Why I’m Staying My A%# out of The Woods

With Halloween around the corner I thought I’d dig into my box of what creeps yours truly out.

A gateway to the nether reaches of the soul........

A gateway to the nether reaches of the soul……..

Putting aside such horrors as flying cockroaches (Also known as the spawn of Satan.), and Jules Verne sized squids (It’s the eyes. They bore holes into your soul.) I’m going to focus on one particular thing that keeps me kind of weirded out to a small degree.

The wooded area behind my apartment complex creeps me out.  I’m a grown man, and I’m not afraid to admit that.  Laugh if you want, but for some reason the forested area behind my home can be a creep fest at times.

I grew up camping in Boy Scouts. I love a great hike through the forest, or on a park trail through the woods. Heck, after years of camping in upstate New York, my Dad taught my brother and I how to camp. So I say all this to say I enjoy getting lost (not literally) on a trip or two to the woods.

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There’s just something about the woods behind the apartment complex that’s just plain ‘ole creepy. Maybe its because of how my mind works with the writing, I’m always thinking of various scenarios that are playing out in the densely packed area behind my back porch. For instance, the first few weeks after we moved out here a couple of years ago, I remember my wife pointing out a set of sounds coming from the area behind our place.

I’m used to hearing dogs, cats, birds, maybe a raccoon or two. The normal animal sounds you’d associate with a forest that was adjacent to an apartment complex.

What we heard that night was just plain strange. I remember standing on the porch and listening to something that sounded like a cacophony of guttural, low moaning animal sounds. Or as my wife would put it “pure scariness”.

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Usually with most animal sounds that you might hear at the same time, you can discern one from the other. An owl sounds like an owl. A dog sounds like a dog. A raccoon sounds like a raccoon.

What I remember hearing that night, and  subsequent nights afterwards, was nothing I’d ever heard before or since. With my writers mind being as crazy as it is, I began to think that maybe a hellish portal had opened behind my house to release some other worldly creatures into our neck of the woods.

Damn you Stranger Things for getting that idea on screen first. 🙂

All I know is that when I’m walking my dog at night, we don’t head towards to the treeline where the woods meet the apartments. Outside of the concern that my pet will run after some random rodent that might pop out of the woods, I’m not chancing being snatched up by any of these creepy sounding creatures.

Now maybe what we’re hearing is just a regular ‘ole run of the mill forest dweller. I just know that I sure as heck am not going to try and confirm or deny that, by taking a field trip to the woods.

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Lastly, my apartment complex has done a piss poor job of keeping up the trail that runs through this area. Trash is strewn about, bridges have fallen into disrepair, small ponds are completely dry, leaves cover the path, and it just looks creepily abandoned by society.

I’m a geek when it comes to learning about abandoned areas like The Maunsell Sea Forts of England, Pripyat in Ukraine, or Hashima Island of Japan. Though I think the area where I live is far from getting to the “ghost town” status of these notable landmarks, I feel that the jogging/ walking path behind the complex is slowly but surely getting there.

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I’ve walked this path a few times (during day time of course) and each time I find myself with a general sense of unease. Not full on fright, or panic, but more so “yeah, I probably need to get the heck out of here soon”.

Maybe if our complex hadn’t seemingly just wrote off the area, and tried to keep it up, I’d feel differently. Until then, I’ll stay away from the abandoned looking path that winds behind our apartment.

Check out some pics from the above mentioned area, and enjoy.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween folks.

Ghouls, Demons, and Beasts

Here we are again. I have another spooky gallery of frightful art from the history vaults. You can see the previous posts here: Monster, Magic, and Moonlight and Eerie, Haunting, and Beautiful. Enjoy and have a Spooktacular Halloween!

Eerie, Haunting and Beautiful

It’s that time of year again… I hope you enjoy these fantastical artworks and have a delightfully dark Halloween!

 

Did you miss last year’s post Monsters, Magic and Moonlight?

Halloween is Coming!

If I had unlimited funds my neighbors would hate me. Alas, I’m safe from that happening for a while. Before moving into our current home, we lived in a small farm house. We didn’t have kids roaming door to door for sweets. That didn’t stop us from carving a jack-o-lantern each year but decorations beyond that were sparse. Now my family and I live in an actual neighborhood. For the last three years I’ve been buying a couple new decorations each Halloween. You might recognize the giant spider and the Skeleton Grim Reaper from last year. This year I’ve added a Pumpkin Grim Reaper and Halloween Lights!

I also have one lone ghost in need of some more buddies. So this weekend I’m going to summon some new friends for him to decorate the path to our front door. Anytime I go shopping for Halloween decorations I’m also adding to my wishlist for future years. Here are three things I’d love to have:

Have you been keeping up with my other October Blog Posts?

Inktober is Here!

Night Stone by Rick Hautala

 

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Next week I’m sharing a piece of new art I’ve been working on just for this time of year….. Muahahaha!

Duane Jones: A Horror Film Pioneer

“Now get the hell down in the cellar! You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here!”-Duane Jones as Ben/“Night of the Living Dead”

Growing up in Chicago, we had one of those late night B-movie programs, where some obscure horror flick would get shown every once in a while. This is where my love of zombie flicks beganwith George Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead.”

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This film was my introduction to one of the greatest horror films of all time, and a film that gave birth to a sub-genre that has influenced the creation of numerous films, television series, novels, comics, video games, and even music videos.

