Do You Dream of Monsters?

The world is filled with monsters. We only have to see them for what they are. Every culture around the globe has its fair share of creatures that lurk under the bed or slink through the shadows. Rarely do we cast a light on the denizens of our nightmares.

IMG_3510

Often monsters are a product of our own overworked imagination. Take the work of the Linares family and the “Alebrije”, which translates to woodcarving. In 1936, an artist named Pedro Linares succumbed to a high fever, causing him to hallucinate. In these fever dreams, he saw a forest with rocks and clouds, each transforming into wild and multicolored creatures with wings, horns, tails and fierce teeth. After he recovered, Pedro created the creatures he saw, using papier-mâché and cardboard. The Linares family kept this art form alive. The Alebrije pictured above was created by Miguel Linares.

Looking back through history, it’s easy to see similar nightmarish figures sprung from out imagination. Take the Singha for example.

IMG_3498

Not all monsters need to be bad. The Singha is a temple guardian in Thailand. Half-man and half-lion, it guards temple entrances such as Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok. The name derives from the Sanskrit “simha” meaning lion.

IMG_3497

The Fen Huang is another guardian monster, though this one heralds prosperous times. The Fen Huang only appears to mark the beginning of a new era—the birth of a virtuous ruler. During peaceful times, the bird will nest, but if trouble or war arises, it vanishes to its celestial abode.

The Chinese compound term Fèng Huáng means Phoenix. The Feng Huang controlled the five tones of traditional Chinese music, representing the Confucian virtues of loyalty, honesty, decorum and justice. Artifacts show that the the Phoenix (female) as associated with the Dragon (male). The two are mortal enemies or blissful lovers. When shown together, the two creatures symbolize conflict and wedded bliss, and are a common design  in many parts of Asia.

鳳 = Fèng, Male Phoenix    凰 = Huáng, Female Phoenix

 

IMG_3500 copy

The Leshy is another guardian spirit, though you’d never guess it by looking at its fearsome appearance. This creature lives in the forests of Eastern Europe, specifically near the Slavic countries like Bulgaria and Czech. The Leshy’s hair and beard are made of leaves and grasses. It protects wild animals and will play tricks on any who wanter into the forest.

IMG_3502

Look at this skull. What do you see? A monstrous cyclops? Then your imagination would be on par with the ancient people of the Mediterranean. The big round space in the center of the skull, which looks like an eye socket, is actually the nose hole of for a mastodon. We so want to see monsters, that sometimes our mind creates them where they don’t exist.

What sorts of monsters inhabit your dreams? Are they there for protection or to haunt you?

Tim Kane

 

Disney Tarot and Insects Breathing (December’s Weird Roundup)

For this month’s edition of the Weird Roundup, I have some treats for you. These nuggets of strangeness will keep you warm in the coming months.

Disney Princess Tarot

Just when you thought every tarot art concept had been thoroughly explored, here comes one that is so beautiful, it should be made (lawsuits be darned). Imagine each of the major aracana depicted as a Disney princess (or prince).

_the_princess_tarot___le_chariot__mulan__by_suisei_ojii_sama-d875axq

These aren’t the creepy Tim Burton cards from A Nightmare Before Christmass (though I love those too). These were created by Suisei-Ojii-Sama (Julian Rivera) over at Deviant art.

_the_princess_tarot___l_empereur__simba_and_kiara__by_suisei_ojii_sama-d85khao

Obviously I have more than a passing interest in Tarot (I wrote a book about it). Plus I love Disney. I live close enough to visit Disneyland at least once a month. So yeah, a Disney themed tarot deck would be right up my alley.

Visualize Insects Breathing

In school, I was the science geek who holed up in the physics lab to avoid pep rallies. Yup, one time we even got to split open a bowling ball with a sledgehammer to see if the density accounted for the holes. So anytime I run across something sciency that piques my interest, I like to pass it along.

