Friday, October 30, 2009

Gather the 13 or Something Similar

It's Halloween and my Halloween Week went down the drain as unseen circumstances kept me away from the keyboard and sucked my blood dry. The longest I got was to check my mail and any further than that caused my eyes to hurt. Rather nasty, when most of your hobbies tend to include the Internet. One lesson I learned from all this is that I need to start planing these events a year early to not let life mess up my perfect plan. Someone also needs to create a day with a lot more hours. So let's move to the main course, which will be an accumulative of the highlights meant for this week.

I was inspired by John from "Grasping for the Wind" to have a small version of Inside the Blogosphere, but in a smaller scale. My original intent was to ask 13 bloggers and have this ominous air to it, but I am down with three reviewers, who couldn't participate although they exhibited the spirit of participation. I asked a Halloween influenced question ten people. Here is the question:

What scary stories about monsters and ghosts did you grow up with?

And here are your answers:

1) Colin from "Highlander's Book Reviews": Scottish Halloween traditions reach far back into our misty, pagan past but unfortunately many of these have been lost by, initially, the christianification of the country and more recently the commercialisation of the festival. Originally linked to Samhain, the Celtic festival of the dead, this is an in between time, when the boundaries of winter and summer and also life and death are breached allowing the dead into our world.

Until fairly recently the streets would be filled with guisers, literally folks in disguise, carrying lanterns carved from turnips (neeps!), it's too cold to grow pumpkins in Scotland. The idea was that these folk could mingle with the dead as they were out walking.

There are two particular tales in the Highlands that I want to share. The first is the Cailleach Bheur, the Blue-faced Hag of Winter. She appears at Samhain, with the first winter snows, to rule the land until chased off by springtime. She is particularly prominent on the appropriately named Beinn na Caillich on the Isle of Skye where she stirs up the winds before sending storms crashing down on the folks below.

The second tale concerns the bishop of Spynie Palace near Elgin. He occupied St Davids Tower at the palace but it is rumoured he dappled in Black Magic. If you visit the tower on Halloween you can see the witches and spirits he summoned returning, the air is filled with strange music and unearthly light.

Incidentally fires and bonfires were until recently, associated with Halloween in Scotland, rather than Guy Fawkes as they are in England. There are still a few Scots who wish he had managed to blow up the houses of parliament! The Scottish fires are there to celebrate the burning of witches and in some areas an effigy of an old woman is still thrown onto the fire.

So for a Scot like myself, Halloween is not about greed and commercialism but is a much deeper, darker affair. The tales may be old but there is no smoke without fire and who knows what you will find if you wander out on a lonely road through the wild Scottish countryside at Halloween.

2) Graeme from "Graeme's Fantasy Book Review": Wow, that’s a tricky one seeing as I’m currently having trouble remembering what I did last week… (seriously though, can someone tell me?)

The thing is, it was all about sci-fi and fantasy when I was a kid and the closest I got to a horror book, for a long time, was looking at the Stephen King covers, in the supermarket, while Mum was doing the shopping. Some of those covers were scary enough on their own though…

Then, just before I finished up with primary school, I discovered both the ‘Pan Book of Horror’ and ‘Fontana Book of Great Horror’ series on the bookshelves. There was some seriously scary stuff there and I was hooked. The only problem these days is that I can’t remember any of the titles, the stories themselves stay with me still but I can’t for the life of me remember what any of them are called! Quite sad really…

There were stories about possessed dolls that possessed their owners and men who had to face down hordes of flesh eating ants. There was even a story about a man whose own skeleton rebelled against him, not letting him move or eat until he died (I think it may have been called ‘The Flesh is Weak). This wasn’t a case of mere paralysis, there was some serious spooky evil going on!

