Home » Welcome to Autumncrow: Cameron Chaney Discusses Building The Spookiest Town In America

Welcome to Autumncrow: Cameron Chaney Discusses Building The Spookiest Town In America


The town of Autumncrow Valley, Ohio, is a magical place referred to as “The Spookiest Town In America.” In Autumncrow, practically every day is Halloween. Summer quickly comes and goes; the leaves start to change color before the seasons have even fully transitioned.

Halloween is the most sacred day of the year in Autumncrow. It never rains or snows on October 31st. But beneath that spooky charm, that wistful nostalgia for the perfect Halloween, Autumncrow is fueled by something dark, ugly, and hungry. The townspeople often catch a glimpse of the things lurking within the corners of their home, but most often it’s ignored or forgotten. Even with the amount of violent deaths and mutilations which happen on a daily basis, those who live in Autumncrow seem trapped in a blissful haze of ignorance. Why, Autumncrow High has got its own cemetery that gets bigger by the week.

Hey, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop by for a visit. You’re not scared, are you?

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Created by professional blogger Cameron Chaney of Library Macabre fame, Autumncrow began life as a short story collection released in 2019. Chaney further expanded on the concept of the ‘Spookiest Town in America’ with Autumncrow High, a loving tribute to the young adult horror craze of the 1990s. And according to him, there’s more on the way.

I reached out to Chaney to talk about building Autumncrow, the construction for Autumncrow High, and what the future has in store for the town where every day and every night is Halloween.

WH: I can tell right off you’ve carefully constructed the world that is Autumncrow from some of its landmarks. We’ve got Madame Tinkett’s Sweets, Undead Video, Spooky’s Café, The Little Bookshoppe of Curiosities. These places popped up frequently within the anthology and were mentioned throughout Autumncrow Valley. Tell us a bit about what it was like building these places and some of the other locales in Autumncrow.

CC: Building the town of Autumncrow Valley has been both a thrill and a challenge for me as a writer. On one hand, I have the opportunity to create my dream town, a place I would love to live in (if not for all the death and damnation, of corpse . . . I mean, of course. My bad.). A small, picturesque town where every day is Halloween? I’ll pack my bags! On the other hand, it has been extremely difficult to construct a fictional town that feels authentic, lived-in, and consistent from one scene to the next. Not only are there all these landmarks and locations to juggle, but I have to keep in mind the exact location of every house and storefront. There’s nothing worse than writing an entire book and reading it over dozens of times before finally realizing, “Oh crap! I wrote location A as being across the street from location B in one scene, but in this scene I have location A neighboring location C, which is said to be across the street from location D in another scene.” Oh no! What else did I miss! So it helps to have a series bible of sorts to keep those details in place. The other fun thing about writing a series like this is that I’m able to build it as I go. There are lots of new locations in Autumncrow I can’t wait to explore in future books, not to mention all the locations I have yet to dream up.

WH: You kind of lull readers in a false sense of security with the first two stories in the collection, “Follow Me In” and “Pumpkin Light,” before showing us how bad things can get in “Burnt Brownies.” I thought it worked well towards highlighting how easy it is to get lost in the dreamy, fantastical elements of Autumncrow that blinds you to that ugly, unrelenting viciousness willing to feed on anything and anyone that sets foot in the town. “Frost” and “I Have No Mouth And I Must Feed” shows that the town is also capable of sucking new victims in, or drawing forth horrors from beyond the planet Earth.

CC: Thank you! That’s a common thread I’ve used to bring a lot of my stories together. It goes hand-in-hand with nostalgia. For me, nostalgia plays a big role in my personal life. There’s nothing I love more than looking back and reminiscing about “the good old days.” I’m not totally ignorant, however, to the fact that those days are often seen through rose-tinted glasses. Children are usually oblivious to the darker things going on around them, be it in the world or in their own households. Sometimes painful memories are repressed, and when an adult looks back on those long-ago days in fond remembrance, they’re often envisioning an altered reality where things are a lot happier than they actually were. This is a weapon the town of Autumncrow wields well. It takes the playground of nostalgia and makes it a reality. It distracts its inhabitants from the everyday horrors with shiny tinker toys, so that they’ll be still and quiet in the belly of the beast.

