Thump Thump

Friday, March 03, 2006

"I have drove pass there alot."

Our good friend Carnacki has linked to a long list of haunted places in Kentucky. I'm reminded of Linda Lue Linn's delightful collection of Kentucky Ghost Stories, which I can wholeheartedly endorse to anyone with an interest in eerie tales from Appalachia and the Bluegrass region.

If you're ever trawled the depths of free hosting services like GeoCities or Tripod in search of ghostly or paranormal stories, you're familiar with the kind of dreck that's out there -- story after story of credulous encounters with sleep paralysis, hypnogogia, pareidolia, apophenia, or just plain overactive imagination. "Dude! You were asleep!," you shout at the screen, to no avail.

Linda Linn's site may look superficially like a million other sites, and in truth you'll find the occasional sleep paralysis story reprinted there. But her real stock in trade is the surviving threads of the traditional storytelling that's been the hallmark of Appalachia since Daniel Boone wondered what was on the other side of the mountains. The echoing death songs of slaughtered Shawnee warriors. Confederate soldiers on perpetual patrol. The eerie cries of an infant, abandoned in a holler during the Great Depression. Small-town tales of lost loves and broken hearts.

For the most part, don't expect "littacher." These are the stories told by people who go out and get their hands dirty while you sit behind a computer all day. But their voices are direct and authentic and distinctly American. As we say in regard to that other great Kentucky product, have a little taste:
A White House in Russellville Kentucky that has a small square tower room upstairs has a window that has been boarded and painted. A large graveyard is behind and to the side of the house. The house sits at the corner of two crossroads at a stoplight. I have drove pass there alot. I have heard different stories about this place but the story I hear the most is that the girl who lived in the house years ago wanted to go to a dance. The night of the dance there was a bad thunderstorm so her parents would not let her go. She was mad and upset so she went to the tower room to take off her dress. She started cursing and swearing at God when she was struck by lightning and killed. Another story is that she was waiting for her boyfriend to come over during a bad storm. She was in the tower room looking out of the window, worried about him because he was late when she was struck by lightning and killed. Also heard that she was taking a bath. Whichever story is true it is said that on stormy nights when it is thundering and lightning that you can see her image in the window glass.

And behold! "The Russellville girl house," complete with painted-over tower window:

Update: More images of the Russellville girl house (actually, "the Sexton's House"):

  • A beautiful portrait at the Russellville Kentucky Cemetery Department Official Home Page. (No kidding! Does your city have a Cemetery Department? Does it have a home page? I thought not.)

  • The Logan County Chamber of Commerce virtual tour stops by the Sexton's House.

  • An article at Roadside America.
  • Monday, February 20, 2006

    Secrets of Ghost Girl: REVEALED!

    This uncle is the more strawberry of the TV, but he falls well. I believe that it is chido, although he is a little stained in its program.

    Jesus González on Facundo, courtesy of Google Translate

    "A little stained in its program," says Jesus, speaking of Facundo, and who are we to argue? Ah, but who is Facundo? Originally the host of a music video/youth 'zine show called Depasónico, Twenty-eight-year-old Esteban Facundo Gómez Bruera became a media darling during his stint on the Spanish-language reality series Big Brother VIP. He parlayed this stardom into hosting the newsploitation show Toma Libre. (This week's episode: Drunken American coeds invade Cancun for Spring Break; next week: even Brittany Spears adopts the "hippie" lifestyle.)

    He is also the man seen here doing the el proyecto la bruja Blair impressions during this "creepy ghost girl" video currently making the rounds (embedded WMV, Ebaum's World) (via TMotHV).

    According to Escalofrio.com, Facundo swears the video is genuine. (Warning: Escalofrio resizes your browser window, unless you use a decent browser and can turn that off. Otherwise, this is a pretty cool Spanish-language horror/paranormal portal.)

    Here's my extremely rough paraphrase:
    "I was doing a show on ghosts, and that's where the footage in the this clip comes from. We took a camera to a cemetery in Mexico City, and I saw a girl crying at one of the tombstones. At first I was scared, but then I decided to ask her what she was doing alone in the cemetery in the middle of the night."

    (There's an alternative copy of the video at the link above as well.)

