I celebrated this, my 60th birthday October 4th at my favorite hang-out: Windber’s Grand Midway Hotel. Owner Blair Murphy is still running himself ragged in preparation for the Halloween Season (and particularly this year’s Dracula-Con shindig on October 13), so I was running the coffeehouse for much of the evening.
Syn previewed her costume for DraculaCon and was 1 of 4 costumed figures encountered this evening. Matt arrived in street clothes but likewise gave his planned get-up a run-through, while Amber and Megan arrived already sporting out-of-the-ordinary outfits (me in my old “Zombie Hunter” t-shirt doesn’t count, right?).
For reasons unknown, I had it into my head to play DVDs of some bad-enough-be-unintentionally-funny low-budget horror flicks. Accordingly, the first movie of the evening was…
Terror is a Man (also known by several other titles, including Blood Creature, which was the name attached to the Midway’s DVD copy) first staggered into public view in 1959 with veteran acting mediocrity Richard Derr the most recognizable cast member. As per the above poster, they tried to hype the (almost non-existent) excitement around this international (Philippine Islands/American) co-production with a ‘warning bell’ sounding in theaters when ‘scary’ scenes occurred. An opening graphic of the film literally advises ‘sensitive movie goers’ to cover their eyes at such moments. Guess what? I didn’t, and I was slightly amused rather than terrified. Mostly, alas, I was bored.
Whichever name this moldy oldie goes by, it’s kind-of/sort-of a pale ripoff of HG Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau. A mad scientist transforms an animal into a crazed/murderous human. Said killer beast goes around mostly swaddled in Mummy-style bandages (so in effect you get 2 silly attempted ripoffs in a single picture).
That experience, followed on the extended-play DVD by a so-so (and totally irrelevant) Popeye cartoon (!?), cured me of any desire for more in the allegedly-so-bad-it’s-good sub-genre. The next movie would be one I knew was genuinely creepy/horrific.
In any case, it was a bounce-back after last week’s disappointing attendance, despite yet another extended cloudburst in recently waterlogged Windber. Much of this was due to a pair of groups (each 8 in number) that came by in mass.
First came the return of the pen-and-paper role players, with ace Dungeon Master Ron overseeing things. These were all familiar faces, though one (Hi, Nick!) hadn’t been seen in these parts for several months.
The other group were (aside from their leader, the ever-bubbly Cashmira) newcomers to the haunted hotel. They were members of the Pittsburgh area chapter of the Ordo Templi Orientis (the O.T.S. for short), a group of people interested in ritual magic. They were scouting the place as a possible site of their annual weekend-long convention for next September. They all seemed impressed by the Midway and, once Blair returned, they firmed up plans to rent basically the entire building for that future event.
Since a couple regulars who’d missed last week’s coffeehouse now appeared, I put on the impressively weird and unsettling video of Hereditary (which had been the most interesting DVD offering last week). Alas, it turned out both had already seen it elsewhere.
Oh, well, at least a couple of the O.T.O. crew turned out to be big fans of lead actress Toni Collette. So the choice was not a total bust.
Syn took the O.T.O. folk for a guided tour of the rest of the building while I tended the coffeehouse bar. I did get to have extended chats with multiple members of that group. Ron and others took breaks from their imaginary adventures to wish me a Happy Birthday. Mark the Bus driver dropped in long enough to do the same (there are so many ‘Marks’ connected with the Midway each needs an identifying career tag, as noted below). I also got to talk to Nick for the first time in many moons (he’s been busy, mostly out Pittsburgh way, organizing music programs for various bands/performers).
I did some web surfing during the inevitable slow moments between new arrivals and (yes) showed various parties the cover art for the book containing my latest story publication.
Two regulars debated the merits (or mostly lack of merits) of the Vampire Diaries TV series as I sipped coffee laced with yummy Caramel Macchiato creamer (I switched to caffeine-free tea as the evening grew late).
There was much buzz about the upcoming DraculaCon, reinforced by the presence of 2 ornate coffins Blair has gotten hold of and will have up in the Vampire Room. Another Mark (the Plumber) turned up in time to talk politics and talk radio shows with Blair.
With only about an hour till the 11 PM closing time, I popped in a DVD collection of episodes from the late-80s/early 90s TV anthology series Monsters:
The image transfer (originally recorded on VHS, pretty surely) was a bit fuzzy and the horror was tame stuff, really, but it made a decent time filler until it was time to close up for the night.