Best Xmas Gifts and Stocking Stuffers for Halloween Lovers, 2019

Halloween fans are dreaming of a dark and moody Christmas. Forget the goofy grandma sweaters and wicker baskets full of over-processed cheese and stale crackers, this year, slay the holidays with some frighteningly awesome gifts for your favorite Halloween lover or yourself!

THE STOCKING STUFFERS

Halloween miniatures, $2-$20

Help your Halloween fan get a jump on creating a miniature display for next season with these adorable little Halloween miniatures.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheLittleHedgerow?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=562375513&ga_search_query=halloween+miniatures&section_id=11989979

Halloween and horror pins, $5-20

Pins make the best stocking stuffers. Most are cheap but the collectibles can be more expensive.

https://lunarcryptco.com/search?type=product&q=pins

Vintage-style Halloween magnets, and stickers from Vintage Spooky Company, $5

Graphic designer Gary makes all his own original Halloween and monster art, inspired by vintage Halloween wares and other spooky stuff.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Vintagespookycompany

Batteries, $8-$40

Don’t laugh. Everyone needs batteries. Sure, you could go for AA or AAA, but I suggest those CR2032 batteries that go in tea lights and animatronics. Those little guys get costly. Believe me, they are so appreciated.

https://www.amazon.com/JOOBEF-Electronic-Cell-Button-Calculators/dp/B06VX7XDKJ/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=batteries+for+tea+lights&qid=1575660693&sr=8-5

LAST MINUTE BUYS FROM AMAZON

Llewellyns 2020 Magical Mystical Calendar featuring artwork by Lisa Parker, $15

Llewellyns make the best mystical, spiritual and witchy calendars, and they’ve once again teamed up with renowned fantasy artist Lisa Parker for 12 months of magical felines

https://www.amazon.com/Llewellyns-2020-Magical-Mystical-Calendar/dp/0738760056/ref=pd_sbs_14_1/136-9589722-3958451?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0738760056&pd_rd_r=22c842eb-d06b-497a-a1ef-ebb8f002945c&pd_rd_w=vq6An&pd_rd_wg=gcDFK&pf_rd_p=5873ae95-9063-4a23-9b7e-eafa738c2269&pf_rd_r=5Q1F0CPNNRM83FN8H2XT&psc=1&refRID=5Q1F0CPNNRM83FN8H2XT

Gracula Garlic Twist Crusher, $16

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The kitchen is one of the hardest rooms in the house to decorate for Halloween fans and this little garlic crusher is simply delightful. This little novelty item is probably not good for serious cooks and heavy usage but seems perfect for once-a-blue-moon meals.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076CTTZKX?creativeASIN=B076CTTZKX&linkCode=w61&imprToken=xu4iVfROQtjjhHAB4lUGoA&slotNum=41&tag=bfheather-20&ascsubtag=5212165%2C11%2C107%2Cd%2C0%2C0%2Cbf-bshp%2C776%3A1

Black Candle Pillar Holders, $20

retro candle holders

Every good witch needs a little iron and light to help ward off evil. Black candle pillar holders come in many shapes, sizes and styles, start here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cylindrical-Festival-Birthday-Candlelight-Decorative/dp/B074C34NZ9/ref=pd_sbs_201_t_0/134-2838771-8268900?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B074C34NZ9&pd_rd_r=a7fe565d-31e8-4617-87c0-2b45ff25b47e&pd_rd_w=CvVsX&pd_rd_wg=N3Y9u&pf_rd_p=5cfcfe89-300f-47d2-b1ad-a4e27203a02a&pf_rd_r=3G0D4ZGEY73RD6R2NMKM&psc=1&refRID=3G0D4ZGEY73RD6R2NMKM

Haunted Skull Cake Pan, $28

pizza skull pan by nordic

The Nordic Ware Haunted Skull Cakelet Pan is an absolute treasure. You can make pizza skulls, skull muffins, skull burritos, Dia de Los Muertos cakes and whatever your imagination can come up with. This quality cast aluminum, non-stick pan is a must-have for any Halloween lover’s kitchen.

https://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-Haunted-Skull-Cakelet/dp/B00Y6PRETK/ref=asc_df_B00Y6PRETK/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167152175681&hvpos=1o25&hvnetw=g&hvrand=15619877883895473149&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9031194&hvtargid=pla-166479118326&psc=1

