Monday, May 15, 2017


May 5, 1889-July 19, 1968

      As we look back on the cinematic pioneers of the 20th century, no individual is more significant in his field than genius makeup artist Jack Pierce, the legendary monster-maker who worked in the 1930s and 1940s at Universal Studios during their classic horror period.
   Pierce's story is equal parts triumph and tragedy. After immigrating to the United States from Greece at the turn of the century, he attempted to play baseball, unsuccessfully trying out for a semi-professional team in California after achieving some notoriety as a shortstop in Chicago. He next worked in the fledgling motion picture industry in the 1910s and '20s, trying his hand at a variety of jobs ranging from early nickelodeon manager to stuntman to assistant cameraman. At this time, Universal was a nascent little studio in the San Fernando Valley, referred to as "Universal City" in 1915, after only three years in business.

Pierce with Boris Karloff

   The brainchild of former haberdasher Carl Laemmle, Universal was the home to many silent shorts in the 1910s, many of which featured the talents of an unknown actor named Lon Chaney, who got work by creating his own unique makeups, transforming his entire face and body in the process.
   Jack Pierce eventually drifted into acting, then makeup, working at Vitagraph and the original Fox Studios in the 1920s. By 1928, after Chaney had left to freelance stardom, Universal made Pierce department head of makeup where he worked on the last of the silent films made at the studio. His fortune was cemented when Carl Laemmle made his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., head of production as a 21st birthday present. Called Junior by his peers and colleagues, Laemmle, Jr. decided to produce film versions of the classic horror novels, encouraged by Chaney's huge successes with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera at Universal in the mid-'20s. Laemmle's personal tastes couldn't have been any more fortuitous for Pierce: from 1930-1947, Pierce created some of cinema history's most distinguishable screen characters.

   In 1930 Dracula was first produced, and though Bela Lugosi refused to let Pierce apply his makeup (the actor had come from the stage where he always did his own work), Pierce came up with the styling for the vampire character and his many female victims. Immediately following the success of Dracula, Junior wanted a follow-up, which led to the production of Frankenstein 1931. Though many have argued as to whether director James Whale, actor Boris Karloff, or Junior himself contributed to the makeup, the driving force behind the look of the character unquestionably belonged to Jack Pierce. Every morning, Karloff sat for four uncomfortable hours, suffering the makeup's high levels of toxicity, as Pierce and his assistants applied the head, facial buildup and layers of padding and costume modifications that would make him into the movies' most memorable monster. For the 43-year-old Karloff and 42-year-old Pierce, it was a remarkable achievement; their legend would have been guaranteed even if they had stopped their unique artist-performer collaboration right then and there.

   Furthering their reputation, though, Pierce and Karloff teamed the following year to create The Mummy. Though the actual creature is only seen on film for a matter of seconds, it was another unforgettable achievement in cinema horror when Im-Ho-Tep came alive and paraded across an unearthed Egyptian tomb. Karloff spent most of the picture as Ardath Bey, another Pierce incarnation, the doomed prince looking for his lost bride.

   The Laemmles also tried to get new cinematic treatments of Phantom and Hunchback off the ground at this time. Lon Chaney had died in 1930, but many of their efforts stalled. A version of The Wolf Man with Boris Karloff was even planned, but this, too, would be derailed due to production problems. If you can't initiate wholly original projects, why not try a sequel? Universal did just that, starting a trend that would result in numerous Dracula, Frankenstein, and Mummy spin-offs which became their

trademark. First on the boards was what would be the final horror film in the Laemmle period, Bride of Frankenstein. Revamping his first version of the monster, Pierce also created the famous makeup and designed the electric hairstyle for Elsa Lanchester's bride. Once again, Pierce created an iconic movie character who only appeared on screen very briefly at the end of the film. Then, in an instance of commerce overwhelming art, the Laemmles sold the studio in 1937, ushering in a series of revolving studio heads at Universal for the next 10 years.

   In the many comings and goings of Universal executives in the late 1930s and early '40s, Pierce did manage to retain his level of high-quality character makeups in several cranked-out sequels and B-movies. For Bela Lugosi, with whom Pierce had locked horns several years earlier on Dracula, Pierce created Igor in 1939's Son of Frankenstein. Conceived as a man who couldn't be hanged, the bearded, gnarled-toothed wretch became Lugosi's most original character in years and put him back on

the map. Two years later, Pierce pulled out all the stops for The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr. in the title role. Though the two did not reportedly get along--Chaney did not like wearing the makeup or undergoing the lengthy application and removal period--Pierce excelled again with his werewolf concept, utilizing a design he had created for Karloff a decade earlier. Originally intended as a B movie, The Wolf Man was a true horror classic, and Pierce's version of the character has been the model for the numerous werewolves that have since come to the screen.

