Archive for August, 2005

Danced with Death

From The Washington Post:

It helps a little bit, even as your heart is breaking over those TV hurricanescapes of New Orleans under water, to remember that “the city that care forgot” has always danced with death.

New Orleans was born amid ghastly yellow fever epidemics, where corpses stained with black vomit were piled on carts to be hauled to above-ground crypts. The sepulcher flower vases bred the fever-freighted mosquitoes.

Climate, Catholicism and voodoo shaped the city, along with Latin fatalism, languorous hedonism and an atmosphere of poignant and elegant decay. It’s no accident that Anne Rice lived there to pen her vampire tales.

And yet, inseparable though they may be, New Orleans has always been more about the dance than about the death. Somewhere in the shade of its majestic live oaks and the shadows of its lacework balconies, among the saxophone riffs in its echoing alleys and the soft magenta glow of its crape myrtles at twilight, the flickering ghosts that haunt New Orleans whisper huskily of sweaty, sensual love and the promise of enduring memory. Even the street names whisper promises: Desire, Amour, Abundance; Pleasure, Treasure and Joy.

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A love letter or obituary?

An Associated Press writer doesn’t know whether she’s writing an obituary for New Orleans or just a love letter for a city submerged:

We have loved it for the police who took pictures of women flashing their breasts on Bourbon Street, or dressed in drag to prowl for Halloween drug sales in the Quarter, hauling up their skirts to pull handcuffs out of their pants pockets.

We have loved it for the drunks, the nut cases, the punks, the vampire wannabes drawn by the Gothic romance of Anne Rice.

Until death do us part

Until death do us part and beyond. From CNN:

When Xavier Bowie died in a flooded New Orleans neighborhood, his wife did the best she could in a city so preoccupied with saving the living that no one can deal with the dead.

She wrapped his body in a sheet, laid him on a makeshift bier of plywood boards, with a little help, and floated him down to the main road.

For more than an hour, Evelyn Turner waited along Rampart Street outside the French Quarter, her husband’s body resting on the grassy median as car after car passed, their wakes threatening to wash over the corpse.

“This is ridiculous,” Turner, 54, said as she sobbed into a dirty washcloth.

Bowie, 57, a truck driver who had been with Turner for 16 years, had advanced lung cancer and could not be easily moved. When Turner could find no one to take them out of the city, she decided to stay home and hoped the storm would spare them.

snip

With hundreds, if not thousands, of residents still stuck on roofs and in attics across the city, officials have concentrated on saving survivors of Katrina and floodwaters. “We’re not even dealing with dead bodies,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Tuesday.

When Turner got back to the corpse, she collapsed onto the plywood sheets and wept.

Heartbreaking.

For the record, should I ever die in such circumstances, my wife and children should leave my body to the elements.

Also, if I’m in a vegetative state, my family has my authorization to disconnect me from any tubes preventing me from dying a natural death. I want that on the record so that I never cause a real national crisis that requires prompt action from our Dear Leader and Congress.

UPDATE. Georgia10, an occasional commenter here, also blogged on this and hers is a classic must read.

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Moundsville ghost hunt

From an email from Jared Stroech (published with his kind permission):

Finally, last weekend I had the opportunity to go on
an investigation at the Moundsville State Penitentiary.  The usual ghost tours there include at least 50 people, most of whom have very minimal ghost hunting skills and are there for the thrill and a good
scare.  I was with Alicia, Joann, and Carol, three very talented investigators.  After a brief tour from the guide, we were off by ourselves.  We attempted to set up a night vision video camera in the corridor of the North Hall, where the “Shadow Man” has been seen.

The camera would not work properly…most likely human error, but the malfunction of equipment is not uncommon at sites like this. 

Alicia brought her fancy new IR Thermometer with laser precision…a great piece of ghost hunting equipment.

While in the basement, where a maintenance man was brutally murdered and in the spot where the only CONFIRMED ghost of the penitentiary resides, we took some temp. readings, snapped some photos, and did a 10-minute dark.  After getting nothing, we proceeded to an area of the prison where many men were killed.

This was the room that lead to the yard.  I tried my baiting and luring techniques to try and get a reaction from whatever was there…we got nothing.  As soon as we left that room and continued to the elevator shaft, we heard a cell door slam shut behind us, not 10 feet from the room where my luring techniques had failed, minutes earlier. 

