Stanley Kubrick: The Shining (1980). The trailer terrified me when I saw it in the theatre as a kid. The stark image of the elevators and the plaid furniture in the lobby made me sick with fear, even before the blood started pouring from the left elevator door. Wendy Carlos’s ‘Clockworks’ made the whole experience even more unsettling.
There was an underlying creepiness to the 1970s, at least that’s how I perceived the decade as a child. I was afraid of strangers, apprehensive that my mother wouldn’t pick me up after my piano lessons (I walked home alone several evenings whenever she was late). Most of all, I dreaded the dreams and visions I’d have when I was really sick, like seeing faces and patterns in the carpets and wallpaper, or when the bedroom seemed to grow at least ten times its normal size at night. There are scenes in ‘The Shining’, mostly the quiet ones, that tap directly into those feverish, uneasy feelings from my childhood. It’s not Jack swinging his axe that terrifies me, it’s the subtle details like the rolled-up mattress leaning against the flowered wallpaper, or the first glimpse of someone standing at the other end of a large room or hallway. Kubrick directed these scenes with such skill and artistry that they become something else – something disturbingly familiar.
M.R. James: Casting The Runes And Other Ghost Stories (James, Montague Rhodes: 1862-1936 / Paperback Published: 1987). My friend Tony Wakeford introduced me to the ghost stories of M.R. James about 20 years ago. I picked up a paperback edition in Heathrow airport and it has remained with me ever since. The story ‘Number 13’, about a hotel room that mysteriously appears only at night and alters the dimensions of the adjoining rooms is among my favorites. The pair of sinister figures in ‘Count Magnus’ (the Count and the mysterious short, cloaked figure by his side) still terrifies me to this day. The title of one of the last stories in the collection, ‘The Malice Of Inanimate Objects’ has always resonated with me. Incidentally, this title also relates to the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’, where the rooms and furniture take on ominous personalities of their own. When Hurricane Sandy hit us in October 2012, the electricity was out for several days, including Halloween. I read James’s ghost stories by candlelight that evening. By far one of my best Halloweens ever.
One of my most memorable travel experiences was a short solo trip to Vermont between October 5th and October 7th, 2000. I wasn’t in the best of spirits and the damp, misty grey weather didn’t help things much, however I kept stumbling across so many beautiful, hidden landscapes. The following are two brief journal entries from that trip:
October 5th, 2000 – Moretown, Vermont – 9:40PM:
“…I packed up my paints and two 25″ x 30” canvases. Unfortunately, it’s grey and miserable out and probably will remain that way through Saturday when I leave… my typical luck. It’s really not quite “peak” out there, although it still looks incredible… especially these scarlet red leaves on the maple trees… actually I don’t think they’re maples. I really have to get a field guide to the trees.”
October 6th, 2000 – Somewhere In The Mountains Near Moretown, Vermont – 10:09AM:
“There is a beautiful and silent clearing up here. A small row of different colored trees. The forest is dark and filled with ferns. It’s raining now though maybe I’ll come back and paint here later…”
(Attached above is a photo of me standing in that clearing.)