Recurring Nightmare

I watched the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy a few months ago, and it made me remember the first time I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was probably about nine years old and spending the night at my friend’s house. My parents had a strict “no rated-R movies” policy, but my friend’s mom was more lenient, so naturally we rented horror flicks every time I stayed over.

And this one was by far the most gory, disturbing thing I’d ever seen.

I was so terrified that I actually went home early. I told my mom I had a stomachache, but in the car she was like, “Hmm. You watched something scary, didn’t you?” And although I hardly slept for the next few nights, I was addicted. In fact, the very next time I spent the night with my friend, we rented it again.

Anyway, here are some things I learned while watching Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.

1. The original story idea was inspired by an ACTUAL event. Wes Craven read an article about a Southeast Asian man who was terrified of sleeping and refused sleep medication. When the man finally fell asleep, he ended up dead! The autopsy showed no reason for his death, so they had to chalk it up to Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome. Now that’s scary.

2. Freddy had a (dismally awful) “Greatest Hits” album (click here for a track).

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3. The second film in the franchise was (deliberately) riddled with homosexual undertones. (I bet this will be much more clear to me watching it now as an adult.)

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4. Freddy had his own TV show for a short time called Freddy’s Nightmares.


The documentary is very well-made, and I highly recommend it even for people who haven’t seen (or didn’t like) all the NOES movies. It is extremely thorough and offers lots of reminiscences by the actors involved, plus behind-the-scenes information about the effect the films’ success had on their production company, New Line Cinema, and on the horror film industry in general.

And let us not underestimate how huge the “Freddy Krueger Phenomenon” was in the 80s. Some merchandise made in honor of the films included children’s pajamas (oh the irony!) and the Chest of Souls (from the fourth sequel), pictured below.

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Coolest snow globe ever.
Written in red at the bottom: "All violators' tires will be slashed."
Written in red at the bottom: “All violators’ tires will be slashed.”

In fact, there’s so much Freddy fare out there, it makes me wonder why they never marketed the “I’m Your Boyfriend Now” phone. Ha.

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Ghostly Shadows

Check out the hauntingly beautiful long-exposure photography of Alexey Titarenko.

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His work captures the “ghosts” of post-Soviet Russia perfectly. But to me these images are striking even devoid of context. Their sublime creepiness stands alone.

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All photography by Alexey Titarenko. 

Scary-oke Rooms

Speaking of music, the Highball, a private-room karaoke venue in Austin, Texas, recently underwent a redesign that resulted in some seriously cool, spooky theme rooms.

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The Red Room, inspired by the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks.
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The Midnight Manor, for that old-school haunted house vibe.
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The Freak Room.
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“The Inferno, which I think we can all agree is just a fancy way of saying the Satan Room.”  -Meredith Borders (in this article)

And the awesome decor is not just for Halloween; these rooms will be “keepin’ it creepy” year-round. Plus the Highball’s lobby pays homage to The Shining! Check out the rug, tricycle, and mural.

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Photos from the Highball Facebook page.


Halloween Playlist

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 5.45.22 PMI don’t know what it’s like where you are, but as I write this post here in New York, the sky is overcast, there’s some cool 65-degree air seeping in through the window, and I can even see some dead leaves scattered in the street outside. Tuesday the 23rd is the Autumnal Equinox (the first “official” day of the season, astronomically), and it sure feels like it’s coming.

I’ve decided it’s the perfect day to start decorating for Halloween, a seemingly simple task that I treat like a sacred ritual. I give my home a thorough cleaning and clear every surface (shelves, window sills, table tops) in preparation for its incoming holiday display. Then we bring down the boxes in the closet marked “Halloween decor” and lay out their contents on the floor, organizing items into groups until we decide which cluster to put where. We draw out this whole process into a three-hour event involving ceremonial foods, lit candles, and sometimes a silent scary movie playing on DVD.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 5.48.46 PMOne absolutely essential part of this custom is the music. Fall decorating is the perfect time to listen to songs that remind me of cooler weather, of past Halloweens, and of anything creepy. So I make a mix CD every year to set the mood for the season. And this year I have taken the best of those CDs and created an “Ultimate Halloween Playlist” for you, my dear readers. It’s a collection of songs that either loosely or directly reference some aspect of fall and its magic: songs about ghosts and witches, songs that just have an eerie tone, some familiar classics, some obscure weird tracks, and a few creepy instrumentals. Consider it a mixed bag of pure Halloween ear candy.

Here’s the link to your online playlist. Just go there and choose the “Play All” option on the upper left. You don’t have to sign up for Grooveshark to listen to it.

Enjoy! And welcome to fall!

Photos by Photo Amy on Flickr.

I Like Turtles

A 7-minute compilation of Halloween news bloopers. Parts of it had me rolling. I love all these channels for getting into the spirit.

