Sunday, January 31, 2010

And so are your prayers.

It is nearly the second month of the new year.

It is late enough at night to consider it early, early morn.

Outside this homely house, all things sleep grumbling beneath a quilt of white crystal talcum, enrobed as Jadis in the full of her reign, shimmering and shivering under the brilliant blue-white of what the first souls to walk these hills called the Wolf Moon -- that first of the year fullness which oversees the leanest, hungriest night at the heart of Winter.

Inside this glad place, those last of you to arrive are now the last to depart, a meager but eager handful of friends allowing one last bend of the elbow, one more tip of the glass, to be the excuse for not going just yet; for staying where it's comfortable, cozy.


The fire's burning to red but still warm, and I know we'll all be lingering long enough that adding one more log would be worthwhile.

You all look as if you need a reason to stay...

I think now's probably as good a night as any to tell you a tale once told to me in this very place, at this very slab of brass and oak upon which I now serve the last round of cheer.

Oh yes I heard it here, then saw it for myself some years later.

It's all true.

Have you ever heard of... the Grither?

Oh now, you may want to believe that this entire story was made up by some guy named Michael Bishop in a book of short tales called A Winter In Eden, and that it was eventually given a teleplay treatment by Michael McDowell to become a classic episode of the horror anthology television series Tales From The Darkside called Seasons Of Belief in 1986. You may want to believe this episode became a popular, underground-ish Christmas Special for we horror loving kids in the '80s, and that as grown-ups we still giggle at the thought of the first time we saw it, and still admonish each other to never take "his" name in vain. 

You may want to believe all of that.

Hey -- I want to believe there's really no such thing as karaoke, root canals or airline pilots' lounge placards written in Braille, but life just keeps insisting otherwise.

Yes pub goers, there is a Grither.

And do me, hell, do all of us a favor.

Don't take his name in vain.


The Grither was born on a sailing ship that got lost in the Arctic sea. Foundering among treacherous floes and encroaching ice, the hapless souls aboard drifted about aimlessly, seeing naught except water, icebergs and glaciers; some went insane, others killed their fellow passengers, most froze or drowned by flinging themselves overboard. It is said the Grither was born of the rage and suffering of those poor souls who perished in that icy nightmare so very long ago.

It is also said that the Grither now dwells in a howling ice cave far in the North, above the Arctic Circle, not very far from Santa Claus's Castle. He lives on the very same giant, frozen passenger ship which first gave him life. Most of the time, he likes nothing better than to eat his 'food' and sleep undisturbed.

The Grither has fists like basketballs, arms like boa constrictors, leafed with red and blue veins like a road map.

The rest of him cannot be truly described and there are no pictures or drawings, for no one who has seen him (and lived!) has ever seen any more than his horrifying hands and arms.

The Grither's ears are extraordinarily sensitive; he can hear his name being uttered anywhere in the world within seconds of it being uttered. The more his name is repeated by the same person or group of people, the larger his ears grow to listen, until they are big enough to start flapping...

... and then the Grither begins to fly, seeking the miscreant who dared speak his name.

The Grither hates his name being used in vain. Did I say that already?

OH no, I am not in danger for telling this story, as you aren't for merely listening, for I am not using his name in vain, you see.

I'm informing you about the Grither, and continuing the Grither's legend. That's not a vain thing. It's not like I'm being careless about it.

What does the Grither do when he finds those who do carelessly toss about his name?

He grithers 'em.

This clip from the aforementioned Tales From The Darkside 'cover-up' series will reveal all to you:

(Warning: NOT for little kids or Godsons named Will!)

Now do you see what'll happen?

The lyrics to that terrifying tune:
"Oh, I am the Grither
You cannot escape me,
For pleading is useless
And so are your prayers

The Grither is greedy,
For only one thing,
To keep you from taking
To keep you from taking
To keep you from taking
His name in vain."

Do I need to repeat it? Do not take the Grither's name in vain.

That's the tale. Believe what you will.

Still... can't imagine being grithered. The horror!

