Reprise: The Car in the Fog

Just for today, I thought I’d dig out this short story, already posted on this blog but definitely worthy of being read just about now, as the little monsters and goblins are prowling the streets in search of candy…

Ah, the life of a college student. It makes it a lot easier on me to have someone with whom I can share the workload. My sister is great – she’s much more organized than me, and she helped me more than once organize myself, while I help her with memorization. Unfortunately, we can’t share the exam questions, so we still have to study, and study we did.

Every student has his or her own way of learning – my favourite one is the all-nighter. I can’t study for an hour or two and walk away – I like to sit and really study. I like to sit for six to eight hours non-stop, with a bowl of something or other at my side and a glass of something or other at my other side, and read my entire book – notes included – all over, once or, ideally, twice. That’s the best way for me to do it.

The best time to do so is at night. Nothing interesting to watch on TV, no one else awake to call you, no one on the internet to tempt you with emails or instant messages. The night belongs to my books, and with the proper amount of caffeine, nothing can stop me.

At first unconvinced, my sister soon started to see the wisdom in my studying techniques. I think what she really realized was that my marks were a lot better than hers, and she began to question why. After all, she is much more organized than me. So she started giving my technique a try, and found out that it worked. She shared it with her friend who talked to her friend, and the next thing I know, we were having weekly all-nighters. Some things are too good to keep to oneself, I guess.

I wasn’t too sure about studying through the night with a bunch of other people – after all, the whole point of studying at night was to make sure everyone else was asleep and out of commission to come between me and my studying. But I found that I became even more efficient with other people around – it made me want to show them that I could study without daydreaming for hours at a time. It became a matter of honour – I started the trend, so I had to show that it worked well. My marks really skyrocketed after that.

So my sister and I got into the habit of doing these all-nighters, and every once in awhile we’d host one. We had found a good 24 hour café and sometimes did it there – but it was so much easier to be at home, where coffee or water or anything for that matter cost a lot less than at the café. But that night we had decided that since it was the last week we were going to be pulling an all-nighter – it was our final semester, we were graduating next month, pending good grades – we decided to have our last one at the café.

The owner, Mr Manganese (yes, like the element), was sad to hear that we wouldn’t be coming anymore – he saw me as an honoured customer, who, once a month, brought over ten people to spend the night (and money) in his café. We actually started a trend – people I don’t know started staying later and later, and, after the first year, we were a group of around thirty people who stayed up all night at least once a month at the café. The owner told me that there was a big group at least twice a week. Maybe I had chosen the wrong field; should I have gone into marketing instead?

Mr. Manganese had every reason to be grateful, and I think that’s why he gave me and my sister all these free coffees tonight.

“I have to treat my favourite customers like they deserve.” He said it at least twenty times. Kimmy swears he said it more.

“He said it every time he came to fill our coffees up, and I had at least thirty cups,” she said.

“You can’t physiologically handle thirty cups of coffee.”

“I feel like I have had at least a hundred. I have never been this awake in my life.”

I knew what she meant. I felt so full of energy – like when you feel great about yourself, life and the whole world, and on top of that you receive good news – do you know how that feels? Well, that’s how I felt. Like nothing could stop me, like I could do anything, like I was superhuman and didn’t need any sleep for the rest of my life. It was kind of scary.

“I am never having this much coffee in one sitting in my life again,” I said.

“Me neither. Even if it’s free.”

“Next time we’ll bring a Thermos and keep the coffee for a later date,” I grinned.

Kimmy grinned back, then started hopping towards the car. I shook my head – we could just stay at the café, we were so energized we could probably put in another couple of hours of studying. I flirted with the idea for a brief moment before shaking my head. I wanted to go home and take a hot shower, which would hopefully make me drowsy enough to sleep.

I was actually glad that I was wide awake – there was so much fog that morning that I could barely see ten meters around me. I love fog, but had I not been this awake, I would have been lulled into slumber and gotten into an accident. Fog does that to me. It wraps me in a comforting hug and makes me want to snuggle up in its embrace. People often say they love to snuggle in a warm blanket by the fire in the winter to read a book – I’d much rather snuggle in a warm blanket in the middle of a swirling fog and read a book with a flashlight. And I will do it one day, when I move out of my house. My Mom would not like me sitting in the middle of the lawn, reading with a flashlight. She might force me to see her therapist and I really don’t like him at all. I would do anything not to ever have to sit in the same room as him let alone talk to him, even if that means not reading in the fog.

