A Halloween Adventure

One weekend I decided to find out what it would be like to be strangled with my own intestines. I set off on my merry way at the end of October (almost Halloween, perfect) 2006 to Kent, where said strangulation was to take place. I caught the train in the afternoon to my dad’s place, as it was quite close by to my destination. I would stay at his whilst the proceedings took place.

At the time I belonged to several actor’s websites which informed me of projects. I had recently been given a part in a low budget feature length in which I would play one of several prostitutes, however I couldn’t help applying to one short film being shot on the same weekend. Blood? Gore? Horror? I would find a way to shoot both of them! It was a rushed production being made for a Halloween film competition, so I wasn’t expecting miracles. I had spoken with director/actor/producer/writer/cameraman Johan Krugar on the phone and the enthusiasm of the South African had rubbed off on me.

It was a cold, wet afternoon. I made a stop to see dad before heading on to my destination. We had a ritual which we have now broken, but whenever we’d see each other the first thing we’d always do was go for a pint. So, that’s what we did.

We ducked into a dark little local out of the rain and talked about the usual things; Futurama, films, comedy, what comic I was reading (yes, we are a pair of geeks). One pint turned into two, then three, and before I knew it I was finishing my fourth. And I had to go. I ran to the train station and hopped on the train to Bromley thinking: “God, it doesn’t get much more glamorous than this”. By the time I arrived at the station to be picked up by Johan, I realised I should probably not have turned up on my first day reeking of beer.

There was his red car and there was Johan; a stocky, cheery, soft spoken, slightly ginger man. In the back seat was his crew: a woman of about thirty, same as Johan himself, with short dark hair, and a bleached blonde, camp young man in his twenties. All were South African and very friendly. We arrived at their flat where the filming was to take place. I have noticed from going to lots of different towns for auditions that each town basically has the same layout; the same shops are in the same order, and each road turning feels familiar. Bromley was no exception.

My character began talking to a stranger on the internet. He causes increasing concern until he knocks at the door, murders her boyfriend and makes a beeline for her innards. As always a scene took far longer to shoot than expected and we were tired, eventually deciding to put off the rest of the filming until the next night.

The evening after I arrived at the station, wearing several jumpers after a day spent virtually nude in the freezing rain playing a prostitute.

With a serious film crew, the pressure would be incredible. Lots of cameras and eyes focused on you, willing you to get it right. Luckily, this was for fun, and the only blunt comments I had to listen to were Johan’s, and they were so hilarious I really didn’t mind. Example: “Maddie, you’re not a zombie. Why are you walking like one?”

The evening went well. By the time we arrived at the scene where I hesitantly stalk down the stairs armed only with a fork I was really having fun. The next night was Gore Night, however, and that would be the most enjoyable.

We had been joined again by the two others in the crew; the camp man playing the role of my boyfriend Johnny and the lighting girl.

We filmed my character nervously investigating the knocking from downstairs, armed with afore-mentioned fork. It’s her boyfriend. At that point his eyes glaze over, he cries out in pain and a hand reaches through his stomach from behind him. That’s what was meant to happen at least, but that one scene alone gave us enough footage to make an outtakes DVD, including the moment when he and the killer fell through the door on top of each other.

Eventually it was time for my death. I couldn’t wait. The fake blood was frothing and intestines wrapped inside a prosthetic stomach was placed over my own belly. My torso was covered in red goo. While the killer lurched threateningly towards me, Johan told me to stick the fork into the top of his mask.

Undeterred, he thrust his hand into my belly and I watched the long, bobbly purple innards inch their way out. They were wrapped around my neck tightly and I hammily performed my demise. I used to perform death scenes when I was a small child to the eager but probably concerned audience of my parents.

By the time we finished, I was literally covered in blood. My hair was sticky; it was all over my body and face. I had a shower, feeling very pleased with what we had done. Everyone thanked each other excitedly and, in a way, it was sad that the experience was over. However, we promised we’d work together again.

