Walpurgis Night, April 30th – a brief overview

witches coven

Walpurgis Night, April 30th

Walpurgis Night is the biggest holiday in the witches and sorcerers calendar, even bigger than All Hallows Eve. It is at the time when magic is at its strongest. There are numerous celebrations that take place on this night in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia. The celebrations and gatherings (covens) reinforce and strengthen any spells, incantations and conjuring being executed. It is also known as one of those ‘between times,’ where it’s not yet spring and no longer winter. Along with the ‘between times’ is a belief that the veil between living and dead are the most thin and the spirit world is close at hand for beckoning, divination and to be put to use.

The biggest celebration and gathering is on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a group of hills in central Germany near the Weser River. In most of the celebrations, huge bonfires are lit and revelry continues into the morning hours.

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Gallery of Witchcraft art and photos through the ages. Not reflective of wiccans or modern witch lifestyles.

Pay the Ghost (2015) – Movie Review

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Pay the Ghost (2015)

Directed by Uli Edel

Nicolas Cage
Sarah Wayne Callies
Veronica Ferres
Jack Fulton
Elizabeth Jeanne le Roux
Stephen McHattie


Dad, can we pay the ghost? Imagine if that were the last thing your child said to you before disappearing without a trace. Add to that fact that the young son in this film had been seeing a cloaked figure outside his bedroom window and three vultures circling the sky above the NYC skyline. It’s not often that I enjoy a film with Nicolas Cage in it, but this is a decent enough horror tale. It won’t be remembered for being all that scary, but it was entertaining and I cared for the characters by the end. It’s based on the Tim Lebbon novel of the same name, with the screenplay by Dan Kay.Pay the Ghost - poster

Cage plays Mike Lawford, a father striving to gain tenure at a NY University and after putting in extra hours on Halloween night, he misses trick or treat with his son, Charlie. The carnival is still going on down the block, in the Greenwich Village area, so he asks his wife, Kristen, if he could take their son for a little while. He lets go of the boy’s hand for one second to pay for ice cream and the boy is gone.

Mike and Kirsten (Sarah Wayne Callies, who played Laurie in The Walking Dead) search for him. They fight and blame each other. For a whole year there are no clues or leads to follow until a few days before Halloween. Mike sees graffiti on a wall that reads, did you pay the ghost? This leads him on a trail into the unknown where myth and the darkness of old yarns converge onto the modern city back alleys. There’s some moody atmospheric visuals with the vultures and the witch’s cottage for those who like that kind of stuff (like me).

There’s also a lot of horror flick standards and cliché horror tropes thrown in for good measure. The end is the usual Hollywood faire and although not original, it was good to see the dad be the hero. The film reminds me of older style horror with some jump scares and visual effects thrown in to fill the gaps between the main parts. There’s no blood or gore to speak of and not even much death. It seems like most viewers gave this film bad reviews so watch at your own risk. It won’t win any awards for originality but it can be a fun watch if you don’t expect too much.

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Blend Poltergeist, Darkness Falls, Celtic and Greek mythology tales into the subject of missing children, and you have a decent horror film with a decent story.

I give it 3.0 wicked witches out of 5 on the harrowing harbingers of hell scale.

The Witch (2016) – movie review

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The Witch (2016)

Written & Directed by Robert Eggers

Anya Taylor-Joy
Ralph Ineson
Kate Dickie
Harvey Scrimshaw
Ellie Grainger
Lucas Dawson

I can appreciate that director, Robert Eggers wanted to stay close to the source material from which his research stemmed. Early American folklore, settlers journals, court documents and town records were combined to form a story about a family in Puritan New England who were expelled from their community due to religious differences and had to face the harsh wilderness of the new world alone. The film was beautifully shot and depicted the untamed country in all its splendor and gritty detail. It was a hard life for settlers in America and without the support of the community it was nearly impossible to survive.

(slight spoilers)

When the father faces failures in crops and hunting, his faith in God is questioned and he can only assume that the Lord has abandoned him and his family due to the wages of sin. The result of God’s departure from the family’s side results in the presence of evil invading their homestead in the form of a witch in the woods and the devil speaking directly to the children through a goat. The film stays so close to the family’s ‘good vs. evil’ beliefs that the outcome isthe witch 2016 - poster disheartening and unnerving. The family turns upon each other and accuse each other of being in league with the devil.

The problem with the film is the Old English dialogue made it difficult to follow. It was so distracting as me and my wife had to conference after each line of speaking to decipher what had transpired. It drained some of the enjoyment of watching the film.

I would recommend waiting until the film is on bluray or DVD so you can turn on the subtitles for easier understanding of the dialogue. I was unsure about some events that transpired until I got home and looked up the plot points to confirm I had it right. I usually don’t mind some old English dialect such as is evident in A Christmas Carol (1956, with Alistair Sims). However this films dialect, completely authentic, (which I appreciate the effort in writing and the actors acting of it) just hindered the flow of the film.

I have to say that living through Hurricane Sandy, with no heat and electric for a few weeks allowed me to empathize quickly with this families plight. It was difficult for settlers to keep a home warm and keep food on the table through the winter months. The family looks to the paternal leadership for the answers. However the father’s zealotry toward his faith is also what causes the family to crack thus fulfilling the devil’s desire to break the bonds of love. The film is mostly a survival drama with the heavy hand of superstition seen as something real through the eyes of the family. Up until the last half hour, everything that happens to the family could be explained as natural events with the blame assigned to their religious and superstitious beliefs. Even the boy emerging from the forest naked can be explained, he was ill with a fever and probably undressed himself.

(end of spoilers)

I think the pay off was big in the end and I quite enjoyed it. If you are expecting a standard horror movie you will be disappointed. However the family struggle in this film results in sheer terror for them and if you can put yourself in their shoes, in their time, it is successful in creating a depiction of real life horror.

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Wonderful imagery and rural drama but trying to decipher what the characters were saying was a distraction.

I give it 3.9 wicked witchery wails on the goat-faced demigod scale of blasphemous benefactors.


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Night Gallery – S2 E3 – My Favorite Horror TV Episodes – Halloween Edition

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Night Gallery – S2 E3

Night Gallery is a series produced by Rod Serling and Jack Laird, that ran from 1970- 73. The Twilight Zone styled, one-hour show hadnight gallery pics 017 a wonderful introductory premise. Each week the host, Rod Serling, would swagger through an art gallery of nightmarish creations and pick one to tell us viewers about. The camera would zoom in on the painting, thus leading into the story. Each 1 hr. episode would have three stories; one main story, one minor story and one very brief tale with a comedic twist. The stories were not as timeless as the stories in The Twilight Zone, but some of the tales stood out as exceptionally creepy.

This episode has one of my favorite stories in the series, Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay, along with two shorter pieces.

Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay
Craig Lowell is a college professor whose wife has welcomed her Aunt Ada into their home. Ada is a gray-haired old woman with a cane who seems docile and innocent around her niece Joanna, wanting to share an afternoon ritual of having tea and talking. However, when Joanna is not around, she likes to challenge Craig’s authority in the home and doesn’t seem feeble at all. When the husband becomes suspicious of the woman he contacts a professor at the University that deals in night gallery pics 005the occult, Professor Porteus, played by Jonathan Harris (better known to most of us as Dr. Smith, from the TV show Lost in Space). The professor provides some valuable information about how a witch can jump from an old used up body into the body of a younger woman, and how to stop her. Craig suspects the ritual is taking place and he battles Aunt Ada in his home to defeat her. In the end he has successfully beaten her. Or has he? Stars James Farentino at Craig Lowell and Michele Lee as his wife Joanna.

With Apologies to Mr. Hyde
Adam West stars in this short vignette playing Dr. Jekyll in a moment of transformation.

The Flip Side of Satan
Arty Johnson plays an angry, washed-up, radio disc jockey starting a new job at a derelict station. Unhappy with the music he has to play he decides to quit but discovers he is locked in the studio and can’t leave.

The Aunt Ada story is the reason to view this episode. It’s a creepy witch story and the actress that plays Ada, Jeanette Nolan, is fantastic as the centuries old, body-jumping witch. The effects consist of camera and film tricks only slightly more creative than what you would see on Bewitched, or I Dream of Jeanie at the time. However, I think the acting and directing in this episode achieve a level of eerie foreboding that raises it above its limited budget.

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The stories in the series range from well-written, 70s style, TV horror, to just downright bland. They don’t have the message and introspect that Twilight Zone episodes had. The best Night Gallery to watch is the TV movie/pilot that started it all, but I’ll review that at a later date. If you are inclined to check out the series, this is one of the best of the bunch. A nasty witch tale always makes for good viewing on Halloween nights!

