The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Reflecting on 2021

Hello, everyone!

My view of the Opening Night 2022 fireworks

Continuing on what I started last year by writing my end of the year reflection in the new year instead of the last day of the year. For New Year’s Eve, I was hired again by the Oklahoma City Arts Council to live-stream their Opening Night event, but this time around, I only broadcasted the last hour while I roamed around capturing b-roll and photos.

2021 was filled with exciting client projects. Starting with the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, I live-streamed their Twilight Concerts for them during the summer again. For Oklahoma Contemporary, I filmed several videos, including some big pieces on Ed Rusha. I worked again with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art recording a series of lectures and art tours. Ran around with deadCenter Film for their festival, new office opening, and Glitter Ball. I got to be part of the media team for the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute in Chickasha. I live-streamed the performances at the Asain Night Market Festival in the summer, which was so entertaining. Did a big concert video with Graham Colton in November.

I filmed a feature-length movie, About A Bear, with Namron Players Theatre. About A Bear is a mockumentary of stories and memories from the Norman community of the “bears” people have faced over the past 14 months during the pandemic. I also helped with their New Plays of 2021.

The client that kept the busiest was Exhale. The company plans to revolutionize lung rehabilitation with an online 12-week rehab program. I’ve been filming all of their educational, exercise, yoga, and promo videos, of which there are over 100! They plan to launch early this year. I’m super excited for them.

I think I covered all of my major client work in 2020 as I kept rather busy last year.

Before writing this post, I kept wondering why I didn’t do as much for myself, but when I looked at what I did for others, I feel great at what was accomplished!

Uncovering Oklahoma in 2021

I’m going to start with the biggest news: I was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for Media in the Arts by the Oklahoma Arts Council. I feel great appreciation for the recognization of my work throughout the years.

I knew 2021 was going to be a crazy year going forward, so I shifted focus on Uncovering Oklahoma to film monthly episodes with multiple places. In other words, I did the series more like a travel show. Although I did some individual stories too.

According to YouTube, my videos got 48,885 views in 2021 with a watch time of 2.2k hours, and 264 new subscribers. Here was the Top 10 most-watched videos in 2021.

10. Oklahoma State Fair Food 2019

9. Winchester Drive-In Theatre

8. Great Salt Plains State Park

7. Guthrie Ghosts

6. Press Waffle Co at The Collective

5. Wicked Forest of Terror

4. Magnetic Hill in Springer

3. A Day in Bartlesville

2. Black-Owned BBQ Restaurants

  1. Gathering Place

Tales Unveiled in 2021

For the fourth season of Tales Unveiled, Jeff and I kept the season short with five episodes. However, with a shorter season, we were able to produce our most interesting fictional narrative arc. Having Kristy Boone back was great.

As for the most listened-to episode at the end of the year, I’m Here at Flower Bluff Manor was the most popular. This was the episode where I captured a real EVP.

Minor Spoilers: The season ends with Geoff’s character disappearing. We do have some ideas for a possible fifth season, but there has been some talk that Jeff may be moving, so we do have an ending if that is the case.

The 16th Phoenix Universe in 2021

In 2020, I wrote a new short story pretty much every week while for 2021, I scaled back with longer stories, but once a month. For 2022, I’m going to keep up with the monthly stories. I’ve been enjoying building my fictional universe.

One of my most popular short stories was I’ll Never Walk Sutton Wilderness in the Dark Again, which was the first story where people asked if they could read the work aloud on their podcast or show.

I did continue work on my various books, including a collection of my short stories, which are in the process of being edited.

Top Songs of 2021

According to Spotify, which is how I mostly listen to music, this was my 2020 soundtrack. As always, keep in mind I will often put a song (or playlist) on repeat when writing or for inspiration sessions. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite song?

My most listened to songs in 2021 on Spotify

Plans for 2022

I’ve been going back and forth on what I want to share for plans for 2022, which has caused me to delay publishing this reflection. There are tons of content I want to create with the goal of building a studio venue. As a proof of concept, I worked with Janine De Guzman to get this vision for The Show Starts Now Studios out of my head.

