My Older Legacy Literary Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Old blog recovered from RSS feed, is now here and these posts are Under Construction

My old blog disappeared, probably because that older blogspot itself disappeared.  This is using Blogger. The only traces of it left were from an RSS feed.  I transferred the posts to here and am working to get these straightened out and rid of RSS-created typos and unwanted characters from this feed.

Hollywood Marginalia, Edison's Thugs, Disparate Musings

From the very start, cinema had created a byproduct, that of creating famous entities. Ages before Eastern Syndicate writers like Walter Winchell could toy with an actor's fame, the very existence of an audience watching a strip of celluloid through a projector created personas. Buffalo Bill was considered the first movie star from the filming of his Wild West Show which featured Buffalo Bill gruesomely recreating getting his first scalp, etc.  Audiences got to see silent footage in theaters of him on his trick horse in the Show where, before movies existed once included Sitting Bull. 

In those days Thomas Edison hired his "thugs" to chase down those who were trying to start movie companies and were using his patent for the moving picture machine and not paying his company. These people learned that if they ran to California that perhaps Edison’s thugs were too far away to do anything to them.

Speaking of Buffalo Bill's traveling show onscreen and cowboys, Wyatt Earp decided to actually move to Hollywood.  After several money-making ventures in New York City and elsewhere, and even in New Orleans running the lottery (Louisiana was notorious for crooked Lotteries), he lived in Hollywood until he died there in 1929.  His friend, silent star Tom Mix and others were at his funeral.  On another note, untrained actor Harry Houdini was showcased in several films as a leading man.

This blog entry is just a series of various trivia from me, an avowed non-expert, about Hollywood since the Oscars were just on last night.  Mostly, this is just a series of semi-strange trivia.  By the way, the apocryphal story about Charles Manson auditioning for “The Monkees” tv show is untrue – Manson was locked up in jail for various small crimes at the time the auditions took place.

The lure of being in the movies was so great in the beginning that signs had to be put up by companies advising the droves of anxious people to go home and not attempt to audition.  Later, an actress named Peggy Entwistle arrived from back East to audition and after utter failure after failure, jumped to her death off the Hollywood sign, thus inadvertently creating some notoriety.   

It is common knowledge that several writers arrived in Los Angeles for work as well.  The list is lengthy but some interesting stories came out of the eccentricities of some of them.  Raymond Chandler used to wear white gloves in the heat and once while taking a bath drunkenly shot his revolver into the ceiling several times before he got out of the tub.  Aldous Huxley on one of his first experimental acid trips, while walking down a major thoroughfare in Hollywood, stumbled into a drugstore and marveled at various things there, eventually to the magazine rack, touching each magazine.  Again, these are a series of jumbled strange facts.

British writer Evelyn Waugh used his Hollywood experience to write a very slim book “The Loved One” about the Cemetery business in Hollywood, the result of which became a cult film.  James Agee, nearly drinking himself to death, was just a movie reviewer.  He parlayed just writing reviews into writing great scripts like the Charles Laughton-directed “The Night of the Hunter” based on Davis Grubb’s work.

Faulkner was woefully underpaid as a writer for Warner Brothers.  When he left the movie business to get back to writing his own novels, someone at the studio found several empty whiskey bottles in his desk and a writing tablet filled with the line “Boy meets Girl” written 500 times in his tiny handwriting.  F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda had to deal with each other when she was still in Hollywood with him.  Once, he and Zelda were arguing while playing tennis together while a movie person watched.  After every point played Zelda took off an item of clothing until none were left. 

Hemingway let others write screenplays of his work.  But he visited Hollywood a few times.  Once, on the MGM lot with no real business dealings to do there at that time, while roaring drunk he burst into Louis B. Mayer’s office for no reason and laughingly called Mayer very offensive slurs, one after another. A very angry Mayer yelled at his security guards to “get this (expletive deleted) off the lot” and they did. 

