Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Special Christmas Edition of Dr. Z!

As my faithful, undead minions readers know… I am a fan of visiting famous celluloid filming sites. I’ve done so several times… from the cemetery where George Romero filmed Night of the Living Dead, to the Monroeville mall where he filmed Dawn of the Dead, to the charnel slaughterhouse where Tobe Hooper filmed ihis infamous Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to the famed hotel that inspired Stephen King to write what would become Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining… I have an unhealthy penchant for horror film history.

(You can check out my travels on the link to the right entitled Dr. Z’s Horrific Road Trip.)

With it being December now, I thought I’d do another.

You see, as the winter solstice approaches, and the night stretches beyond the day with a bitter and bone-chilling cold, our minds turn from the gruesome festiveness of Halloween to its antithesis... the Yuletide.

Enshrouded in the crystalline hoarfrost and tentacles of the insidious northern Ohio frigidity, Christmas springs upon us like a demented elf surprising his prey in the moonlight. With a squeak of primal pain from the consumer as he’s whipped and thrown into a Crampus sack, and a triumphant ‘Ho Ho Ho’ from the evil, relentless spirit of retail… we are trapped in the swirling, curling chaos of the midwinter’s bloody ritual.

It is against this backdrop of unrelenting horror, driven by the repetitive spine-tingling twinkle of Christmas carols… that Dr. Z set out to visit one of the most horrific movie sites of all time. It was especially apropos as this is a uniquely Cleveland experience and I didn’t need to travel far.

You see, faithful reader, Cleveland is home to what may be one of the most recognizable movie filming sites of the last fifty years!!!

Yesterday, as we are wont to do at Christmas time, Mrs. Zombie and our ghoulish progeny – WolfGirl and Zombie Boy – made the trek to Cleveland’s near west side to visit the horrifying, the terrifying, the inexplicably merry filming site of one of my favorite films.

The house from A Christmas Story!

That’s right… Dr. Z likes Christmas. I like Christmas, cheer, eggnog, and Christmas movies.  I love It’s a Wonderful Life and it’s spiritually related A Christmas Story.

And it pleases me that it was filmed here in my own hometown, Cleveland.

So, please join us for a very special holiday episode of Dr. Z.’s Horrific Road Trips!

It snowed a few days ago and there was a crispness to the air that only those from northern climes can understand. We like to call it booger-freezing cold. It’s where it’s so cold the air freezes the moisture in your nostrils and causes a contracting, uncomfortable feeling. So, with the cold and the likelihood of a white Christmas, we made the pilgrimage to Cleveland’s Tremont district in the vicinity of East 14th and Clark Ave.

We don’t normally head to the West Side, as it’s reputed to be an evil place populated by cannibals. I’m fond of saying this, but also don’t usually mention that my family was originally from that very area. My great-grandmother use to own a funeral home on Clark and my father’s high school job was to drive the meat wagon to pick up stiffs. I have vague, early memories of playing in the funeral home, hiding in and around caskets. Maybe that explains how I am today? Anyway, I digress…

Ralphie’s Christmas Story house was chosen because it had the look of an urban industrial town, with the steel mills of The Flats in the background. It was also advantageous to shooting because it was adjacent to a t-intersection – which was conducive to shooting. Cleveland was chosen as a filming site because of the old Higbee’s department store, and the producers liked the look of Cleveland’s old neighborhoods.

The exterior shots were filmed here in Cleveland, but most of the interior shots were filmed on a soundstage in Toronto. However, in 2005, an enterprising fan of the film bought the house and remodeled it to match the interior of the film. It’s open year round and is actually really kind of neat.

As we approached, we saw that it was absolutely crazy. The tight, tiny side streets leading to the house were crammed with cars and people taking in the spectacle of this cherished holiday. And there was a line comparable to the line at Higbee’s to see Santa two days before Christmas.

Here’s a shot of the house from the film:

And how it looked as we approached it from our parking spot on Rowley Avenue:

We got into line and began the cold half hour or so wait to enter the house. This waiting was punctuated by significant whining, bitching, general carrying on by those members of my family who are blessed with lower body fat percentages and little to no tolerance for Cleveland cold. In other words, everybody but Doctor Zombie pissed and moaned that it was cold.

Here’s a picture from the back of the line:

As we neared the house, I snapped a few pictures from the only angle available.

Here’s a picture of the sign in front… and myself and the incomparable Mrs. Zombie.

And the inevitable Leg Lamp! 

Originals from the movie:

Exterior with the family:

And an interior shot:

It’s a major award! (and must be Italian – it says Fra-Gee-Lay!) 

Here’s another shot from the movie of the living room:

And a shot of Zombie Boy with the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock! Apparently, he shot his eye out with it.

Here’s a shot of the Ralphie’s upstairs bedroom:

And a shot of WolfGirl with a pretty girl dressed in a bunny suit. You can tell all she’s thinking is how badly she wanted bunny suit girl to run so that she could chase her down like the small woodland she is. Werewolves, and WolfGirl in particular, love fresh bunny meat! Yum!

And of course, a screen grab of Ralphie in his bunny suit.

Next up in the tour was the bathroom where Ralphie ran to use his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring!

Drink more Ovaltine?!? WTF?!?

Next we moved downstairs to the kitchen.

Here’s a shot of Ralphie, Randy, Mom, and the Old Man at the table:

And a shot today (with a dumb woman stepping in front of my camera! I, of course, was tempted to kill her and eat her liver, but Mrs. Zombie reminded me it was Christmas time. So I just bit one of her ears off. Happy F'ing Christmas! )

Here’s a shot of ZombieBoy standing in as Ralphie’s little brother, hiding under the sink.

And – finally – the place where it all happened; the place where Ralphie almost shot his eye out - the backyard!

Here’s a shot from his fantasy about fighting Black Bart. You can see the corner of the shed.

And as it stands today:

Another angle:

And so, having explored the house, we moved on to downtown and – in the shadow of the former Higbee’s, had some dinner.

Hope you enjoyed this. I certainly did. And, from Doctor Zombie and his family, have a Creepy Christmas!


Friday, November 09, 2012

World War Z - Official Trailer (HD)

I'm a fan of Max Brooks book, World War Z, although the first time I read it, I wasn't.

It seemed like it told too little about the actual onset of the zombie apocalypse, and not enough of the stuff that happened during the zombie apocalypse. I like my apocalyptic zombie fiction to be about the horror and the desperate attempts at survival against the moaning, ravenous hordes of the undead. It was entirely too much about the reclamation of the world after.

Granted, there were some awesome and chilling vignettes. The Battle of Yonkers was incredible, the image of massive hordes of zombies wandering the seabeds of the world as seen through a submarine portal was awesome, or the story about the female fighter pilot shot down in the swamps was brilliant.

The thing is, I re-read it a year or two later, and I've since developed a deeper appreciation for it. It's a great book, told from a creative, unique perspective. I've grown to really like the after action report feel of it. There are some huge concepts in there. From the Reddecker Plan, to the retooling of the West Coast and our culture to combat the zombie menace. The idea of Quislings was fascinating, and I readjusted my own bug out plan after reading about the hell of those survivors who thought that going north was the solution; but only if your solution involved cannibalism and freezing to death. Hell, I'd give my left arm for a functional, accurate Lobo replica, wouldn't you?!?

