I haven’t posted in this blog since the Halloween season. There must be someone out there who missed me.
During my time away, I’ve read several haunted house books. I’ve even seen a haunted house movie or two. So I’ve got a backlog of things to write about.
Being that it’s spring, I’ll begin fresh. What if I bring you a review that is not a movie or book? For instance, how about a play? Yes, this will do nicely. However, the play is based on a book. And a movie of it came out long before the play was written. ( Playwright Tim Kelley adapted it in 1979). So in a way, there’s a connection to film and literature.
So, a play it is! I’m sure I have everyone’s endorsement. I will feel that buzz of approval radiating from my screen when I go back and read this after it’s published. Oh I know I will.
Anyways, sorry that I haven’t updated this blog since October. I didn’t mean to “Fall” away, but let me “Spring” forth with a long overdue update.
So come on in. I’m welcoming you. Don’t worry, you won’t be “Uninvited.”
So there I was on Facebook, scrolling up and down, and suddenly there was this ad. I’m sure it was a targeted ad, since FB knows how much I love ghosts. It looked something like this:
“Hmmm,” I said to myself. What did I do about this “hmmm?” I bought tickets to the play, that’s what I did.
For those that don’t know, College of DuPage is a community college just outside of Chicago. It was my first time on campus. It is closer to where I work than where I live, so I went straight from work one Friday evening. I went all by myself, but hey, I got myself a seat right by the stage.
. Not since I took an Intro to Theater course at N.I.U. back in 1990 did I attend a college play that didn’t star a relative. I’ve attended plays as a class requirement. I took in theater performances to support family members. In both cases, I enjoyed myself. But this was the first time I attended a play for the theater experience itself. The play’s story I knew from film and I was anxious to see how it translated to another platform: The theater.
The Uninvited is a ghost story written by Dorothy Macardal in 1941. I know very little, if anything about the book. I’ll have to change that. Most of what I do know is from this article for the Dublin Inquirer. I was introduced to the story from the 1944 film of the same title, which is directed by Lewis Allen. I saw the film twice, both times on Svengoolie! I wrote about it here at this blog. Honestly, I thought it was an okay film with an okay kind of story. But I didn’t attend the play to reimmerse myself in the narrative. I attended to see how a stage can transform into a haunted house.
Being as close as I was, I felt as if I was part of the environment. I was in the haunted room itself!
Look at this photo of the stage:
Behind those green curtains in the back of the photo is a fictional entrance to an outside walk that leads to the sea. There are shutters on either side, and it thrilled me to pieces when unknown forces caused them to open and close, open and close, bang bang bang! Often accompanied by a compelling audio of a strong seaside wind, these shutters were the highlight of the play!
Continuing with the subject of compelling audio, I enjoyed the ghostly sound of a phantom woman crying from inside the nursery, which is inside the white door. It is open now and then throughout the play, but only half way. A light shines from inside. Then there is the music. Eerie melodies begin when a character recites lines foreshadowing ghostly events. They start off softly then gradually get louder.
So there’s an excellent use of the scenery. There’s absorbing audio. Then, there’s a nice working of shadow and light. Was it my imagination or did a shadow traipse across the stage from left to right? Or was it an atmospheric beam of light? By George, I think it was both! The spotlight captured the woman in the portrait from time to time while the rest of the stage darkened. She may or may not be the ghost in this story.
So, that’s that! Great review or what?
Oh, was I supposed to say something about the story? As long as I’m questioning myself, what about the actors and their performances?
As far as the performances are concerned – they were, ya know, good. Mostly impressive. Sometimes overacted. Great job with accents. What else can I say, after all I was there for the stage atmosphere and haunted house happenings!
As I hinted earlier, the story is so-so. I’ll just state the obvious. There is a ghost in the house. The homeowners and guests want to get rid of it. That about sums it up.
The play, as well as the film, suffers from using too much backstory to explain the plot. This is not the fault of the play’s director or the actors. In a meet-and-greet after the show, Director Amelia Barrettpostulates that this play may be harder for modern audiences to take in due to all the back and forth dialogue. For me, if it was natural flowing dialogue that brings the story to new heights I would have no problem. It’s just that the mystery and the solving of said mystery is all worked out through conversations concerning several characters that are only mentioned and never seen (Cause they’re all dead.) Admittedly, this is quite boring.
I’m making a stronger case for myself to read the book. I’m betting the plot unfolds at a more natural pace on the page. Hopefully I will read it.. Then I can do a book/film/play comparison. I hope this sounds exciting. I’m tickled with giddy-snorts thinking about it. Are you?
