How exciting would it be to discover great grandfather was a grave robber?
Paul Koudounaris reveals this history and more in an interview in the Hairpin. Koudounaris is an author, photographer and art historian, with an interest in ossuaries, charnel houses, and sex ghosts.
He is the author of The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses. He also runs a website dedicated to some of the more macabre themes, Empire de la Mort.
(Male, 30′s) This wasn’t really a nightmare that is it wasn’t a scary dream, that is, I wasn’t scared so much when I was actually IN the dream but once I woke up and started to think about it, it started to creep me out more and more.
I was on a farm, a very familiar place, a farm my aunt and uncle own. And I was gathering firewood. Twigs and large branches, just everything I could find. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around or at least if there were, no one else seemed interested in the bonfire I was going to start and that was fine. I had acquired a pretty impressive stack of fuel, almost as tall as I am and easily 10 or 15 feet in diameter. It was going to be a righteous blaze.
I was getting ready to light the fire when I saw someone I grew up with. She was a friend of the family someone I’ve only partially kept in touch with over the years. She mentioned in passing that she’d had a seance recently and called up the spirits of her mother and my long dead father. I was struck by a wave of what I can only call jealousy. I’ve been going through some rather hard times recently and even at my worst I didn’t think about troubling my dead father for advice or companionship. It seemed offensive that she’d just summon up my dead relatives, basically for fun.
And then it got weird. Or maybe I should say, weirder. Around that time, I realized that I wasn’t speaking with this friend of the family anymore. Maybe I never had been. I was speaking with my mother who also is dead. It wasn’t clear if she had been summoned in the seance, that is, that I had gotten it mixed up who the friend of the family had called up, or whether Mom had just come along on her own or whether I had been speaking to my mother all along. She seemed so distant and mournfull I got really cold and wished I’d started the fire but it seemed so far away. I still had matches in my hands but I forgot how to use them to make fire.
I woke up thinking about what it would be like for someone who was dead to have a seance to summon someone else who was dead. I got creeped out by the thought that maybe in death we’re all separate, alone and that for some folks that would be incredibly difficult.
Thirteen songs are enough to anchor a good party mix. Not everything here are tracks you’ll love but mix and match. It’ll all turn out OK. The idea of these themed playlists is that a lot of folks end up with lame costumes, not because they can be anything but because they can’t choose. Help them. Throw a Halloween party with a specific theme. This playlist is for a lycanthropic party. Show movies with the sound turned down. Serve theme-related snacks – for werewolves, I’m thinking lamb and that means gyro sandwiches. You got the idea. Run with it.
1) (The Obvious) – Werewolves Of London (2007 Remastered) by Warren Zevon off “Excitable Boy” or “Genius.” It’s the obvious track because everyone knows it and it’s clearly related to the theme. It’s got the same name at least as a classic werewolf movie, though as with all of Zevon’s tunes, he was likely referring to something else entirely. Give in. It’s got to go on the mix somewhere. At least the live version linked here has enough novelty and verve to remind us what made the song a classic in the first place.
2) Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This tune was linked forever to the werewolf mythos through “American Werewolf in London.” If you don’t want to be SO obvious about it, use the very servicable cover version of Bad Moon Rising by Raspuntina.
3) “Hungry Wolf” by X off Under The Big Black Sun. Classic X, driving beat, tight harmonies that made it almost as much as folk as punk. Personified wolves.
4) Will the Wolf Survive? by Los Lobos (get it? “the wolves”) A band from the other side of L.A. uses wolves as a metaphor for the difficulties of human life. Relatively profound lyrics and a catchy tune.
5) She Wolf by Shakira off the album of the same name. A bouncy latino-pop track from that lady who, I swear, has an extra vertebra in her spine.
6) Dire Wolf (Remastered LP Version) by the Grateful Dead. The studio version is on “Working Man’s Dead” and that rendition at least has relatively clear lyrics for those unfamiliar with the tune. A gabillion live recordings as well, most of them with a bit more verve and life. A jaunty rhythm and an odd, singable chorus “Don’t murder me.” the song tells tale of a card game with a 600 pound wolf.
7) Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf. This has no explicit werewolf references, other than the “wolf” in the band’s name which is actually an artsy reference to a German novel. Blue Oyster Cult does a version and live they used to ride a motorcycle onstage. The idea of a biker gang of werewolves actually has been turned into a movie “Werewolves on Wheels (1971)”
8 ) “My Werewolf Mama” by Lenny Bruce – This track often is played by Dr. Demento but I wrestled including it because it’s just so darned corny.
9) I’m a Werewolf, Baby by The Tragically Hip from their first EP Tragically Hip – The Hip are a solid act. Their lyrics are literate, their music is blues-y and raucous rock and their fan base is rabid– that is, if you’re from Canada. North of the border they’re more popular than the Beatles but in the U.S. hardly anyone has heard them. This track isn’t their best tune by far but heck, it fits on the list.
10 ) Lil’ Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs – I knew this song primarily through a version my brother in law would croon. Research it unearthed some fun details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lil’_Red_Riding_Hood
11) “Du riechst so gut” by Rammstein – This track is a bit of a stretch but the video is all over the RotKäpchen (er, little red riding hood, in German) thing. If you’ve got the ability, stream the video too. The title translated is “you smell so nice”
12) Werewolf by the Five Man Electric Band. Obscure track from the mid 1970′s that I think I can bet no one at the party will have heard. Tells the tale of a boy gone feral and his family’s attempts to cope. Using a gun.
13) I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1989 Digital Remaster) by the Cramps. Heck, if you’re pressed for time, you could drop on a whole album of the Cramps. There’s a movie link of course to Michael Landon (Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie) in the title role.
And one to grow on:
“Little Pig” by Dale Hakwins — “I’m a wolf and I wanna come in…”
(Male, 40′s) It’s my own fault. I ate a couple slices of pizza right before bed. I just can’t handle green peppers anymore. This nightmare was an EPIC length ghost story. I hope I made it sound half as scary as I thought it was.
It was night and I was waiting for my girlfriend at a church. I was inside the church, an old style, stone church, not much different from the one I grew up attending in fact it felt like that church even though there was no room in that building like the one in my nightmare. It was getting late and I couldn’t really remember why I was waiting, what was keeping my girlfriend. I couldn’t remember much about her in fact (sorry, dear!) She might have been a professor so I thought maybe she had a night class and then I thought maybe she was a high school principal so she had a long meeting … but I wasn’t 100% certain of anything, only that I was waiting in a pretty large room – one large enough to be a dance hall – so late at night that all the electricity had turned off.
Yeah, that was the first real scary thing. It was like the electricity was timed to turn off at 10:00 or something. I couldn’t turn the lights on even if I wanted to. There was a surprising amount of ambient light, however – through the windows, through the open doors – not enough to see into the corners but enough to make out the general contours of the room. And there was enough light for me to realize that the floor was extremely dirty. There were actual clods of dried mud, like a large group of people had come in from hiking cross country and stood around in this room until the mud fell off their shoes. I didn’t have anything better to do so I grabbed a broom and started to sweep up. I figured that might make the ghosts happy.
Because by this time, I was pretty sure there were ghosts everywhere inside this church. I was hearing strange sounds that I kept telling myself was just the furnace… though now I think about it, a building that shut off the electricity at night probably shut off the heat too. It was white noise that was sculpted almost to sound like music but it also sounded like human voices singing. I also thought I saw lights – shimmering crescents of light – out of the corner of my eye, over where a big storage closet was. But I started sweeping, if for no other reason than to keep my mind off the creepy things in the room. And that’s when the really weird stuff started.