   The final, original Pierce makeup arrived in 1943 with a new Phantom of the Opera movie. Starring Claude Rains, it would be the only Jack Pierce monster movie shot in color. Though his treatment of Rains' makeup-revealed only at the end of the film--was cut down at the request of the producers (Pierce's original concept was considered too hideous!), it stands as another horror movie landmark.
   Jack Pierce's reign at Universal ended shortly after WWII when the studio merged with International Pictures and replaced many of its department heads. He had been a makeup supervisor for 19 years and worked at the studio for 30 years, but Pierce ended his career working in low-budget independent films and television projects during the final 20 years of his life. His last project was working as makeup department head for the TV show Mr. Ed from 1961-1964.

   Unthinkably, he died in virtual obscurity in 1968. However, today's artists still view Pierce's work as a relevant force in the annals of cinema crafts, and Pierce has been honored with a tribute DVD, a lifetime achievement award by the makeup union, and a proposed forthcoming star on Hollywood Boulevard.


   Most ghostly experiences along roadways happen at night. The ghosts that are reportedly seen along these roadways vary from subtle wisps to full-fledged, seemingly corporeal bodies that get into the car and carry on conversations.
   Many road-ghosts just walk down the road where they were killed, or appear alongside a driver hoping to catch a ride back to their home. Sometimes ghosts move alongside a car as it speeds down the highways and still others appear abruptly in front of the vehicle, nearly causing an accident.

    Haunted highways are not only occupied by ghosts, but also phantom cars. Sometimes, these phantom cars appear in the rear view mirror as two headlights (that quickly disappear), other times, a vehicle will allow a car to pass only to discover there is no car behind them after all.
   This type of paranormal activity as legend throughout the world, but to experience it is a rare occurrence.    
      Here are details,  about  some roads,  throughout America,  that have legends attached and ones where witnesses have claimed to have seen ghostly activity.

Clinton Road- in West Milford, New Jersey:  A ten-mile curvy stretch of road that meanders through woods and has a distinct air of isolation. Legend has it a little boy was playing on this road on a bridge above a waterway and fell to his death. They say if you throw a quarter into the water, it will be thrown back at you. There are also tales of being followed by unseen beings, the overwhelming feeling of being watched, and a red-eyed hound from Hell chasing people out from the foliage.

   Shades of Death Road- in Warren County in New Jersey:  Yes, it really is called "Shades of Death" Road. The locals gave it that name because numerous murders, accidents and strange happenings have occurred on this roadway. It is said that people have been killed by wildcats roaming the area. Discarded, mutilated corpses have been found along this road. The road itself is full of twists and turns and is shaded by numerous trees, lending to its spooky air. The spirits of the Lenni-Lenape people are believed to haunt this road, having been viciously attacked by a tribe of Iroquois Indians.

  Split Rock Road in Hibernia New Jersey:  There are numerous legends surrounding this stretch of road. One such urban legend goes: if you drive down this road late at night, people (who these people are depends on who you're talking to locally), they might be Satanists/Albinos/Gangs, will block each end of the one-lane bridge and trap you in the middle as you drive across it. There have been murders and suicides on this road. Animal carcasses have been found as well as unexplained lights in the sky.

   State Road 15 North in Bristol, Indiana:  Legend has it if you drive north on State Road 15, past the toll road you will come across a house on the left, directly before the state line. Stop and study this house. Eventually, if you sit there long enough, the spirit of the owner of the house parts the curtains and waves at you.

   US HWY 20 in Brushy Prairie, Indiana:  Most active around the holidays, there exists an urban legend of a Lady in White.  She wears a wedding dress and when people try to pick her up, she disappears.  This supposedly happens between the midnight and 5am hours.

   Highway 12 West in Fredrica, Delaware: The legend - A man, quite angry with his landlord, murdered the landlord then ground him up with cornmeal.  He then fed it to his dog.  It is said that the phantom dog with its red, glowing eyes can be seen by drivers at night along the side of the road.

   Salem Church Road in Newark, Delaware:  In the 1900's, a family of six was hung due to accusations of witchcraft. This family has been seen, all six of them, walking along this highway, in search, people say, of the relatives who hung them. (Don't think I'd want to be them!)

   Mona Lisa Drive in New Orleans, Louisiana:  The statue of a philanthropist's daughter, Mona, has been erected in City Park but destroyed by careless teenagers. Witnesses claim to have seen a very sad Mona as they drive along this road. She floats silently next to the car, scratching the glass forlornly, then just as quickly, she vaporizes.

   Remember, if you drive down any road expecting to see ghostly spectacles, be respectful of those living there, as well as any other traffic on the road! I would love to hear from anyone who has had a first-hand paranormal experience on any of these, or other roads.


