Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Ghost of the Old Coast Guard Station

Above is the Old Coast Guard Station in Virginia Beach, VA. It has a treasure trove of information about the shipwrecks that dot the area.

According to Haunted Virginia Beach by Alpheus Chewning it is reputed to be haunted. And in the upper window staff have placed a photo of a legendary surfman named John W. Sparrow.

I don't believe in any of that though. Do you?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Poem About Monsters And Insomnia

I’m not making this up

Since you’ve been gone nothing’s worked right.
I can’t get to sleep. I try to, as I lie there,
I rummage around in my head for sheep to count,
for a pasture and a fence for them to jump over.
But the best I can do is dogs –
short dogs with heavy coats.
One comes to the fence, and he can’t jump it what
with his stumpy little legs.
Then another and he can’t either, and
pretty soon there are dozens of dogs
milling around on one side of the fence.
I can hear them yipping at each other.
I stay up all night.

Even the bad dreams aren’t working.
I go down to the kitchen for warm milk, but
the monsters in the basement had a fight,
and the Old Man from Under the Stairs is
at the table sulking with his damn pack of cards.
From the cellar I hear the Big Bad Wolf snore.
The cow is stuck somewhere in the sky,
and the dish has locked herself in the bathroom,
refusing to talk to the spoon,
mad about some hourglass egg timer
she’d supposedly seen him with.

The clocks have stopped, the refrigerator turns itself on and off,
and I sit here wondering about all
the stories that have come undone
or reversed themselves:
The Gospel backwards,
an account of a town
saving some young man
from certain death,
only to find out the whole world is going to hell as a result
until it’s brought back to a state of innocence by a young couple
sharing a piece of fruit, kissing it whole.
The Big Bang, now an explanation
of how, in the end,
everything will squeeze together,
and snuff out.
Every funeral you’ve ever seen,
a memory of your family digging up some guy who jumps out of a box,
getting younger and better looking,
like the cake lady at a bachelor party.

The stars drift toward the center,
and the cow stomps around a moon sinking back into the sky,
while I watch the old man put a spade
on a heart.
As the clouds suck rain off the streets,
wind sets leaves back onto their trees,
and the one story I want to reverse is you leaving,
but that stays straight in my head no matter how dizzy I get
or how hard I try to remember it differently.

On this dark and stormy night
it is the one thing so bright,
staring at it for too long
leaves an afterimage when you turn away,
and I see you, in that shade of violet-blue
every time I close my eyes.

Kindertrauma is Looking for Homicidal Apes

Kindertrauma is at it again. For those of you who don't read the site, they specialize in celebrating all the stuff that scared the bejeezus out of you when you were eight. A regular feature is called Name that Trauma, where fans write in with some kind of half-remembered snippet of a movie, book, TV program that damaged them young -- and they try to figure out what exactly it was.

They're trying to track down a movie with a killer ape, possibly a film version of Murders in the Rue Morgue, like the above version, released in 1932 and starring Bela Lugosi.

"[T]he scene that terrified me was at the end when you think it’s all over but one body is missing," the fan writes. "The detective tapped his pipe on the mantelpiece and a corpse dropped down the chimney and scared the crap out of me."

Damn, that sounds like some expensive therapy. Check it out.

Seance -- A Short Horror Film

Seance from Robin Kasparik on Vimeo.

This is a nicely creepy ghost story from the Czech Republic. Here is the website, for more information.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Geiger Counter of Human Misery

It started when my boss Harry said to me, “You know, Paul, when I go home at night I like to have my wife make me a vodka tonic shaken, not stirred. I like my drinks shaken, not stirred,” he said, and he was staring at me filled with this neediness I couldn’t identify, and I got the thin polite smile I get when someone is really creeping me out.

“You know,” he said, “like James Bond. I like to think James Bond would approve.”

And I realized that after all those years of working 60-hour weeks, and going to church and civic clubs and having five-minute sex with the lights out… this was the one little thrill in Harry’s life. That’s when I picked it up – loud and clear as that buzz saw hum you hear standing next to a high-tension electrical wire on a windless day. Raw pain and doom and all the sadness in his life – he was beaming it right at me like a radio signal. It actually hurt. I thought my eardrums would pop right there and bleed out all over the expensive carpet like a scene out of Scanners. I thought Harry was going to burst into flames screaming out as he died that all he wanted to be was a transvestite cabaret singer in New Orleans, and his wife had thwarted him by pretending to forget taking her pill. I thought the grisly reaper would sweep right into the room and take us both out with a bloody swoop.

That day God revealed to me my one supernatural power. I can sense desperation like picking up top forty stations in your dental work. I can smell sadness like bad food in the back of the fridge. I am a Geiger counter of human misery.

