Links, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 20

Monday morning according to Gustave Doré.

First of all some quick updates on my upcoming activities.

  • On November 1st, together with my friend Luca Cableri, I will be a guest of the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival. We will talk about wunderkammer and space, in a conference entitled The Space Cabinet of Curiosities. — November 1st, 10 am, Teatro Miela in piazza L. Amedeo Duca degli Abruzzi 3, Trieste.
  • On November 3rd I will speak at Sadistique, the BDSM party organized every first Sunday of the month by Ayzad. The title of my speech: “Pains are my delight”: Erotics of martyrdom. Obviously, given the private context, access is forbidden to the curious and to those who have no intention of participating in the party. Consult prices, rules of conduct and dress code on the event’s official page. — November 3rd, 3-8 pm, Nautilus Club, via Mondovì 7, Milano.
    [BTW, Ayzad recently launched his own podcast Exploring Unusual Sex, you can listen to it on Spreaker and Spotify]
  • I remind you that on November 14 we will inaugurate the collective art exhib REQVIEM at Mirabilia Gallery in Rome. The exhibition, organized by l’Arca degli Esposti and curated by Eliana Urbano Raimondi and myself, will feature works by 10 international artists within the context of the only Roman wunderkammer. — November 14th, 7 pm, Galleria Mirabilia, via di San Teodoro 15, Roma.

Without further ado let’s start with our selection of links & weirdness!

  • In his encyclopedia of natural history L’univers. Les infiniment grands et les infiniments petits (1865) Felix A. Pouchet recounts this case which allegedly happened in 1838 in the French Alps: “A little girl, five years old, called Marie Delex, was playing with one of her companions on a mossy slope of the mountain, when all at once an eagle swooped down upon her and carried her away in spite of the cries and presence of her young friends. Some peasants, hearing her screams, hastened to the spot but sought in vain for the child, for they found nothing but one of her shoes on the edge of a precipice. The child was not carried to the eagle’s nest, where only the two eagles were seen surrounded by heaps of goat and sheep bones. It was not until two months later that a shepherd discovered the corpse of Marie Delec, frightfully mutilared, and lying upon a rock half a league from where she had been borne off.
  • The Halloween special which caused the death of a young boy, pushing the BBC to pretend it never even aired: a nice video tells its story. (Thanks Johnny!)
  • Fungi that turn insects into zombies: I’ve already written about them a few years ago in my little ebook (remember it?). But this video about the cute Entomophthora muscae has some truly spectacular images.

  • Italian creativity really tops itself when it’s time to put up a scam. A small business car ran over a wild boar in the Gallura countryside, forest rangers were alerted so that the accident damage could be reimbursed by the municipality. It turned out the boar had been just taken out of a freezer. (Article in Italian, via Batisfera)
  • In 1929, the Australian writer Arthur Upfield was planning a detective story and while chatting with a friend he came up with a method for the perfect murder. So perfect in fact, that his novel couldn’t even work, because the detective in the the story would never have solved the case. He needed to find a flaw, one small detail that could expose the culprit. To get out of the impasse the frustrated writer began to discuss the plot with various people. Little did he know that one of these listeners would soon decide to test the method himself, by killing three men.
  • I sometimes think back to a little book I had as a kid, Idées Noires by Franquin. Here is an example of the Belgian cartoonist‘s very dark humor.

“The law is clear: everyone who kills another person will have his head cut off.”

  • An since we’re talking about beheadings, I took the above photograph at Vienna’s Kriminalmuseum di Vienna. It is the head of criminal Frank Zahlheim, and on the cultural implications of this kind of specimens I wrote a post last year that you might want to re-read if you’ve got five minutes.
  • Greta Thunberg becomes a pretext to clarify what autism and Asperger’s syndrome really are (article in Italian).
  • In England, back in the days, whenever someone died in the family the first thing to do was tell the bees.
  • To conclude, I leave you with a picture of a beautiful Egyptian mummified phallus (circa 664-332 a.C.). See you next time!

Joshua Hoffine

Article by guestblogger Dario Carere

Joshua Hoffine‘s terrifying images drag us into a world of nightmares, hunting, danger, and they also contain a touch of irony and romance.
His first horror photographs, dating back to 2003, have consecrated him as the founder of a real sub-genre, which combines elements of literature and cinema to generate a new perspective for the photographic art; as he stated in an interview, unlike video games, music, etc., photography has never enjoyed a true horror conjugation before.

Hoffine’s monsters populate cellars, attics, bathrooms, all those places that are most familiar to us and that we consider safe; demons mock us from dark corners, as we try to figure out where they are. But above all, they can hide inside us.
Looking in the mirror we discover that we are only a grotesque copy of our own fears; beauty, as it often happens in romantic literature, is just the superficial layer for a corrupt and deformed soul. Nineteenth-century scenarios become the background for brutal crimes and surreal apparitions, through which Hoffine’s imagery produces silent and unprecedented stories, compressed in a single shot capable of throwing up a thousand questions.


As a lover of horror classics, Hoffine takes advantage of the immortal fame of icons such as Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jekill and Mr. Hyde, Nosferatu and Elizabeth Bathory (beautifully captured as she wears a beauty mask during her usual bath in a virgin’s blood), to revisit their spirit in a modern way, telling the story in one or more shots. Lighting, make-up and expressiveness are studied in detail to transform the image into a continuous exchange between reality and vision, which is why each picture is always something more than a simple “movie scene”. The moment he decides to immortalize is the perfect point of maximum dramatic tension.

The classics of horror are often represented in his work, as you can see in his recently published anthology, a collection that spans across his last thirteen years of work. The silent killer, Stephen King’s clown with his menacing balloon, the horde of ravenous zombies, the corpse bride: it’s a great tribute to the horror genre which, as intended by the author, by stabbing our imagination forces us to “see what we did not want to see“.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Hoffine has also ventured into taking the role of director in 2014, for his first short (yet very intense) film, Dark Lullaby.

The protagonist of Dark Lulllaby is one of Hoffine’s daughters. Starting from his very first shots, dedicated to childhood nightmares, Hoffine has often immersed his daughters (along with other relatives) in the surreal scenarios he creates; these photographs, collected in his most famous work After Dark My Sweet, are still in my opinion the best of his vast production.
The reason is that they concern us closely: the monster under the bed, the spiders entering from the window, the jaws that seem to come out of the darkness of the closet — they all belong to the oldest memories each of us has, and sometimes even to our everyday adult life. These are primordial, indelible nightmares: darkness, insects and ghosts are three things that almost all of us fear, even when there’s really no reason, even when it might feel silly to be afraid.

Combining fantastic monsters and little girls is a way to create a terribly effective contrast, one that was always dear to the horror genre. However rich the artist’s imagination and the skill of the model/actor may be, no one can represent horror better than children. In truth, through horror, we always go back to childhood, reopening our trunk of memories we left in the attic, to return to that good old pavor nocturnus. This is why a child remains the perfect protagonist of any scary scene.

One wonders what kind of memory Hoffine’s five daughters will retain from this experience.
Of course, this master of horror should be credited with having created a new kind of photography, which through the excellent use of makeup is able to show us what we did not want to see.

Here is Joshua Hoffine’s official website.

Links, curiosities & mixed wonders – 6

Step right up! A new batch of weird news from around the world, amazing stories and curious facts to get wise with your friends! Guaranteed to break the ice at parties!

