“The Strawberry Shortcake Specials” by Danielle Gelehrter

                                                                           “The Strawberry Shortcake Specials”

                                                        Originally written for 'cereal:geek' magazine in 2012 by Danielle Gelehrter


In 1977, American Greetings’ card illustrator Muriel Fahrion created a character that went on to become a beloved part of 1980s pop culture. This character, with her fruit-scented hair and her pink cat Custard, was called Strawberry Shortcake. American Greetings saw the licensing potential in the character and her many dessert-themed friends and foes. The greeting card company licensed the Strawberry Shortcake characters to Kenner which created a very successful doll line produced between 1979 and 1985. The dolls are still highly sought-after by collectors today. The Strawberry Shortcake phenomenon also spawned miniatures, video games, books, comics, stickers, clothing and, of course, cartoons.

Unlike characters such as Rainbow Brite and Jem, Strawberry Shortcake didn’t have an entire cartoon series all to herself. Instead, Strawberry and her pals appeared in six annual TV specials which aired consecutively between 1980 and 1985.

Robert L. Rosen and Romeo Muller produced the first three specials. Muller, who wrote 1964's legendary Rankin Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as well as 1978’s beloved Puff the Magic Dragon special, also wrote the first three Strawberry Shortcake specials. In addition, Muller voiced Mr. Sun in this initial trio of animated outings. Specials one and three were animated by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson and Toei Doga. Special number two was animated by New York's Perpetual Motion Pictures. The final three specials were brilliantly animated by Canadian animation studio, Nelvana.

These six shows were great fun due primarily to the delightfully wicked villains Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes. The Perculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak (“Yatatatatatatata-rahtataaah!”) was voiced by famed actor and voiceover artist Robert Ridgely, who memorably played the Pieman in all six specials. Ridgeley was also known for his on-screen roles in Maverick, Surfside 6, and Sea Hunt as well as for his voiceover work as Tarzan in Filmation’s Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, Flash Gordon in The New Adventures of Flash Gordon, the title character in Ruby-Spears’ Thundarr the Barbarian, the Pieman in Puff the Magic Dragon (which I suspect led to his role in the Strawberry Shortcake specials) and many more. The only other cast member who remained through all of the specials was the talented Russi Taylor, who starred as Strawberry Shortcake. Taylor is best known as the current voice of Disney’s Minnie Mouse, and has voiced the character since 1986. She also plays the voices of Martin, Sherri and Terri, and Üter on The Simpsons. Purple Pieman’s “old partner in crime,” Sour Grapes, was introduced in the third special and was initially voiced by prolific voice actresses Joan Gerber (Strawberry Shortcake, Pets on Parade) and then by the wonderful Jeri Craden (Strawberry Shortcake: Housewarming Surprise, Strawberry Shortcake and the Baby Without a Name, Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Berrykins).

Recaps of each Special follow, as well as the full specials themselves thanks to YouTube:

The World of Strawberry Shortcake (1980): In the first special, we are introduced to a variety of characters in Strawberryland. We encounter our heroine, Strawberry Shortcake (the epitome of “cute”) and her pink cat Custard. In addition, we meet Huckleberry Pie and Pupcake, Blueberry Muffin, Raspberry Tart, Apple Dumplin’, and Plum Puddin’. We are also introduced to the villainous Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak. The character, as voiced by Ridgely, is something of a cross between classic British comedian Terry-Thomas and Skeletor. He’s over-the-top and strangely compelling. Every time his name is said by anyone, the Pieman follows with an obsessive jaunty jig. In this special, Strawberry Shortcake’s birthday is coming. Her friends secretly prepare a gathering for her. Meanwhile, the Pieman, who can’t stand Shortcake’s berry talk (i.e. “that’s berry nice.”) plots to steal Strawberryland’s famous berries for himself. He disguises himself as an old man and offers to sell Strawberry Shortcake a magical watering can. She can’t afford the item and declines the disguised Pieman’s offer. Of course, Strawberry’s friends come to the rescue and obtain the watering can for her as a gift. Unfortunately, the watering can appears to be cursed. When Strawberry Shortcake pours out some water, the can won’t stop pouring. Soon, all of Strawberryland becomes flooded. The berry kids are forced to strike a bargain with the nefarious Purple Pieman, who stops the water in exchange for Strawberryland’s berries. He also manages to kidnap the toddler Apple Dumplin’ in the process. A despondent Strawberry Shortcake is offered a single wish by Mr. Sun. She makes her wish and is rewarded with a deus ex machina in the form of an army of angry living trees who proceed to storm the Pieman’s Pie Tin palace on Porcupine Peak. In a remarkable turn of events, the Pieman is defeated and then forgiven by Strawberry Shortcake, who tries to teach him to love her berry talk. They launch into a musical number, the Pieman sees the error of his ways, and all is happy in Strawberryland… for now. Incidentally, the musical numbers were written by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, of The Turtles and Flo & Eddie. Overall, this is a fun introduction to the characters. Something about the slightly rough animation style evokes a bit of nostalgia.

Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City (1981): In the second special, Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City, Strawberry is invited to participate in a baking contest at "the little theater off Times Pear."  The invitation is delivered by Escargot, a giant snail with a French accent who coins the phrase "snail mail."  He lets us know, "Snail mail...she is slow."  Strawberry packs her things and makes her way to the big city.  Of course, "that misanthropic fathead with a skinny physique, the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak" is also invited to take part in the contest.  The Pieman, who has returned to his wicked ways, is determined to win the prize with his disgusting kohlrabi cookies.  Purple Pieman enacts several heinous plots in order to prevent Strawberry from ever reaching the theater, though she manages to thwart each obstacle. Along the way, we are introduced to several new characters.  These include, the artistic Orange Blossom, the rather vain Lemon Meringue, Apricot the baby with an interesting vocabulary, and T.N. Honey, a bespectacled girl who spouts stereotypical British catchphrases. T.N. Honey was one of the few characters who never made it into the toyline, alas.  Strawberry Shortcake and the Pieman both make it to the contest.  The TV station manager, who is also the announcer, reveals the prize which is a rose-laden gazebo with a lovely dressing table and wardrobe inside. The Pieman seems all too eager to win this prize! After encountering a series of booby traps, Strawberry manages to take the prize and decides to return to Strawberryland with her new friends.  The station manager desperately wishes to join them, and decides to abandon his post at the station. He then saddles the Pieman with the station as punishment for his cheating ways.

Strawberry Shortcake Pets on Parade (1982) – In the final special from Rosen and Muller, the Strawberry kids hold the “Second Annual Grand Old Petable Pet Show and Pet Parade.”  Strawberry Shortcake and her pet cat Custard serve as judges in the show. New characters and animals are featured here, the most prominent of which are the über-polite Angel Cake and Souffle the Skunk. Angel Cake yearns for a pet, is obsessed with dieting, and says "please" and "thank you" after every sentence. Custard, who can apparently talk, has a heart to heart talk with the skunk at one point. Meanwhile, Purple Pieman seeks to undermine the contest and destroy Strawberry Shortcake once and for all.  He is joined by his "old partner in crime," the yodeling queen of mean, Sour Grapes. The show's highlight is a hilarious musical duet between the Pieman and Sour Grapes where each proclaims to be lower and viler than the other.  The song features such choice lines as, "when it comes to cheatin', I can't be beaten!" The pet parade begins. Just as things are about to wrap up, Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes enter their own pets, Captain Cackle and Dregs. The villains proceed to frame Strawberry Shortcake by making it appear that she was bribed by the Pieman to rig the contest so that Dregs and Captain Cackle would win. Shortcake is booed out of the area by her now-former friends and runs off crying. After a pep talk from Souffle the skunk, Strawberry returns and threatens to haunt the Pieman with her loathsome "berry talk" unless he admits to framing her. The Pieman, who still utterly hates berry talk, gives in and admits to foul play (much to Sour Grapes' chagrin). Strawberry Shortcake crows her victory by imitating the Pieman's signature "Ratatatayaatataaaah" jig. Finally, Souffle wins the contest and is adopted by Angel Cake who weirdly insists that the poor skunk go on a diet!  All is well in Strawberryland.

