Wanna see something scary? Webmasters have dressed the Net up in ghoulish garb, granting Internet immortality to hallowed memories of chills gone by... and foreboding chills to come. If you're strolling the Web at midnight, heed this warning: Undead memories walk this virtual world -- memories of real-life horrors and the cinema-color nightmares that Hollywood offered of our most-feared demons.
Craving tales of true-life horror? Read Following Evil's Footsteps. Though Mme. Delphine Lalaurie was a well-respected New Orleans socialite with a doctor husband, behind their house's facade lurked a secret garret where the couple committed unspeakable cruelties. Their treachery was exposed when the house caught fire in 1834; after the Lalauries fled an angry mob, their manor deteriorated into a real-life haunted house: In the decades since, locals have sighted ghosts. It's also one of 13 New Orleans ghost stories told at Parascope.
If you prefer G-rated ghouls, you can try the complete 20-minute soundtrack from The Phantom Manor, EuroDisney's updated version of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction. It's eerie and moody -- and four minutes into it, a deep-voiced ghoul starts speaking French. The English narration -- "Where hinges creak in doorless chambers..." -- was originally done by Vincent Price, until the French complained about encroaching American imperialism. But you can't have Halloween without Vincent Price -- and his voice still haunts the Web, where you can hear his original rendition of the ride's opening.
Some consider Vincent Price the patron saint of Halloween for his chilling performances in movies like Pit and the Pendulum and House of Usher. Years after his death (Price died, ominously enough, near the end of October in 1993) unseen Web ghouls have preserved undead memories of his short-lived '70s Canadian children's show, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (a show with an opening that would scare the crap out of any kid.) And collectors still haunt rec.toys.vintage looking for other Price totems. ("WANTED: Vincent Price Shrunken Head Maker... Prefer a sealed set, but will take a used one.")
Scarier still are the real-life bits of trivia Price fans have assembled, guaranteed to give you nightmares. Remember when Price played the vengeful actor in Theater of Blood, wreaking dreadful Shakespearean revenges on the critics who'd panned him? Disguised as a very scary hairdresser, Price gagged one female reviewer (played by Coral Browne), strapped her down, and electrocuted her with a hair dryer. A chilling photo caption tells us that in real life... Coral Browne later became the last Mrs. Vincent Price!
Today, filmmakers pay homage to the king of horror's breakthrough performance in House on Haunted Hill with the release of a big-budget remake. At the film's official site, you can watch the spooky trailer (See! Baffling special effects...) or the elaborate Web animation of its cheesy slogan -- "Evil loves to party." Then play "Escape from Haunted Hill," the film's official online game. It's sort of like Pac-Man -- except you're escaping from homicidal mental patients.
Traditional horror fans are probably more anxious for Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, coming this Thanksgiving. On its site, you can hear Danny Elfman's chilling soundtrack -- ten different samples -- and browse through artsy offerings like production sketches and promotional stills. (Unfortunately, the virtual tour of Sleepy Hollow is listed as "Coming soon.") Though the film won't be released for another month, there are already eight sites in the Sleepy Hollow Web ring, including Sleepy Hollow postcards from the "Gothic Preservation Society." But they're just not as cool as SleepyHollow.com's do-it-yourself animations.
Meanwhile, Universal Studios has created a hoax about a haunted "Stage 13." The studio's production, seven decades ago, of many of the classic horror films led them to concoct this corporate entertainment about the star-crossed love affair between a stagehand and a cameraman. It's no Blair Witch Project -- and they apparently decided that a hokey plot involving murder by the jealous director wasn't enough. On October 22, their Webmaster promised, their SP/AP-1 ecto-spectrometer would detect any extracorporeal presence lingering on the abandoned sound stage. (Word to the wise: don't believe everything you read on the Net....)
You'll find more ghosts -- this time from Hollywood's true past -- at House of a Hundred Horrors, where B-movie veteran Mel Welles offers "Reflections on the Great Corman Era of Monster Funk." Welles dispenses goodwill towards his cult following on an online bulletin board, answering questions about his work in The Little Shop of Horrors, Man Eater of Hydra, and his performance as Smolkin the grave digger in The Undead. ("The entire film was shot in an empty supermarket on Sunset Blvd, except for the witch beheading scene which was done in Beverly Hills...")
Welles exudes a real love of performing. The link for his biography says "Find a job that you love, and you'll never work a day in your life," and he reports that he's working on a musical based on the novella "Mottel, The Cantor's Son." He may be a bit of a ham, but for horror fans, Welles has created a Web version of trick-or-treat. When your career highlights include Attack of the Crab Monsters, Hold that Hypnotist and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, what can you do but slap Phantom of the Opera organ music on your Web page and wait for visitors to drop by?
And what better way to capture the spirit of Halloween?
David Cassel is Interactive Media Editor at GettingIt. And a big fan of Vincent Price.