I would no sooner get a pile of dirt swept up and it would dissolve into the floor. I thought at first a breeze had blow it away – which would have been scary enough but it actually was dissolving IN to the floor. I didn’t really care too much. No need to find a dust pan, I guess. But right about this time I realized that there were two large trees growing out of the floor over by where this storage closet was. They were cedars, with long rope-y bark. The diameter of the trunk was over a foot so these were quite strong trees. They came right up through the tiled floor, like the church had been built around them. There was definitely paranormal activity being active over there so I approached to check it out. I was extremely scared but I kept moving closer. A bright bluish glow had started coming out of the closet. Then a dimmer orangeish glow started from one of the trees.
I started hearing a voice-over in my head, like a book-on-tape or a long interview on NPR. The author had written a book called “The Apple and the Cedar” and it was about these very trees. I didn’t have too much faith in his patient, long-winded analysis because for one thing, he entirely mis-indentified one of the trees. The author seemed to think the trees were harmless and they were part of some grand circle of death and re-birth. I was pretty sure that he wasn’t telling the whole story, that there was actually something slightly more dangerous about these trees but I knew what I had to do. I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew it. The long ropes of bark were strangling the trees. If they were going to live, the bark needed to be pulled away. I didn’t know if removing the bark would antagonize the ghosts / spirits but I felt I simply had to do this. I started unknotting the bark from around the trees. It was hard work. Every now and then I’d see a flash of light out of the corner of my eye and hear an angry buzz in my ear so I knew the ghosts were paying attention. I just couldn’t tell what they were thinking. But as I unwrapped the cedar, the light it gave off grew more intense. I could see the buds of new life growing on the undersides of the stems.
That’s the last thing I remember about the dream, looking up at the branches of this cedar, branches that reached all the way to the ceiling and beyond, an seeing all the beautiful new growth on them. As it sounds here, this was a positive ending but I woke up quite disturbed. I didn’t ever figure out whether the ghosts were angry about what I’d done with the cedars. I sat up in my bed. It felt like my whole house was haunted.
House, a 1977 Japanese horror-fantasy-comedy came to the midnight movies in town and I’m still trying to figure out if I just dreamed the whole thing. (more…)
“…My Mom was there which also was strange because she’s dead…”
And they say print media is dead! A new nine chapter novella by Koji Suzuki (author of Ring) has recently been published… on rolls of toilet paper. The novella is titled Drop and allegedly takes up about three feet of toilet paper in its entirety. What I found particularly interesting is that the AP story alleges that ghost in Japan traditionally hide in bathrooms.
Japanese Novella printed on Toilet Paper http://news.aol.com/article/scary-toilet-paper/496694#Comments
“… if the folks there didn’t like you, you just might disappear….”
(Male, 50′s) I had a nightmare last night that was really unnerving in addition to having a couple really scary moments. I was riding around with my Dad. My Dad has been dead incidentally for a good 20 years. We were trying to get an old radio or something that belonged to him from someone in this dangerously small town. It was dangerously small because there was a real sense that if the folks there didn’t like you, you just might disappear. Like the gasoline in our car seemed to disappear, like it had been siphoned away and there of course were no gas stations in this town. And the vehicle we were driving kept getting parked in. You know, there would be someone parked at either end of it so we couldn’t get out. We ended up taking the radio which was immense. It was easily three foot by three foot by four foot tall. We strapped the radio on top of a scooter / three wheel motorcycle thing and headed out of town. I was riding on TOP on the radio. I told Dad that I really hoped he wasn’t planning on driving on any expressways. Even when we turned corners on the side streets, we’ve leaned like we were going to tip over. There were some scary moments on that ride. I just had to relax and hold on.
We drove through this industrial wasteland, factories that were shut down and rusting. Windows grey and smashed out. It was an urban hell. Finally we arrived at my grandmother’s house. My grandmother also has been dead for upwards of 30 years. She did used to live in a pretty run down and decrepit part of an urban factory town. In the dream she was dead but her house still lived on, so to speak. It was much larger than I remembered it and I mean the ceilings of the rooms were easily twenty foot tall. It was still filled with furniture. I asked Dad what he had wanted with the radio for, why we had to go to all that effort to retrieve something that we was just going to deliver to a house where no body lives. He didn’t reply at all and that was strange because in life at least he was a rather talkative person. I could tell that this was something big but hard to put into words, something like honor or the “principle of the thing.”
