The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Man assaults 110-year-old suspected witch

From the Accra (Ghana) Daily Mail:

Mr. Noah Owusu, a school proprietor in Techiman-North is helping the police in investigations into the brutal manhandling of a 110-year old woman on the allegation that she is a witch. Owusu, is alleged to have committed the offence with some of his students. They allegedly stripped Madam Yaaya-Dam Libaar naked, beat her up and accused her of being a witch.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

A Civil Rights treasure trove discovered

This is really one of those cases where the pictures speak a thousand words.

A photographer at The Birmingham (Ala.) News was looking for a lens, but found a box instead filled with negatives of photos from the civil rights movement in Alabama. Many of the images include the biggest names and key events of the movement, but were never published before.

Minutes after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed on Sept. 15, 1963, Tom Self was on the scene taking pictures. The photographs, published in The Birmingham News, were among hundreds that appeared in print during the civil rights struggle in Alabama. Self, who retired as chief photographer in 1998, remembers many of those images. He also recalls many not published. One is a picture from inside the Sixteenth Street church moments after explosives blew the face of Jesus Christ from a stained-glass window and killed four little girls. "I shot a picture of Jesus, and everything was intact except his face; his face was blown out," Self remembered. "It was an eerie feeling to look up there and see the whole frame of the window and just the face was gone."
The link to the photos, stories and audio accounts from the retired photographers themselves can be found here, a terrific online exhibit that was published as part of a special in the newspaper. For some civil rights activists who marched in the era I'm sure the photos will bring back a lot of memories. For the rest of us, view them for inspiration. We owe these people heroes for their courage and faith to continue their struggle for justice and equality and to make the world a better place.

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RIP: Octavia Butler

Noted science fiction author Octavia Butler has died following a fall outside her Seattle-area home. Her work was both intensely political and personal, providing a much-needed voice that was unafraid to discuss race, gender, or class - and often all three at once. From her obituary in the Seattle P-I:

SEATTLE -- Octavia E. Butler, the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, died after falling and striking her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home, a close friend said Sunday. She was 58. Butler was found outside her home in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park on Friday. She had suffered from high blood pressure and heart trouble and could only take a few steps without stopping for breath, said Leslie Howle, who knew Butler for two decades and works at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. Butler's work wasn't preoccupied with robots and ray guns, Howle said, but used the genre's artistic freedom to explore race, poverty, politics, religion and human nature. "She stands alone for what she did," Howle said. "She was such a beacon and a light in that way."
There are so many tributes to her tonight, I don't even know where to point you - Steven Barnes and Cory Doctrow are a couple of writers I like, but there are many, many others sharing their thoughts about her passing tonight. Hers was a unique voice that will not be easily replaced. UPDATE: Neil Gaiman, more Steven Barnes, John Marshall (one of the Seattle P-I's book critics). [via Atrios]

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

RIP: Darren McGavin

While I know some of y'all are going 'Who?', I know others recognize this as the passing of the original Kolchac.

McGavin, 83, died Saturday of natural causes at a Los Angeles-area hospital with his family at his side, said his son Bogart McGavin. McGavin also had leading roles in TV's "Riverboat" and cult favorite "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Among his memorable portrayals was Gen. George Patton in the 1979 TV biography "Ike."
McGavin's official website is here; his IMDb page is here. [via Pam Spaulding @ Pandagon]

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

More spooky vacation ideas: European catacombs

(photo of Palermo Ossuary by Hugues Leblanc) I know that in the past I've waxed poetic about my TiVo - and I'm gonna have to do so again, so just bear with me. A couple of nights ago, my TiVo recorded (unbidden, mind you - God! I love that machine! Okay, that wasn't too much waxing, was it?) Incredible Catacombs on the Travel Channel, and I've got to say, there were a couple of places mentioned that I'd never heard of... They did the obvious, covering sites we've talked about on MotHV before: the Parisian catacombs, the early Christian catacombs outside Rome (including one that was the scene of a massacre - Roman soldiers attacked an early Mass, killing everyone in attendance, including one of the early Popes), the vaults and closes under Edinborough's streets, the chapel and ossuary at Sedlec. They covered the Wieliczka salt mines outside of Krakow, with its beautiful chapels and shrines, and whimsical grotesqueries. But they also included a couple I'd never heard of. The first was a subterranean city in central Turkey; built by early Christians fleeing Roman persecution, the crypts could house up to 50,000 people! While this was cool (and the ancient volcanic landscape quite surreal and striking), of more interest to you, our loyal readers, would be the Capuchin ossuaries of Rome and Palermo. While both contain the bones of centuries-worth of monks, some displayed in bizzare tableaux, the Palermo one contains thousands of mummies. Evidently, it was a fad among the wealthy in the 1800s to have your corpse soaked in vinegar or arsenic and placed in the dry limestone niches and crypts in Palermo's Capuchin catacomb. Dehydration would do the rest... So if you get a chance, give the show a whirl - it airs again on Sunday, March 5th. I know my list of places I should see has definitely grown. (Special Saturday Bonus: the photographer and writer responsible for the 'Dark Italy' site where I got the photo also have a great 'Dark Mexico' site... Check 'em both out - they're quite cool.)

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Giant aircraft of the future

Paging Jules Verne. Mr. Verne to the courtesy phone please. From ABC News:

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's … an Aeroscraft? A Tarzana, Calif., company has been working on a new kind of aircraft that looks more like a flying cruise liner than anything inhabiting the skies today. "It's not a blimp, it's not an airship, it's a totally new vehicle," said Edward Pevzner, business development manager for Worldwide Aeros Corp. "Today we have three types of vehicles — air vehicles, which are airplanes, helicopters and airships [blimps]. So this Aeroscraft, as we're going to call it, is going to be the fourth type. And it is going to combine technologies of all three other vehicles." Roughly the size of two football fields, the Aeroscraft can be used as a military transport for troops, artillery and equipment; as a cargo transport service in the spirit of Federal Express or UPS; as a commuter transport service; and as a luxury travel option.

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Night Watch

The Russian vampire film Night Watch opening tonight in limited release. I am really looking forward to seeing Night Watch when it comes to my area. Slate reviewed it:

How do you go about describing Night Watch (Fox Searchlight)? "It is easier for a man to destroy the light within," as one Night Watcher intones, "than to defeat the darkness that surrounds him." Hear that, brother; and harder still to follow the plot of your movie. But here's the rub: I didn't care. For the first hour of Night Watch, a dark, arresting, and unrelentingly weird thrill ride out of post-Soviet Russia, one feels lost. Not bad lost, as with a densely clotted mess like Underworld: Evolution, whose mythopoetics land in the viewer's lap in concrete chunks; but good lost, exhilarated lost, like what am I watching?

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The taxi driver

Here's a joke that was emailed me:

A passenger in a taxi cab, needing to ask the driver a question, leaned forward and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove up on the curb and stopped just inches from a large plate glass window. For a few minutes everything was silent in the cab. Then, still shaking, the driver said, "I'm sorry but you scared the daylights out of me." The frightened passenger apologized saying that he didn't realize a tap on the shoulder could be so scary. "No, no," said the driver. "It's all my fault. This is my first day driving a taxi. For the last 25 years I've driven a hearse."

