Sunday, October 31, 2010

The 5 Days of Halloween: Day 5

Well, little creeps, it's finally here! The best day of the year! Time to warm up the cauldrons, dust off the broomsticks and unchain the ghosts in the basement. Happy Halloween!
Today I think I'll share my final list for you (at least this All Hallow's Eve). Now, I know some of you will disagree with Xemnu on this list. That's fine and dandy. But you're wrong! I've decided to feature the 5 Scariest Movies of All Time (That Xemnu has Seen).
So cozy up my little corpses! That's it, move a little closer...a little closer...there are Things out there, in the dark. And they're coming...for...YOU!

The 5 Scariest Movies of All Time (That Xemnu has Seen)
5. Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock was a master storyteller and this movie builds with a slow burn. From the beginning things aren't what they seem, and it only gets closer to the horrifying truth when Anthony Perkins and the Bates Motel enter the scene. This movie lingers long after it's over.

4. Alien (1979) - This movie holds a special place in Xemnu's heart, as it's the first real horror movie I watched all the way through. Some people would mistake this movie for a sci-fi flick. But, no, science fiction is merely the setting for this terrifying and claustrophobic look at H.R. Giger's most famous creation. In space, truly, no one can hear you scream!

3. Friday the 13th (1980) - Best. Slasher. Movie. EVER. They still haven't topped the creepiest sex-crazed, gore-flavored teen slasher flick. And probably won't.

2. Halloween (1978) - Okay, maybe this is the best slasher movie. EVER. Still John Carpenter's best horror movie (although The Thing comes pretty damn close), the master storyteller knows how to spin a tale of the Nameless Shambling Horror. Except his name is Michael Myers. Still gives a good scare after all these years.

1. The Exorcist (1973) - This is the only movie on this list I didn't see until adulthood. And let me tell you it creeps the hell out of me. I was afraid to walk into a dark room for two days after I saw this and just watching the trailer gives me goosebumps. If any of you have any doubts about an afterlife, and what might be waiting for you...don't play with a Ouija board. No, seriously, don't do it. But do watch this movie.

Well, that about does it, creeps. Next year we'll do some different stuff. Until then be safe and enjoy yourself tonight. Tomorrow Xemnu is going to take a break, but I'll be back with more goodies the day after.
Trick or treat, boys and ghouls!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 5 Days of Halloween: Day 4

It's day 4, creeps! How about some more interesting Halloween stuff, eh?
How about some Halloween trivia.

  • Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death.
  • Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • Pumpkins also come in white, blue and green. Great for unique monster carvings!
  • Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
  • Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
  • The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
  • Halloween candy sales average about 2 billion dollars annually in the United States.
  • Chocolate candy bars top the list as the most popular candy for trick-or-treaters with Snickers #1.
  • Halloween is the 2nd most commercially successful holiday, with Christmas being the first.
  • Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
  • Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.
  • Signs of a werewolf are a unibrow, hair palms, tattoos, and a long middle finger.
  • Vampires are mythical beings who defy death by sucking the blood of humans.
  • In 1962, the Count Dracula Society was founded.
  • To this day, there are vampire clubs and societies with people claiming to be real vampires.
  • There really are so-called vampire bats, but they're not from Transylvania. They live in Central and South America and feed on the blood of cattle, horses and birds.
  • Many people still believe that gargoyles were created by medieval architects and stone carvers to ward off evil spirits.
  • Halloween is on October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar. It was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back to over 2000 years ago.
  • If you see a spider on Halloween, it is the spirit of a loved on watching over you.
  • Worldwide, bats are vital natural enemies of night-flying insects.
  • The common little brown bat of North America has the longest life span for a mammal it's size, with a life span averaging 32 years.
  • In about 1 in 4 autopsies, a major disease is discovered that was previously undetected.
  • The Ouija Board ended up outselling the game of Monopoly in its first full year at Salem. Over two million copies of the Ouija Board were shipped.
Tomorrow is it, creepers. The Big Day. I'll have my own, special list for you the. Until then, keep yourself content with these interesting places to visit:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The 5 Days of Halloween: Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 here at Xemnu. Today we're going to focus on cartoons! I am admittedly a cartoon junkie, so it's only fitting to provide you a list of (my) Top 10 Halloween (or related) Cartoons. Enjoy!

