Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

before i die


Lake Shawnee Amusement Park – West Virginia, USA

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in West Virginia is a place that evokes nightmares through the death of children.  Truly, a ghastly place to visit and one of the top destinations on my personal bucket list.

It is said that numerous children lost their lives on the park’s rides, in the community pool, and even in the nearby lake.  One of the most noted deaths was the tragedy of a young girl while riding on the circling swing set.  She was killed when a box truck backed up into the oncoming path of her swing.

It is said that the departed children’s haunting laughs echo through the park’s acreage.

Were these mishaps just bad luck or a coincidence for the park?  In all likelihood, no.  It is possible that these deaths can be attributed to something more sinister.  The site of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was built on top of a Native American settlement.  During an archeological dig of the area, archaeologists uncovered an estimated 13 bodies, most of which were the bodies of children.

The land is cursed in the most dismal of ways.  There is documented history, even spanning back before the park’s establishment, which details several tragedies in the area.

So, are you ready to explore the cursed ruins of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park?  Well, you are in luck!  Every weekend in October you can experience what it is like to walk through an abandoned amusement park.

For more information, visit the Lake Shawnee Facebook page or the West Virginia travel website.

The ghostly skeletons are all that remain... (c) Jamie Pettry

Ghostly skeletons are all that remain… and maybe a lost soul or two. (c) Jamie Pettry

The Truth about Horror

In all honestly, horror is only a different and grotesque view of reality.  It is based upon a person’s perception of a circumstance.  The human mind has a tendency to distort the reality of a situation — making something out to be more terrifying than what it really is.   What frightens humans the most are typically the most benign.  For example:

  • The ghostly movements of your living room curtains is really your cat playing behind the draperies with a toy mouse.
  • The silhouette of a man that can be seen through the kitchen window is actually a hedge that is in need of reshaping.
  • The blood curdling screams from the other side of your wall is only your apartment neighbor yelling at his TV when the Steelers lose.
  • The spider that crawls across the bottom of your tub — Oh my GOD! A spider! IT’S A SPIDER! Kill it!  Kill it quick with fire!!!

*Ahem*… sorry, where was I — oh yes…  It is all about one’s perception of a situation, where it can be malignantly distorted.  However, there are certain times when something seems to be all sweet and innocent that it turns out to be truly dark and sinister…


Was that wrong of me?  :-)

Happy Saturday!


2014Sept31 update:  Disclaimer – no spiders were hurt in the writing of this post, and I truly do my best to not kill any living creature – even spiders.

To Splatter Gore or Not To Splatter Gore?

To splatter gore or not to splatter gore?

This is the epic question that every Horror writer must ask themselves.  How bloody and gory should this work be?  What is the limit that I can push my readers to where they are disgusted, but not to the point of where they can no longer read?  There is a very fine line between keeping a reader’s attention with the “gross factor” and losing a reader from being inundated by excessive carnage.

I am neutral on the topic of splatter gore.  The level of splatter gore is determined by the subject matter of a story.  This dictates whether it is the right time or right story to contain this type of repugnant action.

For instance, when the story is about Zombies or some equally gruesome antagonist, I expect there to be blood and guts with bones cracking and

(c) psarahtonen

The walls shall run red with crimson blood (c) psarahtonen

flesh noshing.  If no one is being disemboweled or if entrails are not lying about, I feel like I have been cheated.  With this type of story, I need the gore to fly as a tool and the action.  This means that in a well written splatter gore story, the gore does not advance the plot.  The gore is only a prop.

In contrast to that, in Vampire stories I expect elegance and culture with slight references to blood, blood sucking, blood letting, or any kind of blood extraction methods.  The descriptions of the gory actions are not overly explained, which leaves the details of the gore up to the reader’s imagination.  My view on this may be because my first trip into vampirism was through Stroker, Le Fanu, and Polodori.  Their stories were filled with grace, not carnage.  Even Carmilla’s bathing in blood scene was described in pure elegance.  Any scenes of gore were merely light extras added in to cause a rumble of terror.

Then there is the medium grade gore level of “monster” stories with antagonists like the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, the Devil, etc.  I expect this level of gore to be more than Vampires but less than Zombies.  The carnage is added for additional terror and slight stomach queasiness, though the author still forces the reader’s imagination to run wild with medium gore descriptions.  These are the stories I like to call the “happy medium” in splatter gore.

