Posts Tagged ‘Robert Bloch’

Part Twelve: The Ghoul of Plainfield

July 23rd, 1991. Plainfield Wisconsin

Robert Bloch sat at a bar in Plainfield Wisconsin as the local news delivered a shocking report on just discovered local serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who had been arrested after police found a man fleeing from his home. In Dahmer’s apartment, police found two entire human skeletons, seven human heads, and an assortment of other human anatomy. As the news report continued, the tavern remained eerily quiet. Then, finally, someone broke the silence. “Well you know who that sounded like?” said an old man at the bar.

“Oh come on, don’t say it Lester.” a woman, Bloch presumed to be the man’s wife, replied.

“I’ll say it Irene, because you know we’re all thinking it.”  Lester insisted. “It sounds like old Eddie Gein.“ Lester said, half laughing.

Bloch then recognized the clerk at the store earlier, who was probably the youngest patron in this establishment. The young man asked, “Who?” 

“Was before your time,” Lester explained, “and you should be thankful for that. For years Ed Gein was kind of the village idiot around here.”

“Well why does he remind you of that guy?” The young man said pointing to the TV.

“I’ll tell you why.” Another older man interrupted. “When I was a kid me and a buddy was over his house one time.”

“Bullshit Bob!” Lester objected. “You were in his house?”

“Yeah,” Bob insisted. “God this must have been 40 years on now. But yeah, me and my buddy Jim used to go to movies and football games with him. One day we were over his house playing cards. Well, I wasn’t too into playing cards as a kid, so Ed gave me this tool to play around with that punched holes in paper. I’d run out of paper so I went in his room to get more. I go in there and, my hand to god, there’s two shrunken heads in the room!”

“Get the hell out!” Lester exclaimed.

“Swear to god!” Bob raised his hand in earnest. “He said he had a cousin that got them from the Philippines during the war.”

“Well he for damn sure didn’t have any family who fought in the Philippines! The only family he had was that religious nutjob of a mom.” Lester pointed to the screen as the local news story still continued, “Ten to one says that freak had mommy issues.” 

“Did you see anything else?” Irene asked Bob.

“No, but now that I think of it he didn’t let us over the house anymore after that.”

“Well, these heads you saw, did they look like Phillipino heads?” Lester asked. “Like were they dark skinned?”

His eyes widened as he thought about the answer. “Well no, now that I think of it, they weren’t.”  

“So what,” another older man said. He sat next to another gentlemen who remained quiet, but appeared visibly agitated at the conversation. “We brought all kinds of shit back from the war. Why I had a buddy who fought the Japs in Okinawa. I was over his place one time and he says ‘Hey look at this!’ He had a necklace made of human ears!”

“Did you take them home with you Fred?” Lester joked. Getting no reply Lester then said to the quiet man next to him. “What about you Sheriff, what was your take on Gein?”

At first the man only glared at Lester. Finally, he answered with a question of his own. “Well do you remember people coming up missing when I was on the force?”

“All right, just saying!” Lester threw up his hands in jest.

“So this Ed guy,” the younger patron asked, “did he ever kill anybody?” 

While the locals conversed about their local legend, Robert quietly placed an order of french fries, “I’m gonna sit in the booth over there.” he told the bartender, pointing to the back corner. Bloch was now like a fly on the wall. He took out his notebook and wrote down this name that he never heard before, Ed Gein. 

“People always suspected he killed his brother.” Another older woman spoke up. “My dad was on the fire department. When Ed was young he reported a fire on his property, and said he couldn’t find his brother, but my dad said when they got to the property Ed led everyone right to his brother’s body. Didn’t seem affected by the fire, but the body had bruises on its head.”

“Yeah, and there was Mary Hogan who ran that Crossroads Tavern up north in Pine Grove.” Another old man spoke up. “Ed was always after her, then she came up missing one day.” 

“Now cut the shit!” The former Sheriff protested angrily. 

Fred, sitting next to the ex-lawman, turned a watchful eye to his friend while he added, “Yeah come on, Elmo,” speaking to the man who brought up Mary Hogan. “Everyone knew she was mixed up with the mob. She left Chicago to hide out here, mob probably tracked her down and took care of her.”

“Ed was always in there though.” Elmo insisted. “I think she reminded him of his mother.”

“Bloody Mary reminded Ed of his holier than thou mother?” Lester objected. “I don’t think so!”

