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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Happy Birthday, RL Stine!

RL SteinHappy Birthday, RL Stine

written by Kerry E.B. Black

October is a big month for American writer and producer RL Stine. October 8, 1943 was the birthday for this “Stephen King of children’s literature,” and 16 October, 2015 saw the release of his “Goosebumps” film starring Jack Black as a fictionalized Stine. Robert Lawrence (RL) himself cameos within the film as well.

Stine started writing at the age of nine in his Ohio home. In 1965, he graduated from Ohio State University where he wrote for and edited their humor magazine. He moved to New York to begin his writing career. His first written works were compilations of jokes, not the signature children’s thrills with which his name is associated. He wrote under the pen name Jovial Bob Stine. Another pseudonym is Eric Affabee. He wrote for and edited “Bananas,” a kids’ comedy magazine for ten years.

He published his first novel, “Blind Date,” in 1986. Three years later, he published his Fear Street series. Goosebumps, his best-known and award-winning series of kids’ horror, launched in 1992 with the release of “Welcome to Dead House.” Hollywood adapted several of his books for TV and film. Three video games feature Goosebumps themes, as do movie attractions at Sea World and Busch Gardens. The award-winning series was translated into 32 languages and earned acclaim for Stine. Over 200 novels later, RL Stine made the Forbes list of the 40 best-paid entertainers of 1996-1997. USA Today named him America’s #1 bestselling author, and People Weekly added him to their Most Intriguing list. In 2003, Guiness recorded him as the bestselling children’s author of all time. Over 400 million of his books sold as of 2008. He named his first adult novel “Superstitious,” and to his credit are numerous joke books, the Space Cadets trilogy, and game books.

Despite a busy appearance schedule and thriving film adaptations of his works, RL Stine continues to produce stories and work on projects peopled with murderous ventriloquist dummies, blood-thirsty pirates, and creepy clowns. Surprisingly, Stine claims his dreams are dull and provide no inspiration for his tales. Still, his prolific works continue to give his audiences nightmares of their own.

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Happy Birthday, Guillermo del Toro

Happy Birthday, Guillermo del Toro

written by Kerry E.B. Black

He leads us through “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) and along “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) with “Hellboy” (2004 and 2008) as a guide, depositing us in “Pacific Rim” (2013). This talented Mexican director, producer, and writer discovered special effects when he was eight years old. Guillermo del Toro Gomez broke into the American film market by directing Blade II in 2002.

Guillermo del Toro’s distinctive work laces a lush beauty throughout, incorporating the fairy realm and the Christian underworld. He expressed, “Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and anti-establishment.”

Many of the heroes in his films are children. He feels their non-judgmental acceptance make them the best witnesses of the supernatural. In fact, he reports as a child he began wetting the crib because of a fear of the monsters hiding about his room, be it in the green shag carpet or the shadows of the closet. His mother grew angry, and Guillermo made a deal with the creatures. “If you let me go pee, I’ll be your friend forever.” The monsters stopped terrifying him, and Guillermo keeps his promises. He grew up watching Universal’s monster films and knew he wanted to be a horror film creator. Frankenstein’s monster is a particular favorite of his.

Guillermo Del Toro studied under famed makeup artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist.) He puts to excellent use his studies of special effects and make up. After 10 years working in the field, he formed his own company, Necropia. He also heads his own production company, The Tequila Gang, and co-founded the Guadalajara International Film Festival.

In 1997, Kidnappers held the Del Toro family’s patriarch, automotive entrepreneur Federico. After paying for his release, Guillermo Del Toro moved with his wife and daughters to California. Incredibly, Federico remained behind. Said Guillermo to Time Magazine of the incident, “Every Day, every week, something happens that reminds me that I am in involuntary exile.”

He often uses lavish, illustrated notebooks. He published his debut novel, The Strain, with Chuck Hogan in 2009. This awarded film maker keeps with him a registry of the world’s haunted hotels and stays at them whenever he has a chance. His latest film release is this month’s gothic ghost story, Crimson Peak. He expresses a keen interest in visually stunning video games and collaborates with many filmmakers. Guillermo proudly proclaims he’s arrested at childhood. “No one has the right to demand from you to grow up.”

Enjoy your day, Guillermo del Toro, and thank you for sharing your vision!

Zombie Run

Zombie Run

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Zombie Run pic oneWe held hands, my daughter, Dylan, and I, as we quaked with anticipation. We knew we could run 5K, but undead obstacles sought to prevent us.