Today, my latest book The Acquaintance went on sale. For one week, it will be sold for the low, low price of 99 pennies! Of course, here in the digital age, you don’t have to scrounge around for 99 pennies. You can just use your Amazon account and download it to your reader, and your credit card will figure out how to give Amazon 99 pennies. Pretty nifty, huh?
It’s a relatively short read but it’s slightly over 50,000 words, which is considered to be the minimum novel length. But come on, not bad for 99 pennies!
To get an idea of the story and writing style, I offer this excerpt. Hope you enjoy it!
(Click the picture below to go to the Amazon buy link!)
It happened again. Footprints formed before his stunned eyes overabout 150 yards across the field, one ahead of the other. This time they weren’t passing along the side of the house. This time they made their way toward the window. Coming at him. One after another, pressing their way into reality with silent “pops!”
Jonah flew into a rage. He ran quickly to his coat, hat and gun. He gathered these items in his arms in one scoop. His gloves he handled with more care. Seconds later he was out the door, haphazardly dressed, his gun on a strap and hanging loosely over his shoulder. His gloves covered his hands from his wrists to the tips of his middle fingers.
Walking around to the rear of the house, Jonah made his way across the field, walking in the direction from which the footprints had come. He could see them up ahead. There were tracks leading to his picture window, that was for certain. They seemed to have originated from somewhere in the middle of the field. No longer were they forming in real time. Jonah marched forward, following the tracks into the open field, tromping through the snow in his street shoes. He didn’t want to waste time putting on his boots and he was regretting that decision; his feet were freezing. Though he could see no one, he knew someone had to be there (Something?). Despite what his eyes told him, footprints didn’t create themselves.
By trekking across the middle of the field, he was abandoning all the precautions he had taken when he ventured out yesterday, precautions he had also neglected on his return trip back to the house. Bad habits, laziness, outright foolishness had come to describe his work. Jonah realized all this but he forgave himself. By and large, his gangster days were finished. He was retired, but he needed to make just one more kill. And at the moment, his rage made him feel invincible, even to bullets that just might happen to come his way from inside the surrounding woods. Yesterday’s Jonah was blinded by a similar rage. Today’s Jonah was a different man. Yes, he was terribly sick (he was short of breath throughout his walk) and over-anxious to catch whoever was stalking him, but he would think clearly this time. He would keep his wits. It wouldn’t be long now, since the trail of footprints were coming to an end. Jonah saw a pair of hightop gym shoes at the end of the trail. Sitting there as if they had always been in that exact spot, perhaps like one of the trees ringing the field.
They were as white as the snow that surrounded them, which might have been why he hadn’t seen them from the window. Still, none of this made any sense. Shoes couldn’t walk without a body, but the tracks stopped where the shoes stood. Jonah could only conclude that whoever had been wearing them ditched them before running off into the woods. However, there were no tracks leading into the trees indicating such a thing happened. All physical evidence pointed to the actual existence of a walking pair of shoes that more properly belonged on a basketball court, not on the snowy grounds of his hideaway.
They are trying to fuck with me! Whoever is trying to kill me is trying to drive me crazy before they go on for the kill.
Jonah approached the shoes slowly. Could there be a bomb attached to them somehow? Hadn’t a terrorist tried to blow up a plane by starting his shoes on fire, forcing travelers to remove their shoes at security checkpoints in airports ever since? He crouched down. He choked down a cough, fearing that its sound could set off the potential explosives. Carefully, he extended his hand . He would just press down on the rubber front tip of the shoe, just to make sure they were real. To make sure that…
Jonah recoiled and fell on his rear. His face was soaked with sweat. He was dizzy…and afraid. For the first time in many, many years, he admitted to himself that he was scared.
The shoe hadn’t blown up. If it had, this situation would have made more sense, would have at least conformed to the laws of the universe. Instead, the shoe backed away, moving as if it were pulled by some invisible force. All Jonah could do is look on in amazement, his eyes fixed not only on the left shoe now several inches out of line with its right counterpart, but also on the track line that the shoe had left in the snow after it slid across its surface.
Jonah sat there in the snow, dumbfounded. If he were to get up, stand on his own two shoes, what then? Would he move in on this pair of high tops? Was it these shoes that were his enemy, his target for termination? Seriously? How pathetic!
Perhaps he would simply back away, or even run away (he never ran.) This was the situation he found himself in…really? Debating on whether or not to retreat from a pair of fucking shoes? Oh, how he would rather have someone pointing a gun to his head. That would have made sense. He wouldn’t have to fear an approaching bullet, because a bullet would do exactly what it was supposed to do. No mystery, no surprise. But these shoes, they were doing the impossible!
The impossible suddenly became even stranger. The shoe closest to him, started to tap. Up/down, up/down the tip went, pushing itself in and out of the snow. It was the tap of a waiting person, like a pen against the desk at an office meeting, waiting for the boss’s decision. An empty pair of shoes, waiting for Jonah to get up off his ass, waiting for him to make his move.