Strawberry Shortcake: Housewarming Surprise (1983) - Nelvana takes over animation duties starting with the fourth special and the results are fantastic.  The characters are crisply redesigned for this special and the animation is brighter, smoother, and more colorful. Housewarming Surprise is probably the best of the six specials with a funny script, great sight gags, and some fun banter between the characters. In this episode, Strawberry Shortcake plans to move into a new house. Before she moves, she gives a slideshow depicting the many friends she met during her trip around the world. We see many of the new characters and pets created for that year's doll line. While all this is going on, the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak and Sour Grapes plot more nefarious deeds against Strawberry and her friends. Sour Grapes proposes the idea of stealing all the best recipes in Strawberryland and making a cookbook out of them, with the hope of becoming famous. Purple Pieman, who has trained his berry birds to parrot what they hear, sends them into Strawberryland to spy on Strawberry. Soon, Strawberry moves into her new pad and her local friends surprise her by throwing a housewarming party and inviting all her new international pals. They play hide and seek at the party, while the Pieman sneaks in and steals all the recipes. He is almost caught in the act. However, he quickly covers himself in whipped cream in order to disguise himself. Strawberry deduces that this strange dessert is actually the Pieman and, in a hysterical bit of animation, Purple Pieman shakes off the whipped cream which splatters all over Strawberry Shortcake's face. The Pieman makes off with the recipes and heads back to Porcupine Peak. Unfortunately, the young cockney children Lem & Ada are hiding in the basket and wind up being inadvertently kidnapped. Strawberry teaches the Berry Birds to sing in her insidious berry talk which, as we know, is anathema to the Pieman. The anguished villain attempts to return the basket of "recipes" so that Strawberry will make the birds stop singing. Sour Grapes will have none of this and tries to stop "Purpy" from returning the basket. The basket falls and lands in a precarious place, and it is here that everyone discovers Lem & Ada hiding inside. The birds keep singing and the Pieman decides to help Strawberry rescue the children in order to get the birds to stop. Sour Grapes does not care for this idea at all. After suspenseful attempts are made by both Strawberry Shortcake and the Purple Pieman, the kids are saved and things are happy once again  This special seems particularly action-filled and fun, and offers a nice representation of classic 80s animation. All around, it is the best special of the bunch.

Strawberry Shortcake and The Baby Without a Name (1984) - Strawberry and her friends decide to go camping in this one, but first they need to meet Plum Puddin' at the trolley stop.  Plum, who has been away from Strawberryland for some time, was a boy in the early specials and is now inexplicably a girl! Does this make Plum Puddin' the first trans cartoon character?! Cool! Plum brings her new friends Peach Blush and Baby Needs a Name along and the gang goes camping. Meanwhile, Sour Grapes pays a visit to Purple Pieman who has gone into hiding. It seems that a monster is stalking the land, much to the Pieman's terror. Sour Grapes comes up with the idea of capturing the monster so that they'll become rich and famous. Purple Pieman is very enthusiastic about this plan. Deep in the woods, the kids camp out. They sing a song about scary things, after which the baby without a name wishes upon a star. She wishes for a name and she also wishes for a pet of her very own. During the night, the baby crawls away and finds her way to a cave. There, an ominous shadow appears. She soon meets the monster, which is actually a meek little creature called Big Boots. At daybreak, the kids search for the baby while the Pieman and Sour Grapes look for the monster. Everyone bumps into each other at some point, pointed banter takes place between the Pieman, Sour Grapes, and the berry kids, and the baby with no name finally emerges from the cave along with the underwhelming monster. Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes decide to capture the monster despite its unimpressive stature, and then spring one of their traps in order to keep the kids from stopping them. With some help from Mr. Sun (it’s nice to have the friggin’ sun on your side apparently), the kids escape and concoct a plan to save Big Boots. They dress themselves up as a horrible tree monster, scare the heck out of the villains (who run for the hills), and save Big Boots. The children go back to Strawberry Shortcake's place to celebrate, and the baby gets Big Boots as her pet. Unfortunately, nobody comes up with a name for the poor kid so Strawberry Shortcake looks into the camera and makes it clear that the viewer must choose a name for the baby (after they buy the doll, of course). Strawberry tells us she loves us all berry much and the special ends. This one was fun, but was clearly a marketing move to push the Baby Needs a Name concept.

Strawberry Shortcake Meets the Berrykins (1985): The final special is probably the most cloying one of the bunch and yet, unfortunately, the songs all seem less “innocent” somehow. The berry kids have their annual garden party where we meet Banana Twirl (whose doll is the rarest in the toyline). The kids go out berry picking, after which they each discover large fruits on their doorsteps. A Berry Princess appears and reveals that each fruit contains a Berrykin. The Berrykins are sort of like baby clones of the berry kids. Each one is based on a fruit, emits a sweet odor, and corresponds to their older counterpart. Over at Porcupine Peak, Sour Grapes emits a “yogurt-curdling yodel” to celebrate the fact that she and “Purpy” are up to a new scheme. They’re attempting to mix all kinds of disparate things - i.e. “turkey gravy and ice cream” - in order to create a new perfume which will ostensibly make them rich and famous. In a clear comment on pollution and acid rain, the concoction results in a malodorous raincloud above Strawberryland. Strawberry Shortcake and the Berry Princess ascend Porcupine Peak to confront the villains about their smelly cloud. The Pieman is instantly smitten by the beautiful princess. In classic cartoon style, hearts appear in his eyes and he looks at her slack-jawed. Purple Pieman agrees to do whatever they want. Sour Grapes gets annoyed and convinces the Pieman to proceed with their perfume-making scheme. In quick order, a wicked Berry Bird heads to Strawberryland, kidnaps the Berrykins, and then brings them to the villains. There’s a lot of baby kidnapping in these specials. The bad guys realize they can use the nice smells of the Berrykins for their perfume. They put them all into a giant saltshaker which pours the baby smells into a large cauldron. The Berrykins cleverly escape the villains, and the Berry Princess uses her magic on the clouds to overcome the horrid odors within. Things end with a rather eerie song from the Berry Princess who leaves the Berrykins behind to be cared for by the apparently capable young children of Strawberryland. Here, the Strawberry Shortcake specials come to their end.

All in all, these Specials are great fun to watch. I‘ve tried to put my finger on why these still appeal to me. While they are cute and funny, there is also something weirdly subversive about them. This is particularly evident in the behavior of Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes, who both definitely steal these shows. Russi Taylor is so darned cute and innocent as Strawberry Shortcake. She does an amazing job in the role and makes the character entirely lovable. However, the perverse delight the Pieman takes in his wickedness and the smug and sultry villainy displayed by Sour Grapes provide an odd, seedy counterpoint to the cuteness. This combination gives these specials a really strange, funny edge.

