October 30, 2009

Creepy Stuff On The Web

1. Boston Dynamics BigDog

BigDog has been developed by Boston Dynamics - a robotics company - in response to a request by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to carry soldiers' equipment across rough terrain. BigDog has four legs allowing it to traverse areas that wheeled or tracked vehicles cannot move across and carries a laser gyroscope and stereo vision system. If the Skynet-like vision of a four-legged military robot tramping through woodland in the snow is not frightening enough, then the segment when BigDog is pushed off balance and staggers drunkenly sideways is surely one of the creepiest things ever to appear on YouTube.

2. Crooked rot

This little curiosity was an experiment in 100% stop frame photography where each frame is an individual shot on a camera. The maker, David Firth, is a YouTube legend for his disturbing animations. In Crooked Rot, Firth uses a series of odd items from his own back yard including mannequin heads and rubber hands. The sinister music is by Marcus Fjellström. There are plenty more Firth films on his website fat-pie.com... but make sure you leave the light on.

3. James Mason on the trail of Jack the Ripper, 1967

There's something truly eerie about this clip from a 1967 documentary called The London Nobody Knows. The late James Mason could be exceptionally creepy on screen but even he is upstaged here by the location - 29 Hanbury Street - where Jack the Ripper's second victim, Annie Chapman, was murdered. The slums of this scene were demolished shortly after this film was made to be replaced by blocks of flats. The shot of the dog sniffing around in the filthy back yard over the exact spot that Chapman died as Mason says, "in this yard, just over there, is where Jack disposed of victim number two," is utterly bone chilling.

4. The Judderman

Voted one of the most frightening advertisments of all time, "Beware the Judderman" promoted a branded schnapps called Metz. It featured a horrific, spiky-headed and long-fingered creature called The Judderman who appeared to be terrifying the residents of a period village somewhere in the snows of central Europe. A voiceover accompanying the advertisment warned viewers: "Beware the Judder Man, my dear, when the moon is fat! Sharp of tongue and spindle limbed, his is, and cunning." The promotion was banned from early-evening television when hundreds of parents complained that it was frightening the life out of their children. It lives on, in all of its creepiness, on YouTube.

5. Creepy Grudge Girl

It's a low-budget little number but, if you haven't seen it already (and more than nine million YouTube users have) the climax is almost certain to make you jump. Creepy Grudge Girl in the Mirror is the result of a Adobe After Effects tutorial from the site homegrownhorror.com.

6. Self-Mutilating Pig

Did newspaper and periodical readers before the Second World War have stronger
stomachs than today's material generation? Clearly lots of work went into
producing highly artistic advertisements and real artists were employed. You
can find some of the most disturbing examples here but Le Cochon Prodigue, promoting French saucisson with the slogan "You’ll eat with pleasure, and without tiredness. The good sausages of the BOUNTEOUS PIG! Sausages from Auvergne. Absolute alimentary purity" is surely the
stuff of nightmares.

7. The Hands Resist Him

The Hands Resist Him was painted by California artist Bill Stoneham in 1972.
In it, a boy and a female doll, stand in front of a glass door upon which hands are being pressed. The painting entered the realm of urban legend in 2000 when it went on sale on eBay with a description that implied that it was cursed. The seller claimed that the two characters moved at night and that they would sometimes leave the painting altogether - tying up neatly
with Stoneham's description of the doorway as representing the dividing line
between the world and the world of dreams. The doll, according to Stoneham,
was a guide. The eBay legend may be preposterous but Stoneham later recalled
that both the owner of the painting's first gallery and the art critic who
first reviewed it died within a year of seeing it. Either way, there is no
denying the disturbing quality of the image.

8. Dolls

What is it about dolls - particularly early 20th century ones - that some of
us find so terrifying? Is it that "deadlike" quality of the
porcelain skin? Is it the lifeless but piercing glass eyes? Could it be that
so many of them look like they might rise up and throttle us while we sleep?
Or is it that too many of us watched Chucky when it came out in the
1980s? There are plenty of websites devoted to the horror of the doll but
one of the best is cutelittlethreat.com which has turned the cataloguing and mythologising of horrific dolls into an artform.

9. The Owlman

The Owlman of Mawnan was first spotted in the late 1980s in the village of the
same name in Cornwall. Two girls claimed to have seen a giant owl hovering
over a church and their story was echoed by two other girls two months later
- one of whom claimed that while camping near the church, as she stood
outside her tent, she was confronted by a hissing figure that was as big as
a man with pointed ears and red eyes. The creature, she said, flew off
showing its black pincer-like claws. There were several other sightings of
The Owlman the following day, in 1978 and in the late 1980s. The legend of
The Owlman echoes that of The Mothman which featured in a 2002
film starring Richard Gere
. There are plenty of websites about The
Owlman that will try to keep you awake at night, but if you'd prefer a calm
and rational look at a rather creepy legend, try one run by the author of a
book on the subject.

10. Victorian death room photographs

The invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 made portraiture more affordable
and meant that the the middle class could mark the death of a loved one as a
permanent reminder. Initially, the dead body was often shown in repose -
either on a chair or a bed. As the form developed, the cadaver was pictured
with members of its own family or friends and, sometimes, it was placed in a
childhood scene with siblings gathered around it. There's plenty more 19th
century freakiness here.

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