Historian of Horror: How the Monsters Became Famous

How the Monsters Became Famous

It is a generally accepted truism among film historians that half of all films made before 1950 are lost. No copies are known to exist. By that metric, vast swathes of the horror films of the first half of the 20th Century should be unavailable for viewing. And yet…

Let’s take a headcount. The big one is, of course, Lon Chaney’s 1927 film, London After Midnight. The last known copy was destroyed in a fire in the mid-50s, and it has been The Holy Grail for horror fans ever since. Turner Classic Movies has assembled a sort of replica out of stills and the shooting script, but that’s a poor substitute. 

What else? The 1930 version of The Cat and the Canary, entitled The Cat Creeps, both English and Spanish versions. The first two Golem films Paul Wegener made in Germany during the First World War. The second version of Frankenstein, Life Without Soul, from 1915, and an Italian version, Il Mostro de Frankenstein from 1921. Um… 

Yes, there are more, but not as many major ones as one might think. Wonder why that is?

To find that out, we must needs peer back into the dark and abyss of time, to 1910. Carl Laemmle, a film exhibitor in New York City, decided he’d had enough of paying a royalty to Thomas Edison every time he used a movie projector. He also had a desire to make his own movies, but Edison collected even more exorbitant sums from anyone with the temerity to use one of his patented cameras. Laemmle’s solution was to uproot his whole operation, which consisted mostly of his relatives and relocate to somewhere in California, anywhere in California, far away from Thomas Edison and his patent attorneys. How about that sleeping little farming community near Los Angeles called Hollywood? Sure, sounds good. He called his new organization Universal Pictures. He set up shop out there and started making movies.

Within a couple of years, Jesse Lasky’s Famous Players followed suit, becoming Paramount Pictures in 1912. And so on, until Edison gave up on enforcing his patents and all the other studios followed Laemmle out to Hollywood.

Here’s the thing about Carl Laemmle: He never really caught on to the notion that feature-length was the way movies should be made. He was of the opinion that one or two reels per picture was plenty, each reel spooling out at roughly ten minutes. His underlings, Irving Thalberg and his son, Carl, Junior, among them, managed to convince him to allow longer productions, but Universal films still tended towards the shorter lengths. Nothing like the eight hours Erich von Stroheim was originally granted to make films like Greed over at M-G-M in 1924, but one of the biggest stars of the day, Lon Chaney, made a couple that hovered around an hour long while he was at Universal, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera among them. Before long, both Chaney and Thalberg had moved over to M-G-M, and it was up to Carl, Junior, to convince the old man to let him make feature films. Senior gave in, but was still loathe to let things get too far out of hand.

And so it is that once Universal get into the horror movie business in 1931 with Dracula and then Frankenstein, these films are still a tad shorter than the standard feature-length. Dracula came in at an hour and fifteen minutes, Frankenstein at an hour and ten minutes.

Which has what to do with the state of film preservation that seems to favor our beloved genre over others? Simply this – that when Universal started marketing fifty-two of their classic horror films to television in October of 1957 under the name Shock!, that just-over-an-hour length was very attractive. Add in the right number of commercials, and Shock Theater, as the release was generally called by the local television stations, came in at a comfortable hour and a half time slot. The program managers at those stations liked that ninety-minute block, and gobbled up the package all over the United States. There was even room for a local host to make a few jokes about the picture, and still, fit everything in. Another batch containing both Universal and Columbia releases the next year called Son of Shock made the old monster films a national phenomenon.

America went monster crazy. Every scary picture ever made was resurrected from whatever archive it had been interred in to be shown on late-night weekend, early morning, or after school television. Hence, the unusual percentage of old horror pictures that survived, in comparison with most other genres. 

Inspired by the renewed interest in the classics, American International, a Poverty Row studio that specialized in teen-oriented films for drive-in theaters, switched from hot rods and motorcycle gangs to teenage werewolves, Frankensteins, and cavemen. They hired Roger Corman to make black-and-white fright films on a budget, and once the studio had raked in enough teenage dollars, they bought some color stock and turned Corman loose on Edgar Allen Poe. England got in on the action, too, and Hammer films began remaking the old classics in lurid color. A new generation of horror stars arose – Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, along with a new set of scream queens in tight Victorian bodices barely containing their, um, huge tracts of land. Monsters weren’t just hip – they were sexy!

Of course, at the tender age at which I began to absorb all this cinematic mayhem in the early 1960s, sexy wasn’t really an issue for me. I just liked the stuff – the model kits, the toys, the Halloween costumes, the games, the television shows.

And the magazines. In particular, one magazine. The one essential chronicle of all that was unholy in the popular culture of the 1960s and beyond – Famous Monsters of Filmland

Back in 1957, before I was even a gleam in my daddy’s eye, legendary science fiction fan, and collector, and literary agent to the speculative fiction field, Forrest J. Ackerman, had come across a French magazine, Cinema, while on a tour of science fiction conventions in Europe. The specific issue he found featured articles on horror movies, and even had a picture of Henry Hull’s lycanthrope from the 1935 Universal picture, The Werewolf of London, on the cover.

Once back in the states, Ackerman contacted a men’s (read, girly) magazine publisher named James Warren who had lost his shirt on his previous publication and was looking for something to put his last few dollars into. Ackerman sold Warren on the idea of a one-shot about the classic horror films, using stills from Ackerman’s own extensive collection and written by Ackerman himself in a sort of jokey, corny and yet very ingratiating style that later generations of comic-book fans might associate more closely with Stan Lee. The idea was for it to appeal to an ideal demographic of eleven-and-a-half-year-old boys. Younger and older ones with thirty-five cents would be welcome to purchase a copy, however, as well as girls of all ages.

Ackerman began assembling his first issue, but Warren couldn’t find a distributor. Fortunately, Life Magazine ran an article on the resurgence of interest in the old horror pictures, and suddenly any publication with a monster on the cover was pure gold. That first issue appeared on newsstands in February of 1958, Warren himself pictured on the cover in a Frankenstein mask ‘menacing’ his girlfriend. The furor over the horrors of yesteryear demanded an ongoing series, and so it was ordained. It was six months before the second issue came out, but by the third, dated April, 1959, FM (as true fans know it) was appearing quarterly. By the tenth issue, it was bi-monthly. It ran as a Warren publication until 1983 and has been revived a couple of times since then by other publishers. 

The first issue I ever got my hands on was Number 35, dated October 1965. I had just turned seven. I have no recollection of how I acquired it, although I suspect I traded for it with one of the kids in the neighborhood. Probably swapped a comic book or two for it. That was still a thing in 1965. Anyhow, I thought we might flip through it and see what horrors lurk inside.

The cover is by Vic Prezio, depicting Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Not from the 1931 Dracula, the older vampire from Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Not sure if that was the intent, but it seems that way to me. Basil Gogos is the artist most often associated with FM covers, but Prezio did a fair number in this period. The inside front cover is a close-up photo of Oliver Reed’s lycanthrope from the 1961 Hammer film, Curse of the Werewolf. Page 3 is a synopsis of the contents, followed by ads for the Famous Monsters of Filmland Club, free to join with the attached coupon, and for the 1966 Yearbook. Then, there’s a table of contents, followed by a photo of Lugosi that I believe is from 1935’s Mark of the Vampire. It’s labeled ‘Public Vampire No. 1’. Subtle, ain’t it?

The first article covers Lugosi’s 1951 trip to England, during which time he gave lots of interviews and co-starred in a film variously called Vampires Over London, My Son the Vampire and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire. Old Mother Riley was a popular character in English comedies at the time, played by comedian Arthur Lucan in drag. Not Bela’s finest moment, although much worse was yet to come.

A full-page close-up still of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster is followed by the announcement of the winner of an amateur film-maker’s contest, won by Madona Marchant, who by the time this issue went to press had married cartoonist Rich Corben. Corben went on to have a long career illustrating horror comics for Warren’s Creepy and Eerie magazines, as well as the American iteration of the Heavy Metal magazine. 

More on all those publications in a future installment of this column. Stay, as they say, tuned.

A rather interesting article is next, about the recently (at the time) discovered first film ever made by Charlton Heston. Heston was a seventeen-year-old high school student when he starred in an amateur film version of the Henryk Ibsen play, Peer Gynt. You can find it here:

 

Heston went on to star in the best version to date of the Richard Matheson novel, I Am Legend, 1971’s Omega Man. Moses vs Vampires! Who could resist that?

The backlash by parents worried that horror movies, like horror comics a decade before, were warping their precious offspring, is addressed in the next article, “Monster Are Good for My Children – Yours Too!!!” I found it more persuasive than my mom and dad did, alas. Still, I survived and have yet to commit any of the atrocities forecast by those who were sure we monster fans were all destined to be mass murderers. Yet, being the operative word here.

One of the many ads for short snippets of eight-millimeter films scattered throughout the magazine follows, then came the Mystery Photo. This was a regular feature, an obscure still with vague clues to tantalize the fans, the answer to be revealed in the next issue. 

Nine pages are devoted to one of the absolute worst horror movies of the first half of the 1960s, Night of the Blood Beast. Why? I have no idea. A few pages of miniatures photographed in Frankensteinian dioramas in France is followed by another regular feature, Hidden Horrors, in this case, a close-up of Norman Bates’ mother from Psycho. Mom’s looking a bit peaked there, Normie.

We then get a synopsis with stills of the American release of Godzilla (1956), Revenge of Mystery Lines (a horror movie quotes quiz), You Axed for It! (reader requested stills), and a two-page advertisement for back issues. “The Gordons Will Get You!” concerns the cheesy b-movie makers Alex and Rich Gordon, who made several of the very first horror-SciFi movies I remember seeing on television. More ads, then a two-page spread on Lon Chaney, Junior’s 1952 appearance as the Frankenstein monster on the television series, Tales of Tomorrow, which like most early television was broadcast live. No mention is made, however, of Chaney being too far in his cups to realize it wasn’t a rehearsal. He was therefore very careful to not break any of the furniture he was supposed to, thinking it would be needed for the ‘real’ broadcast. Sort of diminished the verisimilitude, that.