Mesmerized, he watched the tapping of the shoe, transfixed. It was nearly hypnotic, like when a person stares at a watch on a chain swinging back and forth, back and forth.
Maybe that’s it, he thought. I’m hypnotized. All this is happening in my mind!
As if in response, the tapping shoe dug deeply into the snow. Coming back up, it kicked snow into Jonah’s face. He felt the stinging cold and wiped the wetness out of his eyes. Real sensations. Real snow on his face. That kind of assault would wake anyone out of a trance. If indeed he had been in a trance, he was awake now and still the shoes were there, causing mischief.
Sometime when he had been wiping his face, both shoes turned the opposite direction. They walked away from him toward the line of trees, leaving tracks in their wake. Jonah got back on to his feet. He approached the tracks and crouched over, examining one of the footprints closely. These were the same tracks he saw yesterday. He straightened up and watched as the creepy pair of shoes walked out of sight into the forest.
Ghosts. Haunted Houses. Halloween approaches and where am I, an author and blogger dedicated to writing about horror? I am here, that’s where! I know, haven’t posted very much this year. Have I posted at all? I dunno, let me go back and check. Hold on, listen to some music or something.
Well how do you like that? Not one stinking post for 2022. I need a beating. I really, really do.
Sorry about my inactivity. Been a different kind of year. Got a new job that keeps me busy. Then there was all this stuff I had to do. You know how stuff is. It bunches up, then begets other stuff. Soon you have stuff on top of stuff, stuff inside stuff. Suddenly there is so much stuffing you’d think we skipped Halloween altogether to arrive at Thanksgiving.
Time to get my ass in gear. Every Halloween season, I do some kind of theme at this blog. Last year it was the Haunted House Ha Ha’s – comical films about haunted houses. Another year I compared books to their corresponding films. (i.e. The Exorcist, which is better – Book of movie?) One time I had access to Stephen King’s Rose Red miniseries and I posted a different episode each week.
This year I’m setting the bar low, so please watch so you don’t trip on it. My plan is to write and post a couple of articles I have been postponing all year. But wait – there’s more.
Remember that book I published last year – The Acquaintance? No? Oh I see, you did remember but you had forgotten. Well now’s your chance to “reacquaint” yourself with this early winter tale of a phantom pair of shoes that walks about in the woods. I’ll post excerpts and later this month, I’ll take 50% off the cover price!
Get your ghostly gear ready folks, because October is here and we are blasting off toward October 31’s waxing crescent moon. I’ll do what I can to add to the thrills of the season.
Cyber Monday (November 29) is just around the corner. My latest novel eBook, “The Acquaintance” will be available for download on that day. But you can pre-order it now! (Hint: Click the Pic!)
It’s a short novel, filled with ghostly delights and other supernatural phenomenon. It draws upon elements that make up the genre Weird Fiction. Though H.P. Lovecraft is most associated with this genre, this novel is perhaps more similar to the works of Algernon Blackwood. It takes place in the late autumn/early winter in a woodsy setting, with creepy things hiding among the trees and roaming about upon the fallen leaves and snow. If offers a fresh imagination of a soul’s journey when discharged from the body upon death.
Here be some sample paragraphs:
Days will pass and it doesn’t matter where they choose to go. These days, “where” happens to be nowhere, smack dab in the middle of the remote. This is by design, of course. The rustic, two-story house stands tall, watching over its surrounding space with protective intentions. Taller than an average house, but not tall enough to see beyond the trees of the forest’s perimeter. It is the trees’ job to guard against any unwelcome outsiders. It is the house’s job to provide a comfortable spread for its sole occupant. With large picture windows, it lets this occupant see out into the acres of grassy fields that stretch between the house and the circling forest. Jonah Dalton, the occupant, could stand watch from inside the sitting room, looking out, making sure.
These days arrive and depart in a place far beyond the cities or towns. There are no roads connecting to any highway exit ramps that will lead to this house. It is just out there in Nowhere, USA. Never mind the state. The outlines on a map that signify a state’s boundaries would only get lost out here. All this to make sure no one can find Jonah Dalton.
It is quite cold these days. Autumn still has a few weeks to go before she goes to sleep. She has made her bed of leaves across Jonah’s fields. But her current wakefulness does not ward off the cooler temperatures or even snow. Depending on the given day, Jonah will either see snow or leaves on the ground. There’s always a covering, isn’t there? Jonah’s greener pasture days are long behind him, if he ever had such greenery. If he did, those were “those days.” These are “these days.”