    It's a bit difficult to see in the .wmv file, but the bug up in the left hand corner looks more like Depasónico than Toma Libra to me, so I'm guessing it's from the earlier series.

    So, is the video genuine? These folks on the Snopes boards have a suggestion: Note that the big "reveal" is accompanied by a musical stinger. Watch the video with the sound turned off. Note that low-light video often creates eye-shine. Does it still look like a ghost?



    Escalofrio, which is hardly a hard-core skeptic site, offers the opinion that there is nothing paranormal. One possibility is that the producers staged the event without telling Facundo. However, given Facundo's well-documented penchant for gratuitous mugging, and the seemingly self-conscious riff on Blair Witch throughout, I'm voting that this is, um, a ratings-sensitive recreation of events that may have been rumored to have actually occurred. Dun-dun-DAAAAH!

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Audio Horror -- A Thump Thump Polemic

    As a jpeg of Vincent Price's head, I'm particularly delighted to spend a few minutes talking about audio horror: Old Time Radio, hörspiele (earplays), horror on LP or CD, and even modern audio horrors for the digital age.

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong (that's what comments are for) but it seems to me that one can be a perfectly adequate obsessive science fiction fan without ever once listening to an episode of X Minus One or Dimension X twelve or thirteen times in a row. If you've read every back issue of Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Science Fiction, or Analog, you're already familiar with the bulk of audio SF stories, in their native format.

    Mystery adepts are certainly encouraged to check out The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Saint (especially The Saint), and many, many other great radio mysteries, but it's hardly necessary to do so in order to wear the badge of "mystery fan."

    But I ask you, can anyone truly claim the mantle of "horror fan" without being able to describe "The Thing on the Fourble Board" (embedded mp3)? Are you really a horror fan if you don't know what supernatural event occurred at a tiny lighthouse on Three Skeleton Key (embedded mp3), off the coast of French Guyana? What exactly was stolen in the Death Robbery? What's the strange, eldritch connection between wooly bear caterpillars and the Northern Lights (embedded mp3)? Consider: For over 100 years, everyone -- everyone -- suppressed the horrid memory of H.H. Holmes, the serial killer of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Everyone except Arch Obeler of Lights Out, in Murder Castle, a story that beggars belief, except of course that it represents a watered-down version of the truth.

    There are so many absolutely vital horror stories that exist only in audio format. Transcriptions are a wonderful resource for the documentarian, but are no substitute for the real thing, which, thanks to the mp3 format, are freely available to the canny web-surfer. It is a crying shame that great radio dramatists like Arch Obeler or Wyllis Cooper are not nearly as well known as Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Curt Siodmak, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, George Romero, Stephen King, and other literary and cinematic creators of horrors.

    Audio, in the hands of a master who understands the medium, is in some ways the perfect format for presenting horror. The thing on the fourble board, for one example, simply cannot exist in any other format -- not plain prose, not movies or TV, not comics. The most sophisticated computer graphics imaginable cannot make sense of something invisible, made of living stone, with a voice like a lost kitten, a face like an angel, and a body -- "And a body... Well, I'll tell you about that; I told you how I'm scared of spiders" -- hidden in a store-bought sundress, her invisible little-girl face made up with greasepaint. "Sit still or I'll have to shoot you." (Geocities. Use Firefox.) As soon as you stop to contemplate all the contradictions in the description, it becomes ludicrous. Try to realize it with visual special effects, it becomes a sad joke. And yet, The Thing on the Fourble Board is the only horror story I've ever heard that actually made me so feel so f*cking cold that my teeth began to chatter. The story -- just a story! -- made me literally* hypothermic. No movie, no novel, no short story has ever done that for me.

    Three Skeleton Key? One of the greatest classic horror stories ever. More than any film, it secured Price's reputation as a horror star when his film roles were still primarily melodramatic. It transcends cinema in scope. Price himself (embedded .mp3) has singled it out as one of the things he is most proud of in his career. Maybe, just maybe, the art of special affects has reached the point of presenting the naked horror of Auguste (Geocities link) making rat angels on the windows of the lighthouse. But who's going to spend tens -- hundreds -- of millions of dollars on a half-hour story? "Peter Jackson to the white courtesy phone" our friend Carnacki might say, but what's Jackson going to do for the remaining ninety minutes?

