A Leap of Death
Buffalo Courier Press photographer I. Russell Sorgi did a little impromptu ambulance chasing on his way back from another job. He wound up snapping photos of a woman standing on a ledge at the Geneese Hotel as she waved goodbye and started her fall to her death. He quickly reloaded his camera and caught the last second of her life, 15 feet above the cold sidewalk below. Her name was Mary Miller. There is something about seeing her frozen here in the middle of her last, irreversible action, a moment before her death, that is truly haunting.
On a creepy side note, this photograph was used in a psychological study and it was found that 96% of the people given the photo didn’t even notice her body caught mid-fall in the middle of the picture on their first examination of the shot. Did you?
The Horrifying Bat Flower
This flower is an incredibly unusual looking species, with its black bat-shaped flower. The flowers themselves can grown up to twelve inches across and the ‘whiskers’ that you can see are known to grow up to thirty inches. So why does it look like the Predator? Of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Because Mother Nature is just as likely to scare us as to entrance.
Altogether the bat flower is one of the spookier plants you will come across – something Morticia Adams might like to have in her conservatory. There is certainly something of the triffid about them too, but the fact is that the wild variety of this plant species can be found in the Yunnan Province of China. It is also found in Thailand and Burma.
Why Do We Fear Clowns?
Anyone who has read Stephen King’s It would probably never choose to decorate a children’s ward with clowns. And it probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University of Sheffield study of 250 children for a report on hospital design suggests the children find clown motifs “frightening and unknowable”. We don’t know what’s behind the mask.
One might suspect that popular culture is to blame. In It, made into a television movie in 1990, Stephen King created a child-murdering monster that appeared as a demonic clown. King’s It has sparked a slew of horror films over the past 20 years, known as “the killer clown” or “evil clown genre”.
The recurring theme in popular culture of the scary clown goes back at least as far as silent move star Lon Chaney Sr, who identified the spooky potential when he reportedly said, “There is nothing laughable about a clown in the moonlight.”
The place of the scary clown in mainstream popular culture can be seen in The Simpsons with Bart’s intonation of “can’t sleep, clown will eat me”. The phrase became an Internet meme and inspired the Alice Cooper song Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me. Even SpongeBob is afraid of clowns. In the Tunnel of Glove episode, SpongeBob and Pearl are in the dark after the ride has broken down. SpongeBob stammers, “It’s okay Pearl, it’s only the dark. There’s nothin’ scary about… the dark! It’s whats in the dark you gotta watch out for. Monsters, creeps, ghouls, CLOWNS, witches, werewolves, CLOWNS, crawly things, CRAWLY CLOWNS, those are the worst CRAWLY CLOWNS.”
And the real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who often dressed as a clown for neighborhood parties but was secretly killing young men and hiding their bodies in his basement, provides an unpleasant and sinister undertone to the clown theme.
If you search for fear of clowns on the Internet, the results will include plenty of sites referring to “coulrophobia” — an avid fear of clowns. You are not alone with your fear; just stay away from the crawly clowns.
A sensational trial in Germany in 1589 saw a man accused of making a deal with the devil, shape-shifting into a wolf, and killing 128 people, among other assorted gruesome crimes.
Known as the “Werewolf of Bedburg,” Peter Stubbe (or Stumpp) was executed on October 31, 1589, along with his daughter and mistress. As an example to others tempted by the devil’s offer of magical shape shifting garments, the execution was spectacularly horrific. The story was spread throughout Europe in a pamphlet describing the trial, torture, and death with relish. Then, as now, a story with a title like A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of One Stubbe Peeter, a Most Wicked Sorcerer sold like hotcakes, and the werewolf myth gained more ground in the popular mind.
After lurid accounts of his supposed crimes including assorted murders, acts of cannibalism, and the ripping of children from the wombs of their mothers, after which he “eate their hartes panting hotte and rawe,” his final execution was described thus:
…his body laide on a wheele, and with red hotte burning pincers in ten seue∣ral places to haue the flesh puld off from the bones, after that, his legges and Armes to be broken with a woodden Are or Hatchet, afterward to haue his head strook from his body, then to haue his carkasse burnde to Ashes.
Today there is debate over whether Stubbe was a spectacularly bad man — a serial killer of the day — or if perhaps the spate of deaths might in fact be blamed on actual, non-demonic, non-shifting wolves, or whether he simply found himself, like so many others, on the wrong side of an inquisitor’s political or religious agenda.
…So much more on the long, storied history of Wolves, Men, and Delicious Little Girls…
10 Best Horror Films to Watch on Halloween
More and more October has become defined by Halloween. It permeates through the month and has become everyone’s favorite non-holiday, holiday. So to help get you in the mood, here’s a list of ten horror movies to put you in the festive, and frightened, spirit.
- The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick was one of the most acclaimed filmmakers who ever lived, so there’s no wonder that he made one of the best horror film of all time. The sense of isolation conveyed by the wintry setting and Jack Nicholson’s performance as a crazed, homicidal family man are perfect. Watch it with the recent documentary Room 237 to hear about all the insane fan conspiracy theories and interpretations.
- Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Now, everybody should respect George Romero. He basically singlehandedly created a new kind of movie genre: the zombie movie. But, the original Dawn of the Dead is really boring and cheesy. The remake, the debut of Zack Snyder, is better made, more fast-paced and more terrifying. The first fifteen minutes alone are ridiculously intense, and – after our protagonists seek refuge from the zombie horde in a shopping mall – so is the rest.
