Monday, March 31, 2014

EPCOT VIP Lounges - Wonders Retreat

Pavilion: Wonders of Life
Sponsor: MetLife 1989-2001.  The pavilion closed in 2007
Features: Giant carousel painting, covered up circus decor
Entrance: via an elevator through the kitchen (see below)
As seen from outside: The windows running above and to the left of the old entrance to Cranium Command.

The entire pavilion is closed to the public except for special events like the Food and Wine and Flower and Garden Festivals.  The lounge itself is available for rent for special functions.
"another really cool place that may be a LOT harder to sneak into is the lounge/vip on the second floor of the wonders of life pavilion (yes there’s still stuff up there!) during food and wine festival (or flower festival, whenever wonders of life has events) there’s a curtain you go behind to get through a kitchen by where the restrooms are, and through there and to your right you get onto an elevator, at the top is a VIP lounge, a cool circus-y restroom, and a SWEET conference room that’s oval shaped and has a floor to ceiling mural of carousel horses. That would be quite a challenge to get to without running into a CM though. Also there’s the remains of some of the old attractions like Cranium Command and the queue for that, some parts still lit up (creepy.) I’m glad I got to see some of this stuff as a CP because I know I’m not ballsy enough to explore as a guest!! " - From Dark Side of Disney
More pictures at Zannaland here and here.

And learn more about the closed pavilion thanks to Martin Smith:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Glory Bus by Richard Laymon

Glory Bus aka Into the Fire
by Richard Laymon
2005 Headline, as Into the Fire by Leisure Books

Laymon does a killer road trip novel, like all those movies in the 90s (Wild at Heart, Thelma and Louise, California, etc).  It's a sleazy fifty page novella of nasty characters doing nasty things.  Unfortunately, that novella is over 400 pages long, almost all of it that Laymon trademark - repetitive internal monologues of annoying people.

A college student picks up two separate murderous hitchhikers on the same day, and the three of them go on a rampage across the country.  Rampage may be a little strong of a word - they run over a couple cops and stab a couple people while stealing their cars.  There's also a weird bit where they stay at a hotel run by the cast of a canceled medical TV drama.  The page count would have been better served with more of these set pieces - if you actually outlined the plot, there's not a lot going on.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Victim City Stories Free This Weekend

Free this weekend, March 28th through 30th, the premier issue of Victim City Stories.

In this issue:

The Chains That Bind, The Skull That Bleeds:

They thought they could trade in flesh and broken wills. They thought the women of Victim City were theirs for the taking. They thought there would be no consequences. They didn't know they were being watched. They didn't know there was a man who would stop at nothing to break their chains. They didn't know about the Bleeding Skull.

Beer Bong Bloodbath:

Hearts are broken, bodies used, and desires fulfilled that are so shameful they demand the privacy of the unsold lake house on the edge of Victim City.
They didn't think they would have to live with the regret.
They were right.

Violation: Red Holes:

Will the killer become the target, or does Death herself fear George Murdam, the Murder Man?

48,000 breathtaking words of action and horror.

Take a trip to Victim City, the town that dares not sleep.

Available exclusively at Amazon in Kindle format.  Download the free Kindle reader for PC or phone.

Life copies Boris Karloff's Thriller

Newlywed Gets 30 Years For Pushing Husband Off Cliff

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Clownwatch - Staten Island

Probably viral marketing for Subway or something.

Also, evidence based medicine at work - a study found that children are more scared than comforted by clown decorations in hospitals

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."
 Children, believe me.  You don't want to know them.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Skull by Shaun Hutson

The Skull 
by Shaun Hutson 
Leisure Books 1982

A contractor finds a vial with a tiny skull in it during a construction dig.  Turns out it's an homunculus from the 16th century, an alchemist's experiment in creating life.  There is a series of tunnel under the construction dig leading to sealed off chambers.  What are in those chambers, and the story behind the creation of the homunculus is a fascinating read...

Friday, March 21, 2014

TV Horror Anthology - Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
1985-6 NBC, 1987-9 USA Network
76 episodes

This remake of the classic series featured some new stories, some remakes of originals, and colorized host footage of Alfred Hitchcock.  The series started out strong with the movie length pilot, and the first season featured names like Tim Burton, Ned Beatty, Martin Sheen, Yaphet Kotto, Jeff Fahey, and a young Joaquin Phoenix.

