Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve VIII: “My Night as a Ghostbuster: A True Story”

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One night in June of 2013, my wife and I entered a bar in Hogansburg, NY…just a few miles beyond the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.  We were part of a local “ghost investigation” group based in Malone.  There had been reports of strange happenings at the bar.  The staff refused to go to certain rooms alone…only with friends.  The bar owners called on the Malone group to “investigate” and perhaps, “deghost” the premises.

This is what happened that night (to the best of my recollections).

We arrived at the Brass Rail Tavern around 11:00 pm.  The bar is located on Route 37, just outside beyond the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.  On a map, it appears to be outside the boundary of the St. Regis Indian Reservation.  In reality, it isn’t.  We knew that when we entered the smokey establishment.  The NYS No-Smoking laws do not apply to tribal lands.  My wife and I, both rabid non-smokers, ‘hid’ out in the community room/office until the last call was made and the final customers went to their cars.  The two staffers who remained with our team locked the door around 2:00 am.

That’s when we went to work.

We set up two Infrared video cameras and had the feed linked to two monitors in the office.  We were given certain duties.  My job was to do a walk-through of the entire place with an EMF detector.  I had an assistant who took notes on the readings.  Ostensibly, we were to look for ‘hot spots’ where the EMF numbers spiked or seemed out of the norm.  Of course, we had high readings around the TV sets, juke box and fuse boxes…anywhere that an unusual amount of electricity was being used.

I found nothing that caused any red lights to go off.

Except when I spoke with one of the bartenders.

She was in her 20’s.  Blonde and attractive.  When I was alone in the room where all the tubing ran from the kegs to the taps, she followed me in and partly closed the door.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked.

“Sure,” I replied.  (How often does a pretty blonde bartender whose half your age, follow you into an empty room?)

“No one really interviewed me…I mean from your group.  They never heard what I have a problem with.”

“So, tell me,” I said.  “What did we miss?”

“It’s my ex-boyfriend.  He follows me around a lot.  He was in here tonight watching me from the doorway.  He’s not hard to miss.  He wears jeans and a dark blue hoodie.”

“Is he still your boyfriend, in his mind?  If you don’t mind my asking, is he really in love with you?” I asked.

“My friends said he was crazy about me.  But I broke it off with him quite a while ago.  But he still comes around.  He knows where I live.  I had to move once.  He even got my cell phone number and called me.”

“Sounds like a stalker,” I said. “Have you spoken to the police about this?”

“No,” she said as she looked over her shoulder.  “That wouldn’t be the thing to do.”

“Why?” I asked.  “Are you afraid of him?”

“Well, not in the way you would think I should be.”

“I’m not sure I understand.  You see your former boy friend standing around and watching you.  He gets your phone number.  That is not a situation I would think you’d feel safe in,” I said.

“It’s different with him.”

“How?” I asked.

“He’s been dead for eight years.”

~~~

We all gathered in the office and watched the monitors.  There was nothing.  No shadows.  No motion.  No wisps of orbs.  Nothing was showing up.

“Okay, I think it’s time we did our contact/intervention session,” said the group leader.  “Let’s start in the place where most of the sightings have taken place…the kitchen.”

I was told to bring my digital audio recorder.  Another one was produced.  We set them up in different parts of the kitchen.  I spoke the time, date and location into my recorder.  We all stood quietly and waited.  [The recordings were going to be replayed at a later date and at various speeds to try to pick up anything we might have missed during the actual recording.]

Someone in the group began to speak.

“If you are here and are wishing to communicate with us, show us a sign.  We know you may be angry about something.  Do you NOT want to be coming here?  Are you in some kind of distress?  We mean you no harm.  Just show us a sign…a noise…anything to let us know you are among us.  Do you have anything to communicate?  We are listening.”

Nothing.

~~~

An hour passed.  We had walked around again and rechecked our EMF readings.  We made a circle around the two recorders that were placed in the middle of the dance floor.  Again, someone asked questions of the unwanted visitor.

Still nothing.

~~~

So, who were we trying to contact?  It seems that a regular customer (he sat for years on the same bar stool) had been hit by a car as he left the place one night several years ago.  It was this individual that most of the staff had seen.  A little later, during a break in the office, the two staffers (employees) told us that the bar was built on the site of a much older tavern.  This woman went on to explain that there was a Shaman on the reservation who was very adamant about not having the casino built on tribal land.  It was rumored that he put a ‘curse’ on the land around the casino.  That would include the bar we were all sitting in.

