Guest Blog : Got it Grisly if You Want It (A Tribute to Eerie Publications) by James Goodridge

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Got it Grisly if You Want It
(A Tribute to Eerie Publications)

by James Goodridge

Fall 1973, my cousin David and I are down on Westchester Ave in the East Bronx at our favorite candy store/news stand to buy comics. The times they are a changing so is the neighborhood.  Chestnut brown and beige tone children and teens, yet the store owner is dedicated to getting our generation our fill of pulp fun and sugary confections. I buy my majority Marvel and minority DC comic titles, a dollar taking you a long way back then and we say these days I was good. But my cousin David being the oddball he tended to back then ( He’s in real estate in D.C. these days) pulls a copy of Terror Tales off the rack. A black and white magazine-sized comic in the tradition of EC, just the cover in vivid color alone would gross most adults and kids out including me. Blood dripping font, ghouls, vampires, headless torsos etc… I start to berate cuz, because of my “Make Mine Marvel” dogma but change my mind since I got my pulp fix, plus his mom Annette will if anything will throw it in the trash, but I can’t help looking at the grotesque cover.terror-tales

Terror Tales was one of (including a gangster magazine) eleven anthology format titles wonderfully published by Eerie Publications (EP) based in New York from 1966 to 1981 fighting the good fight against Warren publications the industry/genre leader with its Creepy, Warren, Vampirella and Eerie titles. With the concept of out grisly and Warren, ttEerie founders Myron Fass, Stanley Harris and the mysterious Mel Lenny used pre-code reprints from the Iger Shop an indie supplier of comic work, a lot of it minus writer and artist credits to Ajax comics in the 1950’s. Mixed in with new artwork by Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Ezra Jackson, Irving Fass and Myron Fass.The first run price 35 cents that went up to 50 cents. These black and whites had a film noir look to them, which was in contrast to the Warren titles groovy, sexy and puberty provocative 60’s and 70’s gothic swagger. Upscaled gore versus hardcore gore for those not into superheroes, was what separated the two print houses EP being of the latter term. An office rumble between Fass and Harris changed the direction of the horror pulp wars (Archie comics and Marvel tried to gain a foot hold, but failed) with Harris forming Harris Publications and taking over some of the Warren titles such as Vampirella.

In 1981, EP shut down for good, later achieving cult status and rebirth in reprints, I myself had moved on to Heavy Metal magazine by the 80’s. But as you age you look for sparks from the past, especially in the uncharted waters we seem to be in now. Funny how horror can be a comfort sometimes. I ordered Terror Tales issue #7 reprint. Opening the parcel I gave it a zombie salute (moan)Eerie Publications bloody, tendon showing, brain eating grisly if you what it. You got to love it. deaddemons1

 

 

Sources: Eerie Publications: Comix from Hell, www. FictionHousePress.com

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Guest Blog: The Occult World of Phillippa Schuyler by James Goodridge

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The Occult World of Phillippa Schuyler  by James Goodridge

The circumstance was the visit of my son and his girlfriend visiting for the holidays Christmas 2016 a brutal year in the world of music that made me do what I did.

  “Hey, pop can I play with this ?” Ruth asks (name changed for this story)  

   Smiling at my OUIJA board sitting all by its lonesome self on a shelf among CDs,DVDs, VHS tapes (don’t judge me I keep them because among the tapes I have left to view is a classic home recorded Plan 9 From Outer Space I taped off of the old WOR channel 9) and books. I myself have never used the board having bought the glow in the dark, hours of fun item at a thrift shop for a dollar. But after hearing way too many stories on late night radio advising against its use, being that it could be a portal for unnamed evil unknowns, in other words, you think you’re talking to Grandma, but in fact, you’re chatting with the Demon Box of Ebril.ps

  I give into her innocent pleading, but I warn her sounding like Peter Cushing in an old Hammer film what she may be in for trying to contact her aunt, but Ruth being a millennial doesn’t pay me no mind. A lone red candle helps us see the OUIJA board in the living room darkness, my son Monte I can see doesn’t what to do this but he’s a trooper. We get a message from her aunt more like a warning that who or whatever is NOT her aunt. The planchette moves back and forth. Then I can’t help it ” Phillippa are you here ?” I yell out.

  African American classical pianist, a right-wing journalist, feminist in her later years along with parleying with Stokley Carmicheal and devout Catholic, Phillippa Schuyler was a woman of paradoxical life flows. A child prodigy with an IQ said to be 185, the biracial daughter of George Schuyler a figure in the Harlem Renaissance Movement and Josephine Cogdell Schuyler a member of a prominent rich Texas family, Phillippa would be compared to Mozart early in her career (for a haunting rendition of Ravel’s “Alborada del Gracioso “) i as a composer. I first came across Ms. Schuyler”s life story while doing research 

  Initially, I came across Ms. Schuyler’s life story while doing research on lesser known black historical figures to be included in a series of occult detective stories. I was fascinated by the contradictions in her life. A role model to the Black community yet, at one point she tried to pass herself off as white using the name “Monterro” in the classical music world which had its biases.  ” Compositions in Black and White” by Kathryn Talalay (Oxford Press 1995) is a well-written biography of Schuyler’s life, the racial dynamic, and conflict during the pianist’s life, I credit her book with helping my research. But it seems whether intended or not Schuyler’s occult leanings were left out. ps2

  By chance, while online looking for a book on dream divination, I came across a title : Kingdom of Dreams by Josephine and Phillippa Duke Schuyler,  (1966 Award books) and then reprinted in 1968, a year after her death and around the time of her mothers suicide. I ordered it. While this book is not mentioned in Talalay’s book (another mystery is the middle maiden name Duke) she does let on that Schuyler’s interest started in 1952 while on tour in Curacao. This was a failed kidnapping attempt, she met a mysterious Herr van Kleed who introduced her to the reading of TAROT cards and a crystal ball reading, which among other visions predicted a plane crash. Kingdom of Dreams seems to me having read her style of writing in snippets was written by Phillippa in the majority. A book that speaks to us in symbolic terms about dreams (as a child she would sleep for ten plus hours dreaming) and their meanings and self-help, it stretches into a defense of alchemy and its heroes the immortal St. Germain, Paracelsus and Robert Fludd. Schuyler also felt a connection between Karl Jungs theories and the alchemists work within the natural world was the key to life along with dream divination and numerology.

