A Much Darker Take On "Sleeping Beauty"

Some call her a witch, others a goddess. The rats do her bidding and she has eyes everywhere. She will know everything about you before you’ve even met. But none of these characteristics are the strangest thing about Evie Black: when she falls asleep, she will wake up again. In a world swept up by the Aurora, she is the most enigmatic piece of the puzzle. And she has been hidden away in the Dooling Correctional Facility for Women.

Reports of women falling asleep inside cocoons have been broadcast worldwide by the time the citizens of Dooling County start their morning. Civilians are strongly advised not to try waking up their loved ones; even slightly tearing the gauzy material has violent consequences. This is a lesson harshly learned for those who didn’t turn on the television with their morning brew. Anton Dubeck, pool servicing entrepreneur and local homewrecker, ripped the cocoon off of his mother only to get his head completely bashed in by her feral subconsciousness, and he’s not the only one.

“Who do you think cleans up the battlefields after the shooting stops?” -  page 665

“Who do you think cleans up the battlefields after the shooting stops?” - page 665

Word-of-mouth instills panic faster than any news broadcast in a small town. The bloodier the situation in Dooling got, the more frenzied everyone became. Caffeine, drugs, and every other possible “wake-up” method were being used to keep the women awake for as long as possible. Superstores and pharmacies were ransacked for anything that could help. But what’s the point in holding off the inevitable? It isn’t long before most of the women fall asleep, their bodies secreting the strange substance that will cocoon them where they lay.

The men of Dooling County have good reason to believe Evie is the orchestrator of the dubbed “Aurora Sickness”, but when asked, she only ever claims to be an emissary: the linchpin of a plan larger than herself. Her arrival is, ironically, a wake-up call for all of humanity, and she has set this backwater Appalachian town as the stage to present an ultimatum.

Rebirth or rebuild.

A collaboration between renowned horror writer Stephen King and his son, Owen King, an established writer in his own right, Sleeping Beauties is a multi-layered narrative composed of differing perspectives, interrelational conflict, and lasting consequences. The authors blend wit and memorability into their descriptions and character interactions, making the reader forget they are holding on to 700-pages of text and not experiencing these events themselves. 

As I previously hadn’t read anything by Stephen King, I have nothing to compare this father-son collaboration to in order to see how Stephen’s writing differs. What I can say is that the narrative is seamless. It’s quite clear that both writers knew what they wanted and were on the same page.

Being more of a thriller novel than a classic horror case, most of the terror in regards to the Aurora Sickness is presented in the first part of the novel, which readers quickly become used to as the story progresses. Thrill and apprehension were the driving sensations of my experience, even at parts where I knew what was coming. 

And small towns are perfect, secluded backdrops that allow a writer to block out the rest of the world and focus on their storytelling. Sometimes establishing the simplest setting is the perfect canvas for in-depth exploration into a more complex narrative. In Sleeping Beauties, the King writers used this to their advantage to piece together their fictional county. While Dooling County is nothing special or memorable itself, through the events of the Aurora it is transformed into a fairytale-esque landscape, with Dooling Correctional as the dragon’s keep.

Although the title of the novel and the Aurora Sickness allude to the story of “Sleeping Beauty”, the reader is not rewarded with a fairytale finale. The conclusion is abruptly realistic after reading through the novel as if in a fever dream, and despite not being what I personally hoped for, it hits home.

There is no happy ending, but it is not necessarily a bad one either. As with all things in life, it simply is what it is. Take it or leave it, but move on; a lesson both the men and women of Dooling County harshly learned.


Interested in reading Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King? You can find it at Chapters and other bookstores in your area, as well as your local library.

Please support your local independent bookstores whenever possible.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

Horror Movie Recommendations: November 2019

Every once in a while, here at Voices in the Attic, we like to give some recommendations of horror movies. From the classics, to more recent releases, the goal is to provide as many scares as possible.

I myself have always been terrified by horror movies. When I was younger, I avoided them at all costs. But then, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, a friend of mine, who was very much into horror, decided she’d had enough, plunked me down on the couch, and told me we were watching Paranormal Activity whether I liked it or not. After watching the first movie, I didn’t sleep for a week, but that didn’t stop me from tearing through the rest of the series over the next couple of days. I was immediately hooked.

Nowadays, I’m a lot harder to scare, having been through countless horror movies since that first night. But there have been a number that have managed to get to me, even in more recent years. So without further ado, allow me to highlight some of my favourites:

Paranormal Activity

Movie poster for  Paranormal Activity , retrieved from the IMDb page.

Movie poster for Paranormal Activity, retrieved from the IMDb page.

Considering my intro, I felt it most appropriate to begin with Paranormal Activity. The individual movies can run a bit hot and cold, due to a few installments that were a bit more disjointed and tame than the others, but with that in mind, I still think the series as a whole was absolutely terrifying.

I still re-watch it every now and then, and it still keeps me up at night when I do.

The premise of the series is a young couple that are being haunted by a malevolent entity. Relatively straightforward, as far as horror movies go, but the movie works as a slow build, presented in the form of ‘found footage’. The young couple, Katie and Micah, setup cameras around their home when they start to notice some strange things happening. As the movie goes on, and more activity begins to take place, I found myself so focused on keeping my eyes on the screen, waiting to see what it was that was tormenting Katie and Micah, that any movement or slight sound in my own surroundings made me jump or scream.

It’s a simple premise, but between the found footage elements, the fact that the actors and characters have the same first names, and the fact that you never actually see what’s tormenting them, (only what it’s doing), it was a truly unsettling movie. It’s definitely what I call nightmare fodder.

The Possession

I can’t create a list of horror movie recommendations without including my all time favourite, The Possession. I once told a friend it was my favourite, and she was surprised, citing that it wasn’t one she ever thought of as being popular enough to be a favourite of anyone. That just makes me think of it as a hidden gem.

Movie poster for  The Possession , retrieved from the IMDb page.

Movie poster for The Possession, retrieved from the IMDb page.

The Possession follows a newly single father struggling to pull together decent surroundings and support for his daughters so that his wife will allow him more time to spend with them. He has just moved into a new house, and on his daughters’ first weekend with him in this new house, he takes them to a garage sale. At this garage sale, his younger daughter finds a box that seemingly has no openings, so naturally, she wants to find a way to open it.

Of course, being a horror movie, opening that box was exactly the opposite of what the characters should have done.

I felt connected to The Possession in a different way than I did Paranormal Activity. With Paranormal Activity, even though I knew it wasn’t real, I had a really difficult time reminding myself of that with the found footage, and the very real elements of a couple’s boring day-to-day life interwoven with the paranormal activity occurring in their home.

In The Possession, I was drawn into it because the horror was happening to a child.

There are, in my opinion, very few things creepier in a horror movie than a child, especially one who is possessed or in some way taken over by dark forces, and this element was highlighted extremely well in this movie. The younger daughter’s slow but steady descent into being taken over is expressed extremely well. I’m still horrified every time I watch it, and I like to believe that you will be too.

Winchester

Winchester is an interesting film in that it’s based on a true story, but it’s a true story that is steeped in rumours and stories no one’s quite been able to hammer out.

Movie poster for  Winchester , retrieved from the IMDb page.

Movie poster for Winchester, retrieved from the IMDb page.

Sarah Winchester, heiress to the fortune amassed from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, claimed to be haunted by every person ever killed by a Winchester rifle. In real life, she hired round-the-clock construction workers to keep building extensions on her house, which was filled with dead-end halls, staircases that lead nowhere, and many other twists and turns. It was believed she did this to trap (or perhaps appease) the spirits that haunted the house.

In the movie, we get a closer, embellished look at some of the individual stories of the ghosts that could have been haunting her. Helen Mirren plays Sarah Winchester, and does an excellent job doing so. In the movie, a psychiatrist is hired to assess her sanity when concern is raised over how much of the Winchester fortune she’s using to continuously build her house. However, as he conducts his assessment—temporarily moving into the house to do so—he begins to discover that there might be more to Sarah’s story than most were willing to believe.

Movie poster for  A Quiet Place , retrieved from the IMDb page.

Movie poster for A Quiet Place, retrieved from the IMDb page.

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place took things in a different direction. A large majority of the movie was low to no sound, due to the story arch being about creatures that were attracted to noise. In addition to that, the movie opened with a horrifying and shocking twist that immediately set the tone of urgency for the movie, and made very clear how vital it was that the characters of this world all remain in total silence.

As I watched this movie with my brother and my friend, all three of us held our breath and barely said a word. A lot of movies are good at making you feel like you’re in them, but with this one, that meant being terrified to make a sound.

