Odds and Dead Ends : New Slains Castle / Dracula’s Scottish Home

You always find stuff that you didn’t know when preparing these articles, and this little nugget it happens is my find of the week. It’s been well reported that Stoker got part of his inspiration for Count Dracula from Vlad Dracula III (Vlad the Impaler), though retro-actively working the figure into his idea, rather than being originally inspired by him. I was also aware that one of Stoker’s colleagues, actor Henry Irving, who worked at the Stoker-owned Lyceum Theatre, was widely considered another inspiration for the character. However, I was not aware that one of the largest inspirations may have come from New Slains Castle, up in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.

Admittedly, my Stoker knowledge is, depressingly, severely lacking. The extent of it goes to lots of Dracula and its various adaptations, my undying devotion to The Jewel of Seven Stars (which people who read my section here a lot will know I bang on about constantly, but damn you, it’s an incredibly bleak and unnerving novel), and Lair of the White Worm on my phone which I’ve sadly never gotten around to. So it surprised me to discover that this castle, which is mentioned in The Watters’ Mou and The Mystery of the Sea (more well-read readers can confirm this for me), may not only have inspired the castle in Seven Stars, but also Dracula’s castle, particularly a specific octagonal room mentioned in the novel. It turns out that Stoker frequently went on trips to the area on holiday, and so would not only have known the area very well, but most likely been very familiar with the castle, both its location and grounds, and its interiors.

A brief history lesson first. The old castle was built in the early 14th century by John Comyn, part of the Comyns family who held it for many years. In 1594, it was attacked by King James VI of Scotland (who was also James I of England, successor of Elizabeth I, final ruler of the Tudor family) as the then-owner, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, was leading a rebellion against him. The old castle was mostly destroyed with gunpowder and cannon-fire, though remnants of it remain to this day. It remains a ‘scheduled monument’, a title given to architecturally important monuments in the UK and as such protected against change and modification.

The new Slains Castle (The one we’re interested in) was built by Hay upon his return from exile (the uprising hadn’t gone too well) a little ways up the coast. Originally a tower house and courtyard, it was expanded and changed over the years, with wings and towers built up as the centuries went past. In the mid 1800s, a complete redesign was ordered, turning what was there into a more contemporary, Baronial-style castle, giving it granite facing update. Large gardens were designed and laid out only a few years before Stoker visited for the first time. The whole thing was eventually unroofed not long after WWI, and has remained derelict ever since.

The history lesson over, this brings us back to Dracula, and the octagonal room in question. The novel has a small passage which reads as follows: ‘The Count halted, putting down my bags, closed the door, and crossing the room, opened another door, which led into a small octagonal room lit by a single lamp, and seemingly without a window of any sort.’ (my copy, p 21). It turns out that New Slains Castle has a similar room, specifically octagonal in design, and considering Stoker knew the castle well, the very unusual design seems to be a big red flag alerting us to the fact that New Slains is indeed where he got it from. Coupled with the fact that Stoker is rumoured to have been staying in, or near, the castle at the time he was beginning to plan, or even write, Dracula, it’s not too far a stretch to say that, even if parts of the castle weren’t intentionally lifted and transported to the rugged hills of Transylvania, there was more than likely a subconscious application.

Obviously, the location in the novel is nothing like the coastal views of the Scottish ruins, and there doesn’t seem to be any reports or rumours of ghouls, ghosts, or sunlight-fearing vampires lurking in Slains Castle. I would assume it’s now in the ownership of the National Trust, or some other organisation, so I’m not sure if you could just rock up and have a look around, but if you are ever in the area, might be a fun time to go and check out the real Castle Dracula.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Postscript: People interested in following up on this topic might want to check out When Brave Men Shudder: The Scottish Origins of Dracula, by Mike Shepherd. I haven’t read it, but it’s got an introduction by Dacre Stoker, great-grand-nephew of Bram, and plenty of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Brave-Men-Shudder-Scottish/dp/1907954694

Odds and Dead Ends : White Zombie |The Grandfather of Zombies

Along with the pandemic film, which for obvious reasons seems to be especially prevalent in these trying times, its close cousin, the zombie movie, is also emerging from the graves. Several years ago, J Malcolm Stewart briefly discussed the zombie film in a guest article for HorrorAddicts.net (link below) and discussed White Zombie in passing. However, considering the fundamental importance of the film to horror history, a more in-depth look at the film seems to be needed.

Inspired by The Magic Island by William Seabrook, the film stars Bela Lugosi as the powerful Murder, practitioner of potions and religions. The film follows Madeleine and fiancé Neil, who upon meeting by chance in Haiti, are to be married at the plantation of their wealthy friend, Charles Beaumont. However, madly in love with the young lady, Charles, visits Lugosi’s mesmeric Murder, who convinces Charles to transform her into a zombie. Once returned to somnambulistic life, Charles can do away with her at his will. It’s a simple script, all in all, and very much a product of the time, where even supernatural films were often dominated by romantic love-stories.

Some context is definitely needed to explain quite a few decisions with the film. Especially prominent in the final twenty minutes or so, is the prevalent absence of dialogue, where much of it plays out in prolonged silent sequences. This is partially explained when we remember that the film was released in 1932, only five years after synchronised sound was first applied to a feature film with The Jazz Singer in 1927. Britain only got its first talkie with Hitchcock’s Blackmail in 1929, an intriguing film with both silent and talkie versions. Anyone in the mainstream film industry at this time, unless they’d just started working there, wouldn’t be too familiar with talkies, and the conventions that synchronised sound would bring. You can still see these longer, quieter sections of film even in Dracula the year before. The world is still partially in the silent mindset.

This may also explain some of the over-acting in the film. If you’re used to working in a medium where facial expression is the primary way of getting information about a character across, it lingers like an accent. You can also see this in early television when theatre actors made the crossover into television for small parts. Even the framing, without a fourth wall, would replicate the theatre. This isn’t an excuse for the overacting, but a reason nonetheless.

One of the main reasons for the film’s enduring grip on the public consciousness must undoubtedly be Bela Lugosi. An incredibly accomplished screen actor by this time, and with the name of Dracula forever attached to him even a year later, managing to grab Lugosi for a starring role would have been a big step for the film. It might possibly have secured them a great portion of the very small budget, if they attached him before going into full production (that part I don’t know, admittedly, and is pure speculation on my part). We should never forget that, as well as being a classic horror movie, this could easily be regarded as a ‘Bela Lugosi’ movie; the star power of the man helping to shape our understanding of this film for years to come, as it fits into more than just one categorisation of film history outside the standard, mainstream concept. Lugosi is the great redemption of the movie, in all its $50,000 budget, eleven-day shoot, all-shot-at-night production glory. Sets were used from other Universal productions, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc, because of the restricted budget as an independent film. Because of this, it’s very easy to see the film as a Lugosi film first and foremost in terms of academic interest, but don’t be fooled.

The world is at the beginnings of mass globalisation at this time, with technology rapidly advancing throughout the globe. Interest in other cultures comes in fits and starts, such as the Egyptology craze that Stoker tapped into in The Jewel of Seven Stars (a link for the interested to my article on Queen Tera from this novel is found at the end). This, combined with a need to tap into new and fresh fears from writers and creators, probably all helped to kick off a new interest in Voodoo. The topic had been all the rage the few years prior, with playwright Kenneth Webb attempted to sue for stealing the name from his play, Zombie, though nothing came of it. Thankfully for us, because otherwise, we might not have the word ‘zombie’ bandied about in titles so readily nowadays, if the same man could sue over and over again for use of the word and be fairly sure of cashing in.