Wannabe writer Ed Wood and his wife lived in a slum building on Yucca street in North Hollywood (where Aldo Ray and John Agar used to visit to drink with Wood) and when Wood and his wife weren’t drunkenly fighting (he knocked her out twice during their marriage, they fought terribly) she used to give some of his penned adult books to the owner of a local liquor stand to help pay for alcohol.        

Earlier in Hollywood history, Samuel Goldwyn tried to recruit H. G. Wells (he did pen “Things to Come” for William Cameron Menzies but this is apart from Goldwyn), George Bernard Shaw and dozens of others but most declined even though the money was excellent at the time. This was after authors could claim movie rights to his/her written works and Hollywood blindly stole from every famous writer there was, dead or alive.

Discovering SF in the Library

Before I discovered the joy of being stunned by some plot twist while reading a PKD novel and subsequently ransacking all the used bookstores for PKD books(and H.E. back then), I grew up going to the Mid-City Library and discovered treasures like “Journey to the Mushroom Planet,” “Secret of the Marauder Satellite,” all the RAH Juveniles like "Have Spacesuit Will Travel," DAW's “Secret of the Ninth Planet.” I kept graduating to other things back them, like Groff Conklin SF anthologies and Orbit anthos.  I found those Derleth anthologies like “A Porthole to Eternity” and onward to Bradbury, Asimov and Silverberg.  I can almost remember being there between the stacks, a skinny kid stumbling upon Arthur Clarke and various horror anthologies and anxiously checking them out. 

The reason I am writing this is because a friend of mine’s mom just passed on and he was a good friend that introduced me to EE Doc Smith’s “Skylark of Space” and numerous other authors.  Another childhood friend introduced me to Analog after I had discovered some old pulps of Edmond Hamilton, etc. My friend and I tried to write a short story to send to Analog at the ripe age of 11 or so, but we never finished it. I discovered the “X Minus One” radio dramas and “Dimension X” as well, and they enhanced my sense of wonder.  I was literally wandering around in a daze of wonder about what could be and what would be. I found a lot of Andre Norton novels at the library, as well as later, Kate Wilhelm and Le Guin.  I went through all of my big brother's SF anthologies. I found out about Van Vogt who to me was the ancient precursor to PKD and way ahead of his time.

I later met several authors at Cons.  I remember meeting Ray Bradbury and it was rather spoiled by some psycho in the line in front of me pulling a bejeweled massive sword from a duffel bag and wielding it around.  I was working night shifts as a computer operator so when I met Mr. Bradbury I was in a disheveled appearance with no sleep.  I told him I wrote a couple of novels and had read every word he had written many times.     

I remember the Tom Swift books which I discovered, were under the house name of Victor Appleton (I didn’t know what a house name was).  I started collecting the original Swift books which are now antiques. In the 7th grade (at age ten) the English teacher asked us down each row what we wanted to do when we were grown.  I said, "I want to invent the first Star Drive."  Whimsy, indeed.  I guess I am writing this as a paean to my youth and to some childhood friends that introduced me to comic books and SF and Horror.

Ancient Recordings of Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning, Brahms

A long time ago, I wrote a minor story about a guy that walks into a curio shoppe looking for some rare recordings of Johannes Brahms.  Piano rolls, what have you.  At the end of the story, the supernatural shopkeeper shows him a Polaroid of Caesar Augustus while orating.  Well, it turns out that there really is a recording of Brahms from 1893, playing the piano, and possibly speaking.   I never would have dreamed there is a recording of Robert Browning speaking, nor Tennyson.  People still argue to this day about whether the recording of Oscar Wilde speaking is real or not.  

See below:.

Robert Browning (1889 Edison Recording)

Robert Browning reciting poetry

Alfred, Lord Tennyson speaking, around 1890

Tennyson reciting his poetry

Some notes on this recording, above: 

It is interesting to note that the Edison phonograph on which this cylinder was made was taken to Tennyson’s home on the Isle of Wight in 1890 by Staedtler, an assistant of Col George Gouraud, Edison’s British agent, and left there for the poet to make a number of further cylinders, several of which survive.  ;.