“…It moved silently so it would sometimes just walk into the room on those silent, deadly cat feet and it would start tracking….”
The scariest parts of the dream happened inside Grandmother’s house because it was haunted not by a ghost but by a panther. The panther was large, half way between the size of a real panther and a velociraptor. It only seemed to be able to see movement and even that movement it could see best from the corner of its eyes. The beast was also almost entirely deaf. It moved very quietly so it would sometimes just walk into the room on those silent, deadly cat feet and it would start tracking. Once it was right on top of me snuffling at the soft inner parts of my throat. One bite and I would have died immediately in a spray of blood. I threw something and distracted it enough that the creature moved away. It also got very interested in an empty plastic bag that was being blown around by the wind. Another time though this blood thirsty monster came up right between my legs and started to sniff at my crotch. It growled low. I figured that I could probably survive if the monster bit off my penis if I didn’t bleed to death before help could arrive. –where was the nearest hospital in the urban wasteland?– but all things being equal, I would rather keep all my parts attached. When it wandered away, I yelled at my Dad. “Why is that thing still here? Why didn’t you call a professional exterminator or something to get rid of it?” Again, Dad was silent like I was missing some very obvious point.
I wish this retailer had an affiliate program because this is a product I can really stand behind: an electronic ghost repellant.
Rest assured that this device uses complicated electronics, ones that can distinguish good spirits from bad spirits — which is good because you wouldn’t want it accidentally emptying your liquor cabinet, right?
I’m intrigued by the whole relationship between ghosts and technology. For awhile, there were many reports of “phone calls from the dead” which perhaps says much about how mysterious telephones were to some folks. Demons require exorcisms but ghosts… they can be dispelled with transistors. It reminds me a bit too much of a certain electronic mosquito repellant I saw at a friend’s house last summer.
(Female, 80′s) I’ve been on some pretty serious medication recently. The injections just make me feel so light, like I’m floating. It takes a couple days until I come back to myself.
I tried to tell her I wasn’t dead
In this dream, I was laying in my recliner, rocking back and forth. Since I got sick I have been sleeping in my recliner because it’s easier for me to get up out of it than out of a bed. I gradually realized that I could hear voices. The voices were loud enough that I could make out what they were saying. I was very curious. One of the voices was one of the preachers from my church. She was talking about someone who had passed away. “She was just sitting there rocking away in her recliner.” I felt sorry for this person and then I realized that the preacher was talking about me. I tried to speak, tried to tell her I wasn’t dead but I wasn’t in my recliner anymore. I was floating up by the ceiling. There was nothing I could do. I felt so powerless.
(Male, 40′s) In this nightmare, I was looking for my dog but I haven’t actually had a dog since I was a kid. It wasn’t in the house anywhere so I went outside. Our house now was on the edge of a very large park, one with mountains and pine trees instead of the suburbs that it actually is in. I yelled for my dog and then I saw it being carried in the mouth of a bear. This bear was on the edge of our backyard, just where it turned rough and started into the park. The dog, scraggy black fur, was obviously dead but I was concerned that if this bear was hungry or ornery enough to attack a dog, it wouldn’t think twice about attacking any of the people who seemed to be just standing around oblivious to the creature. I started yelling to folks to slowly move away and to get inside. There was one couple in the middle of the back yard who didn’t hear me or didn’t want to move or just didn’t understand. The man was wearing a black suit with a black bowler hat and the woman wore a full length white dress. She held a baby in her arms. I was foolishly brave and approached them. By the time I reached the couple, there was another bear within the same area, about 10 feet. These bears were large at least five feet from the ground to their backs when they walked on all fours. Their fur was long probably six to eight inches long and it was a rich golden color. It looked like honey, that same translucent color. I figured the couple were just panicking so I tried to make it easy for them. I said, “Just stand where you are and I will back away from you. I’ll get the bears to follow me.” No response from them. I started to back away, the bears followed me… and these stupid people started following me too! As I was backing up, I run into something incredibly solid which for some reason I know is yet another bear, this one much larger and more sturdy than the others. I am now literally penned in by these immense bears while two of them are sniffing toward the baby in the woman’s arms. Still this couple doesn’t seem able or willing to move. I say “Give me the child” so the woman handed me the bundle and about that time I realize that I can see through these two people, that they are actually transparent. They were ghosts. The full horror of my predicament flooded into me: I was surrounded by bears that were primed for an attack while I was carrying something like a ghostly supernatural baby. The last thing I remember is running purposefully and deliberately through a wooded area with pine branches lashing at my face. I knew I couldn’t outrun the bears but if I just moved deliberately toward the house I thought I could make it.
(Male, 30′s) I was trying to spend the night in what everyone thought was a haunted house. I knew deep down in my soul that there was just someone trying to scare myself and the other person who was there with me. I don’t think there was any reward involved, just the sense that if the place wasn’t really haunted that some kind of curse would be lifted, not like a supernatural curse but more like a psychological curse.
The house was dark but not entirely pitch black. We decided to try not to sleep at all that night so we just sat up awake in the dining room. The dining room opened into the living room through a large doorway but it was so dark in there that we couldn’t see what was going on in there. We could make out various whispy gray shapes moving but nothing more distinct. They shapes looked like window drapes and I for one wasn’t certain that wasn’t all they were. The guy I was with was pretty sure they were ghosts, though. There were also strange sounds coming from the other room. I thought they sounded like people knocking into the furniture as they walked around in the dark but my friend, as could be expected, thought they were ghosts. The hauntings seemed to come in waves, like there would be twenty or thirty minutes of nothing but boredom punctuated all at once by something happening. It drove my friend crazy but it just started to make me angry. I wanted to rush into the other room and catch the people in the act but my friend became hysterical at the idea of us separating. But one time, when one of these haunting assaults started, I picked up an end table and threw it into the living room. It didn’t seem to hit anything or make any difference. If anything, it just un-nerved by buddy more.
I was getting desperate to get rid of any sense of ghostly intervention, and angry and perhaps a bit scared. And this is where I literally don’t know what I was thinking in the context of the dream. I knew that there was a crack house next door, actually in the same building. The haunted house was like an attached brownstone, a brick building built into a long line of buildings. This one happened to be “haunted;” the next one happened to be a crack house. I knew that crack dealers and crack addicts could be dangerous in ways that fake ghosts and the people behind them can’t be. So the plan, I guess, to the extent that I had a plan was to alert the attention of the crack addicts next door and get them to terrify the people behind the haunting. I crawled down the staircase that connected the two parts of the building and somehow got the attention of the dope fiends. They ran out of their house and into the haunted house. The crack addicts flipped on the lights (why hadn’t WE thought to do that?) and there was gun fire going every where. I was hiding under a table with a table cloth on it. There was a guy with a semiautomatic weapon standing less than a foot away from me. For some reason, thankfully, he didn’t see me. There was yelling and shooting and eventually they just left.
That’s about where the dream ended, with no resolution. I don’t know what happened to my friend. I don’t know if we lifted the curse on the building. I don’t even know if the gun-toting crack heads killed the “ghosts.”
(Male) I was in prison but a weird prison, an ancient European kind of prison, dark, inhumane. It was a tower that was partially submerged in the ground. Prisoners entered through the top, through a door in the roof and walked down a spiral staircase to their cell. The cells were all wedge-shaped because the tower itself was circular. The walls were stone, thick, dirty stone with a very small window slot cut about eye level that let in air. The place must have been built when people were shorter because my head grazed the ceiling of my cell.
