Saturday, December 19, 2015

Unsolved Murders: The Vermont Long Trail Disappearences

            There has long been a rumor that in the late 1940s a serial killer stalked the Long Trail in Vermont. And it is indisputable that between 1945 and 1950 at least 7 people vanished in the area, with only one corpse found. The Long Trail is a hiking route that runs for 272 miles, the entire length of the state. A long distance, but still small enough to be the roaming grounds for a serial killer.
            Middie Rivers, a 75 year old deer hunter, was the first to go. On November 12th, 1945, he went out, guiding a group of four hunters up the mountains as he knew the terrain well. On the way back Rivers got ahead of the rest of the group and was never seen again. A hunt by the state police, Boy Scouts, and locals could not locate him.
Paula Welden
            The second disappearance was college student Paula Welden who, on December 1st 1946, told her roommate that she was going for a walk. The last person to see her was a watchman at the local paper who directed her to the trail. A manhunt again revealed nothing, but rumors circulated of her moving to Canada with her boyfriend (this was proved false by the police) or living as a recluse up in the mountains.
            The third victim was James Tedford who disappeared after getting off a Greyhound bus to grab a quick dinner, in 1949. No one noticed when the bus took off without him. His disappearance was only brought to light when other passengers saw that his luggage was still there and an open bus timetable still lay on his seat. He was never spotted again.
            The fourth person to vanish was eight-year-old Paul Jepson. On October 12, 1950, Jepson had accompanied his mother in a truck. She left her son unattended while she fed some pigs. When she returned the boy was nowhere in sight. Search parties were formed to look for the child. Nothing was ever found. According to one story, bloodhounds tracked the boy to a local highway, where, according to local legend, four years earlier Paula Welden had disappeared.

Frieda Langer
 Fifth was Frieda Langer who was camping with her husband on the Long Trail. After accidently falling into a creek while on a hike, she decided to head back to camp for some dry clothes. She disappeared. It wasn’t until months later that her mummified remains were stumbled upon by some hikers. Unfortunately due to various scavenging animals, the exact cause of her death could not be determined. But at least her family had something to bury, unlike all of the others.
When Martha Jones disappeared next on November 6th, 1950, she was thought to have run off with her boyfriend in Virginia, like the rumors surrounding Paula Welden, but this was disproven. Once again a massive manhunt by the state police and locals found no trace of her.
The last victim of this potential killer was Francis Christman who, on December 3rd, 1950, vanished while walking to a friend’s house, located half a mile away. Her remains as ususal were never recovered. It is speculated that she may have accepted a ride with the wrong person, as the night was bitterly cold.
Just like Dr. Who
It has been disputed whether these deaths are connected. There have been “theories” (to misuse the word) running the gauntlet from it being coincidence, to a serial killer, to alien abductions, to a vortex sucking people into another dimension. The truth, for those who care about more than a good story, will ultimately never be known.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

God Told Me To!- A Film of Space Alien Jesus

            I ran across this little gem back in the old days of VHS tapes. It was at the bottom of a bargain bin at my local record store. The tagline read “The only man alive who can make the choice to help or destroy a mysterious force which has begun to unleash its dread power upon the earth!” A bold statement. Even back then I was lover of obscure films, so I snapped it up and about a week later popped it in (I love films, but also am rather lethargic). I loved it! Sure it had a low budget and was uneven at times, but overall it was a wild weird ride that has stuck with me over the years.
            The film opens with a man on a water tower in New York City firing into the crowded streets below, eventually racking up a kill count of fifteen. The protagonist Peter, a devout Catholic NYPD detective, manages to approach to sniper and they talk. The gunman is perfectly calm and when asked why he’s shooting at people, states that Gold told him to, before jumping off of the tower.

Tony Lo Bianco in God Told Me To
            After that the floodgates open and an entire slew of murders occur, all done by perfectly calm normal people, all claiming that God told them to. Eventually Peter discovers a link. Each of the people had contact with a bizarre underground cult leader by the name of Bernard Phillips.

Peter goes public with the God angle and the city goes into a panic mode, with even more copycat killings occurring. Some of the cult members contact Peter, and a brief meeting between the two occurs, where the detective discovers that the cult leader’s power does not affect him. He also uncovers that a similar set of events took place some 35 years prior.

Now here is where things get weird. His investigation eventually leads him to an old woman who is his birth mother, having found herself impregnated by a strange orb of light while walking home from the New York World’s Fair in 1941, and giving up the child for adoption. He confronts Bernard and discovers the truth - both he and Phillips are the result of "alien abduction/virgin birth by an extraterrestrial (This is beginning to sound more and more like Mormonism). Also here it is alluded to that Heyzeus himself was another such alien birth.

Richard Lynch in God Told Me To
Peter is the result of his human genes being dominant, which is why he is unaware of his true nature, while Bernard is more like their unseen progenitor. Bernard reveals himself to be a hermaphrodite and wishes to spawn a new species with his brother. He further states that all of Peter’s previous attempts at children had died because Peter subconsciously willed them to, but Bernard is strong enough to ward him off. Peter refuses and attacks Bernard, which results in Bernard using his powers to destroy the building and commit suicide. Peter is arrested for murder, and responds to a question as to why he committed the deed with "God told me to”.

Andy Kaufman in God Told me To
            A few other things to mention here. This was the film debut of Andy Kaufman who plays a madman police officer who goes on a shooting spree during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Apparently during the filming, Kaufman, while dressed up in costume, began antagonizing and making insulting gestures to the crowd watching the production. He was so provocative that several of them tried to jump the barricades to beat up Kaufman and had to be held back by the director.

