Monday, July 30, 2012

The Navajo Skinwalker

As friend of mine, Kyle Germann, has a great blog concerning supernatural creatures and entities called, "The Demon Hunter's Compendium" I urge you  to check it out, it's good stuff! To show you how concise and scholarly is his approach to the supernatural I present to you here Kyle's article about the Navajo Skinwalkers:

In the Navajo community, witchcraft is viewed with the highest contempt and is a very serious crime. But the most volatile and dangerous of these witches is theyenaldlooshi, which when translated means “with it, he goes on all fours” or “he that walks like an animal.” Also known as the Mai-Coh or Limmikin, it is more commonly known by outsiders as the Skinwalker. These people are witches that shapeshift into animals using magic animal skins. These people are evil to the core, bent on nothing more than destroying the lives of those around them.

The Skinwalker, while most commonly male, may be of either gender (some are even transvestites). As mentioned earlier, the Skinwalker is a type of shapeshifting witch that uses enchanted animal hides to initiate a transformation into any animal that they desire, but the most common animal forms taken by the Skinwalker are those of a wolf, a coyote, a fox, a dog, a cougar, a bear, a crow, or an owl. The shape taken by the witch depends on the sort of abilities that it may need for a given period of time. The skins of the wolf, the coyote, the dog, and the fox grant stamina, enhanced senses, and the ability to traverse great distances at speed, while the bear gives great strength, endurance, and formidable claws and teeth. The cougar’s hide bestows speed, grace, and stealth, and the form of the crow and the owl gives keen vision, sharp talons, and the ability to soar through the air without alerting anyone to its presence. The Skinwalker may use its abilities to fight off or escape pursuers, with the power of each animal giving it decisive advantages in a life-or-death situation. It is said that the animal form of the Skinwalker is larger and more powerful than any natural beast. To the Navajo, the Skinwalker is regarded as having a preternatural degree of strength, speed, endurance, agility, and animalistic cunning whilst in animal form, in addition to having human intelligence. This creature is said to be able to run faster than a car, and is able to jump mesa cliffs with little effort. In addition to being a dark adept (that is, a practitioner of the dark arts), the Skinwalker may be regarded as a sort of werebeast, one that is very similar to the European Werewolf.

In order to become a Skinwalker, the witch must commit an unthinkable crime: murdering an immediate relative. This is a very serious taboo to the Navajo people, and is a terrible crime regardless of one’s cultural heritage. As was said earlier, the Skinwalker is evil to the core, most being homicidal and violent. The creature cares for nobody other than itself, and the Skinwalker most often kills out of greed, anger, envy, spite, or revenge. The creature resorts to grave robbery to increase its own personal wealth, as well as to collect much-needed ingredients for use in its own brand of black magic. Yet another common method of becoming wealthy used by Navajo witches is the unethical practice of fee-splitting. This is done when a Skinwalker causes a victim to become ill, and a healer (usually a witch himself) heals the victim. The healer is then paid, and the culprits then split the proceeds, each taking half of his or her share.

It is said that some particularly powerful Skinwalkers have the power to steal the skin or the body of a victim. By merely locking eyes with the intended victim, the Skinwalker can absorb that person into its body, effectively enabling the creature to become that person at will. This may be somewhat like hypnosis, and the stronger the victim’s will, the more difficult it is for the Skinwalker to take possession of the victim’s body. In theory, the absorption attempt may be able to be resisted, although only if the victim’s will is stronger than that of the Skinwalker. When the Skinwalker takes over a victim’s body, it takes complete control, making the victim say and do things that are completely beyond their ability to control. And all the while, the victim remains fully conscious and alert to the horrors being committed with their body, and all the while being helpless to stop it. Exactly how this is done isn’t really known.

However, the Skinwalker’s eyes may be the key to identifying the creature in its human form. The Skinwalker will avoid bright lights when it can, not because it causes the creature any harm, but because the eyes of a Skinwalker burn red like coals in a fire. When the Skinwalker is in animal form, its eyes do not glow at all. It is said that, in addition to being able to shapeshift, the Skinwalker is also able to control the creatures of the night and to make them do its bidding. Some Skinwalkers are necromancers, able to call up the spirits of the dead and to possibly reanimate the corpses of the recently dead to attack their enemies. The Navajo themselves absolutely refuse to touch a corpse, for fear of accidentally summoning the shade of the deceased or making oneself vulnerable to the Skinwalker’s dark magic.

