Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finishing Up Halloween

Well I don't think I could have packed much more Halloween stuff into the blog for October. Maybe if I had made the background orange. Anyway, so far today I have watched the movie Van Helsing, liking it much better on a second viewing, and I have read horror stories by Karl Edward Wagner and Clark Ashton Smith. Depending on how the evening goes I may watch one more movie, but Halloween is winding down.
I bought a bag of candy this morning for 40% off, just in case I have a trick or treater. I've had one in the four years I've lived here and that one was sent over by someone who knew me so I'm not expecting anyone, but I'd hate to have a kid or two show up and have nothing to give them. I bought chocolate so I can eat it if no one shows up. Probably should have bought something I hate like Starbursts or Skittles. Then I could have taken it to work on Monday.
It's been a gray, raining day here, suitable for Halloween, but fortunately the rain seems to have stopped for now, so the kids should be able to get out and trick or treat. Anyway. hope everyone has a suitably spooky and fun All Hallow's Eve.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Night Frights

Back in the late 1950s, Universal Studios began packaging their library of Horror films under the title Shock Theater and marketing them to Local Television stations. The stations would supply a "horror host" usually some employee of the station in a fright wig who would come out and introduce the movies. Later, other stations would have their own horror shows and horror hosts not connected to the original Shock Theater package. These shows had names like Chiller Theater, Creature Features, and House of Horror. Some of the hosts became celebrities in their own right, including Zacherley, Vampira, Elvira, and my personal favorite, Rico Mortis.
In the Atlanta area in the 1970s we had Friday Night Frights on Channel 17. (This was Ted Turner's station way before it became the Super Station WTBS) While the show did have a host for a while, a fellow named Dead Earnest, I don't really remember him. By the time I started watching Friday Night Frights regularly, he was gone and the show was introduced by an off screen announcer.
Friday Night Frights often showed science fiction movies as opposed to horror films. Of course there's a lot of overlap between the two genres. In those pre-VCR days, the only way to catch classic SF movies was to find them on obscure TV stations and for some reason most stations tended to show SF movies in the middle of the night. The Late Late show if you will. So the only way that I could see such classics as Forbidden Planet, The Time Machine, and various Ray Harryhausen films was to sit up late and watch them.
Friday Night Frights, on the other hand, began at 7:30 on Fridays and usually ran a double feature. So I could catch Them! or The Day the Earth Stood Still or This Island Earth without having to put my sleeping bag down in the living room. (Not that that wasn't fun.) I remember one night, Friday Night Frights showed The Time Machine and King Kong. Now THAT was a double feature!
Oddly enough, I saw most of the classic (and not so classic) horror movies not on Friday nights, but on weekday afternoons on another local show called Dialing For Dollars. They would rerun the Universal Horror films endlessly as well as pretty much every giant monster movie ever made in Japan. So one week it night be Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and the Mummy and the next week it would be Godzilla, Mothra, and Gamera.
I don't know exactly when Friday Night Frights went off the air. A quick internet search suggests 1975. I suppose the need for such niche shows died out with the coming of the VCR. I mean, why watch Friday Night Frights when you can simply buy videos and have your own monster fest. Still, in some ways I miss the days when trying to catch a showing of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad of Godzilla Versus King Kong took some effort. The movies seemed more rare and special then. But that may simply be because I was just a kid. As the old saw goes, What was the Golden Age of Science Fiction? Twelve.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Monster Squad

The movie Monster Squad came out back in 1987 and I probably saw it the following year on VHS. I remember watching it and thinking it was a lot of fun, but it's not a movie I've given a lot of thought to since. A couple of weeks ago when I was on Youtube, doing searches on the Universal Monster movies, I came across the trailer for Monster Squad and a couple of related videos. Decided that it might be a fun movie to add to my Halloween horror fest, so I stopped by Movie Stop one day last week to see if I could find a used copy on DVD. As it turned out, Movie Stop was having a sale on Halloween movies and they had the two disc 20th Anniversary Edition of Monster Squad marked down to six bucks for a brand new copy. Needless to say, I snatched that up.
Sat down and watched the movie Saturday afternoon and really had fun with it. The basic idea is that five of the classic monsters, Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, show up in suburbia, looking for a long hidden magical amulet that will allow the forces of good and evil to be tipped to the dark side giving control of the world to the creatures of the night. The only people who figure out what's going on are a group of kids who have a club dedicated to monsters of all kinds. Realizing that no one will believe them, they set out to stop the monsters on their own.
The second DVD contains a bunch of interviews with the cast and crew. Something that struck me as interesting was that the writer's initial concept was the Little Rascals meet The Universal Monsters, but when the idea was pitched to Universal Studios, Universal took a pass. So the idea went to another studio, making it necessary to redesign the monsters so that they didn't look enough like the original Universal creatures to get the filmmakers sued. In some ways that worked out well as most of the designs are very well done. Dracula didn't really work for me as he just looked like some guy in a Dracula costume, where as the other monsters looked like updated versions of the originals. The only unfortunate thing was the staging of certain scenes, because while the costumes and makeups looked really good, there are too many scenes of the monsters just standing around in a group, looking like backstage at a Universal Halloween show.
This is a kid's movie so it's not really very scary, though there are a couple of scenes near the end where you get some idea of just how unstoppable a Vampire like Dracula could be. Despite his Wal-Mart costume, actor Duncan Regehr actually manages to get a bit of menace into the role of the count. Tom Noonan is good as the Frankenstein Monster and a couple of scenes he's in are homages to Bride of Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.
The kids do a good job in this one, particularly Andre Gower, as Sean, the leader of the Monster Squad. For the most part the kids aren't as cloyingly cute or annoying as the kids in other 1980s kid movies like Goonies. Anyway, Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to sit back and watch this Saturday Matinee style movie. It would make a good double bill with Van Helsing, another cheesy movie that attempts to bring back the Universal Monsters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Made

Over at his blog, Lou Anderson has put up the table of contents for the upcoming anthology Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery. Not only am I pleased that S&S seems to be making something of a comeback, but the line up for this one includes my pal Michael Moorcock with a new Elric story, Glen Cook with a new tale of the Black Company, and new favorite Joe Abercrombie with a long short featuring characters from his next novel. Plus C.J. Cherryh, Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee, Robert Silverberg, and more. What a line up. I am so there. Did I mention NEW ELRIC story?!

The Footfalls Within and the Music of Erich Zann

Last night's horror reading consisted of two classic short stories, one by H.P. Lovecraft, and one by Robert E. Howard. First was Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann, the story of a university student who takes a room in a crooked house in a crooked street in the poor section of town in an unnamed city. Late at night he hears the weird, haunting strains of a violin, and his curiosity drives him to meet the musician, Erich Zann. Zann, who is mute, seems overwhelmed with fear when he learns that the young man has heard him playing and begs him to take a room on a lower floor so as to be farther away from the attic where Zann lives and plays. The student agrees, but he can't stay away from the weird melodies, and eventually he is confronted with the terrible secrets of The Music of Erich Zann. This one probably makes it into my top five Lovecraft tales. It's short and packs a nice, creepy punch near the end.
The Footfalls Within concerns Robert E. Howard's Elizabethan era Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane. Kane is in Africa, seeking out evil as he wanders the trackless jungles and plains. He comes across the body of a young native woman who has been mistreated and finally murdered by Moslem Arab slavers. This does not sit well with Kane.

"The kites mark their trail," muttered the tall Englishman. "Destruction goeth before them and death followeth after. Woe unto ye, sons of iniquity, for the wrath of God is upon ye. The cords be loosed on the iron necks of the hounds of hate and the bow of vengeance is strung. Ye are proud-stomached and strong, and the people cry out beneath your feet, but retribution cometh in the blackness of midnight and the redness of dawn."

Translation, You do not mess with Solomon Kane. Kane takes up the trail of the slavers, but lets his rage get away from him and attacks the group of over a hundred bad guys. Being a Howard hero, Kane takes a considerable toll among his enemies before being captured but he eventually ends up a prisoner of the slavers.
Things take a turn into horror territory as one of the slaver's scouts finds an ancient building, made from black stones unlike any in Africa. The greedy leader of the slavers orders his men to break down the door, thinking the weird building the tomb of some king and likely to contain riches. As hammer blows fall on the ancient lock, Solomon Kane alone can hear the pacing footfalls of something lurking within.
Something I noted as I re-read Footfalls was the large amount of continuity that exists in the Solomon Kane tales. Howard's Conan stories rarely reference one another, but in The Footfalls Within Kane reflects on events from previous stories such as The Moon of Skulls, The Hills of the Dead, and Red Shadows. We learn more about the strangely carved, cat-headed, juju staff that Kane carries, a gift from his witch-doctor blood brother N'longa.
Many Howard aficionados think that the Solomon Kane stories are the cream of Howard's work. I'm more fond of Conan as a character, but I have to admit that the dark, moody, adventure of Solomon Kane are very compelling. Anyway, can't beat a night of creepy reading with Howard and Lovecraft.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloween Report

