Home Is Where I Want To Be, But I Guess I'm Already There...

A collective of curious tales from places I once called "home..."

Laurel Canyon: When I was about eleven I lived there, with my mother. She had purchased this house whose back fence was shared with that of Errol Flynn's old place. I never cared for the house. It had one of those odd living rooms no one is meant to enter unless there is some sort of "company." Everything was a glaring white, or glass to reflect the barren, sterile room. It was a large house with many bedrooms and a pool that flooded the house when it rained. It probably cost an absurd amount of money. We didn't live there long, maybe six months, maybe more, (a child's memory is not equipped to mark the passage of time as we "adults" do). This is because the owners came back. Apparently, some crafty gentlemen had made a business out of learning which large and expensive homes were a second or third house for someone who rarely used it. They would brake into the homes, remove the contents and sell it. Then they would sell the house. An interesting occupation, no doubt.

Echo Park: My father lived in an apartment here for awhile. I remember my father's girlfriend lighting the gas oven in this little apartment. I remember the oven exploding. In her face. There is something else that happened. Something I am on the fence about telling. I'll remain on the silent side, for now. There was a large hill at the end of the street and at the foot of the hill a stairway. The hill was barren and open and you could see the top of it from a living room window of the little apartment. Some nights, if you looked out the window, in the darkness of the hill you could see a large bonfire and people cavorting around it, many of them without clothing. I longed to climb the stairs of the hill on those nights for the witches would welcome me, I knew. I might even get invited to the faerie realm if I behaved well enough. My father agreed but did not permit me to find out. *sigh* Anyone up for a drive to Echo Park? 

Atwater Village/Los Feliz: There is no one home to play with today and I do not care to play indoors so I strap on my skates and traverse back and forth along the horse shoe of the cul de sac my house is in, over and over again. The houses on this side of the horse shoe overlook the LA River. Some sound and a vibration catch my attention. I lift my face skyward to see a small airplane plummeting, rapidly, it’s nose faces down and it is spiraling., a tail of smoke following behind., all of it so close, not only am I filled with fear but I wonder if I can touch it. When it hits the earth the ground moved, hard, under the wheels of my skates and I fall to the sidewalk. It lands about 150 feet from where I have fallen. The only casualty is the plane itself.

Green Valley (a suburb of Las Vegas) : It’s Vegas. Of course, I have many stories. This one vies for the creepiest. I live in an apartment complex on the second floor. Vegas is a transient town. A new phone book is issued every three months to keep up with the influx of new residents. My apartment building is no different. Two girls have moved into the apartment that is on the other side of my bedroom walls. They have been there for a few months now and are quiet. Of everyone I talk to, no one has seen them more than once, if at all. Their downstairs neighbor, announces one day that the girls came down to see her. They will be leaving for the long weekend, could the neighbors keep an eye out as there have been plenty of attempted break ins. I don’t know what time it is but it’s night. Bedtime. After having been asleep for perhaps, three hours I awake to sounds of animals. Chickens, maybe dogs or cats too…something that growls, that is for sure and there are more than one of them. They are also angry…really angry. The noises emanate from just behind my bedroom wall and I know what’s on the other side…the girl’s apartment. This can’t possibly be what I am hearing. I don’t strain to listen but I do strain to comprehend. I can hear occasional thuds against the wall, followed by howls or odd guttural noises.. The action, the sounds, they grow and intensify until…I know it’s insane but it sounds like they are literally tearing one another to pieces in there. I open my window and look to my immediate left where I can get a limited view of their windows. There are no lights on. The sounds stop. They don’t die out, they just end. I go back to bed wondering what the heck happened and am soon asleep again. By the end of the week the girls have moved out. The apartments have a small crew of three guys who handle maintenance. One of them is Alan, an older man probably in his late fifties. I visit him sometimes in the maintenance office. He’s funny and tells good stories. He teaches me how to make locks and sneaks cookie dough out of the freezer for me on summer days. I do not think he can read. I miss him. Alan informs me that the girls left, giving no notice or word. He opened the apartment earlier today. The walls in the room that share a wall with my bedroom wall has odd things painted on it, in black. Shapes and symbols he says. There is red stuff on the walls and the carpet. “Looks like blood,” he laughs. There were feathers around too. 