~~~

Then around 5:30 am, we heard a sound.  Someone was coming in the front door!  The investigating team went into high gear.  But, the two staffers told us, it was only the cleaning ladies.  They arrived to give the place a good wipe-down before opening later that morning.  One of the cleaners was a mute.  I took the other one aside (I have rarely seen a skinnier female in my life…her body/fat index must have been in the negative numbers) and asked her a few questions.  Had she been interviewed by any of our team members prior to our arrival that night?  No, she said.  I thought that was odd.  Why didn’t someone talk to these woman (the skinny one could communicate with the mute one.  I asked if they had ever seen anything unusual in those pre-dawn hours when they came to work.  Oh, yes, she said.  Just last night we were sitting on this couch and that door opened and closed.  She pointed to the kitchen door.

I thanked her.

~~~

Later, when I was making some notes for my report, I questioned why no one in our group had made full interviews with all those who had seen something.  I was curious about the spirit of the regular customer who was killed by the car.  Was he an habitual drinker?  What about this alleged ‘curse’?  Someone should have done more to prepare us for the night.

As it turned out, we packed up and went to the parking lot just as the sun was rising in the east.

What had we learned? Basically, nothing.  We had seen nothing, caught nothing on video or audio recordings.

But something or someone was in the building and it made a great many of the employees uneasy and fearful.

I started the evening as a skeptic and I ended as a skeptic.  I confess, I was hoping to see something…experience something…but I didn’t.  Even though I may not have invested in this activity, I was surrounded by those who truly believed in what they saw and things they heard.  I wasn’t looking for ghosts,  I was more interested in the people who saw them or investigated them.  Who was I to judge anyone’s belief on a topic as multi-faceted as this.  More than one person saw something.  They ‘knew’ it to be a spirit of someone dead.  I cannot in good conscience tell them or think of them as self-delusional.  The import fact is this: they believed it.  And, we all know that whatever ‘truth’ is, depends on the viewpoint of the individual.  I also think it came down to trust.

I didn’t trust our team because the preparation for the night was lacking.  I didn’t trust my own senses to be sharp to pick up something.  Maybe I heard a noise or a voice and it just didn’t ‘click’ with me.

Mariam made a final trip back inside to use the restroom.  The others had already left.  The parking lot had two cars…ours and one that belonged to the cleaning ladies.  I walked across the gravel and stood by the road.  The morning traffic had not yet started.  I faced the bar and closed my eyes.

It was then that I sensed something…strange and unusual emotions came to me along with blurred images.

I saw a young man with a dark hoodie standing alone in the distance.  His hands were in his pockets.  He was staring at the tavern where the woman he loved tended bar.  But he was helpless to communicate with her and tell her his inner most feelings.  He was dead.

I saw a Tribal Elder saying “NO”, do not allow slots machines on sacred ground…the only ground we have left.  If you build the casino, I will call a dark curse on this land.  Spirits will come here and wander…returning from the Land of the Fathers.

I saw an elderly man who had spent the evening (many evenings) sitting at the bar of the Brass Rail, trying to calm his demons.  I saw him standing in the road asking “What just happened to me?”

I saw a painfully thin young woman who got out of bed at 4:00 am to clean bars, bank lobbies and gas stations bathrooms.  She looked at me and asked: “Why doesn’t someone ask me what I’ve seen?  Am I invisible?”

I saw her friend, unable to speak or hear correctly.  But her thoughts were coming to me clearly.  “Why doesn’t someone make an effort to learn signing so they can ask me questions?”

When I opened my eyes, my wife was standing beside our car.

“Let’s go home,” she said.

“Yes, let’s,” I replied.  I walked away from the images in my mind and fished for the keys in my pocket.

These people I had just seen and heard are the ones who held the answers to whatever or whoever it was that made working in the Brass Rail an unpleasant experience.

When Life Ends: Still Rich: Still Poor

One of my pastimes is to wander cemeteries.  The older the better–and more interesting.  The artwork on gravestones is full of imagery and symbolism.  I’ve been in classic world-famous cemeteries like Pere Lachaise, in Paris, Evergreen, in my hometown and quaint very old graveyards that sit in the quiet spaces beside churches in England.  And, I’ve been to small towns in northern New York State where the burying grounds are simple, spare, small and, sadly, unkempt.  I’ve stood in old sections of these rural graveyards and looked with dismay at the vandalism of old heavy stones.

But, lately, I’ve been struck with the nature of a tomb’s edifice.  The variety is endless.  Some headstones are slate or granite.  Some are marble in various colors.  The mausoleums can be humble and decayed.  I’ve peered through the iron gates and have seen leaves and litter that have blown in.  Many are locked tight and prevent anyone from looking inside.  Some tombstones are large and elaborate, with poetic epitaphs.  And some tell only the name of the deceased with a date for the birth and the death.  Often, the death dates are not yet carved in place–even though the death occurred twenty years ago.  Why?  Could the family not afford the carving of the date?  Are there no family members left who know or care about the closure of a person’s life span?

