Great Bone Structure

I may have mentioned that my dream house would look like a Victorian study/wunderkammer. I’m already partway there, with my specimens and pictures of bugs and bats and my curios from around the world, but someday I will have more. Oh yes, I will have more.

Specifically, I would love a collection of animal skulls. Animals look like fantastical monsters without their skin, and I find them fascinating. But I currently have nowhere to put a collection of skulls, so for now I make do with one tiny muskrat skull. Someday, though, I would love to have a proper home library with beautiful dark wood book shelves and a few choice specimens on display.

They’d have to be mostly replicas–I’m not about to hunt a giraffe or net a sea turtle or harpoon an Indus River dolphin–there are just so many problems there, both ethical and practical. Replicas would do just fine. And while we’re talking replicas, I might like a replica child’s skull complete with all those teeth waiting to grow in. It’s funny, I really enjoy looking at skulls and imagining where the muscles attach and why they’re shaped the way they are, but looking at all those extra teeth hiding inside a kid’s skull freaks me out a bit.

 

Southern Gothic

hap and leonardSummer is coming I’m in that Southern Gothic mood again. This year I got in the mood early, before the weather caught up with me. Back at the end of February I ran across Hap and Leonard on Netflix and could not stop watching. I loved every strange, sad minute of it. Netflix only had the first two seasons, but it looks like I can watch the third on the Sundance website. They’re based on Joe R. Lansdale’s books. I’ve never read any of his Hap and Leonard series, but I’ve read a bit of his straight-ahead horror and I recommend him if you don’t mind gore and torture.

I’ve also been watching True Blood free on Amazon Prime. I find Sookie Stackhouse herself (the TV version) kind of annoying and immature, but I enjoy most everything else about the series.

roller millsSadly, my town looks nothing like these shows. My town looks like, well, have you seen the original Footloose? That was filmed around here. Not that romantic. We don’t have sultry evenings filled with ancestral ghosts* and sexy vampires around here, so I’m stuck watching them TV.

Maybe I’ll pull out my billowy nightdress so I can sit on my patio in it, sip a mint julep and pretend I’m in Louisiana. Or maybe I’ll spring for a new one. Gotta have something to cool down these hot nights ahead. A light dress and a good chill up my spine oughta help.

nightdress
I have this in black.**

 

*Okay, we probably do have ancestral ghosts around here, but they’d mostly show up to complain about your skirt length and make sure you dance at least 12 inches apart from each other. 

**I swear it was cheaper this when I bought it, though. 

Chainsaw Art

It isn’t very goth, I suppose, but I spent part of my weekend binge watching Carver Kings on Netflix. It’s technically reality TV, so there’s a feeble attempt at drama, but mostly Carver Kings is about watching people make huge chainsaw scupltures. And that’s a pretty cool thing to watch. One year we even saw real live chainsaw carving at the state fair. I love seeing people create things, especially when they have a lot of skill.

octopus carving.jpeg
Jeffrey Michael Samudosky

 

Sometimes they carve amazingly cool stuff, but most of what they make is kind of western American folk  art–lots of snarling bears and screaming eagles and mysterious wolves, assorted other woodland creatures and occasional “wood spirit,” and maybe a dragon for the really adventurous types. It’s all over the place out here in the mountain west. You can’t buy a fishing pole or visit a canyon without wading through a gift shop full of this kind of art, and I get kind of jaded about it.

So jaded, in fact, that I forget just how much Mr. Robot likes this stuff. He likes screaming eagles and mysterious wolves, and we have exactly zero of these things in our home. We have a mountain scene with a yeti in it and a picture of sharks eating boats, but that’s not really the same, apparently. So the kids and I decided to look for an affordable chainsaw sculpture for Mr. Robot’s birthday in April. Maybe a curious little owl. He likes owls.

owls
by James Haggart, found on eBay.

Dragon bench is by Igor Loskutow. Dementor/wraith is by Denius Parson. I couldn’t find a credit for the ground sloth monster. 

Bionic

If I ever lost a limb, I’d want a super cool prosthetic from the Alternative Limb Project. Maybe a super cool tentacle or a robot-looking one that lights up. But I’d settle for basic black, I suppose. Or Vanta Black, that would be awesome.

You may or may not have seen Viktoria Modesta rocking prosthetics made by the Project. I’ve never cared much for her music, but I love her aesthetic and the way she uses prosthetic legs to achieve that bionic look. It’s got a cyborg/dystopia/healthgoth vibe that I love. And I like that she rocks the look and makes a powerful statement that this missing leg is important, yes, but only one of many important things about her.

