Two spooky plays: Ghost Stories and Woman in Black

Seeing as Ghost Stories (written by author and invisible League of Gentlemen member Jeremy Dyson and actor and mentalist Andy Nyman) is returning early next year (2014) to the West End I thought I’d write a belated post on how much I think you should see both of these plays.

Ghost Stories: OK I’ll keep it fairly brief because anything approaching a review will spoil them for you. I saw Ghost Stories a few years ago and had a panic attack in the toilets afterwards. To be fair, I have quite a bad anxiety disorder, plus I believe horror is a two way street.

Anyone going in knowing they won’t be frightened is going to be disappointed with it. Whenever I watch horror I do all I can to let myself to be scared, which is why I get so cross if the film/play/book doesn’t do it’s part. I hope I’m explaining myself properly. Basically I went in and allowed them take me into their creepy minds, and freaked out in the loos after. It was great. Here’s the trailer for Ghost Stories and follow the link here to get theatre information:

Woman in Black: So popular it’s had a continuous run for years at the Fortune Theatre, the play is completely faithful to the book in a very inventive way. I love a good Victorian/Edwardian spooky story and there were some good unexpected comedy moments. Follow the link here to get tickets and here’s the trailer:

The creepy world of automatons

What is it about automatons that some people find so disturbing? Perhaps it’s hard for us to understand when a thing that looks so much like us has…nothing behind the eyes.

Yet they’re amazingly clever, and here are a few to prove this.

This mortuary scene was created by John Dennison. Follow the link to read more about him:

This Japanese lady shoots arrows while a tiny man turns cogs beneath her. I like that tiny man, I’d like him to be my friend:

This was an advert to go outside a butcher’s shop and is now on display at The Museum of Automatons in La Rochelle, France:

Marvin’s Marvelous Museum in Michigan (say it quick, I dare you) is home to this lovely Hell monster:

This modern creation is based on an 18th century occult magician:

Well, there we are! Sleep tight, don’t let the soulless monsters bite.

Disturbing adverts

Sometimes misjudged, sometimes out of date ‘science’ or vintage aesthetics and sometimes what those hip cats in their cafes call ‘edgy,’ here is a selection of ads that are sure to make you laugh, and weep, and maybe laugh again while weeping.

Laxative will never be a groovy product but you know what might help? A disturbing drawing on the medical packaging. laxative tablet vintage

If you’ve ever wanted to see a baby wrapped in cellophane or read the tagline “They’re young, they’re in love, they eat lard,” pop over to this link and have a look through these vintage ads.

The advert below appeared when I was in my teens and was the only one I didn’t mind watching:

Apparently what kids in the 60s wanted were “dolls with human souls.” It’s obvious the very last second has been added to but just ignore it.

What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?

You know what your face needs? Radiation:

Let’s end on a sour note! On my advert travels I happened upon this Finnish ad on how children view their parents when they’ve been drinking. Have fun:

Do you write stories of the strange? This publisher may be for you

RDS Press are publishers on the fringes of society. They have to be fed in special cages so they don’t go for your hand or attack you with grammer. Their website describes them thusly:

“Raw Dog Screaming Press is dedicated to putting into print the highest quality literature from the fringe. If it’s dark, deviant, off-kilter and thought provoking we will sniff it out.”

So if you write weird things they might be the ones for you. Unless it’s just pages and pages of potential murder victims’s names. Well, maybe that too. I don’t know, ask them

Easter arts, crafts, treats and disturbing peeps

Well, it seems Easter is on the 31st of March this year, which is earlier than I thought. Lucky I’m here to tell you what to do. Remember, if you don’t listen, its the 445stripper pole peepsstick again…

First off here’s a couple of recipes for spooky treats for the family visit. They should know what you’re like by now, and if not they soon will when you offer them a tray of creepy spiderweb-eggs-1cupcakes including brains, spiderweb cupcakes and this assortment of goodies including spiderweb eggs. See, eggs! It’s seasonal.

Imagine if you answer the door holding the trays in this very disturbing rabbit outfit too!

Here are some easter egg decoration ideas for geeks, and some ‘peep dioramas‘ (what’s a peep diorama? Check the second video below) featuring scenes of rabbit massacres, aliens and pole dancing. How can you resist trying to recreate those?! And let’s not forget these Halloween Easter eggs.

Finally here are some videos for those who need inspiration. Enjoy!

Ooh, colours!

Peep dioramas

Spider eggs count, right?

Killer rabbit makeup. You know, for the egg hunt later.

The oddest Asian films I’ve seen so far, plus baby shaped pears

Fancy seeing you here. No, I’m not following you, we just know the same people. Well maybe you’re following me, did you think of that?

OK so I’m going to assume you’ve seen the films of Takashi Miike, Chan-Wook Park, Tetsuo, Battle Royale and all those ‘girl with hair on face’ films.

Warning: Some of these trailers might have disturbing things in them. Others are just silly. Now let’s have a look.

1. Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People.This is a colourful and slightly campy 60s offering from Japan (and looks very much like the inside of my brain), though its not without its moments of tension. A group of holiday makers crash a ship on an island and find themselves without much food, but never fear: those mushrooms look tasty! Unfortunately they have some side effects.