I thought about how some individuals present themselves in life.  Big cars.  McMansions.  Silk ties.  Titles.  Wealth.

And I thought about how these individuals spend enormous amounts of money to place a monument to themselves (or their family does it) for others to gaze upon and stand in awe.  There is nothing wrong with that.  A person who worked hard…earned a great deal of money (hopefully honestly) is entitled to remind those left behind of how important he or she was.  Again, there is nothing wrong with any of that.

See what I mean:

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But what I sometimes find when I roam the graveyards of the rural cemeteries are headstones that are humble and sorrowful.  I find that a fair number of families simply cannot afford a fancy headstone or expensive laser etching of names and dates.  I came upon one the other day that caused me to pause.  I tried to walk on, but I was drawn back to the small stone.  I couldn’t tell what material it was made from but the lettering on the face broke my heart.  Here was a headstone for two boys who lived and died in the 1940’s.  Neither of them made it past two years of age.  But the lettering was handmade.  I don’t believe that this was on purpose.  I felt sure that the parents, the broken-hearted parents, simply could not afford professional lettering.

So they did it themselves.

I compared the two monuments in my mind.  One told a story of wealth—one didn’t.  The rich man who sits atop his edifice is proud of his accomplishments.

The parents of the two boys are buried a few feet away from them.  They sit atop nothing.

But, I’m sure…in my heart, I’m sure…that the parents are proud of their accomplishment.  They did what they could to tell the people like me who would one day wander past the boy’s graves, the year of their birth and the year of their untimely death.

Isn’t that really all we need to know?  Perhaps the rich man sat on the board of a bank or was a generous philanthropist.  But he played with a stick and a ball when he was a child.  He swam in a pond.  He had a dog.  But he went on to “greater” things.

The boy’s were not old enough to help with the hay in the late summer or even go to school.  Maybe they slid across an icy pond…without skates?  Perhaps they sat on their father’s knee and rubbed the stubble on his cheek.  Or heard him read a story.

We’ll never know.  There are no details about their short lives.

Only the essentials are known: they were born in a certain year and they died a few years later.

That’s all we know.

I walked on.

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Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve VII: “Beyond The Campfire”

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The autumn leaves are rustling in the chilly breeze–the chilly breeze that is coming from the lake–drifting through the trees with the promise or a threat of the coming winter.  He threw another split piece of hardwood on the already warm fire.

His wife looks at him when the pack of coyotes begin to howl.  There is a den that is only about a half-mile away, out in the woods, near Grandma’s Pond.  It gets very dark out by Grandma’s Pond–a good place for a pack of coyotes to live.  A few years ago, a neighbor let her brown labrador out for the night.  The poor dog was never seen again.  The coyotes?

Another pack picks up the howling.  Or is it just an echo from the esker across the lake?  It’s hard to tell sometimes when only one wild animal screeches in the night…or whether it’s twenty wild animals.  The echoes can fool anyone.

He’s been planning on attempting a hike that will take several days to complete.  That would mean several nights too.  He tried the hike forty years ago, solo.  He found that as much as he loved the forest, the quiet, the trees and the sounds…during the day, that it was very different when the sun went down.  A flashlight only provides a person with a small cone of light in a large cathedral of dark trees.  And, once the flashlight is switched “ON”, the batteries begin to drain…ever so slowly.  A hiker can’t carry a pound of Duracells for several nights out.  The weight is too much…like the darkness.  It tends to envelope the solo camper.  It tends to act like a shroud.  The burden of the dark and being alone can sometimes drive a “normal” person into levels of fear that can alter their psychology…that can make them do irrational things…think irrational thoughts…make irrational plans.

Those pressures have been known to drive people insane.  The fear of what lurks in the dark forest, is as bad as the fear of what lurks in your brain.

What are people capable of doing?

But he’s not alone on this night.  His wife is sipping her Chardonnay.  Their house is just behind them.  There are motion lights in several locations around the house…able to detect someone (or something) approaching.  Or, just to make sure you don’t trip over a log.

Or an axe.  He remembered he sank the blade of the axe into a stump.  He looked around to check it.  He could see the orange plastic.  The handle arched at an obscene angle…about 45 degrees and pointed toward the area where the coyotes were howling.

The perfect sized fire gave off plenty of light.  There were two Tiki torches on each side of the stone fire pit.  But, even with this light, there was an intense and awful darkness just beyond the limit of sight.

