As it exists today, 70 years after it was liberated by Soviet troops.
Monday, January 26, 2015
"Rather like a spider, Damian is equal parts captivating, terrifying, and a disruption of the everyday expectations." - Dylan Scott
Just did an interview for the HauntHead blog, in which I discuss (among other things) Haunting, horror films, body suspension, and the merits of Hannibal Lecter as a role model.
Check it out here:
Just did an interview for the HauntHead blog, in which I discuss (among other things) Haunting, horror films, body suspension, and the merits of Hannibal Lecter as a role model.
Check it out here:
Friday, January 23, 2015
Recently, I posted a musical creation of mine on YouTube. I combined together the American folk song "O Death" (specifically, the Ralph Stanley cover from the soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and the dark ambient piece "To Dust" by Psychomanteum. I had originally created this for a haunt soundtrack, but seeing as I never actually got to use the track in the haunt, I thought I would post it here for you, Specters. I hope you like it!
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I now have the privilege of presenting this interview with August and Pandora Rose of Darkrose Manor, a haunt located near Denver, CO. I had first become aware of the Manor after seeing it featured on Pumpkinrot's blog. I followed the haunt over the next several years, but DRM really grabbed me by the balls upon releasing the video of its 2013 haunt - Glaschielverto. I have a minor obsession with caves and the idea of underground dwellings, so seeing that years incarnation of the Manor was nothing short of mind-blowing. I maintained regular contact with the Roses throughout 2014, eagerly awaiting updates of that years undertaking - "Dark Carnivale of the Twisted Poppets". The result of which was the best damn version of the dark carnival theme I have ever seen. In November, I contacted the Roses about doing this interview, and they graciously agreed. We originally did it over the phone; however, due to a series of technical screw ups on my part, the audio was lost. However, the Roses were kind enough to re-do the interview via email. And so, after many delays, I now present An Interview with the dark minds behind Darkrose Manor:
1. First things first: What is Darkrose Manor?
Darkrose Manor started as a yard haunt. When we decided we wanted to actually attempt to do something more creative and, well, less ‘cheesy’, we assumed it would need a name as well. After much deliberation (and Pandora’s insistence that it include ‘Manor’), we agreed to go with Darkrose, which has a story of its own…. DRM has since grown into something more than just a haunt. The Manor is not only the house we live in, it is also the setting for the first back-story. Moreover, it has become the place in which all of our artistic passions and projects now reside.
2. Tell me about yourselves: just a little background info on yourselves?
We feel we are a little strange, to say the least. Regardless of how we’ve earned income in the past or today, we consider ourselves artists on many levels. We draw, sculpt, write, sing, dance, etc. We’ve worked many types of jobs, been part of several types of communities, lived all over the country, met and befriended many different people. We’ve had children, but our personal time spent as parents has been seriously limited…. When we eventually became a couple, it was like the whole world changed. In each other, we found that not only did we feel acceptance, but also we discovered ways to engage and draw out even more….
3. How did you initially get into Halloween?
In our past, we were both part of the Gothic scene. As you’d expect, we have always had a passion for things that had a ‘darker’ tinge to them. Halloween has always been that one holiday that speaks to those elements. We used to go to the clubs, and any chance we got (but especially at Halloween) we would dress up in costumes. We have always enjoyed that. When we decided to get married, it seemed right for us to do it on Halloween. It’s been our holiday all along.
4. What was it that made you initially want to start a haunt in 2007?
The simple answer is nothing. We had never decorated before. In 2007, we had entered a costume contest with some pretty elaborate costumes, but this was a week or so before Halloween. On Halloween day, August was at work. We had absolutely no plans for the night. Pandora had gone to the store for some things and had seen all of these silly decorations on clearance. On a whim, she bought a lot of them, came home, and went crazy putting them up on the porch and out in the yard. It was a surprise to August when he came home and saw all of this. It was definitely ‘cheesy’, but it was just so much that it just made us feel good inside. We sat out on the porch in minimal costumes (the witch and the vampire) with a bowl of candy, and despite the fact that we didn’t get even one TOT (that house was in a neighborhood that didn’t have a lot of kids), we had a great time together.
