Saturday, February 22, 2014


According to Norse mythology, Ragnarök (the Viking equivalent of the Apocalypse) was predicted to occur today.  Here's are some of the highlights of what you can expect to witness:

Jörmungandr, a gigantic serpent so huge that it is able to completely encircle Midgard (Earth) will be unleashed, which causes a chain of events that will cause the end of all things.  The serpent will begin wreaking havoc amid the seas of Midgard as Hrym (an evil frost giant) sets sail on his ship Naglfar (which is made from fingernails) to cause some of his own brand of chaos.  Loki (a treacherous god of deceit and father to Jörmungandr who had been imprisoned by the other gods) will also join the fray. 

Meanwhile, Fenrir, a gargantuan fire-breathing wolf (and another of Loki's offspring) will open his gigantic mouth.  His maw is so large that his lower jaw will touch Midgard while his upper jaw will reach all the way up to Asgard (the otherworldly home of the gods).

The sky will be cracked in half as the sons of Muspell (fire giants) attack, being led by Surtr (who has a sword that shines brighter than the sun).  Surtr and his horde will ride across and collapse the Bifröst (a rainbow bridge connected the realms of Midgard and Asgard) and then join forces with Jörmungandr, Hrym, Fenrir, and Loki.  This unholy alliance will meet in battle against Odin (the king of the gods), Heimdall (a guardian of the Bifröst), Thor (Odin's son and the god of thunder), Víðarr (another one of Odin's sons), the forces of Asgard and men who had ascended to Valhalla (viking heaven) in an epic, apocalyptic battle.

Fenrir will consume Odin, but Víðarr will avenge him.  Loki and Heimdall will kill each other.  The god of thunder, Thor will battle a giant serpent called Jörmungandr to the death.  Thor will win but will be poisoned by the beast's venom will and die in the process.  Finally, Surtr will engulf the Earth in flames and ruin.

If you happen to perish during Ragnarök, don't fret too much.  Some scholars view this as a cyclic event that has happened before and may happen many more times in the future...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Creaking Door - "Three Wishes"

I have flown. I have sailed.  I have moved about this world of ours and ever in search of the finest of its kind.  We bring you the tops in spine chillers...  The Creaking Door!

Good evening, friends of the Creaking Door.  The Creaking Door is now...  Open.

So began each episode of the radio series as the sinister-sounding host bade the listeners welcome, all while the titular door ominously creaked open...

My grandma has often reminisced about gathering with her brothers and sisters around the radio and cringing at the sound of that door.  She claims it was the cause of many sleepless nights and yet, she couldn't resist the thrills and chills of listening just a little bit longer.

(This is not a picture of my grandma... Although it could be!)
The Creaking Door was yet another great radio drama from the 1950's that ran up through the 60's.  Much like The Sealed BookThe Creaking Door's episodes primarily consisted of tales of suspense, mystery, and the supernatural.  The Creaking Door began as Inner Sanctum, but after switching studios the name had to be changed even though the show remained very much the same, having the same writers and producer.

Enjoy this episode which is entitled "Three Wishes".

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Released in 1923, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a highly ambitious film released by Universal Studios.  With massively elaborate sets, a "cast of thousands", and a stellar troupe of actors this movie was destined to become a classic.

An adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a silent film that takes place in 15th century France and tells the story of Quasimodo, a deaf, half-blind hunchback who serves as the bell-ringer for the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Quasimodo lives a peaceful life in spite of his disdain for the people of the outside world. But all of that changes when his master becomes obsessed with the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda and bids the hunchback to kidnap the girl, setting into motion a series of events forever change Quasimodo.

For this movie (and subsequent other period films) Universal created a huge medieval back lot which included a painstakingly replica of Notre Dame's cathedral.  Using glass matte paintings and long shots, the filmmakers convincingly recreated 15th century France.  The advertisements at the time spectacularly boasted that the film had "a cast of thousands", but this actually was the case.  Universal hired hundreds of actors to portray crowds of peasants, soldiers, and other background characters.  Indeed, this film is grand spectacle on a truly epic scale.

