Saturday, December 20, 2008 Coal in Your Stocking

Very quick post this time out, as I am so busy with Christmas activities that I can't stop and tell you what an awesome time I had at the sold-out Cinematic Titanic show at the Lakeshore Theater Thursday night. I do have time to share yet another batch of holiday goodies because I love you, my non-existent readers.

This collection ranges from the cute to the annoying, with a downright awesome Louis Armstrong classic thrown in for good measure. Ethnic stereotype "humor" is well-represented, and we not only have a Jerry Lewis impressionist but the man himself, duking it out in a cataclysmic battle to see who can set your teeth furthest on edge.
Abboud, Mona - The Pretty Little Dolly
Armstrong, Louis - 'Zat You, Santa Claus
Blanc, Mel - The Hat I Got for Christmas is Too Beeg
Carney, Art - Santa and the Doodle-Li-Boop
Chipmunks, the - The Chipmunk Song
Colonna, Jerry - He's Too Fat for the Chimney
Count Floyd - Reggae Christmas Eve in Transylvania
Droids - Bells Bells Bells
Enchanters, the - Mambo Santa Mambo
Freberg, Stan - Nuttin' for Christmas
Grandaddy - Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland
King Sisters, the - Chree-see-mus
Lewis, Jerry - I've Had a Very Merry Christmas
Monte, Lou - Dominick the Donkey
Peevey, Gayla - I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Rose Marie - Santa Send A Fella
Royal Guardsmen - Snoopy's Christmas
Shawn, Dick - Snow Miser
South Park Kids - O Holy Night
Spike Jones & His City Slickers - All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
Stevens, Ray - Santa Claus Is Watching You
Yorgesson, Yogi - I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas
I can't think of any better way to spend the holiday than by playing these songs for people you don't particularly care for.

Click on this link to download the collection via Rapidshare.

Monday, December 15, 2008 Preterite's Xmas Playlist!

Jeebus, is it that time of year already?

I love Christmas, but really hate the fact that people start celebrating it a few days before freaking Halloween. I can understand stores doing it - not approve, mind you, but understand - but when I see halfwits putting up their lawn decorations in late October, I want to start a firebombing campaign.

From 2004-2006, I was "lucky" enough to miss the Yule overload. I spent most of those holiday seasons in India on business, flying out the day after Thanksgiving and coming back a week or so before December 25th. Two weeks - dare I say twelve days? - of Christmas is just about right in my book.

I'm not getting the overload this year, despite being Stateside. Maybe it's because I'm doing most of my shopping over the internet. Maybe I've just been too busy to notice. Or maybe I've just become really, really good at tuning the cheer out. I hope I can tune it back in again when I want it.

Time to bust out the seasonal playlist. Here, in one handy* RAR file, are my favorites from that ginourmous hard drive folder marked "Xmas". I make no claims to originality - the usual suspects are well-represented here - but let's face, this season is all about traditions. So screw your indie cred!
Belle & Sebastian - Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto
Brian Setzer Orchestra - Jingle Bells
Brown, Charles - Merry Christmas Baby
Carter, Clarence - Back Door Santa
Cocteau Twins - Winter Wonderland
Cole, Nat King - The Christmas Song
Crosby, Bing - I'll Be Home For Christmas
Crystals, the - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Drifters, the - White Christmas
Eels - Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas
El Vez - Feliz Navi-Nada
Fatboy Bing - Here Comes Santa Claus
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
John & Yoko - Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Low - Just Like Christmas
Martin, Dean - Baby, It's Cold Outside
Matt Pond PA - Holiday Road
Mogwai - Christmas Song
Ramones, the - Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight)
Run DMC - Christmas in Hollis
Saint Etienne - Driving Home for Christmas
Springsteen, Bruce - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
Stevens, Sufjan - Get Behind Me, Santa!
U2 - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Vince Guaraldi Trio, the - Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal)
Williams, Victoria - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Youngsters, the - Christmas In Jail
The Dean Martin track is a duet with Martina McBride from 2006's Christmas with Dino. It's a hell of a lot of fun.

"White Winter Hymnal" by the Fleet Foxes is new to the playlist this year. Let's see if I'm completely sick of it by this time next year.

The "Fatboy Bing" track is a Bing Crosby/Fatboy Slim mash-up done for a JC Penney commercial a couple of years back. It's never been officially released, but you can find the mp3 out there in the world wide web if you look around a bit. At just over 30 seconds, it makes a nifty seasonal ringtone.

It's kind of a mellow collection. But let's face it, you need to unwind right about now.

Preterite's Xmas Playlist via Rapidshare

*Unless you don't know how to deal with RAR files, in which case it's in one pain-in-the-ass file.

Saturday, December 13, 2008 Burglar Caught by "Supernatural Figure"

From the Associated Press, via MSNBC:

Malaysia burglar stuck for 3 days in haunted house

updated 10:35 p.m. CT, Fri., Dec. 12, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A news report says a burglar who broke into a house claims he was held captive by a "supernatural figure" for three days without food and water.

Police official Abdul Marlik Hakim Johar told The Star newspaper the house's owners found the 36-year-old man fatigued and dehydrated when they returned from vacation Thursday.

He says they called an ambulance to take him to a hospital.

The man told police that every time he tried to escape, a "supernatural figure" shoved him to the ground.

Abdul Marlik could not immediately be reached and other police officials declined to comment.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 $200, a Chicken, and a Bottle of Brandy

From today's South African Herald:
Chaos as pupils buy ‘powers to become invincible‘

SEVERAL township schools in Nelson Mandela Bay say they have been hit by a storm of unruly and violent pupils who believe they are invincible after paying sangomas to contaminate them with “evil powers”.

