Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Historic/Ghost Tour With the Wastelanders

I've always been a fan of history; and, truth be told, I've learned quite a bit about the history of the community that I live in. I have also acquainted myself with the local ghost stories. This being the case, I have long considered putting my combined interests to work by conducting historic/ghost tours for various groups.

The idea stayed with me for quite a while until I realized that the need to purchase a commercial vehicle to transport people and rigid regulations would make such an endeavor close to impossible for me to pull off given my limited resources. Sure, I could contact the local taxi/limo company or some other similar resource, but hiring a driver would seriously cut into my own profits. So eventually, I gave up on the idea.

I did mention this interest to a friend, and from time to time when I'd see her, she would urge me to pursue the idea. So, I wasn't surprised when, back in the fall, she suggested that I lead her group, The Ozark Wastelander Society, on such a tour.

So just what is The Ozark Wastelander Society? It is a group that from time to time, creates a fantastic post-apocalyptic world in which they live in for a certain amount of time. Every September, they travel out to the Mojave Desert and join with others of a like mind, spending three or four days in a Mad Max world of their own creation. They enjoy altering their vehicles in such a way as to mimic their perception of what such a world would be like. Some members reportedly face off in futuristic battle-dome scenarios and various contests and/or competitions, oten to the beat of heavy metal bands up on the stage. My friend considers wastelander culture as the new steam punk, and I have no reason not to believe her. These folks design their own clothing for events and believe me, they have a unique style. Some of the participants are goth and some are not, but they're certainly an interesting group.

My inspiring friend, who I'll simply call S, convinced me that I should conduct a ghost tour with her group and assured me, that she could bring them out in numbers. So, I agreed; and on Sunday December 4, I conducted my first historic/ghost tour with a very enthusiastic audience.

Since we would be visiting three different cemeteries, which included the two I'm associated with, the tour had to be conducted during the day. Not only is it against state law to be in cemeteries after dark, but the local organizations maintaining them don't appreciate nightly visitors as too much vandalism takes place during the nighttime hours. Such restrictions made the tour a bit less ghostly, but since it was a cloudy, gloomy day, we still enjoyed a suitable atmosphere fir discussing the supernatural.

Quite frankly, I was amazed at the number of folks who came out and stayed until the end. Also, the introvert in me was a bit apprehensive about meeting so many new people and having to speak in front of them for a couple of hours. Still, they proved to be a great bunch of people and I enjoyed their company.

First, we assembled at the Confederate Cemetery where introductions were made and we jumped into the history of that cemetery with a bit of background as to the people buried there. Then, I launched into my personal ghost/shadow person experience. After that we walked across the road to the Walker Cemetery where we discussed more history before discussing the area's best-known ghost story, The Legend of Ghost Hallow, a scenario that took place a bit  to the east of the two cemeteries. Unfortunately, Ghost Hallow is quite inaccessible due to an ice storm we had back in January 09. So, we could not actually go there to listen for any ghostly screams.

Next, everyone followed me over to an historic site known as the Headquarters House, which was the scene of a Civil War battle back in 1863, when Confederate forces attempted to unseat the Union occupation of the community. I had lots of history plus another ghost story for the group there, and then we moved on to two more historic houses, each with their own stories to tell before finishing the tour at the Evergreen Historic Cemetery where some of the important players I'd discussed, are buried.

All I can say is, I enjoyed the opportunity to take such a neat group of people on the tour and in a sense, I got to live my dream, if only for a couple of hours. My one regret was that there was a lot more history to discuss than ghosts, but the group didn't seem to mind; and after all was said and done, we ended up at a venue that is legendary in it's own right,  a long-standing beer joint known as Roger's Rec, where we settled in for a hearty-drinking session.

All in all, it was a great time. Since the weather was so damp and cold, a few folks dropped off along the way. Still, you can see all the tough wastelanders and one youngster, who stuck it out until the very end. Hooray for them!

Happy Holidays to all my readers! 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Nightmares From the Vampire's Lair

Several months ago I received a Facebook friend request from someone named Judy Shire. As is customary, I followed the link to her timeline before accepting the request. I arrived on her page only to have my level of intrigue immediately elevated by a timeline photo very similar to the one on the left. As a guy, I considered Judy alluring. As a goth, I found myself intrigued by the entire setting. After all, here was a beautiful woman dressed in black while sitting provocatively on a scarlet-colored sofa, which in turn, was surrounded by skeletons, skulls, candelabra, and other ghastly creatures of the night.. Further, I quickly learned that she calls herself Judy Vamp-Shire. What was there not to like? I accepted her friend request.

