Today’s spooky/silly cartoon features one of the most popular (and still recognisable) animated characters of the silent film era – Felix the Cat. First introduced to the big screen in the immediate aftermath of World War One, and possibly based on an earlier animated version of Charlie Chaplin, this cheeky and slightly surreal black and white cat was an immediate success with critics and the cinema-going public alike.
In this 1923 short, Felix encounters a ghost who is up to no good. Following the spook, he sees it scare an unsuspecting householder and the man’s livestock. The householder calls out the reserves to rescue his property from the ghost, but that doesn’t work – so Felix offers to try to lure the ghost away with a bottle of rum! Once the phantom is off the property, Felix pulls a gun on it and, in a reveal worthy of Scooby Doo, we discover it is really a human rival of the householder who is trying to scare him into selling his home…
A little bit of bonus Halloween spookiness for you. This overdramatically-posed image of an elderly gentleman being terrified by a ‘White Lady’ is the cover of a late Victorian mystery novel, written by Arthur William A’Beckett (1844-1909). He was a journalist, humourist and writer who contributed to Punch and edited the Sunday Times over the course of his career.
He’s not well-known as a writer today, although a number of his books are available online (many of them are now in the public domain) – including The Ghost of Greystone Grange, which you can even buy for your Kindle! However, it seems that this book’s cover is more exciting and spooky than its contents; I found an Amazon review that described it as “hard going”. Shame really…
Christmas is a time for ghost stories. The long, dark, cold nights at this time of year lend themselves well to spooky tales, and today’s film clip is no exception. We’ve looked at the most famous Christmas ghost story of all on several previous occasions, but this is a very different kind of folktale to that of Scrooge and his phantom visitors.
The gothic tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to at least the 18th century and was traditionally told at Christmas time. It tells the story of a young couple, recently married, who decide to play a game of hide and seek during their wedding celebrations. During the fun and games, the bride mysteriously disappears. Years later, the husband encounters her ghost, and finds out exactly what happened to her on their wedding night…
The short version of the film above is a recent restoration by the BFI, and features a score by Pete Wiggs of St Etienne. Orginally directed in 1904 by Percy Stow, it is fascinating to see a film made more than a hundred years ago so clearly, and it shows how creative these early film-makers were – particularly with the ghostly special effects – while using very basic technology.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Happy Halloween to all my spook-tacular readers!
Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to put together a brand new seasonal post this year, but here’s a few of my previous Halloween offerings for your scary enjoyment:
It’s time for me to hop on my broomstick and fly, so wrap up warm and stay safe this Halloween. And make sure you check under the bed for monsters before you go to sleep tonight…
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us! – traditional Scottish prayer
I guess we’d all like to think our dying words will be something as witty and pithy as those attributed to Oscar Wilde, who, on his Parisian death bed, is supposed to have commented:
Either that wallpaper goes, or I do
However, some people don’t seem to get this final moment of mordant wit quite right. A classic example of this is the final words allegedly spoken by Pancho Villa (the Mexican revolutionary); seemingly on the very subject of final words – or the lack of them in his case:
Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.
But some people manage to get it gleefully, wonderfully right – which is why I had to smile this morning while reading the many obituaries published in tribute to the nurse, newspaper agony aunt and NHS campaigner Claire Rayner, who has died at the age of 79. The BBC report on her death says:
She told her relatives she wanted her last words to be: “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.”
And I should bloody think so too! Considering that this country is still paying the price for the last Tory government’s ‘reforms’ of the NHS (let alone what the last Labour government did to it…), further Conservative fiddling with the health service should strike fear into the hearts of patients and NHS staff alike – and the ghost of Claire Rayner should strike fear into Tory hearts everywhere!
I’d love to think she’ll be as good as her word – so, if reports start filtering out of Downing Street of poltergeist activity and sightings of the ghostly figure of a grey-haired, kind-hearted, slightly bossy nurse-type lady around David Cameron’s office, I think we can safely conclude not only that there is life after death but also (and more importantly!) that Claire Rayner has returned and she’s not very happy with this government….
“I’ll haunt you, haunt your bed/Tap the windows, awake in dread/Pray that you’d loved me instead/I’ll haunt you, haunt your bed/And I’ll haunt you, sleep in fear…” – Seth Lakeman, ‘I’ll Haunt You’
Whether you are a true believer in the existence of ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night or you are a complete sceptic on the subject, Halloween has always been a good time for telling a few scary ghost stories. This time of the year has long been associated with the supernatural; nights are getting longer and colder and the boundaries between this world and the next become more and more amorphous… Or something.
I confess that, personally, I fall in between these two extremes – I come from a family which claims some psychic ability and grew up fascinated by tales of haunted houses and spooky legends. I still love ghost stories, whether fictional or ‘real’, and I’ve had quite a few strange and seemingly inexplicable experiences over the years, but I am a bit too cynical and sceptical to immediately and unquestioningly accept these as being supernatural.
However, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe – and Halloween is as good an opportunity as any to suspend that disbelief and try to scare the crap out of you all…