5. Between 2007 and 2008, your haunt really went from zero to 60! What inspired that?
As we sat on the porch that night and talked, we discussed how silly everything looked. Our artistic hearts and our innate drive, if you will, to do things bigger and better (costumes, for example) led us to think about how we could actually decorate for Halloween without it looking ‘stupid’. We had never heard of home haunting before, but the conversations that night and the next morning led us to the internet to research ideas and inspirations. It didn’t take long to find out that home haunting was a real thing and that there were forums, etc where people shared ideas, stories, and resources. So, in essence, we simply made the decision to do a home haunt the next Halloween. Taking cues from others, adding our own flair to the ideas, we spent only about a month or so the following summer/fall building all of our props and writing a back-story. Darkrose Manor was born.
6. How did you feel when you first discovered the Haunting community?
When we decided to costume the house instead of ourselves, among the reasons was that we had begun to drift away from the scene somewhat. We had begun to feel a little isolated. The forums had a way of making us feel more included in something again. It certainly didn’t take long to figure out that haunters were a special group of people. As the years went on, the forums led us to the YouTube and Facebook communities. There has always been some drama, etc, but for the most part the haunter community as a whole is one of kindness, caring, and mutual support. To this day, most of our true friends are haunters because of that.
7. 2008 seems to have been a very traditional-style haunt. Can you talk about that?
Well, as we said, our research on how to decorate for Halloween showed us more of the traditional. It only seemed natural to do the jack-o-lantern, spider web, tombstone, witch, graveyard kind of thing. We wanted to do it ‘right’…at least at that time….
8. Tell me about 2009 - Swamp Witch?
In 2009, we bought the house we currently live in, and it has a huge backyard. Although DRM ’08 only had about 50 TOT’s, we knew we had created something special. In true Rose fashion, we, like so many others, felt we could expand on it. We not only made the decision to haunt again, in our new home, but also to include the backyard. We made more props, but we didn’t really expand the back-story or unify the whole thing within one theme. We definitely feel we learned some lessons that year. We realized, for us anyway, that everything needed to be consistent. We felt it was just a series of scenes that didn’t really work together—a mish-mash of stuff. That, combined with several snow storms that delayed builds and set-up, left us feeling like we weren’t succeeding the way we wanted. We even almost cancelled the whole thing, but we pulled it together the best we could. The actual run nights saved haunting for us. Our new neighborhood had figured out what we were doing. New friends rallied around us. The attendance that year just blew us away. Mama Rose had caught the haunt bug herself that year and has been a major part of it since. We weren’t real thrilled with our production, but the lessons learned, the new directions we were only beginning to understand, etc, led us once again to conversations, ideas, and new commitments.
9. 2010 was very Sleepy Hollow-esque, with a new walkthrough section. What can you tell me about that year?
The lessons learned in 2009 were not wasted on us. And, like so many, Pumpkinrot had a major impact on us. We made the decision to only haunt the front yard, but we also decided to change the theme. We left the graveyard out of it when we came up with what we called an homage to Rot. We wrote the second back-story to explain and describe it. By expanding the story to include Darkrose Hollow, we had a theme that we could stick to, and by concentrating solely on the front yard, we were able to spend more time on the details, new props, and even ‘structures’. We were able to enjoy it more as we ourselves became immersed in something meant to be immersive. We went to great lengths to make sure that all of the normal disappeared from our haunt. August even ended up writing an essay about what we decided to call art-haunting. DRM ’10 was a watershed year for us. We knew we would never do the same haunt from year to year. We knew that we would redouble our efforts to detail everything. We felt we had come into our own by developing a DRM style, so to speak.
10. 2011 seems to have been inspired by old Hollywood-style movie cemeteries, like you would see in the Universal Monster movies. What made you go in this direction after the past years more “traditional” themes?
Having put the graveyard away in 2010, but also having done what we did in 2010, we felt that the next year would be an opportunity to revisit the original Manor theme, which is rather ‘traditional’, and make it better, or at the very least something more in line with that DRM style we felt we had created. We refurbished our first props, utilized structures again, and once more detailed the hell out of it. We also included actors (outside of us and Mama) for the first time. Our niece and youngest daughter played large roles within the haunt, and several friends and family also played characters or served as DRM’s first Security Team. Our numbers had grown so large since 2009 (we’ve had as many as 2000 come through our yard) we knew we needed help, and we got it. Our reputation had grown as well. More people helped by building, contributing materials, spreading the word, etc. DRM had really ceased to be just a haunt by now. It was a phenomenon. It was a family. It was an idea, a goal, a process; and yet….
