Southern Horror

I guess I should add a disclaimer from the get-go.  My post is not about the horror of an unexpected swallow of unsweetened tea or being served grits without salt, butter, or cheese.  No, that goes well beyond horror.  This is about the horror genre and its effects on the unexpecting.  The effects of being so scared your feet refuse to move. 

A pair of New Englanders find themselves lost, stuck up to the axles of their ’56 Ford in the middle of a Southern piney woods.  The light is quickly failing over a dilapidated Southern mansion sitting at the end of an overgrown drive.  Brothers, they discuss what to do and decide to spend the night in the abandoned mansion.  Never a smart move if you are familiar with Southern Gothic.

The Pendleton-Graves Home in Sparta, Georgia.
The Pendleton-Graves Home in Sparta, Georgia.
Photo by David Bulit

As they walk to the mansion a flock of pigeons are spooked…the makings of a Southern Gothic horror story for sure.  I can think of dozens of reasons it is a bad idea to spend the night in an abandoned mansion but then I have seen too many movie and TV episodes and have read too many horror stories.

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with Gothic Horror, specifically Southern Gothic Horror. That would be June 6, 1961.  It was a Monday night in front of a black and white TV.  I watched and listened to a lisping Boris Karloff introduce this week’s Thriller episode, “Pigeon’s From Hell.”  Murder by ax, Voodoo, Zombies, the Blassenville family with a history of abuse, all with bad Southern accents dripping from the screen like Spanish moss hanging from cypress trees.  

I jumped when character Johnny Banner is caught in the afore mentioned flock of pigeons, pigeons that represented the lost souls murdered. Later, I hid my eyes when the same character attempts to split his brother Timothy’s skull with a hatchet.  He does this after having had his own skull split by persons or “things” unknown. 

Love me some murdering Zombies with split skulls although my former Haitian baseball player says Zombies are a movie creation…wait was he Haitian or Jamaican?  Does it make a difference to Zombies? 

A Thriller a Day...: Pigeons From Hell: Season 1 Episode 36
Johnny ready to give forty whacks…wait, wrong movie.

Many years later I would read the short story with the same title the TV episode drew from.  It was written by pulp fiction icon and the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard.  The story was published posthumously in Weird Tales, a fantasy and horror magazine in 1938.  Despite “Thirties noir speak”, it is a good short story and a better story line than the TV version. 

Weird Tales - Wikipedia
Image from our favorite Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia

There is something baleful about abandoned Southern mansions, with or without pigeons or Zombies.  Doors and shutters hanging askew, broken windowpanes, paint peeling to expose the silver of many layers of whitewash underneath, old chimneys collapsing under their own weight.  Columns…one can almost hear the voices of the dead and abused in the breeze especially if you have an active eleven-year-old imagination…even an active seventy-year-old imagination.

A Thriller a Day...: Pigeons From Hell: Season 1 Episode 36
The decaying Blassenville sisters killed by…well, you’ll have to watch the episode on YouTube to find out.

In the late Sixties, our group of high school friends decided to explore the Brattonsville Plantation house near Rock Hill, SC…in the dead of night, near what is universally known as the witching hour.  Alcohol might have been a contributing factor; I don’t rightly remember.  I do remember there was a Mars/Venus component as we males wanted to impress the young women among our group.  Young women make young men stupid…stupider.

I won’t deny feeling a bit of trepidation as I thought about how close the name Blassenville was to Brattonsville and wondered if anyone had been practicing Voodoo within its less than comfy confines.  Pigeons?  Are there pigeons?

During those days Brattonsville was the perfect example of a “rundown” and abandoned Southern plantation.  The homeplace has since been renovated to its Antebellum glory as have the other buildings but I do not remember them that way. The mental vision I have is of a place perfect for Southern Gothic Horror.

I remember there was a full or near full moon and the unkept grounds seemed to glow with a light of their own as we made our way to the huge mansion house. In my mind I see the first story entryway door standing open, under the twin galleries’ roofs. The darkness beyond is inviting the lambs to a possible slaughter. 

