“Chernobyl” Meets “The Haunting of Hill House” in this Chilling Graphic Novel

“Chernobyl” Meets “The Haunting of Hill House” in this Chilling Graphic Novel


Witchland by Tim Mulligan

“Whatever you do, don’t take a stick.”

Would you move to the town known for being “the most toxic place in the Western Hemisphere”? What about moving across the street from an alleged witch?

When Ali and her dads move to Richland, a Washington town near the infamous Hanford Nuclear Plant, that’s exactly the situation they find themselves in. While she’s excited about the new change of scenery from their cramped old apartment in Seattle, Ali’s skeptical about Richland — namely, the stories of radiation poisoning from decades ago. Though the days of being Downwinders are allegedly over, the townspeople know better; all of them seem to know a friend, family or classmate who’s come down with “THE CANCER,” all caps.

But that’s only half the problem. While their future home is still being renovated, Ali’s family is temporarily staying in old government housing from the days of Hanford’s heyday. And they just so happen to be across the street from Judith, known to all the locals as the Witch. Not much is known about her, except for the fact that she has a pile of sticks in her yard: a pile of sticks that is never, ever meant to be tampered with.

Of course, people end up messing with the sticks. Schoolkids dare each other to knock them over, and even Ali’s dad Jared takes one after a dare from his husband. But when a work disaster strikes just a day after the theft, Jared soon finds himself plagued by strange nightmares and visions — all centered around the Witch. Is it a result of his thievery, or an effect of radiation exposure? And are the two less separate than others might think?

Grab an EMF Detector and a Geiger Counter

Based on his own life experience growing up in Richland, in the shadow of the Hanford Nuclear Plant, Witchland: The Graphic Novel (Highpoint Lit) isn’t Tim Mulligan’s first time telling this chilling tale. Witchland first began as a critically acclaimed stage play chronicling the story of Ali, her dads and classmates as they try to fight against the town’s strange thrall. Now Mulligan is back and with the artist Pyrink at his side, he’s introducing Witchland to a whole new audience.

Horror imbues the pages of this graphic novel, looming over the narrative like a nuclear plant tower. Aided by the beautiful — and terrifying — depictions of the supernatural calamity, readers will no doubt be spooked by the renderings of the fearsome Witch. And the scares are

twofold; by using both supernatural thrills and real-life tragedy as inspiration, Mulligan adds depth to the plight we find these protagonists in.

The plot also cleverly works complexity into each of these characters, and how stress exacerbates existing issues within the family. Throughout the comic, Van struggles as a recovering alcoholic and Ali finds it difficult to fit into this strange new town as the Black daughter of two gay men. And of course there’s Jared, who’s hallucinating a witch after being exposed to radiation.

Altogether, Witchland uses real, historic tragedy as a fascinating jumping-off point to create a unique and transformative narrative. For those of us who enjoy a chilling read during these dark winter nights, be sure to check out this engrossing novel. Just be sure to watch your back — and whatever you do, don’t mess with the Witch’s sticks.

Recent Blog Posts
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap