The Art of Darkness

Monster Scouts

January 19th, 2016 by Cobwebs

Monster Scouts Poster“A Crow Scout is kind, odd, honorable, spooky, thrifty, and irreverent.”

Daniel and Dawna Davis run Steam Crow, which sells “good monster goods” like T-shirts and prints. A couple of years ago they wanted to foster a community of monster-loving folks, so they created the Steam Crow Scouts:

The Steam Crow Scouts were founded in 1903 by Baron Davis, who created a Monster Scouts organization to help Youth BELIEVE, LEARN and SEE the MONSTERS that surround us.

Today, the Crow Scouts continue DISCOVER and AID MONSTERS against the oppression of vile Monsterology.

MONSTRIFERIS CONFIDIMUS

You can become a Monster Scout–they appear to use “Steam Crow Scouts,” “Crow Scouts,” and “Monster Scouts” fairly interchangeably–and mingle with like-minded monster lovers. They even have uniforms.

Members can earn achievement badges for various activities, chat with other scouts in their forum, and even go camping at the annual Shindig in Arizona.

If you’ve been looking for some way to make life a little more monstrous, this looks like an excellent way to do it. Just remember to abide by their code of conduct:

I shall hurt neither Monster or Man.
I will behave with Uncommon Sense.
I pledge to have fun with my Crow Scout friends, imaginary or not.
I shall laugh first at myself.
I will celebrate my flaws, oddities and broken nature.
I will strive to make the 2 worlds less ungood.

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Elvira Sings

December 30th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Elvira Album CoverLong ago, my pal Kitten Herder made me a lovely mixtape of Halloween-related music. One track was “Full Moon,” a song I didn’t recognize, and the first time I played it I thought, “Wow, that really sounds like Elvira.” And lo, it was.

Back in the 80s when Cassandra Peterson was expanding her media empire beyond television, she released several Halloween-themed albums. Most of the songs were about what you’d expect (“Monster Mash,” “Dead Man’s Party”), but she also recorded several tracks herself. They’re…fun. Peterson is an adequate singer, and she does all of the songs in-character as Elvira. Here’s a list, if you want to explore her oeuvre.

Elvira and the Vitones 3-D TV (Rhino Records, 1982) – A single. The title track is here. The flip side was “Elvira’s Theme,” which may have been the same version as this one.

Vinyl Macabre (Rhino Records, 1983) – As nearly as I can tell from various online sources, Elvira did spoken intro/outro and “end of side one”/”beginning of side two” (remember those?) pieces, but the only singing was her theme, above.

Elvira Presents Haunted Hits (Rhino Records, 1987) – Full Moon.

Elvira Presents Monster Hits (Rhino Records, 1994) – She did two songs for this one, Monsta’ Rap and Here Comes the Bride (The Bride Of Frankenstein).

Elvira Presents Revenge of the Monster Hits (Rhino Records, 1995) – There were two for this as well, Haunted House and Zombie Stomp.

After this there was a hiatus of several years, then in 2008 she performed on a track called “Zombie Killer” for the band Leslie and the Ly’s. It was released as a single, but here’s the music video:

In 2010 she released Elvira’s Gravest Hits (Shout! Factory), which collected all of the songs listed above plus two new ones, Here I Am and “Le Music Hall,” which seems to be the song that she sings in Elvira’s Haunted Hills.

And she’s still chugging along. In 2014 she released another single (as a purple vinyl 7″), 2 Big Pumpkins. Both the title track and the B side “13 Nights of Halloween” were written by the B-52s’ Fred Schneider. The latter doesn’t seem to be available on YouTube, but if you can’t live without hearing it, it’s available on iTunes.

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The Gift of Christmas Fear

December 3rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Sam Haynes has released a collection of music inspired by Christmas horror movies such as Silent Night, Deadly Night and Christmas Evil

For this CD we took old familiar christmas music and mixed it with horror score orchestral music and even some electronic beats. The result is sure to give you the winter chills and would be perfect for a christmas themed horror movie or dark attraction. All of our music is podcast friendly so producers can use it any way they like too.

From now until December 13, the album is free/pay what you want at Bandcamp. Perfect stuff to play in the background whilst trimming the tree.

(via Cult of the Great Pumpkin)

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Harry Potter Dinner Party

October 8th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Potions ClassroomFood in Literature is an amazing site which tries to re-create foods found in books, from Willy Wonka’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight to James Bond’s Vesper Martini.

The site also has a number of fantastically-detailed dinner party ideas, with themes including Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow, Treasure Island, and The Hobbit. The most recent party was themed around Harry Potter, and the result is just splendid. From the party invitations (sent by Muggle Mail, “so as not to confuse the mailman”) to candles floating in midair over the dining table, to a friendly owl waiting to greet guests at the door, the attention to detail is spot-on.

Here’s a breakdown of the decoration and food:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Recipes and Other Details

Be sure to browse the rest of the site too; it’s a trove of great party ideas.

(via DIY Halloween)

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Consider the Smallrus

September 22nd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Spider Walrus

Prepare for a trip down the rabbit hole on this one, kids.

BoingBoing recently mentioned a mobile game called “Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon,” in which you play as a little spider. Since some people (for some ridiculous reason) think spiders are icky instead of adorable, there’s a cheat code that lets you play as a tiny striped walrus instead.

In the comments, someone noted that this would properly be called a “Smallrus” and linked to Ursula Vernon’s drawing of said creature.

This is the rabbit-hole part.

In addition to the drawing, Vernon describes their behavior, typical call (“Inhale a good lungful of helium and yell ‘GRONK!’ and you’ve about got it”), and many other silly factoids. And she’s got an entire site full of the same kind of thing. There’s the Bog Unicorn, far nobler than the disgusting common unicorn. Throggle the demon’s stuffed Beelzebear. St. Dodus the Intolerant, who isn’t the patron saint of anything but his medal worn around the neck will warn off hugs from well-meaning strangers. There’s the Demon Rat of Vercingetorix who avenges particularly ill-treated mice, and a depiction of Where Zombie Babies Come From.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover the happy little shoggoths, Battle Hamsters of the North, potato priests, and a couple of paintings illustrating the adventures of, quote, “Happy Little Capybara in the Mayan Underworld” which litter her site. I spent a whole afternoon going through her gallery, and if you click over there you probably will too.

Her whimsy and imaginative descriptions shouldn’t be surprising; Vernon is a Hugo Award-winning author, and also accidentally spawned an internet meme when her Biting Pear of Salamanca was transformed into the LOLWUT pear.

She’s got a deviantART gallery too, so when you’re done with her site you can click over there and blow another couple of hours. She sells prints of her work quite inexpensively–I think I may have to get the tea label set for the kitchen–and occasionally does commissions (although her FAQ suggests that right now she isn’t doing many non-commercial ones).

The art is great and many of her descriptions also include interesting information about the materials and techniques she used, so clear an afternoon and go have a look. And keep an eye out for Smallri in your garden.

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Escape Rooms

August 6th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Escape Room“We were ushered into the main part of the cavern, which was about the size of a two-car garage. It looked like Indiana Jones had set up a field lab, and then abandoned it. It contained a large table with broken shards of pottery, strange artifacts with symbols carved into them, guidebooks, hand written notes, cabinets of mineral specimens, a gram scale, a telescope, test equipment of various kinds, and many other odds and ends. These clues had been left there by an ancient civilization, and it was our job to decipher them.”

Escape Rooms are a type of real-life adventure game in which you are “trapped” in a room with other participants and have to use elements in the room to escape within a set time limit. They’re based on the “escape the room” video games in which the player is locked in a room and must explore their surroundings to escape. You have to be observant in order to find clues and use critical thinking skills to solve various puzzles which help you figure out how to escape.

Commercial venues for these games have been around for about 10 years–the earliest was probably “Origin,” based on Agatha Christie mysteries–but they’ve become hugely popular worldwide in the past few years. In the US there are locations in Washington DC, Los Angeles, and other cities nationwide (that last company also has locations in Madrid and London). Escape Room International lists locations in Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and Real Escape Game seems to have a rotating series of temporary locations. There’s also a large list of Escape Rooms worldwide at the Escape Room Directory.

Over on BoingBoing, Mark Frauenfelder describes a game he and his daughter participated in. It sounds like it’d be an unusual group activity for a birthday party, family outing, or even the dreaded corporate team-building exercise.

If hurrying to solve puzzles and decipher clues before you run out of air, the Elder Gods come through the portal, or some other horrible fate sounds like fun to you, find an Escape Room nearby and give it a try.

(Bonus link: Gamasutra has some tips for designing your own escape game.)

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Shudder

July 23rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Shudder LogoOh, I think I’m about to make a few readers very happy: There’s a brand-new movie streaming service devoted entirely to horror.

Shudder is an all-horror service backed by AMC. It’s currently in browser-only beta, but will soon be available as iPhone and Android apps and also as a Roku channel. Right now you can sign up for a 14-day free trial and stream as many horror movies as you want. After that, the service is $4.99 per month or $49.99 for a year.

Of particular interest is the curated collections, which lets you pick your favorite poison: Categories include things like “Haunted Habitations,” “Romantic Bloodsuckers,” “The Unraveling Mind,” “Comedy of Terrors,” and dozens more.

If you don’t feel like browsing the catalog, the service also has a Shudder.tv feature which streams movies from its library 24/7 and you can just tune in and watch whatever they’re playing. It’s the modern equivalent of flipping through channels on a lazy Sunday afternoon and stumbling on a random horror movie.

At the moment Shudder is available only for US users, but their FAQ says that they plan to go global in the near future. (If you can’t wait, it may be possible to get around the country restrictions with anonymizing software.)

Most reviews seem quite positive, noting that the library has more depth than services like Netflix and should continue to build. If you can’t get enough horror, this is definitely worth looking into.

(via Burgeoning Lads of Science)

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Steampunk Inspiration

June 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Map RoomJen of EPBOT is renovating one of the rooms in her house into an amazing steampunk rumpus room, and has a fantastic series of posts on her build progress. It’s a trove of great DIY tutorials, with build notes on DIY window cornices, stereo speakers, and TV cabinets.

One of her recent entries was a Bioshock-inspired picture frame, in which she mentioned in passing that she’d found some design ideas from this Flickr set of an area in Tokyo DisneySea. A little sleuthing suggests that it’s specifically the Mysterious Island portion of the park, which is all themed around the works of Jules Verne.

Having worked for the Mouse for several years I never thought I’d want to set foot in a Disney property ever again, but suddenly I really want to go to Tokyo.

Having worked for the Mouse for several years I can also say that the Imagineers who design the look-and-feel of the Disney properties don’t miss a trick. There are all kinds of fantastic ideas for decorating in the High Steampunk style. (The photos aren’t labeled as to exactly where in the park they were taken, but from the nautical details I’m going to guess that it’s probably the queue area of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction.)

There’s a Tokyo Disney fan site with some more good photos of the Mysterious Island area of the park, and Dejiki has several others.

If you’ve been thinking about adding some steampunk elements to your decor, EPBOT’s design series and the Mysterious Island theming would be an excellent jumping-off point.

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Problem Glyphs

June 9th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Problem GlyphA sigil is a symbolic illustration used in magic, representing a desired outcome. Artist Eliza Gauger has a project called Problem Glyphs in which she draws sigils which represent the solution to problems sent in by her audience.

A lament of, “i do not belong anywhere” results in a pair of badass snails and the motto, “Build your home and carry it.” An astronomer who “chose science over faith” and was rejected by their religious fundamentalist family is comforted with “You are welcome amongst the stars.”

Most “traditional” sigils tend to be a spare set of lines, but Gauger’s drawings are bursting with movement and detail. She takes requests (although her request form notes that there are about 600 of ’em in the queue right now so it might be a while before she gets to yours) and doesn’t ask for payment, although she accepts donations through PayPal or Patreon. She also sells stickers of some of her glyphs in her Etsy shop.

Other artists have been inspired by her work to try their own glyphs, and she frequently features them on the site as well. If you’re facing a tough problem, have a look through her archives for something suitable.

(Hat tip to Bruno)

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Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as Pets

June 4th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Hissing CockroachWe here at Shadow Manor are a pet-friendly group, and in the past I’ve mentioned critters like bearded dragons and rats as being excellent pets which are relatively low-maintenance, don’t require a lot of space, and are rather gothy to boot. We’ve recently, rather by accident, expanded into the invertebrate category, and I am here to tell you about the awesomeness that is Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

You may have encountered these guys before; they’re hardy and very easy to care for, making them popular insect exhibits at zoos, museums, and the little invertebrate sideshows that a lot of pesticide companies seem to sponsor. They’re also often raised as food for insect-eating pets such as lizards and birds, which is what I originally bought mine for: I was mail-ordering mealworms for my lizard and noticed that the same company sold roaches, so I ordered a few for him to try. When they arrived I decided that they were: a) Probably a bit too big for the lizard to eat, and b) Really fricking cool, so I decided to keep them as pets instead.*

They have a lot to recommend them: Unlike common household roaches, these guys are clean, gentle forest dwellers. They don’t bite or sting, and they’re wingless. They don’t stink up their enclosure the way some insects (like crickets) do, and they’re ridiculously low-maintenance. They’re quiet and require very little space. They’re an attractive bug, with a carapace that resembles polished mahogany (when they molt, they’re briefly a lovely, creamy ivory with shockingly-noticeable black eyespots). They’re also really big, which makes them fun to watch and is also handy for education: I plan to use mine to help some local Boy Scouts earn their “insect” merit badge. Also, since they live peaceably in a large colony, you can easily breed them for lizard food.

Their hissing, incidentally, is very cool. When the adults are disturbed they hiss like a teakettle, and it’s a little startling until you get used to it. One of mine likes to hang on the roof of the cage, and any nearby movement will make him give a warning hiss. I rather like the experience of walking past an aquarium and having something hiss at me from the shadows. Makes me feel like Morticia Addams.

Read the rest of this entry »

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