Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween, Thor Style

Over the last two countdowns, I've been closing things out with a music-themed Youtube video that ties into Halloween in some way. I didn't originally intend to do it each year and I have no clue how long I'll keep it up. All I do know is that this video was the perfect closer to the 2010 countdown:



To provide a little background on the video, the uploader has a Halloween tradition where he dresses up as a musician who has influenced him and plays a ukulele cover of one of their songs. In 2006, he chose to dress as Jon Mikl Thor.

But his dressing up for Halloween isn't the only reason I chose this video. After all, Thor has been discussed here before due to his work in films like
Zombie Nightmare and Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare and his live shows often feature him changing into a variety of cool Halloween masks over the course of the show. Also, many of Thor's music videos (as seen in the 2005 An-THOR-logy DVD) involve him battling alien invaders and other evil forces. Although he's not what you'd call a "horror rocker," he has done his fair share of songs about vampires, ghosts, beast women and the like.

I suggest reading his official biography page or Wikipedia entry for the full details on his career, but here's a brief summary: Jon Mikl Thor was originally a bodybuilder, eventually becoming the only Canadian ever to claim both the titles of "Mr. Canada" and "Mr. USA" in the 70's. But the music bug bit Thor, and he formed a band. Although initially using names like "Mikl Body Rock" and "Thor and the Imps," the name eventually became simply "Thor." In between bouts of guitar playing, the singing strongman would perform feats of strength, like inflating hot water bottles (much harder than it sounds) and bending metal bars held between his teeth! Although the band drifted apart in the late 80's as Thor branched out into more behind the scenes work and a few movie roles, Thor returned with a vengeance in the late 90's and has been rocking to this day.

I've often said that Thor straddles the line between awesome and cheesy, and I love his music for it. Sure, the lyrics in songs like "Thunderhawk" can get pretty goofy at times, but the backing music is pretty damn good and others songs like "Intercessor," "We Live to Rock," "Thunder on the Tundra" and "Keep the Dogs Away" will rock your face off. You might smirk sometimes, but you will rock out. Stuff like Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and the Flames" and Hotshot's "Always in My Heart," make me laugh hysterically and aren't terribly played, but I would never think for a second of buying one of their CDs. But that's not the case with Thor.

I fully believe that this mix of serious and silly is fully intentional, too. I mean, do you really think he'd allow a cover like this on one of his albums if he was dead serious about his work? The plug for his VM Sports clothing line is a great touch.

In addition to the above linked most recent release, his 1985 album Only the Strong has been re-released. If you look at his output (especially the stuff mentioned here at the local), you'll see he one hell of an imagination. Hopefully, this will all mean more Thor in future.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

From all of us here at Gravediggers Local 16, we wish you a safe and happy Halloween.

A bit early, but why not?

Thought the American Thanksgiving is next month, I would like to take today to thank each and every one of the readers we've had in the past year. GdL16 keeps growing and we're still not sure how this little experiment is going to turn out. Everyone's continual support here, on the twitter feed and over at Facebook is truly appreciated.

Thanks go out to every single shop on Etsy that allowed GdL16 to run a Tuesday uEtsy. They'll return in November but thank you for helping us grow the site by having some spooky content every Tuesday. It also allows the Front Office to tell more about the GdL16 world.

Many, many thanks go to each and ever artist that has let us review their spooky, tiki and plain awesome bit of work here on the site. It's been incredible how warm a reception we've received to offer our humble opinions and insights on another person's art.

And personally, I want to thank Weird Jon, The Abominable N. Oremac, Atomic Mystery Monster and the Front Office. I am lucky to write for this site but I'm even luckier to have these guys writing, offering fun and hilarious reads.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Go out and get some candy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Big Scream TV: The Boo Tube

'Haunted Pepper's Ghost Illusions' just didn't have the right ring to it...
As noted in my last review of a video decor DVD, although the concept (and commercially available) existed in the age of VHS, it wasn't until DVD technology entered the picture that Halloween video decor really took off. One of the biggest and most influential titles to take advantage of the technology was the Big Scream TV series by Lightform Productions.

The concept behind the series is simple: a looping series of spooky talking heads that seem to float in nothingness that can easily be done at home. The DVD-R starts with a quick credits screen that notes the following performers: Bill Lae, Mike Ziemkowski, Tim Peyton and Teresa Shea. We then go to a graveyard-themed menu with looped scary music and wind effects. Three tombstones give us the following choices: "Here Lies the Untame," "Here Lies the Tame," and "Here Lies Scary Tips and Illusions."

Choosing the "untame" option starts a fourteen minute and thirty-three second long video of numerous spooky faces. The faces, realized using a combination of makeup and computer generated effects, pop up onscreen for a few seconds to either growl, laugh menacingly or make some comments before vanishing. The transitions are very well done are aren't just simple fade ins/outs. For example, the mouth monster shown on the cover is spat out and gobbled up by a giant disembodied mouth and demons appear and disappear in explosions of flame. The CGI effects also add extra touches to the fiendish faces. Frankenstein's monster shoots sparks from his electrodes, a three-eyed monster wiggles its ears and shoots steam from his nose and lots of other neat little touches that I won't spoil. Although there is some pretty creepy stuff here, it should be noted that several monsters ham it up for their performances and tell corny jokes. Also, despite the "Untame" name that implies use for teenagers and adults, several monsters makes references to children and candy, for reasons that will become clear in a bit. In a nice touch, the track loops automatically and each face has its own chapter stop (for a total of thirty).

Selecting the "Tame" plays most of the same material from the "Untame" loop. In fact, the only difference is that the demons, rotting corpse, mouth monster and exposed brain guy scenes have been removed, making the running time only seven minutes and 38 seconds before it automatically loops. It also cuts the chapter stops down to fourteen! Don't be fooled, though. There's still some material that will scare kids. Although I'm sure some of the jokes (especially the mummy that injures itself) will help them cope.

