Thursday, December 24, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 1 ...


     The clock on the wall and the headline on this page tells us that our time is up for another year here at the K.A.C. As we do every year, we're going to leave you with our annual Christmas ghost story. 

     Actually, there are two. The first is a traditional chiller and the second one is somewhat different. Oh, there are spirits involved, but it takes a very unexpected turn from the tales you are used to reading here.

     But first, a bit of info on the man who wrote them. Arch Oboler (1909 - 1987) was a prolific and gifted writer with a fertile imagination, most noted today for his guiding hand on the LIGHTS OUT radio show of the 1930s and '40s. His most famous (or infamous) show was the "Chicken Heart" episode (in which a chicken heart kept alive in a lab grows out of control and devours all life on Earth), a masterpiece of sound effects that gave kids of the time the jim-jams and was so popular and well-remembered that Bill Cosby had one of his most famous stand-up comedy routines about hearing it as a kid and the unfortunate incident that transpired in his home because of it. 

     Oboler was also an acknowledged inspiration for such future writers as Rod Serling and Stephen King. He was responsible for cinema's first 3-D feature (BWANA DEVIL, 1952), as well as being the mastermind behind another 3-D feature we've shown at Conjure Cinema, THE BUBBLE. 

     I had the good fortune to correspond with Mr. Oboler when I was a college student in the 1970s and he spoke of many things, including (like Rod Serling after him) his disdain for the interference and changes to his scripts by network sponsors and the like. He also wrote one of the finest horror novels I have ever read (House On Fire, 1969). For years it was out of print and impossible to find, but has been recently reprinted and is well worth your time.

     That rather long introduction aside leads us (at last) to this year's tales. Our first story is entitled "Poltergeist" (aka "The Gravestone"). It originally aired on LIGHTS OUT the night of December 16th, 1936, and is a stellar example of how Oboler could wreak havoc with one's imagination with only words and sound effects. Give it a listen here: 

     Our second tale is entitled "Uninhabited" and aired on December 22nd, 1937. It was, I'm sure, a surprise to regular LIGHTS OUT listeners who were expecting their regular dose of in-the-dark radio horror. Oboler was always one to turn expectations on their head throughout his long career and this episode is no exception. So turn out YOUR lights and settle in (courtesy of the Old Time Radio Christmas website) as we join three weary travelers on a long train ride home ... that takes a VERY unexpected detour:


     Finally, let me leave you with this quote, appropriate for the holiday ... and any other ... season.

     "Resolve to cultivate a cheerful spirit, a smiling countenance and a soothing voice. The sweet smile, the subdued speech, the hopeful mind are earth's most potent conquerors, and he who cultivates them becomes a very master among men".

                                                                                         - Elbert Hubbard 


     Thank you for joining us for another edition of the K.A.C. - we hope we've educated and entertained you along the way and brought some happiness into this stressful time. We'll be back next year when the calendar reaches December. Until then, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 2 ...

     In our next to last entry for the year, I thought we'd explore one of the more interesting superstitions of the season that I remember growing up with as a child. 

     Have you ever heard of the Legend of the Talking Animals? There are a number of variations of the story, but the bare bones of it is that as part of the magic of Christmas, if you stayed up until midnight on Christmas Eve and were very quiet, you could hear the animals talk in human speech. The origin of this story is hard to track down - most people say this practice originated from the British Isles, at the more isolated farms, but I've also heard the legend being attributed to Polish origin.

     According to Dr. Karl Shuker (at his ShukerNature website):

      "In many lands, there is an age-old folk belief that from midnight on Christmas Eve until dawn breaks on Christmas Day morning, animals are blessed with the gift of human speech, in memory of the lowly stable creatures that surrounded the Holy Family in the manger. During that magical period, they are able to converse with one another, enabling them to voice their adoration of the newborn Jesus, and also to discuss how well (or otherwise) they are cared for by their human masters."

     In addition to the regular talking animals, there is also the belief that if you keep bees and go out to their hive at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will hear them humming a hymn in honor of Christ's birth. Another version of the tale says the animals are only able to speak for a few minutes after midnight on Christmas Eve (making it that much harder to catch them), in remembrance of the animals in the manger. They have the gift of human speech for a limited time to commemorate the short time they had before the shepherds arrived from the fields, when the only people who heard them speak were Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus.

     This is one of the earliest stories I remember as a kid, and for some reason, it creeped me out! :) So of course, year after year, I would make it a point to stay up until midnight to try and catch my Mom's poodle talking (if he said anything, it would have probably been something along the lines of, "Hey, kid, stop blaming me for all the stuff YOU break around the house!", instead of any real profundity). Sadly, he never spoke. Of course, if it was a cat, they would probably have a whole LIST of things they'd like to bring up with you, so maybe it's for the best that it's only for a few minutes. 

     The story was made into an animated Christmas cartoon in 1970 by Gamma Films and used to be shown regularly on TV. It's called 'The Night The Animals Talked' - you can see it (in six parts) via this YouTube link:

     The other variation of this that I've heard is that if you go out to an isolated area away from the city and other people (some quiet, rural area in the country is best) at exactly midnight on Christmas Eve and stand still and silent outside, you can hear the angels singing in celebration. I tried this one a few times as a kid and actually DID hear faint singing one time! 

     So if you're a pet owner, stay up 'till midnight on Christmas Eve and try this out - let us know if you hear anything (well, anything more than, "More cheese, please!")


     Coming Tomorrow: Our final entry for the year, with our Annual Christmas Ghost Story - actually, TWO! Join us as we wrap up the K.A.C. in style!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 3 ...

      Only three days left! Just enough time to get in some last-minute photos leading up to our 2015 K.A.C. Image of the Year - I've had most of these in the archives waiting for their moment of glory, but most of them are SO damn strange that I can't connect them up to any story! So without further ado, let's take a look (and, as always, you can click on the images to get a LARGER look at them ... although with some of these bad boys, that may not be a good idea!)
THE Creepiest Santa Photo I Came Across All Year ... Brrrrr !!!!
"Hey, look! Santa # 1 just got picked by that little boy! Wait ... Omigod ... he just skinned him and ATE him! HELP !!!"

A nice take-off of an earlier K.A.C. Image of the Year ... A Reindeer's Christmas!
Santa Narwhal ... What More Can I Say? (Courtesy Etsy)

Thought the Weird-Ass Vintage Christmas Cards Were Done? Think Again, Pink Boy!
I Can't Even ... I Just Know I Love It!
HATE Decorating Your Christmas Tree? NO PROBLEM! Hang just TWO Ornaments and You're DONE!
Pepper-HO-HO-HO-ni // 
oscarmayer Heritage Recipe Pepperoni with cheese, marinara, and cream cheese.


  The last one was sent in by LizzieBelle, a last-minute squeaker courtesy of - thanks!


     Which brings us to the Image of the Year. Known as the 'Banksy Christmas Card', the first time I saw the image was just a few days ago, when a friend posted it on Facebook. After doing some more research on it, I found out it was made back in 2005 by noted underground graffitti artist 'Banksy', and re-surfaces every year around December. We're not noted for political or serious subjects here at the K.A.C. (actually, it's something I studiously avoid every year, as you can get your fill of that and more on a daily basis through the Internet or any newsfeed), but given the ongoing refugee crisis, etc., that's happening now, this picture hits home. Love it or hate it as you will, like any good piece of art, it speaks to you and makes you think. I found it such a striking piece when I first saw it that I immediately broke with past year's traditions and gave it the nod for this year's Image of the Year. For more info on it, read the link below:


          Coming Tomorrow: With only two entries to go, we turn to one of the most charming Christmas legends ... the Night the Animals Talked (and your humble curator's experiments in this regard) - see you then!

Monday, December 21, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 4 ...

     Four days to go ... time for another long-forgotten Christmas film! This time we go all the way back to 1913 and one of the rarest of the rare, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Before you begin, be aware this is NOT the tale you are familiar with: there is no Santa Claus, no reindeer, no visions of sugarplums, etc. This tale is based on a story by Nikolai Gogol and was made by Ladislas Starevich, whom we've featured previously in this blog back on November 26th, 2010, with his amazing stop-motion animation short, THE INSECT'S CHRISTMAS. For those who've forgotten it (or have never seen it before), click here: 

     While known primarily for his animation, this short is mostly live-action, with some animation thrown in regarding the demon (the handsome fellow pictured at left). The plot of the film (courtesy of Wikipedia) goes like this:
     "The action is set in a Cossack stanitsa. On Christmas Eve, a minor demon arrives to a local witch called Solokha. They both ride on the witch's broom, after which the demon steals the Moon and hides in an old rag. In the ensuing darkness, some inebriated Cossacks can't find their way to a shinok (tavern) and decide to go home. One by one, they each come to visit Soloha, who hides each one (starting from the demon) in bags so that none of them see each other. At the same time, Solokha's son Vakula the Metalsmith (P. Lopukhin), tries to woo the beauty Oksana (Olga Obolenskaya), but she laughs at him and demands that he find her the shoes which the Tsarina wears. Vakula goes to Soloha in sadness, but upon coming there sees the bags and decides to take them to the forge. Getting tired along the way, he leaves the heaviest bags on the street, which are picked up by a caroling company. Vakula, who is left only with the bag containing the demon, goes to Patsyuk, a sorcerer, to ask him how to find a demon - only with the help of a demon can he hope to get Tsarina's shoes.
The Patsyuk answers that a person should not search for a demon if he has a demon behind his back. Vakula takes it as some kind of a murky wise say, but indeed eventually finds the demon in the bag and forces him to take him to St. Petersburg. There, Prince Potemkin takes him for an ambassador of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and gives him Tsarina's shoes. The demon takes Vakula home and Vakula lets him go. Oksana agrees to marry Vakula."  

     So to recap ... demons, shoes, witches and love ... sounds like a perfect Christmas film to me! :)

     It runs 41 minutes, is silent with Russian intertitles and can be found embedded in the Wiki link - enjoy! 


     Coming Tomorrow: Our 2015 K.A.C. Image of the Year!      

Sunday, December 20, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 5 ...

     Forget Rudolph, forget Frosty ... behold your NEW Christmas Mascot Overlord ... SPROUT BOY! 

     In what may be the strangest ad campaign in a LONG time, the BBC aired (with narration by current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi), Sprout Boy just wants what we all do ... to be wanted by someone at Christmastime ... but nobody loves a Brussels sprout!  The cheery little fellow keeps getting the boot from place after place until The Doctor invites him to dinner with all the other BBC stars ... read that again ... invites the Brussels Sprout ... to dinner ... there's a reason the ad ends where it does!  :(  Watch and shudder as the little green guy goes blindly to his doom (and see if you can name all the BBC stars at the table)!

     Not to be outdone on the Sprout Front, Sky Movies Christmas ad has precocious little Rosie ditching her sprouts in different movies - take a look! 

     For sheer carnage, you can't beat the Christmas ad from Sainsbury's (a chain of UK supermarkets, second only to Tesco's). In this commercial, Mog the family moggy (or cat, for those readers on this side of the Pond) starts a chain reaction of disaster and winds up the family hero! Well done, puss! 

      By the way, if you're not familiar with the character, Mog is the star of a long-running children's book series by Judith Kerr. To read more about her, read her Wikipedia entry here:

     Then there's the John Lewis ad for 2015. This department store chain has had numerous memorable commercials each year (check out some of the earlier ones on YouTube) and this year is no exception. Entitled "Man On the Moon", it shows just how far the power of friendship goes at Christmastime.

     But the MOST controversial Christmas ad this year comes not from Britain, but from Germany and the EDEKA supermarket chain. It features a family patriarch who is facing yet another Christmas alone, thanks to his children who are too busy and harried with their lives. Dad decides to do something about it and fakes his own death to force the family to come together! The ad has been viewed over 27 million times already and has the Internet buzzing - maudlin sentimentality about the importance of family or shameless hucksterism? And what exactly does this have to do with groceries? You decide! 

