My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Bird Box

Bird Box – Josh Malerman, 2014.

An unusual apocalypse has blinded the world.

The bizarre reports start in Russia and then move to the US.  Something is outside.  If you see it, you go violently mad and kill yourself.  Society has collapsed.  Few if any survivors exist, and those few are trapped inside with their windows tightly covered.

For years, Malorie has lived alone with the children, Boy and Girl, blindfolding herself and going outside only for necessities.  She has trained the children with blindfolds since their birth to hone their sense of hearing.  One morning a masking fog comes, and Malorie risks everything for the faint promise of a better life.  Eyes closed and covered, they make their way to the river and a rowboat, beginning a journey of hope – and terror.  Because something is following them.

Bird Box is simply brilliant.  Malerman has a tight rein on the narrative, keeping the tension almost unbearable for the reader.  He drops plot revelations like little firecrackers that jolt the jumpy reader’s sensibility. This is a book you can’t look away from.

The story follows two timelines:  in the immediate present, we are on the boat with Malorie and the kids, almost viscerally sharing their panic on the open river.  We are as blind as Malorie.  This thread alternates with Malorie’s memories – also in present tense – that fill in the years up to this point.

Malorie discovers she is pregnant just as the first reports of the macabre deaths surface.  As civilization collapses around her, she makes a solitary trip to a safe house where she meets a small group of people who become her roommates.  Personalities mesh well and Malorie bonds with Tom, the optimist who is trying to find a way to live in the changed times and improve the housemates’ situation. Things are as good as they can be until a newcomer, Gary, creates a subtle, increasing divide in loyalties that culminates in the unthinkable.

The reader experiences the same psychological anxiety as the characters.  No one knows what the “creatures” are that must not be seen.  Or could the ensuing madness be self-fulfilling?  Is “man the creature he fears?”  Malerman creates an atmosphere of claustrophobic apprehension.  His writing is spare, but paints a rich picture for the imagination.  Bird Box tears on to powerful finishes in both storylines.   Don’t miss this one.  You will not be disappointed.


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Spicy Gingerbread

March.  A contrary month, but promising.  Still cold. Often blustery and muddy. Yet sprinkled with tiny harbingers of spring. That damp earthy smell.  A hyacinth just peeking out of the ground…

My birthday is in March.  Every year, I take a day around my birthday just to do things I want to do.  Watch a horror movie that has been on my list for a while.  Kick a few more zombies off roofs in Harran.  This year, feeling a little low and beaten up by “springing ahead” an hour, I wanted a comforting baked good to go with my horror binge.

Spicy gingerbread.  It so isn’t just for Christmas.  This recipe makes a moist, stunning little square cake.  Dark and rich with spices.  One-bowl easy and massively comforting.  Your whole house will smell amazing as this bakes.   I love it for breakfast, warmed up in the toaster oven and spread with cream cheese.  For you sweet people (tho’ I’m sure you’re all sweet!)  try it with the cream cheese frosting recipe below.  Really.  Think outside the Christmas box and you won’t be sorry.  You’ll be making spicy gingerbread to improve your mental outlook multiple times a year!

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Strangeography: Coffin Races, Cryonics, a Hearse Parade, and a Bacon Tent. Welcome to Frozen Dead Guy Days!

Nederland.   A rustic little town seventeen miles west of Boulder.  Gateway to Eldora ski resort and the glorious Rocky Mountains.

Altitude, 8,230 feet.

Population, 1 ,500.

Unless it is Frozen Dead Guy Days.  When 15,000 cheerful and slightly morbid visitors from all over the globe arrive to celebrate “Ned’s” famous and quite literally frozen dead guy, Grandpa Bredo Morstoel.

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A Tuff shed just like Grandpa’s.

The Weird History

Voted by the New York Times as one of the 10 Best Parties in Winter – a “Cryonics first Mardi Gras”- Frozen Dead Guy Days commemorates Grandpa Bredo who died in 1989 and is preserved in dry ice in a Tuff shed somewhere in the Nederland hills.

You read that correctly.

Grandpa Bredo died of heart disease in Norway.  His daughter, Aud, and grandson, Trygve believed deeply in the future of cryonics and dragged their deceased relative to California and placed him in the Trans Times cryonics facility from 1990-1993.  After that, they moved him to a shed behind their home in Nederland.

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Grandpa Bredo

This became problematic for a number of reasons.  Trygve was deported for Visa issues.   Aud, living in her house with no electricity and no plumbing, was evicted.  Panicked that Grandpa Bredo would thaw out, she let the local news know that she was harboring a dead relative in her storage shed.

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Hearses getting ready for the parade

Alarm ensued.

The city of Nederland rapidly passed an ordinance (Chapter 7, Article 2, section 7.34.) regarding the “Keeping of bodies.”  The law prohibited keeping “the whole or any part of the person, body or carcass of a human being or animal or other biological species which is not alive” on one’s property.  However, as the much-cited joke goes, Grandpa Bredo was – wait for it – grandfathered in.