Except for an animal skin, the Skinwalker prefers to go about naked, even in the dead of winter. Because of the Skinwalker’s choice of shapeshifting into predatory animals, wearing the skins of those particular animals is a major taboo, and is deeply frowned upon by the Navajo community. Wearing the hide of a sheep or a cow is acceptable, but if an individual should choose to wear the skin of a predator, he is liable to be accused of being a Skinwalker. The Skinwalker is also known for wearing the skulls of the animals it becomes in addition to their skin, which is said to bring additional power to the witch. Sometimes, the Skinwalker does not do evil of its own accord, but instead works under the will of another. Occasionally, a truly vile person will hire the Skinwalker to perpetrate some evil deed, for which the Skinwalker will be amply rewarded. When it comes down to punishing the Skinwalker if it is caught in the act (a rarity, indeed), Navajo law is very direct and straightforward when it comes to witchcraft: when a person becomes a witch, they immediately forfeit their humanity and their right to exist, and thus the Skinwalker can be killed without any legal or moral consequences.

The Skinwalker and most Navajo witches are usually active at night, when they are less likely to be seen and they may conduct their profane rituals in secrecy. These rituals are the Native American equivalent of the European Black Mass, which undoubtedly involves bloodletting, sex, and desecration of religious icons. Navajo witchcraft itself is known as the “Witchery Way,” in which the magic revolves around the use of human corpses in various concoctions that are designed to curse, harm, or even to kill an intended victim. The four basic ways of Navajo witchcraft are “Witchery, Sorcery, Wizardry, and Frenzy.” These ways have no connection to European witchcraft, but are merely additional pieces of Navajo spirituality. According to these beliefs, people must live in harmony with each other and the Earth. It also teaches that there are two types of beings: the Earth People (humans) and the Holy People. These entities are invisible spirit beings that have the ability to either help or harm people. The Navajo also take a spiritual approach to sickness, disease, and personal problems. These things are believed to be due to disorder within an individual’s life, and they can be remedied with prayer, singing, various herbs, help from a shaman, and traditional rituals. However, there is a dark side to the religion. While the shaman uses his knowledge to heal and to help his people, there are others (like the Skinwalker) who use witchcraft to direct and control supernatural forces in order to cause harm, misfortune, sickness, or death to others. But despite this, Navajo witchcraft is only another aspect of the Navajo religion as a whole.

In regards to magical practices, Skinwalkers are said to gather in small groups in dark caves in order to initiate new members, plot their activities, kill people from a distance with black magic, engage in necrophilia with female corpses, and to commit cannibalism, incest, and grave robbery. Here, they perform their dark ceremonial rites, which are blasphemous mockeries of traditional Navajo religious ceremonies. Instead of sprinkling pollen (which is sacred to the Navajo and is used for blessing), the Skinwalkers scatter dust made from the powdered bones of infants in order to curse their victims. The Skinwalkers use bows carved from human shinbones to attack their victims, while the arrows are made of hardwood and tipped with flint (the arrowheads themselves may be cursed). They also make traditional sand paintings using colored ash, upon which the Skinwalkers will spit, urinate, and defecate, profaning and desecrating the religious nature of these paintings, which are usually of their intended victims. The leader of the Skinwalkers is usually an old man, perhaps a very powerful and long-lived Skinwalker. A small feast may take place, during which the participants eat coyotes and owls, as well as a type of ground-up blue lizard. As stated earlier, the Skinwalker goes about naked, wearing only beaded jewelry and ceremonial paint. All the while, they sit around in a circle and walk or run on all fours, singing or howling like wolves.

The Navajo themselves fear the Skinwalker so much that they are very hesitant to speak with outsiders about these creatures, and absolutely refuse to speak about it at night. One might suppose that this is a variation of the phrase “Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear.” The Navajo fear any consequences or attacks from the Skinwalker in retaliation for allowing outsiders to meddle in their affairs. In regards as to how the Skinwalker actually chooses to attack its victims, the methods are both numerous and terrible. It may choose to bite and claw the victim to death in its animal form, but the Skinwalker is usually far more subtle. At times, the Skinwalker will try to break into a home in order to frighten, harm, or kill the inhabitants. Each Navajo home (called a hogan) has a small opening in the thatched roof to provide ventilation. The Skinwalker takes advantage of this by making use of a deadly dust, known as corpse powder, made from dried and powdered human remains. The corpse powder may be sprinkled through these holes, causing grave sickness and eventual death to those dwelling within. If this powder is blown into a victim’s face, it causes the tongue to turn black and to begin swelling, followed by convulsions, paralysis, and the eventual death of the victim. It is said that the corpses of children, especially twins, are the best source for this powder.