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Friday, February 24, 2006

How to tell if your IT tech is a zombie

ITtoolbox Blogs has a list of signs to determine if your IT person is a zombie and a list of tips on how to deal with your zombie IT worker:

* does he use too much Axe bodyspray or too much cologne (to cover up the smell of his rotting flesh)? * does he nibble at your ankles when plugging in your network cable under your desk? * after troubleshooting your slow computer, does he call back to his office and ask them to "send more brains"? * does he stare at you with his eyes rolled halfway back into his skull and groan everytime you explain to him that you really do need him to open up the firewall for your streaming audio?
Tip of the fedora to FARfeteched for emailing me the link.

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Friday vampire cat blogging

Hat tip to PhillyGal.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

'It's like the X-Files'

From The Guardian:

Modern motor cars rattle with fear when they take the winding coast road from Mundesley past RAF Trimingham to Cromer. Engines have stalled. Fuseboards and microchips have fried. Speedometers have roared up to 150mph or down to 0. Dashboards have gone black. Clocks have conked out. Down at the local garage, they have a technical term for it. "It's like the X-Files isn't it?" said mechanic Kevin Abbs. Mr Abbs has been a busy man in recent days after a spate of mysterious breakdowns outside a radar station on the north Norfolk coast. Housed inside a giant white golf ball-like structure, the radar station looks as forbidding as the North Sea churning brown below. "A micro-wave radiation hazard exists beyond this point," warns a danger sign on a barbed wire fence. Its purpose veiled by the Official Secrets Act, something has quietly whirred here since 1941, when the station provided early warning against a Nazi attack. For decades it watched for the Red Menace in the east.

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Lake Champlain monster caught on tape

ABC News has the video online.

ABC News obtained exclusive video of something just under the surface of the lake that some say may be Champ. The video was taken by two fishermen with their digital camera last summer. Before their supposed sighting, they were Champ skeptics. "It was as big around as my thigh," said fisherman Peter Bodette. "I'm 100 percent sure of what we saw. I'm not 100 percent sure of what it was." "It made my hair stand on end at the time," said fisherman Dick Affolter. "It just didn't fit anything — any creature I had seen."
In related news, Vice President Dick Cheney departed for a hunting trip to Lake Champlain. Local residents have been advised to stay indoors to avoid drunken shotgun blasts.

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Ruined city discovered in India

From The Hindu:

CHANDIGARH: Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a city dating back to the Harappan civilisation at Farmana Khas, about 12 km from Meham on the Julana road in Haryana. Terming the discovery as significant, a spokesman of the Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department said here on Monday that it was the first city of the Harappan civilisation found buried in Haryana. It was evident from the nature of settlements and richness of antiquities found at the site that the city belonged to the Harappan era. So far, towns dating back to this civilisation — Banawali, Bhirdana — and the village of Kunal have been unearthed in Haryana but this is the first time that the ruins of a city have been discovered.

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Tracking the ghost

From the Yakima (Wash.) Herald Republic:

Eighty years. For that long, there have been only unverified sightings. The very occasional set of tracks crossing a remote snowfield. In recent years, perhaps a fleeting image on some motion-detector camera high in the North Cascades. Evidence aptly illusory of animals that might as well have been ghosts of the boreal forest — albeit ghosts with a reputation for unparalleled ferocity. For eight decades, even scientists couldn't say for sure whether this state was home to even one member of this elusive animal species. Until two weeks ago. Now they know all about one. And her name is Melanie. She's a year old and weighs 19 pounds. And researchers are hoping against hope that she's not alone out there — though they'll know soon enough. The satellite collar they've attached to her will answer questions that have gone unanswered for those 80 years. She's a wolverine. In Washington. And that, in the world of wildlife science, is very, very big news. "It's historic," says Keith Aubry, a carnivore expert and research wildlife biologist heading up a pilot study of wolverines in the state from his office at the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in Olympia.
Also wolverines are good at fighting off communist invaders.

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Cave of the Ghosts


A cave so huge helicopters can fly into it has just been discovered deep in the hills of a South American jungle paradise. Actually, "Cueva del Fantasma" — Spanish for "Cave of the Ghost" — is so vast that two helicopters can comfortably fly into it and land next to a towering waterfall. It was found in the slopes of Aprada tepui in southern Venezuela, one of the most inaccessible and unexplored regions of the world. The area, known as the Venezuelan Guayana, is one of the most biologically rich, geologically ancient and unspoiled parts of the world.

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A monster of a short stop

I recently posted about Destiny Frankenstein's three home runs in one day (see below). The Kansas City Star just wrote a profile on her:

There’s nothing easy about going through life with a name like that, not with a name like Destiny Frankenstein. Everywhere she goes, every time she fills out an application, every time she gets introduced to someone, she gets the same smirk or disbelieving look. By now, at age 22 and a senior shortstop for the Kansas softball team, Frankenstein is pretty immune to it all. “Most people just can’t believe that’s my real name,” she said by phone from Lawrence. “Like if I’m making reservations at a restaurant, I start to give them my name, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, no, we need your real name.’ And I have to convince them, ‘Hey, that is my real name!’ ”

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Russian 'Holmes' to be knighted

From Moscow News:

Russian actor Vassily Livanov will be granted the Order of the British Empire for acting Sherlock Holmes. British ambassador to Russia, Tony Brenton, quoted by Radio Liberty said the Queen Elizabeth II had made such a decision. Brenton called Livanov one of the best actors to play the role of the famous detective.

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On black funerals

What Rev. Lowery said.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bird flu worries ground Tower birds

From The Washington Post:

For 350 years, coal-black ravens have wandered freely around the Tower of London's grassy inner courtyard as cawing barometers of the monarchy's vitality -- if the ravens ever die or leave the tower, the legend goes, the tower and the kingdom will fall. Now the fear of bird flu has done what Luftwaffe bombings, blizzards, assassinations and abdications could not, forcing the ravens to be moved inside in isolation for their own safety and to hedge Britain's bets on the future of the crown. "I talk to them and they're calm," said Raven Master Derrick Coyle, in his navy Tudor bonnet and beefeater outfit as he stood inside the 11th-century fortress on the Thames, one of the world's leading tourist attractions. Four times a day, Coyle said, he dons a full-body protective suit, steps carefully into a disinfectant foot wash and then offers raw meat, vitamins and comforting words to the six ravens -- Branwen, Hugine, Munin, Gwyllum, Thor and Baldrick -- who now live in eight-foot-long cages in one of the towers. snip "Thank goodness they are still on these grounds," said Margaret Hopkins, a retired schoolteacher visiting the tower. She said she wasn't really superstitious but thought it best not to cross a 17th-century decree by King Charles II to always keep six ravens at the tower, lest great harm descend.

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Ghost hunting season begins

Edinburgh gets to have all the fun. From The Scotsman:

OVERNIGHT vigils in one of the Capital's creepiest places are to be held as part of the city's annual ghost festival. Mary King's Close, the 17th century labyrinth below the City Chambers, is to be opened up from midnight to 6am to play host to private adult-only investigations. Other underground vaults and closes in the historic heart of Edinburgh will also play host to various paranormal and supernatural probes. Leading psychics, ghost-finders and paranormal experts are inviting members of the public to join them on after-dark events during the festival, which is expected to attract visitors from all over the UK. The second Edinburgh Ghost Fest will also see attempts to capture ghostly voices, the opportunity to meet some of the UK's best known psychics, and a chance for festival-goers to experience a night in the city's underground vaults. Other events in the fledgling festival, which is being held over ten days in May, include a look back at the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting in the Lothians, clairvoyant gatherings, storytelling sessions, tarot nights, a psychic fair, tastings of whisky from Scotland's most haunted distilleries and a spooky bus tour of Midlothian.

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For those about to rock...

