Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts

31 October 2018

My Spooky Moment

by Robert Lopresti

Happy Halloween!  May you be visited by enough costumed children to entertain you and not so many that they get  all the good candy and leave you with the healthy stuff.

I have been pondering what to write about today and decided to tell about my one-and-only brush with the supernatural.

Now, I need to explain that I am not a fan of such stuff.  I have no belief in ghosts, an afterlife, or monsters.  Things that go bump in the night are, in my experience, usually restless cats.

But there was this one time...

It happened in late August, about twenty years ago.  I was bicycling home from work, my usual form of commute, and I was thinking about a couple of songs I had been invited to perform at a friend's birthday party that night.  I turned the corner onto one of the busiest streets on my city and--

After that everything fades away.  I am sure you are familiar with pointilism, those paintings made up of individual dots?  Well, that is how my memory of that moment feels.  I can see the city scene and then it shifts into individual dots and disappears to black.

As I found out later, I had fallen off my bicycle and sustained a concussion.

The next thing I remember I was in a long black tunnel.  There was a bright but fuzzy light at the end of it and I sensed that I was being drawn farther away from that light.  I heard someone call my name.

Some of you may recognize that this event contains many elements common to what are called near-death-experiences.  People who have had such events often report that their whole view of the world has been changed by them.

And indeed, if I had blacked out at that moment I imagine my philosophy might be quite different than it is now.

But I didn't lose consciousness again.  And I slowly realized that the dark tunnel was actually the inside of an ambulance.  The light at the end of the tunnel was the sunny afternoon outside.  It was fuzzy because my glasses were broken.  The sensation of being drawn away from the light was caused by my being strapped onto a gurney which was being pushed deeper into the ambulance.  And the voice calling my name?  A paramedic calling the hospital to tell them who was coming.

Disappointing, I know.  There went my one chance to write a bestselling memoir of my visit to the afterlife.

So, on the whole, not as spooky a story as you might have hoped for.  But there are pleasures to be found in the real world too.  Snag yourself a candy bar before the goblins grab 'em all.

Oh, and one last trick or treat.  What do these two book covers have to do with Halloween?  Answer will be in the comments.

22 October 2018

B~L~O~O~D !   part 2

Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
by Leigh Lundin

We return to the spell-binding basics of blood for mystery writers and readers.The previous article carried a simplistic table for matching blood donors:

Simplified Blood Type Transfusions by Phenotype
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O A B AB
d
o
n
o
r
O
A

B

AB



That’s mostly accurate except the Rhesus factor isn’t taken into consideration. No donor with Rhesus positive blood can donate to an Rh negative recipient. This accounts for the gap in the upper right quadrant of the expanded table below:

Actual Blood Type Transfusions by Rh Factor
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O+ A+ B+ AB+ O- A- B- AB-
d
o
n
o
r
O+



A+





B+





AB+






O-
A-



B-



AB-






Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
The Story of O

O represents the German ohne, meaning omitted or zero antigens. Some regions and countries code the O as a 0 (zero) or ∅ (null). Students familiar with binary recognize this as a 2-bit situation with four values. Russia and a few other countries label O, A, B, AB blood types as I, II, III, IIII.

Type O negative has been called the universal donor, although the reality is a bit more intricate. Type AB positive people might be considered universal recipients.

Scientists have worked out a method of stripping A and B antigens from other blood types to create an artificial type O. The Rhesus factor still remains, so Rh- donations are sought allowing transfusions to any blood type.

But what, exactly, is the Rhesus factor? And what happens when man meets woman?

Rhesus Thesis– The Dark Side of Blood

The Rh blood group system (including the Rh factor) is one of thirty-five current human blood typing systems, the most important blood group system after ABO. At present, the Rh system defines fifty blood-group antigens, among which the five antigens C, c, E, e, and especially D are considered the most significant. Commonly used terms Rh factor, Rh-positive and Rh-negative refer solely to the D antigen. In summarizing the Rh factor,
  • Rh+ means the Rh D antigen is present.
  • Rh− means the Rh D antigen is absent.
Besides its role in blood transfusion, a prenatal blood test can determine blood type of a fetus. As a result, Rh blood grouping determines the risk of hemolytic disease of newborns (erythroblastosis fetalis), emphasizing prevention where possible.

babies Rh±
When the mother is Rh-negative and the father is Rh-positive, the fetus can inherit the Rh factor from the father, making the fetus Rh+ too. Problems can arise when the fetus’s blood has the Rh+ factor and the mother’s blood does not.

An Rh- mother may develop antibodies to her Rh+ baby, not uncommon if dribbles of the baby’s blood mixes with the mother's. The mother's body may respond as if it were allergic to the baby. The mother's body may make antibodies to the Rh antigens in the baby’s blood. This means the mother becomes sensitized. At that point, her antibodies may cross the placenta and impact the baby. Such an attack breaks down the fetus’ red blood cells, creating hemolytic anemia, a low red blood cell count. Severe cases cause illness, brain damage, or even death in a fetus or newborn. Allergen sensitization may occur any time fetus blood combines with the mother’s. Usually an Rh- mother miscarries an Rh+ fetus.
Most of us have offspring without thinking about such a subject, but problems do occur. When I was ten, a classmate’s family had struggled to have another child. They were devastated when attempts ended in perinatal deaths. We kids were saddened for our classmate, a boy we’d never before seen cry. At the time, we were told the problem was one of blood incompatibility. While we children weren’t privy to the particulars, something like the following probably occurred.
When an Rh- mother becomes pregnant with a Rh+ child, the mother’s immune system produces antibodies that attack the fetus’ red blood cells. A first child usually survives because the antibodies don’t appear until late in the pregnancy. However, in subsequent Rh+ pregnancies, antibodies are already in place. Even with extreme intervention, these children can die.

Blood Will Tell

Perhaps you’re writing a Halloween tale or a ghoulish Southern gothic involving a convoluted blood line. If you’re beset how a couple begets, check this handy table.

