Elise Kress is a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, which is how we met (on Zoom!) When I found out she was a Tarot reader, I knew she was my people—and when I found out she had ghostly encounters, I knew I had to have her as a guest on What Scares You. Read on for more about Elise, including her writerly fears, what she thinks about Halloween, and the spooky story that she and I share a great love for.
What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?
In 1968, a young woman was kidnapped and buried alive. The kidnappers rigged up a casket so she could breathe and eat, using small tubes inserted into the locked casket, running through the ground to the surface. She was buried underground in that casket for over 80 hours. What if something blocked one of her tubes? What if they never discovered where she was? After an agonizing three days, the police found her and dug her up. Our newspaper ran a series of detailed drawings of her casket and how it had been jerry-rigged to accommodate her breathing and eating tubes. Those drawings haunt me. Such a small. Space. For. So. Long.
What is your favorite urban legend?
There was a road out in the country near my hometown called Cold Soul Road. We heard that a woman who lived in a house on the road was cheating on her husband. He discovered the betrayal and one night dragged her from their house up the hill on the road into the trees. She begged him for mercy with outstretched arms but he savagely beat her to death.
The story went that if you stopped your car at the bottom of the Cold Soul Road hill and put your car in neutral, the murdered woman would drag it up the hill in her grieving arms. I went there with friends late at night and there was a lot of screaming in our car as it drifted up Cold Soul Road hill, backwards.
Have you ever had any paranormal experiences or premonitions? How did you deal with it?
As a Tarot Reader you might think I have a lot of paranormal experiences. But when I’m reading the cards, my words come tumbling out and to me it feels normal.
I do believe in after-death communication. My father sent me a message after he died. He and I had discussed art and nature often. He was fascinated by the geese who visited the exact same field in our town each year. After he died, just as the Rabbi began chanting the graveside prayers at his funeral, a flock of geese flew straight up in the air, wings battering, from the field behind the cemetery. They flew over his grave and over our heads. In that moment I knew it was a wave of greeting from my beloved father.
“I love how Halloween gives us a chance to toy with our fears.”
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Is there a particular scene that really haunts you still?
“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs
It is the story of an elderly couple and their grown son who entertain an old friend who has returned home from exotic travels. The friend has brought back a singular souvenir: A monkey’s paw. This bizarre object is said to have the power to grant three wishes, but in a disturbing way. The family pays no heed to the warnings of their guest and decides to make a wish. The father wishes for £200 holding the paw aloft. As he speaks, the Monkey’s Paw moves in the father’s hand. He drops the paw in fright, but nothing else happens. Until… you read the rest of the story. I think your heart will pound as much as mine.
The severed paw wriggling in the man’s hand still sends chills up my spine.
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
What if my writing is a cliché-ridden, trope-filled bore? What if I never write anything worthy of being read?
Do you like Halloween?
So many things scare me, but I love Halloween. I love children dressing up and going door-to-door. I love the crisp air, the ghosts and goblins, pumpkins, and skulls. I love scary stories, macabre music and black bats and cats. I love how Halloween gives us a chance to toy with our fears.
What is your greatest fear?
I fear that I will leave this world never realizing that I was alright.
Elise Kress is a professional Tarot reader and musician (Irish Flute, penny whistle and vocals). Her company, Celtic Music for All Occasions, employs well-known Celtic musicians for weddings and other live events. She has read Tarot cards professionally for fifteen years, specializing in private readings and readings at parties and other celebrations. Elise is at work on her first mystery novel about an amateur detective, a Tarot reader who uses the cards to solve cases.