Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Audio File: The Moonlit Road

Guest post by Sam McDonald.
I'm still doing some research into Beneath Ceaseless Skies and it appears that Tales of Old has officially blinked out. What that means is that I've had to shuffle some things around with my scheduling. As such, in this edition of The Audio File we'll be talking about The Moonlit Road. First and foremost, we need to cover some background.

Named after the Ambrose Bierce short story of the same name, The Moonlit Road has been going since 1997 and bringing some of the best ghost stories and folk tales from across the American South. It is produced in Stone Mountain, Georgia and is headed by Craig Dominey. Since many of these stories are based on folklore and urban legends chances are that you may have encountered them in one form or another at some point, but that certainly does not take away from how chilling and entertaining they can be. It certainly helps that The Moonlit Road features a wide variety of narrators who know how to bring these stories to life. It’s not about the basic plot, but rather, how well you tell the story that matters. The end of the stories often include links to their history and inspirations.

Those of you who follow the version of The Audio File that I run over at Amazing Stories, as well as my Amazing Stories postings in general, ought to remember the post I did for Halloween that also featured The Moonlit Road. You can read more about how much I love The Moonlit Road over there. I actually got the inspiration for this article when I was writing that other article. Also, there's a special surprise towards the end of this post, but you'll have to read on to find out what it is. Finally, don't be shy about dropping a donation so that The Moonlit Road can keep bringing quality stories like these (especially in audio form) and doesn't go the way of podcasts like Tales of Old.

For now, however, let's take a walk down The Moonlit Road...

Sop Doll by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Jim McAmis

This story is set in Mississippi during the Great Depression. It follows an adventurous man named Jack who comes to Abel, Mississippi in search of some temporary work. He soon come to suspect, however, that his new employer's wife might secretly be a witch.

You don't really see that many stories set in the American South during the Great Depression, so this was a nice change of pace. I should probably add at this point that due to the short and uncomplicated nature of these stories, my reviews will likewise be on the shorter side. I thought that Jim did a great job with the narration. Also, if you're wondering what a Sop Doll is...you might be disappointed because we never really get an explanation.

On the whole, however, a very good story that's well worth your time.

Green Eyes by Craig Dominey
Narrated by John Gentile

This story follows a young man from Tennessee driving to see his girlfriend in Georgia. He decided to take a shortcut through the historic Chickamauga Battlefield. Along the way he encounters a creature with piercing green eyes that grants him a vision of the infamous battle.

The Civil War was a major turning point for the United States. It was the first industrialized war and it killed about two percent of the overall population. Even today we still feel the influence of its echoes. This story did a really great job of capturing the emotional impact of the war. Also, apparently the green eyed monster in the story is based on actual sightings that have occurred at Chickamauga. Personally, I don't put much stock in such stories, but there you go.

I do, however, find that John's narration was spot on. A haunting tale about the echoes of history that I happily recommend.

The Sausage Ghost by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Kodac Harrison

This story is set in 19th century New Orleans and follows a German couple who run a sausage shop. After their marriage begins to fall apart the husband murders his wife and grinds her up into sausages, but how long will he get away with it?

This story is based off of a sensational crime that may have actually happened, minus the supernatural bits. To me that almost makes it a tad more horrifying. Most of us don't really think too much about where our food comes from, or what might be lurking inside it. On the other hand, similar stories have popped up in folklore before, so maybe it didn't happen. If nothing else this story might put you off of sausage for a while. I did enjoy that the story featured an immigrant couple; after all, New Orleans is a very cosmopolitan city with a long history of welcoming immigrants from throughout the world.

One thing that's sure not to leave a bad taste in your mouth is Kodac's narration. Another morsel of a story that I recommend.

A Beloved Teacher by Craig Dominey and Curtis Richardson
Narrated by Curtis Richardson

This story is set in the 19th century and follows a schoolteacher from Ohio who moves to Georgia to tutor a wealthy plantation owner's children. Along the way she befriends a slave boy named Joshua. There's a bit more to it than just that, but I can't tell you without giving the story away.

