I hate this time of the day. I hate Sundays, actually. I shouldn’t because I should be thankful for everything and love every second but when the sun gets low on the horizon and I know what awaits me in less than a few hours, I get salty. I am sure it comes from my youth and holding my homework off until after America’s Funniest Home Videos or worse, procrastinating all the way until after Amazing Stories finishes causing the stress to really amp up. I thought maybe these feelings would ease over the years but still, as an adult, when the sun gets low, my worries about Monday’s responsibilities weigh heavy.
I find comfort in the sanctuary of my bedroom on these nights watching something via ROKU that takes me away from the realities of the tough meetings and cutthroat races which begin the minute my tie is tied. Usually, it is something that brings me a guilty comfort I wouldn’t want just anyone to see. I guess tonight I’ll confess to you what takes me out of my anxiety.
Hollywood Ghost Stories
I have written about this before but nothing chills my bones more than this documentary. One of my first introductions into the horror genre, it absolutely terrified me so much that became a weirdo horror fan. That is staying something! It wastes no time in hitting you with both fists by starting with an interview of William Peter Blatty and the movie, The Exorcist. Imagine never seeing any horror movie and watching documentary showing you all the scariest and most shocking parts of a horror movie and informs you they are all true.
The Haunting 1991
Again, something I have written about before but this one still gets me! Based on a book about a supposed true story, this made-for-TV movie aired on a Sunday night about this time of the year. I didn’t sleep for a week after and many nights I camped in a sleeping bag at the foot of my parent’s bed. This Hallmark Channel styled narration really amped the demonic haunting, thanks to the skilled acting of Sally Kirkland. It’s one that gets under the skin and stays there. Especially the laundry room scene. “Janet!”
This Ghost Documentary
Not sure how or when I found this but it is the quintessential ghost documentary of all time. It never ceases to make me pull the covers close and go into fight or flight mode when one of the cats pushes bedroom door open. This one covers some of the most incredible footage in the world of the paranormal so make sure you have everything you need in bed because you will not want to go downstairs to the kitchen after watching this.
That’s my quick blurb about my guilty bedtime comforts this time of the year. What are yours?
Note: I want to mention that this post deals with the topic of suicide. Mental illness is a disease that comes with an unfair stigma unlike any other disease. Those that suffer, do so silently and often the way out is of their own accord. Please, if you feel this way talk, reach out and ask for help. It always gets better. Always.
Over the years I have visited many spooky places across the country and all but a couple have left something to be desired. I am a big optimist and fall for folklore and urban legends because I want to believe. I love the stories of the lone tragic dead bride who is cursed to wander the halls of a Holiday Inn for all eternity. So many places jump on the ghost story wagon and when you’re a gullible tourist, like myself, you should walk away disappointed when you don’t get the willies even though almost all the stories are greatly exaggerated.
There is a place, however, which exceeds any folklore or spooky yarn. It is so dark and disturbing, Hollywood and authors alike have tried to capture the essence of this destination but have not even touched what I experienced. Even the Japanese people themselves do not talk about it and if you, as an outsider, bring this into conversation you will be met with judging eyes and uncomfortable body language. This is the place people enter and they do not plan to come out. It is said to be cursed and full of vengeful spirits that float on the periphery of the eye to lure visitors to their doom. It’s name is the Aokigahara Forest but is also called the Sea of Trees, Sea of Forest, Japan’s Demon Forest but is most commonly referred to as the Japanese Suicide Forest.
I spent an entire day inside this forest and even though I successfully found my way out, it has not left me. I do not believe it ever will.
The dark history of this forest goes back to almost twelve hundred years to a period of famine in Japan. To reduce the number of mouths to feed, families would abandon their elderly in the forest knowing they would have no way of finding their way out and would eventually die of starvation or exposure. In the sixties, a the book Kuroi Kaiju (Black Sea of Trees) became a very popular story which ends with the two lovers in the story committing suicide inside the forest. This is speculated to be the reason many people sought the forest to be a final destination and the book, itself, has been found many times inside the forest.
The Japanese government would post the numbers of deaths inside the Aokigahara Forest but after the financial crisis of 2008, there was a dramatic spike that only increased over the following years. After 2013, it was decided the stats were not to be published for fear it would only draw more attention to this macabre destination. As of this year the average is thought to be as many as two per day.
The Aokigaraha Forest is located at the base of Mt. Fuji and has the most insane topography because the floor is formed from lava flows from the volcano. The trees are lush and grow in twisted, odd formations and thick moss covers almost everything. It is so dense that in the middle of the afternoon it can feel like the middle of the night so shadows will not cast. And the sound! I have never to an outside location where your ears feel almost compressed and it feels absolutely deafening. Your breath sounds like waves of noise and you have to stop to get your heartbeat under control just to listen for anything in the woods. I can understand the what those who come here might feel. The forest surrounds you and every sense you have is taken over.