 “I’m telling you, I remember when she first went missing.” Elmo began his story. “Ed came down to help out at the sawmill one day, and we were all joking with him about Mary. I remember saying ‘Eddie if you had spent more time courting Mary she’d be cooking for you instead of being missing.’ He looked at us with that deadpan face of his and said “She’s not missing. She’s down the house now.’ He always joked like that, saying that he went and got her in his pickup truck and took her home.”

Lester then said “Yeah and when that teenage girl went missing you said she was at your house.”

“Well maybe she was! Elmo said, bursting into laughter.

“Wait so whatever happened to Ed?” The young man asked.

“He and his place went up in flames back in the 50s.” Bob said, then pointed to Fred and added “Just an empty property now out by where Fred lives. Look I’m not saying he was like that guy.” Bob tried to explain as he pointed to the TV, “but if he did crazy shit like that then he did it right under our noses.”

Irene heard enough “Look you stupid bastard,” she looked at Elmo but pointed to the former policemen “Arthur served this community for years! Are you saying he didn’t do his job?”

“Hey leave me out of this.” Arthur raised his hands in protest.

“I’m not saying he didn’t do his job. but you know where Ed lived?” Elmo reasoned. ‘He had that farmhouse out of town away from everybody. He could have been doing all kinds of massacres out there and nobody ever would have found out about it.”

“Now that’s enough of this bullshit!” The former sheriff now rose to his feet. 

“Come on man take it easy.” Fred stood up behind him trying to caution his friend.

Arthur practically charged at Elmo shouting “Mary Hogan was into all kinds of crooked shit and it finally caught up with her! Ed died in a fire because the stupid bastard didn’t have electricity and lit himself up with a kerosene lamp! Now that’s the last I wanna hear of this shit!”

Elmo raised his hands nervously, “Ok ok I wasn’t insulting you. I’m sorry, I was just saying.”

“Well stop saying!” Arthur got nose to nose with him. “I’m just saying, I’m saying shut your damn mouth!”

Fred came up behind his friend and patted him on the back. “It’s OK Art, it’s OK let’s just go.” He finally managed to get his friend away from the man.

“Make sure he gets home ok.” the barkeep requested as Fred escorted his friend to the door.

“I will.” Fred assured her.

As they walked out the door, Art turned back, Bloch froze as he realized he’d caught the eye of the retired cop. No one else in the bar noticed Robert taking notes. He could rip up the pages if need be, he could say he was making a note to call home, he was sure he could think of some cover if the former Sheriff approached. Fortunately, his scribbled notes were safe as Fred re-entered and said “Come on buddy I’ll get you home” and helped Art get out the door.

After this the conversation was minimal, but Bloch still kept his ears peeled. “I’m telling you, if you paid Ed a dollar you got a dollar and a half worth of work out of him.” Irene insisted. “He was a hard working man, just a little odd.”

Part Eleven: What If?

July 23rd, 1991. Wisconsin

Robert Bloch’s high school class always had reunions at odd years. In fact, the thirty-ninth reunion of the class of 1934 was the very first one they ever had. Back then the Cold War was in full swing, so maybe they didn’t want to chance waiting til forty. This summer was their fifty-seventh reunion. Bloch wondered if there was a special name for such an odd number, like how fifty years is the golden anniversary and sixty five is the sapphire.

Driving through the plains of Wisconsin, he laughed to himself as he thought back to the reunion a few nights ago. One of his classmates, who really shouldn’t still be wearing those low cut blouses, leaned over her dinner plate while eying his watch and asked “What have you been doing since you got out of school?” He delighted her with an impromptu story that he ran a garbage truck company. As a matter of fact, he was the top garbage service in three counties. “Trash, manure, medical waste, we haul it all!” he said with a jovial wave of his fist. She wasn’t eyeing up that nice watch of his anymore.

Later at the bar one of his friends looked that old classmate over and said “I don’t know about you Bloch. If you played your cards right you could have had her in the shower tonight screaming bloody murder!”

“I don’t think my wife would approve!” Robert laughed.

“Who knows?” His mischievous friend said. “Maybe she would have watched!” Robert missed the humor of his classmates, but he also missed his wife. Elly wasn’t up for another trip to the great state of Wisconsin. It was probably for the best though. He learned that night one of his friends who couldn’t make the reunion was living in one of those little towns in the northern part of the state. He managed to get a hold of him, and via a rental car went out to see him for a few days.