The Skinwalker may make strange sounds, like banging on the walls, knocking on the windows, and scraping noises on the roof. These noises are all signs that the Skinwalker is out and about, trying to gain the attention of its victim. Rarely, an animalistic, beastlike figure may be seen standing outside of a window, looking inside with glowing red or yellow eyes and a fanged snarl on its face. This ferocious creature (possibly the Skinwalker’s man-beast form) will attack vehicles in hopes of causing a serious or even fatal accident. The Skinwalker is described as being extremely fast, agile, and impossible to catch. Attempting to shoot or otherwise kill the Skinwalker is usually unsuccessful, and the Skinwalker itself may even seek revenge for the attempt on its life.

According to Navajo legend, the Skinwalker has the power to read human thoughts, allowing it to use the victim’s own fears and secrets against them. The Skinwalker has the ability to control the minds of its victims, forcing them to comply with whatever the Skinwalker may have in mind. The Skinwalker is also able to mimic any human or animal sounds it chooses, perhaps using the voice of a loved one to lure a potential victim out of his or her home. It may also use this ability to distract homeowner so that it may steal property (like livestock) or to escape. The Skinwalker is adept in the use of black magic, using charms, chants, and spells to induce supernatural fear into its chosen victims, so that it may manipulate them into doing the Skinwalker’s bidding. It may use this ability to induce fear to curse its victims or even to kill them. It is possible that the Skinwalker’s very presence induces supernatural fear into both people and animals. The Skinwalker has a wide variety of weapons at its disposal, in addition to the human shinbone bows and arrows mentioned earlier. One of the most potent of these is a tiny bone pellet, which is fired from a blowgun into a victim’s body. These pellets imbed themselves into the skin without leaving so much as a mark, and afterwards causes sickness, social misfortune, and eventual death. Bone dust, once again made from ground-up infant bones, induces bodily paralysis and eventual heart failure. Another spell that the Skinwalker uses to kill is done by acquiring some of its victim’s hair, wrapping it around a potshard, and placing it into a tarantula’s hole. Live rattlesnakes may be released into the victim’s dwelling or his bed, causing him to grow sick and die from the rattlesnake’s bite. The Skinwalker also loves to cause trouble between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. The Skinwalker digs up a corpse, severs a finger or another small body part, and hides it inside the home of the intended victim. The ghost of the deceased will rise from the grave in search of its missing body part, and will then haunt whoever possesses it. The home’s owners will be both confused and terrified as to why this is happening to them.

The Skinwalker is notoriously hard to kill, and defeating one requires the assistance of a powerful shaman, who knows spells and rituals that can turn the Skinwalker’s evil back upon itself. These medicine men charge an exorbitant fee for their services, but most victims are more than willing to pay after being unduly harassed by the Skinwalker. As for more mundane means, attempting to shoot or otherwise kill one of these creatures is usually unsuccessful, as the Skinwalker can use its magic to make guns jam, and can even stop the bullets in mid-air. Even if the bullets do hit the Skinwalker, they may not have any effect whatsoever. However, if the creature actually is wounded by chance and manages to escape, a similar wound will appear on the Skinwalker’s human form. In the Werewolf folklore of Europe, this phenomenon is known as sympathetic wounding. This leaves the creature clearly marked and makes it vulnerable to discovery, and will be dealt with according to tradition. If one knows who the Skinwalker truly is, he must say “(name of the accused), you are a Skinwalker.” The witch will fall sick and die within three days time. Similarly, if a Skinwalker is captured and the news is broadcast, the witch will die within a year.

The only way to kill a Skinwalker, according to Navajo legend, is to shoot the creature with bullets that have been dipped into white ash (although some legends say that silver will work as well). Even then, the Skinwalker must be shot through the neck while the witch is in animal form. The bullet will strike the Skinwalker’s real head, and any shot that is aimed elsewhere will pass harmlessly through the body. It is said that, if wounded, the Skinwalker will bleed a yellow liquid instead of blood. However, there is a way to defeat the Skinwalker without actually killing the creature, although if the attempt is successful, it will surely prompt the witch’s revenge. The Skinwalker is able to speak while in animal form, but it will not willingly do so because it may cause the witch to permanently lose his powers. If one could trick the creature into speaking while in animal form, it will reassume its human form and will be unable to shapeshift ever again.

