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We’re very excited at Haunted MTL to reach out to the horror community and spotlight creative and talented folks where we find them. We love to add to our interview series when we can, and this week we are talking to a crafty horror fan who specializes in the art of cross-stitch! A few weeks ago, we reached out to the Mutant Fam, fans of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, to find out who is out there.

This week, we would like to introduce you to Miriam Owens, horror fan, Drive-In mutant, and cross-stitcher… or more to the point, a gothstitcher. We pick her brain about horror fandom and cross-stitch art and spotlight some of her work.

Cross-Stitcher Miriam Owens Interview

Haunted MTL: What gave you the idea of pairing your love of horror with cross-stitching?

Miriam Owens: Actually, nothing specific, honestly. It gave me something to do while I watched tv/movies, so that’s how they got paired initially. I was never one for the cutesy patterns, so unless I were making it for someone else, I’d only stitch what I liked and what appealed to me. Finding stuff like that is a different story.

HMTL: Were there any specific horror movies you rented over and over?

MO: There’s nothing that I can specifically remember renting over and over again. I wanted to see everything, so I’d try to do something new every time. This was also when I started really getting into physical media, so anything I liked, I would try to get on DVD (or VHS – this was the tail end of that) so I could have it and watch it whenever I wanted.

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cross-stitch project by Miriam based on the art from a Magic the Gathering card by Rebecca Guay
“I made this for my husband. He’s a big Magic the Gathering fan.
This is Bitter Blossom, and the original artwork from the card is done by Rebecca Guay.” – Miriam

HTML: How did you get into cross-stitching? What came first, a love of horror or the craft?

MO: My mom got me into cross-stitching. I think I saw her doing it one day and asked what it was so she showed me, and that was the end of that. Oh, my love of horror started in utero, so that definitely came first. My mom also helped with that by introducing me to the classics. My dad helped by letting me rent and watch whatever messed-up movie I picked for the weekend.

HMTL: What would an average project entail for you when it comes to time and materials?

MO: What a typical project entails is the pattern, the fabric, the floss, and then anything extra the pattern might call for, like beads or charms or anything. As for time, it all depends on how big the project is, how complicated it is (meaning how many colors, different types of stitches, etc.), and how much time I can devote to working on it on a daily basis.

HMTL: How could someone get started with cross-stitching if they are curious?

MO: For getting into cross-stitching, the first thing I’d recommend is getting a kit. That way, you have everything that you need for the project in one place, and the instructions will walk you through it. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, then you can start to branch out and find patterns on your own or even make your own patterns. Also, never be afraid to ask questions. Find groups on FaceBook and such to build your community and find all kinds of new and fun resources.

A cross-stich project adapted from a pattern by the witchy stitcher
“This is the Universal Monster SAL (stitch-along) created by The Witchy Stitcher.” – Miriam

HMTL: Is there a decent size group of horror cross stitchers or are you a rarity?

MO: I don’t know specifically about a group of horror cross-stitchers. If there is, I’d love to find them and completely nerd out. I have been able to find a group of goths who are into cross stitching and all other kinds of needlecrafts, so that’s a lot of fun. On the other side, all of the horror people/groups seem to be really supportive of my work when they see it.

HMTL: What has been your favorite project? Can you pick a favorite?

MO: Oh man, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite movie. I don’t think I can pick a favorite project. I know that’s a boring answer, but it’s the truth.

HMTL: What is your favorite horror media?

MO: My favorite horror media, I think, would have to be films. I’m a huge movie nerd in general, and horror is hands down my favorite genre. But if it’s horror and/or related, I’m in. Books, shirts, games, toys, video games, decorations, conventions, etc., I’m all for it. I’m even working on a horror tattoo sleeve on my left arm.

HMTL: Do you have a specific genre within horror you are particularly keen on?

MO: No, I’ll watch anything once. I can do a least favorite subgenre, though. My least favorite subgenre of horror is found footage. I’ve seen a bunch and haven’t really been thrilled with any of them. I guess it just doesn’t do it for me, but that doesn’t deter me at all from my one-watch rule. If it’s horror, bring it on!

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A 'Starry Night' cross-stitch project
“This is Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.” – Miriam

Want to learn more about Miriam Owens, Gothstitcher?

