Friday, October 30, 2009

More Treats

However you're spending the big day, The Typing Monkey hopes you have fun. To get your brain wheels properly spinning here's a 1937 Mickey Mouse cartoon called "Lonesome Ghosts"

And if you want more innocent animated fun from the spirit world, The Internet Archive has the first Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon: "There's Good Boos Tonight."

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Monkey Recycles: Part II

If you haven't read part one, scroll down to the "Part I" entry or click here.

Information Supernatural Highway
Soon after Teajay put Ghost in a Jar up for auction on eBay, unusually high bids were submitted and quickly withdrawn by new and experienced eBay users alike. By the time the sale ended more than 80 bids had been retracted or canceled. One bid was retracted because Teajay's approval rating as an eBay seller was too high. Retracting a bid because the seller's feedback summary is too good is akin to refusing food because it looks too fresh.

Two days after bidding commenced Teajay began posting almost daily to assure the audience that Ghost in a Jar was not a hoax. He also clarified that the other items referencing Ghost in a Jar were in no way related to his sale.

Ghost in a Jar had attracted so much attention that many seized the opportunity to capitalize on the phenomenon and make a profit -- like t-shirt sales at an execution. Dozens of items that parodied, mocked, paid homage to or simply stood on the shoulders of Ghost in a Jar were put up for sale.

Highlights of this generally humorous batch included:
~ A collar and leash for training your Ghost in a Jar
~ Movie rights to the story
~ Legal representation for Ghost in a Jar
~ A Fonzie tote bag to carry the jar

One listing offered a homeless ghost looking for a jar. The picture featured a white tissue decorated with a sad face, wrapped around what was probably a lollipop.

"Jar in a Ghost" (not Ghost in a Jar, the seller promised) boasted its own origin story and pictures of the titular phantom: a translucent figure named Herbert, who bore a striking resemblance to Thomas Edison. Floating in Herbert's shimmering white torso was a jar that appeared to contain okra or possibly pickles.

News of the Ghost in a Jar sale travelled fast around the Web via blogs, e-mail and a few news Websites. [Remember this was 2003, when RSS feeds were new and social networking had barely passed from Friendster to MySpace, not to mention that cell phones and other mobile devices in the U.S. were not nearly as sophisticated as they are today. -- ed.] And then it all came crashing down at the end of the auction cycle.

Less than 30 minutes before bidding closed on June 5, a buyer going by the handle "gary_the_gimp_horn" bid $50,922.00 (USD). He retracted this bid with less than five minutes remaining before eBay could legally force "gary" to pay in full.

The sale of Ghost in a Jar was nullified by eBay management and nearly every Ghost in a Jar-inspired item was likewise removed from the virtual shelf. Some who followed the bid history for Ghost in a Jar say the price reached as high as $999 million.

One disappointed participant and eager observer goes by the eBay user name Midnightdread. His Ghost in a Jar-motivated auction item was Gary_the_gimp_horn's Ghost in a Ghost Jar. To clarify, Midnight dread was selling the ghost of the final Ghost in a Jar bidder, in a ghost jar. The starting bid was $6.66.

Midnightdread described what the highest bidder would receive: "A ghost in a ghost jar, shipped flat with heavy cardboard protection, just like my instructions said … I might have included the Casper poster too."

The Casper poster to which he refers is a Haight-Ashbury psychedelic-style advertisement for a wrap party held for Industrial Light & Magic employees to celebrate the completion of the special effects for the 1995 film adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost -- a collector's item of unknown value.

But Midnightdread had the sell the poster on its own. Site managers at eBay canceled his Ghost in a Ghost Jar listing along with a swath of others. EBay informed him via e-mail that his auction did "not appear to be consistent with eBay guidelines."

Midnightdread sent a reply to formally protest the cancellation. His four-paragraph missive addressed issues of free speech and artistic expression. He pointed out than an item as potentially dubious as the original Ghost in a Jar went unnoticed despite the high number of inflated and retracted bids. He further argued that eBay was squashing an entertaining and ultimately harmless moment in Web history.

"They had a spontaneous, genuine happening going on," said Midnightdread. "Like true party poopers [eBay] killed almost all of it. Their response was an overreaction magnified by ten."

That eBay turned on the lights and told everyone to go home is no surprise. In the modified free market the auction site provides, there was nothing in place to stop joe_stoner_dork from placing a bid on Ghost in a Jar, with no intention of paying it, and accidentally winning. Teajay, the thoughtless bidder, and eBay would then be left to fight it out, possibly in court. No jar, regardless of the contents, is worth that kind of trouble to eBay.

