Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Amazing Death of Mrs. Putnam

Greetings and condolences. First up if you haven't read Fridays post yet (or Thursday's for that matter) Go back and do so now, I'll wait.

Oh, your back. Good lets continue shall we?
Well I must admit that did indeed seem to work out well. You Barely had time to enjoy "The Wailing Wall" before I got this sorted out. (And if you haven't listened to "The Wailing Wall" yet go back and do so, I posted it just for you, so it's the least you could do to listen to it. Really now what were you doing all the while I was waiting there? Or on the other hand if you haven't listened to it yet, you could listen to this first and then return to the "Wailing Wall" as it is a vastly superior performance of everything that made ISM great. Yes perhaps that is best.)

As promised here is the premiere episode of Inner Sanctum Mysteries aired January 7, 1941.

the Amazing Death of Mrs. Putnam

Gary D. Macabre

Friday, March 28, 2008

Oh there you are. I was afraid for a moment you had forgotten our appointment.

Well there you have it friends, simply passing on from the land of the living does not grant one with the omniscience of the ages. Here I stand before you admitting my error. It appears I was, dare I say it... Dead wrong.

In my previous post regarding the Inner Sanctum I passed on the information that "Death For Sale" was Inner Sanctum's pilot episode (this is how the time stamps have been reported elsewhere on the web and on the version I have in my personal collection). With a bit of light research I found a conflicting account that in fact the premiere episode was called "the Amazing Death of Mrs. Putnam" . And low an behold I actually found a broadcast of it online. Unfortunately it is the second half of a radio broadcast which I will have to do some work on to separate the two shows that were broadcast together. Believe me when I tell you that I will post it here once I have done so.

Upon hearing this episode there is no doubt that the Mrs, Putnam episode predates the rest of the series. Raymond's introduction is a complete departure from the one we have become so familiar with, lacking the familiar dark and sadistic wit the character would come to be known for. Using the phrase "Oh there you are. I was afraid for a moment you had forgotten our appointment...", Raymond first introduces us to the Inner Sanctum, here sponsored by Carter's Liver Pills. The introduction and in fact the entire episode plays more like an episode of the Shadow. The tale follows two police officers investigating the reported death of an old lady (Mrs. Putnam) and the bizarre inconsistencies surrounding her apparent demise. Unlike the later and infinitely superior episodes with murder and death abound this tale plays out as a relatively uninspired detective story. Even the organ music used throughout the show has the air of being stolen from an episode of the Shadow. All said it is a rather disappointing performance by everyone involved. however much like the original Star Trek series pilot "The Cage", the Star Wars Holiday Special or the Muppets' "End to Sex and Violence", the legacy of the series certainly makes ample amends, for one small shows shortcomings, and similarly relegates this episode to "must-have" status simply for the sake of posterity.

My error aside, I must admit to being completely satisfied that I first aired such an enjoyable episode as "Death For Sale" for anyone not familiar with the Inner Sanctum, if only to whet your appetite for the show which I doubt this episode would have done.

As a side note Oct. 30 1945 appears to be the original broadcast date for "Death For Sale". By that date this would be one of the first shows with Paul McGrath as the host. Somehow this seems wrong to me thus I'll have to look a bit deeper.

May your dreams be wrought with anxious nightmares, but not on account of this episode, as I will make it available as soon as possible.

To make it up to you I will share another, later Broadcast of Inner Sanctum for you, this time a later recording featuring Paul McGrath as "Mr. Host" along with Mary "the Lipton Tea Lady". This one is another of my favourite episodes, again featuring the King of Creeps Boris Karloff.
Could there be anything better than The Inner Sanctum, Boris Karloff and a tale based largely on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat". Reportedly aired 11/06/1945...

The Wailing Wall

Gary D. Macabre

Again Link provided from

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Good evening friends of the creeking door...

So begins one of the greatest horror themed radio programs of all times, INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES. Airing from January 1941 through October 1952 this twisted crimson jewel shared with its audience a disturbing mix of dark tales of terror; from murder and depravity to supernatural evils and vengeful spirits. Not only were the stories consistently horrifying in nature, they were served up in a dark and creepy mood dripping with a thick rich sauce of eerie organ (eeew organ sauce) music and superbly performed sound effects, which themselves were used to tell much of the story. Along with that the talented performers always effectively portrayed the suspense, fears and desperations of their characters under the direction of one of the most accomplished radio directors of all time, Himan Brown. The series also boasted an impressive cast of guest stars such as horror legends Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Claude Raines to name but a few.

One of the most notable features of this program was its hosts. The original host of the series, Raymond Edward Johnson, simply referred to as "Raymond" laid the ground work for practically every horror host that has ever followed. While himself not the first to host a horror or suspense program, it was his innovative character which provided a creepy yet humourous twist to the program. His evil yet gleeful interaction with the audience relishing in death and the macabre was littered with puns and and morbid jokes. After Johnson's departure from the series in 1945 (for military service) the mantle was taken up by Paul McGrath who kept the stylistic nature of Raymond's character, but respectfully did not take the name only being referred to as "Mr. Host".

In 1945 the show took on the Lipton Tea Company as it's primary sponsor and the show rounded a new corner with the addition of Mary Bennett to the cast. A proper and always excessively cheerful housewife to act as Mr. Host's sidekick. With her unflappable sunny disposition despite the macabre subject matter she became the shows Gracie Allen, and in my opinion played off of Mr. Host's dark wit beautifully. Although there are many fans of the series who don't enjoy her near as much as I do, it must be acknowledged that Mary's role as sidekick and foil to the shows host was another innovative and significant addition in horror host history, particularly evident on modern horror host programs.

Sadly of the 535 episodes originally broadcast, fewer than 170 are still known to exist. But for those that remain I am dearly grateful.

Here is the pilot episode of Inner Sanctum Mysteries originally Aired January 7, 1941 (re-aired July 13, 1952) starring the the one and only Boris Karloff.

Death For Sale

Link provided from if you are a fan of Old Time Radio this site is a must for your personal links.

Gary D. Macabre

Bad Ads: Cereal box promotion

Oops I seem to have created a dud post, but that's OK. As the saying goes when life give you lemons, place them in a pillow case with a couple of rocks and beat someone about the head with them. When they're sufficiently incapacitated take the now pulpy fruit and rub it in the eyes and open wounds of your victim. So with that in mind here are a couple of my series of Bad Ads which I initially created for the Universal Monster Army during my term as OOTMah (officer of the month). The cereal box promotion: Terrible Traps.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Down at the Crossroads

Welcome friend to the crossroads. Here in the lands between the living and the dead this is a remarkable place, and one I visit often. It is a barren and lonely place with two dusty trails intersecting, each oblivious to the other and each carries on unmarked and anonymous. Comings and goings are one in the same, and one path could just as easily be any of the others, yet each leads somewhere uniquely different.
Here in the world between worlds the crossroads is a physical place in time and all times just as it is an intangible metaphor. Yet once in a while there is someone from the land of the alive who perceives the power of this place and leaves behind a mark, a token, or a bottle. Some even come and entertain for a while awaiting a visitor before they return on the road from which they came. Whether or not this will affect their journey is not for me to say.

"If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and you go to where the road crosses that way, where a crossroads is. Get there, be sure to get there just a little 'fore 12 that night so you know you'll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself...A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he'll tune it. And then he'll play a piece and hand it back to you. That's the way I learned to play anything I want." Tommy Johnson

Hoodoo, root magic, and conjur are just some of the more common terms used to describe this tradition of American practical folk magic. That’s all fine for a dry flavourless dictionary definition, but it really doesn’t get to the root (pun intended) of what Hoodoo actually is. Functionally Hoodoo is a dynamic collection of rituals and beliefs that had their origins in Central African folklore and tradition. Naturally as slavery imported the African people to America it imported their beliefs as well. And in this new land these beliefs and traditions grew and adopted various other similar beliefs. Most notable is the inclusion of Native American botanical knowledge, as well as similar European pagan beliefs and rituals and medieval alchemy. Even more mainstream religious practices such as recital of Christian Psalms, Jewish Kabbalism, and even Hindu spiritualism have been adapted and incorporated to some extent.

One of the most unique and important traits of Hoodoo is that although it incorporates many old beliefs, it is completely free of any prescribed ideology. It is quite simply a method of employing natural elements and spirits to better oneself. This is a direct contrast to witchcraft and magik, which are connected to Wiccan theology (although many Wiccans readily dismiss spell casting and just prescribe to the ideology). This is also a major departure from Voodoo (Vodou or Vodoun proper). Although the terms Hoodoo and Voodoo have been used interchangeably for many years and in many published writings, this is a common error, usually attributed to the ignorance of the European-American community on the matter, and the apathy of the Hoodoo practitioners in failing to correct them. The similarities in application of spells and root-work (use of herbs and roots in concocting tinctures, powders and talismans etc.) and their exotic African heritages also serve as a source of confusion. Vodou is a Hatian religion with West African origins that worships one God and serves many spirits. Throughout the 20’s and 30’s most people who practiced hoodoo on the other hand typically adhered to predominantly Christian ideologies.

Hoodoo reached its peak during the 1920’s and 30’s and although it was mostly practiced within the African-American community there were well know white Hoodoo doctors. Certainly there were even more members of white society that sought out the aid of a Hoodoo Woman or Black Gypsy even though they might risk severe repercussions amongst their piers and their communities. This of course was likely the result of the pressures one encountered during the depression years, as widespread Hoodoo practice dropped relatively swiftly after world war two.

The primary ingredients of Hoodoo magic were natural elements, plants and or zoological curios. Unlike European folk magic incantations alone would produce nothing, nor was there a need for daggers, wands or other such magical paraphernalia. Like any form of folk magic the uses were almost limitless, and completely subject to the individuals situation and desires. But I’ll make mention of a few of the more common themes often found in classic blues music.

Crossroads magic: Typically this was how and where one could develop a specific skill, such as Tommy Johnson claimed to have done in order to become an accomplished musician. Practicing one’s craft at a crossroads at a prescribed time(s) was said to result in the appearance of magical animals usually black in colour. Then eventually a man again black in colour (not of ethnic nature) would appear and grant you the ability you desired. The idea of this individual being the devil and the cost of the skill being one’s soul is a fanciful exaggeration of the Hoodoo belief not found in Hoodoo tradition. The location itself is also important in other regards and would be used in connection to other tricks or spells to achieve a desired result or for the disposal of magical materials.

Foot-Track magic: Typically a nefarious form of trick to curse an individual, or even cause physical illness. Various curses could be performed by either having the victim come in direct contact with a powder or through the use of placing dirt from their footprint in the powder itself.

Mojo Hands: We’ve all heard the word mojo and this would be the source, although for the most part the actual meaning of the term is lost and substituted for a variety of other meanings usually related to sexual virility. In reality it is a lucky talisman, usually a bag containing magical items. John the Conquor Root, a rabbit’s foot, lodestone, money, bone, various oils or powders would be typical elements. A Mojo bag would be made for a specific person and a specific purpose, and would not work for another than it was intended.

Goofer Dust: A particularly nasty powder used to trouble, injure or even kill an enemy. Comprised of graveyard dirt, sulfur, magnetic sand or iron, salt and powdered snakeskin, Like Foot-track magic it could be used directly on an individual or with a personal element and buried or hidden away. You know you’ve crossed someone pretty bad if they goofered you. A silver dime in ones shoe however was said to be one form of protection from magical poisonings as such.

A fantastic and comprehensive internet resource for Hoodoo can be found at for anyone interested in a greater knowledge of this topic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Devil’s Music

Greetings fellow traveler. Sit a spell, relax along your journey and take in the echoing joyous sounds of the living. But ask yourself, in a world so infused with such darkness and death where is its influence in the sounds you year?

The 1950’s, fondly remembered for poodle skirts, hula hoops, hot rods, the advent of television, the Drive-in theatre, B-movies and of course Rock and Roll!

Ah yes Rock and Roll, early on dubbed with the notorious moniker “the devil’s music”. Certainly everyone knows how devout Christian groups reeled against this high energy music that made kids want to dance wildly and perhaps have a bit too much fun. Society was losing its morals and Rock and Roll was the cause. Was this alone enough for right wing church groups to rally against a simple form of musical expression? Well for some it would be, but let’s not be that naive.

Life in the great free Union (and yes I’ll admit it, Canada too) wasn’t all Happy Days and American Graffiti. It was a period of history mired heavily in racism and segregation. Rhythm revivals were of the forbearer of the sock hop and Blues music was at the heart of Rock and Roll. Early Rock and Roll legends like Chuck Berry were indeed Black and the music was considered black peoples' music. Rock and Roll was an extension of R&B in the 40's and wasn’t an issue until promoters started marketing it to middle class white America.

Now you’re saying to yourself 'So the phrase ‘the Devil’s music’ is all about pragmatic racists Christians?' You got it already, it's nothing new. And why would I even bother to write this on a blog about horror and the macabre? Certainly you could read this and more in one of the countless essays or papers on the subject of Rock and Roll History? And so you could, but you’ve got to figure I’m going somewhere with this right?

The other Day I started thinking about my next blog, and I started thinking about Hoodoo practices and their presence in classic blues music. And then it struck me that the topic really deserved more than I could address in one entry. But as that was where my train of thought started that will suffice as my starting point for this and the next blog.

We will save the meat of the discussion on Hoodoo for the next post, but a bit of a primer is indeed prudent here for those unfamiliar with Hoodoo.

First up lets be clear to keep both Hoodoo and Voodoo (Voodoun proper) separate. Historically these two have been confused, and although they share certain similarities, they are in fact quite different. Hoodoo is a type of practical folk magic exclusive to the United States and North America. Its roots are first and foremost based on practices and beliefs of Central Africa, and thus were most predominantly practiced by the African-American community with its heyday in the 1930’and 40’s. That said the practice is not extinct, and although I will be referring to it primarily in past tense, there are still modern day practitioners.

Hoodoo magic was very much a reality to many people and the belief in its power and effectiveness was not something that one questioned, no more than you or I question how the microprocessors in our laptops work. They simply do. Naturally such a commonplace reality would be expressed in other areas of life, and blues music is an excellent example of that happening. Not to say that all blues music is about hoodoo, such an idea is quite plainly a stupid one, but many songs clearly are either about the effects and methods of hoodoo tricking or mention it in passing. Early and influential blues master Robert Johnson made mention of hoodoo in a number of his songs. Cross Roads Blues, a location traditionally imbued with magical properties, Hellhound on my Trail (which really has little or nothing to do with supernatural beasts) and Stones in my Passway are about Hot Foot tricking, which Robert clearly believed he was a victim of as he himself was never able to settle in one place during his life.

Other early and influential blues bands sang about practices and even well known practitioners such as The Memphis Jug Band, Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues, Ida Cox, Mojo Hand Blues, and Ma Rainey, Black Dust Blues to name but a few. Even after world War II later Blues greats Like Bo Diddly Who Do You Love (note the play on words Hoodoo love) and Lightnin’ Hopkins Mojo Hand, Muddy Waters, Gypsy Woman, John Lee Hooker, Black Cat Blues and many others sang about hoodoo. Possibly the greatest influence on Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry makes mention of hoodoo practices in songs such as Thirty Days.

With all this in evidence, would it not be completely reasonable for Christians to view such influences that were openly accepting the existence and reality of spells and magic as heretical? Indeed modern Christian groups have rallied against J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books for that exact reason. Perhaps it’s possible that many of Rock and Roll’s early Christian opponents did have what they felt was a “legitimate theological” dispute with the music and their views were not based so much on ignorance and bigotry as we commonly attribute to their position.

Gary D Macabre

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Murders in the Rue Morgue

Edgar Alan Poe’s ‘the Murders in the Rue Morgue’ is perhaps as recognizable in title as Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ or Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. However without the cognitive association with a character and thus a face of it’s own, the title just brings up shadowy images in the public consciousness. Perhaps, like an echo in a great marble train station, the sound of it alone reverberates in one’s mind yet only leaves a lingering and hollow sensation of something you should be familiar with, yet what it is eludes you. If this is true for you then read on fellow traveler.

Murders in the Rue Morgue is best known in literary circles as the first detective tale; first published in Graham’s Magazine in 1841. Following the grisly and mysterious murders of two women in Paris, Auguste Dupin, a young introvert with auspicious upbringing and little personal wealth, (yet still able to get along quite handily without an occupation), takes it upon himself to discover the true identity of the murderer without want of recompense. This theme would be modified and used again and again throughout detective stories. As for further details and discussion of the story, I will leave it here for you to explore for yourself if you are not already familiar with it.