Selecting the "Tips" option will play a four minute video about the basic set-up, how to use the DVD in displays and decorating suggestions. There are a lot of great tips here, like how to adjust brightness and contrast to reduce light from TV (in order to hide the fact that a screen is being used). There's also an explanation of using the DVD to create an amazing Pepper's Ghost effect, which is clearly explained in simple terms and is actually very easy to set up using Plexiglass and household items. In a nice turn of events, the thinnest and cheapest type of Plexiglass is actually the type that works best for the effect! But even if you aren't able to do that effect, you can still play it on a TV with decorations around it (I recommend putting a frame around the screen) or put it in a darkened window. If you have to go that route, might I suggest putting in a dark room that people can't enter, thanks to the open doorway being blocked off? You can use stacked boxes, fake nailed-up boards or warning tape to both keep people from getting closer and to add to the effect.

Despite being a DVD-R, Big Scream TV: The Boo Tube has an excellent transfer. Sadly, there is no submenu for the individual chapter stops or loops for individual characters. Although somewhat understandable since this 2004 DVD was the first release in line, it would have been a welcome feature. It is possible, however, to program your DVD player to do that (or to make your own custom mix of characters). That might be the best course of action for those using it in a haunted house. The mad scientist segment alone would be a perfect introductory video to explain the rules of a mad scientist-themed haunted attraction. Depending on your tastes as to how the characters look and act, as some might not like the dialogue directly referencing Halloween if the haunt runs throughout October, then this might be the best option. Those using this on Halloween without a specific theme for their house should be easily satisfied, and use of the Pepper's Ghost effect will almost guarantee that their house will be the talk of the neighborhood. That said, I wish the loops were longer in length. I know that Trick or Treaters probably won't mind, seeing as how they'll only see a few of the faces as they visit, but I can imagine that this could get old after awhile at a party. Having this on a factory-pressed DVD would have been nice, as those tend to be more durable than recordable media. In any case, I certainly know what will be making an appearance in one of my future Halloween displays...

The success of The Boo Tube led to two more installments in the series, Funny Bones and Crystal Ball. Lightform Productions has also gone on to release a how-to DVD called Xtreme Haunted Home Make-Over, along with more traditional video decor products like Halloween Scarols and Terror Eyes. I strongly suspect that the success of these titles is why several cheap video decor DVDs started flooding the market in the following years.

Special thanks to Lightform Productions for the review copy!

Burn: Out and Up.

I need to find an official 'Gravediggers Local 16 Halloween Countdown Trophy' and mail it to Weird Jon for this is the third consecutive year in a row that he's maintained a straight countdown OR lasted longer than I have. The man is a machine.

I wouldn't say I burn out easily but that the part of my mind that is reserved for Halloween is hardwired in a way that it can't really stand repetition for long. I like spooky but I like spooky that's different. This is a problem because spooky things (movies, books, music) usually, to me, end up sounding/being derivative, bland and somewhat dull.

So. A few days ago, I come across The Order of the Fly's 'Rot':



I was generally excited because here is a band that had a song under two minutes. Ecstatic! Holy cow, here's something new. A death punk band keeping it brief and heavy. Sort of different. The singer's voice wasn't trying to emulate Glenn Danzig, Peter Murphy or Elvis. Seemed something new.

Of course, the under two minute song was not the norm. Which, I can now see, makes sense. The Order of the Fly has two singers and two keyboards (keyboard + keytar) so it's kind of hard to have a discography made up of solely two to three minute songs without half your band getting bored.

They're still a good band. If you want to find a band that infuses punk, metal and new wave into something spooky, The Order of the Fly is there for you.

They're not the only instances. Here's Blitzkid.



Blitzkid has been around for years and I have kind of overlooked them, not out of any real reason. Similarly, I catch the above video and thing 'what have I been ignoring all these years?' A two minute song that's catchy, angry and fast? Well, let's see what they have.

Similar results. Disappointment.

See, Blitzkid has some talented musicians, much like Order of the Fly. Hardcore punk, the basis of the two minute fast song, wasn't started by any text-book-talented musicians. Yeah, Minor Threat was great and so was Bad Brains. And 'Milo Goes to College' is a great album, but they kept it short, fast and sweet more because that was the attention span and anger of the time.

Cue twenty-five years later, and you got the devilspawn of hardcore and they actually have some chops. Blitzkid, yeah. They can put out an album of two minute speed deathpunk on it but after that's done, they're going to be bored. Listening to their other songs, it was clear that they have brains as well as talent, much like Order of the Fly. These are bands that think, and kind of want to be entertained playing the music as they entertain you.

So I continue on my days, looking for the mixture of Minutemen and Misfits. I'll add 'Nosferatu' and 'Rot' to a playlist and rock out for as long as I can before burning out and burning up.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Music to Haunt By: Michael Hedstrom

Michael Hedstrom

Official Site

Midnight Circus, Hedstorm Productions 1999
Clive Manor, Hedstorm Productions 2001
Demagogue, Hedstorm Productions 2007

The haunted attraction/Halloween community is just as prone to fads and crazes as everyone else. Asylums, pirates and rednecks are only a few of the theme ideas (be it for a room or the entire haunt) that took the community by storm, both professional and home haunters. Sometimes it's due to the success of a particular movie that sparks it (as was the case with the pirate and wizard crazes), but it's hard to pin down what sparks the others. My personal theory is that the internet's ability to share prop tutorials and theme ideas allows ideas to spread much faster than they could in the old days. So if one person's setup is popular enough, then numerous people will set out to do their own version.

In the late 90's, clowns were the big thing in haunt setups. The only problem was, there wasn't any spooky circus music available. Countless numbers of people would post at haunt forums asking for where they could find such music, only to be told there really wasn't any and they'd have to either snag a copy of the out-of-print Killer Klowns From Outer Space soundtrack or play scary sound effects over regular circus music. Thankfully, one home haunter took it upon himself to fill the void: Michael Hedstrom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Music to Haunt By: Hollywood Haunts

Hollywood Haunts

Official Site

Monster Movie Haunts!, Introsound 2008

AAAAIIIIEEEE!  ELECTRO-MUMMY!
Those who browse through Halloween CDs each year may have noticed a mysterious newcomer to the field: Introsound. Initially debuting with the "Dr.Goodsound's" line consisting of Twisted Circus of Horror Sounds, Creep Show and Halloween Haunt-O-Tron, Introsound's newest line is Hollywood Haunts. Said line consists of albums designed to provide spooky dance music for parties (like the Halloween Chiller Dance Party! CD) and spooky music and sound effects, like the subject of today's review. Why the name "Hollywood Haunts?" That's because the company was started by Gary Gelfand, who has worked as both a sound editor and sound effects editor on numerous movies. Although the 2008 release Monster Movie Haunts! credits Jonathan Cooper and Ryan Teixeira with the composing duties, the reference to that work also being done by Introsound leads to believe that Mr. Gelfand also played a role in this.