Homestead House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Restoration of the Homestead began in 1975 and it was opened to the public a year later. http://chmuseums.org/history-hb/

One of the members of our group was well versed in Brattonville’s “supposed” history and regaled us with stories of a less than sane family, abused slaves, the Klu Klux Klan, cruel medical experiments and a Yankee spy hung from a pulley above an attic window.  Owned since before the Revolutionary War by a series of doctors, our historian told tales that made the Bratton doctors seem to be the combinations of Doctors Jekyll, Frankenstein, and Phibes.

We explored all the rooms and made our way to the third-floor attic, site of the medical laboratory and the hanging according to my date’s history lesson.  I had overcome my initial fear and found myself leading the group, not because of my bravery I assure you, but because I had the only flashlight.

Built for John Simpson Bratton Jr. and his wife Harriet Rainey Bratton in 1856. Then called “Forrest Hall,” it is now known as “Hightower Hall”. It could have been its own haunted mansion. https://chmuseums.org/hightower-hall-hb/

As my cute historian told her story of hangings and medical experiments, I found myself in the narrow and empty attic lab…not exactly empty.  There appeared to be examination tables and I fully expected to see a medical skeleton. Instead, a breeze drew my attention to an open window and the figure hung with a perfect hangman’s noose suspended there.   

I froze in place while my five friends took off like scalded haints.  My brain said run, my feet refused.  I might as well have been a tree rooted in place.  I froze long enough to realize what I was seeing was a department store mannequin.  The plastic kind…in fact one of its legs had fallen off.

As my fright dissipated, I found my feet and walked closer.  As the mannequin slowly turned in the breeze, I noticed a note held around its neck by a cord.  My flash revealed a single sentence written in red lipstick…”Mickey Mouse is a Jew.”  Yeah, kind of anti-climactic but a sentence that has kept me wondering for over fifty years. 

My friends? They didn’t leave me…I had the car keys. It did take a while to gather them up.

Historic Brattonsville main house.jpg
The Main House at Brattonsville with the memorable attic window visible
Picture by Zan Maddox of LaValla Maddox Design.

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The history of Brattonsville (documented history) includes  

The original home was built in 1776 by Colonel William Bratton who participated in the nearby Revolutionary War Battle between Patriots and Loyalist, The Battle of Huck’s Defeat. Brattonsville was used in the filming of the movie, The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson.

There was a one night stay by Jefferson Davis as he fled the surrender of Richmond in hopes of reaching Confederate troops in the South or West. (Supposedly this is when the spy was hung but I can find no documentation.)

Dr. J. Rufus Bratton, a York County Klan leader, was the inspiration for the book The Clansman and the 1918 movie it spawned, Birth of a Nation. I am not telling this with any sort of pride but history is history. My guess is Dr. Rufus Bratton was not a nice person when it came to race relations.

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Don Miller’s authors page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0pjOyQmBib8Mbptaegd7cbdhBk1Dqd3AwEssRjtjCtVGq4zxV2P_c9zKk

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The featured image is from another Southern Gothic film, Swamp Water, starring Walter Brennan, Dana Andrews, and Walter Huston.

“What a Wonderful Day For an Exorcism”

I was looking for a quote from a horror film or story. Something cute to go with a post I was writing and accidentally came across Sumerian demon Pazuzu’s quote from The Exorcist, “What a wonderful day for an exorcism.” 

Pazuzu (The Exorcist) - Wikipedia
Only a face a demon can love. Reagan possessed by Pazuzu The Exorcist Wikipedia

I paused for a moment…can we exorcise the demon possessing the White House in 2020? What about the demons in Congress? The Media? Qanon and the rest of the conspiracists? Can we exorcise the memories of the first three quarters of 2020? Will the last quarter be any better and what about 2021? Remember the first Mad Max movie? It took place in 2021.

The quote didn’t actually come from Pazuzu but from fourteen-year-old Linda Blair playing the possessed twelve-year-old Reagan MacNeil.  The demon had invaded Reagan and the little devil was having a conversation with Fathers Karras and Merrin who were attempting to exorcise him from the young girl. 

The quote was quite possibly the nicest thing Pazuzu voiced through Reagan in the movie.  If my Nannie had been around, she would have asked, “Do you eat with that mouth? And where did a fourteen year old learn language like that? You go break me off a switch. I’m gonna switch dem legs!”

Nannie, I taught middle school. I’ve heard worse and they all seemed to be possessed by Sumerian demons.

