Thursday, March 31, 2011


I know, I know... we're open a bit earlier than usual today.

But there's a great reason.

Two of the three Rondo Award nominees I was voting for won their category, and a third made a close runner up!

Raise glasses, all...

I wish to congratulate the Frankensteinia blog for its Best Blog award! It was the one I felt was most deserving, and it is gratifying to think so many horror fans felt the same way. A fine blog and a fine award, Pierre!

Also, a big congratulations to another personal favorite: the wonderful Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped The World won for Best Independent or Documentary Film! Way to go Bill, Cortlandt and most of all the Cool Ghoul himself, Zacherley! Such a fun DVD, go get it!

Alas, it was not a true sweep for my voting block. Monsterverse's unique Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave made for a very close runner-up in the Best Horror Comic category, but was just shy of the mark. Here at the S&P, though, it's been a real winner since it was published in November 2010. I cannot wait to see the next issue! Congrats to Sam, Kerry and the gang at Monsterverse!

Everyone -- a toast to the winners, and best of luck in the future... for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives!



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Son of The Ghoul Goes West, part 666.

Hi there S&P brains!

It's been a busy stretch of nights down in the basement/laboratory underneath the ol' Skull & Pumpkin.

As most of you know, Monsterpalooza is just around the corner, and your humble Pubkeep and his much, much better half are going to be driving out to Burbank for the entire convention weekend.

Coming with us at the invitation of Eliot Brodsky -- Mister 'Palooza himself -- Nevermore the Raven will be on display at this year's Museum, but in disguise...

Yes, Nevermore is all dressed up in tribute to the late, beyond-magnificently-great Vincent Price in honor of Price's centennial year!

I just thought he needed a little panache, something Vincent would have approved with a low, luxurious chuckle. I put the vest together and added the watch fob chain and carnation, and then I realized he needed those little glasses, as a reference to one of my favorite Price/Poe/Corman films, The Tomb of Ligeia (1964).

While not screen accurate (I had to add the metallic frame paint or the glasses disappeared against his black feathers), I think the Verdon Fell glasses are a great finishing touch, and add a little something extra that Price and Poe lovers will appreciate.

And yes, he will be speaking nothing but Price poetry, about a ten minute routine that will repeat the entire weekend, just as Uncle Forry did last year.

Listen for yourself.

I wrote "listen" because the video is so poor, but it gives you a nice idea of what is to come.

The organ music is from the mighty monstery mind of the late Verne Langdon, who had been the Monster of Ceremonies at the last two Monsterpaloozas (-paloozi?) and would have been for this coming 'palooza but is instead having it dedicated to his memory. Miss you, Verne.

So... whew! just about done with everything.

There will be more of Nevermore (does that even make sense?) as we get to Monsterpalooza. I'll keep everyone apprised like last time, and I really look forward to the entire experience, once again.

What a thrill it is to display my own hobby work among the professional works of so many luminaries in the field, and what an amazing honor to be tributing Mr. Price at one of the now-premiere horror conventions in the world, in the year of his one hundredth birthday.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Games people play.

Right, wrong -- they just can't stop it.

This vintage postcard image was sent to me by loyal S&Per Greymatter (must be the brains of the outfit, thanks GM!) and while I haven't the slightest notion of what is meant by '5allowe'en' or why it should require courage, it makes me happy.

It also immediately reminds me that some posts back I promised to post more about Hallowe'en games.

Unlike that post, however, this one will go decidedly "old school".


That Hallowe'en is traditionally a time of fortune-telling and fortune-seeking is nothing new, but for many younger, modern Autumn folks, the notion of Hallowe'en as a romantic, match-making holiday might seem a little odd if not plain wrong.

I don't mean the ill-conceived pairings that often stumble into each other at drunken Hallowe'en parties; lying face down in someone's shower stall waiting for the ambulance and a stomach pump somehow strikes me as less than romantic, and hardly a good omen for your personal future, let alone your romantic future with the stranger who kissed you then had to call 911 'cause your eyes never opened after the kiss.

But to All Hallow's Eve celebrants in Victorian days and well into the turn of the 20th century, Hallowe'en was a decidedly romantic time for grown ups, for young men, sure, but especially for young women who were ready (or at least thought they were ready) for marriage and motherhood... and the little sisters of those same young women, who loved the giggling, grandiose pre-teen fantasy of romance.

