August Horrorshow

I think I'll do something a little differently this year, and keep track of what ghost stories and horror tales I consume. I'll write it up as I go and post it at the end of the month. (And now August is over, so I'm posting it.) Watching: Stranger Things, Netflix series, August 4-5 - Excellent TV, but not as scary as I'd expected. Young geeky boy in a small town in Indiana in the early 80s goes missing. Young girl with no hair turns up around the same time and can do strange things. People at the local vaguely-named government facility are freaking out and wearing containment suits. Creepiness ensues. Highlights include a Christmas light talking board, the totally awesome girl, the also awesome big sister, and lots and lots of D&D and Tolkien references. 8 out of 10, would watch again. Still, not as creepy as I wanted it to be. Not sure if that's me or the show. The Babadook, movie, August 5 - This is the one I didn't get to before August ended last year. Australian horror movie. A widowed mother and her sx-year-old son are struggling in so many ways. One of them is that the boy not only believes in monsters, but is convinced that he has to protect other people from them. So he builds shoulder-mounted catapults and dart-loaded crossbows. And takes them to school. Weird kid, obviously has some problems. Then one day he finds a pop-up book called Mr. Babadook in the house and asks his mother to read it with him. It tells about the really quite scary Mr. Babadook who, if you let him in, will make you want to die. If you don't believe in him, though, he only gets stronger... Boy believes, mom does not. Bad shit goes down, and there at the end there's a really interesting POV shift. I liked it a lot. The mom was good, the kid was good, the Babadook was an awesome monster and I want to adopt him. I was not as scared as I expected to be, even though I watched with my finger on the pause button. I'm really starting to think something's changed in me since last year. The Witch, movie, August 12. In Puritan New England, a family is banished from their town for having a variant view of the Bible. In the wilderness, things start to go wrong. A blight destroys their crops. While the eldest daughter is playing peek-a-boo with the (unbaptized, because of the whole banishment thing, this is a plot point) baby, and between one moment and the next, he's simply gone. Next, the young twins start playing with the black goat, talking to him, and refusing to obey their elder sister. The eldest boy goes missing in the woods overnight, and returns desperately ill, possibly bewitched. The children are convinced there's a witch in the woods. Good movie, very good, but not scary. The Possession, movie, August 12. A girl whose parents are recently divorced finds a dybbuk box, a chest used to imprison an evil Jewish spirit. Somehow, she manages to open the puzzlebox. Black moths, broken glass, white eyes, floating kid, convulsions, creepy voices. For a change, Jewish and not Christian folklore, including a Jewish exorcism (which I have no way of knowing how accurate it was). OK, this one was scary. I got through it only hitting pause once, though, and that was for other reasons. Big moths are going to freak me out for a while, and I suspect I'll be having that dream where I lose all my teeth sometime soon. The Shrine, movie, August 20. A reporter, against her boss's explicit instructions, takes an intern and her photographer boyfriend to Albania to investigate the disappearance of a young backpacker -- and five others over the past fifty years. Outside a small village, they find a strange cloud of dense fog hovering in and above the trees. Inevitably, they try to explore, and see something really disturbing: a statue of a demon that moves and bleeds from the eyes. The villagers, of course, have already tried to run them off once before, and now begin hunting them. There's a whole thing with an eyeless spiked mask and a sledgehammer and creepy priests. By far the goriest movie I've seen so far this month, and the one with the most jump scares, but I wasn't particularly impressed with it. The Lost Boys, movie, August 20. The cheeseball 80s classic vampire movie. I don't like vampire fiction, but even I'll watch this, since my wife wanted to. Silly, not scary, but I'm counting it. Monsters. Horns, August 23, movie. Despite the Halloween release date and the marketing, this turns out not to be a horror...

It Follows

This month I've been reading ghost stories and watching ghost story horror movies. While poking around, I saw the title It Follows, and, because that's thematic of Empousa, downloaded it. Then someone else, hearing about my project, recommended it to me as well. So I finally watched it. "It" of the title really is Empousa. An implacable monster, a shapeshifter, intimately connected with sex, who follows, slowly, slowly. The terror isn't even that she might catch you, just that she follows. Oh, if she catches you, it will be very bad. But that's not where the fear comes from. She's even regularly got one foot bare and one foot wearing something, or different things on each foot. And she kills one of the characters something like the way Empousa does, too. The writer/director based it on dreams he had when he was very young. I wonder. If you like tense creepy movies without a lot of gore or jump-scares, it's excellent. If you want to understand Empousa, it's even better....

Lampades

The Lampades, torch-bearing underworld nymphs, wandered into my dreams. Beautiful dancers without faces, limbs that bent backwards as well as forwards, draped in black and carrying the lights they're named for.* They invited me to dance with them. I think Empousa had brought them, and was hiding from me among them, but I didn't find her. *Yes, Lampades and lamp share etymological roots....

Empousa, who follows behind

clop-clank, clop-clank, clop-clank Behind you, on the road. What is that sound? When you look, there’s nothing there, but still, the sound follows you. clop-clank, clop-clank, clop-clank Slowly, slowly it gets closer and closer. It’s an old, old campfire story. The footsteps that sound wrong, that follow you, usually in the dark, but when you look, there's no one there. You can’t escape them, though you might be able to avoid them for a while. They’re coming for you. Eventually they’ll catch up. Empousa is an ancient Hellenic iteration of the tradition. A monster (from the Latin monstrum, that which is shown forth) of Hekate’s retinue, with hair of flame, with one donkey’s leg and one leg all of brass. A shapeshifter, though, who could come to your bed in the night and seduce you, then devour you. When she followed you on the road, you could drive her off for a while by taunting her, making fun of her. But she’ll find you in the end, if her mistress commands it. There’s no escaping her in the long run. Empousa is a creature of the roads, hunting travelers at Hekate’s will — or whim. She’s both terrifying and comical. A shapeshifter, yet unwilling or unable to shed her strange form. Inescapable — unless you drive her off by making fun of her. Why do taunts upset her so? Why, if she can change her appearance, does she keep what many would consider a deformity? Why does Hekate send her to frighten travelers at all? I’m attempting to work with some of the monsters of Hekate’s train. Empousa is the first. When I have built a relationship with her, I’ll try Lamia, and then Mormo. Eventually, the Underworld nymphs known as the Lampades. I make offerings of lavender to her, as suggested by the strophalos oracle, which also told me to accept her as a guide. I call her, invite her into my dreams, and drink dreaming teas to try to open myself. So far, I have had only one brief glimpse. I expect her to take other forms, to be a dream-lover, waiting for me to see her, and once I caught her that way, and she laughed, pleased with me. But since then, no matter how I call, my dreams remain dry. I’m patient. Eventually, I’ll find her, or she’ll find me. Empousa... I call to you, Empousa With your hair of flame With one leg of an ass And one leg of brass Relentless pursuer Shapeshifter, seducer I call to you, Empousa Come to me, and let me know you...