Dewey Finn: In the words of AC/DC: We roll tonight... to the guitar bite... and for those about to rock... I salute you. School of Rock (2003) Did you feel it? I felt it. The pillars of the Earth shook. The beginning of the end of the Iranian theocracy occurred. You didn't notice it? George W. Bush had nothing to do with it. No military power on the planet could do it. The change began within Iran today. From the BBC:

Rock band Queen, fronted by gay icon Freddie Mercury, has become the first rock act to receive an official seal of approval in Iran. Western music is strictly censored in the Islamic republic, where homosexuality is considered a crime. But an album of Queen's greatest hits was released in Iran on Monday.

Mercury, who died in 1991, was proud of his Iranian ancestry, and illegal bootleg albums and singles made Queen one of the most popular bands in Iran.

Do you think I'm exaggerating the importance of this? Nuclear weapons and masses of tanks cannot stop the power of rock. Rock and roll led to the fall of communism and the Soviet Empire.
Hungarian ambassador Andras Simonyi, who in November spoke at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, believes at least some credit is due to the influence of bloc-rocking beats. Simonyi first encountered rock 'n' roll in Denmark in the 1960s, a time when Hungary was in the middle of nearly haft a century of Communist rule. "Rock music represented freedom to me," Simonyi says, "freedom I first experienced in Denmark and missed very much after returning to Hungary." One of few young people on his block who spoke English, he embraced the message of rock culture. "Given that rock already carried a revolutionary message in the free West," he says, "you can imagine what effect that music had in the un-free East." The message of rock was heard even by those who didn't understand English. "Nonspeakers instinctively felt that rock music was about freedom--the freedom to form your own band, the freedom to create your own music, the freedom to choose and listen to songs you like best," Simonyi says. He believes it was only natural for those ideas to "spill over into politics, reinforcing the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the free dissemination of ideas," all of which, he says, "scared the hell out of the Communist establishment." Hungarian communism collapsed in 1989, and Simonyi, now 51, still believes rock can set you free. "Today, there is criticism that rock is imperialistic," he says. "Nonsense. Only dictators are afraid of rock."
I'm surprised President Cheney Bush hasn't moved to ban rock music in this country. Queen, I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You're so self satisfied I don't need you
I've got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free
Freddy: Come on man, we're on a mission. One great rock show can change the world... look out the window...

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Zombies on ice! The Sequel!

If, like me, your first mental image upon reading the previous post's title was that of a sequin-bedecked pair of zombies twirling and spinning across the ice on flashing blades as gobbets of flesh dropped from them, then you need help. No, really, I mean that. If, however, you do find yourself in this position, you will be just as disappointed as I to discover that there are no Google-able images of sequin-clad, figure skating zombies! Zero, zip, nada, none. Bupkus. Dammit, I want my Dawn of the Dead on Ice! If the Internet wasn't invented for propagating exactly that sort of image, than I don't know what it was invented for (apart from pr0n, which is clearly outside the scope of this blog (unless it's zombie pr0n, in which case let me be the first to tell you that you are truly one sick mofo. Really. Now stop touching me and go away.)). But I digress... While googling for these oh-so-elusive images, I was able to find these gems: All Things Zombie (which appears to live up to its name most admirably) and Lance Chess' article in the Sep 16 - Sep 22, 2004 issue of The Portland Mercury titled "Zombie Like Me"...

I'm sure we've all fantasized about being on the run from a pack of brain-devouring zombies. Perhaps you've even imagined yourself armed with a shotgun and a handful of shells. How many zombies did you take out before you succumbed? One? 10? 50? But what if it were the other way around? What if YOU were the lone zombie walking around--undead, wandering in a sea of thriving humanity, scaring everyone shitless? That's why I chose to get into the skin of a zombie--that is, to shuffle a mile in his shoes. But first I needed to resemble one of the living undead--and a bong hit, a couple shots of Jgermeister [sic], and some shabby clothes would not suffice. I needed professional help.
This journalistic gem is but the beginning of the package of articles the Mercury pulled together for this issue. There's Things To Do In Portland When You're Undead, How To Kill A Zombie, and Ask a Zombologist. Good stuff, good stuff. Oh yeah, one last thing; there was one photo... No sequins here... ...of a zombie on ice.

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Zombies on ice!

Via Pharyngula comes this link to startling footage of zombies shambling across Minnesota's frigid winter landscape. Personally, I'd have guessed that you'd have a hard time finding brains by stalking ice fishermen, but hey! it seems to work for them ;-) As one of PZ's commenters pointed out, perhaps they're being lured by the siren call of Mall of America.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Salem's Lot on Zombie Astronaut

The latest issue of Zombie Astronaut brings us the BBC's audio series of Stephen King's Salem's Lot.

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New Orleans cemeteries ready for the living

From The Providence Journal:

New Orleans is alive and kicking, and it wants you back. Needs you back. Pre-hurricane, New Orleans hosted nearly 10 million tourists per year; in 2006, no one is hazarding a guess. Tours by Isabelle once escorted 1,000 visitors per month; now it sees about 100. snip If you show up, the city will show you one terrific time. Since New Year's, the weekend partiers are trickling back. The French Quarter looks pretty much as it did pre-Katrina, with its leafy gardens, curling iron balconies, gaudy bars and obnoxious T-shirt shops. Museums in the Warehouse District -- dedicated to Southern art, the Confederacy, D-Day and contemporary art -- have reopened. Historic cemeteries made famous by voodoo queen Marie Laveau and author Anne Rice's vampires are open for visits.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Beast of Bexley captured -- on camera

It's been ages since I've posted a giant black cat story. From This Is Local London:

THIS is the closest-ever picture of the Beast of Bexley. Over several years there have been scores of sightings around the borough of a panther-like creature. And at the weekend, mum-of-three Debbie Marshall took this amazing picture at the bottom of her garden.

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Ghost girl video

Speaking of Coast-to-Coast AM (see post below) here's an eerie video that was being discussed on Friday's show of a Spanish ghost hunter's encounter in a cemetery.

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Coast-to-Coast AM signal remains popular

From Wired News:

Omar is phoning from the future. "I'm in the year 2063," he declares during an open-lines segment on Coast to Coast AM, a nationally syndicated late-night radio show. Show host George Noory listens with the same respectful tone he uses whether callers have Ph.D.s in microbiology or advanced degrees in wacko. "So what's going on?" he asks, getting an impenetrable answer about the decline of money. And then it's on to the usual calls about alien-human hybrids, spiritual visitations and global conspiracies. But that's not all. Noory combines the unexplained with something unexpected -- in-depth chats with some of today's most respected scientists. An estimated 4.5 million listeners tune in to Coast to Coast each night, reportedly making the show No. 1 in its time slot in cities from Los Angeles to Albuquerque (where it gets a whopping 22 percent of the audience) to San Diego (where it attracts more listeners than the next two most popular stations combined).
Hat tip to The Daily Grail.

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Frankenstein wields a dangerous bat

Destiny Frankstein that is.

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Ghost hunters spooky encounter


CHAR MARGOLIS traveled to Kincardine, Ontario to visit a mansion many Canadian residents believe to be haunted, and the ET cameras are with our real-life ghost whisperer to capture the eerie investigation! "This is a scary looking house; it's a little spooky," Char tells ET. "I get many spirits wanting to tell their story here, and I feel I was brought here for a reason." Char, an internationally renowned psychic intuitive who is also the star of the upcoming SCI-FI Channel reality series "Psychic at Large" (premiering Wednesday March 29), could immediately sense the spirits inside the house even before she stepped inside. Many locals are so afraid of the house, which was reportedly built by an American sea captain in 1865, that they cross the street away from the property when passing by. Owner MICHELLE CAMPBELL says she and her family experienced many ghostly occurrences inside the residence. They no longer live there. "I never believed in ghosts at all until I moved here," says Michelle.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Happy Gone Batty Friday

(the bats were jealous that the Cats were getting all the attention on Fridays....)