It is said that sometimes the Skinwalker is invisible to human eyes, but it will leave tracks that are larger than those of any natural beast. It’s very bad luck to cross over a Skinwalker’s tracks if the creature is in front of them – one must step over them. As well as the creature’s eyes, the Skinwalker can be distinguished from a real animal in that its tail hangs down and moves constantly, while their ears move up and down constantly as well. The Skinwalker’s eyes, as well as glowing when the creature is in human form and vice-versa in animal form, are seen as mere slits in their masks. Against the Skinwalker’s poison, the gall of an eagle, a bear, or a mountain lion are the best remedies. Sweats will help rid oneself of the fear of Skinwalkers.


            Arnold, Neil. Monster! The A-Z of Zooform Phenomena. Great Britain: CFZ Press. Copyright ©2007 by CFZ Press.

            Brown, Nathan Robert. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Werewolves. New York: Penguin Group, Inc (USA). Copyright ©2009 by Nathan Robert Brown.

            Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. New York: Facts on File, Inc. Copyright ©2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.

            Hall, Jamie. Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures. Bloomington, Indiana: 1st Books Library. Copyright ©2003 by Jamie Hall.

            Kluckhohn, Clyde. Navajo Witchcraft. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press Books. Copyright ©1944 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

            Kriss, Marika. Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Skinwalkers (For the Millions Series). Los Angeles, California: Sherbourne Press, Inc. Copyright ©1972 by Marika Kriss.
            O’Brien, Christopher. Stalking the Tricksters: Shapeshifters, Skinwalkers, Dark Adepts, and 2012. Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press. Copyright ©2009 by Christopher O’Brien.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Specter of the Watchers

When Mark first moved out of his parents house in Washington County he still did not want to go far. So when he found the old apartment house in Union Township he was relieved, it was both close to work and to his family.
It was a small one bedroom flat in a house that was almost two centuries old. Even the doorways seemed small to the large framed wrestler. But it would do for the year that he worked hard to save for college. The rent was cheap and the location ideal.
But between work and traveling home he spent little time in the little flat. It was even a rarity that he would even sleep there, for he either crashed at a friends house after a party or slept in his old comfortable bed at home after spending the evening with his family.
But one night something happened that would make Mark never want to spend another night alone in that apartment again.
During a long winter night he was awoken around 2Am by some unnatural feeling.
It felt like he was being watched.
He had never felt that in this house before, and there had never been any supernatural happenings.
But that night as he woke from his slumber his eyes began to focus at the foot of his bed.
That was when he saw the black figure.
It was tall and ominous, this shadow from the depths of they abyss that hung there at the foot of his bed. Even though it was the middle of a moonless night the dark figure was clearly visible as it moved closer to the end of the bed.
And then there were the eyes. Bright glowing red spheres of fire. Mark had heard stories of creatures with glowing red eyes before and he always thought them as totally ridiculous. A trick of the light shining on the iris of some unknown animal he had always though. But there was no other light in his room that night to reflect off the eyes of the being looming over him menacingly. No the iridescence came from within as if the eyes spewed forth the fire from hell itself.
It stopped right at the footboard and with a unearthly rasping voice the creature rattled off one word.
After the demonic voice issued forth from unseen lips the thing simply vanished as if it were but a cloud if dissipating smoke.
Mark did not know whether he should run or hide. He just lay there staring at the doorway to his bedroom where the ethereal being once stood.
He was alone. And he was perplexed. He had no idea what Enoch was.
Later that week he visited some friends in Erie who were students at a Catholic College there. He went to one of the priest on campus and told him of this frightening tale. And he asked about Enoch.
The priest told him that Enoch was a Biblical character from the book of Genesis but also it was the name of a heretical ancient book of forbidden knowledge that was considered as Scripture by some of the ancients but proved too heretical to be included into the Bible by Church Council.
That was the only thing Mark knew of the book of Enoch when he told me this story a few weeks ago. I filled him in on the rest, and to any of you who know of the book of Enoch it is quite interesting that a ‘dark shadow being’ would grumble the name before it disappeared into the inky darkness.
The book of Enoch is what Biblical scholars call a part of the Psuedepigrapha. Books written in the New Testament era that claim to be written by important people from what we call the Old Testament. Most of them date from the first two centuries of the Christian Era.
The book of Enoch is a complied work, the first part called The Book of the Watchers which is dated to about 300BC and the later part of the book the Book of Parables was written some 400 to 500 years later.
The Book of Watchers is an expansion the Old Testament Text of Genesis 6:1-5
“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive[a] with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Many people in the paranormal arena know this passage well. The word translated “giants” here is the Hebrew word Nephilim which has a root that could translate it not only as ‘giants’ but as ‘Fallen ones’.
Many modern Ufologists and followers of the “Chariots of the God’s” theory consider the Nephalim as an ancient hybrid race and quote this text as Biblical evidence of ancient alien visitation to earth and intermingling of races which produced a hybrid race. Some believe the race is still here and account for many UFO sightings.
But traditionally Biblical Scholars and Early Christian Theologians saw the Nephilim quite differently. They took the term “fallen one’s” quite literally. These were offspring of the sons of God (Angels) and human females. They were an unholy abomination that was the result of lustful actions of fallen angels. They died in the great flood and their spirits still haunt the earth. To the Early Church Fathers these damned souls of abomination were the beings behind many encounters with ghosts or spirits. This belief is still popular in many Christian churches today but it ceased to be a mainstream belief of the church at the dawning of the last century.
The Book of Watchers chronicles in detail the fallen angels lust and the results of their actions. While followers of the ‘Ancient Astronaut’ theory claim this book describes details an ancient encounter with an alien race that helped man advance culturally and scientifically, demonologist view this as an insight into the nature of certain entities. Some malevolent entities are not as powerful as others, and seem to follow some sort of hierarchy. Traditionally many of these lesser entities were considered to be Nephalim. Not as powerful as Demonic beings, but still a dark spirit of evil that could infest a location or possess an individual. Indeed many clergymen of the past saw these as the primary source of possession, for these evil disembodied beings desire intently to once again have a body of their won.
Mark knew none of this.
But once he found out the real connection to the entity that said the word and the topic of the book he was once again shaken.
And he told me of another story that happened to his friends in Erie. A demonic infestation of an off campus housing that required a call to the Vatican and an Exorcists intervention.
This story also had a dark shadowy figure with red glowing eyes. You can read that story on my blog  HERE
What haunted Mark that cold dark night? And why did it give him the name Enoch?
Was it a Nephilim mourning that it no longer had a physical body?
Or a warning of the future?

