Animal Spirits

ghostdog (1)

I was lying in bed, not yet asleep, when I felt my cat Indy jump onto the bed and cuddle beside my legs. Of course when I looked she wasn’t there; Indy had died two days earlier. But I knew I’d felt her presence that night, and still do from time to time.

So do animals have spirits? Souls? Can they come back to their beloved humans as ghosts, or haunt their former abode?

The idea that animals have immortal souls is not new. The ancient Egyptians mummified their pets to have them with them in the afterlife. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c. 582 – 496 B.C.E.) believed that animals and humans had the same kind of soul and could, after death, be reincarnated into another animal or human body. In the Middle Ages, an animal could be held responsible for its actions, taken to court, and sentenced for its crimes.

The legend of a spectral black dog with eyes that glow red, yellow, or green is well-known in British folklore. It haunts graveyards, lonely country roads, moors, and coastlines, and may have been the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Many historical sites are said to be haunted by the ghosts of animals that lived or perished there. Tour guides and tourists alike have reported hearing the roar of lions and tigers in the Colosseum of Rome. Carew Castle on England’s Pembrokeshire coast is reportedly haunted by a small pet ape belonging to a 17th century tenant who was murdered on the grounds.

The Hollenberg Pony Express station in Kansas was only in operation from 1860 – 61, but some claim they have heard ghostly horse hooves galloping by. The misty apparition of a horse and rider sometimes appears on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania battlefield, and the sound of dying horses can be heard amidst other ghostly sounds. Also in Gettysburg, a bull terrier named Sallie, who was a Union Army mascot, is said to be heard growling as she watches over fallen soldiers.

The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, founded in 1928, is the final resting place for over 40,000 animals. Like many cemeteries, it is said to be haunted. For example, actor Rudolph Valentino’s Great Dane, Kabar, who was buried there in 1929 has since been heard barking and panting, and even been felt licking visitors’ hands.

Several horses and riders have been killed over the years while trying to cross the intersection of 95th Street and Kean Avenue in the Chicago, Illinois suburb of Hickory Hills. Drivers and passersby have reported seeing horses and riders crossing the road late at night, only to disappear a moment later. Some claim to have seen a horse being dragged as though a car had hit it and dragged it before coming to a stop. There have also been reports of a ghostly dog warning riders of danger around the road. It is believed the dog may be the ghost of a local fire department mascot named Felix, who while on active duty was credited with saving a number of lives. Upon his death he was honored with a stone and buried at the intersection.

Animal spirits have appeared as a wisp of mist, an orb, a shadow, a warm presence, an indentation on a bed, a disembodied bark, purr, or whicker, and even a full apparition that can actually be photographed.

Entire books have been written containing anecdotal accounts of pets – especially dogs, cats, and horses – coming home to comfort their grieving human.

Just like my Indy.

 

The Ghosts of Winter

VGS 2At this “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” such crooners as Andy Williams promise “scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”. Certainly, Charles Dickens in the Victorian era put his pen to good use, writing fictions including his beloved “A Christmas Carol” peopled with ghosts and spirits, but he followed ancestral examples in so doing.

Washington Irving mentioned listening to tales of “popular superstitions and legends” in his 1819 “Sketchbook.” William Shakespeare incorporated the supernatural into his theatricals. In his “Winter’s Tale,” it is said, “…a sad tale’s best for winter; I have one of sprites and goblins…” (Winter’s tales are sometimes synonymous with ‘old wives’ tales.’) Christopher Marlow’s Barnabus in his “Jew of Malta” from 1589 said, “Now I remember those old women’s words, who in my wealth would tell me winter tales and speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night.”

Some scholars point to telling such supernatural stories as echoes from ancient times, when rituals and rites shaped the activities of the midwinter. Ancient Celts and Northmen set fires and scared one another with their mystical adventures.

Perhaps something in the deeper and longer periods of darkness of the season inspires writers toward Gothic sensibilities and Romantic inclinations. H.P. Lovecraft wrote an account of Yule horror called “The Festival.” In 1904, “Ghost Stories of an Antiquary” was published by M.R. James. The impeccable “Turn of the Screw” by Henry James begins with a recollection at a holiday gathering. “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You,” “A School Story,” and “Number 13” all have aspects of the festive season involved as well.

Victorian ghost storiesI’ve recently heard of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, with its religious recitations and occult rituals. Richard Darby edited “Ghosts for Christmas” in 1988, Peter Haining “Christmas Spirits” in 1983, and Horrified Press just released “One Hell of a Christmas” in 2014.

