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Awesome vintage ouija boards
04.04.2016
04:20 pm

Topics:
Design
Games
History
Occult

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Mecca Answer Board, Lee Industries, Chicago, c. 1940
 
There are two facts that a visit to the incredibly terrific Museum of Talking Boards website will cement in any viewer—the high point for ouija consumption was the 1940s and Chicago was the place where most ouija boards were manufactured.

The Museum of Talking Boards has done an excellent job wrangling what must be a chaotic field with a lot of damaged or substandard exemplars. Every board is lovingly photographed, and informational details about the time and place each board was created are always easy to find. Truly, a tremendous job.

These images are enough to drive me to eBay, where you can get many of these design marvels for prices ranging between $20 and $500.

ADIOS, FAREWELL, AU REVOIR, LATER DUDE, RECEPTION BAD, uhhhh, STATIC?
 

Black Magic Talking board, Gift Craft, Chicago, c. 1944
 

Crystal Gazer, A Barrel of Fun, c. 1940
 

Father Time Mystery Talking Board, T. Eaton Company, Toronto, 1945
 

Guiding Star Board, Palmer and Associates, Chicago
 
Many more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Starring David Bowie as Abraham Lincoln (???)
04.04.2016
12:54 pm

Topics:
History
Music

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Today’s remarkable bit of David Bowie information comes from a somewhat unlikely source: the May 1984 issue of Star Hits, a fan magazine for teenagers that achieved the difficult feat of covering the Clash and Menudo on the same page.

Tucked between an announcement for a contest to win a “video six pack” featuring footage from Kajagoogoo and DEVO and a report on the Lords of the New Church the reader will find a monthly feature called “Get Smart,” an avowedly pre-internet page dedicated to answering music questions sent in from readers.
 

 
As you can see above, Sarah Williams of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wanted to know this: “I heard David Bowie was going to be in a play called The Civil Wars as Abe Lincoln. I was wondering exactly when and where this is going to take place?”

The reigning matron of the “Get Smart” page, known as “Jackie,” provided this answer:
 

David has shelved plans to appear as Honest Abe in Robert Wilson’s marathon theater piece The Civil War, scheduled to be presented at the Los Angeles Olympics. The play does have music by Talking Head David Byrne. It would have been Bowie’s second big trip to the boards, though: he got rave reviews as The Elephant Man on Broadway in 1980.

 
Intriguing! I can’t improve on the reaction penned by the unnamed contributor to Retronaut (where I first saw this): “David Bowie was going to play Abe Lincoln… in a play with music by David Byrne… to be performed at the Los Angeles Olympics?.... What?”

“What?” indeed. Yes, it’s all true. In 1984 the Olympics were held in Los Angeles, and for reasons that aren’t too clear the experimental theater director Robert Wilson decided that an international collection of decathletes and volleyball players was the perfect occasion for a sprawling, challenging, 8-hour work called the CIVIL warS: a tree is best measured when it is down, to take place in six different world capitals. Wilson had already become renowned for his production of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach and some years later would direct The Black Rider, Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs’ adaptation of a German folktale called “Der Freischütz.”

Here’s Wikipedia on the massive undertaking:
 

The Civil Wars was conceived as a single daylong piece of music theatre to accompany the 1984 Summer Olympics. Six different composers from six different countries were to compose sections of Wilson’s text inspired by the American Civil War. After initial premieres in their countries of origin, the six parts were to be fused in one epic performance in Los Angeles during the games, a parallel to the internationalist ideals of the Olympic movement.

The premiere of the full work was cancelled when funding failed to materialize (despite the Olympic Committee’s offer of matching funds) and deadlines were not met. But four of the six sections had full productions under Wilson’s direction in Minneapolis, Rome, Rotterdam and Cologne, with workshop productions of the other two sections in Tokyo and Marseille.

 
History professor Thomas J. Brown, in his book Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial, notes that “plans for rock star David Bowie to deliver the Gettysburg Address in Japanese particularly troubled potential sponsors.” (Given any knowledge of Wilson’s previous work or the fact that the title of the thing was going to be styled the CIVIL warS in the first place, why exactly would Bowie reading the Gettysburg Address in Japanese trouble anyone?)
 

Robert Wilson
 
Interestingly, it does not appear that Lincoln reading the Gettysburg Address actually happened in the final work. The character of Lincoln did appear in one of the final works, that being the Rome section, which had its premiere in March 1984 at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, conducted by Marcello Panni. Lincoln was played not by Bowie but by Franco Sioli. Opera magazine published the following account of the piece’s action at the time—we’re just showing the Lincoln parts here:
 

The first scene presents Garibaldi in a box looking at the stage where a Snow Owl (Seta Del Grande) is seated; to the right a gigantic Abraham Lincoln (Franco Sioli) and at the centre Earth Mother (Ruby Hinds). ... The background to this episode depends on the vain efforts of Lincoln to enrole [sic] Garibaldi in the Federal army in 1862. The third scene is in a desert landscape: in the background is a spaceship and through a porthole we see a man floating in the absence of gravity: the man is Robert Lee, Confederate commander in chief. A mourning Mrs Lincoln (Ruby Hinds) enters followed by eight black-clothed figures (octet): the scene is conceived as a homage to the negro spiritual.