Was there anything out there?  What did he just hear?

As a child, afraid of the dark, he was told by adults that the night forest is just like the day forest.  If you could turn on a light at midnight, everything would be the same as if it were noon.

He knew as an educated adult and former science teacher that those reassuring remarks were simply not true.  The night forest is very different from the day forest.

But what was out there?  He rose from the chair and went to get the axe.  He brought it back and leaned it against the stump that held his wife’s wine glass.

He avoided looking into the darkness.  Instead, he stared into the bright flames and the red embers.  There was comfort there.

It was getting colder.  The coyotes stopped howling.

He put his hand on the axe handle.  There was comfort there.

He stared into the embers.  There was comfort and ease there.

But away from the fire…was overwhelming and terrible discomfort and unease.

Out there.

 

 

Popeye, The Sailor, Lost At Sea: Death Confirmed by U. S. Navy Seals

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My name is Ned Gladd*.  I cover the waterfront.  I am a famous journalist and my beat is the high seas.  If anything happens on the water, I’m there.  You will see my byline at the bottom of this article. But, in over thirty years of covering ocean tragedies, I am anything but glad.  It is my sad duty to make the official report to the world of the demise of the world-famous and much-loved man of the sea, Popeye.  U. S. Navy Seal teams made their last sighting of the lone seaman as he drifted on a current into the heart of the Arabian Sea.  The container ship he was crewing on was attacked by a gang of Somali pirates.  The skipper of the S. S. Sweet Pea, a Captain Phillips, confirmed the attack which was repulsed with grenade launchers.  Popeye, not realizing that rescue was only minutes away, chose to take a life raft and several cases of the cargo.  The hold contained over ten thousand cases of canned spinach, which was on its way to the poverty-ridden port of Zanzibar.  Popeye, thinking all was lost, had been making a desperate attempt to get some of the precious food to a port of safety.

Popeye was predeceased by his father, Poopdeck Pappy.  He is survived by his adopted son, Swee’Pea and widow, Olive Oyl.  Ms. Oyl and Popeye were secretly married in a private ceremony on an island in the Seychelles over twenty years ago.  They chose to keep their marriage a secret due to the fact that they had a long-term “live-in” relationship which was opposed by Ms. Oyl’s father, Cole Oyl and mother, Nana Oyl.  Both are strict Baptists from North Carolina with strong ties to ultra-right wing political causes.  Ms. Oyl’s brother, Castor, was not present.  It is rumored that he had joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints and was giving The Book of Mormon away in Orlando, Florida.

But, my heart truly breaks for Ms. Olive Oyl, Popeye’s true love.

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Swee”Pea, who is now 31 years old and runs a tattoo parlor in the Maldives, could not be reached for comment.  He is said to be in seclusion in a monastery off the coast of Cyprus.

I am indebted to the U. S. Navy for permission to hitch a ride to the Port of Mahajanga, Madagascar, where a funeral will take place.  It will be symbolic, since the remains of the sailor are not known.  Experts believe that he had drowned during a squall in the Mozambique Channel.

I am standing outside the humble chapel watching the well-wishers file past.  I was lucky enough to get a few moments with some of the mourners as they entered the church.

Mr. Bluto, long considered a rival for the affections of Ms. Oyl, said that he was greatly saddened.  As he stroked his black whiskers, he said that his full attention was to attend to Ms. Oyl’s needs in this hardest of times.  Mr. Bluto said that he would call upon Ms. Oyl as soon as possible and offer his full services to help her through her grief.

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The Sea Hag mentioned that she never really had anything specific against Popeye.  “I just like to bother some people,” she said, as she wiped away a salty tear.

I caught sight of Harold Hamgravy in the distance.  He was avoiding the crowds.  This aged man, once a boyfriend of Ms. Oyl, was struggling with a walker and two attending nurses.

A few minutes later, a portly gentleman by the name of J. Wellington Wimpy stopped to chat with me.  He said he was heartbroken about the entire affair.  As he left to enter the chapel, he turned to me and asked if he could borrow a dollar for a hamburger.  He assured me he would gladly pay me back on Tuesday.  I gave him $2.00 and told him the extra dollar was to light a candle in the sanctuary.  He assured me he would.

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The life of Popeye and Olive Oyl was not without some controversy.  There was a time when he was approached to be a spokesman for the Quaker Oats Company; he was asked to say that their product was better than spinach.  The Society of Friend’s objected to the phrase of “Popeye the Quaker Man.”  They also expressed concern about the excessive submissiveness of Ms. Oyl.

The issue was settled out of court.

The idea of spinach was the food of choice for Popeye was falsely based on the mistaken notion of the Iron content of the vegetable. Insiders were quick to point out that it was the vitamin A that gave Popeye that extra ‘kick’ when he needed it.