“We’ll get through this together.”

She nodded, her throat working the fright through.

I checked her belt and tightened my own. “Keep the flags close. We’ll cluster. They won’t know who to attack if we stay in a group.”

Our nostrils flared, filled with wafts of hay, autumn leaves, mud, and sweat. The cool air caressed like a blessing. We anticipated heart-racing sweat for our toils. I confess to momentary reconsideration. My car, with its comfortable leather seats, waited parked nearby. My sprint could as easily restore me to it as run the obstacle course that lay before me.

Around me, people half my age stretched limber legs. I hoped my sports bra held up to the challenge to come.

An organizer yelled for quiet. We heard moaning from beyond the field, but in the interest of understanding the rules, I focused on her words. “Stay on the course. No contact. There are safe water stations at miles 1 and 2. If you lose all three flags, you can choose to finish or join the ranks of the undead. FX makeup artists from local schools are on-hand, volunteering their time. No charge, but they’d appreciate tips.” She glanced at her cellular phone. “Well, I guess that’s it. See you at the end, and have fun!”

I felt an intense desire to cry or throw up. “I’m too old for this,” I muttered.

A gun sounded the beginning of the race. People swarmed with swells of enthusiasm around my slower pace. My own footfalls betrayed me. Not only was I thereby committed to run a 5K, a challenge to my ailing body, but I needed to do so while scaling walls, wading through vats of red-dyed, cold water, and worst of all, being pursued by zombies.

Fight or flight kicked in when the first ambling bad-guys reached for our flags. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and sprinted. She squealed. I pressed my lips together in disgust, struggling to control my breathing. The makeup served to frighten, even on this bright, autumn afternoon. A swarm threatened to overtake us, but we kept moving, huddling into a group.

We thundered to a wall from which knotted ropes dangled. We scaled the ropes and drop to the other side. My shoulders burned as I pulled my bulk up and over, regretting every sweet I’d ever ingested.

Dylan looked refreshed when our feet touched the ground. She set off at a lope. I followed.

“This is all your fault, young lady,” I thought. I breathed, in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Zombie Run pic two“You and your crazy ideas. See if I introduce you to a subcultural genre ever again.” For years, we curled up on the couch to enjoy such shows as “The Walking Dead” and “Supernatural” together, sparking her interest and leading to this day.

Dylan begged, “Please, it will be fun!” As I dodged animated corpses seeking to seize the red flags looped over my belt, I realized the folly of her statement. Curling up on a couch with a good book, a cup of tea, and my children playing safely nearby was fun. This, this Zombie Run served as self-inflicted

Two nuns dripped gore from opened mouths onto their black and white habits and closed on us.

Dylan and I somehow separated, and both snatched a “life” flag from my waist. Two gone at one encounter. I pushed my tree-stump thick legs forward to the first check point, a safe place to get water.

Runners exchanged excited “war stories” about close encounters with lethal foes.

I leaned against a tent pole, hating the tight feeling in my chest. “I’ll just stay here. Come back for me at the end,” I said.

My bright-eyed nineteen year old laughed. “We’re a third of the way done! Come on!” She still had all three of her flags.

I sighed. We drained our clear plastic cups and set off.

As we rounded a corner, a crush of activity made me wish to break the rules. It looked bloody ahead, a knot of arms and legs and bodies. We skirted to the left. I imagined myself invisible, camouflaged by the trees and underbrush. We made it through unnoticed, I thought.

Just beyond, a group of three zombies with collected red flags tight-clenched in their fists spun and pursued. Fight or flight instinct operational, I fled. Primal survival instincts pushed me, and I felt tears roll down my cheeks from the exertion.

We avoided another crush and several straggling lone operators and reached checkpoint two.

Water cooled my burning throat and replaced the moisture pouring from my brown and down my back.

Zombie Run pic threeI paced as I sipped, hopped up on adrenaline and struggling with a stitch in my left side.

“Hope I don’t have a heart attack,” I huffed.

Dylan turned a critical assessment on me. “There’s an ambulance over there if you want to talk to the EMT?”

I brushed off her worry with a wave of my hand. “Let’s get this over with.” We set off to dodge more zombies. Dylan’s cheeks shone angry red from exertion, but we kept pace. In a knoll where birds sung, a dozen bodies lay, resembling a killing field. My stomach clenched. “Careful,” I said. As we danced through, careful to avoid the apparently dead, Romero’s nightmare closed in. I groaned. We picked our way through.