“There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas, something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts…” rightly said Jerome K. Jerome in his preface to “Told After Supper.”

So perhaps is behooves us to pull a chair close to the hearth, snuggle together with a hot cuppa, and nod to our ancestors with a spooky remembrance. Thus I wish you Happy holidays to all, and to all a good fright!

Happy Birthday, Tom Savini

tom_savini1Born today in 1946, Thomas Vincent “Tom” Savini is known throughout Hollywood and the horror world for his outstanding special effects makeup. Called “The Sultan of Splatter” and the “Godfather of Gore,” Tom’s interest in FX makeup began as a child. Lon Chaney inspired him, and he experimented on himself and any friends willing to serve as test subjects.

After graduating from Central Catholic High School in Oakland, Pennsylvania, Savini attended Point Park College in downtown Pittsburgh for three years before enlisting in the Army. He served in Vietnam as a combat photographer. In a 2002 interview with the Pgh Post, he described the haunting images. He said, “To cope with it (the hideous reality of war), I guess I tried to think of it as special effects.” When he returned from his tour of duty, Tom Savini attended Carnegie Mellon University.
Tom Savini acted and served as a stunt man in many films, including “Martin (1977),” “Dawn of the Dead (1978),” “Knightrider (1981),” “Creepshow (1982),” “Monkeyshines (1988),” “From Dusk Til Dawn (1996),” “Planet Terror (2007),” “Machete (2010),” “Django Unchained (2012),” and “Machete Kills (2013).” He also produced makeup effects for many of these films. Additionally, Jason Vorhees from “Friday the 13th I and IV” and Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” are his creations. He directed the remake “Night of the Living Dead (1990)” and three episodes of “Tales from the Darkside.”
He’s written two books, “Grand Illusion” and “Bizarro” (the second with George A. Romero and Stephen King) on special makeup effects, and he heads a school for FX Makeup outside of Pittsburgh. Additionally, Tom Savini is an accomplished fencer and gymnast.

RL Stine – The Stephen King of Children’s Lit

RL SteinOctober has been a big month for American writer and producer RL Stine. October 8, 1943 was the birthday for this “Stephen King of children’s literature,” and 16 October this year saw the release of his “Goosebumps” film starring Jack Black as a fictionalized Stine. Robert Lawrence (RL) himself cameos within the film as well.

Stine started writing at the age of nine in his Ohio home. In 1965, he graduated from Ohio State University where he wrote for and edited their humor magazine. He moved to New York to begin his writing career. His first written works were compilations of jokes, not the signature children’s thrills with which his name is associated. He wrote under the pen name Jovial Bob Stine. Another pseudonym is Eric Affabee. He wrote for and edited “Bananas,” a kids’ comedy magazine for ten years.

He published his first novel, “Blind Date,” in 1986. Three years later, he published his Fear Street series. Goosebumps, his best-known and award-winning series of kids’ horror, launched in 1992 with the release of “Welcome to Dead House.” Hollywood adapted several of his books for TV and film. Three video games feature Goosebumps themes, as do movie attractions at Sea World and Busch Gardens. The award-winning series was translated into 32 languages and earned acclaim for Stine. Over 200 novels later, RL Stine made the Forbes list of the 40 best-paid entertainers of 1996-1997. USA Today named him America’s #1 bestselling author, and People Weekly added him to their Most Intriguing list. In 2003, Guiness recorded him as the bestselling children’s author of all time. Over 400 million of his books sold as of 2008. He named his first adult novel “Superstitious,” and to his credit are numerous joke books, the Space Cadets trilogy, and game books.

Despite a busy appearance schedule and thriving film adaptations of his works, RL Stine continues to produce stories and work on projects peopled with murderous ventriloquist dummies, blood-thirsty pirates, and creepy clowns. Surprisingly, Stine claims his dreams are dull and provide no inspiration for his tales. Still, his prolific works continue to give his audiences nightmares of their own.

Happy birthday, Guillermo del Toro

He leads us through “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) and along “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) with “Hellboy” (2004 and 2008) as a guide, depositing us in “Pacific Rim” (2013). This talented Mexican director, producer, and writer discovered special effects when he was eight years old. Guillermo del Toro Gomez broke into the American film market by directing Blade II in 2002.

Guillermo del Toro’s distinctive work laces a lush beauty throughout, incorporating the fairy realm and the Christian underworld. He expressed, “Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and anti-establishment.”