OH stop, we're not going to get grithered. As the tradition goes, I finished telling the story before the Grither arrived, so now he will not grither us. Even if the Grither nearly got here, he has to turn around and head back to the frozen derelict ship in his Arctic ice cave.

Besides, I didn't say the Grither's name that many times. I mean it's not like I just stood here shouting 'Grither, Grither, Grither, Grither, Grither!'... is it?

Yes, the hour is now ridiculously, foolishly late.


If you feel that this blustering, brilliant Winter holds gritherous surprises for your sorry soul, that your return trip home might not get you all the way there....

...then please stay.

Rest warmly, peacefully.

Make sure the fire doesn't go out. I hear the wind getting louder out there... wait, is that the wind? Or did I hear something else?

Oh, it can't be too terrible, whatever it is. Stories are, after all, just stories. Good pub chatter. A light punch in the shoulder.

Boy that wind is beginning to howl so...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Donne with poetry.

O Winter! be not proud
Though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so...

For those whom thou think'st thou dost freeze,

Freeze not, poor Winter;

Nor yet canst thou freeze me -- I have a space heater.

Thou art slave to Dry Layers, Moisture Columns, Pressure Systems,

And desperate Meteorologists,

And dost with hype, chance, and Doppler dwell.

Ice Cream Headaches can make us freeze as well,

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short, iceless two to four inch fall, then we wake with relief,

And Winter shall be no more;

Winter, thou shalt, um... wint.

(I figure a Winter should be that which wints.)

At any rate... it is winter here.

Without, the Skull & Pumpkin endures this:

Within, we have fun being warm and mellow and among family, making sure we have enough to eat and drink, playing games, staring at snowfall, listening to favorite songs, and even redecorating.

Over the holidays I received a fabulous gift from my nieces and nephew in L.A., but due to the mores (or lesses, really) of traveling, I did not want to try flying with these gifts. Too important, too fragile...

So I made plans to have them shipped when I got back home. They finally got here in the last week or so, and I knew I had to show them around.

Now I have the time.

Check out these incredibly cool, hand made/painted Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein ornaments!:

Aren't they simply awesome? Am I not the luckiest pub-keep
you've ever known?

They occupy elevated places of honor among the ghoulish bric-a-brac adorning the S&P's Monster Shelves:

Thank you, good nieces and nephew...

Oh, there's a whole weekend of this 'Wint-er' weather to slog through. I am assuming there will be some reading going on --

-- and I think there might be a few write ups of some of these amazing books (those I haven't mentioned in previous posts).

Blessed laziness.

Stay warm, stay safe, and if you can see your way clear, come on by over the weekend.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

This is pret-ty cool.

So... I have a family who knows (most of the time) the kind of shhhhtuff I like.

The night before last, V and Michelle and Kiara informed me of this remarkable snowglobe available for next to nothing, just a few minutes' drive from my house.

Today, we went and got it.

So cool.

I love the expressions on all of their faces, especially (as always) Zero, who also glows in the dark (picture not included).

Thought you'd all enjoy... it will be resting atop the curio cabinets in the Nightmare collection here at the ol' S&P for you all to appreciate.

See? Hallowe'en in January. Life is fine.

Kid-nap the Sandy Claws, la-la-la-la laaaa...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday miscellany. So good to me.

La laaaa, la la-la la...

Just a bit of Monday morning mish-mash.

Had to come over to the pub and show off my granddaughter by passing a few pictures around.

Here at the S&P we've been doing a bit of redecorating, shifting things around, and in the midst of the madness comes Kiara.

Entering the room, she is behind me (I'm in the middle of dusting a shelf); she spies a ghoul head I'd made for the Night of the Living Dead 'tableau' for Hallowe'en '08.

"Pa, why do you have a total zombie head in here?" The way she says ZOM--beee is so perfectly her; a mix of amusement and utter, nearly adolescent disdain.

Before I even turn around, I grab my camera...

Is that an album cover or what?

