Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Spooky Christmas

One cold December night back in my childhood, I sat with my father and watched Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the very first time. Many film versions of Dickens' classic have been produced since the invention of the film projector, but I believe that the presentation we watched that night was the one released in 1938. And why not? They knew how to do things right back in those days. 

The part of the film that fascinated me the most however, was not Ebenezer Scrooge's conversion from miser to benevolent humanitarian, but rather, the scenes during which he encountered the various ghosts. First, there was the ghost of his old employee Jacob Marley, who was wrapped in chains. I found that scene quite intriguing. The progression of encounters continued until Scrooge had finished with with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. For me, the whole affair culminated when this fourth and final spirit, took Scrooge to the local cemetery and showed him his own grave. Now that was downright spooky; and although I didn't think about it until much later, I realized that there was a Gothic and even creepy side to Christmas that needed exploring. 

These days, I have to confess to not really being a celebrant of the holiday. Instead, I observe it, meaning that I watch it from a distance. There are the fond memories the holiday invokes from my childhood days, but its religious and commercial aspects I'd rather avoid. It does encompass the darkest time of the year however, and that's a cause for celebration in its own right. So, after the passing of many years since that night in my childhood, I try to keep it spooky. 

In my piece entitled The Cellar: A True Story I relate a tale my father once told me about my great grandfather, who on one Christmas Eve, unknowingly predicted his own death, which incidentally occurred exactly one year later when the clock struck twelve midnight. That story always remains close to me as the holiday season deepens. 

For those of us in the northern hemisphere the trees are bare during this time of the year and for me, it's pure pleasure to go walking through the woods and the nearby cemeteries on a moon-lit night. There's just something about looking at the full moon through the tangled web of tree branches and the shadows cast by the grave markers that gives this time of year a creepy feel.. 

Then there's Gruss vom Krampus, the companion of Saint Nicolas, otherwise known as the  Christmas demon. He kidnaps and then punishes children who have been naughty instead of nice. Krampus figures primarily in the lore and legend of Central Europe. Krampusnacht occurs on December 6. I only learned about Krampus in recent years, but he helps present a spooky edge to an otherwise cheerful holiday season. Interestingly enough, a film entitled Krampus was released a couple of years ago--and just in time for Christmas! I found it quite enjoyable. Sure, a few parts of it were a bit on the silly side, but all in all I think it's a good film. 

A Christmas Horror Story, also a 2015 release, is a film that truly captures the darkness of the holiday, and in particular, Christmas Eve. During the opening credits and before the plot begins to unfold, the viewer is treated to a special rendition of The Carol of the Bells. It's a very well known seasonal piece, but this version is slightly off key; off key enough in that it sounds downright creepy while still being recognizable. The music begins quietly, but eventually builds to a wonderful crescendo complete with choir and heavy orchestration, thereby creating a very Gothic feel. Before the actual film opens at Santa's workshop by the North Pole, the viewer is already enthralled. 

I don't want to say too much about the production's content as I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who might be interested in watching it. Still, I will say that this film has it all. Yes, it certainly puts the viewer into the Christmas spirit, but it contains all the elements of classic horror while featuring four separate but somewhat related tales. Of course, there's Santa, but there are also zombies, ghosts, a dangerous changeling and yes, even Krampus. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've got to say that the film's ending rocked my world. A Christmas Horror Story has earned a place with my favorite horror movies of all time.

The holiday season and Christmas in particular, is a difficult time for some people, and I'm one of those. Most folks seem to embrace it; but there are those that do not. Still, most of us are deeply affected by it whether or not we're willing to admit it. As the special day approaches, now many of us sit in the dark of night reminiscing about how it was during our childhoods and earlier times? How many of us miss the company of those who used to celebrate with us but are no longer here to do so? As with Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas past continue to haunt us no matter how much we might believe that we've moved on. So, perhaps we would do well to embrace these ghosts in ways that will do our Gothic hearts glad. This is a great time to walk a dark road in the moonlight, to embrace the darker legends, lore and stories that accompany this holiday, or to enjoy tales of sheer horror that fit so easily into the spirit of the season. I don't know about you, but I plan on keeping it spooky.

Photo source: Unknown  


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Vintage Halloween Photos 2017

As I write this post it is Saturday and Halloween is just three days away. For the past few years or so the Gothic Embrace has commemorated the event by celebrating the art of Halloweens gone by. This year, I have chosen more great art from the past to make this upcoming All Hollow's Eve just a bit more traditional and to help maintain the magic some of us used to feel with the arrival of this special night back in the day, so to speak.

This picture, although simple, contains many of the elements we consider a part of Halloween; a grave marker, a female Jack O' Lantern mourning the loss of her loved one, and an owl and crow sit atop the marker even as a black cat approaches. Notice the spider descending the length of the stone. Even the tree has come alive.