If you’re only going to check out one of these, I definitely recommend
Strawberry Shortcake: Housewarming Surprise. It’s the fourth special, although it is the first one animated by Nelvana. This one has it all – fun, weirdness, comedy, songs, cuteness, and scenery-chewing villainy! I think you’ll like it berry much indeed!

Thanks to James Eatock for giving me the thumbs up to post this before its potential appearance in a future 'cereal:geek' issue. Check out the pemiere magazine on 80's animation here: http://www.cerealgeek.com/

Future of 'Shilling Shockers' and Penny Dreadful

...Some Information...

These Danielle and Magoo doppelgangers are not us! While we feel very sad for them, I can assure you most emphatically that Garou LIVES! He is still with us! Yes, it's true that he's become a bit shy. You see, some "keyboard warrior" recently criticized his line delivery and he became very embarrassed about being seen in public. In fact, Garou went into hiding (under the bed!) But do not fear, Dreary One! In the shadows of the attic, you'll hear him growl. Offscreen in the cobwebs, you will hear him howl. Garou is a werewolf, and only a silver bullet can dispatch him! Indeed, I swear to you that Garou is right here beside me. In fact, I'll let him type something for you now...

Grrrooo! Aroooo!! kLAH;oihaGlkha;oijJI*HYB APH PO"{AM!''''''''AKHL;h;o9u[2j[

Sorry, he tried to eat the keyboard (again). In fact, it looks like he ate the letter " ." Bad Garou! I ust bought this keyboard! Now it's a piece of unk! *sigh*

Since Garou has become too shy to make any more appearances in public or on TV, I have made the following decisions.

Despite his recent shyness, Garou wants us to finish Season 9. He asked us to tape all of his scenes first, so we did. You'll get to see his lupine antics in several episodes next season.

Season 9 will happen. We are almost halfway through taping the shows. The new season will definitely be released later than we originally intended, but it will come out sometime in 2015. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Season 9 will be the final season of 'Shilling Shockers.' We already taped the last episode, which I really feel is the perfect ending for the series. I hope you'll en oy it. I understand there's a new "Penny Dreadful" in town anyhow (Showtime). Haven't seen it yet.

Maybe I'll host another show someday. I don't want to say, "I'll never be Penny Dreadful on TV ever again," because I don't know how I'll feel in 5 years. Maybe I'll want to reboot and do "Penny Dreadful's Cobweb Theater" or something. Who knows. One thing is certain though - 'Shilling Shockers' is over after season 9. I don't want to do it without Garou.

For the foreseeable future, I will not be making appearances as Penny Dreadful. I never say never. I might do appearances for charities or maybe I'll host a Halloween event for a friend or two. We'll see. For now, I definitely can't imagine doing any appearances - especially convention appearances. Garou was such a large part of those, and added so much to the proceedings. He's my partner, and we played off of each other anytime people dared to approach our table. Kids love Garou and we love interacting with them. Since Garou has discovered this newfound en oyment of social anxiety, I would have to be at the table without my "snarling darling." It wouldn't feel right without him. It'd feel sad.

With that in mind, I've canceled our appearances at Terror-Con and Monster Bash. I encourage all fans to attend and en oy these wonderful shows. I hope to go back to attending as a fan someday. Again, I never say never and maybe one day I will magically re-appear at a horror convention, but as I peer into my scrying mirror, I ust don't see it happening anytime soon.

Garou wants to say one more thing:

"I ruv rooooooooOOoooo!"

I ruv you too Garou.

See you in SEASON 9. We hope you'll en oy it!

Penny (& Garou)

New England - The "Transylvania" of the United States

This article is dedicated to Kerri Harrison, who always liked the paranormal and the unexplained. Goodbye my friend. We will miss you.

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands. But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.  - H.P. Lovecraft, (“The Picture in the House”, 12 December 1920)

I inhaled the glorious scent of burning leaves as I flew across the gray Halloween sky. Below, farmhouse porches were festooned with pumpkins. I caught sight of a scarecrow’s tattered clothing blowing in the wind, and was quickly reminded why the New England Colonies are the Halloween capital of the United States. “No way,” you say? “There are scarier places in America.” To that I say, “Poppycock and fiddlesticks!” “New Orleans?” Eh, it’s creepy but we’ve got Voodoo zombies too. “Sleepy Hollow?” Come on. It’s right next door. Heck, the Horseman's domain is so close it might as well be New England. “Washington DC?" Okay, yeah, maybe you’ve got a point there. 

Anywho, here are some reasons why New England is the “Transylvania” of America…

Witches – Do I really need to elaborate? Nowadays, Salem is Halloween central as far as tourism goes, and there's a reason for that (besides $$$). In ye olde days terrible things happened in Salem Village (now known as Danvers) and even worse things happened in Salem Essex County aka the city of Salem - the Salem Witch Trials and the hangings at Gallows Hill - http://historyofmassachusetts.org/where-is-the-real-gallows-hill/ Oh, but Salem wasn’t all she wrote for witches. There were many other incidents. Heck, even the ghosts of vengeful witches can come back to get you in Haunted New England - http://altereddimensions.net/2013/harrisville-haunting-perron-warren-family-conjuring-movie

Vampires – A genuine vampire scare took hold of New England a little over 100 years ago. Mercy Brown, Sarah Tillinghast, and Fredrick Ransom are but a few names associated with the eerie vampire cases that occurred throughout 19th century New England.  Bodies were exhumed. Hearts were removed and burned in order to dispatch the Undead. Like I said, New England is the Transylvania of the United States. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England_vampire_panic

Werewolves –  Long ago, colonists from France settled in what is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. This was known as the colony of Acadia. Many of these Acadian settlers eventually moved to Maine and brought their folklore along with them. Acadian tales of assorted unnatural beings spread to certain parts of Maine. The worst of these fell creatures was the Loup Garou (which is the French term for werewolf). Unwary travelers and naughty children were warned that the Loup Garou lurked in the cold Maine night – http://www.pressherald.com/archive/three-scary-stories-youll-want-to-share_2008-10-21.html

And it apparently it still does - http://www.cryptomundo.com/bigfoot-report/werewolves-in-maine-2/

Ghosts – You can’t throw a rock without hitting a spectral entity in New England. Ghosts haunt the old mansions up Newport way - http://voices.yahoo.com/haunted-america-ghosts-belcourt-castle-newport-423804.html. They haunt lighthouses - http://www.damnedct.com/new-london-ledge-lighthouse/. Heck, they even haunt the local pubs (Can you blame ‘em for wahmin’ up with a hot toddy? It gets pretty cold out heah) - http://books.google.com/books?id=iSxu4CFxliYC&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=crocker+tavern+haunted&source=bl&ots=BVero-F1G4&sig=U0jqQd2APuxqM-4RmtnlvoKtUzM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wJxyUpfKLpHA4APNh4CoBQ&ved=0CFIQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=crocker%20tavern%20haunted&f=false

For fun, let’s pick a ghost-ridden New England state. How about New Hampshire? - http://www.newhampshire.com/article/99999999/NEWHAMPSHIRE08/110429758

Dr. Frankenstein – “Oh come on!” you exclaim. “There can’t be a Frankenstein too!” Oh, but I’m afraid there was. He lived up in Hammond Castle over in Gloucester, Massachusetts and went by the name John Hays Hammond, Jr. Hammond holds the second highest number of invention patents after Thomas Edison. His home, Hammond Castle, was created in the style of a Medeival castle and even houses its own laboratory.

Among other things, Hammond was fascinated with the occult - http://historyofmassachusetts.org/john-hammond-jr-conducted-telepathic-experiments-at-hammond-castle/

He was also really into preserving dead cats in formaldehyde - http://www.thecabinet.com/darkdestinations/location.php?sub_id=dark_destinations&location_id=hammond_castle

Perhaps slightly more disturbing are the persistent rumors that he performed unspeakable “reanimation” experiments with dead bodies. Though no records exist to prove this, the rumors have not stopped.

Zombies – Terrible things have happened in the Freetown State Forest. People say that Satanic sacrifices and rituals took (take?) place there, and many other horrors are said to lurk within its shadowy confines. Most peculiar of all are the zombie sightings. Shambling, silent, mindless zombies have reportedly been seen in and around the forest - http://www.neparanormalresearch.com/apps/forums/topics/show/1393956
Also, http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Woods-Paranormal-Freetown-Massachusetts/dp/0764327992

The Bridgewater Triangle - Speaking of the Freetown State Forest, it’s part of the dreadful Bridgewater Triangle. Puckwudgies (evil Native American elves or gnomes), ghosts, UFOs, spook lights, gigantic snakes, Bigfoot, phantom dogs with red eyes, the Thuderbird, and much more are said to inhabit this nether-zone of paranormal activity - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgewater_Triangle
And - http://www.neparanormalresearch.com/hauntedhistory.htm

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

To this day, the morbid Lizzie Borden rhyme can be heard in eastern Massachusetts schoolyards. The infamous ax murder happened in Fall River, Massachusetts.

There are whispers of demonic influence. Apparently, another horrible murder took place in the same house years earlier -


You can go to Lizzie's old (haunted) house and spend the night if you dare - http://lizzie-borden.com/

The Dover Demon – This bizarre creature terrified the residents of Dover, Massachusetts in 1977 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dover_Demon

Collinwood – Lots of scary stories, movies, and shows are set in New England. The accursed town of Collinsport, Maine was the setting of the classic 1960s gothic TV series, “Dark Shadows.” The brooding Collinwood mansion was “portrayed” by Seaview Terrace aka the Carey Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaview_Terrace The place is haunted of course - http://www.syfy.com/stranded/article/location_facts/page/3

Sea Monsters – Hammond Castle isn’t the only scary thing in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The Gloucester Sea Serpent paid a visit to jolly olde New England back in the 19th century. Scores of witnesses saw the creature. http://open.salon.com/blog/rick_spilman/2009/08/19/the_great_gloucester_sea_serpent_of_1817 There's a famous lake monster as well. The Lake Champlain Monster, affectionately known as Champ, makes its home in Vermont.

Cursed Towns – It is said that tragic Dudley Town Connecticut was cursed. CURSED, I say. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1030_021030_BirdersJournal.html

Mystery Hill – America’s Stonehenge? In New Hampshire? Yep. There’s even a sacrificial table (maybe). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America's_Stonehenge

The Devil – “The Devil and Daniel Webster” is, of course, set in New Hampshire. However, Old Scratch apparently visited some of the other colonies as well - http://www.quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=91

Famous horror writers: Baltimore claims Poe. Richmond claims Poe. Well, guess what? Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston. Oh, Boston doesn’t boast about it because Poe and Boston were sort of like oil and water, but it’s very true. He was born near Commonwealth Avenue. Indeed, Poe’s first book of poems was entitled “Tamerlane and Other Poems Poems by a Bostonian.”

Alas, there’s a whole sordid history between Poe and Boston: http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2011/03/06/quoth_the_detective/?page=full


Only recently has the city starting acknowledging its native son: http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/beacon_hill/2012/04/life-size_poe_statue_chosen_to.html

Another fair New England city, Providence, doesn't have as much of a problem acknowledging its own literary icon, H.P. Lovecraft. http://www.providencejournal.com/topics/photos/featured/20130824-gallery-a-lovecraftian-waterfire.ece

Ever hear of Stephen King? Bangor, Maine? Yep, that’s definitely in New England. King sets most of his stories in northern New England to boot.

Nathaniel Hawthorne hailed from Salem, Massachusetts. In fact, his ancestor John Hathorne was a judge in the witch trials. Hawthorne's tales of dark romanticism and terror are essential reading in many schools.

Shirley Jackson settled in Vermont and remained there until she died. Both "The Lottery" and "The Haunting of Hill House" were published during her time there.

But wait, there are many up and coming scribes of the strange here too: http://nehw.blogspot.com/

And THAT, my Dreary One, is just the tip of the ol’ witch hat! Of course, there's Edward Gorey, a haunted opera house, bats with human faces and, well, there’s so much more to tell but there isn’t any time left. I'm expected in cursed Dudley Town tonight and mustn’t dally any longer.

I hope you have a marvelous Halloween, and if you find yourself traveling on a dark New England road some foggy night, beware the ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves, and the overexcited Red Sox fans.


MOTUC Subscriptions Now Open!

Did you know that He-Man, She-Ra, and friends are back in toy form and better than ever, with figures so hex-cellent that they are now my preferred black magic poppets/Voodoo dolls?  You just couldn't get that kind of pain-inducing articulation with the cloth dolls we used in the Middle Ages, I tell you!   Did you also know that you can get these new figures by subscribing to Masters of the Universe Classics at www.mattycollector.com through Aug. 6, 2012? 

photo courtesy of He-Man.Org

Characters from all realms of MOTU are represented, be they vintage He-Man characters, She-Ra figures, or even occasional New Adventures of He-Man figures.  These characters are ALL sculpted by the incomparable geniuses known as The Four Horsemen and feature storyline character bios on the backs of the packages which explore the different eras and characters of the MOTU world.  These collector toys are currently only available via a 2013 subscription.  Registration for this subscription is open only through August 6th!  It’s sort of like a “jam of the month” club where you sign up for a sub and they send you a new figure each month.  Four slots for large-scale beasts and multi-packs are also included in the subscription.  While the price might seem steep ($25.00 per regular figure), these incredible creations are SO worth it.  The characters are all beautifully articulated and sculpted, and they are very reminiscent of the characters from the toylines and cartoons many of us loved back in the day.  The only way the line can continue is for folks to subscribe.  This is a niche toyline (meaning only the cool kids get it, man) so Matty won’t make the figures at all without enough subs, alas. 

image courtesy of He-Man.Org

Therefore, if you like this stuff and are into collecting figures, I encourage you to sign up for a subscription.  If you are a retailer (comic shop, toy store, etc), consider signing up for a couple of subs.  Most of these characters sell quite well on the secondary market so you won’t regret it.  It might seem daunting when you look at the overall cost of a sub, but it’s billed to your card monthly so it really isn’t all that bad if you break it down.  Now, for anyone wondering “why is Penny Dreadful shilling a He-Man sub?” I’m not getting anything out of this from Mattel.  Even I’m not wicked enough to engage in unspeakable dealings with such ominous corporate entities!  ;) Just kidding...  I AM that wicked. >:)  No, I just love me some He-Man and She-Ra and would like to see more toys.