Friday, July 13, 2012

A NEW Multi-Genre Film Festival!

The Bad-Ass Film Festival combines Sci-Fi, Horror. Action, Adventure and all other genres in a film festival that celebrates edgy and soul moving film and media. It is coming to Erie Pa in 2013 and I talked to the festival president David Bostaph about the festival:

What is the Bad-Ass Film Festival?

The Bad-Ass Film Festival (BAFF) is a film festival designed to celebrate what I have been calling the “art of bad-ass”. The types of films we will be celebrating have swagger, they have balls. They kick ass so hard it turns your brain into jelly with their cinematic fists of awesome! We all have sat and watched as something ferocious unfurled on film, and as we staggered to catch our breath, a simple phrase always comes to mind: “That was Bad-Ass!” These moments, these films are often not rewarded for the right reason. These films maybe lauded for aspects that all come together to create the bad-ass, but they have never been given their due for the right reason. We aim to change that.

David Bostaph, B.A.F.F. Prez
How is this festival different from all the others?

The whole thing is set up to be completely different from any other film festival, where in most film festivals you are looking at many different types of films and judging them in a very conventional fashion. Acting, script, editing, photography; these things are all important to any film and while they will continue to be important to how we judge and select films to play at BAFF, there is another layer to it, and it makes the whole thing even trickier. The BAFF will be selecting films on how Bad-Ass they are.  There are Science-fiction and Action Film Festivals out there and while they appeal to a specific genre of film, and when you go to one, you know what to expect. The BAFF is going to be a bit more gonzo in its approach. When you ask someone what a bad-ass film is, I find people have a specific image that appears in their head, but when you get past that initial response, there is a whole world of films that can fall under the title. You won’t know what to fully expect when you come to the BAFF!

