dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

 

Recently, The Spirit Game, the 6-minute film short based on my novel, We Hear the Dead, directed by Craig Goodwill and starring Katharine Isabelle, Katie Boland, and Charles Shaughnessy, was posted on YouTube, where you can now watch it for free. Yay!

 

If you haven’t been following my blog for long, you might not know the story of how this film came to be made.  A long time ago I posted How I Got My Film Option — which involves feng shui and painting the front door — but the shorter version is that my book was optioned for film back in 2009 by Amy Green of One Eye Open Studios. It wasn’t even published as We Hear the Dead at that time. The original option was for the self published version, which was called High Spirits.

Shortly after acqNew film posteruiring the option. Amy talked me into writing the screenplay (in spite of my telling her I didn’t know how). She and I worked together and over the course of about 18 months — and 8 drafts — we collaborated on a full length movie script. Now I can technically say I’m a screenwriter … even though no one ever made a movie with that script. I got a lot of compliments on it, but no backers.

Eventually, director Craig Goodwill became interested in the project. He and Amy decided to apply for a grant from BravoFACT (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent). Amy and Craig are Canadian; most of the cast would be Canadian. But I’m not. So at that point I had to bow out, and they brought in a Canadian screenwriter. (I did however get to act as a consultant on the historical details. Fun!)

The movie was filmed in November of 2012 and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. (No, I didn’t attend.) This 6 minute story does not come from any particular scene in my book, but it does neatly capture the main premise: Three sisters run a fraudulent seance business. One of the three may also have real paranormal talent, but since she’s also addicted to laudanum, her sisters don’t believe her.production photo

After Cannes, the producer and director began pitching the idea for a television series, with the film being used as a teaser. They even wrote a pilot episode, and once again I got to be the consultant on historical details. I wish I could say that a series was sold and in the works, but no … not yet at least!

I still think this is all very cool. Lots of books get optioned for film and nothing happens after that. But I’m honored to have one unsold screenplay to my credit, a script for a pilot episode, a series “bible”, and a short film with some well-known faces in it that went to Cannes!

 

 

One of my Facebook friends posted an article about the Bender Family on my timeline this weekend, asking if I’d ever heard of their story before. I’m sure she thought of me because of the connection to Spiritualism. (She read my book We Hear the Dead about the Fox sisters.)

I had not heard this story before, and it is chilling and gruesome.

Because I’m hurting for post topics this week — drowning in student work to grade — preparing for parent-teacher conferences — and trying to make a little progress on my WIP, I’m going to link to the article for your morbid amusement instead of writing a real post.

At first, I was confused by the reference to Laura Ingalls Wilder at the beginning, because these people have nothing to do with the Ingalls family.  But then I got it.

This is a twisted version of Little House on the Prairie, with an evil Ma and Pa, and a little house where visitors were welcomed … killed … and buried.

From Mental Floss: The Bloody Benders, America’s First Serial Killers.

Enjoy.

Thank you, Katrina Dix!

This past Saturday, I was honored to attend a book event at Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA with Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, author and illustrator of Picture the Dead. I loved this bookstore! Heather Hebert and all the staff made us feel very welcome. When I arrived (pathologically early, as usual), I was greeted: “Oh! You’re one of the Dead Book authors. I hope you don’t mind that we’ve been calling you that!”

I didn’t mind. I loved it!

I brought my own video crew, who produced a vlog of the event. One of the cameragirls is … uh … not very tall. Thus some of the odd camera angles. Still, I couldn’t have done it without my crew. Love ya, girls!


Do you believe communication with the dead is possible?

Have you ever felt the presence of someone who was not physically present?

Teen Fire wants to know! So much so that they are hosting a contest to give away either a free copy of We Hear the Dead by yours truly or Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown.