There was something even more magical about driving in the fog as the sun was rising. It reminded me of going up an overcast sky in a plane, watching as one by one, the rays made there way through the dense clouds. It was as if the sun was being reborn through the thick mounds of white dunes rising from the ground, a battle between heaven and earth, good and evil.

I was becoming very poetic. I guess studying all night for an exam on World Religions and Spirituality could do that to the most rational of minds.

Although I enjoyed the drive, I was grateful when our exit finally came up. Kimmy had put music on really loud and was bouncing around in her seat, rocking the car. I didn’t like it when she did that – I was driving Mom’s SUV and was always worried it would tip over. I looked for something, anything, to busy her up enough to stop bouncing.

“Have you noticed how there is no one on the road except up?”

That did it; Kimmy stopped bouncing and looked all around. “Hey you’re right. It’s actually pretty creepy.”

“I know. And it sucks because I can’t speed.”

“Why?”

Kimmy didn’t drive a lot – she didn’t like it. And somehow, she was smart about everything except driving – and asked the dumbest questions. “Because the fog is really thick; I wouldn’t be able to see a car in front of me in time to pass him safely.”

“That’s why we are going so slow.”

“I’m going well over the speed limit.”

“But well under Mandy-speed.”

I laughed. Trust my sister to find the one funny thing about a situation.

“Hey, Mandy… We aren’t alone anymore,” she suddenly said as I eased the car through the exi

I looked in the rear view mirror; sure enough, there is was, appearing out of nowhere, although I knew for a fact that for the last ten minutes there hadn’t been a single other car in the road. A black SUV, its lights off, was right behind me, maybe 50 meters away. I realized the fog was clearing between our two cars, but not anywhere else.

“This is really creepy,” I muttered, bringing the car to a stop at the sign.

“Skip the stops,” Kimmy said. “I don’t want to be anywhere near that car.

Right before turning, I looked in the mirror again to spot the driver – and noticed, to my shock, that there wasn’t anyone in the driver’s seat. I pushed the pedal down and screeched around the corner.

I sped up the little hill and through the second stop sign, Kimmy’s eyes peeled on the road behind us.

“Stop!” she suddenly said.

I stomped on the brake and whirled around. “What?” I said, noticing nothing.

Then it dawned me: there was nothing behind us – no car, no fog, no nothing.

“Does fog disappear just like that?” Kimmy whispered.

“Does a car stay in an exit just like that?” I whispered.

We stayed there for a good five minutes, staring, but nothing appeared.

“This is so weird.”

“I know.”

“What do you think it was?”

I sat back down, shrugging. “Probably just a car that came the wrong way. We must have missed it going by.”

“I was looking the whole time.”

“Then it probably just backed up into the highway.”

“Why risk an accident when you can just come to the bottom of the exit and go back out?”

“I don’t know!”

Startled silence fell.

“Did you notice the driver?”

My heart stopped. “Yes.”

“What did he look like?”

“I didn’t look carefully.”

“Are you sure?”

I frowned. “Why do you want to know what he looked like?”

“Because… Because I looked at the driver, and, well… He didn’t look like anything.”

My blood froze over. I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but if Kimmy meant what I think she meant… “He was plain looking?”

“No. He just… Wasn’t there.”

I met Kimmy’s wide eyes. “I thought I didn’t see well.”

“I saw well. And there wasn’t anything.”

I looked outside the window, and the wheels in my head shrieked to a halt. “Kim… Have you noticed where we stopped?”

She followed my gaze and paled. “The Grant House.”

The Grant house was notorious in our neighbourhood. We lived in a nice community, where nothing ever happened – at least, nothing other than what happened at there.

“Look…” Kimmy suddenly whispered.

My throat dried up in an instant when I noticed the car parked at the side of the house. The black SUV!

“How did it get there?”

“What if it never left there?”

“And why are the lights on in there? Wasn’t the house condemned?”

There was something weird going on – and I wasn’t one to just sit by. I reached into the glove compartment and took out a flashlight.

“Are you crazy?” Kimmy screeched.

“What if the criminal is back?”

“Exactly!”

“What if we can catch him?”

“It’s the police’s job. Let them do it!”

“What if he gets away before they get here?”

Kimmy hesitated.

“Don’t you want to know? Don’t you? You know Mrs. Grant would have wanted to.”

That did it – Kimmy grabbed the flashlight from my hand, resolve hardening her face. “Let’s go. And bring your cell phone.”

We stepped into the backyard, hearts pounding. Kimmy kept the flashlight off; there was just enough light for us to pick our way in a yard we knew very well.