What I'm saying is that I love the idea of World War Z. It has become, in my mind, a welcome addition to the genre of zombie fiction. And, despite my usual misgivings about movie adaptations, I was kind of excited to hear that Brad Pitt was a fan as well and wanted to do a movie version.

And then the trouble started. The many, many horror and sci-fi fan sites I visit on a daily basis started to report problems. Bad problems. From the original director quitting, to financing issues, and then the poorly received rough cuts (that were about 40 minutes short of being an actual movie's length), the inevitable reshoots to try to fix what was broken, and the reports that the fixes sucked. It was all very disheartening.

I was worried, man. Worried a lot.

Now that I've seen the first trailer for it?

Yep. I'm still fucking worried. Maybe more so. (Check out below for the new trailer.)

Where do I begin?

Maybe we'll start with the zombies themselves. That's as good a place as any. In the book, they were Romero-esque shamblers. Part of the creepiness that Brooks brought to his particular brand of zombie was their relentlessness, and the zombie 'moan'. You see, although they may have been slow, they also made a sound when they'd latched onto the warm, gooey scent of human flesh. They would make this disturbing, unending, wailing moan. This moan was enough to drive you crazy after listening to it for days on end outside of your door. Worse, it brought other zombies. Lots of others. Mobs and hordes of other zombies. It was like a zombie dinner bell, and you were the main course. I hope they keep that, at least, although I'm not hopefully.

But, although they were slow and shambling, the horror and power of the Brooks zombies was their sheer numbers, which negated the ability to walk around a single zombie, or dispatch it at your own leisure.

Now I'm not a zombie purist when it comes to their ambulation. I dig shamblers as much as the next guy, but there's also something really cool about running zombies. they've been put to great use in Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, or in the pseudo-zombie Ragers in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.

Here's how I always came at the runners vs. shamblers argument. In my own wishes for the zombie apocalypse, I wish for shamblers because runners are scary as shit. So yeah, runners are bad and I know I wouldn't last as long as I'd hope in the Zompacalypse if the fuckers could run... so, yeah, I like them.

So, looking at this trailer footage, I see that they've made the very, perhaps unwise, choice to make them runners. That's not an egregious error or choice, but it does show a distinct disdain for the source material.  More unacceptable than that, is the poorly rendered CGI. Another thing, the zombie piling? Yeah it looks cool if you can get past the digital look. And that was a kick ass part of the book, but it's not essential. Again. Bad CGI.

In fact, I really fear this is going to be a bloated, CGI crap pile. I think the perfect illustration of how bad these sort of things look is the Will Smith I Am Legend debacle. Despite numerous attempts at a worthwhile adaptation of Richard Matheson's incredible story... this version came the closest to actually capturing the feel of the original  novel. Right up until they introduced the crappy, poorly rendered CGI vampires. God that movie pissed me off. You had great story, a great actor, and a more than appropriate attempt to stay true to the source material... and then you skimp and - instead of using an actor and physical effects - you blow the wad on a Mac and sub par CGI.

That's the feeling I'm getting with this trailer.

Worse than that, it looks like it's completely disregarding the actual narrative of the story. World War Z tells the story of the survivors. The story is told by a UN historian who gathers the post-zombie war accounts of various survivors around the world. The uniqueness of the story is that it is told from different points of view, and through the feelings, emotions, and perceptions of varied people. It focuses less on the actual fall of society, and more on the shared experiences that brought us back from the brink of extinction. It's a tale of human triumph against the adversity of mankind's greatest threat - zombies.

Looking at the trailer, it looks like that whole damn premise is thrown out the damned window.

It now looks like a Brad Pitt action vehicle that focuses on his point of view as he tries to - I don't know - heroically fight zombies and get back home in time for family dinner?

I know I'm basing this on one 2 minute trailer, and trailers are deliberately vague... but I'm not feeling good about this. Disregarding the entire source material and loosely basing an action movie on it is not cool .

Granted, it's a zombie flick and I'll see it. You know I will. I am, if anything, a sucker for a good, gory high budget zombie flick. I don't deny that. But the fact is I was eager to see a good adaptation of this, and I am not convinced that this will remain at all true to what was so cool about the book.

I'm hoping this gets better. I'm hoping my fears are misgiven and that World War Z impresses the shit out of me when it hits the theaters. I pray I'm not disappointed by a poor adaptation. I wish all of these things.

Unfortunately, time will tell and I'll just rely on Walking Dead to continue being the best, most realistic, and emotionally kick ass on-screen adaptation of zombie fiction around.

I'll hold out hope, but it doesn't look good, dear reader.

It doesn't look good at all.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Happy Belated Halloween!

I've been busier than a zombie at an all you can eat brain buffet... so I didn't get to post anything last week wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. What with Hurricane Sandy, power outages, and all the other crap that got in the way of the best holiday of the year; I still had fun and celebrated... but didn't really share. I did - at the height of the storm - get out to Mentor and saw John Carpenter's Halloween on the big screen.

Believe me when I say that Carpenter's masterpiece loses something on the small screen. It was the first time I'd seen Halloween in a theater and it was a gorgeous sight to behold. It was fucking incredible. If you ever get the chance, you must see it in a movie theater with full digital surround sound. You will not be disappointed.

Anyway, also due to the storm, Halloween was actually extended to Sunday, 11/4, in my community... so that means 2 awesome things. Namely that Halloween lasted 4 days longer, and - best of all - Halloween is actually 4 doors closer NEXT YEAR.

So, in lieue of my total lack of posting last week, I decided to pull out the video camera and record trick or treating last night.

Trick or treating, and the celebration of halloween, is a crucial part of the whole Samhain ceremony. It's the one night of the year where our communities come closer, and children get to dress up and go door to door, reveling in the gloomy darkness and eating candy. Crunching on fallen leaves as they go from house to house, it is a memory that we all share from our childhoods. It's the one thing that makes Halloween so cool.

So, in honor of that time-honored American tradition of trick or treating - here's this year's Halloween video message.

And remember - only 360 or so days until NEXT Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween-ish Treats - Nekrogoblikon

I wanted to share this with you because its tangentially Halloween related, but also touches on two of my other favorite things - gaming nerdery and kick ass metal music.

An acquaintance of mine posted this video over on Facebook and I have found a new band that I absolutely love. They're called Necrogoblikon.

I will be the first to admit that I am at an age where I tend to wallow in the music of my youth. Yes, I know I still love old school Goth and Industrial - things like Revolting Cocks, Frontline Assembly, classic Ministry, Sisters of Mercy, or The Cure. I still like a lot of the music I listened to when I was in college and my twenties.

But, I do have mutable tastes. I can like new things. Pandora's great for that. There's all kinds of great new music out there that I love. Bands like VNV Nation, or Zombie Girl, or Wumpscut, or Neuroticfish, or Unter Null. And, despite Mrs. Zombie's arguments otherwise, I do listen to other music besides my 'weird untz-untz-untz or gloomy, I want to cut myself' music (her words).

