Yeah, I dig horror.

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We all love a good scare.  Some of us jump off planes, others go on the tallest, fastest roller-coasters. Is it for the adrenaline?  The thrill?  Me-I watch horror. If you ever read junk about the psychology of horror, you will find, that according to the stats–I am, as a woman, in the minority.  Figures.  Personally, I don’t believe that’s true. I just think we’re under-represented.  I am not alone guys.

We're coming out of the closet!

And there are more and more of us out there.  We’re coming out of the closet.  Honestly, I think there are more female fans than in the past, for the same reason we got out of the kitchen-because we have time. That, and it’s more socially acceptable for women to enjoy the horror genre.  But that’s just my psych 101.  I don’t have any stats to back that up.  But, enough feminism for today.  Here at this blog, we don’t care if you’re a man or a woman or what-have-you, we just care that you’re interested in the crap we have to say.

Some believe we like  horror films because we have some primal need to feel such strong emotions such as fear and dread.  Personally, I think it’s a big part of it.  I know that for me, it’s a distraction from my busy life.  But it did not start that way.  My love affair for the macabre began as a little girl.  It was forbidden as a child.  My mom did her best to keep me away from horror movies, yet she would scare the bejeezus out of a little uncoolghoul with her Mexican urban legends and tales of

The Chupacabra

her macabre nightmares, which usually concerned the devil(and she wonders why I ended up being so ghoulish).  Luckily for me, my aunt never stopped us kids from watching horror.  Thanks to her, I got to see Child’s Play and A Nightmare on Elm Street and countless other unsuitable movies for a little girl.  Precocious child that I was, any time my mother said I couldn’t watch it–I suddenly had to.

As an adult, I still love horror.  It doesn’t scare me senseless as it did when I was a child.  Instead, I find myself searching, searching, and searching some more for the next movie that thrills me.  I will watch crap like The Human Centipede just to prove I can.  But I prefer horror that is more than just “shock and awe”.  I prefer the ones that speak to that primal part of each of us.  Horror is just another name for fairy tales.  These tales warn us that the familiar can still harbor Evil; that it exists and lives close by.

As I mentioned before, horror does not scare me as much as it did when I was a child.  But there are still some movies that intrigue me, not because they were particularly the best, but because they were based, at least in part, in reality. Why? Because the truth can be much more horrifying than anything Eli Roth can come up with. Because who knows what’s going on with the neighbors behind closed doors.

Some of the Best Horror Movies based on True Stories

Open WaterThe Movie Story: When unmarried couple Daniel and Susan take a group scuba diving trip, a mistake by the crew while taking a head count of the divers who return to the boat leaves the couple floating alone in the ocean, surrounded by sharks.The Real Story: In January 1998, married couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan disappeared off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef after a diving company accidentally left them behind in the water. It took two days — when a bag containing a wallet and passports was found — for the crew to realize that they’d left the couple behind. A search was conducted, but their bodies were never found. Belongings discovered weeks later showed no signs of the violent shark attack that the film suggests.

This is particularly horrifying for me because my swimming skills are severely lacking and I get scared in the deep end of the pool.

The Exorcism of Emily RoseThe Movie Story: A priest is on trial for the death of a young woman named Emily Rose, upon whom he had performed an exorcism. Through flashbacks, we see the tribulations that she suffered while possessed. The Real Story: The film was inspired by Anneliese Michel, a 16-year-old German girl who, in 1968, began displaying symptoms of demonic possession. For years, she suffered paralysis, self-abuse, starvation and demonic visions until 1975, when two priests performed exorcisms of what was believed to be several demons over 10 months. During that time, Anneliese barely ate, and she died of starvation in July 1976. Her parents and the priests were tried and found guilty of manslaughter. They were sentenced to six months in jail.

I don’t know whether the poor girl was truly possessed, or even if there is such a thing as possession.  Nonetheless, a girl suffered and died horribly-that much is true.  Either way, the end of life must have been a horror.

The ExorcistThe Movie Story: A pair of priests attempt to exorcise a demon that has possessed a 12-year-old girl living in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. The Real Story: William Peter Blatty, screenwriter and author of the novel The Exorcist, was inspired by an article he read in college at Georgetown University about an exorcism performed on a 13-year-old boy in Mount Rainier, Maryland in 1949. The story’s details have been muddled through the years — perhaps intentionally so, in order to protect the family — but the boy’s actual home lay in Cottage City, Maryland, and the exorcism was performed in St. Louis. Evidence points to the boy’s behavior not being nearly as outrageous or supernatural as was portrayed in the film.

And Movies inspired by Ed Gein( I will go into detail about his exploits in my next Manic Monday):

PsychoThe Movie Story: Norman Bates is a psychologically disturbed hotel owner who has delusions this his dead mother, whose body he keeps in the cellar, wants to kill hotel guests. He develops a dual personality and dresses like her when he commits his murders.  The Real Story: The character Norman Bates was inspired by Ed Gein, a Wisconsin man who was arrested in 1957 for committing two murders and digging up the corpses of countless other women who reminded him of his dead mother. He skinned the bodies to make lamp shades, socks and a “woman suit” in hopes of becoming a woman. He was found to be insane and spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.

The Silence of the LambsThe Movie Story:  A young FBI cadet, Clarice Starling, begins her career on the Buffalo Bill case-Buffalo Bill liked to skin his victims to make a “woman suit”.  The Real Story: Again Ed Gein

The Texas Chainsaw MassacreThe Movie Story: A group of young people traveling through rural Texas fall prey to a family of cannibals, including Leatherface, who wears a mask made from the skin of his victims.  The Real Story: Again Ed Gein

I did not include movies such as Amityville Horror, The Entity, or A Haunting in Connecticut because their is no “real” verifiable proof.  Also, I don’t believe in ghosts.  (That’s right…I said it….ghosts don’t exists).  That being said, I love Amityville Horror….it’s one of my faves, but it’s a big fake.  Also, I didn’t post any Crime-horror films because I think it deserves its own post.

Manic Monday

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Rasputin.  aka The Mad Russian. Rasputin was born Grigori Yefimovich  Novykh.  He was born a peasant in the small village of Pokrovskoye in Siberia sometime in the 1870s, remember, paperwork for uneducated peasants wasn’t exactly high on the list back in those days.  His childhood wasn’t very well documented either.  But a better way to ssay that is, his childhood is cloaked in mystery…..OooOOooooOO.  So spooky right?  Little Gregory grew up to be a charismatic religious mystic.  Rasputin’s life is hard to research, as his life is full of myth.  Regardless, all the myth surrounding Rasputin just proves how taken people were with him.

Accounts differ about exactly when, but Rasputin was introduced to the Khlysts Sect, an underground sect  of the Russian Orthodox Church that believed in the possibility of direct communication of the Holy Spirit.  They also believed that each successive leader was the incarnation of Christ.  At the age of 19 Rasputin returned to Pokrovskoe and married Praskovia Fyodorovna. They had three children: Dimitri in 1897, Maria in 1898, and Varvara in 1900.  But this wasn’t enough for Rasputin.  He left and traveled, proclaiming to be a holy man.  He claimed to heal the sick and predict the future.  Perhaps he truly could, or was charismatic enough to make others believe that he could, he wouldn’t be the first to pull off such a feat.  Soon enough, his fame grew far and wide, and soon people traveled from long distances in search of his insight and healing powers. In return for his services, people brought presents of food and money.

One day, according to Rasputin, he had a revelation from the Virgin Mary herself, who told her about the young Prince, Aleksei, and told him that he could help him with his affliction.  More likely, the desperate royals heard of Rasputin and called him to help.  Naturally, they would not want word of the the young tsarevich’s hemophilia to spread, and they would have searched for a cure.  Their desperation is evident in the very fact that they would bring in an outsider like Rasputin.  Luckily for Rasputin, whatever he did, seemed to work for little Aleksei.  Some say that Rasputin used hypnosis.  Others that he used leeches…which, personally, does not make sense.  There is a telegram sent from Rasputin to the royal family with the advice, “Don’t let the doctors bother him too much; let him rest.”  So perhaps Rasputin helped the boy by leaving him be and not poking and prodding him as his various doctors would, thereby, giving the boy a chance to heal.  He also stopped the administering of aspirin to the boy, whatever the reason behind the decision, it helped, as aspirin is an anticoagulant.

The Romanovs

The secrecy of Aleksei’s illness helped prompt the scandal of an affair between the Tsaritsa Alexandra and Rasputin.  It’s not as if the royals could explain away the real reason of Rasputin’s relationship with them.  The rumors weren’t helped with his growing scandalous reputation.  Rasputin indulged himself in many women, even going so far as to claim that sex with him was healing!  Like I haven’t heard that one before!  He was pretty vocal in his advice to the royals, who seemed to value his opinions, making Rasputin a very influential figure, though his military advice never proved fruitful.

The influence of Rasputin and rumor that the Tsarina was in the pay of the Germans (this was World War I),brought about the downfall of the Romanovs and Rasputin.  John Scale, a British agent  recorded: “German intrigue was becoming more intense daily. Enemy agents were busy whispering of peace and hinting how to get it by creating disorder, rioting, etc. Things looked very black. Romania was collapsing, and Russia herself seemed weakening. The failure in communications, the shortness of foods, the sinister influence which seemed to be clogging the war machine, Rasputin the drunken debaucher influencing Russia’s policy, what was to the be the end of it all.

THE DEATH OF RASPUTIN

Rasputin, in life, strove for the fame he achieved in death.  Russian officials met for dinner and decided that Rasputin was a danger to the nation.  Three men, Prince FelixYusupov (husband of the Tsar’s niece), Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich (a member of the duma) and the Grand Duke Dimitry Pavlovich (the Tsar’s cousin) took control of the situation. With an intricate plan, the three invited Rasputin over to the Yusupov Palace on December 30, 1916 to meet the Tsar’s beautiful niece. While waiting for her to appear, the men fed Rasputin poisoned wine and tea cakes.  To their disappointment and surprise, nothing happened.  So Felix shot him.  An hour later, they noticed Rasputin was still alive, (these guys never heard of the double tap apparently).  Rasputin ran away.  Purishkevich chased after him, shooting and hitting him twice more, one of those times in the head.  While he was down, Felix, in a rage, beat his face in with a two pound dumbbell.  Amazingly, Rasputin was still alive!   They weighed his body down and threw it over the side of a bridge.  When the police found the corpse, they found Rasputin’s hands were frozen in a raised position, making everyone believe that he had still been alive under the water and had tried to untie the rope around his hands. Prince Felix was exiled. Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich was sent to Persia to fight in the war. Both survived the revolution and the war. Though Rasputin’s relations with the tsar and tsarina had weakened the monarchy, the killing of Rasputin came too late to reverse the damage. If anything, the murder of a peasant by aristocrats sealed the fate of the Russian monarchy. Within three months, Tsar Nicholas would abdicate and about a year later the entire Romanov family would also be murdered.

The Mad Monk makes it the list of the most evil men, simply because his need for power and fame ended the Romanov dynasty.  And any man who could pull himself from such poverty to reach such social heights, even unto his will to live–this illiterate peasant had to have signed a deal with a devil.  There are those that claim Rasputin wasn’t bad, just misunderstood.  But the myth surrounding his persona, the unusual influence of Rasputin over the Romanov’s, plus the weird circumstances of his death, make Rasputin, The Mad Monk, one of the most evil and interesting men on the planet.  Even in death, his influence was feared:   He was buried in secret to avoid desecration. Thus ended Grigory Yefrimovich Rasputin. Besides, look at him, he’s Charles Manson creepy:

MANIC MONDAY

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Well, no horror is greater than true horror.  Or rather, the horror that we humans have committed against one another.  May I introduce a new segment of my blog.  MANIC MONDAY…..ta da!  Every Monday I’ll introduce to you, my loyal readers, (all two of you) to a real person who, through their actions, have become harbingers of horror.  I’d like to take credit for the story below, but the credit goes to trutv’s Crime Library of which I am a big fan.  Yeah, I know—sick, right.  But I find myself drawn to depths of madness that these people have created and wonder why?  Why did you become this monster?  Also, I harbor a secret wish of solving a crime using my amateur detective skills and google…sigh…a girl can dream, right?

My first MANIC MONDAY monster is right out of history.  One whose story, some claim,  was an inspiration to Bram Stoker:

Elizabeth of Bathory

By Katherine Ramsland

During the Christmas season in 1609 (or 1610), King Mathias II of Hungary sent a party of men to the massive Castle Csejthe. He had heard rumors that several young women from the area were being held in the castle against their will, if not actually killed. In haste, he sent the team to investigate.

