Day 9: Lovecraftian Nightmare Kid’s TV

James Bridle introduces the wide world of batshit youtube videos aimed at children, that look like they were developed by robots. It’s very Molochian, up to and including “eating the brains of children willingly offered up by adults for a moment’s convenience”.

Go ahead and wade into the dark forest for a while. See what you can find in this ecosystem of soulless entertainment.

Spiderman appears in many of these videos. Occasionally, there are entire Spider Families consisting of many Spidermen in different sizes. They are never seen outside of their spiderman suits. In this one, he fidgets around the screen for two minutes while the Finger Family song plays. Unlike the title implies, no cows appear.

This one has 13 million views. The first comment in its comments section:

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Is this hell? Am I dead?

We must imagine Spiderman happy.

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Day 5 – Skeletons!

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The animated skeleton is an undercharacterized undead monster. Because it takes a long time for a corpse to rot away to bone, it implies age in a way that a zombie or ghoul doesn’t. Age and being left alone in the mean time. It also lacks most of its identifying features – face melted to a surreal grin, anonymized by time. (Bones made an eight-season TV show out of the information still contained in a skeleton, but almost none of that is apparent to an observer without a forensics lab.) But your skeleton is still your innermost core, your deepest self. What gets left behind when nothing else remains?

Animated skeletons are a staple Creepy Monster in Halloween media, alongside the standard werewolves, zombies, vampires, devils, mummies, Frankensteins, etc. I’m actually surprised that skeletons haven’t seen more of a heyday in popular media, at least as characters rather than medium-low difficulty video game enemies. Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas is one example, although nothing focused on the fact that he was a skeleton. I’m also told that Undertale was a big win for animated skeletons. I haven’t played it myself. Don’t @ me.

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Skellertons: partying hard since 1493.

Why don’t we romanticize them? Is there Twilight, but for skeletons? (You get one “boning” joke. That was it. Nobody can make any more in the comments.) Here are some conceivable hooks for a Sexy Skeleton Romance Novel:

  • Skeletons don’t have skin, so a skeleton has to wear other skins / assume other appearances to move around the normal world. Hijinks and confusion ensue.
  • There’s a magical correspondence between the flesh that once lives on your body, and the trappings of a life you once treated as equally essential. Once a skeleton puts together pieces of their old life, or builds a new one, they magically gain a body again.
  • A necromancer has resurrected a skeleton to carry out some task for them. Either the target of the task, or the necromancer themself, falls for the skeleton over time.
  • Confused queer love stories. Male and female skeletons look pretty much the same. What are you supposed to do when you’ve fallen in love with a living human, and you think she thinks you’re a man, but you’re not sure how to broach the topic, and you can’t just talk about it, because… you are a skeleton and you have no vocal cords.

One thing that almost fits this is actually the original 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. You might be more familiar with Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s musical, and especially with the suave, handsome phantom from the 2009 movie, who had a half-deformed face, but the rest of the face and body of Gerard Butler. But Leroux’s deranged musical genius was described as skeletal all over, with no nose and sunken black eyes making his face a “death’s-head”. Then again, the point of the book is, of course, that the Phantom is human after all. (His name is Erik. No, I’m not kidding.)

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Erik, get down from there. [Illustration from the first American edition of Leroux’s book, by Andre Castaigne.]
For any entrepreneurial writers reading, note that the Amazon Kindle Store’s Paranormal Romance section – replete with modern dime-store novels for any genre from asexual werewolf romance to selkie “reverse harem” romance – does not sell any skeleton romances.

This fertile field is wide open.

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John Karel makes some quality sklemmermons.

Day 3 – Shepard Tones

Shepard tones are an aural experience produced by playing several note together that rise or fall together. The top note fades out, and a new bottom note starts rising (or vice versa), creating an auditory optical illusion that seems to continuously get higher and higher (or lower and lower) eternally.

You can also play both an ascending one and a descending one at the same time. This particular version has sliders for each component sound that you can adjust louder or softer to explore how the noise works.

Take note: This is not a pleasant sound. Some people also experience nausea or anxiety when listening to it.

Here you go.

Day 2 – The Devil’s Hoofprints

The story tells of a chilly February morning in 1855. Smoke from the night’s fires puffing up through chimneys. Villagers across the countryside of Southern England woke up to a strange sight: trails of large hoofprints in the thick snow, in single file. These trails crossed the county back and forth, making about a hundred mile journey. The tracks crossed rivers, wound through cities, and most disconcertingly were seen going straight up houses, across the roofs, and going down the other side, without a break. What or who would have left this one-legged gait?

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This text and image is reproduced from Mysteries of the Unexplained, a 1982 publication of The Reader’s Digest Association

This is the first of a few Month of Halloween treats you’ll see drawn from Mysteries of the Unexplained. An early childhood staple of mine (originally making its appearance in my elementary school library), it contains a vast variety of mysterious news reports and anecdotes on a variety of subjects. The concept and some of the entries were borrowed wholesale from Charles Fort, a 1930’s writer who collected such stories as well and knit them together with his own bizarre philosophies. Mysteries of the Unexplained may be less original, but it at least pretends to maintain some objectivity, so there’s that.

(I’ve skimmed over some snippets of Fort’s writing and it reads like 1910’s newspaper journalism mixed with an advertisement for a salt lamp that purifies WiFi – which is to say, delightful.)

So as per everything that comes out of Fort and Mysteries of the Unexplained, I must clarify that this story possibly isn’t real. All of these accounts in this book came from someone and are written down as if infalliable, and probably a large number of them were invented wholesale. Or are at least garbled versions of something real. We know that drawings and a description of the event were published in a London newspaper in 1855, and evidence was collected by a vicar in the area around the same time.

It was certainly enough to scare me in middle school. And it’s a good story, right?

IT’S HAPPENING

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I really like Halloween and the fall season, but I never feel like I appreciate it enough. To help, I’ll be writing or sharing a little bit about something spooky, unsettling, or just seasonally appropriate every day this October.

See the About page for more.