Haitian Voodoo (which is the branch of Voodoo associated within the film, to my brief knowledge) is a real set of beliefs, though not as much in the realms of mesmerism and evil as Hollywood blockbusters (and, probably most notably, Wes Craven’s film The Serpent and The Rainbow) would have you believe. This has never stopped filmmakers taking something seemingly ‘other’ and turning into something horrific, however. This has, of course, been the trend in global storytelling since the beginning of time, that what we do not understand is inherently frightening. Here, multiple strands associated with various parts of the world compose factions of the same belief in an all-powerful being who communicates with the world through spirits, and that by communicating with these spirits (loa), one can communicate with the presence of the all-powerful Bondeye. To this end, only a very small fraction of the religion concerns itself with the creation of zombies, though this is in principle part of the belief system.

This zombie creation is used metaphorically to highlight the racial inequality present in society at the time (though perhaps it is still pertinent even today). Note that the film takes place largely around a plantation and that the shambling zombies of the locals are used by Murder to work the mills. In one scene that tracks through the men, used as little more than cattle to work for the light-skinned Lugosi, the grinding wheels and machinery could be almost taken to sound like the groans of the trapped souls. The very idea of a white man using practices brought about by a largely black community (even more apt as Voodoo has its early origins in Africa, especially the French colonies, hundreds of years ago), for his own gain at the cost of those of a different skin complexion, could be read to have serious racial undertones. Even the name of the film, White Zombie, brings these two worlds together in an explicit binary. You can enjoy the film perfectly without recognising all of this, but the fact that it is there should be borne in mind.

White Zombie, can be seen as the beginning point for two branches of horror tradition; that of zombies, and of Voodoo. Most zombies would continue to exist in this mesmeric guise until George A. Romero came along in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead and re-crafted the concept into the shambling hoards of the undead after our flesh which we are familiar with. And it’s safe to say that the Voodoo strains in folk horror and beyond wouldn’t be nearly as strong without this film to prove that it can, just about, work. White Zombie is a fun, surreal 70 minutes that I’d encourage any fan of classic horror, or scholar of generic traditions in cinema, to seek out, if only to know what the hell Rob Zombie’s old band was named after.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

-Link to Stewart’s article on zombies and the 80’s Voodoo films: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/guest-blog-black-zombie-hollywood-and-the-80s-voodoo-revival-by-j-malcom-stewart/

-Link to my own article on Queen Tera in The Jewel of Seven Stars: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/odds-and-dead-ends-resurrecting-the-queen/

Bibliography

Blackmail. 1929. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. UK: British International Pictures.

Dracula. 1931. [Film] Directed by Tod Browning. USA: Universal Pictures.

Frankenstein. 1931. [Film] Directed by James Whale. United States of America: Universal.

Night of the Living Dead. 1968. [Film] Directed by George A. Romero. USA: Image Ten.

Rhodes, G. D., 2001. White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc.

Seabrook, W., 1929. The Magic Island. USA: s.n.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 1923. [Film] Directed by Wallace Worsley. USA: Universal.

The Jazz Singer. 1927. [Film] Directed by Alan Crosland. USA: Warner Bros.

The Serpent and The Rainbow. 1988. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. USA/Dominican Republic/Haiti: Universal.

Webb, K., 1930. Zombie. USA: s.n.

Odds and Dead Ends : Checkmate / The mysterious death of Alexander Alekhine

In 1946, a singular event in history occurred. The reigning World Chess Champion, Alexander Alekhine, (pronunciation of his name is debated depending on who is speaking, but most would pronounce it either Al-ek-ine, or Al-yek-hin), died whilst holding the title. This was the first and only time a World Champion has passed during his reign. What makes this intriguing, and curious for discussion here on HorrorAddicts.net, is that despite the coroner ruling Alekhine’s death an accident, conspiracy theories abound to this day about Soviet death squads and secret police murdering him after WWII had ended for political revenge.

Alekhine was born in October 1892 in Moscow, to a wealthy landowner father, and his mother was heiress to a large textile-industry fortune. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, he began playing in chess tournaments in the local Moscow clubs in his younger age, and by the time he was in double digits, he was addicted, playing games in his head throughout lessons and before bed. Bill Wall notes that ‘Garry Kasparov [the 13th World Chess Champion] tells the story that once in an algebra test, Alekhine suddenly leaped up with shining eyes. The teacher asked if Alekhine had solved the problem. Alekhine responded, “Yes, I sacrifice the knight, and White wins!” The class burst out laughing.’ (Wall, 2008)

As one of the world’s strongest players, Alekhine moved to France in 1921. He played tournaments against the strongest opponents in the world, and in 1928 successfully defeated José Raul Capablanca in a championship match to become the fourth World Chess Champion. Throughout the next decade, Alekhine played in all the world’s biggest tournaments, winning brilliancy prizes for incredibly played games in five Chess Olympiads (the chess version of the Olympic Games). Around 1934 he all but retired from major tournament play. Alekhine lost his title in 1935 to Max Euwe, but regained it again a few years later.

It is in 1939, however, that things changed. War broke out across Europe, and eventually, the champion needed to find ways to escape the continent. Repeated attempts to flee to Cuba, which would also aid the possibility of a rematch with his Cuban rival, Capablanca, were denied. In 1940, the Nazis seized control of the chatellenie at Saint-Aubin-la-Cauf, where Alekhine’s wife, Grace Alekhine, was residing. In order to protect her, Alekhine agreed to participate in many Nazi-controlled leagues and tournaments, as well as write articles and literature on behalf of the party. Many of these were overtly anti-Semitic, claiming things such as the idea that Jewish chess players were incapable of creating true works of chess art.

Come the end of the war, Alekhine was declined entry into all tournaments outside the Iberian Peninsula, with several pre-war invitations rejected. In 1946, The British Chess Federation decided to grant money as a prize fund for a World Championship match between Alekhine and the new soviet superstar, Mikhail Botvinnik. A telegram was sent to the hotel in Portugal where Alekhine was staying, and it was here that, on March 24th, Alexander Alekhine was found and pronounced dead. Alekhine’s funeral was arranged and paid for by the newly-created FIDE organisation (the international chess federation: Fédération Internationale des Échecs).

Here is where the conspiracy theories begin to write themselves. The initial line of inquiry decided that Alekhine had died of a heart attack, and yet articles in chess magazines claimed that the autopsy reports had stated that a three-inch piece of unchewed meat had been found in his windpipe. Due to the high improbability that someone could have effectively inhaled a piece of meat that long without chewing it, rumours began to fly. Theories that the Soviet Union reached Alexander and killed him as payment for both his Nazi affiliation and his denouncement of bolshevism in the early 1920s emerged. Many, including Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett, suggest that it is possible the Portuguese secret police of the time, PIDE, attacked Alekhine outside his hotel room and staged the death (Spraggett, 2010). Some even maintain that the photographs of his body in the hotel room were staged to suggest a natural death.

Debates still abound as to whether Alekhine harboured true anti-Semitic feelings, or whether all of his statements were purely down to a need to keep his family safe. Some have argued both, others have argued that his statements and articles were manipulated by the Nazi to fit their regime, and that Alekhine incorrectly spelled the names of famous players of the past to prove that he didn’t believe the rhetoric he was writing. It is quite likely that this is another issue which, like the true circumstances of his death, will remain forever unknown. In either case, the one thing that nobody doubts was his great chess ability, playing aggressively for the kill with no quarter given, and his death remains a mysterious singularity in the 125+ years of the official title of world chess.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Spraggett, K., 2010. Spraggett on Chess – Part 1: Alekhine’s Death. [Online]
Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20110708045154/http://kevinspraggett.blogspot.com/2009/03/part-1-alekhines-death.html
[Accessed 05 10 2019].