  • Have you seen those adorable and lovely fruit bats? How would you like to own a pet bat, making all those funny expressions as you feed him a piece of watermelon or banana?
    In this eye-opening article a bat expert explains all the reasons why keeping these mammals as domestic pets is actually a terrible idea.
    There are not just ethical reasons (you would practically ruin their existence) or economic reasons (keeping them healthy would cost you way more than you can imagine); the big surprise here is that, despite those charming OMG-it’s-so-cuuute little faces, bats — how should I put it — are not exactly good-mannered.
    As they hang upside down, they rub their own urine all over their body, in order to stink appropriately. They defecate constantly. And most of all, they engage in sex all the time — straight, homosexual, vaginal, oral and anal sex, you name it. If you keep them alone, males will engage in stubborn auto-fellatio. They will try and hump you, too.
    And if you still think ‘Well, now, how bad can that be’, let me remind you that we’re talking about this.
    Next time your friend posts a video of cuddly bats, go ahead and link this pic. You’re welcome.
  • Sex + animals, always good fun. Take for example the spider Latrodectus: after mating, the male voluntarily offers himself in sacrifice to be eaten by his female partner, to benefit their offspring. And he’s not the only animal to understand the evolutionary advantages of cannibalism.
  • From cannibals to zombies: the man picture below is Clairvius Narcisse. He is sitting on his own grave, from which he rose transformed into a real living dead.
    You can find his story on Wikipedia, in a famous Haitian etnology book, in the fantasy horror film Wes Craven adapted from it, and in this in-depth article.
  • Since we’re talking books, have you already invested your $3 for The Illustrati Archives 2012-2016? Thirty Bizzarro Bazar articles in kindle format, and the satisfaction of supporting this blog, keeping it free as it is and always will be. Ok, end of the commercial break.
  • Under a monastery in Rennes, France, more than 1.380 bodies have been found, dating from 14th to 18th Century. One of them belonged to noblewoman Louise de Quengo, Lady of Brefeillac; along with her corpse, in the casket, was found her husband’s heart, sealed in a lead lock box. The research on these burials, recently published, could revolutionize all we know about mummification during the Renaissance.

  • While we’re on the subject, here’s a great article on some of the least known mummies in Italy: the Mosampolo mummies (Italian language).
  • Regarding a part of the Italian patrimony that seldom comes under the spotlight, BBC Culture issued a good post on the Catacombs of Saint Gaudiosus in Naples, where frescoes show a sort of danse macabre but with an unsettling ‘twist’: the holes that can be seen where a figure’s face should be, originally harbored essicated heads and real skulls.

  • Now for a change of scenario. Imagine a sort of Blade Runner future: a huge billboard, the incredible size of 1 km², is orbiting around the Earth, brightening the night with its eletric colored lights, like a second moon, advertising some carbonated drink or the last shampoo. We managed to avoid all this for the time being, but that isn’t to say that someone hasn’t already thought of doing it. Here’s the Wiki page on space advertising.
  • Since we are talking about space, a wonderful piece The Coming Amnesia speculates about a future in which the galaxies will be so far from each other that they will no longer be visible through any kind of telescope. This means that the inhabitants of the future will think the only existing galaxy is their own, and will never come to theorize something like the Big Bang. But wait a second: what if something like that had already happened? What if some fundamental detail, essential to the understanding of the nature of cosmos, had already, forever disappeared, preventing us from seeing the whole picture?
  • To intuitively teach what counterpoint is, Berkeley programmer Stephen Malinowski creates graphics where distinct melodic lines have different colors. And even without knowing anything about music, the astounding complexity of a Bach organ fugue becomes suddenly clear:

  • In closing, I advise you to take 10 minutes off to immerse yourself in the fantastic and poetic atmosphere of Goutte d’Or, a French-Danish stop-motion short directed by Christophe Peladan. The director of this ironic story of undead pirates, well aware he cannot compete with Caribbean blockbusters, makes a virtue of necessity and allows himself some very French, risqué malice.

Zombie in a Penguin Suit

Zombie in a Penguin Suit è un cortometraggio di Chris Russell, che regala molto più di quanto già non prometta lo strepitoso titolo. Non soltanto un morto vivente in un costume da pinguino: a partire da quest’idea puramente weird, il regista decide di stupirci con un tono adulto, malinconico, disperato e commovente.


