This writing originally appeared on the Haute Macabre blog on September 24, 2015.

The mysterious image above is one you are no doubt familiar with, thanks to countless Pinterest pins and Tumblr reblogs, and image-favoriting sites. I, myself, originally saw it on LiveJournal, approximately a million years ago when someone was using it as their user icon.

Are you aware of the identity of this glamorous enigma? I was not, for the longest time. Thanks to the sorcery of reverse image search functionality, however, the answer is easily found:

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, better known as “La Castiglione”, was a 19-century Italian aristocrat dedicated to a cult of personal beauty, and just as narcissistic and self-absorbed as a Kardashian or a Kayne. The Countess was known for her vanity, her eccentricism, and her flamboyant entrances in elaborate dress at the imperial court, and among the aesthetes of fin-de-siècle Paris, her life was the subject of admiring and almost obsessive curiosity. She was described as having long, wavy blonde hair, a delicate oval face, and eyes that changed color from green to an extraordinary blue-violet. Her own third personal assessment reads thusly: “The Eternal Father did not know what he was creating the day he sent her into the world.”

A humble woman, indeed!

Egomaniacal celebutante jokes and comparisons aside, however, it is undeniable that she was a woman with a singular vision (Ok, so it was of herself) and who was well ahead of her time in terms of owning it and executing it.

In 1856, The Countess began sitting for Mayer and Pierson, photographers favored by the imperial court. Over the next four decades, she directed Pierre-Louis Pierson to help her produce 700 different photographs in which she re-created the signature moments of her life for the camera. “These days it is not considered pathological for people to acquire hundreds of photographs of themselves in a lifetime. But in the middle of the 19th century you really, really had to try.” notes Sara Boxer in a New York Times article from 2000.

This “goddess of self-love” fluctuated between two states of mind – queen and melancholy recluse; she had herself photographed as a frowning nun, as Medea with a knife, the tragic heroine Beatrix, Judith entering the tent of Holofernes, a drowned virgin, Lady Macbeth sleepwalking, a courtesan flaunting her legs, Anne Boleyn, Goya’s “Maja”, a nurse to her dying dog and as a corpse in a coffin.

The 50 photographs that make up “La Divine Comtesse: Photographs of the Countess de Castiglione”, an exhibition in the Howard Gilman Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized by Pierre Apraxine in 2000, are, as one reviewer notes, “… not lovely. They are bizarre.” And to watch the countess evolve from self-obsessed coquette to morbid mourner, to follow “her restless preening from youth to the brink of the grave”, is mesmerizing.


Virginia spent her remaining years in an apartment in the Place Vendôme, where she had the rooms fitted out in funeral black, blinds drawn, mirrors banished – presumably so as not to be confronted with her advancing age and loss of beauty. In the 1890s she began a brief collaboration with Pierson again, though her later photographs clearly show her “loss of any critical judgment”, possibly due to her growing mental instability. She wished to set up an exhibit of her photographs at the Exposition Universelle (1900), though this was never to happen. On November 28, 1899, she died at age sixty-two, and was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

And because I am nutty and can’t write about someone without wanting to dress them up myself (or even play dress up AS them), here are two interpretations of some somewhat modern-day Countess of Castiglione ensembles!



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Sapincense Figoudative from Woudacieux is, I will freely admit, a perfume I bought solely for the creepy-ass naked winged homunculus fairytale bottle. I did not read a single review, although I have since learned that opinions are divisive. I believe the fragrance is built around elements of oud and fig and spruce, and while I do initially smell something like the crisp, wintry evergreen woody crush of coniferous needles and bittersweet balsamic resins, it conjures for me visions of the oddly aquatic as well. Not like a sunny day on a tropical shore with waves crashing and sand in your hair, though–more like the deep sea twilight zone of the ocean floor, where not a glimmer of sunlight reaches an impossible Atlantean arboretum. Pale trees crusted with coral and kelp and blue algae, home to spider crabs and angler fish, and whose limbs rustle strangely in the currents, whispering maritime murmurs heard only by dreamers and poets. I am not sure what people hate about this scent, other than there are definitely no figs. Maybe they were so sweet and cold and delicious that they were stolen straight from the icebox by one of those poets before they even made it into the perfume.

