Friday, December 31, 2010

Julebukking

While discussing the Krampus with some family members, my mother mentioned that, during her pregnancy with me, a Swedish aunt of hers had told her of a deer or goatlike creature called the "Julebukk" which helped pull Santa's sleigh.

From what I've been able to tell, the tradition started with the legend of the Norse god of thunder, Thor! Thor was said to ride across the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnj├│str (roughly translated as "Toothgnasher" and "Toothgrinder"), the sound of which created the sounds of thunder rumbling. According to the "Prose Edda," Thor was known to kill the goats in order to have food, which he would share with others. After the meal finished, Thor would use his powers to revive them as if nothing happened. This led to a now-defunct Swedish winter tradition of having someone dress up as a goat, pretend to get sacrificed and is later "revived." But as Christianity spread throughout Europe, all references to Thor were stripped away and the creature was transformed into a Yule Goat or "Julebukk" (roughly translated as "Christmas buck").

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chris Scalf Rules

If you have yet to see any of Chris Scalf's amazing artwork, then you're seriously missing out. From the pages of G-Fan (who, along with Bob Eggleton, have become the-in my opinion-top artists for the magazine) to the covers of various Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica comic books, Mr. Scalf's work has graced numerous publications and pleased fans worldwide. To be honest, I'm shocked that a cult DVD label has yet to hire him to spice up the cover art for their releases.

Those intrigued by my praise for the man are highly advised to visit his official website, blog and Youtube channel to see examples of his work. You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

We Wish You a Mythos Christmas

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has given the world a ton of cool Lovecraft-themed goodies, from the modern silent movie version of The Call of Cthulhu to the "Dark Adventure Radio Theatre" audio drama series (as covered in my review of The Shadow Over Innsmouth installment). They've even released not one, not three, but two Christmas albums! Both A Very Scary Solstice and An Even Scarier Solstice are chock-full of creeped up Christmas classics and the only thing scarier than the subject matter is just how good the singing is! But don't take my word for it, just check out this fanmade video for "I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth" from A Very Scary Solstice by aabeeceed.



As if that wasn't enough, the HPLHS also has a page with free sheet music and clips from the albums!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christma(dnes)s

Well, it's that time of year again. Last-minute shopping and schedule-rearranging, coupled with the weather and other surprises are at their maximum this week and the resulting stress is killer. So, as a warped tribute to the madness so prevalent before the big day, here's a collection of weird 'n wild Christmas-related horror goodies that weren't lengthy enough to get their own separate articles:

Ho ho ho!  I took on the Martians and won, so these goblins don't stand a chance!
The above graphic comes from Elizabeth Anderson's children's tale, The_Goblins' Christmas. It's an odd little tale that hasn't gotten much attention since its initial publication in 1908 and I'm fixing that by providing you all with a direct link to the illustrated full text. Just be warned that some of the language used isn't very politically correct and some children might find the eventual fate of the goblins upsetting.

Speaking of stories, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol greatly helped give Christmas its current focus on familial togetherness and generosity, as its celebration had previously been dwindling and focused more on drinking and wild partying (Wikipedia offers a brief-yet-informative look at Christmas before and after its "reformation"). However, it had one other interesting effect on the holiday: It forever linked ghosts and Christmas in England! Not only was Dickens soon forced to pen other ghost stories (both directly Christmas-related and standard spooky stories without a holiday theme), but it became customary to tell ghost stories at Christmastime.

Don't believe me? heck out the description in this audio drama collection of British ghost stories or the introduction of this excellent review of The Stone Tape (includes spoilers). Like A Christmas Carol, The Stone Tape had a lasting impact...on paranormal studies. Come to think of it, I wonder how much Dickens' membership in The Ghost Club had to do with A Christmas Carol (or vice-versa).

Oh look, someone decided to give the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies treatment to A Christmas Carol, how...unnecessary. What's next, a zombie-filled version of Edison's Conquest of Mars?

On the plus side, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies isn't nearly as obnoxious and its humorous carols are a great way to spice up a winter zombie walk. Or, if you prefer reading stories to sheet music, The Undead That Saved Christmas anthology should be more appealing. Both links give you free previews of each book, which I highly recommend checking out.

Despite being known primarily for spooky music, Nox Arcana has also released two Christmas albums (with a touch of darkness). They also offer Christmas cards featuring Joseph Vargo's amazing artwork on their official website!

The Amazon.com preview for Monte Beauchamp's The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards offers a wealth of vintage art depicting our old friend the Krampus.

For those wanting a Merry Fishmas, I recommend this festive plush wreath featuring Cthulhu.

