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Diabolical images of Hell and its demons from the 15th Century
12.29.2016
10:09 am
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For such a beautiful book containing such rich and powerful religious iconography there is surprisingly little known about Livre de la Vigne Nostre Seigneur other than it is a French book written circa 1450-70 and is an illustrated treatise “on the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ” and “the Antichrist, Last Judgement, Hell, and Heaven.”

The book’s title Livre de la Vigne Nostre Seigneur is an “allusion” to:

...a vineyard often evoked in the Old Testament, planted by Yahweh and symbolizing the people of Israel. The image is taken up in the New Testament [Matthew 20-21], Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to a vine whose Christians are the winegrowers.

The manuscript is illustrated throughout with stunning miniatures produced by many different hands depicting a diverse range of demons carrying out their dastardly deeds in Hell.

These “medieval demons”:

...undertake a much broader variety of activities—none of them good—and as observable here and elsewhere in the Livre de la Vigne imagery, their physiognomies often incorporate a baroque set of negative pictorial signs, which may include dark skin; deformity; bestial features such as fangs or beaks, horns, hooves, and tails; ugly grimaces; and supernumerary bodily orifices.

Demonic attributes, such as military weapons, pitchforks, fleshhooks, and flails, are associated with warfare, agricultural labour, and torture; and the torments inflicted by demons upon the damned include some of those familiar to medieval viewers from earthly spectacle, including public punishment.

Writer and researcher Jenny Judova notes the “most interesting aspect of these demonic depictions is”:

...that according to F. Carey (The Apocalypse and the Shape of Things to Come, p.93) ‘many of the details of the pictorial depictions follow the account in the text, which incorporates the description (in Latin ) from the book of Job 41:5-12:

(41-5) Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about. (41-6) His body is like molten shields, shut close up with scales pressing upon one another. (41-7) One is joined to another, and not so much as any air can come between them: (41-8) They stick one to another and they hold one another fast, and shall not be separated. (41-9) His sneezing is like the shining of fire, and his eyes like the eyelids of the morning. (41-10) Out of his mouth go forth lamps, like torches of lighted fire. (41-11) Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, like that of a pot heated and boiling. (41-12) His breath kindleth coals, and a flame cometh forth out of his mouth’

Jenny also points out the manuscript’s depiction of the Devil is “to some extent based on scripture and not social expectations of what the devil should like and artistic imagination.”

The Bodleain Library has uploaded a large selection of images from Livre de la Vigne Nostre Seigneur which can be viewed here.
 
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More images of Hell’s angels, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.29.2016
10:09 am
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Chaos, corruption & the demise of civilization
12.28.2016
08:45 am
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A sculpture by artist Kris Kuksi.
 

The function of my work has to do with relating to the darker side of human psychology

—Kris Kuksi

One of the notable fans of artist and sculptor Kris Kuksi is visionary film director Guillermo del Toro. And once you’ve seen Kuksi’s work it will not be hard to understand why it attracted the distinguished eye of del Toro and the late Robin Williams, among others.

Kuksi moved away from Springfield, Missouri and his alcoholic father while still a young child and was raised by his mother in a rural community just outside of Wichita, Kansas along with his two older brothers. The town offered a rather stagnant and unstimulating environment for the aspiring artist who spent a lot of time playing with his Star Wars action figures and LEGO bricks by himself. Kuksi’s grandmother would provide her grandson with her own stationary to draw on which allowed him to express himself despite the desolation he was surrounded by. His love of drawing was also encouraged by his high school art teacher who advised the teenager to continue his studies with higher education. Kuksi would go on to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in painting from Fort Hays State University.

By the time he was 22 Kuksi made his first attempt at sculpture using found objects such as castaway toys, leftover bits from modeling kits, wood, jewellery and other materials that helped him bring the images in his imagination to life. According to the artist it can take months to finish one of his densely detailed sculptures and it’s not unusual for him to work fourteen to sixteen hour jags in a single day on a complex piece in his studio—a former church by the Kansas River. Kuksi’s work is deeply influenced by Italian Renaissance masters and he refers to one of the greatest sculptors (and noted architect) of the 17th century and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini as his “ultimate hero.”

I don’t like to use the phrase “mind-blowing” without good reason but Kuksi’s sculpture work is absolutely worthy of such praise. Kuksi’s artwork is featured in the 2010 book published by BeinART, Kris Kuksi: Divination and Delusion. Some images are delightfully NSFW.
 

