Thursday, January 30, 2014

CELEBRITY GHOST TALES

How I Met Your Mother and Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Alyson Hannigan hadn't long moved into a new house in Los Angeles with her husband when a visiting friend first informed her that a man had just followed them out of the house. Since that initial sighting, Hannigan took to keeping a chalkboard where she thought he dwelt the most in hopes that he might leave her a message.

Actress Kate Hudson once related the story of seeing a woman with no face in a London home she and her mother, Goldie Hawn, had rented.

Designer Cynthia Rowley and her husband were living in a charming country home in Greenwich, Connecticut with the spectre of a woman whose face was always obscured by a gray scarf. The couple had encountered the manifestation several times. One Christmas, the designer had hung a large wreath above her fireplace, but was warned by her husband not to light the candles on the mantle. A sensible statement--and one with which Rowley would normally agree--but some sinister compulsion forced her hand nonetheless, as if she had no control over her actions. No sooner had she lit the candles, than the the wreath erupted in flames. The couple managed to escape but when the local firefighters put out the conflagration they were a bit unnerved. One quietly asked Rowly if she knew who had built the home. Rowley confessed she did not. She then learned from the firefighter that the woman who haunts the home was the heiress to the Diamond Match estate. She was burned and scarred from a fire in her father's factory when she was only a teenager.

Singer/Actress Demi Lovato recalls an incident from her childhood when she attempted to close her closet door when she was arrested by the sight of a young girl dressed in 19th century attire standing inside. When she told her mother what she saw, he mother recalled an incident when Demi was five. She was playing in her room alone and talking to herself. On the floor was a picture of a little girl dressed just as Demi described. Her mother asked Demi whom she was talking to. "My best friend, Victoria."

Months prior to his body having been found hanging in the closet of a Bangkok hotel, actor David Carradine had taped a segment for a program called Celebrity Ghost Stories on the Biography channel. Carradine explained that he had been tormented by the notion that his late wife's deceased husband was residing within the closet of their bedroom.

Cultural icon Cher has stated on several occasions she believes that her Malibu home is haunted--in a friendly fashion--by her late husband, Sonny Bono. Lights flickering even when they are turned off have been a sure indication that Bono is present.

You're Reading Celebrity Ghost Tales, originally posted on strangestate.blogspot.com If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the blog for more like this.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sophisticated Dark Decor

Looking to decorate your dismal abode with a subtle hint of the sinister? Well, then many purveyors of the perverse have subtle, sophisticated offerings that would please even the snootiest of decorators.

While dark decor was once relegated to erstwhile 'goth' accoutrements, more and more companies (especially in the print-on-demand 21st century) are offering fashionable alternatives that can add a surprise element of horror in an otherwise traditional setting.

Many examples can be found online for wallpapers that scream horror chic...

Rats Behind The Wall Paper...

This Cthulhu Damask is available from Spoonflower
You can find an assortment of other Cthulhu-inspired designs on that same site.

If the macabre countenance of grinning skulls is more your style, check out Dia de los Muertos "sugar skull" pattern available via The Awesomer


I would imagine that in the right light, these flocked skulls would almost seem to float on this slick wallpaper from Rockett St George.


You can also re-cover an old Rococo-style chair with a funky skull damask fabric like those you can find at Spoonflower.com.


At first glance, these vases from houzz.com simply evoke the look of French Country crockery, but when you peer closer you will notice the eldritch escutcheons. 


This intriguing objet d'art is a great inspirational piece for crafting your own macabre statement, perhaps from clearance bin Halloween bargains. A resin skull dripping in gold paint and a wooden pedestal spraypainted to a glossy black instantly gives you not only a dark decoration but a conversation-starting work of art.


And if your tastes lean  more toward the distressed and antiqued, it is easy to create a compelling vignette like this once--if you don't mind getting your hands dirty digging up some of the pieces. :D The old-world reliquary feel of this grouping would look fantastic against a slate gray wall (as shown here) or against a tone-on-tone metallic damask.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Where Are The Smart Zombies?

As the zombie trend shuffles listlessly on year after year, nothing much seems to change. Aside from a few minor details (fast zombies) little exists to differentiate one film from another. And yet the genre remains strong. But just as the over-abused vampire milieu has been tortured this way and that (before unceremoniously settling into glitter-skinned douchebaggery), so too must the zombie evolve.