TIME TO SPARE

Poe Ornaments and Tea Ball Infusers by Annabel Lee and Me, $9-10

Annabel Lee and Me specialize in Poe centric and gothic wares. After you put up your dark and spooky Christmas tree covered in Poe ornaments, sit back with a nice cuppa hot tea.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/677381427/edgar-allan-poe-tea-ball-infuser-goth?ref=shop_home_active_114

Prints from the Edward Gorey Collection, $12

Eccentric artist Edward Gorey liked to draw creepy creatures and cats. He even drew the Prince of Darkness in a whimsical scene. If you’re ever in Yarmouth Port, MA, stop by the Gorey House Museum.

https://goreystore.com/

The Ghoulish Grimoire books by artist Diana Levin and author Shawn Givens, $12

Now on the 7th issue, these unique horror anthologies feature stunning black/white pen and ink illustrations, accompanied by two short stories, sometimes poems and other musings, which are always the perfect blend of creepy and macabre imagination. Back issues from this talented couple are still available. Get them before they’re gone!

https://www.ghoulishbunnystudios.com/books

Horror Movie T-shirts from Fright Rags, $25-40

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Halloween fans and horror lovers can represent 365 days a year with these officially licensed T-shirts and other cool merch from the most iconic horror films of all time.

https://www.fright-rags.com/

“United” Halloween flag 3×5 ft by Rhode Montijo, $25

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Halloween fans can now let their freak flags fly with this giant orange and black striped jack-o-lantern flag that will look great hanging on the wall. Don’t forget to pick up some adorable Halloween prints and buttons too!

https://rhodemontijo.myshopify.com/products/pre-order-for-large-united-halloween-flag

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Gris Grimly, $25

frankenstein gg ms

Citing the monster as a childhood favorite, acclaimed artist Gris Grimly jumped at the chance to illustrate the very first, full-length novel using the original 1818 text from Mary Shelley. This beautifully haunting book with stunning artwork is one-of-a-kind. Pick up a copy at his newly reopened online store.

http://grisgrimly.com/product/gris-grimlys-frankenstein/

Fine Art Prints from Killer Pumpkins, $30

Welcome to the colorful and spooky world of artist and designer John Pelico, whose digital artwork is simply mind-blowing. Whoever thought grim could be so cheerful. Only prints are available online but if you catch Killer Pumpkins at San Diego Comic Con or other So Cal conventions, sometimes they carry unique merchandise like coffee cups and lamps.

https://www.killerpumpkins.com/store

Infernal Creatures: A Collection of Rare Occult Artworks book from Century Guild, $35

infernal creatures Century Guild

Century Guild is a private museum and gallery, now based out of Southern California, that specializes in fine arts between 1880-1920s, particularly Arte Nouveau and Symbolism. This exquisite hardcover book features full-color, professionally photographed art and posters, printed on the highest resolution paper. Fascination with death and the occult is not a contemporary concept

https://centuryguild.net/collections/books/products/infernal-creatures-rare-occult-artworks

Horror Movie Burst a Box, $50

A unique twist on a centuries old child’s toy, which still features the chilling ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ tune. Choose from Billy, Chucky, Freddy, Jason, Pennywise, or Sam.

https://www.mezcotoyz.com/category/burst-a-box-cg/categories/burst-a-box/1.html

Need more ideas? Check out last year’s blog posts for great stocking stuffers and Christmas gift ideas for Halloween fans.

zombie christmas card

Tuesday Terror – The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
No one shall ever enter this room again.

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© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Pit and the Pendulum was a film of many seconds for director Roger Corman. It was the second film adapted from an Edgar Allan Poe story, written by author and screenwriter Richard Matheson, who penned such successful novels such as I am Legend and the Incredible Shrinking Man. It was second big hit for distributor American International Pictures, grossing over $2 million USD from a measly $300,000 budget. It was also the second time that Corman would work with Vincent Price and Barbara Steele, each of whom would go on to become horror icons based on their work in numerous horror films.

pitpaint
© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

 

Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe of the same name, the story revolves around a tenacious Englishman Francis Barnard who goes to foreboding castle in Spain, after hearing word that his sister Elizabeth has died. He confronts his brother-in-law Don Nicholas Medina, demanding to know how she died. While there, Barnard finds the grieving don is slowly losing his mind, convinced that his late wife is haunting the castle, a site once used in the Spanish Inquisition. The don’s sister and personal physician try to sooth Barnard’s suspicions that Nicholas had anything to do with the sister’s death by revealing the tragic childhood trauma (shown in color-tinted vignette style flashbacks) that inflicts the don, but as the dark night drags by, it becomes apparent that a more sinister plot is afoot.

pitbro
© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Richard Matheson creates magic here by fleshing out the Poe’s torture chamber story bringing in the doomed Don Nicholas Medina, who already believes he’s cursed with same madness that drove his father to inflict unspeakable horror on the Spanish population, as well as his own family. In some ways, Matheson’s story is better than Poe’s gothic tale, giving audiences a backstory into understanding the horror the Poe wrote about.

 

The Merchant of Menace, Vincent Price, is at his best here, playing both a grieving man losing his sanity and his sinister father in flashbacks. His acting is somewhat melodramatic but entirely encouraged by dark dreamy orchestral score by Les Baxter. The always beautiful and haunting bright eyes of Barbara Steele turn in another wicked performance, cementing her legacy as a horror vixen, and John Kerr, Luana Anders and Antony Carbone also give strong memorable performances.

 

 

Despite the low-budget, Corman’s gothic adaption looked like million dollar film, with its vibrant color, gorgeous costuming,  intricate set design, and carefully planned wide-angle shots by  Floyd Crosby, the lusciously filmed Pit and the Pendulum only took 15 days to film. Shot entirely on a sound stages in California, Corman’s meticulous pre-production with his team, in particular, set designer, Daniel Haller, who created a real pendulum for the movie’s nightmarish ending sequence. The imposing pendulum was 18-feet long, weighed over 2,000 lbs and hoisted thirty-five feet in the air at the top of the sound stage above the actors. The blade was made of rubber, but a real metal blade covered in steel paint was switched out for the close shots, giving John Kerr some serious anxiety, which shows in his perspiring face during the final scenes.

pitmad
© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

This is my favorite Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaboration. It’s the scariest and best overall production, an absolute epitome of gothic horror, inspiring dozens of other filmmakers, from Hollywood to the Italian gallo films of the 60s. Horror at that time was changing in a way that the scares were no longer implied.  Horror master Stephen King remembers the Pit and the Pendulum scene which Price’s don Medina finds the decayed corpse of his dead wife, as having changed the horror landscape, King says “the most important moment in the post-1960 horror film, signaling a return to an all-out effort to terrify the audience…and a willingness to sue any means at hand to do it.”

mgm pit pendulum
© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Poe Sundays

mourningwidow1873

For Annie
by Edgar Allan Poe
(1849)

Thank Heaven! the crisis,
The danger, is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last—
And the fever called “Living”
Is conquered at last.
Sadly, I know
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length—
But no matter!—I feel
I am better at length.
And I rest so composedly,
Now, in my bed,
That any beholder
Might fancy me dead—
Might start at beholding me,
Thinking me dead.
The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing,
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:—ah, that horrible,
Horrible throbbing!
The sickness—the nausea—
The pitiless pain—
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain—
With the fever called “Living”
That burned in my brain.
And oh! of all tortures
That torture the worst
Has abated—the terrible
Torture of thirst
For the naphthaline river
Of Passion accurst:—
I have drank of a water
That quenches all thirst:—
Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound,
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground—
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.
And ah! let it never
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy
And narrow my bed;
For man never slept
In a different bed—
And, to sleep, you must slumber
In just such a bed.
My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never
Regretting, its roses—
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses:
For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies
A holier odor
About it, of pansies—
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies—
With rue and the beautiful
Puritan pansies.
And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie—
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.
She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently
To sleep on her breast—
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.
When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm,
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm—
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.
And I lie so composedly,
Now, in my bed,
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead—
And I rest so contentedly,
Now in my bed
(With her love at my breast).
That you fancy me dead—
That you shudder to look at me,
Thinking me dead:—
But my heart it is brighter
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie—
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie—
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.

