Monday, July 29, 2013

Dark Shadows: 140 Episodes Into It

Nearly a year ago, I posted here about my discovery of a DVD containing several episodes of the 60s Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. At the time, I pointed out that it was my intention to watch every episode--a tall order indeed!

Last night I watched episode 140. First of all, I've got to say that viewing the original soap opera suits me as I consider it the perfect ending to my day. The program doesn't require me to sit for 90 minutes or more, as most full-length films do, and I spend less time in front of the screen than I do when watching True Blood or the non Gothic Boardwalk Empire, which I also seem addicted to. Each episode is only about 23 minutes long. Perfect! It's not showing at my house every night and sometimes I let several evenings pass without watching; but like a good book, it helps put me into a comfortable frame of mind. Although there's little mention of the supernatural in the series' early episodes, the overall feel remains very Gothic; and I love it!

"My name is Victoria Winters.  A strange, unexplainable terror has crept into the heart of someone at Collinwood. A feeling of love that should draw people together has driven one away--to the edge of the precipice!"

The opening scene of Episode 140 opens, as nearly all of the previous episodes have; with a view of the Collinwood Mansion standing alone in the darkness while the voice of Victoria Winters brings the viewer up to date. What was the terror that Ms. Winters was talking about? Well, please allow me to back up a little bit first.

The program's first airing began with the orphan, Victoria Winters, on a train headed for Collinsport, Maine where she has been offered a job, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, as a governess at Collinwood Mansion for a boy named David. Headed for the same destination is a man named Burke Devlin, who the viewer eventually learns is back in town to get revenge for his unjust manslaughter conviction--a conviction that cost him several years in prison.

As the series unfolds, Devland is  hell bent on proving once and for all that Roger Collins was responsible for the accidental death that caused him years of his life. For the most part, the plot centers around this central theme; and although there has been the occasional mentioning of ghosts, they really don't manifest much until around episode 120, during which the family's former grounds keeper, a simpleton named Matthew, is holding Victoria Winters prisoner inside a secret room in the Old House. This is where the ghosts of Josette (more about her is revealed much further into the series), the murdered Bill Malloy and other discarnate spirits manifest themselves in order to keep Matthew from carrying out his threat to kill Victoria. After her rescue, the two apparitions and their accomplices are seen outside the Old House, perhaps rejoicing in their accomplishment.

After this first brush with the supernatural a strange woman shows up in town. Both the Collins family and Burke Devland learn that she is Laura Collins, Roger's wife who has returned for her son David, a child accused of having too vivid an imagination but who apparently, is sensitive to other worldly entities and events. She is the terror that has struck into the heart of young David. He really doesn't know why she frightens him but he knows that there's something odd about her. The adults in the family know however, that she's just been reported dead out in California. Hmm...things are getting interesting I'd say.

Over the course of the first 140 episodes, Dark Shadows has progressed from being a series concerned primarily with human conflict, to one where brushes with the macabre are becoming more common. I know that events leading to the resurrection of vampire Barnabas Collins are still some 60 or so more episodes away. Still, the program's main storyline continues to evolve and soap opera or not, it's great fun watching it all unfold. I'm l40 chapters in, and it just keeps getting better and better.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Raynham Hall is a nearly 400 year-old country house in Norfolk, England; a county situated along that country's central east coast bordering the North Sea. Considered one of the great houses of Norfolk, it has been home to the rather influential Townshend family during its entire existence. The most famous inhabitant of Raynham Hall was Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1674 - 1738), who lived to become a leader in the House of Lords. Today, the structure is best known as a place allegedly haunted by the spirit of a lady who, for over more than a century, has been seen wearing a brown dress. 

As legend has it, the mysterious apparition is the ghost of Lady Townshend, the wife of Charles Townshend, who known for his hot temper, reportedly imprisoned his wife in the mansion for the rest of her days after discovering that she had been unfaithful to him. From the time he had put her away until she died of old age many years later, she was never even allowed to see her children again.