Teajay was not interested in responding to questions posed for this article. An inquiry e-mail to eBay's "more info" address netted no reply either. Numerous questions are left unaddressed.

What would Teajay have considered a reasonable price for Ghost in a Jar? Since the incident, does eBay monitor transactions on the site more closely? If a legitimate buyer had paid in full, what would become of Ghost in a Jar? Would the Black Thing follow the jar to its new home and become a potentially dangerous pest for its new possessor? That is, can a curse be transferred from one person to another simply by selling the cursed item? Or would The Black Thing remain with Teajay, focusing its anger on the one who disturbed its burial site?

Update: For about a year after the Ghost in a Jar/eBay fiasco, Teajay was a minor celebrity on the Web and was even interviewed by a couple talk-radio programs dedicated to paranormal topics. He maintained a blog for a few months in an attempt to prove the legitimacy of Ghost in a Jar. Helpful commentors suggested that The Black Thing, and the method of containment, indicated that Teajay had incurred the wrath of an ill-tempered Djinn, a supernatural creature particular to Islamic mythology. The Website has archived all of the pictures Teajay originally posted on eBay.

Back to Part I

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Monkey Recycles: Part I

A freelance writer named Kris Kendall wrote the following article in June, 2003. It was published on the now defunct arts and culture Website With his permission, The Typing Monkey republishes the piece in two parts, with minor edits, as a Halloween treat for our readers.


Ghost and the Machine
By Kris Kendall

"'You don't believe in me,' observed the Ghost."
-- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

"I do believe in spooks."
-- Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion; The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939)

First Sighting
Just before 6 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time, May 26, 2003 a seller going by the handle teajay101 (Teajay), offered a strange and unassuming item for sale on the online auction site eBay.

The object was a jar of indeterminate age with a cork lid and wire fastener. It's the type of canning container found at any number of garage sales or antique shops. This particular jar appeared to be painted on the inside -- red and black. On the exterior surface there were several symbols in a crudely swabbed white paint. The item was nothing to merit much attention. Except for the fact that Teajay claimed the jar contained a supernatural spirit.

"Ghost in a Jar," as the item was titled, boasted a starting bid of $99.00. The sale was to go on until June 5, 2003 at which time, per eBay rules and guidelines, the highest bidder would be legally obligated to pay the quoted price and Teajay would deliver the goods in person or via United Parcel Service.

"With it," Teajay wrote in the text that accompanied his original sale post, "I am sure you will be getting the 'Black Thing' also."

It seems that Teajay, upon discovering the jar near a cemetery "back in the early 1980's" broke another painted jar he discovered along with the Ghost in a Jar. This act apparently incurred the wrath of an uneasy ghost -- The Black Thing -- that had troubled and disturbed Teajay ever since.

With the purchase of this hand-decorated jar, the highest bidder, doubter or believer, would also likely take over the burden of a curse to some unknown degree. But like all curses or pacts with the Devil, at least those rendered in popular fiction, the supernatural entity quickly gained the upper hand in this transaction.

What happened in the days following the initial offering of Ghost in a Jar should have been anticipated by eBay's staff. Like an angry genie unleashed, the sale of Ghost in a Jar was almost instantly beyond control.

Ghost's Story
In the original posting along with the caveat "No Joke Serious Inquiries Only" [sic] Teajay offered a brief history of the Ghost in a Jar and how he came into possession of it.

The story is this: While metal detecting alone in an undisclosed location near an old cemetery and what may have been the foundation of a church, Teajay found a wooden box buried in the soil near the building's foundation. After digging it up and opening the box, he discovered the two jars and "an old journal." Teajay accidentally dropped one of the jars.

It broke and the contents included a candle and a "black mist." Teajay took the other jar and the journal home, leaving the broken jar where it had shattered. (The fate of the box is unknown as it was not mentioned again.) Before leaving, Teajay also took some photos. One includes what appears to a woman and a man standing at either end of a gravesite. They are vaporous and stare directly into the camera's unflinching eye.

Teajay wrote that at home he read the journal, which was scary enough to make "the hair on the back of [his] head stand up!" The pages crumbled and that night he woke to the terrible sensation of The Black Thing pushing on his chest. Teajay "struggled … and managed to somehow escape its clutches."

The Black Thing has attacked Teajay twice since then, although the jar -- always nearby -- remains unopened. Friends who have visited him have seen a "black shadowy thing" slip by in the periphery.

A friend of Teajay's advised him to rid himself of The Black Thing by giving the jar away. Enter eBay. For the winning bid, Teajay promised the jar, the photos from the day he discovered it, a more complete account of his experiences with the jar, a recollection of the text from the journal, and with any luck, "the 'Black Thing' also."