Scanning the last few posts I see that my blog is looking very Halloween-ish. (Halloween-esque? Halloweeny?) I've got H.P. Lovecraft, Universal Monsters, Robert E. Howard horror, and Dr. Spektor. There will be more to come as I have other Halloween related posts in mind. I have always enjoyed the Halloween season. I like to read scary stories and watch creepy movies and just get into the whole spirit of the thing. Last night I read Lovecraft's story Pickman's Model and a few nights before I re-read The Whisperer in Darkness. Both of these are Lovecraft tales that basically are build ups to a surprise ending. I don't think either would surprise modern readers but both are very atmospheric and still a lot of fun. I've read my two favorite Lovecraft stories, The Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror, too recently for re-reads this year so I'm delving back into some Lovecraft stuff I haven't read in years. Also I'm reading the Lovecraft/Robert E. Howard correspondence right now and Lovecraft was talking about 'Whisperer' in one of the letters. Made me want to go back and re-read it.
I have a Halloween movie double feature coming up which isn't exactly horror, but if fits the season for reasons which will become apparent later. Kind of wanted to write a Halloween short story this year, but I'm running out of time so that may not go, at least not by Halloween. Anyway, more ghostly goings on to come.

The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor

Back in the 1970s, there were two main comic book companies, Marvel and DC. When I would browse the spinner rack (Hey Kids! Comics!) at Blair's Foodtown Grocery store I would occasionally see comics by a couple of smaller companies. One was Charleton, who seemed to have the world's cheapest paper and the world's worst printing, and the other was Gold Key. Gold Key comics were easy to spot because their adventure titles had distinctive painted covers, looking more like Young Adult novel covers than comic books.
I was familiar with Gold Key because they had published the Tarzan comics my mom collected, so I tended to look for the painted covers. Distribution was pretty spotty back then and Marvel and DC (And Archie. I forgot Archie because I rarely read them. That would come later.) took up most of the rack space but I would occasionally spot gold key titles like Turok Son of Stone, The Jungle Twins, Star Trek, Mighty Samson, etc. (Gold Key lost the rights to Tarzan to DC shortly after I began collecting comic books.) I almost always bought them if I had the money because Gold Key comics tended to have complete stories in each issue so it didn't matter if you missed an issue. There was no continuity to speak of. Plus, they had a lot of good, solid adventure stories with nice artwork.
I didn't know it at the time but Gold Key was the comics arm of Western publishing, who also published Little Golden Books and the like, and whose titles had formerly been distributed by Dell. Dell Comics had been dedicated to providing wholesome comic books for decades. You weren't going to get a lot of blood and gore from Dell. Thus, the Gold Key comic line was less bombastic than Marvel and DC.
Anyway, I never got into Gold Key's supernatural themed books, The Twilight Zone, Grimm's Ghost Stories, Boris Karloff Mystery, and such, so it's a little unusual that the cover for The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor #10 caught my attention. Perhaps it was the mummy crashing through the window. The afternoon television show Dialing For Dollars tended to show the Universal Studios Mummy movies a lot and I rather liked them. Maybe it was the title. Dr. Spektor had a nice ring to it. It may have been the interior artwork by Jesse Santos. I had already discovered Santos' art in Gold Key's sword and sorcery comic, Dagar the Invincible and really liked it. More about that in a bit. Whatever the reason, I decided to pick it up. I was very taken with it, and afterwards would buy any issues of Spektor I spotted.