The House That Dripped Blood (1970) – Movie review

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The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

the house that dripped blood posterThis is the third anthology by Amicus Films and features both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in separate segments. The stories and screenplay were once again written by Robert Bloch. The film was directed by Peter Duffel and features an interesting and unconventional soundtrack by Michael Dress. It opens with scenes of the house itself, a sufficiently creepy but real dwelling. The camera passes through black iron gates to see the brick façade with Ivy crawling up its surface, cathedral windows and jutting turrets. Inside the home is furnished with antiquities from bygone eras and dated design. We cut to Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) from Scotland Yard questioning a local officer, Sergeant Martin about the disappearance a of film star. Paul Henderson was last  seen in the home he had rented in the countryside. Martin pulls out a case file on the house and its strange history. He goes into stories about the inhabitants and how they all came to untimely demise. So we enter each segment:

Method for Murder
A writer, Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott), looking to finish his latest murder/horror novel moves into the home with his wife, hoping the isolated country surroundings will give him the peace he needs to create. Once moved in, he immediately conjures his main protagonist, a brute psychotic named Dominic, who likes to strangle his victims with his bare hands. However, soonHouse-That-Dripped-Blood-6 Charles is seeing the strangler in the house; in the dark corners of the hallway and outside in the garden. Will reality prevail of will the writer be strangled to death by his own character?

Next up, Phillip Grayson (Peter Cushing) is a retired theater actor, looking for a quiet place to call home. We soon see that he is distraught over a long lost love named Salome. Wandering aimlessly through the local town he comes across Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror where he finds a beautiful figure that looks exactly like, Salome. The proprietor explains she was cast from real life and relays the story of how she was murdered. Mr. Grayson leaves in a flustered state and is soon having strange dreams surrounding this figure in the museum and her alluring beauty. The dream sequence is a fantastic piece of shock horror visuals. He is awakened by a visiting friend, Neville, who had also courted the beautiful Salome. the house that dripped blood pic 2While in town, Neville also discovers the wax image in the museum. Quite strangely the competition between the two old friends is reignited. Only one can be with her and the winner gets his wish!

Sweets to the Sweet
In the third story, John Reid, (Christopher Lee) is a single father raising his daughter Jane. Jane is about 6 or 7 years old with long blonde locks and innocent blue eyes. He moves into the country home to be away from the town and populous. He hires a teacher for Jane, unwilling to let her go to public schools. The teacher, a widowed Mrs. Norton, soon learns the strange parameters of the father and daughter relationship. Jane is strangely fearful of fire, is withdrawn and angry. Mr. Reid will not let his daughter play with other children and will not permit toys in the house. Mrs. Norton soon realizes that Mr. Reid is terrified of his daughter. The reasons become clear one night when a black out leads Mr. Reid to discover missing candles and Mrs. Norton discovers that Jane has been reading books on witchcraft.

The Cloak
The final story concerns the missing actor, Paul Henderson (John Pertwee). In town for a low budget film production of Dracula, he searches out his own wardrobe to replace the unauthentic clothes the film production has given him. He finds a cape in a small costume shop. When he puts it on, he is empowered with the powers of a real vampire. This tale has comedic elements as Mr. Henderson is dumbfounded by not seeing his reflection in the mirror and accidentally bites his co-star, Carla, played by the lovely, Ingrid Pitt. There is even a scene that mirrors The Lost Boys as Henderson begins to float at the strike of midnight and is stunned by the incident. Henderson states that he wants to play his role like Bela Lugosi, not that new guy, in an obvious referencethe-house-that-dripped-blood-08 to Hammer films. This is my least favorite of the stories but not bad for campy entertainment.

The film wraps up with Inspector Holloway finally visiting the House and discovering Henderson and Carla in the basement. They are now full-fledged vampires and asleep in their coffins, that is, until they are disturbed by the investigator. This is another good Amicus anthology with well-written stories and convincingly acted parts. It is not scary like more modern films (none of the Amicus films or films from that age are) but the stories are interesting tales of the macabre.



This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus Anthologies and horror films.

Related articles:

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

Torture Garden

Amicus Films Overview – the Studio That Dripped Blood

Ingrid Pitt career overview by Robbinsrealm

Lords of Salem (2013) – Movie review

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Lords of Salem (2013)

the-lords-of-salem-posterThis is quite a different film from Rob Zombie. In “Lords…” he offers some real characters, not the over-the-top, cartoon-ish maniacs, no foul-mouthed teenagers, maniacal renegades or white trash extremes. However, he still manages to show us the ugly. In this film it’s devil-worshipping witches of 1690’s Salem (note: not the mistakenly accused or the earthly spiritual Wiccans). If anyone could relay the ugly truth of devil worship, it is Rob Zombie. A bunch of naked old crones in the woods dancing around a fire is not a pretty sight.

The story goes like this; witches are burned in secrecy by the town leader, Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne. The head of the Coven, Magaret Morgan, casts a curse upon the women of Salem for generations to come and vows that a Salem daughter will be the concubine for the birth of the anti-Christ. In the present day, a radio DJ, Heidi is given a record. The music is a repeated theme, 4 notes in perpetuity which is mesmerizing to say the least. When she plays this on-air it garners strange reactions in the women of Salem. Heidi begins to hallucinate; she sees strange figures Lords of salem pic 2following her, death and destruction of the flesh, the wages of sin, and evil at work in the modern world. The empty apartment (#5) in her building comes to life and it is there that she is offered as the mistress to Satan. She is a direct descendent of the Hawthornes.

In some ways, ‘Lords’ has aspects reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby and some of the 1970’s Satanic cult films. But I would say the biggest influence comes from Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages. The ugly and nasty visions of witchcraft, ceremonies, and acts in league with the devil are certainly influenced by the 1920’s silent film. The influence is noticeable especially in the depiction of the devil himself which probably had quite a few people scratching their heads. How the witches are punished is also reminiscent of Bava’s Black Sunday.

Zombie’s visual direction also takes cues from Italian masters Argento and Bava, and admittedly Stanley Kubrick. The use of color, shadow and light bring forth some visually stunning scenes. The doorway at the end of the dull wallpapered hallway is often bathed in rich red. Most of Heidi’s days of trudging through the motions of modern life are shown with washed out color to portray the bleak existence of not living her destiny. In other scenes, when in the presence of evil, the colors become bright. In fact, the whole ending, when she is birthing the  devil’s offspring, explodes with rich and vibrant color, lush cathedral palace rooms, hot orange fires burning brightly against the faces of the coven, and neon visions of hell. This exemplifies that Lucifer is known as the Angel of Light (not the dark. strange, right?). Most of the film is drenched with symbolism. If you like that kind of stuff, you will probably appreciate this. If you don’t, you will probably think this film sucks. There’s nothing wrong with that, some people like horror that is psychological and abstract in nature, others like visceral horror – its just a preference. This is not scary in the sense of, I’m being chased and I’m about to die. However, that aspect doesn’t mean this is not a great horror story.
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OK, so Lords of Salem is not a perfect film. It makes you feel dread in the end and that’s not always a good last impression. Some people complain about what is going on at the ending but what Zombie is conveying is that Heidi becomes a demonic deity, the opposite to Mother Mary – like the anti-Mother Mary. He chose to depict that in neo-demonic imagery rather than having a lords pic 10character come out and just say it.

I did think that there could have been a better attempt during the 3rd act at saving Heidi from the clutches of evil. That would have made the loss on the side of goodness even more poignant. I think there always has to be hope in a good horror story, even if it inevitably fails. Also, the montage at the end slips into his music video directing style with a few of the flash images. I think it would have been better if they stayed more gritty rather than flashy. Complaints aside, I am for some reason compelled to watch the film again. That doesn’t happen often with modern horror films.

Symbolism in Lords of Salem:
(aside from the items already discussed in the article)

Door 5 most likely represents the 5 points of the pentagram

The symbol painted on the heads of the witch’s coven:
The symbol is most likely a mirrored variation of the astrological sign for Algol. Algol is called the unfortunate star and is often associated with violence. A second possibility is the symbol for Mercury, which is the God of War in mythology. Backing this thought is the quote from the movie, “you have to realize, there is a war going on in Heaven.”

The musical phrase sent by The Lords:
The short phrase is formed within the Phrygian Scale. It begins with a half-step from the root-note which gives it a ‘distinct’ dark feel. At one time, an 11th century Benedictine monk had forbidden using this scale (and similar scales with the flat-second note) to compose music claiming it brought forth evil.

Witches in 3’s:
You will often see witches in groups of three. From Greek mythology to Shakespeare’s Macbeth to modern witchcraft tales, there is power in threes. In Wicca they represent the 3 stages of a woman’s life, child, adult, old age, and they complete the circle of life. However, in Satanism, they represent, darkness, chaos and conflict.

The Goat everyone asks me about the goat (why me?). I have 5 reasons why the goat represents Satan.

1) “The Lord is my shepherd…,” Where as the sheep are tended and obedient, the goats roam the land freely.

2) All of the guilt of the people was symbolically placed on the head of the scapegoat (goat), who was then taken out into the wilderness and released (Leviticus 16:21-22).

3) The pagan deity Pan was symbolized as half man, half goat. He was mischievous and delighted in the pain and suffering of man. He lived in the wilderness where bad things happened to people, especially at night.

4) The half man, half goat image later showed up in Christianity as a more evil entity, the demon Baphomet.

5) Just look at the damn things eyes man! Drink goat milk? No way. You may as well be suckling on the teats of the devil >:)

The Black Metal band, Leviathan the Fleeing Serpent that is interviewed early in the film is a fictional band. John 5 and Zombie wrote the music and the music video features the band in full black metal make-up and regalia.
Check out the video: http://www.uberrock.co.uk/news-updates/94-april-news-updates/7980-black-metal-band-featured-in-rob-zombies-the-lords-of-salem-release-new-dark-new-video.html

related articles:

Scariest Witches in Film

The Scariest Classic Witches in film

The Scariest Classic Witches in film

OK, let me first state that I am not speaking of Wiccan’s, Pagan’s, or any earth religions and followers, and I do realize there is a great difference between the perception of witches and what witches actually are. I also know there is a great difference between the Wicca religion and Satan worshipers.

What I am speaking about is the classic legend of witches, the witch image stereotype that had been used for centuries to scare children and keep them from wandering in the forest; the scary image men conjured in centuries past from their own fears of things they did not understand; the visions that sparked the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition.

And, lastly, I am not talking about the pretty or sexy witch. Ever since Bewitched aired in the late 1960’s, there has been way too many of them in film.

So, without further explanation, here are my favorite scary witches:

5) Black Sunday (1960) – Her face encased with the mask of Satan, tortured and burned at the stake,  accused witch, Asa Vajda, comes to life centuries later to exact her revenge upon the descendants of her persecutors. Directed by Mario Bava.

4) Darkness Falls (2003) – This tooth seeking witch comes for your last baby tooth. The first six minutes of this film were a tense and chilling scene, making it well worthy of this list.

3) The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of a witch in this classic film is the epitome of the witch legend. Ask any child what a witch looks like and they will draw something resembling The Wicked Witch of the West.

2) Pumpkinhead (1988) – Deep in the shadowed woods lives a witch named, Hagis, who can cast a spell upon anyone that has wronged you. In classic evil fashion, your wish always comes with a consequence. When Ed (Lance Henriksen) realizes what he has done, he is angered at himself. “God Damn me!” he says… to which Hagis replies, “He already has, Ed Harley, he already has.” (Side note: this is some of Henriksen’s best acting of his career.)
1) Tales From the Dark side – episode: Trick or Treat
(1st season – 1983) –
Damned if you can find a better classic witch than this one. Creepy as hell, a wickedly evil laugh and voice, and a face that could turn you to stone if you stare into it for too long.

Honorable Mentions:

Sleepy Hollow (1999 – Tim Burton) – Witch of the western wood

Dreams in the Witch House (Masters Of Horror – 2005) Stuart Gordon

Horror Hotel (aka City of the Dead)

Clash of the Titans (1981) – the Stygian Witches


How could I forget, the evil witch Markos from Suspiria

The three witches from Macbeth

Angelica Houston’s portrayal in The Witches
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These are not necessarily the best movies about witches or witchcraft but were chosen for their portrayal of the iconic witch image. Perhaps I’ll post future list of top witch/witchcraft/occult movies. I will want to wait until I have seen Lords of Salem (2012 – Rob Zombie) before I do that.

Lords of Salem review is here

Final note:

Believe it or not, there were not a whole lot of choices; I thought there would be so much more. So, if you think of a film or show that featured a scary-classic witch (even in a small role) let me know in the comments and I’ll add a photo to my honorable mentions.