On the journey back to Braintree I mulled over my experiences. As I stared out of the train window, watching scenery disappear in the dark grey sky, I pondered on our obsession with watching people being gutted in various nasty ways. It’s an obsession that’s led people to assume that snuff films actually exist, even though there is no evidence to suggest that they do.

It’s something primal in each of us; whether we watch horror because we love the sensation of fear or because we find intestines hilarious, we need to see people in life-threatening situations on a regular basis. This need for fear or blood has spawned an entire genre of subgenres with the viewer relating either to the terrified protagonist or the thing that’s after them. My personal favourites are the subtle, spooky stories and I was glad I’d contributed to the horror genre in my own small way. It’s had its share of problems but it will always be one of my favourite things.

Pro Hunters and a Stop and Search Ticket

I lived for a year in Brighton where everything always felt like it was happening at once. The pace of life is much faster than anywhere else I have lived and often frayed my nerves. From watching junky catfights to jugglers in a park known as the Level, it’s a place always full of surprises.

Me and Henry at home

At the time, end of Summer 2005, I had just moved to Brighton with my then boyfriend Matt. The only person we knew in Brighton was my ex-boyfriend Dave, who lived in a bed-sit. It had been quite an unplanned move and we hadn’t thought as far ahead as finding somewhere to live. Our living arrangements were a little odd: unbeknownst to us, also staying in the bedsit was another ex-girlfriend of Dave’s – Lauren – and her border-collie dog Henry. Thrown in to the mix was his current (soon-to-be ex) girlfriend’s lizard.

Practising circus folk on the Level

Strangely enough Lauren and I got on very well. We were quite similar, and not just because we were both short and slim with dreadlocks. The day started off innocuously; I awoke to the sound of seagulls screaming viciously, the smell of sea salt and the sensation of something landing heavily on my chest. It was the lizard. Matt and Dave were laughing. I was not.

We decided to wander down to the seafront and Matt dragged his tall, skinny frame out of bed, bed being a floor covered entirely in two mattresses. I have weird nostalgia for this uncomfortable time, though I’d hate to be back there in reality.

After breakfast we wandered past the cartoon-colourful shops along the lanes which I loved the way a magpie loves shiny glass, finally making our way onto the stony beach. As always the walkways, restaurants and bars along the seafront were alive with tourists. In the distance you could always see the two piers, one clean and shiny and the other broken and stooped, half of it having burnt and fallen into the sea many years ago.

I let Henry off the lead and watched him race towards the sea and then back away when he remembered being frightened of water. I stuck to the walkway, occasionally throwing a toy for him. Eventually we reached the Fortune of War pub and its benches sprawled outside. Only something was different.

It was the noise that hit me first; it wasn’t the usual level of noise from people at a party, it was something far bigger. Putting Henry back on the lead as we neared, I saw it. The place we had arranged to meet a friend was swamped by pro-foxhunting protesters, and I was wearing a green tie-dyed top, baggy jeans and dreadlocks. They were swarming across the beach, onto the benches of the pubs and congregating over the pier, the logos on their blue jumpers and signs blazing proudly. “Maybe they won’t discriminate,” I thought hopefully.

As we sat down I overheard a livid debate on the table next to us as a local and a protester argued their different perspectives on hunting. We made a point of talking about crisps. As we discussed the shrinking of Monster Munch from the days of old Henry began sniffing the older couple on the table next to us. If I’m looking after a dog I’m always conscious of whether they’re bothering people and I called him nearer to me. “We don’t dislike animals” said the lady. I struggled to hear them over the drunken shouting, but I could see their blue jumpers.

We got into a discussion about dogs, something they’re always handy for. As I chatted with the white haired couple, several protesters lurched off to another pub further down the seafront asking Matt if he wanted a fight. “No, not really,” he replied to a crash of laughter. Turning back to my conversation I saw something I knew I wasn’t going to like; a policeman and woman, making their way through the crowd towards me.

“I’m really sorry,” said the policewoman genuinely, “but we’ve had a report from someone that you’ve been seen doing drugs.” I laughed. Then I stopped.

“Oh, you mean really?”

They apologised again and said they’d have to search me. “We’ll just take you a way down the beach away from the crowds.” The older couple defended me and offered to look after Henry. I handed them the lead and got up, much to the enjoyment of several protesters nearby. We I wandered down the beach, trudging over the pebbles. I chatted to the police about the protest while I emptied my pockets, all to the sound of raucous laughter.

“Yeah, haven’t really had any trouble from them apart from this” said the policeman as he filled out a stop and search form. “You keep a copy of this form to show we didn’t find anything,” he explained, handing it to me. ‘Searched for illegal substances’ it said. I decided to put it on the wall of my new flat when we moved in. I said goodbye and meandered back to our bench, deciding to get another drink.

I'm the girl on the left

The Rainbow Lady From Hell

I remember the night I looked as though a rainbow had thrown up on me. I was transformed into a Gorgon and ordered to hide in the forest, frightening visitors. It was a good weekend all round, during a warm August in 2006.

I had been asked to come along to an outdoor charity event to be dressed up as a “sexy Medusa,” so said the lady on the phone. It was part of a Dante’s Inferno theme in a hidden, forested corner of some private land which the partygoers would be lured to after dark. Why the hell not? I roped a friend into driving me there and back; it wasn’t too far and there’d be free drinks. On the Friday night my friend Angie showed up in her small black Ka, which suited her personality well as my half Fillipino friend is also small and neat. She was dressed elegantly as we were both under the impression they were very rich and very posh.

They were too posh to give us good directions, but eventually we arrived at the entrance to a field. It looked just like a festival, with tented bars and dancing areas overlooked by a many bedroomed monster house. We were greeted at the front gate by a blonde lady who explained my role for the evening. My body was to be painted and I would wear a clinging dress with a headdress resembling snakelike hair. I was excited.

Angie and I drank Cosmopolitans with our little fingers raised and at 9 O’clock I received the bat signal summoning me to the mansion. The first thing I saw indoors was a curly haired young man whose skin was painted like tree bark. “I’m one of the lost souls in the trees at the gates of Hell,” he introduced himself cheerfully. He had twigs in his hair for extra effect, and to show maximum tree skin was wearing nothing but shorts. I slipped into a tight pink dress and took my place in front of a sweet lady with a shaved head and rainbow top.

The painting was laborious but the tree-man, or Hugh, entertained me with camp excitability and Angie became my PR, answering my phone and fetching us drinks. As well as us there were two other girls dressed as a lost soul and a Gorgon.

I'm Old Greg

Eventually every part of my visible skin was pink, blue or yellow. My face was painted toinclude small fangs and huge eyelashes, and then the headdress went on. It was made of felt and snaked down to my stomach. Now I was a real Gorgon, and I preened in front of the mirror before a girl in the doorway said, “Oh, you look like a giant prawn!”

We were ushered to our hiding spot through a tunnel of trees. Red streamers hung to the ground at the entrance, in the dark it was like entering a dream. My bare feet padded on the soft grass until we arrived in Hell – a pleasant open woodland with tall trees, a band and a bar. Several mannequins painted up like Hugh were dotted about for good measure. I always knew Hell was more fun than Heaven.As we waited we were joined by a dark haired girl in a purple fairy dress balancing on stilts. We excitedly chatted and waited, and waited, until it was 1am and I had begun to believe I truly looked like a giant portion of seafood. We waited some more, and at 2.30 am it finally happened.

I was handed a mega-phone as we invaded the tent and soon a very British orderly queue had formed. As it disappeared we floated after them, the tree people taking up positions amongst the foliage, the Gorgons drifting in and out of the trees and the girl on stilts picking her way through the crowds as they danced to the band.