As you will see in the video below, I get turned around a few times. It is about fourteen miles of forest and most of it is almost impossible to get to. If you leave the path it can be extremely dangerous because of the lava flow rock floor, caves and deep pockets are everywhere. You could be walking through and drop into a cavern, never to be heard from again. Also, hundreds of years of fallen foliage makes traversing the area a knee-deep slog what could hide almost anything underneath. I left the trail only a few times but just feet away, I lost my orientation and came close to my way losing the trail. The forest and trees have a way of wanting to keep you.
I did my best to keep track of where I was through simple land navigation tricks like measuring my stride and footsteps to figure out how far in I was and how long it would take to get back. The trail map, however, was definitely not calibrated to exact distance so a few hours in, it was clear I really turned around. To add a little stress to the situation, I had a bus home scheduled for 7pm. By the end of the day it was a race to not only get out of the forest but get out as close to where I started from. Not easy when all the signs are in Japanese characters.
There were times when I could not tell if my mind, ears or eyes were playing tricks on me. I saw absolutely no one the entire time I was in the forest. There were no hikers, workers or even the tourists with a curiosity like myself. I moved with a quickness to see as much of the forest as possible in the six hours I was in but occasionally I stopped dead in my tracks because I heard people having conversations off the trail. Knowing the dangers of leaving the trail I would quickly look in the direction I thought the voices were coming from and there was nothing. This seemed to happen more frequently the longer I was in the forest.
They say, if you follow ropes in the Aokigahara, it will lead to something. It does. I made the decision not to publish completely what I found to show respect for whoever was there, the Japanese culture and the topic of suicide. I did not find a body but I did see an abandoned tent, blankets, empty pill cases and looped rope tied high in a tree. It was the most sinking feeling of utter hopelessness I have ever felt. And I don’t think that feeling will leave me for a long time. That’s all I have to say about that.
Eventually I made it out of the forest, though it was a little stressful finding the right stop that still had an active bus associated with it. When I realized the one I waited for was not an active stop, I had to go back into the forest to make it a stop that had a bus. That’s when my mind was the most paranoid and I really felt hundreds of eyes on me as I moved with a quickness to escape the dark. I can still distinctly remember hearing people out there but I know there were none.
Well, spoiler alert, I survived. I found my way out and made it home but even as I write this, I know that forest came with me. I think about it all the time and the feelings that permitted the trees, the ground and the silent air. Even I write this, I can hear that split second chattering out beyond the trails. There is something there. That I know.
I kept this video pretty raw because any music or editing would detract from what was happening. I am a bit annoyed by the GoPro Hero 5 I was using because apparently there is an audio port I couldn’t see so there is a lot of accidental finger rubbing over the microphone. To be honest, that camera is a pretty big disappointment for the cost.
I hope you get at least 1% of what I experienced from this video. It’s shaky and raw but hopefully it can bring you a little closer to the Sea of Trees: The Aokigahara Forest. With much respect to the culture of the Japanese people, thank you.
Holy cats! This one took a while to shoot, edit and re-edit. When you are so amateur to video reviews and Final Cut software you have to watch hours of YouTube tutorials from an eleven-year-old, it’s going to take a while for anything of substance. If you are not easily offended, you should definitely give this one a watch.
Probably what I love most about the Halloween season is the hunt. I love exploring all the shops come August and see what new additions there are to the market and no item better represents the macabre creativity like soft drinks. Hear me out.
Sure the name brands change their cans to include silly monsters but nothing beats the private little companies and their novelty Halloween beverages. There are no giant analyst meetings with board members judging if “Frankenstein Cola” will ruin people from their brand forever or stocks at risk before the end of a fiscal year. No, just fun people concocting strange brews to bottle and label with spiders and witches. I love it so very much and when you find them, it’s a race to social media to spread the spooky fun. What a weird little world I chose to live in.
This year, World Market is the keeper of the faith with five new flavors over the previous years to include Lemon Drop Dead and Blood Orange from Jones Soda Company. We have Dr. Jekyll Pepper Elixir, Flying Cauldron Butter Beer, Salem Sister’s Green Apple, Cheshire’s Vanishing Cream Soda, and last but not least, Ghoulish Grape (It’s Fang-tastic!). All have their own little spooky magic and I taste them all for you with some help from beyond.
Come watch me summon the new Halloween Sodas that are exclusively at World Market from now until Halloween.