Wall, B., 2008. Alexander Alekhine (1892 – 1946). [Online]
Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20091028083454/http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Lab/7378/alekhine.htm
[Accessed 05 10 2019].

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: British Horror Documentaries!

British Horror Documentaries, Brilliant! By Kristin Battestella

This quartet of documentaries and informative programming has plagues, queens, holidays, and witches – all with a little across the pond flair.

The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague – Purdue Medieval Literature Professor Dorsey Armstrong hosts this 2016 twenty-four episode lecture series from The Great Courses Signature Channel, beginning with early feudal nobles versus peasants, religious society and church control, and urban growth in the medieval warm period before a changed Europe in 1348 with plague reducing the population from 150 million to 70 million. Onscreen maps, notations, and timelines supplement the disturbing first-hand accounts, despairing eye witness testimonies, and Old English translations of outbreak terrors – focusing on the human response to pestilence while dispelling misnomers on The Black Death’s name and symptoms. Some victims writhed in long-suffering agony while others died within a day, drowning in their own blood thanks to bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic bacterium. Ebola virus comparisons are specific and gruesome alongside scientific theories on bacillus causes, tuberculosis similarities, Blue Sickness inconsistencies, and Anthrax possibilities. Prior Justinian outbreaks, Asian beginnings in Kaffa, and Italian trade route migration spread plague while fleas, rats, and gerbils transmission, weather patterns, and even extraterrestrial origins are debated. Entire villages were ravaged with hemorrhagic fever contributing to the scourge’s spread on poor, crowded, malnourished people fearing the judgment of God, wearing creepy masks, and carrying fragrant herbs to curb the smell of mass shallow graves and dog-mauled bodies. Despite illiteracy, wills and documentation accumulate – although journals have blank spaces and abrupt ends because the writers died. Vacancies increase while religious orders decrease since those ministering to the sick die, yet crime declines as thieves won’t even enter a wealthy but plagued home. Avignon pilgrimages bring devastation and Walking Dead comparisons as Florence’s valuable textiles are burned. Prostitutes are often cast out – not for transmission worries, but to purge sin from a city. Orphans and widows become dependent on the patriarchal society, and artistic guild become charitable necessities. Flagellant movements fill the religious gap while England’s unexposed island population leaves London with no place left to put the dead. When only the 103 heads of households are marked dead in the census, one can conservatively deduce the number of dead was probably quadruple that 103. In a town of 1,000, what if the average household number was seven? Ghost ships arrive in Norway, and grim reaper folklore expresses Scandinavian fears amid whispers of children being buried alive to appease angry gods. Primitive remedies and bloodletting rise, as do tales of monks and nuns going out in style with debauchery and hedonism or gasp, dancing in town-wide festivals. An entire episode is dedicated to antisemitism and Jewish persecutions, a depressing and violent response on top of the plague, and the callous church using the pestilence as an opportunity to remind people it was their sinful fault may have helped spur later reformations. Of course, lack of clergy meant the church accepted anyone for ordination, leaving priests who didn’t know what they were doing when the faithful public needed help most. Outside of nobles losing their privileged status, most classes were ironically better off post-plague with memento mori artwork and danse macabre murals flourishing amid literary masterpieces and dramatic analysis inspiring the early renaissance and the likes of Chaucer. Economic booms re-establish trade as the aristocracy marries into the merchant class and peasants revolt for more power, changing the world for centuries to come. While lengthy for the classroom itself, these half hours are jammed packed with information, documentation, and statistics keeping viewers curious to learn more. This is a fine accompaniment or a la carte for independent study – an academic approach rather than the in your face, sensationalized documentary formats permeating television today. The Great Courses Channel is worth the streaming add-on for a variety of informative videos, and this macabre selection is perfect for fans of horror history.

Mary Queen of Scots: The Red Queen – Scottish castles, ruinous abbeys, and highland scenery anchor this 2014 documentary on that other devout catholic Mary thorn in protestant Elizabeth’s side. The narration admits the similar names are confusing, but the voiceover meanders with unnecessary time on Mary’s parents James V and his French wife Mary of Guise amid Henry VIII marital turmoil, perilous successions, and religious switches. Opera arias interfere further as we stray into Mary Mary quite contrary rhymes, earlier Robert the Bruce connections, Tudor rivalries, French alliances, and the possible poisoning of infant Stuart sons before finally getting to Mary being crowned at nine months old in defiance of male inheritance laws. Rough Wooing tensions and early betrothal plans with Edward VI lead to isolation at Stirling Castle before a pleasant childhood at the French court, but a princess education and marriage to the Dauphin in 1558 ultimately send the young widow back to Scotland as regent in 1561. Catholic unrest always leaves Mary on unfriendly terms with Bess alongside John Knox reformations at home, misogynist rhetoric, and a nasty marriage to her first cousin Henry Stuart. The need for an heir, murdered lovers, adulterous pregnancies, revenge – loyal nobles take sides as the Catholic baptism of the future James VI divides public opinion. Men with syphilis, suspicious gunpowder accidents, marital traps, and final meetings with her year-old son begat possible kidnappings, a new marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, revolts, imprisonment at Loch Leven, abdication, and rumors of stillborn twins with unknown fathers. It might have been interesting to see scholars contrasting bad girl Mary with her marriages and male interference versus Elizabeth The Virgin Queen rather than the all over the place narrative. Bess holds Mary captive in various English castles for eighteen years until religious coups, forged letters, an absentee trial, and the final treasonous Babington Plot. Mary goes out in style with symbolic red despite her botched beheading, with an ironic final resting place at Westminster Abbey beside Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. This rambling hour confuses itself and repeats anecdotes in what should have been a tighter, more informative focus. However, such superficial storyteller basics can actually be a good classroom compliment with additional materials.

