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"Il Dottore della Peste"

"Il Dottore della Peste", originally uploaded by Burning Smile.

A photo taken during a recent trip to Italy.

Do You Believe In Witches?

I wanted to share a piece of music of mine. This is the second year that I’ve been given the honor of creating some music for my friend Pumpkinrot’s Halloween video. He pieced together some footage of his 2009 display, a really stunning work that crosses over the line from home haunt well into art installation. The display is titled “The Year of the Corn Witch” and the music is my best effort to capture what I feel is the very dark, desolate, sad and disturbing nature of the scene.

The piece is called “Do You Believe In Witches?” for reasons that will become obvious when you hear it.

The highest resolution video (which includes the best audio quality) can be viewed here:

Pumpkinrot: What’s Brewing (blog)

The YouTube version can be viewed here:


I hope you enjoy it.

Dark Dreams

Nightmares are something I can often enjoy, especially if the themes are supernatural and not something to do with being sans pants in public or unable to find a staple as the office fills with flying papers. I have a tendency to realize, on some level, that the situation is a dream and enjoy the ride if it’s something creepy. I think they call that lucid dreaming. Whatever it is, it can be fun even if the dream is a little dark in nature.

Last night was not the fun kind.

What I can remember is that I was in a home that I knew to be haunted by several entities. The dirt floor cellar was the apparent nexus of activity, with  the home’s living tenant claiming that a host of particularly twisted and gruesome scenes played out at all hours of the night and day. Sadomasochistic, “Hellraiser”-grade chicanery had left this person–a man in his thirties or forties whom I don’t recognize from real life–in  a state of terror and desperation.

We were there, presumably, to investigate and perhaps help put an end to things. I don’t know that for sure any more than I know who “we” was. I got the sense I was there with a small group of people but I don’t know who they were. Nor do I know what made us all think we had any business dealing with violent poltergeist activity. Dreams are like that. They don’t make sense.

Some scenes are now a blur to me but I vividly remember our group deciding that it was a lost cause and it was time to leave. The sense was that we were not prepared to deal with whatever entities were involved. I was being urged to join my companions who had already made it to the front door when I abruptly and defiantly turned back.

Yes: just like the dumb one in the movie.

I stormed down the cellar stairs and started to walk to the middle of the dingy room. As soon as my foot set down on the dirt, I felt it. Something down there–a presence looming dead center of the dark space and moving toward me. I turned my head and saw it.

An amorphous column of swirling, dark colors–predominantly reds, browns and black–roughly the size of  a man but slightly taller than me. It approached me very rapidly, floating directly toward my face. As it did, I saw a momentary flash of an image.

Just below the top of the column there appeared a face. It was part human but elongated with a mouth that resembled more of downward pointing muzzle and an upper lip that was split like an animal’s. The eyes were feral and dark. The entire face was framed with wiry, black hair.  Two distinct horns protruded from the top of its forehead.

I recognized him instantly both by his appearance and by the feeling of intense dread that came over me. I remember wanting to turn and run, but I didn’t. That was the most frightening part of this dream. Instead of turning to run, I felt an invitation to stay, and I did. The last thing I remember was thinking, “Let’s see how bad it really is…” and then turning my back to this being and taking a step backward into it. Then the dream ended.

I’m not a religious person. Nor am I a psychiatrist. I can’t speak to what any of this means or what I’ve unwittingly revealed about myself by sharing it. All I can say is that it frightened me as much as any nightmare I had as a child ever did.

Okay, maybe I did enjoy it just a little bit in hindsight…

Dark Candles

I first learned of Dark Candles about two years ago when reading about them on Pumpkinrot’s blog. Knowing that ‘Rot and I share similar tastes, I took a chance and placed an order. It proved a very worthwhile risk.

These are some of the greatest smelling candles I’ve ever burned. The scents are complex, balanced and powerful. The candles themselves (especially the pillars) are long-lasting and come in a wide array of beautiful colors.

Customer service is exceptional. Dark Candles puts as much effort into the customer experience as they do the products themselves. When ordering, I like to make it a point to include a note in the comment box. Each time I do, owner Helena Jones replies personally thanking me for both the comment and the patronage. When I had difficulties ordering I was contacted promptly by Helena and my situation was resolved in minutes (it turned out to be a browser issue–entirely on my end).

Shipment is fast and the packaging often includes free samples and other goodies to make the experience more special. The presentation of the candles is very nicely done with custom graphics and other small, thoughtful details. You wouldn’t think that candles would be something to get all that excited about, but opening this package was like opening a gift from a friend. If only all business could be done like this.

If you’re thinking of taking a chance yourself, I can offer some recommendations. Clove is far and away my favorite–authentic and potent. Other great choices include Pumpkin & Spice, Autumn Harvest, Nosferatu, Bonfire and Haunted House. For a great sampling of Dark Candles’  Autumn & Halloween-themed scents, I recommend trying the various Collection Packs. These are packs of four votive candles each, grouped and packaged by theme.

Dark Candles.


[vimeo 6261443]

Halloween Theremin Video Contest

Musical instrument makers Moog invited theremin enthusiasts to create Halloween-themed videos featuring the instrument. There are some great ones up there, including this one:


You can find more here.

green light

Haunted Overload-9, originally uploaded by Burning Smile.

A photo from the 2009 Haunted Overload display in Lee, NH.

See the Flickr badge in the sidebar for more photos.

From an Old Journal Entry

I found this in a pile of my old journals:

It was the days of long dark and deep cold just before the first snow. We walked among thin charcoal lines of trees against nearly-dead-ember clouds, with the year’s shed former self blowing in hissing plumes like flocks of paper sparrows. We wandered the knotted and root-bumped road twisting past the fluorescent face of the old church, the monolithic farmhouse looming in its wide field and the tilting stone teeth of the two oldest cemeteries in town.  We talked until we could feel the gravity of other worlds pulling us up from this one and savored that momentary elevation, but were disappointed to find that the trip lead to the same gray doorstep in the end.

Those were the days…

shadow of the bat

shadow of the bat, originally uploaded by Burning Smile.

I was lucky enough to notice this one night after returning from work. I hastily grabbed my camera and took a few shots before the sun moved.

Moments like that are why life is worth living.

Plague Mask

plague doctor mask, originally uploaded by j_naturalia_2.

The most amazing plague mask ever.

A common belief at the time was that the plague was spread by birds. There may have been a belief that by dressing in a bird-like mask, the wearer could draw the plague away from the patient and onto the garment the plague doctor wore. The mask also included red glass eyepieces, which were thought to make the wearer impervious to evil. The beak of the mask was often filled with strongly aromatic herbs and spices to overpower the miasmas or “bad air” which was also thought to carry the plague. At the very least, it may have served a dual purpose of dulling the smell of unburied corpses, sputum, and ruptured bouboules in plague victims. (from Wikipedia)

I’ve got to find one of these somehow. I think a new Halloween costume is in the offing.

The plague mask was the inspiration for one of my homemade props for Halloween 2008. I’ll share some pictures soon.