     To see even more clever holiday ads, click the link below:  


     Coming Tomorrow: We begin the Final Four entries of the K.A.C. - join us! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 6 ...

     Continuing our space theme from yesterday (you ARE still playing on a continuous loop the Darth Vader Burning Corpse Yule Log, aren't you?), Blaze sent me this updated and colorized Christmas photo of the Robinsons from LOST IN SPACE. The original was in black and white and didn't have either the Robot or Dr. Smith - I like this one better! And since it's the 50th anniversary of the show, I thought I would mention (again) what a stellar job 20th Century Fox did with the Blu-ray box set of the entire series - if you haven't gotten it yet and want a piece of true 1960s nostalgia, get it! 


     Speaking of the Sith Lord, perhaps you would like to remember him from happier times, like when he was decked out in a jolly holiday sweater and cap. That never happened, you say? Hmmm ... then why is there an ornament commemorating it? It's just the first of the '12 Most Disturbing Hallmark Ornaments of All Time' (and you'll get NO argument from me about putting that Kirk and Spock ornament on your tree)!

      Two years ago, I featured this book at left featuring Santa bringing Christmas to the astronauts on the moon. Since then, I've learned some more information about it. Entitled The Moon Christmas Coloring Book, it was put out by Lord & Taylor in 1970. That part always confused me until I did some further digging and realized this was the department store's giveaway for kids who came to see Santa at Lord & Taylor! Then it made perfect sense! When my Mom would take me, usually kids got a small toy or candy cane or some such, but I also remember getting a generic coloring book and crayons some years, too (although not the Moon one pictured here). If YOU have young ones driving you up the wall yet trying so hard to be good until Christmas, go to the link below and print off the whole book for them to color! 


     Coming Tomorrow: How do you sell the public on a Christmas mascot that nobody loves? Plus the most clever ads of the year - see you soon! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

K.A.C. 2015 - T - 7 ...

     Our final week begins AND the new Star Wars movie opens today ... soooo why don't we combine the two in a holiday setting? How? May we present the Five Hour loop of Darth Vader's (aka Anakin Skywalker's) Burning Corpse Yule Log? Imagine the surprise when you combine this video with the traditional Christmas tunes at your holiday party? Here you go! 

     And speaking of traditional holiday tunes, this may be the strangest segue I've ever made in this column, but it's December 18th and long-time readers of the K.A.C. know what that means! Make the hyperspace leap with me and click on the link as we jump from Darth Vaders' blazing funeral pyre to the cool snowfall and earwig song featuring Hardrock, Coco and Joe! 

      Not all parts of Christmas are joyous - take the dreaded holiday office party. Want to chew your own leg off rather than attend? Feel like you're in some horrible science experiment where TIME STANDS STILL? Then we've got the solution for you! The Christmas Party Escape Suit! The life (and sanity) you save may be your own!

          It's been a long time since we've covered Ugly Christmas Sweaters here at the K.A.C. - mainly because we haven't seen any TRULY heinous ones in a while! I did like the one at right, where an unsuspecting Mom sent her son to school in this festive fleece and the teacher 'had a word with her' when she picked him up after school. The problem with the sweater isn't readily apparent until you look closely at it. Click on the picture for a closer look! 

     Our 2011 K.A.C. Image of the Year involved a sweater and a breast dressed as Rudolph (yes, you read that right) - to see it in all its glory, go here: 

     Fast forward to 2015 and the Rudolph Breast Sweater is now a fashion statement! What was once the exclusive domain of only a brave few has now become the garb of the exhibitionistic masses! For more of this latest trend, read on:

     I know what you're thinking - "Hey, why should women and kids have all the fun? Where's the awful Christmas sweaters for men?" Well, you have to be a certain type of man to wear OUR Ugly Christmas Sweater ... a man with a lot of ... er ... BALLS. If you're that kind of guy, look no further, here's the sweater for you!

     And with that, we're done - even I know when to admit defeat on an article - I can't top (or bottom, as the case may be) this!  :)


     Coming Tomorrow: Burning Darth has inspired us! Strap yourself in for some holiday cheer that is out of this world as we look at Christmas In Space!