Dr. Adam Spektor was an occult specialist, sort of like the famous literary occult detectives Jules de Grandin, Lucius Leffing, and Anton Zarnak. He was apparently independently wealthy as he lived in a mansion, Spektor Manor, and seemed to have a lot of free time to hunt spooks and monsters. He was aided in his battles against supernatural menaces by his beautiful Native American secretary, Lakota Rainflower. Spektor sported a black Inverness style coat, giving him a sort of Victorian look, but his long hair and Van Dyke beard were straight out of the 70s. By the time I discovered Dr. Spektor he had already run into a Dracula-like Vampire named Count Tibor, Frankenstein's Monster, a resurrected Mr. Hyde, the Mummy Ra Ka Tep, a spectral hound, a vengeful witch, and other creepy opponents.
After I had met the good Doctor he would face, among other creatures, zombies, a swamp monster, a sea monster, the living brain of an ancient sorcerer, and a werewolf who would turn Spektor into a werewolf as well. In other words, Dr. Spektor pretty much ran the gamut of the monster world.
I didn't know it at the time but the creator and writer of Dr. Spektor was uniquely suited to write about all these supernatural menaces. Donald F. Glut (rhymes with flute) seems to have had a lifelong interest in monsters. He made his first monster movie at age 9 and went on to make 41 amateur films, including homages to Frankenstein and the Teenage Werewolf. Over the years Don has written novels and short stories about Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Mummy, etc, as well as numerous non fiction books about dinosaurs, vampires, Movie Monsters, werewolves, Frankenstein, and more. These days Don runs Frontline Entertainment, a company that produces, you guessed it, monster movies. The man knows his monsters. And if that wasn't enough, Don credits his entry into the world of professional comic book writing to Forest J. Ackerman, long time editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Glut was one of the few new writers brought into the Gold Key stable in the 70s, most of the staff having been around since Dell days. Glut was something of an envelope pusher, bringing a touch of Marvel style continuity to his titles, linking Spektor to Dagar and Dagar to Tragg and the Sky Gods. In some ways, Glut created his own small 'universe' in comics. This Glutiverse would make a good topic for a separate post at some point, come to think of it. He also wrote continued stories, once an absolute no-no at Gold Key, and he brought back several defunct Gold Key characters like super heroes Dr. Solar and The Owl.
Glut was aided on Spektor, Dagar, and Tragg by artist Jesse Santos. Santos was one of the artists from the Philippines who popped up in the 1970s to work at Marvel, DC, and Gold Key. Santos had a style like no other I'd seen. He rarely used the traditional comic book inking technique of "feathering" to suggest tone, but rather used interconnecting lines of various widths to give a very different effect. His later work became more impressionistic as he went. His painted covers for Spektor and Dagar are vivid and very unlike the other Gold Key cover paintings. And he drew beautiful girls, of which there were plenty in both Dr. Spektor and Dagar the Invincible. Quite a bit of Santos' work can be found on the net and it's worth looking up.
Anyway, I'm currently re-reading the run of Dr. Spektor as part of my Halloween horror reading. I'm impressed yet again at the solid writing of Don Glut and the lovely art of Jesse Santos. Dark Horse Comics is currently reprinting a lot of Gold Key titles in hardback and I'd certainly like to see a collection of all 24 original issues of Dr. Spektor in one volume.(Along with the one Spektor issue of Gold Key Spotlight and Spektor's appearances in Spine-Tingling Tales.) And a Dagar volume as well. Are you listening, Dark Horse?