A letters page, Monster Mail Call, and Headlines from Horrorsville finished up the editorial content and were followed by over twenty pages of ads for 8mm films, projectors on which to show said films, books, records, masks, decals, the first few issues of Creepy, knickknacks, gewgaws and various odds and ends. All the advertising indicated the goodies were to be ordered from Captain Company, Warren’s own distributor of the sundries sold throughout the issue, and every issue for the magazine’s run. The history of Captain Company will no doubt be told in a future installment.

That’s a pretty average issue, regardless of year. FM reprinted content constantly, so every article in this issue showed up in a later one. In the 1970s, Star Wars sort of took over, but you could always count on the monsters of yesterday filling in. I happened to be reading a much later issue containing an article on 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein reprinted from God-knows which earlier issue the first time I heard “Your Move” by progressive rock band Yes on the radio, in about 1971. To this day, I can’t hear the song without thinking about the movie, and vice versa. Funny how memory works, isn’t it?

I did meet Ackerman, once, in 1980. He was one of several guests at the Nashville science fiction convention that year, Kubla Khan Ate, with Stephen King being the main Guest of Honor. ‘Uncle Forry’ showed me the rings he was wearing, one that Lugosi wore in Dracula in 1931, the other worn by Karloff in The Mummy the next year. We had a nice chat about those films, and others then settled down to discuss silent films of all genres. It was one of those pleasant little interludes that occurred at cons in those days. One of many things I miss from my misspent youth. I did run into King, briefly, the last day of that convention. I spent considerably more time with him a few years later, at the 1983 DeepSouth Con in Knoxville. More on that later.

So, there it is. I do hope folks are enjoying these little excursions through my monstrous memories. Expect more next month, when the theme for the first part of April is religious horror. No idea as of yet what I’ll share about that topic, but I hope it will be interesting. Until, then, as always —

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Free Fiction: The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

Corpses make an odd sound when you step on them. Wet, crunchy. Funny, if you are really twisted. Not the case of Ronel, of course; for him, corpses weren’t more interesting than a piece of dogshit. He knew how that sounded but he didn’t care about it either.

Truths are something twisted themselves, they emphasize pragmatic facts that could crash against feelings. That was why soldiers like him needed to be practical. If your country needed or wanted, something, you bought it. And, if the inhabitants didn’t want to sell, you killed them. As simple as that, anything more complex is philosophical gibberish that makes you miss the opportunity of getting things.

He looked at the horizon, appreciating the orangish sun falling in the cloak of dead savages and their saurian mounts. That nameless island in the middle of the nameless ocean was full of them, like sewer rats, like infection in a wound and prejudices in women. He tidied up his bushy mustache. Yes, like a woman, he giggled. The inhabitants were a tribe of warrior women and emasculated men. Pretty pathetic if you asked Ronel. In the deep soggy jungle, they hid, fought and died. When you fight with bone swords and axes against muskets and blunderbusses it’s what tends to happen. They charged, and men shot and the beasts screamed and men shot again and they howled in terror, mount indistinguishable from rider. A beautiful symphony, monsters dying by the power of the civilization.

Later, men had raided their tribe. Just small children, cowardly males, crowns of fruit, rock and wooden temples full of plants, weird and smelly shit you could expect from savages. If Ronel didn’t burn them it was just because of fear that fire will eat the whole island before they got their reward. Maybe before leaving.

A savage made a hiss from the ground. She had a long scarlet wound all over her side, getting dirty her dark-green skin, almost amphibian. Her eyes were deep orange, shining, and certainly beautiful. Her legs were trapped by the head of an enormous bipedal feathery monster, with the sharp-teeth mouth wide open and the eyes looking at the rotting sky. The lips of the warrior were thin, almost nonexistent. She whispered words in a forgotten language. A soldier sunk his bayonet in her chest, ending her life.

They had killed them all. That was pretty impressive, especially considering women. They didn’t capture anyone, all dead, fighting until their black rotten souls fell to the hells. Just monsters, bloody stinky monsters all of them, but pretty tough ones. Ronel looked for his pipe. Just slimy irrational savages in a forgotten place. There were also dead from his side. Ronel was equidistant: he didn’t care about them either. Why should he? Soldiers die, that’s part of their job. Axes had removed parts of their skulls, impaled by spears of long reptilian bones, the guts out by an irregular cut. A bloody sacrifice. However, it had its rewards, he though, looking in front of him.

The white wood.

There was an immense tree over there, really tall and, especially, wide. The branches were like a hundred hands imploring the demons in the sky, the roots like a thousand tentacles of gods- who knew what kind of pelagic deity. Quite impressive. The amphibian whores adored it like a god. In front of him, all of them had died. A pretty worthless god, if you asked Ronel. They had been looking for that wood for ages, only sparse remains until now. That was, apparently, the only living one. A good reward for the blood spilled. The white wood was harsh to burn, both hard and flexible. His king will have the best warships in the world. And all thanks to him, to people like him. That’s how progress is achieved because blood is the favourite drink of the welfare god.

Then, someone interrupted his peace, smoking from his pipe after the glorious battle. A young one, surprisingly alive, claiming that the tree was hollow. Ronel raised an eyebrow. Nevertheless, and despite the desire of some public punishment to relax the troops after a won battle, the soldier was right. An enormous crack in the tree and, inside of it, only roots and blank spaces, like maggots in a corpse.

Ronel entered the first one through that natural tunnel, two soldiers behind him. It was a straight path, not too regular or wide, but a path nonetheless. Soon, gloom was around them. The walls felt like they were made of insects, of moving and mushy parts, things that crawled through you. Things that fed on your corpse. Or maybe they were too impatient for that. Maybe they could begin now and he will become a corpse, eventually.

Or maybe not, maybe that’s the destiny that Ronel couldn’t stop thinking of now. Dying without dying. Eternal life of the soul, jail of flesh and bone, eternal suffering. Like going through a hole in a tree, not alive or dead. It was the throat of a monster, something wet and hellish, warm and hungry.

They ended up in a wider space. Ronel did all he could to normalize his breath, so no one noticed his rising dread. In the center of the structure there was an irregular rock where the roots came from. He got closer.

Impossible. Senseless. Demented.

Then, from one of the many cracks, an eye looked back at him. Like a cosmic sentence from a monstrous trial. Like the end. Inhuman, immortal, unbearable eyes. Fathomless abyss from the stars.

Not a tree, just like a tree. A parasite. A monster. Something worse. A herald. A newborn god. He tried to shout, to warn that the savages weren’t praising him, but guarding it, that they shouldn’t touch it, shouldn’t move it.

His words were nothing more than the growling of a frothy mouth of a crazy man in the ground, killed for the respect of his figure.


Carlos Ruiz Santiago is a Spanish fantasy and horror writer with two published novels ( Salvación condenada and Peregrinos de Kataik) and a participation in the anthologies Dentro de un agujero de gusano, Mitos y Leyendas and Devoradoras. He is an editor of the website Dentro del Monolito. He has written for magazines, such as Morningside and Exocerebros. He also has content around cinema, with the podcast Pistoleros de Gilead and the blog La Horroteca de Darko. He also organize talks and workshops around cinema and literature in various libraries.

https://darkosaurvlogs.wixsite.com/carlosruizescritor

Monster Madness Month: Review of GROTESQUE : Monster Stories by Lee Murray

GROTESQUE: MONSTER STORIES 

A book review of Lee Murray’s Bram Stoker Award nominated collection

Reviewed by Renata Pavrey

“Generosity could be as contagious as the plague, as long as enough people were willing to be carriers”, is a quote that opens the book and sets the tone for the kind of writing one is in for. A collection of eleven tales narrated as flash fiction, short stories, and novelettes, Grotesque spans the horror landscape from mythological creatures to contemporary social media addictions, as the reader travels across France, China and New Zealand, meeting everyone from Maori warriors to zombies, spirits and sea gods and gods of earthquakes and volcanoes, Leonardo Da Vinci and Tangaroa, tin soldiers and kaiju. A taut collection I came across in a horror literature forum, the book is in equal parts thrilling, dark and educative, an action and horror fest, with layers of historical references and cultural influences.

The titular story opens the collection with an archaeological find transporting us to the 16th century to reveal its secret. As we move back and forth from the 1500s to present day, fantasy elements of horror merging with historical roots made Grotesque one of my favorite stories and a fabulous one to start the collection as it set the pace for what lay ahead. History is followed by mythology that serves to remind and educate about the stories of lore, as Hawaiki takes us through Chinese mythology, Taiwanese history, and the Maori immigration story; as does Maui’s Hook, another monster story with its foundations in Maori mythology. I love mythological retellings in literature as they teach you so much about different cultures around the world; legends and folklore containing treasures of life stories through the ages. The kaiju story was another one of my favorites.

The New Breed is a post-apocalyptic zombie story, while Cave Fever merges science fiction with horror through a two centuries-old storm that forces mankind to seek refuge underground into a claustrophobic cave existence. Selfie and Dead End Town are out-and-out horror fests. I loved Lee’s take on the millennial social media obsession with her twisted spin on selfies in the former, while addressing domestic violence in the latter. Edward’s Journal was another stunner of pure horror – an epistolary story of colonialism featuring a British soldier from India helping white settlers in New Zealand, while Heart Music takes us through the restless spirit of a fourteen-year-old dead child. Into the Clouded Sky is a novelette of adventures in New Zealand – a ride through action, thrills, and monsters all the way, and Lifeblood pits marginalized groups against each other to detract from their actual problems.

Every story offers a unique reading experience, and encourages you to read between the lines into the theme being expressed in each one. Grotesque is a splendid collection to note the range of the writer’s prowess in relaying stories across genres and themes, having relatable elements as well as something new to learn wherever in the world you might be reading the book. Lee’s dark and disturbing tales cover commonplace topics like clicking selfies, address issues like dementia and child abuse, and turn the spotlight on immigrants and grave robbers – causing the reader to ponder upon who the real monsters are. Grotesque is a collection filled with monsters, but through an array of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mythology and more, Lee reminds us that we have already encountered many monsters; with many more still to be met.

In an increasingly dark and ominous world, monster stories force us to challenge our fears. 

~Lee Murray

This book will delight horror fans and is a magnificent collection for those new to the genre to explore. I would also recommend it to readers of mythology – there’s much information to be gleaned about world cultures. The Maori glossary is a wonderful touch to familiarize readers with terms and phrases in the stories, although Lee does a splendid job in explaining them through the context of the story itself. Lee’s creations are out of this world and each one surprises in its own way. There’s an aftertaste that you could read an entire novel surrounding each plot.

