Teeny Haunts: Snail Hail

Although I’ve known about how storms can pick up critters and deposit them, rain style, across various swaths of landscape, I stumbled across this particular story in the 400th issue of Fortean Magazine. I was struck by the oddness of the account.

Most scientists attribute critters raining from the sky to tornado waterspouts. High winds create a tornado-like suction that picks up fish or frogs or even snails and carries them for miles. The Farmer’s Almanac lists the most bizarre items to have rained down on humanity including meat in Kentucky and spiders in Australia.

In the case of the snail encounter, the witness claims that when he exited the phone booth, the snails formed perfect circle. As if the rain were concentrated exactly on his locale.

Of course the best story about raining animals comes from Stephen King’s Rainy Season (a short story from Nightmares and Dreamscapes). In this, a couple move to a small town only to find that every seven years it rains frogs. However these amphibians have a taste for flesh.

There have been three short films made of this story (2002, 2017 and an Australian short in 2019). The story reads the best.

I have never personally experienced any strange fauna falling from the skies. However, I do know that the creepiness of the event would long linger in my memory.

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: The Demon Car of Proctor Road

I had no idea I lived so close to such a haunted road. Apparently the dirt road that connects my city to Jamul has all sorts of haunts associated with it — a ghost lady, a goat man and of course a demon car.

Digging into this legend, I can’t help but wonder if it was inspired by the 1977 film The Car, where James Brolin has to defeat, you guessed it, a demon possessed car. The movie has a few problems, but the car design is exceptional and I used it as a basis for the illustration of the Proctor Valley version.

The mouth that opens up at the end was inspired by the cartoon Regular Show, specifically the episode Ello Gov’nor. This is where a British taxi chases Rigby down, but it’s grill opens up into a mouth.

There are also elements of Stephen King wrapped up in the Proctor Valley legend. Not so much Christine, but rather Salem’s Lot. The movie did the best they could, but I recall in the story, King describes the car in much the same way it was depicted in the 1977 Car movie.

I haven’t yet experienced the Demon Car myself. It’s supposed to happen to travelers who embark on the dirt road at night. Once, I did travel down the bumpy path at sunset and behind me loomed a pair of headlights. They never sped up to my number.

All the same, I pushed my car as fast as it would go. Just in case.

Stay haunted…

Tim Kane

Creepy Critters and Insect Transformations

My life seems to be dominated by bugs. (Thankfully with no current infestations, though I could be jinxing myself.) It all started with a book: Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart. I was pulled to it like flies to dung. I’d already read her previous book, Wicked Plants, and it was astounding.

Wicked-Bugs

I’m only halfway through, but the descriptions of bed bugs kept me up at night (glancing around the room for possibly critters). One of the most intriguing insects so far is the Asian Giant Hornet. Not only is this creature gigantic (50 mm), it raids bee hives the way Vikings pillaged English towns.

viking wasp

One wasp will reconnoiter the hive, tearing off the heads of bees and bringing them back to its young. Then it smears pheromones and attracts a massive wasp raid. All the bees are destroyed, the larva and honey stolen away.

What really takes this to the next level is the defense that the bees mount. Too small to fight the wasp directly, they team up. The bees know that if they can dispose of the first wasp, the others won’t come. They lure the scout wasp inside the hive. The bees then proceed to flap their wings furiously, raising the temperature to a blistering 116 degrees. This cooks the wasp. The danger is that if the temperature kicks up a few more notches, it kills the bees.

Vampires-in-Lemon-Grove

This isn’t the only literary insect encounter. I’m also currently reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. The second story, Reeling for the Empire, is both repulsive and alluring at the same time. It centers around Japanese women stuck in a modernizing nation (mid-nineteenth century). To compete with Western silk spinning machines, the Japanese alter their women to transform them into silk worm. They grow fuzzy body hair and rip off their fingernails to pull out the silk that builds in their bellies.

This is an illustration created by moonasi for the New York Times. Click to see the original.

This is an illustration created by moonasi for the New York Times. Click to see the original.

