Category Archives: Halloween Season

NIGHT MIND AND THE ULTIMATE ARG: JACK TORRANCE

masc graveyard newRegular readers of Balladeer’s Blog often ask me why I make so many references to ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) and feature tie-ins to some of them in my blog posts. It’s because they are a terrific example of modern day myths relayed through technology.

The effort that some creators put into building their world and the effort taken by their audience to solve the ARG’s mysteries make the experience so interactive it’s fascinating to watch unfold … when they’re done well.

As always, my hat’s off to Night Mind, who is in my opinion the best internet detective when it comes to horror ARGs. The video below features the ultimate example of this niche artform.

It’s Night Mind’s magnum opus: Jack Torrance: Fully Explained. (NOT the character from The Shining.) You’ll see why I find ARGs so addictive. Please subscribe to Night Mind’s channel, too. He deserves a lot of love. 

 

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MANDY (2018): NICOLAS CAGE IN THE ROLE HE WAS BORN TO PLAY!

MandyMANDY (2018) – For anyone who was alive back then, 1983 was apparently different than you remember. Panos Cosmatos directed and co-wrote this blood-soaked, trippy combination of Hellraiser, Father’s Day, Werewolves on Wheels and Thou Shalt Not Kill … Except.

Balladeer’s Blog readers who remember how much I enjoyed Cosmatos’ previous film Beyond the Black Rainbow will not be surprised to find that I love this prime example of a “love it or hate it” movie. Despite the story’s 1983 setting, Mandy is not quite as slavish a faux-80s piece as Beyond the Black Rainbow. This psychedelic work mixes in plenty of stylistic touches that are beyond anything a 1980s flick would have served up.

masc graveyard newThe soundtrack by the late Johann Johannsson is so effective it practically deserves a co-director credit. Meanwhile, serving as something of a humanoid special effect is madman-in-residence Nicolas Cage, who stars as Red Miller.

Red is a lumberjack, and he’s okay (Had to be said). He lives in a cabin in the idyllic forests of the Shadow Mountains with his true love, Mandy. The title character is played by Andrea Riseborough, who gives off a kind of creepy Sissy Spaceck/ Shelley Duvall vibe. Continue reading

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TWENTY BEST SILVER JOHN STORIES

Mascot FOUR original pics

Balladeer’s Blog

Balladeer’s Blog presents another Top Twenty list for 2020. This time it’s a look at the 20 Best Silver John Stories. If you’re not familiar with this neglected Pulp Hero created by Manly Wade Wellman, Silver John was a wandering musician who battled evil supernatural forces in the Appalachian Mountains of yore. His nickname comes from his pure silver guitar strings and the silver coins he wields in his war against darkness. Think Orpheus meets Kolchak. For more info click HERE

Silver John

Silver John

O, UGLY BIRD! – In this debut Silver John story the heroic balladeer squares off against a vile man named Osmer. That villain dominates an isolated mountain community through his ability to send forth his soul in the form of a giant, hideous bird to prey on any who oppose him. 

THE DESRICK ON YANDRO – Desricks are old mountain cabins dating back to Colonial times. Such cabins were heavily fortified against potential attacks from hostile Native Americans or wild animals. This particular desrick houses a powerful old witch and is guarded by a virtual army of horrific monsters. Silver John must face the Bammat (the last of the woolly mammoths) and the Toller (a deadly winged creature), plus others called the Culverin, the Flat, the Skim and the Behinder.     Continue reading

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NATALIE SHAU: FOR THIS ARTIST IT’S HALLOWEEN ALL YEAR ‘ROUND

Natalie Schau 2Mixed media artist Natalie Shau should have been featured in one of Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebrations of Halloween by now. Unfortunately, I’m late to the game when it comes to Shau’s dark, haunting and disturbing works of art.

If you’re squeamish then the images conjured up by this Lithuanian-born artist are not for you. She’s like a one-woman Deviant Art site. Some examples of Shau’s art: Continue reading

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BEST OF OCTOBER 2019

Balladeer’s Blog’s look back at 2019 continues with Halloween Month’s best:

Monks of Monk Hall 4THE MONKS OF MONK HALL – This eerie and macabre 1845 novel features human and supernatural menaces operating in 1842 Philadelphia. “Twin Peaks Goes To The 1840s” is how I describe this book, which was America’s best-selling novel before Uncle Tom’s Cabin. CLICK HERE

THE “RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY” DELUSION – Only fools think that they know what the final verdict of history will be regarding the times they are living through. CLICK HERE 

Killraven the hell destroyersKILLRAVEN: THE FINALE OF THE DEATH-BIRTH SAGA – The final two chapters of the most acclaimed Killraven saga of them all. CLICK HERE  and HERE 

THE WERWOLVES – An 1898 werewolf story from Canada. CLICK HERE

ROLLING STONE’S MATT TAIBBI – The journalist blasts the Democrats’ “permanent coup attempt.” CLICK HERE

Mad MaxMAD MAX (1979) – A lengthy review of the Mel Gibson/ George Miller post-apocalypse classic. CLICK HERE

THE COFFIN – The year 2000 graphic novel about a macabre, unliving superhero. CLICK HERE

CIA CRIMES – The disgusting past of one of the most loathsome American organizations in history. CLICK HERE  Continue reading

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LIVING ALONE (1919): A WITCH DURING WORLD WAR ONE

With Halloween just past and Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day) on the horizon, here’s a nice segueway – a novel featuring a witch and other supernatural figures during World War One.

