Friday, October 24, 2014


England must have been home to some pretty nasty dogs because the country is riddled with legends of Baskervilles-type killer hounds. There's The Galleytrot, The Shug Monkey, The Evil Thing, The Churchyard Beast, The Hell Beast, The Swooning Shadow, Snarly Yow, and The Black Dog of Torrington, just to name a few. The worst of all of them, though, is Black Shuck who claims victims even today. 
If you haven't heard of him it might be because the locals who live in the afflicted areas  believe it's bad luck just to mention his name. A coastguardsman spotted the hound in 1972 and made the mistake of officially reporting the event. He died under mysterious circumstances within 10 weeks and his father died under equally mysterious circumstances only a few months later. Just to see the dog is to incur a death sentense. 

Black Shuck officially enters history in 1597 at Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh. A clap of thunder burst open the church doors and a hairy black "devil dog" came snarling in. It ran through the congregation, killing a man and a boy and causing the church steeple to fall through the roof. Scorch marks still visible on the church doors are purported to have come from Shuck's claws as it fled.

The rector of the church described it this way (below):

The door of the church still stands. There they are (above), the scratch marks right where Black Shuck left them. But the hound didn't stop there. The next stop was Bungay, where two worshippers were killed at St. Mary's church. One was left shrivelled "like a drawn purse" as he prayed. 

Then there's "The Black Dog of Newgate" (above). Legend has it that the dog is the ghost of a boy who'd been eaten by other starving prisoners. The act of cannibalism caused the prisoners to imagine that they had seen the black dog in the night, his jaws open in preparation for his revenge.

Lots of countries have stories about vicious dogs but the English seem to have more than their share. You can't help but wonder why.

Maybe giant wolves thought to be long extinct survive in the English countryside. Maybe Norse folklore got it right; Wotan brought to the UK his fearsome war hound and it somehow escaped into the forest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Here's a terrific poster (above) that didn't make the cut when Taschen made a cheaper edition of its massive coffee table book, "Magic 1400s - 1900s." The cheaper edition is still worth having, though.

Compare the Herrmann poster to minimalist modern ones like the one above. The new ones convey no philosophy, no vision, no craftsmanship, no idealism, no challenge to one's beliefs, no forbidden fruit, no sense of urgency or crisis or adventure.

Magic shows were tremendously popular in the days before TV. They influenced and were influenced by 19th Century Romanticism and my guess is that they influenced the invention of the detective story, horror novels and horror films, sci-fi, politics, psychology, and the observance of Halloween.

Magic shows helped to inject Rousseau and occultism into mainstream consciousness. I don't mean that large numbers of people were won over to the occult, just that audiences learned to entertain the possibility of another parallel set of rules in the universe...well, at least for the duration of the show.

Whenever I see a magic show I try to be a skeptic and a believer at the same time.

I love this image (above) of the electrically powerful hands. 

Kellar (above) was said to have had a killer delivery.

Thinking about that reminds me of Ian Keith's unique performance in "Nightmare Alley." Anyone interested in magic should see this film because Keith's performance underlines an important truth, namely that magic is as much about performance as tricks.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


How do you like this Romanian shag mask?

A nice combination of hangers and lanterns! 

Aaaah...the evil ventriloquist doll. A classic theme!

A pair of skinny mannequin legs with a big mask on top...a match made in Heaven. 

Above, Crumb appears with a Third Eye! I have a great Lopsang Rampa book which describes the surgery he (Rampa) underwent in Tibet to have the obstacle to his third eye removed.

Wow! A great brain photo, but it's brow. It lacks class.  

Maybe a frame would help.

There you go! Everything looks better in a frame! Geez, maybe I'll put this on the Theory Corner sidebar!

A little Halloween music might be in order here. After you listen to this (above) you might want to go to YouTube and hear Nina Simone sing the same thing. What a contrast!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Above, a nerd zombie. Nerds can be zombies too.

Above, another brilliant Don Heck cover. That guy was a national treasure!

Above, a reprise showing one of my all-time favorite masks. I've had it for years and it hasn't degraded much. I supplied the cardboard eyes.

Aaaaargh! I want! I want! I'd love to have this hotdog couple on my porch this Halloween!

Above, me as a mad scientist. I liked this photo so much that I gave it a permanent place on the Theory Corner left sidebar.

Wow! Whoever shot this deserves an award of some sort. The bag design, the color, the's a perfectly realized picture.

Above...I have no idea what this drawing (woodcut?) was made for. Maybe a production of Hamlet showing the scene where Hamlet's father was murdered?  My guess is that it was created to publicize a traveling 19th Century stage show. Text would be added as needed.

Yikes! Why do people take chances like this (above)? 

Boris Karloff, of course.
A simplified version of something like this (above) might make an interesting Halloween bookshelf decoration. You could design it so it does double duty at Christmas. I wonder who did this.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Lately I've paid more than usual attention to what happens in the sky. I guess the Fall provokes those kind of thoughts. In Summer the night and day are separated by beautiful sunsets and slowly unfolding twilights, but by Halloween the transition can be abrupt and violent. 

By the end of the day an otherwise sunny sky is cupped in the hands of dark clouds (above) and snuffed out. At this time of year the day no longer reliably evolves into into night; it's as often as not suffocated under a blanket.

As soon as darkness takes over the scenic beaches become traps for ships.

Suicides seek out high places.

People out for revenge seek their targets. 

Fanatics plot with their followers.

Fires are tended in military camps, prayer vigils are held in temples, the shadowy underworld is patrolled by the police. 

Eventually the night stretches out to the point where day becomes inevitable. High winds rip apart the clouds. The first delicate glow of morning appears. Here's how Emily Dickinson describes it:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Gee, this (above) is a nice mask. It's probably plastic but it I've seen similar effects on plaster and clay.

Polynesians used to have Halloween every day.

This (above) reminds me that I should buy whole coconuts around Halloween time. There's so much you can do with the shells.

The two mache masks on the right  (above) cover the whole head. I wonder how you make something like that?

At first glance I thought this (above) was a mustachioed Edgar Allen Poe mask then I looked closer and discovered the mustache was a nose and the red on the bottom is a mouth. It's a gorilla!


Above, a yuppie mask. Not bad, not bad. 

Around Halloween time cereal boxes used to have printed masks on the back.

Now they don't. I wonder why. That's (above) the back of the box I used this morning. Yikes! How bleak!

Nice (above), very nice.

If I understand right this (above) was an old seldom-used mask which the owner rehabilitated with a new paint job and some Styrofoam balls.