Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Urban Legends

[Congratulations to the winners of the drawing for an autographed copy of Wicked Cruel: Ann Finkelstein and Carol Baldwin!]

by Rich Wallace

So after a couple of dozen sports books I've become a ghost writer.

A few years back I had a notion to explore an urban legend. You hear those things from time to timethe thumb someone found in a can of Spaghettios, or the hitchhiker who vanishes from the backseat when you cross a certain bridge. The stories show up all over, purported to be true because "It happened to my cousin's best friend's uncle."

But I knew one legend that seemed to be unique to the town I grew up in: the kid who got bullied all through elementary school, then moved away and died. Rumors drifted back that he died of a brain hemorrhage
inflicted slowly but surely over the elementary school years by everyone who had ever smacked him around or bombarded him in games of dodge ball.

I remember that shared guilt from junior high school after the rumors began. Did I ever hit him? Was I part of the reason he died?

In Wicked Cruel, which Random House will release August 6th, I take that guilt a step further. What if the dead kid started interacting with my main character? He shows up in a video Jordan is watching, then starts texting him late at night.

Jordan's seen the obituary. This is a ghost. And when the ghost starts showing up for real, Jordan questions his own sanity.

The book is actually a trilogy of scary urban legends like that one. I've set them all in the small New England city of Cheshire Notch, which is an awful lot like the town I live in: Keene, New Hampshire. Keene is the home of the world's most spectacular pumpkin festival each October, and that event plays a big role in one of the stories. We also have a restored pre-Revolutionary War tavern right up the block here, and I used that as a setting for the third. I love to use the places I know best in my stories. Keene is a very cool college town, with great cafes, a classic theater, old cemeteries, and everything that's historic and spooky about new England.
rows of pumpkins
Here's a short excerpt from the title story. That night, Jordan is in the attic of the abandoned house where the deceased kid used to live, surreptitiously going through a box of papers he found:

It looks like a form for a prescription, with Douglas Schuter, MD, at the top and the doctor's address, dated just before the Bainers left the country. 

I scan it. Cheshire Medical Center...Lorne Bainer...male, 11 years...

And then I hear my name. Clear. From the second floor. It's not a voice I recognize. Not Scapes or Gary or any guy. It sounds like the tone of a bell .Or a song. Just my name. "Jordan." 

I freeze and slip the paper into my pocket.

I've heard no footsteps. No one entering the house or climbing the stairs. I listen hard, but there's nothing. 

But there must be something. Something called my name. My breath is short and cold and the back of my neck is sweaty.

An attic step creaks every so slightly. I back against the wall, crouching behind the box. 

Those stairs are the only way out of this attic.

More to come? I hope so. I've started writing a second volume of these stories, and obviously I'm hopeful that this will take off as a series. I love writing them, and that's certainly an important part of the deal.

Cool cover, huh?

I'm giving away two signed copies of my new book here in a Swagger giveaway for US and Canadian residents. All you have to do is be a follower, and leave a comment. And you'll get an additional entry for each day that this post is up and you:
1. share an urban legend in the comments
2. Like my Facebook page. After the initial like, comment on my FB page
3. Tweet about the giveaway
4. Blog about the giveaway
5. Mention the giveaway on Facebook
6. Don't forget to let me know in the Swagger comments, or leave a message on my FB page about what you did

Two random winners will be selected on August 8th.


  1. Looks like another great book, Rich. I liked your fb page. The only urban legend I can remember this morning is the person who invented the cloverleaf freeway interchange died on one. Must be false.

    1. yeah, probably false, but that's the type of story I mean

  2. I shared this on fb. The urban legend from my teen years seems to be common in other towns as well. In Cincinnati, it took place on the old Observatory Rd. A couple who was parked & making out heard something scratching at the car door. Frightened they drove away, and later found...the prosthetic hook of the stranger who prowled the observatory grounds stuck in the car door.

    1. Yep, grew up hearing that one (and telling it around campfires) too!

    2. I've heard it too. A great example!

  3. In Jamaica so can't enter but congrats. The excerpt and premise is super creepy and I love it.

  4. I can't wait to read the new book Rich,

    Sometime in 1989, Russian scientists in Siberia drilled a borehole some 14.5 kilometers deep into the Earth’s crust. The drill broke through into a cavity, and the scientists lowered some equipment to see what was down there. The temperature was more than one thousand degrees celsius—but the real shocker was the sound recorded by their instruments.

    They only captured about seventeen horrifying seconds of audio before the microphone melted. Convinced that they’d heard the screams of the damned in Hell, many of the scientists quit the job immediately—or so at least the story goes. Those who stayed were in for an even bigger shock later that night. A plume of luminous gas burst out of the borehole, the shape of a gigantic winged demon unfolded, and the words “I have conquered” in Russian were seared into the flames. Even though today it is considered to be a hoax, there are many who believe that this incident really happened; the “Well to Hell” urban legend remains alive to this day.

    1. Wow. I've never heard this one but I can see it as a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

    2. that's a new one to me, too. cool!