Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

I Love the Boo-Part I

Oct 27, 2023

Let the Chaos Begin

I am a consultant, author, Harley pilot, a man about dogs and cats, father, and Pappa. These are my stories…

Tj’s Halloween Murder Mystery extraordinaire

We all have our favorite. For me, it’s Fall and Halloween. Warm days. Chilly nights. The scent of falling leaves and the rustling of those on the ground. Turning my house into a scary movie set. Making those fall dinners like sausage potato soup and my internationally acclaimed (eh, maybe not) steak chili. And then there’s the renowned annual Tj’s Halloween Murder Mystery extraordinaire. That is Fall. That is October. That is Halloween. My favorite time of the year.

Good food. Good spirits (all kinds). Murder. Mayhem. Madness. What could be better?

I guess I grew to love the macabre while living in Upstate New York at a scouting camp in the Appalachian Mountains. As a young boy—I’m talking 2-9ish—I lived and worked at the camp with my family. It was everything to me. It was there that I learned survival and the love of scary things. I have my dear departed daddy to thank for that. It was there that he taught me to swim by being tossed out of a boat in the middle of Lake Carolla at age six. I should have known something was up when dear daddy took me fishing—alone—and didn’t want me to wear a life jacket. Dad was great—what a kidder. And there was mountaineering at night after being forced to navigate through the woods for miles without a flashlight or guide—at eight years old—to deliver some obscure message to a camper on the mountain. At 10 pm. Alone. Ole daddy—a genius at child-rearing.

murder mystery set right out of RL Stine

Today though, rarely haunted by those memories anymore, I live for October. My kids love it too, and now, my grands fall into it. (Pun intended.) This year, I’m having three great Halloween events. First, my granddaughter Railyn and I turned our house into a scary murder mystery set right out of RL Stine. She was in charge, mind you. I was just the day-labor. Oh, and the cash register to buy all this stuff. Oh, and the photographer to satisfy her inner-ham.

We started with skeletons and guitar-playing ghouls, monsters, and zombie newlyweds. We progressed to weirdo clowns hiding in the new flower beds (yeah, I know, wife-Laurie was not impressed). Then there were the ghosts and wraiths hanging with the skeletons from the porch roof and the pirate skeleton taking charge. The skeleton mommy walking her skeleton dog and spider in a carriage. And you can’t forget the graveyard. Complete with artsy-ham, Railyn.

Thank God for small miracles, too. Someone wanted the 15-foot skeletons from Lowes to put on my front porch roof. A mere $300 a pop. “Pappa, that’s not much. Get two.” Thankfully, Lowes was out.
Me: “Sorry, kid, I called all the Lowes in Virginia, and everyone is sold out. “
Railyn: “Order online.”
Me. “The warehouse is sold out.”
Railyn. “Order from Amazon.”
Me. “Amazon is broken.”
Railyn. “Amazon is broken?”
Me. “F….. Amazon.”
Railyn. “That’s a dollar!” (See The Pappa Files: That’s A Dollar!)

It’s amazing how playing the swear jar game at the right moment can often save me.” That and a steak dinner and fries help, too.

“The Official Harry Potter Cookbook” from Scholastic

Now, my yard is ready for Halloween. Next, the girls (daughters, wife, grands) and one boy-monster, Connor, came over for Halloween cooking night. I’d funded Railyn buying her mom, Nanna, and Aunt Jean a copy of “The Official Harry Potter Cookbook” from Scholastic. The gang made a huge offering of various ghoulish and magical eats for last Sunday’s dinner—Cheesy Parselmouth Pastries – they look like snakes; Lightning Bolt Cheese Bites – yep, they look like lightning bolts; a Weasley Chick Pot pie – eh, a chicken pot pie is a chicken pot pie; Devil’s Snare Apple Pie – same same; and Troll Bogey Delight– green slimy yuck in a glass is just green limy yuck in a glass-but it’s the thought that counts.

The evening was a smash success. In fact, the only time there was more flour decorating the kitchen and house was during The Pappa Files-Paranormal Continued- The Great Ghost Hunt. While we ate, we did Halloween Movie Night that consisted of a few of my favorite family Halloween movies: Scooby-Doo Halloween; Hocus Pocus; and The Hemingway Deception (No, it’s not a movie, but I thought I throw this in for cheap self-publicity), The Haunted Mansion (the original, not the new one), and The Canterville Ghost (all three versions from the 1900’s).

Of course, we then had to follow up with a more adult-oriented movie night with my eldest boy-grand, Jaiden; daughter, Jean; son Shane and his squeeze Melany. We gathered last Friday night to a billion-dollar buffet of the best Chinese food in Winchester and watched The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Great food for sure. Great company. The movie, eh, okay. Scary in spots, but since you know the ending already (Dracula), it was rather slow but well-acted. The best part was it was only available to purchase, not rent. So, for only the low, low price of $19.99, you bet I made them all sit and eat and watch that damn movie!

Yes, a good time was had by all.

Is this all? You might ask. Why, no! It’s just the start!

This week, I’m in the final stages of writing and preparing my annual Halloween Murder Mystery dinner party. Each year, on the last weekend of October, I have about 20 family and friends to the house and do an old fashion murder mystery or event. Everyone is required to wear a custom in theme— In previous years, we had: Pirates; 1920 Mobsters; 1950’s Sci-Fi and Monsters; Scooby-Doo; and Famous Cops and Robbers; Spies and Private Eyes… you name it. Two years ago, it was a treasure hunt for the kids and we ran them around son Sean and Amy’s land for hours in the pouring rain. Good times. I’m sure you think I got my parenting and grandparenting skills from dear ole ’dad. Most years, it’s a murder with a diabolical plot that requires all at the dinner party to participate and solve the crime. It always involves great food (I cook), great spirits, an evil plot, and at least one murder. Most often, the family goes bonkers and by the end of the night, nearly everyone is murdered for one reason or another. Truth: I spent weeks preparing the plot, backstory, cue cards, props, and the script. After fifteen minutes in the house, everyone tosses them all and just goes about killing and maiming each other in a general adherence to my story.

Full disclosure for you nitpickers out there. No. No one was actually murdered or maimed. No. No animals were injured. No. There was nothing X-rated, obscene, or ethically insulting. No. There was no real poison served in the food. No. There was no poison in the wine. No. There were no real bullets in the plastic guns. No. There were no real guns. No. No. No! It was fun. Period.

My plot is set-my multi-million-dollar portfolio is at stake (I wish). The family wants it… all… without sharing. The props are almost done. Saturday, October 28th . . . the family finds out what The Will means to them . . .

Who will survive?

Stay tuned for I Love The Boo-Part II: The Will.


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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