People stared at me in wonder as I slipped past them. It was a very odd feeling and quite nice, validating my delusions of grandeur. After a few hours we felt we had done our duty as ethereal beings and it was time to enjoy the party. We danced about until I noticed the sun had crept into the sky. A man I had spoken to once was obviously feeling the ever ticking pressure of time and asked if he had ‘pulled me yet’. I decided it was time to leave.

I’m always amazed by how much smaller everything seems in daylight. When you’ve been lost in a dark, private world it’s easy to feel that it will stretch on forever, but the ‘gates of Hell’ had become once again a tunnel of trees and, beyond that, a very ordinary car park.

I changed into my clothes and called Angie. I was impressed with the way she had managed to sleep in the car, it’s not an easy thing to do. I slipped into the seat next to her as she woke herself up properly. “Did you have fun?” She asked as she began the drive home.

The Suspension Party

Ever wanted to see your friend hung up by hooks? Chances are the answer is no, and that’s the answer I would previously have given too. However that’s what happened, and it was done in the name of entertainment. I was living in Bournemouth at the time, though I still have no idea how I ended up there. I spent the summer of 2005 sitting on Bournemouth beach watching the locals fry themselves. It was supernaturally hot. It was on one of these days that my friend Matty mentioned he was going to a suspension party. Matty towered above me, had a long beard and the biggest blonde dreadlocks I’d ever seen. He was also one of the sweetest people I’d met.

At first I didn’t know what he meant, I’d never heard of a ‘suspension party.’ He was insistent I come along and through his Liverpool accent (Widness, he insists,) he convinced me. “Ok,” I thought, “It’s something I haven’t done before.”

We trekked across dry, sandy roads in the flaming sun. After wandering for miles we arrived at a hidden, quiet sandy beach. It was the closest I’d come to a private paradise. “Coolio, we’re here” said Matty. Next to the beach was one of the biggest houses I had ever seen with a garden reminiscent of a small festival space, filled with the type you often find at certain festivals; dreadlocks, brightly dyed hair and lots of piercings. The sun had put everyone in a good mood, and I was made to feel very welcome.

The thing that really caught my attention was the focal point of the party, a large bandstand at one end of the garden. Hooks hung from long chains that dangled from the ceiling. I was unsure of my own reaction as I watched a girl hang in mid-air, hooks piercing the flesh along her back and legs as she faced downwards.

As I found a place amongst a group of people I vaguely knew, I wondered at the reason behind all of this. It seemed a lot of effort in the name of fun and there had to be more to it than that. I watched various people strung up in a variety of ways; some with hooks impaled into their shoulders as their legs dangled, some with hooks connected to another person, chest to chest, as they sat on the floor, and I began to ask questions. “It’s like a kind of euphoria, a kind of peaceful feeling,” said one pink haired girl in a fairy dress.

Her dreadlocked boyfriend nodded in agreement. “It’s like a drug, or better.”

Apparently it releases huge amounts of endorphins, creating a sense of overwhelming happiness. I was reminded of holy people in India who apparently place themselves into a trance so as not to feel pain.

One pair of girls stood out in my memory quite vividly. They were dressed in traditional goth uniform, one in a short black dress and the other in purple, both with long dark hair and eyeliner. There seemed something ethereal about them, but perhaps the intensity of the afternoon was getting to me. They knelt on the floor of the stand facing each other, a shaven headed piercer in black attaching hooks to their chests as they grimaced slightly in pain. They stared at each other so intently it was as if they had gone into a trance. A chain connected them together. A girl with long brown hair sitting near me whispered, “They were best friends, but then she slept with her boyfriend. They thought doing this might make things better between them.” It seems they were using an extreme shared experience to resolve an issue, but I wondered whether it would truly eliminate a grudge. When it was over they seemed relieved, happy and close again.

