Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
I would say I did, too, but in my case, a little more fear than beauty maybe. I met the Devil in the 60's, you see.
Here is an old photo I found online of the infamous Devil’s Slide, a notorious stretch of highway along the coast of California where "falling rocks" signs dotted the roadside and cars plunging off the edge to the ocean below were a regular news story. As a kid, I had to travel this road many times whenever we went to and from El Granada to San Francisco and back. Southbound, from the passenger seat I would have had the drop-off side of the road (a mere bread crust of space) right out my window--though mostly I could barely bring myself to look. The picture does not quite get you there, but for a child looking out the window the edge seemed a gust of wind away. And then swoosh, down that terrible drop to the ocean and rocks below. During my life in El Granada, there was no shortage of reports of cars going off the edge and families plummeting to their death. More recent photos show that they've added a lot more guard railing. But when I lived there, this is what it looked like. Give me a Wordsworthian cataract any day.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
If you are looking for a last minute gift idea for that special twisted horror fan on your list, consider this book. Creatures, Thirty Years of Monsters. Quite a mix of really fun monster tales, but maybe the stories should speak for themselves.
Here are a few excerpts from some of my personal favorites ....
The Creature from the Black Lagoon, by Jim Shepard (note: this and other stories in the first section of the book are written from the point of view of the monster.)
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
I made a weird leap last night. I was thinking about The Fly, the classic one, and I realized that what was so damn disturbing about the man-headed fly, apart from the pitiful “help meeeeeee” and a image itself, is that I am forced to imagine how awful it would be to die an insect death informed by human consciousness. Here, the kind of dumb indifference most of us would ascribe to a fly is swapped out with a human awareness of mortality, exploding with horror at the brutal prospect of being food, painfully dying. Being eaten alive is not my idea of a good time, unlike say a certain punk rock girl is some 80's Zombie movie: "Do you ever fantasize about being killed? Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying, you know, violently? I wonder like, what would be the most horrible way to die? Well for me, the worst way would be for a bunch of old men to get around me, and start biting and eating me alive.” (Bonus points if you know the source.) In fact, I went through this miserably long nightmare phase in my teens that involved being eaten alive. In the nightmares, I am still alive and contained in in great crushing pain while passing through some giant predator’s mouth, down its throat, into the stomach. Thankfully, I am a lucid dreamer and would always wake myself up before ... before what? I was shit out I guess. Insult to injury.
"We don't like to die; and if we have to die, we don't like to think of our own dead bodies feeding other creatures". This is a line I copied from an essay by John Daniels, a poet and nature writer. Daniels comes to this conclusion after he encounters a swarm of ants trying to kill a beetle. He's repulsed by the scene of ants swarming over and killing a beetle because he sees a glimpse of his own mortality in the drama. Perhaps this is true. Predation in nature reminds us of our own mortality--and this scene from The Fly really rubs our nose in it--of course there are dozens of other monster flicks that the same. Old HD Thoreau's journals are rich in accounts of predation. In one case, he writes about a snake trying to eat a toad and as Thoreau arrives, disrupting the scene, the snake coughs up the toad and flees. (I know it's not a toad but it's the best pic I could find.) The toad leisurely jumps away and Thoreau notes what he calls the toad's "healthy indifference".
I struggle not to see such acts as symbols of human mortality. Mine. The reflex is habit but I am working on it. I always point out to my son, when we witness predation and the like, that it is part of the cycle of life and that the snake (or whatever it is that's eating someone) is not being mean, it's just being a snake.
I like to think I am laying the groundwork for a better perspective - one, and I have to overlook the hypocrisy - I am still trying to embrace. Is it possible to evolve a kind of healthy indifference toward death? I can't imagine how. I have this son I adore and want to be around for his whole life. And, when do I show him The Fly?
Sunday, December 11, 2011
that's how much weight I have lost since October 5th when I started weighwatchers and really picked up my running .. ran 8 miles today in fact.
In honor of losing the chub, here's a shot of shark boy from Hungry--one of my favorite X-Files episodes. He knew all about eating, and eating and eating ...
Sunday, November 20, 2011
from The Empty House by Algernon Blackwood
There was manifestly nothing in the external appearance of this particular house to bear out the tales of the horror that was said to reign within. It was neither lonely nor unkempt. It stood, crowded into a corner of the square, and looked exactly like the houses on either side of it. It had the same number of windows as its neighbors; the same balcony overlooking the gardens; the same white steps leading up to the heavy black front door; and, in the rear, there was the same narrow strip of green, with neat box borders, running up to the wall that divided it from the backs of the adjoining houses. Apparently, too, the number of chimney pots on the roof was the same; the breadth and angle of the eaves; and even the height of the dirty area railings.