Judy Vamp-Shire is an entertainer from the U.K. During the weeks and months that followed, I learned that she was working on hosting an internet TV series called Nightmares From the Vampires Lair.

From time to time, she would post teaser trailers designed to keep her followers anxiously awaiting the arrival of her TV series. My favorite features Judy sitting in her lair when she decides to order a pizza. The delivery boy soon arrives and she attacks him (lucky guy), pins him down, and drinks his blood. After seeing that, I hoped her program would be available here in the States. Now, that may sound silly, but there are various internet productions from the BBC and other sources that are simply not available here--even on the net. So, I was quite pleased when Judy announced that her first program would be available here as of Halloween. Ah yes! What a great night for horror! That's what Halloween is all about.

What Judy actually does is host a weekly horror movie-- I'm talking about classic horror films. Think Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing. Although I don't believe any of the offerings so far have involved the old Hammer Films, some, such as House on Haunted Hill hearken back to the same era, or darn close to it.

So far, Nightmares From the Vampire's Lair has featured the films Horror Express, House On Haunted Hill, and The Little Shop of Horrors. Tonight's offering is Grave of the Vampire, which I plan on watching after I finish this post and fix myself something to eat. It's getting dark, so the time for horror has almost arrived.

In closing, I'd just like to say that I recommend giving Nightmares From the Vampire's Lair a try. It's
definitely something you should watch if you like traditional horror. I would describe Judy Vamp-Shire's hosting style as classic with a modern edge. You can find the program here
or on YouTube.

Oh, by the way! Judy is also a vocalist who has her own rock band. While I wouldn't quite call her music goth rock in the traditional sense, Judy calls it "vamp rock," and that's a very good description of what she does. Not only does she have an awesome singing voice, but her guitar player is pretty damn talented as well. Interestingly enough, Nightmares From the Vampire's Lair always ends with one of her music videos. So, I think it will be appropriate for me to close out this post with one of my favorites. It's called Welcome to Hell. Enjoy!


Friday, October 28, 2016

Vintage Halloween Photos

It's becoming sort of a tradition here at the Gothic Embrace for me to post photos of vintage Halloween art in celebration of All Hallows Eve. This time around I plan on continuing to do so, but I want to stretch the meaning of the word vintage just a little bit. 

As I've mentioned previously, I tend to be quite traditional about Halloween and gravitate toward the images and nuances it invoked in me as a child. In other words, as the special night draws near, my thoughts turn to skeletons, black cats, witches on broom sticks, vampires, ghosts, goblins, Jack O' lanterns and other ghoulish creatures of the night. Still, Halloween also invokes in me visions of hay bales, scarecrows, and ears of hard corn lying atop a hay bale or hanging from someone's front door. So, I had a most delightful time when I went a nearby place called the Pumpkin Patch a few days ago in order to find the lucky pumpkin that I will transform into the Jack O' lantern that will grace my front steps. As I walked among the many contenders there, I realized that the whole scene at the Pumpkin Patch is....well, vintage. Perhaps you the reader will agree after looking at the following photos. 

Now, I'm not a photographer and I only used my small phone to capture the essence of the Pumpkin Patch, but I think the photos came out quite well, considering my lack of skill using the phone's camera. 

As you can see, there were quite a few attractive pumpkins to choose from--and this photo alone does not capture their full 

I really like the scarecrow here as he leans against the hay bales with one foot on the wagon, which in and of itself, strikes me as somewhat vintage. Notice what looks like a butter churn to his right and of course, the pumpkins in the background. This picture captures the essence of fall, of you ask me.   

I really like how they did the main sign. Every year the Sequoyah United Methodist Church sponsors the Pumpkin Patch for we lovers of Halloween.

Is it just me or are these corn stalks towering over the pumpkin-laden hay bales simply awesome? 


This is the scene that most impressed me at the Pumpkin Patch. Again, we have another scarecrow, but this fellow has the head and features of a crow. Hmm....just what's going on here? The wagon in the foreground simply has to be an antique. The lady in attendance offered me the use of the wagon as I gathered my pumpkins. Since I only intended to buy one, I declined her offer and much more enjoyed seeing the wagon by the scarecrow. Notice the chopping block to the left of the bench and again, the corn stalks.  