According to an article in the website, Mysterious Britain & Ireland,
the first mention of the lady ghost was recorded by Lucia C. Stone in the year 1835. The sighting reportedly took place at Christmas when a couple of Lord Charles Townshend's invited guests, a man known as Colonel Loftus and another, simply called Hawkins, claimed to have seen the figure of a woman wearing a brown dress. The following week Colonel Loftus sighted the ghost once again. This time he spotted her on the main stairs and described her as a lady who had an aristocratic look about her with one disturbing feature--empty sockets where her eyes should have been. Loftus also said that her face glowed with an unearthly light. After the colonel drew a sketch of what he had seen, others admitted to having seen the same lady as well. An artist made a composite painting of the Brown Lady from the descriptions he received and the piece was then hung on a wall in a part of the house where the ghost was most frequently seen.

Another purported sighting took place when an author of sea novels, a Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848) came for a visit. The author's purpose was reportedly, to prove that a ghost did not inhabit Raynham Hall but rather, that alleged sightings were the result of smugglers. Still, by the captain's own account he and a couple of companions saw a figure carrying a lantern coming toward them. Taking refuge in a doorway, the three stood by as the figure, while walking past, turned and grinned at them in a "diabolical manner." The captain fired a shot at close range but the bullet passed right through the lady and lodged in the opposite wall. At that point the ghost vanished. That date of that purported encounter is unknown.

In 1926 the then Lady Townshend reported that her son and a friend had spotted the apparition on the stairs. Both identified her as resembling the portrait that had been hung on the wall many years before. 

The best known reported sighting took place ten years later, on September 19, 1936, when two professional photographers, a Captain Provand and his assistant Indre Shira, working for Country Life magazine arrived to take pictures of the hall. It was around 4:00 pm when Shira allegedly saw the Brown Lady. Shira put it this way: 

"Captain Provand took one photograph while I flashed the light. He was focusing for another exposure; I was standing by his side just behind the camera with the flashlight pistol in my hand, looking directly up the staircase. All at once I detected an ethereal veiled form coming slowly down the stairs. Rather excitedly, I called out sharply: 'Quick, quick, there's something.' I pressed the trigger of the flashlight pistol. After the flash and on closing the shutter, Captain Provand removed the focusing cloth from his head and turning to me said: 'What's all the excitement about?'" 

The photograph that the two came up with is the one at the top of this article, and it is one of the best known of its type. Some call it a hoax; yet, it was later examined by experts at Country Life magazine, who considered it unlikely that the picture had been tampered with. The photo was eventually published in the December 16, 1936 issue of the magazine.

It is said, there have been no further sightings of the Brown Lady since the photograph was taken. There are those who say that she finally left the confines of Raynham Hall to haunt another place, Sandringham House, where she appears as her young, happy self before being locked away for so many years by her husband. Then again, there are those who do not even believe in such things as ghosts, apparitions and haunted houses. Who knows where the truth lies? The question is, what do you believe? 

Information sources: 

 Mysterious Britain & Ireland

Museum of Hoaxes: The Brown Lady of Raynham

Photograph: Captain Provand and Indre Shira. Published in Country Life magazine December 16, 1936


Monday, July 15, 2013

A Night With Voltaire

Finally, July 13th had arrived and I was on my way to see Voltaire's performance. As I generally do when going to Dickson Street, which is the heart our entertainment district, I left my vehicle on the Square and walked the rest of the way to the venue; this, in spite of the fact that my foot was killing me. The thing is, after I had almost reached the venue I realized that I had left my ticket in the car and had to walk all the way back to retrieve it before making the trek a second time. Believe me, I had a few choice words for myself after having to walk the distance twice!

After gaining entrance and being greeted by friends, I sat at the bar and ordered my first Guiness for the evening. As I sat there, I noticed a rather tall fellow moving around and mixing with the crowd. Hmm, I thought to myself, I don't remember seeing this guy around before, but he looks a bit like Voltaire. Well, it didn't take very long before I figured ,out that it was indeed the star of the night's show and I was happy to see that he actually seemed to enjoy mixing and socializing with the crowd. It's not every performer who actually tries to get to know his or her audience but Voltaire seems to thrive on it. The night was off to a good start.