Here, you have elements of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, sword & sorcery, fairy tales, superheroes, weird western, mythology, monsters, barbarians, robots, princesses, ninjas, witches, unicorns, aliens, ghosts, dragons and all kinds of other speculative fiction archetypes all blended together into colorful worlds of cool craziness.  Somehow, it all works brilliantly and I’d personally like to see it continue.  While I know the sub model is not ideal for many, it is currently THE way to keep this line going.  Give it a shot for 2013!

Subscriptions are available ONLY through August 6th, 2012 at: http://www.mattycollector.com/

Image courtesy of He-Man.Org

My take on Burton and Depp's version of 'Dark Shadows'

**SPOILERS!!! Do not read if you don’t want to see spoilers!**

A long time ago my friends and I used to make recordings featuring characters we liked from our favorite TV shows and movies.  We imitated our favorites and we loved those characters, but we put them in silly situations and had them say weird things because it made us laugh to imagine them in such bizarre scenarios. Yes, this is true and I am admitting it in public. I won't go into details.  Trust me, you don't want to know.  Anyway, I get where some of it is coming from Johnny and Tim.  Yes, you guys are fans of the show.  I know it.  I can tell because we can smell our own. But instead of giving audiences an accurate take on DS, you took some of your goofball "imagine what would happen if so and so did this..." gags and threw them into the mix on the big screen. That was a bad move.  You should have maintained the tone of the series throughout.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I was displeased by the comedic tone in the trailers and TV spots for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s big screen take on the cult classic, ‘Dark Shadows ‘. Is the movie as wacky as the commercials indicate? Well, yes and no. Those scenes are in the film, but they don’t make up the bulk of it. That fact doesn’t save it though.  The movie is a bit of a hot mess.

Burton's DS starts out promisingly. The opening flashback is atmospheric and filled with sublime gothic visuals. Unfortunately, this all goes by so fast that one doesn’t really get a chance to fully enjoy it. Viewers glimpse the Barnabas/Josette/Angelique love triangle and see some of the tragic events play out, but the layers and nuances are obviously not present here due to time constraints. By squeezing the show’s 5-month long 1795 storyline into about 7 minutes, we miss the full impact of that tragic saga. Nevertheless, the opening is quite good. The flashback, subsequent moody title sequence, and Victoria Winters’ arrival at Collinwood ultimately wind up comprising the best portions of the film. Tellingly, these sequences are truest in tone to the classic series. If only Burton, Depp, and Seth Graham Smith had maintained that tone. Unfortunately, the picture takes a nosedive off Widow’s Hill after the opening. When Depp’s Barnabas Collins is released from his coffin in 1972, the film becomes a confused snarl of sight gags, fish-out-of-water-jokes, gothic horror, melodrama, sex jokes, action, and gallows humor. These disparate elements do not mesh well. Any sense of dread or melancholy is quickly undercut by inevitable tongue-in-cheek gags. In watching the film, I got the sense that WB was trying to appeal to every possible demographic by including everything including the kitchen sink.  The original ‘Dark Shadows’ and its subsequent 1991 remake were serious in tone and genuine in their depictions of the Collins family’s assorted curses and tragedies. Alas, the somber ‘Dark Shadows’ mood only makes occasional cameo appearances here.

Equally troubling is the fact that Burton and friends cram FAR too much into one film. Major characters are introduced and never developed. One major plot/character twist comes absolutely out of nowhere during the film’s climax. Story ideas are introduced but never expanded upon as other plotlines struggle for screen time. For example, Barnabas’ shock upon encountering Josette-lookalike Victoria/Maggie in the present is never explored to its full potential. Depp’s Barnabas yearns for Victoria’s…er… “birthing hips,” but we never get that palpable sense of the long-lost love, nor do we get a hint of the twisted and tragic Josette obsession displayed by Jonathan Frid. The Angelique/Collins Family rival cannery and Collins “revival” plotline winds up taking center stage, but it isn’t a very interesting angle.

Visually, the film is stunning. Collinwood looks utterly and eerily grand. Widow’s Hill and the surrounding woods on the estate are beautifully realized. In typical Tim Burton fashion, it’s style over substance. Collinsport itself is nicely New England-y, but the presence of places like McDonad’s and Gulf gas pull us out of the “dark Brigadoon” of Collinsport. Part of what works in other versions of ‘Dark Shadows,’ and in other gothic horror stories for that matter, is the fact that such tales seem to exist in their own misty worlds. Introducing too many real-world elements into a gothic setting ruins the mood. Here, Burton uses some of these real-world elements for intended comedic effect but this happens at the expense of the gothic tone.

Danny Elfman’s score is fantastic, and appropriately ominous and grandiose. He draws inspiration from horror films for this score, and there are absolutely touches of Robert Cobert’s classic music present. In fact, Elfman uses one of Cobert’s pieces (“The Secret Room”) from the original series. I was quite surprised by the unfortunate and baffling lack of Cobert’s main ‘Dark Shadows’ theme, however. Odd.

Original cast members Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, and the late Jonathan Frid make cameos in the film. Unfortunately, their appearance lasts all of three seconds. :-(  Christopher Lee is splendid in a small role as a surly Collinsport fisherman.

How does each character fare?

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins - He tries to channel Frid’s Barnabas in his voice and mannerisms. Clearly, there is love there and I can appreciate that. I also appreciate the fact that he keeps Barnabas’ trademark look (hairstyle, ring, coat, cane - check). There’s no question that Depp is engaging in the role and that he has a fondness for Frid's portrayal. Depp definitely captures part of the eccentric, tortured, courtly, and dangerous essence of Barnabas, BUT he lacks the gravitas of Jonathan Frid or even Ben Cross. His reactions to modern-day life turn the character into something of a doleful clown (and we all know how much Tim Burton loves clowns). Depp’s Barnabas isn’t very bright either. He makes little effort to hide his vampirism and frequently drops references to his true age. I can’t help but feel it’s the little kid inside Depp playing Barnabas here. Depp and Burton take Barnabas out of context and have him react to “funny” situations which prevents us from ever taking the character seriously.

It’s easy to imagine how this played out:

Johnny: Remember how they never showed a TV at Collinwood? Wouldn’t it be funny if Barnabas saw a TV and totally freaked out? Heheh.

Tim: Ha! I always thought about that when I watched it. That’s hilarious! We have to do that!

Johnny: I wonder how he felt about those nasty little troll dolls...


Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard – Pfeiffer does well in the role originated by screen legend Joan Bennett. She carries herself with the strength and class required of Liz. At times, I felt her tongue was firmly planted in her cheek, but overall she plays the role well. I’d say she fared the best in terms of carryover from the TV show versions.

Eva Green as Angelique – She is sadly one-dimensional here. As vile as Angelique could be in the original series, she was a complex character with some serious motivation. True, she had a psychotic obsession with Barnabas and this desire propelled her actions, but the character had many layers. As much as we loved to hate her, and as wicked as she was, we could understand what drove her. She wasn’t a Saturday morning cartoon villain like she is in this film. Eva Green has fun with the role but is very one-note in her portrayal.

Bella Heathcote puts in a nice turn as Maggie Evans/Victoria Winters. She is genuine and plays the part quite well. I’m not sure how I feel about merging both characters. I think it was a bit of fan service to please those who wanted one or the other in the film. Heathcote does a good job and her waifish Vicki/Maggie has an interesting quirky quality.