Well this story is really sad, heartwarming and touching. It was also adapted into a short film by the students of Dodge County High School in Eastman, Georgia. It is an excellent little film and you can find it at the bottom of this story's page on The Moonlit Road's website. Curtis did a good job capturing the emotions of this story.

It's a touching story that you won't want to miss out on.

The Slave Girl of Myrtles Plantation by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Veronica Byrd

This story is actually based on something that really happened, though the supernatural bits are up for debate. It tells of a slave girl named Chloe who tried to temporarily poison her master's family in revenge for chopping her ear off. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned. Some even believe that their unhappy spirits still haunt the old plantation.

Like I said, this story is based on actual event and you can visit the plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana if you're so inclined. If you want my advice, however, you really ought to go for the history rather than for the haunts. If nothing else this was an interesting little ghost story, even if you ought to take it with a few gains of salt. Considering the harshness of slave life, I can't say I blame Chloe for what she did. Veronica Byrd is, without competition, my favorite narrator from The Moonlit Road. She always knows how to bring the stories to life.

A historical haunt that, all things considered, I'll give a recommendation.

One More Room by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Jim McAmis

This story follows a Hollywood location scout named Jack who has come to Atlanta. While looking for a location for an upcoming film set in the 1940s he comes across the Hotel Scofield. Soon, Jack finds himself transported back in time to 1946, but is it all as innocent as it seems?

This story is a variation on the burned building legend. That's the one where the protagonist goes to a building, has a good time, but then returns only to learn that the building actually burned down long ago. Like I said before, it's not how many times the legend has been told, but rather, how you tell it. In this case, the story manages to provide a fresh take on a familiar tale. It it very much helped by Jim's great narration.

A new twist on a familiar tale and one you won't want to miss.

Lorenzo's Curse by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Lanny Gilbert

This story is set in the 19th century and follows a traveling preacher from Connecticut who brings a curse to a small Georgia town. Not much of a summary, but it is on the shorter side.

I found this story had a bit of unintentional humorous irony. We've got a firebrand preacher from New England whose message gets scoffed at by the residents of a small town in the Deep South. Quite the opposite of what you might expect these days. I guess it just goes to show the shift of social mores and attitudes in America. I thought Lanny really captured the feel of a traveling minister with his narration.

Another story that I readily recommend to you.

Hell Hole by Craig Dominey
Narrated by John Gentile

This story follows a Civil War relic hunter from Virginia who has come to New Hope, Georgia. The town is home to a major battlefield from Sherman's March to the Sea, and that should mean plenty of quality artifacts. Let's just say he gets far more than he bargained for.

Yes, this one is similar to Green Eyes, but it really stands on its own merits. Once again, John does an excellent job with the narration. Civil War battlefields and sites dot the South. The war and its impacts have long colored how Southerners approach the world. The shadow of history looms large, and even today Southerners struggle with reconciling that history. Just a little something to muse on.

Another great Civil War themed story that I happily recommend.

Ibo Landing by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Evelyn McCray.

This story follows Oba, the chief of a village of Ibo people. Life is good as Oba and his people receive guidance from their spirits. Then one day the village is captured by slave traders. Can Oba find a way to lead his people to freedom in the strange land of America?

Believe it or not this story is based on a slave uprising that actually happened, though certain details are still debated. The central message to this story is that you must persevere and stay strong even when times are tough. Evelyn not only did an excellent job narrating the story, but she also did a really great job singing an old slave spiritual towards the end.

It's a story about trials and defiance, and one you won't want to miss.

The Maco Light by Jim McAmis and Craig Dominey
Narrated by Jim McAmis

This story tells of a 19th century conductor named Joe Baldwin. It is said that he still haunts the rails of where he was tragically killed in a train accident in the town of Maco, North Carolina.