Ghoul Squad

Ghoul Squad on MySpace and Facebook


Ain't gonna front - I don't know anything about this band except 1) They're from Massachusetts 2) They've been in this game longer than most of the other death rock punk bands these days 3) they might be broken up and 4) the music is incredible. 

Last March, they said a 7-song E.P. is coming out. Hopefully, we can drum up enough interest for them to reprint 'The Witch Grows Up' and 'Dark Ride' so I can purchase copies. Or maybe they can throw their stuff up on Amazon mp3 or iTunes. Either way, don't go away, Ghoul Squad.



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Music to Haunt By: Dronolan's Tower

Dronolan's Tower

Official Site

Journeys in Darkness Vol. 1: Those Who Dwell Beneath, Forever Young Music 2008

I'm still waiting to hear the coin hit the bottom...
Although initially surprised by the idea of CDs designed for use while playing tabletop RPGs, I must admit that it's not a bad idea. Remember, the whole point of a role playing game is to immerse yourself in another world and what better way to do that than through music? That's why music and sound effects are so important in haunted attractions!

I first became aware of the concept from a friend, who owned an "Introduction to Dungeons and Dragons"-type set that came with a CD. Apparently, it contained both music, sound effects and characters talking and my friend mainly used it to laugh at the goofy voices. Having never heard of any other such CDs since then, I assumed it was a one-off failed experiment. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the Midnight Syndicate released an official CD for use with Dungeons and Dragons in 2003! As it turns out, enough RPG fans were buying their CDs for use in gaming sessions to attract the Syndicate's attention. This led to the band setting up booths at gaming conventions, where they got in touch with the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons and, well, you know the rest. Interestingly enough, neither this nor the first CD I mentioned where the first musical projects associated with role playing games, as shown at the following Wikipedia notations.

But they aren't the only ones producing such CDs. Research reveals that soundtrack CDs are available for both the Cybernet RPG and the German edition of Little Fears. Spaceship Zero also inspired a CD, but it does not seem intended for use while gaming. The same band behind that release, The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, also produced a compilation CD for use with the d20 version of Call of Cthulhu.

But what about music designed for fantasy adventures using any gaming system? That's where Dronolan's Tower comes in. Founded in 2006 by David Allen Young in Studio City, California, the motto of Dronolan's Tower is "Music By Gamers For Gamers." With the help of a choir and Hollywood studio orchestra, Dronolan's Tower released Legends of Kitholan Vol. 1: Tales of the Long Forgotten in 2007 to immediate acclaim. The album netted three awards in that year's Radio Rivendell Fantasy Awards: "Best Fantasy Album," "Best Unsigned Artist," and "Best Song by an Unsigned Artist." This was followed up in 2008 with Journeys in Darkness Vol. 1: Those Who Dwell Beneath, which focuses on dungeon crawls and darker themes than the general fantasy-based Legends of Kitholan.

So if gamers can use spooky ambient music CDs for use in games, then why can't Halloween enthusiasts and haunters do the reverse?

The Meteors

Thirty years ago, three lads from the isle of England put together a band called The Meteors and from there, some say, the genre of psychobilly was born. Punk rock and rockabilly mixing together, with elements of horror mixed in with classic roots rock country.



Thirty years as a band is pretty impressive, even more so when you see the Meteor's prolific discography (including front-man and original member P. Paul Fenech solo and side projects.)



They're really catchy and much more high-energy than some of the other bands who utilize the upright bass. More electricity fueled speed. It's no wonder why Meteors fans have adopted the name 'the Wrecking Crew.' It's like this band is out to demolish everything in its path. Seems like they would be a fun show.



You can find them at the modest website of KingsOfPsychobilly.com to check out news and tour dates, though the only ones on the books so far are off in Germany (the Germans sure do love themselves some psychobilly and death rock.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Music to Haunt By: Buzz Works

Buzz Works

Official Site

Zombie Influx, Monolith Graphics 2009

Look at his shoulders.  He is so doing the dance from

If you read yesterday's installment about Nox Arcana, you might remember how I teased about another new release of sorts from them. That's due to their involvement with Buzz Works...

Dissecting "Alien Autopsy"

While going through some videos made by the company responsible for that King Kong-inspired birthday party that I used in my last article, I noticed that they had done a video inspired by the infamous Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction? TV special. Although the slightly gory video was done as a tongue-in-cheek promotion of their Alien Autopsy party package, the fact that they almost nailed the look of the alien inspired me to look up more on the matter in order to see if any other recreation-type deals had been done. What I found was far more interesting...

Had a wife. Couldn't feed her.


When I think to myself "I better go down to the basement. I have two that I need to take the knives to, today," I realize it's thoughts like those are why I wouldn't be a good schoolteacher, but a great one.


The two pumpkins I secured over a week ago had held up, thanks to a tip from the forums over at www.zombiepumpkins.com. Keeping them cool but not too cool is advised, so instead of having them deflate in my apartment, I stored them down in the basement.

As you can see, they're frightened. You would be too if some strange guy kept you underground for ten days. Thankfully, I was able to hypnotize the one on the left. The other one developed Stockholm Syndrome and was eager to go.


The history of the Jack O'Lantern is that some dude who could head not to heaven nor to hell decided to wander the earth with a hollowed out turnip as a lantern. Being that turnips are small and gross, I think we've made the right decision to upgrade. As you can see, I have the cheap four-dollar pumpkin kit that features two blades, a scoop, a pounce wheel and a 'drill.' The last two would break during use, having me sing out 'CHEEEAAAAP PLASTIC' in a mocking fashion.


I chose The Ghastly Ghoul because, as noted before on this site, I first got into surf (and spooky) music thanks to The Ghastly Ones. When Patchmaster General Ryan revealed the 2010 Ghastly Ghoul pattern, I knew I had to do it. The cat is done in favor of my own, Jack. He's a black cat so by nature, this holiday is for him but I don't think he grasps the concept of Halloween and, to be honest, who does anymore? I figure that I might as well throw out some props to him so maybe he won't wake me up in the middle of the night anymore.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Music to Haunt By: Nox Arcana

Nox Arcana

Official Site

Blackthorn Asylum, Monolith Graphics 2009

You'd have to be crazy not to get this.