Out of all of these stories though, the one that has always stayed with me is one called ‘The Eater of Souls’ (I think. Like I said, I’m having trouble remembering the titles). Two brothers share a bedroom, one has tucked himself into bed nice and tight and the other brother is worried about him. You see, the Eater of Souls likes to capture people who are already in a tight spot so that they cannot escape, once the Eater of Souls has you then you are doomed… What our little friend doesn’t realise is that while he’s reading his book (and keeping an eye on his brother) he’s tucking himself in tight as well. He turns to the next page of his book and guess what is waiting for him…? You guessed it; his soul was eaten right up…

I woke up the next morning after having read this story and the light was shining through the window in such a way that it looked like two little red eyes were glaring at me from the shadows on top of a shelf. I didn’t dare move for what felt like hours… It didn’t stop me going after that next big scare though, something that you’ll still find me doing today.

Whatever you read, or watch, this Halloween… I hope it does the job and gives you a big scare too…

3) Carl from "Stainless Steel Droppings": The earliest 'scary story' I remember is the tale of Icabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I am guessing it may have been from the cartoon version, but somehow that story sticks in my mind and is one that I have always found particularly creepy, merely because of my childhood recollection.

I read a number of ghost story collections, checked out from the library, when I was young. While I cannot remember many specific stories, I do remember that these were often by 'classic' authors. What I do remember quite vividly is the illustrations by Edward Gorey. They burned themselves into my brain as the visual representation of a good scary story and I have been a fan of his work ever since. Even now when I watch Mystery on PBS or see and Edward Gorey illustration on a book I am thrown back to my childhood.

It was in childhood, just prior to adolescence, that I first read Bram Stoker's Dracula.
I was terrified, in that kind of deliciously creepy way that a young boy can be scared. It is one of my watershed moments in my reading development. It made such an impression on me that three decades later I still consider Dracula to be my absolute favorite book. I am so devoted to it that I have not once enjoyed a movie adaptation of the book, as none come close to being faithful to the story, and I reread it every few years.

Those are the things that really stand out in my mind when I think of scary memories from my childhood. I also recall watching a number of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing movies on television. Those were so perfect for a rainy afternoon or a late night with all the lights off. Even today I enjoy filling my October nights with these classic films.

4) Fabio from "Post-Weird Thoughts": The earliest nursery rhyme I can remember is one my grandfather used to sing to me. It´s called (in Brazilian Portuguese) BOI DA CARA PRETA - in a literal translation, the Black-Faced Ox. It is usually sang in a basso voice, so as to emulate the call of the ox. The lyrics says that the Black-Faced Ox comes and gets away bad-mannered children in the middle of the night (not exactly that, but that´s pretty much the spirit of the thing). It´s really scary to little children.

Then, as I grew up a little, I was told of the VELHO DO SACO (The Old Bag Man, lit trans also). A very tall, thin, bearded, crazy-looking man. He may be black or white depending of the region of Brazil you´re living in (in Rio de Janeiro, he seemed to be white as far as I know), and he usually roams the streets at night, capturing children and pre-teens and throwing them into his bag, whose interior was as dark
as a coal sack. The children he caught were never heard of again.

And my personal favorite (I even wrote a story about her recently), the BATHROOM BLONDE. I don´t know if she´s an imported urban legend (I was once told so, but I couldn´t find any reliable references). When I was approximately 1o years old (1976), the legend spread all over Brazil like wildfire. It was hard to find a school where children weren´t at least a little bit wary of going to the bathroom by themselves. The account was that she was a gorgeous blonde woman, all dressed in red (not at all unlike Number Six in the recent Battlestar: Galactica remake), but with the pallor of a corpse (here the things gets creepy, and Gothic, of all things) and sometimes she could be seen even with little cottonballs in her nostrils (it´s still quite common in funerals here, since we use to bury our deceased the day after they die). Rumor had it that she was killed by a jealous lover (other rumor also said that she killed herself because of unrequited love), and sometimes she could be seen with her wrists slit -- still carrying a straight razor, which she was more than happy to use in anybody who dared to disturb her sleep in the bathroom. This in itself has a whole erotic charge that shook as we were growing up. You know, it may even be one of the things that moved me into fantastic literature.