11. 2012 Was pretty scaled back from years previous; what was the reason for this?
Haunting, especially at the extremes, costs money. 2012 wasn’t the best year for us financially. There were personal things that happened that year as well. We never even contemplated the idea that it was okay to take a year off, but we also knew we wouldn’t be able to do it that year in a way that would make us feel satisfied. We thought we were done; we really did. However, on Halloween night, we took a cue from our past and thought we would just put out a couple of things, sit on the porch with a bowl of candy, and enjoy the night. Well, a couple of things turned into more and more things. We had props, so we just kept grabbing things from the garage. We only spent the day doing it, but by the time we were done, we felt we had done enough to not totally disappoint the neighborhood. (Many were kind of sad we weren’t doing the haunt that year.) Ironically, the scaled-down version of 2010 seemed to be just as special to us and everyone else as the larger haunts.
12. 2013’s Ice Cave was INSANE! I have never seen a haunt like that before! It was also pretty elaborate! What is the story behind this haunt?
Ah, 2013…! Well, 2013 was not much better in the financial aspect. We knew we would do something for Halloween, but we figured it would also be scaled back like 2012, only a different theme. We considered some ideas, one of which would center on webs and ice. We never really settled on anything though and even felt kind of dismayed about the whole thing. And then, as fate would have it, we were contacted and asked if we’d like to be part of a TV show about haunting. Long story short, this ignited the fire within us and Mama. In a way, we admit we were blinded by the stars in our eyes. Mama primarily funded the haunt that year to a massive degree. We still didn’t fully know what our theme was or how it fit into the larger narrative of DRM. We kind of liked the icy web idea and eventually revisited some of our own arts and writings on other subjects. Instantly, we knew. We would expand the back-story to include characters and settings from all of our once disparate arts and create a larger world in which they could all live together. We went all the way back to the costumes/characters we came up with for that last costume contest in 2007 and set about building the world of the Glaschielverto. It was no small undertaking, but we were revitalized as haunters and felt we had something new. Oddly enough, the TV show potential was also a big part of why we started vlogging that year. The show never happened, but DRM was reborn.
|The Glaschielverto Throne Room|
13. 2014 was the year the Carnival came to town. Walk me through this year’s haunt? What did this year's haunt consist of?
Oddly enough, we’re not huge fans of circus haunts, clowns, etc, but having ventured into the realms of using our own arts as haunt concepts led us straight back to the world in which the Glaschielverto lived. Pandora had also always thought about an Alice in Wonderland sort of haunt, though August wasn’t really into that. The eventual compromise landed squarely and naturally on the Twisted Poppets, the one-of-a-kind art dolls that Pandora creates. August had written a back-story for them years ago and with some revisions and additions, we had a full-blown concept that just happened to be a dark carnivale. This year also included being contacted by a TV show, only this one got to the point of being cast for it. In the end, we obviously decided to not be on the show for our own reasons, but at first we knew we were going to have to go all out. We had so many ideas, and we knew we had a ton of props, materials, people, and help. We even agreed finally that we would expand the haunt into the backyard again and, as if that weren’t enough, use the garage as well. In some ways, we felt we were redeeming ourselves for our failures in 2009. In the end, our patrons walked through a portion of the dead woods of Bramblerose Brook, the land of the Glaschielverto and the Briar faeries, and came upon the carnivale itself. They entered the funhouse maze which included mirrors, stripes, checkers, strobes, etc. As they left that dizzying area, they came into the apothecary and oddities shop from which they exited into the webby, spidery, tunnel area that is just one part of Darkrose Hollow. Once they went through that they came fully into the Midway of the Carnivale. In this area, they saw the façade of Darkrose Manor itself, the carnivale’s pavilion area, haunted house, and fortune teller’s tent. This area was also home to the vardo that was Max’s home and the broken doll factory as well as the main stage upon which the Twisted Poppets perform. As they left the midway by walking through the overgrown haunted house, they came upon the freak show and games booths and the gypsy vardo/stage. They exited finally through the Rotten Candy Lady Tent. And most importantly, our oldest daughter, Ali, and her bestie, Victoria, were able to be a part of it this year. Meaning that, in the end, all of our family have now participated in the haunt over the years. We accomplished every goal we could have, as home haunters…
