I only wish my new job was in a hotel this creepy – looking.

I think I found a job ridiculously well suited  to me … I’m going to be a night auditor at a hotel. The shift runs from 11p – 7a. The work load sounds extrememly manageable, especially once I’ve been trained and have settled into the routine. The charming owner/operator who hired me is perfectly comfortable with the idea of me bringing my laptop along to use however I see fit, after my regular assigned tasks are done. Pretty sweet deal for a writer, huh?

Tonight I’m thinking about books I can load onto my e-reader, because that seems like a good way to pass the dead hours as well. Obviously, it’s time to re-read The Shining. I also found this:

The Haunted Hotel was published in 1879. Its author, Wilke Collins, also penned the classic, The Woman in White.

The entire text of The Haunted Hotel is available, free to download, at Project Gutenberg.

I think I already love this Wilke guy:

“The dull people decided years and years ago, as everyone knows, that novel-writing was the lowest species of literary exertion, and that novel reading was a dangerous luxury and an utter waste of time.”
— Wilkie Collins, My Miscellanies


Web Wanderings: The blue-skinned people of Troublesome Creek.

In Troublesome Creek, Kentucky – thanks to a rare, recessive gene – some descendants of Martin Fugate and Elizabeth Smith have been born – and have lived their whole lives – with blue skin.

I have no direct knowledge of this phenomena. I’ve never been to Troublesome Creek. (But, oh, how I adore that name.) I cannot find any public domain photographs of the condition. Still, I am fascinated.

While web wandering, I searched through dozens of sites to find the most reputable sources of information to share:

The ABC News website captions this image as a hand-colored black and white photo of Martin Fugate and his family. The source is shown as unknown.

In case you don’t have the time or inclination to read through those websites, allow me to relate the highlights.

It seems that Martin Fugate emigrated to Kentucky’s Troublesome Creek in approximately 1820. (From Virginia? France? Sources differ on this and other details.) Family lore says that his skin was blue, which seems to be confirmed by the above image, (but remember it is hand-tinted.) He married a local woman with fair skin, who nevertheless seems to have carried the same recessive trait he did. They had seven children, four of whom were born blue. These seven children married into the few local families in the area and founded a distinct bloodline.

That bloodline is complicated. I’ve been pouring over the available data, and I can’t quite trace my way through the tangled genealogical pedigree (provided by a descendant of the Fugates) which is viewable at the Indiana University website listed above, not even with the help of this reference: Pedigree Analysis.

The complication stems mostly from the fact that one of Martin and Elizabeth’s children, Zachariah (who was blue) married his mother’s sister. This marriage resulted in a generation of indeterminate number, which included Levi. (Or Levy.) Levi married and produced eight children, including a girl named Luna.

Luna was, perhaps, the bluest of all the Fugates. She gave birth to thirteen children, none of whom were blue. In 1975, however, her great-grandson was born deep blue, in a hospital not far from where Martin and Elizabeth first settled. As he aged, he lost the blue coloration and is thought to be just a carrier.

For more information about the condition itself, you’ll have to wade through the websites I provided, because I’ve developed a massive headache from tracing lines on that chart. (Two bits of pertinent information: 1: the condition is treatable, and medication can eliminate the blue coloration if it is taken daily 2: there doesn’t seem to be any adverse side effects to the condition – most of those who exhibited the color lived long, healthy lives.)

Before I go, I want to offer my personal thoughts about this. Many of the websites to which I didn’t link took an avid, breathless sort of tone which emphasized the fact that this condition came about because of inbreeding. I was offended. It isn’t hard for me to understand how geographical and socioeconomic factors contributed to the spread of this gene.

As a story-teller, I have to wonder if Martin journeyed to Troublesome Creek because there was a family there that would not treat him as an outcast because of the color of his skin. (Even if neither Elizabeth nor Mary were blue themselves, they both must have carried the gene – which suggests to me that somewhere in their family history, there were blue people.) Is it possible that he embarked on a quest to find people who would accept him as he was? And what of Zachariah, who married his aunt? Was he, perhaps, the eldest of Elizabeth’s children, and was Mary, perhaps, a straggler baby in Elizabeth’s birth family? How many children of the appropriate age existed in the community? And how many of those potential mates would accept a blue spouse?

In the end, I guess, there’s no way of knowing why events unfolded as they did. Without knowing, I think it best to reserve moral judgements.

Besides, isn’t it sort of wonderful that there have been – and may still be – blue people in the world?

Oh, Johnny (Depp), what are you doing now?

A television series from my youth is coming to the big screen soon: Kolchak the Night Stalker. It is slated to star Johnny Depp.

I am … taken aback.

First, let me express my adoration of Johnny Depp. As a young mother – before I had any way to timeshift a favorite program – I did my damnedest to be in front of  the TV on Sunday nights to watch 21 Jump Street. In the years since, I have seen twenty-four of his forty-two films. I own seven DVDs of his work, and four more are on my movies-I must-someday-own list. You know how some married couples have that ridiculous “free pass” agreement? Yeah. It’s like that.

It’s the quirky, I suppose. And the persona of rebellious independence. And, of course, the impossible good looks. Most endearing, however, is that he regularly stars in decent horror / thriller / fantasy films. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Benny and Joon and Chocolat. He won my heart, though, with his performances in these:

I still need: Nightmare on Elm Street, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow.

That said, I have to confess that I’m refusing to go watch his latest excursion into my genre, Dark Shadows. I’ve seen the trailers, and I am not happy. I suppose I should withhold my judgement until I actually see the thing, but I didn’t want a comedy; I wanted something that maintained the eerie flavor of the soap opera.

When the giant, promotional cut-outs of Barnabas Collins first went up in theater lobbies, I was excited. I am too young to have seen much of the series, and have always regretted that I had missed out. I was eager to get a feel for what it must have been like. I read that Johnny Depp was an aficionado of the original show, so I expected the movie to be an homage, not a parody – and especially not a broad parody. I’m sure I’ll get over it. When I relent – and I will relent eventually – I  imagine I’ll enjoy it for what it is: a silly take on a show to which I have no particular attachment.

Kolchak the Night Stalker, on the other hand? That’s a show I grew up on, and I’m going to be irritated as hell if  they screw it up. There were wonderful flashes of humor in the series, but the meat of it was the way the pragmatic, rumpled, old-school reporter dealt with the monster hunting. The charm of a character like Kolchak (or Columbo … or Barnabus, for that matter) lies in his sincerity. To the audience, he might be a caricature or an archetype, but he sees himself as authentic. There should be no sense of nudge-nudge, wink-wink. These characters are supposed to have a tragic edge.

Having seen the over-the-top, cartoonish depiction of the ’70s, as it appears in the Dark Shadows trailer, I worry about how the same decade will be depicted in Kolchak. I don’t want to see pop-art and high-fashion. The original show (like most of the programs from that era) had a gritty tone, and a mostly neutral palette of grays and tans. Yes, the ties were wide. Yes, he wore a straw hat. But his clothes, his tools, his office – they all felt lived in and real, not like costumes or set pieces.

I worry, too, about how paranormal events and creatures will be presented. In its day, Kolchak used state of the art special effects, when they were necessary. There would be no cleverness in retaining that dated, accidentally-cheesy tone, nor of turning the story into an excuse to showcase today’s most elaborate CGI.

I guess I just don’t want the new movie to turn the old television show into a joke. I don’t want Kolchak to be … well, to be figuratively defanged, the way Barnabus was in Dark Shadows.