Come on boys and ghouls! It's time to hop on Route 666 for a spooktacular Paranormal Road Trip.
This week's stop is Rapid City, the setting of KAREN MEMORY, and our special guide is Elizabeth Bear.
Keep reading for a chance to win Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear!
Elizabeth is the author of the Eternal Sky series, Jenny Casey series, Promethean age series, Jacob's Ladder series, New Amsterdam series, The Edda of Burdens series, The Stratford Man series, Bone and Jewel Creatures series, and the new steampunk novel Karen Memory.
Elizabeth's Top 5 Spooky Places in Rapid City
I might be cheating a bit here, because Rapid City is a fictional place, and all its spook is spook I made up. But the world of Karen Memory is one where, in the very least, the so-called Creatures of the Lumberwoods (the North American legendary fauna of tall tales and native theology) do exist—so it’s conceivable that Karen could hike up into the hills surrounding Rapid City and have a close encounter with a hodag or a splintercat. (Watch out for the hoopsnakes, Karen. I hear they have a nasty bite!)
So we’ll start with that, in fact.
#5 Spooky place in Rapid City… is actually a short day trip outside of town. It’s the primeval temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest: vast, towering, and dripping with moss. Their emerald canopies mean deep, moist shade underneath. Dense undergrowth could hide just about anything from wildcats to sasquatch, and you’ll never know what might be peering at you from within the tangled canes of the nearest blackberry bramble.
#4 Spooky place in Rapid City… the dockyards. Massive air and steamships come and go from this Gold Rush town, relentlessly as the tide. They haul out hopeful men and doomed dogs north to Anchorage for the gold trail; hardwood timber for furniture, flooring, framing houses; machinery and raw materials for foreign need. They haul in silk, spices, and indentured Chinese and Indian immigrants—little better than slaves under the law—to work under brutal conditions in mines, on the railroads, and in the prostitute’s cribs. Towering armatures controlled by stevedores clank and hiss, hauling enormous shipping crates into and out of holds. Men and women—ragged, down on their luck—scavenge or whore.
#3 Spooky place in Rapid City… Bayside Market. You wouldn’t think so to look at the bustling and labyrinthine market it shelters, but this immense shed up on piles at the waterfront—it resembles an airship hangar or a drydock, it’s so vast—is said to be haunted. Eager tourists can wander between the stalls, attracted by heaps of golden melons or bright red onions or glistening, jeweled berries (depending on the season); rummaging around piles of baskets made in India and through stacks of willowware bowls imported from China; stroking silk and fawning over ready-made petticoats; nibbling sweet smoked salmon seasoned with maple syrup—and never know that at night, when the wind creaks the slatted walls and the hissing newfangled electric lights go dark, it’s said that a ghostly, translucent glow can be seen gliding between those same stalls. Those who have witnessed this say they’ve glimpsed the outline of a young woman, always an aisle or two away, slender and obviously distraught, running through the empty paths.
There are conflicting stories about her background—a suicide; a murder victim; a girl who was distracted by grief, slipped down the granite steps outside, and died. (It’s also possible that she’s something cooked up by the Rapid City Board of Tourism: a nice genteel haunting is good for business, after all!)
#2 Spooky place in Rapid City… this doesn’t appear in the book, but I’m contemplating a short story about the Rain City Riverside, a notorious local hotel. The Riverside occupies a good location close to the opera house (Rapid City’s pride, joy, and cultural center). The hotel is Rapid City’s only four-star establishment: fine dining, private baths, and at least one of the steakhouse employees is actually French! (Sadly, it’s the maitre d’hotel, rather than the chef, but on the frontier you have to take what you can get. Nobody’s ever seen a ghost in the Riverside—or if they have, hotel management paid them off handsomely enough that they’ve kept it to themselves.
But while the Riverside caters to mining and logging executives, it’s also popular with those lucky gold miners who come back to civilization with a bag of dust or a few nuggets in their pocket, ready to spend.
The legend is that Old Boston, the owner of the Griswold Claim in Alaska, spent a little too much time out in the wilderness—and by the time when he was finally ready to ship back to Rapid City, he’d gone more than a little mad. Whether the violent deaths of himself, three other miners, one bartender, and a saloon girl in the hotel bar were performed by his own hand (as the hotel still insists) or by the hand of an enraged tommyknocker (a kind of mine gremlin) he’d captured in Alaska and smuggled home in a steamer trunk with the plan of selling it to a traveling exhibition (as the lone survivor of the massacre, the maimed and traumatized piano player, maintans) is not known one way or the other.
If there was a tommyknocker, it was never captured, and no one knows what became of it. Which might be why the hotel denies its existence.
They do have extensive wine cellars, however.
#1 Spooky place in Rapid City… the Underground. As with Boston, Seattle, and a number of other coastal towns, Rapid City has had an ongoing problem with flooding and high tides. So Rapid City adopted the same solution as these other municipalities! Which is a pretty lousy solution while it’s under construction, honestly—it involved building retaining walls along the edges of the streets—leaving sidewalk pathways between street and building so doors are still accessible—and then raising the street with fill to a new ground level. This has the side effect, as you might guess, of providing a terrible, terrifying, dark, narrow well around the ground floor of every single affected building, which you must enter in order to get in or out of those buildings—at least until the streets are finished, and the sidewalks are closed over, and new entrances are cut at the new ground level.
Of course, then those wells remain down there, even darker now with a sidewalk on top! And the wells aren’t connected to one another, so in order to get from one building to the next, you have to scramble up and down ladders. About as much fun in hoop skirts and bustles as a pre-novocaine root canal. And the best side effect is that the wells become havens for all the sorts of things you might not wish to do in a public street—from pissing and furtive sex to muggings, assault, and the disposal of bodies.
Urban planning at its finest, and very, very spooky indeed.
Thank you Elizabeth for giving us such a haunting tour of Rapid City!
To learn more about Elizabeth Bear and her books, please visit her website. You can add Karen Memory here on Goodreads.
We are also having a fantastic book giveaway to celebrate the release of KAREN MEMORY by Elizabeth Bear.
Karen Memory Book Giveaway
We are giving away a hardcover copy of Karen Memory to one lucky winner!
To enter, please leave a comment on this post, and include your email address so we may contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to US and Canada only. Giveaway ends March 3, 2015 midnight EST.
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear.
“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”
Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk
What did you think of Elizabeth's picks for spooky places? Does Rapid City sound like a place you'd like to visit?
Last week on Paranormal Road Trip we visited Louisville with Shiloh Walker. Next week we'll be traveling to Australia with Cassandra Page.
Join us for another spine-tingling Paranormal Road Trip...
if you dare!
if you dare!