Christma(dnes)s IX

Reading ghost stories during the Christmas season is an old British tradition. But I think reading scary stories is just as valid. “Nackles” by Donald Westlake tells of a nasty counterpart to Santa Claus and “The Naughty Ones” by Lake Lopez also deals with things that are neither holly nor jolly. If you want more, you can check out the following stories from Gary Morton:

“Grim is Coming to Town”
“All I Want is Santa”
“There is no Rest for the Stupid”
“A Short Vampire Christmas”

Two Sisters Crafting offers both instructions for making “Grinch Slime” and a recipe for “Grinch Popcorn.” They also have recipes for “Grinch Rice Krispies Treats,” “Grinch Rice Krispie Bites,” “Grinch Hearts Rice Krispie Treats” and “Grinch Rice Krispie Cake.” eHow’s article on “Grinch Party Food” has several great ideas but I think it’s lacking in the actual recipe department. So I dug up enough recipes to have a proper Grinch feast. Not only does I Heart Naptime have a recipe for “Grinch Cookies,” but Everyday Dishes has one for “Matcha Grinch Cookies” and Simplistically Living offers “Crinkly, Cranky Grinch Cookies.” The recipe for “Grinch Cupcakes” over at Sarahs Bake Studio is very different from the “Grinch Cupcakes” recipe from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. Similarly, Momtastic shows how to make a “Grinch Cake” that’s very different from the “Grinch Cake” made by The Bearfoot Baker and the “Grinch Cake” from Gretchen’s Vegan Bakery. The “Grinch Skillet Brownie” from Foodstirs is different from the “Grinch Brownies” Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons as well. Hungry Happenings closes things out by showing how easy it is to whip up some “Grinch Pancakes.”

But the Grinch isn’t the only character from the classic story with recipes! #Sweet shows how to make “Max Macarons,” Seussville.com has a recipe for “Who Pudding,” Allrecipes.com has a “Who Hash” recipe and Country Bob’s shows how to make your very own “Roast Beast.”

Now we need some festive drinks to wash it all down with. Cooking With Curls’ “Grinch Hot Chocolate” and the “Christmas ‘Grinch’ Lime Sherbet Punch” from Wishes and Dishes are appropriate for all ages. However, adults might prefer the “Grinch Drink” from Design Loves Detail or the multiple recipes for Grinch cocktails from The Spruce Eats. Both the 2011 and 2016 installments of “Christma(dnes)s” have additional Grinch food and drink recipes as well!

Free music downloads are also a popular part of “Christma(dnes)s” and this year is no exception! Nat Brower takes us “Surfing With The Grinch,” David Ritter celebrates a “White Zombie Christmas,” la-goons have sighted the infamous “Krampus,” Nollie Gettysburg watches the epic battle that is “The Yeti Vs. The Christmas Creature,” Julian Hol offers a theremin take on “Silent Night” while Overdue Exorcism observes both a “Silent Deadly Night” and “Black Christmas.” Brandon Boone has a wonderful creepy Christmas album called Nosleep Christmas 2017 which you can also snag for free!

The revived Suspense radio drama is offering free downloads of “Have a Hacking, Whacking Christmas” and “Hark the Deathly Angel Sing.” While we’re on Soundcloud, let’s check out Flowerpot Press’ streaming “Vampire Snowman Joke” and the unusual carol “Oscar The Light Headed Pumpkin.”

If you want more Halloween versions of Christmas carols, Haunted Bay has the lyrics for classics like “Humphrey The Blue Nosed Pumpkin and “Shivery Yells.” Haunt Your House for Halloween: Decorating Tricks & Party Treats by Cindy Fuller has lyrics for “The 12 Days of Halloween.” Google Books also has a cool preview for Rick Walton’s Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas and the preview for Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction has some great covers for Yuletide horror reading. I noticed how the Amazon listing for Slay Bells lacks cover art and the one for Slumber Party has a completely different cover than the one Hendrix used! Thankfully the covers at the listings for Christmas Babies and Black Christmas are the same as they are in the book.

While I was on Amazon, I also found a Christmas toy that’s both naughty and nice and a Christmas album from the star of Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (or The Edge of Hell if you’re reading this in Canada)! Roll Versus Coal is both a game in its own right and a complete source of dice for tabletop gaming fans who want some seasonal accessories. But since supplies of said game are limited, you might have to use a few dice from Lumps, the Elf Coal Game instead. It should be noted that game is a reskin of another game and doesn’t offer a complete set of RPG dice.

“Coal” dice would be a perfect match for the free In Nomine adventure A Very Nybbas Christmas. Both the preview of the In Nomine core rules and conversion guide for use with GURPS can allow those with GURPS Lite to play for free. But that isn’t the only freebie that’ll be of interest to tabletop gamers! Tales From The Savage Troll offers Christmas monster stats for Savage Worlds while d20PFSRD has both official and homemade Krampus stats for use with RPGs like Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons.

Creative Commons License

The image illustrating this article was licensed under a Creative Commons 1.0 License. The rest of the article is copyrighted by Gravedigger’s Local 16.

Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on the above sites, downloading from them or constructing a project that’s detailed on them. This also applies to any suggestions made here. Attempt at your own discretion.

6’+ Episode 241 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“After a short, three-week nap, Strange Jason wakes up to celebrate Godzilla, kaiju and spooky stuff with tracks by MAN…OR ASTRO-MAN, THEE HALLOWTEENS, MOTORZOMBIS, KING FLAMINGO, MUMMULA and more! Plus, Monstermatt Patterson and Killer Kuts from Kraig Khaos.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thanksgiving Kong

The internet is filled with people who fondly remember watching various King Kong and Godzilla movies during Thanksgiving break. It’s been that way for awhile, too. I remember being intrigued by references to such marathons on various websites and newsgroups back in the late 90’s. I had been able to piece together that the tradition was linked to the New York area, but exact details were scarce back then. Nobody whose recollections I found ever mentioned how the tradition got started or when it ended. But this year I decided to finally get to the bottom of things.

Our story starts in 1955. That’s when General Tire and Rubber purchased RKO Radio Pictures as a way to give General Tire’s television stations a massive library of content. One such station was WOR-TV in New York (which General Tire had obtained ownership of in 1952). It should come as no surprise how King Kong quickly appeared on the channel. It aired on “Channel 9” numerous times a week, including appearances on Million Dollar Movie, in addition to multiple airings on the same day. Surveys quickly revealed how every person questioned had watched one full showing of the film on television and even watched part of a repeat showing! So when the station was in need of something big to rake in lots of Thanksgiving advertising dollars, it’s no wonder they accepted the King Kong pitch made a relatively new employee named Lawrence P. Casey. Casey had been inspired by an early Christmas promotion WOR-TV had done called “Christmas with the Kongs.” Although that promotion only showed the original film and Son of Kong, the 1976 debut of the “Holiday Film Festival” was made up of Mighty Joe Young, King Kong vs. Godzilla and Son of Kong. One can’t help but wonder if the use of King Kong vs. Godzilla was some sort of test, as next year’s installment included a kaiju movie marathon on the day after Thanksgiving. Now viewers could scarf down reheated leftovers in between showings of King Kong Escapes, King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (with King Kong now playing on Turkey Day). 1978 saw the event being promoted as the “King Kong vs. Godzilla Festival” and the day after Thanksgiving showing Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Godzilla vs. Megalon. The event went through other minor changes over the years until its last hurrah in 1985, when both days were limited to double features.

Continue reading

Movie Review: The Raven (2012) Quote This Critic: Nevermore!

the Raven movie

Zombos Says: Fair

After the promising opening moments of James McTiegue's The Raven are spent with anxious constables rushing to find slashed bodies in a locked room, and the entrance of Inspector Fields (Luke Evans), who approaches the conundrum like Auguste Dupin, John Cusack's Edgar Allan Poe chews the scenery with his superficial temper tantrums and clumsy gyrations, pulled by contrivance instead of subtextual motivations. For god's sake, didn't Cusack and the writers know Poe was a tortured soul with layers of spiritual complexity? Where's the empty pit of isolation and the breadth of despair he suffered through his boozing and melancholy? Yelling the word "f*ck" is not a suitable drama substitute. If only the real Poe could have lent a hand. I'm sure his dialog would have been richer and more sensible, and his suspense would have been palpable as well as plausible. 

Plausibility is a good place to start since this movie adds little of it to tie its sensational events together. A wonderful premise brimming with potential limps instead from indecisive contextual stability as it purloins stock slasher and serial killer tidbits, piecemeal, without understanding their cumulative effect. It's almost like Saw in gruesomeness scale–the strikingly gory pendulum slice and dice on the rotund Rufus Griswold (John Warnaby)–then restrains its visual assault like Horrors of the Black Museum, then jumps from left to right to be similar to Se7en's broader cat and mouse conceit. Each staged execution of Poe's devilish demises by the villain is handled like a fast-food order without condiments, even if imaginatively far-fetched clues propel Poe and Fields one step closer to finding who that killer is and his motive; both of which appear on script cue out of thin air for the denoument's wrap-up, without any explicit or implied discernment along the way to prepare us for the revelation. It just happens. 

Leading up to this, Poe rants, raves, throws his ego all around, sulks, and looks for his next drink–until his mind clears enough to recognize the clues being left behind; Fields, emotionless, analytical, dissects the problem methodically until he develops brain freeze, allowing Poe's now clear mind to take the lead; the blustery Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) hates Poe–who wants to marry Hamilton's daughter–until the captain becomes conciliatory and friend to Poe to help solve anothe clue, even though it's Poe's stories that have buried his daughter alive and all of them desperately trying to find her. Hamilton's daughter Emily (Alice Eve) loves Poe, but aside from an out of place allusion about him giving good head, made during an overly long and lifeless romantic interlude, why she would like a destitute, alcoholic, and egotistical ass such as Poe is portrayed is not clear. Her wispy and cold presence in every scene blends into the upholstery much of the time, so unless Poe is infatuated with sitting on her, I'm at a loss to understand the attraction they have. Even when she's clawing at the coffin she's buried in, she's as cold as a corpse already.

Then there are the vexing facts in the case of the uneven interior lighting from scene to scene. We go from moody interiors correctly matched with their dim gaslight and oil lamp sources to spectrums of bright white, impossible to be produced by the lamplight available, sandwiched between a few suitably bleak, mist-shrouded exteriors: a memorable chase under a gray sky and through a foggy, barren, forest brings to mind The Fall of the House of Usher.

Not much else is memorable except for the murder by pendulum. Its intensity is surprising given the duller deliveries of the subsequent murders. I'm not sure if practical effects were united with digital, but watching that enormous blade slice through Griswold's belly, him screaming, it cutting deeper with each notch of its giant gears rolling into place, all that blood and glistening chunks of visceral meat splashing wildly, and the blade finally bisecting Griswold into two lifeless parts as it comes to rest, stuck into the wooden table between them, is breathtakingly disturbing, but oddly out of place here. I wondered how the villain managed to build such an immense, clockwork precise contraption by himself. Poe even remarks he hadn't imagined the counterweight to be so large when he sees it.

I'm torn myself between loving and hating it, given the rest of this movie.

This article originally appeared at From Zombos’ Closet.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

The Grickle Halloween Collection

Graham Annable has had quite the career. He’s drawn comics, animated numerous short films, co-directed a major motion picture and inspired the Puzzle Agent video game franchise. One of those comics is the wildly popular grickle series. Said series has spawned several animated short films and many of them involve horror and Halloween. I was agonizing over which one to showcase for Halloween, until I realized Mr. Annable had uploaded a compilation of them onto his official grickle YouTube channel:

This compilation also has a few shorts which revolve around music and you know what that means…the annual Halloween music post tradition has been upheld for another year!

Happy Halloween!

6’+ Episode 240 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“A demented horror host named DREAD A. SCARE unleashes a bevy of B-Movie beasts while threatening to take over Halloween! It’s up to STRANGE JASON, MONSTERMATT PATTERSON, KRAIG KHAOS and a massive cast of creeps and horror hosts to save HALLOWEEN!”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Solvao Solar Spotlights

Those who know me in real life are often surprised at just how little I decorate for Halloween. That’s mainly because I live in an apartment complex and we don’t get any trick-or-treaters. I put up a decoration or two so I can keep my tradition of decorating each year but that’s about it. I used to go all out back when I lived in an actual house, which is why my parents eventually recruited me to come to their house to decorate their house each year. It all started when they had lost their one Halloween decoration while reorganizing the house. Then something came up and my stepfather wasn’t able to help hand out candy to all their visitors. So my mother asked if I could swing by to help out and what started as a one-off assist became a yearly tradition. It’s a lot of fun and I enjoy the opportunity to dig into my old props again. The only problem is just how dark it gets. In many cases you can barely see the props I put out. Here’s an example:

You can tell from the outline that it’s a scarecrow and sadly that’s all you can tell. It’s a modified version one of those cute scarecrows one often sees around this time of year. My parents’ neighborhood is practically infested with them this year. I had such grand plans when I got it from a former neighbor of mine who didn’t want it any more. I was going sculpt a scary new burlap face for it and was considering giving it a bloody prop sickle. But my schedule changed when I moved and didn’t have the time. Making a simpler and less detailed burlap mask was also considered but that also fell through and I opted to just put a scarecrow mask I had bought at a clearance sale on it. I was able to stuff a red glow stick in there the year I debuted the prop and although it gave the mouth and eyes a nice little glow, it wasn’t enough to get a good look at the scarecrow’s face. Repositioning the prop each year never resulted in any success. This is where Solvao came in.

Solvao was kind enough to provide a pair of their spotlights, as one has to purchase each spotlight individually. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have left the other spotlight on scarecrow duty when I took this. Oh well. These spotlights use LEDs to provide lots of lighting power (200 total lumens from 4 individual 50 lumen LEDs) with little heat and much less electrical requirements than traditional lights. You can adjust both the angle of the light and angle of the solar panel using knobs, which both makes it easy to place them where they’ll get the most sunlight and project their own light where you want it. The panel can be adjusted 180 degrees up or down and the spotlight itself and be adjusted 90 degrees up or down. Such a degree of control is a must of haunt lighting given how light from low angles often makes things look spookier. They also provide attachable stakes for ground placement and you also have the option of mounting them on a wall (a trio of screws are provided, in addition to the light, stake and instructions). Speaking of which, the instructions state you should charge the lights in direct sunlight for 6-8 hours prior to using them. The “low brightness” setting will last for 6-9 hours while the “high brightness” setting lasts 3-5 hours.

Continue reading

Free Pumpkin Carving Stencils II

It’s been many years since the last collection of free pumpkin carving stencils was posted here. So you’d think it would be a piece of cake to come up with a new batch, right? Wrong!

I even tried hitting Google Books to see if I could find any vintage examples. Although the “stencil” I found in Volume 7, Issue 8 of The Kindergarten and First Grade was intended for use with a construction paper figure, I was able to alter it into the stencil illustrating this article. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a matter of just erasing the pumpkin shape and changing each part of the face black with a few mouse clicks. Doing that still left white outlines which had be be carefully erased and filled in. Additional cleaning up to remove blemishes was also needed. But since the end result only works for small pumpkins, I had to keep searching. Traditional Jack O’ Lantern faces seem to have fallen out of favor, as many free temples are just logos or symbols. These stencils from NASA are a great example. Thankfully some people are still making face templates, like michael-myers.net’s stencil which replicates the Jack O’ Lantern seen in the opening credits of the original Halloween. Here are the other free stencils I was able to dig up:

Real Simple
The Spruce
Pinterest
Skip To My Lou
HGTV Canada
SpookMaster
Pumpkin Pile
Martha Stewart
WeAreTeachers
Pumpkin Masters
Fantasy Pumpkins
Orange and Black Pumpkins
Better Homes and Gardens
Universal Studios Hollywood

I should explain the Pumpkin Masters link. It’s actually a link to an album on the company’s Facebook page and you don’t need to click any of the links in the description for each stencil. Instead, click on the image of your choice and right click once it fully loads. Then select “View Image.” Then use your browser’s magnifying tool to get a full sized version of the stencil to print out. I should also note how some of the stencil links were previously used in the “Tricks and Treats” article series. Those articles are worth seeking out due to all the other coll stuff they contain.

As noted in previous “How-To” posts, Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting or downloading from any links on those sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). Attempt at your own risk.

Music to Haunt By: Dark Rave Volume 1

Virgil Franklin
Official Site
Dark Rave Volume 1, Lame Duck Digital 2018

Some of you might have heard about Dark Rave Volume 1 thanks to the streaming preview tracks on his new website, but I learned about it a different way. I had been talking with Virgil Franklin last year about my review of Halloween and he told me of his desire to create an album consisting entirely of spooky music with a beat. Although intrigued, I had initially been concerned about not being able to review it since I had long since run out of haunt ideas to use with such music. Thankfully I had nothing to fear since the Master of the Ethermuse has once again released an album which filled my mind with ideas!

“Dark Rave” opens with moody pounding coupled with a catchy beat. This is followed by constant wooing variations which are such tom remind you of a theremin. Darkness and electronic dance music aspects join in for a spell. The volume gets softer, and the feel becomes more chilling prior to dropping the faux theremin tones. This would work in haunt scenes like a haunted factory, alien room or mad scientist’s lab. Setting up a mad scientist’s lab is a lot easier than people think. Plastic drink containers can be repurposed into lab equipment and ordinary foods can become extraordinary organs with a little work. But if you wanted a jarred specimen whose origins are even harder to determine, these fake intestines are just what you need! Aluminum foil (or gray paint), cardboard boxes and plastic bottle caps can be used to create machinery. Adding some printable gauges adds to the effect. I don’t know if electric guiros exist, but “Living Dread” definitely shows what they sound like. I love the guitar-like backing and how a beat with creeping feel joins in. The track gets pretty heavy and drops the “guiros,” but they return soon enough. They might remind you of static, electronic glitches or screeching insects. The ending is sudden ending but on the other hand, it doesn’t have a lengthy period of silence like several of the album’s other tracks. Playing it on a low volume will minimize the technology feel of the “guiros” and allow its use in a hallway filled with spiders or a hall where vines try to grab visitors as they pass through. Those intrigued by the vine idea will have to sort through several videos to get a rough idea on how to construct it. I recall it being run off a wiper motor, but using several oscillating fans could achieve a similar movement effect. Those preferring a more straightforward tutorial should opt for the spider hallway. Although they might want to paint a more scientifically accurate number of spider eyes so guests know spiders are watching them and not something else. Although the idea of something else lurking in the dark might be more frightening to some. It’s all up to you.

Continue reading

Sounds to Scare By: Pepperhead Studios

Pepperhead Studios
Official Site
Haunted 2016, self-release 2016

Pepperhead Studios is the creation of musician Jeremy dePrisco and it’s more than a place where people can record their work. It’s also the name he asked me to use when I noted one of his albums in an article last year. He’s best known for his electro-acoustic “Shivasongster” performances and as part of the Americana duo “Fricknadorable” which he performs in with his wife Audra. Although both members of the band were involved in the creation of Haunted 2016, it’s very different from their usual mix of ukulele and blues guitar. But how did such an album come to be?

The answer is very simple: Jeremy dePrisco loves Halloween and, like so many enthusiasts of the holiday, had amassed a large collection of scary sound effects albums over they years. When you enjoy such albums and have access to your own recording facility, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll create one of your own. The project combined material taken from his past field recordings and all new material. There’s not a single sample from another artist’s work, internet download or synth creation to be found and that’s a welcome breath of fresh air in this sort of project. Both the dePrisco created the new sounds in a single location over the course of two weeks in October 2016, with Jeremy handling the foley effects and both providing the vocals. The fact their home is a former church made for some great acoustics and kept the need for processing to a minimum. The resulting hour and a half’s worth of material was played on the same day the album was released: Halloween!

“Haunted 2016 Part 1” runs a little under 8 minutes and it’s actually the album’s shortest track! Given the length of the album, I can’t list every single thing in detail. But I’ll try to cram in as much as I can! We get to hear clanking chains, metal objects being dropping on ground, evil laughter and stomping feet in addition to the droning background sounds. It might sound vaguely like music at times but an email to the artist quickly confirmed it’s actually just sound effects that have been slowed down. The dropping sound effects happen many times throughout the track (and even close it out). The chains, stomping and evil laughter all return at various points as well. There’s also heavy breathing, rumbling noises, knocks, groaning drones in the distance, moaning, unfamiliar noises, monstrous yells and screams, a faraway creaky door, storm sounds, spooky breathing, two sources of sinister chuckling and even a power tool!

“Haunted 2016 Part 2” opens with soft clanking chains and rumbling rolls. The soft zombie-like groans in the back are a great touch. The rumbling noise vaguely reminds me of stone slab being moved at times. There’s also more groaning and stuff I can’t quite place. An evil laugh, monsters breathing and other noises are heard at times and creates the sense of monsters skulking about in the dark. A shaken coil creates an interesting effect too. Although there are scattered drum strikes, they don’t sound like traditional music of any kind. Something can be heard being dragged on floor when more rumbling comes in. The coil effect actually gets a solo at one point before we hear a table being moved about and breathing. Later a power tool and something large dropping or slamming can be heard. This leads to a monster breathing and more distant tool sounds. We can ever hear something being cut at one point. After some slamming, cranking and stomping, a door can be heard opening. More distant doings are heard in the background, along with a soft thud. More coil noises can be heard, along with breathing, crying or laughing, coughing, an evil child laughing and whispering, drum strikes, a door opening and wet eating sounds. The track closes with the sounds of cranking and and cries of pain to imply a torture rack being used.

Continue reading

Music to Haunt By: Icky Ichabod

Icky Ichabod
Official Site
Halloween Music, self-release 2009
The Haunted Organ, self-release 2016
Darkscape, self-release 2016
Hall of Mysteries, self-release 2016

Kevin J Gardner created his “Icky Ichabod” identity in 2009 but had been involved in music long before then. His compositions have been heard in numerous radio spots, films and television shows. But being Icky Ichabod let him stretch his legs. Not only could he create spooky music for Halloween and haunted houses, but he also released the book Paranormal Poems in 2014! So let’s start at the very beginning with his debut 2009 release, Halloween Music.

“Samhain” starts the album off with low piano work. Creepy light backing tones with touches of percussion soon join in. While the piano work changes things up, the rest turns into the very definition of “cacophony.” But then it dies down until only soft, squeaking creaks and gusts of wind are left with the piano. Things pick up for a more mild version of the cacophony from earlier. Only this time some strange synth tones join in as well before the addition of scattered light notes lead to a great closing fade. Chimes reminiscent of a music box are combined with a soft, pounding beat in “Skeleton Bones.” Some whispering effects appear at one point and snappy percussion foreshadows the change in chimes. Odd, somewhat sci-fi tones get a soft solo before chimes and otherworldly effects take over. Soft drums and a coughing laugh can be heard too. Although the snaps vaguely suggest rattling bones, the other parts make it possible to work in a haunted nursery. You just need to make sure you have a clown doll with an arm positioned like it’s coughing and a toy robot to match up with certain parts of the track. “The Thinning Veil” offers moody chimes and backing drum beat you can dance to! There are brief recurring appearances by breathy wails and a fuzzy drum machine. Chirping and an otherworldly effect like passing through another dimension make repeated appearances throughout the track. They’re also joined by chimes and snippets of clinking noises. It’s just what your vortex tunnel needs! “Ghost Ship” makes interesting use of synth effects and multiple pianos, along with the occasional drum beat. A tambourine briefly joins in to pick things up while cymbals and other percussion effects join for a spell. The tambourine then returns with a vengeance and new piano variations join in to create the feeling of distant lands. The complete feel of the track creates the feel of a ship in rolling waves without using any sound effects. It appropriately dies down and fades out like a ghost. One use for this track would be to play it in a room decorated to look like the inside of a pirate ship. But others might prefer to construct a prop with dead pirates hanging from it and play the track soft enough so people only hear it when they get close to the prop. Cymbals, drums, piano work and a backing beat take us into “Ripper.” Very fuzzy tones join in, along with some frantic piano work. This gives the track a sense of fleeing (especially when things up pick up). It all builds up, only for a piano solo to fade us out. This could be used to enhance a chase or to liven up a static scene based on Jack the Ripper. Such a scene would be a great way to make a staircase spooky. You can either print or make your own sinister silhouette. If you want to prevent people from going up the stairs, block it off with some caution tape and leave out a prop newspaper nearby with a headline about a recent string of killings similar to the original ripper murders. Having another article whose title suggests a supernatural connection will add to the effect.

Continue reading

Music to Haunt By: Morbus Tenebris

Morbus Tenebris
Official Site
Shadows On The Wall, self-release 2018

You might remember Benjamin Fouché as the man behind Spookinite Valley. This year marks his debut novel, Shadows On The Wall. This year also marks his musical debut with a tie-in album for the novel under his side project, Morbus Tenebris. It’s a story of a haunted house-themed sideshow attraction called “Gravestone Manor” whose facade artwork delivers exactly what it promises. Sadly its monsters and supernatural beings are all too real…and all too deadly. They also have the ability to leave the attraction! It has claimed many unsuspecting victims as it materializes in various carnivals and fairs and the novel tells of the protagonist’s life being forever changed by three beings from the attraction: The spectral Funereal, the monstrous Odious and the vampiric Luminita. I’ve only had a chance to read a little of it and it’s kind of like if H.P. Lovecraft got sick of tentacled horrors beyond imagination and decided to write about a haunted attraction that’s truly haunted.

The version of Shadows On The Wall I’ll be reviewing is actually the remastered reissue. The original was released earlier in the year with different artwork, different mixes and even a few different tracks. Mr. Fouché eventually came to the conclusion that the artwork was too cartoonish and he became dissatisfied with the quality of the music. It took some time and money (and a new artist), but he was pleased with the final results. He even created some new tracks to replace those he felt couldn’t be salvaged. These new tracks are “Sanguivoriphobia”, “Nocturnal Wandering” and “Gravestone Manor”. I only bring this up as an interesting bit of trivia, as this sort of thing is far from unheard of in the world of haunting ambient music. After all, both Prelude to a Nightmare and Verse 13 have replaced cover art and swapped around tracks for their old albums. But I’m getting off topic…

Creepy organ music takes us into “Lost at Midnight.” It offers lots of variations until it briefly stops and takes on a grander (and vaguely circus-like feel). The use of soft wordless female vocals and the constant tolling bells near the end were great touches. “Shadows on the Wall” also has a grand feel thanks to its soft piano work, mysterious strings and pipe organ work. Tolling bells briefly join in to contrast with piano. Fans of string work will particularly enjoy this track, especially the solo segment. This eerie track is perfect for a haunted mansion. “Mural of Horror” uses mournful strings and wordless female vocals to create a creepy, almost mystical feel. There’s also some nice use of heavy piano work towards the end. But don’t think you’re limited to using this with scenes involving witches and wizards. Halls of portraits and graveyards would also benefit from being paired with the track. You could also use “Midway Memories” with a graveyard scene due to its sad and dismal feel. It’s a combination of both heavy and light piano work mixed with violins and occasional blasts from a pipe organ. Its circus midway feel isn’t “in your face” and sometimes vanishes from the track, so let’s use it in an area where that works to its advantage: a haunted sideshow. After passing the signage and ticket booth, guests enter a room with several displays. In addition to the “FeeJee Mermaid,” they can also see exhibits like strange fossil, a skeletal human spider, creepy things in jars and a caged gorilla. Said gorilla’s cage is directly across from the exit so it can chase people into the next room when it escapes. The dark tones and interesting string work of “Sanguivoriphobia” remind me of a predator surveying the area. Although the title refers to having a fear of vampires, you can use it with any monster scanning your haunt for victims.

Continue reading

6’+ Episode 239 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“Gather ‘round, as we instill some fear in ya, with this – our annual foray into ambient and atmospheric tracks. Listen to selections from NINE INCH NAILS, MORBUS TENEBRIS, GUSTAV HOLST, VERSE 13 and more. Monstermatt Patterson gets into the mood by getting into a coffin, and we bury him alive in another MONSTERMATT MINUTE.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Music to Haunt By: ExPsyle

ExPsyle
Official Site
Collection of Creepy, ExPsyle Music 2014
Music Box Melodies, ExPsyle Music 2013

ExPsyle (pronounced “Exile”) is a composer who has been creating music since 2013. She creates royalty free music since she recognizes how independent game developers, filmmakers, YouTube channels, etc. might not have enough money to license music or commission custom soundtracks. All she asks is that you give her proper credit after you purchase and use her work. But she is available to compose custom material for those who can afford it, which is why some of her albums aren’t available for royalty free use. Her work has appeared in several video games, including Fox Detective, Rain Clouds, Princess of Ruin and Afternoon in Depression. I can’t find any evidence that her work has been used in haunted attractions, despite ExPsyle specifically mentioning the possibility of using her work in haunted houses on the Bandcamp page for Collection of Creepy. It’s time to change that…

“Cold Breath” combines slow, chiming bells (which might remind you of a music box) with otherworldly backing touches. Said backing touches change to compensate for the track’s steady backing beat. Some parts sound kind of like gusts of wind while others sound like cries or vocals. So why not use it in a room set up like a haunted nursery? Having a hidden oscillating fan blowing the curtains would be a great touch. The low pulsing tones of “Coming After You” ooze darkness and dread and creates feelings which live up to its title. Since some parts remind me of a chiming grandfather clock, let’s recreate the sinister chamber from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” Hanging black fabric all over the room is simple enough, but the story’s braziers of fire projecting light through panes of red glass will have to be replaced with fake flames and temporary walls with red plastic windows. Creating a prop grandfather clock is nowhere near as difficult or expensive as one might think. Just be sure to paint it black too. The flickering lights will keep it from blending in with the background. I recommend having the Red Death sneak up on visitors while they’re inspecting the clock, but you could modify the clock so a performer can leap out of it if you wish. The costume for the Red Death can be a black hooded robe covered in “Creepy Cloth” and the mask can either be a corpse mask painted red or one of those red metallic masks which flood stores every October. Don’t forget to sprinkle on some fake blood! “Deep In Chaos” offers eerie low tones from beyond while “Resonant Evil” picks things up slightly with an undercurrent of evil. Its increase in volume wonderfully implies something has been summoned, so it’s a must for a séance. It also flows nicely into “Something Powerful Approaches,” which delivers the feel its name promises. You could even use this as a substitute for a distant storm approaching if you play it at a low volume. “8-Bit Vampire” is a surprisingly happy keyboard track. The contrast between the backing music and main beat is nice, although it’s not very scary. But it is a great track to switch over to if kids find the other music too scary while they approach your front door on Halloween. “Brooding Saint” is a wonderfully creepy organ composition. There are plenty of variations and is a more lively than your standard “haunted organ” track without sounding too happy. I love its very rich sound. This and a strobe light will make any static phantom organist prop seem more alive. I only wish it faded out rather than suddenly stopping. That way it would be much easier to loop.

But don’t let such a minor quibble keep you from picking it up, as Collection of Creepy is worthy addition to any haunter’s music collection! It’s not the only ExPsyle album with spooky music! With that in mind, let’s take a look at Music Box Melodies.

Continue reading

Music to Haunt By: Vampyre – Symphonies From the Crypt

Midnight Syndicate
Official Site
Vampyre – Symphonies From the Crypt, Entity Productions 2002

Midnight Syndicate is currently performing in their live “Conspiracy of Shadows” show at Cedar Point’s “HalloWeekends” event. Not only will they be performing several shows every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 28th, but you can meet them afterward to take pictures and get merchandise signed! It wouldn’t surprise me if many fans bring copies of the band’s early album Vampyre – Symphonies From the Crypt, the artwork for which was created by famed Dungeons & Dragons artist Keith Parkinson.

The uneasy opening of “Awakening” uses soft wordless vocals and tapping to slowly build up to crashing gongs. Said gongs bring in a sweeping, regal feel and the pipe organ work brings classic Hammer horror movies to mind. The use of bells and horror movie stings further enhanced the mood. This could easily be used in a haunted throne room, vampire’s lair or even the opening room of a haunted house with a vampire theme. “Graveyard” can be used in a graveyard or funeral parlor scene thanks to its moody low opening and soft light touches which lead to mournful string work. The touches of wordless female vocals are greatly appreciated. Its great ending build leads to “Unhallowed Ground,” where the loud crash of a gong snaps listener out of mood from the previous track. More gongs, wordless unisex vocals and piano work soon follow. Amazing organ work takes over for a spell, but the other touches soon find their way back in. It’s spooky and epic, with plenty of great piano variations. A pipe organ solo gets more variations and is joined by new wordless unisex vocals which react to musical changes. The overall effect is simply breathtaking. “Crypt of the Forsaken” begins with a low creepy tone and gongs. Wordless unisex vocals and string work joins in, although I should note how the wordless female vocals are easier to make out than their male counterparts. The overall feel is pounding and steady. If you have a vampire’s crypt in your haunt, why not use a variation of the “girl to gorilla” illusion? Guests hear a vampire hunter yell for someone not to do something just before they enter and see a vampire’s lackey pull a stake out of a decayed vampire’s chest. As the lackey struggles with the vampire hunter, the prop corpse (or skeleton) suddenly changes into a fully restored vampire! Naturally the guests will be chased into the next room. It turns out that “Winged Fury” is one Gavin Goska’s favorite tracks and is “broken into different movements revealing different sides to this creature of the night.” The clashing cymbals and driving violins get the listener hooked before it occasionally adds in soft gongs, an interesting harpsichord effect and other musical tones I can’t quite place. Wordless male vocals can be heard in the distance add to the feeling of something stalking and flying about in pursuit. Wordless female vocals join in for a nice contrast with the variations in the wordless male vocals. I loved the focus on violins at one point and how it added creepy musical strikes later on (which were enhanced by more wordless vocals). You simply have to experience this for yourself. Haunts with a vampire theme could use this in a bat cave, but haunters using other themes might want to consider pairing this track with zombie birds.

Continue reading

Music to Haunt By: Audio Zombie

Audio Zombie
Official Site
Centralia, Audio Zombie Sound 2014
Penumbra, Audio Zombie Sound 2015

Audio Zombie has made a huge impression on the haunted attraction industry since its debut in 2010. If you go to any forum devoted to haunted attractions and look up discussions about the best audio for use in haunts, Audio Zombie will be definitely mentioned. Their work has appeared in numerous haunted attractions and amusement parks, which would still be impressive even if their services weren’t also used by musicians, animatronic designers, museums, escape rooms, radio programs, ghost tours, web masters and filmmakers! Audio Zombie also won the “Best Audio Design” award at the Project Twenty1 Film Festival for their work on the movie Fallow Ground. It’s no wonder they’re one of the top sound designers in the world of horror. But who are the people behind Audio Zombie?

The company’s official Facebook page notes they are “composed of a small group of professional producers, audio engineers and musicians whose work can be found on countless projects ranging from independent films to national touring musical acts.” Jason Ruch is the owner, chief sound engineer and sound designer while co-owner Jonny Croce is the lead composer and studio musician. Kerri Edelman is a clinical psychologist who acts as the company’s director of marketing and public relations, in addition to recording her own music and voice-overs. Each of the three have over a decade of experience in the music industry and their experience

I got in touch with Audio Zombie while researching an article about providers of royalty free audio for haunted attractions. Not only did they confirm they offered several albums which haunts could use without paying royalties, but Mr. Ruch kindly offered to speak with me over the phone! We wound up talking while he was preparing to go record a storm. It wasn’t that Audio Zombie didn’t already have storm sounds, mind you. No two sounds are ever exactly the same and the company knows the value of having a large library of effects to work with. He also told me how all effects are either created in studio or are recorded in the field instead of being made entirely on a computer. One such example was how they had gone to Centralia, Pennsylvania to record hours of live audio. The place has been all but abandoned due to the mine fire that’s been burning since the early 60’s. I mentally filed away that particular album as the first Audio Zombie album to review. We both agreed that sound is one of the most overlooked aspects of haunting despite its ability to enhance scares. He also noted how he likes to use metal parts and other objects one wouldn’t normally associate with music to create disturbing sounds people won’t be able to identify. My favorite anecdote from our conversation demonstrated how Audio Zombie’s services extend beyond just offering albums or being hired to create custom audio. One haunted attraction Jason Ruch had been working with had an empty room and they couldn’t figure out what to do with it. So Audio Zombie crafted a track which, when played on a speaker in the dark room, made people swear the walls and floor were moving!

“Mineshaft” opens Centralia with a rumbling and creepy burst and becomes amazingly moody. Soft metallic chimes are often heard, but they are nothing like the relaxing ones you’re used to! Moaning tones are also a constant presence and sometimes there are noises which sound a lot like bursts of wind. This track flows into “From Above,” which creates a feel of dread and power thanks to its moaning tones and soft unnerving noises you can’t identify. I wound up looking over my shoulder a few times while listening to this despite being in a brightly lit room! You can also use the previous two tracks with “The Ashes.” That track, much like the album it appears on, oozes atmosphere. Metallic chimes and a low backing tone create a sense of menace. This is enhanced by other light (but creepy touches) and occasional appearance of a wailing woman. “Eve” has a great buildup in terms of both volume and scare factor. The backing tone and use of soft noises make this another track to use when you want your guests to feel menaced by something. The backing tone volume actually increases at times and soft plinking tones often join in. In fact, they take the spotlight for the last part of the track, but not before some softly played string work appears. I can easily see this appearing in a haunted playroom or nursery. The disturbing low tones of “The Devil’s Well” conjures up an intense sense of unease. There’s also soft wordless female vocals and plenty of other eerie touches which are sure to remind you of something from a modern horror movie. It’s a versatile track which can be used in several types of scenes, but you can make a Devil’s well of your own by combining a fiery bottomless pit with a prop well. Just be sure to do the carving outdoors! For added chills, you could hide the audio player inside the prop so it sounds like the audio is coming from the depths of the well! Playing it softly so people can only hear it once they get close to the well further adds to the effect. “Devoid” marks the album’s first use of crackling fire sounds, but the low backing tones and various creepy touches make this more than a fire effects track. This makes me imagine spirits flying around a burning pit, so why not combine fake flames with projected ghosts when you play this at your haunt?

Continue reading

Load more