Odds and Dead Ends : Gothic influences in Wes Craven’s Shocker

When people think of Wes Craven and supernatural slasher films, they think of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Perfectly justified, of course, as Freddy is one of the biggest icons of horror cinema. However, often overlooked however is his 1989 film Shocker, for some justifiable reasons including awful 80s CGI and an incredibly messy second half with little regard for laws of its own unreality. But at its core, and especially for the first third of the film, the gothic elements of the story are undeniable, and it’s a genuinely interesting case of a modern ghost story in the urban gothic vein.

There are gothic influences all over the film, but what tipped me off was the police invasion of Pinker’s TV shop. We head past the initial lobby of televisions playing visions of war and death and enter a dimly lit series of dusty hallways, hardware packed into the shelves on either side. We’ve dispensed with the creaky castle library and entered a modern equivalent of television sets. Noises in the dark. Turn around. Nobody there. We feel a presence nearby but can’t see them. This is classic haunted house stuff going on here.

And then we get the big tip-off as to the influence. We get a POV shot, very Hitchcockian (thinking especially of Norman Bates peering through the peephole into Marion’s room in Psycho), of Pinker’s eye up to a gap in the shelf, peering into the shop. The monster’s hiding in the walls. A policeman stands guard nearby. Nothing. And then hands shoot through the shelves, catches him. He’s pulled back against the shelves, and the whole thing pivots in on a hinge. The cop is dragged inside and the shelf snaps back in line, never to be considered again.

A few minutes later Jonathan (the MC) and his father appear, none the wiser save for a smoking cigarette on the floor. And then they discover the horrible truth when they see blood pooling out from underneath the shelf, like those ghostly legends of old mansions where the walls drip red. Breaking their way in they find cats flayed and dead-on hooks, red lighting from the cinematography department reinforcing the demonic aspect. And then there’s the body in the middle of the room, throat cut, blood on the floor.

This is classic gothic stuff. The secret passageway in the walls is complete Scooby-Doo, Agatha Christie, even some Sherlock Holmes (I’m thinking here of The Musgrave Ritual in particular). The Cat and the Canary did it as well. We’re in the middle of a slasher movie, and we’ve got secret panels and hiding places? We might even claim that these secret passages go even further back, to the origins of the gothic, in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the story we take the term ‘gothic’ from in its now traditional literary application.

And yet somehow it doesn’t feel out of place, doesn’t feel corny, because we can understand that Craven is deliberately drawing upon these influences to create a gothic atmosphere. This is important, as it subtly clues us into the paranormal parts of the film that come into play when he is electrocuted in the chair, turned into a horror version of the Phantom Virus from Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (those movies were great, Cyber Chase an underappreciated meta gem of Scooby-Doo lore for the final third act).      If the ghost aspect had come out of nowhere, we might have complained that it was too much of a shift from straight serial killer to paranormal horror, but here these elements help to ease the transition over. Not much, because it’s still a jolt switching subgenres, but it helps nonetheless. I’m not sure how the blood pooled all the way from the chair to spread under the shelf because it’s a hell of a long way. Perhaps this is faintly paranormal in origin, the cop’s spirit doing what it needs to do to alert the living to its final resting place in a bid to stop his killer? Most likely it’s a goof and I’m reading way too much into it, but it’s certainly a possible reading if you wanted to go that far.

Let’s also remember that, even after the electrocution, the film is in essence a ghost story. Whereas in centuries before a spirit might have inhabited a suit of armor, or roamed the walls of the courtyard in which they were executed, here we have a modern updating, inhabiting the electricity that we have harnessed for our own ends. This criticism of our device-ridden society which wasn’t as prevalent when the film came out, but certainly on the rise, was inherent in genre storytelling of the time. Cyberpunk arose as a subgenre a few years before to question our reliance on technology.

And a few years after Shocker, we see the influx of films from Asia that combined a malevolent spirit and technology to demonstrate new fears of a society rapidly flying into the future. Films like Ringu, One Missed Call, Shutter, Noroi, even The Eye to a certain extent (the elevator scene is my example here, with the apparition not appearing on the security camera), would be films that take this concept and run with it, infusing into their tales a very gender-based morality tale of using a stereotypically male industry (technology) and using it as a vehicle for the classic avenging female spirit of folklore.

Could one orient Shocker as a modern gothic gateway to these tales? I suspect most would argue against it, but as has been critiqued in countless essays, articles, and books, there is not one film history, but multiple readings of film histories. As it stands, the genre itself is also fluid and a very pliable concept in itself. I’m not using any of these arguments to state that Shocker is a great film, because although fun, it’s most certainly hovering just in the ‘mediocre’ range of horror films. However, that these more traditional elements find their way into divisive and forgotten films might go some way to showing that it’s not just the revered masterpieces of regarded canon that have interesting literary facets to their makeup.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Family Haunts and Fears

Family Haunts and Fears 

by Kristin Battestella

These families are less than comforting for each other when it comes to ghosts, cults, and suburban frights.