You can learn more about this member of the Mutant Fam and their craft by following Miriam on Instagram and Twitter. You can even track her current cross-stitch project, which has taken well over a year to complete but looks fantastic already!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CeyZRY4r8H4/

Lastly, if you are a horror fan who does horror-centric crafting, please contact us via Twitter and share your work. We’re always looking to spotlight the craftiest members of the horror scene. Hell, send us your cross-stitch projects if you have them. We want to see them!

Care to get crafty? (Sponsored)

Do you want to dive into the cross-stitch world and not deal with the usual puppies and flowers? This collection of iconic paintings as cross-stitch kits can be an introduction to the craft. Please pick up a cross-stitch kit using our sponsored link and help out the site as you learn something new.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    June 28, 2022 at 10:12 am

    I love all of the diversity in the alternative crafting movement. There’s wonderful political satire, horror, and surrealism, as well as craftsmanship that is utterly insane. We are not our “Grandma’s” craft movement (though some of those Grandmas are wonderfully feisty too). Kudos to the further explorations of the genres and thank you for sharing this wonderful art. I especially like the Universal Studios Monster House.

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Gaming

Interview with Game Dev Julian Creutz: Quest Master @ PAX

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As mentioned in previous posts, I had the opportunity to demo a pre-early access version of the game Quest Master alongside the Lead Developer, Julian Creutz. Quest Master is a Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Maker inspired dungeon crawling and building video game. While the other post covers the game itself, this one covers the inspiration and vision for the game as told by Julian.


How did you become involved in video game development?

I’ve been a huge gamer, and especially a Zelda fan, ever since I was a little child when my dad put a GameBoy Advance with “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” into my hands. Sometime during elementary school I started dabbling with game development using visual tools like Scratch and GameMaker. I quickly got into making Zelda fan games and had dreamt of the day when I would make my own Zelda game one day. Over the years I’ve honed my game development and programming skills, resulting in where I am today.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?

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Developing Quest Master is essentially like making two games at once – the making and the playing part. Both of these game elements have to be equally as polished to form a cohesive one.

The most difficult thing by far about the game’s development has been to make the maker mode experience intuitive for first-time users and people who know nothing about Zelda-like games, but at the same time powerful and complex enough to allow creating anything you could dream of.

One good example is the gameplay feature to link certain parts to others, like linking a pressure plate to opening a door. We’ve been through countless iterations affecting both the visual, gameplay and user experience aspects of it – I hope that the one we are using right now is the final one!

Quest Master takes a lot of inspiration from classic dungeon-crawlers like the Legend of Zelda franchise. What about these games was so enchanting to you and how does Quest Master try to capture that enchantment?

As described earlier, I’m like the biggest Zelda fan, which I’m sure shows. My gripe with many Zelda-likes on the market is that none perfectly capture the feel of the classic entries… there’s always something missing.

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I confidently believe that Quest Master differs from that greatly. We are trying to make Quest Master feel like an in-house 2D Zelda like Nintendo used to make, just from an indie team like ours. Many people crave the classic 2D entries, just like I do.

What emotions do you hope the player will experience while playing Quest Master? What design choices were made to assist in that desired atmosphere?

A big aspect of Quest Master is its local multiplayer. The game is deliberately designed to work flawlessly with that, and makers can create specialized puzzles in the game that require all players to work together for example. The result is both rewarding, funny, and sometimes infuriating altogether, for example when one of your buddies throws you into a hole.

As a community dungeon maker, what features are you most excited to see implemented in player-made dungeon crawls?

I’ve already been hugely amazed by the creations of the existing Quest Master demo. With all the new features the game will launch into Early Access with, I bet this will be tenfold. I myself always enjoy the brain busting puzzles people come up with. Other things I also like a lot are the unintended mechanics the players find, which dynamically emerge from the many, many gameplay systems working together.

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What’s it been like working with Apogee, an indie publisher who goes back to the early 1990’s and has a long legacy of terrific game releases?

I’ve only had very few interactions with game publishers in the past, and Quest Master is my first large scale commercial game project. There’s preconceived notions floating around everywhere on the internet about how evil game publishers are and how much better you would be off self-publishing your game. Contrary to that, working with Apogee has been nothing short of supportive and family-like. They are very invested in the project, and they have many Zelda fans on the team also helps a lot. They are supercharging the potential of Quest Master and without them the game would not be where it is today.

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Quest Master or other upcoming projects?