Those of you who read my Man or Astro-Man? article might remember their robot-themed side project, Servotron. But what you might not know is that they did a Christmas-themed vinyl EP called There Is No Santa Claus! featuring cover art by Shag!

Finally, here's the Google Books preview for I'm Dreaming of a Fright Xmas by Alan-Bertaneisson Jones. It's a highly informative and surprisingly lengthy (given the subject matter) tome devoted to Christmas-themed horror movies. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek

Although I'm not a fan of Doctor Who, I must admit to having a fondness for Daleks. Their unusual appearance is both visually pleasing and does an excellent job of hiding the fact there's a human performer inside. This was an intentional (and brilliant) choice by Dalek creator Terry Nation and designer Ray Cusick, which gives the Daleks a truly unearthly appearance and sets them apart from the
the series' plethora of goofy-looking alien creatures and robots. Is it any wonder that the Daleks have been repeatedly mistaken for robots, both in the context of the show (they're actually octopus-like mutants in mechanical suits) and in terms of the special effects used to realize them onscreen? Besides, you have to love their frequently badass lines.

It should also be noted that the Daleks' distinctive plunger arm is due to it being a last minute replacement for a mechanical claw the original costume used. One of the actors allegedly voiced concern that people could get injured by the claw and a spare toilet plunger was all that could be found on such short notice.

I wasn't the only one captivated by the Daleks, as "Dalekmania" swept across the UK immediately after their debut in the second serial of the first season of Doctor Who in 1963 (and continued through February 1964). Not only would battles with evil aliens become cemented as a regular staple of the program, but and tons of licensed merchandise (and two feature films) soon followed. Said merchandise including a 1964 holiday novelty song called "I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek" by the Go-Go's:



As you've probably gathered from the song, the Go-Go's in question are not the ones who did "We Got the Beat." These Go-Go's were a 60's group consisting of Mike Johnson, Alan Cairns, Abe Harris, Bill Davison, Les McLeian and Sue Smith (who provided the childlike vocals in the above song). Surprisingly, famed British songwriter Les Vandyke penned the song, albeit under the name "Johnny Worth!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gravedigger's Local 16 Christmas Flashback

Although most of our Christmas content is posted in December, there have been occasions where such articles had to be posted before December rolled around. As a result, they have sadly become under-appreciated.

So to remedy the situation, please let this entry act as the Ghost of Christmas Past (of the non-cybernetic variety of course) and take you to some selected
winter and Christmas-related articles from years past:

Winterbeast
Krampusmas
Happy Horrordays!
Christmassacre in July
Nixon and Hogan Smoke Christmas
'tis the season...FOR HALLOWEEN SHOPPING?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chanukkill

Cut his effin' head off!  YOU CAN DO EET!
Long-time readers will remember my struggles with coming up with a good idea for a horror-related article about Chanukkah (and Kwanzaa, for that matter). Although I'm still clueless about what to do for a Kwanzaa article, I wound up stumbling across something that blew away my original idea for an article about golems.

For you see, my reading through the Wikipedia entry for the holiday lead to me seeing a painting of a woman holding a severed head! Although it wasn't the same one used in this article (Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach the Elder), Cristofano Allori's Judith with the head of Holofernes was a still an attention grabber. As it turns out, there's a minor Chanukkah custom of eating cheese and other dairy products that is linked to the story of Judith and Holofernes.

According to book of Judith ("Yehudit" or "Yehudis" in Hebrew), Bethulia was under attack by the Assyrian general Holofernes and his men, who strengthened their control by blocking of the village's sole supply of water. Things were looking very bleak for the inhabitants, until a widow named Judith approached the village elders with a plan. She would go to Holofernes while pretending to be someone sent by God to aid him until she was able to lull him into a false sense of security and do away with him. Needless to say, the plan worked perfectly and the general was smitten by the beautiful stranger. After spending three days at his camp, Judith feed him wine and cheese until he fell asleep. Seizing the opportunity (and the man's own sword), she quickly cut off his head and secreted it out of the camp. Some accounts claim that she was assisted by her servant, apparently done to differentiate the story from that of Salome, which is similarly decapitation-based. In any case, Holofernes' men were demoralized by his death and the sight of his head inspired the villagers to drive off the invading army.

Now, despite the fact that the book of Judith is deuterocanonical (not a part of the Hebrew bible and is thus "non-canon"), some sources credit Judith's actions with allowing women to be included in the obligation of lighting candles for Chanukkah. In any case, the account is very popular and has inspired numerous works of art in addition to the previously-noted traditions. Come to think of it, this also makes the Local horror-themed nickname for Chanukkah more appropriate than originally thought.

Happy Chanukkah!