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Skull graffiti near Barker Reservoir

Things got weirder.  Trygve  tapped local planetary ecologist, Bo “Iceman” Shaffer to keep Grandpa frozen.  Trygve supplied money from overseas for Shaffer to make a run down the mountain once a month and pick up 1,600-1,800 pounds of dry ice.   Shaffer would truck it to the Tuff shed (Tuff now a proud sponsor of FDGD!) and pack it around Grandpa’s metal coffin in his homemade plywood and Styrofoam freezer box. He would also check the temperature inside, to make sure it was cold enough.    After eighteen years (!) of caring for Grandpa, Shaffer and Trygve had a falling out.  As Shaffer put it on his website: “overseas management and local labor couldn’t agree on terms” and he gave up the job in 2012.

There was talk of moving Grandpa back to Norway, but he remains (Remains! Ha! Sorry…) in his shed above Ned, and one Brad Wickham is the current iceman.

Frozen Dead Guy Days turns a funky little mountain town into one heck of a bizarre three-day party.

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Our Visit

We drove to Nederland the back way to avoid traffic in Boulder Canyon.  The Peak-to-Peak Highway was deserted and we rode past snow-frosted pine trees through an eerie mountain fog that had us thinking of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (my husband) or alien abductions and missing time (me).

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“The fog rolled in…”

We scored parking at the lovely Nederland Community Center – busy hosting a pancake breakfast – and walked down a short trail into the foggy town: perfect ambiance for a dead guy party.  And yes, there was Oingo Boingo being played over a loudspeaker in the street at one point.

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1st Street: Weekend before Frozen Dead Guy Days, March 4th

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1st Street on Frozen Dead Guy Days – Saturday, March 11

We purchased wristbands to allowed us into the three festival tents: the Bacon, Bourbon & Brews tent, the Re-Animate tent boasting a cryogenically created “Bredo’s Brew” by a local Longmont brewery, and the Brain Freeze tent.

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Ice pig sculpture in the Bacon, Bourbon & Brews tent.  A token got you a plate of bacon!

Then we went to check out the hearses getting ready for the parade.  The owner of the Phantasm hearse actually took time out from his preparations to show us a photo of his son with Angus Scrimm (the Tall Man) from the films.  I geeked out.  If you haven’t seen the Phantasm movies – at least the first three – you’re missing some classic horror.  Watch them!

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The Phantasm hearse!

We caught street performer Sam Mallory – great standup comic, o.k. fire-juggler – and then found a spot to watch the parade.  The crowd was massive, but everybody was in great spirits.  (Spirits!!  Ha!  Right.  I’ll stop.)

A dead Shriner (?!) kicked off the parade, followed by the hearses and the coffin racing teams.

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Coffinmobile

 

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Co-founder of FDGD on right.

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They’re having fun!

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Beautiful matte finish on this hearse.  Love the red treatment on the windows!

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A St. Patrick’s Day hearse…

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Perfect!

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The Facial Hair crew

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Team Mario Bros.

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Trash bag costumes – appropriate for what will come.

We had Super Heady Tacos with Patrick Swayze and lots of other folks outside the 3B tent, then went off to see the coffin races.

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I’m not sure why, really.

We secured a nice spot close to the muddy, snowy, frozen course that we had watched the city surveyors create with backhoe just a couple of hours earlier.  They had to truck snow in from Eldora to help make the course as there wasn’t enough in Nederland.  The city Mayor, Kristopher Larsen, was in great spirits presiding over his first coffin races in office.

Two coffin teams raced at a time.  The winner would go on to compete against the other winners of each heat.  Teams had to carry their coffin – with a living body in it – up the slushy  hill, around a tight corner over to a short pole.  Their coffin member would leap out, spin themsleves around the pole five times to get nice and dizzy, and then balance across a log where their team would pick them up.  They would race through the giant frozen puddle/water hazard to the finish line.

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The Facial Hair guys!

 

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They won their heat!

 

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The Lady Lawyers: a  poor footwear choice slowed them to a walk.  Note: high heels are never a good choice in deep frozen slush.

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There’s teamwork!  And shiny spandex!

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Warm, if weird costume choice.

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Good, morbid fun for all ages!

Sadly, we didn’t manage to get a tour up to Grandpa’s actual Tuff Shed – available first-come, first-serve leaving from the Carousel of Happiness –  but there’s always next year.  We also missed the polar plunge, frozen t-shirt contest, and icy turkey bowling; but we were exhausted. We had been outside for five hours in 35 degree fog. Yet, as we drove home we were also oddly contented.  We’d seen a hearse parade, coffin racers, listened to two great bands (The Whiskey Charmers & Banshee Tree) and basically had a second Halloween in March.  Bizarre.  Awesome.  I can’t wait to go again next year.

Sources:

Town of Nederland

Nederland “Keeping of bodies” ordinance

About Frozen Dead Guys Days

Ice Man Chronicle

“Meet the Colorado Man Who Got Paid to Look After a Frozen Corpse for 18 Years”

“How One Colorado Town Honors a Corpse It Keeps on Ice”

The Official Frozen Dead Guide, 2017

 

 


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Review: Broken Monsters

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes, 2014

Broken Monsters initially seems to be a gritty but familiar cop-vs.-disturbed-serial-killer tale.  Which would be a good read in itself. But readers are quickly thrown off-guard when the familiarity of that genre is yanked away and things take a supernatural turn.

The setting is perfect.  Detroit: blasted, crumbling, stricken, yet persevering.  This real wasteland is juxtaposed with the shiny, removed world of social media and the idea that maybe, art and writing can transcend this reality.  But in a good way?

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