I love music in all of its forms and occasionally do venture outside of what many of my friends or minions wold expect. For instance, I've recently become fascinated with the South african rap/rave artists, Die Antwoord. I love them, their style, the sound of their music, and especially their 'fuck the world' attitude.

But, a little closer to what one would think old Dr. Zombie would listen to, we have Nekrogoblikon. Out of LA, they've only done a few albums... but they're our kind of metal.

Their songs are a harsh, brutal, guttural homage to their favorite subject - goblins - and is filled with all kinds of other D&D inspired imagery. In fact, their music is a mix of classic thrash metal, sprinkled with a bit of poisonous Norwegian death metal, and liberally sprayed with the blood of an unapologetic adherence to their goblin-esque personas.

I'm including these in my Halloween Treats series because Halloween is about ghosts and ghouls and goblins - and because I have been listening to a lot of their stuff lately. Give them a try, and check out their website (Click Here for Nekrogoblikon's Official Site).

I said in last night's post that - if i was going to start a band - I'd love to do something like Van Helsing's Curse. That's only partly true because there are a few other types of bands I'd like to try. A metal band devoted to geekish themes like Dungeons & Dragons, or Horror Metal, runs a close second. Maybe if we could get some kick ass bagpipes in the mix, that'd be even cooler. So, Nekrogoblikon? Yeah I want to be these guys!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Treats - Van Helsing's Curse

Something a little more modern today to help with the Halloween mood!

Dee Snyder's got himself a heavy metal orchestra that does spooky/Halloween-themed music. Sort of like Trans-Siberian Orchestra does; only way cooler, much darker, and focused on the infinitely better holiday of All Hallow's Eve.

If I was in a band THIS is the band I'd put together. The spooky spectacle, the kick ass melding of metal and classical music, the unapologetic love of all that is dark. Damn, it gives me chills just thinking about how bad ass it'd be to do Halloween shows... or even better, play year round and treat every day as if it's Halloween. That's my motto really... every day SHOULD be Halloween.

Anyway, this is a reworking of Mike Oldfield's classic Tubular Bells (which you definitely recognize - it was the theme to The Exorcist). I'm a fan of the original, but this version just kicks ass.

Throw some rock and roll devil horns and enjoy!

Looking for Something Spooky to Read?

Just a quick reminder:   You can check out some of my better posts by clicking the 'Best of Dr. Z' link above. Also, as it's that time of year, make sure you click my movie reviews for all the best info on horror movies for your Halloween viewing. I watch the good, the bad, and the shitty so that you don't have to!

There's also a link up top for my books.

Finally, as Halloween draws near, consider checking out my collection of spooky, creepy, and disturbing short stories TODAY! Disturbed Graves: Tales of Terror and the Undead is only .99 cents on Amazon for like 10 stories that are guaranteed to CREEP YOU OUT!

And it's FREE to borrow if you have an Amazon Prime account... so borrow it and give it a read. FYI: I still get royalties if you borrow it for free, so that's a friggin' win/win for both of us!!

Synopsis: Disturbed Graves is a dark, terrifying collection of short stories from up and coming horror author, D. Allen Crowley. From gruesome stories of the undead, to bizarre and eerie chance encounters, this haunting and harrowing assemblage of short fiction will chill the most hardened horror fan. Including several of his previously published works, as well as several new and disturbing visions, this Kindle-only collection is best read on a dark, stormy night. Disturbed Graves contains 10 short stories with short author commentaries and is the perfect introduction to the disturbed mind and writing of D. Allen Crowley.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Treats - Sleepy Hollow

One of my earliest memories of Halloween involved watching the classic Walt Disney Sleepy Hollow cartoon. Only a few years later did I discover the actual story by Washington Irving. I read it when I was probably 9 or 10 and I absolutely loved it.

The story and the cartoon, or at least the last ten minutes or so of the cartoon, captured the fear and shiver-inducing terror of a spooky, dark Halloween night and featured one of the most iconic ghosts ever created.

The Headless Horseman is such a deliciously incredible and visual character, and Irving's description of it and poor Ichabod's journey home from the Van Tassels is exquisitely creepy.

Many of the things that come to mind when one thinks of Halloween can be traced back to Irving's story. American's love of Halloween is really a very recent thing. We only fully started celebrating Halloween in the mid-1920's. Before that, it was a Pagan holiday only celebrated by poor Irish peasants. The thing is, we have a tradition of being scared, and that tradition can be traced to the works of Washington Irving, or Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, the oral history and tradition of fable has permeated our culture even longer that that.

The Headless Horseman can be traced to German fables, and the imagery of jack-o-lanterns comes from turnips with candles that the Irish used to ward off the evil spirits that could reach across the barrier between our world and the world of the dead on Samhain. The mixing pot of American ethnicity and immigrants has commingled and created a holiday that is unique and very pleasing to the likes of old Doctor Zombie.

Headless Horsemen; lonely, spooky roads; cold, creepy autumn nights; and moody, dark stories about Halloween tricks? Yep, this has something for EVERYBODY!

Just recently, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp got together and made a version for the big screen that is mandatory viewing in Doctor Z's house at Halloween. Believe it or not Wolf Girl loves it and we've already watched it twice this Halloween season!

So, in honor of the season, here's an online copies of Sleepy Hollow in multiple formats so ANYBODY can read it and check out below for the full cartoon!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Treats - Let's Play a Game

Found this a few years ago and remembered it last night. It prevented my going to bed as early as I wanted.

This is just awesome. M&M's Dark has put together a game based on horror movies. M&M's?  Horror movies? What a perfect Halloween mix!

What we have is a web page done in the style of a Hieronymous Bosch painting (Bosch, by the way, is one of my favorite classical artists). Anyway, hidden in the painting are representations of 50 horror movies. You click on the picture and type in what movie you think it is.

Sounds easy, right?

Not so! It took me 35 minutes to do it, and I have an encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies.

Click here to check it out.  Prepare to lose at least a half hour or more of your life!

And, as an added bonus, here's a hint for one of the more obscure ones! Appropriate for the season, don't you think?!?

Oddly, I'm hungry for M&M's now. M&M's or something pumpkin flavored. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween Treats - The Epitome

Is it weird that I watch Carpenter's Halloween year round?

You can level with me. I won't take it personally. Seriously.

My own creepiness notwithstanding, I really and truly believe that John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece, Halloween, is - quite possibly - one of the most perfect horror movies of all time. And despite the fact that I watch it a few times throughout the year, nothing says Halloween to me as much as this film.

From Carpenter's menacing and jangly piano score, to the mounting suspense and unspoken horror. From the relentless evil of Michael Meyers to the masterful use of camera angles and suggested violence. Every inch of this movie is a sublime exercise in masterful horror.

Although it was summer in Pasadena, California when Carpenter filmed it, he managed to exquisitely capture the look, feel, and chill of a cold, Midwestern Halloween night.

This movie literally never gets old. Whether it's Jamie Lee Curtis' palpable terror and vulnerability or Donald Pleasance's over the top warnings about the 'Evil', or even the subtlety and sexy appeal of Nancy Loomis -- I love every bit of this film. Carpenter and Debra Hill together reached out and plucked that bloody membrane of shared consciousness and fear we all share like a string on some weird hell-spawned violin. They took the quintessential holiday - Halloween - and gave it all of the creepy, ghoulish teror it was due and, in the process, spawned an entire genre of copycats. That genre, the 80's slasher flick, was a touchstone in horror cinema and it's genesis can be tracked to this small independent film that almost wasn't made.

Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Ghostface, Chucky, Jigsaw, and even - to some extent - Hannibal Lector all owe their creation to John Carpenter's stroke of brilliance in the creation of Michael Meyers. And, although many came after, none can compare to our favorite and first; the butcher knife-wielding, overall-wearing, William Shatner-masked Shape.

If you haven't watched it yet this Halloween season, I've attached the opening credits and the brilliantly filmed opening scene below. WATCH IT! Get yourself in the Halloween mood.

By the way, did you know that - on hundreds of movie screams across the country -  Carpenter's Halloween is playing during the last week of October and leading up to Saim Hain and All Hallow's Eve?!? It is, and you can get tickets to see this masterpiece on the big screen. I've already bought mine and I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie in an actual theater - something I've NEVER done. It will be glorious, dear reader.

Any Cleveland area readers - feel free to join  me. Send me an email if you'd like to see it. I'm planning on a October 29th show on the East Side. Come on out!

 Until then, use this to whet your ghoulish appetite for some Michael Meyers evil!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Treats - Wondrous Beginnings

Special treat today! One of my favorite Halloween-themed movies of all time is the incredibly visual and hauntingly, Halloweeny, Trick 'r Treat. I LOVE this movie. It is one of the best horror movies old Doctor Zombie's had the pleasure of ever watching (and believe me when I say I've seen literally thousands of horror movies.... it's what I do, folks!).

Like I said, very few movies can fully capture the look and feel of Halloween so well as this little independent movie did. Off the top of my head, only a few come close - Carpenter's Halloween, for example; or Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. But neither of those come close to capturing the magic of that one night of the year when the gateway - the physical and psychic barrier - between this world and darker, spookier worlds is so thin.

Part of my grotesque fascination with this wondrous little film is the character of Sam. He's an iconic creature that - in my mind - rivals the ubiquitous and much heavier horror movie baddies like Michael Meyers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, or Chucky. He's Samhain personified, and it really almost  pisses me off that I didn't create him myself or think of him for one of my own short stories.

So, in honor of Trick 'r Treat's Sam, I've attached the original Michael Dougherty animated short that inspired and turned into Trick 'r Treat. Dougherty seriously spilled blood making this cartoon (the blood on the animation cells is literally his own!) and it pays respects to the vintage imagery of Halloween. But at the same time, it melds itself with the 70's and 80's paranoia and fear of Halloween that all of our parents warned us about. That same urban legend that warned of razors or poison in candy, or roving bands of pedophiles looking to scoop up kids wearing Spiderman or Darth Vader costumes, all of those things from when we were young and trick or treating by ourselves.

It's ingenious, well-drawn, captures Halloween in all of its glory, and shows the genesis of one of horror's more iconic creatures!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween Treats - Classic Dancing Skeletons!

I love old cartoons. And by old, I mean the pre-World War II variety - when they were still trying to perfect the art. It was a different time and it reflected a mindset that is alien to us today. From the casual, offhand violence to the strange jerkiness of hand drawn cells - there's something so cool about old toons.

I especially love this one. Made in 1929, it captures the vintage Halloween feel exquisitely.  It manages to juxtapose the creepy imagery of Halloween with swinging, happy orchestral music.

One rarely sees this sort of awesomeness nowadays.

Nothing says Halloween like a bunch of spooky skeletons dancing in graveyard!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halloween Treats - Getting in the Mood!

I posted something similar last year, but this song always makes me smile and always gets Dr. Z in the mood for Halloween!

It's - by the way - based on Camille Saint-Saens Danse Macabre Opus 40, one of my favorite classical works.

I remember having this version on a 33rpm album as a child and playing it year round. It makes me smile with nostalgia. It reminds me of the smell of jack-o-lanterns burned by candle, candy corn, Halloween parties at Memorial Park Elementary, and the house I grew up in festooned with classic Biestle decorations. It reminds me of highly flammable plastic costumes with plastic masks and elastic straps that held them on. It reminds me of trick or treating and the crunch of falling leaves as I trudged from house to house in the cold and dark of a late October Halloween night.

And this video version is like a visual reflection of all of those memories.

It's artsy and cool and pleases Doctor Zombie very much!


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Hollyweird Shamble of Fame

I frequently get contacted by people all over the internet hoping that I'll use my blog to promote other zombie-related things.

Often, I send them a polite 'thanks, but no thanks' email because, truthfully, they've no idea what this blog is about. And I get it. They want to promote something zombie related, they see Zombie in the title or find it through a search, and they never even bother to read the blog. They just assume it's about zombies and that I will undoubtedly be thrilled to receive their crappy infographic, or promote their crappy zombie apocalypse-themed preparedness website.

In fact, some of them are actually persistent. There's a webpage out of the UK that's contacted me several times to put an infographic on here that is a messy mix of stolen copyrights. It has things like references to Max Brooks solanum virus confusingly mixed with Romero references, stolen images from t-shirts and other internet Google-searched photos and graphics, and trite advice on how to redead the undead. It's pretty messy, poorly designed, and  is obviously focused on the teenage 'wouldn't it be cool to take over the local Walmart when the zombies come!' mentality. Worst of all, it is from the UK, so it is all about using blunt instruments to kill zombies.

Besides the blatant theft of other people's works and egregiously poor design, I can't seriously be expected to promote a zombie survival plan that doesn't include the judicious application of high capacity semiautomatic firearms. Why? Because the UK doesn't allows gun ownership, so they're stuck killing their ravenous undead with cricket bats and, I don't know, biscuit tins or something.

The point is, this is a vehicle for my writing and whatever strikes my fancy and although I LOVE zombies, that's not the whole point of this blog. And they'd know that if they did more than just read Zombie in the title.

And, just so we're clear, because something's about zombies, that doesn't make it good. Uwe Boll, every zombie movie on Netflix, and crappy UK web companies riding the popularity of zombies in pop culture, looking for web hits, and who can't do anything original - I'm looking at you!

Now I'm not saying I won't whore myself or the blog out now and again. I did once take a $200 freelance payment to promote online casinos on the site. I'm no fool. There was $200 on the table. Of course, I'm sure the owner of the online casino didn't expect me to tie casinos to Cleveland's most famous serial killer, the Torso Murderer, in a convoluted tangent of trollish intent... but hey, I got paid. I've also written movie reviews when movie studios have sent me screener copies of direct to DVD horror films. Free horror movies are always awesome. I guess what I'm saying is I'm shallow and easily bought.

All that being said, I will occasionally post things that are sent to me with no tangible benefits to me per se. Sometimes it's because it's something that amuses me. Or for a good cause.

This is one of those good cause times.

You see, I received an email from a lady named Leslie two days ago. Leslie works for a group called the Zombie Research Society (ZRS). The ZRS has put together an IndieGoGo campaign to honor the man who can truly be considered the Father of the Modern Zombie.

Leslie wrote:


Leslie from Zombie Research Society here.