What makes a film “Bad-Ass”?
Joseph Mellesh B.A.F.F. VP

Now, when I say the word “Bad-Ass” there is that instant image that instantly appears in your mind, but “Bad-Ass” doesn’t even evoke an image but more of a feeling, and it is that feeling that we want to celebrate. All art connects with people on some level, it just does so in different ways because no two people are the same. This applies to film as an art form, and it applies to the art of bad-ass as well. A good drama can make you feel for its subject, tragedy can make you cry, a horror movie can make you jump, but a Bad-Ass film does something just a bit more. It affects you on a gut level. There is something very tactile about how it makes you feel.  But, again, this is very subjective as are most things with art, so what we have been doing is creating a judging system where we can tear a movie apart as you would with any critique, but the filter we would run the parts through would then seek to identify those elements that make a movie Bad-Ass. We already are seeing that this is resulting in a wide spectrum of Bad-Ass, and this is helping us gauge where the cut off should be for what gets played while allowing us to see just what it takes to give the ultimate prize: the Bad-Ass certification of 100% Bad-Ass.   

Are there any genres that the festival will specifically focus on?

'Monster' Mark Kosobucki B.A.F.F. Art Director 
Absolutely not. Any type of film has the potential to be Bad-Ass, and that is something the BAFF will be striving to reward Bad-Ass wherever we find it. In our planning and development of the festival we began to realize that it is something that is very open to many different formats. Music, photography, and almost any other form of art can have elements of, or even be Bad-Ass. The whole thing has to convey a weirdo mix of confidence, spontaneity, and force that combine in awesome ways to create such unexpected, fleeting moments of raucous energy that gets directly infused into the observer. It is magic, it is full of power, and it cannot be contained into one medium, let alone one single style of film. 

What can film fans expect to experience at the Bad-Ass film festival? Any events, contests or other activities planned during or to coincide with the festival?

There are a lot of things we are looking into as possibilities to coincide with the BAFF. We would love to have a trade show with MMA and professional wrestling celebrities, trainers, and demos. We also will encourage film makers and film tech companies to come to the trade and demonstrate the latest gear and techniques being used to create Bad-Ass films. There are plans to invite someone new every year and possibly name them “Bad-Ass of the Year”. After parties, a possible music festival, contests, and too much to even go into. I’ll just say that there will be quite a bit to keep Bad-Ass attendees entertained. 

What are some of your favorite “Bad-Ass” films?

It’s funny but when we were first kicking around the idea of creating our own film festival, there were so many different things we could do, and the knee jerk reaction was to go to the type of film that you love best. I am a huge fan of science-fiction and horror, but in the years working with the horror fest, I got a bit pigeonholed as a horror person, and I love more than just that. I love all kinds of films, and that was where the idea for “Bad-Ass” kind of started from. Years ago, I had a conversation with Monster Mark where we envisioned a festival where we could invite anyone we felt was awesome enough to attend. It was from this framework that the idea for Bad-Ass was born. There was one small change, the addition of “Bad-Ass”, which added threshold for us gauge toward. We have an incredible and diverse team, but in the end, we all agreed that there was one type of film we all enjoyed. These were the films that made us geek out with amazing fights, mind-blowing action sequences, and hard edged characters who we just could not forget. All of these things had one major quality, when we sat back and examined them, we all agreed. They were Bad-Ass.

There were films that we each threw in as examples of Bad-Ass Cinema. One that will always be close to me is Aliens. I was like 11 when I first saw it and it changed my life. I had never seen anything like it before and the intensity was almost overbearing. That 11 year old still comes out in me whenever I see Ripley step out in the powerloader and begin bitch-slapping the queen around.

Last year I would say my two favorite films definitely defined Bad-Ass. Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins and Attack the Block by Joe Cornish. What’s funny is that both of these films are about groups of people trying to overcome terrible odds. Attack the Block  is a great character study with a beautiful arc built around its main character, and Assassins is more about the entourage and builds slowly to a climax that is profoundly epic and beautifully brutal.

Recently, I have to say that Gareth Evans film, The Raid: Redemption was a bombastic display of constant bad-assery. The final fight between Iko Uwais, Doni Alamsyah, and Yayan Ruhian left me out of breath. It was superhuman without becoming a superhero movie. 

Have there been any films that you thought would totally stink but they surprisingly blew you away?

