I'm a writer with a penchant for weird horror.

Image Credit-Pexels

You’ve been there, I know you have. It’s Wednesday evening and the family is screaming for blood. Well, maybe not blood, but they’re definitely hungry. You go online, looking for a recipe that won’t require too much time to prepare. In the back of your head you remember the ground beef you took out of the freezer the other night. It’s still sitting on a plate in the fridge, floating in a pool of watery blood.

So, whatever you make has to include ground beef. Should be simple, you think. Except it isn’t. Though versatile, ground beef tends to put people in a rut. When my wife made beef and rice for the third time in a week once, I had to say something. I got the stink eye, but she eventually conceded that it was getting a little monotonous (before you say anything, I do my fair share of the cooking too, and have fallen victim to the same-old, same-old doldrums more than once).

Nobody wants to eat Hamburger Helper, and if you do you need counselling. Over the years you’ve cooked up tons of meatloafs, burgers, meat sauces, tacos, sloppy Joe’s and countless other old stand-by’s, and you’re sick to death of every one of them. You want easy, but you want novel too. This will require the big guns—a google search. You look up “easy recipes using ground beef” and start looking through the returns.

There’s literally hundreds of pages to peruse, all claiming to have exciting, fast, and nutritious meal ideas with minimal fuss involved. You skip past some of them without hesitation, knowing that your son or daughter will not countenance the spicy ones. Others just sound too bizarre. Who really eats curried hamburger wrapped in dill-infused lettuce leaves anyway?

You keep searching, growing more anxious with each passing minute, until one finally catches your eye. It’s a hash of some sort, with sweet peppers and onions and diced chunks of potato. It looks delicious and there’s only six ingredients, including the ground beef itself. Even better, it requires only one pan and promises to be fast and easy. You’re relieved to find something that will appease the endless whining chorus of: “When is dinner gonna be ready? I’m hungry,” that issues from the living room at regular intervals like a demonic broken record.

You don’t have long before they release the hounds, so you click on the link and hope for the best. It takes you to the page, but immediately something is wrong. The recipe title is there at the top in bold letters, with a sexy food-porn photo front and center, but the recipe itself is nowhere in sight.

You start scrolling down further, reading through the introductory prelude. You keep scrolling and your heart begins to sink as you realize the writer hasn’t written a recipe—they’ve produced an epic tome. Suddenly you’re reading about the time the author rediscovered this particular recipe after recalling some misty water-coloured memory from their youth.

Jesus Harold Christmas, as my father used to say. I don’t want to hear about the summers you spent as a child at your grandmother’s house in Martha’s Vineyard, just tell me how to make the goddamn hash!

There’s photos of the process, interspersed with gouts of verbal diarrhea that goes on and on. Now it’s become a life-affirming lesson of some sort, about the power of family bonds or some crap like that. Really food writer? You’re gonna go there? I got hungry people here ready to eat the cats; I don’t have time for your feel-good shit.

Granted, there’s mention of ingredients and preparation tips among the dross, but it’s like a distraction that the author keeps distancing himself/herself from so they can get back to talking about the time Grampy Bob swamped the boat in front of the lake house. Screw your Grampy! I want food, not platitudes.

Finally, though, the end is in sight. After all that extraneous blather the recipe lies at the bottom of the page, condensed into ten little bullet points. It really couldn’t be easier. By then, however, I’ve had enough. I reach into the cupboard and pull out some Hamburger Helper. I wasted too much time reading to make anything else.

runes-1474991_1280
Image Credit-Pixabay

My grandfather came from Denmark, hence my last name: Eriksen. It literally means “son of Erik.” He was a fascinating man, who saw more than a century of changes from the time he was born in a small village in Denmark in the early 1900’s to his life as a farmer on the plains of central Saskatchewan throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. I’ve always been proud of the Scandinavian blood that runs in my veins. Our family tree has been traced back several generations and I have a number of black & white photos of my distant kin, including one of my great-great grandfather—a sailor with a white beard and gold hoops in his earlobes. It’s not hard to see the evidence of our Viking roots in the lined contours of his weathered face.