Picture the Dead is a beautifully illustrated paranormal romance in the gothic style about a woman who loses her fiancé in the Civil War. When she starts to get close his brother (who refuses to talk about her fiancée’s death), the dark ghost of her former lover makes his wrath felt. Is he a dark spirit, returned to haunt her? Or is he trying to protect her from a hidden family secret?

All you have to do to enter the contest is join Teen Fire and leave a comment on the contest page answering one of the two questions above. Come on – we want to hear your story!

And look out for news regarding a joint book event featuring both these books and all three of us authors in the Philadelphia area this May. Details forthcoming … when I know the details. 😀


One hundred and sixty-two years ago today, in the hamlet of Hydesville in upstate New York, there was a small commotion surrounding the house of Mr. John D. Fox.

Mr. Fox roused his neighbors, banging on their doors around 8 o’clock in the evening, and asked them to come witness the events taking place in his home. His daughters Maggie and Kate, aged approximately eleven and fourteen, were communicating with a ghost.

Neighbors were skeptical. This was, after all March 31, and many of them assumed that somebody was pulling an early April Fool’s Day prank. However, when they arrived at the house and heard the strange rapping sounds emanating from thin air – when they searched the house from top to bottom and could find no source for the noise – when they heard this mysterious ghost knock yes or no for questions – they began to believe. Gradually the neighbors convinced themselves that some poor man had been murdered and buried in the cellar of the house, and they quickly identified a suspect: a Mr. John Bell, who had rented the house some years earlier and whom, it can be assumed, they didn’t much like.

Forty years later, Maggie Fox, the elder of the two daughters present, wrote: “No one suspected us of any trick because we were such young children.” This was not entirely true. The neighbors did suspect the girls at first, but when they were unable to determine any method by which the girls could produce the rapping sound, they quickly absolved them of blame. It was, of course, inconceivable that the girls might be clever enough to fool them! Soon the whole event (which really had been an April Fool’s Day prank) snowballed into a local phenomenon. People came from miles around to hear the spirit rap out his story – and the girls were trapped in their lie. “When so many people came to see us children,” Maggie wrote, “we were ourselves frightened, and for self-preservation forced to keep it up.”

This was the situation when Maggie’s adult sister, Leah Fish, shrewdly realized that people would pay money for the chance to communicate with spirits … and thereby hangs the rest of the tale …

We Hear the Dead, the story of Maggie Fox – a ghost story, a massive hoax, and a star-crossed romance – is due for release on May 1.


The Fox sisters had a clever little hoax, but it certainly would never have become a nationwide movement and a religion without the endorsement of some key, influential people. During my research, I was astounded to discover that intelligent, educated, and shrewd people such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass fell for what was later confessed to be a fraud. No matter how surprising, however, their actions and opinions are recorded in history, and as I worked on writing my narrative, I searched for an explanation that made sense to me. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that – just like today – people endorse things that benefit them.

Abolition and Women’s Rights were sometimes called the “twin causes” of the mid-nineteenth century, and their membership circles largely intersected. Leaders in these movements wanted to get their message out to the public, and my “take” on their support of spiritualism is simply this: Seances were the 19th century version of Twitter.

Picture it — People gathering together to receive brief, cryptic messages sent by faceless entities from a far away place. That pretty much describes both a séance and Twitter, doesn’t it? And just like with Twitter, one can never be really certain of the sender’s true identity. Senator John Calhoun was a staunch (even rabid!) advocate of slavery. Yet, after his death, spiritualists attending séances with the Fox sisters received messages from Calhoun which recanted his former position. His spirit (@johncalhoun if you please) claimed that he had been enlightened by the Truth in the afterlife. A feather in the cap of abolitionists – if you believed the message, which many people did.

Stanton, Mott, Douglass, and countless other reformers knew exactly what they were doing when they endorsed the Fox sisters. They had a message they wanted to spread, and the Fox sisters, abolitionists and fledgling feminists themselves, were more than happy to cooperate. As @benjaminfranklin said in one of their séances, “Great changes are on the horizon!”