‘Leda and the Swan.’ A sculpture by artist Kris Kuksi, 2014.
 

‘Churchtank.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.28.2016
08:45 am
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Vintage photographs of women posing with their pagan fertility symbols
12.23.2016
08:13 am
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Every Fall I keep my eyes peeled for the appearance of the first Christmas tree. They seem to come earlier every year. The earliest I’ve ever seen one was at the end of September last year when a bright glittering aluminum tree appeared high in a tenement window in the north of the city.

By December windows all across town are glowing bright with colored lights like so many opened windows on an Advent calendar. The earlier the tree, the more likely it is to be aluminum—or “artificial” as we call it in the UK—for obvious reasons.

My parents always had a fake tree, which was taken down from the attic during the second week of December then covered with baubles, tinsel, candy canes and lights. The usual kinda stuff. There was always a great pleasure taken in decorating the tree—a childish excitement at the fast approaching holidays.

Which brings me to these fine vintage photographs from the 1950s and 1960s of women proudly sitting or standing beside their Christmas trees—looking all happy and proud. Though these are quite wonderfully festive pictures they kinda overlook the original history of such seasonal trees as giant phallic symbols that have a pagan history going way back to ancient times.

Depending on who you read the Christmas tree became fashionable with northern Europeans around the mid-fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Estonia and Latvia still bicker over who put up the first Christmas tree—the Estonian’s claim they did in 1441—while the Latvians point out they have documentary evidence to the first decorated Christmas tree displayed in Riga in 1510.

Thereafter, the use of trees to celebrate Christmas spreads to northern Germany where the first printed reference of such festive firs appears in 1531. These trees were later decorated with cake, candles and even glass baubles.

This tradition spread to England where in 1800 Queen Charlotte the German wife of George III, “set up the first known English tree at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December, 1800.” It would take until during the 1840s when—after their promotion by Prince Albert (the German husband of Queen Victoria) and through Charles Dickens’s popular festive tales—decorated Christmas trees became a seasonal “thing” in people’s houses, rather than town squares or churches. The Christmas tree was seen as a symbol of renewal and hope—which kinda takes it back to its pagan history.

Long, long before Victorians popularized the Xmas tree—the ancient Greeks considered pine trees as sacred to Attis the god of flora and Cybele the Earth goddess. The Greeks were said to decorate their trees with small silver trinkets as a symbol of rebirth and renewal—which was similar to how the ancient Egyptians viewed their palm trees, using palm leaves to decorate their homes as as “sign of resurrection.”

Then there were the Romans who associated evergreens with the return of the sun during their festivities for Saturnalia during December—a period of gift giving, feasting and human sacrifice. The Romans decorated their “trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus [a fertility god]. They also placed 12 candles on the tree in honor of their sun god.”

The evergreen fir tree was seen as a highly potent phallic symbol for continuing fertility during the winter solstice—symbolizing the soon approaching Spring and the birth of new life.
 
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Just waitin’ for Santa.
 
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Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.
 
More festive women and their Xmas trees, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.23.2016
08:13 am
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Weird monsters of Japanese folklore
12.09.2016
12:14 pm
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Ubagabi—the ghost of an old woman that appears as fireball.
 
There’s an ancient Japanese legend of the one hundred yōkai—monsters, ghosts, apparitions and demons—who parade through the streets on hot summer nights. If anyone is unfortunate to see these creatures—or to be caught up in it—then they will perish away or worse be taken captive for the twisted pleasure.

If you’ve ever watched the enjoyable trilogy of movies Yokai MonstersOne Hundred Monsters (1968), Spook Warfare (1968), and Along With Ghosts (1969)—then you’ll have a good idea what these demons look like—ogres, goblins, ghosts, sprites, spooky umbrellas and dangerous women with ever-extending serpentine necks.

All of these incredible monsters have long been a part of Japanese folklore. They were first codified in the supernatural bestiary—Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (The Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons) by artist and scholar Toriyama Sekien in 1776. It’s a kind of fabulously illustrated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them but far, far more beautiful and eerie.

In 1881, artist Nabeta Gyokuei updated this incredible volume when he produced a picture book or e-hon of Sekien’s 100 demons. The Kaibutsu Ehon or Illustrated Book of Monsters features beautiful woodblock prints of each of the yōkai and its special powers.

The whole book can be viewed here.
 