Wanted to give you a heads up that we just launched a campaign to get George Romero a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

As you know Romero invented the modern zombie with his 1968 horror classic Night of the Living, launching a global phenomenon that continues to infect pop culture more than 40 years later.

Stars cost $30,000 paid to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, so we're doing a fundraising campaign to let fans give back to the man that has given us all so much.

Here is the link, and as you can see we've got Simon Pegg, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Penn & Teller, and other celebs behind it:

The more eyeballs we can get on the attached link the better chance we have of reaching (and hopefully beating) our goal.

Anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

Go Romero!


That's right, faithful readers, they're looking to raise funds so that the ghoulish, creepy, and utterly awesome George Romero can have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

Pretty kick ass, huh?!?

If you'll remember, about this time last year I visited the heart of Zombieland and made the ghastly pilgrimage to the Evans City Cemetary outside of Pittsburgh. This unhallowed ground is where George filmed his first masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead. While there, I learned that there was a group of horror fans trying to save the cemetary's chapel (this group included the actress who played Karen Copper herself, the lovely Kyra Schon). That seemed like a great fundraiser to me.

So does this.

So why would I promote it, when I tell others to go get bent?

Because Halloween will soon be here. Because I love Saint George's unholy trinity of zombie goodness (Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead). Because I love zombies in general... and we have George to thank for that. If any man deserves a star on the Hollyweird Shamble of Fame, it's George Romero. These are all of the reasons I love this idea, will donate towards it, and will promote it on my blog.  

Full disclosure: I have been somewhat dismissive of George's more recent returns to the celluloid undead world he spawned. When there's no more room in hell,  the dead will walk the earth - only not as well as they did in the 60's, 70's and 80's. What do I mean? Land of the Dead is a really good movie. Diary of the Dead was good, although it stretched the bounds of believability. Survival of the Dead was a colossal disappointment. I've been - fair or not - a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to GAR's recent outings.

But one can't deny that he is responsible for making zombies so much more than their dumb origins. His first three films are masterpieces of horror and spawned an entire genre of horror films that - good or bad - take the idea of the dead rising from the grave and make them fucking scary as hell. Instead of vacant eyed, clumsy, retarded victims of voodoo - zombies now shamble or run, pursue you relentlessly, and want nothing more than to EAT YOUR FLESH!   Back in 1968, George Romero entered the subconscious of our society with a film about a satellite crash and strange radioactivity, a brother and sister visiting their father's grave, and the social and racial tension of survivors at the end of the world as we know it.

And, with 6 words, he changed horror films forever. Those 6 words?  

"They're coming to get you, Barbara."   

Give to the Zombie Research Society before THE ZOMBIES COME FOR YOU TOO!

Let's get George the star he deserves.  

Check the following link for Zombie Research Society's IndieGoGo campaign site - Give George Romero a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Check it out! Do it! NOW!  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why I'm A Liberal - A Line in the Sand

I'm not sure why I'm opening this door, but here it goes. I promise, hand over my unbeating, undead heart - this will be the last political post/rant on my blog this electoral season.
Well, maybe I'll sneak in a few funny pictures here and there, but - fortunately for you, my dear reader - the main lead up to November 6th is also October. That means Dr. Z is preoccupied with Halloween, fall, and his unnatural love for all things spooky.
So, why am I writing this? I'm writing this because of many of my friends over on Facebook.
Here's the thing,I don't care if you're liberal or conservative. I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican. I don't care who you're voting for. Here's the honest truth... You're going to vote for Mitt Romney and no matter how much shit I post on Facebook -- you're not going to change your mind. So. I am done cluttering up my Facebook wall with political posts.
I can go on and on about what a fucking liar Mitt Romney is and how he will say or do anything to get elected. I can go on about how funny it is that his Mormonism - which was once like lava to the Christian conservative Republican base - is now somehow OK because I guess you waltz with who you brung to the dance. You're stuck with him. I get that.
But, here's the thing, and the thing that prompted me to write this blog post.
I am disturbed and saddened that I have friends (and family) who are Republicans and, in the course of making their beliefs known to the entire world on Facebook (whether I care to hear it or not), they are saying things that are shockingly racist and hateful.
Oh, sure... they're not out and out saying they don't like Obama or his supporters because he and they are black. But they make little snarky comments like, "Well, we all know who's voting for him! (wink, wink)" The only reason he's doing so well in the polls is because of the 'people on welfare and in the ghetto'" (wink, wink). "Obamacare is communism and Hussein Obumma did it to help all of 'those' people take my money!" (wink, wink)

They should be ashamed. I am ashamed for them.
Welcome to the dichotomy of Ohio. (For those who don't know, Ohio's big cities like Cleveland, Youngstown, and Columbus are predominantly Democrat, and the rest of Ohio is ridiculously Republican. Shockingly so.) The worst part about this veiled hate is that the people I see spewing it are otherwise intelligent, normal people. I wouldn't be friends with them if they weren't. Politics brings out the worst in people, I guess. And that's the tragedy of Facebook.
Anyway, I came to my realization about my the political posting a few months back during primary season when I compared Romney and Santorum's runs as precursors to a Christian theocracy. I was making a joke, and probably a not too funny one and I paired it with a clip of Monty Python's Flying Circus and made the very obvious and - admittedly - not very original comparison between their beliefs and the fact that NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition.
The thing is, afterI posted it, I had someone (a family member actually, who I'm not at all close to) comment that she was shocked that I was a Liberal. It was like I'd said I enjoyed a little necrophilia now and again and was fond of upper decking people's toilets at parties. She asked why, and I composed a long diatribe why I was. The thing is, I decided to not post it for several reasons. First being, it was long and I think Facebook is not the medium for long explanations. Facebook should mostly be for laughing at the grammar and spelling skills of the less educated, and feeling inexpressible joy at watching high school classmates with no filters relate their entire trainwreck of a life on their wall. Also, I hate the inevitable conservative 'friends' who come on and want to inarticulately argue with me about how the 'Liberals are the Devil, Obama is a god-less Muslim Socialist, and Glenn Beck told me to say... derp derp derp!"
The thing is, I then have to fight the urge to either argue back against the moronic stream of idiocy they're spouting, or delete the entire thread because I've grown tired of how they've managed to fuck up what started out as a pretty goddamned funny post with their ridiculous agenda. (While simultaneously ignoring the fact that I posted my video because I had an agenda. Hypocrisy ROCKS!)
While I spent entirely too much of my otherwise valuable time working through this thought process, I decided against wading in. Instead, I liked a comment by another friend - who made a short, erudite point about religious nutjobs who think that the 1st amendment applies only to Christians - and walked away.
The problem then becomes, what do I do with what I wrote? Well the answer should be obvious... I'm going to post it over here where I get to be as long-winded as I want, and I can selectively delete comments. In other words, I'm a malevolent dictator (who's a LIBERAL) here.
So, why am I a Liberal?
Let me tell you.

I’m a liberal because I believe that we have a responsibility to help others in our society who can’t help themselves. America is not about saying "Fuck you I got mine, go get your own." And helping others shouldn't be solely because it's a tax deduction or because it's Christmas and I feel obligated to at my church. (I, truthfully, need to be better about this myself).

I believe that the rich are greedy and perpetuate their greed at the expense of others.

I believe that access to universal healthcare is a basic human right. So does Romney too. Or at least he did until it wasn't advantageous to his run for the presidency. And no, The Affordable Care Act is not socialized medicine. Stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, actually read the damned thing, and see that it HELPS everybody while simultaneously getting an out of control health insurance industry under control..

I believe that sex and marriage between two adults (no matter what sex they are, or how they choose to express themselves sexually) is between them and not something to be legislated or condoned by hypocritical conservatives who would have it otherwise.

I feel it is personally insulting to all of us when conservatives feel it’s ok to let banks, oil companies, and their rich buddies pay less taxes than everyone else (the word ‘exploitation’ comes to mind). It is this same cronyism that allowed mortgage companies to rape the poor and middle class and caused our current financial crisis.

I am a realist and understand that there are people who take advantage of the system. There are ALWAYS people who take advantage of the system. While there are those who are perfectly capable of working who are on welfare and food stamps, they are not the only ones taking advantage of the system. The other end of the spectrum, the ultra-rich like Romney, take advantage as well. Romney paid 14.1% in taxes last year. A family of 4 making $60,000 paid nearly 16%. How is that at all fair? Being a realist means admitting and understanding that there will always be those who take advantage. We should, however, do what we can to mitigate it and make sure there's fairness. That's the price of helping those who truly need it.

I am horrified that it's NOT OK to have a legislative agenda that penalizes or regulates the rich, but it’s totally OK to tell a woman she can’t have an abortion. And yes, I’m Pro-Choice. I, or nobody for that matter, has a right to tell a woman what she can or can’t do with her own body. Your religious beliefs about life are just that. YOUR religious beliefs. They're not mine. You don't want abortions because your God or the Pope says so? Great. Don't have one. But don't tell me what I can or can't do because something I don't believe in says I can't. You realize how dumb that argument is, right?!?

I believe that the Tea Party and mainstream conservatives who have somehow taken over the Republican  Party are morally bankrupt, racist, misogynistic, and – despite their meeping otherwise – would make the US a malevolent theocracy if given half the chance. I believe that freedom of religion means freedom to practice other things besides Christianity and also means freedom FROM religion. I'm a godless atheist heathen. I chose to be that and our Constitution allows that. If I wanted to be a Wiccan, a Pagan, a Muslim, a Jew, or even a Satanist... I can be. I don't give a fuck if you don't like it. Welcome to America.

I believe religion is not the same as science, and attempts to teach religion bnext to or as an alternative to science are repugnant (that’s right, I’m looking at you creationism and intelligent design!). They're not even close. Science is fact; proven by rigorous testing, observation, and experimentation. Faith is none of that.

I believe that people are basically good and that there should be a safety net for everybody. I don't believe that the poor are poor because of choice, laziness, or because they've somehow willingly abbrogated their own sense of responsibility. We are, most of us, a missed paycheck or two away from homelessness and welfare. Because of that, when we are successful, we should all pay for those less fortunate- lest we find ourselves in the same position. 47%, 99%, whatever percent -- EVERY ONE of my friends on Facebook falls into this demographic. I don't know anybody who's in the 1% (except maybe Wil Wheaton - and we're just friends on Facebook. It's not like we've ever met.). According to Romney - he doesn't care about any of us and that we're all somehow sponging off the system. You get that, right?

I believe that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are sancrosact and should be upheld - regardless of political agenda. The first 10 amendments are all equally important and shouldn't be victims of politics, religious agendas, or pointless jingoism. That means the First allows you to burn flags, the Second means we can have guns, and so on. I depart from my fellow Liberals there. I think the 2nd amendment is just as important and "Shall not be infringed..." is pretty fucking clear. Why? I come from a family of law enforcement and hunters. I grew up with guns. Responsible, safe gun ownership is protected by tradition and the law. That and I'm preparing for the zombie apocalypse...

I believe that multiculturalism and respect for differences is the clearest sign of an enlightened society.

I believe that we have a duty and responsibility to move society forward. This means equal protection and respect for all, regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual proclivity or political ideology. If we need to make laws doing this - we should.Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be protected for all - regardless of how we feel about it morally or individually. 

I am a proud liberal. Conservatives may demonize us, and use the label ‘Liberal’ as an insult and pejorative… but I am proud of the label.
It means I care for others and respect others.

As I've gotten older, and when compared to the greater backdrop of my fight and victory over cancer, I've become very pragmatic about my life. I don't have the time, energy, or - truthfully - the patience to deal with hate and negative energy. And that's what I see happening on Facebook every few days. Although I've seen others do it, and I never really gave it too much thought, I think I too should consider culling some people from my Facebook friends list. The problem is that I do have Conservative friends who are cool and respectful. I will continue to have intelligent, lively, and fun discourses with them.
It's the respect thing. If you don't like Obama, fine. that's your choice. But if you choose to denigrate those who do like him (myself included), that's unacceptable.
But - fair warning - hate speak and insulting behavior will be dealt with brutally. I will pillage the town and salt the earth as I leave.
In other word; Fuck you and your hate.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Rant: Lance Armstrong and the USADA

So the news broke today that Lance Armstrong has decided to not fight the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). This has resulted in their assuming his guilt, banning him from cycling for life, and stripping him of his 7 Tour De France victories.

I've railed about this on my Facebook since it came out.

Here's the short and simple of it: Cycling is a dirty sport. Lance may or may not have doped. Hell, when he was undergoing cancer treatment, I'm sure he took in enough EPO to give him red blood cells the size of maraschino cherries. But the simple fact is that the USADA doesn't have any PHYSICAL proof. Fortunately, the International Cycling Union (ICU) and US Cycling are disputing the USADA's jurisdiction - which they should - and Lance has a pretty savvy PR and legal team... so it may turn out all right. But that's not why I'm all hot and bothered about this.

It's hard to put my finger on why I'm so pissed off about this. We see injustice every day. We've become inured to it. But this is very different for me because it seems very personal.

For my more recent readers, you may not know this but Dr. Zombie is a cancer survivor. In 2008 (at the age of 37), I was diagnosed with male breast cancer.

Before this I was reasonably healthy, and did a lot of mountain biking. I remember watching the Tour and feeling proud when Lance won. I'd always admired the fact that he'd done so as a cancer survivor, but it wasn't until my own diagnosis that I realized how incredible that feat was. So, a few days after I received my diagnosis, I picked up a copy of his book, It's Not About the Bike.

Throughout my treatment, and during those dark days and endless doctor's appointments, I found strength in Lance's story. I can't put too fine a point on it... Lance Armstrong helped me through my battle with cancer. I found not  only strength, but inspiration and hope in his own victories.

And this vendetta by the USADA - predicated solely on the whiny testimony of losers like Floyd Landis - voids those victories like they never happened.

So, because of my own nerd rage and how weirdly personal this feels, I did something this morning I've never done in my life. I sent emails to my Congressmen, Steven Latourrette, Rob Portman, and Sherrod Brown and asked why my tax dollars are supporting the USADA and it's unsubstantiated railroading of a man who's been an inspiration for millions of people.

