This Way Worms Grow – Friday Fictioneers

It’s a festive story for Friday Fictioneers this week in honor of ghouls and slasher flicks. The goal is to write a 100-word story based on a photo.

Thank you to the our hostess Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for keeping the tricks and treats coming. Thanks to Dale Rogerson for providing the inspiring photo this week.

PHOTO PROMPT – © Dale Rogerson

(100 words)

This Way Worms Grow

That voice. It hit her like gravel on smooth skin. Spoiled. Her insides choked and thrashed on wormy weeds, stirring the gravel pit of her stomach.

A woman screamed.

It pierced her with a knife, curdling the remains of her lactose-regurgitated beverage.

There would be blood. She tried to eat another worm, sliding it down her hair-clogged throat. Smothered under a blanket, she gasped for air.

“No one dies here.”

Andrea peeked outside her blanket.

“Don’t you remember this part? You’ve seen this like a hundred times.”

“My stomach.”

“Too much popcorn, hon. Better lay off those gummy worms, too.”


Happy Halloween – from me and The Girl on the Swing!

Girl on a Swing

For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.


Haunted Places: A Tour of Preston Castle

Recently, I visited the Preston Castle in Ione, California in Amador County for a historical tour. During the month of October, the Preston Castle also offers a thrilling haunted house and overnight ghost tours. This is not surprising considering it is believed to be truly haunted. Not only is there an unsolved murder in its past, but at least 26 suspicious deaths that occurred on the premises.

I found its history fascinating. The Preston Castle, formerly the Preston School of Industry, opened its doors as a reform school for boys in 1864. It is one of the oldest and best-known reform schools in the United States.

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The very first class at Preston. They look a bit grim.

Juveniles were sent to Preston instead of the nearby prisons of San Quentin or Folsom with the goal of rehabilitation, and thus, this amazing construction of the Romanesque Revival style architecture was envisioned and realized. Boys, aged from 12-24, were not named as prisoners or inmates, but were referred to as wards of the state or simply “wards.” Their crimes ranged from burglary to murder; orphaned boys also ended up here.

In 1890, the state of California purchased 230 acres (at only $30 per acre) for the Preston School. The plan included 77 rooms in all. The school was divided into three areas: academic, military, and industry trade. Everything they used at the school was produced onsite, including the butchering of animals for meals and the sewing their own clothes. Wards picked a trade to master such as agriculture, farming, printing, brick laying, plumbing, carpentry, or baking. The goal was for the wards to be productive members of society once released.

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Sitting on the steps with my son. It’s hard to capture the entire Castle in a photo.

Did you think you saw a man hanging from the top of the building? You did.

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Don’t worry. It’s just a prop for their Halloween Haunt.

Since the tours began, many visitors have cited strange sights, disembodied voices, slamming doors, and fallen objects. Paranormal events have also been documented on the Ghost Adventures TV show. I’m glad I decided to watch the creepy episode after my tour.

Take a look inside.

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Does it not look a bit spooky?
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I’m not going up there…

Because next year the deed for a 55-year lease will be in the hands of private citizens, this may the last year they open their doors for tours and their haunted house. Today much of the Castle is in complete disrepair.

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In many spots, whole floors are missing. Believe me, this tour requires a guide for safety alone.
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Once a staff apartment. It’s seen better days.

Preston Castle closed its doors in 1960, and in the years that followed the slate roof, considered to be of value, was torn off for monetary gain; the castle was vandalized and exposed to the elements. All except this room…what was once the hospital.

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Infirmary Room I. According to Ghost Adventures, this is a hot bed of paranormal activity.
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The ceiling, not exposed to the elements, is in good shape.

When our guide took us to down to the basement to the kitchen, she paused, then announced, “If there’s any reason why this place is haunted, it’s probably because of what happened here in this kitchen.”

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She then told the story of Anna Corbin, the Head Housekeeper on staff, who was believed to be murdered by nineteen-year-old ward, Eugene Monroe. She was found with a burlap sack over her head, tied with a cord around neck, and blugeoned to death. Eugene was tried three times and finally acquitted, and so Anna Corbin’s murder was never solved. Eugene Monroe was later incarerated in Oklahoma for the murder of another woman.