For years, I had thought the Midnight Syndicate was the only group out there doing spooky ambient albums based around a single theme. So as you can imagine, I was pretty blown away with I stumbled across the Wikipedia entry for Nox Arcana. Elated by the idea of even more cool haunt music being out there, I immediately started researching Nox Arcana.

Formed in Cleveland, Ohio by Joseph Vargo, the name "Nox Arcana" is Latin for "mysteries of the night." Since 2003, the famed horror artist and his bandmate William Piotrowski have been cranking out albums devoted to everything from horror authors to ghost pirates.

Given that Mr. Vargo used to be a part of the Midnight Syndicate, it might be tempting for some to label Nox Arcana as a Midnight Syndicate clone. However, that is just not the case. If you go read my history of the band, you'll find that Vargo was huge part of the reason the Syndicate adopted that style (so Nox Arcana is merely doing more of the kind of music he's always been doing). Besides, Nox Arcana includes lots of extra bonuses with their albums, such as opening narration, bonus tracks and lengthy liner notes filled with details to help draw draw listeners further into the world the album's music has located. They're often filled with puzzles and injokes, too. How can you not love a group that would name a song after an obscurity like this?

The Trail of Terror

Photos by Jonathan Matthews, jon (at) krative.com.

Located in Wallingford, Connecticut, The Trail of Terror (www.TrailofTerror.com) celebrates its 16th year of operation in 2010. Thankfully, haunt expert Bertram Bertram invited me to come visit and partake of the Trail's spookiness.

This year celebrates 'Sweet 16,' marking the anniversary of the Central Valley Hospital massacre that saw the gruesome results of what happenes when you combine madness and teenage girls.

The story in itself is much more creepy than I can summarize here, so head to the website and explore.



Since its inception, the Trail of Terror has been a not-for-profit operation, donating the money it raises to both local and international charities. Having worked with the Red Cross in the past, the Trail currently raises money for the Wallingford Emergency Shelter. It also works with C.R.E.W., a student-based group that does community service projects as well as participates in Housing for the Homeless. Last year, the Trail of Terror gave $75,000 to the Wallingford Emergency Shelter and $12,000 to C.R.E.W.



Seventy-five THOUSAND dollars. That is unbelievable. Wrap your head around that number right now and think about it, because none of the participants are paid. They are all volunteers, doing the equivalent of part-time work and giving their weekends up to help operate this.

The Trail works with local high schools. While the management, area/scene supervisors are adults, most of the volunteers there are of that high school age, getting early work experience but also able to express their theatrical and spooky sides.

Each weekend in October (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) the Trail accepts visitors from around 7pm to 11p. People start to line up around 5:30, if not sooner, to avoid having to wait possibly three or four hours before they get in.



Once the haunts and monsters are all ready by showtime, the distinctive opening bars of 'Thriller' hit the air, causing the packed lines to shout in joy for the Trail of Terror is open!

You can find directions to the Trail here. There are two more days that they're open. Speed Passes have sold out so if you're going to go, show up early and bundle up.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music to Haunt By: Midnight Syndicate

Midnight Syndicate

Official Site

The 13th Hour, Entity Productions 2005
The Dead Matter: Cemetery Gates, Entity Productions 2008

If you hang out in forums devoted to Halloween and/or haunted attractions, then you've probably heard of the Midnight Syndicate. Their music is held in very high regard and always comes up in discussions over what makes for the best spooky soundtrack. Their music has appeared in TV shows, numerous movies and professional haunted attractions. But who are they?

Formed in Chardon, Ohio in 1995 by Edward Douglas, the original Midnight Syndicate was a very different animal than it is today. Although Edward Douglas composed the music and the trademark "soundtracks to movies that don't exist" theme was there, the 1997 debut album didn't only feature the scary instrumental music like their work does now. Instead, it also included music from the following genres: "rock, rock-a-billy, techno, rap, new age, humor-pop, jazz, and space [music]." As you can see from that link, they also used to have a much larger lineup. Things got a little more familiar for modern fans in 1998, when the lineup was cut down to Douglas, Gavin Goszka, and artist Joseph Vargo. Opting to do an album consisting solely of the music the Midnight Syndicate would become famous for: dark ambient music. The resulting Born of the Night (for which Vargo provided the name, cover art, vocals and creative direction) was a smash hit and forever cemented the Syndicate's style. Although he left the group in 2000 to work on a book (and eventually start his own band), Goszka and Douglas kept things going and have continued to release albums to this day.

PURPLE!

Rest Up

We're one week from Halloween.

Yeah, vampires, anime and the Groovie Ghoulies. Kind of a hodgepodge of medi-core but it's Sunday. 


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The 2010 Halloween Contest Winners!

It was a pretty good first contest, here at Gravediggers Local 16. Before we go any further, we want to extend our gratitude to all of those who entered. A contest without entries is the saddest pumpkin on the block. You took time out of your day to craft together some effort - could have taken an hour or a minute - it was still time that you gave to this little website. Thank You.

We have received word back from our celebrity judges, the Freakshow Family - Bernie, Loretta and daughter, Poinsettia. We've tallied up the scores and are ready to present the winners of the 2010 Halloween Contest here at Gravediggers Local 16. 

First off:

THE LIMERICK CONTEST

We received a wide range of limericks, offering our judges the chance to puzzle at the clever wordplay offered by you, our readers. It came down to Mike's entry that won the Grand Prize - a copy of Halloween Hootenanny on CD, a Bath O'Lantern organic vegan soap from BubbleGenius, a membership to ZombiePumpkins.com and, in addition, he will receive a pumpkin themed metal Luminary that Weird Jon has donated from his wild traverses across this haunted globe.

Mike
The Halloween party was rocking,
The zombies in top hats were shocking,
The trouble all came,
When a man with no brain,
Got caught sniffing somebody's stocking.