For evidence of this, one need look no further than the vintage Hallowe'en postcard.

AH! Witches, young girls and bobbing for apples. As vintage Hallowe'en as it gets.

Apple bobbing, or 'ducking', was ridiculously popular at Hallowe'en for generations, and especially from the 1900's until at least the 1940's (and it features for a short moment in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1966, so it held on for a long time. Yuck!). 

The variations were many, but one of the most popular was a ducking game where three of the apples had hidden inside them a dime, a ring, or a button. These respectively denoted the finders fortune, romance or "single blessedness" (you have to love the Victorian zeal to remove from the loser the embarrassment of loserhood by simply calling it something else). 

Another variant has the bobber (does that make the apple the bobbee?) 
sleep with that apple under their pillow that night to see their future sweetheart 
in their dreams. I imagine it was even better if their future sweetheart was a 
chiropractor after that particular night's sleep.

In other versions, young would-be brides were admonished to eat the apple 
as they brushed their hair at midnight, and they would see 
the reflection of their future groom in the mirror.

But if she turned to look over her shoulder to see if he was really there, he'd disappear, 
and then who knew what would replace his reflection?

In fact, mirrors figure prominently in early Hallowe'en romance games. 
The variations here too are many, but the common denominator was 
waiting until midnight, the witching hour

I think, given what's actually happening here, this girl seems awfully calm and in control. 
In case it's difficult to read the text:

May the reflection which you see 
Be the counterfeit of me.

Seems more Mirror of Erised than anything else, but maybe that was high romance back then.

 A girl, her pumpkin-vanity mirror, and yes folks, that's CUPID, stinkin' cherubic li'l Cupid
up there on a Hallowe'en postcard. He shows up here too:

Apparently Cupid, dressed as a witch, got people to do all these weird things. A candle's
grease will spell the name of your partner? Hhmmm... no chance for cheating there!

Another water bowl divination game, this time a Scottish card depicting a
Scottish tradition. The three 'luggies', as the wooden bowls are called, are filled with
clean water, dirty water and no water, by touching which the blindfolded player
would decide if they were marrying a virgin, will be widowed, or 
will not find love -- all while Big Jupiter Head Disco Man 
prepares to enter the Time-Space Portal. What?

Blowing out candles as expediently as possible was another 
means of romantic divination. As the above card tells us,
a single puff meant the best chance of wedding soon; two
meant less of a chance, and three or more meant you
would, um... enjoy "single blessedness" for the coming year.

I absolutely do not know what any amount of puffs on a candle attached
to a swinging apple meant to anyone's romantic plans, and am a little
afraid to find out. All I can really say is, given the amount of
volatile makeups, clothing, hair pomades and perfumes in those days, this was
a really, really good idea and made for many fun parties.

Apples are prominent Fall fruits, so they play a large part in these old games, and one
of my favorites is the Peeling Game, where players try to peel an apple with
a long, single slice, and wherever it breaks, toss it over their shoulder to the floor.
The fallen peel's shape will indicate the initial(s) of your soon-to-be-betrothed.
The beyond-chance preponderance of Victorian marriages to men with names
beginning with s, e, u, c and o is finally explained.

Here's a game for which I can locate no illustration, but must share as I read in 

"... at dusk on Halloween night, sit in front of an open fire with your friend or love. Each of you should take a nut and place it in front of the flames. Watch the nuts to see if they glow and smolder, or burst and crackle. If both glow and smolder, it means that your relationship will be a lasting one. If one bursts, or worse, if both burst and crackle, it means that your relationship will end in a terrible argument."

Yep. Probably over why you chose to play a game that ended with her getting glowing cinders
of hot, exploded nut shell in her eyes.


Oh, the traditional Victorian Hallowe'en Romance Game.
So warm, so normal, so not weird at all.

Apparently, some of us quite literally would not be here but for you.

More games to come another time.
For now, next week's trip to Monsterpalooza looms large...
More soon!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

One more chance...

... for you to cast your vote(s) in the fan-created, fan-supported, fan-voted Rondo Awards!

There was a slight typo/misunderstanding on the Rondo website that led many to be confused about the actual deadline. But the deadline is midnight tonight, Sunday the 27th.


I wish once more to convince, influence, cajole, beg on my knees for you to go to the site, copy and paste the ballot into your favorite word program, and vote only on the categories you wish -- seriously, if you don't know anything about a category, wing it or leave it out; I promise there will be no Horror Fan Goons knocking on your door at 4 am.