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor with several novels and series to her credit. Grotesque is her first short story collection, which has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards this year in the category of collections.

My rating of the book: 5/5

Renata Pavrey

March 2021


Renata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion; driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

https://tomesandtales365.wordpress.com/Asian

 

Monster Madness Month: Historian if Horror/Fiends in the Funnies, Creatures in Comics

Fiends in the Funnies, Creatures in the Comics by Mark Orr

One of my fondest memories of my pre-literate childhood is of sitting on the couch with my dad after he got home from work, or after church on Sundays, and he would read me the comic strips from the newspaper. He did all the voices differently, with lots of drama and humor and everything you’d want in a comics reader. Li’l Abner and Kerry Drake, Miss Peach and Grandma, Jimmy Hatlo’s They’ll Do it Every Time are all long-gone and forgotten now. Blondie and Dick Tracy and Nancy are still around, but who reads newspapers anymore?

Dad is eighty-eight and thinking about moving into an assisted living facility, so those memories are very much on my mind these days. I roll them over and over on my mind’s tongue, savoring as many of the minutes as I can call up after almost sixty years.

One thing I don’t recall is that any of our regular favorite comic strips in either of the Nashville papers of that time were in the least monstrous or horrific. Since I started accumulating material for my vast amorphous history of horror project some years ago, of which this column is a manifestation, I have looked for expressions of horror in all possible media, and generally found an abundance in each one. Except in the syndicated newspaper comic strips.

Full disclosure: I have not subscribed to a printed newspaper in years. However, I do subscribe to a daily service that sends approximately seventy-five comics strips to my email box every day. Of those seventy-five, exactly one has the kind of themes or characters one most often thinks of as horror-related. Almost all of them are more-or-less the typical gag-a-day strips usually found these days. Day-to-day continuity lasting over weeks and months is virtually a thing of the past.

Once upon a time, though, a significant proportion of the comics page was taken up with extended storylines in strips in all the genres represented in the medium – humor, drama, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, war, romance, soap operas, even religion. And thanks to the internet, a huge amount of that material is available for the perusal of historians of those bygone years.

I belong to what used to be a Yahoo group before Yahoo did away with groups, that mines online newspaper archives and stacks of slowly disintegrating newspapers for comic strips and disseminates them to the membership. I receive a minimum of sixty or seventy old comics strips every day, usually closer to two hundred. Some days, long runs covering years or decades of one or more particular strips will show up, and that count goes up into thousands or even tens of thousands. Of all the titles I receive, the ones with even peripherally or occasional horrific content go into a separate file on one of my external hard drives. The list is not a long one. It begins with…

Dinosaurs

Okay, so, if Dinosaurus can be sort of classified as a monster picture, or Jurassic Park or The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms or The Giant Behemoth, then dinosaurs are monsters, right? They are monstrously big, and there are plenty you wouldn’t want to meet in person. Several strips have been set in that mythical period during which humans and dinosaurs ‘co-existed’.

Wink-wink-nudge-nudge. 

The first was Our Antediluvian Ancestors, which ran from 1901 to roughly 1906. It was created by prolific cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper for the Hearst Syndicate.

There are only two currently running that I know of. One is B.C., a gag-a-day strip that only occasionally features dinosaurs, and then only in service of a specific joke. B.C. premiered seven months and eight days before I did, in 1958. Created by Johnny Hart (1931-2007), who also created The Wizard of Id (see the section on dragons, below), it is currently being produced by Hart’s grandson, Mason Mastroianni. 

The longest-running dinosaur strip is Alley Oop, which debuted in 1932, three months and a day after my father. Are we seeing a trend here? Alley is a caveman who rides a brontosaurus named Dinny. In 1939, he and his girlfriend Ooola were snatched out of time and brought to the 20th Century by Professor Wonmugg’s time machine. I know of no one in my immediate or extended family born around that time. His subsequent adventures sent him all up and down the timeline, where (when?) he encountered ghosts and witches, among many other characters. In 1953 he found himself in the time of Macbeth as the events of Shakespeare’s play occurred, despite the play having little to do with the historical Macbeth.

Peter Piltdown was another anachronistic prehistoric comic strip, created by Mal Eaton. It ran from 1935 to 1946, then re-appeared in the pages of Boy’s Life Magazine in 1953 under the title of Rocky Stoneax. It lasted there until 1970. It was retitled because the Piltdown Man fossils had been found to be a hoax in the meantime, which is a whole ‘nother discussion I’ll save for later, if ever. Boy’s Life was produced by and for the Boy Scouts of America, so every Boomer boy who spent any time in Scouts likely ran across the strip. I remember it fondly, now that its original version has recently been among those I get via email from time to time.

Gary Larson’s The Far Side occasionally featured dinosaurs in his daily gags, usually observing the meteor about the wipe them out. They weren’t necessarily the focus of the strip, though, so that’s all I have to say about that.

Which of course leaves The Flintstones, although they began as a prime-time animated television series before appearing in newspaper syndication, as well as in comic books and other media. More dinosaurs used as props, generally, for the prehistoric antics of Fred and Barney and the gang.

One step up the monster ladder from dinosaurs would be, naturally, dragons. Dragons tend to pop up in strips set in Medieval times, along with witches and wizards and knights in shining armor. The aforementioned The Wizard of Id has been running since 1964. The dragon in that strip is the pet of the title character. 

In 1937, Hal Foster turned the art chores on the Tarzan comic strip over to Burne Hogarth. He then began what has consistently been the most beautifully drawn comic strip ever since, Prince Valiant. Appearing only as a full-color Sunday strip, it has been drawn by John Cullen Murphy since 1971. Foster also gave legendary comic book artists Wally Wood and Gray Morrow tryouts before giving it over to Murphy. More of a Medieval adventure strip, the occasional dragons tend to be more-or-less lizards of unusual size, rather than true fire-breathers.

Two years before Prince Valiant, writer William McCleery and artist Ralph Fuller debuted Oaky Doaks, a strip about a Medieval farmboy who makes his own suit of armor out of a tin roof and goes about rescuing damsels in distress and slaying the odd dragon in the process. The strip ran until 1961. 

Sir Bagby, created by brothers Rick and Bill Hackney, ran from 1957 to 1967. I’ve only got eighteen examples in my collection, but those few strips do include a polite but not altogether trustworthy dragon and a gryphon having an identity crisis.

There have been a number of science fiction comics strips with the occasional monster popping up like the saarlac in Return of the Jedi, but they weren’t really the focus of the strips. In this class we find Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Brick Bradford, Don Dixon and others, none of which warrant much more than a mention here. Worth looking at, but not particularly in this space.

Numerous comics strips have had the occasional spooky storyline, mostly ones that turn out to be less due to supernatural causes than the machinations of evil mortals. Oriental adventure strip character Ming Foo, who spouted more aphorisms in one strip than Charlie Chan managed in an entire movie, began life in 1934 as a ‘topper’ strip for the Little Annie Rooney Sunday page. Back in the days when Sunday comics were full page affairs instead of chopped up to fit five or six on one page, a secondary strip would often run at the top, over the main one, hence ‘topper’. Jungle Jim was the topper for Flash Gordon, Colonel Potterby for Blondie, and so forth. Ming Foo encountered a Mad Monster in 1940, a Sea of Mirthful Demons in 1941, and wandered about on the Graveyard Island in 1942. He vanished from the comics pages a year later.

In addition to his many years in the Saturday morning cartoon milieu, Bullwinkle enjoyed a few years as a daily comic strip. He spent a few months in 1963 in Transylvania, where everybody’s favorite moose encountered a Dr. Jekyll who looked suspiciously like Boris Karloff, Count Draculet, a ballet-dancing mummy, and a singing werewolf.

You would think that a comic strip about a character called The Phantom would have more supernatural content, but the Ghost Who Walks is no ghost. Rather, he was a generational hero whose costume and accouterments were passed down from father to son. He has faced the odd witch doctor since he was created in 1936 by Lee Falk, but that’s about it. His adventures are still appearing, and are even more popular in Australia, Scandinavia and India than in his home country.

Adaptations of popular books and stories in the daily comics were a fairly regular occurrence in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. I have three separate adaptations of the classic Charles Dickens ghost story, A Christmas Carol, from 1937, 1950 and 1957. A strip called Famous Fiction adapted a couple of Edgar Allen Poe tales, “The Gold Bug” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, in the early 1940s. I’m sure there were others I have yet to track down.

There was a whole class of single panel comics during the Golden Age of Hollywood that were basically promotional strips for the studios, featuring the odd hobbies of the stars or hints that you really, really need to get out and see this or that movie when it comes around to your town. Horror movie stars such as Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney or Bela Lugosi were occasionally mentioned, which is just enough horror content to justify this paragraph. The titles of these strips included Closeup and Comedy, Private Lives and Seein’ Stars

And now, we’re down to the four strips that can honestly be considered horror, that are truly inhabited, from beginning to end, top to bottom, side to side by monsters. The peripherals and occasionals are dealt with, and we’re left with these favored few. Over one hundred and twenty-five years of comic strip history, and this is what it boils down to. 

And three of them are humorous.

Maybe the comic strip medium simply isn’t suitable for sustaining the tension of the genre. Perhaps three panels a day and a Sunday page just won’t bear the weight of true fright. Perhaps. Regardless, here they are:

Barnaby

Before creating the classic children’s book, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson came up with one of the great comic strips of all time. Barnaby was a five-year-old child who wished for a fairy godmother. What he got was a cigar smoking and rarely competent fairy godfather named Jackeen J. O’Malley. Their whimsical adventures meandered through plots involving standard issues of the day like scrap metal drives and victory gardens, but also ogres, gorgons, witches and wizards, and of course, Gus the Ghost. Never a success, Barnaby limped along from 1942 to 1952, never appearing in more than fifty-two newspapers. Still, Dorothy Parker loved it. There have been several reprints of the strip since 1943, when Holt issued two hardback volumes, both of which occupy honored places in my library. Fantagraphic Books has issued four volumes of a projected five-volume set of reprints covering the entire run. A play based on the characters was written and produced in 1946. It was adapted to television in 1959, starring Ron Howard as Barnaby and former Cowardly Lion Bert Lahr as Mr. O’Malley. 