What you can't appreciate with just a picture is the sound of her rapid, heavy breathing through her nose as she glowers at me, like the gorilla and Bugs Bunny ("STOP steamin' up my taaaaiil!"). Drama queen at 4...

Trying not to crumple to the cluttered floor in a giggling fit, I ask her (all the while holding the camera to my eye), "Kid, what in the world is your deal? You love that zombie head."

Silence. Snorting breath.

Then a smile begins to tug at the corners of her mouth.

"Got you, Pa!"
She thinks it is absolutely the funniest 'joke' she's ever pulled -- making me think I was somehow in trouble for having a ZOM-beee head in the room. I mean really, she was dyin'!:

A total creep, and a totally proud Pa!

In other, not nearly as cute news...

I finally have a second to show off a few gifts from a good friend, received over the holidays:

Remember when I said I wanted some Scar Stuf? Well, my good friend Dr. Shocker delivered, bringing with the beloved 'Stuf a bit of green, ghoulish Glow Goop.

He also grabbed me a copy of a very fun book, one most Monster Lovin' Kids had in the mid-'70s:

Oh yeah... you'd better know it's another Scholastic masterpiece. I'll give this one a write up soon.

Thanks Dr. Shocker, for the fine gifts.

And thanks, Keek, for the goofiness.

Enjoy your week, everyone. We'll be open any time you need it.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Legends of Sleepy Hollow.

... or Legend of Sleepy Hollows.

Sleepies Hollow?

Moving on.

We were watching a special about the American Revolutionary War on some big cable channel that always plays stuff about 'history' (the name of the channel escapes me). We fell to talking about other nations and peoples that were involved in the War for Independence, and she brought up Hessians... and it got me thinking about conscripted soldiers, Redcoats, brown coats and no coats in the snow, muskets, horses, and horsemen.

Headless horsemen.

I've mentioned Washington Irving's best known spectre before, with an old LP download here, and a fine poem from a friend here. This last inspired me to put Bing's classic cut of the Headless Horseman song on the ol' S&P jukebox for a time.

But other than my friend's poetry, all of those previous references were strictly in the Disney vein. I thought a quick look at other treasures based on the tale would be great discussion for this li'l ol' pub...

Don't mistake me. I love the 1949 Disney version with a passion, and I submit most of us under the age of 55 or so would have not been exposed to this classic story as early as we were, but for The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad.

If anyone has this sheet music, please just give it to me. Please.

I have a Legend of Sleepy Hollow shelf in my room, and there are a few Disney version goodies residing there... this very cool and pretty pin set, along with two sweet little Headless & Ichabod plushies from the Disney Store years ago (you'll see them at the far right end of the shelf a few pics down).

But the other well known version is represented bigly (I know it's not a word) in figures and model kits, etc...

There are those cute plush figures on the far right.

What's that you say? The other soft, stuffed animal looking figure with the tree? That is an Annalee Doll produced in very limited quantities some 20 years ago. It is a fine Hallowe'en gift from my aunt Kathy!

A little detail, a classic Annalee hand painted design.

I love best, though, the many artistic interpretations of Irving's tale. Since its first publication in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent (1820), the idea of the ghostly pursuit has captured the imaginations of artists the world over... each, for all their similarities, so different.

Ichabod Pursued By The Horseman F.O.C. Darley, 1849

The Headless Horseman
John Quidor, 1858 (just a year before Irving's death)

Nearly a century later in 1949, Mary Blair was designing the look of Disney's retelling of the tale.

The next two are both from the legendary Frank Frazetta:

... and this rather Frazetta-like concept belongs to Charles Keegan:

Trevor Watts etched this beauty of a logo a few years back.

This beautifully sketched Headless Horseman Revisited is from Walter Pax.

Lovely images, all. There are so many to see, and it seems any search engine, library or gallery can find you hundreds of unique artistic renditions of the 190-year-old ghost story.

One of these nights, we'll entertain with various audio renditions of the tale.