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Friday vampire cat blogging

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dick Cheney's List of Worst Days of His Life

Dick Cheney told Faux New's Brit Hume that shooting his close friend acquaintance was "one of the worst days" of his life. I'm sure it was. The thought that he might -- no matter how remotely -- be held accountable for killing a man probably made him feel terrible.

Not for Mr. Whittington, of course, but for himself. A dark moment indeed in the life of Dick Cheney, that momentary flash of guilt. Caused one of the worst days of his life. Fortunately I've been able to ascertain through my connections at NSA what are among other dark days in the life of Dick Cheney:

  1. The day Friends went off the air.
  2. Hulk Hogan loses the heavyweight title to Nature Boy Ric Flair.
  3. Scooter Libby called before the grand jury.
  4. Watching George Bush's performance in the first debate against John Kerry.
  5. Found out the woman he had been leering at and putting the moves on was his daughter's girlfriend.
  6. Hulk Hogan joins the NWO.
  7. His 12th heart attack. That day really sucked.
  8. His wedding night with Lynne. She discovered she was more interested in writing lesbian sex scenes for her novel. He discovered she did not want to take a bath in ice-cold water and then lie on the bed perfectly still so it would be like necrophilia.
  9. The day his father caught him in the barn with the goat.
  10. The day the military refused to transfer the prisoners at Camp X-Ray to a Texas ranch for him to shoot unarmed men.

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Apocalypse vs. Dracula

New comic book series begins with Marvel's Apocalypse and Dracula squaring off. From Comic Book Resource:

“Instead, we have a feud that dates all the way back to the Crusades, with a pre-vampiric Drac finding himself up against the forces of Apocalypse. Let’s just say he doesn’t fare all that well. Now, flash forward to Victorian England where Drac’s out for revenge and Clan Akkaba members are starting to get bumped off. They soon realize they have no choice but to awaken their master, and that’s when Apocalypse will find himself in the fight of his long life “And yeah, I said fight of his life. I think people tend to underestimate Dracula. Keep in mind he’s gone toe to toe with the Silver Surfer, the X-Men, Generation X, Thor and Dr Strange on separate occasions, so if you’re thinking of putting the championship belt on Poccy before this even starts, you’re really jumping the gun here.”

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Horrific radio

I meant to post ages ago about how I thought radio was possibly the most effective means of communicating a horror story. No writer or director can create monsters more effectively than the listener's imagination. Fortunately for all of us HP has a terrific post on radio horror, complete with links to MP3s. at his blog, Thump Thump.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Marital madness

Ms. Carnacki and I celebrated our 9th anniversary.

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Dream Anatomy

No, I'm not talking Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, you slavering fanboys - I'm talking about medical texts as art. Yup; as further proof that Carnacki and I were separated at birth (I don't care what the birth certificates say...), I found this absolutely cool and totally unrelated exhibition of anatomical drawings that is also hosted by NIH's National Library of Medicine (we're nothing if not a family-friendly, edu-ma-ctational kind of act here).

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century-and the cascade of print technologies that followed-helped to inspire a new spectacular science of anatomy, and new spectacular visions of the body. Anatomical imagery proliferated, detailed and informative but also whimsical, surreal, beautiful, and grotesque — a dream anatomy that reveals as much about the outer world as it does the inner self.
The exhibit runs the gamut from grotesque whimsy... stark brutality... ...and covers (or uncovers?) pretty much everything in between. The online-only exhibition (the original ran at the NLM from October 9, 2002 to July 31, 2003) uses several centuries of manuscripts to examine the relationship between medicine and art, dissection and science, and how the manner in which these realms interact says a lot about what we are as a society as well as what we are as organisms. Religion, science, sex, death, morality, mortality; all in one neat artistic and educational package - what more could one want? And hey - there's a certain economy of motion here! You can check out Dream Anatomy while you're looking at Visible Proofs. No wasted mouse clicks here at MotHV! We're considerate that way.

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NIH features forensic exhibit

Now this is a library exhibit. From The Washington Post:

"Visible Proofs" runs through Feb. 16, 2008, at the National Library of Medicine, located on the Rockville Pike campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The exhibit opens Thursday with the cutting of a crime-scene tape at 11:30 a.m. At 6 p.m. the library will show "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (1939), one of four forensics-focused films being shown in conjunction with the exhibit. The others, to be shown subsequent Thursdays at 6 p.m. through April 6, are "Mystery Street" (1950), "Citizen X" (1995) and "Sleepy Hollow" (1999). The showings will be preceded by talks by historians, film critics or NIH scientists, and followed by moderated discussions.
The official site for the exhibit is here.
We, the living, instinctively recoil in the presence of death. Whether the deceased is a beloved, a friend, or a stranger, the shock of death's finality registers. When a life is unexpectedly extinguished, we need answers and seek the cause. Today, this need is addressed in police investigations, laboratories, courtrooms, and all of the venues in which scientific medicine interacts with the law—the field of forensics. Visible Proofs is about the history of forensic medicine. Over the centuries, physicians, surgeons, and other professionals have struggled to develop scientific methods that translate views of bodies and body parts into "visible proofs" that can persuade judges, juries, and the public. At times, the power of forensics has been exceeded by the difficulty of the questions it seeks to answer. But at best, its visible proofs testify on behalf of the victims of violent crime and against the guilty—and console and inspire and amaze us.
Love this quote on the site:
"You are not to expect visible proofs in a work of darkness. You are to collect the truth from circumstances, and little collateral facts, which taken singly afford no proof, yet put together, so tally with, and confirm each other, that they are as strong and convincing evidence, as facts that appear in the broad face of the day." —Judge Francis Buller, to the jury, Donnellan case, March 1781
Lots of great features on forensic science today and in the past at the online exhibit. Take this for example:
This sensational pamphlet, on the murder of Sir James Standsfield by his son Philip, reports that investigators in the case used a forensic test, based on the ancient belief that the corpse of a victim will bleed if touched by the murderer. After the surgeons had conducted the autopsy, they concluded that James Standsfield had been murdered, and sewed up his wounds. Philip Standsfield was then made to lift his father's body. The pamphlet states that blood from the fatal wound "sprung out upon Philip Standsfield's Hand," which was taken as a sign (from "the finger of God") that he was guilty—corroborating the considerable amount of circumstantial evidence which already weighed against him. Philip Standsfield was found guilty and hanged in the Edinburgh market square from a gibbet. As further punishment for the heinous crime of patricide (which was legally defined as "treason"), his tongue was cut out and burned on a scaffold, his right hand was cut off, and his body hung up in chains, all for public viewing. Scholars believe that the Standsfield case was perhaps the last in Scottish law to use the bleeding corpse test. "In a secret Murther, if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by the Murtherer, it will gush out of blood; as if the blood were crying to Heaven for revenge of the Murtherer." —Dæmonologie , King James VI, Scotland (James I of England)
Some of the images are rather gruesome -- so be warned. I'm glad to see the work of Frances Glessner Lee is included in the exhibit. I had the chance to see her eerie dollhouses of murder years ago. Don't miss the gallery for her incredibly detailed miniatures of crime scenes.
In 1943, Mrs. Lee was appointed captain in the New Hampshire State Police, the first woman in the United States to hold such a position. Around the same time, she began work on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death—a series of eighteen miniature crime-scene dioramas for student analysis. The Nutshells allowed Mrs. Lee to combine her lifelong love of dolls, dollhouses, and models with her passion for forensic medicine. She originally presented them to the Harvard Department of Legal Medicine; later they came into the possession of the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner's Office. Erle Stanley Gardner, the writer best known for creating the Perry Mason mysteries, and Mrs. Lee's close friend, wrote that "A person studying these models can learn more about circumstantial evidence in an hour than he could learn in months of abstract study."

