Spooky Tales with Betty Bolté (and Big Box Book Giveaway)

First a little housekeeping..

Thanks to Between Dreams and Reality for the review of Susannah Sandlin’s Storm Force yesterday! Stop by if you get a chance.

I also have an announcement over at my Susannah Sandlin website…Penton 4 has a name! And congrats to Steph F, who was the first one to suggest the name that my editor and I agreed on. It’s perfect for Cage’s story.

Now, please help me welcome my friend Betty Bolté back to Preternatura. Betty’s latest book is Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, a collection of historical fiction tales based on the lives of 19 girls living in the 1800s in America. These stories were inspired by the fact that each of these girls have a landmark dedicated to them in America as a result of their efforts. 

Betty lives on a farm in Tennessee with her husband, three cats, and two dogs, and tons of books. She is also the author of several nonfiction books.. In the works is a contemporary paranormal romantic women’s fiction novel set in a haunted plantation home in Tennessee. By day, she works as a consulting technical editor supporting NASA’s Space Launch System Program. You can learn more about her at her website, on Facebook, on Goodreads or follow her on Twitter (@BettyBolte) or Pinterest. Betty’s also a member of my local (Birmingham) RWA chapter, so give her a warm welcome.
And now let’s hear from Bettty…

Telling tales around a campfire on a chilly fall evening still evokes memories of my childhood. When I was a kid, the thing to do when camping out was to sit around the campfire after dark and try to scare each other with spooky tales. During these infrequent but memorable evenings, the stories ranged from mildly eerie to downright chilling, depending on the teller. I remember one storyteller bringing props to add to the effect. 

Once it was a surgical glove, filled with icy water and tied off, which was then passed around so you couldn’t see what it was, telling us it was the hand that had been chopped off in the story. Another time it was cold, slimy marbles in a bag that stood in for the eyes of trespassers.

While I remember the props, I don’t really recall the stories. To me, it wasn’t the actual tale that intrigued but the way the story was told. And even more important, the time with family and friends as we shared our stories together. This early introduction to the spectral and spooky fueled my interest in and desire to write tales with ghosts and the unexplainable. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the original Sherlock Holmes detective stories, wrote an entire book of tales “concerned with the grotesque and with the terrible” which he called Round the Fire Stories. As an undergraduate English major in the mid-1990s, I studied all of his writing, and these stories were the most fun part of that endeavor for me. In fact, it’s telling that I still have the collection in my personal library. This time of year is the perfect time to pull out that book and re-read his first-person tales of the inexplicable. Even the titles intrigue: “The Man with the Watches”; “Playing with Fire”; “The Sealed Room”; and “The Brazilian Cat” to name a few. 

Oh, and don’t forget “The Brown Hand” which is about a doctor who promised to keep the severed hand of a man from India until the man died and could be reunited with his hand per religious custom. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the man’s hand but at the time the doctor didn’t feel that it mattered. Until he found himself haunted by the angry man looking for his hand every night. The Indian searched the house, especially the room where other specimens were kept in jars, every night for years, disrupting the doctor’s sleep and causing him to grow increasingly more feeble. Then one night a friend who specializes in the paranormal stays the night, observes the ghost, and determines how to rid the doctor of the haunting. His first attempt fails because the friend provides the wrong hand and that enrages the ghost who attacks and breaks things in the house. The next night the friend tries again, this time with the correct hand. By supplying a “nearly identical” hand from the morgue, the ghost is satisfied and stops haunting the doctor.

When I read a story like this, the first thing that strikes me is that the solution is almost as gruesome as the original ordeal: handling a hand severed from a body. After I stew on that for a few minutes, I rarely want to deeply consider the remaining aspects of the situation. In this case, the array of other body parts and animals kept in preservative in the doctor’s own house. It makes me shudder every time!

How about you? Do you tell spooky tales while making smores around a campfire? What’s your favorite kind of spooky tale?

A little aside:
If you’re enjoying my vignettes here, you have a couple options for staying in touch with me after I finish my guest posts. Namely my official blog and newsletter are key ways for you to follow my writing career and publishing updates.

Please subscribe to my official blog if you enjoy my guest blog posts here. I love sharing with you all, so simply visit my blog and use the subscription box at the upper left on that page to be sure you’re notified of new content.