The unseen realm of demons, vampires, goblins, werewolves, leprechauns, gnomes, pidwidgeons, mermans/maids, trolls succubi, incubi etc.. included. And while she admits it is a fake Schuyler has a defensive interest in theWheelof Pythagoras representing: God, microcosm/man, and macrocosm/world. Schuyler believed that science was not infallible and that there was a “theory of analogy or the magic association of ideas” led by the signs of the zodiac. Phillippa Schuyler drowned off the coast of Vietnam in the Da nang sector when a U.S. Army helicopter crashed, she was riding in with Catholic orphans she was taking to a safer haven crashed into the ocean in 1967. After a funeral in St. Patrick Cathedral she was cremated.

My temples feel as if someone is pressing books or something hard on both sides, the planchette moves under Ruth, my son Monte and I hands across the board giving Phillippa’s or I hope Phillippa’s answer: N V 3 . N V 3 ?

Guest Blog: The Witch of McKinley Houses By James Goodridge

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The Witch of McKinley Houses

By James Goodridge

Sly and The Family Stones “Hot Fun in The Summertime” is our anthem. Day camp, 1970 in Bronx River Houses has ended which has left us project kids like myself scrambling to find something to do,the dreaded countdown to back to school has begun. Cousins from down South, Puerto Rico, and other parts unknown come to New York to vacation with their big city counterparts. Games like Johnny on the pony, run catch and kiss or round up, make for new experiences. The sound of Mr. Softee’s jingle sends us into a frenzy and moms to the windows with paper bags of coin change to toss down to us before the ice cream king drives off to a new location. 

New kids who had moved in during the winter, you bonded with more during summer. One such kid was named Lopez, who brought with him a weird tale from McKinley Houses. Lopez who’s family transferred to our projects, who’s a cool kid, a few years later becomes the quarterback for one of our neighborhood football teams and later in adulthood we would be union brothers. One hazy afternoon I and my friends with nothing in particular to do are lounging on benches in the center of the projects waiting for some more people to come outside so we can get a pickup game of softball going, we intend to squeeze the last drop out of summer. It was there that Lopez told us the story of the Witch of McKinley Houses. 

McKinley Houses, named after the 25th President, is located in the south central Bronx on along 163rd street with its sister project Forest Houses across from it. As 163rd street snakes its way through tenement lined peaks and valleys towards Bronx county courthouse and Yankee stadium. 

In 1968 an eccentric woman and her children moved into McKinley. Keeping to themselves, the shades to her apartment would be pulled down and the curtains were drawn. Soon neighbors complained of loud noises, non-stop praying and the sound of someone talking in tongues. Whether she moved or was evicted Lopez didn’t say, but after she and her children moved out things got strange. 

When the building caretakers, or porters as we use to call them back then, entered the apartment to make it broom clean for the next tenants to move in, pulled down the curtains the caretakers found glowing white blob faces on the windows that no amount of Windex could remove. Uncomfortable, they decided to come back and finish the job the next day. Returning in the morning the caretakers resumed preparing the apartment. Entering one bedroom a caretaker fled out the apartment screaming. Lopez said looking into the bedroom the other workers saw the body of a woman in white floating above a bed that was left behind by the strange former tenant.

The caretakers retreated out to the hallway and waited while a worker went to get someone from the management office. Before the housing authority person could get to the building the caretakers decided to enter the apartment again. This time, before they could look in the bedroom, emerging from the kitchen were a bottle of Clorox ketchup. To hear Lopez tell it, the bleach and condiment did not float out of the kitchen but walked out on sprouted legs along with arms and chased the caretakers out into the hallway.

A few years later, this tale was collaborated by another ex-McKinley resident named Blue and friends I knew on Boston Rd., not too far from McKinley. The end of the tale was that NYCHA had sealed up the apartment and to this day it has never been enter or opened back up to rent. Being ten years old at the time I found it a fantastic tale but soon found other paranormal topics and stuff kids like to do while growing up to be interested in.

By 1973 I started hanging out in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx even met my first puppy love girlfriend there. Of the teens I use to hang out with in HP was the Douglas twins Kevin and Karl,die hard Mets fans, the only way you could tell them apart was Karl’s left hand was withered. But life such as it is you lose track of friends and Kevin, Karl and my first love fell off the radar. But you also reunite with friends which happened a few years ago when I reconnected with a close family friend named Donna. One afternoon during a phone conversation, we started talking about the McKinley Houses and how her grandmother lived there then the McKinley Witch to which Donna blurted out “I felt bad about Kevin and Karl back then”a drop the mic moment for sure. 

Comparing notes I found out, yes the same Kevin and Karl from HP were the twin sons of the witch, which explains why they never invited me to their house. What ever their Mother was into back then was deep for us to still talk about it a decades after the fact.Old timers in McKinley swear the incident took place, but if someone was to investigate this they better get moving for time is claiming witnesses and memories. Was she a real witch or was she just an eccentric woman who was an embarrassment to her children ?

Guest Blog: The Artwork 5 by James Goodridge

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The Artwork 5

by

 

James Goodridge

 

Mr. West we have been over this before. I feel sorry to say but I have no further information on Stacey sorry.” Mr. Bashir was truly sorry but pensive for he had other realty business to attend to.

I apologize, but I’m at my wits end.” Jamal West said. “Goodbye.”