Read Part II

Monday, October 26, 2009

Christmas is Canceled

If you click on this, after Oct 31, 2009 it won't work. Good bye, Encarta. The Typing Monkey will miss you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nice Up the Ghost Dance

Countdown to Halloween keeps delivering the goods, as we discover and explore other blogs created by people who love October 31 as much as The Typing Monkey.

One of these discoveries very much worth mentioning here is Distincly Jamaican Sounds, a music blog that posts some nifty singles and mixes of mostly reggae and dub. Since 2006, DJS blogger John (aka ReggaeXX) has been posting Halloween- and horror-themed mixes of Jamaican music every October.

Ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub frequently reference horror characters in their titles, if not in their lyrical content. And the party friendly sounds of vintage Jamaican music makes it an ideal soundtrack for a Halloween celebration, as we mentioned last year.

We're already downloading the generous amount of tunes posted for 2009 and will start digging our way through past years as well. (In 2007 he included a mix of garage rock, lounge and vintage r&b too, in case the sounds of Kingston aren't your thing. Isn't that nice?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Haunted Radio

We are unashamed to proclaim our love of listening to the radio. But it's frustrating that Halloween-happy listeners are supposed to be content with the pittance offered by most stations on Oct 31, in the form of "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers. (It's a delightful novelty hit, though The Typing Monkey prefers "Monster's Holiday" because we like to root for the underdog.)

That's why we tune in every year to "The Roadhouse" on KEXP FM. It's an American blues & roots music show that airs Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m., Pacific Time.

On the Wednesday just before Halloween, "Roadhouse" DJ Greg Vandy usually fills his three hour show with all manner of murder ballads, blues numbers about pacts with the Devil, hillbilly songs about dead lovers and probably a fair selection of Screamin' Jay Hawkins and other early r&b and rock & roll shouters who dabbled in the dark arts.

Don't live within the station's broadcast range? You can dial it up via the Web and for two weeks after the show airs, you can listen to an archived podcast of the program. We haven't contacted Vandy, but tune in on Oct 28 and the chance of spooky satisfaction is high.

Various shows on WFMU pull out lots of good Halloween- and horror-themed music too, and we'd be reprehensible boors if we didn't also mention Dr. Demento.

If all else fails, The Monster Club hosts hundreds of old time radio dramas in the horror, mystery, supernatural and suspense genres. (You'll need to subscribe to get the download password, but it's otherwise free.)

Monday, October 19, 2009


Typing Monkey publisher S.L. Kreighton's love of Victorian horror and supernatural literature means the entire staff gets extra long lunch breaks in October so we can read from his copious library in an effort to "get into the spirit of the season."

At least that's his claim. We've leaned against his office door during these lunches and it's apparent that he's just as often watching Night of the Living Dead or listening to his battered copy of Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. [And drinking? -- ed.]

So the rest of us have recently turned to the DVD collection of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? for cheap lunchtime thrills. This collection is the first two seasons of the Scooby-Doo cartoon, from 1969 and '70.

Before celebrity guests, before Scooby-Dum, Scooby-Dee, or that awful Scrappy and all the later permutations of Scooby and the Mystery Inc. gang, there was Where Are You? -- perfect 22-minute mysteries that closely emulate the Victorian-era fiction that married the detective story with the supernatural tale.

Somewhere in the clause after that em-dash above is a graduate thesis. And we're making the new intern Marie take copious notes as we watch. The early Scooby-Doo plots fill the first act with ghost scares until power of reason gradually takes over the second and third act. And yes, there's plenty of absurd slapstick aimed at the children who tuned in.

Don't think Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? deserves to be taken so seriously? Jay Allman, the man behind Toon Zone agrees with us. And for several years has maintained the Website The Scooby-Doo Case Files. He's got plot summaries, a monsters index, a food index (including a worthwhile essay about the motivations of the Mystery Inc. gang), and tons of other fun info and media related to the early years of Scooby-Doo's television history.

Grab a a Scooby Snack and dig in.

[All images courtesy of The Scooby-Doo Case Files.]

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Monkey Reads: Mr. Gorey Presents

The Haunted Looking Glass: Ghost Stories Chosen by Edward Gorey
Various Authors
(New York Review Books Classics)
Even if the reader has previously encountered some of these 12 supernatural tales, the collection is well worth a look. The late Edward Gorey -- an illustrator, writer and critic with a gift for the comically macabre -- selected well when he assembled this line-up of short stories.