Let me explain what’s going on in this scene. People are enjoying drinks on a rooftop pool-themed bar while watching a show on a massive drive-in movie theater screen. There are cars parked also watching the movie while people are entering the Earth-built studio to watch live productions. This is part of the entertainment experience I would love to create with The Show Starts Now Studios.

Getting to this goal is the question. I think I have a plan to get there. I’ve been putting all of these elements and pieces together, learning along the way. As of writing this post in January, the path involves creating an OTT service for all of my shows, movies, and documentaries. There’s more to the plan than having a monthly subscription streaming service, but I won’t go into those details. Though I will say I will be focused on adding adventure to people’s lives, so I won’t be directly competing against anyone and positioning myself as a niche add-on. As I’ve been soul-searching and figuring out my “glorious purpose,” everything needs an adventure.

Art & Victory and Yes! Science! will return. I’m going to give my art travel show, Colorful Escapes, another go. I got two other travel shows I’ve been talking to people about starting. I got educational content planned. There are card games (plural) in the works and so much more. I have some documentary films I’m putting together too.

I feel like such a weirdo/freak at times with all of the things I want to do and make, but this makes me happy. I just got to remember to pace myself and focus.

Thank you everyone for your support in the past year. I hope to continue to join me in my endeavors.

Happy Adventures!

You Have 3 Unread Prophecies - art by Janine De Guzman and Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle

“You Have 3 Unread Prophecies”

A morning news show host receives three tips on his phone about the future as he spends time with his sister.


Ever since our parents died, my sister and I made a point to take a weekend vacation around their wedding anniversary as our way of honoring them. We lived in separate states, living separate lives, so getting together once a year – just the two of us, no spouses – would’ve made our parents happy.

This year was my sister’s turn to pick a destination. She watched a travel video showcasing the moonshine, mountain gondolas, and food in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. When she suggested Gatlinburg, I was surprised as the city was nowhere near a beach like she favored, but after doing some research, I was excited to visit too.

Weekends were easy for me to take off but tricky for Sarah. My sister was the Operations Director for a lake resort while I was a co-host for a morning news show. Our parents’ anniversary was toward the end of March, which was a slow period for her work.

After breakfast at the hotel, we visited one of the local moonshine distilleries. We tried Friday night when we first arrived, but we didn’t have the patience to deal with the crowd. Plus, we’d figured we would have better luck in the morning. Gatlinburg’s walkability motivated us to leave our cars at the hotel. (Side tip: you should do the same as parking is hard to come by.)

The winter season still had a grip on the trees, but the skies were clear and sunny, although cold enough to warrant jackets for us as Sarah led us into Ole Smoky Moonshine. Marcus (I think that was his name) entertained us with jokes and samples of six different moonshines. I liked the sour lime while she favored the apple pie flavor. The pickle was…interesting. 

My phone buzzed as my sister stepped away to use the restroom. There was a notification that read, “You Have 3 Unread Prophecies.” I had no idea what app of mine would display such a message. I opened the notification, which brought up an app I didn’t own with a mail-like interface.

The first message said, “Bring cash for donuts.” I didn’t have any cash on me at the moment, but I remembered seeing an ATM outside the building.

“That’s a good tip,” I said as I swiped open the following prophecy.

“Go to Clingmans Dome when prompted.”

When I drove through the Smokey Mountains to get to Gatlinburg, I saw a sign for Clingmans Dome. I didn’t know anything about the place, but the name and location made me think this dome would be like an observation post. I was game to visit. I figured I could get some breathtaking photos.

The last message was the most crypt and eyebrow-raising one. “When you arrive, have your video camera ready, but be safe and don’t get caught.”

This is all so weird, I thought. I bet my sister sent these. She knows of my affection for donuts and exploring.

I tried to re-read the messages, but the app disappeared. 

My sister returned. “You ready for our next stop?”

“Sure,” I said. “Just let me hit up this ATM for some cash.”