If you’d like to be informed of my breaking news and contest winners, please subscribe to my newsletter,  Betty’s Broadside. As a thank you, each quarter I’ll draw one name at random to win a gift. And most important, I promise to not overload your inbox, but only send out a broadside when there is news worth sharing.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Thanks, Betty. No better way to put us in the Halloween frame of mind–’tis the spooky season, after all. I have honestly never been camping. Never sat around a campfire telling stories, spooky or otherwise. I’m feeling kind of deprived! But I read Stephen King as a teenager, and reading IT scarred me for life–mostly in a good way unless it involves clowns 🙂 Leave a comment to win a  box of mystery books (could be a mix of sci fi, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, fantasy, steampunk, historical fantasy, or other genre bender). Minimum three books, but might well be more!

65 thoughts on “Spooky Tales with Betty Bolté (and Big Box Book Giveaway)

  1. I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I never read that book! I didn’t even know it existed, now I’m going to have to find a copy 🙂

  2. My father used to tell us scary stories he made up himself. it might be that I was very young when he told them. But they’re still the scariest stories I have come across.

  3. I have heard my share of scary stories and rumors of ghosts. A recent amazing spooky read for me was Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake.
    Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

    • The scary part can be taken too far, especially for younger listeners. While I like a good spooky story, the horror movies are not my thing either. But I did love the smores, probably too much!

  4. I was turned off spooky stories in the woods when the real-life Girl Scout murders happened here in Oklahoma. Truth is stranger (and scarier) than fiction. I can still read some spooky stories, in the daytime, in my house, but no more telling stories around a campfire for me.

    • That’s understandable, Susan. I haven’t been camping now in ages, but we did go when my kids were little. And you’re right about truth being scarier than fiction! The things that happen in real life are often hard to make people believe in fiction.

  5. I’ve never had a chance to be camping, making smores and telling spooky stories. I kinda missed out on this experience as a kid.

    • It’s not too late to go have that experience with some friends and family, Kai. You could even do this on a deck using a grill to toast the marshmallows (if allowed) and share stories (they don’t have to be terrifying to be fun). I hope you get the chance one day to experience the campfire!

  6. Love camping and grew up going a lot. I tell spooky stories with my kids, sometimes while out camping and sometimes while camping in the living room. I try to be scary but it always ends up a funny story and my kids laugh. I try 🙂

  7. i never been camping either but perhaps i’m too emotional for really scary story, spooky ones that’s work and i think the way it’s tell and when, with who is more important than teh story itself^^

    thank you a lot for this great giveaway

    • Miki, it’s very true that not everyone will enjoy spooky or scary stories. No worries! Enjoy the kinds of stories you find fun and entertaining. That’s what is most important!

  8. I love scary short stories–horror can’t really keep my interest for a full-length novel, but I just love the creativity with short stories! One of my favorites from high school that I still remember was by Stephen Kings that I call ladyfingers (though that’s not it’s real title). SPOILERS: A surgeon gets stranded basically on a rock of an island in the sea with only his stash of smuggled drugs (and his diary, which is the structure of the story–diary entries). He injures his leg so that he can’t move very well and then it gets infected, so he amputates and then decides to eat the amputated flesh since he can’t get sustenance anywhere else, and then continues to amputate and eat parts of himself. He’s taking the smuggled drugs to deal with the pain, and he slowly goes insane and reading the story as diary entries is really quite chilling. I still remember the first time I read it!

    • Galena, that’s creepy and disturbing combined. But then, that’s King’s forte, isn’t it? Kafka’s Metamorphosis still haunts me! Thanks for sharing that tale!

  9. My old school was supposed to be haunted by a grey lady, one of the maid servants when the school was an old mansion. The story went that she had an affair with the butler and when she fell pregnant, he pushed her down the stairs to save his job. I never saw her but it was said she hung around the staircase where she died at night… 🙂

    • Cool! I love stories like this. My brother once lived in a house in the country that had a ghost, though they never saw it, they heard it. And doors would be open that they’d closed. That sort of thing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I just finish reading Anna Bressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and it was amazing. It’s a perfect halloween read !!!

  11. I loved Edgar Allan Poe growing up. Didn’t do the campfire/scary story routine but I think it would have been a lot of fun 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Erin, I love Poe, too! In my current yet-to-be-published story, that I call Traces, you may notice some of his motifs that I’ve woven into my plot. Thanks!

  12. We used to camp out in the desert when I was younger. My dad would tell us scary stories all the time about Hitchhikers, ghosts and aliens abducting people. Would scare me to death before bed. I didn’t get much sleep those nights, lol.

