Saturday, August 13, 2016

Legends of Candlewood Lake - Guest blog - Kristi Peterson Schoonover

For awhile we've been encouraging our members to guest blog on the site.  Is the first entry by Kristi Peterson Schoonover - do visit her site when you're done reading.

TAGS: legends of Candlewood Lake CT, urban legends, Chicken Rock accidents, Lynn Deming, the story of the Witch’s Circle, drowning deaths milfoil, towns buried under Candlewood Lake, lake monsters of the United States, town of Jerusalem CT, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Down the Hatch Brookfield 

Seven Creepy Tales of Candlewood Lake
by Kristi Petersen Schoonover
Many writers pull their inspiration from childhood; fortunately, I had a great many urban legends in mine.
The town of New Milford, Connecticut—where I grew up—has its share of unsettling lore. There is the inexhaustible mythos surrounding Lover’s Leap; there is also the Witch’s Circle, a stand of evergreens where, at midnight, an unseen spirit is said to whisper the date, time, and cause of a brave soul’s death in his ear. Lesser-known is the Glass Baby, the metallic statue of an infant in a clear coffin in Center Cemetery (which one of my friends adamantly claims he saw). As children, none of us doubted the validity of these tales, and the ones set in and around Candlewood Lake were no exception.
Candlewood Lake—which today borders five towns—was created in 1926 by the Connecticut Light & Power Company. Its purpose was to generate electricity, and its engineering is considered a feat. This status, however, came with more than a large price tag: whole communities were wiped out. CL&P, armed with eminent domain[1], secured property from families who had owned the land for generations. Homes, churches, and schools were burnt to the ground or left to flood.[2] Tobacco farms, bridges, and cemeteries were submerged.
All that loss was romantic, alluring, and fertile ground for storytelling.
These are the tales we whispered around the campfire and at sleepovers. As an adult, I view them as either provincially-colored incarnations of folklore found elsewhere in the country, or as cautionary tales intent on keeping brats in check.  When I was a kid, though, these stories were true and terrifying. They fueled my imagination, my love of the lake—and eventually, my career as a writer.
Special thanks to Kristina Hals, who helped me remember some details that had gotten fuzzy.
The New Milford Town Beach—Lynn Deming Park—abuts one of the lake’s largest dams. While the beach area is cordoned in for safety, the ropes don’t do much to keep the adventurous from escaping. It’s said that three bored kids swam beneath the ropes, ventured too close to the dam, and were sucked into a pipe. Some say they were ground up in the turbines; others say they drowned while trying to claw free of the opposing current. Either way, their bodies never were found.
I have no idea how a dam works and I honestly still don’t, although from looking at diagrams this scenario seems entirely possible. What I do know is that our generation took this as a warning, and none of my friends who swam at the town park ever went beyond the ropes. Even at any of our private beaches—most of them miles from the nearest dams—hazarding beyond those thick yellow cords was out of the question.
At the New Fairfield-Sherman border, on the southern tip of Green Island, looms 25-foot-high Chicken Rock, where you can either jump or rope-swing into the water. While tourists enjoy its quaintness—it harkens to the days when fun was more important than safety—for locals under 18, it’s a popular place for taking the leap into adulthood. There is even a T-shirt you can buy: If you want to see the madness, check it out here:
It’s also, however, the site of countless accidents, mostly caused by people not jumping out far enough and whacking their heads on the way down. While I can’t find any evidence of actual deaths, there is a story that anyone who really wants to test his mettle can sail to the rock in the dark of night, turn off his lights, and wait. Supposedly, one can either observe the spirits of those who have died as they repeatedly relive their last leap, or hear their final screams.
Just about everyone I grew up with has leapt from Chicken Rock. I never have. My high school buddies and I, though, piloted my Dad’s boat over there on an August night in 1989. We did hear screaming, but to this day we’re not sure if it wasn’t from some party happening elsewhere on the lake.
It’s tempting to speculate that despite eminent domain and rising waters, some folks refused to leave; the story goes that they chained themselves to their front porches and surrendered to the flood. Since it took many months to fill the lake, it would have been an agonizing, several-week wait depending on the location. It is said that their regretful ghosts, forlorn and freezing in the depths, reach for the light—and seize the ankles of unsuspecting swimmers, dragging new souls to their watery grave.          
Even the recent history of the lake is peppered with drownings, and in some cases, the bodies aren’t found for several days due to the murk. This fact, and the abundance of Eurasian milfoil—a tall, dense-growing invasive species that entangles the legs and has been suspected or blamed in several incidents—are at the root of this ghastly yarn. In my pre-awareness-of-seaweed-years, I took this legend very seriously; I had a few run-ins that were so traumatizing I avoided swimming in certain areas of the lake.
