Autumn has arrived, and daylight is on a steady decline here in Wisconsin. This is the time of year when some people begin the plunge into seasonal depression, but for me it’s the opposite. Spring and summer are my seasons of sorrow – painful reminders of every missed opportunity and all I’ve lost over the years.
In fall, when the air cools and darkness consumes the world by late afternoon, I feel relief and contentment. Isolation and emptiness stops hurting so much.
Even if I’m suffering from the Halloween burnout I mentioned in my last post, fall adventures with my kids give me life. Expeditions into local legends. The first visit to the nearest Spirit Halloween store the moment it opens. Ghost walks with Nate. Our annual drive out to Holy Hill, with stops at the skeleton display and the orchard down the road for fresh hot cider.
Imagine my kids and I, heathens that we are, wandering around the hallowed ground of a revered Catholic basilica, where people have come for more than a century to be bestowed with miracles from the Virgin Mother.
The ground around the earliest incarnation of the church used to be littered with crutches left behind by those healed by this strange land. There’s still a collection of crutches, eye glasses, and other objects (like a bag full of hair) to be found inside the basilica today.
It’s a bizarre place, to be sure.
Since it’s situated atop one of the highest points in the state, Holy Hill is also one of the best places to see the fall colors.
But we go for the creepy dead Jesus in the lower chapel, the replica Shroud of Turin, the outdoor faucet with the free holy water (I guess the whole water table has been blessed?) and, of course, the legend of the murderous monk who lived on the hill in the mid-1800s and sometimes appears to visitors as a man-shaped mist in the cemetery.
It was also here where, a few years back, my daughter put her hands in a peculiar gray powder coating a pile of yellowed leaves on the ground…which was probably someone’s grandma.
This year will be different.
In the poignant words of one animated meerkat (I promise I’ll never again use a Disney reference) “our trio’s down to two.”
And I’m just not sure how to move on, how to enjoy any of that, when I feel like half my heart is missing.
As a parent, I understood it. But my kids were young, and still right by my side. Now I really get it.
In a difficult year, and a distressing month, the last week has been particularly challenging. After a sleepless night, and a day spent trying desperately to hold it together in the office (failing a few times) I started taking anxiety pills for the first time in over a decade.
At least it takes the edge off the “everything is meaningless” and “how can I possibly go on.”
Here’s what’s been keeping me distracted:
The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein
Psycho: The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein is a new 4-part series on MGM+ that reveals recently discovered audio recordings of Ed Gein‘s interrogation the night he was arrested, with insights from the likes of true crime author Harold Schechter, The Last Podcast on the Left hosts, an expert on necrophilia, and local author Scott Bowser, whose book The Travelers Guide to Ed Gein uses one of my photos on the cover from this Plainfield trip.
I filmed this video during that same trip.
I wrote about some of the details I found interesting: 4 Chilling Details from The Lost Tapes of Ed Gein Part 1
I also made this shirt, which is now for sale in the Wisconsin Frights shop:
I’ve been wanting to revisit this one for a while, since the only time I watched it was shortly after it was initially released on DVD. And I only saw it then because my roommate at the time was obsessed with Jessica Alba.
I don’t remember what my take on it was originally, but upon rewatch, it’s a dumb stoner comedy horror that’s pretty fun.
I’ve been getting caught up on the Chucky tv series, in which a middle-aged Devon Sawa makes a consistent appearance despite the fact that he’s met several gruesome ends already, so it’s great to go back and revisit his work from the 90s.
My favorite role of his will always be perma-trip Sean from SLC Punk.
Dusk by Chelsea Wolfe
I love everything Chelsea Wolfe does, but her new single “Dusk” has been an unexpected salve this week. It’s got a gothy, immortal vampire love thing going on in the lyrics, but, more importantly, this song sounds like a flickering bonfire on a cool fall evening – fresh dirt, dead leaves, and burning wood.
This is what dusk sounds like.
Takes me back to a fall night I spent intoxicated at a dilapidated cabin, with a taxidermy squirrel and a campfire.
There were people there, too, I suppose.
But as far as my memory is concerned, it was just me, the squirrel, and the woods.
Anyway, the production of “Dusk” is so textured and interesting, and Chelsea’s voice is melancholy, raw, ethereal.
Speaking of music…
I recently had another sleepless night with a song stuck in my head, so I was awake at 4am, programming drums and writing some odd synth lines. I sent it over to my partner in music crimes, and he quickly returned it with some perfect guttural bass grooves. It’s easily my favorite song we’ve written so far for this project, and I haven’t even put down any guitar yet. I’m particularly excited about this one because I used all new software and virtual instruments. The only pre-existing gear is the 13-year-old midi controller I used to play the parts. So I literally couldn’t have created this song a few months ago.
Also, I think we’ve settled on a name and logo for this project:
My personal goal is to make this project as vastly different from anything I’ve done before as possible, and so far I feel like it’s heading in the right direction. We’ll start sharing bits and pieces of it eventually, but not yet.
Talking to the Dead
It can be a challenge to sit down and focus on work when you feel like you’ve just lost your entire purpose and everything is meaningless. But I still have Wisconsin Frights content to create for the spooky season because you have to make hay when the sun is shining…er…when the jack o’ lantern is glowing? I don’t know.
Anyway, Wisconsin’s curious contributions to the history of spiritualism is one of my favorite research topics, so for last week’s newsletter I wrote about the Wisconsin governor who talked to the dead and left behind a whole cemetery full of restless spirits.
In the Works
Last year, my kids and I hit the road to shoot the first two episodes of what I intended to be many for the Wisconsin Frights Youtube channel. For the first one, we visited another of Wisconsin’s most haunted cemeteries. I managed to get that edited and uploaded pretty quickly.
But the second one – with a historic insane asylum cemetery, a senator’s exorcism, and a bleeding gravestone – was thwarted by kidney stones, car problems, equipment problems, and the fact that I should never ever be on camera ever.
So the footage from the second trip has just been wasting away, half edited, on my hard drive for a year.
My goal is to finish that and get it uploaded by early October.
But if you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you probably know by now that when I set goals, I fail miserably. Just look at how this haunted Wisconsin book project from last year turned out. Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
We’ll see what happens.