Although Voltaire wasn't scheduled to perform until 11:00 pm, the fun began much earlier with DJ Durandal and company providing us with some great tunes designed to inspire the growing crowd to the dance floor. Although I kept reminding myself that I should stay try to stay off my sore foot, I found myself out on the floor doing what I shouldn't have been doing that night. It was just too hard to resist.

George's Majestic Lounge has a rather sizable beer garden out back with a recently expanded stage. With this new development the venue has been able to attract bigger national and international acts such as Lacuna Coil, which I saw there last winter. Since Voltaire came without any supporting musicians and would therefore, be playing solo, the management decided to have him perform inside the lounge area. Even though the local Goths and other fans managed to pretty much pack the room, it was assured that the show would be up close and intimate.

I was upstairs (if you want to call it that) visiting at a table when I noticed that people were beginning to gather around the stage. Yes! Voltaire was up there! The show was about to begin!

In all honesty, I cannot say that I am familiar enough with Voltaire's songs to tell you which one he started out with or to mention those he performed by name. What I will say however, is that I'm actually glad that he performed for us solo. His spontaneity was both wonderful and infectious as he would very often stop midstream in a song, as if the lyrics had suddenly given him an idea, and then talk and interact with the audience. A couple of minutes later, he would pick up right where he left off. It would probably be hard to do that with a band and this way he could make everyone feel as though they were a part of the show.

At one point during his performance Voltaire told us that he has been working on a new, soon-to-be-released album called BiTREKtual, a compilation of songs about both Star Trek and Star Wars. In his jovial way he apologized to the many Doctor Who fans present for not including any songs our favorite Doctor. Still, he had a song prepared for us and it was about the Tardis. Now this was a wonderful piece that stayed right on theme with an emphasis on how it's "bigger on the inside." Now, just ponder that for a few moments!

When it came time to conclude the show he called the ladies up to the stage and the entire group did the last number together, as further proof of his love of interaction with his fans. So what else can I say? Voltaire is personable, funny, creative, a good musician, Goth; and most of all, a great guy!

Of course, he had items for sale, so I can say that I am now the proud owner of his novel entitled The Call of the Jersey Devil,  which he autographed for me, and his Riding a Black Unicorn CD. A friend, who has already read the book, can't wait to hear what I think of it. She says that it's funny but yet horrifying. I can't wait to dig into it. Voltaire also brought some strange animals to the event. His Ponies of Doom were a big hit.

After the performance the sounds of recorded music once again filled the air. There was more dancing and socializing for awhile even though folks slowly began to trickle out. It was a great night and Voltaire's show was fantastic! The only things that could have made the night better would have been if my foot were feeling better and if...okay, I've got to say it, Voltaire had played If I Only Were A Goth.  I do have one regret though, and that is I wish I had brought the camera instead of relying upon my phone, which has no flash and apparently, no zoom. So, even though I took quite a few photos, only a couple came out well enough for me too put up here.

Eventually, I said my goodbyes, stepped out into the darkness and made my way back toward the Square and my vehicle.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Short Post

My, how time flies! It's already been ten days since my last post here, so I thought I'd better get something up, even if this is going to be a short entry.  

One of the reasons for my delay has to do with the photos that I place here. Over time, I've come to realize that some of the so-called free photos and graphics that are easily found on the net might not be as free and without owners as the websites they are found on might lead one to believe. That being the case, I've embarked on a search for good Gothic art at places such as Deviant Art
with the hope that I can secure permission from some of the creators of good graphics to use on this blog--with attribution of course. I've started compiling a list of folks that I will be contacting, but I'd like to build a lengthy roster so that I can feature a variety of artists. 
My other project involves starting another blog from which I will offer some of my short stories for reading at a minimal price. The work has begun on this and thanks to the assistance of The Insomniac and a very photogenic Goth couple from Portugal, I now have a very attractive header for the top of the page. Still, I have technical uncertainties concerning some aspects of what I what I want to do with this project, so things are proceeding somewhat slowly. I'm hoping to have it up and running before too long however, and I'll let you all know when I'm ready to launch.
This coming Saturday night Voltaire will be performing here. It looks like he'll be performing in the lounge area of the venue instead of on the big stage. This means that the show should be up close and intimate. I should have the full story as well as a photo or two for you all some time next week.