Jonny Lee Miller is wasted as Roger Collins. We get a couple of brief scenes where Roger displays unsavory behavior, but the character is never developed. Barnabas’ eventual reaction to Roger seems extreme because we spend spend very little time with the character. Based on Miller’s facial expression in the cast photo, I was hoping for a Louis Edmonds-style pretentious, stuffy Roger Collins.

Helena Bonham Carter was not effective as Julia Hoffman. I’d venture to say she was quite awful. The changes to the character are unfortunate and serve to make Julia very unlikable here. Unlike Depp who, despite my misgivings about several of his choices, plays his role with affection for the original, I felt that HBC was making fun of the Julia character and of the material with which she was working. And whose idiotic idea was it to have Dr. Hoffman give Barnabas a hummer? Classy.

Chloe Moretz, who is wonderful in several other films, overplays the angsty teenager Carolyn Stoddard. She is disaffected. We get it. It’s tiresome. Yes, Carolyn should have issues, but this was a very one-note take on the character. **SPOILER** During the film’s climax, we find out she’s a werewolf. This comes out of left field and is absolutely unnecessary to the plot of the film. It’s as if they said, “Dark Shadows had werewolves too. We need one of those. Ah, let’s just make Carolyn a werewolf!” Sigh. Dumb.

Gulliver McGrath is wasted as David Collins. I saw much potential in his portrayal, but he’s never given enough screen time to do anything substantial with the role. David Collins was a very disturbed little boy in the early days of the show.  The supernatural was drawn to him and vice versa. We get some hints of what Gulliver could have done with the part but this never goes anywhere.

Jackie Earle Haley as Willie is quirky and amusing, but viewers shouldn’t go in expecting the delightfully complex Willie of John Karlen. Gone is the utter sleaze who becomes humbled by something far darker and more wicked than he. That said, his isn't the "Zoinks Scoob!" portrayal of Jim Fyfe either. It’s an interesting take but, like much in this film, the character lacks any depth or substance.

Ray Shirley as Mrs. Johnson - Used entirely for "senior citizen comic relief" comic relief in the film, this character is Mrs. Johnson in name and career only.

There ARE snatches of actual ‘Dark Shadows’ here and there. In between the tangle of characters, lame gags, and multiple half-conceived ideas, there is some genuine DS in the mix. Unfortunately, these moments are fleeting at best and simply made me yearn for what could have been. In the end, this plays more like a messy genre mishmash. I sense they were trying to appeal to every demographic and taste by infusing everything they could into the film, which resulted in an unsatisfying and haphazard amalgam of disparate elements.

As a fan, I’m not angry. I WAS angry when I saw the trailers and the TV spots but, after watching the film itself, I just feel disappointed. I honestly believe, to some extent, that Depp and Burton made this film out of love for the source material but I think several other factors came into play along the way. (1) I suspect they feared that a modern audience wouldn’t accept an accurate (albeit big-budget) version of ‘Dark Shadows.’ Seth Graham-Smith has said in interviews that most modern audiences “won’t sit through a movie like that” and that they didn’t want to make “a two hour chamber piece.” To this I say, "COWARDS!"  'The Woman in Black' was a hit and stayed true to its gothic roots. Hammer rules, Graham-Smith drools. (2) It seems Burton is obsessed with “Burtonizing” everything he touches to the point of self-parody. Wake up and smell the coffin Tim! (3) See my comment at the beginning about the funny recordings my friends and I used to make.  I think Burton and Depp did some of that here too by putting their own little in-jokes into the mix.

Ultimately, I’m glad the film has brought attention to ‘Dark Shadows.’ Depp and Burton always mention their fondness for the show and for Jonathan Frid in interviews. They don’t have to do that and I think it’s cool that they do. I just wish they had stayed true to the tone of the source material if they wanted to do something called ‘Dark Shadows.’ 

~~ Some comments on plotline differences between the film and previous versions of DS ~~

* In the original show and in the ’91 revival Barnabas is, for all intents and purposes, dead in his coffin during the day. He cannot walk around during the daytime and must return to his coffin at dawn lest he be destroyed by the sun’s rays.

* Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters are two separate characters in the classic show. Maggie is the one who looks like Josette. Vicki is the governess. Maggie eventually takes over the governess job when Victoria leaves.

* In the classic series, it is Barnabas’ father Joshua Collins and servant Ben Stokes who lock Barnabas in his coffin. Barnabas is prevented from breaking out of the coffin by a cross which Joshua asks Ben to affix to the inside lid of the casket. The coffin is locked away a secret room in the Collins mausoleum until Willie finds it almost two centuries later.

* Werewolves cannot not speak while in werewolf form in the classic show. They are feral and kill their victims on sight. They cannot transform at will and change during the full moon (and on the nights before and after the night of the full moon).

* In this film, an entranced Josette throws herself from Widow’s Hill because of Angelique’s spell. After that, Barnabas becomes a vampire. In the original iteration, Angelique has already turned Barnabas into a vampire well before Josette’s demise. The undead Barnabas intends to turn his beloved Josette into his vampire bride. Eventually, when Angelique lures Josette to Widow’s Hill, she shows her a terrible vision of what she will become after Barnabas’ final attack. Barnabas arrives soon thereafter and a horrified Josette voluntarily throws herself from Widow’s Hill.

* David's mother Laura seems to be some sort of banshee in this film. (based on how she deals with Angelique at the end).  In the classic show she is a phoenix, who rises from the flames every century.  In the film, Julia mentions something about David's belief that his mother is a "cyclical entity" or something, which led me to believe they were going to bring in the phoenix idea but apparently they went with the ghost/banshee thing for Laura.

* When Barnabas is released from his coffin in the 20th century, he introduces himself as a cousin from England and does NOT reveal his vampirism to the family.  Indeed, few who learn his secret live to tell the tale.

*Julia genuinely tries to cure Barnabas in the original series and in the '91 version.  She certainly doesn't ever try to make herself immortal with Barnabas' blood.

Upcoming Appearances!

SATURDAY, April 30 - ANNIE'S BOOK STOP - 65 James St. Worcester, MA - 4PM - 6PM - Penny Dreadful and Garou will be at Annie's Book Stop for the "April is the Cruelest Month" book promotion. All horror titles will be discounted! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Annies-Book-Stop-in-Worcester-Massachusetts/170623582951875?sk=info

SATURDAY, May 7 - HARRISON'S COMICS & COLLECTIBLES - 252 Essex St. Salem, MA - 10AM - 2PM - Penny Dreadful and Garou will be appearing at Harrison's for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. They'll have limited edition artwork prints from the upcoming 'Penny Dreadful's Cauldron of Terror' comic courtesy of COMIC BOOK DIVAS! - http://www.harrisonscomics.net/

SATURDAY MAY 14 - WONDERFEST - Crown Plaza Hotel Louisville, KY - Penny Dreadful and Garou are back at the WonderFest convention this year! They'll be at their table Saturday afternoon and in the evening will participate in the Rondo Awards ceremony. Penny will join her fellow fiend Dr. Gangrene in presenting 'The Dreadful HallowGreen Special' on Saturday night! - http://www.wonderfest.com/flyer.html