2. Horrors of Malformed Men. There’s a mad scientist on an island! He’s made genetic freaks! He’s…doing Butoh on a rock?…He’s… telling a convoluted back story to someone about things I don’t quite understand…

3. The Forbidden Door. Indonesian outing which, even with a disappointing ending, was entertaining enough for me. An artist who makes sculptures of slightly too realistic pregnant women stumbles on a secret door in the house he shares with his girlfriend. Not only that but a friend introduces him to a very exclusive and very disturbing club. It’s not Fight Club.

4. Hansel and Gretel. Included because it’s so pretty (never fear, it’s more than a little odd), this is a Korean film about a man who gets lost in the woods. He stumbles on a beautiful house filled with a loving family, but the parents look worried…

5. House. 70s Japanese film about a group of friends who go on holiday (people just need to stop going on holiday) to a house in the country. A house of some seriously weird sh*t!

6. Dumplings. What’s in the dumplings that keeps everyone looking so young and beautiful? Let’s not ask…

OK that’s all I have time for but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more weirdness. In the meantime have a look at this news story about pears in China that have been “shaped during its initial stages of growth using special molds” to resemble babies. Yum.

19th century Parisian death entertainment

heaven-and-hell-paris-madeleine-swannLa Belle Epoch (or golden era, roughly 1871 to 1914) of Paris certainly enjoyed life on the dark side. Not only were gory horror plays performed for those looking for late night thrills, a person could chat about philosophy and the meaning of death over a coffin table.

The Grand Guignol was a style of theatre steeped in gore and fear that continued right up until 1962. Rich and poor alike would go to a performance and prepare to be terrified. Read more here.

The Heaven and Hell nightclubs were fantastically intricate drinking spots. The heaven-and-hell-paris2-madeleine-swannCabaret of the Inferno was described thusly:

“Enter and be damned, the Evil One awaits you!” growled a chorus of rough voices as we hesitated before the scene confronting us. Near us was suspended a caldron over a fire, and hopping within it were half a dozen devil musicians, male and female, playing a selection from “Faust” on stringed instruments, while red imps stood by, prodding with red-hot irons those who lagged in their performance.”

After this spectacle patrons would visit the Cabaret of the Sky, a much more divine affair.

The club I find most intriguing, however, is the Cabaret of Nothingness:

“Large, heavy, wooden coffins, resting on biers, were ranged about the room in an order suggesting the recent happening of a frightful catastrophe. The walls were decorated with skulls and bones, skeletons in grotesque attitudes, battle-pictures, and guillotines in action. Death, carnage, assassination were the dominant note, set in black hangings and illuminated with mottoes on death.”

To read more about these fascinating clubs visit here.

Well, there we have it, much more interesting than Euro Disney don’t you think?

Denise Grunstein’s dark fairytale photography

If you skip on over to this post on The Year of Halloween you’ll see some beautiful spooky editorial photography by Denise Grunstein. What are you waiting for?42 4

Prostitutes and progress: the Victorians

The Victorian era is a continuing source of fascination for writers and artists alike whether it be a steampunk science fiction angle, high class manners and repressed pennyroyal-pillaffections or the out and out seediness lurking underneath. Why don’t we have a look at the various elements that draw us to them?

1. Repression. Certain things could not be discussed, even going to the toilet (what did women do around town? I’ve read a few articles which suggest they ducked down an alley but I don’t know how reliable that is). Unlike today where you can call a friend to go down the clinic and collect the morning after pill, such things back then were treated with the utmost discretion.

However there is always a way round things as this genuine advert from the era on victorianlondon.org suggests (Pennyroyal has abortive qualities). Have a look at the others; hair removal was a concern back then too.

Women’s bodies were a thing to be feared as their own wombs could cause hysteria. This led to some … interesting inventions, advertised with the usual subtlety. Or if you prefer a more direct approach have a look at this!

The invention of the camera led to uses other than miserable family photos. If you knew where to go (ie. Holywell street in London) you could find images of those accodomating ladies of the night and maybe one or two of those well-known filthy types, actresses.

2. Bizarre cures. With marijuana, cocaine and opium (or Laudenum) all legal in the laudanum-side-apharmacies it’s a wonder anyone got anything done. Laudanum was also known as ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and certainly kept a few babies quiet.

As well as this there were a number of ‘quack medicine’ products ie. stuff that didn’t work, flooding the market, including the relatively new and exciting idea that ‘electricity was life’.

Another intriguing cure idea was mesmerism.

3. Science vs superstition. It’s interesting that, in a time of great scientific ectoplasmprogress, much of the average public were turning to Spiritualism (and trickery). Gothic fiction became increasingly popular (as well as penny dreadfuls for the lower classes) and seances became the cool new thing to do, leading to some spooky photos if nothing else, as well as these posters.

4. Sideshows. Though these still occur in some parts of the world it’s difficult for us to comprehend that not only were people displayed in such a way, but they were exhalted as celebrities. After visiting perhaps a menagerie or pleasure garden, people would go along to a show. Joseph Merrick was possibly the One Direction of his day. OK, nobody deserves that, but you see what I’m saying. The posters are a colourful testament to a very peculiar point in history.

Well, there we have it, the weird and wonderful world of the Victorians. There’s so much more to say about them but it’s a start, and certainly their legacy will amuse and confuse us for decades to come. Visit blog ‘Diary of a Victorian Surgeon‘ for a glimpse into the daily life of a man who must have seen it all. Byee!