In the past, there have been hints at an avenue that would prove most intriguing and even downright frightening: intelligent zombies.

I'm no zombie expert, but at least as far back as 1984's Night of the Comet, we have been treated to hints of this character. One of the scariest parts of that movie isn't the sudden emergence--the cut-to, if you will--of mindless creatures out to consume our flesh, but the slow and disturbing disintegration of those who were only sort of protected from the comet's effects from normal humans to zombies.

And even this last season of SyFy's Being Human  had us witness Sally and her other former ghost friends returning from the grave only to slowly and horrifyingly become ravenous consumers of live flesh. And they're aware of this. They see themselves going down that dark path and they hate themselves for it. Still, the hunger consumes them. Watching them agonize over the loss of their humanity while at the same time justifying it to hang onto that same said humanity is what makes the story compelling. These aren't me-want-brains cardboard cutouts, but fully rounded characters.

Too often the zombie cliche involves some disconnect from our protagonist's point of view prior to the "zombie apocalypse" to well after said event has occurred. We're seldom treated to that breakdown, that loss of humanity and social order. The terrifying prospect of losing your friends and family to something that consumes their identity. Instead, time and again, we start out with some sort of voice-over narration about the times before and how nobody knows exactly how it all began...blah, blah, blah. Or someone conveniently wakes up 28 days later to a world suddenly changed.

I say the most horrifying thing would be the change.

If zombie movies continue their slow, staggered shuffle over the next few years, let us at least explore different ways to tell the story instead of boring us with the same ol' cliches.

The Intelligence Behind Elusive Animals

In watching a documentary on PBS's Nature about Coywolves (coyote-wolf hybrids that are emerging as a possible new species in eastern North America), I was intrigued by the fact that they are extremely intelligent and elusive animals. In fact, the documentary went to great lengths to impress upon the viewer that these animals go virtually undetected in densely populated urban areas--including New York City. This is largely because these animals become acclimated to the rhythms of human beings and make a point not to be seen. They will frequently wait until the coast is clear before moving on again.

I bring all this up because it establishes a precedent for an animal in North America to remain undetected if it so chooses. If it weren't for the sheer (and increasing) numbers of Coyotes and Coywolves in recent decades, I daresay few would ever catch glimpse of them.

Now, if you were to take an even more intelligent animal, as one presumes a Sasquatch-like creature to be, and add to that a population that would be substantially smaller, you've got a good recipe for its mythic status.

I think Sasquatch population estimates (flawed as they are) over-inflate the data. If such a large creature with the attendant attributes of high intelligence, strength, and possibly long lifespan were to exist, would not the breeding be kept to a minimum? Large animals usually don't have litters of offspring. And if a Sasquatch-like creature is more like humans, then they aren't likely to have many over their entire long lifespan. They would possess the wherewithal to survive as a species by other means than a genetic deluge.

This is all to point out that intelligent animals are aware of us and the threat we pose and can go to great lengths to avoid us even when they are in our own backyards. So, is it really that big of a stretch to think some hirsute hominid could be doing the same?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Suicide Song

46 years ago this month, the man who pinned what has been dubbed 'The Suicide Song' committed suicide himself. . . .

According to one urban legend, many people have committed suicide while listening to the song "Gloomy Sunday", which was composed by Hungarian pianist Rezso Seress in 1933. Originally titled Vege a vilagnak (End of the World), the musical piece later received lyrics by Laszlo Javor and retitled "Szormoru vasarnap". Hal Kemp first recorded the piece with English lyrics by Sam Lewis in 1936 and became quite famous when Billie Holiday covered it in 1941. Lewis referred to suicide in his version.

The legend goes that so many suicides were connected to this song that radio stations would refuse to play it. While the BBC did ban Billie Holiday's version, this was mostly because it was a depressing tune seen as being harmful to the morale of a nation at war. The BBC ban wasn't lifted until 2002.

When the song was released in the 1930s, the Great Depression was in full swing, so a higher than normal suicide rate seemed to be at work. However, most discount any correlation between these deaths and the song itself, owing such tragedies instead to the dire economic circumstances.

Fueling the rumor mill, the song's composer, Reszo Seress, killed himself in January 1968.

You're reading The Suicide Song by Cullan Hudson, originally posted on strangestate.blogspot.com If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the blog.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Many Ghosts of Chingle Hall


Chingle Hall is, in addition to being the oldest inhabited brick building, one of Britain's most haunted structures. The Hall was built in 1260 by Sir Adam de Singleton on family land dating back to Ughtred de Singleton in 1066. It remained in the possession of the Singleton family for centuries before their relatives, The Walls, then took possession.

