Weird fiction conjures up ideas of the supernatural, ghastly horror and the Gothic; this collection of wonderful tales doesn’t disappoint. With Halloween fast approaching, the dark evenings accompanied by candlelight – this book is the perfect companion to an evening of weird.

Women’s Weird is a collection edited by Melissa Edmundson and features thirteen women writers from 1890-1940, each individually handpicked to give you not only a scare but also food for thought on the idea of everyday life becoming rather weird.

The stories explore a vast array of ideas and occurrences that feed into our human psyche, the scares and the fear that we hear about in folklore and legend come to the surface in these stories. In some cases, these tales go beyond our primal fears and go into the world of the surreal, opening up new ideas and new fears for us to process.

The stories of years gone by often centred around ghosts, for example, a master of his craft M.R James spooked his readers with characteristic settings and afflicted spectres however, Women’s Weird, although in a similar vein, has the ability to take a normal life and turn it on its axis in the most frightening way. The book explores everything from supernatural entities to everyday objects taking on a life of their own.

Another reason why this collection is so special is its theme of the woman writer. Each story has a deeper meaning than just the plot, there are stories here that have taken our innermost anxieties and externalised them in order to produce the wonderful stories we have in front of us today.

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Paul Nougé popped up via Pinterest, usually a treasure trove of images for those of us who miss it the first time around. As a fan of surrealism and in particular photography; he intrigued me.

Between 1929 and 1930 he took an ordinary and rather inexpensive camera and starting taking photographs. They are at first glance seemingly normal looking scenes depicting scenes of people but if you look closer, they aren’t quite as ordinary as you first thought. They evoke a feeling of a by-gone era, weird scenes akin to Victorian parlours that hosted supernatural goings-on. What is also rather extraordinary about these images is how well lit, composed and photographed they are, little is known about Nougé and from what I can gather, he hadn’t prior experience of photography.

In 1968, a small book of his images was edited and published by Marcel Marien in a limited edition of 230 copies, half a year after Paul Nougé’s death, it was called The Subversion of Images. This book is now due to be republished in November 2019 for those of you who want to keep a more permanent edition of his work. Paul Nougé was a leading light of Belgian surrealism and continues to inspire many aspiring photographers and artists that wish to dabble in the world of the surrealists.

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Stephen Volk. Now there is a name that makes me sit up and listen.

I reviewed his novella, Whitstable a little while ago and was so enveloped in its beautiful story I remember carrying the feeling I had around with me for quite some time. Fast forward a few years and I welcome The Dark Masters Trilogy onto my reading pile. I was not disappointed.

The trilogy consists of three novellas, all with central characters that the seasoned horror fan will know very well. We have the wonderful Peter Pushing in Whitstable, Alfred Hitchcock in Leytonstone and a duo that I think would have been a joy to watch if they had met; the novelist Dennis Wheatley and the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley. Yes -what a cast of characters I hear you cry, and I quite agree. I won’t reveal too much as I beg you to purchase this gorgeous trilogy and be devoured by the words of a true horror master.

The first in this wonderful trio is Whitstable featuring Peter Cushing who is grief-stricken over the loss of his wife, he is mistaken for his Hammer persona Van Helsing by a young boy and is asked to undertake a spot of vampire hunting.

Leytonstone features the cinematic legend, Alfred Hitchcock. The story explores rather wonderfully the very foundations of Hitchcock’s interest in crime and punishment; pursuing it to the point that exposes what truly fuels a heart of darkness.

And finally there is Netherwood.  This is a story that you wish was a true account, two high profile personalities; Aleister Crowley and Dennis Wheatley come together to undertake a final magical working to combat evil.

Each story is beautifully written and deeply respectful to the figures we know and love in the history of magic and horror.  Stephen Volk has quite a gift and the trilogy is consistently brilliant. The dialogue is seamless, the plots have an addictive pace that urges you turn pages quicker than your fingers can manage. This is a writer that is absolutely at the top of his craft.

 

 

Denis Forkas Kostromitin currently resides in Moscow, Russia. His work is exquisite and could sit quite comfortably next to the work of William Blake with a clear love for the romantic age whilst gently weaving in elements of the macabre, death, religion and folklore. It is a beautifully dark world that one can lose themselves in.

You can find more of his work here

Divine Comedy
Miniature decorative motif (illustration for Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri/Purgatory, Canto 32), 2017 Acrylics on card, 11.4 x 11.4 cm

Aitna III
Aitna III / Three Immortal Archons*, 2017
Ink and acrylics on paper, 29.5 x 18.4 cm

The Emperor's Bath
The Emperor’s Bath. Study #5 from the Visio Tnugdali series, 2016
Acrylics on paper, 27,8 x 21,4 cm

Death and the maiden
Death and the Maiden, 2016
Acrylics on prepared paper, 34.8 x 28 cm

Solar Eclipse
Solar Eclipse (Apollo Inspires the Pythia)*, 2015
Acrylics and gilding on paper, 41.4 x 39.5 cm

I was alerted to this book by the fact that one of my favourite collectors Ryan Matthew Cohn was featured in its pages together with his wife. Without a second thought I ordered it as its content intrigued me and if everyone was as obsessive and particular about their collection as Ryan then I was in for a treat.

The book is beautifully printed and bound, it is a piece of art in itself. In fact it sits on one of my shelves with its cover facing the world as it looks so damn beautiful (bibliophile talking). As I thumbed through its pages I was introduced to each collector and I was entranced by the pieces that they had picked up on their travels. From ouija boards to human skulls to shrunken heads to nipple shields. Paul Gambino has certainly cast his net far and wide to bring some of the best collectors together including Nicole Angemi who has been noted as having the most controversial Instagram account online (if you aren’t squeamish then check her out). These are very genuine people with a very genuine passion and it is an absolutely wonderful collection of stories and photographs.

If you are just genuinely interested in the morbid curiosities of our culture then this book will educate you but if you are thinking of starting off your own collection then this will also give you some inspiration. This is definitely going to go down as one of my favourite books in my library.

Bryan began his career as a sculptor in 1984, working on many horror films such as the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Jumanji, Mortal Kombat,  Underworld 2 and The Cave and Backwater. His TV work includes Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, Love and Curses and the new Sci-Fi Channel special Monsters of the UFO.

He then spent five years as a staff sculptor at Mattel Toys working on such classic brands as Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Disney products.

In 2002, Bryan opened Arkham Studios and began to create occult and literary figures including such people as Anton Lavey and more recently H.P. Lovecraft. I caught up with Bryan to find out a little more about what inspires him and how he got to be involved in the world of film and TV.

So tell me, what are your first memories of discovering the world of horror?

When I was a kid, there were only 13 television stations and a few of them would show the old black and white Universal horror films every weekend, so there was ALWAYS an excellent education for horror. Also, the legendary Aurora Models were in full swing then, so it was a great time for a monster obsessed kid to grow up in. Pop culture REALLY was good to so many impressionable kids then. Along came the late seventies with now classic horror films like Dawn of the Dead and Fangoria magazine and man! I was hooked!

You have made some amazing pieces, how did you discover that sculpting would ultimately become your livelihood?

Well, as I mentioned, the great monsters of the Aurora plastics company were such an influence, but I never figured out the mechanics of how to sculpt something without the clay falling apart, so I drew instead. Keep in mind that those were the days before many TV shows and books would tell you HOW a clay figure was created, so to me that world simply didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the eighties came along that the garage kit hobby sort of happened, which was started by the Japanese. Garage kits were simply that: a sculptor would create a clay figure of a favorite movie monster in their garage, mold it and pump out as many resin copies as they could, stick the resin pieces in a zip-loc baggie and go down to the local hobby shop and ask the owner if they would sell them. Once the hobby caught on, it exploded almost overnight. It was a great time of learning, making new friends and really pushing your own art level and skill. I’m extremely fortunate in that

my drive to succeed, throw away my ego and be willing to learn from anyone that I could helped me to establish a career in the toy and consumer product world. I was a staff sculptor at Mattel Toys for many years and sculpted more Barbie shoes and Buzz Lightyear figures that I care to remember! The face of that business has changed, though and most toys are created in computer programs like Z-Brush and Maya these days. Very little is done by hand anymore.
As a fan of the franchise tell me how you got involved in working on A Nightmare on Elm Street?

Before I got into the toy business I was working on many, many horror films in my twenties. Back then you could make a living, but barely. It really depended on what FX shop you were able to find work at, or where you were willing to kiss ass or to be involved in the drug and party scene. Always being VERY anti-drug, it seemed to me that there was a LOT of that going on at the time and I never fit into that crowd. Didn’t want to, so I didn’t work as much as the guys who were willing to sacrifice their integrity to get jobs. Ah, youth……….anyway, yeah. I worked on a lot of horror films with numbers after the title and after a while that got really stale and old to me. I knew I was making rubber monsters for a living ,not finding the cure for cancer, but the showcase for all your hard work seemed really low end, so I was looking for a way out. That was when the toy thing started happening for me. To answer your question, an art director for the old
Tales from the Darkside show that I worked on called me up and said “Hey! we need 200 skeletons for the new Freddy movie! Can you knock ’em out? You’re workshop will be right across the street from the LA County Jail!” As the Wizard of Oz said…..”Times being what they were, I took the job.”

602139_550557791641407_554295784_nYou have sculptured such figures as Anton Lavey and Alistair Crowley. What draws you to the occult?

Well, I think an interest in the occult might go hand in hand with an interest in horror, so I read lots of books on Crowley and LaVey and immediately recognized them for the carnies and showmen that they were. Some would say charlatans, but to me a charlatan is someone without a sense of humor. Crowley came off more like a druggie and a trust fund brat, but I liked LaVey and his philosophy. That interest led to my ten year involvement with the Church of Satan which I recently distanced myself from. In the ten years that I was involved with it, I can truly say that I did my best to raise the bar for that organization, especially creating and producing the Satanic High Mass held on 6/6/06. It was the largest gathering of Satanists in the world. It’s never happened before and I highly doubt it will ever happen again. How do I know this? It’s HARD WORK, that’s why. I’m driven in ways that most others aren’t. LaVey’s whole basis for his philosophy was to foster “real world accomplishment”. Very few people seem to grasp this concept and put it into action.

I’m still very much into the occult and the study of the subject. It’s fascinating reading and my library is growing every week with old, forgotten tomes. Many objets de’ arte in my home are of an occult nature, mostly my own work. A current study is Satan himself, or at least a very Miltonian Satan. I’m inspired by the depictions of Satan in the works of Gustav Dore’ and many others. The Dore Bible and his illustrated “The Inferno” is wonderful reference if you’re interested in the Devil. Another influence is the guidance of my mentor Kenneth Anger, who has graciously given me countless books and photographs of other artist’s renditions of the Devil and specifically Lucifer. So much so that I incorporated Anger’s face into a recent bust of Lucifer that I created. He’s been a true friend and like a father to me. He’s the real deal all the way and I’m extremely fortunate to count him as a treasured friend.

H.P Lovecraft has obviously been a huge influence in your work, tell me, how did you come across his works and what is it about his work that inspires you?

Well, like many, I encountered Lovecraft as a teen in dusty old paperbacks, but his work hadn’t really been a part of modern culture like it is today. Once I saw films based on his work, it really opened up a whole cottage industry for many others to become artists, writers, sculptors, et al to use his life and work as an influence. I’m no exception as many pieces that I sculpt are based on his work. I even made a film based on his story “Cool Air” and am quite proud of it. It’s always VERY flattering when strangers write or approach me at film festivals and say that it’s one of the most faithful adaptations of his work that they’ve seen. The success of “Cool Air” just helped me secure financing for my next Lovecraft film, although i can’t announce it yet. Needless to say, we shoot in may, 2014 and it’s the story you’ve been waiting for. 😉

We can’t do an interview without mentioning the HP Lovecraft bust. Why did you decide this had to happen?

The HP Lovecraft bronze bust happened out of hardship. I had just bought my first home and was counting on three toy sculpting jobs. They all fell through in the same week that I closed escrow so I needed to figure something out fast. I thought I’d like to try my hand at a lifesize bust, but had never done a bronze bust before. None of it happened overnight and it took a long time to simply find a location in Providence, Rhode Island that would take it. No one wanted it. I called Jovanka Vuckovic, who I had known for a long time and she was really the genius behind securing the funding for it through the Kickstarter funding platform. Once Jovanka had laid out the business strategy for the project, we were off and running and worked from the USA and Canada for six months, often putting in 18 hour days. So many gracious folks helped to fund the project including film industry giants Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, Stuart Gordon and many others. I am
beyond humbled at the generosity of so many wonderful people and it’s a kindness that I never take for granted. I blubbered like a baby at the unveiling and it was easily one of the greatest moments of my life. The real accomplishment came when the project team and I were able to make a sizeable donation in Lovecraft’s name to the Children’s Literacy Program in the Providence Community Library system.

And finally, what are your upcoming plans that you can share with our readers?

Sure thing. Right now I’m finishing writing the script for my next film and just got back from a location scout in Boston Harbor. It’s a Lovecraft story and we’ll be shooting next May. It’s a period piece and one of his most well known stories. Sometimes I wake up wondering when this dream come true will end, but it doesn’t seem to be. I’m not dumb enough to question it.

