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Good news for all you aspiring Willards and Willardinas out there. 2020 has hit again in a strange, unforeseen way, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press, we’re going to be seeing more mice and rats in our homes. 

Since little critters love eating our leftovers from behind the dumpsters of every mom-and-pop’s, Chili’s, and Chipotle (but not you, Del Taco…not you…), there’s a problem with people eating less at restaurants – there’s less food for these little dudes to enjoy in the “wild”. So, when they can’t eat in our suburban wastelands, where do you think they’ll migrate to? 

Now, now, before you spout out the “not in my backyard dumpster”, let’s take a look at this again. Rats are pretty smart and resourceful. They don’t need much in the way of food. They’re hardy AF. They’re kind of perfect minions. There’s a reason why they have a better theme song than E.T. (I mean, besides Neil Diamond). 

Honestly, there’s quite a few rats in horror, pop culture, and our history, so let’s talk about them a little. (Yes, I did go off on a rat rant during one of our podcasts, so what, come fight me)


In Pop Culture

Besides the cartoon villainy of such “dastardly” names such as “Rat Fink”, “Rat Brain”, “you dirty rat” (which Cagney didn’t actually say), rats generally get a bad rap.

These guys are just being extra about rats

Most recently while I was watching The Nutcracker (with the trying-his-best-but-completely-bored Macaulay Culkin as lead), the rats (although also referred to as mice) play quite the villainous role, especially the Rat/Mouse King. In the 1993 version, he’s a rat with multiple heads. In fact many versions call upon the “rat king” phenomenon as inspiration for this character/creature design, which…I mean, just look at him.

Oof…sweet dreams, children

Then of course, there’s the wildly under-appreciated Ratigan (voiced by horror icon Vincent Price) in the equally under-appreciated Disney film, The Great Mouse Detective.

Hmm…looks familiar
Ah yes…

And that’s not the only Disney movie to put a rat as the villain. Lady and the Tramp had a pretty alarming scene with the rat trying to…I guess eat the baby? But seriously, it’s a tense action scene that ends with the baby thrown to the floor and the Tramp injured.

Even the R.O.U.S. of The Princess Bride look like a cross between a rat and a beaver (but more rat due to the snout and the tail). And no, that totally didn’t freak me out with its jump-scare, hahahaha, you fool…So stupid.

Just here for aggressive cuddles

Or if you want to get more philosophical and bookish, there’s of course the overwhelming fear of rats from the main protagonist, Winston, from George Orwell’s, 1984. This is used effectively by the fascist government to get him to betray his love and fellow revolutionary, Julia. Spoilers for a book older than most of my readers. 

Jigsaw’s earlier, cost-effective days

Rats in Horror

Apart from the cuddle-fests of Willard and Ben…

(pictured: a fully-clothed Ernest Borgnine getting ready for cuddles)

We have:

1976: Burt I. Gordon’s The Food of the Gods (based on an H.G. Wells novel) is more like The Stuff, but for animals. While there are other animals that grow and get…cranky, you can see from even the poster it’s the rats that take center stage. 

1982: James Herbert’s Deadly Eyes which takes place in Toronto with large, ‘roided rats (yes, this is the one where dachshunds are dressed as rats; yes, it’s adorable).

1983: George P. Cosmatos’s Of Unknown Origin is another Canadian venture, but is really more about the frailty of the human condition than of the rat. But, yeah, rat…


1984: Bruno Matteo’s Rats: Night of Terror is set in the distant future of…2015, where the nuclear fallout has pushed survivors to fight genetically enhanced rats for food (great twist at the end).

1989: Damian Lee’s loose sequel, The Food of the Gods II, is about a literal man-child and big killer rats. 

1990: Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk to Dawn (yes, yes, written and starring Tarintino) has a LOT going on – criminals, strip clubs, vampires, the hottest Salma Hayek ever, crisis of faith, Tom Savini as a biker named Sex Machine, and…a rat creature (who happens to be Tom Savini/Sex Machine). This movie is bonkers ball-to-the-walls insanity, but the effects are, of course, outstanding and this rat is ugly AF. 

2001: Miles Feldman’s Altered Species (aka….uhg, Rodentz) borrows from the “rats as science experiment gone wrong” trope, but this time we’re trying to cure cancer. Like in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the “experiment goo” contaminates some rats, giving them strength and power. Unlike TMNT, there are sadly no quips about pizza, nor any ninja arts from said rats. 

2002: John Lafia’s The Rats, a made-for-tv movie, is about New Yorker rats (“Hey, I’m gnawin’ here!) that are, again, failed genetic experiments. 


2003: Tibor Takács’s (non-made-for-tv-Christmas-movie) Killer Rats is another experimental rat story but with a possibly supernatural bend as they begin to have telepathic bonds. 


So, the years of the rat look like they’ve trickled out in the early 2000’s, but I think with this rise, maybe we’ll get some more flashes of inspiration in the future. Since horror is reflective to what our society fears in the moment, if this becomes a larger issue, then we probably will be seeing more of rats on the screen.

