Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain!

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I want to wish everyone both a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

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(http://lubuntu.me/blessed-samhain/)

On the pre-Christian Celtic calendar, October 31 was Samhain, pronounced Soo-when or Sow-when, and it marked the day when the world of the living and dead where at the closest. It is also the end of year, with November 1 as the start of the next year. This day is one of the most important Gaelic/Celtic/Pagan/Wiccan/Druidic holidays of the year!  And please do not worry about the devil–he is not a part of Samhain. There is nothing evil here.

Samhain/Halloween is a day to remember those who have passed and to think of the future.

So, enjoy the day, dress up, have candy, party, and raise a toast and wish all a Happy New Year!

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What Is One Of Your Favorite Horror Movies?

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October is my favorite month of the year. Not only does Fall typically make its full appearance, complete with painted leaves in a wide palate of colors, but October is also the month of my favorite holiday–Halloween!

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The history of Halloween is a subject that I will cover in another post, but I also have a life-long affinity for the Gothic and Horror, including in movies and books. For the purposes of this post, I am interested in hearing from you what your favorite horror film is. I will address the question of favorite horror novels in the near future.

It would, of course, be completely fair to ask me the same question. If I pose such a question to my students in college classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA or the Department of Graduate and Continuing Education of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, I always make it clear that they may turn the question on me.

Stephen_King,_Comicon

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

If I had to choose just one horror film, among the many possibilities, it would be It (2017)  and It Chapter Two (2019) based on Stephen King’s brilliant novel. I was prepared to dislike these movies, because I am typically very critical of adaptations of books, but this time I was very pleasantly surprised. The films deal well with the narrative dilemma of two intertwined time periods in the novel by presenting them in two separate movies. The movies not only show the supernatural horror clearly, and much better than the made for TV version, but also the films show, in the most powerful manner, the fear and horror that children can experience from bullying.  This is a theme King often incorporates in his writing, and this movie shows this disturbing reality that many children face very well. If you have not yet seen It (both parts), then I recommend these movies highly!

Once again, what is your favorite horror film?

Writing Atmosphere Into Your Stories

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Please read Josh’s excellent post on creating atmosphere in writing!

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Writing involves so intricacies to build something that may seem small in a narrative. Any decent writer needs to have a great attention to detail so they can hit the nail one the head with their descriptions of scenes and develop their characters. 

I know one of my strengths in writing is my ability to build an atmosphere that feels authentic or I can make the hair on your neck stand up. The way I build the atmosphere in my writings come from observations I make in those environments and other things as well.

One thing I always do is pay very close attention to the places I go and the environments that I visit. I use my personal experience in different places to help establish my atmosphere and then I start adding things like what it might smell like in a forest of oak…

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Favorite Horror Films: 12: The Horror of Dracula

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org/)

After the great horror  cycle of movies from Universal Studios in the 1930s and 1940s culminating in the Abbott and Costello spoofs, serious horror movies vanished for a period. They were replaced by the spate of giant critter movies spawned by the fears of nuclear fallout post World War Two and the ominous threat of nuclear Armageddon of the Cold War.

Dracula1958poster

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

In 1958, Hammer Studios, a British film company initiated a new cycle of horror films with the release of The Curse of Frankenstein, and Horror of Dracula (the American title) or Dracula (the British title) soon followed.  These films not only allowed this film studio to emerge as a major force in horror films, but also they spawned a new cycle in horror that would span nearly two decades. Horror of Dracula starred Sir Christopher Lee as Dracula, Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, and Michael Gough as  Arthur Holmwood and was directed by Terence Fisher.

Christopher_Lee_at_the_Berlin_International_Film_Festival_2013

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

This film dramatically changed the course of horror films.  Prior to Horror Of Dracula, most horror movies, especially  the classic Universal films were shot in black and white; this film was in vivid color. Also changed noticeably from the 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi was the pacing and the level of over sexuality and violence. This movie moved at a very rapid pace with condensed action and compression of characters from the book–Dracula by Bram Stoker.  A very lively film score added to the tension and feeling of almost constant movement.