Until then, I must admit... I keep finding myself drawn to THIS:




Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home Boo-vies.

No, I don't have a cold (if I had it would've been spelled 'Hobe Bovies'). Just a cute pun in the spirit of... uh, spirits.

Trying to find and maintain the Hallowe'en spirit is never a very difficult thing for me (and most of you, I'm sure), but I know it can be daunting for some, especially in the midst of a snowy, cold January when the Big Night is 9 months away and you aren't living in a spook-friendly home such as mine.

When you're needing a shot of Hallowe'en you know you can always come here for a warm cup of Autumn Dark, to discuss and revive the bonfire of Hallowe'en camaraderie.

The thing that always helps is audio-visual input (hence this pub, duh!).

Something Weird Video has been helping us do that for a long, long time.

One of their best compilation DVDs, Monsters Crash The Pajama Party: Spook Show Spectacular, is a real hoot, and seriously needs to be on your DVD shelf.

From that DVD's many, many hours of incredible vintage trailers, movies, photos and music from spook shows and dark rides comes this little snippet of 8mm Hallowe'en home movie action from the early '70s.

I thought it would be kinda fun to present this silent footage with an excerpt from WKBW 1510 AM Buffalo NY's 1973 Hallowe'en Broadcast (which I've discussed before).

It's just a few minutes of the late, great Jim Mclaughlin delivering his charmingly chilling introduction to the night's radio-flavored festivities.

I'll mention it again -- if you wish to hear the entire evening's broadcast from Hallowe'en Night '73, including commercials for local bars, record stores and WKBW itself, please do yourself a massive favor and pick it up here. For free.

Does anyone have any other home movies or video they wouldn't mind sharing? I'll get a better screen, and we can all bring snacks and set 'em up all night long.

Spook on-

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Object lesson.

Someone always has to spoil the fun, or try to. Not unlike the bullies in the story just posted, a few people tried to inject this pub with loud, obscene drunken swearing and public displays of general annoyingocity, in the course of the last 6 hours or so.

Another fellow was not at all rude or vulgar, but obviously did not read the post about which he commented, and left a URL for his own blog which had absolutely nothing to do with what the S&P is about, or who any of us may be.


I was hoping to keep the feel of this fine little place as open and free as possible, but I think as we get a little more known and more often visited, it is now necessary (especially after the junk I had to clean out this morning) for your proprietor to moderate comments. That is, you can comment all you wish, but I have to approve it before it actually posts.

Of course, I'm easy. I mean really, really easy. I'll approve anything except vulgarity and ads/URLs for sites having no bearing on or relation to the essence of this site.

Do not make me send Spider after you!

This way, we can still be the family friendly (eh mostly), good-natured and free speaking place we want to be!

And to future obnoxious pub crawlers who try to ruin the fun for the rest of us, at least do yourself the service of reading the entire post and getting the feel of this place before commenting with low words, high volume and URLs for completely unrelated blogs. This way, we can actually enjoy each others' company in the future!

As Criswell says:
We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives! And remember my friends, future events such as these, will affect you in the future!

Please keep visiting, commenting, and sharing your own stories.

Here Comes Spider!

Gather 'round, children.

... for once again, it's story time.

Among the many titles on the shelves of the Skull & Pumpkin reside numerous 'old school' works; books that shaped us, books that changed the way we looked at our world, but mostly the books we simply enjoyed as children.

Like Hallowe'en itself, some of the books we grew up reading are timeless, and continue to delight. For those of us who are Autumn People, the stories concerned with Hallowe'en are especially beloved, no matter how small...

So gather 'round, and I'll tell you the tale of Spider, and how he saved Hallowe'en...

(In case, I don't know... you thought the cover was lying?)

It was Hallowe'en Eve and, try as I might, I couldn't think of a good disguise.

No matter what costume I tried on, I still looked like me.