I would recommend it solely on the basis of seeing Emily Blunt and John Krasinski together, but the movie as a whole was amazing, and with a sequel to look forward to, you’d better get watching!

Hush

Movie poster for  Hush , retrieved from the IMDb page.

Movie poster for Hush, retrieved from the IMDb page.

At first, I was actually not quite sure what to think of this one. A co-worker recommended it to me, and it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure how it would work as a horror movie. It follows a young woman who is deaf and lives in a secluded home by herself. When she’s stalked by an intruder attempting to get into her home and kill her, she has to find a way to defend herself and get rid of him without being able to hear him coming.

It sounded like an intriguing enough premise; it was original, but I didn’t think much would come from it. I was wrong.

Much like A Quiet Place, I watched the whole thing with bated breath, trying desperately not to make a sound while the action played out on the screen.

I think elements like these make for the best horror movies, though. Finding a way to keep the audience on the edge of their seats is key, and finding a way to do so that also brings the viewers into the movie is the mark of a great story.


There are so many more movies that I’ve seen that I’d love to include on this list, but for now I’ll stick with these five and save some more for another time. But when you next find yourself looking for something to do with your spare time, or just looking for a good scare, try one of these. You won’t regret it.


An excellent honourable mention for this list is anything from The Conjuring/ Annabelle universe. The entire series is fantastic and terrifying overall, and I would recommend it to anyone. If you missed it, check out my review of the latest installment.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

A Lesson of Obsession

What makes Annie Wilkes so special?

There are dozens of stories produced in the media, daily, of women who go missing, with their bodies occasionally discovered like exclamation marks, months later. When Stephen King wrote and developed the story Misery, he penned the brilliant creation of Wilkes. Passionate and demented, she is the clever archetype of obsession, a startling contrast to the typical male villain, and the traditional feminine victim. 

Misery stars the fictional account of Paul Sheldon, a romance-fiction novelist who recently killed off his beloved protagonist, Misery, of the famed series he had developed over the years. This clever set up connected with King’s frustrated feelings of being chained to his literary career, unable to branch out from the horror genre due to a constant backlash of criticism from fans. 

The story kicks off with Sheldon trapped as an invalid, his legs broken and crushed, under the care of Annie Wilkes who had discovered his fateful car crash and pulled his body free, while kick starting a nasty drug habit. King writes best in situations of sheer suspense, and there are few things more suspenseful than being trapped beneath the will of a mentally unstable nurse, with a growing drug addiction, isolated and stranded,    

As Wilkes pumps him full of painkillers, she reveals a wild undercurrent beneath her feverish admiration for his writing. If she isn’t causing him physical pain by cutting off his foot and cauterizing the stump with a blow torch, she’s leaving him for hours alone with no food or pain release. Sheldon exists beneath her control, unable to escape the house or fight back. His role is to simply exist, and produce a new Misery book. Once his purpose is completed, there is no more reason for his existence. It’s a deadly game of battling a critical writer, especially when trapped in bed with an antique typewriter. 

Conservative women in King’s work are often works of villainy. By their conservative beliefs and isolating behaviours, they reveal cutthroat behaviours. Wilkes keeps a scrapbook of obituary clippings involving her murdered victims, but believes that common curse words simply cannot be tolerated. What is it about simple women and their beliefs that makes King gravitate towards their nature? Perhaps finding the unpredictable elements that run beneath their predictable behaviours and routines. Women are a curious mystery that often require examination, especially in the role of a villain. Wilkes wants love and stability, and also for the world to conform to her own reality that she dictates clearly by means of rules and dire consequences.

Wilkes is admittedly a faithful captor when she isn’t leaving Sheldon struggling with withdrawal for hours. The typewriter she equips him might be missing the letter ‘n’ (and later the letters ‘t’ and ‘e’), but she finds overpriced paper for his newest creation. Her desperation fuels a literary masterpiece within a literary masterpiece, and the book itself reads like a set of nesting dolls. Sheldon soon discovers her mental instability slipping further downwards as she spirals, struggling with what is likely to be an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. 

It’s easy enough to mock King for his massive stretch over any local bookstore. Most used bookstores have subjected him to his own genre, giving him a throne amongst an unused wall, neatly collecting all of his words under a single theme: Stephen King. Together his horror sits amongst his fantasy pieces, making a complex timeline of progress and development. Despite our obsessive criticism with his work, King perseveres and follows his own aims thoroughly. 


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Día de los Muertos

All around the world, there are many different customs and approaches to the way death is faced. In North America, generally, death is viewed as a negative aspect of life, something to be mourned. When a loved one passes on, we typically bury them and host a funeral. These affairs are accompanied with strong emotions, and leaves of absence from school and the workplace. We fear death, and in response, create medical procedures to try and stall the inevitable.

But the same thing is not the case everywhere. In fact, there are many places in the world that don’t view death as a negative part of life. In some places, death is seen for what it is: a natural occurrence. Births are celebrated every day, all over the world, and while death is just as much of a natural occurrence, there is no universal agreement on how it’s to be dealt with.

For those that treat death as natural and not in need of mourning, it’s used instead as a chance to celebrate what a wonderful life the individual lived before they left this world. In fact, there are even some individuals in North American traditions that fight the desire to grieve death, and instead wish to use it as a chance to celebrate the life their loved one lived before passing on.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With their annual festival known as “Día de los Muertos”, Mexico is a country that embraces the tradition of celebrating life. Día de los Muertos translates to “Day of the Dead”, and is celebrated on November 1st and November 2nd. While it is often linked with Halloween in popular culture, Mexico’s Día de los Muertos is completely different.

Halloween is a day that originated in Ireland, developed from the festival of Samhain. It was simply meant to mark the end of the harvest season, and has, over time, grown into something more commercialized. Halloween is a night to dress up in costumes so that ghosts and other malevolent beings won’t recognize you. People put carved pumpkins on their front steps, which was originally seen as a way to ward off beings from beyond the veil. With Día de los Muertos, the goal is quite literally the opposite.

Día de los Muertos originated thousands of years ago, in cultures such as Aztec and Toltec, amongst other Nahua people. These cultures saw mourning the dead as disrespectful, so instead, the dead were celebrated. They were seen as still being a part of the community even after death, and once a year they were believed to come back to visit. As time went on, Día de los Muertos came to be, as a combination of several old rituals from pre-hispanic cultures.

There are several major components to Día de los Muertos, which include altars, colourful costumes, food, and literary calaveras. It all comes together in a celebration of life that welcomes people of all ages, meant to honour loved ones who’ve passed on, as well as to help them come back for a visit on this day, once a year. 

Photo courtesy of Arcaion via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Arcaion via Pixabay

Altars are the main component of Día de los Muertos. They can be built in cemeteries or in homes, and they aim to invite spirits back to the world of the living for one day, to visit and celebrate with their loved ones. These altars include food and water, photographs of family members, and a lit candle for each family member who has passed on. Sometimes toys may be among the altar’s offerings, if the loved one being welcomed back is a child.

In addition to these offerings, these altars are decorated with marigolds. Marigolds are flowers that serve as a significant symbol for Día de los Muertos. Living family members scatter marigold petals between the altar and the grave so as to provide a clear path for the dead family member to come visit and then return home to their final resting place.

Because Día de los Muertos is meant to be a time of positivity and happiness and celebration, costuming is also an important part of it. Those who partake in this day often bring the celebrations into public places such as streets and town squares, in order to add a social component. Everyone gets dressed up as skeletons, donning colourful costumes and face paint, often in elaborate designs. The celebration lasts all day and night, and many people even wear shell jewellery or other forms of noisy accessories, in order to create noise and excitement many believe is to get everyone amped up, and to even encourage the spirits of loved ones to come be a part of the festivities.

Photo courtesy of AndyG via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of AndyG via Pixabay

Like marigolds and colourful costumes, skulls, or ‘calaveras’, are another important symbol for Día de los Muertos. People paint their faces to look like skeletons, and sugar skulls are made en masse to be given as gifts or used to decorate altars. They are decorated with multi-coloured frosting, and many times even include the name of a living family member. In these cases, they’re then given as a gift to that family member.

Many of us could stand to learn a lot from cultures such as the ones that celebrate Día de los Muertos. It can be very painful to lose someone dear to us, and there are still a great many cultures that suffer greatly, and have long, elaborate grieving processes when a loved one passes away. No one can tell anyone the appropriate or best way to deal with the death of a loved one, but I personally find hope in beliefs and festivals such as Día de los Muertos. Viewing death not as a goodbye, but as a celebration of life, and more of a “see you later, dear one” is a comforting thought. It’s nice to know that there are beliefs that favour, not the closing of a book, but simply the turning of a new chapter.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

"Do You Think I'm Pretty?"