Oscar Wilde supposedly recites from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” around 1900, but it is possibly a fake recording-others insist it is real (people are still arguing about it on Youtube in the comments):


Arthur Conan Doyle :  

Doyle talking about his invention of Sherlock Holmes, filmed for about 9 minutes. The filming of him was shot in 1928.


The voices of Tchaikovsky and Anton Rubenstein (1890), Tchaikovsky died three years later:  

Tchaikovsky speaking:

 Here is a translation of the conversation:  Translation    A. Rubinstein: What a wonderful thing [the phonograph].
 J. Block: Finally.
 E. Lawrowskaja: A he dares slyly to name me.
 W. Safonov : (Sings a scale incorrectly).
 P. Tchaikovsky: This trill could be better.
 E. Lawrowskaja: (sings). P. Tchaikovsky: Block is good, but Edison is even better. 
E. Lawrowskaja: (sings) A-o, a-o. 
W. Safonow: (In German) Peter Jurgenson in Moskau.
 P. Tchaikovsky: Who just spoke? It seems to have been Safonow. (Whistles) 


 Johannes Brahms (from 1889):   

Brahms playing piano and possibly speaking.

Here are some comments from various listeners on YouTube about this Brahms recording:.

Aimiklingsor93 (1 month ago) Show Hide . There is a DVD on which one can hear Brahms’ voice. He speaks in English and introduces himself:  ”I am Doctor Brahms, Johannes Brahms ” Very short but quite moving...... 

 pianiplunker (3 weeks ago) Show Hide  +1   That recording is of Brahms playing a snippit of his Hungarian dance #1. Most scholars agree it is not Brahms himself speaking but the announcer saying: house of Herr Doctor Fellinger, I have Dr. Brahms,Johannes Brahms..Still I’d rather have Brahms playing piano than talking. 

leonengard (4 days ago) Show Hide . Reply  I’m trying to listen something in german, but I just hear something like  ”I have Doctor Brahms, Johannes Brahms ” and with a clear american accent. I know I’m wrong, but that’s what I hear :) Anyway, I’m happy because I can listen quite well the hungarian dance. It is a treasure to my ears. And I hear it better in the first version. Thanks for posting.  

davidgee100 (3 weeks ago) Show Hide . Reply  Can we hear energy and emotional complexity and fanfare in this playing? Does this playing shake up the house? 

 castromonteiro (1 month ago) Show Hide  +4   Reply  Well, it was not Brahms’s voice. But I don’t care, since listening to Brahms himself playing his compositions at the piano is quite enough for me ;-)

  TheAspenTom (1 month ago) Show Hide  +2   Reply  There was an analysis of this recording at Stanford Univ. The jist: it wasn’t Brahms or Felinger speaking, although it was at Felinger’s house. It was likely Theo Wangemann, a representative from Edison, introducing Brahms:  ”Dezember Achtzehnhundertneununachtzig. Haus von Herrn Doktor Fellinger, bei mir ist Doktor Brahms, Johannes Brahms. ” The researchers cleared up some preliminary noise before the first easily audible word,”\ which was the date: December 1889.  

voolare (1 month ago) Show Hide  +1    Reply  It’s not Brahms’ voice here. this is Dr Felinger saying  ”I have Dr Brahms ” not  ”I am ”. It’s in German! Brahms is at the piano in the background. 

 FranzFerencLiszt (1 month ago) Show Hide  +1    Reply  @voolare  Yep. It’s also quite strange that he says  ”I I am DOCTOR Brahms, Johannes Brahms ”. I’m Johannes Brahms. full stop.  