Broom-Hilda

Russ Myers’ 1970 creation is still running. The title character is an alcoholic, cigar-smoking witch whose best friend is a troll. There’s a monster in a cave named Grelber who insults anyone foolish enough to get close to him. It’s a gag-a-day about these monsters and a few other beings. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it’s not scary. Moving on.

Scary Gary

Gary is a vampire who has retired to suburbia with his demonic henchman, Leonard, a bedsheet-clad ghost named Owen, and a severed head in a jar named Travis. There’s also a zombie baby wandering around the neighborhood in one of those circular walker things all my grandkids had. Don’t try to tickle that baby. You’ll draw back a nub. It’s a gag-a-day, usually involving Leonard being horrible to anyone in reach, Owen whining about being dead or Travis wishing he still had limbs. Scary Gary was created by Mark Buford in 2008. It’s one of the seventy-five strips I get every morning in my email, and usually, the first one I read.

Dark Shadows

Finally, a serious comic strip with real continuity, starring daytime soap opera vampire Barnabas Collins. It was drawn by long-time comic book and comic strip artist Ken Bald under the penname Ken Bruce to avoid confusion with the other strip he was doing at the time, Dr. Kildare. Because those were so much alike. Dark Shadows had already been adapted to a Gold Key comic book that lasted thirty-five issues, and a long series of gothic romance novels by Marilyn Ross, who was actually William Edward Daniel Ross, because nobody would buy a gothic romance by a man in those days. Bald’s work on the newspaper version was beautifully done, a significant improvement over the comic books drawn by Joe Certa. 

Which was probably why the strip lasted, oh, let me see…

A year. A YEAR? Seriously? One measly year?!?!?

‘Fraid so. March 14th, 1971 to March 11, 1972. That’s it. That’s all we get of the only truly horrific monster-populated comic strip ever created in the century and a quarter of the existence of the art form. Unless I’ve missed one, which is possible. If I have, please let me know in the comments.

Maybe we’ll have another one, someday, if the medium survives. We can only hope. In the meantime, as always…

Oh, one last thing: the article in the link below came to me too late for Women in Horror month, so I’ll just leave it here and let the populace peruse it at will. 

https://www.the-screening-space.com/movie-tv-musings/wihm-elsa-lanchester-and-9-classic-film-actresses-of-horror

What was I saying before I interrupted myself? Oh, yeah. 

As always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

 

March is Monster Madness Month!

We here at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to celebrate those things real or imaginary that creep into the back of your mind and hang in your dreams. The beast in the forest, the rattling thing under the bed, the scratcher at the window. Creatures, behemoths, demons, and denizens of the dark are our subject for this month!

To get us started today, we asked some of our staff to give us an idea of what MONSTERS scare them.

Here are just a few:

  • Emerian Rich , Creator/Owner/Publisher/Hostess of all things HorrorAddicts:

“Banshees scare me the most. I don’t know if it has to do with a video game I played a few years ago that I couldn’t get past the scary banshee girl or if it’s the thought of something standing in my path, screeching so loud and horribly that I can’t concentrate to figure out a way out. They also seem scarier than ghosts and like they might be made of ice and might be able to suck out your soul, like the Dementors do on Harry Potter. They freak me out!”

  • R.L. Merrill, Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs Blogger:

“I know it’s silly but zombies scare the shit out of me. The thought of slowly being eaten alive terrifies me!”

  • Lionel Ray Green, The Bigfoot Files Blogger:

“Inbred redneck hillbilly cannibals in the woods scare me. There’s just something about their horrendous killing methods and reckless abandon on unsuspecting folks that’s just so terrifying. I think they horrify me the most because they’re humans, and and they could be out there.”

We will share more as the Monster Madness continues, but we would love to hear from you! Tell us about your monster fears in the comments below.

Historian of Horror : Here Be Monsters!

Here Be Monsters by Mark Orr

So, read the edges of maps in the Age of Discovery, that period when Europeans wandered around the planet, snatching up lands and property and natural resources from indigenous peoples, to designate those areas into which they had not yet ventured. They feared what was there, but coveted the treasures they suspected would be found in those unexplored and unexploited regions. That’s where the monsters were, they thought, never realizing that they themselves were the monsters. 

Isn’t that how it goes? The peril in staring so long into the abyss, according to Nietzsche, is that the abyss stares back into us. We become what we fear if we’re not careful. Alas, we are not very often a careful species. As Pogo Possum pointed out in the 1950s, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

And so, off the edge of the map, we sail, in search of treasures. And, in the case of the horror genre, monsters. For what would horror be without monsters?

The easy answer is, it would be suspense. There’s nothing wrong with suspense, as a genre. In many of its respects, it is very much like horror. It relies on many of the same tropes and tricks as horror. It’s just not what we’re are gathered here together to talk about. And, therefore, we must needs talk about monsters.

We love them, we hate them. We fear them, we pity them. We jump when they suddenly appear, we weep when they fall off of the Empire State Building. They are the primary and most reliable delivery system for le frisson, that delicious shiver we’re all looking for in our horror diet. That transient, delightful, cathartic physical sensation we feel when fangs pierce flesh when the mask is ripped away from the Phantom’s hideous face when clawed fingers emerge from the darkened room on the other side of the slowly opening door. The goosebumps, the dilation of the pupils, the quickening of the breath as we eagerly and, let’s admit it, sadistically anticipate the gruesome demise of some unfortunate nonentity.

Who’s the monster now?

More importantly, what is a monster?

The word comes from the Latin monstrum, from an earlier word that meant a warning or omen, often of evil events raining down upon humanity from the gods themselves. As applied to the manifestations of those warnings, it refers to beings that are disfigured or distorted in body or mind, the unnatural and the supernatural, those that are both outsized and outside the norm in other ways. In other words, those that we readily identify in our own culture as monsters. 

Fritz Leiber, Jr. is more renowned for his fantasy than for his horror, having coined the term ‘sword and sorcery’ in 1961 and being arguably its most adept practitioner over the bulk of his nearly sixty-year career, but he wrote quite a few tales of terror and one major novel in the genre, Conjure Wife. He also won five Hugo Awards for science-fiction, but that’s even more neither here nor there than the fantasy. It’s horror we’re after! And I do plan to cover the estimable Mr. Leiber and his novel in more detail later, so don’t worry that you’ve inadvertently skipped a page or something, or that I’ve gotten you turned around or otherwise lost in the narrative. All shall be revealed at a later date.

Anyhow, in 1974, DAW Books published The Book of Fritz Leiber, for which he wrote a short essay entitled, “Monsters and Monster-Lovers”. Over the course of thirteen pages – and how fitting is that? – Leiber explicated his understanding of what a monster is, whence comes our fascination with them, and how does one go about most effectively creating them and using them to summon that frisson I mentioned earlier. Along the way, he lists some of his favorites, all of whom I intend to expound upon in future entries herein. Lovecraftian menaces from the outer darknesses, creatures of folklore and science fiction, giant apes and shapeshifters and even poor old Richard III, all will have their say in this space. Feeling that shiver of anticipation yet?

No? Then let me introduce you to legendary anthologist Peter Haining, who included in his 1988 collection, Movie Monsters: Great Horror Film Stories, a prologue by the late great Ray Bradbury. In “Inviting Frankenstein into the Parlour”,  Bradbury covered much of the same ground Leiber had fourteen years earlier, with some additions. Including Vertigo, of all things. He made a fairly good case for a third Hitchcock horror film, along with Psycho and The Birds. I expect I’ll take a look at that one of these days, as well. It’s too soon to mark your calendars, but don’t be surprised when it pops up.

Haining himself deserves a lengthy entry or two, along with other great gatherers of literary horrors like Richard Dalby, Donald A. Wollheim, August Derleth, Marvin Kaye, Christine Bernard, Dennis Wheatley, Gerald Page, Herbert Van Thal, and Charles Birkin. That and more will be forthcoming in times to come, along with so much more. But for now, the central question remains:

Why monsters? What is it about the disfigured, the deformed, the gigantic and the unnatural that draws us into their world, time and again? Is it some deep-seated need to exorcise our fears, or tap into the collective unconscious, or connect with the like-minded, or some other intense but subcutaneous psychological need? 

Or is it simply that monsters are fun?

Yeah. I think that’s it. Don’t you?

I came along at the tail-end of that first generation to be inundated by the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s when Universal and other studios realized they had a gold mine and dumped their catalogs onto local television stations all over the United States. I was too young to stay up late on weekend nights to watch Shock Theater or whatever it was called in Nashville, but there were frequent appearance by Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and their myriad fellow denizens of the night on our local stations during the hours when I was awake. I, like a few million other boomer kids, scheduled my playtime around movie presentations like the Big Show, which came on right after Dark Shadows and had at least one classic horror film a week. Or I’d crawl out of bed at five o’clock on a Saturday morning to catch Son of Frankenstein or The Mummy’s Curse on Night Owl Theater, before settling in with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and a morning filled with cartoons. The Universal horror films were rarely much more than an hour in length, so once commercials were spliced in, they fit very nicely into the ninety-minute slot allotted to them. I’ve always suspected that was why it was that horror movies were so widely distributed on television, and thus one of the first entire classes of films largely preserved for future generations. Thank the Elder Gods for ninety-minute time slots.

Kids today are accustomed to massive promotional campaigns for pretty much anything that shows up on TV or in the movies, but that was a fairly new phenomenon in the early 1960s. There had been such campaigns in the 1950s for TV cowboys and such, but they were very specific. Hopalong Cassidy was the first, and Davy Crockett the most extensive, but those were before my time. My earliest memories of advertising premiums were the action figures from the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, that several of my fellow second-graders had, or the lunch-boxes decorated with pictures of popular TV and movie characters. Those, and all the monster stuff. And what monster stuff we had! 