The runner up prize goes to Ellen Hudson, who vividly captured one of Weird Jon's best kept secrets - his lifelike animal calls. How she knew, we'll have to leave to private eyes and mystic mediums. But her clairvoyance and witty writing will earn her a copy of Halloween Hootenanny on CD. 

Ellen Hudson
The Gravedigger’s Local was in for a scare.
Weird Jon would arrive dressed as a bear.
He’d let out a roar,
Making guests run for the door.
Leaving the gravediggers alone in their lair.

Congratulations to the winners of the Limerick Contest! Not for nothing, everyone who submitted demonstrated a clever grip on rhyme, and we would like to share all the entries with you! 

Ronni Burke
At Gdl16 his favourite time is Halloween,
With Spooks & Ghouls & Vampires too,
And the odd witch wtih witches brew,
So at Gdls Party on Halloween Nite,
Jump out of the shadows and give Gdl16 and his Followers a fright!!!!!!!

There was a young fella called Bela,
Who was a scarey young fella,
With capes and bats and blood you see
Only vampyres like him,
Scare the crap outa me!!!!!

There was a man called Vlad,
Whose life was very,very sad,
With heads on spikes,
Twas nothing he liked,
Biting necks he declared, I might like that.

(Roni actually sent in four limericks, but since the contest stated three (3) limericks maximum, we only counted the first three in the contest. Not to diminish his limerick ability, here is the fourth, which is a humdinger if ever there was one!) 
Two gents called Burke and Hare.

Robbin graves was a job theyd share,
Into the graveyard theyd creep,
And dig down deep,
A fresh corpse theyd bring to the air.


Johnny Saturn

It's Hallowe'en and our party's been drinking
So much that now we're all stinking
We've crashed Gravedigger's Local
where the owners are vocal
About wanting to know what we're thinking.

I'm creeped out by Weird Jon and Strange Jason
Calling out to some lady they're chasin'
It doesn't get too much better
When they finally get her
For the result's what you might call "debasin'"

Talking to Weird Jon for a minute
About the contest and how I will win it
But I have a strong hunch
After tasting the punch
That someone's slipped arsenic in it!

Mike
The once was a creature from hades,
Who had quite a thing for the ladies,
At the Halloween do,
He picked one or two,
To give birth to his hell spawny babies

The party was ever so booming,
But the shadow of death it was looming,
It came in through the door,
Threw up on the floor,
And all of the guests went a zooming.

Jason Darrick
Weird Jon had a coffin full of cash.
To buy music to make sure the party was a smash.
He cleaned out the store
Bought spooky records galore
But the hit of the night was the Monster Mash.

Strange Jason had a wonderful affinity
That had party goers howling with glee
His costume was tied
His makeup was applied
And he walked the local's halls handing out candy.

Marina Monstro
All dark and spooky on Halloween night
The party raged on with fiendish delight
As the moon rose high, there came a knock on the door
Zombies looking for brains, could this party supply anymore?
Every ran and hide from these undead creatures

The zombies moaned and reached for their heads
Spooky Jason threw what he could, zombie heads spilling out red
The nerve of those zombies, trying the ruin the party
We'll have to use their guts and make something arty!

Jim Phillips
Pale faces looked on with distain,
at the lad looking smug & quite vain.
Though he thought "I'm the highlight,
A buff vampire from Twilight!"
He was looked on as something to drain.

Ellen Hudson
On Halloween night someone spiked the punch.
Atomic Mystery Monster lost his lunch.
No one had a clue,
Just what to do.
Drink up the punch, was my first hunch.

Surely the party would be great,
Even Strange Jason got a date.
Dressed as a cat,
She looked like a rat,
But Jason was sure he found his mate.

THE ART CONTEST

It was a close contest here. With a narrower field of entrants, it came down to a hair - one of Bernie's - in deciding who would walk away with the grand prize.

But it was Ellen Hudson, whose uncanny ability to capture the Atomic Mystery Monster in art form - something photographers have failed to do for decades - won her the Grand Prize of Scarecrow brand custom fitting vampire fangs, the high end Blood Gel to go with the new fangs, Perfect Creature on DVD and Heart On anatomical heart-shaped vegan soap from Bubble Genius.


As for the Runner Up in the Art Contest, when we said it was close, it was. In fact, all three other entrants, Cheryl Dmetruk, Mike Roberts and Miss Wendy Thirteen will all receive a copy of Perfect Creature on DVD because the contest was that close. Bernie, Loretta and Poinsettia all had their favorites in the other pictures and instead of causing a family feud that might render our favorite freakshow family asunder, it just made sense to reward all entrants on their great submissions!

Cheryl Dmetruk! 

Mike Roberts! 

Miss Wendy Thirteen!

And with that, the Gravediggers Local 16 2010 Halloween Contest comes to a close. With one week left until the big night, we hope that all of you have a blast getting ready for a great holiday. Thank you again to each and everyone of you who entered. Thanks to the Freakshow family for helping out with judging this year's contest. And thanks to you, dear readers, patrons and union members. We wouldn't be here without you. 

Music to Haunt By: An Introduction

Having clearly not learned my lesson from doing the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari, I've decided to do another music-related review series for the site. However, unlike last time, this will be much shorter and won't have the introduction and first review merged into a single post...

Sound is an important part of any haunted attraction, be it the noise made by a performer or by a hidden audio player blasting scary sound effects. Don't get me wrong, a haunted attraction can still be great without any prerecorded sound effects or music, it's just that sounds can greatly enhance a scare. Try watching any of the shark attack scenes from Jaws without the music and you'll see what I mean. No offense to Dario Argento, but I'm convinced that Deep Red would have been nowhere near as intense without Goblin's amazing score.

But you don't necessarily need sound effects to scare people. Simply playing the theme from Halloween in a darken room is enough to unnerve many people. However, doing that in a room decorated to look like a spaceship will only cause confusion (if not outright amusement). You just have to match the right audio with the right setup.

Over the course of this review series, I'll be looking at CDs from artists that specialize in music designed to scare people. I'll also include suggestions on what themes work best with each CD and how certain tracks can be used, be it at your haunted house or simply played in the background when trick or treaters come a-calling.

