to interview. Don’t recommend that. Ha-ha. Take the time for each detail. Obviously, in productions like this you’re going to be doing multiple jobs. Plan accordingly, schedule intelligently, and act only when fully prepared.

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Pull out your holy water because this abandoned church in central Texas definitely possessed my interest. The cemetery with well-dated plots and unmarked burial sites surrounded this structure with the faded message of “Help Restore Me” painted on the front wall. A cultish altar draped with red shag carpets overlooked limited rows of pews covered in dust and cobwebs. What made this even more unnerving was the vintage Halloween decorations laid out on the pews in the back.

A historical marker from the Texas Historical Commissions posted on the grounds reads as follows: “Pioneer area settlers organized the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 1852 on land donated by James R. Hines. Early ministers included notable Baptist leaders from Old Baylor College at nearby Independence. The church building was dismantled and rebuilt in the new town of Burton on land donated by F. A. Rice and A. Groesbeck in 1882. At that time the congregation was renamed Burton Baptist Church. The sanctuary was rebuilt after being damaged in the 1900 storm and on Feb. 18, 1983, it was moved here to its original site. It now serves as a reminder of the area’s rich pioneer heritage.”

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© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Today’s a difficult day for me. Air travel. It’s nothing new, in fact as a nomad I travel constantly from state to state depending on what seasonal job openings there are. With epilepsy it’s not impossible to get a driver’s license, but I’d say it’s more on the rare side if someone with epilepsy drives. Having photosensitive epilepsy (affected by flashing lights) is rarer than people think if they’ve never met someone with epilepsy. Only around 5% of people with epilepsy are photosensitive. If you’re interested I explain my epilepsy in more depth here: Formerly Known As Petit Mal: My Epilepsy

“Ambulances for me, are like irony on wheels.” from BBC Three Video-Things Not To Say To Someone With Epilepsy

My Advice

When I’m traveling there’s a few guidelines I like to follow to make traveling with epilepsy less stressful and more enjoyable. Note that this is the system that works for me, everyone’s epilepsy differs, and their needs may vary.

Plan Accordingly: The best time to purchase a flight is around fifty days out from the departure date. I recommend choosing an aisle seat if possible. Giving you plenty of time to organize things you may need such as extra medications for longer trips.

Sleep Well: A lot of flights, especially if you’re on a budget like me, may be more financially friendly if they’re early departures or red eye flights. No shame in being budget smart but be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep the night before if you’re not a fan of sleeping on planes. (Around 8-10 hours.)

Come Prepared: While traveling I usually have one checked bag and my backpack as a carry on. In my backpack, alongside my laptop and my current novel obsession, I have my emergency medication and an extra pair of clothes folded neatly inside a plastic grocery bag.

Medical ID Bracelet or Necklace: Having some sort of medical ID with your name, home address, primary care physician or emergency contact number could benefit you in case of an emergency.

Communicate: Admittedly, the first time I tried to converse with people sitting next to me I was quite embarrassed. However, more times than not we end up having an intelligent conversation on epilepsy and they speak about their friend that has epilepsy or a family member. Communicate to them that there’s a possibility of you having a seizure and what they can do to help. We’re all human.

My Experience

Out of the dozens of flights I’ve taken, I’ve had two seizures at the airport before boarding and none while airborne. (Knocks violently on every piece of wood. Ha-ha.) By becoming more comfortable and actively speaking about my epilepsy to others, I believe that air travel has become less stressful overall. Taking the time to note what I need to be safe and relaxed while traveling instead of worrying what others might think was the most difficult, but most important note I remind myself every time I fly.

I hope this finds you well and that you don’t let your epilepsy deter your traveling desires. If there’s any travel tips I missed or some that you’d like to add, feel free to comment below!