“Good idea,” Sarah said with a straight face.

With cash now in my wallet, we strolled over to The Village, which had German architectural motifs in a cute, walkable shopping district. The place was like nothing I’d experienced before. Buildings weaved all over the place, not following any sort of grid pattern like a standard city block. Since there were no streets, delivery people hauled packages on handcarts, which I’m sure was also quite the workout for them. There were hardly any flat surfaces. I took picture after picture with my iPhone. 

Then as the prophecy foretold, we discovered the donut shop that only accepted cash. The warmth and smell of fresh donuts in the tiny cottage-like business brought a wide grin to my face. Using the money I pulled out, I paid for our treats. 

“Good thing I got some cash,” I said with a wink to my sister as we each enjoyed a chocolate long john.

“Yeah, good thing.” Her casual reply and straight face made me wonder if she did indeed send me those prophecies. She changed the subject. “What do you want to do after lunch, Lucas?”

I thought for a moment. From the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a woman with long, vibrant blue hair starring at me, but she turned away and around a building. I shrugged the watched feeling off. “Maybe we can drive around or go hiking.”

“How about Clingmans Dome?” my sister asked. “I saw a photo taken out there in the hotel lobby and thought you would like to take some pictures yourself.” 

I laughed.

Sarah crossed her arms. “What’s so funny?”

In my big brother teasing voice, I said, “Nothing.”

She repeated “nothing” in a mocking tone and then asked what I wanted for lunch. I told her anything, and she suggested we walk around some more and eat wherever caught out attention. We settled for a small burger joint, which I thought was okay. Every summer, we would do a special on creative burgers on our morning show, so I was spoiled. Technically, I’m spoiled on excellent food because of my job, but I appreciate all food, and I didn’t nitpick. My sister liked the place, and that was good for me.

Then as planned, or prophesied, we took my car and made the hour-long drive to Clingmans Dome. The information we found online warned that the road to Clingmans Dome may be closed for the season, but the gate was open for us. Despite being the weekend, the parking lot for the vantage point was empty. We chalked the lack of visitors as luck, or maybe this was the first day they opened for the season? We weren’t going to complain.

We didn’t get far into the hike when we saw a woman dressed like a spy with a long, black trench coat talking to a blue, reptilian alien creature. The alien had on this black leather outfit that made me think he needed extra warmth while also being ready to fight. I yanked my sister down, and we hid behind some rocks.

“What’s going on?” she whispered.

“You tell me,” I mocked, keeping my voice low as I pulled out my cellphone. “This was your plan for me to film this, huh?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I believed her. But who sent me those messages?

My phone had full cell service, which I thought was odd as I didn’t have any bars on the way up. I started a live stream on my Instagram. I positioned my phone like a periscope to watch without them seeing me. 

“This is an interesting location you picked.” The woman’s tone didn’t seem too enthusiastic about the location. She pulled in on her jacket.

The alien checked his surroundings. “I wanted to make sure we would be alone.”

“Of course,” said the woman. “I understand.”

The alien brought up the briefcase to his chest. “See, I don’t think you do understand. My sources told me that some other people who tried to sell to your group are never heard from again.”

The woman scoffed. “Don’t believe in rumors. Do you have the artifact?”

“My price has doubled.”

“Don’t be obscene. Give me the item at our original price.” The woman snapped her fingers, signaling the alien to bring over the briefcase.

“And cut!” I about dropped my phone from the sharp, booming voice. The voice seemed to startle the people, too, because they both jumped. A woman with a long, flowing red scarf marched from around the corner and straight toward the two people. “I think we’re done here.”

I looked around for any other film crew, but I only saw the director. My only explanation was that they were on wireless mics, and this was a drone shot, so everyone was out of sight. At least, that’s how my brain processed their setup at first. 

A fire truck honked its horn as they pulled up behind us. 

The woman with the alien held up both hands like she was trouble. “Director Lux. This isn’t what you think-”

The director turned and looked at us. “Hey, how did you two get on this set?”

I stepped forward and sort of explained. “The front gate was open.”