I am a film whore. I go to see a film with very few reservations and I am rarely completely disappointed. There is something in almost every film that redeems the project in some way or another, and on the rare occasions where I am not able to find something redeeming, it usually stems from disappointment out of a film promising something it doesn’t deliver on. There have been a few surprises out there when I have went in not unsure of what exactly I was getting into. One recent example was Cabin in the Woods. All I knew was it had been gathering a huge amount of positive buzz. Now, I try to stay away from spoilers, and I was determined to see this before anyone could ruin the “twist” for me. With misplaced confidence, I already felt I had a good grasp on the story the film was going to tell, and I thought I was ready for whatever it had to throw at me. Understand I was perturbed at the thought that the trailer had given most it all away. Yet, I remained curious. Well… let’s just say this, (and anyone who has seen the film knows the part I am about to allude to) but when the elevator doors opened, all I could think was: OH MY GOD, THAT IS SO BAD-ASS!

Oh, and Law Abiding Citizen. Watched it on a whim and was completely surprised by the incessant insanity it spewed out. I know some people did not think it was a good film, but in the Bad-Ass world that doesn’t matter. Bad-Ass doesn’t have to be good by anyone else’s definition. Bad-Ass doesn’t care. It’s just too Bad-Ass.

What can local film fans do to help get this project off the ground?

We have launched a Kickstarter site to help us get the project moving. We have a lot of things planned for the next year in preparation for the event, and if our Kickstarter is successful, it will give us the means to ensure that we are successful in delivering the event we are envisioning! We need support from the local and film communities to reach our Kickstarter goal.  In exchange we are offing some really exclusive Bad-Ass rewards for backers, including exclusive Bad-Ass Shirts, Wristbands, and glasses. Also you can get donate and get passes to the event. There are even lifetime passes available where the backer would get admission to every BAFF every year! There are a lot of Bad-Ass rewards and Kickstarter is the only place to get them!

You can help get the Bad-Ass Film Festival get off the ground by pledging at Kickstarter:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Visits from the Dead?