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Kasha—a fiery yōkai—or phantom-in this case a cat that steals or devours corpses.
 
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Aoi no Ue—fictional female character from ‘The Tale of Genji’ who is possessed by demons.
 
More fabulous monsters, demons and ghosts, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.09.2016
12:14 pm
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Dead at 17: ‘The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation’—a handy guide from 1830
12.06.2016
09:52 am
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‘He was young and handsome…his mother’s hope.’
 
He was young and handsome, his mother’s pride and joy—but he died in torment, blind, sick and paralyzed—at the age of seventeen. If only he’d known the perils of masturbation, then he might have lived a better life.

This, in a nutshell, was the warning to young French men as published in Le livre sans titre (“The Book With No Title”) in 1830. At that time, masturbation was considered by moralists and physicians as a malady which lead to early death.

In 1716, Dr. Balthazar Bekker published a pamphlet on this “heinous sin” of “self-pollution” entitled Onania, which cautioned the reader self-abuse would lead to:

Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.

Yeah, but still…

Then in A Medicinal Dictionary of 1745, Dr. Robert James stated that onanism was responsible for “the most deplorable and generally incurable disorders.”

Another medical book L’Onanisme by physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot claimed semen was an essential body oil—which when wasted through masturbation caused:

....a perceptible reduction of strength, of memory and even of reason; blurred vision, all the nervous disorders, all types of gout and rheumatism, weakening of the organs of generation, blood in the urine, disturbance of the appetite, headaches and a great number of other disorders.

These men weren’t quacks, either—they were highly eminent and respectable scientists working in the Age of Enlightenment. It is hardly surprising that these seemingly informed and scientific views should become so ubiquitous in the 19th century that they could end up as the cautionary tale of Le livre sans titre.

This edition of the book was the find of Jim Edmondson who scanned the pages and posted them on his blog.
 
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‘He became corrupted! Soon his crime makes him old before his time. His back becomes hunched.’
 
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‘A devouring fire burns up his entrails; he suffers from horrible stomach pains.’
 
More cautionary tales of jerkin’ the gherkin, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.06.2016
09:52 am
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Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world
12.05.2016
10:18 am
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‘Lucifer and little devils,’ Tauplitz, Austria. Photograph by Charles Fréger.
 
In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter another other seasonal celebrations.

Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:

It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.

Following his exhaustive tours of Europe, Fréger headed to Japan to photograph both winter and spring celebrations in Japan which showcase the country’s “theatrical” take on their celebratory costumes that have remained intact over the course of many centuries. The images from his travels to Japan reveal mythological “monsters” such as ogres and demons menacingly blending into landscapes, fields and the water or wielding machetes . Fréger’s exploits with international folkloric entities are the subject of two gorgeous books, Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage, and Yokainoshima: Island of Monsters. I’ve included many images of Fréger’s scary monsters and mythical entities taken in Italy, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Japan as well as other destinations that celebrate the coming of winter and other seasonal changes with characters way more interesting than Santa. Enjoy!
 

Slovenia.
 

Portugal.
 

Switzerland.
 

Croatia.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.05.2016
10:18 am
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Sweet Jesus: There’s a ‘hipster’ nativity scene you can buy
11.21.2016
08:24 am
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At first I was like “meh” when I heard about a “hipster” nativity scene for the holidays. That was, until I actually saw it. I have to admit I laughed out loud. It’s pretty darn clever. I mean, the three wise men on Segways bearing gifts from Amazon!? Too perfect. One of these generic “individuals” even has a waxed mustache. Nice detail.

And Mary. Mary holding a cup of Starbucks next to baby Jesus while making a pursed-lip duck face for their selfie. Now I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but Mary looks like she’s on some type of opiate as well. Just look at her blissfully beatific expression! She clearly needs that frappuccino just to keep her eyes open.

Lastly, I giggled at the knitted sweater on the sheep. Because sheep in sweaters is actually a thing. And it’s dumb. And it’s so very, very 2016.

The hipster nativity scene can be purchased here for $129.99.


 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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11.21.2016
08:24 am
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The unhappiest place on Earth: Grisly images from Thailand’s ‘Hell Garden’
10.24.2016
09:30 am
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Statues in the ‘Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden’ in Thailand. Photo by Darmon Richter.
 
