The Lope: October 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Corpses at the Cleaners

So, Halloween is over but you've still got a few corpses on your hands. What the heck will you do with them? Burial is expensive these days so I recommend storage in the attic.

But are your corpses April fresh and ready to put away? Mine weren't, so I took them to Patty at Saylor Cleaners in Hutchinson.

Dallas Frightmare Weekend

This past May 1-3, we attended the Dallas Frightmare Weekend, an annual event in Irving, TX, that serves as an independent horror film festival and publicity vehicle for aspiring film-makers and actors. Of course the main draw is the roster of actors, directors, etc., that have already made it big or at least to the B-movie list.

Quite a few people showed up in costume, like the gentleman above, who I display in black and white for a silent film still effect. If I published half the decent photos from this event, it would really clog the front page of this blog, so I'm going to put some up only as links at the bottom.

Alice Cooper was the headliner and Ace got made up just for him. It turns out Alice is quite a bit of fun, especially when it comes to discussing horror movies.

Out in the exhibitor's room, I'd never seen so many people eager to pose with dangerous types.

Barbara Steele was quite a big deal in the world of 1960s and 70s horror movie production, having acted in several Maria Bava movies, including Black Sunday. She was also in one of my favorite Vincent Price/Roger Corman movies, Pit and the Pendulum. It was fun to meet her, but I wish she'd have taken off the sunglasses.

Lycanthopy isn't cheap. This werewolf would set you back $400.

There was a lot of stuff for sale. This vendor sold dolls and stuffed animals with her own unique twist. Really, what adult hasn't wanted to off a Teletubby?

Saturday started with a zombie parade outside. I didn't get to see it as I had another appointment, but the convention center was full of zombies when we arrived. The zombie soldier is Mike Buckendorf.

The pregnant zombie is Amanda Fite of Tulsa. another shot. Here she is out of makeup.

Ace's wore a priest outfit Saturday to meet Exorcist actress Linda Blair. Good Samaritan that he he is, he checked out Blair for any residual demonic possession and discovered she was just fine.

Since he was already wearing a priest outfit, Ace decided to save as many people as he could. Amazingly, they were all women.

Saturday there was a Q&A session with Alice Cooper.

One of the vendors would make up your face as if you were being eaten by maggots. It's not for everyone.

Aside from the fictional horrors at the show, there were real things to worry about. Some of the actors weren't shaking hands or posing with people for fear of the Swine Flu. There had been an outbreak in Irving's schools while the convention was occurring.

Paul Riddell, proprietor of the The Texas Triffid Ranch. The business' website says it is "more than just a nursery for carnivorous, prehistoric, and otherwise exotic plants. The Triffid Ranch is also a resource for carnivorous plant enthusiasts, urban gardeners of all sorts, and anyone interested in the particular challenges of attempting to grow unusual plants in the North Texas area." Sounds cool.

Hey, if you've gone to a flat screen, the triffid ranch could recycle your old monitor into a terrariums for carnivorous plants. That's pretty green.

Roger A. Scheck, writer and director of Nobody Loves Alice, told me he financed his film on a student loan.

Another woman saved. I swear, I never ask women to kiss Ace. It just happens; if I could bottle and sell whatever he's got, I would. I guess women weren't worried about a jackalope carrying a pig flu.

Director Tobe Hooper isn't afraid of chain saw murderers or poltergeists, but isn't crazy about swine flu.

Jay Reel, writer and director of the vampire movie, Dawn, visited my town of Hutchinson, Kansas, a few years ago and I got to know him a bit. Dawn, the story of a little girl vampire, her father and how the two ensure her survival, is quite well-crafted film.

As if the swine flu scare wasn't enough, severe storms swept through Irving that Saturday.

The storm didn't deter people from bringing their hearses to a car show associated with the convention. This was the hood decor of a van. Other car show photos here, here, here, here and here.

Saturday night there was a dinner gala. This was the centerpiece.

Fairuza Balk of the 1996 movie, The Craft, got friendly with Ace.

