Writer Julie Chiron recently read Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization and had some questions for the author, Jonathan Raab. Their conversation, like the conspiratorial threads of the book’s narrative, stretched into sprawling, high-strange territory…
When we spoke earlier, you mentioned kayfabe, a term that stems from professional wrestling. What are you willing to reveal about how much kayfabe constitutes your latest work?
The book’s been out for a while now, so I’m willing to break kayfabe. It was fun to present the book as an “official novelization,” and act like the film series is real. I don’t think many readers fell for it, but a few people online saw the marketing and asked about the film series.The novel has some auto-biographical sections about the writing of the book. I’ll let the readers guess what parts are real and what parts aren’t. That’s part of the fun.
Is Ben Holesapple a real person?
Ben is a real person (or a person played by a Deep State actor that I have met before), and very interested in all the subjects in the book. He recruited me for an anthology, Turn to Ash Volume 2: Open Lines, a few years back after reading my second novel. I ended up writing his character Chuck Leek, a late-night conspiracy theory call-in show host (see a pattern developing?) as he took “calls” (the calls being the stories submitted by the other authors) on one fateful night.
Is Lucas Gabriel a real person, and if not, is that story based on anything?
He is based on real-life alien abductees. His story is a prototypical abduction account, heavily influenced by Whitley Strieber’s Communion and The Travis Walton Experience (Fire in the Sky) by Walton himself.
Did you become a Christian as an adult? What prompted the conversion and how did you justify that with being a horror novelist?
I did convert from agnosticism in college, but I wasn’t exactly a “good Christian” by any traditional measurement. I returned to my Catholic faith but eventually left the church because of theological and social issues (the ongoing child abuse scandals). After a years-long immersion in Reformed theology I’m back to the drawing board and without a church home.
I know it sounds like a liberal cop-out, but if you’re not on a spiritual journey in trying to seek the truth of God–if you’re rigid in your beliefs and not open to the absolutely bizarre and seemingly contradictory mysteries of the biblical accounts–I’m not sure you’re paying attention. Tension, discomfort, and bafflement are part and parcel to faith. Genesis 32:24 and all that.
I’ve told other Christians that horror is the most Christian of the genres, in that it acknowledges evil (particularly supernatural evil) in a way that other modes often do not. Most of my work has a strong spiritual component–usually broken people seeking spiritual fulfillment in all the wrong places. This is an explicit theme in Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI, as the puppet masters in both the narrative and those implied in the behind-the-scenes segments worship that most insidious of idols–power, and America itself.
Depicting evil and demon worship doesn’t mean I endorse it. Quite the opposite. The Bible is a pretty lurid read, after all.
How did the idea for this story evolve? Did it start as straight-up horror fiction and take a left turn at Roswell? And how did the concept of artifacts enter and influence your narrative?
I was watching one of the Friday the 13th films (Part V, which is a film I initially disliked but have grown to love) when I realized I wanted to write a slasher, but the form and deconstruction of the form had been done to death. So I landed on the idea of an adaptation of a movie that doesn’t exist, complete with the behind-the-scenes history and some autobiographical paranoid ramblings. I’m surprised no one had done it before, although meta-novels like Stephen Graham Jones’ Demon Theory paved the way. Most of my writing contains “high strange” elements, as I find real-life mythology endlessly fascinating. A slasher/secret society/UFO/metafiction mash up felt pretty natural. Ben and I have an affinity for behind-the-scenes trivia and ephemera, so getting some “artifacts” created for the book was a no-brainer.
How typical is it for horror fiction to be so specifically rooted in an actual place (like Evergreen CO)? Are there any special challenges in doing that?
My stories are frequently set in either upstate New York (where I grew up) or Colorado, so it’s natural that I bring those places into my horror fiction. I actually haven’t spent a lot of time in Evergreen, but it’s local to me and seemed like as good a place as any to set the “real-life” scenes. I think it’s pretty common to write what you know.
Slasher movies are kind of low-brow in the genre, what redeems them for you? Why the love letter?
