What you are about to listen to is 30 some odd years in the making. Teenage Tom watched Night of the Comet and a story started brewing in his head. The basic premise, some celestial event causes most of the populace to be eradicated, stuck with him. Shortly after, he read A Boy And His Dog, the Harlan Ellison post apocalyptic classic, and the Bard’s Macbeth. The trio of stories, not unlike the Weird Sisters, gave birth to a bastard child. That child changed and morphed into this audio play over three decades.
Hallowed Ground started as a short story I wrote in 1985 titled “The Calling Speaks,” wherein a wandering “warrior” settles in a village and becomes a promised messiah. The villagers become besieged by a former foe of the warrior. He leaves to battle the foe. Pretty simple. I don’t tell you what happened to the world. 6 years later a relationship break up lead to a retelling of the same story, retaining the name, and now complete with witches and the melting of the polar ice caps as part of the apocalypse, as well as an integral plot device utilized in this audio drama. The story then sat on ice, continuing to brew in my brain, until about 6 years ago. I wanted to bring it back to life.
I needed to create an engine that drove the narrative. I came up with the idea of traveling only during the day and sleeping on holy ground at night, or the evil boogeyman will get you. That led to the story’s first title, Holy Ground, as I wrote it as a novella. Out of this came the “rules,” setting the parameters of the boundaries within the story: “The rules were a simple pair: Only move during the day. Only sleep at night on hallowed ground.” This became “Travel during the day and spend your nights on holy ground.” I came up with the first line, “Jessie could remember when the bees died. It wasn’t long after that people remembered why they were afraid of the dark.” I was on to something good. I plotted it out, started writing it, got stuck and put it away.
The Necrocasticon came to fruition, my buddy Matt Sampere had recently released his first demo songs with his band, Storm Cell. The opening song, Hallowed Ground, brought me back to the Holy Ground story in my head. We asked Matt for permission to use HALLOWED GROUND as our podcast’s theme music and he gladly gave us permission. Shortly after, I interviewed Larry Fessenden about Tales From Beyond the Pale, an audio drama he produces. I got an idea, I’d pull a Ritchie Blackmoore and create an audio drama that would encompass what the Necrocasticon is all about.
You see, about the same time period as I had seen Night of the Comet and read A Boy And His Dog, I also listened to a metricfuckton of Ritchie Blackmoore’s music. Deep Purple, Rainbow and their incestuous family tree that included artists like Ronnie James Dio and Gary Moore. Ritchie Blackmoore, the genius behind Deep Purple and Rainbow, has made a rather comfortable life for himself, by rewriting other people’s songs! Blackmoore listens to a song and says, “I would have done it this way,” and writes a new song that often become more famous than its predecessor. After all, the most iconic riff in the history of rock and heavy metal, Smoke on the Water, is nothing more than Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Played backwards.
What precisely is the Necrocasticon about? It’s about horror AND heavy metal. So I would create an audio drama with a heavy metal soundtrack. I wrote the script for the now HALLOWED GROUND in a week. Giovanni Valentino graciously edited it, as did Jason Pitts. I reached out to a group of talented actors in local theater to do this with us, to play the characters and bring them to life. I approached our friend Steve Kratz about using his band, the Darkroom, as the first artist in the series. The band’s guitarist, Ronnie Dark, is heavily influenced by Ritchie Blackmoore, as a result their music has a great 70’s hard rock sound. I felt their music was perfect for the production, but they never gave me a straight answer. Frustrated and not wanting to do it without them, I shelved the project for 2 years.
In the interim, I improved as a podcaster, purchasing a blue yeti microphone, among other upgrades. I learned it would be very easy to record that audio play, finally, and use it as a special Halloween episode for the Necrocasticon. So I set about putting the gears in motion to do it again. Matt Sampere grew quite a bit as a musician, too. His new band, simply called Sampere, has been having great regional success. And it all clicked. I fell back on Matt’s Storm Cell songs. I felt it was a perfect fit, especially with the song being called Hallowed Ground. The three tunes just sitting on Reverb Nation, doing nothing. Matt graciously approved the use of the songs in the drama and I punched it out.
I brought in Josh Montaque to play the lead role of Jessie Stowe, the Necrocasticon’s Scott Groverston played our Crypt Keeper, Morty the Curator, along with his wife, Michelle, playing our trio of witches. We brought in our friend Elizabeth Gray to play Chastity, the lead female character. Oh, and who can forget the star of the play, the dog. Sergio Leone had his Man With No Name, well, we have our Dog of Many Names, portrayed by my dogs, Rocket and Diego (Diego was Rocket’s stunt double for growling lines, hah!). A special shout out to Richard Yates for providing the photograph used as the cover art (the dog, Titch, sadly passed away last month).
And now you have it, the Hallowed Ground audio drama’s first chapter. A chef’s blend of influences make up its stock. 1 part Night of the Comet, 1 part Macbeth and 1 part A Boy and his Dog. 1 part classic radio play and 1 part rock n roll sound track. All horror and metal, all Necrocasticon. Enjoy. Oh, and don’t forget the rules.