10. Flying Sorceress (Tom and Jerry) - 1956

9. Trick or Treat (Donald Duck) - 1952

8. Transylvania 6-5000 (Bugs Bunny) - 1963

7, Vincent (Tim Burton) - 1982

6. Bewitched Bunny (Bugs Bunny) - 1954

5. Night on Bald Mountain (Fantasia) - 1940

4. The Halloween Tree (Ray Bradbury) - 1993

3. Treehouse of Horror (The Simpsons) - 1990 to the present

2. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Disney) - 1949

1. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Charles Schultz) - 1966

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 5 Days of Halloween: Day 3

Welcome, creepers! So glad to have you back on day 3. Now that your appetite is whet, are you finally getting in the mood for Halloween?
On day 1 we talked a little about the symbolism of Halloween, specifically about the Jack O'lantern. But did you ever wonder why we get candy? Why we go door to door and trick...or treat?
Times were much simpler when Xemnu was a little monster-tot, let me tell you. Each Halloween I'd dress in my best costume and march out the door with a bag (or pillowcase, on those years I felt particularly ambitious), usually with a parent or older brother. It was a different time. A time when you'd easily see 50 or even 100 kids in your neighborhood Trick-or-Treat-ing. And almost everyone had their porch light on so you'd know there would be candy. By the bucketful.
Now, sadly, it's usually community-sponsored 'events' like a trunk-or-treat where parents can shove their little tykes through a cattle conveyor for candy. It makes me a little sad and it takes away some of the magic from the holiday. But I digress.
Curious myself, I found a nice and succinct history, if you will, of how and why we came to trick-or-treat on Halloween at

Obvious similarities suggest at least a notional link between the present-day Halloween custom of wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating and the medieval practices of "mumming" and "going a-souling" on the eve of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2). Mumming took the form of wearing costumes, chanting or singing, play-acting, and general mischief making, while souling entailed going door to door and offering prayers for the dead in exchange for treats, particularly "soul cakes."
Another possible antecedent was the British custom, dating from the 1600s, of youths wearing masks and carrying effigies while begging for pennies on Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night), the November 5 commemoration of the so-called Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605.
Interestingly enough, though, by the mid-1800s when Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America, the customs of mumming and souling were all but forgotten in most of Great Britain. Americans by and large had no idea who Guy Fawkes was, let alone why anyone should go begging for "pennies for the Guy." And despite the fact that whatever was left of the October 31 observance had somehow achieved a permanent spot on the American holiday calendar by the turn of the 20th century, there's no mention in published sources of "trick-or-treating" or anything resembling it before 1939.
One does find mention — many mentions, in fact — of unrestrained pranksterism and vandalism in connection with Halloween festivities in America from the late 1800s on, thus one current theory holds that trick-or-treating was contrived by adults to provide an orderly alternative to juvenile mischief.
Whatever its precise origins, trick-or-treating was an established Halloween tradition by the 1940s and remains so to this day.
And that's about as good an explanation as we're going into for today! Hang around creeps! We're almost there!

Links of Interest: - a website devoted to Disney's Haunted Mansion attraction.
In case you needed to know what a zombie apocalypse is. Here is how to survive it.
The complete movie Night of the Comet on Youtube.
The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombi, by Wade Davis. At Amazon.

The 5 Days of Halloween: Day 1, Part 2

Okay. This is an emergency update! I just found this incredible footage of what appears to be (are you ready?) someone talking on a cell phone at the premiere of a Charlie Chaplin movie in 1928!
Since this is sufficiently weird, I thought it certainly belonged on the blog. Watch the video and decide for yourself. It sort of defies logic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The 5 Days of Halloween: Day 1

