Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All is calm...

Rounding out this Christmas and holiday season, I give you tonight the true reason for the season.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"A Very Zombie Holiday"

  Wishing you a Merry Christmas, and the happiest of all this time of year's holidays, from the Ghost.

Besides, what would Christmas be, if not for our Yuletide zombies?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Season of Lights

While you may or may not be enjoying the red, green and multi-color Christmas lights decking homes around this time of year, I give you holiday lights. From our holiday season.





YouTube User: KJ90528

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye, Autumn

 This morning when I woke up, the view from my window was cold. Barren trees, patches of snow and a sky a single shade of white dirtied with bleak grey.

Fall is over. To try and combat the coming months of this cold lifelessness outside, I thought I would finally post some photos from my October cemetery outing.




 You can see my album here:
Forest Lawn, October 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving...

... as only The Addams Family can.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I always feel like...

 This just might be my favorite post-big day clearance purchase. I give you, Kmart's Totally Ghoul Musical Eye Lights. They play "Somebody's Watching Me," by Rockwell and Michael Jackson. I do have to say, I'm glad that this lesser appreciated 80's Halloween tune is becoming more and more a staple of the season it is so perfect for.

 If only there had been more. I was able to pick up this last box for half off, only about 6 dollars.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"There's No Such Thing"

 For the night after All Hallow's Eve, here is a delightful short that asks the age old question: Are there monsters under my bed?



YouTube User: DayWaltFearFactory

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

 In less than two short hours, another All Hallow's Eve will have come and gone. Personal highlights for this night include parents taking pictures of their children on my setup and bales of hay, being told more than once I had the best candy and watching kids take my setup up in so they seemed more interested in the fog and pumpkins and flashing lights than the candy I was giving them.

 As always, there are regrets. Life took over more time than I needed to get everything out and go through all the things I have for the day. The Grim Reaper, Scarecrow and other props I had planned on making remain works in progress, and I'll have many ideas I'm sure I won't even have done by this time next year. Or the year after.

 Watched several of the staples-- "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," "Halloween" and the remake of "Dawn of the Dead."

And I carved a pumpkin, which never fails to put me in the mood no matter what else is going on or trying to distract me. Giving credit where it is due, I found this design after a Google Pictures search of "Ichabod Crane pumpkin," which took me to this photograph.

 Wishing you and yours the Happiest of Halloweens.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Want to see something really scary?

 Halloween. The season when we celebrate the end of the harvest, the end of summer, the end of life as the cold sets in-- and the fear which accompanies.

Last night, a friend and I went haunted housing, at Frightworld Screampark in Buffalo, New York. I always forget how much I love to be scared. On the perfect, breezy leaf falling October night, there is nothing like going to your local obstacle course of fear. I love to be jolted by a costumed performer jumping out from a corner, unexpected, screaming and making my heart jump.

 I'm always surprised when there is something in one of these houses that genuinely scares me. As we came to the end of one of the first houses at Frightworld, we walked from darkness right into what can only be described as blown up plastic, on both sides, that we had to walk through. Think of two big, black bounce house walls pressing at you from both sides, taller than you are, making you push through in the dark.

 And it kept going. There was nothing but darkness, and just when you thought it would let up, and you would walk out into light-- it kept going. To the point where the claustrophobia makes irrational thoughts leap around your head, and you begin a light panic, thinking that if this keeps going on any longer, you won't be able to breathe. You won't be able to breathe, and you will be stuck in this painfully cramped space...

 When I came out, I knew I'd gotten my money's worth. And that's what Halloween is all about, Charlie Brown. Fear.



YouTube User: holysoldier456

 

A Very Martha Halloween Tribute

 As per request from a Miss Laura K., here is my yearly tribute to the woman who is lucky enough to showcase her autumnal crafts and cooking on the national and world-wide stage. Say what you will about Martha Stewart, but many of her craft and culinary tutorials are, as I'm sure she would say, "simply divine." 


And, for your sweet tooth, have a jack o'lantern tart. Or maybe a Boston "Scream" Pie. I could spend hours browsing the pumpkin gourd fall recipes, or the party ideas sections of her Halloween Central website.