Early Access is just the beginning! Quest Master will be hugely expanded upon during its Early Access phase, with many more themes, dungeon parts and entire new gameplay features coming in short intervals and a rapid update schedule. There are always new things around the corner. For example, things like the singleplayer story campaign and the overworld maker will be most likely not be part of the initial Early Access release, but we will make sure to build anticipation by introducing bits and pieces into the world of Quest Master to build up to that.

I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!

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Interviews

An interview with creator of Kaidankai, Linda Gould

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I was fortunate enough to interview Linda Gould about her beautifully eerie podcast, Kaidankai. I hope that you all enjoy getting to know her and her creepy work as much as I did.

Your recent collection is called Unpleasantville, a collection of stories from a singularly creepy town. What inspired this project?

Linda Gould

One of the only poems I related to when in high school was Spoon River Anthology (SPA). For those who don’t know it, SPA, it is a collection of poems about life in a small town as told by the ghosts of the residents in that town. The poems were based on real people, and the anthology burst the bubble on the idea that country life was idyllic. I loved its irreverence and was captivated by the idea that ghost stories, which I always loved, could be literary, taught in high school AP English classes! For the Kaidankai, I asked listeners and contributors to pick their favorite poem and read it for me. Then, I did a special presentation of their readings for the podcast. Many people had never heard of SPA and were so happy to find it. So many people, way more than I expected, sent in their readings, and they were just awesome. 
That made me wonder what a modern version would look like. Since the Kaidankai audience and contributors are all around the world, I couldn’t pick one place without excluding someone, so I made up a name and a few landmarks that anyone, anywhere could relate to and sent it out to see what would happen. 

Unpleasantville is a shared world, with many writers telling their own stories. What was it like, working with so many writers in this shared space?

Well, that describes the Kaidankai podcast in general. People from Asian countries, Australia, North America and throughout Europe contribute. Sometimes, before I reject a story, I have to read it a couple of times to make sure that it isn’t just a different storytelling technique that I don’t understand or relate to. I force myself to explain to myself why a story isn’t a good fit. I’m not sure that I would take that approach if all the stories came from Western writers.

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Of course, Unpleasantville is only part of your overall show, Kaidankai. What can you tell us about the show? Where did the name, Kaidankai, come from? 

First, I have to tell you how much I love this podcast. The podcast started August 1st 2021 and was initially going to last only for 100 days in order to tell 100 stories. I live in Japan and in the last several centuries, people would go on pilgrimages to famous shrines during the month of August. Pilgrims from all over Japan would meet, and to pass the time, they would tell ghost stories, just like we do in the west around campfires. In Japan, they lit candles, 100, and as each ghost story was told, a candle was blown out. So, as the night progressed, as the candles were blown out one-by-one, it got darker and the stories became scarier. Imagine being in a deep forest or at a pilgrims inn inside a deep, dark forest. Imagine all the creaks, howls, screeches and mysterious sounds that surround you as the candles become fewer and fewer and how those sounds get closer and closer. It raises the hair on the back of your neck and gives you chills. And THAT was the purpose of kaidankai–to cool people off during Japan’s crazy hot and humid summers while entertaining people at the same time. 

That is the basic outline of the Japanese storytelling tradition called kaidankai. Some might have heard of it as hyakumonogatarikaidankai because I think there was an anime made around it. A lot of the Japanese scary woodblock prints come from the stories told at that time, and the tradition of telling ghost stories in August holds true to this day, although in a different iteration. And the podcast was meant to be just another iteration of that. I was going to upload one podcast a day for 100 days, then start deleting them one-by-one after about a month. BUT, when it was supposed to end, people wrote me and said how much they would miss it, that they didn’t want it to end. So, I changed it to a weekly podcast. A few people asked to have their stories removed as originally planned, but most are still in the archives.

Most of your episodes are quite short, averaging from eight to twenty episodes. Was it an intentional choice to focus on such short form horror, or just a coincidence? 

A little of both. Some people have sent in longer stories and, if I like them, I’ll read them on the podcast. But, I really wanted to stick with the short story format because I wanted to keep the feeling of people just sitting around a campfire or in a candlelit room telling their ghost stories. If anyone talks too long at a campfire, people get restless and tune out. And, I think if people are listening in the car or while cooking dinner, they want something that they can complete.

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Your podcast has over 150 episodes. This is an impressive amount of spooky work. What can you tell us about creating that many episodes? 