Actress Bobbi Sue Luther tried to eat Ace. More Bobbie Sue Luther photos are here and here.

Brooks was promoting her latest film, Laid to Rest, with director Robert Hall (pictured).

Saturday night didn't end so well for Ace, as he was strangled by actors Tyler Mane (left) and Derek Mears. Mane, born Daryl Karolat, played Michael Myers in the Rob Zombie films reboot of Halloween and Halloween II. He is a former professional wrestler.

Mears is an actor and stunt man, recently known for his role as Jason Voorhees in the reboot of Friday the 13th. Photos of Mane and Mears with fans are here and here.

What else can one do after being strangled but return as a zombie? And that's just what Ace did for Sunday.

I talked with Tobe Hooper again, director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. Hooper has said he formed the idea for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre while standing impatiently in the hardware section of a crowded store. He spotted chainsaws while thinking of a way to get through the crowd. Gee, and all I've ever thought of (but not used) is "coming through, gotta throw up."

I didn't know Corbin Bernsen had become a horror movie actor since his LA Law days. He played in a movie called Dentist and its sequel. Bernsen with Ace

Christa Campbell is a B-movie actress whose horror roles include Day of the Dead. She has also posed for Playboy and just finished filming for her first family movie "cool dog" a remake of Rin Tin Tin.

Of course, being a zombie, Ace attracted the attention of a haunted house promoter.

James Sale, owner of the Floating Phantoms Halloween store shows his wares. It's sort of cool that a Halloween dealer's name sounds a bit like Frankenstein director James Whale.

And here is one of Sale's ghosts in action:

Hunter Carson menaced Ace while actress Karen Black looks on. Both were in the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars.

Ahh, role models are a good thing, are they not?

Jason Mewes is the vocal one in Jay and Silent Bob.

Around closing time on Sunday, I realized that it would be much cooler if Alice Cooper did Ace's makeup himself. I asked and he obliged.

His road manager, Shep Gordon, remarked "There's something so wrong about this" to which Alice replied "and yet so right."

As he drew Ace's eye and mouth makeup with a sharpie, he remarked "This is only gonna hurt for a second; then you'll be immortal."

And a good time was had by all.

Additional photos:
Darla Enlow of Next Monkey Horror films
Guy in Marilyn Manson makeup with two woman
Ladies representing Ghoultown, a horror/county/punk band
Cute brunette woman with Ace
Person in swamp thing costume
Guy with chainsaw and guy with hockey mask and machete
Zombie bride and groom
Whitney Andrew of Little Oak Film Group folks, from Houston
Tatooed woman
Woman with leather face guy
Man getting head gash makeup
Japanese monster costume
Actor William Forsythe
another shot of Forsythe
Photographer arranging two Shatner-masked killers
Women working the Assassination City roller derby booth
Brooke Lewis, actress in the movie, iMurders
Woman with interesting contact lenses
Ace meets another traveling creature, an orange monkey
Jade Hilliard, artist
Ace with Carmen Garrison and Darla Enlow Dana Pike of Next Monkey Horror Films
A zombie with Ace
James Hampton, Hamilton Dobbs on F Troop.
Jay Reel with Ace
Character actor Dick Miller
Artist Andrew Magnum

Corpses Conquer Cosmos in Communist Capsule

In an effort to escape the surly bonds of Earth, our corpses visited the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson and tried out some of the space capsules.

I find that much of the fun in visiting the Cosmosphere is in finding out about the minor artifacts - not the flown equipment and such, but the pieces used in broadcasting and training. For example, this Soyuz trainer was built by Cosmosphere to accurate specifications and was used by U.S. astronauts to train for a mission. The 'Cos' has the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside Moscow. And that, by the way, includes the Smithsonian Institution.

The Apollo trainer was built by the Cosmosphere team for The Discovery Channel. Both it and the Soyuz capsule above are used in the museum's Future Astronaut Training Program.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Halloween Invitation for You

Hey, come by and have some candy on us.

