Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Here's a terrific poster (above) that didn't make the cut when Taschen made a cheaper edition of its massive coffee table book, "Magic 1400s - 1900s." The cheaper edition is still worth having, though.

Compare the Herrmann poster to minimalist modern ones like the one above. The new ones convey no philosophy, no vision, no craftsmanship, no idealism, no challenge to one's beliefs, no forbidden fruit, no sense of urgency or crisis or adventure.

Magic shows were tremendously popular in the days before TV. They influenced and were influenced by 19th Century Romanticism and my guess is that they influenced the invention of the detective story, horror novels and horror films, sci-fi, politics, psychology, and the observance of Halloween.

Magic shows helped to inject Rousseau and occultism into mainstream consciousness. I don't mean that large numbers of people were won over to the occult, just that audiences learned to entertain the possibility of another parallel set of rules in the universe...well, at least for the duration of the show.

Whenever I see a magic show I try to be a skeptic and a believer at the same time.

I love this image (above) of the electrically powerful hands. 

Kellar (above) was said to have had a killer delivery.

Thinking about that reminds me of Ian Keith's unique performance in "Nightmare Alley." Anyone interested in magic should see this film because Keith's performance underlines an important truth, namely that magic is as much about performance as tricks.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


How do you like this Romanian shag mask?

A nice combination of hangers and lanterns! 

Aaaah...the evil ventriloquist doll. A classic theme!

A pair of skinny mannequin legs with a big mask on top...a match made in Heaven. 

Above, Crumb appears with a Third Eye! I have a great Lopsang Rampa book which describes the surgery he (Rampa) underwent in Tibet to have the obstacle to his third eye removed.

Wow! A great brain photo, but it's so....so....low brow. It lacks class.  

Maybe a frame would help.

There you go! Everything looks better in a frame! Geez, maybe I'll put this on the Theory Corner sidebar!

A little Halloween music might be in order here. After you listen to this (above) you might want to go to YouTube and hear Nina Simone sing the same thing. What a contrast!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Above, a nerd zombie. Nerds can be zombies too.

Above, another brilliant Don Heck cover. That guy was a national treasure!

Above, a reprise showing one of my all-time favorite masks. I've had it for years and it hasn't degraded much. I supplied the cardboard eyes.

Aaaaargh! I want! I want! I'd love to have this hotdog couple on my porch this Halloween!

Above, me as a mad scientist. I liked this photo so much that I gave it a permanent place on the Theory Corner left sidebar.

Wow! Whoever shot this deserves an award of some sort. The bag design, the color, the background...it's a perfectly realized picture.

Above...I have no idea what this drawing (woodcut?) was made for. Maybe a production of Hamlet showing the scene where Hamlet's father was murdered?  My guess is that it was created to publicize a traveling 19th Century stage show. Text would be added as needed.

Yikes! Why do people take chances like this (above)? 

Boris Karloff, of course.
A simplified version of something like this (above) might make an interesting Halloween bookshelf decoration. You could design it so it does double duty at Christmas. I wonder who did this.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Lately I've paid more than usual attention to what happens in the sky. I guess the Fall provokes those kind of thoughts. In Summer the night and day are separated by beautiful sunsets and slowly unfolding twilights, but by Halloween the transition can be abrupt and violent. 

By the end of the day an otherwise sunny sky is cupped in the hands of dark clouds (above) and snuffed out. At this time of year the day no longer reliably evolves into into night; it's as often as not suffocated under a blanket.

As soon as darkness takes over the scenic beaches become traps for ships.

Suicides seek out high places.

People out for revenge seek their targets. 

Fanatics plot with their followers.

Fires are tended in military camps, prayer vigils are held in temples, the shadowy underworld is patrolled by the police. 

Eventually the night stretches out to the point where day becomes inevitable. High winds rip apart the clouds. The first delicate glow of morning appears. Here's how Emily Dickinson describes it:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Gee, this (above) is a nice mask. It's probably plastic but it I've seen similar effects on plaster and clay.

Polynesians used to have Halloween every day.

This (above) reminds me that I should buy whole coconuts around Halloween time. There's so much you can do with the shells.

The two mache masks on the right  (above) cover the whole head. I wonder how you make something like that?

At first glance I thought this (above) was a mustachioed Edgar Allen Poe mask then I looked closer and discovered the mustache was a nose and the red on the bottom is a mouth. It's a gorilla!


Above, a yuppie mask. Not bad, not bad. 

Around Halloween time cereal boxes used to have printed masks on the back.

Now they don't. I wonder why. That's (above) the back of the box I used this morning. Yikes! How bleak!

Nice (above), very nice.

If I understand right this (above) was an old seldom-used mask which the owner rehabilitated with a new paint job and some Styrofoam balls.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Gigantism in animals always seemed creepy to me. The creepiest are the species I normally consider benevolent and non-threatening...birds, for example.

But really, I should know better. Giant birds were some of the most formidable predators on Earth after the extinction of the dinosaurs. They'd show us no mercy if they had a size advantage.

For some reason gigantic humans don't seem menacing at all. Maybe that's because I used to lech after tall girls when I was in High School. 

Animals, on the other hand, are a different thing. When they're big it seems like a Biblical plague. It feels like a sign that something cosmic has gone awry, that the natural order of things is out of whack. 

The only horses I know of that are still bred for height are Clydesdale's (above). Everybody wants to see how big they can get.

Of course, tiny creatures can be creepy too.

And, talking about tiny creatures, is that (above) really Shirley Temple?