Dylan is just five feet tall. As she jumped a woman lying on the ground, the woman reached up and snatched a life flag.

We had no time to be horrified. We pressed on.

Another obstacle caused us to slow our pace. We crawled through metal tubes.

A sea of the undead bathed in fake blood blocked the finish line. My girl and I took a slide in the mud to sneak by. It felt dreadful, with mud creeping into crevices. My manicure alone would never be the same.

“Dead this way, living there.” We took the path to the right. “Congratulations,” a young woman said, draping our necks with thick, crimson ribbons hung with a cheap medals. We feasted on cold water, sliced fruit, and crackers, grateful for our survival.

The staff presented awards for best costumes, most kills, and the like at an after party similar to a Halloween bash on steroids.

“Will you do it again?” another guest asked.

“Me? No.” Been there, done that, earned the bloody medal.

Dylan looked disappointed, but she’s young. She’ll get over it. Besides, she has another year or so to work on my resolve. If nothing else, I can serve as civilian support and cheer her on from a hydration check point. I understand the runs always welcome fresh blooded volunteers.

*First published at Halloween Forevermore.

An Auspicious Friday

An Auspicious Friday

written by Kerry E.B. Black

Welcome to some folks’ most dreaded day! Don’t feel bad, though. Some years, the 13th of the month falls on Friday more frequently. In 2015, for example, three months hosted Friday the Thirteenths. February, March, and November.

While some approach the day with trepidation, others feel celebrate. Perhaps they watch one or all of the twelve slasher flicks starring hockey-mask-clad villains from the 1980’s. Such was the popularity of the films and their lead, Jason Voorhees, that the Friday the Thirteenth franchise inspired merchandising, novellas, and comics. Horror enthusiasts know hearing “chi-chi-chi-ma-ha-ha” means bloody trouble.

The ominous date also served as motivation and title for an award-winning Canadian-American television series that ran from October, 1987 until May, 1990. In the series, cousins Micki and Ryan inherited an antique shop and discovered many of their wares were cursed by the Devil. With the help of Uncle Lewis, they retrieve the items and secured them in a protected vault.

Some, including theoretical historians and novelists like Dan Brown and John Robinson, point to the arrest of the Knights Templar by King Phillip IV of France on 13 October, 1307 as a potential origin of the ill-meaning of the day. Others claim the foreboding for number 13 harkens to Jesus’ last supper when Judas betrayed him with a kiss. Norse beliefs placed Loki as a late arrival for Frigg’s dinner party, bringing bad luck to all in attendance.

However, most historians believe appreciation of the bad fortune brought on Friday the thirteenth began in the late 1800’s, perhaps when retired Civil War Captain William Fowler started the Thirteen Club to repudiate superstition.
superstition_1950sStill, to this day, businesses report lower productivity and higher call-offs when a Friday falls on the 13th of a month. Perhaps this is because of paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia, terms for fear of the date coined by Isador Coriat in Abnormal Psychology. A perusal of registries of natural disasters does reveal many tragic occurrences on such Fridays, but statisticians do not see a glut.

However, admirers of the macabre may find their hearts beat a strange cadence on Friday the Thirteenth, whatever their reasons.

*First published in 2015 at Halloween Forevermore

Halloween Hangover

Halloween Hangover

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

 

Halloween Liquor oneI quiver with anticipation. Soon, my house will be filled with zombies and ghouls hungry as empty graves, their thirst overwhelming, and I must not disappoint.

For the young, I prepare punches. To chill their brew, I freeze apple juice in rubber gloves. When it is time to serve, I discard the glove and float the frozen hands in the punchbowl. My little monsters like a mixture of pineapple, orange concentrate, sparkling white grape juice, and lemon-lime soda.

The littlest prefer their potion served from a cauldron, with sherbet frothing like sweet spells. I mix about 4 cups of ginger ale, 4 cups of pineapple juice, and 4 cups white grape juice with 1 tub of sherbet and diced fruit. The kids take turns stirring the brew.

When the little ones retire for the night, the adults may want to stretch their claws around libations of their own. Three days before, it is fun to soak gummy worms in a glass bowl of vodka. The candies swell up as they absorb the alcohol, taking on a slimy feel perfect for Halloween.