What's not to love about a little back kitten popping out of a Jack O' Lantern?

This photo must be quite old, judging from the dress the child is wearing and the furniture behind her. Still, this visual would work well with any modern horror film.

Notice the corn stalks behind the Jack O' Lantern and in the background. Back in the old days there seemed to be more of a connection between the harvest, the changing seasons and Halloween than we see now.

A ghost, Jack O' Lanterns and a black cat beneath a spooky looking tree along with an eerie house in the background? What's not to love about a picture like this?

May your Halloween be dark, spooky, enjoyable and fill you with long-lasting memories!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Cape of The Guardian

On the left you see my old friend The Guardian. He has appeared on this blog before and quite frankly, has been hanging around for quite some time now--literally hanging around. 

You see, he hangs on a small stretch of clothes line just beyond my back door. His job is to ward off, and even terrify if necessary, any unwelcome intruders who might emerge from the woods that lie on the north side of the cabin. In general, I like my privacy and not everyone who has come out of that wooded stretch has amounted to what you would call good company. 

Truth be told, I can remember only one such intruder who managed to slip past The Guardian, and he accomplished this under the cover of darkness. on a stormy night. Perhaps it was the high volume of alcohol content in the stranger's blood that saved him from being overcome by sheer terror, thereby allowing him to beat upon my back door. In any event, this is the only time I can remember anyone getting past my spooky sentry unscathed.

A few days ago, a bit after sunset, I walked to the rear of my abode: and as is often the case, gazed in the direction of this noble helper. Noticing a tear in the fabric of his cape I approached for a closer examination. Sure enough, there was a large tear right behind his shoulders. When did that happen? I wondered. I touched the cape in an attempt to see if I could pin the two pieces together. At that moment a large creature emerged from underneath The Guardian's vestment. I heard the fluttering of wings and I caught only the slightest glimpse of a dark object flashing by me as it took to flight. The creature moved so quickly that I was unable to determine what it was. 

The first thought that came to mind was that the frightened being must have been a bird, which had chosen to nest under The Guardian's protection. Still, all I saw was a flash of black as the creature zoomed on by me. Could it have been a bat? I pondered. Now how cool would that be; a bat lodging under the cloak of such a ghoulish individual? Bats are here, and I often see them meandering above the cemetery in search of food.

In any event, I must admit that whatever had taken refuge under The Guardian's cape will always remain a mystery as the creature has apparently not returned to seek his protection. Still, I find it almost ironic that in this case, it was not The Guardian who induced terror into the soul of an intruder; but rather, it was me.  

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Darkness Beyond the Misty Veil: More Tales of the Macabre

Back in February of 2016 I teased you with an excerpt from a story called Horror in the Tunnel. At the time, I said that the story would be published reasonably soon.Then, for this year's Vampire's Day Soiree, I teased you again with an except from A Fall From Grace: The First Hunt. At the time, I said that I hoped to have the story published by some time in the spring. Well, I actually accomplished that feat, but held back the announcement as I waited for the ebook versions to make their way through the network and later, the processing of a needed correction in the paperback version. So yes, it's now summer, but I'm very happy to announce the publication of my second book entitled, The Darkness Beyond the Misty Veil: More Tales of the Macabre. 

This new publication contains seven stories, which for the most part, continue my custom of producing romantic horror. This time however, I'd have to say that there's a bit more emphasis on the horror. The stories are as follows:

The Reaper's Hand: This is the story of an old man who never found true love. He now runs from the Angel of Death.

A Very Special Christmas Eve: A mean-spirited boy encounters the Christmas demon.

Horror in the Tunnel: A man investigating an abandoned railroad tunnel finds more terror than he could ever have imagined. 

The Caretaker: A cemetery caretaker finds himself caught up in a ghostly drama that had taken place over 150 years ago. 

A Fall From Grace: The First Hunt: The vampire Lady Andrea takes her fledgling on his first hunt for human blood in a Louisiana bayou--and he's looking for revenge!

Highway 365: A paranormal investigator travels along an Arkansas highway believed to be haunted by a young woman on a stormy night. 

The Arrival of Narkissa Laveau: After weeks of online interactions with an internet actress claiming to be a vampire, a young man, just out of college, decides to accept her invitation by meeting up at a cemetery in Fox Grove, a small community nestled deep in the Ozark Mountains. 

I kept my promise to get the book published, even if this announcement is a bit late. I hope that I've sparked your interest in this, my second book. Still, in accordance with my intent to keep this particular blog commercial free, I'm asking that you follow this link
for further information and other links. Thanks for reading!