[Later] From a spaceship, Mrs Lincoln as a young girl recites an infantile speech announcing the end of the war. A human-sized Lincoln descends from the sky and reiterates the text sung in the first scene.

 
Human-sized Lincolns are my very favorite kind of Lincolns!

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
That time in 1978 when Dolly Parton posed for Playboy with a super pervy-looking bunny
04.04.2016
11:17 am

Topics:
Amusing
History

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Sorry folks, if you thought you were going to see Dolly Parton naked—it just ain’t gonna happen. Under no circumstance was Dolly ever going to show her goods in the October 1978 issue of Playboy. Here’s what she had to say about the whole “taking it all off” for the men’s magazine during an interview she did with Lawrence Grobel in 1978:

I got kind of scared when I thought they wanted me to do something … I didn’t want to be naked on the front of a magazine unless everybody would know it was a joke. I wouldn’t want to be naked even then.

In 2014 Dolly was asked again to pose for Playboy but, “she passed this time around, saying it wouldn’t be appropriate because of the work she now does with children and the Imagination Library, her charity that supports childhood literacy.”

Now let’s forget about Dolly and Playboy and focus on that damned rabbit. That has to be one of the most sinister-looking rabbit costumes I’ve ever seen. What the hell were they thinking?


 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
When Debbie Harry wrestled Andy Kaufman, 1983
04.04.2016
10:05 am

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Amusing
History

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Caitlan Clarke, Andy Kaufman and Debbie Harry,1983

Teaneck Tanzi: The Venus Flytrap was a 1983 Broadway play that starred Debbie Harry as “Tanzi,” Caitlan Clarke as “Tanzi” and Andy Kaufman as the “referee.” Debbie Harry and Caitlin Clarke had to alternate in the lead role of “Tanzi” because of the strenuous nature of the wrestling.

Apparently the play didn’t do too well, though. Despite its success in London, Teaneck Tanzi closed on Broadway after just a single performance.

From a 2007 Gothamist interview with Debbie Harry:

What can you tell us about your Broadway debut alongside Andy Kaufman in Teaneck Tanzi?

The Venus Flytrap? [Laughs.] Well, it was a very interesting little musical play. At the time, way back in the beginning of the ‘80s, Chris [Stein, co-founder of Blondie] and I were very big wrestling fans and we used to go to the Garden all the time because we had a friend who did all the promotion there and she would get us ringside seats. We had a great time and started going to wrestling many, many years before Cyndi [Lauper] starting hanging out with Lou Albano. So then all of a sudden I got this script and I thought it could be really fun. So we did the show for about three weeks in previews, downtown in a nice sort of loft space Off Off-Broadway. And it was great; the audiences were loud and everybody was shouting at the wrestlers just like a real wrestling match. And then they decided they were going to open it on Broadway and it opened and closed almost instantly! So I guess it was a little bit premature for Broadway.

 

 

 

 

More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘The Legend of the Fall’: A slapdash cartoon love letter to Mark E. Smith
04.01.2016
12:09 pm

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Art
History
Music

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Panel #12: “And Mark said the three R’s were ‘Repetition, Repetition, Repetition….”
 
I learned recently that antifolk musician and comix artist Jeffrey Lewis is a huge fan of the Fall, which, as it happens, I am as well. Lewis tends to celebrate his artistic heroes in his songs and artwork; some of his song titles are “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” and “The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song.”

One senses in Lewis’ love for Smith a respectful acknowledgment from one ultra-prolific artist to another. Lewis has fashioned a kind of “Where’s Waldo” poster involving many, many, many Fall tracks, under the title “100 Fall Songs,” which actually contains visual references to 112 Fall ditties. You can buy that at his website, and it even comes with a key so that you can test your Fall knowledge.

In 2007 and 2008 Lewis was given to a quickie “documentary” (his term) about the Fall that he would do in his live shows; maybe he’s done it since but he was definitely doing it at that time. The title of the piece is “The Legend of the Fall,” and if that puts you in the mind of a certain Jim Harrison novella that was turned into a Brad Pitt movie, you’re not alone.
 

Panel #16: “...who worked hard writing, touring, and recording….”
 
The “documentary” consists of twenty-odd panels drawn by Lewis himself, that were concocted to accompany amusing doggerel of rhyming couplets that Lewis had written describing the tumultuous history of the Manchester band.

Here’s an example of the couplets: 
 

Mark and his friends bounced ideas off the wall
He was gonna dress up & they were gonna call themselves “Flyman and the Fall”
Then they settled on “The Fall” after the Camus book
Though Mark couldn’t sing a note & didn’t care how square he looked

 
Panel #19 refers to a gig in 1998 when Smith punched a band member onstage and got arrested—DM published an in-depth chronicle of that memorable gig (complete with video!) last year.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Beautiful women from over 100 years ago as seen on vintage postccards
03.29.2016
12:56 pm

Topics:
History
Pop Culture

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Flickr user Postman has amassed a terrific collection of vintage postcards dated from around 1900 to the 1920s featuring gorgeous women from around the world. I just love these. Not one duckface to be seen among them.

