Weekly Features

Weekly Shaman

Hello Earthlings, and happy summertime.

   Once upon a time during the summer of 1816 a young woman gave birth to a monster. It was June in a villa outside of Geneva, Switzerland where a group of young geniuses found themselves trapped inside by a terrible rainstorm. One was the decadent poet Lord Byron, his physician John Polidori, Percy Bysshe Shelly, his bride Mary Shelley and her sister Claire. During this violent storm the group found themselves ready and telling ghost stories. As the time progressed one of the young romantics proposed that they each come up with their own tale of horror. What happened was the two nonprofessionals came up with stories that would lay the foundation for all of gothic horror stores. One was John Polidori’s THE VAMPYRE. And, of course, it was the 19 -year- old Mary who would create the monster of all monsters- Frankenstein. Mary’s story was that of a young scientist( named Victor Frankenstein) who attempts to bring to life a creature entirely made from dead matter. What he gives “Birth” to is a monster so ugly that he meets with rejection again and again. With this gruesome horror tale, the innocent Mary won the contest. Polidori’s Vampire was also a direct antecedent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The Haunted summer, as it came to be known, has been written about and filmed often ( Ken Russell’s feverish “Gothic”). It is also the opening for James Whale’s brilliant THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

   Like many people I was an avid fan of the FX American Horror series “Coven” chapters. What few people may realize was how many of the characters were based on real people. Obviously, Marie Laveau and the Axman were based on real life people, but also the murderess Madame Delphine LaLaurie ( well played by Kathy Bates). Madame LaLaurie could be viewed as a New Orleans’ answer to the infamous lady Vampire Elizabeth Bathory who murdered hundreds of young girls. She was claimed to have run a torture chamber in her attic on Governor Nichols and Royal Street in New Orleans. There she and her equally sick husband tortured and killed many innocent slaves. On April 10, 1834, the New Orleans fire department was called to put out a fire in the LaLaurie Mansion’s attic. While making sure that no other fires had broken out, they discovered a secret door. Breaking through the door, they found many badly tortured slaves, as well as many mutilated corpses. The infamous Madame LaLaurie then disappeared into obscurity. In 2007 actor Nicholas Cage purchased the mansion for $ 3.5 million dollars. Cage also admitted to having never slept in the notorious house of horrors. He does claim that out of respect to the tortured souls believed to haunt the place, he refuses to allow professional ghost hunters to investigate the premises, allegedly haunted by at least six ghosts.

   Happy, happy summer, readers, and see you at Halloween.