Friday, October 28, 2016

Some "Old Haunts in the New Age"

To kick off Halloween weekend, here's a recap of a spooky 21 Jump Street episode.

An average-looking husband, wife, and preteen son watch TV with their faithful pet Golden Retriever. A shrill, Chipmunk-like voice can be heard either from the TV or down the hall saying, "Hellllppp meeeeee." In a bedroom, a teenage girl is studying at her desk listening to a song with lyrics about sleeping with fire. There's some kind of aromatherapy candle burning nearby. Its presence is distracting the girl/freaking her out as she scribbles. She gets up and blows out the candle.

Later, someone pours gasoline over a wooden sign and lights a match. Before the sign is engulfed in flames, we see it reads: TAFT HIGH SCHOOL. ANNUAL COSTUME DANCE OCTOBER 31, 8 P.M. HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN. The same teenage girl wakes up when she hears fire truck sirens passing by her window. We see that she sketched the burning sign on a piece of paper in her binder. Theme song.

At Taft the next morning, a science class watches a film about metamorphosis. The girl who dreamed about the burning sign isn't concentrating very well and neither is Doug; he's doodling some kind of battle scene with tanks and paratroopers. Tom is asleep on his desk nearby. The girl doesn't seem to be in conscious control of her pencil as she draws some kind of building. "There's death in the chapel," she says out loud before getting up. Tom and Doug exchange 'what was that about?' looks.

In the Chapel, Blowfish is on a ladder mounting what look like old organ pipes on the walls. Tom and Doug, working on a project of their own, ask Harry to bring them a hammer. Judy is carving a pumpkin. Doug looks at a newspaper ad and asks if anyone wants to go to the grand opening of a store called Crazy Teddy's. "That store is way the hell out in Fairmount," says Harry. Doug says, "I know, but they have really good car stereos for $50." Dougie, you ride a motorcycle. He adds that there will also be fireworks, hot dogs, and a clown named Sprinkles. Tom puts on a childish voice and says, "Sprinkles? Really?"

Cap'n Rufus tells Tom that his latest report doesn't have anything new in it, except for the arsonist's favorite brand of lighter fluid. Judy thinks it's somebody with a grudge against Taft High. "Who doesn't have a grudge against their school?" asks Doug. Me, for one. The sign out front was the 4th fire in 3 weeks. "We need to catch this guy before he burns down the whole place," says Rufus. An arsonist targeting a school dance? Gee, this show's never used that plot before... 

Doug reports, "There was something strange. There's death in the chapel." Blowfish immediately climbs down from the ladder. "What did she mean?" Judy asks. Doug says, "She meant death, like end of life." Blowfish looks a little disturbed, "So it doesn't necessarily mean one of you guys?" Cap'n Rufus asks if Tom is sure his cover is intact. Tom thinks those symbols could mean anything. "There's something weird and it don't look good," says Doug.

Suddenly, 3 guys wearing Ghostbusters style jumpsuits walk in. They tell Cap'n Rufus they were contracted by the EPA to check for waste dumped by a chemical plant. The younger cops exchange looks. Fuller doesn't know anything about it. "It happened 15 years ago," explains a guy whose name patch says Spengler. Judy asks if the waste will have any effect on them. Spengler ignores her. "Beams on," he tells the other two guys, flipping a switch on a device strapped to his back. "There is death in the Chapel," Doug repeats.

That night, the music from the attempted drowning scene in The Outsiders plays as an old yellow pickup passes a road sign. It tells us we're 15 miles from Fairmount. Doug is driving it. His radio flickers a few times, then goes dead. He checks the newspaper on the seat next to him, presumably looking for Crazy Teddy's address. Eerie lights and fog swirl around the truck. Doug doubles over with headache, hitting his forehead on the steering wheel. The radio starts again.

In the Taft cafeteria, Tom asks Doug if he really thinks he was abducted. Doug describes what he saw as "long and thick in the middle. It had rounded edges, it looked like a hot dog. No, it was fatter than that. It looked like a knockwurst." He woke up at 2:00 in the morning on the side of the road. "I'm checkin' myself for puncture wounds 'cause I think they got me with their surgical tools."