Witches: A Century of Murder – Historian Suzannah Lipscomb hosts this two-part 2015 special chronicling the seventeenth century persecutions and torture run rampant as witchcraft hysteria spread from James I in the late fifteen hundreds through Charles I and the English Civil War. 1589 Europe has burn at the stake fever thanks to the Malleus Maleficarum belief that witches were in league with the devil, and contemporaneous sources, books, and confessions help recount violent techniques and sexual aspects that may not be classroom-friendly. Innocent birthmarks or moles on maids and midwives were used and misconstrued until naming names and pointing fingers snowballed into deplorable jail conditions, hangings, and conspiracy. Postulating on why the innocent would confess is addressed alongside the details from the North Berwick Witch Trials – including garroting and even the smell of burning human fat. James I’s own Daemonologie becomes a license to hunt witches as the 1645 then-normal rationale that witches have sex with the devil escalates to extreme Puritan paranoia. Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins takes the law into his own hands via body searches, sleep deprivation, and agonizing deaths while unknown medicinal ills or causes were conveniently mistaken as evidence for witchcraft accusations. Names and faces are put to the exorbitant number of accused while on location scenery from Scotland to Oxford, Essex, and Denmark add to the prison tours and suspenseful trial re-enactments. Here specific facts and detailed information happen early and often rather than any hollow paranormal herky-jerky in your face design. Community fears, social cleansing frenzy, and things done in the name of good and God against evil and the Devil at work accent the timeline of how and why this prosecution became persecution run amok. Instead of broad, repetitive sensationalism or the same old Salem talk, this is a mature and well presented narrative on the erroneous impetus of the witchcraft hysteria.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Halloween: Feast of the Dying Sun – This recent documentary hour intends to set the holiday straight with the Celtic origins of season, adding sunsets, cemeteries, Samhain bonfires, and end of the harvest celebrations to the spooky voiceover for heaps of atmosphere. From Scottish identity guessing games and the belief that the dead visit the living to trick or treating as beggars pleading door to door and souling for small cakes, tales of how our Halloween customs came together are detailed with banshees, hidden fairylands, and ghost sightings. It’s great to see Druid practices, pre-Tolkien fantasy ideals, and Victorian fairy beliefs rooted in daily culture rather than Halloween as we know it as October 31 and done. Brief reenactments add creepy alongside authoritative, folklorist interviews, but the campfire storytelling narrative is often too abstract, meandering from one spooky specter to another with only vague, basic minutes on Celtic arrivals in Britain, early sacrificial offerings, standing stones, and ancient sites. The facts jump from 4,000-year-old yew trees to otherworldly portals and fairies capturing mortals for liberating dance rituals – crowding intriguing details on the special power of nine or magic number three and church absorption of pagan practices. The generic Celtic talk drifts away from Samhain specifically, as if today’s generation needs hand-holding explanations on witch hunts, the origins of bobbing for apples, and the medieval transition toward All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day. The rough timeline tosses in New World changes, Victorian gothic literature, and horror cinema fodder as we both laud Halloween with parades and an American commercial revival yet continue to misconstrue witchcraft and occult hallmarks of the season. This can be spooky fun for folks who don’t know a lot about the history of Halloween, however, it will be too swift and superficial for expert viewers. It’s easy to zone out thanks to the random storytelling style, and the intended pagan history would be better served with a longer or specific, multipart documentary. Except for some wanton fairy queen sexy talk, as is this is neat for a teen sleepover or party background where rather than attempted academic, the tall tales can be casual fun.

Odds and Dead Ends: Greek Mythology / Cerberus

I like to dabble a bit in mythology and legends here in the Odds and Dead Ends corner, and this week is no exception. Having written on Cuchulain (Cu-hu-lun) and the Cyhyraeth (cih-here-aith) in the past, I decided to leave my Celtic homeland, whilst still keeping up the ‘C’ theme. There are many mythical creatures that have permeated popular culture, but one of the most famous must be the triple-threat hound of hell himself, Cerberus. Pronounced sir-bur-us, Cerberus is a monstrous dog that guards the underworld in ancient Greek mythology, and I’m going to give you a quick introduction to the monstrous pooch.

Guarding the entrance to the Underworld, the realm of Zeus’ brother, Hades, Cerberus is the offspring of Echidna and Typhon, two fearsome monsters both with snake-like parts of their anatomy. One of the most famous accounts of Cerberus is from Hesiod’s Theogony, also accounts Echidna as having given birth to Hydra of Lerna, the famous hydra of multiple heads. It is therefore perhaps not surprising, given all this, that Cerberus is described as having snakes as part of him in many sources.

Hesiod’s description of Cerberus is ‘a monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, the brazen-voiced hound of Hades, fifty-headed, relentless and strong.’ (Hesiod, 1914) Considering that the main image of Cerberus is with three heads (hence J. K. Rowling used Cerberus as the main source for Hagrid’s three headed dog, Fluffy, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)), which is something I’ll discuss later, it’s interesting to see him depicted in the old texts with far more heads than we now think of him as having, closer to a cross between Hydra and his other sibling in some texts, Chimera.

In his book Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art, Karl Schefold and Luca Giuliani discuss the depictions of Kerberos (another spelling of Cerberus) on the ancient pottery of the time. These depictions are mainly in relation to one of the tasks of Herakles (the Greek spelling of Hercules), who was sent down to the underworld to subdue and retrieve the dog as part of his trials.[1] These trials are depicted throughout the famous epics, including Homer’s Iliad, one of the great epics of the ancient world. According to Schefold and Giulani, this task is ‘illustrated as early as the middle Korinthian period’ (p.129). They also discuss the painting…

by the powerful Lakonian artist dubbed the Hunt Painter… Here for the first time Kerberos has three heads to which Sophokles, following epic authority, refers… and he is completely covered with a shaggy coat of snakes, a feature already suggested on the Korinthian skyphos.’ (Schefold & Giulani, 1992, p. 129)

It’s interesting to see that it’s not even the written word, but pottery, that has clearly defined the monster and set in stone the attributes we associate with him. Even Sophocles, the famous Greek playwright, uses this image as his basis for Cerberus’ depiction.

Something I feel is often misunderstood is that Cerberus is that he stops unwanted people coming into the Underworld. This certainly may be a by-product, but his main function is to stop anyone escaping. Charon was the one that stopped anyone getting in, really, as he was the only transport over to Hades, and not many people that were alive ventured down to the underworld. According to Robin Hard, Charon was so shocked at seeing Herekles, alive, that he took him across to the land of the dead, ‘and was punished for this breach of his duties by being thrown into chains for a year.’ (Hard, 2003, p. 268) For the most part, Cerberus was the perfect creature stopping anything escaping the underworld, as Hard’s description makes plain:

Kerberos would not allow himself to be captured without a struggle and he was a formidable opponent even for the greatest of heroes, for he was not only large and powerful but had three heads (in the usual tradition at least) and a snake in his tail.’ (Hard, 2003)

In a way, Cerberus is the perfect guard dog of mythology. As with all mythology, it’s had some allegorizing over the years, such as being the ‘corrupt earth’ and Herekles’ victory representing his defeat over base, earthly passions, but it’s also perfectly fine to think he’s just a big dog with vicious teeth that will rip your face off. Certainly, one of the most well-known dogs of legend, not only has he featured in re-adaptations of Greek myths (such as in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, (Riordan, 2005), but in video games such as Final Fantasy 8 (Kitase, 1997). Cerberus is a legend, quite literally, and a hell of a lot of fun to imagine and reimagine throughout the years.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Christie, A., 1947. The Labours of Hercules. United States: Dodd.

Hard, R., 2003. The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H. J. Rose’s Handbook of Greek Mythology. London: Routledge.

Hesiod, 1914. Hesiod, Theogony. [Online]
Available at: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Hes.+Th.+311
[Accessed 08 06 2019].

Homer & Butler, S., 2008. Iliad. Waiheke Island: The Floating Press.

Kitase, Y., 1997. Final Fantasy 8. s.l.:Square.

Riordan, R., 2005. The Lightning Thief. s.l.:Miramax Books.

Schefold, K. & Giulani, L., 1992. Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[1] Interestingly, these twelve tasks/trials were adapted by Agatha Christie as a series of short stories for her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, which form some of his last investigations in The Labours of Hercules. The detective is, as many can see, is named after the hero, so the theme fits very nicely.

Movie Review: Tales From the Hood 2

Tales from the Hood 2
by James Goodridge

Tales from the Hood 2 (TFTH2) is the long-awaited sequel to Rusty Cundieff’s original movie which was a milestone in the sub-genre of Black Horror. Films such as Son of Ingagi and Abby preceded it. Produced in association with Universal, Spike Lee’s 40 Mule Company, and Netflix, it was showcased on Netflix in 2018.

TFTH2 is an anthology broken up into five stories.