The acting principal of one of the Bay‘s biggest high schools said parents had been approached in an effort to get them to control their children, but to no avail.

Dumalisile Makhamba, of Newell High School, said evil spirits commonly known as Amakhosi, had been “transferred” into pupils, causing them to wreak havoc at the New Brighton school. The problem had started at the beginning of the year and grown steadily worse.

Some people believed Amakhosi were transferred into pupils by sangomas, who charged R200, a chicken and a bottle of brandy for the procedure.

Makhamba said school children wanted Amakhosi because they believed they made them invincible. “The pupils assault one another because they want to test the strength of the Amakhosi.”

As a result, there had been an increase in fighting and in one incident a pupil ripped off a classroom door. “They fight a lot and it becomes difficult to get them under control.”

Makhamba said teaching had become impossible because of Amakhosi. Parents‘ meetings had been called, and teachers and principals had also spoken to the pupils to encourage them to get a sangoma to recall the Amakhosi, but without success.

Icamagu Institute director Dr Nokuzola Mndende said it was in fact herbalists and not sangomas who were responsible for transferring Amakhosi. A lecturer at the University of South Africa (Unisa), Mndende founded the institute, which aims to revive African traditional religion.

“Sangomas are called by ancestors and are not allowed to administer medicine without the knowledge of family members. However, herbalists learn how to use medicine to do evil things and are not called by the ancestors.”

Mndende said Amakhosi were a new problem. “In the old days people suffered from demons and today they are bringing back demons in the form of Amakhosi.”

Recently police intervened when six schools were believed to be affected. They were Ndyebo, Masiphathisane, Soqhayisa and Kwazakhele secondary schools and Henry Nginza and Bongweni primary schools, said Inspector Hazel Mqala.

At the time, a special police task force was mobilised to pray for the schools.

Mqala said prayer was the only solution, as transferring Amakhosi was not a criminal offence because no violent force was involved.

What's the first thing these kids do once they get superpowers? They fight each other! Who says comics aren't realistic?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some livestock to purchase and a flight to book.

Monday, November 24, 2008 Highlander vs. the Thetans

From today's LA Times:
Guard fatally shoots man armed with swords at Scientology building

Police say surveillance tape at the Church of Scientology's Celebrity Centre in Hollywood backs the guard's contention that he was acting in self-defense.

By James Wagner and Harriet Ryan
November 24, 2008

A security guard at the Church of Scientology's Celebrity Centre in Hollywood on Sunday shot and killed a man wielding two samurai swords, police said.

Police detained the guard for questioning but said that a surveillance tape at the facility backed his claim that he fired his semiautomatic handgun to protect himself and two colleagues.

"The evidence is very clear the security officers were defending their safety," said Deputy Chief Terry S. Hara of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police did not release the name of the guard or the man killed in the shooting, which occurred about noon. An investigator said the man had a history with the church but was not a member now. The tape showed the man arriving at the Celebrity Centre's Bronson Avenue parking lot in a red convertible, getting out of the vehicle and approaching a trio of security guards and waving a sword in each hand, Hara said.

He said the man, who was described as being in his 40s, was "close enough to hurt them" when the guard fired. The man was taken to County-USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Det. Wendi Berndt said the man was involved with the church "a long time ago."

"There was a previous relationship, but it is unclear to what degree," she said.

A teenager who saw the man arrive in the parking lot said he stopped the car abruptly in the driveway and climbed out with a 5-foot sword in his hand and an angry expression on his face.

Tony Marquez, 17, said the man, who was bald and had tattoos on his arms, walked toward the building, then returned to the car to get the other sword.

"I thought it was part of a show," said Marquez, of Ontario. He and his mother entered the building before the shooting began.

Police said the guard worked for a private security company. Detectives cordoned off the Franklin Avenue complex with yellow tape as investigators combed through the man's Toyota Solara. The incident occurred at one of Hollywood's most distinctive landmarks. Originally a luxury hotel, the eight-story building was built in the style of a 17th century French castle with a striking white facade and turrets that loom over the nearby Hollywood Freeway.

The church remade the building into a facility aimed at celebrities 39 years ago. According to a church website, the Celebrity Centre caters to "artists, politicians, leaders of industry, sports figures and anyone with the power and vision to create a better world." The complex includes a restaurant, theater and hotel. Representatives of the church did not return calls.

"I have no information," said a woman who answered the phone at the Celebrity Centre.

The facility is ringed by a fence, and security cameras dot the property's perimeter. Guards on bikes also patrol the area.

"That is one thing about living here, you get free security," said Brant Hoibin, 34, who lives in an apartment adjacent to the Celebrity Centre.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 Random Image: Six Dogs

June 2005, just off Commercial Street, Bangalore, India.

Monday, November 17, 2008 Terrible Spaceship

Stressed out by several weeks of 10-12 hour days at the office, I had trouble sleeping last Wednesday night. I wandered over to the large stack of unread books piling up in the other room and pulled out one at random. War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches is a collection of short stories detailing the activities of various historical personages during H.G. Welles' Martian invasion. I finished a couple of entertaining tales - featuring H.P. Lovecraft, Emily Dickinson, and the Texas Rangers (albeit not together) - before drifting off to sleep.

The very next morning, on the drive in to what would be another long day at work, I was listening to Eight Forty-Eight on WBEZ and heard this:

A Chicago synthpop band whose music is inspired by and heavily samples from the Mercury Theater version of The War of the Worlds! And they'd be on the bill at Martyr's that very weekend! Coincidence? Or a subtle sign from some alien intellect, vast, cool and unsympathetic?