Before I Wake – Mike Flanagan (Oculus) directs Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush), Thomas Jane (Dreamcatcher), Annabeth Gish (The X-Files), and Jacob Tremblay (Room) in this 2016 Netflix dark fantasy drama. In spite of the never working, always home in their mansion rich blonde white people, we hope for the couple who lost a child now making a fresh start by adopting a very special but sleepless eight year old. Group therapy’s been helping our fellow insomniac mom cope – getting the psychological metaphors out of the way while showing how our husband and wife have reacted differently to such grief. Their new son, sadly, takes out his books and flashlight to stay up all night, sneaking some serious sugar because he fears the man who eats people when he sleeps. Strange images increase about the house, and instead of the typical jerky husband, it’s nice to have a trying to be helpful doctor. The therapist, however, dismisses mom’s encounters with creaking doors, breaking glass, and ghostly figures as lucid dreams or sleep deprived waking hallucinations. Our couple is always in front of the television not talking about how they can inexplicably see and touch their late son in tender moments giving and taking away before he disappears in their arms. Naturally, they take advantage of this gift, putting on the coffee to stay up while their current dreams come true son sleeps. He can help them heal, and with such fanciful graphics, one almost forgets how they are deluding themselves by using his dreams to fix their reality. When mom drugs his milk and cake with child sleeping pills, we know why. Dad may bond with the boy, but it’s unique to see a multi-layered woman both experiencing the horror and contributing almost as a villain who thinks she’s right. The monster may not be super scary for audiences accustomed to terrifying effects, but this is about kids fearing unconscious ghouls and waking nightmares not scaring viewers. Previous foster parents are committed after talking of demons when the boy’s dreams come true, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing – unlike the adults who realize, do it anyway, then justify their response as mercy. If he can’t wake up, they can’t defeat the black vomit and flesh consuming monsters. Unfortunately, convenient hospital connections provide old records and birth mother details while the caseworker never notices the ongoing file is lifted by the subject. Confining the boy leads to a house of horrors with moths in the stairwell, cocoons, creepy kids, gouged eyes, and bathtub bizarre – which are all fine individually. However, the story backs itself into a corner by resorting to a state of mind scary at the expense of the personal fantasy, unraveling with explaining journals and a parent sugarcoating someone else’s memories so obvious Freudian questions can do the trick. With this thick case file, how did no child psychologist figure this out sooner – especially with such legalese and real-world missing persons? Rather than essentially letting mom get away with sacrificing people to overcome her grief, the finale explanation should have been at the beginning to further appreciate the boy’s torment. Despite a kind of, sort of happy non-ending, the parents dealing with a child dreamer plot makes for a mature reverse Elm Street mixing family horrors and fantastics.

Death at Love House – Couple Robert Wagner (Hart to Hart) and Kate Jackson (Dark Shadowsare writing a book on Lorna Love and stay at the Old Hollywood starlet’s creepy manor in this 1976 television movie. Gothic gates, winding drives, old fountains, and broken statues accent the past torrid and vintage bus tours, and there’s a freaky shrine, too – the preserved corpse of our beauty lying in a glass coffin. Of course this print is obviously poor, but the retro Hollywood scenery, Golden cinema looks, and seventies California style make up any difference. I wish we could see the arches and wrought iron better, but the VHS quality kind of adds a dimly lit ominous to the Mediterranean villa as retro commercials provide a vintage patina. Housekeeper Silvia Sydney (Beetlejuiceisn’t very forthcoming about enchanting portraits of the starlet, and newsreels of her funeral show a man in a cape with a black cat among the mourners. Malleus Maleficarum spell books on the shelf, sacrificial daggers, and crusty director John Carradine (Blood of Dracula’s Castle) suggest Lorna was more evil than lovely, and talk of mirrors, souls, passion, and rivals like Dorothy Lamour (Road to Bali) add to the character unto herself à la RebeccaWithout over the top visuals or in your face action for the audience’s benefit, the performances here carry the scandalous scares – jumping at the horrors as thunder punctuates terrifying encounters in the dark. Apparent heart attack victims, destroyed pictures, and warnings to leave Love House lead to locked doors, gas mishaps, and steamy showers while phonographs provide chilling music as Lorna seems to be looking out from the silver screen film reels with her hypnotic power. Bewitching dreams relive the past and wax on eternal youth as the ghostly obsessions grow. At times, the spiral stairs, red accents, and swanky are more romantic, but phantom ladies at the window and rumors of fiery rituals create sinister. Our husband is said to be going through the scrapbooks but he’s not getting any work done, remaining in denial about the basement tunnels, cult altars, pentagrams, and mystical symbols. Although the Mrs. seems calm somehow once the truth comes out, too, the creepy masks and wild reveals make for a flaming finish. There are too many tongue in cheek winks for this to be full-on horror nor can one expect proper glam and glory in such a brisk seventy-four-minute network pace. However, this is good fun for a late-night Hollywood ghost story full of meta vintage.