Poe Sundays

Conqueror Worm*
by Edgar Allan Poe
(1843)

Lo! ’tis a gala night

Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly-
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Woe!

That motley drama- oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

Out- out are the lights- out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, ‘Man,’
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

 

*Reading along with horror icon Vincent Price is quite haunting.

Poe Sundays

darkcrypt

The Sleeper
by Edgar Allan Poe
(published 1831)

At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin molders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!- and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!

O, lady bright! can it be right-
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop-
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully- so fearfully-
Above the closed and fringed lid
‘Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come O’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress,
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!

The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
For ever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!

My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold-
Some vault that oft has flung its black
And winged panels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls,
Of her grand family funerals-

Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portal she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone-
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.

 

Tuesday Terror – The Black Cat

The Black Cat (1932)
“Did you ever hear of Satanism, the worship of the devil, of evil?”

theblackcat6

Today’s black and white classic is the horror-thriller The Black Cat from Universal Pictures. Horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff square off for the first time in a movie about a traumatized doctor with a cat phobia named Werdegast and an American newlywed couple, who seek medical aid at the home of the doctor’s nemesis, Hjalmar Poelzig, the dark high priest of a devil-worshipping cult. The doctor’s original plans of revenge on Poelzig are changed when it is revealed the priest plans to sacrifice the young bride at the dark of the moon.

the black cat2

Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr., the young studio head believed in director Edgar G. Ulmer’s vision enough so the man had free rein over the pic. Although presumed to be loosely based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe, there are not too many similarities here. It’s a bit strange really because the movie is good enough to stand on its own merits. This perhaps one of my favorite classic films. The story is excellent, with strong performances from the entire cast. David Manners and Julie Bishop pile on the melodrama with their romance, which is now part of the charm in some of these old films, but let’s be honest, they weren’t who we’re here to see anyway.  Lugosi playing the tortured Werdegast against Karloff’s evil Poelzig in a battle for screen supremacy is one of the best horror face-offs ever found in horror. I’d say Lugosi is the clear winner, due to a more fully fleshed-out character and more dialogue to offer, but Karloff does manage to say quite a lot with just a creepy stare. Madness and secret motivations are the whole reason why this film is so scary. Clearly, something evil has hold of these men.

the black cat1

The film escaped the Pre-code guidelines but Ulmer’s first cut of the film, which included several scenes of satanic worship and skinning alive of Herr Poelzig, was deemed too dark and violent for the Laemmles (father and son). Between that and Bela Lugosi’s complaints that he appeared to be too villainous, Ulmer reshot several scenes,  downplaying the gruesome last scene, and added some sprinkling of humanity in the tragic Dr. Werdegast. In a touch of irony, while cleaning up the film’s ending, Ulmer snuck in some extra shots of Poelzig’s necrophilic menagerie. Already heavy with a dark look and satanic theme, studio execs managed to miss The Black’s Cat’s seriously taboo subject matter, or perhaps they ignored it.

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The eerie movie score runs 80 minutes contains many classical selections, including the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, only the second time a horror film featured the now cliched song.  The set of Poelzig’s mansion is considered somewhat of a masterpiece in the industry, part art deco, part haunted house. In contrast to The Old Dark House, this film is well-lit, casting defined shadows in a way that you’re unsure if you’re watching a horror film at all.

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The Black Cat is considered to be the first movie to use psychological horror, capitalizing on public interest in psychiatry at that time. Despite the audience’s distaste for the dark subject matter, it was the biggest box office hit for Universal that year, due in part to the popularity of its stars.  What didn’t work then is exactly why it works now. The Black Cat is creepy, scary, and a masterclass in great classic horror.

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Haiku of the Week – Inspired by The Black Cat

 

screeching cat
death is no cure for madness
mourning

Poe_black_cat_byam_shaw
The Black Cat ©Byam Shaw

Poe Sundays

ALONE
by EDGAR ALLAN POE

 

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then — in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Poe Sundays

 

The Tell-Tale Heart
by Edgar Allan Poe

TRUE! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
Continue reading “Poe Sundays”

Poe Sundays

The Haunted Palace

by Edgar Allan Poe

 In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace-
Radiant palace- reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion-
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This- all this- was in the olden
Time long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.
Continue reading “Poe Sundays”