Strange days, these days. Dangerous days. Deadly days. Let’s explore some of these days in more depth. We’ll begin two weeks after Jonah moved into the house. He had been disturbed by other things in his new environment before then, but what he saw outside his window one particular morning brought forth a turning of what had been a gradually increasing sense of unease into an exponentially heightening recognition of his own terrorized state of mind. Let’s call this morning Day 1.
Yes, it gets better but hardly magnificent IMHO. My first impressions of the movie? Oh shit, there’s that guy that shot his cinematography director and director; man does Alec Baldwin look young!
See folks, what’s happening here is this middle age guy is taking his very first plunge into Beetlejuice land in the year 2021, thirty-three years late. Oh I have seen a scene (“seen a scene” – isn’t that a cool phrase?) here and there over the years. I was very familiar with the dinner party scene before watching the film. But for the most part, I was a Beetlejuice virgin. How I wish I had seen this movie back in the 80s. I am sure I would have liked the film much better.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good movie. But if I had taken a break from trying to sneak into bars and clubs back in March of 1988 when I was a minor and had gone to the movies instead, maybe I would have seen Beetlejuice then. The magical ways of Tim Burton would be fresh and awestriking. The claymation wouldn’t seem so dated. And maybe the starring couple Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) wouldn’t annoy me as 80’s style “squares.” Then, years later, say, oh I don’t know, a year like 2021, I might revisit the film, take note of the datedness, but still fondly enjoy it for its nostalgic appeal.
For me, Tim Burton is hit or miss. I like him but don’t love him. My main critique is “His films are too dark for little kids….” and here is where my niece interrupts and rebuts my criticism with “But Uncle Danny, his films aren’t meant for kids!” But here is the second part of the critique – “His films are too flavored with the stuff of fairy tales for adults”. The critique applies to Beetlejuice. I liked the film, didn’t love it. On a grade scale allowing for pluses and minus, I might give it a B. Lowest grade B+
The bizarre-looking creatures, the circus-like scores of Danny Elfman, the flamboyant characters, the colors, the animation, all of this I have already sampled and devoured in Burtons’ films that came later. I missed the launch of his style. Well, I did see Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, and while what would become his signature style is certainly present in that film, it isn’t a fantasy story involving magical or spooky characters.
It is a unique plot I do admit. A ghostly couple wants to rid the house they are haunting of humans so they hire a bio-exorcist. His name is pronounced “Beetlejuice”. Ghosts wanting to exorcise their house of humans, great twist! And Michael Keaton as the grisly uncouth ghoul steals the show. I was surprised at how little screen time his character had. More Keaton would have been much better. The “world of the afterlife as portrayed in this film – interesting and creative. And how cute a young Winona Ryder was!
Of course, that dinner party scene – Day-O (Banana Boat Song – is dope! It’s the best part of the film and here it is! (Unless YouTube has taken it down) It’s worth several “ha ha’s”
Finally, I have a new book soon to be published! It’s a scary one, but it might not be ready in time for Halloween. That’s okay, the story has more of a late November feel to it. In the upcoming days and weeks, I’ll post some updates and teasers. The title is The Acquaintance.
Since I’m saving the spookies for later, what’s gonna happen here pre-Halloween? A whole lot of hilarity and/or stupidity, that’s what! It’s like that Queen song:
All we hear is, Halloween Ha Ha’s
Halloween Boo Boos
Halloween Ha Ha’s!
Yes, I will be reviewing a few comedy-related haunted house movies. I’ve reviewed Haunted House funnies before, but now I’m doing it as a theme. Get ready for what I’m calling The Haunted House Ha Ha’s! Some of the films I will review are soooooo stupid! Oh well, we all need our intelligence sapped once in a while, right?
So get ready, the first couple of posts just might be: Horrible Haunted House Ha Ha’s.
Hope you all are having fun with your ghosts. I love my ghosts. They create such a booo-tiful experience.
My last post was about gathering all my stray ghosts into one basket. These would be the ghosts of inspirations past; the things that fostered my love for the horror genre. Throughout the piece, I reiterated the complications involved in such a gathering. I couldn’t and cannot remember the first horror movie I saw. I couldn’t and cannot recall my very first encounter with the spookies! But I did my best to highlight the influences television and film had on me. As it turns out, some of those ghosts escaped my gathering efforts – slippery bastards! By restricting myself to horror-on-the-screen, I totally missed the off-screen influences that turned me into such a “horrific guy.” (relax, just some healthy self-deprecating humor). I was remiss.
Thank you Smidgy, my dear sister, for reminding me! And I will retread these spooky avenues of my life; these roads that I neglected.
