When the Doktor and I refer to our house as being “lightly haunted,” we are not referencing the fellow pictured above. (Click to view a larger image– I dare you!) His occasional appearance in our basement, or that his colleagues, could no longer be termed a “surprise.” During our years of inhabiting this house, we have witnessed only a handful of creatures from the spectral realm, but these creatures, the common house centipede or Scutigera coleoptrata , have had a larger presence.
When this fellow and I crossed paths in the other night, I steeled myself and attempted to analyze the sensation that threatened to overwhelm my reactions. Let’s just call it fear, for simplicity sake.
My first impulse was to run away, to hurry back upstairs where drier, warmer temperatures and brighter lights seem to discourage visitations from arthropods. However, I made myself stand still and observe the creature and my reactions, a decision made possible by the fact that the insect sat motionless on the basement wall. The cold column of discomfort that settled in my spine, the shivers of repulsion — oh my, what exciting sensations.
Having managed the inclination to flee, I then had to squash the impulse to murder the house centipede. Having attempted such crime in the past, I can assure you that it is usually less successful than one would like. These many-legged critters are swift and acquainted with defensive maneuvers, which can result in an embarrassing miss. At the best of times, it’s difficult to deliver the decisive hit needed to obliterate the entire insect. Leaving half a bug writhing on the floor is truly disgusting.
My final psychological move was to attempt to view the creature as friend. Indeed, this is most difficult step of all, one motivated by knowledge gained in a gardening seminar a few years ago. The house centipede is an insectivore, meaning it kills and eats other insects; his menu is made up of even less desirable household arthropods: bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, ants and more. In other words, the household centipede is a good guy, in spite of appearances otherwise.
I held my fears in check long enough to take the picture and then I fled upstairs to a strong cup of tea and a snuggly blanket. I must admit that I was impressed with my own bravery, although I’m not sure the Doktor shared my sentiment.
What makes your spine tingle or your skin crawl? Some people think ghosts are creepy, but I think several creepier things exist, close at hand or under our feet, going about their existences, unaware of our intentions or our emotions.
Just this week, I complained to a co-worker about how much more exciting my life would be if I had a villain to combat. Presumably life would be SUPER exciting if I battled a SUPER villain. These gorgeous depictions of real life evil folks portrayed in the style of old school super villains snapped me back to my senses to realize that large-scale nastiness doesn’t happen only in comic books.
Brazilian graphic artist Butcher Billy has created posters for various Legion of Real Life Super Villains that are stylish and smart. My comics background, as fitting a culture snob, is mostly with underground and small presses so the subtlety of these comparisons is probably lost a bit on me. Manson as the Joker is apt, though perhaps a bit safe while Zuckerberg as Loki strikes me as fresh and quite insightful. The whole series lovingly quotes the rendering of earlier comics — is it “Silver Age?” — and pre-digital printing techniques while maintaining a clever critical edge.
These images recall that age-old question about the social utility of metaphor, of whether we tell stories about figures slightly stylized and separate from the mundane in order to cope with realities that are too horrifying to look at straight on. Good metaphors, seems to me, can be invested with social meaning from many different contexts and end up even richer. All that high-fallutin’ theory aside, these posters are quite fab.
If you read this blog and you’re near mid-Michigan next weekend, stop in to the Second Annual Flint Horror Convention, right down town at the creepy Masonic Temple kitty corner from the original Halo Burger. Vendors, Movies, Panels and all so close to the center of this mitten-shaped wonderland. TV horror celebrity Wolfman Mac is playing host and, among many other guests, my friends from the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers will be on a panel. Last year’s inaugural convention was a blast and this year promises to be bigger and better.
Guess what arrived in the mail? Yes, oh yes, passes for this year’s version of Theatre Bizarre, titled “The Summoning.” The lurid festivities will be held at the Detroit Masonic Temple and please note, costumes are MANDATORY. I am taking time off from stitching mine to type out this posting.