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(https://fr.wikipedia.org)

Christopher Lee brought an imposing physicality to the role and played the count with a noble British accent. He showed great strength and mobility in his performance. And this film introduced  the vampire with fangs and blood.  When he emerges in full fury after the vampire girl has attacked Jonathan Harker, he is a demonic image.  This was a representation of the vampire that was entirely new and very powerful.

In Britain, this movie received an X rating because of its, what was for the time, overt sexuality and violence. The women sometimes wore low cut gowns, and Dracula’s attacks carried a not too subtle sexuality, although by today’s standards, this shocking sensuality certainly would be tame or almost quaint.

Horror Of Dracula was a success both financially and critically. Hammer studios would make numerous sequels to this film and would also base the release of other movies, principally on Dr. Frankenstein, on their good fortune. If you enjoy horror films and have not seen this particular movie, I recommend it.

Favorite Horror Films: 11: The Curse of Frankenstein

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Terence Fisher directed The Curse of Frankenstein for Hammer Studios in England, and Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Hazel Court starred. This 1957 movie was the first in the Hammer Studio’s emergence as a major producer of horror films and it was the beginning of a new horror movie cycle. The result was an innovative, fast paced, and  vividly colored film. Hammer Studios completely changed the approach to horror movies of the Universal Studios that had dominated the horror movie cycle from 1931-1945. Color, explicit violence, and sexuality were introduced as central filmic components.

The Curse of Frankenstein was, like so many other movies, loosely based on the great work of Gothic English Literature by Mary Shelley: Frankenstein: Or The Modern Prometheus (1818). Yes, that is the accurate subtitle, although it is usually omitted in most printings of the book.

Frankenstein_1818_edition_title_page

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

This movie was highly successful, both financially and critically.  And like Horror of Dracula would, as Hammer Studios expanded their treatments of classic Gothic novels, it spawned a long series of sequels. A major difference between the direction of the following films was the focus: the monster Dracula was the recurring character in the vampire movies, while Dr. Frankenstein, and not his creature was the repeating protagonist/antagonist of the Frankenstein movies. This is also an  important distinction between the Hammer and the earlier Universal movies in which the Creature was the primary recurring character.

The Creature was also a mindless killing machine in this film, and none of the Creature’s humanity was kept from the novel, which is the film’s major flaw. It is, nevertheless, an important film from this era, and if you enjoy or are interested in horror films, then I recommend it.

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Favorite Horror Films: 10: Cat People

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

In 1942, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Torneur, advanced the making of horror films by expanding the possible topics and boundaries. This extraordinary film is not one that relies on a standard “monster”; instead, Torneur employs psychological suspense and subtle development of terror.

This film offers a sophisticated and understated treatment of sexuality and its impact on people. The main character, Irena, a fashion designer, born in Serbia, and played by Simone Simon combines the modern world of high fashion in New York City with the old world beliefs that she is descended from people who are shape-shifters and who turn into big cats when sexually enticed and aroused. Torneur builds a new variation on the established theme of lycanthropy, in which a male changes into a wolf. Additionally, the film demonstrates the tension between science and superstition, the modern era versus the medieval times, and religion versus secularism.

While to a contemporary audience, this movie might seem dated and subdued, I believe it still carries great impact in its study of horror that is felt rather than seen, slowly created rather than visceral, and suggestive rather overt. This film is a masterpiece of the well-constructed and multi-layered story, rather than a simple scare the hell out of the audience. It subtlety is one of its greatest strenghts.  

Cat People did very well at the box office, but it received a mixed range of reviews at the time. Since the 1940s, it has come to be seen as one of the more important horror films of the 20th Century.  If you have the opportunity, I recommend watching Cat People.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Jennie Fitzkee—Teacher of Teachers

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Please read this wonderful post by the excellent teacher, Jennie!