Pazuzu was holding on to his possession of Reagan as tenaciously as the coronavirus and most of his comments were meant to shock.…especially coming from the mouth of a supposed twelve-year-old.  And who could forget the throwing up of green slime with the force of a fire hose? Reminded me of some of our politicians TV advertisements.

Sphinx's Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review - The Exorcist — GameZilla  Media
The aftermath. Nasty green pea soup The Exorcist Sphinx’s Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review – The Exorcist — GameZilla Media

None of this has anything to do with the point I might be making…if I knew what that point might be.

I share on my Facebook page what I call “Don’s Fun Facts”.  Most are shared from either a humorous or historical standpoint, or both.  There is no rhyme or reason, just some thought that hits me.  Just something positive and informative.

I fell into “Don’s Fun Facts” like the quicksand I worried so much about as a child. In the Fifties and Sixties TV world, it seemed people died all the time by falling in to quicksand. Did you know there were two “I’m gonna die” quicksand scenes in the Sixties TV program Lost in Space? Really worried about that space quicksand but it seems quicksand was not the problem I thought it might be as a child.

Back to the point, “Don’s Fun Facts” is an attempt to lighten my little part of a world that has become as dark as the storm clouds settling over Sigourney Weaver’s high rise in Ghostbusters.  Her character, Dana, was possessed by a fake Mesopotamian demon, Zuul.  What is there about the Fertile Crescent that breeds demons?

I’m not sure what demon has possessed 2020…maybe all of them.

Again, back to the point. This is one of my two favorite times of the year, what I call Halloweenber. In its honor, I have begun to share Halloween Fun Facts intermixed with facts about the horror genre that helps drive it. 

I like the horror genre, books or movies, anytime of the year.  From reading Poe and Stroker to watching Jamie lee Curtis scream in Halloween and The Fog, I like a chill or two. If I can combine horror with a mystery story, I am in a reader’s heaven of sorts.  I just don’t want the tale to be too real.  I want space aliens, monsters, vampires, werewolves, zombies, or immortal killers wearing a William Shatner mask. I don’t want the real thing.

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  Times
Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle wearing his Captain Kirk mask. New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/movies/halloween-1978-review.html

I’m much more comfortable with make believe monsters than I am with monsters who might actually walk the earth.  An alien clown named Pennywise who goes about tempting children into rain sewers I’m okay with.  It’s not real…scary but not real.

Real serial killers dressing up like clowns, say John Wayne Gacy, I’m not okay with.  John Wayne Gacy murdering thirty-three victims is too real…just like 2020 is too real.

Killer Clown' John Wayne Gacy, who assaulted and killed 33 teenage boys in  US
The Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy https://www.indiatvnews.com/crime/news/killer-clown-john-wayne-gacy-who-assaulted-and-killed-teen-2872.html?page=1

If 2020 were a serial killer it would be dressed like “The Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy. I guess 2020 is a serial killer of sorts carrying a ventilator while dressed in “clown” scrubs with red face paint resembling blood drying around its fang-filled mouth.

I didn’t know at the time but the beginning chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand were too real as a deadly influenza bioweapon is released. Now we have the very real coronavirus.  Obviously, Corvid-19 is not as deadly as Captain Trips but it makes me pause to wonder…influenza season is here. I read Michael Crichton’s along the same lines, The Andromeda Strain.  Saw the movie too. “Quit it!” I’m scaring myself…good horror is not real, good horror is not real, good horror is not real! If I close my eyes the monster will go away.

Pictured (l-r): Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor of the the CBS All Access series THE STAND. Photo Cr: Best Possible Screengrab/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Abandoned cars and two survivors of Captain Trips in a scene from the yet unreleased The Stand remake. https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-news/the-stand-stephen-king-release-date-2020-1049649/

No, I’d rather watch Godzilla destroy a major world city on TV or Bela Lugosi bare his fangs and fade to black than watch a movie or read a book about a mega volcano in the heartland or an asteroid kerplunking into the middle of the Pacific like a  bowling ball dropped into a bowl of chocolate pudding.  Too real.