Valentine Penrose described what happened in Erzsébet Báthory, La Comtesse Sanglante, translated in English as The Bloody Countess, and a fictionalized account can be found in The Blood Countess, by Andrei Codrescu, which provides a good sense of the setting. Yet the earliest accounts derive from an 18th Century history of Hungary, by Father Laslo Turáczi with a monograph published in 1744, and a 1796 German publication, which is translated and quoted in Sabine Baring-Gould’s 1865 account of werewolf legends around the world.

These men knew they had to be careful. The beautiful mistress of the manor, known for her lustrous black hair and pale skin, was of royal blood and was especially well connected. Once married to a warrior count known as Hungary’s “Black Hero” for his bravery in battles with the Turks, she was related to princes and kings, bishops and cardinals, and she was the cousin of Prime Minister Thurzo—a member of the very party that approached her imposing domain that night with such stealth and trepidation. If she recognized his colors, she would let him in, but their preference was to arrive unannounced. The woman’s uncle, Stephen Báthory, had been king of Poland. If the persistent rumors proved to be unfounded, she could be a dangerous political enemy. On the other hand, if they were true, then something had to be done to stop her.

It was cold and the men had difficulty finding their way, even with a few torches. The talk around town was that the woman they sought would be having one of her late-night clandestine gatherings—a sight to behold if they managed to get that close, and probably incriminating—for witchcraft, at the very least. They hoped to catch her in a deviant illegal act. People down the hill in the village often claimed to have heard screams emanating from within this place, and they spoke of disappearing girls and of murder, but no one had dared approach the regal, 50-something countess until now. Word had come to the king that she had kidnapped or killed nine girls from good families.

On the cold stone floor of the great hall lay a pale, partially clothed young girl. She failed to move. They wondered if she might simply be asleep or drunk, so several men went toward her. Still, she made no effort to rouse herself. One man reached down to touch her and shook his head. He told the others she was dead. They turned her over and saw how pale she looked. She appeared to have been drained of blood—exactly as the rumors went.

Then they heard a moan. Just a few paces away was another girl, sprawled face up but still alive. The men discovered that her body had been pierced in many places. She was also pale, as if from severe blood depletion. It was clear to them that she would not last long—not even long enough for them to take her to the village. Reluctantly, they left her there and moved deeper into the castle. They could smell the foul odors of decomposition.

Against a pillar, the party found another female corpse chained to a post. She bore marks of beatings and burns, as well as cuts from a whip. She, too, had lost most of her blood. Clearly, whatever was happening to these girls was related to some kind of blood ceremony, such as those practiced by devil worshipers.

Anxious now about their trespass into this domain, the men moved down the stone stairs to the lower floors to locate the dungeons. Thurzo had seen this area years earlier, as a child, so he remembered the way. As they made their way by touching the cold stone walls, their hearts beat hard at the prospect of discovery. Then they heard movement in the darkness and plaintive cries not far away. Rushing to the sounds, they discovered prison cells full of women and children, most of whom bore the scars of repeated bleedings. Those who were still healthy begged for help, and it was clear that they were to be sacrificed. They had learned that no one left the castle in the same state of health as they had come, so on this night these women had been lucky. They were rescued.

The men freed the captives and led them out of the castle before venturing to the higher floors to find the woman responsible for these carnal atrocities. To their surprise, (some sources say) inside a large torch-lit room they discovered evidence of a drunken holiday orgy, complete with torture. The lady they came for had already fled, but they knew where she had gone and it was not difficult to find her.

It’s not easy distinguishing truth from legend in a case more than three centuries old. What follows is gleaned from several accounts, with contradictions on significant issues noted.

There is no extant account of what the party found that night, reportedly because the scene was too monstrous to be written into a permanent record, but there was plenty to tell for those who would be called to the legal proceedings. The officials arrested all of those involved in the licentious activities, freed the surviving victims, and took the protesting sorceress into a room in her own castle, to confine her until a decision was made about her fate.

Her name was Countess Erzsébet Báthory and she was a member of a powerful family from an estate at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. Gordon Melton says she was the daughter of George (Gyrögy) and Anna Báthory, born in 1560 (or 1561). During this time, Hungary saw numerous battles between the Ottoman Empire and Austria’s Hapsburg armies. The Báthorys were Protestant, a new religion at the time, and Erzsébet was raised on Ecsed, an estate in Transylvania. When she was 11, her cousin Stephen became prince of Transylvania, and he planned to unite Europe against the Turks. Yet battles on several fronts exhausted his resources. Stephen was known for his savagery, and scholars have cited him, among others, as evidence of derangement in the family lineage.

Erzsébet was not an easy child, nor was life easy for her, despite being a member of the privileged class. She suffered from fits, and exhibited uncontrolled rages that may have indicated a brain disorder associated with increased aggression. Others have pointed to the possibility of epilepsy. She was also promiscuous, getting pregnant at the age of 14 by a peasant and having to be sequestered to avoid scandal on her betrothal to an aristocrat.

At the age of 15, she married Count Ferencz Nádasdy, a great warrior who was often away from home. Thus, they joined two powerful political families with strains of madness running through them, both renowned for cruel behavior. Báthory’s aunt, a distinguished lady at the court, was reputed to be a lesbian and witch. An uncle was an alchemist and devil-worshiper, and her brother was a reprobate around whom no woman or female child was considered safe. To make matters worse, her nurse from childhood, Ilona Joo—one of those arrested in 1610—was steeped in the practice of black magic that reportedly required the sacrifice of children for their bones and blood.

In True Vampires of History, Donald Glut (echoing Penrose) says that as Erzsébet grew older, she practiced witchcraft and carried a parchment (Penrose says the shriveled caul of a newborn child) on which was inscribed an incantation for protection. Accordingly, she called to the deity Isten for help, health, and long life. “When I am in danger,” this parchment supposedly said, “send ninety-nine cats. I order you to do so because you are the supreme commander of cats… order ninety-nine cats to come with speed and bite the heart of King Matthias… And keep Elizabeth safe from harm.”

Erzsébet moved into the castle Sarvar and learned how to run a great estate. While her behavior toward servants is legendary today, it was not uncommon among aristocrats to exercise their power in brutal beatings and even death for those they considered lesser beings. Erzsébet enjoyed power and had a vicious impulsiveness that only strengthened in an environment with no accountability for aristocrats.

By many accounts, she was also a petty and vain narcissist. She changed her clothing five or six times a day and spent hours admiring her legendary beauty in mirrors. She used all manner of oils and unguents to preserve and whiten her skin. No one denied her whatever she wanted and she demanded continuous praise. No one knows what she might have become had she not teamed up with her husband, but there is no doubt that she was fertile ground for his sadistic encouragement.

Coming to the castle to be Nádasdy’s wife introduced Erzebet to his special dungeons and modes of discipline. (Penrose says that Nádasdy only tolerated Erzsébet’s cruelty and did not torture anyone himself, but other accounts say he was just as hard on the servants and even taught his wife a few things.) One of his alleged methods was to spread honey over a naked servant girl and leave her tied down outside for the bugs to nibble and bees to sting. He also showed Erzsébet the art of freezing a girl to death during the winter by pouring water over her naked body until it hardened and she was unable to move. Sometimes he sent black magic spells from another land where he was at war for his wife to try out at home—a token of his love. He also encouraged Erzsébet how to beat the serving girls to the brink of death, a task in which she reportedly took great pleasure.

Nádasdy was frequently gone on his military campaigns, so Erzsébet would practice her rituals and write to him about them. Glut reveals the contents of one such missive, as Erzsébet describes how a mentor taught her a blood ritual: “Thurko has taught me a lovely new one. Catch a black hen and beat it to death with a white cane. Keep the blood and smear some on your enemy. If you get no chance to smear it on his body, obtain one of his garments and smear it.”

She also received an assortment of male lovers, although, like her notorious aunt, she apparently indulged in lesbian sex as well. She accumulated an entourage of people who were adept at sorcery, alchemy and witchcraft. One nobleman with pale skin and long dark hair, who according to Glut was reputed to drink blood, was brought to live at the castle to teach her about it. “The stranger bore all the physical attributes of a supernatural vampire,” Glut writes, clearly influenced by American films. “Perhaps he was even Dracula back from the grave.” (Penrose suggests this stranger was a woman in drag.) For a time, Erzsébet ran off with him, but then returned alone. Glut (but no official records) says there was blood around her mouth.

After fathering four children with Erzsébet, three boys and a girl, Nádasdy fell ill in 1601 and was confined to his bed with a bad leg until he died in 1604, leaving Erzsébet at the age of 44, a middle-aged widow. (Glut suggests that she poisoned him.) She moved at once to their castle in Vienna, where she had a more active social life, but eventually returned to her estates in Hungary where she had more privacy for torture sessions.

Melton says that her “cohort in crime” until 1609 was a little-known figure named Anna Darvulia, and after that, it was Erzsi Majorova, a widow. In other words, she was not alone in her vile activities. Others knew, approved, and participated with her. In fact, it was supposedly Majorova who encouraged kidnapping girls from the lesser nobility.

Pretty young women began to disappear from villages near and far, as well as children. The families did not know what to do. Speaking out against the nobility could get them into trouble, so they went to their priests but otherwise held their tongues. They saw the Nádasdy carriage, drawn by black horses, go by at night with girls inside who never came back. Year after year, it was the same. No one could challenge it. They had not yet forgotten that in 1524 the nobles had met a peasant uprising with extreme punishment, and no one was willing to risk that again. It was their lot to endure whatever the lords and ladies meted out.

German anthropologist Michael Wagener points out that Erzsébet continued to use torture after her husband’s death, and even refined her methods. “The unhappy girls who were lured to the castle, under the plea that they were to be taken into service there, were locked up in a cellar. Here they were beaten till their bodies were swollen. Elizabeth not infrequently tortured the victims herself; often she changed their clothes which dripped with blood, and then renewed her cruelties. The swollen bodies were then cut up with razors. Occasionally she had the girls burned, and then cut up, but the great majority of them were beaten to death.” Many accounts say that she was psychotic, and that her mental illness grew worse with age. Many details came out during legal hearings.

Everitt adds that sometimes she would sew a servant girl’s mouth shut, force her to eat strips of her own flesh, or burn her genitals, while Wagener indicates that “she would stick needles into those who sat with her in a carriage, especially if they were of her own sex.” He also advanced another legend: “When she was ill, and could not indulge her cruelty, she bit a person who came near her sick bed as though she were a wild beast.” This was, in fact, trial testimony, albeit gained via torture

Finally, the crop of peasant girls had run out. Erzsébet, ever daring, turned her blood thirst to lesser aristocrats. She had done so much thus far without being stopped, and like many serial killers after her, arrogance made her bold and stupid. She was eager to extend her reach for the thrill of seeing what she could get away with. She also appeared to be so caught up with the pleasures of what she was doing that she could not stop.

Sabine Baring-Gould, an English author and folklorist of considerable status during the 19th Century, used the tale of Erzsébet as an example of his own view of a certain psychological phenomenon. “I have seen an accomplished young woman of considerable refinement and of a highly strung nervous temperament string flies with her needle on a piece of thread, and watch complacently their flutterings,” he wrote in 1865. “Cruelty may remain latent till, by some accident, it is aroused, and then it will break forth in a devouring flame.” He says that the passion for blood follows the same pattern. “We have no conception of the violence with which they can rage till circumstances occur which call them into action… passion blazes forth, and the serenity of the quiet breast is shattered for ever. A word, a glance, a touch, are sufficient to fire the magazine of passion in the heart, and to desolate for ever an existence.”

Blood thirst, too, may lurk inside a person, even those we love, and we may never even spot it. “It may smolder in the bosom which is most cherished by us, and we may be perfectly unconscious of its existence there. Perhaps circumstances will not cause its development; perhaps moral principle may have bound it down with fetters it can never break.”

To replenish her diminishing “stable,” Erzsébet offered to teach “social graces” to young women from noble families, and when they arrived at the castle she had her pick. After the murder of one of such young lady in 1609, which Erzsébet tried to stage as a suicide, the authorities finally decided to act. This suspicious incident, coupled with the many other rumors over the years, required action. The king supported it, because Erzsébet had been asking him to repay funds he had borrowed from her husband, and if the rumors proved true and she was arrested, he would be free of his debt. In other words, everyone would win… except the lady in question.

The rumors indeed proved true, and much that was far worse, so Erzsébet’s gory tyranny was brought to an end. On the night of the raid, Thurzo locked Erzsébet in her fortress and left some men in charge. In his letters, he mentioned finding only one corpse in the castle—that of a young woman accused of stealing a pear. Her hands were burned and her breasts were bitten. He later claimed he saw no orgies, but being Erzsébet’s relative, he had reason to protect the family reputation. Others reported a more dramatic evening, especially in the aftermath.

As Erzsébet awaited a hearing, officials searched her castle for evidence. They discovered bones and other human remains, along with the clothing and personal effects of missing girls. Codrescu quotes from a memoir of one of Thurzo’s lieutenants who wrote that as they searched the castle, they came upon the dead bodies of young girls everywhere they looked. Many had no arms or eyes. One blackened body was in the fireplace, not fully burned, and quite a few were buried in shallow graves around the castle. “We watched in horror as the dogs ran about with parts of the girls in their mouths.”

They learned much from the victims who had survived, as well as detailed stories from a crew of accomplices. The men and women who had assisted Báthory in her bloody deeds jostled one another to be first to win clemency through cooperation—or to avoid further torture. Erzsébet herself did not attend the trial and did not testify. Instead she remained in her castle, maintaining her innocence. Everitt claims that her high-born relatives persuaded the court to keep her under house arrest and delay a sentence indefinitely.

Twenty-one judges were on hand on January 2, 1611, when the proceedings of the special tribunal began, with Judge Theodosius de Szulo of the Royal Supreme Court presiding. They called numerous witnesses, sometimes 35 a day, including the families from which girls had gone missing and victims who had survived. One mother had lost her 10-year-old daughter.

The principal testimony against Erzsébet was offered by her servants and by people who had assisted her in her bloody campaign. According to Penrose, each of her cohorts was asked the same 11 questions about how long he or she had been at the castle and what things had been done there related to the crimes. In particular, they were all asked whom they had murdered, how many, where the victims were from, and who had brought them to the castle. They were also pressed to describe any tortures they had used and what had happened to those girls who had died. More to the point, they were to describe fully the countess’s involvement. What they had to say revealed a practice so vile that Erzsébet is still known to this day as one of the cruelest monsters in history.

Ficzko, a dwarf who had worked for Erzsébet for 16 years, claimed he had been taken there forcibly. He was not sure about how many women he helped to kill, but he did know the count of the girls: 37. Five were buried in holes, two in a garden, two at night in a church, and so on. They had been lured from the country with the promise of employment in the castle, and women in some of the villages actually conspired to provide girls for money or small gifts. If the girls did not come willingly, they were beaten into unconsciousness and carried off. At the castle, they were bound and stabbed with needles and scissors, among other cruelties. They had been chosen for the softness of their skin—even of their tongues—and for their youth and beauty.

When asked about the type of torture used, he said (as recorded by Penrose), “They tied the hands and arms very tightly with Viennese cord, they were beaten to death until the whole body was black as charcoal and their skin was rent and torn. One girl suffered more than two hundred blows before dying. Dorko [another accomplice and procurer] cut their fingers one by one with shears and then slit the veins with scissors.”

Erzsébet’s childhood nurse, Ilona Joo, admitting that she had killed about 50, said that she had applied red-hot pokers from the fire, shoving them into the mouth of some hapless girl, or up her nose. The mistress herself, she testified, had placed her fingers into the mouth of one girl and pulled hard until the sides split open. She had also stabbed them all over with needles, making them bleed, or had torn open their flesh with sharp pincers. She liked to slit open the skin between their fingers.

Erzsébet, it was said, administered many cruel and arbitrary beatings and was soon torturing and butchering the girls. She might cut off someone’s fingers, or beat her about the face until the bones broke. Even when Erzsébet was ill, she didn’t stop. Instead, she’d have girls brought to her bed so she could slap and bite them. Sometimes she bit them until they died, and she made her male servants consume their flesh. According to Ilona Joo, the countess might place oiled paper between a girl’s legs and set it on fire, or used candles to burn them. There was often so much blood from cutting the girls in strategic spots that cinders were place around the countess’s bed to absorb it. When they buried the bodies in secret places, they chanted over them.

The third accused accomplice added that the countess liked to apply a red-hot iron to the soles of the girls’ feet, and another witness said that she had seen four girls bound in shrouds, barely alive but unable to move. Yet another claimed she had seen the devil himself sitting on Countess Báthory’s lap, and that she had sexual relations with him, completely under his spell. That was due, in part, to his impressive male organ. Only one servant refused to testify against her mistress, and for that, says Codrescu, her eyes were put out and her breasts removed before she was ultimately burned at the stake.

Testimony also revealed that the kidnapped girls had been chained to walls in the dungeons and fattened up, because the Countess believed this increased the blood in their bodies—and blood was critical to her moonlit sorcery. They were also forced into deviant sexual activities with her. If they reacted with displeasure, they received torture and possibly death. Yet, even those who did well eventually bored her and they, too, were dispatched. Sometimes, depending on the countess’s whim, her favorite girls got the worst treatment. One had been forced to strip a piece of flesh off her own arm. A few were shoved into small cages full of spikes.

Even during an age when torture was commonplace, the judges who listened to these accounts were appalled, especially when survivors recounted their own stories. They told how they had been pierced, pinched, beaten, and burned by the mistress of the castle. Many were disfigured for life.

The hearing grew more gruesome by the day, as more people added their own tales of horror and how many dead bodies they had witnessed. Finally, it was over. Based on the skeletons and cadaver parts found, as well as witness reports, Countess Báthory and her cronies were convicted on 80 counts of murder. In a second part of the trial, a newly discovered register was entered as evidence that included in Erzsébet’s handwriting the names of, and small details about, more than 650 females, according to some accounts. The suggestion, which could not be proven, was that she had kept track of her victims and had actually killed that many. The formal charges remained at 80, although Penrose says that King Mathias indicated in a letter to Thurzo during the hearing that he knew of at least 300 victims.

While her accomplices were tortured and put to death in a variety of ghastly ways — some had their fingers pulled off, some were buried alive, some were beheaded — the judges considered what to do with the mistress. King Mathias favored execution, but that meant enacting a special statute to strip her of her royal immunity. They’d already had to instigate such a statute just to prosecute her. Prime Minister Thurzo, her relative, intervened on her behalf to insist that she was unable to appreciate what she had done. Yet the court report indicated that the number of torture devices found in her residence belied her inability to control her anger. Clearly, she had taken pleasure in her deviant acts.

Nevertheless, pressure was on to keep her fortune in the family, so in the end Erzsébet Báthory was imprisoned for life, with no formal sentencing, locked in a small set of rooms in her own castle at Cahtice. Her son—and sole heir—wrote a letter on her behalf asking for mercy, but her daughter Anna vowed never to speak to her mother again, or allow her children to do so. Erzsébet claimed that she was innocent of all charges. She said the peasant girls died of many different things, from contagious disease to blood poisoning, and she should not be held responsible for the whims of nature.

She was confined to her rooms, with the entrances and windows walled up, save for tiny slits for food and air. Penrose says she was heartbroken that she no longer had her magic incantation. After only three and a half years, during the summer of 1614 (or 1613) when she was 54 (or 53), she died. The evidence of this was her untouched dinner plates. Someone who looked through the slit in the door, says Glut, saw her lying face down on the floor.

When they tore down the walls to retrieve her body, legend has it that they found a brief document to the effect that before her imprisonment she had invoked a darker power to send 99 cats to tear out the hearts of her accusers and judges. The priest, who read it, recalled the cats they had seen that night when they entered the castle.

What’s notable about Countess Báthory is that she is one of the extremely rare females throughout history who have displayed vampiric or cannibalistic appetites. After her death, rumors spread about how she’d actually bathed in the blood of her young victims. Everitt states quite emphatically, but without substantiation, that she had girls butchered so she could try out her beauty treatment. He attributed it to a preoccupation with eternal youth, and other authors have followed suit.

Yet, when Dracula scholar Raymond McNally traveled to Slovakia to examine court records, none mentioned bathing in blood, although some noted her frenzy for biting pieces of flesh off her victims. Father Laslo Turáczi had written about her in his historical account of Hungary, published in 1744, more than a century after she had died. He relied on official records, as well as on legend and lore, to piece together her tale. Yet, because the Catholic Church benefited from dramatic tales of werewolves, witches, and vampires, because it helped with their doctrines about God and Satan, his account during an era when werewolves and witches were being “discovered” and executed, must be suspect.

One enduring legend is that Erzsébet had slapped a servant girl one day, got blood on her hand, and after washing it off found that it made her skin look younger. Alchemists apparently assured her that this was a sign of her nobility, so to restore her waning beauty, she made a practice of bathing in virginal blood. These ideas were suggested in 1795 by Wagener, when he (as translated by Sabine Baring-Gould) wrote: “Elizabeth was wont to dress well in order to please her husband, and she spent half the day over her toilet. On one occasion, a lady’s-maid saw something wrong in her head-dress, and as a recompense for observing it, received such a severe box on the ears that the blood gushed from her nose, and spurted on to her mistress’s face. When the blood drops were washed off her face, her skin appeared much more beautiful—whiter and more transparent on the spots where the blood had been.”

Apparently, “Elizabeth formed the resolution to bathe her face and her whole body in human blood so as to enhance her beauty.” Her accomplices, he said, would catch the blood in a tub so that Erzsébet could “bathe at the hour of four in the morning. After the bath she appeared more beautiful than before.”

No official account mentions this bizarre behavior or fetish, and it’s more likely that she simply experienced a sexual thrill from seeing blood and/or used the blood for her rituals and ceremonies. Nevertheless, if the ledger with 650 names is what many believe it is, then no single person in the centuries to come surpassed her victim toll. Her reputation remains as one of the most bloodthirsty killers on record, in part because her noble status made her untouchable in a society that protected its aristocrats.

Melton points out in The Vampire Companion that no testimony was offered at Báthory’s trial regarding her supposed habit of bathing in the blood of her victims. No one raised the issue and no one reported it. Yet the records of the trial were sealed at the time so as not to embarrass the Hungarian aristocracy. No one among them was even allowed to mention her name.

Laszlo Turáczi collected the documents and folktales a century later and recorded them in his book. Melton says that it was this man who first suggested the countess’s gory bathing habits (Penrose says the account was from contemporary records), and his book appeared in Europe when there was widespread fear of vampires. How much of the tale was embellished is difficult to say. Although Erzsébet shows up in many accounts about “real” vampires, she never actually drank blood, to anyone’s knowledge—despite Penrose’s habit of calling her a vampire throughout his book. Nevertheless, she has been immortalized in fiction and film as a vampire.

During the 1980s, McNally published Dracula was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania. He claimed that Dracula author Bram Stoker had read about the countess in Sabine Baring-Gould’s 1865 The Book of Werewolves, which offered an account in the context of werewolf legends. McNally also suggested that some of that tale may have influenced Stoker to set his story inTransylvania. Since the drinking of blood appeared to help Dracula to become youthful, McNally argues that the folklore about Erzsébet Báthory’s own obsession with blood and youth may have come into Stoker’s calculations for his monster. “[Báthory’s] legend certainly played a major role in the creation of the character of Count Dracula,” he wrote. He also said that the character of Renfield, the “life-eater” bore strong similarities to the countess.

Yet scholar Elizabeth Miller, in Dracula: Sense and Nonsense, contradicts this notion. “Rubbish!” she insists. “Though a brief section on Báthory appears in one of Stoker’s source-texts [Baring-Gould], no evidence exists that he was influenced by it or even read it.” She claims the hypothetical link between Báthory and the character of Count Dracula derives from publications during the 1970s, notably Gabriel Ronay’s 1972 book, The Dracula Myth and Donald Glut’s 1971 True Vampires of History. Miller asserts that many critics assume that if Báthory is mentioned in one of Stoker’s sources, then he both read and was influenced by it. Having read Stoker’s notes herself, Miller claims that McNally is in error when he says that references to Báthory are in the notes. More likely, Miller goes on to suggest, he was influenced by Baring-Gould’s association between vampires and werewolves.

Whether Erzébet Bathóry drank or bathed in blood, was obsessed with youth, or targeted young women for their skin, she certainly was a bloodthirsty tyrant even during a time when aristocrats were rarely called on the carpet for such deeds. Even disregarding tales gained through torture, the evidence from the many missing girls, testimony from damaged survivors, and the discovery of human remains all serve to underscore the charge of extreme torture and serial murder.


The Best of Retro Slice and Dice

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My name is Lilith and I’m guest blogging for my gal pal uncoolghoul.  Like uncoolghoul, I happen to enjoy horror more than is deemed mentally healthy. So here goes….

  “What’s your favorite scary movie?” Scream 4 is out at theaters, so let’s take a stab (ha ha!) at some other Slasher movies, where a killer is picking off or killing a group of people one by one and just when you were dying to know who the killer is…it’s revealed to be someone we’ve seen at some point in the movie, but never given a thought to. Someone who was shouldn’t even have had the ability to pull this off; like Mrs. Voorhees Jason’s mother in Friday the 13th which was inspired by Halloween, another slasher that I’m sure we’ve all seen. Scream probably one of my favorites because it’s so self referential and knows it’s making fun of its predecessors and itself at the same time.

When Drew Barrymore said “My boyfriend’s gonna kick your ass!”With that lisp she’s had since ET, I totally bought it and thought, ‘she’s going to be all right because they won’t kill off a well known star in the fist few minutes of the movie’. But when she was chased down and gutted upwith no regret, I was stunned and was like whaaaat?!!! Yea I had never heard of Psycho when I was thirteen so killing off a well known movie star to frighten us with the unexpected was original to me. Scream’s franchise brought this genre back from the dead and killed it at the same time how could you take another Slasher seriously again after going over the rules, and de-mystifying the genre?  Probably not, especially after Scary Movie decided to take it a step further by poking fun at horror movies in general.  Scream’s original title was Scary Movie. True story, tell your friends.

While all of the above mentioned movies have their moments, nothing gets me like theoriginal A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I can’t watch it alone, at night or right before I go to sleep so, job well done Wes Craven for giving me all those nightmares and creating, in my opinion, the perfect Slasher movie. This was before Freddy had all those punch lines in the sequels and even his killing weapon was the ultimate slasher weapon specifically made to scare children before he kills them. This movie gave my sister plenty of ammo if she wanted me to behave all she had to do was start singing “1-2 Freddy’s coming for you….. 3-4 better lock your doors”. Ah…good times! Haven’t seen the remake yet; however, the new Freddy is the guy that brought Johnny Depp to his audition for the first Nightmare on Elm Street and it was Depp who was recognized and cast in the movie instead of Jackie Earle Haley. Who? Yea, doesn’t have the same ring as Johnny Depp.

1.  Black Christmas is a pretty good one done by the same director who did A Christmas Story; a sorority is having a X-Mas party then a moaner calls them saying he’s going to kill them kinda like When a Stranger Calls. Guess the Director had a love/hate thing for this Holiday.

 2.  Satan’s Little Helper is a creep fest that has a little boy who’s dressed up as the namesake of his favorite game and he’s helping this mysterious masked Satan kill victims around town without realizing it.
3.  Happy Birthday to Me, A member of a popular clique called the top 10 is celebrating her birthday while someone is killing her friends off one by one. This is why she’s singing her Birthday song alone when the credits roll the song that follows reminds you you’re alone in the dark.
4.  My Bloody Valentine–I love this title. Someone trapped in a mining shaft had to live off the remains of his fellow miners was driven crazy and ate the heart of the foreman responsible for the mishap as warning to the town he would repeat his actions if another Valentines Day dance happened again. They can’t say he didn’t warn them.
5.  I Know What You Did Last Summer– You don’t need to read the book to see this movie.  At times it can be pretty hilarious to see Jennifer Love Hewitt scared. However, it had the great blend of up and coming teen actors for it’s time. The best parts come from the mystery, suspense, and the question. Remember what you did last summer? Because I totally do… just wanted to jot this down and remind you in case you forgot that you unsuccessfully ran over a killer and tried to dump his body in the ocean. Thanks for the note.
6.  Hatchet is a spirit of a deformed Louisiana backwoods guy whose house burned down in the bayou. At one point he grabs the lady’s head by the jaw and the top part of her mouth and yanks it in opposite directions ripping the top part of her head off and leaving the tongue wagging in her throat. Don’t eat before seeing that part. I wonder if….If Hatchet and Machete could procreate that would be the ugliest Hispanic backwoods mutant seeking revenge and idiot tourists with a….wait for it…… Hachete!

Also totally off subject, but of interest, check out YouTube for the trailers of these movies coming out this year: Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, The Troll Hunter; I’m not Jesus Mommy, and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.  Now I gotta see some cartoons to get these movies out of my head cuz it’s getting dark now. Enjoy!

—-Well, alright.  Lilith’s first topic as my guest blog is pretty awesome.  Thanks for the reviews.  Yes, I totally agree that the genius of Scream is that it’s totally so close to being Meta.  I have got to watch Satan’s Little Helper…sounds great.  And Happy Birthday to Me…I’ve never heard of that one before. It’s not often someone can claim they’ve seen horror before me…..challenge accepted.  Can’t wait to rent them.—uncoolghoul.

The Final Girl: Feminism in Horror Films

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If you’re anything like me, at one point or another you end up watching some movie shaking your head (and in my case, screaming at the television screen) at some of whiny female characters(victims) in horror films.  Me, I watch a movie, I see the clichéd chick with really large cleavage in a shirt two sizes too small, and I pretty much assume(know), that she’s probably the first to die.  Is there feminism in horror films?  Well, there are many horror films were the protagonist is a female.

For those of you that may not know, the girl left standing is the Final Girl. Called such, because she is the last one standing, or rather, living.  You might not recognize in the beginning that she is a strong character, but while everyone else goes about their business(usually it’s partying, drinking, drugs, sex or a combination), Final Girl is living a clean life, studies hard, and is the moral ruler by which we judge her slutty, beer-chugging friends.  Final girl gets to watch all her friends die horrible, bloody deaths.  Yet, she remains intelligent and resourceful.  Final Girl always barely gets away.  The movie’s climax is the stand-off between Final Girl and murderer (Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Pam Voorhees, Ghost Face, etc.)

Thanks to the movie Scream (one of my personal faves), we all know the:

Rules of Surviving a Horror Movie

Randy: “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie! For instance, Number One: You can never have sex.  Sex equals death, OK? Number Two: You can never drink or do drugs.  No, it’s the sin factor, it’s a sin, it’s an extension of Number One! And Number Three: Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say ‘I’ll be right back’, ’cause you won’t be back.”

Stu: “I’m gettin’ another beer, you want one?”

Randy: “Yeah, sure. ”

Stu: “I’ll be right back!!!!”

In case the youtube video above doesn’t work click on this link to take you right to it…  Rules for Horror Movies

Now the rules for horror movies apply to the female protagonist, our Final Girl.

First of all, lets remember what feminism is all about: it’s all about advocating the rights of women on the grounds that women are equal in EVERYTHING to men (Damn right).  So, that being said, a True feminist horror film would be one in that the protagonist does NOT use her sexuality to win or kill.