 Here's to you, Martha, for devoting such a large part of your empire to the harvest. And, for your viewing pleasure, dear reader, some vintage Martha Stewart, circa Halloween 1999.


Monday, October 25, 2010

A Walk in a Graveyard... at Dusk

 Last week, I took a walk through my favorite cemetery near dusk. As it was beginning to become dark, I noticed these black birds or ravens flocking from tree to tree and monument to monument.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The True Spirit of the Trick

 For a small, bite-size candy corn morsel this evening, I give you childhood trauma (be this staged or not). Whoever these America's Funniest Home Videos contestants are, they have the true spirit of All Hallow's Eve!

 Although I would not recommend doing this as part of your home haunt, as I would believe there'd be some legal issues with doing this to random children who come to your door.



YouTube User: Kayrocker

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Edgar, Adapted

 As a longtime friend of Edgar Allan Poe, I've come in contact with a few adaptations of his work. There's quite a bit out there. One of the most popular writers (period), there is never a shortage of inspired books, graphic novels, music and film that seeks to adapt the master of mystery and macabre into a new form. When these adaptations turn to the dramatic, I'm personally always eager to view the attempt-- and almost always disappointed with the result. And even when I do get something out of an adaption on film, I never fail to be left with the impression that something's missing. Something only Edgar's brilliantly crafted work can provide. 


 Last Thursday, on the anniversary of the writer's death, I saw "Nevermore: An exPOEration" by the Brazen-Faced Varlets, a dramatic ensemble company in Buffalo, New York. Billed as simply that, a dramatic exploration of Poe's work, I did not know what to expect. And was immensely surprised. For nearly two hours in theater space in the back of a wonderful second-hand book shop, a handful of female actors put on a seamless ride through Edgar's work. Opening with a very clever interpretation of "The Raven," the narrative paused at points, and turned to dramatic presentations of Poe's work. These included full-bodied narratives of such as "Annabel Lee," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," as well as perfect presentations of Edgar's poetry, including "The Bells" and "Alone." 

 It is difficult to describe the experience of this theater to someone who has not experienced it. But the dramatic work these women did was absolutely stellar. In a small area of space and time, the experience of short stories like "The Tell-Tale Heart" was brought to life with all the old man's fear, and the dread, the reader feels when reading the words on paper. And that's a damn good adaptation, in my book. One that I know was created because these strong actors used Edgar's own words as a base-- something any and all future adaptations can note a lesson from. 

 So, tonight. I give you one of my favorite recitations of "The Raven" - read by actor Christopher Walken. 


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Toil and Trouble... Fog fall and cauldron bubble

 I do believe I'm somewhat late to board this bandwagon. Stumbling across a discussion on the Halloween Forum where posters were reporting on prices, I discovered the bubble fog machine.

 And it does as the name says, ladies and gentleman. The machine shoots out bubbles which, when popped, become fog. What a great enchanted little machine.

 Spirit Halloween is selling the machine for $69.99, with a quart of bubble fog juice for $7.99. And not to be outdone, the forces of supply and demand are offering an alternative. Target is selling the machine for $49.99, and a bottle of the juice for only $5. 



YouTube User: GrandinRoad

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Here Comes... Jack's Bride?

 Last year, one of my favorite new props was the devilishly clever Jack-in-the-Box from Walgreens, which I wrote about here.

 I think he will like my most recent purchase of this year. Walgreens clearly saw how popular he had been, and decided to give us, the adoring public, his bride. Who also appears to be selling out in stores rather quickly.

 After last Halloween, Jack, at different points during the year, was going for some rather high prices on eBay. Right now, however, he and Jill appear to be going for as high as $80. The average appears to be $39... rather steep, when they are $14.99 in store.    



YouTube User: TheToyChannel

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy October

 I just love saying that. Today is October... And yet it brings me much panic, as I feel I am so behind on the dressing of my house for the season... There is still so much to be done.

 So here's to a long Saturday of dragging boxes and bags down from the attic, in from the garage... and out onto the front lawn.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome Back, Harvest

 It's here.

