Thump Thump

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, 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.)