Liminal

The Fool in mid stride

0, The Void,  holding eternal Energy

Forward  or  Backward

The Urge to step blindly into the Unknown

The Impetus propelling The Wheel

All Possibility, Beginnings, Endings,

Formation of Being bound up in the placement of a step.

Beauty and Decay

I love to walk around downtown Charleston.  Such a wonderful blend of old and new; technology on the edge of raw Nature. You walk past beautiful houses that have stood since the 1700’s. Beautiful colors,  intricate wrought iron gates, hidden courtyards with fountains and sculptures.  Gaslights lamps are still lit at night.  Everything glows. Look out over the boardwalk, and there is the endless miles of the Atlantic.

Some of the side streets are still cobblestoned. There are deep cracks in the walls sustained from a major earthquake a couple of centuries ago.  Sometimes,  if you happen to turn down an empty street,  you can feel disoriented for a moment,  as if you are no longer in your correct time.

Charleston is a haunted city. Not just by the ghosts touted by the many tour guides. It is haunted by a history it both profits from and with which it continues to struggle.

What version of that history you will hear greatly depends on who you ask,  and what you ask about. As an example,  I went on a tour of the Old Charleston Jail. The jail was built in the 1802 and was in use until the late 1930s. The building is unique in the city because it resembles a ruined medieval castle with turrets and barred windows surrounded by project apartments.

The jail and it’s surrounding area was, at different times, the site of a hospital, jail and workhouse for slaves. There is also reportedly a potter’s field where prisoners were buried. However,very little of this was mentioned during the tour. No mention of the slaves punished here. No mention of Denmark Vesey, a slave who led a major revolt and was jailed here until his death by hanging in 1822.

The focus of the tour is the legend of Lavinia Fisher, still often labeled as America’s first female serial killer, despite being entirely untrue. Lavinia and her husband John were arrested and hanged a year later for highway robbery, not murder. But the truth doesn’t sell tours.

The whirewashing continues. Slavery is a linchpin in Charleston history. However, it is still glossed over. For many years even the question of where the slave market was located was hotly debated. The Slave Museum was finally opened only a few years ago.

Right now the Spoleto Festival is happening. The city is filled with tourists, old homes open. I walked through the Rhett – Aiken house, home to a former Governor, with its marble staircase, art gallery, peeling velvet wallpaper and bare rotting walls of the slave quarters. The recording I listened to as I walked through insisting house slaves didn’t have it quite so bad.

I then walked down the grassy avenue between stately homes. There is a homeless man sleeping in the grass. There are many more, more than I ever remember seeing, sleeping on steps and in doorways. People dressed as if they are going from one party to another drift by, oblivious.

It’s been almost a year since the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. As often happens, there is a burst of charge and solidarity. Time goes on and things slowly retreat to status quo. Change is slow, history is long.

Love Note from a Horror Junkie

The first movie I remember seeing was JAWS when I was six years old.We were stationed in Japan and TV was in Japanese, so we were always at the movies. I’ve asked my parents what made them take a six year old to see that kind of movie. They say they just never thought I would pay attention. I did. The impact of the images of the shark slowly chomping on Quint and the fin slicing through the water, combined with on of the most terrifying music scores in film history, permanently tattooed my brain and gave me my first rush. I had shark nightmares for years and, even though I live twenty minutes from the beach, I don’t go in the water above my knees. Even lakes make me nervous. Despite all of this, I still became a lifelong Horror junkie.

I think you must have a certain kind of brain to appreciate Horror, one that is drawn to the dark. I also saw THE GODFATHER when I was around 6. Of course it’s not a horror movie, but I had nightmares of horses’ heads in beds and hands getting stabbed. It was many years before I could watch that movie again and appreciate it for the epic it is. My brain just seemed to naturally find the scary in everything.