Highlights, in order of appearance:

  • The Erebus Haunted Attraction looks like a place I need to go.
  • “They do not pay me enough!”
  • Gotta love the newscaster who cracks up at the zombie interview.
  • Indeed, some kids do “want the candy” more than others.
  • The polar bear segment, with its (literal) “mic drop,” begs the question: Why exactly was he throwing a pumpkin into that pond in the first place?
  • Any news program that airs a middle-aged man wearing a pumpkin mask and black spandex dancing to “Ghostbusters” is a news program I wanna watch. 🙂

Woodlawn Cemetery


Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx, New York, is the final resting place for over 300,000 deceased, including Duke Ellington and Herman Melville. It was founded in 1863 and has more mausoleums than any other cemetery in the United States. And it’s about 7 miles north of my apartment.

We took a walking tour there over the weekend. The cemetery is beautiful and grand, in the “garden style” of Mount Auburn. And though it is large, it somehow feels like a hidden gem … a peaceful, Victorian-era haven in the middle of a crowded urban area. Here are some photos I took of the grounds.

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Stephen Rogers, Freemason (apparently).
Perfect place for a spiderweb.

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The Belmont mausoleum was modeled after a chapel in France.

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Bronze statue of woman with her arms outstretched in grief.
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Mausoleum with R2D2-style architecture.


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Tarot: The Death Card

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magine that you’re getting a psychic reading done, and this card surfaces in your spread. It’s enough to make your neck hair stand on end.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 12.09.27 PMBehold the 13th Tarot card, Death. It depicts an armored skeleton on horseback towering over three victims and leaving a corpse in his wake*.

Ironically, this card does not mean that you or someone you know will die. It represents the natural end of a situation and promises a new beginning. In fact, if you take a closer look, you can see symbols of rebirth: the white rose on the flag, the ship in the background sailing toward two distant towers. The scene is at dawn rather than dusk, conveying that the card’s tone is one of starting something fresh and new, not one of finality and loss.

The card, like the necessary change it signifies, may be frightening when first faced, but it carries the possibility of positive transformation. In the concrete sense, it can mean any kind of change, from loss of virginity to leaving a job to moving to a new city.  So if you ever see this card, it is most accurately interpreted as a sign that a major life transformation is imminent and a new stage is dawning.

It’s also worth noting that in many early decks (including the original Tarot), this card was actually unnamed. Though this would have increased its mysteriousness, it might have also made the card’s positive qualities easier to see. A label like “DEATH” tends to make an impression!

For those of us afraid of real-life death, there are far worse cards (e.g., the three of swords and the ten of swords). More on those later.

*This description is of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck’s version, shown above. Artwork varies among different Tarot collections. The Marseilles deck, for example, depicts a skeleton reaping a crop of human body parts with a scythe. But even this Grim Reaper scene was meant in the New Testament sense: “Unless the grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it cannot grow.”


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There are some pretty hilarious, superfluous “how-to” pages online. One of the most absurd is “How to scratch your back,” which offers the sage advice to “do stretching exercises daily and grow your own nails” first, or to grab a spoon and then “extend your arm up towards the ceiling if you are inside (use the sky as your guide if you are out-of-doors)” to ensure the right angle for using a makeshift scratching tool.

Determined not to leave any aspect of life un-instructed, the learned “experts” at WikiHow also offer Halloween how-to gems that are similarly unnecessary and ridiculously specific:

  • How to ignore creepy music (“Remember that all the weird music scaring you is just some tape on the tape recorder”)
  • How to draw a spooky child (“Draw her mouth as a surprised face, which is a circle like this: o”)
  • How to make a scary facial expression (“Show your teeth, and look angry”)
  • How to compose a Halloween song (“Study music theory if you are serious about learning to write music”)
  • How to eat candy (“Someone else may try to take your candy, so remember, you can always breathe later, so eat now, eat fast, eat like you were about to die”)
  • How to sit through a horror movie (“Don’t scream. Screaming is for roller coasters and when someone pours ice down your back”)

Alrighty then. Well, don’t say you didn’t know how!

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Really?? (And does the fact that she’s wearing a WikiHow shirt mean this site has employees?!)

Victorian Trading Co.

A friend introduced me to the Victorian Trading Company catalog years ago. It offers old-fashioned style housewares and gifts that are the embodiment of the phrase “grandma chic”: lots of lace, tea sets, cameo pendants, rose motifs, etc. Best of all, in keeping with their Victorian sensibilities, the company loves Halloween! I always look forward to seeing their fall issue in my mailbox.

Here are a few of their seasonal items this year. I’ll take one of each, please.

Cobweb stained glass.
Cobweb stained glass.
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What’s more gothic than black Kleenex?
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Stars and moon necklace.
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Movable “skelly-bank.”



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These chairs are only 8.5 inches tall. Perfect for a “haunted dollhouse” scene, methinks.
Two-stamp set.
Two-stamp set.
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Embossed 6-inch gift box.
Now VTC even offers lanterns by Pumpkin Hollow! So cool.
Now VTC even offers lanterns by Pumpkin Hollow! So cool.