There is something about the idea of an exorcism that keeps coming back to me like chickens coming home to roost…killer chickens with fangs and razor sharp talons.  The orange rooster yells, “Go for the eyes! If they can’t see the truth….”

hens Archives - Karen Goat Keeper
An orange rooster from Quatro Knows Blog

Maybe we could get all the Catholic priests in the world to carry out a world-wide exorcism of the demons of 2020.  Teachers, we could do it virtually, right?  “Ala Kazam, begone! Especially you, you orange faced incubus!”

Vodun priests and priestesses can cast a spells on the little imp? Pins in dolls? No, according to a former baseball player I coached from Haiti, “It’s a bunch of movie hoodoo.”  If true Moise,  “Why were there chicken bones in your bat bag? Forget to clean up after your last trip to KFC? I think not” Besides, I’ve seen The Serpent and the Rainbow and The Skeleton Key.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) - IMDb
“Don’t bury me, I’m not dead.” The Serpent and the Rainbow https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096071/

I think an exorcism should be the order of the day…just not this day.  We should wait a month unless you are doing mail in or absentee voting. We don’t need priests or priestesses of any religion to cast a vote.  We can attempt to cast out our demons at the ballot box. Show up and vote.  January 20 would be “a wonderful day for an exorcism.”

Vote by Mail Drop-off Ballot Box | Oviatt Library
Exercising your Constitutional Right to cast out demons. I mailed mine in yesterday!

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Don Miller’s author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR35xJvzdxZiEkwOZ9X-zSJaHJPWe_2zlp_F52tyGagyOUCajeDIa9TNwFo

Vodun, also spelled Voodoo, Voudou, Vodou , or French Vaudou, is a religion practiced in Haiti that transported with slaves to the Southern United States, especially Louisiana. The spelling voodoo, once very common, is now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian religion. Wikipedia

Incidentally, the term Hoodoo used by my Haitian baseball player is a traditional African-American spirituality created by enslaved African-Americans in the New World. It is linked to Vodun, or Vodou, but is different. Hoodoo is very prevalent in Lowcountry South Carolina and coastal Georgia.

The “head spinning” image is from The Exorcist and taken from Pinterest.

Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies…and a Cold War Submarine, Oh My!

 

Horror movies?  It’s about sex…I knew sex would raise its ugly head…a pun maybe?  Not really.  It is about sex and other stuff too.

“A common piece of dating advice for young men years ago was to take their date to a scary movie. The tip was based on the idea that when their date got frightened, they would curl in for “protection”; thus, reinforcing a bond between the two (this is the G-Rated version of the rationale).” 1

Dateline early 1970.  We snuggled in the old Galaxie 500, popcorn, Pepsis, and Milk Duds at the ready.  Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers had made the rounds at walk-in movie theaters and several years later had been relegated to drive-ins.  It didn’t matter, the movie was cheap entertainment and presented an opportunity to spend some quality time with my date on the back row of the Newberry Drive-In.  Date?  We were destined to be married in the Summer of 1971 but were still tiptoeing around each other in early 1970.  It might have been better if we had stubbed our toes.  Our breakup was much more painful than a broken little toe.

The date was red-headed…as was Sharon Tate, the now-dead heroine of the movie.  She had a nice form as well put together…so had Sharon Tate.  As you can tell, at the time I was quite infatuated with both my date and Sharon Tate.  It was a shame Sharon had died in a horror much worse than any movie.  Shame the infatuation with my date died after the marriage.

The movie we watched was a horror-comedy…plenty of laughs from two inept vampire slayers, plenty of scares and blood-sucking from Count von Krolock and his vampire minions populating the snow and ice-covered Transylvanian castle.

The movie was mostly comedy and Sharon Tate’s cleavage, but for some reason, the opening credits grabbed our attention, a blood drop that trickled down and across, dropped, and bounced along as the title rolled.  The gothic music made our skin crawl.  We were hooked on something other than our libidos…the laughter was good…and the chills as we “curled in for protection.”

Much of my reading and viewing habits have revolved around horror, sci-fi along with murder and mayhem.  A perfect world is combining them all.  I like a good comedy but given a choice I’ll go with a murder mystery that twists and turns like switchbacks on a mountain road or horror that leaves one on the edge of your seats awaiting an electrical shock from fear…and I like the sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure.   Fade to black.