The hour is late and the streetlights barely cut through the fog. As you make your way home, a woman approaches. Her face is cast in shadow, but you can tell she is wearing a surgical mask. The filtered streetlight glints off of something metallic in her hand.

“Am I pretty?”

You’re honestly not sure how to answer, but tell her “yes” in an effort to get her to leave you alone. She stops you, stepping closer until she’s properly in view.

“Even with this?”

The mask falls and reveals one of the most beautiful women you have ever seen. Truly, she would be flawless if not for the jagged slits beginning at the corners of her mouth and pulling up towards her jawline. Her molars peek out between the flaps on one side. In this moment, you’re not sure what terrifies you most: her mutilated face or the giant pair of blood-crusted scissors she’s clutching.

You scream and she descends.

Photo courtesy of ale.mattevi mattevi via Flickr

Photo courtesy of ale.mattevi mattevi via Flickr

Yōkai are supernatural demons, monsters, and spirits in Japanese mythology, and there are many subcategories of them depending on the nature of the entity. The Kuchisake-onna (“Slit-Mouthed Woman”) is an onryō, a vengeful spirit who preys on late-night street wanderers. 

The origins of the Kuchisake-onna are a cautionary tale for those who would commit adultery.

It’s widely believed that she was the wife or consort of a samurai, and supposedly lived during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867). This woman was beautiful and she knew it. She basked in male attention, often asking men if they found her beautiful and glowing when yes, of course they did. 

How could anyone think otherwise?

Finding her unfaithful, the samurai confronted her, slitting her mouth ear-to-ear. This wound would be fatal, his last words to her: 

“Who would find you beautiful now?”. 

Dying in anguish, her spirit bound itself to the dark nights of our world, searching for those who would find her beautiful and those who would dare tell her otherwise. 

A more modern take on this tale is that she was a woman who underwent plastic surgery and was unintentionally mutilated in the process. Some people believe another woman did this to her out of jealousy. 

But the samurai’s adulterous lady is Japan’s most memorable iteration of this yōkai legend, and the oldest telling of the tale. In any case, encountering the Kuchisake-onna will not be a pleasant experience.

She often appears before her victims as a woman wearing a trenchcoat, her face often covered by a scarf or a surgical mask (a common sight in a society concerned about spreading unwanted illness). Her weapons of choice are often a pair of scissors, a knife, or something less inconspicuous such as a scythe or machete. 

If you encounter the Kuchisake-onna, she will ask you if you find her pretty, or even beautiful. She will kill you if you tell her she isn’t. Answering “yes” doesn’t get you off scot-free either, though. Now she will remove her covering and ask you:

“Do you still think I’m beautiful, even with this?”

Now would be a good time to keep your shit together. Screaming will instantly get you killed, and she will continue to appear before you if you run. So this is where answering the Kuchisake-onna gets a little tricky. Again, it appears you have only two options. You can decide for yourself which would be worse.

You decide to answer “no”

She will use her weapon of choice for that evening to either cut your head off or chop you in half. 

Congratulations. You are now dead.

You decide to answer “yes”

You would think this is a smart decision: tell her you think she’s pretty, and the slit-mouthed woman will leave you alone. 

Well you would be wrong. Answering “yes” invites the Kuchisake-onna to give you a makeover. She will use her weapon to carve out your face just as hers had been. 

Congratulations. Enjoy your new smile, so long as you don’t bleed out first.

Not all of her victims are this lucky. There have been some reported instances where the Kuchisake-onna has said and done nothing, leaving them alone after she’s been given the validation she’s sought. These unfortunate souls will go home and go to sleep believing they are safe, only to wake up to her standing over their bed mid-procedure.

So there really is no escape, unless...

Here’s what you need to do: tell her she is average. This will make her stop and think about what that could possibly mean, giving you enough time to get the hell out of her sight.

Run, run, as fast as you can. And don’t look back.

Photo courtesy of Taichiro Ueki via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Taichiro Ueki via Flickr


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

Of Death and of Life

I was recently afforded the opportunity to read and review a book of poetry, by Jenne Kaivo, entitled Poems Mostly of the Sea. And it was a bit of a wild ride, to say the least, but I suspect that was the point. Either way, Kaivo created something rather brilliant.

Cover of “Poems Mostly of the Sea” by Jenne Kaivo via Goodreads

Cover of “Poems Mostly of the Sea” by Jenne Kaivo via Goodreads

This book is made up of 62 poems, all relating in some way or another to the sea. With this in mind, I began reading the poems with some caution. While I adore the sea and anything relating to it—after all, I was born by the ocean—I worried it wouldn’t have much to do with what we normally face over here at Voices in the Attic. We tend to lean more towards the dark and macabre, and while we’ve taken many a detour into feminist anthems and cries for the environment, I wondered where this would fit in. The sea has always been about renewal and a calming presence for me. Of course I’m aware of all the mythical beasts that supposedly live down there, and all the real-world problems like storms, and shipwrecks, and the like. But I wondered where this book would fit in.

And oh, were my worries ever proven wrong.

Kaivo’s book is full of an array of individual poems that all link together to form a grander theme. Initially, it seems like a general ode to the sea, which, as someone who has always appreciated a nice sea breeze across the back of my neck, I can easily get behind. But with each poem I passed, the figurative storms picked up, and her words raced into darker territories.

The book begins with such poems as “By the Sea it’s Safe and Quiet”, “Whitewaterfall”, and “The Lake”, and in them I can easily see a clear message: the world itself is messy, but there is always a sense of clarity and renewal in the sea. This I feel very deeply. And as I read these poems, I thought I understood that to be the message of the whole book.

Photo courtesy of LunarSeaArt via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of LunarSeaArt via Pixabay

Yet as I read further, I discovered poems such as “Lunatic Mood” and “My City Angst”, which denoted a kind of chaos that most people in this world feel at some point or another, and many just can’t get away from. “My City Angst” was a particular favourite of mine, because it was, at its core, about such a simple task. The narrator was roaming the aisles of a drug store late at night. But Kaivo uses language so fluidly and expertly, and instantly such a simple scene is twisted into something more. The streets are dark, and the buildings are dimly lit, and in the distance, wolves are howling. I can almost feel the wind whipping through my clothes, and it’s as though I’ve been sucked into a horror scene.

In “Let Cake Eat Them”, we get something a touch more fantastical. The narrator is in a bakery when suddenly a cake comes to life and attempts to gobble up the bakery patrons. The horror in this poem was particularly clear, and in “Excalibur” it was just as clear, but in a less fantastical, more real-world sense. Glass bottles are being thrown, and a meth-head is curled up alone in an alleyway.

It seems, at first, that all these examples I’ve provided have nothing to do with each other. They seem disconnected, and many of them don’t even have anything to do with the sea (though, with this, I urge you to consider the title of the book: Poems Mostly of the Sea.)

But I think I’ve figured out the connection between it all. We live in a time of extreme climate crisis. Everyone knows it, though an unfortunate amount of people still insist on denying it. It is in a time such as the one we live in, that a book such as Kaivo’s becomes particularly relevant. Her poems denote a state of disaster that the world currently lives in, and yet, they urge us towards rebirth and renewal. Everything feels fresher by the sea because it’s such a pure, raw sense of nature, untouched by man. It’s just our duty to keep it that way.

Towards the end of her book, Kaivo cycles through such poems as “You Must Know How We Grow on the Dead”, which describes how most plants grow out of the death of those that came before them, and “There is a Traffic Jam on Everest”, which more or less speaks for itself. There are many horrors in nature, but there’s also beauty in it when you stop and appreciate it for what it is. That is the main goal of Kaivo’s poetry: to appreciate the forces of nature for what they are, using the sea is her main example.

Fittingly, Kaivo’s collection of poetry concludes with a poem entitled “Daylight”. It speaks of waking up to a new day and is, essentially, the rebirth and renewal the rest of the collection worked its way towards. It denotes a new dawn, a new beginning, and precisely what awaits at the end of every horror.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

"It" Is Over

There are a few things I can’t look at when watching horror movies: mannequins, clowns, and character stupidity.

I’ll be honest: I’m not very familiar with Stephen King’s works. I’ve heard of him before through cultural osmosis, and the 1976 film adaptation of Carrie gave me nightmares as a child. But aside from that, I wasn’t really exposed to anything he’d written until I watched the latest recreation of his 1986 classic, It, with the first part of the story being released in 2017.