    * I know the difference between "literal" and "figurative." I love horror movies. I love horror literature. But only audio horror has made me feel physically cold. For what it's worth. (And if you're a horror fan, it's worth everything you have.)

    Bonus link: The original short story on which Three Skeleton Key is based, in English translation. It's good, but it's just not the same.

    Extra bonus link: Shout out to Datajunkie, who rewards regular surfers with audio horrors amid the many wonderful comics. I had meant to link some of the aforementioned stories to his posts, but a great many of his audio links have gone defunct. Reposting continues apace, though, so check often.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Young Goodman Brown

    Sometimes stories themselves have stories. Suppose you were to see a movie or read a book about a group of Satanists or a coven of witches that look and act just like us, who seem perfectly normal, and yet beneath the thin veneer of normalcy they are secretly cavorting with and in the service of pure evil.

    Ah, you'd say, that sounds just like Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. And Rosemary's Baby in its turn was much like Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim. And Val Lewton's story was not un-influenced by Universal's The Black Cat. And before The Black Cat there was another story, and another.


    Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is perhaps the ur-daddy of the modern Satanic Cult genre. And make no mistake, despite the cod-Puritan English and the early date of its publication (1835), this is decidedly modern work. In its bleak cynicism about society's institutions, in the juxtaposition of horror and the sunshine world of everyday life, and in its nearly cinematic description of a Witch's Sabbath, this story feels much more familiar than many of the works of Hawthorne's contemporary Edgar Allan Poe.

    And it's short -- you can easily read the whole thing tonight before you go to bed.

    (Oh, and if, after reading the story, you find that sleep eludes you, you might care to check out this beautiful Flash-based online exhibition about Nathaniel Hawthorne, courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.)

    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    Joel Cairo Gets Excited, Sniffs Handkerchief

    My friends, please say hello to the 1947 Project. A weblog that documents a year in the underlife of the City of Angels. This one's for Mrs. Carnacki. As for you, Mr. Spade, you... you bungled it. You and your stupid attempt to buy it. Kemedov found out how valuable it was, no wonder we had such an easy time stealing it. You... you imbecile. You stupid fat-head you. (via)

    You'll Laugh 'Til You Stop


    This is a tale of madness, obsession, death, and Scrabble™.

    This link has been around since mid-2004, which is ancient in Internet years. If you have seen it before, do watch it again -- it's even better than you remember.

    It would seem that since I last watched this gem, VidLits has been reimagined as a marketing company. I certainly wish Ms. Dubelman all success in her endeavor -- sufficient success that she can afford to do more noncommercial Flash-based storytelling.

    More info about Liz Dubelman, "Craziest," and VidLits here and here.

    Friday, January 27, 2006

    Isla de los Muñecas

    Planning a trip to Mexico City? You will probably want to visit Xochimilco, the last of the pre-Columbian waterworks that once fed a city of millions. You are of course free to cruise about in a decorated gondola, listening to the sound of the mariachi. Or you can board a swamp boat, head out beyond the confines of the waterpark, and visit la Isla de los Muñecas: the Island of the Dolls:

    Don Julian (es) lived there for fifty years, and for the twenty-five before his death (es) two years ago [as of 2003 -- he died in 2001. --M Valdemar], sought to appease the ghost of a drowned child with the dolls he pulled up from the depths of the canals. Dead dolls of all kinds hang from the trees and vines and rafters, their eyes bewitching and disturbing the visitors who have come to gawk and photograph in this surreal sanctuary. [link]


    Realiza un Viaje Virtual
    por la Isla de los Muñecas: Zoom in and turn to the left. A la izquierda. A la izquierda.

    Filed by Barbara under Travel & Tourism

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

    The Most Haunted Building in the Midwest, part I

    Dramatic Recreation -- Events May Not Have Happened

    Cincinnati, Ohio. 1896. In his many years as a hack, the coachman had learned not to pry too much into the affairs of white folks, especially not rich, young, good-looking white folks. He picked up these particular white folks outside Legner's Bar, at the corner of Fourth and Elm. He took note of the pale, trembling woman, the small, dark, nervous fellow holding her, and most of all, the angry blonde man with the piercing eyes. And then he looked straight forward.