Tom repeats the last two words with a mouthful. Doug tells him it's standard with abductions and he could write a bestseller about his experience. He adds, "I don't know how they did it, but I think they moved my navel." That area isn't generally where they do their probing... "How could they do such a thing?" Doug asks. Tom replies, "It's a mystery."

They sit down. Across the way, the girl from earlier is staring at the back of her empty, flattened-out lunch bag. She crumples it up and tosses it away. Tom fishes it out of the trash can. If you squint, the picture on the bag almost looks like a truck.

At night, the unseen arsonist torches an old car. Cut to just after the fire department finishes putting it out. The car appears to have been parked outside Taft's auto shop. We see the arsonist's dirty white Chuck Taylors in the crowd. Maybe Ponyboy lost it after Johnny and Dally's deaths?

Doug doesn't think they have a chance of catching the arsonist unless they can find out what his next target is. Tom shows him the lunch bag drawing, which matches certain details of the incident. The artist finally has a name: Dory. Doug thinks she's psychic. Tom thinks it's more likely she's the arsonist.

At the Chapel, they show the drawing to Judy. "Didn't [Dory] predict death in the Chapel?" asks Harry, "Even we didn't know about the toxic waste." Doug declares Dory's 2-for-2. "1-for-2," Blowfish corrects. He has a report showing there was no toxic waste under the building. "Even still, there's been some pretty weird stuff goin' on," says Doug. Judy and Harry agree in unison, "Very weird." Then, "We said that. At the same time. Whoa."

Tom leaves with Blowfish to look for more organ pipes. The janitor pulls up a section of floor in the basement. He hasn't seen it yet, but we can see there's a skeletal hand stuck to the underside of the flooring. Tom hears something fall and asks what it was. Blowfish tells him to check down the hole. "Any pipes?" he asks. No, but there is a whole skeleton. Blowfish looks in the hole. "Tom, I think I gotta sit down," he says before passing out. Tom mutters, "Yikes."

Later, the gang gathers in the basement. Cap'n Rufus surmises that the corpse was not put there recently, due to the pine box and old clothes. He's sure they can get to the bottom of why it's there and tells Blowfish to put the floorboards back. "I ain't goin' near that damn thing," says Blowfish, "I opened up a curse." Harry wonders how they're supposed to investigate a spirit. "Call Shirley MacLaine?" Judy suggests. Tom tells Doug that they'll catch the arsonist by taking night shifts at the school; he'll take the first one.

Tom patrols the Taft courtyard, which is decorated like a cemetery for Halloween. Someone walks past. Tom starts to follow. He and Dora run into each other and scream like in the old Scooby-Doo cartoons. Dory runs away. A small fire has started by a Dumpster or something, which Tom manages to put out with a nearby hose. By the time he finishes, Dory is gone.

In the Chapel, Judy, Doug, Harry, and Blowfish are sitting around a Ouija board. "We would like to speak to the person buried beneath the Chapel," says Judy, "Are you here?" "Is there a curse on Blowfish?" asks the janitor. Judy tells him they have to ask one question at a time. Doug has a question of his own, "Are you a spirit from another planet?"

Judy requests that the spirit speak to them. The board flips back and forth between the letters Y and A. "Ya, ya," Doug says, "Are you Swedish?" Judy asks for the spirit's name. The board spells out YATES. Fuller asks what they're doing. "We're communicating with the beyond, Captain," Doug explains. Harry adds, "The skeleton in the basement is named Yates." Judy asks if Yates was murdered. The board points to YES. Before they can find out more, Fuller tells them to get back to work.

At Taft, Doug and Tom talk to Dory, who's helping set up decorations for the Halloween dance. She says the thing about the Chapel "came totally out of left field." Tom asks why she was there the night before. "I'm not the one who's been torching this place, so just leave me alone," says Dora. Doug asks if the lunch bag drawing was a premonition. Dora gets defensive: "I'm not a freak."