Kill List– Financial arguments, unemployment, and stressed parents shouting open British director Ben Wheatley’s (High-Rise) 2011 slow burn while fade ins and outs create a disconnected passage of time amid his mundane routine, tearful phone calls in her native Swedish, and brief playtime with their son. Clearly they are trying to keep it together just for him, but recession talk and conversations about their military past make dinner with friends more awkward. Despite some wine, laughter, and music; tensions remain alongside bloody tissues, mirrors, and creepy occult symbols. Foreboding rainbows, eerie skies, and contracts signed in blood lead to fancy hotels, mysterious clients, guns, and stacks of cash. This sardonic, violent lifestyle is normal to our hit men – want a hot tub, put on a nice suit and kill a few people to make money for your family! Things should be looking up, but past mistakes, religious conflicts, and hits gone wrong interfere with the fine dining, friendly chatter, stakeouts, and casually executed executions. The deliberate pace may be slow to some, however full moons, hallway zooms, and binocular views set off the lying in wait preparations, silencers, and worship regalia. Thumping body bags miss the dumpster and victims aren’t surprised their time has come, but off screen implications disturb both our hardened hit men. They are the righteous torturers breaking knee caps and bashing hands! Dead animals, blood splatter, off list hits, dirty crimes, and graphic skull work are not for the faint of heart as the kills become messy and out of control. Ominous women in white, blood stains, infected cuts – this violence is going far beyond their normal work but there’s no getting out here. Nothing good can come from this dreary potboiler as the kills increase from ironic to curious and ultimately brutal in a final act providing throwback shocks and a sense of realism straying into unreliability. Night gear observations at a fancy estate begat torches, chanting, robes, and masks. If you’ve seen enough cult horror, the ritual foreshadowing is apparent, however there’s a warped cleansing to the rain, drumbeats, and sacrifice. Gunfire, tunnels, knife attacks, screams, and unknowns make for gruesome turnabouts that bring the consequences home in a silent, disturbing, grim end.

Voice from the Stone – It’s post-war Tuscany and dilapidated castles for nurse Emilia Clark (Game of Thrones) in this 2017 tale opening with church bells, toppled statues, and autumn leaves. Letters of recommendation and voiceovers about previous goodbyes are unnecessary – everything up until she knocks on the door is redundant when the Italian dialogue explaining the situation is enough. Her charge hasn’t spoken in the seven months since his mother’s death, and sculptor dad Marton Csokas (Lord of the Ringsis frazzled, too. Our nurse is strict about moving on from a family, and although her unflinching English decorum feels like you can see her acting, this may be part of the character fronting when she wonders if she is qualified for the case. The mute son is likewise an obedient boy if by default because it takes speaking to object, and he listens to the walls to hear his dead mother. Period furnishings, vintage photos, mirrors, and candles enchant the interiors, but the stone and stucco are spooky thanks to taxidermy, strange old ladies, creaking doors, winding stairs, and broken tiles atop the towers. Wooded paths, overgrown gardens, and old bridges lead to exploring the flooded quarry, cliffs, family crypts, and stone effigies. This estate has been in the late wife’s family for over a thousand years, and forty generations are buried beneath the rocks. Noises in the night provide chases and dead animal pranks as our nurse listens to the walls to prove it’s just the settling house, rattling winds, or bubbling pipes talking. Progress with the boy takes time while billowing curtains and melancholy phonographs linger over somber scenes as she grows too attached in wearing our late mother’s clothes. Unlike her, our nurse sits docile and silent when posing for his sculpture before fantasizing some saucy as he carves. She can care for father and son – talking to portraits of the Mrs. and listening to tombs to further ingratiate herself into this family. Desperate, she hears her now, too, in eerie interludes and spooky dreams that add aesthetics yet feel like weird seventies horror movies nonsensical. Wet perils and violent slaps begat illness, but questions on whether this fever is real or psychological unravel with fog, wheezing, heartbeats, and buried alive visions face to face with the dead. Although some may dislike the ambiguous nonanswers and stilted style or find the derivative Rebecca or Jane Eyre mood and outcome obvious, the slow burn period setting makes this an interesting piece for gothic fans not looking for outright horror a minute.

 

For more Frightening Flix, revisit our Horror Viewing Lists including:

Haunting Ladies

Witches and Bayous, Oh My!

Mirrors and Superstitions

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir a Delightful Little Ghostly Romance

Reviewed By Kristin Battestella

I really dislike modern repetitive romantic comedies with that hint of tearful seriousness and sap sap sap. However, classic romances with fun and paranormal do wonders- and I can’t help myself, I’m watching the 1947 treat The Ghost and Mrs. Muir yet again!

Widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) – along with her daughter Anna (Natalie Wood) and beloved maid Martha (Edna Best) – leaves her in-laws and takes a cottage on the Whitecliff coast. Unfortunately, Mrs. Muir soon discovers the late owner Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) already inhabits the seaside escape. Captain Gregg agrees to keep his hauntings to a minimum for Anna’s sake and soon helps Lucy financially by collaborating on his memoirs with her. Could it be there is something more between them? Unfortunately, artist Miles Fairley (George Sanders) also romances the Widow Muir, and he is a ‘real’ man after all, much more able to return Lucy’s affection than the ghostly Daniel. But which does she really love?

