Friday, September 20, 2013

Interview with a Monster - The Salem Witch File

Hello Ghouls. This week is a piece that was included in the August 2013 issue of Suspense Magazine. Enjoy the fear!

Interview with a Monster - The Salem Witch File
by Thomas Scopel

In my prior visits with Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and Phantom, I basically knew what to expect. Fortunately, all went well and obviously I wasn’t crushed, drained, shredded or scarred. Witches posed a far more terrifying aspect; capable of striking at any given moment, at any given location and without any given notice.

Nonetheless, I was bound and determined to interview one and while quite sure they existed everywhere, there was one primary place that was almost guaranteed to bring success…Salem.

Leaving the comforts of my Ohio home, I don’t mind telling you that apprehension was in the air and it took some small amount of courage to mentally counter the growing nerves in my belly. I had been fearful before, but nothing like this. At least with the prior four, running to escape was a viable option. With women of the dark arts, true monsters’ in my eyes and limited only by their minds’ blackest corners, any exodus is vain.

However, also lingering just below the surface of fear was motivation and determination too. So I simply swallowed the dread, planned to proceed lightly and hoped for an unscathed outcome. 

But, along the way this fear would not let up and I was unable to stop recalling a few films depictions and the victims’ inevitable conclusions. One sufferer in particular, which my mind continued to loop back around to, had been attacked from afar and inflicted with what looked like a boil on his cheek. This pimple like thing turned out to be a nest and when it broke open, amongst the pus and blood were tiny spiders scattering all about his face.

Rather gruesome it was and I battled against the horrific thoughts, trying to replace them with more positive dispositions. After all, I meant no harm and intended to convey this early on expressing that I’m only a writer wanting to discuss and interview. They certainly wouldn’t frown on that, I told myself.

Of course, this did little to ease the trepidation and by the time the Salem - 23 miles ahead sign came within sight, the nervous knot in my stomach felt basketball sized. Coincidentally, I pondered whether those little hairy spiders were about to come rushing out of my navel.

Picturing each wart-nosed crone having ever seen, it wasn’t those types that truly troubled me. More concerning was the beauty eyed, total wicked type that one never sees coming. The ones remaining hidden from public perception, yet harboring a vile iniquity along with a collage of malicious spells and castings that are most abhorrent. 

Prior research had explained much of this and a quick perusing of various search engines also provided a subject plethora including spell derivatives. Further searching, specifically narrowing it down to the Salem, Massachusetts area, provided the usual tourist havens and upon closer inspection, offered a couple of leads; particular websites with names indigenous to the craft, and the addresses I jotted down on a small sliver of yellow paper. Of course, I couldn’t be sure whether they would prove to be vital, but at least it was a direction and beginning in a town of forty thousand, nestled against the Atlantic just north of Boston.

The twenty three miles passed quickly and pulling into town, it was warm and comfortable and calm, with exception of my still knotted stomach, which now bawled with hunger too. I drove along scenic routes, seeking a diner and soaking up modern day metro meets quaint and quiet. Armed with recollections of many pen and ink drawings, it wasn’t all that hard to envision this place as a 1692 village, and before long, found what I sought.

From the outside, the place appeared typical, with white sheer curtains hanging in the windows and a flashing neon sign beaming the word open. Inside, while the decor wasn’t unusual either, there was an overwhelming and impending feeling of coldness, like walking into a morgue, as every patron, all at the exact same time, stopped to stare until the tiny bell attached to the door faded from ringing. Let’s just say that the creep effect was prevalent as thoughts of Stepford crossed my mind.

In hindsight, I suppose this was my only warning. But with a stubborn side that wasn’t going to be chased off that easily regardless of a tightening belly, this realization was somehow blocked and I took an open seat at the counter between two ogling men who appeared to be well into their twilight years. 

Not really needing to, since I already had something in mind, I pluck the menu from in between the napkin and condiment racks and gave the respect of looking over their listings. The waitress, an absolutely gorgeous hunk of blond-haired womanhood that could easily have been a model, approached and stood across from me.

“What’ll it be?” Her voiced was dainty with a slight English accent having since faded.

Stunned, I couldn’t find words. Obviously having seen this effect before, she didn’t bother asking again, just smiled, batted her eyes and waited while I regained composure. Finding my speech, I put the menu back and ordered bacon, lettuce and tomato and an ice tea. Without another word, she went to fetch it.

She delivered my drink and went to check on the sandwich. I took a sip and glanced around. Everyone was still gawking, like they’d never seen an outsider before. All in all, it was rather disturbing and I returned to the drink.