~~~

So, the mourners are gone now.  The few members of the world’s press corps have caught the late flights back to Paris.  But, I am still here.  I’m standing on the sandy shore of the Indian Ocean and looking out at the horizon.  I’m wondering what will the world be like now without this man with the oversized forearms.  This quiet giant of a man.  This sailor who never once had to take penicillin shots or hang out in the local Y.M.C.A. was now, I imagined, talking knots with Davey Jones, Jack Sparrow, Mr. Roberts, Captain Hook and all those who go down to the sea in ships.

May God rest his gentle soul.

I pray that he was strong to the finish…

~~~

*Ned Gladd is the author of the following highly respected books:

Non-Fiction:

“Seaman & Semen” A History of America’s Great Nautical Law Firm

“Moby Dick” A Medical Look at ED Among Merchant Marines

“Hey Sailor” Religious Foundations of World-wide Navel Dating Practices

“Dot Dot Dot Dash Dash Dash Dot Dot Dot” The Epic Tale of the Titanic Told Entirely in Morse Code

“Dolphins & Mariners” A Critical Essay on Professional Sports Teams Named After Ocean Things

Fiction:

“The Old Man and the Gowanus Canal”

“Endurance” A Sailor’s Marriage

“The Ancient Seafarer”

By Ned Gladd

[With grateful appreciation to Wikipedia]

 

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve VI: “A Light Hearted Look at Demonic Bloodsuckers”

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There are creatures that can crawl up a wall, head down, in an upside down position (like a spider), turn themselves into bats, rats, moths, mists, and clouds of dust.  They ‘live’ by sucking the blood of a live person.  We call these demon-like beings vampires.  They would not make very good neighbors, although, I’ve lived next to people who can do pretty much all these things…but that’s a another story.

A vampire can’t do everything (although in modern days, they can do much more than tradition tells us, i.e., go out into the sunlight.)  They cannot cross running water (movie lore), and they cannot enter a room without being invited.  A vampire abhors garlic (a recent addition to the lore)…but it’s the Crucifix that will usually stop them in their tracks.

Vampires are hot these days…or should I say cold.  The adventures of the Undead, as a role model for teenagers, started long before “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer”.  “My Best Friend is a Vampire” probably was released around the time that “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” made a big star of Michael Landon.  My first experience of a vampire on the big screen was a re-release of “Dracula”, with Bela Lugosi (1931).  In the mid to late 1950’s, came the Hammer Films series that starred Christopher Lee as the Prince of Darkness.  I believe it all started with the 1957 “Horror of Dracula.”  It was followed by sequels, one of which played up the sensual/sexual nature of the vampire/victim relationship so clearly, it was not released in the USA for quite a few years.

For those of you who disdain vampire legends and have not done your homework, you will need this brief outline: The novel that popularized the character of Dracula was the book of the same name, written by the Irish writer, Bram Stoker in 1897.  He based the main character on a real person in history.  This would be Vlad Tepes III, Prince of Wallachia (1431-1476).  He was nick-named “Vlad the Impaler” for reasons I won’t go into here.  Use your imagine.  But this guy was real.  He did unspeakable things (refer back to his nick-name).  He lived in the part of central Europe that has long been known as Transylvania, in central Romania.  I cannot give the details about a woman who was a real-life counterpart to Vlad.  She was a Baroness or something in a small region, probably Transylvania.  She felt that to keep her beauty and youth, she needed to bath every so often in a tub of virgin’s blood.  So she sent her henchmen out to locate and kidnap the virgins of the village.  I’ll go no further in a description of what she did with the young girls and how she bathed in their blood…let’s just say she managed.  Between her and Vlad, she kept the female population of a fair number of villagers from ever reaching womanhood.  Together, they made Jeffery Dahmer look like Bobby Flay. (Maybe Bobby’s last name made him a bad choice to use here).

I wish I could remember the name of this woman…but it’s getting late in the afternoon…the sun is low in the sky.  So I must hurry to finish this before darkness descends on the North Country.  Too bad I used the last of the garlic cloves in a pesto sauce last night.  I wonder if garlic powder will work?