“That gate should’ve been locked. Now, get out of here,” the director ordered. “I better not see any footage online.”

“Right, sorry.” My sister had a good laugh at the situation. I turned off the live stream and deleted the clip.

The firetruck pulled in front of us, blocking the path. People dressed in uniforms like no other firefighter I had ever seen got out from the vehicle. I shrugged them off as actors. Before we returned to my car, Sarah said she needed to use the restroom. Luckily, there was an outhouse next to us in the parking lot. 

I listened to the film crew on the other side as I waited.

I heard the alien character complain. “I should’ve known you would’ve double-crossed me.”

“I’m in cuffs too,” the spy snapped back. “Hey, how did you find us anyway?”

“Lucas was live-streaming you, idiots,” the director said. “Our V.I. monitor caught the feed and dispatched us. You got a lot of explaining to do.”

The spy grumbled something I didn’t understand, but I understood when she said, “I bet he got a text message disguised as a prophecy.”


You Have 3 Unread Prophecies - art by Janine De Guzman and Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle

In the fall, my wife and I, along with my parents and sister, visited Gatlinburg. We didn’t even spend a full day there, but we knew we all had to come back (during a warmer month). I used the location as inspiration for the third unread prophecy stories, which are connected by the end-timer, Veritas, working to anonymously expose the illegal activities of a rouge fraction of Unity.

Thanks to Janine De Guzman and Mikey Marchan for bringing the scene at The Village to life. Thank you for reading my December short story. I got another one coming for January. Been busy with the holidays, client work, and sickness last month. 

Happy Adventures!

Real Spells for a Fake Witch - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

Real Spells for a Fake Witch

A mysterious man offers a woman dressed as a witch a device that allows her to cast real spells on Halloween. 


“Hey, Witch.”

Jill spun around with the box of wines wine she held, about to punch some guy for calling her a nasty name, but lowered her fist when the gentleman in a white suit and pink ascents continued. “I love your costume.”

“Oh, thanks,” Jill replied, her face flushed red in embarrassment from the misunderstanding. She was outside the liquor store, about to get her car after picking up some last-minute alcohol for her and her husband’s Halloween party tonight. She was dressed as a witch – decked out with a pointy purple hat, black corset, ripped leggings, and red heels for the occasion.

“It’s missing an accessory,” the man commented as he looked her over.

Jill clenched her tongue, bracing for whatever line he would give.

The man shook a finger at the sky when he realized his answer. “Real spells.”

Jill tilted her head back in unexpected confusion. “Real spells?”

“Or, more specifically, the ability to cast real spells,” he elaborated in a manner of an eccentric billionaire. 

The man in the white suit reached behind himself and impossibly pulled forward a green metal chest the size of a watermelon. Before Jill could respond, the man opened the case, revealing a glowing green fog surrounding a crystal ball. 

“Trade me one of your bottles of wine, and this device is yours,” the stranger offered.

Jill leaned forward and stared into the box. “How does it work?”

“Simply hold the crystal and say, ‘I cast,’ and what you want casted. Although, this device will only work until midnight, and you’ll have to live with whatever you created.”

Jill thought the deal over. Even if the crystal ball weren’t magical, the item would make for an excellent display prop or an accessory for her Halloween outfit. The exchange may be more in favor of the stranger, especially if the ball was mass-produced. Besides, she could always go back inside the liquor store and get another bottle of wine. She was grateful she was able to buy booze on a Sunday now.

Jill held out the case of wines. “I accept your offer.”

Without studying the selection, the man pulled out one of the wines. He reviewed the label for a moment – not long enough to read everything – before holding the chest forward for Jill. Jill picked up the crystal ball, losing herself as stars and planets swirled around inside. The display consumed her focus until the liquor store door dinged from someone entering did she snap out of her trance. Jill looked around for the stranger, but he was nowhere. She shrugged.

“I wonder,” Jill said as she held out the crystal. “I cast five boxes of red wine.”

