Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sue Belle

In my artistic process prior to creating a new piece, sometimes I will reminisce of my past. I think of people or situations that made me uncomfortable as a child, and put a new spin on my memories. I will work myself up into a frenzy of creepiness to develop a new character. When I begin to feel a certain way, the path is clear for me to create.

Sometimes I don't have to try so hard.

My grandparents were very religious people. They attended a small church in town, and had a tight group of friends. As a child, I was taken to that church every Sunday, so I knew most of the church people by sight. Sometimes the "brothers" and "sisters", as it was customary to call the fellow worshipers, would be invited to Sunday lunch at my Grandparents' house. One couple that seemed to be extremely close to the family was Lawrence and Almeda. ( Brother Lawrence and Sister Almeda.....can I get an Amen?...AMEN!)
Well, anyway, this pair really creeped me out. Seriously. Lawrence was a tall thin man who wore brightly colored leisure suits on Sunday and cardigan sweaters the rest of the time. Lawrence didn't wear pants, he wore "slacks". He had the burr haircut of a shop teacher, extremely large and rough hands, and always smelled of tobacco. Lawrence mostly left us kids alone. Almeda, on the other hand....she was a short, round busybody with hairpins always falling out of her sparse curly hair, always wearing knee high stockings and a tattered dress (in church and out of church) She was a cheek pincher, if you know what I mean, and I made it a point to stay as far away as possible. Her nickname was 'MeenieMoe'...god only knows why.

My Grandmother worked at a place called Riverside. I'm sure it had a different name than that (probably Riverside Rehabilitation Facility, or something very clinical like that) When I was growing up, politically correct wasn't even thought of yet, and Riverside was the running gag among the grade-schoolers as the place the retarded kids went. The short bus would load them up every day, and cart the retards off to Riverside to make pretty colored hand prints on craft paper and spend the day smearing themselves with tempera paints and drool. So Grandmother worked at Riverside, and MeeniMoe's daughter Sue-belle attended Riverside.

Sometimes we would visit Brother Lawrence and Sister MeeniMoe at their home. My mother insisted. I suppose she thought it would build character, and looked at it as an enrichment activity. She may have thought it would win her points with my Grandparents...."isn't that nice....Judy took the boys to visit Sue-Belle." I don't know why she did it, and really don't want to know. We always entered the house through the kitchen...that's what friends did...the front door was too formal. Thank God for small favors gave me time to adjust to the climate. I remember the smell of natural gas...not the good cooking smell I recall from Grandma's house, but the oppressive death smell....(honest officer, I never knew there was a leak... I wonder?...) I remember a dusty, forgotten smell of old books and magazines, an oily smell of slick wood floors freshly Lysol'd. I remember entering the living room ( could they call it that?) "Come on in Davy....Sue Belle wants to say Hello" (sue belle wants to say anything) I didn't want to, but I couldn't go anywhere else. Never mind Lawrence and his dark socks and his vinyl chair and his aluminum tumbler with some very heavy and numbing liquid in it....never mind the black and white tv with the rabbit ears and re-rerun episodes of the Bob Braun show....never mind the slick wood floors and the black furnace grates that seemed to go down forever. never mind the hand-made felt clowns and teddy bears with eyes that were much too large. Never mind the natural gas smell of Auschwitz in Ohio....There was Suebelle to say hello to.... She had her own chair that her enormous body exceeded. She looked way too happy. She was much too large to be anyone's daughter. She drooled and made strange guttural noises. She smelled like dried vomit, or stale bedsheets, or roadkill, or perhaps a lovely combination of them all. She moved in a very unnatural way that made me think I was about to be eaten.

Why in god's name would any sane person put a kid through that? why?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Will

The will to live is an impressive force. Tucked into the back corner of Mary Bryan Cemetery in Southport, Indiana, this tree just doesn't know when quit. The seemingly dead stump has sprouted with new life in the form of a mass of twigs.

Being of dark mind, I imagine the twigs weaving together to form the resemblance of a human torso on a dark night as the wind howls. The air is charged with electricity. Thunder rolls as a violent storm approaches...the limbs reach up toward the sky as hailstones pelt the dead grass surrounding the stump. A bolt of lightning strikes the church in the distance, and in the momentary illumination I see a dark form stiffly trudging toward the top of the hill. A muddy hole is left behind where the tree once was held prisoner.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Rusty is a very small gnome-like creature that inhabits the Shadow Farm Cemetery. He is a guide of sorts, and knows every stone, every date, and every mouldering resident by name. If you need help finding the resting place of a long lost relative, Rusty will enthusiastically guide you to the grave with his makeshift mulberry root lantern staff. Don't forget to tip him with a handful of old nails or a coil of wire for his services...he does not appreciate being stiffed, and will most likely leave you with a case of tetanus from his nasty little bite.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Banshee

This is a prop for which I haven't developed a story. Perhaps not all props need a good story. There is something about this picture that I really like, though. The contrast of the dark foreground, the brilliant blue sky, and the orange leaves captures everything I like about October ( not to mention a bizarre and unique creature looming in the dark).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dead Trees at Nolin Cemetery

There is a small cemetery not far from my house that I pass while riding my bicycle. I find it to be a very inspirational rest stop, and will often stop to explore the names, dates, and tombstones marking the distant deceased. Directly across the road, I have found even more inspiration in the row of dead trees at the edge of a cornfield. The trees have long ago been cut, but the trunks were left standing as a testament to their tenacity. Notice how over the years the tree pushed through the wire fence meant to hold them in. See how they have engulfed the barrier, and the fantastic character that was created due to the incessant will to grow and flourish. The trees are now dead, and have been bleached and weathered by the elements.

I imagine the hollow trunks moaning a chorus on a dark, cold night as a skiff of clouds hides the Autumn moon. A mournful song of despair, serenading the souls buried deep just across the road.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Frog

It is strange how things can find their own associations when one stirs up the memories that have settled into that dark and leafy pond floor of the brain. I woke up this morning thinking of two things that clearly don't belong together, but I guess when things get stirred up, the chaos that it creates deposits the crusty wet bottom contents in a fresh new way. However, since they have been buried for such a long time, they are dark and wet and putrid.

and cold

It was a fresh spring day. The sun had taken hold for several days, and the air was warm and fresh and clean. Birds were busy gathering sticks and twigs to build their nests. Neighbors were out with lawnmowers cutting the first wet green blades of the year. Younger kids were out flying kites in the warm spring breeze. I was headed for the creek.
The walk through the woods was completely unbelievable. There was a newness of life all around that exploded forth with a force that was unstoppable. Two days prior had been winter, with its dead brown, dreary and cold grasp. Today was summer, with t-shirts and shorts, bicycles, nets and buckets. I was headed for the creek for the first wade of the season. Green was everywhere, the air smelled sweet like a spring rainfall. The water was clear and fast. I surveyed the creek from the bank, looking for the perfect place to take my baptism in the fresh glorious, holy waters. The first minnows I saw were slow and dopey. They swam against the current in the clear water, holding their position in the eddies that were created by the larger rocks. This was the place! I stepped in and felt cold nails in my ankles. It was painful and exhilarating! I knew it would be cold, but the water was like ice. I felt the blood retreat from my lower extremities. I didn't care. I had rocks to turn over and couldn't wait any longer for the water to warm up. I reached into the creek and began my quest. Turning rocks, I noticed the slowness of the crawdads who would normally burst backwards in retreat. Once uncovered, the best they could do was crawl away slowly and stiffly. Winter had not yet released its icy grip on their near lifeless bodies. I would catch them with my bare hands, pull them out of the water, and hold them behind the pinchers as they half-heartedly flapped their wet tail in protest. I studied the small, skeletal legs, the segmented body and the dark alien eyes. I then released them back to the icy flow. I was wandering around with my eyes on the rock bed below when I saw it. The best flat rock ever. There just had to be life under it....had to be. It was perfect! It rested slightly ajar with smaller rocks lifting it up, creating a nice safe hollow underneath. A perfect home or hiding place. I reached in and rolled the rock downstream so as not to muddy my vision of the hiding place underneath. What I saw was completely unexpected. There underneath the flat stone was a wrinkled yellowish green object. It was the size of my small hand, and tightly balled in the recess the flat stone created. It was a frog, and it was a big one! I don't remember ever seeing a frog this early in the season, but have since learned that they come out to mate and deposit eggs far earlier than I would have ever believed. I reached down and grabbed it, for fear that it would bolt away like the strong summer swimmers always seemed to. It just lay there. It made no attempt to escape. I lifted my trophy from the cold stream floor and it filled my hand. Something was wrong, though. Frogs always kick and squirm and make every effort to leave until you are able to pin their hind legs in your fist. This one didn't. It was cold and lifeless. Its skin was pale and transparent. It had the look of a toe that has been held in a bathtub much too long. It was wrinkled and and it was pale and it was stupid. It was dead, it just had to be dead. As I held it, the lifeless frog slowly rolled its frosted eye membrane and looked at me with a dark, oily orb. Unable to move, it was completely at my mercy. Repulsed and confused at what I had caught, I quickly returned it to the spot I had taken it from, replaced the rock and went home, cold and confused in the warm glorious green.

The memory of the frog has taken me to a very different place. But it was also strange and cold and lifeless. I have tried and tried to remember the name, but in the end it doesn't really matter. The name is still buried deep in the dark leafy hole, and there it can stay. It was neither a hospital nor a rest home. It was the sanitarium that housed my Great-Grandmother Hood.
The home was like the mansions or plantations of the deep south. There was a curved driveway off of the state highway, designed specifically for a quick entrance and a quick exit, whether it be from a visitor or an ambulance. or a hearse. There were large , mature trees in the courtyard, the only elderly residents that still had life left in them. A large stairway welcomed visitors onto the full length, wooden front porch, while keeping the frail residents prisoner. And inside the home was death and decay, moans and coughs, antiseptic and urine. Our visits to Grandma Hood were like death sentences to me and my brothers.
We would leave church in our Sunday clothes, slicked hair, and uncomfortable shoes, ready to shed the weekly straight jackets that the church demanded us to wear. Headed home to freedom, one wrong turn would herald the seasonal visit. It was never announced to us kids for fear we would have time to plan an escape. It just happened. One minute, relieved that church was over and the last hours of freedom before Monday and school had begun, and the next sitting in the backseat fearing what was coming, knowing there was no escape.
I never knew my father's mother's mother. I am sure that at one point in her long life she was a vibrant, lovable lady. But to me she was creepy and thin and full of disease. She sat in a wheelchair, hunched over with her cold pale hands in her lap. Her skin was transparent and wrinkled like the frog I had pulled from the cold stream. But the frog had hope. The frog was in hibernation, patiently awaiting the life that the warm waters of summer would bring. This particular flat rock that some dark, educated administrator had hollowed out a space beneath to call a home had no hope. None of its resident had hope. They were here to die in their wheelchairs and beds and their own urine. To me, our visits were painful. They were excruciatingly long as the smell of death soaked into my Sunday best. I always stood at a distance as my mother would softly speak to her, observing the other residents in their wheelchairs, straining my eyes from the glare of the large front windows of this stately mansion of death. There was sickly green linoleum and stainless steel everywhere . The cavernous front entry echoed of clinking and clanking, coughing, moaning, spewing and dying.

And there she sat. Unable to move in the chair that was her universe, she sat in the entry hall where some unknown orderly had abandoned her as her room was decontaminated. There she sat. Hunched over, wrinkled and transparent. There she sat. Waiting for some signal from nature, some clue as to what was yet to come. There she sat. Waiting for a change just as the frog in the cold spring stream waited. There she sat, her frosted membranous eyes staring at mine.

There she sat.

And then, as some unknown clock chimed twelve, only heard by my mother as the indication that our duty had been fulfilled, I was asked to take her thin lifeless, wrinkled, transparent hand in mine, and kiss the cold waxy cheek of awaiting death before we could leave.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rising Spirits

A few years ago when I was in a prop-building frenzy, I had an idea that I just couldn't quite coax out of my subconscious. I would get flashes of different forms and textures, but the entire piece evaded me. After several weeks of frustration, I was working in the garage and started to build. I wasn't thinking of anything in particular, and all the pieces started falling into place. When I was done, it dawned on me that the very prop that had been teasing my cognition for so long was now realized. I now have a team of five rising spirits that I have used in my haunts for the last few years. In true spirit form, they have been next to impossible to capture a decent image.

A video slide show documenting the making of the spirits can be seen here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Hearse

A few of my favorite pictures of Sid's Hearse.


They are back.

It has been nearly a year since I last heard them. Nearly a year since I sent them unwillingly away. I didn't want to admit that they would ever return, but after this morning I think maybe they have. At first it was just a passing thought, the quick snap of dread that comes from nowhere and vanishes just as quickly. A few days roll by without incident, and then the sensation of needing air hits without warning. It is a suffocating sensation that I believe folks with asthma or respiratory disease must endure constantly. But for me it is a harbinger. It is a warning that they are near, and that they have come to talk. This morning started as most mornings start. The daily routine of rolling out of bed, showering, making coffee, eating a bit of breakfast and going to work went off without a hitch. It is the same everyday, and I believe I could walk the steps in my sleep. As I drove my 25.6 miles in the morning dark, I slowly came to the realization that I was no longer alone.I've seen the signs this time, but it still caught me off guard when they invaded my thoughts.

The last time I heard them they would tell me the secret places where my car would crash most spectacularly. They would whisper as I came upon the bridge where the state crew has negligently left out a guardrail. "It's just a little shift of the hand, and the car will drift off the road and smash head on into the stone wall. Everyone will think you fell asleep. The lane is clear. do it. veer right. do it. now. go. now."I could see the wall approaching. I could feel the peace of finality. I could feel the flames and hear the sirens. I could see my wife weep as I lay in a sweet restful coma. And then the wall would pass as I drove home.

The last time the voices spoke, it took me months to quiet them.This time I think they are pissed that I have held them in exile. They are furious that I have built up the walls to hold them back, one small white pill at a time. I thought it would hold, and have been lulled into the false security of a father who has grown the hedges tall to avoid the neighbor's unsightly backyard, muddy and dug up in a round bare rut by a vicious drooling pitbull tethered to a stake. Out of sight, out of mind.....until the day the father turns his back on his toddler at the same moment the rusty stake breaks free from the ground.Yes, while I have been believing they were gone, they have been pacing back and forth just on the other side of the wall. They have been looking for weak spots to chip away at while I blissfully have gone about my business. They have been scratching and clawing to reach the top, and have been digging deep to tunnel underneath. This morning their efforts to breach the drug-induced seal paid off, as they gleefully swirled in my consciousness, the fortress broken.

"pathetic. weak. hopeless."

they laugh at me

"worthless no good piece of shit."

they mock my very existence as they press in on my lungs and blur my vision. I have feigned activity all day, trying to appear as if nothing is wrong. I have shuffled the same stack of papers and walked the same hallways while I have secretly battled the whispers. And now, as I prepare to make my 25.6 mile drive home, I know that at exactly 9.3 miles from where I start I will pass the place where the road crew has negligently left out a guardrail.

I wonder if the voices will notice.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sid is the henchman to Frau Trauermarsch and driver of her hearse. SID is a scavenger, and follows the Frau in the night and shadows, collecting young victims.
While the Frau is concerned with the fragile young souls, Sid collects whatever is left.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mr. Sandman

He sneaks across the rooftops
in the chilly Autumn air
waiting for the wee ones to fall fast asleep.
Is that the wind I hear
rustling the dry October leaves?
Is that a tree branch scratching at my window?
Nighty-night little children
lay down your head and give in to Mr. Sandman,
for he brings nothing but the happiest nightmares.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Pond

The creek was my most favorite place to be when I was a kid. I enjoyed everything about it... the seclusion of the woods, the gentle gurgling of the water, the abundant life that it held within its grasp. There was one place in the creek where it had "deepened its throat and broadened its grasp" that I liked to call the pond. It was actually not more than a wide spot in the creek, but it was deep enough to swim in, and it was the only spot where you could actually catch a fish. Mostly what we caught were creek chubs, bluegills, and the occasional bass, but it was real fishing to us.

The pond was never the same place twice. From day to day, the sandbar on its floor would drift, the color of the water would alter, and the force of its flow would intensify or subside. This particular day the water was dark and still, as the sandbar had nearly been washed away, revealing a depth that was uncharacteristic even for this wide spot in the creek. I waded in, cautiously exploring the new floor with my Ked's, my cut off jeans completely submerged in the mire. The floor felt different today. Without the sand, a layer of leaves and sticks had been exposed that sucked at my shoes, trying to pull me into the dark hole where minnows used to flash in the sun. I edged in until the water was at my breast and sent a thin worm into the blackness as a scout.

I could sense the strangeness of the sudden change in water conditions that the previous week's storm had brought. Everything about the pond was different today, including it's residents. A sudden tug on the line as my small bobber vanished. The scream of my real as I struggled to set the hook. The pull as the line grew taught and raced across the pond. It was a monster! I couldn't believe it! This was the largest and strongest thing that had ever been hooked in this little piece of water, other than the enormous, near state record bass that my brother always seemed to catch when nobody else was with him. But this was real, and strong. and alive. and black. I struggled to keep the approaching catfish on my line and maintain balance on the murky, leafy floor. I retreated to the bank, and cautiously pulled the black slimy fish from the water. I knew how to hold a catfish. I was aware of the bony fins, and I knew that the legend of getting stung by the whiskers was an old wives tale. I steered clear of them just in case. I held up my prize, as he squeaked a noise you can only make by forcing your tongue deep into the back of your mouth until it is uncomfortable and forcing air across the sides of your throat. It was a wet squishy noise, a dark noise, a lifeless noise. His vacant black eyes looked at me as he struggled for oxygen. Blood oozed out of his gills and onto my hand. I marveled at the size of this beast from the dark, and thought of the fishing shows that they play on early Sunday mornings, visualizing how the pros would "lip" a large catch and show it to the camera. Triumphantly I stuck my thumb in his mouth, preparing to mimic the fishing gods of television. What I had forgotten was the hard, bony mouth of the catfish.....he clamped his tiny razors on my thumb instantly. It was like I had tightened my finger in a vice between two sharp wood rasps. Instantly I pulled my hand back, and the weight of the black devil pulled the very hide off of my thumb as it returned to the still dark waters. I ran home wailing as my own blood ran from my thumb, mixing with the slimy ooze the demon had left from his cold dark body.

2008 Yard Haunt

'08 was a very active year for me...I added in several new animated characters, repainted all my old tombstones and added quite a few new stones, reworked a few old props, and in general cleaned up a bunch of clutter from the display. Right before I completed my setup, my camera died and I was stuck using a very old, low pixel digital to document my efforts. Since everything turned out a bit grainy, I converted to B & W in some places. I think the effect in my compilation slideshow / video turned out kind of cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Bucketman

I grew up in a modest Midwestern town. Every generation has a story of the town indigent, the hobo, the bum, the street person. When I was growing up it was Harold's turn to occupy the streets. Harold was a thin man with greasy black hair and a wild beard. At some point in time he completely lost his sanity. He would walk around town in the same black overcoat and black stocking hat no matter what the weather, mumbling to himself, gesturing to people only he could see, and swearing at nothing but his own craziness. In the town of Piqua, Ohio, Harold was known as the "bucketman". No matter where Harold was seen, he was always carrying two five gallon buckets that were tied together with a ratty piece of rope, slung over his shoulder to distribute the load. I always assumed he used the buckets to carry his precious cargo of items he found in the street... tin cans, scraps of discarded food, single shoes thrown into traffic for no particular reason. Now that I think of it, nobody really knew why Harold carried those buckets. It was widely known, or rumored(as it usually happens in small Midwestern towns), that Harold lived under the railroad bridge that crossed the river into Shawnee, Piqua's seediest neighborhood. While I was growing up, my family would frequently go on canoe trips down the Miami River, and usually concluded our trip well north of Shawnee and the home of the bucketman. One trip, though, we decided we wanted to go an extra mile or so, and decided to pull out just south of the railroad bridge. Our trips always concluded with my brothers and I playing in the river while my parents shuttled to our inlet point in order to retrieve the one car we owned capable of shouldering the canoes. This was a glorious time....three boys, no parents, no rules and a riverful of frogs and crawdads to catch. It didn't take long to realize where we were after Mom and Dad left to retrieve the car.....only a stone's throw away from the home of Piqua's most notorious resident. The temptation was too great.....the frogs and crawdads could wait until another day.

As we climbed the rocky riverbank using a trail that had been beat down over the years by the black men who liked to catch catfish by lantern light, I could smell the sweet fermenting odor coming from the mill at the top of the riverbank. The railroad that used to drop shipments at the mill was long abandoned, but the mill was still in operation. There was a tall concrete wall dropping from the side of the mill that acted as its foundation and a flood wall. The concrete railroad trestle didn't quite meet the mill's foundation, leaving a recess between the two. This was it. The urban legend only a few feet in front of me, the den of the bucketman. It was a hot summer day, and I was tired from the canoe trip down the river, but the curiosity of a young kid summons strength from regions that adults have no memory. Inner strength, courage.

I inched closer, and the warm grainy smell from the mill was replaced with a sour, heavy smell that I could recall only from my infant days when it was not uncommon to awaken in warm, wet blankets. The entrance to the lair was only a few feet wide, but it seemed to extend into the darkness forever. I entered the realm of the feral bucketman, slowly and cautiously. His den was a knot of old newspapers, bottles, cans, and all manner of other refuse. It was indistinguishable from the inside of a dumpster behind a liquor store, full and sour and ready to be hauled away. Near the farthest end of the dark cave was a hollowed out pile of cardboard, paper, and old wet clothing. It formed what appeared to be a nest, and I knew that the legend was true. I was standing in both the most and least talked about place in town.

It is true. Things live in the dark, wet places that we are afraid to look at.

Scary things.

***The bucketman was my first paper mache character prop. Now that I have brought him out of hiding, I think I may do some work this year to re-imagine him. There is much about the prop that I think I can do better now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Sarah Jenkins dreamed of having a daughter. She dreamed of tea parties and frilly dresses, but despite her efforts she could not get pregnant. Frustrated with the small town's doctor who seemed more interested in collecting a fee than helping a desperate young lady, Sarah was willing to accept help wherever it would come from. She heard rumors of a mystic who could be found wandering the alleys in the dark chilly nights, and when she could no longer stand the longing and frustration, sought out help from the bottle lady.

"Of course I can help you child, " the bottle lady whispered. She reached into her leather pouch and held up a single seed. "This seed was collected a year ago on the mourning after the new moon, harvested from a pumpkin heavy with frost" She turned the seed reverently between her dirty fingers. "Swallow this seed tonight at midnight, and seek me out at the cemetery on the night of the full moon. I will midwife the birth of your daughter."

Something seemed amiss. Sarah had heard the legends, and had been prepared to give the bottle lady some strange token in return. Nothing was asked of her. "No matter," Sarah thought."If this will give me my daughter, so be it." She did as instructed, and was amazed to wake the next morning with rosy cheeks and a slightly larger belly. Over the next month, the pregnancy progressed rapidly, and when the moon rose full and blood red in the sky, Sarah was waiting at the cemetery.
"Come child, come. Lay down on this stone and let's begin." The bottle lady smiled, and Sarah did as she was asked. As promised, Sara Jenkins gave birth to a baby girl that night, but died before she could feel the joy of motherhood.

"Thank you child," sneered the witch to Sarah's lifeless body as she held the infant up to the full moon.

"Welcome Poe, my child of sadness."


Jay Bedlam had an inferiority complex. All he ever wanted was to be be looked up to by the townspeople. Then one day he heard that a local conjuress, the town's crazy bottle lady, had the ability to grant wishes. "Bring to me in two day's time the left wing feather of a crow" she hissed in the still dark night, "and by the next full moon you shall be put on a pedestal". Jay Bedlam didn't know a crow from a duck, and figured one feather was as good as the next.

The Bottle Lady was displeased.

On October 31st, 1802 his wish was granted.

The Fallen Tree, continued

....back to the roots.

I spent plenty of time as a kid climbing on fallen trees. There was a really nice creek near my house that ran thru a section of woods. I used to love playing on the fallen trees, pretending the trunk was a bridge and that the shelf of exposed roots was a castle wall. Every spring, the creek would flood and take with it a few trees that were unfortunate enough to have spent their life being nurtured by the abundant ground water that the creek provided.

The creek was alive.
and it was hungry.

It would lure the trees in by providing them with the water they needed, but to live and grow the creek also needed things. It needed fallen trees. The trees it took would block the water's path, slowing its flow, deepening its throat, widening its reach. The spring thaw would awake the hungry monster,and through the passing of its torrents it took bites at the dirt under the roots until it could claim another victim. As a kid, I couldn't see the creek for what it was. I reveled in the wildlife that thrived within its limits. I spent countless hours catching minnows and crawdads while wading in its constant flow, not realizing that it couldn't tell the difference between my young legs and the trees that it constantly hungered for. While I was struggling to hold my balance in the swift flow, the creek was tirelessly working to claim another meal, to pull my small frame into its depths and deposit me amongst the other victims it had already claimed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Sometimes a prop turns out nothing like it was originally conceived. No matter how hard you try, something just isn't quite right. Crackerjack was one of those props for me. He was inspired by the story in my previous post, "The Fallen Tree" and was the answer to the question "what played with those toys in the crawlspace?" I knew I wanted him to be grub-like, but my first attempt ended up looking like something that would be attached to an exterminator's truck roof. It was an utter failure as far as creepiness goes (unless you are scared of big termites). After several more chapters in the story, the concept in my mind evolved, and then one day inspiration hit in a most unlikely spot...a toothpaste smear on my shower curtain was staring at me, and looked just like my vision of Crackerjack. The rest, as they say, is history.

a bizarre, twisted history.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Fallen Tree

note: in the spring of 2007, I was working on building props for my haunt. While talking over the process of creating interesting characters with several other haunters, I decided to start from a deep internal feeling, drawing on my childhood memories as the basis for the props. What developed from this idea was much more than just building interesting characters...I feel it has helped me capture emotion and a sense of being that I would have never been in touch with. The act of writing these thoughts down and dredging up the past to analyze it in a new way has put me in touch with a creativity that I thought was left long ago in my past.

I have always been a bit fascinated by trees that have been uprooted. There was a huge beech tree that fell over in a storm about a mile from my house last summer....they cleaned up the tree but the roots are still there, torn from the ground, creating a hollow or cave. I have driven past this thing for six or eight months now, and I still have to look at that root cave. It's there, on the left...down a hill and in the flat area next to the creek. There is just something about it that creeps me's dark, it's jagged, its like a mouth or a squinted eye. Is this part of a dark creature or is it where the creature lives? I just don't know..... I can smell the heavy, damp, earthy smell even while I am a fresh shovelful of dirt. The smell of a freshly turned field in the spring after all the winter's moisture has drained away. I can hear the hollow, muted sound of a raspy breath. I take a deep, cautious inhale, but no exhale as I listen for sounds of movement. I remember my Grandpa's was always very musty smelling. He kept lots of plastic flowers on the shelves as decorations, but the dank and dust and mildew gave them a peculiar plasticy "old" smell. One side of the basement was finished, and the other was utility space. It had a painted floor that was always cold and slightly sweaty. Under a set of small windows was a washer and dryer. This was the active part of the basement where my Grandma would do her wash. She kept an old rug loom in this part, where she would labor away making throw rugs out of rags to sell for spending money. On the other side of the basement there was a water softener....the old kind that would make groaning sounds and occasionally let out an alarmingly loud deep noise as it "cycled thru" as my Grandpa always said. There were shelves lining the wall where Grandma kept the vegetables she had canned from their garden. And in the other corner was a furnace. This was an ancient monstrosity that looked like a cremation oven. Metal tubing striking out at odd angles to all parts of the house. A large metal door on the body of the furnace. Overly large, overly hot. Beside the furnace was a niche that always housed an old metal bed. for company. in the basement. beside the furnace. mildew and dirt. It had a set of exposed metal springs, and made creaking noises no matter how still you tried to be.
And then there it was. Looking from the bed, you could see an access hole to the crawlspace behind the huge old furnace. The hole was at the top of the wall, and was the size of two absent cinder blocks. We weren't supposed to go in there, but every now and then curiosity would get the best of us (me and my 2 brothers) and we would anyway. The crawlspace had a packed dirt floor, that started about 3 feet below the opening and rose to about a foot below the floor of the house at the far end. It was dark. The only light in this cavity was what entered thru the cinder block hole. Looking down that first drop was like looking into an abyss until your eyes adjusted to the light. The smell here was of undisturbed, dry dirt and broken limestone. We would look, check that nobody was coming, listen for steps on the floor above, and then ever so slowly make the unsure, headfirst descent into the crawlspace. Headfirst was the only physical way to get into this space....our small bodies, the height of the opening at the top of the wall, and the drop on the other side dictated this. I remember quietness. The still of a tomb. The smell of the dirt. Scared of getting caught, but wanting to know. Inside the crawlspace. Listening. a deep breath in but no exhale. There were old broken toys half buried in the crawlspace floor. I never knew whose they were, and couldn't ask for fear of getting in trouble. Old metal cars and trucks with missing wheels. An old plastic train car. Army men. The thrill of being with the forbidden place, the anxiety, the fear, the smell, the quiet, the dark.

There is something about the exposed roots of that big old beech tree....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Clink is a minion of the evil master elder. Unlike Icharus who is humble in his servitude, Clink is a cantankerous beast prone to mischief. After many escape attempts, he has been permanently fitted with leg irons and a metal suit. His small bony fingers and monocle implant are well suited to his detailed and labour intensive work.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Poor Icharus.....all he ever wanted was to be accepted and loved, and yet his master was a singularly cruel individual. Under the guise of acceptance, Icharus willingly submits to increasingly aberrant surgeries and implants. What sort of maniacal monster could have done this to the poor creature? What evil purpose do these abominations serve?

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Darwin is not a happy wouldn't be either if you were pulled out of a nice watery home, shoved into some sort of rusty metal reverse-scuba apparatus that doesn't even fit right, and forced to take part in the evil bidding of a demented master. He has a right to be grumpy.

Frau Trauermarsch

Legend tells us of a being that travels the globe and collects the dead. He wears a large hooded robe and carries a sickle. To many, the Grim Reaper is synonymous with death itself. He is feared in all nations as the end of life. What the legends have never disclosed, though, is that there is a seperate reaper for the children. Frau Trauermarsch (Lady Deadmarch) dispatches her duties with great care and dignity, for there must be special handling for the souls of the innocents. She traipses the shadows and the night, looking for the signal of a young life soon to be lost. Her duty is as old as life itself, and is a job of pain and sorrow. There is, as they say, a fate worse than death. To see Frau Trauermarsch is to experience a tragedy so great that death would be welcomed.

Ephram Vessell

He is the groundskeep of the small church cemetery situated just up the road from the Shadow Farm. Ancient, feeble, mute, and mostly blind, he was given the job and a small shack out back to call his home. He is often seen taking handouts of a most unusual variety from the local crazy 'bottle lady'...what he does with these strange objects remains a mystery.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


He was a leathery old fart. He always smelled of stale tobacco, mostly because he liked to roll his own stogies from a special mix of exotic plants that he harvested in his many travels. He had a fondness for gin, and thought of himself as sweetly dangerous with the ladies.
"Just do exactly as I say and your wish will be granted by the next full moon," the bottle lady said. Nettle roots pulled up in a thunderstorm should have been easy....but Lawrence didn't think she would know the difference. It was a perfectly calm evening two days later when he pulled a handful of nettles from the muddy riverbank, rendering them totally worthless for their intended purpose.

By the light of the next full moon, Lawrence realized his mistake.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

the Bottle Lady

Most of the townsfolk thought of her as just the crazy old bottle lady. She would show up in town a couple of times a month, and wander around in the shadows, occasionally stopping strangers on the street and mumbling incoherent phrases. To those that believed in majik, she was sought out as a very accomplished conjuress. It was said that she learned her trade from the indians, but it was more likely that the indians learned from her. She would wander into town on the evening of the new moon, bottles, sticks, and bones tied together and slung over her shoulders. Those who knew what she could do would secretly meet her and ask her for a potion capable of fulfilling whatever wish they desired. "All I ask is a token in return'," she would cackle, and instruct the person on how to obtain a seemingly ordinary item. "In two days time, bring to me a stone from the bottom of a stagnant pool. It must be collected by moonlight and with nobody as witness. Do exactly as I say and you will have your wish by the next full moon." Her token requests were always strange, but easily obtained...the skull of a raccoon, a tortoise shell, the foot of a black rooster, nettle roots pulled out in a thunderstorm. It was assumed that these items were used to make the potions, but in fact they were used by a group of mystics to foretell the future. All the tokens were worthless, unless collected by an unknowing soul.

The Hatchling

My most recent fascination has been with pumpkin creatures. The Hatchling has been artistically the most challenging piece I have made yet. The base of this monument is made with plywood that I coated with a thin layer of celluclay. It is much heavier and more durable than Foamboard, which is a staple in the world of making tombstones. The Pumpkin and emerging creature are made with pulp mache and celluclay. Real pumpkin seeds were used along with stretchy spider webs to make the pumpkin guts.