I really tried to make the show. Really. But the long week at work had killed me, and what little energy I had left over was spent attending a Red Cross seminar I had signed up for long before. It sucks to be old.

At the least I can console myself with the live footage from the band's MySpace page and by grabbing the entire Terrible Spaceship album free from And now you can, too.

Terrible Spaceship at

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 Batman Sues Christopher Nolan

From today's Guardian
Batman launches suit against Christopher Nolan

Mayor of Turkish town claims Dark Knight director purloined the name of Batman without permission

Ben Child
Tuesday November 11 2008 11.26 GMT

He may have vanquished the Joker, but it looks like Batman has a new enemy - a Turkish town that claims the caped crusader stole its name.

Hüseyin Kalkan, mayor of Batman, an ancient oil-producing town in south-eastern Turkey, is planning to sue Christopher Nolan, director of the recent box-office behemoth The Dark Knight, over the use of the name in the film. He claims Nolan and Warner Bros, which owns the film rights to the comic-book character, purloined the name without checking with him first.

"There is only one Batman in the world," said Kalkan, a member of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society party. "The American producers used the name of our city without informing us."

The mayor will produce evidence of his city's neolithic origins to support his case that it predates the celluloid Batman. DC Comics originated Bob Kane's character in 1939 in Detective Comics #27.

Kalkan also blames a series of unsolved murders and a high female suicide rate on the psychological impact suffered by the town after being placed under the spotlight by Nolan's film. In addition, Batman expats living abroad have experienced legal issues when trying to use the name to set up businesses, he claims.
Wow. You'd think Turkey would be the last country to sue someone else over superhero copyright infringement.

There's an even better example here; I'd have embedded it, but the guy who posted it to YouTube doesn't want unauthorized use of his unauthorized use of a movie featuring the unauthorized use of someone else's IP. Whatever.

But a spate of unsolved murders and mysterious suicides in a town called "Batman"? The universe is too, too sublime sometimes.

Friday, October 31, 2008 Halloween Treats: CountG's Party Mix

It was a gorgeous night tonight, perfect weather for trick-or-treating. Nothing sucks more than having to ruin the flow of your meticulously-prepared costume with an overcoat.

I biked around for a while through Oak Park. Some streets were closed off for block parties. On other streets were tables full of refreshments staffed by friendly neighbors. And hordes of costumed children were everywhere; running, laughing, screaming, but almost always under the watchful eyes of adults (who were themselves usually costumed). I love this town. Wish I could afford to live here.

On the way home I stopped off at Horrorbles. It seemed to be the right night for it. I picked up Doctor Mordrid on DVD and a copy of a magazine called Cinema Retro. The lady working the counter was very nice and helpful. She let me know that the legendary Tura Satana would be there later that night to sign posters and other souvenirs. Pretty cool, but not really my thing.

Still, I wanted to do something tonight. The beautiful weather, the Halloween vibe - it was calling to me. But I don't have a goddamned thing to do. Either I have lame friends or I'm lame or - look, there's very clearly lameness involved here.

So I'm making my own fun. I've got the final two episodes of Dead Set downloaded and ready to watch on my magic DVD player, a sixer of what the Brits call "alcohopops" and we call "sissy girl drinks", and some tunes. I can't share the booze and you can grab Dead Set the same place I did, but I can spread the musical lovin' around.
Altered Images - Dead Pop Stars
Bauhaus - Stigmata Martyr
Book of Love - Tubular Bells
Depeche Mode - Waiting for the Night [remix]
Echo & the Bunnymen - The Killing Moon
Feisty Stevens - The Zombies Are Inside Out
Fred Schneider - Monster
Groovie Ghoulies - Haunted Mansion
Martinibomb & the Coconut Monkeyrocket - MunsterBeat!
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult - ...And This Is What the Devil Does!
Pilchard - Jack the Monkey
St. John, Paul - Flying Saucers have Landed
The Cramps - Surfin' Dead
The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
The Dream Syndicate - Halloween
The Fleshtones - I Was a Teenage Zombie
The Jazz Butcher - Zombie Love
The Rezillos - Flying Saucer Attack
The Specials - Ghost Town [remix]
Zombina & the Skeletones - Can't Break a Dead Girl's Heart
It's heavy on New Wave because that's how CountG rolls. I've left out some of the more obvious stuff (like that Ministry song) because you probably already have that stuff, and I've made no attempt to organize a structured playlist 'cuz I couldn't be bothered.

The Paul St. John song is a trippy bit of early '70s glam pulled from the compilation, Glitter From the Litter Bin.

"Munsterbeat!" was a gift to the world from Oddio Overplay a few years back.

Fiesty Stevens is actually Kevan Gilbert, who's created a fantastic mash-up of Feist's "Inside Out" and Sufjan Stevens' "They Are Night Zombies!!"

Pilchard's "Jack the Monkey" is another mash-up and probably my favorite track on the list. It comes from last year's Bride of Monster Mash-Up (the site seems to be down currently), and the same team have also done Son of Monster Mash-Up and Mashing Pumpkins. While there's other good songs on these compilations, "Jack the Monkey" kicks all their asses and takes their trick-or-treat bags. Hey, it's even on that YouTube thingy the kids are all talkin' about:

To download CountG's Party Mix, simply click on the link below and blah blah blah.

How come there's no wimmin at this party?

Halloween Treats: H.P. Lovecraft

I had just spent the better part of an hour preparing a post offering up the 2006 BBC Radio documentary, Weird Tales: The Strange Life of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as the earliest media adaptation of Lovecraft's work, a 1945 episode of Suspense featuring Ronald Coleman in "The Dunwich Horror". And then I learned that this guy has already put up both of those items and a lot more besides.

