I cleaned out and gutted a room in my old scary basement and started to do portraits (mostly self portraits) to pass the time until court, and sort of continued doing them after. It was sort of a blessing because I wouldn’t have forced myself to shoot those (which is way different than how I normally shoot) had I never gotten nabbed.
The way it works: first the the user prepares the board. The querant creates a 2x2 grid of answers, where the bottom left and top right are identical, as are the upper left and bottom right. "Yes" and "no" are good answers to put down. Next the postulant lays a pencil down along the x axis divide, then places a second pencil atop the first one, aligned along the y axis.
Next, the user gazes upon the pencils and paper, speaking a question preceded by the invocation "Charlie Charlie". As in: "Charlie Charlie, will I ever learn what's causing the severed foot phenomenon?" Charlie may refer to a demon or other spirit, whose assistance enables the query. Sooner or later, the top pencil will waver and indicate one pair of answer boxes. Creepiness results, or at least confusion and excitement. Don't forget to close the circle.
Charlie Charlie merits Infocult's attention because of its uncanny nature, obviously. At least one American cleric has denounced the practice for being bad witchcraft, as has a Vatican priest. Jamaica's education ministry banned students from playing.
Charlie also draws our gaze as a fearsome digital media event, since the craze only took off in a big way once it hit social media (heck, even Time magazine noticed; could Charlie be over already?). Vine was a popular place for Charlie videos, then YouTube, and now the Twitter hashtag CharlieCharlieChallenge aggregates a vast swarm of examples, questions, and reactions. So Charlie is now an internet thing, especially for young folks. Let's see if it gets the cyberfear treatment.
There may be a hoax/ARG aspect to CharlieCharlie as well, since at least Wikipedia claims the phenomenon was spurred as viral marketing for a new horror movie.
Additionally, there's a hispanic culture angle. Some players deem Charlie a Mexican demon, which seems unlikely. But there are signs the game or precedents appeared in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, before hitting the anglophonic world. Nice to see this Gothic transmission route operating again.
One more note: the utterly low-cost nature of Charlie makes it an apt oracle for our economically shambolic time.
When, oh when will comedy finally feel the influence of Thomas Ligotti? This short clip suggests the time is now. Nina Conti starts a ventriloquist routine with some good jokes, then quickly gets meta, then heads into very creepy territory.
This NASA/JPL news story plunges into Gothic territory as it describes deep space. The article describes X-ray emissions from the Sagittarius A* region, or as the headline puts it:
NASA's NuSTAR Captures Possible 'Screams' from Zombie Stars
Or, a touch more prosaically, yet still clinging to a horror perspective,
NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the "howls" of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions.
It's a very Lovecraftian take on possible pulsars. Call it the necrotic model of stellar decomposition:
Astronomers have four theories to explain the baffling X-ray glow, three of which involve different classes of stellar corpses. When stars die, they don't always go quietly into the night. Unlike stars like our sun, collapsed dead stars that belong to stellar pairs, or binaries, can siphon matter from their companions. This zombie-like "feeding" process differs depending on the nature of the normal star, but the result may be an eruption of X-rays.
Or the lyrical version:
Another theory points to small black holes that slowly feed off their companion stars, radiating X-rays as material plummets down into their bottomless pits.
One day, clearing undergrowth, a volunteer stumbled upon a stone step. Like a modern Cair Paravel from Narnia, the stone staircase led up the hill and ended in an old rusted iron door set into the hillside. Breaking open the old door and stepping inside out of the clear Jersey sunlight, they found an antechamber. It had been undisturbed for over 100 years. Torchlight showed a series of tunnels disappearing into the hillside, snaking left and right.
Oh, there's more.
New Jersey Gothic.
The now-uncovered stone staircase that leads up the western hill to the door is cracked and falling apart and the earth has sunk in many places, swallowing the Victorian tombstones into the ground. Unlocking the old rusted iron door, we stepped inside. The first antechamber was covered in marble walls...
Stepping further into the pitch black, the light of the torch showed blackened brick tunnels heading in both directions. Heading to the left and walking into another room Markenstein told me to “be careful in there.” Piled up against the wall were wooden boxes about 2 feet long, that Markenstein claimed contained live munitions left over from the War of 1812. Beyond that were two slightly larger boxes, this time made of metal, that Markenstein explained were unburied child’s coffins.
(many thanks to Andrew Connell, friend of the Count)
In a welcome change from the zombie metaphor, Newsweek considers chronically unoccupied rental properties as ghost apartments.
Across the globe, empty luxury apartments darken many of the most desirable cities—Miami; San Francisco; Vancouver, British Columbia; Honolulu; Hong Kong; Shanghai; Singapore; Dubai; Paris; Melbourne, Australia; and London.
There's another Gothic detail to this, the classic association of power with architecture:
The reason: The world’s richest people are buying these grand residences not to live in but to store their wealth. In Paris, for instance, one apartment in four sits empty most of the time.
No, not stats about zombies, but stats that act like zombies. A health care economics blogger offers a nice use of the zombie metaphor. A zombie statistic is one of unclear provenance but appealing character, and one which endures despite the former.
[T]he 35-year old CDC paper seems to be at the root of the often-cited 10% number; it’s “paper 0,” if you will. But those that continue to reference 10% as an estimate for health care’s contribution to health should know that the only evidence they are referencing is a survey of 40 people, done when Jimmy Carter was president. It’s not evidence-based except by the weakest notions of “evidence.” It’s really a zombie statistic.