She’s not the only one, I’ve noticed. Among others things, I love the books Michael Stokes has created featuring U.S. soldiers with various injuries and amputations. (Invictus and Always Loyal. I got them through his kickstarter campaigns.) Most such books focus on the human tragedy of war, because of course they do. That’s an important thing to focus on. But Stokes treats his injured models the same way he treats all the other well-muscled good looking guys he photographs. The soldiers’ stories tell us plenty about the human tragedy, and the photos tell a hopeful story of moving forward and making those scars and injuries just one part of a full and purposeful life.

Okay, I don’t want to totally nerd out about the social and emotional ramifications of normalizing disabilities and promoting body diversity, and I don’t want to bore you by geeking out about advances in prosthetic technology (3D printers can make limbs, y’all!), so I’ll just let this be for now.

Here. Enjoy some weird ambient music from Karmelloz instead.

5 Random Things for January

Hey everybody! I still exist! Before all the holidays, Septicemia was nice enough to nominate me for that Liebster award thing and I was all set to work on it when the holiday rush began and tore me away from the computer. The kids started winter break, Mr. Robot got seriously ill, and while I was focused on all that I kinda lost track of the blogging. Now that kids are back in school and Mr. Robot is feeling better, I finally have time to check in. So hi! I hope everyone’s having a spooky January so far. Here are 5 random things I’ve been doing and dreaming about amid all the chaos:

  1. I got a cool new tank top from Disney’s online store. My mom’s always been obsessed with Disney and I inherited a tiny bit of that obsession. Over the years I’ve really fallen in love with the Haunted Mansion ride, and I couldn’t resist this tank based on one of the ride’s paintings.
  2. While driving around one night looking at Christmas lights, we discovered that one of our local cemeteries was full of tiny lighted trees and nativity sets on and around the graves. Nothing really huge or gaudy, just little personal touches for the season. I’ve never seen them do this before, but I hope it becomes a tradition. The whole thing was very peaceful and sweet. Our pictures are terrible because we were too busy enjoying it, but hopefully you get some idea of how lovely this graveyard full of twinkling little lights was.
  3. After taking a break from crochet for a while, I’ve finally ordered yarn to make the Lost Souls skull shawl. It’s been on my mind for ages, ever since Black Kitty pointed me to the Ravelry pattern. I do love a pop of color with my black, so I’m going to make it in Berroco Vintage Black Currant.
  4. I’ve been mooning over the bed sets on the Ink & Rags site. I decided to spend my money on yarn this month, for the shawl and another project, but someday I’m going to get one of these beautiful duvet covers. I just can’t decide which one, they’re all so cool. These are my top three contenders so far (pictures from their site):
  5. Over the break, I took the kids up to Salt Lake City to visit relatives, and we had a rare foggy evening. The western U.S. is pretty short on spooky castles, but we do have a great big Mormon temple smack in the middle of town. It’s spires looked mysterious and castle-like in the fog, so I snapped a couple of quick pics while I waited to cross the street.

There you go. That’s what I’ve been doing on my break from blogging. I’ll try not to be such a stranger. I hope all of you had time for some fun and are excited for the new year starting. I’d love to hear about your interesting plans and projects. What are you dreaming of doing, seeing and maybe buying this year?

Bustles and Hoop Skirts

It’s my youngest kid’s job to empty the kitchen trash all month and put in new bags. She’s taken to puffing the clean bags up with air and using them as bustles, so I hopped on YouTube to show her the real thing. Bustles and hoop skirts are the kind of thing I really admire but just can’t stand to wear. Too fussy for me, but I admire people willing to put up with them for the perfect dramatic look. I admire even more the people who learn how to custom make these kinds of heavily engineered hoops and crinolines and gowns. 🙂

 

 

Darkness of Light Tarot

I really enjoy tarot. Every deck has the same cards, the same basic set of symbols, but each artist brings something new to it. I can spend hours looking through different decks, and every once in a while I spend a stupid amount of money on one that really speaks to me. The Darkness of Light deck does just that.

darkness tarot

Some decks like to pack a lot of info onto each card–astrology signs, correspondences, all sorts of symbolic colors–but I like the more minimal, emotional approach this deck takes. Nothing gets in the way of the beautiful art and the emotions it evokes, and I love that it doesn’t shy away from the dark and the dreary.

Tarot is used to tell fortunes, after all, and some decks focus on bright and happy art as if that will ensure a good fortune. I actually own a lighter, happier deck or two and this one balances things out by looking into the shadows.

darkness tarot 2

The cards are a good weight with a nice feel so I’ll enjoy using them, but I’m half tempted to hang some as art.

