Talk Nerdy to me- The Origin of the Ghost story Gina Goes Home

Okay buckle up it is fixin to get nerdy af up in this piece today.

Today we’re gonna go all the way the fuck in about a story I wrote last year. Okay you can go read it first or just follow along in another tab, find the chonky baby here.

The Inspiration

I love a good ghost story. I love ghost stories inside of religious mythos, campire yarns. Music, movies, stories I love ghosties. I also love watching paranormal investigation shows. Ghost Hunters, I frickin LOVE Zak Bagins. I watch amateurs on youtube. Love it. That was the initial inspiration.

The other inspo was this. There are theories (no I’m not gonna argue with you if you believe in it or not so don’t) that if you are being haunted, ask the dead what they want. I’ve seen it in movies, referenced in American Gods when Shadow’s dead wife visits and Wednesday asks him if he asked her what she wanted.

The Story

The first thing that this story said to me was, the dead want something. They want someone. They want Gina. I felt like I wanted to tell a story of a modern haunt. Not a historic type thing like a Gray Lady, or even a haunting that would be on an Overlook hotel level.

I really wanted to start small. I call it quaint in the story. I was imagining the kind of hotel you drive by on a roadtrip through the country, not fancy, probably a little shabby but charming. I also wanted to give the reader a clear idea that shit was about to get fucked up.

We get there by the second paragraph, I wasn’t going for subtle. That said, it isn’t the scariest thing, it is if you’re a skeptic you could say that meh, not that bad. See below:

The quaintness of the resident ghosts lasted until 2015. The first report, in the form of a middle-aged shrieking man in basketball shorts and little else came hauling his half naked self-down four flights of stairs. “There, help, please-” Mariah at the front desk had experienced a jumpy guest or two, she had a spare robe behind the desk for such occasions and offered to the gentleman while assuring him she’d check out his room.

This sort of thing happens a lot in hotels. Folks will act up in all sorts of ways and I didn’t want to come right out the gate with the BOO GHOST!

In the next paragraph we have the first instance of what the dead want. If you’ve read me a lot, you know I like to play with repetition for varying effects and in this case, I want the reader to not only hear what the dead want but, at some point it does get unsettling. Who is Gina? Where is Gina? How do we get Gina? What do they want with Gina?

One of the other things I did in this story was get into the body. Horror gives us such a great opportunity to really do things that are not unsettling because they are traditionally creepy but, I think a lot of us have bodily responses to things and sometimes our bodies will duplicate what we’re reading or seeing in sympathy. Looky here:

The sexless whisper was clear as day and came from the still air. She felt no chill, no movement, no sense of another person in the room. Fear gripped her sacrum in cold, hard fingers. Her anus contracted, her whole body tingled, and turned to stone. It took all of her will to take a breath and turn her head to the right. She forced her eyes wide open and saw nothing. She scooted out of the room and stood in the hallway, “oh shit.”

This paragraph is where I get creepy. I didn’t necessarily want to use common ghost tropes to begin with, cold spots, woowoo chain rattling etc. But the body. Those are always my favorite responses when I watch my paranormal shows and I am fascinated with how our bodies do stuff. When your butthole clenches up because oh fuck what the fuck was that. I really LOVE getting into the body. Real talk, I feel like the best way to learn this technique is to write some real nasty erotica. I’m talking super explicit in order to expand your thinking as to how bodies work and can work.

We’ll talk more about that at another time.

Through the next bits I hit on some common ghost/haunting stuff I hear in my shows. Construction riles up ghosts. I was really thinking of something a friend told me about the hotel he’d been working in. They were refurbishing it and the ghosts went buck fuckin wild and caused at least three of housekeeping to straight up fled mid shift.

As we get into some more of the action, I leave little breadcrumbs that these are not white people. That is important to me and interestingly enough, I did have one white reader be not really here for it because the framing of how these non white folks deal with it, is not what we’re presented with in the paranormal stuff I like.

It starts with this:

“Well ma’am, there are unhappy spirits asking for Gina. We’ve done everything, the ofrenda is fresh, the sills and doorways have been protected. Evelyn even brought her Grandfather around to say a blessing.”

This is not for white readers to be honest. This is a headnod to other POC from me. We have an ofrenda, if that’s too much Spanish google it. Also FYI I do not EVER italicize other languages. Fight me don’t @ me.

SHIT I am long winded as fuck. Anyway moving along.

To speed things along, I added some bro type ghost hunters who wanted to provoke and then, I decided to get into the entities. I wanted to explore the maybe was once human but is not totally not type ghosty, along with some lesser ghosties and create a community so they could have a goal. To get Gina.

As they say, a broken clock is right twice a day and the leader of the ghost hunting group was right about one thing. There was something bad. Someone bad, the other dead called him Boss. While the crew gathered themselves, the dead congregated in the basement. While the camera in the corner rolled, the air roiled with orbs and zigzagging streaks of energy.

“Boss? Boss make them get Gina. Bring Gina home.” Some of the hobgoblins grouped together to whisper, “Gina. Where is Gina?” The chorus of Gina and where is Gina and bring her home wavered through the air. “Boss tell them. Tell them.” Something that resided in the crawl space let their high, thin wail out and spoke for them all, “we want Gina. Gina must come home.”

Now, to me it is a bit more frightening to have the ghosties decide to gang up. Then I went into some classic haunting stuff, the cold air, the more traditional type haunt we get to see on the shows.

In order not to totally spoil the rest cause I want you to read it. I really went in on the idea of after the investigators came, how the situation gets solved and as usual, I wrote a not entirely satisfying ending. it ends but I don’t tell you everything that happened because I’m an asshole. I don’t explain who Gina really is, why they want her or anything.

So the overall lesson is this. Try some shit out. I’ve never written a ghost story like this before and I quite enjoyed doing it. Below find some relevant links.

Zak Bagans Demon House lost footage.

Ofrenda altars, also to give an in the know reader a sense of the time of year.

DASSIT. Happy Women in Horror Month!

Horror Musings- Ma and #ownvoices

I saw the movie Ma recently and (spoilers in link) and I have some thots. Buckle up. SPOILERS bro.

On the surface of it, Ma is a pretty okay movie. Good amount of suspense, interesting main antagonist but, by the time they started to “reveal” Ma’s backstory it was really too late. This was obviously not written by a Black person. I checked and sure enough, nope.

From the start, this had potential had someone Black written it. Here we have Sue Anne, one of obviously very few Black folks in this town and we (we as in probably mostly Black folks lezbehonest) know some shit happened. When you are one of few Black folks in any very white place, shit is gonna go down.

Perfect set up for a psychological thriller where you Sue Anne get your revenge by killing the kids of the folks who fucked with you. However, this is where #ownvoices is so important, in spite of how magnificent and menacing Octavia was in this role, the lack of providing us even glimpses via flashback, nightmares, something left the later mentions of stuff having happened empty to me.

In the end, regardless of the performances (I also really loved Juliette Lewis playing a grown person) there is a disconnect in this film. I could tell very quickly this was not a Black story. From wiki, this is the problem:

He read Scotty Landes’ script of the film, which Blumhouse Productions had bought the day before.[5] Although the original draft was written with a white woman in the title role, Taylor immediately thought about Spencer.[4] He went out to the hall, called Spencer, and asked her if she would like to be in a horror film;[5] without reading the script, Spencer boarded the project.[5]

The issue is that, you can’t just plug Blackness into any story. You can’t always just say NO BUT MAKE THEM BLACK and have that make the Blackness in the media you’re creating work. To put a finer point on it, if you’re going to bring in that racism and misogynoir into the story, the men who wrote it have no clue about how those things could make a monster like Sue Anne and for me it fell flat.

This is where I would say the solution is sensitivity readers/writers. I think Blumhouse really missed a great chance to look at a script and say, we need Black folks on this to make this story better. If you want to:

“I want to do something really fucked up.”[5]

Do the damn work.

This is why #ownvoices is so important. This film could have been so much better. Deeper. Richer. A more terrifying experience.

Overall, it was ok. I’ll probably watch it again for Octavia’s work alone but, really if you’re gonna make a Black ass horror story, consult some Black people.

If you’re gonna use a racism trope, use it. Don’t drop it in cause you’ve switched your main antagonist to be a Black person. This is an instance where I want to cheer but I feel like, y’all coulda done more. Blumhouse has the cash. Do the work. Take a chance on doing something great and fucked up.

In terms of horror fiction, this is a great set up. It is rich territory to explore and we need more of it. Just, not done by a team of white folks.

I think that’s all for now. Coming soon, book reviews!!

First up next week, beloved Jen Pastiloff then beloved Gabino Iglesias. WOO!