Tourists become tasty treats for a myriad of monsters in this gleefully gruesome romp in the woods. And yes, discussing this book absolutely require an abundance of alliteration.
The Haunted Forest Tour—James A. Moore & Jeff Strand, 2007. Rating: 4/5
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When a giant forest violently erupts out of the New Mexico desert—unfortunately impaling most of the townsfolk—the land, along with the werewolves, insect-like things, aliens, mold monsters, demons, ghosts, and other beasties it contains is quickly snapped up by an entrepreneurial individual. In a true capitalistic spirit, H.F. Enterprises turns the deadly demesne into a tourist destination. They hire cryptozoologists to analyze the dangerous denizens and run (perfectly safe!) tram tracks through woods for the ultimate in (safe!) scares. Needless to say, safety protocols are colossally compromised on the Halloween Day Tour, stranding formerly eager monster-aficionados deep in the woods. Monsters rejoice. Tourists die. And they die in lots of creative ways involving copious amounts of blood, goo, and unnamed fluids teeming with wormy things. A handful of survivors escape deeper into the woods: Eddie the tram driver; Barbara, the pretty young guide; soon-to-be-unemployed Chris and his mom; an elderly hoax debunker, Lee; and six-year-old Tommy. Can anyone make it out alive? Can anyone stop the forest from spreading? Don’t look at me: I’m not to spoil it for you.
Moore and Strand obviously had a blast writing this one and their macabre delight is infectious. You read The Haunted Forest Tour with a big grin and a wince of revulsion plastered to your face. There are lots of “eeeew” moments, but they’re lightened by how frankly flat-out funny the story is. Even the characters find a dark humor in their precarious plights.
Now, we’re not talking National Book Award nominee, here. The plot is straightforward: monsters. Though there are some neat little surprises along the way. Still, the characters are fleshed out enough— well, enough that they’ve got plenty of flesh to be removed—but also in that we root for them. I was genuinely (briefly) disappointed when a certain character died on me. That said, The Haunted Forest Tour is all about the monsters. Reading it is like reveling in a big old box of disgusting chocolates (ones filled with different creepy things). You never know what you’re going to bite into—or what’s going to bite you. Bon appétit! (Bonne lecture!)
This time, we find the ragtag group of paranormal investigators facing prison for their unpopular work debunking haunted house reality shows.
Released by the FBI, Professor Kennedy and the team are tasked with saving the president of the United States. The unpopular leader is in a coma, tormented by an entity – or entities – far more powerful than even the team’s old nemesis, Summer Place.
To rescue the president before an angry power is released on the world, the team must unravel ties to insidious Nazi experiment and investigate a contaminated California town that died in the 60’s but has been showing…unnatural…signs of life. They must also follow the memories of a young blind girl, whose death long ago is part of the puzzle.
Having just read The Supernaturals – fantastic, see last week’s review – I was thrilled to get this book for the holidays. Unfortunately, it left me a little disappointed.
In the Still of the Night feels rushed: it lacks polish, detail, and depth. It would benefit from a tighter editorial review.
The characters that Golemon built so carefully in The Supernaturals – Leonard, the tech whiz, tough cop Damian, and Jenny, the possessed professor to name a few – all return here, but attain no further development. Golemon relies significantly on what we know of the characters from the previous book, and consequently they feel flat.
We don’t get the same level of nail-biting suspense, either, because In the Still of the Night charges largely down a single path: there aren’t as many diverse story threads coming together for an intense finish.
There are some great bits, however. The plot is uniquely imaginative. Gloria, the blind girl, is a beautifully developed character and the most interesting one in the book. The power of dream walking is expanded in the story – largely for flashbacks – and offers an intriguing shift of perspective. We also get a nostalgic look back at ‘50s and early ‘60s rock music classics, that will leave a few oldies stuck in your head at the end of various chapters.
In the Still of the Night is a good book: fast-paced and entertaining, and I am glad I read it. I enjoyed following Professor Kennedy and his team on this adventure. The Supernaturals is simply better-written. I would very much like a third book featuring these characters. Just, one that’s as masterful as the first.
The last time parapsychology professor Gabriel Kennedy set foot in Summer Place, one of his students disappeared. Kennedy turned from a cocky skeptic into a believer: Something evil lives in Summer Place.
Badgered by a cutthroat television producer – and his conscience – Kennedy agrees to return to investigate Summer Place for the filming of a live Halloween special.
But Kennedy isn’t going back to investigate, he’s going back to fight. And Summer Place plans to win.
Kennedy assembles a team of friends with unusual talents including a psychic, a young computer maven from the ‘hood, a Native American dream walking sheriff and a possessed paleontology professor – trust me, this all works somehow – and together they prepare to face down Summer Place.
Golemon based his story on a personal encounter: after visiting a beautiful three-story mansion for a total of two minutes he fled with the disturbing sense that the house was aware of him, and not thrilled he was there. Golemon vowed never to return. In The Supernaturals, Golemon neatly creates this lurking sentience in Summer Place and crafts a deep mythos for his fictional house of horrors.
The Supernaturals is flat-out a great haunted house story. The tale starts strong and builds suspense to nail-biting levels by the tense climax. Standard ghostly tropes are taken to the extreme and freshened with unexpected twists.
We also get a fascinating, behind-the-scenes perspective of all those popular paranormal investigator shows. For as the story progresses, we see Summer Place through the eyes of Kennedy and his crew as well as through the eye of the tv camera. This cinematographic aspect adds an immediacy to events – putting the reader front and center in the supernatural mix along with the camera people. It also gives a deeply visual facet to our reading experience.
Kennedy’s crew battles deceit, entertainment industry egos, disbelief, and dark secrets in their fight against the malevolence that imbues Summer Place. Can they win? Can they survive? At what cost? Don’t miss this one.
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 Shining – Wendy 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.
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.
On a crisp fall bike ride through a nearby neighborhood just before Halloween, I stopped in my tracks, staring the most unique decorations I had ever seen. Floating eerily in front of a house were life-sized, translucent, faceless human figures with full tattered skirts. I was mesmerized.
I biked home as fast as I could and did a little research: tape sculptures. I had no idea there was such a thing. I found the Storker Project online and was instantly inspired to make tape babies.
The results were as creepy as I’d hoped. My husband was a little nervous about hanging disturbing, full-sized, featureless infants over our rosebushes, especially after I added a slowly pulsating green and orange strobe light. Amazing!
So when it was time for this year’s spring book fair, what could be better than recreating the Roswell crash with life-sized tape aliens? Answer: nothing!
The process is time-consuming, but remarkably easy. Try it, you’ll be astounded by the results.
Good-quality clear packing tape – I used Duck Tape
Kitchen plastic wrap
Use a doll. Try Walmart or your local thrift store. Or if you have children, appropriate a doll. With their permission.
Pick a person. Ideally someone who doesn’t have long hair. Hair and Duck Tape are a bad combination.
A Styrofoam head. Check a beauty supply shop. I found them at Sally Beauty Supply for $5.00.
Bubble wrap to pad out the head and make it more alien-looking
Lights for inside its body. I used LED String lights 33ft, 100 lights bright green
How to make them:
The process is the same for aliens and babies.
First, wrap your subject in plastic wrap. Of course, if you are wrapping a person, stop at their neck. Good heavens. Do not wrap their head. They will die. You will be wrapping the Styrofoam head separately and will attach it to the body later. I’ll show those head pictures after the body shots. When you are wrapping with plastic wrap, make sure not to leave any holes, or the tape will stick to the subject.
One of our brave first-grade volunteers, wrapped in plastic.
Next, wrap the packing tape all around the subject, covering the plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and cover completely. The more layers, the more solid it will be.
My friend, Mr. Reming tapes while I take the picture.
When the person or object is completely covered with a solid layer of tape, make a cut carefully down its back. If your subject is a person, use small scissors and start at the neck. Push your finger ahead of the scissors so you aren’t cutting any clothing or pinching any skin! Cut down to the lower back. Cut along the backs of the arms and legs. Gently extract the person. Same for tape babies: start at the crown of the head with a craft knife or scissors and cut down the back and backs of arms and legs. Extract the doll.
Like a snake skin.
Now, gently pull out any excess plastic wrap from inside your sculpture. You may need scissors to cut out some bits.
Finish your sculptures by closing them back up with more tape. Align the seams as closely as possible and tape them shut. This step is probably the most time-consuming part.
If you are making a baby, you are done at this point!
If you are making a person, you have completed the body. Now, make the head.
I folded up some pieces of bubble wrap and taped them to the temples and top of the head to give the bulbous alien head look. I also added some to the chin to make it slightly elongated.
When your head is shaped the way you want it, follow the same process: wrap in plastic wrap. Cover it in packing tape. Cut and release the head. Pull out extra plastic wrap. Tape up the seam.
Tape your head to the body. You may have to free-form a little bit of upper shoulders with tape. No problem.
You did it!
If you want to go full-out alien, reopen the seam in the upper back, giving enough space to put your hand in. Get your LED fairy lights and insert them into the body. Feed the lights down into the arms and legs as far as you can reach. Also place some inside the head: You may need to secure the head lights with a little piece of tape. Leave enough space for the cord to come out of the back, and re-tape the back.
You can modify these sculptures any way you like. Consider adding flashing eyeballs: Try making a tape sculpture of a plastic Easter egg or small curved object. Cut it in half and add flashing LED balloon lights (wrapped in a light layer of plastic wrap to disguise the metallic part). Tape to the faces.
Tape sculptures make highly dramatic and eerie props. They have an unsettling quality because they are humanoid, yet lack defined facial features. You will receive many compliments (accompanied by many strange looks). And, everyone will want to know how to make these. Now you do! Have fun!
Well, not necessarily doom. Maybe it is a happy glowing eyeball. Your call! Either way, they’re fun and easy to make. I had a group of 4th and 5th graders make a bunch for one of our first BOOOk Fairs. They loved it. I can honestly say that I have never seen such diverse eyeballs in my life. These are fast, easy and striking: a lot of bang for your buck.