Tales of Enchanted October – Black Cats in Myth and Legend

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The folklore surrounding black cats has always varied widely from culture to culture. One people’s dark omen is another’s good luck charm. But all things considered, the black cat has always sort of gotten a bum rap, being closely associated with witches and hobgoblins.

Darned shame too. They are lovely creatures, and exquisitely beautiful.

The Scottish found them to be good luck and the presence of a black cat was thought to bring prosperity to the home. (I think I’ll get a dozen!) Likewise, black cats are lucky in both Briton and Japan. Ladies take note, Japanese single females believe ownership of a black feline will bring many suitors.

Not so at the old casino. There, black cats are considered VERY direly bad luck indeed, hitting just where it is most likely to do the most harm .  .  . in the wallet.

In Celtic mythology, the black cat becomes a fairy known as the Cat Sith (shades of Star Wars).

Mostly in Western culture, are black cats symbols of evil and witchcraft. Why? It seems nobody knows, or can’t remember. May have to do with the Bible-thumping Pilgrims. They found foreboding and evil in most anything dark.

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Germany is my favorite. There a cat crossing one’s path from right to left is a bad omen, but the other way forebodes good times. 18th century Pirates once believed (and may still do for all I know) that a black cat walking toward a person .  .  . bad luck. Away from them, good.

Sailor’s who wanted a ship’s cat, would favor the color black, thinking it would bring good luck. Fisherman’s wives, back home, would keep them for the same reason – to bring hubby home safely.

Since the 1880’s. the color black has been associated with anarchism. The black cat, in an alert, fighting stance, was later adopted as an anarchist symbol. It is true. When I was a kid, we once had a black cat. It was a hell-raiser.  .  . and anarchy reigned.

It is doubtful, I think, that there could be a more misunderstood creature.

One thing we do know though, is that black cats are a heck of a lot of fun. It just wouldn’t be Halloween without the ever-present black cat. It is perhaps, along with the witch and the pumpkin, the most recognizable of autumn symbols.

So here’s to you black cats. We love you, we can’t do without you, and if you didn’t exist .  .  . well, come October, we’d just have to invent you.

You all have a great night tonight, and watch out for that black cat, lurking, just outside the window.

and .  .  . Happy Nightmares!!!

.  .  . ’til next time.

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The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

 

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The fifties were a decade of fear.  Sure, in 1954 there was much good about America. There was also quite a bit of bad. We were the leader of the free world alright, and we were an industrial giant as well. Made in America meant something back then. America in those days was the lender to the rest of the world. Today, we owe the rest of the world. To the tune of nearly twenty TRILLION dollars.

But that’s a subject for another blog.

The fifties was also the decade of the specter of nuclear war. We had just seen a couple of hundred thousand Japanese souls perish in a few nano-seconds at the end of the war in the Pacific. The Soviet Union now had the bomb, and were stating that they weren’t afraid to use it.

I remember being a kid in those days and being told at school that if there were a bomb alert, we would be safe if he crouched under our desks and covered our eyes with our hands. Well, maybe that was somewhat true with the Hiroshima sized atomic bombs, but the advice soon changed with thermo-nuclear bombs came along. Then it was, simply remain seated at your desk and wave goodbye. Some of the then new hydrogen bombs were nearly one thousand times more powerful than the ones used on Japan.

The motion pictures of the era played into and onto those fears. Fallout was a big, big, concern. We knew even then that it cause birth defects and deformities. The monster and big-bug flicks of the era focused on that fear.

The deformities in the movies were no small thing.

Out of the era came Godzilla, Mothra, King Kong, and various giant spiders, along with an assortment of other unsavory and very much deformed creatures.

One of them was .  .  . THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

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It was a pretty scary movie. Beautiful girl (there was ALWAYS a beautiful girl) is threatened by a scaly, nasty critter, this time under water. This had the effect of increasing the darkness, atmosphere, and the tension, as well as showing off lovely Julia Adams at her best in her bathing suit.

Hey, what creature worth his salt wouldn’t go after that!

Gill-man (yep, that was the name of the monster) eventually meets his fate, as all the monsters in these movies always did, but not before racking up a fair-sized body count.

It was all good fun, scared the crap out of everyone, and spawned two sequels: Revenge of the Creature (1955), and The Creature Walks Among Us (A Fungus Among Us?) (1956).

By then, old Gilly had run his course.

These were cheesy movies in the extreme, but most anyone alive at the time loved them, and those of us still alive, probably miss them bunches. Like the days, the roads, and the times, they were part of our childhood. They were part of what we were, and what we were to become.

Thanks to those wonderful movie-makers of old, for those cheesy old. WONDERFUL movies. We will never see their like again .  .  . and I kind of think that is not such a good thing.

The kids today?  Well, they have missed a lot.

Next time .  .  . BLACKS CATS  IN MYTH AND LEGEND.

