Creepy Crafts: Krampus Mask

IMG_4521I’ve loved Krampus — St. Nick’s horned enforcer — for years now. I’ve posted about Krampusläufen (Krampus rampage-parades) books about Krampus and the vindictive Alpine beast nearly topped the list of 10 Best Holiday Monsters a couple years back. Until this year, however, I hadn’t taken the time to make myself a Krampus Mask. My final impetus came from the Krampus Ball 2014 to be held 20 December at the DreamLand Theatre, Ypsilanti. Yes, yes, it’s a bit late. Krampus typically appears around 6 December and St. Nick’s feast day but this event promises to be a Solstice-shindig, a time for monsters to let their hair down and cut loose… as if that would be a problem for Krampus.

The design for my Krampus mask started with a pallette to distinguish it from a mere horned demon (reds) or woodland faun (greens and browns.) I wanted to go COLD and than meant blues and whites. I’m channeling a bit of Cold Miser here (who also made our list of Best Holiday Monsters BTW) White fur, chilly blues… heck I was tempted to try icicles. I knew I’d wear this to a party, so I didn’t want horns that might poke others if I got wild on the dance floor. This meant curled ones. Honestly though, much of this “design” work happened as I started playing around with the materials. I find too much pre-planning can really inhibit my craftiness but your mileage may vary.
Face+Nose
Since I am a hoarder, I next raided my box of failed experiments where I found a forehead mask made of plaster bandages form-fitted to my face (and yes, I happen to have a model of my head made on a previous Weird Date Night with Elsa) and a gritty paper mache nose I’d made atop a commedia d’ellarte mask. The base mask was rigid enough that I thought it could anchor the horns. I also liked how the nose would echo the shapes of the Krampus horns. I glued them together with white glue and clamped them with bull clip style paper clips. The paper clips are incredibly useful tools, second only to my vast collection of brushes. Pro Tip: use a brush to spread the glue then wash the brush out thoroughly.

Horn after crumpling but before twisting

Horn after crumpling but before twisting


The horns started simply enough. I took a sheet of stiff craft paper (11 x 17 but I don’t think that really matters) and made a paper airplane which I crumpled up. It’s easy to overly compress the root part of the horns so I adjusted them after initial formation. Pro Tip: natural horns curl in a particular direction — check out some reference photos if your’e going for realism — but I was really accenting an asymmetrical vibe so I purposefully ignored Mother Nature and made two “right-hand” twisting horns. I’ve read that our brains find asymmetry to be “unnatural” and I wanted to tap into that sense to make my Krampus feel monstrous. For weight and stability concerns, I needed horns that were basically hollow so I added just a thin layer of blue paper towel wetted down with normal white glue. If I was doing this again, I might try applying the cloth layer directly to the crumpled paper airplane but since this was my first time making horns, I’m glad I used an intermediate layer. Dan Reeder of Gourmet Paper Mache.com even removes the interior paper once he’s applied the top coat. Papier-Mâché Monsters“>Reeder’s book Papier Mache Monsters has been a great encouragement in this project and others. His series of Youtube videos is both instructive as well as amusing. Check them out especially if you need to psyche yourself up before getting dirty with the craft gear.
Horns
The tricky part was how to let them dry without deforming them or letting them stick to a surface. Pro Tip: glue is sticky! I used two wire clothes hangers. I twisted them into a rough spiral shape and suspended them from the copper pipes in the basement ceiling. My workspace is quite modest by the way so don’t think you can’t do this because you don’t have a workspace like on FaceOff. My surface is half of a chest type freezer, illuminated by two bare lightbulbs, in a basement that lacks running water. Your most serious limitations often are in your mind… which isn’t to say they aren’t real.
Face+Horns

Face+Horns2

Face+Horns3
Once things dried overnight, I attached the horns to the face mask with more white glue (use that brush for an even coat!) held in place with magic duct tape and clamped with more bull clips. At this point the structure is only semi-stable. Again, I suspended the construction with those deformed clothes hangers. (Note: I sprayed the horns with gray primer mostly because I was chickening out and needed to see if they even vaguely looked like actual horns.)
ClothOnHorns
This step is where the magic happens. Seriously. I have to give props again to Dan Reeder. Using cloth and glue instead of newsprint and flour-paste results in creations far superior to the papier-mache I learned in grade school and far cheaper and lighter than the plaster bandages I had been using. I started with the horns. I love the spiraling ridges found on some horns and decided to replicate them with the cloth layer. I wetted down one side of the cloth strip in glue, then rolled the long end to make that ridge. Then I wetted the other side, squeegeed off the excess and applied it to the horn starting at the tip. Again, real horns have a natural twist to them… and I realized too late that one of my horns has ridges going in the opposite direction to the horn’s twist. I let these horns dry while I was at work.
ClothCoatDone
When I got home, I applied the cloth and glue treatment to the face. I rather liked the warty texture of the nose so I focused on the forehead, mostly wanting to add stability to the point where the horns attached. Again, reference photos are your friend. Dig especially this video about how Dan Reeder replicated “Darkness” from the movie Legend (1985) While the glue is still wet, play with the strips. The folds are highly reminiscent of flesh already and with a little finessing using the handle of a paintbrush, they can be manipulated into rather subtle expressions. Don’t worry TOO much at this point. Paint will really help sell the shapes you’ve created at this stage.
BlueBaseCoat
After letting the cloth layer set overnight, the mask was ready for a base coat. I had half a gallon of light blue house paint in my craft hoard so I started there. I wanted tonal variation in the piece, going from nearly white at the tip of the nose to much darker on the horns. The base coat at least finally gave me a sense that the mask was coming together. I had some leftover blue spray paint also in the craft hoard which I used on the horns.
AccentCoat1
But then I realized that same deep purply-blue would be good for the creases of the brow and along the nose so I sprayed a bit on the face as well. I angled the direction of the spray down ward so to hit the crevices of the wrinkles. I figured worse comes to worst, I could paint over it with more blue housepaint.
AccentCoat2

Once the base and accent colors had thoroughly dried, I picked up a 1″ craft brush and started dry brushing more of the blue house paint. Dry brushing is its own kind of magic since the pigment only sticks to the raised textures. The monster was starting to come alive. I then used a bit of ice-blue (extremely pale) craft acrylic on the tip of the nose. I have learned from many bad experiences that it’s easy to ruin something by over-working it so once I got the general sense of color laid in, I let it dry. I got the overly dramatic lighting on this shot by hanging the piece on clothes hanger wire but then turning the picture upside down.