“Good Golly” directed by Cundieff is what I would call a cautionary tale aimed at millennials to not forget the past within context. Audrey (Alexandra De Berry) is in mindless rapture in a hunt for a gollywog—a jet black stereotyped image of—a doll. In England, these things even found their way onto television as a kids show. Bringing back fond memories for her of the one Grandma use to let her play with, Audrey tries to work the mysterious curator of the “Museum of Negrosity” into selling the doll. Rebuffed her, her friend Zoe (Jasmine Akakpoo) who as a young black woman is totally devoid of or has rescinded what little black consciousness she has, returns later at night to steal the doll with the help of her boyfriend Phillip (Andy Cohen). All hell breaks loose when Zoe and Phillip engage in a little slave master/slave, joking around, enraging an evil force in the museum, which in this writer’s opinion you can’t blame it. Not to give the punch line or ending away for those who haven’t seen it, all I can say is otherworldly bulk cases of Similac are to be had. A nice Easter egg is a doll from the original TFTH can be seen at times.

“The Medium” directed by Darin Scott takes aim (in a supernatural way) the struggle to rise above the negatives by doing the right thing. Redemption. Three would be thugs kidnap a reformed pimp, Cliff Bettis (Creighton Thomas), demanding he turn over his fortune, which he pleads is going to go back into the community. Killing the tenacious Bettis, the crew come up with a plan B which is to kidnap television psychic, John Lloyd (Byan Batt), a knock off of John Edwards. The end game is a séance scene that’s funny yet creepy.

“Date Night” also directed by Scott is predictable, you see the end coming half way through. Quick paced, it’s like the old horror 800 numbers from the 80’s you would (I’m showing my age) dial to listen to a flash fiction story.

“The Sacrifice” directed by Cundieff is—I confess the first time—a horror movie that brought tears to my eyes. Mainly B-horror movies are like comfort food for me but this short pulled at my heart. A combination of horror and the horror of the American experience for Black folks historically is what Cundieff had the fortitude to film. I give him a nod and a fist bump. Henry Bradley (Kendrick Cross), a black Republican of means in a red state throws his support behind a white populist mayor William Cotton (Cotton Yancey), who’s making a run for the state house and looking like KFC’s Col. Sanders which is a little over the top. Interpose this with flashbacks to the night Emmit Till (Chirstopher Paul Horne) was murdered. Creepy and visceral are how I feel towards Horne in that he reminds me of my youngest son in looks. Till’s haunting is taking a toll on Bradley’s pregnant white wife Emily (Jillian Batherson) and throwing Bradley into an alternate reality. The climax has Till, the four little girl victims of the 16th Street church bombing in ’63, Medger Evers, Chaney, Goodman & Schwerner, and Dr. King confront Bradley with a choice.

“Robo Hell” which opens and closes the movie, segwaying the stories, has Portifoy Simms (the iconic Keith David) locking horns with tycoon and MAGA 45 wannabe Dumas Beach (Bill Martin Willaims). Dumas’s company has invented a Robo Cop type robot.

All in all TFTH2 is watchable and let’s hope it’s not cursed as the urban legend tale making rounds, happened to the original Tales from the Hood.


aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

BHH: Maman Dragonne

Maman Dragonne
by James Goodridge

I’m on a journey as a writer of Speculative Fiction’s sub-genre, Occult Detectives. So, I’ve made it my business to make a study of authors to bolster my knowledge.

Venturing deeper into the occult literary traditions, led me to the work of Seabury Quinn (1889-1969), creator of his character Dr. De Grandin. A reading of Quinn’s short story “Pledged to the Dead”—which was published in the October issue of Weird Tales — gave me immense interest in Quinn’s depiction of “Maman Dragonne.”

Dragonne would be considered in fiction a “flat character” because she really doesn’t appear in the first quarter of the story (at least in human form), but becomes increasingly important to the plot even though she has little in the way of dialogue. The story begins with a frantic young lady’s urgent need to see Dr. De Grandin, barging into his just-concluded dinner party. A guest, Dr. Trowbridge, is a somewhat of a Dr. Watson type sidekick. Dr. Trowbridge’s other job is to move the narrative along. It seems the lady’s fiancé, Ned Minton, has got himself into paranormal intrigue during a visit to New Orleans. One moonlit night as Minton walked pass St. Denis Cemetery, then onto Bienville St a japonica is dropped from a balcony, in front of his feet. Julie d’ Ayen is guilty of the aerial flirt. Her searching for an eternal love takes a bizarre turn, with Minton being stalked by a three-foot cottonmouth snake “Grand ‘tante” as Quinn wrote,

“Protector of Julie d’ Ayena mulatress aged black magic ‘conjon’ woman in turban and cambric apron, Maman Dragonne is not to be trifled with. Practitioner of Obeah from the Congo. Julie should have many loves but her body should not know corruption nor her spirit rest until she could find one to keep his promise and return to her with word of love upon his lips. Those who failed her should die horribly, but he who kept his pledge would bring her rest and peace spoke Maman Dragonne.”

Julie d’ Ayen and Maman Dragonne aka Grand ‘tante roam St. Denis Cemetery. Now, I don’t want to give the rest of the story away for “Pledged to The Dead” can be found in the public domain. 1937 was not an exactly a time in any medium for positive depictions of people of color as characters (in the story you’ll find the use of the word “darkie”) and I don’t know in depth about what Quinn’s views on race were during his lifetime but in a roundabout way, Quinn transforms Dragonne from a flat to round character and gives her strength as a person of color. Evil? Yes, but strong none the less. She is splendid in her silence which elevates the horror in the story.

**Sources: The Project Gutenberg www.gutenberg.net, http://www.pgdp.net


 

aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

BHH: From Gagool to Akasha: Black Characters in Horror Fiction

From Gagool to Akasha: Black characters in Horror Fiction

by Sumiko Saulson

Black representation in horror fiction is about both characters and writers: we need more black authors, directors, screenwriters, and people behind the scenes to make sure that our communities are envisioned through our eyes. Yet, there is undeniable value to black heroes and villains envisioned by white and other non-black authors. The 2017 remake of Stephen King’s IT is a prime example of how betrayed black audiences feel when representation is diminished by erasing or minimizing the presence of an important black hero like Mike Hanlon. Outrage over whitewashing doesn’t disappear just because the character was written by someone who isn’t black. And anger about black actors portraying characters like Rue in The Hunger Games and Akasha in Queen of the Damned suggest overwhelmingly, racism among audiences. The success of Black Panther demonstrates both the need for black characters and the factual ability of black characters envisioned by white writers to be handed over to black production and writing teams.

Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s authoritative work on the subject is called writing the Other. It deals with the ins and outs of writing characters unlike oneself.  This is crucial as many of the black characters in Victorian fiction are hopelessly stereotyped characters of black witch doctors and high priestesses like Gagool, the evil old hag who advises the twisted dictator King Twala in the Alan Quartermain story King Solomon’s Mine by H. Rider Haggard. Haggard was one of the better known writers in the Lost Word genre. Modern takes on mysteriously hidden societies can be elevated, like the 2018 movie Black Panther’s take on Wakanda by black director Ryan Coogler and writer Joe Robert Cole, or feature terrifying evil white overlords against spunky black heroes, like Jordan Peele’s award-winning 2018 horror film Get Out.