Designer Eleanor Lutz simply wants to show people how to make an animated GIF. But here subject matter is mesmerizing. She completely understands what makes a good short animation. The breathing cycle of grasshoppers is very short and lends itself well to the micro animation of GIFS.

obi0iqqpsyurkejvxqqs

Visit her site to also see a person and a chicken breathing. But insects are the most interesting because they don’t have lungs. Instead they have ten holes along their abdomen called spiracles. Air goes in through the front spiracles and out the back. The grasshopper moves its abdomen to pump the air.

Krampus Night

And you thought all the scaring was done and over with after Halloween. How wrong you were.

Merry-Krampus

This Friday marks Krampus Night (or Krampusnaught). It’s the day that the demonic associate of Santa (and sometimes and Angel) comes to visit and see if you’re good. Only instead of coal for being naughty, you get a trip down below.

Krampus-xmas-card-10-1895972741

Read my full article on this lovely fellow here.

Enjoy the holidays.

Tim Kane

Vampiric Birds and Fish (November’s Weird Roundup)

Just when you thought life couldn’t get any stranger, along comes vampiric fish and blood sucking birds. In the spirit of all things creepy, I’ve scoured the realms of fauna to find all the bloodsuckers out there. And I’ve saved the best to start us off.

Vamp Birds

I Vant to Peck Your Blood

Although no bird on Earth draws all its nourishment from blood, the sharpbeaked ground finch will occasionally delve into vampirism. This bird lives on an island already known for its freakish deviants of evolution: Galapagos. Typically the “Vampire Finch” will peck at seeds, just like a normal bird. But in the light of a full moon… Er, when drought conditions limit the number of seeds available, it switches to the red stuff. Then it mosey’s over to another fowl, a seabird called a booby. The finch pecks at the victim bird’s back until it draws blood, offering up a nice warm meal. The sharpbeaked ground finch never over pecks. They only draw enough bloom to eat. If the finch were to cause too much pain, then the booby would chase them away or attack.

This National Geographic video shows the vampiric finch in action.

Blood Sucking Fish

The candirus (or pygidiid catfish) is strongly attracted to raw turtle meat and will also attack the legs of human waders. These fish crave blood and will attack the gills and fins of dying or disabled fish or even the legs of submerged children. Scientists, Vinton and Stickler, caught a specimen using a bloody cow lung for bait. Another scientists captured one as it tried to rasp the skin of his leg. Generally, these vampire fish seek out larger catfish, burrowing into the gills. One specimen was found halfway inside the belly of a larger catfish. The vampire catfish’s belly was distended with blood.

a11fig04

In 1960, one researcher captured a canirus catfish and “permitted [it] to fasten onto his hand for a short while during which time it succeeded in drawing blood, apparently using its mouth as a sucking apparatus and rasping with the long teeth in the middle part of its upper jaw.” It seemed, he added, “to be utterly avid for a meal of blood and had to be forcibly removed.” So unlike the finch, this bad boy loves the taste of blood. It gets better.

In 1959, the Cleveland Aquarium acquired four vampiric fish. The keepers tried to feed them anything from worms to brine shrimp. No go. The canirus would have none of it. Only when a half-pound goldfish was put into their aquarium, did they bite. Almost immediately, according to the report, three of the four latched onto the goldfish under its gills and began sucking blood.

wwa5kigra7xwnejarj1a-2

So vampire bats do not have the corner on the creepy bloodsucking market.

Tim Kane

 

Halloween Tarot Giveaway

HA78-01

Win a set of Halloween Tarot cards and help support the debut novel Tarot: The Magician.

Book Blurb

When Kassandra Troy discovers an ancient tarot deck, her life takes a thrilling and frightening turn. She triggers The Magician card, and releases the mysterious and captivating Luke Rykell. He lifts Kassandra out of despair, dispelling the devastation she feels after her father’s death. But Luke has a dark secret. He wants the magical deck for himself. The only way Kassandra can save herself is to journey into the Tarot cards. But once inside, can she ever escape?

Irresistibly compelling and heart-wrenching, Tarot: The Magician is a superb fantasy tale that will haunt you long after you’ve read the last page.