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

Exploration of the Elk River Public School that was abandoned in the early 1980s. Former site of the Potlatch Sawmill, this tiny logging community once flourished as a small American town. With a population of 847 in 1920, nearly 100 years later, the now minuscule population of 125 remain. Locals seemed welcoming to outsiders that come for the hunting seasons and snowmobile trails during the heavy winters. The school remains standing with rumors of haunted hallways and possible spirits that wander aimlessly within these open doors. My team and I explored this beautiful piece of history to find a special surprise at the top of the bell tower. A letterbox that inspired the short story of the same name. If you haven’t already, check out the horror short story here: Letterbox

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Classroom 2nd Floor

Front Entryway

Bell Tower Ladder

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

The sun shines brightly through the blinds of my empty apartment as the alarm on my phone continues to ring. Just a mattress, blankets, and a few pillows placed in the center of my living room beside my half-unpacked suitcase. Embracing the nomad lifestyle for as long as I can. Today? It’s Sunday. As most of this quaint college town either make their way to church or sleeps off a hangover after attending that rager on Greek Row, my friends and I have our own sense of community. In the form of empty bottles as targets and shell casings falling to the icy mountain back roads. The Sunday Crew. With a mixture of interests, we planned something different for all of us to enjoy. A paranormal investigation at an abandoned school. In the thinly populated town of Elk River stood an abandoned school rumored to once employ a teacher that communicated with the dead. Most of the town thought he was just going insane after his daughter passed…grief can really fuck with your head. Once the Potlatch Sawmill went under work became scarce diminishing the population significantly. Elk River Public School closed its doors in the early 1980s only to be a rotting trophy overlooking the town with trailer parks, a general store, and a lodge for tourists hoping to enjoy the snowmobile trails or hunting season.

After throwing coffee on, I text Copper to let him know I’ll be ready soon before hopping in the shower. Copper was the most honest person I’ve ever met. Regardless of your feelings, he’ll tell you exactly how it is. That’s what I like most about him. No bullshit. He says most people from Alaska are that way. Cold state, cold people. He taught Gawk and me how to shoot guns and enjoy the mountains for all they’re worth. Hawk, or as we call him, Gawk, works with us at our day job and became a part of the Sunday crew unconventionally. He’s kind of just that awkward guy who enjoys laughing at our jokes and chips in for weed. He’s wicked smart, the youngest on the crew, and just a fuckin’ goon overall.

Knowing Coppers got to pick up Gawk, I’m in no rush this morning. We’re supposed to rendezvous at Safeway with Sarah and McKenzie around 08:30AM but knowing them they’re probably running behind. Sarah’s filmmaking experience is nothing short of amateur. Given that most of us are skeptics of the whole paranormal thing, she’s just hoping to get some stunning shots of the building for a film class assignment. McKenzie is just here to have fun. Sorority girl, free spirit, and yeah…she loves her cats. McKenzie is the kind of girl that underestimates her own potential focusing on others success while ignoring her own. That’s why I think she enjoys hanging with The Sunday Crew. Everything we do is together. As much as we banter back and forth, we build each other up twice as much. Besides Gawk. He’s basically our banter post. He’s a good sport about it though. The best cone of shame model we’ve ever met. Ha-ha.

With my towel around my waist, I pour myself some coffee, add a little schnapps, and check my emails. One of the few negatives about being a nomad is we usually don’t buy furniture or televisions because before you know it, we’re off on the next adventure. I have a few dishes from the local thrift shop, a coffee maker, an inflatable mattress, and an internet connection to watch The Office over again on my laptop. After answering a few emails, I double check that my bag is packed with lunch and any other shit I may need. Throw on my clothes for the day, grab my jacket, and head out for a cigarette. Nasty habit, I know. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to quit. Every summer I head to work in Maine, and that’s the only place I don’t feel the need to pick up a cigarette. Besides being able to work and live in many different states, a major positive about being a nomad is experiencing the culture of each place and having the knowledge of where I’d like to finally settle one day. Maine, well…that’s at the top of my list.

Daydreaming, I accidentally drag into the filter of my cigarette burning my fingertips as Copper pulls up jokingly honking his horn at me. “Where’s the Gawk man at?” I jokingly retort noticing the empty passenger seat. “He’s in the back seat, you ready?” Copper says eager to get on the road. “Yeah, let me grab my bag I’ll be right down,” I respond heading back up the stairs to my apartment. Locking the door behind me I shuffle enthusiastically back down the stairs like a kid on Christmas morning. Giving Gawk a quick playful jab, we all laugh as we head off to meet with the girls at Safeway. “Once we leave town, it’s basically just a straightaway through some pocket-sized cities on ID-8 E and we’ll be there in about an hour,” I say out loud with the biggest grin on my face. This is the shit I live for. Exploring abandoned buildings and chasing the make-believe. All in the best company.

