The big macabre dance that was Halloween 2014 is over.

It’s funny, but every year, as I approach the cleanup the next morning, I feel strangely philosophical. You look forward to something for the whole year and you have a month, a FULL MONTH to celebrate it and yet it all happens so fast. Too fast. There’s a joke in there somewhere.

This was our first year in our lovely Cedar Park, Texas neighborhood and we took the opportunity to start fresh with our yard haunt. We’ve had some fun in the past with it, but really felt it was time to “come correct” with it and step up to the plate. The house / yard layout are very well-suited to this approach and that was just another impetus for us as well.

This is year one, folks. We will build on what we created this year each year we’re in the house. The goal is to create something pretty darn magical and memorable by the time our daughter graduates high school.

For year one, we created a solid basic graveyard theme with hand-done gravestones and wooden crosses, spiders of varying sizes, a hand-created “reaper” ghost, torches (gotta have some real fire), loads of skeletons, dramatic lighting and of course, lots and lots of cobwebs. It was a fun way to kick off a new era of the “Johnson Family Halloween Haunt” and we look forward to building on this initial base.







We also always take great pride in co-creating our daughter Logan Blue’s costume for the night as a family. You can see last year’s here. The only rule we have ever had from her birth with this is that is must be a spooky or scary costume. She has always been up for it and, God bless her, always willing to stick by the rule.

This year, Logan Blue wanted to be “Bloody Mary,” based on the urban legend and some scary costume pics she had seen on the internet. We thought it would be fun to give it a context and we went with a “scary nurse” theme, using a vintage 1970s uniform my wife found “out there” and makeup effects. We wanted to remove the religious themes often coupled with this costume and associated with the “Bleeding Nun” imagery from “American Horror Story Asylum,” so we took it in this direction. The result was creepy and effective.


In our attempt to shift the costume away from anything religious, we failed to think about fears about ebola. We are not people who research disease or symptoms in any way, so we would not have known anything about the specifics there. Apparently, a couple of people last night made a connection between the costume and the disease while Logan was out trick or treating. Unfortunate.

Here is the original “Asylum” image.


Still, it turned out well and Logan Blue was very pleased with the result.

We will definitely miss creating those costumes together when it’s time for our daughter to finally leave the nest. See… A philosophical state of mind.

Hope your Halloween holiday was horrifying! Here’s to next year.



Winona Boulevard winds through a swath of the leafy Rochester, New York suburb of Irondequoit, the town where I grew up. Rolling past manicured lawns fronting family homes and kissing a public park, the street was one of my favorite places to go out for a run.

As a young man, I was a runner. Well, really, I still am. These days I just find myself far from the liquid freedom of movement of those halcyon days of youth. One thing that I haven’t lost over the years, however, is my love of a late-night jaunt in the ol’ running shoes.

I worked a summer job in high school as a Ride Operator (Read: Carny) at Seabreeze, a local amusement park. After the park closed, I often tried to hook up with friends for the night. Sometimes, it was just too late. On those nights, I slipped on the running shoes and headed out into the cool night along Winona.

Today, I heard a song that reminded me of an experience I had on one of those midnight runs.

Yes, the Scorpions classic, “Still Loving You.” I know that the song isn’t a horror staple in any way. Really it’s a song about attempting to reclaim a lost love. But it is unquestionably atmospheric and proved a haunting companion for this experience.

A hot summer day had given way to a cool night, raising a foggy mist in the air. A mid-August full moon cast a glow over the landscape, bringing out a surreal chiaroscuro in the darkness.

As I rounded the blind corner at Chapel Hill Drive, the haunting opening guitar strains of “Still Loving You” surged through my headphones.

What I saw next can only be described as true kismet.

In a bizarre almost-recreation of the iconic poster from “The Exorcist,” I came upon the stone keep of All Saints Anglican Church with one of the clergy lit in the darkness by a single old-style lamp, standing in mist, looking up at the rock steeple.