Lon Chaney Junior and The Wolfman

 

Lon Chaney Jr.
Lon Chaney Jr.

 

 

His real name was Creighton Tull Chaney, and he was the Tim Curry and Andy Serkis of his time. Sure, there were others, not the least of which were the great Bela Lugosi and the masterful Boris Karloff. But to my way of thinking,  Lon Chaney Junior was the best–in no small part because he got to play the coolest monster.

The Wolfman.

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Sure, Logosi’s Dracula could suck you dry of blood, and Karloff’s Frankenstein would turn your red-cells to icicles, but they weren’t a patch on The Wolfman, who would as soon rip you to shreds as look at you. He was Jack the Ripper in a bad fur and rubber coat, and his brilliant portrayal of old Wolfie, haunted my childhood dreams. Every Friday late-night Lon Chaney horror movie lives on in my memory.

Chaney, the son of another famous silent-film actor of the same name,  would play Larry Talbot, the unfortunate victim of a werewolf bite, in several films. Moonlight was not a fun thing for Larry. According to an old gypsy lady in the film, “Even a man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers at night, may turn to a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms, and the moon is full and bright.”

She was not a cheery person. And neither was Talbot when the moon came out. A gentle man by nature, Talbot turned into a true monster in every sense of the word when the full-moon light hit him. And it was a masterful transformation indeed.

It always took place in front of a mirror, and in an age before special-effects, it was very well-done indeed. It sent chills down my spine, and I had seen it about a thousand times. I invite anyone who hasn’t seen this on film to view one of the many Chaney clips available on YouTube. It is worth the visit. These films were made in the days before color–in beautiful black and white. Color is great for most things, but the old monster flicks .  .  . well, no way. Light and especially shadow, was everything in those old films.

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Chaney played many wonderful roles in his life, but he could never outlive Larry Talbot. His later roles reflected his monster past. He played more than a few lunatics and psychopaths in his time.

Born in 1906, he left this Earth in 1973, just sixty-seven years old and the victim of a heart-attack. Having lived a hard life, he was pretty much used-up. At the height of his career Cheney had a reputation for defending both young actors just starting out in the business, and very old ones, in the sunset of their years. He would often threaten to walk off the set if the studio did not treat these folks with respect. He was an activist before it popular to be one.

Chaney was known as a sweet and gentle man. Except when he was “in his cups.” But then he was part Irish, so he really couldn’t help it.

Lon and his drinking buddy Broderick Crawford were known as “the monsters” around Universal Studios because of their drunken behavior that frequently resulted in bloodshed at the local watering holes.

When Chaney died, his body was donated for medical research. His corpse, in true classic horror film fashion, was dissected by medical students, and the medical school was impressed enough  with what they found, to keep his liver and lungs in jars as specimens of what extreme alcohol and tobacco abuse can do to human organs. A fitting final tribute for the old Thespian.

Because of the donation of his body to science, there is no grave to mark his final resting place. No shrine to visit on a cold moonlit October night.

This had led  more than a few, to speculate, in their idle moments, that perhaps the old master is out there still, somewhere .  .  . waiting .  .  . just the other side of that tree.

Thanks for the memories Lon. May you reside in Peace wherever you are. And may God rest your very lovely monstrously big heart.

Good night. And happy nightmares.

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Next up–THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

 

 

 

 

 

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Legends of Enchanted October – The Creeper

 

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Yep, it’s Autumn again, the most enchanted, endearing, and creepy time of the year. Frosty nights. Early darkness. Things that go bump in the night. Scary stuff.  Faces at the window. Disembodied spirits. Walking dead. You get the idea.The stuff of nightmares.

As we go through this most wonderful time of the year, I think we are going to need a scary story or two, or a dozen or so, to set the mood for approaching Halloween. So what do you say? Anyone up for whistling past the graveyard?

Let’s rattle dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones .  .  .

Tonight .  .  . THE CREEPER.

The late great Hollywood horror-movie actor Rondo Hatton, as The Hoxton Creeper, in Sherlock Holmes' Pearl of Death.
The late great Hollywood horror-movie actor Rondo Hatton, as The Hoxton Creeper, in Sherlock Holmes’ Pearl of Death.

A tale from my youth, now apparently lost in time. I can’t find it anywhere anymore. But it went something like this .  .  .

There was a horribly deformed man called The Creeper. A hunchback. He had a hook for a hand–a hook he had sharpened to a razor’s edge. He stalked teenagers, and killed them when he found them. And then he drank their blood, and ate their flesh.

Bob and Sally were out on a date. Before Bob takes Sally home, he invites her to spend a little quality time out on lover’s lane. It is on a road set well back in the deep woods. Sally says no. She’s heard the legend of the creeper, and wants no part of these dark late October woods.

Bob tells her that the creeper doesn’t really exist. He was made up by parents that wanted to frighten their children and make them come straight home. He finally convinces her, and off to the lane they go.

They park. It is a frosty night so Bob leaves the car running so there will be heat. He’s intending a little heat of his own. Sally is frightened all over again. In the black woods, she can hear the hoots of the owl and the chill wind blowing through the bare branches of the trees. Wild clouds race overhead. A full moon.

She is all gooseflesh, which only encourages Bob further. Just as he is starting to get to the good part, Sally glances at her outside rear-view mirror and sees movement. Movement that is rapidly approaching the passenger side door.

Of course, the doors are not locked!!!

She screams at Bob, and Bob turns, and for just an instant he too can seem the form of a hunchbacked man lunging for the passenger side door handle. In a split-second, Bob throws the car into gear, mashes the gas pedal and peels out of the woods and back down the road as though Satan himself is chasing him, spraying gravel as he goes.

In a few minutes they are back at Sally’s house. But now they have convinced themselves that what they saw was simply a trick of the light. A cloud crossing over the moon, throwing shadows. Perhaps a deer. They have a good laugh at their silliness, and make plans for another date later in the week. It is time for Sally to go inside.

Of course Bob, being the gentleman that he is, walks around the car to open the door for her.

That’s when he see it. That’s when his heart stops beating for several seconds. That’s when his breath comes only in terrified gasps. In short, that’s when he wets his pants.

For there, in the moonlight, Bob sees, hanging from the passenger side door handle .  .  . the severed arm and hook .  .  . of THE CREEPER.

 

Next time .  .  . THE WOLFMAN.

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“Even a man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers at night, may turn to a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms, and the moon is full and bright.”

Good night to you all .  .  . and HAPPY NIGHTMARES.

 

 

The Care and Management of OPP’s – or . . . Feeding Frogs

 

Frog

If you have children, if you have step-children, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, foster children, adopted children .  .  . in fact, any sort of children what-so-ever, you probably have pets. They go together like, well, dogs and fleas.

And it doesn’t matter if they are little kids either, or adult children well into middle-age. You will still have pets. Even if you decided many long years ago you didn’t want to have pets no more, you ‘re still gonna have them. I call them OPP’s, or, Other People’s Pets.

If you’re lucky, it might be a really cool dog that loves you a lot, will take naps on the sofa with you in the afternoon, or perhaps go for a long walk in the woods and fetch sticks, just like on the Hallmark cards. Fun stuff.

Even a cat isn’t too bad. Especially if it lays in the living room corner and twitches away the day, as it chases mice in it’s sleep. Cats will leave you alone, which isn’t too bad at all. I had a cat OPP for years. I really kind of liked her. She died of old age while still in my care. It was a sad day. Sometimes OPP’s will get under your skin. That is, if you’re lucky.

Or they might be frogs.

African Pygmy Frogs.
African Pygmy Frogs.

Frogs are what I have now. The gift of a currently homeless relative, who knew even before she bought the darned things for her kids that she was going to soon be out of a house. But hey, what the heck, no problem, they can always be dropped off at Grampy Schmucko’s house for a year or so. That’s what dummies are for.

Blood worms

I feed them blood-worms. Yeah, you heard that right, and it is just as gross as it sounds. I have watched the frogs mate, right there under a bright light in their gallon or so of semi-stagnant swamp water. I didn’t recognize the activity for what it was at first, and I thought I knew things. I have cleaned the yucky filter and tried to determine on a daily basis, if the snail that also inhabits the tank is alive or dead. And no, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Another relative likes to take long vacations in Europe once a year. My wife and I get to watch the dog. No stick fetching though.  He’s a good old guy, but he’s also a runner, so we need to block the door like a NHL goalie, even when bringing in arms full of  groceries. I have determined however, that he is not going to escape on my watch. For this gig I wear my prison warden hat.

Then there was the twenty-nine gallon fish aquarium. Had that one for several years, as a bitter divorce played out. Yucky things, fish tanks. The fish too. Especially fishing out the dead ones. Gives me the willies, and I once worked in a morgue.

I once watched a dog for a week, a Kerry Blue Terrier named Casey, that belonged to my brother. He had more teeth than a Great White Shark and wasn’t afraid to use them (Casey that is). The only way I could get Casey in and out of the house for potty-time without losing an arm, was to hook the tines at the end of a garden rake onto his collar and pull him out. After he did his business, the process was reversed. I might as well taken a job as an animal control officer.

Memories. Thinking back, sometimes I can mark the different years by the OPP’s.

Bottom line .  .  . I’ve probably had three or four OPP’s in my life for every pet of my own. I’ve enjoyed a few of them, hated some of them (Casey) and spent a fortune on and never made a penny watching even one of them.

The moral of today’s rant?

If you don’t particularly like Other People’s Pets .  .  . you have better really love your children.

Because if you have kids,  old age is going to mean .  .  . Feeding Frogs.

And that I can promise you.

Have a GREAT day !!!