I’ve found vampires to be much more entertaining than werewolves or zombies…except for the werewolf transformation in some forgotten movie. As I remember, there was a very attractive female who suffered from lycanthropy and an aversion to clothes it would seem.  I think the movie was The Howling but I’m not sure.  She was quite fetching despite the body fur, but vampires are sexy.

The vampires of my younger day were well dressed in black tuxedoes with blood-red accouterments, were suave, had a foreign lisp and for some reason, women found them irresistible.   “Look into my eyes….”  Young females seemed to enjoy having fangs sucking on their necks.

When the heroine was penetrated, by the vampire’s fangs you guttersnipe, a look of sheer ecstasy came over her face and it was up to the boring but stalwart hero to save her and break the spell.  Save her by driving a stake through the heart of his rival before the count could exit his musty old coffin at sundown and plunge his glistening, long fangs into the soft neck of his victim.

A soft neck surrounded by expansive décolletage in Sharon Tate’s case.  Slowly feeding, rhythmically licking away her very lifeblood as the helpless young lady pants, “Oh, oh, oh!” Yep, it was about sex, but we faded to black during those days and let our minds and libidos create their own scenes.

I haven’t been a fan of the horror genre in film since the Eighties.  The violence became too graphic and the sexual innuendo and double entendres quite transparent…if there was any sexual insinuation at all.  It seems graphic violence and gore became the point.

Still, I loved John Carpenter even though just a few of his movies dealt with vampires or sexual overtones…well, there were plenty of scenes with young people trying to get busy only to be interrupted by a knife-wielding maniac.

The first two Halloween movies, The Thing and The Fog were my favorites… okay, I admit I liked the way Adrienne Barbeau filled out her flannel shirt and her voice as DJ Stevie Wayne reminded me of smooth bourbon, quite warming on a cool night…unless you lived in Antonio Bay and were attacked by whatever was inside of The Fog.

Said in a smooth and sultry voice, “But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog,” 

With the graphic violence of modern horror, I’ve turned more to the pages of books than the silver screen, now in bloody color.  I just don’t need to see heads exploding or bodies eviscerated, instead, I enjoy the special effects my mind creates along with the double entendres.

I’m probably not going to reread Frankenstein or Dracula; they have been read too many times.  Same with Poe’s horror stories.  I am not sure Bram Stroker even knew about the sexual innuendo he had created within his horror…whether he did or not, the sex was there…along with the horror.  Still, they got me started and sent me on to King, Koontz, Rice, and Straub.

As I think back to the scariest movie or book I ever read or saw, it was not horror per se and involved no vampires, werewolves or zombies…there was sexual innuendo in the movie, even some fade to black.  On the Beach by Neville Shute and the movie by the same title starring Gregory Peak as American submarine commander Dwight Towers and Ava Gardner as his Australian lover, Miora Davidson, scared me to death.

The plot is a simple one, nuclear war breaks out and we annihilate ourselves.  No one knows who started the war only that it, and the world is finished.  Radiation covers most of the earth except for Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South America and Africa.  Unfortunately, the last remaining pockets of humanity will slowly die of radiation poisoning as a death cloud creeps southward.  The United States is gone except for one lone submarine and her crew, now docked in Melbourne.

The end is near.  The book and movie cover the last few months left for humanity, only the cockroaches will remain.

The closing line from the book states, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”  In the movie’s closing, Waltzing Matilda plays against the backdrop of a submarine going home for the last time, deserted streets, homes, and arenas as a wind-blown banner is seen, its words hoping against reality, “There is still time, Brother.”

For someone growing up during the Cold War, it was scary.  For someone who, today, believes in Global Climate Change, the plea, “There is still time, Brother,” seems quite timely.  I doubt we will go whimpering, instead, we will continue to point our fingers blaming everyone else or our own demise.

The final scene begins at the 2:57 mark.

1Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., “5 Reasons We Enjoy Being Scared”, Psychology Today, October 19,2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thoughts-thinking/201810/5-reasons-we-enjoy-being-scared

All movie trailers were pilfered from YouTube.

The featured image is from https://www.surveycrest.com/blog/10-scariest-halloween-monsters/

Don Miller’s author page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Thanks!