WH: Admittedly, my favorite story in the collection is “Burnt Brownies.” That ending was a gut punch, though. Is there going to be anything else in store for Bobby and Christine Tinkett in the future?

CC: Sadly, I think that may be the end of Bobby and Christine’s story, at least as far as the “Burnt Brownies” timeline goes. Christine Tinkett is actually a baby in the Autumncrow High  timeline, though, and makes an appearance alongside her mother early on in Fresh Hell, so she may reappear a few more times throughout the series.

WH: The story which surprised me the most was “I Have No Mouth And I Must Feed.” Specifically because as I was reading it and they kept talking about Tara the Android, it made me remember seeing that video once a long time ago. I had no idea until I read this story that there was an actual Creepypasta built around that robot, but it says a lot the memory of watching Tara still stuck with me after all these years. Why’d you decide to include a story about her?

CC: I decided to include Tara the Android because I had a terrible nightmare about her once. Prior to writing the story, I was unable to finish that video because it scared me so bad. Then came the nightmare: I was working at some small-town department store one evening and was asked to take the trash to the dumpster behind the building. There was this cornfield behind the store, so as I was dumping the trash, I could hear the stalks whispering in the breeze. Suddenly, a department store mannequin leapt out of the dumpster all on its own and started chasing me through the cornfield. It was singing the song that Tara the Android sang in the viral video, and its eyes were glowing white as blood gushed from its gaping mouth. Eventually, the mannequin caught up to me. I froze in the beams of her glowing eyes as the light swelled and surrounded me. Then I woke up and immediately got to work on “I Have No Mouth and I Must Feed.”

WH: The last story in the collection, “There Are Monsters Here,” was previously published on its own as a novella in 2017 is that right?

CC: That’s correct. It was technically my first published work. On the surface, it’s unrelated to Autumncrow, but eagle-eyed readers will find reference to the mother character being from “a small Ohio town.” That town is Autumncrow Valley, the source of the family’s struggles.

WH: Autumncrow was founded by Abraham Crow and his wife, Autumn, in the 1800s. The two are mentioned frequently, and it’s discussed in “CRYP-TV” that Autumn was buried outside of the town in Kilgore. Autumncrow High especially puts a lot of focus on the lore behind the couple and the events leading up to Autumn’s death. If you don’t mind me saying, the two invoked the image of Simon and Angelica Fear from R.L. Stine’s Fear Street when I read about them.

CC: While I have tried to make the story of Autumncrow’s history my own, Fear Street was definitely an influence. I also drew inspiration from the story of Sarah Winchester, as well as Stephen King’s TV miniseries Rose Red. One day, I hope to write an Autumncrow prequel that will delve deeper into the true story of Abraham and Autumn Crow, one that will shed some light on the rumors and legends that have been passed down for generations.

WHAutumncrow High is meant to be a deliberate homage to the 90s YA horror boom, only far more bloodier and more emotional, I would say. You take great pains to show how the characters are reacting to what they’re facing in a way that makes them more human than the average YA horror protagonist. The cover art, I feel, harkens to Diane Hoh’s Nightmare Hall. But the story itself, like the fact Autumncrow High has got an actual cemetery on the grounds, made me feel as though this is the spiritual successor to Nola Thacker’s Graveyard School. Not just in terms of setting, but the work you put into characterization. The protagonists Bailey and Melody at different points discuss the rather disturbing haze the town’s trapped in, how people like them die so frequently and yet after the initial horror wears off it’s as though nothing happened.

CC: You’re spot on with those comparisons to Nightmare Hall and Graveyard School. I had a copy of a Nightmare Hall book handy as I designed the cover layout for Autumncrow High. I didn’t want to flat-out copy the design, but I loved that varsity font, and I knew a similar font would look really cool for the Autumncrow High logo. Many readers have compared Autumncrow High to Sunnydale High from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well, especially the bits about peoples’ deaths being explained away. Seeing that I grew up on that show, it’s no surprise that it’s had an impact on my creativity.