At least that I can find, there is no record of owners remaining behind with their property, let alone chaining themselves to it; there are people who would not, however, turn over their land, and because of that, there are some in the town of Sherman who still pay taxes on submerged acreage.[3]
Contrary to what you’re probably thinking, Candy—the Candlewood Lake monster—has no connection to Nessie or Champ.
Candy is a twenty or thirty foot giant walleye[4] or bluegill (depending on who’s telling it) who prowls the shallows around the tip of Vaughn’s Neck—a bucolic, uninhabited spit of land which juts between the towns of New Milford and New Fairfield. On the New Milford side, opposite the Candlewood Terrace beach, there’s a perfect spot for a shaded, private picnic, mostly because it’s got a gradual slope toward shore and plenty of sturdy trees for boat tie-up; yet, rarely anyone takes advantage of it. Candy, who capsizes boats and feasts on their passengers just before they reach the shoal, is why.
It’s no surprise that this story didn’t start circulating until the late 1970s (Jaws had captivated the nation a few years earlier), and since that particular spot on Vaughn’s Neck would’ve made for a prime party location, it may have been a way to discourage troublemakers. All I know is that, in the summer of 1984, my friends and I went over there to camp—and the ghost stories we told were nowhere near as scary as the loud splashing of an obviously large something in the shallows just beyond the scope of our flashlights.
While it’s true that a few structures were left standing, most were burnt to the ground after the owners were gone.[5] It’s long been gossiped, however, that the village of Jerusalem, which now lies at the bottom between New Milford’s Lynn Deming Park and Birch Point, was left intact; that those exploring beneath the surface will see houses, barns, and meeting halls emerge from the gloom like apparitions.
This narrative contends that on the final day of the school year, students who stand on the shore of the cove and burn their papers will, after the burning is complete, hear the distant toll of the village’s schoolhouse bell.
It seems that most of the schoolhouses were actually relocated to higher ground, and I’m not even sure that Jerusalem village had its own schoolhouse. It is true, though, that some homes were left standing (such as the Tudor Haviland home)[6], and that there are still some structures, such as the Orchard Point Bridge, that divers can behold today. If you’re interested, you can see that here:
Squantz Pond, which is in New Fairfield and is part of the lake even though there is a berm that separates it, supposedly harbors a still-standing church, complete with steeple. People say that sometimes, due to drought or intentional draw-down, the steeple isn’t far enough under the waterline to stay clear of boaters; it can make for a scary obstacle if someone isn’t paying attention.
Folklore says accidentally clipping the church’s steeple will result in a curse on the vessel; shortly after something breaks and is repaired, something else will break and be in need of repair. Long story short, the boat will never run right again, and the pattern will persist until the boat is destroyed (not sold; destroyed. I had a friend whose father was convinced that his used Chris-Craft had been involved with the steeple: he got it for a song, but he barely enjoyed it because it was always in the shop).
Recently, I found a comment posted under an article on Candlewood Lake that made a reference to hitting the steeple and what happened afterward. You can read that here:
Cemeteries weren’t exempt from the power of progress. While many bodies were disinterred and relocated to graveyards outside the flood zone, some families opted not to remove their loved ones’ remains.[7] In addition, it’s likely that many small family plots which dotted the landscape were never emptied.
The legend goes that every year in February—the month they began filling the lake in 1928—the spirits of the abandoned dead roam the ice, crying for someone to dig them up so they will no longer be forgotten.
The lake usually gets drawn down in winter in an effort to kill the milfoil (and possibly for other reasons), and standing on sand that would normally be several feet underwater is surreal. Still, the lake is active in winter—if the ice is thick enough, there are fishermen and skaters, as well as a few curiosity seekers hoping to spot old foundations and chimneys. Toward sunset, though—especially in the throes of February—there is almost a preternatural quiet, broken every once in a while by a mournful wail, the source of which is difficult to identify.
Despite the scary tales of the lake she grew up on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover is a water rat. Her short fiction has been featured in several magazines and anthologies; Dark Alley Press published her novel, Bad Apple, in 2012, and a novelette, “This Poisoned Ground,” in 2014. She holds an MFA from Goddard College, is the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony residencies, and is a co-host on the Dark Discussions podcast. Recently named Guest of Awesome for 2017’s Ro-Con 3, she also serves as co-editor of Read Short Fiction and creates the This Writing Life YouTube series. Find out more at