The only time I felt vaguely uncomfortable was when one girl, covered in tattoos, was suspended by her shoulders. She had never done it before and I felt her nerves. Perhaps it was my brain’s way of protecting me but it almost felt like I was looking at the TV, that the images before me weren’t quite real, and I didn’t find it as shocking as I had expected to. I actually quite enjoyed myself, because everyone else was having so much fun.

That is, until Matty went up. It had grown dark by this point though it was still very warm. The piercer (apparently an expert called Sarge from tattoo shop Metal Fatigue) attached metal claws through his knees and I began to squirm. I turned to face the other onlookers, who seemed at peace with the situation, but the urge to pull the hooks off was strong. “This is his choice,” I told myself. Later, I was intrigued that I was at ease with others doing it but uncomfortable when it was a friend.

He was suspended, knee first, up into the air. His arms, T-shirt and hair dangled downwards. Of course, there were no problems, but my sense of relief when it was over was incredible. Myself and another friend were invited to massage the air out of Matty’s knees. I’ll be honest; despite having had several piercings before I’ve never been very good with blood. However, like a good friend I trudged across the garden to a room behind the stand.

Matty lay on a surgical table as a man explained what we had to do. He handed us gloves and I complied, but I really think I went into shock. Matty was grinning like a crazy man and was in a very good mood. I forced myself to press down on his knees and push towards the holes. I could clearly hear snap, crackle and pops like rice krispies as the air escaped. I know how white my face went because I was asked repeatedly if I was alright.

With the evidence of the hooks and blood gone, I could relax. My friend was back to normal, whatever that may be, and the night was again about watching people I didn’t know doing something they enjoyed. It may not be my cup of tea, but I’m glad I went.

If you’re interested to know more, the BME (Body Modification Ezine) site is an online community full of vital info and crazy pics.

Life Model – A Lesson in Life

I get paid to sleep
I get paid to sleep

What would you consider to be a good job whilst studying for a degree? At the tender age of 20 I found out. Cleaning, bar work; all these things I did, at least for a while. I was terrible. Cleaning wasn’t so bad, but bar work was something else. I enjoy pubs, I still like being in them even though drinking is no longer one of my main pastimes. I like talking to people. However, I did find out that these are not necessarily good things for being a barmaid. You need an ability to add up, for one thing. An ability to remember drink orders for another. One member of staff thought I was so bad she asked me in all seriousness if I was on heroin, so it was clear I would have to do something different.

But what? A shop? It was possible, but again my lack of numerical skills made things difficult. I was living in Bath whilst studying, and managing to find a job in a shop was like looking for gold dust. Every student was making the same searches and all had got there first. However, none of that mattered. One day I managed to find the perfect job, in 2002, and it happened in a pub.

“I’m off to New Zealand, but I just can’t find anyone to cover my classes.” This was Teff, a lady who lived in a boat along the canal. She had striking, angular features and a shaved head. Her clothes were almost as colourful as mine. We were sitting in the beer garden of a pub called the Bell; a friendly relaxing place that often played reggae. Sipping on my cider I asked what she did. “Life modelling” was the unexpected reply. Life modelling? Without asking anything further the words just came out of my mouth.

“I’ll do it.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Yes, I don’t mind, I’ll do it.”

She seemed understandably skeptical. I was a young undergraduate who probably didn’t know much about life, let alone life modeling. However I eventually convinced her otherwise, possibly through desperation both on her part and mine. It was for the art and design section of the same college I studied at. ‘At least I’ll be amongst friends’, I thought.

The day arrived. It was a crisp morning in November, the kind that makes you feel as though it’s spring even though it’s quite cold. I had to be there for 9 AM and I made sure I was up early to have a bath. Forty minutes and a lot of moisturiser later I was ready. I felt excited rather than nervous, although in hindsight I was terrified. I made my way across the picturesque hills of Bath to the life drawing room. The first thing I noticed were the enormous windows. It was a spacious, airy room, with a wooden floor and a number of easels surrounding a long block on which a mattress was placed. I noticed with relief that there were curtains waiting to be pulled.