Ace Jackalope and friends will be giving out candy - and even some spider rings and other mass-produced plastic swag - on Halloween night at 906 East Avenue A in Hutchinson, Kansas. That's between Severance and Reformatory on the north side of Avenue A.

There'll be demonic pseudo-tiki masks spitting fog.

There'll be women! (disclaimer: makes no specific warranted claims as to which women will show up. Guaranteed minimum: two.)

But beware! The hand that reaches for you out of the fog might be...

a witch!

Western adventurers might ride in.

Or Gypsies.

Approach the porch of doom...if you dare!

Last year Indiana Jones dropped by.

There could be danger lurking behind you!

It could just be Mark.

Maybe he'll play the moai bongo for us this year. the cottage garden of the damned!

And this year, we'll be fortified with even more corpses. More are arriving all the time, driving in from who-knows-where.

As a matter of fact, some are already here...watching...

...waiting for you, (insert your name here in spooky font). Don't panic just because you just realized that this Internet signal is coming from inside your house. Or, uh...inside your office.

(It doesn't have the same impact as a phone call from inside your house, does it? And how was that supposed to work, I mean, who could ever make another phone on the same line ring inside their house?)

We might suppliment the fog machines this year with dry ice. And if we can figure out the logistics, there might be an appearance from the muffler man pirate head.

We welcome you with open arms to our corpsicle goodness.

Martians in the Mist

On foggy nights like these, I find myself looking for Martian war machines towering with menace over my city.

Tonight is the 71st anniversary of the "panic broadcast" - War of the Worlds as presented by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air on October 30, 1938. I had the pleasure of hearing a broadcast of it a few years ago.

One of the tales - perhaps apocryphal - associated with the broadcast is that panicked farmers shot at water towers, mistaking them for the tripod-like Martian war machines.

Although the action in the radio drama took place mainly in the east coast of the U.S. (transferred from England in the original H. G. Wells story), the greater amount of fear may have been generated in Concrete, Washington, where a power failure occurred just at the point in the radio broadcast at which lights were going out during the fictional invasion.

Welles said the broadcast was his way "of dressing up in a sheet and saying, 'Boo!'"

That was 71 years ago, but such is the power of the theater of the mind that on this chill October night I still see Martians in the mist.

Stylish Pumpkins for 2009

A couple years ago I published a post about Polk's Market in Medora, Kansas, in which owner Earl Polk showed us how to tell the difference between a pumpkin and a squash. I stop in from time to time to partake of a cider slushie with friends or check out the pumpkin selection. Here are some of the non-traditional sellers of 2009.

The Jarrahdale pumpkin (actually a squash) was popular this year. Often sold as a blue pumpkin, I think it's more grey than blue. I actually grew one of these, though mine was not as big.

Earl suspects that the breeders crossed a Blue Hubbard squash (above) with a mainstream pumpkin to make the Jarrahdale.

The light orange and white laced "One Too Many" is also popular. It is also actually a squash.

The warty "Knuckle Head" pumpkin is actually a pumpkin.

This one that looks like it has barnacles on it is a "Bumpkin Pumpkin" or "Peanut Pumpkin." And I believe it is a squash.

This little girl's choice was a popular one.

Earl says these small and somewhat flat pumpkins don't even have a proper name, having been assigned a long number by a seed company. He added that he and other sellers have expressed a desire that the seed company actually name the pumpkin.

The green "Speckled Swan" gourd has sold quite well so far.

Of course, regular traditional pumpkins are good too.

Corpse and Cucurbita - pumpkins are of the genus Cucurbita. Hey, I needed a 'C' word, you know.

I Figured They'd Order the Ribs

The Corpses visit Roy's BBQ in Hutchinson, Kansas, where owner Ann Armstrong brings one of them a drink to go with the brisket and salad bar.

