Join the Dusty Zombies as they carol and enjoy their Christmas dinner. Master puppeteer Matt Ficner has done it again. Damn this guy is talented (and extremely hot).
Friday, November 14, 2008
For many generations the gruesome tale of Sawney Bean and his family of cannibals has scared children and adults alike. It was only when one man escaped and reported an attack which had cost the life of his wife, that a full-scale search for the ruthless killers was undertaken.
The truth of the legend is hard to discern at this distance, but it is generally agreed that there were certainly instances of cannibalism during the famines of the 14th and 15th Centuries in Scotland. The earliest printed references to Sawney Bean appear to be in broadsheets printed in England in the first half of the 18th Century. The most widespread version of the tale seems to originate in Historical and Traditional Tales Connected with the South of Scotland by John Nicholson (1843).
The Grisly Tale of Sawney Bean
Born sometime in the late 14th Century in East Lothian, the son of a ditch-digger and hedger, Alexander (Sawney) Bean is said to have been work-shy and dishonest. He married a woman as vicious and idle as himself and, being shunned by their neighbours, they moved to the West coast of Scotland and settled in a deep cave at Bennane Head, near Ballantrae (then Galloway, now South Ayrshire), where they lived for the next 25 years or so. It is reported that they had 14 children and that through incestuous relations the family eventually numbered some 48 people.
It appears that from the start it was Bean’s plan to exist on the profits of robbery by ambushing travellers on the lonely narrow roads that connected the villages of the area. To avoid being identified and captured he murdered his victims, and from there it was a short step to using their bodies to provide food. The caves at Bennane were well suited for his purpose, with tunnels through solid rock extending for more than a mile in length. The family took good care to avoid all other residents of the sparsely populated area and it was never suspected that anyone lived there.
Not unnaturally the numbers of people disappearing accompanied by the washing up on shore of decayed body parts alarmed the country round about. The authorities concerned were forced to take steps and in fact several inn-keepers were accused and even executed on no more grounds than that travellers who had disappeared were known to have spent the night on their premises.
It was only when one man escaped and reported an attack which had cost the life of his wife, that a full-scale search for the ruthless killers was undertaken. The public outcry caused by the reports of these horrible events was such that King James I of Scotland (1394-1437) led a troop of some 400 soldiers accompanied by several bloodhounds. Following one the largest manhunts ever seen in Scotland, the tracker dogs, attracted by the scent of decaying flesh, led the soldiers to the cave entrance.
Following a short fight the vastly out-numbered Bean clan were arrested and the contents of the cave revealed. The horrific discovery of the remains of human bodies and evidence of cannibalism, along with the loot gathered from their robberies, was thought to render a trial unnecessary and the family were immediately taken in chains to Edinburgh for public execution.
Their execution was especially gruesome. The women of the clan were forced to watch while their men had their arms and legs cut off that they might bleed to death as so many of their victims had. The women were thereafter burned to death.
The traditional Scots1 ‘Ballad of Sawney Bean’ documents the end of the Bean Clan:
They’ve hung them high in Edinburgh toon
An likewise a their kin
An the wind blaws cauld on a their banes
An tae hell they a hae gaen.
‘They have hung them high in Edinburgh town
And likewise all their family
And the wind blows cold on all their bones
And to hell they all have gone.’)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Old School scary
Fright Night was the "Shock Theater" movie program that ran from 1971 to 1975 on WDRB TV-41 in Louisville, Kentucky.
When the independent channel 41 went on the air in February of ’71, it ushered in a new-- to my generation-- era of locally-produced television programming in a time when network television had come to dominate the other stations in the region. For a brief but wonderful time, local kids were treated once again to afternoon children’s shows like Funsville, hosted by the lovable Presto the Magic Clown, and we got our first personal exposure to Abbott & Costello, the Three Stooges, Ultraman, the Tarzan movies of Johnny Weissmuller and so many other cultural icons through WDRB’s inventive, movie-based weekend programs. It was a great time to be a kid, and when Fright Night first aired on March 6, 1971, it got even better...
Saturdays at 7?
