Issue 52: OTIS Club Newsletter Thing

The OTIS Club Newsletter Thing is the main perk for members of the OTIS Club, an inner circle of OTIS readers. It comes out every week, and for as little as $1.00 a month, you can join the club. Issues are delivered through Patreon, but since Issue 52 was a free one (in celebration of the year anniversary of the club and 52 straight issues of the newsletter), I'm reproducing it here.

This Week in OTIS

We did it. An entire year of the OTIS Club. An entire  year of member support. An entire year of perks. An entire year of weekly newsletters—52 straight (proof). Thanks so much, OTIS Club Members. Means a lot to me.

For only the second time in those 52 issues, I’m opening this issue up for both every OTIS Club membership tier and non-members (the last time we did that was #7). For nons, This Week in OTIS is about the OTIS stuff happening in my life—trips I took that week, plans for upcoming trips, the docket for OTIS articles, book news. The kind of stuff I’d tell you if we met for drinks after work.

For instance, on OTIS this week, I finally got to an oddity I’ve wanted to write about since the beginning of OTIS: The Adams Memorial. In fact, I couldn’t stop writing. Expect the second half this week, where I delve into the spooky part of its story. I also posted a reaction to the news that Baltimore’s Poe-themed eatery the Annabel Lee is closing. Sad, that. One more for the dead OTIS list.

On the OTIS Map (my personal, interactive map of oddities I’ve visited or want to see), I logged South Dakota sites. Members at the $5 level and above can access the map. When we started the club, I had ~1,000 sites, mostly in New England and New York. Now we’re at ~2,000 sites across the country, and every week the map grows as I focus on another state.

For South Dakota, the highlights for me were a graveyard for insane Native Americans, a mammoth dig site, and a couple of ghost towns. This week? Nebraska.

Friday and Saturday, Lindsey and I drove 1,030 miles in 30 hours across New York and Pennsylvania. We saw Mark Twains sites, a Civil War POW site, paper mill and dam ruins from a deadly tragedy, and a reptile zoo with animatronic dinosaurs (see photo at the beginning of this section). I’ll post an overview of the trip soon, although I haven’t decided if that’ll be an OTIS post or a newsletter one. I also took video, so it might be time for an OTIS video. Odyssey-Level Members, expect a detailed itinerary this week (it’s one of their perks).

Last week, members got a sneak peak of the cover for my middle-grade spooky fiction book Death and Douglas. The full unveil is imminent. I’m hoping this week, but we’ll see. The book comes out September 5.

Meanwhile, OTIS hits ten years old on June 1. OMG.

My Worst Appearance

It was July of 2012. The New York Grimpendium was streeting in three months, and I was asked to give a talk on New York oddities. At an amusement park.

I knew it was a bad idea to accept the invite. Knew it in my bones’ bones. But how could I turn down the chance to say I’ve given a book talk at an amusement park?

It’s not because I was afraid of a small turnout. At that point I’d done a few of those (and still do). But they are usually at libraries and are intimate and fun.

This was at an amusement park. Where people look for thrills. No way was this a good idea.

The amusement park was Darien Lake, 30 miles west of Buffalo. So it was a bad idea that would take about 14 hours of driving, round-trip.

But, again, how could I turn it down? Especially since they were covering costs, lodging, and park tickets?

That’s not to say I didn’t push back. I did. Their take was that they were doing a science fiction-themed day of strange activities, and I’d fit right in. In hindsight, they were obviously having trouble filling an activity quota.

Eventually, after half a dozen emails, I capitulated. It was too weird a situation for me not to.
So I brought a friend to bear witness to my shame. To salvage the trip in advance, I planned on stopping at some oddities no the return trip.

We arrived, spent the night, and the next day saw the venue. It was more suited to a magic show than a book talk, but at least it wasn’t a crate on the midway.

But the other problem? It was outdoors. Did I mention most of my talks are multimedia presentations via a projector? That doesn’t do well in broad daylight? Right.

It was fun at first. There were Star Wars cosplayers and a life-sized remote-controlled R2D2, and I was able to put off talk jitters by having blaster practice with stormtroopers.

Then it was time for my first of two talks and, as I feared, no one was there. I mean, tons of people were at the park, but, well, you know. It’s one thing for people not to show up at a talk. It’s another for thousands of people to witness nobody showing up for your talk.

Eventually, the organizer grabbed another staff member, my friend, and two random, impressionable bystanders. And I did my book talk to them…at 175% speed amid the screams of roller coaster riders and while kids with cotton candy stared at us as they walked to their next death-defying experience. All in front of a screen that was almost opaque in the blinding sunlight.

Afterward, I gave the two bystanders free books, talked to them about the oddities of their hometown, and then me and my friend jumped on a roller coaster, despite a suddenly looming thunderstorm.
When it was close to time for the second talk, I approached the organizer and said, “Let’s cancel.” She immediately agreed. We pretended it was because of the impending rain.

It was an embarrassing experience, but I did get my photo taken with Boba Fett, and on the way back visited Kirk Douglas Park and Hill Cumorah, where Mormon founder Joseph Smith received the golden plates that jumpstarted his religion.

When I phrase it like that it sounds like my best book talk ever.

From the OTIS Photo Archive

July 2010 Since I told you about my worst appearance, how about one of my favorite ones? It just so happens to have been my first ever book talk. It was two months before the debut of my first book, The New England Grimpendium, and my publisher asked me to give a talk at a book festival in Woodstock, Vermont. I gave the talk in front of about 50 people. Afterwards, I learned what it’s like for people to line up to talk to me and get my autograph. Such a blast. This photo is of Lindsey and I right before the talk. I’d just met my publisher in person, and this is the first time we’ve seen the book in print. This was also me pre-LASIK, and at the tail end of my chemo treatments. You can see how thin my eyebrows and beard stubble are.

Oddity News

1. An insane asylum turned into a public library in London. LINK

2. New Jersey couple thinks they’ve found the signature of serial killer H.H. Holmes in a family Bible. LINK

3. So-called “Alien Megastructure” star starts acting funny again. LINK 

4. Viking exhibit in UK focuses on massive invasion. LINK

5. Construction workers find hidden vault in Rhode Island State House. LINK

6. Medieval tomb trucked to safety in Turkey. LINK

7. Neil Armstrong’s lunar sample bag heading to auction. LINK

8. Disney World’s Avatar attraction opened by James Cameron himself. LINK

9. Rare white moose video’d in Newfoundland. LINK

10. Lost cemetery found thanks to Google maps. LINK

11. New Mummy movie a good opportunity to discuss real mummy issues. LINK

12. Ghost barge grounds ashore in Florida. LINK

13. MASS MoCA has a giant new art building for giant new art. LINK

14. The “dancing skeleton” of Russia. LINK

15. Germany gets large statue of Karl Marx from China. LINK

OTIS Miscellaneous

In this section, I usually talk about whatever movies or shows I’m watching or whatever books I’m reading. This is also where we do the OTIS Club giveaways.

For this issue, I’m going to pitch the club. If you dug this newsletter, you can get one issue a month for just $1 a month. Two issues for $3 a month. all of them for $5 a month or more, plus each tier has its own set of additional perks…and every one gets an autographed membership card. Give it a try for a month. You can always cancel and send me hate mail after.