Liis Studied is a super pretty, vaguely-but-not-obnoxiously gross fruity-floral, amber-esque cozy skin scent, in a similar vein as Glossier’s You and Diptique’s Fleur de Peau. But with its delicately syrupy pear note, I do think it sets itself apart from the other two. It is *almost* a little too sugary at first, and I think that maybe gives it a “bless your big ol’ heart, you sure tried” vibe, but then you sit with her a while and you find out she’s not as dumb or spacey as she looks; she’s just sweet and sensitive and maybe feels everything too much but what’s the point of feeling, otherwise?? And that sappy-bordering-on-cloying sweetness belies a gorgeously warm graceful heart. Do you remember the electric-blue-haired Stormer from the Misfits in the Jem and the Holograms cartoon? I wholeheartedly believe this fragrance is the embodiment of Stormer’s personality.

I have never before purchased something so swiftly as I did when I saw Gurjun Balsam on Scenttrunk’s Instagram account the other day. The caption waxed poetic of the betwix and between of twilight rituals I was just like SAY NO MORE. I just knew that it was going to be something really special, I was sure of it. And it is. With notes of black frankincense and cedar, tonka and balsam, carrot seed and amber musk, you already know it’s going to smell like a witch’s birthday cake glazed with goth tears. It’s running away to bake spiced, honeyed witchly loaves in a wildly enchanted cottage in the middle of a mystic midnight forest, never to be seen again. And I know I’m comparing this to baked goods, but it’s not a gourmand, I don’t mean to imply the a dense crumb, a yeasty rise, or a an airy sponge. It’s sweetness in the form of those rich, sticky resins, bewitching to the point of sinister but you know, that all depends on intent, and the hands of the one crafting the spell, the circles with which you surround yourself in its conjurations. Good witch or bad witch, or PSL decorative gourd season basic bitch, this is absolutely the one scent you have to have this autumn.

Malìa from Nobile 1942 is another one of those fragrances that I saw someone on Instagram mention and I was like yep, gotta have that. Malìa is a twisted and tragic sorcery of sour citrus and bitter woody green herbs, lush, velvet, exquisitely corrupt florals, and a bright, rosy psychedelic pink peppercorn that borders on utterly unhinged. This is a perfume that feels like a subversive folktale told in shrieking ballads via an experimental rock opera.

This is a thing I bought based on someone having recommended it on TikTok a fair number of times. And it was really inexpensive, so the fact that it’s both cheap and wonderful makes it especially nice, I think. Anyway, I am a huge believer and proponent of giving credit where credit is due, so a hat tip and a thank you to LC of nearlynoseblind for every time she mentioned Kumba Made’s Persian Garden fragrance oil. This is a really gentle, intimate scent, and when I say intimate I just mean it feels like a little secret, just between you and yourself and the soft skin on the inside of your wrist, and it’s no one else’s business. Imagine a vial of Egyptian Musk diluted in a bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo. That’s it. That’s the scent. It is perfectly lovely, and I cannot get enough of it.

LUSH Cardamon Coffee is less a rich steaming beverage than it is a thickly sugared, jellied candy. Almost like a gumdrop, but more substantial, something that you might have to slice out of a pan with a hot, damp knife. Imagine a confection comprised of sticky dates and palm sugar syrup, infused with the warm gingery pineyness of green cardamom pods, roasted coffee beans with notes of cinnamon note, a pinch of saffron, a scant teaspoon of cloves, and a sprinkle of rosewater. Spread thickly on an aromatic olive wood cutting board, shower with an abundance of equal parts smoky muscovado sugar and smooth, earthy Dutched cocoa powder, and slice into tiny nibbles. Except I guess this is actually a fragrance. You can’t eat this.


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Well, here we are. Day 31 of 31 days of horror. The entirety of this last day has nearly passed and I keep forgetting to write about my final movie. It’s almost like my subconscious won’t even allow it. Is this possibly because I absolutely hate the movie in question? Oh, well, there is no doubt about that.