Of course, this photo shows a contrived situation that could never happen in the real world: Ann doesn't bring your pop; you have to get it yourself from the fountain.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Corpse Chair Chi

Inhibited by an unfortunate lack of legs, but still desiring upper body fitness, our long-departed guests are shown a chair-bound version of Tai Chi by their friends (L-R, still living) Terry, Sharon and Jocelyn.

Skeleton Flamingos

Yes, somebody really makes skeleton versions of pink flamingos for Halloween. I wish I'd thought of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Corpses at a Coffee House

Brooks on Main Street in Hutchinson, Kansas

I See Dead People (whenever I can)

I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for the age-old sideshow / tourist trap tactic of displaying a mummy of some sort. Such was the case when I visited Seattle two years ago.

Call it an attempt to face down fear of death. Call it scientific curiosity. Call it bad taste. In this case it was called Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.

Check it out and enjoy...but admit you're mostly there for the dead people.

Corpses in Convertible Classic Car

Our seasonal friends looked fine behind the wheel of a 1914 Ford Model T earlier this month during the second annual Hutchinson (Kansas) Rod Run.

The car is owned by Scott Patton, who kindy indulged my sense of Halloween aesthetics.

Main Street was blocked from 3rd to Avenue B for the show.

I'll have to remember this one for next year's International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

A pleasant, albeit unintentional result of some extra lighting downtown was that we go to see some of the architecture lit from angles we don't ordinarily see. This is the north (Sherman)side of the building on the SW corner of Main and Sherman.

I've seen this 1951 Studebaker Starlight coupe before and my eyes are always glued to its design. It is owned by Dale and Judy King and is decorated in 2002 corvette colors.

Industrial design guru Raymond Loewy heavily influenced the design of Studebaker Starlights of this period. Loewy also influenced the design of the Coca Cola bottle, the Canadian Cockshutt 30 tractor, and put the finishing touches on Formica's "boomerang" skylark pattern.

The 1960 Plymouth Fury exemplifies why cars should have fins. The car is owned by Floyd Walker.

Sonoramic Commando Power - I don't even know what that really means, but you could print anything on a cool googie graphic like this one and it'd sound good.

Warp speed ahead, Captain.

This is a completely unrelated shot from last year's Hutchinson Rod Run, but I've had it in the files for a year now and wanted to use it, so here you go. It's the hood ornament from a 1949 GMC 150 3/4 ton truck owned by Frank Wolf.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Cautionary Tale of the Missionary's Grandson

Join your late-night horror host, Uncle Ace, my children, as he weaves a Halloween tale of crime, punishment and miniature golf.

Once upon a time a disrespectful lad blamed his poor performance at miniature golf on the many delightful obstacles that abounded back when mini-golf courses were more than mere landscaping.

Frustrated, the lad (the grandson of a missionary to Polynesia) sought the nearest target and hit this tiki's companion with a golf club, pushing it to the ground.

Taunted by the boy's laughter at this misdeed, the tiki was left standing alone and sorrowful - his leaning posture a testament to the friend he'd lost to the encircling ivy below. Bereaved and brooding, he listened to the reverie of people around him and cast a suitable curse on the missionary's grandson.

After many years (or awhile, at least), a group of urban archaeologists noticed the fallen tiki buried in the ivy.

Upset by the indignity that had befallen the tiki, the two rescued it from the ground.

All was now right with the world.

But what of the rude little boy who showed disrespect for mid-century modern iconography?

Thereby hangs a macabre tale of supernatural justice. Gather round the foot of the 8-foot tiki and stay close to those you love while your Uncle Ace continues.

That tiki-cursed lad never left the course, though still alive...if "life" you can call it.

Frozen forever, he is. His one allowed motion a maddening torture of repetition: to swing and to miss.

To swing and to miss...and to glance over to the tikis and the wrong he had done.

To swing and to miss for all eternity, forced to witness the swirl of those who are still human and to endure the laughter that comes with companionship on warm summer nights....companionship that he can never know again.

To swing and to miss...his body subject to the indignities of duck-tape and decay.

To swing and to miss...screaming his silent wooden screams, until one day the ivy takes him too.