Like countless other "monster kids" of my generation, I grew up reading about the classics of the horror and sci-fi genres in a little magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland. Editor Forrest J. Ackerman and his ackolytes had turned us all on to films produced 30 and sometimes 40 years before we were born, and names like Chaney, Karloff, Lugosi (and yes, even Rondo Hatton) were being spoken in hushed reverence in study halls and playgrounds across America. It was a time before cable TV, before Blockbuster and the instant accessibility of the VCR, and if you wanted to see a classic like Bride of Frankenstein, it meant poring over television listings for months--or years-- hoping...
And then came Fright Night.
What set it apart from other "Shock Theater" shows was its choice of movies and (most important to us 8-year-olds) its airtime. WDRB’s decision to run a double-feature horror movie bill from 7 to 10 PM on a Saturday night in prime time was almost unheard of! This was the early 70’s, the era of CBS’ killer sitcom lineup of All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and others, and it seemed like a suicide move. What it was was an alternative-- and a surprise hit. And the movies, classics (and not-so’s) from the vaults of Universal, Columbia, MGM and the like, were not to be found on the other, late-night Creature Features show running on the ABC affiliate WLKY. Our prayers had been answered-- and a new local folk hero--The Fearmonger-- was born...
There’s no doubt about it, Channel 41 was a low-budget operation. Broadcasting from a converted garage on East Main Street, they had very little in the way of funds or set space that wasn’t already being used to support the afternoon kid’s shows and the news desk where Wilson Hatcher, the station announcer, gave the occasional update. Their solution to the problem of providing a host and his environs for Fright Night was unique--there would be no set. Instead, a dimly uplit, slightly solarized face would slowly materialize out of the darkness to introduce the movies (and crack a few well-worn howlers from the Barnabas Collins in a Funny Vein joke book) and then fade mysteriously away again into the night. And the man to personify the newly-christened Fearmonger would be local actor and long-time TV and radio commercial performer Charles Kissinger.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Satan is Loose
". . . the specter of something dark and evil has permeated this community. . . While we're reluctant to give credence to the rumors, both because rumor breeds rumor and because we simply hate to think that devil worship is a fact in our own community, we're afraid the talk is grounded in fact." West Memphis Evening Times, June 7, 1993.
Over the course of the 20th century as America urbanized, notions of the devil seemed relegated to a Puritan past or, at least, to backwater pulpits. With the dawn of the 1960s some saw the coming of an age of enlightenment. There was the giddy optimism of youth, symbolized by Camelot and the age of Aquarius. But the devil would not be silenced.
Perhaps the devil's return to popular mythology was marked by the 1967 publication of Ira Levin's novel, "Rosemary's Baby," wherein satanic covens directed events and toyed with people's lives from behind the facade of cultured society. In the film adaptation, director Roman Polanski blurred art with reality by using self-proclaimed Satanist, Anton LaVey as a "technical consultant." Soon after, the fantasy achieved a horrific edge of reality as Polanski's wife was killed by cult-leader Charles Manson.
In the 70's, popular fictions of the devil such as "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" were complemented by best-selling religious authors warning of Satan's reality. Evangelist David Warnke autobiography about his days as a satanist, The Satan Seller, sold millions. Author Hal Lindsey followed up his wildly popular apocalyptic vision, "The Late Great Planet Earth" with "Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth." Lindsey preached against the "thought-bombs" of our modern consciousness such as Freudianism and relativism. During a time of rapid technological and societal change these books appealed to the fundamental notions of good and evil, black and white, and tapped into people's primal beliefs.
Soon, the belief in the actuality of a devil began to shape policy. Stories appeared of widespread Satanic based crimes that had gone unrecognized by law enforcement and the public. In 1980, Michelle Smith and her therapist/husband published a landmark book, Michelle Remembers. It spoke of the tortured early life of its author. She recalled being serially raped by covens of Satanists who committed other atrocities including child sacrifice. These phenomena termed, Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA), began to appear in other accounts, notably in the autobiography of Laurie Stratford. A vast network of Satanists was claimed to be responsible for breeding children for rape and murder with a death toll described as between 40 and 60 thousand each year. Pseudo-experts in the occult began to lecture police departments on how to recognize Satanic crimes in their communities. The fact that there was little to no evidence for such activities did not deter its believers. The argument was made that it took decades for the FBI to recognize the existence of the mafia, so why not such an underground network? Wasn't a basic principle of a conspiracy to make certain it went undetected?