All I beg, quite unfairly and rather undemocratically, is that you at least vote for these nominees in these categories:

For Best Independent Film or Documentary:
  Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped The World

Best Blog:
Best Horror Comic:
  Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave (Monsterverse)

There are plenty of other categories and nominees for which I've voted -- best website, best convention (care to take a guess?), best toy, and so on. Every nominee is quite deserving, and it's a tough series of choices for the fanatical follower of horror culture.

But I'll leave the rest to you. I just wanted to make sure that you loyal S&Pers knew about the deadline 'extension' and the chance to get your votes in!

Send your completed ballot to David Colton -- -- before midnight tonight!

Thank you in advance.

I'm the Pubkeep and I approve this message...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kiara, the crayontastic kid.

Listen up, good S&Pers.

Just a few nights ago, the as-you-all-know-by-now-light-of-my-life Kiara worked up a fascinating study in abstract horror I thought I should share.

So proudly I present:
Green-faced Legless Long Tailed Cat with Vampire Who Turned Cat
Into a Vampire Cat, with Arrows and Blood Trails
12 x 17", crayon on cut-up grocery bag, 2011

It's a real beauty.

She told us that the cat has this really really long tail that the vampire bit thinking it was the cat's neck, but it didn't work right away because it was the cat's tail, you see.

Then, the blood from the bite went up through the tail and outside the tail to the cat's face, which turned green because now the cat's a vampire cat, and his fangs send blood back down to the tail and the vampire.

Totally makes sense.

Here's the vampire, sending his vampire blood like lightning along the tail. Complete horror.

The Vampire Cat has these enormous fangs that 'send blood'. You can also
see the legless bean-shaped body, and the base of the longest cat tail
the art world has ever seen.

It exhibits a kind of unbound artistic abandon to which Picasso, dare I say even Dali, would tip their respective  berets.

It also makes me smile.

It will adorn the walls of this delightfully dark den of decor, forevermore.

 Kiara, the artist. The Kiartist.

The next time we have her over, I am going grab the camera and have her tell us a scary story.
In dim red light with a flashlight held below her face, as she now does.
There may be exploding dogs in it. 

Proud Pa.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fear for thought -- the Current Events edition.

Welcome, welcome.

As you can see, there've been a lot of visitors lately, good Autumn People all, but hanging around a bit longer than usual, enjoying the orange-black goodness with a bit more fervor. Seemingly not wanting to leave too soon.

Not wanting to be back in front of their TVs while the news just keeps getting more and more alarming, and alarmist.

Oh, no doubt about it, this lovely little blue-green ball has endured a really rough stretch of recent weeks -- abductions, murders, earthquakes and tsunamis, oil prices rollercoastering, regional revolution, nuclear meltdowns, economic collapse, disease, war, death.


Well, perhaps I'm overstating things a bit. I know, shame on me -- overstating is the provenance of every talking head on TV and chatterbox on the radio -- but I'm trying to get to a point that seems appropriate for the days we are currently enduring. 

How many times have you good Autumn People been asked:

"With all the insanity going on all around the world, how can you be enjoying all this horror stuff? Why do these freaks even make up all this horrible stuff when there's so much real horror in the world?"

Surely, reams have been written on the restorative, cathartic nature of fantasy in general and horror in particular. One of the best (in overall message if not always in informed or agreeable detail) is Stephen King's Danse Macabre, a thirty year old treatise on the horror culture in literature, cinema, radio and television. Point is, infinitely superior thinkers and writers have answered the question (and the myriad backward notions implied in the question) many times, and far better than I could ever attempt at this humble Skull & Pumpkin public house.

But I can at least touch on something that is good to remember in tough times, whether our troubles are personal or communal.

If we never needed our horror before, we sure do need it now. Perhaps more than ever.

We talk about 'escapism' so often, but honestly? We do not escape into our horror fantasies. We require their presence in order to deal with what real horrors assail us. Fake horror is a result of real horror, a direct product of our attempts to cope with the unpredictability and cold hardness of the world. It's not escape, it's coping.

Look at Japan.

Seriously, I'm not trying to be funny... at all. I gape in real horror at the things happening there lately. But you cannot deny that at some point since the quake the image of Godzilla has crossed your mind when yet another cycle of new dangers assaults the island. Not as a joke, but simply as a way to get your brain around what in hootin' hell's befallen those poor people.