I tend to lean toward stories of the “happy medium”.  It is not because gore disgusts me (as I rarely become “grossed out” – except when I see someone pick their nose and eat the boogers… ewwww), but it is that I prefer the carnage to not be the driving factor in a story.  The human mind is much more imaginative than any words written on paper or scene shown in a movie.  Leave some details up to your reader’s imagination, as that will take your stories further than telling your reader a scene in explicit detail.  Personally, the things that go on in my mind terrify me more than anything that I read.  When a reader is forced to imagine a scene, that stays with them longer than visually showing or explaining it to them.

Now, don’t get me wrong in all of this.  Heavy splatter gore has its place.  I use it on occasion in my writing.  There is also a genuine and viable market for the “Splatter” sub-genre (splatter gore, splatter punk, etc.).  A lot of books come out of that sub-genre that are extremely terrifying and well written.  However, the gore, while abundant, does not drive best of the “Splatter” stories.  The gruesome carnage is used as only a prop.

When the emphasis is placed for the gore to drive the story, the reader is going to close the cover.  It is a sensory overload for them.  If you have over 50,000 words of nothing but slice ‘em, dice ‘em, gut ‘em —  it’s going to either (a) burn the reader out or (b) gross them out.  The effect from (a) or (b) is that the author’s book gets put down.

It is perfectly acceptable to use splatter gore, but only use it when the tone and the theme of your story calls for it.  And do not allow the gore to drive your story.

For I am Beckoned: Flash Masters 3 Contest Entry – Cast your vote!

Hello Macabre Followers!

I have entered a Flash Fiction contest at Grey Matter Press, and would really appreciate if you would vote for my flash fiction, For I am Beckoned, on the contest page:  Grey Matter Press Flash Masters 3

My entry was posted on August 28, 2014 at 4:11 am (you can also ctrl + f (find) on the webpage and search by Amanda Headlee).  Leave a reply on my post there to cast your vote.  If you would like to also take the extra step and tweet or Facebook that you voted for me with #FLASHMASTERS, that will potentially score me some extra bonus points.

As always, I greatly appreciate your support as a loyal reader and Horror enthusiast.

Happy haunting,



For I am Beckoned

On the last tendrils of breath, you call out to me through parched lips.  A dry, scratched voice full of loss and disdain. Death.  My name, though whispered, echoes loudly across my realm as I am beckoned to be at your side.  You taunt me by offering the pearl of your life.  So gingerly, you willingly relinquish as though it were nothing.  A gift in which you think you are permitted to return at any given notice.  Silly child, do you still believe life to be a game and that there are no consequences?

A sharp hate within me burns at your ignorance from the beauty you have been granted and now shun.  Moments before you called out to me, I stood at another’s side who clung to her soul as though it were still a nourishing life force for her body contained within the organ of her skin.  She pleaded with me to not force her to let life go as the entrails of her vessel bled away on the pavement of the busy street.

My story falls deaf upon your ears.

With a release, you detach from life and together we descend the stairs into a darker realm.



New Skin – New Journey

A fresh change for It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn was well overdue. The old blog was becoming stagnant and stinky. I was getting tired of all the decaying dead rotting away. I have a high tolerance for gross things, until they start to stink, but I digress. There are two huge changes going on over here today. Firstly, this blog is kicking off with a brand new skin – borrowed of course, because borrowing someone else’s skin is always easier than growing your own.

The second big change is the overhaul in the posting schedule. Mondays shall now be known as “Before I die…” Mondays where we will travel the globe and uncover ghastly locations to add to our bucket lists. My regular post of ramblings on all things writing, weird, and horror will now be on Thursdays.  Saturdays – if I can find the time between here, the Sarcastic Muse, and working on my novel – will be a free-for-all day, where I may post videos, reblog another bloggers post, or post a piece of my (short) creative writings.

I would like to thank the talented Robyn LaRue for the header graphic that will be displayed on all of the “Before I die…” posts.

This adventure is sure to be filled with a lot of frights, and if you have any suggestions, my ears (and coffins) are always open.


before i die



I hate dolls. I rarely ever played with them as a child. If one happened into my hands, in some way or form it would become dismembered. Sorry, but I was a dinosaur girl! Dolls were always their main course.  However, even though I am filled with disdain for dolls, Isla de las Munecas is on my bucket list. Seriously, who in their right mind would not want to travel to an island that is covered with the corpses of dolls and their various body parts?  It is the uber-creepy fest!