But hopefully as a Willard reboot-type situation (plus new and improved with telepathy!).

Awww, okay.


When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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  1. Jennifer Weigel

    December 4, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    It’s not horror, but I’ve always loved the animated movie by Don Bluth Studios, The Secret of NIMH. Rats are both good and bad, aiding the main hero, an unsuspecting mouse named Mrs. Frisby, on her journey to find her own inner strength and save her child.

  2. Audrey III

    December 4, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    I’m calling you out, Brannyk! First for making you watch most of these rat movies and you never stopped me. Second for posting a picture of a gerbil.

    • J.M. Brannyk

      December 14, 2020 at 10:29 pm

      It’s a hybrid – a gat, or rerbil, if you will…

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Breaking News

A horror author goes to Nebula Con



The Science Fiction, Fantasy Writers Association is one of the most prestigious organizations in America for speculative fiction writers. While horror is not specifically mentioned, we all know that it’s nearly impossible to discuss fantasy and science fiction without the shadow of horror creeping in. 

Each year, SFWA hosts a convention for writers called Nebula Con. I have virtually attended the convention for the past two years. And if you’ve never attended, you might want to consider it. Even if your writing, like mine, is long in the shadows and short on the elves.

First off, I do want to be clear that Nebula Con is a convention for speculative fiction writers. There are some fan panels, like the one on the works of Robin McKinley, this year’s Grandmaster. But the majority of the panels and events are for writers. 

That being said, there are panels for writers at every stage of their careers. 


For writers interested in crafting better stories, craft panels abound. My favorite panel was the one titled For The Love of Short Fiction. This panel started with a reading of some of the best short works from 2022. Then, each panelist dug into what made that piece work for them.

Clip from Nebula Con, 2023

There were several other terrific panels, including one all about constructing a realistic legal system in your fictional world and writing fictional podcasts. (Like I do.)

But, you might say, these are panels for sci-fi and fantasy writers. No, these are panels for speculative fiction writers. Horror authors who want to have any kind of career would do well to master the short story. And if you don’t think there’s room for some legal horror in the market, you are wrong. 

While the craft panels were wonderful, the career and marketing panels were probably the most useful and valuable of the whole convention. Are you, like many other online creatives, worried about the effects AI-generated writing is going to have on our field? There were two informative panels regarding that. Are you wondering how writers’ relationships with agents have changed now that self-publishing is so prevalent? There’s a panel for that.

A lot is going on in the publishing world. It’s confusing as hell, my friends. And one of the ways we keep each other up to date is with conventions like this. What I got out of the panel most was that having a career in writing is possible. My fellow participants and I learned from writers who are doing the thing. It’s hard, but it’s possible.

Of course, a convention is more than just panels. There’s the chance to meet with other authors. This might be where a virtual convention seems to have a deficit. And while I’ll admit that meeting online isn’t the same as meeting in person, there are certainly perks. I was able to meet, chat with and share stories with other writers in a Zoom chat room. And I came away feeling much like I did as a kid, having met new friends at summer camp. Even if I wasn’t sitting across from them, it was great to be surrounded by other people who want to make a living scaring the hell out of other people. 


All of this writing joy culminates with the Nebula Awards Ceremony. If you’re interested in catching the awards but didn’t make it to the convention this year, you can watch it all on Youtube. Each year speculative fiction authors of all kinds of honored, from written work to gaming to television. This year’s toastmaster was Cheryl Platz, an author, and actress. As a critic, awards ceremonies are usually something I usually force my way through. The Nebula Awards are a rare treat in that scene. Partially because there’s a chance I’ve met the people up for the awards. But also because the people involved are, first and foremost, writers. It’s amazing how much more entertaining events are when the people being honored are, you know, talented storytellers.

If you’ve been on the fence about attending Nebula Con virtually, I suggest giving it a try. The world certainly needs more stories that go bump in the night. 

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Crashin’ in Roswell NM: Road Trippin’ with Jennifer Weigel



So on my recent road trip to Miami AZ USA for my menstruation art installation, we decided to detour to Roswell NM en route home. To be honest, this was one of the best decisions of my life, up there with road trippin’ from Arizona to San Francisco along CA-Highway 1, and I will go into the details of why here soon.

Some of the signs: Roswell NM including city limits, UFO Museum and stickered parking sign, and Restricted Area from inside the museum
Some of the signs: Roswell NM

Roswell NM USA has totally embraced its alien history of the UFO crash in the late 1940s and subsequent government cover up. The whole town is alien-happy with beautiful hand carved wood totems, murals and statues everywhere celebrating otherworldly denizens of all types, though predominantly the gray aliens of the crash (and their green counterparts). Even the city logo features a flying saucer as the center of the letter “R”. It really is kind of incredible.