 Tonight is the end of summer, thus beginning my personal favorite time of year, the earth reaching its peak of life as the chill of the coming winter months sets in.

 And this night marks a rare event. The Super Harvest Moon. For the first time in almost twenty years, when the sun set, it blended with the autumn moon as it rose, creating a unique twilight As the two low rising and setting light sources intertwined together in the sky, the twilight is uniquely illuminated.

 In case you are wondering, the image to the side is one of my new favorite things. An autumn angel, in her orange dress she holds a basket of pumpkins, with fallen leaves as her wings. Sounds like my idea of heaven.



Here is the view of the autumn moon, much later in the night, from my back porch. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Visions from a Starry Night

 I've always been fond of the eye Vincent Van Gough had for the world, but until very recently I had never seen these paintings of his. Brings to mind the season, don't they?





Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Shortage

 September has now nearly run its course. The weather is chilling down, the wind is picking up, and October will be upon our doorstep very soon. But while pumpkins may begin showing up in select supermarkets, the United States is in the midst (and hopefully soon coming out) of a cooking and baking pumpkin shortage. My local supermarket has some pumpkins already out, but does not have any canned pumpkin. Another supermarket nearby has some cans of organic pumpkin, which may be what I use the most of this season.

 Central Illinois is the source for almost 95% of all American-grown pumpkins that become cooked and canned. Late last summer, as the pumpkin harvest began, Illinois experienced their third growing season of too much rain and not enough sun. Soil conditions were harsh, with tractor axles becoming buried and stuck in mud, leaving large portions of the pumpkin crop to rot, unharvested.

 To try and make up for this shortage in 2010, companies such as Libby's (who are responsible for 87% of canned pumpkin sold in the U.S. from September to December) have added acreage to their crop. 


 As of this writing, there appear to be mixed news reports as to the pumpkin crop's outcome this year. An article in North Central Illinois' News Tribune reports on reports from around the state claiming that another wet season and diseases such as mildew have killed many pumpkin crops. However, yet another article in the Columbus Dispatch has grocers confidently stating that "canned pumpkin will be readily available this fall and on store shelves in time for holiday pies and other treats."

 I will be remaining cautiously optimistic; not anticipating the worst, but still hoarding each can I am able to find this fall.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your haunted home away from home...

One of my favorite holiday sites on the web is HalloweenForum.com. Since finding the site a few years back, I've come to feel at home with the online community of haunters and pumpkin-lovers.

I am particularly fond of the site's new logo, which is featured on their latest shirts and hoodies for this year. So stop by for some chat, a great tutorial to help you haunt your home in priceless and original ways, or a shirt.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Strange People

For all the other staples of the season-- from "Danse Macabre" to "Thriller"-- I've been glad to see The Doors' "People Are Strange" making a strong case for inclusion into the Halloween musical canon. I've always thought there was a certain festive sound to this tune, and that was reinforced last October when I saw a stage production of "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow" (with a modern twist) which featured this song heavily.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sam's Club Couple...

 In the online Halloween community, these props now available at Sam's Club seem to be making quite the impression. For a mere $73, you may add these two, shall we say, unique personalities to your haunted home.



YouTube User: ukats1958

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Skeleton Dance"

 This evening, I offer for your viewing pleasure Ub Iwerks' 1937 animated short "Skeleton Dance."

 There are few things I enjoy as much as some vintage, spooky-themed animation.



YouTube User: tweedlebop

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edgar's Dream

 For this rainy Thursday evening, I offer you this interpretation of Edgar's "A Dream Within a Dream."





YouTube User: singthesorrow1983

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Girl with the Zombie Tattoo(s)


 For this evening's entry, I give you an awesome woman-- who my partner met in a grocery store and apparently had a conversation with about me, zombies, and a desire to be on my blog-- and her spectacularly cool tattoos.


Some great work of art, those members of the dead breaking the ground.

 Thank you, girl who's name I do not know but wish I did, for having some phantastic artwork and for allowing me to feature you on the floor.

 There's a zombie on her leg. There's a zombie on her leg. There are zombies on her leg- we'd like a zombie on our leg....