Located south of Mexico City, the island lies between the canals of Xochimico. The Island of the Dolls has a haunted history. It is said that the life of a young girl was taken by the surrounding waters much too soon. Don Julian Santana Barrera had found the small girl’s drowned body. A short while later, he pulled from the waters a doll that he believed belonged to the little girl. As a way to show respect to the girl and her spirit, he hung the doll in a tree.

Over the past 50 years, Don Julian has continued his honoring of the girl by hanging dolls and doll body parts in the trees that cover the island. However, it is believed that there is a more sinister side to this act of honor. It is said that the young girl haunts Don Julian, for he was unable to save her life. And in the attempt to please her, he provided the girl with an outlet to increase her haunting by possessing the dolls, forcing Don Julian to collect and display the dolls up until his death in 2001. Don Julian met his fate by drowning in the same spot where the young girl had died.

To this day, the dolls still haunt the island, and the island can be accessed by boat.


(c) 2011, Amrith Raj

Dolls hanging from trees(c) 2011, Amrith Raj


They are watching you… (c) 2008, Esparta Palma

Losing Robin Williams—The Dark Side of Those Who Make Us Laugh

Amanda Headlee:

Due to the passing of Robin Williams last week, I am reblogging this post because it perfectly captures and describes the feelings that may be hiding behind the laughter.

Depression is a debilitating and ruthless disease. It should never be taken lightly. Many people do not allow their depression to externally manifest and they lock it deep in their hearts.

For those who do not suffer, always remember to spread kindness and show love to everyone. Leave no stone unturned.

In each passing day, tell someone who you may know, or a complete stranger, that you appreciate their presence and place in your life. Let them know that they are not alone nor do they have to hide their suffering.

Never allow anyone to feel so alone. It can take something as small as a smile to save someone’s life.

For those who do suffer, know you are not alone. There is always somebody who has his or her hand out to you, ready to pull you from that dark place to make you safe. Do not hide. Know you are loved.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 3.14.54 PM

Suicide. It’s a topic that’s been on most of our minds as of late. I was BROKEN when I found out about Robin Williams. It’s like this bright shining star just snuffed out, leaving only a black hole of crushing emptiness behind. I feel terrible for taking him for granted, selfishly assuming he’d always be around.

I haven’t yet cried because I’m afraid I might not stop. My fondest childhood memories involve Mork & Mindy. Growing up, I’d watch Williams’ comedic acts over and over and over, studying his timing and how he could do what he did, because to me? It was MAGIC. In fact, I can honestly say he was my earliest mentor. I learned to laugh and make others laugh, and, since home and school were living nightmares, laughter was my lifeline.

I’m no expert aside from having suicide issues in the family. Also, years ago, I…

View original 1,156 more words

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity is on sale!

I can’t make it to Worldcon and neither can Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, but starting today and running through August 20th there will be a “Can’t Make it to Worldcon” ebook sale in honor of the epic convention.  Many science fiction and fantasy books will be on sale, including Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity.

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity is available via Smashwords for the low price of $.99 USD (regularly $2.99 USD) until August 20th.  Use the coupon HN84Y when checking out

For a listing of all ebook publications that are on sale, visit Steve H. Wilson’s blog.

So tell your friends and purchase these amazing books early!

Time keeps on ticking

Time does not seem to be on my side at the moment.  And I apologize because I do not have much of a post today because I am in the midst of traveling across the US.  Though I am having the most amazing time of my life at the moment, my writing is suffering horrible.  I have not been able to abide by Phil Giunta’s time management tips from his guest post on The Sarcastic Muse blog.

The launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity went perfectly last Friday night.  And it was so much more than just a perfect night.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.  I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful it was seeing the interest in people’s faces as they picked up the physical copy of our anthology.  Seeing that was breathtaking.   Also, to spend the entire weekend among writer and talking non-stop about writing.  Pure heaven.