This past week I have been on the hunt for the latest Halloween items that seem to be crawling their way out of the back storage rooms of particular retailers. Usually by mid-September we are in full swing, but there are a few stragglers. LOOKING AT YOU, TARGET! But other stores always seem to be right on time like a trusty Seiko. Dollar General has their shit together every year and 2017, it is hitting all the feels.
I went there last night to get floss and absolutely left without it because I was drawn into the Halloween aisle like the ‘Falcon to a non-moon. There were so many little odd trinkets for a buck, I just couldn’t leave there without getting a few to make a stupid video. And brother, this one is a doozy. It did come out a little grainy because of the spooky mood-lighting that didn’t quite translate but you will get the point.
I cover a few neat little items that are Dollar General exclusive and even play a little dress-up. I am in late thirties and yes, playing dress-up this time of the year is acceptable. Please watch and “oooh and aaah” at the cheap treats that will most likely disappear forever in my bottom desk drawer.
Shortly after I filmed this I went to remove the witch paint and had a little scare because as hard as I scrubbed, it wouldn’t come off. Like, not even turning the wash cloth a tad greenish. Nothing! I had to use a little more elbow grease than anticipated and I can tell you that today, I feel like I had a pretty nice peel. Smooth as a baby’s butt!
Eventually it came off, for the most part. I still have a slight green hue but all-in-all, I am back to normal.
Hope you enjoyed the Dollar Store Halloween Finds for 2017! Up next is Big Lots! I kind of broke the bank there which you will see this week.
I have bantered around whether or not to include the new Sweet Heat additions to the Starburst and Skittles family for about a week now and judging by the apparent lack of Earth-shattering releases like the past few years (i.e. Frute Brute, Ecto Cooler, black bun-ed Whoppers…) I figured, what the Hell? After all, I did find them under the Halloween banner for a new release in Wallgreens. That should at least qualify it for something?
I heard about these from the annual Chicago Candy Faire this past year because I always make sure to keep my finger on the pulse of new items coming around because when original Bonkers make their return, I will repent because I know the rapture is near. Until then, all bets are off to include pants.
Wrigley Inc. debuted the new flavors of Skittles and Starbursts to include the addition of “heat” or spicy to compliment the sweetness. It is a bold move because it’s tough to imagine a 10-year old eating something that is confusing to the palate especially when he or she is raised on a steady diet of mac&cheese and chicken fingers. They are definitely targeting an older market which I kinda like in a candy company.
A little inside baseball, these were not supposed to be released until December of this year. In my mind I would like to think these are an attempt to nudge their way into the Halloween season although there are specific Halloween versions out of both candies. It’s a strange flavor which I think belongs in the world of strange and unusual and that is what Halloween does the best. Right, Winona?
So how do they taste? Well, let’s see starting with Starburst, the obvious winner of the two and don’t you dare disagree!
There are four flavors which are “Fiery Watermelon”, “Flamin’ Orange”, “Strawberry Mango” and “Pipin’ Pinapple”. My many years of eating ridiculously hot food and two broken noses, I must say, telling these flavors apart beyond the obvious flavor notes like “this is definitely watermelon and not strawberry” is kinda lost on me. I will tell you that there is a definite tingle near the end of the taste test proving the “heat” is actually there. Looking on the package I was curious to see what the element was in the ingredients which is responsible for this faint buzz you get. All I could really see and assume was an uptick in the amount of citric acid. If we ever figure out time travel we can proudly inform the Colonials that in the future we eat acid. That should scare ’em.
The Skittles were a little less pronounced with the flavors and heat. These had five new flavors: “Lemon Spark, “Fiery Watermelon”, Sizzlin’ Stawberry”and “Flamin’ Orange”. Again, nothing too nuts about these other than the feeling you wished you didn’t eat a handful of Skittles without washing the table pepper from your hands. The same normal tropical fruit taste with a little “ting” in the back of the throat.
All-in-all, not a bad little macabre treat to the mix. I will definitely be adding these to my 2017 Halloween additions this year because as of the first week of September, it’s looking a little lackluster. I am still waiting the big over-dominating item that will hit but not getting hopes high. That’s okay, tough, because this year’s Halloween Hell Show is shaping up to be pretty epic. The first week is always a bit wonky especially with apocalyptic storms and work emergencies, but believe it or not, I anticipated a lot of these contingencies. “Not the first rodeo”, said the clown.
Given a scale of 1-10 I would say a 5 on taste and an unintentional 7 on the Halloween fun. If you see them, give them a try and if you think I am underselling the heat, let me know! I am curious and so is my doctor.
Stay tuned tonight for this year’s first Halloween video review! It will scare your pants off.