So the hell with it. Instead, I will offer the only thing that other blogger hasn't yet, a picture of HPL run through ImageShack's rather bizarre "glittery" option.

Hey, Tiger Beat! I think I've found your next cover crush!

Halloween Treats: The Warren Companion

Warren Publishing holds a special place in the hearts of a generation of horror fans. Not only was their Famous Monsters of Filmland the only magazine of its kind available for years, but they published horror comics that were actually scary!

(I still remember one of their magazines, purchased coverless in a plastic bag for half-price, that disturbed me so badly as a child that it was the only comic my mom ever threw out. I offered no resistance to her decision whatsoever.)

Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, Blazing Combat, 1984 - Warren established a legendary black-and-white magazine line that was unbeholden to the Comics Code Authority. They not only paved the way for more graphic depictions of horror in comics, but more mature storytelling in general. Warren's comics were aimed an older reader and not the typical ten-year-old targeted by Marvel and DC at the time. As a result, creators like Don McGregor, Richard Corben, Steve Englehart, Gene Colan, and many other were allowed a freedom of expression that was almost unheard of in mainstream comics, and often resulted in some of the best work of their careers.

The Warren Companion is a comprehensive overview of the publisher from beginning to end. Dozens of writers, artists, and editors were interviewed for the project, including the publisher's founder, Jim Warren. The book is lavishly illustrated with rare photos, excerpts from classic stories, and unpublished artwork. There's also an exhaustive checklist, including detailed creator info, that covers just about everything put out by the publisher. (Famous Monsters gets a somewhat short shrift, however, as the authors' focus is on comic books.)

Sadly out-of-print, The Warren Companion typically commands prices over $100 when copies come up for sale. But you can download the book free in cbr format as part of today's Halloween treats. You'll need to download all three parts and use WinRar or a similar program to unpack the file, and a comic reader program such as CDisplay to read the book.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Splish Splash

From the October 30th, 2008 edition of the Boston Globe
Coastal Maine tide change a mystery

BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine—Meteorologists are baffled by rapid tidal changes along the Maine coast, which damaged some boats and piers.

Witnesses say low tide turned and became high within a matter of minutes on Tuesday afternoon. The changes occurred six or seven times. The National Weather Service says reports from several locations indicated that water levels fell and rose from 4 feet to as much as 12 feet during the event.

In a public information statement, the weather service says the cause "remains a mystery and may never be known."

It said significant rapid rises and falls in tide levels were observed around 3 p.m. in Boothbay Harbor, Southport and Bristol. The statement said rapid surges can be caused by the underwater movement of land, most often due to an earthquake, or due to slumping of sediments along a steep canyon or shelf, but no earthquakes were reported in the area Tuesday.

A similar event occurred on Jan. 9, 1926, in Bass Harbor, the statement said.

I think we all know what's causing this:

Season's Greetings!

Ah, crap. Wrong graphics. Hold on.

There we go! Have fun tonight, kiddies!

Thursday, October 30, 2008 Halloween Countdown: Night of the Living Dead

Not much to say about this one that hasn't already been said. Today's treat is that horror classic, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.

The movie should show up in a player just below this paragraph. Click on the little diamond shape to go full-screen. To download this movie directly, you can visit it's page at the Internet Archive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 Halloween Countdown: Zombies!!

Inspired by Dead Set, I've decided to give today's countdown a zombie theme. First up is one of the best radio horror plays I've ever encountered.

On Halloween night, an easy-listening radio program is interrupted by news bulletins, first on a rash of UFO sightings on the outskirts of town, later on a wave of violence sweeping through the same area. As the situation escalates, the station's news department takes over the broadcast, and reporters file updates live as they happen at various pressure points throughout the city... right up to the bitter end.

Obviously from the description, The Peoria Plague is an update on Orson Welles' infamous version of The War of the Worlds. However, this radio drama is also one of the first productions to be inspired by George Romero's ground-breaking classic, Night of the Living Dead, released just a few years prior to this broadcast. The result is a very chilling, surprisingly graphic horror tale that still holds up today. Well, except for the music selection on Kaleidoscope, of course!

I think I discovered The Peoria Plague via an old-time radio discussion list on Yahoo Groups, way back in the day. Not much is known about the program, not even it's real name ("The Peoria Plague" being the moniker stuck on it by fans). As far as anyone knows, it was produced by Peoria, Illinois radio station WUHN-AM around 1972. No cast or crew information is available, though given the nature of the program it's a good bet that the on-air personalities were playing themselves.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a source to provide a streaming mp3 of the show. However, it's honestly worth a download. Be warned that the sound quality isn't the best - this is a nth-generation copy of a program that was broadcast only once over AM radio - but it's definitely listenable, perfect for a long drive late on Halloween night with a somewhat gullible cousin. Hi, Mikey!

Click on the link below to be taken to the RapidShare download page for this obscure gem.

The Peoria Plague


Also on offer is the original soundtrack to another zombie classic, the original Dawn of the Dead (or Zombi as it was known in Italy). This is the original score created by Italian prog-rockers, Goblin, a favorite collaborator of Dawn producer Dario Argento. Goblin's score was used in Argento's European cut of the film, but Romero replaced much of it with stock music cues (including the beloved Gonk) for his US edit. However, the opening track, "L'alba dei morti viventi", is sure to send a chill down the spine of any Dawn fan.

I grabbed this months back, but I can't remember if I torrented it or pilfered it from another blog. My sincere apologies to the original poster if the latter is the case, and I will update this entry with the proper credit if I remember who you are.

Again, click on the link to be whisked through the intertubes to RapidShare's RIAA-enraging download page.