Candlewood Terrace Beach
My childhood beach. It’s one of many locations on the lake where, in winter, unidentifiable sounds echo across the ice. On another note, in the winter, the dock with the diving board is about where the water level starts; everything between there and the shore is dry land. It’s creepy walking on the bottom.
Chicken Rock
There’s more than one way to test your mettle at Chicken Rock.
History of the Lake
Down the Hatch is a well-known lakeside bar and restaurant famous for its “dock-your-boat-and-eat” culture. It’s been around since the 1940s (and to this day is a favorite summer haunt of mine) and featured this history of the lake on its menu for the 2010 season.
Kristi & Chuck
My brother, right, and I swimming in Candlewood Lake, circa 1982. I would’ve been about 11 here, right around the age when these stories were all the rage among my group of friends.
Urban Legends Map
This map shows the tales’ (approximate) locations.
Vaughn’s Neck
We’re looking at Vaughn’s Neck on the New Milford side. Candy is said to prowl off a small beach a little further south.

[1] Susan Murphy and Gary Smolen, Images of America: Candlewood Lake (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2005), 7
[2] Ibid., 48.
[3] Ibid., 52.
[4] Their teeth are quite nasty. Take a gander here:
[5] Ibid., 48.
[6] Ibid., 49.
[7] Ibid., 59.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wicked Witches

We finished phase 1 of the new anthology.  We finalized the ToC!

Here it is:

Wicked Witches - ToC - (Random Order)
Rob Smales - Moving House
Morgan Sylvia - To Dance the Witch's Circle Again
John M. McIlveen - In Agatha Craggin's Defense
James A. Moore - Home Again
Morven Westfield - Witch's Apprentice
Barry Lee Dejasu - Place of Bones
Peter Dudar - Portrait of Old Woman With Crows
Izzy Lee - Tilberian Holiday
Errick Danger Nunnally - Welcome to the DIV
Trisha Wooldridge - Witch
Nick Manzolillo - Saint of Regret
Jan Kozlowski - Blessed Be & Kick Ass
Catherine Grant - White Witch
Kenneth Vaughan - Run in the Widow's Hell
Joshua Goudreau - Black Forest, Black Heart
Paul McMahon - Baskets
Doug Rinaldi - The Jatinga Effect
Gregory Dearborn - TS Elliot Burns in Hell
Patrick Lacey - Another Plane
Remy Flagg - Access Violation
Ogmios TheArtist - Creaking Through Salem
Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert - The Witch We Dread

There it is.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thursday Night Frights

Working with the folks at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, MA, we've started what will be a long line of events.

there will be 7 authors at the store July 14th from 7 to 9, there will be books to buy and have signed, or just stop by and say "Hey."

So this is our first group event with them - not sure when the next one will be.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 29, 2016

New Anthology

We recently announced our new anthology, scheduled to come out 10/29 - Halloween weekend.  The theme is Wicked Witches.  It is our first themed anthology and we will be releasing it Halloween weekend at our booth in the Salem MA Outdoor Market.