Located about 60 miles outside of Bangkok there is a massive “garden” full of statues engaged in grisly situations that would make Hieronymus Bosch blush. The scenes are meant to depict the consequences of straying from the path of Buddhism—such as abusing alcohol or drugs and having loose morals. The bottom line is that at the end of your life (as a Buddhist) if your “bad deeds” outnumber your “good deeds” you’re fucking screwed. And in the case of some of the depictions in the Wang Saen Suk “Hell Garden” getting “screwed” could be quite literally what happens to you in the afterlife. Yikes.

In Buddhism “Hell” goes by the name “Naraka” however it’s not a place where poorly behaved Buddhists end up spending eternity cavorting with the devil, but a place where the deceased must reside until all of their illicit actions (or “negative karma”) has been exhausted. In some cases inhabitants of Naraka must swap out their human bodies for those of animals that have been selected depending on the nature of your crime or bad behavior. So if you’re a criminal that is prone to starting bar fights, then you’ll turn into a duck. The offence of “corruption” will earn you the honor of sporting a rabid pig’s head instead of your own human one. But these Incredible Mr. Limpet sounding punishments pale in comparison to the true horrors that are depicted within the confines of Wang Saen Suk and its stoic misanthropes.

The Buddhist vision of Hell includes over a hundred different “levels” that are both “hot” and “cold.” And those unfortunate enough to find themselves within one or the other are tortured in specific fashions such as being impaled, frozen, burnt by scalding liquids or roasted in ovens. Throughout the Wang Saen Suk these types of gruesome scenarios are on display along with explanations as to why the sinner must pay the specified price for their misdeeds. Despite its appropriate name, the words “Hell Garden” barely seem scratch to the surface when it comes to graphic scenes scattered through the garden of genital mutilation, disembowelment and worse.

My heart is about as black as they come, but the photos you are about to see even pushed yours truly a bit over the edge. That said nearly every image in this post is positively NSFW (and then some).
 

Photo by Darmon Richer.
 

Photo by Darmon Richer.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.24.2016
09:30 am
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The Gorbals Vampire: The child-eating monster that terrorized Glasgow in the 1950s
10.20.2016
12:37 pm
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For three nights the children came to the “City of the Dead.” They carried knives, clubs and stakes—even a crucifix. Two hundred or more children came to the Gorbals Necropolis—a large cemetery situated in the south of the city of Glasgow. They were aged between four and fourteen. A few were just toddlers accompanying older brothers on this terrifying hunt. There was a sense of excitement. A sense of danger. Some thought it thrilling. Others were terrified. Most set with a grim determination of what had to be done. They said they were ready—they knew they were ready.  Ready to hunt and kill a vampire.

In September of 1954 the children from the Gorbals district of Glasgow were terrorized by tales of a hideous vampire. A ghoulish beast, he was supposedly seven feet tall with blood red eyes and sharp iron teeth. The children called this creature the Gorbals Vampire. They said it had already killed two young boys—drinking their blood and feasting on their flesh. The police refused to comment but when pressed claimed they had no knowledge of these missing children or the vampire who had eaten them. But the children thought they knew better…

Tales and half-truths spread word-of-mouth: Wee Jimmy had heard it from Rab; and Rab heard it from Billy; and Billy should know ‘cause his cousin’s a policeman.

On September 23rd, police constable Alex Deeprose was called to a disturbance at the Gorbals “City of the Dead”—the Southern Necropolis. PC Deeprose was shocked on arrival to find up to 200 kids roaming the graves looking for signs of a vampire. At first, he thought the children were joking—but when they begged him to help find the vampire and drive a stake through its heart, he realized that this was no joke.

Tam Smith was a seven-year-old schoolboy at the time. He recalled the scene in a newspaper interview:

“The walls were lined with people. We ventured through the gatehouse and there were loads of kids in there, some wandering around, some sitting on the walls. There were a lot of dogs too, and mums and dads with kids.

“We found a place to stand out of the way because there were so many people there. I think the whole of the Gorbals was in that graveyard. It’s hard to put an estimate on the number of people.”

But what had caused so many people to believe there was a vampire in their midst? Ronnie Sanderson was an eight-year-old from the Gorbals when the vampire story first spread through the city:

“It all started in the playground - the word was there was a vampire and everyone was going to head out there after school. At three o’clock the school emptied and everyone made a beeline for it. We sat there for ages on the wall waiting and waiting. I wouldn’t go in because it was a bit scary for me.”

“I think somebody saw someone wandering about and the cry went up: ‘There’s the vampire!’ That was it - that was the word to get off that wall quick and get away from it.”