The Victorians liked to be entertained and the usual freak shows that did their rounds were of the very best entertainment for them. Little was known of the true medical problems that these people endured resulting in them making money through their afflictions. One young gentleman we have all heard of is Joseph Merrick: The Elephant Man.

Many books have been written about him but one film that screamed to be watched was the 1980 film The Elephant Man directed by David Lynch and starring John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins. I had never actually seen it before, in fact it has been sat on my shelf with the other Lynch movies for years, I decided to watch it with a little trepidation. Why? Well someone once told me that it was the saddest film they had ever watched. I certainly wasn’t prepared for how I felt or what I saw neither was I prepared for the lasting impression a film would have on me.

The Elephant Man is the tale of Joseph Merrick (scripted as John in the film) whose deformities allowed him to become a spectacle in a freak show; a job of his own choosing due to poverty and his inability to find work. A surgeon from a London hospital, Frederick Treves was able to take him away from the brutality of his “employer” and help him to become well whilst introducing him to his medical peers. The Doctor is fully aware that he cannot be cured but does help him find a permanent home at the hospital, away from any harm or ridicule. We follow Merrick’s life up to his death at just 27 years old.

Lynch has managed to find a balance between the detailed aesthetic of the time and the depth of the characters. Whilst we feel that we are walking the foggy streets of East London, we are also deeply involved in the life of Merrick – feeling every inch of his pain and being jubilant when he finds happiness in normal everyday events. It is quite the journey and our emotions are thrown from pillar to post, from anger to sadness to happiness – it’s quite exhausting but worth every second of it.

It is a wonderful piece of cinema that hits you in the heart with its raw portrayal of true human suffering and happiness.

The BFI have a great video about the make-up effects on the film, CLICK HERE to have a look.

 

Loren has been on our radar for a while now after reading issues of her fabulously dark magazine Morbid Curiosity. We wanted to ask her a few questions about how she became to lurk on the dark side of life (and death).

Where did your interest in the macabre come from?

I grew up on a farm outside of Flint, Michigan, so the combination of raising animals to eat and watching a big city die made me a bit morbid — plus my family’s farm is down the road from the graveyard where members of my family are buried.

What is your opinion of the western world’s outlook on death?

I am so immersed in studying cemeteries that I forget sometimes that “normal” people don’t arrange their vacations around the graveyards they want to visit. For instance, I went to Rouen in June pretty much just to see the Aitre Saint Maclou, which is the last surviving medieval ossuary square in Europe. The atrium began as a plague pit in the 14th century and served as a graveyard up until 1781. During that time, people were buried in a mass grave until the flesh came off their bones, then the skeletons were exhumed and stored in the cloister that surrounds the ground. There aren’t any bodies there now, but the surviving buildings are decorated with skulls, spades, coffins: all kinds of lovely things. It’s a beautiful, peaceful space, well worth going out of my way for. Best of all, the buildings around the atrium have housed a school of fine arts since the 1940s. For those students, memento mori are daily inspirations. I think you have to draw a distinction between western society in Europe, which keeps the dead around — especially in churches — for hundreds of years and American cities, many of which uprooted their pioneer graveyards when the dead got in the way of commerce. In America, death is what happens to poor unfortunates who don’t fight it hard enough. It’s never going to happen to those who eat right and exercise hard enough. Maybe, if we close our eyes, it will go away.

Reading through your magazine Morbid Curiosity, some people would think you were weird to put together such a compendium of morbid and macabre stories. What would you say to these people?

I think they’re weird. Morbid Curiosity collected personal essays about unsavoury, unwise, unorthodox, and unusual behaviour. It wasn’t enough that people had strange things happen to them, they also had to examine how those experiences changed their lives. Anyone who’d find that uninteresting isn’t interested in life.

What are your favourite things to do in your spare time?

I blog at CemeteryTravel.com now, writing about cemeteries as travel destinations. The research, travel, and photography take up a lot of my time. I have a daughter, so I do what I can to encourage her to be curious and brave. She wants to grow up to be a veternarian, so we study animals together. In my spare time, I think my favorite thing of all is to have a good, long conversation with someone. A real face-to-face conversation seems such a luxury these days. It practically has to be scheduled in advance.

As you mention cemeteries quite a bit, what would your epitaph say?

It’s changed over the years. When I published Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries in 1994, I wanted my epitaph to say, “She tried always to do right — but sometimes the temptation was too much for her.” Then I went through a phase where I thought it should say, “My god, it’s full of stars.” At this point, it should probably read, “Traveler, stop and lend an eye. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so shall you be. Prepare for death and follow me.” Sometimes the classics are the best.