The first segment was captivating. It was gruesome, It was terrifying, It was absolutely enjoyable. The Losers were colorful, lively, and easy to connect with. I found “It’s” persona of Pennywise genuinely terrifying, and came home to an empty dorm room after seeing It in theaters half-expecting a sadistic clown to pop out of the darkness and rip me to shreds. 

It: Chapter 2  theatrical poster

It: Chapter 2 theatrical poster

In comparison, It: Chapter 2 honestly didn’t do much for me. It was an enjoyable experience, but I think the film relies heavily on reusing material from the first segment without adding much of a fresh take on it. And while they’ve incorporated the reused material well, at times it feels repetitive. As a result, the movie seemed unnecessarily long. 

You would think Pennywise would up his ante considering the Losers’ Club had a general idea of how they needed to defeat him this time around, not to mention the fact twenty-seven years had passed since their encounter. Twenty-seven years of growth, experiences, and newly integrated fears for Pennywise to pick apart and terrorize them with. 

Instead, he pulled his usual tricks which, while still chilling, felt a little stale considering he spent a whole other movie using them. And while I understand that even the “Eater of Worlds” has his limitations, the fears he materializes for the Losers had already been run through each of their respective character arcs in the first film. It made sense to roll back to some of them, such as playing on Eddie’s hypochondria, but others were bridges that had already been burned down.

Of course, this can be overlooked considering each member besides Mike entirely forgot their experience with “It” (a phenomenon from having been away from Derry for so long) but may still feel a bit lackluster to anyone who’s seen the first movie. I will say that introducing the Ritual of Chüd—a battle of wills—did bring a fresh sense of purpose to the narrative and brought more relevance to revisiting past trauma. 

And I understand why the Losers needed to relive their childhood trauma; doing so introduces themes of forgiveness, self-acceptance, and personal growth. But when it comes to the great and fearsome “It” himself, the scares were entertaining, but nothing new or special to an audience already familiar with his tricks from the first movie. The fear Pennywise instilled during the first chapter was more impactful when he was terrorizing children than a bunch of adults who knew what was coming for them.

Circling back to Pennywise’s game plan, I was admittedly a little disappointed about Bowers, the Losers’ Club’s tormentor prior to cannibalistic sewer clowns. Having him escape from the institution added more oomf to Pennywise’s game, demonstrating exactly how far his reach is. The fact that Bowers was sent for also tells the viewers that he is different, he will be a trying obstacle for them to overcome once again.

But Bowers died off so quickly, and without leaving much of an impact. I quickly went from “Oh, this fucker’s back, this will be interesting” to “Nevermind, I guess not”. He did stab Eddie in the cheek though, so there’s that. Eddie stabbing him back through the shower curtain was certainly a heart-jumping moment. I just wish Bowers was more properly utilized because, in the end, he was just a waste of Pennywise’s abilities.

This all being said, I don’t think It: Chapter Two is a bad movie. The visual and sound effects were grabbing, and they honestly could not have picked a better cast to portray the fully-grown Losers, who are still just as witty and comical as when they were children. It was still a pleasure watching them interact on-screen, and the flashbacks were all heart-pulling. The jump scares still made me jump. As a stand-alone film, it works well. But compared to the first segment of this adaptation of Stephen King’s classic,  It: Chapter 2 fell a little short of my expectations because I knew exactly what to expect as the narrative progressed.

If you watch this movie without having seen the first part, then it will be an absolute treat for you. It is a good movie, and worth seeing at least once. But it doesn’t have anything on the first chapter.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

Slender Man Made Me Do It

Slender Man Made Me Do It

Slender Man was only meant to be a story, but sometimes reality and stories get blurry.

The unfortunate, real-life event that “Before She Was Found” was based on.

Escape From Uncle Sam's Island

Famous for containing some of the most violent and destructive prisoners in American History, Alcatraz Island juts out of the dark waters of San Francisco Bay. Bleakly surrounded by sharp currents and sharks, prisoners were kept in line with the grim reality that escape was near impossible. No refuge could be found on the grim rock of Alcatraz Island.

Men, like Al Capone, were cycled into the island and forced to live in imprisonment. Their crimes were heinous enough to secure them into this almost impenetrable prison. Most of the men who tried to escape were swiftly returned, or ended up dead. Those who managed to sneak their way past the guards would be swept away by the sea, and they would never be seen again.

It was not surprising that these prisoners toed the line and tested the odds, due to their lengthy histories in running against the law and risking everything.

There was a long history in attempted escapes from Alcatraz. In 1938, three men murdered a guard before they were shot down. Three years later, other prisoners attempted to filed down the bars of their cells to flee, but eventually surrendered their efforts. It was a constant desire to flee that ran through the men. Alcatraz gave men a raw desperation that they needed to escape, no matter the risk. They would attack guards with flimsy tools or they would plunge into the icy waters, willing to face the sharks.

Generations of prisoners would fumble with their attempts to escape, but it took until 1962 for true success.

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Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin managed to pull off the most devious caper on June 11th. As bank robbers, they had been sentenced to serve their time at Alcatraz by the American justice system. However, they managed to use their clever wit to break their way out of the supposedly impenetrable walls, and possibly survive.

There were three key elements to their success. The first, was in order to escape the prison itself, they had to carve a tunnel out of the wall of their cell with sharpened spoons. Due to the darkness of the prison and the music hour that was often hosted, they were able to effectively hide their efforts from the guards. This tunnel led up to a vent, allowing for their escape into the night.

Disguising their vanishing was the second part. Each of the three men stole human hair from the barbershop in the prison, and used papier-mache to create dummies. Paired with the hair, the dummies were positioned on their bunks, allowing to throw suspicion off for a short period and giving them a head start.

The final, and arguably the most important, element of their plan had been using fifty stolen raincoats to devise a functioning life raft. This feat of engineering allowed the men to survive the waters and make it to land.

This was the first known successful escape from the prison. If you hadn’t heard about the escape and the high survival odds of these three men, don’t worry. Alcatraz prison, along with the FBI, worked hard to cover their plight and claimed that the bodies of the men had been swept into the sea.

Alcatraz was a dominating force, a hulking dark creation of cells and hard rock. Men were confronted with the cold reality that there was no relief to their situation. Their wild personalities had to die in order for their survival.  Alcatraz, however, was a force that rose against these men and smothered their behaviours.

The story of Morris and the Anglin brothers might have vanished entirely, if it hadn’t been for a letter written to the San Francisco police department. John Anglin claimed that he was the only member of the trio currently alive, and that he would turn himself in if he would receive medical care for his cancer.

This letter went under rigorous testing for DNA and fingerprints, and results reportedly returned as inconclusive. Perhaps it was a hoax written by local boys, or a tourist inspired by the true history of the island.

Or, it was the attempt to solidify the truth of their escape, and their survival.

I’d like to imagine that this was in fact an honest letter written by the hand of John Anglin. In recent years, plenty have attempted to swim from Alcatraz Island to the shores of San Francisco, eager to fight against the swift currents and small sharks that roam the waters. While these swimmers are not escaped convicts, it does serve to defend the very real possibility that it is in fact, not impossible.  


Interested in one of the most daring swims of your life? Check out this article by Graham Little on it.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Memento Mori

Acceptance—and grief—has many forms. 

When a loved one dies, we don’t want to imagine what our life will be like without them.

We grasp for whatever we can in order to hold on to them. We cut a lock of their hair, carry photos of them, wear their favorite accessory or article of clothing to feel as though they are still with us. Anything connected to a memory of them we can cling to.

Funerals are a common way for us to gather around and share memories of our loved ones when they pass on, yet they are usually seen as dreary, solemn rites that are a mandatory part of mourning. Our loved ones are colorful and unique individuals who should be celebrated, even as we grieve our loss. So why not send them off in a similar fashion?

Here are some interesting funerary rites for you, your friends, and family members to consider being remembered by.

If you’re interested in helping sustain the environment even after you're gone, there are plenty of ways for you to do so. 

Photo courtesy of ckohtala via Flickr

Photo courtesy of ckohtala via Flickr

Capsula Mundi are egg-shaped pods that encapsulate one’s remains and buried under the ground with a sapling of your choice. The sapling grows from the nutrients provided by the remains and flourishes into a tree. The pods themselves are biodegradable and assist in the sapling’s growth.

But if becoming a tree doesn’t interest you, then how about a coral reef?

Photo courtesy of Richard Lindley via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Richard Lindley via Flickr

In the United States, a company called Eternal Reefs will attach your remains to a reef, helping to stabilize the ecosystem. When you pass, your remains are compressed into a Reef Ball. Reef balls are constructed habitats that prevent ocean hazards from displacing the remains or destroying the coral reefs. This establishes a safe environment for oceanic wildlife to thrive.