Well, like anything, the more you do it, the better it gets, lol. If you listen to the early episodes, they are definitely not as good as the later ones, mainly because the mic got a lot better. My readings have also improved, because a few of the earlier episodes had a professional reader, Michael Rhys, so I could learn from listening to him. Other people have read some of the stories, too (not just the Spoon River Anthology project) and it is really nice to have a diversity of voices, I think, but others have told me not to have different readers because the sound quality varies and it dilutes the branding of the show. I’m not really sure what to think of that. I mean, definitely, the sound quality varies, but unless the sound is just awful, in which case I wouldn’t upload it, I like the authenticity of it. 
It’s a surprising amount of work, especially at first. You need to research the best way to do an intro and outdo (I didn’t), the best equipment to make quality sound (I didn’t) and how to promote it (I didn’t). I’m amazed when I look at how I just barreled into this with very little planning that people kept listening. But that attests to the need to have good stories, which is the most important thing. 

Many horror podcasts drop off soon after creation. What’s helped you keep at this so long? I’ve been so lucky that writers from around the world have trusted me with their work. I can’t accept all the submissions, but I do read them all (like I said, sometimes more than once). At several times during the podcast, I’ve mentioned how much I love the diversity found in the stories featured on the Kaidankai, and that is 100% true. I love that there are ghost and vampire and monster stories, that some are cute and some or gruesome, that they include folktales and horror from around the world, and that they are presented as poems and prose. You never know what you will get when you tune into the Kaidankai, just like you don’t know what you will get when you sit around a campfire telling stories. For some people, maybe they don’t like that one day will be horror and the next day an atmospheric poem about a haunted forest. But I do, and the Kaidankai seems to be filling a niche for others, too. So, as long as people want to share their stories and listeners for those stories, I plan to keep it going.

After your Unpleasantville collection, what’s next for Kaidankai? 

My dream is to have artists listen to a story and feel inspired to create something based on that story. I’m working on a YouTube channel right now that would feature a few of my favorite stories from the archive. I hope to have it up in time for October and Halloween. It might have to have the logo run through the whole reading like most YouTube videos have, but my dream would be to have an artwork of some sort  as the visual element that relates to a particular story instead of the general logo. There are so many amazing artists in the horror/ghost/supernatural genre, just like there are so many writers. It would be great to be able to showcase a visual element to the stories, too.

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Aside from your podcast, are there any other projects you’re working on? 

There is White Enso, which is an online journal that features artwork of any kind that is inspired by Japan. WE’ve had quilts, poetry, photography, short stories, etc. And I’m always trying to write and finish my collection of short stories. I call myself an on-again-off-again writer because I’ll work so intensely for a few months on my writing, then will get involved in something else and not write a word for a year.

Is there anything you wish I would have asked you about, that I didn’t think to?

If there is one thing I would want people to come away with when they listen to the podcast it is the universal appeal of ghost and supernatural stories. People from all over the world write such stories, and there are similarities as well as differences in how they are told. People who have a poetic mind can write the most beautiful, atmospheric stories about ghosts or monsters, and on the other end of the spectrum is someone who writes slasher stories. But there is something in all of us that embraces the mysterious, and when you tune in to listen to the Kaidankai stories, they aren’t really going to scare you, they aren’t for the most part, horror, but they will entertain you and remind you that the mysterious can connect us no matter where we are in the world.

Where can we find you online? 

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This link will take you to the stories, the podcast links and how to submit.

https://www.whiteenso.com/kaidankai-ghost-stories.html

(If you liked this post, you can check out another interview I did here.)

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Interviews

A Haunted MTL exclusive interview with Andy Thierfelder, creator of Tapes From Beyond

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Author and voice actor Andy Thierfelder sat down with me to answer some questions about his audio drama, Tapes From Beyond.

To read my review of Tapes From Beyond, click here.

So, where did the name, tapes from beyond come from?

It’s kind of funny, I don’t love the name for the show, but in the storyline Lena would be the one coming up with the name and she would have wanted something recognizable, spooky sounding, and with the word Tapes in it so people kind of knew what they were getting into. 

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How did you cast Jac and Lena? 

The actress who plays Lena is my wife, and the actress who plays Jac is a friend of mine. I am pretty lucky that I have a large group of talented and nerdy friends who are into theater and LARPing (myself included), so I have never been short on actors for my various projects.

The story of poor Jac and her family was tragic. How do you think they’re doing after all of this? 

Yeah there have been some rough times in the Fedik household, but I think by the end of the series they’re in a better place than they have been in a very long time. Nothing can erase the tragedies they’ve experienced but their constant source of misery (The Tapes) has finally been resolved, allowing them to start the healing process in earnest. 