Sleep well.

(This tale is my salute to an evening with friends - all of them tiki and mid-century aficionados - in Kansas City back in 2007. We met through the website, where I published a version of this story as part of a thread about that evening. My thanks go to Paul and Lori who actually have a vintage 8-ft tiki in their living room, Brad and Jennifer, Kathy, Mark, and of course, Mia. Miniature Golf photos were taken at the over half-century old Cool Crest miniature golf park. Go there...but don't disturb anything.)

Inflatable Yard

This is a house at 21st and Annie Baxter in Joplin, Missouri (October 17, 2009).

Now, I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of the "cram every nylon fan-driven thing you can into the yard" approach, but you know, they did something. And I do like the giant eye.

Gaudy collections of store-bought Halloween stuff, ingenious "graveyards" of witty invention, understated floral and scarecrow displays...bring 'em all on!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Corpses Climb Curbside Critters in Canton

Canton, Kansas, gateway town to the Maxwell Game Preserve, decorates its streets with concrete Bison.

Some residents already had Halloween decorations up on October 3 when we passed through. In just one jaunt down the main drag, I spotted three different sizable Halloween displays.

This house on the NW corner of West Olive and North Main has this fine metal locomotive with Halloween accouterments. This looks quite able to be customized for different holidays; I shall have to find out if they do so.

Close by is an old stand-by - a the Jack-o-lantern face on a hay bale.

Downtown, one can find this somewhat mid-century styled awning over the library.

Closer to Kansas hwy 56 is a wagon of scarecrows.

Happenstance Halloween

Bits of Halloween show up in the most unexpected places.

This jack-o-lantern is part of a series of similar sculptures adorning light poles alongside and behind the Pageant Theatre in St Louis. Representatives of the Pageant tell me the sculptures were put there by the city of St Louis.

The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd., opened its doors in 2000; it's just styled to look older.

Nearby, at 6350 Delmar, is the Tivoli Theatre. Built in 1924, it specializes in independent and foreign films.

I was in St Louis this past December to see a Yes concert and shoot some Route 66 Christmas photos. Running across a bit of Halloween was a nice bonus.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Corpse Consumes Cherry Cheesecake

...a cherry cheesecake blizzard, that is.

The little Dairy Queen on 3rd Street in Hutchinson, Kansas, just east of Main, is a favorite stop for my friends and I. Not only can we sit on the benches outside and savor the warm evenings, but the BNSF track is right across 3rd, so there's occasional rail entertainment.

Many is the night I've crossed 3rd going north and called my friend Patsy. "Dairy Queen is still open" I tell her with a hint of suggestion. More often than not we end up at that window, deciding what we want.

This largely because owner Radwan Shaban (above, non-skeletal) has a tendency to be open anytime he thinks there'll be customers, even on warm winter days. And he's often open later than the restaurants to catch a few customers. Smart, that is.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Very Grave Yard

Two years ago I visited the inventively spooky yard of Dan and Marian Goepfert, 2828 South Wall Street in Joplin, Missouri. I was very impressed with the Goepferts' efforts and presented the post, Ace goes to Hell.

I returned last week and am happy to report that the Goepferts have been busy. One example of this is the faux mausoleum above with the Dante-esque quote. The ghost moves - an example of what special effects aficionados call a flying crank ghost.

The faux mausoleum projects from the house and is made from aluminum sheets which were finished to hide their metallic nature, and from high density foam to hold the reliefs.

It looks quite good in the daytime too, as seen in the background of this photo of Marian.

The usual humorous details are present, such as the "I'm with Stupid" and "stupid" tombstones.

Dan pauses by this lovely crypt, which has been added since my 2007 visit. He remarked: "What we're going for is creepy - not gory and not scary, but creepy."

Vlad Dracula is out to lunch.

The huge motorized spider was repainted to react to a black light. Another view

And here's a video:

Dan added gremlins to the stew this year.

He made several and by the time you read this they should be peppered around the grounds. He told me one would be biting an electrical cord and getting shocked.