I’m not even going to use the official movie poster for the featured image today. I’m going with Jamie Lee’s tired scowl because ME TOO, JAMIE LEE. ME TOO. I have tried to watch David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills three times since it was initially released last year. On first viewing, I paid full price for it. About 15 minutes in, I thought, “fuck this, I’M OUT.” On the second watch, half a year later, I managed an extra five minutes. Last night I finished it.

This movie is terrible in every single way, and watching it until the end did not actually feel like a triumph. It felt more like a FUCK THIS THING IN PARTICULAR.

It almost feels pointless to have even opened up a draft and start typing in it because this is a garbagey pile of crap, and it’s not getting an actual review from me. It doesn’t deserve it!

Ugh with the “evil dies tonight” baloney. It won’t! It didn’t! And it probably won’t tomorrow, either. Regardless, I am done.

(Also, why did that lady in the crazed mob need an iron? Was she going to get the wrinkles out of Michael Myer’s jumpsuit? And why was the entire state of Illinois chasing that escaped mental patient through the hospital? Nope. Nope. Gotta stop this. These questions don’t need answers. This was a dumb and hateful film and I really am done!)

But I can’t end it on such a sour note, so instead, I will share my top five watches from this past month:

1. The Black Phone
2. The Feast
3. The Eyes of Laura Mars
4. Crystal Eyes
5. Incantation

And finally, a reminder for you that there are just a few hours left for this Halloween Instagram giveaway of one signed copy of The Art of Darkness AND a print of Alex Eckman-Lawn’s spectacular cover art! Please note, this frame is not included (it’s too big, anyway!) So… seriously, it’s your last chance! Don’t tell me tomorrow that you didn’t hear about it! Enter to win while you still can!

And if you want to hear a creepy little snippet from its pages, head on over to TikTok today!

Happy Halloween, friends! Feel free to comment with your favorite spooky films (or spooky stuff in general) that you’ve experienced this October and I will meet you here next year to do it all over again!

But I mean also I will be here writing about this, that, and the other thing in the interim, so I’m sure we will see each other soon.

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Today we have three 31 Days of Horror entries. None of them are all that horrifying, but whatever, I had fun watching them!

I didn’t realize that the Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities series was available just yet, so I was surprised to see it all up on Netflix. The original plan had been to watch some Yvan-friendly things. He doesn’t love horror, but we can usually find a few compromises, and this time around it was Marvel’s relatively new Werewolf By Night and Disney’s The Black Cauldron, which he confessed had scared the crap out of him as a child.

Werewolf By Night was fine. I feel like I can’t really comment on it too much because I don’t really know any of the story, but as someone who typically enjoys a Marvel yarn–even though I don’t love superheroes– I found myself appreciating Werewolf By Night more than I thought I would. Probably because monsters are always more interesting than heroes, right? The story, a bunch of monster hunters gathering to claim a legendary monster-hunting artifact (but there’s a surprise amongst them!) seemed like a campy, pulpy, love letter to Universal Horror via an action-packed Marvel delivery system. I can’t help but to wonder if some folks took issue with the black & white format…you know, like the same people who complain about having to watch something with subtitles. Those people.

The Black Cauldron probably would have scared me as a kid, too! The story of a young pig-keeper, the oracular pig he is charged with protecting, and The villainous Horned King who wants to get his hands on the evil Black Cauldron to use its powers to raise an army of the dead. His motivations? Unclear. It’s just a thing that megalomaniacal hooded skull-faced overlords do, as we have seen time and again, throughout history.

Anyway, he needs to get his hands on the pig, whose visions will reveal the whereabouts of this wicked vessel of badness. There’s a ragtag group of misfit friends made along the way, including an absolutely unidentifiable little animal who sounds a lot like Smeagol, there are some fairies, some witches, and some dragons, but things work out for the best in the end, and it’s more or less your typical children’s fantasy fare. Maybe a lot darker, though. If you’re a six-year-old like Yvan (I would have been ten at the time, so there’s a thing you didn’t know about me, I’m a bit of a cradle robber) but anyway, if you were a kid and saw this, it probably would be awfully frightening. Nightmare fuel in the form of skeleton armies, brooding labyrinthine castles, and violent scenarios involving cute animals, such as when the dragons are chasing poor Henwen the pig across a field, or when one of the goons almost chops off her head.