Gojira was created in direct response to the horrors of nuclear weaponry and testing, and to the status of Japan as the only nation to have ever suffered atomic attack. The real horror preceded the fantasy, created it.

Now, I'm not at all suggesting that the filmmakers were thinking of anything more than filming a good yarn and hopefully making a profit. But the main plot point has the monster being born of American nuclear weapons testing, so it is simply beyond argument that Ishiro Honda would never have created his beast if the Bikini Atoll's poisoning of the Daigo Fukuryƫ Maru fishing vessel hadn't already been in his nightmares. There is no Godzilla without Los Alamos, no kaiju without Trinity.

The giant, reptilian, atomically mutated fire-breathing coping mechanism has become, for most of the globe, a symbol of post-WWII Japanese culture, or at least foreign perceptions of that culture. It is a ready icon for troubled nights when we feel small, vulnerable to the whims of gargantuan forces so far removed from logic and reason that we don't even feel safe in our homes.

The icon works for us because at the end of the films, we live. We came right up close to death, and we walked away clean, We live, and more importantly the monster dies. Well... until the next story, the sequel. The need to resurrect the Bad Thing is eternal, because our fear of bad things happening is eternal, because the potential for bad things is eternal.

So Godzilla and all the beloved kaiju will always be around to help. Just like:

America's own post-WWII atomic nightmares came in the form of just as giant, just as destructive creatures as Japan's. The only difference is in style. The core concerns for the survival of society, of man as a social animal, are paramount.

Did I mention something about survival and society?

If Vietnam, the Hippie Movement and the Sexual Revolution (among other things) hadn't taken place, the horror-questioners would have never had Night of the Living Dead to kick around. Our collective fears seek release and catharsis when fearful things happen, and even in times of relative calm, we still find the need to explore and exorcise our anxieties about the ease and speed with which things just fall apart, about how simply we'd freak the heck out and let everything fall apart if our neighbors and relatives -- our children! -- began eating us.

It's important to make that journey, to explore the darkness.

Isn't that so much of what Hallowe'en has always been about? Facing our deaths, walking away with our lives -- for now -- and exploring how we react to fantasy horror in order to better deal with the real horror that we fear is bearing down on us at an accelerating rate. Hallowe'en did the job of a good horror movie before there were movies or cinemas to project them. Horror movies all aspire to the condition of the collective experience among right-thinking spirits that is Hallowe'en. The marriage is perfect.

I guess I'm saying when it comes to "why we like this stuff when there's so much real horror in the world", we're not escaping, we're diving headlong into the core of what scares us, and finding ways to dress it up to make it more palatable, less uncontrollable.

And I honestly believe that we all have within us the desire to slow down and look at the accident, even as we recoil in disgust at the mess and terror at the portent of our own death, someday, somehow. Most of us claim to be above the allure of dark things because, truthfully, all of us are partially this:

HOWEVER, we all eventually succumb to the allure of fantasy and horror and sci-fi (thanks for the term, Uncle Forry) because deep inside each of us, we are at least partially this:

... and if more people understood that, no one would ever question why we have always been and will forever be this:

The only reason there is fake horror in the world is because there has always been real horror in the world; the only reason some delve into the fantasy horror is because the world has always forced real horror upon us unannounced, and it is useless to try to flip the idea upside down.

The spooky is here to make us all feel better.

That's why we have Hallowe'en.

A toast to Hallowe'en, and to horror, and to the superior ability of Autumn People to handle both.


O' ZOM-beeee!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Feast of St. Patrick.

He got all the snakes out of Ireland, and we've been toasting him ever since.

As befits a pub, there will be a few leprechauns.

As befits a Hallowe'en pub, they will be scary leprechauns. Some of the scariest I've ever seen...

... and my personal favorite scary leprechauns:

And since we're doin' up a foine Saint Patty's to-do here at the ol' Skull & Pumpkin, why not t'row in a few ganders at one of the mar terrifoy'n aspects of the myt' of Oirland...

Aye, the banshee's a reg'lar bloodchiller, ain't she?

A fine St. Patrick's Day to all. 

And Happy Birthday to my sister Julie.

We'll be celebrating all day and night at the S&P. 

O' ZOM-beeee!