Beautiful then, and beautiful now. How did the standard of beauty come to be the Kardashian sisters? It must’ve crept up on us at some point.


 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The black magic ‘hexing party’ to kill Adolf Hitler with voodoo, 1941
03.28.2016
12:50 pm

Topics:
History
Media
Occult

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Florence Birdseye chants above an effigy of Hitler, 1941.
 
William Seabrook was a well-known occultist (and, not coincidentally, a buddy of Aleister Crowley) who in 1940 had published a fairly popular book called Witchcraft: Its Power in the World Today.

On a wet evening in January 1941, Seabrook and “a youthful band of idealists” convened at a cabin in the Maryland woods—they made sure to bring a whole bunch of rum from Jamaica, land of voodoo—with a single, lofty aim: “to kill Adolf Hitler by voodoo incantation.” A report of the event, complete with photographs, made for one of the odder features ever to appear in LIFE Magazine, under the title “LIFE Goes to a Hexing Party.”

The event had curious connections to the federal government, it seems. The tom-tom drums were borrowed, according to LIFE, from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Furthermore, LIFE described the group of voodoo practitioners as “respectable residents of Washington, D.C.,” and the cabin in which it all took place belonged to a man named Charles Tupper, who was an employee in a naval factory. The group brought, in LIFE’s words, “a dressmaker’s dummy, a Nazi uniform, nails, axes, tom-toms and plenty of Jamaica rum.” The dummy and the uniform were needed for the life-sized effigy that the group was going to create of Hitler.

One fascinating thing about this escapade is that the United States was not yet at war with Germany. That would have to wait nearly a year, when the Japanese attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7.

The ritual, prepared by Seabrook, invoked a pagan deity named Istan and incorporated the following phrases, to be intoned at the effigy:

“You are Hitler; Hitler is you! ... The woes that come to you, let it come to him! ... Hitler! You are the enemy of man and of the world; therefore we curse you. ... We curse you by every tear and drop of blood you have caused to flow. We curse you with the curses of all who have cursed you!”

After every line the whole group would repeat, “We curse you!”

They also chanted in unison: “We are driving nails and needles into Adolf Hitler’s heart!”

Incidentally, one of Seabrook’s claims to fame was that he once ... dined with cannibals! According to him, human flesh is pretty tasty: “It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef . . . and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted.” Not chicken?

It took several years, but the United States and its allies France, Great Britain, and the USSR defeated the Axis Powers in 1945.

Here is a gallery of images from this oh-so-peculiar event. Clicking will spawn a larger version, for all images not in portrait orientation.
 

Revelers make their way to a “hex party” in the Maryland woods, 1941.
 

Chief hexer Ted Caldwell intones an incantation. On the right, in dark shirt and tie, is author William Seabrook. Hitler’s effigy sits with its back to the window.
 
More of these remarkable pictures after the jump….......

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Serial killers, death masks and other strange 100-year-old wax anatomical anomalies
03.28.2016
07:52 am

Topics:
History
Science/Tech

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100-year-od wax head/bust of a man showing its age
100-year-old wax head/bust of a man showing its age.
 
What is said to be the largest collection of anatomical wax figures to ever be on public display, including a life-sized version of horrific German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann (called the “Vampire of Hanover” and “the Wolf Man” due to penchant for sawing through his unfortunate victims throats with his teeth), can be seen at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum.
 
The wax feet and legs of German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann and pieces of his victims
The wax feet and legs of German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann and pieces of his victims.
 

“Moulages” (the casting and molding of “mock” injuries for training/instructional purposes) of patients with lupus and leprosy.
 
A female anatomical figure displaying the effects of wearing tight corseting
A female anatomical figure displaying the effects of wearing tight corseting.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Satan’s Chillen & Screamin’ Demons: Awesome personalized World War II leather bomber jackets
03.25.2016
09:40 am

Topics:
Art
Fashion
History

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Here are some personalized, hand-painted A-2 flight jackets from World War II brought to you by D. Sheley‘s collection on Flickr.

Apparently the A-2 jacket was the standard flight jacket every man received during the war. It’s interesting to see everyone’s personality still shine through from their lovingly adorned jackets. 


 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
September 17, 1970: The last photographs of Jimi Hendrix
03.18.2016
10:16 am

Topics:
History
Music

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The day before Jimi Hendrix died on September 17, 1970, these serene photographs were taken during his stay at the Samarkand Hotel. Jimi can be seen enjoying his favorite Fender Stratocaster guitar, a spot of tea and some outdoor activities. Apparently Hendrix and his girlfriend, Monika Danneman, spent the majority of the sunny day strolling King’s Road, shopping for clothes at the Chelsea antiques market and visiting the Cumberland Hotel.

These are the last known photographs ever taken of the great rock guitarist, who tragically died at the age of 27 from a barbiturate overdose. Dannemann revealed years later that Hendrix had taken nine of her prescription Vesparax sleeping pills, many, many times the recommended dosage.


 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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