While I only spent a short amount of time at the pumpkin patch I consider it a great experience, and feel confidant that a yearly visit will become a part of my personal Halloween tradition. 

Finally, here's one truly vintage piece by an author unknown. 

I wish all of you, my readers a Spooky Halloween! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Halloween Post Inspired

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly lit porch. - Robert Brault

Recently, my blogging friend, the Insomniac, did a blog post entitled Creatures of the Night Soiree, or an Evening With the Insomniac.
The article details her plan to host a Halloween event at a hotel local to her. Apparently, the Insomniac laments the fact that hardly any trick-or-treaters come to her doorstep now that she has moved to the Spooky Forest.

I find her post inspiring because our situations are quite similar. First of all, no one ever comes trick or treating at my cabin either. This is probably due to the facts that I live almost surrounded by cemeteries and that some local people apparently view me as somewhat of a dark figure. Just as a case in point: several weeks back, I walked into my favorite pub/restaurant and took a seat at the bar. The bartender informed me that a little girl, who comes in with her family for pizza, asked where the "witch man" was. Apparently, she likes witches and learned about them from The Wizard of Oz. Still, I suspect that the witch man perspective may keep trick-or-treaters from my place. Unlike the Insomniac however, I don't mind eating the leftover chocolate myself. I just don't do it all at once.

I must also add that the local powers that be strive to have all the trick-or treaters come to our town square after school. I understand the reasoning behind this as they want to keep the kids safe. In my mind however, there's something terribly wrong with trick-or-treating while the sun's still shinning. It's called All Hallows Eve for a reason!

Proof of our society's decline is that Halloween has become a broad daylight event for many. - Robert Kirby

Admittedly, I'm somewhat of an introvert, and I suspect that this is a personality trait that my blogging friend shares with me as well. So, I was inspired by her determination to make this Halloween meaningful and thought I'd share what makes it meaningful for me.

The other day I was asked what my plans are for All Hallows Eve. Truth be told, I have none. In the past I used to love going down to our entertainment district to watch the goings on. A decade or two ago it used to be a real freak show down there to say the least. Over the years the local university has gone on a campaign to bring thousands more students under its wing. So these days, the entertainment district is overloaded with young people and noise. The sound of live bands playing inside almost every open door now bleeds into an ungodly cacophony that spills onto the sidewalks and street. These kids don't handle their alcohol very well and bad attitudes are often present. That said, I generally avoid the area and no longer go there to observe the festivities. So, when I was asked the other day what my plans are, I replied with a simple "nothing much."

You see, I'm very traditional about Halloween. I don't feel very enthusiastic about seeing imperial storm troopers running around and with so many people dressed in super-hero costumes, all I can say is, no thank you. Give me witches, vampires, ghosts, ghouls, skeletons, black cats, and Jack O' Lanterns. Now that's Halloween. The pagan in me recognizes that Halloween is about being the time of year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. It's about digging up childhood memories and even more importantly, the feelings I experienced way back then.

So this time around I'll probably do what I almost always do. I'll paint my nails black, and in general, will get my goth on a bit more than usual. If the weather is cool enough I'll wear the vampire hunter cloak that the Insomniac made for me. If it's warm, I'll still be wearing a shirt that I plan on ordering next week from Black Rose
out of London. It's a spooky one though, and I know that I'm going to enjoy it. Then, I'll likely go to the pub and enjoy a couple of stouts along with some costume gazing.

There is one other thing: Every year, I put a candle inside of a Jack O' Lantern. I used to use a plastic one, but last year I actually carved a pumpkin for the first time--and I was happy with the results I'll be doing it again this year. What I absolutely love is when I get home and see old Jack with his eyes aglow and flickering on the stairs. I always pause, stand in the darkness and look at that glowing face--a pumpkin containing the fires of Hell as it stares back at me while illuminating the darkness. For me, that's the essence of Halloween and for just a few moments, I am transported back to the Halloweens of my childhood. I don't have to do anything special on that night because I've got that. It's all I need. Then, I'll unlock the door and take in an episode of Dark Shadows before turning in for the night.

Thanks for the inspiration, Insomniac!

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam
May luck be yours on Halloween. -author unknown