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Jennie Fitzkee—Preschool Teacher

One of the unexpected blessings of starting a blog has been interacting with people globally with whom I would have never otherwise crossed paths. After I had written my book for new and inexperienced teachers, someone asked if I had ever considered starting a blog. I thought to myself, hmm, I could do that, but would anyone care what I have to say about anything?

Two and a half years later, I’m amazed at some of the remarkable people I’ve met. One of those individuals is a magnificent preschool teacher from Groton, Massachusetts, named Jennie Fitzkee. She has been in education for forty years (two of those at kindergarten and the last thirty-eight years as a preschool teacher at Groton Community School).

Jennie is passionate about the benefits of preschool. “Social and emotional development are number one. Children need to learn how to play, make friends, share…

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Favorite Horror Films: 9: The Mummy

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In 1932, Universal studios followed up on its enormous success with Dracula and Frankenstein with the release of The Mummy. Riding the crest of his popularity at the box office, Boris Karloff starred, Karl Freund directed, and Carl Leammle Jr. produced the film. The movie was another financial success for the studio and further solidified its power and standing in the cinematic and entertainment world.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The plot of the film featured a curse on an Egyptian tomb and the resurrection of Im-Ho-Tep who had been buried alive as a mummy in ancient Egypt.  The film capitalized on the public awareness and excitement about the discovery of the tomb of King Tut and the supposed curse on that burial ground. We see Karloff in the full mummy makeup and costume for only a short period in the film, then he appears as the mysterious character Ardeth Bey who is searching for the reincarnation of his lost love.

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(commons.wikimedia.org)

The film is atmospheric and an excellent story, but it is distinctly different from the barrage of sequels that were very loosely based on this particular movie. In those films, a monster, often not very bright, and always in full mummy costume and makeup, would trample around and cause terror and destruction until it is stopped.  This film focuses on the characters and the story more than overt horror. Additionally, along with The Bride of Frankenstein, this film is arguably one of the finest examples of creative cinematography of all horror films. The influence of German Expressionism, with its strong use of heavy dark and lights and clearly defined shadows is evident and important in The Mummy.

Jack Pierce created the makeup and continued to establish himself as the finest and most important makeup artist in all of Hollywood. His dual creation of the mummy in costume and full monster makeup and of Ardeth Bey is powerful and visually compelling.

If you have never seen this movie, you should put it on your viewing list.

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(pixabay.com)

The Invisible Man–A New Entry for the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

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Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Background

The Invisible Man is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells that was initially published as a series in 1897.

This book examines human nature and the temptations of immorality to humans. Essentially, the author explores how he believes people would behave if there were no consequences to their actions.

The story starts with a stranger arriving at Iping, a small town in the United Kingdom, and taking lodgings at the Coach and Horses Inn. Mrs. Hall, who runs the inn, is pleased to have the stranger’s unexpected business in the “off” season and gives the stranger, called Griffin, a set of rooms, despite his peculiar attire. Griffin is dressed in a heavy coat, gloves and a hat, and his face is entirely covered by bandages except for his nose. His eyes are hidden by large blue glasses. He doesn’t remove his coat or hat even after Mrs Hall lights a warm fire for him.

Griffin proves to be a rude and selfish guest, but Mrs. Hall tolerates him because of the money he is paying her. He breaks things and demands to be left alone in his rooms while he works with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus. He is also never seen without his coat and hat. Mrs Hall decides to ask him to leave as soon as the warmer weather arrives, and other paying guests start arriving.

Griffin continues to live at the Inn for a few months and becomes a topic of speculation by the local people. He is visited by the local doctor, Cuss, who is shocked when Griffin accidentally removes his hand from his pocket and his sleeve is completely empty.

Griffin runs out of money and is unable to settle his bill with Mrs. Hall. They have words and that evening the vicarage is burgled. The following day Griffin pays his bill and Mrs Hall is suspicious.