From books I’ve read, the belief in vampires still exists in remote villages in this region.  In fact, there are accounts of vampires who lived and “worked” here in America…and quite recently.  Google it.

A defrocked priest (now, that’s always worth a story to look into) named Montague Summers wrote many books on werewolves, witches and vampires.  His 1929, “Vampires and Vampirism” is a classic.  Anne Rice popularized the genre with “Interview With A Vampire” in the 1970’s.

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[Vlad the Impaler in a historical painting]

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[Brad Pitt from "Interview With A Vampire]

Why have I chosen vampires as one of my Halloween posts? I think it’s pretty obvious.  But, most the most amazing fact about these fictional (?) characters is that people did and still do consider them as real! If you find yourself wandering through an old cemetery and you come upon a caged grave, it’s a good chance that the deceased that lie here were thought to be vampires.  The cages were put in place around the grave to keep them in.

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[Please note: The idea that graves were caged (like these in Edinburgh), were to keep the dead in has recently been debunked by scholars.  Now it is claimed that it was more to protect the recently deceased from grave robbers.  Other details concerning Vlad have also gone through historical revisionism.  I like my versions better.  Like I say, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."]

What makes the vampire legends compelling to me?  It’s the fact they represent the ultimate in true tragedy.  What was once a human soul…cannot die!  To wander the earth until he or she is standing at the Gate of Judgement must be unbearable.  And this brings a second aspect of tragedy: a vampire can be released (killed) by having a stake of “white wood”, ash, or oak driven through the heart.  And, there is the third element of tragedy.  Who does this deed?  If it’s a loved one, imagine the anguish one must go through to “kill’ someone you love so that they can find true death (and happiness).

It’s a good thing these are facets of fiction…or are they?

What is shown below is not a toy box.  It’s a real 17th century vampire hunter’s kit.  (If this is something you would buy your child, you need to seek professional help immediately.)

17thCentury?VampireKit

 

So, after you’ve read this post, make yourself a hot toddy.  Soak in the hot tub.  Get a good book (one by me, perhaps).  Check your windows…are they locked?  Are all the doors bolted?  Is you’re cell phone by your bed?  Are you ready to sleep?

Do you hear something? A creaking, a groan, clanking of something metallic?

It’s only your house settling down for the night.

Trust me.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve V: “Cardboard Tombstones and The Greatest Horror Movie Ever Made”

Since it’s creeping, day by day and night by night, toward Halloween, it’s time to consider the movies.  I’m not talking “Mary Poppins” either (although dancing with penguins can be pretty scary).  No, I’m talking of the Great Horror Movies of the Century.  Some of the most blood-curdling scenes on film were written by gifted authors, directed by geniuses, acted by theater legends and perfect excuses to wrap your arms around your sweetheart and pretend you were brave and protective.  I did this, and all the while, missing key dialogue and scenes.  Try watching Lon Chaney through narrow slits of nearly closed eyes?  Try turning away from some demonic brain surgery scene…your girlfriend will think something is wrong with her left ear or a strange woman on your left will call the usher because you’re staring at her right ear.  It’s not easy.

I’m not a screenwriter.  I think we know that.  But I love the visual quality of films and the style of writing.  I think this comes from listening to the radio when I was a child.  Shows like “Inner Sanctum” and “The Shadow” forced me to imagine the faces and scenery.  With movies, you’re given everything.  Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Classic images constructed by Hollywood are like perfect novels…not a word could be changed…not an image could be different.  For example: Lon Chaney getting the mask ripped from his face in “Phantom of the Opera”, or Elsa Lanchester’s jerky head as the “Bride of Frankenstein”.  Or, perhaps one of my all-time favorites, when Bela Lugosi stands on the stairs of his castle and, after hearing the wolves, says: “Listen to them-the children of the night.  What music they make!”