Many people have heard of turning corpses into diamonds, but what about something as simple as beads?

In South Korea, many families have their loved ones compressed into an array of colourful beads. These beads are then displayed at home as a reassuring reminder that they are always around. Having such a dense population, South Korea doesn’t have the capacity to bury its dead anymore. As such, a law was established in 2000 that a body can only be buried for 60 years, and then the family has to dig up the remains and find something else to do with them. This is one of the main reasons why South Koreans simply choose to have their loved ones transformed into something more meaningful than just leaving them to rot to begin with.

I’ll admit, the term “fantasy coffin” sounds a little...strange.

But I also have to admit that these bad boys are pretty cool.

In Ghana, these “fantasy coffins” have kicked your standard wooden boxes to the curb. I mean, why get buried in any old casket when you can get one specially designed to look like that 1969 Ford Mustang you’ve always wanted?

Photo courtesy of Regula Tschumi via Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Regula Tschumi via Wikimedia Commons

“Fantasy coffin” maker Joseph Ashong has had all sorts of requests, from seashells to animals to tributes to the deceased’s idol. The purpose of these coffins is to represent something that was important in that person’s life. I personally think it’d be bad-ass to be buried in a pirate ship. For specific communities in Ghana, however, these coffins are extra-special as they believe these are what will take them to their next life, which is why it’s so important to have something that represents them.

Funerals don’t have to be dark and depressing. 

In New Orleans, funeral progressions are often accompanied by a jazz band, filling the streets with music and enticing everyone to dance. These progressions are honestly more like parades celebrating the life of the loved one. In the past, they could last for as long as an entire week.

Personally, I’d like to be cremated or planted with a tree. And while I hope none of you have to prepare for a funeral anytime soon, I hope you found these rites interesting and unique, and that this article reminds you to keep your loved ones close. Never miss a chance to let them know how much you cherish them.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

#SaveAmazonia

Modern Western society has a fundamental problem with using shame to encourage people to do things en-masse. And don’t get me wrong, there are certainly instances where this is helpful. However, it can also be of great detriment to the cause one is trying to support.

When I first heard that the Amazon Rainforest was burning, I also learned that I was three weeks late in hearing about this. I instantly felt enraged. The environment has always been a hot button topic, but surely the Amazon is a big enough deal that it burning down is something everyone should be aware of and be on top of, especially three weeks in.

Photo retrieved from Facebook; Original source unknown

Photo retrieved from Facebook; Original source unknown

The problem is, this was the headline that first alerted me to the fires: “When Notre Dame was burning, the world’s media covered every moment of it and billionaires rushed to restore it. Right now the Amazon is burning, the lungs of our planet. It has been burning for 3 weeks now. No media coverage. No billionaires. #PrayforAmazonia.”

So here’s the thing: the Amazon burning down has absolutely nothing to do with the fire that damaged Notre Dame cathedral. Using this comparison is not only completely useless, but is going to have a detrimental effect on garnering attention for the Amazon.

The fact that people cared about Notre Dame is not a problem here. The fact that the Amazon burning down with little to no assistance is. There is no correlation between these two things. And when aiming to get someone’s attention for a cause in a social media news feed, calling them out with the typical headline of “why did you care about event x and not event z” is the quickest way to lose their attention. This has been proven in event after event, disaster after disaster. In addition to this, a majority of these headlines do nothing to actually alert everyone to what’s happening. They don’t fix the lack of awareness, they simply announce that a lack of awareness exists.

So instead of focusing on shame, we should all be focusing on educating.

Because the fact of the matter here remains: the Amazon is still burning, media coverage is only just beginning and it’s not yet nearly enough. For all of us on this planet.

Allow me to explain a little bit about why.

A section of the Amazon pre-fires; Photo courtesy of Ivan Milnaric via Flickr

A section of the Amazon pre-fires; Photo courtesy of Ivan Milnaric via Flickr

The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, taking up 5.5 million square kilometres. Nine different countries lay claim to sections of the Amazon, the largest of which is Brazil, at 60%.

The Amazon contains approximately 390 billion trees, which include around 16,000 different types. What’s more, tropical rainforests, such as the Amazon, are composed of a type of climate that provides home to a larger variety of species than any other kind of climate, and rainforests in North and South America contain more varieties than similar forests in Africa and Asia. This means that the Amazon is home to a wider range of species—both plant and animal—than anywhere else in the world.

With this in mind, when the Amazon Rainforest is threatened, as it is by the current raging fires, all of these species of animals and plants are threatened as well. One in ten of the world’s species (the ones we’re aware of anyway) call the Amazon home. If the forest burns, and these living things go with it, that is not only a massive hit to the world, but it also deeply affects life as we—the human beings inhabiting this planet—know it. And not in a small way.

I will spare you the lecture on the effects of taking out whole pieces of the food chain, but I would like to focus a little more closely on the plants that exist within the Amazon.

Any creature on this planet that requires oxygen to live owes a debt of gratitude to trees. Let’s for a moment just do a bit of math. If trees are an important part of getting the oxygen we need to live, if they’re quite literally responsible for the air we breathe, and the Amazon, as established above, contains the world’s largest collection of trees in one place, then it stands to reason that the Amazon is important for more than just beauty and a wide range of critters.

Two of the many animals that call the Amazon home; Photo courtesy of maxpixel.net

Two of the many animals that call the Amazon home; Photo courtesy of maxpixel.net

For those of you that work best with numbers, let’s give this all a bit of perspective. The Amazon Rainforest and all of its plants and trees are responsible for 20% of the world’s oxygen. This is not a small thing that’s currently happening. If the Amazon burns down, animals will lose their home, tribes of Indigenous People will lose their home, we will lose whole species of plants and animals, global weather patterns will be affected, etc. We as inhabitants of this planet will suffer dramatically. But, above all else, it will severely impact our access to oxygen. The Amazon, the lungs of planet Earth, is burning, and she’s taking ⅕ of the air in all of our lungs with her.

And now, we must turn our focus to the source of this catastrophic destruction.

Deforestation means completely removing a forest, or a whole section of forest, in order to make room for land that will be used for developmental purposes, such as residential areas and commercial use. The Amazon has more or less always had a problem with deforestation. However, when I say this, I don’t mean for the same purposes as today, and I certainly don’t mean at the rapid rates that the forest is currently being taken down.

According to Mongabay, “For most of human history, deforestation in the Amazon was primarily the product of subsistence farmers who cut down trees to produce crops for their families and local consumption.” Essentially, local farmers took down a very small amount of trees on occasion in order to provide for their families. Nowadays, that is no longer the case. In the late 1970s, cutting down a couple of trees on occasion turned into clearcutting huge sections of forests for industrialization and, largely, cattle-ranching.

This means that the Amazon Rainforest, the same forest we established above as playing a very important part in the survival of all living beings on this planet, is being rapidly cut down for selfish, short-sighted reasons.

I’m sure at this point you’re wondering what exactly deforestation and cattle-ranching has to do with forest fires—something that greatly sucks, but is often an unfortunate natural occurrence. The thing is, the fires currently blazing in the Amazon are not an accident of nature.

Examples of corporate greed dominating over caring for the environment are scattered throughout human history. In my twenty-four years on this planet, I can think of dozens of examples, including the government ignoring laws and responsibilities towards critically endangered species and what’s going on with the Trans Mountain Pipeline on Canada’s West Coast.

The skies over São Paulo, Brazil, blackened with smoke in the middle of the day. Photo courtesy of: Picture Alliance/ Andre Lucas/ Getty via InsideHook

The skies over São Paulo, Brazil, blackened with smoke in the middle of the day. Photo courtesy of: Picture Alliance/ Andre Lucas/ Getty via InsideHook

As I said at the beginning of this article, the environment and what we as inhabitants of this planet should be doing to maintain it has always been a hot button topic. Most recently, political candidates are being heavily discouraged from talking about climate change in their campaigns because it is widely viewed as a detriment to their ability to be elected. Far too many people still believe that climate change either isn’t worth our action, or just isn’t real or pressing enough in the first place.

But what’s happening in the Amazon is perhaps the most alarming thing that’s happened to date. The main problem isn’t that too many people don’t know or don’t care about what’s happening. It’s that the source of the fires has far too much power.

Jair Bolsonaro is the current President of Brazil, and the person with the ability to arrange efforts to fight the fires. Despite this, he is doing shockingly little, and social media and news outlets are full of his excuses as to why. All of them are problematic at best.