I found a real picture of the church. I have done a little light Photoshop magic to merely hint at the scene here.


I felt transported. It was like standing in that legendary scene from the film, watching Father Merrin pausing at the work before him before entering the terrifying MacNeil household. An icy chill poured down my spine.

I stood silent to leave the scene interrupted. Minutes passed and eventually the tableau was broken when the clergyman left.

I haven’t forgotten that experience and every time I hear that song, I think of the night I was visited by Father Merrin.



My last post was the 100th post here at “The Strange, Far Places.”


I know that’s a minor milestone to many and frankly, I had envisioned the blog at this landmark far sooner than today. However, life has taken me to some crazy and (sometimes) very difficult places since the inception of this blog, my love of the world of horror made manifest. In light of that, I suppose that even these 100 posts are worth celebrating in some small way and dammit, I’m going to.

AND NOW… Back to your regularly scheduled shivers…



I don’t post often about myself here. I do on occasion, but I guess I feel that there are so many other things more interesting in the world. HOWEVER, very early this morning, I had a terrifying dream and I felt compelled to share it here.



As I mentioned recently, I’ve just relocated for a new job. Consequently, I’m living alone for the first time in over 20 years. It’s very different thing for me.

I’m staying in a lovely little bungalow on the east side of Austin, Texas. It’s a bright place and perfect for my needs. I’ve been thrilled to be here. That bungalow was the setting for my nightmare.

In the dream, I was aware that a malevolent force was trying to get into the house. The knob on the front door shook violently, dark hands rapped at all of the windows on the building, feeling for a way in. I even heard scuttling and scratching over the roof and looked up to see an indistinct face peering in at me, silhouetted against the stars through the blackened skylight.

Then, heavy footfalls on the wood of the balcony. I approached the curtain covering the large glass sliders hesitantly, stopping and just listening to the movement out on the deck. I put my hand on the fabric hiding what stood out beyond the glass doors and paused. Then, suddenly threw it back, showing my tormenter.

The person that stood facing me, laughing maniacally, was ME. At least it looked exactly like me, but I was aware that it wasn’t me, but rather some dark version of myself. One that I knew meant me nothing but harm.

I screamed in the nightmare and I am quite sure I did in the night here in real life as well. Just terrifying.

I was instantly reminded as I sat up in bed of the climactic finale of the disorienting and disarming 60’s Brit series, “The Prisoner.” The moment when Number 6 unmasks Number 1 is an absolutely iconic scene. The mask comes off to see a man with Number 6’s features roaring with the laughter of the mad. Unnerving.

Here’s a clip from the series that gives a glimpse of that unnerving disorientation. Added bonus: It features a Beatles track in a very rare example of a TV series licensing a real song for the time. Check it out ::

After I was fully awake and thinking about the nightmare (with the lights on), I thought of the classic “Twilight Zone” episode, “Mirror Image.” It tells the story of a woman who finds her doppelganger in a bus station only to realize that her double has come to steal her life away from her. The subtle creepiness of the look she gets when her double faintly smiles down at her from a bus, knowing that she will succeed in taking away a woman’s life still gives me a chill ::


Here’s a short clip from the episode ::

I have been thinking about the dream all day. There’s no question that it’s pregnant with meaning. I will, however, leave that analysis to the stars and the darkness. Here’s to better sleep tonight.




OK… Soooo… The month since I last posted saying I was back has been hellish.

As I mentioned, I was overwhelmed with the new job and some travel. Unfortunately, my wife then fell gravely ill and we came very, very close to losing her. BUT… She’s back and better than ever now. We have a really solid plan of attack for next steps on her full recovery. We’re all very grateful. I write this through tears of happiness.

Forgive the aside, but my silence in these channels has been wearing on me and I wanted to at least offer a glimpse at why things have been so quiet as well as a renewed commitment to NEW CONTENT! Long story short, I’m here again and eager to get things moving.

THANKS and we return you to your regularly scheduled blog.