Ecco il sito ufficiale del film.

Vibratori horror

Le nicchie di mercato ancora vuote, si sa, sono ormai poche. Così un collettivo di artisti ha deciso di colmare una delle ultime lacune del consumismo moderno, e ha avviato una società che vende al pubblico un prodotto alquanto particolare.

Il loro negozio online è divertente già a partire dal nome: Necronomicox (da Necronomicon, il famigerato libro apocalittico inventato dalla fervida fantasia di H. P. Lovecraft, e cocks, vale a dire – scusate il termine – “cazzi”).

Ma è il prodotto venduto che è assolutamente weird: si tratta di vibratori, o meglio di dildi, che ricordano creature aliene vicine all’immaginario lovecraftiano. Questi oggetti di piacere sessuale che ricordano l’iconografia di film come Alien, o le fattezze di mostri classici come Chtulhu, sono adattabili alle diverse esigenze estetiche, e vengono proposti in tre fasce di prezzo a seconda della quantità di colori utilizzati.

Ecco la versione zombi di un comune fallo in gomma.

Cercando di diversificare e ampliare l’offerta, gli artisti di Necronomicox hanno in programma di proporre ulteriori gadget, sempre nuovi, per riempire di orrore e di mistero le vostre seratine intime. I prezzi sono un po’ altini, ma via, la novità vale la spesa. E, come idea regalo, sarebbe quantomeno originale.

Il sito ufficiale di Necronomicox.

Buon compleanno Ed Wood!


85 anni fa, il 10 ottobre 1924, nasceva Edward D. Wood Jr., l’uomo passato alla storia come il peggior regista di tutti i tempi. In questi 85 anni, molti sono stati i candidati pronti a strappargli il poco ambito titolo. Eppure Wood ha sempre dimostrato di avere qualcosa in più dei suoi tanti, pessimi colleghi: un amore incondizionato per il cinema, e per il raccontare storie. Il fatto che non ne fosse assolutamente capace non fa che aggiungere fascino ai suoi brutti film.

Per quanto tecnicamente risibili, infatti, le sue pellicole hanno un sapore naif che è difficile trovare altrove: se di registi negati, anche peggiori di Ed Wood, si potrebbe forse riempire un elenco del telefono, nessuno avrà mai l’amalgama inimitabile riscontrabile nelle sue pellicole.

Film orrendi per palati fini e per cinefili, le sue opere tentano maldestramente di inserirsi nel filone degli shockers degli anni ’40 e ’50, quando il genere era già ormai in declino. A partire da Glen or Glenda, del 1953, con povertà di mezzi, una tecnica inesistente, e basandosi su idee e plot quantomeno infantili, Wood continuò ad inanellare una serie di film definibili soltanto dall’espressione inglese so bad it’s good (talmente brutti da essere belli).

Non staremo qui a parlare ancora di Plan 9 From Outer Space, ritenuto il suo capolavoro, con i celeberrimi dischi volanti che penzolano dai fili di nylon o con la controfigura di Bela Lugosi più improbabile della storia; ormai, anche grazie al biopic di Tim Burton del 1994, quasi tutti conoscono le peculiarità dell’opera. Lasceremo invece la parola al film stesso, in questa selezione di citazioni dalla sceneggiatura.


Criswell: Saluti, amico mio. Siamo tutti interessati al futuro, perché è là che io e voi passeremo il resto della nostra vita.


Criswell: Amico mio, hai visto questi fatti basati su testimonianze giurate. Puoi forse provare che non siano successi? Magari sulla strada di casa passerai di fianco a qualcuno, nel buio, e non lo saprai mai, perché verrà dallo spazio profondo.


Lt. Harper: Una cosa è sicura: l’Ispettore Clay è morto – assassinato – e qualcuno deve esserne responsabile!


Criswell: [voce narrante] Al funerale del vecchio, nascosta dagli sguardi dei partecipanti, la sua MOGLIE MORTA stava guardando!