Haunts and Spooky Props
In the previous article, I mentioned that I found scary-themed stories and images on the big and small screen fascinating rather than frightening. What really scared me were the various objects of horror outside the screen. This would include scary masks and the people that wore them in an effort to scare me. They succeeded in their efforts. Also included were scary noises such as ghostly moans. Now, where might one find these kinds of things all in one place? Why, they are found in haunted house attractions, or “haunts” as they are often called! When I was a wee lad, these places scared me so. But I was coaxed into them, dashing through the groans, nerves in a fray, through the house I go, screaming all the way – AAH AAH AHH AHH! Yeah Yeah, I know, I mentioned all this in the previous article. What I failed to mention (or if I mentioned it, I didn’t stress it enough), was the pride I felt AFTER experiencing such a nightmare. I was a survivor. The things in the haunt that scared me so were no longer in front of my face. They were stored safely in my mind as memories. And they were not the memories of nightmare, either. I relished reliving the experience, reminding the adult who took me through the haunt of the terrifying experience which had resurfaced as a fun experience. “Daddy, remember when our car passed by that vampire with the sharp teeth and outstretched arms? (okay, I probably didn’t know the word “outstretched” then, but just go with it!) “Smidgy, remember when that coffin opened and there was a creak and a hand popped out!”
See, when I had control of haunting visuals, when the threat of surprise and the dark notion of the unknown were removed from the equation, I loved the scenes of horror and the props that brought these scenes to “life.” I loved the Halloween decorations my Mom would put up every year. Black cats and skeletons hung on the walls. A light-up plastic ghost holding a pumpkin stood on our table. Every year my Dad would carve pumpkins, one with a Casper face and the other with a mean face. Lit up, they were placed outside above our front door. But what was most fun were the “props” that I could handle, play with. My favorite was a plastic skull connected to a black stick/handle below its jaw. It had pebbles inside its head and it was made for shaking. I guess it was supposed to resemble a skull prop in some Voodoo ceremony. I also had plenty of masks, slimy spiders and bats, and other ghoulish things.
(*Side Note – In them there days, we bought most of our Halloween stuff and a store called Tom Naples on North Avenue. They had a pumpkin patch and sold other produce. They also had plenty of Halloween props. Down the street on North Avenue was the yearly carnival with Amlings Haunted House. North Avenue near 1st Avenue was the place to be during Halloween season!*)
DIY Haunted Houses
One day, my sister Smidgy suggested the we could make our own haunted house.
“REALLY?!?!” I was so excited. I survived Amlings Haunted House. Now the tables would be turned. No longer would I be the haunted. I would be the haunter.
I wanted to know when this could happen.
“Oh, we can do it today,” Smidgy said.
Today?? Did I hear right? Not only was I going to be a haunter, but I was going to be a haunter immediately! What more could a kid want? Instant gratification.
We got to work. Using a tape recorder, we recorded spooky sounds onto a tape. We took over the top floor of our house, which consisted of two bedrooms, a hallway, a bathroom and two closets. In the bedrooms we hung props galore! I remember a bloody doll hanging from the ceiling.
The “victims” of our house would be the other family members. I was the guide. I led them up the stairs and into the hall. Smidgy hid in the closed-door bathroom. Across from the bathroom was a closet. Inside the closet was a stuffed animal snake attached to a rope. Smidgy held the rope’s end from inside the bathroom. I opened the closet door for our victims when all of a sudden, the snake would spring free! Scary!
I then led the victims into one bedroom, closed the door, while Smidgy sneaked out of the bathroom and into the second bedroom. The victims were “scared” when seeing the scary display. I then led them to the second bedroom, where Smidgy hid in a closet, holding a rope that was tied to a small rocking chair that held a doll. She pulled the rope and…wow…look! The chair seemed to be rocking all by itself! How ghostly!
Another time my Dad made a haunted house with me. He took my favorite skull and created a body for Mr. Shaky Skullhead. Mr. Shaky Skullhead wore a hood and my Dad hung him in the closet with an eerie light shining on him. Once again I was to guide the victims into the den of the spookies! I took them into the dark bedroom where my Dad stood in the shadows holding a rope that was tied to the closet doorknob. He would pull the rope and “AAAAAAAHHHH!” – there was the spooky skeleton!
After these experiences, I wanted to make haunted houses all the time. It didn’t need to be Halloween season. I made them year-round. I made them with friends, dragging my poor Grandma around while we hid in toy boxes and jumped out of closets. She pretended to be scared. She was a good sport. We tired the same thing with Blanche, a neighbor lady who babysat me and prevented me from being a young latchkey kid (until I became a latchkey kid at the age of twelve). She…well, instead of walking into the room and following the cue of “Oooo, it’s so spooky in here,” she would utter, “What are you doing messing up your fadder’s room?” When she finally “cooperated” she said something like, “That’s a neat trick”. Oh Blanche, it wasn’t a trick, it was a haunted house!
