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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Alternoween 2: Dark Classical and Evocative Instrumentals for an Ominous Halloween Playlist

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Some of us may want a more atmospheric Halloween than last week’s hard rocking songs offered. Here you go. I’ve made a playlist of my favorite dark classical pieces, spooky movie themes, and other eerie instrumental snippets. Sit out on your porch at midnight on Halloween and watch the fall clouds racing by under that almost-full moon and listen to these tracks, if you dare.

Ave Satani (from The Omen) – Jerry Goldsmith. (1976) Goldsmith’s satanic version of a Gregorian chant was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in ’76.  Goldsmith worked with his orchestra’s choir-master to create a musical black mass. Highly unnerving.

Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saens. (1874) One of my absolute favorites.  I get goosebumps every time I hear it.  According to old superstition, at midnight every Halloween, Death appears and calls skeletons from their graves to dance for him. They dance until the cock crows the next morning. In this piece, you can hear the harp at the beginning, striking midnight, and the oboe mimicking the rooster at the end. Magnificent, wild, eerie, brilliant.

The Fog Prologue – John Houseman. (1980) “11:55, almost midnight.  Enough time for one more story…” The epitome of a creepy ghost story from the 1980 film classic. If Houseman’s voice and the deep swell and single theme notes in the background don’t give you chills, nothing will.

Theme from The Fog – John Carpenter. (1980) Followed immediately by the iconic theme from the king of spooky synthesizer himself. Carpenter considered it one of his best scores.

Carnival of Souls – Combustible Edison. (1994) Lounge-y tribute to the ’62 cult classic film.  Sticks weirdly in your head.

Suspiria (Daemonia version) – Goblin. (1997) Creepy, whispery, synthesizer-heavy theme to Argento’s horror masterpiece. John Carpenter later credited Goblin’s work on another Argento soundtrack – Profondo Rosso – for inspiring his own use of synthesizer on the Halloween soundtrack.  Cool.

The Bookhouse Boys – Angelo Badalamenti. (1990) Think: alone on a late and rainy night in a strange place. Darkly bluesy song. Eerie sax. Badalamenti won a Grammy for the Twin Peaks Theme in 1990.

Dies Irae (from the Requiem Mass in D Minor) – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (1791) “Dies Irae” means “Day of Wrath” when souls are summoned for the Last Judgment and the worthy are delivered and the unsaved are damned. The Dies irae was used as part of the sequence for the Catholic Requiem Mass and funerals. Roman Catholic reforms removed it (and other off-putting texts that focused on terror, despair, punishment, etc.) from funerals and masses in 1969-1970.  Small wonder – this is terrifying!  Powerful, fast, almost violent.

Theme from The ShiningWendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. (1980) Based on Berlioz’s Dies Irae from the Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath movement of Symphonie Fantastique. Dissonant and uber-creepy.

Confession Modulation – Broadcast. (2012) From the Berberian Sound Studio soundtrack.  The British band did haunting bits of song for this mesmerizing film – a must for audiophiles.  I couldn’t find the clip for you, but here’s the movie trailer.  Trust me on the haunting part.

Two Steps from Hell – Exhumed. (2012) Two guys joined forces in 2006 to create original music for movie trailers…now they’re known for dynamic genre albums.  This one is from the Halloween album, of course.

Tam O’Shanter Overture Sir Malcolm Arnold. (1955) Read Burns’ poem first – and you can completely envision drunken Tam weaving home on his old horse Meg, chased by witches and other terrifying creatures.  Can he make it to the river and cross before they catch him? Amazing tone poem blending humor and horror.

Main Theme from Psycho – Bernard Herrmann. (1960) Herrmann used a muted, all-string orchestra to ramp up the tension in the soundtrack.  The main title gets me most of all: the speed, the rising and falling: nail-biting.  Interestingly, Herrmann only unmuted his strings in the famous shower scene, creating terrifying contrast to the rest of the score. Hitchcock later commented that “33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”

Funereal March of Marionette –  Charles Gounod. (1872 for solo piano, orchestrated 1879) Speaking of Hitchcock… This was the main theme for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Not scary, but piques the imagination.

Calliope – Nox Arcana. (2006) A “dark ambient” duo that musically depict gothic and horror fiction.  They turn out some really, really eerie albums.

Carmina Burana (O Fortuna) – Carl Orff. (1935-1936) The Carmina Burana is a series of medieval poems that Orff brought to life in music.  O Fortuna bemoans the fickleness of fortune and the inescapablem cruel nature of fate.  Absolutely chilling.  It begins ominously with deep, fast, forceful chanting, and climbs to a stunning, hair-raising conclusion.

Main Theme from The Amityville Horror – Lalo Schifrin. (1979) It starts out so innocently, yet with ominous undertones.  Happy children singing…and then, not so much.  Classic theme.

Theme to Kolchak: The Nightstalker – Gil Mellé. (1974-1975) One of my favorite television shows of all time.  Darren McGavin is a crime reporter who keeps getting sucked into supernatural encounters. I think this show singlehandedly made me spooky.  And a writer. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Ah…I can’t let go! Here are a few others without as much annotation:
Dead Silence Theme – Charlie Clouser. (2007) Creepy song, creepy film.

Béla Bartók – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. (1936)  Tense, brooding, dark tones. Excerpts were also used in the original version of The Shining.

Witch’s Ride – Engelbert Humperdinck. (1891-1892) From the opera Hansel and Gretel. You can almost see the witch herself, madly flying through the night sky. Evocative.


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Alternoween: A Halloween Playlist for the Rest of Us

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I love cheesy Halloween music as much as the next person – that is, minimally – but having worked in an elementary school for twelve years, I will tell you that “Monster Mash” has worn especially thin. To the point where hearing it makes me want to cry. Here is a rockin’ alternative playlist for those of us who like our Halloween songs on the…less saccharine side. Enjoy!

Haunt You – The Pack a.d.  (2011)  Two Canadian garage rockers inspired by sci-fi and horror films.  Hard-hitting, big sound.  About someone dead.

Red Right Hand – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. (1994)  Dark and ominous…”red right hand” is a line from Paradise Lost, referring to the vengeful hand of God.

The Sky is a Poisonous Garden – Concrete Blonde. (1990)  Whip fast and chilling.

Howlin’ for You – The Black Keys. (2010)  O.k., not really anything spooky, but you can pretend werewolf.  Bluesy with great drums.  The official video parodied action flick trailers…maybe not so work-safe.

One of These Days – Pink Floyd. (1971)  A quiet, ominous windstorm. One disturbing sentence. Menacing bass. Screaming guitar. Beautiful.

Ballroom Blitz – Sweet.  (1973)  Yes, you’ve heard it in Suicide Squad, but it was cool way before then.  Supposedly inspired by a concert the band was playing in Scotland when the crowd started throwing bottles at them and drove them off the stage.  Awesome!

Vampire Blues – Neil Young.  (1974)  Vintage Neil…amazing guitar…sink your teeth into this one.

The Darkness – Zombie Girl (Darker Mix by Komor Kommando). (2009)  Synthy, B-horror movie industrial rock with a heavy beat.

Lullaby – The Cure. (1989)  Giant spider. Childhood nightmares. Drug addiction? Deceptively pretty song with a high creep factor.

Devil Behind that Bush – The Cramps. (1997)  A she-devil scares the lead singer out of his pants.  Hmmm…  Upbeat, surfy, psychobilly.

Night of the Living Dead – The Misfits. (1979) No one does horror punk like these guys.  This song was released on Halloween, 1979.

Novocaine – Switchblade Symphony. (1995) Orchestra meets goth rock with haunting vocals.

Earth Died Screaming – Tom Waits. (1992) Deeply unsettling.  Waits’ growly voice and the eerie “sticks” percussion – created by guys actually “banging two-by-by fours against stones or rocks on the ground” according to Songfacts – make a creepy combo. Clips from The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) zombie film accompany the song in this video.

Yummer Yummer Man – Danielle Dax. (1988)  – Don’t let him near you!  Great ’90s experimental/pop rock. I saw her in concert, opening for the Sisters of Mercy in Boulder…

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie. (1980)  A woman withdraws from society and goes a little crazy…Great guitar and perscussion.  And of course, it’s Bowie.


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Review: The Summoner

The Summoner Layton Green, 2013.

Dominic Grey, working as a US diplomatic security agent in Zimbabwe, is tasked with finding out what happened to the ambassador’s good friend, who apparently vanished during a secretive religious ritual.

Together with a fierce and beautiful local official and a world expert on cults, Grey follows a dark trail of corruption and terror.  Hunting a powerful and evil n’anga – usually a healer and spiritual advisor –  Grey sees things that defy rational explanation and shake his world view to the core.

A tough guy with a lack of respect for authority and zero tolerance for injustice, Grey survived childhood with a violent father and watched his sick mother die despite all her faith and prayers.  Now, his own beliefs – or lack thereof – are challenged by the magic and butchery he witnesses.

The Summoner is a deep book: on the surface a mystery/ thriller with a hint of supernatural, it is truly thought-provoking and disturbing on an elemental level.  Green captures the essence of the dichotomy that is modern Zimbabwe:  vitality and despair, beauty and secrecy, honor and corruption, globalism and racial tension.  This setting creates a shocking juxtaposition of contemporary urban life with primitive rituals and belief systems.

Green leaves the reader with a deep sense of unease.  What is real?  Can unknown beliefs or concepts affect one’s reality, despite one’s own beliefs?  Is magic real? The Summoner will get under your skin.


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Petrifyingly Perfect Pumpkin Coconut Bread

Fall is in the air and there is no better time for Pumpkin Coconut Bread.  I’ve been baking this for years.  It always turns out beautifully: moist, flavorful.  And it makes three loaves.  Oh yes.  One to eat, one to freeze, and one to give away.  Or maybe two to freeze.  Or… You work out the distribution.

This recipe also lends itself perfectly to other add-ins: chopped candied ginger, mini chocolate chips, raisins, currants.  Change the nuts to walnuts.  Play with it!  This is an easy recipe that will be a keeper for you.

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Ingredients:

5 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

2 cups sugar

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant coconut pudding mix

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teasopon ground nutmeg

¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

How to Make It:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Grease and flour three 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pans.

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Toast your nuts if you’re so inclined.

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In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and pumpkin until smooth.  Add the sugar and oil; mix well.

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Combine the flour, pudding mixes, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg; add to the pumpkin mixture.

Stir in the nuts and anything else you may be adding.

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Transfer the mixture to your three loaf pans.

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Bake at 350F for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

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Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to wire racks.  Let cool completely.  Wrap and freeze for up to six months!

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Happy Fall!


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Día de los Muertos Marigold Garlands

I recently held a BOOOk Fair at our school library with a Day of the Dead theme.  (Aside – I am so fortunate to have an administration that loves a spooky fall Book – “BOOOk” – Fair).

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Día de los Muertos is primarily a Mexican holiday. It is a multi-day celebration that starts on October 31st – Halloween – and goes through November 2nd – All Souls’ Day.  Over these days, families take time to remember and celebrate family members who have passed on.  They visit cemeteries where they clean the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with altars – ofrendas – using foods & drinks their loved ones enjoyed, toys, and marigolds.  The marigold, known as the Flor de Muerto, is supposed to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings.  We have a large Hispanic population at the school and they loved this Fair.

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One decoration I made was marigold garlands.  These are absolutely stunning and super-simple to make.  Fortunately, in our backyard, marigolds are essentially perennials and come up on their own every spring.  I have an abundance to work with.

Take a sunny fall afternoon and string these beautiful garlands.  They have an amazing weight to them when they are fresh, and a lovely, almost spicy scent.  As they dry, they shrink up, but remain so pretty.  You can cut the garland and spread the dried seeds in your fall garden to come up again next year.  Use them as necklaces or add to a fall tablescape. Use your decorating imagination!

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You need:

Marigold flowers – lots: The string I made for the blog today was three feet long and used 55 flowers.

Embroidery floss

Embroidery needle

Pony beads

How to make them:

Gather your marigold flowers.  You can cut them off the plants with scissors or just pick them by hand.  Make sure to get the seed pod with the flower – this is the part you will be passing the needle through.

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Thread your needle with your embroidery and string your first pony bead, making a knot.  I am using the embroidery floss without separating it into strands so it will be a little stronger. I’m using an orange color to blend in with the flowers.  There is a huge variety of pony beads available!  I am working with some translucent pony beads in all colors.  They add a subtle sparkle in the garland.

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Now, string your first marigold flower.  Push the needle through the seedpod and pull the flower down the floss so it rests on the anchor pony bead.  Next, string another bead.  Then, add another flower. Continue alternating beads and flowers, scooting them down so they are tight together on the string.

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Turn the marigold flowers at different angles to make the garland look full from all sides.

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When you have your garland as long as you want it, knot the end.  Leave enough thread extending so that you can tie the two ends together if you like, to make a circle, or necklace.2017-09-25 16.10.44

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This garland was just under three feet, and used 55 marigold flowers.  It only took about twenty minutes!  Have fun!

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