Despite being more of a drama than an actual horror movie, the plot primarily focuses the character Esmeralda and her plight against a backdrop of class warfare.  However, Lon Chaney's performance as the titular hunchback earns his portrayal of Quasimodo a place amongst the other iconic "Universal Monsters".

Lon Chaney puts on a spectacular performance as Quasimodo, showing a wide range of emotions even while wearing the various appliances he uses to give the appearance of the deformed hunchback.  Lon Chaney was often called "the man of a thousand faces" because of his innovations in theatrical make-up and prosthetics that allowed him to become a variety of characters throughout his career including the "vampire" from London After Midnight  and Erik from The Phantom of the Opera.  

For The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Chaney used false teeth, a wig,  mortician's wax to create new facial features, and a home-made wire device that served to distort his jaw. To create the hunched back effect Chaney wore a leather hump weighing about 20 pounds (Although some reports contend the apparatus weighed as much as 70 pounds!).  Additionally, a special harness altered Chaney's gait, keeping him in a semi-crouched position.  Even though he wore all of this equipment to change his appearance, Chaney's performance is not limited in any way and he is Quasimodo in this movie.

Personally, I really enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the old silent films.  I'd always heard about Chaney's performance in this film and I was glad to see that much of the hype was true.  Quasimodo is a character that you can definitely sympathize with and this is thanks very much to the actor who masterfully portrayed him.

For your viewing pleasure:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day from Godzilla

The King of the Monsters wishes you a Happy Valentine's Day!  Apparently someone made Godzilla valentines (Complete with stickers!) back in the early 2000's.  Where were these when I was a kid?!?  

From Godzilla and Kaiju fan page

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I remember it vividly, despite being in first grade and about age 6 at the time.  It was the most coveted book in our small elementary school library.  I remember so many times coveting the book, envying my classmates that had already checked it out themselves.  Demand for this book was so high that sometimes students would check it out even multiple times before the librarian caught on and prohibited the practice. 

Every chance I got, I would always make my way to that bookcase in the back of the school library on the very bottom shelf.  So often I would leave that corner in disappointment, having found its place on the shelf vacant, yet again.  But this time was different.  There it was.  Finally.  It was mine.  Even though I was too terrified to even dare flip through the pages, I couldn't wait to get home and begin reading...

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  

The title, for me, still inspires simultaneous feelings of glee and apprehension.  Written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, the original book would go on to become a collection of three with the addition of More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3:  More Tales to Chill Your Bones.  

To 6 year-old me, they served as extremely potent nightmare fuel.  Case in point:  The illustration for the story of The Thing. I'll never forget seeing that image for the first time and literally dropping the book to run to the other side of the room...

That lip-less mouth and those sunken,piercing eyes haunted me for years.  To this day, that unholy creature stalks my nightmares and any time something goes bump in the night, I am convinced that it is this face that is watching and waiting for me in every darkened hallway.  Even though I have viewed the image countless times, it still manages to send shivers down my spine!

The stories for the books were "collected from folklore and retold by" Schwartz.  Despite being very old stories that have been told time and time again to countless generations, at that time in my childhood they were very fresh and very terrifying.

As good as the stories were, what this series will always be remembered for is the illustrations!

Stephen Gammell, using ink and water, so perfectly created a disturbing and haunting series of drawings that the images were burnt into the consciousness of the children who read them. The pictures are so hideously disturbing and yet so captivating and surreal and ethereal that throughout my life I have been inspired by Gammell's work.  

With such terrifying images presented to such a young audience, it's little wonder that this series was so controversial (Personally, I was unaware of this until just a few years ago and having been exposed to these at a young age, I was quite surprised when I discovered this fact).  Apparently the books were heavily challenged by parents at the time of their initial publishing and were actually banned from libraries in several states.

No doubt, however, the books did manage to "warp" the minds of countless youths.  I was delighted to find that my wife had had similar experiences with these books in her elementary years as well. In fact, on one of our first dates we bought a treasury collection of the three books.  

The legacy of horror continues...