I grew up mostly between Indianapolis and Charleston. I was one of the fortunate generation in the 70’s and 80’s who got to enjoy what I, and others, consider to be the Golden Age of Horror. Along with Cable and the video store, there was the drive-in. I was an only child in a military family. It was just the three of us and the drive-in was one of our favorite traditions. I remember seeing HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13th and COMA in one night, ( this was before you could easily have your own marathons at home.) I’ve never been a big slasher movie fan, mostly because I feel they are overdone, but those first two movies crept in and took residency in my psyche. I don’t even have to watch the movies anymore, I just have to hear the music and I’m that freaked out little kid again.

Our own personal demons seek us out in the horror films we watch. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school. For a good part of my life I believed Satan was an actual being seeking me out. THE OMEN movies, THE EXORCIST, THE ENTITY, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, anything to do with demons or possession fascinated me and confirmed all the boogeyman stories I heard in catechism class.

I think one of the biggest reasons I love Horror is because my dad liked it. In the late 70’s, early 80’s, there was a hosted horror show called The Sammy Terry Show. My Dad and I stayed up most Friday nights until 2 or 3 am watching Sammy climb out of his creaking coffin with his ghoul make up, quipping with his pet rubber spider George who dangled from the ceiling. And we would have a running argument where Dad would tease me that he knew Sammy Terry personally (turned out he did,) but wouldn’t tell me who he was. Sammy Terry was actually a local TV personality named Bob Carter. Even after his retirement, he would do occasional shows at Halloween. When he passed away in 2013, his son Mark revived the show which still does seasonal specials.

I am a product of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Carpenter; they were the four Godfathers. Their books and movies were the predominant influences in my life growing up. My Dad also influenced what I read. Through him I discovered Dune and Lord of the Rings. I also read his Harold Robbins books, which probably, at least partially, explains my love for Bava and Argento.

Stephen King, by far, is the most important of the group. He was the impetus to push me from reading and watching Horror to writing it. I started reading his books when I was around 10. I saw one of his movies and went straight to KMART and bought all the paperbacks I could find. I had always been a storyteller. After King, I knew what I wanted to do. I wrote my first ghost story in elementary school and read it in class. For the first time, I felt seen not invisible or overlooked. It was incredibly empowering. I discovered I had a voice and could make people listen.

The question I hear most is, why do  people love Horror? I’ve heard many answers from others in the Horror community I agree with. Horror gives an adrenalin rush, a thrill that is addicting.And all addictions must be fed exponentially. I know many Horror junkies, myself chief among them, who are constantly on the look out for films that push the limits. We often get bored with mainstream horror films because we’ve already sought out and and watched the more extreme films. And I’m not just talking about extremes in gore.

Anyone can make a film with a high body count. It is about finding films that genuinely terrify long after the credits roll. What is frustrating with many films given industry attention, is that many of them are easy to forget once they are over. I have many conversations on social media about the plethora of brilliant movies out there with great writing that get no exposure except through fan word of mouth. My social media feeds often consist of asking my fellow junkies what I should be watching next, and they never disappoint. We all go traipsing together down the rabbit hole.

For me, Horror encapsulates why we go to the movies. It’s an escape, a chance to go to a different world. Some of us, whether because of life events or just because of how our brains are wired, are able to look at the darker aspects of life and accept them. Horror allows us to to confront our fears and hidden natures; to vicariously battle our demons through the main character and hopefully achieve a sense of catharsis.  We like Horror because it reflects how we see the world and how we understand it. The best Horror usually has an undercurrent of dark humor. Horror junkies understand that what is scary about life is often also strangely funny.

Along with Horror I am also a lifelong fan of Heavy Metal and, for me, the two have always gone hand in hand. They have been the most maligned, misunderstood and underrated genres. Their respected fan bases have also been maligned and misunderstood. Anyone who loves Horror, Metal, or both, are often characterized as unintelligent, psychologically damaged or demonic. Horror and Metal are outcasts and misfits, and often so are their fans. This is why I am a devotee of both. The early music videos of Alice Cooper, KISS and Ozzy Ozbourne freaked me out and drew me in as much as any movie. I was guilty of playing records backwards to hear hidden messages. I remember teachers telling us how KISS stood for Knights in Satan’s Service and ACDC stood for Abolish Christ Devil Child. . Little did they know they were just fueling the fire.

