Character study

Red Turtleneck (Oil on Canvas) by Stefan Zsaitsits. Click on the image for more of his work.

Sometimes I like to find photographs or drawings or paintings of people, and create a character based on the image.  For instance, look at this guy.  I imagine that his name is Pierre, that he speaks in a quiet, raspy voice.

That when you pull that turtleneck down there is nothing but gaping maw, jaw detached like a snake.

The devil is in the details

One of the things I love about cinemagraphs is the way they emphasize how powerful the perfect small detail can be. The subtle repetitive motions in the above images imbue them with a sense of horror that is certainly absent from the still photographs.  I would argue that they’re even more powerful than the fleeting moments in their respective movies.  By pausing on these moments, these bare fractions of a second, and contemplating those small movements, the unsettling qualities are distilled, made potent and persistent.  The camera doesn’t save us by cutting away, and even when we move on the image is burned in our minds, along with the knowledge that the movements are going on, and on, and on.

(The above cinemagraphs are by Gustaf Mantel.  You can find more of his work HERE.)

Pastorally Ghoulish

Hat tip A New Hype. Click image for the original post.

Horror can often be heightened when juxtaposed with the wholesome and innocent.  That’s one of the reasons why toys and children in horror movies can be particularly terrifying.  That’s what makes these figurines by Jessica Harrison so disturbing.  Traditionally such pastoral figures are soothing, safe.  By subverting that with gore (the heart here…other images include the brain, intestines, and even the face) the corrupted image shows us that we are not safe, and that what soothed us is a mirage.  Interestingly, it is at least implied that the women portrayed mutilated themselves.  They are not innocent victims, but rather perverse actors.  Very creepy.

Satan’s Playhouse and the Pig’s Head

From “18 Terrifying Old Costumes You Can’t Unsee” on Click on the image to see the other 17, if you dare…

I have a knee-jerk fear reaction to realistic (or real!) pig costumes.  Here’s why:

As an undergrad, I was involved with the Yale Children’s Theater as an actor, director, producer, costume designer, and probably other positions that I can’t remember right now.  They did tons of productions every year for the local kids. Every Halloween, however, the group put on a haunted house that was most definitely NOT for children.  Satan’s Playhouse was an opportunity for us all to shed our wholesomeness and indulge in some hardcore depravity.  And oh boy, did we come up with some disturbing stuff.

The Satan’s Playhouse my freshman year had a Christmas theme.  It was arranged in a series of tableaus, including a family dinner where the main course was a trussed naked woman, and a Christmas tree where the presents looked normal until lights went on inside them and revealed the cellophane boxes contained twisted, struggling and bleeding people (also naked…there was a lot of nudity…).  But the most disturbing thing was the rotting Santa Claus.  That image alone is disturbing, but what really got me was the pig’s head he would pull out of his sack, stick on a pike, and use to chase the spectators.  It was the first and last thing the spectators saw: they were chased into and out of the house by a cackling Jolly Old Saint Nick.

What pushed that from disturbing to horrifying for me was that the pig’s head was real.  They kept it in a large cooler between performances to keep it fresh, but the smell was still repulsive: raw meat, swine, an insidious whiff of decay.  The rotten Santa “accidentally” touched me with the cold, slimy, bristly snout once, and after five minutes in the bathroom frantically scrubbing my skin, I spent the rest of the performances staying as far away from the guy and the horrible thing.

I think the pig’s head terrified me most because it was the one thing in the whole performance that broke the fourth wall, that could not be safely categorized as fiction.  The flesh that was cut off the roasted woman and gobbled up by a ravenous family?  Cold cuts.  The blood that wept from the flailing half-dead human presents? Corn syrup dyed with food coloring.  But that head, with its rictus grin, lolling tongue, clouded eyes?  A day earlier that was a living animal that was brutally slaughtered.  Its horror could not be denied.  It was True.

What about you, dear readers?  What sort of Halloween costume are you reflexively repulsed by, and why?

Truth Stranger Than Fiction: 136 Creepy Wikipedia Articles


They say truth is stranger than fiction, and that’s absolutely accurate.  One of the great things about that is that strange truth can also inspire fiction.  I’ve talked here before about writing between the lines of great unsolved mysteries.  But the range of strange truth is much wider than that.  This list of creepy Wikipedia pages is just stuffed full of potential story ideas.  It’s also tons of fun to just read the articles for the sake of creeping yourself the heck out.  What else is October for?  Have fun!

Curious about my book Haunted? Check out these excerpts!