Month: November 2020

Spookytown! The Fox Sisters

Welcome to Spookytown! A weekly blog post about, you guessed it… all things spooky. Ghost stories, books, hauntings, movies, music, history and so much more!

As a child that grew up loving all things spooky and an adult who has always been fascinated by the paranormal, parapsychology, the occult and the spiritualism movement, so it’s no surprise that I was equally obsessed with the Fox sisters. There have been many documentaries, books, blogs and podcasts created about them, that their fame continues on, long after they left this plain.

If you are unfamiliar with the Fox sisters, they were three sisters from New York who were the catalyst in the creation of the Spiritualism Movement. The three sisters were Leah (1813-1890), Margaretta (1833-1893) and Catherine (1837-1892). The two younger sisters (Margaretta and Catherine), were the two who performed the many acts of wonder, also known as communicating with the dead.

The journey to fame began when the two younger sisters used “rappings” to convince their older sister Leah that they were communicating with spirits. First, the sisters successfully convinced their parents that their own house was haunted with the rapping noises and for their own safety they were sent to live with their sister Leah in Rochester. Leah saw this as their door into fame and fortune, managing the younger sisters careers, turning them into world famous mediums. It would be a Quaker couple that helped originally get their name out into the public.

Amy and Isaac Post, a radical Quaker couple and long-standing friends of the Fox family, invited the girls into their Rochester home. Immediately convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena, they helped to spread the word among their radical Quaker friends, who became the early core of Spiritualists. {source Wikipedia} From this moment on the Fox sisters were on their way!

The Fox sisters spent many years as well-known mediums, giving séances for hundreds of people. Fame and fortune always comes at a cost and eventually, the younger sisters had a falling out with Leah and decided to expose themselves as frauds. A few years later they recanted on their original confession only to attempt to return to their lives as mediums unsuccessfully. Sadly, all three sisters left this earth, within five years of the scandal, destitute with scandal being the only thing to their name.

Over the years, famous illusionists such as Harry Houdini made great effort to debunk spiritualism.

Even though they were eventually ousted as frauds, many still believe to this day, that the sisters in-fact did contact the dead. The Spiritualism movement had a resurgence in the early 1900s and is still discussed to this day.

Websites/Blogs:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-fox-sisters-and-the-rap-on-spiritualism-99663697/

Podcasts:
https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-witching-hour-podcast/e/the-witching-hour-ep27-spiritualism-the-fox-sisters-48502088

https://www.strangecountrypodcast.com/episodes/tag/Fox+Sisters

Queen of Schlock! The B Movies Queens: Gothic Scream Queen Barbara Steele

Tis the time of year, when things are gloomier, night falls faster and the night air carries an eeriness. On our evening walk, guided by the brightness of the full moon, we can hear the howls of werewolf in the distance, and when we pass the seemingly abandoned manor, we see the curtains flutter, leaving use to wonder if it is a ghost or the wind finding its way through a broken pane. Do we run or stand and observe the night as it creeps in around us? In a situation like this, it’s best to take guidance from the dark Goddess herself, Barbara Steele. What would she do in a situation like this? Barbara would grab the biggest candelabra she could find and would wrap her delicate fingers around it, holding onto her skirt, walking forward, fearless, letting curiosity win her over as we’ve known her to do in every single gothic horror she has starred in!

I’m sorry… did I hear someone in the back ask who Barbara Steele was? How DARE you! Barbara Steele is the ultimate gothic horror scream queen. She is the dark Goddess!

Barbara Steele is a British actress, best known for the Italian Gothic horror movies she starred in, mostly in the 1960s. Many will know her for her breakthrough role in Black Sunday (1960) while others will know her from her later role as Dr. Julia Hoffman / Countess Natalie Du Pres in Dark Shadows (1991).

***During the 1960s, Steele starred in a string of Italian horror films, including Black Sunday (1960), The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962), The Ghost (1963), The Long Hair of Death (1964), Castle of Blood (1964), Terror-Creatures from the Grave and Nightmare Castle (both 1965). She also starred in Roger Corman‘s 1961 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story The Pit and the Pendulum and the British film Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968).

Steele returned to the horror genre in the later 1970s, appearing in three horror films: David Cronenberg‘s Shivers (a.k.a. They Came From Within) (1975), Piranha (1978), and Silent Scream (1979). *** {source Wikipedia}

My all time favourite Barbara Steele movies are Castle of Blood, Nightmare Castle and Black Sunday. I’ve seen all three on both DVD and on the big screen. Viewing them on the big screen is of course the best way to view them, and I’m grateful that The Bloor Cinema showed them (they are no longer around) Recently, we showed The She Beast at Killer B Cinema. Right before Covid struck. It was a definite crowd pleaser. A little She Beast trivia, because Barbara Steele was only available for one day, she was kept on the set during 18 hours of shooting. It was a gruelling day, but the producer felt it was necessary. Apparently, she was beyond angry with him.

One thing that has always bothered me about movies starring Barbara Steele is they dubbed her voice and British accent in many of them. This was done for American audiences and unfortunately, in many cases, the only copies available. (they did the same to Caroline Munro)

I’ve been a fan of gothic horror for a very long time and I owe that to Barbara Steele. I was introduced to her when I was a teenager and I have adored her ever since. I get cravings to watch her movies when the gloom of November creeps in. There is a spookiness about the wind blowing through the barren trees, that goes hand-in-hand with the ultimate scream queen.

What is your favourite Barbara Steele movie?

Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! There will also be trivia with prizes & much more! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Spookytown! Midnight Spook Shows

Since I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by Midnight Spook Shows. When I was a kid, I wanted to create my own, but the closest I ever got to it, was a poorly designed haunted house made out of cardboard boxes, that basically melted in the rain. I was so looking forward to scaring the neighbourhood kids. Was that why I was labelled a weirdo so early on in life? Not that it matters, as I wear that label proudly. Now back to Midnight Spook Shows.

What was a Midnight Spook Show aka Midnight Ghost Show? Elwin-Charles Peck (who performed as El-Wyn) created what was known as the first version of a Spook Show/Ghost Show. In this iteration (from the late 1920s and into the 1930s) it was mostly based around magic and spiritualism. During his performances he would try to contact the spirit world. Objects would appear and disappear. Strange noises would happen throughout the theatre and things would fly over the audience members heads. In many cases leading the audiences to scream in fright. This would all take place during what seemed to be a seance.

Eventually, spiritualism would fall out of popularity and the midnight spook shows also began to fade away… that was until horror movies became popular. During the 1930s to the 1950s movie theatre owners were trying to find ways to get audiences into the building, especially the younger generation, especially teenagers. Midnight Spook Shows seemed to be the answer. Similar to its predecessor, shows would have magic, special effects and creatures moving about the audience. In many cases, the troupe putting on the show would travel to several theatres. It was profitable for both the theatre owner and the the groups putting on the shows and would be a weekly highlight for the audience.

Here is a link to an amazing article that gets more in depth, especially about the origins, along with a few other articles you might find spooktacular. https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/midnight-spook-shows-a-brief-history/

http://www.halloweenclub.com/spookshow-history

Here is a great video that gives you a great explanation.

I have attended a few modern day attempts at a Midnight Spook Show, but they have never fit into my fantasy of what it should be. Then again, I romanticize about a time of silent cinema and Flappers on a regular basis, so it would be hard for modern day anything to live up to my expectations.

Welcome to Spookytown! A weekly blog post about, you guessed it… all things spooky. Ghost stories, books, hauntings, movies, music, history and so much more!