Clarissa Johal

Thursday, June 29, 2017

#FolkloreThursday - The Sandman #European

De Zandman. Frontispice uit de Nederlandse vertaling
'Sprookjes: tweede verzameling', 1847

The Sandman. Most think of him as a mythical character from European folklore who sprinkles magical sand onto the eyes of children and brings good dreams. His appearance is usually that of an old man wearing a gold robe and carrying a bagful of sand. Innocuous enough, right?

But there are other creatures bearing the name Sandman--and these creatures are very different. The first has long fingers, sharp teeth and skin that is decayed and discolored, like a that of a dead person. It hides in the dark and whispers, "tik-toc, tik-toc" to its unlucky victim, putting them into a deep sleep. Once asleep, this Sandman will come out of hiding and devour the sleeping victim with its sharp teeth. It only needs to feast once per night, but will sometimes choose to kill for fun.
The other Sandman was used to scare children in the early 19th century. He would sneak into the rooms of children who wouldn't go to sleep and throw sand into their eyes, causing them to itch. When the child rubbed, their eyes would fall out on the floor in a bloody mess. The Sandman would then collect these eyes to feed to his pet bird that lived on the crest of the moon.
Sleep well, little children.

By the late 19th century, the nightmarish Sandmen had transformed from monsters, into a benign character that brought children pleasant and happy dreams. This led to the belief that there were two Sandmen, perhaps brothers. One brought good dreams, while the other had more evil intentions. In some stories, the powers of these Dream Creatures became even greater. Each person or family had their own Sandman. They could give you a dream you want, power over your own dreams, or glimpses into your future. Over the years, the folklore continues to change due to references in popular culture. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Sandman fifty years from now.

So...which Sandman will be visiting your bedroom tonight?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tangled Tuesday - #Paranormal #Cat Fur and the #Dog Days of Summer

Summer is here! The teens are off from school and at Day Two, already bored. My latest book, Whispers in the Wood is proving to be quite the challenge to finish. That said, my goal is to finish it by the end of the year. My characters are already complaining I've put them on hold during the day, but I find it impossible to write with other people around. Unfortunately, that leaves the wee hours of the morning and late, late nights when my brain is babbling weird crap that makes no sense.

Another summer event is that my dogs and cats go out of their way to shed extra hard. I keep thinking they'll eventually go bald. C'est la vie, it's always house cleaning day. While sweeping up their offerings, I noticed that fur is quite paranormal in nature. Here's why:

Spiritual Attachment - It will attach itself to you and nothing short of an exorcism can get it off. Be forewarned.

Full-Bodied Apparitions - It hides under your bed and drifts out when you least expect it.

Feelings of Being Touched - Usually around the face and nose.

ESP - Black fur is especially sensitive to white clothing, while white fur is drawn to black clothing. I can only attribute this to the fact that fur must be psychic.

Reincarnation - Fur is reborn even after you brush it away. Fur is eternal.

Feelings of Dread - Usually experienced on house cleaning day.

Orbs - Fur appears "front and center" in photographs. Every. Time.

Unexplained Odors - Coming from the dog bed. Even after you wash it. Twice. 

I've tried salting and saging my house but the fur keeps returning, more powerful than ever. Crystals are next but I've never had luck with those.

Monday, June 12, 2017

#MeatlessMonday - Granola Super Bars #vegetarian #recipe

These have a ton of ingredients but are super easy to make. The recipe is quite versatile; substitute nuts of choice, raisins instead of cranberries and add any extras. They're great for hiking, snacking or a healthy after-school treat. Enjoy!

Homemade Granola Super Bars


4 cups whole oats
3/4 cup almonds, whole or sliced
3/4 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Pour 1-1/2 cups of the oats in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground.
Mix all oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, and dried fruit in a large bowl and set aside. 
Spray a 13x18 glass dish with cooking spray and set aside. 
Mix brown sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, and coconut oil in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat immediately. Stir in the vanilla and salt. 
Pour the syrup over the dry ingredients.
Mix well and transfer the mixture into the glass dish. Spread and press mixture until packed. 
Refrigerate for 2 hours and cut into squares. 
Wrap individual bars and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Frightening Friday--Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls)

Photo courtesy of Esparta via Flickr
Dolls. I've never been a big fan of dolls. I think they're creepy. Their blank stares, frozen expressions, predatory smiles...yeah, it's creepy.

Just south of Mexico City and between the canals of Xochimico, there is a small island known as Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls). As if one doll wasn't creepy enough, here you have a whole island of decapitated doll heads, arms and bodies; weathered by the elements and home to spiders and everything else. Oh, and did I mention? The dolls that populate the island have been put there to appease the spirit of a dead little girl and are reputedly haunted.