Blood Type Inheritance by Phenotype
❤︎ blood m o t h e r
blood type O A B AB
f
a
t
h
e
r
O O
    
O  A
    
O
B   
   A
B   
A O  A
    
O  A
    
O  A
B AB
   A
B AB
B O   
B   
O  A
B AB
O   
B   
   A
B AB
AB    A
B   
   A
B AB
   A
B AB
   A
B AB

For example, if Colonel D’Arcy is type A and Miss Annabelle Lee is type O and Baby Willie turns out type B… uh-oh. Oo-la-la as they say in N’Orleans, the colonel’s not the father he thought he was. A new tale is born.

——— Factoids ———

Bloodline Timeline

The type O bloodline was the original, dating back at least 200 000 years and likely two-million or more in ancestral primate lines. One theory suggest other blood types began to diverge as diet changed. Type AB arrived quite recently, only ten centuries ago, although a few researchers suggest an approximate AB date of 1000bc instead of 1000ad.
  • 1000,000 years ago, type O had long been the only type.
  • 100,000 years ago, type A appeared in Western Europe.
  • 10,000 years ago, type B appeared in Eastern Asia.
  • 1,000 years ago, type AB emerged as blood lines mixed.



Two blood cells met and fell in love…

Alas, it was all in vein.

I went trick or treating this year with friends. Good thing I dressed as a zombie… no one could tell it was their blood. My husband died when I couldn’t remember his blood type. I’d jotted A-positive on his donor card, but he kept whispering “Typo.”

My husband died when I couldn’t remember his blood type. As he gasped his last breath, he kept insisting for me to “be positive,” but it’s hard without him. My ex got into a bad accident recently. I told the doctors the wrong blood type. Now he’ll really know what rejection feels like.

Have a safe Halloween!

21 October 2018

B~L~O~O~D !   part 1

Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
Erythrocyte, Red Blood Cell with Type A+B Antigens
by Leigh Lundin

In the spirits of Halloween, SleuthSayers brings you a bloody fine tutorial, the basics of what an author needs to know about blood.

As crime writers, we often deal with blood, splatter, DNA and alleles in fiction and non-fiction. Today, we investigate a bleedin’ serious topic.

A+B antibodies
A+B Antibodies Schematic (Type O blood)
Bloody Detail

Erythrocyte is the technical name for a red blood cell. Scientists describe the shape as a biconcave disc or a toroid without a nucleus, meaning they’re vaguely shaped like a plastic kiddie pool or a fresh out-of-the-pack condom.

The cells contain the pigment hemoglobin that makes erythrocytes appear red. A cell’s primary duty is to carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body and transport carbon dioxide back to the lungs where the breathing process of ‘gas exchange’ takes place.
antigen
An antigen induces an immune response stimulating the production of antibodies. Blood antigens comprise types A and B. Either one, both or neither may appear as part of our blood cells.

epitope
The specific surface features of an antigen type are called epitopes. It’s debatable which is the key and which the lock, so it may be convenient to think of matching antigens and antibodies as jigsaw puzzle tabs. For convenience, our schema employs shapes of letters A and B to represent type A and B antigens.

antibody
Triggered by an immune response, antibodies individually key to epitopes. A particular antibody locks onto the shape of an antigen (A and/or B). Antibodies explain why care is exercised when matching blood donors.
They combine like this.

Blood Type Components and Characteristics
❤︎ ABO ABO blood constituents
blood type O A B AB
Erythrocytes (Red Blood Cells)
Red Blood Cell Antigens
Plasma Antibodies
blood type O A B AB
Blood Type Results Erythrocytes with neither antigen but plasma containing both type antibodies. Erythrocytes with type A surface antigens and plasma with type B antibodies. Erythrocytes with type B surface antigens and plasma with type A antibodies. Erythrocytes with both surface antigens but plasma without either antibody.

M-Mmm, Tasty

If you vampires think your honey’s blood is sweet, you have a point– the ‘A’s and ‘B’s in blood types are sugars. Moreover, under an SEM (scanning electron microscope), antigens lend red blood cells a sugary gumdrop look, quite unlike the glossy renderings we usually see.

Types A, B, and AB feature antigens on the surfaces of their cells. Notice how antibodies are ‘keyed’ to lock onto a particular type of antigen, kind of a socket. Antibodies in plasma can attack the wrong type antigens introduced into the blood stream.

Mayhap you feel it’s better to giveth than to receive. Not to be sanguine about these matters, we practice safe blood-letting. To help take the ‘ick’ out of ichor, following is a convenient Béla Lugosi table of tasty platelets for those special moments.

Simplified Blood Type Transfusions by Phenotype
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O A B AB
d
o
n
o
r
O
A

B

AB



This explains why blood donations are carefully matched. A person with, say, type B antibodies in the plasma can’t mix blood with type B antigens (blood type B or AB): Only type A or O will serve. For practical purposes, a type O donor can give blood to everyone.

Contrarily, an AB- patient can receive from nearly anyone. Because of AB antigens, an AB donor can give blood only to another AB recipient.

——— Factoids ———

Bleeding Blue

Famously, Mr. Spock exhibited faintly green skin, purportedly because Vulcan blood flowed with copper-based hemocyanin rather than iron-based hemoglobin. Beyond Star Trek, other blood colors can be found. In fact, you’ve likely eaten some of them.

Creature copper carriers include shrimp, lobsters, certain crabs, some snails, crayfish, and squid. Octopuses are known for their copper-protein blood, albeit blue rather than green.

The New Guinea skink bleeds green, not because of copper, but because of staggering levels of biliverdin and bilirubin. The ocellated icefish, with neither iron or copper, carries clear blood in its veins.

Blue Bloods… and Green

Mention ‘blue bloods’ today and people think police. In centuries past, the term connoted nobility. Initially, ’sangre azul’ referred to Spanish royalty, whereupon the phrase spread throughout Europe. But why blue?

Serfs, slaves, and commoners typically labored outdoors in fields and forests, accumulating muscles, thicker skin, and tanned flesh. Such ‘rednecks’ looked markedly different from the aristocracy, usually known for their pale, sunless skin revealing blue veins.