“Mrs. Grant won’t like us traipsing in her yard this early in the morning.”

“Mrs. Grant will understand why we did it when we explain it to her.”

“You’ll be in charge of doing that,” Kimmy muttered.

I took a step, and a twig broke, shattering the stillness and making both of us jump with colourful curses.

“No swearing,” I told Kimmy.

“You did it, too.”

I ignored her – I was just making chit chat because I was so nervous. I knew I had sworn – but saying something, anything, was better than the silence that surrounded us. I gripped my cell phone more tightly, then dialled 911 and kept my thumb on the send button.

We made our way to the side of the house – we didn’t want to go in through the front door, which was probably locked anyhow. But the side door was always open. The kids around knew that at any hour – well, any reasonable hour – they could come through the Grants’ side door for a game of pool and a drink. It was a sure way in, and without saying a word, both Kimmy and I headed towards it. She reached out and turned the knob.

“It’s locked,” she said, shocked.

I frowned, pushing her gently to the side and reaching for the knob myself, certain she was pulling my leg or trying to freak me out. But she was not kidding; the door was, for the first time ever, locked.

“I don’t understand,” I whispered.

“Maybe, ever since… You know… They have kept the door locked.”

I stared at the door, still shaken. “I would have never thought that this door would one day be locked.”

“Come on. Let’s try the back door.”

We went around the back, and found the back door ajar.

“This is definitely weird.”

“Are you sure you want to go in?” Kimmy said, some her initial doubts returning.

“We have come this far. We might as well.”

She nodded, pushed the door open and stepped inside. I went in after her, heart pounding

“Mandy,” she whispered, pointing.

I looked but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. “What?”

“Can’t you see it?”

I shook my head. “What are you seeing, Kimmy?”

Kimmy had never had a history of psychosis or delirium, and I was hoping that she wasn’t going to start on me now when I needed her the most.

“Nothing,” she said after a few moments before taking another couple of steps inside the house.

A loud clanging noise made both of us jump; my scream stayed lodged in my throat.

“Only the dump truck,” Kimmy said.

I nodded. It was trash day after all. We were now standing in the kitchen, and I took a look around. Nothing was out of place; the kitchen was, as usual, impeccable, except for a couple of missing items.

“They took some stuff.”

“Probably for the investigation.”

“There doesn’t seem to be anyone.”

“Maybe they left and forgot to turn off the lights.”

“We should go check.”

I started forward, but Kimmy grabbed my wrist. I looked back at her; she was very pale.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to go there,” she panted.

“Are you OK?”

She started nodding, then shook her head. “I am seeing things, Mandy.”

“Seeing what?”

“I’m not crazy. I can see… Red marks everywhere.”

I looked around. Everything was spotless, not a single red mark anywhere. “Are you sure?” I said, looking back.

Kimmy’s eyes were dilated, and small beads of perspiration were running down her face. “It’s everywhere, Mandy. Everywhere. I think… I think it’s blood. Her blood.”

I suddenly realized what this could be, what it implied, and it shook me to the core. “Where is the blood, Kimmy?”

She was in a trance; she was only seeing what the horrible vision was showing her. “There are hand marks everywhere. A woman’s hand. There is one on the counter there – one of the knives is missing. They first thought he took it – but she did. She was trying to defend herself.”

“Can you see where the knife now is?”

She shook her head. “She took it with her. She was bleeding, but she kept her cool. She always did.”

I silently nodded – one thing for sure, Mrs. Grant never lost her composure. That’s what made her a great ER nurse.

“He came in through here,” Kimmy said, turning towards the door we had come in from. “The door was locked – this one always is, not like the side door – but it was so easy for him to force his way through. He didn’t know what he was doing, Mandy. He was crazed – he had an instinct he needed to obey.”

The words were horrible to hear; through them, I was feeling what had happened, in more details than any journalist had put on paper, and each little bit was very much like a shard of glass – small but extremely painful. “What did he do when he came in?”

“He’s strong – very strong. He didn’t need anything. He could hear her humming – in there.” Kimmy walked – no, stumbled – into the sunroom. “She was working on a painting, her latest, one she was proud of – many thought it was done, but she was a perfectionist – she had a couple more details to adjust.”

In the sunroom, the painting was still there, on its easel. It was a beautiful painting, homage to the kids of the neighbourhood who came to her house. All of us were depicted sitting around a campfire very much like the one she had hosted two summers ago, laughing and fighting playfully over marshmallows. It had been taken out for the funeral. It always made tears come to my eyes. “Go on,” I urged Kimmy.

