This is Halloween

This will be the first of two posts that you will see today.

I spent a lot of weeks before and during Halloween differently. When I was a child I would be inundated with television specials, movies, school events, and trick-or-treating. As an adolescent, I spent some time with my group of friends. In my early adulthood I spent a lot of it by myself trying to remember how happy I used to be and imagining all the other people who were having fun that I did not. I spent the rest of my young adulthood, alternatively, with friends and sometimes on my own.

I almost went to a Halloween party last year but I didn’t. I was too depressed and I did what I often do in that state: sleep and work.

This past while I’ve been doing something different for Halloween. Instead of wandering around outside at night in the dark aimlessly, or watching television, or hanging out with friends and lovers I have been busy.

I have been busy.

Last week or so, I covered six films in the 2014 Toronto After Dark for GEEKPR0N. I even covered an extra day, a Wednesday, so I could watch one film that was recommended to me. Those of you that read this Blog or my work at GEEKPR0N already know about this. I wrote reviews on The Drownsman, Wolves, Late Phases, Wyrmwood, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and Why Horror?

And it was difficult. There were many times I thought I could just watch the films, then go straight home, and write something out that night. But even though I got wiped out, it was totally worth it. The irony is that once, long ago, I was told that I should write reviews for movies — or movies like these — and I didn’t think I was qualified to do so. It’s only in relatively recent times that I’ve realized that the only way to be qualified to do anything is to make yourself so, and start to believe it.

I got some other things published in honour of Halloween as well. Not only did I write a nice short article on the end of Kris Straub’s Broodhollow Book Two, but I got to examine and see just how a creepypasta created by Eric Heisserer the subreddit no/sleep truly lures readers into fear and trepidation. If you have read my articles on creepypastas, you know something of what you might be in for when you read this particular piece of mine.

But I think there is one achievement in particular that I can really be proud of mentioning. Do you recall, that week or so ago before I went off the Mythic Bios grid again, that I was doing another interview: this one live and in-person? Well, with the help and guidance of GEEKPR0N and Toronto After Dark organization … the following actually occurred.

David Hayter Fav and Retweet

Not only did David Hayter, the screen writer of the first two X-Men films and Watchmen as well as the voice of Solid Snake favourite and retweet my review of his movie Wolves I also got to interview him before Werewolf Night at the Toronto After Dark.

You can find my interview with David Hayter right here.

So that has been my time leading up to Halloween so far. The rest of what I intend to do, however, is as follows. Later this evening I am going to the Silver Snail Halloween Party: the same one I didn’t end up attending last year. I don’t have a costume idea as of yet and I’m having some difficulty finding make-up after my last misadventure but I’m going and to anyone living in Toronto or nearby, I hope that you will join me. It’s organized by GEEKPR0N, in part, and it makes some pretty awesome parties and I don’t intend to miss this one this time around.

The next day I’m going to the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery to pay a visit to Drawing For Deb: In Support of Epilepsy Toronto. There will be signings and a 12-Hour Comics Marathon: Special Edition there to raise money to combat epilepsy which claimed the life of Debra Jane Shelly: a well-known friend of the comics community and someone that I only began to know when I first started coming to the Lounge. She was an awesome person and there will be some good people there. I’ve realized long ago that I am just not an artist with pictures, so I will be attending to pay my respects and I may not be there the entire day.

And then the next day I will be going to Horror-Rama: an all-horror convention where I want to explore and particularly meet Jovanka Vuckovic: the brilliant upcoming director of the Jacqueline Ess film adaptation.

Then somewhere, somehow I will catch up with my Doctor Who recaps and next week get back to my fiction writing and probably sleep for a few centuries as I am bloody exhausted.

So this is both what I have been doing, and what I am going to do. It’s funny. When I was reviewing Why Horror? I started thinking about just how it is effective. When I was a child I read many abridged versions of horror stories, listened to and read written down folktales and urban myths. And I would spend time in the now-defunct Hollywood Movies store reading the backs of horror film VHS tapes. I would attempt to avoid watching them, scared of being caught in the web of their details and becoming committed, but so very fascinated with what I might find.

Not much has changed. I think the reason that horror is so fascinating is the fact that when you look at all the gore, the grisliness, and the uncanny you see what you are not and you also get to see a bit of what you are. You are ultimately safe and in sensible surroundings, or so you think, and it gives you a rush of life — of vitality — in the autumn.

That’s why some people have sex after watching horror. That’s why some people have an urge to create stories and study mythologies after watching horror. That’s why people gather around their friends and celebrate their grisly façades: the orange light in the darkness. That’s ultimately why I’m rambling right now.

I’ve spent my life fascinated by, and avoiding life. But it lures you in. It is the ultimate horror but it is also a spectacle, and best experienced in good company. I hope that, today in sharing all of this with you, that I got to be the latter.

Happy Halloween, my friends.

Building On Speculation: Eric Heisserer and The Door That Isn’t There

There are many kinds of doors. Some close, some remain open, some never exist, and some … remain unseen. Until it is too late.

It is the season for horror. But, for online horror, the season started early. Just three months ago My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook was a story spread like a trail of goosebumps from the subreddit r/nosleep to creep out and outright terrify readers on the Internet.

I am very interested in these kinds of stories. They are often called creepypastas: essentially online urban myths and, for lack of a better word, folktales with elements of the uncanny copy-and-pasted across many forums and message boards. Some of these stories have no authors, or none have disclosed themselves while other writers proclaim themselves and their stories as works of fiction and horror after they have become viral. Jeff the Killer is a haphazard example of a creepypasta without named authors that’s circulated for some time, while Candle Cove is the creation of Kris Straub which got circulated and promoted as true on other sites.

But then there are the others: the ones that write their narratives as though they are true and they leave it open as to whether or not you, as the reader, should believe them. They create a door out of the corner of your perception to let your imagination inform you of what you will see if you dare to step through.

Enter Eric Heisserer and his … door.

Eric Heisserer himself is a horror writer and director but, before that, he created an online epistolary horror story called The Dionaea House: a narrative made up of a series of correspondence outlining the investigation and disappearance of friends in a particular house.  You see, I thought I knew Heisserer from his directing work but I actually remembered coming across this story in my research for creepypastas. Eric Heisserer created this work in 2004 — a piece that actually gave him the opportunity to get into screenwriting and directing — and, as such, is no stranger to the kind of writing and mentality in creating a creepypasta. So that might “solve” some questions with regards to the truth behind his current story.

Cautionary message: do not read past this point if you don’t want spoilers. You have been warned or if you’d like, I’d turn back if I were you.

His account begins as Information I’m dumping here for safe keeping on reddit. You might want to view Dread Central‘s version of the story in their article Eric Heisserer Details a Truly Horrific Account as well: not only does it seamlessly incorporate the hyperlinked images directly into the text,  it is also easier to follow.

With regards to this story, there is already some suspension of disbelief needed by that title alone, but r/nosleep has a policy for interacting with any story in its jurisdiction as true. Basically a friend of a friend named Kevin is searching for his sister who went missing in her house some time ago. You then find out that Kevin’s sister Gwen and her estranged husband Robert lost their child Dash: who simply vanished from his room in that same house.

Dash's Room Heisserer

Robert moves back into the house after Gwen’s disappearance and starts to impede any investigation on Heisserer or Kevin’s part. So we already have a few horror tropes and devices happening here: the series of derivative horror stories sent to Heisserer and the one exception, the “friend of a friend,”  a suspicious husband, and of course people going missing in a house. You can also see the similarities between this situation and the disappearances within Heisserer’s The Dionaea House along with some of the epistolary format — what with the first-person perspective and the addition of journal entries — but there are some differences.

For instance, Eric Heisserer is the primary narrator of this story as opposed to his persona and the other fictional narratives that made up The Dionaea House. And there is the nature of the epistolary format. While it’s true that in The Dionaea House Heisserer creates constant additions and updates to Mark’s investigation with links to other characters’ blogs, chat logs, text messages and the like, his subreddit account has something else.

This is in the form of Gwen’s hobby, created to deal with the obsessive compulsive disorder she apparently developed after Dash went missing, and it’s the element that expands the scope of the story and makes it both truly creepy and utterly fascinating.

Essentially, Gwen began researching and practising an obscure form of photography: branching from her fascination with its infra-red variant. This leads to the inclusion of some interesting graphic evidence and the addition of a journal written in the Philippines from 1954 by a photographer’s assistant named Salazar.

Salazar Journal Heisserer

In the initial thread of the story, we see that the scans of the journal entries are all in a dialect of Filipino which Eric Heisserer and Kevin can’t read. Instead there are some disturbing images there to entertain us in the meantime.

And then we get updates and some translations. It also gets better due to the fact that while The Dionaea House adds to its narrative through hyperlinks and blog comments, commentaries in the subreddit actually expand on what could be going on in the latter narrative. The story seems to be participatory: like an improvised collaboration around a camp fire of digital information and helpful hyperlinks. People seem to be helping Eric Heisserer build a nightmare. They are building a nightmare together. This is how viral creepypastas happen

I honestly hope that this story will continue or lead into another project despite “Robert” filing a “cease and desist order” against Eric Heisserer. But in any case, there is a very intriguing comment with which I’d like to end this article.

Salazar Ink Heisserer

In the special form of photography that Salazar creates and Gwen adopts from his journal, one of the chemical developing agents is derived from the leaves of balete or banyan trees. According to an excerpt from a Wikipedia article the commenter StudiousIdiot, among other spiritual connotations “A number of these [balate trees] are known as strangler figs wherein they start upon other trees, later entrapping them entirely and finally killing the host tree,” to which the commenter adds “That other photo we haven’t seen yet – the one with the unseen house? It chills me to read that while thinking of what might be growing there.”

The Jungian image of a new home connected to an old and decrepit old larger house that you can only see when something else points it out to you is precisely just what a creepypasta can become: a story that is linked to an ordinary reality that can turn into a viral meme, an ever-evolving horror mythos, and even a dionaea — a venus flytrap — that can capture your fascination, your fear, and swing shut behind your soul forever. And I hope I and others will get to see the process of its expansion and entrapment over the imaginations of many more.

Pleasant dreams everyone.

eric heisserer door