Though played a little spooky to start- a widow moving into a mysterious cliffside house all alone– director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra, Guys and Dolls) and writer Philip Dunne (How Green Was My Valley, The Robe) keep Josephine Leslie’s source tale progressive and fun. Instead of wasting time on major ghostly special effects or uber kinky relationships as today’s films might, time is taken to know the characters and enjoy the mix of the living and the dead while the romance blooms. Even as much as I love creepy fair, it’s simply wonderful that The Ghost and Mrs. Muir remains simple, innocent, and not totally spooky. Yes, the corporeal barriers and introductory scares might be enough to get a viewer in the door- but the interplay of the cast carries the film. The focus on two shot debates and fore blocking camerawork shows that these two people can hotly interact, inhabit the same space, even coexist and fall in love, but sadly not actually be together-especially when that two-shot becomes a jealous three-way scene. The lovely dilemma and heart of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is allowed to play itself out on screen instead of being squashed by ghostly glitters or Meg Ryan’s lips. And what an ending!

Tragically, Gene Tierney (Laura, Leave Her to Heaven) didn’t make very many films and is more well known today for her health issues and off-screen romances if at all. Fortunately, she did indeed leave us with a set of classics! The turn of the century costumes on Tierney look great, adding period flavor, grace, and an element of change as Lucy herself sways between men over the years. Tierney really is just lovely inside and out- even if the presentation is a little too post-Victorian by way of the forties for some viewers. However, there’s also a fine modern contrast, for Lucy-being a single mother disbelieving in such paranormal ‘fiddlesticks’- is in many ways ahead of her onscreen time. She defiantly calls out the ghostly instead of being the little widow in black and blossoms as a woman because of it. Although I’m not sure about Tierney’s accent amid all the really English folks, her tone is still proper and classy nonetheless. Not many actresses today can handle material like this- not without it getting cliché like those aforementioned run of the mill contemporary romances. I also confess, penning a book to save the finances of one’s house is perhaps the dream of every down on his luck writer, and it’s just another fun, personal and endearing element I love in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Oh, that crusty and delightful Rex Harrison! Though initially seemingly a silhouetted menace with a great bellowing voice, Captain Gregg is built up carefully and creepily toward a sweet and stormy reveal. We expect Daniel to be so upper class and debonair ala My Fair Lady, but Harrison’s rough around the edges opposite to Lucy and near swashbuckling style is wonderful. His dialogue, delivery, and no holds barred attitude are somehow also suave; Gregg compliments Lucy on her figure and quotes poetry! The way the grizzly ghost mellows is utterly bittersweet, and it’s all done without losing any charm or gruff. Of course, George Sanders (Rebecca, All About Eve) is also his usually slick and exceptional self. We might not find either man uber attractive or Team This and Team That in today’s standards, but the juicy choices and whirlwind escapades both men offer is just that- an onscreen delight. Sanders just as easily sweeps the viewer away by painting scandalous portraits of Lucy in a bathing suit as we are also charmed by Harrison’s dreamy soliloquies. Edna Best (The Man Who Knew Too Much) is a little annoying as the stereotypical English maid who always talks so sassy, knows what’s what, and makes no Cockney about it! However, she earns her stripes as the film progresses. Little Natalie Wood (The Searchers, West Side Story) is also a somewhat goofy, but her fans will enjoy seeing her 10-year-old charm.

The black and white photography of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir hampers the visuals a bit, but the silver screen layers also add plenty of atmosphere. The ghostly lighting, candles, gas lamps, creepy paintings, and the shadows created work beautifully. The fake long shot stills are obvious, yes, but understandable. Besides, the sweet cottage interiors are more Victorian mansion than cottage as we would think of it, and the seaside locations are dynamite. The great ghost laughter, the usual glory of storms and wind, and Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, The Devil and Daniel Webster) crescendos add the audio icing. The paranormal hints and hijinks still work, and I love how the darkness surprises us into never knowing quite where the Harrison appearing and disappearing tricks are. Turn of the century cars, glorious feathers, furs, hats, and gloves! Sigh, but those bathing suits! Those are a definite no.

Yes, I’m sure a lot of this can be merely quaint or hokey to some, but fans of the cast or classics in general surely already know and love The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Fortunately, there’s also nothing so ghostly or romantic to dissuade younger viewers, and recent audiences of contemporary paranormal or standard romance should most definitely try this treat ASAP.

For more Lighthearted Classics, revisit:

I Married a Witch

Bell, Book, and Candle

Gothic Romance Video Review

David’s Haunted Library: Sleep Savannah Sleep


 

Jason Crandall needed to make a new start, he worked in Los Angeles as a Marketing executive for years. Sadly his wife died leaving him as a widower with an 18-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter. He decided to start his new life in Shadow Springs by becoming a massage therapist. Shadow Springs seems like a nice little town but before long before cracks start to form in the town’s illusion of normalcy and secrets come to light.