I went to see my good friend Ladybug, hoping she might help.
She was on the porch carving a jack o'lantern with Fly.
"I hope I'm not intruding," I said.
"You're always intruding," said Fly.
"Hush Fly," said Ladybug. "Come in Spider, you're always welcome."
"Thank you," I replied. I never felt that Fly liked me. But Ladybug liked me enough for two!

"Why aren't you wearing your costume?" asked Ladybug.
"Because my problem is that no matter what I put on I still look like me."
"That is a problem," said Fly.
"We'll solve it," said Ladybug. "Let's go inside, and Fly and I will get into our costumes. It will help us get ideas."
"Good," I said.
Fly went into the bathroom. Minutes later he came out in a beard and cap.

"Who am I?" asked Fly.
"Santa Claus," I replied.
"Wrong," said Fly. "I'm one of the seven dwarfs."

Then Ladybug excused herself and went into the bathroom to change into her costume.
Minutes later she emerged.

"Who am I?" asked Ladybug.
"A witch," I said.
"Correct," said Ladybug.

"Now for you," said Ladybug. She dressed me up in ladies' clothes.
"You still look like you," said Fly.

"Still looks like himself," said Ladybug.
"Looks even more like himself," said Fly.

A cowboy suit wasn't much better.

We all put our heads together to think of a costume that would really disguise me.
Suddenly there was a sickening SQUASH from the porch.

We all ran outside to see what it was.
Ladybug's jack o'lantern was wrecked!
Two bullies with baseball bats were hooting and running away.

Ladybug burst into tears. "Our beautiful pumpkin!" she cried.
"And it's too late to get another," moaned Fly. "Hallowe'en is ruined!"
"It's true," I said. "Hallowe'en without a pumpkin just isn't Hallowe'en."
I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started feeling sorry for my friends.

Then I got an idea. "Color me orange!" I said. They colored me orange.

While they were coloring me orange, I cut up a piece of green construction paper.
"Paste this onto my head," I said.

Fly got the paste jar. Ladybug did the pasting.

Then I took a black marker and drew lines on myself and blacked out my front teeth.

"You're a pumpkin!" they both exclaimed. "Hallowe'en isn't spoiled after all!"

"You're darn tootin'," I said. "On to trick or treat!"

We trick-or-treated all over the neighborhood, and everyone gave us lots of treats and admired our costumes... especially the walking, talking pumpkin.

At last our bags were full and we headed home -- when who should we see coming down the street but the two bullies who had smashed the jack o'lantern, They were heading our way with cans of shaving cream.

"They'll spray us with shaving cream!" cried Ladybug.
"They'll steal our trick or treats," moaned Fly.
"No they won't," I said. "They're bullies, and bullies are cowards. Quick. Hide behind this bush."

Just as the bullies passed by, I jumped out and screamed "BOO!"

The bullies dropped their shaving cream and ran away screaming, "A pumpkin ghost! A pumpkin ghost! Save us! Save us!"

We went back to Ladybug's house and counted our loot. Ladybug planted a kiss on my cheek and Fly shook my hand.
"Because you saved Hallowe'en," said Ladybug.
"I must admit you did it," said Fly. "You saved Hallowe'en."

I guess I had. And I was very happy to have saved Hallowe'en for my two dear friends, Fly and Ladybug.


I love the crayon and marker simplicity, except that Spider says he drew lines on himself but there are no lines -- that always irked me.

I also love that the senior bug couple who open their door to our trick-or-treating heroes look just like the bullies. They could be those bullies' grandbugs!

Robert Kraus wrote and illustrated this tale and first published it in 1973 through -- who else? -- Scholastic Books (this very copy is a first edition salvaged from my youth). I recall my mother reading it to us then.

It's still in print.... I wonder if Scholastic will ask me to remove these images.

By the way, Kraus wrote 15 other Spider tales (including tales of how Spider saved other well-known holidays). I've never seen any of them. Have any of you?

I hope you've all enjoyed story time... and how 'bout that clever, resourceful Spider, eh? Taking down mean people (well, bugs) and helping his friends at the same time. Them be some fine instincts, and a lesson for us all.

Thanks Spider!