Zombi - The Original Soundtrack by Goblin

Dead Set

Where will you be when the zombie apocalypse happens? Well, if you're a superficial celebrity wannabe, or a hapless television production assistant, you just might be on the set of the nation's most popular reality show, Big Brother.

That's the premise of Dead Set, a zombie mini-series running this week on the UK cable channel, E4. I've just finished watching the first episode, and it's surprisingly good so far. The zombies are runners, but that's necessary given the show's premise and the speed with which things would have to escalate for that scenario to occur.

Amazingly, the reality show in the series is actually Big Brother and not Big Sister or Orwell House or whatever lame name the writers would have been forced to adopt if the show had been made in the US. Even though Big Brother is a production of E4's parent network, Channel 4, this still astounds me, because the behind-the-scenes crew of BB is not painted in a very flattering light. That would have been enough to derail a Hollywood version of Dead Set, despite the fact that the characters are clearly fictional. But the makers of Dead Set were able to shoot on the real Big Brother locations, cast the real host and real former contestants as themselves, and film the real crowds that gather outside the BB house while the show airs*. Ironically, the heightened sense of reality (pun intended) this all brings is mostly lost on American viewers, who wouldn't know Davina McCall from Noel Edmonds.

The whole shebang is the brainchild of Charlie Brooker, a writer and comedian best known for his scathing satires of British television. But while the Dead Set hasn't exactly been kind in its portrayal of the industry and the people who work in it, the show has been played straight so far. It hasn't shied away from the grisly images associated with the genre and it hasn't skimped on the scares so far, either; it had me jumping a couple of times.

Dead Set runs all this week through Halloween night, and gets a UK DVD release on November 3rd. If the next couple of episodes are as good as the first, I'll be placing an order this weekend. Hooray for the crashing pound!

* I think the public frenzy surrounding this program frightened me more than the zombies did.

Vampire Hunting for Fun and Profit

The Pippen Kit

From the October 24, 2008 edition of the Antique Trader:
Bidder sinks fangs into vampire killing kit for $14,850

A complete and authentic vampire killing kit – made around 1800 and complete with stakes, mirrors, a gun with silver bullets, crosses, a Bible, holy water, candles and even garlic, all housed in a handsome American walnut case with a carved cross on top – hammered for $14,850 at the Jimmy Pippen estate sale held Oct. 3-4 in the brand new Natchez Convention Center.


The vampire killing kit probably got more attention than any other item in the sale (and it was the second such kit Stevens has sold in Natchez; the last one, in 2000, went for $7,800). But it was not the top lot of the day. That honor went to a monumental rosewood Renaissance Victorian bedroom suite, made circa 1860 and attributed to John Jelliff. The suite went to a determined bidder for $33,000.

I don't know the history of this particular example, but similar kits are sold on eBay all the time. Often, the seller claims that the kit was found near Dracula's castle in Transylvania, and the item is sold with a certificate of authenticity from Romanian authorities. Trouble is, there is no such thing as "Dracula's castle"; Bran Castle, passed off to tourists as the official "Castle Dracula", was never home to Vlad Tepes. And that just goes to show how stringent Romanian authorities are in safeguarding the authenticity of Dracula-related relics.

Furthermore, these kits usually contain a Latin inscription that includes the word nosferatu. Nosferatu is not a word in Latin or any Hungarian language. The term came to prominence due to its use in Bram Stoker's novel, and Stoker picked it up from a magazine article written by someone who didn't speak Romanian. If a similar word or phrase for vampires was in usage in Transylvania at the time, the author most likely misheard and/or misinterpreted it. Thus, an authentic kit from the 19th Century would not incorporate the word in any fashion.

Turner & Williams ebay Kit

Another thing to look out for is the use of screw caps for bottles, which were not invented until around 1910. This anachronism has been caught by most recent sellers, however.

Apparently, the entire phenomenon can be traced back to a London antiques dealer working the Portobello Road markets in the early 1970's. At the very least, any kit invoking the names of Professor Ernst Blomberg and gunsmith Nicholas Plomdeur are direct copies of his work, if the author is to be believed.

A Blomberg Kit

Of course, that is not to say that no such kits were created in Ye Olden Days. Sotheby's has listed a couple of kits with crucifix-shaped pistols, claiming a French provenance for the items dating to 1900. One of the kits sold for $12,000. The Mercer Mueseum has a kit that sounds an awful lot like the typical Blomberg set-up; according to one website, the museum originally displayed the item as an authentic 19th Century antique but now presents it as a hoax from the 1920's. In any event, even these older models were most likely manufactured and sold as novelty items and not vital equipment for actual bloodsucker-killing.
The Sotheby's Kits

As a monster hunter fan, I think these kits are pretty neat. Not $14K neat, but pretty neat nonetheless. The real thing, if it even existed, would be practical, rough-hewn, and crude. But these kits are elegant, all wood and brass and velvet sheltering patent remedies and silver talismans and Latin inscriptions. Because they are hoaxes for a modern audience, they do a far better job of exemplifying the vampire hunting kits of our imaginations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 Halloween Countdown: The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor

As I've mentioned before, I loved monster hunters when I was a kid. Carl Kolchak, Van Helsing, Captain Kronos - I dug them all, even the less than stellar ones like Ulysses Bloodstone and the Ghost Busters. I think the key to my fascination was that one didn't have to be stronger or faster or even smarter than a monster in order to beat it - you just had to know its secret weaknesses. It was like every monster was a puzzle, a trick you could figure out if you just studied hard enough. And one could get a head start by amassing as much info on as many different monsters as possible, just in case you ever ran into one.