The crystal glowed red before unleashing a spark of purple lighting at the pavement. Jill closed her eyes and jumped back but held tight onto the crystal. When she felt the danger pass, she saw five cases of premium boxed wine sitting before her. 

“Holy shit!” Jill cussed. “It fucking worked!”

Jill glanced around to see if anyone else saw what happened, but no one was around. She loaded up the wine in her black Jeep. After buckling in, Jill grabbed her iPhone from the phone mount and texted her husband. She told him to meet her in the garage as soon as she pulled inside. 

Upon arriving home, her husband followed her instructions. The garage door closed as Jill jumped out of her car.

“You won’t believe what I got,” Jill said, her voice racing as she pulled out the crystal ball from her pocket.

Her husband, Mike, took the crystal. “Neat. Where did you get this?”

“I traded a bottle of wine for it to this weird guy in a white suit,” Jill explained, still in a hurry. “It’s magically.”

Mike flipped up his eye patch for his pirate costume as he studied the crystal ball against the garage light. “I’d say.”

Jill yanked the crystal ball from him. “No, I mean, this is really magically. Watch. I cast a vanilla cake the shape and size of a human skull on a silver plate.”

The crystal glowed red before and then unleashed a spark of purple lighting at the ground, creating a vanilla skull cake. Jill smiled, proud of herself for holding steady during the spell casting this time. When she noticed Mike hadn’t said anything, she saw his face was drooped down and whiter. She picked up the cake.

“Don’t you think this is cool?” Jill asked, her voice soft.

“I’m worried,” he responded softly. “Remember that old Simpson’s Halloween special where the things they wished for had negative side effects?”

“Oh,” Jill uttered but then perked up. “But what’s wrong with this cake then?”

“I bet the cake has that fondant icing I hate,” Mike said.

Jill nabbed a tiny piece of icing from the back of the skull for a taste test. “Damn. It is fondant. But I bet other people will enjoy it.”

Mike shrugged. “I guess small spells have small consequences, so how about we keep it that way?”

Jill huffed. “I suppose you have a point. Besides, the guy said this would stop working at midnight anyway.”

“Of course he did. Typically spooky wares guy. Was he dressed in a black robe?”

“No, I said he wore a white suit with pink accents.”

“Oh, that’s right. You did say that.”

“Yeah, and he also had this strange, pink tie with white swirls,” Jill added. “The pattern made me think of Norse mythology or something like that. He wasn’t an old man either. He looked about our age.”

“Well, we should get this stuff inside,” Mike said. “We do have guests.”

“Right, you go back inside, and I’ll bring in the wine. I might have cast a spell for more wine earlier.”

Following the recommendations of her husband, Jill kept the spells small throughout the night. Whenever she wanted something, she went to the garage to create the item, which made for the perfect cover. She casted spells for things like more food, new wine glasses after being broken by a guest, full-size candy bars for the trick-or-treaters, additional Halloween decor, and other small items that wouldn’t raise suspicions.

The party lasted until almost midnight. As Jill and Mike cleaned the living room with the house to themselves, a thud hit their window. Jill thought nothing of the sound until she heard another one. She peeked out behind the curtain. A group of teenagers was throwing eggs and toilet paper at their house.

Jill pulled out the crystal from her pocket. “Oh, I’ll teach you a lesson.”

Jill stormed outside, prompting her husband to stop vacuuming and follow her. The teens laughed and started to run away. Jill’s eyebrows lowered and pulled closer together as she aimed the crystal ball.

“I cast a giant black widow to scare them!”

The crystal glowed and sparked to life a 10-foot tall black widow spider. The pranksters screamed in terror while Jill laughed in delight. The spider chased after them, knocking over her mailbox and some streetlights in the chase. The spider spewed webs, capturing the teenagers.

“Okay, this is going to have some major consequences,” her husband said.

“You’re right, you’re right,” Jill agreed with a sigh. “I cast spider be-gone.”

The crystal did not respond. Jill shook the device and tried again, but with no result.

“It’s 12:02,” Mike said while looking at his watch. “Didn’t you say everything would go away at midnight?”