As a teen, I made a haunted house in our basement with my young nephews. We would scare their school friends. I spent and entire Saturday hanging sheets from the ceiling to create passageways. My buddy was trying to egg me on to go with him some place. “Can’t. I’m making this haunted house”. He be like, “WTF? Danny this is stupid!” It wasn’t stupid, it was fun. I had the props, I had the scare actors (my nephews!). The victims came over, ran as fast as they could through the haunted house, and it was all over in the span of one minute. Oh well, like I said, it was fun.
Many many many years later, I worked as a scare actor in a haunted house. Me an old man compared to my ghoulish peers (mostly teens). Minimum wage, but what the hell, I just wanted to finally, for once in my life, be a “legitimate” ghoul in a “real” haunted house.
So, my experiences frequenting haunted houses and making my own were a huge contributor to my love for the horror genre. I needed to set the record straight. I had to catch those stubborn ghosts that refused to be packed into my basket.
Are there any other stray ghosts? Probably, one can never gather all of life’s influencers. I’ll keep a look out for the possibility of others. In the meant time, I say, “Happy Haunting to you all!”
Welcome to the post that will kick off my contributions to the Halloween season! I thought it would be interesting to share with you the history behind my love of horror related entertainment. So without further “a-boo” (GET IT? A”boo” instead of “ado”?) here it is!
How many have encountered a Facebook post asking about the first horror film you saw? Or a post inquiring about the film that scared you the most? Oh but we aren’t supposed to give out this kind of personal information on social media anymore because such a post could be linked to a phishing scam! And that’s why I never give these posters the answer!
Ah, that’s only half correct. It’s true I never answer but that’s only because my response would be far too complicated for such a platform. Okay, fine. I can uncomplicate a response. A short, direct to the point answer would be:
First horror movie – I don’t remember.
Horror movie that scared me the most – None.
Be honest, my responses are unsatisfying, aren’t they? And you might be saying, “Really? You don’t get scared? That’s bullshit!” Well now just hold on a sec there, part’ner! Give me a chance to explain. My explanation is what this entire piece is all about.
My First Attractions To The Horror Genre
It’s no secret that I am a fan of the horror genre. Hello! I operate a horror-themed blog for Christ’s sake! But when did all this love for horror begin? Sorry, I don’t have an exact moment or memory that can serve as a catalyst for my fandom. As far as I can tell, I have always been attracted to all things spooky (perhaps I have inherited “horror genes”?). Growing up, whenever a normal run-of-the-mill TV show had a special horror episode, I was glued to the set. Whenever The Brady Bunch aired an episode where the kids would haunt their own house, I was there. Whenever The Three Stooges ran away comically from spooks, I was present and attentive.
Did televised or big screen horror ever scare me? In terms of fictionalized horror in general, I was often scared, but not so much from ghoulish things on the set or the screen. I will explain this distinction later. Perhaps it was the Saturday morning cartoons and other children-themed shows that aired during those weekend AM hours that gave me my first taste of horror. It was a programming paradise for us little kids born in the 1970s! I was between the ages of 4-8 when I took part in this paradise. Saturday mornings would not be complete without a healthy dose of Scooby Doo, Where are You? . I loved the gang’s adventures inside haunted houses where they would encounter ghosts and monsters, which of course always turned out to be villains in disguise. Maybe this cartoon fostered my love for haunted houses?
The premise: Wax figures depicting Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein come to life and become crime fighters! Okay that sounds hokey, but as a kid I loved it. Even before The Monster Squad, I remember being fascinated by the fab-four of horror monsters. This quartet includes Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein, and The Mummy. I had Mego-Action figures of these monsters and I loved to play with them.
Was it these toys, gifted to me, that attracted me to the larger legends surrounding these monsters? Or was it the comic books that featured these four scare kings that brought me up to speed? It’s difficult to pinpoint. It seemed as though these monsters were embedded into my psyche at an early age. They were staples of childhood culture just like the Teddy Bear and The Choo-Choo Train. We kids of the 70s even had breakfast cereals based on them. Skits on the children’s show The Electric Company feature these monsters. Morgan Freeman played Dracula. Check out the youtube video below!
Looking back, I find it very interesting that little kids in the 70s enjoyed the same movie monsters as their parents or even grandparents. While Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster originated in novels, most people were introduced to these grisly creatures from the movies. These were, as I have already mentioned, the movies of previous generations. And yet, these monsters went on the be icons for future generations.
Speaking of the movies…..
The First Horror Movies I Saw on Television
I can’t tell you the first. I just don’t know. The best I can do is relay my memories of watching horror movies on TV Saturday afternoons. Perhaps I was watching WGN’s Creature Features?
