July 2009 Archives

"Pretty eyes, Pretty eyes!"

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“Oh! He’s a wicked man, who comes to little children when they won’t go to bed and throw handfuls of sand in their eyes, so that they jump out of their heads all bloody; and he puts them into a bag and takes them to the half moon as food for his little ones; and they sit there in the nest and have booked beaks like owls, and they pick naughty little boys’ and girls’ eyes out with them.” - Ernest T.W. Hoffman, The Sand-Man

I’ll admit, I have to read the story twice before I grasped the whole thing, but after I dissected it some and reflected on it…I couldn’t help but think of much this story reminded me of the stories/movies that I have seen about the Boogie Man.  I know, I know…you think I’m stretching huh?  Well hear me out:

1.       Nathaniel is tormented by a beast invented by his mother to make him go to bed at night, which obviously is when the Boogie Man (BM) makes his move.  Also, the myth of the Boogie Man is normally brought down through generation after generation by the parents telling their children his story by saying things like ‘if you don’t go to sleep the Boogie Man will come out,’ and ‘be careful when you walk in your room…he normally hides under your bed,’ you know, things of that nature.  I know that one time my dad actually hid under my bed and grabbed my ankles pretending to be him.  Yes, that’s the Wytovich spirit right there.

2.       In Hoffman’s piece, Nathaniel was so intrigued by the means of seeing the Sand-Man that he hid in a closet in his father’s room.  Now in the movie  The Boogie Man, the child gets locked in a closet and tormented by his demons thanks to our friend BM. He counts to tell slowly, and that is supposed to be how you make him go away.

3.       Another thing I found especially relatable was the fact that the supposed Sand-Man killed Nathaniel’s father in the beginning of the story, just like the BM slays both of the child’s parents in the beginning of the movie.

4.       Frankly, after noting some of these similarities right off from the beginning, I had a faint idea of how the story was going to end…in suicide. Clearly the circumstances are DRASTICALLY different here, and the plot is really in no way the same, but there is some distinct common ground between the two.

Ok, now that I got that off my chest, I wanted to talk to you guys about something I learned in my Media class last semester.  When I was reading this, specifically the part relating to Nathaniel’s relationship with Olympia (I personally liked the dead bride pun better!), it reminded me of the philosophical inquires of Edmund Burke.  Burke’s theories revolved around the sublime, especially when revolving the romantic, the obscure and the terrible/horror.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the dealings of the sublime, here are some base steps to break it down:

—  It’s beyond expression

—  It’s terrifying

—  It’s overwhelming

—  It’s at the limit of reason and expression

—  It’s beyond comprehension… but that in itself is comprehension

Also, here are some of the characteristics of being a romantic (these and the above are some of my notes from Dr. Wendland’s Topics in Media Aesthetics course):

 The Individual/Romantic self:

-Focuses on self expression; self exile, radical, no hierarchy

-Isolation: Can anyone really understand what I’m saying?  Desire to unite with a greater whole; go to nature for support, but does not mean that they want to lose themselves…this was the ecstasy of the individual connecting with themselves.

-Dynamic style of thought: restless contradictions, always asking questions, opposing forces was how they saw the world

-NOTE: The Romantic self was often a genius: gifted, rebellious, sensitive, tempestuous, and tormented; human striving, the attempt to be more than themselves; focus on the imagination.

In my opinion, I see Nathaniel as a romantic because he is withdrawn from his society based on his terrors and experiences as a child.  He grows up secluded on his own accord, and can never fully connect with someone because of his oppressed feelings of dread and deceit.  He seems to be very poetic (as romantics normally are) and often loses himself in his writing.  If you continue to do a character study and compare his traits with those I have listed above, I’m sure you will find countless similarities between the two.