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Nathan Fillon set for White Noise 2 has the details.

Nathan Fillion, best known as Mal Reynolds in "Firefly" and "Serenity", is reuniting with "Dracula 2000" director Patrick Lussier for "White Noise 2 : The Light", a sequel to the Michael Keaton starring spookster from a year or so back.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Bats: efficient hunters

It is understandable why Count Dracula would change into the form of a bat. Bats are cooler than cool. A new study from the University of Maryland's bat-flight room helps explain why bats are such awesome creatures.

Unlike most humans and visually guided animals, bats rely on hearing, rather than vision, to fly and forage in darkness. They perform split-second aerial acrobatics, guided entirely by sound, to catch small insect prey. What is known is that bats "see" by sending out beams of sound into the environment and listening for the echoes that are returned from objects like bugs and trees. The bat uses these echoes to maneuver past the trees and to catch bugs. What has not been known, however, is if bats convert what they hear into what they do in the same way that humans convert vision into action. The bat's use of sound to capture insects takes place so quickly, it's not possible to observe its behavior in real time, or with standard equipment. Now, with a unique combination of high-speed infrared cameras and ultrasonic microphones, University of Maryland professor Cynthia Moss and doctoral student Kaushik Ghose have been able to see how exactly a bat moves in response to sound. They found that there is a strong and predictable connection between where a bat "looks" with its sonar beam - its acoustic gaze -- and how it flies. snip In their study, which appears in the February 8 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, Moss and Ghose report that a bat directs its beams of sound ahead of its flight, like a flashlight. If it directs its beam to the left, about a tenth of a second later it turns to the left. By adjusting how sharply it follows its beam, the bat is able to adapt between "looking around" in a search mode and "homing in" in attack mode. "The findings add a significant piece of information to understanding how bats function," says Moss, professor of psychology and director of the university's Neuroscience and Cognitive Science graduate program. "Previous work on humans and other visually guided animals have suggested that we 'look' where we go. But it was not known if there was a similar relationship between the bat's acoustic gaze and its flight motion. "The discovery that the bat adjusts how sharply it turns in flight to follow its sonar beam is also remarkable. Such an adjustable linkage between vision and locomotion hasn't been found yet in sighted animals." snip Technology was the key to the team's insight into the bat's blazingly fast skills. Moss's is the only lab in the world with a bat flight-room equipped with high-speed infrared cameras. The cameras allowed the researchers to record the bat's behavior, then slow it to analyze the moves frame by frame, like a baseball coach studying a play. The microphone array, designed by Ghose for his doctoral thesis, revealed the beams of sound the bat put out as it flew and captured insects. Arranged around the flight room, the microphones recorded the directional patterns of sound emitted by the bat, which show where the bat is "looking." snip The slow motion video and audio showed that when the bat is flying along, just scanning its surroundings for prey, it makes more gentle turns toward the direction of its gaze -- like window-shopping in the mall. "When the bat is just searching," Ghose says, "it puts out about 10 calls per second. In this stage, the bat could be directing its sonar beam far off to the side, but it turns only leisurely toward that direction." But when the bat has located a bug with its sound beam, it begins to call more rapidly, putting out 100-150 calls a second. In this state, the bat follows its beam much more precisely, making abrupt turns to follow the direction of its acoustic gaze. "The bat switches to attack mode when it senses the bug," says Ghose."It uses rapid maneuvers to align its flight path and to intersect with the unfortunate insect."
Video of a bat in action on the site.

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Cartoon characters

Remember the classic Looney Tunes when Porky Pig would blast away willy-nilly while hunting? It's like that.

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Girls & Corpses

The beautiful Bibi (I've seen the photos she's posted on flickr) highlights one of my favorite magazines. I posed for the magazine once. Details here.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The House of Dead Ghosts

From The Boston Globe:

On the fringes of St. Sebastian's School for boys, the House of the Dead Ghosts has endured from the days when Needham was little more than a scattering of farmsteads and knitting shops. The Lemuel Lyon House, a two-story Colonial on Greendale Avenue, is owned by St. Sebastian's and listed by a local commission as one of 76 historically significant homes in Needham, largely because of its original owner -- a hatter, Freemason, and eventual consul to Japan. It owes its nickname to the demise of a subsequent resident. snip The nearly 200-year-old house has been the setting for one of Needham's few enduring ghost stories. In the 1880s, it was home to two elderly sisters. Harriet Curtis was editor of the Lowell Harbinger, a mill magazine published during the heyday of New England's textile industry. After she died, her sister, Laura, became convinced that the house was haunted by evil ghosts. She carried a large-caliber pistol with her to bed each night. Whenever she heard a creak, she would fire the pistol, over time peppering the floor, ceiling, and walls of her bedroom. She later was committed to an institution.
I want this house.

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What's Pastor Dan up to?

He really should get back to posting on this blog. Even if a lot of the blogosphere is pointing to his posts here and here. Sure, Street Prophets does important work. But does that mean he can't find time to write about Cthulhu?

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Update on the cranial carry-on...

So here's the latest on our skull story - it was evidently intended for use in voodoo rituals:

“It still had teeth, hair and bits of skin and lots of dirt,” Gonzalez[, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami,] said. [Myrlene] Severe [, 30, a Haitian-born permanent U.S. resident] told authorities she had obtained the package in Haiti for “use as a part of her voodoo beliefs,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Erick Hernandez wrote in an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint.
So remember, boys and ghouls! If you're going to travel internationally with your ritual objects, make sure that you declare them...

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Dracula lives forever

From The Boston Globe:

Happy 75th birthday, Count Dracula! My, isn't the icing on the cake a particularly tasty-looking shade of red. It might seem odd to assign an age to someone so famously undead. But Feb. 12, 1931, was the premiere of ''Dracula," with Bela Lugosi in the title role (right). It's easily the most famous of the many films inspired by the Bram Stoker novel about a certain cape-wearing Transylvanian with idiosyncratic ideas about blood transfusion. Dracula is one of those rare characters, like Sherlock Holmes or Frankenstein, who takes on a life (an undeath?) all his own. So long as the sun has set, and there is no garlic, wolfsbane, or crucifix to be seen, the good count can be found all over.
Fun read with a 10 actors who played Dracula in the movies, five movies starring Bela Lugosi as a character other than Dracula and other fun lists. By the way, I love the suggestion of Christopher Walken or Angelina Jolie playing Dracula.

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Via Cynical-C, Nosferatu is available for viewing online.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Have I mentioned recently... much I love Kung Fu Monkey? It's monkeys! And kung fu! And... And... And... ...and comics! And yet more fresh and chewy comic-y goodness: For my Fu is strong! Strong, I tell you! (Oh, and don't skip the comments...)