You can learn more about Donald F. Glut at his website here:

And read an interview with Don that I did here:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The House of Arabu

Continuing my reading of creepy stories for the Halloween season, last night I re-read Robert E. Howard's Story The House of Arabu. I have noted before that Howard basically invented the sword & sorcery genre by combining historical fiction with horror, and the House of Arabu is a fine example. The hero of the tale is one Pyrrhas the Argive (a citizen of Argos in Greece), a mercenary working for King Eannatum of Lagash. The story begins in the Sumerian city of Nippur where Pyrrhas is attending a lavish party thrown by the Semite noble Narim-Ninub. Despite the decadent goings on, Pyrrhas remains gloomy and remote. When pressed by Narim-Ninub, Pyrrhas admits that his dreams are cursed by a female demon. "One who haunts my dreams and floats like a shadow between me and the moon. In my dreams I feel her teeth at my throat, and I wake to hear the flutter of wings and the cry of an owl."
Things get creepier and it is soon revealed that Pyrrhas has been marked for death by the demoness Lilitu and her mate Ardat Lili who dwell in the House of Arabu, the house of the dead. Pyrrhas learns that his only hope may be the malignant sorcerer Gimil-ishbi. Gimil-ishbi's council leads Pyrrhas to a midnight confrontation with the two demons and a harrowing visit to the House of Arabu itself. (Not sure where REH gathered his background information for the story. He refers to Ardat Lili as a male, where my book of Mesopotamian myths calls Ardat Lili 'Lilitu's or Lilith's handmaiden'. I know Howard had a book or two in his library concerning the Assyrians, Sumerians, etc. He may have simply been using artistic license to make Ardat Lili a male for contrast.)
This is a very atmospheric little horror tale with just a smattering of action, and oddly enough it wasn't published until long after Robert E. Howard's death in 1936. It appeared in a revised form in 1952 in Avon Fantasy Reader #18 under the somewhat inexplicable title of The Witch From Hell's Kitchen. It was restored to a full Robert E. Howard version in the Wandering Star volume The Ultimate Triumph and was recently reprinted in Del Rey's The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard. I first encountered the story in prose form in a slim little paperback from 1979 called Wolfshead.
However, several years earlier I had read an adaptation of The House of Arabu in issue #38 of Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian. Writer Roy Thomas had taken House and changed Pyrrhas to Conan and changed other names of people and places to make the story fit into the Hyborian age. Thomas's story was titled The Warrior and the Were-Woman (Which is weird because were means man, as in were-wolf, but what the hey.) and is a pretty faithful adaptation, using large chunks of Howard's prose in both description and dialog. It does omit the trip to the House of Arabu, but the rest of the plot is pretty much intact. This was one of the first few issues of Conan that I ever read. I think it's also the first full art job by John Buscema that I saw. Buscema both penciled and inked the story and he did a great job, filling the story with dark shadows and lots of spooky atmosphere. I can remember being creeped out at age 12 when Lilitu threatened Conan, saying "Oh could I but reach you! How I would leave you a blind, mangled cripple!" And you knew she could do it too.
Anyway, House of Arabu translated pretty easily to a Conan story which isn't surprising since, like much of Howard's pre-Conan output, it is a story of a barbarian in civilization. Writer Karl Edward Wagner referred to Pyrrhas as a 'proto-Conan' in his forward to the Berkley edition of The Hour of the Dragon. Says Wagner, "Pyrrhas is another barbarian adventurer, wandering through the civilized Kingdom's of history's dawn."
House of Arabu functions well as sword & sorcery or simply as a horror tale. It is available online in a couple of places but that's probably the revised version so I'd advise seeking out The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard. Plenty of other Halloween reading in that volume as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thurnley Abbey

And speaking of Halloween reading, I'd like to recommend a particularly creepy ghost story to you. This one was published in 1908. It's called Thurnley Abbey and it's author is Perceval Landon. For reasons I cannot entirely explain, this one really creeped me out. Perhaps it's the slow build up. Perhaps the nature of the haunting itself. In some ways it seems more like a 'real' ghost story than a lot of the fiction of this kind. For whatever reasons, I liked it a lot and got a nice little chill out of it. It's in public domain so you can read it in PDF format here.

Just make sure you're not home alone.

Halloween Reading

Did a lot of Halloween themed reading over the weekend, both fiction and non fiction. I finished off the short stories in Lovecraft Unbound save for the Michael Chabon entry, which I decided to keep until closer to Halloween. Then I switched to a recently acquired collection from 1987 called Night Visions 2. This one contains horror short stories from David Morrell, Joseph Payne Brennan, and Karl Edward Wagner. I'd already read all of Wagner's tales but I re-read one called Old Loves which is something of a salute to the 1960s British spy series The Avengers while having a nasty little horror twist at the end. Reportedly Karl Edward Wagner was a big fan of The Avengers so I'm sure he had a lot of fun writing this one.
I read one of Morrell's stories, Black and White and Red All Over, about a newspaper boy who runs into a serial killer, followed by two by Brennan, Pick Up and Starlock Street. Both of these stories are very much in the Twilight Zone mode. In the first, a man picks up a hitchhiker who may or may not be the ghost of a woman he had an affair with, and in the latter a man finds a street in his town that seems to be stuck in the Victorian era, but turns out to be something far more sinister.
I originally ordered this book because it contains one of the few Sword and Sorcery stories written by Brennan, Oasis of Abomination, but I left that one unread for now. It's October so I'm looking for ghosts and ghoulies and while I'm sure Brennan's tale has elements of horror, I figured I'd save it for when I get done with my Halloween reading.
My non-fiction Halloween book for the weekend was Michael Mallory's Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror. This is one of the better books I've read about the classic Universal horror movies and I'd certainly recommend it for someone who was just discovering Frankenstein and the lot. I was very impressed by the way the book was structured. The author begins with a general history of Universal studios, which gives the reader some background and perspective. Then he has a chapter about Frankenstein which includes synopses of all the Frankenstein movies, cast information, on set anecdotes and the like. He doesn't spend much time talking about Boris Karloff, the man who played the monster, because a few chapters later he has a chapter all about Karloff. That's pretty much the pattern for the rest of the book. A Chapter about Dracula, then a chapter about Bela Lugosi. A Chapter about the Wolfman, then a chapter about Lon Chaney Jr. Later there are chapters about the female stars, the character actors, the directors, the special effects and make-up men, and so forth. A very well done reference volume with a ton of photographs. If you love the Universal monsters you'll want this book for your collection.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lovecraft Unbound

I almost didn't buy this book. Knowing of my interest in the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Cliff had set a copy aside at his store for my perusal. I looked at the table of contents and only saw a couple of names I recognized. That's what put me off initially. Several times in the past I've bought collections of Lovecraft pastiches, only to find that the contributors weren't overly fond of or well versed in Lovecraft, and were presumably hired because they were friends of the editor who had an anthology to fill up. In that situation what you often end up with is warmed over Lovecraft, usually some tale of an unfortunate fellow who finds some ancient book or statue and is eaten by some gibbering slavering entity from the outer dark. Been there. Saw the movie. Designed the T-Shirt.
In the end it was Michael Chabon's name that caused me to pick up the book. I've read most of Chabon's books and never been disappointed, so I figured what the heck. Boy am I glad I did. I'm about halfway through the book and really enjoying the collection. Small author bios tell how each writer discovered the works of H.P. Lovecraft and how he influenced their work. So far everyone has been a Lovecraft fan and while I've enjoyed some stories more than others, I haven't hit a real clunker yet.
Standouts from the first half of the collection are: The Office of Doom by Richard Bowes, which does feature Lovecraft's most famous evil tome, but in a very original way. The Crevasse by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, a tale that captures the spirit of Lovecraft without using a single one of his tropes. And my favorite so far, Houses Under the Sea, by Caitlin R. Kiernan, a beautifully written tale which manages to be a creepy, disturbing horror story and at the same time a memoir of a doomed romance.
Anyway, I'm really glad I didn't pass this one by, and I haven't even gotten to Michael Chabon's entry yet. Editor Ellen Datlow is to be congratulated for putting together an edgy, creepy anthology with some talented writers. The trade paperback is published by Dark Horse Comics and came out last week. The book is dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft and Datlow adds that she hopes he would approve. I think he would, and I know he would enjoy some of these weird tales tremendously.

My Evening as Rubeus Hagrid

Wow, it's been a week since I blogged anything. Sorry about that. Its not that nothing of interest has happened, but I guess I just haven't been in a bloggy mood. Anyway, probably the most interesting thing from last week was being J.K. Rowling's Rubeus Hagrid on Friday night. It happened like this.
My friend Nancy was having a birthday party for her daughter Ellen, who was just turning eleven. Ellen is a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and her mom was throwing her a Harry Potter birthday party/sleepover. Ellen and a group of her friends all dressed up as various characters from the Potter books. They played Harry Potter games and Nancy and her husband had done up their house as Hogwarts, making various rooms into class rooms where the girls got to attend classes in potions, magical creatures, defense from the dark arts, etc.
But, what Ellen didn't know, was that Nancy had asked me (the biggest guy she knew) to show up halfway through the party and deliver a somewhat dented birthday cake and a letter of acceptance to Hogwart's just as Hagrid does in the first book to the just turned eleven Harry Potter. She ordered an impressive mask with lifelike hair and beard for me to wear, and a pink umbrella like Hagrid carries. To make the costume more authentic, I borrowed my dad's duster coat. This turned out better than I expected because the long coat hung from my shoulders, making me seem even bigger than I already am. And I can do a credible impersonation of actor Robbie Coltrane's voice from the movies which helped.
Ellen and her friend were stunned when I showed up and pounded on the door. When Ellen answered, her eyes looked the size of saucers. I think the girls were a little scared of this huge stranger (Ellen had never met me) but they warmed up quickly when I started talking in my Hagrid voice and being funny and answering their rapid fire questions just as if I were really Hagrid. I was a major hit.
There was only one small mishap. The eye holes in the mask weren't quite big enough and Nancy cut them bigger for me. Somehow this unsealed the latex around my eyes and the fumes made my eyes burn after I'd worn the mask for a while, so I had to unmask sooner than I'd planned. Still, my unexpected arrival went really well.
I will note that there is something very strange about wearing a lifelike mask. Looking at myself in the mirror was a bit of a jolt. I would never have recognized myself.
And yes, before some of you ask, there are pictures, but they were taken with a film camera, not a digital one. When the pics get back I'll borrow them and scan them. For now you'll just have to imagine me as the grounds keeper for Hogwart's.