5) Peter from "Ubiquitous Absence": I hate to sound boring, but largely the garden variety stuff. I remember being into a series of monster books (Crestwood House Monsters series – man, the internet is awe inspiring for a tired and beaten-down memory) at my elementary school’s library. I checked out and read through each of them numerous times. I then remember watching all of the black and white movies, upon which, the books were based. There was King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, the Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and probably more than that. I have few memories of my grandfather, who died when I was very young, but I do recall a Saturday afternoon in his living room where we, I on the floor and he in his recliner, watched King Kong vs. Godzilla. At the time, it was the best movie in the whole wide world.

It wasn’t too much later, that I watched, for God knows what reason, Salem’s Lot. At that age, it made me paranoid. I don’t truly recall any scenes from the movie, except one. I recall a vampire floating off the ground outside a second story bedroom window. Growing up in totally rural town (pop. ~3500), there are plenty of noises to pick up on at night. Each one of them was the tell-tale sign of a vampire preying upon me and mere moments from ending my life. Yikes!!!

I went straight to sci-fi and fantasy fiction after that, and haven’t ever looked back because, we all know what’s back there…gaining on me.

6) Velvet from "vvb32 reads": Below is a campfire ghost story my Uncle told me in the 70's that I thought at the time was unique and one that he created. I'd get the shivers after listening to this story every time he told it. For he repeated this tale many times during my childhood as I have younger siblings and cousins who were introduced this tale.

Little did I know until recently that this story is an urban legend or urban hoax (thanks to that has been passed on throughout history since maybe the 50's. Ah, no matter. The story is a good one that still creeps me out.

Give it a read. I'm curious to know if you've heard of it.

"The most famous cautionary urban legend is the "hook-hand killer" tale. In this story, a young couple on a date drive off to a remote spot to "park." Over the radio, they hear that a psychopath with a hooked hand has escaped from a local mental institution. The girl wants to leave, but her boyfriend insists there's nothing to worry about. After a while, the girl thinks she hears a scratching or tapping sound outside the car. The boyfriend assures her it's nothing, but at her insistence, they eventually drive off. When they get to the girl's house, the boyfriend goes around to the passenger side to open her door. To his horror, there is a bloody hook hanging from the door handle."

Excerpt from How Urban Legends Work

7 & 8) Ana & Thea from "The Book Smugglers": Actually Ana has decided that she doesn't have anything as story material from her childhood that could answer this questions, but she has offered a real experience LINK

Thea: I'm a bit of a weird case - I was born in Hawaii and lived there until I was 7, then I moved to Japan and Indonesia. My mom is Filipino and my father is Caucasian, and I am an American citizen. But I've only actually lived in the US (of my adult life) for a few years. you can imagine, I grew up with a lot of different ghosts and monsters! In addition to the usual US monsters (vampires, talking killer dolls, freddy krueger, etc), I had some wonderfully terrifying asian monsters too. There's this Filipino horror movie from my childhood that still stands the test of time (you can rent it on Netflix if you are in the USA! Just be prepared for really crappy sound and subtitles) -Tiyanak. A tiyanak (pronounced "chya-nak") is a changeling demon baby; it pretends to be a normal baby child and cries to get the attention of any passers-by. When someone picks up the poor baby and takes it home, the tiyanak unleashes hell and tears these poor people apart. In the film, this tiyanak mutates into this horrible puppet thing that looks like the fiji mermaid and goes on a killing spree. At the time, I was terrified of it (I was only 5), but even upon a rewatch, I have to admit the puppet is pretty damn good looking!

