I’ve always been fascinated by skeletons. Human ones in particular. Why? Because, as I’ve established, I was a very strange child. In honor of this interest, today I’d like to share a few artistic works with skeletons as their feature, along with links to information about the incredible artists who made these creations possible
“Blood was flowing – in Bluebeard’s house, in the abattoirs, in the circuses where God had set his seal to whiten the windows. Blood and Milk flowed together.” – Arthur Rimbaud
It is said that you can divide fairy tales into two categories, stories based on general fears and thoughts at the time, or apocryphal adaptations of historic fact. What can one say about the story of Bluebeard? A rich man who took many wives, locked them in his house when he left, and left them with a key and an egg just to make sure he could trust them not to discover all of the dead wives he’d slaughtered countless times before. Frankly, I don’t see why people Bluebeard could be associates with Gilles de Rais, but that’s what many people believe. Odd, considering a vast majority of the children he was purported to have slaughtered, if not all, were little boys…
Gilles was born in 1404-05, depending on your sources, precocious, titled, disgustingly rich, and destined to become orphaned at the age of 10. From then on, under the guardianship of his maternal grandfather grandfather, Jean de Craon, who was without a doubt one of the more interesting and dastardly schemers you may read about in history. The man desperately wanted to be the richest in all of France, and as any respectable person of his time would do, endeavored to earn this by wedding Gilles off to a toddler. He tried, anyway. The whole mess got immediately rejected by the Parisian Parliament, so he settled for kidnapping Gilles’ cousin, Catherine de Thouars instead.
But this isn’t Game of Craon, this is the history of Gilles himself. Ultimately, he ended up supporting the Dauphin in the Hundred Years War. He did quite well for himself, reckless, brave, just about everything you could imagine any model aristocratic soldier being. When Joan of Arc came to court, Gilles was to be her military advisor.
Following several successful battles, Gilles became Marshall of France.
Things were looking up for our hero. Then, after a series of unfortunate events, not the least of which being the burning of Joan, and the death of his grandfather (who decided to leave the family title and respect to Gilles’ younger brother), Gilles decided he’d had enough of being the typical good guy. Some believe the death of Joan may have been the major domino in his gruesome path later on, but really…a lost friend, or perhaps even unrequited love, does not account for psychopathic behavior. Otherwise the world would be far worse than it already is.
Gilles had one daughter with his wife, then it’s purported that he swore off women altogether. The man had spent a good deal of money investing in chapels, the church, and all things holy…suddenly decided to make a complete polar opposite shift in how he lived his life…
In 1432, the year after Joan of Arc’s death, Gilles killed his fist victim. His first documented one, anyway. A boy his cousin had sent to deliver a letter to him. Gilles, essentially went absolutely insane. He started to spend his fortune at an astonishing rate, to the point of having to sell of portions of the family lands and estate to support his activities. What’s more, his parties didn’t stop with boozing and debauchery. There are many claims that insist he raped, tortured, and cremated up to 200 small children by 1440. A majority of the murders took place in 1438-1439. These children were gathered for him by his closest servants, and there are even wild accounts Gilles himself described in his confessions at court of satanic rituals he would perform, very likely involving the remains of these children as well.
His brother finally forbade Gilles from selling off anything else, and the family lands were kept intact by a court order, while the man practically threw money at his favored ‘magician’, an Italian man who had once been a priest, named Antonio Prelati. Gilles’ ultimate goal was to restore the money he had squandered, and he spent it like water just to find out if he could somehow transform common elements into gold. He actually thought murdering the children would somehow aid in this, and it’s clear by the sheer number that no cost was too high for Gilles to maintain his wealth.
Arguably, what ultimately did him in, was the kidnapping of a cleric. Though many people suspected Gilles of murder, kidnapping, and all sorts of crime, his military history and standing with the king had given him a great deal of protection from any persecution…the church, however, was just a little too powerful for him to get away from (at the time.) He was finally brought to trial, and after several witnesses (his own servants who had actually aided him in many of his crimes) spilled the beans.
Gilles at first insisted he was innocent, but quickly caved, and described in detail many of the horrible rituals he committed with Prelati, to the point of even trying to summon Satan himself. Gilles was put to death, but because of his standing he was allowed to be strangled/hanged (some accounts differ) before his brief burning, and even so, given a Christian burial on church grounds.