I proudly wear a Livestrong bracelet, and have since the day I was diagnosed with cancer. Lance did win those 7 Tours, despite what the USADA says. And he did inspire myself and cancer victims worldwide.

Here's a copy of the email I sent my Congressman:

I am writing today because of the recent news regarding the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) actions as they pertain to Lance Armstrong. They have – at the time that I’m writing this – begun the process of stripping him of his seven Tour De France victories, as well as banning him from competitive sports for life.

Per the USADA’s website – they are recognized by the US Congress as “the official anti-doping agency for the Olympic, Pan-American, and Paralympic sport in the United States”. That being the case, I am addressing my questions and concerns to you regarding, what looks to me, as an unfair, illegal, and disreputable action by this organization.

The fact is the US Department of Justice dropped charges against him for lack of evidence. Additionally – both the International Cycling Federation (UCI) and USA Cycling have claimed jurisdiction in this case - and rightly so. And yet the USADA continues to pursue charges against Lance Armstrong despite no physical evidence.

The USADA – with the tacit approval of Congress - has instituted a witch hunt that ignores hundreds of clean tests and has indicted Mr. Armstrong based solely upon hearsay and has done so outside of its own stated jurisdiction. How is this acceptable or allowable?

Additionally, the USADA is going back in time some 18 years. Mr. Armstrong has been retired since 2005. How is it fair that they can – based on hearsay and a lack of any tangible, physical evidence – go back in time and retroactively strip him of something he earned? Would it be possible for someone to say “I think Jim Brown was using EPO” and have the USADA strip him of his legacy as the NFL’s greatest running back absent of proof? How about Jesse Owens? Can we strip him of his 1936 gold medals? Where does it stop?

Lance Armstrong is an American icon. His winning of the Tour De France (an international race not falling under the purview or jurisdiction of the USADA) a record seven times is an amazing feat. Throughout his entire tenure as a racer of the Tour, he never once tested positive for any banned substances. He is one of the greatest athletes to have ever competed in any sport, and he did so as a proud American. These victories are made even more amazing by the fact that he survived cancer and – at the time of his diagnosis – was given a less than 50% chance of survival. He not only beat cancer, he came back and made history in what amounts to the Super Bowl, or World Series of cycling. Seven Times.

While Lance Armstrong is a resident of Texas, I think that his impact has a far larger reach than that. For my part, in 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer myself. While undergoing treatment at University Hospitals of Cleveland, I found inspiration in his book, It’s Not About the Bike , and his story of survival. It helped me through my long fight and he served as an example of what positive attitude can do – especially as it pertains to fighting an illness as devastating as cancer.

And that’s the tragedy and injustice here. Despite his athletic accomplishments and the loss this reprehensible action represents to US athletics and pride, Lance Armstrong’s other contributions – his philanthropy and contributions to the world at large - will be forever tainted by an egregious lack of due process and a detestable abuse of power by a quasi-governmental agency that is more interested in bringing down a sports and inspirational celebrity than doing what’s fair and what’s right. Absent a more logical explanation, one can only assume that this is a vendetta and being done not for the purity of a sport -- but, instead, as a political and media spectacle designed to embarrass Mr. Armstrong and the sport of cycling.

My question to you, as my duly elected Congressional representative, is whether this is something that can be reviewed at a Congressional level? How would one go about correcting this injustice and righting what is, plainly, an impropriety and egregious misuse of government authority?

At the least, can you help determine why this organization operates in such a manner while receiving tax payer dollars?

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Doctor Zombie
I'm not sure how effective a rant this was, and I haven't fully articulated how I feel about it.

Christ, who knows, maybe the USADA has incontrovertible proof that Lance doped. If they do, and they can prove it, I'll gladly admit I was wrong. Somehow though, I seriously doubt they do. As I said, Lance may have doped. A HUGE percentage of the cycling community does. As a friend on Facebook pointed out, staying ahead of the tests is part of the game.

I'm only saying that they need to prove it.

And, even if they do, I'll still like Lance and respect him for what he's done.

Seven Tour De France victories.

With one ball.

Dude. That's hard fucking core.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

An Indulgence: Doctor Z.'s Dreamlands

(Note from Dr. Zombie: I wrote this while I was on vacation last week after having a pretty wicked nightmare. I've toyed with the idea of trying to convey the strange world I see when I close my eyes for years. This is a sad attempt.) 

In Ex Oblivione, H.P. Lovecraft wrote, "In my dreams I found a little of the beauty I had vainly sought in life, and wandered through old gardens and enchanted woods."

Lovecraft had a deep, vivid, and rich dream world; a world populated by fantastical creatures, beautifully hued and perfumed seas, verdant forests, ancient and stately cities, and kingdoms that lazed beneath soaring mountains that stretched into the violet, snowy depths of unimaginable heights.

For my frequent readers, you know that Lovecraft is my favorite writer of horror and weird fiction. I can only aspire to write as well as he did... to create the strange things he did and convey them to the printed page so well. I do, however, have one thing in common with him. 

We both have a dream world. 

Some background... I have, my whole life, suffered from night terrors. I have labored under - at first - a sense of shame. Nothing makes you the weird kid (or at least weirder than I already was) than to be the kid who wakes up screaming and panting at the slumber party, or having to bashfully explain to college roommates that no, I wasn't in fact, batshit crazy when I woke them in the middle of the night with guttural, harsh screams that sounded like I was being murdered. 

That shame changed to a weary resignation as I got older, and my friends accepted my eccentricity. Now, only my wife deals with it... although she does show the occasional exasperation at my nocturnal terror. 

"You woke me up fifteen times last night, you moron," she will sometimes say, "If you weren't tossing, turning, and moaning - you were screaming and hitting me".

"I'm sorry?" I would say, not sure why I was apologizing because, in a quirk of irony, or perhaps fortune, I often forget my true balls out, heart-wrenchingly terrifying, night terrors. 

That's right, when I have a true night terror, I don't remember what I dream about. I have no idea what it is that makes me wake up, my throat sore from screaming and my body covered in a sour, clammy sweat. I often wonder how terrifying the dream must have been because my regular nightmares, which I have on a nightly basis, are crazy intense. 

In addition to the night terrors, my dream world is extraordinarily deep and vivid. 

I have, my whole life, dreamed of a dark city. It's crazy to me that - for as long as I can remember - I have wandered its streets. Whether I was a child, or an adult, I know it as well as the street I grew up on as a child. 

I could draw a map of it, and I've often toyed with the idea of doing just that. Instead, I'll take you on a short tour. Be forewarned, it's not a bright, beautiful place like the majority of Lovecraft's. My dream world is not a pretty place. Don't say I didn't warn you...  

It's a dark, old city where it is often gloomy and rainy. It's is on a cold river that stretches wide between between its banks. Across its black, inky waters is another city that I've visited only once or twice. You can reach the other side only by taking a ferry run by a crotchety, ancient, old Italian man who only takes payment from those who can afford it. The fare is a combination of money and other things that are expressly forbidden - things that can only be obtained by spilling blood. 