SUNDAY JUNE 12 - SOUTHCOAST TOY & COMIC SHOW - Seaport Inn & Marina 110 Middle St. Fairhaven, MA - 10AM - 5PM -
Penny Dreadful and Garou return to the Southcoast Toy and Comic Show! Will Garou battle guest Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka? Will Dr. Manfred Von Bulow show up to carjack the General Lee? Come and find out! http://www.southcoasttoyandcomic.com/

JUNE 24, 25, 26 - MONSTER BASH - Days Inn Conference Center Butler, PA - Penny Dreadful, Garou and 'Shilling Shockers' director Rebecca Paiva return to the Monster Bash Convention for a fang-tastic weekend of monstrous fun! - http://www.monsterbashnews.com/bash.html

SATURDAY JULY 23 - SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON - San Diego Convention Center San Diego, CA - For the first time ever Penny Dreadful and Garou will be lurking about at the legendary San Diego Comic-Con! - http://www.comic-con.org/cci/index.php

Comic Book Pinup Options

ONE of these illustrations by Frankie B Washington (with assistance from Crystal Washington) will be the pinup for the 'Penny Dreadful's Cauldron of Terror' comic book from Comic Book Divas & Scattered Studios!  However, these all came out so great that we wanted to share them all online.

Comic Book Divas Website: http://www.comicbookdivas.com/

Scattered Studios Website: http://www.scatteredcomicsstudios.com/

Frankie B. Washington's Website: http://www.frankiebwashington.com/






Station Listing for 'The Dreadful HallowGreen Special'

Stations that will broadcast THE DREADFUL HALLOWGREEN SPECIAL
Airtimes and days vary – check local listings or go to: www.shillingshockers.com

New Haven,
West Haven,

Citizens Television Channel 27
New London,
East Lyme,
Jewett City, Danielson:

MetroCast Community TV Channel 24,
New Canaan,

Cablevision Channel 77
Southern section of the state:
Southern region of KY -
Channel 58 on antenna & DirectTV, Channel 18 on Comcast
Belfast: BCTV Channel 2
Gorham: GOCAT Channel 2

SRC-TV channel 2

NPC-TV Channel 11
Portland: Channel 5
South Portland: SPC-TV Channel 2

Washington County
(Eastport, Machias, Lubec and numerous smaller towns):
Washington County TV Channel 2

Abington: Comcast Channel 13
Comcast Channel 8
Athol, Orange: AOTV Channel 13
Attleboro: Comcast AACS Channel 15
Boston (BNN): Comcast BNN Channel 23 / RCN Channel 83
Brookline: BATV Channel 3
Cambridge: CCTV Channel 10
East Bridgewater: EBCTV Channel 9
Easton: Comcast Channel 9
Fall River: FRCTV Channel 95
Freetown/Lakeville/Middleboro: Comcast Channels 9 and 95
Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea: CATV Channel 67
Haverhill: HCTV Channel 22
Melrose: MMTV Comcast Channel 3 or Verizon Channel 39
Mattapoisett, Marion, Rochester: ORCTV Channel 9
New Bedford: NBTV Channel 95
North Adams, Adams, Clarksburg and Cheshire: NBCTC Channel 15,
North Dartmouth: Comcast Channel 95
North Reading: NORCAM Comcast Channel 10 and Verizon Channel 26
Peabody: PAT Channel 10
Plymouth: PACTV Comcast Channel 13 / Verizon Channel 43
Raynham: RayCAM Channel 9
Quincy: QATV Channel 8
Salem: SATV Channel 3
Seekonk: Channel 9
Somerset: TV9 Channel 9
Stoughton: Comcast Channel 9
Swansea: Channel 98
Taunton: TCAM TV Comcast Channel 15 and Verizon Channel 22
Wareham: WCTV Comcast Channel 9
West Brookfield: WBTV Channel 11
Westford: CAT Channel 8
Westport: Charter Channel 17
Winthrop: WCAT Channel 3
Woburn: WPMC Comcast Channel 9, Verizon Channel 42 & RCN Channel 3
Worcester: WCCA-TV Channel 13
Wrentham: Channel 8
Kansas City:
KCEN Channel 18


Amherst: ACTV channel 20
Bedford: BCTV Channel 16
Charlestown: SAPA-TV Channel 8
Chester: CTV Channel 21
Claremont: CCTV Channel 8
Derry: CTV Channel 17

LRPA-TV Channel 25
Manchester: MCAM Channel 23
Newmarket, Durham: Newmarket Channel 13

New Durham:
WCTV Channel 26

York: WCRT Channel 18
Throughout the Entire state on Halloween - Channel 13


Providence & North Providence:
Cox Channel 18 & Verizon Channel 39
Full Channel Cable Channel 9
Entire Middle section of the state on Halloween:

Channel 58 on antenna & DirectTV, Channel 18 on Comcast

Burlington: VCAM Channel 15
Greater Northshire -
Peru, Stratton,
Sunderland or

GNAT-TV Channel 15
Hyde Park,
GMATV Channel 15
Mount Holly:
LPCTV Channel 8,
ORCA Channel 15
& Reading:

SAPA-TV Channel 8

Possible Washington DC airings


Huntington: Comcast Channel 20

Alternative Realities TV on Halloween:  ARTV


Interview with Michelle Souliere of The Green Hand Bookshop

hen the crisp Autumn wind rattles my attic windows, I like nothing more than to light a candle and curl up by the cauldron with an ancient grimoire or tale of terror.  Outside of a black cat, a book is a witch's best friend.  Inside of a black cat, it's too dark to read.

The printed word can whisk us away into worlds of wonder, and The Green Hand Bookshop in Portland, Maine is a place of many wonders indeed.  I recently spoke with The Green Hand's proprietor, Michelle Souliere.

Michelle, could you tell us what inspired you to open a book store?

I have long been a booklover, and tried my hand for many years at bookscouting for local dealers and selling on my own via eBay and half.com.  At one point I tried to avoid getting involved to the point of having a shop -- it seemed like more of a burden than I was ready for.  However, over the last few years, it became apparent that was all I really wanted to do.  I enjoyed working at the Portland Public Library but the large machinery of the institution seemed to trod upon so much of the vitality in the staff as it went about its work.  I found myself thinking more and more in terms of "Wouldn't it be nice if..."  I set tentative goals for sometime in the future, say 5 or 10 years down the road.  Then the economy freaked out, and I moved to another job to save myself from debt, only to have that yanked out from under me as the university rearranged its departments due to budget cuts and other changes in focus.  It became apparent that maybe I'd be better off taking a chance on my own now, since even the old tried-and-true jobs seemed to be increasingly unstable, and the money I'd saved in a 401(a) account during a 15-year stint as an office worker certainly wasn't multiplying on its own.

When did you first open for business? How has the response been from the community?

I first opened for business on First Friday, November 6, 2009.  The response from the community has been terrific.  A lot of the local neighbors seemed very relieved to have a legitimate business with the appearance of real stability opening up on this corner.  There has also been a lot of curiosity as to what is going on here.

As an enthusiast of dark literature and forgotten lore, I must say I am pleased to hear that you have a "killer horror section." Could you tell us a little bit about your literary interests?