Download the ebook from Midnight Frost Books as well as AmazonBarnes and Noble and Smashwords. Not sure? Read a free sample here. Or click on the fancy schmancy button below.

Snail Sample Button

Tarot Book Trailer

I worked for over two months drawing and coloring the panels you see in this trailer. I wanted it to be as special as the book. However, I was daunted by the music. I’m no musician. However, if it were silent, or had canned music, that would undermine all the hard work I put into the animation. Bradley Coy came to my rescue. For the full story on how the theme for the book trailer was created, read A Theme Song for an ebook.

Book Reviews

Don’t trust me. Here are readers who have read and commented on the book.

“I especially enjoyed Kassandra’s journey through the cards as she tries to solve the problems she’s faced with and find her way out. And the ending gives me hope for a sequel (or a series?)” by Tara at Dividing by Zero

Giveaway Details

By helping me promote Tarot: The Magician, you get your own set of fabulously spooky tarot cards. I’ll mail them to the winner after Halloween. Click this LINK or anywhere on the image below to take you to enter the giveaway. Hurry, this event ends Friday, October 31st!

Halloween Tarot Promo

 

Two Amazing Short Horror Films

Okay, I’ve seen plenty of zombie films. So have you. What could possibly come along to freshen up such an overworked genre? Dring of the Dead is your answer. A five minute French film that will make you laugh as it gives us a new take on zombies. The whole “walking dead apocalypse” has become such a standard trope, that filmmakers can now use it to introduce new ideas. When the lead character is running pell mell down the street, we easily accept that a zombie as the reason why. His accidental solution to the problem of being eaten is amazing. Check it out.

This other short is Lovecraftian gold. Called Black Gold, it is the brainchild of Hank Friedmann. It reminds me a little of the 1980s flick Mazes and Monsters with Tom Hanks. Only in Black Sugar, the teens take a Chthonian drug that looks like a flourescent Twinkie. The kids are transported to a world where Cthulhu creatures rule. Or are they? The viewer isn’t sure if this is real or simply a hallucination brought on by the drugs. Either way, this would be a terrific anti-drung advert. No one would touch drugs after seeing what happens to these kids.

Black Sugar from Hank Friedmann on Vimeo.

Here’s a clip from Mazes and Monsters to make you feel better after watching Black Sugar.

Enjoy your 15 minutes of horror entertainment. Remember: Shop Smart. Shop Smart.

Tim Kane

Should Vampires Sparkle?

Sadly, the answer is yes. Despite your attitude toward Twilight and its ilk of bloodsuckers, this trend toward the romantic vampire was inevitable.

In the 1980’s vampire films were at an all time low. A comedy, Love at First Bite with George Hamilton, out grossed the serious remake of Dracula with Frank Langella.

Love-at-first-bite

Love at First Bite, released April 1979, grossed $44 million.

MSDDRAC EC020

Dracula, released July 1979, only grossed $20 million.

Vampires might be able to rise from the dead, but there was no saving poor box office results. The failure of Frank Langella’s Dracula signaled the end of the serious vampire movie. After all, how could these supernatural creatures compete with Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger? By all intents, the vampire film, and genre, should have never survived into the 80s.

In 1985, two more vampire films were released. One film was another comedy: Once Bitten with Jim Carrey. The second was Fright Night. The box office results showed that a serious vampire movie could compete again.

ONCE BITTEN

Once Bitten, released November 1985, only grossed $10 million.

frightnight1985_11

Fright Night, released August 1985, pulled in $25 million.

The secret to Fright Night’s success was a genre pastiche. It successfully mashed up the vampire film with the more popular teen horror flicks. Instead of a dated historic timeline, the movie existed in present day. Instead of stuffy older adults fighting the vampire, teens had to cope with the monster.

Fright Night competed will with other horror films of the time. Look a that some 1985 box office grosses: Return of the Living Dead ($14 million); Friday the 13th part V ($22 million), Nightmare on Elms Street 2 ($30 million).