Many of the heroes in his films are children. He feels their non-judgmental acceptance make them the best witnesses of the supernatural. In fact, he reports as a child he began wetting the crib because of a fear of the monsters hiding about his room, be it in the green shag carpet or the shadows of the closet. His mother grew angry, and Guillermo made a deal with the creatures. “If you let me go pee, I’ll be your friend forever.” The monsters stopped terrifying him, and Guillermo keeps his promises. He grew up watching Universal’s monster films and knew he wanted to be a horror film creator. Frankenstein’s monster is a particular favorite of his.
Guillermo Del Toro studied under famed makeup artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist.) He puts to excellent use his studies of special effects and make up. After 10 years working in the field, he formed his own company, Necropia. He also heads his own production company, The Tequila Gang, and co-founded the Guadalajara International Film Festival.

In 1997, Kidnappers held the Del Toro family’s patriarch, automotive entrepreneur Federico. After paying for his release, Guillermo Del Toro moved with his wife and daughters to California. Incredibly, Federico remained behind. Said Guillermo to Time Magazine of the incident, “Every Day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am in involuntary exile.”

He often uses lavish, illustrated notebooks. He published his debut novel, The Strain, with Chuck Hogan in 2009. This awarded film maker keeps with him a registry of the world’s haunted hotels and stays at them whenever he has a chance. His latest film release is this month’s gothic ghost story, Crimson Peak. He expresses a keen interest in visually stunning video games and collaborates with many filmmakers. Guillermo proudly proclaims he’s arrested at childhood. “No one has the right to demand from you to grow up.”

Enjoy your day, Guillermo del Toro, and thank you for sharing your vision!

THE MONSTERS ARE HERE! Second Wave of Horror Wax Warmers Now Available!

We are pleased to announce that our second wave of horror wax warmers have arrived and can be ordered for immediate shipment from our website! They will be showing up on other sites, but you can get a jump by ordering directly from us. And to encourage you to order direct from us: we are currently offering the new warmers for $25.95 (discounted from $29.95) and this sale will be good through Halloween 2015! Here are our new models, again, ready to ship NOW:

The Scent of Cthulhu:  This wax warmer was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Warm cthulhu (1)your favorite wax scent on top of this slumbering behemoth of doom. But be careful not to awaken him. For if you call, he will come!

 

 

Zombie Apocalypse:zombie (1) Waiting on that Zombie Apocalypse that we all know is coming? Tide yourself over with this great zombie wax warmer. Want to know why our zombie is the perfect warmer? He always has wax on his brain! 

 

Mummy Dearest: Mummy lovers will come completely unraveled with this mummy design mummywax warmer! Melt your favorite wax in your own petrified pharaoh without the hassle of an Egyptian curse! 

And don’t forget that we also have our own line of scented wax cubes to feed your monsters:

monster melts 1-1Monster Melts Series 1: The Graveyard Gang: Haunt your favorite wax warmer with these monstrous melts. Create a spine chilling aura of pleasing fragrance at the witch’s hour or any time of day. Store in a cool place. Halloween Forevermore recommends storing the pack in the refrigerator about 30 min to 1 hour prior to use. Under these conditions, wax shapes will firm so that breakage and disfigurement will be avoided when they are popped out of the pack for use.

Happy Birthday King & Wells!

KingThe Autumn Equinox is a good birthday for a writer, apparently.

Today, Stephen King, horror expert extraordinaire, celebrates. With over 50 novels and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction works to his credit, Stephen King holds such a special place in the literary world that he’s a household name. On 10 September, 2014, President Obama presented him with the NEA’s National Medal of Arts. Not a bad birthday gift, eh? Born in 1947 in Scarborough, Maine and raised by a self-sufficient mother, Stephen King credits his wife, Tabitha, for the completion of his first novel, Carrie. (He had thrown the beginning into the trash. Tabitha retrieved it and encouraged her husband to complete it.) His works have seen adaptions for big and little screen. He’s even acted within some of the adaptations. He published several works under the pen name Richard Bachman. Stephen King’s garnered prestigious awards and encouraged new writers. He said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Wells“Nothing leads so straight to futility as literary ambitions without systematic knowledge,” said another literary great. Also born on this day in 1866 was H.G. Wells, the Father of Futurism and Science Fiction. Herbert George Wells published such brilliant works as The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. Hundreds of essays, articles, nonfiction works joined this Londoner’s expansive body of fiction works. His writing explored issues of social class and economic disparity and predicted the rise of major cities and development of suburbs, economic globalization, and military conflict. Many of his tales inspired theatrical and silver screen productions. Most famous was the 1938 presentation of War of the Worlds by Orson Welles that inspired panic throughout America. HG Wells died 13 August, 1946.

