Month: August 2013

Preface

I’ve been busy studying for CFA Level I, and frankly the intense focus on finance has really put a dent in my creativity. Not that I mind studying finance – it just requires use of fundamentally different brain waves. Hence the slackening creativity. In fact, the same goes for blog posts. You’ve probably noticed this blog is filled with relatively uninspiring posts.

Go ahead. Say it out loud. Type it in the comments. It’s okay. I feel the same way.

And as a result I want to do something bat-shit crazy.

I want to write with reckless abandon, without a plan, and without any obligation to take what I’m doing in any particular direction.

This I shall begin today…

Bogeymen real and imagined

bogeymanWatching The Serpent & the Rainbow I was reminded of the Tonton Macoute, a paramilitary group favored by Haitian dictators Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. A little background, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Tonton Macoute was a Haitian paramilitary force created in 1959 by dictator François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. In 1970, the militia was officially renamed the Milice de Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Militia of National Security Volunteers or MVSN, probably taking name from the omonymous Italian Fascist paramilitary organization). Haitians named this force after the Haitian Creole mythological Tonton Macoute (Uncle Gunnysack) bogeyman who kidnaps and punishes unruly children by snaring them in a gunnysack (macoute) and carrying them off to be consumed at breakfast.

To me this is a bit like the Krampus running the Gestapo. In fact, I find the whole idea of bogeymen being used to maintain social order utterly fascinating. Consider the following (also courtesy of Wikipedia):

A bogeyman (also spelled bogieman, or boogeyman) is a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into compliant behaviour. The monster has no specific appearance, and conceptions about it can vary drastically from household to household within the same community; in many cases, he has no set appearance in the mind of an adult or child, but is simply a non-specific embodiment of terror. Parents may tell their children that if they misbehave, the bogeyman will get them. Bogeymen may target a specific mischief—for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who suck their thumbs—or general misbehavior, depending on what purpose needs serving.

Imagine the preceding applied not only to children but a whole society, Papa Doc-style. There is fiction in this somewhere. Once upon a time I started writing a short story based on the premise that a long-forgotten Cold War program had aspired to use voodoo for espionage (hardly a stretch considering the whacked-out shit the CIA has actually spent money on testing). It may be time to revisit that idea, or something like it.

The real Amityville Horror

My Amityville Horror poster

My Amityville Horror

Depending on who you ask, the Amityville Horror is either the world’s most famous haunting or most famous hoax. If you’re unfamiliar with the story (maybe you’ve spent the last few decades collecting lichen from the Siberian tundra), you can get the background here.

My Amityville Horror manages a fresh take on the flies, foul smells, bouncing beds and demonic pigs. It is a documentary featuring Daniel Lutz, the oldest of the Lutz children. Daniel is George’s stepson. He blames George for conjuring up the haunting (according to Daniel George was well-versed in occult magic), and by association, his life. Daniel swears every bit of the Amityville story is true. Anyone who questions him is immediately confronted with a barrage of f-bombs and thinly-veiled threats of physical violence.

Daniel Lutz is a thoroughly unpleasant person. He is volatile. In most shots he looks as if he’s struggling so hard to hold back rage his face might split down the middle. When the director asks if he’d take a polygraph Daniel advises him not to “pull this shit” and that he’ll “have words” with him “after.”

The documentary is itself a kind of horror story, but it’s got nothing to do with ghosts or demons – least of all demonic pigs. Once upon a time there was a boy who hated his stepfather. The stepfather created a media circus to sell books and make money. The stepfather was emotionally and physically abusive. He hammered the story into the boy so consistently and forcefully that eventually the boy started to believe it himself.

It didn’t help matters the ghost-busting community was ready to swallow the story hook, line and sinker. This My Amityville Horror demonstrates through a pathetic reunion between Daniel and demonologist Lorraine Warren.

Lorraine raises twin roosters in her kitchen. Her prized possessions include a sliver of the True Cross and a strand of Padre Pio‘s hair. She held the latter for protection during her Amityville investigation. According to Lorraine the Padre’s spirit actually appeared to her in the Amityville house. She never explains why, or whether the Padre actually did anything to cleanse the house – maybe his hair is like a supernatural panic button. Under different circumstances I would have laughed out loud. But then came a shot of teary-eyed Daniel Lutz, hanging on every word, craving validation, and I realized Warren is every bit as responsible for the man’s slow psychological implosion.

I suspect deep down inside Lutz knows the joke has been on him the last thirty years. That’s probably why he’s so angry. That he’s never gotten past it is the most legitimate horror to come out of Amityville.