*laugh*  My interests are very broad.  I tend to have a smorgasbord of in-process books nearby, and dip into various volumes depending on my mood.  However, I tend to have at least one good supernatural, horror, or other fantastic fiction book around, as this is my favorite genre.  The best of the bunch?  My top ones include M.R. James, Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Manly Wade Wellman, Stephen King, John Gordon, Dan Simmons, Mark LaFlamme, and more.  I'm always adding to the list.  I also love mysteries, and favorites in that field include Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, John Dunning, and John Connolly.  However, there are dark times of the year when one must move to lighter fare or risk forever losing oneself in the shadows, and on those occasions I get a kick out of Stella Gibbons' "Cold Comfort Farm," Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books, Mark Helprin, John Crowley, and more. Magical realism is another favorite genre (Helprin and Crowley certainly have works in that field), and of course Ray Bradbury remains one of my icons, how could I ever forget the first time I read "Dandelion Wine" or "Something Wicked This Way Comes"?

This is not to say that I veer away from non-fiction.  I read heavily in fringe non-fiction (cryptozoology, paranormal, occult, mythology, folklore, and the like), and historic non-fiction, especially New England related.  I also have a penchant for travelogues and biographies, and enjoy science and math related reading, such as "The Radioactive Boy Scout" and "The Mystery of the Aleph."

For an idea of my staple books, you can stroll through my account on LibraryThing, which gives an excellent slice of 168 favorite parts of my library:

You have listed many of my favorites as well Michelle!  Now, could you explain the origin of store's name: "the green hand?"

A few years ago, when I left my office job, I felt like it was time that I try to put my art degree to work, and one of my goals was to create a branding umbrella to encompass all my creative pursuits.  One of the themes/logos that came up was the green hand.  The two things I find myself drawn to over and over again are eyes and hands.  The original green hand has an eye in the center of its palm.  The art track fizzled, though I maintain a sporadic studio practice and do not intend to give up making my work, ever.  I stumbled across the green hand when I was casting about for a name and logo for the shop.  Somehow, it just insinuated itself into place as the only option!!  So far it has been ideal.  It suggests something mysterious, which in turn generates curiosity (I hope!), and at the same time the green alludes to growth (five times the power of a mere green thumb!).  On a more literary level, it pertains to the pulp magazine imagery of a green hand reaching out to some hapless victim, or an alien hand, perhaps... alluring dread!

What can visitors expect when they cross the threshold to The Green Hand Bookshop?

They can expect a wide variety of subject matter in the shop's inventory, which I take great pains to keep well-organized and carefully curated.  The shop, very atypically for a used bookshop (at least from what I can tell from people's reactions), is spacious and bright.  I won't spoil the surprise of the first thing you see coming through the door!  But there are old-fashioned streetlamps, and a bench for perching on, and some old wooden chairs, and thousands of delicious books to browse through for as long as you like.  :)

You share your storefront space with a fascinating museum. Could you talk a little about that?

The International Cryptozoology Museum shares space with the Green Hand in a wonderfully symbiotic relationship.  To enter the museum, you approach the gate at the back of the bookshop, and therein lie many marvelous things, some naturally occurring, some man-made.  Loren Coleman, the museum's owner and a well-known cryptozoologist in his own right, is there to give you your tour personally more often than not, which is handy if you have some of his books that you'd like him to sign while you're visiting.  Fans of Bigfoot, the yeti, the Mothman, chupacabras, and many other mysterious and rare creatures will be in seventh heaven when they walk through the door.

You are also the creator of the fantastic Strange Maine blog. How did that come about?

I found it baffling that no one had formed a single site online that collected resources about Maine's intriguing elements.  Add to that my unfortunate propensity for doing things instead of waiting for someone else to do them, and.... well you get the picture.

Your husband Tristan also runs a marvelous business right across the street from The Green Hand. What can visitors expect to find there?

The Fun Box Monster Emporium is a throwback to the toy emporiums of old and at the same time practically a museum of homage to the pop culture of the 1980s.  Good stuff!  Not only does he carry a ridiculous variety of action figures and other collectibles of the '80s, he also has vintage video games up the wazoo, not to mention the actual working pinball and arcade machines he keeps the shop popping with.  In other words, it's fun.

Any exciting future plans or upcoming events at The Green Hand?

We're psyched to have Dan Blakeslee, a.k.a. Doctor Gasp, playing deliriously eerie Halloween tunes here on the night of October 13th, and Lynne Cullen telling wicked spooky stories the night before Halloween.  We are also happy to be hosting meetings of the Speakeasy Society, which is made up of folks who are keen on the Jazz Age world of silent films and their stars.  Who knows what we'll do next?!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Michelle.  

The Green Hand Bookshop is located at:

661 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101

Green Hand Website

Facebook Page

Strange Maine Blog

The Dreadful HallowGreen Special!

For the first time ever, it's DR. GANGRENE and PENNY DREADFUL in a brand new Halloween Special!

"The Dreadful HallowGreen Special" is a half-hour Horror Host crossover wherein renowned Nashville horror host, Dr. Gangrene, and New England's Penny Dreadful must join forces to save (or ruin???) Halloween.  Science and sorcery combine in this All Hallows Eve spooky special.

Airing in many locations soon!

For more info on Dr. Gangrene's Creature Feature check out: http://www.drgangrene.com/

For more info on Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers check out: http://www.shillingshockers.com

Poster art by the talented and fiendish GEORGE "E-GOR" CHASTAIN! - http://myweb.wvnet.edu/e-gor/tvhorrorhosts/

Penny Dreadful and Dr. Gangrene Scare In New Halloween TV Special

For Immediate Release:Horror Hosts Collaborate For Hex-Cellent Halloween TV Special (10.05.10)

Hallowed horror hosts Penny Dreadful and Dr. Gangrene are teaming up to save Halloween in an all new half hour television special entitled “The Dreadful HallowGreen Special” premiering in October on stations around the country.

From his secret hidden laboratory on the mysterious Shackle Island Dr. Gangrene issued the following quote, “Penny Dreadful is a tremendous talent and her show is a really first rate program. Despite the fact she dabbles in such an unscientific area of study, it was my pleasure to collaborate with Penny on this Halloween special, combining science and magic to save the greatest holiday of all, Halloween! Now that’s what I call a mad monster party!”

The duo finds themselves readying for the upcoming Halloween season when suddenly all things go awry. It’s up to the physician of fright, Dr. Gangrene, and the eerie enchantress, Penny Dreadful, to set things right and save Halloween for everyone in a brand new television special.

While sipping hemlock brew from a smoking goblet Penny Dreadful related, "I was very hex-cited to join forces with that quack..er.. I mean esteemed mad scientist and horror host, Dr. Gangrene! Not only am I a fan of the Doctor's fine program, but we also happen to see eye to bloodshot eye on most subjects - especially the subject of Halloween. I hope this TV Special becomes staple All Hallows Eve viewing for monster movie fans both living and dead."

Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers, now in its 8th season, is based in New England and airs in over 150 cities. Penny Dreadful is portrayed by Danielle Gelehrter who, in 2007, was awarded the prize for Favorite Horror Host by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.

Dr. Gangrene's Creature Feature airs on its home station WNAB CW58 in Nashville TN. Dr. Gangrene is portrayed by Larry Underwood. The Good Doctor has been shocking the Scare-waves since 1999. His programs have won countless praise and have been nominated for two Emmy Awards for Public Service.

The Dreadful HallowGreen Special premieres Halloween weekend 2010 on finer television stations. Check local listings for show times. For more information on Dr Gangrene or Penny Dreadful please visit www.drgangrene.com and www.shillingshockers.com