Also born today were Chuck Jones of Bug Bunny fame (The Warner Brothers Halloween specials bring macabre glee to many) and Ghost buster Bill Murray.

AMERICA’S HAUNTED PLACES

Investigators of paranormal activity believe hauntings occur when a place has experienced violence, trauma, or intense emotion. In residual hauntings, fragments of an event are imprinted on the psychic space of a place. Other hauntings come from restless spirits who remain trapped near the place where they died. Most hauntings involve noises (footsteps, thumps, whisperings, animal sounds), smells, cold breezes, feelings of being touched, or articles being moved. In some cases, witnesses observe ghostly re-enactments of past events.

The site of a bloody Civil War battle during which 50,000 soldiers died in three days in July, 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania has certainly experienced violence and intense emotion. Visitors report hearing gunfire, cannons, screams, drums, music, and horses. Some smell peppermint (used by women of the day to combat the odor of rotting corpses). Others see apparitions of wounded soldiers. One group of foreign tourists witnessed what they thought was the re-enactment of a battle at the summit of Little Round Top, only to learn that no such activity had taken place that day. Haunted Gettysburg buildings include Rose Farm, Pennsylvania Hall, and Hummelbaugh House – where, it is said, Brigadier General William Barksdale of the Confederate army and his loyal hunting dog died.

Queen-Mary-HotelThe Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach, California, is a reconditioned ocean liner that served as a troop ship during World War II. Sitting in dry dock since 1967, it is considered by some to be the most haunted hotel in America. Visitors report sensing or seeing the ghost of a young crewman named John Pedder, who was crushed to death by watertight door number 13 in 1966. Other apparitions include a woman in a white evening gown, a gentleman in a 1930’s suit, and two women in 1930’s swimsuits who supposedly drowned in the now-drained first class swimming pool. A little girl named Jackie, who may have drowned in the second class swimming pool, was recorded on electronic voice phenomena (EVP) by paranormal investigators.

stanley hotelAuthor Stephen King was inspired to write his novel The Shining during his stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, in 1974. The luxurious hotel opened in 1909 and had developed a reputation for being haunted by the 1970’s. Lord Dunraven, the Irish earl who had sold the land on which the hotel was built, is said to haunt room 407. Lights go on and off, and visitors report seeing the man’s ghost. Ghosts of children run and play in the fourth floor hallway. The man who built the hotel, one F. O. Stanley, has appeared to guests in the lobby, bar, and billiard room. A manor house, carriage house, and concert hall on the property have also experienced paranormal activity.

waverly-hills-sanatorium-506685d91d45e04837000145The Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened in 1926 in Louisville, Kentucky, to treat victims of tuberculosis. Tens of thousands of patients died there before the sanatorium closed in 1961. The building sat abandoned for years, until new owners renovated it and opened it to the public. Visitors have reported food smells coming from the kitchen, slamming doors, screams, shapes passing in and out of doorways, the ghosts of children, a man in a white coat, and an old woman with her wrists in chains screaming, “Help me, somebody save me!” Investigators including Troy Taylor of the American Ghost Society have recorded sudden changes of temperature, unusual fluctuations in EMF meter readings, and other paranormal activity.

These and many other haunted places offer visits or tours, so you can go ahead and experience them for yourself – if you dare!

Happy Birthday, H.P. Lovecraft

One of the twentieth century’s most influential horror HP Lovecraftwriters, H.P. Lovecraft, would have celebrated his 125th birthday today, if he hadn’t taken Death’s hand to start a new adventure on the Ides of March, 1937. (Howard Phillips Lovecraft was almost 47 years old when he died.)

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft began writing horror stories at the age of eight.  It wasn’t until he turned 31 that he published in a professional magazine. Three years later, he became a regular contributor to “Weird Tales” magazine. Unfortunately, this ingenious author of “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Shadow Out of Time,” and “At the Mountains of Madness” found supporting himself with the written word illusive.

As a child, Lovecraft experienced hardships. When Lovecraft was three years old, his father Winfield Scott Lovecraft succumbed to psychosis and was institutionalized. Winfield remained in the Butler Hospital until his death in 1898. Young Lovecraft recited poetry by the age of three and wrote complete poems by six. His grandfather Whipple Van Buren Phillips encouraged Lovecraft to read such classics as “The Arabian Nights” and “Bulfinch’s Age of Fable,” and he retold gothic tales of terror to his grandson. Lovecraft suffered Night Terrors.