The teacher arrived first and was very friendly and welcoming, with soft brown eyes and mid length brown hair. Her overall impression was warm. I realised I didn’t know the process, the little details of what was to happen. In a very low voice, as students poured noisily in, I muttered that I hadn’t done it before. I was a nudity virgin. She smiled reassuringly and seemed a little surprised, but lent me a blanket to wrap around myself whilst I made the journey from changing area to mattress. ‘Thank God,’ I thought, I wasn’t ready to sashay amongst the students completely and utterly naked.

I went behind the tall changing stand, which reminded me of cartoons and films from the 40s where you could see the outline of the changing person as they flung undergarments over the top. I didn’t do that, I flung them untidily on the floor. I wrapped myself in the blanket, told myself to stop thinking about it and stepped out as confidently as possible towards the block. A chair had been placed on the mattress. Without catching anyone’s eye, I stepped through the gathered crowd who waited with charcoal in hand, onto the block and into the chair. ‘Ok’ I thought, ‘First part over, weirdest bit yet to come.’

The soft spoken teacher gave me a brief description of how she wanted me. “Sit facing towards the back of the chair with your arms resting on the top,” like some tough guy from American films. Just what was I supposed to do about the fact that I was wrapped in this blanket? I felt I wanted to be absolutely certain I was supposed to be undressed; at this stage I didn’t feel I could cope with the embarrassment if I got it wrong.

“Um…naked?” I asked stupidly. She nodded her head. I breathed in and whipped off my protecting layer. This was it, I had done it. I was nude in a chair, surrounded by people. They were just drawing. They were listening to long descriptions of angles and lines and proportion, and they were just drawing. No one shouted “Oh my God she’s naked!”

I deliberately hadn’t worn my glasses or contacts so that the students would be a distant comforting blur. After a while I began easing into the role, listening carefully to instructions on posture and positioning. I became so at ease that I dozed off during a lying down pose. I was awoken by the sound of my own snores. As I drifted gently back into consciousness, I became aware of three things. Firstly, it was a bit cold. Secondly, I was nude. Thirdly, I wasn’t at home. The jolt back into reality wasn’t as much of a shock as you would expect. It was more of a subtle surprise.

As I twisted myself into several more poses, daydreaming and running entire songs and films through my head to pass the time, my thoughts wandered onto the subject of art and nudity. Why was it acceptable to be nude in front of art classes, even though it’s as much about being paid to be naked as stripping or porn? Maybe the difference was that this was not intentionally to incite sexual thoughts – not that there’s anything wrong with that in my opinion. The naked body is certainly supposed to be one of the hardest things for artists to draw so therefore it makes sense that they should do it. However, how did it come about that public nudity was wrong, and those who decided clothes were too inhibiting were arrested? I myself admit I think the man who liked to ramble up hills naked must have been mad, or at least a bit cold.

Is it because we are so basically self conscious of how we look without the protection of clothing that we think if you’re happy to show off your lumps and bumps you must be a bit bonkers?  There are things about my body I’m very unhappy with, and Teff had things about her body she dislikes I’m sure, and yet in this particular situation we were willing to not care. Why was that, I wondered. Perhaps it’s the strength of a civilised society. After all, if everybody decided to fling their clothes off at every opportunity, where would we be?

So as I lay there, pondering on all these questions, I realised I actually was quite comfortable with my body the way it was. Once the fear of exposure has been removed you just…get on with things. No one is looking at you as critically as you look at yourself, and that in turn made me regard myself differently.

So, after an eventful day, I was thanked by all the students and scheduled to make an appearance the week after. I started collecting other classes as well, and thanked whatever lucky thing it was that I would get paid ten pounds an hour to sit around for three days a week. Nude.

by Stephen Waring