Two other hypotheses about royal blue bloods prove difficult to verify. One suggestion premised that royalty often suffered from hæmophilia, rendering the skin and veins even paler. A somewhat more intriguing idea set forth the notion that a lifetime of exposure to silver serving dishes, wine cups, and table utensils, may have given the skin a pale blue cast.

green Leigh
[On a personal note, during school breaks in my teens, I experienced considerable exposure to copper. During those summers, I literally sweated green. Notice the pointy ears? The Frankenstein flair?]



Tomorrow, grab that sphygmomanometer. We’re bringing you more bloody information.

31 October 2017

Ghostbusters in La La Land

by Paul D. Marks

Do you believe in ghosts?

It’s Halloween, so I was trying to think of an appropriate post for such an auspicious day. And I think I finally hit on something. But first, I thought about doing Halloween movies, you know like Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween 3, Halloween 2077. Or The Exorcist. Or _________, well you fill in the blank. But it just didn’t hit me. What did hit me was a brief Magical Mystery Tour of a few of LA’s haunted places. As writers, we might sometimes use the supernatural in our stories, but do we really believe? Maybe, maybe not. So let’s check out some “real life” ghost sightings.

But before we really get started on the tour, how ’bout a little mood music, Sleeping With a Vampyre, from Brigitte Handley and the Dark Shadows:



So now, as Jackie Gleason (I’m sure he’s haunting someone, somewhere) used to say, “And away we go”:


~The Biltmore Hotel (506 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles) is the epitome of elegance. On the
outside it’s a mash of styles, but inside it looks like some minor principality’s grand palace, filled with marble fountains, frescos and other lavish appointments. Oh, and maybe a ghost or two.

The 1960 Democratic National Convention that nominated the alphabet team of JFK and LBJ was held there. Many of the early Oscar ceremonies were also held there. And there’s been sightings of various ghosts. The most famous is probably Elizabeth Short, though you might know her better as the Black Dahlia. Some people claim that the last place she was seen alive was at the Biltmore and that her ghost returns often to the lobby. Boo!

Millennium Biltmore Hotel-10371203123
The Biltmore Hotel lobby
photo by Prayitno via Wikimedia Commons
In my story, Ghosts of Bunker Hill (Ellery Queen, Dec., 2016), I talk a little about the Biltmore:

I felt Bandini at my side as I stared across at the Biltmore Hotel. No, I’m not crazy. I’m not saying I saw a ghost. Just a feeling. Then, something flitted by on the edge of my peripheral vision. Across the street in the Biltmore: JFK sipping champagne cocktails at his inauguration party. Swells drinking bathtub gin in the Gold Room, a sort of speakeasy for the upper crust during Prohibition, hidden in the depths of the Biltmore. Oscar ceremonies and celebs. Mae West and Carmen Miranda partying. Ghosts of the past. Now I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t.


~The Comedy Store (8433 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA) on the Sunset Strip used to be Ciro’s nightclub. The famous, or infamous, Strip is in an unincorporated area of LA County. Because of that it’s patrolled by the Sheriffs, not the LAPD. And because of that enforcement of certain laws there, like gambling and prostitution, wasn’t quite what should have been, shall we say, at least in the past. That, of course, brought in a “certain element,” the head honcho of which was Mickey Cohen, LA’s mob boss, along with his pal Bugsy Siegel.
Ciro's Nightclub

Ciro’s was a hip place in the 40s and 50s, affiliated with the mob and even more pointedly a mob hang. There were peepholes in the walls of the main rooms so mobsters could watch the comings and goings. And the basement was more like a medieval dungeon—like they say in LA Confidential of the Victory Motel, lots of bad things happened in the basement at Ciro’s. Killings. A torture room. So you better have paid your gambling debts and not bothered the show girls.

Today, the basement is said to have a very oppressive atmosphere—I guess it’s all those tortured souls trying to escape and find some peace. Some employees refuse to go there, especially after one saw an evil being. Some people think it was a malevolent ghost, but it might just have been Harvey Weinstein.

Comedy Club employees also claim to hear voices and cries of anguish coming from the basement. Some claim to have seen Mickey’s enforcer, Gus, watching the crowds during performances, so you better damn well be funny.


~Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, CA), the cemetery to the stars. If you ever wanted to attend an A List party, check this place out. Everyone’s here, from Valentino (he who needs no first name) to Tyrone Power, Hattie McDaniel and Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone (well, one of them in spirit only, there’s a statue of Johnny but his wife kept his ashes). And let’s not forget that Bugsy guy—he’s here. As is Ann Savage, star of the great B noir Detour. I’m not sure who’s more savage him or her, at least her character in that flick.
Dee Dee Ramone's grave

People have reportedly seen Valentino’s ghost strolling along the paths. But there was definitely a ghostly woman who dressed all in black—the Lady in Black—who brought flowers to his resting place for years and years on the anniversary of his death because he had told her at one time that he didn’t want to be alone.

And Clifton Webb, who when I think about it would indeed make a good ghost, is also said to haunt the place. He played Mr. Belvedere. Also Waldo Lydecker in Laura and Hardy Cathcart in The Dark Corner, so his noir bona fides are in place (Belvedere notwithstanding). It’s said that his spirit haunts the Abbey of the Psalms mausoleum with drafts of cold air, scents of his cologne and whispered voices from people who aren’t there. It’s especially spooky if you can’t stand the scent of his cologne.

Virginia Rappe, the young woman that Fatty Arbuckle is supposed to have raped at a wild party, and who died shortly after, is also resting here. Well, maybe not quite resting. An icy coldness is said to surround her grave, even on hot days. The sound of crying can also be heard.

With all the well-known people here, I’m sure these aren’t the only folks haunting this place.
And it just so happens I wrote about Hollywood Forever in my story Continental Tilt (Murder in La La Land anthology):

In the heart of Los Angeles, in the heart of Hollywood, a vampire movie played on a humongous silver screen. This wasn’t your usual movie venue, but the crowd of seven hundred loved it. Spread out on beach chairs and blankets, with bottles of wine and beer, Boba tea, doing wheatgrass shooters and eating catered Mexasian sushi, fusion food for the Millennial-iPod generation.


Did I forget to mention that the movie theatre was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the heart of Hollyweird? That over the summer they show movies on the mausoleum wall, while people sit on their beach chairs and blankets—Beach Blanket Bloodshed—and munch their munchies amongst the graves of movie stars, rock stars and even mere mortals? The back wall of the cemetery, clearly visible from the field of graves the watchers watched the movies from, was appropriately the back wall of Paramount Studios.