Cap all this off with the fact that my local museum, The San Diego Natural History Museum, has a bug exhibit  (Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders) featuring glowing scorpions, millipedes, bird eating tarantulas, and vinegaroons.

tarantula_poster_03_t600

It’s enough to make you twitch and glance over your shoulder for bugs. At least I’m not degrading to the status of Upston Pratt from Creep Show. Not familiar? In the story, titled “They’re Creeping You Out”, a cranky tycoon has “bug-proofed” his penthouse (Howard Hughes has nothing on this guy). Suffice it to say, roaches find their way in, both to the apartment and his body.

Creepshow – They’re Creeping Up on You! from Veetrix on Vimeo.

Gross.

Enjoy the insect world. They outnumber us 200 million to 1.

Tim Kane

Nosferatu: The Film Resurrected (Part 2)

Florence Stoker, widow to Bram Stoker, did all she could to stamp out any imitators to the vampire in Dracula. She had all copies of Freidrich Willhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens burned. Yet Nosferatu did not stay dead. Like any good horror movie, the villain revived himself and carried on the fight. A print of the film resurfaced in 1929, playing to audiences in New York and Detroit. However preeminent Dracula scholar, David J. Skal, writes that the film “was not taken seriously” and that most audiences considered it “a boring picture”. The print was then purchased by Universal to see what had already been done in terms of a vampire movie. The film was studied by all the key creative personnel leading to the Universal production of Dracula in 1931.

nosferatu5b

The undead film continued to rise from the grave throughout the years. An abridged version was aired on television in the 1960s as part of Silents Please, and subsequently released by Entertainment films under the title Terror of Dracula, and then again by Blackhawk Films under the name Dracula. Blackhawk also released the original version to the collector’s market under the title Nosferatu the Vampire. An unabridged copy of the movie survived Florence Stoker’s death warrant and was restored and screened at Berlin’s Film Festival in 1984.

Despite its influence on the making of the 1931 Dracula, Nosferatu has few film decedents. It’s theme of vampire as a scourging plague has only been seriously taken up by two films: the 1979 remake by Werner Herzog, Nosferatu: The Vampyre.

Another film (same year) was the television miniseries of Salem’s Lot, directed by Tobe Hooper.

Perhaps if the original Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens had been allowed regular release, this would not be the case. It remains to be seen if Nosferatu will vanish again with the daylight or if this rare film will rise again in a new form.

For more information on the making of the original Dracula, check out David Skal’s book Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen.

Tim Kane

Writer or Hoarder?

My latest literary venture involves a character who’s a hoarder and I’ve had the most difficult time getting information about this person together. My usual style of banging it out on the computer will not cut it. It seems I have to live a little of the hoarding to get the character right. (Hey, I’m Daniel Day Lewis.)

I’ve found that jotting notes down on scraps of paper work best. And these are any scraps at any time. Receipts, PTA flyers, envelopes. I managed to snatch a mini spiral just so I could keep most of the notes in one spot. Now I’m frantic that I’ll…

A) Lose them

B) Not be able to make any sense of them

So in true loner-living-in-a-cabin style, I grabbed a big notebook and began transcribing. It’s taking forever because at this point I have pages of notes scattered across a few different notebooks. What keeps circling back in my brain is whether I should write it down at all.

I’m a lister. That’s what I do. I like to make lists and notes. However, I often don’t check them. I find just making the list is enough. Same with writing. I often jot down all these details and then hardly look at them. Though I usually need them to get names and dates straight in the manuscript.

Stephen King once said that any idea you need to write down, can’t be a good idea. His thoughts are: If it’s truly captivating, you’ll recall most of it when the time comes.

I’m sorry, Mr. King, but I love to write it down. Mostly because I have snippets of conversation or thoughts that I want to preserve.

The only other interesting thing about my transcription process is the number of delays that have arisen. It seems that almost every time I sit down to work on the notes, something distracts me. A friend’s apartment flood and she needs my help (legit). It’s back to school night at my daughter’s school. I’m dead tired and pass out as I open the book. Or are these simply the hoarders way to put off the inevitable?

Still, I persevere. I yearn to organize these notes the way my character (the hoarder) can’t.

Tim Kane