The Art of Darkness

The Link Dump Zone

September 19th, 2014 by Cobwebs

creaturesfromel – Marvelously surreal sculptures of animals. I think this little winged rat might be my favorite. The artist sells some of her work on Etsy.

Squash Softies – Use scrap fabric to make cute little pumpkins. Or Halloween tribbles. (via Old Fashion Halloween)

31 Creepy Items Every Horror Fan Should Own – I have to admit that the snow globe is splendid. (Hat tip to WitchArachne)

Sag es mit deinem Projekt – Cute “goth” ad for German home improvement chain Hornbach.

Deathwish – I want an organization like this to exist in real life.

Skull Boiled Egg Mold – I’ve always thought that molding boiled eggs fell into the same category as fluting mushrooms and ironing bedsheets: Stuff that nobody reasonable has the time for. But these are kind of awesome.

21 Punny Skeleton Comics That Will Tickle Your Funny Bone – The effect is cumulative. (Hat tip to pdq)

Shirrstone Shelter – Spooky Moon has a feature on some lovely, surreal dolls.

The Year According to Tumblr – It’s the year according to me, too. (Hat tip to xJane)

Blood Fondue Bar – If you’ve got access to a chocolate fountain, this is an interesting party idea.

Posted in Link Dump | 6 Comments »

It’s Secret Pumpkin Time Again!

September 18th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Secret Pumpkin Logo

The Secret Pumpkin gift exchange was conceived as a way to soothe those spooky souls pining for October by sending them a little Halloween in April. It’s similar to a Secret Santa exchange but the gifts are supposed to be spooky in nature; you can read my previous description and details here.

And now it’s time to open up registration for next April’s exchange! If you’d like to participate, go to the Secret Pumpkin site:

1) If you did not participate last year, click the “Join” link and fill out the form.

2) If you DID participate last year, log in, click the “Update Profile” link and change the “Activate My Membership” option to Yes.

(Just in case it isn’t clear–folks have been confused in the past–I’m the person who manages the site, so you aren’t blindly submitting your mailing address to some anonymous stranger.)

I’d previously suggested that participants should join one of the two Halloween listservs which originally spawned the exchange, but they’ve withered away so much that they may actually be defunct; instead I send occasional reminders directly to the participants.

Non-U.S. residents are welcome to participate, with the caveat that international shipping can be beastly. I try to match participants in the same country with each other so if you’re outside of the U.S. and want to play along, encourage your friends to sign up as well.

The deadline for signups is October 15. All that I ask is please, PLEASE don’t sign up for the exchange unless you’re serious about following through. We occasionally have participants flake out, and their Pumpkins are always sorely disappointed.

C’mon and join! It’s lots of fun, and getting something unexpectedly Halloweeny in April is a treat.

Posted in Whatever | 3 Comments »

About That Black Hamburger

September 17th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Black BurgerIf you follow any goth news feeds or Facebook pages or are friends with goths or have even thought the word “goth” recently you are probably aware of the buzz surrounding the recent Japan Burger King’s debut of a black cheeseburger – The “Kuro Burger” (“Black Burger”) has “buns made from bamboo charcoal, an onion and garlic sauce made with squid ink, beef patties made with black pepper, and black cheese, which is also apparently made with bamboo charcoal.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Japan, you so crazy.

This isn’t the first time Burger King Japan has done the black burger thing: The new version is pretty much identical to a limited-time burger they did in 2012, except this one adds black cheese. Charcoal is a hugely popular dietary supplement in Japan and several other Asian countries; it’s sold widely as a health food additive, and bread made with it isn’t particularly unusual. (Burger King isn’t the only chain which has used black buns as a hook; McDonald’s China offers black and white burgers using the same kind of charcoal-y bread).

Anyway, my point–and I do have one–is that the visual is quite striking and if you’re feeling a bit ambitious this is totally do-able at home.

The bread part is pretty straightforward: You can find charcoal powder at Asian groceries or online (just make sure it’s marked as a “dietary supplement” or some similar food-grade use). Googling “charcoal bread” brings up several interesting “this sounded neat so I tried it” accounts like this, this, and this (and also this discussion of other things you can do with charcoal powder, like goth macarons). Make your favorite burger-bun recipe–I’m partial to Smitten Kitchen’s light brioche buns–and add a tablespoon or so of charcoal powder. You may need to experiment a bit to get the color you want.

The black “ketchup,” which sounds more like “whatever savory sauce you like, only black,” is pretty much…whatever savory sauce you like, only black. The onion-and-garlic sauce on the original sounds tasty, but you can use plain ol’ ketchup if you want. If you’re feeling fancy, you can tint it with real squid ink; you could also just use a little black gel food coloring for the same effect.

