Friday, October 28, 2011
One of the first feature length horror films is also one of the best. "Nosferatu" is a 1922 adaptation of Bram Stroker's "Dracula." Instead of the suave Count Dracula that is normally depicted, this film shows a repulsive man portraying the vampire Count Orlok. German actor Max Schreck gave such an eerie and ominous performance that most on the set were even afraid to approach him. In fact some even believed the methodical actor was in actuality a real life vampire.
Director Tod Browning is most famous for directing the horror classic "Dracula," but his 1932 film "Freaks" is far more scary and much more realistic. His use of real sideshow "freaks" in the film was deemed highly controversial, and pretty much ruined the director's career in Hollywood. The film depicts the daily lives and tribulations of sideshow workers from behind the scenes. Many accused Browning of exploiting the sideshow people, they obviously missed the message of the movie!
1955's "Night of the Hunter" portrays a menacing Robert Mitchum, as a villainous Preacher in search of his former cellmate's hidden loot. Only problem is the man's children are the only ones who know where the stolen money is hidden. The movie is a pleasant mix of suspense, fantasy, and Gothic settings, but it's Robert Mitchum's performance as the nightmarish man of the cloth, that will be haunting your psyche for days.
In 1960 the sleazy horror-drama "Peeping Tom" was released to harsh criticism and unprepared crowds. Many were disturbed by the films brutal storyline. The plot revolves around a psychologically disturbed individual who finds art in photographing women, while he simultaneously is murdering them. Most were so put off by the subject matter, that they didn't notice many of the groundbreaking directing styles. Michael Powell's film is a disturbing tale which will leave a lasting impact, it certainly did on numerous top name directors who site the film as highly influential to their careers.
In 1963 most motion picture audiences weren't prepared for the smorgasboard of blood and guts that Herschell Gordon Lewis was about to unveil on them. "Blood Feast" centers around a group of individuals who wish to partake in an ancient Egyptian, religious tradition. Problem is this bizarre ritual involves the eating of human organs and flesh. This film spares no punches, hearts and intestines are shown being torn from bodies, than consumed by unsuspecting participants. This B-movie helped to earn Herschell Gordon Lewis the illustrious title "Godfather of Gore!"
The deranged, psychotic family in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" has nothing on the strange Merrye family, featured in 1964's "Spider Baby." The three remaining relatives from this branch of the family, suffer from a rare and peculiar disease known as Merrye Syndrome. They have a strange fascination with spiders, and a thirst for blood. They've been entrusted into the care of the family chauffeur, a man who tries to steer the young siblings away from evil, but it may already be too late!
David Lynch's 1977 full length premiere "Eraserhead", is an incredibly strange, bizarre, and surreal journey sure to leave you scratching your head. The film delves into the lives of a particularly odd couple and their abnormal newborn child. The world they inhabit is a noisy, industrial, lifeless wasteland. The film has a unique was of delving into the back of our subconsciousness. Haunting you for days, having yourself trying to answer questions that were never asked.
Not too long after horrors appeared at Crystal Lake, many carbon copies tried to repeat that film's success. Though only one other truly stands out from the others in my opinion. 1983's "Sleepaway Camp" is a pretty standard slasher film. Teens gather at a Summer camp, party, have sex, and get iced. What sets this one apart is it's truly unique ending, in fact another film won an Oscar for best screenplay using a very similar ending. Before that kid was seeing dead people, this was the horror ending that had everyone shocked!
When "Re-Animator" hit the big screens in 1985 it gained an immediate cult following. The film centers around Dr. Herbert West and his quest to re-animate dead human tissue. Once the dead come returning, the gags come flying, the blood comes splashing, and the severed heads start...well you'll just have to watch to see that unforgettable scene. The film's mix of pitch black humor, and grisly horror, remain the reason it's remained a cult classic for over 25 years.
"Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" opened in limited release in 1986 and had viewers terrified and horrified at what they were witnessing. The film gives an almost documentary look into time spent with a serial killer. It's frank brutality is sure to offend and be too overwhelming for some viewers. Those who do make it through this provocative film, find the experience to be unsettling, disturbing, and most importantly, thought provoking.
Before Peter Jackson was winning Academy Awards he was serving up a bloody great time in the 1992 zombie comedy "Dead-Alive." Poor Lionel has to deal with his constant overbearing mother all the time, until she becomes infected with a strange virus. Now he might have to kill her! This film is a great blend of slapstick humor, and slayed heads. Be warned this film is often considered to be the goriest movie of all-time, and it definitely lives up to the hype! If the sight of blood repulses you, don't bother! If you always thought it would be great to see Laurel and Hardy meet "Night of the Living Dead," this is right up your alley!