Let’s get to the point.  You need great scenery, deep and meaningful dialogue, professional acting, and a strong plot.  For my money, only a handful of movies fulfill those stringent requirements.  I’m thinking of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (the original, of course), “Freaks”, “The Beast of Yucca Flats” and, of course, the All-Time Greatest Horror ever put on celluloid: “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

Directed by the legendary genius, Ed Wood, it is a true masterpiece by any standards.  Ed Wood knew how to write and direct a film that will be a classic for all time.  “Plan 9″ was filmed in and around Hollywood.  It was released in 1959.  The running time is 79 minutes.  And it had a staggering budget of $60,000.  Wood also had a major movie star on his contract, Bela Lugosi.  Sadly, Lugosi was, at the time, a drug addict.  Legend has it that Wood would drive Lugosi around L.A. to find drug dealers willing to supply them with enough morphine to get Lugosi through the next few days shooting schedule.

Then a slight problem arose.  Bela Lugosi died only a few days into the filming.  To Ed Wood, that presented no big problem.  He simply found some out-of-work actor to ‘stand-in’ for Lugosi.  Recognition problems? No way.  The actor simply held up a cape (Dracula fashion) and hid his face.  Brilliant!

The scenery (and props) were also something to behold.  If you watch the tombstones as the main characters walk through the cemetery at night, some of them flap back and forth.  Who needs marble when cardboard will work just as well?

The ‘flying saucer’ at the beginning of the film resembles a garbage can lid.  It probably was.

But the writing was extraordinary.  And I mean that literally.

Consider the following speech given by Criswell at the very beginning:

Criswell: Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony, of the miserable souls, who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places. My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts of grave robbers from outer space?

Now that’s writing.

Other noteworthy dialogue includes:

Criswell: At the funeral of the old man, unknown to his mourners, his DEAD WIFE was watching!

~~

Lieutenant John Harper: It was a saucer.

Policeman: A flying saucer?

~~

Air Force Captain: Visits? That would indicate visitors.

As you can read, the dialogue left much to the imagination…like great film dialogue should attempt.  There’s nothing left for the imagination with a toss-off quote like, say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  But that’s another movie…

Something else should be mentioned here.  One of the main characters, played by an ex-professional wrestler, Tor Johnson, makes a classic return from his grave.  That face, that image was to become the all-time best-selling Halloween mask in history.  [I can not confirm this fact...it was something I read years ago.  I would think that the more recent images like "Freddie", the "Halloween" monster and the "Scream" figure are probably more popular now.]

This is the make-up artists model:

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 This is the actor, Tor Johnson:

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So, get the film on Netflix.  Sit back and enjoy.

Finally, I want to add that I first saw the film in the mid-1980’s while living in Norwalk, CT.  It was being shown at a local movie theater as part of the “Golden Turkey” Awards.  The ‘worst films ever made’.  I have to say, I don’t agree.  The real horror movies are those that exploit women, children, gays and glorify violence and war.  Nothing is glorious in those things.  And, I can’t help but feel that the real ‘horror’ of this movie was all behind the camera.  Ed Wood was gay.  That must have been a nightmare in itself in Hollywood in the late 1950’s.  And, the sorrow I felt for Bela Lugosi, once a great actor, seeing him sinking so low in his personal addictions that he agreed to make this film to just get through another day.  Now that’s real terror.  That’s real scary.  I poked fun at this movie in this post, but I don’t laugh so loud now at the inane dialogue or fake tombstones.  I feel sorrow for the lives being played out…where I can’t see them.  Off camera, on dirty street corners and in lonely hotel rooms, when the actors go home to whatever sad lives they had.

Remember the saying: “For all the bright lights on Broadway, there are a thousand broken hearts.”?

These days, for every Brad Pitt, there’s ten thousand waitresses, waiters, barristers and really lonely people who are miles away from their farm in Ohio and their worried parents.

Waiting For All Hallow’s Eve IV: “Do Ghosts Dream in Black and White?”