They still display my favorite piece, a Jack Skellington from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas which rises on the framework of an old hospital bed:

You can see the display by driving slowly by the corner of 29th and South Wall streets in Joplin. Wall is one-way going north at that point, and the house is on the west side of the street. Some nights, the Goepferts will be in the yard letting people in for a tour.

Corpses Consume Café Cuisine

Watched over - albeit a bit too late in their cases - by the angel hanging above the window, our not-quite-departed friends show that good burgers and fries are still sought in the afterlife as they dine at Skaets Steak Shop in Hutchinson, Kansas. The one on the left ordered breakfast; I think it's a mourning ghost. Sorry, I know that was bad.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Only recently have I become aware that a whole market has sprung up in the sales of Halloween candy, other than the old (and fine) stand-by crop of candy corn and bags of mini-versions of mainstream candies. Check out the put-together candy skeletons next to the tart half moons, jack-o-lanterns, bats and ghosts.

The venue for this batch of candy was Lagomarcino's, a Moline, Illinois, institution. The business was started in 1908 and the Moline location dates from 1918. I visited Lagomarcino's on September 26 of this year as part of our friends Carl and Kris' Food Coma Caravan.

According to Lagomarcino's website, the booths were custom built by Moline Furniture Works and the hexagon terrazzo floor with blue flowers was laid by Cassini Tile of Rock Island. They also say the lamps in each booth were made by Tiffany.

I'm making it a point to photograph textured metal ceilings wherever I go. According to their website, Lagomarcino's ceiling dates to 1894.

Employees told me the ceiling fixtures are original, but there's no information about them on the website.

The vintage of The store's candy cases varies from early 20th century to early 1950s. When I was there they were stocking treats such as gummi spiders and eyeball gum.

There were some modern trinkets but I resisted and bought only candy.

Of course we had to swing back by and shoot the neon sign. The part with the name of the business was not functioning. I guess I'll have to go back.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Corpses 'round the Campfire

A kindly young lady helps one of our Halloween-season guests to be appropriately attired in a coonskin hat at a recent mountain man rendezvous. See story below.


Ace made some new friends recently when we paid a visit to the Wildlife Refuge Mountain Man Rendezvous on the Prairie at Maxwell Game Preserve in Central Kansas.

A rendezvous, for those of you who don't have this sort of thing going on in your region, is a gathering of people who practice near-historic reenactments of the frontier lifestyle. This particular event focused on the early 1800s and lasted three days. Many chose to camp in an appropriate style, hence the tee pees.

Frequently, such crafts as blacksmithing (above) and the making of tools and clothing are practiced.

These guys were making flint tools, a craft called flint "knapping". This particular rendezvous was not strict as to the presence of modern accoutrements.

While strolling the grounds, I met members of the Lindner family of Augusta, Kansas. Greg Lindner was demonstrating ways of making fire on the frontier, and has just started this bundle of dry grass smoking by using flint and tender.

His daughter, Katie, and son, A. J., practiced making fire with a small magnifying glass. I used to do this when I was a kid, but instead of being useful and teaching, I was welding extra arms onto plastic soldiers for my special Shiva corps.

Such gatherings can be a good opportunities for candid portraits.

A. J. Linder

Greg smooths the sides of a powder horn, an animal horn used to carry gunpowder, usually for muskets. Not being made of metal, horns could not cause sparks that would ignite the powder. Although they became obsolete when cartridges containing gunpowder came into use, many decorated ones remain as folk art remants of the past.

Katie demonstrated how to make a rag doll. She first cut strips of cloth, then placed a wad of cotton in the center, like so, then turned the whole thing over and tied it to make a head. She enlisted the help of another young girl who was passing by, then sold it to the girl for $3. It's nice to know the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

It was a good Autumn day to be outside.