First Jason has to deal with a jealous husband of one of his clients but life gets more complicated as the beautiful Savannah Sturgess goes missing. Jason starts to have horrible visions that make him doubt his sanity and some people are looking at him as a suspect in the disappearance.  Everyone in town has their own set of secrets, but the biggest secret is what happened to Savannah and why won’t the dead rest in peace?

Sleep Savannah Sleep by Alistair Cross is a book that works on several levels. It’s a murder mystery, horror novel and ghost story with the perfect setting of a small mysterious town.  The first half of the book takes its time making us feel empathy for the characters. By the time strange things happen in the second half you’re totally hooked and wanting to see what happens next.

The detail put into each character makes them come to life and while they are shown one way, to begin with you see other sides to them as the story moves along. Savannah, in the beginning, is seen as the town whore but when we get into why she is the way she is, she becomes a sympathetic character. Also, Flynn Garvey who is Savannah’s boyfriend has no personality in the beginning, but later we dig a little deeper and find he has a secret and there is more depth to him than we thought. Even the character of Tabitha Cooper who is not in the story much is someone you feel for. She is seen as a crazy old witch, but in reality is very different than others see her. All of the characters present an image to the outside world but if you scratch the surface a little they show another side. You care about these people because you can relate to them and that makes things even scarier when odd things start to happen.

The best part of this book was when Jason is questioning his sanity. You see him as just a guy dealing with the loss of his wife and trying to raise his kids to the best of his abilities but as he is having visions that make no sense his life quickly unravels. The feeling of losing your mind when you know people are dependent on you is the worst kind of fear and Jason is also dealing with ghosts from his past. In Sleep Savannah Sleep the horror doesn’t come from what you see, it comes from what you don’t see. This is an old school horror novel that preys on your emotions rather than showing you horrific imagery, though it does that too. Alistair Cross shows that he is a master storyteller by giving us memorable characters and a twist ending that you’ll never see coming.

 

David’s Haunted Library: Cold Cuts

Antarctica is a hard place to survive in, it’s even harder when there are mutant penguins with tentacles running around. Ozzy is a pop culture geek and a junk food junkie while Ben takes himself seriously and is Ozzy’s polar opposite. Both are environmental scientists working in a lab at the bottom of the world in Antarctica.

They thought that putting up with each other, the isolation and the cold temperatures would be the hard parts of this job, but they thought wrong. Little did they know that the terrorist organization called The Order Of The Red Wolf has a Nuclear reactor that is affecting the whole continent causing Penguins to become monsters. There are no happy feet in this story.

Cold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen has action, horror and comedy with a story that moves along at the speed of light. It also manages to give us some memorable characters. One of them is Ozzy who transforms from an overweight misfit to an action hero with a love interest by the end. The story also has some strong female characters such as Terra and Lorelei who aren’t trained to fight but do a good job of it when they have to. The only negative part of this story is that we aren’t given a lot of information on The Order Of The Red Wolf which is the group that created the mutants in the first place, but that doesn’t take away from the story.

What I really love about this book is how it goes from gruesome to funny. Every time there is a scene with Penguins tearing someone apart you also seem to get a scene that is laugh out loud funny. This book has one of the funniest sex scenes that I’ve ever read in a book and there was another great moment that will make you look at the paintings of Bob Ross in a whole new light. Another scene that I enjoyed was when one of the characters gets attacked and keeps fighting off the penguins and repeating to everyone that: “My guts came out.”

Looking at Robert Payne Cabeen’s bio you can see that he is an artist and a screenwriter and it shows in this book. At the back of the book there are several drawings of what the mutant penguins look like but also the way the action is described paints a picture for the reader. As I was reading this I found myself envisioning the whole thing as a rated R summer blockbuster movie. For example towards the end there is a great battle scene between the humans and penguins complete with background music.  I found myself laughing because I kept thinking how awesome this would look on the big screen. Cold Cuts is a lot of fun, it has that perfect mix of horror and humor that I like to find in a book.

Kbatz: The Veil with Boris Karloff

 

Boris Karloff’s The Veil a Pleasant Paranormal Discovery

by Kristin Battestella

 

Behind the scenes troubles and production turmoil put an abrupt halt to the 1958 supernatural anthology series The Veil, leaving host Boris Karloff and twelve in the can episodes of surprisingly quality unaired and on the shelf – until recently that is. Who knew?