Jamal ended the call and put his Smart phone back in his suit pocket. The chill of an early spring afternoon had no affect on Jamal sitting on one of a string of long benches along Battery Park City Plaza , the benches were a favorite place for Stacey and Jamal to meet up at. Staring up to Stacey’s former condominium windows on the 23rd floor, Jamal still could not come to grips with her disappearance .the whole strange affair replayed in his mind god knows how many times.

The crappy portrait of the clown she brought. Stacey freaking out, but not wanting to rid herself of it. The night she hit him Jamal , with a hammer and something inside of the painting slashing the top of his hands. The heartbreak of how in hindsight he should have stay with her the day she vanished.

No next of kin made Stacey out to be an enigma. As for Stacey’s friends Millie and Flora the mystery deepened. Flora claimed she never met or knew of a Stacey Allen, Millie Riggs or Jamal West.

While the Millie Riggs, he looked up on the internet resembled an older version of the Millie he knew, this Millie lived in retirement on the west coast, a former actress and daughter of pioneering black television actor and circus clown; Wexford Riggs.

Questions, questions and more questions from the NYPD missing persons bureau. They the police took the case to the next level due to the concierge’s desk area video camera caught the image of Stacey entering the building that strange afternoon. Jamal could be vouched for that he was at work by coworkers. But in all the case was becoming cold like the ice cubes in Jamal’s drinks which had intensified on a daily basis edging towards a problem with his job performance at work.

The white cap waves jumping along the Hudson river shook Jamal back to reality. The view of the waves gave Jamal’s mind a brief cascade of tranquil feelings until he remembered , the MPB detective hinted that Stacey may well be at the bottom of the river.

***

Evening.

I told you again and freakin’ again I never met you, I have never met anyone named Stacey Allen and I sure don’t know a Millie Riggs!” Flora was trying to keep her temper in check.

But I have pictures of all of us on my phone.” Jamal said.

I don’t care what so called pictures, you have on your phone!”

But Millie was your girl friend.”

Ok! OK!” I’m only going to tell you this once. Nothing against gay folks, but I like men, but after dealing with you and not to mention my ex- boy friend Manny, I may have to rethink my feelings about men. I’m sorry for your lost but do NOT… , I mean no more calls, texts, letters. I’m blocking your number, GOOD BYE !” On her end Flora ended the call and flipped the phone onto her couch.

Jamal took another sip out of the glass tumbler of gray goose on the rocks and scrolled through the picture section of his Smart phone. The pictures of him and Stacey were now oddly enough selfies of himself and a fuzzy orange blur. Even more disturbing , was in one of the pictures taken at a cafe , if you looked past their image you could see a grumpy faced Flora working as a barista serving coffee.

The hell is going on, this is not right. Damn it ,its not right!” Jamal shouted as he flung the tumbler against the wall , in his trendy apartment, glass, vodka and cold case ice scattering about.

The next day at Dunkirk Capital a hung over Jamal decided to play a last ditch hunch about Stacey but waited until he got home to work on it.

Research on Millie Riggs turned up the following information for different internet research engines :

Millie Riggs actress, art collector (b. 1940) daughter of Wexford Riggs(b.1920-d.1992) African American television actor and Cole Bros. circus clown.

Ms. Riggs has appeared in the following television shows : Gidget, Shindig, Room 222, The Time Tunnel, The Bold Ones, The Flip Wilson Show, Beat The Clock (game show), Good Teimes, Murder She Wrote, The Slappy White Show, The Bob Newhart Show, NYPD Blue

Movies : In The Heat of The Night, Coogan’s Bluff, Hit man and Sugar Hill

A further internet search pulled up her Riverside California address and phone number. Jamal waited until the middle of the week, to get up the courage to call Ms. Riggs around 6pm east coast time so as to not make a pest of himself and interrupting her dinner.

Hello Ms. Riggs ?” Nervousness pulled at his throat.

Who’s this? Hello?” a firm younger voice challenged on the other end.

Ms. Riggs?”

Which Ms. Riggs are you trying to reach?”

Ms. um… Ms. Millie Riggs.”

No this is not Millie Riggs. This is her granddaughter Celeste Riggs.” Celeste hated telemarketers. “ May I help you ?”

My name is Jamal West and I’m with Dunkirk Asset Management and I…”

Sorry Mr. West I ,can assure you my grandmother would not be interested in anything your selling.” Jamal did not like the sound of that. Did he somehow miss her death notice?

No wait! I’m not selling anything. In truth I doing research for a book I am writing about black entertainers in Hollywood during the 1960’s and 1970’s.” Jamal would toast himself later with a tumbler of vodka for thinking up such a good lie in such quick time.

Oh and what you want to do, interview her about her career?” Celeste’s softened a bit demeanor.

Yes and her father’s career, I may add. I loved see his reruns on television.” Jamal was reaching.

Really ? I tell you what Mr. West, Grand ma’s out in the garden right now tending to her flowers; and when she comes in she’s usually tired, but I promise if you call back tomorrow around this time I think she will be up for talking to you. It has been awhile since anyone has asked about her and her father’s career.”

Well thank you. I’m sorry I didn’t— oh right Celeste is your name right ?”

Yes Celeste , Her granddaughter both of my parents are no longer with us.”

Sorry to hear that.” Jamal quickly wiped the sweat of the face of his smart phone.

Its ok , my parents are not dead as far as I know they just up and left ten years ago, left me, grandma and what she was to leave them in her will. She had the will changed last year. But this is way too much information, right now , call back tomorrow for the answers to your questions goodnight Jamal.” how Celeste ended a phone call even reminded him of Stacey.

This is not me.”Mumbled Jamal before draining his glass.

***

Thursday evening.

Hello Stace—I’m sorry Celeste.” The voice thrashing in his mind stopped just enough , to remind him to be cool.

Hi Jamal. Oh that’s ok.” if anything Celeste was unfazed by Jamal’s name mix up.

Is Ms. Riggs available?”

Yes here she is .”the sound of a phone changing hands could be heard.