"We each have these...these feelings about each other," Dory starts. When Tom and Doug look at each other, she snaps, "Grow up. Not in a horny way. Senses, suspicions." Tom thinks Dory did the drawings because she knows the guy who's been starting the fires. Dory doesn't know, not exactly: "I don't wanna sound like some actress on a talk show, but I feel energies. Images, I guess. I don't know what they are at first. But then they happen."

They may know Dory's secret, but she also knows theirs. She promises not to tell anyone; she wants the arsonist caught. She doesn't like the visions, but she can't control them. "I think I know a way we can both help each other," says Doug.

At night, Dory, Tom, and Doug sit on the hood of Doug's pickup near where he was supposedly abducted by aliens. Dory doesn't feel anything except cold. Doug asks his partner, "Didn't you ever feel anything you couldn't explain?" Tom once thought the bowler on the lane next to him was Elvis because the guy put butter on a sandwich and scratched himself a lot.

"Don't encourage him, he doesn't understand," says Doug. Dory doesn't understand either and doesn't think she wants to. When she was young, she had visions of an important man being hit with a hammer. Reagan was shot the following week and reported that being shot felt like getting hit with a hammer. That scared Dory and she tried to shut out her powers.

Tom asks, "If this thing is your gift or whatever, why do you want to shut it out?" "Why do you question being an officer?" Dory fires back. Doug hears something and declares, "This is it. They're here." He waves his arms toward the sky and calls, "Hey! We mean you no harm!" The spaceship is really a blimp with lights that spell out FOLLOW ME TO CRAZY TEDDY'S.

"Aliens travel 6 light years to get a good deal on a car stereo. Believe or not," Tom says in a spooky stage-whisper. Doug feels stupid and knows he'll never live this down. "You're psychic!" Tom cries. Dory starts having one of her visions. She sees a wooden field, darkness, long wooden planks at an angle. "Bleachers?" Tom guesses. Dory adds that they're on fire.

The three of them pile in the truck and head back to town. A police car pulls them over near Taft High, where the bleachers are intact. "All right, guys, where's the fire?" asks the officer. Ha ha ha...

Harry tells Judy and Blowfish that he went through the town's death records. 4 people named Yates have died under mysterious circumstances: a husband-and-wife murder/suicide, a poisoning, and the fourth was a summer camp counselor named Lawrence Yates. Counselor Yates was also a child molester obsessed with his dead mother. He escaped from a mental institution and went on a crime spree that ended when he was hanged by a lynch mob. Nobody knows where his body ended up.

We hear Cap'n Rufus  laughing loudly. He asks Doug, "You still believe in that psychic crap?" "You're the type who doesn't think there's anything 'out there' when he's standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon," says Doug. Rufus chuckles, "And you're the type that thinks aliens are piloting blimps to Crazy Teddy's Car Stereos." Rufus adds that he can be spiritual. Dory will be a suspect until she sees the arsonist without help from "the other world."

Cap'n Rufus comes out of his office with his coat and umbrella. Nobody responds when he says good night. In words that ironic considering the role this actor had on Supernatural, Cap'n Rufus declares he has no patience for hysteria: "I don't care if it's Halloween. I don't care if the dead are walking the earth. No more antics in this chapel. No more Ouija boards, palm reading, tarot cards, healing crystals...no hocus pocus."

Nobody listens to Rufus. When Tom comes downstairs from the locker room, there's an old man at the head of the table, making some alarming grunting sounds. He's wearing an odd necklace that may be made from animal teeth. Tom remarks, "I looked that way once after an especially gnarly chili dog." Harry shushes him, saying the man has to concentrate on raising the spirit. Thunder crashes outside.

"He's trying to find Yates so we can communicate with him." Harry adds. They apparently paid this guy $75 for this act. "Good morrow, being of light," says the psychic in a British accent, "I am Zombo, lord of the blue ray, primary energy in the kingdom of Atlantis. My friends, what is your quest?" Judy puts on her own British accent: "We wish to transverse with the being called Yates." 

Zombo agrees to grant Judy's request. He hums and grunts some more. He tells them they must learn to speak in tones to communicate with another realm: "Put your hands over your aural canals. Let your voice create tones. Yates will come to you." Everyone except Tom does. Zombo asks which Yates they're looking for. "The one we disturbed beneath the Chapel," says Judy. Zombo waves his arm around his head: "There's a pain...in this area." As in from the hanging. Tom starts making odd yipping sounds. "I can't believe it," says Zombo. Tom says, "Neither can I. Now give 'em back their money."

At Taft High, someone in the science lab lights a candle and leaves the Bunsen burner on. The next day, a class watches a film on llamas. Dory sketches the science lab and gets up to leave the room without even asking for a hall pass. She splashes cold water on her face in the girls' bathroom and takes deep breaths, trying to calm herself. 

Tom and Doug go looking for Dory. In the process, they find the candle set up in the science lab. Tom turns off the gas and Doug opens the window. Tom bags the candle as evidence. They pass Dory in the hall. "The candle in that bag, it's his, isn't it?" she asks. Tom tells her it's his lunch. 

Back at the Chapel, Doug is frustrated. The fingerprints on the candle don't match any known arsonists. Tom reminds him they still have a main suspect: Dory. He tells Doug he's sick of all the psychic garbage. I'm getting pretty sick of it myself since Dory has no other character traits. He wants Doug to go to her with the candle, but not the candle that's in evidence, as a test. Get her to touch it and see if her prints match.

Dory holds the candle. She describes the arsonist as a Taft student with brown hair who's sad and hates the fires. If he hates fires, why set them for kicks? Dory explains, "When he does, he feels control over others." She's not seeing a name or a face, just "fires, running devils, deformed faces. He's there. You're there." Suddenly, Dory screams and drops the candle. She doesn't want to continue. Doug asks, "What'd you see?" "You...dead," says Dory. Doug looks worried.

Tom gets a call from the crime lab; Dory's fingerprints don't match the ones on the arsonist's candle. "Oh no, I'm dead," Doug mutters, standing up. Tom asks where he's going. "I'm gonna go put my things in order," says Doug. 

Tom finds Dory wandering around the Taft High gym, which is decorated for the dance. "The bleachers, a wooden field," she says. She doesn't blame Tom for not believing her. Tom asks how she saw Doug die. Dory thinks the arsonist will strike that night; the devils burning must be kids in costume. I knew that the first time she said it. She saw Doug burned badly, wrapped in a black coat or cape. 

In front of the Chapel's new pipe organ, Blowfish puts the finishing touches on his Phantom of the Opera costume. He starts to play a fast tune. Harry appears dressed as Elvis and asks if everyone else is gone. Judy comes down from the locker room in a skintight red devil bodysuit. "I always knew it," says Harry before singing a few bars of "You're the Devil In Disguise." Judy pokes him with her pitchfork. 

Tom's costume is Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He does a truly horrendous impression of Robert DeNiro. Doug slides down the firepole in a Dracula costume replete with makeup, fangs, and a cape. Harry asks if he's Bela Lugosi Dracula or Christopher Lee Dracula. Neither, the big guy is Count Chocula. Tom tells Doug to put on a different costume. Rufus enters, accompanied by a priest. In the spirit of the occasion, the captain is wearing a sequined matador's outfit. "I got some news you won't wanna hear," he says, "Since it's Halloween, I thought it might be appropriate." 

The priest introduces himself as Father Alex. He tells them that a house was located about 40 yards west of the Chapel over 100 years ago. A Protestant minister and his wife built it as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The house mysteriously caught fire in 1888, killing the minister. The community wanted to build a church in his honor. The minister's wife donated the land and had her husband buried below the chapel "to be the church's spiritual foundation." Maybe I've seen too many episodes of Deadly Women, but that story makes me wonder where she was the night the house burned down.

The young officers look appropriately spooked. Minister or not, there was still a dead guy in the basement. "I believe the curse has been lifted," says Cap'n Rufus. The minster's name was apparently Jacob Gwynn. "Then who's Yates?" asks Harry. My question exactly. Tom tries to convince Doug not to go to the dance by telling him about Dory's freaky psychic vision of death. Doug decides to wear the Count Chocula getup anyway.