My parents frequently shopped at the old Sears store on Lafayette Street in Nashville. That building is now the Union Rescue Mission, but when I was a kid, when you came in through the garden department, you emerged into a magical world. Toys as far as you could see, and to your right a display of Matchbox Cars, back when they were actually packaged in matchbox-sized cardboard containers. Hence the name. Just beyond those was the real treasure trove, a long wall filled with plastic models, including the Aurora Monster kits. Frankenstein. The Mummy. Godzilla. Dracula’s Dragster. The Bride of Frankenstein. I built them all, at one time or another. There were monster wallets, too. I had one with the Phantom of the Opera on one side and the Wolf Man on the other. Didn’t have any money to put in it, though. My allowance was fifty cents a week, which barely covered a few comic books and some baseball cards and the occasional paperback or Whitman hardback or Big Little Book. But I had the wallet! And I had a Thingmaker, with metal molds you filled up with Plastigoop and baked in the little oven until Creepy Crawlers emerged that you could throw at your little sister and freak her out.

Best of all, when you could find one, were the issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Articles on all the old horror films, and news of upcoming ones, with lots of pictures and groan-inducing puns. The thirty-five-cent cover price took up most of my allowance, cutting into my comic book collecting, but it was worth it to read Forrest J. Ackerman’s deathless prose about Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre and peruse the ads in the back for Don Post monster masks and 8mm films of old horror movies and real-life venus flytraps and record albums of scary stories and all the other goodies for sale to those whose allowance was more generous than mine.

All of which I intend to examine in some detail in installments yet to come, along with all the other spooky goodies I’ve read and seen and heard and otherwise accumulated in the decades since then. Hang around and travel down my memory lane with me into dark corners of horror you might not have ever suspected existed, and meet some monsters you might not have encountered yet. 

It should be fun. Because, yeah, monsters are fun.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: Five Blood Drinking Monster Myths from Around the World

There’s something about blood that captures the horror imagination. Maybe it’s the rich, red hue. Maybe it’s the way it oozes and flows. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that we need it to survive. No matter the reason, cultures all over the world recognize the importance of blood and consequently have legends about the witches, demons, and monsters that steal it. It’s time to think beyond the Vampire.

Peuchen – Chile

The Peuchen is a shape-shifting creature from the legends of the Mapuche people. Commonly, it’s described as a giant serpent. This snake can fly and makes whistling sounds as it travels through the air. The gaze of the Peuchen is said to paralyze the victim, allowing the snake to coil around them, pierce their neck with its fangs, and drain them of blood.

Baobhan Sith – Scottish Highlands

The baobhan sith are said to be beautiful women who lure young men to their deaths by inviting them to dance. They may hunt in packs. Once the men they seduce have their guards down, the baobhan sith puncture their necks with their fingernails and drain them of blood. Legend states that to stop one of these creatures, you must build a mound of stones over their graves to prevent them from rising.

Asanbosam – West Africa

The Ashanti people of Ghana tell of the Asanbosam, a creature that lives in the canopy of the rain forests. The Asanbosam is hairy, with blood-shot eyes and iron teeth. Their long, dangling legs end in sharp iron hooks. The Asanbosam uses these hooks to grab victims that pass underneath and drag them into the trees. If you travel through the forests of Ghana, you may hear the metallic sound of the creature sharpening its hooks.

Soucouyant – Caribbean Islands

The soucouyant appears in many places throughout the Caribbean. She appears as an old woman but strips off her skin at night to prowl for victims in the form of a fireball. She sucks the blood from sleeping people. If she takes too much, the victim may die and the soucouyant will take her skin for herself. Similar to many European myths, if the soucouyant comes across spilled rice, they will feel compelled to gather every grain.

Penanggalan – Malaysia

The Penanggalan appears as a beautiful woman by day, but by night, she swoops through the skies as a disembodied head and dangling entrails. The penanggalan seeks out women in labor. When the child is born, she swoops into the room to drink the afterbirth and scoops the baby up with her long tongue. Those who fall victim to the penanggalan waste away slowly.

Do you have a favorite myth about blood sucking fiends? Or have you had a spooky encounter? Let us know in the comments!

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Uncommon Monsters that Deserve a Movie

I love monsters. Demons, vampires, werewolves, giant atom-bomb lizards, scientific monstrosities, supernatural entities… you name it, I love it (except zombies, but we won’t get into that here). I’ll gleefully watch every Hammer Horror movie and sit through a thousand Universal monster marathons.

But, given the deep wealth of urban legends and cultural mythologies from around the world, is this really the best we can do? Endless remakes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy?

It’s time to branch out.

See below for five monsters that deserve their own block buster franchise:

1. Jorogumo

Jorogumo is a Japanese spider creature that can shapeshift into a beautiful woman. Japanese folklore is filled to the brim with fascinating monsters of all shapes and sizes and Japanese filmmakers have made films that scared the pants off us for decades (The Ring and The Grudge, anyone?). I’m imagining a tense thriller about young newlyweds, one with a dark secret… but it’s best to leave this to the professionals.

2. Cuca

The Cuca is a Brazilian mythological being taking the form of an old witch with an alligator face and hawk-like claws. She is known to steal children (especially naughty ones). Given the fantastic history of Brazilian cinema, I would love to see a tense, artsy film that brings home another Oscar for horror fans.

3. Bouda

Say it with me now: were-hyenas. That moniker really doesn’t do this African creature justice. The Bouda legend takes different forms depending on where exactly it comes from (it’s common in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Near East). Regardless, humans turning into animals is rich fodder for all kinds of horror and we could all do with a break from the clichés of yet another werewolf movie.

4. Dzoavits

Dzoavits is an ogre from Native American (specifically Shoshonean) folklore. He is known for stealing and eating children. While this legend doesn’t have a wealth of stories to draw from, the premise alone is spooky enough for me to greenlight it.

5. Drop Bear

The drop bear is a larger, carnivorous cousin to the koala. Luckily, it’s not real, but is actually an Australian hoax designed to scare tourists. Australia is a nightmare country. Scientists are always discovering new and exciting ways for the wildlife to kill you. So, who’s to say this tourist-scaring cryptid isn’t waiting in the branches above. Just waiting… to drop.

That’s my top five list for new monster movies! What would you like to see?

Odds and Dead Ends : Scaring Ourselves Silly | Monsters and the Uncanny Valley

We all love a good monster. Be it Godzilla or King Kong, werewolves or cenobites, we can’t get enough of them. Guillermo Del Toro has made a living out of them, and nobody in their right mind would begrudge him that. But when we think of being scared, perhaps what touches the nerves more than anything else are not the big, lumbering beasts towering above us. It’s those fiends that come close to being human, just one step away from actually being us.

This concept is known in the field of robotics as the ‘uncanny valley’. Coined initially by Masahiro Mori, the basic idea of it is that there is a distinct, graph-able curve in people’s emotional responses to the verisimilitude of a robot to people. Essentially, when you start to make a robot look like a person, people view it more favourably. Then, suddenly, as you keep going, there’s a point where it’s not completely robotic, but not completely human, and it’s in this stage when we have a strong feeling of revulsion or disgust. When it gets close to being indistinguishable from us, it becomes so lifelike that we view it favourably again. This dip into disgust is the uncanny valley.

The theory of the uncanny itself was used by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay The Uncanny as a way to explain why we’re so creeped out by dolls and waxwork figures and the likes. He goes back to the original German for uncanny, unheimlich, and its roots in the word heimlich which roughly means to conceal or hide. He proposes that we find something uncanny because it is a revealing of social taboos and ideas which we try to hide in everyday life. This eventually gets linked on to concepts of the id and the subconscious, which is really the subject for another article altogether.

But what does all of this mean for our monsters? How can we link these concepts together in a way that impacts our understanding of our favourite horror villains?

Well perhaps this doesn’t apply for the big Kaiju as such, but maybe it helps explain why we’re still chilled by vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. The brain sees their general shape and recognises them as human, or at least, very human-like. Yet there’s always something just a little bit off, be it the pallor of their skin, or the sharp claws or teeth, which sets them apart and makes them disturbing to us. Going back to Del Toro, think of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s got a recognisably human shape (based off Saturn in the painting Saturn Devouring His Sun by Francisco Goya), but with the skin stretched over the frame, the nostrils flared with no bridge, claw-like talons, and eyes in his hands. He’s started off human but been warped.

Even cursed or possessed dolls have something off about them; the animation of a human avatar is almost the very concept of the uncanny valley, with the robot being substituted for a doll, but the basic principle remaining. Toys are essentially us, preserved in miniature, and when they rise up against us, the human part of their design strikes a chord with us.

This is perhaps why we find masked killers a distressing concept. The shape is human, and the mask is human-like, but it doesn’t change, and as humans learn to see the face as the main projector of emotion when it doesn’t alter during extreme acts of violence, we slip down the slope of the valley. Masks such as those belonging to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, fairly blank and devoid of emotion, would, therefore, represent something uncanny. Also very often the mask represents a demon or spirit (thinking of films such as Onibaba or Scream) which conjures up concepts of possession by an unseen force. This might explain why we’re so focused on the killer’s mask in these films, because they are themselves imbued with that uncanny quality which makes them memorable beyond the killer behind them.

Think of the Scream franchise, where the mask comes to represent something much deeper, a force of evil in itself. When you see someone without the mask, they’re normal, but as soon as the face is obscured, they become terrifying, a body for the murderous will of the mask. And the mask and the murderous intent has the power to transfer its ownership from one person to another, like a spirit darting in and out of its possessed victims. Even think of the numerous killers that take on Jigsaw’s role in the Saw films. As soon as you come into possession of Billy, leading the charge of the traps, you become Jigsaw, the embodiment of John Kramer and his will to put people to the test of their drive to survive. We dip from being too human to being something slightly removed.

The idea of the uncanny valley even feeds into ghosts. Think of Kayako and Toshio from the Ju-on films. Though it sounds funny, how many of us were deeply disturbed when Toshio, a pale little boy, opened his mouth and meowed? When Kayako came crawling down the stairs, her throat croaking like a door very slowly opening? This concept of uncanniness transfers over to the sounds we make, affecting us when someone’s voice is not what it should be. This is something obviously well known to anyone who has watched The Exorcist in their time.

And so whilst the big monsters from The Ritual and Cloverfield might scare us, they don’t get anywhere close to instilling that distinct feeling of unease which those humanoid villains which nestle in the uncanny valley have the ability to do. When vampires flash their fangs, with blood in their eyes, we see something hiding inside the human form. When we see Schwarzenegger doing his own repairs in The Terminator, we find lines between humanity and inhumanity blurred. From now on, he looks just like us, but we know he isn’t.