 

Eerie music and Gothic castle arches lead to a grand fireplace complete with Mr. Karloff introducing these tales of supposedly true but unexplainable stories, and “Vision of Crime” provides a shipbound moment of clairvoyance and murder between brothers. The hackneyed old ladies fall a little flat, however Karloff and a pre-Avengers Patrick Macnee have some fun with the incompetent constabulary. In addition to hosting, Karloff acts in all but one episode of The Veil, and deduction on derringers, opportunity, and motive with a whiff of the fantastic help solve the case. “Girl on the Road” may seem then-contemporary slow to start with fifties innocence and a dame having car trouble in need of a man to fix all. Thankfully, roadside drinks, suspicious phone calls, and looking over her shoulder fears hook the audience into waiting for Karloff’s mysterious arrival and the paranormal plot turn. While the trail leads to where we already suspected, the simmering mood keeps The Veil entertaining. Likewise, ship captain Boris serves up some deadly seafaring adventures with a side of poisonous snakes to his wife in “Food on the Table.” The disposal is for a pretty barmaid recently come into wealth – and of course, supernatural consequences follow. Again, the story may be familiar but the characters and performances see the viewer through the twenty odd minutes. An Italian setting adds flair in “The Doctor” alongside aging physician Karloff and his prodigal son. Stubborn superstitions versus new medical treatments leave a sick child’s life in the balance, and I actually didn’t see this twist coming.

 

 

Ironically, the French accents are iffy rather than flavorful in “Crystal Ball,” but hey, when your upward mobile lady friend-zones you for your boss at least you get the eponymous gift, right? The foretelling effects are really quite nice with smoky swirls, upside down visuals, and distorted reflections. Moulin Rouge meetin’ Uncle Boris adds to the saucy scandals, and naturally, our two timing mademoiselle gets what she deserves. Rival brothers, contesting wills, lawyer Karloff, family violence, and ghostly biblical warnings anchor “Genesis,” however “Destination Nightmare” has a different opening and introduction before its dreams and mysterious pilot sightings. Crashes, parachute errors, and propeller sputters add to the fears, fine flying effects, and wild toppers while rising temperatures and New York bustle make for some murderous window views in “Summer Heat.” The crime may not be what it seems, yet silence during the observations add to the helpless feelings. It’s nice to see such fifties coppers confronted with the unexplained in their investigation, too. Despite the unique India 1928 setting and Eastern philosophies, “Return of Madame Vernoy” feels western fake thanks to bad casting. I mean, sure he likes to tan, but George Hamilton?! Fortunately, remembering past lives and reincarnations remain an interesting concept. Do you go back to the living the life before and contact family from the past? Can you move forward knowing what was or is there some other purpose for such memories?

 

“Jack the Ripper” is the lone episode of The Veil with Karloff featuring in the bookends only, and the production differences are apparent. However, Victorian spiritualism and professional clairvoyants make for an interesting spin on the Whitechapel theme with brief flashbacks accentuating the predictions and dreamy, eerie quality. The violence is unseen, but reading the scandalous newspaper reports on the crimes create reaction and believability. While the viewing order of the episodes is irrelevant, random VHS or video releases and an elusive two disc DVD version billed as Tales of the Unexplained can make watching The Veil in its entirety a tough, frustrating hunt. Fortunately, it’s also fun to discover new old television thanks to today’s technology, and The Veil is available on Amazon Prime – complete with subtitles! The transposed episodes and mislabeled descriptions, however, are confusing without a third party list, and Amazon is also missing two more episodes of The Veil which can be found on Youtube. The Veil’s original pilot “The Vestris” aired as an episode from another anthology series Telephone Time, and wow, that show has some fifties hallmarks complete with a housewife dreaming of dancing to her new dial tone! Thankfully, sailor songs, fog, phantom coordinates, and ominous quarter bells give “The Vestris” a proper shipbound atmosphere. A lady on board bodes of misfortune, and Karloff’s appearance doesn’t disappoint. “Whatever Happened to Peggy” has familiar people, places, and young lady not who she seems to be. Her memory difficulties and escalating coincidence make for a creepy and unexpected cap on The Veil.

 

The mid-century cars and fashions look sweet, and The Veil uses period settings and Victorian panache to fit the time as needed. Somehow, big skirts, bowler hats, and cravats always add to the spooky mood along with candles, gas lamps, and tea sets. Well done music accents the supernatural sophistication, strong characters, and sly drama. The Veil would seem to use its morality before the twist plotting to set itself apart from other anthologies of the era, however Karloff’s unseen series predates One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits – only the earlier Tales of Tomorrow or Alfred Hitchcock Presents provided competition. Each half hour moves fast, knowing how to be eerie enough to fill the time but not over stay its welcome once we know the twist. Although the introductions could be worded better and Karloff gives a postscript telling what happens next rather than showing it, The Veil admits up front that there will be no explanations. If not for a somewhat limited availability, this much shorter six hours is certainly easier to marathon than Karloff’s own later Thriller series. Where Thriller struggles to fill its sixty minute time with crime or suspense plots and never quite goes full on horror as it could, The Veil uses murder and scandal for a paranormal punchline just like it promises.

 

Now similar anthology tales of premonitions, ghosts, astral projection, or psychic phenomena will make The Veil obvious for wise speculative viewers – the unfortunate result of it’s previously unviewed shelf life. The small number of episodes leaves The Veil feeling too brief to be of real substance, and its quick run through may leave one lacking or wanting more. Fortunately, the possibilities were here alongside Karloff’s macabre charm, fun mini twists, and surprising paranormal guesses. The Veil may not look like much, but its black and white mood, well told stories, and fantastic toppers are more than enough for a spooky, rainy afternoon marathon anytime of year.