“She heard something, knew someone was in the house, and decided to pretend she didn’t know. She walked through the back door,” Kimmy followed, “and went downstairs. She wasn’t scared, just angry that someone would trespass in her domain. She came back up to the kitchen, and that’s when she grabbed a knife.” Kimmy’s hand lingered a moment on the kitchen counter, where I remember the butcher’s block to have been. “He was still in the hallway, was about to go into the sunroom, when she called out to him. ‘What are you doing in my house?’ He jumped and turned. He looked frightened, but then there was something else in his eyes – and when she saw it, she knew.”

A chill crept up my back into my neck. “What did she know?”

“That she wouldn’t make it out of here alive.”

My heart clenched. What a horrible way to die – knowing you are going to suffer. I put a hand on Kimmy’s shoulder, but she shrugged it off. She wanted to do it alone – so be it.

“Keep going.”

“He walks towards her. He’s saying something. She isn’t backing away – she doesn’t want to give in without the fight of her life. She waits for the opportune moment to lunge… No! No!” Kimmy spread her arms out, hands fisted, warding off an invisible attacker. “Don’t do it! Why? Stop!”

Her screaming was reaching ear-shattering levels. I put my hands on her shoulders, but she threw me off. “Kimmy!” I screamed at her. “Kimmy, don’t get sucked into your vision! Get out!”

Then the scariest thing happened. Kimmy’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she started jerking, as if she was having an epileptic attack. But the thing is… Kimmy doesn’t have epilepsy.

I grabbed her as she was falling to the ground and jumped when the back door slammed open. A cold breeze engulfed the kitchen, and the fog invaded it. I drew my sweater off and covered Kimmy – she was still shaking uncontrollably, it was terrifying, would it ever stop? A screech started, at first low, then progressively louder until I had to cover my ears, screaming.

Then everything froze. The fog, the sound, and, I swear, time itself. I’m sure I entered another dimension at that moment. I wasn’t in the kitchen anymore, I wasn’t even in the house. One section of the fog parted, making way for a woman that I knew very well.

“Mrs. Grant,” I breathed.

She was serious – I had never seen her look this serious. She was always laughing or smiling when we came over. It was unsettling. “I have something to show you,” she said, before a painting materialized in her hands.

It was the portrait of a man, a plain looking man with a full head of hair and no particular feature. He had an oddness about him, something that made me shiver. I knew who he was – but I was sure that I couldn’t describe him for the life of me. “I need more, Mrs. Grant.”

She nodded, and waved her hand above the portrait. At the bottom of the frame, a small plate appeared, and on it I read George Dobson-Finch. I nodded. “I know. I will tell them.”

Mrs. Grant smiled at me, a small, sad smile. She waved her hand over the portrait again. The man disappeared, and, in its stead, I saw us around the campfire, roasting our marshmallows.

“You will know what to fix,” she said.

“I am not going to touch your painting. It’s perfect!”

She just continued smiling. “You will know,” she repeated, before setting the portrait down and stepping back into the fog. “Take care of everyone for me, Mandy.”

“I will. But… What about Kimmy?”

“She’ll be fine.”

And she disappeared.

The fog also disappeared, and I was back in the kitchen. But there were other people there too – as soon as I came back, a police officer burst in, gun drawn.

“George Dobson-Finch,” I said, startling him.

“What?”

“He’s the one. He’s the one who killed her.”

“Mrs. Grant?”

“Yes!”

“How do you know?”

“It’s not important. You have evidence, I know you do – you have DNA and fingerprints. Go find him and run his DNA and fingerprints against the ones you have. Please. There is not time to lose.”

I don’t know why, I don’t know how a police officer chose to believe a half crazed looking person over his own good sense – but, his glance never leaving mine, he picked the radio clipped on the front of his coat, calling the name in.

Kimmy never “saw” anything again, and I never saw Mrs. Grant – or any other dead person, for that matter – again. It seems that the special connection we had with the late Mrs. Grant allowed us to enter her mind and share her memories, thus unlocking the key to the name of her killer. He was arrested a day later, and the tests all came back positive; he was the culprit.

He was a plain man, ordinary, nothing criminal about him. He pleaded for mercy, saying that it was a spur of the moment act that he regretted. But his history of animal mutilations and mental instability told another story. He might not be evil, but he definitely had a compulsion for killing. Last I heard, he was in a special program designed to help such people resist their impulses and live normal lives. I hope he never gets out – he did kill our beloved Mrs. Grant.