The Prime Minister of France, Emmanuel Macron, has sent out a call to arms of sorts, to other world leaders, imploring them all to discuss the ongoing crisis with the Amazon, and how best to put an end to it, at the G7, which happened this past weekend, on August 24th through 26th. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his agreement to this, along with several other world leaders. The secretary for the United Nations, and the Bishops Conference for Latin America also spoke out about their concern and their desire to take action.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President; Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President; Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons

Bolsonaro’s response to this, though, was to essentially tell other countries to stop meddling in Brazil’s affairs. When relief efforts were offered and monetary donations were sent, he responded in a live broadcast, saying “these countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity. They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty.” Just before these comments, however, he dismissed those that called for him to act by saying that Brazil “did not have the resources” to fight the Amazon fires alone. Even still, he’s accused of having turned away relief efforts, and is doing little by way of having the fires dealt with himself.

This behaviour alone is suspicious, and becomes downright condemning when presented in combination with the accusations that Bolsonaro had a personal hand in starting the fires in the first place, in order to encourage cattle-ranching in newly cleared land. 

The thing is, these accusations don’t just come from nowhere. They’re not the result of an angry group of people that simply want to make a world leader look bad. Bolsonaro’s political campaign is founded on a disregard for the environment, particularly in reference to the Amazon. He’s expressed support for miners, farmers, and loggers, people who aren’t themselves negative, but require space that he’s taking from the Amazon to give them.

As of Thursday, August 22nd, there were more than 2,500 active fires blazing throughout the Amazon. It is a certainty that a majority of, if not all, these fires were deliberately set; there simply exists no proof as of yet in terms of who set the fires.

An investigation is underway in Brazil, and Bolsonaro continues to point fingers while being fairly useless in regards to actively trying to stop the fires and save the forest. He has suggested many possible suspects, including local farmers, and environmental groups he claims set the fires in order to make him look bad after he cut their funding.

Proving that a government official, especially a world leader, has done something like this is not a small or easy undertaking, and it’s not likely that any one person or even a group of people will be able to do it. What is possible is putting enough scrutiny and pressure on said official so they are unable to continue what they’re doing.

Keeping that in mind, as well as all the information I’ve presented you here, I would like to wrap this up by giving you some suggestions of what you can do on an individual basis to help the Amazon Rainforest and all of its plant, animal, and human inhabitants. I’ve always been someone who has wanted to help world issues such as this one, but I never know quite what to do. As I began this article by saying, people are so quick to shame and blame those for what they are or aren’t doing, but serious, real tips on what each individual inhabitant of this world can do to solve these issues isn’t given nearly as often as it should be.

So:

Talk About and Share What’s Happening:

The number one thing we need to do is circulate true information that not only informs everyone as to what’s happening and how to help, but calls attention to Bolsonaro’s actions. Whether or not he actually set the fires isn’t as important as making sure he deals with them and ensures they’re put out. The more attention we put on him, the harder it will be for him to refuse to do anything.

We’ve already proven with social media that we’re really good at calling attention to issues. The next step is making sure that the information put out there is accurate, backed up by research, and informative. Remember: don’t simply shame someone for not knowing what’s happening or not supporting a cause. Explain to them what the problem is, and why they should do something about it.

If you can do nothing else, you can at the very least share news articles and posts about what’s happening.

Support Organizations Helping in the Fight

There are a number of people and organizations that have been fighting the destruction of the Amazon for years now, including the tribes of Indigenous People that make a home out of the Amazon. In order to properly discuss these tribes and all of their contributions to the forest and their ways of life and the lawsuits they’ve filed (and won—which makes what’s happening even worse) in order to prevent deforestation of the Amazon, I would need a whole other post. They’ve been fighting tooth and nail in a battle they don’t deserve to lose.

Here is a list of organizations that aim to actively help fight the fires and fund further resistance to government and business attacks on the Amazon and the Indigenous People that live within it:

SOS Amazonia Logo

SOS Amazonia Logo

  • Survival International: This site fights alongside Indigenous People all over the world, including some of the tribes within the Amazon, in an effort to help amplify their voices, and to fight things such as the deforestation of the Amazon and the fires that are currently blazing.

  • Amazon Watch: Amazon Watch provides detailed, accurate information about what’s happening, who’s responsible, and what can be done to stop it. They list many ways one can take action to stop and prevent further destruction of the Amazon, discuss climate change, and protect indigenous people and their rights.

  • Rainforest Concern: They aim to protect Indigenous People who make their homes in rainforests, as well as protecting all the wildlife and animals that live in these places. Their main concern is rainforests and habitats that are being threatened. They have a major focus on the Amazon Rainforest.

  • SOS Amazonia: This is a site specifically for saving the Amazon from the current forest fires. It includes education on what’s happening and what widespread effects and consequences we’ll all be facing, as well as how to stop it.

Support Organizations that Plant Trees

The number one problem with deforestation is that it takes away massive amounts of trees, which are of vital importance to our ability to breathe clean air. There are a number of organizations that aim to plant trees to combat all the ones being taken down. Here are just a couple to start you off.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

  • Ecosia: Ecosia is an Internet search engine that works just the same as the power players such as Google, and Bing, etc, but for every approximately every 45 searches, it plants a tree where a tree is most needed.

  • One Tree Planted: This is a reforestation project based in Peru. 60% of Peru is covered by the Amazon, and this project aims to help fight against the deforestation that’s happening, and build habitats back up for various birds, as well as other animals such as jaguars. They’re focused on a danger zone specifically in Peru, but they do actively work to replant trees that are part of sections of the Amazon.

Sign Petitions

I recognize that these days, petitions are a dime a dozen, and they often feel like they aren’t doing much. However, when you think about the first point here, which was to make as much noise and really call out Bolsonaro and other government officials with the power to do something, signing petitions goes hand-in-hand with this. Make your voice loud, and make your voice heard. We’re fighting for our lives right now.

Here are two petitions actively working to combat the Amazon forest fires:

  • Greenpeace: This petition will go straight to the Brazilian government.

  • Change: This petition asks authorities to further investigate the wildfires and who’s responsible, so as to put a stop to them.

These are just a small handful of things you can do to help stop the fires and save the Amazon. That being said, it’s always important to continue to do your own research, and make sure that the information you’re getting is complete and accurate. And as always, make sure you share as much as possible with those who may not know or understand what’s happening.

Individual voices can be far more powerful than you think, and in a world with such quick access to social media and news platforms, we can make our voices heard.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

The Apparitions of William Mumler

Engraving of Mumler published in Harper's Magazine, May 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Engraving of Mumler published in Harper's Magazine, May 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Picking up a camera out of personal interest, the Boston jewellery engraver probably never imagined that any fame he’d garner would be for capturing the spirits of the dead.

This was the golden age of modern spiritualism; much of what we consider today as superstition was held as steadfast belief for many.  Spiritualists clung to anything that validated their beliefs, so when word got around that William Mumler was capable of producing photos of the dead, everyone flocked to him.

People sat poised in the hopes of seeing their loved ones, and many of them proclaimed Mumler’s legitimacy as the images of long-dead family members emerged from the negatives. Most of his clients had lost relatives in the Civil War and sought closure from his services. And while he advertised his work as a balm for the grieving heart, charging $5-10 for his compassion afforded him a rather comfortable lifestyle for that era.

Mumler welcomed numerous skeptics to investigate his process and catch where he was at fault; they all found nothing. His developing methods were standard, as was his equipment, and no one detected any possible sleight of hand. Every theory they prepared was not given a shred of solid, credible proof. It truly seemed that he was the real deal, and his fame spread with each attempt at debunking him.

It didn’t last. His business in spiritual photography soon declined in Boston, however, when even other mediums and spiritualists began denouncing his reputation. Mumler packed up shop and headed for New York, but he still wasn’t clear of accusations.

Mumler was charged with fraudulency and put under criminal investigation. At a hearing, multiple photographers voiced all of the potential ways trickery could produce a spectral figure, the most likely explanation being double exposure. But there were also many professional photographers who stood by Mumler, giving his case credibility in the courtroom.

Unknown woman with a spectral child, taken by Mumler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unknown woman with a spectral child, taken by Mumler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s worth mentioning that Mumler never guaranteed his photos would produce any spirits. In his personal advertisements, he declared that his main object was to bring families comfort in their mourning.

Mumler’s defense team also arranged for a number of his clients to take the stand, and they all testified that the images were legitimate and provided the comfort they sought. In turn, the prosecution called upon Phineas Taylor Barnum (P.T. Barnum).

A well known showman and hoax artist, Barnum was known for revealing the truth of phony acts created to deceive people into forking over their dollars. He himself had lined his with pockets with money made from deceptions, his most famous being the “Feejee Mermaid”.