Oh honey you can set that glass down right there , thank you.” after the sound of a sip. “Hello Mr. West ? Millie Riggs here. Celeste has told me you want to go down memory lane with me about me and my dad’s careers in movies and television. Is that right ?” Millie said in her best stage voice.

Yes Ms. Riggs hello. I guess Celeste to you about my research and future book, I also would ah, like to ask you questions about you art collection.”

As if a tiny cloud passed over the phone connection, Millie’s mood became tentative. “Not too many people knew of the collection except for a vague reference in a Jet magazine interview in the 70’s, I did.”

For the next twenty minutes, Millie went on about her and her father’s careers and how it was to grow up black in Hollywood. Jamal waited for the right time to ask her about Stacey. Jamal did find it odd that he actually jotted down some of Millie’s golden memories, down on a piece of paper he fund crumbled on his coffee table.

Mr. West your not really interested in me and my father Wexford’s career are you ?”

Uh yes, yes I am ma’am.” Jamal stammered. Ms. Riggs stage voice now had an intimidating tone over the phone to Jamal.

Your lying Mr. West because if you knew anything about my father you would know that my father never performed as “ Booby the Clown” on television. He felt Booby was a step back for him. Wasn’t until he was inducted into the circus clown hall of fame, in Milwaukee in 1981, that he put that god forsaken grease paint on one last time. He even had a fight with Cole Bros. early in his career because they originally wanted him to perform in black face, which he refused to do.” another sip could be heard, Jamal imagined a glass of white wine in front of Millie as she continued. “ Now what is it you really want Mr. West?”

I want Stacey back. I love her.”

Who’s Stacey honey ?” Millie asked.

***

Jamal recounted everything that had transpired last year and this year. When he got to the parts of the macabre tale in which he described the kitsch clown painting and the younger version of her, Millie gasped both times over the phone. In the end, her end of the phone became silent.

Hello Ms. Riggs ?”

I think you need to come out to the west coast Mr. West , I maybe be able to help you.” Millie offered before taking another sip, of whatever she was imbibing.

***

Bleary from a red rye flight to the west coast, shots of energy drinks with a nip of vodka , Jamal made his way from LAX to Riverside in a rented black Honda Pilot.

Ms. Riggs had made her royalties earnings and her father’s estate holdings work for her towards a ranch and other properties. Being a sharp business woman she now enjoyed life just outside of town. As Jamal pulled up a very regal looking woman in blue jeans , crisp white tee shirt smudged with top soil, white deck sneakers approached the rental car. Jamal gripped the steering wheel of the pilot tight as this older version of the phantom Millie Riggs that he and Stacey knew back in New York waved to him.

Mr. West you look tired , she said opening the door for him. “ How was your trip?”

I’ll be ok. Jet lag you know.” At least Jamal tried to fresh up in the airport men’s room and pop a breath mints in his mouth during the drive.

I’ll have one of the care takers bring any bags you have in to the house.” she said beckoning a stout Latino ranch hand. The ranch hand ambled towards the Honda .

In truth I checked in to a road side motel my bags are there. Jamal said as he followed her through the front door. Millie waved the ranch hand off , who silently went back to his chores.

Millie led Jamal into a spacious living room area well furnished with high end antique furniture. Celebrity photos were strategically place around the room. Two Emmys stood guard on the mantle over the fire place one presented to her, the other to her father for their work in television.

You see Jamal the Buck Zorba I knew was a magician and a friend of my father and me all those years ago in Cole bros. circus, Buck fancied himself and artist too.” Millie was seated next to Jamal on a sofa, as if they knew each other for years.

By the way where is your granddaughter Celeste, she was so nice on the phone.” Jamal asked trying to hide his real motive.

Celeste is in town running some errands for me with my great grandson Shawn she’ll be back in a few minutes.”

I would like to meet her.”

The clown painting of my father , what did you say happened to it.”

I don’t know. I never thought to ask building management what exactly did they do with it , I think I was afraid to.” Jamal confessed.

Come child I have something to show you.” Rising up off the sofa Millie took Jamal by the hand and led him down a hallway to two dark wood sliding doors. Pressing a sequence of numbers on a touch key pad on the wall to the right side of the doors, the sound of a bolt unlocking gave them the go ahead to enter the room. Light fixtures in the ceiling blinked on exposing about thirty 3feet by 2 feet canvas paintings under a loose tarp. Some type of climate control system hummed in the background giving the room the feel of a museum, yet still under alterations like an art exhibit being readied for the public, although both Millie and Jamal knew that would never happen.

Buck kept sending my father these paintings up to when he passed away , while in retirement down in Tampa in 1974.” Millie was still holding on to Jamal’s hand.”At first my father humored Buck by taking them, not wanting to break the heart of an old magician , who lost himself to drink, but then my father noticed these paintings had some strange aura, I tried to tell him back in 1954 when I was a child. I remember having nightmares about New York in what was the future to me back then.” Millie seemed relieved to be sharing this with Jamal. “ Now each of these paintings has some type of …. oh I don’t know lord, something going on within them. Help me pull the tarp back love, I mean Jamal.”

Grandma!” Celeste called out her and Shawn her son came into the house shopping bags in their hands.

Stacey!” Jamal yelled letting go of the tarp and running to the house vestibule at the sound of Stacey’s voice. For a second Millie was jealous, for she was attracted to the young man, but given the situation she understood. Following behind him, although Millie was fit for her age , she could not keep up.

Stacey !?” Jamal stopped and fell to his knees.

Celeste had no resemblance to Stacey at all. Wearing a denim outfit ,long raven black hair that ran down her back instead of auburn twists, Celeste was petit and part native American who favored her absent mother in looks. Standing still in fear while, Shawn who was big for his years moved along side her to protect her. Celeste’s shopping bags dropped to the floor.

Jamal dropped to the floor too.

***

Two days later…

Everything was packed into the back of the pilot for the drive to LAX and in turn the flight back home. Obsession had evolved into embarrassment , when Jamal had passed out, after seeing that Celeste was not Stacey. A trip to a nearby emergency room and a day’s rest had got Jamal back to reality. Just as Jamal opened the car door to get in, a silver SUV pulled up behind him , in front of the motel entrance.

