Happy first day of summer! While Covid-19 is here to stay, the pandemic is winding down. Things are opening up and wearing masks is optional, but please stay safe and be smart. This summer, nobody has a boo-kini body. We can all breathe a little sigh of relief over the fact that nobody cares if we didn’t get in shape. We’re all just doing the best we can and don’t let anyone make you feel bad, especially yourself. It’s gonna be a hot ghoul summer! Rather than groan about the insufferable heat and humidity, let’s exert our energies in more positive ways until September. Here’s a few good ideas to try and events to go to this summer:
SPOOKTACULAR SUMMERWEEN WEEKEND In what I hope will be the first of many, Spooky Weekend brings together an online shopping event for Halloween lovers, featuring over 100 vendors. This weekend only, Halloween enthusiasts will have access to exclusive sales, discounts, and deals, along with chances to win amazing giveaway items. It’s never too early to start planning Halloween or get the jump on your holiday shopping. The best part, getting the chance to support independent owned businesses and artists across the globe. http://www.spookyweekend.co.uk/
THROW A GOTH POOL PARTY Why should Hollywood celebrities and pop stars have all the fun? Go buy some black pool floats and summer gear from Blackcraft Cult and take your chubby self to the beach, or the lake, or the pool. Now, relax. We deserve it!
SUMMER READING Looking for a nice, safe, entertaining place with air conditioning? Then, head on over to your local library! Libraries are full of ghosts. The ghosts of thousands of books that have been sitting untouched on the shelves for over a year, maybe longer. There might even be some real ghosts, test your side vision. Beside that, you can learn new things, like tarot or costume-making, read spine-tingling tales of horror or mystery, and immerse yourself in fantastical worlds. Libraries are great places to find new passions. As long as you’re quiet and respectful of others, you too can haunt the library all day long.
SUMMER PUMPKINS Watermelons are the second cousins to pumpkins. Whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable, is debatable, nonetheless, you can hollow them out like a gourd and carve a jack-o’-lantern face on the rind all the same. Have fun by using your Halloween cookie cutters to make spooky shapes of delicious, juicy melon. Decorate the outside and practice your carving skills all summer long. By October, you’ll be a pro!
TO COSPLAY OR NOT TO COSPLAY Hot ghoul summer dictates that we be ourselves. There’s no judgement or bullying allowed. Walk or run away from all monsters. Have fun. Do your thing. Wear spandex and a cape. Don platform shoes. Dye your hair blue.
San Diego Comic-Con will be held as online event only this July 23-25, 2021, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still dress up. If anyone says anything rude, just tell ’em you’re trying on your Halloween costume. They can’t fault you for being an excellent planner, right? Go ahead, wear the costume.
SCREAMING ROOM The pandemic dampened the spirits of Midsummer Scream creators for a second summer, but restless souls do not go quietly into the night, thus, the Screaming Room Film Festival 2021 was born. Curated and presented by HorrorBuzz.com, this unique short film festival will feature two years worth of the submissions of the best horror and Halloween shorts, originally planned for Midsummer Scream conventions 2020 and 2021, respectivefully. This spooktacular event will take place the weekend of July 10-11 at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, CA.
AWAKEN THE SPIRITS Proving there is indeed no rest for the wicked, the Midsummer Scream creators found themselves a second location to summon all the other spooky spirits into a grand mini celebration and preview of what’s to come this Halloween season 2021.
Awaken the Spirits will held in the Pasadena Convention Center this August 14-15, 2021. It’ll be a smaller venue and missing a few elements from Midsummer Scream, namely the Hall of Shadows and the Black Cat Lounge, but the Halloween vibe will be strong enough to rattle the bones and bring the dead back to life.
Looking to impress that special Halloween and horror fan in your household this Creepmas? Well, check out my list of oddball and unique, but totally awesome gifts! Remember to shop local and small business when you can this year!
