Monday, April 6, 2015

Pamela K. Kinney - expert on Southern Gothic, haunted mansions

Pamela K. Kinney is an award winning published author of horror, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and a ghost wrangler of nonfiction ghost books published by Schiffer Publishing. Her horror short story, “Bottled Spirits” published by was runner up for the 2013 Small Press Award.  Two of her nonfiction ghost books were nominated for Library of Virginia Awards.  Her latest nonfiction ghost book to be published by Schiffer Publishing, Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area, will be released August 2015.

Under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, she has published erotic and sweet paranormal/fantasy/science fiction romance along with a couple of erotic horror stories. Her erotic urban fantasy, Being Familiar With a Witch is a Prism 2010 Awards winner and a Epic Awards 2010 finalist. The sequel to Being Familiar With a Witch, A Familiar TangleWith Hell was released June 2011 from Phaze Books.  Both eBooks were combined into one print book, The Witch and the Familiar, released April 24, 2012.

She also has done acting on stage and in films, is a Master Costumer--costuming since 1972— and she even does paranormal investigating, including for DVDs for Paranormal World Seekers, filmed by AVA Productions. She was casting director for High Mountain Films’ movie, The 19th  (been an extra in the film too), and wrote a horror screenplay, “Crawlspace Creep,” now with an Indie production company. She is beginning to add her acting and extra work to IMDB, slowly but surely.

She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house, husband, and even the cat sometimes suffer for it!

Find out more about Pamela K. Kinney at and about Sapphire Phelan at

MJN:  You have won the Prism Awards in 2010 and made it to the finals of Epic Awards. Those are impressive accolades.  Do they raise you to the next plane within the specific genre and/or circle of readers or universally?

PK: Winning or finaling an award gives the writer affirmation that they are good. It makes the writer work harder to keep up that level of work. That maybe they are on the right track.

Besides these (both the 2010 Prism and Epic Awards were for Being Familiar With a Witch , written by me under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan), I also was runner up for  the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award in 2013 for “Bottled Spirits,” a short horror story written by me as Pamela K. Kinney, that was published by There were only about seven stories that made the cut out of a lot of science fiction, fantasy and horror stories submitted (in the hundreds). Many of those stories sent in were by award winning, NYC published writers, so for my story (first time I ever entered) to make it to runner up, is considered to be an accolade. People can see who else besides me made up the seven at (I did a fan girl squeal when I saw my story and name in Locus Magazine online, as I used to get issues of the print version in the Seventies to my home.)

MJN:  I see you have a penchant for Southern Gothic. Indeed, a historic mansion in the South is a popular setting for a horror story.  Where do you believe the southerners derive their folklore?  It is rooted in Scots Irish mythology, as many of the Southerners trace their roots to Ulster?

PK: Though born and bred out West, but living here since 1985, I got to know Virginians and Southerners. I believed much of their folklore came from their roots. Not just Scots and Irish, but African, Native American, German, English, Czech and Slovakians, Polish and others who settled in the South. But in my opinion, it comes from deep within themselves and how their way of life as Southerners has been lived years after their ancestors settled the land.

There was the War Between the States fought on their soil, where brother was pitted against brother. The Revolutionary War was fought here and Williamsburg was not only where our founding fathers met and walked the streets, but was the capitol of the Colonies, and later became the first capitol of Virginia before the capitol was moved to Richmond. You had those who owned slaves and land they grew cotton and tobacco on. These were the nobility, just without titles. The Civil War took away that lifestyle made on the backs of slaves, and they stiffened their backbones and learned to tend their own lands or lose it.

Today, the South is where you find ladies in wide brimmed hats and dressed to the nines, wearing gloves (or not) to go shopping in a supermarket (yes, I’ve seen this when I first moved here). The gothic flavored stories told here is due not only to their ancestors and where they came, but the darkness of their history. It’s written in the blood of the South. It’s the gentlewoman in her deteriorating plantation home who goes to town dressed up in finery she had for twenty years to take tea at her favorite tea room. It’s the African Americans and their soul food. The native people who traveled this land. The blood-soaked battlefields where ghosts still haunt. I could go on and on, but the South, even today in modern times, still has monsters hidden in the attic, ghosts haunting dilapidated plantation homes or modern suburbia, and odd legends stalking its woods and mountains.

MJN: Have you personally brushed with any of the paranormal experiences you described in your books? Do you sometimes have trouble drawing the line between reality and fantasy, the way events really happened versus how they are recorded in our memory once they pass through the prism of our imagination?

PK: Yes, I have. For when I am on an investigation (myself or with a group), I have equipment that I use, so I can document what happens (if anything happens), unlike a normal person who sees a ghost. Not that I haven’t seen a ghost in normal circumstances.