Pulling up to the Safeway, we’re already a few minutes behind schedule and still no sign of Sarah and McKenzie. We head inside to grab some snacks and energy drinks. I’d say we’re the loudest people anywhere we go. After a few gags pointed at Gawk in the store we all make our way back to Coppers car seeing McKenzie parked nearby. “Bitch you stopped for coffee and didn’t ask if we wanted anything?”  I joke holding my own concoction of coffee and peppermint schnapps in my hand. “Get in bitch, we’re leaving,” Sarah says. “We’ll just follow you goons since you have the directions,” I shout to Copper and Gawk as I step into McKenzie’s car.

I knew we would be heading into the deep woods of Idaho, but I didn’t think about how scenic the drive would be. Each town we passed grew smaller in population, but more visually striking and vaster in land. The back-mountain roads were laced with miles of snow-covered trees and seemingly endless hillsides. We pass a practically empty cemetery atop a lonely hill in the town just outside of our destination. A family is gathered around the only headstone in sight mourning the loss of a loved one. As we’re the only cars passing through, they glare at us crossly as if our presence was disturbing their private ceremony. Finally, we pass the town sign reading Elk River. Pulling in, our mouths were agape at the school hanging over the town at the top of the hill. Some windows smashed, doors beat in, and grounds ultimately trashed. What surprised me the most was the lack of ‘No Trespassing’ signs that are usually posted all around these places. But hey, I’m not complaining at an enter at your own risk situation. Before we could even chat for a second, Sarah had her camera out making her way around the building exterior. Without hesitation, I make my way towards the back entrance. “Wait,” McKenzie says. We all stop and gather around a pitiful plot marked by torn crime scene tape, a memorial for Catherine Walker written on a paper plate, and two wooden stakes in the form of a cross. “Wasn’t she found just last week?” McKenzie asks. “I know she’s been dead for a few decades, but damn…she’s already forgotten again.” Sarah adds. We all sit in an unexpected moment of silence as the frigid air moves up the back of our necks. In a way, I think we all were reminded at that moment to appreciate our lives just a bit more. “It’s cold, can we- “. Copper smacks Gawk. “Ow, Copper. What the fuck?” “Ruined a moment Gawk…now this little girl can’t rest in peace.” Copper teases walking back towards the back entrance. “Hey, I didn’t fucking kill her.” Gawk shouts following Copper. Sarah and McKenzie laugh at Gawk as they head to the front entrance. Oddly wallowing at this poor young girls’ demise, I stay there a moment sipping my holiday season beverage of depression and loneliness. “You alright?” Copper states in a consoling tone. “Yeah…yeah, I’m good. I thought you went inside.” I reply lighting a cigarette while wiping a tear or two on my jacket. “Gawk and I were waiting for you. Let’s go fuck with the dead!” He eggs on smiling as he runs back.