Takashi Miike's 1999 film "Audition" sets up perfectly as a romantic art film. A widowed single father is having difficulties meeting women. During a phony casting call he sets up, he sees the woman of his dreams, before he even meets her, he's infatuated. As their romance begins to blossom, we begin to realize she has a disturbing secret. The tension in the film builds to an insurmountable high, as her dark secrets begin to unveil themselves. Eventually the skeletons don't come out of the closet, they tear the whole damn door down. All her past secrets are revealed, and the nightmare begins!
Many may not consider 2003's "Oldboy" to be a true horror film. The film follows around a man who has just been released from being captive for 15 years, now he has 3 days to find out why, and exact his revenge. As the mystery unravels before us, we begin to realize the torrential physical and psychological tortures that are being placed upon our protagonist. When the truth comes to light and we realize the shocking conclusion, the horrors placed upon our hero are atrocities we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy!
2007's "Teeth" was a nice breath of fresh air in a genre that was literally killing itself! No pun intended! The movie deals with a young Christian girl striving to keep her purity, problem is every man in her life seems to only be interested in one thing. Once Dawn gets violated, she realizes she has a gift or a curse, one that could cause pleasure or pain. Dawn finds a unique way of exacting revenge on these perverted deviants. This film gave women a sense of empowerment not often seen in horror films. While Dawn is exacting her revenge on the degenerate men in the film, women are applauding, while men cross their legs in trepidation!
Happy Halloween Everyone!!
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I turn around to notice my companion lagging far behind, as I briskly rushed to the mall's entry way. I'm not a big fan of shopping, there were no great going out of business sales, yet I made a special detour on our trip to visit this commercial haven.
As I approached the staff elevator I could barely contain myself. I felt like a giddy young boy getting a peep at my first nudie magazine. Or a horror geek posing by a photo of the Godfather of the zombie film, George Romero, which I was! On the wall are various other photos taken during the filming of the horror classic, paying homage to both the mall and the movie.
The Monroeville Mall, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, played a central character in the movie "Dawn of the Dead." George Romero used the mall as a safe haven for our protagonists, while feeding on our needs for consumerism and gore, I'm still not sure which is the more disturbing habit. Unfortunately most of the mall has been made over tremendously since the filming took place here in 1977, but the die hard fans are sure to still recognize some similarities. The mall still gladly embraces it's unusual fame and recognition, just pay a visit to the Monroeville Zombies attraction in the mall and see for yourself!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
As we drove along Hawk Mountain road the full moon illuminated the sky, as a thin vapor of fog began to come across the mountain. When we made the turn onto New Bethel Church road all of our pulses sped up for a fleeting moment. We all began to feel our trip was about to get more exciting.
I pulled the car into the New Bethel Church parking lot. Cemeteries rest on either side of the parking lot, that's why we were here. Pennsylvania's first known serial killer, Mathias Schambacher is buried in this rural church graveyard. Many late night visitors have witnessed strange flying lights flickering throughout the area, and felt a strange abnormal presence nearby.
Mathias was known to have killed at least a dozen people during the mid 1800's. Many believe these lost spirits may still be roaming the area, as well as the spirit of Mathias himself.
I hopped out of the car to take a look around for Mathias' gravestone, while my passengers sat admittedly frightened in the vehicle. I stepped into the older of the two cemeteries with only the moonlight guiding me along the path. As I strolled around amongst the dead, I felt a presence around, but nothing overwhelming. While meandering about I spotted colored lights reflecting off a tombstone in the far. The lights seemed to change from red, to blue, to yellow. As I attempted to whisk off and investigate I was directed to return back to the automobile. Gradually approaching the car my passengers were reporting hearing strange noises and wanted to leave immediately. Before we could leave I needed my cohorts to verify the flashing lights I had observed, both passengers exited out of the vehicle to substantiate my findings. We all stepped back into the vehicle to maneuver ourselves on our way.
As we approached the exit I decided I wanted to take a few photos of the historic church. As I attempted to snap some photographs my camera seemed to keep malfunctioning. Every picture taken was showing up as total blackness, the church is completely unrecognizable in every photo. Once back in the car my traveling companions were in even more of a panic, the strange noises they heard earlier were back, and louder this time. I was ordered to exit out of there immediately. I proceeded to put the vehicle into drive and steer us back into some civilization. We merged back onto the road when a loud gasp was exhausted by both riders. I slowed us down to a halt, "what?" I exclaim! A light just flashed across the road they remark. I question their sincerity, both of their imaginations have been on overdrive all night. I immediately dismiss their sighting and continue down the road. Then it happened! A flashing light flew right across the road, into the trees and vanished. I glanced around hoping to see some sort of explanation as to what had just occurred. All of our pulses were now pounding, heartbeats sped up, and adrenaline began to pump through our veins.