Returning with my lunch, she placed it in front of me and with a partly lowered brow, looked about the room. I followed her gaze and watched as everyone turned away and went back to eating.

Her face softened and with attentions focused on me, in between sandwich bites I explained the purpose of my visit. She stood there looking pretty and contently listening. I finished the tea and she offered to refill it. Before I could finish chewing the last bite and object, she had already snatched up the glass and was gone. When she came back, while not at all wanting it, I felt obliged to at least take a few sips as she watched.

Afterward, while setting the glass back down, she reached out and patted the back of my hand. There was a sudden whirl of blur and I found myself sitting on a pew, dressed as a puritan, compressed in a small building resembling a church with a crowd that would rival a minor league baseball game.

Needless to say, it took me a while to poise and after a hurried observance, recognized that it was a courtroom complete with a judge wearing a white powdered wig. A distinct, but not distinguishable shape embedded round, stained glass window, above and behind him, allowed penetrating sunlight to flow, cascading multicolored rays down onto a fairly young woman sitting on a sturdy wooden chair at the front of the congregation. Behind streaming tears, fear filled her face, much like the closely resembling little girl of innocent age who sat beside me and whom I looked upon with tremendous forlorn.

A heavy gavel bang made me jerk and turn to see two burly men taking hold of the poor woman and dragging her down the center aisle and out the double doorway.

The crowd started to follow in orderly fashion, some hooting and hollering, and while not entirely positive, I thought I’d heard something about a witch getting what she deserved.

The people in my row rose and began inching their way out, much like the conclusion of a wedding, and I did the same, simply going with the majority. I had no idea where we were going, but assumed the crowd would take me there.

By the time I found my way outside into the courtyard of the small village, the woman was already standing in the back of a wagon heavily roped to a post. One of the men tugged at the horse’s reins and the wagon move forward, the crowd in tow.

We must have walked a mile or so, over a hard, densely packed earth trail that took us out the end of town and through a darkened wooded area. At the edge of a green field, just beyond a massive oak tree whose branches reached far and wide, the wagon stopped in front of a pile of chopped wood and the poor woman was removed, only to be retied to another post standing nearby.

The two men began stacking firewood at her feet and the crowd joined in, building a mound up over her ankles and almost to her knees. The wigged judge, whom I hadn’t noticed while flowing with the crowd, stepped forward with a lit torch and tossed it onto the pile. It rolled up against the woman’s leg and flared. The woman shrieked and her wide eyes, full of pain and fear, sent a chill down my spine. The heap began to catch and the woman somberly looked off to the side at that little girl, tears streaming down both their faces.

The flames grew higher and higher and by the time they had reached the woman’s breast length blond hair, she was slumped forward and silent.

The crowd began to file away and I immediately felt lost. Various folks, both men and women, young and old, strolled past me before the little girl came and looked up at me. She reached out and with her tiny soft hand, took hold of mine.

The blur came again and I was back, sitting in the diner and looking up at the blond, a crooked smile spanning across her face. Still reeling and partly dizzy, I glanced away toward the other patrons. They too had that same type of eerie, wicked like smile. Looking back at the woman, she just winked and patted my hand.

“Lunch is on me, and be sure to stop by the museum on your way out of town.”

Yeah, right, I thought to myself, getting up and fumbling quickly to the door.

Now I don’t know what compelled, but at the door, I turned to take a last look. No longer a pleasant view; her face was now that of a wrinkled and decrepit old crone with mostly missing teeth, the others blackened. Seeing my glimpse, she broke into a hysterical cackle and the patrons joined in, both in appearance as well as action, and I took off out the door.

Spinning tires through the gravel lot, my car gripped pavement and shot forward. Fleeing, maintaining a vigil in the rear view mirror, I half expected to see them streaming out of the door after me, maybe on broomsticks. After rounding a bend, the diner out of site, I focused on road signs and let up a little on the accelerator.

Just as I came to highway 128, there was a billboard depicting a majestic oak tree sporting a noose by a field with a blazing bonfire in the background and reading, Visit the Salem Museum, where the horrors took place!

I turned onto the highway and pressed down on the gas.

Twelve hours later, at home, the anxiety hadn’t completely waned and I pondered how to write an interview I hadn’t even given. Perplexed, conflicted and cogitating that the trip probably fell somewhere on the lower side of the scale between success and failure, I decided to simply attempt fiction. As my word processor booted up, I went to get more than a smidgen of brandy.

When I came back, one single sentence had mysteriously been typed.

There are things worse than spiders. Tread lightly and never forget!

The sifter fell from my shuddering hand and shattered on the tile floor. I didn’t care and slammed the laptop closed. Trembling, I peered from window to window to window. Outside was black as coal. 

It would be another week before I reopened the laptop to find the words gone.

Sitting here in front of a blank page, I solemnly promise to never forget and am most certain to leave well enough alone.


As I take a sip from my newly purchased sifter, I begin to wonder if a Hunchback spirit lingers at Notre Dame.


There was only one entry in Fester Bone's contest this week for the Werewolves book by John Izzard. Regardless, we do have a winner and that person is Darla H.

It's in the mail Darla. Thanks for entering.

And since there is an extreme lack of interest, Fester has called off the contests...for now.


And, one final thing my gruesome fiends. This week has been more than busy and next week I will show you why...

Stay Scared,

Thomas

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Seasoning House is bold, brilliant & disturbing...to say the least

Chilling and realistic, brutal as hell and mostly disturbing, The Seasoning House is a culmination of cruelty and suffering that even the hardest of horror fans will at times find hard to stomach. Basically, in a nutshell, this is Hostel without the tools.
In the war torn Balkans, deaf mute Angel (Rosie Day) is inadvertently forced to watch her family slayed by murderous thug soldiers lead by a heartless commander Goran (Sean Pertwee). This is military business as usual for his squad, with even the most hesitant of legionnaires forced to participate. It is also the source of commodities for Goran’s illegitimate side business; a brothel operated by the equally ruthless and cold hearted Viktor (Kevin Howarth).

At this whorehouse, a dark and dirty place with boarded up windows and scampering rats, the girls are held captive, forced to comply and perform through the use of involuntary drug addiction.

Angel, her sordid past told early on through effective flashbacks, has now been assigned as, for lack of a better word, maid and primary pharmaceutical deliverer. In a warped sort of way, this is a good thing since it keeps her from being one of the bound to the bed products.
In this capacity, she preps the girls before each typically violent, painful and callous encounter, injecting them with a hypodermic needle filled with heroin and gingerly applying eye shadow. Afterward, using an unclean sponge drawn from a rusty bucket, she soothingly wipes the blood away. Far from unfeeling and uncaring, herself a prisoner and the sole object of Viktor’s whim affections, she has no choice but to accept the atrocities.
Nighttime finds her wandering the crawlspaces between the walls, struggling and wriggling and able to maneuver from room to room undetected, where at times she exits from behind the ventilation grates. (This is the film’s initial revelation and in the opening scenes we see her accomplish this).

Powerless to aid, she maintains sanity in this vile existence by keeping it bottled up deep within and simply going through Viktor’s directed daily routine.
When newcomer Vanya (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) realizes that Angel is deaf and begins communicating with her through sign language, Angel lets her guard down and befriends, even bringing and sharing a little piece of heaven in the form of the chocolate she keeps hidden away under her mattress.
But, make no mistake, life here is meager and pitiless as Angel watches, so close but yet so far, from behind the room’s metal grate while Vanya is subjected to chronic and vicious rapes that leave her bloody and shattered. After one such encounter, Vanya’s pelvis is broken and Viktor is forced to summon Andre, a neighborhood doctor who may harbors ethics and pity, but is also unable to help since the establishment is well protected and far-reaching. After delicately scolding Viktor about taking better care of the girls, he (in a creepy, grin filled shot reminiscent to the visiting truant officer in A Clockwork Orange) lies to Vanya, hides the true extent of her injuries and tells the poor girl that she has only suffered a little tearing. An aware Angel wants desperately to assist her new friend, but fearfully abstains, knowing it futile.

But when the ones responsible for her abduction and family’s demise pay a visit, her plan of revenge takes full root. Will it lead her on a path to escape and freedom?

Throughout the first two thirds of the film, Director Paul Hyett sets the tone, making it impossible for the audience to turn away and taking them on an almost ethereal journey that nearly implies it is nothing more than some horrible bad dream. But, the final act yanks this away, exchanged for a high suspense filled game of cat and mouse. 

Raw, powerful and harsh, the film, carefully crafted by Hyett, is not for everyone and many will find it revolting. However, this is not to say that the film is in no way, shape or form terrible. On the contrary, the film is excellent, has won numerous awards and is filled with especially moving performances.
Kevin Howarth, as the imposing Viktor, initially will have the audience despising his character but will eventually turn them into rooting fans.
And, Dominique Provost-Chalkley is exceptional as Vanya, a role that can only be described as grueling and arduous.
However, it is Rosie Day’s Angel character that commands attention; something rather difficult when dialogue is forbidden; clearly conveying emotion the audience will comprehend and feel even without the use of words.

Uncompromising, The Seasoning House is an unrelenting glimpse into the sexual slavery trade that is probably closer to fact than fiction and for those who view the film, be aware, while the film may have ended, the memories will most assuredly remain.  



And the winner of the Killer Klowns From Outer Space DVD is....
Michele Lineberry

Michele, your prize is on the way!






Fester Bones Giveaway #2
WEREWOLVES by Jon Izzard



As mentioned last week, from now until Halloween, Fester Bones is giving away one prize a week. This week it it the book Werewolves by Jon Izzard. Chock full of photographs, this 192 page book goes beyond fiction to find the facts
Want to win it?
Simply drop Fester a line at FesterBonesGiveaway@yahoo.com and include your name and address. All entry's will be tossed in a grave and one will rise. 
Deadline is midnight September 19th and that winner will be announced next week right here on Staying Scared.
Good Luck Ghouls


One last note...
Things do go bump in the night and you might notice that Staying Scared is going through a change. All we here at Staying Scared can say is that It's going to be a very creepy October. More on that later

Until next week Creepsters,
Stay Scared

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Horrorscapes is a must for any Halloween Boo Bash

With Halloween in the not too distant future, costume parties are certain, held in places filled with the decor of nightmares. By adding HorrorscapeS, an innovative looping DVD of horrific scenes and chilling vignettes, any television or computer screen can easily be utilized to push that boo bash over the top.
Produced by Michael Speigner and Jeremiah Baumbach, over 80 fragments are depicted. With vampires and spiders, skulls and zombies, ghosts and Jack-O-Lanterns and even a creepy clown amongst, even things that go bump in the night will take notice.

Created and filmed with the utmost quality, proof coming in the form of an Emmy nomination for Photography, each punctilious scene is a culmination of distinctive costuming, exceptional FX, precise lighting and enhanced settings designed to constantly reinforce the mood.
The menu is easily maneuverable
With six sections to choose from, as well as the option to select all, choreographing a themed party couldn’t be easier and any ghoulish host can easily set the tone to their specifics. 

Section one is called Fear Fest, a vast combination of assorted scenes yanked from nightmares including a hairy tarantula creeping along, a demented butcher knife clutching clown lurking from the haze at the bottom of a stairwell and a terrified woman lying on a gurney covered in blood, her arm horribly gashed and being experimented on by an implied Dr. Death. Various odd looking eyes are also depicted and is sure to send shivers down many a spine.

The remaining five sections are specific screensavers:

Fire Skull is a perfectly designed and a graphically superior depiction of just that, a skull floating on and in a pit of fire from straight out of hell.
The Vamp Vixens are both beautiful and deadly
Vampire Vixens are sultry female blood suckers sure to tantalize any neck and perfect for those parasitic only parties.
Various Jack-O-Lantern's are depicted, all having a creepy feel
U Don’t Know Jack is possibly the overall best and will comfortably fit in any scenario, even the younger generational ones.
Watch closely and you will see
Ghost Hunting is the most innovative as camera 13, complete with date and counting digital clock across the top reminiscent of Paranormal Activity, watches over a dark and frightening, misty cemetery that in itself would convey fear. Watch closely minions, for the spooks do come out at night.
Lunar Madness is similar in fashion to the Vampire Vixen portion, only this time it is a depiction of a shadowed full moon perfect for bringing out the werewolf howls. 

An interesting note: With regards to their screensavers, 2010 saw Michael Speigner and Jeremiah Baumbach create the very first Halloween themed edition for Comcast On Demand and over 30 million fans paid witness to their handiwork. Coincidentally, they’ve been doing it ever since.

If there is anything detrimental to say about this product, it would be the dark and hard to read packaging itself. In my humble opinion, this needs an update to include eye catching flash and pizzazz…maybe some blood dripping from edges.
Any television and DVD player will work
Otherwise, HorrorscapeS, from www.relishthefear.com, is frightfully clever, horrifically disturbing, fully unnerving and for those planning a Halloween Boo Bash, this DVD is an absolute must.




Fester Bones wants to have some giveaways.


 So, from now until Halloween, each week he will be giving away something. Want to win? Simply send an email to Fester at FesterBonesGiveaway@yahoo.com and include your name and address. Also, since some of these items may be "R" rated, please state that you are 18 years of age or older.
This week the prize is a DVD of Killer Clowns From Outer Space (okay, so maybe Wee Willie Wicked help him choose this prize). Good Luck Ghouls. The deadline for entering is Thursday September 12 at midnight, so hurry up spooks and send that email. The winner will be announced on next Friday's Staying Scared posting.



Until next time Ghouls, when we will review The Seasoning House.

Stay Scared,
Thomas