Mr. West please wait a minute please.” Celeste was calling from the driver’s side window. Shawn as silent as usual was in the back seat in a Los Angeles Angel’s jersey and cap, blue denim shorts and Nikes listening to something on his phone, ear buds in ears. Facial features and hair like his mother , but with green intense eyes like his great great grandfather.

Again I’m sorry for putting you and your grandmother through my madness.” said Jamal not really making eye contact, the shame was just too much.

Celeste ignored the apology coming around where he stood and handed a Fed Ex shipping receipt. “ Here Mr. West my grandmother and I have shipped to you two pieces of artwork that should help you in this time of hurt, we have made arrangements for the work to be delivered ,after you have had time to get back to the east coast. Once you see the paintings you will know what to do.” and with that Celeste climbed back into her SUV.

But wait a minute … what are these paintings, but I didn’t get to see any back at the ranch in the room ?” said Jamal.

Oh yes and one more thing, never come back to Riverside Mr. West.” Celeste said and as if on cue Shawn pulled his ear buds out of his ears and glared at Jamal as they pulled off from the curb.

Days later the paintings arrived at Jamal’s apartment. Unpacking the first artwork he took one look and knew what had to be done. Rushing out to any store that had packing material, Jamal repackaged the painting and had FedEx pick it up and shipped to a new address. For the other painting Jamal waited until nightfall to unpack it and hang it on his living room wall, this done in fear. Tears running down his cheeks and blubbering like a child Jamal sat back on his couch.

This is you babe!”

The canvas oil painting of Stacey had her nude and reclining on a zebra skin rug her auburn hair now a large perfectly round afro , gold necklace and bracelets around her wrist nail and toes painted a neon orange. Behind her in the background psychedelic swirls of tangerine, peach, blood red, yellow and pink, pulsated expanded and contracted, the style of the artwork like an old “Groovy Ghoulies” filmmation cartoon from the early 70’s.

The first distorted notes of Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” began to mix with the hot colors, foaming and bubbling off of the canvas and on to the floor, like hot wax. Stacey’s brown eyes fixed on Jamal. Movement of her hands beckoning him, hands he had longed to touch since her disappearance last year.

Come babe.” she pleaded.” Come child!” in a voice eerily like that of Wexford Riggs aka Booby the clown.

Damn Stacey I ….”

It was quick.

Stacey’s fingernails raked across Jamal’s face, drawing blood and blinding him. before he could react she raked him a bloody mess again from the other side of his face and snatched him into the painting.

***

Jamal bolted upright in bed, disoriented by his surroundings for a moment. Morning sunlight peeked down into his basement apartment through the small basement window. He was sweaty and naked in bed. Jamal flinched when he heard the door at the top of the stairs unlock and footsteps tap down the stairs towards him.

Good morning babe you ready for breakfast.”said Stacey holding a bag of groceries and the Brooklyn edition of the New York Daily News in one arm, and her keys in the other hand. Stopping in front of the bed Stacey wearing an old purple sweater ,jeans, white P.F flyer sneakers and a pink bandana to hold her afro in place, dropped the news paper on the bed , the back page head line screaming about the matchup between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles and how the 1971 World Series should be a good one. She sensed something was wrong.

Another nightmare about NAM ?” Stacey said reminding him of his horrific tour of duty in Vietnam a year ago in 1970.

No.”

What was it then babe ?” Stacey said.

I … I dreamed that I lost you.” said Jamal formerly known as Leroy West while eyeing a landscape painting of a ranch home hanging on the wall.

That’s so sweet.” Stacey giggled, she figured she would leave it at that.” She was concerned though when Jamal had these nightmares. “Well how about some breakfast to take your mind off of it?” Putting the bag down on a make shift coffee table ,she came over the to the side of the bed a planted a kiss on Jamal’s forehead.

Going into the bathroom and turning on the light Jamal sized himself up in the mirror.

This is me.” He said to his mirror image.

***

Now.

Flora Green pulled the large package the Fed Ex person delivered into her apartment. Unpacking it revealed a painting of a harlequin clown from the commedia dell’arte done up in purple , silver and white against a black background. Sad looking , it seemed like she recognized the face from somewhere.

Shit its from that Jamal West. I guess he calls himself sending this as a peace offering.” she thought. After some internal debate Flora decided to keep it. Even if she decided to send it back there would be no Jamal West to send it back to.

Plus there’s something about the artwork she was being drawn to.

THE END

Guest Blog: The Artwork by James Goodridge

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The Artwork

by

James Goodridge

Stacey Allen was a rising star on Wall St. as a senior trader at Wexford Capital, a top shelf brokerage house. She began her career in the stock swap department of Wexford. Because of her hard work and guile, she is now in the running for the management of a new mutual fund being rolled out by Wexford. Caramel skinned, toned body with auburn twists, Stacey could be a very striking figure in a business suit. She was even featured on a segment of CNBC profiling the new generation of movers and shakers. A condo in Battery Park City with a view of the Hudson river, a vacation home in Martinique and a loving boyfriend in Jamal West, Stacey had it all, or at least she thought she did,

I like it. It’s cute and for some strange reason I’m drawn to it.” Stacey said admiring the three feet long by two and a half feet wide oil painting.

Your kidding right?” Jamal said frowning.

No.”

Oh come on for Christ sake.”

It’s simple not too artsy.” Stacey was now in defiant mode.

Stacey your joking?” It was Jamal’s turn to entrench.

Stacey was now going to pull her friend Millie Riggs and Millie’s lover Flora who were in another area of the thrift shop browsing into her and Jamal’s art conflict.

You and Flora like it right ?”

No comment sister. I will let you and Jamal work it out . Flora and I have our eyes on a really neat, antique love seat. Right babe?”

Yes, Honey.” Flora said.