And when we transfer over to imitation narratives such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers, suddenly we’re even more scared, because any one of us could be them. Now the uncanny transfers into paranoia, and we have to rely on looking out for the uncanny to alert us to danger. We have to fall back on something terrifying to keep us calm. In a way, we hope for something uncanny to confirm our fears. And that, more than anything, is scary.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.

Finney, J., 2010. The Body Snatchers. Great Britain: Orion Publishing.

Freud, S., McLintock, D. & Haughton, H., 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.

Friday the 13th. 1980. [Film] Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Unites States of America: Georgetown Productions Inc.

Godzilla. 1954. [Film] Directed by Ishiro Honda. Japan: Toho.

Goya, F., 1819 – 1823. Saturn Devouring His Son. [Art] (Museo del Prado).

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.

King Kong. 1933. [Film] Directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. USA: RKO Pictures Inc..

Onibaba. 1964. [Film] Directed by Kaneto Shindo. Japan: Kindai Eiga Kyokai.

Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. [Film] Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Spain: Telecinco Cinema.

Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.

The Ritual. 2017. [Film] Directed by David Bruckner. UK: The Imaginarium.

The Terminator. 1984. [Film] Directed by James Cameron. United States of America: Hemdale.

 

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: The Head Hunter

Plotline: A medieval warrior’s gruesome collection of heads is missing only one – the monster that killed his daughter years ago.

Who would like it: Fans of sword and sorcery, folklore, vengeance. monsters, mythology and movies about men setting off on quests.   

High Points: The fight scenes. For all of them except the last one is shot in a way that invokes your imagination and unlike Conan the Barbarian or any other Knight in Shinning Armor that goes off to fight all the horrors after each battle he returns injured, making the next battle all the more perilous. 

Complaints: Some of the personal choices he is making, giving the things that he is doing monster hunting, doesn’t make sense and could have prevented his ultimate peril. Another complaint I have is about the potions and elixirs, there is a scene in the movie where he seems surprised about what one of his own concoctions is capable of and with as much time he spends creating them and what he is using them for it just seems unlikely that he wouldn’t know what it would do.    

Overall: I liked it and I think you will too

Stars: 3 1/2 Stars

Where I watched it: VOD

 

***

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyer miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Press Release: The Sequels

Fanbase Press is thrilled to announce that the upcoming trade paperback of its four-issue series, The Sequels, will feature a foreword written by Andre Gower (The Monster Squad, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary).  The team is also revealing the brand new trade paperback cover, featuring the combined artwork of series cover artist Don Aguillo and interior artists/colorists Val Halvorson and Bobby Timony!

The Sequels is a creator-owned series that – in the height of ‘80s nostalgia – dares to question whether our grasp on the past is endangering our future.  It is written by Norm Harper (Eisner Award-nominated Rikki, The Naughty List) illustrated and colored by Val Halvorson and Harvey Award-nominated Bobby Timony (The Night Owls, The Simpsons), flatted by Deanna Poppe, lettered by Oceano Ransford (A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch, Eisner Award-nominated Rikki), and features cover art by Don Aguillo (Rise, Winter, Isugid Pinoy!).

“We’re extremely honored to have Andre’s contribution to the collected trade paperback,” says Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon.  “Given the thoughtful examination of nostalgia in The Sequels, Andre’s unique perspective and incredible impact to our collective nostalgia for the ‘80s make his contribution truly special.”

Series Synopsis:

Remember the ‘80s? Avery, Gwen, Russell, and Dakota will never forget.  As children, they each experienced unique adventures . . . saving the life of a sentient robot, partying with an intergalactic alien, battling the likes of vampires and werewolves, and defeating a nightmarish monster to protect imagination itself.  Now, 30 years later, they’re directionless adults, still obsessed with their pasts. When a mysterious figure brings the group together to cope with their experiences, will they be prepared to live out the “sequels” to their childhood adventures?

Issues #1-4 of the comic book series are being released digitally through ComiXology, and the series’ collected trade paperback will be released on July 22, 2019The Sequels trade paperback is currently available for pre-order at www.TheSequelsComic.com and through the Fanbase Press website (www.fanbasepress.com).  Pre-orders made by May 1, 2019, will receive an exclusive set of prints (representing each of the four covers) illustrated by Don Aguillo and signed by the entire creative team.

Founded in 2010, Fanbase Press celebrates fandoms and creates new ones! As a comic book publisher and geek culture website, Fanbase Press produces new and distinctive works, as well as daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts, that span the pop culture spectrum and give voice to the themes, ideals, and people that make geekdom so exceptional.

Fanbase Press’ previous titles – including the 2018 Eisner Award-nominated Quince, the 2019 IPPY Award-winning A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space, the 2014 Bram Stoker Award-nominated Fearworms: Selected Poems, The Margins, Hero Hotel, The Gamma Gals, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums – are available online at www.fanbasepress.com and on Amazon, as well as digitally through ComiXology.

As a special note, Andre Gower’s latest project, Wolfman’s Got Nards – A Documentary, explores the relationship a dedicated audience (including celebrities and filmmakers) has with The Monster Squad. This documentary takes an in-depth look into the film’s conception, response, cult status, and revival. Through interviews with the cast, crew, screenwriters, directors, academics, and original reviewers, as well as through never-before-seen footage, it turns the lens on an audience of self-proclaimed misfits who have kept The Monster Squad alive for more than thirty years.  More information may be found at www.thesquaddoc.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@thesquaddoc).

Book Review: Monsters of Any Kind , edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti

We see plenty of serial killers and psychopaths here at HorrorAddicts.net. Some call them monsters. Yet, evil though they are, they are still only human. What of the truly monstrous? the grotesque? the abominable? the creatures that defy not only nature but Heaven and Hell as well?

Monsters of Any Kind—published by Independent Legions Publishing and edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti—brings you tales of creatures that slither and writhe and go bump in the night. Whether they’re good, evil, or… otherwise, they’re sure to terrify. Prepare yourself for stories of real monsters.

Monsters of Any Kind presents a diverse collection of stories, each prominently featuring a monster, some from folklore and some the product of pure imagination (terrifying as that must be for the author). Each story takes a different variation on the theme, bringing surprises and delights with each turn of the page.

Perpetual Antimony by Cody Goodfellow – Goodfellow introduces a fascinating concept that explores the limits of human potential and what may drive a person to forsake humanity altogether.

The Thing Too Hideous to Describe by David J. Schow – This tale of a monster and the researcher who wants to study him takes a humorous approach to the theme. Still, this is a horror anthology and the ending is… well, you’ll see.

Silt and Bone by Jess Landry – Jess Landry (a contestant from the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest) is a master of imagery and creates one of the most vivid descriptions in a stand out book. The story is atmospheric and chilling. The horror of natural disaster, personal repercussions, and things beyond this world combine to make this a gripping experience.

Sucklings by Lucy Taylor – This story of grisly small-town murders and a monster that wears many faces explores whether you can truly trust your loved ones.

We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry – Maberry’s noir-style werewolf story is my favorite of the anthology and I can only hope that we will see more of this as a novel or serial.

Brodkin’s Demesne by Michael Gray Baughan – In this story, a couple moves to an isolated country home, where the ever-present drone of cicadas belies something more sinister. Baughan creates a slow build of terror and his violent imagery stuck with me long after reading.

Sealed with a Kiss by Owl Goingback – A man’s car breaks down as the world literally goes to hell around him. Sealed with a Kiss is clever and well written with a tongue in cheek take on horror.

The Other Side of Semicolons by Michael Bailey – A girl explores the twisted dimensions on the other side of a mysterious symbol in her room. Bailey writes a tale of psychological terror that explores what could be. The visions draw you in and create a sense of dread that isn’t easy to shake.

Bad Hair Day by Greg Sisco – What would you do for vanity? Bad Hair Day is an exquisite work of horror edged with science fiction that I would not be surprised to see listed as a classic of the genre.

Midnight Hobo by Ramsey Campbell – A lurking form haunts Roy at home and at work, slowly driving him mad. Campbell has a talent for grounding his horror in the mundane and leaving just the right amount of description to the reader’s imagination.

Noverim Te by Santiago Eximeno – Tourists gather in a small town where a god goes to sleep every year. Eximeno blends ancient superstition with modern behavior in this exquisite concept.

The Dive by Mark Alan Miller – One night, Al finally gets everything he wants, but he’ll be lucky to escape with his life. A fusion of humor, horror, and adventure, The Dive is an excellent piece of fiction that will leave you feeling a little more grateful for what you have.

Mammy and the Flies by Bruce Boston – What happens when neglect and abuse turn someone strange into something horrifying? The small scale and sheer intensity of Mammy and the Flies made this story delightful. Boston’s emotional writing blew me away.

Old Sly by Gregory L. Norris – Norris’ story has a foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House, with a twist that will make you question whether you really want to inherit a fortune from a distant relative.

The Last Wintergirl by Damien Angelica Walters – Mythical Wintergirls fall prey to the boys of the village while they slumber. The boys think nothing of the terrible retribution they’ll face… but they should. The Last Wintergirl is a chilling tale of human evil and monstrous revenge. Walters creates an intricate mythology that would make a great novel.

The City of Sixes by Edward Lee – By far the most graphically grotesque of the collection, Lee’s story of literal Hell is somehow more horrific than you can possibly imagine.

Crisis of Faith by Monica J. O’Rourke – A spiritual seeker finally finds what he’s looking for; a real-life demon. O’Rourke’s description of torture and the psychological effects is incredible.

Cracker Creek by Erinn L. Kemper – A town scandal becomes something more sinister when newly born babies aren’t what they seem. Kemper creates a gripping story, well written and perfectly paced.

Presented along with the text are incredible illustrations by Stefano Cardoselli. The art never gives away the story, but adds to it, especially once you know all the twists and turns.

Whether you enjoy gruesome violence, psychological terror, existential dread, or the humorous side of horror, you’ll find a story to suit your taste among the offerings in Monsters of Any Kind.

Magazine Review: Encyclopedia of Horror

Want a nice, high-quality magazine, full-gloss with no advertisements? Then the Encyclopedia of Horror is for you.

The art is beautiful and the style is just what any horror addict would want to see with shots of their favorite actors, bloody handprints, and blood seeping from the corners.