BUY FACEMASKS! Protect your loved ones and help defeat this Covid-19 pandemic! Great stocking stuffers! With over 280,000 dead from Coronavirus, I’m advocating face masks hard this year. You can never have too many. Buy different kinds. Themed face masks are fun. Do it for yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your school mates, your grocery store clerks, your favorite artists, musicians, celebrities, and complete random strangers. Staying alive is not a political issue! PLEASE WEAR A FACE MASK. https://www.zazzle.com/halloween+face+masks
MINIATURES Halloween Miniatures make great gifts. They’re perfect for dioramas, terrariums, supplementing entire Halloween villages, or just all by themselves. Some name brands are expensive, but shop around to get best prices and discounts. Off-season is always a good time to buy. Miniatures make great stocking stuffers too!
L.A. COUNTY LOCALS Suggestions for my hometown peeps. Online ordering and pick-up available. Check website for store hours and other info. Facemasks are great stuffers!
Dark Delicacies – Large selection of horror books, signed CDs & Vinyls, clothing, purses, jewelry, horror memorabilia, horror Geeki Tikis, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab oils, horror facemasks, and other unique gifts.
Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum – Large selection of clothing, books, witchcraft supplies, tarot cards, divination, taxidermy, antiques, and unique gifts. Looking to get into witchcraft, but don’t want to be overwhelmed or intimidated? Then, this is the place to go!
Halloweentown Store – Large selection of T-shirts, costumes, facemasks, replica vintage Halloween decor, novelty gifts, Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures, Wacky Wobblers, Iconz, Mystery Minis and more. Great place to find sold-out collectibles too.
Monster-A-GoGo, featuring Kreepsville 666The “Original Scare Wear” – New location in East L.A. (Melrose closed), clothing, purses, accessories, pins, collectibles, Hexmas, and brand names such as Elvira, Vampira, Vincent Price, and more!
Traditions – Traditional homemade style and replica holiday themed vintage décor, wreaths, figurines, ornaments, home and garden, tableware, Bethany Lowe, Kathrine’s Collection, and more! Collectibles and other items sell out quickly!
So, here’s the deal, Krampus is coming. That’s that. 2020 is not done with us. The face on Grandma’s vintage snowman, probably caved in. Those holiday lights you put away last year with meticulous care, suddenly, a big knot. The money you saved to give the kids a nice Christmas, probably going to fix your car or pay the rent or buy a new refrigerator, whatever, it’s gone! To top it all off, Covid-19 just ruined all our holidays plans! Such is pandemic life! Burnt cookies, broken baubles, no problem. Don’t get mean, get creative! Join us on Instagram this December for the Creeped Out Christmas Art/Photo Challenge 2020! We like it dark and scary! #CreepedOutChristmas
Join in the fun any time, any day, but, if you post something all 25 days, you’ll be entered into a random drawing** to win a prize!!!
**Contestants must post an authentic, original art piece or photo each day from December 1-25, on Instagram, using #CreepedOutChristmasAND be a current follower of @halloweenhaiku9 be to be entered into the drawing. Contest ends midnight, pacific time, December 25, 2020. Winner will be chosen and announced here and on social media on December 26th. Please see Contest Rules for more details.
Starting today, every Sunday until the week of Christmas, I’ll post a gift giving guide for Halloween and horror fans. After a late start, we’re kicking off with ten gifts for Edgar Allan Poe fans. Who wouldn’t love to get an inspirational gift from the master of the macabre?
10. Nevermore Collage Fabric by Michael Miller This fabric designed by Michael Miller is to die for. You can make face masks, clothes, bedding, bags, art projects, and more. I’ve seen it sold at various prices, so check Etsy and around the web for competitive pricing. https://www.michaelmillerfabrics.com/nevermore-collage.html
Remember to shop local and small business when you can this year.
Poe Sundays are all about honoring the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Black Cat can be a tough read for many, as there’s quite a bit of animal cruelty, but that does play a part in the story and why it’s considered one of the most frightening short stories ever written. This blog does not condone the act of animal cruelty, nor do I believe that was the author’s intention.