Haunted Houses

 

“It was a mistake to think of houses, old houses, as being empty. They were filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears, drops of blood, the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that had ebbed and flowed between the walls, into the walls, over the years.”  -Nora Roberts, “Key of Knowledge”

An old farmhouse sitting on top of a hill.  Tall hemlock and walnut trees surround it.  The original front porch shone with a silvery gray color in the moonlight…from the silver paint applied by a wandering group of shysters who convinced the previous owners to let them paint the roof.  The silver paint had washed off by the first winter rain, staining the original lapboard that clad the old farmhouse.  The shysters were long gone.  Moss covered chimneys in disrepair rose above the rust-stained, metal shingles.  If you need a site for a horror film, I have one for you.

This was the house we purchased thirty-one years ago…a house we fell in love with as soon as we saw it.  A house we renovated and brought into the twenty-first century.  I wish we had left it the way it was when we first saw it but sometimes my memories are softer than the here and now.

Spirits reside here.  Renovations have not chased them away.

Mike Franks, a character from the television program NCIS made the follow observation, “With the memories we make. We fill the spaces we live in with them. That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live, the longer I live there, the spaces become filled with memories of naked women.”

I always laugh when I hear him say that.  I think too, our spaces become haunted not only with the memories of naked people but any person who has been lost…people we don’t even know…people who lived their lives and died within these walls.

Four families have contributed memories I believe haunt this old farmhouse.  Except for a period in the Fifties, it has been occupied continuously since 1892…a lot of spirits I would guess.

Despite our renovations, this old farmhouse still creaks and moans.  If the wind is just right and the TV is low, late at night you can hear the spirits…whispers in the dark, a light footfall, a woman’s giggle…or maybe just a scurrying mouse or a puppy moving in her sleep at the foot of the bed.  I choose the former.

Sometimes when I’m reading, as the witching hour approaches, I catch movement just outside the periphery of my vision…beyond the light cast by my reading lamp.  A shadow that doesn’t quite belong, a flash of light despite the darkness that surrounds me.  I don’t fear them, I welcome them.

We’ve spent thirty Halloweens inside of these walls…we’ve never had a trick or treater.  No little ghouls or goblins.  The house looks haunted in the darkness of night with little light filtering through the hemlocks.  It is their loss.  A not so wicked witch lives here.

I’m comfortable with my spirits.  The spirits residing here…and the ones I brought with me from a time gone by, from places that no longer exist anywhere other than my mind.  No vampires or werewolves, just spirits that lovingly caress a cheek or place a steadying hand lightly upon my shoulder.  Comfortable and loving spirits from a time long past who visit me every day, not just Halloween.

For more of Don Miller’s ramblings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.narcity.com/ca/on/ottawa/things-to-do-in-ott/a-giant-mansion-in-ottawa-is-being-transformed-into-a-creepy-haunted-house-this-october

TAP, TAP, TAP

“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” but vampires terrify me! DON’T LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW! I told myself I was just being ridiculous. “Yes I am but I ain’t taking no chances. I’m staying right here with the covers pulled over my head.”  It wasn’t Halloween but it might as well have been.
It was a spring evening, a Saturday night in the mid to late Seventies…the year, not the temperature. I don’t know why I remember certain things like it was “a Saturday night in the mid to late Seventies.”  I had just discovered Stephen King and was reading “Salem’s Lot.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with “Salem’s Lot,” it is a vampire yarn featuring bloodsuckers taking over an entire town. Besides being scary as hell, there is an instructional section devoted to…vampire protocols I guess? The section went farther than I must sleep in a casket on a bed of home soil, I risk a really bad sunburn if I appear before dark and in order to maintain my immortality I must feed on virginal blood and stay away from sharp, pointed stakes.
I had just read a vampire couldn’t come into your home unless you invited them in when I heard it. TAP, TAP, TAP. Alone, with no one to run to or call, I’m hearing a TAP, TAP, TAP on the window of my apartment. My second-floor apartment…moments after reading how “little vampire Johnny” had hypnotized his little brother or sister to open a second story window and invite them in. You just can’t trust a vampire. “Whatever you do… DON’T LOOK THEM IN THEIR LITTLE VAMPIRE EYES!” That’s how they hypnotize you…and I heard it again…TAP, TAP, TAP. I could imagine his little vampire fingers…those tiny, gray, blood drained fingers. I imagined his big vampire smile…mouthing…      ”Come on man! Just invite me in, it won’t sting.”  TAP, TAP, TAP.
There was a breeze churned up by a distant thunderstorm…”, it was a dark and stormy night” …and the window was open to take advantage of the spring coolness…the breeze was moving the curtains… ”DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!” Thunder rumbled…” DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!” I didn’t look…I slept with the lights on and the covers over my head. A grown man sleeping with the lights on with covers over his head…actually it was a grown man NOT sleeping with the lights on and the covers over his head.
The next morning, as soon as the sun was FULLY above the horizon, I went out, all bleary-eyed, to see what had caused the TAP, TAP, TAP. I was met by the Doberman Pincher from the apartment below. Placing her paws on my shoulders while looking me in the eyes, she pinned me to the wall assuring me it wasn’t her. Her master explained, “She’s in heat and a bit jumpy.” I would agree. I’m jumpy but not in heat.
It was the tree…a water oak. A little branch just close enough to tap, tap, tap in the wind…or was it? No, I ain’t fallin’ for it. Why take the chance?  Where is my crucifix?  Do I have a clove of garlic?