With that said, I found it almost comical that he ended up “falling in love” (air quotes) with the robot, Olympia.  I think that he found her interesting because it seemed like he finally had someone that could understand him…simply because she knew not otherwise and could not speak…well much.  Finding out that she wasn’t human must have been a drastic plunge into depression/madness for him, because the world was now at opposing forces with one another once again.  Everything was obscure: his relationship with Olympia, the death of his father, the mysterious man Coppelius… where does one turn when the world makes no sense anymore? Madness. Suicide seemed the only way out for our character, which was also the path that most romantics typically chose.

 TheSandman91.jpg

"Don't you laugh when the hearse goes by!"

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“Don't you laugh when the hearse goes by or you will be the next to die!

They wrap you up in bloody sheets and then they bury you six feet deep!”

                                                                                                  -Anonymous

Pleasant… right? Well chances are, if you’re a horror junkie like the rest of us…you probably giggled a little when you read that.  Sure it’s gruesome, and morbid, but it’s also catchy and well…kind of cool.  And while we are on the topic of creepy, catchy, songs… check this one out! It’s my favorite! à Cannibal corpse lounge music

But on a more serious note, I really got a lot out of Katherine Ramsland’s article “The Psychology of Horror and Fantasy Fiction.”  In a way, it’s like everything clicked to me as to why I love this genre. I felt a connection with her when she wrote “As I grew up, I continued to feed this attraction by reading about vampires  (<3 )and witches, by sneaking out at night to play in the graveyard, or by sitting alone in the basement late at night to watch hair-raising movies about psychopathic killers.”  When I was younger, none of my friends liked scary movies or frankly, just being afraid… so I normally was on my own when it came to feeding my horror addiction.  I loved taking walks at night, and I still do. There is just something about the darkness and the light of the moon that just calms me down and lets me think. I also always ended up watching movies by myself because I was sick of people screaming and covering their eyes throughout the entire film, ha-ha!  I understood that not everyone could appreciate the genre, but I just couldn’t understand why.

There was one part in particularly that I wanted to comment on, as it revolves around a personal experience of mine.  Ramsland writes, “Her statement reveals a clue to a more subtle function of dark fantasy than just that of scaring ourselves: horror fiction springs from the urge to preserve ourselves from the social dynamics of uniformity and security, which can eclipse who we are as individuals just as surely as can the vampire who visits us in the night to suck the life out of us.  For many of us, horror is a means by which we can keep our fingers on the pulse of our own humanity.”

Now that quote was really relatable to me because of an experience I had about three years ago.  Here is my story: One day, I heard that the historical society was looking for tour guides up in Brownsville, and I decided to go check it out.  Long story, short… it was for a tour guide at Nemocolin Castle…which if you don’t know… is HaUnTeD! Needless to say, I took the job showing people around the house at night, and telling ghost stories by candlelight.  I honestly cannot even describe this experience, because it was that amazing.  Every night I was there something crazy would happen.  I have been locked in rooms, had doors slam behind my back, my candles all blown out when no windows/drafts were present.  I was part of a séance, and took pictures of orbs all throughout the house, and even took place in several actual ghost hunts while I was there.  And then every night when I walked down the cobblestone street to my car, heart racing and drenched in a cold sweat, I would ask myself… Why the hell do I put myself through this?  The answer obviously, was because I absolutely LOVED being afraid and having that adrenaline rush.  To me…getting stuck in the attic of the castle wasn’t that bad, as long as I got to experience something!I’m sure some people ‘will think me mad’ (ha-ha gotta throw some Poe in there), but as Ramsland states… “It is part of [my] nature to subject [myself] to horror.”

If anyone wants a full story about my experiences there...leave me a comment and I'll be more than happy to share! Happy hauntings!

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“True!-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?  The disease had sharpened my senses-not destroyed-not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth.  I heard many things in hell.  How, then am I mad?  Hearken! And observe how healthily-how calmly I can tell you the whole story.” -Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart.