“I just remember scampering home to my mother: ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘I’ve seen a vampire!’ and I got a clout round the ear for my trouble. I didn’t really know what a vampire was.”

 
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The vampire hunt and the story of the two missing children spread panic across the city. Still, the police had no report of any missing children. At the local school the headmaster denounced the story as nonsense and warned children against believing such a ridiculous tale, but the following night and the night after that the Gorbals children came out in force looking to kill a vampire.

The press picked up on the story. “AMAZING SCENE AS HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN RUSH CEMETERY” ran one headline. The Gorbals Vampire was dismissed as an urban myth—an example of mass hysteria. The press began to investigate how this fiction of the murderous bloodsucking monster came about. They claimed American comic books like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror were responsible. These comics with their graphic tales and gruesome imagery were the cause of the mass panic. Yet some academics disagreed stating they had found no reference to any iron toothed vampire in either comic. Instead they claimed there was “a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and one in a poem taught in local schools.”

Then another story spread about a woman—most probably a witch—who was said to be in league with the Gorbals Vampire:

“There was an old lady who used to carry two cats in a basket. She would go to the graveyard to get peace away from the kids and let her cats have a wander. But she was in there the night we went looking for it and people were involving the ‘cat woman’ with the iron man. It was a shame when you think about it, she was an eccentric with wiry hair, but we called her Tin Lizzie. She was the iron man’s ‘burd’.”

In fact, the press were half right. The story of an iron-tooth vampire had been inspired by an American comic—but not Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror—rather Dark Mysteries.

In issue the December 1953 issue of Dark Mysteries #15 there was a story entitled: “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth.” This was the apparent source of the panic over the Gorbals Vampire.
 
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The suggestion that “nasty” American comic books were corrupting young children led to an unholy alliance between teachers, Communists and religious leaders to demand a ban on sales of comics like Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror to children.

Yet our two eyewitnesses to the events of September 1954 have said they had never seen a horror movie or read a horror comic.
 
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On September 26th, 1954, the Sunday Mail newspaper ran the following story:

VAMPIRE WITH IRON TEETH IS “DEAD”

Read on after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.20.2016
12:37 pm
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‘Live animals are known to be devoured’: Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles’ Sufi recordings
10.20.2016
09:08 am
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Part of Ira Cohen’s layout for the Jilala sleeve (via Granary Books)
 
Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was not the first album of Moroccan music inspired by the kif-smoking literary expats in Tangier. In 1964, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles taped the Jilala brotherhood, a Sufi order whose ritual dance and music were supposed to exorcise evil spirits and heal the sick. The LP Jilala, released a year or two later by Ira Cohen, brought these recordings into limited circulation and preserved them for posterity.

Poet, musician, traveler, author of The Hashish Cookbook, and director of The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, Cohen was another Olympian of the arts who had joined Burroughs, Gysin, and the Bowleses in Tangier in 1961. (My old employer Arthur Magazine brought out Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda on DVD ten years ago, with new scores by Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of the Man supplementing the original soundtrack by founding Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise.) Years before his psychedelic photo experiments with Mylar, Cohen edited the literary magazine Gnaoua, named after a form of North African religious music that’s related to but distinct from the Jilala’s. 

It’s not entirely clear how Jilala is connected to another Paul Bowles recording project involving the same collaborators, time, and place. Bowles wrote Cohen in 1966 about donating the profits from something called the “Hypnotic Music record” to the Timothy Leary Defense Fund. In a footnote, the editor of Bowles’ letters says this refers to a compilation of Hamatcha, Jilala, Gnaoua, and Aissaoua trance music that was put together from tapes made separately by Bowles, Gysin, and Cohen and released by Cohen. However, the Independent reports that the Hypnotic Music record was an unrealized project, so perhaps Bowles’ editor has conflated it with Jilala, which Discogs lists as the sole release on Cohen’s Trance Records.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong about this. Does anyone have a copy of the Hypnotic Music record?
 

The cover of the original issue of Jilala
 
Before putting Jilala in your gym playlist, you should probably read Cohen’s liner notes (reprinted in full at Big Bridge and Discogs) so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The Jilala knew how to pitch a wang dang doodle with their flutes and drums. The bath salts of their day, these religious tunes have been known to make listeners eat live animals, slash themselves with knives, and drink boiling water straight from the kettle, as Cohen tells it…

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.20.2016
09:08 am
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