If you aren’t hip to Theatre Bizarre — and there’s no shame really — check out the video I made of some of their side show props at the 2011 Detroit Maker Faire. Remember: you have been SUMMONED.
It’s October and officially the time for Haunted House attractions and their evangelical knock-offs known as Hell Houses. A Hell House takes the thrills and chills of a traditional haunted house but dresses them up with a heavily moralistic and pietistic spin. A common feature, I gather, is a lurid depiction of Hell and all the tortures awaiting immoral, impious folks. This phenomenon is nothing new, heck some of the best medieval plays are thinly veiled cautionary tales. But I was charmed to find a post about a midway attraction from the early decades of the 20th C named “Darkness and Dawn” that featured a peek into Hell, presumably for pure amusement not instruction.
The first reference I found came from the blog Anonymous Works that featured a ticket for this attraction plus a snippet of information. They noted the attraction was located in Coney Island, that is burned down in 1903 and was later re-built in Luna Park. The style of the attraction was a cyclorama, a circular panorama intended to give a sense of all encompassing vista.
The blog Gaping Media Hole had several postcards from the attraction’s appearance in different locations, including the promotional card shown above and the shot of the midway that shows the front of the attraction. The locations noted are Revere Beach and Venice Beach.
The best description about the attraction came at a site devoted to the Pan-American Exhibition of 1901 held in Buffalo, NY. If I read the information correctly, “Darkness and Dawn” grossed the highest amount of any of the Midway attractions, scoring 17th overall behind restaurants and concession stands. The attraction started with a “Cabaret du Mort” where patrons drank from skulls and sat at coffin-shaped tables. Likely these beverages were alcoholic since at this time, amusement parks were aimed at young couples and were not particularly family friendly. I found little description of the Hell portion other than the note that while the creator of the attraction was puzzling out a way to get patrons over a lake of fire he came up with the idea for another attraction, “Visit to the Moon.”
These were the details I was able to piece together with a few minutes of research. I’m sharing them here mostly to remind myself to look into it further when I get a chance. Suffice to say, our interest in fear as thrill is sometimes served with a candy coating of instruction, and sometimes that candy coating is quite thin.
Hordes of undead shambled through downtown Ann Arbor last weekend and they did it for charity…and presumably for brains. The 2012 Zombie Walk Ann Arbor was held last Saturday, Sept 27. The undead were requested to bring canned goods to benefit Foodgatherers, a charity that feeds the hungry in Washtenaw County. I do not know if Foodgatherers has an official policy on feeding hungry zombies, however. I caught up with the zombies as they dragged their partially rotted corpses through picturesque Nickels Arcade.
The macabre parade was kept in line by “armed” representatives from the local chapter of Zombie Squad, a national organization that seeks civilian preparedness for zombie outbreaks and other types of disasters. The decomposing crowd ended it festering stroll at the Michigan Theatre, just in time for Three Corpse Circus, the annual festival of short horror films, where the undead were given a discounted admission.
“The Angels” – Forget for a moment, those chubby cheeked cherbubim from the dime-store Xmas cards. Also erase the Renaissance puti, those cute winged baby heads… though frankly the thought of winged baby heads gives me the shivers. And even depictions of seraphim that we’ve grown accustomed to are too anthropomorphic and beautiful. Angels were bad-ass. These other worldly messengers are far closer to Christopher Walken’s character in The Prophecy than those feel-good bundles of fluff and hence they fit perfectly on this list of the Ten Best Christmas Monsters.
How dare I assert this?
Monsters for the purpose of this list are scary or threatening, non-humans beings.
Non-human? Check. Don’t get me started on the idea that dead people turn into angels when they die…
Threatening? Well, one of the original Christmas stories describes angels appearing to a group of shepherds and those shepherd were scared out of their wits. The first “message” that the angels had to deliver is a bit of crowd soothing. “Fear not.” This injunction suggests that the shepherds’ first reaction was to be afraid.