Creepy cocktails circulate. Some drinks, like the Zombie and the Bloody Mary, are custom designed for Halloween parties, but any glass can be jazzed up to haunt the imagination. Stemware can be decorated with colored sugars or salts. Painted goblets or external picks add sinister touches to delight the drinker. For example, to lend the proper festive flare, I garnish martinis with “bleeding hearts” (speared pickled beets that bleed color into the vermouth and gin). I peel lychees and stuff them with blueberries; radish hollowed out and stuffed with pimento-enhanced olives are artistically peeled to leave red optic veins. These eyes glare baleful reproaches while bobbing within drinks.

Vampire drink

 

For the tea-totters, I warm apple cider and float carved apple “heads” with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and whole cloves. Dry ice must be monitored, but the resulting smoke lends to the fantastic feel of many beverages.

These are but a few ideas; I am limited only by my own imagination and budget. As I await the arrival of my guests, I raise my glass in toast to you who haunt the night and wish you no hangovers but lots of fun this Halloween!

Scents of the Seasons

Scents of the Seasons

written by Kerry E.B. Black

Pumpkin mania grips the nation. Baristas prepare pumpkin spice lattes and tea shops pour out clever pumpkin combinations. Pies, cakes, muffins, cheesecake and mousse – just about every baked good sports a pumpkin flare as the weather turns cooler and the trees don astounding, colorful arrays.

Candles and sprays come in autumnal offerings, often linking perky pumpkin combinations. While some in America dread the shortened days scented with all things pumpkin spice, many others embrace the madness.

But why pumpkin and its accompanying spices? Native to North America, pumpkins are a part of the squash family. With their vibrant colors, refreshing smells, and distinctive flavor, they represent the autumn. Pumpkins are carved into Jack-O-Lanterns and its seeds roasted into delicious snacks. Pumpkins are celebrated in festivals all across the United States. Circleville, OH boasts the largest pumpkin festival to date. The aromatic blend featured in pumpkin pie spice compliments the clean, earthy flavors of the loved gourd. With its versatility, pumpkin remains the uncontested King of Gourds.

Looking for a way to bring the scents of the season into your personal spa? Try this:

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrubpumpkin mix

1 cup of granulated sugar

1/4 cup of almond oil (Can use olive or flax seed oil instead)

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 and 1/4 teaspoon of ground pumpkin pie spice (If you don’t have premixed, make your own by combining 1/4 teaspoon each: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ground ginger)

*Combine the above ingredients in a small bowl, mixing well until forming a thickened paste. If paste is not thick enough, add extra sugar.

To Use a Body Scrub: Moisten the area you wish to scrub. Rub into skin in a circular direction for about 1 minute. Sugar scrub should be stored in an air-tight container and can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Terrorific Travels: The Mutter Museum

Terrorific Travels: The Mutter Museum

written by Kerry E.B. Black

Medical abnormalities can provide horrific materials for fertile imaginations. The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians on 22nd Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is designed to enhance appreciation of the mysteries of the human body, the museum explores the history of treatment and diagnosis of diseases and disorders. Still, the scope of its offerings could offer any horror fan heart palpation.

Speaking of the heart, need an off-beat outing for celebrate St. Valentine’s Day? The Mütter Museum displays human hearts for up-close inspection. Get under the skin while exploring skeletons, including the tallest male skeleton in North America displayed beside the remains of a dwarf and a two-headed baby, and a wall of 139 skull specimens. The Mutter Museum hosts preservations and casts of body parts, both healthy and abnormal. Wet samples and models. Human hairballs. Slides with sections of Albert Einstein’s brain. 5,500 types of medical instruments and apparati spanning centuries. Cabinet-style displays and presentations allow an appreciation for the human condition otherwise unavailable.

Visitors can meet the Soap Lady, named because a fatty substance called adipocere encases the remains. Authorities exhumed the body in Philadelphia in 1875. (Adipocere does not commonly form. It may form in warm, alkaline, and airless environment like this body’s burial site.)

Mutter Museum 1Exhibitions explore hot button issues like an exploration of vaccinations and medicine in times of war. On-line, the museum offers a look at astronomy in medicine from the 15th and 16th centuries and other topics.

Be sure to stop in the delightfully off-color gift shop. Along with glass skull steins and an “I heart guts” plush, some of the less-tasteful items for sale include “soap lady on a rope” and conjoined twin cookie cutters.

Established in the 19th Century, the museum continues to dedicate itself to providing in-depth research opportunities for physicians, but the doors open to the layman daily, except holidays. It is, however, open for visits on Halloween.