And yet this house in the square, that seemed precisely similar to its fifty ugly neighbours, was as a matter of fact entirely different--horribly different.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I love Supernatural stories, and you can’t get far into most Supernatural stories without soon arriving at the front gate, door, path to, etc., the obligatory spooky house. Having tried to write a few tales myself, I can say that these portrait, or snapshot passages that give us the first look at the “house as character” are freaking hard to write—right up there with trying to paint the erotic or sexual in a perfect sentence or two. That said, I thought I would post a few of those more winning passages that I have come across while reading up and down the ghost story spectrum, beginning with one of the best in my humble opinion ….
from the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
A real departure from the hundreds of spooky house paragraphs that build the house, brick by brick by window and window casement, by paint color, shingle condition, etc., right before your eyes. Plenty of those work well, but I like how this paragraph, aside from being just plain amazing from a language standpoint, uses mood, atmosphere, a little personification, and scant landscaping (its hills) to create an impression, a very foreboding impression, of Hill House.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Here's the deal. I have a huge brag to get off my chest, but it has nothing to do with Horror. The best I can do to try and skew it in the right direction is put up this picture of a guy holding a bio-hazard bag of human fat recovered from a crime scene and tell you that within the last four weeks I have lost 20+ pounds while dieting and running my freaking ass off on the local jogging paths. That's t w e n t y. That's 245 lbs. instead of 267. gross.
Monday, November 7, 2011
See, if I were a superstitious man I might be alarmed because over the past three weeks I have almost been hit twice by cars while jogging or nearly smashed into by other drivers running red lights, or hit by swerving drivers avoiding other drivers who ran stop signs--and that's outside forces at work. At least three times, maybe because I was sleepy or getting a little too into Dreamboat Annie, I zoned out and found myself slamming on the brakes at more than one traffic light. If I were superstitious I might think the Grim Reaper drives a copper colored Hummer, or what looked like a taped together K-car. From someone else's POV, the Grim Reaper maybe looks like me almost running a stop light.
But I haven't been hit yet. That is why I say near near death. But with so many close calls I can't help get the feeling I might be marked.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
A decent collection that mixes writer's from the past, M.R. James for instance, and new writers like Lisa Tuttle -- who very often blows my mind (though I have come across a few of her tales that left me thinking, "is this the same writer of Jamie's Grave?).
If you like supernatural tales, and you like em short, many of these are. Perfect for a quick read with your morning coffee before getting ready for work.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Last year, I spent the whole month of October (Friday, Sat and Sun nights) working at The Carnival of Horrors here in town, done up in bloody clown make up and clothes, jumping out at people, inhaling fog, clanging a shovel, fighting off motion sickness because of the strobe lights, screaming at people until I was hoarse, getting whacked and run over by hysterical drunks, hit in the beans by a too bold kid, and slapped in the face by a woman who, apparently, didn't want her money's worth after all. This head shot was the pinnacle of my make up efforts. The flap waggled quite a bit when I lunged at people. This year, I am doing haunted houses the old way--as a guest. Tonight, we're going to the Fortress of Fear Screampark.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
In a small effort to spare myself from the fires of hell, I do volunteer work with a Children's Hospital in the area. The little dude I visit, always in his home because he has a scary immune system issue that keeps him shut in mostly, is a total, frothing fan freak of the Predator monster.
And, in a funny twist, he sees the Predator as a kind of hero good guy because (and I haven't seen these so I don't totally know what he means) in the AVP movies the Predator seems to have some kind of shaky alliance with humans as they take on the Aliens together. He will often ask me if I think Predator is good. I say, it sounds like it--based on what he tells me about the movies. I don't talk much about the original Predator film (which I have seen and love)and being a "good guy" in the same breath though. He will see that for himself some day when he's older I suppose.
Anyway, I have been searching high and low for the best of the best Predator mask for this kid as a Halloween surprise, and FINALLY found one at some weird out of the way place south of me. Here it is, being modeled by my son.
It has the metal face plate, too. I will hand it off to the kid this Saturday, probably show up at his door with it on just to see how big his eyes get--before they pop. True, it is way tooooo big for the kid's gourd but if the Predator's his hero, it will fit just as nicely on his dresser where he can stare at it for peace of mind.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Here's Serling's intro to, and the painting for Lindemann's Catch."Painting number one: having to do with fishermen and what they fish for -- or, more specifically in this case, a fisherman and what he wasn't fishing for. What appeared in his net one afternoon defies logic, reason, and belief. But there it was -- Lindemann's Catch."