Shepherds have also been nerfed a bit through a couple millennia of metaphoric over-usage. Most of us have little association with real sheep, let alone career shepherds while we are inundated with sweet as spun sugar depictions of “the loving shepherd” made infamous by kitsch meisters like Holman Hunt. As I figure it, shepherds in first C Palestine were pretty rough and tumble. If chewing tobacco existed, they’d chew it. They had to be prepared to protect their flock against marauding beasts at midnight using little more than a crooked stick and a sling.
And when these angel things come along and these tough guys collapse. Imagine John Wayne weeping, and I mean the tough John Wayne like in a cowboy role not the bogus “Roman Solider at the Cross” gig he did — or am I the only one who saw that movie?
So for being non-human and scary… even if that terror is based on a misunderstanding, we at the DailyNightmare award #8 Best Christmas Monster to the Angels. Disagree? Add a comment.
We at the DailyNighmare simply LOVE it when non-horror-related websites post about ooky phenomena like lycanthropy. And you can’t get much farther away from horror than the mild-mannered activity of map-making — I mean apart from that famous serial killer / world explorer from the 16th C. I forget his name at the moment. It made all the history books…
The kind folks at BigThink.com link it to the lycans with this lovely post about a famous map of the British Isles. Devoted fans of the genre are long ahead of the cartographers, and we must forgive their non-professional opinions on the allegedly greatest horror-comedy film — oops, I’ve said too much — but check out the post
And share the luv.
When I was a kid, everyone I knew thought “The Exorcist” was the scariest movie they’d ever seen. Me? When I watched it, I had the overwhelmed sensation “Damn, that looks cool.” Forget fireman or doctor or lawyer, I wanted to be an EXORCIST!
Trouble was, the high school guidance counselor didn’t really have much advice for that career path. Things might be changing though, following this report:
The most recent guidelines appear to have been updated in 1999 – so they won’t be able to address any juicy new demons that the 21st century has spawned. And of course, they’re written in Latin, which wasn’t exactly one of my strongest classes. I suppose the most damning blow to my demon-evicting job search is that I’m not Catholic must less a priest nor am I likely to become one in the near future… like this life-time.
Maybe I’ll have to fall back on my other childhood dream job: astronaut who leaves earth never to return.
In 1941, a group of folks assembled to put a “hex” on Hitler. Life Magazine – the internet of those times – was on hand to record the event with some snappy photojournalism. Godwin’s Law be damned: this is a hoot, that is, using the “forces of Darkness” to combat “Evil incarnate.”
Your position on the utility of hexes or the authenticity of these particular would-be pagans is not the point. We humans need to feel as if we are doing something that is meaningful, that our actions have an effect especially during times of distress. During WWII, we had collections for scrap metal. We grew “victory gardens.” Contemporary reflection somewhat pessimistically notes that these activities didn’t really help the war effort as much as they bolstered the moral of those on the home front. So why not “hexes?”
There was great recent controversy when someone planned to burn multiple copies of the Qu’ran. It prompted folks across the Muslim world to burn effigies of just about everyone they didn’t like… even though, as I read it, it’s a cultural proscription, if not cardinal no-no to make graven images of humans. This emphasis on non-representative art is a contributing factor to the splendor of Islamic geometric mosaics, I’m told. Would there have been such an outrage if the American protest only burned – or put a hex – on representations of Bin Laden?
If you’re getting hung up on the whole black magic thing, perhaps because of christian baggage, then call it an “imprecatory prayer.” Lord knows there are enough bible-belters using such language as veiled threats against the president. You’ve maybe seen the bumper stickers that say “Pray for Obama – Psalm 108 8 & 9″ Look those lines up, will ya? They’re not the cuddly Loving Shepherd. They say “May the days of his reign be few; let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” Ah, explain to me how that’s NOT outright sedition?
“Even those who are pure of heart, and say their prayers at night,
can become a wolf, when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”
As a public service announcement to all readers who are werewolves, shape-shifters or otherwise lycanthropic, this is what wolfsbane looks like. It comes into full bloom this time of year, right around the time when animosity against the lycan community tends to be highest.