It is said that many testimonies given by witnesses and Gilles himself of the crimes he committed against his victims were so terrible, that they were stricken from the record so people could be spared ever learning of the horrid details.
It would be so obvious to start this off with a rhyme from my favorite horror franchise, but I know you may already be thinking of it and humming along in your head without even meaning to. While water is pretty much inescapable, we all know we can just pretend it’s not in any other drink, or act as if adding flavoring to it suddenly changes the nature of that fear altogether…but sleep?
Without sleep, which can’t be disguised as anything else…you’d die. In fact, without sleep, you’d end up doing the ‘bigger’ sleep. As Poe once said, ‘ah, sleep, those little slices of death. How I loathe them.’
Actually, there’s no real evidence he ever said that, but it’s a fun line. Plenty of people hate sleep. They see it as a waste of time, something that somehow hinders them from doing anything valuable with the hours they have no control over…and sleep does make you vulnerable. In fact, when you’re sleeping, you’re at your weakest…no way to defend yourself, little if any awareness of your surroundings. The more I think about it, the more I think…maybe I should have another cup of coffee?
Everyone sleeps. Everyone dreams. I’d say half of the fear of sleep owes to the fact that we dream, actually. Not only are you vulnerable to the world around you, but you’re vulnerable to your own subconscious at well. It is the ultimate assault on one’s will and body, and yet…at the same time…sleep does make us stronger. I suppose that’s because it doesn’t kill you, if you’re lucky.
Since I didn’t use a rhyme, I think today I’ll leave you with a poem instead. For what indeed is more poetic than sleep?
By John Keats
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
As the end of the month grows closer, and you’re panicking about exactly which recipe to choose for that perfect punch, or how on earth you’re going to figure out ways to incorporate as much variety as you can into some spooky delights, have no fear. These awesome youtubers are there to help you out.
And by the way, if you’re under 21…you can still make some awesome spooky drinks without liquor. In fact, some of them actually tend to taste better that way, anyway. IF you’re still absolutely convinced you need that flavor in some of your drinks, talk to your parents about rum extract for the cocktails involving rum. It will impart the same taste without the side effects. Cheers, and as always…Happy Halloween.
One of the slightly more beat-up comics I’ve come upon, I simply couldn’t resist that cover. Monsters. Skeletons. Even what appears to be a vampire…but they have nothing to do with the first story, alas. Still…can you ever get anything better for Halloween than a group of ghouls just having a good time? I don’t think so.
The first story is a nicely dark twist, which seems to be fairly uncommon in many of the stories, as rarely do we tend to see more than the occasional gruesome ghost…I rather liked these old man-goblins in their odd little way. The second one is a little reminiscent of the a simple little 30s or 40s farce you’d watch in-between movies.
With Dracula, many romantic images are conceived in today’s readers minds. They attribute a good deal of the mythos to that particular novel, and for good reason…it was pretty popular, but did you know this one came pretty much half a century before, and was the true progenitor of many of the tropes we still use today in vampire stories?
There’s plenty of awesome ‘penny dreadfuls’ out there worth browsing through if you like yourself something a little campy, a little gory, and perhaps a little tasteless…but few so long, and rarely do they receive much attention today (‘The String of Pearls’ aside, which you may know by the name ‘Sweeney Todd’.)
Essentially it’s a soap opera. In fact, fans of Dark Shadows might even consider Varney awfully similar to Barnabas Collins in his journey, at times sympathetic, and other times absolutely despicable. Anyway, it’s a fun romp, and an important mile stone in Gothic literature, well worth the read (over perhaps several dozen sittings.)
I feel like maybe a lot of people would disagree about this, but honestly…I enjoyed this movie a lot more than Creepshow. Don’t get me wrong, Creepshow is awesome, and the framing structure with the animations were pretty freaking cool. Yet…as a kid…Creepshow didn’t put me through the roller coaster ride of emotions this movie did. Each story really does have its own awesome appeal, the cast is great, the writers are awesome…
The fact that the framing story to this is a Hansel and Gretel-esque tale with a witch preparing to cook a little boy to serve at her supper party makes this an absolutely delicious watch for the Halloween season, and I think it does the series it’s associated more than justice (in fact, it’s actually considered a spiritual successor to Creepshow, too.) I can’t praise this movie enough. For the love of god, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it this year as soon as humanly possible.