If you’re a youngin, and grew up after Night Gallery went off the air, you should check out the old episodes. Try The Doll for instance, and I dare you tell me that’s not Chucky’s great Grandmother.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
He died in 2007.
I’ll tell you who: Lawson J. Deming. AKA, Sir Graves Ghastly.
He hosted a horror show for kids in the 70s, every Saturday at 2. Extremely popular in Michigan where I lived at the time. Each show featured a film of course, and then cornball kitschy sketch bits before and after commercial breaks. I would almost always be at my Grandparents house on weekends, working for them around the yard and in my Grandfather’s printing shop to earn money. I think Sir Graves even read letters from viewers as part of the show. I think I even wrote him.
Impossible to recall now how many classic and Bs I watched, or should say ‘discovered’ thanks to his program. I know this, though. I first saw The Thing on his show, and THEM, and IT, the Monster That Challenged the World, and my all time favorite, Creature from the Black Lagoon. That's some prime horror bouillon. Already a rabid monster fan, you can bet I finished my work by 2 so I could, as he would say in his welcome to the show, “cuddle up in your favorite place by the telly”. Pretty sure I cuddled up well into my mid-teens.
Thinking about him all these years later, and snuffling through web for info, I was shocked to find he was born in Cleveland and died in roughly the same area, just north of where I live now.
If you’re listening Graves, thanks. You were kind of like the 10th planet in my world back then, back when there were 9, back when ...
... I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green ...
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The next day I was able to get an interview with Carol during which I asked her questions about what had happened … thus constituting an interview. She spoke slowly, by choice. Her pale son Amlish, still in mild shock, clung to her side like a frightened Rhesus monkey. She was a sturdy woman with bold features. With a heavy heart I took my pen in hand and began my quest for the truth.
HST: Carol, I know this is a hard time for you and your family, but it is very important that we get to the bottom of this so no one else suffers what you have suffered. Can you tell me what happened?
Carol: "I can try. We were watching the T-Ball game you know, minding our own business, when I look down at my purse and notice it is moving so I catch my breath you know, and grab it fast like this.”
NOTE: With great precision she reenacts the grabbing gesture.
Carol: "And this freaking bastard squirrel shoots out of my purse, he must have smelled my Hoof mints, and it latches onto my arm right here you know, and he starts going at it with his little hands like he’s typing and like I can see his mouth open to bite me so I smack at him and I am screaming stuff like “Get it off, get it off, get the fucker off” and all the kids coming running over and the coaches and someone who had the best of intentions threw a T-ball at it and it hit me right in the forehead and that was all I remember. I woke with a knot on my head and little Amlish here was clinging to me frightened like he’d seen a ghost.”
HST: Is this the first time something like this has happened to you?
Carol: No Amlish always clings to me.
HST: I mean with a squirrel? An animal attack?
Carol: Some dog once grabbed a hold of Amlish’s hoodie. He wasn't wearing it though. But that’s it. I mean Highland Square is supposed to be a safe community. But see it’s just like everywhere else. It has it’s dark underbelly and share of crime, it’s just that squirrels are the criminals instead of robbers. I don't know if Amlish will ever be the same."
I quietly wondered if that was such a bad thing.
This morning, at my window, World War S came clawing. Jeepers creepers, where'd you get those Rage red peepers.
Signing off. But not checking out. I hope.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Vivienne Moss, caretaker at Out of the Shadows, kindly invited me to join the ever swelling ranks of the rank, the Minions of Misery. To be a good Minion, for my end of the bargain I have to share some misery:
1. Choose a dark book
2. Choose a dark film
3. Reveal a dark secret about yourself
4. Pass it on to 3 of the darkly inclined
I would pick The Ones That Got Away by Stephen Graham Jones. Compared to a lot of the short story collections I have been reading lately, this one really stood out. Jones’ writing style, in a lot of my favorite stories, had a kind of Carver minimalist touch, meaning always just the right touch. Rare that I find a collection with so many keepers, and yet: Lonnegan’s Luck (zombies in the Old West), Father, Son & the Holy Rabbit (grisly survival tale), Monsters (some vampire action), and Wolf Island were all great. Wolf Island, for example, pits a werewolf against some crafty marine life. (Maybe a little reminiscent of the zombie vs. shark scene in that one movie I can never remember the name of.) I wouldn’t say the stories are scary, though. There are certainly elements of horror, some gore and monsters of course, but very often these same stories reach down into deeply poignant territory along the way. I like my horror with a little heart.