BeforeDetailing

While the paint dried, I took some of craft fur and started fashioning a cowl. I bought WAY too much fur… but it went into my craft hoard for later monsters. The cowl barely used half a yard. I got what was called “Grizzly Bear–White” fur, a name which I found kind of comical. I placed a corner in the center of my forehead and let it drape over my head and down my back. I figured I could get a rough head shape with two cuts radiated from my, ahem, bald spot area. I boldy made a couple snips. I hand stitched the pieces together and cut away the excess. The expert at the fabric store warned me to make cuts from the underside using an exacto blade or else I’d get a faceful of fluff. She was right. This cowl is NOT high couture and if I wasn’t wearing a blue horned demon mask on top of it, I might even be embarrassed to be seen in it. Mostly I wanted something that would read as a full head of hair as well as a bit of weight to help balance the mask.
PaintComplete
I grabbed my detail brush and used more of that ice-blue to accent the wrinkles in the forehead, the ridges of the horns and to add some creepy veins around the eyes. I glued a bit of fur scrap to the face for eyebrows and I was more or less done.
EyeBrows

My secret for keeping a face mask attached to my head is a shoelace. They’re strong, readily available and long enough to wrap around most people’s heads, which is my other secret. Some of the masks I make aren’t overly strong, and I’d hate to tear one in half as I’m tugging on the strings to fasten it around my head. To minimize the force on the mask, I run the shoe string through two holes just around forehead height. The string runs on the inside of the mask’s front.
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The cowl came out better than I feared given that I don’t really sew and I left it to the last minute. I made a tuft in the center of the forehead by cutting a triangle, then hand stitching the edges together to hide the seams and add some loft. Note well, HAND stitched. The expert at the fabric store said I could use a layer of tissue paper to help keep the fluff from mucking up the spindle of my sewing machine… but I decided to save that device for when I need regular, visible seams. I attached this tuft to the mask itself with a medium sized bull clip. I then finished the edged by cutting triangles, sewing together the seams then finger-pressing them flat so the seams were hidden. It’s a bit like a fright wig but it also adds a bit of stability and weight to the mask.
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I’ll complete the look by wearing my neon blue shark-skin tuxedo jacket and my black dancing-jeans. You could argue that this mask isn’t “really” Krampus since it lacks that salacious tongue, and you’d be right. But I’m also not bringing a basket to haul away the naughty nor a bramble of sticks to whip the insolent. But I also won’t be that guy in the low-effort didn’t-even-bother-to-try outfit. There’s satisfaction enough for me in knowing that.

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More Weird and Wonderful Gift Ideas

Doll Arm and Trilobite Beads Necklace by the Dreaming Squid https://www.etsy.com/shop/DreamingSquid

Doll Arm and Trilobite Beads Necklace by the Dreaming Squid https://www.etsy.com/shop/DreamingSquid

Here are a few more suggestions from the denizens of Dailynightmare.com to make your holidays a little brighter. As with our earlier Weird and Wonderful Gift suggestions, the ideas below are fantastic opportunities to show off-the-beaten-path affection for the macabre-lover, horror fan, or creatively dark individual on your shopping list. If you don’t have enough time to bring your gift-giving fantasies to life before your self-imposed or calendar-based deadline next week, keep this list handy for the other gift-giving occasions that arise throughout the year.

Check out the Dreaming Squid Dollworks & Sundries on etsy. You’ll find lovely and original handmade art dolls for display as well as jewelry pieces that combine skeleton keys, doll parts and trilobite beads.

We are big fans of MakerWorks, the local maker-space which sports a host of resources, from woodshop and metal works to fabric design and laser cutters. Regularly scheduled classes and workshops teach new skills to users of all levels. A membership could be the perfect gift for someone on your list. Personally, we are very excited about the new Punch Card program which gives flexibly of use for a busy person.

You never know what you’ll find at Painted Lady Trashions at the fabulous local art resource, the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. Are you looking for Ouija board necklaces, vintage gas masks, or a frog skeleton? Their curated curiosity cabinets display a fascinating collection of arty oddities. The Rust Belt is offering extended hours for the next few days; see their website for the details. Not within driving distance? Check out the Etsy Shop.

We’ve written previously about discovering 3DKitbash at the Detroit MakerFaire, and we highly recommend their Boneheads skull kits as well as their printable fashion doll Quin. They’ve added additional 3D printer plans for both lines since we met them, so check out their site. This is a forward-thinking business to keep an eye on.

Screamshaw.com is local business with a webstore that creates jewelry with laser etchings on bone. We liked what we have seen and brought home our own souvenir.

Studio FX 101 in Troy, Michigan is a metro-Detroit maker space that emphasizes design, art, and architecture. The Doktor and I enjoyed one of our weirdest date nights ever making face casts under the skillful tutelage of the workshop leaders. Their offerings also include classes in sculpture and candle making and they sell craft supplies as well. Follow them on Facebook or their website for details on upcoming classes and events.

Books from the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW) make great gifts. They have published seven annual anthologies in the last seven years, which are available for purchase through Amazon, including Erie Tales: Omnibus (Volume 1), Erie Tales: Omnibus (Volume 1) or Erie Tales Myths and Mayhem: Erie Tales VII: Myths and Mayhem. A membership in the group could be a great gift for an aspiring horror writer. GLAHW is a pretty wonderful organization of which we are proud to be members. In addition to supporting and promoting horror writers, GLAHW hosts an annual fundraising party to support local literacy efforts.

Finally, our books make a great gifts for the readers on your list as well. 13 Quick Shivers: from Dailynightmare.com and 22 More Quick Shivers: from the Dailynightmare.com (Volume 2) provide novel reading experiences for lovers of poetry, horror, and typography.

Gift giving is a common transaction that can be imbued with extra meaning when the gift shows the thoughtfulness of the giver in knowing and honoring the recipient. Although the largest gift-giving season of the year is upon us, showing affection or appreciation to a friend or loved one is not tied to the calendar. Keep these extraordinary Weird and Wonderful Gifts in mind for year-round occasions to come.

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A Last Minute Guide to Krampus

krampusIf you are a reader of the Dailynightmare.com, you certainly are aware of our fascination with Krampus. We hold such admiration for Holiday Troll that we have named him #2 on the list of scariest Christmas monsters. We’ve watched with interest as Krampus has become more popular in the US, and yet we know there are still some uninformed among the citizenry who could use a bit of background. Whether you’ve been up in the typical holiday rush or have a lingering suspicion about your place on the “Naughty List,” here’s a collection of resources to help you prepare:

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Krampus on Wikipedia

Krampus Los Angeles

Krampus Detroit

Costume Tips

5th Annual Krampus Ball in Ypsilanti, MI

Make a Krampus Mask– maybe next year?

