Archive for May, 2008

Dead woman comes back to life

If she starts having visions of the future, I’m believing her.

Associated Press has the story and video.

‘Shadows’ roam the earth

From the BBC:

Mysterious bands of shadow which sometimes pass across the ground during an eclipse might be produced by sound pulses, according to a new theory.

“Shadow bands” have been observed travelling across the ground before and after totality – when the Moon completely covers the Sun.

Many attribute these regular light and dark bands to atmospheric turbulence.

But astrophysicist Dr Stuart Eves thinks the phenomenon could be down to something called infrasound.

One astronomer who has studied “shadow bands” was sceptical of the new idea, however. Professor Barrie Jones, from the Open University in Milton Keynes, said that sound travelled too fast to be responsible for the phenomenon.

Prior to the eclipse totality, the bands are usually seen to pass over the ground in the direction in which the eclipse is travelling.

After totality, the bands are often seen spreading at an angle to the path of the eclipse.

Notice how astronomers never mention possible Elder Gods involvement in phenomenon like this? It’s because they’re in on the coverup conspiracy.

Ghost of Victorian girl causes crashes

From The Telegraph of London:

Paranormal researchers are investigating the sightings of a girl in Victorian dress on a road in the West Midlands, which locals say is an accident blackspot.

The late-night visions are occurring along Oldnall Road in the Halesowen area and are believed to have been responsible for a number of crashes and near-misses in the area in recent years.


“The image had been described as a small girl between the ages of three and five years old and wearing Victorian clothes.

“We are trying to find out any stories locals might have of the area which might explain what or who this could be.”

Local resident Jimmy Lahn, 54, said: “We’ve had quite a few accidents on that road, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ghostly figure has something to do with it.”

Parasearch’s website is here.

There Will Be Blood Libel

This is a guest post from Arborgast, of Arborgast on Film, a fellow member of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers.

There Will Be Blood Libel

My first reaction upon seeing photos of the cast of the 2008 remake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was "Funny, they don’t look Jewish."

I consider Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) to be one of the great unintentional blood libels of the latter half of the 20th Century. I don’t think for a minute that Craven is anti-Semitic but rather that he, like all of us, carries with him learned associations that exist apart from his conscious mind.  Just as David Lynch has in the past identified a sense of evil in effeminacy (BLUE VELVET) and ethnicity (WILD AT HEART), Wes Craven particularizes in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT his perception of pure evil with a distinctly Hebraic flavor. Though none of the characters identify themselves explicitly as being Jewish, David Hess’ Krug is depicted as an obnoxious cigar-smoking "Jew Yorker" whose perpetual stubble, curly hair, olive-colored skin and outer borough accent code him as an obvious Heeb. Add to that, Krug has been convicted for the killing of a Catholic priest and two nuns.

Cast in the role of Krug’s accomplice, Weasel Podowski, Fred J. Lincoln wears the slate-colored hair and slack suit of a Lower East Side alter cocker while both Jeramie Rain (as Sadie, a common Jewish name that also brings to mind Manson killer Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Mae Glutz) and Marc Sheffler (as Krug’s schlemiel of a son, Junior) have "difficult" ethnic hair. Weasel’s rap sheet identifies him as a child molester, which fits the historical blood libel that slandered Jews as sacrificers of children. The quartet is shown to be "animal-like," to inhabit a dirty tenement (a dwelling associated with foreigners) and, while transporting their kidnap victims from the city to the country, Krug and Sadie engage in rear-entry sex (coitus more ferarum, or "sex by way of the beasts"), a form of copulation frequently associated (however unfairly) with non-Christians.

The transition of the kidnappers/killers from the city to the country is a key element of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, illustrating an old white Anglo-Saxon fear of the contamination of suburbia’s assumed purity by ethnic types (as Fairfield County, the film’s location and setting, became a destination for upwardly mobile urban Jews post-World War II).  The waspy surname of one of the victims and her parents, Collingwood, is eerily similar to Sadie’s imaged alias (Agatha Greenwood), suggesting that Krug & Company aspire in some part to assimilate even while they shred the very fabric of Christian society.

In the film’s most disturbing sequence, Krug, Weasel and Sadie kill their captives after stripping them and humiliating them sexually.  When Phyllis tries to escape, she is run to ground, stabbed and then butchered in a scene that can’t help but evoke shechita, or Jewish ritual slaughter.  Phyllis’ intestines are pulled out of her oozing abdominal cavity and examined, as a shochet would do to determine if a slaughtered animal were fit to be declared kosher.  Obviously, Phyllis’ disemboweling is not genuinely kosher but does suggest that Krug & Co. are operating on auto pilot, as if by collective cultural memory, in the same way that their earlier torment of Phyllis and Mari echoed the treatment of Jews bound for concentration camps.  The kidnappers seem to be maltreating their captives as a form of confused racial self-hatred, channeling ritualistic acts that both glorify and slander their ancestors.