Now that visit was finished and he was heading back south. Eventually he would turn east and fly back home via Milwaukee. Speeding down the highway he noticed the road sign, ninety miles to Plainfield. Something about that name sounded familiar, Plainfield, but he couldn’t remember. Not long after, he saw another sign, now sixty miles away. About a mile later he finally remembered, that big guy back at that horror convention, and his story about the psycho house. As he drove by the empty fields he tried to remember the details. 

Less than an hour later Plainfield was ahead of him, and on a whim he decided to get off the highway. Coming into the one horse town, he stopped in at a general store to get a drink. He couldn’t resist a peek at the magazine rack. Long gone were the magazines like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories that writers like himself and old HPL got their breaks in. At least they still had a few comic books. A young man next to him was thumbing through a magazine about professional wrestling. Robert never knew they even printed such things. He didn’t understand what the appeal was, grown men in tights pretending to fight each other. As he looked over the shoulder of the young man, he spied a report about a wrestling event from Japan. A color photograph portrayed a grappler wearing a mask of a deformed face while holding a chainsaw over his head. The caption read this was a new wrestler named Saw-Man. Saw-Man? he thought to himself. Wasn’t that a character from a horror movie?

Either way, Robert grabbed some stationary and a soda and got in line to check out. In front of him were a much older couple who placed a few items on the counter, but the clerk charged them nothing. He’d heard of a senior citizen discount but this was ridiculous! As Robert paid for his own items he watched the happy couple walk out of the store. Maybe they used to be the owners or something. As he looked at them, he thought to himself that he hoped he and Elly made it that long.

Robert then walked outside and looked down the street. There was a hotel nearby, he didn’t imagine many people staying here.

“Elly it’s me.” Robert said as the phone picked up.

“Hi honey, how was your visit?” He heard his wife’s sweet voice over the phone.

“It was great, really fun. Listen I decided to stay out here a few extra days.”

“Oh ok, where are you now?”

“I’m in a little town called Plainfield.”

“Plainfield, never heard of it. Who do you know there?”

“Actually no one,” Robert answered, “which is the reason I called. I need you to get something for me.”

“Ok.”

He hated the thought of subjecting her to this madness, but he had no other recourse. “In my desk,” he went on to explain, “I think in one of the right hand drawers there’s a stack of papers from that convention I went to last Halloween, see if you can grab it for me.”

“Sure.”

“There should be a folder with just a few papers in it.” He explained. “There’s stuff written down in there about Painfield.”

After a few minutes her voice came back on the line. “Ok I got it.”

“Great, there’s just a few papers in there, I want you to read whatever it says, and I’m going to copy it down.“

“Ok,” he could hear the papers rustling. He took a deep breath as he remembered what she was about to discover. “Plainfield Wisconsin, October 1957, Sally Kohler,” Robert wrote it all down. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed as she continued reading. “Is this true?” 

He almost regretted calling her now “Well I don’t know honey, I’m going to try to find out.” Then, feeling the need to soldier on, he said “Just keep reading it please.”

She finished the last remaining notes before adding, “Honey please be careful.”

“I will Eleanor, thank you. I’ll be home in a few days, love you”

It wasn’t that late in the day. Robert managed to find the library, and the old lady helped him find the microfiche of the local newspapers. Given the Plainfield Sun only came out once a week, it didn’t take long for Robert to scan through years worth of papers. Not much going on of course. There was the occasional hunting accident or hunter disappearing. News about Evelyn Hartley made its way all the way out here. He remembered that case, poor young girl; disappeared while babysitting. It was the biggest manhunt in state history and it didn’t turn up a thing.

Locally there was not much else of note. Looked like two times back in the 50’s there was a fire at the same property, an old farmhouse on the edge of town. Also in the early 50’s there was a woman who ran a bar not far from here that came up missing. Blood and a bullet cartridge were found in the bar. This seemed to be the most serious occurrence in this area he could find. After decades of scant local news whizzed by he started to feel stupid. What did he think he would find? There was no rash of local disappearances, not even a little nugget that could inspire a good yarn.

Soon nightfall came, and Robert didn’t have many options in terms of entertainment. He imagined he’d write a letter to his young fan tonight, or at least started a new piece of fiction, but there was nothing to write home about. Maybe he should have known better. Lacking in options, he found himself at a local tavern that evening. A few people eyeballed him as he came in. He thought to himself he might have been the first out of town person to come into this tavern since, maybe ever. Looking around at the mostly older crowd, he would have bet the same people had probably been coming here for years. 

