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Monster Monday

Monster Monday is becoming more and more real these days☠️🧟🧜‍♂️

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Henry James – Of Course I Was Under the Spell

“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one.” —THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James, born on this day, April 15, 1843.

American novelist and, as a naturalized English citizen from 1915, a great figure in the transatlantic culture. His fundamental theme was the innocence and exuberance of the New World in clash with the corruption and wisdom of the Old, as illustrated in such works as Daisy Miller (1879), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Bostonians (1886), and The Ambassadors (1903).

Although his work did not gain much recognition during his lifetime, Henry James now has a standing amongst the most significant writers of the nineteenth century realism. The Portrait of a Lady and Daisy Miller are his most widely read and best known works. Henry’s critique, short stories and novels are heavily influenced by European history and culture. His interest in Europe’s upper class and their formal traditions is evident in his writing. Henry’s engaging stories of Americans exploring the prim and proper lifestyle of the Europeans have gained him immense popularity. James has to his credit 22 novels, more than a hundred short stories, autobiographical works, several plays and critical essays.

Photo of Henry James, Horror writer. Used for mind on fire books.
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The Inappropriate Elf on the Shelf Photo Contest

From sexy, to scientific, to stoned and drunk, the literary, to downright evil, here are the ten best Elf on the Shelf photos I was able to find this year.  Which would you choose as the winner?

As I perused the Twitters this morning for content, I came across a funny Elf on the Shelf photo in which the Elf was taped up to the wall and surrounded by little Army action figures. Then commenced the plunge into the Dark Elf Abyss of hundreds of photos…. photo collages, groups and pins. It was never ending.

Here, I have collected my favorite 12. Now I’m asking for your help in narrowing them down to the best one. Or, simply pick your favorite and tell me why 🙂 Personally, I think it’s a tie between the Elf Lemonade and the Elf holding a Barbie head with the sign that reads, “Your next,” because the book stack behind it was carefully picked.

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The Legacy of Dr. Caligari: Horror History in Noirvember

By Ariel Fisher

It’s November which, for some film fans, means it’s time for the ultra-hashtaggable month-long celebration of all things Film Noir: #Noirvember. Folks tend to think of the genre as smokey bars, jazz, and dangerous dames, but it’s actually far more complex. With its roots firmly planted in German Expressionism and Horror, Film Noir can be traced back to a microbudget studio film from Weimar Germany that would completely change the face of cinema – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Featuring Werner Krauss as the titular Caligari, the film follows the not-so-good doctor and his future-telling somnambulist sideshow act, Cesare, as they perform in a small German village. But just as soon as they came to town, the murders started, and no one can tell if it’s Cesare or Caligari that’s to blame.

Referred to by Pauline Kael as “one of the most famous films of all time”, the 1920 silent film is widely considered one of the first feature-length horror films ever made. It also marked the beginning of German Expressionism, a genre born out of an oppressive studio system following the end of the first World War. Its trademarks were expressionistic sets, makeup, and costume design all used as a rejection of Western tropes while depicting a wildly distorted reality for emotional effect.

In one fell swoop, Caligari gave birth to two of the most dramatic and stylistically unique film genres in history. The hyper-stylized sets meant to evoke a sense of madness were partially created out of necessity due to budgetary constraints, with most structures painted on angularly-cut flats. This innovative and industrious technique would become standard practice for both Horror and Noir, where angular lighting and harsh shadows could be used to hide a lack of finances.

Image from Diabolique, 1955

A great many Noir films actively engaged with horror thanks to the influence of Caligari. Titles like Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Cat People (1942), The Lodger (1944), Diabolique (1955), and Night Of The Hunter (1955) straddled both genres, creating visually stunning horror masterpieces. Many of the original Universal Monster films took directly from the visual style of Caligari, such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). But its influences didn’t stop there. Well into the 1960s and beyond, films like Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Exorcist (1973), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), and The Babadook (2014) would pull from Caligari’s legacy for their visual and thematic tropes.

Nearly 100 years after its release, Robert Wiene’s German Expressionist film about the horrors of the mind remains one of the most significant achievements in film history, with Film Noir and Horror to show for it.

Happy #Noirvember!

Image from the Cat People, 1942

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Horror Novels Based on Real Life

have always gravitated toward works of horror, even at a young age. At first, I read whatever Horror novels I could find on my friends bookshelves. John Saul. V.C. Andrews. Stephen King. They lit a fire in me that makes me curious about all the things that might be out there. All the things we cannot prove. Ghosts living among us, creatures in nature, parallel universes, monsters within ourselves, and so on!

As I got older, I began to appreciate a different sort of horror. Horror novels that made me interrogate the greater dangers we encounter in our day-to-day lives. The deeper evils that lie within us. What could be more terrifying?