The series moved to the USA Network in season 2, joining that channel's memorable Saturday Nightmares lineup, but the show started a lengthy decline.  At least we get to see two acting powerhouses, Mark Hammil and Michael Ironside, working together.

I keep waiting for Billy Dee Williams to swoop up and catch him.

By season 3 it's pure Canadian community theater all the way down.  Halfway through this season the plots turn to "I double crossed you", "No, I'm the one that did the double crossing" pretzels, two in a row involving the butler doing or not doing it.  I haven't gotten to season 4 yet, and I'm not looking forward to it.  Start at the beginning with the knowledge that it doesn't get any better.

Here's my favorite, directed by Burt Reynolds of all people, and the unlikely casting combination of Martin Sheen, Marilu Henner, Robby Benson, and Parker Stevenson.

Free Stuff - HP Lovecraft's The Mound

The Mound is a tale ghost written by HP Lovecraft for Zalia Bishop in 1930.  It was not published until the November 1940 issue of Weird Tales, and even then in abdridged form.  The full story was not published until 1989.

My opinion of Lovecraft is similar to mine on George Lucas - I like the mythos, but it's much better when someone else does it.  The Mound is better than most for my taste, and had a lasting influence.  While it did not originate the concept of an advanced underground society (that would be The Coming Race and probably several others), it did clearly influence one Richard Shaver, who had mentioned that he read the piece.  And by read I mean largely lifted the entire concept into his own cosmology.

The Mound has an advanced underground civilization that subjugates other races in a sadistic, depraved manner - definitely proto-dero.  And as Lovecraft begat Shaver, Shaver's moves were bitten in turn by Jack Kirby, who mixed in some Von Daniken (also arguably influenced by Lovecraft) and gave us the Eternals.

I don't know if this is the abridged version or not, but read it here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Shaver Mystery - The Herschensohn letters

One can often find gems in the letters pages of old comics and pulp magazines.  The letter writers, often as children, later turn up as fiction writers in their own right decades later.

The Shaver Mystery generated a swell of reader's letters to Amazing Stories, which was probably the reason that Shaver was so prominently featured, much to the chagrin of science fiction purists who started their own campaigns against the inclusion of Shaver and his deros.

One young science fiction fan who didn't care for the Shaver Mystery was the famously mild-mannered Harlan Ellison, who supposedly got an admission from Palmer that the whole thing was a hoax during a friendly conversation in an elevator.

The letters pages of Amazing Stories soon filled with readers giving their own accounts of their interaction with the deros.  Some were borderline psychotic, others were full-blown psychotic, and some, like the one below, were clearly just written as a gag.

Two teenage brothers, Wesley and Bruce Herschensohn, sent in 40 rambling pages of information relayed to them by their dead pet turtle.  Sure.  An excerpt about how the Japanese are moon men plotting in underground bases in Cambodia and Korea was printed in the June 1945 edition of Amazing stories.

Wes Herschensohn later used his fertile imagination as an animator for Walt Disney, Hanna Barbera, and Filmation.

Bruce Herschensohn used his keen insight into Asian politics as a foreign policy author and official in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.

EPCOT VIP Lounges - The Red Planet Room

Pavillion: Mission: Space
Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard
Features: "Hover Race" digital maze game, video email kiosk
Entrance: Exterior pathway to a door, to the left of the entrance near where the cast members hand out cards
As seen from outside: Windows visible from the queue, across from the wheel shaped space station

More at Disney Everyday

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Operator #5

Operator #5
aka Secret Service Operator #5
written by Curtis Steele (Frederick C Davis 1-20, Emile C Tepperman 21-39, Wayne Rogers 40-8)
48 issues 1934-1939

Jimmy Christopher is Secret Service Operator #5, America's super spy facing a different foreign menace each issue.  While the Spider was on the run from authorities, Jimmy Christopher had the full cooperation of everyone up to and including the President.

At least the first few issues were very formulaic.  A fictional foreign country, typically a stand in for Germany or Japan, attacks America with a piece of advanced technology (sub-orbital airships, a ray gun that removes the oxygen from air, etc).  With the aid of young bootblack Tim Donovan, Christopher discovers the invader's plans and thwarts them with large scale military action.

After Tepperman took over writing, the series reportedly took a turn away from the more fantastic pulp hero type menaces and were more straight military adventures, starting with the Purple Invasion, a continuing story that went for thirteen issues.

The cover drawings have Jimmy Christopher as a generic fedora-ed G-Man, but I get a different image from the text.  Between him using a rapier as his main weapon and his ability to switch places with his twin sister Nan, I don't see him as the butchest of characters, a welcome change in a genre filled with Lunk Squarejaws.

He has a secret identity as society photographer Carleton Victor, though the only person he seems to interact with as this persona is his humorously clueless butler Crowe.  This leads to convoluted segments were Christopher goes through an elaborate series of hidden passages to get to his apartment, when the only person he's concealing his identity from is completely oblivious to the outside world.

Operator #5, at least under Frederick C. Davis, had some of the most exciting action set pieces set to paper.  The series also had a weird, clean cut, gee willikers vibe that set it apart from the grim worlds of other pulp heroes.  There were even essays in good citizenship after the stories.

Jerry Ahern

Jerry Ahern (1946-2012) was a Men's Adventure author best known for the Survivalist series.  His fiction was workmanlike - well plotted with well crafted action scenes, but he was just too restrained for my taste.  He excelled in plotting stories over a series - each book worked when read individually as they carried out a long term story.

Some characteristics:

Not too much gun porn, but a ton of holster porn.  Holsters, sheaths, and scabbards mentioned by brand and described in detail every time a weapon went in or out.

Ahern mentioned Detonics weapons like he had stock in the company.  Which, seeing as he was their president for several years, he probably did.

Ahern is a great example of writing right-wing fantasies without being a bigot.  If anything his books had a forced multi-racialism, with every color of the rainbow being represented.

When making up names of tertiary characters, Ahern usually went Polish.  There are like five "-ski"s in the Defender series alone.

Ahern had strong female characters, at least for the genre.  I assume the credit goes to the influence of his wife and co-author Sharon Ahern.  A lot of little female touches, mainly having to do with periods or bra straps and stuff.

  • They Call Me the Mercenary (as Axel Kilgor, 18 books, 1980-4)
  • The Survivalist (34ish books, 1981-1993,2013-)
  • Track (10 books, 1984-5)
  • Takers (3 books, with Sharon Ahern, 1984-2001)
  • Defender (12 books, 1988-90)
  • Surgical Strike (3 books, 1988-90)

The following non-series books were all co-authored with Sharon Ahern:

  • The Freeman (1986) 
  • Miamigrad (1987) 
  • Brandywine (1988)
  • The Yakusa Tattoo (1988)
  • WerewolveSS (1990)
  • The Kamikaze Legacy (1990)
  • The Golden Shield of the IBF (1999) 
  • The Illegal Man (2004) 
  • Written in Time (2010) 


  • CCW: Carrying Concealed Weapons: How to Carry Concealed Weapons and Know When Others Are (1996)
  • Survive!: The Disaster, Crisis and Emergency Handbook (2010)
  • Armed for Personal Defense (2010)
  • Gun Digest Buyer's Guide to Concealed-Carry Handguns (2010)
  • Defend Your Home (2011)

Additionally, Ahern was a columnist for several firearm magazines.

Learn more at, still updated by Sharon Ahern.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TV Horror Anthology - Tales From the Darkside

Tales From the Darkside
Syndicated 1983-8
90 episodes, 1 movie

Produced by George Romero, this series is effectively spun off from the movie Creepshow, though it failed to maintain the EC comics tone from the film.

All of the stories involve the supernatural or fantastic, and despite the name, way too many are light hearted attempts at comedy.  A lot more quirk than creep.

The title sequence is by far the most menacing part of the show.  Most of the episodes suffer from poor production, although there are a few well written pieces, many of them by Michael MacDowell.

The series effectively morphed into Monsters in 1988.

This is my favorite so far, if only for the gore and sleaziness.

Stony Man 091 - China Crisis

China Crisis
Stony Man 091
by Don Pendleton (Mike Linaker)
Gold Eagle 2007
Stony Man 91 China Crisis

China mistakenly tests a missle that uses stolen American technology and crashes near the Afghanistan border. It's a China Crisis!

Phoenix Force sneaks across the border, while Able Team tracks down the American end of the arms dealers in South Texas.

This suffers from what ails a lot of more recent men's adventure fiction.  As compared to the 70s and 80s, there's less action across more pages.  The same amount of plot and characterization as in past decades, but the action consists of "go to place where bad guys are, guns are shot, good guy wins".  Even in the anti-climax there are more pages devoted to what the bad guy has packed in his hummer than the actual shootout.  While there's a little bit of hacking and satellite surveillance, there isn't too much techno-thriller tedium.

