Today, Christine Morgan joins us to tell us about the most important part of her Halloween… George.
For some, the ritual involves a trip to the pumpkin patch, maybe haunted hayrides, a corn maze. For others, it’s the ceremonial carving and lighting of the jack-o-lantern, or deciding on a costume, or stocking up on trick-or-treat goodies (sometimes early, so you oops have to go buy more before the big night arrives).
I am in favor of all those things, but, for me, THE main thing about Halloween prep involves setting up a George. Halloween just does not feel right without a George. When I was a kid, as far back as I can remember, we always had a George.
George. That first George, the one from my childhood, had a saggy scowly old-man face with warts and a hooked nose, mean little slits for eyes, and scraggly greyish hair. He wore a plaid lumberjack style shirt, overalls, scuffed brown work boots, thick gardening gloves, sometimes a hat. He sat in the blue chair we hauled outside for the occasion, between the front stoop and the garage side door. Maybe he’d have a carved pumpkin on his lap, maybe a bowl of candy.
I loved George. Even after the first year I thought I was big and brave enough to go trick-or-treating without my parents, and did fine until I got back to my very own yard and realized I’d have to go past George to get in the house. I had never been scared of George before. I ended up crying at the bottom of the driveway, until a kind neighbor lady took pity on me and walked me to the door.
Now, I KNEW, even in my young brain, that George was harmless. Hadn’t I helped set him up myself? Wadding newspaper to stuff into his legs and arms? Tugging his mask down over his styrofoam wig-head? Propping him up just right, just so? Posing with him for pictures? I knew George. I loved George. And yet … that year, cowering in the dark with my pillowcase full of candy … that year, for the first time … I finally understood.
Good ol’ George. All the neighborhood kids became familiar with him over the years. They’d call, “Hi, George!” as they approached to knock. The littler ones might hide their faces, have to be coaxed past him. The older and bolder – swaggering tween boys, most often – would dare each other to go up and poke him, or flick his nose.
My dad was always into Halloween. Looking back, it probably explains how he eventually became a Civil War re-enactor, being able to dress up all the time. We’d often do themed costumes; I remember being a chunky little girl Peter Pan one year, with my baby sister as Tinkerbell and Dad as Captain Hook. I remember another year, Dad, who had long hair and a full beard, put on a white caftan and sandals and a crown of plastic thorns to go as Jesus.
Then, one year, Dad didn’t pick a costume. Dad had another plan. That year, when the evening of October 31 rolled around and we still hadn’t made a George, I found out why, because Dad donned George’s outfit, mask and gloves and all. Dad sat in the blue chair between the garage door and stoop. Sat very still, totally motionless. Sat there … waiting.
I lingered eagerly to watch. Soon enough, along came the trick-or-treaters, including some of those older-bolder swagger boys. All “Hi, George” sneering, going right up to him, reaching to flick his nose. Just like they’d done plenty of times before.
Only, this time, ‘George’ lunged forward in his chair, going “Raarrrr!” And oh, my goodness, did those boys hit the high notes? Could you have heard them from blocks away? Did they run, even dropping plastic pumpkin buckets to spill across the yard? Why, yes, yes indeed. There may even have been pants-wetting. It was glorious. Simply glorious. You’d better believe, next year, George was greeted with far more respect.
It never occurred to me back then … in fact, it never occurred to me until just a few years ago, and I’m now 52 … to wonder why his name was George. When the question finally did surface, I asked my parents. No luck. Not even Dad could recall just how George had gotten his name in the first place. It just WAS.
Looking back, I’d like to theorize it was in homage to George Romero. We used to watch a lot of Saturday night black and white creature-features. I had the Hammer horror glow-in-the-dark model kits, and monster movie trading cards. I got most of my reading material from the bookshelf my grandma made my grandfather keep in the garage – seeing Grady Hendrix do his Paperbacks From Hell presentation was a wallop of nostalgia right back to my childhood.
So, yeah, I’d like to think it was for Romero, maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know. What I do know is, once I was grown up, moved away, done with college, and ready to be a responsible adult (well, more or less), I needed a new George of my very own. Had to keep up the family tradition! Especially once I had a kid! It couldn’t be a proper Halloween without a George.
These days, my George is bald and pruney, with a blue-grey kind of drowned/dead complexion going on. He wears blood-spattered surgical scrub pants and a stained white long-johns shirt. One of his gloves grips the handle of a bloody cleaver. Instead of just a chair, he has an entire butcher shop, filling my porch with tables of body parts, choice cuts of meat, jars of organs, and the various violent tools of his trade.