This story dates back to 1867 and is so famous that it was once featured in Life. Yeah, it's another haunting that's claimed to be true, but if nothing else it makes for a pretty good historical ghost story. The audio version of this story was produced as part of a live production for Spoken Word, a radio program in Atlanta, Georgia. Live shows are always a bit hit and miss, but I thought that Jim, and all the narrators for that matter, did a really great job. I liked how they incorporate sound effects just like in a normal Moonlit Road Production.

Another story of a historical haunting that I recommend to you.

The Hall of Wonders by Thomas E. Fuller
Narrated by Thomas E. Fuller

This story takes place in 1867 in Charleston, South Carolina. An apothecary from the North named Dr. Rembrandt Cavanagh has arrived in Charleston to make a quick buck. One day he unveils his latest scheme: a public aquarium. Dr. Cavanagh has captured a mermaid as the aquarium's star attraction, but what are the consequences of his actions?

This was another of the stories that was featured as part of the special Spoken Word episode. It's a fun little creature feature that I think everyone, especially lovers of zoos and aquariums, such as myself, will enjoy. Thomas Fuller was another of those really top notch narrators from The Moonlit Road. I say "was" because he passed away in 2002. He was a beloved narrator who will be dearly missed. Still, let's not feel sad, but take joy in honoring the legacy of stories, such as this one, that he left us with.

It's a fun little creature feature that I very gladly recommend to you.

No Greater Love by Craig Dominey
Narrated by Jim McAmis

This story is set in Kentucky in 1935. It follows a miner named Henry Jacobs who has been trying to deal with his drinking problem. One day he gets lost in the mine while trying to sneak off to buy whiskey, but a gentle white light helps guide him home.

Doesn't sound like much, I know, but I wouldn't want to give the story away. This is another really touching and somewhat heartwarming story. If there's a message to this story it's that forgiveness and love can come even when you least expect them. Once again Jim handled the narration quite well. Not much more to add here.

A story about love and coal mines and one which I recommend.

Irwin Tarheel and the Fair Folk by Sam McDonald
Narration TBA

We'll end the list with a story that hasn't yet had an audio adaptation, but I feel it deserves a spot on the list. In 1840s Shreveport, Louisiana there lives a misfit named Irwin Tarheel. He's never really fit in, but one day when he's out fishing he encounters some fair folks who change his life forever.

Out of all the stories on The Moonlit Road this is my absolute favorite...mostly because I'm the one who wrote it. I can't really review this one objectively, but I can let you in on my thought process. I'd wanted to write a story for The Moonlit Road for a while, so I reviewed some folktales and legends. I noticed how the Japanese legend of Urushima Taro had several parallels to the stories involving the Fair Folk, so I decided adapt it to an American Southern setting. Plus, I'd been wanting to write a story about fairies that were closer to the original mythological versions for a while. Considering that I got published, I'd say it work out pretty well, and I figured it was a pretty good note to end the list and year on.

Do I really need to recommend this one?

Conclusion

Well we've reached the end of the list once again. This will be my last posting of The Audio File on this blog for 2015. What can I say, it's been a fun year. If 2014 was the Year of the Map then I hope that I helped make this the Year of the Podcast. I look back at all of the articles I wrote for this year, and all of the great podcasts I introduced to you guys, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Oh, but we're not done just yet. We've still got a few more podcasts to cover, but that's something for next year. Maybe I'll even have a few more stories published that I can share with you guys.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who help make The Audio File possible. I'd like to thank Matt Mitrovich for hosting the column here on The Update. I'd like to thank all of the hardworking authors for writing the amazing stories I've been able to share. I'd like to thanks all of the equally hardworking editors, narrators and producers who make these audio fiction podcasts possible. Finally, I'd like to thank you, the readers, because your support and readership really lets me know I'm doing something good with this column.

2015 has been one amazing ride, and I can't wait to see what 2016 holds. Cheers and Happy Holidays to all and to all happy listening! I'll see you all next year.

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Sam McDonald is a college student from Shreveport, LA.  When not involved with his studies he can be found blogging on Amazing Stories, making and posting maps across the web and working on short stories that he hopes to have published in magazines such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and the Escape Artists Podcasts.

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