And for the believe it or not Dept, Now, for the first known recording of a human voice from 1860: 

The first known recording of a human voice, from April 9th, 1860. (Phonautograph Etching) : On 9th March 2008, this  ”ethereal ” 10 second clip of a woman singing the French folk song  ”Au Clair de la Lune ”, was played for the first time in 150 years. It is currently thought to be the oldest...    

If this is true, we could have had a recording of Abraham Lincoln’s voice(in Sandburg’s LINCOLN, it is accounted that Lincoln had a rather shrill voice), and countless others.  If Poe would have lived a little longer we would have his voice on a wax cylinder.

Ancient Tome of Cajun Ailments and Cures, Fabricated for use in a Novel of mine

When I was writing one of my novels about Louisiana, a couple of friends (Hal Odom and Keith Odom) had come up with some Superstitions of Cajun culture and some Ailments and Remedies. In the novel someone finds a dusty Cajun Monograph in a parish library in Cutoff, Louisiana.  The remedies and superstitions are said to be based on transcripts from an ageless Cajun woman and that the book was privately published.  No Library of Congress number.  Dated 1915: 


 It’s bad luck to sit cross-legged in a funeral home.
 It’s bad luck to see a 3-toed cat.
 If you find a bird egg under a rose bush, that means you gonna lose your wheelbarrow.  
If you drop an egg, and it’s rotten, that means your husband’s runnin’ round behind your back.  
If you have a twinge in your back, that means your cow’s milk gonna curdle.  
If you’re goin’ down to the river to go fishin’, and you see a crawfish hole, walk round it three times or else you won’t catch any fish.  
Always leave a peach pit in the corn crib to keep away the weevils.  
Don’t ever spend a two-dollar bill on April Fool’s Day: if you do, you’ll lose a tooth the next day.  
If a cow moo's at midnight, that means the corn gonna rot in the husk.  
If you hit a dog on the highway, get one of his teeth and wear it around your neck to keep away the haints.
If you find a nickel under the kitchen table, it means that company comin’.  
If the moon's got a ring around it on your birthday, that mean you gonna get married that year.  
If you find a cutworm on a cucumber, it means that a fox gonna get in the henhouse.  
If you step on a hoe handle, it means somebody tryin’ to steal your money.  
If your plum jelly ruin, it means that you gonna lose a gold tooth fillin’.  
If you fall out of bed at night, that means one of your children gonna die before you.  
If you see a shootin’ star on a night with the full moon, it means that one of your cows gonna catch the bloat.  
If one of your chickens lay a black egg, it means that somebody gonna catch the pink eye.  
It is bad luck to lay down on a pile a’ corn husks.  
Never go out of the house backwards or you’ll fall down before you get back.  
If a bluejay lights on your clothesline, then a herrycane comin’ thru next season.  
If you find a mockin’ bird feather on the sidewalk, pick it up and you’ll get a present from your next door neighbor.  
When an armadillo digs in your yard, that means the road gonna wash out.  
The only way to get rid o’ the haints is to spin around three times and sleep on a bed of potato peels in a room with a cracked mirror.  
If you get a tick on you, that means somebody tryin’ to mooch your money.  
To keep the haints out of your bedroom, wear a horseshoe ‘round’ your neck an’ sleep with your feet hangin’ over the foot of the bed, wrapped in burlap soaked in goat milk.  
When you catch a chicken, that means the roof's gonna leak next time it rain.  
When you see three one-eyed cats in a row at night, that means one of your pigs gonna get the scours next week.  
To keep away bad luck, tack a wishbone over your fireplace.  
If you cut open a catfish and find a bottlecap, that means your husband's hittin’ the booze.  
If a guinea hen moult on your porch, the foundations are eaten up by termites.  
If you find a grey hair in your hairbrush, it means your teeth are gettin’ wobbly.  
A chicken foot kept in a shoebox under the sink keep the drain from cloggin’.  
If a bullfrog jumps up on your back stoop, it means you gonna get the rheumatiz.  
It’s bad luck to wade thru a swamp carryin’ a feed sack.  
If somebody put a bad thought on you, put a chicken leg in a glass of iced tea and set it in the kitchen windowsill for 3 days, to put the bad thought back on him.  
If you get the frights in the woods, set out a foot-tub fulla corn meal and watermelon rinds, and that’ll get rid’a him.  
If you sneeze at the same time lightnin’ strikes, it means you gonna wake up with a backache.  
If the river floods and washes up a stump that look like a rooster, then your chickens gonna lose all their feathers.  
If you stumble on a oak tree root, it means your mule is about to catch worms.  
When the woodpecker pecks on the barn after a heavy rain, that means the rat’s in the potato bin.  
If you accidentally pick a red blackberry, that means your cat is gonna have a dead kitten.  
When a snappin’ turtle pokes his head out the pond, that means the fish’ is gonna nibble your worm off the hook without bitin’.  
If you see a one-eyed cat, that means you gonna lose some money.  
If you see a coon’s tracks runnin’ by a oak tree, you gonna break a axe handle next time you chop firewood.  
If you get corns on your toes, that means you gonna get a bad watermelon.  
If you swaller wrong, that means your dawg gonna dig up a mole in the backyard.
If you get goose bumps at the stroke of twelve, that means a haint is watchin’ you.
If a cow eats up your rosebushes, then a weasel gonna eat up your children, cher.
If your dog catch a catfish on your birthday, that means your corn crop gonna be real good dis year.  
If a mule gets a gimpy leg, that means your well ‘bout to run dry.  
If a rooster loses all his feathers, that means Father Thibodeaux gonna come over for dinner.  
If a pine tree fall on your fence, that means a polecat's sleepin’ in your toolshed.  
If you swallow a peach pit, that means you got a rat eatin’ your hay. 
If you stumble on a tree limb after dark when there ain’t no moon, that means the dam gonna wash out next time it rains.  
If you get a rock in your shoe, that means you gonna get the mullygrubs next day.  
If you find a silverfish in your bedsheets, that means you gonna lose your false teeth that night.  
If a garden slug get up on your window, that means your stockin’s got a run in ‘em.  
If you pass the cemetery after midnight, you’ll get the icy jaints if you don’t pour some corn meal in your shoes the next day.  
If somebody puts a bad thought on you, put a banana peel under the doormat and hang a mockin’bird nest over the doorway.  
If somebody put a bad thought on you, walk backwards thru a stream flowin’ south with a dead chicken on your back.   