On the TV screen the Brewers had an away game with the Kansas City Royals. He couldn’t remember the last time he even watched a ball game. Way back in his youth, what felt like a thousand years ago now, there was a special father’s and son’s day exhibition game. Robert couldn’t remember who it was against, but he remembered it was hot. As he put down a few dollars for his beer at the bar he remembered the then outrageous price of a dime for a ballpark soda. That day, during the seventh inning stretch, big league player Hack Wilson tossed an autographed ball directly at him. The ball flew perfectly through the air. He reached his hand up to grab it, looking for his first moment of athletic glory, and the ball slipped through his fingers. He watched the white sphere stitched in red fall deep down into the abyss below the open bleacher seats. He never knew if he had disapointed his father. He did just get his first pair of glasses, so at least he had that for an excuse. But what if? 

Sitting at the bar with his drink in his hand, he couldn’t help ask himself this question, a question probably faced by all in their twilight years. What if? What if, by chance he was able to catch that ball? What if he then leapt into the more extroverted world of sports, and what if he never dove into that most introverted world of books? What if he hit home runs or scored touchdowns instead of spinning strange yarns of the Elder Gods and dead Whitechapel murderers? It was too late for such questions now, Robert did not regret his path in life. He did what he loved, but as he saw his reflection in the mirror at the back of the bar, he mulled over how his work never hit the nerve of the American consciousness. While he certainly had a successful career as a novelist, and even wrote a handful of screenplays and television episodes, he never had that one piece of work that captured the public’s imagination the way Stephen King had, or the way his old friend and mentor H. P. Lovecraft had, or, as he watched the ball player on TV hit a homerun to a cheering crowd, the way athletes had. Too bad it was hit by Todd Benzinger of the Royals.

Long lost in thought, he didn’t even notice later when the game ended, a game he’d stopped watching so long ago. The tavern was now filled with the tune of the local news station, whose Breaking News logo emblazoned the screen. The news caster then appeared, he seemed more serious than usual, his voice in fact was almost shaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we come to you tonight with extremely disturbing news from right here in our area.” The Wisconsin anchorman said. “We warn you, the following segment may be too disturbing for some viewers. Milwaukee police have arrested thirty-one year old Jeffrey Dhamer, after finding an adult male fleeing Dhamrer’s apartment with one wrist handcuffed. Police arrested Dhamer in his home, after which they found a scene of pure terror.” After taking a visibly deep breath, the anchor man continued. “Police found seventy four polaroid photos of corpses at various stages of dismemberment, which were all taken in his home. Dhamer’s apartment was filled with actual human remains, including two entire human skeletons, seven human skulls, a pair of human hands, an entire human torso, two human hearts, and a bag of other human organs.”

As the report went on, and footage from the killer’s home was shown, Bloch looked around to see all eyes were on the screen. At this moment, nobody ordered, nobody drank, solids and stripes remained still on the pool table, the bar-keep even turned the jukebox off. Bloch couldn’t put his finger on it, but somehow he knew this horrific news hit the people of this tiny town with an extra sting.

Finally, an old man at the bar broke the silence. “Well you know who that sounded like….” 

Part Ten: Deranged

George worked a lot of overtime to afford the VIP party after the convention closed. He was glad Robert Bloch spoke on the panel, because he might not have recognized him otherwise. With his usual gregariousness he approached the man he’d been corresponding with for the first time. “Robert Bloch!” he said. “I’m the one you’ve been writing too.” 

“Of course you are.” Robert said, raising his glass to him.

“So what did you think of my story?”

“It was terrible.” the acclaimed author said in an instant.

George froze solid as if he’d been dowesed in liquid nitrogen, for once in his life he was at a total loss for words.

Robert burst into laughter as someone patted him on the shoulder saying “You were always great at encouragement Bloch! Is that how Lovecraft talked to you?”

“What he said to me was even worse!” Bloch laughingly replied.

“Yeah I’ll bet!” The man laughed loud along with Robert before going to get himself a drink.

Seeing the young fan was still standing there, Robert said “Let’s try this again.” and reached his hand out to introduce himself. “I’m Robert Bloch, what can I do ya for?”

