It looks innocent enough: a log building by the side of the road, not an uncommon sight in Northern Michigan. But step through the door of the cabin near Indian River and enter Chillermania!, the home of Johnathan Rand, author of mischief and mayhem for the elementary school set.
Here, mummies and bats and giant spiders welcome you to a world where Aliens Attack Alpena and Terror Stalks Traverse City. You know that the Poltergeists of Petoskey and Gargoyles of Gaylord are up to no good. And watch where you walk—you may step on puddle of plastic puke.
All the better to thrill the young readers of the Michigan Chillers, a series of books set in towns across the state (Dinosaurs Destroy Detroit, Kreepy Klowns of Kalamazoo), and American Chillers, similar stories set in each state (Florida Fog Phantoms, New York Ninjas).
Johnathan Rand is the pen name of Michigan native Christopher Wright, who bounced around from college to a radio career before he began writing and publishing the kind of books that he’d like to read if he were a kid. He connected with young audiences and has penned over 40 titles.
The popular, goateed author lives in nearby Topinabee and occasionally drops in at Chillermania!, when he and his wife aren’t on the road visiting school assemblies and encouraging kids to read and write stories.
Several years ago Rand worked the crowd at our kids’ school, and he had a couple hundred students mesmerized by his tales (true and tall), laughing hysterically, and asking questions about the writing process.
Chillermania! carries all of his books, including a series for older folks under the pen name Christopher Knight, plus ball caps, T-shirts, and other fun stuff.
In keeping with his mission of getting kids to express themselves creatively he operates a 4-day Author Quest camp “For Serious Young Writers” ages 10-13.
This year’s dates are June 17-20 and August 12-15 at Camp Ocqueoc in the northern Lower Peninsula, and its 60 spots have always sold out. Find details at the Chillermania web site.
Next time you’re in Indian River make the quick detour off I-75 at exit 313 to check out Chillermania! and pick up the audio CD, “Creepy Campfire Chillers.”
Nothing says road trip like the family gathered around the mini-van speakers, listening to spooky stories narrated by the “Chill Master himself: Johnathan Rand.”