Welcome to my first annual celebration of Halloween! I'm glad you joined us. Shove a corpse out of the way and get's time to chew the fat.
Like the other big holidays (namely Thanksgiving and Christmas), Halloween is easily recognizable by the visual language we've developed for it. Pop culture icons of horror, such as the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Wolfman are chiefly synonymous with the celebration as are witches, ghosts, goblins, black cats and creepy, chain-rattling nameless beasts from the Netherworld.
But, to put a face on it, the arguably most recognizable participant in the Halloween festivities is the Jack O'Lantern.
Why, exactly, do we carve out the guts (to make awesomely delicious pie, I might add), cut out hideously terrifying (or silly, or creepy, et. al.) faces in these orange vegetables, fill them with fire and set them precariously close to toddlers and children garbed in super-flammable, department-store costumery? Read on my faithful creepers.
The History of Jack O'Lantern
While there is a long tradition of using vegetables as lanterns in Europe (those crazy Europeans), it wasn't until 1866 that the pumpkin and the jack o'lantern became distinctly associated with Halloween. The pumpkin was in fact associated with the harvest season in general. So the celebration and the pumpkin seem to go hand in hand.
The Folklore
Irish folklore features a character by the name of Stingy Jack, who supposedly captured the Devil with a cross. Long story short, the Devil offered not to take Stingy Jack's eternal soul in exchange for release. When Stingy Jack dies, he's been so bad he's not going to Heaven and Hell can't take him because of his deal with the Devil. Eternally doomed to wander the earth and find his way in the dark, the Devil offers Jack a never-dying ember to see by. Jack quickly carves out a turnip (his favorite food) as a lantern for the ember. Endlessly wandering he became known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack O'Lantern.
Yeah. Real uplifting.
The Reality
Really, the term 'jack o'lantern' originally meant night watchman, or man with a lantern. There are variations on the story, but perhaps the most interesting is one in which the Devil takes Jack's head. Jack then uses a carved pumpkin as a substitute. Which brings me to our next section. Walk this way.
Popular Culture
Well, ol' Jack gets around, doesn't he? From the Headless Horseman to Jack Skellington, the jack o'lantern is the de facto symbol of Halloween. Witches, black cats, nameless shambling hordes of the undead...these all pale in comparison to the awesome might of the flame-filled carved gourd. Seriously, just try and deny it. I dare you.

Links of Interest:

Halloween is coming...

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I mean, what's bad about dressing up like a monster, scaring people and foraging for as much candy as your gluttonous stomach can hold? Am I right?
To celebrate this favorite of favorite holidays, I'm posting a series of special Halloween-related blogs over the next few days. Let's call it The Five Days of Halloween, shall we?
To get you in the mood, I thought I'd ramp things up with some YouTube goodness. Whet your appetite while I go troll the dungeons for the goodies. Trick or treat, indeed!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A strange thing happened...

...the other day. But first a little history.
I've mentioned my brother before and how his stack of horror comics and magazines heavily influenced (some would say for the worse) my childhood and outlook on life. As a kid I remember absolutely loving this one story about a elementary school boy who believes his father is a vampire. For years and years I couldn't remember the name of the story, the title of the magazine it was in or even what the cover looked like. I knew it was black and white and probably one of the Warren horror mags from the sixties or seventies.
Then, the other day, I decided to use Google and search for the exact story. 'Lo and behold...I found it!
"There's a Blood Sucker Among Us!" was published in the May, 1971 issue of Voodoo Tales magazine. The inside blurb read: 'A spine-snapping creepy saga of a school teacher and a pupil who's father is a vampire!'
Without further ado, from May, 1971..."There's a Blood Sucker Among Us!"

The End...of the Beginning!

I'm going to shake up the lineup a little for everyone. Mostly for myself. I find it much easier to blog on a regular basis if it's about something I find interesting all the time. Since the internet ate me whole, and I now have tons of subjects I'm interested in, I'll be posting more general topics.
Like the title tag says, I'll still focus on comics, strangeness and pop culture shock. I just won't limit myself (or any readers) by focusing so narrowly.
I'll also try to update with new posts regularly: three or four times a week at least; ideally every day. Over the course I'll begin adding new features and information for everybody, eliminating what doesn't work and trying new things. This is a work in progress!
For now I'll give you a taste of what I'm talking about: NAZI UFO's! Were they real? Is it all a hoax? Look at the information and decide for yourself.
Keep watching the skies...

Nazi UFO's - HERE!