But enough of that.
According to the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, America Unearthed is filming scenes in downtown Washington this week alongside (but unrelated to) production of the next Captain America movie. This suggests to me one of three things: (a) Scott Wolter is planning to accuse the federal government of suppressing the truth about ancient white colonizers of America; (b) he’s exploring “Freemason” influence on the layout and design of the nation’s capital, like Brad Meltzer, Dan Brown, and Graham Hancock before him; or (c) both (a) and (b). I wonder how the phallic symbol of the Washington Monument fits in with his belief in the Sinclair-Templar-Freemason worship of the “sacred feminine.” After all, Ancient Aliens already told us that obelisks are giant electro-penises ejaculating free energy into the aliens’ world power grid.
But enough of that.
This year marks the eighty-fifth anniversary of the publication of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” in Weird Tales, in the February 1928 issue. (Lovecraft wrote the story two years earlier.) Although the anniversary was a few weeks ago, I bring it up because the New York Public Library posted a web page celebrating the publication yesterday, and they included my Cult of Alien Gods as recommended reading. Lovecraft’s story, of course, accidentally gave new life to Victorian pseudoscience when Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, under its influence, wrote The Morning of the Magicians and sparked the ancient astronaut theory, which in turn bequeathed to us the Maya apocalypse, Ancient Aliens, and America Unearthed.
But in the spirit of celebration, I’d like to take a day off from thinking about all that. Lovecraft wrote “Cthulhu” as part of a project to modernize the Gothic, to bring horror fiction into the twentieth century and to marry it to the great scientific discoveries of the age. From the Gothic, Lovecraft retained the Romantic notion that the past dictates the future, and that secrets long buried will not stay hidden forever. This Gothic inheritance continues in more recent attempts to modernize the traditional trappings of horror.
Today, I have two brief topics to cover. First, Ancient Aliens’ dumb new promotional spot; then, the Lovecraftian connection to the ‘mysterious’ Newport Tower.
During Season 4 of Ancient Aliens, H2 aired a promotional spot in which Giorgio Tsoukalos claimed that a straw suit worn by the Kayapo is a memory of an alien space suit. I completely demolished this stupid claim in April by looking at what the Kayapo themselves said about it, namely that the suit was a beekeeping suit worn by the supernatural protector of bees. Despite the facts, H2 filmed a completely different promotional spot for Season 5, airing this week, in which Tsoukalos is again claiming that the beekeeping suit is just like “a modern day astronaut suit.” If they can recycle debunked claims, I can recycle my debunking. Read my takedown of this dumb idea here.
On December 18, the Discovery Channel plans to air a documentary about the alleged zombie apocalypse, and they plan to profile a group of parents that are not only true believers in the coming plague of the risen dead but are training their children to hunt and kill zombies. Elsewhere, a 26-year-old man shot his girlfriend when she refused to believe The Walking Dead was a prophecy of a zombie uprising to come. This makes me indescribably sad. Of course it’s true that Victorian people hunted “vampires,” but Dracula didn’t make them do it; the vampires came first. Zombies, by contrast, are a Hollywood creation, and so-called “zombie culture” is directly responsible for a fictional creation being mistaken for reality.
With Halloween upon us, it's time to settle down and curl up with a good horror novel or horror movie. But when tomorrow dawns, you may want to know a little more about the horror genre and its history. May I suggest picking up a copy of my Knowing Fear or A Hideous Bit of Morbidity?
I've received a few requests for a list of some of my favorite horror movies, so for Halloween I'm going to share ten of the movies I enjoy this time of year. This is not meant as a critical assessment of their absolute value as cinema, or even their ultimate value for the horror genre. (For that, read my Knowing Fear.) As you'll see, I tend to enjoy older films more than modern ones. I think this due to horror's relationship to the Gothic, and the age of the film creates that layer of historicity that recreates some of the ancient terror of the Gothic.
In honor of Halloween I present today one of the original cases of vampirism that served as a foundation for Bram Stoker's Dracula. The story comes from the region near Transylvania, and it is recorded in the "Jewish Letters" as preserved in Augstin Calmet's The Phantom World. This alleged incident, which the author of the "Jewish Letters" explains is likely due to the hyperactive imagination of invalids combined with the propensity of corpses to plump up and leak blood, took place around 1732. As a result of such reports, the Empress Maria Theresa, who reigned over Transylvania and its adjoining territories, sent her personal physician to determine if vampire attacks were real. Learning they were not, the Empress enacted laws ending the desecration of corpses in the name of combating vampires.
As we continue the countdown to Halloween, I thought I'd share today a short excerpt from the article I wrote for 21st Century Gothic (Scarecrow Press, 2010), the massive compendium of critical appraisals of the best Gothic of the past decade. Our subject is the haunted house and why exactly it is that we envision it as a nineteenth century Victorian. Obviously, the Victorians who built them didn't think they were living in spooky, evil homes.
As Halloween is approaching again, the signs of the season are in the air. The leaves crunch on cold sidewalks, and the air smells of rotting vegetation. And, of course, we find zombies everywhere from the new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead to every costume shop and seasonal decoration display. But no matter how hard the media and retailers try to push zombies on me, I still don’t like them.
The current issue of Smithsonian magazine has a fascinating article by Abigail Tucker on "The Great New England Vampire Panic." Tucker tells the story of how New Englanders began exhuming their loved dead and mutilating the corpses, correlating outbreaks of such acts of desecration with tuberculosis outbreaks. Folk belief in the region, probably brought from Germany by immigrants, held that tuberculosis was caused by the hungry dead rising from their graves to suck the life force from their living kin. The only cure was the ritual destruction of the corpse.
Yesterday, I discussed Rod Serling’s horror anthology series Night Gallery and the way studio and network interference gradually destroyed the program. Today I’m going to tell you about the result of that network and studio interference. Night Gallery’s failure gave us Ancient Aliens.