Weston Ochse is the author of nine novels, most recently SEAL Team 666, which both the New York Post and USA Today called Recommended Reading. His first novel, Scarecrow Gods, won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel. He’s also had published more than a hundred short stories, many of which appeared in anthologies, magazines, peered journals, and comic books. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Weston holds Bachelor’s Degrees in American Literature and Chinese Studies from Excelsior College and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from National University. He has been to more than fifty countries and speaks Chinese with questionable authority. He blogs at http://weston-ochse.blogspot.com/.
Q: Had you ever had a paranormal experience before you came to the Haunted Mansion?
WO: Yes, several times. But the very first one is the strangest, because it involves another person, who I didn’t even know was having the same experience.
In 1975, I was living in Hackettstown, New Jersey. We lived upstairs in a two-story home that had been converted to apartments. The home was at least a hundred years old. It was on the southwest corner of the intersections of Washington Avenue and Plane Street, across from the middle school.
A lot of things occurred when I lived at this place, but the most interesting is a dream I used to have there about an entity coming to get me from the attic. I lived in the back of the second story. My parents’ room was off the landing, between the hall that led to the kitchen and my room and the doorway to the attic. I used to have terrifying nightmares that something was coming down those stairs, turning the corner and coming for me. I’ve had this dream for years. I still have it. I had it when I was 21 and in Korea. I had it when I was 40. This dream still comes to me and I still wake up terrified.
One evening, about fifteen years ago, I was with my parents. We were waxing about old times and I mentioned that house. I think I’d just had a dream the night before. My mom stopped. She looked at my dad. And she said she had almost the same dream the night before. In fact, she’s been having the same dream over and over since we lived in that house. Whenever I dream one part, she dreams the other.
Have you guessed it yet? My mother’s been the one who kept the monster from getting me all of this time. Every time I dreamed of it coming down the stairs, she dreamed of holding it off and keeping it from me. Even now, years later.
I tried to Google Map the house to get a street view of it. There isn’t one. It’s still there, though. I wonder about those other folks who lived there after us. I wonder if they had someone to keep the entity from coming to get them, like I had my mother.
Q: Did anything spooky happen to you at the Mansion?
WO: Definitely. I think I’m what they call a sensitive. We’d go into a room and I’d feel something and the K2 meter would go off. If I didn’t feel something, it wouldn’t go off.
I can just tell if a place is weird or off or something. We were once looking at houses and I wouldn’t go into one. I wouldn’t even go inside of it. The realtor started to argue, but my wife jumped in: “Do you really want to try and sell us a house my husband won’t even go in?” The realtor saw the wisdom in this.
So I felt a lot of things in the Mansion. I witnessed even more. I’ve been to both iterations of the Haunted Mansion Retreat and could probably write a book about the house, there’s so much activity.
But let me key in on only one thing: the shadow person. We were in the room Scott Browne normally stays in, the one where he was shaken awake, as witnessed by Eunice Magill. Rain Graves was with me. She sat on the bed and I stood. I said there was something in the bathroom. The door was halfway open and it was dark. We began to look at it. The way the door hung, there was a triangular shadow on the floor. I stared at that.
“There’s something coming,” I said. Then, after a few moments: “Look at the shadow. It’s changing.”
Sure enough, the triangular shadow—which had previously sharp edges and corners—was beginning to round. It was filling out as if more shadow was coming out of the bathroom.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s a shadow person,” Rain said, with the occult authority to which I’ve become accustomed.
We watched as the shadow moved from the bathroom to two feet into the room. Then it started forming upwards. I didn’t feel threatened. I’ve only felt malevolence three times in that house. All the rest was benign.
It got to knee height and I couldn’t help myself. I asked, “What do we do if it forms all the way?”
She looked at me and said, “I don’t know.”
So much for her all-knowing authority. We watched it continue to form. It wasn’t a fast process. From the start to where it got to just above the knees took ten minutes.
Then Dan Weidman opened the door to the hall and poked his head in. “What’s going on?” he asked.
And like that, the shadow person was gone. The shadow of the door was once again a triangle with sharp lines and corners.
I think the entity, whatever it was, trusted us. I think it knew we meant no harm. But when Dan came, it frightened it.
And that’s just one of the things that happened.
Q: What inspired the pieces you wrote for the books?
WO: “Ghost Meter Blues,” the piece I wrote for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One, was based on the idea of the K2 meter and that it can read energy. Well, what if you went to a haunted house with your wife and she came back haunted. The only way you could tell is with the meter. What if you walked down the street to see who else was haunted and discovered a lot of people were? I loved playing with those ideas and the story scared me.
“Forever Beneath the Scorpion Tree,” my piece in The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, first appeared in my collection Multiplex Fandango. It’s the story of a ghost who haunts the desert border area between the US and Mexico. She was a Chinese girl and it’s written from her point of view as a ghost who doesn’t know she’s a ghost. It’s a really haunting tale.
Q: Do you expect to come back to the next Haunted Mansion Retreat in 2015?
Q: What’s coming up for you next writing-wise?
WO: My next SEAL Team 666 novel, Age of Blood, is coming out from Thomas Dunne Books in October. I’m currently on a military deployment to Afghanistan and working on a novel for Solaris Books called Grunt Life.
Q: Thanks for being a part of this!
WO: No, thank you for having me. I am sorry it took so long.