 

Bone Records

Someday, when I have more money to spend, I would love to collect Roentgenizden, or bone records.

For quite a while after World War II, the Soviet Union had a black market record trade. A whole host of songs and musicians, even homegrown Soviet songs and musicians, were banned for various reasons, so people had to pass the music among themselves. Record players could be put together at home, but vinyl for pressing records was much harder to come by, so creative music lovers used x-ray plates instead. They called them bone records, or ribs, or Roentgenizden (after Wilhelm Roentgen, who discovered x-rays), and they’re beautiful. I love the haunting images x-rays produce, and I love the history and the dedication to music behind bone records.

Unfortunately, after all this time they’re also a bit rare and expensive. You can find them on eBay but they’ll cost you quite a bit. I doubt they’ll get any cheaper, since there’s now a book (available used) on bone records and a documentary going around the international film festivals as we speak.

 

I just got the book in the mail but I haven’t sat down to read it yet. It’s part coffee table book and part history of bone records. I’m excited to get into it.

How about all of you? Is there something you’d love to collect that you just can’t afford? Would you buy a bone record if you could? I have an x-ray of my kid’s broken arm but I think she’d be mad if I turned it into art. It’s not her fondest memory.

Haunted Hospital

Once upon a time I worked at a mental hospital. It’s pretty much all modern and properly hospital-like now, but when I was there it was in the middle of transforming. There were several buildings arranged around a long, straight driveway. The buildings on the left of the driveway were big and modern and reasonably nice. The buildings on the right looked like an old-timey asylum stereotype. I mostly worked in one of the righthand buildings. The haunted one.

hospital hyde
This one.

I worked days so I never saw anything spooky, but friends on the night shift saw a few things. Mostly in the basement, where the big, empty cafeteria and weird storage cages were. Maybe it was ghosts, maybe it was fatigue and imagination, but if ghosts are real I’m sure that building hosted a few. My favorite story, though, is from after they tore it down. I was working in one of the new, nice buildings and a friend called me over. “Watch this,” she said, and dialed the phone. She called the old building, the one that didn’t exist anymore, and the phone just rang and rang. I guess the ghosts were too busy to answer their ghost phone.

The haunted building may be gone, but there’s still a real “castle” there, way up on the hill behind the main buildings. It’s an outdoor theater built during the Great Depression by one of those New Deal programs, and the hospital used to do a spook alley up there every Halloween. Apparently, it was the only mental hospital spook alley in the country, but I never got to be part of it. They quit doing it just a year or two before I got there. It started in the early 1970s and was incredibly popular, but also became controversial as people worried it might stigmatize mental illness and the hospital’s clients. I see the point, but a lot of the clients I met talked about it fondly and wished they could bring it back.

Since it’s a real hospital that still has residents, Utah State Hospital isn’t listed much on haunting sites. It has a small museum and the castle holds events, but they don’t want people showing up and exploring on their own. It’s a beautiful little place with a fascinating history that most people will never get to explore firsthand.


In all seriousness, it was a pretty cool place to work. It was (and still is) for people who need longer term psychiatric care, so you’d work with the same clients for weeks or months (and years, in some cases) and really get to know some cool people you might not normally meet. I don’t want to compromise anyone’s privacy so I’ll only mention one guy–Pete died quite a while back and I know he wouldn’t mind a shout out. He was pretty well known around Salt Lake City for walking around in a Lucifer costume, with his hair slicked up into devil’s horns. I never saw the outfit, but he had the horns when I knew him–they’d get taller or shorter according to how well he was feeling. I kind of hope he haunts something–he’d be a great ghost to meet. He got a really nice obituary when he died: you can read it here.

 

 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Summer always puts me in a Southern Gothic mood. Southern Gothic isn’t exactly goth, but the American deep south is full of beautiful cemetaries, haunted plantation houses, and its own special brand of spooky horror. In all this heat, it’s just hard to concentrate on windswept moors and drafty castles. For summer, give me overgrown cemeteries, farmhouses full of tragic ghosts, and Southern belles wilting in the sultry August evening.

I finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil a few weeks ago. (There’s also a movie version I saw long ago in my Kevin Spacey phase.) It’s sort of a “Southern gothic meets true crime” thing and it’s not written by a southerner so it didn’t quite work for me. But it did make me really want to see Savannah, Georgia. Next time I have money I just might take a long weekend, tour Mercer House, stroll through Bonaventure Cemetery, and read my next gothic novel under a tree in one of Savannah’s beautiful squares.