- Halloween (1978) - You have to watch Halloween on Halloween. This little indie film about a masked psycho stalking babysitters in suburbia was a huge hit, and ushered in the slasher-movie boom of the 1980s. That said, Halloween is more spooky than gory. Michael Myers, capital-E Evil incarnate, has a phantom-like presence in every frame of this feature, and your quaint childhood neighborhood has never looked scarier.
- Friday the 13th (1980) - We’re still stuck in the woods, readers. Despite an absurd string of sequels, the original Friday the 13th is actually pretty good. Well, it’s not like good good – but still, watch it because it’s fascinating to see the humble beginnings of a (former) powerhouse franchise. Friday the 13th might not be much of a box-office powerhouse anymore, but the series left a huge, bloody mark on pop culture and film history. Also, Mrs. Voorhees is one bad mother.
- Phantasm (1979) - This is a goofy little movie about a kid and his brother who think the town’s mortician is reviving the dead to serve as his slaves on another planet. Ya know, one of those stories. The movie’s villain, the Tall Man, is iconic in the horror genre, and so is his weapon of choice: a metallic sphere that impales victims and sucks out their blood (see above). As the tagline says, if this film doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead, so watch out.
- The Descent (2005) - The claustrophobic and creepy story of six women who explore an unmapped cave – which itself is unsettling – who then get attacked by humanoid monsters. As you can tell from the poster, the filmmakers made sure to include plenty of red-dyed corn syrup.
- Suspiria (1977) - This is a bloody and beautiful work of art. Is that a weird thing to say about a cheesy-at-times horror movie about a coven of witches that secretly controls a dance academy? Probably. Dario Argento, a famed Italian horror director, approached Suspiria with the craftsmanship of a master Renaissance painter, and it shows. The plot doesn’t make much sense and the English dubbing is atrocious–none of that matters. Just watch it.
- Black Christmas (1974) - This proto-slasher about a foul-mouthed prank caller who terrorizes a sorority house on Christmas is the perfect transition from one holiday season to another. Have a very scary Christmas!
- The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - This is one of the best horror movies ever made about a cabin in the woods. Maybe not better than Evil Dead, but certainly better than Cabin Fever or On Golden Pond. As the poster illustrates, The Cabin in the Woods is about way more than just that. It’s a puzzle that twists its way to a delirious and blood-drenched conclusion. Oh, and it’s super funny, too.
- Scream (1996) - Like The Cabin in the Woods, Scream gets meta with its horror. With its introduction of the movie-loving Ghostface killer (not to be confused with Ghostface Killah), Scream revitalized the slasher genre in the mid-’90s. It also turns into a surprisingly good mystery.
Second Rare Oarfish Washes Ashore in Southern California
For the second time in a week, the rare, serpentine oarfish has surfaced on a Southern California beach.
Beach goers at Oceanside Harbor crossed paths Friday afternoon with the deep-sea monster when its carcass washed ashore, Oceanside Police Officer Mark Bussey said. The fish measured 13 ½ feet long. The discovery came just days after an 18-foot dead oarfish was found in the waters off Catalina Island.
“The call came out as a possible dead whale stranded on the beach, so we responded and saw the fish on the sand right as it washed up,” Bussey said.
Oceanside police then contacted SeaWorld San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Suzanne Kohin of NOAA Fisheries Serivice responded, measured and took possession of the oarfish for research, Bussey said. He further added that people on the beach were “flabbergasted” to see the fish.
“It’s not the typical fish you see on shore,” he said, adding the oarfish probably weighed over 200 pounds. The fish was far too big for Santana to carry alone; it took 15 people to bring the beast to shore.
But these two massive fish are puny by oarfish standards, according to the NOAA. The oarfish is the largest bony fish in the sea and can grow over 50 feet in length. Very little is known about the species, since it usually is found hundreds, if not thousands of feet below the surface, reaching depths up to 3,000 feet.
Animals Preserved by Salt, Not Killed by Deadly Lake
Lake Natron does not turn animals to stone and it did not “kill” these animals as reported by many websites. Lake Natron in Tanzania hosts beautiful wildlife. And for those animals that do become interred here, animals don’t immediately die and turn to stone upon touching the lake. Those that fall in and perish are exceptionally preserved by the salts that make the lake so unique, but the lake’s surface isn’t an aquatic equivalent of Medusa’s gaze.
Nick Brandt unexpectedly found the dead animals that had washed up on the shore, preserved by the high content of sale in the lake, and posed them as they had been in life. The photographs, taken between 2010 and 2012, appear in Brandt’s new book Across the Ravaged Land. The pictures are meant for art and not a statement of science.
Jaimi Butler, of the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College in Utah, said that on the shoreline of the northern arm of the Great Salt Lake can preserve animals in much the same way. She has found birds that are so encrusted in salt you can pick them up and they will stay in the same position they were lying in.
Thure Cerling, professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, said by email that the animals in Brandt’s photographs likely died of natural causes. Since there are few predators in the area, their bodies remain and become salt-encrusted when the lake’s water level drops.
The animals aren’t truly calcified, but are coated with sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate, said Cerling, who has researched the chemistry of Africa’s Rift Valley lakes. “There is almost no calcium in the lake, although the inflowing fresh waters have calcium, which precipitates as it mixes with the high-pH alkaline waters of the lake.”
Although the alkaline waters of Lake Natron are harsh, they are not lifeless. Even though the lake is particularly warm and salty, algae within the lake supports a species of tilapia adapted to the unusual conditions. In addition, three-quarters of the Earth’s flamingo population use Lake Natron as a breeding site because the water stays low enough to prevent nest flooding but remains high enough that there’s a barrier between predators and the conical nests the birds build.