First off, who dresses like a clown for Halloween anymore? Unless, of course, it's a zombie or homicidal clown. Second, note the attentive gas station attendant with the smile and bow tie. You won't see a person dressed up like that anymore, even on Halloween. Unless he's a real ghost.
Stanley Publications was the more restrained cousin to Eerie Publications. Stanley's magazine covers were downright refined and tasteful compared to Eerie's, like this one for Shock, Chilling Tales of Horror and Suspense, Issue 6. While the stories were less gory and sensational, the art is to die for. Aside from one bloodless impalement in this issue, you will be terrorized by the usual werewolves, fiends, ghosts, oozing specters, and talkative victims. Enjoy. (Here's the comic reader version: Download Shock v1-6)
More horror as witches run a resort, dead and living mix into mayhem, and bad people get bad endings. And you think you've had bad days. This cover sums it up best. (Here's the comic reader version: Download Horror Tales v7-1)
Much creative rearrangement of historic timelines and relationships for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini takes place in Fox's Houdini & Doyle. This may be annoying to those familiar with the history of spiritualism and how Doyle and Houdini fit into it, but the inclusion of fictional Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard), the first female constable of Scotland Yard, and the dramatis personae needs of bringing their relationship to where mystery-of-the-week episodes can be written, rearrangements often happen.
In the premiere episode, The Maggie's Redress, a nun is murdered. A witness believes the murderer to be a ghost. Scotland Yard is incredulous. The mystery begins and the sensational newspaper headlines attract both Doyle (Stephen Mangan) and Houdini (Michael Weston) to investigate. Each has his own agenda for doing so. Doyle is a strong believer and supporter in supernatural phenomena and spiritualism, Houdini isn't. They meet at Scotland Yard but the police want nothing to do with them after Doyle's fictional detective makes coppers appear amateurish, and after Houdini's escapes from British jail cells makes those coppers look incompetent. As a devious compromise to appease Doyle and Houdini, Constable Stratton is assigned to chaperon them while making sure they, and especially her, do not do any real detective work. When she enters the room, Houdini asks her to get him a cup of coffee. Typical behavior in the age before women's lib.
The year is 1901. Doyle had killed off Holmes eight years earlier (in The Final Problem) but clamoring fans force him to publish The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1901, a story set before Holmes's death. Doyle rather focus on writing about things he deems more important than Holmes. No mention is made of Hound, though, as he reluctantly attends a book signing. An ardent fan dressed as Holmes tells Doyle the game is afoot. Doyle isn't amused. He wishes his The Great Boer War, published in 1900, was in demand instead of Holmes's stories. Doyle would become a true believer in spiritualism, and faeries, after the deaths of his son, wife, brother, and brothers-in-law, but this would not happen until later. It also won't be until the 1920s that Houdini energetically challenges, debunks, and exposes spiritualists; and his signature escape, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, well dramatized in this episode, will not make its debut until 1913.
Why both men believe or disbelieve is given in brief moments. For Doyle, it's finding proof of the afterlife, so he can give people hope; for Houdini, it's during a party he's throwing, attended by Tesla, Winston Churchill, and an actor playing the King who couldn't make it, all to impress his mother, whom he adored. Oddly, Houdini's wife Bess is MIA. He tells the constable how frustrated he is that his excellence at magic gives people false belief in the supernatural. In real life, Doyle would attribute supernatural powers to Houdini when the magician walked through solid brick walls and vanished elephants from the stage. Their tenuous friendship would not last.
Rearrangements aside, The Maggie's Redress is a tidy ghost story and mystery with enough lightheartedness mixed with tragedy. It highlights Doyle's deductive mind in action, a tad biased toward finding proof of the afterlife in contrast to Houdini's Coney Island showiness and self-assuredness in finding a rational answer. Constable Stratton just wants to get out of the Yard's basement, where she's working long hours and being ignored by the men who think a woman's place is in the home. Or hidden away in basements.
Every ghost story needs a tragedy at its heart, and here it's not the nun's murder, but what instigates it and where it takes place: a Magdalene Laundry, which were real-life asylums for "fallen women" run by nuns around the turn of the century. For twelve or more hours a day, young women would do their penance-work in these penitentiary workhouses. A wager made by Houdini and accepted by Doyle sends them off to find the murderer, living or deceased, within its depressing walls. If Houdini wins, Doyle will send him a first edition of The Great Boer War.
Daisies, a loose floorboard, and the ghost's appearance provide clues, but the greater story is the age unfolding around them. One filled with many wonders for the new century, which provides a colorful backdrop for these colorful men of mystery, magic, and adventure. And many challenges for Constable Stratton as she fights for recognition and equality.
Another engrossing issue of Photon, number 27 provides extensive analysis of Horror of Dracula by Ronald V. Borst. More coverage on Dario Argento in More Flies on Grey Velvet, and Bernard Herrmann is remembered by Paul M. Sammon. Lane Roth also does a good comparison between Lugosi and Lee's Draculas in Some Thoughts About the Hammer and Universal Versions. Here's the comic reader version: Download Photon issue 27.
Having just posted about a flying witch whiskey decanter, it seems apropos to mention this Skeleton Poison decanter seen on eBay. Made in Japan, circa 1940s, this is quite a fetching Halloween centerpiece for your party table.
With the Syfy channel lessening its focus on paranormal programming, Destination America seems determined to bring on new shows with new approaches and new paranormal hosts. They apparently noticed there was a dearth of African-American hosts chasing ghosts. Not anymore. Filling the void, with a refreshing zest for humorous self-awareness of their nocturnal adventures, Juwan (the hunk), Marcus (the barber), and Dalen (the leader, more or less), head over to the Magnolia Plantation in their premier episode. Future visits will include Magnolia Hotel in Texas, Prospect Place in Ohio, Allen House in Arkansas, Delta Queen Steamboat in Louisiana, and the Fitzpatrick Hotel in Georgia. Unlike Paranormal Lockdown, the brothers hang around for only one night.
After a brief meeting in Marcus's barbershop, and talk of voodoo artifacts being found on the plantation by a Dr. Brown--while a patron is wrapped up with a hot towel waiting for his shave--they're soon on their way. Banter during the drive to Seguin, Texas, is lively and funny and off the wall, with talk of voodoo, what it may be good or bad for, and the 'mummy returns'.
Greeted by Dr. Brown, who's been conducting the excavation in Aunt Agnes's living quarters where the voodoo items were found, they enter and the camera starts going haywire when they mention her name. Quickly and wisely leaving the cabin, they meet up with park ranger Dustin, who explains how the hated overseer, Mr. Miller, was shot by Union troops, and gives them a quick lesson in French. Then they're met by Joe, who describes the apparition he had seen looking out the window of the overseer's cabin. Joe joins them on their nocturnal rounds.
When it's time to go ghost hunting, they pop the trunk and pull out a laser grid pen, IR cameras, a rem-pod, and smartphones loaded with EVP and thermal camera apps. Juwan pairs with Joe to explore the overseer's house while Dalen and Marcus head to the gin barn. A few EVPs, a flash of something dark in the barn, and Marcus's unique handling of a flashlight for when you don't want to see flashes of something ensue. Visits to Aunt Agnes's and the blacksmith's cabins provide more opportunities for odd noises and humorous commentary.
Finally, a ghost hunting show where the hosts are as scared and inexperienced as we are. Winning personalities and quick wits make Ghost Brothers a sound investment of your time, whether you believe or not.
One of the earliest slasher movies (two years later, Halloween would establish the modus operandi of slashers), The Town that Dreaded Sundown is disturbing because it's based on a real-life serial killer who was never caught. Stalking victims in 1946 Texarkana, the Phantom Killer, as he (or she) was dubbed by the press, would attack eight people, killing 5. For a good documentary on the Phantom Killer, and other real-life sources for urban legends, see Killer Legends, a documentary directed by Joshua Zeman (Cropsey, 2009). And here's the comic book reader version of the pressbook: Download Town Dreaded Sundown.
Lots of admats and articles make this quite a campaign/pressbook. There are Seventeen magazine and Howard Johnson comic book tie-ins, along with Whirlpool Kitchens and Scholastic magazines. Whew. (Here's your comic book reader version: Download 2001 Space Odyssey Pressbook 24MB.)
You may have an opinion as to the worst movie ever made, but I've got the proof. Just watch this lump of coal, this empty stocking on Christmas morn, this morose, torpid, lackluster cinematic misfire that makes chewing gum stuck to your shoe more fun and endearing. You want to knock the boundless joy out of Buddy the Elf? Just show him this inane, sugarless tart of zero holiday mirthlessness. Yes, Virginia, it's that awful. Truly awful. You've been warned. For criminy sakes, an unmarried, dirty, hermit in a cave gives family advice. Stay away!