EPCOT VIP Lounges - Test Track

Pavillion: Test Track
Sponsor: General Motors
Features: Views of the ride, concept art, free soda and coffee, seperate entrance to front of the ride queue
Entrance: From the outside, around the corner to the right of the entrance, through a labeled gray door.
As seen from outside: Row of windows above the entrance.  There is also a door on the other side of the vehicles at loading.

This information is pre-2012 refurb.  The lounge was also being refurbished, but I haven't been able to find any new information. 

More pictures here.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Earworm - Boom Boom

This song couldn't be any more fabulous if it was sung by a West Hollywood prostitute.

Which it totally was.

Post-Apocalyptic Men's Adventure

survivalist total war jerry ahern

In the 1980s, Men's Adventure fiction began to move away from vigilantism and crime and towards militarism and anti-terrorism.  Another direction it took was towards post-apocalyptic and survivalist fiction.  Post-apocalyptic fiction is a much broader category, but within that umbrella there were several series of Men's Adventure paperbacks that were oriented more towards action than science fiction.

Many, such as The Survivalist and Ashes, start before the apocalypse, while others like Deathlands and Doomsday Warrior are set in a future wasteland.  Many are Road Warrior knock offs.  Cold War paranoia is in full bloom here, and the Russians often remain the enemy.

Some recurring themes:

Blaming liberals:  America was destroyed because liberals were too cowardly to preemptively murder the entire eastern hemisphere.

Showing up the exes:  So, you left me because I spent the kids' college fund on dried MREs and boxes of gold I buried in the woods?  Now who wants in my nuclear bunker, huh?

Rape Gangs:  The mushroom clouds are still hovering in the air when the survivors divide themselves into competing themed rape gangs.  Food and clean water can come later.

My more or less exhaustive list.  Of these, Deathlands and Endworld have survived as of 2014.

  • Ashes by William J Johnstone
  • Blade by David Robbins
  • CADS by John Sievert
  • Deathlands by James Axler
  • Doomsday Warrior by Ryder Stacy
  • Eagleheart by CT Westcott
  • Endworld by David Robbins
  • Freeway Warrior by Joe Dever
  • The Guardians by Richard Austin
  • Last Ranger by Craig Sargent
  • Last Rangers by Jake Davis
  • The Marauders by Michael McGann
  • Mutants Amok by Mark Grant
  • Outrider by Richard Harding
  • Phoenix by David Alexander
  • Roadblaster by Paul Hofrichter
  • Steele by JD Masters
  • The Survivalist by Jerry Ahern
  • Swampmaster by Jake Spencer
  • Traveler by DB Drumm
  • Warlord by Jason Frost
  • Wingman by Mark Maloney
  • The Zone by James Rouch

More, in broader strokes, at

Free Stuff - I Remember Lemuria

The Shaver Mystery story that started it all.  Read it free at

The Shaver Mystery

The Shaver Mystery refers to series of science fiction stories published by Ray Palmer, supposedly written at least in part by Richard Shaver, and the ostensibly non-fiction reality that Shaver claims to have experienced.

The short version: An ancient civilization of long lived giants lived under the surface, and left behind advanced technology in massive underground cities before departing to the stars to get away from Earth's poisonous sun.  Those that were left behind were degenerated by the sun's rays and turned into Dero, and use the advanced technology to menace us humans on the surface, causing car wrecks, making people hear voices, or killings us outright with death rays.

Shaver claims that while a drill press operator, he could hear voices while running his machine, and could hear the thoughts of those around him.  The voices made him do something to get himself arrested, he was subsequently freed by a tero, which is like a good dero, and he lived many years underground.

Shaver wrote a letter to Amazing Stories with his Mantong alphabet, which he claims is the root of all earth languages.  In the March 1945 issue he is credited with writing "I Remember Lemuria", and Shaver credited stories dominated Amazing Stories and other Palmer edited magazines through 1948.

Shaver credited stories continued to appear in science fiction magazines through the mid 50s, and then in increasingly erratic self-published newsletters as Shaver dwindled into obscurity.

To me the real Shaver Mystery is how much of the material is based on what Richard Shaver truly believed, and how much is Ray Palmer's hucksterism.

There have been several books published recently, many by Richard Toronto, that probably shed some more light than I will on the topic.  A few things are pretty clear:

- Ray Palmer was as carny as Barnum.  This is great for a fiction magazine editor and presenter, not so much for the historical record.