After another hour or so of investigating, very few good photos, no temp. variances, and a bit of fatigue, we went to the basement again to retrieve my recorder, which I left in the room where the maintenance man was killed.  As soon as we walked in, the cold hit us like an arctic chill.  Alicia took a temp. reading and it
read 65. The temp. only an hour or so before, was 74-77.  We decided to hang around for a little while and try to get a reaction from him once again.

Nothing.

Although we got only a few valid pieces of evidence, the night was very exciting and I plan on going back.

Jared

Here’s a link for more information on the Moundsville prison ghost tours.

Curse and luck of the Carters

Excellent story on a descendant of Howard Carter, the Egyptologist who discovered King Tut’s tomb, in The Wolverhampton (UK) Express & Star. He’s an antique collector and auctioneer who says he inherited the “Carter Hunch” — not a curse — which has helped him make exceptional finds of his own.

But, like Howard Carter before him, Africa has always fascinated John Carter. In the heat and dust of Egypt Howard found the “Carter Hunch” drew him like a radar beam into the greatest collection of Egyptian treasures the world had ever seen.

The golden mask of the young king, the chariots, golden beds and stunningly beautiful jewellery excited the imagination of the world and changed the face of design.

Obviously Hollywood was affected, and rumours of the mythical curse of Tutankhamun lay behind movies like The Mummy’s Hand. Curses were in – common sense went out of the window.

And John Carter smiles cryptically when he says he found curses of another kind in darkest Africa, Mali to be exact, and the curses were of the mosquito kind.

“I’ve always been an armchair explorer and I devour features on faraway places. I saw a programme on Mali and decided to go. I had collected antiquities and ethnic pieces for some time, so this was to be a buying trip for the Cleobury shop.

“I was looking for genuine African masks – the real thing. Mali seemed to be the place to visit. I shall never forget my first African sunrise. Around 7am a huge red orb rose over the tarmac runway at Bamako airport. It was a dazzling sight. The sun’s disc was a motif which recurred again and again in the jewellery Howard Carter found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

“I found a young French-speaking African guide, Abdoulaye Cisse, who guided me to a local antiquaire. I felt like Howard Carter must have felt all those years ago. It was an Aladdin’s cave with antique masks, old ivory, animal skins, weaponry, textiles and old, old furniture lying everywhere covered with dust.

“The Bambara masks were stunning. Carved with geometric designs and with traces of original paintwork they were like centuries old art deco before the word was invented. It all left you gawping.

“In the evenings an old man came into the hotel garden carrying objects from remote villages he knew. They were just sold on to tourists – if there were any around. Some were fine. You couldn’t stop your heart from beating. Any collector would have shelled out his last dollars to own these exquisite bowls and figures. Obviously I did.”

A really fun read.

Bump in the night

There’s a lot of tragedy in the world, from the Gulf Coast to Baghdad. To me, this blog has always been a way to escape from the incomprehensible horrors of reality into the more acceptable horrors of the supernatural. Although I’ll continue to post occasional pleas for money for worthy causes and rants about the insanity of world affairs, I find comfort in returning to the abnormal and I hope the readers of this site agree. From the East London and West Sussex Guardian:

RATIONALISTS beware, Chingford is one of the most haunted places in the country and a ghost may patrol a home or hotel near you.

Disembodied footsteps, a mysterious man on horseback and the ghost of a woman killed in a hotel fire at the beginning of the last century are among the phantoms inhabiting the cemeteries, byways and hostels of the area.

The Guardian has taken a number of calls recently from people claiming to have “heard” things and felt “strange” in the vicinity of Chingford Mount Cemetery.

We contacted local paranormal experts Eerie Investigations, who confirmed the burial site’s spectral reputation.

Ian Pleasance, an investigator with Eerie, said: “The cemetery is known for being haunted and many people have reported sounds of footsteps walking on the grass behind them, even though there was no-one present.

Very spooky article well worth reading in its entirety.

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Call to the Hunt

From Stephen Hunt’s Crows Nest:

Steven E. Wedel has a passion and his is the cry of a wolf, a cry unlike any other wolf. A call to the hunt, an inclination to run, a desire stronger than love or hate…The wildness of werewolves.

This anthology brings together his short stories that follow the double-lives of his werewolf characters. It crosses time frames by starting on a Pilgrim Fathers ship entering the New World. The finding of the Native Americans, the independence of America from the British, right up to present day.

As the introduction by Kelley Armstrong quite rightly states we have in recent years become ‘vampire obsessed’ leaving our lycanthropic friends out in the cold. Wedel writes believable stories that are effective with their imagery. He uses recurring characters to tell an ongoing story of how the werewolves survive and deal with living amongst their human counterparts.