The villagers confront Griffin about the burglary, and he removes his bandages revealing a black cavity in place of his face. The local police constable attempts to arrest Griffin, but he escapes and starts on a rampage of theft and vengeful behaviour through the countryside. Griffin believes that as he is invisible, he cannot be caught, and he is free to do anything he pleases.

As Griffin descends further into his role as a ‘man on the role’ he becomes more and more aggressive and wild in his behaviour. He also comes to realise that he cannot achieve his dream of dominating other men on his own.

He seeks to gain assistance from firstly, a tramp called Thomas Marvel, and secondly, a doctor and fellow scientist from his days at University College London. Griffin reveals the story of his journey to invisibility to Dr Kemp, as well as his plan to impose a “Reign of Terror and to institute “the Epoch of the Invisible Man.” Dr Kemp is horrified by the level of immorality Griffin has sunk too.

Themes

I have selected a few quotations from the book to demonstrate the themes:

Freedom, Anonymity, and Immorality:

“My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people’s hats astray, and generally revel in my extraordinary advantage.”

The future versus the past:

“And there it was, on a shabby bed in a tawdry, ill-lighted bedroom, surrounded by a crowd of ignorant and excited people, broken and wounded, betrayed and unpitied, that Griffin, the first of all men to make himself invisible, Griffin, the most gifted physicist the world has ever seen, ended in infinite disaster his strange and terrible career.”

Greed and self-interest:

“He is mad,” said Kemp; “inhuman. He is pure selfishness. He thinks of nothing but his own advantage, his own safety. I have listened to such a story this morning of brutal self-seeking…. He has wounded men. He will kill them unless we can prevent him. He will create a panic. Nothing can stop him. He is going out now — furious!”

Skepticism vs. Belief:

“I wish you’d keep your fingers out of my eye,” said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage expostulation. “The fact is, I’m all here:head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I’m invisible. It’s a confounded nuisance, but I am. That’s no reason why I should be poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?

Humans, Science and Nature:

“I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got.”

Conclusion

The Invisible Man is an important book to preserve because it demonstrates that greed and self-interest become corruptive forces. Griffin goes from being a young and enthusiastic scientist with a scientific interest in the possibility of using light and optics to turn a living thing invisible, to someone who uses his invisibility for personal gain and power.

Given the greed and corruption that still blights humanity and human interaction, this book is useful in understanding the process of corruption and the degeneration of decency.

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Thank you again to Robbie Cheadle for this post!

Favorite Horror Films: 8: The Invisible Man

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The-Invisible-Man

(en.wikipedia.org)

One of the more interesting and unusual horror films of the 1930s is The Invisible Mandirected by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle Jr. for Universal Studios (1933). This film is based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, and it is a reasonably close adaptation of the book. Some changes were made to the story line, notably the addition of a love interest and moving the time from the Victorian Era to the 1930s.

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(en.wikipedia.org)

The film was unusual in the caliber and sophistication of the special effects, which still hold up to contemporary scrutiny.  It is important to remember that these filmmakers were not using computer generated images to create their effects; rather, they were forced to create from ingenuity, creating new techniques in cinematic art.  The end result shows visual images that are still powerful and compelling.

The story is well told and excellently acted. Claude Rains  stars as Dr. Griffin, the Invisible Man, and he does a superb job in his performance. He creates a convincing character of the scientist, who much like Victor Frankenstein, exhibits hubris in his research.  He succeeds in finding the way to invisibility but goes insane as a result and becomes homicidal. The film ends with his character being chased down and killed, and before perishing, he admits he should not have explored forbidden areas of science.  Again, this reinforces the theme earlier seen in Frankenstein.

Another interesting theme that is hinted at in this movie is the danger of drug abuse, as also show in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Griffin uses a drug identified as “monocane” in his formula, and the consequences are his becoming dangerously insane. While he does not use the drug as an addict might, he still ruins his life through its usage.

The film did well at the box office and is considered by many critics, including me, to be one of the best horror films of the 1930s.

Whale_on_the_set_of_Invisible_Man

(https://en.m.wikipedia.org)

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