The link has the show airing late Saturday nights in the early 70s and I was in bed then, but maybe it reran in the late 70s in the afternoon? Again, I don’t know. But I do remember watching horror movies some Saturday afternoons when I was five, six and seven years old. Usually, it was at the suggestion of an adult, like my older sister. No, she was NOT trying to scare me. She knew that I ALREADY liked this kind of stuff.
I remember watching a haunted house movie about a loud banging noise coming from behind the walls. I remember staring at the TV set in fascination. This movie was The Haunting. I also remember another movie about a Haunted House where a ghost kept possessing people. “See Danny, she has a ghost inside her” my sister explained. “Now Danny, the ghost is inside him!” This movie, I discovered later in life to be The House That Would Not Die.
Do I remember being scared watching films of this nature? Not at all. Seriously. Somehow at an early age, I learned that what happened “inside the glass” (on the TV) was fantasy. It was not real. Reality happened “outside the glass”. The picture tube of the TV served as a barricade to lock all horrors inside a box of fantasy where they belonged. I felt protected by this barricade. Armed with this mental security, I was able to let my fascination take over.
So, what about the horror movies featuring the Fab-Four? I honestly can’t remember if I first saw these movies as a real young kid (age 4-9) on Saturday afternoons or if it wasn’t until I was a little older (age 9-12) on Saturday Nights on the television show called Son Of Svengoolie. It’s safe to say that it was Chicago horror-host Son of Svengoolie (now just “Svengoolie) that got me to pay attention to these films. Well, as best as a 10-year-old can pay attention, anyway. I often had my Mego Monster action figures out when the Son of Svengoolie aired. I created my own stories with the figures while the weekly movie aired.
I do remember paying attention to the ending of the movie Frankenstein. My Dad was explaining to me why the villagers were chasing the monster. He let me know the monster drowned a young girl, but he didn’t mean to. He thought she would float like the flowers he had been tossing into the water. So when the villagers’ burned down the windmill that the Monster was hiding in, causing the rafters to fall on him, trapping him, I felt something. When the flames surrounded him and The Monster cried out, I wasn’t sacred per say. I felt disturbed. I felt sorry for The Monster. The next scene featured maids gleefully wishing Dr. Frankenstein’s bride-to-be Happy Nuptials. I thought “this isn’t right”. A living person (the monster) had just cried out in fear as he was burning to death and the next thing us viewers know, we are watching happy ladies.
Along came The Bride of Frankenstein (again I saw this on Son Of Svengoolie). Yay, the monster somehow survived the flames! My Dad watched with me again. He explained that the created “Bride” would not like the Monster. He was right. She shrieked at his face. Again, I felt sorry for him. This poor guy, he never gets a break. After being rejected, the Monster killed this “Bride”, along with another scientist and himself. Was I horrified at this murderous rampage? Not really. I was kind of rooting for the monster to do his thing.
Oh, I almost forgot about a horror movie I saw when on television long before I started watching Son of Svengoolie. (well, maybe one or two years before; that’s a long time in child years). This time it was my Mom that suggested I watch this film. Again, it was because she knew I liked this kind of thing. “Danny, it’s about a young girl who everyone is mean to. But she has magic”. The movie was Carrie. It was edited for television, of course. But looking back, I think, “gee this was a creepy film to show a young kid”. She did send me to bed before the infamous prom scene, when blood was dumped on Carrie’s head, triggering her to kill everyone with her magical powers. Surprisingly and perhaps nonsensically, she told me I can get out of bed and watch the end of the movie (I was still awake). This would be the scene where Carrie kills her mother and then herself. Again. I felt disturbed, not scared. I felt sorry for Carrie but not afraid of her as some kids might cower from a horror monster. Even at the very end when her hand reached up from where she was buried, I didn’t see Carrie as a monster to be feared. I might have jumped at the surprise of such a thing, but I never ever thought that in real life, a bloody hand would emerge from underneath the soil in our backyard or anything like that.
The First Horror Movies I Saw At The Theater
This I do remember. I’m not going to count King Kong (1976) or Jaws 2. I’m going to pass over those flicks that I saw in the theater and go to Funhouse (1981). My Dad took me to see this film. I wasn’t scared but I guess I was a bit “disturbed;” that’s the word I’ve been using in place of “scared,” so why stop now? What disturbed me was watching characters that had been with me since the beginning of the movie get picked off one by one. Though I had encountered movie deaths before, never had I seen the “heroes” die so unceremoniously. When the poor guy got an axe stuck into his head as he rode the Funhouse car, I knew he was never coming back. When the young lady stabbed the monster in the back and he still went on to kill her, I worried that the monster was unstoppable. In short, this was my first introduction to slasher films. But I didn’t leave the theater with a fear of carnivals or psychotic Funhouse proprietors, or a fear in general of slasher movies. Instead, I was ready for more.