I broke away from the other kayakers.  They were intent on finding a trail that was obscured and hidden in a small cove.  It was supposed to begin on a tiny stretch of sand and among the blueberry bushes.  It led to a small body of water called Loon Pond (some called it Lost Pond).  I told the group that I had a sore ankle that needed some attention…and rest.  I wanted, for some unknown reason to avoid the woods on this day.  I dreaded the shadows and the patches of darkness among the trees.  I didn’t feel things were right for me about the short hike.  In reality, my ankle was fine…it was the deep tight pain in my left chest area that concerned me.  I wanted the sunshine, the sky, the clouds and the shoreline of green firs, pines and tamarack.  I also wanted to be alone and think.

SunOnRainbow

And my chest hurt.

So, I turned my boat around and paddled for a few minutes.  I had not taken my usual small lightweight kayak (the electric blue one with the white trim).  No, I chose an older Old Town that was bright red.  It had a larger cockpit so I could put my knees up and stretch a little more.  I pushed forward and put my feet on the deck, resting on the PFD that I kept under the bungee cords in front of the cockpit.  I put my head back.  I watched the scattered cumulus clouds drift slowly beneath a deep blue sky.  A slight breeze blew at my back.  I took out my book but was unable to read two lines.  Back into the nylon bag it went.  I pulled my raspberry hat over my eyes and closed them.  The boat gently rocked in the small waves.  The breeze was causing me to drift in the general direction of our home.  No other boats were on this part of Rainbow Lake.

I began to drift to sleep.  My chest made a slight twitch.  A small muscle went tight beneath my sternum.

I began to have a strange dream.  I was alone.  The blue sky was bleeding white like a rain shower falling on a watercolor painting.  All the colors ran.

My body jerked me awake.  I kept my eyes closed for fear of the sun’s glare.  With the heels of my hands, I rubbed my itchy eyes.  I opened them.

My first thought was…I had no thoughts.  I looked around.  Nothing was the same as it was before.  There was no color.  My world was black and white.

I felt my pulse.  There was nothing.

It’s amazing that I didn’t panic…because panic was what I always felt one would feel when one realized they were dead.

I felt no panic.  I just felt dead.  Then I knew that without life, there is no “world as we know it.” There was no color.

So, now what?  I waited.  Something was supposed to happen to me now, but I didn’t know what or when it would happen.  My thoughts began small: Is this the way that all the departed experience what is left of the world? There were no hues, no tints, no reds of passion and love, no white of innocence and purity, no green of life and promise, no blue of depression and loneliness, no gray of nuance and subtlety, no scarlet of lust and sin, no amber of forgotten photographs or letters written when youthful fingers pushed the pens.

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There was nothing but growing blackness and fading light.  Stark reality.  Basic emotions.  The lack of life’s spark that once I lived, loved and danced to.

I drifted and I pondered.  I became convinced that I was truly dead and that my vision of the world reflected the lost palette of life’s interests.  What was the purpose of color to me now?  Color only evokes emotions or emotions evoke colors…I guess it works both ways.  A musical chord can make you cry.  A particular painting can make you pray.  The sounds of certain words can bring you to your knees.

I had nearly given myself over to my inert fate when a spark of a thought began in my brain or my heart or my soul.

What about my grandson?  He surely loves me and cares about me.  What of my daughter and son?  They surely love me and worry about me?  My wife must love me…for all the mistakes I’ve made.  My brother must love and care about me.  What of my family and friends?  They must think of me with affection.  What of the lovers of years ago?  Perhaps one remembers my name, thinks about me, cares about me and even still loves me…in their own way.

These thoughts drifted into my conscience.  Then something happened.  Like a watercolor artist working in slow motion, the sky began to turn pale blue.  The lake water became a deeper blue.  The forest trees were green again.  The late summer wildflowers turned pink, lavender and yellow.

It was a bright sunny day again.  I looked at my watch.  Only a few minutes had passed.

But I knew I was alive.

And, then you’re alive, truly alive and fully alive…you see the world in a whole new spectrum of tints and hues.

It’s a circle.  Life is emotion.  Emotion is color…and color is life.