Saturday, August 26, 2017

Duwall Manor - The Wine Cellar

It should come as no surprise to anyone that when Duwall Manor was built, a large wine cellar was built as a basement. The space is large, with several smaller storage rooms around the periphery, while the main room in the center housed a large oak table and several cabinets. The cellar was used for atmospheric gatherings of Abraham and his friends, and as such, had only oil lamps strategically placed along the walls for light. 

Of course, a dark, underground room such as that is prime for stories of equally dark happenings. Before their deaths, it was rumored by locals that the Duwalls sometimes took slaves or local girls down into the wine cellar, got them drunk and then had their way with them. It was said that even the Duwall women took part, abusing the slaves with broom handles or whatever else their tool of choice was. These stories are largely unsubstantiated though. 

After the Duwall family passed away, the wine cellar was ransacked, and every bottle absconded with by thieves or locals with a grievance. It sat empty for years afterward, most of the owners who's hands the property passed through only truly having time to use the space for storage before they passed the home on again. 

In 1894, the size of the home and property found itself well suited to be used by its owner as an orphanage, and at one point in 1899 housed as many as 60 children. 

In 1901, a girl of thirteen by the name of Carrie found herself living at Duwall. She was mentally incompetent, but became close friends with one of the girls caretakers, Dana. They bonded well, which was good for Carrie because she failed to get along with the other girls her own age. 

As it happened, Dana became engaged, and planned to leave the orphanage. Carrie was happy for her, but during one of Dana's fiance's lunchtime visits, Carrie became badly enamored with him. After a few instances of kindness, Carrie became convinced that Dana's fiance was actually interested in her, and not the older woman. 

Carrie's delusion grew, until she was absolutely convinced her and Dana's fiance could be together if Dana wasn't in the way. 

One day, when Dana went upstairs to bring Carrie her dinner, the younger girl lay in wait with a heavy bookend. When the woman's back was turned, Carrie smashed it into the back of her head, killing her instantly. 

Dana's fiance came looking for her a few days later after having no contact. Nobody knew where she had gone or what had happened to her. It was only when he pressed Carrie for answers that the truth came out. 

Unable to carry the body out without people noticing, Carrie had pushed the body under her bed. But she had also known that it couldn't stay there. Not knowing what else to do, the young girl had taken to eating the body in order to get rid of it. By the time the act was discovered, one arm and leg had each been chewed down to the bone, while the hand and foot were gone entirely.

Disgusted, and horrified at the idea of the story getting out into the community, the woman running the orphanage decided not to inform the authorities. Carrie was taken into the old wine cellar and locked away, without food, water, or light. A heavy padlock was placed on the door, which wouldn't be removed until 1914. 

In the darkness of the wine cellar, they found the remains of the girl propped up in a corner. The investigator determined she had likely starved to death in the darkness, her body feeding rats running around, given the tiny teeth marks on her bones. 

A paranormal investigator, wandering through Duwall Manor in 2016 claimed to have seen the spirit of a little girl in the wine cellar. He also said from the moment he entered the basement until the moment he left, he was beset by a fierce hunger for something very specific, although he couldn't quite identify exactly what that desire was for. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Movie Review: The Ruins (2008)

I read the original book version of this movie back in 2014. I liked it and it earned four stars on Goodreads, and this past weekend I found the movie was now available on Hulu, so I threw it on.

I was very pleasantly surprised. 

Movies based on books seem to be very hit or miss. Most of them take characters and a few major scenes, and then leave out some important details, while making up other parts that were never in the book. 

I think I'm getting ahead of myself though. 


The Ruins is about a group of young 20-somethings, coming up on the end of their trip to Mexico. They meet a few others, and someone produces an old, hand-drawn map to some local ruins. They head out, and the map ends up being correct. As they get there though, they become cornered by a group of locals who suddenly prevent them from leaving. 