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A memorial now stands in the pantry.

It must have been a rough place with all the documented attempts of escape. While the goal of rehabilitation did not take hold in infamous serial killers, Gerald Gallego and Caryl Chessman, many more went on to live productive and successful lives.

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Others left their mark by etching their names into this wall.

Only eight acres now remain of the school campus, including the Castle and the Fire House, which are listed as California State Historical Landmarks and are on the National Register of Historic Places. The rest of the surrounding area is home to the San Quentin Prison and the California Youth Authority Detention Center (now closed). Most of the acreage has been sold for homes and an accompanying sprawling golf course.

My tour guide remarked, “It’s a state town.” She questioned whether the restoration effort is worth it, but added, “People have a vision about this place.” The hope is to restore the Castle to its former glory and possibly convert it for extension programs for nearby college campuses.

No matter how it is restored, I have a feeling it will still be haunted.

Related Articles:
Find a Grave
Lodi News-Sentinel


‘Tis the Season for Boo!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, without question. With Americans expected to spend a whopping $8 billion this year on Halloween, I see I’m not alone. It definitely has changed since I was a kid. For one thing, when I was kid, Halloween was a one-day holiday. We may have had a carnival at the school, but that was basically it. That, and the Trick-or-Treating, of course. No one decorated their house. Orange lights didn’t exist. Certainly no zombie babies.

My five siblings and I figured out our costumes the day of Halloween, rummaging through our mother’s closet. She had to have known. We were gypsies, witches, ghosts, and hobos. My brothers often dressed in drag or as bloodied mummies. We were totally fine with it. I loved being a gypsy, so wild and free, wearing scarfs, hoop earrings, and lots of lipstick. If kids bought costumes back then, we didn’t know about it. None of my friends bought costumes either, as far as I know.

Well, the deal today is to buy costumes for kids, at least for this year. Next year, I may change my tune. From year to year, the costumes look strikingly familiar. In the case of my sons, a colorful bodysuit, a mask, and a pair of gloves, with perhaps a sword, or a robot arm. The colors may change, but I would say that this is the standard $20 costume, whether it be a Megatron, Ninja, or an Alien. After four years of being a Ninja in varying colors, my oldest son has now fallen to the dark side. With a motto of “World Peace and Destruction,” he gravitates to the Horror category, as Crypt Master or a Phantom with eyes that light-up.

My neighbors like to dress up their houses, too. There are innumerable ways to get the job done. There’s over-the-top scary with fog and scary music, or the subtle approach with a simple pumpkin flag or a harmless ghost.

At the local Spirit Halloween store

At the Halloween store a whole assortment of friendly faces await you. That’s if you can get your child into the store. This place scares my little one to pieces. See the speck in the distance? Let me tell you, he can run fast when he wants to.

You can see why he might be scared.

What about bringing home the gal from the Exorcist? She can raise and lower herself, and spin her head. An extra added bonus, her eyes light up. However, I didn’t see her suspend above the bed or eject any vile, green contents.

Don’t forget your local zombie chapter.

Or, your friendly ghost.

Decorations are coveted items in the neighborhood. This is my friend’s sign. She wants her ghost back. Give it back to her. It was her favorite ghost. She’ll even take it back after Halloween.

These are Bumble’s decorations. They need a little work.

Help! Help! At least fix my tombstone. For crying out loud! That’s the least you could do.

I know. That’s one scary Teddy Bear.

And, introducing my very own Board Ghost. Is he a ghost? Is he a board?

Who am I? How did I get here?

I don’t know. You kind of came with the house. Hey, are you haunting my house? Is it you? How did you get up there anyway?

I’m talking to a ghost. I mean a board. I mean, uh, a board ghost. It’s time to move along now.

But nothing compares to the MEAT SHOP!!! I saved the best for last.

It’s as good as a movie set, yes? It appeared in our neighborhood a few years back. We couldn’t find it last year. Was it relocated? Transferred? I have my suspicions.

In any case, my little one did not stand for this at all. He never actually saw it, but when he found out we walking on the street where the Meat Shop once existed, he went flying.

Last year, even though the Meat Shop was gone, we only made it to five houses for Trick-or-Treating.

I hope we make it to a few more this year. We shall see.