Funhouse was my gateway drug to harder, “slashier” films. The gate opened and I invited the rest of the slashers in. Come on in, Michael Meyers! Entre vous to you, Jason Voor Hees! I couldn’t get enough of them. Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Silent Night, Deadly Night – a killer Santa Claus! Ohhh yeah, I was on board! Cheesy or not, I had to see them. My Bloody Valentine, Midnight, One Dark Night. I was hooked. And still, I wasn’t scared.
What the Heck was I Afraid of Then?
Oh my God, was I a fearful kid. I really was. I was afraid of spiders (I’m still not very fond of them). I was afraid of loud noises. The weekly Tuesday morning screeching of test alarms (you know, in case a nuclear was at hand they had to make sure the damn thing worked) sent me running off my big wheel crying into my mother’s arms! Not-so-loud noises freaked me out as well. Firecrackers off in the distance frightened me. Hell, a kid with a cap gun scared me when I was four-years-old.
Ghosts and monsters scared me too, when they were “outside the glass” of the TV. If some adult pretended to me a monster and came at me, I screamed. When my Dad moaned into the furnace “Ooooooo GUUUURRRRRU!!!” in such a way that his moan travelled throughout the house via the heating vents, I cried and cried. See, the protective barrier that was the TV tube was absent in these situations. The fourth wall was crushed. The sounds of the haunting banging from the movie “The Haunting” didn’t frighten me because they came within the world of pretend inside the television. But the ghostly sounds of my Dad’s moan were right there inside my very own house. Even when I knew it was him making those noises, I was still scared. It was unsettling.
Haunted houses as Halloween/carnival attractions scared the shit out of me. I was terrified when my Dad took me into a cheesy sit-in-the-car-and-watch-motorized-ghosts ride. The creepy, motorized thing that came out of the coffin at Amlings Haunted House in a suburb of Chicago freaked me out. The first time I went into a haunted house with live actors, my Dad had to carry me through the whole thing.
After I became a veteran of these “Haunts” as they are sometimes called, I learned to enjoy them. Yes I would be afraid going in but that was part of the fun. Not too long ago, I worked as a scare actor at a local Haunt. It was fun.
I guess it’s a dimensional thing. Ghosts and goblins existing in the 2nd dimension, on the flat screen, hardly every scared me. The same creatures in the 3rd dimension though, that was a totally different story.
What About Books?
I learned to read at an early age. I was even spelling words before I mastered the art of talking, so my parents and older sisters have told me. Alas, as a young lad, I didn’t use my gifts to their fullest potential. I didn’t read much during my single digits. I had comics but mostly I just looked at the pictures. This includes horror comics as well.
I read a little bit more during my middle school years. Here I took in some Young Adult horror. I read novels that were part of a Book series. One such series was called Dark Forces, the other Twilight (No, NOT the vampire stuff). In these books, teenagers were encountering ghosts and demons, but in the end, everything turned out okay. Not in a Scooby Doo way. The ghosts and demons were real, in the story, but the endings were usually happy.
Somewhere around this time I did read a Stephen King Book or two. In my high school years, if I read anything it was either what was assigned to me in English class or some rock and roll bio, like a Jim Morrison or Led Zeppelin book. But not horror for some reason. I was losing interest in that sort of thing.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I delved into reading. I read all kinds of genres, including horror. But then I would read more horror. More. MORE! Horror from the 18th century. Horror from the early part of the twentieth century. Short stories, Novellas and long novels.
When I finally took up writing, what was the first thing I wrote about? Horror! I love writing about this genre.
So there you have it, the history of Dan Cheely’s love for the horror genre and what scares him. Have a Happy Halloween season and look out for more posts from me during this season of ghosts and witches!
Stephen King’s long-awaited novel – the sequel to The Shining. In a twist, the movie is not a sequel to the book. It is a sequel to the movie “The Shining”. See, the book and the movie (The Shining) have different endings. The book ends in a way that the Overlook Hotel cannot be a part of the sequel. The movie does not have this limitation, thus the Overlook returns!
I’m sorry Mr. King, but I thought your book was a bit hokey. A travelling band of senior-citizen psychic vampires in Winnebago’s with straw hats and tanks of “psychic energy” drained from victims resembling oxygen tanks? In the film, the tanks are there, but at least the roaming band of psychic vampires appear more threatening. They almost resemble a motorcycle gang in appearance. And in the film, we get to visit The Overlook Hotel again and watch in suspense as all of its ghosts reawaken. It was cool! For a more detailed comparison, read my article: