Frida Kahlo’s Dimas Painting

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Catalina Cuervo as “Frida.”

This afternoon my family caught the final show of Frida, performed as part of the Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries Series, https://www.atlantaopera.org/performance/frida/. While watching the candid–and riveting–performance, I immediately knew who “Dimas” was in the opening act. One of Frida’s earliest paintings is of the deceased child. Yes! Frida took part in the Mexican tradition of painting dead children.

Here’s my blog article about the painting: https://thehauntedlibrarian.com/2017/03/02/frida-kahlos-the-deceased-dimas-rosas-at-3-years-old/.

If you get the chance to catch the operatic production, DO! It was fantastic.

Dead Still Returns October 11th

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Dead Still Returns

Dead Still returns on SyFy October 11th. Part of the 31 days of Halloween programming, Dead Still is a nice addition to the line-up. It stands out for not relying on CGI special effects to force the plot. Schedule your DVRs and watch this movie. In the meantime. read my review from 2014:

Dead Still Worth Viewing

I love horror movies. I’ve watched them since I was a teenager. My favorites include the classics: The Exorcist (1975), Jaws (1975), and Poltergeist (1982). However, I like the B-movie horror films, namely The House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Monster Squad (1987), and The Tingler (1959), too. I grew up watching Dr. Paul Bearer on Creature Feature on WTOG. Horror movies transcend decades and act as social commentary. The Booth Brothers’ new film Dead Still incorporates the Victorian practice of taking mourning portraits into a fictional modern-day inheritance issue. Dead Still, an original SyFy movie, is worth viewing.

The Horror film genre remains popular. Box office rival Annabelle nearly toppled Gone Girl this past weekend. Even though each film generated over $37 million in ticket sales, Annabelle was the money winner. Produced for under $7 million dollars, Annabelle’s return in one weekend was five times its production costs. Wow! Low-budget horror films produce huge profits. This applies to films released exclusively on television with DVD sales later.

 

Dead Still’s estimated production costs were $2 million dollars. That’s extremely low for any film project. Moreover, the film shines with beautiful cinematography, haunting music, and A-list acting.

Filmed on location in Baton Rouge, Dead Still features an incredibly spooky house. Philip Adrian Booth captures the moody ambiance of the house, as well as, the Negative world. Remember: This is a low-budget film. Philip does a lot on a tight budget.

Equally impressive is the eerily evocative soundtrack. Twin brother Christopher Saint Booth assembled a soundtrack heavy with strings—quite appropriate for a horror film. Working as “Saint,” Christopher has assumed the role as music scorer for their productions. Christopher delivers.

Producers landed three strong actors. Ray Wise is absolutely wicked. Mr. Wise’s transformation into the crazy “Wenton Davis,” great grandfather and original owner of the antique Victorian camera, is creepy. Creepy weird and chilling. Ben Browder as “Brandon” is convincing as the relationship-challenged heir to the camera. He’s at his best in the Negative world. Gavin Casalegno portrays “Bobby,” Brandon’s son. His facial expressions convey what words cannot. Already boasting an impressive acting resume, Gavin has a long career ahead of him.

Graphic scenes are limited; however, I could have done without the sexual scene with the newlyweds. It didn’t add any real content and could have been achieved without the nudity and hand-gripping bedrail close-ups.

The antique Victorian camera is an amazing prop. The claw-footed, custom-made stand is intricately detailed and gorgeous. Reproductions of mourning portraits are impactful. They realistically represent the type of photographs popular in America and Europe from 1840-1891.

Dead Still is entertaining and gruesome. The Booth Brothers have expanded their filmmaking collection and have made the jump into the fictional horror movie genre. I look forward to their next film. Until then, stay still—Dead Still.

The Willard Suitcase Project

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When the Willard Asylum of the Chronic Insane closed in 1995, the staff discovered 400 neatly packed suitcases in the attic. Photographer Jon Crispin was commissioned to create vignettes and photograph each suitcase. To date, 80 have been photographed. Crispin created an art installation titled “The Changing Face of What Is Normal,” which ran through 2014 at the Exploratorium Science Museum in San Francisco. The collection is a chilling reminder of how people deemed “not normal” were treated and how most died within these institutions.

Known locally as the Willard State Hospital, the Willard Asylum of the Chronic Insane opened in 1889. Mary Rote was the first patient. She arrived after spending 10 years at another mental institution chained to a bed. Mary was classified as “demented and deformed.” At Willard, Mary was able to walk about, although she remained confined to the hospital.

Patients arrived with packed suitcases indicating short visits. Most never left. The 400 suitcases were cataloged and stored in the attic and remained untouched until the hospital closed.

Willard campus was comprised of a hospital, cemetery, morgue, crematorium, and bowling alley. Life at Willard was not necessarily pleasant. A lot of patients were chained or placed in cages.

Some of the suitcases profiled by Crispin included:

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Flora T. who brought perfume, needles and drug paraphernalia possibly for epilepsy;

Virginia W. brought a clown doll;

Frank C. was an Army veteran from Brooklyn, NY. His items included his military uniform.

Anna brought high heeled shoes, fancy hats, and sequenced belts.

Dmytre arrived in 1953 with personal photographs and a clock. He remained at Willard for 24 years.

Joseph Lobdell, a transgender female who preferred to live as a male, spent 10 years at Willard before being transferred to another facility. He was never released, dying in care.

Crispin found the suitcases “compelling,” stating that “families largely abandoned them [patients].” The exhibition will be a permanent exhibit at the Museum of disABILITY History in Buffalo, NY. You can find more information about Jon Crispin and the project at https://www.willardsuitcases.com/.

2019’s Least Liked Halloween Candy

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Least Liked

According to the CandyStore.com study surveying 40,000 customers and perusing various candy listings, these are the least liked candy for Trick-or-Treating.

  1. Candy Corn;
  2. Circus Peanuts (last year’s #1);
  3. Bit-O-Honey;
  4. Good & Plenty;
  5. Licorice;
  6. Smarties;
  7. Tootsie Rolls;
  8. Necco Waffers;
  9. Wax Coke Bottles; and
  10. Peanut Butter Kisses.

Hans Holzer: Entertainer Who Embraced the Paranormal

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There should be more truth in advertising new TV shows. According to the Discovery Channel, owner of Travel Channel, the new TV series The Holzer Files, is based on newly discovered tapes from Hans Holzer’s most famous cases. Really? They just now found these tapes? I don’t think so. In fact, their press release had several errors or misleading information. However, misleading audiences was nothing new to Holzer, who knew how to entertain.

Holzer died in New York City at the age of 89 in 2009. He was an established author, writing somewhere between 120-140 books on the occult and paranormal. Most of his books focused on the paranormal; however, he wrote several books on witchcraft. His interests were eccentric and varied.

Fleeing with his family from Vienna, Austria in 1938, Holzer was born in 1920. According to Holzer, he held a Master’s degree in Comparative Religion (names vary depending on publications) and a PhD in Parapsychology from the London College of Applied Science. Unfortunately, this school does not exist. In fact, it is doubtful he completed any advanced degrees.

Holzer entered the entertainment business early in his career. His interest in the paranormal shifted his focus to paranormal research-esque. Although Holzer employed several mediums, he merely recorded his investigations and did not conduct much research beyond the visits. Armed with a Polaroid, Holzer shunned all gadgetry. He preferred to take the word of the mediums and never fully validated their observations.

Some say he coined the term “other side,” but this term was already in use. Instead, Holzer popularized the term. He did not like the words “supernatural” or “belief.” One of his famous quotes is: “A ghost is only a fellow human being in trouble.” This may be the case.

He did not create the “Holzer Method,” the process of determining natural vibrations. Further, it is debatable if he actually applied scientific fact to observations/investigations. He is most known for investigating the Amityville house, claiming (erroneously) that Rolling Thunder, a Shinnecock Indian Chief, possessed Ronald DeFeo. It’s a shame. He may have been a qualified paranormal investigator, but his credibility was undermined by his fabrications.

It’s disappointing that Travel Channel is sensationalizing Holzer. Press releases and advertising should not claim that his tapes were recently uncovered. It should have stuck with the truth: A paranormal team is reinvestigating former cases investigated by Holzer.

Henry Greene Cole House, Marietta, Georgia

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Haunted Georgia: Henry Greene Cole House, Marietta, Georgia

Henry Greene Cole was a Union sympathizer living in the Confederate South. He was also wealthy. He built a small house on Washington Avenue just outside the Marietta Square. It is told that his father-in-law urged General Sherman not to burn the Fletcher House Hotel because of his relation to Cole. Cole donated the land adjacent to his home for the Union National Cemetery, where over 10,000 Union soldiers are buried. Cole endeavored to build a larger home a block down from his small house. Although he died before it was completed, his family resided in the grand house for many years. Today, the house is a commercial building; however, it still boasts the architectural elements of a Georgian home.

It is also haunted. A local resident whose grandparents lived down the street spoke of walking past the house and seeing a woman in the upper left-hand corner. She saw this girl many times over the years. For several decades, the house was home to several law firms. Attorneys and their employees reported feeling cold drafts and hearing voices. One attorney experienced her clock running backwards. People walking past claim to see curtains shifting and lights turning on and off at night. The house sits directly across from the National Cemetery.

“Murder House” Lawsuit Continues

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The historic Alfred Rosenheim Mansion, circa 1908, was the location for season 1 of American Horror Story (AHS). The house served as a backdrop to the horror/ghost series. The first season averaged 2.8 million viewers. Eight seasons later, the franchise does not seem to be slowing down—nor does the popularity of the Rosenheim Mansion.

AHS re-titled the first season to American Horror Story: Murder House (2011). This change aligned with future seasons. The “Murder House” was an empty mansion located in Los Angeles. With a history steeped in L.A. grandeur and Hollywood mystique, the home was a perfect choice for the production.

Alfred Rosenheim was an architect who relocated to L.A. He built the home located a t 1120 Westchester Place in 1908 for his family. The homes along this road were collectively known as Millionaire Row. They resided there for 10 years, selling to A.J. McQuatters, a mining mogul searching for a winter home.

By 1932, the Sisters of Social Service came into possession of the home. It was turned into a convent. The nuns purchased the adjacent property at 1130 Westchester Place, known as the Judson C. Rives Mansion in 1946. The nuns added a chapel in 1954.

The 10,440 square foot home boasts 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. It has 6 fireplaces and authentic Tiffany stained glass windows and lamps throughout. The enormous home fell into disarray, and by 2015 ownership changed to Greta von Steinbauer. Although the home has historic and landmark designation, it may be rented out; therefore, Ms. Steinbauer earned substantial rental income from production companies. This, apparently, was a selling feature. Shortly after the 2015 sale, the property was briefly listed on Airbnb for rentals. The property has since been removed.

Prior to the premiere of AHS, the home was on the market for $4.5 million. After the record-breaking first season, the price soared to $17 million. The price dropped significantly to $7.8 million. Actress Pier Angela Oakenfold and her partner, Cardiologist Dr. Ernst von Schwarz, purchased the home for $3.2 million. After closing and moving in, the couple suddenly realized that the home was part of the popular tourist tours highlighting various infamous locations and people associated with Hollywood. Ironically, the couple claimed that they “Googled” the property and never saw the AHS association.

Predictably, the filed a lawsuit on February 7, 2018, claiming the house is haunted by 2 ghosts (never reported or written about prior to purchasing) and the nuisance of trespassers. The Court heard summary judgment arguments last October. It is unknown whether the parties reached a settlement or the case continues. Since there has not been any publicity, it is fair to assume the case continues.

This is not the first time a house has become more famous than the production it appeared in. Consider the Brady Bunch House. Hopefully, this historic home will shed the haunted label and become the glamorous Rosenheim intended.

Micaela Almonester, Baroness by Tragedy

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“Deadly Vessel” premiered on The Dead Files on August 22, 2019. The episode focused on a New Orleans restaurant called “Vessel.” The episode contained a couple errors; however, none diminished Amy’s walk and observations. The episode profiled a woman who transformed New Orleans.

On November 6, 1795, Micaela Leonarda Antonia Almonester was born in New Orleans to Don Andres Almonester y Rojas, age 59, and his significantly younger wife, Louise Denis de la Ronde, age 29. Almonester was a wealthy Spaniard who was a Notary and real estate mogul. He commissioned the Jackson Square (then known as Place d’Armes) icons: St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere, and the Cabildo. When Micaela was 2 and ½ years old, he died.

Micaela became the wealthiest heiress in New Orleans. Her mother arranged Micaela’s marriage to a 20-year-old cousin, Xavier Celestin de Pontalba, affectionately called “Tin Tin.” They married on October 23, 1811 when Michaela was 15 years old. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Paris, settling in the French chateau, Mont I’Eveque.

The marriage full of conflict. Celestin’s father, Baron Joseph Delfau de Pontalba, wanted control over Micaela’s entire inheritance. Her mother had wisely contracted for a small portion of the money to be used as a dowry. The marriage produced 5 children, though only 3 sons lived to adulthood.

In 1830, Micaela defied her husband’s orders and traveled to the U.S. Upon arrival in Washington, D.C., Micaela was invited to the White House. A rumor states that she had a torrid affair with President Andrew Jackson. Upon return to France, Micaela was locked in her room without contact to household staff and shunned by Tin Tin’s family. The goal was to cause Micaela to forfeit her vast fortune to the Baron.

Nearly 23 years to the day of marriage, on October 19, 1834, the Baron attempted to murder Micaela. Using two pistols, he shot her 4 times in the chest. Miraculously, she survived, though permanently maimed. Later that evening, the Baron committed suicide.

The newly titled Baroness de Pontalba, Micaela attempted to divorce her husband numerous times. The French courts had strict laws pertaining to divorce and rejected each claim. Luckily, her husband attempted to ruin Micaela’s reputation by publishing excerpts from the court proceedings. Micaela was able to turn the tables on Celestin, showing that he did not have her best interest as a wife in mind. By tarnishing her good name, Celestin violated his marriage oath. The Court finally allowed her to separate, although they never formally divorced.

In 1848, Micaela took sons Alfred and Gaston and returned to New Orleans. Micaela was disappointed at how run down her properties appeared. She commissioned architects to level the homes and rebuild Place d’Armes. The Pontalba Buildings were constructed and adorned with wrought iron railings that still contain the “AP” letters carved within them. Micaela financed the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson sitting on his horse which if the focal point of Jackson Square.

Had Micaela’s father-in-law not been so greedy, she would not have ascended to the title of Baroness. Micaela remained friendly with her estranged husband, even caring for him by covering his living expenses. Micaela died on April 20, 1874 at the age of 78. A gracious smart businesswoman, Micaela left a great legacy through her preservation efforts and charitable work.

Now some feel she haunts a restaurant that was once part of her vast real estate portfolio.

The Vessel restaurant was formerly a church. Built in 1914, it was converted to a restaurant in the 1970s. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina forced the restaurant to shutter. Alec Wilder had a premonition to purchase an historic church in New Orleans. He and partner Eddie Dyer purchased the property sight-unseen. The restaurant launched in 2016 to rave reviews. The official Website boasts: “eat drink congregate.”

Located at 3835 Iberville Street, the restaurant serves locally sourced items and city favorites. Reservations are highly encouraged. We make our annual trek to NOLA this December, and you can bet that I will be booking our table. Who knows? Maybe the Baroness will dine with us.

Supernatural: End of the Road Tour T-Shirts

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Season 15 of Supernatural kicks off on October 10, 2019. CW, the station that carries original episodes, published the poster for the season titled “As it is written, so shall it end.” Twitter has erupted into speculation as to the symbolism contained in the poster. For now, it is speculation. However, what is not speculation is that the production has teamed up with retailer Hot Topic and released a limited-edition “End of the Road Tour” T-shirt. All—as in 100%—of profits will go to recovery efforts in the Bahamas. The T-shirts have already sold out once but have been restocked. Hurry and purchased by Sunday, September 15th in order to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Link: https://www.hottopic.com/