Having never seen it before, I can’t say if the movie holds up, but it does seem like it might have been a little ahead of its time for Disney, and the animated backgrounds–the forest, the castle, even some scenes of the cauldron itself, were absolutely beautiful. The Black Cauldron is part of a larger storyverse–The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander, and apparently one of my brothers-in-law has the entire collection on his shelf. I’ll have to look into borrowing it.

Finally, in “Lot 36,” the first installment of Cabinet of Curiosities, we follow a miserable, down-on-his-luck Nick, who buys abandoned storage spaces and sells the contents within to make a profit. Nick owes some money to some shady people and is hopeful that some of the rare old things in the space he just purchased will lead to a major bit of money. Things get occulty and nasty!

Though not a particularly scary episode, there were elements of the story that did draw me in regardless and showcased some really pretty antique items. Well, things that looked like antiques, anyway. There was a massive piece of gorgeous Victorian hair work that, were it real, I’m sure I know a handful of friends who would go absolutely nuts for it.

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Okay, so if you are searching for Barbarian on Amazon, do not accidentally search their catalog for Barbarians–plural, with an S. Because that movie does actually exist, and it’s a relatively recent release, and if you don’t know anything about either, it’s easy enough to mistake one for the other and accidentally purchase an AMC+ membership so that you can watch a film that wasn’t even the one you wanted to watch in the first place. Doh!

It’s okay though, because I was really entranced by that first free episode of Interview with the Vampire, and had resigned myself to having to pay for the service anyway!

So…just to be clear and if you need some visual cues for your brain to latch on to–Barbarian has Bill Skarsgård and Barbarians has Ramsay Bolton from GoT, and I don’t know about you, but the practices of the cruel and beastly House Bolton, Ramsay in particular, freaked me out so badly that I NEVER want to see anything else with that actor in it. I can’t even look at his face.

The Barbarian trailer, refreshingly, doesn’t give away the whole story, and I love this one reviewer’s succinct synopsis: “two strangers explore a basement.” I mean…that is accurate, I guess! As we begin to see in the trailer, Tess has come to Detroit for an interview and she arrives at her AirBnB to find it already occupied by Keith (Skarsgård.) What follows is horrifying in an awkward and uncomfortable sense, and if you are someone who cringes at these exchanges, then you will just want to crawl right out of your skin. Neither one of them are in the wrong, and both of them have the right to be pissed, but as a woman, Tess’ situation is more fraught, because she is a woman alone at night in a particularly sketchy part of town, in a situation with a man who is complete stranger. Also, that stranger is Bill Skarsgård, so I think we as viewers are already feeling tense and stressed for Tess, because when does anything good ever come from an encounter with that guy? He’s bending over backward in these scenes to come off as polite and unthreatening, and to put her at ease– and it’s really just amping up the tension and having the complete opposite effect.  I typically don’t consider casting in my evaluation of these films, but he was such an excellent choice. During these scenes, I found myself having to look away from the screen even more than I might during a slasher film gore-fest, it just pushed all of my social anxiety buttons. I was actually wishing and hoping for a monster to come rampaging in and begin ripping them limb from limb!

The tension is eventually diffused, they spend a weird and restless night in the house, and the next day Tess does actually make it to the interview. I don’t think it’s lost on us that Tess, a black woman, has come to Detroit to interview with a white woman documentarian for a project about jazz that she is working on. That’s a sentence of things to think about. The neighborhood where the AirBnB is located is an absolute atrocity, worse than we could have imagined from our initial nocturnal glimpse of it. Yet Tess goes back to the house. She hears some noises and heads down to the basement, looking for Keith. She gets locked in, finds a secret door, and not only goes through it (NO TESS!) but finds a series of other doors and goes through them, too. And there’s some really disturbing shit down there! Panicked, she makes her way back to the main basement room, and luckily Keith is outside and is able to pull her out through a window. AND THEN THEY GO BACK DOWN TO THE BASEMENT. Oh, Keith. Oh, Tess.