The home's great room boasts wooden cross beams bearing unusual symbols. Tests were done of the wood itself and archaeologists have learned the wood came from an ancient Viking longboat.

One of the ghosts said to haunt the structure is that of John Wall, a Catholic priest during the reformation. It was necessary for him to perform his masses in secret, but eventually word got out and he was arrested and later executed in 1679. Wall's head, through a circuitous route, purportedly now rests either on the grounds of Chingle Hall or in the house itself.

The smell of wood smoke lingers from when, in the 1950s, one of the mysterious longboat beams caught fire. More mysteriously was how it seemed to extinguish itself before erupting in an uncontrollable conflagration. Was someone watching over the Hall?

Among the ghosts reported, we find several monks, children, vague and shadowy forms, animals, a chimney sweep, Eleanor Singleton, a Cavalier, and an entity known as "The Dizzy Man".

You're reading The Many Ghsots of Chingle Hall by Cullan Hudson, originally posted on strangestate.blogspot.com If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the blog.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Dark Obsession of Carl Tanzler


German-born Carl Tanzler (aka Georg Karl Tanzler and Carl Tanzler von Cosel, frequently affixing the title of "Count" to the latter) worked as a radiologist at the United States Marine Hospital in Key West, FL when he met a young Cuban-American woman named Elena Milagro de Hoyos. Milagro de Hoyos, who went by "Helen", suffered from tuberculosis. It was while she was sick that Tanzler developed his obsession for the young woman--an obsession that carried on for many gruesome years after her death.

In the spring of 1930, Helen's mother brought her to the Marine Hospital for an examination whereupon Tanzler first set eyes on the young woman who, by many accounts, was quite striking. Moreover, she seemed to trigger a powerful memory in Tanzler. As a child in Germany, the boy claimed to have been visited by an ancestor named Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel who showed him that his one true love would be an exotic, dark-haired woman.

Once learning she had caught the oft-fatal tuberculosis, Tanzler threw all his medical knowledge at the problem of saving the young beauty. He even brought medical equipment from the hospital to the family's home. Tanzler doted upon Helen, showering her with jewelry, clothing, and other trappings courtship. But, as best as anyone can discern, the feeling wasn't mutual. Helen held no attraction for the strange German.

It seemed doomed anyway and on October 25, 1931, Helen passed. Tanzler paid for her funeral and had constructed a mausoleum in the Key West Cemetery, which he visited nightly thereafter. Tanzler would later say that her ghost would visit him as he sat by her grave and sung her favorite song.

He went on this way until April of 1933 when he skulked like a ghoul through the darkened cemetery and took her body from the mausoleum. Once safely home, Tanzler attached the corpse's limbs and other loose parts with wire and coat hangers, replaced her eyes with glass ones, and replaced the rotting skin as needed with wax-soaked silk and plaster. He made a wig from her own hair and replaced it atop her head. He stuffed the body's chest cavity with rags to keep its shape and then redressed the corpse to which is frequently applied liberal doses of perfumes, disinfectants, and preservatives. This, along with a rumored paper tube inserted strategically to allow for intercourse, is how the body lay in his bed for 7 years.

In October of 1940, Helen's family caught wind of Tanzler's deeds. How isn't clear, but soon the authorities were called and the body was discovered in the man's home. Arrested and found mentally fit for trial, Tanzler nonetheless avoided any legal action since the case was dropped because of the statute of limitations on his initial crime of tampering with the body.

Helen's body was, after a brief public display in a local funeral home, returned to an unmarked grave in the cemetery where the family hoped she would remain undisturbed.

Tanzler moved to Pasco County, FL in 1944 where he fashioned a life-sized effigy of Helen from a death mask he must have, at some point, cast. It was his companion until his death in the summer of 1952.

You're reading The Dark Obsession of Carl Tanzler by Cullan Hudson, originally posted on strangestate.blogspot.com If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the blog.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Project for 2014


One of several projects I have on the calendar for 2013 is curating an online journal of original horror and dark science fiction entitled Dark Passages. This "e-zine" will also feature artwork and photography from artists with a dark eye and perhaps even original short films. If you're interested, feel free to submit something and I will keep everyone posted as this project matures.