Thursday, October 31, 2019

Partying with the Frankenstein Monster!

For those of you who have not yet bought a copy of Craig Spector's new anthology, FREEDOM OF SCREECH, you must beware, for you have now incurred the wrath of the Frankenstein Monster! "Rarrrrrrgh!" the Monster said to me upon interviewing him about his participation in the anthology during a Halloween party in Long Beach, California. When asked for an official statement, he replied as follows: "Curse those of you vile insects who have willfully failed to purchase the most cutting-edge horror anthology published in the past twenty years! Do you not know that this quaint and curious and inflammatory volume of triggering lore consists of a plethora of transgressive tales by the likes of Norman Spinrad, Richard Christian Matheson, Chet Williamson, Jack Ketchum, Thomas F. Monteleone, and Elizabeth Massie? Why, it even includes a horrifically STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY--as reported by none other than the journalist to whom I now speak, Robert Guffey--about the legendary celebrity tell-all the talented Mrs. Percy Shelley penned in my honor over two hundred years ago! The story in question is entitled 'Farewell, Frankenstein!' I daresay, one cannot survive--before or after one's untimely death--without having read this masterpiece of contemporary cult literature. Heed my words, puny mortals: BUY FREEDOM OF SCREECH FORTHWITH OR I SHALL BE FORCED TO CRUSH YOUR CONTEMPTIBLE SKULLS!" The Monster then became so overwrought that I had to offer him twelve drams of laudanum to calm him down. He's now in my guest room, sleeping like a baby, a battered first edition of THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER clutched in his massive, scarred hands. I have to finish this post quickly now, before he wakes up and demands that I drive him home. (He dislikes Uber drivers with a passion, but that's a long story best left for a future post.) Alas, in his drug-induced stupor, he trashed my living room and three-quarters of my beloved terrarium. This is the last time I party with the Frankenstein Monster on All Hallows' Eve. Live and learn, my dear friends, live and learn....

To comply with the Frankenstein Monster's passionate wishes, feel free to purchase a copy of FREEDOM OF SCREECH right HERE!

Gary D. Rhodes on PARALLAX VIEWS

I recommend taking some time out from your Halloween festivities and listening to Gary D. Rhodes' 10-30-19 appearance on J.G. Michael's PARALLAX VIEWS. Here's Michael's description of the show:

On this Halloween bonus edition of Parallax Views, the Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi has become immortalized in pop culture since he starred as the title vampire in Tod Browning's 1931 Universal Studios monster movie classic Dracula. Additionally, Lugosi is also remembered for his collaborations with the notoriously inept filmmaker Ed Wood in the final years of his life. Together Wood and Lugosi made Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and, most infamously, "The Worst Movie Ever Made" Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lugosi's relationship with Wood went on to become the subject of a major motion picture, Tim Burton's Ed Wood, and garnered the late Martin Landau an Academy Award for his performance as the iconic thespian. Even after his passing 63 years ago, Lugosi's place in the pantheon of popular culture remains cemented into the collective imagination with the legendary actor being referenced in works by artists as varied as Andy Warhol and the goth rock band Bauhaus. In other words, the Lugosi legacy lives on all these years later. 

Joining us to discuss the life and times of Bela Lugosi, from Dracula to Plan 9 from Outer Space, is film historian Gary D. Rhodes. Having written multiple books on Lugosi, including Bela Lugosi: Dreams and Nightmares, Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays, and Bela Lugosi and the Monogram 9 (with previous Parallax Views guest Robert Guffey), Rhodes is without a doubt the foremost scholar of all things Bela Lugosi. In this previously unpublished conversation Rhodes takes us through the life and times of Lugosi, from his rise to stardom to his eventual struggles with addiction and infamous collaborations with Ed Wood. 

If you want to listen to this hour-plus conversation, simply click HERE


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

H.P. Lovecraft Read By David McCallum

In the 1970s, Caedmon Records released a series of LPs featuring the Scottish actor David McCallum (perhaps best known for his roles on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS) reading three of H.P. Lovecraft's best short stories. In 1973 came "The Rats in the Walls," in 1976 "The Dunwich Horror," and in 1979 "The Haunter of the Dark" (the final story Lovecraft wrote entirely on his own before his death of intestinal cancer in 1937). You can hear all three of these LPs below. Happy Halloween!







Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Robert Guffey and Gary D. Rhodes on PROJECT ARCHIVIST!

On the 19th of October, one day before what would have been Bela Lugosi's 137th birthday, Gary Rhodes and I appeared on Roejen Razorwire's PROJECT ARCHIVIST podcast and discussed our latest book, BELA LUGOSI AND THE MONOGRAM NINE. So feel free to slip into your black-velvet-lined coffin, relax, smoke some opium, and get ready for an hour-long discussion filled with mind-boggling, Lugosi-related mysteries such as the FBI and OSS surveillance of Lugosi throughout World War II, Lugosi's peculiar relationship with Ed Wood, and the always fascinating surrealism of such cinematic enigmas as THE APE MAN, BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT, and THE CORPSE VANISHES! This makes perfect listening for the Halloween season! If you want to check out this weird and macabre interview, simply click HERE!

(And if any if this piques your interest in BELA LUGOSI AND THE MONOGRAM NINE, you can buy a copy right HERE!)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Remembering William R. Corliss (1926-2011)

Recommended reading: John Ruch's 9-24-19 Washington Post article entitled "He Saw the Scientific Promise in the Paranormal, But Now His Legacy Could Be Lost," in which the work of the late William R. Corliss is covered extensively (and with a surprising paucity of snide remarks):

Lightning curls into balls that pass ghostlike through windows and explode. Auroras dip from the sky to buzz and crackle around astonished viewers. Unexplained booms shake the skies over bays and rivers worldwide.

For more than three decades, a Baltimore physicist named William Corliss collected scientific journal reports of these and thousands of other strange phenomena into dozens of books, culminating in his multivolume “Catalog of Anomalies,” a shadow encyclopedia of things science doesn’t understand. Like any curiosity seeker, he aimed to delight and dazzle; but he also hoped to spur new discoveries and understandings. “Anomalies reveal nature as it really is: complex, chaotic, possibly even unplumbable,” Corliss wrote in one catalogue. “However iconoclastic the pages of this book, the history of science tells us that future students of nature will laugh at our conservatism and lack of vision.”

Corliss was praised by some fellow scientists in his day, but now, eight years after his death at 84, his family is shuttering his self-publishing house in Glen Arm, Md. Tomes with such stiffly offbeat titles as “Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena” (which Corliss said sold 100,000 copies) or “Rare Halos, Mirages, Anomalous Rainbows and Related Electromagnetic Phenomena” will go out of print for the first time. And Corliss’s legacy as a proponent of anomalistics, an interdisciplinary field that seeks scientific discoveries in the lore of the curious and the unexplained, may be destined for obscurity, lost in library book-weedings and buried in footnotes in the even lesser-known works of his handful of fans.

Corliss was not your typical compiler of UFO tales and ghost stories. In the 1960s, he served as director of advanced programs in the nuclear division of what is now Lockheed Martin and penned numerous scientific books as a technical writer for such partners as Nobel Prize-winning chemist Glenn Seaborg and NASA. But even those dry histories and manuals included references to unexplained mysteries and digs at the way the scientific establishment is sometimes faster to laugh at an idea than to investigate it.

Two revolutionary books set Corliss on his maverick course. One was a 1920s creationist assault on mainstream geology. Corliss himself never bought into the creation myth, according to Patrick Huyghe, publisher of a journal called the Anomalist and one of the few writers to interview the publicity-shy author. But he was intrigued by the widespread evidence for “catastrophism” — the concept that biblical-scale disasters like mega-floods and super-quakes shape the planet’s surface — and championed it well before it became cool again in an asteroid-killed-the-dinosaurs tale you may have heard.

The other book that influenced Corliss was “The Book of the Damned,” by Charles Fort. Fort was an eccentric New York journalist who spent the early 1900s scouring newspapers and scientific publications for bizarre reports — rains of blood and frogs, UFOs, ancient Roman coins plowed up in American fields — and compiled them into wild, absurdist books that mocked academic certitude. The stories were “damned” from textbooks because they didn’t fit prevailing theory.

Fort launched an entire genre of paranormal writing. Hundreds of imitators followed — Corliss foremost among them. On research trips for NASA to Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, Corliss detoured into old journals to follow up on some of Fort’s reports. He was astonished to find that Fort had touched only the tip of the anomaly iceberg.

In 1965, Corliss started compiling his own collection. Unlike the cranky Fort, he maintained a respect for science and its skeptical approach. He selected material primarily from the pages of respectable scientific journals and eschewed Fort’s dramatic taste in titles, instead referring to his research blandly as the Sourcebook Project. From 1974 through 2007, he published his collections first as ring-bound pages, then as meticulously indexed hardback catalogues, almost always printed in the relentlessly unsexy font of an old electric typewriter. For illustrations, he signed up a fellow outsider: John C. “Jack” Holden, a cartoonist trained in geology, who told me he delighted in Corliss’s professional dedication to “things that shouldn’t be.”

Corliss hoped that his compilations of the weird just might spark a scientific revolution. After all, the history of science is replete with cases of ridiculed reports and obscure observations that, when fitted together, revealed something new: the extraterrestrial origin of meteorites, for example, or the grim reality of battered-child syndrome.

Of course, many bizarre reports are untrue or insignificant, and Corliss admitted that his books were undoubtedly full of chaff. But several formerly fringe claims for which he connected the dots on 150 years’ worth of reports have joined scientific orthodoxy, including gigantic “rogue waves” that appear from nowhere to swamp ships, and the eerie glows known as “sprites” that sometimes manifest above thunderstorms. There is no sign, however, that Corliss’s research directly inspired any discoveries. (Rogue waves and sprites were “discovered” by accident, detected by recording devices set up for other purposes.)

As a motto, Corliss adopted a quote from “The Hidden Self,” an obscure 1890 essay by psychologist and philosopher William James, which reads in part: “Round about the accredited and orderly facts of every science there ever floats a sort of dust-cloud of exceptional observations, of occurrences minute and irregular, and seldom met with, which it always proves less easy to attend to than to ignore. ... Anyone will renovate his science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena.” James referred to this “dust-cloud” of anomalies as the “Unclassified Residuum,” and Corliss set forth to classify it.

Along the way, Corliss won some high-profile fans who shared his open-minded eclecticism. Among them was Arthur C. Clarke, the sci-fi visionary of “2001” fame, who praised the physicist in his memoir, “Astounding Days.” Nobel-winning geneticist Barbara McClintock was another; her biographer, Nathaniel Comfort, told me her discovery of the mobility of genes was such a shocking anomaly that it stirred her curiosity about other strange observations.

At his death in 2011, Corliss left no successor, and the fate of his archives is unclear beyond some newsletters still posted on his website, Science Frontiers ( His family declined my interview requests, but his son Jim Corliss confirmed via email that “book sales have finally slowed down to a trickle,” and “I think we will be sadly saying goodbye to the Sourcebook Project this year.”

That means saying goodbye to thousands of reports that, at the least, can inspire readers to a renewed sense of natural wonder. Holden recalls the favorite anomaly he learned about from Corliss: mima mounds, unexplained patterns of humps that dot the U.S. landscape. “No one knows what they are. ... I like that,” Holden says. “The more we learn, the more we don’t know.”

Friday, October 11, 2019

Whitley Strieber on RADIO MISTERIOSO

On the 9th of October, Greg Bishop posted the latest episode of his excellent podcast, RADIO MISTERIOSO. This installment features an hour-long conversation with Whitley Strieber, author of THE HUNGER, BLACK MAGIC, COMMUNION, CONFIRMATION, THE SECRET SCHOOL, EVENINGS WITH DEMONS, and dozens of other compelling books. I highly recommend listening to the entire interview, which you can find right HERE.

After you've listened to RADIO MISTERIOSO, check out this clip of Strieber reading excerpts from his classic short story "Pain" (originally published in Dennis Etchison's CUTTING EDGE anthology) with accompaniment by none other than Marilyn Manson.

"There's a link between these visitors and the dead."
--Whitley Strieber
Radio Misterioso