Can I also just point out my surprise in how many Sci-fi / Fantasy lovers are closet Horror junkies?  I was half prepared for people to think that I should be committed for my obsession with the macabre, but it was the exact opposite.  People were enamoured with my love for Horror and expressed their own love for the genre.  There was even this gentleman walking around like a Reaper with the name badge of ‘Evil’.  The man is a genius and I hate that I did not have enough time to talk to him more.  His philosophies on the balance of good and evil are extremely insightful.  Some of Evil’s thoughs will appear in a future post based off of a panel discussion in which I participated, the Villain’s Journey

Finally, as an update for Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, for anyone who has been scouring Amazon, Smashwords, etc. for it… the anthology has unfortunately not yet been posted to any online site for purchase.  Though it officially launched yesterday, apparently a publication takes a few days to appear on online retailers.  The physical books should be available for purchase sometime this week.  I will make another post as soon as that is available.  The electronic copy may be available next week.  So keep tuned in to this blog or The Sarcastic Muse for updates.  My sincere apologies to anyone who spent hours on Amazon yesterday, refreshing their page every 5 minutes in a hopeless search to purchase Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity.

Susanna Reilly and Amanda Headlee at the launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity (c) 2014, Evon Zundel

Susanna Reilly and Amanda Headlee at the launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity (c) 2014, Evon Zundel

Launch of the Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity Anthology


(c) 2014, Phil Giunta

Well, tonight is the night. Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity launches at the Shore Leave 36 convention. Words almost cannot describe how excited I am – almost. At the moment I am about to bubble over with a thrill that overshadows most events in my life. This has been the one thing that I have wanted more than anything in the world. With over 20 years of work, one of my pieces is published. All those years of labor, countless stories that have maxed out 37 flash drives, hours upon hours of editing, and an unimaginable amount of sleepless nights spent just writing has all come down to this very night.

But, oh how the learning experience has been wrought with despair. For I suffer with an affliction that causes much turmoil in my life. The affliction is perfection. The single reason which has caused the act to hoard my stories, a reason that evokes the feeling that these stories are not yet good enough. The constant thought that there are better ways to perfect the tale: better word choices, room to tighten prose, grammatical errors — these are the thoughts that continually run through my mind. Which is, of course, complete and utter bull shit.  I have yet to pick up a publication that does not have at least one grammatical error or an area where the prose could be more concise.

With this single published story, I have come to realize that I need to let things go in order to become published. I just need to turn a piece over to an editor, say “Sayonara”, and allow the editor to work his or her magic. I must no longer agonize and fear perfection. As Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”

Very true words. A story will eternally have room to improve, but perfection will never be reached. In order to allow your story to live, you must let it go.

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity anthology, which contains my short story Parallax, will be available online from all major booksellers on August 4th.

ISBN: 978-0-9773851-6-4

Listening to a World of Lovecraft

This week I am preparing for the Shore Leave convention, the launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, and finishing a few short stories to send off to contests.  Due to time being sucked out of my life and into a vacuum, I will be writing a shorter post today.  A larger post will be coming on Friday (8/1) as a one time event for the Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity book launch!!

However, I can’t have you all be bored until that time.  So without further ado, for those of you who are die hard lovers of old school horror literature, may I present the H.P Lovecraft Literary Podcast at

I stumbled across this amusing podcast a few months ago, and have been devouring 2-3 episodes almost every day.  Over this past weekend, I finally caught up to the present podcast.

The hosts of the H.P Lovecraft Literary Podcast, Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer, really know their shit and are extremely entertaining to listen.  The first lot of episodes covers all of Lovecraft’s stories, novels, and essays.  Then the guys move on to other literary tomes in the horror realm.  They dissect each work and input their own opinions to create a literary discussion that is engaging and intellectual.  And I just adore their interaction with the fabulous Andrew Leman of the H.P Lovecraft Historical Society.  Andrew’s voice is sinfully hypnotic (I was entranced with ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ podcast) and you can just hear how much he loves Lovecraft’s work.

As a horror literature aficionado and having read the majority of the works discussed, I can’t help to smile and nod my head in agreement with them – except for when one of them exuded his dislike for Algernon Blackwood’s works.  I am not going to give spoilers to say which of the two hosts does not like Blackwood (mainly ‘The Willows’), but just know that one of the two are on my “List”.  But, to each their own and that does not dissuade me from being a fan.

If you fall in love with the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcasts, make sure you subscribe to Witch House Media so that you can get the premium podcasts that are only available to subscribers.  The subscription is only a phenomenal fee of $6.66 USD per 3 months.


Beckoning Cthulhu (c) wintersixfour

Beckoning Cthulhu (c) wintersixfour


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 302 other followers

%d bloggers like this: