Apples Come In Chocolate Brown, Apples Come in Taffy Gold: It’s a 1970s Haunted House Double Feature!

Long time no review, Goddess fans! As usual, I’m having to open this post by apologizing for my woeful lack of recent long-form film reviews on this blog. But as most of you will have surmised, I’ve been up to my forked tail in other projects, including promoting my latest book The Unseen Hand, working on my upcoming true crime book The Faceless Villain, and recording and promoting the 13 O’Clock Podcast, as well as trying to establish a new offshoot channel called 13 O’Clock In Minutes, which will, when it goes online, serve as a more bite-sized version of the show as well as a promotional vehicle for the main podcast.

So as you can imagine, I unfortunately haven’t had much time to sit down to watch and analyze some of the underrated horror flicks I adore so much. But today, a Saturday, fate intervened: the God of Hellfire and I had actually planned a small party this afternoon, but as it happened, when we awoke this fine morning, we discovered that our air conditioning had crapped out yet again (we just had it fixed two weeks ago, but Florida is nothing if not murder on air conditioning units), so we had to call off the get-together so our friends wouldn’t have to spend their Saturday sweating their asses off in our eighty-degree foyer.

Therefore, left at sixes and sevens with no plans, and confined to the bedroom where the emergency window unit is at least keeping the small area around the bed comfortable until the repair guy can come out several days from now, I decided I might as well put my sudden free time to use by watching some horror flicks and writing about ‘em. So after that enormous and probably unnecessary introduction (but hey, I’m the queen of too much information), let’s get to the actual movies!

I decided to return not only to my favorite decade for horror movies, but also to my favorite horror subgenre for this post. In short, I’m reviewing two haunted house films from the 1970s, both of which have made numerous appearances on various “underrated” lists around the internet, and both of which happen to have been made for television.


First up is 1972’s Something Evil, a TV movie directed by none other than Steven Spielberg (and airing not long after his much-better-known, classic made-for-television film Duel) and starring a bunch of familiar 1970s faces, such as Darren McGavin (of Kolchak fame, among many other things), Sandy Dennis (who was also in God Told Me To, which I wrote about here), and famously ginger-haired “Family Affair” kid Johnny Whitaker.

The story is a fairly standard haunted-house-slash-possession yarn, concerning a city slicker ad exec, his hippie-esque artist wife, and their two children moving from New York City out to a “charming” rural house in Pennsylvania Dutch country which turns out to be infested with demons.

While Something Evil, due to its subject matter, bears some superficial resemblance to other devil-possession films of the period, such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, I found myself comparing it more to other rural or folk horror stories from the 60s and 70s, such as The Other, The Wicker Man, Burnt Offerings, or Harvest Home.

After a cold open which sees an old man (presumably the home’s former owner) being pursued through a hex-symbol-adorned barn by an invisible force and then falling to his death from the hayloft, the Worden family purchases the property after wife Marjorie falls in love with the place while they’re on vacation. Not long afterward, things start to go south, though it isn’t clear at first whether something is wrong with the house itself or with the flaky and seemingly unstable Marjorie.


Despite the movie’s short runtime, clocking in at only 73 minutes, it’s still a pretty effective slow burn, and does a lot with its simple story. At first, there are just minor hints that something is amiss; for example, locals tell the family that something is odd about the place, and the townsfolk all seem to sincerely believe that devils are real. Additionally, the Wordens’ neighbor seems to make a point of ritualistically killing chickens in the yard and flinging their blood around, which disturbs Marjorie greatly, as it would.

As if that isn’t unsettling enough, Marjorie thinks she hears a baby crying out in the barn, but nothing is there when she goes to check. She also begins to grow increasingly interested in the occult and with the hex symbology prevalent in the area. Early on in the film, a couple attending the Wordens’ housewarming party is killed in a mysterious car accident on the way home, adding to Marjorie’s increasing paranoia that something evil has been unleashed in the house through her actions.

Naturally, Marjorie’s husband Paul thinks she is losing her mind, as he is often away at work and doesn’t see any of the phenomena that Marjorie claims is taking place. And indeed it does seem as though Marjorie herself is essentially the problem, as she grows depressed, suicidal, and even violent toward her children. It gets to the point where she paints a hex symbol on the floor as protection and keeps her children locked away from her, as she no longer trusts herself around them, sincerely believing that she has become possessed by demons. In a final twist, though, it comes to light that Marjorie is not the target of the demons’ evil at all, and in fact the only possessed person in the farmhouse is the couple’s son Stevie, whose demon-hosting status is revealed at the end in a well-staged scene complete with levitation and scary voices.

While the plot of Something Evil will be extremely familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of horror films from the era, Spielberg’s direction really elevates what could have been just a forgettable, throwaway 70s TV movie into something quite intriguing, using its presumably tiny budget to great effect. Everything is kept very understated, but slightly off-kilter, giving the film a pleasing sense of dread-laden believability. The ambiguity is also very well-done, and adds to the unnerving atmosphere. The movie additionally boasts some eerie, surreal touches, such as the creepy discovery of a mason jar full of red goo from which the ghostly baby crying apparently emanates, and the unexpected appearance of a pair of glowing red eyes in a photograph at Paul’s advertising agency. No rotating heads or pea soup vomit, sure, but the low-key effects work well within the movie’s framework.

I would unreservedly recommend Something Evil, not only to Spielberg fans curious about his early work, but also to connoisseurs of 70s horror in general. The film certainly isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s still an enjoyable little occult thriller with some effectively haunting imagery. It’s just a shame it isn’t better known and more widely available.


Next on our double feature is a British teleplay from 1973 called The Stone Tape. Written by Nigel Kneale (probably most famous for writing the Quatermass series), the movie was broadcast on BBC 2 as a Christmas ghost story, though it’s actually more of a mashup between old-school Victorian ghost story and tech-driven sci-fi, somewhat similar in concept to The Legend of Hell House.

The tale concerns a gaggle of laddish, wisecracking scientists who are in the process of moving into their new research facility in a partially renovated and reputedly haunted mansion called Taskerlands. The scientists are apparently trying to develop a new recording medium to wrest the cutting edge away from their Japanese competitors. But the only female member of the team, a computer programmer named Jill who is also evidently somewhat psychic, almost immediately sees a ghost in the unrenovated portion of the mansion, and shortly afterward, the male members of the team all hear bloodcurdling screams emanating from the same area. It comes to light that the ghost is very likely that of a maid named Louisa who died by falling down the stairs many years before, and that the part of the house that’s home to the ghost is also exceedingly old, perhaps dating back to the era of the Saxons.

While the entire team is disturbed by the haunting, they’re also quite curious and keen to use their state-of-the-art research equipment to record and study the mysterious phenomena. After much theorizing and jiggery-pokery, they figure out that the stone walls of the old room are acting as some sort of crude recording device that takes impressions of extreme emotions that occurred in the room, but that instead of just recording like one of those newfangled magnetic tapes, the mechanism is actually dependent upon the sensitivities and emotional states of the living people present, i.e. that the humans witnessing the haunting are analogous to amplifiers for the titular “stone tape.”


The scientists are quite intrigued by this hypothesis, hoping that it might be a scientific breakthrough that can put them ahead of their technological rivals. But the more they try to get the phenomena to perform for their tests, the more frustrated they get, until at last it seems that they have accidentally erased the recording of Louisa’s death, and most of the team decide to abandon the project, since they believe the “haunting” is gone.

Jill, though, isn’t having it. Being more sensitive than the men, she feels there may be something deeper lurking at Taskerlands, hypothesizing that Louisa’s ghost might have been only the top layer of the recording, and that older recordings might have been overlaid by the most recent one. Bolstering her theory is a local priest, who informs her that an unsuccessful exorcism was performed on the land in 1760, before the house was even built, suggesting that the land has been haunted for far longer than anyone thought. She also has a frightening episode in which she hears and feels a malevolent presence, but no one else hears it.

Jill tries to tell the remainder of the team about her discovery, but no one wants to listen, and her friend and director of the project Peter Brock tells her to take a two-month leave because he thinks she’s losing her marbles. Before she leaves, though, she goes in the room one last time, and is summarily killed by the entity. The men find her later, her eyes frozen open in terror.

In a final little “fuck you,” Brock informs the authorities that Jill was emotionally unstable, and he shreds all the research she was doing that showed that the evil presence might have been there for seven thousand years. But Jill gets some small measure of revenge from beyond the grave when Brock goes into the haunted room at the end and is subjected to the most recent recording: Jill’s voice screaming his name before her death and begging for him to help her.

I have to admit, I didn’t like this one quite as much as Something Evil, but it was still an entertaining sci-fi ghost story that was a bit heavier on the sci-fi than the ghosts. The acting was a tad stagy, and the beginning of the film almost felt like a Vaudevillian routine, but that’s to be expected for a British teleplay of this era, and once it moved past that, it was a fairy effective scare-fest, though also like a lot of films of the time, it takes a while to get where it’s going, and the full impact of the story doesn’t come to fruition until the final couple of minutes.

If you liked The Legend of Hell House but thought it needed more focus on the haunting machine, then you’ll probably love this, as it’s a pretty similar concept, and in fact, the hypothesis that ghosts are simply recordings of past events that have somehow been captured by surrounding materials is still known in paranormal circles as the “stone tape theory.” I’d also recommend it if you liked the Quatermass movies or other 70s British sci-fi horrors, such as The Asphyx (which I wrote about here) or The Projected Man (which made a fantastic MST3K episode).

That’s all for now, minions! Keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

Karen Black at the Black House with the Black Fence: An Appreciation of “The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver”

You know how sometimes when you’re bored and kinda hung over on a Sunday, and you go poking around YouTube looking for some comforting 1970s horror to watch while you inhale your hearty lunch of homemade Swedish meatballs? And you know how every now and then, you fortuitously stumble across a made-for-TV movie from 1977 that you hadn’t heard of, and how sometimes that movie was written by Richard Matheson and starred Karen Black? Isn’t that fucking rad when that happens? I’m here to tell you that it is quite rad.

The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver is evidently something of a forgotten gem from the late 1970s, and despite its pedigree, hasn’t really gotten a great deal of attention; hell, I don’t think it’s ever even been released on DVD, at least in the U.S. The version I saw on YouTube had been transferred from a battered old VHS tape of the original telecast. It’s kind of a shame, because although this isn’t Matheson’s or Black’s best work, obviously, it’s still a really eerie mystery with a twist ending that totally blindsided me, which is not an easy thing for an ending to do.

Karen Black plays Miriam Oliver, an unhappy housewife straining under the controlling behavior of her buttplug husband Greg (George Hamilton), a hotshot lawyer who apparently wants nothing more than a wife who will dress like a Mormon schoolmarm, pump out babies at his command, and never leave the house or question his authority for any reason whatsoever.

As you might expect, Miriam is getting pretty resentful of the fact that she’s not allowed to work or go to college, and that Greg is pressuring her to have a child before she’s really ready (side note: Miriam’s character in the movie is supposed to be 26 years old, though Ms. Black was at least ten years older than that when this was filmed). She starts to rebel in little ways, like continuing to take her birth control pills on the sly; most significantly, she goes to the mall one day and is drawn to purchase a tight, low-cut red blouse, a blonde wig, some red lipstick, and some snazzy hoop earrings. She puts all the stuff on and is both enthralled and terrified by the fact that she looks like a completely different person. She even starts to act differently when she has her “costume” on, though of course Greg doesn’t really get it and thinks Miriam is losing her marbles. He does kinda try to be understanding, but it soon becomes apparent that Miriam is having a true identity crisis, and may in fact be “possessed,” just as the title of the movie suggests.

See, I neglected to mention that at the beginning of the film (and one other time subsequently), Miriam has been having these really creepy nightmares of attending a funeral and looking into the coffin, only to see herself lying there. She also has recurrent visions of fire, a small bouquet of dark purple or black flowers, and the sounds of a dog barking and a woman screaming. She also keeps seeing a dude with a gray sweatshirt and a sweet pornstache who drives a red pickup truck that inexplicably says “gasoline” on the side. Hmmmm.

On a whim, Miriam rents a cottage on the beach without asking her husband’s permission. He’s pissed, but after he sees how upset she is and how badly she wants it, he agrees that maybe they should rent a beach house so she can get away for a while, but of course he’s going to be the one to pick it out, because he can’t let her have one single thing. He also makes her an appointment to see a psychiatrist, and she seems relieved and compliant, though she tells him she wants to go to the appointment by herself, since he has to go out of town for a trial anyway.

Of course she skips out on the appointment, and instead puts on her slutted-up garb and heads for the beach house. A dog starts following her around, and seems to know her. She ducks into a bar in town, and as she does, she decides that because she has a new identity, she should have a new name. She sees a sign with the word “sandy” on it, and decides to call herself Sandy.

But oddly, as soon as she sits down at the bar, the surprised bartender addresses her as Sandy and asks where she’s been. Freaked out, she says her name is really not Sandy, but the bartender says she looks just like Sandy, a girl who always used to come in there. Even the drink she orders is the same one Sandy drank all the time. The bartender asks the two other shadowed figures at the bar whatever happened to Sandy, and one of them says that she moved away.

Then Miriam sits at a table near the dance floor to enjoy her drink, and who should sleaze up to her but Mr. Sweatshirt von Pornstache, the guy from her dream. She’s afraid of him, as well she should be, because he is crawling all up in her space, insisting she really is Sandy and she needs to stop lying about it. He won’t fuck off when she tells him to, but luckily Miriam is rescued by an extra from Saturday Night Fever, who asks her to dance. She tells him she can’t really dance, and indeed, at first she’s all awkward and shit, but then she finds her groove and starts disco-ing like a champ, just like those chicks on “Solid Gold.” Naturally, this makes Pornstache even more suspicious, because of course the way she dances is exactly the same way that Sandy used to.

So Miriam is getting more and more wigged out (pun very much intended) because Pornstache keeps stalking her around town, and she has the funeral dream again while she’s at the beach house, only this time the dream ends in a huge conflagration, through which Pornstache leers menacingly at her.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing, but I can assure you that what you are thinking is not actually what’s going on. And if you don’t want the ending spoiled, you might want to stop reading at this point. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

So, you are thinking, as I was, that Pornstache killed Sandy by burning her house down, and that Sandy’s ghost is possessing Miriam, right? I mean, the word “possession” is right there in the title.

This is not what is happening. Kinda close, but much weirder.

So Miriam gets back into her regular Mormon drag, realizing that hubby Greg is gonna be home from his trip soon and she’d better skedaddle back to the unhappy homestead. But the dog that’s been following her won’t get out of her car, and finally she gets exasperated and asks a neighbor who the dog belongs to. He says it’s Mrs. Dempsey’s dog, and that Mrs. Dempsey lives a couple blocks away in “a black house with a black fence.”

Again, I know what you’re thinking. It’s a black house because it’s all burned, right? And Mrs. Dempsey is Sandy, and Sandy’s dead, right? WRONG. We really need to quit trying to guess how this is going to end, you guys. When Miriam finds the house, it’s just a regular un-arsoned house that for some reason is entirely painted black.

An old woman answers the door and says that yeah, the dog belongs to Mrs. Dempsey, who is away until later that evening. This woman is just house-sitting, apparently. The old woman calls the dog Henry, which freaks Miriam out for some reason, and then she’s freaked out even more when she sees one of those pots of black flowers on the windowsill. Then, as she’s leaving, she glances through a window of the house and sees a painting of a girl who looks very much like her, with blonde hair, a tight red blouse, and hoop earrings. Miriam loses her shit and asks the housesitter woman who the girl in the painting is, but the old woman doesn’t know. She says that Miriam should come back after seven and talk to Mrs Dempsey, so Miriam resolves to do just that. By the way, Pornstache has been lurking around this whole time, so there’s also that.

Miriam then passes another neighbor, and asks if Mrs. Dempsey had a daughter. The guy doesn’t really remember at first, but then he says that he thinks he recalls someone mentioning that Mrs. Dempsey indeed had a daughter who died five years before. AHA!!! See, Sandy IS dead!!! WRONG AGAIN. I TOLD YOU TO STOP TRYING TO GUESS.

Meanwhile, back at the Greg Oliver Prison for Matronly Breeder Wives, hubby has returned from his business trip and is calling around to try to find out where his errant wife has gotten off to. He finds out that she skipped her shrink appointment, and surmises, correctly, that she probably went to her beach house. So he heads on over there in order to give her a good talking-to.

Miriam, still being tailed by Pornstache, returns to the Dempsey house, and here’s where the big bombshell finally comes to light. Mrs. Dempsey answers the door and sees Miriam there, her face partially in shadow. She seems REALLY cheesed off, accusing Miriam of playing a sick joke on her. Mrs. Dempsey asks who she is, and when Miriam says her name, Mrs. Dempsey is all FUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOOOOOOU. Then Mrs. Dempsey turns on the porch light, sees Miriam’s face properly, and calls Miriam Sandy. Miriam protests, and asks about Mrs. Dempsey’s dead daughter in the painting. Mrs. Dempsey says that the painting isn’t of her daughter, but is a portrait that her daughter painted of her best friend Sandy. “THIS IS MY DAUGHTER,” Mrs. Dempsey shrieks, thrusting a framed photograph at Miriam. “THIS WAS MY DAUGHTER MIRIAM.” And right there in the photo is matronly Miriam, complete with librarian bun and giant seventies glasses.

What in the Samuel Langhorne HELL is going on here, you may wonder? Okay, pay attention. Five years before, Pornstache (whose real name is Mark) was supposed to marry Sandy, but she broke up with his ass and he didn’t take it too well. One night when Sandy and Miriam were at Sandy’s house, Pornstache showed up and set Sandy’s car on fire. The fire spread to the house. Sandy got away, but Miriam and Sandy’s parents died in the blaze.

So basically, the Miriam we’ve been following through this whole movie really WAS Sandy the whole time. She just felt so guilty that Miriam had died because of her that she dissociated and took over Miriam’s identity. As Miriam, she met and married Greg, and only after several years did fragments of her actual identity start filtering back to her. That was why, at the beginning of the movie, that “Miriam” kept telling Greg that she felt suffocated and that she wanted to be her “real self,” though she couldn’t articulate to him who that was. Deep down she knew she was really party-girl Sandy, but Greg had only ever known her as staid, conservative Miriam. So there you have it. No possession, no ghosts, nothing supernatural at all.

At the very end, Pornstache tries to kill Miriam/Sandy, but she is saved when Greg arrives just in the nick of time. She tells him who she really is, and he seems surprisingly okay with it, unless he’s simply planning on calling the men with the butterfly nets after the credits roll. That seems like the kind of dick move he would pull.

Gotta say, I really enjoyed this quite a lot, and I don’t think that was just the remnants of last night’s alcohol talking. The funeral scenes in particular were eerily surreal and creepy as hell, and the whole thing, while rather slow-moving, was intriguingly spooky and mysterious. Karen Black was absolutely great as the unstable Miriam, and George Hamilton was appropriately assholish, without seeming like a cartoon villain. And as I said, the ending, when Mrs. Dempsey handed Miriam the picture of herself, literally made my jaw drop. I didn’t even care that the whole “possession” title was a misnomer; I was just so pleasantly shocked by this bizarre twist that I did not see coming in any way, shape, or form.

Fans of Karen Black, Richard Matheson, and eerie 70s mysteries would do well to give this a chance, and hopefully someday it will get a proper high-quality release, because it really is quite a good example of made-for-TV horror from that golden decade. It was a total accident that I came across it, but as Bob Ross would have said, sometimes there are happy accidents. 🙂

Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

Strange Men Have Been Following Women Since the Stone Age: An Appreciation of “All the Colors of the Dark”

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled programming, horror hounds. We’re traveling back to Italy for this one, and back to the giallo genre; we’re also revisiting some familiar faces from previous blog posts, because today’s movie features Edwige Fenech and George Hilton (from The Case of the Bloody Iris), as well as Marina Malfatti (who starred in The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave). So, without further delay, let’s jump right into the psychedelic cauldron of Satan, shall we?


All the Colors of the Dark (Tutti i colori del buio, 1972) was an Italian/Spanish co-production, but set in London, and directed by Sergio Martino. It’s essentially a groovier, less satirical, and WAY more surreal take on Rosemary’s Baby, with similar themes of black magic, ambiguous reality, and crushing paranoia.

Beautiful but mentally fragile protagonist Jane has been going through some shit; not only was her mother murdered when she was five years old, but a year before the events of the film, she was in a car accident in which she suffered a miscarriage. Her boyfriend, pharmaceutical rep and raging jackwad Richard, was driving the car, and sorta feels responsible for the whole losing the baby thing, although he still kinda treats Jane like crap anyway. Ever since the tragedy, Jane has been plagued with horrific, Fellini-esque nightmares in which toothless old ladies cackle in close-up and a mysterious man with ice-blue eyes repeatedly stabs women in their beds.



In true “Yellow Wallpaper” fashion, Richard has been pooh-poohing Jane’s wishes to see a psychiatrist, insisting she just needs to keep ingesting the weird blue toilet-tablet vitamin concoction he’s giving her to flush away the crazy, since he clearly subscribes to the Tom Cruise School of Psychiatry Is Evil and Scientology Solves All the Things With Vitamins and OT Powers. But since playing with the Ty-D-Bol Man doesn’t seem to be doing her any damn good, Jane finally takes her sister Barbara’s advice and goes to see the psychiatrist Barbara works for, a kindly old man called Dr. Burton. Doc seems more understanding, but her nightmares are not going away, and what’s worse, she’s starting to see the blue-eyed man stalking her in real life, or so it would appear.

Fearing she might be going batshit insane, she finally confides in foxy new neighbor Mary, whose first suggestion, obviously, is for Jane to accompany her to a black magic ritual, which should clear that whole mental illness thing right up, with the well-known healing power of Beelzebub. Jane gives this course of action about ten seconds of thought before going, “Sounds like a plan,” and after a festive afternoon of dog-blood drinking and gang rape, she seems right as rain again.




But not so fast! In a stunning twist, it turns out that demonic cults headed by fey bearded men wearing fabulous gold Lee press-on nails may not actually be conducive to one’s overall well-being! Who’da thought? From here on out, the movie takes on the aspect of a fever dream, as we’re not really sure who we can trust and what is really happening. Is the blue-eyed psycho real or imaginary? Is everyone Jane knows conspiring with the cult to push her off her rocker for good? Has Richard fucked every woman in the immediate vicinity, including Jane’s sister? What’s the over/under on how long it would take to murder a couple of German senior citizens and prop them up at the breakfast table as though they’re still alive? Will Jane ever learn to cook bacon and eggs properly? The surrealistic touches come hard and fast, and the viewer will be left confused and on edge until the very end.




I really dug this one a lot; I loved the psychedelic weirdness and the ambiguity, and it had a really unsettling undertone of claustrophobia, as the world seemed to close in around poor Jane, leaving her with no one to trust. The cinematography was also lovely and strange, if a little heavy on the wacky camera effects. Definitely one of the more unique gialli, and one I’d definitely recommend to fans of Satanic cult movies as well.

That’s all for this installment, so until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

Revenge of the Deathless Guinea Pig: An Appreciation of “The Asphyx”

Cheerio, old chaps! Today’s movie is another kinda obscure 1970s flick from Europe, but we’ve temporarily travelled from Italy to Old Blighty. Bizarrely, and completely coincidentally, it also concerns a fucked up aristocratic family by the name of Cunningham, just like my last entry on The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. I swear I did NOT do that on purpose. Clearly, mysterious cinematic forces are at work here.


Directed by Peter Newbrook and released in 1972, The Asphyx was also known under the titles Spirit of the Dead and The Horror of Death. Set in 1875, it explores many of the same themes as Frankenstein, what with all the hubris about scientists tampering in God’s romaine and suchlike. Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) is a widower, a gentleman scientist, and a cheery, progressive sort of bloke, using his money and expertise in service of the betterment of mankind. At the beginning of the movie, he is bringing his fiancée Anna (Fiona Walker) back to the family estate to introduce her to his two grown children Clive (Ralph Arliss) and Christina (Jane Lapotaire), as well as a young fella named Giles (Robert Powell), who he introduces as his adopted son, but who also has a thing going with Christina, so…huh. Yeah, technically they’re not blood relatives, but still, eeeewwwww. Moving on.


One of Sir Hugo’s main scientific pursuits involves working with a psychical research society, photographing people at the moment of their deaths. A few of their photographs seem to show a strange black smudge near the dying people, which the psychical society believes are the souls leaving the bodies. Sir Hugo is excited about the implications of this research, but his ward/assistant/daughter-banger Giles is all kinda meh, skeptical of the society’s conclusions and not really seeing the point of it all.

Things start going to shit about twenty minutes into the festivities. Clive and Anna are killed in a freak boating accident, and Sir Hugo happens to capture their deaths on his newfangled video camera. Beside himself with grief, he insists on watching the footage to see his beloved Anna and his only son Clive one final time. He is simultaneously horrified and ecstatic to find that he can clearly see that telltale black smudge appearing on the film right before Clive gets beaned with the fatal tree branch, but now that he can see it as a moving image instead of a static one, he can’t help but notice that the smudge is not moving away from Clive, as his soul presumably would, but toward him. Dun dun duuuuuun.


This doesn’t seem like a great deal to go on, but from this single piece of evidence, Sir Hugo formulates a theory that obviously, this black thingamabob isn’t really a soul per se, but an entity from Greek mythology called an asphyx, something like a grim reaper deal that comes to claim your ass when you’re fixing to bite the big one. He’s eager to do more research into the matter, and fortuitously, an opportunity soon presents itself: the president of the psychical society, Sir Edward Barrett (Alex Scott) arrives at Sir Hugo’s house, all in a lather because the barbaric British government has decided to reinstate public executions in order to try to stem the tide of a supposed explosion of violent crime. Sir Edward and Sir Hugo are both vehemently anti-capital punishment, and Sir Edward wants Sir Hugo to film the first hanging, hoping that the horror of the images will rally the public to their cause. Sir Hugo pretends that he doesn’t really want to do it, but secretly he’s all like AWWWW YEAH and metaphorically rubbing his hands together in anticipatory glee. He finally agrees, though he doesn’t tell Sir Edward what his true intentions are, vis-á-vis recording dying people’s repo-demons.

During the hanging, Sir Hugo uses a “light booster,” essentially a spotlight using phosphorous crystals, to illuminate the gallows as the condemned man meets the noose; but to the surprise of himself and everyone assembled, the criminal’s asphyx is clearly visible to all, and seems to be trapped within the phosphorous beam. When Sir Hugo reviews the footage later, both he and Giles realize that if a person’s asphyx could be halted by the phosphorescent light, and further, if the asphyx could then be transferred to a purpose-made lock-box with a phosphorous beam shining indefinitely into it, then a person could, theoretically, never die, provided the asphyx is never released. They try the experiment on a guinea pig and meet with rousing success, so of course the next logical step is that Sir Hugo, growing increasingly mad with the potential power of everlasting life, decides to immortalize himself, because his awesomeness cannot be contained within a single lifetime, goddammit.

If you know anything about this type of movie, you’ll know that the situation is going to go drastically, horrifically sideways from that point forward, and you may find yourself asking the following questions: Is it ever morally justifiable to toy with immortality? What lengths will a man go to to preserve his family and his legacy? Is it really prudent to have to live forever when your noggin is hanging on by a single sinew like Nearly Headless Nick? Some pretty fucked up shit happens at the end of this, folks, and here is yet another example of a Cunningham family who really, desperately need some kind of psychiatric intervention. Happy Days this ain’t.


As with a lot of British films from the early 70s, this one moves at a snail’s pace and is ridiculously talky, so it’s definitely not for all tastes. The characters, further, are all intensely twee, upper-class-twit types, but I found myself kinda liking them in spite of myself. Plus I was so interested to see what new, profanely impious schemes Sir Hugo was gonna come up with next that I was utterly transfixed through the entire two-hour running time. I also found the ending wonderfully cruel, ironic, and immensely satisfying.

That’s all for this installment, so until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

Insane People Seem to be Graced with Incredible Powers: An Appreciation of “God Told Me To”

A horrorific Monday to all of you fiends out there! I’ve returned once again to my favorite horror decade for today’s post, though I’m putting the gialli down for a brief rest so that I can discuss one of the weirder American horror flicks from the 1970s, one that I’d seen pop up on a lot of people’s “best underrated 70s horror” lists but had only just got around to seeing.

God Told Me To (1976) aka Demon

Directed by Larry Cohen

Shown: Poster Art

Larry Cohen is probably best known to horrorphiles as the director of the It’s Alive killer baby series, as well as a few other cult classics like The Stuff and Q: The Winged Serpent (and, it must be said, one of the better episodes of Mick Garris’s “Masters of Horror” series, the Fairuza Balk-starring “Pick Me Up”). But the film I want to discuss today is one of his stranger and more subversive ones, a film that actually had some pretty complex things to say about religious belief, violence, racial tensions, and gender fluidity. I’m speaking, of course, of 1976’s God Told Me To (also known as Demon, for some unfathomable reason).

The movie centers around New York City police detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco), who is investigating a bizarre series of crimes in which seemingly random people suddenly snap and go on mass killing sprees around the city, always giving the excuse that “God told me to,” right before they meet their own ends. You would think that this film, then, would progress something like a thriller or police procedural, and you’d be partially right, but honestly, if you’ve never seen it, I don’t think you could ever imagine the batshit directions this thing wanders off into. If you’d like to approach this movie cold, though, I suggest you not read any further here, as I’m inevitably going to spoil some key aspects of the plot. You have been warned.


Detective Nicholas lives with his girlfriend Casey (Deborah Raffin), telling her that his devout wife Martha (Sandy Dennis) will not let him divorce her, even though in reality it’s his own Catholic guilt that prevents him. It is his very conflicted faith that causes him to obsess about the ostensibly religion-motivated mass murders occurring regularly around New York, but as he delves deeper into the crimes, he discovers some mightily disturbing facts about the motives of the killers, and also that he himself might somehow be involved in what appears to be some mass hysteria or conspiracy.


And yes, that is indeed Andy Kaufman in his first film role!

It turns out that all of the murderers had fallen under the spell of a mysterious, androgynous cult figure known as Bernard Phillips (Richard Lynch), who seems to have the power of mind control over his subjects. As Nicholas digs into Phillips’ murky past, he finds that Phillips’ mother was supposedly a virgin when she bore him, and further, that she had reported being abducted by a ball of light and subsequently impregnated by what amounted to extraterrestrials. After Nicholas locates the elusive Phillips in a dark basement ringed with flames (obviously a stand-in for Hell), he finds that Phillips wants to control him most of all, but cannot do it, for some reason he can’t fathom.

As the investigation goes on, Nicholas finds that Phillips’s history mirrors his own; the detective’s own mother was also knocked up by visitors from beyond the stars, and the only reason that Nicholas wasn’t aware of it was that his human genes turned out to be more dominant than the alien ones. In the final battle between the half-alien “siblings,” Phillips attempts to persuade Nicholas to impregnate him via a pulsating vagina in his abdomen, but Nicholas ain’t having none of that freaky extraterrestrial action and kills the being, repeating the mantra that “God told me to” when he is later arrested for murder.


I have to say that this is probably the strangest of all the religion-themed horror flicks of the decade, and I haven’t even really scratched the surface of all the insane shit that goes on in this movie. The weirdest thing about it is that it isn’t lurid or funny at all; it’s played completely straight and serious, and is all the more unsettling because of it. God Told Me To is almost like a whacked-out mashup of Dog Day Afternoon, Rosemary’s Baby, Xtro, and the book Chariots of the Gods, and as such, it has many layers of satirical social commentary that are just as relevant today as they were in the 1970s. For example, what is the nature of religious belief, and is it detrimental to the individual and to society as a whole? What is God, and if God supposedly speaks to someone, who’s to say that what God says is right or moral? Where is the line between male and female, and does it even matter? These may seem pretty heavy questions for a little B-horror movie to be tackling, but God Told Me To does so with a surprisingly deft hand. The entire feeling the film evokes is one of a society teetering on the edge of chaos as conflicting forces—of good and evil, masculine and feminine, black and white—all clash in one enormous and yet insidious paroxysm of violence.

It also has some wonderfully frightening scenes, from the fantastic opener as a lone sniper atop a water tower calmly picks off random pedestrians on a city street; to Nicholas’ harrowing visit to Phillips’ mother, who suddenly attacks him in a knife-wielding frenzy; to the movie’s best and most chilling sequence, where Nicholas questions a man who has just massacred his entire family in cold blood at Phillips’ psychic behest. The lucid, almost beatific way the man describes the murders is disturbing in the extreme.

So if you’re a fan of religion-themed and/or gritty urban horror from the 1970s that’s cross-pollinated with a hint of sci-fi, then God Told Me To should definitely be added to your must-see list. Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

The Goddess’s Favorite Creepy Movie Scenes, or The Mechanics of Female Revenge

As you can see, I’m returning at long last to my “Creepiest Movie Scenes” series, but with a slight twist. While I usually like to discuss films with that eerie, unsettling supernatural vibe that I love so much (such as The Haunting, The Tenant, or Don’t Look Now), today I want to go more visceral, and descend into the kind of creepy that encompasses disgust, intense discomfort, and perhaps a hint of exploitation.

The so-called “rape-revenge” subgenre reached its peak in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the two films I want to talk about are probably the most cited and controversial examples of this type of cinema. I have to say right out of the gate that rape is one of the most stomach-turning things for me to watch on film or hear about in real life; merely hearing someone talk about it (either in a movie or in meatspace) makes my skin crawl with revulsion more than anything else, whether the victim is man, woman, or child. For this reason, these two movies were probably the most difficult films I ever sat through, but ultimately, I found the experience of them bizarrely rewarding, and I will do my best to articulate why.


Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman, 1978) and Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 (aka Angel of Vengeance, 1981) were both dogged with criticism from the moment they were released, and both were either heavily edited or outright banned in several countries; I Spit On Your Grave in particular is banned from sale to this day in Ireland (according to Wikipedia) and is only available in severely cut versions elsewhere. The overriding justification for these bans, then as now, was that the films “glorified” violence against women. While I would agree that many films in the rape-revenge genre do indeed use rape solely as a means of titillation, thus making them guilty of accusations of glorification, I would argue that these two films pretty clearly do the exact opposite, and have been unfairly lumped in with lesser, more exploitative examples of the genre. I’d also like to point out here that films that supposedly glorify violence against men are rarely subjected to the same treatment, and while some may point to misguided feminism as the reason for this, I would argue that banning films containing explicit sexual violence against women is actually an inversion of the very idea of feminism, as it still plays into the antiquated view of women as lesser beings who are unable to protect themselves or take action to right the violence visited upon them.


Here’s the thing that I find strange. In my humble estimation, both of these films possess so-called “male perspective” counterparts: I consider I Spit On Your Grave to be a woman-centric version of Deliverance, for example, while I would put Ms. 45 on a similar plane as, say, Death Wish. Both Deliverance and Death Wish, you’ll note, are pretty universally lauded by critics, so I’m always left wondering why, when the sexual violence and later revenge is perpetrated against and subsequently by a woman, critics seem to suddenly and utterly lose their shit. Roger Ebert, whose opinions I mostly agreed with, famously called I Spit On Your Grave “a vile bag of garbage…without a shred of artistic distinction,” and along with his then-partner Gene Siskel, named it the worst film ever made. When I read about the initial critical reaction to both of these films, I have to say that I’m completely puzzled. Did these dudes watch the same movies I did? Because it seems to me that they entirely missed the point. Some critics have rightly reconsidered their earlier opinions in later years, which is something I’m happy to see, but both movies are still generally looked askance at in “serious” film-critic circles.

I would be the first to admit that there is a paper-thin line between simply portraying rape on screen and glamorizing it, but for my money, neither I Spit On Your Grave nor Ms. 45 glamorized the crimes in the least, and in fact, I would argue that both films portrayed the rapes in such a horrific manner that viewers could not help but identify and empathize with their female protagonists. The brutally drawn-out rape scenes in I Spit On Your Grave in particular were so awful that they gave me nightmares for weeks, and I would argue that this is exactly what they should do, if the film is portraying the crime responsibly. Real rape is not sexy or glamorous; it is low and odious and degrading, and that is exactly what the scene depicted, in grueling, unrelenting detail. It had no harrowing background music, it had no flattering camera angles or arty lighting. It was simply a long, flatly presented, almost unendurably ugly portrayal of four men using a blameless woman in the most repugnant, objectifying way possible (even denigrating her personhood further by destroying the manuscript she’d been working on), and then leaving her for dead. I feel that it is far more artistically justifiable to portray rape as disgusting and vile—that is to say, realistically—rather than glossing over it and thus lessening its revolting impact. As I implied earlier, the rape of Ned Beatty’s character in Deliverance was depicted in a very similar way to the rape of Camille Keaton’s character in I Spit On Your Grave, but for whatever reason, Deliverance is considered a cultural and artistic milestone, while I Spit On Your Grave (and Ms. 45, to a lesser extent) is relegated to cult, “video nasty” status, even though the outcomes of both films were almost exactly the same. While I’m not going to argue that I Spit On Your Grave was an artistically better film than Deliverance, because that would just be stupid, I still have to wonder about the vitriol that was hurled at the former when similar criticisms could be leveled at the latter. The only significant difference that I can see was the gender (and, it must be said, attractiveness) of the victim(s).


There is also, of course, another more subtle difference that may hint at the reasons for the disparity in critical reception. In both I Spit On Your Grave and Ms. 45, the victimized women ultimately end up using the purported “weakness” that made them victims in the first place—their femininity—as weapons of revenge against their attackers. In I Spit On Your Grave, Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) uses the promise of willing sex to lure her rapists back into her clutches with the aim of murdering them one by one (in a memorable instance slicing off a man’s penis while giving him a handjob in a bathtub). I actually liked this aspect of the film very much, as during her attack, the rapists accuse Jennifer of essentially “asking for it” by traipsing around her very secluded cabin in “revealing” clothing (like, y’know, a bathing suit when she went swimming) and “flirting” with them and leading them on (by, y’know, being polite to them when she came into town for groceries). So I found it particularly gratifying that Jennifer had the presence of mind to use these very accusations (which are still depressingly common in real-life rape cases) to her advantage when it came time for payback.



Likewise, in Ms. 45, the mute Thana (Zoë Tamerlis Lund), who was the victim of two savage rapes in one day, eventually reinvents herself as an overtly sexualized nun who then goes on a man-hunting shooting spree. Is this the aspect of these films that made (largely male) critics so uncomfortable, that their unexamined feelings about women as passive sexual receptacles for their own desires could possibly be used against them by the very objects of those desires? I’m not entirely sure, but honestly, I don’t see much difference between the dudes in Deliverance wasting the rednecks in revenge for Ned Beatty’s rape and Camille Keaton emasculating and killing her attackers in justifiable revenge for what they did to her. And in much the same way as viewers were meant to sympathize with and cheer on the city boys of Deliverance as they enacted some backwoods justice on the agents of their degradation, I feel that I Spit On Your Grave pretty obviously wanted you to sympathize with and cheer on Jennifer as she took out the trash in the exact same way. And sure, I will admit that Ms. 45 is perhaps more problematic in this regard, since Thana took things a tad overboard and began blowing away more-or-less innocent men who had not directly victimized her, I will say that her actions were clearly mitigated in the film’s narrative somewhat, as she was portrayed as not entirely stable from the get-go, and thus her trauma-induced push into full-on murder mode was made completely understandable and even relatable to viewers, as even some of her more “innocent” victims had objectified her in more subtle ways.



Would I go so far as to call these two films “feminist?” I think I would, in the sense that the protagonists of both films used a trauma perpetrated against them as a spur to find their power and drive them to action. It’s clear to me that both directors were purposely making films with a point of view sympathetic to their female protagonists, one that got inside the heads of the characters and made the viewer understand events through their eyes. While I did have a problem, as I mentioned earlier, with Thana’s somewhat indiscriminate killings in Ms. 45, and I was also slightly uncomfortable with Jennifer’s killing of the mentally retarded rapist (who had only raped her at the urging of his irredeemable fuckwit cohorts, even though he was astute enough to know what he was doing was wrong), in the end any sense of discomfort I felt was overridden by my ultimate satisfaction at the deserved outcome for the bad guys. I would have experienced the same gleeful sense of righteous justice had the perpetrator been a man avenging similar wrongs done against him, and that is the entire point that I felt a lot of critics missed. While I’m of the opinion that attitudes toward women in film have improved somewhat since these films were released, it disturbs me that they haven’t changed as much as I feel they should have (as the internet-fueled “controversy” about Mad Max: Fury Road made starkly clear). In that sense, I feel that both I Spit On Your Grave and Ms. 45 were important cinematic experiments that highlighted some of the more problematic aspects of the way women characters were viewed by using the very tropes of the exploitation film against themselves. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’d be interested to hear other perspectives, if anyone would care to share them.

And with that, I will bring another long-winded and scattershot post to a close. Until next time, Goddess out.

The Goddess’s Ten Favorite Creepy Books from Childhood

I told you guys I’d be back to this blog shortly, and here I am. Before I get into today’s post, I wanted to acknowledge the horrible news I heard earlier this morning: one of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old twin sons, Arthur, has died in a tragic accident, falling from a cliff in Brighton. As I’ve written before, Nick Cave is a musical and literary hero of mine, and I cannot begin to imagine what he and his family are going through right now. For what it’s worth, I extend my most heartfelt condolences.

And now on to less soul-crushing subjects. It is perhaps fitting that I chose today to focus on childhood books I loved and that helped to shape my writing identity. These ten books, among the hundreds I read growing up, have stuck with me for various reasons over the years, and I would recommend any of them unreservedly to older children and adults alike. To make the experience more authentic, I even tried to find the cover art I remembered for each book, though I failed in a couple of circumstances, because the 60s and 70s were a long time ago, folks. So, without further ado, here they are, in descending order:


10. The Face of Danger by Willo Davis Roberts (1972)

I have no idea why this little trade paperback made such a lifelong impression on me, but such are the quirks of the writer’s brain, I suppose. It’s not strictly a horror story, being more of a gothic thriller/mystery type of thing, and it’s not really for children either, I guess, but after discovering it in one of the towering piles of books in my grandfather’s old house, I read it over and over again in total and abject fascination. It tells the tale of a homely woman named Sharlee whose face is so drastically disfigured in a car accident that plastic surgeons are basically obliged to give her an entirely new face, one that is strikingly beautiful. I was transfixed by the idea of a lifelong plain Jane suddenly being thrust into the entirely unfamiliar milieu of the beautiful people (and all their fabulous gowns, not gonna lie), and the struggles that ensued. Sharlee is whisked away to a remote mansion by her new, wealthy suitor, where it comes to pass that there’s some pretty shady shit going on with the family she meets there, relating back to the woman whose visage hers was modeled after. I haven’t read this in years, but I remember it being pretty harrowing in a “dark romance novel” sort of way. Fun fact: While I was researching this blog post today, I discovered that Willo Davis Roberts also wrote one of my other beloved childhood books, the profoundly depressing child-abuse saga Don’t Hurt Laurie. I was kind of a morbid kid, you guys.


9. The Ghost of Opalina, or Nine Lives by Peggy Bacon (1967)

I must have checked this out of my elementary school’s library at least a dozen times. I adore ghost stories, and I adore cats, so a book that combined those things was of course going to be like a magnet to my wee, nugget self. It’s essentially a frame story about three children who move into a rambling old house and find a talking ghost kitty with glowing opal eyes in the attic. Opalina, as she’s called, tells them all about her nine lives and the people who had lived in the house over the decades. Even though I was never a huge fan of “historical” fiction growing up, I was absolutely spellbound with this one, and I remember the illustrations (done by the author) being charming as well.


8. The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla (1968)

This little blue hardback was a frequent resident of my backpack and bedside table after I bought it from one of those wonderful book fairs Scholastic periodically held at my school. If I remember correctly, there didn’t actually end up being a ghost in the story (and please correct me if I’m remembering it wrong), but there was a fantastic creepiness about it just the same: The old drafty farmhouse, the mysterious woman in white with her rag bag, the tragic Bruno and his horrible father. I have a vivid memory of the mentions of the spring house (which I had never heard of before and found intriguing), and the placing of bells on the doorknobs to try to catch the “ghost.” Good stuff.


7. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

More feline frights! Jessica is a cat-hating pre-teen who finds a blind, hairless little kitty she grudgingly adopts and contemptuously names Worm. But apparently there’s more to Worm than meets the eye, because soon afterward, Jessica begins behaving strangely, as if the cat is possessing her and making her do terrible things. Is Worm a witch’s familiar? Is Jessica projecting her own unhappiness and destructiveness onto the defenseless animal? It’s a fascinating psychological study that never clearly states whether there’s anything supernatural going on. As an aside, I believe this was the first audio book I ever listened to (on a series of cassettes, because I am old).


6. The Mystery of the Fiery Eye (Three Investigators Classics) by Robert Arthur (1967)

I was a big fan of the Alfred Hitchcock-sponsored Three Investigators series. They struck me as much cooler than the Hardy Boys books, which always came across a little too goody-two-shoes for me (I was also way more into Trixie Belden than Nancy Drew, but that’s neither here nor there). I read most of the 43 books in the series at one stage or another; I think I felt an affinity with chubby smarty-pants Jupiter Jones, and I absolutely fucking loved the idea of the investigators’ headquarters being in a trailer that was hidden under a pile of scrap in a junkyard and accessed through a series of tunnels. My favorites in the series included The Secret of Terror Castle, The Mystery of the Screaming Clock, and The Mystery of the Silver Spider, but Fiery Eye was hands-down my jam. I’ve had a long fascination with gemstones anyway, particularly rubies, and I was also enchanted by the busts of historical personages that figured prominently in the mystery.


5. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

Snyder’s second appearance on the list. I first heard about this book on that old PBS show with John Robbins. Does anyone else remember it? He had one called “The Book Bird” and one called “Cover to Cover”, and he would feature a book or two on each episode (I distinctly remember White Fang, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sea Egg, The Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, and Misty of Chincoteague being highlighted). Excerpts of the book would be read and he would illustrate them. I loved the crap out of that show, and though I found a few episodes of it on YouTube, the episode lists on the internet don’t mention The Headless Cupid (or Ellen Raskin’s Figgs and Phantoms, for that matter, which I also swear I saw on there), so now I’m thinking my entire childhood was a lie and I don’t know how to behave. At any rate, this book had everything that preteen me loved: weird teenage girls, possible witchcraft, a ghostly mystery in an old house. The main character of Amanda, with her pet crow, crazy braids, and silver forehead triangle, was one of the aspirational figures of my youth. I thought she was the coolest chick ever.


4. The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John (1972)

I loved this book so much as a kid, and for a long time afterward I only remembered the cover and the general story outline, but not the title. But thanks to the miracle of Google-Fu, I was able to track it down and revel in the magic once again. A little drowned girl, a spooky blue rose, a cement owl with marble eyes, and that vague sense of ambiguity about whether the ghost is real all added up to a chilling read. Easily one of my childhood favorites, and one that still holds up when read as an adult.


3. Alfred Hitchcock’s Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense by Various Authors (1973)

I wrote a post about another of these Hitchcock-edited anthologies, Stories That Scared Even Me, right here, but this one got just as many read-throughs, and I still own a worn hardback copy of it. There are only eleven stories, but all of them are great, and I have to give it props for introducing me to what is still one of my favorite short stories of all time, “The Triumph of Death” by H. Russell Wakefield (which I discussed a bit here). Other standouts include a second Wakefield story, “Mr. Ash’s Studio,” a rare Raymond Chandler tale called “The Bronze Door,” a creepy undertaker yarn called “The Pram” by A.W. Bennett, and a horrific model-train story by Alex Hamilton, “The Attic Express.”


2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)

I liked all of Ellen Raskin’s books, but this one was my favorite by a mile. It’s more mystery than horror, but I was so delighted by it that for years I’ve been contemplating doing a similar puzzle-style story (it’s actually in the planning stages at the moment, though I still have a lot of bugs to work out). The characters are hilarious, the writing sharp, the mystery intriguing. I actually re-read it just a few years back and I enjoyed it just as much. A classic. Why hasn’t there been a big-budget movie of this again?


1. The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs (1973)

If you read this previous post, you shouldn’t be surprised that this came out on top, because it’s easily my favorite young adult book of any era, and I don’t see that changing at any point in the future (sorry, J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman). Again, it hit all the right notes with me when I first read it: There was a creepy old house with secret passages and randomly changing stained-glass windows, witches and wizards, a hand of glory, necromancy, a scary countdown to doomsday, and those wonderful illustrations by Edward Gorey. Everything about this book was magical, and every time I reread it (which I do, quite often), I am transported back to that time in my childhood when all I ever dreamed about was ghosts and witches and hauntings and delicious creepiness that I wanted to utterly infuse my life forever (which it has, to a large extent, so I’ve got that going for me). I just can’t recommend this one enough; I wanted to live in its terrifying yet whimsical world, and if offered the chance to do so now, I would not hesitate to move right into that wacky mansion in New Zebedee and pile ice cream on my hat. Just talking about the book makes me want to dive back into it and forget about reality for a while, so I’m off to snatch up my purple-globe-topped cane, peer into my history-reenacting egg, and resurrect the corpses of some evil, long-dead wizards. If I don’t bring about the end of the world through these activities, I will return with more of my nostalgic and rambling posts very soon. So until next time, Goddess out.