 

Strange Happenings in Wisconsin

August_the_beast_of_bray_road_by_pyro_helfier-d7v0mcyA fan of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, Jeff Eickelberg recently sent us an email saying that one topic he would love to see us talk about was unexplained occurrences in Wisconsin. Specifically he asked about Great Lakes ghosts, cryptids, haunted farmhouses or anything else that could be considered ghoulish. Being that I live in Wisconsin I was more than happy to research strange happenings in Wisconsin. Probably the first thing people think about when they think of Wisconsin is The Beast Of Bray Road. The Beast is a werewolf that has been spotted several times in Southeastern Wisconsin. There have been at least two books written about the beast and a couple of paranormal TV shows covered the subject. There was also a movie that was released in 2005. If you want to hear more about The Beast Of Bray Road check out D.J. Pitsiladis article on the topic here.

Haunchyville

h2My favorite weird story from Wisconsin is about a small village of murderous dwarfs in the woods near Muskego. The village is called Haunchyville and is protected by an old albino man. The dwarfs live in small houses built to scale and don’t like trespassers. If you are unlucky enough to meet them they will cut your legs off at the knee and force you to live as one of them. Legend has it that the town was created when a group of dwarfs ran away from  the circus because the circus’ ringmaster abused them. When the albino man was a boy he got lost in the woods and found Haunchyville by accident. The dwarfs took pity on him and raised him, the albino re-payed the favor by using a shotgun to keep people away from Haunchyville.

I had heard of Haunchyville from a book called Weird Wisconsin by Linda Godfrey and Richard Hendricks and I was fascinated by the idea of a small village of killer dwarfs. As I was doing research to write this, I didn’t find any record of anyone seeing the dwarfs but in the woods where Haunchyville is said to be located you will find three buildings that look like they could be dwarf homes. Most people believe that the legend of Haunchyville was started by high school kids in Muskego in order to scare younger kids.

http://slpmode.com/a-v-club-milwaukee-dont-go-back-to-haunchyville/

 

Summerwind

20140127-003206Every state has more than its fair share of haunted houses and the most haunted house in Wisconsin was a place called Summerwind. Located in Northeast Wisconsin on West Bay Lake this mansion was built in 1916 by Robert Lamont. The hauntings began when Robert Lamont thought he saw an intruder one evening and tried to shoot him, the bullet passed through him and the intruder faded away. Upon the death of Mr. Lamont the house was sold to Arnold Hinshaw and his wife Ginger who were only able to stay in the house for six months. The couple saw vague shapes and shadows passing through the home. Also lights would turn on and off along with windows and doors opening and closing by themselves. What was most disturbing though was a ghost of a woman who would appear above the dining room table. Over a short period of time, the couple started to question their sanity. Late at night Arnold would play an organ because the demons in his head said he had to. One night after finding a corpse in the home(which they never reported to the authorities) Ginger tried to commit suicide and the couple decided it was time to move on.

People doubted that Hinshaw’s story really happened but then the next owners had trouble. The new owner was Raymond Bober and he claimed he knew the house was haunted and even knew the ghost’s name. The ghost was an eighteenth century British explorer and the land was given to him by the Sioux Indians. He wrote a book about his experiences in 1979 called The Carver Effect. Bober had nothing but bad luck in the house and abandoned it after a couple of years. The house then remained vacant until 1988 when it burned to the ground after being struck by lightning. Some people still believe that the land where the house stood is still haunted.

https://www.prairieghosts.com/summer.html

Boy Scout Lane

BoyScoutLaneWisconsin has more haunted roads then most states and one of those is called Boy Scout Lane. Located near Stevens Point, a Scout troop was killed on the road sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s. Stories vary on what happened, some say the troop was killed by their scoutmaster and another story says that the scouts dropped a lantern which caused a fire and killed the whole troop. It is said that the scouts are haunting the area and if you are there you will hear them hiking through the woods. People that have visited the area have said they had the feeling they were being watched and have seen floating lights that look like lanterns. No one has ever been able to prove that a group of scouts died in this area but the ghost sighting are still happening.

http://www.yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=601

Witch Road

witch_road3Boy Scout road isn’t the only haunted lane in Wisconsin, Near the town of Rosendale lies Witch Road. Legend has it that 60 years ago a witch lived on Witch road and when she died the road became haunted. Some of the people who have traveled the road say that parts of the road are unusually dark and cold and you can hear the sound of trickling water even though there is no stream near by. Others have witnessed white lights in the trees and a ghost of a young girl. The witches abandoned home can still be seen near the street, along with a tree that looks a lot like a witch.  Several people go to witch road because they were dared and even when they don’t see a ghost they still say it’s a very creepy place to visit.

http://www.unexplainedresearch.com/files_spectrology/witch_road.html

 

Dartford Cemetery

dartford-indian-chiefMany people think cemeteries are haunted but in reality most cemeteries are not haunted but are a beautiful memorial to those that have passed before us. But there is one graveyard that may be haunted in Green Lake called Dartford Cemetery. According to the locals there are several ghosts that wander Dartford at night. Graves here date back to the 1800’s and some of the ghosts include civil war soldiers, kids who died of polio and an Indian Chief whose headstone appears to glow in the light of the moon.