These aren't the standard "scary sound effects" CDs you can pick up just about anywhere come October, although some of the CDs will have a track or two of just sound effects. Most of the time, the majority of the tracks will either be just music or a combination of music and sound effects. For those not in the know, the latter is also known as a "soundscape." Soundscapes can be a combination of sound effects played over music, or a group of related sound effects playing on the same track (either playing one after the other or layered over each other). For example, a graveyard soundscape could consist of ravens cawing and the wind blowing, with the occasional sound of a grave being dug or a shuffling zombie.

Speaking of soundscapes, our Twitter pal Tribal Gothic has recently released an ambient sci-fi soundscape called "A Failed Event in Time." You can get the free .mp3 here.

For an even more in-depth look at the use of sound in a haunted attraction, I highly recommend this two-part article from 2 Scary Guys. Also, our recent "Tricks and Treats" article has a few sneaky sound tricks. Check 'em out!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Women are scary, too.

Jason. Freddy. Leatherface. Pinhead.

Where are the women?

Technically, it was Mrs. Voorhees who did all the killing in the first 'Friday,' but where are the iconic female monsters to compete with the males? I haven't seen all the horror movies out there and my memory can be dim as a jack o'lantern's candle in mid November, so if you have suggestions, leave them with the comments or add them to our Twitter feed @GdL16.

Have there been studies on the female antagonist in Horror? Do you know of any blogs or sites that we can pass along here on Gravediggers Local 16?



High-Tech Haunted Houses

For the past two Halloween Countdowns, I've always had at least one haunted attraction review. Sadly, it's looking more and more like that won't be the case this year. Ironically, my busy schedule for the countdown leaves me with zero free time to check out any of the few haunted attractions that are within reasonable driving distance. As for my usual method of reviewing a haunt I've been to in years past, my well (of four) attractions that haven't definitely ceased operation seems to have dried up.

One attraction is definitely still open, but their web site is lacking in certain information I require and I have been unable to contact them. Similarly, there's another haunted house that I'm not sure is still in operation, and I'm never able to reach a person whenever I try calling the company that runs it. I was able to contact one last week, but they were still undecided as to whether or not they would be doing it again this year! Finally, the last haunt on my list has been replaced with a differently themed haunt run by the same organization that ran the original (and is set up at the same location), but is allegedly so different (and so awful) that reviewing the one I went to would be pointless. What's a guy to do?

Well, besides hope that Strange Jason gets to go to the haunted trail that invited him to attend, I live vicariously through videos of haunted attractions. Along with Living Dead Live!, the following video from the official CBS Youtube channel was enough to make me feel better about the whole matter:



If the haunted attraction review sites I have linked to in the past aren't enough of a consolation for you, check out:

Haunted Illinois
Is It October Yet?
Haunted House Chicago


Alternately, you can look at these classic articles about various haunted attractions:

Dracula's Castle
Harvest of Horrors
The "Ultimate Haunt"
Witch Dungeon Museum
Barrett's Haunted Mansion

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Living Dead Live!

Thank goodness that text is blocking the zombie from grabbing anyone

Although there are tons of materials devoted to the various aspects of creating of haunted house, one topic remains mostly ignored amongst all the how-tos on prop-making and setting up a haunted house: scaring people. Far too many people think simply wearing a mask and yelling "Boo" while jumping out of a dark corner is all you need to do in order to scare people.

So when I discovered Living Dead Live! while perusing through Amazon, I was pretty excited. Especially because of the names I saw listed on the cover. I was familiar with Jim O'Rear due to his acting work and presence in the Halloween/haunt community and Rich Hanf is a pretty big name in the haunted attraction industry. In fact, he is a professor at Halloween University! This was clearly put together by guys who knew their stuff when it comes to scaring.

Jill Thompson: Queen of Halloween.

Jill Thompson is amazing. There's no denying that her career as a cartoonist has produced some of the most fantastic spooky artwork out there. There's both a playfulness in her line work and a genuine sense of creepy in her colors, making her a great example of how spooky and weird can be fun.

I first found her work through the 'Scary Godmother' character back in a comic shop. The character, who she would list as a cross between a fairy godmother and a witch in the 'Ghouls Out For Summer' story, is joined by a list of spooky characters - Harry the Werewolf, Bugaboo the Monster-under-the-bed/in-the-basement and Mr. Pettibone the skeleton. Friends of a young girl named Hannah, Scary Godmother's initial books are aimed more at the younger set. More spooky than scary, the collection is a great way for the young to get into reading. But for adults, Jill Thompson's art is spectacular. Real crisp linework and vivid colors make each page a great sight to see and each reading shows something you didn't see before. You can get the collected books here for a really great price.

For the more adult readers is her work with Evan Dorkin, the Beasts of Burden. The series details the continuing adventures of a group of animals first appearing in the Dark Horse Book of Hauntings (with a story in The Book of Witchcraft, The Book of the Dead, The Book of Monsters.) Showing how the animal world deals with the supernatural, it's a great comic book.

Jill Thompson also does Magic Trixie, which I can't front and say I know much about. But it seems to pick up with the whimsical supernatural adventures that left off with Scary Godmother. If ever I find myself near a comic shop this season, I'll have to check it out - and I encourage you to, as well.

Follow Jill Thompson on Twitter and check out her official site here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Halloween Moon

The reviewer isn't a poet and boy, does he know it...

Although the use of video technology for decoration did exist in the days of VHS, things really didn't take off until DVDs entered the picture. Finally, a program could be played over and over again in a loop without the need for constant rewinding.

TransLumen Technologies seeks to differentiate themselves from the virtual fireplaces and "ghoul logs" on the market by doing something other than the standard video wallpaper DVD. Rather than doing an actual video that's mean to be watched, they use a series of images to create an illusion of a still picture that changes at times. Apparently, there's no threat of screen "burn-in" since the images are always changing. The back cover says that these were intended for use on widescreen televisions and that the changes can't be detected on them. As I have an old school tube TV, I can confirm that the disc can be used with it, although the transitions are somewhat easier to detect (especially if you constantly watch the screen).

As you've probably guessed, one doesn't technically watch a TransLumen DVD. Instead, it's better if you only glance at the screen from time to time. This makes it best suited for use "in the background" at a Halloween party or in the waiting area of a haunted house. Although the back cover says a "cabinet, mirror, window shade or other concealment methods" are not required (presumably a reference to the Big Scream TV series and other such titles), I suspect that many Halloween enthusiasts will be tempted to place a fake picture over their screens in order to help give the appearance that this is a haunted painting. A fun way to further enhance the effect is to position a mirror across the room from the screen playing A Halloween Moon. People are naturally drawn to mirrors and as they look at themselves, they'll probably notice that the image has changed since they last saw it.