 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Friday the 13!

 May several black cats cross your path today. For today is that wonderful day when the world is supposed to be that much darker, that much more mysterious.... even though it is not All Hallow's Eve.

I meant to write a post on the history of the day, but it appears that the danger of the number 13 has been believed in for thousands of years, with no set origin.

Some sources will tell you that the number originated from the number of attendees at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ (13), and yet others will remind you that Ancient Babylon's Code of Hammurabi leaves out the number 13 in its list of laws. The superstition is, then, at least as old as 1700 BC. 

 The number and the day of Friday, apparently, didn't become wed until the 20th century, when an American stockbroker published "Friday the 13th," which told the story of a businessman's attempt to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the month.

One last interesting historical fact about this day of days. In 1939, a small American town in Indiana forced all of its residents who were black cats to wear bells on Friday, October 13. Apparently to warn human residents of the furry impending doom coming their way. The good luck the town had on that day was enough for them to continue the practice for 3 years.

Carpe diem.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Abandoned

 Today, I offer for your viewing pleasure two things that should go together more often: claymation and zombies.



YouTube User: cartoonoctopus

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Danse Macabre" from the PBS of the 1980s


 A while back, I posted John McCloskey's fantastic short "Midnight Dance." Tonight, I give you one of the most quintessential pieces of Halloween music set, again, to animation-- this time as shown on PBS in the 1980s. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Halloween History Fact of the Day: Turnips

 
When I first read David J. Skal's "Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween," something that struck me the most was something I'd heard about but never given much thought to. 

Image
 Of all the iconography surrounding my beloved season of Halloween, the image of the jack o'lantern, the orange glow of the imaged carved into a hollow pumpkin emanating from the candle inside, is perhaps the single most widely used image of the season. But the pumpkin was not always Jack's first choice. 

 The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America, where the hundreds of years old Irish legend of the Jack O'Lantern has brought us the orange glow we so love today. 

 The legend goes something like this. Many years ago, in Ireland, lived Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack was rotten. He was a miserable old man, a drunk, with a particular fancy for playing tricks of everyone. His family, his friends, his neighbors-- even the Devil himself. One day during his trick, he conned the Devil into climbing a an apple tree. Once Jack had the Devil up in the apple tree, he placed crosses all around the trunk of the tree, preventing the Devil from ever climbing down. At this point, the Prince of Darkness did some of his own trickery, and accepted Jack's offer to not take his soul upon death in place of removing the crosses so he could get down. Jack did this, and the Devil was able to come back down to earth. 

 When Jack finally died, he met Saint Peter at Heaven's gates. Peter informed him that he was too cruel, and had lived too miserable a life to ever make it into paradise. So, Jack descended to Hell, where he met the Devil again, and the Devil kept his word. He would not allow Jack to enter hell, and take his soul. 

 Scared, Jack had nowhere to go. From then on until the end of time, he would be forced to wander the ephemeral darkness between heaven and hell. Jack asked the Devil how he could leave hell, being that there was nothing but darkness and he had no light. In response, the Devil tossed him an ember from the fires of hell, and Jack placed the ember in a turnip he had been carrying, for it was one of his favorite foods. From that night forward, Jack was doomed to wander the earth, without a resting place, lighting his way with the ember in his turnip. 

Image: edtadem.com


 On All Hallow's Eve, Irish households would hallow our turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets, and place candle lights inside them to help ward off evil spirits, and keep nasty old Jack away. And in the 1800s, when Irish immigrants came in waves to America, they discovered the pumpkin, and how much larger and sturdier a canvas it was to carve for Jack's ember. 




Monday, August 9, 2010

"The Legend of the Scarecrow"

Since I'm traveling for work, and staying in rural upstate New York between a country club and a corn field without a scarecrow, I thought this interesting little piece of creativity was appropriate for this dreary midnight. Enjoy.



YouTube User: eifelx1822

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Retractable Fangs

Well, ladies and gentlemen, these look awesome. Real and genuine-looking retractable vampire fangs are (perhaps) no longer the stuff of movies, only. Brought to you by VampFangs.com. 

