Things that go bump in the night

Things that go bump in the night October 18, 2023

• In Denver, apparently, October means not just Halloween, but also Hallowmass — a concert series by the wildly theatrical 50-piece “avant-primal-futurist” band Itchy-O. That article sent me over to YouTube to see and hear for myself what it was talking about and … wow. The flame-thrower guitar dude from Fury Road could show up to sit in with this band and nobody’d notice:


In ’80s high-school comedies, the cafeteria was always segregated by clique — the band kids had their own table, and so did the theater kids, the artsy kids, and the metalheads. It’s fun to see what happens when they all get together.

And now I think I know who could finally break the stranglehold that Hillsong and Bethel have on worship music.

• “Why Are We Afraid of Black Cats?” asks one of our neighbors here at Patheos.

The correct answer, I think, is “Because they’re perfectly evolved predators and if they were bigger, they would eat you.”

But really the only reason I’ve linked to that post is in order to revisit this post from Going Medieval back in May — “On cats” — wherein historian Eleanor Janega disputes and debunks the seasonal pseudo-history that makes the rounds every year around this time.

The impatience of that post is partly due to how these bogus legends about cats are tied up with pop-history myths about medieval witch-trials, which weren’t a thing. (If you want to incur the wrath of a medieval historian, relocate the modern phenomenon of witch-trials to the middle ages. For bonus wrath, don’t say “medieval,” say “Dark Ages.”)

We have no record of any alleged “mass cull of cats” in medieval Europe and no record of any religious or political figures calling for such a thing. What we have, instead, is an unbroken record noting the presence of domestic cats and of people’s fondness for them.

Oh, and also Fastelavn — more or less Danish Mardi Gras — doesn’t involve any weird ancient cat-killing traditions. (Even if you believe that the piñata-like carnival game of “hit the cat out of the barrel” originally involved an actual cat, rather than candy, that would have been unpleasant, but not lethal, for any cats involved.)

• A new species of tarantula discovered in Thailand is an amazing shade of blue. Parts of its legs and back are an iridescent, electric blue that’s so striking it may make you literally “ooh” and “ahhh” (even if you’re arachnophobic and, thus, also going “Oh!” and “Aaaah!”).

• Fox13 local news in Utah got this report right last Friday: “Satanic worship groups won’t be attacking Utahns during eclipse.”

This weird rumor had spread widely enough that sheriff’s offices all over the state put out statements reassuring residents that they did not need to worry about marauding Satanic cults attacking their families during Saturday’s solar eclipse.

For the most part, rumors like this are spread by two kinds of people: 1) Deliberate liars who are either pulling a prank or selling something; and 2) people who don’t fully believe it’s true, but pretend they do because they desperately hope that it is.

When Saturday’s solar eclipse came and went, this latter group was disappointed and a bit angry that it came and went without mayhem and slaughter from child-killing Satanists. That would have been exciting. Plus it would have made them more special than other people because, after all, they predicted it. Those other people think they’re so smart, but they didn’t see this coming, did they? They’ll see soon enough. They won’t be laughing when the Satanists attack during the next eclipse, or when the Rapture comes, or the Storm, or …

• Here’s another Utah story that’s not Halloween-style scary, but still plenty creepy: “‘Sound of Freedom’ Star Tim Ballard Accused of Preying on Staff on Undercover Missions.

It’s actually worse than that Christianity Today headline makes it sound. The accusations seem to indicate that Ballard’s “undercover missions” — and his whole white-knight-hero-champion shtick — were an elaborate set-up allowing him to “prey on staff.” And by “prey on staff” they mean pressure attractive women to volunteer to share hotel rooms with him where he would then pressure them to have sex “to protect their cover.”

Why is CT covering this story about a very strange, disgraced Latter Day Saint? Partly because millions of white evangelicals loved the myth-making Sound of Freedom movie based on Ballard’s fantasies. And mainly because this fantasy of being a white-knight-hero-champion who wants to Save The Children From The Satanic Baby-Killers When Nobody Else In The World Thinks That’s Good Because They’re Bad, Unlike Us is pretty much the whole basis of anti-abortionism and, thus, of white evangelicalism.

• On a lighter, but less ridiculous, note, Tea Krulos writes about “Local Horror Hosts’ Frightfully Fun History.” You don’t have to like camp, bad movies, and worse puns. But you’re missing out on a good time if you don’t.

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