We advanced slowly down the backwoods road, fear and tension building to an overwhelming high in the car. Was the evil spirit of Mathias Schambacher right here in our grasps. Every stone flying off the road caused a little more unease in my guests, I began to speed up the pace after seeing the paleness in their faces. An overcoming sense of fear had crept into all of us at this point. As my brain raced trying to calculate an explanation, there it was. It appeared before all of us. We sat in a bewildered state of disbelief, none of us spoke, for none of us were prepared for what we were witnessing. Finally the answer to our strange mystery was right there before us, something we are surely not to forget anytime soon...
two men in a pick-up truck spotting deer!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
High upon the Buckhorn mountain in Altoona, Pennsylvania, used to sit a luxurious hidden resort. Young honeymooners would often traverse the dangerous curvy roads just to spend quality time in this romantic getaway. Many believe numerous visitors never actually made it to their destination. A particularly treacherous stretch of road known affectionately as the "Devil's elbow" often led to the untimely death of unfortunate couples. Over many decades the resort eventually fell on hard times and was closed for good. Today the mountaintop is a advantageous location for several radio and television transmission devices.
Late one evening, a technician who had just finished some repairs on the equipment, was preparing for his journey back down the mountain. While navigating his way through the treacherous curves, he spotted a female in a white shimmering dress, attempting to hitch a ride. The overzealous driver was struck by her beauty and came to an immediate halt. Pulling over, he offered her a ride, in which she gladly accepted. The man began to go forth on his adventure home, feeling smitten with such a beautiful woman by his side. When he again attempted to soak in her stunning beauty, he realized she was gone, just as quickly as she appeared.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Deep in the heart of Southern York County, lies a strange area commonly known as Spring Valley County Park. What’s so scary about a County Park? Nothing really, except the fact that this land encompasses an area famously known as Rehymeyer’s Hollow or Hex Hollow. There’s been numerous books written about this area, including a 1988 film called “Apprentice to Murder” starring the great Donald Pleasance. I recommend this film, though it’s difficult to find.
Upon entering the park you’ll see a lot of small tributaries of the Codorus creek, which at night have been known to take on a blood red glow. To all you anglers out there, this place is actually one of the top fishing spots in the area! It’s very easy to get lost in this park if you are unfamiliar; there are many intertwining dirt and stone roads, which at times are so narrow their difficult to navigate. Throughout the roads you’ll find some old foundations from homes long gone.As for the park itself, there is a lot of hiking and horseback riding, but that’s about it. There is still a home that stands in this area though and it’s got quite a history behind it! It is the former home of Nelson Rehmeyer.
Nelson was what is commonly known as a Powwow Doctor. Today he may be referred to as a sorcerer or a witch. There were many of these types in this area in the early 1900’s. My father himself has told me stories about his visit to powwow doctors as a child and the things that would be done to cure him. For example, he was told to put a shirt in the door to rid a wart that was pestering him for quite a time.
One of the Nelson’s neighbors at the time was having a run of bad luck; his name was John Blymire. Ancestrally I’m actually related to this guy. John had gone to see a witch by the name of Nellie Noll, a/k/a River Witch. Nellie had told him that his problem was Nelson. Nelson was causing all the difficulties John was having. In order to fix his situation, John would have to steal Nelson’s spell book and a lock of his hair and bury them 6 feet under the ground.
On a rainy dark night in November, Blymire - along with two teen accomplices whom Blymire had convinced that Rehmeyer was the source of their hard times as well – went to Rehmeyer’s house. They stayed up late telling stores and in the morning after staying the night, Blymire tried to convince his young friends to go to Rehmeyer’s basement to retrieve his book of spells. The boys were too terrified to proceed. The next night the three returned, but this time Blymire was more determined then ever. It took all three men to tackle the imposing Rehmeyer who stood over 6-feet-tall. Upon refusing to give up his spell book, they hitched a rope around his neck and proceeded to beat Rehmeyer to his death.
The three were still too hesitant to invade Rehmeyer’s basement. Instead they covered his body in lamp oil and set him ablaze. Stepping out into the rainy November chill, they left poor Nelson to lie ablaze with his body charred. Nelson was murdered and word traveled fast about the witch being killed by his neighbor. The story grabbed National headlines and was the taboo tabloid story of its time.