Without jumping the gun, the video looks very promising, and I promise a full review once mine arrive in the mail. Depending on how well these work, my costume this year may have been decided.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Girl and Her Broom

For tonight's YouTube presentation, I give to you another amusing little short from aniBOOM-- a tale of a witch and her broom. Enjoy.



YouTube User: aniBOOM

Friday, July 30, 2010

Two months out...

I hate to post what is basically a repeat... but....

It is here.



The first layouts of the season, two months out, at Michael's.... 





 And is this Sam from "Trick R Treat





Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So close...

Just when you think that all of the sun burn, mosquitoes, humidity, fireworks, heat and all the other unpleasantness of this other season will never end.... you walk into a Big Lots and the non-existent attention span of the retail world reminds you that the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner....



Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Art of Radojavor

I had a professor in college, a wonderfully unique woman who lived the passion of art history. Simply showing our class of about 100 people a slide of a broken, ancient Myceanean statue on a cold winter morning, and relating to us the experience of seeing the piece in person, sent her into a state of ecstasy many in the class I'm sure did not understand.


In other words, the true beauty of user Radojavor's work on Deviant Art has a similar effect on me. Hosting a diverse collection of pieces showing everything from American Revolutionary War battles to contemporary alien invasions, the paintings which I love the most are his scenes of Halloween in the early colonial American colonies.

In even more words, I'd pay big money to have these pieces of art hanging in my home.


Monday, July 12, 2010

"There Are Monsters"

For a hazy, warm summer night, I give you this creepy little short film by Jay Dahl-- of chills in the snow.




YouTube User: blackdogfilms

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Trick or Treat"

And for a rainy Friday night (at least in my neck of the woods), my YouTube searching found me this tale of "good" versus "evil" whilist trick or treating.



YouTube User: SpyderMaxi

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wishing You a Happy Fourth...

... from the Ghost. With fireworks and Jack Skellington courtesy of Disneyland's Halloween Screams Fireworks in 2009.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Creepy Magazine's "The Tell-Tale Heart"

I try to space out my posts involving Edgar, but there's a reason why he and his work hold such a special place in my heart.

Behold- "The Tell-Tale Heart," as animated from Warren Magazine's "Creepy" Magazine, and narrated by the original source material. Something about Poe's tale has always mesmerized me. I first read the text as a child, and there is a creepiness conveyed with the brilliance of words that only Edgar Allan could create.

This video brings back a host of magazines and comics I remember from childhood- and does quite an interesting job at breathing new life into those memories.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Picnic in the Cemetery



A few Sundays back, my partner and I tried to attend an event I read about in our local paper, and desperately wanted to attend. An over 100 year old cemetery near a small rural town was having a fundraiser, and said fundraiser was going to be a Memorial Day Picnic-- in said cemetery.

Unbeknown to me, picnicking in a cemetery was apparently very popular in Victorian times. Research on this topic is few and far between, but as this article by Margaret Spencer suggests, the custom began in Victorian times, when architects moved away from the more cozy, dismal churchyards of yesterday and began designing lush, flowing rural parks as graveyards. When loved ones would come to tend to the monuments of the departed, they would come prepared for a full day of grave-tending; complete with gardening tools, flowers and other greenery-- and food to last them for the excursion.

I know many people who would balk at the idea of a cemetery picnic, and find something disturbed or unnatural about it. But I love the idea. Never do I enter a graveyard and is the experience lost on me. Of walking among the stones of those gone, and seeing what they have left behind to memory; what lasts, and what ultimately cannot.

Toward the end of our hour long drive, we managed to get lost and pass the cemetery several times. By the time we found the Evergreen Lawn Cemetery in Akron, New York, the fundraiser was over as they had sold out of all food. I gave them a small donation, and one of the Boy Scouts who had been serving the food offered us two sodas.

I walked around for a bit, taking pictures of anything that struck my eye or what I thought had the potential to. I find few things as calming, as perspective-giving as a walk through the gravestones. We ended up stopping at other cemeteries along our way home, which I will save for posts on other days.

Here is the Flickr album I created for my attempt at attending the picnic in the cemetery.



The tents in the background were where the picnic took place.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Humpty Dumpty by Edgar Allan Poe"

And now, for some fun involving my dear friend Edgar.



YouTube User: paperhand

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day from the Ghost...

... with a little help from good old Stephen King.


YouTube User: mastergamer35

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Emily"

Just as I was beginning to get discouraged from my YouTube searching... I found this. And it made all the difference.

Here's "Emily - Creepy Animation About a Creepy Girl." Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Amityville Horror" house back on the market


Looking to buy a new home? You may be in luck.

The "Amityville Horror House" has gone on sale in New York state.
Brought to fame by the 1975 crime in which Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered members of his family, and the family which later moved in and the novel and numerous film adaptations they inspired, the house will set you back a mere $1.15 million. The five-bedroom Dutch Colonial went on the market Monday.

Whether or not you believe (or have even followed) the saga of controversy over the experiences of the Lutz family when they lived in the home after the murders, the story of the Amityville haunting remains one of the most enduring accounts of a haunting in modern American folklore.

The book, which catapulted the story to fame, began after George and Kathy Lutz, the alleged victims of the haunting, were introduced by a book editor to Jay Anson, the book's author. Since it's publication, the story of the Lutzes has received harsh criticism, including a debunking of several claims of damage made by a couple who bought the house in 1977 on the television show "That's Incredible." Local Native American leaders have also denied claims made in the book that the local Shinnecock tribe once abandoned the mentally ill and dying on the land which would late become the house.

However, even in the face of these criticisms, though it was proven there was no snow on the date in which the Lutzes claimed to find cloven foot prints outside their home, the legend lives on. Most recently, The History Channel broadcast "Amityville- The Haunting and Amityville- Horror or Hoax?" in October 2000. In the documentary, George Lutz is quoted six years before his death as saying, "I believe this has stayed alive for 25 years because it's a true story. It doesn't mean that everything that has been said about it is true. It's certainly not a hoax. It's real easy to call something a hoax. I wish it was. It's not."

And now, for a little vintage paranormal TV, going back to 1979 "In Search... of The Amityville Horror."



YouTube User: FriendshipTown

Photo: Daily Mail

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"The Balloon" - Short Film

If you search for the kind of terms and tags I like best on YouTube, you are bound to come upon things like this devilishly eerie little animated short film. In "The Balloon," a little girl encounters a jester in the tradition of every creepy clown or Harlequin figure you have ever seen, and faces a choice.



YouTube User: ninique

And a special thanks to Season of Shadows for first bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On this day...


...in 1897, the novel "Dracula" by Bram Stoker went on sale in London.

I've read the novel in its entirety several times, and I try to crack it back open every few years or so. Never does it fail to wrap me up in its dark, intelligent and complex atmosphere, with Stoker's endlessly debatable timelessness. No matter how many times Hollywood attempts to take on the story, there is nothing that comes close to the greatness of the novel.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, over one hundred years later, you can read Stoker's masterpiece here on Google Books/Good Reads or download the eBook.

And for something not entirely unrelated, this beacon of hope for the children who are, of course, our future, was brought to my attention today.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Halloween" Deleted Scenes (Parody)

And now, the Sunday funnies.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger" 80's claymation style


While one may not often think of the eerie and macabre when thinking of American literary giant Mark Twain, the man's body of work is certainly not without some reflection on the darker sides of life.

I stumbled upon this selection from "The Adventures of Mark Twain," a 1985 claymation film. No, these are not the singing raisins, but the film was directed by Will Vinton, who is better known for his "The California Raisins." I have not seen the film, but have found that, while initially opening with a small theatrical release, it was released on DVD only recently. Wikipedia tells me the child characters in this clip are Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher.

"The Mysterious Stranger" is the last known novel attempted by Mark Twain. There are known to be two versions of the story attempted by Twain. The first, normally called "The Chronicle of Young Satan" follows the nephew of the Biblical Satan during the Middle Ages. The second, much shorter, attempt is titled "Schoolhouse Hill" and concerns Twain's characters of Finn, Sawyer and Thatcher and their encounters with Satan.