“George Kohler.” He gave the author a strong handshake. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Ok, that name is ringing a bell.” Bloch now recalled as his hand was released from the exuberant fan’s mighty grip. “You sent me a story, what was it called?”

“Well I started it as a screenplay when I was in film school, but after I left film school I decided to write it out as a novel.”

Bloch’s eyes rolled as he asked “And the name of this soon to be classic of American literature?”

“My story I wrote was called Deranged.” George said proudly.

Bloch registered recognition as he recalled the gruesome tale. “Ah yes,” noticing the Zodiac Killer shirt Robert remarked “I should have known it was you when I saw that shirt.”

“Yeah, I forgot my Zodiac mask at home. Totally sucks.”

Bloch’s voice trailed off as he replied. “Hmm that’s such a shame.” 

“Yeah it blows donkey balls.” 

“Haha, I wouldn’t know, I’m more of a sheep man myself.”

George was loving the author’s humor. After letting out another good laugh he then asked, “Anyway what did you think of my story?”

“Well it was pretty gruesome, I’ll give you that.”

“Yeah, cool!” he nodded.

“Hmm, well let’s get a drink and sit down.”

As they sat down at a nearby table, George reached into his bag for what he wanted to give to the author. He’d forgotten he’d just purchased two of Bloch’s books. Pulling those out, he asked the author to sign them.

“I’d be happy to.” Opening up American Gothic and beginning his inscription, Robert said “That Holmes, he was a real evil man.”

“Yeah, that torture chamber was nuts!” Geroge smiled with pleasure.

Now signing the second book Robert began, “So your story, well it was quite gruesome in the details, I didn’t understand what the motivation was. What would drive a man so do such unspeakable things?”

“I don’t know, he’s just nuts.” George said matter of factly.

Handing the books back to his fan, Bloch then asked. “Ok, so let’s look at it this way, what inspired you to write your story?”

“Well when I was a kid, I had this Aunt who had this really crazy story.”

The author keyed in on George’s use of the past tense, “You ‘had’ and Aunt?”

“Yeah, she was in and out of mental institutions a lot, and eventually she killed herself.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Robert said in sympathy.

“Yeah, anyway when she was a kid one time she stole her dad’s car and ran off. Story goes she ran out of gas, and got stuck near this old farmhouse. My Aunt got out of the car and went into the house to get help. When my Aunt went inside she said there were bodies everywhere!” George grew very animated as he told this part of the story. “Heads were hanging on the wall and all this gruesome shit! That’s what I put in my story. Then she said something chased her out of the house with a gun.”

“Some THING?” The author stressed the word ‘thing.’

“That’s what my Aunt always said. It had long hair like a chic, but it squealed like an animal. It chased her right out of there. Later the cops found her and brought her home. That’s how the story goes at least.”

“That sounds awful. Did the police ever investigate?”

“Nah,” George said dismissively. “My Aunt was always messed up on drugs. She was like a beatnik, and was always going on about something. One time it would be UFO’s, another time it would be Atlantis, you know the type.”

Robert nodded. “I guess I do.”

“Yeah, but that one story she always stuck with though.” George stated. “She told that story a lot and it never changed. Would have made one hell of a movie!”

“Could have been worse than Chainsaw.” Robert quietly pondered.

“Yeah man.” George’s mind instantly lit up with the possibilities. “If they combined the hillbillies in chainsaw with the shit my Aunt saw. Jesus, that would be the most terrifying movie ever made!”

Robert was cautiously skeptical yet still disturbed. “I’d never heard a story like this before.” He then asked. “Did this supposedly happen around here?”

“No, I’m from Wisconsin originally. Ever hear of a town called Amherst?” 

“Oh I see.” Robert answered. “No, I can’t say that I have.”

“Well, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you.” Before putting the books away he pulled out a manilla folder from his bag. “I know you’re from Milwaukee.” he said as he slid the folder across the table. “This is the basic information about what happened. If you ever had a chance, I thought you could look into it.”

“Well I live in Los Angeles now.” Bloch said. “I’m sure you’re aware they don’t film much television or film in the great state of Wisconsin.”

“Oh right.” In a rare moment, George’s voice deflated with enthusiasm. Given he’d been sending letters to Bloch’s Los Angeles address, it didn’t occur to him that the author might not be spending much time in the plain states. 

“Well you took this time to put this together, let’s see what we have.” He opened the folder to look at a few sheets of paper with notes written on it.