The Rehmeyer house withstood the fire, though a hole in the floor around Nelson’s body leaves a constant reminder of the horrors that occurred here. Today the great-grandson of Nelson owns the home and is actually trying to make the house a historic exhibit. Although with the place becoming a tourist attraction, it may lose some of its eeriness. It would make for an interesting Bed and Breakfast.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Since the first settlers discovered this majestic place, several abnormal occurrences have been witnessed. The Susquehannock Indians who occupied the land were said to have seen numerous spirits inhabiting the area with them. They passed along tales of love-struck and love-stricken couples ending their own lives by jumping to the jagged rocks 200 feet below. But its not just the natives who have witnessed spirits. Numerous ghostly figures have been spotted at the park for centuries. It's not shocking considering this area is known prominently for numerous accidental deaths as well as countless suicides.
But ghostly figures aren't the only strange thing happening here, the area is a prime hunting location for cryptozoologists. Ever since the natives first settled in the area, a small strange hairy creature has been spotted throughout the dense woods. The albatwich or apple snitch is a 3-4 feet apelike creature thought to roam this particular area near the river. The Native Americans from the past were so fearful of the small creatures, they carved their image into their battle shields in order to instill fear in their enemies.
They are named apple snitches due to their uncanny love of apples. It's said the creatures would often steal the apples of unsuspecting picnickers, then discard the cores by throwing them at the startled couples.
It's believed that this strange species is now extinct or close to extinction. In the 1950's as well as in the 1970's, numerous park visitors spotted an odd manlike creature roaming about the woods. As recently as a few years ago another of these creatures was spotted on the other side of the river. Locals throughout the area often hear what resembles the sound of a cracking whip. The same scare tactic the albatwich was thought to have used to scare away predators.
In case your planning any visits to this county park, be wary of any spirits materializing, and you may wanna bring along a few apples. Just in case!
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Built in 1732, the Inn is one of the oldest operating inns in the United States. It was once a very popular stop for travelers going to and from Philadelphia. It was originally known as the Three Tuns and went through many hardships. But the Barren Hill Battle of 1778 would forever place the inn on the map of American History. General Washington sent General Lafayette and 2200 troops to the hilltop. From there they were to keep watch for the British troops. One early spring morning the British came, outnumbering General Lafayette and his troops as well as approximately 50 Native Americans battling on the United States side. The American troops boldly fought back and were able to force the larger more experienced British Army into retreat.
The Bunker Hill Inn was severely damaged during the battle and needed to be substantially restructured. The Inn has since suffered from many hardships. It has changed hands numerous times, as well as had several periods of abandonment.
In 1946 the Inn was changed to the General Lafayette Inn to forever commemorate the brave soldiers and their fearless leader who fought for our freedom.
Many believe General Lafayette still enjoys paying visits to his former headquarters. Former owners and workers have seen doorknobs rattle with no one on the other end. They have also heard phantom footsteps sneaking throughout the building. There have even been sightings of an older woman seen roaming the hallways at night. I guess when you’re the fifth oldest tavern in America and have hosted historical battles, you deserve a few friendly spirits!
Friday, October 14, 2011
October 1824, deep in the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania, two miners are working alone in a small shaft.
"Where's my hammer?" exclaims Henry.
"I don't know!" replies John.
Henry fires immediately back "c'mon I got lots of work to do yet!"
"Seriously, I haven't seen it" John snaps back at his co-worker.
"Well it didn't just get off and walk away!" Henry shouted back.
Suddenly a obvious knocking sound was heard coming from the other end of the shaft.
Knock, knock, knock!
As the knocking became louder and closer, dirt began to crumble onto the top of the miner's heads. The supporting timber beams began to splinter and bend as the weight of the above ground was forcefully coming down. The two men eagerly grabbed their tools and hoped to make a quick retreat. Unexpectedly and out of nowhere the two men spotted a green gnome creature go barreling right past them. The startled pair stood in amazement and disbelief at each other as the weight of the earth came collapsing upon them.
The Tommyknockers are a greenish gnome-like creature originating out of Cornish folklore. They are closely similar to Leprechauns, except they primarily occupy mines, often seen working side by side with the miners. Tales of their existence in Western Pennsylvania began in the 1820's. As more and more immigrants descended on the area, the popular myths and legends from the Mother countries became more prevalent. The Tommyknockers name is derived from the knocking sounds miners would often hear before a cave-in. Many believed these impish trolls were actually the spirits of previous miners who succumbed to the industry.