The anthology is currently open for submissions, but only to NEHW members.  Members can check their newsletter for the details and a guidelines.

The book is being edited by Dan Keohane, David Price and Scott Goudsward.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Convention appearances

The NEHW is pulling double duty this weekend.

In Maine, we'll be at Bangor Toy and Comic Saturday and Sunday.  If you get the weekend pass, they have concerts and pre-shows all of Friday.  At our booth will be:

David Price
Steven Hobbs
Katherine Silva

Do stop by and say hello.

A number of our members will be at the Maine Horror Writers Booth  - Duane Coffill and Josiah Pitchforth to name a couple.  And Remy Flagg will have his own table at the show.

All local, all indie.  Check them out.

Friday thru Sunday NEHW "south" will be at SuperMegaFest.

Starting Friday afternoon thru Sunday afternoon.  We're doing panels and editing services to the first 25 people at the table.  Check the website for details.

On hand will be:

Kenneth Vaughan
Dan Keohane
John Dennehy
Gordon Bean
Rob Smales
Scott Goudsward

For more information you can email us @  or check us out of Facebook.

See you there!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Women in Horror Part 2

We welcome Trisha Wooldridge for the next guest blog.

Women in Horror: The stories that need to be told…

There’s a regular debate that happens whenever a “special” month or celebration comes up: Black History, 

Women’s History, Native American…

“Why do we need a special month for…?”

There are plenty of studies and statistics. Take some initiative and Google them. I’ll summarize: Even with the extra attention on these histories, these stories, these people, these authors—even during these “special” months—these voices of the non-dominant culture are STILL outnumbered and overshadowed by the voices of the dominant culture: white, male, cis-gendered, able-bodied, heterosexual…

Since I write for both grown-ups and children, I have been able to work with the We Need Diverse Books organization. One of the frequently given answers to “Why DO we need diverse books?” is to explain that we need both mirrors and windows. Readers need to be able to see themselves in fiction and they need to be able to see others besides themselves.

With horror, in particular, we need this.  The point of horror is to face the things that frighten us in a “save” environment of a book. Horror also develops empathy as we care about characters going through the dangers and fear in the pages. In this case, people in the non-dominant cultures need to see themselves; they deserve to have that ability to face fears safely in the pages, to have that catharsis, to feel empowered. And those reading already in the dominant culture need to share the fears of people different from themselves, to learn about horrifying things they may not have realized are horrifying.
Looking at women in particular, since I’m writing for the “Women in Horror” aspect of February, I often share this story with people.

In an old writers group I used to belong to, I shared a story where a key plot point was where a mother and daughter were approaching the car and the mother avoids an immediate attack by checking the back seat before she got to the car.

The usually-first-to-comment gentleman in the group asked, “How did she know to look in the back seat? Was something off? You need to show that.”

I, and every other woman in the group, responded, “You mean you don’t naturally check the back seat when you approach your car?”

That threw him off. “No, why would I?”

You see, if you’re a guy reading this who may not have had a lot of interaction with women or has not had regular discussions with women about how safe we feel in the world, you might not realize that just about all of us have been taught by our mothers, from a very young age, that you always, always, ALWAYS, check the back seat of any car you are approaching.

And that’s without—at least in the case of my mom—having seen an abundance of horror films where the killer rises ominously out of the back seat. You just check.

Just like you always de-escalate any confrontation with men, you always go to the bathroom with friends, you take extra care if you walk out to your car alone, you wait till your girlfriends get safely into their houses after you drop them off, you watch your drinks—and your friends’ drinks, you are prepared to be abused for dressing too sexy or not sexy enough or not smiling—because everyone else knows better about what you should be doing with your body. Women live being prepared for more frightening things than most men realize.  My list is incomplete, so take a few minutes to check out a more complete one here.
And that’s just regular, everyday horror preventative planning.  There is also regular, everyday actual horror, like this.