Talk shows, forever seeking the sensational, jumped on the bandwagon. Michelle Smith made the talk show circuit and Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, and Geraldo Rivera ran episodes on the subjects of SRA and satanic murders. Geraldo's episode "Satanic Cults and Children" was claimed by the murderer Timothy Hughes as his reason for killing his wife; he had become convinced she was possessed.
"From small towns to large cities, they [one million satanists] have attracted police and FBI attention to their satanic ritual child abuse, child pornography and grisly satanic murders." Geraldo Rivera, November, 1987.
The FBI was paying attention, but only as skeptics. With an annual national homicide rate of 20,000, these allegations would have tripled to quadrupled the number of murders, and it would do that without leaving behind substantial evidence. The FBI estimated the number of satanists, self-described or active in covens, as being in the low tens of thousands. An FBI agent assigned to investigate such stories, Kenneth Lanning, wrote a series of articles debunking their existence.
Regardless of the FBI's statements, the belief in Satanic Ritual Abuse had an impact on local law enforcement. Across the US and on into England, allegations of SRA taking place at day care centers caused mass hysteria, lengthy trials, and occasional convictions. To this day, these cases excite emotions and controversy with some believing that mass child abuse did occur, others believing that there was a more limited degree of molestation, and still others believing that nothing had happened at all.
Allegations at the McMartin Day Care center in Southern California resulted in the state's longest and costliest trial. The defendants were found not guilty. The school was razed and after the verdicts the land was dug up to search for the networks of tunnels where the abuse supposedly took place. Some claimed to find evidence of tunnels; others claimed that the lack of tunnels were proof that nothing had occurred. In Wanatchee, Washington, prosecutors charged a group of alleged abusers with a total of 30,000 child rapes. Several defendants went to prison only to have their convictions overturned and their sentences commuted. In this case, the general consensus is that no crimes had occurred.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Pilgrims and the Pure Truth
The Pilgrims of New England, who came to this country in 1620, were not simple refugees from England fighting against oppression and religious discrimination. They were political revolutionaries and part of the Puritan movement, which was considered objectionable and unorthodox by the King of the Church of England. They were outcasts in their own country, plotting to take over the government, causing some of the settlers to become fugitives in their own country.
These Puritan Pilgrims saw themselves as the "chosen elect", from the Bibles’ Book of Revelations and traveled to America to build "The Kingdom of God", also from Revelations. Strict with the scripture, they considered an enemy of anyone who did not follow suit. These beliefs were eventually transmitted to the other colonists, and the Puritan belief system quickly spread across the New England area.
Plymouth Rock of 1620 - Myth or Fact?
This is from an account of the Pilgrims landing -from the book The American Tradition. Is it myth or factual?
" After some exploring, the Pilgrims chose the land around Plymouth Harbor for their settlement. Unfortunately, they arrived in December and were not prepared for the New England weather. However, they were aided by friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. When warm weather came, the colonists planted, fished, hunted and prepared themselves for the next winter. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving."
Answer - BOTH! The American Tradition account is a mix of myth and fact. Here’s why:
1. Yes, the "Pilgrims" did come to America in 1620.
2. Yes they were inapt to care for themselves due to the harshness of the winter and their lack of stored food and supplies.
3. Yes, they did have a "feast".
1. They were NOT met by "friendly" Indians who waved them in from the banks or welcomed their arrival. The Native people did not trust the whites, having encountered such foreigners before and suffering severe consequences. The Natives took pity on the settlers and only a (very) few Native Americans were actually "friendly" to the newcomers.
2. The Native community did not help the colonists because of a deep friendship, rather it was a custom of their culture and religion to help those who were in need.
3. The two groups did NOT come together to celebrate the harvest, as friends, and rejoice in the "first" Thanksgiving. They were meeting to discuss land rights.
4. Lastly, it was NOT the first Thanksgiving. An Autumnal harvest and banquet were a tradition of the Native people - a celebration that was a part of their culture for centuries.