Left with nowhere to go, they head deeper into the ruins, discovering the remains of an archaeological expedition. Injuries mount as they explore, until they discover the vines covering the structure are hungry for blood. The vines themselves creep along, mimicking sounds they want to hear, grabbing, stabbing into their wounds, devouring them alive. With nowhere to go and a hungry enemy closing in, they turn on each other, until only a few remain. 

The last two, a couple, devise a plan to get her away past the natives. It works, and she escapes, while her boyfriend pays for the plan with his life. 

Now, as I was saying, this movie follows the book pretty damn closely! Closer than any other adaptation I've ever read. Of course, a lot of details are left out in order to cram the main story into the time allowed. The Ruins is no different in that, however, they leave in enough small details that if you've read the book, you won't be disappointed. 

There is a single, major difference from the book though, the girl's escape, potentially spreading the spores. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It sets up a sequel, to be certain, but the way the natives had the entire ruin surrounded, I'm not sure how much I believe the boyfriend's simple distraction would have worked. 

Regardless. The movie is well made, with lots of tension, believable characters that you like, and a realistic enough scenario. If you like horror, this should be near the top of movies to see. It might not be a classic in the usual sense, but given time, it may become one. 

~ Shaun

Monday, August 14, 2017

Duwall Manor - The Oak Tree

Duwall Manor sits in the deep country of Mississippi, the property backing right up to the Delta National Forest. Like many of the stately manor houses built in the early 1800's, it has a long history, with several prominent families residing within its walls.

The current owners are unlisted, leaving the property likely bank-owned after a forclosure. Why it remains off the market in that case is a puzzle, but many of the people who live near the building whisper that it was actually abandoned, by both owners and bank. The home and land left to rot and hopefully be reclaimed by the wilderness with the prayer that nature might bury the property's history.

In spite of this, every so often someone finds the land and insists on trying to claim it as their own, so the building remains in fairly good condition. The roof, for example, was redone as recently as 2011.

The owners never last, however. Most abandon the property altogether after a few years, a few have even willingly gone into bankruptcy than live there or try to sell it. None of them answer the singular question that is always asked of them.


While more recent activity remains shrouded, much more is available with a simple trip to the county library, where the property has its own file of newspaper clippings and property maps. 

The earliest clipping dates back to 1824, only a year after the house was first completed, then owned by the Duwall family, headed by Abraham Duwall.  

The local sheriff was told to visit the property after no word had been heard from the family in weeks. 

When he arrived, the family's horses were feeding in the front yard, untethered. 

At the front door, nobody answered. He found the door unlocked and went in. The house was immaculate. Beds were made, everything was clean, everything was as it should have been. The only thing amiss was the large meal which had been laid out on the table and now sat there rotting, covered in flies, mold, and maggots. 

Something out the back window from the dining room caught the sheriff's eye and when he went to investigate, he found himself standing before a massive oak tree on the backside of the house. 

Dozens of nooses hung from its thick branches as different heights. The highest was easily thirty feet off the ground. All of them sat empty, only swaying from a slight breeze that blew up from the woods further back on the property. The sheriff circled the tree, and finally counted 43 nooses. Enough for the entire Duwall family and all their servants. 

Then the sheriff found what was left of them. To the left side of the oak was a hollow in the base of the tree. It was stuffed full of skulls. 

The sheriff came back later with help and excavated the hollow. All they found were skulls, picked clean of any flesh at all. While they couldn't be sure the remains were the Duwall family and their servants, the numbers matched. The sizes matched too, between adults and children. 

The remains were buried in a corner of the property, though any markers designating their graves have been long lost to the present day. 

What happened to the Duwall family was never solved. 

-attached to the back of the news clipping is a memo. 

"If you go out to the tree on a foggy night, you can still see the outlines of the nooses hanging from it. If the fog is thick enough, with a bright moon, you might even see the silhouettes of the bodies." 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Gremlins Vs Critters: The Fight Part Two

See the first part here.