WH: The novel brings up that something happened at Autumncrow High in the 50s dubbed “The Rapture,” when the last prom the school ever held somehow led to everyone in attendance disappearing without a trace. There’s also the reveal of something called the Watchdog, a creature lurking within the school during the night, which beheaded the last librarian.

CC: Being a librarian myself, that detail about the beheaded librarian was especially scary to me [*shudders*]. The Watchdog will make more appearances before the series is over.

WH: You mentioned that there’s another Autumncrow story available in Served Cold: A HorrorTube Anthology. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but can you tell us a bit about it?

CC: My short story in Served Cold is a Christmas story called “Karakoncolos.” It’s about a woman who ventures into a snowstorm on Christmas Eve to retrieve her son who fled the family Christmas party after a “disagreement.” What she finds upon arriving at her son’s cabin is not what she expected. Her son’s name is Brian McKellen, who you may recognize as Bailey’s friend and colleague at Spooky’s Cafe. I have two more Autumncrow short stories published elsewhere. “At the End of the Rope” is available in Local Haunts: A HorrorTube Anthology and “The McAlister Family Halloween Special” was published in the now sold-out Halloween 2023 issue of Book Worms Horror Zine.

WH: From the ending of Autumncrow High, it’s obvious you’ve got more planned in the future for both it and Autumncrow overall. Are there plans for another anthology collection, or perhaps a spin-off meant for even younger readers directly homaging the middle grade horror titles such as Goosebumps and Ghosts of Fear Street?

CC: Indeed! Autumncrow High will go on, but I want to examine Autumncrow from other angles as well. I have plans for more anthologies, and I would love to write a middle-grade series. I won’t reveal much just yet, but I have a title picked for that series, as well as the basic structure.

WH: Forgive me if this is going a bit off topic, but I wonder how you would feel about expanding Autumncrow with hybrid publications, perhaps a comic book spin-off or a video game adaption. The content and format of the world you’ve built would honestly pair well with any of the developers in Haunted PS1 design community. Or even Autumncrow Fighters or *gasp* Autumncrow Kart.

CC: I’m up for anything if the opportunity presents itself! Makes me wonder what Autumn Crow’s racing kart would look like . . .

WH: Cameron, tell us a bit about Library Macabre. How long have you been running your channel discussing and analyzing horror fiction? You’ve got both an active Instagram and YouTube account on top of the original writing you’ve published. In all your years of reading and reviewing, what would you say are some of your favorite titles and individual books? Your favorite authors, or ones who helped mold your own writing style.

CC: My channel was created on July 13, 2011. It started out as a hobby, a fun way to chronicle my reading and book collecting. I didn’t think anyone would watch. Over a decade later, here we are! The channel has grown into something much bigger than I could have ever imagined, and I hope it’ll keep growing for many years to come. It’s wild to look back at my old videos and see how much I’ve grown, but it’s also interesting to see how little I’ve changed. I still love all the same books and authors I loved as that 18-year-old in his freshman year of college. Horror is still my passion. Actually, I think I’ve embraced the genre even more over the years, which has led to the discovery of so many wonderful books. I’m a sucker for all vintage horror books, like those published by Zebra Books and Leisure, as well as Point Horror, Stephen King, and Anne Rice, but I enjoy modern horror authors as well, like Grady Hendrix, Dawn Kurtagich, Matt Serafini, Patrick Lacey, Adam Cesare, Darcy Coates . . . The list goes on and on. But at the end of the day, R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike are my bread and butter, the two authors who have influenced me the most. Without them, I wouldn’t be a writer, and that’s the truth.

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Written by Jude Deluca
Jude Deluca is a Capricorn who identifies somewhere under the ‘asexual' banner. Their gender identity is up in the air at the moment. As a horror lover, Jude's specialty is the discussion of young adult horror fiction like Goosebumps and Fear Street. Jude proudly owns the complete Graveyard School series by Nola Thacker. Jude's favorite horror sequel is A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Their favorite final girl is Alice Johnson. As a child, Jude was the only nine-year-old at their school who knew everything about 1959's The Bat. Jude's dislikes include remakes that take themselves too seriously and torture porn.
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