I have to give credit where credit is due, to one of those old films that marked me, helped make me the ghost story loving freak I am today and that film is Tormented. This is one of those old films that, when you watch it light years later, makes you cringe. By today’s standards, and probably even standards back in the 60s when this was made, it has epic suck written all over it.
It’s a Burt I. Gordon film and has been (big surprise) through the MST3000 grinder. However, I first saw it when I was about 6 or 7 and it scared the shit out of me. Enough so that I never forgot it and 46 years later, bought the DVD. Richard Carlson (from Creature from the Black Lagoon) plays the male douche bag lead. I don’t want to give anything away if anyone reading is brave enough to watch (endure) it, but in amongst the cheese, there’s a lighthouse scene that has haunted me forever, and a church scene that takes the ‘wedding crasher’ concept to a whole new level.
I have a record.
And, the Minions to Be are:
Sicko, at Sicko Psychotic
Giovanni, At the Mansion of Madness
Alymer, at Unflinching Eye
Amok? Is that too strong a word for what’s going on with the area squirrels. Breslin Mack, a normally quiet off-the-grid type, is taking no chances. For him, and others like him terror has a new name, and it is Tamiasciurus hudsonicus or brown squirrel. Following reports of yet another attack, I made my way to his domain on the outskirts of Highland Square. Upon climbing the fence and dropping over I was greeted by Breslin Mack. He had a way about him. I don’t know what it is. I was not able to understand much of what he said. He pointed to a suit of armor he fashioned from lids and melted pans for W, his dog.
Apparently, the dog had already run into the business end of a squirrel and it left his right eye in chaotic blindness.
Both W and Breslin seemed to be hopped up on YuenLing.
The interview did not go well. He was not very forthcoming with details. Not the printable kind.
Returning to my office at the Highland Square Tattler, I found this photo in my email.
The text of the email was: "sperd thwe word its steartingg". Ok, anonymous, I'll spread the word: lock your windows, my friends. A hard f----- rain's a gonna fall. A squirrel rain.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Remember Frogs, Day of the Animals, Food of the Gods, et al--those animals getting even movies from the 70s? Well, how about Week of the F----- Squirrels. Grab your nuts and run, baby. You see, around here the squirrels aren't just burying nuts, they are nuts. They're attacking.
I was in the right place at the right time, and picked up a freelance reporting gig with the Highland Square Tattler (the neighborhood paper that's more like a newsletter) to cover a recent slew of squirrel attacks. Could it be like Squirrels getting the Rage virus? Don't know, but I do know the last the last thing we need is a Jaws-like panic in the streets as we’re heading into Fall outdoor fun season.
A few days after the first reported incident, camera in hand, I paid a visit to Highlanders Gil and Tanya Shelby to learn firsthand about their ordeal. When they greeted me at the door, I could tell by the dark circles under their eyes they were still living the nightmare. Am breaking all manner of privacy protocols here, but this is the transcript:
HST: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. I know it can’t be easy. If we could begin with the attack? How it happened?
Tanya: The what?
HST: Tell me what happened.
Tanya: I was walking Eggo our dog, and I remember I was singing to myself that Hips Don’t Lie song, and then my hair I thought was tangled in a branch so I reached up and felt this hairy head and the feet with those scratchy toenails just sort of began to dance about my head. And the chattering … I will never forget it. Eggo went crazy and at that moment I realized it was a squirrel, and the tail was like in my eyes and all over my face, touching my skin. And in my mouth a little. Gil my husband heard my screams and came running from the house waving his arms. The squirrel sprang down and glanced off Eggo, giving him a nasty bite and scratch on his paw and scurried into the street. I could see he had tufts of my hair in his hands that made it look like he was holding pom poms. So gross. I always trusted squirrels, maybe because Hollywood makes them cute in movies. But that’s not reality anymore. Not for me. Or Eggo.
HST: Mr. Shelby? Gil? What went through your mind seeing this squirrel, clearly insane, on your wife’s hair? Gil?
(End of transcript)
Clearly the husband was ashamed as if he should have somehow been able to prevent it. As a proud strong man myself I have felt this helplessness too.Throughout our interview he tried a few times to tell his side of the story but his voice would always trail off as would his gaze and he looked away. Most likely with secret tears welling in his prideless eyes. I asked a few more questions about rumors of other attacks in the neighborhood. Gil, sitting near his wife, remained ashamed. Trying once more to speak through his shame, Gil opened his mouth to speak but finally just slumped into the couch and looked off as he envisioned who knows what kind of squirrel mayhem. Emasculated.