Barnum swore before the judge that he had, in the past, purchased some of Mumler’s photographs for his museum, and that Mumler himself admitted that they were all fake. But since Barnum was unable to provide the condemning letters, this part of his testimony held no weight in the courtroom.

However, Barnum was able to provide some key evidence against Mumler. He hired professional photographer Abraham Bogardus to take a photo of him and use it to recreate Mumler’s famed spirit photos. Bogardus easily duplicated a ghostly image of Abraham Lincoln into the background. But this was the only solid piece of evidence presented in the courtroom, and since duplication was still presented as only a potential method of deception, witnesses were divided amongst themselves.

In the end, the judge ended up dropping the charges due to the lack of substantial evidence against him, even though he also believed Mumler was a fraud. Mumler was free to leave the courtroom and continue conducting his business. 

However, his reputation had once again been dragged through the mud, and this time it was stained. 

Although the evidence brought before the judge was not enough to put Mumler behind bars, it was more than enough to turn away potential customers. The technical explanations professional photographers presented outweighed the lack of evidence in their minds. No one wanted to place their money on a scam. 

His works have since been discredited as acts of double-exposure since Mumler potentially had access to already existing photos of the deceased to develop over, thus creating the illusion of their spirit. As for how he would have accessed these photos, or how more professionally trained photographers were unable to catch any proof of fraudulency, one can’t say for sure.

In any case, Mumler destroyed all of his negatives before he died, so there is no longer any way to examine them further with today’s technology.

The only notable commission he received after his hearing would be from Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Aware of Mumler’s negative reputation, she was nonetheless still pleased with the results and found great comfort in the photograph for the rest of her days.

Eventually, his photography career would pick back up again, as he stopped taking commissions for spirit photos and only produced legitimate photos of living persons. His success would never reach its former heights, though.

But what about the people who swore the phantom figures held the likeness of their loved ones?

Most of Mumler’s photographs were not extremely detailed—most of the alleged spirits showed up as a blur or an outline. So the most logical explanation is that their loved ones appeared simply because they were desperate to see them again. Their minds made the likenesses out of the obscure lines just to once again have something tangible to cling to.

Perhaps the true deceptor was in their own minds.

The photo taken of Mary Todd Lincoln, found on Wikimedia Commons.

The photo taken of Mary Todd Lincoln, found on Wikimedia Commons.

The only notable commission he received after his hearing would be from Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Aware of Mumler’s negative reputation, she was nonetheless still pleased with the results and found great comfort in the photograph for the rest of her days.

Eventually, his photography career would pick back up again, as he stopped taking commissions for spirit photos and only produced legitimate photos of living persons. His success would never reach its former heights, though.

But what about the people who swore the phantom figures held the likeness of their loved ones?

Most of Mumler’s photographs were not extremely detailed—most of the alleged spirits showed up as a blur or an outline. So the most logical explanation is that their loved ones appeared simply because they were desperate to see them again. Their minds made the likenesses out of the obscure lines just to once again have something tangible to cling to.

Perhaps the true deceiver was in their own minds.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

8 Spooky Social Media Recommendations

Voices in the Attic began as a school group project at Algonquin College, between 5 students who all shared a general taste for the dark, disturbing, and macabre. Because of this, I like to think we’re all particularly good at finding the creepier places on the Internet. Of course, all the Voices up in the Attic have their own favourites, but I’d like to share with you just a few of mine.

Reddit is a particularly favourite haunt of mine, and was even before I actually liked horror. ‘Guilty pleasure’ is probably not quite right, though it was something I felt like I shouldn’t be doing, but just couldn’t help. After all, I would read through just a few stories, and then not sleep for a week. On this site, there are two threads in particular that I like to peruse:

Creepy Things Kids Say

Photo courtesy of darksouls1 via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of darksouls1 via Pixabay

“Creepy Things Kids Say” is a thread that is pretty much self-explanatory. It asks all the parents (or anyone that spends time around children) of Reddit to tell stories of the creepiest things their offspring have ever said or done. Some involve stories of children that seem to be recounting past lives, others are things that suggest certain parents have future serial killers on their hands, and others take a more paranormal turn. I’ve read so many that I couldn’t even begin to pick favourites (though there are an alarming number of children that talk to shadows in their closets), but I do highly recommend you check these out for yourself. Maybe don’t do what I did though, and read them while home alone, or just before bed. Then again, if you’re into the added level of terror, go for it!

Unfortunately, the thread is archived, so it’s no longer open to comments and contributions, but if you search around enough, new threads for the same subject are often popping up. And if you do have stories of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments section below this post!

Unexplained Paranormal Happenings

While this particular thread is also archived, there are several iterations of it, and much like “Creepy Things Kids Say”, they also pop up fresh from time-to-time.

This thread is even broader than “Creepy Things Kids Say” in that it essentially encompasses any creepy, unexplained encounter a person has experienced. There are instances of ghosts, both benevolent and malevolent, there are alien encounters, there are even incidents that seem to imply a glitch in time. Some reports are more on the vague side, coloured lights flashing from no apparent source, or sounds that seem to come from nowhere. But others get very specific. In the end, the only thing these stories all have in common is that they were never explained.

Some seem quite nice, like relatives visiting from beyond the grave, while others are so creepy that I had to sleep with the light on for several days after reading them. Nonetheless, I still continue to scroll through this thread from time-to-time, and also highly recommend it for anyone looking for a few chills on a night home alone.

Moving on from Reddit, I’ll make a brief stop on Twitter, with only one account. However, it is an account I enjoy immensely.

Witch Court Reporter

Photo courtesy of Eddie Howell via Unsplash

Photo courtesy of Eddie Howell via Unsplash

“Witch Court Reporter” is an account that ‘live tweets’ proceedings and details surrounding historical witch trials as though they’re happening this minute. It generally involves a lot of misbehaviour and antics from witches, but cats and children are also mentioned quite a bit throughout the tweets.

The tweets seem to cycle through different periods of history, and different trials or incidents. They’re categorized by hashtags used by the account. One of the most recent batches is filed under “#wilts1661”, and actually overs an incident another of this Attic’s Voices covered, which is the Daemon of Tedworth.

The tweets range from the mundane to more horrifying, and while nothing that I’ve noticed is terribly graphic, they do, on a number of occasions, reference torture, illness, and death, so if you’re sensitive to these things, do be aware. It’s an account worth checking out, however. It’s one of the first accounts Voices in the Attic followed on Twitter, and they’re pretty good for a bit of quick historical horror browsing for anyone interested in the witch trials, history, or horror in general.

But of course, no list of social media horror hotspots is quite complete without making its way through YouTube.

MostAmazingTop10

I’m certainly not new to the YouTube community. I’ve been poking my way through different fandoms and music videos and whatnot since I was twelve years old, and the horror community is only my latest stop. That being said, I’ve always had a sort of fascination in the creepy and the unexplained.

MostAmazingTop10 was a channel I stumbled upon by accident. I can’t remember what it was exactly that I was watching at the time, but one of their videos cropped up in the recommended sidebar, and the title was quick to grab my attention. In fact, all of their titles are pretty attention-grabbing for horror fans.

As their channel name suggests, each of their videos is a top 10 list, and they each follow a theme. For instance, some of their videos are: “Top 10 Scary Iceberg Stories”, “Top 10 Mysterious Hidden Tapes That Were Found”, and “Top 10 Scary Islands Nobody Wants to Live On” to name just a few. They cover a range of subjects from creepy theories surrounding popular TV shows, myths and legends, video recordings, etc.

The videos cycle through four different hosts who are, at the current moment, Rebecca Felgate, Landon Dowlatsingh, Ayman Hasan, and Che Durena.

Personally, I like Rebecca’s videos the best. She runs a witty, slightly sarcastic commentary while delivering her lists, and some of her subjects even include creepy things with a comedic twist such as “Top 10 Scary Things You Should Never Say to Siri”, which involves her antagonizing Siri, with rather eerie results.

That being said, each host brings their own flare to the lists they present. Che is the newest, but he grew on me very quickly as he has a very calm, collected tone while telling stories, which somehow makes his stories that much creepier.

All in all, it’s a very creepy channel, with excellent stories and even more excellent storytellers.

Mr. Nightmare

Mr. Nightmare’s logo; Property of Mr. Nightmare

Mr. Nightmare’s logo; Property of Mr. Nightmare

My latest creepy craze is Mr. Nightmare videos. Unlike MostAmazingTop10, Mr. Nightmare is narrated by just one person. It does follow the same vein as the former though, in that it’s a channel that presents lists of themed creepy stories. Mr. Nightmare’s lists aren’t a set length, though, and each video has a random number of stories.