                Talk about your strong introduction! I must admit that this very paragraph is what turned me on to horror in the first place.  I love that right from the start you are thrown into the story, and are automatically making your own assumptions/judgments about the narrator.   One also should notice the linguistics that he introduces us to right off from the start. He uses semicolons, commas, and his use of dashes, italics, and strategically worded vocabulary to further the reader’s awareness of the narrator’s ghastly, growing obsession. I also love that he mentions heaven and hell because in a way it correlates to the back and forth motion that represents sanity versus insanity.  For example, we clearly know that the narrator is mad, yet he/she is convinced that she’s/he’s not.  This confusion automatically grabs the reader’s attention and not only adds suspense but foreshadows the narrator’s grisly plot.

                The entire story is based on the obsession of the old man’s vulture-like eye (monomania I believe it’s called).  I thought Poe did a good job by showing the progression to obsessionàparanoiaà and rage, with the only solution being death. My favorite line to prove this would have to be: “Now this is the point.  You fancy me mad.  Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me.  You should have seen how wisely I preceded-with caution-with what foresight-with what dissimulation I went to work!”  It’s as if she/he can’t be mad because she/he used her/his intelligence to plan things out!   Typical serial killer incentive right there if you ask me.

                Being an avid reader of Poe, one of my favorite traits that he uses in his writing is italics. He uses them effectively throughout his works to help strengthen the tone.  I saw this piece performed last year, and when it is read out loud (with the addition of some theatrics) it’s absolutely amazing because no only do you see the narrator plunge into insanity, but you can hear it as well.

                All in all, I think that the narrator’s main flaw was her/his overconfidence.  She claims sanity, yet she dismembers the corpse, placed the remains under the floor, and then directs the police into his room, and places her/his chair right over the remains.  Then to concoct a story to go along with it, only to cry out your guilt in the end?  Sounds like our crazy narrator might have had a conscious (a disturbed one at that) somewhere deep down inside?

                After reading through the piece a couple of times (again!), I realized that my two favorite lines were: “…hellish tattoo of the heart…” and “ And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses.”  What are some of yours?

                I did however have two questions tumbling around in my head that I was wondering if you guys had any insight on.  I believe this particular obsession of one object is called monomania—do you guys know of any other stories where this is the source of the plot?  Also, in one of the lines about halfway through the story, Poe writes, “Yes, he was stone, stone, dead.”  Is this where the phrase stone dead came from?

 

Edgar_Allan_Poe_The_Tell-Tale_Heart_Cover2.jpg--Animated version of Edgar Allan Poe  : if you go o this page and click around on the site under the picture, and download the reel...you can see portions of the movie he's making.  It's really cool.

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edgar-allan-poe.jpg

-Nice pop/art version of him

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4s9V8aQu4c - Animation of the Tell-Tale Heart

http://www.eapoe.org/- The Edgar Allan Poe Society homepage

http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/government/historic/poehouse.php - His House and Museum in Baltimore

http://www.prairieghosts.com/eapoe.html- I heard about this when I went and saw a few of his pieces performed.  I’m not sure if any of it is true, but it’s a pretty creepy mystery none the less!

A Ghastly Greeting..

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Hey everyone!

I thought that I would write an introduction entry so everyone could get to know me a little bit, since we'll be spending quite a lot of time together this semester. Well.. were to start?  I'm an undergrad majoring in both Art History and English Literature, and I'm a complete horror junkie.  Books, graphic novels, movies, art...doesn't matter. I'm all over it! 

I must admit that I tend to gravitate towards vampires quite often, but I love psychological horror too like (Silence of the Lambs, and thrillers written by James Patterson). In fact, I just got done reading a twelve book series called Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan and it pretty much consumed like life for two weeks. But I must admit my two favorite authors would be James Patterson and Ann Rice, but I don't mind a classic Stephen King novel every once and a while.

I do aspire to be a novelist in the future, but I'm also working (slowly it seems) towards my Bachelors degrees and then my Ph.D. so I can teach at a university as well. I am currently working on a story which I'm pretty excited about, so we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!

Well.. as you can probably tell, I'm really excited for this class and I can't wait to meet all of you and see what you have to say.  Let's have an intense semester and bring on the horror!

Steph
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