“I don’t have much to go on.” George hesitantly cautioned.

“Plainfield Wisconsin,” Bloch looked at the pages. “Never heard of that place either. Fall of 1957,” he continued to read, there was a brief description of what his aunt reported, along with the description of George’s grandfather’s car and a few other notes, including Sally’s suicide and George’s home address.

“Well I do visit the old homestead on occasion.” Robert said, closing the folder. “Next time I do I can give it a look.”

“That would be awesome!” George said. They spent the short time they had remaining talking about writing and the business.

Thank you all for your support of this story thus far. There will be seven more chapters of ghoulish mayham and alternate history which will be spaced out from now till Halloween. On a less macabe note please remain safe and take care of yourselves. Just think, we’re almost done with this horrific year!

Part Nine: Yours Truly, Robert Bloch 

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con New York City

George browsed a book vendor while waiting for the auditorium to open for tonight’s panel. A blue covered book caught his eye, on the cover was the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolfman. Flipping through the pages, he remembered reading Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby as a kid. He put it back, then noticed a few movie novelizations and spin-off books were present. George spotted a Halloween novel. It wasn’t an adaptation of one of the movies though. The title read, “Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers.” by Nicholas Grabowsky. This book also brought back memories, as he borrowed it from Dan back in film school. The novel was an original story where both Michael Myers and Dr. Gavin survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II. Myers awakes from a ten year coma to wreak havoc on Haddonfield. Dr. Gavin returns to again save Laurie Strode, who now has a daughter. Myers is legitimately blown up in the climax, but the novel ends on a great twist when Laurie is killed by her now psychotic eight year old daughter, who has inherited her uncle’s madness.

George then picked up the next book, which he never read. Halloween: The Revenge apparently followed the exploits of the child psychotic. It looked pretty cool, and he soon put it down to browse Halloween: Child’s Play, which was a crossover novel where the killer girl gets with Chucky, the evil doll from the Child’s Play series. The vendor told him a new crossover novel was coming out soon, mixing the two aforementioned series with the new Puppet Master films. “That sounded fun,” George thought to himself.

He put these books back when he noticed two others. American Gothic was a novel he’d read as a teenager. It was about this guy named H. H. Holmes who had a literal torture chamber in his house. George made the mistake of lending the book out in college and it never got back to him. The thing was, this case was actually real. Dr. Holmes Murder Castle, was a factual account of the real life case by the same author of American Gothic, the same author he was going to meet tonight. He hadn’t read the factual account, and decided to buy both books. After paying and putting both books in his bag, he went into the now open auditorium. 

The special topic tonight was the history of the horror film, hosted by the man George sought to meet, Robert Bloch. George was growing to like his work, but he wondered why Bloch was presenting on this topic, since he had little if anything to do with horror movies. As the author was introduced, George now realized, per the MC’s introduction, that Bloch wrote television episodes for shows George liked, such as Monsters, Tales of the Unexpected, and Darkroom. Not only that, but he also wrote episodes of the original Star Trek, Night Gallery, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. The MC joked that Robert Bloch had the heart of a young boy, which he keeps in a jar on his desk. This elicited laughter from the audience and Robert Bloch took the stage.

After receiving a warm reception, the author graciously thanked the convention for having him, then jested “You were too cheap to ask Stephen King and you knew I needed lunch money.” The audience laughed some more. George did not expect to find the master of psycho tales to be cracking jokes, but there he was.

Naturally Bloch started with the golden age of horror of the 1930’s and 40’s. He pointed out how the classic monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were all foreigners, and/or characters from European folklore. Then in the 50’s you had the nuclear monsters in the wake of the atomic bomb. George remembered watching those movies. His dad and his sister liked them too. He remembered one time he covered himself with a blanket trying to scare his sister while they watched The Blob. He rolled over to her in his disguise and Helen just laughed hysterically.

There wasn’t as much to cover in the 1960s, but Bloch noted that the 1970s brought a pronounced change. George cheered ferociously at the mention of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Hearing such an exuberant response, Bloch pointed to George and said “I bet you loved the sequel, the Tennessee Slumber Party.” to which George and everyone else howled in laughter. Bloch went on to explain how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a 1974 film about a group of hillbillies in rural Texas. The lead villain, a deformed character named Saw-man, dispatched random motorists with his trusty chainsaw. George wished with all his heart that that movie could have turned into a series. In his mind it could have stood up there with the modern franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Unfortunately, in the real world, a sequel never came.