|The Dark Carnivale|
14. You say you wanted to go more “adult” with this year’s haunt. What do you mean by that?
Over the years, we had said we were kid-friendly. We didn’t have blood, gore, etc. We felt that the Poppets theme was going to have to be a little more gruesome and, well, possibly risqué. We never actually did anything that was too inappropriate for children; we just wanted to make sure everyone was aware upfront that it was possible the final production could make it more ‘adult’ in nature. We also had begun to feel that the DRM style and directions we were going were leading us to include more burlesque themes and to become more interactive with our patrons. However we move into the future, DRM will be decisively more ‘adult’….
|The Twisted Poppets|
15. You have created a very elaborate mythology for the haunt. Could you explain a bit about the mythology, and what exactly the Manor itself is?
Without retelling all of the back-stories we can say this. We have combined all of our own stories, creations, books, poems, and every other part of our artistic expressions into one world. This world includes faeries, elves, monsters, witches, vampires, werewolves, humans and so on. The primary landscapes are Bramblerose Brook, wherein live the faeries, pixies, and elves; and Darkrose Hollow, which is where the surviving witches, pumpkin creatures, etc all live. The borderland between these two is an even more magical place, in and of itself, where many a strange folk and creatures coalesce and where even stranger things happen. Darkrose Manor, the home itself, sits within Darkrose Hollow. Obviously we live in the Manor, now and always. Darkrose Manor is our home. And again, it is also the repository of all of our combined passions, arts, and creativity.
16. You incorporate a lot of fantasy themes into your haunts, whereas most haunts stick to traditional horror themes, such as ax murderers and zombies. What was your inspiration behind doing this?
Like we said, DRM became more than a haunt to us. It became everything. Without taking anything away from the more traditional haunts, we just figured out that the only way for us to continue to be inspired and feel that personal sense of fulfillment and satisfaction was to always expand and create something unique.
17. What are your biggest sources of creative and artistic inspiration?
This is tough to answer briefly. We don’t want to merely list the names of people, movies, or music because inevitably a few would be inadvertently left out. There are so many. Suffice it to say, we have a dark side. Our creations always seem to express that side of us. Fantasy, the supernatural, the maligned…the twisted…is just who we are….
18. Every year you guys work with a different charity through your haunt. What are some of the different charities you’ve worked with?
We’ve only affiliated ourselves with charities this one year, 2014. Horizon Middle School is our community’s school which is just up the street. The principal and the faculty have always been so supportive and helpful to us. Stop CMV just has that personal connection.
19. I know that the charity work you did this year had much personal meaning. Would you care to talk about it?
This is hard to talk about. The website includes most everything you could need to know. We can say that we felt it important to use our reputation and our events to give back something positive because that is also who we are….
20. I know that the Manor has faced much adversity over the years. What can you tell me about that?
We have been privileged that the haunt itself has not had to experience much adversity. Most people have been accepting and supportive, and we are grateful for that. It is true that in 2014, Both the city and the HOA became concerns for the first time. DRM was vandalized and experienced some drama that was more personal in nature. We, the owners and individuals, have experienced adversity and hardships, but we are not alone in that. We all do at one point or another, and we all survive. Our friends, and the haunt community, stand by one another and assist one another in ways like we’ve never experienced elsewhere. We are proud to be a part of that community.
21. I know you’ve said this is Darkrose Manor’s last year as a home haunt. Will the Manor live on in a new form, perhaps as a pro haunt?
22. What themes do you see yourself tackling with the Manor down the road, if indeed it does rise from the grave?
In a word, coined by one of our own DRM family members: Macabaret. We intend to continue exploring and creating the fully immersive, fantasy world that is DRM.
|More Twisted Poppets|
23. If you weren’t involved with haunting, what would you be doing to fill the void?
We hope we never have to find out…. It will be simultaneously sad and relieving to not home haunt in 2015, but we are always working on DRM, so there is no void. We’ll continue to create in one form or another, always.