Near the ferry, there is a hospital. I don't go to the hospital anymore. I used to explore it when I was younger, and remember sitting on its roof, looking across the stormy river to the twinkling lights on the other side. My earliest remembered dream of the hospital began when I was seven or eight years old, and even then I wondered why my dream world was decayed and why the lights only worked half of the time. I stopped going there when I was twelve. That's when I met a serial killer named Carl. He pursued me for months in my dreams, and he finally caught up with me at the hospital. He murdered the night nursing staff, and strung their innards like party streamers around the main waiting room. He seemed hurt and angry when I didn't like his decorating. He pursued me from the modern, white antiseptic halls of the newer hospital to the closed, rotting, creaking, dimly lit Victorian-era older section of the hospital. He cornered me in a morgue with bloodstained tables and gore-clotted, rusty surgical instruments. 

I mercifully woke up just as he caught me, but I've met him on and off through the years. Those are never good dreams. He's always enraged because I can escape him by waking up... but that doesn't mean he's going to stop trying to kill me. 

Up the hill from the hospital is the city proper. It is an old city. It is a combination of different architectural styles.  It has the riverfront area, which is ancient and old. It has tall Tudor-style buildings that are built one on top of the other. They are too tall, and when one walks the inclined, unevenly brick-paved streets, the buildings lean crazily towards one another and it feels like you are often walking through a tunnel. A couple years ago, I went to Universal Studios in Orlando for a work outing and remember getting a chill when I saw the sway-backed and tilted buildings of Hogsmead in the Harry Potter section. They were so eerily familiar, I felt an almost suffocating sense of deja vu. If they had built the buildings closer, and it was foggy and rainy and cold, instead of tropically warm, I would have felt like I was dreaming. 

Between the twisted, hulking silence of the buildings run alleys strewn with offal and stretching into unwelcoming darkness. You NEVER go into the alleys... no matter who's chasing you or whatever you might be running from. Dark things live there. Nasty things. Hungry things.

Outside of the river port, as you ascend the crooked, maze-like Main Street you enter the newer part of town. It is an odd mix of turn of the century farm town with blocky buildings. It looks much like downtown Willoughby, or downtown Bowling Green, OH and it always feels like it's autumn there. The leaves are always brown and withered and blow down the quiet street with insect-like rustling. Half of the building are empty and shuttered, and the few shops that are open seem dusty and on the verge of closing. 

 At the intersection at the center of this portion of town, on the southwest corner, is a bookshop. I own the bookshop, and it is a refuge from the darkness of the town. It is quiet, has a warm potbellied stove in the corner and comfortable leather chairs. It smells deliciously of old books and tea.

Behind the hometown feel and facade of the buildings on Main Street to the west, the city stretches on for miles and looks much like the deserted industrial areas of Detroit, or my own Cleveland Flats. It is an endless, decayed, abandoned stretch of Rust Belt factories and foundries that I've spent years exploring. The rats are as big as dogs, but I also feel oddly comfortable there. 

Far to the east of the city,is a university. It is mostly a place where I have those stupid dreams of going to classes naked and the indignity of having to leave my wife and children to move back into a dorm rooms. The campus itself is a place lost in time. It is a former world's fair site, and has the feel of Walt Disney's original plan for Disneyland. It is an anachronism in that it is the 50's version of what the future will look like; only it's now only old, uncared for, and filled with students I once long to meet, then met and went to classes with, and now vwho look at me with undisguised disgust because I've grown old and no longer fit in there. The campus itself has walkways, and the classrooms are in buildings that are shaped liked Flash Gordon rocket ships. The library sits at the center of the campus, a round building like the abdomen of a white concrete spider, with mirror-like windows. It is surrounded by empty fountains. It moves up and down on a spire like a massive version of those old amusement park spire rides. It frequently gets stuck, especially when you need to be somewhere. The dorms are in a building on the east end of campus, and the building soars upward with at least 100 or more floors. It has claustrophobic elevators, tiny rooms, and miles of steps and elevator shafts.    

Returning to the Dream City, you follow the Main Street of the town south, past the rows of blocky buildings, and the land slowly climbs and grows hilly. The town ends and the country begins there. The hills are covered in dark green kudzu, twisted old oak trees, sad and lonely willow trees, and the occasional cornfield. Standing guard over the wilted, brown, rustling stalks of corn are weathered scarecrows who follow you with their eyes when you walk by. 

Out here, south of the city, is a house I inherited. I don't know who left it for me, I only know it is mine. It is a large, hulking Second Empire style home. ( And no, I had no idea what type it actually was. I only know what it looks like. I actually had to look up the Architectural style when I started writing this - I found a couple picture on the internet that are similar to the style.)

The house is old and needs a lot of work. The exterior is weathered and is painted mostly a dark gray so old it looks almost black. Inside, it has creaking hardwood floors, but beautiful woodwork and bright, Victorian wallpaper. The furniture is mostly antiques and my master bedroom has an overly large framed bed. The wind blows through the house in the winter, and it has upwards of seven or eight bedrooms, each with a fireplace that does little to chase away the chill. At the rear of the house is a ballroom it is a large open space that soars upward three floors. There are  hallways from the second and third floor that act as balconies overlooking it. It is in serious disrepair and I seldom go in there. The floors are unsafe.

It makes me sad because it is no longer used. 

I suspect the house is haunted, but the ghosts like to stay out there in the ballroom. I don't fear the ghosts, Although they are mostly harmless, they do sometimes scare guests and like to make a racket when I am trying to sleep. My home is not always safe, and I'm not talking about the occasional wailing spirit. Sometimes there are monsters there, and serial killers, and all manner of unpleasantness. I'm used to it. 

Behind the house is a dark strip of wood with a twisting dirt path that leads to an open field. This is one of the many bright places in my dream world. It always seems warm there, and it feels like mid-summer dusk. The wind blows the tall grass gently, and there are several willow trees and the eerie green twinkle of fireflies in the growing gloom. There's a pond there, with a long dock where I often sit quietly, listening to the sound of crickets and the buzz of small insects. I seldom have nightmares there, although a few times, I've fled hordes of zombies to the very edge of the dock to take refuge in a small rowboat I have moored there. Once, the serial killer, Carl, pursued me there and shot at me as I hid under the dock in the warm water. I felt the last of his bullets strike my head and I jerked awake, screaming in pain, depriving him of yet another kill.    

There are other places in my dreamlands. I've spent almost 40 years exploring it, and like I said, I could draw a map of all the places and their relationship to one another. There's the lighthouse that overlooks where the dark river flows into the sea miles away from the town and perched above craggy bluffs. I go there sometimes to watch the yellow moon travel across the sky and read. There's the train station near the center of town, a large place with shops and people who scurry to the university or on to other places outside of my dream city. There's the endless rows of bungalows and colonials in a suburb to the southeast of town, eerily abandoned long ago like the test towns the goverenment built in the 40's in the Nevada desert.  

I visit these places at night, and know them as well as I know my own house. I dream of them, have nightmares of them, and I sometimes forget that they're not real. The places there aren't as sexy as Lovecraft's. And I've rarely strayed from my dream city, mostly for fear of what lays beyond it. It's can be pretty horrible in the city... I can only imagine what the world outside of it's like.   

I sometimes get story ideas from the nightmares I can remember, but - truthfully - I can't write about a lot of the people and monsters I meet there. They're too terrible to share with the world.


People will begin to think I need therapy.