Saturday, October 21, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21

It's Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Movie Posters from the Kirk Hammett Collection edited by Daniel Finamore

Peabody Essex Museum/Skira Rizzoli. 2017.

Metallica guitarist, Kirk Hammett, has one of the best collections of horror memorabilia out there. It contains some truly astonishing items, and now (through November 28) much of it is on display oat the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

This book serves as the exhibition's catalogue. and is a visual feast for the eyes, and the senses when you realize just how colossal some of these movie posters are, and how unique (literally in one case) they are. Accompanying the images are essays on the lure of the horror movie poster, fear and its attraction, and how horror can inspire one's art as it does for Kirk Hammett.

Although there is, obviously, a lot of overlap in terms of the visuals with Hammett's previous book, Too Much Horror Business, It's Alive! makes for a worthy companion.

Friday, October 20, 2017

31 Days of Halloween -Day 20

Fiends, Ghosts, and Sprites by John Nettin Radcliffe

Richard Bentley. 1854.

Radcliffe takes us on a journey through the relationship between man and supernatural beings, particularly ghosts, from the dawn of humankind through pagan beliefs and religion, christianity, and, then modern, psychology and physiology. For a book of its time, and while Radcliffe is firmly a religious man, this book is completely skeptical of supernatural beings. Radcliffe takes the time to explain how these beings tied into the relationship humans had with the world around them, how gods were demoted to spirits and demons after christianity became the dominant western religion, spends time in other, non-western cultures, and compares similar tropes common to numerous cultures. He then takes on ghosts, sightings, table rapping, hauntings, etc., and applies what was then known about the senses and psychology to explain them away as figments of our imaginations and senses at work.

Radcliffe's style is a bit dry and much of the material feels like a quick survey rather than an in depth study, but the book remains fascinating in its skeptical and analytical approach to supernatural phenomenon, especially given the time that it was written. If you have an interest in this sort of thing, this is definitely worth a look.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19

The Anatomical Venus by Joanna Ebenstein

Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. 2016

Created as educational displays and as an anatomical alternative to dissections of actual dead bodies, the anatomical venus was a, typically, life-sized wax mannequin of a woman in repose, whose torso could be opened to reveal her inner organs, which were also often removable, down to the fetus models featured no matter whether the figure was demonstrably pregnant, or not before opening.

Whether this book should really be included here on a list of recommended Halloween reading is debatable. For some people a book full of glorious color photos of realistic wax figures with their inner structures on display would be considered a macabre text appropriate to the season. I find the models displayed alongside Ebenstein's informative text to be incredibly beautiful. I would love to have one of these on display in my own home. Whether you agree, or not, this is a gorgeous volume on a peculiar area of medical science and historical public exhibitions on the anatomical arts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18

Ghosts and Ruins by Ben Catmull

Fantagraphics Books. 2013.

Catcall takes us on a tour of thirteen creepy locations, effectively evoked through his precise descriptions and beautifully unsettling art. There is no narrative to speak of, but, as Catmull suggests, this the perfect book to read "alone late at night in the dark far away from civilization, preferably during a power outage."

I pull this book out to read periodically, and it never loses its power to fascinate and disturb.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17

The Van Meter Visitor by Chad Lewis, Noah Voss, and Kevin Lee Nelson

On The Road Publications. 2013

Over a couple of nights in 1903, the small town of Van Meter, Iowa, found itself disturbed by the presence of an eight-foot tall bird-like creature, with bat-like wings, four-legs, and a bright light which shined from a horn-like protrusion on the top of its beak. It caused no harm, but was shot at repeatedly to no avail before vanishing (along with a second, smaller creature) into the town's mines.

The entirety of this strange experience was initially related in a single, short, newspaper article that was published at the end of the events listed above. No follow up was ever recorded, so there's no way to know if that was the end of the story. The authors of this book deserve credit for taking what could've been a single paragraph, or foot note, in a more expansive book on weird phenomena, or cryptozoological beings, and making a full book out of it.

They did what research could be done over a hundred years after the related events, and for the most part, provided sound analysis. The part for me that I have issues with in books such as this one, is when they start getting into areas such as "ultraterrestrial" explanations, conjecturing that strange creatures, such as the one being investigated, could possibly be visitors from another dimension. It's hard enough to try and identify a mysterious creature using behavioral and biological bases, but when you are taking a creature not proven to be real and using theories about parallel universes which are not proven to be real, to account for them, you're building a case lacking any solid foundation. Especially so, when you've already gone to great lengths to relate your careful, sound investigative techniques and analysis.

Don't get me wrong, parallel universes and the collective consciousness are fascinating to me, but risk erasing constructed credibility because they seem like entirely speculative conjecture, and probably sound a bit crackpot to the lay reader.

A very interesting read, though.

Monday, October 16, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16

Ghosts and Other Unpleasantries by C.S. Sahu

J.W. Sheahan & Company. 2016

Thirteen types of ghostly tales by Sahu are collected here. A tale of just desserts, revenge and vegetables, magic candles, la llarona, a rambling house, etc. There a couple stories here that are murder tales vs. ghost stories, making them the "other unpleasantries" of the title.

Sahu has a style that suggests these stories would be at home as part of a television anthology series. There's nothing particularly dark, or sinister about her presentation. They feel more 4:00 in the afternoon on a pleasant day than 2:30 in the morning on a stormy night. This is what catches you off guard. While there are a few tales here that are more charming than churning, many of them take a wicked turn and come to a truly dark finish. I'd never heard of Sahu before picking up this book, but I'm glad I found her.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15

Sam Specter and the Book of Spells by Ricardo Delgado

Treasures Publishing. 2009.

Sam Specter is a ten-year-old ghost who fancies himself a private eye. He lives in Netherworld City, a vast metropolis inhabited by all manner of supernatural being. Like most kids his age, Sam has the usual problems; homework, bullies, adults who don't believe some of his accomplishments in the world of private investigation. Currently he's working two cases; finding the lost guitar belonging to a member of Netherworld's most popular band, and recovering the Book of Spells, a powerful grimoire, stolen by a gang of monsters performing the bidding of a much greater evil.

Delgado, an accomplished comic book and concept artist crafts three-quarters of a really enjoyable book. Most of the problems are first time writer problems that could have been solved by some good editing. Important scenes take place between chapters, supporting characters could have stood more development and purpose in the story as a whole, and there are a lot of descriptive passages pertaining to the architecture and furnishings of Netherworld City that aren't going to connect with the age group this book is aimed at. Once the story gets rolling it is fast paced, action packed, suspenseful, and very entertaining. Given Delgado's background, I think it would have been more successful as a graphic novel, or as a more fully illustrated book. As is is, beyond the cover, there are only tiny thumbnail sketches at the top of each chapter and these do not convey the true ability of the author, or really provide the reader with helpful visuals to latch their imagination on to.

I'd like to see more adventures of Sam Specter, but hope that Delgado gets some editorial guidance to bring his stories to their fullest potential rather than the almost there story that this first outing is.