It is always fascinating to read the work of someone, particularly in the horror genre, who truly believes in at least some of the facets of what they write. Even better, but much more rare, is to find the chance to dive into the worlds created by people who not only believe, but have faced the supernatural head on. This is the case with author Bob Freeman. Bob Freeman’s fiction does not begin to scratch the surface of his credentials related to other worldly phenomena. Bob is a respected lecturer and researcher on the occult and the paranormal. He is a life-long student of mythology, folklore, religion, and magic. He has written not only numerous works of fiction, but also many scholarly articles on the topics of the supernatural. With such a pedigree, you can be sure that reading Bob’s fiction based on these subjects is always sure to be a truly unique experience as his gripping fiction is intertwined throughout with real-world occurrences. I had the pleasure of getting the chance to talk to Bob about his work and some of the things he has faced in his life and now present it to you, my seekers of scare, here on The Rage Circus.
Ira Gansler: What draws you to supernatural tales and the occult?
Bob Freeman: It is something that has fascinated me since I was a small boy. I grew up on a small farm in rural Indiana and spent a lot time with my nose buried in books and comics and watching late night horror movies on a black and white tv with tinfoil wrapped around rabbit ears for better reception.
I also was captivated by folk tales and urban legends, of which there were many in my nape o’ the woods. There was this little cemetery just east of our house, surrounded by a supposedly haunted gate that I used to slip out to late at night, hoping to catch a glimpse of something from the other side.
I guess I was drawn to the supernatural pretty much out of the womb and I have remained interested because I am cursed with an innate curiosity about this world and the next, and the clockworks therein.
IG: What was your earliest horror related memory?
BF: One of my earliest memories, from before I was in school, is of me watching local horror host Sammy Terry’s presentation of Frankenstein from behind my dad’s recliner.
IG: Are there any authors or stories that most influence your work?
BF: I owe a tremendous debt to several authors, all of whom influenced and inspired me a thousand different ways, such as Robert E. Howard for his kinetic, visceral prose and H.P. Lovecraft for his atmosphere and mythos building.
IG: As a paranormal adventurer, what has been your most exciting or terrifying experience with the paranormal?
BF: I was asked to investigate a former Oddfellows Lodge in a small rural town. The owners were beginning to experience some unexplainable activity: phantom footsteps and objects disappearing only to be found somewhere else, mostly.
Entering a closet on the third floor I was confronted by an unseen force, a “dark presence” that assaulted me. It felt like a hand had penetrated my chest to clutch my heart in its preternatural grasp.
Calling upon arcane spirits, I was released by the entity, a shadow form manifesting in the space and fleeing the room.
I, and others, have tried to exorcise that spirit from the Lodge many times over the past eight years, but to no avail. It is entrenched there in that derelict grand hall.
IG: What would you say are “must visit” sites for someone interested in paranormal occurrences?
BF: Hm, off the top of my head, in the United States, I’d recommend: The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California; Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Prospect Place in Trinway, Ohio; The Myrtle Plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana; The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado; Hex Hollow, aka Rehmeyer’s Hollow, in York County, Pennsylvania; and in my own backyard, if you happen to be in my nape o’ the woods, look me up and I’ll take you to some places you’ll never forget.
IG: You recently posted about Gencon. What are some games you would recommend for horror fans?
BF: I’m quite fond of Fantasy Flight Games’ Elder Sign and Mansions of Madness, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and, of course, The Call of Cthulhu role-playing game from Chaosium.
IG: How would you describe your game project, “The Occult Detective?”
BF: The boardgame can be played competitively or cooperatively and is sort of a cross between Elder Sign, Clue, and Monopoly, with some rpg elements (if you choose). There are four occult detective archetypes — monster hunter, exorcist, magician, and investigator — whose job is to accumulate knowledge, equipment, and artifacts, while combating various preternatural entities, cultists, and cryptids, in a bid to stop the awakening of an unholy, cosmic terror randomly drawn from the Abyss.
Perfect for Family Game Night!
The RPG is a d20 campaign setting developed from my novels and short stories, though I hope to incorporate characters from the works of some of my writing chums as well.
IG: Do you think the paranormal can still hold its own as an agent of terror amidst the rising trend of blood and gore shock horror (such as the torture porn trend)?
BF: For me, subtle dread is still a more effective tool than the jump scare. The latter may make you squirm, but the former invades your psyche and breeds nightmares for years to come.
IG: Are there any topics or themes you have wanted to take on that you have yet to attempt?
BF: Plenty. There’s a veritable cornucopia of unearthly frights I’ve yet to pull into my sand box.
IG: My final question is one that is posed to all those being interviewed on The Rage Circus. In your opinion, what is horror?
BF: Horror is, at its core, an intense emotion. It defies genre, in that sense, as it can be a found within science fiction, fantasy, romance, literary fiction, and more. Horror is an intrinsic part of us. Here there be demons, and it is through our exploration of horror that we exorcise them.
So there it is, Ragers, an insight into the mind of an individual who has seen many of the things about which he writes. Join me again on Sunday, when I review Bob Freeman's most recent tale of terror, Shadows Over Somerset.