Don Julian Santana Barrera was a hermit who lived on the island. The story goes that he witnessed a little girl who drowned and was unable to save her. Seeing a doll floating in the canal, he hung it in a tree as a way of showing respect for her spirit. Shortly thereafter, Don Julian claimed he was haunted by the little girl and began hanging more dolls in an attempt to appease her. After 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them around the island, Julian was found dead, drowned in the same spot where he found the girl. 

After Don Julian’s death in 2001, the island became a tourist attraction run by his family members. Local legend says that the dolls move their arms, heads and open their eyes. Some witnesses claim to hear the dolls whispering to each other, while others say the dolls have lured them to come to the island. 

Here's a short video to get an idea what the island looks like now. A trip to la Isla de las Munecas is not on a regular tourist route. If you want to visit, you'll have to hire a private boat at $15 USD per hour, prices vary. A trip to the island takes about two hours. Any takers?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

#FolkloreThursday - Gashadokuro #Japanese #ghost

"Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre"
Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798–1861)
Creative Commons
The gashadokuro are skeletal giants created from the bones of people who died of starvation. A class of supernatural monster, or yōkai, their teeth chatter and their bones rattle as they walk. If they come across a human at night, they will turn invisible and silently creep up on their victims to crush them in their hands or bite off their head. It is said the victim can hear the sound of ringing bells before they strike.

Victims of famine who die without receiving proper funerary rites are at risk of becoming gashadokuro. Unable to pass on, these souls are reborn as hungry ghosts. When the bones of hundreds of these victims gather together (due to a village famine or soldiers who die in battle) they can form the skeletal monster. Too large and powerful to be killed, it will continue to feed until the energy and malice stored within the creature has completely burned out. The gashadokuro are indestructible, though Shinto charms can ward them off.

The earliest record of a gashadokuro goes back over a thousand years ago. A samurai named Taira no Masakado led a bloody rebellion against the central government of Kyoto during the the Heian period. His daughter, Takiyasha-hime, was a famous sorceress. When Masakado was killed in battle, his daughter continued his cause. Using her black magic, she summoned a giant skeleton to attack the city of Kyoto. Her monster is depicted in a famous print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (shown above).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wishlist Wednesday - Sucreabeille @sucreabeille #unique #handmade #bathproducts

Welcome to Wishlist Wednesday!

Photo used by permission, courtesy of Sucreabeille

My shout-out is to a shop I found at Animazement. 
Sucreabeille makes atmospheric sprays, bath and body oils, soaps, lotions, hair products and deodorant. Her scents are unique - check out her scent list. With products such as, Norman Loves Mother soap,  It Puts the Lotion On Its Skin unscented lotion bar, and Calm the F**k Down relaxation and stress relief aromatherapy oil, what's not to love? 

I went on a soap shopping spree and bought several - Graveyard, Jareth, King of the Goblins, Wicker Man, Papa Legba, and Frau Perchta. I went a little crazy because they smell THAT good. 
Dragon's blood, dirt, cedar, woodsmoke and papyrus? I'm all in. 

*Products are made to order - make sure you check her shipping time.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tangled Tuesday - Top 10 #Anime Picks #paranormal #horror

I've been a fan of anime for 20+ years. I love the artwork, complex themes and the fact that they glean from Japanese folklore and mythology. Take a peek...

**All links go to Hulu, except for Vampire Hunter D (movie site) and Tactics (AnimeHere).

My top 10 picks in paranormal horror no particular order

Photo courtesy of Keng Susumpow via Flickr
1) Death Note (2006-2007)

Manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata.

Yagami Light is a bored A-student with great prospects. One day, he finds a notebook (Death Note) from the realm of the death gods or shinigami. The book has the power to kill people in any way he desires, he merely has to write their name in it. Light decides to create his perfect world, one without crime or criminals. However, when criminals start dropping dead one by one, the authorities send the legendary detective 'L' to track down the killer. A battle of wits, deception and logic ensues, much like a chess game. 

My thoughts: This the crème de la crème of anime. The story is complex and the concepts of good and evil are challenged.

Fave character: Ryuk. Gotta love an apple eating shinigami with a sense of humor.

*I prefer sub-titled anime, but this dubbed version of Death Note is quite good.

2) Blue Exorcist (2011)
Manga written and illustrated by Kazue Katō. 

Humans live in the world of Assiah, and demons live in Gehenna. The two dimensions are not meant to interfere with each other. In spite of this, demons still possess creatures in Assiah. The humans who can fight these demons are known as exorcists. Rin Okumura bears the curse of being Satan's illegitimate son. His foster father sacrificed himself to save him from demons. To avenge his foster father's death, Rin decides to follow the path of an exorcist.