Entering through the back we believe we may be in either the storage or cafeteria. Two totally different rooms…I know. It’s difficult to tell with the amount of damage around us. Long, bench style lunch tables are folded against the walls. With a variety of different trash items, mold, and mysterious puddles of murky liquid scattered around the floors, we begin to search for higher ground. I don’t know where you grew up, but I think it would be quite odd to go to a school that serves grades K-12. One school. Every grade. Even in its hay day, that’s still a tiny town. Making our way to the front, Sarah and McKenzie avoid stepping on the shattered glass from the broken entrance doors. A vintage vacuum stands ironically next to the thousands of sharp pieces. With a classroom to each side, we begin to explore as a unit. The shrill carpets are torn from the floors, some windows covered, and the inside walls lined with classic green chalkboards. I begin searching the drawers of the only desk in the room. Gawk stands awkwardly close to the exit as Sarah and McKenzie’s eyes are drawn to the view of their cameras. Copper sifts through a few bookshelves finding nothing but dust, empty beer bottles, and makeshift ashtrays. Emptying the drawers, I only find the remnants of mice nests. Ready to move on I head to the adjacent classroom. The same setup, just a little less run down. I stare at the chalkboard where someone has written “Go to the BELL TOWER” in fresh white chalk across the center. “Hey guys, get in here!” I shout. “Was that there when we came in?” Gawk states a little uncomfortable. “Joseph, what the fuck man?” Copper questions. “Guys, it wasn’t me!” I express attempting to defend my point. “Alright, then let’s go to the bell tower.” Copper grumbles as he walks back towards the main entrance. “I feel like that was already on our fuckin’ agenda assholes,” I add walking with them. We begin to ascend the massive stairwell. “Gawk, where are you going?” Copper asks noticing he’s walking towards the back entrance. “I got to go to the bathroom. You got a flashlight?” Gawk inquires. We all laugh heading back down near the poorly marked restroom. “I’ll go with you, you know I always have to piss,” I add. I’ve explored endless abandoned buildings, but this bathroom didn’t smell half as bad as most. Usually, there’s some sunlight shining through, but on the first floor, I understand why there wouldn’t be a window. A few urinals, two stalls, an elongated mirror, and for some odd a reason a shower made up this restroom. Trying to stay as far back from the urinal as possible, I take aim and begin to pee. As soon as I noticed Gawk isn’t at another urinal, I hear his stream hit an empty porcelain bowl. “Are you using the stall?” I ask questioning his choices. “Yeah…I can’t pee with people watching.” He returns. “I mean…I would’ve just let you go first-” “BOO!” Copper screams in my ear as I fall to the floor. “Fuck man! What the hell?” “Found your chalk boogeyman.” He spouts proudly throwing a piece of white chalk at me. Sarah and McKenzie enter. “You guys done jerking each other off in here? There’s so much more to see in this place.” Sarah mocks. “Whoa.” She audibly admires the huge mirror behind her. “Let’s get a picture of us all,” McKenzie adds. “Gawk! Put your dick away and come take a picture with us!” Copper laughs to himself. “It’s not flushing.” Gawk replies as we all facepalm. “Just…just get out here.” I end. Staring at the mirror we admire this moment. The Sunday Crew. A combination of fun and fucked up make for one dysfunctional family photo.

After that impromptu photo shoot, we finally head to the second level. Cork bulletin boards and torn wallpaper hang loosely on the walls. There are a few more classrooms around, collectively we walk into a class to be greeted by a rodent friend scurrying across the floor. A loud thump echoes from the classroom downstairs. Much like our rodent friend, we scurry down the stairs once again, to find a ladder has been placed in the center of the room. “Hello?” I call out, in hopes I receive a reply.  There’s none. “Someone’s just trying to fuck with us, you guys- “. McKenzie freezes as she stares at the chalkboard that now has the phrase “Go to the BELL TOWER” written a hundred times over. “Obviously they want us to go to the bell tower,” Copper says smartly in attempts to hide his anxiety. Gawk runs swiftly to the back entrance towards the car. Chasing after him we realize the back doors are renewed and the tables are set for lunch.

A school bell is heard as about a hundred elementary age kids rush in finding a seat chatting loudly with each other. “Well…I guess we know this was the cafeteria.” I utter trying to lighten the mood. “You guys see this, right? There’s no way I’m this drunk.” “You’re always drunk.” Gawk mumbles. “Hey, fuck you man, you know I hate the holiday season!” I shout back. “Guys, can we argue about this another time? We’re in a literal nightmare at the moment.” McKenzie interrupts. “Holy shit, it’s him.” “It’s who Joseph?” “The teacher that talked to the dead. That’s Tom Walker.” Walking away from the crew in attempts to get a closer look, I’m immediately grabbed behind my ear by a strict older man who drags me to a seat. “Ow. Fuck, man. At least buy me dinner first.” I whine. “Quiet, lunch will be served shortly.” He states firmly. Releasing my ear, he walks on staring cruelly at my friends. They join me at the table in haste. “Okay…Joseph, don’t take this wrong way, but WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!” McKenzie cries in my ear. “Don’t you think if I knew…I’d tell you.” “WELL, YOU FUCKING BROUGHT US HERE!” She screams. “Calm down McKenzie, Jesus Christ. We’re all a bit lost right now.” Copper adds hoping to de-escalate the situation. “Just give me a second.” I sit in my own thoughts for a moment going through every paranormal book, film, text…anything to get some type of answer. “Alright look.” I begin to think out loud as everyone gathers around. “We’re here. And the school’s in session, but not really. We know the school was abandoned in the eighties, so we have to be somewhere in that time.” “So, we time traveled… “. Gawk interjects. “No. Shut up.” Taking a drink from my flask I attempt to dig deeper as my fingertips tap violently on the table in front of me. “Alright…so. We must be stuck in a memory or an event. There’s a theory that haunted houses give you a look at what happened and why it’s being haunted.” “What do you mean?” Sarah questions. “It’s called a time loop or slip or…fuck I don’t know. Anyway, it’s like watching a movie from the past…you see everything like it was. Before all the paranormal shit takes over.” I poorly explain. “The only thing to do now…is sit back and try to enjoy the show.” I finish. “Well, that’s just grand.” McKenzie stands. “‘Enjoy the show’. You say that like this is some…some immersive theatre display. News flash city boy! You’re not in Brooklyn anymore and I know-“