Another favorite ghost story is that of the Aswang - the Filipino version of a vampire. There are a lot of different versions of the aswang, but in the version that my mother and lola told me, the aswang feeds on blood, flesh, and amniotic fluid. That is, it uses its long, tube-like fangs, inserts them up a sleeping pregnant woman's hoo-ha, and feasts on the fluid and unborn child in the mother's womb. This version of the aswang is also called a "tik-tik" because of the sound it makes while feeding. It has large wings and can fly, and it lurks outside windows to prey on its victims. To protect yourself against aswang, the usual vampire deterrents work - lots of garlic, holy water, rosaries, etc. These are usually placed in windows, along with other protective paraphernalia (such as stingray tails) to stop the aswang from entering the room.

9) Michael from "Only the Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy": Halloween in Germany - Lore, Myths and Monsters

There is no real Halloween tradition in Germany. But we adapted a lot of things from USA in the past years.It is more and more common to see pumpkin and Jack-O'Lantern decorations in late October. Even in the small town where I live, kids started to go trick.or.treating.

There are also Halloween parties and other events. There is a big event in the Rhein-Main-Area: Halloween at Castle Frankenstein. Unfortunately the site is available in German only. But I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Instead of Halloween we celebrate Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) from 30th April to 1st of May on the Brocken also known as Blocksberg.
The Brocken is the highest peak of the Harz mountain. There witches hold a large celebration and await the arrival of Spring.
"Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats."

In my childhood we have been scared by several fairy tales recorded by the brothers Grimm.
One example for this is the tale of Hansel and Gretel.

We have a famous legend about a mountain spirit named Rübezahl.

"...Rübezahl, you should know, has the nature of a powerful genius:
capricious, impetuous, peculiar, rascally, crude, immodest, haughty,
vain, fickle, today your warmest friend, tomorrow alien and cold;
...roguish and respectable, stubborn and flexible..."
—Musäus, 1783

As you can imagine people feared him because they never knew in which
mood he was.

In my youth there was only black and white TV available (don't think about my age).
And there have been several movies and TV series which from which I got
really nightmares.

The first one is a movie from 1920 about the Golem in Praha:
"In 16th-century Prague, a Jewish rabbi creates a giant creature from clay,
called the Golem, and using sorcery, brings the creature to life in order to
protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. Unfortunately, his evil assistant
manages to take control of the Golem, and uses it to commit crimes to enrich him,
and finally has it kidnap the rabbi's beautiful daughter.
However, the Golem--which had been given human emotions
by the rabbi--finally rebels against the assistant's misuse of him."

The second one is a movie from 1922 titled Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.
This is a German vampire horror film.
Count Orlok with his long fingers and nose looked really scary.

And then there was a TV mini series Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre.
It is about a ghost which haunts the Louvre Museum.
Watch the video in order to get an impression why I found it scary.
It is German dubbed.

10) Adele from "Un:Bound": The UK has many myths, legends and ghost stories as any fan of Most Haunted will know. I live in Leicestershire and the city of Leicester has a fascinating history with Anglo Saxon and Roman ruins still visible in the City itself. Richard III was buried here and the City has a Cathedral alongside many churches and buildings from different periods of history. Ghost walks are carried out through the City so here is one of my favourite stories from the area.

Bradgate Park in Leicestershire was the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane was a made Queen in 1553. She remained Monarch for only 9 days and the following year was executed at age 16.

The tragic young queen is rumoured to haunt the park, sometimes, in a horse drawn carraige that moves down the path between the church and the ruins of her childhood home particularly on Christmas eve. If you wander up to Bradgate in the mist, with the hill rising above you it is easy to imagine you see her figure slipping among the ruins.


vvb32 reads said...

Loved how this post turned out. Great variety here! and very Mary Shelley Frankenstein-ish.

Harry Markov said...

Looks that way :)

Hagelrat said...


Harry Markov said...

thanks darling :)

Grasping for the Wind said...

hey harry, feel free to ask me next time!

Harry Markov said...

This year, I wanted to gather people, who have reviewed and have shown interest in horror, so I contacted these thirteen. Next year I will target wider and start sooner for sure.

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