24. If someone said to you they wanted to be a Haunter, what advice would you give them?
This is also tough because there are so many levels of haunting. I guess we’d start by having them ask themselves this question: Why do you want to haunt? The answer to that question ultimately decides everything. Beyond that, the advice from DRM is know what you’re doing and why, be true to yourself, and stay positive no matter what.
25. Any questions you wish I had asked?
Just one: Can I move to Colorado and join the DRM family? The answer to that would be ‘Absolutely!’
26. Where can people go to get more information about the Manor?
A big thank you to August and Pandora for agreeing to do the interview. If you haven't done it, go check out their site and their haunt videos. You won't be disappointed! DRMFL!
Monday, January 19, 2015
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
WARNING: This article contains graphic images and descriptions of violence. If you are at all squeamish, look away now. You have been warned.
"Half the cops in LA are looking for you." "Only half?"
- from The Blue Dahlia, 1946
It was 1947 in Los Angeles, California. The dying years of the Golden Age of Hollywood. WWII had been over for almost two years, and America was enjoying an economic boom that would last over 20 years. The end of the war also had an effect on Hollywood: it was during this time, as weary war veterans returned shaken, haunted, and hardened by the horrors of WWII that a new film genre was born that combined streetwise cynicism and a nihilistic worldview with the the detective yarn and German Expressionist style. That genre: Film Noir, a genre which centered around cynical detectives, shadowy criminal underworlds, femme fatales, and murder most foul. It was January 15th of 1947 that these obsessions of the genre seem to have brutally launched into the real world. The infamous Black Dahlia Murder captured the public's attention, and it has never ceased to instill a morbid fascination in people's minds. Hollywood's favorite themes - sex and violence - were united by the media spectacle of a grisly, never solved murder, that seemed to some up Hollywood's darker side: obsession with youthful beauty, the desire to be rich and famous, the exploitation of the naive, and the morbid celebrity of martyrdom. Edgar Allan Poe had said "The most poetical topic in the world is the death of a beautiful woman." While there is nothing "poetic" about murder, Poe's words cannot help but linger over this ghastly crime.
Born on July 29, 1924, Elizabeth "Bette" Short was born in Boston, the third of five daughters. Her father, Cleo Short, built mini golf courses until the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which left the family impoverished. In 1930, his car was found parked on a bridge. It was believed he committed suicide; only later did Short discover her father was alive and living in California. Short spent much of her childhood at the local Medford, Mass. movie theater, watching all the latest Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger movies, along with Gone with the Wind, a film that left a big impression on young Elizabeth, and started her dreaming of Hollywood stardom.
At 19, Short moved in with her father in LA, who was by then working at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. After an "altercation" left her own, she found employment at Camp Cooke, where she caught the romantic attention of many a young soldier (she was voted the "camp cutie"). In 1943 she was arrested in a Santa Barbra bar for underage drinking and sent home to Massachusetts.
|Elizabeth Short's mugshot|
"I'm so much in love, I'm sure it shows. He is so wonderful, not like other men, And he asked me to marry him."
|Major Matthew Michael Gordon, Jr.|
When the Japanese surrendered on August 14, 1944, Short, having returned to her hometown of Medford, began excitedly planning her wedding to Gordon down to the last detail, convinced he would longer ran the risk of being shot down by enemy fighters. But it was not to be; Short received a telegram from Gordon's mother informing her that he had been killed in a crash on his return from India. Short sunk into a deep depression. Finally, she packed her bags with a copy of Gordon's obituary and returned to Miami.
In 1946 Short returned to LA to visit Lt. Joseph Gordon Fickling, an old boyfriend she had met in Florida; he was then stationed at NARB, Long Beach. For the six months prior to her murder, Short remained mostly in the LA area. She lived in a two-bedroom apartment with eight other women, mostly other out-of-towners. She was described as being seen with a different boyfriend every night, and one roommate described as "Always going out to prowl Hollywood Blvd." She kept no close friends, and preferred not to keep someone's company for too long.
|Robert "Red" Manley, submitting to a lie detector test.|
The last person to see her alive was 25-year-old married salesman Robert "Red" Manley, who saw her out walking alone at night in San Diego and offered her a lift home. On January 8th, 1947, upon losing her living quarters, Short and Manley spent the night at a local motel but according to Manley, Short slept in her clothes and the pair did not have sex. The next day he drove her to LA and helped her check her luggage at the bus stop. She told him she was going to see her sister in Berkley, whom she said was staying at the Biltmore Hotel, the largest and most glamorous hotel west of Chicago, exactly the short of place Short liked to hang out at. It was there that Elizabeth Short was last seen before her week-long disappearance, only to reappear in dirt lot in Hollywood.