Alien crash site photo opportunity at UFO Museum
Alien crash site photo opportunity

One of the biggest draws is the International UFO Museum and Research Center, housed in the wonderful old theater building. This museum details the crash history as well as celebrating aliens in movies and media and examining newer alien sightings and abductions. It is very thorough and includes maquettes, statues, written accounts and an extensive research library, as well as an interesting art collection of various items.

Alien landing at UFO Museum
Alien landing

And there are TONS of fun alien themed curiosity shops. I will give a shout out to the newer Invasion Station north on Main Street where there had once been an old car dealership. I love the quirky nature of this particular store as well as their strong desire to promote local artists. Most of their wares are hand-painted in NM and feature designs by prominent local artists including one of the lead muralists in town (I bought a magnet of his). They also feature really alternative kitsch like KISS and Ace Frehley alien bobbleheads, marijuana and anal references, and such. All in all, our own Haunted MTL’s kinda folks…

Portrait of the writer at the Roswell Visitor Center (Yes even they have aliens!)
Portrait at Roswell Visitor Center

And the city is a huge tourist draw internationally, so you can meet some amazing and interesting folks from all walks of life who have caught the alien bug or at least want to check out all the hype. As a result of the tourism, the residents seem really laid back and accommodating (kind of like Hawaii but not quite as much) and there is a thriving art scene. And it’s totally my kind of art – weird and a little creepy. Anyway, I feel like I’ve finally found my peeps and am eager to return someday.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

If you’re feeling a bit extraterrestrial, I invite you to also check out some of my alien-themed stories here on Haunted MTL: LTD UFOs among us; my Drive-By short story; and LTD Abducted.

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Breaking News

American Horror Story Season 12, Delicate



Killer Queens, I wasn’t expecting to be back so soon with American Horror Story info. But yesterday we were blessed with a teaser for the intro of Season 12, which we believe will be titled Delicate. 

A still from American Horror Story Delicate first promo.

We are looking at a Summer release for season twelve, but won’t know for sure until June, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s what we know right now. 

First, yes Kim Kardashian is starring alongside Emma Roberts in a role that was written specifically for her. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is that AHS favorites will also be involved. According to IMBD, Charlie Carver, Rebecca Dayan, Cody Fern, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, and Denis O’Hare will be included this season.

AHS Delicate is different from other seasons in many other ways. It’s the first season to ever be written by just one writer, Halley Feiffer. This isn’t a writer most of us as horror fans will be familiar with. She’s written episodes of shows like Kidding, SMILF, and American Crime Story. The last one can at least be seen as a sister show to AHS. 


As far as I have found, Feiffer has never written horror content. She is now the sole writer for an entire season of the most popular horror show in America. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It’s just not what I would have expected. Most AHS writers are staff writers, actors from the show, or at least people I’ve heard of. So as we don’t have any former work to look at, we can only wait to see how she does. 

We also know what the source material is for this season. It’s a book called Delicate Condition, by Danielle Valentine. This book will be released in August of this year. Which also seemed strange to me. Normally a book would be, you know, published before it inspires additional work.

Even so, Delicate Condition seems like a fascinating story. According to Goodreads, it’s the story of a woman named Anna. Anna is trying to get pregnant but starts to believe that something dark is working against her. Her doctors don’t believe her. Her husband doesn’t believe her. Is she losing her mind?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply interested in this book. And I have to assume that Feiffer and Murphy already have hands on it, to jump to this sort of decision.

By the way, Valentine at least is not an untested writer. Her first novel, How To Survive Your Murder, also made it right on my TBR pile. With a rating of 3.7 out of 4 on Goodreads, I think we can assume Valentine knows what she’s doing with the written word.


This is all that we know about American Horror Story Delicate so far. What follows are my thoughts and opinions only.

My first thought is that this season is going to be dealing heavily with women’s reproductive rights. This is a topic a lot of us are concerned about right now, as it feels like every day women lose more and more rights to our bodies.

(By the way, if you want to help fight the good fight for body autonomy and get some spooky stories, we have an anthology for that. I have a story in it, as does the horrifyingly talented Jennifer Weigel. All proceeds go to support organizations that help women make their own health decisions.) 

American Horror Story has handled important political issues before. Last season, AHS NYC discussed the AIDs epidemic that went largely ignored in the 80s and killed hundreds of young gay men. They did this in the best way possible, in what this critic believes to be the only way fiction should handle heavy topics. They rooted the issue in a good story. A story that was pure fiction, but also true.

However, this season has a lot of red flags. Never before have I seen the guest star be the main focus so early. Never have I seen any franchise bank so much faith in an all but untested writer, basing work on a book that isn’t even published. And frankly, I’ve never been much of a fan of Kim K, or anyone else who’s famous seemingly just for being famous.


I’m not rooting for this season to fail just because I don’t like the guest star. If Kardashian is good at this, I’ll be thrilled. I’ll be the first one singing her praises. But when everything we know so far is added up, I’m a lot more concerned about AHS Delicate than I am excited. 

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