The success of Fright Night led to nearly all future vampire films having a genre pastiche element. More teen films arrives (Lost Boys , 1987), along with vampire westerns (Near Dark, 1987 and From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996) and plenty of action movies mashed up with vampires (Blade, 1998 and Underworld, 2003).

So what, you ask, has this got to do with the sparkling vampires of Twilight?

It was inevitable that the romance genre would be combined with vampires. A long history of a vampire longing for a lost love existed. The 1960s television soap opera, Dark Shadows, was the first to have a romantic vampire with Barnabas. Several other movies carried this theme along, notably Blacula (1972) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

In 1991, The Vampire Diaries series featured Elena Gilbert, a human girl, who is only moved to passion by Stefan Salvatore, a vampire. These novels jump stared a whole industry of paranormal romance. The meshing of two popular genres: the supernatural and romance. It was only a matter of time before these popular books exploded onto the screen. The small screen for Vampire Diaries. And a four part movie series for Twilight.

draft_lens12020081module109503401photo_1278602143twilight-edward-sparkle-v

Vampires have so melded with romance, I doubt the two will separate. However, this doesn’t mean that different genre pastiches don’t await us in the future. Would people want to see vampire political thrillers (a bit like the Kindred)? Or supernatural detectives (like the X-Files)? The genre of vampires will not dies. It simply resurrects in different forms.

To read more about how vampires have changed through the years, check out my book: The Changing Vampire of Film and Television.

changevamp

Thanks,

Tim Kane

The Surreal Terror of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis has a logical and scientific explanation. It’s a phenomenon where you partially wake up from sleep, but your muscles still remain frozen. A biological glitch in our bodies causing one part of us to wake from the dream, while the rest of the body is on lockdown. Perfectly explainable. Yet try telling that to someone who’s lived through it.

The experience can be terrible. You’re still dreaming and the things you see appear real. But you cannot move or speak or scream.

You are frozen in terror, staring up at the monstrous creations of your subconscious.

Sleep paralysis is actually a protection mechanism designed to keep you safe while dreaming. The images and scenarios in your dream are vivid and seem real. If a tiger leaps out, you scream and run. Your muscles are locked down to prevent you from flailing about or making a large racket (that would have attracted predators back in the day).

Even as we understand more about this phenomenon, there’s no denying the surreal quality it evokes—to see your dreams as real, right there before you. Photographer Nicolas Bruno has captured some of these images. He is a victim of sleep paralysis and his photos are a window into his subconscious mind.

19gef8hpvg9nzpng

Bruno began to jot down notes about his dreams. He wanted to recreate them using recurring imagery (like gas masks, bowler hats, or lanterns) and compose them the way a painter would. His photos show a haunting world that Bruno describes as  “a bittersweet homage” to his dream-world life.

19gefiqommv7upng

Often times, dreams serve as a way to work through the events of a day. But dreams aren’t logical. They are an emotional outlet. You typically see your fears come alive, such as being buried alive. The fears don’t make sense. It’s your minds way of dealing with them.

19gef8hppy7zopng

 

Because dreams mash up images, the result can seem surreal and downright strange. We move from place to place instantly.

The glitch of sleep paralysis has haunted humanity for thousands of years. Over that time, cultures created creatures that stalk us in the night as a way to explain the frightening sessions of paralysis. They myths center around nocturnal monsters or demons.

In the Amazon, we have the Boto, a river dolphin that transforms at night into a vaguely human creature. It wears a hat to cover it’s blowhole. In Africa, the night prowler takes the form of a bear. Known as the Tokoloshe, it slinks in at night and bites the toes off children as they sleep.

A carving of a Tokoloshe.

A carving of a Tokoloshe.

The folks at the Sleep Paralysis Project, along with director Carla MacKinnon, have created a documentary about sleep paralysis. This both serves as an explanation and a terrifying vision of the phenomenon. Be warned, if you don’t suffer from bad dreams, you will after watching this.

The film Devil in the Room depicts the grotesque creatures alongside the scientific explanation. It was meant to evoke the feeling of sleep paralysis and I say it does a damn good job.

Tim Kane