Now it’s five years later, and I’m in some yuppie meat market in Hoboken trying to push my blood alcohol content to the low 40 percent range, and in comes this sorority chapter, all in white T-shirts that say they’re here to celebrate Jan’s wedding, and Jan is wearing some baseball cap topped with a plastic bride and groom such as you’d find on the 16-layered cake, and they are all hugging and giggling and downing plate loads of lime Jell-O shooters and cocktail drinks in big bucket sized glasses with fruit and little umbrellas in them, and giggling and saying, “Jan, we love you; we love you so much Jan, because you’re our sister, and because we love you,” and I’m picking up a lot of hate in this room for Jan.

These people are walking around spilling over with fantasies of Jan dying in really bad ways. Involving automobiles and power tools and insect bites and industrial machinery and mauling by wild animals and handguns and vibrators gone out of control, and there’s this one mantra that seems to be in the air. Over and over I hear:

“I’m thin. I’m thin. I’m thin. I’m sucking down froyo, and bottled water, and I put on a thong three times a week and do my aerobics class sweating bullets and doing little step jumps with that bastard who looks like Richard Simmons listening to ‘She works hard for the money,’ over and over… and I’m 25 and I’m not married yet.”

I walk out tonight, and it’s really bad. I mean, I can see three fake hearty guys with gray hair and blue suits and bulging forehead veins this funny purple color, and they’re all thinking about trying to quit their jobs before they drop dead of embolisms, and the pimply faced 13-year-old kid brushes past me – I see how much it hurts to be surrounded by women who won’t sleep with you. I see him dying of autoerotic asphyxia, and his mom finding him hanging from a pipe in the cellar with a bag over his head, his pants around his ankles and Miss Juggs, 1998 spread out below him.

“I like my job,” I can hear telepathically beamed to me from a full dozen people, “I like the woman I’m with. I like the relationship I’m in. The apartment where I live. The pets I’ve bought and the family members I care for. I like working in the same air-conditioned room for the last 15 years with my certificates and my golf trophies and that little Far Side calendar I keep on the desk to show myself that I’m a fun guy. I like who I am.”

And every one of these people is smothered in a doom as thick as gravy, and I’m trying not to touch anyone, because it’s going to come off on me.

And it’s no use, because I’ve got my own doom, like a body odor so bad you occasionally smell it on yourself and realize with horror that people the whole day have been edging away from you, and opening doors and windows wherever you’ve gone. I work at a stupid job, and I’m trying to be a writer, and I tell people a lot of things about myself that simply aren’t true.

I pretend my life is going somewhere. I pretend I’m deep and I care about the big issues, when all I really want is to get this kind of cheap fame where people recognize me on the street and some large publishing company gives me a bucket of money for writing the literary equivalent of dirty limericks and Jim Carroll wants to be my friend.

I want the freedom to shave my head and get a spider tattooed over my entire face, and I want to be able to spend most days blind drunk, jacked up on enough amphetamines to kill a horse, dressed up like a buffoon, and not even bothering with the basics of personal hygiene. I want these things because I spent most of my earlier life scared to death of every authority figure I ever encountered, as if they were going to do something to me that life doesn’t do to all of us in the end.

As if by kissing their collective ass and playing by the rules, I could somehow avoid what happens to all of us. The great bad thing there’s no getting away from, whether you’re Shakespeare or Caesar or the sorority sisters, or the kid in the cellar or your asshole friend who went off to run with the bulls in Pamplona because he was in college and wore a webbed belt and a backwards baseball cap and shouted “Woo, woo” a lot and got himself gored and stamped through the glass of a storefront, and had a whole crowd of tourists around him trying not to laugh saying, “Stupid fucking American” in at least half a dozen languages.

That great bad thing is death, and it is awful precisely because it makes everything bad in your life permanent. It seals the deal. It insures that whatever you’ve been putting off will never happen, and whatever you’re putting up with will follow you to the grave. I can sense these things, and you can too, because they’re obvious. We’re desperately trying to ignore them. Some days we almost pull it off.

(I read this rant when I was a regular at the Nuyorican in Manhattan in the mid-1990's. A friend of mine named Leslie reminded me of it recently. If you ever saw me perform this live, shoot me a comment. I miss every freakin' one of you on that big crazy island. I miss the smell and the noise and the little blue cups. If you're reading this, and you're anywhere near 3rd and Avenue C, please say hello from me to the greatest city in the world. I'm nothing without you, New York.)

The Infamous Witch of Pungo

I recently shot some photos of the site which commemorates my hometown's very own witch trial. The defendant in this case was Grace Sherwood, known locally as the Witch of Pungo.

Here is the marker with the whole sad story. I will be posting more details soon.

For some reason they wanted to Disney this up with a cute little woodland animal. Grace is about five seconds away from getting a nasty bite on the ankle... and then rabies. She's been tried, convicted, jailed, ducked in the water, and now this. Thanks, universe.

Former Governor Kaine gave the poor woman a pardon after efforts by a Virginia Beach resident named Belinda Nash to fight for Grace. Here's a copy of the letter. Note the governor's courageous, politically risky stand against trial by water. Don't snicker, people. In Texas something like that can cost you an election.

For the whole series of 14 photos go here.

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