Having killed Phylllis, Krug rapes Mari… but not before he uses a switchblade to carve his name into her sternum.  This gesture reminded me of Rabbi Lowe scratching the word "EMET" into the forehead of The Golem. (With his helmet hair, Krug even resembles Paul Wegener’s iconic 1920  interpretation of THE GOLEM.)  As EMET is the Hebrew word for "truth," Krug’s mutilation of Mari might be said to be his way of sending a wake-up call to WASP society, announcing both his arrival and his intention to destroy their four-square, missionary position world. (In this regard, Krug also bears a resemblance to the character of Berger from the musical HAIR, who comes to his position of iconoclastic hippie king from a distinctly urban Jewish environment.)  And can it be mere coincidence that Krug comes to his decision to shoot Mari after having overheard her reciting the Lord’s Prayer, as she wades into a woodland pond in a cleansing act of self baptism?

At this point it’s worth remembering that LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a remake of sorts of Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), a Medieval morality tale set at a time when Christianity was waging war against Paganism for world and spiritual dominance.  LAST HOUSE hews closely to the VIRGIN SPRING template by having its spree killers (who pose as salesmen, and in so doing aligning themselves with Jews via the merchant class) taken in by Mari’s parents, who feed them in a scene that mimics da Vinci’s The Last Supper (while leaving an empty chair in the foreground – for Elijah?).  Over the course of the evening, the truth comes out and Mari’s parents turn on her killers.   While the ensuing slaughter is strong stuff, the third act’s oddest/most brutal bit of business is Mrs. Collingwood’s oral castration of Weasel in a scene that seems to mock the Jewish rite of circumcision (thus explaining the chair left empty for Elijah).  It should also be noted that she performs this act after first using Weasel’s leather belt to bind his hands in what could be construed as an allusion to the philactery, the calfskin box containing Hebraic scripture that some Jews wear strapped to their heads and wrapped around their left arms during weekday prayers.

Again, I hasten to add that I don’t believe ex-Baptist Wes Craven set out to slander the Jews with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT but the Jewishness of the killers he created cannot be ignored.  My feeling is that Craven was writing/casting/directing instinctively from a series of societal and cultural presets and prejudices.  Certainly, living and working (first as a taxi driver and then as a young filmmaker) in New York, Craven would have had plenty of negative experiences with people of all ethnic persuasions. I half suspect Krug was modeled on a particularly noxious distributor who blew fetid cigar smoke in Craven’s face while cheating him out of profits.  However it all came together, these textures (real or imagined) give the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT intriguing layers of meaning.  You won’t find this kind of subtext in a New Millennium remake claiming to pay homage to 70s cinema while pissing all over a glorious, difficult and demanding decade that was never afraid to get blood on its hands.

Posted in Horror | 2 Comments »

Listen to the Call of Cthulhu

I began playing the horror roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu in 1986 with a group of friends. They were experienced D&D players, but horror was my interest so I convinced them to put down their swords and heroic personas and to adapt a system that often led to madness and terror. While all but one of the original group has “moved on” (I had nothing to do with it and you’d never find the bodies anyway so let’s not dwell), two of the players joined in 1990 and one in 1992. For a long time we’ve gathered every other Saturday, a companionable interlude from work and home. Chips and soda have been replaced by meals of barbecue pork or crabcakes and usually a bottle or two of wine or beer are downed. But the game remains eternal and cannot die.

One of those keeping the game (as well as the works of H.P. Lovecraft) alive today in the 21st century is probably best known as Paul of Cthulhu. Paul Maclean is a trained archaeologist who resides in Bradford, England with his wife Helen and several cats, including one named Cathulhu.

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Paul of Cthulhu with Lovecraftian horror director Stuart Gordon, director of Re-Animator, Fortress and Dagon.

Paul is the founder of, the largest gathering of Call of Cthulhu players on the Internet. There, Sandy Peterson, the co-creator of the game, and Keith Herber, one of the most popular authors of game materials, interact with players.

But Paul took the game to a new audience. A few years ago, a digital recorder was accidentally turned on during one of Paul’s regular gaming sessions. They liked the result, made a practice of it, and posted the results online for others to listen to.

One of the first things I did when I got my MP3 player was to type horror into the iTunes search engine. There I discovered Paul’s ongoing recordings of the Call of Cthulhu rpg classic, “The Horror on the Orient Express.” (iTunes link.) Thousands of listeners, many of them commuters like myself, gather around the gaming table as Paul and his friends play the game

Here’s my interview with Paul.