At the age of 28, Romero and writing partner John A. Russo crafted a solid script that followed a group of individuals who find themselves trapped in a remote farmhouse, as the dead rise around them.

The film featured some of the most suspenseful filmmaking of its time. It was a forerunner for the use of gore effects in horror films, and featured an omnipresent sense of despair that left viewers tense throughout the film. In light of all this, what sealed the deal for me with this film was one character: Ben.

BenPlayed by Duane Jones, Ben was the take charge survivor, who used his wits and resolve to get through the hellish night. One thing that was awesome about this guy, outside of being such a resourceful and intelligent badass, was the fact that he was Black.

We often find African American characters being the first to die in such films. It’s even become something of a joke. If they weren’t inspecting a dark corner where the killer obviously was, the character was often relegated to being the comic relief or sidekick. This got old pretty quick.

Imagine how it felt to finally see a strong Black male lead taking hold of the catastrophic situation, attempting to keep things from getting worse. Add to this, and I know it’s been pointed out numerous times before, that it’s amazing that a film like this was made during the late 1960s. This was during a time where the idea of a competent African American character as a leader was anathema to a large swath of America.

In the film’s script, Ben was described as a blue collar truck driver, where his race was not specified. The character wasn’t fully fleshed out until Duane Jones was cast in the film, causing Romero and Russo to perform rewrites for his character. Romero explained he simply cast the best actor for the role, highlighting the amount of acting skill that Jones brought to the role of Ben.

As Jones explains in an interview featured on Dimension Films 40th Anniversary release of “Night of The Living Dead,” “Ben didn’t really have a biography. Ben was just passing through.”

As Jones further explains in another interview, “It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was Black. But it did occur to me that because I was Black it would give a different historic element to the film.”

Ben never falters in his resolve to survive the night, even coming to verbal and physical blows with the other NOLD3survivors. Now I know in today’s world we have a wide variety of African American leaders in a host of industries, but once again, you have to place this in the context of the time in which the film was made.

Others might even argue why even focus on something like this? What’s the big deal when we’ve got countless examples of African Americans making it to the finish line of many of today’s slasher/horror films?

Whether it’s Naomie Harris in “28 Days Later” or Ving Rhames in the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead,” there are a number of individuals making it to the end of the major studio films. This doesn’t even include numerous examples that may abound in independent films.

I’ve just taken the time to just show some appreciation for the guy who set the standard (whether he meant to or not), for those who’ve come since.

If you’re looking for a great horror flick, with a standout performance courtesy of the film’s star actor, definitely check out “Night of the Living Dead.”

 

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Ghost Story: The Farmer’s Wife

The Farmer’s Wife

GravestoneMy grandfather, Cecil Owen Walter, was an adventurous boy growing up in The Plains, Virginia. The small rural town sat squarely in the middle of nothing and nowhere. As you can imagine, a young boy in the early 1920’s created his own entertainment. When he wasn’t dreaming of running away with the gypsies, he and his younger brother Allie explored the Virginia countryside.

One evening in late winter the boys, sitting by the fire, listened to tale told by their Aunt. A tale meant to chill the boys to the bone. Just the sort of story a boy’s overactive imagination devoured.

The farmer and his wife lived not far down the road. They were long dead now, but on certain nights it was said a light could be seen traveling from the old house to the barn. The hovering light would go back and forth, again and again, before vanishing. This was her routine. On cold winter nights the wife checked the cows, a duty which followed her to the grave.

Determined to prove whether or not the tale was true, Cecil and Allie stayed up late into the night. They crept from their beds, careful not to wake the snoring Aunt, and dashed into the frigid winter night.

The snow had fallen all day, but now all was still and silent.

The boys trudged through the deep snow toward the abandoned farm house. Despite shivering from head to toe they hunkered down in a ditch, to hide and watch. Hours passed by and nothing out of the ordinary happened. They were about to leave when they saw a light. A glowing orb hung suspended in the air just outside the front door. Without warning, it began to float from the house to the barn and back again.

Cecil and Allie sat frozen with fear. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Had this been some trick?

The boys forced their legs to move in the direction of the house. When they reached the spot the moon’s light revealed no footprints!

The boys ran the entire way home, the strength having returned to their legs. They sat up all night. Huddled in fear and convinced the farmer’s wife would come for them.

**This is a true story, as told by my grandfather to my mother. I’ve retold it here with a bit of my own dramatization.

Happy Hallowe’en

Shadow by Amanda Makepeace

Shadow, 2013 by Amanda Makepeace

This year’s Halloween painting is a portrait of my studio cat Shadow, a.k.a. Attack Cat, who passed away suddenly in June. I still miss her terribly, but when I began thinking of what to paint for Halloween all I could see was her. She loved sitting with me while I painted and often followed me where ever I went, but she wasn’t very friendly with anyone else. Attack Cat wasn’t a misnomer. If a dog, three times the size of the cat, is afraid then you know you’re trouble. But from Shadow’s perspective she was only protecting her mother. The depth of her love for me was amazing.

Black Cats have received a lot of flack over the years, but it wouldn’t be Halloween without them. Their bad reputation dates back to medieval Europe when they were thought to be witches familiars and agents of Satan. Poor kitties! Though opinions on black cats have improved over the centuries, they still face discrimination. They are far less likely to get adopted from shelters and they are far more likely to get euthanized than other cats. Please consider adopting a black cat this Halloween!

Adopt a Black Cat!