Millie who looked like the second coming of Dorothy Dandridge to people old enough to remember the ill-fated. film star, wanted to really tell Stacey the damn thing made her light headed and nervous.

Whatever get you going.” Flora offered with a chocolate smile, countering Jamal’s frown.

Well, I’m going to buy the damn thing take it home and hang it on my wall !”

The couples trendy day off, hanging out on the lower Eastside of Manhattan was in danger of turning sour.

How much for this artwork sir?” Stacey was reaching into her cargo pants for her wallet.

Ah give me fifty bucks and it’s yours. I will even deliver it to your address too.”

Buck Zorba offered, being that the couples had come into the thrift shop with their bicycles. But really he just wanted the damn thing out of his shop , it was kitsch, eerie and took up too much space.

Oh no.” Jamal, Millie, and Flora mumbled in unity.

***

Perfect.” Stacey was satisfied with the way Jamal secured the canvas to the wall in her living room under a row of track lights . The oil on canvas artwork was an unknown artist’s interpretation of a circus clown. Loud three piece suit of red and gold plaid,spats, black oversized shoes, red derby two sizes too small for the clowns large head ,white shirt, white gloves and of course the perennial daisy flower in the lapel.  The clown’s face was typical white grease paint, bright red triangles painted around the eyes red lips and bulbous red nose. The unease came from the intensive green eyes that seemed to follow Stacey. But while the eyes unnerved her another part intrigued her. What not one of her group of friends noticed was (Millie did everything but look at the painting directly ) was that the wrist area between the clown’s shirt and gloves had a caramel skin tone. 

I know you from somewhere.” Stacey mused between sips of white wine.

It was evening and Jamal had left for his apartment on the upper west side. The purchase of the kitschy artwork roiled Jamal but was helpless because Stacey was determined to keep the painting. The condos quietness was only challenged by some reality show on Stacey’s HD flat screen television in her bedroom. Stretching and rising from her bed Stacey wearing only a rose print kimono headed to the kitchen for a glass of water , the wine had put her to sleep and now it was about one in the morning. making the turn , she caught a glimpse of green eyes.  The cold glow of the clown’s pupils began to transpose strange images in Stacey’s mind eye people and places that she had never known or visited but longed for. Yet an unnerving feeling shook her back to reality, alpha jerked to her surroundings Stacey retreated to the bedroom and locked the door but not before turning on all the lights in the living room.

Better safe than sorry,” She thought to herself.

This is not me.”

Monday found Stacey half sleep at her desk. She just was not into work today.  The house music ringtone on her i-phone snapped Stacey back to reality. 

Hey, babe what’s up?” Jamal said greeting her from the other end.

Hi honey, I’m just a little tired maybe we had too much fun this weekend.”

Stacey said between yawns.  Stacey decided not to tell Jamal she’s been sleeping with the bedroom door locked Saturday and Sunday night. 

So how’s your clown doing?” Joked Jamal.

The clown artwork is fine . Why do you ask ?” Stacey was getting testy.

It’s just that Sunday when I stopped by with the Sunday Times you spent more time peeping into the living room than anything else . That’s why I left so soon that evening.”

That’s really immature of you to have done that Jamal.” When upset she usually took all the pens and pencils out of a coffee mug on her desk and flings them one by one across the room. Well, Stacey was doing it now.

Ok, ok I’m sorry Stacey damn !”

I’m sure you are!”

Look can we meet at the North Cove for lunch?” Jamal pleaded.

Jamal I’ve got work to do Wexford Capital beckons.”

But Stacey …”

Bye Jamal ,I’ll call you when I’ll call you. Stacey ended the call.

***

In better days Stacey liked to tease and let Jamal twist for awhile before kissing and making up but now she wasn’t so sure. Stacey was not so sure about a lot of things these last two days. 

This is not me,” Stacey mumbled before flinging a pencil across the room  As punishment Stacey would only allow Jamal to text her no Facebook, emails, and no phone calls.  She figured they would mend fences on Wednesday over dinner. Stacey was now having trouble sleeping. She tried to vent to Millie, but as soon as she mentioned the artwork Millie would change the subject . Nothing for nothing Millie seemed to be scared of the painting. 

Enough of this nonsense I am going to pamper myself Tuesday. When Tuesday  arrived Stacey left work early , after another night of the bedroom door locked and all the lights left on , she got herself a massage at Pax fitness , then shopping and finally a trip up to Harlem to get her auburn twists touched up.

The twists made Stacey look awesome. Stacey entered her condo walking pass the painting without so much as a glance at it. Stacey could feel the hypnotic like the pull of the canvas but fought the impulse, not just the impulse to surrender herself to it , but a likewise impulse to throw the damn thing off of her twenty third floor balcony. She should have heeded the latter.  Evening melted into the night. A pasta dinner , white wine , texting Jamal and more white wine. Stacey fell into a sound sleep about midnight.

Some people would recognize the faint music emanating from the painting as Thunder and Blazes” , others would identify it as the “Circus Song” but its proper title is Enter The Gladiators” by Fuick , either way, Stacey woke up to it. Stacey wrapped her naked  body in the rose print kimono and unlocked her bedroom door. A mysterious purple neon glow shined from the painting drawing her like a lightly addicted moth . Looking into the painting, Stacey could see shimmering abstract images of circus tents in the back round of the intently staring clown in the foreground.

Who’s there ?” Stacey nervously demanded.

COME CHILD !” A baritone voice boomed.

AAAH …. NO…..NO ….!”

Stacey’s poor soul screamed out, the clowns gloved hand had her by her twists pulling her towards the surreal world inside the artwork her heart pounding wildly in the struggle. Terror and adrenaline gave Stacey the strength to break away. Stumbling to the wall near the front vestibule , She fumbled to flick the track lights on everything was normal except for the urine puddle on the floor , made by Stacey’s bladder letting loose during the fight to free herself from the clown’s grip. Stacey sprinted into the bedroom and locked the door , it would be hours before she regained a calm state of mind sitting on the edge of the bed she came up with a plan of action. Keep the lights on, DO NOT go into the living room, call out sick , have Jamal come over and clean up !