For more of Don Miller’s whacky rantings, please go to his author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN SEASON

“Cause this is thriller, thriller night. And no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike….” I had to turn on the TV and hear this on this Halloween season. Now it’s going to be in my head all freaking dayyyyyyyy! Happy Halloween to me…not!

As much as I have heard and seen “Thriller” way toooooooooooo much, I dearly love an old horror movie. Specifically old movies where most of the horror takes place off camera and the special effects are created in your own head. Not the newer more blood and swimming pools full of gore movies. Bela Lugosi nibbling at necks, Colin Clive hovering over Boris Karloff manically yelling “It’s Alive,” or Vincent Price grabbing you by the throat from the “Oblong Box.” I even loved the humor of Marty Feldman as Igor extorting Gene Wilder to “Walk This Way!” or Christopher Lee licking his lips as he watched a bathing Sharon Tate…a few less bubbles please. I loved them even though they really didn’t scare me. There WAS that disturbing scene with The Monster and the little girl. My fear was reserved for another generation of films that probably began with Michael terrorizing Jamie Lee in “Halloween” and “Carrie” burning down the town. Yes, I did scream during the final scene.

The one movie that absolutely terrified me beyond any reason was a 1972 low budget film called “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.” Snappy title. I found out later that it had been filmed in fourteen days and believe me it looked it. A theater group of attractive young people find themselves on an island filming a horror film. Using Satan’s own “book of the dead” they accidentally raise an island full of dead former criminals and the attractive theater group ends up dead, torn apart by living dead zombies who end the movie by getting on a boat headed toward a nearby city to continue eating. “More Brains Please!”

It shouldn’t have been that scary and probably wasn’t but I haven’t had guts enough to rent it. After Friday night football games I always found it hard to sleep and usually tried to put myself to sleep by watching TBS on cable. This particular TBS was the old version that was still owned by Ted Turner, featuring Saturday afternoon wrestling after an all-night horror fest of reasonably new films, sandwiched around cartoons and such. Being in the early Eighties, “Children Shouldn’t Play…” was reasonably new, only a decade old or so. I was alone, my roommate brother out for the night participating in an evening of “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” I am sure. My significant other…there was no significant other at the time as I was still waiting around for the love of my life to ask me out. You really should not watch a horror film at two in the morning without someone to snuggle with or at least call in case you need to be talked down from your fear.

It wasn’t the movie…the plot was too easy to follow. You just knew that as soon as they finished their “raise the dead chant” bad things were going to happen and that the black guy would be the first victim. He was and was soon followed by the two amorous youngsters who had snuck off for a little quality time alone. I actually laughed…until that damn music started. It really wasn’t music, it was more like a million fingernails being drug over a chalk board or a million out of tune violins being played with a cross cut saw. With the hair standing up on the back of my neck, the bodies started popping out of their graves like daisies in the spring sun. That should have been laughable…except for that damn music!

“Who you gonna call?” Not “Ghostbusters” because it had not been released yet. Well at least another theme is running through my head now instead of “Thriller.” Happy Halloween!

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life and humor try http://goo.gl/lomuQf