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1st intact tomb found in Egypt since 1922

There will be many more posts on this later. Exciting news and fills one -- well, me at least -- with a sense of wonder and awe. MSNBC has a slide show. The Telegraph of London has good details:

More than 80 years after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities has stunned the world of Egyptology by revealing that another tomb has been found, just four metres away from Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. For a long time it was thought that the valley, opposite the modern city of Luxor and the source of many of the most famous discoveries, had given up all of its secrets. The discovery was the work of a team of American archaeologists from the University of Memphis led by Otto Schaden. "It's very, very exciting," said Patricia Podvorzski, curator of Egyptian Art at the University of Memphis. "It was completely unexpected, so long after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Many archaeologists said the valley was done 100 years ago."

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Friday vampire cat blogging

Eyes remarkably similar to Bella's.

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Right: one carry-on bag, and one personal item.

From the AP, via MSNBC:

Baggage screeners found what they believe is a human skull in a passenger’s luggage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, authorities said.
What's the problem? I'm sure it fit in the overhead compartment...

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tim Burton on the benefits of horror

In the middle of Newsweek's otherwise unremarkable fluff interview with Tim Burton[*], the master of dark whimsy shares some of his insights into horror:

"Corpse Bride" is based on a folk tale? Fairy tales are basically horror stories. I always felt the purpose was to prepare children for the abstract of life—the things that are unknown. They give some kids nightmares. Yeah, but I remember waking up and crying at the sight of certain relatives. I had one aunt who had huge red lips and wore an incredible amount of perfume. It was like this strange alien coming at you.
I've been doing some reading about child development, and trying to force myself to remember what it was like - I mean really like - to have the vivid imagination of a child. I remember some amazingly intense (waking) episodes where my imagination got away with me, and I think Burton is on to something. The boundary between real and imaginary is a lot more permeable and mutable for a child, and fairy tales must in some way help them to deal with that instability. [*] I mean, really... "You and Johnny Depp are almost like a gay couple without being gay." I don't expect a lot of depth - or any depth, come to think of it - from a piece like this, but still... Feh. A wasted opportunity if you ask me.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Forgotten forests

I thought this photo captured a haunting quality about these two young girls, daughters of a lumberjack who lived in the Pennsylvania forest where trees were harvested in the late 1890s. The photographer was probably William Townsend Clark travelled logging camps. His photos detail images of the life of the loggers that I never would have thought of. For instance, the wives and children lived with the loggers in rough hewn huts. I had always thought of the loggers as living in bunk houses, away for months from their families. The forest people developed their own cultures and amusements and he documented them well with his camera. From The Smithsonian:

Lois Barden was rummaging through a toolshed near Rochester, New York, when her eyes fell on a grime-coated crate half hidden in a dark corner. Glancing into it, Barden saw dozens of discarded windowpanes. Or were they? She held one up to the light, squinted at a filthy smudge—and was astonished to see ghostly faces staring back at her. She looked more closely. There were men, women, children and horses in a woodland setting. They were all locked in a shadowy wash of silver nitrate, for what Barden discovered was a trove of old 8x10-inch glass-plate photograph negatives. snip Reportedly an enthusiastic photographer since his early youth, Clarke began documenting life in logging communities. He stayed in Betula and Conrad, in north-central Pennsylvania, where he returned periodically to develop negatives and print photographs. He sold “sets of views” to the people he had photographed and earned money from the logging firms that hired him to record their operations. For more than three decades, he wandered like a “Pennsylvania lion or panther, with the manner of an alchemist and voyageur,” Shoemaker wrote, looking “into every nook and unfrequented place, ferreting out queer types of people to take their pictures.” He photographed rough-and-ready loggers (who called themselves “wood hicks”) and bark strippers (“bark savages”). He also documented their families, tools, animals, living and eating quarters and entertainments. And then, after a ravenous lumber industry had devoured the forests, Clarke captured the devastated, barren countryside that came to be known as the Pennsylvania desert.
Sounds like a good setting for a spooky story.

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Resurrecting Pompeii

This month's edition of Smithsonian Magazine is excellent:

In the Field Museum exhibition, some of those moments are brought eerily to life by plaster casts of Pompeii and Herculaneum’s residents at the moment the eruption overtook them. The doomed couple fleeing down an alley with their two daughters (if they were indeed a family; some have suggested the man was a slave) were the first Vesuvius victims to be so revealed, although these early casts are not in the exhibition. In 1863, an ingenious Italian archaeologist named Giuseppe Fiorelli noticed four cavities in the hardened layer of once-powdery ash that covered Pompeii to a depth of ten feet. By filling the holes with plaster, he created disturbingly lifelike casts of this long-departed Pompeiian family in its final horrifying moments. It was as though an eyewitness from antiquity had stepped forward with photographs of the disaster.
The exhibit is at the Field Museum in Chicago through March 26.

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'Lost world' discovered remote rainforest of Papua. A lot of mystery and wonder left in this old world.

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Jessa with the mummies

Jessa spent the night with a mummy, sort of.

When the HR department decided to expand they had building ops come in and knock down a few walls. Low and behold - behind the wall was an old exhibit built in the 1800's - complete with mummies and all. Another time I was snooping about in the macabre rooms (creepy, dusty old rooms with cataloged specimins long forgotten...) Among the items I found were a genuine shrunken head, a complete gorilla skeleton, preserved misfigured fetus' in jars, and of course a mummy. An actual human mummy - just chillin' there in the back room behind the childrens play area - covered in a plastic sheet. To think about the history and the story behind this persons life and death and how they came to rest in a musty attic is just beyond my comprehension.
I'd love the chance to explore the "creepy, dusty old rooms" of an old museum. Especially at night.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Robert E. Howard's other characters licensed

For Robert E. Howard fans, this could be really good news.

Paradox Entertainment, which owns literary rights to Robert E. Howard's "Conan" character, has purchased the rest of the pulp-fiction writer's library, some 800 other literary properties. Among the characters Paradox now controls are Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane and Red Sonya. Howard published most of his stories in pulp magazines including Weird Tales, Spicy Adventure and Strange Detective in the 1920s and 1930s.
Conan wasn't the only great character Howard created.

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Coretta Scott King

When my time has come, I hope -- I pray -- that my life is worth celebrating and people can stand and cheer like they did for Coretta Scott King. The Kings always stood for justice, for peace, in opposition of war. They stood in the breach when the country was apart and showed a way to a better tomorrow. The Kings are needed in these days more than ever. Thankfully people like the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery are there to carry the torch to help light our way.

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Ginmar on Underworld: Evolution

I liked Underworld: Evolution more than Ginmar, but I have a crush on Kate Beckinsale. Plus I snuck whiskey into the theater. And I still didn't like the movie a lot. From Ginmar's review:

Anyhoo, what follows is another chase, which features stuff I've either forgotten or just didn't give much of a shit about, because it was so pointless. Plot? No, thanks, we've got explosions and more biting than my cats in a bad mood. Every time there's a lull in the plot---and there's a lot of those---somebody is biting somebody else and another mutation occurs. It's all pretty pointless, and just getting my money back won't be enough, frankly. I expected Lucian, Victor, a plot, a pony, and some hint of sexual attraction between the two leading characters. Wehn they do get naked, all I could think was, Wow, so that's what it would look like if two accountants boffed one anotehr cold sober.
Funny stuff. Go read all of it. I confess I thought similar thoughts about where Speedman was positioned to Beckinsale during the "sex" scene. Because it was no where near where anatomy allows for sexual relations between two people. Talk about stretching the imagination.