That doesn’t mean we can easily get away from the vast number of old noble savage and evil mammy crone stereotypes that have historically plagued black heroes and villains in horror. No conversation on the subject would be complete without mentioning Stephen King, as sometimes he gets it right like in the Dark Tower or IT, but other times the obvious Uncle Tom stereotypes take over like in The Green Mile. His willingness to forge ahead and fill literature with black characters despite of criticism, and relatively thick-skinned response to black critics, is laudable, although it cannot replace black voices. It speaks volumes when compared to choices like the erasure of an Asian male character to insert a white female character in the 2016 Dr. Strange movie. The producers and directors copped out, saying they didn’t cast an Asian female in the gender-swapped role because they were afraid of a Dragon Lady stereotype. The writer’s inability to write a person of color who isn’t a one-dimensional trope should NEVER be an excuse for deleting POCs from movies.

Speaking of white washing, the Netflix Death Note movie’s predominately white cast marred the already lackluster film’s reputation so much that stand-out performances by Willem Dafoe as Ryuk and the hotness that is Lakeith Stanfield as L could not salvage it from its overall mediocrity. However, they did prevent it from being a complete train wreck like DragonBall Z: Evolution or Gods of Egypt, and elevated it above the snooze fest that was Iron Fist.

Like a lot of black people, I had mixed feelings about the obvious pandering involved in casting Lakeith Stanfield, who some may also recognize from his performances as one of the terrifying black abductees in Get Out.  Like Tilda Swinton in the role of Ancient One, Stanfield turned in an amazing performance in a less than amazing film and was forced to kowtow on behalf of its producers, making excuses for their whitewashing, in exchange. It is cringe-worthy, and the producers and directors of these films need to do a much better job. There should be a diversity of roles for older women, and black men, and no one should be forced in this kind of position in the first place.

Stephen King isn’t the only famous modern white author who has persisted in writing black characters despite criticism, and in the case of Anne Rice, who is notoriously thin-skinned and hates critics and editors, it is a labor of love forged from her connection to New Orleans. Once she told me that if I had been born in New Orleans, I would never have to suffer the lot of San Franciscans who treat me as though I am not a beautiful woman, because a girl who looks like me in NOLA would be damned near haughty about her mulatta looks. I laughed – Californian politics frown upon embracing one’s light-skinned privilege. The Feast of All Saints was the first book I read that had terms like quadroon and I was quite shocked and horrified when I read it as a young lady and found out everything about blood quantum, words like octoroon, the quadroon balls, and how interracial relationships were treated during and just post slavery that my politically correct African American mother and white Jewish father hid from. My parents just told me that mulatto was a slave word and we don’t talk about such things.

It wouldn’t be until years later, during college, that I was re-introduced to the same subject by African American authors like Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker.

The Anne Rice villain Akasha was someone that I and my mother both related to, my mother more so than I. She tapped into the deep well of African American identification with Egyptian culture, and although some Anne Rice fans throw a fit about black identification with the character and the casting of Aaliyah, I am of the firm opinion that Aaliyah and the soundtrack are the only redeeming qualities of a train wreck that infuriated Anne Rice so much that fans are asked to please refrain from mentioning That Movie on her Facebook page.

Anyone who has read Prince Lestat knows that Anne Rice isn’t personally unhappy about black folks relating to Akasha. In the book, her son Seth is a peaceful science-loving Egyptian intellectual who goes way, way out of his way to maintain his dark skin despite the pallor that descends upon vampires. His love of his ethnic background and his pride in his dark skin are a symbolic love note to all of the black readers who nearly fainted when they read about the beautiful, wicked and cruel Queen of the Damned, Akasha.

Black folks love Akasha like we love Candyman. Sometimes black villains have more autonomy than black heroes do. We love Killmonger because he has the freedom to lash out against oppression in a way that the tight-laced T’Challa cannot. Being a good person concerned with all of mankind means turning a blind eye to injustice all too often. That’s why so many of us get a kick out of identifying with characters that have completely lost it and gone on a rampage. We are sick to death of the Allan Quartermains of the world and don’t want to play nice, turn the other cheek, and be like Martin Luther King, Jr. anymore. We want to rage and burn it all down like Killmonger in our secret heart of hearts. Because we are all so sick of that martyr Mother Abigail, John Coffey role we could scream.

It is the Noble Savage stereotype with an American twist that makes it so that so many black heroes in white literature are martyrs. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the source of the term Uncle Tom, is about a black slave so faithful to a white Christian savior that he literally lets racist slavers beat him to death without fighting back. The evil surviving white slavers converted after they killed good old Uncle Tom. None of us really want to go out like Uncle Tom, so we start daydreaming about being like Killmonger, or Akasha, or Candyman.

Black heroes who aren’t martyrs are still present in white horror fiction. Michonne in The Walking Dead, the black L in the Netflix Death Note, Bonnie Bennett in the Vampire Diaries – but they are disconnected from black community. Michonne becomes a part of Richonne and Rick’s white kids replace her dead white son. Bonnie’s black grandma dies and she’s dating white boys and fading into the generally white-dominated and not particularly multicultural casts. The black audiences flee to The Originals, where New Orleans and Marcello make for steamy, black centered episodes, even when the improbable happens such as a white character switching into a black body.

The Originals was a truly multicultural program in a way that the Vampire Diaries never was. Truly multicultural programs have enough representation for each minority that there isn’t just the one black witch standing there at the end. The Originals had a Latina teen witch, Davina, who has relationships with other Latino community members even though she is Marcel’s adopted daughter. Black and Latino witches and warlocks populate the tale throughout, and not just one family line of them.

We have come a long way since King Twala and Gagool with characters like Shuri, Queen Ramonda, and T’Challa. Yet, we still have a long way to go. The twisted witch doctor in the video game Diablo III crawling on her knuckles like a subhuman; shades of Gagool. The mixed bag of horribly triggering content that plagues talented actresses like Gabourney Sidibe and Angela Bassett, shades of Gagool. We still haven’t gotten away from the tropes that haunt the black community and we cannot without vigilance on the part of every writer who tackles characters of color.


sumiko armband

Sumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

BHH: Interview with DAWN filmmaker Alex Fernandez

Interview with DAWN filmmaker Alex Fernandez
Interviewed by James Goodridge

  1. For those people out there seeing this for the first time tell us about DAWN the web series:

Alex Fernandez’s Dawn is the story of Eva Santiago who was born in a poor village in Peru in 994 A.D. At age 8 she began to learn witchcraft eventually becoming a full fledge witch. But when her family died from a deadly plague Eva vowed that it would never happen to her. It set her feet on a path in search of immortals. After 2 years of searching she found what she was looking for losing her soul and becoming a vampire. For 800 years she was a cold blood hearted killer. Until one day she was offered a chance from GOD by the Archangel Gabriel to become a warrior of GOD. She accepted and took on the moniker of “DAWN’.  That is what makes the Dawn character and series so unique is the fact that she is a vampire who works for GOD. We are currently in the second season. Eva Santiago/Dawn is played by Victoria Amber. 2019 will also see the release of a Dawn short film titled SURGE OF DAWN. A crossover film that brings Dawn into the world of another superhero Surge from the Surge of power films.WE also have comic books based on DAWN. We are currently on the fourth book of Dawn.

2.You won a few awards tell us about them ?

I have been blessed and honored to have won a few awards for not only Dawn but as well some of my other works. It is always nice when you work really hard your craft and get recognized by your peers. But more important than any award is a message from a fan or a letter that says they have been inspired by my shows or that they love it.