Lovecraft started school late, and he missed a lot of school due to illness. He left school in 1908 without graduating after having a nervous breakdown caused in part by his aversion to mathematics. After ending his academic pursuits, he lived for five years isolated with his mother. He wrote poetry and in 1913, a pulp magazine published a critique of Fred Jackson’s love stories. The ensuing debate garnered the attention of the United Amateur Press Association, and he joined the UAPA in 1914. He published a story, “The Alchemist” in “The United Amateur” in 1916. He mentored and corresponded with many contemporary writers, including Robert Bloch (Psycho).

His Mother died in Butler Hospital in May, 1921. For two years, he married Sonia Greene and moved to New York. After, he returned to Providence. There, he lived in a Victorian house on Barnes Street. (He used the address in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.”) He fostered a friendship with Harry Houdini.

He died impoverished of cancer. In 1977, his fans bought a tombstone of his own in Swan Point Cemetery. Inscribed thereon is the quote, “I am Providence.”

H.P. Lovecraft’s writing continues to influence writers, including Stephen King. He is called upon by modern writers to serve as a character of cunning, occult knowledge, and guile.

Thriller

Thriller2 December, 1983. American Teens curled on their couches, nestled beneath soft blankets, filled with anticipation the night MTV aired American recording artist Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Clocking in at 13:42 minutes, the mini-movie told a story wrapped around the song whose original title was “Starlight.”

The music video for the song from the album of the same name began with a disclaimer, lest its viewers think Mr. Jackson an occultist. “Any similarities between people living, dead, or undead are purely coincidental.” (Despite this warning, religious types criticized the performance for violence and occult influences.)

John Landis (Of “An American Werewolf in London” fame) directed. Rick Baker provided EFX, Elmer Bernstein the ‘scary music,’ and Rod Temperton wrote the story.

Ola Ray portrays Jackson’s love interest, first as a character in a 50’s style horror flick. “I’m not like other boys,” Jackson explained after she agreed to be his girl in the flick. The moon transformed him. Ola left the theater, disgusted. “It’s just a movie,” he teases with the song as they walk past a graveyard. Vincent Price “raps.” The dead arise, reminiscent of such horror classics as “Night of the Living Dead.”
Michael Jackson collaborated with Michael Peters to choreograph the distinctive, jerking dance numbers culminating with a group of zombies. MTV nominated “Thriller” for 6 MTV Video Awards. It won 3. In 2009, The Library of Congress chose “Thriller” as the first music video to add to National Film Registry.

Filmed in New York and Los Angeles, the video cost $500,000 to make, according the documentary “The Making of Thriller.” Vincent Price filmed his contribution in two takes. It earned a position on the Billboard hot 100 at its release, and “Thriller” with its disco-funk pop fusion of baseline, synthesizer, and sound effects remains one of the top 10 “Best Halloween Songs” according to Billboard and AOL Radio Blog. In 1999, it was appointed to the MTV 100 Greatest Videos.

“Thriller”
[Verse 1:]
It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes,
You’re paralyzed

[Chorus:]
‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night
And no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike
You know it’s thriller, thriller night
You’re fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller tonight

[Verse 2:]
You hear the door slam and realize there’s nowhere left to run
You feel the cold hand and wonder if you’ll ever see the sun
You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination
But all the while you hear the creature creepin’up behind
You’re out of time

[Chorus:]
‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night
There ain’t no second chance against the thing with forty eyes
You know it’s thriller, thriller night
You’re fighting to survive inside a killer, thriller tonight

[Bridge:]
Night creatures call
And the dead start to walk in their masquerade
There’s no escapin’ the jaws of the alien this time (they’re open wide)
This is the end of your life

[Verse 3:]
They’re out to get you, there’s demons closing in on every side
They will possess you unless you change the number on your dial
Now is the time for you and I to cuddle close together
All thru the night I’ll save you from the terrors on the screen,
I’ll make you see

[Chorus:]
That it’s a thriller, thriller night
‘Cause I can thrill you more than any ghost would dare to try
Girl, this is thriller, thriller night
So let me hold you tight and share a killer, Diller, chiller
Thriller here tonight

[Rap – by the incomparable Vincent Price:]
Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize your neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell.
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller.

[Into maniacal laugh, in deep echo]

Check out the THRILLER video: