Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Slender Man

 I've always been fascinated by the history of urban legends. Trying to trace the trail back to when the first time the story was told about the ghostly hitchhiker, or the man with the hook at a lover's lane. And this is why I became rather enthralled when I quite accidentally stumbled upon the- for lack of a more accurate term- legend of the Slender Man.

 After coming upon what appeared to be an urban legend I had never heard before, a quick Google search of the "Slender Man" gives you what appears to be a complete, detailed and time-tested history of a mythical supernatural creature; tall and slender, often dressed like a man, but with no discernible, or blankly white, face. Think of a darker Jack Skellington. The Slenderman has been reportedly sighted near children who have subsequently disappeared-- captured in black and white photos, and, even audio footage. For all the Slenderman's purposes, he seems nothing but the Bogeyman's latest incarnation-- even if he has something of a patchwork of sightings throughout history, in everything from old German woodcuts to accounts of Allied soldiers in World War I encountering Slendermen as German soldiers on the battlefield. The story which has sprung up on the Slenderman is detailed on a "Creepypasta Wiki" entry, a website I previously knew nothing about, but is apparently a forum where people submit brief, horror themed short stories which are called creepy pasta, rather than a short story. 

 This mythos, while not entirely convincing, seems, at least for yours truly, as if it could have benefited from the less is more approach of more modern urban legends (like the Blair Witch), rather than trying to create a new character who has literally been present from the beginning of time. However, I do find the speed and popularity with which the legend of the Slender Man has taken off to be impressive-- making use of all the Internet age's tools to spread stories. In fact, the whole legend of the Slender Man originated entirely from a contest on an Internet forum to create creepy supernatural characters and images. Given how easily online forums and other social media has birthed this first urban legend created entirely from the Internet, I would imagine the Slender Man is the first of many to be created online in years to come.

 There is also quite a bit of debate online over whether the Slender Man can truly be called an urban legend or if he is just an Internet meme (or trend), as an urban legend has historically been a story which developed, lasted and transformed to last over time. Can a tall tale told instantly in this time of rapid, world-wide digital communication become, so fast, its own urban legend? Or is the Slender Man simply one of many of the Bogeyman's centuries old transformations and different characters? Perhaps, only time will tell. As of now, we have the many pieces the character has spawned to enjoy-- all kinds of Photoshop and other art (some genuinely creepy) and amateur video. And there is even a film titled "The Tall Man" coming out this fall about a legend/entity that abducts children-- although the filmmakers apparently deny any connection to Slenderman (and, in their defense, bogeymen-type characters who abduct children-- whether Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger or Pennywise the Clown-- are nothing new.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pumpkins, again

Someday, I will grown a pumpkin. I've chronicled my past disappointments here, to varying degrees- my failure to be able to grow a pumpkin plant into a fully functioning and healthy being, capable of producing pumpkins. I don't believe I wrote about the extent of last year's failure-- nearly all of my many plants passing on to the next world before they even had a chance to flower.

 Needless to say, this year has been better. My Jack O'Lantern pumpkins I had so wanted to grow and carve did not survive. Several of the plants I bought at a local farmer's market-- pie pumpkins-- have been beacons of hope. They have flowered, and closed; flowered, and closed-- and I so hope they produce fruit.

 The record-setting drought we have had-- which I recently wrote about as it threatened the process of leaves changing in the fall-- I thought alone would have killed my pumpkins. But I have been giving the plants much water each day, and now am regularly spraying for bugs-- as I lost a plant early on to some evil creature which ate the plant whole, it seemed. Also, the location I planted these in, I know, are not ideal-- but they have nevertheless progressed farther than I have ever made it before.

 Here's to something of a crop, I hope, in time for fall.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


 My friend Laura is awesome. From her recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, she brought me back this skull from the Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo Gift Shop. I'm not sure if this skull is specifically related to Voodoo, or strictly the Day of the Dead, or both-- but it has ignited an interest in the subject of what the Voodoo religion is-- its history, myth and-- like any religion-- occasional relation to the occult.

 Voodoo, I've come to learn, is a more umbrella term for a number of religious practices which originated during the tragic time in our history known as the African diaspora-- when African people were enslaved and brought to America. There are several voodoo traditions-- Haitian and Louisiana among them-- and the one I've now read most about is Louisiana Voodoo. Voodoo came to Louisiana by way of African, Haitian and French cultures mixing in this central place. From the influence of the French (Louisiana, at the time, being a French colony), Voodoo gained a considerably Catholic influence, resulting in spirits existing in Voodoo who were  called by their African names, but later took on the names of Catholic figures and saints. Among more modern practitioners of Voodoo, there is even a movement to canonize Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo Queen who lived from 1784 through 1881. 

 Why, then, has Voodoo become, in some areas, so synonymous with the supernatural? Largely, this appears to be from the often intertwined aspects of the religion with the practice of Hoodoo, which is loosely defined as African folk magic. Voodoo Queens such as Marie Leaveau became famous for their legends, which contained the practicing of spells and other mystical dabbling-- a legend that lives on today, as visitors to the tomb of Marie Leaveau continue to write "XXX" on the walls of her tomb in the hope the Voodoo Queen of the 1830's will grant them a wish.

 Similarly, the concept of a "voodoo doll" has become representative of voodoo, however with origins not easy to trace. The practice of sticking pins in a doll appears to have originated more in the folk magic of Hoodoo, while being often linked to the world of Louisiana Voodoo. In New Orleans Voodoo, the voodoo doll is a form of "gris-gris," or invoking the spirits-- and, surprisingly, have historically been used more as a talisman for luck than for the infliction of pain and or misfortune on one's enemies. The folklore around the voodoo doll-- used both for luck and revenge-- is extensive, and it is easily apparent how tales such as using a doll to call upon spirits for deeds dark or light find an easy home in the supernatural.

 Zombies also have a like history to voodoo. Tales of the zombie, the dead brought to life, appear most commonly found in the folk magic associated with Haitian Voodoo-- or, more accurately, the legends and mythologies born out of such practices-- and the tales of these spirits being called upon to bring back the dead to us is absolutely a task of the supernatural.

 There is so much to this topic I see the creation of many future blog posts to do this justice; exploring what the religion of Voodoo is, and how its customs birthed such dark, varying and interesting legends.

 Someday, I will make it to New Orleans.

Images: Marie Leaveau's Tomb / Voodoo doll

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An August Danse Macabre

It is August. The unofficial start to fall, two months out from the pumpkin month. By the time this month is out, we will have started to see the first of the leaves turn, and felt the first chill on the air (hopefully.)

 Many times in the past, I have posted about Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre" and differing videos   the piece has spawned, such as this one. For me, there are few, if any, themes more appropriate to ring in the season.

Tonight, I give you a performance I consider very strong of the piece that is as synonymous to Halloween for me as October air.