Once the place is fixed up new people move in. They have lived there for a few months by now. I am sitting across the way, on the lawn in front of my friend Jan’s apartment with some other friends. Me being, well, me , I see one of the guys coming down the stairs of the apartment and call out to him , “Hey! Does anything weird ever happen in your apartment?!!” He is surprised at the odd lawn girl, yelling at him with familiarity and no doubt finds the question especially interesting. He approaches me/us and asks…”Why?” I reply by asking him again, “Does anything weird ever happen in your apartment?” He tells me yes. Things disappear only to reappear in places they are not meant to be. He sometimes comes home to find things broken or cracked when it is seemingly impossible. He has wondered if the apartment is haunted. I tell him a story. 

I bet everyone has at least one story. Tag, you're it.

It Is Finished...Goodnight Harry

Houdini keeps coming up again and again for me the past couple weeks. Tonight, I'll be making an appearance at The Magic Castle for the Houdini Seance. Here's a bit of history about the Houdini seances:
Prior to his death, famed magician an
d self appointed spiritualist sheriff, Harry Houdini made a pact with his wife Bess. If it was at all possible to communicate after death whichever of them died first would make every effort to do so by communicating to the other from beyond the veil. The couple established a code to verify identity and harry had promised to unlock a pair of handcuffs among other things. 

Harry Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. Each year thereafter, Bess would hold a Halloween night seance in hopes of making contact with her beloved Harry. Alas, no messages she deemed legitimate came through.

The video posted below is a recording of the final official seance. After ten years of trying to contact him, Bess herself closed the seance saying, "It is finished. Goodnight, Harry." 

Kate Bush's tribute to Bess in her song, Houdini, is not to be overlooked.

I wait at the table, 
And hold hands with weeping strangers 
Wait for you to join the group 

Wisconsin Wednesdays

"Wisconsin Death Trip" Wednesdays. 

For the residents of Black River Falls in the late 1800's and early 1900's, it seems as though they were overtaken by collective madness or were, perhaps, unknowingly intaking poison that altered their ne
urological motherboards.

Local newspaper stories of the time were rife with murders, suicides, possessions, insanity...and insane acts. Here, death was part of daily life.

Wednesdays I'll feature various photographs and news from Michael Lesy's 1973 book.

N.H. Young "...brought home a bottle of whisky which he put up in the house near a bottle of carbolic acid which had been there for some time. He arose in the night, drank about 4 ounces at one swallow and lived about 4 minutes." 
~ Aug, 1910/County

"James McDonald and his wife were arrested in Eau Claire on the charge of having killed their own team of horses with were found in McDonald's barn with their throats cut about 2 weeks ago...it was supposed a lunatic had killed [them]. They were insured...The claim is made that the McDonalds wanted money."
December, 1908/State

"Miss Polly Nichols, aged 62 years, committed suicide in a most horrible manner...She became impressed with the idea that a small sore on her back was a cancer and that it would kill her. She went into the back yard, saturated herself with kerosene then touched a match to it." 

                                                                                   January 30, 1896/State

You heap the logs and try to fill 
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath—
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.     
by Hortense King Flexner

Beauty is...the Girl With Her Own Skull in Her Stomach

Former Miss Idaho, Jamie Hilton, went fishing with her husband one summer day in Hell's Canyon, only to suffer a fall, hitting her head on a large boulder.

When she was pulled from the water she had no pulse and was not breathing. After being rushed to a medical facility they discovered severe brain swelling and cut away a quarter of her skull, storing it in her abdomen for the next forty two days until Hilton was well enough to have it replaced.

There Are Kisses For Us All...

I was not alone.

The room was the same, unchanged in any way since I came into it; I could see along the floor, in the brilliant moonlight my own footsteps marked where I had disturbed the long accumulation of dust. In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming, for though the moonlight was behind them, they threw no shadow on the floor.

They came close to me and looked at me for some time and then whispered together. Two were dark and had high aquiline noses like the Count’s, and great dark, piercing eyes that seemed almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, fair as can be, with golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.

They whispered together, and then they all three laughed, such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of waterglasses when played on by a cunning hand. The fair girl shook her head coquettishly, and the other two urged her on.

One said: “Go on! You are first, and we shall follow; yours is the right to begin.”

The other added: “He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all.”
-Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)

Grave Doll

From 19th Century Art Of Mourning's collection comes this extraordinary wax effigy of a deceased infant.

 A popular practice among French and German immigrants to America. Locks of the deceased child's hair were attached to the head of the doll and the doll's outfit was created from the fabric of the infant's christening gown.

Willard Asylum For The Insane

Four hundred suitcases and their contents, left behind by patients that were committed to the Willard Asylum For The Insane in New York are now on display in an exhibit at the South Carolina State Museum. The exhibit, which displays the personal belongings of those admitted, letters, keepsakes, books, cherished items as well as artifacts from the asylum and biographical sketches of patients is called The Lives They Left behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. 

There is an excellent, but small, archive of photographs of the now abandoned facility that was the birthplace of Cornell University.

The Morgue

Interior of The Pines building

Patient #4 - The Cemetery

Ghost Night

I recently participated in the Ghost Night exhibit at The Eve Gallery  , hosted by friends, Ghost Hunters Of Urban Los Angeles  who were inspired to hold a thematic night based on the belief "...that on this day the barrier between the realm of the spirits and our realm vanishes, and ghosts are free to travel between these two worlds. Thus, a celebration is held on this special day to entertain and amuse these visiting ghosts." 

There was theremin playing, a fantastic thematic playlist courtesy of Creepy LA  , ghostly storytelling and the debut of GHOULA Comix issue #2, to which we contributed a piece centered around the most bizarre bit of LA history we've heard to date.

Carrie, Daddy and...Me

I was finally able to get my hands on one of the photos taken that go along with the Greetings and Salutations post. 

Here you go...

Conjoined Twins Series

Abby and Brittany, conjoined twins, will have their own series on TLC.

LA "Attack"

Today, in 1943, (mid WWII, mind you), Los Angeles citizens were convinced they were under a chemical warfare attack as a mysterious fog takes over the city...

Visibility is down to three blocks at most and people are suffering from burning eyes and runny noses. 

In truth, Angelenos actually brought on the "attack" themselves - it was the first appearance of smog in Los Angeles.

 Um...Happy Birthday Smog.

Turn To The Left...

Ruven Afanador's shoot in Elle Italia, November 2008 as featured by Photo Decadent -

Thirteen For Dinner

Most believe the superstition about thirteen guests at a dinner table drawing the attention of bad luck, misfortune and even death stem from two sources. The earliest from Norse mythology, when trickster Loki, the thirteenth guest, showed up with a bit of mistletoe which ended up killing Balder. Then, of course, there's the biblical spin with the whole Last Supper thing - thirteen guests feast together and before the year is out, someone, most likely the first one to leave the table, is surely going to die. 

Loki, being a jerk. 

In 1898 Savoy Hotel guest, Woolf Joel booked a table at the hotel restaurant for a party of fourteen - one guest was a no show, making it a party of thirteen. Another version cites it was originally a party of thirteen. Host Joel, laughed off some of his more superstitious guests, but lady luck would have the final laugh, as he was shot and killed soon after, by a blackmailer in his Johannesburg office.

Since then, in an effort to avoid such misfortune, the Savoy has provided parties of thirteen with a fourteenth dinner guest in the guise of a black cat named Kaspar. Kaspar stands approximately three feet tall, is carved of wood in an art deco style. He is treated like any other guest and is adorned with a napkin tied about his neck, is given a full setting and is served multiple courses. 

During WWII, poor Kaspar was catnapped by Royal Air Force personnel. Winston Churchill himself, demanded the cat be returned immediately. 

Kaspar has even inspired a children's book, penned by Savoy Writer In Residence, Michael Morpurgo - Kaspar Prince Of Cats. 

Triskaidekaphobics everywhere can rejoice and relax while dining at The Savoy. 

Heat Wave

1995, Chicago - unusually high temperatures of 104 plagued an unprepared city, causing 700 deaths.

Mark Czernick and his son, Zachary, 7, pray at a mass gravesite.

Photographs telling the story of that tragic summer from The Chicago Tribune.

Horror Chic

A love of horror. A love of fashion. 

That pretty much sums up this great collection, Horror Chic, on Tumblr.