If there is anything to inspire an even deeper dread within me, it’s stories that take already terrible events from real life and make them even more monstrous using the traditional elements of horror. Perhaps it’s because these stories hew so closely to reality, they almost seem to confirm the potentiality of dark magic and demonic creatures and other supernatural manifestations.

Here are 8 books that manage the balancing act of normalcy and impossibility in a way that is creepily satisfying.
The Terror by Dan Simmons
8 horror novels from mind on fire books

Simmons is known for the brand of horror that takes an event in history and twists it so it becomes darker. His most well-known work in this vein is The Terror, which takes the story of a ship on a doomed expedition through the Arctic in the mid-1840s to find the Northwest Passage—a story already filled with disease, starvation, and death—and adds in the possibility of something else unseen, something stalking them across the ice. The Terror is so popular, it was adapted for the small screen.

 
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood
8 horror novels by mind on fire books

The myth of the changeling—a fairy child left in place of a stolen human child—ran rampant throughout medieval Europe. Perhaps it was so popular because it was such a convenient scapegoat for the afflictions that often beset children, diseases and disabilities that parents and medical professionals did not understand at the time. In some cases, even adults are accused of being changelings. One of the most well-known cases is Bridget Cleary who was killed in 1895 by a group of people that included her suspicious husband. In The Hidden People (a reference to the fairy folk), a man learns his cousin has been burned alive because her husband thought she was a changeling. When he arrives in town to investigate, he comes to wonder if there’s more than just silly superstition at play.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle
The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle has a knack for taking old folk tales and making them new. I adored his take on the changeling myth, in which he tracks trolls on their journey from Europe to America. In explaining how changelings have come to be in America, he digs into the “why” behind their existence. He also suggests a level of complicity in the humans that had previously been assumed to be victims alone.

 
Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias
Horror Novels based on real life by Willy Martinez

More than anything else, this novel is about la frontera, the U.S.-Mexico border. Rather than focusing in on a single historical moment or figure, this book uses six characters to tell the story of a shared Southwesterdn experience—with a dark twist. Among the six main characters are a child who turns cold-blooded after seeing his father killed; a young woman who progresses from performance art to murder; and a mother who begins to fear that the child in her womb may be something more sinister.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Horror Novels by Willy Martinez

Alma Katsu’s latest book takes one of the deadliest occurrences in Western history—the catastrophic wagon train journey of the infamous Donner Party—and adds a supernatural twist. Starvation and eventually death causes the body count to rise. Members of the party are pushed to the brink, inevitably turning against each other. But as people begin to disappear, they start to wonder if something even more malevolent is at play.

Black Fire by Hernan Rodriguez
horror novels based on life by Willy Martinez

In this graphic horror novel, Rodriguez places us in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars when, after an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the Russian army, his own military is forced to retreat. One unit is attacked by Cossacks during their journey homeward, but two survivors are able to elude the military warriors by fleeing toward an abandoned Slavic town—a place the Cossacks are unwilling to approach. But why? These men eventually come face to face with the Czernobog, a Slavic demon who proves to be a much more formidable opponent than the bloodthirsty warriors they only just barely escaped.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Horror novels based on real life by mind on fire books

This classic horror is one of those books I can’t believe my parents let me read. At that point, having made me way through most of the books on their shelves, they’d probably resigned themselves to having a weird and morbid child. What difference would a bit of adult content make? As you likely already know, Blatty’s novel is about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl, and the attempted exorcism undertaken by two priests. What you may not know is that the book is based upon the true story of an actual exorcism. Wherever you stand on the legitimacy of demonic possession, by the end of Blatty’s novel, you’re forced to believe.

Perfume by Patrick Süskind
Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Once upon a time (the early- to mid-1800s), a Spanish serial killer known as the Wolfman killed several women and children so he could extract their body fat and use it to make soap. Some postulate that Süskind’s novel—about a perfumer’s apprentice who is obsessed with possessing the particular scent that exudes from virginal young girls—is based upon this monstrous true tale. Whatever the origin, Süskind pushes the story further, imbuing the scents his serial killer acquires with outsized powers.

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The Day of the Munsters

On September 24, 1964, the horror-themed sitcom, “The Munsters,” premiered on CBS television, depicting the home life of a family of monsters and the “normal” niece who came to live with them. It starred Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Yvonne De Carlo as his wife, Lily Munster. The series was a satire of both traditional #monster movies and the wholesome family fare of the era and as a kid, it was one of my favorites. It ran for two seasons (70 episodes) but achieved its greatest audience in syndication, which is where most people of my age actually saw it for the first time.
 
My two favorite parts of the show were the theme song and the Munsters’ awesome cars. The instrumental theme song (which actually had lyrics, believe or not) was arranged by Jack Marshall and written by Jon Burlingame, who called it a “Bernard-Herrmann-meets-Duane-Eddy sound.” And if you don’t know who those guys are, look it up.
 
The show remains a blast, even after all of these years and if you haven’t seen it lately, track down an episode. I promise you’ll still laugh!
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