Bloch’s point about Chainsaw was, while it was not a big hit, it marked the beginning of a trend of homegrown American horror, of scary stories of not a foreign or alien menace, but about your neighbor, the guy next door. Other movies mentioned included Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, which Bloch joked was followed by the sequel the Woods have Noses. Bloch theorized that in the wake of the Manson murders and the social unrest of the 1960s, audiences were developing a taste for real life and brutality in their horror. George was never academic about his fandom, but he was unsure of Bloch’s theory. After all, as the author himself had said, the aforementioned films were not big hits.

Halloween was mentioned, which brought about a big cheer. “If you remember, the first two Halloween movies weren’t about ghosts and werewolves,” Bloch reminded the audience. “It was about a boy, Michael Myers, who was a psychotic killer. Michael Myers wasn’t from another country or from outer space, he was from anytown USA. Now, hearing the cheers in this crowd, assuming you’re not cheering for me,” to which the audience laughed again, “these movies obviously found an audience.” Another cheer erupted as Bloch continued, “but the truth was these weren’t very successful movies when you look at the box office. Now if you look in the last decade, we seemed to have taken the idea of the home-grown threat, and brought it back to the monster. If you look at Halloween, it did inspire a sub-genre known as the slasher, with movies like the Burning and Sleepaway Camp, but they weren’t huge hits like 1980’s Friday the 13th with it’s Jersey Devil, or like CHUD, or Critters, or the Thing remake. You did have ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, with Freddy Kreuger being slasher-esque, but he’s also like a ghost, more supernatural. Halloween itself got away from the slasher genre it helped create in its later installments, bringing in witches and ghosts and werewolves. Reportedly the next entry of that series is going to involve vampires. I have an idea for the following one though.” He then suggested, pointing his finger up in the air, “It should be about Jack the Ripper!” Again the audience laughed, especially from those familiar with Bloch’s frequent works involving the infamous London serial killer.

“So what will the 90s bring to horror cinema,” Bloch asked as he reached the end of his speech, “who knows? Sequels for all the big franchises are still in the works, but undoubtedly a new generation will come along with new characters that will make us scream.“

After dinner Dan and Victoria sat in on a presentation on entertainment law. The presenter was a young woman, a lawyer who specialized in the entertainment business. Dan found her quite attractive. She had a certain special poise and intelligence about her, similar to what Dan saw in Victoria.

When the presentation ended the woman stayed to take questions from the audience. As Dan and Victoria approached, the woman greeted Dan with a smile and said “Nice shirt.”

Dan looked down at his Halloween shirt that he forgot he was wearing. “Thanks.” he said. Then looking back up at her he asked. “Are you a Halloween fan?”

“Yeah I got a soft spot for the original.” The lawyer revealed. “Actually I auditioned for a role in it.”

“Wait what!?!” Dan and Victoria were both surprised as Dan asked. “You were an actress?”

“Well my mother was.” The woman said. “You probably never heard of her. Janet Leigh?” 

Dan drew a blank but Victoria recognized that name. “Oh, I know her, she was in the Machurian Candidate and Angels in the Outfield!”

“That’s right!” The woman said, pleasantly surprised.

“And she was in Touch of Fear!” Victoria added enthusiastically.

“The Orson Wells classic.” The woman said. Then pointing at Victoria she said to Dan. “That’s a smart girl you have there.” 

“Thanks,” Dan said, “she’s the best.” 

“Aww that’s so sweet.” The woman said, admiring the young couples affection for each other.

“So what happened?” Victoria asked.

“Well when I was young the acting bug got me, so I dropped out of law school to give it a shot. My big break never came though.” she explained, revealing no remorse over her path in life. “So eventually I went back to school, became an entertainment lawyer, and here I am!”

“That’s really cool.” Victoria said. “Do you ever regret it, not getting to act?”

“Sometimes I think about it, but I like what I’m doing.” she answered.  “Who knows, maybe someday I’ll take a stab at it!” she said laughing while she thrusted her hand in a stabbing motion. “In the meantime if you ever need representation here is my card.”

Both Dan and Victoria took her business card. Dan looked down to read it. “Jamie Curtis.” Looking up he said “Well it was nice to meet you.”

“Nice meeting you too!” Jamie Curtis said. She smiled as the young couple walked away. The lawyer then turned to chat with the last few people remaining in the room.