But none of this was the really terrifying. There were no other prisoners, at least none that I could see but as I walked down the stairs I heard the sounds of others in the cells. Furthermore, the cells didn’t lock at least not at night. This was to allow prisoners a chance to shuffle down to the very bottom of the prison to where the bathroom was. As I descended there, I found it harder and harder to breathe. There were no windows because this floor was underground. Down there was also the warden’s office, a thick wooden door with the word “Comando” carved in it. The sense very much was if you offended the other prisoners then they would be the ones who punished you. I told myself never to use the washrooms in the middle of the night but even then I realized that nothing would stop the other prisoners – who let’s face it were ghosts – that nothing would stop them from coming into my cell whenever they wanted and brutalizing me however they wished.
(Female, 40′s) This dream was something like a movie set in the 16th century. Everyone was dressed in period costumes, the women wearing long heavy dresses with velvet and brocade and the men in suits. The rooms were lit with candlelight and each had a fireplace or two. The walls were stone and very tall and shadowy. The whole house was drafty and dark.
…The house belonged to a crazy uncle who was a retired general and his wife…
I had been invited to this huge, old house in the countryside to be the companion to a cousin. We were both teenage girls in a household of older people. The house itself belonged to a crazy uncle who was a retired general and his wife. With them also lived several elderly aunts, another uncle, his mother and father, and his sister, who didn’t like children. That aunt made a point of casting disapproving looks at my cousin and me on every possible occasion. If she didn’t like the way we sat at the table, the speed at which we knitted, or the amount we talked, she’d glare at us. She was frightening.
My uncle was frightening as well, in an unhinged sort of way. We were called down to supper, which was set up in the kitchen at my uncle’s insistence. Usually we ate in the dining room but tonight he wanted to sit in where he could watch the food being prepared. The cook had made, among other things, Steak Tartar. My uncle explained to the cook that he couldn’t eat Steak Tartar because it reminded him of meals in the army. Unfortunately, the cook spoke only French, so he didn’t understand my uncle nor did my uncle understand him. My uncle insisted that the dish had to be removed from the table and thrown out. The cook insisted that the food was good and that there were many other dishes on the table to eat. Finally my uncle stood up and took the dish of Steak Tartar and began the smear it all over the front of the cook’s white apron, handfuls at a time. The cook stood there, shocked. The family also sat in horror as my uncle emptied all the plates of food onto the front of the cook’s apron.
Did I mention that the house was haunted as well? In the evening, my cousin and I were in our room. The aunt that disliked us came in to scold us about something. She left the door to the room open and stood talking loudly and firmly to us. Then through the door came a very tall and wispy ghost, at least 12 feet tall. She was constantly moving, her arms and the drapes of her dress swaying like they were blowing about in a gentle breeze. Her appearance wasn’t as frightening as it was ominous. She’d come to warn us about something but we couldn’t understand what. My aunt was surprised into silence, but after the ghost disappeared, she said, “See? That is what will happen is you disobey.” But we didn’t understand what she meant by that either.
(Male) I used to live in the old sprawling farmhouse that happened to located right next to a pretty busy road. The house had been broken up into apartments. Prior to the time I lived there, two of the former occupants, both older women, in totally separate incidents had been struck and killed by automobiles while trying to cross the road. All that really happened.
In the dream, I am laying down on a couch in the living room of the apartment. A woman who I don’t recognize shakes my shoulder, trying to get me to wake up. I open my eyes a little. She says “Go for a walk with me.” I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep. The woman is more insistent. “You must come for a walk with me. Now. Come.” I’m not certain about this next part because it’s hard to describe but it almost felt as if she was trying to push her arms into my body, to make me move from inside, almost as if she was trying to get inside my body to make me move. But I stayed on the couch and eventually she went away.
It wasn’t until I woke up that I remembered the women who had been killed going for a walk just outside. It still gives me shivers to tell this story.