Stanley Film Festival or Bust!

The Stanley  Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

I have a house full of young kids, a sweet husband who is busy running his business, some needy pets including a big German Shepherd who is afraid of the dark (of all things). It’s rare that my husband and I get some time away together but this weekend we are going away, far away. Okay, not so far away, a couple three hours drive from our house but overnight! It’s pretty exciting. Not just because we will be away but because of where we are going. We are going to Estes Park, Colorado to attend the Stanley Film Festival. We didn’t get to go to the inaugural year last year because of all the things mentioned above and then some.

The well recognized Denver Film Society is behind this horror film fueled good time. It’s aimed at bringing together filmmakers, fans, indie film supporters, and any one else remotely interested in the horror genre. With the sophistication of the DFS involved it is definitely not some cheesy screening of cheesy movies. This year director Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling, Piranha) is going to be presented with the first Master of Horror Award. Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) will be there with his partners in SpectreVision to receive the Visionary Award and screen their sci-fi movie LFO.  The fest will screen shorts and feature length movies over the course of a long weekend as well as other activities and panels. I won’t be able to catch them all but am really looking forward to trying.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this whole film festival is the location. It’s being held at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. THE Stanley Hotel, the same Stanley Hotel the prompted Stephen King to write The Shining. I’ve been to Estes Park and the surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park many times but I have never been to the historic Stanley Hotel.

This elegant hotel was originally built in 1909 by the inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile, Freelan Oscar Stanley. It’s been called the most haunted place in America, some say it’s because of the quartz foundation acts like a magnet for energy, drawing spirits in. It’s said that every room has had some kind of strange activity reported and guests and staff have had experiences of all kinds all over the property.

  • The ghosts of Freelan and his wife Flora have been seen on the main staircase, the lobby, and the billiard room
  • Some have heard Flora playing the piano in the music room
  • Disembodied voices and footfalls can be heard in the corridors and rooms
  • Reports of phantom hands yanking on clothing
  • A ghost child on the second floor that calls out to his nanny
  • Lights turning off and on by themselves
  • Belongings being moved from place to place
  • Blankets being yanked off sleepers and thrown on the floor

Some of our family and friends think we’re nuts others wish they were going.  My brother is sending his digital recorder with me, in his words, just in case. In case of what, I’m not sure but its going to be awesome to find out. We aren’t going to stay for the whole four days of the festival because of the afore mentioned responsibilities, being a grown up can suck at times. I’ll be tweeting and Instagramming (is that word?) from the event beginning Friday April, 25, so you can follow along if you like. Of course I’ll post here after the event and hopefully I’ll have some pretty cool things to share.

It’s going to be my turn to Never Turn Off the Lights!

 

Eerily Beautiful World of Relics

We are approaching Easter Sunday this weekend. Thinking about the meaning of this holiday for many, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the many religious relics of the passion always come to my mind. A religious relic is either the physical remains (whole or in part) or personal effect of a venerated person used as a tangible memorial. Think of it as a souvenir of sorts.

Growing up in Catholic school I used to imagine strange and spooky relics hidden in the nooks of my school or our church. The many alcoves and hidden areas (that grown ups said were so you could pray in private, uh-huh) reinforced my morbid imagination.

The Shroud of Turin is probably the most recognized relic related to the resurrection. The centuries old linen clothe has the image of a man, apparently crucified, visibly impressed on it. Many believe that man is Jesus of Nazareth and the power of the resurrection burned his likeness into the burial clothe. The Shroud has been the subject of intense and detailed study over the years. Carbon dating from 1988 and 2013 have contradicting results, the later test putting the age of the clothe to around the time that historians believe Jesus was crucified. Is it a forgery, a piece of artwork, or the real deal? I admit when I look at pictures of the Shroud of Turin it leaves me awestruck.

In 2013 archeologist excavating the ancient Balatlar Church in Turkey found a stone chest that may contain a piece of wood from the cross Christ died on. There are many reliquaries in various churches across Europe that claim to contain actual pieces of the cross. Pieces of this relic have made it across the ocean to the Americas, as well. There is a church in Florida that not only has a piece of the cross but a part of the table that the Last Supper was eaten from. A more popular culture reference, in the documentary My Amityville Horror, demonologist Lorraine Warren produces a relic she says is a splinter from the cross of Christ.

The crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head while he was mocked before his death is housed at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and is displayed throughout the year. While it looks like it could be authentic it has never been officially authenticated.

Shroud of Turin, Wood from the Cross of Christ, Crown of Thorns relic

Shroud of Turin, Wood from the Cross of Christ, Crown of Thorns relic

 

Those relics from the passion and resurrection are interesting and even beautiful. However, there are many relics that are rather strange and equally interesting as disturbing.

