31 Nights of Horror, Night 12: The Devil’s Backbone
Three sentence review:
I totally dig Guillermo del Toro because he knows how to effortlessly blend real life with the seemingly improbable, and The Devil’s Backbone typifies his brilliance in the supernatural arena. In the late 1930s, a young boy is left at a creepy orphanage in a town caught up in the end of the bloody Spanish Civil War and is terrorized by a young ghost named Santi who warns that many of the orphanage’s inhabitants will die. There’s so much more to this film than just your typical ghost story (that’s not even the biggest horror in the movie in my opinion) and it’s a wonderful watch for scary movie fans and history buffs alike – a fantastic movie!
Taking a break from 31 Nights of Horror, I wanted to share my unhealthy fascination with ghost stories.
If I visit a new city, I tend to immediately browse the hotel brochure display in search of discount ghost tour tickets. My family usually plays along and uses it as an excuse to ride in a horse-drawn carriage and play tourist. Bless their hearts for putting up with me.
Since I’m an über dork (both in concept and a fan of the transportation service – but seriously why are all of the drivers named Vladimir?) I’ve learned a lot about true horror stories.
Here are my, uhh, “favorites” (I’m not sure if calling a horrible story a favorite is appropriate.)
1. Madame LaLaurie – Delphine LaLaurie, aka the Paris Hilton of 19th century New Orleans, was well known for her lavish parties and spectacularly decorated mansion on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Born to high society, she married a doctor and loved to show off her wealth. Unfortunately, she’s also well known for something much more sinister – torturing and murdering the slaves who worked for her. After a fire broke out at her house, her secrets were revealed when the fire brigade entered her home and found two slaves chained in the kitchen. The slaves directed the firemen to a locked attic upstairs where more than a dozen people were found starving and in shackles – many the victim of horrible medical experiments. Some people have claimed to see the ghost of a little girl in the house thought to be one of LaLaurie’s slaves who jumped from a roof to spare her from Delphine’s torture. Fun fact: Nicholas Cage owned the house for a while, and claimed nothing strange occurred.
2. Poogan’s Front Porch – Poogan’s, a phenomenal restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, is said to be haunted by a woman named Zoe St. Amand. Poogan’s is named after a dog who parked himself on the porch of the house that became the restaurant. When Poogan passed away, the owners buried him in the front yard and patrons of the eatery are welcomed by Poogan’s headstone when they enter the gate. But that’s not where the ghost story comes from. Zoe St. Amand lived in the house with her sister in the early 1900s. When Zoe’s sister died in 1945, she became incredibly lonely and suffered from severe depression; often calling out her sister’s name. Poogan’s customers and owners have reported seeing a dark figure resembling a woman in the upstairs dining room, and she is thought to be the ghost of Zoe St. Amand. Guests of the hotel across the street have also reported seeing ghostly figures in the windows of Poogan’s at night. I’ve eaten at Poogan’s and the food is incredible. If you’re in Charleston, request the second floor dining room and you might have another unexpected guest join you.
3. The Winchester Mystery House – In the late 1800s, Sarah Winchester, widow of gun manufacturing tycoon William Winchester, dedicated years of her life to building and designing a peculiar house in California following her husband’s death. Under Sarah’s supervision, the construction crew worked around the clock to satisfy her bizarre demands such as building staircases that led to nowhere and secret passageways within the walls. It is said that Sarah consulted a psychic medium who convinced her that she was being haunted by victims of the Winchester rifles. Others claim that she built the house like a maze to confuse spirits who were trying to get her. She even had a seance room built. Workers complained that Sarah often changed her mind after a room was completely finished and furnished, and they were forced to start over. The house is said to be one of the most haunted places in America and some have claimed to see the spirit of Sarah herself. The house reportedly cost over $5 million to construct.
After night 7’s toll on my mental health, I definitely needed a breezy watch and caught the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches on cable. It’s hard to believe this movie was released in 1990 (I’m old) and for a kids movie, The Witches features some pretty dark stuff: kidnapping, exterminating children, snakes, potions, and of course, witches! I’m a huge fan of Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch and the puppetry and brilliant make-up in this classic movie are just another reason why too much CGI today makes me sad.
For all you know, a witch might be living next door,