There is tons of stuff to love in this magazine, but a few of my favorites are:

“Long in the Tooth: A brief history of Dracula and a host of other vampires.” This article does talk about Dracula but then explores how the myth came about. It touches on Byron, Polidori, and Sheridan LeFanu, the author of Carmilla. They also mention The Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, and cover all the vampire film adaptations from Dracula and Dark Shadows to Twilight and True Blood. With ten full-color pages of my favorite monster, it was hard not to love it out of the gate.

There are also in-depth articles on Frankenstein’s monster, The Exorcist, and great authors who bring our monsters to life. Like any self-respecting horror expose they have a top-10 Scream Queen list as well as a top 13 list of terror movies. One of the most interesting articles with something I haven’t seen before in print was about new horror creators highlighting Blumhouse, Jordan Peele, and the new IT.

Covering everything from aliens and psycho killers to vampires, werewolves, and zombies, this is a magazine you have to own. In fact, the only area of horror I saw missing was music. Perhaps they can add that in next time. The “Timeline of Terror” was especially visually stimulating, putting all of our movies in perspective from the 1920s to today.

Now, where can you get this awesome magazine full of our favorite subject? Well, you can’t order it online, but it is supposed to be in stores until December 31st, so run out and get one while they still last. If you aren’t near a store that stocks it, I’ve seen a few on eBay, but you got to act fast.

This was an exciting experience to review the Encyclopedia of Horror and I look forward to seeing what this creative team does in the future.

Book Review: The Dark is Full of Monsters by Edward P. Cardillo

Review – The Dark is Full of Monsters by Edward P. Cardillo

By Chantal Boudreau

I love horror with monsters, supernatural…mutant…human monsters–it doesn’t matter–so I dove into this book really hoping I would enjoy it.  The premise did intrigue me–a ragtag group of inhabitants from a sleepy little town venture into the woods seeking a local urban legend cryptoid monster after a series of strange occurrences including a close encounter with the monster and the kidnapping of a neighborhood boy.  It had the makings of a good story.

Unfortunately, while it had a lot to offer, it didn’t quite hit the mark with me, but it might work for other readers out there.  I found character intro and development a little thin and that’s the most important aspect for me in a book.  The writing style was at times repetitive (for example far too many of the paragraphs began with a character name or pronoun–I was yearning for a few transitional words) and lacking in focus.

It did have its strong points too, though.  The monster was sufficiently novel and gruesome, offering up some chills.  The dialogue was entertaining and quite funny in places (I had to laugh at things like the word “citiots”).  I also think it had a good feel for its setting.  I suspect the author based it on somewhere familiar and captured that concretely in the story.  It reminded me a little of the place where I grew up.  If these are things that appeal to you as a reader, this book might just be for you.

While I think the book had an interesting concept and some good scares, it fell a tad short, so this one rated a three out of five for me.

David’s Haunted Library: Drive-In Creature Feature

Soda? check, Popcorn? check, Blankets? check. These are some of the things you might need if you are going to your local drive-in theater. If you’re 30 or younger you probably don’t know what a drive-in is. You also don’t know the joys of sitting in your car with a group of friends while you watched giant creatures destroying the city on the big screen. Luckily Eugene Johnson and Charles Day have put together a horror anthology that captures the spirit of the Drive in.  Drive In Creature Feature contains 19 stories for anyone who loves a good monster tale.

Since it would take too long to talk about each story I’ll spend some time talking about my favorites. The Tattering and Jack by Clive Barker is about a demon who has the task of driving a man crazy. The job ends up being much harder than the demon thought as the man shows he has no emotions and won’t be driven off the deep end. This story has an awesome twist and goes back and forth from being funny to scary. Another good story is The Forrest That Howls by Michael Paul Gonzalez, this is easily the best Bigfoot story I’ve ever read. It answers the question of why there is no proof that the creatures exist.

Ghoul Friend In A Coma by John Everson is a bizzaro love story between a teenage boy and a ghoul. This is another one that combines humor and horror. I love how even when the teenager sees his life in danger he still thinks with the wrong head, this is exactly like I would expect a teenager going through puberty to act. This story teaches us that a couple having sex then carrying a corpse together to the basement is what true love is all about.

Double Feature by Jason V. Brock actually takes place at a drive-in theatre in the Seventies. The story centers on a father who is taking his two kids to a movie. The father and mother are going through a divorce and the story begins with an argument between the occupants of the car. Their problems become secondary though when the drive-in becomes a battleground between a bunch of giant monsters from outer space. This story was a lot of fun but what I really loved was how the family puts their problems aside and works together when a crisis happens.

I also have to mention Popcorn by Essel Pratt, this is another one that takes place in the drive-in. A group of teenagers is at the theatre looking for a good time, but things get ugly when a giant popcorn monster attacks the movie-goers. I love the idea of a monster made of popcorn and there were some creative death scenes here, you may never want to eat popcorn again.

This book is one fun ride, it’s funny in places and scary in others. It also does an excellent job of capturing a bygone era and bringing back a lot of great memories of watching horror movies at the drive-in. There were a couple of stories here I didn’t care for but all in all this book reminded me why I love horror literature. It has humor, great monsters, and good storytelling, what more can you ask for? This is a must-read book for horror literature fans.

By The Fire: Episode 147: Challenge 12: Write a 2500-3000 Word Story Featuring a Diverse Woman and an Original Monster of Your Making

Our contest is drawing to a close, we made it to episode 147 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast and the twelfth challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to Write a 2500-3000 word story featuring a diverse woman (of color/ethnic/minority) that also contains an original monster of the writer’s making. Our contestants created a monster way back in challenge 2 which they can use for this story, or they can create a new monster. The goal is to test their ability to write a story with a theme involved, they will be judged on creativity, overall story concept, and writing quality.

One thing I wonder about is would it be easier to create a monster or to create a good diverse female character and what would be the theme that would fit both? I think for all parts you are using a different part of your imagination. For a monster you want to try to think of something original but you also have to make it scary, being able to describe the monster and make it come alive is important. For the female character you would have to go into detail on her personality, what makes her tick and why should we care about her? When coming up with both of these creations probably the most important thing would be to make us feel some emotion for them and perhaps this is where the story’s theme would come out of. Whether its fear, compassion or even hatred, if we don’t feel anything and there is no theme, then we won’t want to finish the story.

So our contestants already know something about making a monster but how hard is it to come up with a good ethnic female character? Would it be harder to come up with a woman than a man? Or does that depend on if the writer is a woman or a man? Personally I think coming up with the monster would be much easier than coming up with your lead character because the lead character is the most important part of the story. So what do you think the hardest part of this challenge will be and who do you think did the best job with it? Let us know in the comments.

David’s Haunted Library: Deadman’s Tome: Monsters Exist

 

 

When you were a kid did you think monsters existed? Well they do exist and they’re everywhere, there are too many stories about monsters to think otherwise. The preface for  Deadman’s Tome: Monsters Exist edited by Mr. Deadman and Theresa Braun tells us that . There are 14 tales here about monsters that some believe really exist. I loved all the stories in this collection and couldn’t decide what to focus on since they all fit so well together so I decided to give info on each one:

Master Vermin by Wallace Boothill: The city of Baltimore has some dark places and there is a rat king that rules the night. I loved the idea of the characters trying to stop a low-income apartment from being destroyed and then finding a more sinister force at work.

Legend Trippers by Theresa Braun: An urban legend about a goatman and a man trying to escape the past. Great build up til the end and I liked the reality tv show crew looking for answers.

The Murder Of Crows by S.J Budd: Great little story about the goddess of death. Great twist in this story, loved the idea of what makes a serial killer.

Wicked Congregation by Gary Buller: Great storytelling here on the legend of faeries and what it takes to keep them from killing us all.

Playing Dead by S.E. Casey: This one is about a giant monkey and a strange little carnival. Loved how we find out what is really going on and how the main character feels about it.

Lake Monster by Mr. Deadman: This one combines a couple of legends, every forest has a legend, if the creature in the woods doesn’t get you the lake monster will.

Never Sleep Again by Calvin Demmer: Possibly my favorite in this book, half detective story and half horror story focusing on the monster under the bed. Loved how the monster looked and how he got around from bed to bed, love to see this one expanded to a longer piece.

The Voice From The Bottom Of The Well by Phillip W. Kleaver: Great story about a little girl with insomnia and what she is willing to do to keep the monster at the bottom of a well quiet. Sacrifices must be made and its a surprise who she chooses.

Eclipse at Wolfcreek by Sylvia Mann: This one looks at two kinds of monsters, one is the mothman and the other is something much scarier. I love the beginning of this story and seeing how the main character comes out of it stronger than before but still damaged.

No. 7 by William Marchese: Government experiments and conspiracies play a role in this one along with one terrifying monster. A creepy story with a good mystery.

Criatura by John Palisano: This one is about a bigfoot type creature living in the desert. Love the description of the monster in this one and what the monster seems to want.

Bitten by Christopher Powers: Great storytelling about a giant Spider and what it does to catch its prey. I liked the idea of two men sitting and one telling the story and the other not believing it, this one had a campfire tale vibe to it.

Kelpies by Leo X. Robertson: Good story about what happens if you are not loyal, the kelpies have a nice under the sea set up.

Bloodstream Revolution by M.R. Tapia: It’s a mystery who the monster is in this one, is it the warlords fighting over land or the chupacabras? It’s hard to disagree with the main character’s decision at the end.

Every story in Deadman’s Tome: Monsters Exist are fast paced and never leave you with that “When will this end feeling.” It’s a quick read with each tale grabbing you by the jugular and not letting go til the blood soaked end. This book is a horror fan’s dream which will give you nightmares for weeks.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Devil in the Dark

 

 

 

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

She is also the founder of CrystalCon, a symposium that brings both Science Fiction & Fantasy writers and STEM professions together to mix and mingle with fans, educators, and inventors in attempts to answer a new take on an age-old question … which came first, the science or the fiction?

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

The Website

The Fanpage

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

David’s Haunted Library: Night Things: Undead And Kicking

David's Haunted Library

 

 

30190570What would our world be like if vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghouls, mermen and other creature walked the earth? They aren’t all trying to hurt humans, some of them just want to make an honest living and be accepted. People still fear what they don’t understand and even though some accept the Night Things, others aren’t so trusting. So the night things are given devices that track their every move.