King of Cameos

King of Cameos

written by Kerry E.B. Black

Not only is Stephen King a prolific writer with fifty novels and hundreds of short stories to his credit. His non-fiction, columns, essays, poetry, and comics garner praise, and he additionally writes screenplays. He’s even made cameos in some of the adaptations of his stories and books.

His first published novel, “Carrie,” also became his first to be adapted to a film in 1976. Stanley Kubrick famously changed “The Shining” in 1980. “Stand By Me,” “Misery,” “Shawshank Redemption,” and “The Green Mile” became major motion pictures, while “Salem’s Lot” (twice), “It,” “The Tommyknockers,” “The Stand,” “The Langoliers,” “Storm of the Century,” “Rose Red,” and “Bag of Bones” became made for television miniseries. Stephen King created television series, too, including “Golden Years” (1991), “The Dead Zone” (2002-2007), “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” (2004), “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” (2006), “Haven” (2010), and “Under the Dome” (2013).

Of the over twenty adaptations of his works for film or television, Stephen King appeared in many. Also, he acted in a couple of established tv show episodes. Follows is a list of some of his appearances on silver and small screen:

Creep Show                       (1982 movie)   starred in “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”

Maximum Overdrive      (1986 movie)            uncredited appearance as man at cash point

Creep Show 2                    (1987 movie)            played a truck driver in “The Hitchhiker”

Pet Semetary                    (1989 movie)                      played a minister

The Golden Years            (1991 tv)                              played a bus driver

Sleepwalkers                   (1992 movie)                      played a cemetery caretaker

The Stand                        (1994 tv miniseries)         played Teddy Weizak

The Langoliers                   (1995 tv miniseries)         played Tom Holby

Thinner                               (1996 movie)                      played Dr. Bangor

The Shining                         (1997 tv miniseries)         played the band leader

Storm of the Century  (1999 tv miniseries) as lawyer in & a reporter on a broken tv

Frazier                      (2000 tv series episode “Mary Christmas”)          played Brian

The Simpsons           (2000 tv series episode titled “Insane Clown Poppy”) “played” himself

Rose Red                     (2002 tv miniseries) uncredited appearance as pizza delivery guy

Kingdom Hospital             (2004 tv episode finale) played Johnny B. Goode

Fever Pitch                         (2005 movie)  himself throwing out first pitch at a Red Sox Game

Gotham Café                     (2005 movie)   Mr. Ring

Diary of the Dead             (2007 movie voiceover) news reader

Sons of Anarchy                (2010 tv episode “Caregiver”) played Richard Bachman

Stephen King is scheduled to appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert on 11 September, 2015. He and his wife Tabitha also acted in George Romero’s 1981 “Knight Riders,” portraying Hoagieman and his wife.

Said Mr. King, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” Stephen King lives by this motto. His considerable talent is supplemented by dedication to his craft and a desire to experience life in his own creative way, be it through participating in the band “Rock Bottom Remainders,” acting, writing, or private pursuits.

*First published at Halloween Forevermore

Article: Jane Austen’s Gothic

janepictJane Austen had a dark passion.

She read Gothic romance novels. In fact, she read some obscure Gothic literature, even works written in German.

These atmospheric tales of the supernatural provided a springboard for her satirical “Northanger Abbey” published in 1818. This novel sees Isabella Thorpe recommending a list of gothic classics to her friend Catherine Morland. The impressionable young woman begins to recognize in her associates gothic victims and villains.

For years, Austen’s readers assumed the “horrid novels” the girls read together were mostly the invention of the author’s fertile imagination. However, historian Michael Sadleir researched the titles and rediscovered them.

First mentioned in the exchange between Isabella and Catherine are two well-known gothic gems by Ann Radcliffe, “The Mysteries of Udolpho” and “The Italian.” The other titles provided the basis of Mr. Sadleir’s literary investigation. They include “The Castle of Wolfenbach” (1793) and “The Mysterious Warning – A German Tale” (1796) by Eliza Parsons, “The Necromancer, or, The Tale of the Black Forest” (1794) by Ludwig Flammenberg, “The Midnight Bell” (1796) by Francis Lathom, “The Orphan of the Rhine” (1798) by Eleanor Sleath, and “Horrid Mysteries” (1796) by Marquis de Grosso.

These rediscovered stories were bound and reprinted first in 1968 by The Folio Society and again in 2005 by Voran Court Books. “Northanger Abbey” therefore proves even the proper and intellectual Jane Austen had a taste for the macabre.

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