Help Us Rock the Rondos!

Although this isn't the first time we've discussed the Rondo Awards, this is the first time we're ready for the nomination period. So please, go here and nominate Gravedigger's Local 16 as the best website (or any other category you think we qualify for) so we can get on the ballot this year.

Tiger Army

I don't know the guy personally but I'm sure that Tim Armstrong of Rancid is a big fan of psychobilly. Nekromantix, HorrorPops and The Creepshow are all signed to his Hellcat Records label, which also is home to Devils Brigade, which is Matt Freeman's side project when he's not playing in Rancid. 

Over ten years at Hellcat, Tiger Army is a band that has become synonymous with psychobilly as Nekromantix. Tiger Army first appeared out in California by Nick 13 in 1996. It's one of those cases, like Mr. Chi Pig of SNFU, where time has made for a rotating cast of characters supporting the front man. Tiger Army lives as long as Nick 13 lives

There's a more western punk influence in Tiger Army. Smoother. Kind of less reliant on the signature slap-bass sound that the upright brings to the table. There's that 90's Bay Area attitude to the music that makes it seems less aggressive as one might expect out of no-hope-fuck-you situations you'll find on the East Coast. Granted, why would you move to Southern California?
(seriously, Hellcat? 'Embedding Disabled by Request? You're killing me, Tim) 

Tiger Army's last release came out three years ago, which is pretty weird to me because I actually remember it coming out. Normally, this stuff happens under my radar, which is funny since the last release was called MUSIC FROM REGIONS BEYOND. 

They're playing this Halloween - both on the 30th and 31st. Throw Rag is there, as well as Mad Sin. If you're located in Anaheim or will be in that part of the world, check them out. Nick 13 has some solo country work coming out, which sounds pretty nice so far. I'll have to pick up a copy if's it out. I like roots country and I hope the best for Nick13. Hell, if he and Blanche can put on a show sometime around here, I would buy them all a drink and personally thank them if I could. . 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Remakes Are Hell p.2

News Broke Out like a bad case of scabies that the Hellraiser remake is going to go PEE GEE THUR-TEEEN for the reason of "why the fuck not?"

It makes sense, since the film industry is still kind of confused as to what to do with itself. Jackass 3D makes 50 million in a weekend and gets positive reviews while the geek-pandering 'Scott Pilgrim' bombs. Maybe the idea has gotten across that horror movies might not be the golden goose of 'shell out three million. make ten. profit.' anymore? I don't know. Someone with greater ideas about this might write in the comments.

Truth is, this makes sense to me from a financial standpoint. Hellraiser doesn't really have the cultural connection that 'Friday the 13th' or 'Nightmare on Elm Street' had. Jason and Freddy are your stalwarts, the Superman and Batman of your horror genre. Pinhead falls on the lower echelon. It's harder to dress up like him and he's kind of a dick, really. Black leather and meat-hooks. Not a lot of personality, where as Jason and Freddy are a few household items and BOOM! Start running.

Appeal to a greater audience with disposable income and your big budget remake of a nearly 25-year old slasher will make back your budget. Sure, the 2010 'Nightmare' made three times it budget for a R-rated figure, but people KNOW Freddy. Who the fuck is this Pinhead guy?

Amber Head, actress rumored to be for the 'lead,' was born the same year that Hellraiser came out. Keep that in mind. Remakes are hell, folks.

What a (Pumpkin) Carve Up!

Ah, the soft, eerie glow of a lit Jack O'Lantern on Halloween night. What could be better? To help further this grand Halloween tradition, we here at Gravedigger's Local 16 have compiled a list of helpful pumpkin carving-related links. So if you've exhausted your ideas for pumpkin faces, really want to dominate the next pumpkin carving contest or just want to do something different this year, read on:

First up, the Amazon preview of Great Pumpkins: Crafty Carving for Halloween by Peter Cole and Jessica Hurley has several spooky pumpkin design stencils.

Similarly, the Google Books preview for Shelley Wolson's Budget Celebrations: The Hostess Guide to Year-Round Entertaining on a Dime has a few stencils, but you'll need to use the "zoom" option in order to read the directions.

Although both DLTK's Holiday Crafts and Activities and this Halloween Forum thread offer tons of free stencils, three particular names stand out in my mind when it comes to websites with great pumpkin carving stencils:

Zombie Pumpkins
The Pumpkin Lady
Ultimate Pumpkin Stencils

Although they are all businesses, they do also offer a generous selection of free stuff. The Pumpkin Lady even offers extra specials and free patterns to her Facebook fans and exclusive deals and other goodies to those who join her newsletter! Similarly, both Ultimate Pumpkin Stencils and Zombie Pumpkins offer special bonuses on their Facebook pages, and all of the sites mention numerous deals and freebies on their Twitter feeds. Zombie Pumpkins also deserves an extra special shout-out for kindly donating a year's subscription to their service as a prize for our 2010 Halloween contest.

Although it doesn't have any stencils, the preview for Tom Nardone's Extreme Pumpkins does have some great tips on pumpkin carving, along with directions on how to make a "cannibal pumpkin."

If you want to give your pumpkin a really unique and detailed look, be sure to read this three page article from an October 2007 issue of Boys' Life.

Finally, this GdL16 entry from our first Halloween countdown has an amazing pumpkin-carving project for those of you who don't fear a challenge. Oh, and you should definitely check out the Wikipedia entry on Jack O'Lanterns if you have some spare time. Not only is it very fascinating, but it also has a great selection of pictures that includes a preserved, turnip-based Irish Jack O'Lantern!

As noted in previous "How-To" posts, Gravedigger's Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on those sites (or constructing a project that's detailed on them). Attempt at your own risk.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Remember...

...when I said my favorite vampire was Bunnicula?

I change my mind.



More about this later in the week.

It Came from Amazon II

Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties has an amazingly awesome cover Can you name all of the characters depicted on it?