How women deal with threats and violence, how they are taught to protect themselves, and how their brain chemistry drives them are all different—and we know when a portrayal of these things is inauthentic. We get frustrated when women do stupid things in horror novels and horror novels that we know women just wouldn’t do. Without women writing these things accurately, misinformation given in literature and pop culture gets accepted as reality—we already see that with our existing rape culture.

And then we are further isolated, our real-world issues continue unabated and unaided and unknown to the people who actually have power to make laws and decide court verdicts. That’s another level of horror: A system we cannot count on. After all, in 2005, it was mandated by the Supreme Court that the police don’t have to protect you. Even if you’ve got a restraining order. Against someone who’s violently attacked you before.

We won’t even get into how fucking hard it is to prosecute rapists. Even with DNA evidence. Just Google it; there are far more links than you want me to post in a single blog.

And then, of course, when women take matters into their own hands to protect themselves, they face even more horror stories. Beyond being called bitches, saying we should be punished for being “uppity,” we also get hit with the arguments—often from other women—that “we shouldn’t have to teach women to protect themselves from rape; we need to teach men not to rape.” And then we get assaulted with memes that blame us for letting other women get raped whenever we teach preventative measures.

To which I have a longer blog post brewing that I can quickly sum up, now, with a “teaching people to not murder, since the first recorded, codified laws, carved in stone, from Ancient Sumeria, has TOTALLY stopped people from being murdered.”

But yeah, if a woman hasn’t got one end of culture blaming her for getting raped, she’s got another group of people vilifying her for not getting raped. That’s not a horror story at all.

Basically, there is a lot of horror in a regular woman’s life. Besides just violent assaults, rape culture, passive sexism—there’s also how difficult it is for women to get medical attention for serious issues (that don’t involve removing “ta-tas” because we should all keep our sexy ta-tas for the pleasure of those gazing upon them). But really, how many advertisements do we see on television for erectile dysfunction? How many have you seen for the extremely common issue of dysmenorrhea, or severe menstrual cramps that have one in five or more women in incapacitating pain? Every. Single. Month. What, you haven’t seen those ads? Oh, right, there isn’t one. Because there isn’t research going into that and there isn’t treatment beyond birth control or some sort of surgery (all of which actually require serious hoop-jumping for women to get, particularly the latter two because it could, possibly, interfere with a woman’s baby-making capabilities. Regardless of if she already knows she doesn’t want children.)

Women have a lot of stories to tell. A lot of horror stories. These stories should be out there, informing our culture and giving comfort, catharsis, and “no, you’re not alone in this” assurances, to women who deal with their already regularly-scheduled, everyday horror.

The way we tell these stories, with our voices filled with our pain… The way we market them, the way we want to be marketed to, the way we feel comfortable marketing, in our voices and our styles... All of that so very often is, at best, ignored, and at worst, openly mocked or considered an excuse for some man to tell us we deserve to get raped for such crimes against “real” horror or literature. 

And no, I’m not exaggerating that last point either. Hell… look at any feminist post on anything and you can write a horror story from the comments section.

Really. Google it.

So, taking a month to try and have these voices less ignored, less mocked—and maybe, just maybe, taken seriously, supported, shared with people who need to read them—that’s why this month is important.  Would I like to see a day when we don’t need to take this extra effort? Of course I would.  When will that be? Well, to paraphrase the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg when she’s asked when there will be enough women Justices on the Supreme Court… We won’t need a Women in Horror month when all-women anthologies aren’t “something special,” when award dockets are just as likely to be all women as all men, when publishing houses release a month or more of titles that just happen to be women, when a year goes by where all titles happen to be ones written by women, when I can mention that I write horror and not get incredulous looks, when stating “I don’t read horror by women” becomes an embarrassing phrase people are ashamed to utter in any company.

Until then, we need our special month. And so do you. And so does everyone who reads horror and claims they appreciate horror.

You can find Trisha on Facebook and all over a certain online book retailer: Trisha's author page