The Mullygrubs     (Description:  General lethargy, minor aches and pains) ; Remedy: Regular doses of black-strap molasses with a touch of turpentine.    

The Bug     (Minor ailment like the flu) ; Sit on a hot water bottle and drink peach liquor with just a smidgion of smellin’ salts.  Groans in your bones     (Fatigue, small aches and pains caused by cold days) ; A glass of buttermilk with a dash of Worchestershire sauce and a pinch of parsley.  

Growls in your bowels     (Bowel trouble) ; Suck on a sassafras root.    Shiver in your liver/liverstones     (Abdominal pain) ; Suck on sugar cubes, take regular doses of lime extract with iodine..  

The Bloat     (Unexplainable swelling; caught from cows) ; Eat a piece of octagon soap, lie down with ya feet propped up and spit up every hour.    

Puffy eyes     (Irritation of eyes caused from lack of sleep) ; Eat suet; sprinkle bird seed on cereal; wear bird feathers in shoes; sleep with raw chicken wing in pillowcase.    

Sty in Eye     (Sore, bump on eyelid) ; Apply wet tomato leaf.    

Corns, bunions     (Big bobo on your big toe) ; Soak feet in hot jello water, keep feet in till it gels, heat up again, let it gen again; eat jello; or soak feet in rainwater and pigs’ blood..  