…we have in recent years become ‘vampire obsessed’ leaving our lycanthropic friends out in the cold.

And rightly so. For those who feel werewolves are neglected, September is Werewolf Month at The Groovy Age of Horror.

Terror during True Horror

Paging Buffy Summers. Buffy Summers to the white courtesy phone please. Anthony Steward Head, host of the new supernatural series True Horror, could have used his fellow Buffy The Vampire Slayer co-star for protection. From Digital Spy:

Anthony Head was left shaken after his camera crew were kidnapped in Haiti.

Head, known for playing Rupert Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is part of reality TV show True Horror which involves him going on location to comment on strange goings-on and interview experts.

However, when he signed up to the project he claims that he was only expecting to perform his part from the safety of a studio rather than being on the field. His unexpected duties have reportedly begun to worry him after his camera crew disappeared.

Contactmusic.com quote him as saying: “I thought I’d be in a studio… Instead, they flew me to Haiti for an episode on zombies and the camera crew got kidnapped.”

New Orleans – Latest news

I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans with its dark history and spooky cemeteries and vampires and ghosts.

Hopefully New Orleans will survive Hurricane Katrina for the 485,000 people who call it home and for the people who love the city from afar.

UPDATE 1. 8:43 p.m. Sunday: Read antifa’s comment on Digby’s Blog.

I called Mama Marisol, got her on her cell phone. She had her crystal ball in the front seat, and she was ‘leavin-leavin, cher.’

Heading up Basin Street past St. Louis 1, she saw all the skeletons sitting on top of their tombs, rolling their bones and readin’ em, shakin’ their heads at her.

Not a good sign.

UPDATE 2. Noon, Monday: Good round up of bloggers and others in the midst of the storm.

“9:45 a.m.: Homeowner Says Water Rising: Chris Robinson says the water is rising in his New Orleans-area home, but he’s ‘holding off on breaking through the roof’ to escape. Robinson is keeping a hammer, ax and crowbar at the ready, though. He spoke by cellphone as water sent by Hurricane Katrina flooded parts of the city.

and

I’m looking at the wind smashing the trees outside this building, and thinking of those 80-foot-tall pines that snap off even during tropical storms. And that storm surge. All we can do now is pray for our family members in harm’s way. … most frantic calls about downtown hotels, where a number of windows have blown out. Guests huddling in halls. Water blowing in through windows, leaking through ceilings. … Building collapse reported on Laurel near Washington in the Garden District . . . possibly with people inside. Emergency workers trying to see if they can get a National Guard deuce-and-a-half to get through the storm for possible rescue.

UPDATE 3. 12:30 p.m.: Please give as you are able: the American Red Cross. (See also great suggestion from cookie jill in the comments.)

UPDATE 4. 2 p.m.: One bright humorous moment in an otherwise grim day.

UPDATE 5. 3:30 p.m.: No word yet, though on NO’s famed cemeteries. The risk is contamination on the living.

There also were concerns about everything from environmental damage — major oil refineries and other industrial operations are in Katrina’s path — to the possibility that bodies would be dislodged from city cemeteries, where people are interred in aboveground tombs because of the city’s high water table.

UPDATE 6. Tuesday 1 p.m.: The situation is extremely depressing and scary as the flood waters rise with trapped people forced up to their attics.

• Katrina blamed for 68 deaths, including 55 in Mississippi

• Reports of bodies floating in water in New Orleans

• New Orleans ‘in state of devastation,’ water still rising

• Search and rescue efforts under way for survivors

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Anne Rice on Jesus

A round up of upcoming fall releases from the publishing world. From The Houston Chronicle:

Finally, there’s little pre-pub word on Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (Knopf), her novel about Jesus’ early life. According to the publisher, it’s “based on the Gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship.”

Also mentioned is horror blogosphere fave Neil Gaiman’s new release:

From Hugo and Nebula award winner Neil Gaiman comes Anansi Boys (Morrow), about a conventional Englishman who discovers his late father was the human incarnation of an African trickster god. Stephen King, William Gibson and Peter Straub are big Gaiman fans.

And for the comic book loving segment of the audience:

Norton is reprinting the late Will Eisner’s graphic novels. November brings The Contract With God Trilogy, first published in 1978 and considered a classic. Set during the Depression, it grew out of Eisner’s boyhood in the tenements.

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