The Tommyknockers were known to be a very mischievous bunch. They would often play practical jokes on the miners, often times taking the food from the lunches, as well as hiding their tools. Many in the mining field believed theses strange gnomes possessed the powers to change your life, for the better or worse. In fact, in some parts of the country miners were so fearful of the Tommyknockers that mines were actually closing due to overwhelming anxieties.
The Tommyknockers were known to do tremendous deeds. They would do favors and bring fortunes to those who believed. They were also known to cause mayhem, injury and even death to those who refused to believe!
(Art by Sam Thiewes)
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
It's Spring of 1934, a young couple are cruising along the shore of Tullytown lake in Bristol, Pennsylvania. The anxious pair are on the way to their high school prom. The boyish man is dressed in his finest suit, his lovely date in her most gorgeous pink dress, with a flower corsage adorning her wrist. As the inexperienced couple traveled along the road, the young man must have become distracted, perhaps he was too enamored with his date. Abruptly the car swerves around a sharp turn at a high rate of speed. The young gentleman fights to regain control of the automobile, suddenly they veer off the road and into the surrounding lake bed. A passerby saw the vehicle become completely submerged in the body of water. The youthful pair were believed to have perished in the horrid accident, though only the boy's body was found.
55 years later a truck driver is passing along Bordertown road. He's on his way to make a delivery at a local company. The man then unexpectedly spotted a young woman walking along the road in a fashionable pink dress. Fearing for the young lady's safety the driver immediately pulls over and offers her a ride. As she climbed into the cab of the truck, the driver could tell she was obviously distraught. As they meandered along the road, the young lady began sobbing and murmuring about her boyfriend leaving her. The driver continuously drove while trying to console the saddened girl. As her cries become more incessant, the good samaritan glances over in an attempt to embrace the somber teen. His heart skipped a beat, his spine tingled, and his rig nearly ran off the road. When he looked over all that remained was a puddle of water and a flower corsage.
Young May Paul lived on a modest farm with her reserved family. May's major responsibilities on the farm included herding and tending to the family's sheep. The young lady was very well liked throughout the tiny community and had no trouble making friends. However she quietly caught the attention of an elder gentleman whom everyone was fearful of. He would often be seen following the young lady around town, as well as watching her from afar as she tended to the flocks. Their kinship seemed strange and disturbing to many individuals, though never seemed to cross any boundaries.
As strange occurrences began to happen on surrounding farms, the Paul family farm seemed to stay safe. Wolf attacks on the surrounding sheep herds were becoming common place. Onslaughts were being reported in broad daylight, yet the Paul family stayed safe from any encounters and didn't suffer one casualty.
Due to all the recent attacks on the docile creatures, bounties were being paid out for hunters who could produce a dead corpse. Late one evening a nearby neighbor spotted the glowing eyes of a wolf being lit by the full moon. The man quickly retrieved his rifle and let off a fiery blast. The yelp and cries from the wolf echoed for acres. Feeling content that the predator was taken care of, the man retired for the evening. The following day, early dawn the man trudged through his land until he found a trail of blood. Through the thicket of trees he followed the crimson trail until he came upon the body of the elder gentleman. The man laid dead from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. Many arousing suspicions claimed the frightening old man was in reality a werewolf.
Strangely enough May Paul never had a single sheep perish due to a wolf attack, even though quite often a large gray wolf would be seen menacing about the perimeters of her property, staring so ominously at the woman from afar.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Traveling along Witchcraft road, small farmhouses dot the area while the trees give way to magnificent views of the rural farmlands. But why does a pastoral farming area in northeast Berks county have such a sinister name?
The early settlers in the area were mainly of German descent, they often referred to the nearby mountain as Hexe Dans or Witches Hill. They believed the area was cursed by witches, demons, and poltergeists. This was mainly attributed to the fact that there was a spot on the crest of the hill where no agriculture would grow. The early settlers believed these rampant supernatural spirits were trampling the fields, making it impossible for any crops to grow. Rousing the locals suspicions even more was the way their horses would refuse to even cross the ridge of the hill.
Annually the locals would gather on the hill and hold festivities and ceremonies to rid the area of any evil spirits. Walpurgisnacht tradition was carried over mainly by eastern European settlers and was deemed as a way to scare away unwanted evils. Today this tradition is still celebrated in most parts of Europe and Scandinavia. But are the evils still on Witchcraft road? No one may know for certain! Are you brave enough to find out?