Groans in your bones     (Fatigue: small aches and pains caused by cold days) ; Stand backwards in front of fireplace; yell every five minutes..  Bird foot     (Toes turnin’ in like a bird’s, get the scaleyfoot) ;  Accompanying symptom: “Bird Tongue”—caught from eating uncooked partridge.    

Baldness     Wear birdnest on head; rub liniment into baldspot..  

Wobbly spine-     (Back cooches out in every direction) ; Remedy: wear barrel hoop with a two-by-four board.    

Hickey     (Bruise, sore, bug bite) ; Mustard plaster with lots of iodine.    

The Piles     (Hemorroids, Trouble down below) ; Take Johnson’s Liver Tonic, apply self-rising flour and tallow poultice..  

Knock knees     (Self-explanatory) ; Plaster of paris splints..  

Haints in joints     (Creaky bones) ; Wear garlic around neck..  

Swoll ankles     (Self explanatory) ; Soak feet in clabbored milk and tomato juice..  

Twinge in back     (Back pain) ; Massage with rubbin alcohol; take bath with lye soap..  Hip popped out of socket     (Self-explanatory) ; Wear truss and apply a pork fat compress..  

Rheumatizz     (Rheumatism) ; Take a bath in hot chicken broth, sleep with a dog, and wear mothballs in your hairnet..  

The Vapors     (Vertigo) ; Sleep with an onion under your pillow; suck on a rag soaked in vinegar.    

The Wheeze     (Phlegm in throat or lungs) Boil apples and turnip greens, sniff the steam from the broth..  

Cauliflower Ear     (Earache) Wear a sqirrel’s tail to block ear passages; put in vick salve drops..  

Lockjaw     (Self-explanatory) ; Eat licorice pills and sleep in the bathtub..  

The Croup     (Bad cough and cold, fever) Drink honey with bacon fat, or put a yam in a vaporizer and sleep with the vaporizer on all night; then you eat the yam in the morning..  

Lizard Hand     (Hand looks like a lizard’s) Tape fingers to board, run hands up and down a mule’s back twice a day, sleep wit hand in de breadbox, put lemon peels between fingers and only remove when they turn green, apply mercur’comb..  

Crow Leg     (Hop on one leg) Wear ace bandage dipped in egg batter, sleep with leg propped up in a sack a’ bird seed; every mornin’ and before you go to bed, drink a glass a’ buttermilk and vinegar, thru a paper straw.    

Churny Stomach     (Stomach doin flip flops) Persimmon milk shake with raw egg and alka seltzer..  

Tingly Tongue     (Tongue falls asleep or tongue too long) Pour Formula 44 cough syrup and molasses on a biscuit, eat biscuit, wash it down with a mixture of buttermilk and pine sap. Also wear a piece of freezer tape on your tongue..  

Elbow Rot     (Advanced rheumatizz in elbow) ; Soak elbow in a bowl of Noxema and Caladryl, then wrap elbow in a piece of linoleum with pecan shells in it..  Goose Lips     (Lips hard and yellow) ; Wear two strips of raw bacon on lips, gargle with tomato soup and pencil shavin’s..  


A lot of people believe everyone in Louisiana lives in a swamp and talks with a cajun accent.  I don’t live in Acadiana (the Cajun portion of the state) and have no accent.  But the food down here is the best, from Red Beans and Rice to Jambalaya to Gumbo.  My novel where the above made up  ”Remedies” or ”Les Traiteurs” are located is out of print so I thought I would post the entry.  Plus, the Saints are 11 and 0 right now.

A Trip to Boggy Creek in Texarkana, Arkansas

 A friend of mine named Hal I went to high school with is a lawyer in Shreveport, Louisiana, and he and I and his little brother and another good friend wanted to see what the real Boggy Creek was in Arkansas, infamous from the film “Legend of Boggy Creek” and “Return to Boggy Creek.”  Twenty years ago we were all in Shreveport at the time so it wouldn’t be that far of a trip into Arkansas to see it.  We took a van there and I worked nights as a computer operator down in Baton Rouge so I was on a different time schedule at the time, just up there for a visit. 

