Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Nights of Halloween - Night 31: Happy Halloween!

And, at last, we have arrived at our destination. As I sit here in the wan light of a monitor, scratching pixels out on a blank field, I cast my mind back on the journey we have taken, from its infernally warm inception to the grave-cold evening on which we part ways, you and I. I have endured wave after wave of spiritual dopplegangers battering the front gates of Stately Black Manor, all intent upon seizing the treasures I gathered to turn them from their otherworldly vengeance upon me and mine. Spent, I listen now to the steady downpour lashing upon the inner walls of the dishwasher, its low-rushing roar muffling the thunder of passing bros in their resonator-equipped carriages.

I ponder now upon the future, a future I have caught a mind-blasting glimpse of already, as Yule-themed movies now plague the airwaves of at least two networks on a 'round-the-clock basis. The final paltry hours of Halloween are but a thin bulwark against the Juggernaut of Christmas that has already begun its cheerful incursion. I shall soon set keyboard and screen aside to face this final doom. I have seen it, I tell you, a bright-gleaming shimmer of white and red and endless touting of wares. Its siren-call beckons even now, and I feel my resolve to thrust it all aside weakening in its red-cheeked face. I can only hope to keep a shadowed memory of this shadowed season alive long enough for it to cast its umbral magnificence once again in its yearly glory. Hark, now! Is that a susurration of bells jingled upon the air? Or a Disney commercial? I fear the time has grown short for us here. Farewell, fellow Halloween traveler! May the Fates cast us again on this road...

Setting aside the faux-Victorian/Lovecraftian dramatics, Happy Halloween out there, whoever may read these words!

Monday, October 30, 2017

31 Nights of Halloween - Night 30: Bogie Books!

Halloween dates back centuries, with adults being the primary celebrants for most of that time. But it wasn't much like the Halloween we know now. If we limit the discussion to when Halloween was becoming recognizable as what we celebrate today in the US, around the late 19th century, then it's clear it was widely celebrated by adults then, too. By the time of Dennison's Bogie Books, starting in 1912, the holiday was much like what we think of, except the adult celebrations were more robust and involved. It gradually became more kid-oriented through the decades of the 20th century. When I was a kid in the '70s, it was very kid-oriented, but I still knew of adult Halloween parties being fairly common. That faded so that by the '90s, I rarely knew of adults celebrating beyond the big haunted house attractions.

What were the Dennison Bogie Books? Dennison was a company that produced Halloween decorations and party favors. The Bogie Books were combinations of catalogs and party planners, providing tips and tricks and ideas for treats. From 1912 until sometime deep into the 1930s, the Bogie Books were an annual treat, their striking - some might say lurid - covers evoking an atmosphere of Halloween mystery and fun. The wares they offered for sale are hauntingly familiar, though they seem old fashioned today: black cats, witches on broomsticks, owls, the Man-in-the Moon, and, of course, jack-o'-lanterns. Yet we still see those images today, often now in cheerful colors and with friendly faces.

From the 1912 Bogie Book.

I'm intrigued by the notion of Halloween decorating of a century now long dust, yet still looking like it could be a living room of today...almost.

From the 1915 Bogie Book.
A bit more alien to us may be the party games.

From the 1917 Bogie Book.
Costumes, of course, were much more DIY. The witch is an old familiar fiend, but the rest can seem odd to us now.

Er...Vegetable Man?
From the 1915 Bogie Book.
Most spectacular of all were the covers: fun, a bit scary, with, perhaps, a dash of the sinister.

Vintage Bogie Books can dreadfully hard to find, and shockingly expensive when they are found. In recent years, they have been reprinted, and can be found with just a bit of digging on the usual sites like Amazon and eBay (though for much more that 5 cents, supernaturally). But for a glimpse back beyond the grave (though in a different direction than usual), the Bogie Books may inject a bit of frightful fun into your next hallowed e'en.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

31 Nights of Halloween - Night 29: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special

We have traveled far on this benighted Halloween path, have we not, you and I? And the end is in sight. Yet perhaps the greatest horror we've met yet lays right before us. Many strange and curious things were spawned for Halloween by the 1970s, and what you are about to witness is among the most strange and curious.

On this night in 1976, a bizarre mix of entertainment enveloped TV screens nationwide. It was an awkwardly uncomfortable conglomeration of comedy, music, and cameos, all centered on its star, Paul Lynde. It is difficult to explain exactly who Paul Lynde was, and his omnipresence on American television of the 1960s and 1970s. Yet this showcase of him as master-of-ceremonies, song-and-dance man, comedic foil, and general oddball personality may suffice to assuage your curiosity. Bursting with cameos by and mentions of a slew of quintessentially '70s names and faces, only barely connected to Halloween most of the time, and reminding us just how much of a death grip the CB radio craze had on a tortured nation in the mid-1970s, The Paul Lynde Halloween Special distills down the insanity of network television programming of its era into a strange spirit indeed. Walk forth and grip it with both hands; you must tread this part of the path alone.