My thoughts: This anime has many similarities with the current television series Supernatural. See if you can spot them!

Fave character: Mephisto Pheles. He enjoys chaos and is always ahead of the game. Plus, he dresses fab.

3) Vampire Hunter D (1985 Film)
Manga written in 1983 by Hideyuki Kikuchi and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. 

Technology and the supernatural have overtaken the world. What's left of the human race live in fear of vampires, who keep werewolves and mutants to protect them. Doris Lang trespasses into vampire territory and encounters Count Magnus Lee, who tastes her blood and chooses her to be his next wife. Doris hires a vampire hunter by the name of 'D,' a dhampir (half human, half vampire), to rid her of this fate. 

My thoughts: Vampire Hunter D remains a cult classic.

Fave character: Carmilla. This vampire is deliciously evil, cunning and intelligent...and her clothes are awesome.

4) Black Butler (2008-2010)
Manga written and illustrated by Yana Toboso. (The second season, Kuroshitsuji II, aired in 2010 and did not feature in the manga.) 

In Victorian-era London, a young boy sells his soul to a demon in order to avenge his family's death. The demon takes the form of a loyal butler and is required to protect, serve and arrive whenever summoned by his young master until the deal has been completed.

My thoughts: I love the Victorian costumes and artwork in this series--flat out. I will drop a warning however, the relationships between the butlers and their underage 'masters' toe the line.

Fave character: Grell Sutcliff in his Grim Reaper form. Over-the-top, flamboyant and outspoken. What's not to love?
5) Mushishi (2005-2006)
Manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara. 

The story follows Ginko, a man who dedicates himself to keeping people protected from supernatural creatures called Mushi. The Mushi are beyond the shackles of the words "good" and "evil." They can exist in countless forms, and are capable of mimicking things from the natural world such as plants, diseases, and even phenomena like rainbows.

My thoughts: This anime is beautiful to watch and the concepts are very thoughtful. It's paced very slow, so if that's not your thing, it's not for you.

Fave character(s): Technically, there's only one main character (Ginko) but I really liked the concept of the Mushi

6) Vampire Knight (2008)
A shōjo manga series written by Matsuri Hino

Yuki Cross is the adopted daughter of Kaien Cross, the headmaster of Cross Academy. Yuki's earliest memory is of being attacked by a rogue vampire and of being rescued by Kaname, a Pureblood vampire. Ten years later, her adoptive father is the guardian of the vampire race and leads a group of vampires at the elite boarding school. At Yuki's side is Zero Kiryu, a childhood friend whose hatred for the creatures leaves him determined never to trust them. The coexisting arrangement seems all well and good, but have the vampires truly renounced their murderous ways? 

My thoughts: This series gets a bit Twilight'ish towards the end. Turning a blind eye to that--if only because of the artwork and story arcs.

Fave character: Zero Kiryu because he always tries to do the right thing.

7) Boogiepop Phantom (2000)
Manga written by Kouhei Kadono.

The story takes place a month after a pillar of light appears in the night sky, and five years after a string of serial killings. High school students have started to disappear and the blame is placed on Boogiepop, an urban legend who is said to be the personification of Death. Each episode centers on a different character who had a short involvement in the major event. Some episodes are out of sequence and scenes are shown from different perspectives. Through this non-linear style, the characters are used to develop the central themes of Change, Escapism, Memory and Relationships.

8) Ghost Hunt (2006)
Manga written by Fuyumi Ono. The last novel was published in 1994 and the story was left incomplete. 

The story follows the adventures of the Shibuya Psychic Research Center as they investigate mysterious occurrences all over Japan with a team of other spiritualists and assistants.

9) Tactics (2004-2005)
Manga written by Sakura Kinoshita and Kazuko Higashiyama.

Supernatural sleuth and writer, Kantaro Ichinomiya, spends his days fighting demons and writing about his adventures. Accompanied by a mysterious Demon-Eating Goblin and a band of demons, Kantaro travels the Japanese countryside in search of ghostly mysteries and the paranormal.

10) xxxHOLiC (2006)
Manga written and illustrated by the group of manga artists known as Clamp. The manga was adapted into an animated film, xxxHolic: A Midsummer Night's Dream which premiered on August 20, 2005. It was followed by two anime series which ran from April-September 2006.

The story revolves around Kimihiro Watanuki--a high-school student disturbed by his ability to see the supernatural, and Yūko Ichihara--a witch who owns a wish-granting shop. When Watanuki asks Yūko to remove his ability to see spirits, she grants it--on the condition he pay for his wish by working for her.

That's my list! What are your favorite anime?