Most of the stories come from the Victorian era, a boom time for horror writing in England and the United States, as the Industrial Age was steamrolling magic and wonder out of day-to-day existence. Consequently, a good number of the authors pit logic and reason against events that defy any sort of explanation or scientific confinement -- a horror fiction trope that still has plenty of tread left on it.

Gorey's good choices include some literary giants. Robert Louis Stevenson and Bram Stoker offer, respectively, "The Body-Snatcher" and "The Judge's House." And Charles Dickens surprises everyone with his perfectly readable and uncharacteristically efficient "The Signalman."

But it's the lesser-known writers, some of them icons to fans of Victorian horror, that deliver some of the best scares in Looking Glass. Algernon Blackwood's "The Empty House" is the rare haunted house yarn that hits all the expected notes without feeling clichéd.

L.P. Hartley's "A Visitor from Down Under" uses flashbacks and meticulous pacing to set up a genuinely creepy tale of revenge from beyond the grave. And W.W. Jacobs' frequently imitated and referenced "The Monkey's Paw" should compel the reader to seek out more of his bleak but comical work.

And if you've seen the excellent Jacques Tourneur film Night of the Demon, then you're already familiar with the story it's based on, "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James. The film is good, the story is excellent and closes this collection on the highest note possible. Can a torn up piece of parchment terrify? Yes. Yes it can.

Reference material: If 100-year-old horror writing is new to you, there's no better place to start than The Haunted Looking Glass. J. Sheridan LeFanu isn't included here, but the Irish writer is a pre-Victorian horror superstar and worth your attention. And Dover Thrift Editions offer numerous cheap collections of classic horror writing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Countdown to Halloween

You could keep poking around at The Typing Monkey, and we'd love for you to stay. But if you're a responsible lover of all things Halloween, you must go immediately to Countdown to Halloween.

Seriously, they're doing the Lord's work over there.

Music Break

YouTube member blacflag posts numerous 1950s and '60s r&b, rockabilly and garage-rock videos -- well-crafted entertainment using performance footage, educational movies and other ephemeral film.

Here he stitches together scenes from horror-themed cartoons (a Silly Symphony and perhaps a Merrie Melody?) to accompany Cris Kevin's "Haunted House." Enjoy.

[courtesy blacflag]

Fun fact: Cris Kevin is actually rockabilly and country singer/guitarist Warren Miller, who has a pretty interesting history.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Negative Creeps

Harris Smith is "a writer and media producer living in New York City." He posts select covers and panels from comic books, novels and magazines (movie reviews too) on his blog, Negative Pleasure.

Not content with words and pictures, Smith hosts Negative Pleasure 2, a tumblr image blog with even more pics, links, and none of that pesky text that gets in the way.

His Oct. 12 posts on Tumblr focus on occult/satanic images from various films. Bonus points if you recognize the movies from which he harvested. Our new intern, Marie, declared that she felt she should go to church after looking at those pics. Which means Mr. Smith's blog is a rousing success.

Prior October posts are a bounty of horror comic shots to tease, torment and delight your eyeballs. Visit both his blogs and destroy the remainder of your afternoon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Friendly Reminder

Just in case you missed the announcement, October is National Donut Month. Please do your part. Do not ignore your civic duty.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Gobble-uns 'at gits you"

We missed the birthday of James Whticomb Riley (1849 - 1916) yesterday, so to make up for that grievous error, we will acknowledge the Hoosier laureate's birth today.

Riley, an American poet who touched on all the important poetic themes -- childhood, death, love and weird bits of folklore -- frequently wrote in Indiana dialect which, when read aloud makes the reader sound like a Scottish hillbilly.

One of the best examples of Riley's dialect writing is also his most famous poem, "Little Orphant Annie." It just so happens that the poem is seasonally appropriate, telling the story of a strange servant girl who tells the children terrifying tales of the monsters that will steal them away if they don't behave. (Yes, the character is also the inspiration for both the comic-strip heroine and the rag doll Raggedy Ann. Nice one, James.)

Get your Hoosier scares on by reading the full text here. And if you haven't already, raise a glass to James Whitcomb Riley. Scumps!

[Some students of poetry can't handle Riley's folksy style, and generally think he's a lesser poet when compared to his peers. Hogwash. Even his "bad" poems are worth a look, including the often maligned but in fact, quite funny, "The Smitten Purist."]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Don Post Mask Not Included

Music for Zombies: Grave Music for Brave People
The Phantom of the Organ/The Vampyre at the Harpsichord

(Electric Lemon)
If a well-intentioned adult played Music for Zombies at a children's Halloween party today, kids likely wouldn't respond to its vintage radio-drama sound. They might laugh and ask if they can watch Hostel 2 instead, or simply wonder why minor chords on a theater pipe organ are supposed to induce shivers. [Also: If that Frisbee lands in my yard again, it's mine. -- ed.] We call those kids chumps.