Has Krampus gotten too commercial?

Krampus t-shirts and more

Krampus events listing

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t made the most of Krampus this season. Like all good holiday traditions, KrampusNacht will come again next year, and with a little advanced planning, you too can celebrate it to the fullest.

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Flying High at the A2Aviary’s “LiftOff”

AviaryEarlyAt the A2 Aviary Lift Off last weekend, I learned you don’t have to run away to join the circus. The celebration of “Found Family” was half-rent party / half wonderfully weird recital that ran the gamut from trapeze, lyra and silk work to burlesque, belly and butoh dancing. The affair was intimate, with nearly a private speakeasy feel, as attendees crowded the rehearsal space near the Ann Arbor Airport. Fortunately, Elsa had been tipped off to the proceedings at her burlesque lesson with Luna Legare, one of the Aviary’s ringleaders.

The A2Aviary is not your average dance studio, even from first glance. Below a wall of mirrors is foot of industrial strength padding, and suspended from the girders above are long bolts of brightly colored fabric. From the walls, folksy paintings of aviators and astronauts look on encouragingly.

The terrestrial entertainments were hardly mundane. The burlesque was top rate, as to be expected. Gala Delicious was regal, as usual, commanding, nearly aloof in flowing chiffon… that is, until she wore much less. Luna Legare led her “Lunettes” through a routine of joyously enticing tease. Wanna know if you have what it takes to take it off? Try a class starting in January.

A Bit of Butoh

A Bit of Butoh


But you had me at Butoh. Seriously, that disturbingly contemporary style of theatrical movement scratches all my performance-based itches. The piece we saw depicted longing, resentment, personal transformation and awkward cooperation in the brutal, very physical gestures of ashen garbed performers. Wonderment well mixed with WTF.

But the evening really took flight with the aerial performances. Performer after performer soared above the crowd with little more than some fabric, a ring or a bar for support. As expected for a show at a rehearsal space, some of the performers were astounding while others were still learning the pleasures of self-mastery. For the finale, four performers flew simultaneously around the silks.

Okay, Doktor, you might ask, why is this review appearing on an ostensibly “horror” website? Let me count the reasons: fear of public performance, fear of heights, fear of flying not to mention homophobia and the fear of empowered female bodies. Yeah, that’s a thing, I’m sad to say. These performers — our neighbors and friends — confronted such fears much like the heroes on the walls. This is the point of “fitness,” isn’t it, being fit to do something life affirming? Amaze yourself. Lessons start up again in January.

You wanted to fly as a child, didn’t you? What’s stopping you? Thanks to the A2Aviary, you don’t have to run very far to join the circus.

The Grand Finale

The Grand Finale

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Weird and Wonderful Gifts: Jessica Tenbusch’s Bone Metalwork

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Jessica Tenbusch makes classy, slightly creepy metalwork that explores death as a creative force. Her Etsy shop was temporarily closed this weekend… likely because she took her one-of-a-kind stock to the DIYpsi Indie Art Fair. Seriously, one of the few things I actually like about the holiday season is the proliferation of such tiny temporary artist markets where I’m able to encounter the work of local artists. The quality of this particular bourse was quite high but my favorite booth here belonged to Jessica Tenbusch, due to both her artistic craft and her subject matter.

For her jewelry, Jessica casts animal bones in precious metals, from tiny mouse vertebrae mounted on stud earrings to possum leg bones as pendants. The scale of these delicate pieces retains the attractive organic feel of their models while avoiding an overly “Hallowe’en” feel. Still, I gotta note the silver pieces would look particularly good with a black dress.

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My personal favorite of her wearable memento mori was a necklace where the “beads” were brass vertebrae as thick around as my thumb. It was a solid, commanding piece.

Jessica, a recent graduate of the EMU MFA program, knows many clever ways of coaxing metal into beguiling shapes and the breadth of her skill is more apparent in her sculpture. I got a chance to look a bit closer at two of these pieces.

LoonSM1

Jessica Tenbusch — Loon
(http://www.jessicatenbusch.com/2014/6/13/loon)

The first thing I noticed about “Loon” was, of course, the skull but I was drawn in by what appeared to be a black liquid pouring from the eye sockets. This substance was actually hand-worked copper, gracefully shaped to appear fluid. Jessica taught me the word for this technique– repousse. The surface of this darkly patinaed copper, depicted what looked like fish cresting the surface of a lake. The sense I got from this piece was of a bird who had passed beyond this life and who was just able to release the ceaseless search for food which had preoccupied its mortal existence. A farewell to its life-work.

OvipositorSM2

Jessica Tenbusch’ — Ovipositor
(http://www.jessicatenbusch.com/2014/6/13/ovipositor-1)

Her wall mounted piece, “Ovipositor” featured a different creature, a different life-transition and a different technique — anticlastic raising — which works the metal from both sides to create graceful spirals. A wasp centrally placed in what read as a resin nest is posed in between two shiny copper corkscrews that, to me, recalled the creature’s sting. The lower curl gently unravels to reveal a string of pearls, the eggs of the title. This piece seemed a nearly wry commentary on the pain and travail associated with sex and procreation. I am possibly reading too much into these pieces, but the joy of art is the continuing play and reflection they spark.

Any reader here knows I am a great fan of bones, those remarkable sculptures we carry around inside us. They are extremely functional, quite beautiful and too often overlooked. What I appreciate about Jessica Tenbusch’s work is how she references such organic shapes while using durable materials, thus transforming these transient bits of our hidden, mortal lives into pieces that are solid, permanent and worthy of reflection.

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Learning to Tease with Luna Legare

Gloves

Last Tuesday in the basement of Bona Sera, Ypsilanti, local burlesque star Luna Legare taught me a thing or two about stripping in public. Sure, there were shimmery gloves, sparkly costumes, and dance music, but lessons of the new burlesque are more focused on the power of directing attention with a look and a smile and about being in control of what and when you chose to reveal.

At the “Tuesday Tease with Luna Legare,” beginners and novices mixed with experienced dancers like Cruel Valentine, Kitt Y. Bourree, and Felina Mistemper. I purchased a pair of classic black evening gloves, which were stretchy and sexy and fun to wear, and helped me look the part.

We limbered up with some stretches, much like any other exercise class, although with an emphasis on graceful movement. Then Luna led us through some basic showgirl poses, which are a bit like ballet positions. Luna also demonstrated the many alluring methods to take off gloves. The classic one-finger-at-a-time technique, then supplemented with a spread hand builds tension and excitement, but there are other options. Teeth can be used to bite the tips, but bare them to prevent lipstick stains. As we became acquainted with a few simple steps, Luna played tracks to get everyone in the mood.

After practicing our dance moves, we watched some more experienced performers. Luna and a couple students from Ann Arbor Aviary (where Ms Legare regularly teaches 7 week long burlesque classes) rehearsed the routine they will perform at next Saturday’s showcase event. We also had a chance to watch a dancer do a try-out performance for a burlesque competition which was taped for submission to the show.

This was the second low-stakes, drop-in class that Ms Legare has taught at Bona Sera, and future events are scheduled for the second Tuesday of the coming months. I was a little nervous to start, but the class had a good sense of camaraderie and friendliness. Burlesque has a body-positive, gay-positive, woman-positive vibe, and I felt very welcome. I thanked Luna as I left, and she said she hoped I’d come back next time and to bring a few girlfriends. If you are interested, let me know. And don’t forget your gloves.

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Raw Dog Screaming Writers’ Retreat

Sunset at RDSP Retreat

Sunset at RDSP Retreat

Did you hear the one about the thirteen horror writers who gather at a secluded lodge, one with no cel phone reception deep in the wilds of Ohio, for a rainy weekend of word-smithing, camaraderie… and MURDER? Though perhaps a bit light on actual murder, this description fits the Raw Dog Screaming Press Writer’s Retreat. Elsa and I knew we had to crash the proceedings, especially after receiving the recent haul of books from this quality publisher of strange literature.
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Our trek to the Bourbon Ridge Retreat was itself a writing prompt. Elsa’s cell phone got us to end of the highway before reception cut out completely. We had to resort to printed instructions, ones made difficult to read by the encroaching nightfall. A gentle fog rolled in on cue as we drove winding roads with whimsical names like “Clay Lick” and “Honey Goat Run.” The stray rays of our headlights illuminated signposts to ominously wholesome diversions, the wreckage of ancient barns, and the glowing eyes of creatures we took to be deer but perhaps were, in fact, these legendary “honey goats.” At one point, our car was pointed down a steep, weed-shrouded drive, nose to nose with a hand lettered sign “Posted: Absolutely NO Trespassers.” I wanted to take a photo but Elsa spun wheels in reverse. Eventually, we found the luxurious lodge and a warm welcome.
This is where I wrote my morning pages, suckers.

This is where I wrote my morning pages, suckers.


Raw Dog Screaming Press publishes high quality work across many genres, taking delight especially in works that cross and confound genre expectations. From some of the best bizarro to horror poetry to hyper-real dark literary and beyond, RDSP produces lovely volumes of great writing. The retreat was a similarly high-class affair. The Bourbon Ridge Retreat was a perfect location. The hilltop location afforded remarkable views of the region. You know that part of Ohio flattened with turnpikes and deadened by national chains? Hocking is NOT that part. The area screamed “local color.” The facilities were luxurious with just the slightest sense of “rustic” given by the knotty pine interiors and tasteful country-style decorations. Writers enjoyed a night-time dip in the hot tub. Very comfortable lounging space was generously arranged on all three floors, from the Great Room where I wrote my morning pages, to the intimate third floor alcove where I chatted with editor Jennifer Barnes to the lower floor’s high-end rec room where we staged an impromptu reading on Saturday night. Rumor has it, others played an epic late-night game of Cards Against Humanity there as well. Elsa and I were grateful that RDSP opened this event up to serious writers not currently on their roster.
networking
As befits a “writer’s retreat,” the weekend was both productive as well as relaxing. Folks ducked off to the lodge’s many comfortable nooks to hammer out a draft or complete line edits, before cycling back to the nearly non-stop conversation that took place around the massive dining table. These discussions were the typical writerly chit-chat of networking news peppered with professional gossip, restaurant reviews and commentary on don’t-miss TV shows. Food and drink also appeared on this table almost constantly.
Delicious Surgery on a Skull Pie

Delicious Surgery on a Skull Pie


Elsa brought a selection of Skull Pies and I raided the cellar to bring a dozen bottles of my weirdest home-brewed mead. Jessica McHugh concocted a killer cocktail, a “Dark and Bubbly,” by blending my “Hearts of Darkness” black currant mead with champagne. Stephanie Wytovich brought conjoined twin gingerbread cookies… and aroused my suspicions by laughing far too heartily and frequently for a horror poet — do not be decieved: a dark soul lurks deep beneath that bubbly exterior. The words I shared with Kealan Patrick Burke were, for me personally, a highlight of the retreat. Though I knew nothing of his work before this weekend, he struck me as both charming and intense, quite possible possessed of true genius. I simply have to grab a copy of “The Tent,” his novella set in these captivating hills. Horror writers sometimes project a dark persona but everyone here was a delight to meet, face to face.
Two heads are tastier than one

Two heads are tastier than one


All too quickly, the weekend was over. After a photo on the steps, Elsa and I departed amid hugs and promises to meet again at World Horror Con or another regional convention. Our deepest thanks to Raw Dog Screaming Press for arranging this retreat.
If you have the opportunity to hide out in the woods with fellow writers, even writers who obsess with death and torture, madness and monsters, don’t be afraid. We save our worst for our writing.

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Weird and Wonderful Gifts: Cyberoptix Tie Lab

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Which one of these flashy hand-screened ties from Cyberoptix Tie Lab did the Doktor purchase? The photo does not clearly display all the details, so let me point out some of the features. Ties from Cyberoptix are quality products with striking graphics that aren’t merely licensed merchandise carbon copy graphics. Cyberoptix ties come in three different widths, which suit different body types, and also different lengths, which are good for wearers of different heights but also for great for different knot styles. Cyberoptix makes leather and silk ties as well as microfiber ties which sport the luxurious feel of silk and the luster of silk.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab is a Detroit-based business that designs and manufactures fantastic hand-screened neckties as well as bow ties, pocket squares, ascots and scarves. Their designs are fresh and innovative: check out the Milky Way Light Pashima, the industrial felt bow ties, or the Cass Tech Blueprint ties. Their website is a navigational treat, allowing exploration by materials or design. I was interested in their wedding line and the possibility of dressing one’s groomsmen in original, color-coordinated neck ware; we have no such upcoming events scheduled, and yet, what fun!

gasmask01wCyberoptix has an Etsy shop for those who live far and wide and a shop at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale for those near Metro Detroit. You can also follow them on Facebook to keep up with the latest news.

If you are wondering, the Doktor selected the red tie on the left-side of the display above, the one with the vintage gas mask design. When he wore it with his blue sharkskin tux, someone inquired, “Who is that on that tie?”, the Doktor replied, “Exactly.” It’s a lovely tie that suits him well: it’s stylish, original, well-made, and eye-catching. Just like him.

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Weird and Wonderful Gifts: Bird Skull Jewelry

Bird skulls, with their arched beaks and wide eyes, are wicked cool artifacts and also are the perfect size for jewelry. A pendant made of, say, a raven skull is a striking accessory to both an elegant goth wardrobe as well as a tribal shamanic get-up. Trouble is, the Migratory Bird Act makes the possession of many bird parts a major offense — including those from the Corvus family (ravens, crows…) What to give that dark soul whose spirit creature is a crow? A 3-D printed crow skull pendant, of course.

I can personally recommend two jewelry-quality producers of 3-D metal skulls: Sheila Munro’s Filigree Raven Skull (available through Shapeways) and Fire and Bone.com

Sheila Munro (Dropping Form Design) Filligree Raven Skull available through Shapeways.com

Sheila Munro (Dropping Form Design) Filligree Raven Skull available through Shapeways.com

Sheila Munro’s Filagree Raven Skull enhances the sleek form of a Corvus skull by adding an elegant tracery of curving lines to the surface. Since 3-D printing builds up an object speck by speck, it’s not the ideal process for making solid chunks of mass but this clever design takes great advantage of the intricacy that is possible with this process. I got one of these beauties a couple years ago for a neo-pagan shaman friend and when he opened the box, his eyes nearly bugged out. This pendant radiates awesomeness from its potent design to the heft of polished metal. That’s right, this 3-D printed skull came in bronzed steel.

Many homestyle 3-D printers can only produce plastic objects but Shapeways — a full service, on-line 3-D printing service bureau and marketplace — can output objects in a wide range of materials, including bronze, ceramic, sandstone and stainless steel. The site displays the work of hundreds of designers — Sheila Munro’s Dropping Form Designs studio has dozens of other designs — but I can vouch for both the quality of the Shapeways service as well as the eye popping coolness of the Filigree Raven Skull. The price is really quite reasonable, too. The design is available in other sizes — I suspect the Extra-Large size in sandstone would be a remarkable paperweight.

Fire and Bone.com's Crow skull in White Bronze

Fire and Bone.com’s Crow skull in White Bronze

Fire and Bone take a hybrid approach to digitally assisted manufacturing. They meticulously scan an actual skull and clean up the computer model, but instead of 3-D printing their full run, Fire and Bone use traditional, lost-wax casting to make their intricate creations. I got in on two of their Kickstarter campaigns and thus have an American Black Bear and a Gray Wolf skull. (Dig it, the jaws on these two skulls actually work!) Fire and Bone also make a very noble crow skull, available in bronze as well as in sterling silver. (Oops, it appears the silver version is sold out at the moment.) The skulls can also come with a display base. My Bear skull, for instance, sits atop my dresser on such a base so I can enjoy it even when I’m not wearing it.

Both Fire and Bone and Sheila Munro’s pieces are “cruelty-free” and made of durable metal. Their designs are both delicate and handsome, primal and refined. Bird skull jewelry is likely the perfect gift for someone you know or if you read the Dailynightmare, possibly a treat for yourself.

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Weird and Wonderful Gifts: MONSTER expansion perfects “Ticket to Ride”

IMG_4099My son is a game-nerd and a bit of his zeal has rubbed off on me. But where William geeks out over rule-set elegance and game re-playability, I am truly a sucker for nifty game pieces and beautiful boards. And monsters. A game without a monster just isn’t much of a game.

That’s why I am so pleased with the Alvin And Dexter expansion to the classic game Ticket to Ride. I can’t believe TtR already celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, but if you haven’t yet played it, Ticket To Ride is a fun tabletop game where players compete to build cross-country rail lines. It has a great board and especially cool train car game pieces. But until this expansion, there were no monsters.

Alvin is a blaster-toting space alien and Dexter is a voracious giant lizard. The pieces for these non-player characters are beautifully sculpted and cast in beige resin that shows off their detail. I bought the expansion purely because I loved the figures, but when I realized what these critters bring to the game, I believe I could convince my son that the purchase was essential. In the stock version of Ticket to Ride, the competitive element is rather subdued. Sure, a player could block a key segment of rail when it becomes evident that a competitor is building a connecting route, but the game is woefully good natured. Alvin and Dexter shake things up on a much grander scale. I might be expecting too much from the monsters, but they seem to me to be the very best type of game expansion, the one that reimagines both the game and the strategies needed to win, which can be like playing a brand new game.

Games are perennially popular gifts because the best ones can give a family or group of friends hours of fun together. I’m excited to share this gift with William, so we can enjoy some fresh game play together. And maybe this time I’ll win. IMG_4094

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Weird and Wonderful Gifts: Books and eBooks from ChiZine Publications

Chizine Sale

If books and ebooks are on your gift lists, hurry over to ChiZine Publications where a Black Friday Sale continues until Monday. With an 80% discount off of ebooks, this is a great opportunity to snap up some gifts for the horror fans in your life– or for yourself. You’ll also find substantial savings on print publications as well.

ChiZine has a wide selection of titles in their catalog including novels, collections and their ChiTeen lines. The Doktor and I were both highly impressed with David Nickle’s The Geisters (2013), which is one of those books we still talking about. We also enjoyed Joey Comeau’s The Summer is Ended and We are not Yet Saved (2013). We picked up several other titles from ChiZine during a summer visit to Bakka Books in Toronto. On our bedside reading tables include other ChiZine books from Gemma Files, Laird Barron and David Nickle.

Now is the time to stuff someone’s stocking, real or digital, while this Chizine sale lasts.

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Window Dressing with Nerve

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Elsa and I had a play-date with Nerve, Detroit’s “consensual theatre” company, to assist their puppet all-stars who’d decided to cavort in the window of their Corktown rehearsal space. Director-provocateur Kathe Koja led us downstairs to where the cast and a few helpers had assembled. We’d been here before for “Welcome to the Rabbit Hole,” one of the pop-up pre shows for Alice, but this was our first introduction to some of these performers “in the flesh,” so to speak.
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The Chevalier, Lucinda and Pan Loudermilk from “Under the Poppy,” joined by Helen of Troy from “Faustus” and Alice from “Alice,” mugged for the camera as we helpers improvised the narrative for the display. It was a joy to encounter these puppets intimately, to heft their torsos and work their limbs. Each has a specific glory.
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The Chevalier, for instance, is immense, a sculpted foam head atop a clothed and padded structure of PVC which made him remarkably light for his scale. A single puppeteer could probably work him, especially with a harness, but in “Under the Poppy,” this rather naughty, bipedal pantomime horse appears in a play-within-a-play so is operated by three actors who are all quite visible to the audience. The Chevalier also has a rather impressive, ahem, “anatomical appendage” which made him provocative on-stage and, as rumor has it, quite popular off-stage for cast party hijinks and photo-opportunities. With one arm astride a cart and the other gesturing with an open palm, the Chevalier is ready to receive.
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Pan Loudermilk, by contrast, is a very traditional, Old World-style puppet, as least as regards to his construction. His winsome green eyes suggest he’s capable of great mischief as well. Pan’s head and limbs are hand carved from solid wood and his joints are leather flaps, which give him both weight and gravitas. Though scaled to be a lap puppet, I suspect Pan is a venerable performer, a ringleader for the other puppets. For this display, Pan posed with a hookah pipe propped rather suggestively between his legs, offering a special kind of holiday cheer.

LucindaLucinda is delicate and long limbed. Her expressive, pale face is hand-stitched cotton colored with just a touch of what I think might be rouge and graced by a single painted tear. Her anemic complexion, in fact, made me worry a bit about her health though she was certainly in high spirits this afternoon. In “Under the Poppy: A Novel,” Lucinda played the alter-ego of Decca, one of the heart-crossed lovers but for our tableau, she was light and limber enough to sit on a ledge and oversee the whole scene. Up close I noticed that she likes to hold the sticks that control her hands, as if asserting self-determination and independence. Don’t we all, dearie, don’t we all.

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Alice struck me more as a celebrity than a performer, more an objet d’art than a “puppet,” alluring of course but slightly more aloof than the others. Though we attended the opening of Alice, I hadn’t fully appreciated the subtleties the eponymous figure at the performance. Alice’s hair is an unkempt mop of ruffled straw and her face is rather realistically sculpted apart from the perfectly round mirrors she has for eyes which are deep set and smoldering. Though it’s rude to stare too long at an actress’ chest, I did notice that her torso is a cage containing an open book. For this scene, Alice directed that penetrating gaze of hers out the window both inviting and confronting passersby.

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A bit of set dressing with tinsel and playing cards, silver balls and stockings, and the tableau was complete. Even before we finished, folks were stopping to look in the window and wonder at the display. While you may have been battling crowds for Black Friday, Elsa and I were rubbing elbows…and legs, heads and forearms… with avant-garde performers. Many thanks to Kathe and Nerve for yet another weird-thrill date.
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Weird and Wonderful Gifts: Poking Dead Things

IMG_3391One unexpected discovery at the Three Corpse Circus– unexpected for a film festival– was the hand-crafted jewelry of the Poking Dead Things shop. While I was surveying the grand lobby of the Michigan Theatre between screenings, the lovely display of bone pieces caught my attention, and I couldn’t wait for the Doktor to make his way over so I could see his reactions. He was just as impressed as I.

Gothic Victorian Lace Collar-- Photo credit Poking Dead Things

Gothic Victorian Lace Collar– Photo credit Poking Dead Things

Under the skillful craft of Ms Grimm, the owner of Poking Dead Things, animal bones are transformed into unique, beautiful, and slightly creepy mixed media, wearable art. Skulls, vertebrae, paw bones and other bones meet with pearls, gemstones, and corals in one of a kind necklaces, rings, bracelets, and broaches. There’s a slightly ooky elegance and a distinctive vibe to these pieces.

Ribs and vertebrae necklace-- Photo credit Poking Dead Things

Ribs and vertebrae necklace– Photo credit Poking Dead Things

The jewelry designs stood out in several aspects. The lacy, delicate quality of animal skeletons surprised me in some of the formal designs. Another delight was that bones somehow seem entirely fitting on the Victorian style pieces. Additionally there were pieces for men and women. As the Doktor frequently notes, there’s often far more “cool” stuff for women than men in terms of clothing and accessories, but in this case, everyone can find something suitable. The Doktor was especially taken with several of the jawbone necklaces.

Jawbone necklaces -- Photo credit Poking Dead Things

Jawbone necklaces — Photo credit Poking Dead Things

Ms Grimm gleefully explained her materials and practices. No animals are harmed in the process of making jewelry. Instead, she gathers roadkill and dead things in the woods. The remains are cleaned initially by 3 turkey buzzards, and then they are further cleaned sterilized, and sealed before becoming part of the jewelry.

If you are looking for unusual gifts sure to delight horror-fan-types, take a look at Poking Dead Things. Check out the shop on Etsy. Follow them on Facebook and on Instagram as @PokingDeadThings. Check out Instagram right now, and you’ll find a coupon code for a 20% discount on an Etsy purchase good through December 1. So hurry!

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Books from Raw Dog Screaming

RDSPhaulDig this haul from Raw Dog Screaming Press! RDSP is a quality publisher of strange literature and they recently ran a deliciously strange promotion: buy one of their titles and get 2 additional books. Those ride-along titles could be books from other publishers or other RDSP titles. I’d been meaning to pick up more of their books ever since I saw a display at Context 27.

I ordered Michael Arnzen’s Grave Markings (the 20th Anniversary edition,) Donna Lynch’s Isabel Burning and Jeff VanderMeer’s Monstrous Creatures: Explorations of Fantasy Through Essays, Articles and Reviews… and in addition to a Raw Dog sticker and a Raw Dog guitar pick, I got a half dozen other books. In fact, the pick of the litter, so to speak, the first volume I grabbed to read was a bonus title, namely Stephanie Wytovich’s Hysteria: A Collection of Madness. It’s a collection of a hundred bluntly brutal poems about sexuality and mental illness, wrapped in a gorgeously expressionist cover. They contributed, I’m sure, to last night’s nightmares.

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Hunting Ghosts at the Historic Howell Theater

Public Ghost HuntWhen my buddy and fellow horror writer, David C. Hayes invited me to hunt ghosts at a fundraiser for the Historic Howell Theater, I only had two questions: Would I get to wear an unlicensed nuclear reactor on my back and could we please, PLEASE cross the streams? My droll Ghostbusters references aside, Elsa and I jumped at the chance for another weird-thrill date-night. The evening was a both an opportunity to check out the newly-reopened Howell Theater as well as a fun introduction to professional spectre detecting led by members of the Portal Paranormal Society who provided all the necessary equipment — alas, they neglected to bring a proton pack, P.K.E or the Ecto One.

I was eager to check out the Historic Howell Theater for very non-paranormal reasons– David clued me into the exciting direction it has taken since re-opening in September. New owner/operator Tyler DePerro has a flair for distinctive, slightly off-beat entertainment. The newly rebuilt stages in both theaters have allowed concerts and storytelling events in addition to an exciting collection of films, both classic and art-house contemporary. For instance, the Howell Theater just completed a retrospective of Roger Corman movies complete with introductions provided by David Hayes himself — he’s kind of a small-c celebrity in these parts. Check out their website and sign up for the mailing list to keep informed of what’s happening behind the fabulous retro marquee right on the old town main drag of Howell. My word to the youth of America: you don’t really experience a film when you watch it on your phone.
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For the past three Saturday evenings, after the last mortal movie patron has departed, the Portal Paranormal Society has reached out to the ethereal residents of the Howell Theater. Elsa and I were glad to catch the last of these public investigations. We huddled with David and his wife Sandy in the lobby along with roughly twenty other amateur spook-sleuths while Lead Investigator Ken Suminski briefed us on their research about this “active” location. Even before it was a theater, this spot was used as a temporary infirmary for soldiers wounded in the Civil War, some of whom likely died there. Later, when the area was Town Square, traveling entertainers would perform and in fact, the PPS verified that a circus lion was buried on the spot. One of their researchers had previously experienced both audible growls as well as a spirit rush from a spectre the size and shape of a lion. When the Howell Theater opened in 1928, vaudeville acts performed there in addition to movies and the team had encountered one particularly unhappy ghost backstage in one of the theaters. Even if someone gave absolutely no credence to paranormal phenomena, it was a treat to learn bits of this narratively rich history.
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The rest of the evening was a delightful traveling banquet where we sampled different techniques in different parts of the theater. In one auditorium, we did EVP, asking questions and allowing time for the spirits to reply while a recorder monitored results. One cool innovation that PPS uses is a spectral sing-along. We sang famous movie songs, stopping halfway through certain lines to see if the ghosts would continue singing without us. When it came time to ask questions of these beings in the great beyond, I found myself rather stumped. What *would* you ask ghosts in a theater? Elsa had the best idea, though too late to try: we should have ran classic movie lines that were themselves questions like “What are the 39 steps?” or “You know how to whistle, don’t you? Just put your lips together and blow.” The nature of EVP, unlike more direct methods of contact like a Ouija board or table-rapping, is that we won’t know what we got until the team reviews the recordings. PPS researchers took our email addresses and promised to share results once they’d analyzed the data.

In the other auditorium, we used what I think was called a “Spirit Box,” a radio that continuously scans radio waves. This technique gives immediate audible feedback to questions asked, but due to the constantly changing reception, such inquiries need to be more focused than with traditional EVP. I found the rhythmic, pulsing sussuration of the device rather mesmerizing, almost like noise collage music, and quite calming — I sensed no malevolent forces at play here. We asked all the questions we could think of and got at least a handful of responses.

The final area we investigated were the two attached projection booths where a silhouette had been seen on other occasions. Here we used a flashlight rigged so that the slightest impulse could cause it to flash on. Alas, it didn’t, at least not for us. The flashlight in the other room evidently was quite responsive which is not to say we had no unexplained responses. The most exciting result we had involved the door and a rap against the wall that was so loud it was heard downstairs. In the half-light, it was also cool to see both the modern digital projector as well as the huge antique 35mm projector.

As a final spiritual resting place, there are certainly worse places than the Historic Howell Theater. I know I’ll be back, likely with Elsa though few events could rival this Ghost Hunt for such a memorable weird-thrill data-night. (When I spoke with Ken, he suggested there might be more of these semi-public events in the area. Check out the Portal Paranormal Society website or friend them on FaceBook for updates.) As I entered the first theater, I removed my coat and rolled up the sleeves to allow more skin in case the ghosts wanted touch contact– I don’t think Elsa would be jealous of a chance, spectral caress. I also scanned the room for shadows, areas of darkness within the darkness. At befitting a theater, much of the reported activity here has been visual, I was told. I was struck by the feeling that I should remember this experience when people ask me where I get the ideas for my stories–I get them by looking for things I’m not supposed to see, putting into words things there aren’t already words for. I am far from a skeptic and have experienced many weird phenomena over the years, for likely many reasons. I hope to live long enough to experience much more– I hope at least some of them with my beloved Elsa — and as far as I’m able, to put those experiences into words.

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Nightmare #362: The Bad Assassin

1308547900(Male, 50’s) There is no way I can convey the absolute terror I had in this dream. Reading over what I’ve written down makes it all sound like kind of a joke, but honestly, I woke up in the middle of the night after this nightmare and was ready to swear off every sleeping again. I felt so vulnerable.

I was in a house with my partner and my father and a child, and for some reason, I just knew that someone was trying to kill me. The people around me were supportive but agreed that, yes, I’d likely be killed. I tried hiding in weird places inside the house. I squeezed in a tiny closet where I defended myself with a spray bottle of cleanser. I thought that at least I could spray my killer in the face, maybe wound him or distract him. Even though I was inside and hidden inside too, the killer could somehow get me in his sights and shoot through the walls.

There was a gunshot and the child was killed. Instantly. The boy just fell to the ground like a rag doll. Dead. The killer had missed the shot on me somehow and yet still had delivered a kill shot to a bystander. I decided to get out of there before they killed any of my loved ones. I ran out on the street which was rather crowded and where everyone was carrying guns, big showy guns. Picnic guns, I’ve heard them called. But these were weird guns. One guy in particular had an old school Tommy gun like a 30’s gangster that was shiny like chrome. It was just slung over his shoulder like a fashion accessory. And then he goes down, dead because of my assassin. I hid behind a big overstuffed couch that someone had put out for the trash. I wasn’t really sure where the shots were coming from, though, so I didn’t know if I was safe. And I watched as folks around me, one by one, were picked off by this unseen shooter. It sounds ludicrous to write it out but by the end of this spree, there were easily a dozen people shot dead, all because they happened to be standing too damned close to me.

I woke up just shaking. My first impulse — which is also pretty funny — was to see if I could hide underneath my bed, just in case this shooter from my dream could still see me and shoot me.

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The Return of IndieHorror.TV

IndieHorror.TV relaunches on October 30 with a full weekend of independently made horror films. After a short hiatus of re-organizing, IndieHorror.Tv is now broadcasting through ChromeCast, allowing them to give a later audience a satisfying viewing experience. 21671_548553985158865_1168360471_n

IndieHorror.TV is a local gem with international reach. It’s a station that broadcasts pretty much anything in the horror genre. They don’t position themselves as judge or jury on quality, but instead, they chose to be a free-for-all offering of as much programming as possible. IndieHorror.TV’s goal is to provide a showcase for independent horror filmmakers to share their work and a resource for fans to explore and discover what’s out there.

Director Robert Poole remains committed to sharing both short films and feature films with horror fans worldwide. Check out IndieHorror.TV’s Halloween Weekend schedule and find the films you want to see. The station remains committed to supporting horror fans and horror filmmakers. Tune in and return the favor.

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Nightmare #361: Belief and fear

"Scared Child at Nighttime" by D Sharon Pruitt - http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/206812690/sizes/l/in/set-72157610551917961/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scared_Child_at_Nighttime.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Scared_Child_at_Nighttime.jpg

“Scared Child at Nighttime” by D Sharon Pruitt – http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/206812690/sizes/l/in/set-72157610551917961/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scared_Child_at_Nighttime.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Scared_Child_at_Nighttime.jpg


(Male, 40s)
As a child, I had a recurring nightmare about a monster under my bed.

The horrific thing about it was not its scaly skin, nor its long and sinewy arms and legs, nor its needle-sharp teeth (I knew its form exactly, although I could not see it).

Instead, the monster’s most terrifying aspect was that it lived on its victims’ belief and fear. If you did not believe in it, it could not harm you. The more you accepted and feared its presence, the stronger it became.

In my nightmare, I was trapped in my bed, the nightlight mysteriously extinguished, with that creature below me trying to MAKE me believe in its existence … and succeeding …

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Sir Graves Ghastly Tribute at the Redford Theatre

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10698516_10152316596391949_4212563369964863543_nLawson Deming may have shuffled off this mortal coil in 2007, but Sir Graves Ghastly, the campy horror host he portrayed from 1967 – 1983 on TV2 in Detroit, lives on as a fond memory for thousands of metro area residents. This weekend, the historic Redford Theatre, celebrated the career of this lovable vampire with a special showing of “The Wolfman (1941)” with all the trimmings. The film itself was a crisp 35MM print and, interspersed throughout, were skits from the original show as well as vintage commercials for Faygo, Mr. Belvedere and Busemis pizza. During intermission, there was a laugh-off as contestants tried to mimick that classic Graves “nyah-ah-ah” as well as an art ghoulery of children’s drawings, a beloved segment of the original show.

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Three of Lawson’s sons also attended the tribute, traveling in from Cleveland, Baltimore and Los Angeles, to share their loving memories. With so many contemporary celebrities proving themselves to be personally reprehensible, it was great to learn that off-screen the guy in the cardboard coffin was a loving father who enjoyed fishing and gardening.
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The little touches made this tribute note perfect. Before the show, we were serenaded by a theatre organist while a slide show ran images of Halloween from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Snapshots of kids in their dime-store costumes, ads for candy and TV shows like “Bewitched (1964-72)” and “The Addams Family (1964 – 66), even the occasional Wacky Package or Trading Card vividly set the stage for an evening of Hallowe’en flavored nostalgia. This was Pop Culture from an era before Entertainment was Big Business reaching its cynical tentacles into every pocket. Sir Graves Ghastly and his ilk were more “Mom and Pop Culture.” I had to grab a souvenir of the evening, a t-shirt emblazoned with “I Dig Graves,” one that was produced on the spot.

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I am embarrassed to admit that this was the first time I’ve visited the Redford Theatre. It won’t be the last time I visit this grand old time movie palace, rich with (mostly) restored chinoiserie. The auditorium is done up like the courtyard of an Asian palace, complete with twinkling stars overhead. The lobby has chandeliers shaped like Japanese lanterns. The concession stand popcorn comes with real butter! This noble structure hosts a robust film series, too. Find any excuse to see a film there, perhaps the Hallowe’en showing of “Ghostbusters (1984)” or the midnight movie of “Evil Dead 2 (1987).” (Trivia Tidbit: the original “Evil Dead (1981)” had its WORLD PREMIERE at the Redford.)

As Sir Graves exhorted us every Saturday afternoon so many years ago, “Happy Hauntings!”

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Date Night along Marshall’s Haunted Trail

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How far would you go for true love? The ends of the Earth? The Underworld? Marshall, Michigan?

Friday night found the Doktor and me walking hand-in-hand down the annual Haunted Trail in Marshall, this one titled “Johnny Octane Vs. The Underworld: A Rockin’ Haunted Trail“. This interactive environmental theater event led us through the story of rocker Johnny, who vows to give up music after the death of his true love, Trudy. He, his gang, and his fans, played by our audience group, learn from a graveyard ghoul that there is a way to heal his broken heart: Johnny must travel to the Underworld and bring Trudy back.

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Watching such creepy tales played out along the eerily lit trails of Riverwalk Park has become a Halloween season tradition for the Leech Doktor and myself. This was the 22nd Haunted River Walk written and directed by Brodie H. Brockie and put on my the Marshall Recreation Department and Keystone Entertainment. The sets are distributed throughout the park and crafted with obvious love for understated detail. Read the names on the tombstones. Thrill to the bone-guitars. The staging makes the most of the park’s foliage, river and trail ways. The Haunted River Walk is no run of the mill, jump-scare-infested “haunted house” but resembles more hip community theatre with all the enthusiasm of a small town working together, which makes for a very fun evening. Sure, the performance included spooky make-up, wild costumes and a couple obligatory-monsters-popping-out-from-behind-trees that we’ve come to expect, but also howling werewolves, ominous warnings from the recently departed, a pompadoured demon and a climactic battle of the bands. Does Halloween really get any better than rockabilly in Hell?

The final night of “Johnny Octane Vs. The Underworld” is tonight, October 25th from 7:30 until 11:30pm. Parking is at 900 S. Marshall in Marshall, Michigan. Admission is $8 per person at the door. The structure of the story and the large turnout meant that we spent some time in the waiting area, watching a vintage horror film projected on the side of a garage and surrounded by kids in Halloween costumes playing tag. It’s great family-friendly fun worth the wait… and the trip to Marshall.

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