Living AloneLIVING ALONE (1919) – Written by Stella Benson. This novel is like a World War One forerunner of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In 1918, during what was then called The Great War, a London woman named Sarah Brown busies herself with War Savings Committee Work.

One day a witch invites her to move into a home called the House of Living Alone, which turns out to be a boardinghouse for practitioners of magic as well as assorted supernatural figures like faeries, imps, etc. Sarah accepts the invitation, taking her dog David Blessing with her.

This house is located on Mitten Island in the Thames River. Sarah becomes involved in the adventures of Peony, who is plagued by an Imp wanting to be born. She also meets Richard Higgins, a practicing warlock who runs – not a dairy farm – but a Faerie Farm, which is supervised by a dragon. 

At one point a German bombing raid strikes a cemetery, waking up all of the dead. They rise from their graves, convinced that it is the Final Judgment, until Sarah and her new friends set things right.

Whimsically enough, circumstances later lead the witch who runs the House of Living Alone into mounting her flying broomstick and having a magical dogfight over England with a German witch. Continue reading

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THE MONKS OF MONK HALL (1844-1845): HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Happy Halloween! Balladeer’s Blog marks it with a neglected work of American horror.

Monks of Monk HallTHE MONKS OF MONK HALL aka THE QUAKER CITY (1844-1845) – Written by George Lippard, this strange and macabre story was originally serialized from 1844-1845 before being published in novel form. This bloody, horrific work was America’s best-selling novel before Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I always refer to this book as “Twin Peaks Goes To The 1840s.” On one level The Monks of Monk Hall deals with crime, corruption, drugs and sex-trafficking among many supposedly “respectable” citizens of Philadelphia the way Twin Peaks did with residents of the title town.

On another level the novel deals with supernatural horrors that lurk behind the Quaker City’s murders, vices and sexual perversions, again like the David Lynch series. The center of the darkness is Monk Hall, an old, sprawling mansion with an unsavory history and reputation. Many have disappeared into the bowels of the building, never to be seen again. The power players and criminals who mingle at the Hall in bizarre orgies, secret murders and drunken debauches are known as “Monks” – Monk Hall’s exclusive membership.

Think of Monk Hall as a combination of Twin Peaks establishments like the Black Lodge, One-Eyed Jacks and the Great Northern all rolled into one. The vast, multi-roomed Hall is honey-combed with secret passageways and trap doors. Beneath the mansion are a subterranean river plus several levels of labyrinthine catacombs filled with rats, refuse and the skeletal remains of the Monks’ many victims from the past century and a half.   

The sinister staff of Monk Hall are happy to provide their members with all the sex, opium and other diversions that they hunger for behind their public veil of respectability. Throw in the occult practices of the members and there’s a sort of “American version of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club” feel to it. Among the novel’s more horrific characters:

Monks of Monk Hall 2DEVIL-BUG – The deformed, depraved and deranged bastard offspring of one of Monk Hall’s members and one of the many prostitutes who are literally enslaved there. Devil-Bug has spent his entire life in the Hall and has no other name. He is squat, incredibly strong and grotesquely ugly with one large gaping eye and one small, withered, empty socket on his face.

This monstrosity works as Monk Hall’s combination door-man, bouncer and executioner, gleefully murdering on demand and secreting the corpses away in the sub-basements beneath the mansion. Just to make him even more unwholesome, Devil-Bug sleeps next to the corpse of one of his victims and uses occupied coffins as furniture in his creepy rooms.

RAVONI – Interchangeably referred to as a sorcerer, mad doctor, astrologer and anatomist, this handsome but sinister man pulls the strings behind the supernatural evils of Philadelphia and vicinity.

Monks of Monk Hall 3Master of an occult method of eternal youth, Ravoni has been alive for over two hundred years. (The novel repeatedly says just two hundred years, but the villain refers to having been present at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which happened in 1572, so it has to be longer)

Ravoni has powers of mesmerism, prognostication and can even raise the dead. He was the original owner of Monk Hall under another name long ago. Readers eventually learn the kind of dark rituals the man performed at the Hall but don’t learn the full extent of his evil plans until the climax of the novel.          Continue reading

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