On January 15th, 1947, housewife Betty Bersinger was down a residential street in central LA with her three-year-old daughter when she saw what she thought was a broken department store mannequin lying in the grass of a vacant lot. Upon further inspection of the pale figure, she realized that is was in fact the horribly mutilated corpse of a young woman. Terrified, Bersinger fled to a nearby house and called the police. Police arrived at the scene fairly quickly. The body of the woman was unrecognizable; she had been neatly cut in half at the waist, the intestines piled neatly under the buttocks. Rope marks on the wrists and ankles indicated she had been tied up, and possibly tortured. The body had been scrubbed clean of blood and positioned in the lot, with the upper and lower have a foot apart, arms raised above the head, legs spread wide in an obscene mockery of seduction. In the most memorably macabre detail, the mouth had been slashed into a Glasgow Grin.
40 cops descended on the neighborhood, only to find the crime scene being trampled by hoards of onlookers and rubberneckers. After fending the crowds off, they began scowering the neighborhood for any clues they could find. They discovered that her father, Cleo Short, lived a mere three miles from the vacant lot, though he said he hadn't spoken to his daughter in three years. Still angry at her about her "lifestyle", he refused to identify her body. At the coroner's office, more horrifying details emerged: it was determined that Short was killed by massive internal hemorrhaging due to severe blows to the head. It appeared that she had been sodomized after her death, though no traces of sperm were found anywhere on the body. In a truly stomach churning detail, they discovered her stomach was filled with human feces. The sheer level of sadism and depravity in the murder staggered the imaginations of those working the case.
Once the murder hit newsstands, more than 50 men and women confessed to the crime, ranging from outright lunatics to attention seekers. The FBI was inundated with letters to J. Edgar Hoover, trying to frame enemies of the letter writers for the crime. William Randolph Hearst's newspapers immediately sensationalized the case, picking up on Short's nickname "The Black Dahlia" after interviewing a co-worker of Short's at a drugstore (it was a play on the 1946 film noir The Blue Dahlia). Someone (possibly the killer) mailed to the Examiner a package containing Short's birth certificate, Social Security card, and Matt Gordon's obituary, along with an address book containing the names of 75 men. The contents of the package had been soaked with gasoline so as to remove fingerprints. All of the men were investigated, but gave the same story - they gone on a date with Short, but ended when it become apparent she wasn't interested in a physical relationship. The list of suspects grew enormously, ranging from acquaintances to doctors to a sleazy burlesque theater owner to an "alcoholic drifter named Jack Anderson Wilson" (though there is little proof to back the claims about most suspects). The case remains open.
The Black Dahlia Murder continues to horrify and fascinate in equal measure. It has become part of the lore of Hollywood's "Golden Age", as much a representation of the dark, bloodsoaked side of Tinseltown glamour as the Tate-LaBianaca murders in August of 1969. The Black Dahlia is ingrained into our culture, having been the subject of a 1987 James Ellroy novel The Black Dahlia, the 2007 movie of the same name based on the book, and countless Halloween costumes. She even made an appearance on the first season of American Horror Story. Mankind's fascination with the evil he is capable of will never cease, nor will the deeds themselves. But we must always remember that we are seeing is not glamorous; it is the suffering of the innocent at the hands of the cruel and evil.
Elizabeth Short was buried in Oakland's Mountain View Cemetery, in the company of six family members and a few police officers. Her mother moved to Oakland so as to be near her daughter's grave, eventually returning to the east coast in the 1970s where she lived into her 90s.
|Elizabeth Short's grave-marker.|
Elizabeth Short, Rest in Peace.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
A wonderful medley of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and "Sally's Song" by vocalist Destini Beard, with voiceover by Omni Omega. Fantastic work here. If you're at all a fan of the Haunted Mansion, you have to give this a listen:
Destini Beard's website:
Destini Beard's website: