Extra! Extra! November 11/10/15

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This time, I’m relating a short anecdote from 1934.

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The associated press headline read “Snake Reformed By Death Sentence“.

Our story takes place in Raleigh, North Carolina. The twenty third day of the sixth month in the year of nineteen and thirty four. I won’t be sharing the story verbatim as it’s just so weirdly racist in its original form.

It seems there was a snake who was in a museum there. The snake had developed a habit of breaking out of its cage and crawling into the cage with the chicken snakes. The chicken snakes became so frightened they fill ill and lost their appetite. The curator and janitor there had sentenced the snake to die at dawn, but by the next morning, it was a reformed snake with no desire to leave its cage and terrorize its neighbors.

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Genealogy, Goblins, and Day Drinking, Oh My

As I have said in the past, one of the things I have been doing with my time at the library is a big family history project. Because of this I spend a great deal of time in the genealogy room of my local library. For the past month, I’ve continually seen this note someone jotted down and left behind, never to be collected nor disposed of. I found it so funny that I got a bit of mischief in me and had to share it.

Drunken Goblin Note

Please understand that there isn’t any identifying information on this note. I’m not trying to embarrass anyone here. I just find this so incredibly funny. Someone in a small rural community library called someone, presumably a relative, while researching their family tree early on a Wednesday and found them already impaired such that it was audible in their speech. Realizing this, they gave up, and made a note to self on the funniest possible picture to correspond with such a memo. I find this so funny because it is just representative of how things can be when you start shaking your family tree a little too hard.

Life & Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton

books

At my local library there is a fantastic thing that happens periodically. The highlight of a book lover’s day. That is the appearance of a box full of free books. This happens when, for whatever reason, the library either doesn’t have need of a certain book, they have too many copies of a book, or the book is simply in condition to poor to occupy their limited shelf space. Recently, among the free books, I saw a curious looking old hardback book. It was a midnight blue color, a little spotted with age and wear. It caught my attention and I turned it over in my hands. I found myself further intrigued by the title written in gold on its weathered spine. Life & Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton. I opened it up and scanned the first page. (This is the bad thing about these older books, it didn’t have a description at all.) It seemed to be perhaps about a haunted house or something, and I just like everything about old books: the look of weather and wear, the feel of the worn covers and rough pages, and the smell, the pretty lettering, and so it went home with me.

I later looked the book up online at home and found that I was very lucky to find it, indeed. It seems the book is out of print and not the easiest to get your hands on. I read the descriptions I could find and found out that the plot of the book was not at all what expected, but something much more unique and interesting.

Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall is a novel published in 1946. The book begins with a woman living in a fairly infamous house in England around the time of the first world war, plagued by mysterious happenings and an overwhelming sense of malignancy and foreboding. The current lady of the house begins to look into its nooks and crannies as part of a renovation and discovers a chest full of possessions belonging to the previous lady of the house, the source of the lingering unease. In the second part of the book, we are taken through the life of the wicked Lady Skelton, beginning to end. The story at this point centers around her life and explores completely her motivations, chronicling her descent into wickedness.

I honestly expected this book to be mild and tame, even having read descriptions, which I won’t go as deeply into here to avoid spoiling everything. I knew it wouldn’t be about a prim and proper lady. Still, trust me when I say that the main character in this novel lives up to her reputation. She is in fact wicked, even by my modern standards. Unbelievably self absorbed and flippant, she cares not at all for anyone’s feelings, needs, desires, or human life. She is self absorbed to an unsettling extreme, but it is never so obvious to anyone around her in her life. I am not a mental health professional, but I would say she would most likely qualify as a sociopath. You love to hate her, but sometimes you might even find yourself more disturbingly, beginning to sympathize with her reasoning.

I am quite certain there’s definitely something to be said about human nature in this book, and any women and gender studies class would have a field day trying to pick it apart. There is so much of the extreme of traditional masculinity in her character as well as an almost equal degree of archaic feminine frailty, or at least the illusion thereof. This, mainly becoming evident in her romantic relationships, or entanglements, as the terms may suit, respectively. Yes, there is romance in this book, if you choose to call it that. (Even a steamy love scene.) However each of these is just as twisted and warped as everything else in her life and in its own way, spurs her on to destruction, both of self and others. It’s dramatic, it’s a little violent, a little disturbing, a little scandalous, and very surprising.  Ah, 1946, you’re much naughtier than I expected.  I’m very curious to know whether the 1940’s film adaptation of the novel was watered down.

If you’re someone who takes a secret, or not so secret, pleasure in rooting for the villain now and then, this is the book for you. I am not that person, but still, I found myself a little too entertained by her unapologetic havoc. I was that person who says “Ooh… He’s gonna get it!” Then treats myself to another piece of candy while I revel in the excitement. Don’t act like you’ve never done it.  I know how many people like Game of Thrones!

I recommend this book if you can lay hands on it. Precious few will be touching my copy.

 

Some quotes from the book:

“With patience and perseverance you can drive a snail to Jerusalem.”

A placid colourless life, one would say, and a placid colourless personality.

It fascinated her now, as it had fascinated her since childhood, to see how the water for ever changing was yet for ever constant, forming itself even as it flowed away into the same pattern of ripples, swirls and eddies, ceaseless movement thus creating perfect immutability.

“Tell one, tell all.”

“Read but take heed that you such actions shun, For honesty is best when all is done.”–The English Rogue, 1688

“Take heed of inning at the fairest signs, The swan hath black flesh under white feathers.”

For what end and to what purpose had her body flowered to its present perfection, her face achieved its present curious loveliness?

Barbara herself had felt very much better since she had committed this violence, mild as it was, against her sister-in-law. She felt that she would be able to bear Henrietta’s patronage in future with Christian patience and exemplary equanimity!

“For a beautiful woman, there are better ways of deluding the tedium of life than trotting the highways.”

 

Recommendations for Creepy Movies Based on Literature

books

Dracula (1931)

This version is the black and white classic film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  There is nothing like the original and Bela Lugosi is the only Dracula for me, and Dracula is, I dare say, the only vampire I care anything about.

Frankenstein (1931)

Again, a black and white classic film adaptation.  This time of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  This version stars Boris Karloff, who is definitely right up there with Bela Lugosi for me.  I recommend just about anything he was in, though he did do some very campy movies.  Both of them did.  Still, they are kings of classic horror and a true horror fan or classic film fan just has to see them.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

This movie is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story by the same name.  The plot revolves around a devastating family curse.  This very dramatic adaptation stars Vincent Price, whose prolific body of work in horror spans the decades and ranges from extremely campy to the point of being humorous to the stuff of nightmares.

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Another film adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe short story starring Vincent Price.  He did several of these in the 1960’s and I heartily recommend any of them.  This one centers around an evil prince whose village is being destroyed by the plague.

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Vincent Price must have had a passion for the works of Poe and this is no different.  This well known work of Poe concerns a suspicious death during the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

The Raven (1963)

This is one of those Vincent Price movies many people find humorous due to its campy quality.  However, it is an adaptation of one of Poe’s most well known and truly creepy works.  So laugh or cry and hide behind the sofa, but you have to watch it, if only to see the object of a decades long cult horror following.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Nobody does creepy and bizarre quite like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in an on screen adaptation of Washington Irving’s tale of a headless horseman.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

The 1931 film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella.  A story rich with philosophical implications that will also give you glorious black and white nightmares.

The Crucible (1996)

This is a film adaptation of a play written in the 1950’s by Arthur Miller.  The plot depicts the Salem Witch Trials and will have you questioning which characters to trust.  It was actually written to parallel historical events of the time as people were being accused left and right of being communists, blacklisted, their lives ruined, based on little to nothing.  Paranoia ruled and fear was everywhere.  Anyone could be named and friends were asked to name friends and support accusations they may or may not have believed.  Don’t let the heavy historical background stop you from enjoying a real nail biter, but it can certainly add richness and depth to your yearly creepy witchy movie.  Hocus Pocus is great, but this is where it’s at.

Premature Burial (1962)

Another amazing actor you’ll see also next on my list, Ray Milland, stars in this 1962 movie directed by another name loyal horror fans will recognize.  Roger Coreman.  This is also based on a short story by Poe.  I suppose the title is self explanatory.  I am being as serious as I can possibly be when I say that watching this film made me reconsider the idea of having a wake despite knowing that with today’s modern customs of burial there is little to no way I’d be buried alive.

The Uninvited (1944)

Ray Milland!  I love him.  In this movie, based on the Dorothy Marcardle novel Uneasy Freehold, Ray Milland plays a music critic and composer who buys an unoccupied house with his sister on impulse.  The house is beautiful and seems perfect for them, but is a bit of a local legend, and as the film unfolds we all see why that is.  If you like ghosts, seances, and the kind of subtleties that will have you feeling chills and smelling the scent of mimosa for days afterward, this is the movie to keep you awake at night.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

This film adaptation is based on a philosophical novel and banned book by Oscar Wilde.  The real creepiness in this movie is the idea of man’s struggle with evil and temptation.  It centers on the idea that sometimes you only have to look to your own reflection to find monsters.

Rebecca (1940)

This movie is a psychological thriller and mystery based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier.  There is no physical ghost of Rebecca in this movie, but she is ever present in the memory of Laurence Olivier’s character Maximillian de Winter as well as all else her knew her.    You spend most of the movie just like Joan Fontaine’s character on edge and wondering why her memory is so pervasive, like a hanging shadow, and wondering whether anyone is to be trusted, or if the female lead is simply mentally unstable.

Sherlock Holmes (Any of the classic films.  Mainly made in the 1930’s & 1940’s.)

The Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are full of mystery and murder and deal a fair bit with the occult.  My mom’s favorite is the 1939 adaptation of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Also, as a point of interest, PBS Masterpiece Theatre has a series called Sherlock, which just isn’t my thing I don’t think.  I believe I’d rather watch the classic Sherlock films, but they recently had a series called Arthur & George.  This is about a murder case the creator of Sherlock Holmes became involved in.  It is no longer available to watch for free on their site, but it is available on ITunes and to buy through their site on DVD.  I  imagine it’s possible it may be available at some libraries.

Trying Mango Languages

Among the flurry of activities I’m undertaking in my unintentional self-help book reminiscent quest to “live my best life” I have been thoroughly exploring my local public library’s resources.  It seems before long I’ll be taking full advantage of all they have to offer.  This time I decided, having seen their link to Mango Languages every time I’m on their homepage, I would go check it out and see what it’s like.  I don’t know how long I will do it, or how much good it will do.  I suppose the former will depend on the later.  However, I think I might share some updates along the way just for fun and in case anyone else wants to give it a whirl.

The first order of business was to take the placement test.  You don’t have to do this.  You can just jump in anywhere.  (Though, were I doing this I believe I’d begin at the beginning.)  The test consisted of answering questions based on your comprehension of audio clips as well as constructing sentences by arranging your choice of given words to fit the sentence provided in English.  I answered 6 of 14 questions correctly.  For the record, I did much better at understanding what was being said than constructing sentences.  Based on this, it was suggested I begin with the beginning, which I think is best.

I must say, however, I found myself almost a little insulted at how the lessons matched up with my abilities in the placement test.  Did I notice the “H” in “hola” was silent?  Yes, I did, thank you.  I also knew how to say things like “hello” or “please” and “thank you.”  Nevertheless, a little review obviously never hurt as I have not retained all I’d previously learned in my high school AP Spanish class.  I digress.  I still did pretty well for a white girl who has spent most of her days in Eastern Kentucky if you ask me.

Tonight, I completed the first chapter’s lessons.  It did get into some things I didn’t remember and struggled with the first time.  I also learned how to say that I am tired, which is a word I actually never learned the first time around, and a phrase I can totally see coming in handy.  It didn’t take all that long.  I’ll be reviewing each lesson as I progress from time to time.  Hopefully I’ll at least take away from this remembering some basic, practical phrases if nothing else and satisfy my curiosity about this particular website.

(Lean a little closer and I’ll confess to you that my ultimate goal is actually to learn what Ricky Ricardo is shouting at Lucy all the time.)

Stay tuned to see how embarrassingly poor my learnin’ is.

Extra! Extra! Oct 10 & 16

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Trust me, I’m not doing nothing, but I Haven’t been to the library as much this week.  In the future, it’s likely all my headlines won’t be from the front page.  These funny little articles are beginning to seem to take their rightful place on pages 2 and 3 in the year 1934.  This past week, however, I did have a few I hope you’ll enjoy despite my inactivity.

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Pair Put In Jail To Save Their Money

Autoist Pays For Pig

Catsup Drinker Fined

There Is A Santa!

Goat Smiles Again

Firemen Fight To Keep Pet ‘Coon

Extra! Extra! 09/29/15

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I have done a few days worth of our little family history project searching through the old newspapers in the past week, but I only saw any headlines that really jumped out at me Tuesday, but I got a pretty good chuckle out of these.

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Bees Imprison Family

Buffalo Halts Motors

Man Slaps Fly And is Killed (So there!)

Eyesight of Man, 84, Restored By Sneeze

‘Fishes’ Six Hours In Man’s Stomach  (A man on a fishing boat swallowed his dentures when a big wave hit.  This started a 6 hour fishing expedition, for his dentures, in his stomach.)

Dies Of Excitement  (So that’s a real thing?)

No “Runs” In Old Stockings (Queen Anne royal stockings which were to be displayed…  Old stockings, indeed.)