As for Kimmy and I, our encounter with the ghost of Mrs. Grant might not have unlocked a door to the other world like we would have, but it did unlock a definite interest in criminology. We are both now enrolled in a college and studying once a week all night at the same café, to the joy of the café owner. And to this day, on our way home after a full night of studying, at our exit, we both still look behind us for the car in the fog.

From Wired.com: Vintage Pics Capture ‘Halloween in the Time of Cholera’

“An obsessive-compulsive collector shares his fascination with vintage Halloween photographs, using Flickr to impart these haunting images.

“My theme is ‘Halloween in the Time of Cholera,’” collector Steven Martin told Wired.com in an e-mail interview. “The idea being that people back then were probably on a more intimate level with death — and that would have affected the way they celebrated Halloween.”

Martin, who has amassed a vast collection of vintage images through eBay, said he’s using pictures from 1940 and earlier for the Flickr countdown.”

Check out the pictures here. With the right atmosphere, and an understanding of the times in which they were taken, some are a little creepy…

Top 10 Halloween Reads

For those of you who are going to be waiting at the door for kids to come by, you can always indulge in a little bit of reading to go with the candy you are going to be keeping for yourself (come on, we all do). Here are a couple of reading suggestions for you (so you’ll feel less guilty about not giving more candy to those adorable kids).

- Dracula, by Bram Stoker: Move over, Edward Cullen, and let the real Dracula teach you how it’s really done. A little heavy to read, it makes for a great spookfest.

- The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova: Another book that will make Twilight pale in comparison, and yet another book you won’t be able to finish quickly (consider keeping a whole pack of them candies…). This one is great for those of you who are faint in heart, as, in true ‘Da Vinci Code’ style, it relies more on historical exploration than gory scenes to creep us out by the fact that just maybe, vampires do exist…

- The Shining, by Stephen King: The movie was really good, but tell you what: the book is a LOT better. This is one of the rare books I would recommend reading after seeing the movie; keeping in mind Jack Nicholson’s acting in the movie will make the book even more scary.

- Alfred Hitchcock presents…: a wonderfully creepy collection of short stories in a series of books with titles such as “Stories to be read with the door locked”. And you just might want to do that.

- The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, by Edgar Allan Poe: Wonderfully disturbing short stories that will make you jump.

- The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson: Four insane people do something that I hope to do one day: live in a haunted house during an entire summer. Hopefully my experience will end on a much better note than what happens in this book…

Top 10 scary movies

I should start by saying that I don’t like gore-fests, so if you are looking for a list of scary movies heavy on the gore… You aren’t in the right place.

So here are, according to me, myself and I, the top 10 scary but not gory stories of all time (or at least until I watch some more movies and/or someone comes out with an AMAZING movie):

1 – The Shining: Oh how this movie scared the daylights out of me. I never could quite look at Jack Nicholson the same way. I also think that his rendition of Joker in the original Batman was all the more scary since I kept thinking of this dratted movie. I should watch it again.

2 – Psycho: The movie that proved that water pouring down a drain can be absolutely terrifying. I have to thank Hitchcock for allowing me to scare the daylights out of my sisters as well as one of my friends by wielding a tub of toothpaste as a knife and making that weird eiyyyyyyyy eiyyyyyyyyyy sound. Ah, good times.

3 – The Exorcist: I haven’t even seen this movie. I only saw parts of it, and they scared (what else) the daylights out of me. One day I will watch the whole thing. A summer day. A bright, sunshiny summer day. With a Bible and a Qu’ran in one hand, and a Kitab-i-Aqdas in the other.

4 – Vertigo: Love. Deception. Death. Creepy music. A wonderfully disturbing movie with some intense moments. Loved it, will watch it again. But won’t be going up any bell towers alone anytime soon.

5 – The Sixth Sense: This movie is absolutely brilliant. Everyone should watch it twice. The first time to be freaked out and amazed at the twists, and the second time to analyze how in the world that twist was possible.

6 – Jaws: Stupid shark took the fun away from swimming in the ocean. But, on the plus side, it made swimming with piranhas seem like a walk in the park.

7 – 1408: Apparently there are people insane enough to willingly spend the night in a hotel room in which many others have died in mysterious circumstances. I might be insane enough to watch the movie, but I’m not THAT insane as to stay for the night!