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Ghost hunting in Hoboken

From the Hudson Reporter in Hoboken, N.J.:

People often ask Farah Yurdozu, a Hoboken resident and third-generation spirtualist, if she is afraid of ghosts. "Not at all," Yurdozu said Tuesday morning. "People shouldn't be afraid, because ghosts are hopeless and helpless. They cannot harm people. They are actually the ones that need our help." In fact, Yurdozu believes that even the 150-year-old Hoboken brownstone she lives in is haunted. Yurdozu is one of the paranormal investigators starring in The Learning Channel's "Dead Tenants," a reality television series that follows the journey of the Preternatural Research Society (PRS) - a team of paranormal investigators - through the attics, basements, living rooms and back yards of the most haunted houses in the country.

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Moonlighting for history

I wrote a short history of another site. Some very funny comments too.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Behind the scenes at The Scotsman

We've mentioned many times here on The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire that The Scotsman is one of our favorite newspapers. Technology columnist Stewart Kirkpatrick gives a behind-the-scenes look:

Now, of course, that jarred somewhat with the usual tortured wails and abandoned sobbing of the our office. The company's MIGs - Men in Grey, essentially Men in Black without the style - dragged me through the dark brimstone corridors to the IT Dept's Re-education Facility and Spa. Ignoring my pleas for mercy, they hooked me up to machine running an application they called "Cthulhu Inductor 1.0". Mercifully, it being a Windows application, it crashed and I was saved before the tentacles of madness could burrow into my brain to snuff out the sparks of hope there and enforce the company's Rules Of Conduct On Ejaculations In The Work Environment - No, Not That Kind.
I think we all suspected that something unusual was going on at that office.

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Christopher Lee on women

From Contact Music:

Veteran British actor CHRISTOPHER LEE insists his signature role as COUNT DRACULA has put women off him for most of his life. The 83-year-old actor, who first appeared as the infamous vampire in 1958 and went on to star in a string of horror movies such as HORROR EXPRESS and THE WICKER MAN, claims women could never separate him from his sinister onscreen personas. He says, "Women have always been quite scared of me.
I had the same problem.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Scottish horror queen

From The Scotsman:

More than a decade later, [Ros Borland] is responsible for a significant amount of action in the Scottish film scene. Her latest horror film, Wild Country, which she playfully refers to as "Gregory's Girl with werewolves", has its Scottish premiere next week at the Glasgow Film Festival. Elsewhere, controversy is raging about her company Gabriel Productions, and its forthcoming co-production of the controversial novella Stevenson Under The Palm Trees. The book brands Scotland's literary giant, Robert Louis Stevenson, as a potential rapist and murderer. snip Some may suggest the horror genre, the teen market and Scottish backing might not be the most marketable of attributes, and Borland is quick to justify her reasons for sticking to her roots. "This is the first Scottish horror movie, I think, since The Wicker Man. Was that indigenously Scottish or not? Well, that's debatable." Shot from October 2004 through to March of last year, Wild Country was written and directed by Craig Strachan. In keeping with her indigenous sensibilities, the film features an all-Scottish cast - Martin Compston (Sweet Sixteen, Monarch of the Glen), Peter Capaldi (Local Hero, The Thick of It), and Glaswegian actress Samantha Shields - in a tale of five teenagers on an outward bound expedition who find something deadly lurking in the wilds. Set around Glasgow and predominantly in Mugdock Country Park, outside Milngavie, Borland is hopeful the backdrop will take on a character and life of its own. "It's added value that it is Scottish," she says. "Scotland's a spooky place, so it adds to the integrity of the film. We're Scottish filmmakers and we wanted to make it in Scotland. We wanted to give Scottish actors the facility to use the accents that they would use every day. Are we going to fall on our own behinds for sticking to authenticity or are the public going to enjoy it because it feels real? Who knows."
I suspect the latter.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Thump Thump

The long anticipated new blog from M.Valdemar is open for visitors. Take a look at the entertaining, frightening yet educational Thump Thump.

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Al Lewis, RIP

Grandpa on the TV classic The Munsters passed away. From USA Today:

Al Lewis, the cigar-chomping patriarch of The Munsters whose work as a basketball scout, restaurateur and political candidate never eclipsed his role as Grandpa from the television sitcom, died after years of failing health. He was 95. snip Lewis, sporting a somewhat cheesy Dracula outfit, became a pop culture icon playing the irascible father-in-law to Fred Gwynne's ever-bumbling Herman Munster on the 1964-66 television show. He was also one of the stars of another classic TV comedy, playing Officer Leo Schnauzer on Car 54, Where Are You? But Lewis' life off the small screen ranged far beyond his acting antics. A former ballplayer at Thomas Jefferson High School, he achieved notoriety as a basketball talent scout familiar to coaching greats like Jerry Tarkanian and Red Auerbach. He operated a successful Greenwich Village restaurant, Grandpa's, where he was a regular presence — chatting with customers, posing for pictures, signing autographs. Just two years short of his 90th birthday, a ponytailed Lewis ran as the Green Party candidate against incumbent Gov. George Pataki. Lewis campaigned against draconian drug laws and the death penalty, while going to court in a losing battle to have his name appear on the ballot as "Grandpa Al Lewis."
Hat tip to Keith of Old Haunts and many other fine blogs for emailing me the link.

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Scary music

From Italy's Kronic:

OXYD meets SUMAD : MYSTERIOUS PLACES OF DEAD SOULS (ABM16) 2005 - CD LTD. 545 NUMBERED COPIES IN DELUXE PACKAGE. price : 13,90 € Dark soundscapes of onyric ambient, accompanied by the restless breath of drones and samples overwhelmed with typical scandinavian distressing atmospheres. Mysterious places of dead souls opens gloomy horizons upon dead landscapes where all the shades of grey are reflected into a magma of sombre uneasiness. The ideal soundtrack to open a passage upon new and unknown dimensions. S. BIASIN TRIO : UNTITLED (ABM17) 2005 - CDr LTD. 333 NUMBERED COPIES IN DELUXE PACKAGE. price : 11,90 € Use and abuse of an obsessive electronic music tied to gloomy esoteric invectives for a cathartic sound assault which doesn`t seem to want us for prisoners. The chronicles of the world`s end are commented thorugh the magnifying glass of this historic project of violent-coloured electronic where the occult and sulphureous mark of the friends from Teatro Satanico is well alive. NOSTALGIA : THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND (ABM18) 2005 - CD LTD. 535 NUMBERED COPIES IN A5 DELUXE PACKAGE. price : 13,90 € Based on the fantasy tale (which bears the same title) written by the clever William Hope Hodgson, The House On The Borderland carries symbolically the listener through pages of real terror where it`s told about the gloomy presences infesting an old house. Echoes of Lovecraft`s style for a thrilling soundtrack precariously and perpetually poised between suggestive melancholy and abysmal fear of the unknown.
Entire post worth reading here.

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The ghost riding the train

From The Los Angeles Daily News:

WHEN crew members are given a passenger tally for an American Orient Express train trip, they always mentally add one to the list. It's not a good idea to overlook Isabel. She is referred to as a "permanent guest" on the upscale train. Isabel is a ghost. According to porter Javier Garza, all manner of strange phenomena have occurred on the Washington Sleeping Car, which he services. The ghost seems to favor compartment I on that car, he said; that is where most of the strange events have happened.
Great article.