Verne Langdon -- a hidden treasure of mid-20th century Hollywood -- plays piano, calliope, and Hammond and pipe organs on these nine tracks he composed. The music is bookended by the sound of a crypt door opening and closing.

"Zombie Sonata" taps a Beethoven vein, if Ludwig had been listening to broadcasts of Inner Sanctum, and ends with a man's agonized screams. "Flowers of Evil" is all classic pipe-organ moodiness, and a guaranteed way to end a bad first date. The three part "Zombie Suite" feels a little too lush, but you do get a calliope-mad recording of Langdon's "Carnival of Souls" -- a tune he liked so much he recorded it on nearly every keyboard available to him at various points in his career.

Barely cresting the 30-minute mark, Zombies is just long enough to get you through a dramatic reading of W.W. Jacobs' The Monkey's Paw. (Hint: Program the tracks so "Tombs Egyptian" syncs up with Sergeant Major Morris' visit.)

Now, if you want to send the kids crying into mom's apron, Langdon's double-shot The Phantom of the Organ/The Vampyre at the Harpsichord will do.

Phantom has Langdon helming a genuine theater pipe organ, extracting the iciest chords he can. Really, there's not much more to it than that. The listener's appreciation for pipe organ and being serenaded by a disfigured obsessive who lives in the sewers below the Paris opera house will dictate how much you get from this disc. ("Sound Trip through the Catacombs" has some nice sound effects, including sicko giggling and terrified ingénue screams.)

Likewise, Vampyre features Langdon going solo on the harpsichord. It starts out at a dirge pace, and even drifts into a pleasant, almost Bach-like place for "Eternal Life Suite." "Carnival of Souls" appears again, far spookier on the plucked strings of the harpsichord, followed by the short, dizzying "Flight of the Vampyre." If Daniel Ash of Bauhaus didn't learn some of his guitar vamps from this album, then we're returning our black nail polish.

This music will at least scare the kids by virtue of the fact that you own it. Point your speakers out the windows on the big night, turn out the lights and dramatically decrease the odds of having to give away any candy.

Reference materials: If you like the incidental music from old horror shows on television and radio, or have a jones for odd organ LPs found at thrift stores, these records will make you quite happy.

Bonus fun fact: Phantom and Vampyre were played for years in haunted-house attractions at various theme parks in Southern California, and all three of these albums were originally available to order from the back pages of Famous Monsters magazine. FM founder/editor Forrest J. Ackerman wrote the hilariously purple liner notes for Phantom and Vampyre. Read them aloud and you'll sound like a villain from the Batman TV series:

"That doomed avatar of evil, brother-in-blood ... the Count: Draculon!"

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fell In Love at the Arcade

We may be stretching the Halloween theme here, but get your own damned blog if that's a problem. If you aren't visiting Monster Brains at least once a week, you're missing out on one of the best art blogs around.

Monster-themed pinball machines is the theme for the week of Oct 4. Per Aeron Aelfry, the monster brain behind the site, you can expect "monsters, aliens, robots and mythological abominations that infested the pinball machines of the past!" It starts with a "devils and demons" collection that's surprisingly filthy and violent.

But let's be clear on the following:

You got that?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Eyeball Feast

Artist Matthew Kirscht is inspired by vintage Halloween postcards and decorations. He recreates and builds on that early 20th century style of mass-produced seasonal art that, to modern eyes, can feel at once both more innocent and spookier than modern Halloween décor.

Black cats, skeletons and jack-o-lanterns -- faces frozen in manic grins -- dance and conduct creepy business that sometimes involves anthropomorphic candy and vegetables. If you have the cash to spare, Kirscht sells prints and originals. Otherwise, point your peepers at his Website, and his Flickr photostream.

[Kirscht has plenty of non-Halloween work and his morbid comics are funny too.]

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's National Donut Month. And being October, it's also a month during which we're allowed to talk about dreadful things with abandon becasue, you know, Halloween approaches. Ostensibly we'll do so as often as possible this month with the second annual Typing Monkey Halloween Frenzy.

To start off, it is paramount that we share with you the existence of Halloween Magazine. If a print version ever existed, we would have a subscription. But that it's there on the Web, all year round, makes our hearts grow three sizes. Poke around the site and find all manner of stuff related to the holiday.

Now before we push this pumpkin down the hill, let's take a moment to catch our breath and enjoy this old jazz reel of jump-blues king Louis Jordan performing "Let the Good Times Roll." (The audio is slightly off, but who cares.)

[courtesy FourDices]