“Yeah, I thought it would be like Cinderella, and everything would turn to normal, but I guess that’s not what he meant. He did say I would have to live with whatever I created.”

The black widow returned with the three teenagers, dropping them off like a cat offering a mouse. From above, three firetrucks landed like flying saucers, surrounding the spider and their home. Troops of humans in bright white and yellow uniforms poured out from the firetrucks. One with a rifle fired at the spider, stunning the creature and causing her to collapse. Another group rushed over to the teenagers and proceeded to free them.

Jill and Mike stood close together as a short woman with a yellow overcoat approached them. The couple read the name Captain Mists on her silver name tag. The leader glanced over the couple, spotting the crystal ball in Jill’s hand.

“May I see that,” Captain Mists formally requested, pointing at the crystal ball. Jill handed over the spell casting device without saying a word. The woman grunted in frustration. “Not another one.”

Captain Mists whistled, getting the attention of her team. “We got another spell caster situation. Standard procedure. Clear out anything that’s  not theirs and wipe their memories.”


Real Spells for a Fake Witch - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

This short story was triggered by my random logic process. As I was leaving a convenience/gas store, I saw a woman dressed as a witch leaving, which got me thinking of how witch rhymes with another word and what if someone offered the power to cast real spells. I’ve written a story with just Raven, so I wrote this one to feature Loki by himself.

Happy Adventures! 

Tales Unveiled: 4×04 I’m Here at Flower Bluff Manor

Sam and Geoff travel to Sulphur, Oklahoma where they meet Linda and Emily to talk about Flower Bluff Manor as well as other tales of the town. During a tour of the bed and breakfast, Sam captured an EVP from one of the residents. 

After touring the manor, Sam and Geoff meet with Detective Valerie James in regards to a fourth murder victim. 


Subscribe to new episodes of Tales Unveiled via Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, or anywhere you enjoy podcasts. New episodes on Fridays!

Tales Unveiled is a production of The Show Starts Now Studios and is produced by Dennis Spielman. The voice of Sam Saxton is Dennis Spielman, with Jeff Provine as Professor Geoff DeRoot, and Kristy Boone as Detective Valerie James. If you love what we’re doing, want us to keep being artist-owned and patron supported, join us on Patreon. In return, you can get bonus content, including early access to other shows from The Show Starts Now Studios!

The Cursed Photo from the Barbershop - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

The Cursed Photo from the Barbershop

During a walking ghost tour, a photo taken of a barbershop has consequences for a young couple.


I zipped up my hoodie to shield myself from the chilly October night breeze. The tour group moved along the downtown sidewalk and stopped in front of a barbershop. My Tinder date, who I will refer to as Rebecca, recommended the ghost tour walk. After reading one of the host’s many books about ghost stories and urban legends in Oklahoma, she learned about his guided tours. I have to admit, I was enjoying the tales from Jeff Provine about Norman.

Jeff told us that sometimes when people take a photo of the barbershop, a man in a brown overcoat and hat would appear starring back at them. Just about everyone-my date included-proceeded to pull out their phones and snap their cameras. The group inspected their photos only to have captured nothing.

The group moved forward while my date pulled me back for a moment.

“You should try with your camera with no one around,” she suggested.

When we met up for our date, Rebecca thought bringing my Polaroid camera was a fun idea. She also mentioned that she hadn’t been out with anyone with such a hobby. I was about to tell her that nothing would happen, but she put on an irresistible smirk that I could not deny. I smiled at her and pulled up my camera. I enjoyed the thoughtful, selective nature of the limited printed photos in a world of unlimited takes. While the tour host talked about the restaurant next door, I snapped a picture of the barbershop.

We rejoined the group, letting the photograph develop in my hoodie’s pocket. After a few stops, Rebecca asked to see if the barbershop photo had finished developing. I pulled out the picture, and she inspected the image like a person searching for treasure.

“I think you got something here,” Rebecca whispered with excitement as she showed me the photo.

“That looks like a brown smudge to me,” I told her with honesty. 