I won’t say anything more than that. This was the sort of film-watching experience where I could actually hear my own heart thudding in my ribcage, it really did trigger a fight or flight response. Interestingly, at key points when things were getting really bananas, the scene would cut to something, or somewhen else entirely, from the horrors of that basement to Justin Long driving along the coast in his convertible (turns out he is the current owner of that property), to an idyllic suburban scene where we learn a bit about the previous (?) owner of the house. These changes in scenery give you a chance to breathe and gather your bearings, as you’re gathering new information and maybe piecing together what is happening.

This is the sort of film where, as you’re in the midst of watching it, you feel like you’re given just enough to think…”ok, I see the fuzzy logic in how we’re making it from point A to point B here”. But immediately after you’ve watched it, you’re like HUH?? At any rate, that’s how I felt.

Have you seen Barbarian? (Or Barbarians?) I’d love to know what you thought of this one!

Also, this poster art for the film reminds me quite a bit of the poster for 2015’s Body, which I briefly reviewed in my 2017 31 Days of Horror roundup.

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HOLY CARPS! How are we practically at the end of the month already? I’ve only got three days left to watch all the movies that I wanted to fit into this month! And the thing about this that’s making it hard to pull off is that this is the last weekend before a major book deadline on Monday! And the worst part about that? A year ago, when I was signing contracts and whatnot…October 31 is the date that I CHOSE for this deadline. WHY did I do that?? Stupid, short-sighted past-me!

Ah, well. This just means that instead of packing the weekend full of back-to-back watches, I just need to be more discerning. I think I have a few ideas! Which includes today’s film: The Invitation.

Evie is a struggling artist in New York, working part-time catering jobs while going to school for her MFA. She grabs a gift back from a recent event she worked, contents which include a bottle of wine and a DNA test. You know, typical swag bag stuff.  Freshly grieving the death of her mother a few months past and having no immediate family of her own, Evie is intrigued and submits a sample with the hopes of finding some kin, somewhere. And apparently, family exists! A posh, British, very, very white Oliver Alexander, who charms her over a lunch meeting and convinces her to fly to England as an all-expenses-paid guest for an extravagant family wedding.

What ensues has already been revealed by the trailers for the film, but I think even without the spoilery head’s-up, we could have figured out where this was headed, or at least the broad strokes of it. It’s all laid out right there on the poster art, isn’t it? One of the major reasons that horror movies are so much fun is the element of mystery and intrigue, and The Invitation just didn’t even bother with any of that. And while I loved the idea for this story and all of the gothic tropes of the ancestral family secrets, the atmospheric mansion, the romance with the brooding lord of the manor– somehow the particulars were just…predictable and plodding.

The upsides? The lavish costumes, the gorgeous English manor house, that sumptuous scene with the table of bounty and the guests in their masquerade finery. And it would be remiss of me not to mention Evie’s best friend, who had some of the best lines in the film.

Was it awful? No way! I’d almost call it a bit of comfort viewing, it had all of the pieces of a story that I would generally gravitate toward, and even though it wasn’t spectacular, I don’t regret the time I spent with the film. So if you’ve got a rainy evening ahead of you filled with tea and knitting (or your cozy hobby of choice) I actually think The Invitation is perfect for such an occasion.

And…a totally unrelated bonus!

Many moons ago I interviewed the inimitable Jill Tracy with regard to her long-in-the-works unprecedented project and sonic excavation, The Secret Music of Lily Dale, a rare peek into the famed little New York town that talks to the dead. Well! After much anticipation, The Secret Music of Lily Dale will materialize befittingly on All Souls Day/Day of the Dead on November 2. If you backed the project, you probably know all of this already and have received your items, but if not, you can read more about this extraordinary effort over on Jill’s blog.