This unnerving, thought-provoking claymation clip features what appears to be the latter version, with Twain himself and his child characters encountering the author's Satan.



YouTube User: insertcoolname

Friday, May 14, 2010

To dust you shall return...


Be this too morbid a start to the weekend, but something has, while always disturbing me, engaged my curiosity about the art of the Capuchin Crypt on the Via Veneto in Rome, Italy. For those who may not know, the crypt lies beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.

Commissioned in 1626 by Pope Urban VII, the crypt began when the pope's brother, who was of the Capuchin order, ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars exhumed from a nearby friary for use in the crypt. The friars continued to bury their dead among the others in the crypt.

I've never visited the crypt myself, but the morbid expression is an art all unto its own. The crypt houses the bones of some 4,000 friars and a few poor Roman peasants, who died between 1528 and 1870. Of the six rooms in the crypt, only one, the Mass Chapel, does not contain bones intricately displayed. Among the most striking, unsettling bone displays (something about real human bones prevents me from calling the displays, for lack of a better term, "pieces") are a skeleton as reaper with a scythe in his hand, and the three skeletal figures dressed in friars' robes. When the Marquis de Sade visited the crypt in 1775, he wrote "I have never seen anything more striking."

Having grown up in the Catholic Church, while this morbidity is certainly not the norm I do understand from where it comes. When I first saw these images, I immediately was taken back to the Ash Wednesday service, when a priest makes the sign of a cross on a Catholic's forehead with the ashes of palm branches, while saying the words "Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return." I always wondered why that statement is made during the service, reiterating the corporeal aspects of our being, and making no mention of that which would, in theory, be that of us which would not return to dust. Or have originated as such.

The crypt is open to visitors from 9-noon and 3-6pm each day, but Thursday. A donation is required, and no photography is permitted. However, that did not stop this YouTube user from capturing a few moments on film within the crypt.



YouTube User: mlowerync

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For the middle of the work week....

"An Interview with a Vampire... and a Psycho and a Devil."



YouTube User: RBitting

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Funnybones

While searching YouTube, I came across episodes from the Welsh children's television series "Funnybones." Watching this jolted me through my memory to my childhood, when one of my most beloved picture books, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, were the "Funnybones" series.

The show aired in 1992 for several episodes, and I'm sorry to say I never knew about them. These pictures, words and Big and Little Skeleton and their skeleton dog contributed much in my formative years to my love for what lies in the dark, dark, dark.




YouTube User: HunterCalito

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Midnight Dance

For a lovely spring afternoon, something to take you away to those cool, dark, flickering orange autumn nights.




An animated film by John McCloskey, a visual interpretation of Camille Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre." A special thanks to John at Season of Shadows for finding this.

Youtube User: rawnervefilms

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Love at First Fright


This weekend, browsing the thrift store shelves, and after finding such wonderful things as Halloween Jello molds and a brand-new pumpkin soap dispenser, I found this face staring at me from a top shelf. Halloween was certainly not the first thing on my mind when I looked at her-- but an eerie sense of creepiness was. Her hands, twisted and slightly inhuman, were right out of Tim Burton's stop motion animation.

Soon, I came to realize that this bride rotates on her music box base, while Wagner's Wedding March plays. Yes, it crossed my mind to leave her there for someone who could use her for what she was intended.

But then I thought of all the fun we could have together, and how easily she could be remade into a corpse bride. I could age her dress and veil, give her black and/or dead flowers, change her face, hair or drape cobwebs from her. The possibilities, I'm sure, are endless, and I doubt I've even thought of half of them.

Ideas? Comments? Concerns?

She has a tag which reads "Wedding March by Bradley." After a bit of Google researching, I have found that Bradley Dolls were made from 1954-1984, and included porcelain dolls (of which my Bride is not.) They appear to have a following, and remain inexpensive. A former Toys R' Us employee, to me they look like the Bratz Dolls' ancestors.



Here's a video in order to appreciate her in all her living, and likely soon to be undead, glory.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wishing You a Happy, Creepy Easter...

...from "The Muppets?"

Friday, March 19, 2010

For the week of the Irish...