“Well, maybe it needs to develop more,” she said.

I didn’t say anything back. She was too cute, and I was enjoying the night. The tour was more informative than scary. We didn’t actually go hunting for ghosts, and no one jumped out to scare us. I think the best way to describe the experience was like a walking history tour involving ghosts and murders. I don’t want to spoil the tour for anyone, but I wanted to give some backstory on my cursed barbershop photo.

After the tour, Rebecca and I went our separate ways. When I got back to my apartment, my roommate was still gone. He was out of town for the weekend visiting family. He was a relatively chill roommate who kept to himself. He let me decorate the dining area, which I did by hanging my Polaroid prints with clothespins and strings all over the room. He thought they added much life to the bland beige walls of the apartment.

As I dumped out my belongings on the dining table, I got a text from my date asking me to send her a photo of all of the Polaroid pictures from the night. I laid them all out on the rustic white table my parents handed down to me when they bought a new one for themselves. Using my phone, I took a picture of the dozen prints. In the process, I took a closer look at the one in front of the barbershop. Where I thought I saw a blemish at first resembled more of the person Jeff described. I sent Rebecca a closeup and a copy to the tour guide too. Rebecca immediately FaceTimed me.

“I told you!” was the first thing she blurted out to me. “I told you so!”

“Okay, okay,” I admitted. Then I thought of a line. “Maybe you should come over and make sure this man in brown doesn’t try to kill me.”

Rebecca laughed. “Maybe I should. You know, to make sure you don’t die. Text me your address.”

I texted her my address, and she said she would be there in about 15 minutes. I proceeded to tidy up the apartment. I cleaned the place before leaving, but I didn’t expect her to come here as this was our third date. I started with the kitchen since I was already there. After emptying the dishwasher, I rounded up the prints on the table. As I was picking them up, I noticed the man in brown was in all of the photos. He stood in the exact same position compared to the one in the barbershop.

I assured myself, “This was to be some exposure glitch.”

I stacked the photos face down on the coffee table. I decided to worry about them later. I scrambled around the apartment, throwing out trash and cleaning dirty surfaces. I was straightening my bedsheets when I heard the doorbell rang.

I rushed to the door. However, when I answered, no one was there. I called out hello, but no one but the wind answered. I questioned my hearing. Did the doorbell ring? I closed the door and checked my phone. There were no new messages from Rebecca, and only 10 minutes had passed since her last text. As I was about to put away my phone, I received a text from Jeff.

“Thank you, but I should warn you that those who were able to capture a photo of the man in brown said they were haunted by him until they got rid of the picture,” Jeff’s message read with a winky face emoji at the end. 

I chuckled. He was clearly joking around, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. On my way back, I realized all of tonight’s prints had been scattered all over the living room. I proceeded to pick them up, which I figured got blown around from the wind when I opened the door. As I collected the final one, the doorbell rang. There was no mistaking the ring was mine.

I put the prints in my back jean pocket and answered the door. The man in brown stood before me with an old straight razor to Rebecca’s throat and a hand covering her mouth. Dirt covered his three-piece suit like someone dragged his outfit out of the ground.

“I want the photos,” the man demanded in a low grumble. His voice sounded rough like he hadn’t spoken in ages.

Without hesitation, I handed them over, and he pushed Rebecca onto me during the exchange, causing us to fall backward. As we stood up to shut the door, the man was gone.

Rebecca and I ended up staying up all night – not in the way I had hoped.


The Cursed Photo from the Barbershop - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

After the love for my previous short story, I’ll Never Walk Sutton Wilderness in the Dark Again, I was inspired to write another semi-realistic horror piece. This one was inspired by a story by Jeff Provine where people on his ghost tour would capture a photo of a man in a brown suit at the barbershop in downtown Norman, Oklahoma. So, yes, that part is true! I thought having the man come to life to reclaim the pictures would be a spooky tale for the season.

Thanks to Janine De Guzman for bringing the photographic moment to life.

Thank you for reading and Happy Halloween!

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