What made you decide to make this story into a podcast, instead of a book or other medium?

Funny enough this story was inspired by the Silent Hill video game series. I never thought of it as a game, but as a lover of the series I always wondered what story I would tell in that universe. The story grew into its own thing from there but the idea of someone getting spooky tapes in the mail was always part of it. With the tapes being such an integral part of it, it naturally led me to a podcast/audio drama.

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I loved that the tapes were out of order. It made me feel a bit like a conspiracy theorist. What inspired that?

Thanks! There were a couple things that went into that decision. Firstly I thought thematically it made sense, there is a great deal of mystery behind the tapes and their arrival and this just added another layer to that. Secondly I always wanted the story to be interactive with the audience to a degree. The Trapped Man’s story was set in stone, but how much Jac and Lena discovered was very much left up in the air. It was important to me that there was a mystery for the audience to solve and finding the order of the tapes seemed like a fun one for them to do! 

Tapes brings up an issue that I’ve struggled with, both as a true crime fan and podcaster myself. True crime and supernatural stories are often the stories of real people. What do you think of the morality of this? Do you think that it’s an invasion of privacy against people who have already suffered? Or do you think it’s part of our sympathetic nature as humans and shows our level of compassion for our fellow man?

That’s a hard question indeed. As with all things in life I think there are a lot of shades of gray to the issue and it’s mostly on a case by case basis. There’s something to be said about how their stories can act as a cautionary tale, but on the other hand I think if I knew the subject or the subjects next of kin were uncomfortable with the story being out there I would have a hard time watching/listening to it. I think it puts a lot more pressure on the content creators to make sure they are handling the subject matter delicately and with the proper care and respect it deserves. 

As a follow to that, was this a question that we as readers were supposed to be asking ourselves?

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In a roundabout way yes. I wanted people to think about how trauma permeates beyond the survivor who experienced it. I wanted to show how these tapes affected far more than just Jac, and how even though she hadn’t gotten one in a while, they were still opening new wounds for her and her family. I didn’t set out to specifically commentate on the morality of true crime storytelling, but I did want people to think about how a single traumatic experience often causes a butterfly effect throughout a person’s entire life as well as the lives of their friends and families. 

Tapes from beyond cover

Did you get a lot of real fan feedback with theories? Was any of the fan feedback in the show real?

All of the fan feedback was real. Some of it came from friends of mine who would ask me legitimate questions about the show but most of it was from strangers and none of it was planted. I was prepared to end the series with Tape J, but thankfully people solved enough of the mysteries in the show to trigger the final few episodes! There was a while there after Tape J when I was nervous that people weren’t going to solve the mystery of the order of the tapes, or the mystery about the movie the Trapped Man mentioned and I almost had a friend of mine make a fake review video of the series to drum up interest, but then I discovered fans had created a discord channel to try and solve the show and I figured at that point it was only a matter of time. In general I was floored by the fan response to the show, someone in a Russian speaking country actually did make an hour and thirty nine minute review video of it…although they hated the ending. 

What do you think the town is? Is it sentient, or do you think it’s a Bermuda Triangle sort of situation?

I think it’s best left for the listener to decide, but of the different theories discussed in the show Jac’s Mom’s theory in Tape K is my favorite.

While listening to this show, it occurred to me that we don’t know for sure that Jac ever came back from the town. All of her interactions with the fans afterward were second-hand, either from her father or her co-host, Lena. Are we to suspect that maybe Jac isn’t as okay as we might like to believe?

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No, Jac made it back safe and sound. That was an unfortunate happenstance of the actress who plays her not being available to record that final episode. I went back and forth for a while about the best way to end it without her involvement. I don’t mind entirely that it leaves people with a little bit of a lingering question but that was not my intention. There is enough ambiguity throughout the whole series that I wanted this question to be firmly answered haha. 

What have you been working on since the release of Tapes? Can we expect a follow-up?

I’ve been working on my next feature length screenplay and I’ve been hard at work on my next audio drama! It will not be related to Tapes From Beyond but it is also a found footage horror story. In the way that Tapes From Beyond is a love song to Silent Hill, my next project is a love song to one of my other favorite horror settings, the TTRPG universe of Vampire: The Masquerade. I have lofty ambitions of releasing the first episode by Halloween but it might end up being a little later than that.

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