Hip Hop Film Festival

2017 Winner

Hip Hop Film Festival Award

Best Sci- Fi Series

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

 

International Euro Film Festival

2015 Winner

Official Trophy

Best Web Series

Body Jumpers (2012)

 

LA CineFest Film Festival

2018 Nominee

Los Angeles CineFest Award

Semi – Finalist

Alex Fernandez’s Silent Stories (2017)

 

Urban Action Showcase And Expo

2018 Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

2017 Winner

Angels of Action

Best Web Series

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Body Jumpers Resurrection (2016)

2016 Winner

Angels of Action

Best Web Series

Alex Fernandez’s Dawn (2015)

Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Alex Fernandez’s Dawn (2015)

2015 Winner

Urban Action Showcase New Media/TV Pilot Award

Presented by HBO/CINEMAX

Best Visual FX

Body Jumpers (2012)

  1. Is there a director past or presently in the horror movie genre you admire?

My favorite director of all time Alfred Hitchcock happens to also have directed one of the most important horror films of all times PSYCHO. For me without a doubt he was truly not only the master of suspense but also a master filmmaker. Rear Window is still my favorite film of all time. He was a director that was way ahead of his time and a director that will be studied long after we are all gone.

  1. I see a lot of passion in your work. Do you ever think you’ll lose that passion ?

I need film like most people need water. It is something that I not only have passion for but its something that i absolutely love. I don’t think it will go away till the day I leave this world. As long as I am able I will continue to tell stories. My earliest memories of me as a child at 4 years old and me sitting in the theaters watching films. Even to this day I make sure I watch a movie everyday.

  1. What else do you have out there and where to find it?

Body Jumpers Resurrection Season 1 www.youtube.com/TheBodyJumpers


 

aiuthor pix 3Born and raised in the Bronx, New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal, James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short Twilight Zone-inspired stories from the world of art (An occult detective short story, The E.E. Just Affair) with the goal of producing compelling stories. His work has appeared in BlackSciencefictionSociety.com, Genesis Winter 2015 Issue, AfroPhantoms.com, Horroraddicts.net, and a non-fiction essay in Apairy Magazine #8 2016 a Metro Philadelphia arts and literature magazine. You can also hear an interview with Mr. Goodridge on Genesis Science Fiction Radio air date 12/2/16 on YouTube.

BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

Monique sat in bed beside her window, trying to keep her eyes open. Tomorrow during the chilly dawn, her jailers would drag her out of bed to put her in the cage. Yet instead of sleeping, one of her few refuges, she sat waiting. For what?

 

Just when she’d resolve to wrap up in a blanket and surrender to sleep, a soft cooing sound echoed outside her window. She knew the sound well. It was she and Angelique’s code signal, for whenever they decided to sneak away.

 

“Grab your bag and climb out!” Angelique hissed. “Do it! And hurry up!”

 

Monique snatched up her cloth bag and climbed out of the window. “Now what?”

 

Her wild-eyed friend grinned. “Now we fly!” Grabbing Monique’s hand before she could protest, she half-dragged, half-led her to the forest beyond her hut.

 

“Have gone insane?”

 

“Shh!” Angelique cautioned her again.

 

Through the forest hidden, under the brush, was an airship. The green balloon over it added to the camouflage. It was crudely built without the intricate carvings of Haitian ships, but looked to be in working order.

 

“But how?”

 

John’s mahogany face appeared at starboard side and waved them up.

 

“We can’t do this!” Monique protested. “If they catch us they’ll kill us!”

 

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life in a cage?”  Angelique shot back. “Come on!” She clamored up the ladder with her friend at her heels.

 

“We can’t fly this thing!” Monique protested, all the while clambering the ladder onto the deck.

 

“Yes we can,” John said proudly. “I built her and Angelique can fly as well as I can!”

 

So she was telling the truth!

 

“I’m a ship captain! But I can’t marry the woman I love, because I have no money—and the color of my skin!” All the while he and Angelique were hoisting the sails.

 

Monique followed them inside to the helm, burning with excitement in spite of herself. She’d never actually walked inside an airship. In the center of the deck, was concentric hatch directly below the gathered edges of the balloon. Angelique opened the hatch to reveal a box of copper and brass, and another hole in its center, and depressions on either side.

 

She pumped the depressions and steam flowed from the box filling the balloon, while Monique and John began turning the cranks on the propellers and flaps. The ship began to rise, and Monique thought her heart would burst with joy.

 

“Here we go!” John shouted. The ships wings flapped, the propeller whirled, tearing and blowing the foliage and lifted from the ground.

 

The airship sputtered forward. “Give her more steam and turn the propellers faster!” The women grunted turning the propeller faster. “Angelique trade places with me!” Angelique took the helm, as he and Monique turned the propellers. The airship picked up speed.

 

The mulatto woman grinned. “My parents thought they could marry me off to an old man. Won’t they be surprised?”

 

“Where will we go?” Monique asked.

 

“There’s an island across the ocean, Santo Domingo,” said John. “Haiti’s armies freed the slaves there too.”

 

The glory of a parvenu life thrust upon her was slowly taking hold. She was free—free of her mother. Free of a lifetime of cages. Free to love who she chose. The Loa Erzulie had answered her prayers after all!

 

But Simone was still lost to her. A weight of sadness pressed against the walls of her new-found liberation. And there were other doubts as well. “What if they don’t want us there? How do we know it will be any better?”

 

A shadow crept from the helm, jerking Monique away from her objections—amber-colored ghosts that instantly became creatures with the head of a bat and four arms.

 

“It’s Madam Cecile’s sorcery!” John shouted. “We must have been spotted!”

 

More shades reared up at them, claws ready. They paused, clearly confused. The three friends were most certainly not French soldiers. The ghosts turned away and attacked the airship dash in earnest, ripping and tearing.

 

Another one zoomed over their heads and struck the helm and it exploded in flames. They screamed—trying to fight the creatures off and fly the ship at the same time. They began losing altitude. The ship was sinking.

 

Below them, a thick, wavering mist blocked their path. The friends eyes were drawn to it. . . they could see images dancing within the fog. . . dancing to the beat of drums that suddenly echoed in the night about them. A cooling breeze wafted toward them . . . One image came into focus. . .

 

The Loa, Erzulie.

 

Their terror vanished.

 

Without another thought they flew into the fog.

 

And out the other side.

 

The flames snuffed out and the turbulence of the airship dissipated out as they flew out of the nosedive. “Let’s land there!” Monique shouted, pointing to the beach below. As the three friends coasted into a smooth descent, their eyes widened. They recognized the Haitian shoreline.

 

“We never left home!” John exclaimed.

 

“Wait a minute,” Angelique said slowly. “When we left Haiti it was midnight. Look at the sky!” A  bright noonday sun beamed downed on them.

 

They stared at the turquoise blue waters, as if the ocean held answers. “This cannot be,” John breathed. “Have we traveled backwards in time?”

 

“Non, c’est impossible. . .” Monique breathed. “The only thing we can do is start walking. Maybe when we find town we’ll find our answers.”

 

They covered the airship with seaweed and debris as best as they could. After their strange trip they were a little afraid of it. But the friends still thought it best to protect it in case they needed to escape.

 

When they reached town they discovered they’d left Haiti only to return. But to an alien Republic.

 

They didn’t recognize the township. What was even more incredible was that in this Haiti, the revolution had taken place a month ago. No one knew them here. So, they gave a vague descriptions of a small hamlet they’d traveled from, and no one they meet seemed to care much. Monique found a job cooking for a rich, elderly woman named Michelle. John and Angelique took a job working in the sugar fields she owned.

 

Later, Monique questioned her employer about the customs of her “new home” and found out that class discrimination did not exist in Haiti—informal or otherwise. There were no restrictions upon homosexuality either. Michelle was incredulous that any Republic would have such rules. “We were once slaves, n’est-ce pas? Why would we oppress one another?” The older woman sucked her teeth, and shook her head. “That must truly be a terrible place you came from. No wonder you ran away.”

 

Monique pressed her lips together and said no more. It was my home and I loved it dearly. Now Haiti is here, yet lost to me. Perhaps forever. . .I wonder what unpleasant truths this new world holds?

 

##

 

“We’re going to stay, Monique,” said Angelique. “John and I can be together here.”

 

“What about your mama and papa?”

 

Angelique looked away. “I love them and wish them happiness. But I love John more. Perhaps one day I’ll look for them.” She shrugged. “Perhaps not.”

 

“Both my parents are dead,” the young man added. “Angelique is all the family I have now.”

 

The three were sharing a meal in the tiny house she and John had rented together. The couple had married the same week they’d landed.

 

“You should stay too,” Angelique suggested.

 

Monique had saved a little coin and was determined to search the island until she found Simone. “No, I have to find her. I have to know if she’s happy.”

 

“What will you do, cherie, if you meet her and she is happy. . . with you,” asked John. “We still know so little about this strange world, n’est-ce pas?”

 

Monique smiled. “We will become the best of friends—the three of us. I will wish her well.”

 

“And I will be back.”

 

She left the next morning to find her destiny. In the days to come, some happy, others melancholy, she thought often of the airship they’d left behind on the beach. . .

 

And whatever became of it.

THE END


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

Black Horror History: Son of Ingagi

A Forgotten Catalysis: Son of Ingagi

by James Goodridge

In 1940, a B-grade science fiction/ horror movie of high mellow drama flavor titled Son of Ingagi (ten years earlier Ingagi a B-movie staring Bela Lugosi a jungle horror movie seems to have been a vague influence) ran in black inner city neighborhood theaters and in segregated movie houses in the United States. At the time a movie produced by SACK’s attractions to occupy matinee theater goers time, Son of Ingagi faded from cinema memory soon after. But the recent emergence over the last ten years of the Afro-futurism movement which broadly has connected all black speculative mediums as a whole has brought the movie back into light.

Connecting the legacy dots, Son of Ingagi has the late honor of being the first black horror/scifi movie with an all black cast no less. Ingagi was directed by Richard C. Khan from a screen play by Spencer Williams who would go on–depending on your opinion–to later fame on the Amos n’ Andy television show. The cast : Zack Williams as N’Gina aka the monster (an actor of mystery in that no record or bio can be found of him), Laura Brown as Dr. Jackson, Alfred Grant as Rober Lindsay, and Daisy Bufford as Eleanor Lindsay. Spencer Williams does double as Detective Nelson. A break from the 1940’s mellow dramatic music soundtrack is provided by the Toppers.

Pete Hampton and Laura Bowman.

Having returned from Africa, Dr. Jackson has come home with secrets: a missing link creature she commands with the strike of a mallet on a gong named N’Gina and two sacks of gold. Tirelessly working on a mysterious chemical that will be a boon to mankind (we never get to know what the boon is) unfortunately, Dr. Jackson doesn’t get a chance to share her life’s work due to N’Gina’s developing a taste for blood mixed with the mysterious chemical, he murders the stern doctor in her basement lab which starts mayhem in the house. You really have to love Khan’s editing use of a bottle of ink signifying the spilling of blood  I won’t spoil it for the reader of this who may want to search for the movie online, so I’ll only go on to write that mellow dramatic sub plots involving lost love, an inheritance, and a visit from Dr. Jackson’s no good brother add to the suspense.

What I found just as interesting was the back story behind Miss Laura Bowman (Dr.Jackson) seems she had a  successful career as a performer in vaudeville and the chitin’ circuit (black vaudeville) with her common law husband Mr. Pete Hampton around the turn of the 20th century. Son of Ingagi wasn’t a great movie, but I (being a B-grade horror/scifi grind house fan) give it the Ed Wood award for passion and effort. Like W.E.B Du Bois’s science fiction short story The Comet (1925), Son of Ingagi is an important part of the black speculative time line.

Watch the movie now!

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jamesgoodridge headshotBorn and raised in the Bronx , New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Currently writing a series of short twilight zone inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories.

In The Footsteps Of Dracula

Have you ever wanted to experience the trip of a lifetime. Steve Unger has taken that trip and he talks about it in his travel guide and history book: In The Footsteps Of Dracula. The book starts off with Steve Unger describing why he had to write this book. He was vistiting Whitby, England and was on Cemetery hill  where in the Book Dracula, Lucy and Mina sat in their favorite spot as Dracula slept below them. Steve said in his mind’s eye he could see Dracula rising from from the grave to feed on the living. He then felt the spirit of Bram Stoker and the ghost of Vlad The Impaler urging him to take the journey and tell the stories that they no longer could.

In the Footsteps Of Dracula then gets into visiting the locations of Bram Stoker’s dracula. You get to hear the author’s experiences as he visits where Dracula came ashore on the Demeter, cemetery hill in Whitby, The Dracula Trail and locations in Dublin, Romania and London. The author describes what the locations look like now and how they would have appeared in Bram Stoker’s time. He also gives quotes from Dracula to describe it further.

The book also tells Bram Stoker’s story. You get to hear how he was inspired to write Dracula, the places where Dracula was written and you hear about the reactions to Bram’s work when it was first released. I  really enjoyed reading the first review ever written for Dracula and hearing about the staged readings of Dracula before the book was released.

Not satisfied to give you information on Dracula alone, Steve Unger also gets into the history of Vlad The Impaler who Dracula was based on. Steve  gives examples of how Dracula compares to Vlad by giving quotes from Dracula that reference him. Hearing the story behind Vlad Tepes was like reading a horror novel itself. The author talks about how he impaled over 20,000 men, women and children, he boiled people alive, burned down a building full of people and you hear about his battles to keep his throne.

Its also told how Vlad’s father was a member of The Royal Order Of The Dragon which was a branch of The Brotherhood of the Wolf. One of their beliefs was that they could transform into wolves. While reading In The Footsteps Of Dracula, I felt that Vlad Tepes seemed like a much more horrifying character then Count Dracula and I loved hearing his story. Steve also visits all the places associated with Vlad Tepes,  including his tomb and Castle Dracula.

What really makes the author’s story come to life is the beautiful photos in this book. There are 185  pictures which really show a sharp contrast between some of the ruins of various castles to the tourist areas where people are trying to cash in on Dracula.  Some of my favorite photos was of the reading room in the British Museum, cemetery hill overlooking the ocean, Vlad’s tomb on Snagov Island and the photo of the wolf dragon.

If you ever do make this trip, Steve Unger also tells how much everything costs and the best ways to get to where you want to go. This is what makes this book the ultimate travel guide. You get pictures, a history behind all the locations and you hear about the best places to stay. I also loved how you get to hear about the people that Steve met on the way. He tells about how he met several goths on his journey and they here the friendliest people you would ever want to meet. This is an amazing book that made Count Dracula, Vlad The Impaler and Bram Stoker’s stories more fascinating.

Even if you never get to walk in the footsteps of Dracula you can still own a copy of this excellent book. You can either buy one on Amazon or you could win your very own autographed copy of In The Footsteps Of Dracula by answering two questions. What year was Bram Stoker’s Dracula published and Who was your favorite on screen Dracula and why? Email your answers to horroraddicts@gmail.com. The best answer gets the book. Good luck!