- Richard Shaver was bat-poop crazy.  Even if his account was 100% accurate and there is a massive civilization living underground, he's still certifiable.

- I'll give Shaver his Mantong language, which is the combination of selection bias and a schizophrenic's obsession with puns, though to me it's uninteresting Be You Life Life Sun Human Self Integration.

The rest is an interesting mystery as to how much of the stories credited to Shaver were him, how much were Palmer, or how much by sometimes unidentified third parties.  Sometimes Shaver had a "co-writer", sometimes Shaver is credited as re-writing someone else's work, a good number of Shaver's stories are unrelated to the Shaver Mystery, and there are some pieces he supposedly wrote under a house name.

As far as I can tell, Shaver almost exclusively wrote for Palmer edited publications.  When he did write on his own he was an incoherent mess, so either Palmer cleaned him quite up a bit in editing, submitted other people's stories under Shaver's name, or Shaver could at one time write a presentable story and later descended into madness.  Or a combination thereof.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Bounty Hunter and the Hillside Strangler(s)

Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono were the Hillside Strangler, serial killers who claimed the lives of at least ten young women.  Prior to their arrest, they reportedly had a prostitution and blackmail racket going on.  They would force teenage girls into prostitution, using psychological torture involving snakes and such, and then later blackmail the johns.

A Los Angeles attorney was such a blackmail victim, and reportedly was on the receiving end of harassment and death threats when he didn't cooperate.  Instead, he sent in our old friend and star of a series of Men's Adventure novels, the Bounty Hunter himself William "Tiny" Boyles, who used his own brand of persuasion to settle the matter.

The matter evidently came up when court psychiatrists were determining if Bianchi was faking multiple personalities, but Bianchi denied the incident took place.  Since I doubt the lawyer in question came forward, I'm guessing Boyles is the sole source of the incident.  I'm sure he did it out of civic duty, as he's not the type to insert himself into ridiculous scenarios.

Couldn't find much on the incident.  There's an article in the Eugene Register-Guard, and an interview from Frontline: The Mind of a Murderer Part 2 (I only had the transcript, so I don't have the full context here)

For example, there was a interaction between Angelo and Mr. Bianchi, which must have been truly memorable, with an individual that occurred several years before he was arrested.

That individual was Mr. Tiny Boyles, a 440-pound, 6-foot body guard.  Some years ago, Tiny had run across Mr. Bianchi and Angelo Buono.  His meeting was to become significant in Dr. Orne's investigation.

But Tiny had discovered that Mr. Bianchi was not quite the all-American boy he had first seen.

"But you do know that they were running a ring of prostitution and using young girls, exploiting them, mainly for --the best I could find out in my investigation, they were using them for blackmail."

Tiny had learnt that while Mr. Bianchi and Angelo Buono were running a ring of underage prostitutes, they have fallen out with one of their clients, a Los Angeles lawyer.  To bring him around to their point of view, they made death threats against him, and the lawyer responded by sending Tiny Boyles and four of his friends to reason with him.

"Buono was working on a car detailing it, and I kept talking to him, he kept ignoring me.  So I reached in the window and took him out through the window so fast, so hard, he left his shoes in there.  And while I had him up in the air, I asked him if he'd all
mind paying attention to me.  So while I was dangling him in the air, he paid full attention, so I lowered him back down on the ground.  And I give him one of the lawyer's cards, and I told him, I said don't be offering to kill him no more, because the last thing in the world you wantin' is the replay of me."

"So how did Buono react to that?"

"He told me there'd be no more troubles."

"And what about Bianchi?"

"Bianchi's a little sniveling poo-butt.  But he was what you call the doc, what we call the perverted doc.  His job was if girls were scared of snakes he put snakes on them.  He done that to make sure they brought the money home.  He worked on their morbid fears.  He run behind a security door, which he'd already knew who we were, what we were, and he's behind his door holding the security door sniveling, please, don't hurt me, please, don't hurt me.

Well, we knew they were into something heavy, but we don't know what.  But if I'd had known he was killing those little young girls-- one of those girls was what, 13, 14 years old?  If I'd had known it, I got four daughters of my own, I'd snapped their neck like a twig and not had no remorse for it."
I'm glad to see Boyles taking such a bold moral stand there.  As a parent of four daughters, he has no problem with forcing underage girls into prostitution, heck, he'll help you cover it up if you pay him.  But serial murder is just one step over the line, brother.