Haunted Vampire: How would you describe yourself?

Paul of Cthulhu: Curious. I’m usually quite curious about things, how things work, what
things were, what’s going on? It’s probably one of the reasons I like archaeology. I’d like to think I’m also quite social. Good company and good friends are some of the best things to have.

Haunted Vampire: Why are so many archaeologists Call of Cthulhu players?

Paul of Cthulhu: There do seem to be more than a few… I suspect it’s the mystery and investigative side of things that attracts. Archaeologists like the past and the default setting for Cthulhu is in an earlier period. As to that, that archaeology in one form or another appears in HPL’s
stories, well, I can see the attraction. In a way this also applies to the number of Librarians who like Call of Cthulhu, and HPL’s forbidden books…

Haunted Vampire: When did you first play a roleplaying game? Was it D&D? When did you first play Call of Cthulhu and how did that game session go?

I first started roleplaying in 1980 (before Call of Cthulhu came out) and like many people, began with Dungeon & Dragons (Basic, then AD&D).

I first played Call of Cthulhu just after the game came out, a fellow roleplayer with rich parents got the game into the UK early on import. Not having read any HPL stories at that time our first several years of Call of Cthulhu were much more like ‘Indiana Jones’ than anything else. Great fun to be had! Like many while I cannot recall clearly I think the first scenario we played was ‘The Haunting’ (as it’s called now).

Haunted Vampire: You’ll occasionally reference other games in the podcasts. How many time a week or month do you roleplay?

Paul of Cthulhu: I tend to play once or twice a week (currently Thursdays, Sundays), the games typically last anywhere from 3-4 hours at a time. We’ll either play at our home or down at the Universty with the Bradford University Roleplaying Society (BURPS).

Haunted Vampire: What is your favorite game and why?

Paul of Cthulhu: Call of Cthulhu, of course! πŸ˜‰ I love the game for its sense of mystery, the romantic attraction of the default 1920s setting, the non-interference and straightforwardness of the BRP ruleset in play, the sense of cosmic wonder and exploration. There are many things I find attractive about Call of Cthulhu. Plus there’s also the rich literary heritage by way of HPL & Co.’s works and of course by now nearly 30 years of high quality adventures and supplements for the game.

Haunted Vampire: What is best about horror roleplaying?

Paul of Cthulhu: Everyone has their preference for what they find ‘Best’. Personally I find the sense of trepidation and the ‘edge of your seat’ experience to be very attractive. The terrible consequences of your actions can make for precarious and highly enjoyable play.

Haunted Vampire: How did you meet Helen of Cthulhu?

Paul of Cthulhu: It was on an archaeological excavation in Shetland just before the turn of the Century. I was the Science Officer and Helen was seconded onto my Team for a while. We met over a flotation tank…

Haunted Vampire: What led you to name your home Innsmouth House?

Paul of Cthulhu: Arkham House was already taken. πŸ™‚ We’re also about as far inland as we can get in our part of the country, so it seemed wonderfully perverse to mark it as a haven for our sea-loving brethren…

Haunted Vampire: How did you get involved with

Paul of Cthulhu: I started it as a small black background page back in 1998, for my own amusement and interest. I chose the name Yog-Sothoth as someone already had ‘Cthulhu’ (you may be sensing a theme here) and I liked the fact that HPL himself used to refer to his cycle of semi-related works as ‘Yog-Sothothery. I began adding to the site semi-regularly and it just kind of grew, and grew, and… grew…

Haunted Vampire: How cool is it that Sandy Peterson and many others famous in game publishing participate regularly in your forums?

Paul of Cthulhu: It’s wonderful that so many people participate. The Internet provides a way to be in touch with people you never thought you would have 20 years ago. To talk to the authors & artists is a great way of feeling more immersed, just as it is with other fans and appreciators of the
game. As they say “A rising tide floats all boats” people’s enthusiasm for the game, buoys others.

Haunted Vampire: What led to the first recording of a roleplaying game?

Paul of Cthulhu: That was completely by accident back in 2003 with a small MiniDisc recorder, a external microphone and a session of Monte Cook’s ‘Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil’. Further details of the rather strange incident can be read in the April 08 edition of ‘See Page XX’: here.

Haunted Vampire: How many times do you re-listen to the recordings?

Paul of Cthulhu: Occasionally for fun (especially the older recordings to see what they sound like after a time), and more regularly in the case of ‘Horror on the Orient Express’ as a reminder of what went on in the previous session, just before playing the new one. A very handy way of keeping
things straight in game!

Haunted Vampire: Tell us something about the Bradford Players that regular listeners don’t know.

Paul of Cthulhu: I’m not sure there’s much left that’s unknown (it can be a bit of a soap opera on audio)! We’ve all known each other some 5-7 years at least. We’re all naked when recording – no, errrr, I can say that we chat a lot before we ever start to play for the evening, it’s a good excuse to catch up on what’s what, so by the time you hear the start of a recording we’ve already been chatting for 30-60 minutes or more!

Haunted Vampire: How many people do you estimate listen to your group’s recording of The Horror on the Orient Express?

Paul of Cthulhu: From the logs & analytics, the number tends to be around 4,000 in the first instance, then creeping slowly up as the archives are downloaded by others later. Some of the audios reach up to 20,000 and more.

Haunted Vampire: As a Keeper of the Arcane Lore, has anything the group done caught you off-guard?

Paul of Cthulhu: That actually happens most of the time. You never can tell what they’ll get up to… The plot book says one way, they go another, then I have to think quickly as to either how to steer them back, or just let them run an see where the trail leads. The latter is almost always
more satisfying barring a complete plot derailment! For a specific instance I think Mrs. Sunderland (Val’s character) contacting a certain NPC was unexpected and that’s having far-reaching consequences in the game.

Haunted Vampire: Is Neil the unluckiest dice roller you’ve ever gamed with? [spoiler removed.]

Paul of Cthulhu: Yes. Neil is the most unlucky dice roller I have ever met in over 1/4 century. Period. *He is not allowed to touch our groups’ dice!* bad, Neil, bad! Ahem, yes, well. There you go. Helen is the most dice superstitious of us, and over time that attitude can become infectious.

[spoiler removed]

Haunted Vampire: What do you do to try to build a horrific atmosphere during a game session?

Paul of Cthulhu: It can be very difficult to build a horrific atmosphere and it’s very difficult to sustain such over a long period of time. The horror tends to be more sporadic in the game, interspersed among the mundanity and humour. Fear comes from caring, if you have players who care about their characters, which can happen over many sessions, then when you do something to them it feels more visceral. Why kill characters when you can mentally and physically punish in the name of the greater good, instead? πŸ˜‰ Killing characters just acts as a reset, if they’re mostly alive, they don’t get that refresh option as easily.

Haunted Vampire: What’s been the most favorite character you’ve played?

Paul of Cthulhu: I enjoyed playing the Goodlights in ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep’ (Son & Father). Members of the ‘League of Extraordinary Librarians’ to a man!

Haunted Vampire: What other podcasts do you listen to?

Paul of Cthulhu: A quick look through my iTunes list shows: All Games Considered, BBC Broadcasting House, Dragon Hearth, BBC Friday Night Comedy, Godzilla Gaming podcast, Green Ronin Podcast, Have Games Will Travel, MacBreak Weekly, MacFormat, Nuketown, Pulp Gamer, TGTMB, That’s How We Roll, This Week in Tech (Twit), 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction, plus occasional one-offs.

Haunted Vampire: And finally, if you could be any supernatural monster or Mythos entity, what would you be and why?

Paul of Cthulhu: Yog-Sothoth. πŸ™‚ Knowledge of all space/time. Who could resist? Mind you, it would make archaeology a bit less fun, though!

For Curt’s discussion on horror rpgs, see his post here.

Friday vampire dance party

Beatles: Norwegian Wood

The League of Tana Tea Drinkers

I’ve been invited to join. I feel it’s an honor for the site, considering the distinguished company. The League of Tana Tea Drinkers.

Sorry for the lack of posts

I’ve been very busy. Posting should resume at its normal chaotic rate.

French planned invasion of Wales

From Western Mail in Wales:

FORMER Python Terry Jones has helped uncover a plot to land a French invasion force in Wales.

While working on a new television programme, the historian stumbled upon plans to land Louis XIV’s forces on the Mid Wales coast at Aberystwyth.

The 17th century conspiracy – apparently hatched after Charles II had signed the Treaty of Dover in which he plotted with the French King to restore Britain to Catholicism – came as a shock to Colwyn Bay-born Terry and programme makers.

They had thought they were just going to follow an ancient map to see if a roadway depicted still exists today.

Programme producer Alan Ereira said he thought they were in for a gentle, but fascinating trek across Wales using the world’s first road atlas, created by John Ogilby. Ogilby, born in Scotland in 1600, is best known for his Britannia Atlas, which set the standard for those that followed.

But they found something far more sinister – no less than a plot for revolution, which could have plunged England and Wales into a bitter civil war.

β€œIt was a fascinating find,” said Ereira.

There’s a joke there somewhere about France trying to slip in through England’s backdoor but I’ve got a sinus infection and can’t quite nail it.

Posted in History | 1 Comment »

Friday vampire dance party

The Cranberries: Zombie

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