I was always the outsider, the misfit. I understood I would never be accepted as normal. So I embraced my weirdness and I embraced Horror and Metal because they were in my language, which most people never seemed to understand. The people who came to matter in my life were most often also Horror and Metal fans. We were a tribe.

Being subversive can be good. As Horror fans, we want exposure for the genre. We talk about how maddening it is when the filmmakers and actors we idolize don’t get the recognition we deserve. but there are advantages to operating under the radar. Horror filmmakers have a unique creative freedom. Horror must be able to keep digging and uncovering layers. It has to be the Rebel. We as fans must help the genre to grow by promoting films and shows we love and supporting Indie filmmakers who are the ones helping the genre to evolve. Horror will always be around and people will continue to seek it out. Fear is eternal.

 

taboo

Wrapped tight with wire, biting into my skin

Drawing out blood that trickles down until you catch it with your tongue.

Later I trace the patchwork left behind with trembling fingertips,  secret pathways to my freedom.

train

I can’t let the train see me. A random thought that goes through my head one night as I’m taking a smoke break at work.  I am standing under a large oak a few yards from the tracks that run next to the plant. I back away to the far side of the tree as the train rumbles past at a fairly slow crawl; the drag of several cargo cars squealing and bumping along past me I walk back into the building,  shaking and chilled despite the humid late summer night. The thought stays with me.

For the next several days I am kept awake by horrifying nightmares of the train chasing me down: it’s light burning through the darkness,  seeking me out, exposing me. I run,  trying to jump out of the way, but it’s impossible.  I can only go forward,  gasping for air, feeling the ground shake as the huge machine overtakes me. I bolt awake just as I am sucked under.

I keep busy at work. I avoid going out front, smoking next to the back door. But I feel a compulsion to go to the tracks. I keep stopping at the window when I hear the train coming. I have to pull myself away. Voice screaming in my head to hide.

I manage to stave off the nightmares for a few nights. But the compulsion is getting stronger. I watch the train from under the oak,arms wrapped around the trunk to keep me from moving closer. But it sees me. I won’t be able to resist much longer.

No more hiding. The light finds me everywhere. I give in and walk onto the tracks. I hear the long whistle getting stronger. It is sweet relief to finally give in and walk straight for the beast.

Chaos Theory

We confuse Order with Control.   Chaos is the rule.         Chaos plays the long game. It shows us one card at a time The Whole would be too much to bear, would shatter

We are meant to break,  to unravel, to reattach to other threads. There are cracks in the World through which we catch glimpses of  the Bones of the Real.Then the Landscape is seamless again and we forget.  We are uncharted territory to ourselves.

The Time I Became The Crypt Keeper

My job at the children’s shelter has shown me that some of the best stories can’t be made up.

A few years ago we had a brother and sister who were 10 and 8. One day they came back from a visit with their mom. The 8 year old sister came in the office and handed me a jewelry box. She said her mom gave it to her and she wanted me to lock it up. She said it had something important to her family inside and she didn’t want to lose it in her room.

I opened it up and pulled out a small plastic baggie wrapped in a rubber band.  My initial thought was, “Oh my god,  this woman gave them drugs!” But, then I really looked at it and realized it was ashes.

Staying calm, I asked what they were. She said they were ashes from her dog and her baby sister who had died.  Her mom gave them to her and her brother so they wouldn’t get lonely.

The jewelry box and it’s macabre contents were promptly locked in the back cabinet.  The caseworker was called and told to come get them NOW. I went home,  threw up and spent a long time in the shower.   The ashes stayed about a week. We never learned If they were real or not.

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