Another difference between the two is that while MostAmazingTop10’s lists are researched and compiled by the hosts, Mr. Nightmare’s lists are composed of stories submitted by channel viewers. Somehow, I feel, this makes the tellings all the more creepy.

Mr. Nightmare delivers his lists one story at a time, just like any other list channel, but instead of simply narrating them, he uses sound effects and creepy music in the background, that really ups the chill-factor. I often have goosebumps while listening to his stories.

Some of his videos include: “3 True Scary Walmart Horror Stories”, “4 Creepy True Uber Stories”, and “3 Creepy True Attic Horror Stories”.

I dare you to give his stories a listen sometime.

KendallRae

Unfortunately, no matter what you believe in when it comes to the paranormal, some stories in this world are heartbreakingly true. Kendall Rae is a YouTuber who highlights true crime videos. Every video is the result of clear research and effort she puts into shedding light on unsolved crime cases such as murders and missing persons. Her hope, as she’s explained in some videos, is to garner new attention for cases, whether they be cold cases or fresh crimes, in the hopes of solving them and either returning a missing person to their family, or bringing a family peace and/ or closure in the face of a horrible tragedy that can’t be undone.

There’s honestly so much to say about Kendall Rae, but first and foremost, she’s a very rare person. She’s someone who clearly has great interest in unsolved cases and mysteries, but rather than simply indulge a morbid fascination, she chose to go one step further with her interest, and found a way to use it to help people. In fact, some of her videos even have second parts after a conclusion has been reached in a case, where she updates viewers on what happened.

Her videos generally range anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes long, but regardless of length, they’re all very captivating. With every one I watch, I find myself sucked into the story she weaves, as she gives a summary of the case, and then presents which theories police and other investigators have gone over and dismissed or focused in on.

Before I continue on in my list, I’d like to drop a quick mention to Thorn, which is a foundation she strongly supports in all her videos that feature missing people. It’s a foundation run by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, which aims to save exploited children, and help put an end to sex-trafficking. Please visit the linked website for more information.

With that in mind, I’ll continue through my list, into the territory of other blogs and sites that run in a similar vein to Voices in the Attic!

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura logo; property of Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura logo; property of Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is an online magazine and travel company that aims to catalogue all the world’s strangest places to go and sights to see. The coolest part about this site, however, is that its content is user-generated. Anyone who signs up for an account can contribute content to the site or suggest edits for articles already posted. Because of this, it contains vast amounts of information gathered from all around the world.

Categories that can be contributed to are places, food, stories, videos, events, and trips. And once you click through to any of these links on the site, you’re brought to pages and pages of articles about the world’s oddities. Topics covered on Voices in the Attic, can also be found on Atlas Obscura, such as the Alnwick Poison Gardens, and Toronto’s Casa Loma.

For anyone interested in taking a trip and seeing the strangest sights they can find, or even just learning more about the absurdities found in their own backyard, Atlas Obscura is an excellent place to start.

Notebook of Ghosts

Notebook of Ghosts is an online blog run by a woman named Ash. According to the site, it began, much like Voices, as a small project, that grew into something more. For her, it was a personal interest. She kept a notebook when she was younger of all the ghost stories, terminology, and quotes she heard that she wanted to remember.

Now that notebook is a more polished presentation to the world, in the form of Notebook of Ghosts. It serves to educate readers about the world of the paranormal, and encourage discussion about what is real and what isn’t. The site is filled with articles about all manner of paranormal and generally spooky things. So if your thirst for the paranormal is craving more creepy sites to read through, and more stories to uncover, this is a great stop for you.

***

These are just a few of the creepy places on the Internet that I like to spend my time, but there are so, so many more where they came from. I encourage you to read through and enjoy these, and even do some digging of your own. Who knows what you might come up with?


In that vein, if you know of any haunts these Voices could hang around, feel free to drop a link or a mention in the comments below. Shameless self-promotion is always welcome, and even strongly encouraged.


378967_238880029509354_1636456070_n.jpg

Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

An Afterthought From European Travel For The Monstrous Gentlewoman

I had been excited for over a year to finally have a chance to read European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. And when it was finally in my possession, my paperback copy sat on my shelf, beckoning me to start reading as soon as I had the chance.

The members of the Athena Club—Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine—were all waiting for me to indulge in their latest adventure.

I was not disappointed. Theodora Goss has once again outdone herself.

I celebrated my birthday this year by reading this beauty.

I celebrated my birthday this year by reading this beauty.

Being twice the size of its predecessor, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, definitely means there’s twice the action. This plot is more complex but still transitions smoothly as the girls travel across the European continent in search of Lucinda Van Helsing—a young girl being subjected to experiments in biological transmutation, which is a common theme for the Athena Club. 

Our protagonists are the results of various alchemical experimentations conducted by their fathers—great scientists who believed that their work would create a higher man. You’ve heard of them before in the world of literature: the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Rappacini and his poisonous garden, the island of Moreau. And we all know of Frankenstein’s monster.

So of course the Athena Club was quick to run to the girl’s rescue and I wanted nothing more than to pack my bags and run with them.

This entire series so far brings scientific morality upfront and center—just because something can be done, should it? And to what end? 

Morality is a huge grey area for a society of prestigious scientists, the Société des Alchemistes, and the girls are intent on changing that. They know firsthand how inhumane a scientist’s methods can be in order to bring their aspirations to fruition. 

Theodora Goss sets future plot-points in motion well in advance for them to intersect naturally. And I absolutely love her method for foreshadowing. If you ever have a chance to read this series—which I highly recommend you do—pay close attention to the girls’ commentary throughout the narrative. I found myself stumbling across events that the girls had already discussed in the previous book.

My only nitpick about this novel is that Goss often relies on acts of generosity to assist the girls’ adventures, and while everything fits together seamlessly, it would have been nice to see them progress more independently like the strong women they have already proven themselves to be. 

Goss has created a lot of depth within these pages, and reading them was a very contemplative experience for me. Without realizing it, I had dived into much-needed conversations with myself that I had been completely avoiding.

So I want to bring up something important European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman addresses, and that’s how the people we know impact our lives.

Someone I used to know once told me:

“If you want to see how other people see you, look at who your friends are.”

Everyone you meet can create a change in you, and the company you keep reflects on who you are as an individual.

The girls of the Athena Club certainly learned a multitude of life lessons from their encounters, such as the lovely and feisty Irene Norton, snake-charming Zora, and the bold Carmilla Karnstein. And their interactions certainly presented character growth.

But what about the people you have no choice in knowing, such as your parents?

A significant part of the girls’ character arcs revolves around their fathers. Being the results of their experimentation, it is difficult for them to maintain normal lives. 

Books contain the most exciting adventures.

Books contain the most exciting adventures.

Beatrice cannot have direct physical contact without poisoning her loved ones, in fact, no one can be in the same room as her for any lengthy period of time. Justine has clear signs of PTSD as she struggles to adjust to her new life outside of solitude. Catherine was once a wild animal—a puma taken from the Andes—and although she was physically transformed into a human being, she still has much to learn about actually being human.

I think it’s safe to say that Diana is doing just fine, the little hellion that she is, although a little slip of foreshadowing on Goss’s part may herald a turning point for her.

But Mary, as our true window into the narrative, whose father left her at a young age and has strongly opposed to the girls calling themselves monsters, had believed that she was the sole member who had not been physically affected by alchemy. 

But the creeping thought would still sneak up on her:

What if there’s something I don’t know?

Spoiler Alert: her suspicion is correct. 

Mary’s mother, wanting a child more than anything, was barren. Dr. Jekyll, wanting to make his wife happy, slipped a concoction he designed into her tea that enabled her to conceive Mary. 

What exactly this concoction is and how it provided the desired result is up for speculation. Jekyll created it from his research on perfecting the human rationality, and that’s all the information the reader is given.

This concoction more than just produced Mary— it clearly had an impact on her development. She has never cried, blushed, or lashed out because she is unable to do or feel anything irrational or illogical. She was the perfect child who has now grown into Jekyll’s dream of a rational human being without her consciously doing so.

What would you think, how would you feel, to look back and realize that someone has had such an intricate impact in your development? Someone who wasn’t even there for most of your life?

Mary has taken it quite well so far, but it will be interesting to see if that holds up in the next book.

Think about your family, as well as anyone else you’ve ever known. What sort of impact have they had on you? Would you be the person you are today with or without them?


Want to join the Athena Club? You can buy The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and its sequel, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, at Chapters and other bookstores in your area.

Please support your local independent bookstores whenever possible.


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

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