The cover of the Goodtimes home video DVD release of King Kong vs. Godzilla always makes me snicker. Why? Because they used images from a more modern Godzilla movie and the 70's Kong remake to try to fool unwary consumers into thinking it was filmed more recently than it really was!

Back when Furbies first came out, my friends and I often joked about their resemblance to the Mogwai from Gremlins. It seems like someone at Hasbro had the same view on the matter...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hellraiser

Seems that while listening to the Cramps and reading about Ghoulardi, I took the term 'Stay Sick' to heart. So without further delay:

sadomasochists from hell

Back in the year of our lord nineteen-hundred and eighty seven, back before the accessibility of internet porn and MySpace, you had to go to Morocco to get your kicks. Or so that's what our man Frank's mind as he shows up to buy himself the evil older brother of a Rubik’s Cube off of Chairman Mao.


I guess when you want a romantic date but only have yourself, this will do.

Shirtless, sweaty and surrounded by candles, Frank spends an evening fiddling with his box. Instead of going blind, the poor boy gets torn apart by chains and hooks. I guess he hadn't paid off his student loans yet and Sallie Mae will find you, no matter where you are.

Not seen: the hours of footage of Frank not figuring the damn thing out. 

Linger Longer V: Costume Lazyness

Despite being from 1998, the comments in this ClassicOnA upload regarding "wacky" topical Halloween costumes are still as true today as they were then:



Meanwhile, Yarsh29 brings us this gem featuring America's favorite ghost hunter:



As is always the case for "Linger Longer" entries, these videos are NSFW!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Son of Horror Trivia

Originally, Godzilla foe King Ghidorah was supposed to have rainbow-colored wings. Although this idea was eventually abandoned, it did make its way into some early publicity pictures.

Back when 8mm horror master Nathan Schiff was shopping around his low budget epics to VHS companies, one wanted to release The Long Island Cannibal Massacre under the name "Cannibal Hookers 2: The Father's Story." Naturally, Schiff was less than pleased about the idea and the release never happened.

In 1978, an Italian film company made an unauthorized semi-sequel to the 70's King Kong remake called Ciao Maschio (known as Bye Bye Monkey in America).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Swamp Angel

R.A. MacLean's new band, proving that if you keep at it, there will always be another gig, another band and another song for you to play.

It Came From Wikipedia III

The novel that inspired the once lost Karloff chiller The Ghoul was later adapted as a British comedy film called What a Carve Up! (aka No Place Like Homicide in the US)!

Speaking of unusual literary adaptations, the Great Old One Ghatanothoa appeared as the last enemy in the final episode of Ultraman Tiga, complete with the petrifying powers displayed in the short story it first appeared in. However, the Lovecraft reference went unnoticed by many American fans, as the distributor used the name "Gatanozoa" (which is the translation of "Ghatanothoa" into Japanese).

The band Coil once produced a soundtrack for the original Hellraiser in the 80's. Although it was eventually rejected, their work was released as a separate album. On a similar note, here's the original, unused concept art for Pinhead.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Revamping the Mission Statement

"Young Harry, propp'd up just as straight as he's able,
Will soon lose his wig and slip under the table,
But fill up your goblets and pass 'em around
Better under the table than under the ground!
So revel and chaff
As ye thirstily quaff:
Under six feet of dirt 'tis less easy to laugh!"
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Tomb

Something I read today that seems fitting for our little organization.                                            

Tricks and Treats

A Halloween How-To: Costumes, Parties, Decorations, and Destinations by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne has tons of easy tricks to pull during your next Halloween party or haunted house, with my favorites being the dropping spider and half man gags.

Here's something to do when you're bored while on Twitter: Tweet the phrase "Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice" and wait for the fun to begin.

Remember the "giallo movie generator" from last year's countdown? Well, here's something similar devoted to Clive Barker's love scenes. Is it NSFW? You'd better believe it!

Gravedigger's Local 16 favorite Barrett's Haunted Mansion put up a cool offer on their Facebook page: They're giving free admission to the haunt (but not the "Buried Alive" attraction) to any customer who was born in October!

I highly recommend looking up haunted attractions in your area and then checking their Facebook/Twitter/etc. pages for discount coupons. I've found ones for the Factory of Terror in Fall River, MA and the Century Haunted Hayride in Auburn, MA so far and I bet you can find even more.

Have a bunch of walnuts and aren't feeling hungry? Then make some hobgoblins using the notes from this 1943 issue of Popular Science.

Dryer lint. A worthless byproduct or an awesome free source of fake moss for Halloween displays. Read the Amazon preview for How To Haunt Your House by Shawn and Lynne Mitchell to decide for yourself.

Speaking of Amazon previews, the one for Halloween Crafts: Eerily Elegant Decor by Kasey Rogers and Mark Wood has creepy clip art and instructions on how to make things like fake candles.

Finally, the Google books preview for The Halloween Activity Book: Creepy, Crawly, Hairy, Scary Things to Do by Mymi Doinet and Benjamin Chaud shows you how to make monster mirrors and ghoulish garlands.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monster Jokes

Ah, cheesy monster jokes. They are a staple of any young, growing horror fan's reading diet and they're impossible to escape during October. As I don't know whether or not directly posting jokes falls under "fair use" rules, I'll avoid any potential trouble by linking to several previews of spooky joke books. So if you're feeling nostalgic or simply need a few jokes to use, check out:

Monster Jokes by Ima Laffin.

More Monster Jokes by Ima Laffin.

Beastly Laughs: A Book of Monster Jokes by Mark Moore.

Monster Laughs: Frightfully Funny Jokes About Monsters by Michael Dahl.

Jokes About Monsters by Judy A. Winter also offers interesting photographs rather than use cartoon drawings of monsters like other joke books often do.


Spooky Sillies: A Book of Ghost Jokes
by Mark Moore.


Screaming With Laughter: Jokes About Ghosts, Ghouls, Zombies, Dinosaurs, Bugs, and Other Scary Creatures
by Michael Dahl is a bit of a cheat, as it's padded out with several pages worth of animal jokes.

Giggle Fit: Spooky Jokes by Joseph Rosenbloom and Steve Harpster.

For those of you who want a steady supply of new horror jokes, just follow 1monstermatt, author of the upcoming Monstermatt's Bad Monster Jokes Vol. 1, on Twitter.