My love for the subgenre stems from my view of them as a kid and young teenager: they were horror in the 1980s and 1990s. Freddy, Michael, Jason–those guys replaced the Universal/Hammer pantheon of the classic gothic monsters. Sure, the majority of slasher movies are trash, but sometimes they are fun trash (the Friday the 13th films), and many are legitimately great works of art (Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Stage Fright, House by the Cemetery, Opera, etc.). Slashers are often primal in their depiction of the young in peril, and reflect the subconscious anxieties of a society that views teenagers and young people as both dangerous and disposable in economic and military contexts.
The line “Lights above become the lights below”–where does that come from? Sounds familiar.
That’s a reference to the occult phrase “As above, so below,” or the Christian phrase “On earth, as it is in heaven.” It usually means you have a spiritual view of the world, or that you’re doing the will of a higher power.
You make reference to the Hart Research Library, which is at the History Colorado museum. Can you really find UFO-related material there?
I was working at the Colorado State Historical Society (History Colorado) when I was writing the novel, so it was fun to reference the library. The librarian in that scene is based on a friend who gets really excited about bizarre and off-kilter research requests, especially of the more grisly variety. As far as I know, the real library doesn’t have any material on UFOs, but it might, considering this state’s history of sightings and cattle mutilations. When I was working in historic preservation, I advocated for getting the site of the Snippy/Lady the horse mutilation listed in the State Register of Historic Properties, but leadership wasn’t too receptive to the idea, I’m afraid.
Have you heard about “Contact in the Desert” in May in Joshua Tree? (I’ve had some interesting experiences practicing Greer’s CE5 protocol BTW.)
I have, but I tend to be extremely skeptical about Greer and his work. He orients contact with ET around himself and his for-sale program. If anything, I endorse Monty Blackwood’s warnings against making contact with the divine space brothers, which he (and I) suspect are anything but. Messengers of Deception by Jacques Vallee outlines the dangers posed by UFO cults and their prophets, and was a huge influence on Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject of contact and spirituality. Be careful out there.
Has anyone approached you for the rights to make Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI? Who would you want to play Penny and Rhonda?
I think we need to sell a few more copies before that kind of offer materializes! To be honest, I consider the novel unfilmable. Someone with a lot of passion and imagination would have to adapt it, especially considering that there’s three narratives coiled together in the book. The cast would have to be young, but with a lot of emotional depth and maturity that belies their stock-character first impressions.
One of your main characters, Monty Blackwood, has a wild arc from filmmaker to drug-addled guru. Who were your inspirations for his character and why?
Blackwood is a stand-in for the frustrated, underappreciated filmmakers of the era like John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. A lot of films that we consider classics from the 80s (like John Carpenter’s The Thing) were widely panned and performed poorly at the box office, only to reemerge on cable on home video rental racks as late-blooming successes with cult appeal, just like the fictional Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI.
Blackwood is more overtly political than most horror film directors of the period, and he morphs into a conspiracy theory lightning rod. That phase of his life drew on real-life 90s-era law enforcement/cult violence, particularly the FBI’s murderous raid at Waco and the ATF’s entrapment-turned-siege of the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge.
Blackwood’s final years are very much inspired by William Cooper, the author of the hugely influential Behold a Pale Horse, which was the defining conspiracy theory book of the early 90s, without which we wouldn’t have shows like The X-Files. Cooper’s life ended tragically at the hands of overzealous law enforcement, but his own paranoia was what put him in that position to begin with. That Blackwood’s fate is tied to the drug war is just one more plank in the book’s anti-authoritarian themes.
Julie Chiron is a writer and editor living in Colorado. She grew up in the era of 1980s horror films and regularly imbibed. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Mother Jones and Outlaw Biker Tattoo Revue.
If you’re lucky enough to be attending Necronomicon 2019 (August 22-25 in Providence, RI), be sure to track down Jonathan Raab, author of Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization in the dealer’s room and grab a copy of CGMVI and all of the fine wares his Muzzleland Press has to offer.
If you can’t make the pilgrimage, pick up Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization HERE.