Category Archives: Brain Burp
(Warning: mutilation/murder of children)
Growing up, my mother would tell me a gruesome story. When she was a teenager, it was discovered that the son of one of the neighbors killed children. He put the bodies in the woods but he kept their private parts in jars hidden in the basement.
On one hand, because my mom was telling this story, it had a little bit of weight to it. I don’t remember how old I was when she first told me, but I processed it like a fairy tale. And don’t forget – fairy tales themselves are gruesome, full evil step mothers and witches who eat children.
What was true in my elementary school mind was that the school janitor was a witch who lived in the woods. All of my classmates knew someone who knew someone who had found her house deep in the woods and been chased away.
Plus, I saw this woman with my own eyes and knew that she had long stringy hair like the witch in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Did I ever hear her cackle? No. Did she ever try to snatch me up in the hallway? No. But I stayed arms length away from her anyway.
The witch story had to be true because everybody knew.
My mother is the only one who remembered the killer across the street. My grandparents didn’t know anything about it. My friends hadn’t heard the story from their parents. If you are quiet and pretend to be concentrating on something else, you can overhear a lot of “grown folks business.” I never heard other adults mention it at all.
Also, the story was lean on specifics – neither the killer nor the victims had names. So, I thought my mother was mistaken.
Over the years, when I saw a horror or sci-fi movie that had ominous jars with flesh/limbs in the background of a scene, I remembered the story. When the Internet came along, I tried looking up the case but with few facts I always came up empty.
Everything changed with the Serial podcast. I listened to the first season interested in the mystery like everyone else. I could envision the Baltimore City and Baltimore County locations. In one episode, a guest mentioned a website that listed all of the bodies found in Leakin Park over the years.
It was easy to find. Near the beginning where the names and ages of children. The page also mentioned the name of the murderer. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so scared. Could this be the story fragmented in my mom’s memory?
With the additional info, I found an article from the Washington African American about the capture of the killer – an 18-year-old unemployed janitor. The front page story delved into the gruesome details of case. It included his address. This was the killer across the street.
Going further, I looked him up on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website to figure out the outcome of the trial. He was found criminally insane and locked away in a state mental facility. Every once in a while he tries to get released…
I’ve known about this for a while and tried to write about it a couple of times, but I just couldn’t. I don’t want to forget or try to bury it away, but it feels “wrong” to just throw out the names of children I don’t know. Could they have siblings—parents even—that are still alive? Whatever terror I felt about learning the truth behind the urban legend is nothing compared to the hell and horror they experienced firsthand.
Also, since this killer is alive, I don’t want him or anyone connected with him to see his name mentioned anywhere in the universe. But you can the read the article here.
Like I said in Part 1, I listen to a lot of podcasts during the week. As you may have gleaned from the title, this batch is mostly about movies.
Why I Listen: Two black women talking about various aspects of the horror genre, what’s not to love? Movie reviews get 2 ratings – 1 for the overall movie; 1 for character diversity.
Fav Episodes: Any of Them
The Scream Squad is a bi-weekly horror podcast hosted by Jamie Righetti and Chico Leo which digs into the deeper issues at play in our favorite scary movies.
Why I Listen: Because I sometimes wonder how gentrification impacts the plot of a haunted house movie.
Len Webb and Vince Williams are on The Micheaux Mission – to watch and review every Black feature film ever released.Frequently include guests.
Why I Listen: Because I like black movies. (Be warned – one of these fellas does not acknowledge the glory of The Last Dragon.)
Fav Episodes: Definition of A Black Film | Love Jones | Eve’s Bayou
Cinemosity – Sharon, Kamille and Martin bring you a potent blend of celebrity gossip and rumor and reviews of b-movies, bad movies, and genre film. Your weekly dose of Starlets, Slashers and Cyborgs!
Why I Listen: To keep up with movie news and lively discussion of (mostly bad) movies.
Fav Episodes: The Fog (horrible remake)
More podcasts to come…
Update – Even though it’s not a podcast, one of my favorite weekly sources for horror/sci fi entertainment news is Collider Nightmares:
Once upon a time (about a decade or so ago), I used to listen to radio while in the office. Online streaming meant I could slip on my headphones and have NPR in the background all day. Over time, I got tired of listening to the same voices and, when I finally got an iPhone, found myself navigating to podcasts.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorites. (In no particular order.)
Helga Davis is a probing conversation podcast which explores the provocative issues surrounding what it means to be an artist and a citizen in the 21st Century.
Why I Listen: The conversations are insightful and Helga’s voice is a relaxing combo of warmth, comfort and love.
Girl On Guy with Aisha Tyler is a show about art, culture, booze, comedy, family, physical injuries, psychological bruises, action movies, rock music, ninjas, zombies, failure, success, sacrifice, video games, and blowing shit up.
Why I Listen: Great conversations, get to know the “person” behind the star/persona
Hosted by award winning international journalist Esther Armah, The Spin is a weekly hour long podcast featuring women of color talking policy, social justice, race, sex, power.
Why I Listen: activists, artists, journalist and organizers talking about problems and solutions.
Fav Episodes: The Consent Convo series
Hosted by Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds, Get It Right analyzes pop culture through the lenses of justice, and particularly reproductive justice.
Why I Listen: Thought provoking discussions of pop culture. I hope they do a season 2.
Fav Episodes: Hip Hop’s History of Reproductive Justice
Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro is a brand new podcast series that will explore the origin stories, character development, and story arcs of our favorite Black superheroines in comics.
Why I Listen: This is a brand new podcast, I’m looking forward to learning more about these characters.
Done with these? Move on to Pod Party 2.
Doublespeak, constant surveillance, alternative facts, the pursuit and maintenance of power at all cost… Of course, I’m talking about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. These books are just flying off of the shelves.
Animal Farm is one of my favorite books. It’s a tale about animals who revolt against the farmer who is oppressing them (forcing them into labor, killing them, etc) and what happens after they win. Driving off the humans is one thing, creating new rules to run the farm is another. In truth, it’s a story about the Russian Revolution (Lenin, Trotsky and the gang) but the allegory does not depend on your knowledge of Russian history to work.
If you are in an Orwellian frame of mind, here are some other media suggestions:
David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and The 1980 Floor Show
At one time, David Bowie wanted to create a musical based on 1984 but the Orwell estate wasn’t interested. Those songs were incorporated into Diamond Dogs, an album that cast a very dark image of the future.
While the musical itself didn’t happen, you can get an idea of what Bowie was going for in The 1980 Floor Show (recorded over 3 days in October 1973):
Can you imagine what would happen if Monty Python got their hands on Orwell’s 1984 and made a movie? You don’t have to imagine–it kinda happened. In 1985, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame directed Brazil – a film that’s a spiritual cousin of 1984. See, a worker – a cog in the wheel of a totalitarian government tries to correct a mistake and all hell breaks loose:
*An alternative title for this post: They’ll Split Your Pretty Cranium And Fill It Full Of Air
Listening to Hip Hop’s History of Reproductive Justice, the 2nd episode of the Get It Right podcast, brought back to mind a song that meant a great deal to me in the early 90s: None Of Your Business by Salt-N-Pepa.
Picture it: It’s 93/94, I’m in college and thinking a whole lot about my sexual orientation. What do you do when your realize that your attractions and desires run counter to all of the religious/political/social programming you’ve received? So, I was learning a foreign language (statistics), trying to get up the courage date girls and deal with internal conflict (who am I/who I’m expected to be).
Salt-N-Pepa’s None Of Your Business helped with one of those problems. If there ever was an anthem dismissing hypocrites who get off on regulating the sexuality/sensuality of others–this is it. This song was everything to me. Starting off from the intro: What’s the matter with your life / Why you gotta mess with mine / Don’t keep sweatin what I do / Cuz I’m gonna be just fine.
Now, of course the scenarios mentioned in the song are hetero — women being judged on their dealings with men. When I saw the video and my mind exploded: “oh my God, there are gay people in this. They are talking about me too!”
Check out the cluster of folks dancing/writhing and shouting “None Of Your Business!”
I felt so affirmed. This song wasn’t the only thing that helped me figure out that it was okay to be myself but it felt really good to have media/entertainment from black artists reflecting that too.
(See also: The Woman to Woman episode of Living Single.)
*Get It Right is a podcast that analyzes pop culture through the lenses of justice, and particularly reproductive justice.
Over the past week, I’ve been reading I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi and Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack.
I’ve been a fan of Luvvie’s blog, awesomelyluvvie.com, for a while; she’s a fun, witty writer. Even when she’s tackling hard and potentially draining subjects like racism, sexism, homophobia etc – she releases some tension with a zinger or two. The essays cover everything from hygiene to culture to social media etiquette and beyond.
The chapters on social media and internet fame should be required reading for teens/young adults before they are given free reign to interface with the internet. They would probably discard these words of wisdom at first–because, no matter how many signs, some people don’t know the stove is hot before getting burned–but it would be nice to have it to come back to after a troll is gloating and gleeful about their trauma.
Ytasha L. Womack’s Afrofuturism is a great introduction to the subject. It’s written for a general audience and covers the history and development of Afrofuturism in the US. It explores the concept through art/music/literature and cultural thought. This book isn’t an end–it’s a beginning. With every chapter, I’m jotting down notes about artists/thinkers/past conferences etc that I need to learn more about.
It also introduces ideas and questions that I’m still turning over in my mind. For example, the challenge of creating and envisioning a future in a world/society that wants desperately to erase your (and it’s own) past…
Both books highly recommended.
I need to treat new horror movies like iOS updates – wait a week and see how it all shakes out. But, alas, I have wasted my money. Don’t waste yours.
Anyway, the lessons:
- Don’t go camping with strangers.
- Don’t go camping with people who make you feel uncomfortable.
- Don’t go into haunted woods were people have been murdered, have disappeared etc without some kind of plan for survival. Don’t treat it like you are spending the night at Jellystone. True, the plan probably won’t work, but at least have one.
- If you get hurt at the beginning of the trip, go back to town immediately. Don’t let people convince you to keep going. They aren’t your friends.
- LOUD NOISES ALONE DON’T MAKE A MOVIE SCARY!
- Don’t write sequels to movies and have new characters act as clueless/naive as previous characters.
- Don’t go camping. Play the Blair Witch Games instead.
- This is the 2nd movie I’ve seen this year with a sibling going into the woods to find a sister. I enjoyed The Forest more.
- In addition to Blair Witch, yesterday I also saw Iced (1988) and Island Claws (1980). The other two movies were more entertaining/fun.
- One character mentions the house at one time was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Blair Witch was “active” during the pre-civil war-maybe she was an accidental abolitionist? Whatevs.
(Disclaimer: Not a review of the new movie.)
I was excited to learn a few weeks ago that a horror movie called The Woods was actually a new Blair Witch movie in disguise. The first lucky folks to see it walked into a film festival expecting to check out The Woods. They didn’t realize it was a new Blair Witch the movie until it started playing. When the movie was over, all of posters in the theater had been changed to Blair Witch. This kicked off the marketing machine and a franchise that people thought had died in 2000 was back.
In prepping for the revival, everyone is talking about the first 2 movies. What I learned this week is how the success of the first Blair Witch did not trickle down to the original trio lost in the woods: Heather, Josh and Mike. A movie with a $75K budget, made $250M. They got to go on a few talk shows to promote the movie and fruit baskets.
Because the actors used their real names in the movies and those characters belong to the studio, any/all kinds of merchandising could be done without the actors getting a cut…
Heather Donahue recently wrote about the experience in The Guardian. Beyond not getting a share of the wealth, the trio got little credit for their part in making it a success:
It’s a strange thing to get no credit where credit is deeply due. By strange I mean shitty. We were supposed to be really scared, so we weren’t actors (all of us are formally trained). We improvised all dialogue from an outline, but we weren’t writers. We shot it and independently provided the impetus for many of the scenes you see in the film, but we were not directors. While this work became record-breakingly profitable, what we were was dead.
In other BW news, I didn’t realize that Blair Witch 2 – Book of Shadows started out as a decent (or at least better) film. The 1st Blair Witch was done independently and then picked up for distribution. The studio was involved with Book of Shadows from the beginning–and made a mess of it:
The whole Exploring Series done by GoodBadFlicks is pretty good.
Well, I’m off to the movies.
What I Learned This Week: Many of the guest stars in the Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble episode of Murder, She Wrote (1989) were also featured in 80s horror films.
I used to watch this show with my grandmother on, I think, Sunday nights. She recognized many of the stars and I was proud of myself when I started figuring out who did it before Jessica did.
Watching the series now as an adult (via Netflix), I’m picking up on lots of themes that were over my head. For example, there are quite a few episodes that feature a younger man/older woman romance. Also, what’s interesting to me is how Cabot Cove changes through the series. It goes from being a quiet coastal town to a place where rich/affluent outsiders will call you out of the blue willing to pay a small fortune to buy your home.
Anywho, the series itself was just good, murderous fun. In Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, the ghost of a witch who had been burned at the stake has returned to Cabot Cove. Also, the author of a book about that witch is in town to drum up publicity. Hmmm, I wonder if these two events are connected…
Guest stars include:
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Roddy McDowell (Fright Night / Fright Night 2)
Christopher Stone & Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling)
Russell Nype (The Stuff)
John York (Night of The Creeps)
There are probably more that I didn’t catch.
Here’s a clip showcasing Brad Dourif:
When they were teenagers, my grandmother helped saved her sister’s life. A snake bit my great aunt Susie; she screamed and took off running. My grandma chased her down while others ran for help. Grandma tore a strip of fabric from her own dress and tied it around around aunt Susie’s leg tight above the wound to keep the venom from spreading. Then, someone cut a baby chick in half and pressed it against the bite to draw the poison out. The half chick turned black–proof that the poison was being transferred to it.
Though she survived, Aunt Susie was “marked” by the snake for a little bit–her tongue would flicker out on it’s own.
To make homemade wine, you will need 1 gallon jug (if you use a milk jug, wash it out), a bowl, a funnel, a pound or so of white grapes, sugar, bread, water, a dark corner and time.
Rinse off the grapes, pull them from the vine and put them in the bowl.
Mash the grapes. You can use your hands or a potato masher. Make it good and pulpy.
Using the funnel, pour/push the grapes (juice, pulp, skin etc) into the gallon jug.
Dry the funnel. Then, use it to pour the sugar on top of the grapes. You want a layer of sugar on top of the grapes but not too much. Eyeball it.
Take your slices of bread and tear them into pieces. Not to small (crouton size), not to big. Push them into the jug (no funnel) until you have a full layer on top of the all of the sugar.
Fill the rest of the jug with water, seal it tight, give it a good shake and put it in a dark corner–the back part of the basement is best.
You’re going to leave it alone for 6 months to a year–except every few weeks or so (when you remember it’s there), go down and give it another shake.
When the wine is ready, pour it out of the jug, using a cheese cloth to strain out the skin, seeds, bread etc. The liquid that’s left is your wine. If you are planning for the wine to be ready in time for a holiday, make 2 jugs worth. Keep one for you and your family, the other you can pour into mason jars and give as gifts to your friends.