Oh, and did I mention KISS performs three songs?

31 Nights of Halloween, Interrupted

Due to the vagaries of Blogger's Android app, the days and dates of the past couple of entries have been off. I'm likely the only one to notice, but I figured I'd still make note of it.

31 Nights of Halloween - Night 28: Welcome to His Nightmare

Few acts are as undying as Alice Cooper. The frightening frontman and his freakshow have upset and unsettled audiences for almost half a century. Evolving into a traveling Halloween haunted house, the Alice Cooper experience is both macabre and a bit silly (purposely so). Here he haunts The Muppet Show in 1978, with one of his signature tunes, played with a slightly more mournful air by a ghostly and ghoulish Muppet band (and not the Electric Mayhem, unless they're in disguise).

Almost 15 years later, Cooper would slash his way back into pop culture prominence in Wayne's World, enlightening Wayne and Garth about Milwaukee history and unleashing another horror-themed number. This time, he evokes another of the Universal Monsters.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

31 Nights of Halloween - Day 27: In Search Of...TERROR!

The late '70s saw your Humble Host, in larval form then, become fascinated by all things weird and paranormal. UFOs, Bigfoot, vampires, ghosts...you name it, I found a fascination for it. Fortunately for my thirst for such intellectual beverages, just the program staked out its terror-tory on TV to slake that thirst. Chief among its assets were the resonant tones of Leonard Nimoy. He had one of the great voices of the weird - along with Vincent Price and Rod Serling, the latter of whom he replaced as host of the series which is the subject of this post, after that good sir's untimely demise.

Each week, the viewer was transported to a realm of the strange and unknowable, shot on slightly-muddy-looking film and filled with atmospheric music and sound effects, with somewhat unsettling recreations and interviews comprising the meat of the content. It even had a curious, open-ended title.

In Search Of... was one of the great shows of the '70s, in your Humble Host's opinion. It was the perfect melding of elements, from Nimoy's deep, authoritative voice, to the choice of subjects. Over six seasons, the show doled a steady stream of programs tackling most any subject that is best viewed after Midnight. It wasn't all paranormal-related; mysteries like the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or the odd life of Comte de St. Germain were addressed. But, of course, it was the more spine-tingling fare that defined the show. So sit back and draw yourself a glass of...wine? Or some other, thicker, warmer, liquid?...and join me as we go In Search Of...Dracula.

31 Nights of Halloween - Night 26: Those Dancing Witches, or Wolfshäger Hexenbrut

I can't get enough of this: German hausfraus in full witch regalia, dancing in unison to a vaguely pagan-mixed-with-ska(?)-or-reggae(?) song with a thumping beat to celebrate Walpurgisnacht. Since Walpurgisnacht is a bit like a summertime Halloween, I'm including it here for the 31 Nights of Halloween. Here's the Wolfshäger Hexenbrut dancing to Schüttel deinen Speck.

Yeah, and that song? If you're as German-deprived as me (I failed a year of it my junior year of high school), you might have figured it was some pagan ode to nature or witchcraft, but nope. It's about shakin' that bacon in a nightclub.

There's something strangely enchanting about the effort put into this production, from the elaborate costumes to the choreography. The women have gained international fame for it, rightly so, and apparently had requests for the choreography to be demonstrated. And they did demonstrate it, sans make-up, in this charming tutorial.

The more witch dances, the better.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

31 Nights of Halloween - Night 25: Terror from the Outer Dark

The sky has always been a mystery and threat to mankind. Arching above us like a great dome, at times lashing down at us with lightning and thunder, spawning tornadoes or blizzards or torrential downpours, all seemingly from a great emptiness, the skies above us have often seemed a threat that was unknowable.

As we entered into an age of technology, when man challenged the sky itself, invading that vast empty realm, the great wide open still retained a mystery. Turbulence, gripping and shaking aircraft like some god punishing the temerity of humans daring to travel into his demesne, is only now becoming understood. Enormous storms can be predicted by some small amount of time, but cannot be avoided. And, sometimes, we see other travelers in that great void, travelers unknown to us, coming and going in ways we don't understand.

After the Second World War, when that great conflict sent fleets of aircraft across the globe, humans began to take to the skies in numbers unheard of before. Unsettling wartime accounts from military pilots of encounters with strange airborne objects lingered in the imagination, until a worldwide phenomenon exploded in 1947. Kenneth Arnold's report of bizarre craft over the Cascades touched off a frenzy of sightings that lasted for decades. The horror they evoke with their mysterious comings and goings, their strange allies and servants, and the kidnappings and bizarre experiments they perform with impunity, all make them perfectly suited for the Halloween season.

Whatever the ultimate explanation is for these sky denizens, mundane or fantastic, the tales of them have haunted the imagination, and continue to do so. Your Humble Host has amassed a library devoted to these weird sky objects. Let us browse through a sampling and wonder about the silent vastness that hangs above our heads.