Heads –

  • Saint Catherine of Siena – This devoted young woman who by her own description, experienced a “mythical marriage” with Jesus that has been the subject of many works of art and writings. She helped the poor and sick and even influenced politics. She died in Rome in 1380 at only 33. Blessed Raymond of Capua, Saint Catherine’s former spiritual director, sent the head back to Siena so a part of her could be in her home town. The mummified head is still housed today at the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico in Italy.
  • John the Baptist – John had been telling King Herod that it was not cool that he had his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias used her daughter to ask for John’s head on a silver plate, can you say Sociopath? Legend says that his severed head was passed from person to person, place to place and the grace coming from the head was able to heal people. Where it is today is a matter of contention. Muslims believe his head is inside the Umayyad Mosque in Syria, while Christians believe it is on display in Rome, buried in Turkey or in France’s Amiens Cathedral.
St. Catherine, John the Baptit

St. Catherine, John the Baptist

Blood –

  • St. Januarius – Legend says he was beheaded in 305 C.E. for hiding fellow Christians during a persecution by Emperor Diocietian. Just after his death a woman saved some of his blood, the now dried blood is stored in two hermetically sealed ampoules. However, three times a year thousands come to Naples Cathedral to witness as the dried blood becomes liquifed.
  • St. Lawrence – He was martyred in 258 C.E. by being roasted alive on a large grill. Some of his blood was caught and like St. Januarius the centuries old dried blood turns to liquid in full-view of the worshippers.
  • Pope John Paul II – There are three known containers of his blood. One is a not a vial of blood but a piece of fabric stained with his blood after he was shot in 1981. Just this year, thieves broke into the remote mountain church of San Pietro della Lenca in Italy and stole the relic. It has since been recovered and returned to the church. Talk about bad mojo.

janjanuarius-(1)

The Incorruptibles – 

Basically, this is when the dead body of a saint shows no sign of decomposition, some for over a thousand years! Unlike a mummy their skin remains supple looking. Catholics believe this to be a miracle and is a sign of the deceased holiness.

saintsCollage

 

Various Body Parts –

  • Finger of St. Thomas – Thomas said he would not believe that Christ had risen unless he could put his finger in the wounds from the crucifixion, a risen Christ obliged. The Church of Santa Croce in Rome has the a preserved finger alleged to be the very one Thomas put into Christ’s wounds.
  • Tongue of St. Anthony – 750 years ago the tongue of St. Anthony was found to be an incorruptible relic. Perhaps because of his skilled preaching. Westminster Cathedral in Britain houses a piece of dried flesh and some facial skin said to be the tongue.

The Weirdest –

  • The Holy Foreskin – Supposedly when young Jesus was circumcised his foreskin was saved. Many churches claimed to have the relic but by the end of the 18th century these had been discredit but rumors kept circulating. Considered to be the only flesh of Jesus left on the earth you can see why some believers would like to possess it. In the Italian village of Calcata a reliquary containing what is reported to be the true Holy Prepuce was paraded annually until thieves stole it. National Geographic produced a documentary The Quest for the Holy Foreskin to search for any trace of the afore mentioned relic.

Relics are not exclusively Catholic, many religions and belief systems contain them. The faithful find them reassuring to their faith. Skeptics point out that many have been proven as fake.  One very pious woman I know said it didn’t matter if they are real or fake, if it got people thinking about Jesus it was enough. However, some point out that people become too focused on the relic and put their adoration in a very wrong direction. Then there are those who find the arena of relics to be just plain morbid and bizarre. It does seem terribly strange but how many of us have kept a funeral card or a flower from funeral flowers of a loved one? Perhaps relics are just an extreme version of that. At any rate they are weird and you know how I like that.

For those readers who celebrate Easter, have a most excellent holiday and those who don’t have a most excellent Sunday. Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights.

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready For the Blood Moons?

4

blood_moonBlood moon, sounds ominous doesn’t it? So much more mysterious than boring old lunar eclipse, don’t you think? A lunar eclipse happens when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow and the next total lunar eclipse is due to occur on April 15, 2014. We should have a very good view in the western hemisphere and it will last a total of 77 minutes. I’ve heard that binoculars are an excellent way to view this event which will start around 1:07 am (mountain time).

This type of eclipse is referred to as a blood moon because the moon passes through the Earth’s umbral shadow. Umbral-what, you say? Time for some science, YAY SCIENCE!

The Earth’s shadow is actually made up of two cone-shaped pieces, one nested inside the other. The outer or penumbral shadow blocks only part of the Sun’s rays. However, the umbra or inner shadow blocks all the sunlight from reaching the moon. The umbral shadow is usually tinted orange or red by light passing through the atmosphere thus giving the moon a red appearance.

No total eclipses were observed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Five total lunar eclipses have been observed in the last century. In our current 21st Century astronomers are stating that eight will be observed. The eclipse that’s happening on the 15th will be the first of four total eclipses predicted to happen in the next 18 months (consecutive total lunar eclipses are called a lunar tetrad).