In the Taft High gym, the students are dancing to "The Monster Mash." Harry patrols the outside with a flashlight. He wields it like a microphone and practices some Elvis gyrations. Back inside, Doug snaps at Tom to stop quoting Taxi Driver. Dory joins them dressed as Merlin. I guess a gypsy fortune teller would've been too on-the-nose. She tells Doug he shouldn't be there. Doug tells her, "I wasn't put on this earth to be taken out in a Prince of Darkness costume." Actually, the Prince of Darkness would be Satan or Ozzy Osbourne, depending on who you ask. He leaves to take a look around.

"You told him?" Dory asks. Tom reassures her that the big fella can take care of himself. One of the jack-o-lanterns has burned out. Dory asks for a lighter; Tom has a match. They look inside. "Somebody stole the candle," says Dory. 

Someone breaks into a nearby janitor's closet and soaks packages of toilet paper with gasoline. The arsonist has jammed a tin can in the doorway so they won't get locked in. Doug comes out of the gym and sees the closet door open a crack. Doug enters the closet and the door shuts behind him. At that precise moment, the arsonist, dressed like a vampire, drops the lit candle on the toilet paper. 

Doug calls for help, rattling the door. It takes the kids in the gym a while to notice the smoke filtering toward them. When the alarm is raised, Fuller and Tom spring into action. The captain orders Tom to grab the fire extinguisher and the students to evacuate.

Tom runs down the hall and hears Doug inside the closet. Tom breaks down the door. (One of the absolute worst things you can do during a fire is feed it oxygen. His buddy DeNiro's character from Backdraft can tell you all about that). Doug stumbles out unscathed. The other vampire's cape is burning. Tom sprays the kid with the fire extinguisher and covers him with his jacket.

"Doug," gasps Dory as she passes the scene. Tom assures her it's not and that the guy isn't dead. Cap'n Rufus puts out the fire in the closet. Doug is coughing. The other vampire is whimpering in pain. "Hey, it's that dork Allen," says a boy. Dory shouts, "Leave him alone!" She kneels next to Allen and holds his hand.

Outside the gym, Dory tells Doug that she's never been so relieved to be wrong. "Don't jinx me, I'm still in the costume," he says. Dory feels sorry for Allen; she could see in his eyes that he couldn't keep himself from setting fires. Tom saw it too. Doug asks Dory if she thinks the visions will stop now that this is over. "What am I, a fortune teller?" she asks nastily.

In the Chapel basement, Blowfish paints an epitaph on the floor: 1888, JACOB GWYNN, A SEED. Blowfish goes back upstairs. A faint glow seems to appear from between the cracks in the floorboards. End of episode.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Scarefest 2016

This weekend, I took my cousins to a local horror/paranormal convention. The main attraction for us was celebrity guest Steven Williams, best known to us as Rufus from Supernatural and Mr. X from The X-Files. He's also known to me as Captain Fuller from 21 Jump Street.

Unlike the last convention we attended, there were no lines whatsoever at the celebrities' booths. When I approached Steven's booth, I accidentally approached the wrong person about paying for autographs and photos. She told me to go to the other end of the table. As my cousin and I started in that direction, Steven called out, "Don't you send my people away!"

Steven was a very, warm funny guy. I told him I've seen every episode of 21 Jump Street and that my all-time favorite line of his was: "You're an undercover cop, Doug. You learn to puke!" He chuckled and even said the end of the line with me. Steven looked at me curiously and asked, "Where did you see episodes of 21 Jump Street? You don't look old enough." I told him Hulu and he seemed confused. I'm sure he later asked someone what it is.

Getting my 5'0" self in a picture with Steven's 6'2" frame was an interesting challenge. The rest of the convention wasn't of interest to us, but meeting Steven was well worth the price of admission.

It's not Halloween night, but I've already run into the Sanderson sisters.


Jurassic Park Jeep!

"Family don't end with blood."-Bobby Singer

Steven selfie!

Road tripping with my cousin Michelle and our old pal Scoob!

Jinkies! Did somebody say "mystery"?