Ghosts of a million stars haunted this place, from Tyrone Power and Rudolph Valentino to Fay Wray and Bugsy Siegel—a star in his own right. From Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone to Hattie McDaniel and Iron Eyes Cody to Mel Blanc, the Man of a Thousand Voices—Bugs and Porky, Daffy and Tweety and 996 more—whose tombstone simply read “That’s all folks!”





~The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA) is a famous haunt, excuse the expression, of the rich and famous. The Roosevelt debuted in 1927, right on Hollywood Boulevard, sometime after the No Dogs, No Actors people moved out of the area, no doubt. The Roosevelt held the very first Oscars, well before the TV era, so they were actually about a nod to movies and the people who made them, instead of one gigantic commercial. And, as such, the hotel was home to many stars.
The Roosevelt Hotel
by Bohao Zhao via Wikimedia Commons

Two of the most famous ghosts are Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe, you might have heard of her. Maybe him too.

People say Marilyn haunts room 1200, her old room. They see her in the mirror. They see her in the halls and the lobby. People claimed to see her in the room’s mirror long after her passing. So the mirror was moved to the lobby—but people persisted in claiming to see her. Eventually it was moved to storage, but her ghost still haunts the hotel.

And Clift is said to haunt room 928, patting guests on the shoulders (hmm, I wonder if Harvey Weinstein stayed in this room too. Sorry.) Carole Lombard, one of my faves, floats around the upper floors. I wonder what she’s looking for. Maybe I should head over there and ask her.

There’s also been some non-famous ghosts seen hanging around, but who wants to hang with them?


~The Cecil Hotel (640 S. Main Street, Los Angeles). Saving the best for last, or maybe the worst. This one’s so bad there’s a whole TV series devoted to it now.
The Cecil Hotel
By ZhengZhou (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

The Cecil—I’ve always wondered who exactly Cecil was—was born in 1927, clearly a good year to start a hotel. With its opulent art deco lobby it was a place for business people to stop when in L.A. But the Depression did the hotel in and it never fully recovered. After that its 700 rooms became more of a place for transients and worse. And I do mean worse.

The Cecil’s best known resident is a chap named Richard Ramirez. You might know him better as the Night Stalker, a serial killer who terrorized the LA/SoCal area in the 1980s. His weapons of choice included everything from guns and knives, to hammers, a tire iron and a machete. A Satanist, he never showed any remorse for his crimes.

Richie made room 1402 his home, where he slept by day, so he could do his thing at night. People said they’d see him coming through the lobby of the Cecil in bloody clothes, which he’d dispose of in their dumpsters. But nobody thought much of it at the time… That’s the kind of laid-back place the Cecil was.

But don’t fret for Richie. Once caught and incarcerated, he had plenty of fans writing him letters, even love letters. Seventy-five letters from Doreen Lioy must have made his heart warm ’cause he proposed and they were married in San Quentin Prison in 1996. (I hope he’s haunting her now.)
A few years after Ramirez was disposed of (he died of cancer in jail), another young man checked into room 1402. Jack Unterweger was an Austrian journalist, who did ride-alongs with the LAPD. That was as good a way as any to scope out his potential targets—he, too, was a serial killer. He wanted to emulate his hero, Richie, which is why he specifically asked for room 1402. Jackie was eventually caught and imprisoned. He hanged himself while in prison. I hope he’s enjoying being united with Ramirez. And I hope both are a little hot these days. John Malkovich portrayed him in stage show called Seduction and Despair. I haven’t seen it, but I’m not despairing about that.

More recently a young tourist from Canada, Elisa Lam, came to LA for a jaunt. She decided to stay at the Cecil, though I can’t fathom why. And soon went missing. Nobody knew what happened to her until one day some other tourists found brown, foul tasting water coming from their sink. To make a long story short, Elisa’s body was found in water tanks on the hotel’s roof and, though her death was ruled an accidental death due to drowning, there’s plenty of people who dispute that. And I’m sure the walls running with blood in The Shining have nothing on the black, foul-smelling bloody water in the infamous Cecil. And that’s for real, not a movie.

These are probably the most well-known people and things that went on there, but the hotel’s history is filled with grisly incidents and stories of ghosts haunting every floor and every room. Today the hotel has been remodeled and rebranded as Stay on Main, a sort of boutique-y hotel, so go ahead and stay there. Ask for room 1402 and enjoy your visit. If you’re lucky you’ll get to go home.
Amazingly enough, I happened to write about the Cecil in my novella, Vortex:

In the bright light of the full moon, the Cecil Hotel cast a sharp shadow across Main Street in downtown L.A., slicing the sidewalk like a double-edged knife. I don’t believe in omens, but if I did, this was not a good one. Some people say the Cecil is haunted, prowled by ghosts. It started life as a way station for business travelers in 1927. Since then it’s been through many changes, from budget hotel to SRO and the residence of serial killer Richard Ramirez, the Nightstalker. A paramedic was stabbed inside the hotel a couple of years ago and a young Canadian woman staying there went missing. When the water started tasting bad and dribbling, instead of flowing, out of the faucets, someone decided to see what was wrong. They found her body in a water tank on the roof of the building. Yeah, the Cecil was a class act.

The Cecil was the end-of-the-line hotel—suicide central, with people jumping off its upper floors every other day, or so it seemed at one time. Since it was the end-of-the-line hotel of last resort somehow it seemed to be the perfect place for what I was sure was coming.



~I was also going to talk about the Sharon Tate/Roman Polański house on Cielo (10050 Cielo Drive), where members of Charles Manson’s “family” murdered several people, but Fran Rizer (http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2017/10/not-named.html) beat me to it a week or two ago. So briefly, I used to take people there to see it before it was torn down. For some reason everybody wanted to see that place. I went there many times and never saw a ghost, but who knows…


Marilyn Monroe
Published by Corpus Christi Caller-Times-
photo from Associated Press via Wikimedia Commons
~And last but not least, places haunted by Marilyn Monroe. From what I can tell, she’s just about
everywhere in L.A. Her best-known haunt is probably the Roosevelt (see above), but she’s also known to haunt several other places. There’s been tons of sightings of Norma Jeane at the Roosevelt, everywhere from her former room, to the lobby and even in the Cinegrill restaurant. But the Roosevelt isn’t the only hotel that Marilyn’s ghost hangs out. The Knickerbocker Hotel (1714 Ivar Ave., Hollywood) is another place Marilyn used to hang. She and husband Joltin’ Joe liked to hang at the hotel bar. Her spirit is often seen staring at herself in the vanity of the powder room. And magician Harry Houdini’s widow held séances there for several years, hoping to hear from her departed husband.  William Frawley of I Love Lucy, My Three Sons, and many, many movies, fame lived there for many years. Might be a good place to go for a swell scare.

Marilyn Monroe's crypt
photo by Arthur Dark (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons



~Marilyn’s home (12305 5th Helena Drive, Brentwood, CA) is where her body was discovered after she took an overdose of pills. The house is still there and her ghost has been spotted many times over the years. And her grave, not too far from there, at Westwood Memorial Park (1218 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles, CA) is also where many sightings of her spirit have “materialized.” The Beverly Hilton Hotel (9876 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA) just east of Westwood (I like saying that: ‘east of Westwood’) is supposedly where Marilyn and Bobby Kennedy were thought to have been seen the very night of her suicide. And her ghost is supposedly haunting the suites there to this day. Boy, that’s one ghost that gets around.

So there you are—some of LA’s most famous haunted places. And this is just the tip of the haunted LA iceberg. C’mon to our fair town and get your haunt on. Maybe you’ll see Marilyn’s and JFK’s ghosts cavorting at the Biltmore or hear the howls of pain coming from the Comedy Store’s basement.
~~~~~

And for a little extra credit check out Janet Rudolph’s list of Halloween mysteries at:
http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2017/10/halloween-crime-fiction-halloween.html More Halloween mysteries than you can imagine.

And another bonus, the witch’s house in Beverly Hills:

The Spadena House aka "The Witch's House"
photo by Lori Branham



So, do you believe in ghosts now? And what ghosts haunt your fair city?

Mel Blanc's tombstone
Photo by Robert A. Estremo via Wikimedia Commons

That's All Folks!

***

And now for the usual BSP:

Please check out the interview Laura Brennan, writer, producer and consultant, did with me for her podcast, where we talk about everything from Raymond Chandler and John Fante to the time I pulled a gun on the LAPD and lived to tell about it. Find it here: http://destinationmystery.com/episode-52-paul-d-marks/


29 October 2017

Plastic Fantastic Family Noir, Halloween edition

by Bette Noire

taxidermied Trigger
Taxidermied Trigger © Horse Nation
When I was a wee girl, my Grandfather Albert sat me on his knee and told me about singing cowboys. The famed Roy Rogers appeared in movies and television and restaurant chains. He owned a Jeep named Nelly Belle, a palomino named Trigger, a German shepherd named Bullet, and a wife named Dale. When his dog died, he had it stuffed by a taxidermist. When his horse Trigger died, he had it stuffed. When his wife died, I’m not sure if Roy had his woman taxidermied, but Grandfather would gaze fondly at Granny Crystal and say it made a beautifully sentimental story.

Then Granny Crystal died. She was a fine-looking woman with a trim figure and surprisingly perky C-cups. Grandfather started thinking about preserving his beloved. By then, technology had advanced. He considered Cryovac like the butcher uses for chickens in the market, but it was only a step up from Saran Wrap and subject to freezer burn even when double-wrapped.

About that time, Fox News ran a segment about Körperwelten, a German company that plasticizes human bodies for museums and exhibitions. Grandpa Albert got so excited, he took time out from Fox’s 134th definitive investigation into Vince Foster and asked me to google human plastination. He was disappointed to learn the cost to preserve Granny in plastic was €122 000 plus shipping and tax, even after saving $52 in freight costs by labeling her ‘non-GMO export product’.

Körperwelten Body Worlds
© Körperwelten Body Worlds

Then we found a Chinese company, Hoison Sun, which could fulfill his dream of keeping Granny forever for only $87. I expressed some skepticism about the low price, but he pointed out the vast difference between German engineering and Chinese sweatshop production.

“It’s guaranteed,” he said. “No cost of burial. No cost of cremation. Waste not, want not, I say. How could we go wrong?”

Revell Visible Woman
Visible Woman © Revell
He studied the photos and videos. About that time he remembered those Revell plastic models of ‘Visible Man’ and ‘Visible Woman’ and decided that was the way to go, a clear body– after all, her name was Crystal– where you could see the muscles and organs.

At a yard sale, we bought a huge styrofoam chest with a 7-Eleven logo on the side. We packed it with Granny and lots of dry ice. The UPS man grunted at the weight and asked with a wink if we were shipping dead bodies to China, ha-ha. I kind of tee-heed and said that would be crazy.

The German competitor required a year to plasticize bodies, so it came as a surprise a month later when our doorbell rang and the FedEx man struggled up the steps with a wooden crate from Guangzhou in the Guangdong province.

Grandfather pried off the sides with a claw hammer and then stared in awe. There stood granny in all her shimmering glory, naked right down to her muscles and bones.

Right away, we noticed one of the Chinese shortcuts. I never knew breast implants accounted for Granny’s perky boobies.

“I didn’t think they’d preserve those,” said Grandfather.

Her right rib was imprinted with the LG logo and the words “中国制造 ©李 隆丁, Tech Support call 800-867-5309.”

“Do you want to request a return RMA from tech support? She must be under warranty.”

He decided to think about it. The other problem was a sort of Tupperware-food-in-the-microwave smell, which grew more noticeable as the day warmed up. We learned the answer when Fox News reported a class action suit against the Chinese company for cutting preservation corners and a shortcoming in the curing process. Fox recommended turning the thermostat down to 58°. Grandfather decided he could live with that.

My next concern was my 12-year-old son, Bobby Jr. He invited his friends over and they stood around inspecting her perfect breasts and saying, “Wow, your great-grandmother is hot. Well, cool but hot, too.” That probably ruined the boys for life, thinking women grow implants like that.

I worry Bobby Jr may never have a love life at all. The lifelike glass eyeballs in Granny’s skull tend to rattle him.

He worked up a little bravery.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Uh… gall bladder, I guess. Come to think of it, your grandfather has a whole lot of gall.”

“And that?”

“That’s an ovary.”

“You mean where eggs come from?”

“Right.”

“And that?”

“That would be the womb and below that is where the cervix should be.”

Bridgitte and Ginger in Ginger Snaps
Brigitte and Ginger
Bobby turned pale. I never knew he had a queasy stomach. His goth sister Louise chain-watches Ginger Snaps and Scream, and drenches her ice cream in cherry-chocolate syrup to look like blood.

“So a baby’s supposed to… You mean a baby fits… How’s that possible?”

“It’s not. That’s why God makes spinal epidural blocks, anesthesia, and 1.5-litres of Southern Comfort.”

“You’re not planning to, uh, preserve Great-Grandfather Albert, are you?”

Grandpa's adage of waste-not, want-not, crossed my mind. By now, Bobby had turned greenish-grey.

“I’m not sure. He’s got ulcers, a softball-size prostate and his liver drips like a Toyota oil pan. Bobby… Bobby, are you okay?”

Thinking it would help illustrate, I dragged out the Revell Visible Man to present a male rôle model perspective, so to speak.

“See, there’s the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas and the prostate. Your great-grandfather’s is about fourteen times that size. Bobby? Bobby?”

He cracked his head against the table as he fainted. “Prostrate from the prostate,” said Grandfather unhelpfully. Fortunately surrounded by medical models, I was able to palpate his skull plates back in place and saved the expense of an ambulance to the emergency room.

Grandfather warmed Granny’s side of the bed with a hot pad and gently laid her on it. That struck me as a bit Norman Bates, but snuggling gives him comfort at night, especially under his blanket fort when he lights up her insides with a flashlight. He smells a little plasticky in the morning, so I turn the thermostat down to 58° and insist he tub soaks before coming down to breakfast.

I’m okay with Granny now. Tech support removed the silicone breast prostheses and applied extra body sealant. You can see straight through her perky boobs and from the side, they make an amazing magnifying glass. Grandfather uses them all the time when reading Sport Fisherman.

Bobby finds it extremely disturbing his friends play hacky-sack with the retired implants. Waste not, want not, I say.

31 October 2016

At Last

By Fran Rizer

Today is October 31, 2016--Halloween.  Also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Eve, Halloween begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembrance of the dead.

To most of us, Halloween is a holiday characterized by the dispensing of candy to costumed young people who threaten, "Trick or treat."  Other traditions include costume contests and parades.  When I taught elementary school, teachers and parents worked together to hold Halloween carnivals for students.  Before my retirement, these changed to Fall Festivals, and scary costumes (such as vampires, werewolves, skeletons, zombies, and this year--clowns) were forbidden because some people felt that Halloween was a celebration of witchcraft.

The traditions of Halloween include decorations such as black cats and pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns as well as activities like apple bobbing, pranks,  bonfires, and divination games.  In some parts of the world, Christian observances include church services and lighting candles on graves.

What accounts for the popularity of the non-religious aspects of Halloween? I believe it's because humans like to be scared--so long as what frightens us isn't real.  We might think that fall and Halloween would amplify the appeal of spookiness, but horror is a genre that transcends season.

How does the title "At Last" relate to Halloween and the horror genre?  Recently I've been doing a lot of writers' workshops in South Carolina libraries.  One of my most popular is entitled "A Late Start." The topic is writing as a second career after my retirement including disadvantages of waiting so long to begin writing fiction as well as the obvious advantages of greater maturity and vaster experiences. The workshops include tips on speeding up the process of successful writing and publishing.  The story of my first horror book proves that I don't always follow my own advice when it comes to fast writing and quick publication.

"At Last" would work as well if this blog referred to my first novel in 2007 as it does now to my tenth book released this month, but Leigh Lundin didn't invite me to return to SleuthSayers to summarize the workshop.  I'm here to tell you about my newest book and why "At Last" is a perfect title for this column.

The HORROR of JULIE BATES began several years ago as A Midnight Dreary and morphed into Something to Fear.  Both David Dean and Dixon Hill critiqued the manuscript during one of those phases, and I incorporated several of their suggestions. After numerous rewrites, my agent accepted it, but held back a year before pitching it.  Berkley was interested and made two suggestions.  Pardon my unladylike expression, but I busted my butt to work out the changes and dashed it off back to my agent in two weeks.  I didn't hear anything.

Sure, I wanted to push for a response, but we all know that it's not a good idea to put pressure on agents or editors.  After months and months, I asked the agent to touch base with the interested editor at Berkley.  I almost had another heart attack when I received an apology from my agent because he had forgotten to send her the manuscript revised to her requests.

Meanwhile, there had been major changes in the publishing world. To make a long story short (literally in this case), it was too late.

I began querying new agents and received some requests for the complete manuscript, but when Darren Foster at Odyssey South Publishing said, "Let us have it," I jumped at the chance.  And so, ladies and gentlemen, at last, my first horror novel is now available.  Here's the back copy:

                                 Who knew Columbia, South Carolina, could be so scary?

Julie Bates discovers a corpse in front of the Assembly Street post office.  Arson destroys her home the same day, but Julie's story is not a mystery.  It's horror--southern style.  Police officer Nate Adams thinks the killer who raped and murdered Julie's mother the year before is stalking Julie, but Julie's tormentor is not human.  The well-known ghosts of South Carolina barely skim the surface of the evil that awaits Julie Bates.  Move over, Amityville.  Columbia, South Carolina, is right there with you on the scale of terror.

How does a writer transition from cozyesque to horror? The preface explains:

When a red-haired woman approached me at a book-signing, I expected her to ask me to autograph one of my own cozy mysteries.  Instead, she asked me to write a book for her.  I went into my usual spiel that she could do a better job of putting her story on paper than I, but we agreed to meet in the coffee shop after the signing.  Writers are frequently approached to write or co-write someone else's story. Most of the time, we decline politely, but there was something about this mysterious stranger that made me hesitate to dismiss her so quickly,

The HORROR of JULIE BATES is that woman's story.  I spent many, many hours recording Julie Bates' tale and many more days and nights scaring myself as I wrote her story from her point of view, changing only names. The occasional third-person chapters were added after I was fortunate enough to obtain Richard Arthur's journal.

I have already received several emails questioning, "Did you make up this story or did a red-haired woman really tell it to you?"  I can honestly say the story came from a red-haired woman.

Long-time SleuthSayer readers know that I've jumped genre from cozies in the past when I wrote the thriller KUDZU RIVER.  I have no idea where I'll land next, but in the meantime,

Until we meet again, take care of . . .  you!
                                                                     

29 October 2016

Things That Go Bump in the Night


by John M. Floyd


Even though it's not yet October 31, I'm told that some folks will be celebrating Halloween tonight instead (since it's Saturday, I guess). To me, that's goofy reasoning, but if trick-or-treaters can bend the rules, why can't I? I am hereby posting a Halloween-related column two days early.

I got the idea last week, when I was in Walmart looking for a roll of packing tape and happened to wander through the electronics section of the store. (I always wander through the electronics section of the store, but that's another matter.) Gravitating as usual to the DVD shelves, I noticed a huge display of Halloween movies--or at least scary movies. Or at least what the Walmart geniuses (genii?) think are scary movies. The point is, it got me to thinking about my favorite horror films.

Strangely enough, I don't consider zombie movies and teenage-summer-camp-slasher movies scary. They're just too unbelievable. What creeps me out the most are the two extremes: (1) insane people who seem all too real, and (2) otherworldly horror involving science fiction and/or fantasy elements. (I know, I know: that second item isn't believable either--but I love it.) Anyhow, that's just me. To each his own source of goosebumps.

Having said that, I offer the following list of my ten picks for scariest feature films:



1. Psycho. We'd probably agree that this is more mystery/suspense than horror, but tell me your sphincter didn't do some serious tightening when Norman popped into the root cellar wearing Mom's dress and a gray wig. I mean, what's scarier than a crazy guy with a butcher knife? (Honorable mentions, in the needs-to-be-fitted-for-a-straitjacket category: Misery, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Shining.)

2. Alien. I thought its sequel, Aliens, was a far better film, but it was better because of the action, not the creepiness. In the first movie, the steady buildup of suspense to the final standoff with the monster was wonderful.

3. Poltergeist. I first saw this in a theater in Dallas in the early 80s, and I loved it. I fact I love most Spielberg movies, whether they involve evil trucks or the Holocaust or a parkful of dinosaurs--but I thought he outdid himself, here.

4. Halloween. Many of the chills in this film came from John Carpenter's soundtrack. If you don't believe me, listen to it again sometime.

5. The Sixth Sense. I think TSS is at its spookiest when the kid is seeing the dead people and nobody else can. I also had to include this one to prove I didn't choose only movies with one-word titles.

6. Candyman. This weird film, based on a Clive Barker short story called "The Forbidden," is a little different in that I didn't particularly enjoy it. But boy is it scary.

7. The Others. Okay, here I go with two-word titles. I promise, there is a moment in this movie--I won't tell you which one--that's absolutely leap-out-of-your-seat terrifying. Don't watch it alone.


8. Cat People. I admit, I mostly liked Nastassja Kinski (is she really Klaus's daughter??), but I think this is a truly spooky film, beginning with a spinetingling opening-credits scene.

9. The Exorcist. I saw this in L.A. in 1974 with a bunch of fellow IBM trainees, and found myself thinking about it nonstop for weeks afterward. The final scenes between Father Merrin and the demon are especially nightmarish.

10. The Thing. John Carpenter again. In this one, like Alien (which wasn't Carpenter), the buildup is as good as the payoff. Everyone always talks about the original (The Thing From Another World, with James Arness as the creature), but I consider this a better film.



I'm thinking I'd better stop right here, and publish this before my list changes. (It's already changed a dozen times--at various points I included Silver BulletThe OmenTrollhunterThe MistThe Blair Witch Project, The Village, The Mothman Prophecies, Cloverfield, and many others.) As always, please chime in with your own personal favorites. My Netflix queue awaits your recommendations.

And on whatever night you choose to trick-or-treat this year . . . don't stop at the house on the hill above the Bates Motel. Nobody's home anyway.




BREAKING NEWS -- Tune in next week in this time slot for a great guest post by my friend Michael Bracken. (Unless you're watching one of the ten movies I suggested. Michael will understand.)



27 October 2016

A Celtic Halloween

by Eve Fisher

When you say folk music in America, the first thing that comes to most people's mind is Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and music that's a mixture of politics and sweet ballads. Folk music in Britain? Try some of the dark stuff. You want to know how to cheat the Fairy Queen? Kill a monster or two? Go crazy? Be killed by a werefox? Try old British folk songs.

Back in 1969, a British group called Fairport Convention issued their fourth album, called "Liege and Lief". It's been credited as the beginning of the "British folk rock" movement, and in 2006 it was voted "Most Influential Folk Album of All Time". I love this album, because it's chock full of traditional British and Celtic folk material, done with an edge and a steel guitar. And the amazing vocals of Sandy Denny.   Let's just say it makes for a good, alternative Halloween sound track.

My personal favorite on Liege & Lief is Reynardine. Listen to it here:

A Scarfolk Council-issued card to remind you you're always being followed."Your beauty so enticed me
I could not pass it by
So it's with my gun I'll guard you
All on the mountains high."
"And if by chance you should look for me
Perhaps you'll not me find
For I'll be in my castle
Inquire for Reynardine."
Sun and dark, she followed him
His teeth did brightly shine
And he led her above mountains
Did that sly old Reynardine

And, to prove that fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, try this (fairly obscure) movie by Neil Jordan, "In the Company of Wolves", starring Angela Lansbury as Granny, who tells her granddaughter Rosaleen stories about werewolves, wolves, innocent girls, dangerous strangers, and full moons... (See the trailer below:)



Back to Fairport Convention and the eerie "Crazy Man Michael":



Pair that with Francis Ford Coppola's "Dementia 13", set in an Irish castle, and you'll probably check under the bed at night.  And lock all the doors.  Maybe burn a little sage...



Of course, sometimes they aren't crazy.  In "Grabbers", directed by Jon Wright, a small rural Irish village is taken over by monstrous sea creatures who love the typical Irish day:  constant rain and drizzle.  The creatures are killing off as many people as they possibly can, as gruesomely as possible. But they have one weakness – alcohol. If you're drunk, they can't kill you.  So, the whole village takes to steady drinking...  Laughs, gore, and terror, what more can you ask for?



The remainder of the instructional booklet, complete with a helpful quiz.A poster from a Scarfolk Council anti-people campaign.
BTW, all the photos above are from "Scarfolk, England's creepiest fake town,".  A big shout out to AtlasObscura.com for a great article.  Check out, also:
Carmilla, the first vampire story by Sheridan LeFanu
The Essential Guide to Living Lovecraft
Traveling Thru Transylvania with Dracula
Satan's Subliminal Rock Music Messages

Finally, two things:  first of all from Pink Floyd, a wonderful song that is, perhaps, the Addams Family lullaby, "Careful with that Axe, Eugene":


And for a last video, check out Michael Mann's 1983 movie, "The Keep".  It is World War II in German-occupied Romania. Nazi soldiers have been sent to garrison a mysterious fortress, but a nightmarish discovery is soon made. The Keep was not built to keep anything out. The massive structure was, in fact built to keep something in...




Happy Halloween!


31 October 2015

A Monster Mash


by John M. Floyd


Just as I was about to sit down and type my column for this week, which would've dealt with a totally different subject (something dutiful, involving writing and mystery fiction), it occurred to me that the piece was scheduled to run on October 31. I slapped my forehead, ditched my notes, and changed course. No one can resist writing about scary things on Halloween.

And some of the scariest things I've seen in my life--my life has, I confess, been pretty uneventful in the excitement department--have happened in movies.

A quick note, here, about genre categories. Despite what we're told on imdb.com and Netflix, I'm not at all sure that films like MiseryCujoDuelJawsHannibal, etc., are horror movies. They might be frightening (Annie Wilkes and her sledgehammer gave me the hibbiejibbies for weeks afterward), but it might be more accurate to label those examples as suspense, or adventure. Horror films, to me, should have otherworldly elements, like Night of the Living DeadThe BirdsInvasion of the Body Snatchers, FrankensteinThe Dead Zone, Paranormal ActivityThe Thing, Nosferatu, The Mist, Trollhunter, The Shining, DraculaThe RingThe Sixth SenseA Nightmare on Elm Street, and so on and so on. And let's face it, some of the most terrifying stories are those about insane people, because they could actually happen: The Silence of the LambsThe Night of the HunterMagicAmerican PsychoThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. Humans are sometimes the best (worst?) monsters.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are my top ten scary (not necessarily horror) movies, rated according to how high I jumped out of my recliner or my theater seat when I first saw them.


1. Psycho -- I believe the most frightening moment in movie history occurred when Norman Bates's mother swung around in that chair in the root cellar, 55 years ago. Bernard Herrmann's music helped.

2. The Exorcist -- The scariest scene in this one, for me, was when Father Merrin appeared at Regan's home in Georgetown, introduced himself to her mother and Father Karras, and then climbed the staircase to confront the devil. The whole time this was happening, if I remember correctly, we could hear the demon upstairs, roaring and lowing and calling the priest's name. Whoa, Nellie.

3. Halloween -- This movie probably isn't on anybody's "best" list, but it was seriously creepy, in part because of John Carpenter's outstanding soundtrack. It still gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

4. Alien -- I saw this in an Atlanta mall, on an IBM trip, and the guy who was with me almost passed out when Alien Junior popped out of John Hurt's tummy. The sequel, Aliens, was a better movie, but what made Alien so terrifying was the steady buildup of tension and dread, and the fact that the audience never even saw the creature until near the end of the story.

5. Wait Until Dark -- I saw W.U.D. in college, and I remember the entire theater screaming at one point, when Alan Arkin leaped out of the shadows to attack a blind Audrey Hepburn. In my writing courses I often refer to this movie as an example of the use of foreshadowing and suspense.

6. The Others -- Not many folks seem to know about The Others (not to be confused with The Other). I watched it via Netflix, with one of our sons, and it scared the hell out of both of us. It contains one particularly bloodchilling scene.

7. Poltergeist -- Another film that I saw on a work trip, this one to Dallas. This is Spielberg at his best, and it's hard to get better than that.

8. The Howling -- Unlike Poltergeist, this was not a great movie (few werewolf movies are), but it was truly scary. I was dumb enough to watch it at home alone on TV at about two a.m. on a summer night, which meant the back windows onto our patio were open and I could hear the night sounds outside. I didn't do that again.

9. Cat People -- The 1982 version of Cat People is a guilty pleasure, and I love it. If the opening credits don't give you the willies, you're braver than I am. Wonderful soundtrack, and the city of New Orleans (which can be spooky anyhow) has never been spookier.

10. The Omen -- I've never been fond of kids-in-peril stories, but here the kid's the villain. Sort of. The most disturbing scene in this film involves an actress named Holly Palance (Jack's daughter, if you're a movie buff).


That's the top of my creepy/crawly list. Any agreements? Disagreements? And more importantly, do you have any recommendations? I included only those movies I myself have seen; several that I've not yet watched but are on my soon-to-be-viewed list are The BabadookThe Cabin in the Woods, and 28 Days Later. Give me more.

I'll close with a goofy poem I wrote twenty years ago--it was published in a 1995 issue of Mystery Time magazine, and is titled "Stress Management":



I have a long history of reading a mystery
Each night before going to bed;
They're scary and tense, but I have enough sense
Not to let such things mess up my head.

At least I thought so, till one night a psycho
Leaped into my room, eyes ablaze;
It was just my dog Lad. but by then I had had
An accident in my PJ's.

Now should that deter a booklover? No sir!
I still read a lot, if the tone
Is funny and light, if it's not late at night,
And if I'm not home all alone.



The same holds true for movies.

Have a great Halloween.