            Additionally the music for the film was originally supposed to be scored by the legendary Bernard Herrman, who was also doing music for Taxi Driver at the time. Apparently Herrman saw the film without music and came up with a few ideas, but died later on that day. The film was dedicated to him. The director then approached another veteran movie composer Miklos Rozsa who refused, stating “God told me not to.”   

Alternate title and poster
            While I love this film, critical opinion is very divided on the idea. In fact Roger Ebert in his book I Hated Hated Hated this Movie only gave it one star. Stating, “there were times when I thought the projectionist was showing the reels in random order, as a quiet joke on the hapless audience. But, no apparently the movie was supposed to be put together in this way, as a sort of fifty-two-card pickup of cinema… As I left the theater, dazed, I saw a crowd across the street. A young man in a straightjacket… was preparing to be suspended in midair hundreds of inches above the ground, and to escape, Houdini style. At the moment he was still standing on the sidewalk- but, believe me, it was still a better show.”

       My suggestion. Watch for yourself and make up your own mind. Caveat Emptor!

                                              The entire film is here.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ten More Great Graphic Novels Being Sold on Amazon for a Penny

Previously I did an article called Ten Great Graphic Novels Being Sold on Amazon for a Penny , which I found useful to feed my reading addiction. But as was pointed out to me there are many more good books going cheap on Amazon. And so for those who want more, here are an additional 10 great graphic novel going for dirt cheap on Amazon.

Moving Pictures by Kathyrn & Stuart Immonon
The story of a dangerous relationship between curator Ila Gardner and Nazi officer Rolf Hauptmann, as they are forced by circumstances to play out their private lives in a public power struggle. Set during the Nazi occupation of France during WWII, the story unfolds along two timelines which collide with the revelation of a terrible secret and the realization that sometimes the only choice left is the refusal to choose.

A.L.I.E.E.E.N.: Archives of Lost Issues and Earthly Editions of Extraterrestrial Novelties by Louis Trondheim

What at first glance appears to be a charming wordless graphic novel for young children turns out to be something more complex and much more sophisticated. The language and even the alphabet are alien, but as human readers will soon discover, the themes and stories are universal. These interwoven stories and vignettes start out quite simply, but a darker, more complex side is gradually revealed as alien characters act out very human problems, from peer pressure to intolerance to the challenges of friendship.

Fuzz and Pluck: Splitsville by Ted Stearn  A David Lynchian children's story scenario where talking animals, animated toys and regular humans coexist in a landscape of surreal seediness; that's exactly what Stearn achieves, and the results are both dreamlike and picaresque as lovable teddy bear Fuzz and his pal Pluck, a denuded rooster, find work at Lardy's sandwich joint only to become separated and embark on strange journeys of despair and violence.

The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March & Art Spiegelman

A jazzy, insistently rhyming roaring '20s period poem, banned in Boston when first published in 1928. Penned by the New Yorker's inaugural managing editor, is borne out by March's dither of hard-edged rhythms recounting the boozing, brawling and fractious lovemaking of an all-night party ending in a murder.The Wild Party is now given new life and expression, with March's text accompanied by more than 75 drawings by Art Spiegelman.

Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown  Far away in space, there is a planet full of robots able to change from robot form to vehicle form - the Incredible Change-Bots! Leaving their war torn planet, the Change-Bots arrive on Earth, where their battle continues - but at what cost?! Part parody, part nostalgic tribute, part moral fable.

Red Meat: A Collection of Red Meat Cartoons From the Secret Files of Max Cannon

This strip features a disturbing and sidesplitting cast of characters that includes latex-clad fathers, sadistic milkmen, vomiting robots, malformed neighbors, incontinent inter-dimensional beings, decomposing clowns, and other bizarre characters. This is an acquired taste and Cannon stands out as a master of the "disturbing humor" strip.

The Jew of New York In 1825, Mordecai Noah, a New York politician and amateur playwright possessed of a utopian vision, summoned all the lost tribes of Israel to an island near Buffalo in the hope of establishing a Jewish state. His failed plan, a mere footnote in Jewish-American history.

Petey & Pussy by John Kerschbaum This book is on the surface, the story of a dog and a cat with balding human heads, but is more a character study of three (there is also a suicidal bird) New York City guys, bumming around the Big Apple. It is an interesting surreal journey that plays out extremely well. I wish to see a lot more from this author. 

Invincible Days by Patrick Atangan A collection of short stories from the author’s youth in the 1980s. As usual with this author the art is impeccable and the stories are well thought out and presented. Page design consistently follows a rigid nine-grid layout. Flat, expressionless animal faces mask the emotionally laden themes explored throughout the collection. These characters serve as voice for a shy Filipino boy baffled by Western culture and living in a house full of sisters.

Empire State: A Love Story (Or Not) by Jason Shiga
A Story of an introverted man, who follows a girl that has friend-zoned him, to New York City after writing her a letter describing his feelings after asking her to meet him on the Empire State Building. The work is done exclusively in red and blue tones, which some people have debated the symbolism of, I took the colors to represent the protagonist's level of comfort- Red means he's comfortable with his surroundings, blue means he's ill at ease. Agree or disagree as you will.

Hope you found something on this list that interests you. For more reading suggestions try out my What I've Been Reading page. Have fun!