Bonjour! Here are a couple of videos I worked my little socks off for. The first is an expedition to find the places in A Curious Guide To London by Simon Leyland, including the possible real life inspiration for Miss Havisham.
The fear countdown continues! Commence terrified screaming and running about in 5…4…3…
Or…do something fun for Halloween like go on a horror bus tour of London, mwa ha haaa
OK, I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but I do suspend disbelief for entertainment purposes, especially around this time of year. Also the tour focused on gruesome events more than haunting ones, so you’re fine either way.
Instead of pointing out pretty buildings (although there was some of that too) we were shown the spot where the largest gallows stood and the place where people were boiled in oil. I won’t give away too many stories else there’ll be no reason to go but I must share one in particular.
We stopped at an unassuming side street called Cock Lane. In 1762 one of the houses was the site of a reported haunting. Apparently the ‘ghost,’ named Fanny, was given to odd scratching sounds in the night, thus a number of newspapers gleefully reported on Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane. Bear in mind that in the UK fanny means a lady’s front parts and not someone’s bottom.
Incidentally the group who exposed the case as a fraud (sorry) included Samuel Johnson, writer of the first English Dictionary.
And inside there are spooky lamps dotted about and curtains awfully reminiscent of a hearse. I was certainly nervous:
The video below gives you a good idea of what it looks like inside, plus the tour guide from our particular trip:
The guide had to fight against a number of things including slow traffic and rain obscuring the windows, but he was very good at incorporating things around us and making everyone laugh. The tour itself included some spooky theatrics which were enjoyable, campy, Gothic fun. All in all we had a very good evening and I think you should go.
Good day my little falafel fillings! How is life treating you? No outbreaks of hysterical dancing I hope?
On Tuesday I went to London with Bill’s camera and was excited to see this shop for monsters. You might wonder how it makes any money? Well, there are either a surprising amount of monsters on Hoxton Street or it’s a cover for a children and young adult’s writing group. We’ll say it’s both.
The children are mentored to bring out their creativity and there was actually a group meeting in the next room while I took pictures of the front (see below), and all the while music from the 20s and early 30s played on an old style radio. I was in my own personal heaven!
Here’s a little video explaining it in further detail, then have a peek at their ghoulish and grizzly offerings. Here’s the address if you’d like to see it for yourself:
159 Hoxton St
On Tuesday evening I read from my book Rainbows Suck at Dirty Dick’s, a pub in London. It was just like Midnight in Paris but with Periscope and space alien rainbows. The live video is below and, if you can’t hear a word of that, have a look afterwards at the video I made in the flat. I took along some postcards with a picture by my friend Steve and wrote little messages on the back for everyone.
While I was in Brick Lane The Vintage Basement told me they loved my clothes and took a photo of me for their social networks which was nice. I also took a picture for this post of the bracelet my friend made, because I think you’ll agree it’s really important.
Before going to see the fantastic live show of Welcome to Night Vale my friends and I popped into Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities. Gaze upon the marvels within and, if you like, head down to 11 Mare Street, London, nearest tube Bethnal Green, to have a look for yourself. All pictures taken by Bill Purnell.
My search for disturbing and gruesome cake continues (well, it passes the time) with this upcoming installation in Standalone Farm in Letchworth Garden City, London, from Oct 29 to Nov 1.
Creepy cake maker Miss Cakehead will treat attendees to the inside of her disturbing mind and taste buds. The press release says:
“The event combines live horror action with cake for the first ever time, creating an incredible terrifying edible experience the likes of which have never been seen before. The family farm attraction taken over by renowned creative and food art curator Miss Cakehead for a special event targeted strictly at older teenagers and adults which features some of the world’s most infamous cake makers.
Red Riding Hood chasing you through the woods and the remains of the three slaughtered little pigs strung up and dripping ‘blood’ (strawberry sauce) are just some of the CAKE treats in store for you when the mistress of macabre cake takes over Letchworth Garden City’s Standalone Farm every night from the 29th October to the 1st November. Cakeageddon – the World’s first edible horror farm – will be extreme gruesome cake at its most terrifying.
Scattered around the farm will be a series of large scale cake installations which brave visitors will be able to tuck into if there dare… There will be plenty of nasty surprises in store as they go on their cake-walk though the night… Even the children’s play barn on the farm is touched by Miss Cakehead’s twisted mind, taken over by a nightmarish edible creation of Animal Farm.”
Well who wouldn’t want to go? I know I do! Below is a video of Miss Cakehead and previous scary confectionary projects. Enjoy!
A friend of mine was wandering through the park in October when she happened upon this fantastic outdoor exhibition. More than one of them gave me ideas for creativeness and I’m sure they will do the same for you. I could be wrong but as far as I can gather it was the Frieze Art Fair, more info here.
She took a few snaps and here they are.
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 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 affections 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 pharmacies 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 progress, 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!