The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe (published 1845)
For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not — and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified — have tortured — have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror — to many they will seem less terrible than barroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place — some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and, in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point — and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto — this was the cat’s name — was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character — through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance — had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me — for what disease is like Alcohol ! — and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish — even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning — when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch — I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)
Poe Sundays are all about honoring the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Fall of the House of Usher is considered by many critics to be Poe’s gothic masterpiece. Despite never learning the name of the story’s narrator, we come to quickly trust his well-observed eye and candor about the events experienced during his journey to visit Roderick Usher, a boyhood friend, of whom he has not seen in quite some time. It begins with an epigraph from French poet Jean Pierre de Beranger, which translates to “His heart is a tightened lute; as soon as one touches it, it echoes.” The narrator wastes no time in suggesting to his audience that Usher and the crumbling mansion share the same doomed fate.
Son cœur est un luth suspendu; Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne. De Béranger.
DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down—but with a shudder even more thrilling than before—upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.
Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to myself a sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions in boyhood; but many years had elapsed since our last meeting. A letter, however, had lately reached me in a distant part of the country—a letter from him—which, in its wildly importunate nature, had admitted of no other than a personal reply. The MS. gave evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily illness—of a mental disorder which oppressed him—and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best and indeed his only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his malady. It was the manner in which all this, and much more, was said—it was the apparent heart that went with his request—which allowed me no room for hesitation; and I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singular summons.
Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and habitual. I was aware, however, that his very ancient family had been noted, time out of mind, for a peculiar sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages, in many works of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds of munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily recognizable beauties, of musical science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain. It was this deficiency, I considered, while running over in thought the perfect keeping of the character of the premises with the accredited character of the people, and while speculating upon the possible influence which the one, in the long lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the other—it was this deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and the consequent undeviating transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the “House of Usher”—an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family mansion.
I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish experiment—that of looking down within the tarn—had been to deepen the first singular impression. There can be no doubt that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition—for why should I not so term it?—served mainly to accelerate the increase itself. Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law of all sentiments having terror as a basis. And it might have been for this reason only, that, when I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy—a fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed me. I had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity—an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn—a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.
Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.
Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the house. A servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence, through many dark and intricate passages in my progress to the studio of his master. Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. While the objects around me—while the carvings of the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebony blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy—while I hesitated not to acknowledge how familiar was all this—I still wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary images were stirring up. On one of the staircases, I met the physician of the family. His countenance, I thought, wore a mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity. He accosted me with trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open a door and ushered me into the presence of his master.
The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around; the eye, however, struggled in vain to reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all.
Upon my entrance, Usher rose from a sofa on which he had been lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which had much in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality—of the constrained effort of the ennuyé man of the world. A glance, however, at his countenance convinced me of his perfect sincerity. We sat down; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher! It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the man being before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity;—these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity.
Ah, broken is the golden bowl! — the spirit flown forever! Let the bell toll! — a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river: — And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear? — weep now or never more! See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore! Come, let the burial rite be read — the funeral song be sung! — An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young — A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.
“Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and ye hated her for her pride; And, when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her — that she died: — How shall the ritual, then, be read? — the requiem how be sung By you — by yours, the evil eye — by yours the slanderous tongue That did to death the innocence that died and died so young?”
Peccavimus; yet rave not thus! but let a Sabbath song Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong! The sweet Lenore “hath gone before,” with Hope that flew beside, Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride — For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies, The life upon her yellow hair, but not within her eyes — The life still there upon her hair — the death upon her eyes.
“Avaunt! — avaunt! from fiends below the indignant ghost is riven — From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven — From grief and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven! —
Let no bell toll, then! — lest her soul, amid its hallowed mirth, Should catch the note as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth! And I — to-night my heart is light! — no dirge will I upraise, But waft the angel on her flight with a Paean of old days!”
**Note: Poe’s first attempt to memoralize his true love came in 1831 with the poem “A Paean”. Poe revised the poem and published Lenore in 1843, and again in 1845. This revised and more widely used version ends with the line, King of Heaven! A Paean is now considered its own poem entirely. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenore_(poem)
From dragons to vampires, mermaids to monsters, the widely acclaimed and prolific fantasy artist Anne Stokes has enchanted and terrified the world with her masterful creations for over 20 years. The London-born creator has produced art and illustrations for dozens of books, games, albums, including the uber-popular Dungeons and Dragons. These days, Anne is busy building her global empire by licensing her own creations in merchandising, jewelry, fashion, and much more. All hail the Mother of Dragons in the art world!