Col. Edwards: Questa è la storia più fantastica che io abbia mai sentito.
Jeff: Ed è vera, anche, fino all’ultima parola.
Col. Edwards: Quella è la parte fantastica.


Becchino: Hai sentito niente?
Becchino: Mi è sembrato di sì.
Becchino: Non mi piace sentire rumori, specialmente quando non dovrebbero essercene.


Paula Trent: Non ti ho mai visto in questo stato d’animo, prima d’ora.
Jeff Trent: Immagino sia perché non sono mai stato in questo stato d’animo prima d’ora.


Col. Tom Edwards: Perché è così importante che volete contattare i governi della nostra Terra?
Eros: Per via della morte. Perché tutti voi della Terra siete idioti.
Jeff Trent: Aspetta un attimo, amico.
Eros: No, aspetta un attimo tu. All’inizio era il fuoco d’artificio, un esplosivo innocuo. Poi la vostra granata: avete cominciato a uccidervi tra di voi, pochi alla volta. Poi la bomba. Poi una bomba più grande: molte persone venivano uccise in un solo momento. Poi i vostri scienziati capitarono sulla bomba atomica, e divisero l’atomo. Poi la bomba ad idrogeno, con cui fate esplodere l’aria stessa. Ora potete organizzare la distruzione totale dell’intero universo che ruota attorno al nostro sole: l’unica esplosione che vi rimane è la Solaranite.
Col. Tom Edwards: Macché, non esiste neanche.


L’Alieno Imperatore: Piano 9? Ah, sì. Il Piano 9 si occupa della resurrezione dei morti. Elettrodi a lunga distanza inseriti nelle ghiandole pineali e pituitarie dei morti di recente.


General Roberts: [il Generale sta spiegando perché la trasmissione da parte alieni è caduta] Il contatto è perso definitivamente. Le condizioni atmosferiche nello spazio profondo spesso interferiscono con le trasmissioni.


Eros: [rivolto alla sua collega aliena] Sai, è una cosa interessante se ci pensi bene… la gente della Terra, che può pensare, è così spaventata da coloro che non possono farlo: i morti. Beh, la nostra navicella dovrebbe essersi ricaricata. È meglio se cominciamo.


Col. Tom Edwards: Per un periodo abbiamo cercato di contattarli via radio ma nessuna risposta. Poi attaccarono una città, una piccola città, lo ammetto, ma comunque una città di persone, persone che sono morte.


Lt John Harper: Era un disco.
Patrolman Larry: Un disco volante? E cosa glielo fa dire?
Lt John Harper: Ti ricordi il rumore che abbiamo sentito l’altra notte?
Patrolman Larry: Ci ha gettato a terra, come potrei dimenticarlo?
Lt John Harper: Esattamente, ma non ti stai ricordando il suono vero e proprio.
Patrolman Larry: Si sbaglia, Tenente. Sono d’accordo con lei che questo suono è simile, ma che mi dice della luce accecante?
Lt John Harper: Beh, non l’hai mai sentito dire? Tante volte un disco volante non brilla, e non ha nessuna luce.
Patrolman Larry: Questo prova che lei ha ragione! Cosa facciamo ora, Tenente?


Paula Trent: Caro, non preoccuparti. I dischi volanti sono lassù. Il cimitero è là fuori. Ma io sarò chiusa a chiave qui dentro.


Air Force Captain: Visite? Questo implica dei visitatori.


Eros: Non vi serviranno le pistole.
Jeff Trent: Beh, forse noi pensiamo che ci servano.


Eros: [con estremo disgusto] Vedete? Vedete?! Le vostre stupide menti! Stupide! Stupide! Stupide!


Frasi di lancio del film:

  • Indicibili orrori dallo spazio profondo paralizzano i viventi e fanno risorgere i morti!
  • Alieni resuscitano i morti! Dischi volanti su Hollywood!