Times are changing after the events of Z Day and Johnny Stucke, a Night thing himself is getting involved in politics. One of his first orders of business was getting Dr. Herbert West to work on a way to control zombies. Enter recently deceased professional MMA fighter Carol Haddon. Her DNA may hold the secret to changing the world’s zombies. Carol has also drawn the attention of Herbert West’s greatest enemy Jack The Ripper. Due to an accident Dr. West has made Jack more powerful than ever and if Dr. West can’t defeat him, it could bring on the apocalypse.

Night Things: Undead And Kicking by Terry M. West  is the second book in The Magic Now series and there is so much going on here that a 2 paragraph description hardly does it justice. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, it includes several sub plots and some great characters. There are also some great cameos from popular creatures and people known to classic horror fans. What makes this masterpiece of horror stand out over other works in the genre is how Terry M. West presents his characters.

For instance the main character is Carol Haddon. When she is introduced we see her as someone who feels compassion for the Night Things, she works in a shelter for them and we hear her comparing them to immigrants(love the metaphor). We also see her as a bad ass MMA fighter, but at the same time she is a vulnerable human being who goes to a therapist to deal with feelings she has for her mother. At this point Carol comes across as a complex person and things get harder for her as we find out that the two people helping her, Johnny Stucke and Herbert West have their own agenda and might not have her best interest at heart. That being said they are better than Jack The Ripper who would like nothing better than to rip the dna from her bone marrow. Carol is a hero you can relate to because she’s a compassionate person in a bad situation. Then we have Johhny Stuck and Herbert West who are shades of grey. They want to help Carol but at the same time they have an agenda that has already made major problems for Carol. You see the good and bad in both and it makes you like them that much more.

Undead And Kicking is the type of book that you can point to when people ask you why you like horror. Terry M. West is a horror fan writing books that he knows other horror fans will love. This story puts a fresh spin on classic horror mythology and also manages to add humor, great characters and plenty of blood and good scares to the mix.  I can’t say enough good things about this book and I hope there are several more books in The Magic Now series.

David’s Haunted Library: Camp Arcanum

20959068Three men arrived in Arcanum Ohio with a pick up truck, a camper and seven months to build a renaissance faire. Little did they know that Arcanum is a town where most of the population practices magick and the woods are filled with supernatural creatures. The man in charge is Marc, who along with a love of power tools, has a family history of mental health issues and he doesn’t believe in magick. His beliefs soon change though when he meets a woman named Brenwyn who is head of the local wiccan coven.

Marc is forced to reexamine his views on magick and he has to deal with Jerimiah who is a powerful warlock and Brenwyn’s ex lover. Jerimiah has plans to finish off Marc but not before he uses him to become more powerful. Between the witches, demons and undead skinless bunnies, it’s going to take more than power tools to get the renaissance faire open in time.

Camp Arcanum by Josef Matulich is a comedy with horror elements and an interesting love story. When Marc and Brenwyn meet you see that they are exact opposites but right away their relationship clicks. One of my favorite scenes in this book was when Marc who has a history of schizophrenia sees magick spells being done and believes that he is loosing his mind. He starts to freak out and Brenwyn tries to come to his aide but at the time Marc doesn’t want her help and leaves Brenwyn feeling heart-broken. Eventually they start to accept their differences and work at becoming a couple. What really stuck out for me about this love story is that it didn’t seem too perfect and despite their differences I was rooting for them to stay together.

I also loved how witchcraft was represented in this book, I admit I don’t know a lot about covens, wicca or magick but this book made me want to find out more.  All of the witches and warlocks in this book came across as people you might meet in everyday life and were nothing like the stereotypes that I’ve seen in other books and movies. In fact this book makes fun of those stereotypes. Though it’s not a big part of this book I have to say that I loved how schizophrenia is dealt with in this story. Marc spent a period of time taking care of his brother who has schizophrenia and I liked how he points out that people who have it can’t help how they act. In many books you see people who have mental health issues as being a villain, so I liked that this book treated it like it wasn’t a bad thing.

Camp Arcanum was kind of a mixed bag for me. I thought the story was slow-moving and even though I liked the villain he didn’t seem to come across as very threatening. All of the characters in the book were interesting and I liked the love story between Brenwyn and Marc. This book has some great moments such as Marc using tools to battle a coven of witches and there was a hilarious scene where all the local wiccans gather at a movie theater to watch and make fun of bad movies based on witches. This book is definitely worth your time and the ending is left wide open for a sequel.

25217904The sequel to Camp Arcanium is Power Tools In The Sacred Grove by Josef Matulich. This one picks up right after the first one left off and continues the story of Marc and his crew trying to build a Renaissance faire while fighting off monsters, demons and undead bunnies. The way things are going though the faire may not start on time. Jerimiah is doing all he can to stop construction along with putting a wrench in Marc and Brenwyn’s relationship. Also Marc is still trying to recover after a battle with a large tentacled monster. Hopefully Marc can stay on good terms with Brenwyn and keep his crew in the land of the living.

Power Tools In The Sacred Grove is on par with its predecessor and gives you all the comedy you would expect and more. I liked the further character development on Jerimiah. Jerimiah is more than a black and white villian. In this book you feel a little sympathy for him despite the fact that he is trying to kill Marc and his crew. Jerimiah craves power but doesn’t seem to realize that he is destroying his life in the process.

Another great scene in this book was when the OSHA lady pays a visit to Camp Arcanum and gets more than she bargained for. The exchange between Marc and his workers is priceless and how it ends is hilarious. Once again though I have to say my favorite part of this book is the relationship between Brenwyn and Marc. I like how they are total opposites but seem to work well together anyway.

While I did find this book entertaining, my problem was that it just seemed like more of the same. The first book doesn’t have any closure and this one continues the story. I felt as I was reading that the author could have just edited some scenes out of both books and combined them into one. That being said Power Tools In The Sacred Grove is still a lot of fun.  I love a good mix of comedy and horror and the characters are deep and memorable. I’m hoping we see more from Camp Arcanum in the future.

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: Matthew J. Barbour

A RHYME OF MONSTERS

By Matthew J. Barbour

 

A is for the Alp, demon of the night.

B is for the Boggart, who kills you with his fright.

 

C is for the Centaur, a hybrid of man and horse.

D is for the Dvergar, whose origin is Norse.

 

E is for the Erlking, spirit which brings you death.

F is for the Funayurei, who never breathes a breath.

 

G is for the Golem, built of clay and prayers.

H is for the Hydra, who claws and bites and tears.

 

I is for the Ifrit, genie cloaked in fire.

J is for the Jengu, who swims down in the mire.

 

K is for the Kraken, scourge of the waves.

L is for the Lamia, who feasts on little babes.

 

M is for the Minotaur, alone down in his maze.

N is for the Naga, who will charm you with her gaze.

 

O is for the Orobas, horse-headed devil of old.

P is for the Phoenix, whose plumage is so bold.

 

Q is for the Quareen, jinn of great despair.

R is for the Rarog, who whirlwinds in the air.

 

S is for the Selkie, which changes into a seal.

T is for the Troll, who will eat you as his meal.

 

U is for the Uwan, that yells and screams and shouts.

V is for the Vodyanoi, who sits in the river and pouts.

 

W is for the Warg, hiding behind your shed.

X is for the Xian Tian, who doesn’t have a head.

 

Y is for the Yeti, standing atop mountains high.

Z is for the Ziz, who soars up in the sky.

 

My mom says monsters don’t exist, she tells me this, I swear.

But just in case this rhyme is true, know their names, take heed, beware!

 

About the Author:

Matthew J. Barbour is a speculative fiction author living with his wife and three children in Bernalillo, New Mexico. When he is not writing fiction, Mr. Barbour manages Jemez Historic Site and contributes to a number of regional newspapers, including the Red Rocks Reporter and the Sandoval Signpost. 

 

What Price Gory?

19453378Demons, a succubus and a man with many faces are just a few of the things that await you in Terry M. West’s What Price Gory? This collection includes eight stories and a sneak preview of an upcoming novella. All of the stories here are good and they get better as the book moves along.

The first story is a tale called Car Nex, it’s about a man named Adam who summons a demon and now hopes to stop it before the demon devours all the townspeople. I loved how all of the characters react when Adam displays why they should help him kill the demon. The demon is described as a shark on two legs and reminded me of the Tasmanian Devil with only one way to stop it.

The next story is Cecil and Bubba Meet A Succubus. This is a simple tale of two underachieving simpletons who get hired by a paranormal investigator to help him explore a haunted house. This is a fun story and at the end of the book there is a preview of the upcoming Cecil and Bubba Meet The Thang. These two characters have been cursed by a gypsy and now they have the misfortune of being magnets for strange creatures. Cecil and Bubba were easy to relate to, it was interesting to see how things worked out in the end and I look forward to their next adventure.

Next up is Held Over which is an original take on zombies. How much would you pay to keep your body alive after you die and what would happen to it? This story has the answers. The fourth story is The Hairy Ones which is about religion and marriage and what kind of horrors people are willing to put up with for the sake of both. This was a story that managed to be disturbing using the power of suggestion rather than being violent.

In The Hermit’s Creepy Pet a man who is trying to become a writer finds inspiration  when a hermit comes to his door claiming to have caught  an urban legend in a bear trap. The writer has his story idea but he also may be biting off more than he can chew. This is an excellent horror story with a little twist.

Put On A Happy Face is the most bizarre story here and would make an excellent horror movie. Deep in the woods lives a young girl and her older brother who wears a mask to show his emotions. He has a happy face when things are going well and an angry face which warns his sister to run far away. I loved the way this story unfolds, you hear what the girl feels is happening and then you hear the brother’s story as he is about to put on his angry mask. I loved hearing about the emotions of the man who comes to the house and how he tries to escape. I also liked the revelation that the sister suspects more than she lets on.

Next is Midnight Snack which follows a man who has taken a wrong turn in life and on the highway. He gets a second chance when he enters a dinner full of demons and learns a hard truth about life. This is a creepy story with a good moral. The last story is What Price Gory? which looks at what an author is willing to do, to become the new king of horror. I liked how the writer gets his dream and his worst nightmare at the same time. What Price Gory? is an excellent horror anthology that will give you nightmares and leave you screaming for more.