I record it all with my digital recorder (even my ghost box sessions), so I can check what I thought I heard or not later. I also write things down in an investigation. Personal experiences like seeing a shadow person or a solid ghost in color with one’s own eyes has to be documented on paper. When I do an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) session, if something sounds like a living person (someone coughs, as an example), you mention that out loud during the recording, or call out to get verification if it is a living person not with you at the time. I’ve gotten images in my photos I did not see at the time. I had double-checked the five images in the upcoming Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia,and the Tri-Cities Area with my new Samsung Tab 2 tablet. It has high def, so no matter how you enlarge the photo to see if the image is real or not, the photo is clear. This way, if something I see in a photo, is just a bush or an outside tree in the glass of the window, or an actual image.

When I write fiction based off an experience or a legend that is made up. I am trying to scare the bejesus out of you. The ghost books, not so much. Though I try to be clinical, I admit to writing them as creative nonfiction to hopefully make it and read. I don’t want to bore the reader out of his/her mind. Still, everything in the books are documented by recorder and written down at the time.

MJN: Do you make on-site visits to every mansion, every monument you describe in your books?  Do you think it's important to visit those places alone or with a like-minded companion? 

PK: I visited most of the places—about 97%. The photographs in the books are mine. Schiffer Publishing wants the photos to be the authors’ that are in our books.

As the author, I’ve gone to these places mostly alone for interviews with owners or workers (if a place of business), and to also do a paranormal investigation of the place to see if I get anything. Sometimes, my husband was with me. Sometimes, I was with a group, investigating the place. Except the first book, as I only had a camera then.  But if I had an experience, I do put it in the book.  Same will go for Paranormal Petersburg, Virginia, and the Tri-Cities Area, which is available for preorder and releases in August.

MJN: Most myths seem to echo back to the past. Do you think that new myths emerge as time goes on?  Are there contemporary hauntings?

PK: Many urban legends started as plain old legends from 1700s/1800s (elsewhere in the world, earlier). As for new tales, our modern urban legends, like the Bunnyman in Northern Virginia. That is a chapter in Haunted Virginia: Legends, Mythsand True Tales. The story of the Bunnymans and his bridge sounds like it began in 1890s, but a librarian who lived in Fairfax County and worked at a library there, investigated and found two police reports of a guy in a bunny suit with an axe in the 1970s, same time the Bunnyman urban legend came to life. Someone obviously with potential to be a horror author, started this story. The place has been proven to have paranormal activity by paranormal groups, but none of that has anything to do with the Bunnyman. I think it is easy for people to make up stories about a place and over time, others pass on the tales, embellishing them, and turning them into urban legends. Not to say there may not be a grain of truth to the story—the difference between legends and myths.

A myth is a sacred or traditional story that concerns the origins of the world or how the world and the creatures in it came to be in their present form. Myths serve to unfold a part of the world view of a people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. Parables and allegories are myths. Nothing is supposed to be real about it at all, even if someone mentioned in the story is a real person, like some famous Virginians in this book. There are stories told about their habits or life that are not true. 

While a legend is a narrative of human actions told about someone that existed in reality, once upon a time, but the true events have been twisted, making them more fascinating. Legend includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility,” defined by a highly flexible set of parameters. These may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened. There is the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arose, and in which the tale may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh, vital, and realistic. It is kinda like that game you played with your classmates in school, where you whisper to the next person a story, and by the time it comes full circle, that story has changed drastically from what it began as.

Then there is folklore. Folklore is the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. It is popular, but unfounded beliefs. Or, as Merriam-Webster says: “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people.”

And yes, there are contemporary hauntings. People die all the time.  Some phantoms think they are stuck in a place they died at, like the two modern ghosts at Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center. I also believe others can come back and forth, visiting their old homes where they lived alive, relatives and places they worked, played, etc... I finally got proof of this last part when we filmed “Return to Fort Magruder” for Paranormal World Seekers (I co-produced this with Mark Layne through AVA Productions) for the third time in January, the night before the science fiction convention, Marscon, happened at the hotel. Besides the Cicil War soldiers who haunt the hotel and land it sits on, we got a contemporary spirit of someone—Veronica—who attended Marscon when she was alive, was there due to the convention! She answered our questions through my EMF meter (electromagnetic fields). It was nice to have a sort of verification to my theory. Just shows that not all ghosts are here because they are tied to the spot they died at, attached to a house or object they owned in life, have unfinished business, fear of the other side, or is a residual haunting (a playback of a past event-recording of something done at a certain date or time.)

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