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Ok. So. Let me get this out of the way first thing. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone, but I’m a bit of a snob. There are some things I immediately dismiss out of hand because, well…because everyone else loves them. Or because they feel a bit too mainstream and therefore, dumbed-down. Stuff that feels like it is catering to the lowest common denominator. Like, if you’re a horror fan that gets excited about a new James Wan movie, or a new Conjuring universe installment, I’m not saying you’re not a “real” horror fan, whatever that even means, but I will say that I am probably not going to trust your taste very much.

And I know, we contain multitudes. You could love something dumb like Malignant AND some very cool weird avant-garde old Giallo films AND the most amazing-crazy bizarre, grotesque Junji Ito stories and a whole bunch of other stuff that I deem awesome, but as soon as I hear certain keywords, I’m shutting down and not hearing any more of it.

I do sincerely hope you don’t give a fart what I think is cool! But this is some explanation and excuses for my bad behavior, I guess.

And I know these are not the most attractive qualities; it makes me an elitist, dismissive butthole. I’m not unaware! Anyway! Sometimes I get wild hair to veer off in an unexpected direction and see what “the people” are into. And all of a sudden I wanted to watch an Annabelle movie. And you might be like “uh yeah sure, Sarah, the peasants from FIVE YEARS AGO might have been into this–not only are you snooty and rude, you are desperately behind the times.”

Well, friends, this is how–for the first time in decades– I ended up being too scared to finish watching a horror movie.

An origin story for one of the creepiest dolls in cinematic history–and why wouldn’t I want to watch this story? I am a collector of creepy dolls, I LOVE creepy dolls! Although I will say though that the Annabelle doll is singularly unlovely–it centers on a group of orphans who go to live in a large, isolated home when their orphanage closes. The home is owned by a couple whose only daughter died twelve years earlier; the wife is played by Eowyn/Miranda Otto, and I will confess that this may have factored into my reasoning for wanting to watch this movie. I am always keen to see my LotR companions showing up in other stories. Except for Orlando Bloom. I have never cared less for a character than I did that elf.

We mainly follow Janice, a young girl weakened by polio and who is the first to be preyed upon by the doll and whatever evil forces are at work here in this big, creepy house. This feels especially mean and nasty to me, to target poor, unwell Janice, who is already struggling health-wise and feeling left out from the other girls. Curious and bored, Janice can’t keep herself out of locked rooms, where she wasn’t supposed to be. And this is of course, what opens her up to everything that follows.

I watched about 40 minutes of Annabelle: Creation, spread over the course of two nights. I don’t know what it was exactly that freaked me out so badly, perhaps it was just poor, helpless Janice unable to defend herself from the inevitable.  There’s lots of furtive movement in the shadows and jump-scares and just an overall feeling of horrible, intense dread. I turned it off and ended up reading about the rest of the story over at The Conjuring Universe wiki page. I should note that this is how I consumed the entirety of the Saw franchise. Sometimes you just want to know what you’re missing, but you don’t want to subject yourself to the tedium of watching nine whole movies!

I’d like to end this with “so this is how I learned my lesson about looking down my nose at things.” But …you know. No lessons have been learned.

I ended up reading more of a current title from my TBR stack: The Turnout by Megan Abbott. This is not horror, but it really does somehow feel horror-adjacent. It’s an intense story about sisters and secrets and betrayals and tragedies, set against the “hothouse of a family-run ballet studio.” This feels like the kind of book that my friend and poet Sonya Vatomsky might describe as something that came about because the author fell down a rabbit hole of research for personal reasons, but then ended up writing a niche sort of book about it. I mean…there’s definitely A LOT about ballet in this book. More than I ever thought I wanted to know. But in the context of the story, it’s fascinating! I think I am only a few chapters from the end at this point, and it’s an absolutely mesmerizing, terribly irresistible read.