So I did. I read just about everything dealing with monsters that I could get my grubby child paws on. I scoured every nearby library and poured over the offerings from the Scholastic Book fair every year, looking for new tomes, new knowledge. That there was a big occult fad in the early Seventies helped, of course, and I was able to augment my collection of books on fictional monsters with paperbacks on "real" ones like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Along with various works by Daniel Cohen, there was one handy reference I had practically memorized.

Okay, so it was a kiddie book. But I was a kiddie when I first got it! And it was an excellent primer on the strengths and weaknesses of various supernatural threats. There were even quizzes where you had to match up a monster with the method of its extermination. Tests are of course a very useful training tool, and if I ever have kids I plan on giving them similar pop quizzes all the time. I ain't raising no monster food!

The book was written by Donald F. Glut, who has had a long career writing various media, primarily for young audiences. He provided scripts for shows like Super Friends and Land of the Lost, penned award-winning dinosaur guides, authored the official novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, and even wrote the occasional comic book. It's some of Glut's comics work that I'm showcasing today, his most popular creation, Dr. Spektor.

Dr. Adam Spektor is an occult investigator (and occasional werewolf) who, with the aid of such stalwarts as Eliot Kane and Lakota Sunflower, battles all manner of beasties and bogies, including heavyweights such as Frankenstein and Dracula. One of my favorite things about the series was the variety of creatures the good doctor encountered; the comic might have been my first exposure to the leopard men and were-lions of African folklore, for example. My other favorite thing about the series were the text pieces detailing the history of many of the menaces that Spektor battled. And Glut also worked characters from the Spektor series into some of his non-fiction work as well; I remember Baron Tibor being mentioned in the Monsters book alongside Dracula, Ruthven, and Varney the Vampire (and I'm pretty sure that's him on the cover of the book).

Sadly, Gold Key comics were hard to come by in the pre-comic shop era. I was lucky to assemble a paltry few issues, and those I still have are in terrible shape. Even today, back issues are scarce and often command ridiculous prices considering the character's relative obscurity. But thanks to the demon internet, I have managed to assemble the first six issues of The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor for your reading pleasure. Simply click on the link below to be whisked away to the Rapidshare download page.

The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor #1-6

King Vitaman Sucks

The family Halloween party was last Saturday. The plan was to serve hot dogs for all the kids, but someone done forgot to get the hot dogs (but oddly, not the buns). Mikey and I were dispatched to the nearest supermarket, some chain I have never heard of named something like Buy & Low or Pay & Little or Hey Hillfolk Get Yer Vittles Here. Now, we were in the wilds of Indiana and apparently, that's where old products go to die because Mikey spotted King Vitaman in the cereal aisle. I remembered loving King V as a kid, so I snatched up a box as we made our way to the checkout line.

(The original plan was to boil the hot dogs, but Mikey wouldn't hear of that. Our host didn't have a grill, so Mike assembled the parts needed to MacGuyver one - a big foil pan, a wire cooling rack from the cookie sheet aisle, and one of those small, pre-soaked charcoal bags. The cooling rack fit perfectly across the top of the foil pan and, in case the heat got too much for the thin metal of the pan, we placed the whole contraption on some bricks we found in the back yard. It worked like a charm. The hot links were damn good.)

This morning, I figured I'd have myself some King Vitaman. I anticipated a bowl full of sugary goodness served up with a side of warm, glowing nostalgia.

I didn't get it.

Imagine Captain Crunch with all the flavor removed. That is King Vitaman. You get the same amount of calories, you still cut the hell out of the roof of your mouth, you just don't experience anything resembling the sensation of taste. I am assured by the package, however, that the cereal is a good source of 12 essential vitamins and iron. Fuck you, package.

I don't know if King Vitaman always tasted like this, or if someone's been screwing with the formula. It's not as if they haven't made some changes over the years. I remember the box looking like this:

and it now looks like this:

It may seem odd, but I prefer the slightly deranged, probably drunk, potentially pedophilliac gentleman from the old design to the generic cartoon currently being used. I mean, good on the Cookie Crisp wizard for landing another gig, but the old package had character.

Speaking of the package, instead of using the side panel for something useful like recipes that might make this shit taste good or tips on how to stop blood pouring from the roof of your mouth, Quaker has given us riddles. And by riddles, I mean "retarded non sequiturs that make the guy who writes Dixie Riddle Cups look like Molière."

And don't get me started on the hidden picture puzzle on the back, because you're already looking at me funny. This thing couldn't challenge a nearsighted five-year-old on mescaline. It looks like the artist, exhausted after putting in the bare minimum effort to hide the spoon and arrow, looked at his watch and said, "Fuck it, Quaker ain't paying me overtime. I'll just stick everything else in the trees and the goddamn clouds where they'll leap out at the viewer like titties in a 3-D Russ Meyer movie". I'd much rather have the stupid knight mask from the back of the old box, thank you very much.

In conclusion, this forty-two-year-old was let down by a children's breakfast cereal in every way imaginable.


By the way, I won the costume contest at the party. (Thank you, thank you, oh, you're too kind!). If I can get decent photos within the next couple of days, I'll post 'em here.

Monday, October 27, 2008 Halloween Countdown: Ghost Stories

Growing up in the Seventies, my brother and I loved listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Normally, we were only allowed to do so during the summer months, as the program began at 10:30 PM, well after our bedtime during the school year. And while we rarely managed to stay awake all the way to the end of the program, we still fondly remember that distinctive opening - the creaking door, the ominous musical sting, and the warm and oh-so-slightly sinister greeting from host E.G. Marshall. CBSRMT is probably the single greatest cause of my lifelong love of audio drama and OTR.

One story in particular scared the bejeezus out of my brother and, along with Spirits of the Dead, helped him foster a phobia of creepy little blond girls. I present for your Halloween pleasure that tale, "A Ring of Roses".

CBSRMT Fan Site and Internet Radio Station
Another Fan Site
The CBS Radio Mystery Theater at the Internet Archive


Montague Rhodes James is widely regarded as the greatest author of ghost stories Great Britain has yet produced. His prose inspired writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, and adaptations of his stories have become something of a Christmas tradition for the BBC. I'm offering several Jamesian treats as part of today's Halloween Countdown.

First up is a collection of tales from James' Ghost Stories of an Antiquary in pdf format. Included in this selection is "Casting the Runes", the story that was the basis for Jacques Tourneur's classic film, Night of the Demon. Right-click on the link to save the file to your hard drive.

M.R. James at Christmas is five-part series broadcast last year on BBC Radio 4. These are short (under fifteen minute) adaptations of some of James' best-loved stories. Click on the link to be taken to the RapidShare download page for the file.

Finally, British television personality and author Muriel Gray profiles James as part of BBC Radio's Great Lives, a biography series in which a noted figure discusses someone he or she feels has lead a remarkable life. The episode on James traces his career as a Cambridge scholar as well as an author, and attempts to offer some insights into the man behind the spooks. Again, the link will take you to the Rapidshare download for the program.

Look out, Tony!

Thanks to Mp3 Story Daily and Munseys for help providing today's treats.


I have no idea how I missed this story. From the Chicago Sun-Times for October 14th, 2008:

Clown attempts to lure children into vehicle with balloons

A man wearing clown make-up and a wig is using balloons in an attempt to lure children into his vehicle on the South Side. Police issued the alert about a week after a man with similar description was spotted on the West Side.

The incidents were reported in the 8300 block of South Mackinaw and the 10000 block of South Normal, according to a community alert by Calumet Area detectives.

The man, who wears clown make-up and a wig, approached children with balloons attempting to lure them into his vehicle, but the children ran and called 911, the alert said.

The attempted kidnapping/child abduction occurred on Oct. 7 at 5:55 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 8:55 a.m., the alert said.

Last week Harrison Area detectives issued an alert for a man matching a similar description.

That suspect was seen on foot in the Garfield Park neighborhood and near Beidler Elementary School, 3151 W. Walnut St., and Polaris Charter Academy, 620 N. Sawyer Ave., according to a community alert from Harrison Area detectives.

In both alerts, police said the suspect was driving a white four-door van or brown pickup truck.

Anyone with information or see any suspicious person should call detectives, (312) 747-8272.

Rumors of child-snatching clowns are nothing new. Jan Harold Brunvand devoted a small chapter of his 1993 book, The Baby Train, to the subject, noting cases from all over the country going back as far as 1981. The odd thing is that Chicago had a similar scare almost 17 years ago exactly, as reported in the October 11th edition of the Chicago Tribune. Then as now, the Chicago Police Department appears to have taken the reports seriously.

Clowns figure in child abduction and "organ theft" folklore not only in the US and Europe, but in Central and South America as well. And they have inspired other, creepier urban legends that are still passed off as real today:

Just had to share this with you! Last week my daughter's friend was babysitting for her baby brother and couldn't get the baby to sleep. She rang her mum, who said take all the stuffed toys out of the room. The daughter said she had done, except for the big clown in the corner of the room - to which her mother replied, we haven't got a big clown! Take the baby and get out of the house, and go next door.

It turns out that the clown was a man, who had dressed himself up as a clown and parked himself in the corner of the baby's room, pretending to be a toy! Mum rang the police and the clown was arrested.

Unbelievable but true. Apparently. And a bit scary! Close those windows.

Obviously, clowns are not to be trusted!

Sunday, October 26, 2008 Halloween Countdown: Dracula Double Feature

Sorry for missing yesterday's Countdown, but I was away from home and without internet connection. To make up for it, today's update is a Dracula Double Bill!

First up is 1973's The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The British Secret Service is investigating a cult that has ensnared several important citizens, including a top virologist and a prominent government minister. When a shocking series of "vampire murders" seems to connect to the cult, Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing is brought into the investigation at the suggestion of Scotland Yard. The combined team of secret agents, coppers, and vampire hunters uncover a plot by the King of the Undead to... well, that would be telling!

Satanic Rites is a direct sequel to the previous entry in the Hammer series, Dracula AD 1972, a woefully misguided attempt to update the Count to the Swingin' Seventies. Luckily, having established the famous bloodsucker in the modern era (however clumsily), the studio was free to tell a cracking good yarn with this sequel. Instead of bothering with way-out fashions and groovy slang, Satanic Rites adds a dash of science fiction and espionage intrigue to the standard Hammer formula, with excellent results.

This was only the third time that Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing squared off as Dracula and his nemesis, Van Helsing. Satanic Rites was also the last of the Hammer series to feature Lee as the Count. Cushing would reprise his Van Helsing role one last time in the following year's Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. And yes, that is Absolutely Fabulous' Joanna Lumley as Van Helsing's granddaughter, Jessica.

By the way, you need look no further than this movie for proof that the US theatrical posters for Hammer films sucked. I mean, which movie would you rather go see, this one:

or this one?

Note that the US title is different. The American distributors cut about five minutes of footage to get a PG rating and changed the name of the film for reasons known only to them. The name change created a bit of a loophole for grey-market video sellers to try and exploit. The claim is that while The Satanic Rites of Dracula is protected by international copyright, Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride is not. Some of these sellers had the nerve to copy Anchor Bay's nicely restored DVD of Satanic Rites, splice in a cheap new title card, and sell the result as their own product!