Lets think for a minute about what a far-future reenactment of our time might entail. What skills do we have that might impress our descendants?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carthage Maple Leaf Festival Lighting Contest

The Carthage (Missouri) Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored a lighting contest last week in conjunction with the city's annual Maple Leaf Festival. I happened to be in the area this past weekend and found some of the entries during a nocturnal drive. This one was outside the Fair Acres Family YMCA; it won 2nd place in the business class of entries. I never did find the first place entry and could not find that information online, though I did read that the contest had returned after a decades-long hiatus.

The first place residential winner was this scarecrow painting a portrait of another scarecrow on the northeast corner of the intersection of Centennial and Grand avenues. It was illuminated with one floodlight, closer to the painter, so I also shot it later when the floodlight was off and streetlight was the only illumination. This made for more even lighting, although the color balance was difficult. Here it is.

The 2nd place residential winner was nearby. I like the use of a wooden facade. (another shot)

I do not know if this house at NW corner of 11th and Lyon Streets was in the contest of not, but I liked the pumpkins hanging from the tree at random heights.

This house was across Grand Avenue from the first and second place residential winners. I liked this particular view. I do wish more cities would hold Autumn or Halloween lighting contests, not so much to see the winners as to encourage more such displays around town.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bela Lugosi's 127th Birthday

Fitting, it was, that I should run across the face of Bela Lugosi after nightfall, smiling unsettlingly through a spider web as he did in the 1931 version of Dracula.

A late night carnival like this one at the Iowa State Fair this past August is an ideal place for a vampire. Sure, the streets of London after midnight may hold ample victims but the average modern fairgoer has blood sweetened by cotton candy and may have just stumbled out of the beer garden.

Bela was part of the decoration for the carnival attraction "Universal Horror." I'm often intrigued by the painted panels of carnival rides. Many of them are interchangeable and they are usually trendier than this, often sporting the likenesses of whatever sort of movie character is hot at the moment. Classic Universal horror movie stuff is perennial, but not "hot" at the moment, so I was surprised.

That's not a bad Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman at top.

This is the artist's rendition of actor Dwight Frye as Renfield, one of Dracula's unfortunate victims. Frye was known as the "the man with the thousand-watt stare" and was typecast as mentally ill characters. I recognize this particular moment. Frye as Renfield is looking up from the hold of the Demeter, a ship whose crew Dracula has used as an all-night cruise buffet.

Frye was born in Salina, Kansas, on February 22, 1899. He died of a heart condition while riding on a city bus in Hollywood. I think I'll check and see if there are any existent Salina locations associated with him.

Dracula's brides are bustier than those of the 1931 movie and more generic than any I can think of seeing in another flick.

This female vampire looks familiar but I can't place her. Her style suggests one of the Hammer Studios films from the 1960s or 70s.

The monster in this panel isn't quite Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi or Glenn Strange - all of the actors who played him in the classic Universal films. But the artist really nailed the likeness of Elsa Lanchester as the intended bride of Frankenstein.

The artists attempt at Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein isn't bad. The scene was well-chosen.

The most touching moment from Bride of Frankenstein involved the monster meeting an old man in the forest who played a violin and was kind to him. Whoever did these panels knew his or her stuff.

And I'm wondering if the artist was a fan of the 1960's and 70's Aurora Monster model kits. This looks a bit like the kit, "Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare" or one of the rubber novelty skeletons sold at about the same time.

For our previous salutes to Lugosi (10/20/1882 – 8/16/1956), see 2007's Bela Lugosi's Dead and 2008's Bela Lugosi's Birthday.


Do you see it? There was a witch on a bloom stick in the heart of the sunset last night. See her in profile as she flies toward the right? Or do I just have Halloween on the brain?

Photo was taken along Kansas highway 400 near Parsons.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cartload of Clearance K-Mart Corpses

Ace's 13 days of Halloween has begun. Until October 31, we'll be publishing anything remotely creepy or evocative of the many moods of Halloween. And this year we have some temporary help.