So, movies like Jennifer’s Body or I Spit On Your Grave aren’t feminist. Making men the victim does not a feminist horror movie make.   REAL feminists protagonists are the ones with more than sex on her mind.

Ripley from Alien, Bridget from Ginger Snaps (not Ginger), and of course Laurie Strode, the Halloween franchise Scream Queen, Scream’s Sydney, Julie James from I Know What You Did Last Summer, Rachel from The Ring,  and TNOES’ Nancy Thompson.

These ladies kicked ass intelligently and did not fall back on her feminine wiles to get out her trouble; she uses her brains, not her breasts.  Does this mean that Final Girl must remain virginal forever.  Hells no, it means that Final Girl is more than the gratuitous horror movie boob shot.  She doesn’t have to abuse her sexual power.  Final Girl sees the people around her die off and she pulls herself together, gets mad, then gets even.

Four Seasons of Full Moons and Lycanthropes: Cycle of the Werewolf

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Hi, I’m Skye from BookRain, where I usually ramble about YA fiction and swoon worthy heroes. I was given a challenge of sorts to read a horror book of some kind, and this is really a challenge for me cause I tend to be a “happily ever after” sort of girl who enjoys reading about princesses and really non age appropriate stuff considering I’m a twenty something. It took me a while to pick something but I finally settled upon a Stephen King novella called Cycle of the werewolf.    

 

Yeah you know that movie depicting a different stage of life as a Buddhist monk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring,) well Cycle of The Werewolf is ten times more exciting.I mean you’re following a werewolf not a monk for one. Each chapter takes place on a full moon of one month (usually some kind of holiday) comprising a whole year of werewolf attacks, and forming a single narrative. The small town of Tarker’s Mills, Maine doesn’t know what hit them. Is it a wolf? A man? A man in costume? And the one eye witness is a kid, and no one wants to believe a story from a kid in this town despite their gut feelings.

What I love is that the protagonist, Marty Coslaw turns out to be a ten year old boy in a wheelchair that everyone seems to treat in a patronizing sort of way. He’s a paraplegic; he’s not dumb despite people treating him differently. Except for his Uncle Al who buys him fireworks for the Fourth of July when the town cancels their usual celebration. Up until then we had six months of deaths: a railroad employee, a seamstress, a drifter, a small kid etc. Up until July the plot was sort of boring to be honest, but everything changes in the later half.

In July Marty is able to take out one of the wolves eyes by throwing a packet of firecrackers in it’s face (how cool is that?) Fearing some retaliation Marty’s family sends him to Vermont for three months, and while he’s gone law enforcement ignore his deposition and the killings keep happening (really?! He just told you the killer is walking around with one freakin’ eye, and you choose to ignore that?) It gets really exciting in October, because when Marty returns and goes trick or treating he figures out who the werewolf is. And he is pretty courageous about it. Really, he seems like a boy on a mission. Unshakeable.

The wolf stars receiving anonymous letters

I know who you are.

Go someplace where there are animals for you to kill but no people.

End it.

Why don’t you kill yourself?

Yeah guess whose sending them, and in his last two notes he even signs his name. This is like the rated R version of Home Alone, I mean no one believes him so he takes matters into his own ten year old hands. I won’t spoil the ending by saying who the werewolf is but when he is human he has no memories of what he has done. Just evidence, a scratch here, a dream there…an eye blasted out all of a sudden.

The last six months of this story was when I began to notice the brilliance of Stephen King’s storytelling. It painted the story, and drew me in. Now that it wasn’t just following killings, but getting to the point of solving the problem, was it exciting. I didn’t like all the deaths (although I was happy when a man slut, wife beating, librarian got the axe,) but I like that it did have a happily ever after of sorts.

Overall if you haven’t read King before, than by all means try this short novella. It has the bonus factor of being illustrated by Bernie Wrightson who is known for his horror illustrations and has collaborated with King before on Creepshow.  Plus you can see the 1985 horror film Silver Bullet (based off this novella) staring the late great Corey Haim (R.I.P) at the beginning of his career. As my first foray into horror, I’d say it was pretty entertaining. Don’t be scared.

–A big Thanks to my Friend Skye at BookRain for guest hosting my blog, for going outside her comfort zone and reading a horror novella.  Ya’ll should check out her blog.  Skye writes awesome book reviews.  Her drug of choice is Youth Adult…don’t worry it’s nothing like Twilight, she’s got good taste. –uncoolghoul

My Homage to the Beautiful and Talented Elizabeth Taylor

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Elizabeth Taylor of the violet eyes is known for her wonderful films, her many marriages(7) and her friendship with Michael Jackson.  Elizabeth Taylor is my favorite American Icon.  My favorite Elizabeth Taylor films are Giant, in which the late icon James Dean has a role, as a matter of fact, the movie didn’t debut until after his death; and Cleopatra, where she played the last Queen of Egypt the way it should be played-pompously, ambitiously and over-the-top, and I absolutely love it!  When I first saw Cleopatra as a child, I recall her sending her servant to tell Marc Antony that he will “find me in the last possible place anyone would look – literally – the last possible place”.  And a lightbulb turned on in my little girl brain, wow, until then, I could never remember the difference between figuratively and literally, but thanks to Liz, I always remember—I know, I know, random memory, I’m just saying, Elizabeth Taylor taught me a few things.  Goodbye Elizabeth, you will be missed.

Elizabeth Taylor had a long career; she began as a child actor and successfully segued into adult roles.  In keeping with the horror theme of this blog, I want to talk about her movie: Doctor Faustus (1967).  Now this movie isn’t for everyone.  This movie was made during Elizabeth much-made-about romance with Richard Burton.  The movie was based on the Christopher Marlowe play Dr. Faust.  Good old Dr. Faust can never satsify his thirst for knowledge and he sells his soul to Mephistopheles, and you know that can’t turn out well.  Richard Burton plays his part very well, he can certainly play angsty and tortured.  Don’t forget he was a stage actor first, and this training comes through in this movie, it could be off-putting to some, but I eat it up with a spoon.  Elizabeth Taylor herself only has a bit role in this movie.  She mostly shows up in her dreams.  I’m pretty sure that she was only added to play up on the real-live romance between her and Richard.  So, she’s only eye-candy for the die hard fans.  But honestly, aren’t we all fans? Honestly though, it’s not a bad movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s not a complete waste of an afternoon, and if you’re an Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton fan, you should watch it again.