 There apparently really was a Boggy Creek there, as a sort of apocryphal legend.  We were not sure if we would see a southern Bigfoot but the creek was really there.  We drove up there and got to Texarkana, Arkansas.  .It also happened to be near the birthplace of famed Ragtime composer Scott Joplin (1867-1917).  My friend Hal and I both played a lot of piano (I grew up playing ragtime myself and ended up going to music school in Piano Performance) and we wanted to see any mention of Joplin, any historical markers that might be in town.  We found a large mural painted in the middle of town against a building commemorating Scott Joplin.  We went around the corner and there was an old wooden building and there was an historical marker there stating that that place was the Elementary school of Scott Joplin.  .Now that that was complete, we all drove onward.  

I mentioned to the guys that in both movies that Boggy Creek was a very large river.  One of us said that he heard that the legend of this monster was to scare locals and was really believed in certain locales of Arkansas gentry.  We drove to a small store to get something to eat, and we all bought chips, candy bars, drinks.  Everything we bought there was rotted and fetid. I kept wondering why the store owners seemed so excited that we were buying their stuff. 

Then we get to a certain point in the highway.  There is a sign that says “Boggy Creek.”  We parked the van.  We got out.  It was a veritable trickle of a creek.  You could literally jump over this creek with one hop.  Maybe we had gotten so far north that we had gotten towards the source of the creek.  There was no sighting of the monster either.  .In Louisiana heading into Mississippi there is a swamp called Honey Island.  They have a legend there about an actual boggy creek type monster. 

 There is a Honey Island Swamp Tour that has been going on for years.  There is also a Loup Garou Legend, a sort of werewolf.  There was a great episode of that with Darrin McGavin in the Night Stalker.  Other than that, Louisiana does not have any other legends of monstrocity except for racketeering governors.  

.Speaking of local filmings, I often wonder that when they filmed the first silent Tarzan movie in Abbeville, Louisiana in 1918, in the swamp, whether Edgar Rice Burroughs actually travelled there during the filming.  I have an old copy of the silent film.  I have seen several photos of Burroughs on the sets of various movies. 

 Abbeville is in the middle of nowhere, Louisiana.  Down in the swamps 150 miles east of New Orleans, and far below Lafayette, Louisiana.  Deep in Cajun country.  A learned friend of mine said that a mummy movie was ‘set’ in a New Orleans swamp between Hammond, Louisiana and New Orleans, but wasn’t actually filmed there.  

.Burroughs was born in 1875, was in the US Cavalry when they were on horseback in the wild west, and later lived in Chicago and had a wife and new family, tried to make a living from everything from Vacuum Cleaner salesman (like Lovecraft who rewrote a vacuum cleaner manual but still was not hired by the company he sought a job at) to selling pencils at a little stall in the city. He failed at everything. Dozens of jobs.  

Then he read a pulp and thought he could do that. He wrote “Under the Moons of Mars” under the name “Norman Bean” and then Tarzan for the pulps, and the rest is history. 

 I have a typed letter from him on Edgar Rice Burroughs stationary, written while he was staying in Hawaii and addressed to his daughter.  A few months from the date of that letter he witnessed the Japanese planes as he was playing tennis, as they were flying over him on their way to Pearl Harbor. 

 He was a war correspondent during WWII.  He died in his sleep one night after reading a comic book.

Horror and SF Gimmicks in Movies

When television crawled upon the American scene in the late 1940s there was felt to be a need to give the public something that they could not get on television. 

Arch Oboler (b. 1907- d. 1987, pioneer of the ”Inner Sanctum” ”Lights Out” radio programs) was the first to devise a gimmick for his movie “Bwana Devil” known as 3D.   Oboler was a radio pioneer who thought the 3D effect using polarized lenses and the showing of various objects being thrust at the viewer would revolutionize cinema.  This did not work as well as planned because extended viewing caused headaches and blurry vision. 

