Archive | October, 2012

Happy Halloween!

31 Oct






Just as a special treat I thought I’d include with today’s post a selection of past Halloween-themed posts that have appeared on this site. Enjoy!

As The Days Grow Shorter…

A Halloween Tale

October Dreams

A Treat for All Hallows’ Eve

The Day of the Dead

Winter Masks

28 Oct

With the fateful day not far away now, it struck me recently that Halloween is all about masks. When I was a child everyone seemed to wear them – and not just on All Hallows’ Eve. It all started with the perception that people seldom said what they really felt about anything. I wasn’t sure why, but I soon learned that apparently there was something impolite about frankness, and politeness was something that I took seriously growing up. I also came to believe that success or failure in life might be measured by how one handled one’s mask. The most famous actors of the day – Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise etc – were born with wonderful masks, or maybe they grew up with them, I didn’t know for sure. But in any case they handled them brilliantly and so putting on a mask, I thought, was a wonderful thing. If I could have got away with it, I think I would have worn one all the time – which made Halloween just about my favourite time of year! When I was young Halloween wasn’t something that you spent a lot of money on. Not many children went around in full costume as werewolves, witches, devils or what-not, but masks – which rarely cost more than a couple of pounds at most back in those happy days – were another matter. Each year the challenge became picking a mask that you could cobble up a matching costume for with little or no money. Eventually not just Halloween but the entire final third of the year became associated with masks and masquerades for me. As the old poem goes: ‘The winter light is pale and bright, and so the serpent basks. On snowy floor we waltz the score, we masquers are our masks’.

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Imperial Gothic: The Strange Tales of Rudyard Kipling

21 Oct

When one is considering writers involved in the creation of ghost stories, supernatural fiction and tales of horror, Rudyard Kipling – the author of The Jungle Book and the Just So Stories – does not immediately spring to mind. Like many successful storytellers of the Victorian era, however, he was drawn from time to time to this particular genre. In some ways it is less surprising that Kipling turned his hand to Gothic entertainments than other English scribes who were lodged in the safe and mundane environs of leafy suburbia, for he spent a great deal of his early life in India at a time when mysticism was almost a way of life there. Indeed, a significant number of his stories have an Indian background. The term ‘imperial gothic’ has been coined to describe Kipling’s strange tales of India. The richness and alien qualities of this locale, allied to the unusual occurrences in Kipling’s plots, give the stories an extra unsettling frisson, which only enhances their power to disturb and intrigue the reader. There is a timeless element to Kipling’s stories of ghosts, monsters and inexplicable happenings, which evoke a bygone era while remaining as relevant and stimulating today as when they were first written. Kipling is an author who has never been entirely free of controversy, however, as we shall see.

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The King of Horror

14 Oct

Stephen King, the world’s bestselling horror writer, began writing in his college newspaper and then a number of pulp magazines before bursting on to the world scene with his novel of possession, Carrie, in 1974. This was followed by The Shining in 1977, a brilliant tale of a couple and their little boy who are snowed in for the winter in a Colorado resort hotel full of ghosts. In these books, and the many that followed, King took the centuries old traditions of the gothic tale, ghost story and sensation novel and successfully moved them on to a new era, inspiring a fresh generation of horror authors in the process. King has written over 250 novels, novellas and short stories, which have sold in excess of 350 million copies, winning every major horror, fantasy and science fiction award in the process. He is also one of the most anthologised – and filmed – writers who has ever lived, meaning that there is almost no one on the planet who has not heard of at least one of his novels or characters, even if they have never read any of his stories. He remains as popular today as he was when he debuted in the 1970s – even extending his talents to acting recently when he made a suitably creepy appearance on the hit series Sons of Anarchy! What has driven this man to write all his life and what has made him so phenomenally successful? Let’s take a look at King’s career, influences, writing style and legacy.

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The Devil’s Triangle

7 Oct

The Bermuda Triangle represents one of the most interesting scientific enigmas of our time. It was in 1945 that the authorities were first alerted to the fact that there was something frightening and dangerous about the stretch of ocean between Florida and the Bahamas. Flight 19 – five Avenger torpedo bombers which took off from Fort Lauderdale for a routine two hour patrol over the Atlantic – vanished completely in the area that came to be known as the Devil’s Triangle. A giant Martin Mariner flying-boat, with a crew of thirteen, which was sent to rescue Flight 19, met with the same mysterious fate. At the time the authorities took the view that these disappearances were a rather complex accident, due to a number of chance factors: bad weather, electrical interference with the compasses, the inexperience of some of the pilots and their unfamiliarity with the area. Similar explanations were adopted to explain a number of similar tragedies during the next two decades: the disappearance of a Super-fortress in 1947, of a four-engined Tudor IV in January 1948, of a DC3 in December 1948, of a Globemaster in 1950, of a British York Transport plane in 1952, of a Navy Super Constellation in 1954, of an Air Force Tanker in 1962, of two Stratotankers in 1963, of a flying boxcar in 1965 and of civilian cargo planes in 1966, 1967 and 1973… The total number of human lives lost in all these disappearances was well in excess of two hundred. What lurks out there in the Bermuda Triangle, and just why is it so hungry for mortal souls?

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