I can’t help myself sometimes. Even when I think I’m in the middle of writing a “normal” story, the weird has a way of creeping in. Most of the time, however, I invite it.
The challenge is to hit upon the right degree of creepy, the right disturbing element without going over the edge into cliché. Modern readers are jaded. You can’t creep them out with the sorts of horrors that worked for Poe.
Working on The Hornbeam Door, I knew all along that some of the action would take place in a small Kansas town an hour or so away from my invented/hybrid New Boston, Kansas. I had assumed, however, that I’d just make up a town. This town would be the site of a series of unnatural events that would disrupt everybody’s received notions about death and the afterlife.
I toyed with a number of ideas for why this particular town was the locus for this, as well as some possible early signs that all was not right in this town. Certainly there are places long associated with the supernatural. Rooms, houses, palaces, and even meadows deemed haunted or cursed, or otherwise imbued with the presence of some malevolent force. I planned to create this myth from whole cloth.
Sometimes, the creepy just falls into your lap. So it was with Codell, Kansas.
On May 20, 1916, a tornado struck Codell, Kansas.
On May 20, 1917, a tornado struck Codell, Kansas.
On May 20, 1918, a tornado struck Codell, Kansas, killing ten people and destroying nearly every building in town.
For people who believe in the supernatural, it invites all manner of speculation. A place marked for destruction? An intended death that didn’t quite pan out the first two times?
I believe I’ve found my creepy little cursed town.