Stories For Ghosts

Literary Horror for Everyone

Category: History

Horror Movies at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

It’s time for the annual Cannes Film Festival! And that means there’s a whole new crop of Cannes horror films!

Cannes is one of the renowned and distinguished film festivals in the world, attracting talent and glitz from all over. The festival has proven itself to be an important predictor of award-winning and groundbreaking films. Among all those storied films, composed of equal parts Oscar-bait and innovative indies, are some of the best horror movies.

As I pointed out in last year’s post, films like It Follows, Green Room, Possession, and Evil Dead were all shown at Cannes. Cannes has always recognized good films, even if they do happen to be horror films.

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Blood, Guts, and Politics: 11 Political Horror Movies

*Beware, here be spoilers*

The tense political environment right now has me thinking a lot about my identity as an American. I was born and raised here. I’m fairly patriotic. I studied the law and our nation’s history in part to better understand the rules that underlie our Americanness.

And when I think of myself as an American, I think about our rights and the defense of our liberties. I think of working together with those who have different viewpoints. I think of respect and tolerance, because Americans are supposed to hold those values in esteem. I also think, “It’s easy to be American when things are going well.”

What happens if this all falls apart?

We Americans treasure our autonomy. Look at the Bill of Rights. Look at the Constitution. These are the rules by which the government protects our rights and with which the people limit the government. We have all said we agree to abide by this rulebook to preserve everyone’s pursuit of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (within reason). Do we mean it?

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Recap Post – My First Séance

**This post is a follow-up to my history of the séance post.**

Part of my enjoyment of horror the genre is how effective scary movies and stories are at suspending my disbelief. Without exposing me to actual threats, a good movie can horrify and terrify me. With just ink and paper, a good ghost story can momentarily convince me that poltergeists exist. It’s the best kind of make-believe. When the credits roll, when I close my book, I can go about my day changed. I’ve been made to confront something illogical and frightening and uncomfortable. And I’m better for it.

That is the kind of experience I expected when I attended a séance a few weeks back. I didn’t expect to really contact a ghost or commune with supernatural entities. But I did expect a good deal of drama and excitement and freaky shit. I was really looking forward to it. I thought I would be treated to a solid ninety minutes of impressively executed tricks and seamless transitions from ghost story to ghostly encounter. I thought I’d be scared, faced with some eerie phenomena I could not rationally explain.

But that is not what happened.

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They Live – John Carpenter’s Timeless Political Masterpiece

**Beware: Here be spoilers For They Live.**

The 2016 Presidential Election is finally and mercifully drawing to a close. Regardless of political affiliations, it seems like the whole country reels from the drawn-out election cycle, temporarily traumatized by the mudslinging and grandstanding and pettiness. But this election has been one for the ages. I know everyone always complains that every succeeding election is worse than the one before, but this one was really, really nasty.

We are all overwhelmed by this election, a terrible yet fitting end to an exhausting year. Myself, I try to stay as politically connected as possible. I read the news, follow Congress’s lawmaking progress (or lack thereof), watch the President’s speeches, and read all the Supreme Court opinions I can reasonably fit into my life. So for this election, I gritted my teeth and surrendered to the vicious news cycle. I listened to stump speeches and watched the debates and did my research. It was draining. When I cast my early voting ballot, I was relieved because I thought I could stop caring for a while, until the next election cycle starts back up.

I threw myself into Halloween and friends and blogging. I tried and failed to distract myself. Not only was the election impossible to avoid, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I watched my horror movies and read my scary short stories and couldn’t help but ask myself, How will we express what this election has wrought? What art will come out of this election?

Which brings me to John Carpenter’s political sci-fi-horror B-Movie classic, They Live.

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La Catrina – Icon of Death, Beauty, and Dia de Los Muertos

Today is All Saint’s Day! Or as we celebrate it in Texas, El Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday. For the uninitiated, El Die de los Muertos is a vibrant, introspective holiday devoted to remembering the dead. Those who celebrate the holiday will tend to the graves of their deceased loves ones, cleaning the tombstones, arranging flowers and altars, and leaving food and small offerings. They do this to invite the spirits to visit, so that the departed will hear the prayers of their living relatives.

While this sounds like it could be morbid and depressing, El Di de los Muertos is actually cheerful and uplifting. People are encouraged to remember the dead fondly by recounting happy and funny stories about them. This attitude carries over into the festival itself, which is often whimsically macabre and very enjoyable.

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Marfa, Train Tracks, and Haunted Hotels: The Best Texas Ghost Stories

October is slowly coming to a close, and Halloween is almost here. Since I’ve been doing my Halloween Blogging Blitz, I’ve reflected a great deal on scary stories. Why do we tell them? Why do we listen to them?

I hope that, if you’ve been following any of my posts, that you’ve learned that so many horror films and books are art. And as art, they help us reflect upon reality: our prejudices, our fears, our secret desires. The right ghost story has much to teach us.

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Creep Yourself Out – 10 of the Best Scary Podcasts

One of the regrets I have about growing up is that I no longer experience “Story Time.” It sounds silly, and maybe it is, but I really loved sitting quietly and listening to a teacher or parent tell me a story. Who didn’t love Story Time as a kid? Especially around Halloween, when the teacher might bust out a worn, cherished copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Even as a teenager, when I attended summer camp, we regularly stayed up to tell creepy stories. We took turns telling ghost stories around a literal campfire.

Such stories, told with the human voice, possess their own kind of magic. There’s something genuine and compelling about a lone voice weaving a story in the night, while others listen in complete silence. There is the gravitas of ritual, the authenticity of an intimate story, and the hard-to-deny possibility that maybe it’s real after all. Without the spectacle of movies or the artful words of a book, you’re left with the truth, right? Possibly?

These days, I can satisfy my love for stories with movies, television shows, novels, short stories, and comics whenever I want. But they don’t approximate that shivery joy of listening to a person tell you a spooky story.

That’s why I love podcasts. With the right podcast, I can find that same thrill combined with wonderfully complex, creepy stories that fold and unfold, drawing in threads and characters and events that transport me to an entirely different world. Using only the power of the human voice.

In honor of Halloween, I want to share some of my favorite scary podcasts with you. These podcasts vary from graphic true crime, to macabre accounts of historical events, to fictional audio plays. They’re all compelling in their own ways, keeping readers, including myself, coming back for more week after week.

Enjoy!

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The History of Halloween, Part 2: Colonies, Immigration, and WWII

In my last post, I explored the historic origins of Halloween before it came to America, turns out, this secular American holiday started out as a Pagan celebration in the British Isles. Thanks to the influence of the Ancient Romans, I persisted into the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church strategically turned the holiday into a celebration of saints, martyrs, and the faithful dead.

There are tons of similarities between present day Halloween and Halloween as it was celebrated hundreds of years ago—costumes to scare away bad spirits, veneration for the dead, respect for the bounty of all before the long winter, and community unification. For a time, Halloween held religious significance for its participants; yet this is not the case for most Americans.

What happened?

Let’s dive in, starting with the birth of America.

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The History of Halloween, Part 1: Celts, Romans, and Catholics

Halloween’s current incarnation as an American holiday is focused mainly on secular pursuits. As I wrote about in my latest blog post, Halloween is a time to come together and indulge a part of ourselves we don’t acknowledge during the rest of the year. We dress up, we throw spooky parties, we trick-or-treat. We also spend a ton of money on Halloween, shelling out nearly $7.4 billion dollars for Halloween in 2015. $2 billion dollars of that was spent on candy alone. It proves to be a nice shot in the arm for the stock market, buoying the economy until the holiday shopping season rolls around.

Halloween has come a long way from its beginnings as a harvest festival, from the ancient Celts to the Romans to Medieval Catholics to Irish immigrants traveling to America. Halloween, like all holidays, speaks volumes about the society that celebrates it. As the people observing Halloween evolve, so does the holiday. The magic of holidays like Halloween lies in the threads of truth that speak to all peoples. There are certain rituals that have persisted and will persist in for as long as we celebrate Halloween, cutting across gender, race, religion, socio-economic position, geography, ethnicity, and nationality.

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