 After an initial mid-fifties boom 3D died out until the early 1980s when it enjoyed a brief revival. The two abominations ”Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn” and ”Spacehunters: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” come to mind.  

Recently, I’ve sat like a good dad through ”Spykids: 3D” and ”The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl,” but missed ”Coraline” in the 3d version.

.A master of the gimmick was the lowbudget filmmaker  William Castle(born as William Schloss 1914- d. 1977).  In “House on Haunted Hill” with Vincent Price, this movie used the gimmick “Emergo”  This consisted of a plastic glow in the dark skeleton suspended on a theater wire which appeared to move into the audience at the climax of the movie. 

 After an initial skeleton injured a Castle employee, a lighter skeleton was devised that did not work any better due to pranksters shooting it with BB guns.  Castle was undaunted by this gimmick’s failure and developed his most famous gimmick for the Vincent Price movie “The Tingler” was “Percepto,” which was an electrical shock device attached beneath the seats of moviegoers.  During the climax the Tingler  monster is supposed to invade the actual theater and to stimulate the monster effect, where the monster invaded the spinal column, thus “tingling&” them to death unless they screamed.  The theater owner pressed the  percepto  button, giving his audience an equivalent shock.  William Castle even had a chair in his office wired with this gimmick. Most theatres could not afford this so they would have ushers use buzzers..

Other Castle innovations were the “fright break” where the audience would hear an announcement in the theatre nearing the end of the film that if they were too frightened they could leave the theatre and get a full refund and  “Illusion-O,” which was a variation on 3D because each audience member could look through a blue or red tinted plastic to determine the outcome of the movie. .

In Castle’s “Macabre” a lesser gimmick not actually used in the course of the motion picture was the act of taking out ”fright insurance” (if the movie patron happened to die of fright during te movie) on theatergoers although some suggested “boredom insurance” being better for that film.  

Other Castle pictures such as “I Saw What You Did” contain no gimmicks. In ”Mr. Sardonicus” audience members were given thumbs up or thumbs down voting device so they could decide whether Mr. Sardonicus could be cured and live or instead die.  Of course the audience’s actions had no difference in the outcome of the movie..

William Castle produced ”Rosemary’s Baby” and early in his career did second unit work on one of Hitchcock’s earlier films..

A later 1950s film entitled “My World Dies Screaming” used a gimmick called   “psychorama.”  It is the now banned use of subliminal editing into a movie.  This movie edited such horrifying objects as skeleton pictures and the word “blood” and coffin pictures for periods of less than one second at different points in the movie.  This gimmick did not work for this particular movie, although some theater owners used it successfully to raise concession sales.  Laws were changed to prohibit subliminal messages in movies in the late ‘60s.   

  .Another gimmick user was Ray Dennis Steckler (b. 1938).  He created the gimmick of “Hallucinogenic Hypnovision” for his movie “Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed up Zombies.”  This gimmick told audiences they would be actually surrounded by movie monsters, which ended up being theater ushers dressed up as movie monsters wielding cardboard knives when a spinning wheel appeared at various times in the movie.

  It was also used for a later movie entitled “The Maniacs are Loose.” 

.One of the most famous gimmicks used in movies was “Sensuround” originally used for “Earthquake” and later used for the theatrical release of the TV movie “Battlestar Gallactica.”  This featured a device which shook the theater seats during the earthquake sequences.  Theaters unable to afford this gimmick found they could achieve an equivalent effect by turning up the sound volume of the theaters to maximum volume. 

In later years the quality of stories was looked upon as being more important than the use of gimmicks and no major gimmicks have been used in recent years.  But for students of cinema looking and examining these gimmicks over the years, these make for an interesting sidelight.