To be honest, very little is nightmarish about the repairs we’re making to the bathroom. The buddy of mine who’s helping is scary efficient and competent, though he occasionally sings along with the radio which I’m attributing to that irresistable urge to sing while in the proximity of a shower.
The real horror show was the condition of the place before we started: spongy floor, tiles that stuck to your feet (i.e. not to the subfloor) and hidden terrors like load bearing walls with large gaps in the joists.
And one secret tenant.
We found a mummified rodent encased in the wall. It’s clearly not the remains of Poe’s Black Cat, which is good, I suppose for several reasons, one of which is that I rather like cats. I really can’t convince myself that it’s a rat – though again that would pump up the goth factor of the Ye Old Homestead a bit. It was, in fact, a squirrel – a kind of creature I have no spare love for – and in its current condition, it’s cool as hell. See for yourself:
So the stinger to this tale is what my daughter said when we broke the news to her.
Me: “Eric found something in the walls”
Grown daughter: “Was it a dead baby?”
It’s the chance exchange like this that reminds me she’s my kin, that there was no mix-up at the hospital, no abandoned basket on the doorstep. Where my first thought was a dead rat, like a nice and proper piece of Nosferatu set dressing, Dear Daughter’s imagination shot straight to an essential gothic plot device: a buried child.
I’ve heard it said that two heads are better than one but honestly who wants to drag around yet another hairy brain-cage the size of a football?
“…we humans have been shooting each other in the back for a long time…”
“…it just doesn’t accomplish much to claim certain phenomena are “real” while others aren’t. The real task is to determine what kind of reality they possess and what kind of meaning that implies…”
Fun little article at Slate.com about how contemporary vampires suck, or more precisely, that they don’t. The once terrifying Other is now just a cuddly idealized boyfriend – who no longer sucks blood. The article nicely traces a line from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to Anne Rice’s tortured immortals to Buffy’s beau Angel to the monster’s nadir in the paranormal romance genre a la the Twilight series.
( http://www.slate.com/id/2223486/ )
Makes me wonder if all objects of terror undergo a certain domestication, a processes of Disneyfication where anything that is truly terrifying is sanded flat, made safe and consumable. Happens with all attempts to depict the wholly Other, I suspect, making that “make no graven images” commandment a bit more sensible. After an experience of awe / wonder / terror / amazement it’s understandable to make some record of that encounter. But then there will be folks whose only experience of that Other is via the representation, through the vicarious thrill. At the risk of sounding like a neo-Platonist here, the continued repetition of representation pushes the Other farther and farther away from our actual experience. It’s how that piss-your-pants / fall-on-the-ground-numb / struck-blind-with-scales-on-your-eyes experience of true religion becomes gradually codified into something boring and mundane like ethics and orthodoxy.
Damn. Did I slip from talking about the Monstrous to talking about the Holy again?
I bet this one slipped by the leftist media cultural elitists:
Much of the commentary that’s appeared on the blogosphere surrounding this event assumes that the attacker was a zombie. OK, fine, fair enough. I see the resemblance at least to the early Romero-style zombies. Some nit-picking kill-joys were hung up on the fact that the attacker didn’t go for the guy’s brains.
But let’s back up for a moment. It’s it terrifying enough to think that this guy came up out of nowhere and bit a chunk out of someone’s arm? Isn’t it even a bit creepier in fact that the guy WASN’T a zombie?
You’re probably thinking something along the line of Gojira-jerky or freeze-dried Gamera but these little darlings, found over at Pinktentacle.com are 10,000 times cooler.
Those familiar with cryptozoological frauds like the fiji-mermaid know the drill. Many of these wonders are fabricated from various parts of various critters. Others have a more obscure provenance and some, like the “living mummy” tradition of certain monastic orders are even weirder. All in all this is a post you’ve got to read — though it left me feeling oddly thirsty.