Great-great grandfather
Great-great grandfather: Circa 1906

There’s such a long, deep, and rich history that came out of those lands north of the Baltic Sea. From their primitive beginnings, to the cultural development of the Norse people and their fascinating mythologies and paganistic religious practices, and on to the time of the Vikings and their eventual Christianization—there is no shortage of interesting narratives from those times.

There’s abundant evidence that early Germanic tribes populated the plains of Denmark and southern Sweden since the Neolithic age (10,000 BC). It was around then that human beings first began learning how to control their environment through animal domestication and agriculture. Like other cultures, the northern Germanic people’s eventual development of forged weapons and tools from iron and bronze further cemented their mastery over nature, and allowed for the establishment of stable communities that didn’t have to be as nomadic as their ancient ancestors. It gave them breathing room.

The oldest form of the various runic alphabets, Elder Futhark, is estimated to have been developed sometime in the first century, shortly before the Germanic tribes began moving south en masse during the great migration period (between the second and eighth centuries). The crudely hatcheted design of the runes was necessary, given the way they were inscribed on to early writing mediums like wood and steel, but were not an exclusive feature of their alphabet. They were a common motif noted in other early alphabets as well, including the Old Italic scripts used by the early Romans, from which modern historians believe Elder Futhark developed from.

These historians theorize that at one point there was some kind of cultural exchange between the northern Germanic tribes and the Romans. It’s likely that small groups of Germanic wanderers became mercenaries for the Roman army or traded with them as merchants. Eventually they took the Roman’s written language back with them to their homelands where it was developed into the Elder Futhark runic alphabet. Elder Futhark remained in use until it was further modified into Younger Futhark around the eighth century and the Anglo-Saxon futhorc alphabet thereafter.

In modern times these ancient runes have come to be associated with the mysterious pagan practices that represented heathen worship before Christianity became the dominant religion of the western world. Their’s was a world filled with strange gods, terrifying omens and blood sacrifices of appeasement. These symbols stand as an enduring reminder of practices that have long since been relegated to history books and museums. In popular entertainment their use has been associated with the occult and dark magical rites, and it’s not hard to see why. Given their primitive appearance and esoteric meaning, they look like something some evil mage would write in his spell book while consorting with dark forces.

In reality, though, they are simply the symbols of an old alphabet that fell by the wayside long ago. For many centuries the knowledge of how to read Elder Futhark was lost entirely, and wasn’t regained until a Norwegian scholar deciphered it again in 1865. Below is the transliteration of the Elder Futhark runes to their modern English equivalents (Image Credit-Wikipedia).

f f u u th,þ þ a a r r k k g g w w
h h n n i i j j ï,ei ï p p z z s s
t t b b e e m m l l ŋ ŋ d d o o

I have a fascination with these runes, not just because they look cool, but also because they represent part my own history. This is how my ancient ancestors communicated with each other. This is how they transitioned from oral history to written history. Like other cultures, it enabled them to preserve their wisdom and teachings in an accurate way. This led to advancement, as their collective knowledge grew and compounded. It’s part of the reason why I’m able to sit here at this computer and bash out stuff for other people to read.

As an aside, it should be noted that with the above transliteration key, it would be possible for someone to translate the writing in those weird videos contained in the artifacts section of my website. Just for fun, it might be interesting for inclined individuals to see what they mean. Just saying…

Blank

You get up in the morning and grab a coffee. Maybe you read what’s happening out in the world for a bit while you wait for your brain to catch up with your body. If you’re the type of person who eats breakfast, you’ll probably have something to eat. School-age kids will need their lunches packed and maybe a ride if the weather’s bad. Then the morning rush is over and you are alone with your thoughts and ready to start work for the day.

Maybe that isn’t your routine at all, but this is how most of my days start. Regardless of how you work, eventually you go to the place where you feel comfortable writing and sit down at the keyboard. With a flick of the mouse you start up your word processing program and sit back while it loads. This is it, the moment you must face as a writer whenever you start a new project: the dreaded blank page.

I don’t know about other writers, but the fear of the blank page never really goes away for me. I hate sitting down in front of an empty screen with the cursor blinking stupidly up in the corner, taunting me (“Hey buddy, what are you going to write today, huh? HUH?”). I know it’s not my computer screen’s fault, but sometimes I want to put my fist through its blank cyclopean eye. Sure, I’ve drawn up an outline and kicked around potential plot threads in my head for days, but all that empty real estate staring back at me is unnerving in the extreme.

Before my fingers even touch the keys I’m wondering if the creative muse that drives me has dried up at last. Maybe I only have a certain amount of words in me and once that barrier is reached and breached, that’s it. Pack up your shit and get a real job. What writer hasn’t thought this at one time or another?

I look at the clock and see that fifteen minutes have passed and I haven’t wrote a damn thing yet. The temptation to start editing other existing projects or fiddle with my website begins to take hold. Editing and fiddling is always easier for me. The content is already there, it just needs tweaking. That’s much more enjoyable than conjuring up an entirely new project from scratch. But no, I’m supposed to write in the morning. Editing is to be done later on, when the hard work of being creative for the day is over with. If I don’t make myself write today, maybe I won’t write tomorrow either, or the next day.

I feel slightly panicky at the notion, because it seems like it would be such an easy trap to fall into. There’s no one here to make me do it. No boss is standing over my shoulder asking for those TPS reports by the weekend (“I’m gonna get you to go ahead and come in on Saturday. That’d be great…yeah”). There’s no overachieving coworkers around to make me feel bad for my own lack of output. It’s just me, my computer, and a whole lot of white pixels.

Ah, but now there’s a bit of motivation: stop writing and the dream of working for myself will die. I’ll end up back in the world of being told what to do for a living by some guy who only cares about making shareholders happy. I’ve been there; I don’t want to go back. That’s why I abandoned the 9 to 5 grind and took up writing full time. I’m not doing this to become famous or rich. I loathe the idea of fame. I’m doing it because I love writing and it’s what I burn with desire to be successful at. That’s why I make myself write 2,000+ words each day and edit for a few hours afterwards. That’s why I have dozens of stories out there for consideration and dozens more in various states of completion.

So I lay down a sentence. Then another. And another. Soon I have a paragraph. Then two. Before I know it the page is filled with them. Within a few hours I have ten pages of double spaced, twelve point Times New Roman written. Sure, some of it’s probably crap. No, scratch that. Some of it is crap and will be revised or changed entirely later on after it’s had some time to gestate. That’s not the point, though. The point is that I did it. I looked that blank-faced beast in the eye, did battle with it, and emerged victorious once more.

Tomorrow I’ll do it again, but at least the work is underway. I’ve got something to build on. That feels good, but only for as long as the current project lasts. If it’s a novel, I’ll be busy for months. If it’s a novella, weeks. If it’s a short story, within a few days I’ll be back to square one again. The fear is always there, waiting in the wings. I suppose it always will be in one form or another. But if I was the kind to let fear stop me from doing something, I would’ve never taken up writing in the first place.

devils uk
Image Credit-Warner Bros

Ken Russell made a career out of directing some of the most bizarre, blasphemous, and kinky movies in cinematic history. Such a provocateur would never survive in our modern political climate, but in the 70’s and 80’s he was the go-to guy for cinephiles who liked their movies weird and wild. One of his most thoroughly strange productions was The Devils, produced in 1971. Adapted from a non-fiction book by Aldous Huxley (The Devils of Loudun), which itself was based on true events, the film is ostensibly about a rogue priest, Urbain Grandier, in seventeenth century France who runs afoul of the machinations of the political elite.

Grandier stands in opposition to the desires of Cardinal Richelieu, who wants Louis VIII to destroy the fortification cities, like Loudun, to prevent the Protestant population from uprising. In his bid for power Richelieu is willing to use any means available to assure his success and if a few heads have to roll, well…so be it. The story itself is an interesting chapter in the Catholic church’s long and troubled history, but in the director’s hands it becomes something else entirely. Like many of Russell’s projects, it’s a difficult film to categorize. Horror and satire rub shoulders with historical accuracy and Grand-Guignol excess. He hits all the main points relayed in Huxley’s book but, Russell being Russell, the visuals get downright crazy as the film progresses.

Urbain Grandier, played by Oliver Reed, is a well-regarded man of the cloth who becomes the leader of the town of Loudun when the governor dies. He also courts controversy in that he refuses to abide by his oath of celibacy and has had several secretive affairs. Early on he is asked by the deformed Mother Superior of the local convent of Ursuline nuns to become their new confessor, but he refuses. Played with abandon by Vanessa Redgrave, the twisted Mother Superior is sexually obsessed with the priest after hearing about his various exploits with other women. She has dreams where she sees him as a Christ-like figure. In these otherworldly sequences she is drawn to him—going as far as licking his wounds in a sexual manner as he stands before her. After learning that he has married in secret she becomes consumed with jealousy. Tortured by her obsession with him, while speaking to their new confessor she accuses Grandier of using witchcraft to possess her and the other nuns with demonic entities, forcing them to act out in bizarre fashion. The outward manifestations of these so-called demonic possessions include: barking, moaning, speaking in tongues, convulsions, vulgar dreams, and frenzied sexual behavior—among other things.

This presents an opportunity for the authorities and a professional witch-hunter, Father Pierre Barre, is dispatched to rout the evil. It is here that the film takes a left turn from brooding historical drama to the type of psychosexual freak out that Russell is so well known for. All kinds of technicolor debauchery appears on screen during some of the film’s more lurid moments. The witch-hunter travels to the convent where he and his cohorts perform their own unique brand of exorcism, including: forced enemas, insane exhortations, and maniacal shouting. The effect on the nuns is profound. In a scene that has to be seen to be believed, the hysterical nuns go bat-shit crazy. Shaving their heads and stripping off their clothes, they run wild throughout the convent, writhing naked on top of a statue of Jesus as well as performing other acts of blasphemous nuttiness (I can only imagine what the Catholic church and its followers must have thought of the film upon its release). As the craziness escalates the utter deviancy of the church leaders performing the exorcisms is graphically exposed. If anyone’s in league with the devil, it’s them, along with the country’s elites who are always jockeying for position behind the scenes.

Eventually Grandier is arrested. After a token show trial he is tortured before being executed by burning at the stake (filmed in loving detail as he’s fried to a crisp, screaming his innocence to the end). When he falls, the city also falls. In the end we realize there were no demonic possessions and that the real evil at the root of the story was the banal political scheming that resulted in the total destruction of an innocent man. Religious hysteria combined with sexual repression led the nuns to act out and the elites wasted no time capitalizing on it in order to remove a stubborn political opponent. There is real horror in that, worse than anything that goes bump in the night.

Upon its release the film naturally became steeped in controversy and received numerous X-ratings from censorship boards all over the world for its explicit scenes of nuns gone loopy with sexual frustration and unflinching depictions of brutal violence. In the end we are left with the feeling that, had they all just gotten laid, things might have worked out different for everyone. So endeth the lesson for today.

Something strange is going on with my YouTube channel. Two videos have appeared that I don’t remember putting there and, even stranger yet, I can’t seem to get rid of them. Though the subject matter is unremarkable, even mundane, there’s something about them that leaves a knot in my stomach—some vague sense of malevolence. The picture quality is awful and the audio tracks are just thumping noises and atonal clatterings, but the strange writings that appear at the side of the screen stirs something deep inside my brain. Some primordial instinct that most of us have lost touch with, I suspect.

The first one depicts a colony of ants and their young. The video appears to be running in reverse for some reason. Toward the end (actually the beginning, I suppose) a beetle crawls out of (into) a hole in the lower left corner and trundles backwards (forward). I don’t understand the significance.

The second video appears to be one vehicle following another. The one in the lead has been obscured by a blurred circle for reasons unknown. It’s winter time and they seem to be out in the country somewhere, perhaps looking for something? Again, strange writing appears on the screen, like ancient runes. I can’t imagine what it all means. It’s like some unseen observer has been studying the footage and making notes.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is going to be a regular thing? Until I have more time to study them, I’m going to keep them in the Artifacts area of my site. Maybe they’ll add up to something eventually. If nothing else, they’ll make an interesting, if slightly ominous, conversation piece. Stay tuned…