... a photo courtesy of Forest Lawn Cemetery, a quite beautiful cemetery and Fredrick Law Olmstead designed park, near my home.

Photo: Forest Lawn Cemetery

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Something to keep you warm…

…on a cold, bleak, dare I say dark and dreary, winter's night. I took the following pictures with my phone on the same night, several hours apart, a few weeks ago—little, reminders of the season in the dead of winter.

The first, in an empty parking lot not too far from my house…


… and then, a mix of holidays past in a clearance display at a local supermarket…

...and on the shelf above, still....


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bela Fleck's "Danse Macabre" now available


One of my favorite novels in recent memory is Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I have written some criticism on the Newberry Award winning young adult novel, but have yet to write a proper review here.

Neil Gaiman writes on his blog that Bela Fleck's banjo version of "Danse Macabre" played on the audio book version of The Graveyard Book is now available on iTunes, here, for 99 cents.

I am already in love with the piece, and have no doubt that I will play it on many October nights and the many times during the year when I need to remember them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Edgar's visitor no show this year


This week, Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious birthday visitor did not show up at the beloved writer's grave.

"I'm confused, befuddled," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, according to the Associated Press.

The "Poe toaster" has been a true life literary mystery and tradition since 1949, the first time an unidentified figure entered the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early hours of Poe's birthday to leave a half empty bottle of cognac at the writer's grave.

Throughout the years, the unidentified (and allegedly male) person has been described as dressed all in black, with a white scarf and carrying a silver tipped cane. The event, in which the figure toasts the "Annabel Lee" scribe before leaving, has drawn small crowds in recent years. The toaster has also left several notes over the years. In 1999, the noted stated that the original toaster had passed away, and that he had left the duty to "a son."

The new toaster's notes have generated some controversy in recent years. In 2001, the note appeared to favor the New York Giants over the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL's Superbowl; a puzzling development being that the Baltimore football team owes its namesake to poet and his poem. And in 2004, the toaster used anti-French sentiments in his note, likely due to French opposition to the war in Iraq, by saying that "The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac." Two years after the anti-French note, a group of people entered the graveyard in an attempt to accost and out the toaster, as they believed the tradition tainted by the controversial notes.

Last year, The Baltimore Sun described the crowd gathered to watch the event as significantly smaller than years past, and the toaster left no note. This year, for the first time in six decades, the toaster made no appearance at all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A teller of tales...


Mason Winfield is my friendly neighborhood ghost story teller. A historian, folklorist and "paranormal generalist," Mason publishes on a range of subjects, not the least of which are ghosts and the paranormal. Mason also runs a series of ghost walks and haunted pub crawls throughout Western New York; one of which, conveniently, walks itself right through my neighborhood. What makes Mason such a a good source of ghostly tales is his focus on the story over the proving of the paranormal. In his books, lectures and walks, Mason beautifully relates the tales he has gathered, and is always open to hearing some of yours.

He has written an incredibly interesting piece on his blog about his own Christmas ghost. Without hesitation, I would recommend it for anyone who has ever been connected to and loved an animal.

For another good introduction to his work, I'd recommend reading his post on "The Children Who Came Back." I first heard him mention this phenomena on an October night ghost walk on a small town street. The group was standing in front of a house, Mason telling a story, and a street light went out. This caused him to mention the tales he had heard of the little people. Little people who came for children at night. The way he told the story sent waves of goosebumps all over me. Instantly, I remembered what I'd long forgotten: nights as a child when I could not sleep in my bedroom, because the sense of dread I felt that the little people were coming across our lawn to climb up to my window, and take me, was too much.

I have no idea where I got these ideas from, of little people coming to take me, but that did not stop me from often running down the hall and sleeping in front of my parents bedroom, curled up in a corner with a pillow and blanket, because I couldn't bring myself to tell my parents the people were coming for me over the lawn. Apparently, I found out from Mason, I was not the only one.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Look what I found...

...just last week, above the magazine aisle in my neighborhood Walgreens. This odd couple was faced away from the discounted Christmas aisle, and tucked away in the back. What a festive way to ring in 2010.