How then has this short detective story become so well known in the realm of horror? To be perfectly honest I believe that has as much to do with the public’s lack of familiarity with the tale coupled with the simple fact that it was written by Edgar Allan Poe, himself synonymous with tales of the macabre. Certainly just the title in itself brings vivid images to mind that are equally if not more commonly found in horror. That is not to say the story in itself does not have such elements of horror within it. Take for example the fact that the murder victims are women, one elderly and frail and one young and presumably attractive. Even in today’s PC world with strong women role models there is a predominant underpinning of the idea that the female is the fairer, more delicate sex. There is something brutal, senseless and evil inherent in the idea of killing one which is not perceived as being able to protect themselves. In addition to that is the fact that the elaborate and graphic description of the murder scene is disturbing even by today’s standards.

The apartment was in the wildest disorder — the furniture broken and thrown about in all directions. There was only one bedstead; and from this the bed had been removed, and thrown into the middle of the floor. On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have been pulled out by the roots. Upon the floor were found four Napoleons, an ear-ring of topaz, three large silver spoons, three smaller of m├ętal d'Alger, and two bags, containing nearly four thousand francs in gold. The drawers of a bureau, which stood in one corner, were open, and had been, apparently, rifled, although many articles still remained in them. A small iron safe was discovered under the bed (not under the bedstead). It was open, with the key still in the door. It had no contents beyond a few old letters, and other papers of little consequence.

Of Madame L'Espanaye no traces were here seen; but an unusual quantity of soot being observed in the fire-place, a search was made in the chimney, and (horrible to relate!) the corpse of the daughter, head downward, was dragged therefrom; it having been thus forced up the narrow aperture for a considerable distance. The body was quite warm. Upon examining it, many excoriations were perceived, no doubt occasioned by the violence with which it had been thrust up and disengaged. Upon the face were many severe scratches, and, upon the throat, dark bruises, and deep indentations of fingernails, as if the deceased had been throttled to death.

After a thorough investigation of every portion of the house, without farther discovery, the party made its way into a small paved yard in the rear of the building, where lay the corpse of the old lady, with her throat so entirely cut that, upon an attempt to raise her, the head fell off. The body, as well as the head, was fearfully mutilated — the former so much so as scarcely to retain any semblance of humanity.

Murders in the Rue Morgue has become firmly entrenched in horror culture most notably by the 1932 feature film of the same title starring horror icon Bela Lugosi. As entertaining as the movie is however, it suffers from the same fate as many of Poe's works that have been adapted for film and only vaguely resembles the original piece. Rue Morgue would again reappear on the big screen in 1954 under the title Phantom of the Rue Morgue.

Now be warned if you want to read this story in it's entirety, and without the risk of vague spoilers, perhaps this is where we should part company for the day.

In addition addition to these cinematic versions which have outwardly taken ownership of the title, Murders in the Rue Morgue has spawned a whole horror sub-genre of “killer ape” movies throughout the forties and fifties which owe as much to this story as they do to King Kong.

Rue Morgue’s most recent entrenchment in the horror community occurred in 1997 when it was taken as the name of a Canadian magazine focusing entirely on “horror in entertainment and culture” which is now widely distributed throughout Canada and the United States and has recently won “Best Magazine” honours in the 2007 Rondo Awards.

Gary D Macabre

Greetings and Condolences

The dark swirling cloak of eventual and imminent demise descends upon us all. The fate of your eternal and incorporeal being is exclusively between you and your beliefs, and is none of my concern. Rather this place is devoted to the mortal world and the journeys of the mortal husks we inhabit, both while animated with the breath of life and afterwards.

So it begins. Join me on the banks of the River Styx where life and death danse in a cold yet intimate embrace. Here you will find Classic (and perhaps not-so-classic) Horror and it's celebration of the union of life and death in it's many forms, from the cinema, to Old Time Radio, comics, magazines and literature. As well other bizarre things, places and people which demonstrate Life imitating Death, and of course Death mocking the living.

Please note that I am also currently engaged in the creation of a Frankenstein Monster of my own, As such This blog will not likely be updated more than weekly as that project commands dedication and time as well. I highly recommend checking out the links on the left, members of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers (LOTT D). A group of blogging horror heads dedicated to producing quality horror related blogs.

Gary D Macabre