And to keep it very very horror related, as I am typing this, I am wearing my gorgeous Frankenhooker tee shirt, and I am scented with Chris Collins’ Autumn Rhythm. Here is a snippet of my review of this perfume:

“…the scent of a cool, smoky wind that clings to your hair and scarf after a walk in the waning light of a fall afternoon. Though a tussle of leaves has tumbled to the acorn-specked soil, most remain a soft serenade of green and pale, glowing yellow. Autumn Rhythm is a perfume of promise and patience as the trees slowly shed what no longer serves them, the dead and dying detritus of leaves, bark, needles, cones, and twigs, earthy, leathery, woody, and bitter. A strange melancholic verdancy–not crisp, but the tender, mossy dream of it. All of these notes, are captured in a warm woolen halo of cashmere stitches and sweet musky skin. This is autumnal perfection.”

Truly, this perfume is the olfactory version of Ray Bradbury’s “Autumn People”:

“For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth, there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.”


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I’m several seasons behind when it comes to American Horror Story, and I guess if I am being honest, I will admit that I lost interest the second they brought the coven back, in whatever season that was. Sure, witches are great, but once you start recycling stuff on a show that’s supposed to be innovative and transgressive and boundary-pushing, it feels a little lazy and I get bored with it.

But I’ve reached the point in my 31 Days of Horror when it seems rather punitive,the thought of spending a whole two hours watching something. This sends me desperately seeking shorter and more easily digestible chunks o’horror, and hour-long episodes of random tidbits are perfect for this. And there was AHS: NYC on Hulu, so I thought, eh, why not?

This eleventh season of American Horror Story finds us in New York City, circa the early 80’s, a very specific time and subculture. Someone is brutally murdering gay men, and this seems neither innovative nor transgressive in terms of horror or in terms of anything.  A detective is disturbed and wary, as he doesn’t want his colleagues to discover that he is a gay man, himself. His boyfriend, older, and a reporter, didn’t go through all he went through just to have to pretend to be something he isn’t, and is disappointed with his lover’s lack of gumption and frustrated at the city’s lack of concern regarding the murders. There is a giant, scary leather daddy reminiscent of the Rubber Man from earlier seasons. There is Zachary Quinto being a creepy pervert. There are apparently only three lesbians in the entire city. There is an entirely different storyline where Billie Lourde is a scientist analyzing a mysterious and highly contagious virus that is affecting the deer population on Fire Island. The end of this episode, the whole of which feels very much like a police procedural, sees a posse of law enforcement officials rounding up and killing the deer.

There is also Patti Lupone in a series of amazing, sparkly headdresses, singing torch songs at a bathhouse/bar.

Unlike yesterday’s Interview With the Vampire, I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. I’ll probably watch some more of this? Question mark?

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Amazon had the first episode of Interview with the Vampire for free, so of course, I had to see what they’ve done with it (but to be honest, there’s probably very little they could do with it that I wouldn’t love.)

Grey Worm of the Unsullied makes for such an extraordinary Louis de Pointe du Lac, and this adaptation reframes his story in a wonderfully rich and interesting way. I am not sure who is playing Lestat, but the role is so gorgeously violent –he punches right through a man’s head!– that I keep imagining that it’s Henry Cavill, coming straight off The Witcher set, switching out wigs, donning a dapper facade and a fancy befanged French accent. Seriously, in one scene he looked so very Geralt of Rivera that now I cannot unsee it, and I don’t care who the actor actually is, in my headcanon it is now and forever Henry Cavill.

I’m only just one episode in, but I was so captivated by what I saw that I will probably have to do a free month’s trial for whatever platform this is airing on, just so I can keep up with it and see where they take the story. I’m invested.

Bonus Halloween and Horror-related stuff seen recently on the web!

🎃 Creepy graphic novels and horror stories to read this month at bookriot

🎃 Two spooky creepy poems by Domenica Martinello at electricliterature

🎃 Five chilling horror novellas to read this fall at Tor

🎃 Atlas Obscura’s most haunting Halloween ever at atlas obscura

🎃 Five female demagogues of horror at crimereads

🎃 At How To Drink, Greg makes three horror movie-inspired cocktails

🎃 At Reading Wryly, Elizabeth shares recommendations in the social horror genre

🎃 At 15 Minutes of ‘Fume Tom &Galen review BPAL’s 2022 Dead Leaves scents


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If you’ve spent any time on this blog over the past decade or have ever peeked at my social medias, you will have seen frequent mentions of the monthly horror periodical, Rue Morgue magazine. I have been reading since 2007–this issue with The Host on the cover was the first copy I ever bought! I remember seeing it on the magazine stand in a Borders bookstore when I was living in New Jersey, and thinking “where have you been all of my life?” I finally began subscribing the next year, and I recall receiving the first issue on my birthday…along with an IRS notice that I owed money…but I didn’t even care, because I was so excited to start reading. And I have been an obsessed subscriber ever since. This is the only magazine I have ever subscribed to in my whole entire life. And no, I don’t count Martha Stewart Living, because that was a gift from someone. But yes–Martha Stewart AND Rue Morgue! The multitudes, I contain them!

This month when I received my issue, I let out a shriek that could probably be heard all the way up in the RM headquarters in Canada. There I am, in a two-page feature about The Art of Darkness! EEEEEEEEEEEK!

It wasn’t an exclamation of surprise, of course. I was expecting it at some point and had answered a Q&A for it a few months ago. But …to see it in print, in front of me! Wowee. An absolute dream come true on so many levels. Though obviously, I am a huge fan of horror movies, it’s the section dedicated to forthcoming horror books, novels, comics, etc., that I have always flipped to first, and for these many years I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the titles that Monica Kuebler singles out to feature that month. So to be interviewed by Monica was so freaking cool.

In my responses, I rambled quite a bit, but of course, there was room to include only so much. I talked about the importance of sitting with dark uncomfortable feelings instead of pretending they don’t exist, and I mentioned that as someone who hates talking about my feelings and emotions, looking at art is helpful in at least thinking about them. Another thing I talked about was the books that I stole from my mother’s bookshelf, that I was probably too young to be reading, but which were pretty formative. Dracula and Frankenstein, and The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh, a George Romero biography!

One thing she asked me about that didn’t make it into the article, was who this book was intended for:

I think any human who has ever had a feeling about anything should flip through this book and see what speaks to them, and follow it where it takes you. It’s not a book solely intended for Debbie Downers (although I see you out there, and I love you, Debbie!) It’s for everyone, all of us. But…while I’m not saying it’s a book for children… I am also saying this is a book for all of the bookish eleven-year-old oddballs and outcasts out there, who are reaching for weirdness and wonder in whatever places they can find it. My secret goal for it, and I don’t think I’ve ever acknowledged it until just this second, was to create a book of strangeness and beauty that I would have been absolutely compelled to sneak off my mother’s shelf, and that would have served to put the plant the seeds in my head and heart that grew and guided me to become the ghoul I am today.

So, okay, maybe mentioning all of this is cheating at my 31 Days of Horror…but maybe not. When I think of all the scary movies I watched in my life, all of the demons and darkness, the monsters and madness, the frenzied, fiendish fodder in the books and stories and poetry that haunted and possessed my brain by the time I wrote The Art of Darkness–it doesn’t feel like a cheat at all. This is a celebratory moment!

But ok, if we’re strictly adhering to the rules, I will report that in Doki Doki Literature Club, things are getting dark. The girls are saying weird, concerning shit and being glitchy and a Very Bad Thing happened but I won’t say what because it could be spoilery (I don’t know if the story plays out the same way for everyone?)

I have also just started Volume Three of John Allison’s Steeple, and again, long-time readers probably know of my deep and abiding love for John Allison. Steeple is a story described thusly: “a supernatural tale of friendship, the devil, and moral gray areas. Two women with wildly different worldviews become unlikely friends as they navigate the supernatural happenings in a sleepy coastal parish—and soon find themselves forced to choose sides in the war between good and evil.” Allison’s stories have always had an element of mystery or the supernatural–though often the monsters are meant more as metaphors–but really, no matter who or what he is writing about, I love all of John Allison’s characters, how they grow, evolve & age, & how he introduces us to new generations of weirdos for us to love and root for. Change is scary but I never feel so emboldened to embrace it as when following the adventures & friendships he brings to life.

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