   La Diada de Sant Jordi or Saint George's Day is celebrated in Barcelona on the 23rd of April. Sometimes it is also called "el dia de la rosa" (The Day of the Rose) or "el dia del llibre" (The Day of the Book).
   It is Barcelona's Valentine's Day. Saint George is the patron saint of Catalonia. As to the legend, Saint George killed a dragon which was about to eat the princess south of Barcelona. Out of dragon's blood a rose bush grow. Saint George gave roses of that bush to the princess.

   The Traditional Rose Festival,  honouring romantic love and chivalry,  has been organized in Barcelona since the Middle Ages. In 1932,  people united the festival with local International Book Day. They thought it was suitable to do it and mark the anniversary of  the death of two giants in the of world literature,  Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. They both died on the 23rd of April, 1616.


    A  new tradition was created.  Men give beautiful roses to their ladies and they give them books in return. Catalan people say "a rose for love and a book forever". Nowadays,  it's common for  women besides getting roses,  gets a  book too. On average,  four million roses and 500,000 books are sold in whole Catalonia, this time of the year.
   La Rambla,  a famous street in central Barcelona, is full of stalls with books. In Catalan,  the name of the street means an intermittent water flow. The word is derived from Arab word,  "ramla",  which means a sandy riverbed. Numerous stalls with books are  in other parts of Catalonia too.

   Many writers stand beside the stalls ready to sign their books. There is also a tradition of 24-hour reading of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cerventes.
   Roses are presented in a special way. Together with the roses,  people will put  a spike of wheat and a small red and yellow Catalonian flag called "senyera". There are also ribbons with printed words like "Sant Jordi" ("Saint George"), "Diada de la Rosa" ("Day of the Rose") and "t'estimo" ("I love you").


    In the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi city district of Barcelona,  flower dealers organize displays  of 45 different roses. These roses symoblize different sorts of love.
   The Sardana,  is a dance done by the people Catalonia. There are two main Sardanes - the traditional sardana curta (short sardana) and the more modern sardana llarga (long sardana). The modern one is more popular today. The Sardana has been popular since the 16th century. Music for the sardana is played by a band called "la cobla".
 Why the Sardana is mentioned here? Well, on La Diada de Sant Jordi,  it is danced on the Plaça Sant Jaume (the main plaza or square in Catalonia).



  You would be forgiven for being curious about the title of this article because even though Spain boasts some of the most unusual and bizarre festivals compared to the rest of the world, throwing tomatoes over each other as they do in Valencia or being chased down the street by a herd of bulls in Pamplona does not come close to the excitement aroused by the Baby Jumping Festival held each year in Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos.


   Baby jumping (El Colacho) is a traditional Spanish practice dating back to 1620 that takes place annually to celebrate the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in the village of Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos.  During the act - known as El Salto del Colacho (the devil's jump) or simply El Colacho – men dressed as the Devil (known as the Colacho) jump over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year who lie on mattresses in the street.


   Anyone who has a newborn addition to their family can bring their baby along to this festival. The festival itself is part of the celebrations held all over Spain for the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi and whilst at this particular time many other cities and towns have spectacular processions and a variety of other popular means of revelling and enjoying themselves, there is only one Baby Jumping Festival.


The festival is organized by the brotherhood of Santísimo Sacramento de Minerva, whose members assume the two main roles associated with the festival: those of el Colacho and el Atabalero. El Colacho, who represents the devil, is dressed in a bright yellow and red outfit and mask, and el Atabalero wears a black suit and a sombrero and goes through the town with his large drum.


   Beginning on the Wednesday before the festival, the two characters cavort around the town chasing people, terrorizing them with their whips and truncheons and generally causing trouble.
  The most important day of the festival comes on Sunday, when a parade winds though the city, beginning and ending at the town church. The town's residents adorn their houses with flowers and set out small "altars" with wine and water for the parade-goers. Members of the clergy and children from the town who have received the rite of First Communion march in the parade.

   Overall, the festival entails an annual purging of evil from the town. The parade symbolically corrals the evil back toward the church, where it can be dissipated
    The babies are laid on the ground in swaddling clothes and grown men, yes adult males, dressed as devils jump over the infants and this is supposed to cleanse them of all evil doings. The question of who is protecting the babies from the example being set by the adults begs to be asked but who are we to doubt this traditional combination of religion and Spanish folklore which proves to be great fun, if not a little scary, to watch.


   Anyone who is not blessed with receiving this protection during their early childhood and has lived life looking over their shoulder waiting for bad things to happen or illness to strike can, in their adulthood, choose to take part in an exercise of jumping through fire on 21st December in Granada, known as the Hogueras. This is intended to protect them from illness
   Pope Benedict has asked priests in Spain to distance themselves from the El Colacho, or La Octava Festival.