You see, about a week after Halloween last year I bought a cart of corpses on clearance at K-Mart. Aside from thinking they looked cool, I guess I felt sorry for them too. I mean, it's enough of an indignity being modeled after a generic dead person - but to be unwanted by the American consumer...well, clearanced corpses are almost as sad as post-Easter Peeps so, I adopted them.

Problem is, now they want amusement. Oh yeah, did I mention that I may have accidentally brought them to sort-of-life when, in an attempt to activate the one electronic one, I mistakenly read through the back of the thin paper of the instruction sheet and said "seirettab AA tresni"?

So, since I'm hosting these corpses until the veil between life and death thins on Halloween and they can go...well, wherever the spirits of Halloween decor go when they materially go back to the attic, I may as well show them around Hutchinson, Kansas, and environs. Got any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Return of the Talking Tombstones

Ahh, 'tis time to go strolling again in the marble garden and let its inhabitants whisper to us of the world we'd inhabit had we jumped on time's merry go round a bit sooner.

The Hutchinson Theatre Guild will hold its third annual Talking Tombstones fundraiser Saturday at 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM in the Eastside Cemetery of Hutchinson, Kansas. Tickets are $15 and available in advance at Hayes Sight and Sound, or at the event.

I've attended the past two years. For a record of those past atmospheric tours of Hutchinson's coolest cemetery, here are 2007 and 2008.

This Saturday, one of the portrayals will be of a woman who died on a roller coaster in Hutchinson. Yes, a roller coaster; we used to have one of those in an electric park, no less. Why don't we have one now? What went wrong? Perhaps we'll find out Saturday.

A Harvey Girl will also be portrayed. These were the women who worked at Harvey Houses, of which the justly-lamented Bisonte was one. The closest experience I've had to the real feel of a Harvey House was at La Posada, but it's in Arizona and I'd love to hear about the one in Hutch so I'll know how much to cry into my ice cream the next time I sit at the 3rd Street Dairy Queen and gaze wistfully over to the Bisonte site.

There will also be a portrayal of a deceased photographer, and we all know that photographers are positively fascinating people.

If I'm in town, I'll attend.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Svensk Hyllningsfest this Weekend

Today and Saturday, Lindsborg, Kansas, celebrates its Swedish heritage with Svensk Hyllningsfest, a festival so big they only have it every two years.

In 2005 we attended Svensk Hyllningsfest, and published three posts as Ace explored the town and the festival. See Ace go to great lengths to become a rare jackalope variation in Valkommen, Dalalope. (This post is kind of a time capsule in that some of the businesses in Lindsborg have changed. Alas, Main Street Toys is no more.)

Then explore the McPherson County Old Mill Museum.

And finally, the festival itself: Svensk Hyllningsfest. For details on the 2009 festival, see its website.

And now, a bonus - just because I happen to have one handy, enjoy 31 seconds of a vintage mechanical store window Viking. It has nothing to do with the festival, but when else was I going to have an excuse to use it, you know?:

I'm sure someone will point out that Vikings didn't have horns on their helmets and that this was a Wagnerian invention for "The Ring" cycle of operas. Correct, of course...but don't horns look cool?

October Light

It's dreary right now in Hutchinson, Kansas - the kind of cold dampness that portends the shortening of days. But Tuesday night it was quite different as a crisp Autumn sunset bathed a grain elevator in Reno county.

Searching for a foreground, I could make it only to our water tower before the flaming sky turned to rust and then to black.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Full Moon

There's a full moon right now - the air is crisp, the corn stalks are restless and the veil is thinning.

Yes; Halloween is coming and we're in a black and orange mood.

Which reminds me, for a unique cryptozoological critter who likes Chinese food and tiki bars, check out the Werelope of London.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Your Weekend Ride

Kansas now has a working steam engine and it'll be up and running this weekend for your train watching and/or riding pleasure. The Abilene and Smoky River Valley Railroad Association's recently restored 1919 Baldwin steam locomotive will be pulling short passenger runs from Abilene's Dickinson County Historical Museum to a point east of there, then back again.

They don't seem to have their own website yet, but call the railroad at 785-263-1077 for details.