Gremlins (9) vs Critters (5)


One of the critters rounded a corner, fleeing Scratch's gunshots. In the corner was another Gremlin, just ignoring the ruckus and poking at a keyboard, singing a little song to itself. The computer screen flipped through spreadsheets and data, while the gremlin continued punching random keys, changing numbers and file names.

The critter jumped at the chance, bouncing over and grabbing the gremlin's face in it's mouth. Instantly the scaled green beast started flailing around as the critter chewed through the scales and flesh and started biting into the bone. One clawed hand smashed the computer screen, reaching in and digging claws into wires and circuits. Sparks shot everywhere as the electricity shot up the gremlin's arm and coursed through the two. The critter's eyes bulged, then exploded, and the furball let go, falling onto the floor, hair sizzled and smoked. The gremlin fell over too, coughing, smoke billowing out of its mouth. It blew a smoke ring before passing out.

The other critters rolled carefully around the edge of the room, watching out for more gremlins now. One bounced up onto a table to get a better view of the carnage of the room. It looked clear. There were the two on the floor shot full of spines, snoring peacefully away, the splatter of dead Crites. It turned back to the others, only to see them staring back in horror at the wing-like ears that rose up behind it. It turned back and the gremlin ducked back under the table, leaving the Crite swinging back and forth from the otherwise empty looking room and the critters still huddled together on the floor.

Then it turned back and found itself face to face with the gremlin for a moment before it was stabbed with a pair of syringes, random chemicals shooting into it while the gremlin laughed. The critter started to swell as the combination of chemicals produced gases inside it, blowing it up like a balloon, gas leaking out of its mouth and around its eyes before lifting up from the table, bouncing against the ceiling, where it stayed.

"Fuck this shit!" The last three critters rolled up, bouncing as fast as they could for the door. A hapless gremlin stepped out in front of them from around the corner of a desk and the three of them laid into it, eating through its body in seconds and continuing on. They made it to the door and bounce through into the hallway, one, two, then the door slammed shut on the third one, squashing it between the door and the frame. The other two paused only long enough to look back, then bounced down the hall as fast as they could deeper into a building only further infested with gremlins.

Scratch opened the door back up, admiring his handiwork at the green slim and tufts of hair that showed the Crite he'd caught in the door when he'd slammed it shut. He squinted down the dark hallway after the other two and cackled to himself.


Victor: Gremlins

Final count
Gremlins: 2 dead, 3 incapacitated
Crites: 8 dead

What happened

Looking back at the creature analysis, it became pretty clear who would win. The Crites had real viciousness and intent to kill on their side, but they seriously lacked in durability, intelligence, and any kind of reach. They're small and relatively fragile, so rely on two main things: fear and numbers. The Gremlins have no fear of anything but light, and in a scenario like this where it's equal numbers, the Crites just lost the things they needed to pull it out.

Their spines are strong enough for a single shot to put down a grown human, but we've seen in movies that even people shot with a dozen spines or more don't suffer any extra ill effects, and are back to normal within a few hours once they're removed, so there was no chance of getting a kill from them unless they could follow up and devour their victim, which they couldn't do in this setting.

Likewise, their ability to grow larger with enough food was a non-item in this fight as there wasn't enough food, or time for them to take advantage of it.

On the Gremlin's side, they have an extremely high durability and an immunity to pain which meant even with an arm eaten off and a Crite still chewing on them, they still weren't out of the fight. It also meant that in cases like electrocution which would take them both down, the Gremlin would likely still survive while the Crite wouldn't.

You also can't disregard the Gremlin's penchant for mischief combined with their natural aptitude for damage. The syringe Gremlin for example, was likely just messing around by grabbing two syringes and sticking them in the Crite, but by its own nature, likely grabbed a combination of chemicals that would react in a destructive way when combined.

Put simply, the Gremlins could, on a 1-to-1 basis, take everything the Crites could dish out, and return it right back, while the Crites turned out to be paper tigers.

What do you think? Do you disagree? Is there something I left out? Leave a note in the comments or hit me up on social media!

~ Shaun