8 – The Ring: Put me off watching random videos found in my friend’s basement or on Youtube. Seriously people, what if someone put THAT video on Youtube and you watch it by accident?

9 – The Others: Nothing like a good ghost story for Halloween night; this movie is one of my favorites on this list, but scare-factor wise, I couldn’t put it any higher than here. But definitely worth watching.

10 – Sign: More creepy than scary, this movie will still creep you out enough, especially if you accept the possibility that just maybe, one day, it might happen…

Cute Baby Halloween Costumes

Who said Halloween only had to be creepy? Check out these adorable baby costumes!

Below: And I thought Car Freshners were a sore eye – apparently not all of them, and certainly not this one!

Below: This is one soft and cuddly pumpkin – who would have thought…

Below: Do the Tootsie Roll with this cute number and be sure to grab the attention of the entire dance floor!

Below: I always was of the opinion that elephants were adorable animals; while not many people agree with me, they will probably agree that this elephant is totally adorable!

Below: My personal favorite!

Check these costumes out and more at http://www.anytimecostumes.com/costumes/cinf.html.

Best Halloween-worthy X-files episodes

You really didn’t think I could resist the temptation, today of all days, to plug in my favorite show of all times?

Ah, The X-files – best show ever, especially if one wants a great creep out session. The show had two sets of episodes: the ones that have to do with its mythology, involving aliens and men in black and detail after detail that makes watching one episode in the middle of the show totally and absolutely confusing, and the ones that are a monster-of-the-week kind, which you can watch and totally get. Of these stand-alones,  some were creepy, some were disturbing, some were thought-provoking and most were really good. Here are those from the first five seasons that are the most Halloween-worthy:

Squeeze (1 x 02): The second episode of the X-files is the one that cinched it for me. The story of a liver-eating mutant who can crawl through small spaces and get even into high security areas makes you want to cover your air vents with block of concrete to make sure you’re safe.

Shadows (1 x 05): I have a bit of a penchant for ghost stories. The ghost of a man who died with a stain on his reputation comes back to make sure his name is cleared, freaking the you know what out of his protégé.

Darkness Falls (1 x 19): If you don’t like bugs already, then definitely don’t watch this one – or maybe you should? Killer bugs threaten the lives of our favorite FBI agents.

Tooms (1 x 20): Remember the liver-eating mutant who can crawl through small spaces into – or out of – high security areas, like, maybe, prisons? Well… He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack! And for once, the sequel is just as good as the original.

Born Again (1 x 21): If you don’t like kids, you might learn to give them the benefit of the doubt after seeing this episode, in which a child is possessed by a cop determined to clear his name (sounds familiar?).

Excelsius Dei (2 x 11): More ghosts! Well, spirits of restless residents of an old age home who have passed away and want to have a little fun in the place that made their last days on earth, well, not that fun.

The Calusari (2 x 21): Creepy kids seem center-stage in this list, as yet another child, possessed by demons, freaks the you know what out of his family and friends.

Season 3 is full of great episodes, none of which were particularly Halloween-worthy. At least, not as much as the other episodes mentioned in this list!

Sanguinarium (4 x 06): Creepy, possessed doctors who kill the patients they are supposed to help – will definitely freak you out if you think about it the next time you have a doctor’s appointment!

Leonard Betts (4 x 14): Those of you who watch ER will love Paul McCrane’s portrayal of a tumor-eating thing (for lack of a better word). This episode is for your Halloween dose of gruesome.

Elegy (4 x 22): A man with a mental disability is the main suspect of a series of crimes involving young women from a nearby university. But sometimes we underestimate those we judge as being mentally inferior.

Detour (5 x 04): Polluters beware: you might end up having nightmares after one forest starts fighting back.

Chinga (5 x 10): Another creepy child, this time held captivated (not quite captive, but almost) by an evil doll. Chucky’s cousin, perhaps?

Halloween – Ghost pictures!

What’s Halloween without a couple of ghost-related posts. Since it’s still pretty early in the day (is it 7 yet?), I took it easy and just went browsing for some ghost pictures. Here are a couple bound to cause at least one little shiver ;).

Below: The chair belonged to the baby’s grandfather, who passed away before the baby was born. During that particular visit to Grandma, the family noted that the baby kept wandering towards the chair. Out of nostalgia, the family put the baby in the chair and took a picture. Out came out the image below, which kind of resembles the figure of someone (GrandPa?) holding the baby and posing for the picture.

Below: Peek a book, I see you – and you are not supposed to be there! The photographer swears he made sure everyone had left before taking this picture of a spiral staircase, thinking it would make a wonderfully artistic shot. Little did he know…

Below: Get back in your tomb, already! Apparently things were getting a little cramped in there, and someone decided to take a breather. Take a look on the left side of the image, someone is taking it easy today!

Below: Did someone else want to join in on the fun, or is this a clever photography trick? You know what, even if it is a trick, that baby is really creepy, enough for me to put this picture up!

OK so my desk light just went out, and I was already feeling a little creeped out by the pictures. I am off to a more populated place.

PS: The pictures were all taken from http://www.angelsghosts.com/.

HALLOWEEN!!!!!

Ah. The best time of the year. Shorter days, damper weather, chilly breezes – time to start bundling up again. And what better accompaniment to that hot chocolate than a good creepy book or movie?

In the spirit of things, I have decided to post a couple of random lovely little Halloween related posts. I’m just going to go with what comes up throughout the day, so be prepared for just about anything creepy-related.

I’m going to get me some chocolate. I don’t care if it’s 6 in the morning!

Helen Epstein’s take on Africa’s hidden war

A little over a week ago, I reviewed Helen Epstein’s The Invisible Cure; I then posted part of an essay she wrote, and just because I admire her so much, I just had to post part of yet another one of her essays.

AIDS and Africa’s Hidden War

By: Helen Epstein

One October evening in 2001, in an impoverished shantytown in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, David Potse entered the house of a former girlfriend, and raped her 9-month-old daughter. The child was later taken to a nearby hospital, where her internal injuries were found to be so severe that she nearly died. The nurses nicknamed her “Baby Tshepang” which means “have hope.” After a series of operations, she miraculously survived. Potse was apprehended soon afterwards. At his trial, he said that he was out drinking on the night of the assault. However, DNA tests showed his semen was present in the child’s rectum, and his current girlfriend testified that she walked in on him during the rape. Potse was sentenced to life in prison in 2002.

News reports about Baby Tshepang, along with a small number of similar cases that came to light at around the same time, ignited moral horror across the nation. “South Africa has been shamed,” declared the proceedings of a Parliamentary committee on child abuse; addressing a group called the “Moral Regeneration Movement,” Deputy President Jacob Zuma—himself soon to be implicated in a major corruption scandal—said the baby rape cases displayed “barbarism and moral decay of the worst kind.” The Sowetan newspaper called for a state of emergency and one columnist asked whether South African men were becoming “sex cannibals.”

All of this came during a period of national soul searching. The euphoria that followed the end of apartheid in 1994 was giving way to the morning – after recognition of the challenge of developing a society wracked by poverty, crime, and a new deadly disease. Roughly a quarter of adults in the country were HIV-positive and everyone was trying to understand why. Gothic rumors swirled in townships and rural areas: AIDS was caused by witchcraft, germ warfare against blacks, or something in the food. President Thabo Mbeki declared that Africans were prone to AIDS because of poverty and malnutrition—in other words, AIDS was one of the many legacies of past oppression by whites. But other observers—including UN officials and journalists—had another theory. They attributed the AIDS epidemic to the subjugation of women in South African society, of which the nation’s high rates of child abuse and rape were symptoms. The baby rape cases bolstered their claims and came to symbolize just how dire the situation was.

Until the furor over Baby Tshepang, rape was not a crime that had aroused much public concern. The vast majority of rape victims in South Africa are not infants, but mature women or teenagers, and most incidents are treated with remarkable indifference. Few cases are reported to the police; if the assault is committed by a boyfriend or husband, it is usually not even considered a crime, and a victim’s screams are usually ignored. Studies show that a large proportion of both men and women in South Africa blame women—not men—for rape. Asked for suggestions about how to reduce the incidence of rape, respondents in another study said that women should be taught how to “dress and behave” and should not be allowed out after seven o’clock at night. One of the reasons rape is so seldom reported is that many women internalize this logic, and fear that if the incident becomes widely known others will wonder what they did to deserve it.

When cases are reported, the authorities often fail to take them seriously. In her 2001 book Proud of Me: Speaking out about Sexual Violence and HIV, South African journalist and activist Charlene Smith describes a scene that defies comment. An eight-year-old girl had been raped in a township near Durban, a large port city on the Indian Ocean. She was taken to a hospital where she lay on a trolley in a corridor for four hours, waiting for someone to examine her. Meanwhile, the rapist, who had been beaten up by a vigilante crowd, was being treated by the district surgeon. Smith was alerted to the case, and after she screamed at the district surgeon over the phone, he agreed to go see the girl. What he did not tell Smith was that he planned to bring the rapist with him to the hospital. The rapist was placed in a wheelchair, and wheeled down the same corridor where the girl was lying. When she saw him, she became so hysterical that any examination became impossible.

In 2000, the Johannesburg police department’s sexual offenses unit had only three officers and they were saddled with 200 new cases a month. As dockets pile up in police stations around the country, many victims are advised to privately negotiate restitution with the alleged rapist’s family. Sometimes the accused make their own arrangements with the police, who will typically “lose” a docket for the equivalent of three American dollars. The conviction rate for reported rapes is about 7%, and most of these cases involve children. Among cases of adult rape, the conviction rate is 1%. “It’s a logic problem,” says Rachel Jewkes, head of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Unit. “There is legislation that says rape is illegal, but it is at odds with what a great many people believe to be true.”

But when confronted with the baby rape cases, South Africans could no longer look the other way. Rape is a horrible crime, but the horror of baby rape is naturally of a different order. In early 2002, several journalists—most from Europe and the US—reported that the epidemic of sexual violence was being fueled by a desperate myth: African men believed that raping a virgin would cure them of HIV. One BBC journalist described the Baby Tshepang incident as a typical example of such a “virgin rape myth” case. This is almost certainly false. Before Potse was apprehended, six other men were charged with the crime but were soon released for lack of evidence. One of them said he had heard about the “virgin rape cure” on the radio and the girlfriend of another died, probably of AIDS, shortly after the men were arrested. The BBC journalist put these loose facts together to draw his erroneous conclusion. In fact, these men were absolved of the crime, and there is no evidence that the true assailant—David Potse—raped Baby Tshepang because he thought doing so would cure him of HIV. Indeed, there is no evidence that he was himself HIV-positive, or that if he was, that he knew he was.

The idea that “virgin rape myths” are a significant cause of either child abuse or the spread of AIDS in Africa is itself a myth, perpetuated by stigmatizing attitudes towards people with HIV and racist fears of black sexuality. A similar “myth about a myth” was prevalent in the US during the nineteenth century, when there was widespread panic that the hoards of newly arrived southern and eastern European immigrants were raping virgins to cure themselves of syphilis.

Although some surveys suggest that belief in the “virgin rape” myth is common in South Africa, in only a tiny number of child abuse cases has the accused himself claimed that it was a motivating factor in his crime. A study of child rape cases in Johannesburg found that infection rates among the victims were far lower than would be expected if the children had been targeted by HIV positive men. Very few South African men know their HIV status in any case. The same researchers found that most people who knew about the “virgin rape myth” had read about it in newspapers or heard about it on the radio; none of the respondents in the study knew of a single case in which a child had been raped for that reason. In many traditional African belief systems, sex is held to have a ritualistic, purifying function. “So, if people hear of the myth they may think it sounds as if it could be true,” Jewkes told a reporter in 2002. But this does not mean that people act on it.

Why did David Potse rape Baby Tshepang, if not to cure himself of AIDS? And why is rape so common—and so widely tolerated—in South Africa in general? Outsiders are inclined to see the African men who beat and rape women as out-of-control brutes who heedlessly spread HIV. But studies are finding that violent men are actually enacting a cultural drama that is hundreds, and perhaps thousands of years old. These men are driven by myths, all right, but these are not myths about “virgin rape cures” for HIV. They are far more powerful than that and much harder to dispel. The roots of these myths extend deep in the African past and are finding new life in the upheavals and inequalities of contemporary South African society.

Copyright © by Helen Epstein

Read the rest of this great article here.

We should stop fooling ourselves… After all, it’s all about money

Sad, sad reality, but hockey fans, snap out of it: it has nothing to do with hometown pride (who on the Montreal Canadiens come from Montreal?) and everything to do with money. And here is one proof amongst many, many others.

NHL ponders 2 teams in Toronto: report

NHL governors are talking informally about placing a second hockey team in Toronto alongside the Maple Leafs, according to a report in Tuesday’s edition of the Globe and Mail.

According to the Globe and Mail, NHL governors have had informal talks about putting a second team in Toronto.

Why shouldn’t we put another team in the best and biggest market in the world?” said one governor, who spoke anonymously with the newspaper.

The governor also confirmed that there have been conversations about Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd., being rewarded with an expansion team in Toronto after helping to restore financial ballast to the Nashville Predators.

How sad. I might just switch to university hockey – at least we know those players are from the university they represent!