I must be losing my mind. This is not me!” Stacey pleaded to her sanity.

***

I’m coming over tonight and take that freaking picture down!” Jamal finally said after listening to Stacey’s recap of last night’s events, he was feeling smug but also ill at ease.

Yes . No ! I mean please just come over Jamal.” Stacey had spent most of the day along the Promenade walkway near her condo complex and was now calling Jamal there. She intended not to enter her place until she met up with Jamal first. It was not just the fear of the clown but a fear that she just may give in to whatever the painting wanted of her.  She met Jamal in front of her Battery Park City building. Stacey felt reassured when she saw Jamal walk up to her , Chestnut hued , dapper in a nice gray suit , clean headed and shaven, they embraced kissed and headed up to the twenty third floor. The trendy duplex was quiet artwork and all. Removing the picture took a back seat to mutual “ I’m sorry babe”, to make up sex, ordering Asian fusion food on grub hub.com , and sleep because both traders had to be up in the morning fighting the bulls and bears.

The barely audible circus music started around two am . Stacey alone heard it and turned to Jamal who was fast asleep and would not wake up to her timid nudges. Reluctantly letting Jamal sleep being that they had just made up ,naked Stacey made her way through the darkness of her bedroom to the door and unlocked it. The purple glow in her eyes and the now pounding sound of “Thunder and Blazes” in her brain made Stacey throw up.

Grabbing a hammer off of a small table near the bathroom, Stacey snuck into the living room. The hammer was to be used by Jamal to take the painting down, the odd thing being that the painting seemed more braced to the wall than when he first hung it. Stacey sneaked up to the work , she was going to make the artwork pay a price for creeping and freaking her out. The new configuration of the ARTWORK took her breath away.

Just then a hand touched her right shoulder and in return, Stacey swung around and came down hard with her hammer. 

Damn it!” Jamal cried out in pain. The wood part of the hammer caught his shoulder.

Oh god Jamal!”

What were you thinking woman !?” Jamal yelled. Stacey quickly turned on the lights and tried to comfort Jamal who was sprawled out on the floor in his boxers.

Oh god, I’m so sorry Jamal.”

What were you thinking woman?” Jamal repeated but in a lower moaning tone.

This is crazy.! He thought.

The lights? You did see the lights from the circus, didn’t you ? And the music ?

You heard the …”

Enough !” Jamal exploded. Jumping up in spite of the pain in his shoulder , Jamal went up to the painting to lift it off the wall.

Oh, crap ! What the hell is going on!” Jamal’s fingers were now bleeding across the knuckles , the only problem was that the way he had tried to lift the painting should not have left a gash like that. Almost as if something reached out and slashed Jamal across the knuckles.

Ok, I’m done ! I am out !” Jamal was getting dressed and at the same moment letting Stacey awkwardly bandage his knuckles. To add to the confusion she was dressing too.

The rest of late night and early morning was spent at Downtown Hospital’s Emergency room having Jamal’s hand and shoulder tended to. A wall of silence had built up between them by now , Jamal wanting to suggest Stacey seek help for her mental health issues and Stacy losing faith in Jamal’s devotion. At dawn, the couple left the ER , Jamal to his apartment to rest and Stacey after turning down his offer of comfort, headed to a hot sheets motel on the upper west side to rest then later go home and get rid of that artwork no matter what power it had over her.

Stacy unlocked the door to her condo in the early afternoon. “No dead of night witching hour crap this time .” She mused to herself. Walking past the artwork , Stacey entered the kitchen and returned to the living room with a butcher knife. Raising the knife in front of the oil paint on canvas clown, Stacey evoked these words like a priest during an exorcism

You bastard I should have never brought you , because……”

That was the last thing she said before a gloved hand slapped her across the face and pulled her into the artwork.

Millie! Millie ! My god wake up child !” A baritone voice boomed. Millie Riggs woke up as if out of one nightmare an into another. Standing in front of her was a circus clown dressed in a three piece plaid gold and red suit ,spats over black shoes, derby two sizes too small, grease paint make up half whipped away to reveal a caramel colored face with  soft green eyes. Millie Riggs raised up off the cot she lay on to give her father

Wexford gave her a glad to be a home hug.

Oh, daddy my head hurts so bad,” Millie said whipping tears on her simple blue dress. Some of Wexford’s aka Booby the clowns make up smeared onto her face leaving abstract designs.

Ever since that damn Bucky Zorba gave us that ugly New York skyline painting you have been having constant nightmares, fine magician he is and fine going away gift that is , with his rum pot talk of New York in the future!”

While Millie was finding comfort in her father’s arms she could not help but look pass him to read the year on the Old Style Beer calendar which read nineteen fifty four not, the two thousand fourteen of her dreams .

But dad I…..” Millie hoped she could get her father to listen to her dream or nightmare journey but gave up. “This is me!” She mumbled.

Well at least we have just one more month to travel with Cole Bros. circus and then it’s on to Hollywood and those television parts I’ve been offered and a proper schooling for you no more living in a trailer, no more bad food and no more Zorba.” With that said Wexford Riggs pulled the artwork off the trailer home wall and preceded to punch a hole into it.

***

Mr. Bashir had finally received permission to clear out Ms. Allen’s condo . As a realtor it was his job; tragedy or not to sell high end property. Stacey Allen’s disappearance after so many months now started to take on the look of a cold case file. Detectives still kept an eye on Mr. Jamal West but couldn’t find anything suspicious on him and had empathy in a way for his lost. The oddness of the affair was a Ms. Millie Riggs. When a list of friends and family was supplied by Jamal no next of kin could be found and the only Millie Riggs was an internet search that turned up the name of an actress living in retirement in Riverside California.

*********

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. Curently 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.