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A note regarding Jill's loss

Thank you to all who left kind words for Jill here and on other blogs. One of the truly wonderful things about the Internet is how you get to meet people online and become friends with them despite geographical differences. I feel that way about all of my blog mates, who with the exception of Dan I have not met in person. I did not post anything yesterday, a moment of silence if you will, in tribute to Jill's step-father and to mark her loss. Jill, you remain in our thoughts and prayers.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Step Dad. Richard Reichel.

Originally uploaded by santa barbarian.

Thomas Schultz, News-Press Staff Writer

February 2, 2006

A man who was killed over the weekend when his aircraft crashed into an alfalfa field short of the Santa Ynez Valley Airport was identified by family members this week as Richard "Dick" Reichel, 76, of Santa Barbara.

Mr. Reichel's body was badly burned when the $100,000 single-engine Lancair plane he built from a kit fell to the ground around 1:34 p.m. Saturday.

On Wednesday, an official at the National Transportation Safety Board said it could be months before the agency concludes an investigation into what caused the crash.

"It's not unusual for experimental aircraft to have problems," said Mr. Reichel's older brother Al Reichel, himself a retired Navy pilot. "He ran out of options. He was a great guy."

Recalling his younger brother as a savvy craftsman, area resident Al Reichel said a love of aviation runs through their family. "He tried very hard to please everyone that he came into contact with," he said, adding that his brother also was a skilled sailor.

"He was experienced in all respects. Obviously, something went wrong mechanically in the airplane that he hadn't anticipated. I like to think he was trying to get back to the airport.

"He was the kind of brother you'd like to have. He just had his finger on so many pulses it's hard to know where to start and stop."

Mr. Reichel attended Redlands University and Oregon State University, earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he served in the Army for two years, according to his family.

He then applied his engineering expertise at Los Angeles-based Hughes and Northrop aircraft plants. In 1957, he relocated to Santa Barbara with his then-wife, Joyce, and they started a family, raising four boys.

Mr. Reichel worked at Raytheon in Goleta as an engineer. After six years there, he created International Sorting Systems, a copper mining company in Michigan.

When fire destroyed his Michigan plant in 1975, Mr. Reichel began a number of entrepreneurial pursuits including the Santa Barbara Sailing Academy, consulting on water purification plants internationally and developing computer software for the hospitality industry.

In more recent years, he followed in his father's footsteps in the horticultural field as an avid orchid grower.

Among his creations was a supersonic horn to knock sawdust from silos at big lumber mills and a machine to sort silverware for large catering companies. And he created a way to sort toxic peanuts from turkey feed using a photosensitive device, according to a cousin.

A memorial service at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday.

Richard dated my mother for years and years but she refused to get married again. They dated for so long it felt more comfortable to call him "my step-dad" even though he officially wasn't....but in my heart he was. I remained in touch years after he and my mother no longer saw each other. He was the only real father figure I ever really knew. I was waiting to get settled back home in Santa Barbara before I stopped by the house and announced "Looks who's baaaaaaack"

But it's too late. He's gone. I'm devestated. I'm in shock.

Here's to Richard who taught me how to sail; how to appreciate the glorious feeling of gliding on the air; taught me how to cook; taught me how to give a good backrub; taught me the delights of science and nature; taught me the meaning of compassion; taught me a good number of dirty old salty dog sea shanties; taught me how to deal with frozen water pipes at thanksgiving at the cabin at Big Bear; who accompanied me on the guitar; who always gave me opportunities when my real parents wouldn't; who always encouraged me no matter what; who made me learn the hard way the meaning of "duck" when the boom was in motion; who taught me how to understand the "secret language" of engineers; who taught me the beauty of photography; who taught me to always ask "why" and "why not?"; who taught me that knowledge was a life long quest.

I want the world to be introduced to and remember a rare and very special human step-dad.

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Vampire Domestication

"Taming Yesterday's Nightmares for a Better Tomorrow" Who knew? [via Kathryn Cramer]

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A gentleman-collector

From The Scotsman:

WHEN you enter most people's living rooms you'd expect to find a sofa, a television, maybe a few magazines and cushions. Walking into the front room of Gordon Rutter's Stockbridge flat, the sofa's there, but you'd hardly notice it given that it's squeezed between his one-eyed pig, his feejee mermaid, his skull collection and of course - the must-have for every cryptozoologist Scot - a miniature Loch Ness Monster. Gordon is one of a dying breed of gentlemen-collectors - people who hunt down and collect the unusual, the different, and, if we're being honest about it - the downright weird. His penchant for the unusual has been with him for a very long time. "I've been into this sort of thing all my life," he says. "When I was a kid I'd go to the library and devour weird stuff. And now," he says with a wave of his hand, "I've got all this!" "All this" comprises a collection of more than 100 strange items. The 39-year-old has fossilised fingers, rings that belonged to (real) giants, a painted bowl made from a human skull, an ostrich egg mounted on an ostrich foot ("why not?", plus a whole lot of other weird things. But then he is the president of the Edinburgh Fortean Society, a group of people dedicated to the study of the unexplained, has hunted Bigfoot - the legendary North American cousin of the Yeti - on the Canadian border, lectured on cryptozoology - that's the study of hidden or unknown animals - debated the mysteries of the Knights Templar and even produced his own replica of the controversial Shroud of Turin.
Wonderful article, but since I mentioned already it was in The Scotsman that is probably redundant. Go read all of it here.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The Village Voice prints a very nice feature on Boris Karloff since his works are featured at the Film Forum in New York City.

Boris Karloff and Gloria Stuart, two of my all-time favorites, in James Whale's 1932 classic The Old Dark House. The black sheep of a staid English family, Karloff immigrated to Canada, entered films in 1916, and got his first big break in Howard Hawks's prison drama The Criminal Code (1931). He steals the film as the taciturn plug-ugly convict turned killer. Karloff caught the eye of director James Whale, who was casting Frankenstein at Universal; he soon became the best-paid monster in Hollywood. Much of the film's power derives from his dignified performance, great gift for mime, and emotional depth—he plays Frankenstein's creation as a lonely child whose parents have rejected him, at once terrifying and pathetic. (He may have been drawing on personal resources—there is some evidence that his birth was the result of an affair his mother had with an Egyptian friend during a visit to the Suez Canal. It appears that the family, further shamed by his passion for acting, exiled him to Canada.) Whale's The Old Dark House (1932), the wittiest and most elegant film in the series, casts him as a wild-eyed, whiskered, and lecherous brute of a butler in a spooky mansion lost in the Welsh mountains. One of the most disturbing exercises in Grand Guignol followed: Edgar Ulmer's The Black Cat (1934), the first of several pairings of Karloff with Bela Lugosi, both at the top of their forms. As Poelzig, necromancer and necrophiliac (based on the notorious Aleister Crowley), Karloff, his hairline pointed down to the center of his forehead to make him look like the devil himself, conducts the first group satanic ritual in American cinema.
Entire article well worth the click.

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Dead Man's Chest

Yo ho ho I be a lookin' forward to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Now cast off ye lubbers and go view the trailer before I be makin' ye walk the plank.

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The tale of a ghost dog

From the Baxter (Arkansas) Bulletin:

I've written before about the fact that the original owners of our ranch sold it to us at a more than fair price because they thought the house and land were haunted. Gwen the Beautiful and I have seen and heard many signs of spirits during our time here. Old men. Singing divas. Wisps in the night. This week, after living on the property for almost two years, Chet the Unhandyman joined the club. He saw a Ghost Dog.

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Defense of the Boing Boing Arts

Don't mess with my Boing Boing or I'll unleash the hounds of hell.

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