Signs and wonders in the sky usually get us to think about what it could mean, if anything. I am not a biblical prophecy or eschatology expert by any means but have found some thoughts on this event interesting.

There are some who think the coming tetrad is linked to the biblical passage of Joel 2:31, the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord come, ushering the second coming of Jesus Christ. With earthquakes, land slides, wars and rumors of wars this is not a stretch for many believers to make.

There is another school of thought that the tetrad is a sign that something important will happen to or regarding Israel. These upcoming blood moons coincide with the Jewish holidays of Passover and The Feast of Tabernacles. There have been other tetrads that have fallen on Jewish holidays, according to Mark Biltz in his book Blood Moons there have been eight tetrads in total that have fallen on Jewish feast days since the time of Christ. He holds that the last three of those eight occurred when something significant was happening in Jewish history.

1. 1493-1494 tetrad – expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492

2. 1949-1950 tetrad – re-establishment of Israel in 1948

3. 1967-1968 tetrad – right before the beginning of the Six Day war in 1967

So, what does all that mean? I don’t know. And I make it a personal note to run away as fast as I can from anyone who claims they are the only one who unequivocally knows. Some experts say it is not surprising that blood moons (they can only happen on full moons) coincide with Jewish holidays, the Jewish calendar is after all a lunar calendar. However, think on this, it is ironic that three of the four total lunar eclipses that are coming will not be visible from Israel, at all.

Could this just be another 2012 Mayan calendar, or Y2K computer thing? Like I said before, I don’t know. I’m going to do my best to be up at 1:07 am and view this thing. It remains to be seen if this event has deeper meaning.

Until then Never Turn Off the Lights because the blood moons could just mean that the werewolves are rising.

via necromanga on deviantART

via necromanga on deviantART

 

 

Spooky Fun Writing Challenge

I was cleaning up my files this week, a lame exercise that I use to avoid working, and I came across some files that were from a writing challenge I participated in last Halloween. You had to write a scary tale every week in under 500 words for eight weeks leading up to the holiday. Not as easy as it sounds. Some of them were embarrassingly terrible, some may be spun off into something more, and some just need to never see the light of day.

For some Friday fun I thought I would share one that was based on something that really happened to someone I know. Enjoy.

telephone

Long Distance

Her passing had impacted us all, him worst of all. Since our aunt who had raised us died three months ago he had spiraled down with booze and other poisons. I hadn’t spoken to my brother, Jack, for almost two weeks. That, in and of itself, was not that unusual.

The unexpected nature of Auntie’s cardiac aneurism had amplified the blow for everyone and I knew he needed help but I also knew I had to have good boundaries with him. Otherwise, he would suck me down to crazy town with him. My aunt had spent years trying to save him from himself and I truly felt her inability to do so had broken her heart to the point of death.

I thought a little TV would crowd out these thoughts and I was thrilled to see a spy movie marathon was happening. I don’t think I got to see more than 20 minutes of it. I woke with a start to the shrilling of the phone. I reached for it and groggily brought it to my ear.

“Hello?”

“Mickey, I’m so worried about your brother.  Please help him.”

“I’m sure he’s fine, Auntie.  Just on a binge…” I sucked my breath in. “You can’t be calling me, you’re dead,” I whispered. I could feel my insides dropping to the floor.

The line became full of static and a hissing sound followed by a screeching that hurt my ear.  I threw the phone down hard and it went silent. I eyeballed it like it was a big poisonous spider looking for a snack.

My head felt a little foggy, maybe I was dreaming. I bit down hard on my lower lip and the bitter taste of blood told me I was wide awake.

My head slowly cleared. There was no way the phone could have rang. After all the funeral expenses I was a little strapped and I had the landline disconnected to save some money.

“What the hell?” I said aloud to the empty room, relieved not to get an answer.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face. I had to be hallucinating. Maybe I was having a waking dream. That’s a thing, right? After all I had been thinking about this stuff before I dozed off.

I was inspecting the injury to my lip when the buzzing of my cell in my front pocket made me jump. I checked the caller ID, unknown. I thought about letting it go to voice mail but instead I slide my finger to answer it and slowly lifted it to my ear.  My heart was pounding so hard my hand was bouncing in rhythm with it.

“Hello?” I croaked.

“Mickey?”

“Jack?”

“Hey. I just wanted to tell you that I’m ok and I’ll be sober from here on out. I was just trying to dull the pain, ya know?”

“Where the hell have you been? Are you in jail?” I demanded.

“Mickey?”

“Ya, Jack, where are you?”

“Auntie says hi.”

And the line went dead.

©Joy Yehle, 2013

Well, I hope this makes you never want to answer your phone and Never Turn Off the Lights. Try your hand at a 500 word or less story and email me at joy@joyyehle.com or post in the comments, I’d love to read them!