As Anthony Hopkins says in that advert for Sky plus HD, – I love a spook. I think most of us do, don’t we? But not everyone. My ex-girlfriend for one. Well, more than a girlfriend, we lived together for years. She did not like a spook, no not at all. She could quite happily live the rest of her life without any spooks whatsoever, thank you very much. I love horror films. She could not watch horror films. Even slightly menacing incidental music on a T.V. programme would send her scrabbling for the remote – Noo ,I don’t like it, she’d protest. And I would roll my eyes and shake my head. Well, it was only the News for god’s sake…At the time I was a big Twin Peaks fan and I used to try and get her to watch it with me. She’d manage parts of an episode but then she’d have it on her toes whenever Killer Bob appeared. Bob was pretty scary alright but the backwards talking dancing dwarf, now he was downright spooky. There’s a difference, isn’t there, between being made to momentarily jump with fright and that creepy lingering feeling of unease that stays with you after a film ends? The ex, being prone to both shock and creep, would sometimes leave me with a fine set of small bruises down my arm where she’d squeezed. The mark of her fear. And so, the night I did a bad, bad thing, there was me and her and Anthony Hopkins (not the real one, the Hannibal Lecter one). Why we went to see Silence of The Lambs in the first place with her disposition, I do not know, but went we did, and ..but wait, I’ll get back to that.. Now me, I absolutely love a spook. Always have done My spooks began many, many full moons ago with an A.A Milne poem called Lines and Squares, about the perils of walking on the cracks in the pavements. It begins – Whenever I walk in a London street
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet
And I keep in the squares. Growing up, I absolutely loved Halloween. It was different in my day though, (Old Git Alert). There were no pumpkins for a start. We made turnip lanterns. Except they weren’t turnips, they were Swedes but we still called them turnips. Swedes are not hollow and so some serious wrist-pulverising chiselling was required before the desired effect was acheived. And when you put a lit candle inside they stank to high heaven within minutes. I loved that smell but you don’t smell it any more. Back then there was no big build up to Halloween. Maybe a few days before you’d remind your mum not to forget the turnip and candles when she went to the shops. And you might ask if you could have an old bed sheet for playing at ghosts. On the actual night, me and a couple of mates would wander around the block with a five colour torch, maybe ring a couple of doorbells and run away. We’d venture down a dark alley, scream a bit and scare ourselves shitless. We’d never heard of Trick or Treat. First I heard of it was years later when a news report said that some kids in America had been doing this door to door thing,Trick or Treating and some evil-doers had given them apples containing razor blades. Trick or Treating was just one of those things they only had in America like Muggings and Serial Killers… These days the commercial build up to Halloween starts about a month beforehand.(1).I noticed the other day that Tescos were stocking two types of pumpkins. Hand Carving Pumpkins and the smaller, cheaper – Sweet Culinary Pumpkins. That amused me as I think it sounds like something you’d exclaim when surprised. – Sweet Culinary Pumpkins, What’s going on here..? As a young teen I used to buy a thing called Monster Mag. A magazine dedicated to Horror. Each edition folded out into a giant poster on one side. So on my bedroom wall, next to Slade and Gary Glitter (gulp, I know..) was Peter Cushing sewing a hand onto a corpse. Nice. And there was this book that I became fascinated by. I would go and stand in the bookshop staring at it. Whilst other kids dreamed of bikes, I wanted this big hardback book. I longed to own it but it was quite expensive. The Pictorial History of Horror Movies. Now I can’t remember whether I saved up or a relative intervened but I got it anyway. It was my bible. And being an anal little sod I imposed a rule on myself whereby I was not allowed to look at any pictures in advance. Only, in order, as I read. I kept that book for years, then after I moved to London I realised, one day, that I hadn’t seen it around for a while. I looked but it had gone. Except it hadn’t. It was at my sister’s up in Sheffield. I was recently reunited with my book. The other day I looked at the price. £1.95 (2-5) I love the same Horror films that you probably do so I won’t go compiling any long lists, but I adore the old black and white 30’s and 40’s ones. Frankenstein, Wolfman etc. and, as a child, felt sorry for the poor monsters as they were chased through the black and white streets by the Burgomaster leading an angry mob of villagers carrying torches. (the flaming variety, not a five colour one). Then there were the Hammer Horror flicks, whose non-pc and often absurd plots and dodgy make up, I remember with a fond sideways glance. At the time they did the job alright, providing a thrill, a spook and sometimes a tantalising breast thrown in to tickle my teenage fancy. And then there was that peculiar sub-genre of horror films, Portmanteau Horror. You remember don’t you? Those films where several strangers would meet on a train or in a lift, where they would each recount their own grisly tale. There was usually a twist at the end like they had already died and were in hell or something. Portmanteau is due for a big screen revival, surely. I recently saw one of these gems from 1973, the same year that my Pictorial History book was published. It’s called Tales That Witness Madness. It’s brilliant. It has Donald Pleasance as a Mad Scientist, Joan Collins in a baby-doll nightie whose husband falls for an evil tree. It has a haunted penny farthing. I watched the whole thing on YouTube in 10 X 8 minute segments. I highly recommend it. In the same year that Tales That Witness Madness came out, another film was released called -The Exorcist. I was obviously too young to see it and could only imagine what ghastliness it contained as my older sister came home declaring it to be the most scariest thing that she had ever experienced IN HER LIFE! It would be several years before I finally set my hungry- for -horror eyes on it. And, yes, it spooked me greatly. In the 80’s came one of my favourite films ever, American Werewolf in London. Beware The Moon.. Marvellous stuff. A bit of coincidental trivia for you. That film originally had, at the end, a message of congratulations to Charles and Diana on their wedding. And the Execuctive Producer of the film? It was Dodi Fayed. Spooky… In 1993, the third film in the Aliens franchise appeared. I was still a stand-up comic back then, and I did a bit on a radio show about the fact that Sigourney Weaver had had her head shaved in this one. I observed that they had finally realised that the only way to defeat the Alien was to send in a Skinhead. – Alien, YOU TART! Do you want your spanking now do ya? You wanna shut your mouths my son! I went on, maybe they should send the Skinhead in to fight all the Screen Monsters. Ere, Draclia, you want to take your teeth home in an envelope do you? Freddy Kruger, outside now! Think you can take me do you? In your dreams my son.. These days I’m not easily spooked. For several years I lived in a flat adjacent to a church graveyard, a little line of gravestones no more than four feet from my kitchen window, When I moved in I was quite looking forward to the odd shivery spine-tingle but it never happened. Maybe they were all at peace and had no need to bother anyone or maybe there’s no such things as ghosts. I think most people are harder to spook as they get older. Maybe the idea of our own mortality makes the prospect of ghosts less frightening as in, we’d like to think we might become one rather than be just dust. And which one of us, having lost friends and family hasn’t longed for one more glimpse of them again, a sign, a love-spook? A couple of months ago a Fairground arrived on Ealing Common and I went with my boy. (6-8). The only ride I would go on with him was the Ghost Train. I’m glad to say I still felt a little rush, an anticipation of spook as we entered through a clanking door and into the dark.. I love the dayglo artwork peculiar to fairground rides. It’s a dying art, you might say. That character with the over large gaping mouth, I think that’s quite spooky. But one of the spookiest images I’ve seen onscreen in recent years is in The Passion of The Christ. I’m not religious but those little babies with their old demonic faces give me the heebeegeebees. So, Apophenia. As I mentioned in my last blog, is the name given to seeing faces and figures in random things like leaves, trees, puddles etc. I have built up quite a gallery of spooky faces that I’ve spotted round and about recently. There are Poster Monsters, Puddle Ghouls and Pavement Goblins aplenty. Here’s a couple of the goblins. (9-10). I usually just snap what I see but with the goblins I’ve allowed myself a little pre-Halloween artistic license. Whenever I walk in a London street
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet
And I keep in the squares. I will be posting the full Apopheniac’s rogues gallery very soon. But now, going back to the ex-girlfriend and the bad bad thing. As I said, we’d gone to see Silence of The Lambs and not long into the film she’d started with the nervy arm squeezing and covering her face…(to be continued)..