“QUIET!” The cafeteria becomes silent as the old man’s icy voice sends shivers down our spines. McKenzie sits. “Lunch will be served shortly. Line up accordingly.” He announces. “Guys, I really don’t think I could eat anything right now.” Gawk whispers. “Shut up Gawk.” We all whisper back. Trying to fit in we all line up with the other kids for lunch. My eyes are glued to the teacher table where Tom Walker seems distraught. The other teachers seem to be conversing around him as he chain smokes mouthing the text of a book he’s reading on the table. “So…what grade are you in?” Copper asks the girl behind us. “She can’t fucking hear you moron.” I mock hitting him on the shoulder. “How was I supposed to know?” “We’re only supposed to see what they want us to see. You’re a ghost in their world.” I explain. “What kind of mindfuck is that?” Copper says to himself, still in slight disbelief. I look back to the teacher table and Tom Walker has left. Grabbing my tray quickly, I push my way through the line scoping the cafeteria for him. He’s gone. Immediately tossing my tray aside, I decide to explore on my own. Walking out of the cafeteria directly under the stairwell to the second level there’s a classroom list on a bulletin board. Skimming through with my index finger, I look for Mr. Walker. Elementary English…Second Floor…Classroom B. Knowing that the elementary class is currently eating lunch, I make my way up the stairs.

Reaching the second floor I’m pushed aside by an aggressive young woman angrily marching towards Classroom B. I follow. “Dad? Dad!? What the hell is this?” She yells into the classroom with a notebook at hand. Tom Walker comes into view. Still, cigarette hanging from his lower lip. He’s shaking…and seems sweaty. “It’s the book. The one.” He stops to look around as if it’s a secret. “He…HE gave me.” He continues to answer, pointing to the ground. “Who dad? Who gave this to you? It’s filled with gibberish; did you write it?” She asks concerned. There’s no answer, she begins to grow more concerned. “Dad, there’s blood and pictures of mom in here. She’s dead dad, you have come to grips with that. SHE’S DEAD! Georgia’s dead! Don’t you understand that!?” He pulls her inside the classroom with force covering her mouth as she tries to fight back. Trying not to bring attention to myself, I move closer to the door but stay out of sight. I feel that I should run in and help her, however, this already happen. Will my actions change the outcome? Will the time slip end? Am I thinking too much on this? Probably. Inching up to the classroom door frame, I hear Mr. Walker speaking softly, yet promptly. I can’t make out anything he’s saying so I decided to take a peek. Feeling like a drunk bootleg version of a classic mystery gang, I stretch my neck around the door frame immediately regretting that decision. My back hits the wall behind me as my eyes close and my heart rate spikes. Attempting to breathe through a panic attack, glimpses of his exposed body hanging over her lifeless corpse flash before me as I sink lower to the floor. With a miniature blade, he seems to be carving distinct markings into her body while continuing to whisper over her. “What the fuck is going on up here?” Copper says making his presence known. Tom Walker pauses his chanting and intently charges us both. “RUN!” I scream as we both sprint down the stairs running into Sarah and McKenzie. We all stop to collect our thoughts. As my breathing begins to normalize, I give a panicked recap. “The teacher. No pants. Running…so fast. All the rolls just-“. “GUYS!” Copper interrupts. “Guys, we’re back.” He says with a sigh of relief. “We’re back? We’re back!” McKenzie exclaims as they embrace one another. The time slip has ended. Still collecting my feelings on the ground, I notice Gawk is missing. “Where’s Gawk?” “He was just right behind us…I swear he was right here.” Sarah says as we all begin to panic searching around this abandoned school hastily for our friend. “Hello?” We hear from above. “Hello?” We all call back looking to the worn wood rotting from the ceiling above. “HELLO?” It calls once more. “It’s Gawk!” I yell sprinting up the stairs. “Gawk, where are you? Gawk!” We continue to cry out. “HELLO!?” He cries again. Clearer in location, our attention is now on a small closet door. We’re frightened as the sun has set and darkness resides over us. With only the light of our camera, I reach slowly for the door handle opening it swiftly. A frigid wind comes through the shattered window, inside stands a ladder and broken chalkboard that reads “Go Up!!”.

With slight hesitation, I begin to climb the ladder ascending towards our original goal…the bell tower. “Ummm…I’ll be down here,” McKenzie calls out. Continuing on, Copper follows closely behind. As we reach the top it’s almost just like an attic, but with a larger window. “There’s not even a fucking bell up here!” I shout down to them. “Who cares, is Gawk alright?” McKenzie yells back. “He’s not up here,” I reply. “There’s just a bunch dust, molded insulation, and a cigar box. I could go for a smoke right now.” Opening the cigar box, it’s filled with worn papers, broken pens, and a leather-bound notebook. The papers had an illegible scribe written in red ink covering every inch of open space. “This guy really missed his wife.” Copper states sifting through the notebook as I examine the papers a bit closer attempting to read the papers aloud, but I just make myself sound drunker than I already am. “HIC EN SPIRITUM SED NON INCORPORE EVOKARE LEMURES DE MORTUIS DECRETUM ESPUGNARE DE ANGELUS BALBERITH EN INFERNO INREMEAB-uh fuckin’ hell.” I put the papers aside rubbing out my eyes. “By all means, have another drink, Joseph.” I wave him off. “Look. There are just endless letters to her about how much he wishes he could be with her again and that they’ll be together soon. Here. December 17th, 1976 ‘Our daughter looks just like you, gorgeous in every way’. What a freak.” He elaborates. “Wait, is that Walker’s journal?” I question. “Uh, duh. He’s the only psycho here, besides your drunk ass.” He replies. “First, fuck you. Second, that doesn’t make any sense. His wife was dead well before then.” “Alright then Sherlock, guess the guy was just insane. He talks about taking his own life to be with her or killing his daughter, so they can be a family again. Then just repeats wa ta na siam wa ta na siam wa ta na siam, whatever that is. It just gets more fucked up as you keep reading.” “What if he wasn’t just trying to talk to the dead, he was trying to raise them? Through some sort of sacrifice or ritual or something.” I conclude. “Now you sound just as insane as he did,” Copper says with a slight hint of anxiety under his breath. “These markings are similar to necromancy, he was digging this into his daughters’ skin when I saw them.” “Hello?” A fading voice calls out to us. “Hello?” We both call back. “Who’s there? I have a gun!” Copper adds. “Gawk! Is that you man? We’re done playing games. Come out!” I yell.  Suddenly, our lights go out and I’m frozen in fear. Chills roll up my hands onto my wrists as I can feel every hair on my arms rise with goosebumps. A moist, rancid breath hovers my ear. Its tongue reaches out to tease me laughing as I quiver. “What’s wrong Tom? I thought you liked when I did that.”

© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

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Old Narrow Gauge Trail in the Randolph Forest. Witnesses claim to have heard voices calling out to them, even screaming at them. With small sightings of orbs, flashes, and dark shadows, this walking trail was a must stop on my travels through Maine. Locals state “Bicycle Larry” was killed and buried by the brook alongside this trail after police recovered a voicemail confession sent from the murderer to his sister. The killer later committed suicide and the remains of Bicycle Larry were never found. My team and I found nothing but odd remains of old toys amongst the lush green forestry and tires alongside the beautiful brook.

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© John Marrows All Rights Reserved

The Bowdoin Cemetery in the Pit. A young woman in the 1800s allegedly practiced witchcraft and was sentenced to death by hanging from the townspeople in the Bowdoin area. This cemetery is unmarked and easily passed alongside the back Maine road it resides upon. Buried around a circle of trees it seemed even nature itself was afraid of what may lay below the soil. Many of the cemetery plots were destroyed, however, what frightened my team the most was not the mass amount of vandalism, but the alleged witch’s grave itself. The soil was soft and seemed turned as if someone recently was digging to find her corpse. If local legends are true, her grave has a curse attached to those who step in, and especially dig into, the burial site. The Bowdoin cemetery was definitely an eerie, and interesting stop on my journey through Maine.

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Witch Plot

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