How many other cases have gone unreported? I don’t know. But the Shelby’s story makes four in the last month. As the great Dick used to say, the game’s afoot. I will be publishing ‘roughs’ from my paper column here on Laughing Scared--while I still have my freaking fingers that is ... nibble nibble nibble. P.S. If you have ever been attacked by a squirrel, or like to make up fake news stories like this about possible Zombie squirrel attacks, pls share.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Lon Chaney, who I admire endlessly, was nicknamed the Man of a Thousand Faces. This was a salute to his incredible virtuosity with special effects make-up and the countless characters and faces he brought to life. The piranha toothed freak in London After Midnight. The killer Clown, Hugo's Quasimodo, and the Phantom of the Opera--his most famous. Of course, there’s another face he seems to have created or at least inspired (without make up even), that goes unmentioned. That overly toothy, eyebrows peaked, crazy face that JN puts on so often. (Idle speculation, idle speculation, mumble, mumble.)
Erik has always been one of my favorite misfits. In fact, when I was around 14 I made a charcoal drawing of Chaney’s iconic Phantom face and entered it in the county fair’s art competition. (I think I got a ribbon.) And where other kids might have had Aerosmith posters, I had the following framed and hanging on my wall:
Feast your eyes gloat your soul on my accursed ugliness.
My Grandfather, who had a small printing business, had done up the line in a cool Phantom font for me and printed it on his best paper stock and framed it. Dumb ass that I am, I have lost it or just got rid of it not thinking it would be nice to have as a keepsake.
In the original Phantom of the Opera, there are three scenes that make the film for me. Of course, the first in the unmasking. That’s the money shot before there was such a thing as the money shot. Then, I have never forgotten that scene of him on top of the opera house in the Masque of Red Death outfit, cape billowing in the night wind, heart breaking with jealousy and rage. (I guess I have to say SPOILERS ahead if you have somehow never seen the film.) Lastly, and I might like this more than the unmasking, is the death sequence at the canal. After being pursued relentlessly through the streets of Paris by the crazed mob, they trap and encircle him at the canal; as the mob is squeezing in on him from all sides, he thrusts his hand up in a warning gesture as if he’s got a weapon. The mob cowers and falls back a bit until the Phantom, laughing, lowers and opens his hand to reveal it is empty. Psych!
I love this moment and wish I could find a better image of it--if this is even it. The background looks wrong, looks like we might be underground in his man cave perhaps, not alongside the canal he is about to die in. Anyway, here’s to an empty hand. With a little acting, bluff and bravado, it might just be your greatest weapon some day.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Indeed. Okay, this post is not for the squeamish. Read on about the Judas Cradle, or simply Torture Cradle, if you dare ...
"The anus, in the vagina, under the scrotum (the 'taint') or under the coccyx is where the peak of this wooden pyramid found itself. A metal belt was wrapped around the victim and then he or she was hoisted atop the point of the pyramid. The torturer could modify the pressure upon their tender areas by raising or lowering the victim."
The link will take you to more of the same -- the Pear of Anguish, the Head Crusher, Spanish Tickler (a Freddy Kreuger glove prototype if ever) -- over at Occasional Hell.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I thought they'd never end. Hmmm. I don't turn 50 for a few more years, but nevertheless I am feeling all weepy and nostalgic tonight and thinking back on one of my earliest love affairs with monsters. These bad boys from the 60s. Odd Rod stickers, baby. While other kids collected baseball cards, I collected these.And even gnawed away on the bark like stick of gum that came in each pack. You want to see some awesome creatures, lookie lookie. My kid runs around collecting Magic the Gathering cards, or Yu-Gi-Oh. Can you say generation Gap? Come on, feast your eyes on Super Fuzz.
Great Lakes Brewing Co in Cleveland. How good is it? An A- over at Beer Advocate (for those of you into craft brews. Some of the profiles will say "amber" color, but blood red is more like it.
Here's my rating:
Cream-colored head, lacy as Lucy's nightgown.
Bitter malts with twist of caramel notes combine with a bold, earthy "who let the corpse out of the crypt" hop aroma.
Floral hops creep over the tongue, and run smoothly from the corners of your mouth during gulps. Shadowy cinnamon notes.
Moderate carbonation. Prepare to burp. Thick, sticky mouth feel. Jugular thick.
Coming it at 8% ABV, one or two bottles will give you the Renfield tremors. If you're lucky.
True, it's just a beer. But I have no problem calling it Master and doing its bidding. (Hench-sous that I am.) Sadly, it is seasonal and will only be around for a few months, or until the sun comes up. One of the two.