He even has company in the form of the lovely Roxy, who went from being a dead hooker in a box (found her at a haunted house garage sale one summer, that was what it said on the sign) to a mutilated prom queen, before signing on as George’s shop assistant, resplendent in red-soaked apron and chef’s hat over her raw, flayed flesh. Classes the place up a bit.
To complete the effect, costumed visitors are given a choice when they knock at my door. They say “Trick or Treat,” and I say “Candy or Meat?” Because, yes, every year, I have a supply of lunchmeat packets as well as a bowl of candy.
The reactions, from kids and parents alike, is always priceless. The sight of an eight-year-old running down the walk, waving a packet of ham, hollering “That lady gave us MEAT!” … the ones who’ve torn them open and scarfed them right there on the porch … the previously bored dad who was all “hey, I want some too!” … makes it memorable, makes it fun.
That, to me, is what Halloween is all about. And it’s all thanks to a guy called George.
Christine Morgan grew up in the high desert and moved to a cool rainy coast as soon as she could. Though anything but the outdoorsy type, she loves trees and water … preferably viewed through a cozy window or from the deck of a cruise ship. Alaska, Norway, Scotland, and Germany/Austria are her vacation destinations of choice. Seeing the Northern Lights in person is on her bucket list. She’s currently three cats toward her eventual fate as a crazy cat lady; yes, she does talk to them, but don’t worry, she draws the line at knitting them little sweaters (because she can’t knit).
January 12, 1888
When a day dawns warm and mild in the middle of a long cold winter, it’s greeted as a blessing, a reprieve. A chance for those who’ve been cooped up indoors to get out, do chores, run errands, send the children to school … little knowing that they’re only seeing the calm before the storm.
The blizzard hits out of nowhere, screaming across the Great Plains like a runaway train. It brings slicing winds, blinding snow, plummeting temperatures. Livestock will be found frozen in the fields, their heads encased in blocks of ice formed from their own steaming breath. Frostbite and hypothermia wait for anyone caught without shelter.
For the hardy settlers of Far Enough, in the Montana Territory, it’s about to get worse. Something else has arrived with the blizzard. Something sleek and savage and hungry. Wild animal or vengeful spirit from native legend, it blends into the snow and bites with sharper teeth than the wind.
Let’s summon a succubus, they said. It’ll be fun, they said…
I have some friends and we had a crazy idea: let’s summon a demon. Not just any demon but a sexy devil chick that will do anything we want—even butt stuff. It’ll be easy. It’s not like it’s going to work. Monsters aren’t real.
We were wrong. Really fucking wrong.
The demon is not what we thought and it’s making horrible things happen. People are cutting into each other’s junk, some guy is fucking his dog, and sex slugs from Hell are raping us and stealing our semen in order to build a goddamn hive!
We didn’t mean for any of this. But we’re gonna fix it… Just after a few more beers and bong hits.
Lake Misquamicus was an unremarkable lake in Florida, unremarkable that is until suddenly it was filled with six billion gallons of blood, bile, pus, piss, shit and …things… directly from the pits of Hell. First the public was in shock, then the government built a wall, and as time passed it became another urban legend. But for some, it has become a travel destination. Spring-breakers, drug-runners, and religious nuts. But a weekend getaway on the shores of Hell, may not be the safest idea…
With an introduction by and officially endorsed by splatterpunk legend Edward Lee, LAKEHOUSE INFERNAL is an official entree in Lee’s infamous INFERNAL series. Christine Morgan expands on this universe with her own twist of hardcore horror tourism.
The furious clangor of battle. The harrowing singing of steel. The desperate cries of wounded animals. The gasps of bleeding, dying men. The slow, deep breathing of terrible things–trolls, giants, draugr–waiting in the darkness. The wolf’s wind howling, stalking like death itself. The carrion-crows, avaricious and impatient, circling the battle-ground, the Raven’s Table.
The skald’s voice, low, canting, weaving tales of fate and heroism, battle and revelry. Of gods and monsters, and of the women and men that stand against them. Of stormy Scandinavian skies and settlements upon strange continents. Of mead-hall victories, funeral pyres, dragon-prowed ships, and gold-laden tombs. Of Ragnarok. Of Valhalla.
For a decade, author Christine Morgan’s Viking stories have delighted readers and critics alike, standing apart from the anthologies they appeared in. Now, Word Horde brings you The Raven’s Table, the first-ever collection of Christine Morgan’s Vikings, from “The Barrow-Maid” to “Aerkheim’s Horror” and beyond. These tales of adventure, fantasy, and horror will rouse your inner Viking.