    "Can you take us across the river? Our lady friend has taken ill, and we wish to take her home to her family," said the blonde man, without emotion.

    "Yes, boss," said the driver, and then to his horse, "Geddup." They headed across the new Cincinnati & Newport bridge and into Kentucky. His eyes fixed on the thriving markets and stately brick homes of York Street, the hack couldn't see the pool of dark, venous blood slowly forming at the young woman's feet.

    In an hour's drive, they had passed out of Newport and into the surrounding farmland. "Stop here, driver," said the blonde man. There were no homes to be seen in the area. "Her house is just beyond those trees. We'll walk across from here; it's faster." As they descended from the cab, the driver noticed that the woman was now unconscious. The blonde man pressed a handful of coins into the driver's hand; without counting, he could tell it was more than enough to buy discretion.

    Pearl BryanAs they driver pulled away, the two men shouldered their burden and headed up the hill toward a small grove. "Scott, she's so cold. Pearl's cold. She's dead! What shall we do?"


    "Quiet, Alonzo! Let me think." There had been complications: Pearl's cervix had not dilated as expected, and the dental picks and forceps he'd used had done more damage than anything else. The gift that he'd intended was now inaccessible and mangled beyond use. He needed to find a suitable substitute that would please his Master. Of course! He reached into his kit and withdrew a filthy gum lancet. Small and fine, it was intended for flensing the gums to treat pyorrhea; it was not ideal for what he planned next, but it would do. He inserted the blade in the hollow of Pearl's throat and began to slice.

    Scott Jackson was surprised by the sudden spray of bright red blood that splashed across the boughs high overhead. He giggled. "Whaddaya know, Lonnie? She wasn't dead, after all!" Alonzo Walling promptly vomited in the dirt.

    * * *

    The lodge members gathered in the abandoned abbatoir on the Licking river. Dressed in identical, hooded robes, it was all but impossible to tell one from another. Lighting a single kerosene lantern, they made their way to the cellar, to the site of the old dry well, into which the various sluices and grates above had drained when the slaughterhouse was in operation.

    "'Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law'," announced a member whose robe was covered with an elaborate stole embroidered with a goat's head and pentagram. "We gather together to call upon our Lord, that He might bend to our will. Who among us has brought a gift to draw forth the Master?"

    "I have." One of the lodgemen stepped forward to the edge of the well, and withdrew a leather satchel* from beneath his robe. He removed an item from the satchel and held it up in the flickering lamplight.

    Pearl's head appeared pink and orange in the half-light. Her auburn hair had been shaved off, leaving the skull stubbled and glistening. Her eyes and mouth were closed and placid. She appeared as if she were sleeping, were it not for the red, meaty stump where her body had once been attached.

    "Do you offer this gift freely, and of your own will?" asked the priest.

    "I do."

    "What has been given freely may not be taken back."

    The hooded acolyte dropped the head into the deep well. It struck the damp soil at the bottom of the sump with a soft splat. The gathered men waited and watched. Their heady pre-ritual cocktail of absinthe, hashish, and cocaine was having its intended affect. As they watched, it seemed as though a heavy, oily fluid -- the blood, lymph, and offal of thirty years' worth of slaughtered pigs, mixed with some chthonic ichor drawn from deep beneath the earth -- rose up around Pearl's head until it was completely covered. Slowly, slowly, the vile fluid drained away. The sump was empty. The gift had been accepted.

    * * *

    "Open the door in the name of the law! Mr. Jackson, this is Jule Plummer of the Campbell County Sheriffs Department. I have a warrant for your arrest, and to search the premises!"

    * * *

    "Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling, you stand before this court convicted of murder in the first degree. At the request of the Bryan family, I offer you one last chance: Tell us where the girl's head is, and the Governor has agreed to commute your sentence to life in prison."

    Jackson spoke up: "If I told you that, it would bring down the wrath of the Devil himself." [link contains embedded .wav file]

    Is there a building in Wilder, Kentucky cursed by Satan himself? Some sources say it's true. In part 2, we'll learn about the Kentucky mafia, and their involvement with the cursed building.
    --John


    * A bloodstained leather bag was found in Jackson's apartment and entered into evidence at trial. It can be seen today here. <<Back.