While workers in the medical field have to be some of the most rational and logical individuals of any field, if you spend some time with anyone who deals with death and dying you will eventually come across some very strange and odd stories.
Whether it be care assistants, nurses or even physicians themselves, there are many in the medical field that have an amazing story to tell.
The problem is getting these people to tell their stories.
Like in any other field of work there are many of those who doubt and mock the stories of the unexplained. And perhaps those in the medical profession are more suspect of such stories; since many are surrounded by death and dying constantly but few ever have an unexplained experience. And unless you are a good friend most of those who experience the paranormal at the medical workplace will keep quite about their experiences.
But if you are fortunate to have them share their brief encounters with the unexplained, you often find they are some of the most heartwarming and assuring you have ever encountered.
Pearl had worked at the hospital for more than 20 years, and was used to switching shifts. When she was younger she hated the night shift if only for the reason that she had a young family to care for and she hated leaving her children with a sitter. But now as she was older and her children were in college, she saw the night shift as a relaxing and peaceful time to care for her patients and have the ability to actually finish all of her paperwork. Being a floor that was home to many terminally ill patients, it did have its times of stress and chaos. But most of the time she would be at her desk or assisting some of the other nurses in caring for those who were about to cross the mortal veil.
Many times she became very close to the patients that she tended, especially with those who still had their mental abilities unimpeded during their stay on the ward. It was very hard to get to know and appreciate these patients only to loose them within a few weeks, but that was the nature of the job.
Roger had terminal cancer, but was still coherent and mobile when he came to the floor. Even though walking was very difficult for him, he took at least two or three walks around the hall during Pearl’s shift. He would walk around and joke other patients and flirt with all the pretty nurses. With his cordial attitude and carefree humor he won the hearts of all he socialized with. Sometimes he was the only friendly face and comforting voice besides the faculty that some of the other patients had seen all day.
When he became too sick to do his daily walks, the other patients sorely missed him. His inability to be mobile also had an effect on his morale and he deteriorated very quickly. It was less than a week later that he was dead.
A few days after Roger’s passing Pearl head one of the patients carrying on a conversation by himself, intermingled with uproarious laughter. This in and of itself was nothing too uncommon, many of the clients on the floor had dementia and often relived their past or carried on an existence living in an unseen fantasy world. But Pearl knew this patient to never have an incident of dementia; he had a clearer mind than she did most of the time. So she entered the room to investigate. When asked what all the commotion was the patient told Pearl that Roger had been ‘a card’ tonight and he cheering him up. The man pointed at the chair next to his bed and then sat up with surprise.
“Where did he go?” he asked looking quickly left to right for his friend, “He was sitting right here…”
When she informed him that Roger had passed away days ago the man was insistent that there had to be some kind of mistake, Roger was there just moments before and he had seen him for the last few days. “He said he was feeling a lot better, I was worried because I hadn’t seen him in a while.”
The staff normally did not notify any other patient if there was a death on the ward, those who remained did not need to know and it would cause their morale to drop. And some of the patients were clinging on by a sliver of hope. So the man had no idea previously that Roger had died. He insisted that the he had visited him.
Within the next coming weeks the man’s condition also declined. He passed quickly. The nurses heard him carrying on conversations all the time with an unseen guest. One night shortly before he passed Pearl visited him once again and asked how he was doing. The man told her that he was alright, everything would be fine. Roger had visited him and told him that even though he would be passing soon there was nothing to fear.
The next shift Pearl worked she found that the man had indeed passed. As she talked to another nurse about the incident the nurse reported that on the night of the mans death he had been carrying on a conversation with someone who was not there. According to the nurse the last words he had said were, “Ok Roger, I’m ready.”
Did the Roger continue his rounds cheering up a fellow patient and escort him onto the other side?
It seems the phenomena of a lingering soul shortly after death is something that others have experienced as well. After I wrote about the haunting of an Ambulance company on this blog an anonymous writer left the comment:
“I am a Registered Practical Nurse working in Long Term care (nursing home). Night shift is a good time to see things. I was working alone one night and out of the corner of my eye I saw a resident from the other unit next to mine standing in front of my desk at the nursing station. He didn't say anything, just stood there, this was about 10:45 pm near the end of my eve shift. My first reaction was "gee, Stuart doesn't usually stay up this late or come over here, I wonder what he wants?". Then it dawned on me that Stuart had died over a week ago, I looked up quickly but he wasn't there anymore. I was a bit scared but since he never hurt anyone in life I figured he wasn't going to hurt me now. Stuart had died suddenly and unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. He died in the same room he shared with his wife of many years who was very ill. I thought maybe Stuart didn't know he was dead and was worried about his wife so I said to the empty hall, "Stuart, I can see you, I know you're here, if you aren't sure, you died last week, it's time for you to go home now, I promise we will take good care of Lucy for you". I never saw him again after that, I think all he wanted was to know that his wife would be looked after.”
Another person, a paramedic wrote of similar phenomena,
“I worked for 15 years as a paramedic and started out as a skeptic, but over the years I had many experiences of looking in my rear view mirror to see the person who we just delivered DOA to the hospital looking back at me as if they didn’t realize they were dead yet. We even sometimes talked to them after they had died to be sure to tell them they were dead and they needed to move on.
We also had them follow us around after returning to our station house. It was not unusual after a bad auto wreck to see the transparent figure of the dead person you just worked on slowly wandering the station house as if they just didn’t know what else to do. Maybe since we were the last person to be helping them, they followed us to seek more help not believing they had passed.”
If seems for many people there is a part of us that lingers on after death.
Perhaps to do some specific thing or perhaps they have just not yet been able to pass on.
Many times it is just to say goodbye.
Janice was the daughter of a famous minister who worked with homeless children and orphans, she has worked in a nursing home for decades. Her family has been experiencing paranormal phenomenon for years in their small home. Items would be moved, unearthly sounds were heard and sometimes there was a phantom touch from nowhere. Janice finally reached her last straw when she woke up one night with a shadow man sitting on the end of her bed. She woke up suddenly because she had felt a kiss on her forehead. It terrified her. And as she awoke the shadow dissolved into nothingness. After an interviewing her with some friends of Flagship Paranormal, it was deducted that these experiences were actually her patients saying goodbye before they passed on. She had compassionately cared for them in the last moments of their lives. She was there through the trauma and pain, a living angel ushering them through the veil. And they wanted to say thank you before they passed on. As we prayed for Janice after she reclaimed her house and asked to be left alone,we all said a hearty 'Amen'. Just then thunder boomed quickly and the lights flashed on and off as if God agreed and said 'Amen' as well. 
Whatever it is many who deal with death every day occasionally have an experience that they cannot explain. Some would discount such stories as hallucinations due to overwork or stress. To others it is an encouraging testimony of hope that one day though the physical body may fail, we will pass into peace without pain and struggle.
A hope of life beyond the grave. A vindication of one of the essentials of faith.

Until next time,
Pastor Swope