The cheese is the trickiest, since you’d want the meltiness of processed cheese slices. Fortunately, the DIY Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen includes a recipe for homemade “American” cheese. Brown Eyed Baker–amongst many others–has the recipe along with a review (it sounds easy and yummy). You should be able to add the charcoal powder along with the dry milk powder in the recipe.

If you don’t feel up to experimenting with charcoal powder, the buns and cheese could also be colored with black gel food coloring.

Obviously, you can experiment beyond the burger with black bread, cheese, and sauces. Any combination of them would be great at a Halloween party, or just to make lunchtime a little more interesting.

Posted in Paint It Black | 3 Comments »

DIY Dragon Eggs

September 16th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Dragon EggsFrom an evolutionary standpoint, I’ve always been puzzled by the idea of scaled eggs: Not only would the egg-layer have to have a teflon cloaca to extrude them without damage, the scales would be a hospitable environment for microorganisms.

On the other hand, scaled eggs look badass and since the thing that’s supposed to be hatching out of them is pretty evolutionarily improbable anyway I should probably find something else to worry about.

Anyway. Scaled eggs. Imgur member “pellantana” has put together a great tutorial for making good-looking dragon eggs by covering a styrofoam egg form with thumbtacks. The basic idea could hardly be easier, although I might suggest a couple of minor changes:

1) The styrofoam peeks through a bit at the end of the egg where the final thumbtacks are placed. It might be a good idea to either paint the egg black (which can be tough–styrofoam is hard to paint and some types of paint will eat it away) or slip a piece of black nylon stocking over the egg before starting in on the thumbtacks; the tacks will hold the stocking in place. I suppose you could also cover the end of the egg with thin tissue paper; brush it with a little watered-down white glue to form it to the shape of the egg and help hold it steady.

2) All of the thumbtacks–625 of ‘em–were hand-painted. That’s…a lot of thumbtacks to hand-paint. Since the tutorial recommends sticking them in the top of a pizza box to hold them steady anyway, it seems reasonable to go one further step and spray-paint them (this is mentioned briefly as an option at the very bottom, but the artist eschews it in favor of the hand-painted look). There are lots of neat metallic and faux-finish spray paints available, including “glitter spray” and marbleized varieties. There’s even a webbing spray; hitting the finished egg lightly with that might be interesting.

The finished egg could be displayed nestled in cotton wool in a wooden box so it resembles a specimen collected on expedition. It would also look nice placed on a pedestal candleholder.

It’d be fun to make one of these and hide it before an Easter egg hunt.

Bonus links: There’s a neat alternate method for making dragon eggs using hot glue. Also check out this lovely jeweled paperweight.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

A History of Horror

September 15th, 2014 by Cobwebs

This BBC documentary was hosted by Mark Gatiss.

(via Beans)

Posted in Whatever | 2 Comments »

The Wicker Link Dump

September 12th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Nerf “Zombie Strike” Machete – Nerf has expanded into the zombie-hunting market. This might be a nice costume prop. (There are quite a number of other items in the Zombie Strike line, including swords, bombs, and crossbows.)

Mythic Articulations – Etsy shop specializing in 3D-printed skeletons of mythical creatures. (Hat tip to xJane)

Ghost Underground – Artist Livio Scapella’s series of marble sculptures look like veiled ghosts.

Sugar Skull Rum – (That link goes to a press release about the product; the official site is here, but it’s currently just a shell.) I have no idea what the rum tastes like, but the bottles are pretty. (via Cat)

Some cute kid-friendly fabric designs from Spoonflower: Chibi Great Old Ones, Monsters, There Once Was a Shark That Swallowed a Cephalopod, and Unusual Specimens.

Fiori Couture – Designer of really interesting corsets and accessories. Their Facebook page seems to have a lot more photos of their designs than the main site; I especially love the steel mermaid corset. (via WitchArachne)

The Gaslight Grill – Steampunk-esque London restaurant which specializes in “vintage” afternoon tea.

Good Omens on BBC Radio – Gaiman and Pratchett’s novel is being adapted for radio and will be broadcast this December.

Cheese “Cemetery” – This party cheese plate (complete with Brie casket!) is perfect for a Halloween party. (Hat tip to Pixel Pixie)

Author Claims to Have Identified Jack the Ripper – Yeah; let me point you to the important bit of this article (emphasis mine): “Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, has been identified through DNA traces found on this shawl, according to a book to be published Tuesday.” Uh-huh.

Posted in Link Dump | 4 Comments »

Artist: Wood-Splitter Lee

September 11th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Baby UnicornLee Cross, known professionally as Wood-Splitter Lee, is an Alaskan sculptor who creates astonishingly lifelike cuddly creatures. Some are real-world animals like wolf pups and ducklings, but most are fantasy creatures like Bunnyflies, Cloud Lambs, and Galaxy Stags. Browsing the gallery is sort of like a stroll through some fairy princess’ menagerie.

Her critters are all hand-made without the use of molds or patterns, so they’re truly one-of-a-kind. Most have articulated skeletons which are fully poseable; she also offers non-furry sculpted pets like “Boo,” which come in their own little habitats.

She appears to mainly sell her creations through Auction Adoptions on eBay. I can’t seem to find any information on whether she takes commissions for custom work, but since her routine auctions can run to several thousand dollars I imagine that if she does it’d be pricey.

She has a Facebook page here, and there are a couple of interviews with her at Geek Insider and mom.me.

(via Geyser of Awesome)

Posted in Needful Things | 1 Comment »

A Couple of Easy Prop Ideas

September 10th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Dybbuk BoxNeed a new addition to your wunderkammer? io9 recently posted a list of, quote, “Terrifying Cursed Objects That Actually Exist.” The objects are not particularly terrifying–a killer chair sounds like the plot of a B-grade horror movie–but item #7 has kind of a neat backstory:

7) The Dybbuk Box

In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is an evil spirit. Supposedly, a Holocaust survivor accidentally summoned the demon while using a homemade Ouija board, but managed to trap it inside the wine cabinet. Kevin Mannis bought the box at an estate sale in 2001, and immediately started having nightmares about an evil hag — as did friends who stayed with him. Mannis gave the box to his mother, who suffered a stroke on the same day. The box’s later owners have also claimed the dybbuk has appeared in their nightmares as well. The last owner was Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, who not only had nightmares but developed a strange skin disease and began coughing up blood. At that point, Haxton contacted his local Rabbis, sealed the Dybbuk back in the box, and then hid it from the world. Thanks, dude!

The original box has its own Wikipedia entry which goes into a little more detail about the legend and the box’s contents: Two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with cord, a lock of black/brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word “Shalom”, a small, golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs. (The legend also inspired The Possession, a horror film produced by Sam Raimi.)

You could get endlessly creative with both the container and its contents: The “real” wine cabinet, pictured above, is just a cheap wooden thing and pretty much any box of your choice would be a fine substitute. A lidded clay jar, a corked bottle, or an interesting jewelery box would be other good choices; I don’t think dybbukim are constrained by any particular physical dimensions so you could make the “prison” whatever size suits you. The contents could be any thrift-store stuff that seems creepy: Rusty keys, an old rag doll, a piece of parchment containing lines from the Kabbalah, and so forth. Display everything along with a little sign describing an appropriate provenance and legend for your “cursed artifact,” and you’ve got a great, creepy prop.

Spirit TrapIn a similar vein, I ran across this “spirit trap,” described thusly:

Shaman spirit trap in hard wood (made up of two halves), Burmese in origin. Probably early nineteenth century. Bound loosely with recent leather thong. Overall size 14 cms. Used by Burmese shamans or medicine men to capture and transport supernatural entities.

Let me just say that I am vastly taken with the idea of a handy container for transporting supernatural entities. It’s like Tupperware for ghosts.

Anyway, like the dybbuk box, the story is the important bit: The “spirit trap” could be just about any portable container you want, although something decorated with mystical symbols would be cool. A belt containing several traps would be a neat part of a demon-hunter costume, or would look great displayed as an inherited artifact from an adventurous ancestor.

Posted in Paint It Black | 4 Comments »

All Hallow’s Read

September 9th, 2014 by Cobwebs

In October of 2010 Neil Gaiman posted A Modest Proposal (that doesn’t actually involve eating anyone), in which he mused that there aren’t enough traditions which involve giving books and suggested a solution to that:

I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.

I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…

I wrote about the tradition back in 2011, but was just reminded about it by this retweet from Gaiman:

It’s a tradition that’s well worth supporting, and there are plenty of ways to participate. Gift a book to a friend, or give one–along with a nice tip–to the pizza delivery guy. Bring a printout of the poster to your local library and suggest a spooky read-a-thon. Arrange a book-swap party: Have everyone bring a favorite scary book (with which they can bear to part) and leave with a different one. Read from a book of age-appropriate spooky stories at a child’s Halloween party and send the guests home with copies.

And if you hand out books to trick-or-treaters, I hope you follow the advice of the All Hallows Read site’s FAQ:

You can give out scary books or comics to trick or treaters on Hallowe’en if you want to, obviously. (We recommend looking the child in the eye and saying, “Take it. Read it. Trust me… around here… a book can be… safer than candy.” Then chuckling to yourself, as if remembering something unfortunate that happened to some of the local children only last year.)

Posted in Whatever | 1 Comment »

Attack of the Spider Dog

September 8th, 2014 by Cobwebs

First thought: “Spider dog, spider dog, does whatever a spider dog can…”

Second thought: “That bit with the hanging body parts is stupid; spiders don’t dismember their prey before wrapping it up.”

Third thought: “I want a spider dog.”

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 5 Comments »

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