My Life My Horror: On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies

My Life My Horror:

 On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies
by
James Goodridge

7c0a4462-4171-4f56-839a-7e1ab7dc9672You can say I am old school when it comes to the genre of horror.My thing was the old Universal movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. A love for Hammer Studios,with their naughty but classy out put of films during the late 1950’s up until their fall back in the 70’s were stuff of legend.William Castle, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine were the go to guys when it came to macabre reruns for me as a child growing up in New York in the late 1960’s. Not understanding why Las Musarañas Asesinas - The Killer Shrews - Ray Kellogg - 1959 - 003 (1)the six o’ clock news would show soldiers shooting into jungle brush in a place called Vietnam, people holding card board placards protesting civil rights, stop the war, and definitely the day my family gathered in our living room to watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral (seeing my parents cry together the first time) horror strangely enough, sports and more extensively science fiction was an escape. Like a drink I like my horror neat not too bloody. But reality caught up to me one Summer night inPOSTER_-_BLACULA 1969. I am changing the channel back and forth on our floor model black and white television between Creature Features, a television show that showcased horror and science fiction, (other cities had their version) on WNEW channel 5 and what other network I can not remember. The Bride of Frankenstein is on, and then I ask myself, “Why are there no people like myself in these movies?”  The period piece movies like The Bride I could understand things were not good for our people in the 19th century and before, but what about now (1969),progress was slow.

Fast forward to the fall of 1971, it’s a Friday Blackensteinnight moms asleep, dad has gone to hang out with his buddies after work,my brother Barron is god knows where as a member of the Reapers Bronx street gang it’s a round midnight and I’m hanging out with my big sister Brenda and her husband Allen, they are spending the night in the Bronx then will head home to Brooklyn in the morning. They are channel surfing. Which back then consisted of me being the remote control, you know getting up and change the channel, yes a channel knob, we also had three networks, three local stations and public TV. Back then we thought we were brand new! Any way my sister is going through the TV Guide and lets out a oh wow !

“Allen you know what’s coming on?” ThingPoster

“ What babe?”

“ Night of The Living Dead!” my sister said.

“ Nice!” Allen said in his best cool jazz head voice.

“ Whats that?” I ask nothing for nothing.

“ Oh your going to like it.” my sister said with a sly look on her face.

“ But what…” I say.

“You not going to be scared are you ?” Allen asks.

“ No I ain’t no chump!” I say not trying to be a afraiddy cat. The lights are turned out and I turn to WABC Channel 7, by coincidence the mood is set by the howl of the wind rushing through the building hallways from an open roof door on the 14th floor of our building in Bronx River Houses which was to become 220px-Candymanposteryears later one of the Meccas of Hip Hop, but that’s another story. We all know the opening sequence with Barbara and Johnny in the cemetery of this classic by George Romero, I slowly getting hyped, Barbara Duane Jones as the hero/protagonist just blew me away!

Keep in mind this picture had made its delayed premiere Back in 1968,I say delayed because according to Mr. Romero the week they wanted to showcase it at a grind house on Time Squares in New York was the same week of Dr. Kings death.That night I found myself engrossed in this movie and also grossed out, but that’s the fun of horror the fear of mortality and the feeling of beating out death, or at least knowing we can leave the movie theater or get up from the couch knowing its just a movie, cheering on the hero or shero as he or she fights the good fight for existence to save the human race,or thyself.Seeing the220px-Hoodposterbrother go through all the issues of trying to survive and be the anchor to a bunch of people who would have been zombie food had it not been for him was euphoric for me.The only other horror movie I could recall seeing, with another black character before Night of The Living Dead was a B movie titled The Killer Shrews (1959)starring James Best,in it the black character “Rook Griswald” a ships mate to Best’s character played by Judge Henry Dupree lasts,maybe ten minutes in to the movie, before he’s shewed up by mutant shrews.Back to Duane Jones,he fought the good fight to the end, but in the end which I later viewed as a metaphor for being black in America ,Duane’s character gets shot in the head mistaken for one of the living dead. No matter what we do America screws us in the end, a feeling and opinion that has ebbed and flowed with me over the years I would submit to the reader,that for some time back then African-Americans did not gravitate to horror not only because of neglect by the movie industry, but also the everyday life,of horror just trying to make it through the week goes on even now in different configurations.

The Blaxploitation boom, of the early to mid 70’s or BJ (Before Jaws)showed that yes a black audience was out there. Blacula (1972), Scream Blacula Scream (1973),Blackenstein(1973),Ganja & Hess (1973) starring Duane Jones and remade as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus in 2014 by Spike Lee)Voodoo Black Exoicist (1973),Abby (1974)and J.D.’s Revenge (1976)which featured black stars such as William Marshall,Pam Grier and Carol Speed among others showed promise. But in 1975 the original Summer block buster and movie game changer JAWS premiered and the black horror movie as a stand alone genre dried up. The 1980’s saw black characters reduced to token parts in the horror movie genre. In my DVD collection I have the rare Blood Tide(1982) featuring James Earl Jones as an ethics challenged relics Hunter.Keith David did show hope for black folk surviving to the end in The Thing(1982)remake and in my opinion whether you call it a short film or a long video Micheal Jackson’s Thriller featuring Vincent Price did some good for people of color in horror. The struggle to scream continued. The same feeling I felt back in 1971 I relived in 1992 watching Candyman the first of a trilogy of movies(1999,2003) starring Tony Todd,while his body of work is not as extended the legendary Mr.Price he still earns the same level of respect in my book. Today even with the recent Oscar’s awards lack of color, with effort we do not have to look to the Hollywood powers that be to be creative Spike Lee’s executive producing of Tales From The Hood(1995) and the use of the INTERNET for web series like Alex Fernandez’s vampire saga Dawn (2015).We are in historic times for horror with the flow of books , INTERNET ,movies, wo etc… the struggle to scream continues.

 

***********

Born and raised in the Bronx, 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.jamesgoodridge headshot Currently, he is 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