Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mannheim Steamroller Does Halloween

Greetings, one and all, and Happy Halloween! This year I have more music, including some by Mannheim Steamroller. Yes, they are now doing Halloween music.

Mannheim Steamroller - Rock and Roll Graveyard

Mannheim Steamroller - Creatures of the Night

My apologies if you found the videos to be quite strange. I was looking for the best listening version, not necessarily the best video.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the music and the Monster Profiles. Have a safe & happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monstrous Profiles - #3 - The Tengu

Onto number three! Special thanks to all my readers so far!

Before we got to the profile, I must apologize to everyone. I meant to have this up on Tuesday, but over the weekend I came down with a nasty ear infection, and that put me out of commission for the weekend. (And it was a such a nice weekend too!) Monday I went back to the doctor and got a couple of new prescriptions which really helped. Either way, I still missed school (having spent all morning in the doctor's office, 85% of it waiting to see the doctor) and didn't go to any of my other activities. Instead I got to rest. Tuesday afternoon I got dragged to Indianapolis for a school field trip and, since we got there too early, got to spend all afternoon there. So that's why I'm late.

Alright, enough of my excuses and/or life's story. Let's get to the monsters!!

Late one autumn afternoon, a man was travelling through a forest deep in the heart of Japan. As he climbed a hill, he noticed an enormous egg sitting off to the side of the trail. Curios, he headed over to take a closer look.

But as he approached the egg, three strange creatures swooped out of the trees, blocking his way and keeping him from the egg. The creatures seemed like humans, but the had birds beaks for mouth, and wings and tails on their backs.

The man had mistakenly walked into a tengu's nest.

Name: Tengu*, subdivided into Karasu-tengu and Hanadaka-tengu.
Location: Japan

Tengu are possibly one of the oldest creatures in Japanese mythology, having first appeared in legend between the sixth and eighth centuries. Since then, they have been everything from demons to minor deities in the Shinto religion of Japan. They are often seen as the protective spirits of mountains and forests.

Tengu are said to begin their lives by hatching out of giants eggs located deep in the mountain, despite the fact that they are almost always male. they are usually depicted wearing the pom-pommed sash and small black cap of a yamabushi, as the tengu later came to be associated with the mountain hermits. The creatures are also said to live mostly in Cryptomeria trees.

From The Obakemono Project:

The origins of the tengu are somewhat obscured. They may be ultimately descended from ancient native bird dieties, but they have most likely had some foreign influence as well. The name tengu is derived from the Chinese tian-gou, and both are written with the same characters. The tian-gou was also a mischievous, mountain-dwelling entity, and while tian-gou means "heavenly dog" (apparently a reference to the fiery tail of a certain meteor), its physical descriptions are various. How much the tengu take from their Chinese namesake is not entirely clear, but at least one source describes a tian-gou with a bird's beak and wings and tangled hair. The tengu's shape may have also been influenced by the Hindu/Buddhist eagle deity Garuda, or the owl-like Chinese thunder god Lei Gong, both of whom it also resembles.
Tengu are subdivided into two groups, the Karasu-tengu, and the Hanadaka-tengu. Karasu-tengu are the lesser tengu, who according to some sources actually serve the hanadaka-tengu. They are said to be a bit more birdlike, having birdlike feet and a bird's beak for a mouth. The hanadaka-tengu were a bit more humanoid, having a long nose in place of a beak and human feet on which they wear one-toothed geta sandals. The greatest of the hanadaka-tengu were known as O-tengu or Daitengu**, and they led clans of tengu. The greatest of the O-tengu was said to be Sōjōbō, and he is said to be king over all the tengu.

The creatures are said have magical straw or feather cloaks that turn the wearer invisible and posses either a magical feathered fan or a leaf of the Japanese Arlia plant. Both of these are called hauchiwa. From Obakemono:
The hauchiwa is used either as a device to alter the length of the tengu's nose (making him less obviously inhuman), or to produce a ferocious, hurricane-like wind. The latter use is not surprising, as tengu were supposedly descended from the furious storm god Susano-o-No-Mikoto.

That legend, according to Obakemono, goes as follows:
It is said that once the storm god Susano-o-No-Mikoto let his raging spirit build up inside him until, like a grotesque Athena, this princess deity [,the Ama-no-zako,] burst forth. She had a beastly head with long ears, nose, and fangs, the latter of which were so strong they could easily chew through steel blades, and she could fly for thousands of miles at a go. This ferocious female spirit is considered the ancestor of such creatures as Ama-no-jaku and the tengu.

Tengu are said to be arrogant creatures, but given their powers they may have a valid reason for this. They have many powers, including flight, shapeshifting, telepathy, teleportation, casting illusions, and creating hurricane-like winds. They are also very skilled in Martial arts and have been credited with training many ninja and samurai. Tengu are also said to be able to posses human hosts.

These creatures appear in many Japanese folktales, sometimes being easily tricked, but at other times helping people.

So if you ever visit Japan, be careful when travelling through forests and mountains. If you're disrespectful to the place, you might just find yourself attacked by a tengu protecting it's home.

Footnotes: There was so much information about the tengu I had a hard time sifting through it to make this profile. More information about the tengu can be found on Wikipedia, and of course the main source I used here, The Obakemono Project, has a large article which you can see here. Over here is another article that was very informative. Bookmice, along with Wikipedia, both have summaries of Japanese legend about the tengu.

This site has a couple of little stories, and another thing I found interesting was that they claim that tengu are also responsible for causing the sound of trees crashing to the ground, when later none seem to have been cut. I found this to be rather interesting as over on the Wikipedia list of Japanese monsters, there is a thing called soraki-gaeshi which is described as "the sound of trees being cut down, when later none seem to have been cut." In theory, the soraki-gaeshi could probably be the work of the tengu, though I've never attempted to research it.

*Tengu means bird goblin in Japanese. **As another interesting fact, dai is a Japanese prefix that means great. O- is used to indicate respect.

Well, I'm all out of footnotes. If you made it this far, more power to you and thanks for reading.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monstrous Profiles - #2 - The Banshee

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you profile number two, this time about the banshee.

It is late at night. You have returned to Ireland to visit your great-grandmother, is very ill and confined to bed. Despite the docto's best efforts, she seems to be only getting worse. The clock is slowly pushing it's way towards eleven p.m. (America time) as you sit there with your grandmother.

Suddenly, outside the window, you hear a strange wailing that chills your blood. The wails reach a shrieking crescendo loud enough to shatter glass.

If you hear these otherworldly shrieks, you've just encountered the banshee.

Name: Banshee, variations include Bean Shith and Lady of Death, among only a few others.
Location: Predominantly Ireland and Scotland.

This female spirit is best known for wailing around the house of someone who is about to die. The banshee can show up in multiple forms, including that of a hag but sometimes as a beautiful woman of any age the spirit chooses. She is sometimes said to show up as a washerwoman near a stream, washing the bloodstained clothes of the person who was about to die.

Traditionally, banshees were said to wail for only six Irish families, the O'Neills, the O'Gradys, the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Learys, and the Kavanaghs; however, intermarriage, relatives, and descendants have all extended this list.

According to Associated Content, there are three types of cries the banshee emits:

The most distinctive feature of a banshee is her cry. Legend has it that she will wail around a house if someone in the family is about to die. The first night, only the one to die hears a series of low moans. They are warnings to get one's affairs in order.

The second night the family will hear her howling for an hour or more around midnight.

The third night the banshee comes and shrieks, with keening screeches that will break glass. Everyone in the vicinity knows that a death will occur that night. It is said that a banshee's wails will cause its hearers to break out in cold sweats and experience a great sense of fear.

It is possible that the legend of the banshee arose from a mixture of traditional Irish funeral customs and the peoples' belief in the supernatural. When a citizen in an Irish village died, a woman would sing or "keen" at the funeral. ... Possibly, the ritual and the superstition merged to create the legend of the banshee.

If more than one banshee is heard, it signals that a person of great importance is about to die.

According to some sources, there are two different types of banshees. The first is a friendly banshee.

A 'friendly Banshee' is one who in life, had strong ties to her family, and in death, felt the need to watch over them, and keep close to them. A friendly Banshee is not the horrible, scary thing we imagine. Banshees are rarely seen, but are said to at times show themselves. They are said to be seen as young, beautiful women, with pale faces, either black or golden hair, and long, flowing, white garments.

The song, because that is what it really is, of a friendly Banshee is sorrowful and longing. It is filled with love and concern for those she loves. It is a warning to her loved ones.

Then there is traditional banshee, a spirit that wails to warn of someone's impending death. But no matter whether the spirit is friend or foe, it still only appears to warn of death.

And to those of you with Irish ancestry, be warned. After all, the legends are vague on whether the spirit can travel from land to land. Who is to say that someday, you yourself won't hear a banshee?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monstrous Profiles - #1 - The Wendigo

It's Halloween season. What better time to do a few profiles of monsters? (Human monsters not included.) First up, the Wendigo.

You are walking through a lovely forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan one evening. The sun is starting to go down and the shadows of the forest are growing.

It's getting dark and you don't want to get lost, so you turn and begin heading back towards your cabin; about a twenty minute walk away. Suddenly, in the woods behind you, you hear an otherworldly cry that make you writhe, and then in front of you appears the creature that made the cry. It is tall, and emaciated, with a mouth full of needle-like teeth, bloodstained lips, and hands and feet edged in sharp talons. It's eyes are glowing red as it shrieks again.

You take off running as fast as you can, hoping to escape from the creature, but it knows every rock and shrub in the forest, and to your horror, you can't escape it.

You've just met the Wendigo. For the first, and last time.

Name: Wendigo, variations include Wee-Tee-Go, Windigo, Witigo, Windago, Wihtikow, and many others.
Location: The upper U.S. and Canada.

The Wendigo is a creature of Native American design, most often seen among the Ojibwe/Chippewa, Cree, and Innu Indians. it is a cannibalistic being that was once a human, but became transformed into a monster after the person ate flesh of another human.

Descriptions of the creature tend to vary, but all of them agree that the monster is tall, thin, mean, and is always hungering for human flesh. By and far, the best article about this monster comes from Monstropedia:

The Wendigo is a purely anthropophagous beast, hungering for human flesh. It will go to any lengths to procure this food, no matter the risk or possibility of injury. The Wendigo craves human flesh and is constantly starving for it (indicated by the beast’s lean, wiry frame). The Wendigo is known to have its preferences: the sweet fat of children, the soft skin of women, the course muscles of men (especially warriors and hunters), or the brittle bones of the elderly. In preparation for long winters (when few travelers are out and about), the Wendigo will stash away large pots filled to the brim with human remains in the highest tree branches. On rare occasions, it will take humans alive and hide them away in its lair, allowing the beast to feed whenever it wants. The Wendigo is more intelligent than many humans, and thus understands the value of storing and saving its food. However, it will only resort to this when food is scarce and it becomes desperate.

Since the Wendigo constantly hungers for human flesh, it wreaks destruction in its pursuit of its chosen prey. It crashes through the forests, all the while uprooting trees, causing game animals to stampede, and causing whirlwinds. The monster is often thought to be the cause of ice storms, tornadoes, and violent winds. All of these weather-related phenomena are believed to signal the Wendigo’s presence.

When the Wendigo hunts, it stalks the victim for long periods. The chosen victim only has a dreadful feeling of being followed. However, the Wendigo has a sadistic streak. It prefers to terrify its victims before moving in for the kill. When it has had enough of stalking the victim, it lets out a growl or a shriek, which resonates through the forest and terrifies the beast’s prey. They panic, firing weapons haphazardly into the brush as the dense forest closes in on them. Eventually, the intended victim succumbs to insanity, running wildly into the forest with abandon. In such a state, they are easy prey for the Wendigo.

The Wendigo has been known to enter cabins and other dwelling, unlocking them from the outside and slaughtering the inhabitants, then proceeding to convert the cabin into its own lair. The Wendigo tends to hibernate for long periods, ranging in length from a few months to years at a time. Once they awaken, they go into a feeding frenzy, and after having eaten enough humans, it retreats to its lair and falls back into hibernation once again.

The Wendigo inhabits the forests of the Great Lakes and Canada. The dreaded Wendigo King lives near the Windigo River in Quebec. Kenora, Ontario is thought to be the “Wendigo Capital of the World” because so many sightings and incidents have taken place there, and it attracted Wendigoes originally because it used to be tribal grounds, with many Native American settlements scattered throughout the area. Most caves, gullies, and canyons in central Canada will provide shelter for the Wendigo.

A Wendigo is rumored to live in the Cave of the Wendigo, near Mameigwass Lake in northern Ontario. Any other area named after the Wendigo, such as Windigo River and Windigo Lake in Ontario, is bound to be inhabited by this monster as well.
The Wendigo has supernatural speed, strength, endurance, and senses. In knows every rock, tree, bush, and shrub of its territory. It can rip humans apart with ease, and moves faster than the human eye can see. All wounds inflicted on it heal quickly, except for those that, in a probable crossover with vampire legends, are inflicted by silver bullets and weapons. It is capable of surviving in harshest climates, and as mention before, has hearing, sight, and smell above and beyond that of a normal human. It is said to be able to see clearly in total darkness, and hear so well that it can hear it's victim's racing heart, which causes it to anticipate its meal that much more.

Besides sheer strength and animalistic ferocity, the Wendigo is armed with formidable array of weaponry: its dreaded claws and fangs. The beast’s ... talons are designed for ripping through flesh with the slightest touch, and one swipe from the Wendigo’s powerful claws can disembowel or decapitate a human. [Its] mouth is filled with long, needle-sharp fangs, made for slicing through flesh and sinew, as well as for breaking bones. The Wendigo’s fangs can easily puncture a human skull. Far from being a stupid beast, the Wendigo has a man’s intelligence and cunning, as well as the predatory instincts of an animal. ... The Wendigo uses this advantage to stalk its victims for hours on end, never being seen or heard unless the monster chooses to reveal itself by means of a growl or a shriek. There is no way to hide from the Wendigo, and it will not stop hunting until the victim’s broken, mutilated body lies at its clawed feet.

The Wendigo excels in stealth, and it is said that the Wendigo moves on the wind and breezes in utter silence. It can fill the air with an eerie, haunting siren by forcing the air through its blood-flecked lips. The Wendigo is able to mimic human voices, which are most often cries for help. The beast’s roar is utterly terrifying, and the fear it inspires cuts to the bone. When the freezing winds rise, it is said that the Wendigo’s howls can be distinguished from the moan of the wind, letting people nearby know that a monster lurks in their midst. For its prey, these warnings occur far too late to make any ... difference.

Among the Wendigo’s host of supernatural abilities, the Wendigo Fever is perhaps the most feared. It is a terrible curse, overtaking the mind and body of the unfortunate victim. The first symptom of the curse is a strange scent, detectable only to the intended victim. After absorbing this disturbing odor, the victim experiences a long night of weeping and horrifying nightmares. Upon awakening, the victim experiences a burning pain in the legs and feet, which becomes so intense that the victim runs into the forest, shrieking like a maniac, and discarding clothing and shoes all the while. Most of the curse’s victims never return, although those who do return are irrevocably insane from their experiences of the curse and the Wendigo itself. It is thought that most of the curse’s victims are devoured by the Wendigo.

The Wendigo, although a dire threat to mankind, shares a close kinship with the forest’s wildlife, mainly predatory animals (such as the wolf, bear, raven, or eagle). The beast willingly shares its kills with these companions, and these animals have been known to travel with the Wendigo.

As the Wendigo grows older, its powers over nature increase exponentially. The beast becomes a shaman, extremely adept in the dark arts. With this power, the Wendigo can manipulate the weather, creating storms of terrifying strength, and the beast can summon the midnight darkness hours before sunset. The Wendigo may summon dangerous beasts from the deepest, darkest reaches of the forest and command them to attack its enemies, traverse enormous distances in the blink of an eye, and heal any wounds instantaneously (although injuries inflicted by silver may take longer to heal).
So how can this monster be defeated? It is possible that the monster can be killed by a silver bullet. Fire will ward it off, though not for long.

In order to permanently destroy the Wendigo, one must first find the beast. The Great Lakes region and the forests of Canada are prime Wendigo territory. Beware, for the hunter may soon become the hunted. After finding and incapacitating the beast (no easy task, be assured), a silver stake must be driven through the Wendigo’s heart of ice, therefore shattering it. The shards of the Wendigo’s heart must be securely locked in a silver box and buried in consecrated ground (such as a churchyard or a cemetery).

The Wendigo’s body must then be dismembered with a silver-plated axe, and each piece of the body must be salted and burned to ashes (which must then be scattered to the four winds), or each piece must be hidden in some remote, inaccessible location (i.e. the bottom of a lake, a chasm, the sea floor, or a well). Failure to follow these procedures exactly will inevitably result in the Wendigo’s resurrection, followed by its bloody vengeance. It will hunt down its killer, relishing and anticipating the taste of the hunter’s blood in every single moment. Rest assured, the death that follows will be both slow and painful. The Wendigo will take great pleasure in every single bit of agony it inflicts on its killer before finishing the job and devouring the remains. Beware, as according to some legends, the Wendigo is indestructible.
According to legend, one becomes a wendigo if one consumes the flesh of another human. Once this happens, a malevolent spirit possess the cannibal, and they become a Wendigo. Dreaming about a wendigo is said to be bad sign, too.

So, to wrap up, the Wendigo is a terrifying, cannibalistic creature that is nearly impossible to escape. If you run into this creature and manage to get back with your life - and sanity - count yourself very, very lucky.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The First of Octember

Do you like the color changes? I'm trying to get a Halloween color scheme in here. I'm not certain how well it's working, though. I wonder if having that sidebar in purple is a little overbearing. Maybe I'll change it. Either way, it's nice because thanks to the default button, when Halloween's over, I can set my blog back to normal. Anyway, we'll see how long I can deal with this new color scheme before I change things back to normal.

I do love Halloween. Then again, I love most holidays, so what do I know?

You have probably noticed by now that my Halloween banner is back up. I didn't even bother to fight with Picasa this time; I just re-uploaded the thing. Stupid Picasa. -_-

I haven't been around to much lately. I used to spend every moment I could spare on the Internet. But lately I've been busy working on my stories (no, not my fanfictions. Real stories that I might be able to sell someday if I ever get a publisher - or a decent second draft.) So that's what I've been doing lately.

Man, I really don't know if I like this new color scheme. Hmm. Maybe I need more of a fall focus and less of a Halloween focus.

But on the other hand, I have November for that, too. I guess I'll give it a few days and see what happens from there.

EDIT: I have now changed some of the color scheme. The purple sidebar is been replaced with orange, and the second sidebar is back to normal. I definitely think this color scheme is better.