Ah, well. It's also that loophole that has enabled me to share this film with you here. The movie should show up in a viewer just below this paragraph. You can click on the little diamond symbol to go full screen, or head over to the movie's page at the Internet Archive and download it directly to your hard drive (but only in mp4 or mov format, unfortunately).


Also offered for your pleasure is the complete run of Marvel's Dracula Lives! magazine, all thirteen issues and the 1975 Annual. Dracula Lives! was a sister publication to the fantastic Tomb of Dracula. However, so as not to interfere with the modern-day saga Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan were weaving in the color series, Dracula Lives! featured stories set in various points in the Count's long and bloody past.

The series features stories by the likes of Doug Monech, Steve Gerber, and Roy Thomas (who adapts Stoker's novel in a serial running through several issues). Colan, Dick Giordano, Russ Heath, and the usual gang of Filipinos provide the artwork. There's also the obligatory reprints of short strips from old Atlas horror comics, and several articles on the Hammer film series and other batty topics.

The run has been split up into three groups. Each can be unzipped on their own, but you will need to down load all three groups to get the complete run.

One! One group! Hah hah hah!
Two! Two groups! Hah hah hah!
Three! There are three groups! Hah hah hah!

Friday, October 24, 2008 Halloween Countdown: The Thing on the Fourble Board

Just a small update tonight, as I am away from my home, my high-speed internet, and my beloved McAfee-free laptop.

Quiet, Please is a forgotten gem of a program from radio's golden age. It was practically a two-man operation; Wyllis Cooper wrote and directed and Ernest Chappell played the lead for every episode. The stories unfolded like a conversation, with Chappell's easy manner perfectly complimented by Cooper's imaginative scripts. While sound effects and other actors were used, they were used sparingly and with restraint. The result was a very intimate show, one that draws in the listener to the point where he almost becomes part of the cast.

I've posted here what is regarded as not only the most chilling tale of the show's run but one of the scariest programs from the entire golden age of radio. "The Thing on the Fourble Board" tells of a weird discovery aboard an isolated oil rig, of a creature beyond imagining making its way back to the surface from the very center of the Earth.

Thursday, October 23, 2008 Halloween Countdown: Marvel Horror Magazines

In the early Seventies, the vaunted Comics Code was relaxed enough so that publishers could once again feature macabre creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Sales of superhero comics were in a bit of a slump at the time, and publishers were ready to try something new. Marvel tested the waters in the pages of Spider-Man with the villains Man-Wolf and Morbius, the Living Vampire. Their popularity encouraged Marvel to go ahead with all-out horror titles such as Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, and The Monster of Frankenstein.

Around the same time, Marvel was experimenting with a line of black-and-white magazines, most likely in attempt to mimic the success Warren Publications was having with the likes of Creepy and Vampirella. The magazine format meant that the stories were not subject to the Comics Code at all, thereby encouraging more mature writing and art (aka blood and boobies). The horror stars were a natural fit for this line, and titles such as Vampires Tales and Monsters Unleashed soon hit the stands.

Today, I've uploaded a handful of some of the more obscure comics from those days of yore. All of the comics are in cbr format, so you will need a reader program such as CDisplay to view the comics after you download and unpack the files. By the way, RapidShare limits the frequency of downloads for free users, so make sure you grab the set of comics you're most interested in first!

First up is a slightly random batch of mags featuring some of Marvel's better-known horror heroes such as Morbius and Blade the Vampire Slayer. Also appearing is the mind-boggling Manphibian, by all accounts the absolutely least successful character of the early Seventies' monster boom. Included in the file are Legion of Monsters #01, Marvel Preview #03 (featuring Blade), and Marvel Preview #08 (featuring the Legion of Monsters).

Next up is a couple of books showcasing two of Marvel's lethal ladies, the sinister Santana and the lithsome Lilith, Daughter of Dracula! Included in the file are Marvel Preview #07 (with a fantastic Bob Larkin cover) & #12.

From 1975, here's the complete run (all two issues) of Masters of Terror, a horror-themed companion to the (slightly) more successful Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. Unlike Marvel's other mags that delivered original creations, Masters featured adaptations of yarns by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Robert Bloch.

And as a bonus, here's a collection of Brother Voodoo sagas from Marvel's color comics. Included are Jericho Drumm's first appearances in Strange Tales #169-173 as well as guest-starring roles in Marvel Team-Up #24, Marvel Two-in-One #41, and Werewolf by Night #39-41.

There! That should keep you busy until the second volume of Essential Marvel Horror hits the stands. (A month after Halloween - way to go, Marvel marketing!)

Keep the Faith, True Believers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 Halloween Countdown: Horror Express

At the dawn of the 20th century, an archaeologist working in China unearths what he believes to be the missing link between man and ape perfectly preserved in ice. Eager to bring his discovery home, he books passage on the first train back to Europe, unaware that the still-living creature will turn the rail journey into a Horror Express!

I have fond memories of watching this movie on various UHF outlets while growing up. Setting the action aboard a speeding train is a great gimmick, and lends the proceedings a claustrophobic sense of urgency. Despite the presence of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Horror Express is actually a Spanish film and not a Hammer production. The filmmakers have made the most of their meager budget, re-using sets and miniatures from the director's previous film, Pancho Villa. "Villa" himself, Telly Savalas(!), turns up near the end as a scenery-chewing Cossack. It's a lot of fun seeing Cushing and Lee as allies for a change, and they appear to be having a great time. You will, too.

The movie should show up in a viewer near the top of this post. You can click on the little diamond symbol to go full screen, or head over to the movie's page at the Internet Archive and download it directly to your hard drive. Enjoy!