Several stories have been told about this place, One of them is if you sit on one of the mausoleums, a ghost will come and push you off. Some people who are brave enough to enter the cemetery after dark have seen tombstones that vanish and reappear. They have also seen shadows and orbs in the trees and have had the sensation of being watched.

http://www.unexplainedresearch.com/media/a_haunting_featuring_the_dartford_cemetery.html

Bloody Bride Bridge

c202126003ca8c4cfc617571c5d1f5d0Out on County Highway 66 near Stevens Point, lies a concrete bridge that crosses the Plover River. Though no one has ever been able to confirm the story it is said that years ago a bride and groom were driving home after their wedding in a thunderstorm. As they crossed the bridge the car spun out of control and the couple died in the crash. Since then people have spotted the bride standing on the bridge with blood covering her dress. It is also said that if you stop your car on the bridge the dead bride and groom will appear in the backseat of your car.

http://www.washingtoncountyparanormal.com/blog/the-mysterious-stacked-stones-of-bloody-bride-bridge-stevens-point-wi/

Hotel Hell

maribel-caves-hotel-photoEveryone has had a bad stay at a hotel but there is one hotel out there that some think contains a portal to hell. Built in 1900, Hotel Hell in Maribel was originally called the Maribel Caves Hotel. It had a rough history, it caught fire three times on the same date. One of the fires in the 1930’s killed all the hotel guests while they slept. These were not the only deaths that took place there, one night one of the hotel guests went crazy and killed some of the guests with a knife.

Though no one can say when it happened it was believed that a group of black witches who were attracted to the spiritual activity that went on there did a ritual and opened a portal to hell that released demons into the hotel. Luckily for the future guests a white witch came to the rescue and sealed the portal. The hotel has been abandoned since a fire gutted the inside in 1985. Since then many people have entered the hotel illegally and said that they heard disembodied voices and saw blood on the walls.

http://www.unexplainedresearch.com/files_spectrology/maribel_hotel_hell.html

Wisconsin Lizard Man

manbatWisconsin also has its fair share of cryptids, including a lizard man who was spotted at different times in the 1990’s on route 13 south of Medford. People who saw the creature say that it was covered in green scales and had large leathery wings.  The first person who spotted it said it was standing in the middle of the road and then shot up into the sky when the car got close. Shortly after that another person spotted it in the same area and said it was staring right at him but when the car got close he flew off into the trees.

About 10 years later in 2006, a creature that fit the same description was spotted near LaCrosse. A father and son spotted the lizard man flying straight at there car while screaming. They thought it was going to collide with them but at the last second the creature darted up into the sky. The picture to the left is an artist’s rendition of how the creature was described.

http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/81821-reptilian-sighted-in-wisconsin-by-man-son/

Pepie The Lake Monster

d3f36250d229c4a3623ade43e64569ebSo now you know Wisconsin has lizard men, werewolves and ghosts. But that’s not all we have, we also have our own lake monster. He lives in Lake Pepin which is along the Mississippi River about 40 miles from Eau Claire. His name is Pepie and he goes way back to when the native Americans lived there. Legend has it they would not take their canoes on Lake Pepin because they feared the giant lake monster would tip it over.

Back in 1871 some explorers said they spotted the creature and it looked like a cross between a rhino and an elephant. Since then there have been sightings and even some pictures of the creature, but no hard evidence has been presented saying the creature exists. People keep trying though, in 2008 there was an expedition to find it that came up empty-handed and currently there is a $50,000 reward for proof that Pepie exists. Pepie is so popular in Wisconsin that he even has his own website.

http://pepie.net/

Green Bay’s Griffon

article-2343642-1A5FD37C000005DC-129_634x518The last thing I want to talk about is The Griffon. If you are going to talk about ghosts in Wisconsin you have to talk about The Great Lakes. Ships have been crossing the lakes for centuries and up until the last 50 years or so, it wasn’t safe. Several books have been written on shipwrecks on The Great Lakes and where there are wrecks there are ghosts.

The Griffon’s home port was in Green Bay, in August of 1679 the ship was headed back to Green Bay from Niagara when it mysteriously disappeared. It wasn’t gone forever though. Throughout the years in the fog people have claimed to spot a ghostly three-masted ship that looked like it belonged to a different era. Could The Griffon still be trying to find its way home after 300 years? I guess we will never know for sure.

http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/04/the-ghost-fleet-of-the-great-lakes/

Do you have a favorite ghost story from your area you want to share? Please leave a comment or send us an email at horroraddicts@gmail.com.