    • I’ve not camped in the desert but I bet it was fun and interesting. The time with your dad is precious, though, even if he did leave you quaking under the covers. 😉

  13. I never been camping as a kid and now as an adult sadly…but telling spooky stories in the woods around a campfire sounds super fun. As for spooky stories, anything with ghosts or urban legends usually does the trick in giving me the Heebee jeebees!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Van Pham, telling spooky stories **anywhere** can be fun, but in the woods you add the forest sounds of unseen critters and that multiplies the effect of the tales being told. Still, you can tell stories around your backyard grill, too. It’s the sharing that counts.

  14. I havent been camping since I was really little and that was when my brothers were in boy scouts. I love reading and watching spooky things. I do alot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

    • I have to admit I haven’t read “a lot” of King but I have read a good bit of Koontz. Both are great storytellers, obviously, and have amazing imaginations!

    • Camping used to be lots of fun when I was in Girl Scouts and such, but as I grew older I no longer enjoyed it as much. It does take effort and patience. Happy Fall!

  15. I really, really don’t like scary stories or things. And I am very happy never to have gone camping in my life. The creepy crawlers in the night, into your tent, brr..

    • Totally understand, Aurian. If things go well, you don’t end up with critters in the tent. But sadly, things don’t always go well. First time I went camping with my now husband, the tent got knocked down in a thunderstorm and we ended up sleeping in his car all night — with one lone mosquito for company. 😉

  16. Thanks for the info on sir arthur’s book. I gotta look it up and try reading it. But i think i’ll read it in broad daylight, and among crowds.

    • Sienny, the great thing about Doyle’s stories is that they are not so much scary as spooky. The way he tells them also transports me back in time, which is also fun. I hope you enjoy!

    • That’s fine, Linda! It’s way more important that you read the kinds of stories you enjoy. They **are** for entertainment, after all. 😉 Happy reading!

  17. As a kid we used to try to scare each other with scared stories but not necessarily by a campfire. Someone always ended up spooked.

  18. I like spooky stories but I don’t like the slasher/gory stories. I prefer to read my spooky stories in the comfort of my recliner. 🙂

    • I’m with you, Bonnie. I gave up horror after seeing the first one starring Jason (I think, though I’ve forgotten the title of the movie) at the summer camp. Walked out of the movie theater and never looked back.

  19. I don’t often read spooky stories. And I’ve definitely never done it at a campfire. But that does sound sort of fun. I have not been camping in ages.

    jlkalman26 at gmail dot com

    • Jennifer, it’s not too late to go camping or at least to set up a grill in the backyard or on the deck and roast marshmallows and tell stories. But it’s also possible to gather in the living room in front of the fire place (real or electric or on a computer screen) and tell stories, too. It’s all about spending time with friends and family, after all. Enjoy!

  20. Thanks to everyone who left a comment! I enjoyed sharing your likes and dislikes. My apologies for taking a little longer to respond than usual, but I’m caring for a relative in the hospital this week so my time has been limited. I really appreciate all of your thoughts on spooky stories and hope to see you again next time!

    • i know first hand how that can be time consuming and stressful so i appreciate even more the fact yuou took a little of your time to come to see us

      THANK YOU a lot and courage ( best wishes of recovery to your relative too)

  21. I went camping a couple of times when I was younger, don’t really remember a whole lot about it. I do remember one time a raccoon knocked over a trashcan nearby and made us all jump, including my big brave father lol. Anyways, I am a horror fanatic! Scary stories are the best. Thanks for the chance to win!


    • Do you remember Caspar the Friendly Ghost? He was my favorite cartoon when I was a kid. I was excited when they made a Caspar movie not too many years ago. Now those ghost stories are fun to watch!

  22. I’ve never been camping and I don’t like scary stories but I do read the occassional Stephen King and sleep with the lights on!

  23. I confess I’ve camped once but well it wasn’t a really great thing… it was on the beach and well it was really cold and humid. But I would love to try and count some spooky stories, it must be fun.

    • Melliane, you’ve reminded me of the one and only time we camped near a beach. I must say I didn’t like the sand in the tent much. I prefer sleeping under trees on pine needles or grass. But we still had a good time. Maybe plan to share some stories on Halloween with friends/family as a way to share the fun that day. Enjoy!

  24. I’ve always enjoyed mystery stories, but horror/scary stories not so much. I think going to the movies to see Night of the Living Dead scarred me for life and I just didn’t want to be scared any more. I’ve made a few exceptions, more books than movies, but I’ve actually never read a Stephen King novel. But that being said, Halloween is my favorite holiday, go figure. 😀 Maybe it has something to do with my birthday being the next day.