The REAL story of the "first" Thanksgiving
In December of 1620 a splinter group of England's Puritan movement set anchor on American soil, a land already inhabited by the Wampanoag Indians. Having been unprepared for the bitter cold weather, and arriving too late to grow an adequate food supply, nearly half of the 100 settlers did not survive the winter.
On March 16th, 1621, a Native Indian named Samoset met the Englishmen for the first time. Samoset spoke excellent English, as did Squanto, another bilingual Patuxet who would serve as interpreter between the colonist and the Wampanoag Indians, who, lead by Chief Massasoit, were dressed as fierce warriors and outnumbered the settlers.
The Wampanoag already had a long history with the white man. For 100 years prior to the Pilgrim landing, they had encounters with European fishermen, as well as those who worked for slave traders. They had witnessed their communities being raided and their people stolen to be sold into slavery. They did not trust the newcomers.
But Squanto was an exception. He had lived with the British, after being captured by an earlier sailing vessel. He had a deep fondness for the Europeans - particularly that for a British Explorer named John Weymouth, who treated Squanto like a son.
Chief Massasoit and Samoset arrived at the colony with over 60 men, plus Squanto, who acted as a mediator between the two parties. Squanto was successful at making a peaceful agreement, though it is most likely that there was a great deal of friction between the Native community and the colonists. The Englishmen felt that the Native peoples were instruments of the devil because of their spiritual beliefs and trusted only the Christian-baptized Squanto. The Native people were already non-trusting of the white man, except for Squanto, who looked at the Europeans as being of "Johns People."
It was Squanto who then moved to the English colony and taught them to hunt, trap, fish and to cultivate their own crops. He educated them on natural medicine and living off the land. A beloved friend of the Pilgrims, for if it wasn’t for him, they would not if survived. The Puritian Pilgrims thought of him as an Instrument of God.
Several months later the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims decided to meet again to negotiate a land treaty needed by the settlers. They hoped to secure land to build the Plymouth Plantation for the Pilgrims. The Native people agreed to meet for a 3-day negotiation "conference". As part of the Wampanoag custom - or perhaps out of a sense of charity towards the host - the Native community agreed to bring most of the food for the event.
The peace and land negotiations were successful and the Pilgrims acquired the rights of land for their people.
In 1622 propaganda started to circulate about this "First Thanksgiving". Mourts Relation, a book written to publicize the so-called "wonderfulness" of Plymouth, told of the meeting as a friendly feast with the Natives. The situation was glamorized by the Pilgrims, possibly in an effort to encourage more Puritans to settle in their area. By stating that the Native community was warm and open-armed, the newcomers would be more likely to feel secure in their journey to New England.
The sad, sad truth (what happened next)
What started as a hope for peace between the settlers and the Wampanoag, ended in the most sad and tragic way. The Pilgrims, once few in number, had now grown to well over 40,000 and the Native American strength had weakened to less than 3,000. By 1675, one generation later, tension had grown between the Europeans and the Native Indians. The Wampanoag called in reinforcements from other surrounding tribes.
Metacomet, heir and son of Chief Massasoit, became Chief of the Wampanoag Nation. The English, who referred to Metacomet as King Phillip, started a war between the two parties when they unjustly tried and convicted three innocent Wampanoags of murdering an Englishman, John Sassamon, even though it was well know and accepted that Sassamon’s death was truthfully caused by an accidental fall in a frozen pond.
Metacomet, furious and in despair, sought revenge for the deaths of his tribesmen by declaring war. The settlers killed another Native man, hence settling off the beginning of what is now known as "King Phillips War." Many Native communities throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut rallied with the Wampanoags, but the power of the English was overpowering. Metacomet moved many of his people to New York. Sadly, his wife and 9-year-old son were captured and sold into slavery. Brokenhearted, he returned to his homeland - and soon killed. His death ends the Kings Phillips War and the remaining Wampanoags, and their allies, were either killed or deported as slaves for thirty shillings each. This slave trade was so successful that several Puritan ship owners began a slave-trading business by raiding the coast for Native American Indians and trading them for black slaves of Africa. The black slaves were then sold to colonists in the south. Hence, the Pilgrims were one of the founders of the American-based slave trading industry.
When you're stuffing your face this Thanksgiving, please give a thought to those good and honest people, for without their pity, we would be eating this meal in our crappy countries of origin.